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Witchy Woman

Part 3 of 3

Published: Bewildering Stories issue #162

Clementine Blue sat alone in the drawing room of the silent mansion, cross-legged with hands lying face up on her knees as she meditated and focused her third eye.

Once she’d fired Cat’s forge properly, he’d worked through the night banging out the perfect circle with an exact nine-foot radius. He’d attached the hexagram as she’d asked: one equilateral triangle pointing up resting over another pointing down rather than the interlaced triangles of a star of David.

The addition of the six-foot long, six-inch wide iron piece with the smaller six-foot radius circle attached clearly surprised him. Six thin copper lines were set from one circle to the other; he hadn’t asked their significance and she hadn’t offered. Some things were just not shared with non-magical folks who wouldn’t understand how something might be used.

However, Cat had been right about what he’d made; she’d simply had him add a transference coil, which would allow her to absorb the demon and cast it out of this space and time. Although it would be her first time trying it, she was fairly sure it would work, from what she’d read.

Seated on the carpet over the smaller circle, all she had to do was wait. Covering the circles had been Cat’s idea, giving the demon little to be warned about. He and the others were outside the gate, protected as they were by the iron fence. She began to wonder where the old man had gotten that idea when he’d had it erected — iron being the one thing that could contain the power of magic.

They’d been surprised when they’d entered the mansion to find the owner’s wife hanging dead from the second floor railing, but knowing of the demon’s presence made the discovery less of a shock than it normally would have been.

Apparently, from what Poe had mentioned before they’d cut the woman down, she’d known enough to get the proper drop and hadn’t suffered.

Searching the rest of the house would have to wait.

From the double-barreled shotgun that lay empty against the wall at the dead woman’s feet, they figured she’d probably been the one who’d done the shooting outside and burned the vampire; how she’d managed to get the jump on something like that was beyond them.

While Poe and Running Deer carried the dead woman outside, she and Cat cleared the floor of the drawing room and set her connected rings down before rolling the rug back over them.

Before leaving, Cat took one last look around the room. “If that demon gives you any trouble, just call and I’ll get up here and help as I can.”

Clementine could only smile and nod as the giant left her alone. As long as she could get the demon to stand in the circle while in whatever corporal form it had chosen to possess, her trap would have a chance to work. If the demon chose to appear as itself, she would not know if the trap would work until she’d sprung it.

Casting shaded glamor to cover hints of her demon blood and the iron rings, she’d left her own image intact with the hope that any warning the demon might have would come too late for it to stop her.

Time seemed to crawl as the sun’s light began to fade. Just as she was starting to wish she’d brought a lantern, a young blond woman appeared in the archway with a scowl and hands on her hips. Given her outfit, she had to be the maid Este. Poe had mentioned that she worked for the owners. Her third eye warned her that Este was also the demon she’d been waiting for.

“What are you doing in this house? My Master will not be pleased, now get up and get out!”

Clementine patiently waited, looking down at the spot of carpeting within the bigger circle. It was a chance she was taking to get the demon to go where she wanted it to go. Slowly she started to mumble the beginnings of the trap spell.

“Did you hear me?” Este asked again, a smile suddenly appearing as she looked at Clementine. “Wait, you’re a witch just like the one who woke me!”

Clementine ignored the demon entirely as she thought of her dead sister lying impaled against the log, focusing her anger on the carpet spot in front of her.

Rubbing her hands together, Este walked into the drawing room and stopped, clearly puzzled as to what Clementine was doing. “You can get up now, casting witch spells won’t work with me; but then you’d know that, wouldn’t you?”

Clementine stared at the carpet with renewed focus, conserving her energy and patiently waiting. The shaded glamour must be working, for the demon had not noticed anything of her other than her appearance or the iron rings.

“Oh, I get it. You think I can’t see you. Well guess what, I can!” Este yelled as she leaped toward Clementine, annoyed that she hadn’t jumped.

“Okay, enough is enough. I’m tired of this game.” she said angrily, moving to stand over the larger circle as Clementine quickly cast the spell causing an audible snap that echoed through the room; the smell of burning carpet warning the demon where it had burned round and through to reveal the iron ring beneath it.

“A summoning ring? Are you mad?” Este howled, reaching down to pull up the carpet. The site of the hexagram seemed to startle her as she moved to press hands against the invisible bubble that had surrounded her.

Angrily turning around within her prison, Este stopped when she saw the carpet had also burned a path revealing the metal bridge linking the circle she was in with that of another around Clementine.

“Why you silly girl, what do you think you’re doing?” Her eyes moved down and saw the six copper lines and suddenly she laughed. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since someone tried using a Teufelsloch of transference? I hope you realize only Sorcerers have any hope of getting something like that to work, and you are just too fair to be man enough to try. Now let me out and I might yet allow you to leave here alive.”

Slowly, Clementine began chanting her draw spell, carefully rising to her feet as she did so. The demon watched her intently as she stood. “Look, Witch, I’m tired and hungry. Drop the circle and you live. I’ve got work to do, and I find myself in a charitable mood.”

As Clementine finished the cast, the copper lines began to glow; the demon suddenly backed away against the barrier around her circle, fear evident as she saw something that she had clearly not expected. “This is not possible!” Este hissed, looking up at Clementine with red eyes. Suddenly she seemed to understand. “You have blood of my kind in your body. Release me now, and show me how you did this, Witch.”

“I ask you to leave this existence or I will be forced to take you from it myself.” Clementine replied evenly, watching as Este bared her teeth and clenched hands at her sides.

“How dare you speak to me in that tone. Must I teach you how to respect me?” Flicking a hand up, she was surprised to find the walls of her prison flash as it absorbed whatever it was she’d tried to do.

“I ask you, a second time. Leave this existence, or I will take you from it.” Clementine calmly repeated, following the mantra of the spell, as it had to be said and done.

Este frantically looked around her prison, searching for some weakness and finding none. “You can’t do this, it’s not possible. Release me!” she howled, stomping a foot in emphasis.

Fear was beginning to radiate from Este as she realized what Clementine was prepared to do.

Without any choice left, Clementine began the final cast; knowing that if she failed, it would be her life that would be lost and not that of the demon. The copper lines began to slowly pulse with each word as it left Clementine’s lips, her hands coming up as her elbows lowered to her sides and her palms turned down to the floor.

“You can’t do this! You’re nothing but a simple witch!” Este screamed, the air within her prison beginning to swirl around her, spinning to the right while the air around Clementine began to spin to the left.

The faster Clementine spoke as she cast, the faster the winds swirled, as the demon fought the power that had encircled her. Slowly, Clementine turned her open hands palm up again, and began to close her fingers into fists as Este screamed. With the final word of the incantation completed, Clementine reached out with her closed fists and pulled back as Este flew from her prison, across the iron path and toward her.

The last thing Clementine saw was the utter fear in the demon’s red eyes before they collided and Este evaporated into a dust cloud over her.

* * *

Looking up at the ceiling, Clementine realized she was back in her hotel room. Running Deer appeared and gently placed a cool damp cloth over her forehead before leaving the room.

As she tried to sit up, the room spun leading her to collapse back onto the pillow.

She was alive. The thought that the spell might fail had haunted her while she’d cast it.

The door opened and Sheriff Poe entered the room, closing it behind him. Pulling up a chair, he reversed it and sat down next to the bed. “Welcome back,” he said with a genuine smile.

“What happened?” she asked, remembering nothing after she’d completed the spell.

“We’re not entirely sure. There was a brilliant flash of lightning and a clap of thunder that apparently blew out every window in the mansion. We found you in the living room alone, untouched and covered in ash.”

Clementine tried to focus as her eyes refused to comply.

“I’d relax if I were you. It looks like you were successful, however little I may ever completely understand what you did.”

Her eyes finally began to cooperate and stay focused as she carefully turned and sat up on the bed while Poe watched. Clearly, the result of the spell had overwhelmed her completely.

“And the owner?” She finally managed to ask, turning to look at the Sheriff.

He shook his head and frowned. “Found him upstairs in chains, beaten to a pulp and shot several times with the shotgun. Near as we can tell that’s where his wife got the vampire before dragging her out and lighting her up.”

Clementine closed her eyes and looked down at her lap.

“The good news,” Poe continued, “is that the folks that rode in with you apparently represent a company that buys up and manages mines.”

Clementine’s eyes snapped open as she recalled the man and woman from their trip. “Sheriff, you should know that they’re vampires.”

Poe took his hat off and laid it next to his chair. “About that little thing you have there. We — I mean I — could use someone like you around on a regular basis. I’ve taken the liberty of speaking to the folks at the Long Branch and they’ve offered a position as hostess if you’d stay and take it.”

Clementine sighed. She’d thought the goddess had simply brought her here to find her sister and take vengeance against the demon; perhaps it was also a sign that she should stay. “I’ll have to consider that offer for a few days, Sheriff. My parents may wish me to return now that I’ve found Daniela.”

“That brings up another point; the undertakers tell me they’ve found a spot you will find most pleasing for your sister to rest at.” Rising to his feet, he put his hat back on. “Think about it. Either way, we owe you thanks for what you did.”

Clementine looked up to find he’d offered his hand, which she shook before he left her alone.

Lying back on the bed, she felt a headache as it tried to appear and then fade. Looking at the ceiling, she took a deep breath as she tried to make up her mind. “Goddess, why do you do this to me?” she simply said, looking for answers as she thought about what the Sheriff had offered. Her mind wandered to Daniela as she pondered what her sister would have done.

* * *

A few days later, a fully recovered Clementine Blue walked into the telegraph office, taking in the organized chaos that the man named Henry kept at bay. Wearing a visor over his short brown hair and rounded spectacles, he was listening to the sound of distant wire while carefully noting the letters that he could make out in passing.

Waiting patiently, she walked over to look at the message board containing bits of news from points east and west — messages often carrying just enough detail to keep one interested from afar.

Apparently, members of a group called the "Whiskey Ring" stood accused of trying to unsettle the government; her amusement at the power alcohol appeared to hold over some.

A horse named Aristides had carried Oliver Lewis to win the Kentucky Derby in just over two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Although she’d heard of such races, it was doubtful they would catch on given the limited audiences they could draw.

“May I help you, ma’am?” Henry’s soft voice startled her from reading of a man called “Charmer” pitching the first nine-inning shutout in a baseball game.

Turning, she walked back and took a seat next to the telegrapher’s desk. “I would like to send a message to my parents in King’s Cross, Pennsylvania.”

Henry smiled as he reached up and selected a form that he readied in front of him. “Okay, shoot. Just end each sentence with stop for me when you can.”

“Dearest Mother and Father, Blue.” She started, knowing how the news she’d be sending would hit them hard. “Stop,” she added with a sad smile as Henry nodded.

“It is with deep sadness and regret that I report the passing of my sister, your daughter, Daniela through her injuries from... an accident, this week. Stop” Details of how her death occurred would not help their grief any, she realized just catching herself in time.

“She suffered little and meets her destiny as expected in another place. Stop.”

Rising to her feet, Clementine struggled with what she would say next. Clasping hands behind her back, she began to pace across the small office while Henry patiently waited.

“I have been offered a position of employment with the hotel here and will stay through the summer and possible winter near Daniela. Stop.”

“We’ve selected a beautiful spot for her to rest in the warmth of the sun that she so enjoyed as a child. Stop.”

“Spring will bring my decision to stay longer or return home. Stop.”

“Peace from your ever loving daughter, Clementine. Stop.”

“That’s it, then?” Henry asked, noting the sad news he’d be passing down the wire.

“Yes, for now. May I set up an account that will be paid from my wages from the Long Branch?”

Reaching for yet another form, Henry quickly filled in the date of the telegraph message and the amount due. “The name you’d like the account under?” he inquired, pencil hesitating over the top of the form.

“Clementine Blue. Address me at the Long Branch for the time being.”

“Welcome to Goblin’s Toe, Wyoming, Clementine. I think you’ll like it here; I know I have.”

Standing at the door watching a team of large horses pulling a wagon past carrying another load from the mine, she could only smile knowing the men probably had no idea of who now owned them and their load.

It had been amusing to hear the widow of the partner who’d built the mansion had never signed over her shares and managed through the original contract to inherit the mine in its entirety; quickly selling it to Leviticus LaRouchette for quite a profit.

It had proven a distinct possibility that she’d been the one who’d called the demon in the first place.

“With my sister to keep me company, how could I not like where destiny has brought me?”

Henry watched the young woman walk out onto the boardwalk as he carefully began to transmit the station-to-station message to King’s Cross, Pennsylvania.

“Amen, Miss Blue. Amen.”

* * *

The End

Copyright © 2004, 2005 by Robert L. Sellers Jr. All rights reserved.
Please do not use without permission of the author.

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