haven; 2:10 am
Thankfully, Haven was empty when we arrived, and I was able to finish brewing the potion without disturbance. Raf stood guard as I carefully crushed the glowing green flowers with a copper pestle and sprinkled them clockwise into the potion.
I was all too aware of our limited time; the rest of the witches were out celebrating the full moon, but I had no idea when they’d return. I didn’t know how to explain the potion; we weren’t due to attempt the ritual again for another month. I also didn’t know if I could face them, knowing that the mirror had accused the coven of murdering my mentor.
I only needed to finish this potion. If this worked, I could forget all of this. I hoped.
Finally, finally, the potion turned a pale violet, and I quickly scooped some into a glass vial. Before I could stopper it, however, I heard the characteristic pops of a teleportation charm.
“What are you brewing?” Tehar demanded. She smelled strongly of sweat, spirits, and magic. She stalked towards the cauldron, and I hurriedly tipped a jar of frog’s feet into the pot, turning the potion into a viscous brown. Immediately, the room filled with a thick sulfuric smell. The potion was useless, now; I could only hope my small vial would be enough.
She sniffed and held her nose. “Plumbob, that smells awful. Does Mako know you’re wasting her ingredients?”
“I was brewing a protection potion,” I lied, and Tehar snorted.
“That’s a lie,” she said. “I saw you dump frog’s feet into it. What were you doing?”
Her eyes fixed on my hands, which were still crusted with dirt. Before I could stop her, she grabbed my hand and rubbed some of the dirt between her fingers. “This is from a cemetery,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “What were you doing back there?”
Mako appeared, and I felt my heart sink. Tehar, I could handle, but Mako? I wasn’t so sure. Besides, what if my potion didn’t work? If I broke all relations with Haven now, I wouldn’t have the chance to brew another.
“Mako,” I said, keeping my voice steady. “I was brewing a protection potion. Tehar’s sudden arrival made me accidentally knock some frog’s legs in, but I’d be happy to pay for the lost ingredients.”
“Hm,” Mako said coolly. Then, to my horror, she turned to Raf and touched a wand to the hollow of his throat. “What did you two brew?”
Her wand glowed a pale red, and I saw the tendons in Raf’s neck begin to bulge. He clutched at his mouth, eyes wide, as he tried to stop himself from speaking.
He looked at me, and I knew then that there was no repairing our relations with Haven. I nodded, and, without another second’s delay, Raf spun, arcing a leg towards Mako. Before the blow could land, Mako sent him crashing to the ground with a wave of her wand.
“Raf!” I shouted and turned to face Mako. “Mako, I don’t want to fight you,” I said, holding up my wandless hands.
“Too late,” she hissed.
Raf pulled himself to his feet and, his teeth clenched, attempted to cast a curse, but —
I saw his wand glow red hot, and he dropped it with a yell.
“You think you can defy us, dog?” Tehar sneered. “You can’t lift a finger against us.”
Raf stumbled back, eyes wide. Was this what he’d been talking about earlier? I’d thought it had been more of a metaphorical imprisonment, but it seemed the coven’s hold bit deeper.
With a lazy whirl of her wand, Tehar froze him solid.
“No!” I screamed.
Had — had she killed him? No, he was only frozen, but I knew I had to reverse the state quickly if I wanted to avoid permanent damage. And to do that, I needed my wand. I’d set it down on the side table in my haste to brew the potion, and I was sorely regretting that decision. Mako stood in between me and the wand, and I didn’t want to draw attention to my fallen weapon.
So, instead, I did what I did best — yell.
“You killed Marietta and now you do this to Raf?” I demanded. “How dare you?”
Mako stumbled back. “Marie-how-”
“Yeah, I know you killed her, Mako,” I spat. “If you think I’m ever joining your coven now, you’re wrong.”
Looking stricken, Mako teleported away.
Mako was gone in a flash, and Tehar paled. “Mako,” she breathed, looking lost. I laughed.
“Mako only cares about Mako,” I said.
“No,” Tehar breathed, but I could see that finally she, too, was realizing where she stood in her friend’s eyes — she was a pawn in Mako’s game and nothing more. We all were pawns.
If I were a better person, I might have felt sorry for the witch — after all, Mako had tricked me, too.
But I wasn’t.
So, instead, I lunged for my wand, with a grim smile teetering on joy, did the same thing to Tehar that she’d done to Raf.
She could stay frozen like that for all eternity for all I cared.
“Who’s the dog now, Tehar?”
Then, with another spiteful look in the frozen witch’s direction, I turned to my friend and cast the counter curse.
When he’d defrosted, I said, “Come on. We have to cast this ritual before Mako returns.”
He glanced at Tehar, who was still frozen mid-grimace, and I shrugged. Odds were, though, a dozen Haven witches would be returning any minute now, and I didn’t want to be here when Tehar was defrosted.
“Let’s go,” I said, and Raf nodded.