The light from the torches flickered in the vast room, the storm outside spilling past the shuttered windows and rain soaking into the stone walls. The lone occupant of the room yawned. Idly twirling her hand, she waved a few wisps of what appeared as white mist through the air. The wisps, at first slowly drifting, formed into different shapes, faint miniature images of people, brightening and darkening with different shades of color. They began dancing joyfully in mid-air, shimmering as they moved.

The woman smiled in satisfaction as she reclined on a bench, built especially for her; flat on one end, for reclining and laying down, with a head and arm rest on the other. Covered with red velvet, padded with sheep's wool, it provided a comfortable resting place to greet her guests.

The latest guest to arrive, however, was not entirely welcome. "Evil, deceitful witch, I'll kill you!" A strong male voice roared out, muffled by the closed doors yet echoing from the force of the yelling. The sorceress closed her eyes, sighing out of resignation as the wisps she had amused herself with vanished into the air. She would have rather not deal with this lout during her leisure time, but as it was…

The oaken doors slammed in, banging against the stone walls as a powerfully built man strode angrily into the hall, stalking the room like an enraged tiger. Black hair shone in the fire light, as did muscled bronzed skin and flashing dark eyes. His clothing was of the far eastern regions; silks and shining fabrics, lavishly decorated and embroidered. He wore gold bejeweled rings that sparkled above his thick bony knuckles, a golden chain against his neck and another around his waist. His hands gripped two scimitars, their hilts covered with thick blue leather, the blades glinting dully with a dark green tint. He walked toward her, stopping within a yard of the woman, eyeballing her arrogantly. She looked down at the man, completely unperturbed by his presence.

"What do you want, Symirn?" The tone of her refined voice was polite, yet edged with impatient boredom, as if the man's presence itself was tedious.

"I want my revenge, you foul devious snake!" His dark mustache quivered in rage as he glared. "You made me your thrall for a year so I could learn of your magical skills to harness the power of these swords, but they cannot channel that-"

"They cannot channel magic that is different from their own, as I have told you. Several times I told you this, in fact."

"That is yet another matter to settle, you scheming devil," he snarled. "No woman from my country will even look at me with desire, for they laugh, mocking me as some kind of fool! They think me weak for having given myself to a pathetic, frail woman!"

The sorceress shrugged, appearing unconcerned with his problem. "That is their loss, Symirn, not yours. You think yourself weak because you crave a strong woman, so don't deny your desires and find one to accommodate your needs."She waved her hand, not even looking at the man as she dismissed him.

"Now run along, dear boy, before you hurt yourself with your temper tantrums."

The blades hissed ominously as the man swung them through the air, like a pair of snakes ready to strike. "You have no chance against me, wench," Symirn sneered, eyes gleaming with malevolent intent. "You bear no staff, no wand, and you have no means of casting your cursed magic-"

Suddenly he froze, body trembling with effort as he tried to break free of the sudden enchantment cast upon him. It was as if he were a statue, still breathing and fully aware, but unable to move at all.

Wordlessly, the woman stood up, displeasure clearly written in her expression as she stalked over to where he stood. His eyes spun wildly, the only part of his body able to move. He glimpsed a seal on the floor, marked with odd symbols and strange words. He was interrupted from his examination as she spoke, her voice calm yet dangerously low, her own eyes blazing like a lioness fixated on the kill.

"You are wrong again, oh thick-headed fool," the woman smiled wickedly, reached out and stroking Symirn's short black hair, which was swaying with his embittered struggles against the holding charm. "I have no need of some phallic symbol or wooden tool to cast my magic. My powers were a gift from the elements themselves."

His mouth pursed and twisted as he tried to sputter a protest, but all he could manage was a faint growl. She slapped his cheek and he snarled, albeit low.

The woman continued, answering his unspoken question. "Yes, fool, the elements themselves have empathy when magic is used. They were involved in many ancient occurrences, including the existence of humankind itself. But as I was saying, I can conjure up my magic any time I wish. I will do so now to teach you an unforgettable lesson."

With an intricate hand sign and a snap of her fingers, Symirn's clothing burst into flame. His eyes rolled wildly in panic, an odd sensation going over his jaw. The witch hadn't released him from the holding charm, but had removed the immobility from his jaw so he could use his mouth. And he did, terrified shrieks erupting from his throat as he stood in the center of the raging inferno. His blood boiled in his veins, skin crackling like fat over a griddle, sweat and fluids sizzling as they dropped into the coursing flames. His swords fell and clattered to the ground, the ash-covered skeletal remains of his hands still curled into fists.

She shouted over his screams and the roar of the fire. "I told you if you ever threatened my life, or if you attempted to kill me, you would find yourself cast with the ashes into the wind. Do you believe me now, warrior?"

It didn't take long until Symirn, the warrior formerly known as the Dragon of the Eastern Deserts, was nothing more than a pile of ashes spotted with melted gold, ruined jewels and burnt rags. A window opened and a breeze was cast, gathering each piece of refuse and grain of ash until nothing was left, blowing the remains from the room. The window closed, and the sorceress walked to where the swords lay, picking up a heavy weapon in each hand.

These were trophies, or perhaps training weapons for the armory. But she wasn't in the habit of taking souvenirs, and her guards were satisfied with their personal weapons. But maybe, there were others wishing to own these blades, since Symirn had not been the first owner of these swords.

The red-haired woman smiled as she held them up to the light; one blade bore the name 'Sethe', written in letters across the brass hilt. The other held the name 'Tara'.

It appeared she had some conjuring to do...