Quest For The Witch Chapter Three
Chapter Three Story and Name
The green moon disappeared, as did the killer monster of metal. As if an illusion, all signs of destruction were gone. But not only that, the mansion and its surrounding walls were gone, too. Only the arena was left as testament of the dangerous test set by Gwendolyn.
Alexandra and Caesar both collapsed on their knees. Their ordeal had finally caught up to them and neither were able to move so much as a finger. They were now at the witch's mercy, and very rarely was she known for showing mercy.
Gwendolyn dropped down, the wind slowing her descent for a graceful landing. She clapped her hands, impressed by Alexandra's victory, though not all that surprised.
"Congratulations," she said, keeping to her little girl guise. "You have proven yourselves worthy of the quest."
"Quest?" Alexandra said, the first to recover her voice. Caesar was still shaking at the knees at having escaped death several times in the span of a few minutes. "What quest?"
"My quest," Gwendolyn answered with a witch-like smile. "I did tell you that in order for you to have freedom, you must first prove yourself ready, and you have to pay for that freedom. Look here."
She snapped her fingers, and a large mirror popped up from the ground as if a fish leaping out of water. The ripples subsided beneath it, but there was still the sound of sloshing water. A haze overtook the reflective glass only to disappear again, leaving a clear image in its wake. It was not a reflection of the three people in front of it. Far from it. Instead of clear sky and blue valley grass, there was dark stone, dull and foreboding. It was the kind of stone appropriate for a mausoleum.
Alexandra and Caesar struggled for quite a bit, looking and moving kind of similar to how overturned turtles did when flipped onto their shells. Except in the humans' case, it took them longer to get on their hands and feet. When they did, testing Gwendolyn's patience in the process, they looked into the mirror's glass and took what image it held.
In the center of the chamber depicted in the mirror, there was a stone sarcophagus with an emerald top in the familiar shape of a woman. Alexandra could just tell by the angular features of the head. Having a sort of interest in archaeology, and having been taught by Gwendolyn as a sort of witch's apprentice, she recognized the symbols etched on the surface of the coffin as runes of a magic spell, and a terribly ancient and powerful spell at that.
"That place is your target," Gwendolyn said. She spoke of it with such distaste that it was obvious that there was something personal to the witch about it. Well, she was a thousand years old, after all.
"What is that?" Caesar asked. "Who's grave is this? And what are we supposed to do?"
"It's my grave," Gwendolyn answered nonchalantly. Caesar and Alexandra gave a start and gaped at the little girl-form of the land's oldest and powerful living witch, incredulous at the statement. "A thousand years ago, I was put in that sarcophagus by magi of a now-extinct order. You could say, that I was a human sacrifice. I want you two to go to my grave and break open the seal. If you do this within one year, you'll be free of me, forever. If you fail to do it in a year, you automatically come back here, thanks to some very powerful magic, to live the rest of your days in the mansion you've suffered so much to escape."
"What!? But what does that have to do with anything?" Alexandra demanded. "Why were you sealed in that sarcophagus in the first place?"
"Do you really want to know?" Gwendolyn asked. Her age was beginning to show in her eyes. Such a look was rare to Gwendolyn and it startled Alexandra who might know the witch best out of everyone in the world having been raised by her, practically. "Very well. I will speak.
"Like I said, it was a thousand years ago. I was but a foolish, naive, simple girl with simple dreams of marriage and having a family, and doing sickeningly stereotypical female stuff. Looking back, I really have a hard time believing I was actually like that. I guess that's one good thing about living pass eight-hundred.
"You're really lucky, you know, living in a rational time like this. Compared to the people back then, the people of this time may well be superior, if they could only learn to get over those nasty human flaws of greed and hatred. Back then, people were as superstitious a lot that could be found. And it's that same superstition that's got everyone playing into the hands of those magi.
"It was the same for my village. A time of great unrest had befallen us all, but it was worse where I was born, where I grew up, and where I met my friend and the love of my life. Dark magic was affecting everywhere. It was no surprise when you think about how corrupt magical practitioners had become having gotten into seats of power simply because they could do a parlor trick or two. And because of that dark magic, it was getting more and more difficult to survive. Harvests were declining. Disease became more widespread. There was nothing we could do. Some heroes tried to deal with what demons were blamed, and they got away with nothing.
"We were pretty much desperate. Then a mage came who claimed his group could help us with our problem. There weren't any other choices, so the elders agreed with majority vote of the village.
"The spell required a human sacrifice. I don't really have to tell you who was chosen. You're looking at her. As the one who drew the red string, I became the one who would act as the lock that would seal away all the dark magic affecting the village. I was just a kid back then who didn't understand anything. To me, it was all just another game. Then they stuffed me in that coffin and cast a spell to keep my body alive in suspended animation.
"One wizard, an old fogy by what I remembered, took pity of my situation and cast a spell, allowing me to leave my body as a ghost who could go solid, touch, feel, taste, smell, and all those other things a normal kid could do. He was the one who got me on my path to becoming a witch. And since then, I have lived, traveling through the world and time, learning what I could about anything, mastering new spells and methods, and becoming the witch I am, today."
"Can I ask you something?" said Alexandra. She was having a hard time grasping everything, though she nearly bit her tongue, thinking that she spoke too soon after Gwendolyn had finished with her, what Alexandra thought as a rather tear-jerking story. "Why do you want me to release you? I mean, it sounds like to me, that even though you're pretty much a ghost, you can still do and experience things a living body can. And given that you're immortal now, doesn't this mean you've achieved what most alchemists and wizards have been vying for? And won't releasing you mean we'll have dark magic to deal with? If we open the sarcophagus, that would mean that what was sealed will also be released."
"You do have a point there," Gwendolyn said. "I'm pretty much a living immortal. But there are a lot of good reasons why I wish for my immortality to end. And one of those reasons which also crosses with your other question about the darkness, is that my immortality is going to end soon, anyway."
"Huh?" Alexandra went. "What do you mean by that?"
Gwendolyn turned to Caesar, instead.
"You know what I'm talking about," she said. "Tell her."
Caesar hesitated. He paused to muster enough courage to tell Alexandra the truth. Like most of his town, he did not like to dwell on the unpleasantness happening in the world. And given that Alexandra was so set on leaving to travel and go on adventures, it was just too hard for him to put an end to her dream with this harsh truth.
"The land's been plagued with dark magic," he said. "Most of the kingdom's pretty much a wasteland now. The only reason our village and the land surrounding it hasn't been affected was all thanks to Lady Gwendolyn. Her magic is the only thing that's preventing everyone being hurt by the outside world. We were pretty much a self-sustaining town, so there was never a need to make contact beyond the borders."
Alexandra never heard of anything of the sort. Not from the Network, nor from the newspapers that were occasionally dropped at the gates. If books were to be believed, if Gwendolyn and Caesar were to be believed, then beyond the village, there was nearly nothing but warped nature. Dark magic was no laughing matter. It is a disease with random widespread effects and what gave birth to the creatures of horror folk tales.
She was at a loss for words, so Gwendolyn continued.
"The seal is already breaking," Gwendolyn said. "Once that happens, the dark magic will come out, most likely kill me, and then kill everything else. And as much as I'd rather just go already, I can't leave things as is. The moment the seal breaks completely, darkness that was sealed away will burst out and overtake everything. Although it was laid dormant, dark magic can still grow from accumulating centuries of negative thoughts and emotions. And given the crime and corruption in the world today, I'd wager that the dark magic must be pretty big by now. Before it has the chance to get out, however, I want things to end on my terms. But to do that, I need you to release me from that sarcophagus and turn me mortal again. It's a win-win situation for everyone. You get to go free, the kingdom will be released from an ancient evil, and I get to live a little longer than if we just leave the darkness alone."
"But why me?" Alexandra asked. "Why not someone else, like a master wizard, or such like? I'm not a hero. And none of the spells I know are special."
"But you have the blood of the First Queen," Gwendolyn said. "And she was daughter to the chief of the magic council that bound the dark magic and me. You need only to use your inherited authority to unlock the sarcophagus and I'll be able to do the rest."
"Wait a tick," went Caesar. "Are you saying that Alexandra, here, is the Lost Princess?"
"Huh?" went Alexandra. You could just see the question mark floating above her head.
"Well, technically, she was never lost," Gwendolyn said with a casual shrug. "I mean, the king and queen did give her to me, after I saved her from a darkness contamination."
"What are you all talking about?" Alexandra demanded. "That's this about a Lost Princess? Are you trying to tell me that I'm royalty or something?"
"Wow, she catches on quick!" Gwendolyn said. "I'm so glad for that. You're going to need those wits when you step out into the real world."
Alexandra felt her cheeks grow hot. Her temper flared. She just couldn't believe that all this time, Gwendolyn had stolen her away from her parents! She had parents, for heaven's sake! Living breathing parents! And not only that, for her kidnapper to demand that she go on a quest to earn freedom that should have always been hers was simply too outrageous. Sure, this was for the world. Alexandra wasn't deaf. But to go this far was simply too much.
Before Alexandra had the chance to speak her mind, however, Gwendolyn cut in as if she read every word of the girl's thoughts. Gwendolyn was a witch, after all. It shouldn't be too surprising if she could read minds.
"So, I take it you'd rather live here for the rest of your life?" she said with that evil glint in her eye that always bugged Alexandra while at the same time frightened her worse than any demon's glare. And just as quickly as Alexandra's anger rose, did it drop.
"Not at all!" Caesar cut in, although he thought that Alexandra should not leave since their home was probably the safest place anyone could be in these troubling times. However, he also knew now that Gwendolyn's protection would not last forever. To think that even the immortal's power would be finite in this situation. "We would be happy to undertake this quest."
Gwendolyn nodded with satisfaction of Caesar's answer.
"Good," she said. "Now there are just a few things we still have to do before we can set off."
"We?" Alexandra repeated.
"I'm the only one who knows how to get to my tomb. You honestly don't expect me to just leave everything to you, do you?"
And here, Alexandra thought that she was finally free of Gwendolyn's scrutiny.
"Now, repeat after me," Gwendolyn said. "That which I have been given, I accept. For once it is given, it becomes my own and no one else's."
Alexandra did as she was told without question. She was unlikely to get a straight answer until it was already too late any way so it would have been useless to try.
"Good," Gwendolyn said with a nod. "Now this next bit is just for me."
She raised her staff so the balled top was gently touching Alexandra's forehead and began the spell. Wind gathered around the two women as the witch spoke.
"From me to you, for you to own, I give my name, my identity. I pass onto you that which others have called me, that which others believe me to be and so they will believe you to be. When others come to you, they will not see you for who you were, but who I was, for this is what I give you. No longer mine, you now hold my name. As one who has accepted my gift, behold your new name!"
There was a final, dramatic clap of thunder and the spell was complete.
"What just happened?" Caesar said with rapidly blinking wide eyes. Gwendolyn ignored him.
"Congratulations, Alexandra," Gwendolyn said, grinning from ear to ear. "You are now Gwendolyn the Witch."
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Two
The witch has come and decides to test Alexandra to see if she was ready to leave. Caesar is also tested. But the witch's tests are never easy. How will the two of them fare against a giant golem?
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Four
Having inherited Gwendolyn the Witch's name, Alexandra and Caesar set off on their adventure. They come across a mysterious, deserted town. What secrets does it hold?