Tag Archive | witch

Spooky Photo 3

 

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It’s another Retro Halloween decoration.  This was also a Pamida find back in the 80s. I’m surprised she’s held up all these years since she’s cardboard and tissue paper.
Supposed to be my day off but have too much work to do.

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Heartless by Design: Flash Fiction

(originally from July 2008)

 

This was written for a story colab challenge where we used lines contributed by other writers. Though I don;t know which lines they are, or if they survived edits, thanks all the same to  Peg, barb, Lonnie, and nita.

************

Under the light of a full moon, she walked towards the pounding ocean, her fingers twined in his. He had strong hands, yet gentle, and his voice was as soft as the summer rain. She enjoyed the feeling of the sand between her toes as she walked along the shore with him,  towards the  trees. As they went he asked no questions, only gazed at her with a curious longing. His eyes should have made her uncomfortable but she felt nothing. Her heart was cold as stone.

The forest was still and silent. Even the animals sensed something was wrong. It was time to bring him to meet the goddess of the land; she couldn’t keep him a secret any longer, though she knew what they would do to him – what they would make her do to him.

The clearing was eerily silent, but he smiled as she released his hand. He thought he would impress her by building a fire, and picking her wild flowers. As the flames licked the inky night she settled down by his side and waited, her hand inside her coat and her fingers wrapped around the blade. He smiled his crooked, reassuring grin and settled himself in the damp grass. A chorus of crickets sang in the distance. It was deceptively peaceful. No one would guess this spot was once a battlefield; but it was, and that made all the difference. That was why they had chosen it.

They came from the trees, like wraiths from a dark nightmare. Their call was shrill as they descended. He jumped to his feet, but she choked him to his knees. He screamed as she forced him to the ground, with one hand around his neck the other in his crouch, both gripping tightly. His eyes echoed the agony of his cry, but she had no choice. He must be sacrificed. She was a natural born killer, she was raised that way by her mother, by the witches of the southfold. She was cold, she was cruel and she did not feel.

He fell unconscious on the grass and the women quickly disrobed. Their naked bodies flitted around the camp fire while they hummed their ritual song. She twirled in circles under the moon, chanting and singing with her arms held high. As if in time to her words, the heavens opened and thunder and lightning crashed. In the distance, they could hear the popping and cracking of trees being torn out of the ground by the storm’s fury, but still they sang and danced. The words grew more frenzied as the storm grew, and when it reached it’s zenith she straddled his unconscious form. With the knife to his throat, she ended his life.

The ceremony came to an end and the women rifled through his pockets, looting the corpse that had been her lover. With no feeling, she gathered up her clothes.  As she dressed one of the women found the ring in his coat and threw it to her, laughing.

She caught the little black box in her hand. Inside lay a diamond ring. An engagement ring. She hadn’t known about, hadn’t understood his intentions, but now she did. He had loved her. Really loved her.

No on had ever loved her. Not men, not her sisters in the coven, not her mother. She was an item, nothing more, just as they were items to her – weren’t they? He was… he was just…  She closed her eyes and tried to force it away, but his face swam behind her eyelids, his grin crooked and reassuring, as if he thought she was frightened of the dark! As if he was trying to tell her he would protect her.

Protect her.

He couldn’t even protect himself from her betrayal.

And that’s what it was. She had betrayed him. He’d given her his heart, his trust, and she’d handed him over to their bloodthirsty goddess, a sacrifice for the midnight meeting. He’d given her something that no one else had ever given her, and she had repaid him with his own blood.

She choked on the reality of it. Her sisters were oblivious to her pain and laughed in time to the rolling thunder. She looked back over her shoulder. His naked body lay on the ground among the dead leaves. The expression on his face still one of pain and confusion.

“How could you hurt me when I only wanted to love you?”

She ran.

She ran from her sisters. She ran from all the blood she’d spilled on that forest floor, from the ghosts of the men she’d killed to feed a goddess. She ran from the sound of her sister’s chants, from the cold memory of her mother. Most of all, she ran from his face, from his warm, laughing eyes, from his final scream of terror.

The cliff was tall and sharp, outlined by flashes of lightning. She didn’t slow as she neared the edge and, as she leapt clear of it, she hung for a moment in the air, suspended like a raindrop; a raindrop with a soul as black as the night.

And then she fell.

The crashing waves welcomed her. Cold water pulled her down, but she didn’t fight. She let the water suck her down, down, deeper and deeper, but she refused to open her eyes. She knew she’d see nothing but darkness, no  light to guide her home.  It was somehow fitting. In darkness she’d lived and in darkness would she die. Ill fated as she was to discover that even she had a heart only as it shattered to a million pieces.

*************

could use some more development, but the idea is there, anyway.

song playing at the moment – “Immortal” – The Rasmus

Dark Story – Part 14

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

The warm sun washed her skin and warmed her face. Keena woke, blinking at the golden beams and trying to get her bearings. she lifted a hand to shade her eyes and nearly cried out as she beheld her flesh returned to its former youth.

“You’re awake.”

She looked up to see Querin standing over her. He still wore the mud stained clothes from the night before and weariness clung around his eyes and mouth, but he couldn’t hide the relief on his face.

“Yes.. where am I?” She sat up uncertainly. The small sunlit room seemed familiar, but somehow foriegn.

His voice as rich with amusement, “You’re in the house of your aunt where sunlight has scarce been, though I am afraid she won’t be able to conduct her hosting duties.”

“Where is she?” It was a question that needed asked, though she dreaded what the answer might be.

“Gone” he replied simply. “Her magic was strong but her sprit was not strong enough to withstand the spells.”

She didn’t know what to say, so she simply nodded and asked another question. “The  village?”

“Some survived.”

She dropped back into the bed and closed her eyes. “I don’t understand where they came from. Those… things.”

“You can thank your aunt, though she ceased to be your aunt years ago, after she gave her soul to the dark prince. The winter of the wolves was brought on by her and her attempts to summon demons from beyond the veil.  She mistakenly created the pack, and when the village sent its men, my brother included, to kill the wolves, the wolves simply made their hunters like themselves. She went to find them, seeing her husband, and tried to use magic far too strong for her to handle, which is how she withered herself.”

Keena silently allowed his words to sink in.

“She has been taken by the earth now,” he added. “I have no doubt her soul, such as it was, is now in the keeping of Beelzebub himself.”

Keena studied him intently. “And what will you do now that you’ve found your brother?”

“I will go home,” he said simply.  “I have found everything I sought, so I have no need to remain.”

“Oh,” se replied, he voice small.  “Of course.”

“If you were wise, you would go with me,” he said casually. “You have a great power slumbering within you, as have all of your line for many generations.” He offered her his hand. “I was trained from infancy by the greatest warlock in our country. A man with hair of red copper, who left this town when he was but a child, leaving behind his sisters. I know whose blood runs through your veins, and who your ancestors are, just as they knew you when they saw you. At the death of my master I swore never again to use my powers for darkness, and should you make such a vow then I would ask you this: Come with me, and together we can hide from all the great sorcerers, mages and witches of the world.”

Keena cocked her head to one side, thoughtfully. Her village was decimated, her aunt, her last remaining family, dead. Her life was destroyed and there was nothing but vile memories left for her. “Yes,” she said softy. “I will go with you.” But she would make no vow.

The end

(I see that there is room for a sequel. There will be no sequel. One was enough for me!)

Dark Story – Part 13

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Keena stood slowly. She shook the cold mud off of herself and tried to wipe her face clean.  not far from her, she could see another of the flaming creatures swooping through the air, but it was too busy dangling a child by the leg to notice her. Waving the child, it taunted the boy’s shrieking mother before dashing his skull against the nearest building. Then it  lifted the lifeless body so that the blood to poured from the ruined skull and all over its horrific face.

Shuddering in horror, she forced her stomach down, refusing to be sick. The demon grabbed the wailing mother, and Keen purposefully turned her back. Screams sounded all around her as people died, but she ignored it all.  she needed to focus. Her spine straight, she strode with purpose, searching for Querin, the one person amongst the terrified rabble who might know what to do.

She found him standing like a rock amidst a stormy sea, his arms raised towards the churning sky. She instinctively came to a halt. A great energy swirled all round him until the very air crackled with electricity.  As he had in the clearing, he seemed to grow taller and larger, swelling with some dark power. When he spoke, his voice echoed through the far reaches of the decimated village, thundering over the pounding of the rain. His words were thick and twisted, that strange language her aunt had used to create this havoc.

The demons screamed, until their cries were in unison. They moved as one, circling around Querin, hissing and snarling but not daring to draw too close, their faces twisted in anger. One swooped low in front of him, a sneer on its face. “You try to banish us,” it hissed. “Would you really be so cruel to your own brother.”

Surprise showed on Querrin’s  face, but he didn’t stop his chant.

“Oh yes, your brother,” the demon laughed. “I took his body and now I hold his very mind within my grasp. Would you banish your own flesh from this world, mortal?”

A voice sounded inside her head, loud and clear as if spoken aloud. It was Querin’s voice commanding her to come to him, to join him in the fight against the demonic beings.  Her only answer was to stare at him in wonder. what help could she possibly offer? The voice came  again, louder and more commanding.  Still unsure what good it would do, she hurried to him, her eyes questioning the reality of his call.

Without looking at her, he caught her hand in his. His skin felt hot to the touch and, as his fingers closed around hers,  she felt the power that was surrounding him flow into her.

He continued his chant and soon she heard her own voice repeating the harsh words, though she didn’t know their meaning or how they came to be in her mind.  Their voices intertwined around one another until she could no long distinguish her tones from those of the man beside her.

The demon’s screams grew louder,  and they dropped to earth, their feet sinking in the sucking mud as they howled, their faming hands over their ears, trying to block out the chanted words. The one claiming to be his brother fell to its knees and was quickly followed by he other two, all three now kneeling and clutching at their heads, the writhing flames growing dimmer as the chant grew louder.

The ground trembled beneath their feet and they swayed. One of the demons dropped to the ground and landed on all fours, and then the other two fell.  The trembling became violent shaking, and the demons sunk deeper and deeper into the mud, slowly disappearing in the thickening slop.

“Noooooooooo!”

Eseldra was suddenly in their midst, crying out in anger as she watched all she’d worked for ruined. Her long red hair fell around her, tangled and filthy. Her naked form was smeared in blood and mud. Even her face was streaked with black ashes.

“Be gone foul  demons!” Querin cried, dropping his raised hand suddenly. The air rippled with his movement and, with a final howl, the demons disappeared in the churning mud, leaving only a scared landscape as proof they’d ever been present.

“And now for you!” Querin stared at Eseldra, his eyes hard. “Your judgment has come, witch. As ye have done so shall be done unto you!”

The chant changed and Keena suddenly stopped speaking, her eyes wide. She staggered as a great force slammed into her, and then she sagged, dropping towards the mud as darkness closed in around her.

To be continued…

(It’s almost finished!!)

Dark Story – Part 12

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

They ran. Querin quickly outdistanced her and soon disappeared amongst the cluster of houses and horrified villagers.  Keena paused on the edge of the town, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath, still unused to the old, feeble body. Her eyes swept the scene spread before her. Flames curled up into the dark night and belched out clouds of inky smoke to help block the already cloud shrouded moon.

Thunder rumbled over head, and she instinctively looked up at the boiling clouds. The smell of the coming storm was drown out by the odor of burning wood and thatch, but she could feel it neither the less.

Forcing herself to move, she reached the first house just as the heavens opened up and began to pour rain like the torrential tears of the angels trying to save what remained of the poor village. But it was too little too late, and even as the water fell all around her, Keena could see the skeletal, charred remains of most of the town still smoldering or burning with flames too stubborn to die.

In the town square she found the bodies. Three dead wolves lay in pools of blood, twisted and contorted in agony. Their stomachs were ripped opened as if something had climbed out of them and was now loosed upon the world. Fear filled her as she remembered Querin’s words about demons and gateways. There would have been a time when she would have dismissed the words as ignorant superstition but in the last two years she had seen enough to believe him.

She moved through what had every appearance of a war zone. Here and there lay the abandoned bodies of villagers, limbs torn and wounds gouged into their pale flesh. The narrow streets grew sloppy with mud, water, blood and ashes. They mixed into a substance that sucked at her feet. Thick, acrid smoke curled from fires that the rain had extinguished, choking her and stinging her eyes.  She had nearly reached the site of her old home when something large and red came bearing down on her, arms waving as if swooped low on giant bat wings; a creature so completely wreathed in living flame that it seemed to be made of fire.

A scream tore from her throat and she searched vainly for a place to hide from what was most certainly one of the demons Querin had mentioned.  Turning, she ran headlong down the street, her sodden skirt clenched in her hands, but it tackled her from behind, knocking her face first into the ground. Mud sprayed over her face, coated he eyelashes and filled her mouth. She sputtered and spit out the foul tasting substance. Then, she tried to stand, but the weight of the thing was too much for her to shake off.

She closed her eyes,. There was only blackness behind her eyes. With a shuddering breath, she prepared herself for impending death, but instead of pain she felt the weight suddenly lifted from her back. She blinked and slowly rolled over, gasping as she saw the thing hovering above her still, it’s large wings beating a hot wind in her upturned face.

They stared at one another, this creature whose eyes burned her soul like the heart of the sun, and what appeared to be a small, withered old woman. Finally, releasing a howling call that rent the night, the burning creature flew up and away from her and towards its brothers.

She lay in the mud, staring at the spot it had vacated, incomprehension her only accompaniment. The cold rain continued to fall, and finally it woke her from her state of semi-shock. She needed to move.

To be continued…..

(This is the story that never ends…)

Dark Story – Part 11

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Querin continued to chant, and the writhing wolves began to change.  It was slow,  almost imperceptible at first, but as Keena watched she could see their legs and torsos lengthening and their heads changing shape. As the strange mutation continued, it gained in speed, rapidly bringing the creatures to their new shape until the space as no longer filled with whining wolves but screaming men.

Keena stared dumbfounded at the changes before her, noting with an almost surprising amount of horror that the dark wolf had changed into none other than the mysteriously returned Torick. He threw his hands over his face, trying to shield his eyes, screaming for Eseldra – who didn’t come.

The men nearest to Querin shrieked louder, and tendrils of smoke curled up from their skin. Dark spots, like bruise colored flowers, blossomed on them. They clutched at themselves, howling in their agony, as Querin’s voice grew louder and more forceful, no doubt  commanding them to die.

At the last Keena had to look away, unable to watch their demise. She covered her ears to drown out their death screams, but nothing she did could block the sound. She shuddered noticeably. Tears stung her clenched eyes as the men died. Torick’s  voice rose above the others as he continued to desperately scream for his wife.

The last echoes of his agonized voice died away, and Keena opened her eyes in time to see the golden light wink out, leaving the woods in blackness and silence.  Unable to resist she drew forward.   Querin surveyed the bodies that lay scattered at his feet, each one black and charred, their features and limbs twisted to reflect the  agonized frenzy they had died in.  Her eyes were drawn towards the darkened figure of what had once been her uncle, his burned mouth still opened, silently screaming for she who had abandoned him.

Querin was soon at her side, his hand on her shoulder. “Come, we have not finished yet.”

She nodded slowly and let him lead her away from the carnage, her head bowed.

As if reading her thoughts Querin spoke calmly, soothingly. “They were no longer human, but something else. Possessed by dark demons that gave them the power to take the shape of wolves. They would have taken the entire village in a bath of blood to complete their spell and free themselves of the demon’s gift.”

Her voice was a barely audible whisper, stating things even she wanted to ignore, “But if they wanted free then weren’t they still human inside?”

He took a moment to answer. “Perhaps. Or perhaps it was the demon’s wish for freedom that drove them. They only like to be trapped inside a mortal body so long and then they want released into the world. They cannot break through the membrane that separates our plains alone, they must use a vessel, a living body as a gateway. Had we left them they would have devoured the village and then the demons would have been released from their prisons of flesh to roam the earth and cause death and destruction.”

She nodded again and fell silent, though it was hard to agree while  the memory of Torick’s screams reverberated in her ears, reiterating the humanity he’d still possessed.

Keena had to stop and rest more than once, but Querin was patient with her, always using it as an opportunity to scout ahead in search of Eseldra and the three wolves that had escaped him.  They saw and heard the village before they reached it. A low orange glow in the thickly clouded sky told them of fire, while the echoing screams spoke of an attack.

To be continued….

(It’s Eseldra’s fault this isn’t ending… her and her escaping…. damn her….)

Dark Story – Part 10

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Eseldra’s chanting grew louder and more frenzied, as did the wolves. They continued to circle her, each pausing now and again to let loose a howl towards the heavens.  Querin’s scowl deepened as he listened to her twisted words, and finally, as her voice reached its highest pitch, he cautioned Keena to stay silent and then flung himself from the dark trees  into the midst of the wild animals.

The wolves bristled and snarled at his sudden, intrusive presence, but Eseldra did not stop her chanting.Her eyes narrowed in anger, but still she carried on.

“You will stop this!” Querin cried, holding out his clenched fist and peeling back his fingers slowly to reveal the shimmering silver crystal he’d used with mixed success earlier in the day.

The dark wolf at Eseldra’s side reared up on it’s haunches, growling fiercely, but she showed no awareness of Querin’s threat. Her voice continued to rise and fall, though the words seemed to come faster, so perhaps she was not so blind as she seemed.

Keena stood alone in the trees,  her eyes large and filled with fear. Her heart hammered in her chest and her fingers, now old and withered, dug painfully into the bark of the tree she clung to.  She watched as Querin held the crystal skyward, twisting his wrist so that it caught the moonlight. The crystal seemed to glow silvery blue, refracting the moon’s light all around the clearing in shimmering beams that had no effect on anyone. Or at least it didn’t seem to at first; but slowly she noticed a change not in the witch nor the wolves, but in Querin himself. He seemed to get taller, larger somehow, and yet she couldn’t be sure it wasn’t just a trick of the light. And that’s when she realized, despite what he’d said to her earlier, he was now chanting.

Her mind reeled. Perhaps he truly was on Eseldra’s side….. She took a sharp breath and stepped backwards, unaware of the snapping twig beneath her foot. Though she did not hear her own movements, the wolves were suddenly  aware of her presence.  Three of them broke from the pack, ignoring the man in their midst, and loped towards her place of concealment.

Eyes wild, she backed away, her head snapping in all directions in search of a hiding place or escape amongst the dark underbrush. Her sapped limbs trembled, betraying her in her time of need. All she could do was back up against a large tree as the wolves headed towards her.

And then the world exploded in golden light that illuminated the trees like noon. She threw her am up to shield her eyes from the sudden onslaught, her ears filled with the whining of he wolves and Eseldra’s cries. Blinking against the brightness, she watched the three wolves turn from her and run deeper into the darkened woods to seek shelter.

Querin’s voice rose, filling the void left by the cessation of her aunt’s chanting. His words were as garbled and strange as hers had been.  As he gained volume, Keena slowly moved towards him, shielding er face from the uncannily bight light.

Querin stood in the center of the clearing, still clutching the moon drenched crystal in one hand. In the other, he held aloft a golden crystal that glowed with he intensity of the sun. Several of the wolves lay at his feet, rolling in the dirt and whining, unable to escape him or the light that burned their eyes and flesh as they cried.

Eseldra was nowhere to be seen, but she had left behind the large black wolf who, like his brothers, was caught in the mercilessly scorching glow. He whimpered and his head jerked desperately, perhaps searching for the woman who had been next to him only moments ago.

To be continued….

(this is the story that doesn’t end….)

Dark Story – Part 9

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Querin murmured to himself as he examined the remnants of the previous night’s ritual,. He shook his head as he knelt over the charred remains of the child in the midst of the circle. With one finger he prodded the ashes, and then stood,  his expression veiled.

“It is an uncommon spell,” he said, breaking the strange silence.  “But a strong one. See here,” He pointed to one of the designs on the floor. “This line, it is used to take strength from another, from the sacrificial victim.” He glanced at her and then back to the markings. “The babe was naught more than a minor offering. You were the true sacrifice.” He motioned to another line. “This one, it connects to the victim. No doubt you stood in this area here?” He indicated the spot she’d been only last night.

She nodded, not trusting  herself to speak. She wasn’t sure how to react to the knowledge that her aunt had planned to use her, though the question entered her mind: How long had she planned this ? Had it been on her mind the moment she’d stumbled out of the woods and sealed herself up in her house? Had she always meant it to end this way?

The thoughts made her shiver, but she left them unspoken and soon she and Querin were once again beneath the moon’s soft light, only this time their destination was the darkened woods. Keena hesitated for only a moment before plunging into the thick blackness of the trees, following in Querin’s wake.

The branches of trees seemed to claw at them as they wound through the forest. The brambles caught at their clothes as if trying to stop them. An unwholesome feeling permeated the closely seated trees and underbrush that gave them both goose bumps, though neither spoke of it.

A wolf howled in the distance and Querin drew to a stop. He caught her with an arm and motioned her to silence.  He nodded towards the sound of the wolf and then moved towards it, though slower and quieter this time. As they drew nearer, the  howling grew louder and louder.  It was with great trepidation that Keena continued o follow Querin’s lead. Silently, she questioned his motives and the truthfulness of his account of himself.  Perhaps he was allied with Eseldra and was leading her  into the woods  so that her aunt could finish what she had begun..

Her musings came to an abrupt halt, as did they, when a clearing came into view. In the center of it stood Eseldra, her long red hair flowing around her naked shoulders, her bare arms raised to the heavens as she chanted in that strange, harsh language she’d used in her last ritual. At her feet were gathered a pack of wolves, milling around one another, jostling for a position close to her. At her side sat a large, dark wolf who eyed the others with what amounted to disdain, his fur bristling.

“It is as I thought,” Querin whispered, reaching inside his cloak and removing something. “This will not be easy.”

To be continued…..

(He’s right! This thing is not easy to end! Yergh!)

Dark Story – Part 8

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Time passed. Querin made them both something to eat. When they’d finished, he produced a silver crystal that shimmered in the firelight and bade her hold it while he chanted something in a language she didn’t understand. When he finally stopped she felt better, but looked no different.  He studied her before shaking his head and muttering about how strong her aunt’s magic must be.

When they emerged from the small house, the burning sun was sinking into a sea of red fire. As they moved through the village, Querin nodded in greeting to someone here or there, but they remained silent.  The Inn was bustling with activity and they entered it and took a table in the dark corner, away from prying eyes.

Querin ordered food for them both, and while they ate they watched their fellow patrons.  Eseldra and Torin made no appearance throughout the meal, nor afterwards.

“It seems we shall have to go hunt for them,” Querin said wryly, finishing his mug of ale in one gulp

“And where do we look?” Keena hissed from beneath her hooded cloak, her face hidden from the other customers.

“I’d suggest the site of the ritual,” he answered mater of fact, his voice low. “If that fails I suspect the woods. Tonight is the full moon, is it not?”

She nodded her head in affirmation and then they stood slowly. Querin dropped a few coins on the table and they left the noisy inn and soon the small town. They walked down a narrow tract under a black sky strewn with glittering stars. An owl hooted in the dark trees and Keena shivered at the all too familiar setting. Only the dead babe was missing.

The house came into view just as the moon broke free from the clouds.  It stood as imposing and dark as it had the night before. The same eerie feeling of something unnatural clung to the property, and filled the air withl a palpable unease.

Keena lead him through the front door, past dark, empty rooms, and finally down the winding stone stair to the rooms below the house. She showed him the intricate designs painted on the floor with whitewash and crows blood, and the cauldron that had been simmering only the night before, now cold, it’s contents thick and oily looking. But nowhere amongst the shadows did they find a trace of Eseldra or her husband.

To be continued….

(one has to hope it is winding up soon…)

Dark Story – Part 7

(Originally from October 2007)

 

This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.

**Mature content warning**

********************

Keena ceased struggling immediately, her surprise evident. “You believe me?”

“Yes, now be still.” He spoke no more as he led her through the quiet village to a hovel at the edge of town. The small structure looked ready to collapse at a moment’s notice.  Still silent, he ducked through the narrow doorway, brushing aside the filthy curtain that served a s a door. She followed him, eyes squinted in the sudden darkness of the small building.

Once the curtain had fallen back in place she looked around the room,. Her eyes darted from the bedroll in one corner to the guttering fireplace and then to the drying herbs hanging from the ceiling and the shelves of bottles and jars. “Who are you?”

“My name is Querin,” he replied, stooping to catch up several logs. Without glancing at her, he began to slowly feed them into the fireplace. “I am not from these parts, nor do I live here. This house belonged to my brother Albeck-”

“Albeck,” she breathed the name like a memory. “He left with the hunting party.”

“Yes,” Querin nodded. “And like the others he did not return. I had come to deliver him the news that our parents had died, but when I arrived he was not here. There were only rumors. I have stayed trying to unravel the mystery, and then today, who should appear but the only mysterious survivor, returned after two years absence.” He glanced up finally and dropped the last piece of wood into the flames. “You say she is a witch. Explain your words.”

Without hesitating she told him the story, how she’d been coerced by her aunt to giver her sister the prepared draught, how it had induced her to miscarry, how she’d stolen the babe and fled to her Aunt’s house beyond the edge of the village, the ceremony and at the last waking to discover the changes wrought upon her.

He listened silently, his face passing no judgment on her or her actions. At the last, he gave a finalizing nod. “If it is as you say, the things are far worse than I imagined.  We will know the truth of it soon enough, I wager.” He brushed his hands off, and indicated  one tatty chair. “Come, sit. You are no doubt tired. Magic of that kind… I am surprised you lived, as, no doubt, is the woman you call your aunt.”

Keena took the offered chair with no complaints, relieved to be off her aching feet. Querin busied himself shuffling around bottles and jars in search of something, but the silence did not last.

“How do you know about dark magic?” she inquired, the full implication behind his words only just realized.

He pausedhis search and turned slowly to face her. “I have seen the dark arts with my own eyes. Once, I was an apprentice to the darkest warlock in our country, the things he taught me..” he trailed off. The far away look in his said he saw something beyond the shabby rooms, something lost to memory. “But, I abandoned his teachings,” he said firmly, his attention returning to his surroundings.  “And I have vowed never to return to them. ”

She simply nodded, not knowing what else to say to his admission.

To be continued….

(Querin came as such a surprise I was interested to see where he came from and what he was doing.  I have no idea how I am going to end this thing….)

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