Chapter 1 : Lost fortune

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In the smell of cherry punch and the loud noise of cylindrical phonograph playing the third circle of Orff's 'O, Fortuna,' Kari sagged to the floor.

How long could a witch stay without air before the unpleasantness of fainting would come? It was a rhetorical question but Kari hoped that Wealaworth was right and witches did have a special share of luck. Otherwise, she was totally and irrevocably screwed.

Her fingers grew sweaty as she tried to secure her grip on the sleek curve of the bannister. It was the only support she could find in the surrounding mess. Or was she the mess? This gathering was supposed to be her starting point into the world of powerful witchery. Not a hell ride with this stupid clown dress that sat around her ribcage as a pair of tight jaws.

Her eyes watered as another round of voices flurried through the massive bone of her skull. Hungry as predatory loons they mercilessly tore on her own thoughts and feelings letting nothing but a pile of useless shreds behind.

It was like a fall into nothing... So abrupt and yet so endless.

But the crowd of over-dressed witches finally steered towards the door, their movement giving a crack to the dull weight of the thoughts and emotions that had been holding Kari hostage all this time. A ragged breath of relief flew off her lips and she fell on all fours, trying to scrub her knees off the floor. All in vain. The light balls above then spat another wave of pale fires. Tentatively it brushed on the red of her curls and dashing across the room disappeared in the monochrome gleam of cat-like eyes.

As Lucifer match, they sparked at her. Kari's heart leapt up to her throat and she slowly backed up. But wintry hands suddenly wrapped around the bare of her shoulders.

'Are you drunk?' Someone asked and pulled her up to her feet.

Kari's chest fell as a shaking breath escaped her lips. It was the last molecule of air that she had been so stoically holding in her lungs. But now it was gone. And all that was left in the neat squeeze of her carnival corset was the starving hag of her lungs.

She shook her head and looked up, clinging stronger to holding her hands. Witches – they all were right inside infecting each cell of her body with their vicious and loony essence. But she could not run. Nor could she hide. All she could was to give herself to the mercy of these wintry hands while naively believing that they were that special share of luck Wealaworth had been preaching about all the time.

But suddenly as a white-sand island in the flood of dark ones Cora's head showed up and Kari hurriedly lowered her eyes, praying to the seven moons to let her get out of the Hole unnoticed. It was a simple 'please,please,please' chant under her nose but so far it had been one of the most effective incantations she knew. Besides, one did not have to be a genius to know that as the second witch in their small trio that Wealaworth took under his wing, the blondie would rather die than miss the opportunity to butter up Wealaworth's temper and put Kari's weakness on airs for everyone to see. And being a descendent of the Frone witches had already put Kari's position here in question. If they knew she had an active power, they would kick her out as a defective and there would be no way for her to get back into witchery ever again.

As the solid floor beneath her feet turned into grass, she lowered her eyes, smirking. Good thing they did not burn red-haired witches at stakes anymore, she thought and felt a familiar heaviness crawling up to her throat. It still made her dizzy to know that half of a century ago, this was one of the main rituals used in witch clans to increase the power of the elders and to bring abundance to its members. As if a red-haired witch was not a human but a sacrificial animal, she scowled to herself.

'Thank you.' Kari muttered as they finally made their way to the other side of the yard.

The girl stopped. 'Thanks won't do it for me.' She said.

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