Witchbound – Chapter 10

Any hope Alba could have for a restful night were nipped in the bud about two hours prior. She paced back and forth in the room, at times tossing glances at her bed, where an unexpected guest was laying, still motionless – not even breathing and yet she had already proven to be very much alive.

“The Captain will be here shortly,” Andronikos informed her, coming back in. He shut the door behind him and took a chair where to collapse onto, kneading his wrinkly face. “Heavens, what a night.” He let out a long yawn and Alba responded in kind.

“I am forced to agree,” she chuckled. She reached him and leaned against the wall – she still wore the clothing she used for their expedition in the Catacombs, now dirty and stained with mud. “And yet… I’m sorry for not asking your help before.” She fidgeted. Was she really much different from the young girl who had to sit for hours with her preceptor? “Maybe I would have been able to meet Sparagmos with more confidence.”

“You are not the only person who cares for this kingdom,” he assured her with a kind smile. “How does it feel to admit one’s mistakes, Princess?”

She licked her lips, nervous.

“I feel like a fool, and it stings. It’s as if I walked right into mass wearing my night-gown.”

He nodded.

“Good. Hold on to that feeling and you’ll be a wiser ruler than most. I for one was mistaken not to listen to your Father, or to you. I hope we’ll be able to enjoy better trust in the future.”

“Heavens know we will need it,” she sighed, but in the end shared a smile with him. “My deepest thanks.”

Alba’s eyes shifted to the bed again, but jerked back to the door as they heard a knock.

“Peace. Can I come in?”

“At once,” she replied.

The man who entered was tall and broad, dressed in a simple uniform that had not been ironed. He bore the crest with the chalice and the seven moons over his chest, and the deep-set lines in his face were not all due to Alba having him roused so late. Alfiere Rondanini’s grey hair were yet streaked with brown, and in his dark eyes flashed the light of apprehension.

“Your Highness. What is the reason of my summoning? I hope you are safe?”

“I am. A bit tired. And aching, but you’ll soon know why.” She tilted her head towards the bed and Alfiere followed it.

Alba had known the Captain of Grace and Justice since she was a little girl, and in his Sten she had seldom seen surprise. But that night, at the dim light of the candles, his eyebrows crooked and his hand reached for a sword that wasn’t there.

“Princess,” he hissed. “What is this woman doing in your chambers?”

Alba bit the inside of her mouth.

“You may want to take a seat. This could take some time.”


When the thorny bush had unfurled like a flower at dawn, Alba’s heart had fluttered so keen. What would it reveal? She half expected her Witch to be at the ready, eager to follow her commands – she had done it! And as she saw a female figure resting on the floor, she knew she had finally vindicated her father.

Just wait, Sparagmos! She’s show him legends still had a part to play!

“Mother of God,” Andronikos whispered, signing himself. He spoke some other word she did not understand, likely in his native Greek.

But she did not really have ears for him.

The woman laying on the floor was so pale, her skin pure alabaster, she seemed carved from the polished stone itself. Around her flowed black hair like spilled ink, shifting softly to an unseen wind. And to her astonishment, save for a series of metal bands and a heavy golden choker… she was naked.

Alba’s hands rose to cover her scalding cheeks, and then crawled to partially cover her eyes, just as Andronikos unbuttoned his overcoat and spread it over her form.

Alba had enough time to notice the slender curves of her body, as well as the elegant crease of her neck and her strong arms and legs. And the fact that she did not have a belly button. Her stomach was smooth as oil.

Of course. She was not born of woman.

“Heavens above, what a travesty,” the old man lamented as he made sure the cloth hid the Witch’s body as well as it could. “I think you can look now, Princess.”

“Y-Yes, thank you,” she replied, blushing so hard she felt like a ripe tomato, especially because, even if she had hid her eyes, she did not do so completely and… her heart beat so fast, for reasons she did not have the time to completely ponder. Not now, not when she had important stately matters to attend.

Trembling, she crouched next to the creature. She set her hand against her shoulder. It was cold.

As cold as the marble crypt.

“C-Cordelia,” she whispered.

That was her name. She was supposed to answer.

Slowly, the Witch stirred, making the metal bands tinkle. Alba withdrew her hand.

The Witch’s eyes fluttered open.

Even in the dim light, she saw they were a deep emerald green. Unfocused, she looked around, and then her gaze fell on her.

Her eyes widened.

“Mor-” she tried, her voice like smoke. Sitting on her elbow, the Witch shook her head, her hand reaching for Alba’s cheek.

“Princess!” Androniko warned her. She withdrew, leaning back against the walls.

“Mor…” the Witch muttered again.

Then her eyes closed once more, and she fell against the floor, and she did not move.


Alfiere kneaded his face, standing close to the bed and looking down at the Witch’s still form. She was hidden beneath the sheets of Alba’s bed. They had no idea where to put her.

“Whatever this is,” he said shaking his head. “It is not breathing. Is it still alive?”

“It must be,” Alba nodded. She refused to believe anything else, especially after she had tried rousing her again, and had resolved to carry her up together with Andronikos. The Witch was light, much more than she might have looked at first, given she was a good head taller than Alba herself, but they had managed to carry her into her chambers. Slowly, after hours of work, and right before their lamps ran out of oil, but they did manage it.

Andronikos, poor soul, had given his all, and had not really moved from the chair since they had come back.

“What is the meaning of this, Princess? You bring an unknown woman in your chamber, and you seem to be under pretense this is Eridania’s lost Witch?”

“Her name is Cordelia,” she reminded the room. “And yes. I am very much confident in what you said.”

“But… why? What’s going on? Andronikos, you seem to be fine with this?”

“I am far too weary to be fine with anything,” he replied with a wave of his hand, “but the Princess is right. Admitted we did not carry a corpse for hours. I hope our efforts are not in vain.”

“They are not.” Alba walked up to the bed, crouched next to Alfiere, who reached for the brazen fire poker and wielded it as a weapon. “That’s bronze,” Alba informed him. “It’s not gonna be of much use. Witches are weak to iron.”

He clicked his tongue and came back to pick up one of the bars that helped to keep the logs up, swinging it with as much ease as it had been a piece of dry wood.

“But it’s not going to be necessary. She has roused to my command. I am the last of the Malcastria: she has to obey my will. That is how our ancient coven with her kin works.” She reached for her shoulder. Her eyes moved towards her arms – they were covered by bands of different metals, from her wrist to her elbow and her upper arms. Starting from the left wrist, they went in a certain succession she recognized at once thanks to Father’s studies.

On her left arm, the dark circle of lead, the fake silver of tin, and the strong grip of iron.

But… why iron? Like many other things, it did not make sense… wasn’t iron poison to Witches?

And on her other arm, bands of copper, silver and… a swirling one, darker than silver and flowing like water.

Alba licked her lips. How could it be possible – she had no idea – but the uppermost ring on her upper right arm was made of mercury.

And the thick choker, of course, gold.

The hierarchy of Alchemic metals.

It had to mean something. But she needed another kind of answers.

When her touch bore no fruit, she leaned forward, shivering a bit so close with that cold skin and whispered in her ear: “Cordelia. Wake up.”

The Witch shivered again. She trembled, and stirred, her eyes fluttering open.

Alba gasped, leaning back at one. Alfiere tried to pull her closer, but she hit his hand and he did not insist.

“Leave me be. She has to-“

The Witch groaned. Just like her when she tried to shift from dreamy awareness to waking up, she looked at her surroundings. Those green eyes moved from the bed to the walls, to the lights, to the faces of the people there.

Her groan turned into a wail.

Shaking her head like a madwoman, she held it in her hands and cried out in a sorrowful note, her voice rising into a piercing scream.

And she screamed.

And screamed.

And screamed.

Author’s Notes: it might have taken a while, but we finally meet Cordelia! It might seem as if she’s not exactly glad to be awake again! I hope Alba can calm her down. Also, it was fun to write a flushed Alba – expect more in the future. At any rate, thanks for reading.


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