I am Tersa the Weaver, Tersa the Liar, Tersa the Fool.
When the Blood-Jeweled Lords and Ladies hold a banquet, I’m the
entertainment that comes after the musicians have played and
the lithesome girls and boys have danced and the Lords have drunk
too much wine and demand to have their fortunes told. “Tell us
a story, Weaver,” they yell as their hands pass over the serving
girls’ rumps and their Ladies eye the young men and decide who
will have the painful pleasure of serving in the bed that night.
I was one of them once, Blood as they are Blood.
No, that’s not true. I wasn’t Blood as they are Blood.
That’s why I was broken on a Warlord’s spear and became shattered
glass that only reflects what might have been.
It’s hard to break a Blood-Jeweled male, but a witch’s life hangs
by the hymenal thread, and what happens on her Virgin Night determines
whether she is whole to practice the Craft or becomes a broken
vessel, forever aching for the part of her that’s lost. Oh, some
magic always remains, enough for day-to-day living and parlor
tricks, but not the Craft, not the lifeblood of our kind.
But the Craft can be reclaimed—if one is willing to pay the price.
When I was younger, I fought against that final slide into the
Twisted Kingdom. Better to be broken and sane than broken and
mad. Better to see the world and know a tree for a tree, a flower
for a flower
rather than to look through gauze at gray and ghostly shapes
and see clearly only the shards of one’s self.
So I thought then.
As I shuffle to the low stool, I struggle to stay at the edge
of the Twisted Kingdom and see the physical world clearly one
last time. I carefully place the wooden frame that holds my tangled
web, the web of dreams and visions, on the small table near the
The Lords and Ladies expect me to tell their fortunes, and I
always have, not by magic but by keeping my eyes and ears open
and then telling them what they want to hear.
Simple. No magic to it.
But not tonight.
For days now I have heard a strange kind of thunder, a distant
calling. Last night I surrendered to madness in order to reclaim
my Craft as a Black Widow, a witch of the Hourglass covens. Last
night I wove a tangled web to see the dreams and visions.
Tonight there will be no fortunes. I have the strength to say
this only once. I must be sure that those who must hear it are
in the room before I speak.
I wait. They don’t notice. Glasses are filled and refilled as
I fight to stay on the edge of the Twisted Kingdom.
Ah, there he is. Daemon Sadi, from the Territory called Hayll.
He’s beautiful, bitter, cruel. He has a seducer’s smile and a
body women want to touch and be caressed by, but he’s filled
with a cold, unquenchable rage. When the Ladies talk about his
bedroom skills, the words they whisper are “excruciating pleasure.”
I don’t doubt he’s enough of a sadist to mix pain and pleasure
in equal portions, but he’s always been kind to me, and it’s
a small bone of hope that I throw out to him tonight. Still,
it’s more than anyone else has given him.
The Lords and Ladies grow restless. I usually don’t take this
long to begin my pronouncements. Agitation and annoyance build,
but I wait. After tonight, it will make no difference.
There’s the other one, in the opposite corner of the room. Lucivar
Yaslana, the Eyrien half-breed from the Territory called Askavi.
Hayll has no love for Askavi, nor Askavi for Hayll, but Daemon
and Lucivar are drawn to one another without understanding why,
so wound into each other’s lives they cannot separate. Uneasy
friends, they have fought legendary battles, have destroyed so
many courts the Blood are afraid to have them together for any
length of time.
I raise my hands, let them fall into my lap. Daemon watches
me. Nothing about him has changed, but I know he’s waiting, listening.
And because he’s listening, Lucivar listens too.
“She is coming.”
At first they don’t realize I’ve spoken. Then the angry murmurs
begin when the words are understood.
“Stupid bitch,” someone yells. “Tell me who I’ll love tonight.”
“What does it matter?” I answer. “She is coming. The Realm of
Terreille will be torn apart by its own foolish greed. Those
who survive will serve, but few will survive.”
I’m slipping farther from the edge. Tears of frustration spill
down my cheeks. Not yet. Sweet Darkness, not yet. I must say
Daemon kneels beside me, his hands covering mine. I speak to
him, only to him, and through him, to Lucivar.
“The Blood in Terreille whore the old ways and make a mockery
of everything we are.” I wave my hand to indicate the ones who
now rule. “They twist things to suit themselves. They dress up
and pretend. They wear Blood Jewels but don’t understand what
it means to be Blood. They talk of honoring the Darkness, but
it’s a lie. They honor nothing but their own ambitions. The Blood
were created to be the caretakers of the Realms. That’s why we
were given our power. That’s why we come from, yet are apart
from, the people in every Territory. The perversion of what we
are can’t go on. The day is coming when the debt will be called
in, and the Blood will have to answer for what they’ve become.”
“They’re the Blood who rule, Tersa,” Daemon says sadly. “Who
is left to call in this debt? Bastard slaves like me?”
I’m slipping fast. My nails dig into his hands, drawing blood,
but he doesn’t pull away. I lower my voice. He strains to hear
me. “The Darkness has had a Prince for a long, long time. Now
the Queen is coming. It may take decades, even centuries, but
she is coming.” I point with my chin at the Lords and Ladies
sitting at the tables. “They will be dust by then, but you and
the Eyrien will be here to serve.”
Frustration fills his golden eyes. “What Queen? Who is coming?”
“The living myth,” I whisper. “Dreams made flesh.”
His shock is replaced instantly by a fierce hunger. “You’re
The room is a swirling mist. He’s the only thing still in sharp
focus. He’s the only thing I need. “I saw her in the tangled
web, Daemon. I saw her.”
I’m too tired to hang on to the real world, but I stubbornly
cling to his hands to tell him one last thing. “The Eyrien, Daemon.”
He glances at Lucivar. “What about him?”
“He’s your brother. You are your father’s sons.”
I can’t hold on anymore and plunge into the madness that’s called
the Twisted Kingdom. I fall and fall among the shards of myself.
The world spins and shatters. In its fragments, I see my once-Sisters
pouring around the tables, frightened and intent, and Daemon’s
hand casually reaching out, as if by accident, destroying the
fragile spidersilk of my tangled web.
It’s impossible to reconstruct a tangled web. Terreille’s Black
Widows may spend year upon frightened year trying, but in the
end it will be in vain. It will not be the same web, and they
will not see what I saw.
In the gray world above, I hear myself howling with laughter.
Far below me, in the psychic abyss that is part of the Darkness,
I hear another howling, one full of joy and pain, rage and celebration.
Not just another witch coming, my foolish Sisters, but Witch.