Third Place Winner of the Voyage Lucky No. 7 Challenge
‘Twas Ravenna who died first in the Wraithwood. It was dark, and we were tired and hungry after our escape from town, and she unwittingly ate some poison berries. Her body lay sprawled over the roots of a tree, blood and saliva streaked down her chin.
But the Wraithwood was a witch’s friend, and we had worn our bespelled cloaks so that it might know us. It would not let Ravenna die, as long as I did my part. Consulting the grimoire, I whispered the spell of resurrection over my sister’s body.
Her eyes flickered open.
“Petra,” she gasped. “D-did it work?” She ran her hands over herself, to ensure everything was still in place.
“Of course,” I said. “Has Mother’s grimoire ever led us astray?”
Ravenna stood and dusted off her cloak. “You can never be sure with magic. There is always some misunderstood rule or hidden cost.”
“Perhaps you will grow a tail,” I teased, “or your hair will fall out.”
She did not laugh. “Let us return to our task,” she said, and disappeared into the shadows to gather wood.
The night was bitter cold and alive with the sounds of roaming creatures. But Mother had woven our cloaks well, with spells of camouflage and warmth. When I returned to the clearing with a pile of branches in my arms, I found Ravenna there with twice the amount.
My eyes widened, impressed. “Your powers have grown.”
She merely grunted as she set about building a fire. I began lashing branches together with vines, watching her from the corner of my eye. Ravenna had always been the weaker of us, though not for want of study. She lacked the particular brand of strength needed to bend magic to one’s will.
I wondered if her death had something to do with it. This seemed less like a hidden cost than a boon—but perhaps magic worked differently in the Wraithwood.
Ravenna whispered a fire spell, and a flame sprang to life, bigger and brighter than any I could conjure. I felt a prick of jealousy.
“Perhaps I should try dying as well,” I said, only half teasing. “It seems to have made you stronger.”
“I have you to thank, Petra.” The edge to her voice startled me. “I would not have died in the first place, were it not for your mistake.”
“True, ‘twas my love potion that went awry,” I said with a shrug. “But the townsfolk were bound to turn on us someday. That is the price we pay for our magic.”
“You never paid a price. You knew I liked Isaac, and still you tried to bespell him to love you. You had to have everything I did.”
“I—I did not realize your feelings for him.”
“Don’t lie to me,” she spat.
I felt I was seeing Ravenna for the first time. I had always been able to mollify her, to make her see things from my perspective—and once she did, she always forgave me. I searched her eyes for the familiar spark of sisterly warmth. But all I saw were twin reflections of the flames, flickering back at me.
That night, we lay beneath the crude slanted roof I had built, wrapped in our cloaks. We had not spoken since Ravenna’s sharp words about Isaac. I tossed and turned, wondering if—how—I should apologize. But why should I, when truly I had done nothing wrong?
In my preoccupation, I did not notice the bear’s rustling, snuffling approach until an immense paw knocked the roof away and its silhouette loomed over me. It must have smelled the bird we had roasted.
I shrieked, startling Ravenna awake. I tried to stand, but the paw came again. This time it found my abdomen. I crashed to the ground, pressing my hands to the wound. I felt shreds of fabric where the bear’s claws had torn through my cloak. Warm, wet things spilling out of me.
Jumping to her feet, Ravenna shouted a spell of fear. The bear paused, tensed, then shuffled away into the shadows.
Ravenna dropped to her knees beside me.
“The grimoire,” I said through labored breaths. “Page 67. You are strong enough now.”
She cracked the book open. Then she paused, as if turning over a new thought in her mind.
“Sister?” I gasped.
She shut the grimoire.
“No.” Black spots seethed before my eyes. My lips and tongue struggled to obey me. “Please.”
Ravenna stood up. From this vantage, she seemed impossibly far away.
“Perhaps this,” she whispered as darkness swallowed me, “is the price we both must pay.”