The Dark Witch
Thrain dug the hole deep on that cold damp Sunday morning. When the sides of the grave stood taller than himself he dragged the priest's body over to the edge of the pit, and then rolled the bloodied corpse into the hole. Thrain gave his wife a worried look before picking up the shovel and throwing the first load of dirt into the grave to fill it.
Hildigunn stood silently holding her child by the side of the hut, and watched as her husband buried the priest. Unlike her mother and father their daughter Hella was fast asleep and unconcerned by the horrifying recent events. Hildigunn could feel the child's power as she held her close against her. It seemed to pulsate with every beat of her heart. Although she was extremely concerned about what was to come, she was certain that her newborn would not allow anyone to harm her.
When Hella began to get restless Hildigunn brought her inside and fed her. As her child suckled it looked up at its mother with those red eyes with the black void in them. Hildigunn saw in that black emptiness much more than the priest had seen. Within that empty void she saw a limitless power, fed by a purpose that she could not comprehend.
A short while later Thrain walked into the hut, and poured water into the wash basin with a bucket he had filled down at the spring. As he washed up he looked over his shoulder at his wife and child.
" Pack some clothes, and as much food as you can carry. You and the child have to leave at once ! I will follow as soon as I load up the cart with our things ! " he told his wife in a tired voice.
Hildigunn gently rocked Hella up and down, and then patted her on the back to burp her.
" And where will we go ? " she asked in a worried voice.
Thrain picked up the towel from the table and dried off his hands.
" Do you remember when we first met, and we became lost in the woods ? " Thrain asked.
Hildigunn's eyes widened.
" You want us to go to the haunted woods !? " she blurted out in disbelief.
Thrain took a deep breath.
" The villagers will come for us as soon as they realize that the priest is missing . They will show us no mercy ! They will hunt us down and kill us ! " he told his wife sternly.
Hildigunn walked over to her husband and looked in him in the eyes.
" How do you know that they will not follow us into the haunted forest ? " she asked.
Thrain kissed his wife on the lips, and then his child's forehead, before answering.
" Because no one goes into those woods ! We should never have gone into that evil forest ! The villagers are terrified by the stories of how the early Christian priests condemned and hung those who would not convert on the hanging tree. They now believe that any Christian who ventures into those woods will be killed by the vengeful Draugr, who are condemned to haunt that forest for eternity. " he explained to his wife.
Hildigunn did not like the idea of returning to the haunted woods, but she knew that they could not stay here.
" Do you think that old shack is still standing by the hanging tree ? " she asked.
Thrain bobbed his head up and down.
" Yes ! I think so ! But you must leave now ! " he told her with a hint of anger in his voice.
Hildigunn quickly went over to the bed, and set Hella down. She took a blanket off of a shelf, and began to place clothes onto it. Then she went to the kitchen cupboard and placed some dried fish, berries and oatmeal into jars, and then added them onto the blanket as well. When it was full she rolled up the blanket and tied it over her shoulder. Then she picked up Hella, walked over to Thrain, and kissed him.
" I will be going ! " she told her husband before quickly heading out the door.
As Hildigunn neared the forest, that began at the edge of their wheat field, she heard noises behind her and quickly turned around. What she saw terrified her ! Olvir, the village chieftain, had galloped up to the front of the hut with a dozen warriors. She also noticed that Alfhild was riding double on one of the horses with a warrior.
Hildigunn quickly ran into the woods, and hid behind a large oak tree. Although she could not clearly hear everything being said, she heard enough to know her husband was in trouble. She was able to make out Thrain telling the chieftain that his wife and child had gone to Oslo to visit her mother. Hildigunn also overheard her husband say that their child was not evil.
She watched as Olvir called Alfhild over to the hut. An argument quickly ensued between Alfhild and her husband, but she could not make out what was being said. It was then that one of the warriors found the freshly dug grave !
Thrain tried to run away, but two warriors quickly tackled him, and brought him before Olvir. The chieftain screamed at Thrain, and then to Hildigunn's horror Olvir drew his sword, and ran her husband through. As her husband fell to his knees, holding his his hands against his stomach to hold in his innards, their eyes met one last time. Then Thrain fell over and died.
The warriors quickly torched the hut, and threw Thrain's body into the inferno. With tears streaming down her face Hildigunn took one last look at the home that they had built together. Then she turned and began to walk towards the haunted forest. As she turned, Hella, who was held against her shoulder, saw the burning hut with her red eyes. As the flames danced within her black pupils, an anger built up inside the child that could not be contained !
The village was quiet, and the streets were deserted. Being Sunday the church was filled to capacity with the Christian faithful. Styr, the young priest who was being trained by Geir, held mass in his mentor's absence. The priest had just begun to read from the bible in Latin when the entrance to the church suddenly burst into flames. Within moments the congregation's only way out was blocked by a wall of fire. The lucky ones were overcome and died from smoke inhalation. Most, however, were slowly and painfully burned alive. Their high pitched screams reverberated throughout the empty village until the roof collapsed down upon them, and then only the sound of crackling wood was left to be heard.
As Hildigunn began to walk into the dark woods, heading for the haunted forest, she realized that she and her daughter were now fugitives ! Hildigunn turned and looked back in the direction of her farm one last time. She could clearly see the smoke from her home rising above the trees. When she looked to the left, however, she saw another column of smoke rising up in the distance. Hella wriggled in her mother's arms and turned herself halfway round so that she was facing in the same direction . The infant pointed to the second column of rising smoke and giggled !
- End Chapter 3
- Next Chapter 4 : The Hanging Tree
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.