The Dragon’s Crown was gone. She knocked over a clutch of emeralds, scrabbling behind the shelf for the telltale prick of the Crown. Instead, her fingers came back dusty and glinting. Frustration poured out of her before she could rein it in. A sudden cacophony squeaks and screeches and then-The lifeless bodies of an owl, crow and raven thumped to the vault floor. Elsewhere she could sense rat bodies floating among the piles of gold and spiders hanging dead off of half-finished cobwebs.
Breathe. Just breathe through it.
She took in lungfuls of dusty, slightly metallic air and contemplated the corpses. Her magic felt volatile, malevolent. It was hot, frenzied and rubbed her insides raw. This had never happened before. Again, the helplessness and rage bubbled up in her and as before it flung out tearing through the corpses. Feathers fluttered through the air as heads rolled one way and bodies dismembered itself. Blood and guts spewed across the floor and splashed onto her face. She grit her teeth, adamant to gain control without the wand or the crown. This was a process she enjoyed. This was her craft for fuck’s sake.
Her knuckles grew white as she clenched them and sweat pooled at the back of her neck. Her magic extended further than the vault and an unfortunate maid shriveled into husk. She grappled with herself as the kill released something sweet, potent, heady within her. Maybe it’d be best to let go…lovely skeletons to play with. As her thoughts wavered her magic became compliant with almost cat-like coyness. It flowed through her gently, almost lifting her off her feet.
The Wand in its leather holster around her arm grew hot and visions of a smoking, bloodied wasteland enveloped her mind. She almost whimpered at its brutal beauty. The flesh stuck to battlements and wood, blood splattered across walls and grass like large landscape paintings. She wanted that. Wanted to be the catalyst of that. The reason for that.
The edges of her vision turned black, she could feel the imminent explosion of her power. But just as she let go of all control the door to the vault banged open and there was a sudden pressure in her head.
Fuck. The Elders.
And she collapsed, covered in blood, reeking of Vitriol.
Her head throbbed like it had been trampled on by those ill-fated elephant chimaeras. Her throat was dry and there was a faint taste of blood and smoke in her mouth.
‘You need not pretend Violette, I know you are awake,’ said a familiar voice.
That’s not my name. My name was lost to this façade you made me put up.
She groaned and opened her eyes. Sunlight filtered through grey and black gauzy currents dappled on the floor of her chambers. She was tucked into a nest of plump pillows and thick wool blankets in the middle of her bed.
Elder Morgana stood facing the direction of the town, her back tensed.
This is why she liked her dungeon. Nobody dared enter. They thought Death lingered. Idiots.
‘You failed to mention the Crown was no longer in your possession at the last Coven gathering,’ said Elder Morgana, still not deigning to look at her.
She rolled her eyes. ‘I didn’t know it wasn’t in my possession at the last Coven meeting.’
‘Unacceptable. Violette, you know the power you can wield. The credibility and respect it gives us as a Coven that practices Vitriol. You cannot be flippant about the relics of your destiny,’ said Elder Morgana, finally turning around.
Violette saw black again. Rage was a live thing within her.
‘You are right. I know the power I wield. You don’t talk to me that way. I am your Queen,’ she said, though her voice shook. She had never stood up to one of them, not once in all the time she’d known them.
Elder Morgana laughed. A high, cold sound and her expression shifted to one of mirth. The temperature in the room dropped a few degrees.
‘Child. You may have untold power but you are young. Volatile, with little to no control as evidenced by the events at the vault. I, on the other hand, have the strength of a Coven and the wisdom of time long forgotten.’
The pressure in her head was back, the room became frigid and the light turned a cold, murky blue.
She gasped as Elder Morgana stalked forward and grabbed her hand with icy fingers. The Ring was forced down her finger and her mind was enveloped in sudden calm. Her magic, however, felt like it was being throttled.
She squirmed out of the grasp and tried to remove the ring. It wouldn’t budge. Her magic wailed but her mind willed her to scream quietly.
‘Wha…wha…,’ she started. Swallowed and tried again. ‘What is this?’
Elder Morgana sat beside her and stroked her cheek. Unwillingly, she turned towards the palm as the light went back to muted yellow and Elder Morgana murmured ‘ It is a suppressor layered over the Ring’s existing power. It is temporary, only until we find out how to help you learn control or we find the Crown. Whichever comes first. Orwina here is the caster of the suppressor and will be here to monitor its effects on you.’
A figure she had not previously noticed, stepped out from the shadows near her wardrobe and curtsied. ‘Your grace.’
Her power reared and cut through her to no avail. She screamed, long and loud.
You puny, insignificant creature be the watcher, warden of my power, my person? Never. I shall find a way out of this. I shall not tolerate disrespect like this. I am Vitriol personified. I shall bathe in the blood of the Coven if I have to. But I shall be no caged beast.
It had been twelve days since her imprisonment. Oh, they didn’t call it that. They called it ‘care’ and ‘rest’. Her chimaeras were handed off to lesser witches to finish while she ‘recovered’.
But she knew what this truly was. Fear. They were scared of what her power could do. As they should be but they counted on her affections for them to keep her at bay while they found a way to control her. The signs were there.
Orwina came everyday without fail at dawn, dusk and the witching hour to take measure of her. True to her purpose, Orwina constantly maintained the suppressor without it causing any harm but she also performed a multitude of spells that Violette for the life of her couldn’t determine.
Something had to be done. The Ring could calm her but her magic grew restless and tired. It needed to be let out. It needed to cause harm, maim, torture, kill.
On the thirteenth day a thought struck her. She almost laughed out loud. How had she not realized this before?
When Orwina entered her bedchambers at the witching hour it was to find an unusually cheerful Violette.
‘Everything alright, your grace?’ asked Orwina, curtsying.
‘Sensational, Orwina,’ she replied, a smile stretching across her face.
If Orwina felt the back of her neck prick in warning, she didn’t show it. Instead, concentrated on finishing her work.
‘Orwina, did you know that a witch’s spells are tied to herself?’ asked Violette. And continued without waiting for a response, ‘ For example, if I wasn’t so careful myself, my chimaeras could be easily undone by something as silly as a little of my blood spilled. Imagine that! Any do-gooder could achieve that then, if they put their mind to it of course.’
Orwina, surprised at the chatting Queen, shook her head. ‘No your grace. It wouldn’t be that simple. For your creations to fail in that case, they would have to kill you or very nearly ki…’The blood drained out of Orwina’s face.
Violette just smiled prettily up at her. Unmoving.
Orwina tried to get up from her perch next to the Queen. She found she couldn’t move.
‘Just a little paralysis inducing poison I had lying around,’ said Violette conversationally.
‘You wouldn’t. You can’t. I control your magic,’ whispered Orwina as she tried to lift her hands to cast.
‘See? That is what you lack. Imagination,’ said Violette getting up. ‘Who told us the only way to kill is through Vitriol? Knives work just fine, Orwina.’
‘You can’t! It is forbidden! You mustn’t kill another witch from your Coven!’ said Orwina, tears flowing down her cheeks.
‘Now, now Orwina. You must know I don’t like the word forbidden. I cavort with Death itself. What are these rules of mere mortals to me?’ said Violette, a sharp knife caressed lovingly. ‘Did you know that every death adds to my power? True, I used only my magic till now but my Wand calls out to me, assuring me it works fine without using magic as well.’
Violette slowly brought the knife to Orwina’s throat. She could feel it tremble, the pulse fluctuating wildly. Her own pulsed in response. She was almost light-headed with excitement. She closed her eyes, readying.
‘You are a vile creature much like one of your creations, you know that?’ spat Orwina. ‘ You will never know true contentment in this life. Always searching for things, bigger and better. You will be lost in yourself. And if I must die, I am glad that my last words to you will be: I am the one that stole the Crown.’
Violette blinked open her eyes and examined her victim. So the Crown was indeed missing. She shrugged, it didn’t matter to her one way or the other. It was the Elders that insisted all the relics be together. All she wanted was her Grave Wand back.
Violette laughed. ‘True contentment? Do you hear yourself? Contentment was never in the stars for us. We are Demon-witches of Vitriol. We sow sorrow and wreak havoc. That is our purpose and joy. That is all. About the Crown, I don’t care but my creations are art, you worthless worm!’
Violette slit Orwina’s throat in one. Warm blood surged down her hands and the giddy, gleeful feeling intensified. Simultaneously, she felt her magic burst out of her, free from its shackles.
Now, to make art.
Elder Morgana came as soon as she heard the commotion. Orwina hung fused to a dreadworm, eyes gouged, arms and legs grotesquely positioned.
Violette sat in front of the creation, drenched in blood. She was humming, an animation spell it would seem. Her magic thrummed, smelling vaguely of blood and smoke.
‘What is the meaning of this Violette?!,’ said Elder Morgana, straining to keep the tremor out of her voice. It would not do to give the child more power.
‘I thought that was rather obvious, Elder Morgana,’ said Violette. ‘But if you want to be dense about it, I’ll explain. In a few minutes, I will awaken this creation of mine. It is, however, not for sale. It is to be a guardian of mine and a warning to you and the coven. I am happy to do your bidding and work for the good of the Vitriol but you have no power over me. And if someone, anyone dares question that, well…bloodlust, once awakened, is rather hard to quench.’
Elder Morgana looked at what she had helped in creating. It stood blinking serenely at her, covered in guts, blood and brain matter. She would scream monster…but who would she point to? Herself or Violette?