by Alisha Paige
Gunther drew a circle in the soft soil with an old knobby stick as he sat on the mossy log. Dried autumn leaves fluttered around him, landing at his feet and within the circle where disturbed beetles and earthworms wriggled.
Tonight was the night he’d waited for all his life. The old wizard’s magick had been years in the making. Lifetimes really. Tonight’s spell had been bubbling in the cauldron for five generations. The weight of the moment nearly shattered his courage. Nearly. He had to go through with it. There was no turning back now. He could see her face. Almost hear her whispering his name like she had in his twentieth year.
Time had weathered him, ravaged his skin, turning it soft and leathery. A stark white beard trailed down his purple cloak, curving upward at his round belly. He fingered the medallion she’d given him. A symbol of their love. Her coven’s symbol, two stars entwined, nestled onto the symbol of his, an acorn with a spear through the center. Their marriage would have been one to bind the two alliances together for eternity. But it was not to be. Too much goodness would have come from it and the demons would not have it.
The dark memory stung him still. He snorted at the thought of it. Anger boiled in his chest. He sucked in a gasp of wood smoke scented air and stood, kicking the circle and all the frenzied critters that squirmed within, giving them not a second thought, much like the demon had done to his Marquetta. She’d been kidnapped, taken in the dead of night, as she lay dreaming about their wedding the next day. Gunther knows this because the demons tortured him as well. They captured her dreams, placed them in a box and sent them on a raven’s wing to his lonely house in the woods. Lonely now but it wasn’t so long ago. Forty years past bled through his mind as he stormed through the woods, his heavy boots squishing through the damp forest as he made his way back home to prepare for the historic occasion. Tonight the two covens would unite. Marquetta, ah, sweet Marquetta…
But he wouldn’t allow it. Couldn’t allow the thoughts to snake into his mind and take him back. Not when he needed all his power. He’d harness every last drop of it tonight. Or he’d die trying. His coven would not be present. They weren’t allowed. Not one of them had the strength to survive the current of power he’d battle tonight. He still wasn’t sure if he did. The ancient scrolls foretelling of the great event named him, but still he could not believe it. He’d led a very quiet life, never marrying another, training and teaching his magick to his underlings.
He flung the cabin door open and stomped to the carved table in the center of the room. Herbs lay about, scattered as if the wind had mixed them herself. Tugging at the rope around his belt, he pulled up the empty jar, opened it and tossed in sprigs of this and sprouts of this, a pinch of something and three gnarled roots. He glanced out the window at the fading sun and twisted the lid back onto the jar. Two, maybe three minutes top. He’d begin when the first shadows fell. He could hear the frantic whispers, good will chants from his coven hissing through the wind as he departed and headed back into the darkening woods. To a place he visited daily. Her grave.
The rusty gate squeaked in protest and dozens of crows fluttered from the trees, leaving Gunther even more alone than usual. He looked over his shoulder and squinted. He’d forgotten his spectacles in the rush. No matter. He’d not need sight to complete the spell. Good, he could see the waning moon climb higher, cut in two by a wide branch in his line of blurry sight. He dropped to his knees and kissed the dirt that lay over her.
“Marquetta,” he said out loud. “My love. We’ve waited so long.”
Sinister doom wafted on a wind swept night. His bones ached with it. A crackling rattle sounded on the earth around him. Snakes slithered between the bars of the ancient cemetery, twisting, turning, twining over his legs as he worked frantically, mixing the herbs, the roots, the flower petals he’d perfected into the most potent hybrids. He stood, kicking the hissing beasts off the grave as he danced his final dance beneath the crescent moon, chanting one last spell against the deafening roar of the howling winds. His beard whipped around his face as he screeched the words.
My love lies here;
Grown cold and bare.
Beneath the warm earth;
awaiting me there.
Take away her pain,
Her fear from the evil
That stilled her voice.
Give back to the dark,
In full force, girth and might
Punish the wicked and bring
Forth the light…
Gunther was hurled into the sky, tossed like a doll, twirling in a ball of lavender light, his white beard swirling around him as he continued the chant.
Rise, dear Marquetta!
I’ve loved you all along.
The dark will fade away,
And our love with be won.
Our marriage will foster goodness
For all to see.
Once again the kingdom will know
Gunther fell to earth in a heap of robes. His head struck the marble stone carved with her name. The woods grew silent and dark. Moments passed as the snakes crackled over dead leaves, over his body, then wiggled back into the ground from where they’d come. Stunned, he opened his eyes and sat up. Blood dripped from his brow. He stood, turning a circle as blood splattered, falling faster, sinking into the soft moss that covered her grave.
Nothing. No sound. No movement.
He sighed and slumped away, looking back only once. Forty years of work and no light. No spell, no concoction could bring her back. She was dead. And so was he. He pushed open the door, feeling older than ever, wishing for death. His coven was silent. They knew better than to disturb him in his fatal disappointment. The scrolls had been wrong. He was not the chosen. And he had hoped so with all his heart. Hope had kept him alive for so long.
He flung himself upon the bed and blew out the dripping candle. Total darkness. Emptiness. Like his soul. Soft, sweet sleep drifted in. He dreamed of her face, their first kiss beneath the apple tree when he heard a dove. A cooing. He rolled over on a groan. The bed squeaked. He strained to hear again. More cooing and a cough. Doves don’t cough. He reached for his spectacles and fashioned them over his ears, bounding out of bed. He lit the candle and scanned the small cabin, running room to room. Nothing. No one. It was a dream. He slumped onto the bed. More cooing.
He stood and walked to the window, staring into the tall oak tree. No dove. Now he couldn’t sleep.
He opened the door and stood there listening. He held the candle up high. Something caught his eye. Just under the eaves, where the ivy grows and gathers in soft bundles. A baby!
He knelt down when she smiled at him and laughed out loud, reaching for her in the moonlight. She wrapped her hand around his finger and he saw for the first time that his hand was smooth again. So young. He felt his face, gathered the baby in his arms and rushed inside. He reached for the mirror and gasped at what he saw. A lad was staring back at him. Perhaps thirteen years of age. Tears fell from his face and he held her to him, smoothing the tiny blonde hairs on the back of her head, breathing her in .
He knew at that instant. With one shaking, youthful hand, he lifted her gown and saw above her naval, the birthmark that told him all he needed to know.
“Marquetta! My love!”
About the Author: Born and raised in Texas, Alisha lives in a charming haunted house built in the 50’s. She’s married to an extreme alpha-male with long hair and tattoos who still makes her think she married the cover model of her dreams. When Alisha’s not writing about sexy shape shifters, luscious vampires, wanton witches, brooding ghosts, lost fairies or ancient history, she’s spending time with her family, gardening, singing, relaxing in the swing out back, reading, eating rich dark chocolate or drinking fine red wine. Visit Alisha at her website.