03 The Witch of the Isle

By EM Malachi

The bolt of raw mana tore through the daemon’s unnatural essence. The fiend gave a final roar and collapsed in a pile of burning embers on the dock. The monstrous skull was the last part to crumble to ash.

As the air cleared of Wildfire’s dense smoke, Lady Tessa let herself finally breathe. A knight pulled off the burning gauntlet that held his sword. A bucket line of the island’s merchants appeared and began dousing stray flames. A young squire stood shakily at attention, despite being badly burned. Lady Tessa flipped through her book to spells to help with burns and injuries.

As she healed the knights from the Hold, Lady Tessa remembered when she first came to the island as a young bride, so many years ago. The people of Serpent’s Hold distrusted magic. Their lord and commander marrying a “witch” had been a huge scandal. It had taken a visit from her friend, the King of Britannia, for them to even look her in the eye. It had been a few more years before they would allow her to mend their injuries with magic.

Alarm bells pulled Tessa from her reverie. Several knights ran to help, but it would take them a few minutes to get to the makeshift field hospital on the other side of the island. With her magic, she could be there instantly.

Her rune dropped Tessa into a conflagration. She started quenching the fire, yard by yard, making a path into the keep that held the field hospital. She entered the courtyard in time to summon a wall of energy to shield a healer trying to protect his patients from the flames.

In the center of the inferno was a woman in a dark robe. Drusilla pointed her crooked athame at Tessa, and the fire complied, slithering forward like a snake.

“Kal Vas Xen An Flam!” Tessa’s magic called to the deep seas around the Isle of Deeds, and they provided her a champion. The giant water elemental quenched the oncoming flames. Mage and elemental turned their magic on the Dark Monk.

Tessa felt a sharp pain in her leg and looked down to a small dart. From the parapet, another woman appeared, with a handful of darts. The Dark Monk Solaria laughed as she joined her sister. “That summon won’t last long once you swallow your tongue.” She pulled a vial from behind her ear.

Drusilla held up a hand. “Reiya will want her alive. Her blood’s potency will help light the flames along the Dark Path.”

Tessa dropped her spellbook and wrenched the dart from her thigh. The pain was terrible, but it gave her a brief rush. She assailed the monks with small spells to distract them. “You should leave now.” She stumbled, but caught herself.

Solaria laughed and then screamed as a crossbow bolt tore into her abdomen. The Knights of the Hold had arrived.

“Sister!” Drusilla let the flames subside to cast a healing spell on her kin. Before she could summon Wildfire again, a knight’s blade cleaved her athame in half. The monk sisters pulled runes from their pockets.

Before they could escape, Tessa used her last strength and mana to command her elemental to break like a wave upon the monks, throwing them over a wall into the waters below the keep. She then collapsed.

A knight dropped his spear to catch Tessa and carry her to a cot. As she faded into unconsciousness, she looked at the circle of worried knights around her. They would never completely trust magic, but they trusted her. Tessa was their witch.