Episode 2: Coven of the Crow
“We stand in the presence of one that could be our savior. For this child bares the mark of the crow, the very mark of our coven. For months we have been hunted down by the vile Lightbringers and their insatiable lust to end those who are different from them. They exclaim that their cause is righteous but all they have done is murder in the name of the church”, A tall man spoke to the congregation. I was there covered in a robe. For days they fed me, and cared for me. Men and women treated me like the family I lost.
Some time ago my mother and I lived a relatively peaceful life on the outskirts of Clearwater. Mother went to town to trade herbs, medicine she crafted and even flowers for the local noblemen. Meanwhile I spent the days running through the fields, practicing magic far from prying eyes. At my age it was rare to have such control of Flux magic. Two months passed since my 15th birthday and mother encouraged me to practice. She had given me a book which I was very curious to study. Often times I would take strolls along the lake during the afternoons. The setting sun seemed to light the lake on fire. Sometimes I would meet mother when she was on the road returning home with bread and the like.
One day, about two weeks from today, a group of men and women calling themselves the Lightbringers arrived at Clearwater. The village is somewhat isolated so it was a surprise to everyone. These Lightbringers proclaimed that they came in the name of the church to purge the land of evil. We would soon learn that their definition of evil was distorted. In but a few days the people were harassed, constantly asked for anyone who used Dark magic or anything related to Flux magic, like shapeshifting. It is here I learned that mother was part of a coven that had long ago sworn to protect Clearwater. Recently their numbers had dwindled, apparently they waged a silent war against the Lightbringers and this conflict had finally brought them here.
They found her. Before mother had a chance to escape the Lightbringers arrived in large numbers and took her away. She fought them as best she could but in the end she was captured. As this happened I was in the town watching from afar knowing that she could die soon. I was heartbroken and listening to the villagers was disconcerting. Some of the people were afraid, others did not care, and some mentioned that they would try to find a way to help her. It was not to be sadly. Right before sunset she was tied to a pole in the middle of the town square. All the market stalls were closed, the people gathered at the behest of the Lightbringers. Right then and there they proclaimed that they would purge her body of Flux magic. “This here is an abomination! A testament to the wickedness of the power of darkness. This woman is a murderer for she is part of the coven of the crow, our sworn enemies. Now watch as our divine justice purges the land and brings you the purity of the light!”, said the lead knight. The soldiers gathered around mother, she saw me in the far back and whispered to me, “go…”. I took some steps back but I knew that if the soldiers noticed my movements I could become a target too.
They started to chant as they lifted one hand, with their palms raised to the sky. Light began to emanate from their palms and shortly after they pointed towards mother. The sky had been clouded during this day, but suddenly an opening appeared and a blast of light energy shone down and struck mother. The soldiers unleashed their own magic spell. No one could continue to look, the bright light was blinding. A single loud scream was heard and then nothing. Where mother’s body once stood now all that was left was ash.
Sad, torn and heartbroken I took my leave of Clearwater at night while most slept and the soldiers deemed their mission a success. Their patrols were sluggish and did not care for a passing shadow. I reached our home, partially burnt down. Someone took the time and effort to put out the flames. Once there I searched for my book, a few of my belongings and made my way south of the village. If I could reach the forest perhaps I could hitch a ride on a caravan or something. Mother had taught me to be strong even in the most adverse situations, but with her gone I felt a creeping despair.
As the night passed I noticed that a crow was following me. It landed a few feet in front of me and changed into a human. “You must be Miriam, Mildred’s daughter”, he said. I was a bit surprised, even mother had not transformed right in front of my eyes. I nodded in agreement, I was still shaken from the events of the day and I could not muster even the simplest greeting. “I know you must be afraid, but she gave me instructions to bring you to the coven. Did she teach you how to shapeshift?”, the man asked. I shook my head and quietly said, “no”. He was puzzled, but then said, “No matter, I will take you to a place where you will be safe. That mountain there holds a sacred place where we can be free and safe from people like the Lightbringers. It is our base, our home, and our sanctuary. We can teach you there.”
The mists of the mountain made it difficult to walk with any certainty, but the hidden path had few rocks, meaning that it was well kept even though few in the coven used it. The man, named Galvin, explained that the coven was ancient but that its history had been lost because of the hunt. This hunt, imposed by the church, instilled an unexplainable hatred for shapeshifters wherever they established themselves. The coven which often protected Clearwater had to venture out and protect their own, but to little effect. Many Flux magic users were killed as well as many members of the coven.
Once we arrived I was met by a very tall and thin man. He was the leader of the coven, I couldn’t make out his age either. He could be sixty years old but his face would not betray his age as in it there were few wrinkles. The man stared at me for a short time and then greeted me with a calm, solemn voice, “Welcome, I am Fredrick, sage of the coven. My dear, we all mourn the passing of your mother. She was both an incredible sorceress, mother and warrior. We will miss her greatly.” Galvin then interrupted, and asked to see my hand. When he turned it I noticed that a mark had appeared on it resembling a crow. “She bears the mark, the coven could be saved!”, Galvin exclaimed. I was perplexed, this mark had not been there before, was I some kind of chosen? “Miriam, I must teach you our ways. This mark is the reason for your aptitude with magic. It is said that those of us who bear a mark can instill great changes within the coven. It does make me fearful though, you arrive at a very perilous time for us. I promise you I will protect you and nurture your natural curiosity. Your mother always had great hopes for you and I dare not fail her”, sage Fredrick said.
The hunt arrived to claim the coven once more. We were caught by surprise one night. Even at the height of our power the swift movement of the soldiers meant we had little time to react. Our alarm, a spell that covered the cave went off, we awoke to find the soldiers running through the halls and dispatching anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. As quickly as we could we made our way to the balcony were we practiced our flight. I had been practicing only for a few days so I was afraid of failing. Many of us reached the balcony, some had already transformed and flew away. As they did flares of light magic brightened the skies. Spells flew off into the night trying to shoot down the escaping crows. A few were hit but none in such a way that they lost their height. I was scared, Galvin stood in front of me and urged me to shapeshift. Behind me sage Fredrick arrived, “Hurry my dear, go!”. As I shapeshifted and used the winds to climb to the sky a soldier, enhanced by magic, appeared behind Fredrick and impaled him with his sword. As he drew his last breath, Fredrick held out a necklace and in my mind I heard him say, “Take it! It belongs to you now”. I swooped down, took the necklace and flew off again avoiding the rays of light. The knight exclaimed, “Dammed crows! You will not escape forever! The light will purge you from these lands!”.
I changed back into my human form right before dawn. I sat at the southernmost edge of Clearwater lake. My tears flowed freely, I was alone again with little to no idea of what to do