by Mike W
A family tradition and something amiss in the nursery.
|This all happened a long time ago – though not so long as you may suppose – in a part of Cornwall so remote that even today it remains undiscovered, and thus unspoiled, by the swarms of tourists that descend each summer, devouring pasties and cream teas, and searching for piskies. A place where the distinction between the modern world and the ancient remains vague at best.
In a story as old as humankind a boy and a girl met and fell in love.
Morwenna, though, was not like the other girls. Her family was ancient and wise in the old ways, of Wicca and Paganism and witchcraft, and yet other things for which there was not even a name. She was descended from a long line of matriarchs, powerful and strong – and cursed.
Branok knew nothing of this, though he’d heard the whispers and rumours. He was a good soul and he loved Morwenna with all his heart. As did she him.
It was a traditional tale – bucolic courtship, heady and exciting; a marriage blessed by all; and then Morwenna bloomed with the spark of life.
But she knew the history of her family and the supposed fate of each new first-born – the price they paid for their knowledge. It was a story she had been told since infancy but the young, as is their way, always believe there is another way.
The child was born, beautiful and perfect, and loved utterly by its devoted parents. A girl and they named her Senara.
At night Senara would lie peacefully in her cradle, watched over by Morwenna and Branok, and the two lovers vowed to keep their beautiful daughter safe always, despite the constant dread that Morwenna kept from her husband.
Then one stormy night, the rain lashing noisily against the window, Morwenna was singing a soft lullaby over the sleeping Senara. Branok was downstairs.
From inside the cradle came a red glow. Morwenna knew instantly what was happening. She looked closely and saw that her daughter’s eyes were now open, staring horribly up at her with an ugly adult knowing that seemed a blasphemy coming from her innocent child. It was the eyes that were the source of the red glow.
She knew what she was meant to do - submit to the will of higher forces, allow her offspring to be taken and in exchange she would be blessed with knowledge and powers and many more beautiful children, but she would not allow it to happen. She would fight it.
Snatching up her child she screamed and uttered every incantation her mother and grandmother had taught her, and made all the signs possible to protect Senara and herself, but out of the cradle arose a thing of such eldritch and ineffable horror that she was powerless to resist.
Drawn by the anguished screams Branok raced up the stairs and into the nursery but the cradle was empty, and Morwenna and Senara both gone. He never saw them again.