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The Witch And Her Familiar

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Cassandra's heart ached as tears rolled down herporcelain face, hot April sun shined down on the redhead but she noticed not. Before her buried deep in the dark earth was her father, Doctor Robert Cillian, soil piled high and fresh; only a few feet to his left lay her Mother who'd died two years previous. Alone, Cassandra was all alone in the world now, just a girl of eighteen with no family and very few friends; it wasn't that she didn't want friends just that everyone seemed to innately know she was different. She was scared. Reverend Carson had given her father – Salem's doctor – a wonderful service for which she was grateful, Flynn Carson and his wife, Eve, were good people and on the very short list of Cassandra's friends. Eve would no doubt keep a close eye on her as was the blonde woman's way, naturally protective and kind.

No matter how much she wanted to remain by her father's grave side she couldn't sit there forever, especially dressed in all black under such smouldering sun. Remaining any longer would only set the gossiping tongues of Salem wagging, gossiping was a sin and yet it didn't seem to stop them.

Determined to keep her head high Cassandra made her way home. Her family's house – well, her house now – was a dark blue color and stood out against the other dark brown and black wooden structures that made up the town of Salem, large up easily hidden by the thick woodland that surrounded them on all sides save for one that lead to the ocean, fishermen could be seen hard at work out on the bay.

The Cillian family wasn't excessively rich but since her father had been Salem's doctor they were certainly better off than those that lived in Kocker's Hole; the whorehouse was down there too. Easily she made her way across the market square, past the ever present gallows, into her home and removed her black bonnet, it seemed too quiet without the sound of her father or Nathaniel moving around in her father's office. She set it down on the dining table and sat at her father's sturdy but worn chair. Nathaniel had been the Cillian family slave but the man had never been treated as one, she'd grown up knowing Nathaniel as more of an Uncle than anything else. Her father had always been asking the dark-skinned man's opinion and they had eaten together as a family; much to her mother's annoyance. Nathaniel had been with her father out in the woods gathering herbs for his medicines when the savage animal had attacked and his body was yet to be found, Cassandra doubted it ever would be, to Salem he was just a slave and not worth looking for. She'd never see either of them again, never have her father smile at her or let her aid his work. Never go blackberry picking with Nathaniel again. Never be hugged by her father or smell his scent and that knowledge bough her tears back. They rolled down her cheeks like two dying rivers, her face turned red and slowly her eyes started to sting.

After some time Cassandra managed to get a hold of herself, her father had always taught her to be strong and brave, she was determined not to let him down. Robert had made sure she could control her emotions, she'd thought it strange growing up but she'd never questioned him. With a deep breath Cassandra dried her eyes on the back of her hand and rose to her feet to make tea, the hot liquid would help calm her body and her late father had believed tea could cure just about anything. Floorboards creaked slightly as she made her way to the dark wood kitchen to fill the kettle with water before setting it to boil over the fire. Deep breaths were all she could do to prevent the tears returning, soon enough the kettle had boiled and she carefully poured hot water into the white teapot and added the leaves generously. Cassandra set it down on a silver tray that had been handed down on her mother's side of the family for generations along with a china cup and tiny jug of milk then carried it through to the dining table where she had left her bonnet. Just as she set the tray down there was a sudden gust of wind that Cassandra could not explain, none of the windows were open, her cerulean eyes glanced around the simple but eloquent room yet nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. Suddenly her dazzling blue eyes found a small white envelope rested against her bonnet, it was addressed to her in her father's hand and had most certainly not been there when she'd come home. Cautiously she sat down and opened the letter, curiosity overtaking her concern that someone might have let themselves into her home, not that there was anywhere they could have hidden without Cassandra seeing or hearing them.

 

My darling Cassandra,

If you are reading this then I am gone. I hoped you would never have to find out this way but if I am gone and this letter has come to you then I died before the right moment to tell you came. I am so sorry for this, my child. Please know I love you and I never meant to keep it from you so long but Salem is a dangerous place for our kind. I only wished for you to be safe. You safe is all I have ever wanted.

I know this is hard for you to believe, daughter, had I not been raised knowing I would not believe either. I assure you all this is true, Cassandra. We are not like the rest of Salem, or indeed any Puritans, we are not entirely human. We are witches, you and I, just as my parents and their parents were. You Mother never knew, she would not have understood and believed us corrupted by the Devil himself. We might not be completely human but we are certainly not monsters or the Devil's servants. When I sailed from England to Salem I vowed to limit my magical use to only aiding those that would not heal with only my skills as a doctor, Nathaniel helped me hide it from everyone, including you. If I am gone Nathaniel is too, he and I shared a bond that can only be broken by death, he lives but you will never see him again. Nathaniel wasn't like us but nor was he human. I am so sorry to leave you alone in the world, my girl.

In times of great grief your magic comes to the surface because it is emotion based, I have been their to limit your power in the past but I cannot do it any more, I cannot keep you hidden, and so you must learn to control it for yourself. I hate that I have kept all this a secret from you but I believed it kinder to let you be like everyone else rather than living in fear of being discovered for what you really are, a True Witch. I experienced that fear my entire life and it is something I never wanted you to experience.

 

Cassandra's tears came forth a new, she'd always known she was different to everyone else, known there was something but she'd never had a name for it. Was this some cruel joke or was that difference really witchcraft? It actually all made sense. Her red eyes continued to read.

 

Cassandra, my darling girl, there is one thing you must know beyond all else and you must never forget it. Not even for a single moment because it could lead to your death. There are several witches in Salem, but not all can be trusted. Some would plot your destruction simply because they could. To satisfy their dark humour. Do not...

 

A knock came at the door, a sharprap of knuckles against the dark wooden front door that brought her thoughts away from her father's letter and back to the real world. Quickly she dried her eyes again and went to answer it.

Morgan Le Fay, the widow of Salem's last Magistrate, though her husband was long since dead she still had great sway over the people of Salem; much more than any woman should have had if the Selectmen were to be believed. No one could deny Morgan's beauty, short curly red hair never out of place and skin the color of milk, bright eyes and a sharp smile. Her dress was a pale green color most of which had been hidden under her long brown cloak. Morgan radiated authority and power, she was what every woman in Salem aspired to be.

“Hello, Miss Cillian.” Began the older woman with a look of sympathy. “I wanted to check on you during this hard time. Might I come in?”

“Of course, please.” Cassandra stepped aside to allow Morgan into her home before retrieving the tea tray. “I'll make a fresh pot of tea.”

The remaining water in the kettle was still hot so it didn't take long reboil it and bring the tray back through to the dining room. There she found Morgan reading the letter form her father, suddenly there was a great crash and only after hot tea splashed against her dress did Cassandra realise she'd dropped her mother's silver tray, china cups shattered on the floor into tiny shards and hot tea soaked into the patterned rug.

“Em... I … It's not what it looks like, I can explain. It's-”

Morgan cut the younger woman's blathering off with a raised hand, that smile still coated her face while Cassandra's eyes had gone wide with horror and panic. Morgan knew, knew what she was, something that Cassandra herself hadn't known until a few minutes ago. Salem took pride in killing witches, she'd be next, she was going to be hung or burnt.

“You're not alone, Cassandra.” The red-head’s mind grounded to a halt, a pause in her panic, blue orbs looked up to Morgan's own, wide and in disbelief. “Your father speaks of other witches in Salem and Robert is right, there are. I am one of them. You have nothing to fear from me, Cassandra.”

The younger woman couldn't quiet believe what she was hearing but her heart did calm somewhat in her chest.

“You are a witch?”

“Yes, Cassandra, I am. However, I prefer Sorceress, witch carries too much gender baggage. Robert is also correct that you need to learn to control what you are, Salem is not too friendly to our kind. I shall teach you about our craft, how to remain out of suspicion, it is the least I can do for you.”

Partly out of shock and partly out of fear of her own unknown power Cassandra thanked the older woman and accepted her aid, maybe she wasn't alone in this world after all. With a simple wave of Morgan's gloved hand the shattered tea tray gathered itself up and came to rest on the dining table, gone was the puddle of cooling tea on the floor as well as her dress and there wasn't even a faint line where the cracks had been on the crockery, Cassandra gasped.

“Oh that is just a parlour trick compared to what we are truly capable of, my dear.” Chuckled Morgan. “Come to my home tomorrow at noon, I'll tell you what you need to know and soon you'll be doing whatever you wish with nothing more than a thought.”

“I will, thank you, Missus Le Fay.”

The smile never fell form Morgan's face as she left Cassandra alone with her thoughts, she gathered the letter back into her hands and could have sworn there had been more after his warning that some witches couldn't be trusted but instead she just found his name signed at the bottom.

There was part of her that still thought this was all some cruel joke, but when she truly thought about it Cassandra could remember strange occurrences when her mother died. Doors and windows had opened randomly as she cried, the fire had even burst to life but her father had always explained it away and calmed her down. It had to be real, no trick could have repaired her tea cups and cleaned the liquid from her dress. She didn't want to think it true but it explained so much though her eighteen years, in the back of her head was a voice that told her to believe, that said her father's words were all heartfelt and true. Witches did exist... and Cassandra was one of them.