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The Neutralist: Chapter 2

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The Neutralist

The Neutralist: Chapter 2

 “Who the hell are you?” Trinity snapped as she stepped closer to the new girl. “We weren’t informed that we would be getting extra help.”

The new girl simply smirked and waved her off.

“Come on,” I said as I put a careful hand on Trinity’s shoulder, “If you’re going to be a member of this team then we deserve to know who you are and where you came from.”

That’s when she surprised me by saying, “You must be Joan. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Her voice, it was smooth and regal, yet incredibly casual.

“Uhh yeah, I’m Joan,” I whispered as I looked at Zoe. “Do you know who this girl is?”

Zoe looked up from her book, clearly agitated. “You guys seriously can’t figure this one out on your own. It’s so obvious it’s almost sickening,” she said as she sat up and looked at the girl. “We’ve been assigned a Neutralist, haven’t we?” she asked the girl.

“Impressive,” the girl murmured, “you must be the brains of this team.”

“Your rotten attitude gave you away,” Zoe stated simply before returning to her book.

Trinity and I shared a quick glance, “A Neutralist?”

“Really ladies?!” Zoe sat up in her fury, but the new girl motioned for her to remain where she was.

“In all your years of witch hunting you ladies have never heard of a Neutralist?” she asked us as if there was a pop quiz coming up. When we didn’t respond she continued, “Well then, let’s start with the basics…I’m a witch.”

Trinity’s jaw hit the floor. “You’re a…and we’re…and you…how?” she asked unable to formulate the proper questions.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said with an odd sinister smirk. She slowly slipped out of her jacket before revealing both her wrists to us.

“How does that happen?” I asked trying to process exactly what I was looking at.

On her left wrist was an inverse pentagram, the sign of a Devil’s witch.

On her right wrist was a normal pentagram, the sign of a God’s witch.

“Witches must pledge allegiance to one or the other, never both,” Trinity stated with all the confidence in the world. “There is no way you can utilize both dark and light magic. It just doesn’t work that way.”

“You’re trying to tell a witch how her coven contract works? You are a cocky little brat, aren’t you?” she said with that same smooth smirk. It was starting to make me uneasy. “There is only a handful of Neutralist witches out there now that the Coven Wars ended over a half a century ago. Needless to say I feel slightly responsible for the whole fiasco, but that’s neither here nor there. All you need to know is that I belong to both covens and that I’m here to help you with your hunts.”

“How can a witch help witch hunters?!” Trinity asked, still unsure.

This new girl sighed and then frowned, “Okay…I was hoping to keep this from you girls but it appears as if I’m going to have to be honest. I am the daughter of Ignacio Malum and Sveta Veritas.”

“I’ve heard those names somewhere,” I felt as if the answer was on the very tip of my tongue.

There was a loud thud that came from the side of the room. Trinity and I both turned to see Zoe propped up on one knee on the floor, hand over her chest, and head bowed.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Trinity snapped.

“She is the eldest daughter of the first witches. Ignacio, the first Devil’s witch and Sveta, the first God’s witch. We are in the presence of Coven Princess, Armina Malum-Veritas.”

“What?!” Trinity and I both screamed.

The new girl, Armina, was now sitting on her bed with her fingertips pressed into her forehead. “This was exactly what I was hoping to avoid,” she said with a groan. “Yes, I’m the Coven Princess, but that will not get in the way of my mission here.” She motioned for Zoe to rise before slowly starting to unpack her books.

They were enormous and immediately filled the room with a strange musty smell. We all sat in complete silence and watched her pull out book after book. Then she started to pull out mass amounts of chalk. It was just an odd combination.

“What are those books for?” I finally asked, breaking the silence.

She looked up and pushed a piece of hair out of her face, “These old things? They’re the original book of spells and incantations written by my mother and father. A few are seal books, but I had mastered those by the time I was a hundred years old so I don’t use them very often. Others are records so that I can keep track of who is where and doing what.”

“May I look over them sometime?” Zoe asked, her interest suddenly perked.

Armina smiled, “Of course, I hear you’re quite the book worm.”

“So how old are you?” Trinity asked, smiling as if she was about to win a fight or something.

“I’ve been around since about the time of Rome,” she stated with an ease that made all of us a little uncomfortable.

“Wow so, you’re like ancient.” Trinity said with a smirk.

Armina turned a glare on her like fire in the dead of night, “Watch your words, Devil’s witch!”

“Excuse me?!” Trinity snapped.

“You may try to hide it, but the truth of the matter is that you have two vials of evil witches blood lodged in your wrists,” Armina retorted, placing her hand on her hip. “All of you have witches blood in your wrists. It’s the only way you could function as witch hunters.”

“Please, witches are dropping like flies today, and it’s all thanks to the inner workings of the coven,” Trinity leaned back against the door with a stupid smirk on her face. “We barely have to lift a finger.”

Armina’s eyes glazed over as she slowly tilted her head to the side. “I fear that you and I are starting off on the wrong foot,” she stated as she suddenly squinted hard in our direction, more so at Trinity than me.

“She’s just got a temper, don’t let her get you in a crabby mood,” I said with a dismissive wave of my hand.

“Joan!”

When I turned back to Trinity I realized what Armina was really doing. She wasn’t trying to scare us into thinking that she was crazy, she was proving it. Along the floor there was a seal being burned into the wood panels.

“Woah!” I cried as I dove into her line of sight and pressed my palms together.

She suddenly smirked and closed her eyes, “Vixen.”

Before I could react I was tackled to the ground and held down by something much stronger than myself. When I finally managed to turn my head I noticed that it was a black and white fox with eyes burning bright like a wildfire.

“If you wouldn’t have jumped in the way it would have worked out better, but so be it,” she crooned with a dark giggle. “That’s my demon fox, Vixen. She mostly handles the small stuff, but don’t let her fool you. She’s one tough cookie.”

“Isn’t a demon fox like…against your contract or something?” the wretched beast had taken to curling up on my back whilst Trinity tried to formulate a way to get her off me.

“You don’t need chalk to activate seals,” Zoe stated as she glanced at the floor. “That’s extraordinary all on its own, but to produce a full demon fox from one without even lifting a finger. Just wow.”

“Do you wanna be an extraordinary friend and get this fox off me?!” I snapped at her.

“My father wrote the book of seals and my training with him started very young. As he learned them so did I. It takes centuries to be able to simply envision a full seal in your mind let alone burn it into a surface. I’ve mastered it though, makes things easier on me.”

“Can you get this thing off me?!” I screamed at her.

“Vixen,” she whistled causing the fox to lift its head, “come to momma.”

She ran over my head before rushing over to Armina and jumping into her arms. There was a subtle glimpse of admiration in her eyes before they turned on me. It was like staring into the eyes of a ravenous crow. Dark, foreboding, and teeming with secrets that were better left untold. She was intimidating to say the least, frightening to say the most, and yet she was claiming that she was help.

“I hope we can all learn to get along ladies,” she said with a smart smirk. “I don’t like to be the point of contention for any reason, so I hope things can start going smoothly.”

§§§§§§§ 

I lay on my bed and pretended to scan through a basic book of seals, all the while assessing the three girls in front of me. Joan was staring into her laptop twirling her braid around her finger, soft honey blonde locks wrapping time and time again around her hand. She already seemed to have gotten used to my presence there. I watched her green eyes lazily drift across the screen once more; obviously a God’s witch had donated the blood for her vials. The light magic practically glowed around her.

My focus lingered on Zoe for just a moment; she had already proven herself to be the brains of the team. I didn’t need much to complete my assessment of her, because we’d already met, inadvertently. The vials of blood from both covens were testament to that. The first Neutralist witch hunter, her auburn hair and pale skin were no stranger to me. She was absorbed in the books I had brought, so I swept my gaze to Trinity.

She was staring right back. Bold, but easily intimidated, our eyes met and she looked down. She was small, but experience had taught me to never underestimate someone because of their size, a lot of power could dwell in a small host. Her short black hair was almost boyish, but it suited her pale skin and lean muscular build. She’d resist me the most.

Joan startled me out of my ponderings by shouting and turning her laptop towards me. “Is this your home!?” On the screen were several images of the castle where my parents lived, and where I had grown and trained. I looked at her and smoothly replied, “No, it was a dwelling, a battlefield, a training ground.. but never a home.” She looked back at her screen, and her eyes widened. “What stone is this? In the courtyard? Its blood red, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“The stone of the courtyard has long been stained with the blood of both Covens; thousands of years have passed since the Wars began, but that is where they started; where I started them.” I saw her swallow at my explanation. So I continued. “At the time, I don’t think I understood how high the cost for my decision was going to be. I was young, and I was naïve enough to love both my parents dearly. I was ignorant enough to believe that walking in both paths would please them.” I stopped, and looked at Joan. She was staring at me with her mouth agape and her eyes wide open. She was obviously eager to hear me talk about my past, and normally I would not waste my time discussing it, but I had to explain sometime otherwise they’d never trust me.

            “So you’re saying that they blamed you for the Coven Wars?” Trinity blurted out. I smirked at her from my place on the bed. “Yeah, well. I wouldn’t say they blamed me for it; the Wars actually were my fault. My first formal introduction to the Covens and I decided to break all precedents, and choose neither side. I thought that everyone would be proud, I had mastered both magics, I had learned to walk the line of light and shadow, of the Lord and of Satan; more powerful than any God’s witch or Devil’s witch alone. Like I said before, I was naive.”

 I slipped off my leather jacket and pulled my shirt above my head, revealing a barrage of scars on my tanned skin. “The handprint was where my father crushed me to the ground. His skin was burning with his rage. The jagged one across the center that was Mother, lightening doesn’t burn like flame; it feels cold as it rips the flesh from your back.” I lowered my shirt and moved on. “The covens, of course, were outraged. And they had every right to be. I suppose watching my parents punish me after I’d sworn to my contract set everyone off. It was chaos; they nearly drove our species to extinction. And the fighting didn’t stop. They warred for millennia. Creating and destroying armies at will; they shed each other’s blood with no mercy or remorse.” I shrugged and redressed. The conversation was now over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Neutralist

Folder: 
The Neutralist

The Neutralist: Chapter 1

            The town encompassed all of one street; a mile long stretch that ran along the length of the east side of the lake. Lined with houses, small shops, and quaint inns it was a quiet and restful town; sealed off from the world in its own little bubble, it was immune to the pressures and chaos of societal life. Steeple Chase was a lovely, connected community where neighbors acted neighborly, and families were connected by years of friendship.

            Looking closer, Armina could see that behind this entertaining façade there was unrest brewing and boiling. Deep within, at the core of this charming North-Eastern town was her destination, The Academy. The brick was worn and faded, a hundred years’ worth of secrets ingrained in their porous surface. Spires and steeples dominated the skyline, while cobblestone paths, elegant stairways, and ivy-covered pillars enhanced the property. The bell tower pierced the heavens, announcing its authority over the campus. In the glow of sunset, it was enchanting. Dark and profound, the aura emanating from The Academy was penetrating; borderline overpowering.

            Winding her way through the small grounds Armina took in all of it. Her casual glances showed her the truth, and she brushed away the feeling of fascination that she knew was part of the school’s disguise. Even though the spell of the beauty surrounding her had little effect on Armina’s mood she still pulled the power of the place into her being and sighed at the sense of fullness it brought her. The Academy would be her greatest tool, and she was eager to set to work.

She moved silently through the light snow, making her way towards the administrative building, it was twilight now and the glow from the full moon made every flake shine and glitter; so that it looked like it might be raining diamonds instead of frozen drops. Though Armina was enjoying her relaxing walk to what was sure to be a taxing encounter with The Academy’s presidents Molly and David Knight; she was exceedingly alert. There was a commotion on the far side of the lake that she could not manage to tear her attention away from. She sensed magic, in both of its natural forms, but there was something else; a weak, fluttering heartbeat of a magic that seemed to cower underneath the power of the magic around it. She pondered at its existence for only a moment more before moving on to climb the staircase, and attend her meeting.

Pitiful. It was the only word Armina could conjure up to describe the two mousy, pale, groveling beings that had greeted her at the top of the steps. She was quite certain that she would hardly have to do anything to have these two under her control. It was a shame really, since she’d been hoping for a more interesting and challenging evening. Molly Knight’s hair was as pale as her skin, and likewise her skin had a slight golden glow mimicking the color of her shoulder-length locks. She must have only stood five feet tall, as Armina found herself looking over the top of her head quite often, and had to make a conscious effort to lower her eyes and pay attention when the quiet little creature addressed her. Her husband stood a mere three inches higher, with auburn hair and eyes that reminded Armina of Tiger’s Eye marbles. Where Molly was difficult to notice, David was difficult to ignore. Overly friendly, overly diplomatic, overly happy; he was just over enthusiastic about everything and nothing or at least he tried to act like he was.

 She smiled as they greeted her, welcomed her to their Academy, and made general nuisances of themselves with their ridiculous small talk. Then it occurred to her that she wasn’t smiling out of politeness; she was smiling because of a fleeting thought that had grown to dominate her mind. The Directors of the Witch Hunter Society were going to be disgustingly easy to control.

§§§§§§§

 

It felt as if the frown on my face had somehow been permanently etched there considering these past few weeks. I could smell my jacket crumbling off of me as it turned to ash and drifted down into the accumulating pile on the floor. My skin was untouched, which was a plus, but somehow charred leather smelled like failure. That is, if I had to associate a scent with failure.

My best friend, Trinity, was beside me looking quite contrary. Her lips were a light shade of blue while her body was shaking uncontrollably and dripping wet. Though she was clearly on her way to hypothermia her temper was flaring in her eyes like the fire that had destroyed my jacket.

My other friend, Zoe, was on the other side of her. She had been untouched throughout our entire mission. Her eyes were set lazily on the wall behind her parents’ heads as they shook their heads at the sight of us. Her mind was clearly at ease despite our mess up tonight.  

“You…okay wait,” her dad, Daniel, started as he sat down at the desk and put his head in his hands. “What happened again?”

Before I could open my mouth to respond Trinity fell into a rage-driven rant. “We were about to nab the witch. Really, Joan and I had him cornered! Suddenly, BAM! He sets this giant fireball on a course for us. We asked Zoe to back us up, but all she managed to do was knock it off course!”

“At least I accomplished a lot more than being thrown into the lake,” Zoe interjected in her normal monotone.

“The fireball hit Joan!” Trinity continued, completely ignoring Zoe’s comment. “She dropped down and started to roll around to try to put the fire out, so it was just me and the evil ass-wipe you sent us after. I tried to hit him with a power surge, but he hit me with one so hard that I was thrown into the lake! The frozen lake! Then when I finally got back up the hill and was going to attack again Zoe was helping Joan into the main building.”

“Zoe was unable to defeat the Devil’s witch. She tried to bind him in his place, but her spell was easily broken,” I stated calmly. “I’m grateful that rather than going after the witch, Zoe chose to stay and help me.”

Molly put her hand on her husband’s shoulder as he let his head fall from his hands and onto the desk top. We all remained still, not sure if we could fall any farther from their good graces. Daniel and Molly were great people, even better parents, but that didn’t help us when it came to regulating the forces of good and evil in the witch world.

“The main issue stands. You let one of the most wanted Devil’s witches walk away from a fight,” Daniel said with a sigh. “We may never get the chance to catch him again.”

“In my defense,” I stated quietly, “I was on fire.”

“I was in the frozen lake!”

Zoe merely shrugged in her own defense. “I tried,” she said as she brushed some of the drops from Trinity’s dripping hair off of her jacket.

Molly sighed, “Did you at least see which way he went?”

“Northeast,” Zoe stated matter-of-factly. “He didn’t sustain any injuries during the fight, so I doubt there will be any chance to track him. You’re better off to let him reappear again and take him on then.”

“Sure, now she has a plan,” Trinity hissed under her breath to me.

I elbowed her hard and set my eyes back on Molly and Daniel, “I know you’ve heard this from us a lot lately, but the next one won’t get away. We just need some more fine-tuned training and we’ll be the best squad you’ve ever had!”

Their eyes told me that they didn’t believe me and way deep down in my heart I wasn’t sure if I believed them either. They had trained us each to have a sort of role when it came to being a team. I felt obligated to be the leader since I had no fear of witches and had been infused with God’s witch blood. They were mortals in a way too and therefore were just as threatened by us normal mortals as we were by them. My sole job was to keep Zoe and Trinity from eating each other alive while also serving as an example for the both of them. Although, as of recently, things weren’t working in my favor.

 Trinity was more of the spit-fire on our small team. Though she was deathly afraid of witches, she tried to compensate by morphing her image into one of a tough and unmoved creature. Her blood was mixed with that of a Devil’s witch to give her an extra amp of power when she needed it the most, though she rarely ever got that far.

Zoe had been a failed experiment. The Hunters Society had thought they could create the perfect balance between good and evil by inserting vials filled with both God’s witch and Devil’s witch blood. The project was an instant failure as these hunters could barely use their magic at all. Those that did had to have a level of training that went beyond that of any of us, which might account for Zoe’s braininess. She read about spells more often than she cast them.

“We’ve given you many chances to prove yourselves girls, somehow it just isn’t working out for you,” Molly stated worriedly. “We considered maybe giving you some extra help. An extra set of hands maybe to help you on these missions. Would that be alright with the three of you?”

We all shouted out varied responses. Mine being, “Yes!”

Trinity’s being, “Hell no!”

And Zoe’s was just to shrug in indifference.

Molly and Daniel both blew out a long aggravated sigh. They would never yell at us, but they had other ways of expressing their disappointment.

“We’ll deliberate amongst ourselves and give you our answer by the end of the day,” Daniel said quietly. “In the meantime you can go back to your rooms and clean up. While you’re at it, think about the repercussions of the loss you had tonight, would you?”

“Why don’t you think about replacing our messed up clothes, huh?” Trinity quickly countered before I even had the chance to stop her. “Some of us try our hardest to get the job done, sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way.”

“Trin,” I snapped harshly before pushing her towards the door, “don’t say that to them. They meant well.”

“See you at dinner,” Zoe said to her parents before following Trinity and I out the door.

As I closed it shut behind us I was stunned by the sudden feeling of being watched. I knew what it felt like to have eyes burning into your skin and that was exactly how I felt. My flesh was hot—and not just from my burning jacket—but a cold feeling ran into my stomach and poisoned my heart.

“You coming, Joan!” Trinity yelled from the elevator.

“Yeah, be right there.”

 

§§§§§§§

 

Armina turned away from the corridor to face the decorative walls of the small room she had relocated to during Molly and Daniel’s meeting with some very young witch hunters; some very young, unsuccessful witch hunters. She had been very interested in the young team, especially after listening to their highly amusing conversation with the Witch Hunter Society Directors. The blonde with the long braid was the only one of the three to sense her gaze as they departed; that acute awareness might prove to be useful to her in the days ahead.  She wondered if those girls knew that all the paintings in the halls of the administrative building functioned as “one-way mirrors” that could be used for monitoring just about anything from inside the various offices; she doubted even the Directors knew.

            Molly and Daniel called her back into their office with much less enthusiasm than before. “Well, Princess. I assume you’ve heard most of the conversation that just transpired here.” Daniel said in his overly friendly tone. Armina nodded her confirmation; she wasn’t one to waste words.

            “Joan, Trinity, and our daughter Zoe are in need of a great deal of aid, and training. So they are the team we will be placing you with during your stay at The Academy.” Molly continued her husband’s thoughts as if they shared the same mind. Armina figured that they probably each only held half within their heads.

            “You mean to tell me, that you want me, the Coven Princess, to work with that “team” of untrained, unequipped, and completely useless little girls?” Armina’s voice was silk, but her anger was apparent in every syllable she spoke.

            “Yep, that’s your team. Your stuff has already been sent to their suite. You’ll be rooming with Zoe. Hopefully your influence and help will get them to function as a more efficient witch hunting team.” Daniel slapped his hand on Armina’s shoulder. She half expected him to call her champ, or son. She immediately sent her light magic to her shoulder. She only meant to shock his hand enough to make him remove it from her person, but her anger made it more difficult to channel her light power and she threw him halfway across the room with the voltage she exuded. Armina turned on her heel and left the room. If they were going to place her with the weakest team of witch hunters she’d ever seen she’d have no choice but to make them strong. As of right now they were useless to her, and she had a great deal to accomplish.

 

 

 

 

 

Author's Notes/Comments: 

For years Steeple Chase has been home to a lot of dark secrets: witches, witch hunters, warring factions, and evil magic. In a fleeting time of peace, Joan, Trinity, and Zoe all think themselves capable of becoming the next successful team of witch hunters to leave the Witch Hunting Academy, but they couldn't be more wrong.

Armina Malum-Veritas is Princess to both the Devil's Witch Coven and the God's Witch Coven. A Neutralist. She enters the Academy on a snowy night, looking for the best it has to offer, but instead is offered the worst: Joan, Trinity, and Zoe. What the team doesn't know is that Armina is harboring the darkest secret the Academy has ever let within its walls, and they have just become her pawns

Deception. Hatred. Hope. Friendship.