Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Witch in a Bottle
Truth be told, I don't like witches. Well, that's not fair. I don't like witches as a general rule but if I ever met one that wasn't a soul-trading, demon-dealing, moral-lacking harlot I'd be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm still open to the possibility.
Take the last witch I encountered. Had I gone off past experience, I would have ripped her heart out of her chest the moment she came within reach. But I didn't. She had her daughter with her and with witchcraft being an hereditary gift passed through the maternal line I just didn't feel like putting up with a vendetta twenty or thirty years down the road. I had enough to worry about, thank you very much.
Her name was Annabeth Laurie, which sounds like it would belong to a nice enough woman and, honestly, she had the looks to match. You look at her, and you see a semi-plump strawberry blonde with blue eyes and freckles; doesn't exactly scream "human-sacrificing, dark-arts-practicing psychopath," now does it? And her daughter, who share her colouring if little else, was just the most adorable little ten year old you could imagine. Bare note here, ladies and gentlemen, if it's got even the smallest bit of magic to it and seems even remotely pleasing to the eye, it's very unlikely to sweet and harmless.
Now, to be clear here, Annabeth found me. She and her daughter showed up on the doorstep of a house I was staying at and tried to play the "Oh, woe be us, we're a struggling mother and her child, woe, woe, woe!" card. I'm a centuries old Fae, a warrior and prince of my people; I was more than a little insulted she actually expected me to fall for such a ploy and responded accordingly; I slammed the door in her face.
Three days later, she tried again, this time coming to me in public as I perused a market and telling me a sob story about needing the help of a powerful warrior to get her and her daughter out of some tragic predicament. I abhor playing the white knight and could not care less for the petty problems of mortals; I turned my back on her and went on about my business. The next day she set on me with her curses and spells, make a right real nuisance of herself with her own little set of plagues and calamities. I actually found it rather amusing at first and probably would have let her go on until she had exhausted herself and moved on. My heritage allowed me both immortality and immunity to magic; all that she set on me was indirect and broad-scaled, like poisoning my gardens and caving in sections of the house. Annoying but tolerable.
Unfortunately, at about the time Annabeth had taken to striking out at some of my more vulnerable staff members - which was something I viewed as culling the herd, so to speak, and more or less permitted - my sister came to visit.
Cat is not a forgiving creature; she never has been. When we were younger and freer, her acts of vengeance were legendary. She had a tendency to be merciless and ruthless, even by our standards, although her thoroughness was usually balanced by a great deal of patience and understanding. In fact, there was essentially only one crime, as it were, that got her hackles up; harming her loved ones. She was a little...crazy about it. You could do what you wanted to her, do the horror movies proud - she wouldn't care, but her sanity tended to vacate the premises if you so much as bruised someone she cared about. Since her escape, she's only gotten worse - or better, depending on your outlook.
Cat didn't visit often. My mother - her stepmother - was hunting her and it made family reunions complicated, to put it mildly. Usually we met in various cities around the world where the crush of mortal life was dense enough to conceal our presence in their midst. This was different though. This was our seven hundredth birthday. Cat insisted on taking the risk and coming home.
Cat arrived with her entourage; an accompaniment of cats and ghosts and her vampire lover. She was at my home a mere two hours when the witches arrived and set about their cursing and what have you.
"Witches, Rav?" she asked, amused. "You run afoul of witches? What did you do - refuse to play the sacrifice in their ritual?"
"Something like that," I griped. "It's cost me two brownies and a hobgoblin to date, but I'd prefer to avoid the blood feud killing them would incite."
Cat snorted and shook her head. "Well, at least they're mortal. If they don't tire themselves out, they'll be sure to die sooner or...Oh." Cat tipped her head and rose to her feet. She went to the window and carefully peeled back the curtain to peek outside. "I think I'd like to meet your witches, Rav. Let's go outside and introduce me, shall we?"
It was not a good idea. Cat was a lot more tolerant of witches than I was - she'd even befriended a few over the centuries - but I knew that tone of voice, recognized it as the portent it was. Unfortunately, before I could object, Cat was walking briskly from the room and down the hall for the door. Sighing, I followed in her wake.
Cat was already perched atop the top rail of my fence, only a few feet from Annabeth, the very picture of the good-old farm girl. She'd even donned a pink checkered halter top and cut-off denim shorts and tied her hair in long braided pigtails.
I arrived just in time to hear her chirp hello. "I'm Cat," she told Annabeth. "I'm Fiachra's sister. Younger sister by a whole two minutes. What do you want?"
That's my sister folks, blunt to a fault. Annabeth stared, her daughter stared, Cat smiled, I sighed.
Finally, Annabeth began her oh-please-pity-me spiel but Cat cut her off after the first half dozen words. "Yes, yes, whatever. I don't want to know why; I want to know what. Now spill. What EXACTLY do you want from my brother?"
"There's a ritual. I need blood. Old blood. Powerful blood. Princes of the Fae top the food chain."
"Uh-huh. My brother won't give you his blood. Or any other fluid for that matter. You're a witch; there are about a dozen dozen spells that could have devastating results in a whole slew of ways if fuelled by his blood. So, nope, not happening. Now, would you kindly get on with your life? Mortality is a fleeting flame and all that."
Cat smiled again and hopped down from the fence. She offered an exaggerated courtesy and turned to leave. That would have been the end of it, or at least it could have been, but the witch would not let it go. She threw a potion, a pearl-hued concoction in one of those old fashioned glass bottles. The witch should have thrown the potion at Cat, it would have been safer for her, but instead she targeted me. Big mistake.
Cat moved faster than sight and snatched the bottle from the air. She held it in her hand, her fury a palpable force that vibrated around her. With a flex of her hand, the glass shattered and the potion bled out from between her fingers. Cat fed off energy; she devoured the magic inherent in the potion as if it were popcorn.
"I know what you planned, little witch. It's a pain, isn't it, having all that power, all that potential inside such a fragile mortal shell. I bet you envy us something fierce, don't you? We're your ideal, your perfection, and you can only ever be what you are, unless that is you're prepared to offer some sort of extreme sacrifice to shift your status. And you were more than willing to do so, weren't you? You should have quit while you were ahead and left when I gave you the chance."
The witch threw some spells, some potions, some curses. Cat absorbed the energy like a sponge and then conjured a bottle of her own. "Don't fret, little witch. I'm granting your wish; I'm granting you immortality."
Annabeth hissed. "You lie. No Fae has that power."
It was my turn to snort. "Are you serious? Who did your research? The kid? I'm Fiachra, Prince of Serpents, son of the Winter Regent...do you have any idea who my sister is?"
Cat frowned. "Do mortals even still remember, Rav? In any case, it doesn't matter. I'm hungry. Let's get this over with."
What happened next is difficult to explain. Cat let loose her power, wrapping it around the witch and proceeding to rip her apart. It was like a twisting maelstrom of energy and molecules and magic. The witch's screams rent the air. Cat held out her bottle in the palm of her hand and watch impassively as the power funnelled into it, dragging the witch with it.
"Keeley," Cat said, addressing one of her henchmen, "wipe the child's memory, bind her powers and deposit her somewhere where she won't be a problem anymore."
A moment later, the child vanished.
"What did you do to the witch?" I asked, giving the bottle a dubious look.
"I'm...not entirely sure. I was going for a sort of hybrid genie thing but I think I may have done more of a stasis thing, I'm not sure. And there's no way to be really sure unless we open the bottle and, um, I'd rather not. Like, ever."
I nodded and plucked the bottle from her hand. She smiled and slipped in close beside me, looping her arm around my waist. "Happy birthday, Rav."
I sighed. "Happy birthday, Cat."
You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca