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Sapphire and Moonlight

Bernardo Villela

Bernardo Villela has short fiction included in periodicals such as LatineLit, Penumbra Online and Horror Tree and in anthologies such as We Deserve to Exist, Enchanted Entrapments and There's More of Us Than You Know. He’s had original poetry published by Phantom Kangaroo, Straylight, and Raven’s Quoth Press and translation published by AzonaL and Red Fern Review. You can find some of his other works here:

Maria’s hands, crosshatched with wrinkles, opened the old leather-bound spell book that sat on a large oak table in her room.

“A century is a long life to a mortal,” she read in her silky voice, a dissonant sound coming from such a cracked, hardpan face, “but it is only the inception of a witch’s adolescence.”

Closing her clouded eyes and bowing her head, she uttered a solemn incantation that rebounded off the sandstone walls; her inner sanctum had remained untouched for centuries as it passed down the generations to her. Candles flickered, curtains billowed, and the blood-filled goblet frothed fervently. Her eyes became not only rejuvenated, but they glowed. With reverence, she reached for the goblet and brought it to her mouth like a celebrant receiving the blood of Christ—then she slaked her thirst like a red-faced vixen, spilling blood out the sides of her mouth where it stained her face and flowed freely down her neck. Shivers spread through her body. The sacred Rite had begun. Soon the next and most vital component would enter the chamber of her own free will.

The door opened inward, just a crack.

“A very happy birthday, Miss,” Paloma said to Maria ducking her head in. She laid the broom she’d used to sweep up all day against the wall. It was her habit to stop in to see if anything else was needed before leaving for the night.

“Thank you, Paloma, you’re too good to me,” replied Maria, feeling the slightest catch in her throat.

“De nada, Senhora. Anything else before I go?”

“Yes, just one thing.”

Maria summoned Paloma further into the room as usual, but the maid hung back. Did she know? Or was it because it was Maria’s birthday? Was it because I’m in here and not in my bedroom.Paloma’s never liked this room, the only part of the stone barn that hadn’t been brought into the twenty-first century. Either way, it was too late to go back. The Rite had begun.

If only the maid were nearer, this painful part would be over by now. Sadly, Maria had to work to lure her in, even if just for a moment.

Maria inhaled deeply, steeling herself to move quickly, a necessity of her age, which she looked forward to discarding alongside her mortality. To Paloma, it appeared the older woman might be suffering a heart attack. The maid rushed into the room, and Maria, suddenly brandishing a blade, turned and thrust. When she felt the resistance of Paloma’s stomach, she put ten decades worth of accumulated preternatural strength into her arm. Drawing the knife left to right, she sliced into Maria with such ease that she stopped only when her knuckles had followed the knife into the massive gash now gaping in her victim’s midsection.

Then the mistake she sought to avoid was made; she looked Paloma in the eyes and saw her surprise, sadness, and pain before she died.

Life without Paloma was almost unimaginable for Maria, but there was no alternative. So advanced in years, she would not have the energy, patience, or wherewithal to take anyone else as her sacrifice now. Once she started the next phase of her life, yes, she could be a little more discriminate. Part of Maria wished that Paloma hadn’t outlived her husband and her children. Finding another familiar, one she’d made no emotional bonds with—unintentional or otherwise—and sacrificing them would’ve been as easy. At least, that is what Maria thought when she was younger and more naïve, when she first took on the maid as a familiar.

Looking to her right, she saw her devoted Paloma bleeding on the ground, and a sudden a vivacious sweetness filled her mouth where before was an aged salty bitterness. Maria smiled. Though the maid’s body was awash in blood, her face had now relaxed. It was possible for Maria to believe the witch’s lie that it’d been a peaceful passing.

“Thanks for the birthday present, dear,” Maria said to her blood sacrifice. She wanted to make it sound sincere but knew it struck duplicitous at best—lucky her, then, that Paloma was too decent to ever suspect the worst in her master. Such decency made Maria feel more human than she had any right to, a feeling once warm now proved intolerable.

Feeling faint, Maria stood and stumbled across to the oak table. She reached out for the cup again thinking another swing would replenish her strength, but merely bracing herself against the tabletop allowed Maria to regain her composure.

Turning the page in her spell-book, she began the second and final incantation of the rite. Maybe if she hadn’t looked into Paloma’s dying eyes then she might’ve remembered the Novitiate’s checklist or “The Fortuneteller and Orion,” fundamentals she’d not thought about in a long time—despite their role in post-ascension preservation—but shaken as she was, her thoughts were a jumble.

Maria staggered toward the far wall where Paloma had entered.

She floated a hand above her broom. Though it had been in her family for eons, this would be the first time she could use it as it was meant to be used: in flight upon it, she’d know for certain whether she’d done everything just so.

A flick of Maria's wrist summoned the broom stick into her hand. Then she straddled it with a wild cackle, flew out her open window and into the moonlit night. After a century of study, she was a full-fledged witch at last.

Eighty-seven years of pent-up exhilaration rushed through her at once. A witch’s long apprenticeship begins with her first menstrual blood. Some portion of the menses is reserved; a malediction is spoken over it, and then, it is spilled on a little patch of land that if it were to sour, few, if any, would notice. She’d been patient ever since, learning the customs of her kind methodically over the course of her long life—a student, an apprentice. Now she had the freedom she’d so longed for. Now she could finally do as she pleased.

Her memory ached as her soul was set free, no more quadrennial consultations with those who outranked her: Hags, Crones, Elder Witches, and the Maters. They could still counsel her, but unless she violated a stricture, she was no longer under their every command—which was fortuitous, because just then, Maria had pressing business.

Deep into the Southern Hemisphere, her broom delivered her, landing in the woods outside Vassouras in the state of Rio de Janeiro. From there, Maria wended her way into town and became enamored by her surroundings: red clay tile roofs formed a secondary horizon that was pierced by stately palm trees, the colonial era architecture. When she arrived in the town square, she had to remind herself this wasn’t a vacation.

She knew she had reached her destination when she laid eyes on a most contradictory dwelling: a shanty, ramshackle but sturdy, set between much cleaner and more opulent homes. This was Criselda’s house.

The door bore a ghastly, gilded knocker. It was a hairy, angry, one-eyed sloth. Maria found it enchanting, but she couldn’t name the cryptid immediately, and that unnerved her. She rapped it thrice.

The door tore open as if Criselda had been standing behind it, ready in wait for the fated arrival. Her face reminded Maria of papier-mâché. Criselda’s dark, deep-set eyes nearly disappeared in their shadowy cavities as a sardonic smile, populated by few teeth, spread across her ancient face.

“Maria Horta, my congratulations on your ascendancy.” Maria was about to speak, but Criselda continued. “Enter. You’re expected.”

The older witch’s words, though kind on the surface, seemed to veil threats behind their raspy, clipped delivery—like a jack-knife lurking behind a curtain. Maria entered.

In the shanty, there were but suggestions of where other rooms began. Identical silk draperies hid both doorways as well as the walls. Abundant sconces and candelabrum lit the interiors. However, the most prolific decorative features were the crystal balls, the reason she’d come. All this ornate decor took Maria aback. She’d meant to cut straight to negotiation, but this witch’s abode forced an editorial comment out of her mouth: “You already live in a town whose name means ‘Brooms,’ isn’t this a bit much?”

Criselda cackled, a cackle Maria envied. She’d need to work on her own.

“It keeps the locals away, them thinking I’m a witch, which is just the way I like it.”

Maria nodded.

“But you’re gaping around here because you want a ball of your own.” Criselda continued, “What witch doesn’t? But you came first thing, right? Why the rush?”

Maria told Criselda about her long-time friend and, for the last few years of apprenticeship before her Rite, her mentor. Her name was Alison, and she was a powerful spellcaster; all the elder, higher-ranking witches saw that. That was why she was assigned to mentor Maria despite her only having just ascended. She was wise beyond her experience and had tremendous discernment. It was a shock to all that her infidel great-grandchildren discovered what she was and killed her despite their youth. The elder witches shrugged off Maria’s concerns about Novitiate blind spots and the need to encourage proactive scrying. Their response was simply that, “Disowning of family till death and anti-proliferation are the preferred policies of our kind for a reason. Those who disregard these recommendations make their own beds.”

That might be true, but it was even more reason for Maria to not sit idly by and ignore threats.

“Understood,” Criselda said when the whole story was told. It seemed reasonable enough, so she started giving Maria a tour. The Novitiate took in the expanse of the small house that contained upwards of a hundred crystal balls in myriad circumferences.

A ball hewn from amethyst drew Maria’s attention.

“What do you see in it, girl?” Criselda chided.

“Uhh…” she looked deep into it now. “Nothing.”

“Then it’s not for you,” Criselda said, wresting the ball from Maria’s fingers and placing it back on its stand. “Aesthetics are a non-factor. Every witch can scry some, but you need to be compatible with your crystal. Think of it like a prescription for eyeglasses.”

She nodded again. Her anxiousness and impatience intensified. Maria glanced at the spheres surrounding her, the gallery of multicolored eyes that would allow her to see into any part of the world she desired. Criselda was not looking at the orbs, she knew theywould not lie, but Maria might if she saw another she liked. She, a young adult in witching terms, had been educated, and she thought that meant she knew everything. However, Criselda knew, witch or not, the world would continue teaching lessons and that some refused to keep learning. To that end, Criselda feared that Maria, feeling entitled to the rite of passage, would force a connection. Instead, the younger witch cast her shallow gaze about the room as if expecting her match to be obvious. Then Maria came upon a star-sapphire glass. Gazing into its depths, she saw clouds, the ocean, and the Helix Nebula like a cosmic eye looking back at her. She leaned toward it, mesmerized. Criselda regarded her closely. For a moment, Maria worried she was being fooled, that this one wasn’t really for her, that it was just the enticing swirl of space-dust.

The space-dust threw Maria. It was how she felt looking at the knocker, it was something she should know but couldn’t decide on the significance of.

Is space-dust in the glass good or bad? And does the rule apply to all nebulae and constellations or just some? It’s been so long since Allison made me learn that stuff. Maybe I should’ve reread the basics before my ascension.

Criselda removed it from the stand and carried it to a small, squat table draped in black velvet and flanked by two chairs abutting a wall.

“Want to read from it?” It was closer to an order than a request. Criselda examined Maria, awaiting a response.

“Must I?” Maria asked, feeling desperate to be free of this place.

“Think of it as a test drive.”

I saw something in it, Criselda knows that, Maria thought, why is any sort of test necessary?

“At least tell me this,” Criselda said sounding more than a little impatient. “This line of infidels in your family, how did it come about exactly?”

“My family? What do they have to do with my choosing a crystal ball?”

“Come now, Maria. Certainly, your Mentor made you understand that visions are always veiled by the passions?”

Not wanting to reveal she’d forgotten any of her education, let alone some of the things she was now uncertain of, Maria gave in. “Fine. If you want to know about my ‘passions,’ I’ll tell you. As a young woman, they befell me. I married. Motherhood didn’t thwart my apprenticeship much. After Alison, though—”

“After Alison, You anticipate betrayal.”


“Did you think of children and grandchildren as a liability?”

“Kids are perceptive, but I wasn’t a full-fledged witch then.”

Criselda didn’t take the bait. “Why fixate on children? Adults aren’t immune to insights.”

“What do you want?” Maria snapped, her patience exhausted.

“Read with me?”

“Must I?”

“It’s amazing you ascended being this…insolent, ” Criselda snipped. Reconsidering testing Maria further or just shooing her out of her shop. “You’re required to read it. But if you don’t, I can’t be held responsible.”

“For what?” Maria asked, the edge dulled in her voice, curiosity renewed.


Hearing this, Maria’s mind was made up. “I’m fine, can we settle?”

Criselda dropped her protests, realizing that no other purveyor of crystal balls had ever been held to account for misuse. Despite what this Novitiate had shared, something about Maria seemed off to Criselda, or perhaps she was simply tired—working with witches didn’t lead to conventional business hours. Either way, it was time for her guest to go.

Maria left Vassouras with her new crystal ball.


Putting Maria out of sight did not put her out of Criselda’s mind. Her concerns about Maria’s attitude had the elder witch waxing nostalgic for bygone days when a communal spirit among covens made witches feel responsible for one another. The surge in witch trials made that a relic of the past. Now, the young resented the counsel of their elders. A tale as old as time, Criselda told herself and shut the thoughts out of her mind.

When Maria got back home, she set her glass in her scrying room and gazed within.In the moonlit sapphire mists, Maria honed in on the location of her great-grandchildren, Abigail and Bertrand. A boy and girl near each other in age is a fearsome combination in any witch’s family. It had been such a pair that had vanquished her mentor, Alison. The hour had grown late and the night long when she saw them in their beds. A shared room, incubating their hivemind, allowing them to share their drifting nocturnal thoughts.

“Abby,” Bertrand said in a cartoonishly loud whisper.

“Yeah, Bert,” she responded in kind.

“I was just thinking about grandma.”

“Mee Maw?”

“No, Maw Maw.”

“Oh…” her voice caught. “Why? What’re you thinking about her for?”

“She ever scare you?” Bertrand asked, the maelstrom of clouds swirling around him in Maria’s sapphire.

“A lot.”

“Is it just because she’s old…or…smells weird…has teeth in a cup…”

“No something else…I can’t explain it.”

“I think I know what you mean.”

Maria fell back in her seat, the vision in the ball clouded and vanished. The Helix Nebula appeared for a moment, then disappeared. It was unbelievable. Her greatest fears turned out to be truths. She’d not gotten the ball a moment too soon.

Maria had been preparing for just such an occasion, the spell she had in mind could be cast over a great distance—even through a crystal ball. All she needed was the right opportunity. That situation presented itself one week later when her granddaughter called a sitter to stay with the children.

However, the worried witch’s plan was not proceeding perfectly.

Try as she might, Criselda couldn’t dismiss her concerns about Maria. She’d never seen a Novitiate this frantic before. So, she spied on her every morning through her own glass.

But Maria scried on the children and her granddaughter at night, so she and Criselda had yet to cross paths. All the younger witch knew was that she felt something untoward in the mornings, but she attributed that to a century of not being a morning person and to the fact that she had something pressing on her mind.

When the fateful day arrived, Maria was ready for her most intensive scry yet. Criselda sensed something was amiss—Maria seemed more preoccupied and showed ticks of nervousness—so she returned to watch the Novitiate throughout the day.

That night, sapphire and moonlight filled Maria’s eyes. In a gauzy blue reality, she saw Abigail and Bertrand’s parents saying their goodbyes and leaving a teenage babysitter instructions. As they left, Criselda gazed deeper into her ruby sphere and saw the visage of Maria looking into what appeared to be a purple peephole. Therein, Criselda spied Maria’s great-grandchildren. It had been innumerable years since Criselda felt anything even approximating fear, yet witnessing this tableau froze the blood in her veins; it transfixed Criselda to her glass as she watched over the children and their lurking assailant.

The babysitter played hide and seek with the children until dinnertime. After that, they were left to their own devices. That’s when Maria started reciting her spell.

Criselda tensed, waiting to discover what manner of magic it was.

As soon as Maria started speaking, Criselda recognized the kind of spell. It wasn’t what the younger witch incanted but a sudden involuntary pause that gave her away. During that hitch, a horrific vision besieged Maria. She was being tied to a stake by an angry, pitchfork-toting mob; a match was struck; she was lit aflame and left to scream as she burned and burned till her corpse smoked black as a cauldron. As suddenly as the shuddering vision gripped Maria, so too did a certainty take hold of Criselda, confirming that her suspicions about Maria were correct. For as she watched Maria watching her great-grandchildren, she saw within the seemingly purple orb, a small but unmistakable image of the Helix nebula.

“NO!” Criselda shouted at Maria, doubting her eyes. “Do you not understand? Do you not care?”

Maria restarted her incantation.

Criselda bolted out of her chair, determined to interrupt the killing curse.

In the small, empurpled globe, Criselda watched, horrified as two innocent necks snapped under the force of Maria’s magic.

Quick as lightning, Criselda uttered a cessation charm. Hearing the children scream from half a world away, she presumed she’d saved their lives but could not spare them suffering. The healing charms she sent after that were only partially successful. Before their parents burst into their room, Criselda tossed both children off their beds and onto the floor to give the illusion of some kind of accident. It was an unlikely story, the wild old witch knew--perhaps unbelievable, both kids falling out of bed and breaking their necks simultaneously—but she could only do so much damage control at that point.

Now, Criselda stood and inhaled, this was farther than she’d ever cast a single spell, let alone many. She needed to focus her entire mind and magic on Maria. The first part of her spell she whispered, saying:

“Pequena, pequininha, na esfera diabinha!”

Maria, who had been standing before her chair, shrunk and shrunk again, then disappeared and reappeared inside her star sapphire.

“Daqui para lá sem parar!”

In a moment Criselda was in Maria’s house which was awash in sapphire-tinged moonlight. The haggard sorceress looked around Maria’s living quarters in shock.

“Look at how bright it is! Do you think I had those shawls up because I love Stevie Nicks?” Criselda said, looking at the diminutive Maria now stuck in her ball. The miniature witch yelled, but her size and entrapment made her impossible to hear without additional magics, not that Criselda would be listening.

“You must think I’ve done you an injustice.”

Criselda could see Maria agreed.

“But I don’t know how you failed to retainall you should have before ascending.”

Maria spoke, but Criselda heard nothing.

“Fala criatura!” With a wave of Criselda’s hand, Maria’s voice was now able to fill the room.

“What did I forget?”

“Why take my word for it? Unlike you, young lady, I’m not one to play judge, jury, and executioner quite so recklessly.”

Criselda teleported them without saying another word. Crystal ball in hand, both witches vanished into thin air. Their transport was instantaneous, but Criselda wanted to get under Maria’s skin and cast a time-bending incantation, so she’d feel as if she were traveling slowly, so she’d see the moon, streetlights, and headlights streaked like a long-exposure photograph as they whisked to into a clearing in the dark dense woods.

There was a semicircle of petrified tree stumps which served as seats for a coven of witches who appeared before them in multicolored puffs of smoke, coloring the ichorous night as they appeared amidst deadfall and convened where mortals dared not tread.

Maria was confused. She assumed she’d have a witches’ trial—not as unfair as a witch trial but just as serious for practitioners of the dark arts—but the venue was off.

Mater Tenebrarum, the eldest of the presiding coven of thirteen witches, sat on the highest stump. She streaked blood on her face and placed a tapir skull on her crown, sans mandible. She flicked her wrist, and Maria flung out of the orb to plop behind the defendant’s table, which was but a slab of slate supported by cairns.

“Why’re we outdoors? Why am I not in the High Court?” Maria asked expecting to be surrounded by the ostentatious trappings of some of sorcery’s most storied rulings including the Mater Tenebrarum donning Irish Elk antlers.

At this, Mater Tenebrarum glared at Maria and whispered, “Conquiesco!”

With that, Maria’s lips were sealed by a growth of skin.

Criselda identified herself. It was a formality, for they knew her. She was often behind the plaintiff’s table and had an unblemished record.

“What cause had you for detaining the defendant?”

“She performed harmful magic based upon erroneous scrying on lay children.”

“Elder Witch of Vassouras, do you grant us permission to review your recent memories with regard to these accusations.”

“I do.”

“Cogitationes ostende mihi!” Mater Tenebrarum said waving her wand.

The council of witches saw the Helix Nebula appear in Maria’s ball, they witnessed in miniature, the Novitiate’s certainty and over-anxiousness, felt Criselda’s fear, the odd in-store exchange, the spy enchantment, the fixation on the grandchildren, Alison’s story. So too did they see Maria set to cast a fatal spell on children based on a vision that included a Helix Nebula, her room awash in sapphire and moonlight.

They gaped, aghast.

Out from beneath the podium, Mater Tenebrarum brought out an orb of turquoise crystal. In the ball, she saw the children hospitalized wearing neck braces. Maneuvering her hands around the sphere like a puppeteer, she got a sense of how things had been for them since being hospitalized.

“It could be worse for them…as for you,” Mater Tenebrarum said turning to Maria.

“Regressus!” she said. The skin that sealed Maria’s mouth tore open and bled.

“Did the defendant see the Helix Nebula in the ball that night?”

“I saw something,” she said wiping the blood off her chin and upper lip. “I couldn’t identify it.”

Mater Tenebrarum’s ashen face flushed with an anger she could barely control.

“Are you a child? Can you not recall “The Fortuneteller and Orion”?”

A mix of shame and rage seethed within her. Shame because she could’ve avoided this by waiting a few minutes and rereading rudimentary information; rage because it was a story, something to teach ignorant, newly made witches still in their relative infancy.

“It’s a fairy tale.”

“If the children were a threat, you’d not be here. Now answer my question: Did you see the Nebula, Novitiate?”

Of course, now that it was too late to help her make better decisions, Maria could recall the story verbatim.

The Starlight Soothsayer was the preeminent fortuneteller in Antiquity. Her given name has been buried by the sands of time, but her moniker and story live on.

From crystals she gleaned detailed, flawless readings for centuries on end. However, not even a diviner can see the end of her usefulness approaching.

One night, a young man by the name of Abelard came to her. He lived with being envied, but now feared someone meant him real harm. As soon as the Starlight Soothsayer cast her eyes on the glass, she spied a hunter and a violent end for Abelard. She confirmed that one of his enemies did mean to kill him and that his fateful encounter would begin with his being put in a bowman’s sight.

Not a fortnight later, Abelard hiked a forged forest trail and sighted an archer nocking his arrow. Abelard stopped and charged the archer in a blind rage. The archer didn’t see Abelard’s charge. He remained frozen as Abelard plunged a dagger into his neck.

Bloody-faced, turning from the felled man, Abelard saw a doe and realized the man was hunting it and not him.

Guilt-ridden, Abelard turned himself in. Facing execution, he wished to see the Starlight Soothsayer one last time to learn if his death would be swift and how his family would fare without him. When the augur began to scry again, she saw the same hunter yet. Then she realized she’d doomed Abelard. The Starlight Soothsayer had seen Orion reflected in her orb.

“Novitiate, did you see a Nebula?”

“I…did. ”

“Seeing any celestial body indicates an inaccurate reading.”

Maria made a futile attempt to defend herself.

“It’s a fairy tale.”

“It’s a warning to shroud your glass and to learn how to recognize faulty readings. You did neither of those things.”

Mater Tenebrarum fell silent, deliberating what punishment she ought to mete out.

“Criselda, I insist you observe customers casting scrying spells in-store to combat liars and ignorami in the future. I’ll send you back with a decree to post in case any other ascendants give you issues.”

“Understood, Mater.”

“As for you, Maria,” the Mater Tenebrarum said, “in but a week, you acted as though you’d never learned anything. Worse, you seem to mock the pedagogy that has instructed countless responsible practitioners of the craft through millennia. It’s been a long time since we’ve made someone repeat their apprenticeship, but you deserve a bit more, I think, for your callous disregard and for what some might see as deceit.”

“You don’t mean…” Mater Suspiriorum, whispered giddily, then laughed revealing her bifurcated, serpentine tongue.

“Yes, I think young Miss Horta needs to learn the value of stories.”

Mater Tenebrarum waved her wand, and took the coven, Maria and Criselda to her doorstep. Maria was looking at that sloth-like creature above the knocker again.

Thinking about what Mater Tenebrarum had just said jogged her memory.

It’s a Mapinguari.

But recalling this hirsute, sloth-like humanoid cyclops’s name didn’t prepare her for what happened next.

“Redeo ad vitam,” Mater Tenebrarum said.

They all staggered back as the gold turned into fur, and the Mapinguari grew out of the door headfirst. When it thumped down before them it stood about twelve feet tall. That one huge eye glared at Maria who was motionless save for her trembling lower lip. Though she knew it was purported to have its gaping maw in its midsection as opposed to its head, she was not prepared to have its wakening saliva-slathered right in her face.

“Let me get my affairs in order,” she said weakly.

“Silly Novitiate, you’re not dying. That won’t teach you to follow the rules.”

The coven of witches raised their wands over her, Criselda too, and in one voice spoke, “Magnus malus lupus.”

There was no time for Maria to consider what that spell—which translated verbatim meant “Big Bad Wolf” indicated—because at that moment the beast’s colossal midriff-maw slacked wide, its hands reached out, seizing her. Despite her screams, the Mapinguari was not deterred, nor did any mortal in all of Vassouras hear her. Cold sticky saliva and a warm mouth surrounded her head. Then she felt a suctioning sensation. Eyes closed, barely breathing, she expected the excruciating pain of gnashing, tearing teeth, but that didn’t come. Down the creature’s throat she slid as if being consumed by a python. A few minutes later, in a red, darkness she felt spit-slicked mush hit her. She nearly got sick thinking the creature was trying to vomit but couldn’t eject, then she realized it was being fed bananas. Faintly, as if through a wall, she heard another incantation.

“Custodi ostium.”

She felt everything constricting, her dark world tightened. Then there was a rapping that pounded through her entire body. Her ears rang for minutes on end. Yet somewhere outside her dark hovel, the coven and Criselda both knew that they were sending both the Mapinguari and Maria back into the door knocker.

For a moment all her senses left her, she thought she’d gone into some sensate limbo for a moment. Then she heard them speak again from a muffled outer world.

“Maria Horta, you have been sentenced by the Lower Court of the South American Witches’ Council to a century in this door knocker. After which time you will recommence your apprenticeship. You can use this time to try and reflect on your wrongs and to figure out the spells we cast.”

That last part she’d already done. For the most part. The spell that trapped Mapinguari had been cast on them both, when the time was up, Redeo ad vitam would free her from the two other spells. Maria already knew her near-immortality didn’t make her invulnerable. What frustrated her was learning the hard way that her over-anxiousness could lead her to make mistakes so careless that she forgot the most basic teachings of her kind. Now she had no choice but to think about all she should’ve taken more seriously.

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