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The Devil You Knew

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It was disconcerting, this classroom. Zelda had known it centuries ago as a child, fostered a love of hexes and conjurings mere feet from where she stood now. But, while many memories had developed here, she couldn’t bring herself to feel a nostalgic fondness for it. Perhaps because she’d barely ever left, certainly not long enough to form a distance. First she was a student, then a close advisor to Edward, guardian to Sabrina, companion to Faustus Blackwood. But now this classroom, this entire building, and everyone in it, was under her command. It was everything she’d ever wanted, but still downright terrifying.

The role of steering the Church, molding its young minds, was what she’d craved. Zelda hadn’t considered that den mothering a gaggle of filthy teens would take up so much of her time, but it had become a welcome distraction, tackling the day-to-day instead of pondering the horrors still to come. Oh, how her life had been turned about in a matter of months; looking around at strewn-about spellwork and enchanted clapping erasers, it seemed to her she was only short a bedknob and a broomstick.

This was an inner sanctum, not hers. Not yet.

And yet, it was familiar enough that Zelda could sense a disturbance without so much as turning her head.

“Are you ever going to tire of showing up in places you’re not wanted, Lilith?”

This particular intrusion was different; Lilith hadn’t graced the coven with her presence since she’d been turned away from sanctuary. She was attempting to hide the metaphorical tail between her legs, project her preening, filthy confidence; draped in that ridiculous patent leather trench coat, the same she’d bean wearing the first time Zelda found her snooping around the Spellman foyer.

But Zelda could tell it was a performance, a facade to make them both believe that nothing had changed. Lilith flashed that sly, red-painted smile, the one she always used to make Zelda practically dissolve. She began what was assuredly meant to be a cunning retort, but not quickly enough.

“Unless you’re here to grovel, we have nothing to discuss. And even if you are, I’m not exactly in the mood for chit-chat.”

“Believe it or not, Zelda, I came to...apologize.” The word slipped out of her mouth with grit, like an unwelcome seed discovered inside a sweet fruit. “Now that the dust has settled and the pagans have been dealt with, I believe we can forge a strong alliance.”

Zelda scoffed as she turned, her eyes darting to Lilith’s stomach. “I believe you’ve already forged an alliance with the Dark Lord that will keep you plenty busy.”

“I assure you, this is only a temporary measure. In the time it takes to bring this...situation to completion, I’ll have developed a plan to usurp the Dark Lord once more.”

Zelda yearned for a cigarette to pointedly drag. “With all due respect, which is, in fairness, not much...what is there to regroup, Lilith? You are without a station, without power…” It was cruel, even for Zelda. “What ground do you have to stand, exactly?”

Lilith’s gaze steeled along with her resolve. “My dear, I am ancient. you can’t even begin to understand my power.”

They’d done this dance before, asserting dominance, breaking each other for sport. Except this time, there was no promise of putting each other back together again.

“If I understand things correctly, without the favor of your Dark Lord, it may as well be for naught. It seems you’re only worth something when you’re in service to a man. So now you’ve made yourself into a shell, nothing but a womb, and for what? A few more months of miserable life?”

Zelda did her best to hide her impassioned disappointment, act as if the fall of Lilith had been a mere inconvenience and not a faith shaking blow - the First Witch, the goddess she’d prayed to on her knees, not only defeated, but desperate, and in front of her very eyes. There could be no myth of denial, or bliss of ignorance.

“That’s rich coming from Lady Blackwood herself.” Lilith’s cloying grin did nothing to disguise her sarcasm, nor was it meant to.

“That was merely a title. It gave me access and influence, it didn’t make me whole.”

And yet, Zelda knew Lilith was not entirely off-base in her assessment. It was their mutual hunger for power that drew them to each other in the first place; to deny that hunger now would be a lie. But as it was, Zelda’s hunger had been sated, Lilith was forlorn and starving.

“It gives me no pleasure to say this: I didn’t want to believe that you were powerless without him, but it seems that is the case.”

“I do understand, Zelda.” She came closer, sauntering slowly amongst the desks. She used Mary Wardwell’s voice now, under a veil of innocence, putting on the doe-eyed look she used to woo mortals. Attempting to woo Zelda Spellman with it was downright condescending, even if it was accompanied by those vast blue eyes. “But if I can’t be powerful on my own, then perhaps rediscover that strength within myself...with you.

Zelda let out an authentic, truly unencumbered laugh. “You must think I’m some sort of idiot. As if I would ever allow you such a privilege ever again. Desperation doesn’t look good on you, Lilith.” It was, of course, an unfortunate truth that everything looked good on Lilith, but that wouldn’t be enough to sway a High Priestess. Not this time.

“But we make such a great team, Zelda.” Those damned doe eyes at the forefront again. “In more ways than one.”

“You really thought that would continue after everything you’ve done? That I would somehow be so devoid of self-respect that I would look past your betrayal?” Zelda worried she’d already given Lilith too much leverage, letting her talk this long without banishing her from the room. Even in the time of their short back and forth, Lilith had already slowly slunk closer, weaving through the classroom, stalking Zelda like she was still prey.

“I think that, whenever we’re together, everything distills into pure power. Our magic weaves together in such an unshakable way.” She looked to her feet, seemingly ashamed, only to return Zelda’s gaze moments later, eyes glistening. “Maybe I’m nothing without him, but maybe I’m nothing without you too.”

“This is a tad melodramatic, Lilith, even for you,” Zelda deadpanned in return.

“I assure you, Zelda, my feelings and my intentions are genuine.”

“Your assurances are worth nothing to me. You’ve proven time and time again that you’ll latch on to whoever you believe holds the keys to the kingdom: Lucifer, Faustus, heavens above, even Sabrina. Now that it happens to be me, you’ll say whatever you think I want to hear.”

“We both know that’s not true, Zelda. I’ve admired your skill since the first day we met. It’s why I’m so surprised to see you wasting away in a classroom, squandering your deep well of magic on such ungrateful youth.”

It wasn’t as if she was wrong: the students whom Zelda toiled amongst all day didn’t appreciate her. Young people didn’t know how to appreciate much of anything. She’d resigned herself to the fact that they didn’t need to, that this was where she would lay the foundation for their coven. For all covens.

But that was one thing Lilith could always do - find the loose thread, pull and pull and pull until everything became unraveled. As usual, despite Zelda’s astuteness, the other woman was practically on top of her before she had time to even register her movement.

“Well, I’m sure they’re grateful for at least one thing.” Lilith’s eyes raked over Zelda’s body, signaling that they were moving on from flattery and self-pity to the inevitable: seduction. “Look at you, all stern and commanding in front of your blackboard. I’ll bet all those young witches and warlocks must spend hours fantasising about getting punished by Mother Spellman, bent over her desk.”

“I don’t particularly care what my students are thinking about, Lilith, so long as they do their work. Besides, under my leadership this institution will be reformed: there will be no corporal punishment. Or teachers taking advantage of students.”

“What a benevolent mistress you are. Always keeping your ship so...tight.” She began to undo the belt and buckles on her coat, revealing her form: entirely bare but for her black stockings, lithe and pale. “Besides, I know you prefer the taste of a fine vintage.”

Mere months ago, this would have worked - she would have fallen under the spell and between the legs of Madam Satan for far less. But everything had changed; this creature she had so admired was built on myths and lies. The whole idea of worshipping another...Zelda realized that it would only lead to suffering. She was determined to maintain indifference, not give Lilith the satisfaction of affecting her.

“Naked under an overcoat?” she scoffed. “That trick is almost as old as you.” She turned to the blackboard, shunning the naked demon woman and transcribing the next day’s lesson. “You really needn’t try so hard, Lilith. Anything between us that would require your nudity is over.”

“Oh come on, Zelda. I can’t imagine this new thing...this Mambo Marie, is keeping you satisfied.” At the mention of her beloved priestess, Zelda’s back stiffened. “Sure, she’s pretty, but she can’t compare when you’ve already had the best this astral plane has to offer.”

“How dare you speak of her in such a way.” It came out a bellow, betraying her emotionless pretense.

“Oh, did I touch a nerve?” She inched closer, cooing next to Zelda’s ear. “Did she touch yours?

Finally turning to face Lilith, she encroached on her heavily, forcing her back into the line of student desks. “You are but a speck of disappointment that lies in my past. What I do with other, better women is none of your business.”

“We both know the truth, Zelda.” She made it sound almost pitiful. “You are far too dark of a storm cloud for her. Eventually she’ll grow tired of the darkness and leave you.”

The fear had crept into her thoughts before. That this bright spark would burn out when there was less to endure together, or far too much. That the pain and trauma deep inside of her meant no one could ever love her again. Or that no one ever had to begin with. The thought of it, that it could be true, made Zelda hang her head, wavering.

Lilith brought a finger to her chin. “I can handle you. We’re so perfectly matched, you and I.”

“She was there when I needed her. When you weren’t.”

“Does that really matter. Saving a world that falls deeper and deeper into disrepair, no matter what you do? A world that seeks to stifle your magic at every turn? No, my dearest.” Propped up on the edge of an ancient, unsturdy desktop, she hooked a leg around Zelda’s hips. “We could rule Hell together, and watch them all burn.”

The kiss was still searing, a roaring fire constantly burning between the two of them. But this time, there was bitterness, and Zelda worried she would never be able to wash the taste of Lilith’s ashes from her mouth.

“No,” she pronounced, attempting to back away. “Even if I believed you would share a throne, tyrannical rule is not the future I want for myself or our kind.”

Lilith raised another leg and tightened her grip, effectively caging Zelda into her grasp. “Oh, come on. The Zelda Spellman I know is a selfish, bossy cunt who takes what she can and fucks the rest.”

Then you don’t know me at all, is what Zelda would have said. But before she could pull away, Lilith grabbed her by the collar, choking her while bringing their faces closer together.

“This cravat always looked too stuffy on Faustus. But on you it looks...just right.”

Their lips met again, forcefully. This time, Zelda grabbed the other woman by the hips, setting her off balance. It was enough to release her legs from the vice Lilith had clamped them in, and force the other woman’s thigh between her own.

“Tell me what you want, Lilith.”

You, Zelda,” she moaned. “Your mouth...just like before…”

Zelda spat back, “Too fucking bad. You’ll have to rut into my leg like the sad, desperate bitch that you are.” It came out more cruel than she had intended, but it paralleled the heat of this particular moment, more painful than all the ones that had come before.

While Lilith ground into her, naked and writhing, Zelda removed not a stitch of clothing; hovering over her nude form, it only served to illustrate their present power dynamic.

I’m in charge here,” she growled into Lilith’s ear, biting the flushed skin at her neck. Steadying her hands on the sides of the shaky desk, Lilith took the nearest fragment of Zelda’s white collar into her mouth, using it to muffle her cries, staining it the same red as her lips.

It would have been a lie to say Zelda wasn’t wet - it was practically muscle memory to become aroused when she found herself in proximity to Lilith, no matter how deep her betrayals had cut. But this time, she would not seek refuge in mutual pleasure. Buried in this exhibition of control, power, was a farewell to old gods and old ways. It was the opposite of worship, burning down the mythos of Lucifer and all of his compatriots in a state of heretical ecstasy.

La petite mort, they called it; as Lilith came against her, Zelda knew that she had witnessed the great, final explosion of a star. The death of one legend, the beginning of another.

She took in the view: Lilith, limbs dangling over the edge of the desk, head lolling so far back that the tips of her mountainous hair tickled the floor. There was a swath of wetness between her legs, and a mess of red around her mouth. An onlooker could have easily deciphered what just took place. But the slack pleasure in her body didn’t match the joyless, mournful vacancy in her stare.

Zelda, conversely, could easily disguise their indiscretions, carry herself quickly into the dark, not stop for any last minute conversations with students or staff wandering the halls after hours. Someone would have to get close and ask too many questions to notice her ruined pants and stained collar. And Zelda knew how to keep people away, as it were.

“You found your way in,” she stated plainly, adjusting her suit and making toward exit. “I trust you can see yourself out once you’ve...recovered.”

“Zelda, wait.”

She paused. “I’ve spent too long waiting for you to make the right choice.”

“Please,” Lilith whimpered. “We’re all doomed, Zelda.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?” She remained limp, the early stages of tears travelling into her hairline; doing things the wrong way around, like always.

“I’m truly sorry to hear that, Lilith. Because I do have hope: for my family, for my coven, and all of witchdom.” It was obvious that her speech wouldn’t convince Lilith, still lying motionless. But persuasion was not her ultimate goal. Reassurance, only, perhaps. “When I write down the story of our new order, the one that will be shared for generations, I will tell your story. Your tragedy. Your strifes and your betrayals, all of it.”

“I take it you’ll leave out the part where you grind me to orgasm in your sacred palace of learning?” In a strange way, Zelda was happy to know that Lilith could still be smug.

“I can’t help you anymore, Lilith, not here and now. But I can cement the legacy you’ve earned.”

There wouldn’t be a proper goodbye - neither of them were sentimental enough for that. But before Zelda strolled off into the annals of the academy, Lilith saw fit to make one more proclamation: “We could have been great together, Zelda.”

Zelda’s footsteps stopped with certainty. “I will still be great. And you...you will be a memory. A broken promise”

She walked forward into the dark hall, not looking back.