The bird was covered in sizzling energy, and hitting it burned Bliss' bare hands, but she did out of desperation.
Despite her flailing and the bird's apparent ability to be all around her at the same time, it took her several more seconds of pecks before her hand finally connected with a wing, and the bird fell backward.
It didn't even land on the ground though, flapping off and stirring up the dust, and circled around slowly and lazily, until Bliss realized it was going to swoop around to attack her again. It was big, the largest Raven that Bliss had seen before, and she knew it.
She reached down, to where the mirror that she'd been holding was, and flung it up in front of her.
The bird was already coming back, it's claws and beak stretched out in front of the vanishingly black wings, and it nearly collided with the mirror.
There was a brilliant flash, illuminating the dusty landscape and the huge bird swooping down on Bliss.
The silent explosion knocked Bliss off her feet, and when she opened her eyes and looked around, the bird was gone.
She'd lost her trademark smile when the bird, or the girl, or whatever it was, had attacked her, but she resumed it now. It wasn't necessary to let the others know that she'd been flustered. Besides, everything had gone well enough.
Careful not to look directly at the open door, Bliss crawled on hands and knees over to the small structure, felt for the doorknob, and closed the door. She'd come back later to finish her part of the deal.
She stood, swept the dust off of her with a flick, and set about trying to wake up the other witches.
There was no single moment that Lex awoke. When he finally realized that he was in fact awake, he seemed to know instinctively that he'd already been conscious for several minutes.
He tilted his head, and saw a fire going in a hearth. Despite that, the air on his face was sort of cold. He tried to move closer to the fire, and someone moved to help him.
He might have fallen asleep again, or he might not have, but he felt safe and warm, and he relaxed.
Eventually the other person moved away, and he drifted for a bit longer.
When he finally sat up, the fire was still burning but the air was still cool. He was in a little room that didn't look so much like a room in a house but more of a spherical tent or a cave. Everything, including the little ledge near the fire on which he was balanced, curved in multiple directions.
The walls were fuzzy, and two of them were covered with big blankets, like the Navajo blankets that he remembered from the state fair back in Texas. Across from him, there was a wall covered with shelves of little clay and glass pots and vials and other bits of things. There was half a buffalo skull up on the top shelf, and an entire section of it seemed to hold little twigs and sticks. At the bottom, under the shelves, were old books and piles of yellowing newspaper.
There was movement in the other room, and then a Native American woman entered. She was dressed in a brown dress with a black apron over it and had long dark hair gathered back in a braid.
Lex shivered involuntarily and pressed himself away from her. He felt that something was wrong although he couldn't say exactly what.
She smiled at him, and held out a black glazed mug. "Have some tea. Really, you shouldn't be bursting into people's houses, you know."
"You're not a witch?"
The woman laughed. "No, of course not. Call me Grandmother."
His eyes narrowed and asked for a second opinion.
A moment passed and the woman drew a three legged stool over and put the mug on it, within easy reach of Lex.
Sora? He said again to the inside of his head, and then again.
He must have looked surprised because the woman laughed slowly. "You're looking for the enchantment, aren't you. It was a complicated little thing. I can understand why she made the deal that she did now. The thing that I don't understand is why you let it in your head." She shook her head. "Bad medicine, that. More likely to kill than to cure, whatever it was that you wanted out of it."
"What did you do?"
"I took the knot out of your head."
"I thought you said that you aren't a witch."
"Witch? No. Just a Grandmother and a weaver by trade."
"I want it back," Lex said stiffly.
She shook her head. "Had to cut too many of the threads. Can't be fixed now." Her eyes went up to the shelf and Lex's gaze followed. Among the bottles and other objects he spotted a little figure of sticks and bits of black and white string.
Some of the threads were cut, and it slumped over on it's side. The woman's words sunk in and he suddenly realized that Sora's voice was gone, probably for good.
He tried to stand, and at that moment realized that he was wearing nothing under the blanket. He sunk back down, wondering how long he'd been in the house and how long his only ally had been dead, and he recalled why he'd come.
"Where is Lia?"
The woman blinked at him. "Who?"
"Lia. One of the witches called her the raven."
The woman shook her head. "The Raven? She's not here. Hasn't been in this lifetime. She may be back soon, she may not. Always was solitary, that one, and suffers for it."
Lex ground his teeth. "What does that mean? What does everyone know that I don't? I mean, there are enough secrets out there, vampires and werewolves and witches and all of them seem to know immediately what all of it means, but nobody has thought to clue me in."
"Their shapes are important. Wolf or Bear or even Cat, although that one was not one we knew before they were brought from the east. The shapes determine who they are, either by choice or by force. Ravens . . . they're old birds. Some of the oldest, and they control powerful magics. They're present at the end of things, and their presence is greatly feared by the ladies. She'll live and die of magic and have some powerful influence in her short life. At least till one of the great ravens comes, and that . . ." the woman laughed again softly.
"Then it will be Dreamtime again," she finished and she looked at Lex with an almost angry gleam in her eye.
To Lex, it seemed like more riddles, but one like, that Lia would have a short life, stood out like fire in his brain. He glanced around, wondering if he could use the buffalo skull as a weapon when the older woman finally moved again.
"You should have had some tea," she said. "It settles the mind and it would have made this ever so much easier. Still, Grandmother Spider keeps her promises."
Lex jerked back, as though he'd been hit as he finally woke all of the way up and realized that the Native American woman had been only a dream. She was only there in the loosest sense, and also in her position was a six foot long black spider with gleaming red eyes. Two of her legs caught him, pinning him to the ledge of stone and web and as her torso pressed against him he felt a pain on his side. He tried to roll away but as he looked up at her suddenly bloody teeth the room seemed to spin again.
He closed his eyes but the warmth was no longer enough to make him feel comfortable.