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The woman spoke, then shook her head as if to dislodge a wayward thought, and a moment later sidled past Darius and returned to the counter. She jumped into action without another word, though I noticed the way her hands trembled when she grappled for a wooden box under the counter's peeling lip. She almost dropped it twice.

She ushered me into a back room where the temperature cooled and the scent of wet earth dissipated. The walls and floor were tiled white with an adjustable chair positioned in the room's middle, and the woman urged me to sit in the chair as she shut the door and flicked on the overhead lights. Darius leaned upon a paneled wall cabinet, frowning as the poor woman flinched and fidgeted and dragged a broken rolling stool to my side. She sat down.

The woman set the wooden box on her knee and carefully pried the lid free, revealing a tidy stack of paper slats similar to the one Darius destroyed outside. I lifted the hem of my shirt enough to display the weeping wound and watched as the woman thumbed through her gathered papers. She whispered oaths under her breath.

I studied the little paper slips and thought them something like talismans.

"Are you really a witch?" I blurted out, earning a glower from the Sin and a puzzled expression from my attendant. "I don't mean to be rude. I've just never met one before."

The woman gave a thin, strangled smile. "Yeah—I'm a witch. I belong to the Verwealdian coven, Baba Yaga."

"Like the folktale?"


Surprised, I looked the woman over anew. She didn't appear any different than a typical human being, really. Perhaps I had seen witches before, as it was impossible to detect any differences within the woman hovering over my injury. Was she actually a witch, or was she a Wiccan? Some kind of Neo-Paganist? I didn't think anything less of her if she was, but I did question the efficiency of her healing ability.

I glanced at Darius, who followed the woman's every move, positioned at her back so the witch would never see him coming if he suddenly pounced. I knew he wouldn't waste his time on New Age holistic medicine.

As I pondered how Darius went about finding a witch, the woman eased her chosen talisman over my wound, tearing a gasp from my lips. She traced foreign characters on the paper, and I felt unfamiliar energy chase her finger, an answering sensation uncoiling in my head. A dark tendril, fine as spider silk, slid between my thoughts as I tasted the subtle green snap of the witch's power and shook myself, trying to clear the peculiarity from my mind.

Seconds passed, and nothing happened. Giving her lips a nervous lick, the woman tugged the bloody paper free, inspecting both sides, tracing the dark lettering. She observed the unchanged injury and, nose wrinkling, she stretched the talisman between her fingers to judge its integrity before she crumpled it and shook her head. The witch applied a different talisman, only to achieve the same result.

Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip again, a fine tremble gripping her body. "It's...it's not working."

"What?" Darius appeared at her elbow, his tone more frigid than the sudden, drastic climate shift exacerbated by his failing patience. "What do you mean?"

"I—it's not healing."

"I can see that, witch. You had best make yourself useful. Quickly."

The witch retrieved a new talisman while I frowned at Darius, and he smirked when she turned her back. For an immortal demon, he is certainly juvenile at times.

Instead of applying the new slip to my side, the woman rolled my sleeve up, revealing the largest burn stinging my upper forearm. Muttering an apology, she folded the talisman over the raw skin, and I blinked when her energy once more traced her movements. Faint light chased her fingertip.

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