The Fate of The Witch
by Aaron Wolfe
Germany, 1515. The Black Forest.
Leaves rustled in the dancing wind, stirred upwards and outwards. Other leaves crunched under the pressure of an invisible touch, their essence drained by the withdrawal of life force that most trees perform in the Fall. Supernatural sounds echoed on the empty, silent air. A branch cracked, pushed by something unseen. No birds were chirping, no animals scampering - they had all retreated, knowing instinctively that they were safer elsewhere. Only the trees, stuck to their spot in the world, witnessed the invisible storm.
There was power in the air. A heavy, thick power that even the densest and most ignorant mortal would have felt. A thump echoed through the silent forest, and then the subtle sound of flapping wings that always echos when power and spirits grow dense.
Only the rare special ones, those who had been born with or who cultivated their spirit sight, would be able to see what really happened. A battle took place, but it wasn’t the usual battle of blood and brawn that almost everyone of this time had become familiar with. Another thump echoed, and on the invisible plane that humans had forgotten how to see, a large black wolf landed on its feet. More leaves crunched, such was the power of her spirit presence. Her opponent fell off balance, falling back into a large tree to recover from the impact of the attack. Giant bear claws, spirit claws, sunk into the tree as balance was regained. They left behind woodland scars and splintered bark in the material world.
The bear fell to all fours, bellowed her mightiest roar and charged at her wolf opponent. The force of her roar caused another subtle sound to echo through the material world, and the wolf returned the battlecry with a howl of her own before charging head on against her opponent, and the clash of their roars materialized as thunder on the material plane even though no clouds or lightning could be seen. As they neared each other once again, the bear rose to pounce and land atop her oncoming opponent. Wolf ducked, then leaped at an angle.
An opening - a small one, but an opening - presented itself at the bear’s side. Wolf took it, sinking her claws in for a deep and clean swipe before getting out of the way. More strange sounds echoed through the material world as bear roared again, this time in pain and rage. Her soul was torn now, and it was not blood but precious life force that leaked away from her.
With one more cry, a quiet whimper, the huge bear’s shape slowly changed. At first she simply shrunk, but then her features began to change and in but a moment it was not a bear but a young woman who knelt on the leaves. A more human hand clutched her side, attempting to heal herself, but she found it was already too late. She looked up and found the huge black wolf nose to nose with her, a scowl on its face and a growl coming from deep in its throat.
“Please,” the bear-woman said. The bear form was completely gone, and she knelt on the forest floor wearing only her long blonde hair and the spirit items that gave her more power. “Please,” she repeated.
Wolf’s shape wavered like the summer’s hot air as she changed, in an instant shifting into a much older woman. She glared down at her enemy wearing nothing, not even any spirit items. She did not need tools, old and powerful as she was. Long silver hair blanketed her, streaked ever so often with a stray black shadow of her long lost youth.
“You have betrayed me,” the wolf-woman said with a growl. “You have betrayed more than me. You have betrayed the ways! Tradition, girl! A lineage of a thousand years that will now end with me and you, because you could not keep your skirt down and your eyes away from a few coins!”
“Please,” bear-woman whimpered. None of the healing methods she knew worked on this strange wound. “Please, Alda.”
Alda’s face softened, a sadness in her that lessened the fire without weakening her resolve. “Hilda,” she spoke gently, “there is no forgiveness for this. Your debt must be paid here.”
Hilda tried to stand again, to lash out with her soul through fist and through force of will, throwing silently what battle spells she knew while she roared and threw a dying tantrum. At the end of it she collapsed, exhausted, and found her head laying in Alda’s lap. “I don’t want to die,” Hilda whispered as her soul cried out in pain. Her soul had no solid tears, but its pain could echo and show itself all the same.
“Oh, my dear girl,” Alda spoke affectionately as she stroked her disciples hair with one hand. The other hand touched Hilda’s wound, and slowly it began to grow. “Neither did I.”
Hilda tried to gasp and sob as her soul slowly melted away into the light. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
A motherly smile escaped Alda, and she kissed Hilda’s forehead before it vanished. “Until we meet again.” And then Hilda’s soul faded away, her spirit forcefully pushed into the underworld.
Sitting and waiting for time to pass by, Alda finally collected herself enough to notice the crow that was perched nearby on a limb, cawing to get her attention. It wasn’t a spirit crow, though it was sometimes hard to tell where the crows and ravens really stood between the worlds. “Yes,” she said. “I know.”
Her soul changed shape again, and she rode the crow's spirit as he flew through and above the forest. The cold wind and scenery, felt through the birds senses, were refreshing as he took her back to her little cottage. They circled above for a moment, glancing across the fields and through the trees. Five armed men walked towards her home as fast as they dared. It is almost time, then, Alda thought. Crow took her down to land in her open window, where she changed her soul again and once more stood as a woman. She walked quietly to the small bed against the wall, where her material body lay as if asleep, and she entered it as easily as another might enter their most familiar clothing.
She woke slowly, but as quickly as she could. It always took a moment to get oriented to the flesh as it woke, no matter how many times one experienced journeying. As she sat up on the bed, Alda glanced over to where the crow still rested. “Thank you,” she told him. “Gather your friends, brother crow. There will be a feast here soon.” With an excited caw, he was gone.
Used to her body again, Alda got up and quickly donned her boots. She had no armor, no real weapons. She took two of her most special knives and tucked them into her belt, walking around to gather other little trinkets. With strong senses, Alda felt them walking up the hill long before she heard them - five glowing fields of energy, strange and alien to her native forest and stomping along their path with little care for the environment.
She stood behind her closed door and waited. She knew what would come, but if one has to die, why not let it be dramatic and gallant? There is honor in a good death. There always has been.
“Alda Gude!” a deep, husky voice shouted. She knew who it belonged to, the one with the long sword. The noble and wonderful Knight, guardian of the people. She silently scoffed at her own remark. “You are wanted on suspicion of witchcraft and treason! Surrender yourself, and we will bring no harm to you here!”
One of the younger men couldn’t suppress his humor at the statement. Alda couldn’t suppress her smirk either, especially after she sensed the noble knight cut into the young man's glee with a dangerous glare.
Alda inhaled deeply, gathering her soul power and voice. Humor vanished, replaced by the commanding voice of an ancient power that terrified the Christian children at her door.
“Adolf Eggert Herman Lype!” she spoke, her voice not coming from the cabin but echoing on the wind - coming from every direction at once, yet from no direction in particular. Her voice was calm, but the projection amplified its sound and made it sound as if she were yelling most furiously. The five men at her door gasped, from her knowledge as much as from her spell. If they want a witch to hunt, she thought, I shall give them a witch to hunt.
“Son of Eggert Lype! Grandson of Adalwolf Lype!” she continued, stepping forward as her voice grew louder, amplifying the projection even more. “Blood kin, true descendant of Erik Bloodaxe!” Alda felt the fear simmer in them, but they were trained warriors and held their ground. She wanted to terrify them, though, and so she pushed her drama further. Her door swung into the house as it opened, and they all turned to look upon her. Alda was standing in the center of her cottage, far away from the door, and they knew instantly that she had opened it with witchcraft.
“Oh noble Knight, oh servant of thy Holy Order,” she spoke softly and directly to Adolf, her previous spell restrained so that she could speak normally. “Have you come to take my head?” Alda opened her arms, by all appearances a strong but poor elderly woman. Harmless. The sort of person that Knights are meant to protect.
Adolf took a step forward. “You really are a witch,” he spoke softly, a whisper of awe that would have been seen as reverence in anyone else.
She took perverse pleasure in the cold sweat on his forehead. “Yes,” she replied with a chilling smile. “Yes, I am.”
Adolf drew his sword without another word, all noble pretense gone as the witch hunter in him took over. He held his sword to her at a point and yelled a single command to his men: “Take her!”
Four strong men rushed towards the house, but Alda was already rushing out of it. She had cut her skirt, allowing her to run faster than most women would, and soul power coursed through her body like fire to add to her natural strength and speed. It has been a while, she thought, but battle never quite leaves you.
A small bag flew from Alda’s hand, landing in the face of her foremost attacker. White power exploded from the bag to cover him and instantly he began screaming, falling to his slow death. She had been saving that for something else, but nothing else mattered anymore. The second man, a little older, charged in with his sword above his head. With a speed none of the men expected from an old witch, Alda dropped to a lunge in front of him instead of backing away. Before he knew what happened, Alda had her knife buried to the hilt between his legs.
The man stopped cold, shock delaying the pain, and Alda stood slowly as she opened the man up. Blood and other fluids pooled on the ground between his legs, and Alda pulled back the knife from his stomach as her opponent fell. On the ground he finally found the strength to scream, but his screams lasted only a moment before he bled out.
She glanced around at her three remaining opponents. Adolf remained in his original position, still as a statue, but his radiant soul told the story of his horror. He had expected a weak old woman, not a proud warrior. A second man, the closest to her, took a step back. The third, the young man who had originally chuckled at Adolf’s promise that he wouldn’t hurt her, fell to his knees and lost whatever was in his stomach.
“Well,” Alda spoke in a gentle and calm tone as she wiped the blood from her knife and hand onto her skirt. “I don’t suppose you boys can fight better than they did, hm?”
The man who had stepped back decided to turn and run as hard as he could, screaming profanities. Alda laughed merrily, then whispered an incantation while waving her arm in his general direction. The man tripped and fell silent as if he fainted mid stride.
“Filbert!” Adolf shouted.
“Relax, my dear,” Alda offered. “He will not die from that.” A dark smirk found itself on her lips. “He will not die until we are all dead, and the crows eat him alive.” Just then, the dozens of birds that had gathered in the trees above began to caw and sing their gratitude.
The youngest man recovered from his embarrassment, found his feet again and gave a sharp battle cry before he charged towards Alda. Even with her age, he was too slow. She stepped to the side, easily dodging the swing of his sword. Before he could recover his balance Alda withdrew her second dagger, and with an effortless swing of her arm the young man found his throat open and bleeding. He tried to put it back together and hold the wound closed, but death came quickly.
“Fool,” Adolf groaned with pain deep in the heart.
“Yes.” Alda looked to the sky, past the murder of birds and beyond the trees. She would never see this sky again. “These are foolish times we live in.” She looked back down to meet Adolf’s eyes with her own. He was a better warrior than his men and took advantage of her short distraction. By the time her eyes were on his, Alda found the tip of a sword entering her belly. She smiled. “Well done.”
Alda gripped the blade with her bare hand and walked towards Adolf. Blood ran, and the full length of his long sword went through her. With the hilt touching her abdomen, Alda gazed peacefully into Adolf’s eyes and spoke quietly. She recognized the moment when he suddenly knew that he shouldn’t have met her eyes, but it was too late. “Enjoy your heaven, my noble knight. Eternity does not last as long as you think.” At that, she drove her dagger into his heart, and before his next breath they both fell dead.
As her body fell lifeless to the ground, Alda stood again on the invisible plane, this time permanently separated from her flesh. She looked up to the crows. “You can feast now, little ones.” They took their cue and swarmed down happily, singing her name and thanking her for the feast. Alda walked silently into forest, stuck wandering until she could find an entrance to the underworld. She only looked back once, seeing five young souls slowly leave their bodies through the natural process of death. Pain gripped her heart.
This day will come back to us, she thought. That is the web. These days always come back to us.
EDITS: formatting issues. Copy/paste doesn't work well, it seems.
Edited by Shinichi, 31 July 2015 - 01:25 AM.