Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
A solitary wooden cabin hid itself deep within the rustling forest. Enclosed all around by towers of gnarled ancient trees, the thick black of night helped the cabin to completely disappear from sight. A glowing fire crackled in the hearth within the cabin, casting its dim red and gold light all about. Iron pots and pans hung from the mantelpiece as a thin boiled stew boiled in a pot over the fire. The wooden floor boards creaked as Agitha lightly padded across the room to mix the stew.
The pungent aroma filled the cabin as Agitha did a taste check, savoring the concoction from her rusty ladle in hand. She stirred in more salt as the wind outside tore viciously throughout the forest. Chill air whistled through the holes of the cabin as the howls of wind rose ever louder outside. She resumed her seat in a rickety wooden chair in the corner of the room. Spread out across the table before her was an assortment of small corked glass bottles and viles.
Agitha’s mother had practiced the art of witchcraft all her life. Since Agitha had grown old enough to walk, her mother had taught her all she knew with the aid of multiple incantations and spell books. When her mother had passed away years ago, Agitha had continued mastering the craft. It was how they made a living. Behind the small cabin was Agitha’s garden. It was divided in two parts. The left all herbs and spices needed for spells, the right all vegetables grown with magic to produce such flavors that no townspeople could duplicate it within their own crops.
Determined locals from the village would risk traveling thirty miles through the forest over fallen moss covered logs just to seek her assistance. Millions of spindly branches ripping at them with every step, and skittish yellow eyes peering out at them through the fog all the while. Desperate young women begging for love spells, older gentlemen after fame and power in town politics, jilted lovers demanding revenge, middle aged women longing for a child. They all brought large baskets laden with offerings upon each visitation. Fine black lace dresses, ruby rings, pearl necklaces, perfumes or the standard pouches of gold coins were her favorites. However, fire cast loaves of bread still powdery and warm or, the most expensive cuts of meat from the butcher’s shop sufficed.
The most desperate people would spare no lavish expense upon Agitha in the hopes of attaining her help. As secluded as her home may have been from the outside world, she still managed to receive an extensive amount of these urgent visitors. Earlier that day she had had a knock at her door. A shy young woman had stood on her doorstep, misty eyed as she had extended a wicker basket towards Agitha. The witch had looked upon the girl pensively for a moment before she sharply threw the handkerchief covering the basket aside to check the contents.
A dark bottle of red wine, a block of cheese, seasoned almonds, a thin bottle of narcissus petals in fragrant oil, and a pair of silver earrings. The earrings were shaped like two dangling snakes, their emerald eyes glinted as if they were truly alive. Agitha had thrown the cloth back atop the items and instantly knew the desperation for help in this girl was great. “Your desire?” Agitha had questioned. The young woman’s unkempt black bun of frizzing hair and teary eyes lead Agitha to guess this woman had been plagued by some form of tragedy. It turned out that the young woman’s brother of nine years was on his death bed. She sought out his full recovery.
It was nearly midnight now as Agitha’s bony white fingers set to work with the ingredients before her. With a small pair of metal pinchers, she extracted two dragonfly wings from a small vile-for a swift recovery-and dropped them into the clay bowl in front of her. She uncorked another bottle and added five drops of sparrow’s blood for life force. Half a cup of rejuvenating river water, three drops of honey for sweetness of life, half a vile of jasmine for soothing, frog’s legs to spring life back into the boy, and a hair from his head that had been carefully concealed in a napkin. All these were mixed together with great care in the silence of her small cabin.
Now she needed to await the glow of the moon to show in the night into the bowl to complete the potion. The glow would help restore the glow into his youthful cheeks as the final touch. Next, she would boil it all and then pour the steaming potion at the base of one of her pink roses outside. The rose would then be dug up by the roots, a small cloth would be tied round the roots to keep them intact, and then the entire flower would be ground down and swallowed by the spoonful. After just one spoonful of the enchanted flower, the boy’s health was guaranteed to improve immediately.
Agitha would have her pet raven deliver the rose to the young woman’s pillow that night. She had specifically instructed the woman to sleep with her window left open that night to ensure the delivery of the rose. Agitha cleared away all of the viles and bottles to their respective shelves, removed the stew from the fire, and peered out her front door at the night sky. The wind had blown through the sky and the moon had begun to show from behind the purple swirls of clouds above. Grabbing the smooth clay bowl, she walked out of her front door into the night.
Carefully, she raised the bowl and its contents before her at shoulder level. Gazing up, she gently sighed over the bowl and then blew an intentional soft puff of air over it. Instantly, the clouds cleared and the moon cast its soft light down upon her. “Perfect,” she thought to herself as she gently smiled. The milky illumination of the moon lit up her form. Her dark brown hair had been secured atop her head and covered with the hood of her cloak. Her fair skin beneath the light of the moon seemed to emit light in the middle of the dark forest as if magic was radiating from her very person.
Agitha peered down into the bowl as she turned to open the door to her home. But wait! What was this? She let out a startled yell, nearly dropping the bowl but caught it just in time. She was sure she had seen the face of a man in the reflection of the bowl. With one hand on the door knob, she put her back to the door and looked about her in confusion.
The trees continued to rustle as the wind blew back her hood. Loose strands of her wavy hair danced about her face as she continued to look around. But she saw no one. Turning around, she slammed the door behind her. What was that? Who had she seen? Shaking her head, she busily set her focus on the potion now boiling in a small black cauldron. Maybe it had just been her eyes playing tricks on her.
She allowed her hair to cascade down her back in a waterfall of wavy brown tresses as sipped at some chamomile tea to calm her nerves. Her pet raven Cunningham watched her silently with one eye from his suspended cage near the cupboards. Once the potion had boiled and she had properly prepared the rose, she opened Cunningham’s cage. Perched on her finger, she opened a window. She inserted the stem of the rose into Cunningham’s beak and let him take flight as she promptly shut the window behind him.
She walked across the room and pulled out a large fur skin rug from atop a shelf and unfurled it luxuriously over the floor boards near the fire place. She rested her head against a red satin pillow as she burrowed herself into silk lined fur blankets of black panther skins. A sailor who had traveled abroad had purchased the furs from Amazonian tribesmen in the jungles of South America long ago. He had paid Agitha his most precious and exotic furs in exchange for the hand of the woman of his desire. After he had swirled three drops of his blood into the love potion to complete the spell, he had managed to somehow trick the woman into drinking the enchantment.
To his delight, they had wed one week later. It was too bad that not three weeks into their marriage, the wife had flown into a fit of jealous rage and hacked him to pieces in his sleep. Magic spells guaranteed the specific desire was obtained, but overall long term outcomes after the magic had done its work, well that was always unpredictable. The flames from her fireplace flickered in the reflection of Agitha’s large eyes as she lay there motionless amongst the soft furs. Shadows lingered all about the room watching over her silently from the corners of her home.
The front door suddenly burst open causing Agitha to shoot up at once. Heart pounding, she laughed to herself as she realized a particularly strong gust of wind had blown the door open. Parchment papers fluttered and spell books flapped open on the table as she went to shut the door against the wind. Dragging a large chest full of precious garments and jewelry she had come to acquire over the years, she set it against the door to ensure it did not open again. As Agitha turned around to face the room, a hand seized her by the throat.
She was violently thrown back against the wall as she clasped at the hand wrapped around her neck. Gasping for air, she gazed up to see the strong hand currently choking her belonged to a man. “Do you know who I am?” he whispered menacingly at her. She shook her head no, still gasping for air as she clawed away at his hand. His furrowed eyebrows rested above large, completely black, ferocious eyes. As she looked into his eyes, a flood of terror came over her.
His lips parted into a demented smile that made the blood in her veins stand still. She began to feel weak from lack of oxygen, but just as she nearly fell faint, he released his grip from around her throat. Gagging and coughing, she sank to the floor trying to regain her breath. He looked down at her silently, the evil grin still fixed across his face. Agitha finally managed to splutter, “Who are you? What do you want?” He tilted his head back as he maliciously laughed without resignation. The laughter boomed through the cabin and made her head pound.
Abruptly, his laughter ceased and he stooped down to meet her gaze, his nose nearly touching hers. His black hair was slicked back and glistened in the fire light. He chattered his sharp, perfectly white teeth at her slowly; reminiscent of a wolf preparing to feast on its prey. “If it’s riches you want, I have plenty,” offered Agitha in alarm. “Take it all.” She hoped her offer would suffice and that he would soon leave. “I don’t want any of your things,” he replied in a tone slightly above a whisper. Slowly he went on, “I’ve come here to collect,” and here he paused as he raised his eyebrows with a look of amusement. “What? What do you want?” she persisted growing angry at this lunatic who had broken into her home.
She was becoming more furious by the second. If this stranger thought he could enter her home, harass and rob her as a thief in the night, with no consequences…Well she would be sure to use one of her most heinous spells to make him suffer one-thousand different ways. She would leave him begging for death by the time she was finished repaying him for all of this. He continued to watch her as he backed a few inches away from her face as he let out a snicker of laughter.
“This is why I like you. That fire you have within,” the man said with a small chuckle as he waged a finger at her condescendingly. “I know what you are thinking,” he continued. “No amount of Egyptian’s alligator tears, bat’s blood, or ground stoned powder from mountains at the ends of the earth will even slightly affect me. You cannot so much as lay harm to the smallest fingernail on my hand,” he sneered as he raised a wiggling pinky finger in mockery.
His crisp white suit was unblemished from head to toe. She wondered how he had traveled out so far through the woods without the faintest trace of his journey showing on his attire. Even his polished black shoes were immaculate. Her bosom rose and fell as she breathed heavily in anger. Her hair was in disarray and had fallen over now covering half of her face. “Oh, don’t be that way,” he teased vindictively as he cleared the hair from her face. She dodged his hand as she glared at him with contempt, yet remained silent.
Now at the mercy of this powerful stranger, she was unsure of what to do next, so she sat and waited. “Why do you think you and your mother have been so skilled at witchcraft?” he abruptly questioned. What an absurd question she thought to herself. How did he know anything about her or her mother? Who was this man? The fire had begun to dwindle down. The room went black, but they remained where they were.
His eyes began to radiate a red light and suddenly flames burst from the hearth. The fire was crackling loudly in the hearth once more. “Your mother, when she was a young woman, she desired to be a highly skilled witch.” The man now stood over Agitha as she looked up at him. He went on, “She made the devil a promise in blood. If her wishes were granted to her and she obtained the skills she so dearly desired, she vowed to give her only daughter to him in marriage.” Agitha remained frozen, eyes widening as she came to the realization of what he was revealing to her. “So now,” he said as he eyed Agitha’s delicate form clothed in her silk and lace maroon dress, “I have come to collect.”
“No,” whispered Agitha as one of her hands clasped her neck in alarm. “Oh yes,” retorted the man. The smile had gone from his face, and the greedy blank stare of a vicious animal was facing her now. He grabbed her left hand with his left hand and held them up intertwined together. A dark voice rumbled all about them, “A life begun in an oath of blood, now sealed to end in an oath of blood!” A green flame enveloped their hands as Agitha screamed and fought to break away. The nails of his right hand grew into claws as the house shook all around them.
He pierced her left wrist in the flames and caught some of the crimson drops in his mouth. Smashing his open mouth into hers, his sharp teeth ripped into her lips as blood smeared across their mouths. Her silver snake earrings had come to life and bit at her neck repeatedly with their piercing fangs. Releasing her from the kiss, he hauled Agitha across the room to the fireplace where the violent red flames were now shooting out twelve feet tall. Releasing their clasped hands, he raised both arms and shouted over the rumbling of the house and the roaring of the fire, “We are sealed together as one forever now my love!”
She stood hunched over in pain from her left hand crying and screaming repeatedly in anguish, “No!” He grabbed her by the left wrist and smirked as he admired the small diamond skull with ruby eyes that had been permanently welded into the flesh of her wedding finger. The ring’s band was made completely of piercing black thorns secured tightly to her flesh, and blood oozed down her hand as she ran for her front door. She let out a final scream of terror as he caught her by the waist just inches from the door. With a final twisted smile, he flung her into the flames.
The fire instantly enveloped her and she disappeared. He took one last look about the room and then followed her into the eternal flames of the nether world. The fire instantly died, the rumbling of the cabin ceased, and darkness fell upon the silent cabin. The next morning, the faint light emitting from behind the gray clouds shone through the window shutters that had blown open the night before. A few drops of blood stained the floorboards near the smoldering hearth. It was at this time that Cunningham had returned and perched himself atop the windowsill. Seeing that his home was now devoid of his master, his long wings flapped as he took flight and disappeared into the surrounding forest mist.
Credit To – miss ivory