Fantasy Fiction posted February 1, 2015 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


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The Berwick Witches Series: Book One

A chapter in the book Dark Covenant

The Bewitching Hour/Part 2

by amahra




Background
New Berwick, Illinois--a mystic place where witches rule under the watchful eyes of the Dominions.

Recap: Jewel and Beatrice found a spell book that contains a spell preventing werewolves from changing every full moon. Problem is the book is forbidden to covenant witches. The penalty is permanent loss of magic and or death. In chapter 10, the women were brutally attacked, kidnapped and taken to a hidden mountain location. By next morning, they were untied, naked and left clinging to one another not knowing if the Council of Witches would show mercy or seal their fate.

(In this remaining half of the chapter, the women's well-being remains questionable.)


With bare feet slapping against the cold hard surface, Jewel and Beatrice were led naked through a long tunnel-like hallway and up a spiraling stone staircase. The staircase had no banister or railings; the higher they climbed, the more Beatrice whimpered. Jewel looked up at the enormously lofty ceiling that was draped with beautifully crafted spider webs and loaded with spiders.

“Eeeek!” Beatrice squealed as she smacked a huge one that hung from a silver thread just inches from her cheek.

“Don’t hit them,” a male voice scolded," they’re sacred."

Jewel and Beatrice continued the seemingly endless climb towards an undisclosed destination. Finally, the journey came to an abrupt end, and another mouth of the cave welcomed them—but this time they would not be alone. There—in the darkness, as multiple lit candles floated twenty feet above them in midair, a hundred fellow witches stood draped in long, black cloaks--their faces buried deep within their hoods. Each held a single lit candle and chanted in ancient Greek. The fire wavered above the wicks as puffs of breath left their lips.

As the cloaked figures eased into a new position, shadows on the walls parted--revealing epic stories of an ancient coven.  Bold earth tone colors depicted bullhead men, dancing young girl figures and bulls with long, pointy horns. There were different farm animals, mostly cattle, and there were birds and snakes. Some of the figures looked to be stabbed or beaten with a stick.  Better crafted drawings of daggered-mouth dragons covered the ceiling and appeared to glitter above the flickering candle lights.

Jewel looked behind her and the men had disappeared. Beatrice trembled as she held tightly to Jewel’s arm.

A figure clad in a red hooded cloak stepped from the darkness. “Come forward!” the boisterous female voice demanded.

As the women obeyed, the crowd parted like the red sea and a new line of cloaked figures emerged from the shadows. But in their hands were no candles. Jewel swallowed hard and urine streamed down Beatrice’s legs when they spotted knotted cat of nine tails with tiny silver balls hanging from them. The chanting rose, and the cloaked figures raised their whips as the same voice demanded the women to walk towards them.  

 “Please!" Beatrice cried out.

Though Jewel’s body shook, she spoke boldly. “We demand a trial,” she said, her voice cracking.

“Silence!” yelled the red hooded one. "Move forward!"

The chanting rose to near deafening. Then Jewel's face turned ash-white when Beatrice suddenly straightened and strutted ahead of her. Jewel reached out and grabbed Beatrice’s arm, but Beatrice snatched away from her and continued her pace. One behind the other, they reached the line and waited; the black cloaks circled them and the chanting stopped. Beatrice stood with her chin still up, her lips tight. Jewel took a deep breath; she whispered each name of her girls and closed her eyes.

Suddenly the deafening chanting began again--as if they were cheering from the sidelines. The first blow buckled Jewel’s knees. She screamed as Beatrice stumbled over her from several lashes striking Beatrice's torso simultaneously. Another whip wrapped around Jewel’s neck. When the figure pulled it back, the tiny spikes on the balls nearly slit Jewel's throat.  Beatrice began to fight, but was kicked in the stomach and held down by several black booted feet and whipped mercilessly. Jewel managed to get to one knee, but was beaten down with slashes coming from every direction. Each whip sliced opened backs, buttocks, arms, thighs and legs that reddened and bled as the women's pleas were ignored. The silver balls glittered in the candlelight as whips were raised again and again, thrashing down and turning delicate white flesh into living raw meat.

“God damn you!” Jewel yelled. She reached out for one of the descending whips.  It cut a deep gash in her hand when she grabbed it.  She pulled the whip so hard the dark figure tumbled down into the circle. Jewel appeared winning at wrestling the whip away, until several fists pounded the back of her head. Jewel cried out and doubled over, but wouldn’t let go of the whip. Finally, it was snatched out of her hand, leaving a three inch slash in her palm.

Beatrice leaped from her knees and tried to run out of the circle, but a strong hand forced her back. She spit out a front tooth after someone slammed her face into the concrete. She lay semi-conscious protecting her face while the silver balls rained heavily down upon her.

Jewel curled into a fetal position covering her head, her teeth clenched. Blood oozed from every outward part of her body. The flogging seemed endless until the cloaked figures abruptly stopped all at once, as if they had been counting the licks to a certain number. At the command of the red hooded one, all stepped back into a perfectly straight line—the whips down by their sides—the balls still swinging and dripping little pools of life onto the cold, stone floor.

Jewel and Beatrice, who appeared too weak to move on their own were helped off the floor by still a different group of cloaked figures and led to another mouth of the cave; lying in their own blood—half-conscious, pieces of flesh hanging from every part of their bodies, their moans filled the enclosed space. They lay for several minutes—both crossing in and out of consciousness.

Beatrice slowly peered through puffy eyelids. The right side of her face was double in size. “Jewel, are you alright?” she asked, slobbering blood.

“I…I can’t feel my legs,” Jewel said. “Is it over? Are we alone?””

“I think so.”

“You…you sure we’re not dead? I feel dead.” Jewel graveled, passing out again.

Beatrice didn’t answer, but managed to raise herself. She crawled over to Jewel and placed her ear between her torn breasts.  Jewel’s chest barely rose and fell. Over in a far corner sat an old fashion bathtub, something right out of the 19th century old west. Beatrice pulled to her feet; unable to straighten herself, she stood slightly bent and stumbled over to the tub and steadied herself by holding on to the side of it. She dipped her hand into the murky-colored water then pulled it out and sniffed her fingers. “This is a familiar scent. I suppose they want us to bathe,” she mumbled to herself. She looked over her shoulder at Jewel who was still lying on her back, her eyes closed. She eased over to her, sliding a mangled foot behind her and tried to lift Jewel.  "Can you hear me?” Beatrice asked.

Jewel peeked up at her through purple, swollen eyelids and nodded yes. Then Beatrice helped her up and the two dragged over to the tub. Beatrice helped her into the water, then she climbed in.

“This scent is so familiar,” Beatrice repeated with a frown.

There was no room in the tub for them to stretch out their legs. They sat with their knees drawn up to their chins and water up to their necks. Beatrice splashed her face. She did the same to Jewel--patting her cheeks gently with her hand. But Jewel flinched when Beatrice's finger touched her swollen lip.

They lingered in the bath, resting their heads back and closing their eyes.  The strange aroma permeated the air. After a short while, Beatrice managed to get out of the tub first. Jewel soon followed; the bath seemed to revive them.  Jewel sucked in her breath every time the towel touched a wound. And there were numerous ones all over her face, neck, breasts, lower torso and extremities. Beatrice looked up from toweling herself and froze. “Where did that come from?” she asked pointing to a six foot mirror incased in brass lion paws, and a brass lion’s head in the center of it at the top.

Jewel gazed at the mirror out of the good eye. “Wasn’t it there before?”

“No." Beatrice answered.

“Well, may as well make use of it,” Jewel said limping over and standing before it.  She began examining her bruises, when Beatrice heard her gasp.

“What is it?" Beatrice asked, looking over at her.

Jewel stared as if something terrifying within the mirror was staring back at her. “Bea. Look. Hurry.”

“What?” Beatrice asked again, dragging herself as fast as she could to her side.
 
"Look!” Jewel repeated frantically.

Beatrice watched and her mouth slowly dropped opened; her eyebrows stretched so, they nearly touched her hair line. She stared as each cut and bruise slowly disappeared from Jewel’s body: All the way from her head, neck, torso, down to her feet. Hanging flesh vanished as new flesh appeared. And as both stood spell-bound, Beatrice’s body did the same. Not only were the bruises, cuts and discoloration gone, but the pain and swellings disappeared as well.

“What do you make of it?” Jewel asked, her voice barely a whisper.

Beatrice slapped her thigh. “I knew I recognized that scent,” she said.  “It’s Dragon Root—the most powerful magic healing herb.” Beatrice moved closer to the mirror and drew her lips back. Her knocked out tooth was back and not even loose.

“Bea, I don’t get it.”

“I don’t care. We’re still alive. Perhaps without our magic, but we survived.”

Just then, a head poked in from the doorway which made the women jump. “The council is waiting for you,” she said in a pleasant voice.

Jewel and Beatrice gave each other a solemn look.

“Let’s get this over with,” Jewel sighed.

She and Beatrice slowly reentered the place where they were nearly beaten to death. The mystery of the cloaked figures was revealed, and Beatrice sucked in her breath when she saw her friend Naomi among the crowd. There were no blood splashes on any of the cloaks, and no one was holding whips; there was no way of knowing just who had been involved in the flogging.

They were ordered to stand naked once more in a circle. Jewel and Beatrice seemed to sigh at the same time and took a big breath. The witches surrounded them and Jewel nearly choked on her own spit when one-by-one each of the witches kissed them: on feet, knees, genitals, breasts, buttocks and lips as the local High Priestess read from an ancient stone tablet: Then the Priestess stopped, looked over at Jewel and Beatrice and announced...

“By unanimous vote, you, Jewel Anastasia Porter and Beatrice Rena Taylor have been added to the Third Level of the Mystic Circle." Then she began reading from an ancient book. "There are three great events in the life of Mankind: Love, Death and Resurrection in a new body. And Magic rules them all.” She continued to speak the sacred words as several women brought special attire to the circle.

Naomi came over and put white frocks on them; another placed new shoes on their feet; still another wrapped them in a new cloak. Then Naomi, with a grin as wide as a three inch ruler, led them around the Mystic Circle as the High Priestess proclaimed to the great goddess, Asase Ya, that two new Witch Queens had been consecrated for her glory. Two magic knives, called Athame, were dipped into a silver chalice of wine and onlookers were informed, "That as the Woman is to a Man so is the Cup to the Athame.”

The Priestess had Jewel and Beatrice swear an oath of secrecy about what went on at the ceremony. “You are now married to your ceremonial dagger--the most powerful tool of our trade,” proclaimed the High Priestess as she handed each their customized blade. "You are both free to start your own covens. For, you are now bonded to a powerful circle. It enables us to combine our magic no matter where we are—living or dead. Congratulations,” she ended and kissed both women on each side of their faces.

The cave erupted in applause, flashing smiles, and cheers.

“Start the celebration!” a top council member shouted. 

Dozens of men in chef attire streamed through every opening of the cave with silver trays of vegetable dishes, fruit dishes, and pastries. Wine bottle corks popped and crowds gathered around Jewel and Beatrice like no flogging had ever taken place. Not one face gave away who actually did the beatings. And Jewel, as well as Beatrice, seemed reluctant to ask.

The celebration had moved into its second hour, when Beatrice suddenly pulled Naomi away from a small gathering. 

“Bea, what the hell?”  Naomi said, trying to keep her drink from spilling.

“Why didn’t you tell me this was about our initiation?” Beatrice scolded. 

“Didn’t you hear the priestess? No one ever tells. It’s tradition.”

“But Jewel and I’ve been worried sick for weeks. We thought you told them about the Grimoire.”

“Shish!” Naomi hustled Beatrice over to a dark corner. “Don’t mention that book here. Are you crazy? You trying to kill us?”

“Oh, relax. No one heard me.”

“Great Jupiter! Don’t you know where you are?” Then Naomi tapped her own forehead with the palm of her hand.  “Of course you don’t. I forgot. Bea, this place is loaded with magic. The walls will write whatever it hears if it’s asked by the right spell.”  She grabbed Beatrice by the shoulders. “Don’t say anything you don’t want known. Do you understand? And for goodness sake don’t mention my name if you say it.” 

“Yes…yes, of course. I… I’ll be careful. I’m sorry.”

Then Naomi’s eyes softened; she hugged Beatrice. “Now Honey, go on back and enjoy your party and remember,” she said releasing her shoulders and putting a finger up to her own lips. Beatrice nodded yes and Naomi scurried back to her little group. Beatrice eased her way through the cheerful crowd and looked for Jewel.








 



Recognized


New Berwick, Illinois is comprised of four regions: Falcon Haven, Northern and Southern Greyscott Falls, Sheerfield City and Ironforge.

Main Characters

Northern Greyscott Falls:

River Porter....... Main Character
Jewel Porter....... River's wife
Their daughters....Chelsea, Abby, Dria, and Becca

Southern Greyscott Falls:

Dex Porter.........River's brother
Matthew (Matt) Porter... Dex's son
Jan Porter ....Dex's wife and Jewel's cousin/sister-in-law


Falcon Haven:

Beatrice ....... Jewel's best friend
Kayla Morrison.. Beatrice's granddaughter

Sheerfield City:

Wayne Tilbert....... Sheriff of Sheerfield City
Rose Tilbert....... Wayne's wife
Veronica (Ronnie) Tilbert...Wayne daughter/Kayla's BFF
Christopher (Chris) Tilbert.........Wayne and Rose's son
Christa......................Veronica and Kayla's BFF
Bob Wilson..................Sheerfield City Coroner

Ironforge:

Corina Brewer...............Sorcerer
Hollie Brewer...............Corina's sister/Sorcerer
Gunner Lenox................Sorcerer
Amber Moore.................Sorcerer

Supporting Cast

New Berwick residents


Art Work: Her Eyes by Diane Azdamar at dianae.cgsociety.org
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