Title: Promise fulfilled.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Cliff McNish.
Rachel flew with Serpantha, Heiki and the Essa between the worlds towards Ool and the last of the High Witches. They had asked Eric and Larpskendya to come with them but they had said that they would follow on later.
It made Rachel rather uneasy. No matter how weak and diminished they were, High Witches were still High Witches and two Wizards and a spell-destroyer were better than one Wizard.
When they landed on the gray snow-filled planet the Essa immediately squeaked their apologies and goodbyes and set off towards the Detaclyver.
Rachel, Serpantha and Heiki made their way towards the Gridda tunnels.
The only Griddas they passed were infants incapable of flying and Rachel was able to put them to sleep with a single, simple spell.
Serpantha led the way towards the caves of the High Witches. Even with her direction spells, Rachel found the maze of tunnels disorientating. The layers of spells the Griddas had put on the caves to stop the High Witches escaping didn't help either.
A sudden noise behind them and Rachel found herself in the grasp of a High Witch. All her spells screamed, " Fight back! Fight back!" But Rachel looked at Serpantha, who was offering no resistance and allowed herself to be dragged into the cave.
Once inside Rachel caught a glimpse of a face she hoped never to see again. Only Serpantha's calm stopped her from screaming out loud. It was Calen.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rachel saw Heiki trembling. She had good reason to. It was not all that long ago that Calen had picked and trained Heiki as Rachel's executioner.
Not all that long ago that Heebra, Calen's mother, had given Heiki a fake soul snake with the promise of becoming a Witch. Not all that long ago that Calen had nearly killed Heiki in the Artic before Larpskendya had saved her.
Serpantha bowed and began to speak. Heebra's daughter visibly relaxed at his deep, pleasant voice. "I come on behalf of the Wizards to offer you a chance for a new beginning. The Griddas are no longer a threat. You and your Witches are free. You can leave these caves."
Calen sneered at the tall Wizard and Nylo flicked out his forked tongue brazenly.
"Do you expect me to believe that the Griddas have been defeated, Serpantha? Not even a hundred thousand Wizards could do that. The Griddas are too vicious."
"A hundred thousand Wizards didn't. One boy and a group of Witches did."
"We are the last of the Witches Serpantha. There are none anywhere left on Ool thanks to the Griddas."
"I realize that. Did I say these Witches came from Ool?"
Calen drew herself up, tattooed eyes flashing.
"There are no Witches anywhere other than us few sitting injured in these caves below Ool! You and your Wizards have seen to that! See what you have reduced us to! A feeble group sitting desolately in the remains of our world!"
Serpantha reached out to Calen. Rachel hadn't even realized that the High Witch holding his wrists had let him go. Surprisingly she let him touch her. He stroked her two jaws that had been shattered by Gultrathaca.
" I told you Wizards and Witches were once the same" he said gently.
"Your High Witches were the descendants of a group of Witches that broke away. The remainder of the original Witches still dwell on Orin Fen with us."
"You lie" Calen murmured.
"You know I do not. Rejoin your sister Witches and us. Come back to Orin Fen."
Rachel stared disbelievingly at the scene playing out before her eyes. Serpantha cradled the High Witch Calen in his arms. All the other High Witches had let go of Heiki and Rachel and were watching their leader.
Serpantha's gentle fingers stroked Calen's face and miraculously the blood red of her skin started to fade in to peach-colored human skin like Rachel, Heiki and Serpantha's. He ran his fingers along her jaws and they disappeared, leaving her with one small human one.
Calen was becoming human. Black hair grew from her head and her claws shortened into human fingers with small fingernails. She now looked as human as Rachel and Heiki albeit a little taller.
The one sign of her being a Witch was an amazed Nylo curled around her neck and her tattooed eyes.
"That's better" Serpantha murmured, "Come with us. All of your Witches are welcome." Calen didn't say a word. Serpantha whispered in her ear. "You would not have submitted to me changing your appearance if you did not mean to come."
Calen uttered three words, just loud enough for the Wizard to hear. "We will come."
Serpantha then did something no one, except maybe Calen, had been expecting. He leaned forward to kiss the Witch in his arms. Calen's arms, along with Nylo, reached up to twine around the Wizard's neck as he pressed his mouth up against hers.
The children and the High Witches looked on. The Witches appeared rather confused as none of them had an idea what a kiss was and the two girls were sighing happily over the perfection of the fairytale kiss.
"Are we interrupting something, brother dear?"
Calen and Serpantha broke apart and turned to look along with the rest of the High Witches and Rachel and Heiki as Larpskendya's voice came from where he and Eric, with Clara, Eric's thrill-seeker and the prapsies, were standing in the entrance to the cave.
Serpantha blushed but said clearly "As a matter of fact you are."
Larpskendya smiled broadly and leant up against the rock wall. "Well please don't pay any attention to me. Continue."
Serpantha looked like he might say something but instead turned, wrapped his arms around Calen and kissed her once more.
"Does this mean that your diplomacy was successful my dear brother?" Larpskendya asked.
"I believe it does." Serpantha looked back at Calen who nodded.
"Sister Witches!" she said clearly. "How long have we fought against these Wizards?"
"Forever" most of the Witches answered.
"How many of you know why we fight against them?"
Not one Witch volunteered an answer. Calen waited for a moment and still received no answer. "How many of you think that is a good enough reason?"
Again, she received no answer. "These Wizards have tamed the Griddas. They have all the magic of the children of Earth and Ithrea at their sides. Do we have enough to beat them? Do we have to?"
The Witches still remained silent. "I ask you as a sister to consider the offer these Wizards are making. A home rather than these worn tunnels. A sisterhood of hundreds of other Witches. How many of you agree to this?"
One by one each witches soul snake rose and slithered forward to briefly twine around either Serpantha's or Larpskendya's wrist.
"I believe your diplomacy has succeeded," said Calen to Serpantha. "You have my loyalty and the loyalty of the Witches you see before you."
"What about the Witches in the other tunnels?"
"This is all of us. We came together for the end. We believed that the Griddas would come back and finish us. We decided to spend our last days together as a sisterhood."
"Would your Witches like to alter their appearance as you have? Perhaps they would like the choice anyway? Nobody will force them to change if they do not wish to."
Calen nodded and turned again to the Witches. "If any of you wish to alter your appearance as I have done you may do so now. This visage was given to us by the Witches who broke away from the Wizards two hundred thousand years ago. We need not keep it if we wish not to."
Some Witches touched their black teeth and red skin with longing but all of them slowly changed to their original woman-like selves.
"Good thing too" Larpskendya whispered into Eric's ear "I'd be willing to bet the Griddas wouldn't be too pleased if we came back to Orin Fen with a flock of High Witches." Eric smiled.
Serpantha held his hand out to Calen and another Witch and Larpskendya took the hands of the children. Together the group flew straight out of the tunnels and off the world of Ool, leaving it to the antics of the storm-whirls, the Essa and the Detaclyver.
As they left Ool behind, Larpskendya moved to say to Rachel, "What about a detour to Ithrea? I know you want to see Morpeth." Even flying through the air at amazing speed, Rachel managed to throw her arms around Larpskendya.
"How do you always know everything?"
Larpskendya moved forward to consult with Serpantha, who agreed to lead the Witches to Orin Fen while Larpskendya brought the children to Ithrea.
As soon as they landed on the planet Morpeth appeared to greet them. "Rachel!" he cried. "Morpeth!" Rachel ran forward to meet him in such a forceful hug that both of them went tumbling to the ground.
"What was that for?" he asked.
Unable to form a coherent sentence Rachel said. "Yemi. Eric. Griddas. Orin Fen. Witches. Peace. Ool. High Witches. Serpantha. Calen."
Larpskendya laughed as Morpeth tried to figure this out. Seeing the Wizard with the other children, Morpeth turned to Eric for help. "Eric, what is she talking about?"
"The Griddas kidnapped Yemi. Rachel and me went after them. I led the Griddas to Orin Fen and nearly killed them all. There's Witches on Orin Fen that aren't like Griddas or High Witches. The Griddas made peace with the Wizards. The High Witches did too. Serpantha's fallen in love with Calen. That's pretty much it."
"Are you alright? Is Rachel all right? Is Yemi all right? Is Earth all right?"
"Don't worry. Everything's fine. Serpantha just went with the High Witches back to Orin Fen and Rachel wanted to come get you."
"Serpantha and Calen?"
"Yep. The worlds are strange places. You find out something new every day."
Morpeth was silent for a moment until Rachel spoke up. "Um… Morpeth? Could you get off me please?"
"Oh, sorry!" Embarrassed, Morpeth scrambled up and held out a hand to help Rachel.
Rachel stumbled as she rose and somehow fell against Morpeth so their lips met. Neither pulled away but kissed each other hard and didn't stop until both of the prapsies whistled from Eric's pockets.
"Look at them boys, didn't we always tell you it would happen." One prapsy scowled at the other. "Fine you was right." The other prapsy began to fly circles around Eric's head. "I was right, Eric. You said I was. We were right!"
Morpeth blushed as he pulled away from Rachel. Rachel smiled dreamily and Larpskendya looked at the two of them with a fatherly smile. "Well, well" he said. "Romances are breaking out everywhere. Next thing you know, Heiki will be falling for Albertus Robertson."
Heiki blushed and looked down. How did Larpskendya always know everything?
Rachel turned to Morpeth and took his hand.
"Come on, Morpeth" she said. "Let me show you Orin Fen. I'll tell you the whole story of what happened on the way."
Morpeth grasped her hand firmly. "Okay" he said simply, and the two of them took off into the sky together.