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|Don't be so Sensitive! Don't you hate it when people seem to read your mind? This problem started when Wolfstone ran into a 'witch', or an individual who has an unnerving ability to read and manipulate other people's minds. There is a more complete definition of a Tirran Witch in my dictionary.||
25th of Ashes, evening
I should have given this assignment to a younger man. It's hard for me these days. I've tracked this little thief named Tomas from the village to a ramshackle cabin he hides out in, in the foothills of the mountains. I've been told he's waiting for a woman on a pale horse with a package wrapped in dark blue cloth.
So, I'm waiting and watching. It's tedious. I've been told she's a dangerous witch of some kind. I've never met a witch. They tell me that a witch can read a person's mind and manipulate it. This witch calls herself a "sensitive" though from her track record it seems she's only sensitive to her own needs and not anybody in her way. I doubt this whole witch thing, because it doesn't seem natural.
The onset of cooler weather is making my back stiff and my hands cramp up. I'm nearly out of food and will have to hunt in a few days. I allow myself a small fire at quite a distance from the cabin so that Tomas does not smell my smoke. I have to be careful that he does not spot me if he is out hunting - so I have slowly built a small lean-to in the side of the hill over the past few days. I will have to hide it better now because the leaves are falling and it is more exposed. I will do that tonight under cover of dark.
27th of Ashes, evening
Tomas has still had no visitors. I can see he is still here by his smokey chimney. I envy his fire, actually. He's a wirey little man who looks like he is quicker with his hands than his wits. He looks from this distance to be a northern albino - white close-cropped hair and pale skin. I've not been close enough to see his eyes or features.
All I need to do is intercept that package - whatever it is - and return it to Baron Renald in the Duchy of Mead. He doesn't care how I do the job, nor is he even curious about it.
I hate waiting.
28th of Ashes
Where can this little witch be? Some silly sot of a girl if you ask me, all convinced she has some kind of power. Two more days and I'll have to start looking for her elsewhere. I also can't deny the chance that she delivered the package here and left long before I arrived. In that case, I have no idea what to retrieve from the cabin unless it is wrapped in blue. And that may not be the correct item.
It seems warmer today, and that's welcome. My hands still ache and my back is stiff. Perhaps a chance of rain in the air.
1st of Larzan
I awoke just now and sat bolt upright with the feeling that somebody was staring at me. It was pretty creepy, but so real that I could almost see a face in front of me. I almost remember a tattoo above her left eye, an oval face with an average jawline. A red waterfall of curling hair framed her against the night, laced together with a line of freckles that passed under dead-looking blue eyes.
Thinking of that odd tattoo, it perhaps could be a branding from a judge who disliked her activities. I don't know because I didn't exactly get a good look at it.
I'm thinking deeply now. Perhaps it was just a dream remnant.
If she talked with Mikal in the village yonder, and if she really is a witch, then she may also know that I am here and that I am alone. She may even be able to guess that much without much conversation, so mental games or not I should not assume I have the advantage of surprise. I should have asked more questions about witches, but the Baron was insistent on speed. The baron uses me as a last resort, because I unfortunately have the occasional scruples he so easily sets aside. I did not have time to do any reading at his meager library.
I shall have to be more careful now.
I wish Lauren or Herman were here - they might know more about witches. Or, maybe Kasei from Eaglebrook. She was always curious about odd things like this.
There are two sorts of witches that I know of. One is the carnival witch who hides in a corner of the market and plys her trade with cards, candles, crystals, fortunes and selling 'enchanted coins' to the gullible folk with any coin to spend. The other sort is dangerous. They have been outlawed by the church of Darthdin. I've heard that much. I think it's all crap, but some people like to believe in something outside of the gods and the churches. If there were a real witch who could read men's minds, she would rule the world easily.
I remember a discussion about witches many years ago. I guess the Darthdinite church thought they had found a few witches from time to time, but I don't think the 'witches' exactly sat for an examination. Were they really seeing inside people's heads? Or was it just a hoax? Or was it some touch from beyond the gods?
I must be bored if I'm asking these questions of myself. My toes are numb and my ink was partly frozen in the morning chill. It's going to rain.
- - - -
Damn! I'm rather startled. I almost hesitate to write this down. I had just finished a journal entry and put my writing gear away. I sat by the cold campfire trying to decide what to do next. I guess my mind was a little blank.
"Who are you?" It was a question as clear as if somebody were standing right behind me. The question - in a woman's voice - chilled me deeper than the weather. There is nobody around. Perhaps I'm losing my mind, and perhaps the sensitive knows I am here and I seek her package. I don't even know what this package is - but it is worth a half-year in wages for me. It's full dark soon. This will be a long night.
It doesn't help that this is the new moonday that celebrates the start of the month of LarShiz, the dark god, and Solara's powers seem weaker with the shortening days. Perhaps I'm just being superstitious after all. The rain has been light and seems to be easing.
2nd of Larzan
I've become familiar with this whole area by now. At dark last night I silently scouted around but did not find any fire signs. She was either already in the cabin without a horse in the corral, or she was without a fire, or a tale my mind is telling itself as it unravels without a solid meal in too long now.
As dawn slowly lit the sky this morning there came a thick fog - which is seasonal for this time of year in these hills. This made finding anybody out here more difficult. Were it not for her horse I wouldn't have found her at all.
There was a set of fairly fresh tracks in the new mud, heading up a ravine quite a fair distance from my campsight and the cabin. I followed them as carefully and quickly as I could, and was rewarded with the soft neighing of a horse somewhere in the fog.
I strung my bow.
"Who are you?" The voice was more demanding in my head this morning. Somehow almost playful though. I did not reply. How much she already knew from my mind was beyond my control. I felt anxious and uneasy. I tried to calm myself.
"Where are you from?" She wanted to play guessing games, but I was not feeling obliged to join the game and tried to keep my thoughts to myself.
I circled the ravine wall and down a ridgeline. Through the thinning trees I could see a camp with one female person and a pale horse.
"Where are you?" Perhaps she sensed me? I quickly loooked at my feet and thought of a place near the village that she would no doubt have passed. There were two fences that came together under a large oak and a carved rock monument.
"I don't believe you." I concentrated on the rock under the tree, but I couldn't remember what it had said. I strained to hear the fluttering of birds rousing for their breakfast.
"You lie." I felt a little panic. It's hard to sneak up on somebody who can hear the music of your mind.
The fog was burning off and I was losing what covering I could find - though with my mind this naked, there was no real hiding anyway.
The snap of a twig snapped me out of my reverie. I didn't hear her or feel her in my head for the moment. The noise was behind me, higher up on the ridge. I sat still and listened with my eyes closed.
I heard her move off up the ridge to the south. She was going slow, the hunted also a hunter. It was a good thing her outdoor skills did not equal mine.
I thought of nothing, and then everything. In my mind I desperately recited verses, sang songs, remembered lectures, and painted scenes of far away places I had been. Anything to not give my position away. Still, she had to know I was somewhere near. She had not seen me, or she would have challenged me more directly or fought by now.
The nervous, agitated feeling of panic came again, and I struggled to hold firm.
"You try to hide but I will find you." Confident. She sounded like a game she knew she would win. I decided to revile her by remembering bawdy jokes, ribald tales, and other bits best left in the taverns.
"You try to repulse me, but I have heard much worse. I will find you." Good. She was offended by me. I now knew for sure that she was listening.
I heard the distant rattle of her crockery, and I knew she was quickly packing. She would change location and try to get the upper hand. She knew I was close, but didn't know I was this close.
I readied a blunt copper-tipped arrow.
"Witches defy the natural order." In my mind, I quoted part of a sermon from a Darthdinite priest I knew years back. I thought he was a lunatic, but I know differently now. "Darthdin set calendar and stars, and the laws of magic so that order was established throughout the world of Tirra. Witches - these sensitives who pry into other men's minds - cross those bounds set up by the gods. Witches are an enemy of the church and teachings of Darthdin. Witches should not live."
I slowly got into a better shooting position. She had paused in her packing, and was tightening the straps under her saddle. I quickly aimed a shot at the back of her skull and released my arrow.
My mind was instantly calmer. Unfortunately, my shot killed when I only wanted submission. I rolled her limp form over, and found a waterfall of red curls framing a freckled face and dead, truly lifeless blue eyes.
I found a small box wrapped in blue, and put it securely in my backpack. Tonight I will take her to the cabin and let Tomas care for what's left of her. I have no quarrel or business with Tomas. Perhaps he knows her. I will ride her horse to the village and sell it, and return to Baron Renald to claim my winter's wages. After a meal in the village and a hot bath at the inn.
I could turn her in for a reward, but the nearest Darthdinite church is far from here, and would they believe me if I told my tale? Perhaps the mark on her forehead would tell them a story? I will settle for what I have.
No. I am not proud. But this is what happened and I write it here to remind myself to be more cautious in laughing at what I do not understand.
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