This was intended to be the prologue of a novel idea I started when I was 14. Looking back, I'm pretty proud of myself, but I, (once again because of procrastination) didnt finish the idea after about chapter 3 and this is all that's left.
January 18th 1684
The night was starless, and the only light within the forest came from the eerie glow of the full moon through the clouds, reflecting off the crisp snow. The dark, twisted trees created chilling shadows, which crept over the ground like the claws of some depraved, vicious creature. Such nights would easily scare the superstitious townsfolk, but Laurie Pennant cherished these profound moments. The ethereal beauty of the moon, and the presence of some spiritual force not visible to the human eye. It would be particularly useful tonight, when she met with them.
She walked briskly through the tangle of dense forest, the moonlight shining off her long, lustrous black curls, her cape trembling in the wind. She knew she had little time to work with. Women in this time had no independence. Being found out here made people suspect you of witchcraft. She chuckled at this. Most of the people accused and punished for witchcraft had nothing to do with it. Real witches were smart enough to keep their little tricks concealed, with no evidence to suppose they would do such things. They had a knack for deceiving.
This new world had saved Laurie’s life. Somehow the Arovein had found her again in England, and in a haste to escape them undetected, she hopped on the first ship heading to the new continent. She smirked. They wouldn’t find her for years and by then, it would be too late.
Finally she stood on the edge of a small clearing, looking upon twelve adolescent girls, most holding rusted lanterns. They were all whispering anxiously amongst themselves. Some were apprehensive, while others were brimming with sheer exhilaration.
Laurie took a single step towards the young ladies, wearing their warmest dresses and capes, yet still shivering. She waited patiently for them to acknowledge her presence. The youngest of them was the first to notice her. As they all turned around, Laurie searched each of their faces, her emerald eyes gleaming.
There was a long pause. Laurie smiled with such benevolence that it seemed that almost every doubt that lingered in the air dissipated.
Finally she spoke. Her melodious voice was as bewitching as her seemingly perfect facial features, “I see you all made it tonight.”
Suddenly Laurie’s gaze fell upon a young woman of about seventeen. Rich brown hair fell loosely on her shoulders, surrounding a well structured face. Her eyes were the deepest of blues, yet they still seemed crystal clear, as if holding some great wisdom from the world. She grinned back.
Her name was Bryna.
An overwhelming emotion took Laurie, something she had never felt in the centuries that she had lived. Regret. She felt a great remorse for what was going to happen to the promising young lady. Her name meant “Strong One” in Celtic, and that she was. Bryna had always visited Laurie to hear myths and legends of other countries. She had been the most enthusiastic girl Laurie had ever met, and certainly had more independence than was proper for a woman of her age. Bryna had often told her of the men that used to court her in England. They had left as quickly as they had come, realizing that her beauty was not worth her sarcasm, arrogance and, worst of all, her stubbornness.
Laurie had considered making Bryna her apprentice, knowing that she had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, there was no one else within a five mile radius that fit the needed description. So, although she lamented the idea, she was just going to have to let Bryna endure the same fate as the others. She pushed all emotion out of her heart. She had done it before, she would do it again, and this time it would work. Nothing would come between Laurie and her goal.
“Is it true? You can give us the power to make things grow and change the weather?”
Laurie turned and regarded a timid red head. Her smile broadened slightly and she nodded slowly.
“Among other things,” she replied mysteriously.
Suddenly, the eldest of the group, a tall blonde, stood out in front, protectively. Laurie’s smile disappeared. This one had been the most difficult of the group to convince.
“How do we know we can trust you?” the blonde inquired coldly. “Many witches have been drowned, hung and burned for their evil deeds. Why should you be any different?”
So she’s not as gullible as the others, Laurie thought. This might be more interesting than I anticipated. Before Laurie could reply, Bryna stepped in front of her and glowered at the accuser. Despite her size, Bryna’s glare still unsettled the blonde enough to make her take a step back.
“Why are you so quarrelsome, Becky,” she challenged, “Laurie has shown nothing but kindness to us and you keep throwing all of it back in her face!”
Laurie placed a slender hand on Bryna’s shoulder. She stepped forward and looked deep into Becky’s eyes, holding her gaze.
“No one is holding you here against your will,” she said shrewdly, “If you want to leave, then leave,” Silently she hoped the wench would just agree to stay. If she left, her whole plan would fall into shambles. She needed to make sure that Becky stayed. The only problem was that she was a fairly practical girl. Laurie needed to say something that would ensure that she would remain with the rest of the group.
“All I wanted to do was give you a gift to help you,” When that didn’t change Becky’s emotionless stare, she quietly added, “You could save people from the same demise as your brother.”
That got her attention. Laurie observed how Becky blinked back her tears. Her brother had slowly died from an infection in his leg. He had been bitten by a wild dog and it hadn’t been treated soon enough. By the time a doctor took a look at it, he was already beyond any help. He had been fifteen.
After a long silence, Becky swallowed her sobs. “I’ll s-stay,”she finally stuttered, quivering from both the frigid wind and the memory of her brother. She pulled her cape tighter, seemingly trying to block both.
“Very well,” Laurie released her breath and relaxed. The plan was still in motion. She glided gracefully past them all to the center of the clearing, where a waist high tree stump stood. From within her dress pocket, she pulled a flat, circular diamond. It was slightly smaller than the palm of her hand, and unusually cut, with the bottom as smooth and flat as the top. The plan itself was actually quite simple. She had promised to give all twelve girls a little bit of magic. That part was easy: a mediocre enchantment to allow them to manipulate some of nature. That wasn’t what the gem was for, though.
Of course, they wouldn’t know that. She would tell them that the gem was a major part of the spell. The young ladies, being as gullible as they were, would believe her and do whatever she bid them to do. That was what she was hoping for anyway.
She set the diamond into the center of the stump. All of the girls huddled around her, gawking at the rare treasure laid out before them. Laurie turned abruptly to face them, a glowing smile once again on her face.
“This stone is the key to the power I will bestow upon you,” she said, keeping her voice low to add suspense. “I need something from each one of you to help complete the spell, though.”
She reached into her dress pocket again, this time pulling out a sewing needle.
“I need but a single drop of blood from each of you.”
The girls gasped dramatically and stepped back, startled. Laurie suppressed the urge to roll her eyes, and stood there patiently. Finally, Bryna took a confident step forward. She took off her glove and held out her quivering hand. Laurie grasped her hand in such a way that her index finger pointed straight out, and then directed it over the gem. With a swift motion, she pricked the outstretched finger. Bryna winced slightly, and everyone watched with fascination as the drop of dark liquid started to pool at the end of her finger. Finally it fell, splattering directly on the face of the diamond.
For a moment, nothing happened. Laurie feared the worst. Perhaps these girls were not the right candidates. If even one of the twelve girls was impure, or had shamed herself, then none of their blood would work. Time passed slowly, making it seem like an eternity was slipping by and still nothing was happening. Terror welled up inside her, and it took all her will power not to cry out in panic.
Suddenly, the stone absorbed the blood greedily, and turned from its pristine clarity to a vile blood red. Once again they all gasped, but Laurie merely smiled, relieved that the spell was working, but remembering that girls had to maintain their ignorance, and not realize how nervous she truly was.
One by one, each girl stepped forward, watching as their blood was drawn into the diamond, each time making it darker. The timid red head nearly fainted when she saw her blood turn the gem almost black. Becky was the last to go, and hesitated only slightly, before holding out her index finger to Laurie. She nodded her head approvingly as Becky stepped back.
All the girls regarded Laurie expectantly. Of course she thought. They want me to do the same, just in case. Laurie glanced at the moon and noticed its position. There was only a few hours until sunrise. She sighed. She knew she had no time to talk her way out of it, so she promptly pricked her own finger and permitted the drop of blood to fall upon the stone.
“Please gather around the stone.”
As the girls huddled together, Laurie put herself into a trance, a calm state of mind that allowed her to feel every presence in the clearing. She heard the quiet voices in the wind, those of the trees, the earth, and the air. She allowed her mind to wander slightly among the eerie voices with caution, knowing that she wasn’t exactly popular with the terra lamatis. When she found the right vocal, she burned the particular song into her mind and regained consciousness. With the melody still in mind, she sang, not the same words as the voices, but those of the spell that would keep her end of the bargain.
“Matris terra cuius vox est sic dulcis permissum macies potestas adeo nos,”
A strong gust of wind blasted through the clearing, ruffling the dresses and capes of all the girls. When it ended, Laurie opened her eyes and smiled broadly.
“Your new found abilities will be of little use until spring is here. That should be in a couple months or so. When it does come, simply will nature to do your bidding,” she glanced upon Becky. “That includes the natures of the body.”
Becky nodded, genuinely appreciative. The girls departed slowly in the direction of town. Bryna lingered a moment longer, until the others were out of listening distance.
“Thank you Laurie. You truly have been so kind to us. I don’t know how we could ever repay you for such a generous gift,”
“Do not trouble yourself with such thoughts,” Laurie smiled mischievously. “All I want from you is for you to enjoy your life.”
Bryna smiled, then abruptly turned and trotted up to girls ahead of her.
Laurie could barely contain herself. It had finally worked. Within twelve months she would have a way to enter Caliga, where her plans would begin to unfold.
Her eyes burned with the malevolence of a thousand blood thirsty warriors, her mouth twisted in a wicked smile.
“Let the doorway to the black world be opened with the blood of twelve pure maidens, one for each zodiac that passes, and let all who hear my name tremble with fear, for I am Adrienne, the Dark One!”
It was a warmer winter than everyone had anticipated. Instead of large snow drifts and frozen streams, the paths were covered in slush and the streams still flowed. Bryna was taking a stroll just outside of town, the hem of her dress soaking, and her boots caked in mud. Every once in a while, she would look over her shoulder anxiously, as if something might be stalking her; watching her every move.
It had been a year since Laurie had bestowed upon them the gift of manipulation over nature. Within the first month, Lottie, the small redhead, had died of some sort of fever. The doctor could not explain it, especially since she had been perfectly fine a few hours before. A few of the girls simply disappeared in the forest, leaving no trace. One of them fell into the river, accidently dragging in another one with her. Becky had gone mad, talking of hell hounds, and shadows coming to life. Eventually, she couldn’t stand it anymore and threw herself into the lake, drowning before anyone could reach her.
With every death, Bryna grew more and more suspicious of Laurie. She had delivered on her word, for when spring came each and everyone of them found that they could do unimaginable things. The ones who were left anyway. The way she walked around, carefree, even if someone had died the previous morning. It was almost as if she was expecting it to happen.
She had also noticed the way Laurie looked at her, guilt emanating from her cold emerald eyes. Lately, she had made a point of staying away from her, some instinct telling her that Laurie would bring nothing but anguish. She was also painfully aware that she was the last of the twelve girls still alive.
The sun clouded over, making the day even more dismal. Suddenly, Bryna felt a chill travel up her spine. She shivered, and decided it was time to get home before her father chastised her for walking alone again. Trudging slowly through the single street of town, she stumbled into a tall young man, nearly knocking them both over. His strong hand swiftly grabbed her wrist to prevent her from falling. As she looked up, she realized it was none other than her neighbor, John Paddock.
He smiled warmly at her, his hazel eyes dancing with laughter, and his thick blond hair almost golden. Embarrassed, she took a step back, pulling her hand with her and blushed.
“I’m ever so sorry John. It’s just that I was thinking, and I wasn’t looking where I was going and -”
He chuckled softly, “Don’t fret. I’m sure I’ll survive,”
They stood there, looking at each other for a minute, neither one of them moving. Finally, the silence became awkward and Bryna stumbled for an excuse. John, understanding the gesture made an excuse of his own, something about having to help his father in the shop.
As he walked away, Bryna sighed. She was already aware that John had met with her father, asking permission for her hand in marriage. At first, she had been completely against it, saying that she would never marry just because someone told her she had to.
After a while though, she realized what a good match it was. She knew that he was a kind man, who always treated women with the highest respect. He had a good amount of land that he would inherit from his father, being the eldest son, and enough money to care for a family comfortably. He was quite handsome, and although it wasn’t love, she was still fond of him. She also knew that she couldn’t put off marriage forever, and that if she ended up marrying someone she didn’t necessarily love, she should at least take the best offer.
She continued walking toward her house, this time at a livelier pace, when she saw a large group huddled in the middle of the street. She picked up her dress so she wouldn’t fall and dashed over to her father. She couldn’t see past all the people, and when she tried to push through, her father gripped her arm firmly and pulled her back.
“Bryna, go back home immediately!”
“Da, what’s going on?” she regarded her father with questioning eyes. Her father loosened his grip on her arm. His concerned face frightened her, for she had always known her father to be a strict man, someone who ruled his household with an iron fist. His obvious sympathy did nothing to comfort her. It only made her more anxious.
“Well, you see,” he stammered, trying to find the words, “It’s Duke,”
The colour drained from her face, “Becky’s father? But what happened -” she couldn’t even finish her sentence. Assuming the worst, she covered her mouth with her hand to keep herself from sobbing out loud. Becky had been his eldest daughter, his last child to survive the crossing. It had almost pushed him over the deep end when she drowned herself. Had he become mentally ill as well?
Her father shook his head sullenly, “It’s not so much what happened to him, as it is what he did himself.” When she still looked confused, he continued, “he stabbed Laurie, Bryna. She’s dead.”
Her mouth dropped open, not believing what her father just said. In one swift movement, she dodged her father’s strong arms and pushed through the crowd hastily. When she shoved her way through the last of the people, she saw Laurie, a lifeless rag doll on the ground. Her eyes void of any life, the front of her blue dress soaking with fresh blood, and the steel dagger still protruded from her chest, directly through her heart. Bryna turned her head to see Duke kneeling in the mud, weeping, with two men holding his arms and looking at each other, as if pondering what to do next.
“She killed her, she killed my baby girl!” he shouted through his tears. “She was a witch, I tell you! An evil, rotten wench who used her magic on my poor, helpless daughter! I did you all a favour by getting rid of the b*tch!” He sobbed out loud, and Bryna started feeling sick to her stomach. To see a solid man like Duke broken enough to cry in public was a chilling thing. As she turned her gaze back on Laurie, she couldn’t help feeling relieved. If it was Laurie that killed all the other girls and not just a coincidence, then she would be safe now.
Still, her curiosity ate at her. If she didn’t satisfy it, she would simply continue to ask herself the same empty questions, over and over. Without thinking, she moved back through the crowd, making for the opposite direction of her father. As she got out, she made all haste towards the house Laurie was staying at, praying to God the entire way that the Hansen’s weren’t home.
As soon as she got to the door, she knocked loudly a few times. No one answered. She looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching and then opened the door, leaving her muddy boots outside. She crept down the small hallway until she reached Laurie’s door. Turning the knob ever so quietly, she pushed the wooden door open and stepped inside.
At first, Bryna was disappointed to see nothing unusual. Then she saw Laurie’s chest. It was the only luggage she had brought with her on the crossing from England. It was where she stored her books and such, so if she had anything strange or witchy, it would be in there. She strolled over to it and lifted the lid. Holding it up with one hand, she used the other to push the clothes and such out of the way, to reveal peculiar papers and an even more peculiar book. The book itself looked centuries old, but the papers looked newer, and had fine ink on them; in Laurie’s handwriting. She grabbed the papers and the book and settled onto Laurie’s bed.
Bryna was one of the lucky daughters, to have such a well educated father. He had taught all his children how to read and write. As she looked through the papers though, she noticed that most of it was in another language. She remembered Laurie saying that she knew many languages, but she had never seen anything like this. When she opened the book, it had strange symbols and shapes in it, and most of the words were written in the same sort of language as on the pages. She was horrified to see pictures of bloodied skeletons, and shadow-like creatures with razor-like claws. Finally, she came to a book marked page, one written in some sort of old English, with twelve symbols in a circular pattern. It was messy writing, but she could still understand it. As she continued reading, she grew more and more sick.
It was a spell to enter some sort of forbidden world. The spell required the death and a drop of blood from twelve girls, all of which must be pure, which Bryna assumed meant that they all had to be chaste. It would explain why Laurie never went to any of the married women. It also said something about having to be connected to an item of value.
An item of value, she thought. While she was pondering, it came to her. Her eyes grew wide and she almost dropped the book as the answer came to her.
Frantically, she dropped the book onto the bed, and hurried back over to the chest. She scrambled through all of the belongings, until finally, at the bottom, she found a silver amulet, and in the center, was the blood-red gem. All around the edge of the amulet were the same twelve symbols as in the book. Suddenly, everything fell into place.
“She needed twelve maidens to represent the twelve months, but since she put her own blood in as well, she was killed instead of -”
Her eyes seemed to freeze over, and her face became the perfect image of resentment. Me, she thought coldly; she was just using me for her spell. Without thinking, she took all the papers, the book and the amulet. She took the blanket off of Laurie’s bed and put everything inside it, so no one would see what she was taking.
“No one will know of this,” she whispered to herself, “No one except me.”