With arms raised wide above his head my grandfather begins the chant. His low reptilian rasp rumbles upwards through his chest, growing steadily in power and volume until even the high claustrophobic stone walls that envelope us tremble.
Around me the dimly lit chapel swells and fills with the draconian hymns. Cloying green mist snakes from the braziers evil green flame seeking out the desperate lungs of the congregation. Beneath my hood I chance a moment to glance away from the altar to observe the gathered Acolytes.
At my side my mother sings her praise, her formidable figure cloaked in zealous rapture as the first tongue of green mist crept into her nostrils causing her emerald eyes to shine with otherworldly power.
Shifting my gaze I locate several of my rivals amongst the lay. Under the shadow of my Aunt Róisín I spy Deirdre the beautiful, a silver tongued seductress who whispers sickening lies and poisonous truths. Useful but dangerous to know.
Barely visible beneath in the shadows of the alcove, Scáthach, the Viper. Seemingly on his own, I know his older brother Treasach wouldn’t be far. They prefer to negotiate with a poisoned blade across a sleeping throat. I despise them most of all.
Unwilling to risk any more time, I switch back to observing the sermon as grandfather’s hymn reach its peak. The sickeningly sweet smelling mist brushes my nose and obediently I inhale deeply. I feel my scales resonating with arcane power as my consciousness fades and I am lost to the ritual.
“Wake up” my mothers voice breaches the barriers of my mind and carries with it a cacophony of horrendously distracting noises which banish the fog of ritual sleep from my mind and anchoring my mind cruelly to my body. My body seems to weigh many tonnes crushing me deeply into the cold floor. My face and palms drag against the stone floor as I push myself up to my feet.
“Time to move,” her voice causing me to squint and grimace in pain, piercing my skull. I look cautiously around but I can’t see her in the chapel, just me and the torpid bodies of my cousins. My muscles scream as I begin to move, the rituals aftereffects demand my submission as the poison mist creeps like thick thorned vines through my veins.
My feet drag step by torturous step towards the alcove where I’d been told Cormac would have been concealing himself. My back siezes painfully and I drop to one knee at the entrance, my jaw clenched in a soundless scream for what feels like hours as I wait for the pain to end and just as I’m sure I won’t be able to last another second it passes. Gasping deeply for ragged breaths, I open my eyes and relax my jaw, beneath me, Cormac lies helpless.
Rolling Cormac onto his back I steady myself over him and focusing on the twisted emerald power in my blood, I feel the torment in my form draining from my muscles, my veins, my psyche, pulled into a roiling point in the pit of my chest. In a low, steady breath, I release it. The poison from my lips plunges greedily into Cormac’s.
Crawling back to where I woke, the sorcerous power now gone I feel weak, exhausted and hollow. “It is done,” I whisper to my mother before the spell fades, and as she fades I smile imagining she is proud of me.