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The Hushed Valley

She was not always cruel and wicked.

By Caleb LahrPublished about a month ago 3 min read

In the hushed green throat of Dunmire Valley, where shadows drew breath on the wind and forgotten whispers lingered, a strange village huddled beneath perpetual pale mists. Here, squatting at the edge of primal woods, leaned the witch Eveline's moss-blanketed shanty, its crooked bones twisted from the cursed black timbers of Salem's woe. Its sagging roof, pelted endlessly by the falling sky-tears, seemed one rain more from dissolving into loam.

Once, by golden firelight, this cottage had birthed herbal scents of thyme and ginger to dance among rafters loved with laughter's warm spores. But now, in the morning beforelife of this dread night, its air was choked with the sour revenants of decay, the drowned lamentations of innocents long cast into eternity's well.

As the moon hauled its bulbous, feverish eye above the pitch pines, villagers shuddered behind bolted doors, mouthing warding sigils against the coming reign of the Witch of Dunmire. Eveline who haunted, whose dread spirit stalked gnarled grievances, ancient and imaginary, against any who breathed. They warded against her name, a curse to sap joy's marrow from any uttered.

Within her lair, the crone's taloned fingers convulsed about a tarnished spoon while her cauldron's bone-bubbled phlegm cast macabre shadows capering upon soot-hung walls. The firelight's wick gilded the deep canyons of abhorrence scoring a face once fair as summer's first violet, now a devil's mask of rancid hate.

Then...a faint knocking, a tremor against the dank silence. Frost-rimed knuckles clenched, for none, save Death's errand souls, dared breach unholy ground past the ebb of day's tide. "Enter," a voice creaked, dry as revenants' burned tongues.

The door groaned wide, a blackened maw, wheezing the scent of evergreens and revealing a pale wraith, a girl-child trembling with birdlike dread; her gown clutched about some pathetic swathed burden.

"P-Please," stuttered the fawn, her meadow-breath pooling white as a last rabbit braves the wolf's shadow.

From the cadaverous smirk straining Eveline's lips, no charity clawed for life in that blighted briar heart. "And why, little mouse, should a witch's blood-baked favors grace the likes of your brood's dropped leavings?"

The young girl's sorrowful gaze drifted downward as she carefully unraveled the folds of the weathered bundle she carried with her. Within its depths, she unearthed a relic box fashioned from bone, adorned with intricate glyphs that seemed to pulsate with an ominous energy. The palpable hum emitted from the box resonated through the air, reminiscent of the rhythmic reverberation of a blacksmith's anvils at work.

"This token," whispered she, throat aflame from the crone's miasmic glower. "An heirloom...grannam said 'twould grant one wish to whosoever possessed it."

The artifact's languid crawl whispered silent Sabbaths, Black Masses, witch-princes sacrificed at midnights blacker still. Eveline's dead eyes blazed with rancid hunger as her claws snatched forth the blasphemous prize.

"Very well, doe-whelp," she panted in poison-breath euphoria. "I shall breathe life's cold spark back through your wasting get's lungs. But mark well–every incantation exacts its toll, for magic is a force that demands sacrifice."

The poor child beaded with terror's pearls, could only nod, only whimper, "Anything..."

Eveline's frost-thorned fingers clawed compositions of moldering radiance, droning syllables whose withered flow predated the forest's most gnarled oak. An icebound rime glazed the beams and the thatch, as if the grave's gel seeped inward from blackest dreams. The child's doomed kin, far away, would soon convulse in the crone's vile healing throes. But the cost...the cost...

As the spell's foul chorion burst, viridian fulgor, smelted from everlong hells, shone malevolently from within the relic's cunning lathes and spirals, bathing the witch's death mask in a luminescent pyre. Her cawing, dust-dry mirth held no warmth, only a frigid rapture to congeal marrow at twenty paces.

The quaking girl, at last sensing the void behind those eyes, the Hell those lips had wildly vowed, recoiled in primal fear of life's dusk unveiling.

"Thy witling lies cozened in dreamstuff's rose-warmth, spawn of filth," Eveline keened. "But thou...thou art unchurched, unblest and unmourned!"

The scream lancing out shattered every glass to crystalline tears. In their shuttered lairs, the villagers convulsed as one at its soul-shriveling birth-pang, another heart stilled by Dunmire's dragonhag.

Outside, beneath the hill-hanging smorge of moon, the witch stood alone, omnipotent, omnivorous, her claws caressed by the relic's droned essence...

She was not always cruel and wicked.

PsychologicalthrillerShort StoryMysteryHorrorFantasy

About the Creator

Caleb Lahr

Welcome to a realm where reality blurs and magic beckons. My stories weave the fantastic with the familiar, reflecting a deep understanding of the human condition shaped by my background in human rights advocacy and legal research.

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    Caleb LahrWritten by Caleb Lahr

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