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Chapter 8 : Hellfire
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On the day Caris Wydeville died; Giles had a fight with an old friend. He tried to ignore the distraught sobs of the people he passed, he could do nothing for them and even if he could, he wouldn’t. He had his wife and son to think about after all. Each of them were chained and bound like animals in the pit of Sir Guy’s castle each accused of being witches. If it was not so deadly, Giles would have found it funny. The notion that these women were witches was ludicrous. Each one was a mother, a sister or a cousin of someone in the town. They had fallen from their pedestals of paragons of good in the community; pushed by people who were insanely jealous of them. Now they were crumpled and broken, left to rot while the shadows danced over their fractured bodies, foreshadowing their end.
Old Widow Jones who had lost all her family the terrible famine of last winter sat, hysterically sobbing knowing that she had been found guilty of enchanting her own family and causing their death. Her grey hair was bedraggled and dirty, and her worn hands looked rough and cracked. Rebecca Turner was accused of poisoning her neighbours family with her witchcraft. Rebecca had once been a local beauty with long golden hair and flashing blue eyes. Now she was a skeleton. They were all to suffer the hangman’s noose, just as the last inhabitant of the cells was. Unlike Old Widow Jones and Rebecca Turner she remained silent. She did not beg for her existence. There was no point, and was life even worth begging for to her? Her hair was dirty and bedraggled just like the other prisoners and she had lost all her former beauty. Giles could not help but question why Guy was still infatuated with her. He had come to the conclusion that the love he had once held for Caris was now gone, replaced by revenge and settling old scores. He could not even bring himself to give her a set of clean clothes. So much for his so called love. It was nothing more than an obsession.
Guy stood over by Caris’ cell, a wild look in his eyes. Hanging back in the shadows, Giles knew he was hovering on the edge of Guy’s vision maybe just out of sight. Guy was too enraged to notice however. His worn hands were gripping the bars of Caris’ cell with manic fury and they had grown taut and white, glowing in the dim light of the dungeon. His nose was hovering close to the bars but Giles could not see Caris and assumed she was back against the wall. “Caris,” Guy was muttering threateningly, “I have given you chance after chance after chance. I’ve been much too generous with you. If you repent, admit you are a witch and agree to return to my arms, all will be absolved, in my eyes and the eyes of God.”
His eyes were wide and staring, almost mad looking. He was no longer the handsome young knight he had been in his youth. Her next words vexed him no end, “God knows I’m innocent,” she whispered gently, her eyes sparkling with religious euphoria “as does Mother Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ and all the saints.” Guy roared in anger in spite of himself and thundered, “Bishop Philip knows you are a sinner, everyone in this town knows you are a sinner and most of all I know you are a sinner!” He looked simply murderous but then suddenly it all changed as his face was flooded with affection for the woman he adored; “You can live Caris. You can live if you just give yourself to me.” Up until this moment she had remained quiet only uttering the names of the saints. But now she stood up, her face flooded with anger as she said quietly, “you had me my Lord and you lost me. You will pay for what you are to do to me one day.”
“You stupid woman,” he spat angrily, running his hands through his greasy greying hair, “you have no choice if you want your life. You must say you’ll be mine.” Scoffing loudly she said simply, “my life is not worth it. You destroyed everything good and true in my life. First, you refused to give me up and in doing so killed everything good in your own heart. Then you ruthlessly killed my husband and children. And not content, you take my two remaining children mercilessly never letting me see my daughter and gloating at the fact you’ve corrupted my son. So I do not care what you do to me. If you place me in the hands of God I will once again be with my husband and children.” She stared at him for a moment, evidently willing him to realise what terrible mistakes he had made throughout his life in regards to her, but Giles knew it would never come.
There was a long pause before Guy whispered softly with all the tenderness in the world, “Do you love me?” She answered without a moment’s hesitation, “No. Once, maybe. But now no. You are no longer the man I first met.” With that she turned away from him and curled up once again in the straw, disappearing from Giles’ view again. Guy was visibly swelling up, ready to erupt, “I have told you before,” he said becoming more breathless, “you have no choice. You have to love me.” For the first time, something strange happened. Caris let out a humourless laugh before barking, “I do have a choice and I choose the good Lord and his angels.”
Guy bristled furiously before adding menacingly, “You know what I have done to you before. I can do it again you know.” There was a long drawn out pause in which as nasty smile stretched across Guy’s face but it faltered when Caris answered condescendingly, “what does it matter what you do tonight? Tomorrow I do the hangman’s jig. You’ve condemned me yourself.” With that Guy’s anger erupted as he pulled the keys from his belt, a lust fuelled blaze dancing in his eyes. Giles knew this was the time to act and he stepped out quietly from the shadows.
“Guy,” he said gently, twiddling his goatee with the tips of his fingers, “I need to discuss the Sickening with you. There are rumours of its return in the next village along.” There was a pause for a moment as Guy decided what to do. On the one hand, there was Caris, defenceless in her cell. On the other hand, he had to carry out his duty as the Lord of the Manor. It was clear that he had made up his mind as Guy, looking very disappointed tied the keys back to his belt and trundled out of the room, following Giles’ lead. Giles led Guy up the cobbled stairs and up into the Great Hall to discover it was silent and completely empty. Giles turned around promptly and gave Guy a disappointed look.
“What are you looking at me like that for?” asked Guy suspiciously, his fingers moving to the hilt of his sword out of habit. Giles continued cautiously knowing it wasn’t the best time to ignite his friends temper. “I just think it’s for the best if tonight you make your decision; you either send Caris to her death or you let her go. You cannot continue to play with her like this. It does nothing for your nerves.” Guy flared for a moment, his eyes alight with the angry passion he had possessed his whole life. “What do you mean? I’m not playing with her; I’m giving her a choice.”
Giles had to try not to grin at Guy for his stupidity, “But you should not let her have the cards in her hands,” he interjected smoothly, his hands jumping once again to his goatee, “you must do something either way. Because the truth is Guy you will never have Caris love you. Her soul can’t allow it anymore.” Guy looked livid as he leant in close, “she still loves me, however much she denies it. She cannot erase those times with me all those years ago.” There was a part of Guy that was still ever hopeful, and he was dominating his brain at that moment, but Giles could not allow it any longer. Smiling patiently Giles whispered, “yes, but she cannot forget her family Guy.” Guy bore his yellow, crooked teeth as he gazed at Giles angrily, “it was not me that did that. It was her own choice to have them killed.”
“I’m just saying...” began Giles but he was interrupted very quickly by Guy. “No, I am fed up with you ‘just saying’. Look where your advice has got me. The Sickening has been plaguing our town for years, and I cannot get rid of it. No matter how many heretics and witches I burn nothing changes. Caris could be the one who needs to die. She’s tormented me long enough!” thundered Guy. “Well,” said Giles as sweetly as he could, “make the decision once and for all. Do not give her the option of saving herself.” Giles only then noticed that his heart was hammering heavily; this was making him so tense. He hoped Guy would make the right decision and save the life of the woman who he once loved and had done nothing wrong.
Guy gave a defeated nod before saying, “you are right. I have let that wench rule me long enough. I’m going to make the decision even if it kills me.” With those words Guy stalked off out of the dungeon and Giles followed, running his fingers through his goatee. He had been friends with Guy for years and in their youths that had been perfectly matched. Guy was the heroic, noble man who had brutish force, resilience and drive. Giles was quiet and careful, but at the same time he was strategic and inventive and for that he was Guy’s perfect sidekick. As they had grown older, however, Guy had become more temperamental and extreme, too unpredictable for the cautious Giles. However, he hoped that Guy would make the right decision for the first time in his life, a trait that the quick tempered Guy had never easily mastered.
When Matilda lifted her head from her pillow the next morning she noticed that Giles had not come home the previous night. It was not unusual; he often spent hours working into the night in his study as he was such a conscientious man. It did not worry her in the slightest. She lifted her head and yawned loudly, noticing the sun had barely risen over the hills she could see through her window. Life was good for Matilda; she had a loving husband, a perfect son and an ideal house. Nothing in the world could be better for her. Lifting herself out of bed, Matilda began to wonder why she had been woken. She was a lady of middling status, not a member of the peasantry and did not appreciate being woken this early. She was not used to it.
There was suddenly the crash of stumbling feet on the floor outside her room and the door opened violently to reveal Bess, her nightgown pulled up to her knees to allow her to run through the winding corridors of the house. She had grown into a rather gangly obtrusive girl with long chestnut brown hair and a face splattered with freckles. Bess would one day be tall and statuesque, but now she was an awkward looking adolescent, not yet used to her body. Matilda could tell, however, that one day she would break many a man’s heart. She was a miniature of her mother after all. After a few moments Matilda noticed something was terribly wrong. Bess was not wearing her usual happy smile of morning greeting and her eyes had darkened with stress and anxiety.
“Mistress Mattie,” spluttered Bess, her luminous eyes filled with tears, “They’re ringing the bell for the executions.” Suddenly, tears were rolling down Bess’ cheeks, her pretty face twisted into an expression of terrible anguish. “He’s got my mother; I know he’s got my mother.” Matilda jumped up and ran over to Bess. Those words were all she needed to know. Guy de Clare was finally going to act on his extreme feelings for Bess’ mother. Bess had been a faithful companion for ten years and Matilda was determined to do everything within her power to save Caris as she could not stand the charming girl to be miserable. “Giles will not let this happen!” said Matilda defiantly as she bundled out of the door and down the stairs to the second floor of their town house, where she knew Giles would be; curled up alone in his study.
As she crashed open the door she was met with an unusual sight. Giles was up early; totally ignoring the clanging of the bell, going through his accounts meticulously. For once, Matilda noticed, Giles looked tired. His once resplendent mane of hair was now streaked with grey and there were noticeable lines etched on his once flawless face. He looked old. Treading carefully into the room Matilda began sweetly trying not to betray panic in her voice, “Giles dear, I need to talk to you.” Lifting his head absentmindedly, Giles gave her a quick glance so Matilda began to talk, not caring whether he wanted to listen or not. “Caris Wydeville is she to be put to death this morning?” she asked nervously, her heart hammering in spite of herself. Giles lifted his head slowly. The sad look in his eyes said it all.
“And you are just sitting here?” asked Matilda incredulously, her body frozen in shock “Bess’ mother is going to be executed and you will do nothing? She has had a hard life with her brother turning against her and the rest of her family murdered. Why haven’t you stopped Guy like you usually do?” thundered Matilda, her face turning slightly red with emotion. Giles remained silent for a moment as he gazed at his wife’s face. Then he spoke cautiously, as if he expected someone to jump out of the shadows and put him to death also. “Guy will not be governed by another man when it comes to Caris. He has lived for long enough under her shadow. She needs to die.”
Matilda stood stock still in shock in the words she had just heard her own husband utter. Caris who had never done anything was to be killed because of one tyrant’s crazy decision? “No Giles,” said Matilda, forcing herself to be calm, “she does not need to die. She is an innocent woman whose life has been destroyed by that man you call a friend.” At those words Giles got angrily up and stared at his wife, his eyes blazing with fury. “That friend of mine has given me the means of raising my family in comfort and luxury.” He walked round his desk until he was directly in front of her shoulders and he grabbed his shoulders menacingly; “he has power over us. One click of his fingers and we are dead. You know how temperamental he is!” Matilda let out an angry cry before spitting, “you could try Giles! You could try and stop her dying!” Giles looked down at his feet for a moment and then up again as if he was deeply ashamed; “I have tried and he wants her dead.”
Matilda let out a distraught little sob and covered her mouth. The tears were beginning to form in her eyes as she began to cry for Bess. Sweet, loyal, intelligent Bess was going to have to suffer and Matilda could do nothing for her. She felt helpless and useless, two things she never liked to feel. Matilda felt her husband’s strong arms envelope her in a tight embrace and he sniffed into his shoulder. “Don’t you see,” whispered Giles, tenderly and carefully, imploring her to listen, “with Caris dead he will stop on this rampaging witch hunt. We’ll be safe here, forever.”
Matilda pulled herself away from Giles and found herself backing away from him, shocked at her husband’s logic. “But does our safety warrant the death of an innocent woman?” Giles looked at her silently for a moment and Matilda could see he was carefully deciding what to say next, “But didn’t the death of the lamb save us all from mans first sin, a sin not our own?” Matilda shook her head at her husband before saying; “You are a different man from who I thought you were.”
Marching out of the room Matilda suddenly realised she was the one who would have to break the news to Bess. Nothing could save her mother as Sir Guy was carrying out his revenge once and for all. Matilda did not have to go far as soon she found Bess slumped against a wall, her pretty head buried in her hands. At the sound of Matilda’s footsteps she jumped up, “Mistress Mattie, what of my mother?” Matilda looked at the poor girl before shaking her head, knowing that would tell her everything she needed to know.
When Salazar woke that morning, the house was silent. He could not hear his father pacing in his office in the room next to him, nor his mother’s early morning singing. Scuttling servants stayed quiet and this disturbed Salazar. He literally fell out of bed, his messy, curly hair falling around his tanned face as he lifted himself up. He was unusually tall for his age; he looked like a bean pole, tall and skinny as if he would snap. However, Salazar liked this about himself. The large, tough looking Muggle boys his age tended to be bullies with no brains. Salazar prided his intelligence more than any collection of powerful muscles.
Salazar dressed quickly and then decided to look out of his window. It was a picturesque morning but there was something terribly wrong. There were large crowds flocking in the centre of the town; something that never happened unless it was the yearly market. Salazar whipped round to go and discover the commotion but found his mother hovering at the door. Her dark hair hung in curls round her shoulders and her amber eyes seemed morose. Marching up to his mother, he wrapped his arms around her. He loved her dearly and could not stand to see her looking so sad. “Mother,” he said, “whatever is the matter?” Breaking away she gave him a sad little smile before whispering, “Bess has served me so well and I could not do the one thing she’s ever asked from me.” Salazar looked at her quizzically and instantly understood. The crowds gathered in town were there to watch Caris Wydeville die.
“Where is Bess?” asked Salazar, his voice dripping with urgency. Tears in her eyes, his mother answered, “I think she’s gone to see it.” Salazar reacted quickly; he threw on some clothes not paying attention to his mother’s wide eyed staring. “Where are you going Salazar?” his mother asked, a hint of panic in her usually calm voice. “We can’t leave Bess alone now!” he said exasperatedly, sprinting past her, his heart hammering wildly in his chest. “Who knows what she’ll do?”
The crowds behaved like a wall. She could barely see their faces; her vision was blurred due to the tears in her eyes. She did not realise that she was sobbing loudly as the cheering voices burnt her ears with such force that she could not hear herself. Pushing as hard as she could she fell through the crowd until finally she could see her mother. There, as if a rag doll, was Caris Wydeville, the light forever gone from her eyes.
Bess fell to her knees, clutching her hands over her lips and sobbing her eyes out for what seemed like eternity. Her mother; the woman who had kept herself imprisoned to protect her was gone. Though Caris and Bess had not spent days cooking, cleaning and talking like normal mothers and daughters, Bess loved her mother whole heartedly and could not believe she had now departed this world. Bess cried, not daring to look at her mother’s corpse. The magnitude of what had happened was too great.
Suddenly she felt a pair of cold hands on her shoulders. Whipping herself around she found herself looking into the cold eyes of her twenty five year old brother, Rob. He had not gone by the name Rob for ten years, now being known as Robert after assailing the ranks in the service of his biological father. He had gained his fortune in the war against the Mercians and now was no longer the caring older brother she had always depended on. He was a stranger to her and she could not trust him at all. She could also not believe that his heart was filled with nostalgia of the times he had spent as a child with their mother. Those times had been wasted on him. As he had grown, he had gained a stronger and stronger resemblance to Guy and because of that, Bess felt a twinge of fear in her stomach.
“Bess,” he whispered, not daring to draw back his hood in case he was recognised by one of the crowed, “go home. It is not safe for you. My father could turn his wrath on you if he so wished.” Bess nearly spat at him. How could he suggest not crying for their mother’s death? “Your father just ruthlessly murdered my mother and you just want me to go home?” she nearly screamed, but the sound of the crowd kept her words hidden. “Yes,” Robert said urgently, his eyes darkening with something that could only be described as fear, “because you look so very much like our mother did at your age, and you act very much like her to!”
Bess instantly understood what Robert was trying to say, but she rejected his hand when he offered it to her. “I do not forgive you Rob,” she said angrily, pulling herself off the dusty market place’s ground, “you watched our family die and you are still loyal to him.” With than Bess pushed past her brother and melted into the crowd, trying to subdue the tears that wished to break through again. Soon she had pushed past into the empty space behind the crowd and she immediately began to run home. The Slytherin’s had been like her family for years. Giles, her elusive father constantly cultivating a stable life for his family. Matilda the caring mother who was always there for her and finally there was Salazar. She supposed he was like a brother, but at the same time he was not. Salazar was a truly special boy and for that he held Bess’ admiration.
He was clever, an astute wizard like the rest of the Slytherin family. Bess was one of the few privy to this dangerous secret and she was determined to keep it to her grave. She did not want them ending up like her mother, human ragdolls on pieces of rope. As she rounded the corner into the lane that lead to the Slytherin’s house, Bess noted the silhouette of a person running wildly up the street. She instantly recognised the gawky figure of Salazar hurtling towards her. At ten, he could run incredibly quickly. Once he approached, Bess appreciated how tall he actually was. He came up to her nose, and she was a tall girl of fourteen.
“Salazar, what are you doing here?” It was only now that Salazar began to look slightly embarrassed as he mumbled, “I heard what happened, I wanted to see that you were alright.” Bess gave him a half hearted smile. Salazar had always been a kind little boy; caring and compassionate, always thinking about others. There really was no one else like him in the world. “I am okay,” she said honestly, “well, the best I can be considering.”
Salazar gave her another smile and his violently green eyes shone after finding out she was not devastated, “that’s good. I am really sorry; I couldn’t stand it if I lost my mother.” Bess gave him a sad nod as she shrugged her shoulders, “well, who knows what games the gods play on us?” With that, Bess gave Salazar a gentle pat on the shoulder and the two of them turned around, making their way down the road ready to return to the mundane routine they were used to but with a heavy burden upon their young shoulders.
Hi...I know that was a bit of a filler and its been ages but this bit needed to be done before the next part of Salazar's story is to be told. Next Chapter, we move out of our characters childhoods as they finally reach the age of 17! Next Time...Godric hears what is in store for Harald and the tension between the two brothers finally comes to a head...
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