Witchbound – Chapter 1

I – Alba Malcastria is a Princess on the run. But she may have an ace up her sleeve.

Alba was not made to run through the forest.

Something wheezed past her ear like a black bee.

Or to be used as target practice.

She skipped over a few rocks and spotted a few tall beeches nearby. She took refuge behind them, trying to breathe evenly and not reveal her position, even if her she heard every beat of her heart like a thunder and her raspy breath must be as savage and as uncouth’s as a whipped dog.

Where is she? Alba thought, looking around for any sign of her presence, but she found nothing. 

Another bang resounded to her right. This one was closer.

She curled into a ball and hid in the thicket of trees.

As luck would have it, she was wearing her riding clothes when the hunters found her, a once-white pair of thick trousers and a grey shirt. It might provide better cover between the thick bark of the beeches. Even her blonde hair were muddied enough to look (and feel) like dirt.

She used to believe one of her rank would not be caught dead wearing anything as scandalous and as horribly bourgeois as pants, but right then she was grateful for the improved mobility. 

She was more used to calmly walking down the hallways of the Cittadella, her comfortable shoes drawing soft sounds from the marble pavements. 

Least of all, she had never heard of people shooting at the Princess Regent of Eridania!

Was this how the French royals had felt, sixty years before? Hunted like a pack of boars?

She balled her fists and tried to control her breath. She was better than this – she was not some over-bred Habsburg or thin-blooded Bourbon.

She was a Malcastria.

What would Father say if she just gave up?

Alba picked up a nearby rock with her left hand and threw it in a wide arc, hitting the ground some twenty steps away, making the leaves rustle. 

No sound followed. 

No shooting, no eager rush towards the noise she made.

“Was that a bait?” Came the amused voice of a man from a spot behind her. “Your Highness, that was a bit insulting. It sounds like you have no faith in our skills.”

Tch. She supposed things would not go as smoothly as they did in the books she read as a child. 

Still, if only she showed up…

Maybe she could still make a dash for the next patch of trees, but what might lay beyond? This was not a pleasant stroll down wide roads like she used to do with Father. She didn’t even know where this part of the forest lead, or what lay beyond. All her life, she had known little besides her palace, and now-

Now she was alone and hounded like a beast.

The steps of three people came up from around her, softer than she imagined even on the dry leaves. She spotted a dark figure holding a rifle, proceeding uphill to her left. He bore a long leather coat and embraced a wooden rifle with its iron sight trained away from her.

He had yet to spot her.

Or maybe they would not see her. She was petite even for a woman and with her grey clothes they might-

“We know where you are, your Highness,” came the voice of the same man. “Come out of the woods, please. The Duke would be greatly displeased if we were to deliver you to him all bruised and spoiled. We don’t want that, do we?”

She gritted her teeth, but did not move.

He had said the woods. Not a thicket of trees or that tree. Hence, they may not know where she was yet. 

She silently prayed the Virgin for help. Heavens had taken Father away from her, but maybe they could give her this at least?

Her blue eyes trailed to her withered right hand, the ash-like skin wrinkled.

Where was she?

“Your Highness, the sun is going down. I’ll count down from five. Please come out, or I will stop being so gentle and understanding,” threatened the hunter. “Five.”

What to do? She could just ignore them and pray they weren’t aiming their rifles at her. She had bee taught to look at things rationally, but right then Andronikos’ endless lessons about philosophy did not really help. 

Her heart beat so hard she could almost feel it bloat right in her throat.


A few leaves floated right in front of her. They formed a circle, then a figure eight. 

They disappeared down to her left.

About time.


“Cease your blathering, gentlemen,” she stated. “I’ll come out.”

She stood up. She was putting all her faith in someone she barely knew, and most importantly, she did not entirely know how to control.

But faith was not supposed to stay confined in churches. She kissed her fingers and signed herself – perhaps a blasphemous thing to do, but at that point, her list of sins was growing heavier with each day.

She hoped he could forgive them all in the end. 


“How impatient,” she mused, stepping out of the wooden thicket. “Here I am.”

The three hunters turned. Two of them were looking to her right and to her left respectively, so they did not exactly know where she was, but the third, who looked at her with a cruel smirk, had his rifle trained right at her.

Besides, it was too late for doubts. 

She looked up at the treetops. Nothing moved there and she felt like screaming. Her right hand pulsed. 

Still, she put on a confident face, keeping her head high. 

“Look what came out from beneath the dirt,” the hunter chuckled. He mocked a bow, always keeping his rifle aimed at her. “Enchanted, Your Highness. They did say the last of the Malcastria was beautiful, but stories and tales fall short.”


“Now be a good girl and come with us. We surely do not want to ruin such beauty, do we? And it’s almost time for supper.”

Another quick breath of wind made the leaves rustle behind the hunters. Forming another eight. 

She nodded.

“I would,” she replied. As the three hunters’ shadows stretched and twisted silently behind them, she allowed herself the luxury of a smirk. “But I am waiting for someone.”

The hunter frowned. 

An unnatural quietness descended upon them.

Alba’s ruined hand tingled.

Unseen, their shadows stood up behind them and, silent as a snake, wrapped themselves about them like a spiderweb of darkness. 

“Wha-“ was all he could say, turning to point his rifle at something that was not there. The shadows quickly bound his wrists and the three fell to the ground, rustling and groaning between the leaves, their muffled screams and curses getting lost in the wind.

Something fell behind her. 

Alba turned to look at a tall and slender woman, dressed only in a black robe, her long hair flowing like ink, following a wind that wasn’t there. Her emerald eyes regarded her with an amused look. She held a few wild apples in her lap – she picked up one and gave it a crunchy bite.

“What? I got delayed.”

Alba tossed an irritated glance at the fruits.

“We have many more of those at the castle, Witch. While you made yourself scarce, I had to run from three of the Duke’s stooges.”

“I bet it did wonders for your resistance. Seriously, you are young, but you need to exercise more. What is it that the Romans used to say? Mens sana in corpore sano.”

She gave another bite to her apple.

Alba rolled her eyes.

There was no reasoning with her. 

“Let’s just go back to the castle. I’m tired and I need a long bath to forget about this terrible afternoon.” She tilted her head towards the three. “What about them?”

“Hm,” the Witch shrugged. The shadows binding them flashed some sort of blinding light – like glancing at the sun or at a bright candle – and they all fell stunned against the ground. Their shadows shivered and came back to their natural state, resting besides them.

Alba bit her thumb. She had refrained from killing for now, but the experience had shaken her. Perhaps-

But no, she decided in the end. 

She would risk only to escalate. The Duke had hundreds of these on his paybook, and so far he had to abide to secrecy. 

It was part of he defense.

Plus, she only had once Witch. 

“Let’s go home,” Alba turned and began to walk towards the castle. She held out a hand, and the Witch put one of her apples on it.

Seriously, Alba thought brushing it against the inside of her shirt. How much worse can this get?

And maybe it was because she was standing next to the last of the Witches of Eridania, or maybe due to the bad luck that run in her blood, but in late days she always wondered if, with that simple thought, she had jinxed it. 

Author’s Notes: and here we are! Chapter one! I’m really excited to write this, and I hope you’ll follow it with pleasure. Also, I decided to get rid of the images at the start in lieu of a very short summary. I hope you like it.

Thanks for reading.


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