81. A Cold, White Room

Josephine was in an interview room, just like the one she’d rescued Naema from weeks ago, only much smaller. A table was in the middle, with an indicator drawn across it where a repulse wall would be. Across from her, the exemplar who captured them studied her with an amused smile.

“You’re power is extraordinary,” the exemplar said. “It’s very easy to overdo it, though.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out soon.”

“Who are you?” Josephine asked.

“I’m the queen. Ignore my current body. It’s only a loaner.”

It took a moment for that to sink in. “…Victoria?”

“Yes.”

Bodyswapping. That was something Josephine hadn’t thought about in years. A thought occurred to her.

“…Sakhr?” she asked.

“Yes.”

Josephine looked her over. “So you decided to rule the world after all. I guess you were right. You aren’t any good at it.”

The woman looked perplexed. “What? Oh. No. I’m not Sakhr. I just used his power.”

“So what did you do to Sakhr?”

“I trapped him and his silly coven in small animals. It was easy. All I had to do was promise him more power and he walked them all into my trap. Pity you weren’t there. I’ve had your enclosure waiting for you for seventeen years now.”

“What did I ever do to you?”

“You’ll remember soon enough.”

“The first time I even thought about you,” Josephine said, “was when your little spies broke into my house.”

“Was that really the first time we interacted?” the woman asked.

Josephine eyed her. Victoria clearly knew something she didn’t. For one, how did she even know Josephine knew who Sakhr was? And she must have met Anton if she has his power. So Victoria must have met the coven before Josephine left.

But when? Christof would have noticed another witch, unless Victoria already had her shield by then. Had they offended her somehow? Possibly. The coven had offended a lot of people. Whatever it was, this bitch had one long memory.

“We must have met at some point,” said Josephine. “I guess you don’t make much of an impression.”

Victoria’s cool grin vanished. “No? Well, you lot certainly made an impression on me. I’ve waited a long time to add you to my collection.”

Josephine still had no clue what this was about, but screw this. “I’m flattered. I don’t know what we ever did to you, but I bet you had it coming.”

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