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Initiation

The Devil's Tree

By Stephanie HoogstadPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 6 min read
6
Made by with AI on Dall-E at https://labs.openai.com/e/GtCnCBTKt4CT2vHi6EXu5OXx/18JprSyxr7IuiB4TTiZUhR1x

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

Eliza watched the flames in the fire pit dance as the thirteen members of the coven chanted their spell. She could feel the life power of the fire absorb into her body with each passing word. It warmed her right to her bones, even as the wind whipped around them. The melody of her future sisters’ voices tingled her body, made her feel like she was vibrating. She basked in the glow of their magic.

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

“Focus, Initiate Eliza,” Head Witch Selena chastised her.

Eliza knew that she should keep her mind on the spell, but she couldn’t help drifting to the ceremony ahead. They had told her so little about it, only that it would be her toughest trial yet. She cringed as she thought of the pain and lost relationships she had suffered so far. She could not imagine anything worse than the sacrifices she had already made for her future sisters.

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

As the third casting of the spell passed, she felt a sense of peace and strength wash over her. She took a deep breath, inhaled the life of the flame as it flared before her. Her crystal blue eyes reflected the red-orange flames as they flickered and trailed off towards the night sky.

“Come, Initiate Eliza,” Head Witch Selena said, holding her aged hand out to the young woman. “It is time for your thirteenth trial.”

Eliza took her superior’s hand, unsurprised by the elderly woman’s great strength as she gripped her tight.

With the other coven members trailing behind them, the Head Witch led Eliza across the field to a lone, seemingly dead tree. The tree had been struck by lightning long ago, killing all its leaves and covering it in a black ash that never seemed to disappear, even in the pouring rain. Most peculiarly, a seam had opened in the side of its trunk, revealing an eternal flame within—a flame, some claimed, that came from the depths of Hell itself.

“The Devil’s Tree!” the Head Witch declared as they stopped before the tree. “Our most sacred source of power. Only after spending a night secured to it will you be ready to join our coven.”

Eliza swallowed against the knot in her throat. She had heard the legends about the Devil’s Tree. Get the ash upon your hand, and it will never come off, marking you for the deviant that you are. Stand beside it too long, and risk being struck down by the Almighty Himself. Spend a night next to it, and you will come face-to-face with the Devil.

Her hand trembled, even as the Head Witch gripped it.

“Are you ready to take on this trial, Initiate Eliza?” the Head Witch asked.

Eliza looked over the faces of all the witches gathered. The women she had gotten to know so well over the past thirteen months. Her eyes landed on one face in particular. Lilith. She would do anything for that exotic dark-skinned beauty and her jade-colored eyes. Her mind, with a taste for dark fantasy and philosophy, could keep Eliza up for days with their conversations. Yes, Lilith was worth risking it all.

Eliza nodded.

Head Witch Selena motioned for two other witches to step forward.

“Sister Amy, Sister Trinity, chain her.”

The two witches closest to Eliza and the Head Witch approached with a long, heavy iron chain. They clamped one end to one of Eliza’s wrists, then dragged her to the tree. They pressed her front against the tree as they wrapped the chain around its trunk and cuffed her other wrist.

“We will be back for you in the morning,” Head Witch Selena announced, “if you survive. May the Gods and Goddesses protect you.”

Eliza listened as the coven’s footsteps on the dry, dead grass faded away. Within minutes, she was utterly alone with the Devil’s Tree.

The bark cut into Eliza’s cheek, and splinters dug into her palms. Ash entered her lungs. The warmth emitting from inside the tree nearly scorched her, but she endured it. She endured all the pain. If this was all she had to bear for the night, then she would take it. For her sisters. For Lilith.

Her arms began to ache after twenty minutes—or was it an hour? It was hard to tell tethered to a flaming tree. But she persisted.

After a few hours, Eliza began to grow bored, convinced that it was all superstition and that this was nothing more than a hazing ritual, like at a frat house. She felt the whole thing rather childish, actually, especially for women who could bend the elements to their will.

Until the voices began.

Whispers at first, she thought it just the wind and tried to get herself to relax. Then the whispers grew louder.

Incomprehensible, like a hundred voices speaking a hundred different languages in a hundred different pitches at once. She wanted to plug her ears, to somehow block out the noise, but she couldn’t move her hands.

The voices grew louder and louder. The wind picked up, whipping her hair around her. Her heart raced against her chest.

“Stop!” Eliza cried out. “Please, stop!”

Screaming mingled with the voices, the screaming of her loved ones—Lilith’s screaming.

“Stop! Oh, Goddess, make it stop!”

She tried to think of a spell, anything to make this torture come to a halt. Her eyes landed on the fire within the tree, and only one spell could come to mind.

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

Eliza felt the tree’s warmth penetrating her, but the voices did not quiet.

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

Her heart beat faster. Sweat drenched her entire body. The voices began to meld into a single male entity.

“Finish the spell,” he commanded her.

Fire, in my darkest hour,

Spark my strength and untapped power.

Bring me what I need to thrive,

To persevere and to survive.

The life power of the flame entered Eliza’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Her crystal blue eyes turned black. She grasped the iron chain and ripped it apart as easily as paper.

“I am free,” Eliza declared in the deep voice of the entity. “Let us find my coven.”

HorrorFantasy
6

About the Creator

Stephanie Hoogstad

With a BA in English and MSc in Creative Writing, writing is my life. I have edited and ghost written for years with some published stories and poems of my own.

Learn more about me: thewritersscrapbin.com

Support my writing: Patreon

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Comments (3)

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  • Donna Fox (HKB)4 months ago

    Stephanie, I love the spell you opened with! It feels so mystical and empowering, really brought me into the story! This was so intense and captivating!! I am still very much drawn in to this story!! Do you plan to write a part 2 by any chance?

  • Phil Flannery4 months ago

    Oh oh, something wicked this way comes. Great story.

  • Novel Allen5 months ago

    Is that a good ending or a bad beginning. Sounds positively evil and wonderful. I think she is now up to no good.

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