Alba watched hopelessly as the Witch wailed, unable to stop her, unable to even understand what might be going on. What was she crying? It did not make sense!
“W-Witch,” she stammered, reaching for her. “Why are you-“
Those emerald eyes whipped back to look at her – her face turned from despair to confusion, and then her lips curled in anger.
“What have you done? You thrice-cursed spawn o’ cindered blood!” She pointed a finger at her and Alba leaned back at the violence in those words. “I was sleeping, sleeping I was in dreamless slumber! And to what have you brought me back?”
“I-I…” she licked her lips, trying to get the better of her shock. Alfiere took a step forward, rising his iron threateningly, but she held him back. “No. No, let me talk. Witch. You have been summoned to once more provide Eridania with the protection it needs. I am Alba Malcastria, last of my blood and first of my name and I compel you to-“
“Compel! You would have mine will compelled! You…” she gave her a once-over and Alba found something weird going on that green gaze. It seemed like a glimpse of deep sorrow passed like a dark cloud over the burning brazier of her anger. “You look and speak just as she would have had.”
“I don’t… I don’t understand.”
“And you should have left me there to dwell over mine sorrow, you craven, insolent daughter o’ a long-spent dynasty! Put me back whence I came!”
She stepped down from the bed, towering over her, raising a hand as if to strike.
Alfiere did not hesitate this time.
He swung the metal piece against her, hitting her in the side. The Witch hissed in pain, but she did not burn. Her pale skin did not seem to even register the contact with deadly iron.
“And what is this now? Are you her lap-dog? Begone!” She gripped the iron, making is slip from his hand and hurled it against the wall, where it hit the masonry and made it explode in a great cloud of brick fragments.
“Enough!” Alba stepped forward, even though her heart beat so fast she heard the roar of thunder in her ears. “I have summoned you, and you will obey my orders, Witch! You are bound to me, Cordelia, and you will do my will!”
The Witch seemed ready to strike again. Then she raised her chin, looking down at her with dripping disdain.
“Mine ties are not for you to hold, pretender.”
“I am no pretender! How could have I brought you out of your cage, otherwise? You are Cordelia, last of the Witches of Eridania, and you will have my blood – and I will have your service. This was the ruling of the Pact.”
The Witch scoffed. Shaking her head, she withdrew on the bed, pulling her legs close to her chest and wrapping her arms about it.
“O’ the Pact you seem to know little, if at all you know. If this was the ruling of old, it does apply to me not.”
And the memory of that mysterious writing stroke through Alba’s mind like lightning.
“Not in Blood but in Bond,” she muttered.
The Witch stared at her, her gaze piercing her once again, as if she was a butterfly in one of Andronikos’ collections.
“This precisely do be the writ. No bond of such can be between us. You would be best to carry me once once more into mine chambers and let me sleep again.” An uncertain pause. “If o’ sleep I am capable still.”
Alba looked at Alfiere and the Chancellor.
“Get out. I need to speak with the Witch alone.”
“I will not do any such thing,” Alfiere replied. “Your safety is at stake here, and this mysterious waif, Witch or not, will not remain here alone with you, she might harm you, or worse.”
“Oh, she would have already harmed me if she could,” Alba stated, leaning forward until her blue eyes were level with those green one, burning with anger. “I bet she would have commandeered her shadows to throw me off the ramparts and into the valley below, as she once did.”
A flash of memory passed over the Witch’s face and she flinched.
“Yes, I do not doubt that she would have done all that and more. You seem crossed, and I want to understand why. Look.” She leaned on the bed, so that her head came even closer to the Witch. Her arms made their bands tinkle, but she did not move. “See? Now, do as I said.”
“I think a compromise is in order,” Andronikos interjected, standing up from his chair. “We will not leave you alone in the face of a potential enemy, especially one so mysterious. And yet, challenging your authority would not… lead to a pleasant outcome, I’m sue.” He looked at Alfiere. “We will wait on the terrace. This was we can intervene if something happens, but Her Highness will have the peace of mind she requires.”
“You are wasting your time and mine. O’ all the ways I would like to spend mine time, the last one would be to speak with you. “
“I shall be the judge of that,” Alba stated, picking up a chair and setting it against the bed.
Alfiere sighed and did as was suggested, gathering with the Chancellor on the terrace. But he picked up the iron bar on his way, even though it had seemed to do nothing.
As for the Witch, she closed herself in a gloomy silence.
It seemed it was her turn to make the first move – once again. Why were things never easy?
She gave her a once-over: the Witch was certainly beautiful, in a manner that made her choke with a strange and undefined emotion that gripped her right at the bottom of her stomach and then spread all over her chest and into her throat. A vertigo she could not name, and that made her fret to find a solution for this problem.
Her eyes lingered on the gentle curve of her neck. Her skin was pure alabaster, smooth like marble, presenting her slender beauty like a living statue dipped in flowing ink from her mane of flowing hair. Such an otherworldly creature, dropped in a world of revolutions, Jacobins and great empires.
“I have called you here for a reason,” Alba started.
Behind the glass, the Captain and Chancellor looked at the two of them. Standing still, but Alfiere shifted his weight from one leg to the other, ready to jump.
“There is always a reason,” the Witch hissed. “I have heard such words before, over and over. You always think the price fair and then balk at the consequences of your actions, while mine existence is reduced to a vile object and nothing more, a tool o’ which to abuse.” Her eyes turned to scornful slithers. “You are not the first to use such words.”
“But if you listen to me, I might be the last.”
Hoping she might have found a lead, Alba pressed on.
“Let me explain. And if there is price to pay, I will gladly pay it to save my people.”
Author’s Notes: first time writing Cordelia’s dialogue here, and I wanted to make it sound somewhat ancient, so I did a bit of research on Elizabethan English and it turns out all those ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and ‘-st’ were only used in informal language. So I tried to use other ways (as historically-correct as I managed) to make her sound like she came from another time. I hope you liked this! At any rate, thanks for reading!