This is the fourth part of a short story about a Sea Witch in Crux, Arsania, a Cecaelia a bit more open than others of her kind. After refusing a job, someone leaves a ring in her possession that just brings her more and more trouble than she really wants...
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
The tiny building I used for my shop sat near the docks, at the end of a narrow alley. One had to know what to look for to see it, something I considered a plus for my business when I started it. I didn't want to be popular, I wanted loyal customers who'd come for the quality of my witchcraft.
When I brought Little Annie there, it didn't feel unique to me. I suddenly was aware of how vulnerable my shop was within the docks. In the alley, there was little to no light. I never bothered to learn anything about the local patrols. I barely knew my neighbors. I just kept to myself, never really worrying about them. And they didn't worry about me.
It scared me. I had no one. Nobody to notice anything out of the ordinary. No, it just looked like I was leading a child to my shop. No one would say a thing. Hey, Octopus Lady has a apprentice now, no need to bother her any!
Great. Good job, Arsania.
My fingers shook as I tried to unlock it. I found the key, trying not to cry out. I felt the cold tip of Little Annie's knife press against my back.
"It's alright, Miss." She said in a consoling tone. "Deep breaths and all that."
I tried to take a deep breath.
She's going to knife me when she gets the chance I told myself. But my fingers continued their shaking, and I managed to get the door open. She's going to knife you and leave your body to rot on land.
The door creaked open like it always did, the rusted bell failing to ring out once again. I opened the door more, and let a magic word slip from my mouth. Lanterns flickered on.
"And light there was. Get going." Annie ordered.
I obeyed. I moved slowly down the stairwell to the floor of my shop. The building had sunken beneath some of the sea. It made my basement and bottom floor underwater. It meant I could work in saltwater, something that made my life a great deal more relaxing.
But Annie didn't know that.
"Its down here." I told her, keeping only one lantern on. I tried to mask the water near by with the light. I gestured at a bit of glittering silver on the floor.
"Excuse me?" Annie asked. "Still blind, I can sense your body..."
"Oh." A part of me felt ashamed over that. She was still blind, and I had said something rude. Shouldn't I feel bad about that? "I'm sorry-"
"Give me the ring, that's all the apologies I need."
I moved toward the ring. As I picked it up, I could sense the malevolence in the ring. The intelligence within it. It tried to control me, the demon within trying to claw its way out into me.
Muffins slid into the water nearby. She didn't make a sound when she did so. Of course she didn't. She was a creature of the sea.
"No." I surprised myself with my words. Then I acted. "No, Dirtwalker. I don't think so."
I dove into the seawater. I lost the ring in the process, it sliding from me in my dive into the water. I could breath again. Under the water, I could see and hear. I moved without having drag my tentacles.
I spun myself around, letting water spin around me. I called on my Patron, the spirit of the sea and storm. It rumbled through my flesh. I channeled it into the water around me.
"Not so fast, Miss." Little Annie dove into the water after me. I could sense her vibrations in the water. The Dirtwalker floundered around much like a fish would in a boat.
In the water, I could sense the spells she used. Fiendish magic, letting her sense thoughts around her. Like some sort of bat, she could sense the gist of nearby thoughts enough to construct her own senses. When I dove into the water without thought, Annie could never have sensed it. And when I started to cast my spell, her senses lit up once more.
"No." I said to myself. "Don't let this dirtwalker intimidate you."
Little Annie swam at me. Her knife swung at me. But it was pathetic. Her movement had no grace in the sea. The one-horned tiefling was more like a one-horned rat. And I could feel her lungs, she needed to breath air.
I let loose my spell.
"You don't get to leave. Freeze." I felt the magic of my patron seal the surface of the water above. It went frigid, turning to ice.
Annie continued to swipe at me. I instead danced about her. I moved without effort. My tentacles slipped and slid about me with grace. I was one with the sea once more.
"You think you can beat me, Dirtwalker?" I sneered at her. My words echoing in the water. "This is where I live, where I was born."
Annie couldn't talk. She couldn't risk losing any precious air.
"Look up, dirtwalker." I gestured.
The little tiefling glanced up, her rags dragged her to the bottom of my sea-flooded room. Her eyes widened. Panic started to enter her eyes. She rushed at me again.
Again I dodged it.
"Annie, you're going to drown. Is your mother going to stop that?" I slapped her with a tentacle. She tried to stop me. She tried to slash at me. But the dirtwalker was too slow.
"But you know what? I'm going to not let you die. But this is a lesson, little demon-girl. Don't harass me. Don't come here again. Don't ever try to threaten me with your little crazed tricks again!"
I threw a new spell at the flailing tiefling. She was trying to break through the ice above. My spell let me use the water itself. I grabbed her with raw currents and squeezed. Bubbles flowed out of her mouth. She tried to scream in pain. Instead, she drowned.
I smirked. I grabbed my former assailant with a tentacle. The two of us surfaced to the top.
Oddfellow stared at me in my shop.
"You don't... well, my lady, you normally stay down there." He gestured down at the sea-flooded room below us.
I smiled at him.
"Didn't feel like it. Here." I handed Oddfellow the ring. The Android Paladin glanced down at it. "Please get rid of that for me. Not worth the trouble."
Oddfellow nodded in agreement. "I see you made it home alright."
"Of course. I had a bit of trouble..." I patted the wrapped bundle on the chair next to me. "But I'm working on that for now."
Oddfellow looked down at the wrapped bundle. It took him a moment, but then the android saw the person wrapped under all the seaweed and cloth. He gave me a concerned look.
"Oh, it isn't what you think, Oddfellow." I picked up the bundle. Little Annie, true to her name, was quite little, at least enough that I could lift her up. "I have to make sure my patient is well before I let her go home."
"Patient? Looks more like a prisoner-"
"Oh," I brightened a bit as I spoke, "this little one drowned. I'm still helping her recover. Hopefully when this is all done, she won't ever have such a terrible accident again."