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Warlock of God

by Mr.RMA

Mr.RMA My final fiction writing from school this year, and hopefully one of my better ones.
In the colonial town of Osmundshire, a pious gunsmith, sickened by the sudden witch-hunting paranoia of late, is greeted by a mysterious young woman. Fearing for her safety, he decides to take her in for a short while, but as suspicion of what he's hiding creeps in from the townspeople, he comes to learn that his guest may be more than she appears, and it may just be enough to test his own faith.
If ever there was a man more certain about who he was and where he was going than Enoch Tasker, the citizens of Osmundshire knew nothing of him. He would always stand upright and walk in long strides, keeping his head held high and attentive. He was proud of his work, proud of his standing in the town, and most of all, he was proud of his faith. A true man of God was how he viewed himself, and he was certain his neighbors would view him the same way though his words and his actions. He kept a bible in his grasp every time he stepped out of his house on the far side of town, no matter what the occasion. A simple wooden cross hung on a thin rope around his neck, never obscured by his jacket, resting atop his shirt and waistcoat. He was devout, just as the rest of Osmundshire was, but unlike the others, Enoch was comparatively more of a realist. Stories about supernatural occurrences or divine encounters hardly fazed him. He was a firm believer, but he also believed that there was nothing godly about this age, and there was no reason for the Lord to come back now. Not when his followers were so savage.

“Five more hangings in that forsaken place. What beastly behavior is this? Talk of witchcraft, black magic, and that is all it takes to start with the killings. We call ourselves civilized folk. Never have I heard such hypocrisy in my years,” he grumbled as he angrily wiped a cloth around the handle of the flintlock pistol he was working on. He had gotten word of the executions from Salem Town earlier that day on his trip to the market. It was frustrating him to no end that people could so easily fall for such rumors. Witchcraft in these colonies? What on Earth would witches be doing around here? The worst of it was that most of the townsfolk here believed it wholeheartedly. He could see the panic in their eyes, the paranoia, and the uneasiness over their neighbors, whom they had known all their lives. Soon they would be forgetting their friendly ties and start tearing at each other’s throats, and all for nothing but a few myths. It sickened him to know this was what was expected out of his faith, but he knew there was nothing he could do to change it. All he could do was stick to his business and keep quiet…and pray this could all somehow just end.

As he put the pistol down on his workbench, Enoch could hear the light sound of shuffling feet somewhere in the back of his shop. He sighed at the knowing sign of an intruder in his residence and patted the handle of his own holstered gun as he turned around and faced the direction of the sound. “It is unwise to be sneaking around a gunsmith’s house. Come on out,” he called out in an unamused tone. He figured it was probably one of those Chesterton boys, making a ruckus as usual, but they did not usually tend to break in so subtly. Sure enough, the intruder proved a different sort entirely. Much to Enoch’s surprise, a young woman who couldn’t have been beyond her early twenties came into view, wearing only a battered and torn green dress without any frills or laces, as if she had crafted it out of a single fabric. No shoes or gloves of any sort were on her, and her long, black hair was terribly messy, some of it drooping over the front of her pale white face. She looked rather embarrassed over being found out like this, giving a hesitant bow in greeting.

“Please forgive the intrusion, sir, I did not intend to bring any trouble to you. I am in dire need of shelter,” she explained, attempting to keep herself upright and composed, but it was clear to Enoch that she was struggling greatly just to sound believable. “I have come across some terrible luck as of late. This is the first house I have seen in several days’ time. I am fortunate, as I do not believe I could last another hour in that wilderness.” She leaned back against the wall closest to her, clutching her forehead in a daze.

“Please, take a seat, madam. I would not want you to crumple to the floor for the sake of politeness,” Enoch said as he hastily brought a small wooden stool over for her. She nodded thankfully as she sat down on it, slouching forward tiredly. “Now, if you can, I would like you to tell me your name first of all.”

She seemed to pause before answering, as if she needed to process this request before coming up with a suitable answer. “Sara. My name is Sara, sir. I am afraid I do not have the privilege of a last name.” She seemed to look down rather dejectedly at this bit of news, enough of a signal to Enoch to not bother delving into the matter any further.

“Well, it is good to meet you, Miss Sara. I am Enoch Tasker, the gunsmith to this town. It is my honor to welcome you to Osmundshire. Of course, I am rather curious as to your means of visiting. What grave misfortunes brought you here in such dismal conditions?” It was the first question that had come to mind at the sight of her, but he wanted to get the pleasantries out of the way first, for manners’ sake.

“I was fleeing... several men from my former town were pursuing me. They would have gotten to me if I had not heard their murmurs beforehand,” she explained. Naturally, Enoch found this a rather curious revelation, and almost immediately the debacle in Salem came to mind.

“They were throwing some blind accusations at you, were they not?” he said, Sara responding with simply a nod. “Well, I am afraid we are not in a much greater position here. Fear has been spreading like plague…and if they catch sight of a runaway like you, suspicions will rise without fail,” he grumbled, the thought both frustrating and worrying him. He already knew of several friends who were accused of witchcraft, jailed, awaiting their ends and he couldn’t do anything to liberate them. This young woman though, perhaps he could save her. As of then he was the only one who knew of her existence in Osmundshire. If he kept it that way, at least until she was healthy enough to continue on her way or this witch panic wore out, he could have something to help brighten up his soul somewhat. “If you wish, I could allow you to stay here for a while, but you will need to stay out of sight. If the wrong people find you, you will surely end up in the same trouble you struggled to escape in the first place.” Even with this explained she seemed pleasantly surprised with this offer. Enoch himself was taken aback by his own words, realizing the magnitude of this decision, knowing this was going to be a major change in his life. Then again, his life was already changing so much against his will, so what was one more difference at this point?

“Thank you, Mr. Tasker, I promise to not be a burden to you,” Sara said cheerfully, though her voice still sounded rather weak.

“Do not push yourself, Miss. I will get a space arranged for you upstairs, and then you can rest,” he said as he went up the stairway in order to rearrange one of the rooms to make a hidden place for Sara, one that wouldn’t be easily detected. Once he made his way back downstairs, he noticed that his fireplace had been lit. Peculiar, considering it was quite a distance away from where she was seated. Likely she just managed to get enough strength back to walk over there. After all, it was getting cold, so, in any case, he wasn’t going to complain over the warmth.

“Your room is ready, Miss Sara. Will you need any assistance upstairs?” he asked her, offering a hand, though she merely waved off the gesture.

“I believe I have the strength to manage now, Mr. Tasker, but I thank you for the offer all the same,” she said, steadily making her way up the steps, indeed appearing to have regained at least enough stamina to reach the upper floor, though he could easily tell from the soft thud he heard that she had been quick to fall upon her mattress as soon as she arrived. Enoch had made sure to keep watch on her as she made the short trek, sitting down near the fireplace once he was certain she would be alright, suddenly traversing into thought about this new situation at hand. This whole situation he had just placed himself in was completely unheard of, harboring a young woman, being alone with her like this. It felt strange even thinking about it, but his desire to take care of another victim of these senseless trials was enough for him to take on such a risky endeavor. He was going to have to make sure no one had any reason to seek out that guest room, and at the same time, he would have to provide for her without anyone questioning his inexplicable increase in food rations. If the fear running rampantly through the town didn’t let up any time soon, that was going to prove quite the difficult task.

Nonetheless, Enoch’s usual daily routine didn’t change all that much initially. The only real change was that he was no longer returning to an empty house every evening, though Sara proved anything but an annoyance. She was very polite, always, greeting him every time he went up to check on her before he went to cook their meals, which she would always accept without hesitation. He would make sure to supply her with water, along with a spare chamber pot he had for any visitors. He couldn’t offer her any new clothes, but he could at least do his best to tailor them somewhat, patch them up, and wash them. Every so often, Enoch would let her move about beyond her room, around the house, out of the slight guilt he was beginning to feel for keeping her stowed away, even though she would never voice complaints about it herself, merely accepting the opportunity to explore his abode a little more thoroughly with gracious cheer. She had proven herself an extremely polite lady in Enoch’s eyes, and he was beginning to question how such a polite and gentle young woman could cause such a ruckus in whatever town she had fled from.

The town’s witch paranoia was increasing with each passing day, and the masses that Enoch was attending seemed to be almost completely devoted to warnings by the priest about how these satanic creatures could be anywhere, and anyone, and that no one was completely devoid of suspicion. This only served to stoke the flames of panic, and it wasn’t long before people were finally starting to get brought to trial. Enoch was required to attend, and he was disgusted at how manic these hearings proved. People were either shouting accusations or screaming in their defense, and the results were nearly always the same, the judges would have them all sent to the prisons. It wouldn’t be long before the condemned were executed, and the very thought sickened Enoch to no end. These were his neighbors, his friends, the only people he had truly come to know throughout his life. They had all transformed into such savage, crazed beasts, all because of a few rumors. With each, trial, he found it more and more difficult to keep quiet, but he knew he had to. Otherwise, he would just be condemning himself, and he could not let himself get imprisoned, especially now that he was looking after someone.

As Enoch took his daily trip to the marketplace, he noticed an unsettlingly small number of shops open. Apparently the trials had taken their toll on the storeowners, and it was a harsh one. As he went to purchase his double rations of maize, he noticed a certain glare coming from the owner as he handed the corn over to him.

“You have been buying more than you usually do for a while now, Enoch. Mind if I ask why?” he asked, his graying eyebrows furrowed with obvious distrust.

“Just making sure I am well off, Mr. Brand. With all the folks being locked up, supplies are going to be more difficult to get ahold of,” Enoch said, though he got no vocal response out of Mr. Brand, who merely watched him silently as he walked back home. This wasn’t the only way suspicion was cast upon Enoch. He had been quick to dismiss people from his residence after they handed him their guns to be repaired and cleaned, no longer offering a casual chat as he used to do. It was obvious as well that he was spending more time at home than usual, and gradually this all began to form wariness amongst the others. Enoch could see this as the days passed, the way they would stare at him, muttering things to each other behind his back, just out of ear’s reach. He knew he was in trouble, and he knew that there was nothing he could do, unless he decided to actually let them know about Sara, but he couldn’t bring himself to do this. After all, at this rate, a stranger like her would have no chance to avoid the gallows. She wouldn’t even be held in prison for very long, no, it would be the noose without hesitation.

The stress and worry that was beginning to constrict Enoch was enough to catch Sara’s eye as well, as he could evidently see whenever he went to check on her that she was getting concerned for his well-being, that she herself started to feel more than a little guilty for allowing an innocent man like him to fall under such heavy suspicion, all on her own account.

One evening, as he brought up her supper, she quickly spoke up as he turned to leave. “Mr. Tasker…Enoch…I’m afraid there is something I must confess to you, something I’ve kept hidden, and it’s only fair to let you know, since you’ve already suffered quite a bit because of me,” she said, looking down rather ashamedly as Enoch sat across from her, curious as to what she had to say. She seemed to pause for quite some time before eventually continuing. “Those accusations that those men from my former town placed upon me were not exactly ‘blind’… I’m afraid they held some truth to them. You see, I’m what your kind has come to call a witch. I’m sorry I didn’t admit this to you outright, but, I had feared for my life, and I didn’t know how you would react to it. I see now how far you have been willing to go in order to tend to the needs of someone in a compromising position, and, because of that, I feel it’s only fair that you do with my confession whatever you please.”

Enoch stumbled back a little at this, his mind having to quickly catch up to her words. A witch? Was she serious? Surely they were non-existent, he had believed so from the start, and there was never any proof otherwise. She seemed to see he wasn’t completely convinced, and decided to prove her point further by snapping her fingers, summoning a small wisp of flame into the air. So, that business with the fireplace was in fact something supernatural. Enoch was beside himself at this new information presented to him, but, eventually, as his morality seemed to clash with itself, he seemed to come to a conclusion.

“So you are a witch. I suppose I should be fearful of this, but, I do not think I am…You have been nothing but kind to me in return for my own hospitality since you came here. I do not wish to have someone like you being condemned, not when you’re likely the sanest of us all…I believe I have made up my mind. I will go and confess tomorrow. If I keep the blame on myself, it’ll give you time to escape without notice.”

“Mr. Tasker, no, why would you sacrifice yourself in such a way for me? I am the very being your own religion sees as a servant of evil,” Sara answered back in protest.

“You’ve proven to me that that is not as clear a description as we all once thought. It is evident to me now that if magical folk like yourself exist, then, there is far more to all this than I could ever hope to understand,” he said, just as the sound of heavy knocking came from his door. “Well, it appears they have taken matters into their own hands…You can escape from the back while they take me in,” he said, though as he turned to face his fate, he felt her arm reach for him, holding him back.

“I can’t let you. Not after this. Please, let me return your kindness, let me send you away from this place, somewhere more peaceful, somewhere where you can live out your life without having to throw it away like this,” she said, her grip firm on his arm. He looked at her silently for a moment, but, eventually, he found himself nodding in agreement.

“I suppose it is a better fate…facing the unknown over facing the noose. Where is this place you speak of?” he asked her, though she seemed to only give a coy smirk at this question.

“You will see, Mr. Tasker, all in due time,” she said, murmuring what seemed to be a chant in another language as they both suddenly vanished from the abode, just as the villagers outside barged in. They were greeted by an empty house. The occupier was gone, and he would not return.
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