The Witches

Reads: 87  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is really the first chapter, but I thought it would be nice to post it on here as a short story. Enjoy!

Submitted: December 08, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 08, 2012

A A A

A A A


 

 

One

It’s black. Suddenly there’s light. Blinding, it makes me blink. It is as if all the darkness dissipates and what’s left is nothing but this light. At first it’s beautiful and warm. It swaddles me like a warm blanket and I can’t help believing that I’m finally safe. Then the light hurts. It chokes me in its arms. It’s no longer warm; it’s burning. My skin tingles with the heat. I scream as flames lick up from nothing, surrounding me, and the light wraps its hands around my through, singeing the tender skin around my neck. I can feel my throat melting. It drips down into the rest of me, and when I scream, the light reaches its hand through my mouth and follows my melting neck into my stomach.

Do you think you can hide from me?

The fire spreads through my chest. It is like being ripped open from the inside, like poison needles and pushing through my skin. I can’t scream. I’m as slick and melted as a dying candle. The fire spins around my heart. It toys with it, making my head pound and my body shakes. The pain is irrational. It finally closes around my heart and squeezes, squeezes with claws and with fire.

Even in the Afterlife…I will find you.

 

My screams are deafening as I’m thrown onto the dirt packed floor. I loose myself for a second, crying, clawing the air with desperate breaths, still seeing the flames before my eyes. The air seems to be gone. I can only scream again, now for the fear of not being able to breathe. Then like a newborn babe I’m slapped on my back, hard, and in shock I take in the sweet, spicy air around me. I only stay on the ground because I forget where I am.

Someone wraps their hands under my arms and lifts me up. They set me back on the cot I supposed I had been lying on before and pat my cheek. And old woman looks at me, and her kind brown eyes hold a hind of something sharp. They’re flecked with green. Though her face is pale and spotted, the only wrinkles visibly are the ones that layer her forehead and the small corners of her mouth. I immediately like her.

“What…” I stared around the tiny hobble of a bedroom. The space around us is littered with strange tall vials next to short stubby ones, and stone bowls sit by crumpling flowers and colored water. Only the cot furniture’s the room and the walls curve over us. I notice the roots that hang from the ceiling; we’re underground.

“Quiet,” the old woman reaches past some of the vials and brings back a plane wooden bowl. In it, a water lily floats lazily on the surface. “Drink this. It will give you your memory.”

I don’t argue, though the reason seems ridiculous, and raise the bowl to my lips. Cool water rushes into my mouth, down my throat, and is a great relief to the dryness I felt watching the flames. It’s sweet like sherbet, tinged with something salty. The lily falls from the bowl as I drain the water and it lands on the skin between my eyebrows. As its soft, wet petals uncurl, I feel a heat rush through me. Not like the heat from the flames, thought, but more like a fine, soft heat from an afternoon sun. It’s refreshing, and with that heat came flashes of white in my mind. A couple standing on a cliff, a boy that I run alongside by a river, and blue, blue, eyes. I pull the bowl from my lips and my head feels heavier. It’s filled again with my memories, and I recognize the old woman.

“Maggie?”

She takes the bowl from me and gently moves the lily from my forehead. “It’s good that you remember. That memory potion usually doesn’t work on the once dead.”

Bile rising in my throat causes me to swallow hard. “Once dead, Mags? What – What on earth does that mean!”

“You were dead, but now you’re not.” She said casually and with a shrug of her shoulders as she placed the bowl on top of a stack of others. It made me think of how many times she had raised someone from the dead.

“But…how did I die?”

Maggie hesitated just above a blue vial. She had been reaching for it to start one potion or another, and her pale hand hung over its cork. “Don’t make me tell it, Jayne. Don’t make me live it again.” Her eyes glistened over and her hand started shaking over the vial. She pulled it down ad rubbed it tenderly. A weight dropped in my chest and I reached out to grab her hands. They were cold and papery and I patted them.

“Was it the King?”

A single tear spilled over and weaved through the wrinkles around her mouth. Maggie nodded. “He made all the witches on this side of the Wall watch. Almost all of them knew you, and her knew that. Jayne, I have no idea why he picked you.”

Maggie touched my cheek and took a deep breath.

“I was burned wasn’t I? At the steak?”

She nodded and looked away. I could see the fire licking in her eyes around a wooden post. It must’ve killed her more than it did me, watching me die like that.

“Why did he kill me?”

“He wanted to make an example of you. But the witches have left his city in peace for years. Jayne, King Aewhyn has never done something like this. But…” she trailed off and rubbed her chin.

“But what?”

“It must be his new advisor. The other died, naturally. He was an old crone. The new one is from Carbessor, I think.”

My stomach lurched inside me. Carbessor was born on witch-hunters and barbarians. The country was half the size of our own but earned their spot on the Council after fighting alongside Balin in the Great War. They also supplied our country with thick redwood; it was all the castle was made of. It made sense that, sooner or later, they would trickle their beliefs of all-witches-are-demons and slowly corrupt our peaceful country. I thought of all the witches that lived in Balin, and my head hurt from thinking of the numbers. Witches make up a grand part of the population of the country. There are Healers, Seers, Wiccans, the list goes on. For the King to do something as drastic as killing a witch – killing me – would certainly put unease in the hearts of us all.

“Something will happen of it, I’m sure. My bones ache about it.” Maggie continued on mixing one vial with the next inside a small stone bowl. Opening one jar, she held it up and a sludge of frog eggs slid into the colorful mixture. She pulled a few dry flowers from a vase and threw them in, then mashed them all together, slowly and expertly. I suddenly became interested.

“What’s that?” I stood from the cot and immediately felt dizzy. But I went over to watch over her shoulder anyways.

“A potion.”

“Yes, I see that Maggie.” I was never good at make any potions outside the healing-growing-invisibility-and-such department so I always took the time to observe my dear grandmother whenever she began brewing.

Maggie took me in when I was a baby. I don’t know if she’s my real grandmother, but it feels like it’s so. She says my mother was too young to have children and gave me to her. She was my mother’s mentor at the time. Maggie says she’s still alive, but just living with some man who is not my father – he died, Mags says, when I was eight. She says that’s why my mother, Sarafina, had never come to get me. I reminded her too much of what she loved and lost.

“Goodness, child, don’t crowd me like that.” Maggie shooed me back towards the cot but I didn’t lie down. I suddenly felt restless. “And it’s a seeing potion. My old Sight isn’t what it used to be.”

When the mixing was done, she walked through a dug-out archway or a door and into her work-room. Instead of the stereotypical caldron boiling over a fire there was a long silver bowl sitting on a humble wooden table. The bowl humbled everything in the room. There must’ve been some preserving spell on it, for when I touched it my fingerprints dissolved and disappeared.

I can’t remember the last time I watched Maggie do a Seeing spell, so I paid close attention. Maggie first stirred the clear water that was already in the bowl with her pinkie (did her pinkie need us for this spell?) and pulled it out when it was in a gentle rhythm. It began to stir on its own. Bit by bit, she added the mixture of frog’s eggs and whatnot into the water. The spinning in the bowl went fast for a minute, only to mix with this new substance, and slowed down as Maggie waved her left hand above the water. Her eyes were closed, her brows drawn down in concentrated, creasing the skin ten-fold between her eyebrows. There was a gentle mumble and I saw her lips part and move slowly. I tried to listen to the spell, but even if I remembered it I would have no clue how to See without the potion. Suddenly light burst from the water, scaring me for a second, then settled into a gentle dimness. The water stopped moving and I looked over the bowl. We were staring at a throne room.

King Aewhyn sat hunched in his mighty chair. The chair, pure, beautiful hammered gold rose three feet above his head, and then curved forward like a short awning. It was padded with green velvet; it felt like a sin to want to reach out and touch it, it looked so soft. The armrests under his thick robes were lion’s paws, as were the feet of the throne. His throne sat at the top of ten…thirty thin stone steps. The Throne Room was marble, clear and shiny and white, and four great pillars rose on each adjacent wall and supported a ceiling that seemed to disappear. The windows continued with the ceiling, and all were open to let in the afternoon breeze.

The king looked tired and worn. His golden hair curled with gray beneath his four-pointed crown. There were dark circles under his eyes and his skin folded like leather around his jaw. No amount of beautiful robes and jewels could cover how sick he looked. He had his chin in his palm and was staring out one of the windows.

“Look, that’s his advisor. Oh, I can’t remember his name for the life of me.”

Maggie’s boney finger pointed at a shadow that slinked behind the throne and slowly slid into place beside the King. How quiet he moved, like a snake in the sand. The man was ugly and pale. His eyes, though bulging and sappy, like he was about to cry, were a dull amber color, but not the pretty amber in the eye of a tiger; they were accompanied with dark circles as well, but his seemed naturally placed upon his milky white skin. Dressed in all black, he looked more of a Wraith than of an advisor from Carbessor. In fact, only the fur around the hems of his robe showed his true persons (Carbessor was farther north and therefore a great deal colder). The King hardly twitched upon his sudden appearance. The man leaned forward and said something inaudible.

“Oh, I forgot.” She ran out and then came back with her thumb and forefinger pinched together. I squinted and saw between them a fine golden hair. “The hair of a widow…” she dropped it in and in a gurgling of water we could hear what they were saying.

“…fine dinner, Sire?” The advisor hunched over (he was exceedingly tall) to wait for the King’s answer.”

“Tomorrow,” he huffed, and sat up. “I am not up to it tonight.”

“Of course, Sire.” He bowed. His eyebrows came together in what looked to me in mock worry. “Is the King’s health amiable, Sire?”

“No, indeed it is not.” The King rubbed his trimmed beard in unease.

“Pray, Sire, do tell your humble servant what troubles you.”

I felt sick to my stomach. Just watching this man made shivers run up my spine. His voice had an uneasy, quivering edge to it.

The King fell silent for a moment, collecting his thoughts, before taking a deep breath. “It’s about that witch, Baen,” – Maggie snapped at the advisors name but said nothing – “the one I…”

“Burned at the stake, Sire?” He seemed all too eager to finish the sentence. The King simply nodded. “She deserved it, Sire. In fact they all deserve death, every one of them. But, I’ve studied your…predicament,” – in this I believed that there were more witches than normal folk in Balin – “and have decided to advise you against war.”

“Against? That’s not what you said when – ”

“I know, Sire, I know,” Baen got to his knees and put a hand on the golden armrests, but did not touch the King’s robes. “But if you fight the witches now, you shall have no protection for the future.”

“Protection?” The King seemed to taste the word carefully. I could see him running his knights and arms through his head. What other protection could he need?

“Yes, but from the other world. It was too late for my people to take back their mistakes of killing the witches. We should have known that there was a greater power than that of those poor women, a power even our mighty arms had fallen to in the past. An unworldly power, Sire.”

Something dawned on the King. “Like…demons? Are you taking about those things, Baen?”

“Indeed I am, Sire. Though the witches buy their powers from them, they can still shelter themselves from such horrifying things.”

I threw my hands up, sighing. We do not get our powers from the demons. The earth gives it to us, bit by bit, some bits stronger for other people. We do not associate ourselves with such fiendish creatures, though our early mothers made the mistake to do so. But witches of today try to come in contact with the other world as little as possible. Believe it or not, our souls are not condemned to Hell. Maggie shushed me and I listened back with her.

“They can protect us, then? From the demons?”

“More than they are letting on, Sire. Why has your country never lost a battle, or a war, in your entire history? Yes, partly because of you militia, but have you ever stopped to think that the witches, however fiendish they are, assisted you in such winnings? Assisted you in stopping more demonically possessed threats?”

I thought about this along with the King. It did explain much. I noted to ask Maggie about that latter. The King obviously had not thought it in that way before and returned his chin to his hand. Baen stood and paced by the throne.

“Think about it, Sire. These witches and wizards can help us, though it pains me to say so.”

“Yes,” the King rubbed his chin, “I see.” His eyes suddenly lit and his brow rose. “Baen?”

“Sire?”

“What caused to bring up such a topic as protection?”

A flash of something passed on Baen’s face but it was too quick for me to catch. “I am just worried for His Majesties safety, and country, Sire,” he bowed low, swinging his hand out behind him. When he stood, grinning, he made a move to turn away but glanced at something over his shoulder. Then he stopped behind the throne, out of the King’s eyesight, and stared directly at us.

Nonsense, I thought, he can’t see us, really.

But the frightened, then angry look that crossed his face made my heart skip. He did something of a snarl and held out his hand, thumb folded across his palm. The water fogged up until the picture was nothing but gray. Then a clearness etched through the water as the spell was used up.

Maggie stomped her foot. “Blast that lying shoot of a ninny! He’s got magic too!” She howled, and then paced about the room, turning every five or so steps. With Maggie worried like this, it began to worry me too. Could Baen really not be from Carbessor, or could he have been hiding his magic from his people? I scared me to think of a man who could so easily do away with the people that shared his gift. And it scared me even worse to think that such a man would have a part of the blood-magic that ties us all.

“This is curious, very curious,” Maggie’s mumbling brought me out of my own mind. I seated myself on a little stool. “Killing witches, then advising against the killing of witches…this Baen is a contradiction all his own.” She stopped mid-pace and looked at me. “I hope he did not recognize you, Jayne. If so, he could find you, and kill you really good the next time.”

I swallowed. What would be considered as a “really good” killing?

“There’s somethin’ brewing, I knew it. You see, child, my bones never lie.”

“No, they don’t” And they never will lie. It’s frightening how accurate Maggie could be sometimes, but I supposed that came with the magic you got as you age.

“We need to find out what it is. We need to find out, Jayne.”

“Indeed, we do.”

“Then you agree with me, your old dear granny?”

I furrowed my brow. I don’t remember her asking anything that I had agreed on. “Ah…what, exactly, am I agreeing to?”

“That we need to find out, and, curses, if we can’t find out ourselves we’ll go to the King himself!”

“Whoa, Mags!” I stood up waving my hands. “I definitely did not agree to that. What if the King recognizes me, hm?” The thought of being killed again and going back into that limbo phase was awful.

“We could change your appearance.”

“I would rather not.” Though, to myself, I would like to lose a bit of stomach… I shook my head. “I would rather travel as myself, thank you.”

“Travel? Then you agree to go with me?”

I bit the inside of my cheek. Minding royal affairs was a royal’s business. If we were caught, it would be death (again) for me and most likely torture for Maggie. But…this nagging curiosity was eating away a hole in my stomach. What if something bigger was to happen and it won’t be for the best? That bugger character Baen sent of all the wrong signs to me; knowing that he does magic too, well, that just makes my feelings worse about him.

And I fear for our King. He is being so greatly influenced in all the wrong ways by this man, I know it, even though the King has yet to make any rash decisions (besides killing me, of course). What if he is advised to wipe out one of his own villages because of its “magic population”? So many wrong things could happen as long as Baen sat by the King.

I was suddenly determined to face that advisor myself.

Maggie clapped as I picked up a basket and began to load all her food into it. She began to pack some vials while I found every crumb. Though I hate to feel dark, but something tells me that it will be a while before we actually come back to Mags’ little hovel.


© Copyright 2017 TheQueen05. All rights reserved.

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by TheQueen05

Special, Little Handful

Short Story / Children Stories

Name of the Month

Book / Romance

The Witches

Short Story / Fantasy

Popular Tags