The leaves from the forest brushed my arm as I made my way to the clearing; my crossbow was tightly wrapped around my forearm. The silence and darkness of the night enveloped the forest and the village in its obscure and cold mantle. The clearing before me was shrouded with the light cast by the moonlight and an only figure standing in the middle. Unaware of my stealthy presence, I hastily move to stand behind a tree to confirm my suspicions.
In the clearing there was a woman, young and slender, who had a long dress that swept the grass and danced to the wind. Her arms were above her head, toward the moon, and I heard her chanting in an indescribable language. She lowered her right arm bring down a faint trail of light, her finger glowing earnestly. Just then she brought her other hand down much more swiftly, a very potent white light cut through the darkness and the silence. Fear gripped my heart, fearing the worst from this situation. I set the iron arrow before me, ready to use it against her. My suspicions were confirmed, she was a witch.
She noticed my presence for she spun around and she screamed, her voice piercing through my ears. It was then that I let go of my arrow and heard a painful shrill followed by a body striking the ground. I came from behind the trees and saw the arrow on her leg through the dress. She looked up at me through the long eyelashes framing her green eyes and muttered a word. Hunter. Then she groaned from the pain of her leg, forming a pool of blood beneath her, and fainted.
I took a white blanket I always carry with me whenever I went hunting and wrapped her with it. I heaved her fragile body onto my shoulders and carried her toward the dungeons of the council. Tonight had been a successful night, I had captured a witch and could claim the bounty set on her.
The next day, after I recollected the bounty, I went to the village center and watch the stake being set up. I saw the young witch being tied to the mast and the fire licking her feet. I heard her scream in agony, her eyes toward the sky. Fire consumed her in the stake as it had consumed so many other witches that had suffered that fate. For a split of seconds, their screams were like a soft lullaby to my ears. My heart and spirits were in peace knowing I eliminated an evil root from this world.
“Where am I?” I ask the young woman looking down upon my bare chest. I sit up, contracting with the pain that seared through by muscles and skin. I look at the woman again, her beauty was unmistakable, I had seen her before, in my dreams perhaps.
“Does it matters?” she replies with a coldness that marks a great contrast with the expression in her kind face.
“Why am I here?” I try again, looking around me, trying to remember how I got here. It must be a dream; I’d heard storytellers say that one never remembers the beginning of a dream. “Am I dreaming?”
A disruptive laugh startled me as I turn to face the woman. She was covering her mouth, obviously in the middle of a fit of laughter. “You wish you were dreaming, don’t you?”
Those words registered in my head with certain familiarity. I narrowed my eyes finally placing her in my memory. “You are the woman who witnessed me being burned at the stake. Are we dead?”
“Don’t be silly,” she scoffed, clearly wishing otherwise. “I saved your pathetic life.”
“You said you were a witch!” I recall from our early conversation. Hurt pride surged to my heart as I hear her say she saved my life. I try getting to my feet but the pain abides me to stay motionless.
“Don’t move or it will burn stronger,” she says calmly, secretly enjoying of my suffering.
I conclude I was being delusional; I was not actually talking to a witch after being condemn to dead. But even so, I decide to follow her stream of thoughts and go along with her. “So, you are a witch. You should know I am a witch hunter… or well,” I ponder about my current status, “formerly was anyways.”
“You don’t believe you are alive?” she asks mockingly, a gleam settles in her eyes, “or you don’t think you were ever a hunter?”
Color and heat rose to my face, “I know I am not a witch,” I retort.
“Good, your memory does not fail.”
“Why did you save me?”
“Orders,” she replies curtly, crossing her arms on her chest. “If I had a choice I wouldn’t have saved you. I would’ve let you burn in the stake like many of my friends did because of you…” She then retracts from her proximity to me; she had been formerly leaning close to me.
I shudder at her words. “So you are a witch,” I assure myself for what seem like the third time.
“Would you like a demonstration?” she snaps at me with an edge on her voice.
“What’s your name?” I ask, then noticed her annoyed expression, “c’mon, at least I deserve to know the name of my savior!”
“Leila,” she answers, “and you are Adryan, the famous witch hunter, right?”
“Right,” I answer.
“I don’t want to waste my time in introductions and answering your stupid questions,” she says, “I am sent to inform you that you've been chosen to help us with our cause.”
“Which is?” I lift an eyebrow, this tale was getting stranger.
“Exterminating the demons lurking around the village, they are creating havoc and driving the community into false beliefs that women are witches. Luckily for them, they have a stupid hunter that falls for their tricks.”She cocks her head challengingly.
I enter another state of confusion by her words. I bit my lower lip, unable to form something to contradict her. “Witches are real.”
“They are, but not for the reasons you think. Not for the reasons everyone thinks as a matter of fact,” Leila says.
“What do you mean? How did you save me?”
Leila sighs. I listen attentively to every word she says, trying to understand the sudden change of path in my life. And I was about to discover if the change was for better or worse.