Chapter 1: Witch HunterA Chapter by SheaRyhai
Karisa hunts down a Wist, a rebel Dabinya (magic user), and the witches son. As always the Wist refuses to surrender without a fight.
Witch Eye © 2010 by SheaRyhai
Chapter 1: Witch Hunter
Black fur boots glided down the deer path and muffled 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. She paused at the top of a ravine that slopped steeply down through the forest to a distant running stream. Sniffing the air then tilting her head, she listened for any sound of movement.
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 appeared, 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 right eye was covered by a black velvet eye-patch, embroidered with red thread in the shape of three serpents swallowing each other.
“We’re close, be quite 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 paused to study the impressions along wet mud and sand of the shore line. The foot prints were faded, but definitely human. Kneeling down close to the tracks she tugged the hood back once more and allowed the muscles in her left eye to relax. 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. For three days she’d moved through these forest hills, searching for sign of her quarry. While being alone had allowed her to move further and faster, she missed her partner’s company.
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 jutted 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 inside preparing their meal. Her muscles tensed in anticipation. Keeping close to the side of the mountain, Karisa crept around the corner into the cave, her boots barely disturbing the small piles of lose pebbles, rock, and earth.
The fire lit up the small 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 sizzling flames, carefully turning a stick pierced through a small skinned 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 focused on 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. Regardless, 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 bare 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.
If it was the Wist Turoborus had sent her to find, then she was looking for a woman with some elemental powers. 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 then was something to wash the meal down with.
Stepping cautiously 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 dry on either side. 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. The force of the water churned a gap into the shore, dragging mud and dirt back towards the elemental monster.
Glittering red eyes appeared in the head of the center serpent. Karisa smiled, knowing the witch could see her through them. She glanced briefly in either direction, to her right the mountain created a dead end that merged with the river, she would have to move left but the Wist knew that too. Gathering the folds of her cloak she backed towards the mountain, determined to wear this witch out instead.
“Do you really think you can beat me?” Karisa shouted to the water dragons.
“Leave us alone!” the serpents hissed and began an even more desperate assault on the shore line trying to pin her down. “Why can’t you just leave us alone?”
“Why- can’t you Wist- ever come quietly?” Karisa returned, forced to run up the side of the mountain where she back flipped and landed on a boulder before rolling off to dodge another attack.
“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.
Forced to keep moving, Karisa flinched as she dropped on her back to avoid a spear like thrust from the right serpents head. Rolling behind another boulder she paused for a moment, trying to calm her rising anger.
“You should have known better then to break the laws 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 over the boulder, she relaxed her eye studying the fresh strands of red left by the Wist’s attacks. They were still to strong, the Wist was far from draining herself. Despite her impatience to end this mission, Karisa was more determined to end it without blood shed.
“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,” Karisa returned, hoping reason would sooth the Wist’s agitated state. “Just because you have the gift, doesn’t mean you’re capable of determining who will live and who will die.” A glance behind her revealed the boy standing in the cave entrance, eyes wide with innocent fascination. “Do you really think any mother would enjoy living, knowing it cost her a son?”
The heavy churning of water grew calmer, the dragon like heads lowered in grief. Hoping she had reached through to the Wist, Karisa stepped out from behind 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 muddy water on the 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 shouldn’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. Spinning away, her body curving over the dragons head, Karsia looked back belatedly at the cave entrance and the Wist’s child, standing there paralyzed.
Water churned into the cave and spewed back out when it met the unrelenting wall of mountain. It swept away the few worldly possession of the Wist family, carrying them down the river bank. The untouched rabbit and grass baskets flowed past the trembling mother, who stared 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 his 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 woman’s face as she 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 tussled, 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.
~*~Katchu sniffed at the damp boy huddled under Karisa’s cloak. The child seem fascinated with the length of the fox’s tail which seemed to never end. With a lazy wink Katchu curled his tail around the boy’s shoulders tickling against Michael’s ear. The child 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, and studied 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 as he started to shake from the cold. Katchu whined in Karisa’s ear, and she sighed. Stepping beside the boy she knelt down, patting against 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.
© 2012 SheaRyhai
Added on January 17, 2012
Last Updated on January 17, 2012
AboutWriting began for me as an escape from realities I couldn’t face such as heart break and betrayal. It is the refuge I go into so that I can retain some sense of sanity in a world where often.. more..