In a land where dragons and magic did not simply exist in the pages of books, ruled a cold hearted and vain king. Young and unwise unlike his parents, the king sought power to bring security to his kingdom yet turned his sights to the art of dark magic practices. Many men, women and children were slaughtered upon his satanic altar as if they were merely lambs that were destined to the butcher's knife. Yes, the king became very powerful and kept his kingdom safe, protected and secure. Though the kingdom was safe from swords and spears, the one thing that can bring down magic is magic itself.
It was a bitterly cold winter's eve when the woman in red arrived, hungry, half frozen and in need of shelter. The king, although well aware of the magic that ran through her veins, invited her inside for her to stay the night. She was very beautiful but very soon that night, the king would understand to never judge a person simply by their looks.
The woman in red seized the king in his sleep to drag him upon his own sacrificial altar to avenge her brethren who were among the victims that were slain. However, before she could bring her dagger down onto her victim, the king's magic core lashed out. Stregheria versus Shinto, two cultures at war, clashing in a brilliant battle of fox spirits and witches. Both individuals were powerful however such a clash could only last but for a few brief moments when both witch and warlock felt the strain in exposing their true beauties. The woman in red then planted a curse on the kingdom through the last second of their struggle, plaguing the king for his vanity, his cruelty and his arrogance before vanishing from the land.
And to this day, the king hides away in his castle within the cursed kingdom. Unless he finds his significant other who can see the good hidden within him before the last bud on the woman in red's enchanted shrub blooms, he will remain cursed forever as a beast just as hideous as his dark, uncaring soul.
Anne hummed to herself as she ran a finger along one page of an old, yellowing book whilst scribbling down notes and symbols in her newer, white notebook. She giggled softly to herself, a tone of naughtiness lurking in her seemingly innocent voice.
"So, let's give this a go," she said whilst perking up on her bed and taking her ritual knife to slice her palm, her eye twitching slightly but she didn't make a fuss of the temporary pain "Pyyra, sandnwg, asarr!"
She flexed her hand erratically as a small dark purple ball began forming in front of her after she dipped her voice to hiss the foreign language aggressively. Her eyes lit up as she spun it, making it expand and shrink carefully, making sure to keep her hand in the right position. But when her sister's call made her turn her head to the door briefly…
The dark purple ball exploded, covering her bed, half of her body and her notes. Anne glared displeasingly across the room as if someone were sat there laughing, her hand still in its original position.
"And this is why I chose to study this book last," she concluded to no-one in particular.
"Anne, what's going on up there?"
Anne gasped softly as she heard her sister's footsteps coming up and whispered a hurried cleaning spell before hiding any evidence of her magic studies. She perked up and smiled innocently as Tifa strode in with a very suspicious look on her face.
"Are you practicing magic again?" she asked with her hands on her hips.
"No, of course not, why?" Anne said in a rehearsed tone.
"Your hand is bleeding."
Anne looked down at her hand in shock before shrugging with a slightly wider grin.
"I don't see any open books."
"I put it away because I was finished."
"What was that weird sound before I came in?"
"What weird sound?"
Tifa sighed shortly as Anne batted those wide red eyes.
"It sounded like you squashed a large bug with a large shoe."
"A bird flew into the window?"
"And went splat?"
"Where's the body?"
"It fell down."
Tifa still didn't look impressed as she shook her head and sighed.
"Come on, let's disinfect that 'paper cut'," she said.
"Oh, no need!" Anne grinned as she bounced to her feet on her bed to reach for a little blue bottle on one of her shelves.
She uncorked it, poured a little of the amber liquid inside on her cut and squeezed her hand before freezing at Tifa's disapproving frown.
"Um…" she bit her lip as the healing tonic worked its magic in her palm.
"I told you, no practicing Wiccan magic!" Tifa scolded as Anne hung her head sheepishly, corking the bottle and putting it back on the shelf.
"It's not fair, it's not hurting anyone," Anne murmured.
"You're harming yourself and putting yourself at risk to get executed!" Tifa hissed.
"I can't help it!" Anne whined "It's just so fascinating and the fact that we're suppressing all this power is just a waste!"
"And it'll be a waste of your life if you get caught and get burned to the stake!" Tifa argued back "And who knows what you'll end up getting tangled in next! Remember what happened to Mom and Dad?"
"Mom died from one of her spells that went wrong and Dad died when he used his non-Wiccan blood in a ritual to try and bring her back from the dead," Anne said with a bored tone.
Tifa looked up at her sister before helping her down from the bed and hold her still by the shoulders.
"Anne, you're curious about our heritage and I understand that," she said "But you're nearly nineteen and you were there when Mom died, can't you understand how dangerous Wiccan magic can be? I don't want to lose you like we lost them."
Anne looked up at Tifa sadly before leaning her head on her bosom.
"But it's so interesting," she murmured "And I've got nothing better to do other than do chores and watch you get lovey dovey with Cloud."
Tifa blushed before chuckling and hugging her younger sister.
"Hey, you'll find someone yourself too," she assured her "Weiss seems interested, why don't you spend some time with him?"
Anne pushed Tifa away and kept her at arm's length, her eyes showing clear annoyance.
"That egotistical, narcissistic, self-absorbed, conceited, arrogant, haughty, idiotic, reckless, daft…"
"OK, OK, how about Nero?" Tifa shrugged with a raised eyebrow.
Anne's arms flopped down as her annoyance turned into alarm.
"Tifa, out of all the men in the village that may be suitable for me, you come up with the two fools who think they can just flaunt their prizes from hunts to catch everyone's attention?"
"Well, they seem interested," Tifa said as she raised her hands "Really, Anne, you know you can't afford to be picky now that you're nearing the end of your second decade."
Anne huffed as she crossed her arms, looked away and pouted like she was five years old. Tifa smiled wistfully before remembering her original purpose from coming up.
"Ah, yes, could you grab some bread from the baker's and some sausages from the butcher's?" she said and Anne perked up, nodding happily.
"Sure!" she said with a bounce in her step "Let me grab my shoes."
Tifa went down as Anne grabbed her shoes to lace them up. She checked down the stairs briefly before rounding up the books she had finished studying into her basket and snuck out, eagerly heading towards the village. She grinned and skipped along the path, murmuring and memorizing certain spells under her breath. She smiled as she arrived at the hill which overlooked the village and she took in a deep breath of the smells. The fresh air, the fish that were in the market, the fresh bread waiting to be bought, it made her feel relaxed. She loved this village, it was her home and the scents comforted her when she stood, basked in the beauty of nature. She grinned before sauntering down the path and entering the bustling village.
"Good day, Anne!" greeted Elena as Anne stopped in front of her bakery "Two loaves?"
"Yes please," Anne nodded happily as Elena wrapped a couple of loaves for her.
"You seem happy, off to the library?"
"Well yes but coming to the village makes me happy regardless," Anne chattered excitedly as she accepted the loaves and handed the money over "Being surrounded by trees, the fresh scent of pine and the sound of birds in their nests…"
"Yes, yes, all very nice," Elena interrupted as she dumped the change into Anne's outstretched hand "Reno, where are those baguettes?! Hurry up, you lazy slob!"
Anne looked a bit put out but shrugged as she put the change away and made her way through town. She looked up at the blue sky with a wistful smile whilst others watched her saunter down the pavements, in her own little world as she made her way to the butcher's to get the sausages Tifa asked for. She didn't notice the boys taking an interest in her or commenting about her wellbeing as she packed the sausages into her basket with the loaves and made her way to the library where Bugenhagen welcomed her with open arms.
"Anne, how is my little historian!" he greeted as Anne giggled whilst giving him back the book she borrowed.
"I'm well, thank you," she said "I didn't really enjoy this book as much as the others."
"Hm, such a pity," the old man sighed as he examined the book before him "I find it rather intriguing."
"Yeah but nothing blew up in your face, did it?" Anne murmured to herself as she ascended the ladder and coughed "So, any new books?"
"Not since yesterday I'm afraid," Bugenhagen chuckled at her enthusiasm.
"Well then, I'll borrow this one again," Anne grinned as she recognized the cover of her favourite book.
"This one again?" Bugenhagen looked at the cover "If my counting is correct this is the thirteenth time this season!"
"But it's my favourite and I love learning about Wicca!" Anne whined as she climbed down "The culture! The traditions! The rituals!"
"Yes, yes, you shouldn't get too deep in this stuff," Bugenhagen warned "Witchcraft isn't something to be played with, it is dangerous."
"Yes, I know," Anne pouted whilst folding her arms.
Bugenhagen looked at her and shook his head.
"Keep it, it's not like anyone reads these old history books."
"Really?!" Anne perked as she clutched the book to her chest.
"Well of course, if you love it so much then consider it yours."
"Oh thank you!" Anne cried as she hugged the old librarian "Thank you so much!"
"Give my regards to Tifa!"
"I will, sir, I will!" Anne said as she walked out "Oh, thank you so much!"
She opened the Book of Shadows with a happy glint in her eye as she walked down the streets. A history book? Poor Bugenhagen, he probably would have had a heart attack if he knew how special this book really was. The bare, raw, traditional rituals and spells all written down in Anne's hands in real Wiccan scripture. Anne sighed as she read the words with ease, her years of research and study enabling her to understand. It was when she had reached the path that would lead to her home that she bumped into the two brother hunters, Weiss and Nero. She looked up at them with narrowed eyes.
"And I was having such a nice day today," she snarled, enticing amused snickers.
"Well, let's make it better," Weiss proposed as he bowed to her.
"That looks like a scary book there," Nero nodded and Anne closed the Book of Shadows and put it away in her basket, scowling at them.
"Like you've never seen a skull before," she sneered.
"Anne, Anne, Anne, this can't go on," Weiss sighed as he looped an arm around her shoulders "You're young, you're beautiful, don't waste it all on these dusty old books."
"Who cares about the past when it's done and already happened?" Nero shrugged as he came next to her, sandwiching her between them.
"We learn from our mistakes," Anne retorted as she slid out from between them "I think you ought to put your two brain cells together in order to realise that."
Weiss and Nero were about to comment when a loud roar ripped through the late summer air.
"What was that?" Weiss exclaimed as they both drew their weapons out whilst Anne stood there with a horrified look of realisation.
"N-Nothing," she squeaked with eyes wide and pupils constricted "N-Nothing at all. Certainly n-not a massive M-Malboro that has snuck out of its cage and startled Tifa, I should really go now, bye!"
She turned on her heel and sprinted down the path towards home.