Literary Fiction Science Fiction Classic Fantasy witches

The Coven

By CB Droege
May 19, 2021 · 1,304 words · 5 minutes

The coven


From the author: Griz is ready to serve humanity with her unique powers, but an unexpected offer might derail everything.

An audio version is available for this chapter. Listen online →

Griz thought the interview was over, but Delta-Rowe's Assistant Minister of Adept Operations, after questioning her about her abilities and her life for over an hour, had told her that someone else would be coming in to speak with her after he left, so she sat. She was starting to think it might have been a mistake and that no one was coming. It had been fifteen minutes. She decided to give it five more, and then go out and ask someone.

She wished she had a book or her handy with her. The room was a simple, unadorned box with green walls and an artificial wood table with a few chairs. There weren't even windows to look out of, despite that the ministry building sat in one of the most beautiful locations on the citystation. Griz squinted at one of the chairs and concentrated, trying to shift it slightly back from the table. Her eyes watered, and it felt like her skull was tightening, but nothing happened.

She knew that no adept, no matter how sensitive, could ever use their power without an Engine nearby, but she'd heard it was good to practice the techniques even when the engine was not around to make her will manifest, now that she knew how to 'flex the muscles', as it were, she could get a little stronger without actually doing anything. She wasn't sure how much she believed it, but she still found herself doing a lot of flexing throughout the day, especially when bored.

She tried again, and this time the chair shifted just a touch. Startled, she closed her mind, but realized after a moment what must have happened: There were likely many adepts who worked in this office, one must have passed the room with a portable engine, and she had been touched by the edges of the field. As confirmation, there was a small knock at the door before it opened wide, admitting a woman of bold presence. She swept into the room with a bit of a flourish, closing the door behind her. She was tall and thin, adorned in a perfectly tailored, rose-red pencil-skirt suit. Her hair was in a bun, and she carried an aluminum scepter with a glowing gem at its end. This would be her portable engine, of course. Griz rolled her eyes; it had been a hundred years since MA Engines were so big they had to be carried in a staff or a scepter, most people who had them, liked to keep them a bit more discrete these days, usually in a belt buckle or simply stowed in a pocket. To brandish one like this was an antiquated pretention.

The woman adjusted her half-moon spectacles, another affectation from the past, and glanced at Griz. When she spoke, her voice was high and sweet. "You must be Grissella," she said. "That's a lovely name."

Griz was immediately on her guard. People often commented on her name, but usually they called it "interesting" in a hesitant sort of way, or sometimes they simply asked her if she had a nickname. No one ever said the name was "lovely" unless they were pandering or condescending to her. Neither of which she trusted. "Griz," Griz said simply.

The woman flashed a frown. "Griz, then," she said, "I'm Bethany Herald. I'd like to talk to you about an opportunity." She smoothed her skirt, and sat across from Griz at the table.

Griz brushed the hair out from in front of her eyes, and sat back into the chair. "What kind of opportunity?"

"I'm sure the Assistant Minister went over your compulsory service requirements with you." she said. He had, but Griz had known since she was ten that her abilities would mean a non-voluntary two-year stint in the guard-forces starting on her eighteenth birthday. She nodded.

"You may be able to avoid that," Bethany said with a sly smile. Griz only then noticed that the woman was wearing a small black pin on the lapel of her suit: a crooked, pointed hat crossed with a broom. Oh!

"You're a-" Griz began, but the woman cut her off.

"I'm a representative of an ancient organization which is always interested in recruiting women with talents like yours."

"Like mine?" Griz asked. Was she really being invited to The Coven?

"You're a presto," the woman explained, using the slang term for a telekinetic adept, "and a very keen one from the reports I've read. You would no doubt be a great asset to the guard-force, and would likely rise through the ranks quickly and easily, if you chose to stay beyond your compulsory service. It would be an easy life filled with respect and power, and perhaps a future in political leadership. We haven't seen a presto of your power in this city in two generations. You would be a shining star; the brightest jewel in the crown of Spincity Delta-Rowe."

Despite herself, Griz felt her face grow hot. She knew she was good, even advanced, but this was too much. She sat silently and waited for the "but" that was surely coming next.

"Perhaps," Bethany said, "easy isn't what you want, or what you need. If you come with me, it will be challenging. The training will be grueling, the respect will be hard-earned, and the power will be a long time coming, but your importance will go beyond this tiny city. Our organization spans the many settlements of human-kind, and wields power across the system."

Griz knew about The Coven, of course. There were plenty of stories. She had heard that they were the true power behind the Sol council, that they guide civilization from the shadows using wit, wisdom, and their extraordinary Adept powers. She'd also heard rumors that they eat goats raw, consort with pirates, and steal babies. She had even heard someone recently say that The Coven had been responsible for the attack on the Venus colony 30 years ago. In a universe of peace and transparency, The Coven was an enigma. "Can you tell me more about... your organization?" she ventured.

The woman's eyebrows knit and her nose crinkled a bit over her understanding smile. "I'm afraid not, but I think you already know something of who we are. If you accept my offer, of course, you will learn everything you need to know once you are off this city."

"Off the-?" Griz started to ask, but then caught herself and said, "Of course I would have to leave Delta-Rowe." Bethany only continued to smile, her expression now open and inviting. A picture of patience. Griz wondered how patient she really was underneath. "What would I tell my friends and family?" she asked.

"Nothing," the woman said, "if you accept my offer now, you will never contact them again. They will be informed of your death in a tragic transport accident."

Griz gasped, for the first time really shocked by all of this. Taking it all in was overwhelming. "Can I take time to think about it?"

"Unfortunately, no," Bethany said simply, "If I leave without you now, we will never contact you again, and you will never find us."

Griz thought of all her dear friends, her parents, her schoolmates, her dog. To never see them again... But... To be part of something so vast, so powerful...

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, giving herself that moment to think. "Okay," she said then.

"Okay?" Bethany asked.

"Okay," Griz repeated, "I'll go with you, right now"

Bethany's smile returned once more, seeming genuinely pleased this time. "I had a feeling you would make the right choice, Grissella." She stood and moved toward the door, "our transport is already waiting."

Griz stood and followed the woman out of the room without looking back.

This story originally appeared in Manawaker Studio's Flash Fiction Podcast.

CB Droege

CB Droege writes short-form and experimental fiction, mostly sci-fi.