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matapam
18 September 2018 @ 07:56 am

Chapter Four

Meet the Witches

"Weak." The old witch looked her up and down again. "Dependent. Running after a man."

Rael blinked at the head witch, the Senior Sister, they called her. Answer. "Actually my president sent me to check on the status of a very important person."

Sneer. "You look young, but I can see you must be nearing the half century mark. And you haven't the complexity of a woman who's given birth. Such a waste, you seem so strong."

Rael unclenched her jaw. "And how many children do you have?" In truth, the old witch's glow was both incredibly complex and frighteningly strong.

"Three. Ten granddaughters. Nineteen great granddaughters. Eight great great granddaughters—so far. And unfortunately, a great grandson, and three great great grandsons." Snort. "Here. You lot don't count."

"Xen? You aren't proud of . . . ?"

Snort. "We don't have any need for men beyond brief use. We are not weak, we are not subservient, and we should not have sons." She eyed Rael. "At least you are well trained. No doubt your president finds you useful. Your genuine infatuation creates a vulnerability in the man. He's amazingly weak for someone so strong magically. Not terribly bright, and soft in the head as well. But do join us . . ."

It was certainly an eye opening experience. Such different training. Such different talents. Such different methods. So many very strong women.

"What about healing? Your Dr. Heath can do some astonishing repairs."

A snort from an older witch. Delight, if Rael was remembering correctly. "Lady Gisele is a Goddess, not a witch."

"But she's got the witch gene." A voice from the back.

"So does the Auld Wulf. Does that make him a witch?" Someone Rael hadn't been introduced to.

Then the discussion—and practice—of telekinesis in medical treatment was discussed. Rael had picked up bits here and there—mostly from Paer and Xen—and managed to get an approving nod from Answer.

"Your discipline is excellent, and your micro manipulations good." Then the old witch's brows lowered in disapproval. "If you insist on consorting with that person, you really ought to use him to advance."

Rael stiffened . . . and felt all the strong, complex, women around her. I must feel like a child to them. Strong . . . and simple.

She shut that thought down and turned a bit to watch a woman half her age turn a lump of copper into a saucepan. Dammit. We need to study these people's magic.

Everyone's magic got used, stretched, and perhaps expanded.

And soaking in the hotsprings after was rather nice as well. And she was much too worldly to be embarrassed by the casual nudity. Really.

She eyed the two witches heading her way. One complex and strong, one very complex and very strong. A young mother and a . . . baby goddess?

"I'm Obsidian, and this is my sister Topaz. We're Xen's aunts." The older one had light brown hair and blue eyes. The younger was blonde with hazel eyes. And similar features, and they certainly did look quiet a bit like Rustle. But then they all did, to her untrained eyes.

Local phenotypes, and less variation, after at least one bottleneck.

And some darn pretty types, too! The tawny dark-blonde hair, tanned skin, with golden-brown eyes is striking. Rael blinked. But I'm sure they don't turn into lions at the full moon.

Demoiselle and Egret joined them.

Demi grinned. "So you survived Answer, and now you have to face the aunts."

Obsidian sniffed. "Now, now, we're being nice. Rustle likes her. And anyway, she's obviously one of Bran Butcher's, so she hardly qualifies as a . . . Oner."

Rael suspected she was blushing. Time to change the subject. "I'm finding your training methods very different than ours."

"Oh?"

Rael nodded toward the young girls playing in the upper pool. "We teach individual abilities only, not this triad cooperation. That's the first thing I noticed. Then what you teach them is the large scale stuff. We start with tiny manipulations. As we get older, we start doing the large power gathers, the large physical manipulations. What your youngsters can do astonishes me."

"How tiny?"

"Microscopic, once we get good at it. Most of our electronics are at least partially magifactured." Rael shrugged. "And then we get into the mental spells, and energy manipulation. And, well, outside of teaching and medicine, we don't use much magic in our daily lives."

She looked around the pools full of women . . . "Rustle . . . didn't come?"

The two aunts swapped glances.

Obsidian raised up enough to check, then sank back down. "Answer ejected Rustle from the Pyramid when she was eighteen or so. She formed the Rip Crossing Pyramid, and spends a lot of time there. Well, not right now, while she's keeping an eye on Xen, but she never attends regular lessons here, and rarely major ceremonials."

Topaz grinned, head down where it couldn't be seen by many. "When she's in town, on one of the equinoxes, Answer feels obligated to invite her. Grinding her teeth."

"And grinding them even harder when Rustle politely declines." Obsidian grinned. "Now I think I've soaked long enough. If you're done, Rael, I'll walk back to the winery with you and check on my favorite nephew."

***

Xen was sunning himself on the front porch, The bright sun caught the faint fuzz of hair on his scalp, and his pale new skin was reddening.

"Sunburn's a bad idea, boy!" Obsidian called.

Xen grinned. "I've only been out here for a few minutes. And I need to even out my tan." He rose and stretched.

"Likely story." Obsidian gave and received a hug.

Rael blinked at the fingernails on his left hand. "How'd they grow so fast?"

"In a Speed bubble. Twenty-to-one ratio. For me it's been fifteen days since we had dinner together."

"Yikes!"

Xen glanced at his aunt. "So did Answer behave?"

"By her standards. Just a few sneers and jeers, but Rael's training and discipline impressed her. Not that she said as much."

Xen nodded. "She just criticized everything else, right?"

"Pretty much. Well, now that I see you looking so good, I'm going to check on the children. I enjoyed meeting you, Rael." Obsidian's gaze swung back to Xen. "You should bring her around more often." She stepped back and vanished with a faint puff of disturbed air.

Rael sighed. "I can teleport almost fifty meters, now."

Xen chuckled. "Your specialty, I swear, is, getting through shields. You should go impress Nil. But make sure he knows it’s a demonstration, not an attack."

Then he wrapped her up in a hug and grope. Drew back to kiss her. "Mine. Forever."

"Ooo! Getting possessive?" She leaned against his warm muscles. "And only for another hundred and fifty years or so. Oners don't live forever. Not that either of us is likely to die of old age no matter what our genes do."

"True. But still." He rubbed his cheek against the top of her head. Held her.

"Don't fall asleep on your feet."

"Umm? S'okay." His arms tightened . . . and an odd spell flowed through her . . .

She swung an arm and thumped him.

"Oww!"

"You were falling asleep. C'mon. Back inside with you. And I think I don't dare tuck you into bed." She chivvied him as far as the stairs, and fled.

Don't seduce sleeping gods? I think maybe it's not even safe to hug them!