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100 Years Later
A sulfur and ash haze filled the air as deep inside the belly of the keep, the enraged cries of the villagers could still be heard. The mob was angry, very angry. They had a witch in their midst. She must be flushed out before she became a danger to others. Who knows who she might hurt; many of the villagers had small children at home. A witch was a danger to everyone.
Inside the keep, six year old Leedia peaked out of the cocooning shelter of her blankets. She was scared. She wanted the bad men to go away. Her limited six year old mind knew that these mean people were after her sister. Even now in the midst of this nightmare, her sister, Kaldia was filling a bag with clothing. “Kaldia, are you going away?” she asked in a small scared voice.
Kaldia paused in her packing; however, she did not look up from the bag. Her light auburn hair, a sharp contrast to Leedia’s own dark red, fell forward to shade her face from view. “It’s my fault,” she shakily uttered. Those words carried with them a weight of guilt and sorrow.
Only hours ago, yet what now seemed like days, she had wanted see the horse that her father had presented to her in honor of her twelfth birthday. It was a young spirited mare with a love for apples. Kaldia was instantly in love with the mare. Her parents had to drag her away from the stables in order to force her into more ladylike behavior. It was not proper to dote on an animal in such a way.
Angry, Kaldia had sneaked down to the kitchen, after she should have been in bed. With a pilfered apple in her shift pocket, she made her way out the kitchen door and into the silent yard. Unfortunately, the night was overcast and there was no light to aid her in her search for the black mare. Feeling very foolish for disobeying her parents, Kaldia was about to resign herself to the fact that she would not see the mare that night.
Turning around to return to the keep, Kaldia frustratingly wished she had thought to bring a light with her. Her nose twitched with what she thought to be the last wisps of smoke from some farmer’s hearth fire remaining in the air. It was the panicked cries of the horses in the stable that finally halted her steps. Angry light danced in and out of the shadows as the mage fire lit up the whole stable as if it were the traditional candle atop a Winter Night’s pastry.
Kaldia watched in horror as the stable became engulfed. Men ran out of the keep with buckets to form a line from the well to the stables. It was the unnatural glow of the flames that signified its start in magic. Kaldia knew instinctively that she was the cause. Her mother had warned her that she must be careful with her thoughts. Turning twelve didn’t just mean another year older. It meant that she would be coming into her full powers.
At the time, Kaldia had just laughed her mother off as being overbearing and protective. Secretly, she had been looking forward to the day when she would be able to do more than just tell fortunes from a tea cup or the turn of a card. She wanted to make things happen, not just see or hear it. The mage flames that ate away at the stables told the true tale of what these powers meant. She was a fool. In her ignorance, she had turned away the advice of her mother. The fire might not exist, if only she had guarded her thoughts and that reckless want of something to light her way. Tears of fear and horror trailed down her pale cheeks. “Stop,” she chokingly shouted above the crackling of burning timbers and the terrified whines of the horses. Then as suddenly as the fire had started, it stopped.
“Oh, my daughter, what have you done?” her mother asked as she wrapped Kaldia into a protective embrace. With the knowledge that her daughter was no longer safe, she lifted the sobbing child, who was already more than half her mother’s size, into her arms. She quickly carried her daughter into the keep.
Now the villagers were able to put together everything that had happened. They connected the knowledge that Kaldia was the only one in the yard when the fire had started with the fact that it had stopped at her command. Nothing like this had ever happened before with the young lady of the keep, but now the girl was at that threshold of adulthood when most realized what they were. She was a witch; to their minds it didn’t matter that she was the daughter of their lord. Not even noble blood could protect her now; they had to protect their own. To do that the witch would have to be tried. Trials very seldom resulted in an innocent verdict.
Kaldia may currently be safe inside the keep, but it was a false safety. If she remained with her family, it wouldn’t take the villagers long to decide that Kaldia’s mother and sister might prove a future danger. She had to go somewhere where she couldn’t hurt anyone. Amazingly, none of the horses were harmed and the black mare, with the aide of a loyal retainer, was currently waiting for her in the forest behind the keep.
“Are the bad men taking you away?” Leedia asked her.
“No, I’m going to leave before they have a chance,” she answered.
“I don’t want you to leave.”
Irritated at her sister for only reminding her of what she was leaving behind she fairly screamed, “I don’t have a choice.”
Thus a small bundle was propelled at her body. “I’ll miss you,” Leedia said as she wrapped her arms around her sister in a fierce hug.
Kaldia’s own arms found themselves around Leedia as her earlier irritation melted away into melancholy, “I’ll miss you, too.”
“It won’t be forever,” Kaldia murmured as she smoothed her hands over her sister’s dark red locks, “You’ll see, Leedia. I promise; we’ll be together again.” Kaldia silently pushed her sister away and reached down for her bag. As she placed the bag’s strap on her shoulder, she gave her sister one last sad glance.
Tears trickled down Leedia’s cheeks as she watched her sister leave the room to be shortly followed by leaving the keep. At that moment, she hated Kaldia with all of the fury she could muster in her small being. She knew Kaldia had lied. They were never going to see each other again. She wasn’t sure if she even wanted ever again to see the sister who had just walked out of her life and abandoned her just like that. Over on the nightstand, a washbowl full of water boiled away with the heat of her anger.