Wend'l Journal Four
I remember a story my mother used to tell me. It was one not freely given or one shared with the weak of will. The story was called “The Witch’s Bastard” and it was one that always sent a shiver through me. It always frightened the villagers who shared it, offering with it its own sense of chill that slithered down the marrow.
It went something like this:
In a hamlet not far from where I grew up, the people led a simple life. They were farmers, craftsmen. They wanted for little and craved nothing. They shared this hamlet with a beautiful young woman, her hair the deep colour of the midnight sky and her eyes two points of fierce green. She had a wonderful voice and wore long robes of scarlet and black, glittering jewels bedecked her hair and her smile was infectious. But, at that time, no one knew – but she was a witch. She was granted the Gift, a dark and fey power that flowed through her blood. She was well-liked for no one knew her dark secret. Every woman in the village envied her; every man desired her but there was one particular man who so wanted her. This man dreamt of her and wanted her – he sought her with his very being. It is a terrible thing – lust that cannot be satiated.
The Witch taunted him. She would pass by his house, toss her hair so it caught the rays of sun and offer him a sultry eye. She would dance by in the street while he was working, moving her body in that sinuous, feline dance. It drove him mad. One day he confronted her – he professed of his love, his desire. The Witch cajoled him. “What would you have me do?” she said. “You are married. You have children.”
The man, resigned to his fate, knew what he must do. “If this were not the case,” he said to the lovely woman. “Would we be together?”
The Witch did not reply but her eyes sparkled with something. The Man took the shine to be one of promise and he returned swiftly to his home. He added Adder’s Arrow, a tasteless poison, to the food and drink of his wife and two children. By the next morning, they were dead.
The man mourned with the village. What a terrible tragedy! He cried and he sulked for a good week or two, clearing out the possessions of his deceased. The man, now a widower, sought counsel from his friends but in his heart he was merely biding his time. He waited until a full moon had passed and he went to the Witch. He professed his love. “We can be together!” he cried.
The Witch recoiled. “Your family! I cannot be with you – it is too soon!” She spurned him. She rejected him, all the while offering her singular sultry smile of fleshy promise. The widower sold his home and his belongings. He sold his land and bought her countless gifts – jewels, silk sheets, clothing and shawls from the eastern provinces. And gold, lots of gold. He bought her a cow and a goat and bought her a parcel of land that overlooked the hamlet. All the while, she rejected his advances, denied him while offering just the hint of promise.
The widower went mad. His dreams were consumed with the witch, consumed with the guilt of what he had done. He finally succumbed and went to one of the hills that overlooked the hamlet. There, he penned a note decrying the foul witch and her influence. And then he hanged himself.
The villagers found him but they did not believe the contents of the letter. He was simply an older man deluding himself with affections for a younger woman. And he was buried alone.
The Witch enjoyed her new gifts. She built a house on the parcel of land granted to her. She established a small farm to produce her own food. She invested in nearby businesses and filled her wardrobe with clothing of prestige and glamour. Then, she set her eyes on the young Blacksmith.
The Blacksmith was strong and handsome. The Witch approached him, charming him with her apparent innocence and interest. He was seduced. But it was only after they had lain together that the young Blacksmith knew that something was wrong. He felt it and he fled the Witch’s home.
From this union was born a young boy, the Witch’s Bastard. He had his mother’s wisps of dark hair and green eyes. And he also had a taste of the Gift. The Witch took her son into the hamlet to visit the stores and gardens. She took him to meet his father but the Blacksmith would have nothing of it. The villagers shunned her – a woman with child and unwed was less than desirable. She was branded a whore and harlot. They cast her aside and all while the young Blacksmith watched idly and saying not a word. Not claiming the boy as his own.
The Witch grew angry. She summoned her dark powers and cast a drought on the land. She threw magicks into the animals and pastures of the hamlet. The waters dried up and the cattle grew ill. Gardens wilted and the soil grew black with decay. Milk soured and cheese spoiled. The hamlet grew hungry. They could not produce food. They thought this a terrible misfortune. Yet the Witch and her Bastard grew fat from the fruit of their own land.
Years passed and many villagers died. Many succumbed to malnutrition, infection from rancid cheeses and fouled bread. The Witch’s Bastard grew young and strong and the Witch was pleased. At the end of a decade, the Blacksmith, sick and thin, could keep his secret no longer. “It is my fault!” he cried. He confessed to the hamlet his affair with the Witch. He admitted the young bastard was his own son. The village turned on him. They stoned him, bound him and dragged him through the streets. They hanged him from the same tree that claimed the Witch’s first victim. They did not bury the Blacksmith – his body rotted in the sun.
The Witch saw this and she showed her young son. “That was your father. They did this to him. They showed us no love and they killed your father.”
The Witch’s Bastard grew with fury and anger. He begged for the power and his mother gave what little she had left. She slit her wrists and bled out raw Gift. Her son took it all in. As she died, he grew ripe and vast in power. His eyes glowed in the morning light and his hair turned to a metallic sheen.
The Witch’s bastard killed them all. He called forth great gouts of Witchfire and set their hamlet ablaze. he called forth swarms of voracious rats to lay waste to flesh and sinew and he called forth great cracks and crevices in the earth to swallow the hamlet piece by piece. Very few villagers survived and, when it was done, the Witch’s Bastard ascended into the highlands and was seen no more.
This is the story my mother told. And it is one I will never forget.