Unraveling Destiny (The Fae Chronicles Book 5), page 14
“When I was a child at the Guild, we were taught about the Original Witches. It was a small coven that was born of Hecate’s direct line. Even now, it’s believed that their few descendants are among the most powerful Witches alive. The Original Witches, however, were dangerous alone, but together they could destroy towns, or even entire cities if they wanted to. No one bothered them, and they were among the most powerful creatures of this world that chose to live in the shadows. They were content to remain there, until news of the Witch trials made it to their ears. At first it was a whisper, and then as time moved on, they got louder. As the torture and killings became worse, the Original Witches came out of the shadows and slaughtered entire villages and towns as they made their way to Salem to find the people responsible for putting their children to death. They drove the Witch Hunters to commit suicide and created plagues that swept across the lands, killing thousands.
“There was fear for what it would mean for those of the Witches who had escaped the trials and were hiding. The Americas and England were on the brink of war already, but to add Witches to it, with their numbers dwindling, was not something they could endure. It was around this time that Lena’s coven split from the others, and the Guilds were formed. The Original Witches continued killing, and the Guild feared that they would annihilate any chance of monitoring and policing those of the Otherworld—actually Faery—so they set to making bargains with some of the heads of the other covens, who would eventually join them in creating the other Guilds. They put their case before the Paladins, and made powerful allies to help them capture and imprison the Original Witches. At first, the Guild captured them, but even in a magical prison, they continued to cause havoc. Being locked up together made them stronger. It made them angrier, and soon covens started falling to strange illnesses. Some lost their magic, while others went mad from the voices inside their heads. There were many that called for the death of these Witches, but everyone was fearful that killing so many of Hecate’s direct line could bring her wrath on us all. Now the Paladins have their own magic, magic that isn’t of this world. The Guild and covens agreed to their idea to place the Witches in stasis and use the Leylines beneath the Guilds to leach power from the Witches to weaken them. This was a happy way of neutralizing the Witches, but not killing them. Once the Paladins put the Witches in stasis, they were moved to the depths of thirteen different covens. As Guilds were founded in the Midwest and on the Pacific seaboard, three of those Witches were moved—and one of them was interred under the Spokane Guild. They have been asleep for a very long time, and now that you have taken control of the Spokane Guild, the National Guild will not stop fighting you until she is back in their care, Synthia. If any of them wake, they will go after those they consider to be their enemies.”
“They’ll go after the Guild,” I whispered as I considered what I’d just stepped into.
“Or us, for being in the Guild,” he corrected. “We know they are connected, but not how or why they are. Some speculate that if one was to wake, the others would follow her, but it’s speculation, of course. However, if it happens, God save our souls because they will have no mercy.”
“And the souls?” I really didn’t want to know more about the Witch. I got it, end of days shit. Why was it always worst-case scenario? Why couldn’t we find one situation that wasn’t tied to some kind of end of the world shit?
“Sacrifices to keep them in stasis,” he replied quietly, and swallowed hard. “Paladin magic comes with a blood cost, and we paid it. Thirteen souls a year to contain thirteen Witches.”
“And Hecate didn’t interfere? She just allowed this to happen to her daughters?”
“She hasn’t been seen or heard of since just before her direct line began their slaughter of the humans. We never knew how she felt about it; all we know is that she didn’t intervene to save them. Spells were done at the beginning of all that chaos, to call Hecate forth to save the covens from what her daughters were doing, and she never came. Either she is no longer among us, or she’s chosen to forsake us. We have no idea which one it is. The Guild continues to teach of her, but they have little real knowledge of her. To us, she’s our God. There is no proof she exists anymore, and yet we still do her bidding and follow her rules.”
I swallowed the information and observed him carefully as I asked my next question. “Have you killed to keep that Witch in stasis?”
“Yes. And I would do it again, and probably will. Only Elders are aware of what is sleeping beneath the Guilds. It is our duty to keep them there, asleep. Another thing to consider—because the Witches Guild draws on those same Leylines used to keep them weak and in stasis—is that those thirteen Witches now know every Witch alive. Imagine if they woke up knowing what the Guild has done to them?”
“They could potentially wipe out every Witch on the continent,” I groaned as I rubbed my temples. “Any creature who taps those Leylines has allowed the Original Witches inside of them, haven’t they?”
“They have, including you,” he replied as he closed his eyes briefly and tipped his glass back, finishing it.
“We have Pandora’s box sleeping beneath the Guild, which we are supposed to be breaking ground on now and building a new future. How can we bring innocent children into it knowing that?”
“Because this world needs those children safe and trained right, and we need them now more than ever before,” he replied confidently. “I’m aware of the Fae flooding this world. I know you and those entrusted with the guardianship of the permanent portals wouldn’t allow that if you had a way to guard them. Which means something has gone horribly wrong with the portals,” he said pointedly.
I was afraid to answer him for a moment as I tried to absorb everything that Alden had told me. Then I thought of what Ryder, Ristan, and Dristan had explained to me of the history of Faery and how it related to the Witches and the Guilds, and more pieces of the puzzle began to fill in.
“Ok, I’m going to call bullshit on some of this, old man. You and I both know that the Guild has been spoon feeding us a distorted history of where we come from and who did what. Hecate is a Goddess like Danu is. They aren’t supposed to interfere directly, and if they do, there are serious consequences. But consequences from who?” I spoke slowly as I worked it out with Alden as my sounding board. “The first Witches, even before the Druids, were Changelings from what Ryder told me, so that means that Hecate had to have been playing the horizontal mambo with Changelings to have created this line, which explains why they are so strong. They’re not just Witches, they are Demi-Gods.” Alden blinked slowly and nodded his agreement that this could be true. “And if this is the case, then perhaps Hecate or some other high God helped nudge along the relationship between the covens and the Paladins as an indirect way of neutralizing her children. That way, they got around killing them and being accused of interfering.” I peered at Alden as another thought occurred to me.
“Alden, Paladins aren’t exactly plentiful, and the Guild normally calls them in when all hell breaks loose. When everything first went down, you were guarded by twelve of them. Larissa told me she didn’t know who sent them; do you?” If this was going where I thought it was, then there was more in play than any of us realized.
“No.” Alden shook his head. “I assumed it was someone from the Washington Guilds. They were only with me for a short while, and then the Guild sent their own people in; I didn’t question it and I haven’t seen one since.” He scowled as he began to see the same picture that was forming in my mind. I didn’t know much about the Paladins, other than they were from outside of our world and their magic was different. They weren’t Fae and they weren’t human; who were they, and who did they really report to?
“So to wake one up, we’d probably need an actual Paladin?”
“That, or possibly a Druid; they hadn’t died out when the Witches were put in stasis, and I know they were part of the al
“The Changelings became the Druids, who split apart and became the Mages and the Witches Guild,” I recited. “Could one of them have decided not to choose a side, and hid? Do you think they are still alive?”
“It’s possible. If they were a half-blood, the chances of immortality are higher. And if that history is the case, then my blood is so weakened, it just helps me look good.” Alden chuckled.
“Ok, then try this on. If the Mages are taking over the Guilds and they are causing an imbalance because of their war with the Fae; is it possible that someone else is involved in this? Someone who sent Paladins in to guard you? Paladins who might have been reporting to whoever controls them about what was going on with the Guilds,” I mused as I worked it out with him.
“It’s possible,” Alden admitted. “If that is the case, you have to ask yourself; are they friendly with the Fae, or against the Fae?”
“That’s a really good question.” I finished my drink as Alden made a motion to a waitress to get us another round of drinks, then gave me a thoughtful look and sighed.
“We’ll figure this out; in the meantime, show me the floor plans.”
We spent the next few days going over every detail of the new Guild with the men that Ryder trusted the most. When we weren’t in planning sessions for the Guild, our time was spent between searching for any trace or sign of Ciara and planning the upcoming wedding. Ryder and his brothers were terrified of what may have happened, and with every passing day, any hope of finding her alive was fading.
I hated being unable to devote additional manpower or time to finding her, but with the portals growing and the Horde already being spread thin, it just wasn’t an option. It would leave the Horde’s stronghold more exposed than it already was.
The world around us seemed calm, serene. Like we weren’t standing at the edge of the war we knew was coming. Like there wasn’t a hole into this world, one we couldn’t close no matter how many experts we brought in to try. Nothing seemed to stop them from slowly expanding.
I spent my mornings planning the wedding, then missing my children by the afternoon. By midnight, I tired myself out, training until I fell into bed, exhausted to the point of tears, but knowing how important it was to prepare my body and mind for any battle I might face.
This fragile peace wouldn’t last for long, and we all waited with bated breath for the one thing that would be the breaking point and take us into full-scale war. The Mages had been quiet. Quiet usually meant that they were plotting and planning and at their most dangerous, so no one allowed our readiness to slip; no one grew lax with their inactivity. We’d taken a huge part of their weapon arsenal when we’d taken the God they thought would make them invincible, and they were probably licking their wounded pride. Even with that knowledge, we knew they wouldn’t wait long before they made their next move, and we’d be ready for them when the time came.
Faolán was yet another problem I knew was lurking, just waiting to stab me in the back when I least expected it. He wouldn’t stop hunting me until one of us was dead, and it wouldn’t be me who fell. I plotted and planned, and hated the fact that when I did end his life, Madisyn would be hurt by it. I couldn’t find a way around it, not with his evil taint threatening the very lives of my children. He’d crossed a line with what he’d done, and he had to be stopped.
“Ryder agreed that we should have feasting areas in the courtyard, as well as around the outside of the castle during the wedding reception, so that anyone who wants to share in the revelry of your wedding can. After all, I understand that a few centuries ago in the human world, it was customary for feasting to take place for several days when royalty would wed. I think this would be a nice homage to that tradition!” Madisyn chirped, pulling me from the troubles playing in my mind.
“What?” I turned away from the window to look in her direction, where she sat perched in a dainty chair as she picked at the assortment of cupcakes Darynda had brought earlier with our tea.
“You’ve not heard anything I’ve said all morning, Synthia,” she fussed, pursing her lips into a tight frown. “Should I come back later?”
“No, it sounds fine. Set it up wherever you like.” I shrugged tiredly. “I’m sorry, my mind is elsewhere.”
“Obviously, but we need to finish planning this wedding.” Without a hint of irritation, she patted the empty spot on the sofa next to herself. “Come, sit with me and I will show you what I have planned.”
I ignored her hint and moved to the chair opposite of her in the lounge we had decided to use for planning the wedding. She had pictures spread out with additional options of bridesmaids’ dresses, cakes, and layouts of what the great hall would look like once she’d had her people set it up. I thought we had already decided what was going to be done, but by the look of determination in Madisyn’s eye, she had some very different ideas in mind than I did for the wedding.
“This is your dress, because while I appreciate that you wanted to wear red for the Blood Kingdom, it’s unheard of to wear red to your wedding. Ryder was very clear about what we were allowed to do with your wedding, since he wanted a traditional one, like that of the humans’.”
He’d changed my dress? I stared at the creation and frowned. It was beautiful, with a bell-shaped skirt, and a lace bodice with a train and a veil. In fact, it looked like one I’d been admiring when I was about five years old, but that was because it looked like every cliché out of every Disney Princess movie ever made.
“What do you think?” she asked excitedly, and I raised my eyes to hers and gave her a soft smile.
“It’s beautiful.” It was, but it wasn’t me. My stomach flipped and nerves came up without warning. I was doing this; but it was frustrating, as nothing I said or did stopped Madisyn or Ryder from making this wedding huge. “It’s a lot of fabric,” I forced out, trying to be polite, and watched as she grinned.
“It’s perfect, and I think that out of all the dresses I saw, this will flatter your figure the best. I also think you should wear your hair up, in curls like this.” She fluttered her fingers and I could feel my hair being pulled back and twisted, and soft curling ringlets framed my face. “See!” she crowed excitedly and glamoured a hand mirror for me and I looked at the elaborate hairstyle she had created. “It will flatter your features, and everyone will be able to see the diamonds better.”
“Diamonds?” I asked woodenly. I wasn’t shocked with anything the Fae could create. I was just surprised she’d mentioned diamonds, because I’d planned on wearing pearls.
“This.” she pointed at a catalogue of jewelry. The diamonds were the size of an infant’s fist and gaudy. They were set in a platinum setting with smaller diamonds that created a waterfall effect all the way around the neckline. “It will make your eyes pop and it will also draw attention to your crown. Ryder has been looking at different concepts all week!”
“A crown?” I parroted, wondering when the hell these two had so much time to plan this shit. I had barely seen him unless he was falling into bed, too tired to do anything else but sleep. Not that the Fae really needed to sleep much, but they needed to detach from the world or they’d go insane. Yet the man was planning our wedding in every minute detail with Madisyn. It was at this point I had the sneaking suspicion that a lot of this drama was more of Madisyn’s agenda than Ryder’s or mine. Ryder knew me better than this, and while Madisyn wasn’t necessarily lying, I knew she was being very clever with what words she was choosing each time I asked her if a change was Ryder’s idea. I had a feeling that both Ryder and I were being manipulated because neither of us had the heart to hurt her feelings, and she was, for all intents and purposes, becoming momzilla of the bride, disguised as a beautiful Fairy Queen.
“Of course,” I whispered as she passed me drawings that ranged from those of the tiara that had a blood ruby in it, to a golden crown that was embedded with hundreds of diamonds and looked heavy as hell. I was going to have to work on my neck muscles if they expected me to wear it daily.
“You’ll get used to it,” Madisyn assured me as she took in my frown. “It is a reminder of your station here, and the people will need to see you with it on. The Horde thrives on power, and if they forget it for a moment, you will need to remind them of who you are.”
“I know.” I nodded. “How many days before the wedding?” I sipped the tea Darynda had made—chamomile, to calm my nerves as I waited for the men to return from searching for Ciara.
“Two days,” she frowned. “You couldn’t have possibly forgotten already. You helped me send the invitations out.”
“How could I forget?” I grumbled. I couldn’t remember who we had invited because there had been so many that I’d stopped asking who was who. I didn’t really care because I wasn’t into this big wedding, and I was secretly more impressed with the army of tiny winged Fae that were charged with the delivery of all the ostentatious envelopes.
“So, we will be doing a rehearsal tomorrow, and I think you should consider changing your mind and allow the babies to be here for the ceremony. They should be here with you.”
“Absolutely not,” I replied, much harsher than I had intended to. “Madisyn, I’d like nothing more than for them to be present, but until Faolán is captured and dealt with, I won’t risk them being where he could use them against us. I’m sorry, but I won’t chance it.”
AMELIA HUTCHINS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Unraveling DestinyEscaping DestinyFae Chronicles 01 - Fighting DestinySeducing DestinyTaunting DestinyDeath Before DawnClaiming the Dragon KingA Demon's Dark Embrace
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