It awoke in a strange new body, following instincts created for it by two Mistresses who were also one. The fist thing it noted was the blood was bitter and foul, but not poisoned as had happened a time or two in the past. It did not belong here, yet it was placed here by Mistress.
It had limited intelligent, at best competitive with a dog, but it understood that Mistress wanted it to live here for now. It could not know why, nor did it have the mental capacity to speculate. It was, and it went to work doing what it did. The new body could not speak to it as Mistress did, but it knew some things that all Mistresses demanded of it, and it would do those for the lesser mistress.
The lesser mistress was in battle. It did not have eyes to see, or ears to hear, but it knew the rush of chemicals and tensions which signaled conflict. It acted as it could, on the deepest instincts in its being, to aid the mistress by healing the fatigue from her muscles, serving alongside her nervous system to improve her reaction speed, and amplifying her strength and alertness. The Mistress would speak to it, show it how to serve best, but the lesser mistress never did. If it had the vocabulary, or words at all, it would have called itself lonely.
The lesser mistress was in combat again. It worried, for this mistress had been in more conflict that it had ever seen before. These battles were also longer and caused more damage than it had witnessed in any Mistress. If things continued at this rate much longer, the mistress would die. It did not have the capacity to know fear, but it felt the uncertainty of not knowing if it had a future.
A surge of pain and surprise heightened that concern. Chunks of heavy metal hit the mistress, some pierced through flesh into organs, even causing minor damage to itself. One struck her skull, though that remained strong thanks to its reinforcements. The lesser mistress lost consciousness. Then, it acted on its full abilities, to preserve the mistress as it had been trained and programmed to do.
It opened a set of eyes not its own, to look upon the foes, shaped much as the Mistresses and the mistress, it called them not-mistresses. They were shielded by a wall of ice, and their weapons roared as monsters hungering for mistress. It then looked for its options, amongst the mistress’s gifts. Less than any of its Mistresses, but greater than the not-mistresses.
Lesser mistress controlled water, a trick it somehow understood. Its last Mistress, in her great wisdom, taught it before placing it in the mistress. The not-mistresses were more water than any other thing. It reached out with the powers of the mistress, and ripped that water from their bodies. It did not know hate, it did not know cruelty, it did not know conscience. It did not know there was anything unusual in red water. In that moment, it might have known contempt.
It did not dwell, instead going about mending the mistress as best it could. Without the will of a Mistress, it could not heal in full, but it could preserve life and prevent the poison which the metal represented.
The mistress was in combat again. It didn’t know frustration, but it was coming close. It had only had two sleep-cycles to mend the metal-wounds of last time, and they still weeped life-fluids when the mistress moved too much. If it had understood the concept of pain, it would have had further objections still. The mistress grappled with another, the frantic pressure of body against body. After a moment, it recognized its initial assumptions were wrong.
The behavior of the lesser mistress was not one of violence, but of something else. The Mistress who first made it often indulged in this behavior, though never explained the purpose to it. It did not question the Mistresses, it did not know how, it only knew there was no danger. It observed in silence, while doing its best to keep the mistress from causing more undue damage.
It waited for the moment of invasion by foreign infecting agents, material it knew came from a not-mistress, and moved to destroy this infestation as it always had. No. The infecting material tasted different. It was Good. Instead of the normal behavior, it did as the Old Mistress instructed, and allowed the infection to move inward, even aided it on its journey. Meanwhile, it filtered the infection, killed the half which the Mistress had instructed.
What remained joined the the mistress, creating something new. The body changed, adapted in a way it had seen before, that it knew on instinct was Good. Less than three sleep-cycles later, it knew the new being was Good. Its essence tasted like a Mistress, though it was also different. It now knew it was in the mistress, to ensure the survival of this Future Mistress. It could not feel proud to serve such a smart and capable Old Mistress, but it knew relief and satisfaction.
It began to mend the mistress to full health, now that it had a Mistress to protect, it no longer had cause to hold back. The Mistress would provide. In less than one sleep cycle, it had repaired all of the damage the mistress had sustained.
It was time for the Future Mistress to leave the mistress. It observed the signs, as it had before, and prepared to ease the process. Then a new command came to it: it was to join itself to the Future Mistress. With no thought given to the mistress, who had served just as it had served, it left much of itself behind, insinuated through the mistress. The parts would serve, though nowhere near as well as it could. It, which Mistress had placed inside mistress, moved on to Future Mistress and began to grow new parts in Future Mistress. It was content once again.
Young Mistress was under attack. It did not know the source, just that they used simple, concussive weapons. It mended Young Mistress, shielding the brain first and other vital organs after. It would have taken control, but Young Mistess was conscious and the attacks were of little threat to the core.
Far away, in a place it remembered as its home while the Old Old Mistress left it Alone, something stirred. A will awoken from deep slumber. The Old Mistress was now alert, and it knew that a time of great upheaval was coming.
Young Mistress took damage to an extremity, so it began the process of mending. The Old Mistress rebuked its efforts. It could not change the Young Mistress, save to protect the brain from death. Old Mistress had deemed Young Mistress would lose this battle. It thought this was Bad, but it would not, could not, disobey Old Mistress. Mistress was Good, and would not harm Mistress. Its mind was far too simple to consider another possibility.
Granny awoke from her slumber, alerted by the threat her successor was under. The swamp reacted, drawing on power to send to the creature created by the Greenwitch of three hundred years ago, so it could protect the girl. Catherine had named it ‘wata’, and improved its design so it lived inside the body. Grace abandoned it in the cellar to die. Rose improved it further, creating a sophisticated mental program to what had before been little more than living armor. Granny acted first, touching the girl’s mind through the swamp and Wata.
Granny frowned, as she confirmed that little had changed in the sixteen years since her last encounter with other humans. These children carried out the same hateful, stupid dance that their ancestors had. Another generation, no better than the old, though it appeared more brazen and less murderous.
It appeared the Stormbreaker had failed in her self-assigned task, and died in the attempt. She saw no clues in the Orphan’s mind to suggest those Loa had chosen a successor of their own. The hatemongers still held the city through fear and brutality, and police played their fiddles whilst the city burned. Granny reminded herself to take the information with a grain of salt; Maddie had no love of objective reasoning, and her granddaughter might be no better. What she could lift of the newest iteration of the Klan suggested they attacked with words alone, but she responded with violence.
The lack of the Stormbreaker’s Loa troubled her; perhaps there was truth to her death being an accident. Even the Greenwitch had limits, and Granny had seen fit to protect the child over the mother, as was proven the smart decision by current circumstances. Other mortals rushed in to break up the attack almost the moment it happened, so the Orphan would be safe.
Granny sighed, then went back to meditation. She had little else to do, but await the next event which would precipitate the Greenwitch’s revival. It seemed she had reached the pinacle of her connection to the Greenwitch. It would show no more, if, indeed, there was more to show; she had come to suspect she’d seen the formative moments of all the Grannies of the past, kept from realizing it because they did not come to her in chronological order. Like human memory, the Greenwitch recalled in terms of associated events and formative importance, rather than logs in a notebook. Or perhaps the Greenwitch was perfect, and her humanity was the problem.
The Greenwitch Will Endure.
Granny awoke again, less than a full season from the wounding of the Orphan. Two people entered her demesne, seeking her aid as so many others had in the past. She tasted of their inner nature, determining who they were and learning more about them than they knew. The first she named Dawn-child, who was daughter of the leaders of the organization the Stormbreaker had sought to destroy. Not only that, she was one of those that organization would hate perhaps more than those of color, and she loved her partner, who was as dark as she was light. Shakespeare would be proud to set up such a tragedy in the making.
The boy she named Blacksmith was the recipient of the Loa of the Stormbreaker. The grandson of the pastor who had rejected her so long ago, he had rejected his grandfather’s legacy and picked up the mantle of priest of the Loa. She could not imagine a more perfect symmetry to the curse she laid out on their family a full half century ago. His every living descendent for two generations had been claimed by the Loa, with little chance that the next would be any different. The Greenwitch would need to endure beyond the short period which the Orphan would serve as Priestess, after all.
Granny cackled to herself as she forced her old bones to move. A burst of thought lessened the pair’s pain, and distorted their perception of time so she could be in position when they landed. Granny’s claws had shaped both their lives as if clay, and neither suspected a thing as they arrived seeking her aid instead of her death.
“Legend has it the Greenwitch always knows if anyone’s in her domain,” the young Domenic spoke. His voice was sonorous, powerful, and awakened a fire in Granny she had long believed dead. She looked deeper into his past, knowing him in the way she had refused to do to his grandfather. “So I think it’s up to her to decide-”
“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, Thrice-Blessed.” She changed her title for the boy. His temple was magnificent, designed thrice, built once. He had the strength to do what so few could, and reject the Loa and validating everything his family believed in. What he lacked was resolve to see it through. “But this one just so happens to be true.”
Granny and Greenwitch alike thrilled at the victory which stood before them; not only would the Greenwitch endure, it would do so with powerful and diverse allies to protect the Priestess. More, Granny could use today to set for the chain of events which saw her own death, a circumstance she was coming to fear would require her step into the outside world and engage in battle against the legacy of the Klan. Granny had little fear for herself, for they were nothing, and the Greenwitch required murder to Endure. She feared for the next Greenwitch who might face a war Granny started without time to learn her abilities.
Granny set about the necessary paths of conversation to see the two claim their shared Betrothed. She even expended two of her four remaining Fate-Bombs to heal the pair. The last two, she would need to see this plan to its end. It was unusual, the likes of which no Granny had attempted before.
She had greater hope of success now than ever before, having learned that Loa still kept secrets. Even the Greenwitch had never witnessed the Betrothal of three before. Granny wondered if this was a start of a new set of rules, and such beings would become commonplace alongside the Greenwitch of a less destructive path.
The Greenwitch Must Endure, but it no longer need ruin lives to do so, thanks to Rose.
It could not feel panic or horror, but the frantic rush to mend the damage to Young Mistress was a close second. A spear of metal had pierced many of her organs, and forced it to ignore fighting the enemy for the sake of saving Young Mistress from death.
It was aided by the offending weapon which would have killed Young Mistress. The strange tasteless metal kept Young Mistress from bleeding to death, so it could mend the damage and keep her alive. Old Mistress remained silent, so it devoted its every thought to saving Young Mistress, not that it had ever had any other thought.
Then the metal left Young Mistress, and would have screamed in frustration if it knew such an emotion. Then, for the first time, it Knew.
First it knew overwhelming pleasure, as the Young Mistress began to heal from a power greater than itself by far. Then it knew the sound of Her voice, the voice of the Young Mistress it now felt Love for.
There was a pause. <What’s happening?! Where am I?>
<You’re unconscious, Young Mistress.>
Young Mistress waited for a minute. <So, usually when I have this dream, Orlando Bloom’s in it. That what this is? Am I blindfolded in a dream and you’re Orlando Bloom?>
It sorted through her memories, for the person she spoke of. It adjusted itself to her mind. <No, but I can sound like him.>
<I’ll take it! So how long am I gonna be out?>
<I’m still tired. Can you sleep in a dream?>
Another dip into her memories and thoughts.
It selected something appropriate, though it realized this knowledge came from the Old Mistress. It seemed appropriate. <~I’ve got you~ Under my skin.~>
Their third was a monster, even by Granny’s reckoning. She’d seen, and was herself worse, but the creature before her would be at home with the worst of them. Words could not express the horrors she would be capable of, had her web not caught both her Betrothed.
“Poor Bound-Viper, who can see everyone’s strings but her own.” Granny moved away, drawing up the best her swamp had to offer to fight off this attacker. “Granny knows how her story ends. The Greenwitch shall not fall by your hand.”
“Sounds sexy, let’s try it.” The girl rushed forward, unconcerned with her own safety. Her nature, and the Temple born of it, was to attack and attack until either she or the enemy was destroyed.
Such a being should know nothing but bloody war until it destroyed. Perhaps, if any stood to claim justice for her death, her Loa would choose a more stable Priest. Yet, deep within her was the heart of a little girl whose only desire was to find a family only knew was possible because of television. She was bound to two rocks, two whose nature was to protect and guide, if for different reasons.
Somehow, it was hilarious and fitting that the only three-person Betrothal in the Greenwitch’s memory was that of the Parent and Child, done twice over.
Not quite as unusual, this Kinslayer carried the same Loa which were in the Priest she dispatched. The Greenwitch could count scant few tasked to avenge the murders they themselves committed, yet here stood one such , at the earliest possible age the Loa would accept a Priestess. The Greenwitch remained stuck in its old ways, always anointing its Priestesses during her sixteenth year, for as far back as even the Greenwitch’s memories could serve.
These were strange new beings who fought her today, unlike any the Greenwitch had witnessed before. Granny wondered if the Loa had begun to change their Laws to fit the evolving mortal world. It was even conceivable there were many like this girl and her Betrothed, with this merely first encountered by the Greenwitch. If so, it was the best time for a new Priestess, who would be young and able to learn the new ways while serving the ancient.
Granny would have liked to study this new creature, if she wasn’t fighting for her life. A fight which was beginning to look unwinnable. The tricks she used to distort perception did little against the girl whose power let her spy on the threads of Fate and adapt her brain to make her resistant to Granny’s best tricks. Granny was not well equipped to counter such a foe. It did not go unnoticed that the girl’s Fate power was not unlike the previous Granny, though inferior by far.
Rarity though the Bound-Viper was, she would not have been much threat alone. The power of both her Betrothed tipped the balance to place her on the level of a High Priestess like Granny. If Granny had been young and hadn’t given one of her greatest tools to the Orphan, she’d assume even odds of success, but under these circumstances she was desperate. She knew not how the Loa and cycle would respond, were the Bound-Viper the one who claimed her life. Granny preferred her murder be on the hands of the Thrice-Blessed, knowing his beloved sister would not strike him down.
Granny failed to predict her foe, and found herself fatally wounded and pinned against a tree. Her demesne went to work repairing the damages inside her, but the Bound-Viper knew how regeneration worked, how best to defeat it, and was eager to finish her.
That was when the Thrice-Blessed stepped in. It was a close thing, using their emotions to influence the Bound-Viper. As with all Betrothals, the shared Songs of their temples drowned out the Songs of others, her power included. Only the fact that their bonds were damaged by the mistrust between the Priests served to create a weakness she could exploit. Exploit it she did, to convince the Bound-Viper that she would never be loved by them, were she to kill Granny.
It took more time and effort, and the advantage that all three members of their group wanted Granny dead, to finish her plan. With the last of her power, she managed to cajole the Thrice-Blessed to do to her body what his grandfather had done to her heart so long ago. Not through altering his mind, which would have rendered her murder a suicide, but by threatening his family until he snapped.
She laughed in triumph. I won. She would die without a single eligible being on the planet who would seek revenge for her sake. Only Maddie might feel anger over her death. Maddie who would never know what happened here, nor be claimed as a Priestess, nor would kill her own grandson. The cycle of brutality was broken, and so Rose would be the final Greenwitch forced to murder her own family.
The Greenwitch Has Endured.
Rose gave herself over to one last dip into the Greenwitch’s memories as her head flew through the air, and her mad cackling grew even wilder.
I failed. Rather, she succeeded, and it was by far worse than if she had failed. This had happened before, in memories the Greenwitch hid from her all these decades. She was not the first to violate the system, to seek a new path. Dozens tried, all ended in disaster.
Much as a butterfly escaping from a cocoon, the initial loss was necessary as part of the system, the sacrifice granted to the Loa for their Blessings. That Rose had sacrificed her entire life as a hermit in her swamp did not make up the difference demanded of the Greenwitch.
The new witch would lack the experience and training that prior Grannies offered their charges, and be fettered to human troubles that would only cause pain.
This Priestess would to suffer more for Rose’s actions than Rose had suffered for Grace’s.
Knowing her life was dedicated to making things worse, Rose continued to cackle in horror and regret long after her death. Her final debt to the power of the Greenwitch had been paid.
Far away, a new Priestess awakened, rich in the incredible power of the Greenwitch, but bereft of Granny’s wisdom.