It all started with a house. Four families must come together...or against each other.
A shot rang out in the night, followed by an anguished scream. If anyone would have been in those dark woods, they would have seen the corpse of a young adult male. A single shot in his abdomen. It was the body of Thatcher Borne, the son of the late Henry Borne who was one of the founders of nearby Norwich, Connecticut.
A lone house stood near the outskirts of these woods. It sat alone and it appeared to be recently constructed. No signs of life or anyone inhabiting it. But once you approach the front entrance and enter the hallway, there is another body. Two gunshot wounds in her chest. It was the body of Josephine Rosenthal, the town concubine. Her father was Jacques Rosenthal, another founder of Norwich.
There were two others out here in the dead of the night. One of them being a young girl, barely a teenager. She was running for her life and she carried an old pistol. It was not hers; she had found it while trying to defend herself against Josephine and Thatcher who were making threats to hang her. Ivy Sterling didn't mean to kill them. She doesn't even recall pulling the trigger. She held it out as a warning to back off. Next thing she knew, a bullet went clean through Thatcher Borne's body, killing him instantly.
"You killed him! Witch! Sorceress!" Josephine screamed at the girl. "We were only joking around with you...but now I see the rumors were true! It can only explain why a child is out here so late at night gathering. The Sterlings are dabbling in black magic"!
"No! You don't understand. Josephine, I swear...my sister...she's really sick. I'm getting the plants my aunt told me to get to help her," Ivy pleaded.
"That's what a witch would want me to think! You're going to be in so much trouble! I'm going to find Mr. Porter. He'll see that you'll be hung for your crimes"! Josephine took off running back toward the house. Ivy started to panic and ran after her as an effort to stop Josephine from staining her name.
Thacker Porter was not a man to be trifled. His family was one of the first to arrive in Norwich and help turn it into the town it was today. The Porters became prominent in Norwich before tragedy struck: he was the lone survivor after a mysterious illness claimed the lives of his family and most of the residents. As a result, he became bitter and reclusive. He left Norwich and was living in the woods not far from town. It brought too many painful memories to remain there. People had counted on him to protect them, but in his eyes, he failed and couldn't forgive himself.
He was gathering wood he chopped earlier when he heard someone yelling his name. He set the pile down and looked around. He noticed the house immediately and froze. Thacker blinked his eyes several times in disbelief. "How is this possible", he asked himself. "That was certainly not there earlier".
It was then he saw Josephine, her red hair flying all over as she ran for the front steps of the house. He heard her calling for him frantically. He noticed her face was flushed and blood splattered on her dress. Where did that blood come from, he wondered? What little he knew of the girl was that her family was newer to Norwich, and was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She clearly wasn't out here hunting animals or gathering supplies. She was running from something...but what?
His question was soon answered by more rustling and saw an even younger girl running after the redhead. She was merely a child, no older than 12 or 13. She looked familiar to him, but couldn't place how. She looked terrified as she ran after the older girl. Thacker saw the small gun in her hand, and concern filled him.
Two shots rang in the air, followed by two distinctly different screams. Josephine knew she wasn't long for this life. Given her profession, she knew there were risk and took as many precautions as possible. But never did she see herself dying in the hands of a child.
"Should have never taken the Borne boy up on his offer", she shuddered as her eyes closed for the last time. "Wasn't worth all this trouble..."
Thacker silently made his way behind a large tree about 200 yards away. He heard the sound of rapid footsteps hit wood, then grass as he saw the younger girl run from the house. Her expression was pure terror and blood covered her face and clothing. The gun was nowhere to be seen on her.
"Hey!" He decided to make his presence known then instead of further frightening her. He heard her give a yelp of alarm and whipped around to see him.
"Please sir! I didn't mean to! I didn't shoot the gun!" Ivy pled. "It went off on its own! I didn't kill her!" She broke down crying, scared to think what was going to happen to her. Surely, she was going to be hung.
Thacker approached the crying girl slowly and got down on his knees to seem less threatening to her. He placed his hands on her shoulders and made her look up at him.
"Let's start at the beginning. I'm sure there's some kind of explanation to what's going on here". He could feel her shaking. She was clearly scared but he needed to get to the bottom of this. "What is your name? Why are you out here all by yourself"?
Ivy took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. "I am Ivy Sterling. I was only out here gathering chamomile and ginger roots to help my sister. She has taken gravely ill. That's why I'm out here so late. I know it seems strange, but it's urgent, sir. She may not make it to the morning".
Thacker saw the basket filled with said plants and felt she was telling the truth. "What else happened? Who else was out here?"
"I was collecting the last of the ginger when I saw two people in a clearing not far from here. They were...exchanging affections with one another. I was trying to quietly let them be but I stepped on a branch and got their attention. After scolding me for bothering them, they asked me why I was out so late gathering plants. The Borne boy started accusing me of being a witch and Josephine agreed with him". She started to tear up again as she rehashed the memories. "They threatened to hang me. I tried getting away, but they grabbed at me and started dragging me to the tree. I saw a glimmer in the truck and saw it was an old pistol. There was a faint inscription that read 'MA'S', but I'm not sure who that is".
"You found a pistol inside this tree trunk? Are you sure?" Thacker interrupted her, confused by this revelation. He had been out here for a while and gathered everything that may have been left behind; not once had he found a pistol inside a tree.
"I thought it to be strange too, but I swear on my father's grave," Ivy said quickly. "I didn't even get a chance to see if there was anything in it when it went off and killed the Borne boy. Josephine became angry at me and left to go find help. I followed after her because I didn't want to be blamed for something I didn't do. I promise this is true"!
Thacker wasn't sure what to believe. On the one hand, this girl was clearly scared and didn't appear to have malice intent to harm anyone. But on the other side, he had never had issues with a gun erratically discharging. She was being threatened with her life as well, and while in his eyes it was grounds to defend yourself, it should be a last resort. He had made his decision.
"I believe you. But we will need to report this to the constable," Thacker stood up, pulling her up to stand.
"But I didn't kill them! I swear!" Ivy ripped her arm away and took off running deeper into the woods. She needed to get home. She wasn't going to be blamed for something that wasn't her fault. She could hear Thacker shouting for her to come back but she refused to turn around. The fog was getting thicker, and it was hard for Ivy to see anything. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a glimmer of white light and headed that way. A lone tree stood in the clearing, its size intimidating.
She felt a strange presence near this tree, but she couldn't understand what that could have been. That wasn't the only strange thing she noticed: the giant tree was in full bloom. The rest of the trees were long dead due to an early frost. She also noticed it was eerily quiet, as if this space was inside a bubble and away from everything else in the woods. Ivy knew she had to hide as she couldn't outrun Thacker. She grabbed the lowest tree limb and began to climb up to hide herself in the vegetation. As soon as she was concealed, she heard heavy footsteps from who she assumed was Thacker looking for her.
"Come on kid. I know you're nearby. You can't outrun me," he shouted. He glanced around to see if there was any movement. As Ivy was trying to adjust herself, her foot hit a branch, causing some of the leaves to rustle a little. She could see Thacker looking right at her, but he didn't appear to see Ivy herself. He pulled out his own pistol and went to the base of the giant tree.
"I'm not going to kill you. This is a precaution," Thacker shouted out to the empty clearing.
As Ivy was going to respond, she felt something snap around her ankle and saw there was a vine from the tree moving. She was pulled back violently and found herself hanging upside down, this demonic thing the only thing keeping her from falling 20 feet. She let out a scream. "Let me go! Mr. Porter, please help me!"
Thacker was at a loss for words at the scene in front of him. Pulling his knife out, he tried slicing away to free Ivy. But as soon as he'd make a scratch, the plant would begin to heal itself at a rapid pace. He had never seen anything like it. What kind of sorcery is this? He asked himself as he decided to abandon the knife and use his hands to rip it apart. He was able to get enough off to free Ivy and decided to take off out of the woods. He made it to the edge of the clearing when he found himself unable to leave.
"What is going on?" screamed Ivy. She was quickly snatched away from him again, but he managed to grab her arm. "Please help me! Please!" She managed to grab the pistol that was tucked under her dress and fired at the vine, but nothing happened. She squeezed the trigger again, and she got the same result. "I can't fire the gun! I know there was a bullet in it!"
Thacker refused to let go, but his grip was slowly slipping. "Ivy, get down!" He shouted as he withdrew his pistol and aimed at the vine with his free hand. Ivy managed to move herself enough to him to get a perfect shot off. The gun fired and made its mark. The vine gave slack and released Ivy from its grasp; however, she was hurled past Thacker. He heard a sickening sound and saw that she was impaled by a tree limb right in her stomach. Ivy didn't scream, but she was gasping for air.
"Ivy! Oh no..." Rushing over to her, he assessed the situation. It wasn't good; the branch went clean through. Trying to remove her would most likely cause her to bleed out, but leaving her here wasn't an option.
"Don't." She whispered. She had gone pale, eyes starting to glaze over. "It's in pretty deep. It doesn't hurt as bad as you think".
"But we have to get you off of this branch. You'll surely die if you stay here," said Thacker. "I'm so sorry for what happened."
She shook her head slightly and looked at him. "You were trying to save me from that...thing. I didn't know plants could attack like that". She inhaled sharply and clutched at the branch impaling her. "I know I won't live. I don't want to suffer anymore."
Thacker glanced at his gun. He knew it was the humane thing to do, but he didn't want to give up on saving the girl. There was still a chance...
"Please, Mr. Porter. I don't want to hurt anymore. If I could...I'd shoot myself, but I suppose that isn't very lady like". She let out a strained chuckle. "But I beg you. Please inform my family what happened and how you tried to save me. They will understand."
He sighed heavily and cocked his gun. "Though I don't agree with this at all. Because I think you can be saved...if it is what you wish, Ivy Sterling, then I can't deny a lady her dying wish".
Ivy closed her eyes. "Thank you, Mr. Porter. Thank you".
He squeezed the trigger, a shot ringing out into the night. Thacker knew he didn't miss. He made it quick and as painless as he could. Ivy Sterling's body slumped forward, and he knew she was gone. "It was what she requested and you granted a dying girl her final wish. You didn't let her suffer. You did a good thing," Thacker told himself. It didn't stop the dreadful feeling from entering his heart and he let his gun fall to the ground.
"Yes...you did a good thing, Mr. Thacker Porter," a mysterious voice said. Thacker snapped his head up to see a translucent figure standing next to Ivy's body. "Everything that has happened tonight has happened for a reason. All will be revealed in time. Maybe not in your lifetime, but everything will make sense."
Thacker was at a loss for words. Still he noticed how the "body" of this figure resembled the vines that had grabbed Ivy. "You killed that girl! What the fuck are you?" he demanded. Instead of answering him, the figure handed Thacker a bundle of papers, one which had "Deed - Porter" scrawled in silver writing and an emerald crest with a falcon in its center.
"Now you officially possess this beautiful home and its secrets, Thacker Porter. If I were you, I'd start gathering information and supplies. This place is yours now. There was no witch; the hunt was the start of something much grander. But the first thing you need to do is dispose of the bodies," the voice continued. "But word of warning: let's hope the dead stay buried."