“Ay,” she nodded curtly. Years ago, the name of Paradam would have struck fear into the heart of every convict. Now most wondered why the family didn’t join them in persecution. But for her, the fear had never left. “Wilmina,”
“I know your name,”
“Hmmph,” she grunted. Wilmina reluctantly moved aside, allowing them back in. She limped towards the fireplace on a club foot gouged with splinters. She took a battered tin from the mantle full of crispy, brown tea leaves and sprinkled them into the cauldron. She bent down to the coals and snapped her fingers to no effect.
Anala sighed quietly, attempting to keep her thoughts to herself as she was prone not to do. Beastfolk had been denied Gifting, but had learnt an obsolete form of the Art through stolen scriptures to consider themselves magi. Some did it to gain the civil rights of magi, others were simply resentful of not having the talent. But without meditation or incantation, the magick was a crude one, without grace, or artistry as Anala liked to say.
Frustrated, Wilmina pressed a broken nail into the pad of her finger until blood welled in a black bead. Anala could barely believe it as the troll flicked the meagre but potent fluid onto the coals: blood drawing. It was a foul way of incantation, but if Anala had said so, her uncle would have undoubtedly clipped her on the ear. A flame sprang to life in the fire-pit, but a high-pitched ring filled the room, like something convulsing in agony before death.
“Sacrilege,” Anala hissed under her breath, moving to the sofas.
“Wha’?” Wilmina snapped,
“Nothing,” she replied, her voice sweet and unconvincing. Wilmina shrugged and dipped three mugs into the bubbling tea, passing them over. Percival and Anala sat down on the sofa on a countdown, grimacing as the cushions squelched beneath them. Anala wanted to leave already.