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The Endless One looked down. Wrapped his decayed fingers around the bolt protruding from his chest.

In one effortless move, he yanked it free and tossed it aside as if it was nothing more than a twig.

"Come now," he said in a mock serious tone. "Attempting to kill someone like me who's already dead? A waste of your time as well as mine."

"I wasn't trying to kill you," Charlotte replied.

She stepped back, raised her hand, fingers spread wide. A thin silver thread of magic extended from The Endless One's chest and wrapped around her fingers, her wrist, and up her arm. Then she made a fist, squeezing that thread of magic as tightly as she could.

The Endless One gave a strangled cry, one hand pressed to his chest. His mouth opened on a gasp of agony as he dropped to his knees.

"What...?" he croaked. "What have you done to me?"

"The bolt was hexed," Charlotte said. "The moment it pierced your heart, the magic lodged inside you. Pulling the bolt out will do nothing." She smiled. "Just a little trick passed down from my grandmother."

The Endless One growled and surged to his feet, the blackness that consumed him pulsing like a giant black heart.

Charlotte didn't flinch or retreat. Calmly, she snapped her fingers.

The Endless One's head flung back with a grunt of pain. He staggered as if he had been hit with a tremendous blow.

"You will not touch me," she said. "In fact, you won't be going anywhere that I don't allow you to."

"A human can't control the power of a hex for long."

"Consult Alexander's memories as you did earlier if you think I'm lying. He knows what I am. I'm hardly a normal human."

The Endless One went silent, seething, as he searched for an answer inside Alexander's mind he had taken possession of and locked away. Then he fixed Charlotte with a rigid stare.

"Witch," he spat. "Crafted from ash and bloodshed, the dark and arcane." He laughed, a rough, scratching sound that echoed off of the trees. "One of Mina's brats. You're not any better than I am."

Charlotte did her best to stifle the revulsion at such an idea. But he had, somehow, put voice to the one thought she dared not admit to herself, despite how it lingered at the back of her mind, unwelcome and sour.

It wouldn't take much to tip over the edge and spiral into decay the way this monster had. All she needed was a little nudge in the wrong direction and she could end up like him.

Long ago, when the world was tangled in wild forests and the stars were close enough to touch, Mina was the first witch to walk the earth, spooling magic from the moon with her spindle and her long, thin fingers.

But where there is moonlight, darkness was sure to follow.

Mina faced the one fate every witch dreaded—burned alive on a pyre for fear of the power she held.

From the coals at her feet, as the flames grew, she took four cinders, rippling with shades of gold and the lushest crimson. She pressed a kiss to each one. The remnants of her magic encircled the coals until they glowed silver.

The cinders wrapped in moonlight disappeared in the fire. From Mina's ashes and bones, four witches were born.

One hedge witch to wreathe the earth in a blanket of greenery.

One water witch to watch over the streams and oceans.

One spirit witch to serve as intermediary between the land of the dead and the land of the living.

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