Witch Hunter Pt.1
Age Rating: 13 +
He took a sip from his cup, letting his eyes close briefly while the strong liquid trickled down his throat. He didn’t even notice the burning sensation anymore as it rushed down his numbed esophagus and into his stomach. He finished the drink, and put the cup down gently on top of the scuffed countertop made of cheap, improperly maintained wood. The Young Spider wasn’t a pub with a long history; it was a place where histories were made. Many of the young boys in the small city went there to taste their first sip of alcohol, or to be led off by a prostitute’s cold gaze, enticed and thrilled by the warm body beneath the strings of jewelry and skimpy clothing. He smiled to himself, dropping his head till his chin touched his chest. Yes, The Young Spider’s name suited it. The irony in the name never escaped him, and he was glad to be back, drinking here with the already drunk citizens of Limm.
“Excuse me, sir?”
He lifted his head. Standing to his left was a man of maybe forty-five years of age dressed in many layers of green and dark blue fabric. Attached to the front of his coat was a silver chain that disappeared into the front pocket. The man took the vacant seat next to him, and ordered a light drink before apologizing.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you, but are you that witch hunter?”
“I can be,” he replied as the man’s drink arrived.
“Don’t think of me as a spy, my name is Isaac, and I run the tailor shop not far from here. I noticed your cape—it’s not made of any material I have worked with, and I was—“
“It’s a special material treated to resist fire, water, wind, and above all, magic. You are correct in claiming I’m a witch hunter, but I’m not sure if I’m the one you’re thinking of. I’m fairly new to the business. You must be thinking of my father, Diego.”
“Diego? Diego Winters is your father?” Isaac asked after a slight pause with disbelief.
He took a large gulp of his drink, the wrinkles on his face deepening. “The last I heard of Diego, he had left Limm on a search for a witch. I’m shocked to see you here, Raphael, mostly because you went with him.”
“That was six years ago,” Raphael added stiffly, hailing the bartender to poor him another drink—one stronger than the last.
“You were sixteen, I remember it well. Your father came in to my shop and asked me to fit you in proper traveling clothes.” Isaac smiled. “That green cloak made your brown eyes pop, you know that?”
Raphael downed his drink, wiping the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand. “If you say so.”
Isaac frowned. “Do you remember? If I recall correctly, you were excited to be leaving with Diego. He had told many people he was going to start training you in the family business, but Raphael, when did you get back? Where is Diego?”
Raphael was silent. He held his empty cup in both hands and stared down at the few droplets remaining at the bottom. Where was Diego? His recollection of the time spent with his father was all blurry and fragmented. The first year of traveling was completely gone from his mind, as was most of the second. The only image he remembered, from when he was with his father, was of walking into a grand dining room. It was dark, and the only light was from the moon filtering in through curtain-less, high arched windows that ran along one wall. The long table was set with silverware, polished to gleam with a fury he had never seen before. At the far end of the room, behind the head chair was a fireplace that had been cold for many years. Above the mantle was a painting. In his memories, it was just a blank canvas in a dulled gold frame, but he knew with all his being there was indeed a painting there, but somehow, he forgot.
“Are you alright? If my questions are too personal—“
“I don’t know where Diego is. I haven’t seen him in the past four years. I continued my training far from here amongst a small group of witch hunters, The Marauders, who traveled all over the map to rid the country of Alnar of the ultimate witches who were far too powerful to remain alive. I got back just last week when Ophelia—the woman who raised me since I arrived at their camp—declared I was ready to return home.” That’s when he got his new cloak, he added in his head. As a parting gift.
“Diego, do you think… I mean, is he…”
“Dead? It’s possible.”
“To put it bluntly, yes. You don’t seem too saddened by the notion.”
“Diego never feared death. He accepted it, and in his line of work, death was always following him, as if in his shadow, or caught under his skin. You must come to terms with it if you wish to be a witch hunter. You must accept that no one is immortal, and if you’re not caught by a witch today, it’ll be by some other down the line.”
“Have you come to accept it?”
When Raphael nodded, Isaac shook his head and continued.
“Raphael, I’ve watched you grow up. You were always the quiet one, preferring to stick to your own silent games of pretend. You were never always like that. Before your—“
“I don’t have the time to sit here and talk about my past, old man,” Raphael growled, squeezing the cup.
They were both silent for a few minutes.
“Does Isabella know you’re back?” Isaac asked hesitantly, observing his drink closely.
“No,” he said as he placed a handful of gold and silver coins down on the counter, not bothering to count the exact amount, but he knew he put down more than enough.
He got up and as he was leaving, he said over his shoulder, “Mother doesn’t know.”
He sniffed the air the second he left the stuffy building; it was a habit he had whenever he was indoors for long periods of time, with substances that could dull the senses. Now, he could adjust himself to the partially cloudy night where the only source of light came from open windows, and the occasional street lamp. He sniffed again, and then once more. Small alarms sounded in his head: he could smell a witch. One of the hardest tasks to learn, for anyone, was learning the scent of magic. Ophelia had taken it one step further with him, teaching him to gauge how far it could be, as well as how old the witch was, and how strong. By the scent, he was able to determine it was a young witch no more than a few blocks away. This one was alone, as far as he could tell, so it would be easier to dispose of.
The night was pleasant, so he didn’t bother to rush off. He took a slow, leisurely walk, smelling the air every block to make sure he was on the right track. It wasn’t moving, so it was possible it was sleeping, or in a house with restricted space to move. He increased his pace as he passed by a small house with a flower garden. The scent had gotten surprisingly stronger. He turned to his left and walked down one more block until the odor was overwhelming. He covered his face with a sleeve and stood silently, waiting to see or hear anything sudden. He was standing in the middle of a street with houses similar to the one earlier with the flower garden. They were all small with slanted roofs, with fences that defined boundaries.
Every two houses there were gaps for storage or larger objects that wouldn’t fit inside the house. In one gap, he could see the outline of a small boat wrapped in a tarp. In another was a shed, which probably held gardening equipment. Most of the yards were littered with children’s toys, which warned him he might be dealing with a child, or the mother of a child. While the witch hunters aimed to destroy, they weren’t monsters. There were ways to make a witch oblivious to their powers, but that took many months, sometimes even years to achieve. Most of the time it wasn’t even worth the trouble.
“There’s a strange man outside.”
“He’s covering his face, he looks silly.”
“Come look, Luna! Come!”
“Not now, Joel. Sol needs to study for his test tomorrow.”
The woman named Luna was sitting at a small table across from her younger brother, who was busy scribbling down words she wanted him to spell for her. The words weren’t terribly difficult, but he was having a hard time with some of them. As of late, Sol had been having more difficulty with school, which he couldn’t supply an answer for when questioned. It didn’t help Sol when their younger siblings were dancing around the room, singing and shrieking with glee. Their parents weren’t home, and they had a later bedtime as a result.
“Rose!” Luna snapped at the girl swinging with the curtains. “Mom said if you break those curtains again she’d break you. Go play with Joel in your room, we have work to do.”
The two took one last look out the window before Rose scampered off to prepare her toys. Joel, however, lingered, his small hand trailing down the curtain as he peeked outside. His dark hair took on a reddish glow from the lamp and the length told her he’d need a haircut when their parents got home. She sighed softly, shaking her head slowly, wisps of yellow hair freeing themselves from the bun at the back of her head to hang by her ears and face.
“Go on, Joel,” Luna pushed, checking her spot along the line of words, then smoothening out the skirt of her dress.
“Joel?” she asked when he didn’t respond.
She lowered the book. “Don’t dawdle now or I’ll make bedtime right now.”
“He’s coming!” Joel suddenly shrieked and ran out of the room, his socked feet slipping on the wood floor, his too-large-for-him shirt fluttering behind.
Sol looked up then with his green eyes, and exchanged a look with Luna’s deep blue ones. She stood up and placed her reading glasses down on the table and moved to the window. She parted the thick curtains and looked outside suspiciously, seeing nothing but darkness. Suddenly, the reflection of light in dark eyes appeared and startled her. She jumped back with a loud gasp. The window came crashing in seconds later.
“Sol, get Rose and Joel out of here!” Luna cried, clutching the front of her dress.
Sol sprang to his feet and was out of the room in a matter seconds.
Luna placed herself in the doorway, unable to get the door closed due to a pile of dirty laundry that was sitting on the floor, waiting for her to wash them. She turned to face the man that was now climbing into the room with her. The breeze that sharply whizzed into the room extinguished the lamp, plunging them into darkness, but some light was provided from the moon, and street lamps from outside.
His hair was curly and very dark, almost as dark as the night sky behind him. He had to crouch to get in through the window and when he straightened up, she could see just how tall he was. He towered over her, and she was pretty tall for a woman. Luna knew he wouldn’t hesitate to steal whatever was in their house, and would probably do whatever he needed to achieve this goal, but she had to give her brothers and sister time to escape so the burglary didn’t turn into a kidnapping, or worse.
There was nothing more between him and her except for the table she had just been sitting at, and Sol’s overturned chair. It wasn’t much to push the chair or table aside to grab at her, and she grew uneasy as he just stood there, glancing around the room. He suddenly inhaled sharply through his nose and exhaled quickly, his eyes darting towards where she stood. He stepped closer, gently pushing the chair out of his path with his foot. Luna took a step back.
“You’re not the one I want, I want the boy,” he said softly, smelling the air around the chair. “The boy in this chair.”
Luna stood up straight and cleared her throat. “You’re mistaken, no one was sitting there.”
“Don’t lie to me, girl. You’re prolonging this. Either bring the boy to me, or I’ll get him myself.”
“There is no boy here! I live alone with my sisters, now please, just—“
Raphael let out an impatient sound and flipped the table over, sending the books, papers, and her reading glasses crashing to the ground. Luna was trembling as he stepped so close, he could smell the alcohol on his breath.
“I want the boy.”
“You’re drunk! Get out of my house and stop playing these games, there is no—“
Raphael stopped listening. His head turned back towards the window. He smelled him outside.
“You’ll pay for lying to me, girl,” he said angrily as he moved back to the window, and exited.
“Sol?” Luna cried, running deeper into the house as soon as the man left, her whole body shaking terribly, her voice quivering. She was amazed her heart didn’t explode from how hard it was beating.
“Sol where are you?”
She didn’t find any trace of her siblings within the house. She tore through their home, rummaging through hiding places and rooms with intense worry and vigor. When she came across the open back door, her face paled.