"Chapter I: Four Starts in an Ole World"
Our standards of today are different than they were yesterday. As such, we cannot determine the correct course offered in the 1900s as if they were offered in the 800s. The times have changed drastically over the course of a thousand years, and with it the situations that arise.
In today's life magic is but a fairy tale that parents tell their children to fill their imagination with. There are no mermaids, no potions or dragons. In today's life the witch burnings were nothing more than a paranoid government trying to find a reason for all the illness that took over their lands. If a male had an affair with another woman that was not his wife, he was a cheater. If a man killed another, he was put on trial and held accountable for his crimes.
A thousand years ago, however, this was not the case.
Magic was in the homes of prestigious families, who knew potions and spells. Mermaids and sirens swam free in the waters, and dragons soared through the skies. The burnings which took out a great deal of their population would never happen again, magic having learned to protect her own when their enemies came to their door. If there was trouble in a marriage, it was a love potion and witchcraft that was to blame for their partner's cheating ways. If a man killed someone, he got off scotch free because that was how the world worked in his favor.
To the normal person of the times, it was a horrifying place to live. There were shadows at every turn, and creatures you could not defend yourself against. The neighbor you had known all your life could be the cause of your family's misfortune. It was a time where everyone was afraid, even the magical, for they had no idea what was around the corner.
If we are to look into the past, to see what the legends of today went through, we cannot judge them by today's standards. They are from a time of constant war and battle, of fear and anger, and betrayal from their own kind.
Mercenary was not favorable, nor was it an honorable option to turn to for a living. However it was the only one he had ever known, being passed down from his father's father, to his father, and then to him. At fifteen winters he had already killed 72 people to make a living, with more than enough gold to last his line for the next generation. He knew he could and would be cheated out of his earnings one day, and so continued with his work to make his family name into something the world would one day fear.
He of the Gryffins had no plans to produce an heir for some time, not until his thirties if he lived that long, but when he came across a young woman something in him told him not to turn away. It was by this instinct alone that allowed the young woman to carry her child to full term, and allowed what of the greatest villains and the most known heroes to be born.
At the time, though, the child was nothing more than an innocent babe that had no more potential for anything in this world than you or I.
When the woman of the sea died, and he was left with an infant only by the name of Godric, he saw no reason not to take the child into his family and train him in his ways. Godric of the Gryffins, he deemed long after he buried the woman in a shallow grave.
By the time young Godric of the Gryffins was of three summers, he knew the price of taking a life. By the time he was three, he had been training for a year and knew how to use a knife better than anyone sans his master. After the death of his mother, his Master swore on her grave that her son would not face the same hardships in life as she had. Godric would never go through the same pain, never know the same agony that his mother had bore like a mantel of armor around her persona.
In the place of a slave of pleasure, her son became a servant of death and bloodshed, knowing pain as an old friend.
After eight winters had passed for him, Godric had kill ten people, indirectly and directly. He had seduced woman three times his age by his thirteenth summer and had a legacy of being ruthless of his fifteenth year. The Gryffin name had been remembered as a name to be feared in the shadows of alleyways, to be revered by admirers, and drooled over by bounty hunters.
Godric of the Gryffins did not have a close relation with his master, but it did not change their loyalty to one another. They might not have shared the same blood, but the blood that coated their hands were all but identical. The two were not Father and Son, but Wielder and Sword. They were clanmates, and that alone should have been enough to make sure their blade did not falter in the others defense.
Alas, it was not.
Young Godric of the Gryffins had kept a secret from his Master, the Master that grew jealous by the day at his success and fame. He could not remember when it started, only that he heard voices of the people around him while their lips did not move, or the words did not match with what his ears were hearing.
For a while, the young mercenary grew afraid at his ability, believing him to have caught the insanity of the time. However, as those voices whispered in his mind terrible secrets, he grew to believe them as more and more of them came true with the passage of time.
It was his sixteenth birthday when the whispers told him his Master's plan. He listened to them, the only beings in his life that could not lie, as the plan to kill him played in his mind. Master had come up with a plot to kill of his protégé, and so Godric of the Gryffins listened with a heavy heart and a weight on his shoulders while his Master planned for his death.
Helga listened through the crowd of cheering voices, over the crackling of the raging fires, for the screams of her brethren as they burned in the inferno that the common man had set upon their mortal forms.
It had become a common sight to her, having been brought to such celebrations since she was a young girl by her father. Father never noticed Mother's flinch at the people's screams, nor did he see the tightening of her eyes and the dip in her mouth whenever the Burnings were brought up in a conversation. However, Helga was a smart girl, and while she was quiet, she made up for it by watching and listening.
Little Helga knew very well her mother was a Witch, and by a product of such a union, it was very likely she shared such magic. She knew her father didn't know, because if he had she was sure her mother and very likely, she as well, would have been at one of the many Burnings. And not just a part of the audience.
Helga clung to her mother's dress, desperate to leave but knowing her father would never allow her such an occurrence. He had gotten stricter in both her and mother's movements lately, and while she didn't think he knew anything was amiss, neither of them wanted to chance such a horrible outcome.
It was late by the time they got home, the screams of either innocence people or fellow Wixs echoing in her delicate ears. The sound would haunt her, she was sure, and as she grazed at her father from her mother's shoulder, she wondered how her mother could have ever come to love such a man.
When her father had left, his servants going about their tasks as minimal as they were, she would sneak away from her mother's side and go to the farthest reach of the garden, under the fence, and walk until the sun had changed its direction to twenty-five degrees higher than when she had started out.
There was a small patch of upturned dirt, something she had done weeks ago after piecing together her mother's secret. She gathered small seeds that wouldn't be missed from the gardeners, and brought them here to be planted. Every day she was able to sneak away she would dig her hands into the dirt, and allow the warmth of her stomach to trickle down her hands and into the earth. The energy would seep into the little seeds, and push their growth just a little bit more, a little bit faster, a little bit more magical.
And when the first flower had bloomed, glowing of golden light with a song in her ear, it made her so happy that her hands could create such life that she started to cry.
Until a snap of a twig warned her of someone's presence, that is.
Rowena was banished from her family at twelve winters, seven summers after having received her punishment for overstepping her boundaries as both a servant and a woman.
The young girl had accepted her punishment with all the grace she could muster and had set herself to work with her family as she grew older. She tended the fields, washed the dishes, and mopped the floors. Rowena hadn't inquired about her brother, asked her mother to teach her the family songs, nor touch a book since that fateful day.
Young Rowena tried her best to ignore the voices in her head
She had tried to be on her best behavior, had tended to the fields with her older sister and parents, hadn't even asked about her brother in years. She tried so very hard to ignore the voices in her head, imploring her to question everything around her. It wasn't easy, but she thought she had been getting better.
Yes, there were times when she slipped up, when she was caught listening to conversations above her station and asking questions to the townspeople, but they truly were far and few in between. She hadn't even known something had been wrong with what finally broke her Master's temper with her, and by the time it had it was too late to take back the words she had said.
Seer, the word whispered behind her back. The Gods' Devil, the unspoken statement had been thought. She wanted to rally back upon the cursed title they had given her, wanted to scream and curse and cry and beg for them to take the label away from her soul. There was nothing any of them could do, the Raven upon her developing chest showing proof of where the Gods had marked her as theirs.
No one could do anything for her, and as she stared upon the long dirt path in front of her, she wondered if any of this would have happened if she had just kept her mouth shut.
It had never hurt.
Not really, in any case. The slices on his back felt numb even as they were bled to make sure infection did not set in. They were covered with boiled compressed cotton and wrapped, allowing the heat to disinfect the wounds.
It was never the physical pains that hurt.
He watched his once-family through a one-sided glass all of their life. They were a perfect painting that he dared not to touch. The High Prince had learned so very long ago that he would never be a part of such a scene, where his Father would laugh and teach him about his family. His siblings would never come to him for advice, or run to so they could hide from mischief.
Even if he had wanted to, he would never be allowed to call his Father's new bride mother.
The young prince was not blind to the whispers of his family, he saw the difference of treatment between the first born and his half-siblings. He saw the affection his Father freely gave to them but had withheld from him all of his life.
The eldest knew of his brothers' resentment for him, of being the first child and proclaimed Heir-Apparent even when he was not Father's favored son. It not mattered to them that he would have given it up in a stuttering heartbeat if only Father would look and see him, and not the dead woman he so resembled.
Salazar feels within his very soul, that for all that he was next-in-line for the throne, his father's Royal Consort will no doubt try to clear the way for her children.
The most heartbreaking is not knowing if his father would even investigate his death, or if he had been a part of such a motive.
Because he knew, as Salazar stood in the middle of his chamber, that there was more than just him within the four walls that separated him from the world.
What happened next to our four heroes is not for the faint of heart.
If you cannot bear to witness their pain and betrayal, if you dare not grasp the path that laid itself out before them, it is best to turn back now. Their beginnings were not pleasant, nor is their journey to the profile of today's time any better.
Their path is one riffled with strife and hardship, with dragon's rage and true love's tears. They came together in the depths of despair and the void, knowing that each was a breath away from the veil. It is stripped of love and compassion, and they have never known the hand of help.
This story will go on, it will happen, has happened, already. There is nothing anyone can do for our young protagonists, and it all starts here.
Godric of the Gryffins first true brush with death was when he was almost sixteen summers old. His master, his father, attempted to kill him during the moonless night. Although Godric had known it was coming, it didn't stop his heartbreak nor the tears that ran down his face.
His Master didn't succeed. Godric had been taught to kill and hide and lie since he came out of his mother's womb and not even a loved one trying to take his head could make him forget the lessons that had cared their way into his bones.
It doesn't mean it was an easy fight. Far from it. While Godric's Master had the resolve to kill the boy he had raised from his mother's dead corpse, the boy battled with himself as to his next course of action. This man, no matter the differences they each carried, had given him a legacy to carry. Had given him the tools to get his next meal and trained him for whatever the world would one day throw at him.
Godric of the Gryffins was a boy, not yet a man, who had to make a choice.
Will he let his Master kill him, or will he kill his Master?
The battle raged on for what could have been a new wind breezing through, or it could have been a tree being cut down. Godric loses sense of time, loses track of the sun and the moon and the stars themselves.
It is only Godric, his blade, and his Master.
One day he will look back on this moment and know what happened, will realize his decision in that moment. In the far distant future Godric will be thankful for his younger self.
That day is not today, and all Godric feels is confusion and grief.
A crackle of lightning climbs his sword, so green that emeralds could never compare to the shade, and strikes his Master.
There is not even time for him to cry out.
This is the first time the curse, known in modern times as the Killing Curse, has ever been cast.
It is one of her father's cohorts that find her. It is them that figure it out.
Helga will never be able to describe the fear and hatred that runs through her veins in that moment. Will never be able to have anyone comprehend the furry that overtook her and the curses that she had spit out of her mouth.
The forest is angry as well, teaming with life that the mortals do not understand and cannot hear.
They drag her to the burnings, the cross which has become her kind's damnation. Her mother is screaming, crying, begging for her husband to do something, anything! Her father only watches on, his face carved from stone. There is not a sight of compassion in the lines of his mouth, the tightening of his eyes, all it says to her is this is what you deserve for consorting with the devil.
Helga has never known hatred in her life. She feels it all too readily for the man who sired her.
The Witch Hunters tie her to the cross and the towns' people crowd around her. They all have pitch forks or torches, all ready to burn a girl of fourteen winters. Her mother is still screaming, held back by her husband and his friends. Her voice will go hoarse before her daughter is burned to crisps.
The young noble's daughter is calm. Or maybe she is frightened. Helga has no idea what to feel. There are too many words and yet not enough, and no time to figure it out. She does not wish to burn on a pyre, neither does she want to go back to lying about who and what she is.
Helga, more than anything, wants to be free.
As the flames lick at her heels, as it dances at the edges of her dress, singes the ends of her red hair. With her mother's screams in her ear and her own tears gathering at the edges of her eyes.
As Helga knows Death's door, she screams.
The young witch screams to the forest around her, to the forest that she has played in and nurtured since she was young. She screams to the heavens and to the depths of the seas, and wishes for the first time in her life.
Burning flames turn outwards, engulfing the audience before they can escape. Instead of a young woman's dying embers, an inferno covets a village's livestock and everything that built it.
Only the daughters of scarlet remain.
Helga has no idea what effect this will have in the future. She has no idea that at her pyre magic fought back for the first time in its existence. All for the sake of a young girl who stared at the earth and thought 'I will help.'
Rowena's brother finds her after it is all over.
He finds her with cuts and bruises, clothes torn and hair mangled. He finds her with blood seeping through her dress and an Unkindness watching over her. Their symbol is carved onto her flesh, seeped into her soul, and claws dug so deep that it impossible to remove. He finds her with glazing eyes that see nothing and everything, that are both empty and full of life.
He finds her on the brink of death and at the edge of despair. In the throes of madness and in the void of everything. He is not sure if there is anything left of his sister, but he must try to bring her back.
The apprentice of Eagleclaw works tireless throughout the night. He heals his sister's wounds. He gets potions and spells from his riddler. He cooks and cleans and reads and when all else fails, not even his sister is well enough to see him cry.
For all of his genius, Merlin has no idea how to heal the joy of his life.
Rowena has no idea what she Sees, but it will help her all the same.
Salazar's first attempt of his life is poison. The second is an attempt in practice. The third is a well-placed jinx. The fourth a falling statue. The fifth is a cursed object.
He still doesn't know if only his father's wife is behind it.
The prince has no allies in the palace. His mentor had an urgent summons from his travelling apprentice and felt it urgent enough to leave his older student behind. His mentor only has an inkling of what goes on in the palace, and much as he wishes to interfere, he cannot. He can only be a safe haven when the waters are calm.
Salazar doesn't know how he will see his twentieth winter. He does not know if he wants to.
For all of his charm and talent, his extended family has never taken a shine to him. Or maybe it is because of his charisma and skill that they don't. Salazar doesn't know, and he never will. All he knows is that the palace he once called home has been drained of warmth and the silence echoes back into his being.
He does not know when this loving abode became a casket. He does not know when it became his casket.
Salazar wished for his own family even as the one he was birthed into tried to murder him.
The dear snake prince would have no idea that his wish set everything into motion.
*Gasps* I updated something.