It’s truly amazing how quickly things can go wrong. Especially when you think you have everything under control. The old Coven leader was clearly dying and Jujou wanted to take her place badly.
The perks were fantastic, power, control of the Coven and 100 years of life AND beauty. It was so close she could almost taste it! Most of the Coven’s members supported her though in truth her magik may have had more to do with that than her personality. Those that didn’t like her at least feared her enough that they would follow her rather than face her wrath. Life was good for the petite yet powerful young witch as the momentous evening approached…almost.
The only fly in the ointment was that swaggering bitch of a broom buster Hester McBride. Ohhh, how she hated her and longed to humiliate her and once she was in charge…she WOULD!
You see, Jujou had plans. She was sure she would be next in line for succession. After all NO other witch of her generation could touch her skills. Through practice and hard work (and a dirty little secret spell) she had accomplished feats that no other witch of her age ever had. By 20 she’d brought forth the fire elemental. By 25 she’d consulted with the shade of a long dead Queen and by thirty she had tempted the rain to fall on a sunny day.
Such feats were costly though. They required certain…”sacrifices”. By 35 most witches with half her power looked twice her age! How did she do it?
Jujou smiled to herself as she thought back to the day she’d found The Book. The one that had lain buried deep in the woods until the faithful day a powerful wind had toppled a giant Roan tree near her cabin.
She’d been lazy the day before and rather than feed the ravens like she was supposed to she’d snuck off to Zack’s hut for a bit of fun. Not wanting to be caught she left his side while the full moon was still in the sky. It was the moon that had shown her the way. The giant roan tree that had stood for centuries at the cross roads had finally succumbed to father time’s scythe and the moon light glinted brightly off of something ganging from its dead roots.
She reached up and was rewarded with…a silver box.
Rushing home she had quickly lit a candle and examined its contents…The Book.
She wasn’t very impressed at first. The leather cover was warn and tattered and the thick velum pages appeared to be blank. She was just about to toss it into the fire and assess the box’s value when something caught her eye. Was it her imagination or was there was something written on the book’s spine? She peered closely…nothing and yet, when she set the book on the table and looked at the box again she saw writing from the corner of her eye.
Quickly, she turned her head and again…the spine of the book was blank but, this time, she KNEW there was more to the book then met the eye.
All night long she played the game. She tried looking from the box to the book quickly…nothing. She tried to read it in her hand mirror…nothing. Try as she might she could never catch more than a brief impression of the written symbols. Nothing worked.
Defeated and tired, Jujou the here to fore minor witch opened the silver box and placed the book within with a sigh. The sun would be up soon and she was tired.
“Maybe tomorrow night” she said as she began to swing the box’s lid closed.
She stopped in mid movement and blinking her eyes to be sure she wasn’t dreaming looked at the book’s cover reflected by the light of the full moon in the box top.
The script was unfamiliar and yet, the symbols made total sense. Grinning broadly she read the book’s name aloud: “Everything You Want To Know”.
It was at that moment Jujou realized…that she did want to know…EVERYTHING.
Over the years that followed the petite red haired witch had studied the book every chance she got. It wasn’t easy as the book could only be read during a full moon and then, only in the reflection of its own reliquary…the silver box. Even so, Jujou was an avid and eager reader and an excellent student and it didn’t take her long to find a spell that allowed her to read and comprehend the secrets of the book at a phenomenal rate. From that day on, her rise in the coven was nothing short of meteoric. In no time she she rose in rank until at last, she was the Coven leader’s right hand and presumed successor. Nothing transpired that she did not have a hand in and the other witches began to fear and envy her power. Hester especially as Jujou had taken her place as chief Acolyte.
Now skyclad, the solemn procession arrived at the sacred circle. The coven leader called the corners and Jujou grinned broadly as she was called to the center.
“My time draws to a close!” cried the elder witch. “For 100 years I have led this coven and now, it is time for me to pass my power to another.”
Lifting her hand, palm up, the coven leader indicated the smaller woman. “I have chosen our Sister Jujou to be my successor. Is there anyone who would challenge her right to rule?”
Jujou’s gaze traveled around the circle and all eyes were averted. All eyes save two…Hester McBride’s.
Hester just stood there smiling and boldly met her stare.
“Sister Hester” inquired the witch leader, “Have you something to say?”
Hester McBride boldly entered the circle and the other witches nervously inhaled as one. It had been centuries since a challenger had stepped forward to do battle for leadership of the coven.
Grinning broadly, Hester spoke loud enough for all to hear.
“I challenge Sister Jujou for control of the coven as is my RIGHT!’
Jujou’s lips pulled back in a predatory grin, her blue eyes blazing with eagerness.
Turning slowly to address all of her Sisters, Jujou answered her rival. “I accept Sister Hester’s challenge!” she replied in a clear voice.
The coven leader took a seat on her wooden throne as the two witches faced off.
Spells were cast and counter spells deflected them. Fire was called from the Earth and lightning from the sky. Strange coruscant energies singed the air. For what seemed hours the two rivals strove against each other though neither seemed to move. As time wore on only one thing changed and the change was so subtle that only the coven leader and a few of the older Acolytes noticed it.
As Hester’s grin grew broader…Jujou’s grew smaller.
Another hour and even the most junior of the coven’s members could see that slowly but surely Hester was gaining the upper hand.
Soon beads of sweat were dripping from her forehead and running down her body. Minutes later her legs were trembling as well. The end was near and everybody knew that Jujou’s reign was over before it had even begun.
The end came all at once. Suddenly the look of determination was gone from Jujou’s face and in its place was a new look…the look of fear.
A sudden push of majikal energy and it was over. The Heir Apparent lay defeated on the cold, wet ground.
As a sign of power over her defeated rival Hester McBride crossed the circle, straddled Jujou’s exhausted form and urinated on her head.
“How…how did you do that?” Jujou inquired softly in disbelief.
Leaning in closely Hester smiled and whispered, “I read it in a book.”
Ignoring her defeated foe Hester McBride strode to the Coven leader and stood proudly before her. “I have defeated my opponent. If no other will challenge me I demand that you name me the new coven leader!”
“Will anyone challenge Hester McBride for leadership of the coven?” inquired the leader.
“Sister Hester, I name you the new leader of this coven. May your rule be just and successful. May you lead wisely and well.”
As she spoke the old leader visibly began to sink in on herself. Her black hair faded to the color of dry grass and her once full face withered and aged. Seconds later she fell to the ground and as her power and life left her body and entered Hester’s the new leader began to grow stronger and glow.
In moments the transfer was complete and a small whirl wind swept over the pile of dust that lay at Hester’s feet, carrying it away to rejoin the Earth from which it had come.
Her triumph complete, Hester moved to the center of the circle and looking down upon her ex rival cast another spell.
Jujou’s writhed on the ground. The pain was incredible, it felt as though her soul was being torn from her body and indeed, a part of it was. The part where majik dwells. Hester Mc Bride took it all, Every bit of majik and majikal knowledge Jujou ever had. She was now powerless to protect herself against any majikal attack. Even the most junior member of the coven could do with her what she willed.
In a matter of a few hours she had fallen from the most powerful of the Acolytes to something no better or powerful as a slave.
The defeated witch lay on the ground, balled up and stinking of piss. Arms covering her head she sobbed and hopped that this would be the end oh her rival’s revenge.
Alas…it was not to be.
“Stand!” demanded Hester McBride, the coven’s new leader.
The defeated redhead just lay there crying in abject fear and despair.
“I said STAND!” yelled Hester, this time backed up with a spell.
Compelled by majik, Jujou had no choice and rose.
“Look at me SLAVE” she demanded. With effort, the defeated witch complied.
“You thought you could beat me, didn’t you. You thought you had. Did you think I wouldn’t find your little dirty secret? Did you really think I wouldn’t figure it out? I KNEW there was no way a lazy, shiftless slut like you could come by that kind of power HONESTLY. You thought you were sooo smart, memorizing all those spells. HA! I only had to remember one,,,How to defeat any other witch! Yes, you thought you were smarter than any of us. Now…you must pay the price for your arrogance.
“Please, don’t hurt me!” Jujou pleaded, I have no power left, I can’t hurt you anymore.”
“You silly little girl, you confuse power with Majik. What you lack is Majik but, you still have power. Don’t worry though, I will soon take that from you too.”
Hester looked up and addressed the witches who looked on. “Let this one stand as a lesson to any who would challenge my rule over this coven. She thought she could cheat me of mu due. She was wrong and now, she will pay the price for her transgression.”
Hester turned to Jujou and ordered the redhead to spread her feet apart. The defeated witch resisted but to no avail.
“Very well, if you wont do as you are told, I will make you do as I say!”
With a gesture of her hand Hester took all willed movement from her petite foe.
“Spread your feet apart…wide.”
The redhead’s enchanted body obeyed against her will.
“I have taken the power of Majik from this poor excuse for a witch. Now, I will take from her every ounce of power over others she has.”
Hester turned from her victim and drew the coven leader’s dagger from its sheath upon the throne. Returning to her frozen prey she addressed the others.
“Power has many forms. Yes, this one has abused her majikal powers and they have been stripped from her but what about her other powers? Has she not seduced every handsome man in the village?”
The others nodded on assent.
“What is it that gives her the power to do this?” she inquired of her audience.
“Her beauty.” answered Zack’s young wife with embarrassment. It was no secret that her husband and Jujou were lovers.
“And what is it that makes her beauty so special? After all, I see many beautiful women among my Sisters.”
There was a general shuffling of feet and studying of the ground before another jilted wife spoke up.
“Her red hair.” she said quietly.
“YES! I doubt there is another copper tressed woman within ten days journey of here! It is another source of power to her, the power of beauty over men.”
Smiling, Hester turned to Jujou and said, “I’ll have that power too!”
She took the sacred dagger and in front of everybody began to roughly cut the long red tresses from Jujou’s once proud head.
And, a strange thing began to happen. For every hank of hair Hester severed from Jujou’s poor head one of Hester’s took on the lovely copper color of her rival’s.
Cut for cut, Hester’s once black hair began to glow like the brightest gold. Minutes later, Hester’s hair was a mass of beautiful copper tresses and Jujou’s was a choppy, ugly mess.
“Don’t worry dear” she said with a smile and a wink, “this part’s almost over,”
Holding the dagger before her Hester spoke a few quiet words. The dagger responded in kind by taking on a faint blue luminescence. Without warning Hester drew the keen blade quickly across the top of Jujou’s head and a soft rain of short red hairs began to fall. Over and over she applied the blade until at last not even the merest bit of stubble remained. The defeated witch was no longer a redhead, she was completely bald.
Looking her over carefully Hester said I believe I’ll take these as well and with two deft strokes Jujou’s eyebrows and lashes fell to the ground. Looking up, the ex redhead watched as her rival’s brows faded from black to russet gold.
“Might as well complete the look…right?” said Hester as the fel blade traveled down Jujou’s taught body and scraped away her lovely red bush. As with her head and lashes, her tormentor’s thick, dark thatch of pubic hair turned copper gold and Jujou’s mound was left as smooth and hairless as a child’s.
But, Hester wasn’t done yet. She passed the blade over every inch of Jujou’s enchanted form and quite literally stole from her every hair she had.
“Well my Sisters” said Hester as she turned to show off her stolen finery. “Do you still think her beautiful?”
“NOOO!” they cried as one.
“Then I have succeeded in taking from her the power of beauty!”
“But,” she continued, “this one is very smart and cunning. No doubt at some point she will beguile some passing stranger into helping her. We can’t have that now…cam we?”
“NOOO!” answered the others.
Turning to an aged Acolyte she asked “Meryum, is there no solution for this possibility?”
“But of course there is My Lady, an old and well known spell! Though it has not been uttered for many years.”
“Would you care to demonstrate it for our younger Sisters?”
Glaring at Jujou she replied “Gladly!”
She spoke the majikal words and made a few very precise hand gestures. There was a brief moment of searing pain in her throat and the deed was done. The ex redhead would never never speak again.
“You see Sisters, once again I have taken power from her. First her enchanting beauty and now her beguiling voice though I can assure you her tongue is still in working order should you feel the need of its services.”
The Sisters all laughed knowingly.
“Poor jujou…not much left of you is there? Why, I bet your mind is turning over and over trying as hard as it can to figure a way out of this mess. And who knows? Maybe you will! Ahhh… there is NOTHING more dangerous than a woman scorned except of course for a WITCH woman scorned. I guess we can’t have you running around taking revenge, can we? Time to take from you another little bit of power…and you thought losing your Majik was the worst thing that could happen to you. Silly girl!”
“Meave, would you be a dear and lend me a hand?”
An ancient crone hobbled from the crowd and toothlessly replied ‘Twould be my pleasure deary!”
“I imagine at your age it’s hard to remember things well. Is that how it is?”
“Aye, as a young lass my mind was sharp as a rose thorn but alas, in my dotage I sometimes forget me own name! What I wouldn’t do for the clarity of thought I had in me youth.”
Hester pulled the two face to face and closed her eyes. Placing her hands the the back of their heads she softly said “Kiss her” and gently pushed. Their lips met, the young hairless ex witch and the ancient crone. As the ancient one’s tongue entered Jujou’s helpless mouth the ex redhead felt as though a soft fog had settled upon her mind. The crone sucked eagerly at Jujou’s mouth and the fog grew thicker. Her mind still worked but, it was as though the ability to connect thoughts was impaired. And…it was getting worse.
“Enough!” cried Hester as she pushed the tow apart. Turning to Meave who was blinking at the new found clarity of her mind she said “We have to leave her something or she wont remember what happened here tonight.”
“Yes My Lady…yes and Blessed be for the gift on my mind’s return!”
The defeated witch looked around, dumbfounded. She recognized the faces but could not remember the names. Why was she here, what had happened. All she could remember was that she had done something bad and was being punished with…with…”Oh. My God!” she mouthed, “I’m BALD!”
Slowly, the fog lifted but, everything was still hazy and would forever remain that way. She wasn’t stupid…simply confused and unable to make meaningful connections in her mind.
Hester released her from the spell and Jujou stood there, shoulders slumped, defeated and confused.
“You see?” Hester said to her and the others. “NOW you are powerless. Take her to town and place her in the stocks!”
As she was escorted back to Jujou searched for the meaning of the word “stocks”. What were they? Soon enough she would get her answer.