Related: Mirror, Mirror
Everyone talked about the Coven. It was the rite of passage, a “big step” and proof that you’re a legitimate witch. But the Coven didn’t take just anyone. Someone in the Coven had to bring you in. You were hand picked.
I was so excited when the red letter came to my door. It was part of the tradition, those red letters. No piece of paper was without some splash of red color. It really stood out in Darkshire, since the most colors, even the clothes people wore, were always dark and grey. It was considered risky to wear bright colors. Bright colors invited the wolves and ghouls, they said. I’m not sure if that was ever true, because everyone took exception to the color red, especially the Coven. They used red with nearly everything.
Initiation wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. They requested a basic spread of spells: One arcane, one fire, one frost, one shadow. I was always told that every magic user can conjure something of each element, if even just a spark. So I pushed myself to do it but I always wondered if it was impossible. I’m still not convinced that my arcane was as good as they said it was, but I was excited when they said I passed initiative. My fire and shadow spells were especially good, they told me.
Life in the Coven was exciting, but it was also hard work. I was placed in the spells sect. You were given small spells to work on — or in the case of large spells, just one piece. You’d work on the spell until it was perfect and pass on your learnings to the Scribe, then you would receive another spell. The Coven was the source of many intricate spells and many knew about them and thanked the Coven for them: They would use these spells to strengthen crops for a season or drive away creatures that prowled at night. I don’t remember anyone saying anything bad about the Coven for those things, and to work on those spells to make our homes a little better was something I liked doing. I felt pride, I think. I remember feeling a lot of pride for it. My chest was bursting.
I didn’t know who selected me for the Coven for a long time. I’m not sure if you were supposed to know or if the secrecy was another tradition. There were a lot of traditions in the Coven and it was forbidden to break them. They talked of tradition as one would the inner workings of a spell: Every rune, every piece was intricately linked and dependent on the other. Should one break, the entire construct would fall, shattering like glass. That is what we were told.
I excelled with the spells. I couldn’t get enough of them, really. I could complete dozens of the smallest spells in a day, and so they moved me onto the larger spells quicker than normal, quicker than the others. They always seemed pleased with my progress. I think it’s because of how quick and eager I was to complete my work that I finally got to meet her.
How to describe her? She was perfection. I knew the moment I saw her that she was what I wanted to be. I remember some describing her as beautiful, but I don’t think that word could capture what you saw with your eyes. There was more than what you saw with your eyes. It wasn’t just beauty. It was as if one look at her could capture and intertwine your soul with something else, something unseen. She was like something you’d breathe.
Her name was Claret and she was the leader of the Coven. I was in the Coven for a year before I finally met her. I was told that to meet her was rare, since the Coven so often kept her busy.
I saw her at a distance at first and my stomach fluttered and cheeks flushed, like they do after you drink too much red wine. When she looked at me, her eyes were steel flecked with glints of shimmering onyx. I remember thinking how her eyes stood out starkly from her red robes. Of course, she was clothed in red, that was the color of our Coven.
She spoke to her and I thought her voice was a song. She told me that she knew my name. She told me to stand before my sisters and brothers and presented me as an example to uphold. She told me my skills would grant me many things one day.
I’m sure my cheeks flushed further. As I faced the selected sisters and brothers before me, even all of their smiles and auras couldn’t match hers. I felt like when she looked at me, I was placed beneath a brilliant flash of light, but when I faced my brothers and sisters, heard their cheers and watched their nods of approval, I felt that that light was so dim compared to hers.
I began to see her every week. She’d call me to her drawing room and make requests, things that had nothing to do with magic at first. I’d do anything for her: Deliver a red-letter message, sweep the floor, dust a shelf. Even though the work wasn’t at all like I once did in the Coven, I felt that same pride. I loved feeling that light from her and couldn’t leave her presence.
She didn’t speak much to me, but when she did, I remembered every word. She wasn’t a talkative person and all of her words seemed weighed and perfected. It was as if her voice was something that should be rare, so when you hear it once, you are first captured by its beauty, and when it is gone for a long time, you question whether you heard such beauty in the first place, whether that beauty could exist. Just as you begin to doubt, you hear her voice again and the doubt is chased away by that light. That red light of hers.
She started my studies again. I don’t remember how long I delivered messages and dusted tables before she let me see her books and cast spells again, but I didn’t care. I drank in her presence. I wanted to know everything and it felt like finally, she’d let me see everything.
Her books were as she was: Perfection. Each page was art, filled with intricate spells that were scribed onto the page as if they were scenery. She’d trace her finger along each rune and speak in her voice to me. I swallowed every word. I took in everything I could because when she was gone, the books would leave with her.
I wanted to see more. The books, the spells, her voice opened up a world of magic I’d never known before. I never could afford a true teacher like those in Dalaran, but such a dream was far fetched for a Darkshire girl like me. The Coven was where our best and brightest witches would go if Dalaran was too far, and back then, I felt that no glamorous offer from Dalaran could take me from there. The Coven — no, Claret — was finer than Dalaran for me.
I’d miss her when she was gone. Her, her voice, her eyes, her books. I wasn’t allowed to practice magic without her presence and I followed that rule without question. I was a magicless husk without her there, as far as I was concerned. And if she would ask, I’d followed her wherever she went, but I wasn’t asked for a long time. I was left sometimes for days on end, completing the same menial tasks until she appeared again.
One day, she finally asked. She asked me to come with her. She told me it was for the Coven. Of course I said yes. I’d do anything for her.