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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 60: "The Sisters"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

Malia jerked out of the astral plane, hissing. Her face was dry and flaking, cracks snaking from the corners of her eyes as steam rose from her face. Fangs bared, she snarled and swiped at the now-closed portal. “That bitch!”

“Tamiyat?” I resisted the urge to check the transcendent plane myself.

“Yes.” She dragged out the s-sound, eyes narrowed. “I didn’t see her, but her power was everywhere.”

“That would explain the blocked maas.” I pulled Malia forward, guiding her around the trees as we pressed on. Although I was gentle, I couldn’t avoid the growing unease nipping at my heels. “Did you get a glimpse of the witches?”

“I couldn’t see anything!” Malia snapped a sapling with a flick of her tail as we passed it. “She’s irradiated this whole area with her toxic aura.”

“Well, that’s concerning.” I swatted at a branch that didn’t know its place, scraping my bones against its knobby bark. “If she did it intentionally, then that means she either predicted our movements or has a source.”

Malia touched her burnt face and hissed. “Assuming she knows what we’re doing. But what worries me is, if she does know, what’s more important than stopping us?”

I growled. That was an excellent point. What made predicting Tamiyat difficult, besides the obvious generational gap, was her inability to directly influence the physical realm. With her mate literally interred beneath Jade’s mines, she’d need some way to actually reach the crypt before she could breach it. If she were looking for a new physical avatar, she could be searching practically anywhere—assuming she wanted another proxy like Lazuli.

But if she wanted her own body, she could be off in a remote mountain, organizing the construction of one through weak-spirited or easily influenced mortals. Or a hidden cult of secrets, dedicated to her memory, working in the shadows to bring about her return. Or a foreign nation completely hijacked to her purpose. Or any number of things. We just didn’t know, and being unable to track her in the astral plane was going to make things even more difficult.

Without any fanfare, Malia and I stumbled into a circle of sunlight and laughter that took our breaths away. The golden rays were warm yet blinding, the floral fragrance filling the clearing choking in its unexpectedness. Seated in the middle of this glade was Hasda, surrounded by a handful of tanned women, scantily clad in flowering vines and all of them with long, flowing hair the same earthy shade of brown. Though of similar builds, their faces were just different enough to be distinguishable.

To his credit, Hasda kept his eyes where they belonged. He smiled as he chatted with the coven, and they tittered like a pack of sparrows as they hid falsely bashful smiles. The witches turned as one as we stumbled into their sunny space, their eyes intense though not openly hostile. What set me off, however, was the lines of green energy that crisscrossed amongst them, weaving a web around Hasda. The witches’ look sent threads lancing towards us.

I stepped forward and caught them all right before they impacted with my chest. Hasda couldn’t see them, and from the confused noise Malia made I wasn’t sure she could perceive them, either. But I wrapped them around my fist once, so the enchantresses couldn’t withdraw them, and sent a burst of power into the silk. The threads crumbled to ash, the destruction racing down the lines like fuses, and ethereal flakes winked out as the energy dissipated.

Whatever trance had ensnared Hasda immediately shattered. He blinked, coming to himself, and looked around in bewilderment. Three of the fae flocked to his side, cooing and murmuring reassurances while the other five or so slid to their feet and glided towards us. The leaves of their coverings fluttered as they spread out, coming at us in an arc. Although they’d kept the antagonism from their faces, their demeanors had certainly changed.

“A Skeleton and a Snake, in our sacred forest?” the left-most one asked.

“Could they be lost?” asked another.

The middle one shook her head. “Certainly not. The pup carries their scent.”

“His parents, then?” said the fourth.

“In a manner of speaking,” answered the fifth. She was the first to show actual emotion, a disgusted sneer. “They reek of the divine.”

Malia snapped her wings and tried to scowl, but winced when she split fresh cracks in her dried face. I shoved my worry that she wasn’t healing quickly into the background. Deal with the immediate threat first.

Angling myself back in front of Malia, I stared down the sorceresses with my hollow eye sockets. “I’m afraid, ladies, that whoever promised these woods to you as a holy grove had no authority to do so. If you’ve the time, we could sit and negotiate your stay so that you’re not trespassing on the territory of our pantheon.”

Hissing, Malia pressed into my shoulder but had the decency not to fling my arm away.

The witches ignored her, keeping their gaze steady on me. “Your forest?” they said together.

“These trees are ours.”

“Those that wander in them, ours.”

“The earth, the air, the birds, the leaves—ours.”

“These undercurrents of magic, ours.”

“In short: ours.”

They took turns chorusing their answer, and I didn’t bother to track who said what. They went on for a couple minutes repeating variations of their claims while the trio behind them stroked Hasda’s face and lulled him with harmless questions and soft promises. The ground swirled with magic as the forest responded, soft breezes that whispered of quiet peace as it washed around the witches’ ankles. It was soothing, really.

But it was no more than mortal conjurings, and I brushed it off with ease. “That’s very nice, but why don’t we—”

I gasped as I blinked, and the scene changed. Gone were the youthful women, replaced by banshees swaying from unseen strings. The clearing went dark blue, a purple underglow highlighting the shadows. The witches themselves were light, pale blue things, flimsy as paper. Their nuptial gowns waved like derelict flags on their incorporeal frames, and just as I noticed the violet fog tumbling from where their legs should be, reality snapped back, all bright and cheery.

Malia pinched my arm just above my elbow. “You need to stop making that sound. It’s unnerving.”

“Sorry,” I muttered. So another vision that only I could see. And while the disclosure of these enchantresses’ darker side was a wholly unsurprising revelation, it hadn’t been one of their own choosing. What on earth was going on? “Was I out long?”

“Out?” She tightened her grip on my arm and slid next to me, doing her best to glare at the fae despite her eyes watering in pain. “You slumped a little and started moaning. Did they do something to you?”

I shook my head. “Not them.”

“Another thing to talk about later?”

“Yeah.”

One of the three enchantresses uncurled from her crouch next to Hasda and glided over to the five arrayed against us. “It appears these wanderers claim the status of caretakers of the hydra, and have business with him.”

“Better business than those who came before?” one witch asked.

“Most assuredly.” The newcomer took her place on the right side of the middle sorceress. “Perhaps even beneficial to all.”

“That is a tall claim,” said the far right one. “But if it can be backed up...”

“Of course it can,” Malia snapped. “The hydra is ours. We’ve merely come to discuss some business with him.” She frowned. “And would you please organize yourselves better? Not all this scattered jabbering.”

“We would be delighted to honor your request,” the six said in unison. Smiling, they folded their hands and bowed at the waist. “The Sisters Serynis greet you, and welcome you to our humble forest. Come, let us lead you to the hydra.” They turned on their heels, in sync, and returned to Hasda and the remaining pair of witches. As they helped him to his feet, they hummed a wordless tune that harmonized in a peaceful yet haunting way. Its notes crept like a hare through the underbrush, promises of a pursuing fox dancing among the chords.

Malia shivered and clung to my arm as we followed them into the glade. I couldn’t sense any more threads, and I didn’t see any signs of that strange purple smoke I’d seen in the last vision, despite watching the Sisters’ bare feet turn the earth. While I half-expected them to drop the charade at any moment, they simply turned and waited for us with subdued smiles.

“How’s the face?” I whispered. Hasda leaned against one of the witches, rubbing his face. He looked disoriented and not fully awake.

“What, am I not pretty enough for you?” She flashed a smile and ignored my grunt. “I’m having trouble focusing my vision. Your eyes okay?”

My lips formed a thin line. “For now.”

She huffed a laugh. “Ah, the blind stumbling along blindly together.” With a sweep of her hand, she gave the witches a fang-filled smile. “Lead on, Sisters dear. We’ve an appointment to keep.”

If the enchantresses picked up on Malia’s sarcasm, they didn’t show it. More smiles, smudges on their barely emotive faces, and they gestured for us to follow as they led Hasda by the hand deeper into the forest.

I shook my head. Spiders and flies, and all that. There was no way this was going to end pretty.


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Thu Dec 16, 2021 3:55 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okayy...well things do be starting to look worser and worser for out little trio here as we get closer to this Hydra, I am now just hoping that at the very least this Hydra is going to end up being a simple encounter with just a long chat and perhaps some cookies before all these other problems being hinted at catch up with the three of them.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Malia jerked out of the astral plane, hissing. Her face was dry and flaking, cracks snaking from the corners of her eyes as steam rose from her face. Fangs bared, she snarled and swiped at the now-closed portal. “That bitch!”

“Tamiyat?” I resisted the urge to check the transcendent plane myself.

“Yes.” She dragged out the s-sound, eyes narrowed. “I didn’t see her, but her power was everywhere.”

“That would explain the blocked maas.” I pulled Malia forward, guiding her around the trees as we pressed on. Although I was gentle, I couldn’t avoid the growing unease nipping at my heels. “Did you get a glimpse of the witches?”


Well at the very least it seems poor Malia isn't too badly injured or anything. For a second I was worried something a bit more permanent would happen but that just seems to be the result of some sort of interference that won't leave a horrifying injury on Malia.

“I couldn’t see anything!” Malia snapped a sapling with a flick of her tail as we passed it. “She’s irradiated this whole area with her toxic aura.”

“Well, that’s concerning.” I swatted at a branch that didn’t know its place, scraping my bones against its knobby bark. “If she did it intentionally, then that means she either predicted our movements or has a source.”

Malia touched her burnt face and hissed. “Assuming she knows what we’re doing. But what worries me is, if she does know, what’s more important than stopping us?”

I growled. That was an excellent point. What made predicting Tamiyat difficult, besides the obvious generational gap, was her inability to directly influence the physical realm. With her mate literally interred beneath Jade’s mines, she’d need some way to actually reach the crypt before she could breach it. If she were looking for a new physical avatar, she could be searching practically anywhere—assuming she wanted another proxy like Lazuli.


Hmm, well this particular enemy that they're fighting has certainly led to some very interesting battle plans, there's no doubt on that. It also appears that now Hasda's trial might just get a slight backseat as they potentially need to be quick in figuring out what Tamiyat is upto here.

But if she wanted her own body, she could be off in a remote mountain, organizing the construction of one through weak-spirited or easily influenced mortals. Or a hidden cult of secrets, dedicated to her memory, working in the shadows to bring about her return. Or a foreign nation completely hijacked to her purpose. Or any number of things. We just didn’t know, and being unable to track her in the astral plane was going to make things even more difficult.


Well that's a nice little summary of exactly why it is a nightmare to have to fight someone like Tamiyat and just the sheer magnitude of things they're going to have to be on careful lookout for if they want to avoid any unnecessary problems.

To his credit, Hasda kept his eyes where they belonged. He smiled as he chatted with the coven, and they tittered like a pack of sparrows as they hid falsely bashful smiles. The witches turned as one as we stumbled into their sunny space, their eyes intense though not openly hostile. What set me off, however, was the lines of green energy that crisscrossed amongst them, weaving a web around Hasda. The witches’ look sent threads lancing towards us.

I stepped forward and caught them all right before they impacted with my chest. Hasda couldn’t see them, and from the confused noise Malia made I wasn’t sure she could perceive them, either. But I wrapped them around my fist once, so the enchantresses couldn’t withdraw them, and sent a burst of power into the silk. The threads crumbled to ash, the destruction racing down the lines like fuses, and ethereal flakes winked out as the energy dissipated.


Uh ohh...well those look like not so friendly residents of the forest, or perhaps ones that are a little too friendly until they take whatever it is they are looking for here. Luckily it appears that at the very least Charax isn't going to be so easily ensnared by whatever magic it is they are using.

“A Skeleton and a Snake, in our sacred forest?” the left-most one asked.

“Could they be lost?” asked another.

The middle one shook her head. “Certainly not. The pup carries their scent.”

“His parents, then?” said the fourth.

“In a manner of speaking,” answered the fifth. She was the first to show actual emotion, a disgusted sneer. “They reek of the divine.”

Malia snapped her wings and tried to scowl, but winced when she split fresh cracks in her dried face. I shoved my worry that she wasn’t healing quickly into the background. Deal with the immediate threat first.


Hmm, well it seems this is going to lead to a slightly more unpleasant encounter than I was expecting. I suppose its too much to hope that they'd simply run away screaming when their magic is defeated by Charax. Oh well, let's see how this somewhat diplomatic start plays out here.

They took turns chorusing their answer, and I didn’t bother to track who said what. They went on for a couple minutes repeating variations of their claims while the trio behind them stroked Hasda’s face and lulled him with harmless questions and soft promises. The ground swirled with magic as the forest responded, soft breezes that whispered of quiet peace as it washed around the witches’ ankles. It was soothing, really.

But it was no more than mortal conjurings, and I brushed it off with ease. “That’s very nice, but why don’t we—”


Well...it seems this is definitely about to get pretty ugly pretty soon here, their magic clearly works on Hasda but Charax isn't buying into any of their charms and I have a feeling we're going to be having a proper fight with some deadly and not quite to youthful looking monsters in the near futures.

I gasped as I blinked, and the scene changed. Gone were the youthful women, replaced by banshees swaying from unseen strings. The clearing went dark blue, a purple underglow highlighting the shadows. The witches themselves were light, pale blue things, flimsy as paper. Their nuptial gowns waved like derelict flags on their incorporeal frames, and just as I noticed the violet fog tumbling from where their legs should be, reality snapped back, all bright and cheery.

Malia pinched my arm just above my elbow. “You need to stop making that sound. It’s unnerving.”

“Sorry,” I muttered. So another vision that only I could see. And while the disclosure of these enchantresses’ darker side was a wholly unsurprising revelation, it hadn’t been one of their own choosing. What on earth was going on? “Was I out long?”


Oh dear...well so it seems either there is something guiding Charax to seeing things he shouldn't be able to see or something specific about Charax's magic is allowing him to see their true forms while it appears not even Malia can do so. Well there's a lot being revealed and the fight hasn't even really begun yet.

One of the three enchantresses uncurled from her crouch next to Hasda and glided over to the five arrayed against us. “It appears these wanderers claim the status of caretakers of the hydra, and have business with him.”

“Better business than those who came before?” one witch asked.

“Most assuredly.” The newcomer took her place on the right side of the middle sorceress. “Perhaps even beneficial to all.”

“That is a tall claim,” said the far right one. “But if it can be backed up...”

“Of course it can,” Malia snapped. “The hydra is ours. We’ve merely come to discuss some business with him.” She frowned. “And would you please organize yourselves better? Not all this scattered jabbering.”


Oh this is even more terrifying, they seem to actually trying to somewhat go along with the diplomatic approach and I now can't help but feel that there are several ulterior motives involved here and this is all only going to end up leading to some trap somewhere down the line.

“We would be delighted to honor your request,” the six said in unison. Smiling, they folded their hands and bowed at the waist. “The Sisters Serynis greet you, and welcome you to our humble forest. Come, let us lead you to the hydra.” They turned on their heels, in sync, and returned to Hasda and the remaining pair of witches. As they helped him to his feet, they hummed a wordless tune that harmonized in a peaceful yet haunting way. Its notes crept like a hare through the underbrush, promises of a pursuing fox dancing among the chords.

Malia shivered and clung to my arm as we followed them into the glade. I couldn’t sense any more threads, and I didn’t see any signs of that strange purple smoke I’d seen in the last vision, despite watching the Sisters’ bare feet turn the earth. While I half-expected them to drop the charade at any moment, they simply turned and waited for us with subdued smiles.


Well I'm just going to go ahead an assume that any attack that does actually happen here will only happen after they've done their thing with the Hydra, I don't think the witches would be attacking this soon after their attempt at being somewhat nice here. It does however seem that all three of them have more than enough problems to deal with even with the witches not being openly hostile.

If the enchantresses picked up on Malia’s sarcasm, they didn’t show it. More smiles, smudges on their barely emotive faces, and they gestured for us to follow as they led Hasda by the hand deeper into the forest.

I shook my head. Spiders and flies, and all that. There was no way this was going to end pretty.


Well you've certainly established that last part rather clearly I think. Its pretty clear that all three of them are not at all fit for anything besides a long solid nap at this point and things only seem set to get worse. I can't wait to see what will happen next here.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, another pretty awesome chapter as always. This one had lots of foreshadowing I feel. There are just so many things that are getting hinted at that we've gotten back to that point where there are so many ways they could meet their demise, its hard to fully keep track. :D At any rate, this is getting up nicely for the Hydra, so let's see when we're going to run into that one.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Dec 15, 2021 11:03 pm
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! And don't worry if you're a little late/behind schedule. I'm just happy to read new chapters as they come out!!

Ooh, what a mysterious chapter. I liked how you expanded on the witches from the last chapter. I'm curious whether they're going to continue being somewhat harmless and just kinda weird, or if somehow they're related to Tamiyat. That vision Charax had of them was interesting too... I wonder if it was just a vision or if it was true, and why he's getting them. (I don't think we've addressed that yet, right?) Regardless: I liked the greater introduction of the witches/enchantresses in this one, and I'm looking forward to seeing what role they'll play in the future!

One thing I liked about this chapter was how engaging it was. I mean. Your writing is always engaging, but I think this chapter was a great example of how to perfectly mix dialogue with action. The writing was very grippy. I also think you did a great job of the Charax and Malia dynamic in this one, too; very nice how they took the more low-key offensive side in the conversation with the witches. It is curious how Malia isn't healing as fast. Also: did something happen to Charax's eyes? It's been a while since I read the last part, and I feel like I would've remembered something like that. I feel like you focused a lot on those, but I couldn't remember anything happening, so I thought I'd ask.

Specifics

Malia touched her burnt face and hissed. “Assuming she knows what we’re doing. But what worries me is, if she does know, what’s more important than stopping us?”


I feel like the comma in between "is" and "if" put a bit of an unnecessary pause there. Grammatically, I don't think you need it either.

Overall: nice work!! I liked this continuation, and I'm hoping we'll get to the hydra soon! Excited to see how Hasda will handle it. Anyways. Until next time!





I am deeply disturbed by your ability to meow.
— Carina