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Chapter Three

"Self-hatred is a destructive emotion—

it caused much pain for Sidhe.

She began to search for meaning in her life,

and, unknowingly, magic enveloped her …

Keori enveloped her …"

—The Pasegean Scrolls

Sidhe stared into the bowl once more, summoning her master as he had asked her to. She dipped her index finger into the now-black water of the bowl and stirred.

"Keori, my master. I call you forth.

Take me, I am your humble servant.

Come to me, speak to me—

I am here to perform your bidding!"

The mixture swirled, and from it burst a cloud of fog, a shadowy figure shrouded in the mist. A devious smile crossed Sidhe’s face as the mist cleared, revealing the projection of Keori Apheli.

Sidhe fell to the ground in homage to Keori, winding herself in the process. "Keori," she gasped, "you are here. I am honoured to revel in your presence, my God."

Rolling his eyes, Keori sighed. "Stand, Sidhe." The woman did as she was commanded, but kept her eyes to the floor as was customary. "Why do you summon me, Keori—why do you ask me to stand in the presence of a mortal?"

The woman clasped her hands together then dared to gaze up at Keori’s face. "Master, I have summoned the four and bound them to myself and their leader. But I have no idea how to approach the situation so to bind them to the cause. Please, Keori, might you aid me?"

Reluctantly the apparition nodded. "You will need to walk with them so to rule them, Sidhe."

"But, Keori! … all the mana in Arsinuae would be needed for such a task!"

Keori raised his finger, shushing the frantic witch. "Only if you create a body of your own, my servant. Inhabit another’s body … that Samandia girl, if you so desire."

Sidhe glanced up from the floor. "Mightn’t that hurt her? She is very important to the cause, and—"

His eyes narrowed and a sly grin passed over his face. "Sidhe, this will help me rule the world … and, if you do your job as I request—" Keori’s wispy hand caressed Sidhe’s cheek, "—maybe you will receive more than vengeance, my dear."

A blush filled Sidhe’s cheeks and she sent Keori back to Uthefulton. She sat down on a small stone seat, and pondered her next move. Should I? Is it worth the pain I could cause Samandia? Then her face hardened. "Of course it is!" she yelled. "After all the delay her selfishness caused, she’s going to want that wish all over again!"

* * * * *

Sidhe sat at the crossroads, finding the fence incredibly uncomfortable to sit upon. Everywhere she sat, something seemed to stick into her—she was annoyed. But when she saw Kessah approaching her, she tried to smile radiantly.

This caused Kessah’s eyes to widen and an alarmed look to overtake her face. Sidhe, scared she had done something wrong, quickly changed it to a scowl, which seemed to calm Kessah down slightly.

The girl swished her chestnut-brown hair around her shoulders as she walked, then pulled herself up onto the crossroad fence next to Sidhe. "Sam," she whined, "what are you doing here? Mother and Papa want to talk to you about Banudi."

Sidhe sighed. Well, I guess I have to take the good with the bad … not! The witch passed her hand over Kessah’s face, sending the girl into a trance. "Now, to divide my magic …" Sidhe murmured a quick incantation and gave Kessah’s body a fifth of her spirit. She willed Kessah to go into the forest, to a small clearing near where she had met Samandia that first time, six years earlier.

Finally, Sidhe had sent nearly all of them to that same clearing, and pretty quickly as well, despite Llyne’s attempted grilling of her "relationship with Banudi". She had seen Catalina wandering around the inn, and although she was easily won over, Sidhe was feeling weak from the loss of her mana. She knew that she only needed to send Tierna there before she could go herself, so she followed the trail of magic from the previous night to Tierna’s home.

As she walked up the front steps to the door, she heard a voice from behind her. "Samandia Darvosten! You get in here right now, young lady!" A tall woman with golden hair was leaning out of the window in the house opposite, and held a rug in one hand, a poker in the other, as if she’d been beating the dust from them.

"Excuse me?" Sidhe looked at the woman questioningly.

A sound like an explosion came from behind the blonde, and a man with stubble and rough-hewn brown hair poked his head out of the window. "Samandia! You get in here now, and don’t speak to your mother like that again! You apologise or I’ll whip you good!" The man seemed ready to deliver his threat, and he begun to pull his belt from around his waist.

Alarmed, Sidhe turned back to the door, ready to bang on it loudly so someone might save her from the insane couple across the street and nearly hit Tierna in the nose. The girl ducked just in time, and Sidhe managed to grasp her hair and infuse her magic into Tierna’s body. Then, with the last burst of mana she had in her, the witch teleported both Tierna and herself to the clearing.

* * * * *

Samandia suddenly realised that she wasn’t sitting on the crossroad fence anymore. She saw tall trees and some leaves lying on the ground, noting that winter was on its way. Where am I? Samandia thought frantically. And why am I lying on the ground? Then, she saw Kessah, Llyne and Catalina looking just as bewildered as she expected she looked.

"Sam! How’d I get here?!" Kessah and Llyne were indignant while Catalina meekly questioned Samandia with her eyes.

She heard a groan from beside her, and nearly jumped out of her skin. The red-haired girl looked familiar, but Sam couldn’t place her face. The stranger sat up, holding her head in her hands. Parting her fingers, she spoke. "You! How’d I get here?!"

Now it was Samandia’s turn to groan … she didn’t know either, but everyone kept asking her that question. "Look," she started, "I have even less idea that you—but, it’s getting dark, so we should try and find our way home, okay." Sam began to search for the path.

"Not so fast, girls."

Startled, Samandia turned back to the others. Unknowingly, they had formed a rough circle. In the middle, a shape began to form. Mist filled the air, and Kessah grabbed Samandia’s shoulder, scared. A lump grew in her throat as she thought of all that had happened those years ago—all that had happened in the last few days.

Then she remembered.

"You," she pointed to the red-haired girl. "You’re Tierna, aren’t you?" The other woman nodded, and was about to question Samandia when she was distracted by the apparition.

"W-what’s goin’ on?" Tierna asked nervously, her hands trembling. Llyne’s face was etched with terror, and Catalina …

Catalina stood her ground, her eyes locked on the shadowy figure. She was the first to recognise it. "It’s a woman!" she cried.

A laugh came from the mist. It cleared and Sidhe emerged, causing Samandia to sigh and the other four to gasp at her. "Yes. And so are you, Catalina Sheperd." Catalina’s eyes widened at the sound of her name, but she was speechless.

Sidhe beckoned Samandia to her, and although she tried to resist, her legs were drawn towards the other woman. "What are you doing, Sidhe?" Samandia asked.

She held up a finger to Samandia, silencing her. Then she addressed the other four, who were even more confused than before.

"Girls, my girls … I know your minds. I know what each of you wants more than anything, and I also know this—I have already granted those wishes. For that, I claim each of you as my own."

"What?" Llyne was confused and angry. "How can you ‘claim’ us? We’re people, not chattel!"

Sidhe shook her head. "No, my dear … not as chattel. I am afraid that I am not as eloquent as I would prefer. Think of it as I give you something you want more than anything in the world, and you each give me something back. I promise that I will only ever ask one thing of each of you."

Samandia’s longed to tell them the truth, but Sidhe seemed to have cast a spell on her which prevented her from speaking her mind. All she could say was this: "Sidhe has given me everything I wished for and more." She tried to stop herself, but the spell was too strong. The others looked at Samandia strangely. "All she wants is for us to help the world, help the people in it, and free ourselves from our burdens." Sam clamped her mouth shut so that she would speak no more lies.

"My dears," Sidhe began, "as women, we are forced to do a man’s bidding. No woman can rule a province, a town … all they can rule is their kitchen." Sidhe spat out the words so bitterly that she startled the four girls. "With my help, you will have more than a woman’s life—you will be heroes, renowned throughout Arsinuae! People will hear your name and remember all that you have done and will do. Do you not want a life such as this?"

All four of them nodded, and Sidhe smiled. Samandia turned her head to the ground, not wanting to see any more. Sidhe beckoned the four of them with her finger, pulling them towards her with pure magic. She passed her hand of each of them once more, this time a pendant on a silver chain appearing on each of their necks. All four felt the feeling of cold metal on their skin and looked down at their gifts.

Each had a medium-sized seven-pointed star, but the stone in the centre was different for each girl. Catalina’s was deep blue, a sapphire, and glistened like the ocean she had glimpsed only once before in her lifetime. Water can mould the world and the view just with its movements. Catalina lost herself in the stone, and knew that her wish had come true.

Kessah’s pendant was simple—crystal clear, but seemed to move with a fury unlike which she had never seen. Wind blows away the hot air and leaves something definite, something mortal. Kessah smiled at the pendant, thinking of all that she longed for in this world.

Llyne held her pendant up to the disappearing light, a saw a yellow stone, coloured like amber but different—it seemed to glitter in the twilight, as if a million stars were concealed inside one small rock. Magic is like true love … it always resides inside of you, just below the surface, until the day it is revealed. For a moment, Llyne paused and felt her heart beat a little faster than normal.

Tierna glanced at her stone for only a moment, but then heard a voice whisper in her head: Serve me like the fire serves man, and I promise that your flame will never be vanquished. The blood-red stone drew Tierna in, until she could not think of anything but Sidhe.

But, when she looked up, Sidhe was gone.


Copyright 2000 M. Lees

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