- 30 -

35.6K 2K 395

Saule was on her broken rolling stool again when I entered the room and let the door partially closed behind me. I glanced at the large, adjustable chair I had used when she had healed me, but Saule gestured at a secondary stool I failed to notice and I took that instead. We situated ourselves across from one another with a rolling cart slid between us. The cart was short and precariously wobbly, but Saule didn't seem particularly concerned about that as she poked around the cart's open shelves, extracting various materials from its innards. A beaded pouch landed on the cart's top, followed by a mundane jar of rubbing alcohol, an empty ampoule half the size of my index finger, a length of braided leather, a large white talisman, a red eyedropper bottle, a needle, an inkwell, and—finally—a frazzled artist's brush.

I was eying Saule's gathered accouterments when the witch asked "So, what else did you want to talk about? You didn't come all the way out here to look at mana pots and tell me about that stupid book."

She was correct. I hadn't left my home and risked Darius' anger just to apologize for her burnt text and to poke my nose where it didn't belong. I dropped my eyes to her hands as Saule began her preparations. The witch waited for me to speak as she arranged the items she had selected. I noticed she had a multitude of slender, intentional white scars ruling the outside of her small palm.

"I must confess, I do not know what exactly I wish to ask you. To ask questions you have to have a basic understanding of the subject matter you are inquisitive about. I have very little understanding about any of this." I waved a hand to encompass the room we were currently in. The room was far more average the main floor space, but strange implements and plants lingered in this room as well. The scent of loam was a pungent perfume leaking through the door I had left ajar. "I can't just ask you to start from the beginning. One day I had a normal life and the next...I didn't. I do not know anything about the world I have been living in my entire life. I am so far out of my element I know I should just shut my eyes and do as I am told—but I refuse." Uncomfortable, I dropped my hands to my lap, where they knotted themselves together and proceeded to fidget. "I have a contract I must fulfill. I can't—won't—say anything about it. But to do this, I have to expand my understanding. I have to recognize what I could not even see before." I bit the inside of my cheek as my eyes slid shut. "My blithe ignorance killed my sister. I don't want to be ignorant anymore."

"Mmmm." Saule dipped the brush into the inkwell, then began carefully painting characters along the length of the talisman. The characters were almost Asian in style, but distinctly different and simply nonsense to my eyes. "Humans aren't typically happy to learn about what exists beyond their narrow understanding of their society. Your kind don't like feeling helpless. I mean sure, some of you guys say 'Oh neat, witches and mages and magic!' But then they learn humans can't ever have any of that magic, can't ever become witches or mages, and their enthusiasm wanes. Humans are notorious for destroying things they cannot have or can never become." She dipped the brush again, retouching her glistening black lines. "The unknown is pretty scary. Just because I'm a witch doesn't mean I know everything that's out there. We have our own bogeymen." She lifted the brush and set it aside as a weak breath escaped her. A trickle of energy swept over the talisman and was gone. "Hell, you're one of them."

I gaped as the witch undid the drawstrings on the bead pouch. "Me?" She withdrew a handful of white powder and let it sift through her small fingers to covered the entirety of the white talisman. Judging by the coarseness of the crystals, I could guess the powder was salt. "Why me?"

Saule dusted off her hands. "Because you're a Sin's host. When I was little, my mother used to tell my sister and me stories about the Sins and how we were supposed to be careful what we wished for, because if our wish was too impossible a Sin might appear to try to buy our souls. Typical bedtime story, right? Only meant to get your kids to behave, right? Except its true. You grow up and it's not a spooky urban legend anymore, it's a coven-clad truth, and there's actually people who look for them, for the Sins. People like you who have sold their souls to them." Saule sighed, watching the salt. "I don't mean to judge you. It's not my right. But it's like you're wearing a cloak of living shadow, and it scares the holy mother out of me."

BereftWhere stories live. Discover now