tagSci-Fi & FantasySisters of the Mists Ch. 20

Sisters of the Mists Ch. 20


Koenat studied the soul before him, and knew something was wrong. She gazed about in stunned awe, as if every sight was new and amazing. While that was common enough for newly arrived souls, this one had been in his realm for years, as the mortals reckoned them.

As the god of balance, who stood at the fulcrum point in the pantheon, his realm within the higher planes was mundane by the standards of the other gods. It was most certainly paradise, but far more modest and similar to the world the mortals had known than the other heavenly realms. The souls who came to him — those who had served no particular god and had done nothing in life to earn punishment — usually settled quickly into a quiet eternity of bliss.

It was not the first time Koenat had felt concern for this particular soul. The man she had taken for her husband in the mortal realms had been unable to cope with her loss. He had begun by trying to contact her through necromantic magic, and would have succeeded, had Koenat not intervened. Her soul was too newly arrived, and not yet ready to speak across the veil. He had not yet accepted her passing from the mortal realms.

He never did.

Rather than continuing to pursue contact, the man had moved on to a more disturbing quest. He sought out even darker magic, determined to return his beloved to the mortal realms, rather than simply speak with her. Though he slipped ever deeper into darkness and madness, his efforts had seemed futile, and Koenat devoted less of his vast consciousness to watching the man.

Then, one day the man had vanished from the mortal realms. Koenat assumed he had perished, and one of the other gods had claimed him. Now, he wasn't so sure. There was still no trace of the man within the world of mortals. When he reached out to the other gods, he found that none had claimed the soul. Even the darkest and most mischievous gods felt disquiet when they learned that a soul had vanished, unclaimed.

All knew only one thing could possibly hide a soul from their sight. That which was before had touched the universe once again.


Ebonar looked into the mirror attuned to the madman's home. The work Zoraster had demanded was well underway. Servants combed the shambles of the once opulent structure, attempting to piece together the lives of those who had dwelled there by what they left behind. Others mapped the layout of the rooms, so that they might be recreated in exact detail. Yet others combed the surrounding countryside, seeking those who had known the madman and his wife before her passing.

Though he felt it a waste of resources, Ebonar obeyed without question. Zoraster had proved time and time again that he would accept no excuses or delay when it came to his obsession. It was, after all, the root of everything he did.

The diversion of men and magic forced Ebonar to replace them, however. The wider web that would remake the world according to their designs had to continue without delay as well.

Frustrated with the master whose memories he shared, Ebonar did what he must.

A different mirror provided far more pleasant news. It had taken quite some time to seek out the warleaders of the goblin clans and study them. Choosing those who would replace them was far quicker and easier. Every day, there were those who failed and earned punishment.

Several such failed officers now wore the guise of hobgoblins and green goblins, mimicking the now dead creatures they had replaced. While they may have been poor officers in an army of humans, they were tactical geniuses compared to the savage, instinctual creatures they had replaced.

Ebonar smiled as he watched the aged and infirm dragged from their hiding places to be slaughtered in the village center. Every able-bodied man was already long dead, unless a few cowards were hiding amidst the weaklings. The screams of those dying slowly in the middle of the village joined the wails and weeping of the women. For them, death would be a sweet release, but only after days of constant rape.

Four other villages shared the same fate.

In each one, some of the goblins had to wait for their turn with the women. They were assigned to pile the dead at the edge of the village, in preparation for burning, to the patrols and defensive lines, or to build up the defenses of the villages, which would now serve as bases for further strikes into the country.

Unprepared for the newly coordinated attacks, the small forces of Normand and Egorian reinforcements had retreated. The runners they had dispatched would soon force Egoria to commit more resources to the defense of the country.

While it would give some green troops seasoning and likely cause Freeland to intervene as well, such was irrelevant. Keeping Egoria off-balance and distracted was the goal. If the goblins happened to make significant advances into Normandal, it would be an unexpected benefit.

Such benefit would, of course, be temporary. In time, the filthy goblins would have to be eliminated. Betrayal by a large number of their warlords and the murder of their king would bring about that result with due haste.

Turning his attention to another mirror, Ebonar groaned in disgust at the image within. The nude, blonde woman strutted toward the bed in a display completely destroyed by her obesity. To his credit, Tortiford leered at her with apparent lust and pulled her into the bed as soon as she was within reach.

Ebonar did not linger on the scene of the two rutting. He had seen what he needed to — and more than he desired. The priestess was growing more confident by the day thanks to Tortiford's brilliant playacting. Soon, she would be able to summon her deity. The avatar of the goddess upon the mortal plane would be vulnerable to Godsbane.

Soon enough, Blorcasir would have company.

Ebonar made a mental note to provide some especially young, attractive, and enthusiastic women to Tortiford when next he returned for respite from his overweight charge. He had certainly earned the reward in rutting with the woman.

A silent mental chime alerted Ebonar to a mirror showing a far more arousing scene than the last. The chestnut-haired woman regained consciousness, lifted her head, and immediately screamed in fright. She struggled against the crackling bands of blue energy holding her suspended above the floor, her nearly nude body tensing and accentuating her charms, barely hidden by the tatters of her clothing.

The web of blackmail had ensnared yet another pretty bird. Memories not his own arose unbidden, superimposing an image of Danica over the woman's features. It was a memory both exciting and infuriating. She had once hung in the same room, about to begin her years of servitude. Now, she was nearly impossible to track, and a constant thorn in his side.

Pushing aside the frustrating thoughts, he rose from his chair — his manhood rising as well — and went to properly welcome the latest unwilling recruit to his master's cause.


Marlena looked up from her spellbook when she heard Danica sigh. "Anything new?"

Danica shook her head and squeezed the aching muscles in the back of her neck. "It's the same as the generals, really. The people who don't want war are pinning all their hope on the Emperor's advisors and his wives. The rank and file soldiers seem to be a little more keen to go to war than their superiors, but that's the only difference."

"How's Luli?" Marlena asked, concerned about the woman they'd conspired to free from service as a concubine of the Emperor.

"She's still a little confused, but she seems to be calm enough. The last time I touched her thoughts, she was at least a little happy that she won't have to stay with the Emperor."

"That's good. I guess all we can do is wait for the Emperor to return."

"May as well make use of the time," Danica said, and then gestured at the spellbook sitting in Marlena's lap. "It's not as if he's going to sneak up on us. We'll probably know he's coming long before he gets here."

Marlena nodded and returned to her studies, but Danica pulled out a pen and paper. Marlena's very real illusion of a cock had provided unique insight into how one actually worked. Danica wrote down all the sensations she could before the memories faded. It was something that could prove useful for making magical toys in the future. She already had a couple of ideas, in fact.

It was a few minutes later when Marlena cleared her throat. As soon as she heard the sound, Danica knew what had happened. The line of study she was engaged in had aroused her, and the Awakening had surged within her. She looked over to see Marlena fidgeting and covering her apparently stiff nipples.

"Sorry," Danica apologized.

"It's okay, I understand," Marlena said, and then chuckled. "A little hard to concentrate, though. It's also making me miss Brandon."

"Talking about him isn't going to calm me down." Danica winked at her friend, and then said, "I suppose I need to get used to him being unavailable, though."

Marlena blushed, but she was smiling. "I don't know if we're that serious yet."

"Well, you're the only one then. We've all been quietly deciding what we're going to wear to the wedding."

"Do you think he might ask me?" Marlena asked in a rush of words.

"It may take him a while to work up the courage, but he'll ask. You have him wrapped around your little finger. I've known him for a long time, and I can see the difference in him now that he's with you."

"Well, we're definitely that serious then. I know I am, but I wasn't sure he was. I didn't want to get my hopes up."

"Just give him a little time. This is going to take more courage than any battle he's ever been in. You won't be disappointed if he just asks you without making a whole show of it, will you?"

Marlena shook her head. "No, I like that he doesn't try to impress me."

"Next time you're in Blackhawk, tell Christi what kind of ring you'd like. She'll push him in the right direction when the time comes. You should probably let all of us know, too. He might ask one of us."

"I need to think about it," Marlena said, her brow knitting. "I don't think I want a diamond."

"Better think fast. He may need time, but not that much. He comes by his nickname the quick for more reasons than one."

Marlena shivered, obviously thinking about how fast he was able to drive his cock into her depths. "I like that reason. A lot."

Danica laughed. "Believe me, I know."

"I don't think he'll be completely unavailable, either."

It was Danica's turn to shiver when she heard that. "Ask any time. Like I said, talking about him isn't helping calm me down, though."

"Me either," Marlena admitted. "So maybe you could help me with this." She pointed at her spellbook. "I can't figure out the inflection on this syllable."

Danica leaned in and saw the illusionist was studying the ball lightning spell. It was a natural progression, now that she'd learned the lightning bolt. She looked at the word Marlena was pointing at and said, "The ink on the accent mark is faded. It's a harder sound than what that looks like."

Marlena nodded. "Okay. I had that problem here, too. This is a softer sound than it looked to be."

"I think we may need to recopy part of your book. There's a lot of faded ink. You should have Celes go through it when we get home. She can spot things like that at a glance."

Danica pulled out her spellbook and flipped to the page with the same spell. She handed it over and said, "In the meantime, you can use my book to work on that spell so you won't be fighting the ink."


Edna looked up from the three pages in front of her.

"What do you think?" Ashley asked.

"You're getting there, but I think you're all trying too hard to work on the whole spell. You should stop fighting your weaknesses and work on your strengths," Edna suggested.

Celes' eyes lit up at that suggestion, and she pointed at Andrea. "You should work on the protective part of the spell."

"Exactly," Edna said. "You're a nurturer — a protector, Andrea."

"And Celes should be working on the wording for the vanquish," Andrea said, catching on.

"Aye. I'm of a mind that a lightning bolt is often just as good as a shield," Celes admitted.

Edna pointed at Ashley. "And you bring it all together. You have more experience in the craft, so you weave together their parts of the spell."

"Makes sense," Ashley agreed.

"Be who you are," Edna said. "You don't need this old woman playing wiccan schoolmarm." She pushed back her chair and stood. "Now, the girls, on the other hand... You should be careful about leaving your spellbooks out. I caught Selena with a copy of the fireball spell."

Celes' eyes widened and she muttered, "Bloody hells..."

Edna chuckled. "Not to worry, it was a bit much for her. I caught her because she was throwing a fit when she couldn't figure it out. It won't be long before your girls are both bristling at not being able to learn magic, though."

"Do you think I should copy a couple of the less dangerous cantrips for them?" Celes asked.

"Please," Edna answered. "And put them in a book. Just having a spellbook they can call their own would help, I think."

"I'll do it when I get back," Celes said. "There's this last batch of potions to deliver."

"You should take a break, Ashley. Go shopping. You're still borrowing a lot of clothes," Edna said.

Ashley nodded. "You're right, on both counts."

Celes said, "Enjoy yourself. We've got plenty of coin, so take enough to make a full day of it."

"I can't argue with that," Ashley said.

"Come with me to Fightershaven. There are a lot of good shops there," Andrea said.

"I'll have to find them on my own, though," Ashley said, and winked at the blonde witch.

Andrea giggled and nodded.

"Well, we're all settled then," Celes said, and picked up the bag of potion vials. "I'm off."

Celes made her way outside the manor before summoning up the mists. Usually, they dissipated quickly, but here, in the valley, they lingered. The last time she'd called them in the lab, it had been an hour before anyone could get anything done there.

She emerged from the mists at the cottage of the last witch she'd visited. It was all too common for those who practiced the craft to be unattached and living in similar, small homes far from other people. They were often ostracized from society at large, or retreated to the fringes to avoid a worse fate.

Norma answered the knock on her door wearing a smile on her lined face. The elder witch was a rarity, as she had inborn powers. Most either fell to demons who hunted them down, or died hunting down a demon long before reaching midlife. Norma's powers were passive, which had prevented the latter, and warned her of danger, which prevented the former. Edna's psychic abilities had contributed to her living such a long life as well.

"Blessed be," Norma said. "Would you like to have a cup of tea before you go?"

"To be honest, I could use something a bit stronger."

The elder witch chuckled. "I might have a nip or two of that as well," she said, and then winked.

Celes joined her in the chuckle, but hefted her bag of potions. "I shouldn't, though. At least until I get these delivered."

"I suppose I should help you on your way, then. So, you just need me to describe Hanna and where she lives?"

"Aye. The mists seem to know where they're going more than I do. Once I have a decent notion, they seem to take me right where I need to go."

"Hanna's a sweet, comely lass. Fair haired and blessed up top. She lives about forty miles north, near the river, with her husband and her twin girls. She doesn't have any powers, but she's as gifted a potion brewer and totem maker as I've ever met. Her girls both have powers. First in her family, but they're bound for now to hide them from demons and black practitioners, and to keep them out of mischief until they're older. Flying and invisibility make parenting a bit of a trial."

Celes smiled and said, "I know a wee bit about that," thinking of the girls.

"You have children, then?"

"Not of my own. It's a long story."

"I'll not press," Norma said, "But if you ever need someone to tell it to, this old woman is willing to listen."

"Thank you."

Norma rubbed her hands together as if dusting them off. "Well, then. Is that enough for you to find Hanna?"

Celes nodded. "Should be. I've found others with much less. Thank you for that, and for helping to spread the potions."

"It's my pleasure to help protect our sisters. It doesn't bother you if I watch you call upon the mists, does it?"

A little confused, Celes answered, "No. I don't even think about it, really."

The elder witch smiled. "It's just the fulfillment of a prophecy that was old in my grandmother's time, and to see it has truly come to pass does this old heart good."

Celes' ears warmed. She was having trouble adjusting to the almost awestruck way many witches reacted to her. She nodded as she took a couple of steps back, and to help cover her embarrassment, she summoned up the mists with a flamboyant, sweeping gesture of her hands.

The smile on Norma's face was brilliant until the mists obscured it.

When the mists cleared, Celes was standing a short distance away from a larger — though still modest — home near the banks of the river. There was a large garden out back and flowers planted in the front. Though she was still some distance away, there was no mistaking the twin blonde girls playing near the front door. The mists had once again delivered her unerringly to exactly where she needed to go.

Her arrival had not gone unnoticed.

The mother of the twins put down the garment she was mending and stood. Though Celes couldn't hear the words, she had obviously shushed her children, because they stopped running and went to stand at her side. Celes walked toward the house openly, doing her best to look nonthreatening. Witches were naturally cautious around strangers due to the way they were viewed by the populace at large. For all the blonde witch knew, Celes could even be a black practitioner or a demon in disguise.

The woman's husband walked to the front of the house, either summoned by a call from his wife or sensing that something was wrong from the silence of his children. He carried a pitchfork in what appeared to be a casual manner, but it could serve as a rather effective weapon if necessary.

A short distance from the house, Celes felt the touch of magic. At the same time she saw a brief flash of light in the grass next to the rocky path she was on. A crystal secreted there was the source of the magic. When she looked back up after the glance at the crystal, Hanna had noticeably relaxed.

"Blessed be," Celes said once she was within easy earshot. "My name is Celes."

Hanna echoed, "Blessed be, sister. What brings you this way?"

"You know Norma?" Celes asked. Recognition showed in Hanna's eyes, and she nodded, so Celes continued, "She told me where to find you. I have news and some magic that I hope you'll be able to pass along to other practitioners you know."

"Please — come," Hanna said. She then told her daughters, "Girls, go help your father for a while."

The girls didn't look particularly pleased, and her husband hesitated for a moment, but the three did make their way to the back of the house as Celes walked up.

Hanna waited until Celes was within whispering range before quietly asking, "What's happening? Every time I scry for demons, they're always somewhere nearby."

Celes kept her voice low as well. "There's a Devil called Meckataur who has opened a portal to the hells and is letting the demons loose. I've brought some potions that can whisk you and your family to a safe place if need be."

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