These are troubling times. It was a time where witches were seen as the devil's subordinates and no female was safe from the many prejudices and gossips of the village folk. Some are sentenced to death just on mere rumors. This is why my grandmother and I are living on the outskirt of the village, away from prying eyes. We may not be witches, but our ways of living compliments their beliefs of witch craft.
It is now winter and with Jack Frost working his magic, there weren't many activities to engage in. The forest this time of year can be compared to a cruel beauty. The snow layers everything in pure white, as if the angels were covering this world with their wings, and yet life is being sucked out. The birds are scurrying away to warmer destinations, and the bears seem to have vanished into thin air. Even with life vanishing, however, there are still few exceptions, like herbs that are only borned with winter's cruel love. So here I am, gathering lemongrass, lavenders, and bay laurel that are protected from the snow by the hollow-ins of the trees. Walking through the frozen plain, I couldn't help but notice the shadows of animals peering from afar. They seemed so curious, so naive, so unprepared for the dangers ahead. The animals are cute, really, but grandmother never allows me keep pets.
While observing the wildlife, I felt something peculiar. Warmth…in the middle of winter. Did someone start a campfire in the middle of the woods? Maybe there was a festival I didn't know about? In the end, curiosity got the best of me as I find myself cautiously walking towards the origin of the warmth. Steadily I closed in and then...I stopped to a bizarre sight.
In the middle of the field was a patch of sunflowers, still very alive and golden in color. Not only that, there was also a young lady resting on top of the flora. Her clothes seems to match many of the ladies I've seen coming into the village from the motherland, Great Britain; white like snow with ribbons of velvet and lace springing from her waist. She had her eyes closed and was absolutely still, motionless…was she even breathing?
"Miss? Miss! Are you alright?"
I creeped up to the young lady, taking note of how warm it was around her little circle of sunflowers. Placing the palm of my hand on her cheek, I only felt coldness compared to the atmosphere around her.
"Young lady?! Dear lord! Somebody! Hel-" I definitely did not expect to be cut off by a cold hand.
"It is best to watch your tongue, little girl. You never know when it is going to get you in trouble, or get cut off for the matter."
Little girl?! Surely I am older than her! Why, she looks to be about fourteen while I was in my mature sixteen's. My frustrations, however, quickly subsided when I felt no oxygen entering my lungs. Rashly, I yanked her hand away from my mouth. Lord, she was practically choking me to death! I turned back to her, encouraged only by the anger that was filling me.
"Y-You! Why is your skin so cold? In fact, why is there a patch of sunflowers in the middle of winter?! I want an explanation, especially since you almost suffocated me."
I waited for an answer as I try to gain back my breath, but the girl paid no attention to me. She took a step towards the ground and with her hands up in the air, proceeded to stretch her limbs. I placed my hands on my hips, trying my best to wilt down my rising irritation.
"What are you? A demon? Devil? Witch perhaps?" Such accusations will usually lead to a slaughter in this era, but in my defense, I was getting impatient with her. I have so many questions swirling in my head and yet she does even give me the time of day! Finally, she turned, but instead of anger as I expected, a smile adorn her pale face.
"Hmm, a devil you say? Well, I'm not that high up yet. A witch? That's something only humans would be. A demon? Such a cliche word isn't it? Well, let's just say that I'm...a fiend."
I was stunned. Of all the things to encounter, I've met one of the worst possibility. I inspect the surrounding area, looking for a route of escape. The fiend chuckles at my antics, though her laugh was rough, as if she had really never used it. Her abyss-like eyes sparkle with a certain mischief befitting of her age, and her hair, seemingly like living fire, sways with every movement she makes.
"Better not run away now. Your curiosity is still gnawing at you."
My ears perked up at the statement. Begrudging I stayed put with one leg behind the other, ready to bolt at any given second.
"Why are there sunflowers you ask? Simple. It is purely science, but I suppose humans haven't gotten that far yet, so it'll be a waste to explain. Also, cold skin is natural to a fiend like me isn't it...or do you want proof?"
Suddenly my body froze. The fiend stalks towards me, like a beast hunting it's prey. I looked down to my legs, desperately trying to free them from the invisible force, but to no avail. When I looked up again, we were face to face.
Her breath was like frost and her hands were as cold as a knife as she laced them around my neck. She gave a squeeze, lets go, and then squeezes again. Before she could make up her mind, I noticed a large bark on the ground next to me. In that split second, however, her grip tightened. I felt my eyes bulging and my arms tried to pry her off.
Quick! Quick! Legs...move! Come one! MOVE!
With an sudden burst of strength I quickly bent down and grabbed the bark. My vision was blurry, but I swung hazardly and aimlessly. There was a yell of pain and then I saw the world cleared up. I gasped for much needed air before finally becoming aware of my soon to be murderer. She was on the ground rubbing her sides, wincing at each delicate touch. I did the only thing that came naturally to me, I ran.
That's new. Despite my instincts telling me to keep running, I just couldn't help but glance back. The fiend was crouching over a tree, bombarded with laughter. Her hands gripped the snow revealing bones while her legs quivered in weakness.
"I-I really, really adore you! To hit a fiend with a bark? To look back? Killing off such an individuality would be a fool's act. Such bravado, or is that simply stupidity?"
I stood my ground, holding my weapon in front of me. How dare she laugh!
"Why you fiend! Let me tell you! I'm not afraid of you! Next time, I'll hit you twice as hard!"
Again, the fiend could only laugh. Several seconds pass when she finally regained her composure. Coughing away the chuckles, she waved her hand, beckoning me to come over. I dare not.
"Humans are civilized creatures or so I've heard, so why not tell me your name little girl?"
I huffed at the statement. "It is usually common courtesy to give the pursuer's name first, but on the side of good grace, I shall indulge you fiend. My name is Luciana Francis."
The girl moves her mouth, as if tasting the name in order to test it for flavor. Finally, after a moment's rest, she opened her mouth and offered her hand.
"I was given the name Ralphina. My fellow fiend call me Ralph while you humans call me Wrath."I gulped as I hesitantly took a step forward. I'm definitely not going to show her any fear! I glanced at the cold hand and looked back up to the fiend's smiling face.
"Ralph...Ralph it is then."
And so this is how I became friends with a fiend. Whether it's for worse or for the better, well, that's a story for another time.