Before she could answer, Raven’s words filled her mind. Such needless fear and
indecision. There is nothing wrong with wanting to survive, Kari. The only ones who will blame
you are the ones who deserve to die.
Kari staggered to a stop and ripped the necklace off. She held the gem in a hand, fingers
wrapped so tight the jagged edges cut her palm.
Kari’s vision swam. She recalled the redheaded woman leaning closer, her eyes glowing embers, her smile long and large. I’ve thought of the most wonderful plan.
“You!” Kari shouted.
“Oh,” the Fire Witch said. “And I thought my day would be dull and dreary.”
“You!” Kari yelled again. Her legs were numbly locked in place, but her chest was
aflame. Lightning crackled to life at her fingertips. She mouthed exclamations, insults, but her
voice failed. The woman was here, the one who had ruined everything!
She extended a shaking hand. Zina dropped the gem into her palm, where it flashed as it
touched her skin.
“Since you have taken it of your own will, you and the gem are now Bound.” As she said
the word, the air around Kari stiffened. Magic. “Should you die an unnatural death, the gem will
shatter, destroying the soul within.”
The palm-sized crystal tumbled to the ground and began to bounce. Kari watched, her eyes widening. Dark smoke issued from the gem, curling over the ground, swirling until it took the form of a kneeling woman. Her features coalesced: long, dark hair to match her wintry robes and contrast her ivory skin. The woman lifted her head, looking about with eyes cut from obsidian.
Her pale-pink lips were uplifted in a sneer, betraying little surprise.
The woman spared Kari no attention as she stood to her full height and looked around. She faced the nearest patch of darkness and raised a hand, curling her fingers into a fist. The shadows stretched away from the trees, bending toward the woman in lazy snake-like wisps.
They lifted off the ground and twisted around her fingers.