The Ritual of the Dark Sword

Jezebelle strode into her caravan with a letter in hand. “Looks like, against all odds, we’re being invited back into Cinnamon’s home. She has something she wants us to look at, witchy business…” She said to her familiars, or at least to Grackle, as Polly the toad was currently dozing away on the table.

Oho! Another opportunity to lay on the ‘ol Grackle charm for the lovely Zipporah! How’re my feathers? Should I bring her some carrion?” Crowed the raven, who’d been a terrible nuisance to Cinnamon’s own raven familiar on their last visit.

Grackle, you couldn’t charm the pants off a nudist.” taunted Jezebelle.

As usual, wrong again!” retorted Grackle.

And just how am I wrong abou…” she started.

Remember that time years back when you were trying to pull off the witchy dress look, and I told you the drapery made your big dumb horse butt look fat? And you said ‘Charming’ and then proceeded to never wear a dress or pants again!” he said, fluffing his feathers triumphantly.

I don’t… that’s not… I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!” Jez halfheartedly tossed a throw pillow at the raven, who deftly hopped out of the way.

I know, but it still counts!

Cinnamon was still unsure about the favor she just had asked Jezebelle. Dealing with dark magic was not a thing she would want to do, at all. But she was very curious, and also… she still felt she owed it to the ranger, Rayven, to find out more about his race, for having risked his life for Centauria. But at this point, the letter was sent and there was no turning back. Cinnamon saw Zipporah coming back from the delivery and at once she extended her arm to receive her.

How was it, Zip? no mishaps at all?

…”Cawwwwwwww…” Zipporah answered, rolling her eyes, sighing bored and pretty exasperated.

Ah… that Grackle.” Cinn laughed. “Still infatuated with you, ain’t he? Just tell him he doesn’t stand a chance as your heart belongs to Poe, and… Oh, you are NOT in love with Poe? Just friends huh?? Well alright, young lady, if you say so. Let’s have breakfast, shall we??” She answered giggling, sitting by the pond, sharing some salted fish she bought from Marilina at the Faire.

After having eaten, she walked by the healer’s hut to take that chest out from under the bed and brought it home. “Alright, here we go…” she said, placing the box on the floor. She took a deep breath, and opened it. Full to the top with rock salt, Cinn dug in it, and found a good sized sword. She lightly touched it… “Hmm… the dark magic in it has faded some as its owner was killed by the ranger several weeks ago. At least the salt contained its curse… I hope it works for something.

Jezebelle strolled down the dirt path purposefully, her back laden with pouches full of books and paraphernalia related to the subject of divination. Not that she needed all of it, the practice of foretelling was her and Grackle’s specialty, but it helped to have a body of works to reference for laymen, and one never knew when a particular talisman or tool might prove useful. Besides, making her living as a fortune teller had taught her that other people set a great deal of stock in appearances, a certain amount of set dressing was expected. Grackle rode along on Jezebelle’s back, incessantly grooming himself in Jez’s scrying mirror.

Please promise me you’ll behave yourself.” She sighed, knowing full well the raven wouldn’t heed her advice. “And don’t eat the reagents this time. I might need them

Hey, that’s on you. You put a trayful of lizard entrails in front of me and I’m gonna eat ’em.” Grackle replied. “You snack on your own time, dammit, this is serious work. And leave Zipporah alone, you dirty, dirty bird. She’s too fancy for you.” admonished Jez.

Grackle harrumphed loudly. “I’ll have you know I am the pinnacle of refinement. My knowledge and breadth of skill were attained in the illustrious halls of Roonwit itself!

Yeah, yeah. I’m half convinced you picked it all up while scavenging their rubbish bins, Mr. Refined Tastes.” smirked Jez.

Well, I never!” Grackle cried in feigned outrage, as the two strolled up the path to Cinnamon’s house.

Cinn covered up the sword with the rock salt and closed the lid. She did not want to have any bad magic leaking around in her house. “Gods know what that sword might contain”. She walked outside her hut, and laying by the pond, she took out her book and decided to read a bit. Minutes later she heard hooves coming from the road, a lot of rittle-rattle and two familiar voices apparently having some sort of argument. Cinnamon smiled to herself as she immediately recognized Jezebelle, just turning around the corner. She waved at her from a distance.

Cawww!! Cawwww!!… Caaaaaaw!!!!” asked Zipporah, …almost begging, as soon as she noticed Grackle riding on Jezebelle’s rump.

Ah… alright, I guess you can go visit with Poe, and save yourself from the torment. Do you want to leave a message for Grackle?” Cinn giggled. “Off you go, then“.

Smirking as a white blur sped away at her approach, Jezebelle trotted up to Cinnamon and offered a polite greeting. “You have a lovely home. I don’t know why but I always imagined you lived in the Healer’s hut.

Grackle hadn’t noticed Zipporah leaving, and was busy trying to look nonchalant on Jezebelle’s rump as he scanned the area for the lady raven.
Just because you live at work Jezzy doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow suit. You have the artifact?” He inquired in the same breath, with his usual dearth of tact.

Well thank you, Jez!” Cinn closed her book and stood up to greet her friend. “Thank you for coming over, I appreciate the favor. And yes, Grackle… I have ‘the’ artifact…” she said to the bird, faking a serious face. “How’s the wound doing? All healing nice and well?” She lowered her eyes to look at Jezebelle’s side, as she noticed she was covering it with a shawl. Making a pause, she raised her eyes and continued. “Let me show you this… thing, and see what you think of it”. Cinnamon turned around, made a gesture with her hand to follow her, and walked inside the hut. Then, from under the bed, she pulled out a wooden chest, and placed her hand on the latch. “Are you guys ready to see it?

Jez blushed and looked away as Cinn asked after her wound. “..’m fine..” she mumbled. She was, too, but she’d worn the shawl over her scars so she wouldn’t be fretted over. Jezebelle hated when people made a big deal of her, unless it was over her artistic or magical talents. Speaking of… “Yeah, let’s see this thing. Must be a heck of a blade to bring down a toughie like Rayven.” Jez gripped a warding braid in one hand, a woven leather cord strung with beads and charms to protect against bad energy. Her home was littered with such baubles, but she’d made and enchanted this one herself for this very purpose. Shining at the end was the business end of the invertitia amulet she’d got off the vanished Euterpe. She wasn’t taking any chances with the kind of magic they were dealing with.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the latch open. “Here we go…” And lifted the lid. Taking a few handfuls of rock salt and moving them aside, she unburied a blade. Barely touching it with a finger or two, she pulled it out to the top of the salt, and then turned the chest towards Jezebelle. “This is it. The ranger took it from that dark mage on the last day of battle.” Staring at the blade, she warned “Be careful, Jez…

Jezebelle blinked. This was what all the fuss was about? It looked like an ordinary sword, really. A straight blade tapered to a fine point, and an unassuming black hilt. Hardly the fearsome ritual implement she’d expected when she heard “cursed sword.” Tentatively, she outstretched a hand and closed her eyes, extending her magical senses out to meet the blade. Instantly her mind and hand both recoiled! She shook her hand, opening her eyes. That felt like the magical equivalent of dipping her fingers in acidic sewage. Her mind’s eye had gotten a flash of a wicked black blade, glowing runes of sickly yellow-green down its length.

Cinn, where’s your table? We got work to do.”

Holy gods…” Cinnamon gasped, and watched the short scene with eyes open wide as plates. “I… was almost sure that thing still had something lingering.” She looked at Jezebelle, paying special attention to her eyes to make sure everything was fine. “I can’t perceive things like you do, it’s more like a gut feeling, you see? but… yeah… alright, the table…”.

She stood up from the floor and went to drag the coffee table pushed against the corner to the center of the room. Then she moved books, bottles, scrolls and whatnot aside. Next, she took out a vial from her belt pouch and poured some oil drops in her hands and rubbed them together, and then last but not least, grabbed the invertitia amulet from her night stand, and put it around her neck. She sat down at one side of the table, took a deep breath, and looked at Jez. “All yours, madame”.

Jezebelle set about setting up the table, placing candles and drawing a diagram in chalk, with five inner circles, referencing one of her many books. It had been a while since she’d done this sort of divining, but Grackle’s watchful eye tracked her every move, and the bird offered her work no gainsay. Jezebelle did not bother with the ritual cleansing prescribed by the book, however, instead allowing Pollywog a bite of her finger to drain her aura of impurities. No simple ritual she knew of was enough to quell the curse Euterpe had placed on her essence the way the toad could, and she needed her magic unmuddled. She placed a crystal sphere upon an iron stand within one of the circles in the diagram, and motioned Cinn to set the sword in one as well.

The ritual circle is a conduit for my intent, and also serves to contain the magics within, keeping us safe from this working” she explained. “When I begin, I will attempt to draw a symbolic link between the violence done by the blade and the violence in its or its victim’s past. From there, I can in theory make further connections, and jump from place to place in Rayven’s history. Like one of those books where you skip along the pages to tell a story of your choosing.

She placed her Invertitia amulet in the circle, to guard against the influences of the curse magic on the blade. She reinforced the circles around the amulet and sword, and the line linking them, with a sprinkling of salt from the box. Having soaked in the energy of the blade, she explained, the salt wouldn’t be totally inert, and thus could be used in the diagram without dampening the magic of the ritual. Into the other circles in the diagram she placed a crystal and candle that she claimed were amplifiers of the sort of energies she would be working.

If you have any further preparations to make, now would be the time. I’d like to assure you this is perfectly safe, but truth be told, that sword is a nasty piece of work and this whole thing could explode. I didn’t bring any thaumaturgical capacitors, save Polly, and I’ll not risk her for this. If I call for it, I will need you to extinguish the candles quickly.

Cinnamon, after having placed the blade on the table as she was told, observed all the preparations and listened carefully to Jezebelle’s explanation of the ritual, and all her instructions.

Extinguish candles quickly…. Noted”. Being a tad nervous about the whole deal, she decided that an extra thing or two for protection wouldn’t hurt. So she stood up, and rummaging through the drawers of her apothecary chest, drew out a few herb handfuls, mainly sage, cornflower and rosemary, which she put together in a bunch and wrapped tightly with thread, then placed it on one of the circles. Also she remembered that small carved obsidian trinket that belonged to her mother, which she kept on the windowsill. She went to pick it up from it’s usual place and put it down on the table as well. “I think these will do”, said Cinn. Taking a deep breath or two, she sat down again by the table, clutched the amulet around her neck, and ready to start, she nodded to Jezebelle to continue.

Jezebelle watched Cinnamon prepare for the ritual, placing what protective articles she had around the table. She made a mental note to compare magical notes with the healer later, curious about the difference in materials and approach. But those thoughts had to go on the back burner, it was finally time to get down to business. Taking a deep, calming breath she placed her hands on the table and closed her eyes. As she gathered her power, she released that breath, and the candles upon the table flickered alight. The lines of the chalk diagram began to glow, the room darkening as if the light were being stolen by the working on the table.

Jezebelle opened her eyes, and the sword shimmered with sickly yellow-green energy, the Invertitia amulet on the table began to glow shortly after, spreading its calming blue light along the lines of the diagram, save the sole isolated path between the sword and crystal ball. The energies of the sword crawled along this line, and the crystal ball danced with the light. Jezebelle peered into the glassy depths, and her mind’s eye was pulled forward. Her metaphysical senses were immediately awash with misery, her mind a fragile bastion of calm in an oily yellow-green sea of pain. She faltered for a moment, finding a familiar feeling of crimson fury welling up within her as the cursed magicks tried to find purchase within her heart, as they once had. She forced it down, and as she did found her mark, a sensation of violence not her own. Seizing upon it, she was pulled forward again, and the sludgy veil fell from her mind’s eye.

In it, she saw an obsidian titan of a taur, proud antlers shimmering silver in the moonlight, doing battle with a shadowy figure wielding a familiar-looking sword. The two clashed, and as the antlered taur struck a fatal blow, the sensation of violence echoed like the ring of steel from a dozen points in her mind. She focused in on one and was again transported away to a scene of battle, as the figure of the ebon taur was set upon by the same foe, this time the enemy was accompanied by his allies who had lay dead in the prior vision. A bitter struggle ensued, and the big taur was struck. Pain and fear echoed, and Jezebelle’s mind shifted once again.

In the physical realm, Jezebelle stood silent, her mouth soundlessly muttering as her eyes stared vacantly into the sickly glow of the crystal. Her face seemed gaunter than usual, and as the scene shifted in her mind, and the light of the sword and crystal flared, a little more of it seemed to dance within her eyes each time. Grackle shifted uncomfortably on his perch, but he dared not croak a word. Polly watched as well, nervously chirping quietly from beneath the cover of an open ritual book.

Cinnamon watched the candles light up, and the chalk symbols on the table glowing. Out of nowhere, carved runes on the blade appeared, and sent a green glow towards the crystal ball, to which the Invertitia amulet responded, glowing and counteracting it’s effects. She saw the two energies, green and blue, dancing in a sort of small battle on the crystal ball, trying to overpower each other through the lines of the diagram. Soon, hints of images were forming on the ball, and as soon as it started, Jezebelle went into a trance, her eyes blank and her lips slightly parted, muttering something inaudible.

The scrying ball formed flashes of images surrounded in smoke, and at the same time, Jezebelle’s expression began to change from sorrow to fear, and then to anger, a tear running down her eye, her lips trembling with rage, even though her body remained static, both hands on the table. The candles flickered faster and the flames grew bigger. Clinking of bottles and trinkets could be heard around the room, which turned even darker.

Suddenly, the energies calmed down some, as the sights in the crystal ball shifted, and everything in the room seemed to relax. Cinn kept sight on Jezebelle’s face, especially her eyes. Looking down at the diagram, the green glow had spread some more towards the amulet, but this was still sending back its soft waves of blue. Somewhat worried, she looked back at Jez, and noticed her expression had changed. It was not one of rage anymore, but instead, she looked serene, even though a bit haggard, her vision still locked on the crystal ball. Cinnamon looked into her eyes again. At the beginning she thought the yellow shade was a reflection of the orb, but then, she looked a third time. Alarmed, she slowly stood up, trying to not disturb the ritual, and doing her best to not make any sounds, took the amulet off herself, and going around the table, she placed it on Jezebelle’s neck.

Jezebelle’s face calmed as the amulet rested coldly upon her breast, but on the table the energies still screamed along the lines of the magic circle she’d constructed, the spell still going strong. The candles burned with six-inch flames, slowly but visibly melting down to half their starting height.

In her vision, the echoes of pain had led Jezebelle to a hunting scene, the big black taur striking a mighty elk stag with his bow, giving chase as the beast fled. Jezebelle chased after, and the vision changed as she ran. Before her, the mighty centaur shrank to a frightened child, and behind her, a company of monstrous shadowy figures rode, giving chase alongside her. She felt a whooping cry escape her lips as she laughed, drawn up in the bloodlust of the group yet… somehow detached from it. In reality, the amulet flared with cleansing power, and her vision shifted again.

From one exile to another, gone were the small boy and the ebon giant, before her strode a column of dark-skinned centaurs, pacing away into the treeline as fire blazed behind them. She watched them in silence for a moment, as the refugees vanished one by one before her eyes, not into the trees but into thin air. Then she was pulled away again.

Cinn stepped slowly back to her seat at the other side of the table. She slowly sat down among the darkness in the room, and looked at the diagram. The two energies were still fighting over the table, the sword sending its green and yellow curse towards the amulet and Jezebelle, and they were fighting back with glowing blue waves. The rest of the table was taken over. The handful of herbs was already burned to ashes, and the only thing with any sort of shield against the dark magic was the obsidian figurine, but it was very weak. Cinnamon soon realized that she had left herself unprotected. Before she noticed, through her hand, a wave of darkness started to climb towards her arm and then her shoulder… and all of a sudden, she found herself standing among an open field, next to a crimson-coloured centaur, and watching a horde of black centaurs with silver antlers disappearing one by one along the landscape. She watched them as they vanished amongst the flames and then… she smiled big. Soon her smile turned into an evil laugh, as she turned her gaze towards the red centauride.

For Jezebelle, the visions had become frantic. Almost as quickly as they shifted into focus, they would change again. The column of vanishing taurs became a blazing village, then an empty throne, a great battle, a chase with a victim less lucky than the ebon child, a cold-blooded murder. Through all of these visions Jezebelle noticed two things. More and more of them were showing her images from her own sordid past, not Rayven’s or the blade’s. And they all featured a centauride with the mad eyes of the turned. A centauride that looked a lot like…

CINN?!” she yelped in surprise, her focus lost. The shifting visions of violence past shuddered like a fishbowl bumped with an elbow, then melted away. She faded to black…

She came to right away, instinctively checking her old stab wounds for new stabs and finding none. The table was awash in sickly flame, and Cinnamon was stirring where she too had dropped to the floor. Dimly she noted that she was wearing Cinn’s invertitia amulet.

Nonononono…” in panic she doused the flames with magic, feeling a painful spike of feedback in her head as she did. Damn, she was past her limits after that botched ritual. She had to hope Cinn was okay, because she didn’t know what she would do otherwise.. She knelt on the floor beside the healer, clutching the amulet.

The crimson centauride looked back at her, and widened her eyes in surprise. Cinnamon kept laughing hysterically, looking back at space where the black centaurs had faded out… and she felt satisfied with herself… and more powerful than ever for what she just did. Looking at her hands, she saw remains of a green glow coming out of her palms, and dousing out as if the curse she just cast was fading away. She took one step forward and started to run, and as she gained speed, the entire world became dark and then the scene changed. She suddenly was charging among dozens of other dark creatures, fighting against creatures of light… a great battle taking place. A mighty centaur raised his sword arm to strike, then Cinn saw herself parrying the hit with… a blade that looked just like the one on the table. And then almost without effort, she slid the blade into her opponent’s belly. Pulled out the blade from his body and went onto the next victim. Then the scene changed again… she saw herself as a little elf, in the back of a tavern doing chores, and all of a sudden, she heard a couple of men having a dispute… and then a minute later, an elf woman screaming in agony. Running to the front of the tavern, Cinnamon saw her mother, covered in blood, being held on the floor by one of the wenches. “Mom, nooooo!!” Yelled little Cinn, as the men had injured her mother, by mere accident during the brawl. “Noooo, mom!! Noooo!” She cried and cried…. Then the vision faded to black, and then a dark female voice started to echo around her head… “Poor child… they have taken everything away from you! You deserve revenge….. I can grant it to you. They deserve nothing….. They have taken everything from you! This is all their fault… they deserve to die!

In reality, Cinnamon was laying on the floor, with her eyes half open, the whites of her eyes had turned to yellow and tears of anger were running down her cheeks…she was muttering inaudible words over and over.

Cinnamon lay in a daze on the floor. Thankfully, but also troublingly, she seemed to be… somewhere else. Jez checked the centauride healer’s eyes, they were unfocused and yellow. The woman was muttering something under her breath but the panicked Jezebelle couldn’t make it out. She laid the invertitia amulet on Cinnamon’s chest, but it did nothing. The pretty blue jewel had no more magic after shielding Jezebelle from the worst of her ritual backfire.

Godsdamnit woman, you are NOT going to turn on my watch!” shouted Jez, with a confidence that she did not feel. “Grackle! I need your help here!” she called to her familiar. The raven flew into the room from wherever he’d hidden during the ritual. He must have seen it going bad and bailed out. She made a mental note to ‘thank’ him for the timely warning he hadn’t given Cinn, but that wasn’t a “now” problem.

She’s turning, and Polly can’t help with this kind of curse. I’m at a loss here. Invertitia’s gone, maybe Cinn has more but who knows where. What do I do?!” she cried.

The raven looked the curse-stricken taur up and down with an appraising eye, seeming at a glance to assess things Jezebelle couldn’t even see. “You pray. Or you get help. I don’t think there’s anything more you can do for her, not in this state.” he said solemnly.

Damn it, that’s not good enough! She could be turned and gone before help gets here or I find more invertitia. I have to do something NOW. If only our positions were reversed, Cinn would know what to do… If only Polly could…” the words died on her lips as her expression became thoughtful.

No…. No no no. I know what you’re thinking, Jezebelle don’t you dare! It’s too dangerous!

I have no time and no choice, Grackle. If I can take the curse from Cinnamon she can cure me, I can’t do the same for her.

Fool woman, you could just end up getting yourself infected too!” crowed the bird with concern.

Damn it, I have to try! Now tell me what to do so I don’t screw this up..

Inside her vision, Cinnamon kept listening to that sweet and dark voice, over and over an over, as she found herself among a circling light show of dark magic… presenting among the glowing patterns painful scenes of her own life… those human kids laughing at her pointy ears, Cinn desperately trying to cover them up with her hands… “They hated you, don’t you see?? all of them! You walked away with nothing because of them… Poor creature in the shadows… There shall be no more pain for you, no more loss for you… Let me help you… Let me… in…

Cinn wiped tears from her cheeks, and listened to that seductive chant… She couldn’t focus on anything else other than the pain of her own loss… her father, her home, then her mother, all over again. She looked down to her chest and the amulet-necklace that belonged to her Mother was not in its usual place. An immense sorrow filled her senses, and then slowly… rage… but not the rage for having lost it all… it was a rage against the source… against the evil behind it all. With a huge effort of will, she muttered… “No. It was you… You were the evil …of this world…” Said, covering her ears… “YOU ARE IT….! Leave me alone!!

The female voice shrieked in anger and answered back…”You fool meaningless creature!! …If you are NOT with me… you shall NOT be at all!!…” And the voice faded away.

After hearing this, Cinn’s world turned dark. “Leave me alone!!… Leave … alone….” She was mumbling in the real world… as her eyes were completely turned yellow, and a stench started to fill up the room…. She instinctively put her hand on her chest, as she usually did, to clutch her Mother’s amulet every time she felt the need of comforting herself. Trembling, her fingers suddenly found the worn out amulet that Jezebelle had put back around her neck and she gripped it tightly, then erratically looked for the top of the amulet and suddenly a tiny lid popped open, letting out a fine blue dust… or what was left of Invertitia potion.

Jezebelle knelt down and placed her hands upon Cinnamon, her eyes half lidded and her skull splitting in pain as she strained her overtaxed magical reserves even further. But necessity helped her power through, and when Cinnamon opened her eyes unexpectedly her spell was already in motion, stealing magical energy from Cinnamon, and taking the corruption with it. It wasn’t perfect, some vestiges of the taint still clung to Cinnamon, but Jezebelle was able to slow the spread of the curse, and then reverse most of it. Cinn’s eyes cleared even as Jezebelle’s own began to change. A familiar red film of rage descended upon her vision, and she croaked out a final warning to the exhausted healer. “…Run.” Jezebelle’s body was becoming gaunter by the minute, and she snarled, backing away from Cinnamon with the last vestiges of her willpower. The vicious creature that now stood in the kitchen picked up the sword from the wreckage of the table. The scorched metal burned her hand with a terrible sizzle, but she didn’t even seem to notice. Her eyes locked onto Cinnamon with naked fury, and she screamed her wordless intent to kill everyone in the room. “Please, Jezzy had faith in you. Save her if you can,” Grackle shouted over the unholy shrieks of the cursed centauride. He landed on Cinnamon’s shoulder, quaking in fear. “Save her or we all die.”

Run… Run!” She heard Jezebelle mutter. Cinnamon slowly came back to consciousness, from what it seemed to be the longest nightmare of all. A mixture of negative feelings, sadness, anger, pain, were still fresh in her soul. As Grackle landed on her shoulder, still on the floor, her eyes widened as she instinctively backed away from an emaciated and wild Jezebelle… all yellow-eyed, with a scorching hot blade in her hand. Pushing herself across the room, Cinnamon hurried to reach her cabinet, managed to stand up as quickly as she could – her exhausted legs were still giving up – and pulled out of one of the top drawers a flask with a blue glowing substance inside. She took the bottle with one hand and pulled out the cork with her teeth, and as she did, some of the Invertitia traveled up towards her nostrils, as if the potion knew what its job was.

Cinnamon’s mind cleared, and all she had to do now was to bring Jez the potion… just close enough to her face. “I don’t want to harm you, Jez… please… put that sword down…” Said to her, looking directly into her eye, holding the open flask with one hand, and with the other… followed the border of the cabinet behind her, blindly opened a drawer, and stuck her hand in. Jezebelle’s expression didn’t change but worsened. The darkness started to rise in her. without taking her eyes away from her, especially the sword, Cinn gave one steady step forwards, then another. She spoke again… “Jez… you are my friend… Jez!!” but the more she waited, the more emaciated Jezebelle became, as the sword was still sending it’s green-yellow waves to her. “Alright enough talking…” With all the bravery she could gather, Cinnamon charged at her, and as Jez reared and started a motion to blow a strike with the sword, Cinn reared as well and managed to throw a fistful of salt to her eyes, blinding her. Quickly she grabbed Jezebelle’s sword hand still in the air by the wrist, and slammed it against the wall making her drop the evil blade.

Shrieking, the creature that Jezebelle had become clawed at her salt-stung eyes, her other arm struggling with unnatural strength, ripping free of Cinn’s grasp as she thrashed around the room blindly. Shelves toppled and glass shattered as she took her pain out on everything, desperately trying to hurt someone. Grackle quietly urged Cinn out of the room. “Our one saving grace is that that is not Jezebelle, you know.. If it were, we’d both be on fire right now, as would the house and I imagine a sizable chunk of the neighborhood.” He muttered softly into Cinn’s ear. Stress often made him ramble, and he was plenty stressed, digging his talons into Cinnamon’s shoulder ungently. “This one’s liable to just rip us to shreds. Jez wasn’t kidding when she said she was a monster in the war, that hardly even looks like her. Except maybe the skeletal bits. Euterpe must’ve had a sick sense of humor to curse her with those marks..

Thrown backwards by Jezebelle’s push, Cinn almost lost her balance, but she landed on her hooves, the open flask of Invertitia still in her hand, though some of it had spilled down her arm. “Grackle, you know better than leaving Jez like this, right? And I am NOT setting my hut on fire!” She said, fixing her eyes on Jezebelle and trying hard to calculate her next move. “Alright, Grac, here’s what I want you to do. I need you to distract her. Fly over her head, croak loud or do something! I have to get close to her face…” she whispered to the bird.

Grackle puffed his feathers triumphantly “Is that all? I annoy Jezzy like that all the time! Of course usually when she swats at me she isn’t trying to murder me… I think. Almost positive.” And before Cinn could comment on that unhealthy Mistress/familiar dynamic, the greasy black raven was off! He fluttered around the Jezebelle-thing’s head and face, swooping and cawing and hurling some rather colorful insults that Cinn was almost sure would have gotten Grackle Kentucky-fried if Jez were coherent enough to acknowledge them. As it was, the berserk centauride dialed in on the sound, opening her bleary eyes to track the bird as he placed himself between the two taurs.

Cinnamon watched Grackle go off in flight and do circles and cuss around Jezebelle’s head. Meanwhile, she poured some Invertitia powder into her palm, and as quickly as Jezebelle lifted her head towards the bird, she threw a fistful of blue powder onto her face, startling her. Then she threw another… and a third one. And the more she did, Jezebelle’s wildness started to slow down, and soon, the crimson centauride fell to her knees and then faded out on the floor. The mask of rage that contorted her face calmed, and she slept fitfully, if not peacefully. A few seconds later, Cinn let herself fall on the floor as well, exhausted from the magical -and physical- battle. Taking deep breaths, and with a half empty flask of Invertitia in her left hand, she looked down to the amulet in her chest, the small cap hanging on one side of it. Looking at Grackle, she smiled slightly. “Good job, Grac, good job…” said to the bird as she refilled her amulet and popped the lid back on.

After a while, Jezebelle’s body slowly filled out from emaciated to a semblance of normal. Cinn stood up, and -not caring at all for the wreckage around the house- took out from a cabinet some bandages and ointment, laid down next to Jez, and proceeded to tend to her burned hand. Having done this, she reached for the second amulet, which had fallen off the table, reloaded it with Invertitia, and placed it around Jez’s neck. “Please, Grackle… don’t let her take this off her neck. Ever.

Jezebelle moaned, her dreams disturbed, but she quieted as Cinnamon placed the amulet around her neck. Grackle fluffed his feathers. “I’ll be sure to remind her. Often. Jezzy’s a brash fool, but she’s MY brash fool. I shan’t let her hardheadedness cause any more trouble for a good long while.” He croaked, hopping on the sleeping centauride’s side and settling in to watch over her as she slept. “I’m impressed with you, I must say. Between Euterpe and now this, you certainly know how to handle yourself. Not at all what I expected of a self-professed healer.” He sighed, as if the next admission pained him greatly, and continued. “Still, I must apologize for what happened here today. Jezebelle relies on my tutelage for workings such as this, and I should have seen how powerful that blade was. The failure of the circle rests partly upon my head. I will do my best to make it up to you. Anything you ask. I’ll carry messages, help clean up your home, teach you what magicks I know, take Zipporah on a date…” He chuckled at Cinn’s reaction to the latter. “Okay, okay, maybe not that. Can’t blame a bird for trying…

Whoa there…” laughed Cinn to the thought of Grackle and Zipporah actually dating. Lying beside Jezebelle on the floor and leaning her head against the wall, she finally took a rest, while she kept an eye on her. Cinn placed a pillow under Jez’s head, her slumber became more and more peaceful as the minutes passed, Jez would wake up from it any time now. “I should’ve been more careful with what I asked, I knew that blade was darkly cursed, …I shouldn’t have asked her in the first place…!” She said to Grackle, remorseful. “I put us all in danger…” She looked down at Jezebelle, she seemed somewhat clean from dark magic now, but the image of her, emaciated and taken by the darkness… Cinn shook her head. “The Queen is gonna have my head chopped if she knows…”

Harrumph! You cease that talk this instant!” Grackle flapped his wings and cawed. “Curiosity is a trait to be admired, not punished! You needn’t feel ashamed for sticking your beak where it doesn’t belong, I do it all the time!” Grackle puffed with pride. “Besides, do you forget so quickly why you decided to do this in the first place? You have someone you’re trying to help, don’t you? A worthy goal, if I do say so myself, and I do! So don’t despair just because things went wrong. It all turned out okay!” Jezebelle cried out in her sleep, and her shadow deepened, spreading across the floor for a moment before the amulet flared, and it snapped back to normal. “Er.. Well then, ‘more or less’ okay….

The healer widened her eyes to the darkness coming out of Jezebelle’s body, and she followed it as it disappeared across the floor a few seconds later.

Breathe, Cinn… this is normal… the Invertitia is still doing its job…” She said to herself, nervously, or more likely trying to convince herself of it. Cinnamon checked her eyes, they were not as sickly as before, but not quite normal yet… “Alright. I am gonna pull the big guns”. She stood up and went to her cabinet, and from the lower door she pulled out a big flask with a blue glowy liquid, filled up a cup, went back to Jezebelle and, holding her head up, carefully poured the tonic into her lips. “If Rayven healed with this, so will you. Don’t YOU dare going all dark on me, Jezebelle…

Jez coughed and sat bolt upright, quickly regretting it as she immediately settled back down dizzily. “Ye gods, woman, what is that horrible crap?” she managed to croak out. “That burns like the stuff Rayven brews that everyone pretends to like.

JEZZY!” cried Grackle happily, flapping his wings. “You’re okay!

Heh. Hey dodo. Sorry to scare you like that. Hope I didn’t hurt anyone.” Jez smiled at Cinn, her eyes clearing up, if a bit bloodshot. “Never doubted you for a minute, Cinn. Sorry to shift the burden but it turns out I don’t know my way around your kitchen.” she coughed some more and laid back down. “I feel sick to my stomach in ways I really hope are just that crap you poured down my throat, but I’ll live, I think.

“Eh…” Cinnamon looked at the flask sitting on the floor next to her, then looked back at Jezebelle. “Invertitia with… don’t… ask me. One of my Mother’s brews, believe me you don’t want to know what else is in it…” She smiled apologetically. “How are you feeling? Careful with that hand, it’s all dressed now, but I’ll make you an ointment for it. I swear… ugh, sorry for putting you… all of us, in danger like this. I guess this dark magic is way stronger than we thought. I wonder if all what we saw was just memories, or… do you think it was really her? Vitrollia…?” Cinnamon’s eyes began to dew to those recent dark memories, still fresh images in her mind. Dismissing the thought, she scowled and rubbed her eyes off quickly with her wrist. “It seemed like she tried to recruit me. That bitch…

Jezebelle shook her head. “I’ll be fine, thank you. But you and I must have seen different visions. I don’t envy you hearing her voice in your head. But.. well, while there’s a chance it was exactly that, just in your head, we can’t risk it.” She sighed heavily, coughing once again. “Ugh.. sorry. We’re going to have to go to the Queen with this. And she’s probably gonna tan our hides.” Jezebelle smiled wanly. She’d been chewed out for pursuing dangerous magicks before, but never by the Queen. She was moving up. “We have to tell Ray what we saw, too. Maybe some good can come of this, for him if not for us..” she said.

Grackle cawed. “I’m just glad the both of you are safe! I don’t think Zipporah would ever forgive me if I’d let anything happen to you, Cinnamon. Do you think Jezzy is okay to come home? Or do I need to leave her in your care a while?

As long as she feels alright, you guys can go. Jez, please, don’t take that amulet off… if it has work to do on you, it will protect you, but its power might run down, so keep an eye on it. Grackle, you keep an eye on this woman. Any sign of darkness, you come and see me right away.” Cinnamon sighed. “We both should rest for now, and go see Rayven and the Queen … soon I guess”. She looked at the wreck around them “…and clean up all of this mess.

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