“A witchman? Are you sure?”
“We lost a man to him tonight, most of him is still in our hair; in our clothes.”
“You should have gone straight to Duscan Keep.”
“That would have meant riding through the night with a prisoner on foot. You have a pit here, and so far as I know it is already occupied.”
The noble cringed. “I don’t want to be reminded that these, things, are in my cellar.”
“The standing order from the Council is to-”
“Yes yes, I know. Don’t patronize me. Very well, take him in. It’s a pity they don’t die of starvation.”
“It‘s a pity they exist.” Said the knight, motioning with his head in the direction of the dungeon.
The three men holding the man began moving the prisoner inside.
As they began to move, he apparently still had a little bit of fight left in him as he kicked one soldier into the door frame and struck the one behind him with a wild backward headbutt; blood gushing from the soldiers nose.
The prisoner soon fell limp as they dispensed several blows in retaliation.
“Syril, be careful, you know what happens if he dies.”
The man holding his bloodied nose nodded and they carried the unconscious prisoner down a spiral stone stairwell.
He woke minutes later, his feet scraping against the cold stone. He remained limp, feigning unconsciousness as they reached a sullied pit in the very bottom of the structure.
“Maybe they’ll eat each other.” said one of the soldiers.
“Let’s hope so.”
“Hey Dale, would that still release the curse?”
They threw the man into the hole, he fell for twelve or so feet before impacting with crushing force against the hard dirt at the bottom. The wind blew out of him in a grunt as the dust curled around his twisted frame.
The soldier with the bloodied nose shook his head. “That’s just wives tales, there’s no such curse.”
“Not true.” Said Dale. “I’ve seen it happen, in Sansavallha. There was a small town called Still River. They discovered their Apothecary was a Maleficarum and hung him by his wrists in the town square. Naturally, he hung there for three months, wasting away but not dying; which of course proved he was a witch. It all went bad when he allegedly hexed a small boy who was found dead. Townsfolk said the boy was speaking to the skeleton of a man the day before, and died in his sleep of an unknown illness.”
The other two looked in the shadows of the hole, not able to see the man beyond the thick darkness. They took a step back, just in case.
“They can do that?” Felix asked with wide eyes.
“You saw what this one did! In any case, the boys father was furious with vengeful rage and acted upon it with one single arrow skilfully penetrating the witchman's skull; straight through the left eye.”
Syril grunted. “Good riddance.”
“Not so. The very next day the curse reared its deadly head. First it was plague, half the town was locked up indoors, sick to the point of dying. Three days later it became clear there was drought, and food stocks dwindled. The sick and starving weren’t through yet. His wrathful spirit finally appeared on the new moon after his death. A cold wind rushed in from the north and chilled every home to the bone as they slept. First the man who slew him went mad, swearing on his son's grave that the Apothecary’s ghost had come to him during the night pledging eternal retaliation from the afterlife. He was found hanging in his home only a day later. Other accounts came in greater and greater number as the Apothecary’s restless spirit haunted his persecutors to the edge of madness and beyond. The townsfolk eventually fled, and to this day if you pass through the empty hearths of Still River, you’re sure to feel that same cold wind. Be brave enough to stay the night if you wish to meet the Apothecary himself, but be warned, you’re not likely to survive to tell the tale.”
Syril laughed. “You’re so full of shit.”
Felix was less skeptical. “I don’t know Syril, he’s been out east, his tale does fit with his past stories.”
“Stories, that’s exactly what all that rubbish was; fanciful storytelling from the silver tongue of a fool.”
“Then why, might I ask Syril, are you clutching your sword?”
“Shut up.” He said, pushing Dale over as he stomped up the stairwell.
Dale laughed, following him shortly afterward. “Come on Felix, let’s leave these two to their solitude.”
Felix looked back into the darkness of the pit, the very bottom of the fortress's first well, dug five centuries ago when the Western Tribes were still at war with the Dundast Empire. He shook the fear from his mind and willed himself to move up the stairs and away from the possible horrors that awaited him if he were to tarry beyond the torchlight.