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Witch Bottle ~ Excerpt (1/2)

Chapter One

June 1625, London, England.

gain she heard the noise, it was a small squeak, and scratching, so close to her ear it made her twitch and twitching hurt. In fact, the slightest movement of her bruised body made her hurt. She tried to open her eyes but only the right one would open, the left was not only hindered by the bare earth it was resting on, but also by how swollen it was from the beating she’d recently received. Her tongue roamed carefully around her teeth, probing the loose ones, she gently spat out blood and winced at her split lip. She tried to move, to get away from the irritating noise, she wanted to sit up against the rough stone wall behind her, but, when she tried, the pain in her arm and her side almost made her pass out. She paused mid-movement and breathed deeply as she wavered on the edge of unconsciousness. Laying back down, on the damp, cold floor, she came fully back to her senses and realised the bothersome sounds must be coming from a mouse or a rat nearby.
“'Tis nowt but a critter belonging to thy Mother. Come now, Erda. Thy still be alive.” She said, feeling the need to both comfort and chide herself in the gloom.
She looked about her, the best she could with her one properly functioning eye. The small room was very dark, except for a single tallow candle which sat in a pewter holder, placed upon the ground. Its stink fought with the smell of mold and the rank stench of stale urine, which swirled around the room in the cold draught from under the wooden door that made the candle flicker. The old stone walls were damp and slimy, the cold and wet soaked into Erda’s clothing chilling her to the bone. She could hear water trickling down the walls somewhere and presumed it was soaking away into the mud floor or perhaps a small drainage grate. There were no shackles attached to the walls or iron rings from what she could see. She breathed a small sigh of relief, at least she was not in the town gaol, very few people come out of there alive.
Her small measure of relief was short lived, however, as she could hear voices and they were getting closer and becoming more distinct.
A light appeared and seemed to grow beneath the door. Erda froze and listened, her stomach dropped with fear when she heard the sound of steel scrape against steel as the door was unbolted. She was in no position to fight or run, so she did the only thing in her power; she closed her good eye and prayed.
As the heavy wooden door opened, light burst into the room, Erda could see the red of it through her eyelids. By sheer force of will alone, she stilled her trembling body so she would appear unconscious. She was now grateful her face was laying in the dirt, hiding her fear.
The footsteps came closer and stopped.
“Thy lazy bitch sleeps still, Doctor.” The gruff, uneducated voice called out as he roughly nudged her leg with his foot a couple of times.
“Bring her hence.” An educated voice replied from the depths of the dark corridor outside the room.
Erda was roughly grabbed, picked up and thrown over a large man’s shoulder making her groan from the pain in her ribs, unfortunately, the sound was out before she could stop it. The man stank of rancid sweat and pitch, the smell was acrid in Erda’s nostrils. She fought not to pull away from the stench, careful not to reveal herself as fully awake. Her hair, now messily unbound, fell over her face affording her the opportunity to see where she was going without being seen, or rather, where she had been as she was looking away from the direction they were actually going.
She peered carefully through the curtain of her hair, which only partially obscured her view as the man carried her up rough stone steps, through the richly decorated hallway, out through a large kitchen and into the garden and the fresh night air. She recognised the house, of course, after all it was where she had been giving lessons to the Doctor in the art of Cunning for the last three years and where he had seduced her that first summer. Erda’s heart ached deeply, she had loved John and at first he had treated her well, considering she was low-born and she could never be more than a bed mate to him. Over time, she had found out more about the good Doctor than she had truly wanted. Some of the things she’d learnt made her blood boil and they were the reasons why she withheld certain knowledge from him and why she was here now, much to her regret.
The large man carried her past the ornamental garden and down a secluded path to the Doctor’s walled herb garden. It only had one low gated entrance, the big man stooped to enter and marched forward to what seemed like the middle of the garden from her vantage point, presumably following his master.
Erda suddenly found herself on the ground, the air forced out of her lungs by the speed of the drop. She groaned as her ribs stabbed pain into her bruised side and she tried desperately to gain her breath once more.
“Ah, my whore with serpent’s tongue dost awaken.” John said close to her face, while he gently brushed a finger over her unbruised cheek. He seemed reluctant to touch the damage he had created by his very own fist, almost as if it would soil him to do so.
Erda turned her face away and tried to speak but her mouth was dry and her split lip opened again and it began to bleed anew.
“Take her, Baldwin.” He said quietly.
Again she was lifted, but this time like a sack of turnips. His hands grabbed her under her arm pits and Baldwin began to drag her backwards. Roughly, she was stood up and set against something hard and her mind faded dizzily for a few moments. When she could focus again she realised she was now bound tightly against the hard thing, no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t move an inch. The rope holding her burned her bare flesh where it touched it and crushed against her where it pressed against her clothing. She felt the warm breeze of the late evening and smelled the herbs and flowers upon that welcome breeze. The wind gently stroked her face like a lover’s caress. See, thy Mother comforts thee, she thought and breathed in deeply the fragrant and welcoming scent of the garden.
She finally managed to clear her dry throat, “Shalt nay reveal it. It matters nay what thou dost to me.” She said bravely, feeling her courage return to her as if the warm breeze had revitalized her.
“Afford me thy place name and death shalt be swift.” John said, his voice calm and even.
Erda’s spine tingled, she had never heard him sound so calm and yet so evil. “Thwarted shalt thy evil doings be. She is safe, she is safe!” Erda looked away, unable to see him this way after all the moments they had shared as lovers.
“Baldwin make thy start.” John said. His face was impassive but his eyes shone with triumph, he knew she would reveal the hiding place before her end.
Baldwin was out of Erda’s sight, she tilted her head this way and that to see what he was doing, but she still could not see him. She soon realised she had been tied to a large wooden post and it was too large to see around.
“Doctor Lambe, Doctor Lambe!” An old, male servant called from the garden path, “Thy agent hath arrived, Doctor.”
“Now shalt we knowest of thy safe place.” John gave a smirk and marched off toward the servant and the house.
Erda tried to wriggle against the ropes again, but they were bound tight and held fast. The movement also caused much pain to rush up her damaged arm and through her ribs, which made the blackness swallow her whole again.
Her eyes shot open as the cold water hit her face, she gasped and blinked away the water. John had now returned from the house and was leaning in really close to sneer at her. She tried to move away from him but she had nowhere to move to.
“Thy destiny is decided, nay struggle thee.” He said as he took a step back and began toying disinterestedly with his sleeve cuff.
“Thou shalt rue this day, John.” Erda said.
“Nay as thy wilt.” He smiled and nodded to Baldwin.
The smell of burning pitch met Erda’s nostrils, it made her gag and her eyes stream as Baldwin placed the lit torch onto the bundle of sticks he had already placed by her feet. With a rush of heat, the pitch on the branches caught alight and the cruel fire began to rage toward her. She could feel the unbearable heat getting nearer and nearer to her feet, the smoke blocked almost all her vision as she struggled painfully and desperately against the rope that bound her.
“Before thy fate takes thee, knowest verily thy secret is loose. Dwell thy last stretch of time and lack thy joy. Thy daughter is found.” The maniacal joy in John’s voice could not be mistaken.
Erda felt her hate for him rise within her and she despised him, in that moment, more than she had ever loathed anything in her life before.
“Nay!” Erda’s shouted again and again until the smoke-dried and burnt her throat making her cough. At last, a scream burst forth from her. She felt her feet blister and the flesh begin to burn away, her skirts caught fire and the flames began to lick up her legs. With a massive effort, she breathed in what little air she could and with the last of her strength she cried, “Thy life shalt be crushed from thee, thy shalt nay rest. Thy body and Soul shalt rot in thy own mess akin to the cabbages upon a wet field. I hex thee, John Lambe, I hex thee!”
Before John could ward against Erda’s words, she gave her last agonising breath and died, sealing the curse forever as her flesh blacked and the fire roared over her, burning her to naught but ash.

Copyright ©2014 Edain Duguay. All Rights Reserved.

Wyrdwood Publications • Paperback/eBook • 2014 • 
9780993622304 $12.99/$4.99 Age Range: 18+
Genre: Horror and Paranormal Mystery, Suspense, Thriller 

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