I had the opportunity to sit down with the High Priestess of the Shadow Coven of Southeil and ask her a few questions. She walked into the room in her usual flawlessly glamoured state. The intricate ruby cage that held her cloud-white hair in a perfect topknot sparkled as she approached.
“You may call me ‘My Priestess.’”
She removed her thick woolen cloak, slipped her wand from a hidden pocket, and draped the cloak over the chair. Her long, thin fingers smoothed the moa feathers once before she sat down—a picture of elegance, with waves of power rolling off her strong shoulders.
“Of course, my Priestess. We’ll start with an easy question, what is your idea of perfect happiness?”
“First of all, let me say that this interview is pointless. If I’m unhappy with your questions I will simply kill you.” She rolled her wand back and forth in her right hand.
“OK, but back to perfect happiness.” I gestured for her to continue.
She exhaled loudly and shook her head. “Fine. It would please me to turn the Aotearoan heir, Flynn, to shadow magick. I would use her to obtain the Book of Light and I alone would have access to all the magickal knowledge possessed by our people.”
“And what is your greatest fear in that pursuit?”
Her eyes narrowed and a golden spark flared in each pupil. “I fear no one.”
“I understand, but certainly you have concerns.” I nodded encouragingly.
“Indeed, I am concerned that the weak, young witchling will be unable to wield dark magick.” Magdelana pressed her lips together in disdain.
“If Flynn fails, what is your back up plan?”
The powerful Shadow Witch lifted her chin slightly. “That is a plan known only to me, and it will remain that way.”
“All right. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?” She stared directly into my eyes and I felt my heart thump before she answered.
“That does not surprise me. What is the trait you most deplore in others?”
I could see the stiffness of her posture and knew better than to pursue this line of questioning. “Which living person do you most admire?”
“None living.” Magdelana’s eyes darted to the floor and back up before she continued. “I admired my mother, Goddess bless her bones, and I admire the once great Topana who rode on the winged stallion, Dunedin, and tore the Book of Shadow and Light in two.”
“Why do you say ‘once great’?”
“Because, I have come to understand how foolish it was to leave the Book of Light in Aotearoa. Topana thought shadow magick could overpower the light.” Her hand tightened around her wand until her bones were visible beneath her flesh. “But it cannot be so, not while the light still burns.”
“What is your current state of mind?”
“I assume by your infantile questions that you prefer honesty above all else.”
Magdelana smirked and licked her bottom lip. “And why do you think the Shadow Witch would answer you honestly?”
“Because, you have nothing to hide from me. You have all the power. I am merely recording your words. Can you tell me about your state of mind?”
“I fear for the future of the Shadow Coven of Southeil. Many of the older witches have failed to take on apprentices and have become over protective of their knowledge. If one of them should come to some harm…”
The raw truth of her answer caused me to stop writing and stare at the split-second of vulnerability that flashed across her face. “A great deal of knowledge could be lost?”
She looked away and fussed with her gown. “Perhaps.”
“What do you consider the most overrated virtue?”
“And on what occasion do you lie?”
“On any occasion where it serves me.” She flicked a speck of dust from her skirts and shifted in her chair.
“What do you most dislike about your appearance?”
“But why do you use a glamour to change your appearance?”
Magdelana raised her wand in warning. “Careful, Watcher, that question is not to my liking.”
“Understood, my Priestess. Which living person do you most despise?”
“My mother, Merga.”
I glanced back at my notes and countered. “But I thought you said you admired her, which is it?”
“It is both. It is quite possible to love and to hate a thing. She gave me great power, but at the expense of her coven. The fractures she created have come around to threaten my reign.” Her shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly.
“Which talent would you most like to have?”
“The touch of eternal mesmer.”
“Why?” She looked at me like I was a foolish child and chuckled before she answered.
“Because I would take a hold of Flynn Kapowai Hawthorn and force her to deliver the Book of Light into my hands. I would have all the power without all the fuss.”
I nodded, but hoped that my face did not show my intense relief that she did not possess the touch of eternal mesmer. I chose to steer the interview away from that topic. “What is the quality you most like in a man?”
“That he can be used.”
“But you value more than that in your brother, Rowan.”
“Do I?” Magdelana shrugged her shoulders and shifted her wand to her left hand.
“All right, then what is the quality you most like in a woman?”
She curled her right hand into a tight fist and answered, “Loyalty, unto death.”
“Were you loyal to your mother?”
“I am alive, am I not?”
“Yes, my Priestess, but—”
He golden eyes fixed me with a look of finality. “Then you have your answer.”
“Which words or phrases do you most overuse?”
“My coven would say that I am too fond of saying, ‘or I will kill you where you stand’, but the truth cannot be overused.” A self-satisfied smile curved her lips upward.
“What or who is the greatest love of your life?”
“When and where were you happiest?”
“When I assumed the wand and became the High Priestess of the Shadow Coven of Southeil.”
“But weren’t you thrown into that because of your mother’s murder?”
Magdelana leaned forward and her wand glowed with power. “Who told you that?” She took a deep breath and sat back into the chair. “Nonsense, I assumed the wand after my mother’s passing. That is all on the subject.”
“If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”
Her expression softened and her eyes took on a faraway glassiness. “I would like to be a good mother.”
“That’s a surprising answer, my Priestess. Is there something you want to share with me?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“What do you consider your greatest achievement?”
“Gaining possession of the Book of Light will be my greatest achievement.”
“What is your greatest extravagance?”
“Something called chocolate, which Rowan gets me when he deals with the occasional vessel I lure to shore.”
“If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?”
“I will not die. When I gain the knowledge of the Book of Light I will unlock the secret to outlasting death. I will be the immortal High Priestess and I will live to dance on the bones of my enemies.”
“What about Rowan, will it upset you to outlive him?” It became clear to me that she had not considered life without the loyal support of her brother. She would not make eye contact with me.
“Where would you most like to live?”
“In safety, free of threats on my life.”
“What is your most treasured possession?”
Magdelana transferred the blue sapphire wand back to her right and stared at the magickal instrument for almost a full minute before she answered. “My wand, the wand of the High Priestess.”
“What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?”
She shook her head, as though she needed to dislodge a memory and rubbed her forehead with her left hand. “Visiting Barrington Bluffs and having to speak to the horrible little non-magicks in that filthy village.”
“Why do you visit that village?”
“I have to make appearances and let them know I’m still in charge. They may need to go to war for me one day, so Rowan tells me I have to pretend to care about their ridiculous problems and their foolish children.”
I nodded. “What is your most marked characteristic?”
“Rowan tells me I’m stubborn, but I am merely right.” A hint of a smile tugged at the corner of her soft, peach lips.
“Which historical figure do you most identify with?”
“Topana, because I will be remembered for righting her wrongs.”
“Who are your heroes in real life?”
“What are your favorite names?”
Magdelana rubbed her wand and sneered. “I quite like the name Anise.”
“What is it that you most dislike?”
She exhaled and rolled her head to the left and back to the right. “Endless questions.”
“We’re almost done, my Priestess. What is your greatest regret?”
“Granting this interview.”
“Understood, but please answer the question.”
“I regret that Rowan is a Watcher. If he had been gifted with magick—the coven—next question.” She seemed to realize that she had almost dropped her guard. Her gaze hardened and she squared her shoulders.
“How would you like to die?”
“That seems like a dangerous question, Watcher.”
The flame that lit up her golden eyes sent a shiver of fear down my spine. “All right. Moving on, what is your motto?”
“Magick has a price, and I am willing to pay.” For a moment she dropped the glamour and I saw the toll dark magick had taken on the young-woman-turned-old. She smiled defiantly and snapped her magickal beauty back into place.
“One last question. Who are your favorite writers?”
“What is a ‘writer’?”
I smiled and nodded my consent to her superior wit. We concluded the interview and I exhaled in relief at having survived the process.