Inspired by How they die
This got a bit long to put on the thread.
Health warning - this one is quite dark.
She sat on the cold stone floor, huddled in the corner. It had been days and now she was cold and very hungry. At the start she had tried to be brave, examined the cell for weaknesses and tried to think of a strategy.
But now, she sat there and whimpered quietly, too parched to cry anymore tears.
The keys in the lock jarred her back to something like consciousness and she shrank back, pressing her petite frame and tattered robes into the corner or the cell. Two shadows moved towards her, laid rough hands on her, a rancid sack was pulled over head and she was dragged away.
The light in the other room hurt her eyes and she winced and squinted as the rough hands forced her down into the chair. The room slowly took shape and she found herself sitting on a rough sawn timber chair with a similarly coarse but sturdy table in front of her. A single candle sat on the table to her left and a face slowly moved into the light.
It was a handsome, intelligent face of a man. She knew him.
“Rigard! Rigard, thank all that is sacred. Rigard, you will save me”
The well-used laughter lines of Rigard’s face creased as he smiled. It could have been warm, fatherly even. But the smile did not reach his eyes.
“I am here to save you. From yourself.”
" I don’t understand?" Why am I here? I was in my coach going to visit Lord Thorne in Isgilham but my groom, he left me and then there were bandits and I fought them but…" She broke down again, as she had on the first day.
Rigard sat opposite, impassive.
“Vivica,” he said, almost friendly but with a cutting edge cloaked in his well-spoken Iberian accent. “You are here to answer for your crimes.”
“What crimes? I am a scholar, an advisor to the council of Correlia!”
“Your crimes of… sorcerery. Since the rise of the Dark Lord, we have seen the numbers of your type rise steadily and then, in lock-step the mutations, the undead, the witches.”
With this last word his face lost all it’s handsome geniality and was replaced by a mask of hatred. Vivica recoiled, confused, blind sided by her sudden plight.
“A witch, no this is madness?”
" We have witnesses"
He nodded and another two shapes loomed into the candle light.
“I know you” Vivica stammered “Rigard, these are servants…from the castle.”
“That man…he, he is my groom. You deserted me you coward!” Vivica finally found some strength in her rage and lurched forward. Then CRACK, her head snapped back as Rigard’s armoured fist smashed into her jaw.
Vivica slumped back, dazed, blood running from her cherry-red lips.
Her mana responded to the violence and in-spite of herself she channelled the power. The healing warmth flowed through her, knitting the skin of lips and calming the swelling.
“See Lord - the witchery comes easily to her, just as I said” The man who had been her groom spoke now. Calm and menacing.
“This man is a traitor, he is a commoner”
Rigard chuckled dryly
“This man is no commoner, Master Hansel is one of our most formidable huntsmen. He has been watching you for sometime.”
“And the woman? She just used to collect the laundry or… something?”
Rigard gave a brief shake of his head.
“No, Vivica, that is not ‘just’ what she did. Still, we will have the truth of the matter; we know that pain will stimulate your witchcraft. Gretel, here, has divised a mechanism that will trigger when unleash your magic and it will put an end to your blasphemy.”
"Then I shan’t use it. I am wise to you now, my control will be better!’
“I know, Vivica… I know. That is why Quintus has built a special chair. He has the ability to harness lightning and channel it through this chair. The effects are… startling. And very painful. There is no witch who can withstand the urge to unleash their power and then… Gretel’s little tool does it’s job.”
Vivica stared at the knight in abject horror. It was unspeakable - to torment a healer and then use this as a pretext to execute them? Where had this madness this… wickedness come from?
Then a realisation dawned.
"But you…you Rigard have healed many…you…
CRACK. Again the metal fist struck her, with a vicious rage this time. Vivica and her chair crashed onto the floor, her thin body thudding against the unforgiving stone.
“DO NOT DARE TO TARNISH ME, WITCH!” Rigard thundered “THE BLESSED RIGHT OF PURIFICATION HAS NOTHING ‘NOTHING’ TO DO WITH YOUR BLACK MAGIC!”
Rigard visibily checked himself and spoke to the witch hunters without taking his eyes off Vivica.
“For too long the magic has flowed, untamed, my home, Skyfheim lies in ruins and the happy land of Shaguadin is a broken husk rife with vile undead. They will die…they will all die… again if necessary. And this rampant flow of sorcery will be dammed. Take her to the cage until Quintus is ready.”
Vivica sobbed as they dragged her out. She screwed up her eyes and fought the urge to heal again, the power knotting in her stomach.
She was dumped on the floor on her back. The witch hunters looked down on her with disgust.
" How could you?" pleaded Vivica, “you will pay for this treachery. Lord Richard will come for me, he will punish you!”
The huntsman pursed his lips in a mock show of thoughtfulness.
Then he leaned down, putting his face to hers.
“Lord Richard is a fool”, he hissed. “He is on another pointless crusade across the sea, no doubt bravely murdering the local wildlife with his ridiculous hammer. No one is coming for you, witch” He stood and turned to the woman.
“I will get the Friar to administer the cleansing ritual, once the bodies have been brought from the chair.”
“It is better than they deserve” said Gretel, coldly. She spat on the flagstones at Vivica’s feet and slammed the door.
Vivica sat in abject misery. The darkness enfolded her both outside and in as the footsteps of her captors faded.
“Welcome, fellow traveller”, the voice was hoarse and hollow.
“Who is there?” said Vivica in a panic
“It is I, Merlin”.
In the gloom, and curious, stooped figure hobbled towards her.
The stranger slowly cocked his head, examining her.
“So sad, that one so young should be found by this fate”.
“Are you a…are they accusing you too?”
“Yes, I am to perish in their contraption tomorrow too…just as you will.”
“But together maybe we can escape? Or fight? Or…”
“No, child. There is no escape. The forest wizard thought as you did, tried to take them by surprise when they came for him.”
“Melendor… I knew him. Such a kind, good man. Did he…did he make it”?
Merlin looked away
"The woman, Gretel, saw it coming. Took his head with single blow.’
Vivica closed her eyes. She saw Melendor’s kind eyes. Now they would be closed forever.
“So…it is hopeless. We can do nothing.”
“Yes. And no. It is hopeless, we cannot escape this chair of lightning and the witch killer. But we will not do nothing.”
“That doesn’t make sense”.
“I know of a spell that will set them upon each other, the Mindless Attack. I am only strong enough to affect one mind, but you, Lady, are strong. You could dominate - all of them”. As he finished speaking Merlin’s hollow voice formed a visceral snarl.
Vivica was startled at the sudden menace in his tone.
“I am not strong…look at me. I was a fool. And I am a healer, I have studied…life and shunned the dark powers.”
“You have it in you, Lady, the seed of rage…look within yourself.”
Vivica paused and absorbed the feedback from her senses - the stark gloom of the cell, the rank smell of effluence and the blood stains on the silk of her robe, the drip-drip of water and the hunger and bruising of her body. Then she used her other senses, those known to the shaman and the mage. She felt the romantic power within herself, explored and nurtured it until it swelled within her chest and ran like liquid gold to her fingertips…then she felt the seed. A bitter knot ripening within her stomach and as she handled it in her mind it too began to flow until the liquid gold flowed entwined with a black, burning, oil of hatred.
She would go to the chair tomorrow and she would die.
And they would die too.
Rigard looked down into the dungeon from the balcony and observed the proceedings with a morbid fascination, tinged by the hint of self loathing. He had ridden at the head of the Guild Knights at the last charge of the Battle of Morlovia and fought beside the Lady Elena at the Broken Lands Incursion…how had he fallen to this? The witches, they forced his hand, he told himself.
“All is ready Lord!”, Quintus called from the depths below.
“Bring her in”, Rigard growled
Quintus gestured and a moment later Hansel and Gretel returned dragging the fragile, frail frame of Vivica…
Vivica saw the copper lattice work of the chair before her, with spiralling cables stretching up into the hollow recess of the tower above. A glint of polished steel on a balcony caught her eye - Rigard in full battle harness. It mattered not - all the iron and mail and leather in Correlia was powerless to protect his mind.
The two witch hunters hauled her into the chair, clamped her thin wrists and fitted a collar to her neck.
“This is my gift to you, Lady,” said Gretel, a mocking smile on her lips. “The pain of the chair will stimulate your witch craft, this collar will collect the power and return it to your mind. A fitting death, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yes” smiled Vivica. Gretel looked momentarily perplexed but gathered herself. “All is ready, Quintus; channel the lightning.”
Quintus threw a heavy switch and the air began to hum with potential. It grew to a throb and Vivica felt the hairs on her arms tingle.
“When will it come?” she thought
“ARRRGH!” A bolt of blue lightning struck a copper spiral and ran down into the chair, wracking her body with pain.
She gasped, taken unaware, but gathered herself, hastily surpressing the urge to manifest the power.
“AAARRGGH!” Again the pain struck, coursing through the lattice and across her muscles.
Dimly aware of her captors around her.
“Look how the sorcery builds within her, Lord” she heard Quintus call to the balcony.
She felt the mana grow stronger than she had ever known, barely containing the boiling black mass churning through her veins.
“Not long now” Hansel growled.
And then Vivica sat up straight, the frail, tortured wretch replaced for an instant, first by the noble scholar of Correlia, then with a blackness overtaking her very eyes, a sorceress of Avalon.
“MINDLESS ATTACK!!” She screamed, unleashing a brutal wave of desperate rage.
Her captors froze and then, wracked with convulsions they threw themselves at their own bodies, hacking and thrashing.
"NO! screamed Rigard as his hand drew his dagger.
“PURIFICATI…” the incantation died in a wet gurgle as he cut out his own throat.
For just a moment, one sweet moment, she was Vivica again.
And then the Witch Killer reflected that super nova of power back into her mind. And she was destroyed.