Chapter 55: The Unveiled Truth
Carina forestalled her return to Hawthorne manor with the excuse she wished to return to Viktor’s room, though she was careful to refer to it as “the ancient tomb of the dead dragon.” The marchioness was surprisingly obliging but still encouraged Carina to keep her visit short as they neared the immortal’s burial chamber door.
“I will wait for you outside. The other covens use Anthraticus, and it would not do for them to know too much about you yet,” Serilda warned.
The familiar pattern of light lit up the floor the moment Carina stepped inside Viktor’s lair. The dragon did not stir, but a presence, like a welcoming breath, greeted Carina and seemed to delight the scriva wolf that pricked up its ears and wagged its tail as it followed her inside.
Carina took in a tentative breath. “Viktor?”
“I am here,” the familiar voice answered with a muted sense of frustration. “Do you like my gift?”
“So it was you then,” Carina nodded as she glanced towards the winter wolf.
“In part,” Viktor replied with a hint of approval. “It was your magic and strong desire to protect yourself—however, disorganized and chaotic your thoughts—that gave me the material to work with. All I did was add a sliver of my soul, then apply purpose and design to your magic. Though I suppose your magic is also my magic—” he trailed off as the scriva approached the dragon. The wolf’s eyes, which resembled perfectly round chunks of ice that glowed with a faint blue light, fastened upon the dragon. Then the scriva bowed its head and lay quietly upon the floor beside Carina.
“Your soul?” Carina queried as she watched her summoned companion.
“A small piece of the maker’s soul is necessary to create a scriva,” Viktor explained. “However modest your origins, little ice witch, you carry the heart of a god. Until you are better able to fend for yourself, the scriva will protect you. It will also provide a link to my soul so that we may communicate when you leave the borders of Anthraticus.”
“I see,” Carina murmured as she studied the wolf with new concern. ‘How exactly am I supposed to keep something this magical beside me?’
“Do you?” Viktor’s sniped with a hint of impatience. “I had hoped that air witch would be up to the task of instructing you, but she appeared more focused on harming you than teaching you the basics of magic.”
“I—may have unintentionally caused her harm—in the past,” Carina admitted with a wince as her hands twisted together.
“Be that as it may, training you still require. Your new scriva will not only guard and keep you safe but also help me to train you. However draining that may be—”
“Train me—You?” Carina whispered nervously.
“Prepare yourself, little ice witch. I intend to shape you into a queen worthy of guarding my heart. You may well be grateful that this frozen heart can block out physical pain—though you will likely feel other equally uncomfortable effects.”
Carina swallowed and nodded silently. As harsh as this training already sounded, she had another more pressing issue to deal with. “That—” she gestured to the wolf “—scriva. How do I get rid of it?”
The wolf whined and tilted its head as the dragon fell silent.
“You want to—get rid—of a god-tier scriva?” Viktor sounded incredulous.
“Just temporarily. I can’t have it following me back to the palace,” Carina hastily explained. “Magic is still very much forbidden in the world above Anthraticus. Bringing a wolf made of ice magic into the royal palace—may cause more harm than good. And there are witch hunters in Lafeara!”
A sound, which might have been a snort of laughter, echoed through the chamber.
“A god-tier scriva can control those who may and may not see them,” Viktor explained with a note of amusement. “Unless we are talking other purebloods, the chances of it being discovered are quite low. Though in a fight, it will not be able to maintain its invisibility.”
“Oh?” Carina considered this uncertainly.
“A scriva can also be bound to a highly enchanted jewel or other material. The enchanted object will serve as the scriva’s resting place until you wish to summon it again.”
“Oh!” Carina pondered this quickly as she reached for her chest. “Would the diamond necklace I wore the last time I was here work?”
“The Winter Rose?”
Carina nodded, somewhat surprised Viktor knew its name.
“That necklace is already heavily enchanted,” Viktor replied with a faint rumble of disapproval. “There is not enough room left to hold the enchant necessary to bind your scriva.”
“I see,” Carina frowned. “What sort of enchants does the Winter Rose already have?”
“A tracking spell, a charm spell, a warding spell, and a protection spell,” Viktor listed off with unnerving disinterest.
“Wait—what?!” Carina stammered. The protection spell Percy had certainly mentioned. Serilda had demonstrated its efficiency earlier when she had taken advantage of the Winter Rose’s absence to compel Carina into revealing dangerous truths. ‘But what are these other spells?’
“What do they do exactly?” she queried anxiously.
“The tracking spell is self-explanatory. The witch that cast the spell can keep track of where the necklace is at all times. The original enchantment was recently adjusted to make another witch the owner so that they can track you.
“The protection spell is a bit more unique and probably beyond your stalker’s capabilities. It can disguise a witch as a mortal by shielding their powers or make a mortal look like a witch by imitating a witch’s powers. Both of these spells were forged into the necklace years ago.”
‘Unique indeed, and—aside from this tracking spell—exactly as Percy had described.’ Carina clenched her eyes shut with a groan as she recalled wearing the Winter Rose to both her meeting with Cerberus and Sir Jordan. ‘Now that I know it can be used to track me, I’ll have to be careful when I wear it. As useful as that protection spell is—it would be dangerous if I carelessly revealed the members of Cerberus.’
“What about the other spells? What do they do?”
“The charm enchantment is a few months old. The effect takes hold over time. The longer you wore the necklace, the more enamored you would become to the witch who cast the spell.”
‘Enamored?’ Carina felt sick, and the scriva wolf lifted its head from the ground to glance towards her with a worried whine. ‘Did Percy put some sort of twisted love spell on the necklace? Why?’
“The warding spell is what intrigues me most,” Viktor continued, apparently less concerned about the emotionally manipulating enchantment. “It would seem the witch that cast this meant to ward off an evil spirit of some kind.”
Carina sighed and rubbed her forehead. She was beginning to feel annoyed and lightheaded.
“I’ve seen this spell used before when a witch was haunted by a vengeful ghost,” Viktor mused aloud. “It seems your stalker suspects that you have a specter attached to you.”
‘Percy knows about Maura? How is that even possible—and just how much does he know?’
“Can you tell who cast these spells?” Carina asked quickly, wanting to confirm her suspicions.
“I suspect the oldest spells were cast by the last Isbrand queen when she submerged her child, your ancestor, in a small wine barrel and slipped him out of the sieged castle through the sewer gate to sympathizers.”
Carina’s eyes widened at this piece of information, but she remained silent as she waited for Viktor to finish.
“The enamor and warding spell belong to that pure-blood Earl that brought you here last time,” Viktor proclaimed casually. “I did warn you to be wary of him.”
“But you didn’t mention anything about these spells last time?” Carina demanded.
“The enamor spell would take more than a month to have any effect. To any casual outside viewer and yourself, it would appear you naturally developed feelings for the Earl. Also, as you mentioned, there are witch hunters around. You are taking a greater risk moving around without it.”
Carina sucked in an angry breath and shook her head. “How could I possibly wear something like that?”
“Easily,” Viktor replied with a chuckle. “I broke that particular enchantment the last time you were here—or rather—I subtly changed the spell so it would have the reverse effect.”
“Reverse effect?” Carina echoed, startled more than relieved.
“If you wear that necklace, any man that has an interest in you will become enamored and gladly do anything you ask of them—even if it is against their will.” There was a hint of malice in Viktor’s tone that sent a shiver down Carina’s spine. “Also, your stalker will likely go mad with jealousy if he sees you flirting with someone other than himself. Do with that what you will.”
Carina’s entire body went rigid as shock and rage trembled through her core. She glared at Viktor’s skeletal dragon face for a moment before demanding through clenched teeth, “Wouldn’t removing the spell have been simpler?”
“But nowhere near as entertaining.” The smugness that coated these words reminded Carina that this immortal, however much he claimed to be on her side, could not be trusted.
‘Never mind, if I don’t wear the Winter Rose often, then it shouldn’t be a problem.’ Carina clenched her hands tightly and drew in a breath before she returned to the matter of the scriva, who now wagged its tail as it stared adoringly at Viktor’s remains. “Then what sort of jewel will work—as a resting place for the scriva?”
After a moment of silence, Viktor sighed. “Nothing you currently possess. Perhaps I should have made a lower-tier scriva, but that would require taking a sliver of your soul, and it is already unstable.”
‘An unstable soul?’ Carina wasn’t sure she wanted to know what that meant.
“Ah, I have something here that will suffice. You may consider it a gift for the great service you will provide me in the future.” Viktor chuckled to himself. Then one of the glowing tiles along the floor sputtered. Just as the magical light flickered out, small dots of blinding white magic zipped free from the floor and floated between Carina and Viktor. “The floor’s enchantment is powered by my scales. It bars access to gods and mortals alike unless they carry Isbrand blood. This token will have the power to hold another four scriva’s to match this one in strength. Or a hundred lesser scriva’s should you find souls worthy to serve you.”
The small balls of light merged into a blinding glow, then stretched until the magic essence resembled a braided bracelet with five diamond stones, each engraved with runes.
“I almost forgot, the scriva will need a name. You should choose one for it. Speaking that name aloud will summon the scriva to your side no matter where you are.”
“A name? Hmm—” Carina glanced from the shining circle of silver light to where the winter wolf lay patiently, its frozen ears still perfectly arched, as both frozen eyes basked in the magic’s glow. “Lumi?”
A spark crackled along her wrist, and Carina gasped in surprise as the finished silver bracelet glistened against her skin. The vibrant glow of magic slowly faded as she trailed her fingers across the jeweled surface. The scriva—Lumi—watched her movements with a focused expression on its face as it sat facing Carina, with its back to Viktor.
“And now—” Viktor said, his words softer and almost—tired. “Lumi belongs to you.”
“Lumi,” Carina called out, then hesitantly extended her wrist with its bracelet towards the wolf. The scriva grinned, a somewhat chilling sight, as it disintegrated into a glowing shower of snow that swirled towards Carina’s bracelet and vanished inside one of the runed diamonds.
‘Well, that’s one problem solved,’ Carina thought as she bid Viktor farewell and headed through the enchanted barrier. ‘Now to deal with the Marchioness who holds a grudge against me, and Percy, who is trying to manipulate me.’