Christina Mayer: Queen of Hearts

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Christina bowed to appease her. 'My Queen, it is an honour to meet you. I have heard a great deal about you and I value your appearance before me.'

'Rise, child,' the Queen said, her voice silky, warming Christina as she never expected. Christina did as she was told. 'There is no need to bow, I am but a humble creature. I do not receive many visitors. May I ask your purpose here?'

Christina wanted to walk down the steps so she could be closer, but she was too scared to move. After hearing about Bridget's banishment from Weeping Willows because they asked for a favour, Christina did not want to do anything to upset her.

'I have been gathering ingredients to stop this cursed night,' Christina informed her, spilling out the honest truth without question. The Queen had such a calming effect on her. She felt as though she was her mother and she could tell her anything. 'My friends are in danger and I'm trying to save them.'

'You're new to the craft, are you not?'

'I barely know how to say a spell without guidance,' Christina said. The Queen chuckled.

'Oh, young girl, please, step down here and let me take a proper look at you,' she asked. Even though it was a polite request, there was the smallest hint of command in her voice.

Christina wasted no time alighting the steps and standing right in front of her. The Queen's exposed breasts made her a little uncomfortable, but she solidified her face so that she would not expose the feeling.

The Queen ran her hands through Christina's hair. 'You're a natural witch, born into the craft through your ancestors. There is nothing more pure and wonderful.'

'I'll admit,' Christina started, always unsure whether to speak or not, but she never wanted a quiet, awkward moment between them. 'I thought being a witch would be a bad thing. In Lakefield View, it seems as though only bad witches are among us.'

The Queen sympathised with her eyes, resting her hands on Christina's cheeks. 'Beautiful thing that you are. So hopeful, so good. But I see that there has been a bad influence on your heart. The black magic that you have been practicing is damaging. Reconsider your circle. Tell me, who has been teaching you your craft?'

'I'm unsure of her full name, but I know her as Bridget, and she came to me with the promise of helping my friends,' Christina revealed. She now looked worried. 'She is helping me help my friends, isn't she?'

The Queen looked intensely into her eyes. 'I cannot deny that she is – but to her own agenda. I see that your friends are in desperate need, the Marked Ones, am I correct?'

'Yes.'

The Queen pulled away from Christina and turned to look at the ruined village. She sighed and walked slowly along. Christina followed by her side.

'What a tangled web you have found yourself in,' the Queen said sympathetically. 'I worry for you, for your friends. I worry that you will die at your own hands, rather than the hands of the Marchesa Mortavie.'

'The Marchesa Mortavie?' Christina asked, confused.

'Yes, the monster that controls this town – the one who cursed you all those years ago. That is the name we witches know it by. It changes form every so often to keep its identity hidden. When I formed the first coven in the 1500s, the monster took the form of a very powerful woman in Weeping Willows, the Marchesa. She was not happy that somebody other than her in our doomed towns displayed a sense of magic. Witchcraft was born from my defiance to her, and I taught others to do the same. The natural witches are the one who learned directly from me, and their sons and daughters were born with witchcraft in their blood.'

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