Updated: Jun 11, 2020
By Glenn Anderson
Light filtered through the stained-glass windows, highlighting particles of dust and casting strange shadows over the castle corridor. A thick-bodied knight yanked on Varetta’s chains, pulling her forward by her wrists. Though the manacles made her ache, they were, in fact, useless. If they knew the magic she was capable of, they would have already cut off her hands.
“Stop that,” the knight snarled.
“I’m sorry,” Varetta responded, “nervous habit.”
“Why so nervous?” the knight asked with blatant sarcasm. “Not like you’re on trial.”
He used his free hand to push open an enormous set of wooden doors, revealing a chapel-like stone room. More stained-glass windows surrounded the chamber, and fine oak pews flanked a carpeted walkway. On the opposite side of the room, a small council sat behind a fused trio of desks. At the end of the carpet was a podium, and Varetta was led there by her guard. No one spoke until the guard returned to the entrance and shut the towering doors.
“Lady Varetta,” the leftmost councilor said, “you have been found guilty of unlawful magic, and are here today to receive your sentence.”
Varetta sized up the councilors. The one who had just spoken was young and eager. He would be the easiest to break, as would the pathetic meat-headed guard behind her.
“As you are no doubt aware,” the middle councilor said, “the punishment for seizing a Leyline is exile.”
The central councilor wore a voluminous robe adorned with cords and baubles; an archmage. He would be more difficult to bind, but he was also senile, and she was confident she could break him too.
“However,” the rightmost man said, his words echoing with authority, “due to the… magnitude of your crimes, the council has decided that more drastic measures must be taken.”
The final councilor was not so much a man as he was a fortress. A pristine tabard and engraved plate mail clearly distinguished him as a saint. Varetta felt a pang of worry, he would be nearly impossible to sway. And what did he mean more drastic measures?
She would have to act fast.
“With the Lady’s guidance,” the saint continued, “the council has decided that you shall be sentenced to death.”
“Although,” the young noble butted in, “perhaps we were too hasty in our judgement.”
The other two shot the noble confused, angry looks.
The guard behind her pulled out the manacle keys. Child’s play.
“The boy speaks with authority that he does not have,” said the archmage. “The council has decided on the matter, and we do not rescind such decisions on a whim!” His tone was a mix of teacher-student and irritation.
The wizard rubbed his temple. “As the council has stated, you shall be executed posthaste.”
It appeared she would need more than a snap to conquer his mind.
“Councilor,” Varetta began, “it does seem a tad unjust for me to receive a punishment more severe than is typically prescribed. I have been found guilty, yes… but surely, even now, there is room for reconsideration.”
Her tongue plucked the inside of her mouth, completing the spell. Her enchantments were usually subtle; a snap, a touch, a laugh, a jest. This time, however, she was forced to cast through speech.
The mage paused, and the two entered an imperceptible mental duel. The archmage’s intellect naturally made him harder to control, but Varetta had drained many Leylines, and her power had grown substantially over the last several months. The saint stared with suspicion at his fellow councilor, and everyone fell silent, hoping for a different response.
She felt his mind collapse. Like the taste of an indulgent pastry, it filled her with an excess of elation. She had felt some resistance, true, but that made the caving of his mind all the more satisfactory.
“…she has a point. It is unusual for us to assign execution for this crime.”
The saint frowned. It would not be long before he put the pieces together.
She needed to move faster.
The guard walked up behind her, keys in hand.
“Sir, it appears your fellow councilors feel differently. Perhaps you misinterpreted the Lady. She is, after all, a merciful being.”
Varetta’s lavender lips released the next spell. Invisible. Venomous. She pried at the saint’s mind, trying to control him as well.
He growled before responding: “Do not speak to me of doctrine! If you truly held our Lady in any reverence, you would never have drained the Ley from her lands!”
Varetta’s words were having no effect. The saint’s mind was well-guarded. She felt herself perspire, though whether it was worry or a Ley craving, she could not tell. She would have to cast a stronger spell and risk him discovering her enchantments.
“Perhaps I am guilty in your eyes, but I implore you to make an exception. The Lady’s mercy is inspiring to me, and I swear to you I will seek redemption in exile. My crimes are great, but give me a chance to make it right.”
She focused a large amount of magical energy into her words, ripping, tearing, clawing at the saint’s mind. She was visibly shaking now, in desperate need of more Ley. She waited feverishly for the spell to take effect.
But he did not waver.
Snap. Snap. Snap.
In the silence, her snaps echoed through the chamber, making them far more noticeable. She tried to stop herself, but it was one of the only ways she could keep her trembling at bay. The saint’s mind was impenetrable. To make matters worse, he was now aware she was invading his thoughts. A tense quiet permeated the room.
Snap. Snap. Snap.
The saint glared at her snapping, then shook his head.
“I had sincerely hoped you were repentant, Lady Varetta, but now I see you for what you are. Your vile magic may make fools of the undisciplined, but they hold no sway over me. My heart belongs to the Lady.”
Snap. Snap. Snap. CLANK!
Varetta’s manacles clattered loudly to the floor. She whirled to face the guard and caressed his cheek. He was her slave now. She felt a rush of pleasure as she whispered in his ear:
The guard ripped his sword from its scabbard and moved between her and the saint. The saint vaulted his desk, summoning his Truthblade mid-fall. The other councilors started to move, but Varetta whipped her now-free hands and they both collapsed, scooting their wooden chairs loudly across the stone floor. They were likely dreaming of her now.
Varetta started to run for the door, but her feminine garb made sprinting impossible. While her pet engaged the saint, she kicked off her slippers and stopped to rip the seams of her dress. Her hands quivered and her head pounded.
Propriety be damned, she thought, I need more Ley.
The saint made short work of the guard. After exchanging a few blows, the superior swordsman was clear, and the saint’s Truthblade met the guard’s mail with a heavy blow, smashing him to the floor. He did not get back up.
Though she could have fled down the castle hall, she suddenly remembered the reason she had allowed herself to be captured in the first place. She gazed back at the sleeping archmage. Unfortunately, the saint now stood between her and her prize.
“I NEED IT!” she screeched, one of her hair ties coming loose, “AND YOU’RE IN MY WAY!”
Varetta clapped her hands and the pews snapped together, obstructing the saint’s path. He immediately began cutting through them with his greatsword.
Her veil of innocence was gone, as was her subtlety. Her hair tumbled to her shoulders, scraggly and unkempt. Her torn fabrics swayed chaotically as she positioned herself for the coup de grace.
Just as the saint slashed through the last of the pew barricade, she met his eyes. She stared into him, and for the moment, he was spellbound. For all that she could accomplish with a snap, a laugh, and a caress, nothing could match the power of her stare. Time froze as she searched his soul for a way to enslave him.
Normally it took seconds to discover the desires of men: power, wealth, love. But here, after searching the depths of his heart, all she could find was the Lady. Her ethereal likeness surrounded his heart, clutching it in a divine embrace. She was beautiful. Pure. Holy. Protective.
Varetta removed her.