The Sorceress's Tale
by Rudi Dornemann
The acolyte knocked before going in. He didn’t hear a response, but he knew she’d heard him.
The air inside was thick with the reek of rotting fabric and rich with the sound of hundreds of crickets. The Grand Metropolitan Sorceress hadn’t left this small room in over a decade, but still she kept the peace throughout the city and the suburbs beyond.
“Mistress?” said the acolyte. “Your dinner?”
“Keep it,” said a husky voice from the darkness.
The acolyte hadn’t heard her speak more than a murmured “leave it on the table” or “less pepper next time, please” in months.
“I’m doing a great working tonight,” said the sorceress. “My last, if it works.”
“You need to keep up your strength madam.” The acolyte felt around until he found an empty chair, and set the tray on the seat. “When you skip meals, you always feel it the next day...”
“If this works,” said the sorceress. “Tomorrow won’t happen.”
The acolyte stumbled back into something that jingled like crystal.
“That was too dramatic,” said the voice from the darkness. “There will be a tomorrow; it just won’t happen for many years. I’m turning back time.”
“What? You can’t.”
“I have to.” The sorceress’s voice had dropped its usual commanding tone. “I can’t hold back the hungry realms more than another few weeks. We can’t win against them.”
The acolyte swallowed twice. “But everything might change. And we still won’t be able to stop them.”
“We would have been safe, if I’d never done the Spell of Cold Knife.” Her voice was right in front of him. “It’s my fault.”
“But,” said the acolyte, “without that spell, you couldn’t have stopped the apocalypse meme. Thousands would have died.”
“I’ll find another way.”
“My parents,” said the acolyte,” they met in one of the refuges, while the knife spell ran.”
“They might still meet,” said the sorceress.
The acolyte swung at the voice, felt his nails scratching her cheek.
“Mistress! I’m sorry...”
“Blood,” said the sorceress. “The final ingredient, and I couldn’t shed it myself.”
The acolyte tripped as he stumbled back. The darkness was going out.
“Thank you,” said the Grand Metropolitan Sorceress. “I hope we meet again.”
Then the room was gone and Eyve Ariel was a girl again, neither a sorceress nor grand, standing in a vacant lot with mud on her journeywoman’s gown, no one to see or hear her as she shivered in spite of the heat.