This whole story arc is going on a little longer that I planned. It seems that I can't stop myself writing about François. I'm not sure how much farther it will go on, but I promise it will end and then maybe François will leave me alone for a while. Oh, the things we do for our creations.
Anyway, the next installment, and finally! The terror is revealed!
For a long time no one spoke. Everyone, even the workers who had been fast asleep, now stared intently at the bright light that was issuing forth from the ruined temple. It seemed to Amanda that the light pulsed slightly, maybe swayed a little in time with the rhythmic chanting coming from unseen mouths. She was reminded of a snake being charmed by a flute; she almost laughed at the thought of it.
An almost imperceptible sound jolted her from her thoughts. Amanda looked down and shuddered at what she saw. François, still sitting on the ground, had lowered his head and was staring at the light through his thick lashes. His shoulders were hunched and, if Amanda wasn’t imagining things, he was letting out low, hoarse growls. She immediately had an image of a frightened and cornered animal with its hackles raised.
Amanda made to back away from the awful sight and bumped into Max, who was still staring, transfixed, at the light. Amanda returned her gaze to it and saw that it now had a slightly greenish hue to it and that the pulsing had become noticeably more pronounced. She, like Max, felt compelled to gaze upon it; the light seemed almost alive. Without really realizing what she was doing, Amanda began to walk towards the light with Max right beside her.
Together, they entered the temple and stood with the workers who had also gathered, dreamy-eyed around the source of the light. Several goblins, rather rangier than the ones that had been captured earlier, were arranged around a pile of the ashes that had been concealed in the bust. They were chanting, the light flickering with every guttural syllable.
Several people edged closer to the light and Amanda felt the urge to do the same. She wanted to be entirely bathed in the light, to feel it on her skin. She stepped forward with every intention of throwing herself into it when a hand closed tightly on her arm. The strength of the grip snapped her out of her reverie. Amanda looked around and sighed with relief at the sight of François standing tall and confident behind her. A roguish grin was tugging at the corner of his mouth as he hefted his gnarled cudgel onto his shoulder.
“It seems, mon petit, that we have caught the wrong little beasties.”
“We can deal with that later.”
had appeared from nowhere and had similarly grabbed Max to keep him from flinging himself into the light. “I suggest that we concentrate now on the immediate problem.” Charlotte
“What is it
?” Amanda asked, rather hoping that Charlotte would say it was something simple. Charlotte didn’t reply, however; she merely raised her hand and pointed at the base of the light, right above the ashes. Amanda gasped as she saw a woman’s face, transparent like a ghost, rise from the ashes and slowly the rest of her followed. Although she was translucent, her features were clearly discernable and she was beautiful. Charlotte
The phantom lady swayed with the chanting as the light did, and she smiled at the people gathered around her. Utterly enthralled, several men ran to her and made to throw their arms around her. Just as they would have embraced her, the light suddenly blazed like fire and they were wholly consumed. Amanda stared in horror as their ashes fluttered and swirled around the woman whose serene smile had disappeared to be replaced with a haughty scowl.
“A blood offering.”
whispered as the other people ran from the temple screaming like madmen. Amanda was about to ask her what she meant but stopped at the look of utter delight on Charlotte ’s face. “Oh, the oldest tricks are the best.” Charlotte
?” Amanda was shaking with the effort of not running from the light. Charlotte
“There have been many names for her kind through the centuries, but it all boils down to the same thing. She is a witch, a true witch. This is my lucky day.”