The Ravening

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A Witch's Return

"Forest Girl! Forest Girl!"

I peeled an eye open and glimpsed the black cloak of one of the witches that'd marked me. One of the bitches that began all this.

I was tempted to find a rock and bash her head in. But this happened to be the one that sobbed she was sorry. That she was so tired.

Now I understood. Didn't mean I forgave her.

She was rushing at me with a tightly rolled scroll in her fist. She was covered in sweat and her hair was greasy and limp as though she'd been running for days.

She's been looking for me.

"What is it?" I sat up. Long hair disheveled from sleeping in the leaves with wet hair.

The girl skidded to a halt and gasped at the sight of my camp.

I twisted to see the smoky remnants of last nights fire and the dark, bare skin of the being sleeping behind me.

Van. He stayed.

The woman shrieked, threw the scroll at me, shouted profanity and bolted.

I unraveled it and with my minimal ability to read was able to decipher that I could escape the demons grasp by cutting away the mark. Why hadn't I tried that?

New hope poured through me.

I rose and began to pace. I had a small dagger for eating, in the bag I always carried with me.

"It won't work." Van was sitting up with his back against a tree. Ankles crossed and hands linked leisurely in his lap.

When had he woke? When did he move?

What's he talking about?

"Your hope." He shook his head.

"It says here. It speaks even of your name and the reaction. She brought it for a reason!" I jutted my chin in the direction the witch had fled.

His gaze followed her and he sighed as he looked after where she'd disappeared. "Sweet thing, that one."

"You tortured her."

"I did." He admitted.

"Why shouldn't I do as this scroll bids?" I held it up.

"You can." He shrugged. "But it won't work."

"Why not?"

"Did you read what the exceptions are?"

I unraveled it again and skimmed it. "Yes. None of them pertain."

"But they do." He tilted his head so far it nearly rested on his shoulder. His feet casually wound from left to right.

I sensed whatever he was talking about wasn't something he was proud of.

"Out with it, Van." I said quietly. Utterly puzzled.

"It says if you love him."

"I don't love you."

"No, you likely do not." He assented. "But what that doesn't fully articulate is that a claim of love circumvents the release from the binding to me."

My jaw hung. "You son-of-a-whore!"

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