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“At the stroke of midnight, you will all die,” she read the note out loud. Her heinous laugh filled the air. “Who dares threaten the queen of witches? Who,” she bellowed.

Her subjects who had gathered in the courtyard spoke in muffled, terrified voices. She forced her way through the crowd to a witch cowering at the back. She could always sense fear. Towering over the young witch, she said, “Speak.”

“I went to check the mail box at the entrance to find this letter had burned a hole through the box. The Bat that delivered it was lying dead on the side. It even burnt my hand when I picked it up. Look.” She showed Revella her palm.

“You didn’t find it necessary to bring this to my notice immediately?” she said.

The only response from the curled up witch was the sound of her sobs.

Furious, Revella forced the witch out of her way and stormed into her dungeon.

A century ago, 30 witches had escaped the tortured lives in Pastomeen to wander into the dense forests of Ladshol. Here, they carefully constructed a dungeon in a cave to begin living there. They had stayed hidden till a decade ago 10 witches had lost the power to stay in exile and returned to Pastomeen. These witches were public insulted and sent back on exile. Afraid to return to their home, they had fled, only to be later killed. The kingdom of Pastomeen was on the hunt for the remaining missing witches, to finish the business they had started. The witches had exposed the other witches and made them vulnerable to an open attack. But, an attack was impending they knew. However, the note was a warning and had stricken fear in their hearts. Even in the ruthless heart of their Queen.

Revella paced up and down her corner racking her brains for a clue that would lead her to their assassins. Was this a threat? Was it a saviour in disguise? Interrupting her thoughts, her friend Mausila knocked. “It is me, Mausila. Can I have a word?”

“Come in,” came the response.

“We must leave immediately Queen. We can fly around for a while. The bats can keep an eye out for the assassins. We will return when the threat has passed.”

“But Mausila, we have no clue what is being sent to do the deed. It could be more powerful than our combined strengths. I cannot put you all in risk by leaving here.”

“If that note was sent by our assassins Queen, we are already at risk,” she reasoned.

Revella was not convinced. “It is still dangerous. We are a large number,” the Queen spoke.

“Those witches who betrayed us have made us vulnerable, Queen. You have stood by us. You need to act now,” she retorted. “No need to be mad, Mausila. Give me twenty minutes. I will think of something more concrete. But as a precaution prepare to leave in less than an hour for two weeks at least. Get the carriages ready,” the Queen spoke calmly.

Mausila nodded and excused herself. Revella was cornered and felt wrecked. Who had sentenced them to death? However, she had no time to rationalise this note. Or do any investigation in the matter. With less than 6 hours left, they had just enough time to leave.

They must constrain themselves to 3 witches maximum and plan a meeting in Urwandpol in a week’s time, she thought. Our path back can be routed from there. This should give everyone some possibilities to escape death or fight it. In small groups, the wrath of the witches was more vindictive.

Revella packed her sack and left her room to see the other witches preparing to leave. She asked everyone to instruct their carrier Bats to fly close to the carriage. This will keep us informed of each other’s whereabouts and since no one but the witches could intercept the messages from the Bats, we would not be leaking any vital information. The witches broke up into 6 groups; 4 with 2 witches and 3 with 4 witches. They all took off in their carriages. The carriages were swift moving objects with wings and a navigation system; all created by the witches. The moved at the speed of light and could not be spotted by anyone, even an assassin.

They waved goodbye to their home of a century; unsure they will ever see it again. For now, they had escaped death, thought Revella. Just for now.

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