This book is available now so this is the last snippet.
Witchy Kingdom – Snippet 45
Wouldst thou not see death undone? Eternal life for all mankind? Thou art proud God’s appointed redemption. Proud to believe thyself to be a match for the Lord Protector.
Sherem primed the weapon’s pan and took aim. He sighted along the barrel at the largest of Robert Hooke’s crosses.
“So long, Bob,” Sarah said.
Proud to assume that I would be here to face thee alone.
Bang! Sherem fired.
“Visionem–” Sarah began the spell she had intended to cut her connection with Robert Hooke, preparing to burn as she forced the ley energy of the Mississippi through herself to do so.
But the second dark aura, sending off wisps of death and evil like Hooke’s, reappeared. As if all things about her moved through honey or amber–or the deadly sea of Hooke’s evil spell–Sarah saw a person who looked like a child step forward from behind the large cross just as Sherem squeezed the trigger.
She saw this through Sherem’s eye.
Through her Eye of Eve, she saw the person’s hideous aura.
Through all three of her fields of vision at once, she saw the small person raise its arm–
and the enchanted bullet, hurtling through the air toward the cross and its diminutive defender like a bright blue meteorite, stopped.
Stopped, and hung in mid-air.
Sarah was so astonished, she nearly stopped fleeing, and the groping hands of Hooke’s spell threatened to encircle her. She leaped back, but stared at the little figure as she did so.
The little figure that had, she now saw, a death’s head for a face.
Was the wall of black flame higher than it had been? Sarah saw a flash of blue light rolling across the ground outside the Treewall. One of her people had died. A messenger, or someone on the wall, a defender.
The blue light struck the black flame and vanished.
And the flame rose slightly higher.
The deaths of Sarah’s people, the Firstborn, added to the strength of the noose around their own neck.
The small person raised an arm and reached toward the hovering bullet–
And the bullet drifted into its hand.
And now thou hast met my Lord Cromwell. Hooke laughed, and Sarah shuddered.
Cromwell, tiny and naked, was immediately the most menacing thing on the field of battle. He raised the bullet in both his hands and Sarah saw the blue light between his fingers swirl and grow cloudy as if with black silt, and a terrible thought struck her heart.
“Break the connection!” she shrieked. “Sherem! Maltres!”
She couldn’t see any of them to know their reactions.
Oh, look thou at the squirming of Adam’s illicit get!
“You’re wrong!” she shouted, but stopped herself. Was she going to debate theology with Robert Hooke? Or less likely, tell him her revelatory experience on the Sunrise Mound?
She almost laughed, despite the danger to herself and her people. If she told Robert Hooke that Wisdom was the same person as Eve, only before Her fall, he would at best laugh.
Cromwell laid his right hand back alongside his ear and then hurled his hand forward. A ball of black light launched toward the Treewall.
Sarah turned to face the incoming missile. “Pallottolas–” she shouted, to begin a bullet-deflecting spell, but as she tried, hands grabbed her and she was forced again to divert her attention to Robert Hooke.
“Maltres!” she heard Sherem shouting. “I need
Where was Maltres Korinn going to get silver at this moment?
Sarah backed away from Robert Hooke. She needed a way to strike at Cromwell.
She needed more power.
And there was nowhere to get it. Already, the flow of energy moving through her soul threatened to burn her to cinder.
Through Sherem’s eye, she saw something unexpected. The Polite turned away from the field of battle and looked down within the Treewall. There, a man in a Cahokian warder’s uniform threw something at him. It wasn’t an attack, the toss was underhand.
Sherem caught the thrown object–
and it burned his hands.
Abruptly, Sarah’s link with Sherem snapped. She staggered away, physically. Arms gripped her, and she heard Maltres Korinn whisper in her ear. “Strength, Beloved.”
Her link with the Mississippi ley flickered and disappeared. Her flight from Robert Hooke slowed abruptly. Hands closed about her.
The black sphere hit Sherem and he staggered. Then it spun about him and struck the next person in line, one of Sarah’s wizards. He was tall and pot-bellied, and his face had the dignified expression of a thoughtful scholar.
The orb entered his body and paused, briefly. With a blood-curdling shriek, the man fell from the Treewall. His soul–or ka, or whatever it was–exploded from him in a blue ring.
Strengthening the black flame.
But Sarah dipped into the passing wave of energy as well, and the sudden burst of power pushed her beyond the grasping hands.
Was that Thalanes she saw, in the wall of numb faces?
The black sphere leaped to the next wizard, a woman with short white hair and the tattoo of a raven on her neck. This time Sarah was ready. She reached forward with her own soul and dipped into the dying woman’s spirit.
It broke her heart. She was drinking the souls of her own people.
But the alternative was worse.
Sherem raced past, slapping the magicians as he went. He touched his hand to their bare skin, on their faces or on the backs of their hands.
Some of the woman’s energy escaped her, but most poured into Sarah. It felt like cool water after a dry walk under a hot sun. With the power she gleaned, Sarah pushed farther out of Hooke’s grasp.
Hooke laughed. Someone has taught thee Cromwell’s own magic, whelp!
Sarah wanted to vomit. She was pulled away from Hooke, but the black sphere was killing her wizards.
The third was a broad-shouldered woman with a lipless mouth. The sphere rested inside her chest for a second, and then she threw her arms over her head, shaped her mouth like an O, and collapsed where she stood.
Sarah grabbed her energy, sucking in as much as she could before Cromwell could take it.
Sherem was catching up to the sphere, but not nearly fast enough. At this rate, all her wizards might die. How did he know what to do, being a man with no spells?
Then Sarah realized what she had done. In her spell she had said coniungo, I share. As she had had Sherem’s vision, he had had hers. He had seen Cromwell’s aura, and the black sphere coming, and Maltres Korinn had somehow had a piece of silver for him.
With the link broken, he no longer saw what Sarah did, but he was racing from wizard to wizard, trying to get ahead of the death spell he knew was killing them.
Sarah could help him. She felt for the Mississippi through the Orb of Etyles and found it there again.
“Pedes accelero!” she shouted.
She had no coffee to throw or spit, but she hurled all the energy she could at Sherem’s feet. The silver in his hands felt like an enormous weight, and she pushed with all her might to speed Sherem up.
His pace redoubled. He fairly flew past two more mages, touching them a split second too late. An elderly man with a posture like a question mark toppled forward, and then a man so young Sarah wanted to call him a boy.
Sarah grabbed their energy and poured it into Sherem.
Then it happened. He clapped his hands, holding the bar of silver as they did, onto the next wizard. This was a heavy woman, with curly brown hair and multiple iron rings piercing each ear. The sphere entered her body, and then Sherem slapped a hand onto her neck.
Light exploded from this woman too, but it wasn’t the blue light of her soul. It was the black light of Cromwell’s spell, and it broke in a ring. Sherem was thrown backward as if by an explosion and struck the Treewall’s parapet, crying out in pain and surprise. He dropped the silver, and Sarah saw bloody welts on both his hands.
Dead hands grabbed at Sarah and dragged her. Out of sheer inertia, she seized the ring of Cromwell’s energy as it passed her and consumed it.
Her link with the Mississippi was suddenly cut off. She faltered. Her soul felt full of tar, her spirit was drowning.
She tried to will energy into the Heronplow. She knew it was in her hands, but she couldn’t find it, and she discovered that she was utterly exhausted of power. She felt limp, body and spirit. She couldn’t find Thalanes’s brooch, couldn’t find the river’s ley, couldn’t find the orb.
Hands pulled her down and she heard the slow laughter of Robert Hooke.
She lost her view of the Treewall and the battle. She saw dead hands and dead faces, including the dead face of Robert Hooke.
Thou hast saved one or two worthless wizards, the Sorcerer said. And lost thyself. And in losing thyself, thou hast lost the city of the goddess, Her people, and all else. I shall not visit thee in hell, Ophidian.
He was right, and Sarah knew it. She’d lost half the beastkind, and a quarter of the city’s magicians, and now she was dying. Who would defend her father’s land? Who would protect Nathaniel and Margaret? Who would stop Thomas Penn?
“Beloved!” The voice of Maltres Korinn sounded miles away.
A weight struck her, but she couldn’t see what it was.
Was she falling into the vortex of dead hands? Fingers and paws brushed at her skin, and dead eyes stared. Hooke drifted somewhere above them all, and behind him Sarah thought she a naked youth with white eyes.
Then another blow shook her. Her skin was crisp as paper, and something scaly and rough rasped across her body all around. She screamed, though she couldn’t hear it.
The hands seized her.
“The blanket!” Maltres Korinn shouted. “The blanket, now!”
Fire swept across Sarah, body and soul. She arched her back and screamed again, but the hands and eyes surrounding her were swept away in the purifying flame. The amber sea boiled, and its final wave tossed Hooke and his master both aside.
Sarah struggled to breathe. Something suffocating pressed around her.
“Help!” she croaked.
Then she tumbled out of a blanket and a net in which she’d been tangled. Abruptly, the brilliance of the clear winter sky seared her eyes. She fell on snow, and the chill of it on her skin was a relief.
She was alive.
She had miscalculated. She’d lost soldiers, beastkind, and wizards.
Had she reckoned wrong, though? Was it possible that Oliver Cromwell could snatch a bullet from the air with no warning?
Or were we betrayed?
It seemed likely.
But she was alive.
And messengers were on their way.