I walked out of Ariana's little cabin, feeling confused and a bit angry. I didn't want either of us to get hurt, but we both had our hands tied. I kicked a rock moodily and went to the house where I was staying, hoping that the head of the village and his family wouldn't interrogate me too much. The other villagers, thankfully, had already gone inside; the gently glowing windows on the thatched-roof cottages reminded me it was winter and I should get inside before I froze. I walked up to the door and put on my "grim witch hunter" face before I knocked.
The middle child, who was about seven- Jane, I think her name was? Yes, Jane. She stepped aside to let me in, staring up at me with wide eyes, and I nodded at her. The kid just gawked at me. I ruffled her hair and walked past her into the kitchen. The man of the house, Sean, greeted me with a boisterous clap on the shoulder.
"Simon! Just the man I wanted to see!" I nodded at him, keeping my expression in check. I needed to look professional. His wife, Maria, smiled at me and pulled out a chair at the kitchen table. Not wanting to be rude, I took it.
"So, you've been into the witch's lair! Did you get any intelligence?"
I nodded slightly and sipped from the glass of water Maria offered me. "A week. That's all I need."
Sean gave a deep laugh that filled the room. "Right on top of it! And home in time for dinner, as well. We'll discuss more over the meal, hm?"
I nodded again, playing it cool. He rose from his chair and lumbered over to the front door. "Children! Dinner!"
Not three minutes later, five children had washed their hands and were sitting at the table. The youngest, Jack, was four; already I could tell he was a troublemaker by the way he was kicking his sisters under the table. Rachel was six, Jane was seven, Albert was nine, and the oldest was Tina at eleven. I have to admit, I was impressed; raising five kids of those ages at once and having such discipline among them must have been quite the challenge.
Maria came over and put a huge dish full of meat, cheese, and what looked like potatoes on the table. The family said grace (I didn't join in- I've never been religious) and started passing the dish around. I took a spoonful or two and passed it to Sean, trying to keep my face blank. I had to at least portray an air of grim confidence, even if this entire situation was making my head hurt. The kids started berating their mother with news of their friends and the pond that they had discovered that day, while Sean occasionally interjected humorous comments that resulted in childish giggles. These people seemed so nice. I wondered how they could have possibly justified turning someone in as a witch, knowing full well that she would most likely die. I put down my fork; I thought about this in every town, but it didn't fail to make me a little sick every time.
After dinner, Sean leaned back in his chair and got out a pipe. I watched, waiting for him to speak first. He lit his pipe and took a long drag, exhaling an impressive smoke ring.
"So, lad. Tell me about this witch."
I waited a few seconds before responding. "She's definitely dangerous."
"Indeed she is! There isn't a boy in this village that hasn't fallen for her witchcraft at some point or another."
I raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"The girl ensnares them with her voice. Makes 'em think she's the most lovely creature in the world."
I can see how that would happen, I thought. Immediately I pushed it away. I was there to either compromise with her or capture her, not fall for her like a kid with a crush. I nodded slowly. "Thanks. I can use that."
Sean looked surprised but pleased. "Glad to be of service. How're you plannin' to capture the temptress?"
I thought for a moment. "Most likely I'll need to block her voice, and then lure her to a place where I can easily handcuff her. A witch this dangerous will be wanted alive."
The head of the village looked at me curiously, speaking around his pipe. "Why would that be?"
Actually, I had no idea, but I decided to tell him my suspicion. "So they can either torture her for her secrets or kill her their way. I know that some witches, if they're useful, are forced to swear an unbreakable oath of fealty to the king and serve the kingdom with their talents. Those are few and far between though."
Sean scratched his beard thoughtfully. "That's a smart way of doing it. How do you think this one'll end up?"
"Not sure. I don't have a full scope of her power or her ability yet. But at this point? Probably torture or death."
The man nodded, and we both fell silent for a moment. On the outside, I was calm and collected, but in reality my thoughts were whirling. Mainly, I was trying to convince myself that hunting witches was necessary for Sharon and me to survive. It wasn't working so well, because my gut kept wrenching with guilt when I thought of how many people I had probably killed. Much to my relief, Sean finally spoke.
"Well, we should get to bed then. Early start in the morning, eh?"
I inclined by head slightly in agreement, standing up in one fluid motion. "Of course."
He put out his pipe and stood up. He was a few inches taller than me, but I hoped that I didn't seem short. Sean started thumping up the stairs, gesturing for me to follow. I was led to a small guest room, where my saddlebags were already waiting for me. I assumed that Arabel was in the village stables.
"There you are. Make yourself at home."
I gave him a short bow. "I appreciate it greatly."
Sean laughed and clapped me on the shoulder. Honestly, I was surprised my arm was still attached to my body at that point. "Our pleasure, son. You're doing us a great favor, the least we can do is give you a place to sleep."
I gave him a small smile, bowing again. "Nevertheless, I'm grateful."
"Again, no problem. I'll just let you have your privacy now." He shut the door, leaving me to my own devices.
As I pulled my shirt over my head, I allowed myself to think about what he said earlier. All the boys fell for her, huh? It would just mean I'd have to be extra careful. There was no way I could develop romantic feelings for her- sure, she was funny and cheerful, but I just couldn't afford to let that get complicated. I climbed between the sheets, wearing my sleep pants, and laid there for a while. I would definitely have to watch my step.
I didn't update last week…so sorry. This is what I've been procrastinating on, hope it turned out alright. Review please! ~kandyblood, over and out~