Rose watched her roommate getting ready, with an outfit that could only be described as ‘demure’. Even by church standards, it may have pushed the line toward ‘too modest’. She raised an eyebrow. “Ain’t yer ankles allergic to cloth?”
“Oh, ha ha,” Maddie turned to face Rose, smiling the whole time. “How’s ah look?” She lifted her dress with her hands in order to do a spin.
Rose remained sitting, and added a few more scribbles to her diary before the memories slipped. “Ain’t no one told you they dun’ have negro Amish?” She dipped further into the Greenwitch, drawing on it to expand her mind. “You’s been to the church once an’ now yer a convert? Gis that preacher did git ya on yer knees, huh?”
“Ain’t yet.” Maddie took to checking her hair for what Rose counted as the seventeenth time. “You outa see ‘im, tho’. They’s gonna be fightin’ over ‘im lahk mutts over a slab o’ meat. They was this uppity broad las’ week tryin’ ta get all over him afta…” Maddie stopped speaking to look around, then leaned in to whisper. “The Greenwitch.”
Rose swallowed the taste of her own bitter regrets, then redoubled her dedication to the cause. “That so?” She pushed into Maddie’s mind, reinforcing her insecurities and the impact the Greenwitch had on her psyche. It would be one event she’d never forget, a defining moment of existence. Natural human behavior would see her tell the story to everyone who would listen for the rest of her life. Rose kept her smile hidden behind illusion.
“Such a brazen hussy,” Maddie said. Rose bit her tongue, reminding herself what she set in motion would bring woe and ruin to this woman and her family unto the fourth generation or worse. “Talkin’ like she is some kinda high ‘n mighty princess or somethin’, an’ throwin’ herself at th’ rev’rend. Tryin’ ta use th’ witch ta get sympathy, but he shot tha’ hussy down hard. Sh’ ran off, an’ I don’ think she’s eva comin’ back.”
Rose wondered if that story was a side effect of the damage done to Maddie’s memory, or embellishments to make herself look good. Neither mattered, but Rose wasn’t above an act of pettiness. “Well, you say’d the pastor’s well-spoken. Think he lahk’s tha’ type?”
Rose decided the look of insecurity that washed over Maddie’s face could only be described as delicious. “No.” Maddie turned away and wandered off to do some other ritual of beautification.
The Greenwitch Will Endure.
Rose went back to her notebook, drawing on the moment of victory, and the reward offered by the thing inside her. She no longer held any illusion that it was angelic, but to call it demonic or godly were all wrong as well. Rose no longer felt any certainty it was able to think at all, only that it was a primordial power, ancient beyond reckoning. In fact, she was becoming convinced it wasn’t an ‘it’ at all, but a ‘they’, a blend of separate forces which came together to build the Greenwitch.
Somehow, at some point long ago, it had become different than the others who have powers. That felt wrong to her. The Greenwitch is as it always was, but the others have changed.
Rose almost lost the thought as she fell out of the strange sort of hypnosis she inflicted on herself. She wrote it into her journal, using the language of the gods.
The Greenwitch Endures. The gods once worked differently than they do now? The Greenwitch is a holdover, a relic of the old ways? Granny’s ‘archangels’?
The memories not her own fell away as the Greenwitch returned to its sleeping state. She added another note to her journal.
Every visit makes me stronger, improves my connection to the Greenwitch while eroding my sensibilities. It may not be possible to know Truth while remaining sane. Even now, it is a struggle to keep my sanity intact. The Greenwitch Must Endure, but does it need use such violent, cruel means? Is there another path?
She stood, then looked at the door to Maddie’s room. The Greenwitch by its nature set certain events in motion. It was the phoenix, building its nest as a funeral pyre, so that it could immolate itself and be born anew. As with all fires, it consumed what it touched, including those who served it. Rose didn’t pretend she could break from this ancient being, but she hoped with time she could understand it, control it as humanity learned to control the flames.
She wasn’t certain she had that power, but if any did it was her. Her own predecessor had selected the most straightforward path. Grace, whom she knew only as Granny in life, pretended her name was symbolic, that she was oracle and prophet of God. Rose knew she’d never forgive the woman’s crimes against her, for Grace chose the path which ruined Rose’s life. She didn’t have to, there were other ways, she chose to because it was simplest and filled with the most pleasures.
Grace had feared and despised her own predecessor, Catherine, who claimed mastery over the Soul Itself. A slave owned by the prior Greenwitch, Catherine used her power to turn her swamp into a private fiefdom, while worshiping the darkest African gods. Of all the witches the Greenwitch remembered for Rose, she was by far the brightest star, the one who had served most faithfully and become most powerful as a result.
Rose decided there could be no greater teacher than this woman who was in many respects was her grandmother. Rose herself was the Greenwitch of the Mind, who would walk eyes open through the places no other Greenwitch had dared glance save in their darkest fever-dreams.
She stood, her diary in her hand. “Ah’m runnin’ errands!” She left without waiting for a response, but she knew she’d never return to this building.
Another missing person, hot on the heels after the encounter with the Klan at the church, would convict less than innocent men of crimes they didn’t commit in the hearts and minds of the church, yet the law would do nothing for lack of evidence or specific suspects. Maddie would find the community supportive, help fill the void in her life and comfort her fears. She’d stop by from time to time, to ensure the pair and their family was safe, for the Greenwitch and none other would see to its destruction.
Truth is Madness. Power is Truth. Madness is Power.
They fought like warrior poets to defend their holy priestess, but the battle was hopeless. They were hundreds, the largest army the Greenwitch had ever seen, but their enemies numbered in the thousands. More and worse, the enemy wielded weapons rent and warped from Mother Earth, which bit deeper than the claw of any beast of the wilderness.
The pale invaders brought godtouched of their own, one of their number a match for even her. Her lesser warrior-servitors, Moonchild, Bloodsinger and Shadow Jackal found equals amongst the enemies, like the Plaguebearer, the Death Eater, the War Drummer, and the Earth Breaker. They, too, were outnumbered and suffering for it. Even now, they survived only by the the living armor her predecessor had crafted, and the sacrifice of her own beasts.
She wept as the Lord of Corrupted Light scoured her pets with but gestures. More loyal than any man, and granted unnatural strength by the Greenwitch, yet as nothing before this foe. Tigers the size of elephants rushed forward, only for their flesh to melt from their bones before they could even touch the invaders. The wielder of balefire stood surrounded by hundreds of charred animal corpses, but he had eyes on her alone. In his eyes was lust; he had found the prize he would seize this day.
The swamp woke her from her meditative slumber with an alert. Someone dared enter her domain. Rose reached out through the pathways Catherine constructed, seeking out the mind and soul of her first visitor in over a decade.
The young woman was tall, striking in her beauty, and wearing some sort of carnival costume. It was pretty enough, shimmering dark blue scaled material that, upon inspecting the mind of the woman, she learned was some sort of expensive lightweight armor.
What wonders and horrors hath this new age wrought? Rose dipped further into the mind of this woman. Rose Hinton. Her heart skipped a beat, as she realized now had come the fruition of events she’d begun so long ago. Oh, Maddie, if only you knew, you would never have named your daughter for me.
She swallowed down the pain, ignored on the fact that had the world been even a little different, it might have been her who was mother to this woman coming to beg her aid. She dipped further into her mind, seeking out the source of desperation which drove her to become a priestess, and make sacrifices further still to the Greenwitch.
Heritage. Endless Storm. The two names, their meanings, came to her in a flash; a moment which told her the war with those hiding behind white robes had not yet ended. Rose was disappointed, but nowhere near surprised to learn that the Klan’s legacy survived. Though the names and methods had changed, the cowardice and hate were no different.
This young Rose called herself Andromeda, in a parody of the ancient practice of young gods taking the legacies of dead gods. Itself a parody of the far more ancient practice by which the Greenwitch continued from generation to generation.
Andromeda had mastery over water, more powerful than most. She couldn’t fly, but she skated across the surface of the swamp with surprising agility. She’d be in the heart of the demesne in a matter of minutes.
Rose stood from her chair in the catacomb-cellars of the old mansion. With a command, the power of the ancient Artifacts in her home awakened, flexed their proverbial muscles, and opened a path to walk. Another thought lit the way for the young woman, though she could see water in living things to guide her.
Cruel curiosity bid Rose to see the past of the other Rose, named Andromeda by choice. She witnessed a childhood happier by far than her own, with two loving parents, until recently-
Domenic’s dead. It stung, but again wasn’t surprising. The other Andromeda blamed Heritage for the death of her father, though she had nothing by way of proof. Domenic died of natural causes, being a decade older than herself or Maddie.
Andromeda was raised on stories of how her namesake vanished so long ago, taught to believe any bad event came from the evil white man. Even if that event was her father’s heart attack. Rose couldn’t help but laugh to keep from crying.
Andromeda, stopped in her tracks. In an act worthy of Jesus, she stood upon the water as if it were solid ground. Only the waves lapping at her feet offered a contradiction.
“Granny Greenwitch?” Andromeda looked around, seeking the source of the laughter. In such a water-rich environment, Rose knew her power was all but blind. “I’ve come seeking your aid!”
Rose cackled still, as the Greenwitch came to the surface of her mind. She hadn’t felt this clear a connection to her power since she cursed her best friend and the man she might have come to love some day.
“My mother said you… you once claimed our church as your own, and swore you’d retaliate against any who attacked it,” Andromeda said. “The church has been attacked!”
Rose laughed harder still. Andromeda’s father had condemned her as a servant of Satan for that act, and now his own daughter came to invoke it like God’s own covenant. It would be tragic if it wasn’t so funny.
Andromeda drew her power to herself, building armor of water, making ice which was not cold to defend herself. Naught but sound and fury, signifying of nothing. Still, they all had roles to play in the eternal rebirth of perhaps the oldest of the Loa.
“Is that so, Stormbreaker?” she spoke straight into the woman’s mind. “For your church has not been harmed.”
Andromeda’s emotions, anger and disappointment and desperation blended to overcome her surprise and fear. “They killed the pastor! He’s the heart of the church!”
It had been so long since she’d read a bible that she couldn’t remember if that was true to scripture or not, nor did she care. Andromeda believed her words, just that she believed her father’s death a murder. “So you sought out Granny, so that the Greenwitch would solve all your problems?”
Rose had long known that the greatest insult to the priests and priestesses of the Loa was to say they were unable to care for themselves. The second greatest was to imply they hadn’t earned the power they held.
Andromeda reacted as expected, her ice shifting to offensive mode. Beautiful swords of ice formed in her armor. The Loa within her were strong in their own right, though there was room within her for further growth. “I fight my own battles. I came hoping you’d fight yours.”
Rose had long ago reached the point where attacks on pride wouldn’t work; her pride was sullied beyond salvation long ago. “Mayhap.” She stepped out of her tunnels, with only a brief active use of her power to cloak her egress point. She gazed upon young Rose with her own eyes for the first time. She could see both Domenic and Maddie’s influences on their daughter. She stood almost six feet tall, with figure that would have men falling over themselves to speak to her. There was no doubt she could call herself a goddess and make people believe it. “Tell the truth, Stormbreaker, why do you come here? Do not lie to Granny, for your soul is bare to her.”
“I…” Andromeda hesitated, considering if she could lie and get away with it. Rose lifted the word ‘Truthsayer’ from her mind. She opted to test her luck with asking a question. “Why do you call me that? Stormbreaker, I mean. If it has any special meaning, I’m afraid it’s lost on me.”
Clever, trying to suss out the level of Truth in my words. Rose allowed herself another laugh. “It is what you are, Stormbreaker. What the Loa have deemed you to be. You have been selected to be the one who breaks the storm, should you have strength enough. That begins by telling Granny what your motives are.”
Andromeda took a step back, as her mind made the association with Endless Storm, of which Heritage was part. She was just promised that her Fate was to destroy the most powerful criminal organization in this corner of the nation. In the same way accusations of weakness were the greatest insult, then affirmation of strength was the greatest compliment amongst their kind. Andromeda wondered about what ‘Loa’ meant, but she could figure out much of it by context.
“Safety and justice for my family, I don’t care how.” Andromeda bowed her head to the more powerful Greenwitch. A lie, of sorts, as this woman yearned to be the one to destroy her enemies, rather than allow another to do it for her. She was a priestess, after all. “If that means begging you, then so be it. The old stories say you demand a tithe, just say what it is and I’ll do it.”
She phrased it such to support her ego, a service at a cost rather than an act of charity. Those of the Loa could suffer almost any indignity, if they could envision it as a payment and reward.
Rose regarded Andromeda, examining the internal ‘temple’ where her Loa housed themselves. She could see it much as Plato’s allegory of the cave, shadows on the wall rather than a look at them. She almost invited them to build further, but declined their demands. She understands the Loa demand sacrifices for greater power, and feared her son would suffer their demand. She loves her family enough to debase herself before the Greenwitch if it spares them.
Oh, poor girl, if only you knew. “Granny shall aid you.” Rose used her power to hide the pain in her voice. “The Greenwitch demands of you a daughter.”
Andromeda’s expression went from hope to horror in an eyeblink. “No!” Only then did she realize who she refused. “I… I mean, I don’t have a daughter. Even if I did, I couldn’t give her up to you or anyone.”
“You misunderstand, Stormbreaker,” Rose said. “Granny is not interested in taking your daughter for her own. She bids you conceive a daughter. Keep her, give her up, even suffocate her in her crib if you wish. It matters not.” Rose could only say that knowing full well Andromeda would raise any child of her flesh. “What matters is she be born.”
Andromeda stood there, finding ways to justify what she heard. Perhaps wondering how she could afford to raise two children, or convince the father of her first to cooperate. “I… I can’t control what I’ll have.”
“The Greenwitch can.” Rose pushed another burst of power, froze Andromeda’s perception of time, then walked forward. She twisted the weaker Rose’s power, creating a bridge of water she could walk upon, and forced the armor to melt and fall into the swamp. The process took three minutes, Andromeda would think it happened in seconds. To her, the Greenwitch just destroyed her defenses and moved in an eyeblink.
Rose grabbed Andromeda’s arm, and convinced the woman her grip was too strong to break. She lifted up a thin dagger made of bone, dripping with a green ichor, then poked the woman in the wrist through a gap exposed in the glove thanks to the unusual way her arm twisted. It took more minutes to make everything happen, though again it appeared like seconds to her observer.
Andromeda lept back in the air by thirty feet, stopped only because she collided with a tree branch. Power far greater than the young woman knew she could possess, in part thanks to the ichor which now coursed in her veins, and in part thanks to the quirks of the mind Rose had exploited “H-how?!”
“You came to Granny for power,” Rose said. “Is is power which the Greenwitch offers.” Crafted of memories and instincts from several of her predecessors who had powers similar to this Andromeda. What she received was over three hundred years of experience and training, condensed into a single burst. Knowledge of how to control the water of her own body to devastating effect, the skill to rip it out of others’ flesh, the instinct to see how others would move as if a martial arts master. All things she could have accomplished for herself, if she spent decades in training.
Andromeda dropped from the tree, and landed with a grace she had not earned. “And with this, I can destroy Heritage?”
“Granny promises, should you accept, the only hope Heritage has of survival is if you allow them to survive.” In the end, if she kept on her path of vengeance, she would either succeed or die. Should she die, then the inheritor of her Loa would either finish the job or continue the cycle. In the end, the conflict would indeed break the organization. There was no question of ‘if’, only ‘when’ and ‘how’.
“You have a deal.” Andromeda extended her hand to the witch. “I don’t like doing it when my son is still in diapers, but-”
“Ah, not quite yet, Stormbreaker.” Rose cupped the larger, younger hand of the other woman. A flash of insight implanted a face, a location, a name. “It must be him. For the mixing his blood and yours is the catalyst for the alchemy of the Greenwitch.”
Andromeda’s heart raced, as she realized she had to prostitute herself for power. It didn’t help that her designated mate was outside her race, which meant she’d be unable to hide it from her boyfriend. “I… I can’t. There has to be some other means.” Without the water armor, there could only be one source for the wetness on her face.
“There are many other ways, Stormbreaker.” The reminder of her title was quite deliberate. “You can seek power by the other means, perhaps give up this path in its entirety.” Rose neglected to mention more palatable options such as seeking other allies. “You came to Granny, and so the Greenwitch decides the cost of her assistance.”
“I- if I… c-conceive a son, instead?”
“Fate decrees a daughter, and a daughter it shall be,” Rose said. As stacked as the deck was, Andromeda would be more likely to conceive a fish than a boy. “But it will not matter. The blood shall mingle, the power shall return and made permanent.”
“You may think on it as long as you like,” Rose said. “The Greenwitch is patient. Two days, two weeks, twenty years, the Covenant does not expire. Upon the day you conceive your child with the fated father, and until the end of your life. Do not return to the Greenwitch until such time as after the daughter is born.”
With a thought, she implanted a series of subconscious instructions. Andromeda would leave the swamp the usual way, then lose all memory of the journey. To her, it will be as if she was rejected from the swamp without warning.
Meanwhile, Rose returned to her tunnels, knowing tonight had gone just as the Greenwitch needed, and that was good. Andromeda would either tell her boyfriend, or beg forgiveness after. If he was as she believed him to be, he’d reject the idea. She’d go through with it anyway. The ichor in her blood would join with the fetus, until the time was right
The Greenwitch Will Endure.
The Greenwitch’s deepest secrets were easiest to access for some time after events like these, and Rose needed that knowledge above all other things. She returned to her memory trance, where she would remain for days.
Her defenders lay broken around her, though they took nigh a hundred of the enemy with them, as well as the War Drummber and Death Eater. They would survive, her people would not. She reached for the final step of power, the sacrifice of Everything for a moment of Divine Strength. The Greenwitch Must Endure. Her power faltered; suicide denied to her, for she had no heir, no descendants to call her own in flesh or spirit. Nor could she be allowed the succor of suicide or natural death.
She glared at her captor and future husband. She would submit to him, bear him children. He brought no women with him, even his servitor gods were all male. Such a man would only care for sons, and have no interest in daughters. Her plan formulated, as she would bear him first a daughter, then a son. She would nurture them, become the one they loved while they felt naught but disdain for their father.
Then one day, she would force him to murder her, and her daughter would take up the power of the Greenwitch to slay her father become queen of their gods. There was a good chance circumstances, and thus her plans, would be forced to change with circumstances, but she was confident it would remain true enough that, in the end, he would die and be remembered a monster, while she would be remembered a loving mother. It was the only revenge available to her.
She allowed her power fade away, an admission of defeat. He stepped forward, strong and confident, wearing no armor, and his clothing having burned off in the battle. She consoled herself that at least her fair-skinned husband was pleasant to look upon, though she would hate him always. He pointed to his chest. “Crionis”
She took a step forward, her hands slipping her robe from her shoulders so she, too, would be naked. She gestured toward herself. “Arya” Ignorant of the other’s cultures and language, they finalized their wedding using just their names, then consummated their marriage amidst the ashes of her homeland.
The Greenwitch Endures.