24) The Cardinal's Witch
In the beginning light and dark was entwined. The light was for truth and piety and virtue. The dark was magic, love and song. The light protected those from the dark preyed and the dark comforted those who had been burned by the light.
So it was for many seasons, each inter playing and executing their roles. Until the light decide that the dark no longer had a place. The dark was vile and rank. The dark was evil.
The priests and priestess's of the dark went underground as the light ruled above with new temples dedicated to order.
Victory wasn’t enough. There were still followers of the dark, reminded each night of its temptations. They hunted down the followers of the night and reduced their numbers to a presence so small that everyday people wondered whether they ever existed at all.
They had, and they did still. A group of only 7,000 strong and their numbers rapidly depleting as the followers of the light send one exterminator after another. Death was not the only threat, they burned their books and raised their temples. It was these actions that would lead to their extinction. So the members who remained took the remaining sacred texts and put them in a great computer and then downloaded them into their personages at great personal cost.
They were forever branded with injection sites, the words etched on their bones and a variety of other markings depending on the tome. They could never walk among society again. What the faith takes away, it gives in turn. So then had the power to heal, the power of the elements, the power of the night itself. The followers of the light started calling them witches and they began to fight back.
“She is too young!” Silas protested. Ursa was only 22, but raised in the faith and she wanted to take the marks. Silas knew it would be a life sentence and she could never have a normal life, but one of exile in a land of fear.
“It’s what I want,” Ursa told him firmly, but not unkindly. She knew the elder priest merely wanted what was best for her and she wanted what was best for her family.
“My child, my child,” he repeated, cupping her face in his old weathered hands, “You are condemning yourself to a life ever entombed.”
“I want us to live, holy father, I want us to live,” she told him, clasping her own hands around his. He then kissed her on the forehead and said no more.
The marks affected everyone differently. Those that were given the gift of fire often looked as those they had been struck by lightning. Those that could heal generally had some limb withered. Those that could kill with a look had the appearance of reptiles.
Ursa knew this as she lay on the table and waited for the holy rite to begin. The soft spoken women of the night attacked the probes to her hands, to her temples, along her collar bone, her navel, her hips, and her feet. It didn’t hurt yet.
That was yet to come.
No pain killers were given. Pain was purity, one needed to feel everything otherwise it was surgery and not ritual.
Ursa screamed her prayers as word by word was downloaded into her very being. Her body was on fire, her mind was overflowed with knowledge and her voice was giving out. But she held on, to give in to the pain would be wavering of her faith, so even when her voice gave out she continued to mouth the words. She held on until she could no longer hold out and her world become comforting blackness.
It would be that forever more.
With what voice she had left she screamed when she opened her eyes and saw nothing.
Ursa woke as though downing, gasping for every breath. She staggered from her simple cell and into the outer corridor, looking for fresh air and open spaces.
“My child,” Silas greeted, taking her shaking form into his arms, “Another vision?”
“No, just a dream,” She told him, cradling herself in his arms.
“Ah, I must say that I am relieved. Though your visions have kept us safe for three long years.”
Had it been? Three years without them attacked, with being able to outrun the warriors of the light and all because Ursa could see the future.
“I hope, Holy father that I may do so for many years to come.”
This story concerns Ursa, the witch who traded her eyes for sight. The Cardinal (Face model and personality your choice) has spent years hunting her, believing that with her captured they can finally be rid of the competing cult. He also believes that he can use her to predict his own future and heighten his career.