Sisters of the Mists Ch. 16byDarkniciad©
This story is erotic fantasy, set in a world of magic. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this work wherever it is posted. If found anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. © Darkniciad 2011
The villains in this story are truly evil, and their actions prove it. Some scenes may be disturbing for some readers.
I make use of modern weights and measures quite often in my work, because those are the weights and measures of my fantasy world. I know many fantasy readers prefer more archaic terms, and I hope those readers can overlook my use of miles, feet, and other such measures.
Please note that the form of witchcraft in my world is not meant to be true Wicca. Nor is it supposed to follow "Charmed" exactly. No offence or confusion is intended.
You should read the preceding chapters of this story in order to know the characters and what is going on. You will find that reading Book I of this story, Danica, will give you a lot of insight into the characters and the continuing storyline.
Evelyn's eyes widened in surprised wonder as the mists settled to reveal the study in the manor. "What is this place?"
"Home," Celes answered. "This is our study. We need somewhere safe to put the pieces of this together."
Ashley pulled out a chair at the large central table and gestured for Evelyn to sit down. "I guess the first thing I want to know is how you recognized the demon when I released it from my power."
"The tattoo on its chest," Evelyn answered as she sat down. She ran her fingers through her close-cropped hair. "Jihark demons all look different, but they all have that symbol."
"Glad to see you alive," Edna remarked from the doorway as she entered.
Ashley introduced her mentor. "This is Edna. She's the one that had the premonition."
Andrea stood up and pulled out a chair for Edna as the old witch approached. Edna offered a nod of thanks and patted the blonde's hand as she sat down. "Did you say it was a Jihark demon?"
Evelyn nodded. "I remember how scared I was of the description in my Mom's book when I was a little girl. That symbol is burned into my head from dozens of nightmares."
Edna frowned. "Your coven isn't the only one in serious danger, then. Jihark are almost impossible to banish or vanquish. This one will be back, and whoever summoned it to this plane is either extremely foolish, or extremely powerful."
"The good news never stops," Celes interjected, and then let out an exasperated sigh.
"Danica called. She said that she'd try again later. She seemed a bit lost in thought."
Celes, Andrea, and Marlena all looked at each other, knowing that didn't bode well either. "I think I should cast a farspeak and see what's bothering Danica."
The others agreed.
Danica appeared in a puff of smoke and breathed a sigh of relief as the shadow of a mountain blocked out the burning desert sun. She could have used the Hellgate, but decided to take advantage of a lesser teleportation spell that she'd never really had much opportunity to experiment with. The spell was one that she could cast quickly, and she'd already thought of a few places that she could modify it to quick-cast it using the battle-mage methods she'd learned so long ago at the Forge.
She smiled, thinking that it could never hurt to have a quick way to pop around in the heat of a battle. She crinkled her nose a moment later at the brimstone stench of the lingering smoke, doubting that she would use it anywhere except a battlefield because of that.
The spell had managed to greatly shorten her journey across the remaining desert from the east-most temple of Sekmamun in line-of-sight jumps. Now she stood at the foot of the mountains that marked the disputed boundary between the people of the desert and their rivals.
One look up told her that her journey had barely begun. A few passes and trails were marked on her map, but Harkhuf had warned her that the map was old, and might not be reliable.
That's where teleporting and flying come in, she thought. Obstacles that might block a normal traveler wouldn't mean much to her, and she had complete confidence that she would be over the mountains in a day at the most.
Even though she'd left early, it was still nearly noon. That made her think twice about attempting the mountains today, and left her with a conundrum. She'd felt reasonably safe while alone in the desert only because she was almost constantly teleporting, and knew from experience that it was nearly impossible to track someone popping in and out of different dimensions with such a spell.
Now, she faced the prospect of needing to stop, and had no real landmarks that she could use as a pattern to return via a normal teleportation spell. Naturally, the Hellgate was a possibility. Even if she couldn't remember this spot, she could retrace her route and end up in the vicinity eventually.
Since she was stopped anyway, she decided to put the decision out of her mind temporarily to try calling home again.
Celes beat her to it.
'Danica, can you hear me?'
'I can hear you,' Danica responded silently. 'I was just about to try calling you again.'
'Are you okay? Edna said that you seemed worried.'
'I am, but I'm fine. It's a long story, but Pharaoh won't be the one to start a war here. I'm heading east to see if I can manage to convince the Emperor to reconsider as well.'
'Hold on. I'm going to try something.'
Danica felt the farspeak magic fade away, and saw the reason for it a second later. Mists swirled, and Celes stepped out from them.
"There are a couple of long stories at home, too." Celes brought a hand to her forehead and let out a sharp breath. "Damn, but it's hot."
"We're in the shadow of the mountains, but we're still in the desert. It feels like winter compared to where I came from. Let me set up my tent so we can get out of the heat."
Celes nodded, and Danica retrieved the magical shelter from her bag of holding.
Ebonar felt the black wave of demonic magic pushing against his wards in the cavern deep below the complex. All was finally in place, and the devil had taken the bait. A wave of his hand opened a portal, and a single step brought him to the room of scrying mirrors. One mirror, different from the others, was a new addition to the room. The glass was the color of blood, and framed in bone.
Through the mirror, Ebonar could see through the undead witch's eyes, not that there was anything to see — yet.
That changed moments later in a burst of hellfire.
The mirror compensated for the sudden brilliance, as did the dead eyes of the witch's corpse. With a commanding thought, Ebonar sprang the trap. The witch, her tortured soul trapped within corrupted flesh, drew the final rune upon the stone floor.
The wards strengthened tenfold, hiding the cavern from the sight of any form of magical divination save his own. At the same time, the containment circle sprang into being.
The hellspawn instantly understood its folly. All thoughts of retrieving the soul of the witch vanished. Bound by the magic of the circle, the devil raged, bringing its considerable power to bear — all for naught.
"My master will want to have a word with you," Ebonar said. He dismissed the image in the mirror with a laugh, confident that even the powers of the devil were insufficient to overcome the magic of Zoraster Arias.
The cavern was strangely silent.
Though the portal to the hells still yawned, the screeches and roars of demons emerging had ceased. Meckataur stood before the chasm, as still as a stone statue. Rexxus watched, having no intention of interrupting the powerful devil.
Meckataur had gone beyond the limits of his power. Between calling so many demons into the world and fighting against the gods to tear the portal wider, he had reached too far. Now, the devil asserted his dominance over all the hellspawn that he'd summoned, ensuring that their power belonged to only him.
Then the demon lord would use that newfound power to tear open the rift wider.
A less intelligent demon might have sought to strike the devil now to steal his power. Rexxus was not such a demon. Even though Meckataur's mind was occupied, he was surrounded by wards established by his pet wizard and cleric. Within that, his own wards protected against betrayal by his human servants.
Only annihilation awaited anyone foolish enough to approach the mighty Meckataur, let alone anyone bent on some form of treachery.
Though ambitious and covetous of the devil's power, Rexxus had settled into the uneasy truth. None beyond the lords of the hells could match the devil now — and none who stalked this side of the rift.
Even so, a smile spread across Rexxus' face. The devil still had a weakness — his obsession with the destruction of Egoria, its nobles, and the fey folk. Some day, that obsession could prove his undoing. An intelligent demon could bide his time, and possibly exploit that weakness.
Rexxus was just such a demon.
"It's always everything at once, isn't it?" Celes murmured as Danica finished relaying the news of her visit to the desert. The pair sat on the bed within the magical tent, shielded from the heat outside, sipping fruit juice.
"Maybe I should just come back and see if I can help protect the covens."
Celes shook her head and shifted a little on the bed. "I don't like the idea of you going alone, though."
Danica smiled and said, "I was actually thinking that Marlena could mask us in illusion to make us look like locals, if that would make you feel any better?"
"It would. You're really just trying to find out if there's anything you can do here, same as we are with the Jihark." Though the air in the tent was magically cooled against the heat of the desert, it wasn't that, but a memory that caused Celes to break out into goose bumps.
Danica immediately recognized the reaction. "Are you okay?"
"There's something else." After a deep breath, Celes continued, "The girls had been sneaking out, one at a time, and managing to hide it from Edna. We tracked down Danielle to a cave in the mists around the valley."
The memory of what had happened flashed through Celes' mind in a rush, and Danica gasped at the same time. Celes could feel the touch of her friend's thoughts.
"Did you see it?"
Danica nodded, her face a little pale. "Sorry. It was just so strong that I couldn't block it out in time."
She hardly sounded convincing when Celes asked, "It can't be Zoraster, can it?"
"It was too quick — too indistinct." Danica shook her head. "Zoraster would be too arrogant to hide in the shadows. We'd know if he was alive."
"Are you sure?"
Danica shrugged her shoulders. "He was also insane, so who knows. The dispell should have kept any magic from reviving him. He isn't the only powerful wizard in the world."
"I'm not so sure. Just be extra careful. Whoever it was, he's dangerous."
"You too," Danica agreed. "Not much else we can do. So what do you think? Marlena and I see if there's any way to get to the Emperor, and the rest of you see if you can find a way to protect the covens?"
"As good a plan as any. Since I know I can find you with the mists now, I can bring Marlena back here without a problem. You could always stay at the manor when you need to rest, and I'll carry you back and forth."
"Or I could use the Hellgate." Upon seeing the look in Celes' eyes, she added, "But only if you're needed elsewhere."
"So that's the plan, then?"
"I'll come back with you. I want to talk to Marlena about something. Between the two of us, we might just be able to eliminate the need of popping back and forth. It might take a while, but I don't think the war is going to break out here overnight. There was an uneasy peace here up until all this happened. The Emperor will need time to get his armies ready to march."
"And at least he'll have to march them all the way into the desert, now. He won't be meeting the Pharaoh's army halfway."
Danica nodded her head in decision. "I think I'll want to talk to my sister and Darkni. We could work on those ideas for the covens to talk to each other and help each other along the way, too."
Celes stood up and started toward the door of the tent. "Let's get going then."
Danica followed her friend outside and turned back toward the tent. Nostalgia flooded through her about the first time she'd used the magical shelter — and the company she'd kept. Memory of the more recent time she'd spent with Nicholas at Boldheart Castle made her shiver.
Danica laughed as her face warmed. "I'm fine." She then spoke the command word that caused the tent to shrink down into its portable form, and picked up the magic item. "Let's go home."
With a graceful, spiraling gesture of her hand over her head, Celes summoned up the mists, and the pair vanished.
Ebonar pounded his fist on the table.
"You didn't really think my little rose would make it so easy, did you?"
Even though he was expecting his master's arrival, the voice startled him a little. His wards were meant to alert him to everything happening within the complex.
Zoraster had walked right in behind him without triggering a single magical alarm.
"Danica is not our primary concern, despite her meddling. She merely delays the inevitable."
"Is delay not our enemy?"
Despite his words, there was a subtle undercurrent of anger in Zoraster's voice. "Not yet. Danica and the fools of Egoria have taken the obvious bait, allowing the true heart of my design to grow to fruition beneath the illusion." Zoraster gestured for his clone servant to rise, and continued. "In time, we will need the nations to clash in war, and the havoc wrought by Meckataur's hordes. For now, they serve as a distraction."
The Archmage gestured, opening a magical portal to the prison of the devil. "To my true ends, let us visit our demonic guest in the catacombs below."
Despite a hint of misgiving about Zoraster's dismissal of Danica's interference, the note of excitement in his Master's voice brought a smile to Ebonar's lips.
Danica leaned forward with her elbows on the stone window sill, looking out the window of the study. The last sliver of the sun sank below the mountains that appeared to float on an ocean of mist.
"They're ready," Ashley declared.
Danica turned from watching the last rosy glimmers of the sky to see the redheaded witch hand Evelyn a small bag that clinked with the sound of the vials within.
"The red ones are the most powerful vanquishing potions I know how to brew. The silver will bring you here, if the Jihark returns," Ashley explained.
"I don't know how to thank you," Evelyn said as she cradled the pouch of potions in her hand.
Danica crossed the room to join her friends and said, "No need. We're happy to help, and hopefully we'll be able to help you more, soon."
Celes held out a hand and said, "Now let's ease your mind and get those to your coven."
The short-haired witch nodded, and accepted Celes' hand. A moment later, the two vanished in a swirling of mists.
Danica looked at Marlena and smiled. The illusionist scribbled notes on a sheet of paper, and then immediately returned to the book she was currently researching. Danica's idea to shield them from prying eyes had instantly awakened Marlena's passion for her magic. She would already have a fine foundation to build from by the time they arrived at Darkni's island the next day to discuss it with him and Devan.
Andrea had already sought her bed, and Danica knew why. The blonde witch was missing her new man, and the emotion was so strong that it had easily passed through the mental barriers that Danica kept in place to prevent her empathic powers from driving her crazy.
Marlena would likely remain nose down in a book for hours on end, if left alone to do so. Danica knew the feeling well, and she'd taken steps to make sure that the illusionist went to bed at a reasonable hour. Celes would take care of nagging Marlena until she put aside her books and papers.
With everything under control, Danica sought her own bed. There were many long days ahead for her — for all of them. Sleep would likely become a rare commodity as she and her friends worked on the means to aid the hard-pressed witches survive the demonic infestation of the world.
Ebonar nodded as two men moved forward to drag away the collapsed wizard. Another worker of the Art took the place of the exhausted man in the circle, immediately lending his power to a great magic taking place far away.
Reassured that those whom he had chosen were performing their task without question, he turned and left the room.
For nearly two weeks, handpicked wizards of sufficient power — and expendability — had served as human wellsprings to feed the magic of Zoraster Arias, though they knew not the fruits of their labors. Some would certainly recover unharmed, and find great rewards for their services. Most would find their reward cold comfort in light of the permanent crippling of their magical abilities.
Two would not care at all, as they had breathed their last within the circle.
The task at hand went beyond even Zoraster's inestimable powers, requiring the circle of joining. Subverting what passed for the mind of a powerful denizen of the lower planes — even a weakened one — and leaving the devil none the wiser was a goal many would call madness.
Zoraster Arias had ignored such thinking to his benefit for many years.
Most of those whom Ebonar passed as he walked the halls of the complex were young, fresh students. Those who had already proven their worth were now scattered the world over, each weaving a single strand in Zoraster's great tapestry.
One of great power yet remained within the twisting passages, however. It was to his chambers that Ebonar now traveled, the heels of his boots sounding quite out of place in the domain of wizards inclined toward soft leather shoes.
Ebonar's thoughts were dark. Though he shared the memories and magic of his Master, his mind was his own. He remembered the object of Zoraster's obsession — but to him, it was only a memory.
To Zoraster, it was the very seed from which he was born.
It was the furtherance of that obsession that he sought out the door ahead. Ebonar knew the mind of his Master well enough to understand that Zoraster would not be swayed from this course. Despite misgivings, he obeyed Zoraster's command.
In a courtesy he would extend to few others that walked the world — let alone within the complex — Ebonar knocked upon the door when he reached his destination.
"Enter, Ebonar," Thanatos called from within.
The spawn of Meckataur maintained no wards over his chambers, for he needed none. Ebonar opened the door and stepped inside to find Thanatos mouthing the words of yet another new spell. The fires of magic burned nearly as deep in the demon as the fires of hell, allowing Thanatos to absorb new magic as a sponge draws up water.
Ebonar closed the door and revealed, "I have a task uniquely suited to your abilities, if you are interested?"
Thanatos closed the book before him with a smile that would have made most men's skin crawl. The demon had found great pleasure and reward in the tasks presented to him, and anticipated more of the same.
Ebonar did not disappoint him.
Danica awakened and stretched, feeling a little better for having caught some real sleep. She glanced over to the other side of the room and smiled, nostalgia washing over her.