City of Brussels, Belgium, 2017

Hildegard was the first to arrive at the designated meeting place and after pacing around for a few minutes, tapped her Rolex watch impatiently whilst decrying the tardiness of the other witches. It felt like a curse that she had to be one of the few with any respect for punctuality, though she couldn't blame her peers when none of them could steal years from ordinary people quite the way she could.

It was that power which had allowed her to look precisely the same age ever since she had turned twenty-three in the third century AD. She had gone by the name of Alda back then and owed it to a Roman soldier called Ferrutius for inadvertently bringing about the conditions that allowed her powers to fully manifest.

She'd drained him of life to avenge the death of her father and the rest was history. In the ensuing centuries, she had perfected the skill and learned to only use it in moderation, so as to minimize the suffering of her victims.

She checked her watch again and found herself wishing that she could speed time up to make waiting more bearable. Unfortunately, she was still predominantly human and time manipulation was something that could only be done by beings of divine origin, such as the Chinese witch Jing.

It was at five minutes past nine, that a second woman finally started to materialize within the room and Hildegard breathed a sigh of relief.

The newcomer was none other than French witch Marianne, who resided in Paris and had a face worthy of a fashion magazine cover. She smiled coyly at Hildegard and gave a wink while the unmistakable scent of Chanel No. 5 wafted through the air.

"Boy, can't I wait to get revenge. Who does she think she is?"

It was all too obvious who Marianne was referring to and Hildegard had mixed feelings about what they would soon be doing. Despite being witches, they weren't immune to the political issues of contemporary Europe and what had recently happened in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, as the representative of German witches, Hildegard had to be tactful when dealing with her neighbors and knew that directly participating in today's ritual was out of the question.

A third figure appeared by the door and Marianne instantly recognized them as Giovanna, the self-proclaimed mistress of poisons. The two women squealed at each other in unison, before both rushing forward to embrace.

"Oh, Giovanna! You look ravishing, as always!" Marianne exclaimed with a smile plastered on her face as they finally let go after several seconds. "Nobody but you would dare to wear such an extravagant fur coat!"

"Why thank you, Marianne! One month is far too long to go without your presence!" Giovanna replied while crossing two fingers behind her back. "I simply must share with you my latest recipe!"

In Hildegard's opinion, there did not exist a more insincere pair than the two currently standing in front of her. She wondered for a moment why they simply couldn't admit to detesting each other, but retracted such a thought upon remembering how bloody the last witches' feud was.

Giovanna removed her large Gucci sunglasses and glanced around the room.

"Only three of us? What sort of turn out is this?"

The only windows in the room flew open on cue and the Russian witch Olga made a grand entrance by floating through them in her mortar with giant pestle in hands. She willed her unusual means of transport to land quietly on the floor before stepping out and attracting a look of disbelief from Giovanna.

"It's the twenty-first century. Haven't you ever thought of upgrading to something more modern?"

Olga sighed and glared at Giovanna's gaudy fashion choices with distaste.

"Unlike you, I am not one to throw away thousands of euros on a luxury sports car that I will be driving for only one night."

Giovanna gave a threatening glare.

"I only want the best for myself. Would you like me to send one of my subordinates?"

"Petulant child, you are..." Olga sighed in response as she backed away for the sake of her own safety and sat down at the opposite side of the room.

Marianne tiptoed cautiously over to pat Giovanna's shoulder in the hope of appeasing the woman, while Hildegard made an attempt to let everyone know that one person had yet to arrive.

"Ladies, I must ask for your attention. We've already wasted enough time as it is, so could anyone tell me where Isabella-"

"Did someone ask for me?"

Hildegard was startled and turned around to find herself face-to-face with the smiling brunette.

"Oh. You're here already." She said in embarrassment while realizing what had likely caused the delay.

"I apologize for being late. I had trouble deciding on the best one for this occasion." Isabella apologized as she held up a large framed photograph for the others to see. The subject was a sophisticated young British woman with golden hair, whose mere appearance prompted a derogatory comment from Marianne.

"The bitch..." She whispered harshly with pursed lips. "I can't wait to do my worst..."

"As do I..." Giovanna agreed, rubbing both hands together in glee.

"Me also..." Isabella added with an enthusiastic nod.

Olga and Hildegard observed such reactions, and lowered their heads in resignation.

It seemed like the ritual would be going forward, in spite of the risk that Sophie might retaliate.