Monday, October 1, 2012

Chapter Nine: The Sickness

I often wish that I could murder my heart just to stop it from screaming. As much as the knife that is plunged up to the hilt inside it keeps twisting and twisting, one would think that the wretched thing would give up and die already. But no.

It just keeps screaming and it will never give me peace.

There is no beauty in grief. It is a hideous thing; a sickness. It sets your bones on fire. It is a boulder that crushes you into the ground and buries you there. It is a living, hate-filled beast of a thing that feeds from hope and joy and leaves you tired.

And I am so very tired. But I dare not rest, not even to close my eyes, because every time I do, I see him…

…With her.

My mother offers her potion to me to help me sleep, but I refuse. Instead, I try to cry out all my pain. Maybe if I can squeeze every last bit of it away through my eyes it will leave me. My efforts never avail. The hurt is far too big and the tears are too many. So I cry until there is nothing left of me, until I collapse and am unable to move from my weakness.

This is when the morning comes.
I have grown to hate the sun. I hate that it can still rise every morning and that I have to keep living, even though I have nothing left to live for.

“Get up, you lazy girl.” My mother’s voice is as harsh as the glaring light.

“I refuse to allow you to waste away like this. It’s been a week now. You have to get over yourself. The Witch Queen will no longer tolerate this nonsense.

“If you don’t get out of that bed and start contributing around camp, you’re going to be out on the streets! Is that what you want?”

Something inside of her interrupts her lecturing. She gasps deeply and a noise escapes from her that frightens me.

“Oh!”she cries and clutches her stomach as if she has just been stabbed.
She sinks to her knees and looks up at the thatch ceiling with agony welling in her eyes.
“Mother!” I shrieked. “Mother, are you all right?”

After a few deep breaths, she rises to her feet. “It’s nothing. Never mind me, just get to your chores.”

So I dress and prepare to face the world with my new eyes. There is nothing left of who I once was. I am a shell filled with hate and I function from hate and nothing more. I hate Galaea and I hate Ivaine. For whatever absurd reason, I cannot bring myself to hate Lothar, but I hate myself for losing him.

But most of all, I hate her. Jyaell doesn’t give a damn, she’s doesn’t listen to my prayers—she isn’t even real. She’s only a statue of a long-dead queen. Her stone eyes see nothing.

There is nothing left for me in the Sisterhood of Witches, so I form a plan. I will spend my time making potions and learning as much as I can about them. I will sell them in the market place and save all of the money I earn until I have enough to leave the camp and make a life for myself on the outside.

But before I make my escape, there are chores to be done.

I head outside towards the animal stalls to help Keiry, when I hear the sounds of choking and retching.

Keiry is doubled over in the grass with the remains of her breakfast before her.

“Are you all right?” I ask as I walk towards the pens.

“Oh. Good morning, Corynne,” she calls to me.

“I’ve been feeling terribly ill,” she says. “My stomach has not settled for days now.”

She tilts her head and says, “Do you think?”
“What?” I ask.
“Could I be… with child?”

All too suddenly, I am reminded of the child I had so desperately wanted with Lothar. The daughter that I will never have.

“I suppose you could be,” I say. “But then, my mother seems to have fallen under some sickness. It may be going around.”

Keiry’s face brightens, unfazed by my theory. “Oh, how I would love to have a baby. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had my own sweet little daughter?”
“Yes,” I answer quietly. “Wonderful.”
I have to get out of here.

So I devote as much time as I am able at the market place. I never smile at the men, but they still favor my booth. As my mother rests her illness away at home, I do the work for both of us. I hope against hope that I do not see Lothar here, but foolishly, I still look for him. I never find him.

I turn my head as I hear a familiar voice calling my name.

“Corynne.” Markius stumbles toward me. The smell of mead is strong on his breath. “I had the strangest dream the other night. I dreamt that I spent the night with the most beautiful girl, but I woke up in the street in front of the tavern.”
“That is strange.”

He leans in and his eyes become intense. “I have not been able to stop thinking about you since that night. You’re all that I think about, Corynne.”

“I could make you so happy, you know. I’d give you everything you want. You are the only thing I want.

“You captivate me. I am not a prince, but I will never hurt you.”
“I love you,” he says.

He leans closer and I shrink back. “I love you Corynne,” he says again. “I want you to choose me. Love me. You could learn to. I could make you forget his name.”

“Stop it!” I say. “You’re drunk.”
“I mean every word, though,” he says. “No words have ever been more true.”

“Let me make one thing clear to you,” I say. “I love Lothar. I will always love Lothar.”

This time, I am the one to lean forward to emphasize my point. “And I am never going to love anyone but Lothar. Ever.”

He lowers his head, wounded. I know that I was cruel, but leading him on would be crueler.

“Very well,” he says. “Just take care of yourself, yes? And be happy. You deserve to be.”
There is no happiness left for me, but I tell him I will to make him leave.

When I return to the camp, the Witch Queen has called for another meeting. I consider going back to my hut, but Galaea demands every witch’s presence when she speaks. It is better not to anger her further, despite how much I hate her.

“It’s not fair!” Magrid cries outside the meeting hall. I assume all of the other witches have gone inside.

“Just tell me why!” she shouts to no one I can see. She must be praying. “I’ve been so good. I’ve done everything right! What more do you want from me? Why must you always favor her? I don’t understand.”

I can’t help looking at her as I pass by. All of her anguish and anger feels right at home with me. I consider telling her that her prayers are in vain, but then Magrid catches me staring.

“What do you want?” she rages at me.
“Nothing,” I answer. “Nothing at all. Do carry on.”

“Glorious news!” Galaea exclaims inside the hall.
What now?

“The Goddess has shown that she is pleased with the obedience of our dear Ivaine and has blessed her greatly,” Galaea says.

“My sisters, your queen is with child!”
The witches cheer. I feel I may vomit.

“And to show how very pleased she is, the Goddess has given our sister Saleri a new prophecy.”

The room becomes silent as Saleri approaches the front.
“I have seen a girl child in Ivaine’s womb,” she proclaims. “She will grow into a woman of much power and beauty.”
Galaea grins madly at this news, but Ivaine does not appear to be pleased.

Saleri continues: “Alone, she will rise to the throne, a queen without a king, and she will be greater than any queen before her. Beloved by her people, revered as a goddess.”
Galaea beams more brightly, Ivaine sighs with disdain, and the witches cheer more wildly. And then Saleri calls Ivaine’s womb-fruit the savior of the witches and I have heard enough.

I am through with the Sisterhood of Witches and I refuse to stay here a moment longer.

I burst out of the doors, not caring who sees me. They are all too absorbed in the prophecy to even notice. I don’t care where I go, as long as it’s away from here. Even if I have to live on the streets—the streets will be better than this place.

I run to my hovel to gather my things. But then all of my rage and hate turns to horror at the sight that awaits me behind the door.



  1. I actually started your story by reading this chapter, just to check your story out, and wow, I'm gonna go read the rest! This is wonderful, like really. The pictures are nice to look at and flow nicely with the story. Not to mention your writing, which is just wonderful.

    Please, continue! I can't wait to see what happens with Mama. o:

  2. Thank you!!! That is wonderful to hear. And don't worry, there is plenty more to come ;)

  3. Just a comment to let you know you have a new reader. There was some fun wee twists here, looking forward to more. :)

  4. Caught up! And very impressed, at that :D

    So much to comment on...

    1) Amea. I hope she's all right. I'll admit that I was a bit curious about her health since the mention of her nightly potions--which were pretty clearly for sleeping, of course, but I wondered why she needed them to get to sleep. Does she maybe have some chronic condition that she's been hiding from Corynne, or is there something more sinister at work here? In any case, I hope she's okay.

    2) Keiry. For all I imagine it would make Corynne uncomfortable, I do hope she's pregnant! If she is, I also wonder if Lathian will ever get a chance to meet his child; he does seem to be quite taken with Keiry.

    3) Ivaine. She doesn't exactly look happy in those shots, or even like she's trying to look happy, which leads me to suspect that she's ultimately just as much a victim of Galaea's plotting as anyone else (for all she might have been a willing pawn at first). Also, any other witch who is pregnant would have gotten knocked up at the ceremony, whereas Ivaine could have gotten pregnant some time after; not that babies with similar conception dates are always born in the order that they were conceived, but does her baby really have any greater chance of being the first girl born that year? I think Saleri might just be telling Galaea what she wants to hear. I hope Keiry's baby is the first girl.

    4) Lothar. He was almost trance-like when we saw him with Ivaine. I don't think he even recognized Corynne, as someone he knew or even as the girl he has all those paintings of. There was definitely meddling there.

    5) Markius. He's a nice guy, and he's been a good friend to her, but I don't think he "loves" her, not like that. He might be a victim of Corynne's unwitting powers of captivation. I hope he can get past it and they can continue being friends. Meanwhile, I'm inclined to think that Lothar actually did (does, repressedly?) love Corynne based on King Lothe's sixth sense; Lothar did say that his father's power was blind where his family was concerned, but to me, that just says that Lothar loved Corynne so strongly that Lothe actually saw it.

    And of course...

    6) Corynne herself. She certainly has her work cut out for her, both in terms her own recovery and self-actualization and in terms of the plot. I'm curious to see what else will be thrown her way, and how she'll manage to overcome it, to whatever end.

    Excellent work! Eagerly awaiting Chapter Ten :D

  5. Aaaahhhh!!! I can't even say how happy I am to receive a comment from you, Van, when I am such a fangirl of your work, let alone one of this much depth. There is SO MUCH I could say to your observations, but for the sake of the story, my lips are sealed :)
    It does solidify for me that I'm on the right track with what I'm showing. I just love Keiry, how she's often the voice of reason for Corynne. Chapter Ten is in the works but some computer issues have delayed it. I will say that all of the things you have mentioned will be addressed at some point, so stay tuned!