Witch Eye © 2010 by SheaRyhai
Black fur boots glided down the deer path, muffling the sound of rocks, twigs, and leaves below. The black cloak, stitched with animal fur for added warmth, swept around Karisa's slender frame. Only the tussled waves of her honey-wheat colored hair emerged beneath the wide hood pulled down over her eyes. Pausing at the top of a ravine that slopped steeply down through the forest to a distant running stream, she paused, sniffing the air.
Leaves rustled along the path behind her, disturbed, not by the wind, but an invisible companion. Karisa turned and leaned down, arms opening beneath the cloak to catch her ghostly friend. Once tucked inside the cloak, a bulge emerged, that pushed its way up to her neck. Two long white ears followed by a black nose and white whiskers emerged, as the fox yipped softly for attention.
Karisa tapped it's nose impatiently, before pulling the hood back slightly. Her left hazel-green eye studied the ravine below her; the right eye was covered by black velvet eye patch, embroidered with red thread in the shape of three serpents swallowing each other.
"We're close, be quite now Katchu," Karisa whispered tensely, scratching the fox absently between its floppy white ears. With a small sneeze, the fox clawed its way from beneath her cloak, and nestled itself around her neck before becoming invisible again. Pulling her hood down across her eyes again, the girl made her way carefully down the slope, using the small white birch trees for balance along the way.
Once at the bottom of the ravine, Karisa inhaled deeply, tilting her head slightly. She could see it better now, the colorful trail of dust like essence swept along by the wind. The trail of a Wist.
"Close now," she whispered almost excitedly, looking over her shoulder. Hands clenched beneath her cloak as she remembered with heavy bitterness that she was alone. Jared could not be with her this time.
Shoulders straightening, she forced the lingering feelings of guilt away. It's better this way, I can't hurt anyone else if I'm alone, she reasoned. Confidence and determination restored, she follow the trail of swirling blue and red, up stream. The witch could not be far.
Autumn leaves swept along the stone layered river bank. Karisa wove between the bigger boulders, eyes glued to the trail that was growing more visible. Daylight was fading, and though this did not prevent her from following the Wist's trail, moving through the forest at night with no light could be dangerous.
As strong as your ability to track is, don't underestimate a stubborn root, or innocent animal hole. Jared had told her more than once before.
No matter, the trail was fresh. Finding the witch before nightfall wouldn't be a problem. Pulling her cloak closer to block out the chill in the air, Karisa kept moving.
The ravine narrowed up ahead. The mountain side jutting out over the stream that had grown into a river. She could see the trail everywhere here, the glowing dusty lines mingled and crossed, moving between the side of the stream, and further back into a cave.
Cautiously, Karisa approached, listening intently for any sounds from within. A crackling fire sang of life, while the aroma of cooked meat confirmed someone was within preparing their meal. Her muscles tensed in anticipation. Keeping close to the side of the mountain, Karisa crept around the corner into the cave.
The fire lit up the small stone carved hole, filling it with gentle warmth. Karisa's left eye adjusted to the light quickly, and settled on the small figure huddled next to the fire, carefully turning the stick pierced through a small stripped rabbit.
Sensing her presence the boy turned. Eyes widening in fright, he dropped the rabbit into the fire, and scampered back towards the wall of the cave. She could hear his breathing increase rapidly with fear, but was more concerned by his aura.
The boy was a magic users, a Wist no doubt. But his aura was blue, still pure, not the red hue she was looking for. Still, she would have bring him back all the same, after she found his older companion. Gaze sweeping along the interior of the cave, Karisa took in the small grass woven baskets, a few thread bear blankets, and a single backpack.
His mother or father no doubt. No Wist, hunted by Turoborus, would take on the burden of a stray child.
Turning back to the entrance of the cave, Karisa focused her attention on the threads of energy, trying to determine which direction the missing parent had gone. A child left alone to tend a fresh kill, nearly cooked; the only thing missing was something to wash the meal down with.
Stepping carefully along the damp stones near the river, Karisa studied the overlapping lines of red dust, relaxing the muscles of her left eye. The world dimmed into hues of gray, only the red trails of lingering magical essence, that criss-crossed the river bank, remained colorfully vibrant. They were all stationary and still, except for a thread that still vibrated with fresh energy, leading out into the river itself.
"Clever," Karisa whispered pulling back her hood. "You know me Wist, and you know why I'm here," she called out to the river waiting. Behind in the cave she could hear the boy scampering closer, no doubt worried for his parent. Katchu gave a small growl of warning, but Karisa was already prepared.
The river waters churned creating a whirl pool that sucked the river bed on either side dry. It rose higher still, the river's strength pulled into three serpent heads that lashed out at Karisa on the bank. She dodged them nimbly, feet gliding as if they had wings, from one side of the bank to the other.
Glittering red eyes appeared in the head of the center serpent. Karisa smiled, knowing the witch could see her through them.
"Do you really think you can beat me?" she challenged amused.
"Leave us alone!" the water serpents hissed, thrashing clumsily over each other in their attempts to pin her down. "Why can't you just leave us alone?"
"Why- can't you Wist- ever come quietly?" Karisa returned, forced to keep moving by the Wist's persistent attacks.
"What gives you the right to hunt us? To lock us up like animals?" The serpents grew bigger, their voices booming as the witch drew from water still trying to flow down stream.
Dodging another string of attack, Karisa settled herself on one of the taller boulders.
"You should have followed the orders of Turoborus. Using magic for any reason that suits your fancy has consequences, or have you forgotten the family whose lives your ruined?" Karisa shouted, her face grim, but determined to end this without violence.
"I didn't know the boy would die - I was trying to save his mother's life!"
"That's why magic needs to be controlled. Just because you have the gift, doesn't mean you're capable of determining who will live and who will die." Karisa glanced behind her where the boy stood, eyes wide with innocent fascination. "Do you really think any mother would enjoy living, knowing it cost her a son?"
The serpents stilled, their dragon like heads lowered in grief. Hoping she had reached through to the Wist, Karisa stepped down from the boulder.
"Come back with me peacefully. Show repentance and Turoborus will grant you a merciful sentence," she reasoned.
"They will strip me- you will take my magic away," the witch whimpered, as two of the serpent heads collapsed into lifeless water on the muddy river floor.
"You will learn to live without it, as will your son," Karisa encouraged.
"My son- No! What has he done, he is innocent!" The serpents red eyes turned on her, horrified.
"He must be stripped or entered as an apprentice through Turoborus," Karisa reminded her with growing impatience. "If you were so concerned for his future, you wouldn't have risked it for a few gold coins."
"What do you know!" The water dragon swelled, as the witch's anger grew. "What could you possibly know. You have no mind of your own, no will of your own. You eat, drink, sleep, and kill at their bidding."
"I do what is necessary to protect the tainted and innocent," Karisa snapped back, advancing towards the river.
"Tainted! You of all people have no right to call us tainted-" The serpent lunged again. Dodging it was a little harder this time due to the size. But the creature's growth had made it clumsier, and the witch's anger made her blind; its attack was directed towards the entrance of the cave, and the boy inside.
Water churned into the cave, spewed back out when it met the unrelenting wall of mountain. Flushed back down the river bank, it swept away the few worldly possession of the Wist family. The untouched rabbit and grass baskets flowed down stream past the trembling woman, staring in horror, at her devastated temporary home.
"Michael!" The witch sobbed, sinking to her knees in the muddy water. "Michael - my baby, no…"
Katchu tickled its whiskers against Karisa's neck. At her feet she could feel a heavy presence.
Thank you, Katchu…
Karisa drew back her cloak to reveal the trembling child, who clutched her skirt in confusion. Relief swept over the face of the mother, who rose and staggered a few feet towards Karisa, only to fall back to her knees again.
"You still think you can control it?" Karisa asked coldly, laying her gloved hand against the boy's tossled, wet black hair. "You still this burden is a gift to pass on to your son?"
The woman could only sob, tears falling down her wretched face as she stared at her frightened boy. Unmoved by the woman's anguish, Karisa sighed and reached up to her eye patch.
"Wait," the mother pleaded. "Wait-" With a shaky deep breath the woman wiped her tears away, eyes raised pleading to Karisa's face. "Please, don't let him see-"
A shiver passed down Karisa spine, but she nodded. Untying the cloak, she knelt down in front of the boy. Picking up his small dirty hands Karisa raise them to his ears, then pressed a gloved finger to her lips. The boy nodded, face still tense with worry. Karisa smiled briefly at him, hoping to give assurance. Then, standing up again, she pulled the cloak from her shoulders and draped it around the huddled boy, carefully pulling the hood down over his head so he wouldn't witness what was coming.
The Wist woman waited shivering on her knees as Karisa approached.
"Maybe- the Turoborus will help him. Let him become someone better than his mother," she stammered, not daring to raise her eyes past Karisa's knees.
"Maybe," Karisa murmured, pulling the eye patch free.
"This- I-" Swallowing, the woman tried to slow her rapid breathing.
"It will hurt, but you will be able to bare it," Karisa assured her, tipping the woman's chin up to her face. "It will be over quickly."
Taking a deep breath, Karisa slowly opened her right eye.
Michael sat huddled under the cloak, staring at the shiny white fox in fascination. It's tail seemed to never end, but curled and wrapped itself around the boy, it's tip tickling against Michaels ear. He giggled, covering them with his hands.
Katchu smiled as only a fox can. His long ears twitching, barely picking up the witches agonizing screams through the spell Karisa had placed over the cloak. Almost as soon as it started, the scream ended. Only feeble sobs echoed in his sensitive ears, and eventually even they grew still.
The cloak lifted, and Karisa smiled down at the boy, the eye patch covering her right eye once more. With a small sneeze, Katchu leapt onto her shoulder, his long tail twining itself around her slender neck as he caressed his head against her honey hair soothingly.
"Where's Ma?" Michael asked, staring at the empty river bank confused.
"She's waiting for us," Karisa answered, taking the boys hands and pulling him to her feet. "She was too tired to walk, so she went on ahead."
"How did she do that?" Michael frowned, still searching for his mother.
"Remember when you were at the cave, and then you were under my cloak?" Karisa asked, playfully ruffling his hair. Michael nodded, his small chubby lips tightening as he pondered this. "Your Ma used the same trick, she needed to go ahead to get ready, but she asked me to make sure you got there safely."
"Okay." Michael nodded, smiling. Looking away from her to the fox he added, "He's funny looking."
A tickling feeling rose in the back of Karisa's throat, but she smiled and ignored it. Nightfall would be coming soon, she would have to hurry if she wanted to turn the child in before tomorrow morning. Throwing the cloak around her shoulders, she absently stroked Katchu's back. The fox arched itself appreciatively against her hand, yipping quietly in happiness.
Best if I leave him with Bartholomew, Karisa decided finally, pulling her hood up.
"Come," she ordered, turning to walk back down stream. Michael's eyes widened, and he hurriedly clambered across the stones after her, only to trip after a few steps. With a sigh, Karisa turned around, regarding him with growing impatience. Her agitation grew as he started to cry, pulling himself up even while the tears fell down his face.
"Children shouldn't cry," Karisa informed him stiffly. It did little good, Michael only cried more pitifully even has he started to shake from the cold. Katchu whined in Karisa's ear, and she sighed. Stepping beside the boy she knelt down, patting her back. "Come, we can't be late."
After a few more encouraging gestures, she coaxed Michael onto her back. Standing up, she adjusted the weight comfortably, arms locked behind her to hold the boy in place. Katchu whined again as Michael's short arms tightened around Karisa's neck.
"No, hold onto my shoulders," Karisa instructed. Still sniffing faintly, the boy complied. With an exasperated sigh, Karisa moved quickly towards her destination. Eager to be rid of her small burden.
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