Down a choked and muddy stream, through dense thickets, warrens, and vine curtains, lay the charmed coven of Cain. None knew it, as it was bound with a spell of bewilderment. Through the attrition of years, most of its first thirteen souls had gone to grass, their bones and plasma powdered and cast into the blue. Only the strong, the hale, and the powerful remained. Being different in the extreme from common men and women, these tall but stooped creatures shunned the light of the wide world. Known only in legends and wives’ tales, they were called Witches. Never were they found by purposefully looking, though legends had sprung from chance encounters in deep dusk.
In the second century of Cain’s existence, a singular event occurred there. A baby was born to one in the coven. Its mother Merylyn had been held in awe, suspicion, and fear when the changes to her body had begun in earnest. She was made a pariah, and was cast out of their hovels to do for herself. But Merylyn had a knowing, and instinct was seeded within her. The birthing was hard, and she came nigh onto dying, but lived to suckle and to warm her daughter Elfeena. In the fragrant warmth of a rotting oak, she stayed thus, wrapping the girl to her breast and sleeping for two days.
In want of food, and still with some pain and bloodiness, Merylyn swaddled the girl in what fabric she had, and covered her somewhat in the oak’s leafy mold. Risking the light of late afternoon, she went abroad in the dense wood, unprotected by any hiding spells. Her cunning and her patience soon brought her two coneys, and she sacked them in her canvas bag, thinking to reach her bower by half-light.
Those at Cain Coven, numbering now only four, were aware of her, and sent a fetching spell to the ravens of the valley. With dusk coming on, the birds began an assault on the unfortunate woman, hitting her in thuds and tearing at her flesh and hair. All defenseless and streaming from many cuts, Merylyn was at last close to her home when she suffered an attack from the largest raven of the black flock. As it went for her head, grappling with sharp talons and marring her face, her terrible rage was aroused, and she fled no longer. With swift motions, she broke the beast’s neck and tore off its ebon wings. The rest of the flock took flight. With her warm quarry still in its canvas sack, she found the ancient oak at the close of day. Too weary even to tend her wounds at first, she gathered Elfeena to her. Her breast would suffice until morning light. The red blood she could staunch with a poultice of wet leaves and vine.
to be continued…..