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Easter01's Short Stories

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:52 pm

Oh, wow!!!



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:30 am


Wigeon and the Witch
by Joanne and Richard Easter(c) 2015




Part 9

A Journey to the East

The news of Tianna's death had been shattering to Sensua. Although witches tended to associate with others of their kind in small groups or covens, they were by nature highly individualistic and mistrustful. Witches had no true friends; their society was ranked by power. Those with the greatest skill and power in the craft led; lesser witches followed. All watched for opportunities to usurp those above them and advance their own status in the hierarchy. A coven was thereby a boiling cauldron filled with intrigue and manipulation, plots and schemes; another witch could be useful in your own search for power, but could never be fully trusted.

Tianna had been the closest to a friend that Sensua ever had. From that chance encounter in the Great Forest so many years ago, they had grown in power together. Each had supported the other during their time together, while fully aware that a day might come when the quest for greater power would make it  necessary for one to betray the other. It was only Sensua's far greater strength, and her affection for Tianna, that had postponed the inevitable. But now, Tianna was gone, and there was no one left in whom she might confide.

There was only Wigeon.

After being released from the red jewel, Wigeon had accepted his exchange of captors with remarkable  tranquility. Another, finding himself in such circumstances, might have ranted and cursed, and tried to thwart her control at every opportunity, but Wigeon had served her fully and well for these last four years. Even though he was a wizard and the nature of his order demanded service for the betterment of humanity, she had but to ask, and he did her bidding without forcing her to exert the power of her control over  him.. She could have fogged his mind with the power of the silver chain, as she had with Nicholas, and subverted him to wickedness, but somehow she could never bring herself to do that to him. Sensua was well aware that she had required him to do many things that he found distasteful or even appalling, but never had he given any indication of his true feelings.

But when he looked at her with those sad brown eyes, she had felt unexpected twinges of guilt.

On the day that she first met him, those eyes had seemed to penetrate to her very soul, to know every secret thought or hidden desire; to know her, as no one ever had.

Four years ago, she had not gone looking for Wigeon. She had sought only to acquire the famous staff of the Warlock Mog, and wield its power for her own desires. Mog had a fearsome reputation; powerful in his own right, his strength was increased many-fold by the power of his staff; no magic-user had dared to challenge him for many years. Mog was contemptuous of witches, did not regard them as threats, and did not even bother to add them to the growing collection within his staff. This perception would, perhaps, be a fatal weakness. Sensua knew she was not as powerful as Mog, but she had no doubt that she was smarter and equal in cunning and malice. The power of the staff would be invaluable, possibly essential, in obtaining her revenge against Nicholas. With Tianna's aid - and at this time there were only the two of them - she could set a trap for the Warlock and capture the staff.

Mog was known to live in a cave high in the B'aktil Jadari, a range of mountains which rose precipitously from the northern edge of the great interior plain in the land across the eastern sea. B'aktil meant "black" in the language of the nomadic tribes of the region, and the Black Mountains were so named from the cloak of dark coniferous trees that covered their flanks. The designation was also appropriate in other ways, as well, for the mountains were viewed with superstitious dread by the tribes as the haunt of demons and malignant spirits.

Sensua and Tianna took passage on a ship across the eastern sea, and disembarked at a bustling port city on the shores of the eastern continent. From the third-story window of their room in a local inn, the peaks of the Black Mountains could be seen as a faint smudge on the horizon, more than a hundred leagues distant across the plain. For the next week, the two women frequented the souks and bazaars of the city, drinking the strong kaf from tiny cups and eavesdropping on conversations that swirled about them in the busy markets. They saw many practitioners of small magics, shamans and soothsayers and fortunetellers; many were obviously charlatans, but clearly some were possessed of the gift. Carefully worded inquiries at last led them to a small dark room above a stall where exotic meats were sold, and a small dark-skinned man whose head was wrapped in cloth so that only his piercing eyes were visible. After payment of a large sum in gold, he was at last persuaded to draw them a map of the route to the mountain in which Mog was said to reside. His final words to them were ominous: "You seek the great Warlock," he said. "You will die."

They fell in with a caravan that was crossing the sea of grass to the shores of a lake in the foothills of the Black Mountains. They rode upon the delicate-featured but sturdy horses native to the region, and at night when they set up their tent, they kept to themselves and did not mingle with others in the caravan. The nomads, in their striped robes, cast fearful eyes upon the women and made signs to avert evil, and were glad when, at last, the witches turned away from the caravan and set off into the heart of the dark and forbidding mountains.

A month had passed since they first set foot on the continent, and now Sensua and Tianna found themselves at the base of the lofty mountain identified for them as the home of the Warlock. Mog's cave was said to be at the base of a cliff, about halfway to the summit, but the dark man had been unsure as to its exact location. Logic told them that wards to alert of intruders would be set, and so it was time to change. They were gambling that the wards would not be sensitive to their animal forms, but it could turn out very badly if they were attuned to detect magic in any form. Nevertheless, it was a risk that they were willing to take.

Cat and rat slipped silently through the trees and underbrush. As they ascended, the air began to cool and the forest gradually transformed from a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees to a boreal forest comprised solely of dark green pine, spruce, and firs. The floor of the evergreen forest was speckled with sunlight and shadow and covered with a thick layer of brown needles. Climbing still higher, the forest became thicker and gloomier. At last they came to a break in the canopy, the interruption provided by a cliff of red sandstone that stretched around the mountain as far as they could see; at the base was a long talus slope of boulders and rubble. Taking in the landscape though the dazzling sunlight, Sensua and Tianna glanced at each other in dismay, for the face of the cliff was pitted with numerous holes and openings across its length.

This was going to take longer, and be more hazardous, than they had anticipated.



Wigeon and the Witch
continues with Part 10
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Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:23 pm

I love how you are telling the story through reflection, Joanne!

Your description of the forest had me right there in it with Cat and Rat, feeling the coolness, seeing the play of sunlight and shadow, and smelling the trees and undergrowth <3



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Postpoppy100 on Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:46 am

Every time you tell a story joanne, I always think about this picture
                         it been in my my folder for a long time for your easter images
                                                  I think she looks a lot like you  giggle

                                                      


thanks for your lovely siggie Crissi  hugsmilie 
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:28 am

You both are so wonderful. Thank you sooo much. I always wanted to write stories. In college I took as many literature classes as my electives would allow. I had to set dreams aside and get a degree in something I believed would help me make a living. Making car payments and keeping food on the table is a reality and not a dream.

I was able to take an early retirement from the workforce a few years ago, so now I have time to relax and finally explore all the stories I want to write. There are so many. I do have an interesting question. I wonder if the great American novel has vampires.

Joanne



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Postpoppy100 on Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:37 am

Just make a nice time with all your writing joanne
             It's so beautiful to see you'' That you have so much fun with your talent
                    Keep on making lots of beautiful stories
                                          bighugs


thanks for your lovely siggie Crissi  hugsmilie 
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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:07 am

LOL, Joanne!

There are some great stories here...

...I really enjoyed the L.A. Banks' series - a very different take on Vampires :D

She passed away in 2011, but her stories live on <3

Here's a link to her Wikipedia page - all her titles are listed, included are the Vampire Huntress series.

L.A. Banks

Vampire Huntress Series Page



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:28 pm


Wigeon and the Witch
by Joanne and Richard Easter(c) 2015



Part 10

Mog the Warlock

Their only course was to cautiously inspect each hole in the cliff, one by one, and hope that they would not be caught. If they had to investigate every opening, it might take weeks to locate Mog's abode, under constant threat of detection and the strain of remaining continuously in animal form.

They were lucky. On the second day, Sensua came upon the faint trace of a trail leading through the boulders up to the cliff face. She sniffed the pathway and her whiskers bristled; the odor upon the trail was foul, but recent.

He is here, she sent to Tianna. Join me at the base of the broken tree.

In moments there was a slight scurrying sound, and a brown rat came into view from among the broken rocks, climbing up onto a small boulder that would place her at a level with Sensua's eyes. Above them, the ghostly white form of a tree struck by lightning long ago rose into the sky, its branches now only barren stubs. Tianna's nose twitched. What now?

Go investigate his lair. Sensua informed her. He is likely accustomed to rats living in this rubble, but would be suspicious of a cat.

Tianna blinked, and then jumped down from the boulder and scurried away. Sensua waited for her beneath the blasted tree, her tail jerking occasionally. An hour passed, and then another, and Sensua was becoming concerned when the rat popped up out of the broken rock and climbed back up onto the boulder.

Sensua, it's perfect! Tianna was trying to restrain her excitement. The old fool is lying in a drunken stupor in his cave.

The cat's gray eyes widened. Tell me what you have seen.  Together, the two women made their plans.

The cave opening was low and dark, scarcely the height of a crouching man, shadowed by the overhanging cliffs so that ferns and mosses grew about it abundantly in the shade. They paused, one on each side of the entrance, and listened carefully. There was a faint sound of water dripping, and then came a low rasping sound, and after a long pause, another. A man snoring.

As agreed, Tianna scuttled into the darkness and disappeared. After a moment, crouching on her belly, Sensua cautiously poked her nose around the edge of the sandstone opening, a little bit at a time, until she could see into the gloom. Her cat eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and she could clearly see the interior. The cavern space was not large overall, but the dimensions were spacious. It opened up immediately into a vault whose ceiling arched upward to three times the height of a man and of an equal breadth. She could not clearly see the rear of the cavern, for even with her enhanced vision the far wall was lost in total darkness. She came further into the cave, hugging the ground and the wall, and paused again.

The floor of the chamber was sandy, but perfectly smooth, having been cleared of all rocks and obstacles, but was littered with trash and pungently odoriferous garbage. Shelves lined the wall from floor to ceiling, filled with a variety of items. There were books with faded covers and parchment scrolls tucked haphazardly among them. There was an incredible clutter of objects, large and small, some wrought from base metals and some from gold and silver and jewel-encrusted; cups and goblets, diadems, lockets, figures of persons and animals, carved stones, crystals, and gemstones, beads, feathers...there was too much to take in. For most, which were magical items and which were merely treasure was impossible to determine, although some were clearly related to the warlock's craft, such as vials and bottles filled with colored substances in both liquid and dry form. Several shelves were occupied by large jars filled with clear liquids and preserved animals, birds and reptiles, and others contained body parts whose origin could not be ascertained. In the center of the room was a small table, upon which rested a mortar and pestle carved from stone, along with the demolished remains of some sort of fowl, obviously a recent meal. There were no other furnishings evident.

As her eyes continued to adjust, in the far recesses she spotted the warlock, sprawled on his back on a pile of furs, an overturned alepot next to his outstretched hand. His chest rose and fell slowly, and his breath rumbled with every exhalation. He was a large man, and his body was covered with a coarse brown hair almost like fur. There was a ring on every finger and his arms displayed a collection of bracelets on each wrist.

Then she spotted it. The staff was leaning against the wall close to the warlock, nearly obscured by the clutter that spilled off of the shelves and onto the floor.

Sensua crept forward, moving silently and stealthily, an inch at a time, as only a cat can do in pursuit of nervous prey, alert for any hint of movement from the warlock. Mog did not stir, but only continued to snore; the odor of unwashed flesh became stronger as she approached. Her contempt for the bestial warlock grew with every moment that passed.

At last she reached the rowan staff. She sniffed it carefully, and then sniffed toward the warlock, now only a few feet away in his furs. She closed her eyes briefly; this was the crucial moment. Her cat body dissolved into green mist that billowed upward silently to reform quickly into her human figure. Triumphantly, she seized the staff in both hands, and whirled to confront the sleeping warlock. She focused; in seconds the disgusting warlock would be only a beetle, whose miserable existence would be ended under her foot. She continued to concentrate, drops of perspiration stood out on her forehead, and a frown spread across her features as nothing happened.

There was a low, wicked laugh, and the warlock sat up in his furs, smiling contemptuously. "Stupid witches. Did you think that I would not know you were here? I sensed you coming up the mountain, days ago." He rose to his feet, and then turned and spat a yellow glob of phlegm to the floor, just behind the furs. "And you, little rat, do you think you are hiding from me, all burrowed in? Hah!"

Mog now gestured at the staff clenched in Sensua's hands. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the staff even harder in her fear and rage. "You know nothing of the power of the staff! It is a wizard's staff, and only a man can use it, not you pathetic females." He thumped his chest with the fist of his right hand. "I am Mog! I am a thousand years old. I have vanquished a hundred wizards and warlocks! All fear me! Your power is nothing compared to mine, and I will destroy you where you stand!"

His last words turned into a gurgle as, just at that moment Tianna rose upward from the furs behind him, materializing with a knife in hand, and slit his throat from ear to ear.

Mog roared in pain, blood spraying from his throat, and then began to change. His form grew immensely in height and mass, the coarse hair of his body thickened into a covering of dense brown fur, until within seconds there stood the seven-foot form of an enraged grizzly bear. He roared again, and then coughed, as blood poured down his neck, and then stepped forward toward Sensua with his paws raised, ready to rip her body apart.

Sensua quickly muttered an incantation, and her own body began to change rapidly back into cat form, but this time the end result was not a mere house cat, but the sleek form of an enormous black panther. She sprang forward at the bear, and the two collided with a shock that tumbled them both to the floor. They rolled around the floor, amid horrible roars and screams, dashing the table into splinters and knocking down many of the shelves. Tianna quickly stepped backward out of the way and watched in horrified fascination as the two powerful beasts fought. At last, Sensua found a secure grip on the throat of the rapidly weakening bear, and tore his throat out. Mog gave a long sigh as the last of his breath passed from his body, and slumped to the floor. Sensua stood over his body for a moment, her jaws covered in a bloody froth, and then tilted her head back and let out a long, triumphant roar.

She then dropped to the ground and fell over on her side, her fur matted with blood. As Tianna rushed forward to her aid, the panther form dissolved and reformed as the dark-haired witch. Sensua lay unconscious, clothing covered in blood. Tianna knelt down to check her breathing and was appalled to discover that Sensua's body was covered with deep wounds from the claws of the bear. "Oh, Sensua," she muttered, and gently brushed the hair away from her friend's face.




Wigeon and the Witch
continues with Part 11
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Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:30 pm

Are you still moving stories..I know I have read this one lol


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:44 pm

Sam,

This is one of my stories that I separated from the Father Michael Saga series. There is only one story left from those I previously posted. It is the Christmas puppy story. I believe I'll wait until Christmas to post that one again.

I finished the first draft of the next story. I hope to start the rewrite next week.

Joanne

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PostSamantha61 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:47 pm

Omgosh that Christmas puppy story gave me goosebumps...I really loved that story..and it's giving me goosebumps now lol.

Can't wait to read your next story

I'm still your biggest fan

valentine1f


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Postszanne7000 on Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:50 pm

Neither can I, Joanne! inlove34



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:58 am


Wigeon and the Witch
by Joanne and Richard Easter(c) 2015



Part 11

Into the Void

Under Tianna's care, with the aid of salves and poultices made up from the stock in Mog's cave, Sensua recovered rapidly, and by the end of the third day was able to get up and limp about the cave, leaning on the jeweled staff. With magically enhanced strength, Tianna had been able to drag Mog's body from the cave and roll it down the talus slope, leaving it for the ravens to pick over.

"So much depended on this, Tianna," Sensua said, seated on the pile of furs (that had been vigorously cleaned by Tianna) and holding the staff vertically at arm's length, inspecting the huge ruby set into the crest. "But I can't make it work."

Tianna came and sat down beside her. "There might be a way."

Sensua set the staff across her lap and gripped Tianna by the arm with her right hand. "Tell me what you know. You must tell me!"

Tianna spoke slowly. "We know that the staff has the power, when properly triggered, to absorb the human form and contain it, somehow, within the depths of the jewel, where it remains entrapped. Perhaps we could pull someone out of the gem, a male magic-user whom we could bend to our will?"

Sensua, who had begun to look intrigued when Tianna first spoke, now shook her head. "How can we do that when, as witches, the staff will not obey us?"

Tianna closed her eyes and tented her fingers, and rested the tips of her index fingers against her nose, thinking deeply. "If....," she said carefully, "if one of us could separate our consciousness from our physical body, it might be possible to send this into the gem, to find one of the souls lost therein, and lead it out again."

Sensua inhaled sharply. "Yes! That is what we can do! I will...."

"Wait, Sensua! This could be very dangerous," Tianna cautioned. "There is a very real possibility that, even if we could get into the gem in this way, it might not be possible to get out. The seeker could become entrapped."

"I will do it!" Sensua exclaimed. "I must have control of the staff."

"You have the greatest power, Sensua. You should remain behind while I try to enter the gem, in case I need your help getting out."

"No." Sensua shook her head. "This task is mine."

"Very well, then," Tianna said. "There are preparations we must make."

So easily they fell back into the roles of teacher and student. It was true that Sensua was by far stronger in raw power, but Tianna, from long experience, knew more about their craft. As they sat, facing each other with the staff between them, Tianna began to outline the issues. "There are several problems that must be solved before you can even attempt to penetrate the gemstone." She raised her index finger. "First, we must be able to insure that you can return to your physical body and do not become trapped, like the lost spirits of the others. Next," and here she raised another finger beside the first, "how will you be able to identify a suitable spirit, and lead them back with you. I have some ideas as to how we can deal with these problems." Another finger rose beside the others. "The most difficult task before us is how to send your own spirit into the gemstone." She sighed. "I fear this may be an insurmountable problem, but I have also been thinking about this, and in any case we must have our other preparations completed before you make the effort."

Sensua, who had been listening with rapt attention, and nodding at each point her mentor made, now spoke. "I would be willing to take my chances on locating the proper sort of spirit and finding my way back, but I must admit that I am glad that you might have some solutions. I do agree that finding a way in is the biggest problem. I have no idea how to accomplish this."

"I am no expert on the magics of wizards and warlocks, which is so different from our own, but I believe we can deduce some of the characteristics of Mog's staff. The warlock's staff was designed for two purposes," Tianna said slowly, thinking out loud. "The gemstone is the key component. It was designed to pull in unwary magic users, and it was also designed to focus the power, of those entrapped within the stone, at the wielder's desire. It seems to me that the drawing of power is what is most natural for the stone. It is the release of that power that is contrary to the will of the gem, and must be forced from it by the user of the staff."

Excitedly, Sensua said, "Yes! I see what you mean. The stone guards its power! The barrier against magic going in will be weak, because the stone seeks to obtain magic! As women, we may not be able to directly tap into the power of a staff made for male magic-users, but we may be able to send our own magic into the gem with little resistance."

"Exactly," Tianna said, pleased with her former student. "The stone is primed to pull in the magic user, and it takes little effort by the warlock to trigger this. However, some sort of trigger must be required, else this staff would be a constant danger to any in its vicinity."

"It might be enough just to probe the gem," Sensua exclaimed, "like a knock on the door!"

Tianna smiled grimly. "And we have to make sure that the door is not locked behind you." She reached down to unbutton the flap of her belt pouch. "While you were recovering, I went through the warlock's collection of junk...and I'm afraid most of it is just that. Oh, surely, there are lots of gold and silver and jeweled items that would be of great value in the world of men, but there are actually very few items that are endowed with power of any sort." From her pouch she now pulled four items of finely wrought silver, two chains suitable for wearing as necklaces, and two ornate rings, which she laid on the fur between them. Both chains had links arranged in intricate patterns, but were of different weights. The heavier chain was unadorned, but there was a silver locket upon the other. The rings were shaped to resemble entwined vines, topped with a large dark emerald of oval shape, surrounded by delicately crafted silver leaves.

Sensua stirred the rings with her finger, and then picked up the chain with the locket to examine more closely. "These are quite lovely. What are their special properties?" As Tianna began to speak, she carefully pried open the locket's tiny latch. The inside of the locket was empty.

"I have examined them closely, and it appears that these items are all linked together as a set. The chain you are holding is the master, and controls the others. More specifically, it allows the wearer to control others who might be wearing the other chain or the rings." Sensua smiled inwardly: Oh, Tianna, you always did tend to be pedantic when you started to lecture.

"I am not quite sure as to the extent of the control," Tianna continued, "but I think it might even be possible to influence their thoughts as well as their actions. Quite a powerful magic, in fact!"

"This is an important find, Tianna," Sensua said thoughtfully, "but I am not sure how it will help us now."

"Think about it, Sensua! These items are magically linked. If you and I each wear one of them, this will provide a link between dimensions, a pathway that you can follow back. It will, so to speak, keep the door open and serve as a guide for you."

Sensua now placed the chain with the locket around her neck, tucking it beneath her long hair. "I will wear the master chain. This also will solve another problem for us. We can use one of the silver items to control the magic-user, be he warlock or wizard, when I bring him back. Although I am sure he will be pleased to be released from the gem, I doubt his gratitude would extend to becoming our slave." She arranged her hair a bit more carefully, and then decided. "We'll use the other chain on him. Be prepared to drop it on him immediately as soon as we return. And you, Tianna, you will wear one of the rings."

"Of course, Sensua. You know that I am trusting you not to enslave me, as well."

Sensua leaned forward and impulsively hugged her friend. "You know better." She took a deep breath. "Let's do this, before I change my mind."

Tianna chose one of the rings and slipped it on, and picked up the other chain, held in readiness. Sensua picked up the staff and brought the red gem to a level just before her eyes. "Tianna...," she said, "I don't know how long this will take...." Her friend smiled reassuringly back at her. "I'll keep the door open...no matter how long."

Sensua's eyes turned inward, and then she was gone. Her shoulders slumped, and Tianna caught her and lowered her gently down to the furs.

She was alone in the darkness of the Void. There was no up or down, there was no sense of movement. She felt no sensation, her heart did not beat, she drew no breath; she had no body. She simply Was. She floated, and her thoughts slowed. She floated, and began to surrender herself to the emptiness.

Abruptly, there was a tiny spark of light in the darkness. Whether it was just before her, or a hundred leagues away, she could not tell. The firefly, as she thought of it, danced before what would have been her face...if she had a face...and then began slowly to circle about her. Suddenly there was another firefly, which joined in the dance, and another, and another, until there were hundreds orbiting about her, an entire galaxy of stars, with herself at the center.

Who are you, came a thought. And then there was a clamor of voices, questioning, questioning. The voices became more insistent, more demanding, and the circle grew tighter about her, whirling faster and faster.

Stop it! she shouted. Leave me alone!

And then, suddenly, there was only one.

She felt his inherent goodness. She felt his pain, and his loneliness.

Come with me, she said, if you want to be free,

She reached for the chain, and panicked when she could not feel it. She no longer had a body.

Then she saw it...a thin silver thread leading away through the darkness.

She reached out to the firefly spirit. And she felt a hand in hers.

She willed herself to move, and they moved. She followed the silver path home.





Wigeon and the Witch
continues with Part 12
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Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:37 am

Oh, wow!!!

I love your descriptive writing - I can see the Void <3

This just gets better and better, Joanne!



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:45 am


Wigeon and the Witch
by Joanne and Richard Easter(c) 2015



Part 12

The Broken Chain

Baron Nicholas sat in a chair in a corner of his darkened room, staring into the empty fireplace. The windows were covered over, blocking out the bright afternoon sunlight, all but a narrow shaft that slanted across the room. His hands were clenched on the arms of the chair; periodically his grip would tighten, and relax, and tighten again. There were so many things happening, so many problems that he should be dealing with, but here he sat, doing nothing. Why was it so hard to think? What was happening to him?

My Teresa would know what to do. Where was she? If only he could see her, could speak to her, maybe she could dispel the darkness in his mind. She had been gone so long.

There was a knock on the door, and the latch rattled as the visitor tried to open it and found it locked. "My lord?" came the inquiry, then louder, "My lord? Are you in there?" And the door rattled again.

It was so hard to speak, even to move. As the rattling continued, he raised his head and tried to speak, but his throat was dry and all that emerged was a rasp. He tried again, and found his voice. "Go away," he said loudly. "Leave me be."

"My lord, it's Jonathan. Are you all right?" The steward's voice was concerned. "It's been days since you left your room."

When no reply was forthcoming, the steward cleared his throat. "My lord? There are people at the gate. They say they are hungry. They want bread for their children. They are insisting that you open the castle granaries. Um, it's not beggars, lord. It's a delegation of the merchants and craftsmen, and farmers from the countryside. They say there is no food, that the vermin have eaten everything up. What do you want me to do?"

He opened his mouth to speak, to give the order to open up the storehouses and feed the people, but no words emerged. He opened his mouth again, and was chilled to hear himself say, "Tell them to go away. Lock the castle gates. And do not bother me again."

There was a profound silence in the hallway outside the door, and then the sound of footsteps slowly departing.

He looked down at the ring on his finger. Where did this ring come from? There was something about it...something odd...but soon he stopped thinking about it and stared again into the fireplace.

Two levels down, in another section of the castle, a meeting was in progress. Sensua sat in her chair, her expression somber, an empty teacup on the small table before her. Around her, also seated in comfortable chairs, were the remaining members of her coven, some with cups in hand. Fira and Letha were engaged in quiet conversation. Janessa was whispering in Jazmin's ear, and from time to time they would laugh quietly together, and begin whispering again. Although irritated, Sensua ignored them for the time being. She would put them in their place, later. They were very young, and had no manners. Wigeon occupied his usual spot in the corner near the door, hands folded on top of his staff.

Sensua rapped on the teacup with her fingernail to draw their attention. When all eyes had turned her way, she quietly announced, "Sisters, we have failed. Without Tianna, we no longer have sufficient power to evoke the Maledicta Desolatus."

As she spoke, she realized that she did not really care anymore. Nicholas was but a shadow of his former self. Teresa had been pushed to the brink of insanity. All through the land, the people suffered hideously. Perhaps Wigeon was right, there had been enough suffering. How much did she want? She was glutted on suffering, filled up with suffering, bloated with suffering. What did it change? She did not feel any better. There was no feeling of satisfaction, no sense of justice or of wrongs set right. She missed Tianna. All she wanted to do now was to leave this wretched place.

"We have done all we can. We will be leaving in the morning." She opened her mouth to begin issuing orders, and suddenly became aware of a growing noise from outside the castle, as of the roar of surf gradually increasing in volume. Annoyed, she said, "Fira. See what that is."

The tall blonde set her teacup on the floor and walked over to the window and peered out. "Oh dear," she said dryly, "it appears that the people are storming the castle gates."

Sensua got up and went to see for herself. Only part of the wall was visible from their window, but looking down she could see that there were hundreds of people gathered before the main gate, armed with farm implements and a few rusty swords. A tree had been felled and a group of men were busy with axes trimming off the branches. This accomplished, they picked up the tree and charged forward, disappearing from view. Moments later came a repeated thumping sound as they attacked the gate. The roar that had attracted her attention was the clamor of many voices raised in angry shouting. She came back to the middle of the room and glanced around. "Wigeon. Go out in the hallway and set up wards to alert of intruders."

Wigeon blinked, and then walked to the door and went out. In all the years they had been together, this was the first time Sensua had called him by name, instead of just "wizard."

Eyes bright, the twins exchanged a glance and each gave a tiny nod of her head. This was the moment they had awaited. Jazmin and Janessa stood up quietly. While her sister waited, Jazmin walked over to where Sensua stood, distracted, still looking at the door through which Wigeon had just left. The twin's right fist was closed. "Sensua," she said. Sensua turned around. Jazmin opened her hand and blew a cloud of purple dust into her face. Startled, Sensua inhaled sharply, and took the dust into her lungs. "What have you done...." she said, took a single step toward Jazmin, and dropped to the floor.

As Janessa rushed forward to aid her twin, Jazmin quickly stooped over the fallen figure, and pulled the silver chain over Sensua's head, waving it triumphantly aloft. "Mine!" she said. "Mine mine mine! The wizard is mine!"

Her joyful expression was cut short when Janessa, enraged by this betrayal, punched her in the stomach. As her sister doubled over, she snatched the chain out of her hand and crowed, "No! The wizard's power is mine!" and then was bowled over as Jazmin butted her with her head. Down they went! They rolled about on the floor, each grasping part of the chain in one hand and, with the other, furiously twisting a handful of her sister's platinum hair. "You miserable..." screamed one, and the other screamed "...rotten hussy!" as she tried to gouge out her sister's eye.

The door crashed open and Wigeon stood in the doorway, eyes filled with rage, the gem on his staff blazing crimson light. He took in the scene in an instant: Fira, standing by the window, shocked into immobility; Letha, seated, her teacup frozen halfway to her lips; and, on the floor, the two twins, entangled, rolling, screeching, and cursing. His glance riveted upon Sensua, lying sprawled face-up upon the floor, eyes staring sightlessly, her lips bluish, and he raced to her side.

At that exact moment, Jazmin and Janessa let out a simultaneous cry of dismay as they separated, each holding half of the broken chain clutched in her fist. The chain seemed to shiver, and then disintegrated in a rain of sparkling silver dust which fell to the floor. Wigeon felt a tingle on the back of his neck, and to his astonishment the heavier silver chain encircling his own neck also fell apart, transformed into dust.

Elsewhere in the castle, Nicholas raised his right hand and stared at the index finger, the ring was gone, vanished into dust motes that now sparkled in the beam of sunshine. He remembered everything now. Eyes blazing, he started up from his chair, and fell back, for from long inaction his legs were unused to sudden exertion. He lunged upward to stand, now firmly planted, and then ran to the door, pausing only long enough to snatch up his sword. "Teresa! I am coming, my love!" He would first be sure that his wife was safe, and then he would deal with that damnable Countess.

In Sensua's chambers, the twins lunged to their feet, crouching defensively as all eyes turned upon them with anger. Wigeon laid his hand on Sensua's brow. It was cold to his touch; she was dying. He rose slowly, purposefully, and the twins backed away as he advanced toward them. "Fly! croaked Jazmine. "Fly! agreed Janessa, and their bodies shimmered and began to transform. In seconds, their human forms were replaced by two glossy black ravens, whose wings beating, began to hop toward the open window.

Wigeon aimed his staff, and the ravens tumbled from mid-air, rapidly shrinking in size. Two white mice fell to the floor and began to scurry quickly along the wall, desperately seeking to escape.

Fira raised her hand to halt the next blast. "Allow us to deal with our sisters, wizard." She exchanged a glance with Letha, and they toppled forward, transforming to their animal forms. Fox and ferret raced after the two frightened mice, and trapped them in a corner of the room. The predators crouched, opening their jaws, and snap! snap! the mice were gone, just like that. Looking very satisfied, the fox ran a tongue around the outside of her mouth, and in an instant of misty transformation, red-headed Letha stood in its place, and beside her, Fira.

"Those little schemers really didn't think this through, did they?" Fira said to Letha.

"Apparently not." Letha agreed. "Not deep thinkers, those two."

Wigeon pressed his head against Sensua's chest; her heart was beating weakly. "She yet lives," he said. "The poison has not yet taken her." He touched the gem of his staff to her forehead and the crimson glow spread to encompass both of their figures. He could sense the poison flowing in her veins; he sent the light to seek it out and, sweating with the intense focus required to transform a single element of her blood, rendered it harmless.

Sensua's heart began to beat more strongly, and her eyes fluttered open. She saw him kneeling over her, and weakly she murmured, "Wigeon."

He placed his hand over her eyes. "Hush now," he said. "Close your eyes. I still have work to do." Obediently, she shut her eyes.

As Letha and Fira watched with great interest, he once again sent the power of his staff into her body, probing toward her heart. The crimson light caressed the slowing beating organ, feeling its nature. It was nearly consumed by blackness and despair. He delved deeper, seeking the core. There! There was the heart of an innocent young girl, nearly overcome by the encrustation of years of pain, anger, and bitter self-loathing. Slowly he began to wash away the darkness.

When she opened her eyes again and looked into his face, reflected in them now he could see that the darkness was gone. She could never be innocent again, for he could not, would not, tamper with her memories. But now, perhaps, she could draw upon her inner strength to accept and live with that painful past. Wigeon helped her to her feet and took her to a chair.

"What have you done to her!" Fira demanded in a threatening tone. "Something is changed in her!"

He turned to face the two remaining witches. "I am taking her away from you," he said. "She is no longer part of you."

"I think not!" Fira said, and, cupping a fireball in her hand, advanced with Letha toward him.

"Stop!" Wigeon ordered. He raised his hand, and flung the two women back against the wall, pinning them there upright as they struggled against his power. "I am a free man now. No chains bind my will!" He raised his staff, and the gem began to glow again. "Heed my warning. Leave this place. Immediately. Take your lives and go!" The gemstone glowed even more brightly, and the air in the room began to crackle with unreleased energy. "Begone!"

Frightened, the two witches looked at each other in panic, and then bowed their heads in acquiescence. He released them now, and they staggered forward. Collecting what remained of their dignity, they strode to the door and opened it, peering out into the hallway. Without a backward look, they slipped out and were gone.




Wigeon and the Witch
The Conclusion
Coming soon




Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:28 am

Oh, this is wonderful!



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:05 am


Wigeon and the Witch
by Joanne and Richard Easter(c) 2015



The Conclusion

Wrongs Set Right

Wigeon and Sensua were now alone in the room. She had made no protest against his abrupt dismissal of her sister witches. He sat down in the chair next to her, took her hands, and looked intently into her face; gray eyes gazed into brown. "Sensua..." he began, and then stopped as, simultaneously, she weakly said, "Wigeon." He waited.

"I've made a mess of things, haven't I?" she said. "All those poor people. They didn't do anything wrong, and they have suffered so much." She raised a hand and wiped it across her forehead. "Can you do anything? Can you do anything to make it right again?"

He smiled. "Yes...I believe so. And then we must leave, for no matter what we do, we will never be forgiven." He now released her hands. "You are in no condition to travel, as you are. I have an idea. Can you assume your cat form, or are you too weakened?"

"I can," she said, and then corrected herself, "I...think I can," She touched her throat. "It feels so strange not to have that silver chain about my neck. I wore it for so many years, never taking it off." She looked at him, and her eyes widened in alarm. "Oh Wigeon! I am so sorry! I treated you so badly!"

"Never mind that, now." he said. "You were a different person. But look! It's not all gone. There is your locket, on the floor. Do you want it?"

"No," she said, remembering the dried violet tucked inside. "I don't need it any more." She let out a long breath, and concentrated, and very soon there was a sleek black cat sitting on the chair cushion, looking trustfully up at him.

He got up and walked over to the sideboard against the wall, and picked up a large basket filled with fresh flowers, dumping them out on the floor. "This should do," he said, and then tore a small tapestry off the wall and folded it up and placed it inside. He brought the basket over to her chair and set it down on the floor. "Climb in," he said. She got up and stretched, and then stepped down into the basket.

Wigeon stepped back, and shivered, and in a moment a great owl stood in his place. He shivered again, and the owl began to grow, until it was almost the size of a mastiff.

There was a clamor in the hallway, heavy footsteps and men shouting, and the door was flung open. Nicholas stood in the opening, sword in hand, a look like thunder upon his face. "Lady Vivian!" he roared. "I will have justice!" Behind him was a crowd of armsmen bearing battle axes and crossbows. Charging into the room, the baron came to an abrupt stop, baffled by the sight of a giant owl and a cat in a basket.

The hesitation lasted only for a moment, and Nicholas shouted, "Seize them!"

While his armsmen tried to decide the best way to grapple a six-foot owl, Wigeon began to beat his wings, and once airborne, he made a quick turn around the room, causing Nicholas' men to duck and scatter. He reached down with his claws and snatched up the handle of the basket, and soared out of the open window. A crossbow bolt hissed past harmlessly.

The sun was low in the sky, and the scattered clouds reflected its light redly. Wigeon circled just above the tower, where the infamous curses had been enacted, and braking with his wings, came in for a landing on the flagstones of the platform. Just before setting down, he dropped the basket to one side with exquisite care. The black cat who was Sensua sat up in the basket and peered out over the side as Wigeon took a few hopping steps and came to a halt. He quickly transformed back into his human shape.

What will you do? he heard inside his head.

"Watch," he said, and planted his staff on the stone. Grasping the shaft firmly in both hands, his robe billowing in the evening breeze sweeping up over the battlements, he concentrated. The huge ruby began to glow, blazing up brighter and still brighter until it became incandescent. Still, he would not release the magic, but drew more and more deeply upon the hidden resources of the gemstone, sweat rolling down his face. A low humming began, and became more intense and rose higher and higher in pitch until it finally became inaudible, but its power could be felt, akin to the tingle of electricity in the air just before lightning strikes. The cat's fur bristled involuntarily with the building charge, and Wigeon's hair began to rise. Still, he fought to hold the power back, allowing it to grow stronger and stronger.

Just when it seemed about to consume him, he let the magic go. With a sound like ripping cloth, red light exploded from the gem and washed across the land, faster than thought. Wherever it passed, the vermin caught in the light fell into dust. From the fields and orchards bathed in the crimson light, new growth rapidly unfurled, leaving the trees hanging with new green leaves and ripened fruit, the fields waving with plump stalks of grain, and the grass of the pasturelands restored in lush verdancy. Where it touched flesh, human and animal, that was covered with welts and festering sores, health was restored.

The radiance of the staff was suddenly extinguished, and Wigeon collapsed onto his hands and knees on the hard stones of the platform. Suddenly concerned, the cat leaped out of the basket and ran to his side, touching his face with her paw. Slowly he rose, gathering the cat up in his arms. Sensua began to purr.

He gave her a quick squeeze and then set her gently back into the basket.

"It's time for us to go," he said. He stepped back, and once again the great owl manifested in his place. He extended his wings and rose into the air, circling back to grasp the basket handle firmly in his claws. Off they flew toward the Great Forest, the setting sun at their backs.




Wigeon and the Witch by Joanne and Richard Easter© 2015.
All rights reserved.




Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:45 pm

What a great ending, Joanne!

I'm so happy for them and that Wigeon was able to undo all the negative that Sensua had done when wearing that necklace.

Thank Richard for me, too, please.

I love your stories!



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3

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