Chapter Two - The Phoenix from the Ash
Wonderful Chapter Image by Ayita @ the dark arts
On the night that Helga Smith was born, Edward Smith lost his wife. In their little cottage in the isolated village of Dewsbury she drew her last breath giving birth to Edward’s only child. The girl was a pink, healthy looking baby with a blonde curl on her underdeveloped cranium. He held the defenceless little child in his muscular peasant’s arms, wrapping her naked body in one of the folds of his rough cloak. She was a little angel born into the poor filth of his cottage, and he loved her instantly. He was entranced by her little body and the amount of life it held at such a young age. Her tiny fingers reached for his chestnut brown beard but he forced himself to ignore her, his little miracle, and turned his tearful eyes to his dear Helga lying in her last throws of life. Her skin was deathly white, the colour of bone, and her usually intelligent green eyes were dead looking, and their luminous sparkle had disappeared, Edward feared forever. Her blonde hair was splayed out on the pillow behind her and tears covered her pale face. Edward watched her cry, his hands laced with her blood as the panic rose in his deep voice.
“Helga,” he was stammering, his voice quavering, “It’s going to be okay, Mother Blythe, Sister Coventina and Sister Petronilla will be here soon. Everything will be just fine. Just hold on until then.” Edward was despairing at how he could be so happy and so sad at the same time, and the clash of emotion in his strong body was leaving him panicked and scared. Helga gave him a sad little smile, a shadow of the smile that used to light his life. Long gone was the woman he’d shared secret loving moments with in Dewsbury Orchard. Gone was the woman whose voice could cheer him up all day. She lay on the bed, a mere shadow of her former beautiful self, and he willed her to return to the usual force of life she was. Instead, her voice was husky, its usual warm tone gone, and it put a sense of foreboding in his heart, and showed him that death was creeping upon the sleepy little cottage waiting to devour his dearest Helga.
“My life is in my sister Petronilla’s hands,” she smiled darkly, the shadow of her former humour dancing across her dying face, “oh, the irony.” Edward gave a small chuckle at which the baby let out a loud hiccup, causing Edward to look away from his wife for one moment. The baby had turned her head and was looking curiously at her mother who was still staring into her husband’s face, as sense of sadness in her eyes. Helga finally turned her face to the child, at which her countenance glowed with the smallest glimmer of life. It was a mixture of happiness and sadness rolled into one, and she was on the verge of tears. Edward loved the hint of pride on his wife’s face at the little miracle wrapped up in his strong arms.
“Look what we did Edward,” she gushed as she moved her hand gently towards him at which Edward took it with zeal, trying to give some of his life and energy to her in that simple intimate movement. Her palm was icy cold, like death itself and it slightly repulsed him. The shock of the temperature of her usually warm hand forced him into loud noisy tears because he could no longer avoid the inevitable truth. The birth had been too dangerous, too hard and Helga was going to die as a young woman, and Edward would have to live without her. She had always seemed so strong and unbreakable, but it was clearly evident that Helga Smith was just as mortal as everyone else and it broke his heart. Helga squeezed his had affectionately and turned her head to the window.
“Neither Mother Blythe or any of the Sister’s will able to do anything for me,” she sighed, accepting her terrible fate, Edward could barely look at her, but she continued regardless “this is our last evening together, Edward, for a very very
long time.” Edward cried more heavily, his heart almost exploding with the pain of it all. Helga’s death would be savage, and Edward would have to watch as the woman he loved slipped through his fingers and into oblivion. Helga’s eyes however were fixed on the glimmering stars peppering the heavens. She almost seemed to be searching for a path to fly to paradise above everyone else. Suddenly Edward watching her as her eyes glazed over in the familiar way they did when she saw the future. Helga had the power of prophecy like her great grandmother, Nimueh, the celebrated Seer in King Arthur’s court, and later an enemy, an evil sorceress. Her body convulsed angrily as her voice came out as a madwoman’s voice, a rasping croak that chilled Edward to the bone.
“The sun will set on her mother’s life the night the three sisters come. Her father will waste away to oblivion and leave her in the ash and the dust of the world. Then the three sisters will come. They will claim her as their own. But she will rise burning like the brightest star in the heavens. She is the phoenix from the ash.
” Her eyes returned to normal as she gasped for air, as she stopped convulsing, her lungs burning for oxygen that she so desperately craved. Edward held her hand tightly as her emotions went insanely wild and she started to panic.
The door of the cottage suddenly burst open and made Helga scream in confusion and shock as the three immaculately dressed coven sisters entered the little room. They were lead by the rather large Mother Blythe, her wrinkled face contorted into a fake concerned expression. She had never really been a compassionate soul, but she was practical, and Edward trusted her. Her silver grey hair was tied into a tight plait down her hunched over back and she was wearing a clean white woollen dress and a pair of rough clogs. Blythe was an old woman about one hundred years old, and was a skilled witch with such sought after healing powers. She was the leader of the Dewsbury Coven of Witches and Wizards, and presided over the village like a goddess, letting the villagers worship her. Sister Coventina stood on her left had been raised half of her life with her parents and the other half in Mother Blythe’s care, training to become a skilled healer. She was an earthy looking girl with almost red hair and hazel eyes the shape of almonds, and Edward thought she would be able to help Helga far more than Helga’s own sister Petronilla would.
Petronilla leant over her sister almost menacingly, her straw like hair dangling in Helga’s white, terrified face. Helga screamed louder at the sight of her sister and Edward almost had to pin her down to stop her using her last energy for ripping Petronilla into tiny shreds. Petronilla herself was peering into Helga’s wide eyes as if trying to judge whether there was any hope for her dying sister, evidently hoping for the worst. Mother Blythe quickly pulled Petronilla away, scolding her and tutting at her noisily. Blythe gazed at Petronilla curiously for a moment and then said rather emotionlessly, “I know you must care for your sister deeply, but I feel that I can help more than you at this point Petra.” Edward highly doubted that Petronilla was even remotely concerned for her dying sister, as a great and ferocious rivalry had always existed between them. Years ago, Petronilla had declared that she would steal her own sister’s fiancé from her, but Edward and Helga had married happily with Mother Blythe watching over them much to Petronilla’s disgust and anger. Edward was sure that burning rage had never disappeared and Petronilla wanted nothing less than for Helga to burn in hell for all eternity.
Blythe put her wrinkled, worn hands on Helga forehead and then closed her eyes. She muttered unknown words in ancient languages. As she was the mother of the coven, she had powers without wands, and powers that lesser wizards and witches could only dream of. Edward closed his eyes pointedly, madly hoping and praying that Blythe would be able to save his dearest wife with her ancient powerful magic. Helga shivered violently as Blythe gazed at her sadly for a tiny moment and then dropped her sinewy hands to her sides, her eyes filled with disappointment at the failure of her powers that she had been honing for years.
“I’m sorry Helga,” she croakily whispered, obviously angry with herself and not sad at the dwindling life of her patient. “My younger sister would not want her only grandchild to die like this.” Edward tensed up instantly, finally realising that nothing could be done for his wife who was about to make the terrifying journey from life to death. His heart beat ferociously with the fear of losing her and the loss which was applying more and more pressure as the seconds ticked by. His chest became tighter and tighter and his chest became more constricted with the pain. The baby gave a loud squawk but Edward ignored her and turned to look at each of the women.
“Mother Blythe,” he said breathlessly, finding it difficult to speak, “she can’t, she can’t die! You saw the prophecy, she has developed her Seer Powers, when you are gone she will take your place as the Mother of the Coven. She has the Power! You saw her triumphs!” Edward’s voice had grown so loud in the pain and fury and he shouted at Mother Blythe in accusation, almost as if it was her fault that destiny had put Helga on this path. Sister Coventina moved towards Edward in a move of compassion, trying to sooth him, but Edward stumbled away from her and fell onto his dirty knees next to Helga’s bed, and pressed his head into Mother Blythe’s lap in desperation and heartbreak. “She is destined to live, she can’t die now! You’ve never seen a vision wrong; you’ve never seen the future changed!” There was an obvious look of fear and worry in Mother Blythe’s eyes, her powers seemed weak tonight, but when she spoke she spoke with self assurance and confidence.
“The future can change,” she uttered boldly, causing Edward’s heart to break, “the reason for Helga’s death, I am not sure what Mother Destiny has for us to achieve by our sister’s end, but Edward, I am sorry, the Heir is dying.” Edward sobbed hysterically, but suddenly he felt Helga’s cold hand on his head. He looked up into her eyes and to his surprise Helga lips had curled into a gentle little smile. Jumping up to sit on the bed next to her, he kissed her pallid brow as she spoke, her voice reduced to almost nothing.
“Mother Blythe is right,” she said, looking at him bravely her eyes brimming with silent tears, “I am dying Edward. It’s my time, the birth was just too difficult,” she gasped in pain suddenly as Mother Blythe retreated from the bed, letting Helga and Edward share their last moments together. Helga leant forward and kissed the little baby’s exposed cranium causing the baby to make an excited noise. Tears welled in Helga’s eyes as she whispered painfully, “I’m not going to see her growing up, and it’s all up to you Edward.” She groaned in pain for a second time as Edward grabbed her hand, almost trying to keep her with him for a few more precious moments.
“Save your breath!” he cried, he voice wrecked with the most terrible kind of emotion. Helga seemed to be trying to say something, and Edward could visibly see the colour and life draining from her once beautiful face. She gazed into his chiselled, handsome face as she started to draw weaker and weaker breaths. “Edward, I truly love you.” She gave him one final small smile and then it was like a switch had been turned off, as Helga died, her soul passing on from her worldly body, and into the afterlife. Edward dared not breathe as he looked at his sleeping angel, gone from his side forever.
“Helga, oh my love!” he sobbed, his tears stinging his eyes. He ignored Mother Blythe and Sister Coventina’s mumbled prayers for Helga’s soul. Helga had been the embodiment of goodness, and Edward knew for certain she would be in heaven, he just did not know whether he could live without her. The room fell into silence as Edward cried for his lost love, and let his heart fall into the depths of darkness. His soul felt dead without its other half, his darling Helga, and Edward sat miserable next to Helga’s body, looking at the shell in which she used to live.
“So, what happens now?” asked Sister Coventina, her voice nervous and cracking. She was fairly new to being Mother Blythe’s aid, and found it all very difficult, especially watching someone pass on. Edward turned to say something, speaking would distract him momentarily from the truth, but the domineering Petronilla butted into the conversation, her nasal voice penetrating Edward’s ears. Edward thought at a time like this his wife’s greatest rival and mortal enemy’s opinions were definitely not welcome.
“We bury her of course,” she said patronisingly, looking down on little Coventina. With her arms crossed snootily Petronilla paused for a long moment, clearly decided whether her next statement was the right thing to say, but then continued regardless, “and I become the Heir to Mother Blythe as Helga’s closest female heir and Mother Blythe’s great niece.” The glint of triumph in her smug eyes made the anger in the pit of Edward’s stomach come bubbling to the surface, erupting suddenly and ferociously for all to see.
“How dare you!” he thundered, his eyes fixed on Petronilla’s smug face, “Helga lays dead and you are already celebrating at what you gain!” His eyes were full of burning rage at Petronilla’s harsh words, and he desired nothing more that to throttle her for her insensitivity and her selfishness. Then he calmed almost instantly, as a thought had just sprung up in his mind. Petronilla would not be getting the powers she so craved, and Edward would be the one to tell the spiteful cow that wonderful piece of news, “and anyway, you are not the Heir as this baby lying in my arms is Helga’s closest living female relative!” Petronilla’s nostrils flared in anger as she looked at the naked baby, her eyes full of jealousy and loathing. Petronilla’s wrath would not be easily avoided, but Edward stood up to her defiantly, protecting those he loved.
“This is not the time for family disagreements,” Mother Blythe said tersely as she drew herself up to her full height and turned on the two of them. Petronilla snapped her head away, tucking her blonde hair behind one ear. Edward lifted the baby to his lips and kissed her, almost in defiance of Petronilla. “Coventina, go and fetch a stretcher and some men to carry Helga’s body to my house, we’ll go and arrange the funeral there.”Coventina gave a quick nod of her pretty head and left the little house without another word, leaving Edward, Blythe and Petronilla looking down at Helga’s prostrate corpse.
“I will go and prepare my house for her body; the necessary spells will be said. You have nothing to fear Edward, I will save her soul,” Blythe said passionately, almost reassuring herself that her powers still worked. She glanced at Petronilla briefly and followed Coventina’s path out of the house, not looking back as she went. Edward totally ignored Petronilla and knelt next to his wife, trying to control yet another upsurge of terrible grief. In his despair he held his only daughter, the only thing remaining of his loving wife, as if she were the most important thing in the universe. Petronilla hovered behind him, teetering on the edge of speech, until finally she made her move,
“What are you going to call it?” she asked almost tersely. In this moment she looked more horsey than Edward had ever seen her before, an expression of absolute revulsion across her gaunt face. Edward stood up, clinging onto his tiny daughter almost possessively a mad look in his eyes. He looked straight into her eyes, the same shade of green as her sisters, but they did not hold the same warmth or kindness that Helga’s had.
“I’m going to call her
Helga,” he choked angrily, trying to anger his sister in law again. Petronilla raised her pencil thin eyebrows haughtily at the mention of her dead sister’s name, the disgust in her eyes shining outwards. Edward rounded on her, directing his grief and anger at her again. He had hated Petronilla for so long, for her constant following of him, for the duel in the church on the wedding day between Petronilla and Helga. He hated her for her uncaring attitude to her sister and he hated her for her offensive behaviour next to her sister’s body.
“Helga after her beautiful
mother, who will never be replaced in my heart. I will love her until the day I die, and you were never going to be even an option for my love.” Petronilla flushed a nasty red colour in embarrassment and anger. She clearly did not like the subject of her passionate love for Edward being brought up and tossed aside by him in an uncaring fashion. To try and appear strong and unafraid, she bolstered herself and then towered to her full height, her anger that he had seen so often shining in her snide green eyes.
“I have loved you since I was a little girl; I loved you even before my bitch of a sister even first laid her unworthy eyes on you. She stole you from me, and for that I will never forgive her. I will hate her for all eternity,” she gave a deep breath and then without even thinking she continued angrily, “I curse Helga Smith the daughter of my sister. She will lose everyone she’s ever loved until she’s old and alone. The misery will consume her as she withers away into nothingness!
” Edward gasped at Petronilla’s curse, astounded that she would even sink so low to curse a defenceless child. No magic could break her curse he knew, and his mind whirred with plans to save his daughter until he concluded he could do nothing as she stormed angrily from the house, sweeping her dress behind her, leaving anger and loathing in her wake.
Edward knelt next to Helga again, asking her desperately what to do about Petronilla, even though he knew she could not give him one answer “even in the event of your death she will never leave me be!” Then Edward let the misery and grief overcome him, for what seemed like hours, years even. He sat huddled with the little Helga in his arms, staring at his wife’s body and feeling the loss like a thousand knives being stabbed into his still beating heart. Edward only moved when Sister Coventina returned, pushing open the wooden door of the cottage, with two young wizards in tow to help carry Helga’s body away. Edward got up to follow the pale corpse out of her home, but Sister Coventina stopped him by putting up her little hand in front of her.
“No, I’m sorry Edward. When the purifying ceremony takes places only the three sisters can be there.” Edward shook his head ferociously at these words. He could not even witness his wife’s last rights and he was the person who had loved her most in the whole world. Worst of all he did not want Petronilla near his dear Helga’s body for fear that she would do something terrible to it in jealousy and rage. Coventina knelt beside him compassionately as the two men carried Helga’s body from the room, ignoring Edward’s quiet whimpers and protests.
“I will not let her do anything to Helga’s body Edward; you know that, don’t you?” Coventina said looking into Edward’s eyes. Edward let Coventina put one of her tanned arms round his muscular shoulders, and he sobbed unashamedly into her neck. Moving her hand into his hair she drew him close and rocked him almost like he was a baby. The young Helga squawked in protest between their bodies and with that Edward broke away, looking out the window along the path to the town square.
“Coventina,” he began, not looking at her as she cocked her head to listen, “when I was with Helga, when we were married, we were safe from Petronilla because Helga and I were tied together by magic more powerful than her petty curses. But now there is no such protection. She has easily cursed my daughter and there is nothing to stop her from stealing me away from my dear Helga,” he looked down at the baby for a moment and then continued, “I am not the most powerful of wizards, and there is nothing to protect my daughter from Petronilla’s wrath other than my own mediocre skills. She is the daughter of the woman Petronilla hated the most and she has stolen the powers that Petronilla thought were rightfully hers and for that I fear that she could grow up in terrible danger.”
Coventina looked at the baby gently with her hazel eyes and then gazed into Edward’s face searching for a response to her upcoming question as she said, “My parents are very influential, who hasn’t heard of Baldward and Torda Hufflepuff round these parts?” Edward nodded, feeling encouraged, it seemed as if Coventina was willing to help him. “I will get my family to personally train Helga so in the future, if she ever needs to, she can defend herself against Petronilla if the need may ever arise. Why, even my brother Adrian will help, even though he’s only five!”
“Thank you Coventina,” he whispered, embracing her tightly in enormous gratitude and relief, “I will forever be in your debt!” Coventina held him tightly to comfort him and then broke away, her voice husky when she spoke, “Don’t mention it.” Lifting herself up from the floor next to Edward, she turned to the door and dusted off her white dress with one hand. Gazing at the door gently, she suddenly turned around one last time, “I will talk to Mother Blythe about this; I will not mention the part about Petronilla, as she trusts her more than anyone else, but I will say that you have agreed to it. If she agrees it is a good idea, Helga will be protected until the day that Mother Blythe dies. And anyway, when that day come Helga will be the Mother of the Coven and Petronilla will not be able to touch her.” With those last words of hope and comfort, Coventina swept from the room, leaving Edward alone with the baby for the first time.
He looked at the baby Helga, with her tiny button nose and olive green eyes. Her little hands reached for his face longingly, and he instantly felt a strong bond of warm love and affection. He stroked her golden head as he whispered gently, “your mother was so excited to have you,” the tears of grief welled in his eyes again as he peered down at his tiny daughter. “Your mother will miss so much, but I will be here for you Helga, for as long as you need me. I will be watching over you and protecting you for all time as I will never leave you.” His words caught in his throat but he continued, making a promise to his daughter that he hoped he would never be forced to break, “We’ve got some tough times to face together kid, but I promise you, your wicked aunt Petronilla will never lay one of her grubby little fingers on you.” The baby seemed to smile playfully as Edward lay back on the bed, left wrecked and exhausted by his emotions, he began to slip into the subconscious state, with little Helga dozing on his chest, lulled into sleep by the slow rising and falling of Edward’s chest as his breathing slowed down as he fell into a deep sleep.
A/N: Okay people, I've had this idea for a little while and seeing as I have severe writers block with From Ancient Grudge by Rose/Scorpius fic I decided to put this one into motion. PLEASE REVIEW - Thanks!