The knife was held by a hand that seemed too small–impossibly small–compared to the strength of its vicious arc.
And it found its mark.
Crimson spattered the lily-white silk, pulsing from the wound like a mountain spring.
Two hands–again, small: impossibly, tragically small–clutched at the wound. Porcelain fingers against a scarlet backdrop.
Two eyes, usually sharp and shining, foggy with pain and confusion. They flicked about nervously; blue, glassy orbs frantically searching for understanding.
She opened her mouth as if to speak, but a small spurt of blood bubbled up instead.The red stain on her lips seemed to deepen as the pink flush faded from her cheeks.
“M… Mm…” she whimpered between raspy breaths.
“I’m sorry,” the knife was wrenched from its resting place in her chest.
The murderer wiped his forehead with his free hand.
“It had to be done.”
Maeve woke with a start, her heart pounding like drums in her ears. She threw her blankets off and frantically scrambled into the hallway, still half-asleep.
Her mother had been endowed with the gift of prophetic dreams, and Maeve knew better than to ignore a premonition as vivid as the one she had just been given.
Maeve burst through the door to her cousin’s room and collapsed–partially with relief, partially with exhaustion–at the side of her cousin’s bed. The young girl, Naiv, lay undisturbed. Her cheeks were as rosy as ever, and her silk nightgown remained lily-white.
Maeve heaved a sigh of relief and stroked the girl’s hair. Naiv stirred in her sleep and rolled onto her side, pulling her blankets closer around her shoulders.
The elder girl turned, resting her back against the bed. She was still quite shaken, and–while she had been relieved to find Naiv unharmed, there was another matter to attend to–her murderer.
For as much as Maeve tried to deny it, wished she had seen someone else, hoped she was mis-remembering her dream, the image was burned into her brain. Naiv’s murderer had been Michael, Maeve’s own brother.
Naiv and Michael were about the same age, and Maeve felt towards them as a mother might feel towards her own children. Maeve’s mother had disappeared when she was twelve, shortly after her father’s murder, and Naiv had been orphaned shortly afterwards. The grieving siblings had accepted their cousin with some hesitance, but Maeve had grown to adore her young cousin. Unfortunately, Michael had not taken so well to the new addition, a fact that deepened Maeve’s fear that her dream–or at least some aspect of it–was, indeed, a premonition.
Taking a deep breath and steadying her nerves, she got to her feet and peeped into Michael’s room.
He was sleeping soundly. He was tangled up in his sheets, but that was nothing new–he had kicked and thrashed in his sleep even before their parents’ absence. His contented snoring revealed that his dreams were peaceful and quiet.
As much as she wished she could crush it, Maeve felt an involuntary bubble of mistrust float to the surface of her thoughts. She shook her head, shoving it aside, and gently closed the door to Michael’s room.
‘Maybe I should just forget the whole thing entirely,’ Maeve thought to herself. The memory of her mother’s haggard face, worn ragged by thousands of dreams and visions of calamity, served as a grim but effective incentive to simply put the whole thing behind her and go back to sleep.
Maeve climbed back into bed but, even though she closed her eyes and lay in bed for what seemed like hours, she simply could not get back to sleep. Whether she had been too violently jolted from slumber to return, or the matter of her dream was still weighing heavily on her mind, somnolence remained elusive.
With nothing better to do and the hope that it might help her mind smooth its ruffled feathers, Maeve began to pace, searching for possible meanings in her dream (despite the obvious, that is). But no matter how she looked at it, the omen was still one of death and destruction, and it involved her darlings Naiv and Michael.
A glimmer of gold in the moonlight caught her eye, interrupting her desperate reverie. She tuned and examined the source: a dusty book on her mother’s old bookshelf. Maeve ran her finger down the spine; there was no text, no title, no author: simply gold bands that ran horizontally from cover to cover, each strip about two inches apart.
She opened the book and was immediately taken aback. She gasped and slammed the book closed, her heart racing again.
Her mother’s voice echoed in her head, “My beautiful Maeve, my queen,” her mother had said to her, a voice that was nothing more than a whisper, “you must give up the business of dreams,” she had shaken her head and muttered quietly, as if to herself, her sunken eyes fixed on the earthen floor. “This thing that I have given you–it has proven to be my own undoing, and I pray it is not yours!”
That was the last time she had seen her mother. Maeve, deeply disturbed by the exchange, hand left her mother gazing silently across the field of wild-flowers behind the house.
Maeve felt a shiver run down her spine–she wondered if her mother had somehow foreseen this, as well. Her eyes drifted back to the book, which she still held in her lap.
She was scared. If there was anything she could do to prevent the future prophesied in her dream, she knew she had to do it. Maeve knew she would not be able to live with herself if such a time came and she had not done everything within her power to prevent it.
But still… she shifted the book anxiously in her hands. She opened it again, slowly this time, and let her eyes rest on the contents of the page, despite the fact that it was a deliberate desecration of everything she had been taught to despise and fear.
It was a book of spells.
Maeve took a deep breath and flipped through the pages, growing more and more anxious. Just as she was about to abandon her plan, dream or no dream, she stumbled upon a page that caught her interest: a protection charm.
“With this simple charm,” she read softly aloud to herself, “you may preserve your life, despite your attacker.”
She scanned the page, her heart pounding. The charm seemed simple enough: it required a lock of hair from the victim, a lock of hair from the attacker, and something to bind them. However, it required incantations, and the very idea of invoking some kind of strange and mysterious power was extremely unsettling to Maeve.
She set the book aside, crossing her legs and resting her chin in her hands, trying desperately to think of a solution that excluded witchcraft.
As if she had been struck by a bolt of lightning, she straightened suddenly, her eyes shining. She knew what to do!
She and Michael had another aunt and uncle, on their father’s side of the family, who lived several towns over. They had been bereft of children, and were in need of helping hands. It would not be too far-fetched, then, for her to suggest Michael go live with them to help around the house and farm. Neither Maeve nor Michael had been to visit in years, but Maeve figured a sudden and abrupt family reunion of sorts would not seem too strange, considering both of their families had been mourning.
She would talk to Michael about it first, of course, and make sure that he agreed with the idea, but she was fairly certain she would be able to talk him into it, even if he disagreed at first (their aunt and uncle had a trained falcon and several well-bred hunting dogs, and hunting was of particular interest to Michael at the time).
Almost forgetting about the spell book, Maeve rose to return to bed. But, again, something still felt unresolved. What if Michael returned from his aunt and uncles without telling her? What if he refused to go? As much as she hated the fact she suddenly felt unable to trust her own brother, these thoughts were extremely stubborn and refused to be reasoned away–Michael didn’t hate Naiv, and he had no reason to kill her. Her parents had lost everything in the fire, and the poor girl had been left without a home inheritance–she had been without everything, save the clothes on her back.
But the doubts rose to the surface, like the dead, bloated fish in a lake, and she felt herself drawn–against her will–to the spellbook.
It couldn’t hurt to just make a simple talisman–an object of protection–could it?
to be continued…
(yeah so i’ve been doing a lot of comic-ing lately: NANN, a comic my best friend and i are writing together, a comic ANOTHER friend of mine and i are working on, then some asst. animation work, so I don’t have much more room in my scheduel to make another super visually based story. so i figured, what better time to get back into writing? also, i’m so sorry it’s so terrible, i haven’t written for anything but comics and animations in FOREVER so i am INCREDIBLY rusty! X0)