The early morning air was wet with dew and cooled by the gentle breeze. The sky appeared to have been painted by a majestic artist with colors of orange, pink, purple, and blue. Young Marcellus Taylor packed his father’s torn clothes along with his own into a hand woven reed basket, made by his late mother, to take to Ms. Maia Spyro. Ms. Maia had moved to a village on the outskirts of London to raise her niece when her brother passed away, soon after his wife was burned at the stake. Marcellus didn’t know it was his father’s doing though. He grabbed some bread and cheese to eat before he left his house.
He walked to the edge of town where the forest met the town circle and followed a dirt path that lead to a small stone and wood cottage. He could hear a delicate twinkling sound that only happened when the wind blew, and a beautiful flute was being played. Once he was in front of the house, he saw a girl about the age of six with long light brown hair hanging upside down from a tree limb the size of half a log. He couldn’t tell much of her features due to her position in the tree and her closed eyes, except for her hair and fair skin. She wore a pale colored petticoat over an ivory smock. He had never seen the girl before during his many trips back and forth with his father.
She appeared to be in deep concentration. Marcellus approached the girl apprehensively, so not to disturb and cause her to fall. He remembered the stories he heard from the local children about the strange orphan girl whose mother was burned at the stake for witchcraft and her father had died hours later of a broken heart. Everyone believed her father and her were innocent and knew nothing of her mother’s treachery. She, however, looked normal, though she didn’t completely behave it considering she was hanging upside down from a tree branch.
In his small eight year old voice he asked, “Ummm...girl? Miss? Where can I find Ms. Maia?”
The girl appeared to not have heard him.
So he spoke louder, clearing his throat and asked again, “Where can I find Ms. Maia?”
Marcellus could tell the girl heard him that time, because her eyes popped open, revealing startled midnight purple eyes, and she fell from the tree toward the ground with a squeal. The flute sound stopped suddenly, and a woman with dark brown hair rushed out of the small house, appearing anxious, and came to see what the commotion was.
“What is all this raucous, children?” she asked with a playful smile once she saw Marcellus.
“It’s nothing, Aunt Maia,” the young girl answered quickly as she bounced up from behind some bushes and stumbled around a little.
She glared daggers at the young boy just yards away from her as she picked leaves and twigs out of her waist length hair and dusted off her dress. Through the narrow slits of her eyes, it almost appeared as if her eyes were pure onyx black. Marcellus didn’t know if it was his imagination or if it was really there, but he saw a black shadowy cloud forming around this girl’s figure. It slightly frightened him, but it utterly piqued his curiosity and interest. It seemed to match her eyes well when she glared.
Ms. Maia saw the basket of clothes in Marcellus’ arms and started to laugh, drawing Marcellus’ attention away from the girl. He saw her place an azure wooden flute into the tie of her white apron. “More clothes from your father, Marcy?” Ms. Maia asked after she stopped laughing.
Since Marcellus had turned eight, his father had made him bring baskets of clothes to Ms. Maia for stitching and patching by himself. His father had repeatedly showed him the path to her house and back, when he came to visit, until Marcellus could walk it without him. But all the times he had come here, this was his first time to meet the girl. Marcellus held the basket up, hiding his shy, blushing face behind it as he handed it to her.
“Yes, ma’am. Father was out again last night, after I was asleep,” he explained.
“Your father gets into extensive trouble in these woods, doesn’t he?” Ms. Maia asked Marcellus with a smirk as she accepted the basket of clothes.
Marcellus lowered his head behind his chin length bleach blond hair as he nodded it.
“You need another hair cut while you’re here, don’t you?” Ms. Maia questioned him as she carried the basket inside the house with the two children following behind her.
“Most likely, my father would very much appreciate it,” he smiled shyly.
“Alright, Marcy, come on in,” Ms. Maia told him, waving her hand toward the entrance. “Is your head alright, Lyla?”
So that’s the girl’s name, Marcellus thought.
Lyla looked at her aunt surprised, before she nodded her head with a whispered, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Don’t do that again, young lady,” Ms. Maia told her niece in a stern voice. “I have eyes everywhere.”
Marcellus didn’t quite understand what Ms. Maia meant, but he decided to ignore it. He took his place on the stool, where Ms. Maia always cuts his hair. Lyla went to another room in the house and stayed there. What she was doing, Marcellus didn’t know.
He soon found out a couple days later when he showed back up with the basket of clothes again. As he approached the house, he saw Lyla standing next to a tree with a smirk on her face. In her hand was a rope. His eyes followed the rope from her hand, through many tree branches and to a bucket above his head. Marcellus eyed Lyla tentatively. All of a sudden, he heard sloshing noise as he felt something wet, slimy, and sticky fall on his head and pour down his body. It soaked through his shirt and jerkin. He shuddered at the cold feeling as it slithered its way into his breeches. He heard peals of laughter as he looked back up at Lyla. She was arched over with her hands holding her stomach as she laughed loudly.
She skipped over to him, sweetly, and told him, “Revenge is so sweet.” She scooped some of the substance off his cheek and sucked it off her fingers. “Yep, it is sweet,” she laughed walking into the house.
Marcellus scooped some up on his finger to see what the sticky substance was and found it to be blueberry jam. Ms. Maia walked out behind her niece, watching her run in the house, and saw Marcellus covered in her blueberry jam that she had made to send home with him. Her hand flew to mouth, and she rushed back into the house, yelling at Lyla. Marcellus slowly followed and stood at the foot of the steps, not wanting to step into the house and make a mess. Ms. Maia came back out and had Marcellus strip and put on his father’s tunic that she had patched up. Blushing, he began to undress in front of Ms. Maia with Lyla peeking out behind her skirt with a smug look. At least they were in the middle of the forest where none of the other villagers could see.
That’s when he decided if Lyla wanted to start a prank war, he’ll fight back. And…He…Would…WIN! As Ms. Maia washed his clothes with Lyla’s help, Marcellus cleaned himself up. After scrubbing his hair three times, thank the Lord that Ms. Maia had cut it a few days ago, he realized it was now a light blue in color. He released a frustrated groan and marched out to the kitchen where Ms. Maia and Lyla were washing his clothes. When Ms. Maia saw Marcellus’s hair, she scowled at Lyla before giving him a “special” shampoo to clean it out of his hair.
Ms. Maia walked Marcellus home that night, so she could explain the events of the day to his father, and tell him why his son’s hair is not blue. She gave Reverend Taylor a new batch of blueberry jam (though he’d be the only one eating it from that day on) and a couple of loaves of bread, she had baked earlier that day.
Ms. Maia looked apologetically at Reverend Taylor when she saw the horror on his face at the sight of his son’s hair.
“Reverend Taylor, my apologies about Marcellus’ hair. Lyla can be quite mischievous at times especially since she really doesn’t spend time with children her own age. Many of the children mistreat her,” Ms. Maia explained to him.
Once he calmed down, Reverend Taylor welcomed her in his home and brushed off her apology.
“It is fine, my dear. I understand how children can be at times,” he glanced down at Marcellus and continued. “It is difficult for me at times raising Marcellus since his mother passed. He has no mother to really care for him while I’m busy tending to the Lord’s flock.”
Ms. Maia smiled sweetly down at Marcellus and spoke to the reverend, “If it is good with you Reverend, Marcellus can stay with Lyla and me, while you are working.”
Reverend Taylor smiled immensely at her and nodded his head, “That would be wonderful, Ms. Maia.”
As the night went on, Ms. Maia and Reverend Taylor sat at the table as they talked. Marcellus had left them alone to go change into his nightgown. Reverend Taylor was eating some of the bread and jam that Ms. Maia had brought over for him.
“My dear, you should have your own bakery and pastry shop. Your cooking is delightful!” he complimented her many times. “I’m surprised you haven’t married yet, Ms. Maia.”
“I’m fine on my own, Reverend,” she told him bashfully as she looked over his shoulder at Marcellus, who was reading his Holy Bible.
After Ms. Maia had left, Marcellus listened to his father talk as he studied the Scriptures. Most of the time his words seemed like gibberish, but tonight he seemed to have something set on his mind.
“Since no man has had the bravery to ask this young woman for her hand, then I shall do it,” the reverend announced until his inquisitive son asked a very fine question.
“What if men have, but she has refused?” Marcellus asked.
He watched his father’s countenance fall and his body deflate into a chair. They both went to bed with many thoughts that night.
A few years passed, it became normal for Marcellus to stay with the Spyros while his father was working. Marcellus and Lyla became great friends and fell into a constant routine of playing, doing chores around the house, and the occasional pranks. Reverend Taylor never brought up the idea of marriage again that was until one night when Marcellus became ill. He was now thirteen years old and Lyla was eleven years old. Marcellus had fallen ill with a high fever and was hoarsely coughing. He complained of aches and pains and of feeling cold.
The reverend believed Ms. Maia was the nearest and best person to care for his son like she has been for the past five years. Lyla stood back as she observed her only friend being tortured with the pains of sickness. She fought to control her shadows around the reverend, and watched as her aunt administered a potion to sooth him for the moment.
Lyla remembered watching her cousin, Iaso, make the potions the month before. She was just now learning about potion making, but Iaso only came to visit once a month to deliver potions and to teach Lyla. She wasn’t quite of age yet to learn spells and charms yet. Lyla tended to be a difficult student, but the family was learning why.
“Give him some soup with crushed moon lilies, rosemary, sage, and cinnamon, Aunt Maia,” Lyla whispered to Ms. Maia.
Ms. Maia smiled at her niece and pulled her into the kitchen.
“So you are learning something from our cousin. That’s wonderful,” Maia praised her niece with a pleased smile. “Do you remember when to add the ingredients?”
“When the water is at a boil,” Lyla smiled proudly.
“Excellent,” Ms. Maia said as she prepared everything in the fireplace and cut up all the ingredients.
Lyla helped her cook the soup separately to have the potion added into it later, and have extra potion to bottle for storage. A small vile of the potion was added into a bowl of soup for Marcellus to eat. When they brought it to him, they realized he was too weak to feed himself, so Ms. Maia pulled Marcellus’ head on her lap and spoon fed him. After Marcellus had eaten every bit of the soup, the Ms. Maia and Lyla cleaned everything up, got Marcellus comfy in Ms. Maia’s room, and Lyla went off to bed, but not before taking some of the potion as a preventive.
Ms. Maia had also made a couple of bowls of soup, one with the potion for the reverend, and herself. After they ate, she walked Reverend Taylor to the door bidding him good night. Before he walked out, he turned to her with a solemn expression.
“You’ve been caring for my son and me the past few years so well, and we’re not even your family. You’ve made and brought us wonderful food, repaired our torn clothes, and even cared for Marcellus now when he’s sick,” the reverend said waving his hand toward Ms. Maia’s room for emphasis. “What I’m trying to say is...” he kneeled to one knee and clasped Ms. Maia’s hands in his. “Will you join our two families and take my name? Will you marry me?”
Before Ms. Maia could even answer, a piercing scream was heard from Lyla’s room. Ms. Maia anxiously turned away and ran towards Lyla’s room. The reverend followed right behind her, wanting to protect her and her niece. They found Lyla curled up in a ball, in the corner of her bed looking at the window.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Ms. Maia asked Lyla as her eyes darted around the room, worriedly. She sat next to Lyla and wrapped her arms around her.
“I saw a witch and she was trying to take my spirit. When I screamed, she jumped out the window and into the woods,” Lyla cried into Ms. Maia’s shoulder.
Reverend Taylor looked out the window and saw a shadowy figure run along the tree line. He instructed Ms. Maia and Lyla to stay indoors and to shut all windows in the house before they went to bed. Unbeknownst to him, Lyla was controlling the shadowy figure. But her aunt was smarter than that, she saw right through her trick. He left quickly, to track down the “witch” that Lyla had seen.
“Again, Lyla?” Ms. Maia asked her.
Lyla just shrugged her shoulders, unapologetic. She didn’t like her aunt’s suitors, they seemed to rub her the wrong way.
“One day, you will have to deal with me getting married and being happy not taking care of you snotty little brat,” Ms. Maia said as she began tickling Lyla.
What Lyla didn’t know and wasn’t old enough to learn yet was about the custos amator. Ms. Maia was right, Lyla was going to have to deal with her getting married to someone one day, but it would be her soul mate, her guardian lover.
“Now, sweetie, even though your abilities are developing quicker than they should, does not mean you should use them like that,” Ms. Maia scolded her after they both calmed down.
Marcellus was better the next morning. Ms. Maia fed him warm porridge with the same potion again to prevent him from getting sick again with the flu. She and Lyla also took it, so they would never catch it from caring for Marcellus. After they ate and Marcellus cleaned himself up, Ms. Maia walked Marcellus home. Reverend Taylor greeted them at the door with a basket of clothes in his hands.
“Clothes got ruined again from your witch hunt last night, Reverend Taylor?” Ms. Maia asked, smirking.
“Yes, Ms. Maia. Do you mind repairing them for me, please?” he asked her with a shy smile and a small blush.
Like father, like son, Ms. Maia thought.
“Sure, I will take care of it for you,” Ms. Maia promised.
“That was some excellent soup you made last night. I would like to have more of it again sometime,” Reverend Taylor told her with a smile as Marcellus walked to his room.
“I would be more than happy to make it up for you sometime, Reverend,” Ms. Maia told him. “If you do not mind, I must be going now.”
They said their farewells and Ms. Maia was off to her home again. A few weeks later Marcellus was back at Ms. Maia’s with more clothing. Ms. Maia decided to invite the Taylors to dinner and sent Lyla and Marcellus into town to retrieve some ingredients that she needed. Lyla carried her basket and Marcellus carried a slip of parchment which Ms. Maia had given him.
“Why did your aunt give me the list?” Marcellus asked Lyla.
Lyla was a little hesitant to answer. “Because...um...because...I...I c-c-can’t read well,” she stuttered out.
What she failed to mention was that she couldn’t read English well. All of Lyla’s spell and potion books were in Latin and Greek, which was all she was taught to read at the moment. She wasn’t going to tell Marcellus that though.
He smiled reassuringly. “I can teach you to read if you want.”
“You will? Oh, that would be wonderful, Marcellus!!!” she yelled, hopping around excitedly.
When they walked into the market, everyone turned and stared at them. Lyla was used to it, but it didn’t mean she liked it. She ducked behind Marcellus shyly, slightly frightened by all the ogling people. That’s when the children sauntered up to them.
“Look at the reverend’s son associating with the changeling,” one of them said with a sneer.
“Leave her alone!!! There’s nothing wrong with her!!!” Marcellus yelled at the children angrily, his voice cracking.
One of them stepped on Lyla’s dress causing her to fall over. Marcellus lunged to catch her but someone grabbed his jerkin and yanked him back.
“Freak...unnatural...strange!” the children mocked Lyla as they held Marcellus’ thrashing form back.
Marcellus fought for freedom, but he wasn’t strong enough. His small lean thirteen year old body hadn’t yet developed the muscles most of the boys have from working outside in the sun. Suddenly, the children froze in fear. Marcellus gazed up from where he was dropped and saw his father.
“What are you doing to my children?” Reverend Taylor asked in a furious voice.
Marcellus crawled over to Lyla, who was rolled up in a ball, and pulled her into his lap and began to rock her. She was breathing heavily and sounded as if she may have been sobbing. The children who harassed them started to stutter and shake as they tried to come up with an excuse.
“Remember what The Lord says, ‘Thou shall not bear false witness.’ So you better tell me what I had just saw, and why it was happening,” the reverend requested.
The children all began to tell what he walked upon, and why they did it. None of them liked Lyla, because they viewed her as an abnormality for how she and her aunt lived. But they truly didn’t live any different from them, just in a different area that wasn’t as reserved as them. It was just because of Lyla’s situations, being an orphaned from the witch hunt and the spiteful things their parents told them about her family. Marcellus helped Lyla stand up after she calmed down.
“Are you two alright?” Reverend Taylor asked them as he helped them get dusted off.
Lyla and Marcellus nodded their heads. Reverend Taylor put his arms around them and led them into the market place. No one said anything as they bought their items on the list. Nonetheless, rumors began to spread about the mishap with the children and what the reverend had said.
The reverend followed the children back to Ms. Maia’s house, where the wonderful aroma of delicious bread was wafting out of the open windows. Lyla and Marcellus walked right in with the list and basket of ingredients while Reverend Taylor stopped at the door post.
“I hope you don’t mind that I came a little early. I ran into the children in the market place,” Reverend Taylor told Ms. Maia, but he didn’t tell her the conditions he found them in.
“I do not mind, I can always use an extra taste tester,” Ms. Maia told him as Lyla placed the basket on the counter next to Ms. Maia. Ms. Maia turned to Marcellus and asked him, “Do you mind going with Lyla to the well in the backyard and bringing me two pails of water, please?”
Marcellus nodded his head furiously and made his way to the door, with Lyla on his heels. His father stopped him, however before his stepped out of the house.
“Son, no one can hear your head rattle. What do you say to Ms. Maia?” Reverend Taylor rebuked his son.
Marcellus turned around to face the two adults, his face a fierce scarlet, and said, “Yes, ma’am.”
Lyla stood behind him holding the door open, trying to hold in her laughter at him.
“Lyla, if you keep laughing at him, you’ll be helping me in the garden for a week, young lady,” her aunt scolded her.
Lyla’s face dropped and she looked at the ground disappointed. Marcellus put his hand on her shoulder with a small smile, letting her know it was alright. They walked outside and around the small cottage to the backyard, where Marcellus saw the beautiful garden that Ms. Maia was talking about. It had a lot of flowers and herbs that he recognized, then some he didn’t. They were oddly shaped and very colorful. Lyla didn’t give him much time to really examine the plants though. She grabbed his hand and guided him toward the well. Marcellus’ face glowed brightly from the gesture, however Lyla was too distracted to notice.
She led him into the forest behind the garden and to the well that was there. Lyla tied the first wooden pail, which was lying there next to the well, on a rope and lowered it in. Lyla handed the rope over to Marcellus so he could pull it out.
Once it was at the edge of the well opening, Lyla grabbed the handle of the pail and hoisted it on the ledge of the well. She untied the pail from the rope and tied the second one up before pushing it in. After it was filled, they did the same routine. Lyla went to grab a pail of water to carry, but Marcellus seized both of them and carried them for her.
“You know I can carry one, too. I have been doing this with Aunt Maia for my entire life,” Lyla told him irritated.
“I was told to get them, so I will carry them,” Marcellus said.
“I know, but I can still carry one,” Lyla huffed, crossing her arms.
Marcellus sighed, stopped, and looked at Lyla. “If I walk in that house carrying one pail and you carrying the other. Do you know how much trouble I’ll be in when I get home tonight?”
Lyla was quiet as she thought about what he had told her. Before he started walking again, Lyla threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him over and spilling the water.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that,” she apologized.
“It’s alright, Lyl. Now let’s get inside before they come looking for us,” he chuckled.
Lyla smiled knowing Marcellus wasn’t upset with her when he used the nickname he gave her. She smile at him and they continued back to the house.
When they walked in the house, Reverend Taylor was standing next to Ms. Maia with a hand on her lower back as she was cutting up the carrots. Marcellus cleared his throat while Lyla puffed up like a blowfish.
The reverend is at it again, Lyla thought angrily.
Reverend Taylor pulled his hand away and placed it behind his neck, timidly. Lyla could see the smirk on her aunt’s face.
“Thank you, children. Let me get that warmed up and you can clean up,” Ms. Maia told them as she bent down to lift one of the pails of water.
“Allow me, Ms. Maia,” Reverend Taylor told her as he bent to pick one up for her.
“Thank you, Reverend, and please just call me Maia,” Maia said as she stepped back letting him lift the pail of water on the counter.
Ms. Maia ladled some of the water into a large Dutch oven pot, and then some into a smaller pot and began heating them to a boil. She pulls the small pot from the stove and pours it into a sink bowl.
“When this cools down enough, I want all three of you to clean up,” she tells the reverend and children placing an irregular shaped bar of soap next to the bowl.
When they saw the steam from bowl finally disappear Reverend Taylor offered Lyla to go first. After she finished, Marcellus cleaned up and then the reverend. Ms. Maia ladled some of the water from Dutch oven pot into a smaller bowl for her to clean the vegetables before she cut them and put them in the soup.
“Reverend, do you mind getting the two rabbits and chickens that I have tied to a tree in the yard, please?” Ms. Maia asked him sweetly as she handed him one of her daggers.
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll be right back,” he said, grabbing Marcellus by the collar of his shirt to go help him.
Ms. Maia and Lyla cooked and prepared for dinner in silence. Lyla was setting the table and placing her aunt’s famous jams out for the bread as Ms. Maia prepared dessert: Banbury cakes. Reverend Taylor and Marcellus walked back in with the two rabbits and two chickens. Ms. Maia skinned the two rabbits and told Marcellus to lay their furs out to dry. Lyla plucked the chickens’ feathers and began to prepare them for roasting, while Ms. Maia used the rabbits for the stew. A few hours later when everything was cooked and ready, the two families sat down for dinner. The reverend said the grace and everyone began passing plates and bowls of food around the table.
The adults conversed with each other as the two children conversed among themselves. After they finished dinner, Ms. Maia and Lyla took everyone’s dishes and placed them on the counter. Ms. Maia led everyone into the cottage’s small living room. Ms. Maia made coffee for herself and the reverend and tea for the children. The children sat on the couch next to each other and Maia and the reverend took the empty arm chairs. Marcellus reached into his jerkin and pulled out his Holy Bible that he always carries like his father.
“Remember, how I told you I would teach you to read?” Marcellus asked Lyla.
She nodded her head and used her hair to cover her face shyly.
“Well, there’s no better time than now to start,” he said excitedly as he opened the Bible to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1.
Marcellus sat there and slowly began to read and teach Lyla how to read. As they were settling in to eat dessert and visit some more, or in Marcellus and Lyla’s case read, a knocking sounded on the front door. Ms. Maia stood up and walked to the door to answer it.
“Good evening, Ms. Spyro. Sorry to bother you, but I heard Reverend Taylor was here and I urgently need him,” Mr. Cogswell, the city blacksmith told.
“Reverend Taylor!” Ms. Maia called over her shoulder. “What’s wrong may I ask?”
“My wife is gravely ill along with our eldest daughter. The physician said they didn’t have long to live. I need the reverend to read them their last rights,” he told Ms. Maia as he began to cry.
“Oh dear!” Ms. Maia exclaimed covering her mouth as the reverend approached them, having heard the whole story. “Let me get your family some of the stew I made up. We have plenty left over and stew always makes everything better,” Ms. Maia told him as she strode over to her still warm pot.
She stirred the stew and without anyone looking, she added some healing potion to it. The same kind she had given Marcellus when he was sick. She took the pot off the stove and handed it over to the men.
“I hope your wife and daughter get better. With lots of prayers, everything will be wonderful. Your daughter can’t let that sweet boy down anyhow, now can she?” Ms. Maia told Mr. Cogswell.
“Thank you, Ms. Spyro. I don’t know what some of these people have against you, but you’re a sweet woman. If my daughter pulls through this, I hope to see you at her wedding with that niece of yours,” Mr. Cogswell told her, smiling.
Reverend Taylor turned to Ms. Maia now asked her, “Is it alright if Marcellus stays with you? I don’t actually like him staying home alone, and he and Lyla seem to be getting along wonderfully.”
“It is not problem for me at all, Reverend Taylor,” Ms. Maia told him.
Before following Mr. Cogswell out the door, Reverend Taylor turned to Ms. Maia, clasped her hands within his, and said, “Maia, we have known each other for a while, I would like it if you call me by my first given name.”
“I was only doing it out of respect, Lawrence. I would not call you by your first name unless you asked me,” Ms. Maia told him before he left, following Mr. Cogswell, and Ms. Maia turned around to see Lyla and Marcellus making faces.
“Children! Should you be spying on us or reading?” Ms. Maia scolded them.
Marcellus and Lyla jumped up surprised, before they ran back in the living room to read some more. Shortly after everyone had eaten dessert and finished their drinks, Ms. Maia collected all the dishes to clean them. Marcellus and Lyla were almost through the second chapter of Genesis when they began to doze off. Maia finished the dishes and went to prepare the guest bedroom for Marcellus.
Once she finished, she walked back in the living room to find Lyla and Marcellus asleep. The Bible was still open to the place they had left off. Lyla’s head was propped on his chest while his arm was wrapped around her where it had fallen. Marcellus’s head had fallen against the back of the couch and his mouth hung open as he lightly snored. Ms. Maia chuckled and let them be. She’d fix a potion for in the morning for their soreness.
The reverend returned to Ms. Maia’s cottage the next morning with joyful news of Mr. Cogswell’s wife and daughter. They were feeling better that morning than they had the previous night. Mr. Cogswell and Reverend Taylor had spent all night praying over his wife, while his youngest daughter and oldest son kept watch over their sister, after they ate the rabbit stew. Ms. Maia was ecstatic to hear the news and had Reverend Taylor come in for breakfast. She had made cinnamon nut bread and set out some freshly churned butter. She poured him a cup of coffee as the children prepared for the day.
“Leanna Cogwells and Andrew Moore’s wedding is a week from now, so that gives you time to get dresses for it,” Reverend Taylor told Maia as he supped on his coffee.
“Oh, I’ll make ours and bring a gift for them as well,” Ms. Maia told him.
“Can you make an outfit for Marcellus, also please?” Reverend Taylor asked her.
“It would be no problem,” she told him with a smile.
During that week, Ms. Maia bought all the necessary materials at the market for making the two dresses and Marcellus’s suit. She had it all magically put together and went to the reverend’s house the night before the wedding for last minute fitting on Marcellus.
“I’m sorry, Marcellus, but you have to be absolutely still, or I might accidentally prick you with the needle, and I don’t want to do that,” Ms. Maia complained to Marcellus once again.
He huffed out a deep breathe, blowing a piece of hair off his forehead. Ms. Maia noticed that and moved his hair from his face.
“Do I need to cut your hair again? It’s getting in your eyes now,” Ms. Maia asked him as she stitched the hemline of his pants.
“Not yet, wait until it gets to my nose, then cut it. I like having it covering my eyes,” Marcellus told her excitedly.
Reverend Taylor didn’t seem to agree though. “No son of mine is walking around with his hair looking like that. You look like some kind of ruffian!” he yelled.
Ms. Maia stood up and looked to Reverend Taylor shocked.
“Lawrence, I see nothing wrong with him wanting his hair this long. It’s quite manageable and orderly,” Ms. Maia told the reverend as she started straightening Marcellus’s hair up a bit.
She had it parted on the right and most of his hair brushed to the left while the right side was brushed behind his ear. She could even tie it with a leather string if he wanted her to. It was a clean and handsome hairstyle for him. Reverend Taylor examined his son’s hair then turned to Ms. Maia.
“My apologies, Maia, for my behavior,” he apologized.
“It’s not me you should apologize to, it’s him,” she gestures to Marcellus.
Reverend Taylor turned to Marcellus and apologized. This shocked Marcellus, because his father has never apologized to him for anything.
The snow gently fluttered to the ground and the wind gently blew as the crowd of wedding guests made their way out of the church and to the groom’s parents’ home for the reception. Lyla’s damson dress was decorated with silver Celtic knot embroidery that whipped around her as she walked with her aunt. She wore her hair up in a braided bun and wore a coif over it like most girls her age. Her aunt was dressed similarly only in royal blue with Greek square embroidery. Marcellus walked with them while his father was in front of the wedding parade with the bride and groom, leading the way to the groom’s home. Once they made it there, everyone walked to the backyard of the mansion style home and gathered around the make shift dance floor to watch the newlywed couple have their first dance.
When Lyla came near anyone to try to observe the couple dancing, the audience would part around her like the Red Sea did for Moses when God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But many people still wouldn’t let her get close so she could watch them. Lyla sighed and chose to go sit at one of the empty tables that was starting to collect a small blanket of snow. She drew her finger around in a circle and raised it off the table, creating a tornado of snowflakes. Everyone was too captivated by the newlywed couple as they danced in the fluttering snow to see what Lyla was doing. But not exactly everyone, Marcellus caught sight of what Lyla was doing and walked up behind her to see how she was doing it.
“Lyl, what are you doing?” Marcellus inquired curiously.
Lyla jumped and waved away the snowflake tornado before turning to answer him. “Nothing, Thumper, just sitting here,” she sighed as she watched the wedding partygoers clap for the couple.
Marcellus sighed frustrated when Lyla called him ‘Thumper’. She’s been calling him that since she realized how he was easy to sneak up on and was quite jumpy.
“Would you stop calling me that, Lyla?” he asked her frustrated, his voice cracking.
Lyla tittered as she listened to him talk, noticing his voice go high pitched for a moment. She thought of when he defended her against the other children in the town, remembering how his voice did it then. She figured it must be a stage boys go through as they grow.
“No, I like it, especially since it irritates you,” she snickered, glad that the nickname slip distracted him from what she had done. “Your voice sounds squeaky sometimes when you talk now, too.”
“Whatever, Lyl,” he responded, rolling his eyes at her.
They sat next to each other and watched as the adults and some teenagers began to dance together, while the newlywed couple went to get something to eat from the table of steaming food. Lyla and Ms. Maia had brought her homemade jam and bread. Marcellus watched as all the couples twirled and danced around the floor. Ms. Maia brought over three plates of food and placed them on the table for them all to eat. Lyla merely picked at her food as Ms. Maia and Marcellus ate. Lyla didn’t appear to be enjoying the wedding, even though they were out in the cold, snow of winter, in her element. Reverend Taylor walked up to Ms. Maia then as the music was changing.
“Ms. Maia, may I have this dance?” he asked as he bowed to her, hand held out.
Ms. Maia blushed, embarrassed before she nodded her head, and took his hand. That gave Marcellus an idea. He stood from his seat and turned to Lyla.
“Ms. Lyla, may I have this dance?” he asked her politely.
Lyla glanced up from her food at Marcellus and saw that he was bowed over, peering through his shaggy hair with a kind smile, as he asked her to dance. Lyla blushed profusely like many of the women in her family and took his outstretched hand. They abandoned their plates of food and joined the adults on the dance floor. No one paid attention to them as they danced, so no one saw Lyla amidst them. Marcellus led Lyla fluidly across the dance floor. She was amazed at how graceful he danced; she didn’t know he could dance like that.
“Marcellus, where did you learn to dance like this?” Lyla asked him astounded.
“My aunt taught me to dance before she passed away,” he told her with a shy smile.
“When did she pass away?” she asked curiously.
“Four years after my mother did, I was six years old,” he told her sadly.
“So you were two when your mother died. I’m so sorry, Marcy,” she used his nickname that her aunt gave him, and pulled him into a comforting hug as they danced.
“It’s all well, Lyla. I know where my mother and aunt are, and I know they’ll be waiting for me,” he told her with a small smile.
Marcellus glanced down at Lyla curious about her parents since he had told her about his mother.
“What about your parents, Lyla? I’ve heard all the stories that everyone else had to say, but what is your story?” he asked her gently. “I want to know the truth.”
Tears welled up in Lyla’s eyes at the thought of her parents that she never really knew. She only had the memories her cousin and Aunt Maia had to show her and the stories they told her. She looked Marcellus in the eyes and shook her head. She didn’t know what to tell him, so she just laid her head on his shoulder and continued their dance in silence. Marcellus was hurt that he had upset his friend.
Ms. Maia tapped on Reverend Taylor’s shoulder as they danced and pointed toward where she had spotted Lyla and Marcellus dancing. They smiled as they saw them enjoying their time out of the cottage and house. Leanna and Andrew Moore approached Ms. Maia and Reverend Taylor with their arms wrapped around each other and a smile on their faces.
“Thank you so much for everything, Ms. Spyro. Whatever you cooked in that soup was really good and did the trick to make my mother and I better in time for my wedding,” Leanna told her grateful.
“Yes, Ms. Spyro, thank you for helping us, and thank you, Reverend Taylor for doing the ceremony,” Andrew thanked them as he pulled Leanna close to him.
“No need to thank us, we are glad to help,” Reverend Taylor spoke for both of them.
Leanna and Andrew watched Reverend Taylor’s posture and behavior around Ms. Maia.
“Are you going to marry soon?” Leanna inquired curiously.
Reverend Taylor and Ms. Maia glanced at each other surprised and confused. When Leanna saw their flabbergasted expression, she blushed and began to backtrack.
“I’m sorry…I just thought with the way you were acting around each other that maybe you were betrothed…” Leanna trailed off embarrassed.
“It’s alright, Leanna. We’re just good friends,” Ms. Maia smiled at her.
The reception party went on until the sun started to set. People dispersed after the couple opened their presents and went to their home. Ms. Maia sent Lyla home with Reverend Taylor and Marcellus, while she stayed to help the family clean up. Once everything was cleaned up, Ms. Maia went to Reverend Taylor’s home to get Lyla. She found Lyla asleep on the chair next to the fire as Reverend Taylor read his Holy Bible in the wooden rocking chair.
“Thank you, Lawrence for taking care of her while I helped clean up the reception party,” she told him while she went to wake Lyla up.
“Don’t wake her up, Maia, you can stay the night,” Reverend Taylor told her as he stood from his chair and grabbed another blanket for her.
“Thank you, Lawrence,” she smiled as she got settled into the chair and Reverend Taylor covered her up. “Good night.”
“Good night, Maia,” Reverend Taylor called down the hall quietly from his room.
The next morning the ground was covered in a foot and a half of snow from the night of constant snowing. Marcellus got up early, just as dawn was breaking, and woke Lyla up. He got some biscuits and a jar of strawberry jelly and packed them in a small basket. He folded up a thick quilt and handed it to Lyla. What he didn’t know was that Ms. Maia had woken up when he came into the front room of the house. She watched as they moved around the room, gathering things and packed them. She finally made herself known and got up.
“What are you two doing?” Ms. Maia asked them.
Marcellus and Lyla jumped and turned toward her, surprised.
“Nothing, we were just getting stuff together for a picnic, Ms. Maia,” Marcellus explained to her.
“Where are you going to have this picnic at on a cold day like this?” Ms. Maia inquired with her hands on her hips.
Marcellus didn’t know what to tell her. He didn’t want to say anything to her about where they were going, because he didn’t want to spoil the surprise for Lyla or Ms. Maia to tell his father about where they were going. Ms. Maia could see the confusion and fear on his face and assuaged his worrying.
“I won’t tell your father, if you don’t want me to,” Ms. Maia promised him.
Marcellus glanced toward Lyla, and Ms. Maia understood what he was trying to say. She gestured for him to come toward her.
“Whisper it in my ear, Marcy,” Ms. Maia told him.
Marcellus was tall for his age and was nearly as tall as Ms. Maia, so he had no problem whispering to her what he need to.
“There’s this place in the woods I found, and it’s quite beautiful. I thought Lyla might like to see it,” he explained to her in a whisper.
“Alright, Marcy, you two have fun, and you better take care of her. She’s the only child from my brother that I have,” Ms. Maia told him seriously.
“I will,” Marcellus assured her.
Ms. Maia let them go and watched as they walked away from the house and into the forest. Marcellus was braver than many of the people in this town. Only the men went in the forest, and it was only to hunt. She saw that Marcellus had packed a hunting knife with him to keep them safe, but she knew Lyla had her dagger with her just in case.
Marcellus and Lyla began to eat a biscuit as they were hiking. Lyla was confused about where they were going and why Marcellus wouldn’t tell her. Not very many animals were out because of the snow that fell the night before. As they were walking through the forest, Marcellus thought about what he saw Lyla do at the wedding reception with the snow on the table. He was a bit curious, but wasn’t scared of what she did.
“Lyla, at the wedding, what was that trick you did with the snow?” he asked curiously.
Lyla gave him a bemused look, before she remembered what he was asking about.
She shook it off and answered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Marcy.”
Marcellus saw her face when she remembered what he was asking about, but he also saw the fear she had. He didn’t want to believe it, though he wouldn’t hate her for it either. Lyla is his best friend, his only friend and he sees nothing evil in her. She’s just misunderstood.
“Lyla I saw what you did with the snow, twirling it around, and I’ve seen more things happen with you,” he probed.
Lyla turned on him, furious of his invasive questions, and pushed him away from her angrily. Marcellus was taken aback by what she did and just watched as she tried to gain control over her emotions. Lyla was upset that she had let her guard down so much around Marcellus that he had caught her using her abilities, her magic. She could feel the shadows around her, constricting onto her, comforting her and, at the same time, flaring out at whoever was causing her harm. But no one was causing her harm, she was just disconcerted about Marcellus.
Marcellus watched astonished as the black wispy shadows around Lyla climbed up her body and flicked of her like fire. He wasn’t afraid one bit by what was happening. Finally, he braced himself for what might happen when he touched the shadows and wrapped his arms around her to calm her down.
“Don’t worry, Lyl, I’m not scared of what you may be or what you can do, because I know who you are,” Marcellus soothed her as he patted her head.
Lyla’s shadow began to calm down and soon disappeared. She looked up at him with sad, terrified eyes.
“Really, Marcellus?” she asked him in a small voice.
“Yes, Lyla, you’ll always be my best friend, no matter what,” he swore to her.
They began the trek through the forest once again with Marcellus in the lead and Lyla silently following behind him. Neither of them said a word about anything; not about what Marcellus saw at the wedding reception or what Lyla was. All Marcellus cared about was that she was his friend and he’d do anything for her. Marcellus approached a curtain of vines and leaves hanging from a nearby willow tree. He turned toward Lyla with a wide grin.
“Lyl, here is my own little piece of heaven,” he told her as he pulled some of the vines out of the way to reveal a snowy white field with a small stream running through it.
Lyla’s mouth fell agape when she stepped forward and saw the beauty of the snow covered field. It was like her own little icy paradise. Marcellus allowed Lyla to walk in first before he followed her. He saw the smile spread over her face as she took in the scenery. She was astonished by it and began to twist her wrist around, manipulating the snow around her. She didn’t notice what she was doing until Marcellus approached her. She quickly stopped and wrapped her arms around herself uneasily. Marcellus grabbed her shoulders gently and looked her in the eyes.
“Lyl, you don’t have to be afraid of who you are around me,” Marcellus vowed.
Lyla gazed up at him scared. “I’m a witch, Marcy. Why would you want to be friends with a witch?” she asked skeptically.
Tears were streaming down Lyla’s face as she thought about what might happen now that Marcellus knew what she was.
“You’re not bad, Lyla. I know that for sure,” he told her, pulling her into his embrace.
Lyla was stunned, but once it all sunk in for her, she began to cry tears of joy as she clung on to Marcellus. They forgot that they were simply eleven and thirteen and savored the moment. Once she released him, Marcellus set the quilt up, and placed the biscuits and jelly on it. As they ate, Lyla showed Marcellus what she was able to do with her powers over shadows and ice, which included snow. She believed those would be her only abilities, because her aunt told her, it was rare for witches to develop more than two abilities. If they did then they were usually a master of a certain magical art within their family. Her aunt Maia was a master of charms and her cousin, Iaso was master of potions. They had multiple abilities and could shape shift into animal forms that were slightly larger than normal sized animals. Lyla didn’t expect to gain anymore abilities.
Lyla played with the river while Marcellus observed her. She froze the water over with ice and then unfroze it. Marcellus studied her as she did this and was fascinated by it. But as the sun was getting high in the sky, they started to get everything packed back up into the basket to go back home. After everything they had discussed, Marcellus was even more curious.
“Lyl, was your mother a witch, like you?” he inquired.
“No, my father was a witch. My mother was his soul mate. Once she died, he couldn’t live anymore, at least that is what Aunt Maia told me. I can’t remember them well. I was so young when they died, all because of the jealousy of the women in this town,” she told him becoming frustrated. “Aunt Maia told me how beautiful and loving my mother was, and that the fear of witches had just started. It was easy for anyone to be accused but not be acquitted. My mother died in the hysteria because of accusations, and my father died after she took her last breath. She says I’m too young to know any of the adult stuff,” Lyla explained to him sadly as tears started to spill from her eyes.
Lyla quickly wiped them away, not wanting Marcellus to see her cry. It was too late though, he saw it and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Lyl. At least we have something in common there,” Marcellus told her with a small smile.
Lyla smiled at him as they began their hike back to his home. She knew she had a true friend now that was outside of the family. They found Ms. Maia cooking in the kitchen of the reverend’s home when they arrived home. Reverend Taylor had been called out on a hunt. Marcellus now understood that everything his father had taught him was not completely true.
Marcellus had just turned sixteen and his lean, lanky body was beginning to fill out from all the hard work he had been doing at Ms. Maia’s home. The squeak in his voice had disappeared to Marcellus’ happiness, but not particularly to Lyla’s. It was Lyla’s fourteenth birthday and many of the Spyro family members were gathered at Ms. Maia’s home to celebrate Lyla’s coming of age as a witch. It was Lyla’s official transition from childhood into complete witch-hood. She could formally start practicing witchcraft and hone her abilities. She had gained a new ability earlier that week and her family took it as a promising sign. Marcellus was enjoying meeting her many family members from her two other aunts to her many uncles that were still alive. Her grandparents were there, but not her great-aunt and great-uncle.
Marcellus had told Ms. Maia about what he had learned about Lyla and her being witches. She was surprised at first, but became angry with Lyla for nearly exposing them. Marcellus defended Lyla, and promised he wouldn’t tell anyone what they were. He was getting to know her family well. Lyla had told him about her family lineage from her great-grandparents who lived in around Greece and Italy to her cousins, who were staying with her great-grandparents. He was amazed to find out that the family was immortal and had been around for such a long time, but was also sadden by the thought that one day he would lose his best friend to death. Marcellus stood back and watched as Lyla’s uncles wrestled and fought against each other with either weapons or barehanded. He found it interesting, though he was afraid to try to join them.
“Marcy, where is your father at?” Ms. Maia asked him as she and her sister-in-law, Lara, were bringing food out of the house and into the yard for everyone to eat.
Marcellus groaned when Ms. Maia called him by his childish nickname, before he answered Ms. Maia, “He’s visiting the Moores. They wanted to see him about important business was all he told me.”
Ms. Maia didn’t say anything about that, she just continued her preparations. She knew since he wasn’t coming, they could do the ceremony properly for Lyla, and use their magic. Marcellus didn’t think anything of it, and continued his recent conversation with Ms. Maia’s fourth eldest brother, Circios and his twin sister, Circe.
Once everything was set, Ms. Maia called her family to order. She brought Lyla to stand next to her in front of the family in her damson dress that cut low in the front to show her silver chemise in the front. She had two layers of skirt, and the top layer was pulled up to show the under, that was also silver. She wore silver heeled shoes with damson flowers on them, and her black cloak with the crescent moon pin on it to hold it closed. She acted nervously as everyone watched her.
“Today, Lyla Spyro it formally taking her first steps into becoming an adult witch and joining the Spyro coven,” Ms. Maia announced loudly to her family as she held Lyla’s hand up in the air. “But before she can accept her place, she must first find herself.”
As soon as Ms. Maia finished her small speech, a tiny damson and silver wisp appeared at the edge of the forest on the east side of the house. Lyla looked at it suspiciously before it disappeared. When it disappeared, she began to chase it into the forest. Marcellus watched anxiously as she disappeared into the forest. Ms. Maia nodded with a small smile toward the forest for him to follow Lyla, and he didn’t take a glance back at the family as he chased after Lyla into the trees.
“Do I need to worry about something here? Are they…” Darius, Ms. Maia’s third eldest brother began to ask.
“No, Darius, he isn’t her custos amators,” she assured him as the family stared at the waving trees.
Ms. Maia didn’t know that for sure however, she hadn’t quite seen that spark in Lyla’s eyes yet when she gazes at Marcellus. Lyla would learn what a custos amators is soon.
Marcellus caught up with Lyla in the forest. There was thick fog rolling across the ground, it appeared almost palpable, swallowing up their feet. Lyla seemed frightened when Marcellus found her.
“It’s gone, Marcellus. The little wisp thing just disappeared into thin air,” Lyla whined fearfully as she gazed up at Marcellus with tears in her eyes.
Marcellus smiled down at her and placed his hands on her cheeks. He wiped the tears from her face. Lyla noticed how close his face was to hers. She’d seen her uncle Darius kiss Aunt Lara earlier, now she wondered what it’d be like if Marcellus was to kiss her. They weren’t that far apart and all she had to do was stand on the tip of her toes. So she did, and that pressed her lips to Marcellus’s lips. He was caught off guard at first, but he began to loosen up some and his lips molded to hers. It didn’t last long, but it satisfied Lyla’s curiosity. She pulled away from the small peck and gazed at Marcellus, who was just as brightly red faced as she was. She gazed at the ground embarrassed of what she just did.
Marcellus cleared his throat and reassuringly told her, “It will be fine, Lyl. I’ll help you do what you need to.”
Suddenly the wisp reappeared above Lyla’s head. She jumped in the air for it and caught it within her grasp. Her hands began to glow and a gust of wind blew around her causing her hair to whip wildly around her face and body. Lyla felt a current of electricity flow through her. She looked up at Marcellus stupefied as she held her hands clutched to her chest. Marcellus didn’t know what to do, all he could do was stand there and stare on in bewilderment. Once everything calmed down and went back to normal, as normal as possible for them at least, they made their way back to the party.
That’s when Marcellus believed it was best to carry out his prank. With his hands in his pockets, he ‘accidentally’ knocked a vile of blue liquid, that Lyla’s uncle Darius had given him when Marcellus told him about their long time prank war, out of his pocket. It fell on to the ground, but the vile didn’t break as it was supposed to. Instead, it rolled across the ground toward Lyla’s foot causing her to kick it at him and the vile then busted on his ankles. Blue smoke engulfed Marcellus and he was covered in blue sticky stuff just like the time Lyla had dumped the bucket of blueberry jam on him when they first became friends. Except this time, he didn’t even know what this stuff was. He groaned in misery as Lyla laughed at him all the way back to the cottage.
“Better luck next time, Thumper,” Lyla snickered at him as they walked out of the forest together.
The women gasped while the men snickered when they saw Marcellus and Lyla walk out of the forest. Marcellus was completely blue from head to toe with a sticky substance making him have a webbed appearance. Lyla stopped to dust her dress off from them running through all the trees, while Marcellus carried on toward the table of food, where he spotted a pie with cream on top of it. A smirk spread across his face and he picked it up. As soon as Lyla was behind him, he pivoted around and smashed the pie in her face. Lyla froze in shock, before she began to wipe the cream from her face. She went to jump at Marcellus, but she hit an invisible wall. She looked over at Aunt Lara and saw her hand raised in the air.
“That’s enough, children, and that includes you, Darius,” she commanded as she glared at her childish husband.
Darius just shrugged his shoulders as he threw an arm around his wife and pulled her into his arms. She rolled her eyes and kissed his cheek. After Lyla got cleaned up, everyone began to eat and talk. Neither Marcellus nor Lyla mentioned anything about the kiss forest. But Ms. Maia noticed something had changed between the two as she observed them, she now saw the sparkle in Lyla’s eyes when she gazed upon Marcellus. Her niece was no longer a child and had found her custos amator in Marcellus. Ms. Maia knew she’d have to explain more to her about the custos amator now that she was old enough.
Once night had fallen, the family gathered in a huddle and lift their hands up in the air. Marcellus watched in amazement as the family’s hands started to glow in different colors. Lyla joined them now with her damson colored magic, and all together, they shot an orb of magic into the air. It flew as high as the tree tops before it burst and showered everyone in colorful sparks. Marcellus stared on in amazement as the sparks sprinkled his face. He glanced over at Lyla and saw happiness and awe exuding from her as she danced around in the colorful rain. When the party was over, everyone said their farewells and left as Ms. Maia and Lyla began to clean the food up. Marcellus helped them with the heavy lifting before he went home.
A few days later, Lyla and Marcellus ventured out to their secret lea. Marcellus laid out the blanket while Lyla placed the food. Lyla had been quiet all morning and Marcellus could tell there was something on her mind. She had carried a small bag with her to the meadow. She’s never done that before, but Marcellus could see that it had a small package in it.
“Lyla, what is on your mind?” he asked her inquisitively.
She appeared to have shaken herself from a thought before looking up at him. Her eyes then trailed down toward the bag she’d held onto the entire time they were hiking and in the meadow.
“I have something for you, Marcellus,” she told him shyly, her hair falling like a curtain in her face.
That was new, he hasn’t ever seen her act shy around him. Shyness was usually his behavior around anyone, and it appeared odd for her to act in that manner. As he was about to ask her what was wrong, she pulled out an object wrapped in a small blanket. Lyla handed the object over to Marcellus and quickly tucked her hair behind her ear. She watched him nervously as he uncovered the gift. It was beautifully decorated with onyx and amethyst jewels in the hilt and tan leather was wrapped around it. The blade was smooth and came to sharp point. Marcellus touched the tip and edges curiously. Lyla smiled at him and began to tell him about the dagger.
“I’ve had that dagger since I was young girl, before we even met,” Lyla started. “It was my great-grandmother’s dagger from Greece. Aunt Maia gave it to me when she moved here and told me it’d help me be strong like my great-grandmother.”
“It’s magnificent, Lyla. I don’t know what to say,” he responded appreciatively.
Marcellus pulled Lyla into his arms, hugging her close to him. He gazed down at her seeing the delighted sparkle in her eyes. He couldn’t help himself; he lowered his lips to hers and lightly kissed her. She wrapped her arms around him and almost tackled him to the ground. When Marcellus caught himself on his elbows, he smiled up at her, chortling. It suddenly began to snow and Marcellus smirked over at Lyla. She shrugged her shoulders innocently.
Lyla and Marcellus were now sixteen and eighteen years old. Lyla was of the marrying age, but given her history and the way people her age treated her, her aunt wasn’t too worried about suitors. Ms. Maia believed Lyla was old enough and responsible to be left at the cottage by herself for a few days, while she went to visit some of the family for a few days. Lyla had assured her aunt that nothing would go wrong, and the small house would still be standing when Ms. Maia came home. Marcellus was welcomed to visit or Lyla could go visit him as long as she was back home by night or vice versa. Under no circumstance were they to be alone in the cottage at night. Ms. Maia didn’t want to think about what the townspeople would began to say about her niece and Marcellus if they were seen together in the cottage at night. Just like her sister-in-law, people would began to talk and women would began to start rumors about Lyla.
Marcellus has grown into a fine young men and many women would love to be his wife, maybe even kill to be he wife if they had to. But none of them could stand Lyla, that’s why he hasn’t gotten married yet. None of the women could put away the petty stories of their childhood about Lyla and try to understand her personally for Marcellus. He viewed it as a test though. If they weren’t willing to personally meet his best friend, then they weren’t worth his time. But truth be told, he only had eyes for Lyla, but was too afraid to admit that he loved her more than just a friend, especially after the many times they’ve kissed.
One day while, Reverend Taylor was at a family’s home and expected to be gone till night, Marcellus and Lyla ventured to their field to spend some time together. Lyla dressed in a simple dress that she wears when she tends to the garden. It was tattered and patched up in some areas. Lyla wasn’t as good of a seamstress like her aunt and soon gave up. She’d much rather use her magic to fix things then do it by hand, but Ms. Maia was scared they’d get caught at some point. Lyla wiped off the sweat that was rolling down her face, and glanced forward toward Marcellus, who had the basket of food.
“It’s quite hot out today, Marcy,” Lyla commented.
“I know, I can feel it,” Marcellus responded as he put the basket down and began to remove his doublet.
He wore a simple linen shirt, with stitch patchwork done in some areas, and breeches with tall black boots. His hair was pulled back by a leather string since it’d grown to be shoulder length, and he didn’t want it cut anymore. They were getting close to the field that they loved to visit; they could see the willow tree branches up ahead. When they got through the branches, they walked over toward the stream that and started to set up the blanket and food. Lyla took her shoes off and pulled her skirt up a little before sitting next to the stream to dip her feet in it. Marcellus, also, took his boots off along with his woolen hose and stepped into the stream. He kicked his foot in the water and accidentally splashed Lyla with water.
“Oh, you want to start something, bring it!” Lyla yelled eagerly and jumped in the stream holding the skirt of her dress up.
Marcellus smirked and splashed her some more, moving quickly to where she couldn’t get him. Finally, Lyla was fed up with her dress; she removed the two layers of petticoats and the long sleeve bodice leaving her in only her knee length, sleeveless chemise. Marcellus’s eyes grew wide when Lyla undressed. He didn’t expect her to do that, but she was so beautiful. She had her waist length hair braided with a few strands flying around her face. She was quite tempting to him.
“Lyla, you’re quite beautiful,” he complimented her.
Lyla remembered the times they kissed on her fourteenth birthday and in the meadow just days later and the many times after. She wondered how much that meant to him compared to her. Lyla blushed at his compliment and glanced down into the stream. She kicked the water awkwardly at him causing her to slip in the mud on the brook bed. Marcellus dove forward to catch her making them both fall on the ground at the edge of the stream, the blanket just on the other side of them. Lyla blushed an even darker shade of red at Marcellus because of the position they were in now. Marcellus smiled down at her and lowered his face to hers, placing his lips on hers. The kiss started out soft and slow, Marcellus’s lips moving rhythmically with Lyla’s, but she craved more. She traced her tongue over Marcellus’ slightly parted lips, and he didn’t hold back, allowing her entrance. They began to explore more than just each other’s mouths. Lyla’s arms were wrapped around Marcellus’s shoulders as his hands roamed down her waist and down to her thighs. His light touches raised goose bumps along Lyla’s skin and sent electricity rushing through her body. She pulled away to take a breath, while Marcellus trailed kisses down her neck, nipping and nibbling occasionally.
“Marcellus, we can’t do this,” Lyla whispered out in a moan when Marcellus’s hand went up her chemise.
She hissed in delight as his fingers lightly trailed up her body and his teeth nibbled on her ear, “I know we shouldn’t, but do you trust me, Lyl.”
With a whispered yes, Lyla relaxed into his warm embrace. Nothing else was said as they both fell into the abyss of ecstasy and passion, except for soft moans and gruff groans. They laid bare on the blanket they had placed on the ground for their picnic earlier, wrapped within each other’s arms watching as the clouds sailed across the sky until the cerulean blue began to turn bright orange and magenta. Marcellus and Lyla knew then they needed to get dressed and pack everything up. They made it back to Marcellus’s home before the reverend did and straightened themselves up.
That evening, Lyla decided to stay with Marcellus at his home. Reverend Taylor had invited her to have dinner with them a couple of nights ago, since he knew that she was staying home alone for the first time, just so she could have some more company besides Marcellus for a little while. Reverend Taylor had heated up a simple soup, which Ms. Maia had made for him before she left, for them to eat and poured out some wine with it. He had a special talk in mind for them tonight.
“What have you been doing today, Lyla?” Reverend Taylor asked her between bites of soup.
“Tending the garden and feeding the chickens we had acquired not too long ago from Mr. Cogswell,” she answered as she glanced with a smirk over at Marcellus.
Marcellus smirked back as he ate; Reverend Taylor was none the wiser of their exchange.
“Oh, you are raising chickens now? That’s good, it’ll help with the trips to the market,” Reverend Taylor commented casually.
They kept a steady polite conversation going while they ate. Once they were finished, Reverend Taylor sat back within his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. Marcellus noticed the look upon his father’s face as Lyla was beginning to clean up the dishes. He knew his father wanted to speak to them about something and it wasn’t going to end well, most likely. After Lyla had cleaned everything and was sitting back in her chair, Reverend Taylor leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table, his fingers were intertwined, and placed under his chin.
“I’ve been thinking lately. Since the two of you are so compatible, and Marcellus has not approached any other woman about this,” the reverend took a deep breath. Marcellus held his breath as his father went to speak again. “I think you should get married. You two are wonderful for each other.”
Lyla choked on the wine she was drinking and accidentally spat the rest on Marcellus’s shirt as she turned to cover her mouth. Reverend Taylor watched surprised at Lyla’s reaction.
“I’m sorry, Lyla, it must have been quite a surprise for me to suggest something like this to you with no preamble,” Reverend Taylor explained to her.
Lyla shook her head as she coughed a few more times and gazed at the reverend apologetically. Marcellus eyed his father suspiciously as he tried to clean his shirt off and checked to make sure Lyla was alright. Lyla glanced up remorsefully at Marcellus; he shook his head nonchalantly at her. He wasn’t worried about his shirt, he could always see if Ms. Maia would dye it the rest of the wine color. He just wanted to make sure Lyla was fine.
“I’ll give you some time to think on the matter,” Reverend Taylor told the two adults and stood from the table, placing the linen napkin clothe on the table.
Reverend Taylor walked to another part of the house but kept an ear on the Marcellus and Lyla. Lyla grabbed Marcellus’s shirt and began scrubbing the stain.
“I’m really sorry,” she said as she scrubbed roughly at his shirt.
Lyla huffed, causing a strand of hair to fly up in the air and flutter back in her face, and released his shirt.
“I could make this disappear if you like with magic,” Lyla whispered to him.
“That would be nice. I’ll keep an eye out for my father,” Marcellus told her as he watched down the hall for his father.
Lyla waved her hand over the stain and the spot glowed a damson light. Marcellus glanced down and watched as the stain disappeared. Suddenly the reverend stormed in the room furiously; his face was red and splotchy with a vein sticking out of his forehead.
“You’re a witch?!” he screamed out angrily as he marched up to the table.
Lyla stared at Marcellus with a helpless look. Marcellus gazed at her contritely as he stood up in front of her protectively, though he felt defenseless against his father, he would do anything for Lyla.
“Marcellus…get away from her! She has bewitched you!” he commanded irately.
“Father, she’s not a bad witch. She caused no harm to anyone,” Marcellus argued defensively.
“Son, there is no such thing as a good witch,” Reverend Taylor growled at him. “Get away from her, she has obviously put a spell on you.”
“No,” Marcellus asserted, stomping his foot.
Reverend Taylor forcefully pushed his son out of the way and grabbed Lyla’s wrist tightly. Her eyes turned damson and her hands blazed the same color also as she felt endangered. Reverend Taylor threw her across the room causing her to lose control of her abilities and a shadowy tentacle to lash out at him. Marcellus stood and tackled his father to the floor as Lyla rose from the floor.
“Run, Lyla, run!” he screamed at her as he held his father down.
Lyla hesitated before she took off out of the house. Across the street, Mr. Cogswell heard the commotion and stepped out of his house to investigate. He saw Lyla running from the reverend’s home and walked out into the street, however Lyla didn’t notice him until she ran into him. He grasped her shoulders and glanced at her anxiously. Out of fright, she caused a dark tentacle to wrap around his leg causing him to fall backwards. Mr. Cogswell released her as he fell, gazing fearfully up at her from where he laid. Lyla gazed apologetically at him as she backed away from him, tears swelling in her eyes. She’d been revealed and everyone would be after her in no time. She could imagine the hoard of citizens Reverend Taylor would gather against her like he had down to her mother. She feared she’d end up like her mother, tied to a stake and set ablaze. She could hardly see where she was going as the tears glazed over her eyes.
Lyla ran all the way to her aunt’s home, before she saw the throng of people chasing her. They were getting close and she could see the light of the torches they carried. She quickly shot a message of aid off to her aunt and turned to face the people as they drew nearer. She saw Marcellus tied up and being dragged by his father. Lyla couldn’t stand all the apologizing she was doing.
“I’m sorry, Marcellus, I never meant for this to happen,” Lyla told him sadly.
Lyla froze everyone in ice except Marcellus. She removed the dagger she had given him from his belt strap and cut the rope off him. She stared into his pleading eyes before she gave him one last kiss and froze him with the other townspeople. She performed a spell, erasing the memories of all the people, including Marcellus, of her. She hid in the forest before unfreezing them and watched as they were looking around confused. They would only remember her aunt ever living there and quietly helping them out. She watched as they dispersed. The tears that had welled up in her eyes earlier now poured over and trickled down her cheeks as she watched Marcellus gaze down at her dagger perplexed and then sheath it on his belt. Lyla turned away from the scene and found her aunt behind her.
“Maybe it was too early to let you stay on your own yet, Lyla,” Ms. Maia told her as she placed a supportive hand on her niece’s shoulder.
Lyla jumped up and wrapped her arms around her aunt’s waist as she began to cry knowing that she had now lost the love of her life, her custos amator. She felt the pain in her heart as it felt that it had been shattered. Ms. Maia could see the pain her eyes.
“Maybe,” Lyla echoed somberly, following her aunt through the forest without another glance at the little cottage.
Ms. Maia returned to the cottage a month later to gather hers and Lyla’s belongings. Some of the townspeople would visit her as she packed, but wouldn’t stay long. No one would really miss her except the reverend, who had grown close to her.
“Are you sure you must leave, Maia?” Reverend Taylor asked as he watched Ms. Maia move around the cottage packing things in her trunks.
Marcellus sat in a wooden dining chair, playing with the dagger Lyla had given him. He examined it curiously and perplexedly, unsure of where it had come from.
“Yes, Lawrence, my family needs me, I must go to them,” she told him intently as she lifted a heavy trunk on to the table.
“Here, allow me to get that for you,” Reverend Taylor offered, taking one of the handles of the trunk.
She saw Marcellus twisting the dagger around and smiled. Lyla wasn’t going to leave him without a memory of her completely; she gave Marcellus a piece of her for him to ponder on. She turned to the reverend and grinned at him.
“I’ll wish you a farewell now. I must be off; my carriage is waiting for me,” she told the men.
“But Maia…” the reverend trailed off as she walked out of the cottage and into the onyx carriage.
A man climbed off the back of the carriage and lifted up her trunks, placing them on the tail of the carriage. Before leaving, one of the men mischievously smirked at Marcellus and winked. The dagger glowed damson for a brief moment, startling Marcellus. He glanced around to see if anyone saw it, but no one was paying attention to him. This mystified Marcellus, and he took another look at the man. He seemed quite familiar to him, but he shrugged it off, following his father back home. Ms. Maia sat in the carriage as it strolled down the empty, dirt road, staring out the window.
“Where do you wish to go, my lady?” her brother, Darius, asked teasingly.
“Home,” she glumly told him as she watched Marcellus and Reverend Taylor walk into their home.
Once they were far away from the town, in the cover of the forest, the carriage lifted off the ground along with the four horses that pulled and began to fly into the cloudy, gray sky. Rain began to lightly drizzle around the carriage as they made their way back to their homeland. Not a word was shared between the three witch siblings as they thought about their experience in England.