One fire witch to wield the flames that had brought about Mina's demise and protect her sisters from the same fate.

Not only was the creation of life from the death of a witch an unreliable and delicate practice, it meant Charlotte always had the potential coursing through her veins to fall towards destruction.

The burden and blessing of a witch was her magic. With power at her fingertips, incomplete such as it was, she could commit atrocities no human was capable of.

Perhaps she might rip the world apart with the bare whisper of a spell.

Or she might grace everything she touched with the warm caress of a charm.

Such a tentative balance, every minute of every day.

"Thousands of years have passed since Mina was alive," Charlotte said. "And whether there is darkness in my veins or not, I have never let it rule me the way it rules you now."

I hope I never will, she thought.

Without giving The Endless One a chance to reply, she whistled a sharp trill. After a minute or two, her horse came trotting out of the forest. She pulled herself up into the saddle and twitched her finger in a come here motion.

The Endless One didn't move.

This was the beginning, Charlotte knew. A battle of wills with more magic than she had ever witnessed in her life, let alone held under her control.

The Endless One was old. Along with age came power, infused with the passage of time the longer his reign went uncontested.

Meanwhile, Charlotte was only seventeen. A witch, she might be, with ancient spells at her command. But she was far from her peak strength. There were still so many spells, incantations, and divinations she hadn't tested yet, hadn't memorized until it was second nature to summon them.

Yet Charlotte refused to be intimidated. She flung her hand to the side. Hard. Her thread of magic stretched taut with a whining hum.

The Endless One stumbled forward and skidded to a stop next to Charlotte's horse.

"I will rid myself of this bloody hex," he said in a dangerously low voice. "Then I will watch you burn when I'm free. I swear it."

"Oh, I doubt that. You see, you were right. After a fashion. Eventually, the hex won't hold you. Its energy will fade by the next reaping moon. If I fail in breaking the curse you've bound Alexander with, you will die."

"Your beloved groom will die with me," The Endless One taunted. "Instead of doing everything you can to save the man you love, you choose to kill him. I say he's better off with me than with a foul witch like you."

Charlotte leveled a cool, detached stare at him.

"I would rather bury Alexander than let him suffer at your hands."

"Did you tell him that? Before he proposed? Does he know his dear bride would be so willing and eager to abandon him to the grave?"

When Charlotte didn't respond, The Endless One chuckled.

"I thought as much," he rasped, triumphant.

The shadows swarming around The Endless One scrolled towards him and disappeared. The silence of the forest roared with emptiness. The thread of magic woven between Charlotte's fingers grew warmer and warmer until it was unbearably hot to the touch.

The Endless One was preparing to attack. Her magic could sense it and it was preparing to defend her, shield her from the dark energies coming her way. To be on guard like this would drain the energy she had at her command. But if she attacked without knowing his weaknesses, she would waste even more energy and she couldn't afford that either.

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