From the darkened sky she drew a sliver of midnight, and draped it over sunkissed soldiers that did not feel befriended with the chill of night. Förandra was not accustomed to these neck of the woods. The very air seemed so much colder than the areas that surrounded her own dwelling. Yet the same trees stood here. The same air filled these spaces where the holes breathed. So what was different?

Well, the cold fury of a witch was perhaps an evident enough answer… The maddened marauder could surely attest to that. She tucked back a lock of auburn hair as she mused on an old memory. Her grandmother had always said that a mercurial witch’s moods could be felt in the air… But then, why was she feeling such a chill?

She had left him there in his fit of dizzy seizures, in the middle of the clearing; to shake away at his sins after she had extracted from him what she needed. Perhaps if she was more insouciant in her torture, then the cold would be explained. But she did not feel so apathetic in her revenge plight. Quite the contrary, her rage burned like a searing wildfire. It was all she could do not to set the forest aflame…

She was walking along a rise, where the trees reached higher to blot more parts of the sky. But there, at the bottom, she saw the flicker of campfire attesting to the intruders that had made their rest here for the night – kin of the brute whose mind she had just broken. She wondered if the wretches would react the same. A well-conjured hex of histeria could surely dismantle the fabric of a raiding party… perhaps even force it to extinguish itself…

“My, my. I must say, your predilection for revenge is certainly worth indulging…”

So, that explained the cold. Forandra had wondered at what power was awork in the gloom. Seductive and taunting, few goddesses reveled in the game as well as she did. “Are we meddling with your map of destiny again? Or is there a more intimate reason for this personal visit?” The calm in her voice did well not to betray the fire she felt at her core. She turned around then, to regard her evening’s companion.

“Yes. Your kind is so very adept at change… But I do bore of the constant drabble of linear lifelines…” The deity emerged from the shadow draped in form-fitting white, appearing ghostly in stark contrast to the darkness that surrounded her. In fact, the very gloom seemed to recede, but at the same time threatened to engulf her. She didn’t belong, and the witch had the distinct feeling that the forest even knew this. But then, when you forced the hand of Fate, the goddess was unlikely to pay heed to the natural order of things.

“We never did do well with a prescribed way of living. I thought you had learned that the last time…” It didn’t occur to her until the last word passed her lips that she was playing coy with an immortal. She wondered if she was perhaps testing her luck.

The goddess’s expression revealed no reaction at her insolence. In fact, she seem amused. “Last time… your kind got tangled in events far beyond the scope of gods and monsters to even fathom… No such thing had ever occurred… But I must say, it was such a very delicious time, back then… and it seems like history was bound to emit an echo into your future…”

“And this meeting… is this the prophesy personally delivered? Is this the echo? I did not take you for the messenger of your own devices…” Förandra had definitely inherited her grandmother’s gall…

The goddess walked closer then. She was silent, but in her stride was a simmering vexation at the witch’s effrontery. Förandra’s own magic was destabilised as she felt her auras shift against the weight of a divine force. Fate stood in front of her then, her marble face glacial and hinting a warning, until she stated measuredly, “Careful now. I find your lustre intoxicating, but I am not addicted to your charms, young sorceress.”

The witch met the piercing gaze of the goddess with her own steely look, deciding it best to tone down her apparent impudence. “Then, why have you come…?”

For the first time, the flawless edges of that mouth cracked and folded, revealing a devious smile that chilled the witch to her core. “Why, to make a proposal of course… how would you like to be my instrument by which the world is tilted in its balance?”

For as much fire as Förandra had kept burning inside her, the goddess’s will had all but extinguished it to coax her thoughts along the devices donned by the divine… Fate was compelling, the witch had to concede. The tales that had passed on through her family were perhaps not so farfetched as she had first thought. Standing there, face to face with the overpowering beauty of the numen of destiny, she had to admit that she was impressed. But how did her family sway the hand of the goddess all those years back to work in their favour?

It was a mystery that Förandra sought to unravel. Perhaps, this could play in her favour… Regardless, if a goddess came to dance to the whims of mortal music – and to come stir the cauldron of a witch at that – then it was certainly going to be interesting. “I’m listening….”

At once the vivacious glee of the Fate melted away the chill, and for a moment the witch could almost swear that the scintillating energy that blossomed in the air around them mirrored her own emotions more accurately. The fire had returned. It was as though a goddess and a woman’s ambitions had just aligned…

Parting her lips in absolute savouring delight, the numen replied, “Tasty…”

Inktober #25

You may want to read the following connected tales in the Inktober series:

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