“Much is known about the shadows, and that is why we court them.”
-Aisha, The Witch of Night
All the witches in a coven are connected by the magic that binds them together. The magic nourishes them, fills them with power. They can feel its ebbs and the flows.
They had all felt it, and so, when Doreen called the meeting at midnight, nobody was surprised, and everybody was dressed, and armed.
They sat at the roundtable with Doreen, all twelve of the witches living with the coven, swathed in deep blue. She sat with her eyes closed and her breathing shallow. The newer witches looked at her with furrowed eyebrows, but the oldest witches knew what this meant. They had been with Doreen for over a hundred years, through her travels. And they all knew that a wrong word now would only mean death.
They all knew the anger of the Witch of Auchi.
Doreen opened her eyes slowly, and the flames on the candles flickered and burned brighter.
She looked at all of them in turn. But it was Tẹni, by her side, who spoke. “I don’t think I have to say the obvious. Lydia and Chichi are…gone.”
A quiet gasp ran through the table.
“What do you mean,” Imudiase, a witch of a hundred and fifty said, “by ‘gone’?”
“You all felt the cut. We have tried searching for them with spells, charms, links and even Impulus, but… no luck,” she breathed. “It’s like they’ve just disappeared.”
“Could this be an attack?” Anya asked, flipping her dagger in the air.
“But,” Imudiase said, “who would be foolish enough to attack us?”
“It’s no secret,” said Teni, “that the other witches simply don’t like us. They never have.”
Imudiase leaned forward. “But a move like this could mean a war of the covens. We all signed the Pact of Five.”
It was that word, war, that put the room into pandemonium. There were voices speaking over voices until Doreen snapped her head up.
“Masked,” she said. “They’re being masked.”
Tẹni looked at her. “What do you mean?”
They eyes met. There was a look that even Teni could not fathom. “They’re not gone,” Doreen said. “Their magic has been bound, so it feels like they’ve disappeared, when all this while, they’re being masked.”
“Doreen…” Tẹni said.
“I know what I am saying,” Doreen said as she bolted up and slapped the table. “They are being hidden somewhere. Somehow. They have to be.” She looked at them all. “Because if they are not…War is nothing compared to what I will do to whoever threatens to harm my…our own.”
Imudiase stood too. “I understand you, Doreen,” she said. “But we must approach this with caution and hope that Chichi and Lydia can handle themselves. We must think. Binding spells are hard magic that require calculation and power. Who could be able to do this?”
Doreen touched her wrist and thumbed the beads on it. “Her move isn’t over,” she said. “We have to prepare for the morning. This is only the beginning.”
Tẹni stood by Doreen’s side. “‘Her’?” she asked. “Who are you talking about?”
“There is only one person who could do this,” she said. “Only one woman in the whole world that could put something like this in motion.”
Tẹni’s fist clenched. She placed her other hand on Doreen’s elbow. “Who?”
Funke Aminu smiled in the bedroom that wasn’t hers with two bodies laid on the bed, their blood splattered all over the room.
She smiled because all the people she had wanted to kill that night were dead, by her hand.
She smiled because it hadn’t been much of a fuss. She smiled because she could feel the power of their blood coursing through her veins.
She smiled because it had been so, so long since she let loose like this. She felt like a young witch again, so full of power, so angry. The man was a pastor who gave regularly to charity and the woman was an accountant, but she didn’t care. All she cared about was—
The little patter of footsteps snapped her back into the moment, and she sat up, tossing the man’s head through the window as the door opened and a little boy looked at her with wide eyes.
She wiped the blood off her mouth and opened her arms. “Hello, little one,” she said. “Mummy and daddy are sleeping. Come, let me show you something.” She poured magic into her voice and pulled him slowly towards her. As came closer, her smile widened—
Then, the world turned black and then all she could feel on her eyelids was a blinding light. Her smile faded as she snapped the blood away from her body and walked the steps to the Eternity Table at the edge of nowhere in the land of dreams to meet the other witches.
“Yes?” She said, as she walked up. “Who called this emergency meeting? I was in the middle of—”
There were rarities in the world, things that just didn’t happen all too often, and there were events that were simply miracles. To have The Witch of Night be present at a meeting was one of those miracles. For a number of reasons.
The remaining four sat there at the table. Eve Akpabio, The Witch of Sun, along with Efem, The Witch of Feud and then…Doreen, The Witch of Auchi.
She watched Funke as she walked gracefully and waited for her to sit down before she spoke.
“I’m saying this before all of you because I like clarity above all else. She looked straight at Funke as she spoke. “If I don’t see my two witches before sunrise tomorrow, I am going to kill you.”
“Doreen…” Eve began, but Doreen shot a look that made even the Witch of Sun simmer.
“I like this!” Efem said with glee as she ate out of her popcorn.
Funke looked at Doreen with all the innocence she could muster. “What witches, Doreen?” She asked.
Doreen pointed at her. “That,” she said, “just made sure your death will be painful and long. Where are they, Funke?”
“Oops,” Efem said, her eyes wide.
Funke looked around to the other witches and laughed. “My fellow mistresses in the dark arts,” she said. “I have no idea what Doreen is talking about. To lay a finger on a witch of another coven is an abomination, as it is to enter another’s domain without permission. We all signed the Pact of Five, did we not?” She looked at Doreen now and made sure her eyes were daggers. “Did we not, Doreen?”
“Fight! Fight!” Efem cheered.
Lightning shot out of her body, crackling with energy, but Doreen said nothing as she sat down, just as Funke knew she would. Her knee still hurt, and she wanted Doreen to feel that pain deep in her heart. She wanted Doreen to feel that loss of control, that shame of loss. And she wanted to be the harbinger of them all.
Efem was about to shout another obscenity, when a tap on the table, a single tap made everyone fall silent. They all turned to face Aisha, The Witch of Night. She was always hooded, dressed in what could only be described as shadows as they lapped around her form and everything around her so all you could see were her lips and the stars on her cloak.
“Inasmuch as there are minor troubles within the Witches of Auchi,” they said, their voice a cold whisper. Aisha continued, “We have been traveling the Void…searching for the source.”
Eve looked at her. “The source of what?” She asked.
Aisha turned to her. “For months now,” they said, “our coven witches have been experiencing…dreams.”
Doreen had calmed down and looked bothered somehow. “Dreams are the omens of The Witches of Night,” she said. “Are they not?”
Aisha nodded. “But these dreams were not from our mother. They were from…something else. Something old, primal.”
Efem had dropped her popcorn and was dusting off kernels from her tank top. “And?” She asked. “So, you had a few scary dreams. So what? Why call this emergency meeting?”
“Because,” Aisha said, “of what we were told in the dream: we have seen the end of all things, a year from now.”
Efem laughed nervously. “What do you mean by ‘the end?’”
Aisha looked at her. “Whatever it is that we heard. They have been trying to break into our world for a long time, and soon, they will succeed. And when they do, the end will begin, and we will all be ash.” She looked at the witches in turn. “You will all be the first line of defense. And we have seen you all die.”
Eve breathed. “Wow.”
Funke leaned forward. “How do we stop this?” She asked. “We can’t just…die?”
Doreen had paled visibly. “You said they said something. What did they say exactly?”
Aisha looked at Doreen and cocked her head slightly to the left. They spoke in a language that was made of teeth clicks and clacks.
Eve looked down and at Doreen. “That’s the old Heresos language you taught me, it’s …‘Sister, sister, where are you?’” she said. “Isn’t it?”
Doreen stood up abruptly. “I have to go.” She said and disappeared into the light.
Eve looked at them all. “I’ll go with her.” She said. “And help her find her witches. Gods help them, I hope they’re okay.”
“We are not okay.” Chichi said as she laid on her back on the beaten-up mattress.
Lydia held the bars and looked through them. She had seen horrors in their night there, while they shared a cell with five other women. There were six, but a police man had come with a sick smile on his face and a thin nylon bag. Her screams had filled the air in the early night. Chichi closed her ears so she couldn’t hear it.
But Lydia did.
Then, there were five.
She could speak some Yoruba, and she heard what the bastard had said to his colleague. “A new one,” he had said, “every day. We’ll get them one by one.”
She turned around and faced Chichi who was looking at the ceiling, her legs closed. Lydia could feel the fear rippling through her, but they had to do something. She wouldn’t allow a single finger touch Chichi.
Chichi sat up and looked at Lydia. Her eyes were hollow. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “And it won’t work. There’s no way out.” She looked down at her hands. “Our magic doesn’t even work.”
Lydia balled her fists. “That’s what I don’t understand. Why isn’t our magic working? How are they binding us?”
Chichi looked around and squinted her eyes.
“I don’t—I don’t get it,” Lydia said. “What am I missing?”
Chichi stood up with her hand to her chin, like she did when she was thinking back at the coven. She went over to the bars of the cell beside Lydia. “Doreen told me once that there were spells and charms to bind a witch’s magic…but she said there was a chink in the spells.”
“What?” Lydia asked.
Chichi looked at her. “They can only bind one kind of witch magic. It has to be specific.”
“So,” Lydia said, “you’re saying that our magic can’t work here, but, another’s can?”
“Yeah,” Chichi said, her shoulders sagging. “It’s not really much to go off on, but it’s all I could think of at the—”
Lydia held Chichi’s face in her hands. “You beautiful intelligent girl,” she said, as she kissed her on her face and walked to the middle of the cell.
Chichi touched her lips. “Nobody has ever said that to me,” she muttered before following Lydia.
Lydia quietly woke up the women in the room, telling them all to come to the middle and form a circle.
“Lydia,” Chichi said. “What are you doing?”
“Something I haven’t done in a long time,” Lydia said. “Something dangerous, something that could go very wrong. Something you can never tell the others.”
A woman spoke up. “I don’t understand what is happening.”
“You will soon,” Lydia said, her voice suddenly dark
“Chichi,” Lydia called. “You know about witches and their Infernal Sources, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Chichi said. “Everyone does. Like for The Witches of Blood and Tears it’s the first blood of the Mother Oba. It’s where their power comes from.”
Lydia nodded. “Good,” she said. “You’ve been paying attention in your lessons. What about The Witches of Night?”
Chichi was linked and everyone was holding hands. Somehow, the chill air in the night got icier and the darkness darker.
Chichi was suddenly cold, very cold. “They’re…secretive,” she said. “And their Infernal Source is darkness, the first night of the world.”
Lydia smiled at that. But it was a sad smile. Her head was bowed. Were Chichi’s eyes playing tricks on her or were the shadows crossing to Lydia?
“That’s one thing everybody gets wrong,” she said. “About them, I mean. Their infernal source isn’t the first night, not really. It’s the first nightmare. It always has been. Since…since Mother Ikseine first crossed into this world.”
“Lydia…” Chichi said, her stomach plummeting. There was a guttural fear she felt deep within her.
Lydia sprang her head up. Her eyes were ink black. Her jaw had widened to accommodate her shark like teeth. There were screams and shouts as the other women tried to let go but shadows sprang from the ground and linked them all together.
Lydia looked at Chichi. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice sounding like she was underwater.
And the shadows formed from behind her like thick ink, washing over everyone, and the sea of shadows churned and chugged, and all was fear, all was dread, and then, all was black.