Chapter 20: The traveler from the other world

Chapter 20: The traveler from the other world

A Chapter by Gosia

Thoen Stronghold, Farn Dukedom

 

Before paying a visit to the priest Arnstein, the old witch from the Riada Swamp stopped by the farmers’ settlement outside the walls of the mighty Thoen Stronghold. Lavena couldn’t ignore the wailing of a woman desperately searching for help for her dying husband.

Two villagers brought before her was a man in his twenties �" surely once handsome, now he looked like a shadow of a man. The bones were threatening to break the pale skin, sweat covered his whole body. The witch held his breath, as her nose picked up the stench of the rotten flesh. She reached towards the dirty bandages covering the man’s chest. Once she removed them, she winced �" the wound was shallow, but the infection had already spread.

“A demon scratched him ten days ago. It’s getting worse and worse,” the patient’s wife said.

Lavena nodded, examining the wound �" the flesh was almost black where the dead tissue was. The skin on the chest was red and swollen, a sign, that it was already too late �" the flesh was rotten and even the blood must have been infected by now. The witch bit the inside of her cheek, worried. She really wanted to save this man, but herbs wouldn’t suffice, as he was on the brink of death.

“Will you help my husband? Can you heal him?” the patient’s wife asked anxiously, worried by the pessimistic look on Lavena’s face.

“Stand back,” he witch said firmly, rolling her sleeves.

She closed her eyes and gently touched the man’s swollen chest. She slowly exhaled the air.

“Naen dannar toerch.”

As the witch began chanting in the ancient language of the Laismarans, warm light started seeping from the underside of her palms, engulfing the pale patient. The villagers gasped and took a few steps back, shocked by what they saw. The witch didn’t pay attention to them and continued. “Maekirra naen, yamrais lahena!”

When Lavena  exclaimed the last word, the light flashed, blinding the gathered. When the glow subsided and died out, the witch fell to her knees, panting heavily, exhausted. She pulled herself up, her knees buckling a bit, and looked at the man, she had just healed �" the wound on the chest miraculously healed, leaving only a thin scar, the swell and dead tissue vanished without a trace. The man’s wife was laughing through the tears, hugging her husband.

The witch smiled, happy that she made a good deed in this cruel world, but she tensed when she heard a rumbling sound.

“Humans and horses,” she muttered, indentifying the source of the noise.

After a while a small unit of soldiers rode into the village, surrounding the gathering with the elderly witch in the middle. The riders were clad in chainmail, the blue capes with golden rose embroidered on them �" the crest of the Thoen house. The horses had chainmail just as their riders did. One of the steeds carried an extra man �" a young village boy.

“That’s the witch, sir, it’s her!” the lad exclaimed, pointing his finger at the old woman.

                Lavena straightened her back and looked confidently at the soldiers. She stepped forward and addressed the warriors.

“Which one of you, honorable soldiers, is the commander?” she asked calmly.

“It would be me,” a young man replied her, riding forward. The witch noticed that he was merely a boy. “I heard, that you are a witch. Is that true?”

                Lavena frowned, weighing her options for a while. Finally she decided to risk telling the truth.

                “It’s true. So what?” she snapped at the youngster.

 “A real witch!” the young man exclaimed. “Excellent. My lord has a job for you. You will follow me to the castle.”

Lavena furrowed her brows, not liking the soldier’s attitude.

“Why should I? I don’t even know who you are!” she exclaimed and made a few steps forward. The young man looked, as if he lost some of his confidence; the fellow soldiers appeared to become more nervous in her presence as well.

“Forgive me my rudeness,” he said, bowing his head to her. “My name is Levi from the Agnar family and I am a captain in the service of Duke Thoen who rules the Farn Dukedom. I have orders to bring every demon hunter, warlock and witch I find to the castle. I didn’t want to threaten you.”

The witch from the Riada Swamp furrowed her brows.

“Is there a problem with a demon?”

Captain Levi nodded and frowned.

“Yes, but you will have to talk to the Duke himself about the details. I am forbidden to say more. However, the hunters who will slay the demon will be handsomely rewarded.”

“Rewarded?” Lavena repeated  slowly. She wasn’t interested in money, but the youngster caught her attention. Perhaps she could take a little detour before visiting the old fool Arnstein.

“Lead the way, young one,” she said.

 

 

The witch followed the soldiers to the Thoen Castle; along the way she kept questioning the young captain about the goal of their journey.

“Captain Levi, do you know a man called Arnstein? He’s a priest in the temple,” she asked the young blond man.

The man shifted uneasily on the saddle.

“Was he a friend of yours?” he asked, clearly avoiding the woman’s gaze.

Lavena nodded, feeling that the captain didn’t have good news. She had some grim suspicions from the beginning, but the look on Levi’s face confirmed them.

“He’s dead,” he said shortly. The young warrior looked at the witch and smiled at her sadly. “Accept my condolences. The priest has been killed by the demon along with the son of Duke Royse and his whole escort. ”

The witch of the Riada Swamp hung her head, contemplating the loss of a close friend.

Soon the Thoen Stronghold appeared in its whole glory, the grey stone walls towering above the landscape along with the peaks the numerous guardian towers. The witch  saw the huge castle a several times before, but every time its size and splendor was making the same overwhelming impression.

Levi led her up, to the gates of the upper palace which was house of Duke Thoen himself. Lavena didn’t have much time to admire the beauty of luxurious interiors, because captain Levi kept hurrying her, till they reached to a throne room which was nearly empty, not counting several guards and a man and an elderly woman standing behind the throne.

The simple granite chair was occupied by a man of a royal posture. He was clad in an armor, sword by his side, even though he was in palace. The brown hair was graying. Despite the slight look of melancholy, the Duke had the gaze of a hawk.

“Welcome to my castle, witch,”  the man said in deep baritone, greeting the visitor.

As the Lavena approached him and was seated near him, she noticed that he looked very weary, as though he experienced something that broke him. The Duke sent her a distrustful look, when Levi came to him and began whispering in his ear, presumably reporting everything he knew about the newcomer.

“What task would you have for me?” the witch asked, bowing politely.

“I want the demon who kidnapped my daughter dead. And I want my child back,”  the man stated straightforwardly, his eyes showing lots of emotions from pain and sadness to rage.

“The Lady was kidnapped by a demon?” Lavena asked curiously. “Please tell me more. It could be helpful.”

“Very well,” the man took a deep breath. “Lady Maewyn is my only daughter and the heiress to the Thoen line. About ten days ago she was on her way to the temple, accompanied by her betrothed, servants and escort. Suddenly, a demon appeared out of sky, slaughtered the men and took my poor Maewyn…”

“How did he look like?” the witch asked.

Levi spoke instead of the lord.

“It’s hard to say, the servants fled in panic and none of them saw him clearly. It is only certain, that he had human-like form.”

                “After so many days tracking the demon would be impossible,” the witch sighed. “Most probably your daughter isn’t among the living anymore.”

The Duke clenched his fingers on the hilt of his sword. The young warrior named Levi cleared his throat.

“Honorable witch, what if Mae… the Lady is still alive? The demon didn’t kill her like the others, he abducted her!” Levi was reasoning desperately. “He must want to keep her alive, in his clutches. There has to be a way to save her!”

After Levi’s passionate speech silence fell in the chamber like a heavy veil. The old woman shifted uneasily �" she didn’t plan on embarking on a journey to find some lost Lady, but she didn’t have the conscience to turn down those people. After all, the same demon was responsible for the death of her friend Arnstein. There was another reason as well, a far more unsettling one, connected to the translation of the scroll the priest commissioned…

“Tell us exactly what the girl did before the demon took her,” the witch ordered the young soldier. “Tell where she went, who she met, what she touched, everything.”

Levi exchanged the looks with Duke Thoen and the elderly lady who was standing silently behind the throne. The young warrior focused back on the witch.

“Ehh… the Lady visited the temple a few times, she was spending some time in the village and nights in her chambers…” Levi began, looking at the old lady standing behind the throne, who nodded, confirming his words.

“Did she meet someone suspicious, someone not from the castle?” Lavena questioned.

The young man was thinking for a while and then paled, as he remembered something.

“Oh no… She met someone like that. Lady Maewyn played near the village with an orphaned boy before she was taken. The child wasn’t from the village and one day was just gone. I tried asking about the boy, but none of the peasant saw him after the Lady was abducted.” Levi buried his face in hands. “Do you think, that the child was a demon in disguise?”

“You let Maewyn spend time with someone suspicious? You were supposed to guard her!” The old lady suddenly snapped and harshly scolded Levi, glaring daggers at the young lad. She opened her mouth to continue the tirade, but the Duke slammed his fist against the armrest of the granite throne.

“Silence!” He raised his voice and sternly looked at the older lady. “Hilda, show the witch those. Maybe it will give her a clue.”

The Duke passed the lady called Hilda a package wrapped in silk and a scroll. The woman took the items, bowed and handed them to the witch. Lavena unwrapped the silk carefully. As she glanced at what was inside �" the wooden frame and the shattered pieces of a mirror �" she stiffened. The witch was staring at the item for a while and then she quickly wrapped it back, as though she didn’t want to neither touch nor look at it anymore. She had recognized the distinct markings on the frame, she knew what the artifact was and why it was broken. The shattered mirror was the soul-switching mirror, one of the ancient artifacts which were supposed to be destroyed many centuries ago. The glass was strengthened by complicated spells and couldn’t be broken by using the force of the muscles. Only thing, that is able to overcome the magic, is another magic. The mirror was in pieces, what must have meant only one �" it served its purpose; it had been already used.

Then the old woman unrolled the scroll, which was the portrait of the Lady Maewyn. She took a look and raised his eyebrow. If the girl from the picture had shoulder-length hair, she was strangely familiar. He could have sworn, that it was the same person who she near the ford at Eral River in company of prince Aedain.

“I have one more question… did the Lady behave normally? Was there something odd like her, like did she change?”

Hilda and Duke Thoen exchanged looks.

“To be honest, she did change,” the noblewoman said quietly. “A few weeks before Maewyn’s disappearance she had an accident; she lost her memory and her behavior changed a lot. She became more headstrong, disobedient, more like a boy than a lady. As if she was someone else.”

“Someone else,” the witch repeated, glancing at the portrait.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not able to help you with that,” she said stiffly, quickly rolling the scroll. The thoughts in her mind were racing at a crazy speed. She some pieces of puzzle hopped into her mind instantly �" the mysterious visitor from the other world who claimed to be the Farn Lady, the kidnapping, meeting that girl and Aedain claiming to own her. It was unlikely that those were coincident. The old woman had a hunch that the young Aedain was dangerously close to his goal, too close.

Captain Levi and lady Hilda inhaled sharply, disappointment reflecting on their faces. Duke Thoen, however, kept his calm. He was warily observing the witch, clearly knowing, that Lavena knew something and, whatever it was, was withholding it from the Thoen.

“So you decline,” he said quietly, as he stared the witch down.

Duke Thoen furrowed his brows, not taking his eyes of Lavena.

 “If you truly want peace with me, tell me, where is my daughter. I can tell that you know,” he said firmly.

“You have sharp mind then,” the witch replied. “Don’t send your people after the girl. The demon who took her will slaughter them all. Don’t ask me why he kidnapped her, but you won’t get her back by force.”

“Do you know this demon?” the Duke asked.

The witch smiled humorlessly.

“Oh yes, I know him,” he replied. “He’s a hell of a troublemaker.”

 



© 2013 Gosia


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First off, all titles are to be in upper case, such as Captain. There was also this part, 'She some pieces of puzzle hopped into her mind instantly'. A word was missing.

It's good to see Levi again! And promoted? I can't recall if he was a Captain before I doubt it. I like how Lavena, although a witch goes against the stereotype. She seemed more a priest/shaman than a witch but it's merely a title. It's what you do with the power that matters and Lavena seems like an alright person. Although the story took a break from the main characters, I welcome this slight detour. It's good to have the pieces play out this way!

Posted 10 Years Ago


I liked this chapter a lot. Nice to see them somewhat united on something-- it makes for some great tension.
And boy was it satisfying when she hit that b*****d on the head with a rock! You manage to get me hating him soooo much, it's crazy.
Guess what!! I had a villagers-burning-the-changeling-family scene planned for my book too! Though it doesn't come until near the end.

Posted 10 Years Ago


JR Darewood

10 Years Ago

though to be fair I borrowed the dragons-as-people from the genre at the time.
Gosia

10 Years Ago

So maybe I'm the one who's psychic. Anyway, If I don't review your chapter today or tomorrow, PM me... read more
JR Darewood

10 Years Ago

no worries, ltrs.

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Added on September 25, 2013
Last Updated on October 1, 2013


Author

Gosia
Gosia

Poland



About
Hello, my name is unpronounceable for most of humankind, but fortunately it can be shortened to Gosia. I’m an university student in my twenties, about to face the real life very soon. I’ve.. more..

Writing
Chapter 2: The Lady Chapter 2: The Lady

A Chapter by Gosia