“Close your eyes and feel it…the sun on your skin. Feel the warmth on your face, the magic flowing through your veins. Life.”

Eve, The Witch of Sun

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***

Behind the counter of the shop on 71 Adelabu Street, behind the veil that dissuades mortal eyes, the Witches of Auchi have their true home.

Every coven has their own abode. The Witches of Feud live in an abandoned shelter at an unknown location where thirty men, women and children were slaughtered during the Biafran war. The Witches of Blood and Tears live underneath Elephant House. The Witches of Sun chose to live in a glass house on the roof of a decrepit building, shielded by magic. The Witches of Night…their home has remained unknown for centuries. Or, to be more precise, nobody has been there and returned.

For centuries, the Witches of Auchi have lived in a cave where bright blue water stretches underground. The Witches of Auchi is the only coven that did not build or find their home. It is a gift from the gods, or so it is said.

At night, all the Auchi witches go to their individual rooms carved in stone and secrets, and they sleep.

And some of them, unfortunately, dream.

When you sleep, you’re exposed to dangerous thoughts as they come alive to haunt and play with you.

And nobody has more dangerous thoughts than witches.

 

***

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Chichi tossed and turned in her bed as her mind took her to places she didn’t want to do. Her dreams were dark and murky, soaked in hidden desires. In the dream, the world flipped into a dark room with just her in it. She stood and looked around, but the darkness was overwhelming and alive. She could feel its heartbeat, right along with hers. It called to her…in an almost benevolent way.

In the centre of the room was a floating red sphere that could fit in the palm of her hand. It glowed with blood, it glowed with power. Funke had given it to her months ago, but she knew it wasn’t because she was being nice. Blood and Tears witch wanted nothing but…well, blood and tears.

But what Funke said on that fateful day had been valid. Chichi needed to become her own self, become her own witch in spite of Doreen holding her back and telling her to be patient.

Always telling her to be patient.

Chichi was tired of being patient.

She stretched her hand to the sphere, and it almost…The room faded into shades of azure, and she was in deep waters with sharks rushing past her.

She held her breath and scrambled, turning and twisting, a thought creeping into her mind. What could scare even sharks?

Two figures swam towards her and Chichi didn’t see them as much as feel them, the primordial chaos they bore washed over her. Their eyes were the color of water, and they looked like women, but they were not. Chichi tried to swim, but her body wouldn’t obey, she tried to scream but her mouth remained locked.

The figures swam to her slowly. When they came close enough, they prodded her with silver claws. They observed her. And when they were done, they smiled.

They said only one word.

“Niece.”

Then, her mouth obeyed.

Then, she screamed.

 

***

Tẹni knew that Doreen hid things.

You had to hide things to be a leader. Wasn’t that a Machiavellian thing? There were simply things you had to do when you were on top.

She had secrets of her own too.

Those were the tricks of the trade. The thought about these things in her sleep. She also thought that incident when she flitted across the world and around Doreen, who held Baba Exodus in her hands.

“We save lives if we can,” Doreen once told her. “And we take them when necessary. When we have no other choice.”

Doreen snapped his neck like it was nothing, and Tẹni saw her turn into a large leviathan that roared and stomped and shook the universe, and Tẹni cried, and cried, for her love was…

She was lost in the dark, and her husband sat on a chair, eating. She stood there looking at him, and he… he continued to eat. She looked closer at what he was eating, and she closed her mouth, her eyes wide.

“Stop!” She screamed, but he wouldn’t stop eating her eyes.

She grabbed him. “Stop!” She throttled him and threw him off the chair. She moved to remove the plate, but there he was again, still eating, still munching away happily. She knew those were her eyes because she knew that look of guilt. That look of lies, that look of betrayal.

She wore it all the time with the witches, with Doreen, with her husband. She heard the heels as the world bent and shuddered. She sighed and began to cry tears of blood as a hand touched her shoulder.

As the world fell away, dying. Only one word was heard.

“Sister.”

And she screamed a scream that broke her back and pierced her lungs and…

 

***

Lydia liked the witches a lot.

She joined after she ran away from home, five years ago. When she left, she loved the feeling of freedom, but she hated the feeling of hunger. Doreen found her. As she rolled upside down on her bed, drooling, she thought of her life, and her past, and the darkness she left.

The darkness she thought she left.

The desert was dry with black sand stretching as far as the universe could hold. The sun was dying and burned with the fierce, yellow glow of a sun that was tired of shining.  She was alone.

No, not alone.

A figure came forward, staggering, falling, standing. A small figure, tired.

She fell to her knees when she saw him and ran to him, with all her strength, all the power she couldn’t use to save him that night, and she tried to hold her little brother in her hands one last time, but he fell into the black sand, his body becoming sand.

The tears on her cheek felt hot. The obsidian sand began to coalesce, grain by grain, until they formed a serpent so large, so wide, that it blotched out the sun.

But the sand was not done.

It continued moving until it formed sand warriors with weapons sharp enough to cut stars in two. The serpent roared into the sky. The world shook, and the sand warriors roared in response.

All stood against Lydia, who was still kneeling, still crying, over the sand that was once her brother.

She looked up, sniffled, cleaned her nose, then bent low and kissed the sand in her hands. “Goodbye,” she whispered.

She looked at the giant sand serpent and the army of a thousand sand soldiers. “This is a dream, isn’t it?” She said, walking slowly towards them. “It is, right?” Her fists were balled so tight that her nails dug into her palms, drawing blood. Exactly what she wanted. “Good.”

Doreen had seen a girl, lost, hungry, all those years ago, but she had also seen a descendant of a very powerful line of witches.

Her blood dropped on the sand, and everywhere it touched, it sizzled. Lightning began to crackle around her.

The sand warriors suddenly didn’t look so sure about this one, and the giant serpent wished it could take back that roar.

“Because,” said Lydia, as the lightning grew, black stone clumps of earth rose all around her, “it means I can do something I could never do in real life: let go.”

The giant serpent made a sound that was somewhere between please, no and mercy, but Lydia wasn’t having it.

And as she burned and crackled and decimated the whole army smiling and laughing, she couldn’t hear what the sand that was once her brother was saying, over and over again, in a loop.

“Hero.”

 

***

Doreen didn’t sleep.

About a hundred and fifty years ago, she found she didn’t need to. And so, at night, she did what she did during the day. She went to work.  There were always charms to be sorted, ingredients to be blessed and of course, she had a store to run, and she maintained that too with a Doctor’s eye.

Doreen rested sometimes.

There was once a man she loved, a man she loved more than the moon, more than the sun, more than life itself. But he betrayed her in the worst way possible, so she punished him in the worst way possible, cursing him to life, even after death.

His name was Eledan.

And on days like these when she rested, she would go to her own private cove and light a candle with blue flame.

She would sit on a chair made of wood cut from the first tree, and she would sigh and take out a crested wooden chest, lay it on her lap and open it. The living skull inside would say the only words it would say in years to come.

“Hello, my love.”

***

Read The Witches of Auchi: “The Plans” (Chapter 1)

Read The Witches of Auchi: “The Heist” (Chapter 2)