Opowiadanie w polskiej wersji językowej znajduje się tutaj.

The Hanged Man. The Juggler. The Wheel of Fortune. Six of Cups.

The flames of candles danced on the shiny surface of tarot cards. Margot pondered for a moment, then added the last card to complete the Starseed spread.


She snorted. The last thing she needed, she thought.

Everything would be fine if the Wheel of Fortune wasn’t turned upside down, and in the presence of Justice and the Hanged Man, it could only mean one thing: history would repeat itself. Margot leaned back in her chair, lost in thought, then picked up a glass of wine and walked to the window. Technology is killing us, she thought, looking at the neon city.

The black skyscrapers rose from the darkness of the slums to the darkness of the smog clouds, interspersed with multi-level highways and endless traffic streams. The only light in the city came from advertisements and large three-dimensional holograms dancing at the biggest intersections and encouraging people to escape into virtual reality.

No one needed magic anymore.

Diseases were cured by replacing faulty DNA code, and the future was foreseen by advanced AI algorithms. Even love could be predicted based on the analysis of brain vibrations and hormonal changes.

So why would anyone care about magic, or sell their soul to get help? Magic was dying because the people who believed in it were dying.

Wrong, she thought. Magic was and always will be infinite, only access to magic dies, but then again…

She put her hand on the crystal ball, and the faces of the people whose souls she had access to began to scroll through it. There had been no more than a dozen of them for years, and when one of them died, Margot felt her power weaken.

The Visit

Margot received a notification that someone was waiting at the door of the Room of the Future. She touched her temple, and the figure of a man in a black suit with his hands behind his back appeared on the retina of her right eye.

She raised an eyebrow and put down her wine. She hadn’t had any unexpected visitors in a long time. She checked herself in the sphere, fixed her hair, and went down.

The only sources of light were a glass sphere on a small table and a red glow along the circular edge of the room. The walls were bare and joined together in a semicircular vault. She sat behind the glass sphere, snapped her fingers, and the man entered. Black wrapped him from his black slicked-back hair to his black shirt, black tie, and black shiny shoes. He was of medium height, with pale skin and a delicate mustache.

“Welcome, Margot-san,” he said with a strong Japanese accent, bowing with folded hands. A gold watch shone on his wrist, and the little finger on his left hand was half-cut.

Margot nodded and pointed to a chair on the other side of the table. The man bowed again, unbuttoned his jacket, and sat down.

“My name is Jiro Inagawa. I am the wakagashira of the Arrita family. I come on behalf of the oyabun to ask for your help.”

“Why didn’t Yotoshi come in person?” she asked, noting, with satisfaction, the shadow of surprise that flickered across the man’s face.

Jiro bowed again. “Oyabun Yotoshi asks for forgiveness, but he will explain everything, if you visit him.”

“What business does he want to see me about?”

“He wants to ask for your help in obtaining a certain item that is in someone else’s possession.”

“Am I supposed to be a thief?”

“This item does not belong to that person. It belongs to no one.”

“What is the item?”

“Yotoshi would rather explain it himself, Margot-san. I promise you won’t regret it.”

“Explain now,” her tone cold, “or stop wasting my time.”

Jiro touched his temple and froze for a moment, then nodded. “The item in question is the Totem of Salem”

Margot raised an eyebrow and leaned back in her chair.

“You’re wasting my time, fool,” she spoke all of a sudden and stood up quickly. “Get out of here before I lose my patience.”

“We have proof of it,” Jiro said when Margot was already halfway to the door.

“Speak, but if you disappoint me again, you’ll pay for it.” Lightnings danced in her eyes.

Jiro bowed, took a small projector out of his pocket, and placed it next to the glass sphere. 

“The house of Arrita controls the trade of metal ore in the city. When something unusual appears on the market, we know about it first. That’s how the business works. A few months ago, we noticed an increased supply of phenakite – a crystal used by fraudsters. We traced its path to the market and found a workshop belonging to a little-known sculptor. Unfortunately, the sculptor was hanging from the ceiling, but we managed to recover scraps of memory from his brain. As you can see – Jiro pressed a button and a three-dimensional image appeared above the projector – a large crystal was being carved into a shape that perfectly matched the description of the Totem of Salem. Few people know that phenakite also has the property of absorbing or blocking magic. We believe that the crystal was used to conceal the Totem. We also managed to determine who was the sculptor’s last client. The memory scraps, combined with other circumstances, lead us to believe that the Totem exists, and what is its current location.” 

“What are those other circumstances?”

“That you’ll have to find out personally from Yotoshi, Margot-san.” Jiro handed her an envelope, bowed, and left.

* * *

Margot never took the legend of the Totem of Salem too seriously, but she knew it since childhood – like every witch. She went to the library, found the right book, and opened it to the page titled “The Salem Massacre.” According to the book, the Totem was created in 1692 during the famous witch trials. Accusations of witchcraft were nothing new, but this time, white settlers sought the help of Native Americans to cleanse the town. Native American shamans advised them to burn the witches at the stake, as their souls would not be reborn to haunt the town.

Witch hunts began. A dozen women were tied to a pole in the main square and burned alive. Then one of the shamans cast a curse on the burning witches and trapped their souls in a Native American totem. A dozen souls, full of anger, hatred, and madness. He created one of the most powerful magical artifacts. The next day, the Native Americans left Salem and took the Totem with them, heading west.

The location of the Totem could be quite accurately determined until the Civil War when the trail went cold. Most sources reported that it was burned during one of the battles because Americans had no idea how great its power was.

Until that time, the Totem was passed down from generation to generation. Tribes wandered, united, and waged bloody wars, but interestingly, the Native Americans never used the power of the Totem for fighting, only for protection and healing.

Margot closed the book.

Such tremendous power at hand, she thought. If the Totem really survived, I have to do everything I can to get it.

The Proposal

Her entrance was spectacular. Underneath her black coat with a high collar, she wore only a short black top with a deep neckline and black leather pants. Her lips shone with blood, and her fingers and wrists glittered with jewelry.

The butler led her to a long table in the dining room with a vaulted ceiling that stretched beyond the reach of the eye. At the end of the table, three figures were already waiting.

“Welcome, Margot,” said an older man dressed in a white suit. He struggled standing up, and  bowed. He leaned on a black cane with a handle made of jadeite. “I am honored by your presence. Allow me to introduce you,” Yotoshi turned to the other two. “This is Marguerite Trasavier, the descendant of the famous Clary from Lynn. Margot, meet Macawi.” He pointed to a young woman dressed in a pale yellow robe with intricate geometric patterns. A thick hood covered her hair, and a thick stripe of turquoise paint ran beneath her intensely blue eyes. Macawi nodded. “And A,” he nodded at the man sitting on the other side of the table, dressed in a black battle suit that concealed his muscular body. A stood up, bowed, and moved over, so Margot could sit closer to Yotoshi.

“Thank you,” Margot cooed flirtatiously at A. “Greetings.” 

She noticed Macawi rolling her eyes in response to her coquetry. As soon as she sat down, the waiter appeared. She looked around. Yotoshi and A were drinking bourbon, and next to Macawi stood a small teapot.

“Red, dry,” she said.

“Quite right,” the man bowed.

“Now that we are all here,” Yotoshi began, “allow me to get straight to the point. My biggest rival, Tokatsu Sato of the Matsuba-kai, has come into possession of the Totem of Salem and used its power to curse the male line of my family. According to Bushido, only a man can become the oyabun, the head of the clan. Three of my sons are dead, and the youngest of them, Gorokizu, is fatally ill. He has not been able to get out of bed or regain consciousness for months. He is only alive thanks to the grace of Shichi-fukujin, the Seven Gods of Fortune.” Yotoshi joined his hands, looked up, and bowed. “Perhaps it is dishonorable, but I would do the same in his place. The rivalry between our houses has been going on for centuries. Open warfare brings many casualties and consumes resources. It exposes us to other clans that are not involved in the war. None of my sons has yet had a male offspring, and the inheritance is only passed on in the first line. Other families united in the Arrita house may break away when someone else becomes the oyabun.”

“Why is it so certain that it was the Totem, that was used to cast the curse?” Margot interrupted him.

“I am a healer,” said Macawi. “My job is to delve into the disease and understand it. Only then can I treat it. In the boy, I detect Indigenous magic, but also something else, an energy of madness that comes from an entirely different realm of magic than the one I practice. There is no other magical object in which Indigenous magic would be combined with black magic.”

“Black,” Margot repeated with amusement.

“Yes, your impure magic that does not draw from nature but from someone else’s soul.” 

“I would like to remind you that an Indigenous toy was used to bring death to this house,” Macawi grimaced.

“Until you appeared here, Indigenous magic was only used for healing and defense.”

“That’s enough,” Yotoshi said as soon as Margot started to reply. There was something intolerably defiant in his voice. It would be wonderful to draw from that soul, she thought. “The totem is hidden in the Sendai Oriental hotel, the headquarters of the Matsuba-kai. A, please.” 

The man placed a projector on the table, which displayed a three-dimensional model of the hotel. The central building was surrounded by hundreds of smaller and larger towers with folding roofs and golden spires. Red neon lanterns hung over the main entrances. 

“The last fifteen floors are for the exclusive use of Matsuba-kai. The first ten are residential rooms and apartments belonging to the most important wakashu and komon. The eleventh and twelfth floors are for saiko komon, administration. The last three are the exclusive headquarters of oyabun Matsuba-kai. Here,” he pointed to the space between the floors, “is the vault. Most likely, it is a Buben&Zorweg Unity1, also called unibody. The entire room is secured with hermetic, thirty-centimeter titanium. According to our data, the crystal with the totem is located there. The only entrance is in Sato’s office. To open it, his lenses and fingerprints are needed, as well as the combination of the cipher. The office can only be accessed by an elevator from the banquet hall level. Only members of the Matsuba-kai have access to this area. Each of them has a tattoo running from their shoulder to their wrist, in which a chip is embedded. The chip acts as a token that activates procedures and security measures. Without it, fingerprint readers and door locks do not work.”

“Do we know exactly how the totem itself is secured?” Margot asked. 

“Yes,” Macawi replied. “The totem is enclosed in a phenakite crystal and secured with the pessulus aeternum spell by a shaman, who had previously cursed the Arrita house. 

Margot raised her eyebrows. “How do we know that?”

“Shaman souls are connected to each other. It was his last wish when he realized he was about to be killed by Matsuba-kai men.” 

“Then we can cancel the mission,” Margot said. “There is no way in this world to open or destroy a phenakite crystal that has been sealed with a pessulus spell. Sato acted foolishly by killing the shaman.”

“First, let’s get the crystal, and then we’ll figure out how to open it. There’s no point in worrying about it now,” Yotoshi said.

“If the totem really is about one and a half meters tall, then the crystal must weigh several tons. We can’t just put it in our pockets to play with later.” 

“Then you have to become smarter than you are and stop whining,” Yotoshi said, with a voice that ended the discussion. He nodded in A’s direction.

“By the way, I was wondering…,” A hesitated and looked towards Yotoshi, who shrugged. “Assuming we know how to open the crystal… Couldn’t you just teleport to the vault and steal the totem? It would make things a lot easier.” Margot swirled her wine in her glass and then turned to A.

“I think you’ve watched too many fairy tales, honey. Magic doesn’t work like that.” A look of disappointment crossed A’s face.

“I hope the statement 'magic doesn’t work like that’ doesn’t mean it’s useless,” he replied and reached for his drink, but just before he took a sip, he noticed that the head of a cobra was jumping out of the alcohol. His ears rang with a hiss. Long white fangs flew straight at him. Flames ignited in the red eyes. In a split second, A jumped back, pulled out the gun from behind his back, and fired twice at the glass before it could even drop by an inch. But the cobra was already gone.

“That,” said Margot, sipping her wine and not looking at him, “is the power of magic. 

“Impressive.” A said, and there was no hint of offense in his voice, only professional recognition. “Can we become invisible?”

“For people, yes. But I don’t think we can trick infrared cameras or motion sensors that way. The illusion happens in the mind, not in reality,” A nodded. Margot continued, “When we know what we’re dealing with, I’ll be happy to tell you how I can help. And you, Macawi, how do you plan to contribute?”

“I won’t participate in robbery,” she replied with superiority. “My magic heals, it doesn’t kill.”

“So far, your magic has healed three boys to death and nailed one to his bed,” Margot retorted. 

“I didn’t cast that curse,” Macawi replied through clenched teeth. “I will use the totem only for healing,” she emphasized.

“Excuse me?,” Margot leaned forward.

“I will use the totem only for healing,” Macawi repeated, a little surprised. 

“How come, since it will be standing on my dresser?”

Macawi shot a questioning look at Yotoshi with, but did not let him speak.

“The totem is a shamanic artifact.”

“The souls of witches are enchanted in the totem, and I will steal it.”

“The totem will remain among the Natives, where it belongs.”

“You must be joking,” Margot said through clenched teeth and turned to A. “Do you also claim rights to the totem?”

“I like the practical dimension of magic,” A rubbed his thumb against his index finger. 

“Male simplicity always surprises me,” Margot snorted.

“And I’m never surprised by female hypocrisy.”

“Calm down,” Yotoshi growled. “Let’s get the totem first, and then we’ll figure out how to divide it.”

Macawi looked at him with surprise.

You must have had the Totem promised, Margot thought to herself, otherwise you would never have accepted a job offer from the yakuza. Anger fired inside her.

“This fairy will never get the Totem,” Margot said, standing up and knocking over her chair. 

“You won’t insult me, witch.” Macawi also stood up, her eyes glowing blue as she held the amulet in her hand.

“So, you do know how to attack,” Macawi said.

“I can defend myself, and I encourage you to try me,” Margot retorted.

“Enough!” Yotoshi slammed his fist on the table. 

“I’ll be gone in five seconds if you don’t guarantee that the Totem will belong to me.” Margot said.

“Leave us alone,” Yotoshi said with his eyes closed.

A shrugged and got up. Macawi stared at Yotoshi’s for a moment, and then both of them headed for the exit.

“Only Macawi has the knowledge and power to heal my son,” Yotoshi said when they were alone. “She’ll get the Totem in exchange for his life. I’m willing to pay you ten million credits for helping me get the Totem and opening the crystal. That’s more than you’ll ever need in your entire life.”

“Money matter little to me,” Margot replied.

“Well, it was worth a try. I have something that will interest you,” Yotoshi said, taking a long bamboo case decorated with Japanese symbols from under his jacket. “This is a fragment of the original Senji Ryakketsu written by Abe no Seimei himself. It contains thirteen forgotten spells for predicting the future. It’s the highest form of Shikigami magic.”

“You’re kidding me, Yotoshi. Senji Ryakketsu is a powerful book, but it has more sentimental value than magical. If I knew how you were going to treat me, I would have killed the messenger. You have one last chance.”

Yotoshi nodded and placed the case on the table.

“Alright, although I hoped it wouldn’t come to this,” he said, touching his temple, and faces that were well known to Margot appeared above the table. “Maybe A was surprised, but I know what witchcraft is and where your power comes from. I also know that you have less of it from decade to decade, and that every soul you have access to is worth its weight in gold. If you don’t help me, we’ll start killing each and every one of those people, and you’ll completely lose your strength.”

“Are you trying to blackmail me?” Margot asked, amused.

“I’m being honest with you. My offer is ten million credits, a fragment of Senji Ryakketsu, and a guarantee that none of your…” Yotoshi hesitated for a moment, “proteges…” he added with irony,  “will be harmed”.

Margot felt like killing him on the spot, but she managed to control herself at the last moment. She had no doubt that they were being watched by dozens of bodyguards and that she was likely being targeted. She didn’t plan on dying that day. Not yet.

She turned around and left without a word.

* * *

Margot was pacing around the Room of the Future, her eyes shooting thunderbolts. What insolence! What an atrocious waste of time! She will steal that damn Totem herself, and then curse their filthy souls to be reborn as homeless dogs!

She hurled thunderbolts around the room, nearly shattering the crystal ball. That’s not how witches behave, she thought, and calmed down. Witches plot, steal souls, and take revenge. First, she checked the condition of all her “wards” and cast a protective spell on those who carried more valuable souls. Then she returned to the library, cursed the crystal, Macawi, and all the shamans, and began to browse the oldest books. 

She spent the next few days planning the theft of the Totem, but each time she came to the same conclusion that it would be almost impossible to do it alone. The temptation of owning the Totem only for herself was so great that she was afraid to ask another witch for help. In the end, she realized that she must first find a way to break through the crystal, and if that proves possible, then she will consider how to get to it.


Margot clicked on the notification that snapped her out of her concentration. A was standing calmly in front of the Hall of the Future. If he wanted to kill me, he wouldn’t wait in front of the cameras, she thought. Just in case, she took two amulets with her and hid them under her coat.

“Did you come to threaten me or kill me right away?” she asked, forcing herself to laugh as they both entered the Room of the Future.

A opened a black bag and pulled out a bamboo case.

“Here’s a fragment of Senji Ryakketsu as proof of Yotoshi’s apology,” he said, bowing. “Since we last met, the situation has changed dramatically, and  Yotoshi wants to make you one last offer. From sources close to Sato, we know that the Totem will be transported out of Sendai Oriental at midnight tomorrow. This is our last chance and a perfect opportunity. Yotoshi wants to ask for your help, and in return for securing the Totem, he offers you access to his soul.”

Margot widened her eyes. Obtaining the Totem turned out to be more difficult than she expected, even though she eventually found a way to break through the crystal. On the other hand, access to the soul of the oyabun of the Arrita house meant substantial power.

Souls are interconnected and usually have their hierarchy. That’s why witches and wizards who stayed close to kings drew power from entire nations under the ruler’s authority. Merlin, the most powerful wizard in history, drew his power from the soul of King Arthur and all of Camelot.

In the end, snatching Totem from Macawi shouldn’t be that difficult. She’ll kill her if she has to, she thought.

“Okay,” she said after a moment of silence. “Let’s go.”

* * *

A maneuvered smoothly between the vehicles in tight traffic. The sour rain was smashing against the windshield and making the city even darker than usual.

“One thing is puzzling me.” A said.

“Surprisingly many / That’s more than I would expect of you.” Margot retorted.

A snorted. “If Yotoshi’s soul is so valuable to you, why don’t you just take it?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Margot replied after a moment. “In order for the soul to give access to the world of magic, it must cooperate. Intentions is the key.”

“The souls of the witches were enchanted in Totem against their will. So why is it so powerful?” 

“Usually, you only have access to a part of the soul. You use it to connect with magic, but the soul remains in another person, and they draw power from it. Several witches’ entire souls were enchanted in the Totem, and that is making it so powerful. Besides, let’s not fool ourselves, witches’ souls are way more valuable than regular ones…”

“But what if someone changes their mind? Let’s say they agree to grant the access, you do something for them, and then they withdraw. Now, it’s not a soul that works with you anymore.”

“It is the intention that matters at the moment when the contract is established, when you agree to the terms proposed by the witch. When you consciously and willingly say 'yes.’ Just like during weddings. The contract is formed between you, the witch, and the world of magic. It’s not easy to reverse it later.”

“But anyone can run away, and not fulfill the contract, right?” asked her friend.

Margot laughed. 

“Plenty of fools tried to escape their contracts, but souls have neither time nor space. Hiding in some shithole makes no difference, and the fear that accompanies you, eats your soul, and  increases the part that belongs to the witch.”

“So, why do witches chase people?”

“I don’t know, for fun?” Margot chuckled, but then added seriously, “For certain rituals, it’s good to have a body in place, but if you have access to someone’s soul, you simply have it.”

“And what if someone didn’t know what they were agreeing to?” A asked.

Margot shrugged. “The witch creates the contract through a ritual. When something is left unsaid, the witch’s intention counts. The history of magic is a history of fools who wanted something for nothing.”

“Greedy, foolish people, right? Because witches have never intentionally deceived anyone…”

“That’s why you shouldn’t talk to strange witches on the street.”

* * *

“Greetings, Margot-san – Yotoshi said as they entered the garden in the southern part of the palace. “I am honored that you have agreed to accept my apology,” he added and bowed. Margot also bowed, but said nothing. Yotoshi gestured for her to approach a low black torch with burning stones at the top. Macawi and A were already waiting for them. “Tomorrow night we will have the only opportunity to acquire the Totem,” Yotoshi began. “For you, it may only be a fight for a powerful artifact, but for me, it is the last chance to heal my son. There is little time left, and it is impossible to predict what will happen. So I would like us to swear that we agree to do everything necessary to save my son, and I agree to pay the appropriate price for it.” He looked Margot straight in the eyes, and she confirmed with a nod. “Let’s begin,” Yotoshi said to Macawi.

Macawi cut the inside of her palm with a small curved knife, and allowed the blood to flow onto the burning stones. 

“I agree to do everything necessary to save Yotoshi’s son,” she said, and handed the knife to Margot. 

“I agree to do everything necessary to save Yotoshi’s son,” Margot added her blood to the fire.

When A and Yotoshi completed the ritual, the flame changed color to blue. Macawi took a small copper bowl and filled it with blue fire. She raised it high above her head, recited a spell, and each of them drank the fire from the bowl. Margot watched with fascination as their souls were getting linked by the power of the contract.

Macawi raised both hands and began whispering the last words of the spell. The fire slowly went out, and when a wisp of smoke emerged from the stones, Macawi nodded to Yotoshi. 

“Alright,” Yotoshi said. “We have twenty-four hours. Where do we start?” 

“Take the shovels,” Margot replied, her eyes flashed terrifyingly.


They waited hidden, near Sendai Oriental, until Totem left the vault. Yotoshi’s contact didn’t know the details, but he implied that the transport would take place by air. A and Macawi sat at the front of the ship, with Margot kneeling on the deck just behind them. On the floor, she placed a black obsidian stone that was reflecting the flames of the candles. Thanks to the magic, the ship looked like a small flock of ravens.

Margot was surprised to learn that Macawi was indeed participating in the mission. 

“I thought Natives only heal acne and hug trees,” she quipped.

“Sometimes we also stop bleeding, drive away demons, and provide protection,” Macawi replied.

“How do you feel being a part of the black mission?” Margot taunted.

“Now I’m part of a contract,” Macawi replied.

After about an hour of waiting, four security vehicles began circling the Sendai Oriental building. Lights flashed, and the roof of the hotel opened. A large armored oval-shaped vehicle with pilot cabins in the front and rocket engines in the back slowly flew out. 

“Am I seeing this right?” Macawi asked. “The entire vault rose up?”

“So it seems,” A replied.

“Do you have any idea how we’ll get to it?”

“Leave that to black magic,” Margot said.

Macawi let out a slow breath. “We’ll do whatever it takes to save Yotoshi’s son, right?”

“Right,” Margot and A confirmed.

The Matsuba-kai security guards circled the vault, set up a formation, and flew away. A followed them. After about an hour, they flew out of the city, after another they were flying over an abandoned desert.

“We’re far away. It’s enough,” A said. “Ready?” he turned to Margot.


A started intercepting the radio communication and nodded to Margot. Then he accelerated so that they were flying just above the vault.

“What the hell are those birds?” They heard in the radio. “Transport, do you see that?”

“We do, but we ain’t giving a shit.”

Margot turned a page in the book, raised her hands, and quietly began to repeat the spell. The flames of the twelve candles placed around her started to rise. She spoke faster and louder. When the flames reached a meter high, Margot clenched her hands and shouted the last words of the spell.

The flames disappeared, but after a few seconds, the radio crackled again. 

“Hello, Transport, your engines are on fire, over.”

“The indicators show nothing.”

“Fuck the indicators, the fire is already a meter high.” They could heat the panic in the pilot’s voice. 

“Engine failure in the Transporter, immediate landing procedure. Three and Four, land with us and take the extinguishers. Two, cover us from above.”

The vault landed on the ground, surrounded by three security vehicles. Within moments, eight men with extinguishers tried to contain the flames, which were rising higher and higher.

A landed on the roof of the vault. As soon as he landed the machine, the cabin glass opened. A stood up, placed the rocket launcher on his shoulder, calmly aimed and fired two missiles at the most vulnerable point of the security ship that was circling around the treasury.

The guards stopped extinguishing the fire, surprised by the explosion just above their heads, but they did not notice A until he jumped out of the ship’s perimeter. But by then, it was already too late. A fired eight precise shots within a few seconds.

“Not too bad,” said Margot, descending to the ground. She snapped her fingers and the flames disappeared. 

“We have less than an hour,” A replied indifferently.

Margot approached the treasury door, took out a piece of coal, and began to draw complex runes on it. Meanwhile, Macawi placed her hands on the temples of the dead and silently recited a prayer.

When Margot finished writing the spell, she placed her hands on the treasury door and closed her eyes. After a moment, the symbols began to shimmer in gold. They could hear the gears turning, releasing locks, and shifting beams.

After a minute, the treasury door sprang open. A nodded approvingly.

* * *

Margot entered the treasury. In the center of the oval-shaped room, on a low column, stood a one-and-a-half meter crystal. Inside it was the Totem. The irregular stone shape shimmered in green, silver, and black.

Margot felt chills down her spine. Until now, she was not sure if the Totem really existed. 

“Bring the bags,” she shouted to A without taking her eyes off the crystal. “Don’t come in,” she growled at Macawi, and then added sarcastically, “From now on, it’s the zone of black magic. I wouldn’t want you to get burned.”

A placed two jute bags on the threshold of the treasury. Margot cut their corners and drew runes on them. The bags rose and began to circle around the crystal, spilling gray ashes on the floor. Margot stood upright and murmured the incantation quietly.

“What is that dust?” Macawi asked.

“The ashes of Yotoshi’s sons,” A replied.

Macawi shook her head in disgust, turned around, and left. A watched for a moment as a huge pentagram was forming around the crystal. He looked up at the ceiling of the treasury, shrugged his shoulders, and went to move the ship.

Margot approached the crystal, still reciting the incantation. She took two vials out of her coat, uncorked them, and hung them in the air. When she touched the crystal, the vials turned over, pouring the blood of Gorokizu and Yotoshi on her hands and the stone. The pentagram began to burn.

Margot connected with the infinite energy of the source, focused all her power on one point, and began to pierce the crystal millimeter by millimeter.

Through the burning pentagram and the souls of Yotoshi’s sons, she drew power from the realm of the dead and directed it against the crystal. All her will was focused on this one task. Time and space ceased to exist; there was only herself, the crystal, and the power she directed against it.

But the spell protecting the crystal was more powerful than she had expected, even with the power of death. Sweat appeared on her forehead, she began breathing heavily, and blood started flowing from her eyes. She felt as if red-hot coals were passing through her body.

The pain was unbearable, and along with the panic, she was slowly losing her strength. The energy flowing through her dissipated, and lightning began to strike throughout the treasury. It was a test of will.

Margot struggled to calm her breathing, relaxed her shoulders, and cleared her mind. With concentration, the lesson from her training came back to her: pain is unbearable only when we resist it. So she focused on the pain. She delved deeply into the pain and allowed it to fill her entire body. She and the pain became one.

As soon as she stopped resisting, the energy flowed with double the force. 

As soon as the first small crack appeared on the crystal, Margot felt herself connecting with the Totem. In just a second, she had harnessed its power and turned it against the barrier. There was an explosion and its force threw Margot against the wall of the treasure room.

Her vision became hazy, and an unpleasant screeching loaded her ears. Smoke filled the treasure room, as the pentagram was still burning in several places. Suddenly, she heard Macawi’s terrified voice. “Margot, it’s not over yet. The barrier is starting to return. Let me in, we are still bound by the contract!”

“What?” she responded dazed, trying to get up from her knees.

“Can I do whatever is necessary to save Yotoshi’s son?” Macawi shouted, entering the treasure room and placing something on the ground.

“Yes” Margot spat out blood.

When she said those words, the vision suddenly returned to its place. She saw before her a wooden Totem with an eagle’s head at the top. Macawi stood with raised hands. Gray smoke shot out of the Totem and wrapped around Margot’s body.

Then she understood what had happened. The magical intent had formed and strengthened after it had been confirmed once again. Macawi had attacked her with the same spell that the shamans had used to attack burning witches in 1692. But this time, Margot allowed it.

She felt the gray smoke surrounding her body, lifting her up, and she was unable to do anything, exhausted from the fight with the crystal and overpowered by the force of the contract. Her legs and arms slowly became numb, and her vision became hazy once again.

She felt anger stirring deep inside her body, where the haze had not yet penetrated. She had been deceived, but she knew it didn’t matter. She had been blinded by her desire to gain access to Yotoshi’s soul and then kill Macawi and take away her Totem. She had underestimated her because she despised shamans and the magic that flowed from nature.

Suddenly, she felt her anger merging with the anger, fury, and hatred hidden in the Totem. A fire began to burn in her body, dispelling the paralyzing haze. She was afraid that if she regained her freedom, she would pay for it with madness, but there was no turning back. Her ancestors were doing everything they could to save her from the dreadful fate that had befallen them. And who said women don’t support each other, Margot thought.

She launched an attack that caught Macawi by surprise. Lightning bolts shot through the gray smoke, wrapped Macawi’s body, lifted her up, squished, and then everything exploded. The connection was broken, and they fell to the ground.

Margot was exhausted, but there was one thing ringing in her head: “Kill her.” 

She pulled a curved dagger out of her cloak, dipped it in the pentagram’s powder, and pressed it against Macawi’s throat.

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t slit your throat.”

“I have none,” Macawi replied with her eyes closed. Blood was flowing from her mouth and nose. 


Macawi was slowly losing consciousness.

“Why?” Margot insisted and pressed down on the knife, blood gushed from under the blade.

Macawi replied with difficulty, “To heal Gorokizu, we need something stronger than the Salem Totem. What could be more powerful than the souls of several witches enchanted in the Totem?” 

“One soul that agreed,” Margot finished for her. “You tricked me.” 

“Oh, poor deceived witch,’ Macawi sneered. 'It doesn’t matter for the contract. You should know better.” Margot fell silent. She knew it was true. That’s why, for thousands of years, so many people had lost their souls to witches and paid a terrible price for satisfying their weaknesses. 

“You know what’s funny?” Macawi continued “In 1692 in Salem, it wasn’t witches who burned at the stake, but Indians. The witches conspired with all the other white people. The shamans were invited by them to a magic ceremony. When the feast began, soldiers burst into the room, captured them, and tied them to the pole with the totem on top. The English thought it would be funny if the Natives burned under their own symbol. The shamans had herbs that were prepared as a gift for the witches. They were magical herbs. When they caught fire, a powerful energy was released, and the shamans cursed the witches who had deceived them. The witches began to burn, and their souls were enchanted in the Totem for betraying the magic alliance.”

“So why is it described differently in my book?” Margot asked.

“Because history is written by the victors, and in the end, it was the Indigenous people who ended up in reservations.” 

Margot fell silent for a moment. “If you had a bit more fighting experience, you would have defeated me. The strength of the contract was on your side. I barely managed to fight you off with the help of the Totem.”

“Then I don’t regret it. It wouldn’t have been worth it.” 

“Why do you need that Totem?’ Margot asked 

“The Totem belongs to the shamans. It always has. Besides,” Macawi coughed and spat out blood, “Gorokizu is not the only one terminally ill.

Margot stood up. “I’ll spare your life, Macawi The Naive, so you can continue to treat acne and hug trees. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly what we need.”


Yotoshi entered the room, followed by Jiro and the bodyguards. Gorokizu floated above the table, wearing pajamas with an oxygen mask over his head and an IV drip attached to him. He was slowly rotating in the air. Margot sat in a chair, and Totem stood in front of her.

Yotoshi kicked everyone out of the room and ordered the door to be closed. He swallowed nervously and started walking towards Margot.

“Stop,” she said as he approached a few meters away. “Did you really think you could deceive me?”

“Will you kill me?”

“You? No. I will kill your son, and you will have to live with that.” 

“Kill me, but save the boy’s life. If you save him, his soul will belong to you. I will die soon anyway, and he will become the oyabun.”

“Why should I care about his soul when I have the Totem?”

“Gorokizu was born on the first day of the lunar year.”

Margot raised her eyebrows. According to Japanese superstition, children born on that day were destined to become great geniuses or hopeless villains. Either way, they were meant to be powerful and important, which meant their souls were significant.

She looked at the levitating child. Regardless of who you become, she thought, it’s not your fault, and I am still bound by a magical contract. But there was something else Yotoshi couldn’t have known. Margot was on the brink of madness. Ever since she connected with Totem, the voices of the witches never left her. “Free us,” they were saying, “let us go. Save us, just like we saved you.” Margot knew she needed to destroy the Totem soon.

“Macawi was right,” she said at last. “You can’t solve problems from the same level of consciousness that created them. There is only one way to save Gorokizu. One soul against many, that’s the power of intention. Yotoshi of the Arrita clan, do you agree to let me enchant your soul into a Totem to heal your son?”

“Yes,” Yotoshi fell to his knees and clasped his hands over his head. “Please do it, and save my boy.”

“Very well.” 

Margot drew energy from the Totem and cast the spell. A gray smoke burst from the artifact and enveloped Yotoshi’s body. Margot felt something inside him break, but he had a blissful expression on his face. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

Yotoshi’s soul detached from his body and mixed with the smoke, then was sucked into the wooden Totem.

Yotoshi’s lifeless body fell to the ground, but Margot paid no attention. She lifted the New Totem and aimed it at the boy. A huge amount of power flowed effortlessly. For the first time, Margot felt as if there was a source within Totem, as if nothing stood between her and infinite energy. When the soul didn’t resist, the power was unlimited.

The boy straightened up. His skin brightened, and his body began to gain mass and shape. He opened his eyes, and they sparkled.

* * *

As soon as the contract expired, the clamor became unbearable. Margot fell to her knees and grabbed her head. “Release us! Let us go! Allow. Us. To sleep.” 

Margot barely raised her hand, overwhelmed by curses, threats, and pleas. With difficulty, she concentrated, uttered the incantation, and lit the Totem. The voices immediately fell silent. The fire started slowly. The red tongues engulfed the wood and rose higher and higher. Margot felt the warmth on her face, but she was still too weak to get up. The Totem was turning black evenly. One wing fell off, and blood flowed from its inside.

As the blood flowed from the Totem, the souls of the witches began to fly out, but to Margot’s surprise, they didn’t disappear but flew in different directions. 

One of them entered Gorokizu’s body. His eyes briefly flashed with red light.  The boy slowly turned his head towards Margot and spoke with a hoarse voice: 

“Now is the time for vengeance.”


*Translated with help of ChatGPT 3.5

*Feature image generated with Midjurney