Don’t Cross the Witch
The village square was bustling. People lined the dusty road, transferring their goods from carts and horse drawn buggies to the edge of the street for easy access to shoppers passing by. Ambrosine’s display of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, plums, and apples was impressive. She was well known in her small village to have the most delicious produce. There was a steady flow of buyers keeping her attention when an old woman took notice of her. The woman was elderly and hunched over. Moving very slowly, she walked with a cane that had a cat carved into the large handle. Her wrinkled eyes were barely visible under the brim of her hat, a large, black, and floppy thing that shielded her from the sun.
The old woman watched as the beautiful Ambrosine chatted with her neighbors about how well the greenhouse garden was doing. Ambrosine had a charisma about her that showed when she spoke. Her cheeks were rosy and her lips, full. Her hair was neatly fashioned into a bun with little butterfly pins in it. The old woman noticed several men stop to speak with her, although she seemed to only speak lightly with them and didn’t take notice of their obvious interest in her. That or she had no interest in them.
When the crowds died down and Ambrosine was sitting alone at her table of remaining produce, the old woman emerged from the nearby tree she’d been watching from. Ambrosine smiled as the elderly woman approached.
“Hello there, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.” Ambrosine said to the woman.
“Yes, I’m passing through and saw your beautiful fruits. Is it true you grow these yourself?” the old woman said.
“I do. I have a green house my late husband built. I grow a great many things in it, actually. In the dead of winter, I can provide you with quite the variety of fruits and vegetables.” Ambrosine proudly answered.
“That sounds wonderful. Do you grow herbs there, too?” the old woman asked.
“I do grow the sensible herbs, yes. Nothing too exotic, of course.” Ambrosine replied. Of course, the old woman knew what Ambrosine was saying without coming out with it. She didn’t grow things that could be misconstrued as witchcraft, which was very much feared in the area. Just a whisper that one was involved in such things could ruin you. Or worse, it could get you a date on the gallows. However, this old woman could see the magic in Ambrosine’s eyes. That faint twinkle that others would never notice. She knew Ambrosine was hiding her true work and it had nothing to do with tomatoes or plums.
“I’m an elderly woman passing through your town and in need of a warm place to sleep tonight. You seem a kind and generous woman. Would you mind feeding and housing an old, worn out woman like me this night? I could repay your kindness with my knowledge of gardening. I once had one such as you describe.” the woman asked as she gazed into Ambrosine’s deep blue eyes.
“Well, I wouldn’t want you sleeping outside tonight. It should be very chilly, I think. I suppose you could stay with me for the night. I’m about to head home now. Let me get my things in order and we’ll be off.” Ambrosine said as she began to load her remaining produce into her cart along with the table it had been displayed on.
Ambrosine’s donkey pulled the large cart while the two women walked alongside it. Curiosity got the better of Ambrosine as she asked about the woman’s travels. It seemed strange that a woman of this age would be traveling on foot with very little in the way of food or personal belongings. The old woman carried only a large handbag that she kept snugly on her left shoulder.
“I have all that I need.” the woman said, reading into the real meaning behind Ambrosine’s question about where her other luggage was. “When you get to be my age, you learn what is truly important and what is frivolous.”
“How do you eat and clean yourself? Don’t you grow tired?” Ambrosine was genuinely curious but also suspected that there may be a more supernatural explanation. If that was the case, it may be best not to be seen with this old woman. Ambrosine had already had one scare a year ago when she brought a few spices to the market. She’d told one of the ladies in town that ginger could relieve her cramping and rumors spread quickly. Ambrosine had scrambled to quiet them before that news reached the most dangerous of townsfolk. It was a close call that Ambrosine didn’t wish to repeat.
“I get by. Don’t you worry about me.” was the simple answer the old woman offered.
Just then, Ambrosine’s house came into view. It was a large, three story, Victorian home. An iron fence guarded the perimeter of the house and lent a Gothic look to the place. The front porch stretched the length of the house, with a door on either side leading into the home. The old woman’s eyes lit up when she saw it.
“My goodness, dear. Are you the only one living in this manor?” the woman asked as she peered at the stately home.
“I am. My husband passed some years back and my only child was born still. The land and home are paid for. I get by using my garden for income and food.” Ambrosine looked lovingly on the home as she spoke. The old woman could see that it meant a great deal to her. There was a large tree with a small marker under it at the back of the fenced in property. Many flowers, now wilting from the fall chill, surrounded it. Ambrosine opened the large gate and the old woman immediately walked over to this tree under Ambrosine’s watchful eye.
“That is where my child lays sleeping.” Ambrosine said before the woman could get close enough to read the stone marker. “My husband is in the village cemetery.”
The old woman’s aged eyes turned and rested upon Ambrosine. She could see the pain and resentment in Ambrosine’s now saddened face.
“They wouldn’t allow my child there because he wasn’t baptized before he passed. Some doctor wanted to purchase him from me but I wouldn’t hear of it. My husband laid him to rest here just a year before he, himself, went on the long sleep. It’s just me now. I do just fine, though.” Ambrosine said, wiping a tear from her eye and motioning for the woman to follow her. “Come, let us get you inside and settled.”
“Thank you, dear. I’m so very sorry for your losses. I wish peace for you.” the old woman said while reaching for Ambrosine’s hand. As their hands touched, Ambrosine whipped around to look into the old woman’s eyes for she knew the feeling of the blessing of a witch. For a moment, they both stood staring at each other. The silence was quickly broken by Ambrosine asking for the woman’s name.
“You may call me Evanora, dear. I mean you no harm but I think you know that. We are women of healing and peace. We seek love and light, do we not?” Evanora answered while keeping eye contact with Ambrosine.
Giving a knowing but cautious look to Evanora, Ambrosine answered, “Yes, I suppose we do. I live a simple life here and don’t wish for any trouble. There’s much trouble to be had in this town so mind who you speak to and how. Much can be read into simple words.” Ambrosine’s warning seemed to be understood by Evanora, who nodded in concurrence.
Showing Evanora to the second floor guest room, Ambrosine set a filled water pitcher in the wash room. She also explained where to find towels, soap, and the other amenities the old woman might require. A fresh basket of fruit was placed in the sitting area of the guest room suite in case Ambrosine’s new house guest became hungry. It was truly a lovely home with many rooms. Evanora thought it a bit of a waste with just one woman living there alone.
As soon as she was settled, Evanora stepped out the back door that was through the small kitchen and headed for the large greenhouse at the back of the property. Anxious to see what lovely things Ambrosine had growing in such a large greenhouse, Evanora stepped inside the door without hesitation or knocking. Startled, Ambrosine jumped at the sudden sound of someone entering her favorite space.
“Oh! You gave me a fright.” Ambrosine said while putting her hand over her heart. She was tending to a lovely raised bed of various herbs in the far corner of the greenhouse, opposite the door.
“I’m so sorry, dear. I should’ve knocked. I was so excited to see your garden that I forgot my manors. Forgive an old woman, please.” Evanora said with sincerity.
Ambrosine nodded and waved her over with a smile. “Of course. Look around all you like.”
Evanora began to stroll down the rows of raised beds and paused in the middle of the space to admire the small citrus trees. They were trimmed and trained to fit in the greenhouse and produce fruit, all while not impeding the other plants. Evanora was impressed, to be sure.
“Are your neighbors accustomed to such fruits? Do they eat it for their health?” Evanora asked while motioning toward the lemon tree. Citrus fruits were not common in their area because the summers were cooler and shorter and the winters were too harsh.
“They weren’t at first. I only needed to educate them slowly. One can’t bring a new fruit to the townsfolk and explain the benefits of such an uncommon fruit. That would bring only suspicion and trouble. I introduced it as something aristocrats eat and explained my greenhouse made it possible for them to eat it, too. They need not know the benefits.” Ambrosine explained without looking up from her work in the soil. She was busy harvesting basil, another uncommon plant for the area.
“Where do you come by the seeds to plant such exotic things?” Evanora asked.
“I travel when I can, gathering any plants that I wish to grow. I’ve made a system of wooden tubes that water the plants with rainwater when I am away. I learned it over seas.” Ambrosine looked up just long enough to motion to the gravity fed system coming from the corner of the building.
“That is brilliant. What else have you learned from far away places? Have you learned healing?” Evanora asked while watching Ambrosine closely for she knew what she was really asking. She wanted to know if Ambrosine practiced the old healing. Witchcraft, as it was now called.
“I am not known as a healer anymore. I make no suggestions of that nature.” was Ambrosine’s short answer.
“Why have you stopped?” Evanora asked.
“I stopped when it became obvious that my efforts to heal others would only result in my own harm.” Ambrosine answered with a tinge of resentment in her hushed voice. Evanora knew all she longed to know. Ambrosine had been the town’s resident healer until the witch hunts began. Now, she only sold her produce and turned anyone away who sought more than food. Evanora knew exactly what that kind of rejection felt like for it was the reason she traveled as she did. She never stayed in any one place long enough to be suspected of witchcraft. The best she could offer these ignorant people was to leave behind a spell of luck or fertility or a full harvest. Not that humanity deserved it. They didn’t. But she was a witch of light. Her deepest desire was to help those around her.
In speaking with Ambrosine, Evanora wasn’t simply discovering her story but also her temperament and her style of witchcraft. Evanora could see very clearly that the resentment and bitterness that Ambrosine felt from her past trouble had shifted her magic slightly. She could sense that Ambrosine was holding onto the light in her by merely a thread. Evanora wished to help bring Ambrosine solidly back on the light side of witchcraft. Only time and healing others would do that for her.
“I’m sorry you were treated that way. Women like us only desire to help others. It is truly our calling in life. Mother nature and Father time call to us and we are compelled to answer. Know that you are doing me a great help by showing me such hospitality and kindness. I knew you would. I could see it in your eyes as you spoke to your friends.” Evanora said. She wished to help Ambrosine to feel the warmth that only showing kindness can supply.
“I know you are very kind and I appreciate what you are doing but I am lost to it. What you saw in the market is not who I am. I survive because I pretend to be who they want me to be. Who they are comfortable with me being. Nothing more.” Ambrosine said.
“I know what you are and now you know what I truly am. We are kindred spirits, that much is true. You may stay here as long as you like but you must not practice your healing here. It is dangerous.” Ambrosine said as she looked over her shoulder to make eye contact with Evanora. “Do you understand?”
“I do. I don’t wish to burden you, dear. I will stay only until I am able to be on my way again. Your letting me stay here is a fine gesture and I thank you for it. I’m sure it can get lonely in this large house by yourself.” Evanora said.
“It was, at first. I’ve become accustomed to it now, however, and prefer it. It is my sanctuary.” Ambrosine said as she went back to work on the herbs.
The sun was barely up when Ambrosine emerged from her bedroom, only to find that Evanora had already risen and was nowhere to be seen. Ambrosine wasn’t sure if she’d simply gone for a walk or if she’d decided to continue her travels without saying goodbye. A little sad to see her gone, Ambrosine continued her morning routine and prepared to head back to market with her produce. It was fall and she had many things to offer the town from her harvest.
The path back into town was relatively quiet with the occasional towns person passing with their goods. Ambrosine greeted each one pleasantly so as not to arouse suspicion over her new house guest. Rumors tended to spread quickly, as Ambrosine knew all too well. When the market came into view, however, Evanora was present and speaking to the preacher’s wife. Ambrosine almost let out a yelp of shock when she saw this. What on earth could they be speaking about? Ambrosine could only hope that it was simple talk of weather or fall activities and nothing more. She had grown fond of Evanora and didn’t wish to see any harm befall her.
When Evanora’s conversation with the woman was done, she came over to where Ambrosine was selling her fruits. There was a particular gleam in her eyes and Ambrosine feared the worst of it.
“I’ve just met a lovely woman.” Evanora began before being interrupted by Ambrosine scolding her in a whisper.
“Do you know who that is?” Ambrosine asked in a hushed voice. “That’s the town preacher’s wife. What did you say to her?” Ambrosine felt terrified to hear the answer but needed to know anyway.
“She was kind to me. We spoke of weather and children and exchanged lessons our mothers taught us.” Evanora answered, matching the hushed voice that Ambrosine used in order not to upset her.
“What kind of lessons?” Ambrosine asked, sounding even more hushed and nervous now.
“Old remedies for various things that your preacher’s wife has used for her own children. It seemed harmless enough.” Evanora answered.
“It always seems harmless until they are knocking on your door and demanding that you recite scripture perfectly, lest you be in agreement with the devil.” Ambrosine was now partially whispering and partially yelling. Evanora could see the fear in her eyes and worried it would give way to hate.
“Be calm, child. I don’t believe it was that kind of conversation. She was very pleasant to me. But if it troubles you, I’ll keep to myself for a while to ease your mind.” Evanora said in a reassuring tone.
“That would be best. You probably shouldn’t leave with me today so they don’t realize where you are staying.” Ambrosine suggested.
“Yes, that would be prudent, I suppose. I’ll head back now and see you this afternoon.” Evanora said as she began in the direction of Ambrosine’s home. The rest of the day seemed to go as any other. Ambrosine sold almost all of what she’d brought so packing up was quick. She was back on the road to her home well before dark.
Ambrosine made an unexpected observation as she neared her home, though. The front gate was left open, as was her front door. She could also see that the door to her beloved greenhouse was also ajar, which she felt Evanora would know not to do. None of this made Ambrosine feel good about what may wait for her at home. Sure enough, as Ambrosine entered her home, she was greeted by the sight of several women surrounding Evanora in the living room. The leader of this group seemed to be the preacher’s wife, Agatha. Evanora’s face was grief stricken and stained with tears down her aged cheeks.
“What is the meaning of this?” Ambrosine sternly yelled upon entering the room.
“We’ve found the mark of the devil on your new house guest.” Agatha stated with a terrible spark in her eyes. She was enjoying every second of this.
Ambrosine glared at her in particular while speaking to Evanora, “Have they injured you?”
Straightening herself slightly in the chair she’d been forced into, Evanora answered, “If you don’t consider the clothing they’ve ruined by ripping it from me, no. They have not.”
“Do not speak to the witch, unless of course you are in her coven. Maybe we should check you, as well.” Agatha returned Ambrosine’s glare and began to step toward her, prompting the other woman to also shift in Ambrosine’s direction.
“Do not touch me.” was Ambrosine’s only reply. The women froze in place at the demanding tone in her voice and the glint in her now darkened eyes.
“Didn’t she have blue eyes?” one of the other women asked Agatha as they all stood frozen in place.
“Yes, I do believe you have blue eyes, don’t you Ambrosine?” Agatha asked in a suspicious and condescending tone. Evanora could see that this confrontation was going in a terrible direction and needed to be ended quickly.
“I’ve known a great many women who had eyes that changed slightly to suit their surroundings.” Evanora said.
Agatha didn’t shift her gaze from Ambrosine as she spoke. “Ladies, I think it’s time we consulted the Lord on this matter, don’t you?” Finally breaking eye contact with Ambrosine, Agatha turned toward the other women and motioned for them to follow her out. “Have a good evening, Ambrosine, and maybe consider praying over your new friend. I think she may need it.” All five of the woman walked quickly out of the house and back toward town without another word among them.
Evanora was the first to speak once the dreadful women had left the property. “I’m so sorry Ambrosine, dear. I didn’t realize the evil I was dealing with when I spoke so kindly to her earlier.”
“I tried to tell you. These people cannot be trusted. You must always be kind but very distant from them. Their church fills their hearts with hate that even a light witch can’t cure.” Ambrosine said. The beloved garden suddenly came into her mind and she rushed outside to check on it. Evanora was close behind her.
“Three of them held me inside while the other two searched the house and garden. They came back with dirty hands, dear. I do hope they haven’t destroyed it.” Evanora was just finishing her sentence when Ambrosine entered the greenhouse and gasped. Everything was overturned or ripped out of the earth. There wasn’t a single plant left undisturbed. Only the fruit trees were untouched, probably because the women had no way to damage them easily. The blue of Ambrosine’s eyes turned a bit darker, even as Evanora watched. She knew they needed to flee in order to save Ambrosine from whatever wrath she might shower onto the towns people. Taking her by the hand and giving her a gentle pull toward the door of the greenhouse, Evanora began to speak but Ambrosine hushed her quickly.
“This is worse than the first time they attacked me. I suspected they were biding their time and, indeed, they were.” With that, Ambrosine walked briskly back into the house without closing the greenhouse door, a sure signal to Evanora that she was plotting revenge. Ambrosine walked into her kitchen and started some water to boil on the already hot, wood burning stove. For a moment, Evanora was relieved and thought Ambrosine might be calming herself. Until, that is, Evanora saw that the tea Ambrosine prepared was Faerie Tea. She knew just what this was for and immediately begged Ambrosine not to use it.
“You’re in dangerous territory. This level of magic is not to be trifled with. A faerie’s magic is unpredictable and can be deadly if misused. What if something goes wrong?” Evanora pleaded.
“We have no choice. They will be back and what they’ll bring with them will be just as dangerous. As witches, we have the upper hand. Why not use it to defend ourselves? Why must we submit to their hatred and evil ways?” Ambrosine answered.
As night was setting in, Ambrosine set her Faerie Tea out in the moonlight to brew. She needed it at it’s peak of magic when the towns people returned. Evanora considered sneaking out during the night to spill the contents on the soil, thus ending the spell but she feared what the now angered Ambrosine would do. She thought it better to try and reach her through reason.
In the early morning hours, just before the sun appeared, Ambrosine was awakened by the sound of raised voices coming down the dirt road. She immediately arose to see no less than ten men, one of which was the preacher, coming toward her home. She hurried to wake Evanora and begged her to hide but there was no time. The men burst in the front door of the house, shouting and demanding that the witches show themselves. They spread out and searched every room until they came to Ambrosine’s bedroom on the right side of the house, where the two women were hiding in the closet.
The men dragged them both down to the living room and demanded to know when they’d made their pact with the devil. Evanora insisted that she had done no such thing but Ambrosine stood quietly before the men, making unwavering eye contact with Father John. After several minutes of demanding a confession from the women, Father John became irritated with Ambrosine’s lack of response and the women were dragged to the back yard.
They began to throw a noose over a large branch of the tree Ambrosine’s child was resting under, stomping the remaining flowers as they worked. Evanora made eye contact with Ambrosine and mouthed the word “Don’t” to her. She knew what Ambrosine was thinking and knew her soul would be forever lost to darkness if she succeeded. Ambrosine stood still and waited for the man holding her to lighten his grip. Another man grabbed Evanora and stood her on a small crate below the noose, putting it snugly around her neck. It was then that Ambrosine felt her moment, while they were distracted with Evanora.
Ambrosine slipped away as her captor helped secure the rope they intended to hang Evanora with. She rushed to the container with the moonlight Faerie Tea and drank it without even straining the tea leaves out. Feeling it pulse in her belly, Ambrosine’s eyes darted around the yard for any sign of a light. Just as she saw a faint light emerge from the treeline, the men realized she’d run off and ran toward her. The man guarding Evanora kicked the crate from underneath her and she began to choke and make the worst sounds Ambrosine had ever heard from a human being.
Reaching the Faerie before the men reached her, Ambrosine grabbed the little creature out of the air, faced the running men, and ripped it’s head off with her teeth. The men came to a sudden halt at the sight of it and all made an audible gasp. What Ambrosine did next turned their faces white with fear and disgust. She put the bleeding neck of the little, glowing creature to her mouth and began to hungrily drink it’s blood. Preacher John yelled, “Stop her!” but it was too late. With the Faerie blood and moonlight faerie tea mixing in her belly, a rare amount of dark magic ran through her. Their fates were sealed. So was hers.
The blue of her eyes faded into black while the whites of her eyes remained. The shape of her eyes and mouth expanded into an oddly exaggerated size, almost like a child’s toy with large eyes and an unwavering grin. Her feet raised up off the ground just until only the toes of her shoes were touching. All of this transpired before the terrified men’s eyes. Before any of them could possibly know the danger they were in, she lunged toward them, grabbing Father John around his neck and dragging him into the house with her.
Only two of the men dared to run into the house to save their beloved preacher man. The other seven men ran in all directions, anywhere but toward that dreaded house. The scene left behind by the chaos was heartbreaking, with trampled flowers and Evanora hanging dead from the tree. Her last vision was that of Ambrosine changing into a monster before her vision went black with death.
The house was oddly quiet. The men at least expected to hear Father John calling out to them but even their own footsteps made no sound. It was as if the life had been sucked out of the home. One of the men began to suggest they come back with help when they both heard the distant sound of a woman laughing. It was hushed but definitely laughing. Thinking the sound came from upstairs, the two men slowly began climbing the stairs, hoping to be greeted by Father John and not the crazed witch. About halfway up the stairs, both the front and back doors slammed shut with such force that it shook the house. The men instinctively ran back down the stairs and to the front door to escape but the door would not budge. The chain lock on the door wasn’t even engaged but the door wouldn’t open even a crack.
Just as the men were realizing the dire situation they were in, Ambrosine appeared at the top of the stairs. Transfixed on the image of the one person they wished to see least, the men watched in horror as she slowly glided down the stairs. No contact was made between her feet and the staircase. The silence of her approach was deafening. The men armed themselves with whatever was closest to them, one with a candlestick holder and the other with a glass vase. Ambrosine’s wide eyed stare never faltered and her grin was almost ear to ear now. The most disturbing thing the men witnessed, however, was that her mouth never moved, even as she seemed to giggle with delight as she closed in on them. It still dripped with the faerie’s blood and grinned relentlessly. Once down the stairs, she took a few long strides toward them before lifting up off the ground again and lunging toward them as she’d done to Father John. The men had just enough time to shriek in terror before she was upon them.
Returning with more men from the town, those who ran for help showed the others the body of the faerie the witch had drank from and the poor soul who still hung from the tree. Some people pulled her down and began a fire to burn her in. This is how they believed they could stop her from returning to curse them all. If only they’d known they had much more pressing matters to worry about.
Five men entered the home with great caution to search for the remaining two men and Father John, the only people still missing from early that morning. The house was still and no one was in sight, however, there was a considerable amount of blood near the inside of the front door. It was obvious that someone had tried, unsuccessfully, to escape their terrible fate. The men dared not call out to their comrades, lest they gain the attention of the terrible witch responsible for all of this. Of course they were the ones truly responsible. Narrow minded fools, the lot of them.
They crept throughout the house, checking every place they thought the unfortunate men might be hiding. No one was found, not even a body. Just blood. So much blood. A huge mess was found in a third floor suite as well as all the blood in the living room. Once the search party was sure there were no people in the home, they quickly retreated. A group of them set to boarding up the windows and doors, declaring the home forbidden to enter. Once Evanora was burned to ash and bone, the men snuffed out the remaining embers, locked the gate up securely, and left. What they didn’t see were the three transparent figures of their Father and his two ghostly companions banging silently on the front windows of the stately manor. All the while, a wickedly disfigured woman was grinning from a third floor window, forever trapped in the home she loved so much.
For Lady of the House, Part 2 of 3 click here. Each of these three stories is a complete story so you don’t have to read them in order. To get the full effect of this series, however, you may want to! Enjoy!
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