Before he answered, he poured out the bowl, dried it at the hem of his coat and packed it back in his pocket with the bottles and the rest of the red herb. “There is ample magic, but not many witches remember how to use it.”
“Stupid of them. As soon as I have Korosadja, we will teach the mob discipline. I don’t even need Ceres army for that.” Djarret got up and waved his warriors. “We’re leaving”, he ordered and pulled up the magician.
At this moment, the guards on duty neared. Between them, they dragged the motionless body of a woman.
Djarret raised his left eyebrow.
“Sire, she stumbled over us”, one of the guards said. “We knocked her out just before she noticed us. Shall we kill her?”
Djarret was about to agree when he noticed that the magician wanted to say something.
“What is it?” He scowled.
The magician stretched and dusted his coat before he answered. Djarret hated these time-consuming gestures but bore them, crunching his teeth. He had no other choice. At least, the magician did not hold him back with an unimportant banter, this time.
“She is related to the bearer of the Korosadja. She is her aunt.”
Djarret grinned, and his teeth shone like those of a wolf. He always could use relatives of people he chased.
“What are you waiting for, magician? Change her into something that’s easier to take along than a woman. A dagger would be practical.”
“I cannot change a living being into cold steel.”
“Then turn her into something else, instantly.”
The magician put his left hand on the arm of the unconscious Freya and mumbled. Beads of sweat formed on his upper lip. Freya started to shrink, became smaller and smaller. Fur sprouted and her ears became bigger, nose and chin merged into a muzzle, and her fingers warped into claws. After but a few minutes, Freya had turned into a fat dormouse. The long tail curled over the short muzzle, the little creature slept peacefully on the palm of the magician.
Djarret put the animal into the leather purse at his belt. “You are responsible that she doesn’t wake.”
The magician nodded, the rings under his eyes darker than ever.
Djarret called, “Line up … and march!” His men aligned in two rows and the two guards fell into formation. The magician opened the portal that led them once more between the worlds. Djarret knew that his prey couldn’t escape.
Petrified, Melissa squatted in the tunnel and stared at eyes the size of plates that glowed in the dark. When she realized how big the corresponding head must be, her heart almost stopped. Carefully, she crept backwards in the hope that the animal saw just as little in the dark as she did. But there was no longer a tunnel. Her hands touched a rough, warm surface.
“Where do you want to go? Are you a thief?” The bass voice did not sound unfriendly.
Nevertheless, Melissa couldn’t answer. Her voice did not obey. She shook her head.
Her opponent obviously saw well because it said, “If you aren’t a thief, you don’t need to flee. Still, I would like to know why you throw one of my most beautiful gold goblets through my cave.”
Melissa finally regained her language. Her voice sounded thin and hoarse. “I ran into this with my foot.”
“Oh! And what are you doing in my ventilation shaft?”
A little more courageous, Melissa spoke more loudly. “I heard someone sigh.”
“You want to help me? How interesting. Are you a Medica?”
Melissa shook her head.
“You don’t look like someone who knows about medicinal herbs anyway. But you smell of magic. Are you a Druida?”
A warm wind wirled through Melissas hair. It smelled like the bad breath of a big dog. Melissa realized that the creature must have sighed again.
“Might you by any chance be a witch?” It was impossible to ignore the hope in the voice.
Melissas voice shook at the answer. “No.”
“How then do you want to help me? I think, you will only be useful as breakfast at the most.” The warm wall closed around her chest and her belly. When she was lifted, Melissa realized that it was a gigantic paw. She screamed.
“That humans must always be so loud”, the voice complained. “Dinner! Stir up the fire and put more timber on.”