Topic: [Original] Witch Hazel  (Read 1743 times)

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[Original] Witch Hazel
« on: September 15, 2010, 04:34:43 am »
This is an original story that I was working on a while back, forgot about, and have finally picked back up. As this is not Touhou related I was unsure about whether or not to post it here.

My aim when writing this was to take elements from anime and manga and fusing them with western fantasy. Likable characters with good development, cool fight scenes, and also an plot with political intrigue and war. Whether or not I succeed in that is anyone's guess, as I haven't really figured out the complete story yet.

Anyway, on with the story!



Witch Hazel

Chapter 1
   
Autumn meant rain.
   
First the climate would change from the dry heat of summer to a wet cool mist that clung to the air, leading the plethora of wildlife to seek shelter in the caves of the surrounding hills. Then the dark storm-clouds would roll in like great steel drums, and the rain would follow - sometimes for entire days without respite until one’s feet sank into the ground directly and the streets of towns flooded, the drainage ditches soon powerless against the non-ending onslaught of rain. By the time the storms had passed, the dirty, rust-colored residue left on buildings by the factories had been washed away, and the cities emerged from the dark cocoon of coal soot and ash as though reborn.

It was on one of these days that a man was running though the dense and vast forests to the east of the riverside town of Mercia, his heavy boots making deep troughs in the mud. He was wrapped from head to toe in a well-worn sable cloak, which he had made watertight by tying a pair of ropes around his waist and another under his arms. The collar of the garment was tall, protecting his face from the elements, and on his head he wore a drab, waterlogged tricorn hat. In his arms he carried a bundle wrapped in a heavy blanket - the occasional cry rising from within.

A flash of lightening illuminated the path, revealing a fallen tree that the man had nearly overlooked, and he leapt over it just in time, keeping the bundle safe within his protective embrace. As he landed, a sharp pain in his leg caused him to loose balance and stumble, but he quickly recovered. Then he saw the road split another flash of lightening revealed a sign - on the left was a road to the Westgate Columns, and on the right was a path to the sanctum of the botanist monks who tended the forest, known as the Shepsgale Monastery. Beneath the collar of his cloak the man smiled weakly. "Almost there..." he muttered reassuringly, mostly to himself but also to calm the child nestled at the center of the blanket.
"Those monks will never turn away a lost or abandoned child... it's not in their blood." He looked up. "They will take care of you... and maybe when you're all grown up, this war will be over." he laughed disdainfully and straightened his collar with one hand, the bundle still secure in the other. "Wishful thinking, indeed."

As he took a step towards the eastward path, he realized he was no longer alone; a shadow had been stalking him from off the path and a sudden flash of lightening illuminated his figure perched atop a rock, hunched over like a humanoid gargoyle. But this creature was of flesh, not stone.

"Bloody manticore!" The man hissed between clenched teeth, hugging the bundle closer.
The manticore; a human chimera... a grotesque combination of man and beast created by the Alchemists of Viyar, the Brass City of the distant South. This one had a pair of leathery bat wings (currently folded at his side) and his fingers were unnaturally long, ending with hooked claws, iron, crusted with dried blood. The manticore laughed over the storm and looked down.

"You didn't honestly think you could have lost me with a wound like that, did you?" the manticore said, pointing at the man's leg. "I've been shadowing you for the past thirty minutes... I ain’t too keen on killing kids, y’know, but a job's a job and I got a reputation to uphold."

The manitcore unfolded his wings and swooped down from his rock, splashing down into a muddy puddle and drew a curved sword from its sheath.

The man sidestepped the ensuing attack, unable to bare his own weapon without abandoning his charge, and caught his foot on an upturned root. He looked up with a start and then all he could see was a flash of white followed by a burning sensation over his brow. He felt something warm trickle down his forehead and into his right eye; grasping at his face, he pulled away his gloved hand to find it reddened with his own blood.

He turned to face the manticore now behind him, readying another attack, pulling a pair of circular throwing blades from his belt before hurling them with a yell of triumph. The man watched as the blades flew towards him, cutting swatches through the rain and was at a loss for words at what happened immediately thereafter.

The air around him seemed to grow dense, the light and color bending as though filtered through a lens. Raindrops fell around slowly and then stopped entirely, and he mused for a moment on whether he should try to reach out and swat them away. He had heard it said that one's perception of the flow of time slows down moments before one’s death, but he had never taken it as being literal. But as he watched he saw now a pair of bullets cutting a path though the rain to intersect the oncoming blades, and he was snapped out of his trance by the twang of metal ricocheting off of metal, and now the blades were spinning away... away from him. He blinked, uncertain of whether he had seen wrong, but his sight was confirmed by the sound of a dull thud as the blades lodged themselves into a tree.

For the manticore, too, it took a moment to comprehend the events which had transpired, but he quickly altered his course and landed on the high branch of a tree overlooking the path. He peered through the wall of rain, trying to find the cause of the phenomenon while the man desperately did the same, wrapping his arms protectively around his bundle while blood flowed across his eye freely. The manticore saw it moments before the man, with the aid of his bat-like senses - a petite, cloaked figure standing in the middle of the path, slender arms holding a pair of blunderbuss pistols. She lowered her hood, revealing a delicate face wreathed with long red hair that was plastered to her skin by the rain. 

"Forgive me..." the woman said in a quiet voice, barely audible over the rain. With a blast of smoke, the expended cartridges were ejected from the sides of her weapons, the click of an internal mechanism sounding to tell that replacements had been loaded. "...but I cannot allow you to desecrate this ground with innocent blood."

"None of your concern witch!" The manticore snarled, though there was evident fear in his voice Even an animal knew when it was outmatched. "Move along, or you will share in his fate!"

"Violence is anathema in these woods." The gun-wielding woman continued. "However I will use force to remove you if you refuse to desist."

"Wait!" pleaded the man. "Leave me and escape with this child!"

"You don't think I'd just sit here and let that happen, do you?" The manticore laughed. He yanked down on thin, invisible strings attached to his throwing blades, dislodging them from the trees, and sent them spiraling towards the woman. With blinding speed, she holstered one of the guns and lifted a hand, causing a dome of light to form up around her body, stopping the blades in midair.

"So. That is your answer." The witch muttered, with a hint of sadness in her voice, as she took aim with her other pistol and fired, scoring a direct hit on the branch which held the manticore. There was a loud crash as the beast tumbled wildly to the ground, trying frantically to right himself in midair. Spreading his wings at the last moment, he landed awkwardly on his feet and drew his sword, but the witch was no longer present. When he sensed her attack coming, he hardly had the time to feint before the air around him was pierced with gunfire. The witch dropped in front of him, and with a flip of a lever a blade sprung from the side of both her pistols and snapped over the barrel. The manticore swung at the witch, who blocked it effortlessly by forming a cross with these bayonets and caught the sword between them. The sound of blade clashing resounded through the waterlogged forest once... twice... three times, never once did the witch show any sign of fear or fatigue, even against the powerful swings of the manticore. The manticore, growing impatient, made an attack at the first opening he saw, realizing too late that it has been a feint. The witch countered with one hand, and then with a dancer's grace she sidestepped her opponent and pivoted to flank him, cutting down onto one of his wings, through the bone, severing it from his back.   

The manticore howled in pain, but turned to meet this new attack, only to witness his sword-hand being cut off at the wrist and fall to the ground, still clutching onto his weapon. The woods were flooded with his earsplitting screams.

"Bitch!" He hissed between clenched teeth, holding the bleeding stump close to his body. "I will have your head for this! Mark my words!" He then hobbled into the night, throwing curses behind him as he went.

"You may have to settle for disappointment," The witch said, retracting the blades back into the sides of the pistols and slid them back into their holsters. She turned to the man. "Are you alright?"

"As well as can be expected." said he, "Though I fear this be not the end of my pursuers, and I cannot fight them as long as I am burdened as such. I beg you, take this child to the Shepsgale Monastery, see to it that no harm befalls of it. I no longer have the facility to protect."

The witch was so taken by surprise as the man held out the bundle he had been guarding with his life moments before, as well as the tone of desperation in his voice, that she took the child without thinking.

"And this sword..." From within his cloak he produced a long sword, beautifully crafted, its thin blade encased within a scabbard of beautifully crafted silver. On the hilt was a bronze two-headed bird, its outstretched wings forming the crossguard. The witch recognized it immediately.

"This crest!” She gasped “You are a Rosgottan knight!?"

The man nodded weakly. "There was a coup d'etat... Duke Alarin of Glascon, backed by alchemists from Viyar, levied an army to overthrow the throne. The city was taken in a matter of hours... His Majesty has fallen in battle, but still we fight on." He closed his eyes. "More will come searching for me... you have to hurry!"

“You should come as well… at least to have your wound tended to”

The knight shook his head, wiping the blood out of his eye with one hand. “There is no time… this war has but started. We knights will regroup and seek aid from our allies. Go now, before something else picks up my scent.”

The witch took the sword as it was handed to her and secured it to her belt so she could take the child with both hands. Before she left she turned back to the knight to ask him his name, only to find that she was alone on the path. The distant rumble of thunder brought her to her senses, and she took flight down the path to the Shepsgale Monastery, the child held snug in her arms.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:21:18 am by wererat42 »


Fiction: August Star in Autumn Sky Eastern Wonderland Story Book 1
Re: [Original] Witch Hazel
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2010, 05:22:16 am »
The constant prattle of rain upon the stain-glass windows and the sound of thunder, like an ill-tempered drake, were the only sounds Reynar could hear. That and the cries of the children in the dormitories upstairs, awakened by the storm. He knew without a doubt that they were doing the work of God, but why did all of these little distractions have to reveal themselves to him as he was studying by flickering candlelight. If he was lucky, then tomorrow he could graduate from seminary school and join the ranks of his brothers.

They, the monks of the Shepsgale Monetary, had long lived in these woods alongside the witches. The monks studied and cultivated the land held sacred by the witches, and in turn the witches protected the monks with their magical powers. It was an arrangement that had proved beneficial for many generations. Because of their attachment to the woods, their particular sect had become known locally as the Botanist Monks, a term they themselves had gradually adopted… adopted… 

The quiet scratching of the nib of his pen on his parchment was disrupted as he realized he had written the same word twice. Dropping the pen back roughly back into the inkwell, he muttered an oath and then immediately regretted it. He took a deep breath and released it, looking at the black ink stain he had made on the desk in his frustration. Occasionally, in moments of great stress, he found himself falling back on some of the vestigial habits from the days before he had been taken in by the monastery. Now more than ever. But he had to pass this test, and repay the kindness the monks had shown him all these years. This was a test - he told himself - a test from God to prove his conviction, and he had to pass it no matter what. Picking up the pen, he scratched out his mistake and cleared his mind before preparing to continue.

It was at that moment exactly that someone chose to pound on the door, in sharp, loud knocks that made the walls shake and his heart jump. He pulled his chair back and looked at the massive oak door with a mix of fear and restrained anger. It was always a pleasure to receive guests seeking shelter from the elements, but why did it sound as though they were announcing their arrival with the aid of heavy siege equipment? The orphans’ wailing was now becoming even louder than before.

Lifting himself from the seat, he picked up the candle and made his way before the door, slid the cover away from the eye-hole and peered through. Under the shelter of the roof stood a witch, whom he recognized as Freesia, holding a bundle of blankets in her arms. Releasing the two locks on the door, Reynar pulled back on the large iron handle and opened it with moderate difficulty. Had that explosive knock really belonged to that delicate frame?

"Something terrible has happened..." She said as she walked in, tracking rain and mud on the polished wooden floor, much to Reynar's dismay. "I must speak to Father Antonius."

"Father Antonius has retired for the night," muttered Reynar irritably; what could be so urgent at this hour? He then looked at the bundle curiously. "Do you have any idea what time it is… where you on patrol? What do you have there?"

"Hang the questions and bring Father Antonius here quickly!" said Freesia, her tone straining to remain under control. "Tell him it is an emergency!"

A door to the south opened, where the reliquary was located, and an aged man stepped out. "That won't be necessary, Lady Freesia, for as you can see I am wide awake. Calm down and tell me everything you know. Reynar, my son, won’t you please close the door and join us?"

Reynar nodded and pushed the door shut, making sure to lock it and secure a board across the doorframe before he followed Father Antonius and Fressia back into the reliquary just in time to catch the end of Fressia's report.

"I see." said Antonius, gazing down upon an ancient shrine. "So the Rosgottan dynasty has fallen... this will mark the beginning of difficult times for all of us... it may even lead to certain, unavoidable changes."

"Changes?" Reynar asked.

"He fears that we witches may soon revisit our former role..." Fressia was the one who answered him. He wasn’t quite certain what she meant, but there was a peculiar strain to her voice that made him anxious. 

Antonius looked down, unwilling or unable to confirm or refute this, instead turning to the sleeping child in Fressia's arms. "Rather than dwell on such things, let us take a look at this little one. For a royal knight to go to such lengths to safeguard her….."

"Her...?" Reynar muttered. "How can you tell with all those blankets?"

Antonius smiled enigmatically. "To one who has delivered more children than he can keep count of, such things come as naturally as breathing." He took the child gently from Fressia and walked over to an old table. "Please bring us some lukewarm water and a washcloth, Reynar." He set the child on the table and unwrapped the layers of coverings around her. "She seems healthy enough - no apparent injuries - but what's this...?"

Around her neck was an amulet attached to a metal chain set in the middle was a clear blue stone. For a moment light seemed to radiate from sword Fressia held, she drew the blade to see the steel shimmer briefly, but then die out.

"I see. So it is true, then." muttered Antonius, his deep eyes gazing upon the blade. It may have been a trick of the light, but the young witch though she could see a tear running down his cheek. "Fressia, please put that sword away someplace safe. Tell no one of it."

"Yes, Father." Fressia nodded and turned away without questioning his order, sliding the blade firmly back into its sheath just as Reynar returned with a wooden bowl of water and a cloth draped over his arm

"Reynar, good, bring that over here." Antonius watched Fressia slip quietly out the door as Reynar set the bowl on the table. Antonius rang out the washcloth out before proceeding to clean the caked mud from the child's face when he noticed something in her hand. Her tiny fingers were clutching a small branch upon which grew several round serrated leaves, and a small nut enclosed in a rough husk. As learned botanists, both men recognized it immediately and their eyes met with the light of realization.

"Hazel..."
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:25:08 am by wererat42 »


Fiction: August Star in Autumn Sky Eastern Wonderland Story Book 1
 

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