“I will not – I shall not – have a single thing to do with you!” He pushed her away. “You are unwholesome and unholy; evil and enfer-bound. No, and, again, no, I say.”
The hag looked up at the knight from where his shove had sent her, her filthy rags a contrast to his brightly-shining breastplate and gilded spurs.
“But, I love you.”
He laughed. “Love? What can such an ill-formed creature such as you know of love?”
She thrust a calloused and withered hand across her eyes and said, “I may seem too lowly and of no consequence for one such as you to apprehend when so many more important things command your attention, but such invisibility has afforded me ample opportunity to observe you and get to know you and fall in love.”
“Bah.” He spat. “Such a suggestion is vile; vile, I say. That you should imagine yourself equal to me that our flesh could ever meld… You repulse me.”
“You are a gentle and parfait knight,” she said, fighting to keep her tone even. “I have watched in the lists and in war and in the castle hall. I thought you noble, brave and handsome.”
“That as may be, hag, but these are the very reasons you can never have me. The Lord has exalted me high above you. You are everything I am not. Now, go, before I draw my sword.”
“I thought you kind, once…”
Scoffing, he placed his hand upon the hilt of his sword. “Kindness does not extend to vermin.”
Slowly, awkwardly, she stood and blinked her eyes: There were no tears in them, now. She fixed him with a steady gaze and, from within her ragged shawl, drew forth a supple hazel wand.
The knight laughed. “What is this? You think to strike me with a blade of your own?”
“No.” Her voice was firm like steel and he felt a shiver tickle his spine. “No,” she repeated. “This is the source of my power. I had hoped to win you with an appeal to your decency – to connect my soul with yours. That you would see me for whom I truly am and love me for it.”
He took a step backwards, but she kept talking: “Now, perhaps, I can win your love with the promise of my power. Be mine and I can make you ever-victorious in battle.”
“I already am.”
“I can give you power and wealth and fame.”
“No, not even an imperial crown could induce me to lie with you… but…”
“Could you make yourself beautiful; a gorgeous maiden worthy of my embrace?”
With a sigh, she shook her head. “Therein lies the limit of my mystical craft – I can change others, but not myself…”
“Then, it is impossible for me to love you.”
“Impossible! Now, off with you, hag.”
Her eyes narrowed and she waved her wand about her three times and spoke strange and terrible words and the knight felt fear such as he never had.
And, then, he felt quite different.
The witch reached down and picked him up and stroked his chin. The kitten in her arms meowed with pleasure.
With a sad smile, she turned and began the lengthy walk back to her cottage where a dozen cats awaited their new companion. She was never lonely, but never fulfilled.
Blinking back tears, she clutched the kitten to her breast.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Winter’s Grasp (Fantasia Divinity), andMisunderstood (Wolfsinger), and issues of Broadswords and Blasters, and BFS Horizons, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor) and a comic horror e-novelette, A Trip to the Middle of the World, available from Alban Lake through Infinite Realms Bookstore.
DJ Tyrer’s website is at https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.wordpress.com/