Witchbound – Chapter 17

As Alba quickly found out, both her Chancellor and her Captain were not truly eager to meet the so-called Madame Herkowitz, even if it was now morning and the light of the sun seemed to display any notion of Witches.

“If I have to express my mind clearly, which I believe you might want to hear, Your Highness… I think this is purely madness.”

“It is always nice to be appreciated,” the Witch replied with a faint smile.

They sat in her chambers, as she did not feel confident enough to just get out of her quarters and escort the fake noble-woman about. Also, what would the servants think if they saw a black-haired beauty like her come out of her chambers… without ever having been announced?

Her cheeks grew redder at the whispers, the scandal that would follow. Murmurs ran faster than horses, and they would deem her a deviant! Not great publicity for the future Queen of a country.

But she couldn’t exactly keep her inside her bedroom, either.

“I know it’s unorthodox,” Alba conceded. The Captain huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, making his armor clink. “But it’s the best course of action we have. Besides, she is completely under my control. Witches always had to obey my family, and she is no exception. Isn’t that right?”

“It is,” the Witch sighed, raising her arms and showing off the bands and choker than chained her. “The consequences of the Pact hold me to obedience to Her Majesty’s wishes.”

Highness,” Alba corrected. “I am not Queen yet.”

“That is all well and good,” Andronikos interjected. He leaned forward from his chair. “But we are just worried about your well-being, Princess. As far as I could understand, this… being does not requests your blood as payment.”

Cordelia made a face, as if the very thought was disgusting.

“I have already paid in advance,” Alba said pulling out the glove hiding her right hand. She showed them the wrinkly, grey skin that was the outcome of the new Pact. In the day since she had stipulated it, some sensibility had come back to her hand, though just a faint echo of what it used to be. The Witch told her she could regain some of her strength as well, but as soon as they worked together to break her seals, the spell would proceed until only the memory of her hand remained. “I am going to use this strength to ward off any invader.”

The Captain frowned.

“I know our strength is limited. But terrain is on our side. We can-“

“And with how many bayonets do you think we can defend out valley?” Alba talked over him. It wasn’t polite. Father would not have approved. “We lack all strength for a true resistance, and you know this better than me.”

“And should we sacrifice our Princess for that?”

“What is your duty, Alfiere? As Captain of Grace and Justice.”

He shook his head, for he knew already what she meant, but he answered anyway.

“To protect Eridania and to make sure our Army is the best it could be. To lay down my life in its defense, if necessary. That is the promise I made your father.”

“That’s right. My own duty is similar, yet it is deeper. I have thirteen centuries of Malcastria looking up to me. And I will sacrifice all I have in order to make sure my kingdom survives. Your duty is to the state, Captain. Mine is to my blood, my country and God.” She stopped for a moment, for the Witch was looking intensely at her. Something she couldn’t understand was passing through her green eyes. She quirked an eyebrow, but Cordelia did not speak. So she went on. “I am not going to leave this kingdom into the hands of some Austrian, or, worse, to some democratic demagogue,” she hissed, disgust seeping from her voice. She’d be dead and buried before Eridania looked anything like the reign of chaos that a democracy was. “So I only ask you to believe in me. And if not in me, in the strength of my duty.”

The Captain and Andronikos shared a look. Meanwhile, the Witch kept looking at her. She had half a mind to tell her to just stop… stop leering at her like that. It made her nervous for some reason.

“I do believe in that,” Alfiere said at last. He took off his helm and put it under his arm. “I might still feel the departure of your father far too keenly. More than that, I feel like walking in the kingdom of fairies and legends. How is this Witch going to be useful to us anyway?”

“I think I can explain that, if… Madame Herkowtiz refrains from showing us personally,” Andronikos said, standing up.

“I would prefer to. Every bit of power I consume comes at a price.”

“Very well. Now, as far as I understood, the Witches of old could only do so much. Our Princess’ latest finding is capable of much more. Alfiere, think of it like pouring oil over a slow-burning fire. If half the legends are true, she would be a formidable opponent.”

“War has changed since the times the Witches disappeared,” he replied. “I wonder how a single woman can help us when dealing with artillery, cavalry charges and bayonets.”

“That is the reason why we are all here.” Alba picked up an envelope from her desk and showed it to Alfiere. The Captain produced the two tickets Sparagmos had given her.

She explained the entire situation and what happened in the rose garden even as the Witch kept looking at her and Andronikos paced back and forth.

“You knew about all this already?” He asked the Chancellor.

“Alas, I was hastily informed. Yesternight was a tad too full to let you know about that, my apologies.”

“I am always the last to know about these matters,” he replied with a frown. “From now on I want to be informed about every news, good or ill may it be.”

“That is exactly the reason why we are having this conversation. Sparagmos invited me there because he wanted to find a so-called peaceful solution. I rebuked his absurd courtship, but that will only mean he is going to attack – and attack soon. The ball takes place at the end of summer and by the the Empire will be sure to have restored order through its borders. The only chance he has is a swift strike while he still has time.”

Alfiere mulled that over.

“… it does make a frightening amount of sense.”

“Sadly, the Witch is not fully free. I have paid in advance for a power that’s not yet available to us. And this is the second reason for today’s meeting.” She turned to look at the Witch, who had not stopped to gaze at her. “We need to set up a plan – for the defenses. For dealing with my schedule. And for finding a way to unlock Cordelia’s true potential. I suppose we have nary a week before Sparagmos starts to make his move.” She clicked her tongue. “We don’t have much time.”

Author’s Notes: a quick setup chapter. Some of the twists and turns of this story are taking a life of their own. At any rate, thanks for reading.


Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un’icona per effettuare l’accesso:

Logo di WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s…

%d blogger hanno fatto clic su Mi Piace per questo: