The Curse of Blackwater

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Write about someone whose busiest night of the year is Halloween.... view prompt

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Fantasy Bedtime Horror

(Trigger Warning: Rape, Abortion, Violence)

Ages ago, when petty kings fought for dominance over the land, lawlessness and cruelty were sovereign. Chaos was most rampant in the neglected countryside, far removed from the trappings of civilization. The Lords, busy with their squabbles, cared naught for the common folk. They waged war as long as there were boys to be taken and armed for their hosts.

One such Lord, a knight no less, was a man of bravery but also fierce temperament. His victories in war made him rich both from its spoils, as well as from his liege's favor - none other than the king. After a great victory against another claimant, Sir Bernard was rewarded with his very own fort in the outmost fringes of the realm. With it came the title of Lord of the remote village it towered over - Blackwater. This gave the knight plenty of opportunities to launch unsanctioned raids and wreak havoc on the settlements beyond the King's border.

Battle had made the knight a callous commander and, after endless seasons of bloodletting and war atrocities, Sir Bernard was more beast than man. Too many years he had spent on the back of his war horse. No company but that of his merciless henchmen; sleeping rough, ever clutching a blade. With plunder and murder as his daily bread, he no longer knew any law but that of the sword - his sword. 

With time, Sir Bernard's reputation as a savage warlord grew. Invitations for feasts became sparser and sparser, until they stopped altogether. The once-celebrated champion of the king was now thought to be no more than a glorified cutthroat. Company with whom not even the most modest of the gentry would want to be associated.

At first, the knight was downhearted to be made an outcast. Bitter and assailed by self-pity, he soon found refuge in drinking. Whenever he would drown himself in liquor, violence soon followed and his fits of anger often resulted in a frenzy of cruelty inflicted on his own people. It wasn't long until everyone learned to avoid the fort as much as possible. Even his servants dared not risk his attention for long, lest they became the target of his malice. Thus did the peasants of Blackwater took to calling their Lord, Bernard Black-heart.

Bernard's heart might had been rotting, but his mind was as sharp as his blade. With age, his martial prowess declined. He knew that if he could not carry on with his raiding parties, the silver would dry up. There was only one option - he needed to marry into wealth.

It was an unwonted apparition witnessed by that fateful Sunday's mass. One met with surprise and a wave of whispers of hushed-tone gossip. Everyone knew better than to interrupt service, for the priest was a zealot and bitter man keen on inflicting punishment on the less pious. But even he found himself unable to utter a single word from his half-gaped mouth, when Sir Bernard walked through the church's door, accompanied by armed men.

Ever since the Lord had taken residence in the fort, the priest recalled only but a handful of events wherein his church had hosted such company. Even then, only in the distant times when the king still honored Blackwater with a royal visit.

The black knight strode down the nave's aisle to the front of the altar, where the most preeminent freemen attended mass. There, he greeted them and signaled the priest to continue before giving the shocked congregants a chance to bow. 

At the end of mass, the custom was for villagers to linger and exchange niceties as well as gossip. But that day, all eyes were on the knight, who waited not for his intentions to become clear. 

He approached the elderly patriarch of a rich merchant family and, with a solemn tone, announced his wish to marry the man's only daughter - Lillian was her name.

The old man was speechless and looked over at the scared girl who cowered behind the tall figures of her brothers. Their faces betrayed the revulsion to the idea of marrying their sister to a man of such infamy. Knowing their place all too well, they bit their tongues. 

The father invited their Lord to discuss the matter further in the privacy of their townhouse. It was no secret Sir Bernard's coffers were running low and that her dowry was the solution for the knight's problems. 

His reaction, however, they did not expect. 

Offended, he wondered aloud what a high-born would do in the abode of ones such as themselves. The church echoed with murmurs and the old man felt the people's gaze like a humiliating pierce. The proposal stood, as Sir Bernard put it, most beneficial: The merchant's daughter would be elevated to nobility, as well as any children she would bear him. With a child on the way, the king, who worried over the continuity of that borderland's defense, had promised to make him a Baron. An opportunity to bring the mercantile family into the circles of high-nobility came less than once in a lifetime. 

They hesitated, as the mumbles of the eavesdropping townsfolk ceased and turned into looks of envy. 

And thus, reluctantly, they agreed to the proposal and shook hands with the Lord, as tears gathered at the corners of the girl's eyes. Her frightened stare met only with the most devious of grins, as Sir Bernard Blackheart bowed before departing.

But they had all been tricked. For Sir Bernard's lies and machinations were deep as his lust for riches. In truth, a royal missive had arrived threatening to depose him of his fief. The king feared indeed for its defense but aimed to grant it to a younger, stronger Lord who could keep taking the fight to the enemy. A decision the Blackheart Knight was confident he could overrule with the birth of an heir, and a decent amount of silver.

When the girl's protective brothers heard of this, they were livid and came at once to the fort of Blackwater. There, they mustered their courage and confronted the knight with these rumors. Emboldened by their own audacity, they questioned the Lord's ability to provide comfort for their sister. 

The servants and guards all held their breath for the poor brothers. They above all were accustomed to their master's temper and cruelty, even towards those who groveled beneath him. 

To their shock, Sir Bernard replied calm and collected, as to what evidence had they of this claim. The punishment for such unfounded accusations was severe and it ended especially bad when coming from those of lower birth. He questioned them if they had considered the rumor's veracity before spreading slander. 

Taken aback, the brothers swore on their lives they had not uttered a single word to a living soul. They had found it more honorable to come with the news straight to the Knight himself and grant him a chance to defend his honor. Not even their father knew they had come to the fort.

Sir Blackheart grinned once again, as he did that day in the church. Not only were the rumors true, but also spread of his own volition. He had counted on the brother's hasty confrontation. With their whereabouts unaccounted for, he had them murdered right there and then.

Honor, he thought, always shoved young men at sharpened steel. 

With one command of his voice, the knight became the sole inheritor of the merchant's wealth, as soon as he married Lillian. 

Their father, however, suspected what had happened. Without proof, he could not avenge the murder of his sons, but he could still call off the wedding. 

This too, Sir Blackheart had anticipated. His men were sent out to capture Lillian and bring her back to his fort. Once there, he raped her before her captors could even leave.

When her father noticed her missing, he feared the worst and roused some village folk to storm the fort. Most dared not raise arms against such an unforgiving Lord, but the promise of wealth was enough encouragement for a small mob to muster. 

Blackheart had for the third time been expecting this. At the fort's threshold, he stood with but a few warriors and the town priest. Still bloodied, Lillian stood not far behind.

The Blackheart Knight, once again calm, inquired what business had the old merchant with an armed host at his doorstep. 

The father demanded his daughter back. At such old age, his ability to fight was questionable, but his eyes burned with wild bloodlust.

Sir Blackheart put on his darkest grin yet. He asked the priest whether he had not been a witness to the betrothal that had taken place in his very own church, before God Himself. The priest nodded, his gaze heavy to the ground.

It dawned on the old merchant what the knight had plotted from the very beginning - It was no accident the request had taken place during mass. What he could not have foreseen was when Sir Blackheart lowered his head and confessed to kidnap and rape. 

Bewilderment overcame the mob as Sir Bernard Blackheart asked for forgiveness from the girl's father. His confession to the priest, the knight added, not being enough to uplift his soul. 

Met only with ominous silence, Sir Blackheart continued his petition. The waiting had been too much for him to bear. Fearing the spread of ill rumors to be a plot to break the engagement, he acted. 

However, a compromise could still be reached. He was willing to give Lillian back if her father admitted to the plot and paid for damages to his reputation. Or he would marry her in that instant, preserving her honor and even forgoing her dowry.

The old man dropped his weapon and knelt to the ground sobbing. It was over. He could never take his little girl home. 

Admitting to plot against a noble would surely ruin him. His family's name would be dragged in the mud and he would never do business again. A life of begging in the streets awaited him, without any means to provide for Lillian. This assuming his own life would even be spared. 

There was no one to appeal to either - The priest and witnesses most likely siding with the Knight for fear of retribution. If only he could still give his little girl's hand in marriage to another man, then maybe she could still have a second chance at life. But with her purity defiled, no one would ever take her as a wife.

With a last cry, he looked her in the eyes and reached for his knife. As he pushed it into his feeble heart, he prayed to God the Blackheart Knight would die soon after. 

Lillian was inconsolable. One moment she was frolicking in her youth and wealth, another, her entire family had been taken from her. All she had left was a life sentenced to serve the man who had destroyed or defiled everything she held dear. She pleaded with the priest, a holy man, to what kind of God would allow for this to happen. God, she was told, was infinite in His wisdom. And as a woman, she was sinful by nature. To repent, she was told to do.

Life was no longer worth living for Lillian, but the thought of revenge kept her going forward. Every morning and every night she would pray for God to execute divine justice and smite down her husband.

But she would not just wait and let fate take its course. With her wealth and newfound status, she had a convent built for His worship. Also, a place where women who had lost everything could dedicate their lives to God - a fate she wished for herself before her age had awoken the lust of cruel men. 

But even there, she was confronted with the priest who had been an accomplice to her husband's crimes. Undermining her efforts and belittling her cause, he put forth every obstacle imaginable against women joining the convent. Ever since its founding, none but a handful of souls had entered its service. 

Lillian's life was torture and a constant reminder that God was deaf to her suffering, as were all His subjects.

One day, her heart sank as she came to learn her biggest fear had came true - She was with child. 

The thought of bearing the spawn of that sadistic man made her sick to her soul. It was then she decided to take drastic measures and for the first time in her life, a woman's life, be the one in control. 

If God was not willing to listen to her pleas, there was another who was willing and able - the Devil. 

She knew what had to be done. Renouncing God was the easy part. He had never brought her solace. Hell couldn't possible hold any surprises for her.

Pledging herself to the Lord of Darkness was a harrowing experience, but the reward would be the power to undo her enemies.

In the end, there was but one last price she needed to pay for binding her soul in fiery damnation - the blood of the innocent. Not only innocent but high-born too, she thought to sweeten the deal.

Without hesitation, she took the knife her father had used to end his own life and plunged it into her womb. Blood was everywhere and her vision started to fade, but she could not help but smile.

For most, this would be the end. But not for Lady Lillian of Blackwater - The Devil had accepted her pact.

She woke up from her dreamless slumber on a bed in her namesake convent. Surrounded by the poor souls who tirelessly maintained it despite the lack of novices. They told her, she had been asleep for weeks on end. In that time a lot had happened. 

Upon finding out his unborn child would never live, Sir Blackheart had flown into the biggest rage yet. He had burned the entire village to the ground and holed up in his fort when he heard the King had sent a Baron, to claim the fief as his own. The siege lasted but a few days and the Baron had stormed the tower and killed her husband. 

Sir Bernard of Blackwater, the Blackheart Knight was dead. Lillian could not contain the tears of joy. The Devil was true to his word, it seemed. 

But that was not all. The Baron, having other fiefs to manage, had departed and abandoned the fort in ruins. 

There was no more Blackwater, only ashes. Lillian's home, burnt to the ground, would never be rebuilt without a Lord in the now derelict fort. 

Her freedom, she thought, would have nay a price too high.

Lillian recovered fast and soon took on the robes of Abbess at the remote and lonely convent of Blackwater. But her vendetta was far from over, and she had no intention of betraying her Dark Lord to whom she had pledged her soul.

There was one more man she sought to bring down - the priest. 

Lillian's dreams were filled with dark omens and terrible insights. She had learned the whereabouts of said priest, but also that her sisters had all been defiled by him in the past. All locked away in that remote convent so that one man could relieve himself of any urges of the flesh without consequence.

She summoned them all and laid her vision of vengeance. A vision where women were not a commodity, a vision where they would not suffer because they had been born women. A vision where what made them women was not sin, but a gift to be wielded. Not by whatever morals a deaf God dictated, but by their own whims and principles.

That night, all five sisters made a solemn oath. Not to the Devil, but to each other, with the Dark Lord as witness. They asked for power and the price remained the same. That night, five babies went missing in the black of the night, snatched from their cribs. Their high-born blood, the ink to seal dark vows. 

That terrible and darkest of nights, the convent and its most unholy order were reborn as the Coven of Blackwater. Its mission would be forever to elevate women from the yoke of God-fearing men. 

Baptized with the blood of an anointed priest, she now proudly stood as Lilith, the witch of Blackwater, first of her kind, and the head of the Coven.

And since that day, every year on All Hallows' Eve they uphold their vows: To feast on the blood of little princes and barons alike. To feast on them for as long as women need to be witches, just so that they may belong to none but themselves.

October 29, 2021 18:30

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2 comments

Lin Darroe
16:28 Nov 17, 2021

Very well-written and impactful piece! Your narrative took me back to those times and held my attention. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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Rik Lelic
08:30 Nov 19, 2021

Thank you so much for the comment Lorraine. Although I’ve been writing for some time this was my first time posting something online. So your feedback is truly motivating

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