Abigail sat on the balcony of the pagoda that slept atop the well house. A stairway of mud-congealed cobblestone dropped into the heart of the earth, beaten into the bottom of a craggy hill first by men, and then by mother nature. The blood moon’s lavender eyes struck its gaze into the top steps.
Abigail fondled a lute over her long skirt and plucked the strings with the tips of her fingers. A few notes twanged at first, followed by a handful of chords. Next, she strummed chords and plucked a morbid ditty that should have set the chirping nightingales to tears, had the blood moon not sent them into nooks where they shivered from fear and cold wind.
She shivered from the cold also, but not from fear.
“My Arch Nemesis Abigail,” said a voice. It was a masculine voice, sturdy and precise. She couldn’t see its owner through the night; she couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from the way it bounced from one side of the forest to the other, then back again. She supposed it didn’t matter; the battle which must soon take place would be over too quick. She knew she couldn’t defeat a holy mage of the magus.
“I thought this letter might arrive to you too late, so I decided to courier the message myself. I wonder that you think someone might be out to destroy you. Have I granted you any reason in all my letters to you, my dearest acquaintance, to force the consideration of fear and worry on your part for that of my own?
“Then again, I have not concluded explicitly that I did not wish to eradicate you from all of existence. Indeed, even now I do not know what the future must hold, not anything beyond my next footfall. You see, I was not entirely certain that the thread of magic would lead me to you. I am certain now that it was leading me straightaway in your direction, and then here you are at the Well of Souls. It might yet be a coincidence, but here we are during the yearly blood moon of the Judean Valley. The blood moon which has each year been promised.”
“What does the thread of magic tell you to do now?” She wasn’t afraid. She set the lute aside and stood up to her full height. Her eyes went hazy—telltale sign that they glowed at the magic of the blood moon’s power. She couldn’t see the glow; then again, she couldn’t see anything through her eyes.
He stepped; she was expecting the fight to occur right out. She was expecting any of a thousand kinds of attacks from any of the forest’s darkest shadows. Instead, he stepped forward along the path, out of the trail’s darkness and into the dim light of the forest’s reprieve.
What a young man, she thought. What an innocent face; what a mild smile; what a weak stature; what soft hair and gentle strokes of eyes which might have been a father watching his first born son play at a swing set.
He was a holy mage, the third she had seen over the course of her life, and at no time had she been able to diagnose the cloak of mystery which, magically-induced, hid the true intent and identity of the agents of the magus.
No matter how things appeared, they did not bode fortunate for Abigail, she knew. She was of the bloodline of the witch; she was also offspring of demon blood. She was Abigail, shapeshifter and druidess of the Judean Valley. No normal human possessed the power to stifle her own.
Yet here was this small man not yet seasoned enough by the fires of adulthood to destroy the boyish baby charm that clung to his demeanor. Or, was this just another illusion? What did he look like beneath that illusive false outward appearance? What did his voice sound like? How old was he? Could he not have been an old, aged man, sharpened by the whetstones of time and honed to an edge that could slice the dimensions asunder?
“Do we not all reap what we sow?” he said. “What is it, then, that you are afraid of?”
“Perhaps you do not understand what I am. Let me show you and remove all doubt.” The blood moon energized her; if she had been a vampire, her absorbing the light of the moon would have been the same as her drinking the blood of the finest nobility in the land.
From her human body sprouted two black wings of softest down, magical energy pushing the wings until they rivaled that of a dragon’s. She spread them wide, her feathers cutting the air as some of them drifted onto the ground before the mage. One feather landed in his cupped hands. He watched it with reverence, then he let it fall to the ground with the rest.
“Holy mage or not, I won’t let you open the door to the other universe. I have protected this village and this valley since before your birth.”
Yet he was gone, swept into vapor in the midst of her sentence. What kind of mage could vanish without uttering any spell?
“All I need is one drop of blood.”