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The black waves of the unpredictable, wild night sea crashed repeatedly into the smooth paleness of the shore. Regis found the rhythmic pounding to be soothing and beautiful in its consistency. The men and women around him thought it a little foreboding – none of them were all too fond of the sea. Vague recent memories of drowning in it still flickered across the inside of their eyelids whenever they dared to sleep.

The house in which they all now resided was a special house. It was enchanted so that no mortal could behold it. The only others who could see it were sorcerers who had seen murder. Everyone inside the house had either committed the crime or seen another of them perform it. Witnessing murder changed a person’s soul and opened the soul’s eye to the darkest of magic, which was practically wrapped around this beautiful beach house.

One of the men, Nigel, fidgeted and suppressed a sigh, plainly restless. Regis turned his irritated green gaze to his follower.

“What seems to be the problem, Nigel?” he asked poisonously, but very quietly. The heavy-set man Nigel, once a quiet sorcerer named Hank living out his cancer-suffering final days as a farmer, knew better than to answer his king honestly when Regis used that tone.

“Absolutely nothing, Highness,” he muttered, averting his eyes respectfully to elsewhere in the large rumpus room. 

“Good,” Regis said in a soft, satisfied voice. “I don’t want Nastassja to be distracted.”

All the men and the few women around the room silently looked to the gorgeous woman lying across the couch. To an untrained eye, she would appear to be sleeping. Unlike the others, who were lower in rank to her, she could sleep peacefully and block disturbing memories of murder from her head. But they all knew she wasn’t asleep, not really – she had simply slipped into another plane of consciousness. She was excellent at scrying the normal way (whilst conscious and with the aid of a crystal or another medium) but she preferred this way, the soul-leaving-the-body-to-look-around way, when she could. It was a way that she could scry and even take control of people. It had become illegal only a few decades ago but there was no way to police it. Nastassja was an expert.

She was incredibly beautiful, with soft, shiny black hair to her waist, pale skin and unnatural green eyes that matched those of Regis, Nigel and everybody else in the room – a reminder of the half-forgotten curse they had undergone. Almost thirty, she looked a lot younger. She was slim and perfect and very, very powerful. It was she who had been chosen (unbeknown to the ignorant, ridiculous White Elm council) to kill Lisandro, the weak sorcerer who began Magnus Moira, and place Regis, a stronger, more powerful and much wiser man, in the leader’s position. She had chosen his name (Regis, ‘king’ in French) and pledged him her undying loyalty.

Every man in the room would have given his own cursed life to have her as his own, but they all knew that Nastassja was off-limits. She belonged to Regis. No one else would touch her, anyway. They all valued their ability to breathe way too much, and she was perfectly capable of taking that away.

Her kohl-lined eyes opened, the unnatural irises like bright green lights flashing on. Nastassja sat up, brushing smooth black locks from her pale face. Regis stood and went to her. No one else moved.

“I went, none of them are home,” she said in her beautiful voice, fully awake. Regis sat beside her, long black robes swishing quietly. “Not one. They’re up to something.”

Regis nodded but did not answer, instead lightly running a hand over her hair. The others in the room shared uneasy glances – should they retire to their rooms and give their leaders some privacy, or would they get in trouble for leaving without being asked to?

Thankfully Regis turned from his beautiful companion to his followers then.

“So we were right,” he said, smiling. “Today the White Elm opened their silly little school.”

“The spy’s information was correct,” Taban said with a disturbing, hardly human grin. “Those complete idiots. Their trust is so foolish – they trust anyone. How can they not realise they have a traitor in their midst?”

A few men laughed lightly at this, but none laughed as hard as Taban. He had once been a member of White Elm, but had left when Lisandro did, and so was a high-up, long-serving member of Magnus Moira. He was one of the founders, aside from Lisandro and the girl Nastassja once was. His hatred for the White Elm was as deep as that of Regis.

“Of course the spy’s information was correct,” Regis said smoothly. “If we cannot trust our own, who can we trust?”