The artificial light from the bulbs got more noticeable with the sunset. More electricity and fewer sun rays. Sitting in the arches of the bridge, she gazed away, lost in contemplation. A forget-me-not incense was burning next to her, the smoke and delightful smell embracing her with pleasant memories that she was not willing to let go into oblivion. Her face was peaceful, although her essence was writhing in sorrow. Death is the end of all things and, as so, should be expected as a friend that comes to visit. Nevertheless, it was always challenging to see them depart.
That last moment was also a chance to exalt the life of the ones she lost, their days together and the remembrances they created. All those souvenirs they left in life became part of the world they composed together, and when the vermins decomposed their bodies, they would also be part of that melody: the bitter-sweet song that people call the circle of life.
The sun setting at the horizon of that arid land was astonishing, a perfect combination of carmine, lavender, apricot and golden. She could be dreaming, the fluffy clouds being the bassinet of angels that admired from afar, indagating about the crazy ways humans live. It was the perfect moment to acknowledge and mourn a dear friend and sister-in-arms.
An elegant obsidian cat with amber eyes jumped next to her, caressed her head against her thigh and delicately purred. She breathed in and sadly smiled at the feline.
"Hi, Tsuki. I was expecting you. Time flies, right?". If you looked into her eyes, you could see the tears hiding behind them. "I thought I would have more time to faire mes adieux. May I have one moment more? I'm awaiting the last rays of sunlight. I wish to share them with her before letting go. You comprehend, don't you?". The cat rested next to her and purred again, signalling its understanding. "Thank you".
While the last beams of the sun disappear, she rises. Holding her incense burner steady, she blows the ashes away, and they ascend spiralling into the night's sky. For a moment, all sounds went aphasic and, with her eyes closed, she made a pray.
"Qui la masque de la nuit couvrait notres faces, qui la lune guidait notres marches, et qui nous nos verrons dans l'eternité". A single teardrop falls in the incense burner and she breathes in, trying to recompose herself. "Je ne t'oublierai jamais".
She jumps. Her body floats and descends, arriving in the middle of the busy street. No one notices the woman and the cat. Tsuki looks at her, waiting for directions.
"Let's go find our comrade, Tsuki".
In the world of witchcraft, covens are witches' family. Somewhere their powers can flourish, where they can learn and grow. A safe place to be who they are while the rest of the world still rejects magic and everything correlated. Nonetheless, there are exceptions, and Ruhee was one of them. She felt inadequate, not belonging and frightened that she would never find her role.
"Perhaps, it's time for you to leave us", one of her mothers, Alueue, suggested. An Empath, she counselled anyone who sought her help. The perception of deep emotions and feelings that people couldn't confess even to themselves was just her way of seeing the world. "Not in a definitive way, just until you find your path. What goes on here", she pointed to Ruhee's head, "and here", she pointed to her heart, "needs to be fully comprehended. Before that, you won't be able to see your objective. You put too much pressure onto your shoulders, but you can leave it all behind. We won't feel abandoned or anything if you need to go for a while. Our children will always demand their independence and, as the mother bird that teaches her kids to fly, we need to incentive ours to follow other roads. And even if you go far away, or live in the top of a mountain, we will still love you". Alueue hugged her. She always gave the sweetest and warmest hugs.
Ruhee followed her advisement and applied to a University on the other side of the country. A tremendous transition from their house, where everything was shared, and she had the support of her mothers and siblings, to living alone and making all the decisions by herself. Her hand trembled when she applied. She thought about giving up uncountable times, yet she proceeded. The tension and anxiety intensified inside of her. Notwithstanding, she knew she had to do that.
She was finishing packing when Jina came to the bedroom she shared with three of her sisters. Her bag was open on the floor, and Jina threw themself in one of the lower beds of the two bunks.
"Hey, you! How are you feeling?". They asked, their big dark eyes staring at her. Oh! She would miss those questioning eyes.
"Good, a little unease".
"That was to be expected. You are moving to the other side of the country".
"Yes, but I wanted to be stronger. To feel that I could do it".
"Well, it's natural to feel that with any change. And that is a big one. Fear is an emotion as natural as anything else. Evolutionary speaking, it is mandatory for the survival of the species. Otherwise, the individuals would easily get injured, considering they wouldn't fear things that cause damage - like predators, poisonous plants and creatures, fire. I should be preoccupied if you weren't afraid".
And that was Jina. A Knowledge type, unique and complicated to understand, they usually took longer to find their path too. That always gave her faith. Maybe, she would be like her and one day would be able to recognise all spells and potions, and to formulate new ones; to understand the science behind the magic and the magic behind the science.
Among her sisters, they were her favourite. They would make her company whenever she felt depressed and aspired the end of everything. When there were no teardrops left, Jay would embrace her, make popcorn and elect the most cheesy '70s or '80s movie for them to watch. Then, she would feel better. And, that afternoon, she helped her finish collecting and selecting the things she would take with her and the ones that would stay. It was the last joyful time before a prolonged time afar, and they didn't aim to end it with tears.
Her flight was at 22h30, and she usufruct the day saying her last goodbyes to the town she loved. An old Elm Tree was her most treasured place. She would regularly sit under its branches to read and daydream. A woman sat next to her, a scarlet hat covering her face.
"Pure air. One of the things that I love most in the petite villages".
"Yes, it's refreshing". Ruhee didn't want to talk. That was her last moment there, and all she desired was to be left alone, enjoying those moments. And she hoped the woman wasn't in the mood for conversations either. When the lady opened a book, she concluded that she was probably just looking for a place to read.
The stranger stayed there a long time, in silence, reading her book, and so did Ruhee. It was just after lunchtime, and Ruhee was savouring a turkey, cheese and salad sandwich with pesto sauce and jasmine tea. She was approaching the final chapter, and her curiosity was growing - would the rebels be able to overthrow the corrupt government and take back the city? Would their leader be executed? She didn't care about the romances or couples. Her ultimate desire was seeing good triumph over evil. Nonetheless, her attention veered when a black cat jumped on the woman's lap, landing on her book.
"Hey! You know you shouldn't do it". The woman exclaimed and put the cat back on the ground. Ruhee could distinguish a familiar from afar, and that was unmistakably one.
"Meew", the cat answered and jumped back.
"No, no and no. I need to study". The cat mewed again.
"What are you reading?". Ruhee asked, without reasoning first. That was her first encounter with a sorceress from another coven. It was quite rare for them to go out of the city. The village was pretty small, as a consequence rarely anyone would visit. That said, her family was the only witches coven in the town, except a connected coven that lived in the provincial area. "Sorry, I should not have asked".
"There is no problem in asking. Just some materials that I need to analyse". The women smiled at her. A graceful and motherly smile that made her feel embraced and comforted, like when her mothers would read her books when she was a child. She felt the impulse to hug her but was able to restrain herself.
"Are you a witch?"
"Oh... I thought that was clear", she laughed. Her laugh was sweet and delicate, like the sound of rain. "And you are one too, I presume".
"I'm!". The stranger captivated her. Every detail about her was astonishing: her chestnut hair, her long flourish dress, her eyes that dragged you, like the waves of the ocean, and her mouth. Her smile was amazing, and every word she said sounded better because those lips have spoken them. "Is your coven in the city?".
"No, I'm alone".
"Are you here in some kind of project?".
"No, just touring".
"I can't think of anything here worth visiting".
"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm just passing by. I'll soon be leaving South, but we need some ingredients, and we have no idea of where we can get them".
"One of my moms has a herbarium. I could give you the address!" The lady felt gratified at the proposal, but Ruhee considered to do more than just present her the directions. "I could do better! It is not distant from here, and I could take you there".
"Thank you, that would be of marvellous assistance".
Ruhee guided her through the narrow cobbled streets. The old inhabitants sat on the porch on rocking chairs and talked about insignificant things while drinking or playing cards. Some of the young ladies leaned on the windows and fantasised. Ruhee understood those fantasies since she had already had many of them: wandering around the globe, going to study far away, playing music in a crowded amphitheatre, etc.
They stopped in her mum shop, the last in the left down the main road. They entered, and a bell resonated. Willow, one of her younger sisters, proceeded to greet them. She was quiet, self-conscious, introverted and favoured weeds over people, but, when conversing with her, she was gentle and passionate about everything. Will was a great asset to the shop. Sage, her mother and shop-owner, was proud of tutoring her. Ruhee introduced the woman, Khali, that proceeded to seek the elements she needed. Willow helped, orientating her, however, as soon as she left, she went with Sage to the back of the store to discuss something. When they returned, Sage appeared to be genuinely preoccupied. She approached Ruhee and took her to the side so that they could talk without being disrupted.
"Where did you encounter that woman?". She questioned.
"In the park, she sat next to me under that old Elm Tree I like".
"Henceforth, you better avoid her". She seemed even more concerned.
"Why?". Ruhee demanded.
"The products she bought, considered the proportions and diversity, are commonly used in Necromancy spells. We can't be one hundred per cent sure, of course, but it's better to be cautious. Understood?".
Necromancers, among the magical beings, were something close to an Urban Legend. Many people had stories about them, from a friend of a friend or a first cousin once removed. Nevertheless, no one has seen them, and the ones that had, wouldn't tell. The Elders taught the youngers to fear them, and the teens would tell horror stories to the children based on them. It was a practice outlawed from all magical circles, and the magical police severely punished the individuals related to it. The penalties went from life incarceration to torture and execution. The magical world circumvented and ostracized all, the ones that still existed lived in hiding.
In general, other magicians didn't talk about them, except for the legends, and didn't report their existence if they saw one unless it became a hazard to themselves. To subject thyself to the scrutiny of the magical police was never a good idea. They would examine and question everything. However, somethings, even the legitimate ones, are better kept private.
Later that evening, Sage reported the strange witch to the Elders, and the youngers besieged Willow and Ruhee with questions about what transpired. They didn't give many details, as there was not much to recount, only that they should take care if they encountered the mysterious femme.