An Unhealthy Homecoming

The gathering of power always came at a cost; magic was certainly no different. In the beginning the price is low and inconsequential; a few crushed ingredients commonly grown in the herb garden out back. An elaborate chalkline and some elusive words spoken just so. The spells and potions accessible to practitioners of these methods had their uses and most dabblers in this magic were more than content to market their services and wares. Some did it for money, some did it for respect, but most did it to offer genuine assistance to those in their village. Cassia Rathmore had never been this type of witch. Every move and every work of magic had been for a self-serving purpose. She was not altruistic and had no desire to help her neighbor or encourage the crops to grow fast and plentiful. Her early spellwork touched on these areas, for sure, but she quickly branched out to the taboo then the forbidden and grew obsessed with themes so prevalent among the devotee of dark magic. She fondled the ideas of long life and power over the will of men. She did not flinch at the baser acts many other witches shied away from. Her charm and seduction fueled her arrogance and her singularly focused will for power guided her down darker paths from which she never once looked back. She was unburdened by shame or remorse, though capable of making such affectations when it served her purpose.

...When it served her purpose; everything came down to that with Cassia.

Cassia was a firm believer that everything good in life was temporary and corruptible, while true wickedness was permanent from which no virtue could be redeemed. As virtue seemed an untradable resource she had no use for it. Good magic was meant to be shared and grew in strength with the passing of knowledge. Dark magic was selfish and infinitely private. It had a way of limiting itself to those few who were ambitious enough to do the vile acts necessary to garner that knowledge, but the rewards were immediate and tangible. It opened up entire worlds of possibilities untouchable by any other method, but it shut you out to everything else. What had once seemed to be endless options grew fewer even while their reward grew stronger. It was a terrible addiction and urged one to commit ever more atrocities in its pursuit. And the sad reality was that by this point Cassia no longer considered them atrocities or gave pause at the thought or act of committing them.

So it was she found herself returning at last to the pathetic village from which she’d been born and raised. It had not changed during her absence and she despised that stagnation. The main passage through the center of their village was quiet and all but deserted; most would be home partaking in the midday meal as was their way. An errant young boy took one look at Cassia and her skeletal companion and quickly ran in the opposite direction. The towering abomination next to Cassia made to pursue the child, but she extended her arm to bar it’s way. He was not pleased and looked down at her arm as if considering whether to obey or rip it from her torso.

“When I am done with my business here you are free to have your fun with the rest of these miserable people, but not until then. Remember your place.” Cassia had a distinctly pleasant voice were it not for the words that she typically used in the speaking. The Shadow Walker* at her side licked its thin lips with a forked tongue and hunger in its red eyes. He stood easily eight feet tall and looked like something out of a children’s story meant to scare them into staying in bed throughout the night. The black skin stretched tight across it’s lank body was blemished with lesions and scars and it’s arms were disproportionately long with clawed hands curling and flexing like a wild animal’s ready to pounce.

The witch resumed her stately walk down the lane and as it was not a large village it took little time to reach the house she was looking for, her childhood home. The worn placard swinging from the eave above the door read “Hearthmore” but the faded lettering had clearly been neglected for years. Where most witches opted for a wooden wand inspired by nature and growth, Cassia’s was dark and metallic. It resembled a cruel spike more than anything and she rapped it against the door with far more force than was necessary. After a pause she could hear a chair scrape against the floor and an aging man opened the door. His wide eyes fell on the Shadow Walker first and only shifted to Cassia when she cleared her throat and spoke up, “Hello, Father. Aren’t you going to invite us in?”

The black creature pressed in front of her and forcefully pushed the man inside while a rather plane woman jumped up from a small table and screamed. Cassia stepped inside to let the door close behind her. “Oh do be quiet mother or you’ll scare the neighbors, prematurely.” She waved her wand and the door locked itself with an audible click. “I promise to make this visit as brief as possible.”

TBC

*Obsidian SoulShadow - I will be updating this creature’s bio soon to make it a more suitable menace.

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