Where would the stories of the world be, I wonder, if everybody always did the smart thing? So often, the catalyst of an amazing adventure is an action you just know is going to lead to trouble. Take, for instance, “The Seventh Spell”. …or rather, take this excerpt from the novella’s second chapter.
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The queen’s official stance on magic was that all who wielded it ought to have their own curses thrown back on their heads and see how they liked it before being left in a dungeon to rot. She had suffered too many things at the hands of witches (or rather, the hands of one particular witch) to have anything good to say about them.
Even so, Villem knew his wife well: When she became emotional, rationality and reason were the very first things to go. Yes, Ursula hated magic, and she hated witches, especially the one witch with which she’d had dealings. But that which she hated most she fervidly called upon now.
“Anarchwitch!” she called into the empty room. “Mallory Carey, Wilhelmina – whoever you are! I beg of you: Come forth!”
A sudden breeze blew in through the tower window, bearing with it a voice.
“Begging?” the voice said. “Tipsilvren’s princess, begging. Say it isn’t so.”
“You came!” Ursula sighed with relief.
“How could I not?” replied the woman who now stood before her. “It’s not every day a royal spirit as proud as yours condescends to beg. What do you want of me?”
Ursula blurted, “You’re young.”
When she had first encountered the anarchwitch – one of an order of enchantresses who sought to turn the institution of monarchy on its head – she had been a bent old crone. … The woman who faced the queen now was a beautiful young woman with fiery waves of hair and a face utterly without flaw.
An eyebrow on this flawless face rose incredulously. “You called me all this way to remark on my apparent age?”
“No, of course not,” said Ursula, remembering her all-important purpose. “It’s Villem. He’s ill – dying! Please, please do something!”
The witch shrugged gracefully. “What would you have me do?”
“What do you think?” Ursula snapped, anxiety carrying her voice up more than an octave beyond its habitual pitch. “Save him! He can’t go before me – I have to die first!”
“Well, you hardly need me to ensure that,” the witch said dryly. She gestured behind her. “Here. Third-story window. There never was a simpler suicide.”
“I don’t want to shorten my life!” Ursula shouted. “I want you to lengthen his!”
“Let’s not be greedy, Your Majesty. He’s already lived for a century-and-a-half.”
Ursula glared. “If you spend one hundred years as a rock, those hundred years don’t count!”
“And now we’ve lost our humble tone,” the witch observed lightly. “There goes the novelty of the situation. I think I’ll be on my way.”
“No, please!” Ursula pleaded, falling to her knees. “Please cure him! I can’t live without him, I just can’t!”
The witch contemplated the sobbing figure in front of her. As an anarchwitch, of course she held a very low opinion of royalty, and therefore felt no obligation to the queen on that account. However, unique to this particular anarchwitch was a soft spot for matters of true love, and there were few lovers truer than Villem and Ursula.
(The witch ought to know; she had orchestrated the spells which first brought the pair together.)
For this reason, she was sorely tempted to grant Ursula’s request – to extend the couple’s happiness for as long as it was in her power to do so. But something held her back.
“You do not comprehend what you ask of me,” the witch said gently. “Magic is not a thing to be doled out willy-nilly, anytime the whim strikes. The art of enchantment has its rules, and ignoring these rules often leads to the messiest kind of trouble. I am not saying I do not want to help your Villem; but it is possible I cannot.”
“But it is also possible you can?” Ursula pressed. “If there is the least chance of your ability to help my husband… if there is anything I can say or do that will make a difference… anything!…”
“Oh, Ursula,” the witch sighed. “We may both come to regret this… But I’ll try. Bring something of Villem’s here – something he’s handled often, or clothing worn recently that has yet to be laundered – and I’ll see what I can do, though it would really be wisest to—”
But Ursula was already halfway down the tower stairs.
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To be continued… on February 5th, Release Day for “The Seventh Spell (Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales)”!