Chapter 1: Love is an Unfulfilled Promise
Her pale skin felt warm beneath his palm as his hand glided along her shoulders and down her arms. She smiled at him fondly and he smiled back.
“Caius,” she whispered in a chastising manner. She tugged on his dark brown hair cut below his shoulders playfully and he nuzzled his nose into the crook of her neck.
“Say it again,” Caius brushed his fingers through her long red hair that rested at her waist in soft curls. Her light blue dress complimented her glacier colored eyes and her grey petticoat wrapped around her figure in an alluring manner.
“Elizabeth.” He urged, wrapping his arms around her tightly to get what he wanted. She leaned into his touch shyly, blue eyes looking anywhere but at his face as a blush crept up her neck.
“I love you. I love you the way a poet is in love with words. I love you in the way I have loved you for three years,” She giggled at her confession and lightly pushed him back, looking into his grass colored eyes for a moment before resting her head on a nearby tree to hide her blushing face.
Caius didn’t like the distance she had made between them and stepped forward. He lifted a tanned hand due to summers of outside labor and pulled down a nearby branch that held the remainder of dying leaves in the greeting of winter.
“The forest is going to be blanketed in snow soon. It will be very cold.” He said quietly, pulling the dead leaves of the branch off.
Elizabeth chortled, “As every winter before it Caius.”
“I am only saying, as you choose to never wear foot wear outside, they may freeze. I hope you are aware.” He smirked at her and then broke off the branch and handed it to her and she rolled her eyes. “Again, Caius? This has got to be your favorite trick, and it is quite overdone.”
Caius closed her hand around the dead branch with an amused smile. “I have a collection to upkeep. Besides, it is my favorite trick.” He looked from the branch in her hand, to her eyes expectantly with a childish grin.
Her eyes went stone-like, glazed over a dark violet, and her delicate hand squeezed the branch tightly. The branch suddenly became engulfed in a blue flame and bright green leaves with pink blossoms sprouted, healthy and alive in place of the dead ones. Her eyes shifted back to normal, and she triumphantly held the flower covered branch in front of her for Caius to take.
Caius was handsome. With a cleft chin and strong jaw- more handsome than the other men in the village. Green eyes that matched the grass and brown wavy hair that rivaled any. Always he made Elizabeth’s heart flutter with his kind heart and charismatic grin.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” Caius laughed bringing a blossom to his nose, the heat of magic still pulsing gently through it with life. He then placed the small branch at his side through the loop of his belt.
“It takes a lot out of me. I feel rather fatigued already today.” She said, wiping her brow that had glistened with sweat.
“I will not ask this of you again.” He replied, handing her an ivory colored rag
“You know you are a -”
“Dreadful liar? I am aware.” He fiddled with the branch at his side and gave her a toothy grin. He reached his hand for her red hair and fiddled with it between his fingers.
“What are you thinking?” She asked attentively.
“Just that anyone else would have been condemned as a witch, you however, escape that assumption,” he laughed.
“You know... you would have never known about this if I had let you drown that day,” Elizabeth feigned regret and walked behind a tree out of Caius’ view. “I saw you fall in the river, after trying to catch that fish, and I lifted you out of the water.”
“Ah! Technically my sweet Elizabeth, the vines lifted me out of the water,” He laughed when she peeked her head around the tree and squinted at him.
“Oh, I do suppose the vines decided on their own to lift a very hefty fourteen year old boy out of the water that day.” Her eyes shifted dark violet and a dozen acorns fell from the tree above onto Caius’ head.
“Ouch,” he rubbed his head and smiled sheepishly, “One of these days a squirrel is going to attack me for the left over nuts in my hair you know.” He ruffled his brown hair and shook his head in a manner of a dog when he noticed Elizabeth’s faraway look.
“I thought you would have turned me in to the Brotherhood for using magic. Have me burned at the stake, drowned, or tortured. No. You wanted me to do all kinds of tricks for you, followed me around like a puppy dog,” She raked her fingers against her scalp and smiled. “You were so intrigued with my world.”
Caius fixed the split sleeves of his out of fashioned doublet and picked the rest of the acorn out of his hair with amusement. “ I was a child then. Parents tell their children these nightmarish things about witches and everything that is not mundane, is just evil. However, I had learned over the years that even the mundane, are evil. I decided for myself in what to believe. And the blue eyed girl who risked being burned to death just to save one hefty child, that was enough for me.”
“Witches are not all bad. Not all of us are married to the devil like everyone else assumes,” She scoffed.
“You say this every time we get into this discussion,” Caius groaned. “There is a difference between a witch who uses black magic, and a witch who uses white magic,” he mocked in a terrible attempt at sounding feminine. “Though, I do not really see why the color is important at all.” Elizabeth swatted him in the chest and he laughed at her.
“What about last Fall when the Brotherhood put Mrs. Levey on trial for talking in her sleep?” She looked down to the ground and the grass beneath her bare feet started to burn. “And tomorrow night is the Witch Hunt celebration..” She always became uneasy during this time of the year. It was time for the people to gather and celebrate the ninth anniversary of Ara’s falling- a white witch who lived a few miles into the forest near the foot of Black Mountain- and also her grandmother. No one suspected that her, her mother Anna, and her sister Emily were relatives of Ara, which is why they were able to live comfortably in a village full of superstitious individuals.
He flinched when the face of Mrs. Levey became the forefront of his mind. His adoptive mother after both of his parents passed away. She was a lonely old woman who lived in a small cottage alone. She took him in, with her soft heart and kind words of wisdom. As the years went on Mrs. Levey’s mental state seemed to have dwindled greatly; she talked to herself a lot and a few times had wandered out of the house into other people’s homes. It was not long after these recurring incidences that the Brotherhood took notice, and dubbed them the Devil’s work. He spent the night at the Beckette’s home, sheltered away from the burning and screaming.
He became painfully aware that Elizabeth was distressed by the heat that was starting to swell around her. Quickly, he caressed her face lovingly and gently kissed her. When he pulled away he could see the violet color dim down in her eyes and her shoulders slump in relaxation.
“Elizabeth,’ he started gently, ’People have a hard time accepting what they do not understand. They would never be able to see a difference between a good witch and a bad one, they would never believe that there is one.”
“Do you believe my Mother is evil? Her struggle with her darkness gets rather hopeless at times,” Elizabeth asked quietly.
Caius contemplated for a moment before answering, “No. I do not believe that she is evil just because she has that darkness inside of her. Everyone has darkness in them, it is up to them to decide whether or not to feed that darkness. You being witches have a harder time defining that line because with that darkness comes power that can sometimes control you.”
“You do listen when I speak,′ she laughed. ’I just do not want her humanity to be lost.”
“You said so yourself though; it is much harder to reject that darkness when you have been exposed to something traumatic. Everyone is predisposed to some evil. From the very first sin. Some evil is greater than others. I do not believe that she is evil just based on having cruel thoughts, she does not act.”
She had a faraway look, deep in thought before replying. “Grandmother Ara...to just stand there with the power she had only to meet her death by people she protected for years.”
Caius reached up and scratched her head lightly. He pulled her closer and nuzzled her neck. Elizabeth could instantly feel what Caius wanted and she pushed him back lightly.
She shook her head and said, “I am not ready Caius. Not now. Your timing is rather off too I might add.”
“I was not trying to do anything right this instant,” he mumbled.
She thought for a long moment and her eyes widened for a fraction of a second. Caius could see something dawn on her face and he was almost disturbed when she pushed him back into the grass and straddled him.
“I thought you said now was not the right time?” He snickered as she started to bite gently on his neck.
She did not speak while she tended to his body. They would always get rather far but right as they would be at the point of actually having intercourse, she would suddenly stop and hyperventilate. Caius could not understand why. Each time they would become passionate, and each time he would hope that they would finally conjoin, and each time he was left feeling disappointed and shunned. He always felt guilty for being disappointed. This time seemed different though, as she explored his body with her hands it seemed more urgent, as if her life depended on it. Caius frowned.
It seemed forced.
“Hey. Hey. Elizabeth,” he tapped on her shoulders and maneuvered her to where she was laying on her side facing him.
“Why did you stop?” She asked, clearly miffed.
“Are you doing this because you believe it is something I want?”
“Is it not something you want?” She asked, her voice a little angrier now. She sat up and curled her knees till she could rest her chin on them.
“I do want to. I just know that you have always said you were not ready. I find it hard to believe you are ready this very moment.”
“So are you calling me a coward?” She barked.
“What? No? I just mean that-is this truly how you want our first time to be? In the middle of the forest? On dirt and in the cold?” asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“I am tired of waiting,” she sighed in exasperation, flinging her arms around his neck. He pulled away gently.
“You always said you wanted to wait. Not even a five minutes ago you were saying so. Do not rush things now. I have waited this long, we can wait for the right time,” He kissed her nose and she pursed her lips.
“Tonight, after the Brotherhood’s party. I’ll come by your place and we will-” Her eyes flashed a magenta color and the heat of her body caused Caius to jump back. Someone is watching us, she sent him the message without speaking and he immediately tensed.
Caius scanned the forest around them, catching a glint of something that caught the sunlight, reflecting back at him.
They have a sword, he thought to her. Slowly his hand made its way to his side to grip the leather bounded hilt of a pocket knife, but Elizabeth’s hand caught his. He peered at her questioningly and she shook her head, her eyes returning to normal.
It was a man, Caius could make out the figure walking toward him now. His green eyes narrowed and he bit the inside of his cheek in annoyance.
A man wearing a red and gold tail coat cut high above his black breeches came into view out of the dense thicket. The man’s black hair was pulled back into a low pony tail, and his dark brown eyes met green ones with amusement. He held fast to the sword at his side and looked between the two in front of him curiously.
“My, Elizabeth, pardon my intrusion, but I have come to escort you back home. It is not proper for a woman to wander off into the forest, especially with a stable boy, people will talk about the company you choose to keep.” Roland’s lip curled up into a sneer.
Caius let out a throaty growl and Roland’s grip on his sword grew tighter before Elizabeth stepped between the two men. “ I assure you Roland I can handle myself. As for Caius, he was kind enough to take me here to see the leaves that have changed.” She placed her hand on Roland’s shoulder and then his hand that held his sword, releasing his grip and easing him away from Caius.
Ignore him Caius, I will see you tonight.
Roland was about to let Elizabeth lead him away when his eyes narrowed in on the branch that was held in the loop of Caius’ belt. Caius’ attention caught on to what Roland’s focus was and his body turned awkwardly to the side to hide the enchanted flowered branch.
“What is that? There are not any blossoms here this late in the fall,” Roland whirled Caius around by his shoulder and snatched the branch from his belt, shoving him backwards. Caius leapt up from the ground and charged at Roland, only to be met with the hilt of his sword to the face. Blood crept down from his forehead, the heat from the blow surging into his head, leaving him blinded and dizzy.
“Roland that is quite enough!” Elizabeth angrily ripped the sword away and threw it behind her before rushing to Caius’ side. Roland didn’t pay much attention to her, twirling the flowered branch between his fingers, the branch radiated warmth, contrasting from the cold autumn air. Glaring down at the two of them he put the branch into his own belt loop and yanked Elizabeth up by her petticoat. Caius made to lunge again but Elizabeth’s silent voice rang in his ears; No. Do not to anything that we cannot walk away from.
“Elizabeth stay away from him. I will not have my fiancé keep floundering about with another man,” Roland said with a snarl.
He spat on the ground in a disrespectful gesture towards Caius at a further attempt to humiliate him. He then grabbed her arm possessively and walked over to where his sword lay. He bent at the knees and as he was about to pick up the sword something caught his eye. His eyebrow quirked slightly and his fingers found their way through the dry grass and dirt, resting on a burnt spot in the shape of feet. The ground was still warm where the oddity was, and the dirt sent a small shock up his arm. He pulled back ever so slightly, turning his eyes to use his peripheral view to glance at Elizabeth’s bare feet as she stood next to him.
Interesting, He thought to himself, the revelation of Elizabeth having such a dark secret both appealing and frightening, yet he thought up hundreds of ideas in mere seconds as to the many ways she could be beneficial to him. Now it wasn’t just her beauty and body he desired, nor the glorious amount of gloating he would put Caius through- it was the power that made her that much more appealing to him. They were already engaged, an agreement made by her as a child, it was expected of them to wed. He couldn’t wait to see the depression Caius would go into. The stupid stable boy always seemed to hold his Elizabeth’s affections.
Elizabeth exchanged a worried glance with Caius, who was holding his bloody face in his hands angrily.
If I have to kill him now, I will, he assured her.
She bit her bottom lip and lowered her eyes to Roland’s. “We should be going now Roland, don’t you think? It is getting late, and we will have to go over wedding details, yes?” Elizabeth stroked his cheek and lightly tugged on the hem of his coat in urgency. Roland clasped his hand around hers and nodded slightly, not uttering a sound as he was ushered away by his betrothed.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow I am taking you away from here Elizabeth, Caius mentally yelled at her as she walked away with her arm looped into Roland’s.
She didn’t look back at him, instead she leaned into Roland’s shoulder, resting her head on it. Caius’ stomach wanted to lurch, and in response Elizabeth sent him her emotions as she was feeling them. He immediately began to relax as he felt her sending him her warmth and feelings of reassurance.
She loves me, he told himself, telling the jealous part of him that what she was doing was just a show. He told himself that she was without a doubt his alone. He would go home, and he would wait for her to come to him.
As Roland escorted Elizabeth out of the forest toward the village, he began to plan all sorts of ways to twist and bend her to his whim. He had some uneasy thoughts, however, like what if she were able to control his mind and body? Or perhaps turn him into a farm pig or a rat. He stole a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye and scoffed to himself.
No. If she wanted to hurt me she could have done it many times. As often as I beat and humiliate her precious Caius, she would have acted on that alone.
It vexed him. Witches took what they wanted, when they wanted it, and how they wanted it- a lot like himself. He couldn’t understand how if she had all that power hidden away, why had she not used it against anyone. A waste of potential. And why had she found pleasure in such a unworthy man such as Caius? These questions pulled at him annoyingly and he let out an irritated sigh, to which his company looked up at him, perplexed.
“Is something on your mind, Roland?” Her sweet voice meddling with his senses as her fingers interlocked with his.
“I was just in thought,” he replied simply.
She took a small breath and stopped walking, they were just outside the village, the advanced wood and brick homes in view. “ What is it?”
He thought for a moment, choosing his words carefully. He did not want to let her in on anything he was really thinking. “My father will be expecting you on my arm tonight to celebrate with the rest of us, before the actual celebration tomorrow... I just could not help but think that you would prefer to spend your time in someone else’s company.” For a moment, he could have sworn her eyes had lightened to a sterling silver, but just as fast as he blinked, he was looking back into her familiar blue eyes.
Elizabeth dreaded this- a part of her did at least. The other part was thrilled by it. The party that was held by Roland’s father at their rather lavish home for such a mediocre village. She could already see the gray stone walkway and the great brick home that was draped in vines that wound up the sides of it protectively. It was one of the more elaborate homes with clean windows and an abundance of decorative angelic statues that were stained with time and exposure. Only she would find the house to be ominous instead of alluring and beautiful. To her, the clean windows were eyes that stared her down and made her feel small. The vines were great snakes that twisted and turned in the breeze waiting to strike, and the statues of angels who smiled looked more like monsters that grimaced. She saw what this home really was; a house of murderers, a prison... A house that held parties for the Brotherhood. For her, it was an adrenaline rush and a challenge she wanted to overcome.
“I feel wounded at your accusations,” she quipped, turning back to him. “In any case, I shall have to see how my mother is fairing this evening,’ she added slowly, ’she was not well this morning.” She was mentally preparing herself to stand in a room full of laughing drunks that would be more than happy to share stories of killing her kind and other monsters. She could picture the men all in one room in the form of crows that gawked at her with beady eyes before swooping in, talons extended to rip her apart. Again that part inside of her yearned for them to, so she could unleash hell and watch their blood drain from every porous part of their bodies.
She shuddered, disgusted with her primitively dark thoughts. It was a struggle she often battled within herself; to be good or bad, yet she was tugged into all directions. She wanted to be good- good enough to deserve Caius, but she was bad enough to not have to try as hard being with Roland. The eyes of the ominous house stared down at her, both welcoming that dark part in her and repelling her.
Roland’s hands balled into fists tightly and he gritted his teeth. “Or is it perhaps that Caius is the one who needs tending to?”
Her mouth opened and closed, reminding him of a fish without water to his disdain. He wanted Elizabeth for the past five years, and she had after all agreed to marry him for the sake of his father’s wealth continuing to support her mother, her sister, and herself after the loss of their father. She even entertained him with a few trysts here and there and did not seem so appalled by that. Then all of a sudden, three summers ago, it all changed. The stable boy and Elizabeth seemed to be getting closer, though she never broke off the engagement. Now every time he rutted her she would rush to clean his seed from her body, as if it would clean away her guilt and sin.
Not that she would have any choice in the matter, he thought.
It was a complete mockery that he watch as his future wife gallop around the forest with another man and he pretended to be unaware. It was foolish- he was foolish. Then to find out she is a witch of some breed on top of that. He could have her hanged in the village square as a spectacle! Her damn lover too!
“I am no fool Elizabeth,’ he started angrily stepping forward, ’I have seen the two of you together on few occasions, and after today I highly recommend you never see him again. I choose to ignore what you have been doing but we will be married soon.”
“Roland, you cannot be serious?” Elizabeth asked in shock. “I will not bend to your ridiculous rules or give your accusations any merit.”
“Are you bedding him too?” He asked her with disdain. Her nose scrunched up and angry tears pricked her eyes. He grabbed her forcefully by the sleeve of her petticoat, and when a small heat wave hit his face he suddenly did not know if bullying her would be the ideal thing to do. Yet, in spite of the small dose of fear she instilled into him, he held onto her, brown eyes boring into suddenly darkening blue ones.
“I will ask you once more. How would you think Caius would take it knowing he is using my seed as lubricant?”
“Or perhaps it is you who is using his seed as lubricant,” she growled back. She tugged away her arm, everything in her will power not to have a tree suddenly fall on top of him. She could kill him now, if she wanted to, and did she want to at that moment. There were a couple of problems with that; she could accidentally implicate herself and Caius in his death. Everyone would question the sudden disappearance of Roland James. Not only that, but her desire to define the line between good and bad witches was stronger than her desire to destroy him- even if he deserved it.
“You have not let him inside of you, have you?’ It was more a statement then a question and he gave a cocky grin when her face turned crimson.
“Does he know I have been where he has not?” He reached for the back of her neck and roughly pushed her back against a nearby tree. His lips crashed against hers and she bit his bottom lip, reaching up and raking her long fingers through his hair. His hands roamed down the front of her dress, massaging her breasts before she lifted the layers of her skirts and exposed herself to him. She wanted to conquer him, not love him. She waited for him to lower his head and pushed him down onto the dry grass and mounted him, her hand around his neck. On top of him she dominated him, and he stripped his lower half, waiting for her to lower herself onto him.
It was a fast rut. She rode out her energy on top of him before she was swallowed with immense guilt. She looked down at Roland who was glaring at her for stopping before he could finish. Her fingers were digging into his throat but he was un phased by it, beginning to move beneath her in a waving motion, trying to entice her back into the moment. With Roland, she allowed her dark side to be free and this is what happened often; she took her frustrations out on him in a harmless way.
’Harmless for me,’ she thought angrily. She allowed Roland to move her hips for her until his eyes were rolling and she wanted nothing more than to tighten her grip around his neck. She imagined her fingers created grooves in his neck, deep trenches that choked him and drained him of his blood. She felt herself become hot inside and knew he was finished, rolling off him immediately but he grabbed her arm.
“There is nothing to know,” She said calmly, breathing out a slow, steady sigh to eliminate the urge to harm him. She stared at him defiantly, looking from her arm to his face in a pointed manner.
Roland released her arm, his lip curled upward into a sneer. “I suppose there is nothing then,” He said simply, almost cheerfully. If he were to tell his father her secret, he surely would just take over everything.
“It is like night and day with you,” She said scornfully to his smiling face.
He fixed his clothing and gave her one last kiss before he placed his hand on her lower back and eased her gently out of the forest, into the clearing of the village where the voices of excited people rang out. Brick and wooden homes stood out with colorful ribbons decorating them, streamers falling from trees and torches already lit and centered in the stone paved village square for a celebration.
She bit the insides of her cheek as she watched children begin burning dolls that were to represent witches being burned alive, their playful screams ringing in her ears. She imagined herself as one of those small dolls, hair singed and burning away into nothing.
“I will see you tonight then, after you see to the wellness of your mother,” He smiled at her but his eyes were giving away something darker. “Perhaps you should clean up,” he added.
Elizabeth nodded, wishing she could ask for entry into his mind so she would be allowed to read it. She had done so with Caius, and it seemed that it was dangerous to not know now what Roland was thinking.
There is always a subconscious wall that kept one’s thoughts guarded, and the only people she ever heard the minds of was her family and Caius- because they let that wall down. She nodded curtly and walked away from him, towards her mother’s distastefully festive decorated wooden home, guilt burning through her veins.
Roland watched her carefully, his eyes narrowing while he fiddled with the enchanted branch at his side. He wondered how long it would be before someone else caught Caius and her together, then he would have no choice but to hang her, but that time never came. They had been careful together, and maybe that is why Elizabeth never bed him; a kiss could be innocent enough...but to conjoin with one another was different.
He could feel where she left him with her wetness and scowled. He wanted to marry her, wanted to be powerful with her. In his own way he loved her. He wondered how long she tried to hide her more malevolent nature. Every time they joined he could see that dark part in her, prowling around in a cage, he just had not been aware how dangerous she actually was. It made him want her more.
Caius was soft and not the man she needed. Caius was also too good for her and Roland believed she knew that. He hesitated at the thought that when the time came to be joined in matrimony, she would not hesitate to run away with Caius.
“My dear Elizabeth, the only way you will be rid of me is through death.”
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