Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and howlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Penelope & Noelle Ravenwood
As always, there was something especially sinister about the atmosphere of the Shambles Forest. Whether it was the army of dead trees currently statue-ing in the Shambles forest, with their dampened logs, and bare branches. Or the gloomy fog that hovered around each trunk with a malevolently opaque thickness, not permitting its inhabitants any view of the forest's horizon. Or whether it was the unnatural quiet, no scurrying of vermin or flapping of wings within miles. Whatever it could be pinned down to, something did not quite feel right with the Eldritch landscape. And whilst these unpleasant elements of the Shambles might have seemed unnerving to some, but to the eldest pair of Ravenwood sisters - there was a curious comfort to be taken from it. Blissful. Familiar.
The pair were currently situated outside of the forest's enchantments, so there was no visible evidence of their home. Just hordes of trees and gloomy darkness, stretching out for miles and miles. Working outside of the magical barrier was essential for the women as there were some things that could not be gathered in the confines of their communion.
Noelle, the youngest two sisters, was currently crouched on the grassy plains of the Shambles earth. A young woman with all the grace and softness of a rose, somehow she looked both out of place and completely at home in the creepy forest. Delicate fingers pulling up roots of some kind of flowered weed, mud smeared over the pale woman's hands and the front of her elegant black dress. It was a messy job. Far too filthy for the pink-eyed beauty knelt there, but not nearly as dirty as her older sister.
Unlike the younger Ravenwood, Penelope was covered not in earth but blood, dark unicorn blood to be precise. Currently perched on the slain hide of a dark mammal, red fluids coating her clothes, chin and arms as she delved inside the gaping hole carved into the creature's stomach. So soaked in blood that trying to determine the colour of her clothes prior was near impossible - glimpses of grey fabric peeking out in uncoated gaps. All the while, the weeds in her own basket were replaced with entrails and other organs.
She forced her arm further into the beast, an expression of concentration on her face as she felt her way up under its ribcage. Moments later there was a snap, followed by the soft squelching noises as her arm re-emerged from the creature's corpse - its heart gripped firmly in her grasp.
“Perfect condition.” She mused, eying the organ before placing it carefully in her basket. Noelle looked up from where she knelt, eying her sister’s trophy with blank indifference.
“Blessed be,” She said softly, her voice empty and void of feeling. Penelope looked at her, honey eyes finding her sisters despite the darkness that shrouded them. “Blessed be.” She answered with equal reserve, before climbing off the beast. Scooping up the handle of a woven basket, she twirled the swish of her dress prevented by the dampened red fabric sticking to her ankles. “Let us return sister, we have more than enough for an effective hex.”
Plucking up one final weed, Noelle would rise to her feet. Basket in hand, its contents currently filled with Muegroot, writhing Syggle worms, and most recognisable to those not resident of the Shambles; dandelions. Penelope moved around the creature, kneeling down before it, her sister would wander over before kneeling beside her. The pair would close their eyes, remaining quiet for several moments. Silently giving thanks to Heknys for her blessing, and offering the beast's flesh back to the earth. Moments would pass, before the earth began to move, the ground beneath the creature would sink, lowering the dead dark unicorn into it. Its flesh would quick rotten, as though time accelerated on the beast's body alone.
Within less than a minute, any evidence that the creature had been slain was gone. Even the bloody leaves and stained earth had been swallowed. Penelope’s blood-drenched body being the only proof that it had ever existed. The girls would stand simultaneously, lifting their carry-ons, and they began to stroll through the trees. Neither spoke the entire walk back, such was the level of comfort between the pair. Moving almost in a synchronous manner, Penelope led and Noelle followed. If one gave a look, the other understood. There was no need for words. Not with a bond like theirs.
After an hour of wandering the girls would stop in what appeared to be a patch of forest just like the rest that they had been wandering through. Alas, it was not. Penelope would reach forward, utter words under her breath that would reflect an almost alien language. One unknown to many in Mirinah, an enchantment only known by a true witch. She would reach forward and drag her finger down through the air, as though unzipping a dress to reveal the bare skin underneath - except this skin was a glimpse of colour and warmth. Bringing it all the way down, she and Noelle would step through the gap in the enchantment. Following which it would reseal behind them as though it was never there, to begin with. And to any that may have seen this from the other side, it would have appeared as though the girls faded into nothing, enveloped by fog only to reveal the empty space of the forest plains.
On the other side of the enchantment, however, in a place, only witches could see there was a vast transformation in the atmosphere. The sound of music reached their eyes, lively drums and the twanging of strings on instruments. The joviality raised by clapping and laughter that echoed through the now lit up forest. Almost like stepping into an alternate universe, the girls were now situated in what was known as the true Shambles Forest. A beautiful place lit up with the comfortable amber glow of lanterns and dancing fireflies. The tree's luscious and full of life, blossomed with an array of colourful foliage and magnificent flowers. The entire area was filled with beautiful decor, and trinkets as though the entire forest had been turned into one beautiful living space. High in the trees were houses, made up of the most beautiful and miraculous designs. The impressive structures and unique architecture creating a most picturesque world above the heads of those on ground.
The scent of rotting trees and stale air was replaced with the succulent aroma of cooked meat, most likely a spit roast hog complimented with chargrilled vegetables. Penelope took a deep breath, sighing contently at being home. This was the reality of witches, the truth so few knew about. The gloomy eerie darkness that was their home, was nothing more than a mask, there were a number of ways to unveil its pocket realm, but only a true witch would genuinely know the method in discovering it. As it should be.
“Shae, Noelle. Welcome back! Fetch a good hall didja?” Came a voice nearby, the girls would look after the familiar wrinkled features of Maggie Poisker, a gracefully pretty elder passing by the north forest’s entry point with a tray of diced fruit. She would hold the tray toward the girls in offering, to which they would each grab a hearty piece of dragonfruit. “Thank you sister, and yes it was a splendid gathering,” Penelope replied, nibbling on the white delicacy. Penelope's eyes rolled in satisfaction over the subtle sweetness of the snack, and even Noelle's stoic expression would break a small grateful smile toward their fellow witch. There was simply no food richer than the Shambles, and no fruit as scrumptious as Sister Mag's homegrown fruits. Eating elsewhere simply did not compare.
The girls would wave goodbye to the witch as they strolled on, heading through the Shambles Village toward a most familiar household to the east of the communion. The house of the Ravenwood was arguable one of the most splendid structures in the entirety of the area. Its outer walls are made up of stained white wood, it was especially large, requiring at least six trees to hold up the embellished structure. Shae would step up to one of the trees positioned under the front of the home, she would run her hands along with the bark, magic flowing through her fingers. The ground next to the tree would move on its own, as though one of the trees thick roots was rising up to aid them. It would swirl under the girl's feet to create a floor, before rising up into the air and carrying them up toward the house. Within moments they would be thirty feet off the ground and stepping onto the balcony of their family home.
Moving over to the front door, Shae would unlock it and step inside, her sister following close behind her. There was a humming in the house, a chorus of voices, chanting in unison. The sisters made their way deeper into the abode, moving towards their main living room, where a gathering of witches stood waiting for them. The witches stood in a circle, eyes drawn to the centre of the room, where a chalk drawing had been sketched onto the floor. In the centre of the circle a woman knelt, with pink hair cut into a bob, dressed in a floral blue gown. She was currently using a pestle and mortar to grind ingredients. Stood a metre behind her was a man dressed in a suit, a twin-tailed blazer draped over his shoulders. Arms crossed over his chest, the handsome blonde man would gaze upon the girls, a smile on his lips that did not quite reach his eyes. Both girls would bow their heads to him, before kneeling down by their mother.
Gathering their ingredients they would proceed to aid in the preparations. Adding the Mugroot, Syggle worms, dandelions and various harvested organs/entrails. Using the pestle, their Mother would grind up the ingredients, mixing them together to make a paste. Once the mixture was smooth, all of the witches in the room would come forward, Mrs Ravenwood would scoop up the mixture with her index finger, marking the forehead of each individual witch, drawing a symbol reflective of an eye with a crescent moon for the pupil. Once each individual witch was marked, Noelle would leave the room. Returning with a large ouch, reaching inside she would pull from the pouch the skull of a human adult. Handing it to her mother, the woman would proceed to coat the skull in the remainder of the mixture, before placing it down in the centre of the circle. Next to it, Penelope would lay down the unicorn's heart, positioning it in front of the skull face. Finally their father would step forward, laying down a map of the Mirinah region between the two objects.
With everything in place, the Ravenwoods would all get up, and return to the circle. Everyone in the room would join hands, and the chanting would resume, an unknown dialect to Vyldermire. The tongues in which they spoke were almost inhuman in nature, a melodic unison of deadly harmony. The voices would rise, and a wind would pick up, billowing wildly around the room. Blood would seep from the skull and the heart, travelling across the map in a jagged line, as though drawn to each other. As the chants grew louder and more determined, a wild snarling would echo around the room and dark shadows would dance wildly in the shadows cast by the candles, whose flames could barely stay alight. The blood paths would trek through the landscape of the map, until finally meeting under the town bordering the capital city; Newdale.
The blood would pool there like a marker, and a resounding scream would echo throughout the room. A huge gush of wind would burst outward from the centre, blowing out all of the candles and consuming the room in darkness. The chanting stopped, and the witches would breathe, steps could be heard as Mr Ravenwood manoeuvred over to one of the lamps, switching it on, the room would be lit once more. On the floor the skull and the heart would be gone, leaving only the marked map proof to what had occurred tonight.
The homeowner would spread his arms wide, addressing the room with a booming yet cheerful composure. "Heknys has heard our plea, blessed be!" He called out to them, earning of a chorus of 'Blessed be' cheered back to them. "May our curse seek to punish those who would bring their stain upon the realm of the Eldritch. Now let us join hands in celebration, for the night is dark and full of wonders!" With another round of cheering, the witches would descend the house of Ravenwood and engage in a night of jubilation.