The Witch's Dragon
Chapter 1: An impromptu union
The odd quiet of winter blanketed the sleepy village of Yvoire. Their chimneys' plumbed with the smoke of banked fires as they, the chaperones, slumbered. The inky black tendrils of those smoldering coals coalescing into the pink, pregnant clouds that lay low in the night sky. Their thick heavy laden masses lazily availing themselves of large cotton swaths of Snow. The accumulation of these light balls on the fields below warded away sound and the creatures that made noise. All seemed cozy and quiet. All except for the house of Sauveterre.
The scrape of herbs under Mademoiselle Sauveterre’s pestle filled the front room of her cottage with a rhythmic grating. The remedial task was cathartic in its repetition and gave the woman freedom to think. A dangerous pass time for the Mademoiselle fore it chased away sleep and curb her conformity. Sleep was the least of her worries, though, as a clamoring outside interrupted her train of thought.
Mademoiselle Sauveterre paused her work to listen through the thick walls to see what was causing the racket. It sounded like a group of people shouting. What on earth? She thought as she went to the side of her window, so her shadow did not give away her location. She peaked through the knitted curtains to find a crowd armed with torches and makeshift weapons. At the for front of the horde was a woman bound and badly beaten being held up by two bedraggled farm boys. The woman’s sons in fact.
The boys’ father stepped from behind them and bellowed, “Isabelle Sauveterre, we know you are a witch! Come out and we will not harm one of your accolades.” The man held a torch to the beaten woman’s hair; the edges singed at the flames' heat. The woman let out a fearful scream as she struggled away from the flame and her captor's hold.
Isabelle clucked noiselessly in disapproval. Madam De Foe had not been an accolade, but a paying customer. Isabelle had warned of the risks and Madam De Foe had accepted them. Still, Isabelle's heart went out the woman. It was no wonder De Foe had wanted potions that granted control and fostered sleep. Empathy, however, did not out way Isabelle’s instinct for self-preservation. She stood in silence as the woman screamed and writhed under her family and the mob's torment.
When it became clear that Isabelle was not coming out, most of the mob threw rocks at her windows while the lords with guns took shots at her door. They screamed profanities and threatened unholy punishments that they would not dare to utter by themselves with her. In a crowd, though, their transgress were absolved, so they let out their savagery with wicked glee.
Isabelle turned away and pressed herself into the stucco wall to shield herself from the raining glass and shrapnel. They continued to assault the house till they could no longer hear the windowpanes shattering and the door was no long bound by its nob. She stuck petrified to the wall as she sucked in and held her breath.
There was a pause then. The crowd waited on the same bated breath as her to see what their ministration brought forth. Nothing, or at least, nothing they could see stirred. Someone, anxious to be back in their warm bed, called out, “Lets burn it to the ground!” The suggestion was met with a roar of approval.
Isabelle ducked down and crawled over broken shards to her shelves lined with boxes of herbs and potions in variously shaped stoppered bottles. Some of the bottles lay shattered from the onslaught and herbs were strewn about the floor. She sifted frantically through the mess, ignoring the blood that was oozing from cuts made by her journey across the littered floor. She needed to find something in the pile to save herself. “Anything!” she sobbed through a whisper.
The door flew open under the thud of a hulking man’s boot, making Isabelle skitter and press herself into the shelf to no avail. The man gave a wicked snaggle tooth smile before stepping back. Shadowed forms of villagers replaced him and threw their torches into the cottage. Isabelle scooped everything on the floor, broken glass and all, into her skirt and retreated from the flames. The people at the window and in the doorway saw her as she moved. They laughed and jeered and called out to surround the house and block her exit.
Isabelle cursed herself for not retreating sooner, but she had been terrified of being caught in the open. Now she was trapped. Doomed and desperate she ran around the small space looking for an escape. The kitchen was already a roaring blaze with flames that licked at the room above it. It was not safe to climb the stairs and the only other room downstairs was the front room. Terror swallowed her consciousness and animalistic instincts propelled her.
Isabelle began throwing everything she had bundled in her skirt at the flames. A herb caused crackling that made the mob shriek in fear and validation while a potion turned the smoke green and purple and an unnatural black. Some fled fearing being cursed. The more pompous and those who lacked wits stayed to stomp out that which they could not understand, and the fleers would call them brave.
Isabelle recognized these sorts and smiled as she darted through the columns of color, sucking her victims into the shadowy swirls one after another. She was not a great witch, she was barely a healer, but it had been a vocation that had kept her fed without having to wed and she had stayed in business by sheer cunning. She used that knowledge to beguile her way through her enemies defenses and out the front door.
She we met by stragglers, who watched and waited for the heroes to drag her out. They bristled in defensive positions at her emergence alone, but coward when they heard the men inside hoops and hollers of fear. She did not waste a moment this time and took the opportunity to flee.
Isabelle tore away from civilization coatless, bare foot, and bloody. She ran with all her might even as the thick snowbanks tried to suck her into their cold embrace. She was slow and weak, and the hunters of the village were gaining on her. Frantically she did the most desperate maneuver. She ran straight into the thick of the Forbidden Forest and continued to run even after her pursuers stopped their chase.
Thorns snagged at her in warning. Twigs snapped, “stop!” Dead leaves hissed, “go back.” She headed them not.
At the north most edge of the Forbidden Forest where the mountains met lake Lac d'Annecy lay a subterranean castle carved into the base of mount Aiguille du Midi. Its engineer and soul occupant, Bruwor, stirred at the snapping of twigs, the aggravated hiss of leaves and the snarl of thorns. Flame flared through the forest dragon’s nostrils as he huffed, “Who dares disturb my forest!?”
Nothing answered the beast. Still, he practically felt the continued assault on his land, like a tick burrowing through fur. Agitated he hulled his hulking form up and stomped through the tall pillared arched corridors. He emerged from the large, cavernous bowels into the towering entryway that could accommodate two dragons at full wingspan. He flung oven the heavy granite doors with the flare of his wing, as if they weighed nothing. Snow avalanched over his stoop to punch tough the ice of the lake.
The water churned the same way his stomach did at the violation to his land. Still, the sight reminded him he had to be careful. He hoarded leaves and pine needles the way fire drakes horded gold and one ill tempered move could have him destroying that which he held most dear.
He loped more cautiously along the coastline of the great lake to the stretch that was flattest and devoid of trees. When he reached it he began to trot and full on spring as he beat his wings against the earth. It had been a while since he had taken flight and he hadn’t expected to do so again till spring. Yet there Bruwor was fighting gravity with every thrust of his legs and beat of his wings.
The snow made him sluggish and weighed him down as he strained to get air born. The tree line was becoming ever closer as the ground refused to move further away. Harder the dragon beat his wings against the snow and ice as he used his legs jump in an effort to gain lift. It was too cold, and no thermal pockets filled his wings for better lift. He came to a skidding halt just before he hit the trees. Snow flew about him covering his wings and head. Bruwor gave a shake of displeasure from both the cold and the close call.
There had been a time Bruwor would have mowed down the pine for the sheer pleasure of feeling their bristles tickle at his belly when he took off or landed. That was his youth though and he had been foolish to live so recklessly, so destructively. He sighed feeling only empathy, knowing him and forest’s fate were bound to the whims of humanity. It made him want to protect its defenselessness all the more.
Bruwor turned back to the stretch of land now cleared of snow from his first attempt. The forest dragon sucked in the icy chill full of oxygen that fueled the fires in his belly. He spewed out fire along his path and ran into the flames before they could dissipate. The clearer that and heat from his flame gave him purchase as he took flight and this time he cleared the trees. Barely. They felt the bluster of wind as his wings flapped away from earth swimming towards cline in the sky where a dragon could float in the clouds like a duck on water.
Higher and higher Bruwor rose, his muscles straining from disuse. He groaned and roared out his last bursts of power as he finally burst through the pink cotton plumes that blocked out the night sky. Above the full moon cast blue light bright enough to dim the stars and make the clouds below glow with its enchanting light. Bruwor’s heart sang with peace at the sight, and he took the moment to catch his breath before the tickle of his tick agitated him again.
Remembering his purpose for the night flight the forest dragon plunged back down below the clouds. He glided across the underbelly of the pink vapors as he scanned his ward for the transgressor. His underbelly a different color from his scaly green body kept him hidden among the cumulus masses, so his presence would not spook the wildlife of the forest nor alert his trespasser of his coming.
Bruwor moved past pines towards the naked trees of the south where the forest called out its distress. It took no time for him to find the cause of the commotion. It was a feral human clawing its way across his lands. Sparks flared from his nostrils as he descended swiftly and silently upon the dastardly creature. Before reaching the canopy he flared out his wings to catch himself before he broke even a single branch.
The human finally noticed him. Her eyes flared widened in panic and she covered herself with bruised and bloodied arms. The pitiful site had Bruwor drawing up short.
Bruwor, like his selkie cousins from across the isles, could shed his skin and be human for as long as he could stand. Unable to land without harming his precious habitat he morphed into a form he detested and dropped the remaining gap though the naked branches; thankfully landing in a deep snow drift. The forest huddled too closely together for him to put back on his skins, so he tied them like a cloak around his neck and padded over to the woman cowering behind a tree.
His footsteps crunched in the snow alerting her to his presence. Like a spooked pheasant she fled her hiding spot. Bruwor was longer legged and stronger than her. He was on her in just a few strides. He caught her by the hair and jerked her close. She screamed in incoherent terror and kicked at him. He swallowed and moved his mouth only guttural grunts coming out as he tried to remember how to talk.
Finally, in her struggles she articulated something he could understand, “Let me go or I will curse you,” she threatened.
He laughed a deep booming laugh. She paused and looked at him not just in fear, but a calculative curiosity that had him wanting to explain. He split his lips in a grin and tired to talk, “I, you know, cursed,” he said not used to speaking in his human form.
She frowned not understanding him. Her movements belied that she thought he was stupid, and that she might outsmart him. He was hundreds of years old, so he doubted it. However, he was grated that she would think such a thing, so he tried again, “if only you know, I am already cursed.” He almost got it right this time. He knew it was wrong, but it had been so long, and he was sure the language had changed since last he spoke it anyways.
She understood this time. She looked up at the sky and then met his yellow cat like irises. Her own black ice blue irises were swallowed by the round onyx of her pupils. She began to beg, “please, please, I mean no harm, please let me go.”
She had gone from threats to prostrating herself so quickly Bruwor was taken aback. She must be a trickster he thought and bellowed without pity, “You trust pass on my forest there is no mercy for that!”
That made her eyes fill with tears and she screeched in blind panic no longer trying to be coy, or brave, “I had not choice! I needed shelter. I only sought asylum not to hurt. I swear, I swear it!”
“I only protect the forest,” he said not understanding why he didn’t just kill her then.
“Then I will be a part of the forest. Please, please just let me live!” she begged.
He paused a moment. She had done damage that demanded justice. She herself was damaged, though, and not by his forest. She was also ignorant of her crimes against his home. Still, he was bound by magical laws to the forest, laws that were as unbreakable as gravity, but not impossible to bend. Something about the woman called out to him and he found himself saying, “you will have to marry me.”
The look of horror etched on her face said it all, but to his surprise she swallowed and said, “for how long?”
He laughed again. She was the stupid one not him, “marriage is forever.”
He waited in dread for no knowing that he would have to kill her when she did. Instead, after a long pause, she asked another question, “would an engagement suffice for now? I would like my family to be present for the wedding.”
Bruwor shook his head, “no one can come, and I cannot leave. It would be done now or not.” He held out his hand palm up for her to take.
She hesitated and looked back towards the village out of sight. She shuffled her feet and then with a grown said, “alright,” and gave her hand to him.
Bruwor had never though of marriage. He had never liked or dislike, nor even fantasized about its impart on his life. It had been the only alternative he knew of and had offered it so readily without though, but now looking at his bride he was filled with a sense of dread as the impact of forever settled into his palm.
About the Creator
E. J. Strange
I am new to the writing community but hope to publish a novel one day. I am simple minded and sucker for romance.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.