They come for her just like everything else does, in the night, unexpected, unwanted but well-received. They come for her like the magic came; the same magic she feels pulsing in her veins more often and louder than the magic in the metro lines, the same magic that her mother would always describe as eternally present, the hymn that brings life and the thud that takes it.
She does not believe in the volshebnitsi, she never had. No one who drew power from the metro lines believed in them either: the thought of those who could harness magic from anywhere other than the city within a city, who could harness it from within their very self, is a dangerous thought, one that threatens the core of their beliefs. Even those who could hear the magic and see the magic, Vasilisa knows, have inside them a very human instinct, to at once believe and disbelieve what threatens them, what confuses them. They do not believe the volshebnitsi are real, yet something tugs at them and keeps them talking about these enigmas. (Vasilisa assumes it is an ancient, purer form of magic, calling to them just like the magic of the metro lines once did, but she is not certain. The magic calls to her, but it does not speak to her, and creates more questions than it does answers).
She does not believe in the volshebnitsi, but for a different reason. She knows them, and she knows that the same magic she feels and hears pulsing in her veins roars in theirs too. She does not believe in the volshebnitsi because she has not had to. She does not believe in the volshebnitsi because they are as obvious to her as the existence of another person. No one believes in the neighbor next door, no one regards them with both horror and fascination.
She is fixing a clasp on one of her necklaces, one of the ones she had charmed while her professor spoke of empires and of blood. She is most proud of that necklace because it is both beautiful and lethal. Unlike the charms she was taught to make in elementary school, the ones the children used to pass exams and disperse the human police whenever they came too close, her charm does not have a specific purpose. It is magic itself, her blood tells her so. “Magic is life,” her mother had said when she was little, braiding her hair and insisting that she sit still for once, “it is what keeps us going. It is was present before the Earth was made, and will continue to be there long after we are gone.” Perhaps her charm could kill someone, or bring them back to life, or create empires far greater than the ones she learns of in lectures.
Vasilisa takes a knife, made by an ancestor and passed through the koldunyas of the family until it had made its way to her, and gently pricks her finger. The blood falls on the necklace, red and bright and hot. The magic she was taught does not use blood; it is a trick Vasilisa has taught herself. There is power in blood, and those who want power have always had to shed blood. It is why the gods demanded blood of the ancients, it is why family and ancestry is so strong, it is why she first felt the magic within itself and had to search for magic that came from an outlet outside of herself.
They come for her just like everything else does, wanting her blood. There are more of them than she expected, but they are still few in number. “Gregorievna,” says their leader. To others, she would look normal, but Vasilisa can feel the magic in her, radiating from her. This is no ordinary witch.
They don’t need to say more. Vasilisa palms the charmed necklace in one hand, and holds the knife in the other. Slowly, as if part of a staged ritual she had been rehearsing for for months, she extends the hand with the knife. Her blood is still on the blade, and now it is on her hands. She places the weapon in the head volshebnitsa’s hand, and the blood stains her dark skin.
There is no need for words. Volshebnitsi are magic themselves, and the magic never spoke to Vasilisa Gregorievna. The magic calls, and she answers.