I was being watched.
I stared at the dim-lit streets, surveying the blackness of the silent night, before pushing against the cold wood doors of The Reeking Troll. The pub was full of creatures, a few of them humans, and it was so hot inside that everything had an orange tinge. The sound of voices talking, screeching, shouting, intermingled with the noise of glasses chinking and sliding down the bar. It was both overwhelming and barely noticeable, as if a charm had been put on the place.
I tied my dark wavy hair up in a ponytail as my eyes rummaged around, searching for the fairy I was supposed to meet. My gaze stopped at the end of the long bar on one side of the pub, noticing the figure floating just above a battered wooden stool. She was small, about the size of my hand, with pointy little ears and hair the color of the violet strip of the rainbow.
I sighed and made my way to where she was, attempting to avoid the occasional drunk troll or warlock who tried to make conversation, or start a fight if you refused to talk.
I came to The Reeking Troll rather frequently to deliver packages to my clients. For some reason, they all thought it was a good idea to meet in this stinking hole of a place. But I couldn't complain too much, it helped my business since most of the creatures here had employed my services at some point.
" 'ood evening, Witchsight!" A sloshed-sounding voice called my name.
I couldn't tell who had said it, but I kept walking as if I hadn't heard anything. Tonight, I wasn't Witchsight. I wasn't anybody.
Not with that man chasing after my trail.
"Ella," I said once I was behind my fairy client. My voice sounded squeaky, like it always did if I hadn't talked for a while.
The fairy turned and fixed her big, purple bug-like eyes on me.
"Oh, hello there," she squealed, her voice even higher than mine. "I haven't seen you in a long time, Witchsight!"
I frowned at my own name, wishing the Ella didn't have such a high, projective voice.
"Yes," I responded sharply, pulling two little flasks from the leather pouch hanging off my shoulder. One of them was filled with a red liquid that chimed as it moved around; the other one was empty. "I brought you the nightmare drops you asked for."
"Marvelous," Ella exclaimed excitedly, floating over to hug the filled flash which was almost her size. "I was told you were the only one around who could get this potion right. Rumor is you are quite talented with dark magic."
She stared at me expectedly, as if hoping I would confirm or deny something. A smirk almost formed on my mouth, but I pressed my lips tightly together. Fairies were dark, twisted creatures, and I knew Ella would interpret my amusement in all the wrong ways.
"I'm in a hurry right now," I said, once it was obvious she wasn't going to do anything. "About the payment–"
"Yes, yes. Fairy powder, was it?" She set her filled glass down on the stool under her. "What do you want it for?"
I shrugged vaguely. "I need it to make some potions for other clients."
"Really?" She asked, her eyes widening until they almost overwhelmed her whole face. "Fairy powder is quite powerful, y'know. Who could possibly want a potion that required it?"
I didn't like fairies much –they were obnoxious little creatures that liked to stick their pointy noses in everybody's businesses. And she was wasting my precious time, which annoyed me even more.
This time, I didn't stop myself when a corner of my mouth twisted upward; my voice was a lot more mysterious when I spoke. "That's confidential."
"Oh, right," Ella intoned. She looked almost displeased, but something about the tremor in her hands as she made her way to my uncorked empty flask told me she was scared.
She shook her body in the strangest way –swinging her hips here and there, moving her arms above her head– and sparkling powder fell inside the little bottle, filling half of it. That would be enough. I pushed a cork into the tiny mouth of the bottle and buried it back in my pouch.
"Nice seeing you, Ella." I walked away before she could start babbling again.
Bee-lining my way through the pub was a lot harder this time. The place had filled up even more and the creatures pushed against one another, crowded in the small space. I elbowed, kicked, and shoved things out of my way as they complained and cursed at me.
I wasn't worried, most of them where too far gone to cast a decent curse.
I was almost at the door when I felt it. My right hand grazed somebody's arm and a jolt of repulsion pulsed through me. For a flash of a moment I was filled with the urge to scream and kill, to tear flesh apart with my bare hands. But then I was outside and the coolness of the night surrounded me fiercely.
He had been there, at The Reeking Troll, I was sure of it.
I wanted to give in to the impulse to throw up, but I forced myself to walk away from the pub. The darkness in the streets did nothing to calm me down; everything was too quiet, too slimy, too suspicious. I kept hearing imaginary steps behind me, but as soon as I turned, only the wind hushed, mocking me.
I hurried my pace a little more, not trusting my legs to run, as my heart thumped painfully against my chest. I wished I had brought my flying broom, but it had seemed too dangerous to go flying around town, it would attract too much attention.
Now, it seemed too dangerous to walk when I knew he was close.
I passed closed shops and dark alleys, and abandoned buildings that creaked for attention. I was walking by the town graveyard, the middle point between The Reeking Troll and my house, when I caught a flicker of movement on my right. A man was leaning against the scraggly stone building across the street, watching me. I inhaled sharply, my lungs struggling to get enough air in.
Light eyes stood out in the face of the devil, his tattoo-covered arms where crossed over his chest, his stance was tense. It was only a man, a young one, but I felt that sensation in the pit of my stomach that told me to run. It wasn't intuition.
It was fear.
His teeth flashed in an oddly menacing smirk as he pushed himself upright. "Good night, little witch." I jumped at the sound of his voice, which was both rough and pleased. "It's nice to finally meet you."
My body shook, my pulse quickened, and before I could decide anything, I was pushing open battered, rusty gates and running into the graveyard.
I could feel the ground through the soft sole of my shoes, cold and pebbly as I dashed amongst tombs, stepping on wind-swept flower petals. I scampered up the steps of a mausoleum, rounding behind it, my body flattening against its marble-like surface.
"Damn witch." His voice came floating to me, closer than I wished it were. I heard his steps as rubble and fallen branches snapped under his feet.
I had to do something. I couldn't run away forever, at least not now that he had found me. Rumors of him had made their way to me about a month ago. A passing troll who wanted a spell to make his club stronger had come to my shop and talked about a man who had killed the leader of a witch clan in the east. He had mentioned that the man was now going for the niece of that leader.
I was that niece.
And now I had to kill him. I kneeled down and yanked my pouch open, digging through its contents, trying to find something that could help me. My hand closed around the flask with the fairy powder –I could do something with that. Fairy magic could make any potion powerful, but I didn't have any potions ready, not even a good finished spell.
A thud, like something heavy from above, made my eyes focus on tough looking leather boots before my body was slammed against the hard wall of the mausoleum.
"I've got you," he said, grabbing my shoulders tightly, keeping me in place.
I fixed my black eyes on his, so green and vicious. He was close again, like earlier at the pub, and I could feel it taking over me. His mere presence made me angry and scared, filled with hate. I felt the revolting sensation of all my emotions rushing to the surface. The magic in me sizzled, yearning to be used. My senses sharpened. My skin burned wherever he touched.
This was the man I was running from: a Witch Tracker.
I forced myself to calm down, to control my temper. His face was so close to mine that I could see a tattoo hidden under the bedraggled hair over his forehead, I could feel him breathing.
"What do you want with me?"
His mouth twisted again in that same teeth-flashing smirk I had seen before. "I was hired to kill you."
I frowned. "You're making that up. I have no –" My tongue caught mid-sentence.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't lie to him. My eyes widened and his smirk turned conceited and cruel. He was telling the truth.
"Witches can't lie to those who seek them, huh? Well, that's a stupid rule if I've ever heard one. Don't you think so, sweetheart?"
"My name is Witchsight," I spat at him, anger making me careless.
"I know. Amberine Witchsight," he said nonchalantly as his left hand went up to touch my hair. I tried edging forward, but something was holding me in place. "You don't think I set out to kill you without knowing your name, do you? Your aunt made sure I knew it so that I could find you faster."
It took me a moment to understand what he was saying. "You killed her," I let out, more of a comment than an accusation.
"Yeah," he snickered. "I killed her after she hired me to chase you down."
I felt little tendrils, almost like magic, wrapped around me so that I couldn't move; if I listened carefully, I could hear them hum. I wasn't sure what it was, but it was weak.
"Then why don't you kill me?"
He stepped back. For only an instant, his expression softened and the man he really was pushed through his dislike of me. He was handsome, with the face of someone who hadn't been toughened by defeat. But then his intent to kill came back and the moment was gone. I wondered if my face did the same thing.
This wasn't the time to sit and ponder. I channeled the magic crackling inside of me, letting it leak slowly, carefully. The humming intensified. The Witch Tracker frowned, confused for only a second. But it was a second too long. I was free from the tendrils by the time he realized what was going on.
His hand darted to seize my arm, but I grabbed him instead, where I could touch the bare skin of his tattooed forearm. His face contorted in pain as the flesh under my hand frizzled and burned, erasing his ink marks.
But it was hurting me, too, and I had no option but to let him go. I dashed away, jumping over the stairs of the mausoleum. Once again, I zigzagged around the tombs of those who were dead, searching for some place to take cover. The steps of the Witch Tracker were louder and louder, too close for comfort. I could feel his presence looming behind me.
I still had no idea of how to kill him. I dug through my pouch, my only weapon, and grabbed two flasks at random as I ran for my life. One flask was the fairy powder, but I wasn't sure what the one with the purple-green liquid was. With some of my luck, it would be something lethal.
I had just dumped the fairy powder into the other flask and corked it when I was yanked from the back of my black dress. Something cold and sharp pressed against my neck, and a drop of warm blood traveled down to sit in the dip between my collarbones. I was terrified.
"Damn witch," his voice was hoarse and angry. "Stop running away. I need information."
He stepped around me so that we were face to face, the knife never leaving my neck. I felt the tendrils surround me again, only this time I wasn't trapped against a wall –I was being tied to him, my hands to his hands and my feet to his feet. I couldn't move backward, only forward. I felt vulnerable and exposed as he watched me.
"And you really think I'm going to tell you anything?" My voice sounded almost hysterical.
His hand went into one of his pockets and when he pulled it out his fingers were encircled around a vial with a clear liquid in it.
"You will, Witchsight."
Midnight Sleep. A potion made of stardust, serpent venom, and the blood of a dying witch. A drop of it could kill any magical creature and then force them to come to life again, only to be killed a second time. Of course I knew what it was. I was the only one who could make it.
"You couldn't have that. You don't –how did you get it?"
"Your aunt gave it to me. It was her parting gift for you. Now, tell me. Who is the thirteenth witch with the luck of the black cat born to your generation?"
So that's why he hadn't killed me, and that's why Aunt Erhen wanted me killed. But he didn't know, Aunt Erhen hadn't told him. I stared at him, clutching my makeshift potion in my left hand; I could feel it swirling and mingling through the glass.
"Why do you want to know that?"
"There's a reward for her head in the east. You aunt seemed to think you knew who this thirteenth witch was."
"Yes, I do," I answered. I needed to do something before he cut my neck open or made me drink that midnight sleep. I needed time for my potion to finish mixing. I breathed in deeply. "She's my cousin."
The pain invaded me instantly, piercing through my very essence, making me want to convulse. But I bore it and tried not to let it show on my face. This was my only chance.
"Which cousin?" He asked, his hands toying with the vial of midnight sleep.
I wriggled just slightly, gauging the strength of the new tendrils. Maybe I could run away again, maybe –No. They were unbreakable. The potion in my hand was warming up, almost ready to be used.
"Cressida. That's her name."
The pain came back, worse than before. I felt every muscle in my body contracting painfully, tears came to my eyes. My own magic was turning against me, smoldering me with its force.
My eyes focused on his expression, contorted in anger and indignation and I felt the knife dig a little deeper in my neck, but it was nothing compared to the torture coming from inside. "You're lying, aren't you?"
He stepped forward, uncorking his vial, and I lost all control I had.
I crushed the flask against his forehead, the glass shattering and sinking in both my hand and his face. His expression contorted in pain and then he went limp, his body shaking involuntarily. I stepped back, released from the restraint of the tendrils and stared. The Witch Tracker shrank and morphed, changing into something not human.
My hand closed around his scurrying hairy form before he could escape. I brought him up to my face, his legs trashing around. It would have been almost comical, but I was still too scared, too unsettled, to laugh at the situation. This man –this pathetic little spider had almost killed me.
A raging desire filled me to crush the spider like I had done with the flask. But I couldn't, not yet. I could use him, as a Witch Tracker, especially now that the east witches seemed to be after me.
They wanted the thirteenth witch with the luck of the black cat. They wanted me. If Aunt Erhen had told this man who I was, I would be dead now. But she hadn't, and I was still breathing.
I stared into the eyes of the Witch Tracker, which were sea green instead of red. "I guess now you're the one that has information I want. I bet you're really mad right now, aren't you?" The spider squirmed some more in my grasp and I smiled. "I'll keep you as a pet, Witch Tracker, but you need a new name." I saw the bloodied knife a few steps from me, thought about the man who had chased me, the tattooed boy who had been prepared to feed me Midnight Sleep. My mouth twisted in that horrible smirk that started so many rumors. "Spellbound."
N/A: Yeah :) I know you don't really want to read my N/A, so I won't bore you too much. But for those of you who are curious (and were brave enough to finish this story) I'll have you know that the Witch Tracker's name is actually Hunter. Random facts!
Now go tell me what you think :)
P.S.: Some of you have been asking if this was a long story or if it really was a one-shot. Well, the answer to that is: I'm not sure. At the moment, it is a one-shot because this is all I've written and I wrote the story with the intent of making it short. However, I'm not opposed to making it a longer story at some point. I have some ideas floating around to continue this, but I haven't put much thought into it, to be truthful. Some things I can tell you, though --I'm not making this into a cliche, for those who were worried. Fear not. Opinions?