I’m really excited to bring you this story. Mari Wells is my writing buddy, and we exchange pages regularly. We thought it would be fun to each write a complimentary story. Mari had input on my story, and I had input on hers.
Each story stands alone, but it’s more fun if you read them both. Please head on over to Mari’s place and read her story from the other point of view.
I made my way slowly into the old monastery chapel. It needed new thatch and smelled like more rats than monks lived here now. I knelt down before the cross and prayed – for my knees to hold up. There was a time I could stand vigil day and night, but that was years ago.
The old abbot watched from the vestibule and came forward with his holy water. He paused as I took the dirty cloth package from under my arm. It looked like any other piece of wool from this side.
When I unwrapped it, the crimson background with the white cross removed all doubt who I was. I unwrapped the holy sword, Il Benedeto, from the cloth and set it aside. I pulled the cloth over my head and lifted the sword toward heaven, kissing it’s hilt before turning it point down in the shape of the cross.
The Abbot crossed himself, splashed me with holy water and blessed me. He hung an old wooden cross around my neck from a string and turned toward the doors. “I must get to my chambers before dark. The beast, you understand?”
“I understand.” The old man was no fool. The beast killed at least nine people around Porthcawl. My back started protesting at the awkward position on the cold stone.
The Brotherhood cast me out after my last assignment. I worked as a cobbler, and finally a city watchman in Plymouth. Seven years since I dispatched Nell Braddock. The Brotherhood wanted a fire and a burning. She made my squire, Deacon Conyers, disembowel himself. I delivered her head to the brotherhood without their big show. Everyone considered her the nicer of two sisters.
This one calls herself the Lady of Porthcawl these days. It doesn’t matter, Adwen Braddock was here and one of us wasn’t going to see sunrise. For some reason, the Brotherhood didn’t lecture me on my methods this time.
I shifted my weight from one knee to the other. I arrived in town weeks ago. The first project was choosing the ground for our little meeting. A small meadow near the forest had a pretty little brook running through it. She would feel confident; lots of lines, forest and meadow, meadow and brook. Then there were the elements; earth, water, and air all at one point.
I tucked the pathetic wooden cross in my pocket and replaced it with a hagstone. God gave me eyes to see and a brain to think. The cross never saved poor Conyers. The man ate his own liver while he died. My stone was earth, made of fire, eroded by water to form a ring that held air. This stuff works and I wasn’t taking any chances.
I shifted from one knee to the other. First I hired a boy to dig a post hole in the meadow. Then I bought a worn out old wagon and paid the seller’s son to fill it with kindling and wood, and hide it in the woods near the meadow. These things had been ready for weeks, waiting for clear skies and a good moon to see by.
This afternoon, I paid the same boy to move St. Michael into the woods and conceal it. The small brass cannon was loaded with silver grape shot. It wouldn’t kill her, but it would stop her long enough to collect her head and get her to the wagon to burn. She wouldn’t get the chance to make the Magistrate eat his liver.
Three hours was all my knees could take. I hope The Maker will forgive me, but they need to work tonight too. I slipped out the back door of the chapel. The tiny graveyard was full of the beast’s victims. All witches have a familiar, and I longed for one with a dormouse. Adwen controlled a wolf.
They say an angry warrior is a dead warrior. I knew just the trick to get under Adwen’s skin. I made my way out of town and kicked the brush off the old cross I’d made, then nailed her sister’s bloody death dress to it. The Christian symbolism and her sister’s blood would drive Adwen mad. I carried it to the post hole, stood it up and kicked dirt inside.
The sun took forever to set. I was being watched, and I knew it. I didn’t dare glance at St. Michael, but it was only three feet away. I said a little prayer that I’d loaded it well. Come on Adwen, it’s a good place for you, clear lines, three elements, and I’m all alone. I stuck my sword in the soil next to me, and stretched my aching legs. My timing was perfect, the moon was already up. I couldn’t afford a half hour of total darkness.
He appeared at full darkness. It wasn’t so much a wolf as a beast of some kind. It looked like one of the deadly African beasts from the crusades. He trotted out like a healthy young hound, with hunched shoulders and an oversized head. Black as midnight, but for silver tips on his guard hairs. The silver hairs shone in the moonlight, and were all I could see. He looked like the ghost of a beast.
Adwen sent the henchman to do her dirty work. The beast approached from the edge of the meadow, too far left to use St. Michael. He circled out of range and tested the wind; they were talking, I was certain.
I needed him to approach toward the cannon, so I carried my sword in front of the barrel and moved to the cross. I unlaced my breeches and pissed on the dress.
The beast charged. They say if you kill a witch’s familiar she will die. I wasn’t so certain, but if I didn’t kill this one I was going to die. I spun and hooked the end of the cord with Il Benedeto. I yanked the cord, the sparker flashed and pulled free. St. Michael barked and flames covered the meadow.
The beast disappeared in the smoke and I raised my sword. The smoke drifted east and I crept ahead as quietly as I could.
The beast was torn and bloody. I prayed the silver destroyed whatever magical hold she had over him. If this didn’t finish Adwen Braddock, she’d be weakened for a month. It would be safer to approach her cabin in daylight. I wasn’t about to let my final witch take me down. Time for bed and a cold drink of water. At dawn I’d collect her head and burn her with the wagon or in her own hovel.