Soul of a Witch

scroll down for excerpt                 Book 8 in the Heart & Soul series

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In a bid to save a boy’s soul from powerful dark forces, a famous witch
and a notorious space pirate must unite. Now a powerful enemy is approaching, and he has no mercy.

Together Beulah and Sinya will face the mysteries
of the unknown, and an inheritance for powers untapped. But will it
destroy their growing love?

 

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The rain continued to pour down as the minutes ticked past slowly. Worriedly pacing before Beulah, Sinya kept his gaze trained on her.
A shift in the atmosphere, a disturbance in the air around him, made him flinch and glance around him. A searing bolt of lightning cracked through the air, blazing with a crimson light across the sky dangerously near to where he stood. Thunder boomed, and he heard the dim, mocking laughter inside it, and it chilled him to his soul.
Turning back to Beulah, Sinya was startled to see that her eyes were open, but it chilled him more when he saw that her eyes were pure white. Where her irises should have been, was white.
Suddenly she screamed, an agonized scream such as he’d never heard before, and goose bumps raced up his arms.
“Beulah!” Petras cried out.
Even as Sinya stood still in surprise, Beulah jerked backwards with frightening force. She flew backwards through the air to smash against the tree a distance behind her, and bounce off again. Even as she crumpled to the wet grass, Sinya was racing towards her.
“Beulah!” He fell to his knees beside her.
White hair hung in a sodden mass around her face, and he carefully brushed it back, feeling for her pulse. The erratic beat was alarming, but also a relief. She lived.
“Ooohhh!” Petras moaned. “Oh, my witch is so badly hurt!”
The driving rain beat down heavily, and Sinya rolled Beulah onto her back before lifting her up in his arms.
“Where are you taking her?” Petras wound around his neck fretfully.
“Out of this bloody rain,” Sinya retorted.
Petras moaned, clinging to him with barely discernable tendrils, calling softly to Beulah.
Cradling Beulah close, Sinya bounded up the steps of the hut and strode past Ephim, who was waiting with the door open.
“Shit.” Ephim chewed his bottom lip worriedly. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Sinya looked towards Wes, relieved to see that he was breathing normally. “Is he awake?”
“No.” Ephim shook his head.
“Damn.” Sinya glanced around the room. “Is there another room here? A bedroom or something? Must be…” His voice trailed away as a previously unnoticed door opened slowly in the opposite wall.
Ephim scratched his head nervously. “Never noticed that before.”
Sinya didn’t bother to marvel at it. He strode across the room and through the door, to find himself in a bedroom. Gently he lay Beulah on the bed. Going back out of the room, he checked on Wes, finding him sleeping as soundly as earlier. Assured that there was no obvious change in his condition, he returned to the bedroom.
Ephim followed on his heels, and they both stood and gazed down at the still form of the witch-woman. Her breathing was heavy, as though she’d run a race, and her hands twitched slightly.
“Now what?” Ephim finally said.
Running one hand through his hair, Sinya glanced at his friend. “We do what we’d do for any injured person.”
“Search for injuries? Do you do that with a witch?”
“She’s still a person.” Leaning over her, Sinya slipped his hands gently beneath her head, probing carefully.
“Drake doesn’t think so.”
“Drake’s got some weird ideas.”
Discovering a bump, he withdrew his fingers to find a trace of blood on them.
“Blood!” Petras whimpered. “My poor witch!”
“By God!” Ephim jumped and looked around wildly. “Who the hell is that?”
“Beulah’s pet.” Sinya rolled Beulah carefully onto her side so that he could investigate the back of her head more thoroughly. “It’s only a small bump. Get me a bowl of hot water and some rags, and the medipack.”
While Ephim went to do his bidding, Sinya took the opportunity to check for further injuries. He ran his hands searchingly down her arms, but could find no obvious skin breaks or injuries. He hesitated at her legs, then glanced at her pale face. To hell with it. She’s injured. She can yell at me later about her modesty. Raising the hem of her gown high up her thighs, he ran his hands and gaze over her limbs, relieved to find no injuries there, either.
Ephim coughed when he brought the bowl of hot water in, Franc following behind with the medipack. Sinya glanced up to find the barrel-chested pirate’s wide-eyed gaze on Beulah’s legs, and with a frown, he swept the hem of the gown down over her legs again. He couldn’t say why, but the men looking at Beulah’s legs irritated him.
“Here.” Franc placed the medipack on the small table beside the bed. “What do you want me to do?”
“I’ll hold her on her side and support her head.” Sinya sat on the edge of the bed and carefully rolled Beulah towards him. Cradling the lower part of her head gently in one palm, he instructed, “You clean that bump and put something on it.”
While Franc efficiently attended the shallow wound, Sinya wondered what had happened to Beulah. And Wes.
Was Wes back in his body? He doubted it. Something had happened, something very similar to what had happened when Beulah had been thrown across the room earlier. Then she had said she’d been hit by a lightning bolt from that bastard, Hortra. Had the same thing happened? Was the storm from the mystic or whatever he was? Had he taken Wes’s spirit, or was Wes still safely hidden in his sanctuary?
Shit, he didn’t know. All he knew was that his little brother was still in a deep sleep, and his witch was lying unconscious on a narrow bed. And where were these mystical healers, the Accelis?
“You can’t leave her in those wet clothes,” Franc stated. “She’ll catch her death of cold.”
The covers on the bed were already starting to soak up the water from her body. He had to take the sopping gown off her.
There were no fastenings on the front of her gown, and gingerly Sinya rolled her partly over to check the back. No fasteners of any kind were there, either. She obviously pulled the gown on over her head. Well, he wasn’t going to pull and yank her around to get it off. There was an easier way.
He’d cut it off.
Reaching down into the top of his boot, he withdrew his dagger. Placing it at the neckline of her gown, he slid his fingers just beneath to lift the material away from her skin, and paused. Her skin was hot. Too hot.
A sudden memory of the red flash snapping from her body made him jerk his hand away.
‘Nature is what I need right now.’ Her words came back to him, and he sucked in his breath, staring down at her. Did she need nature now? Was it hurting her to be here, inside the hut? If only he knew what the hell was going on.
“Petras?” He whispered.
“Here.” The clinging entity pressed against his cheek, making him shudder at the unexpectedness of it.
“Does she need to go outside?”
There was silence for several seconds, then Petras replied with relief, “Yes, yes, my witch needs to go now.”
Heart in his throat, Sinya gathered Beulah into his arms and hurried through the hut and out onto the small veranda. There he stopped in surprise, and awe. The same expression was on his crews’ faces as they stood in a loose, semi-circle with lasers trained on the 3 gigantic, golden men standing at the steps leading up to the hut. The surrounding darkness had been pushed back by the brilliant golden glow emanating from the golden men.
Sinya recognized them immediately as the same three Acceli healers that had been in the hut earlier.
“Bring her to us,” the voice sighed from the breeze that brushed past his ear.
“Shit,” Ralfis muttered.
Drake started to hawk up, only to stop at a “Not now, you superstitious bastard,” from Franc.
Sinya kept his gaze on the golden giant who had glided forward until he stood at the bottom of the first step. Burgundy eyes gazed calmly up at him.
“Give the little witch to me.” The Acceli held out his arms.
“What are you going to do with her?” Sinya returned, unconsciously tightening his hold on Beulah’s shivering body.
“We are the Acceli healers.” The voice seemed to seep from the veranda roof above Sinya’s head. “She is our concern.”
They’d helped her before, and truth be told, Sinya didn’t know what to do with Beulah. She was suffering in a way totally alien to him. She jerked in his arms, throwing her head back and clenching her teeth. He could feel her body growing hotter.
Without further hesitation, he strode down the steps until he was level with the Acceli, and laid her into the golden man’s arms. He watched as the Acceli stepped back, cradling her close. She looked like a child in the arms of her father.
Flanked by the other two Acceli healers, the one holding Beulah started to glow brightly, and the pirates had to shield their eyes from the brilliance.
“Wait!” Sinya called out. “When will she be back?”
“When she’s healed,” a voice whispered from the flowering bushes lining the veranda.
“What about Wes?”
The gaze of the Acceli holding Beulah met his with burning intensity. “The boy’s soul has been taken. Pray, pirate. Pray for his soul as hard as you can.”
Cold fear sliced through Sinya. “Taken? By Hortra?”
“By the dark mystic, yes.”
Peering through slitted eyes at the fading figures in the brilliant light, Sinya begged desperately, “Save him. Save my little brother as you would Beulah.”
“We cannot save him.” The voice crept from the ground. “Only protect his body.”
“Then tell me where I can get Wes’s… soul.” Sinya stumbled over the strangeness of his question.
“Hortra is powerful.”
“He has my little brother!”
“Hortra is deep in the Outlaw Sector. Deep in the darkness, where it is harsh and life struggles to survive.”
Jumping down from the steps, Sinya hurried forward. “You’re telling me nothing! You – ” He floundered to a halt as the golden light vanished suddenly.
The only light now came from the moon and stars above, the lights from the hut, and the glow from his spaceship. The Acceli healers had disappeared with Beulah.
“Shit!” Sinya swore, kicking the veranda post in anger, frustration, and fear for Wes. “Bloody hell!”
“Now what?” Franc chewed his bottom lip worriedly.
“We need to find this Hortra, you nitwit,” Drake informed him.
Turning away, Sinya made to go back up the steps into the hut, only to find his way barred by something. “What the hell?” He put his hand up and felt an invisible shield of some kind.
We cannot save him. The words echoed suddenly in his head, and foreboding filled him. Only protect his body.
He started moving rapidly, tracing the invisible barrier with his hands.
“What’s wrong?” Ephim asked curiously.
“Doesn’t look good, whatever it is,” Franc stated anxiously.
“Help me find a way in,” Sinya snapped. “Now, damn it!”
The pirates glanced uncertainly at each other, but moved forward obediently. Warily, they reached out their hands, their uncertainty turning to incredulity as they encountered the invisible barrier.
“Well, hell,” Drake said. “Mysticism!” He hawked, spat, and stamped both feet.
Franc was too busy gaping at the hut to notice.
“Wes is in there alone,” Sinya snarled. “I’m not leaving him in there!”
The pirates redoubled their efforts, but to no avail. The invisible barrier gave no opening. Drake went back into the ship to monitor the hut and see if he could discover a power reading, but nothing showed. Sinya sent several of the pirates up on travel discs, and discovered that the barrier was apparently dome shaped. And impenetrable, he realized, after several failed attempts to burn through it with laser cutters.
Finally admitting defeat, he sat down on a nearby boulder and stared at the hut.
“Sinya?” Ralfis hesitated. “Anything else you want us to try?”
“I can’t think of anything we haven’t already tried.” Emotionally drained by the chaotic events, Sinya tiredly raked one hand through his hair.
The pirates stood around, staring at the hut. The lights shone softly from the windows. Inside lay Wes.
Several minutes passed, and Sinya became aware of his crew slanting him questioning gazes. None knew what to say, but they were wondering about his next move. After all, he was their captain, and he always had a plan.
Making his decision, Sinya pushed to his feet and faced them. Folding his arms across his chest, he straightened his shoulders and regarded them all soberly. “Right now, I’m going to wait until morning and see if Beulah returns by then. The basic fact is that Wes is in there, and we’re stuck out here. I’m not prepared to just leave him. Beulah is the only one I can think of with any answers, so I’m going to wait for her, for however long it takes.”
The pirates nodded in agreement.
“Meanwhile, we’re going to search our database for any mention of this Hortra bastard. Drake, come with me and we’ll start. Franc, I want two men watching the hut at all times, testing at least hourly for any weakening of the barrier. Ephim, keep a constant scan on the surroundings Anything out of the ordinary, notify me.
~ * ~
Three hours later, Sinya slumped back in the chair and wearily rubbed his stinging eyes. There were vague references to several dark mystics, but none that were named Hortra.
Drake scratched his head. “I’m stumped.”
“We don’t give up.”
“Never that, Cap’n. I’m just trying to figure out where to start next.”
Standing, Sinya crossed to the porthole and gazed out at the hut. Nothing stirred, except for two of his pirates pressing their hands to the invisible barrier, trying to find an opening.
“It’s late,” he finally said, turning to face Drake. “You might as well get some rest.”
“What about – ”
“It doesn’t appear that anything is going to happen just yet. No, go tell the others to get some rest. I’ll wake them if anything happens.”
Within the hour his crew were bedded down. The odd snore came from their cabins, a sound familiar and welcome to Sinya as he strode down the corridor.
In the control cabin, he ran his gaze over the panel. The warning module was set, the constant scanning of the surroundings for a three hundred mile radius. Nothing untoward showed. A computer screen to the left of the radar showed an outline of the hut. A scanning line swept across the hut image, but no break or weakness showed.
“Damn it!” Gritting his teeth in a burst of anger, Sinya stormed from the cabin.
Crossing to the steps that led to the narrow exit ramp, he went quickly down the ramp and strode out into the night. Glaring at the hut, he swore viciously.
He was stuck here, with no idea of what had happened to Wes, or where Beulah was. He’d brought his little brother here for help, and now it appeared they were in even more trouble. At least on the ship, Wes was still under his protection. What protection could he offer his brother now? If something just as mystical as the beings he was dealing with came now, what could he do? Blast them with the laser guns? Would it do any good?
“Bloody hell! I should never have come to this forsaken place!” Savagely he kicked the boulder nearby, before dropping down onto it.
Leaning his elbows on his knees, he rested his chin on one palm, and drew a deep breath. Losing it now wasn’t going to help. He had to think how to get his brother out of the hut, and where to find this Hortra bastard.
Deep in the Outlaw Sector. If he’s deep in there, I should be able to find him, surely? I know a lot of pirates. Besides, he might be in a section I’ve never been to. There are a lot of areas in the Sector, some areas good pirates don’t go to. A slight grin creased his face at the thought, then he sobered again. I don’t care where this bastard is, I’ll track him down! I’ll hunt him like the filth he is, and blow him apart!
Meanwhile, he was stuck here. Broodingly, he gazed at the hut.

**

Copyright Angela Verdenius