The Stained Tower Book 1 - The Tower’s Prelude
The heavens are dyed in a brilliant red and orange as the sun sets on the horizon. A stiff breeze blows, causing the lush vegetation to bend upon one another. Strands of my long cherry-red hair flutter in the wind and tickle my nose. The dense branches of the great willow tree that accompanies me on this verdant hill produces a soothing murmur. I take a deep breath of the fresh and crisp air. A tiny smile creeps across my face as I peer out over the magnificent and magical New World.
‘Verily, a beautiful sunset. Almost makes me forget why I am here,’ I take another long breath before resuming my thought, ‘But I think… I think I am fine with this. If I am honest, I am tired of only barely persisting every day, so terribly tired.’
As I watch the clouds drift across the sky, a set of rough fingers seizes the nape of my neck. They squeeze the delicate flesh of my nape tight, digging their calluses deep. I struggle, causing ropes that bind my wrists to dig deeper. My battle against these fiendish strings has gone on for a day now. Relief from the sting of their coarse yarn is something I cannot seem to attain.
“Hark, wench, or dost thou desire another beating?” an ignorant voice spews.
Not wishing for the last words I hear to be the drivel from this man’s mouth, I inquire as politely as I can manage, “If thou would be so kind, if I am to be hanged, could we converse in the London Parlance? My Queen’s English is a bit rusty.”
“Nought, but city rats use that low English, witch.”
Shaking my head, I sigh and roll my eyes. “Thomas, that is simply not the truth. It is only bumpkin fools who strive to use the Queen's English to appear more clever than they are.” I smile. “Like thyself, for example.”
A heavy slap strikes the back of my head. The rough hand squeezes my neck before forcibly twisting it in the direction of an approaching older gentleman.
The gentleman’s attire consists of an over the top woolen tunic with a pair of blue breeches  that fall just below the knee, a pair of white wool stockings, and black leather shoes. From his neck swings, the simple wooden idol of the God in Light. As one would expect, the idol is a harp with a pair of wings attached to either side. His ornate attire for such a quaint place hints that he is a man of high status here at our little dingy colony.
‘Aye, Preacher Daniels, also known as The Accuser, The Judge, and The Hangman. I was curious when he would arrive. Must have been searching for a rope that would suffice.’
Preacher Daniels speaks, “Thomas if the wench’s last request is to hear London Parlance as she swings, then so be it.”
I stifle a smirk and watch as Preacher Daniels slowly marches toward the willow tree.
‘In the colony, Preacher Daniels’ words are unquestionable, so I expect the London Parlance shall be the preferred manner of conversation from here, which means most will be hesitant to speak at all.’
My gaze drifts away from Preacher Daniels, settling upon the willow tree. Its trunk is wide, suggesting it is older than any person currently among us. From the trunk, the thick wooden limbs twist chaotically toward the sky above while allowing its lovely green whip-like branches to droop to the grassy earth below. Birds sit chirping upon its limbs, singing their love songs to one another. Numerous blue butterflies roam freely around and between the thin green leaves and branches. I never knew why, but these butterflies always seem to keep close to this tree. The wind blows, causing the long thin branches to curl away from its tender, cool caress. Our destinies intertwined, its image sears itself into the depths of my mind and soul.
“Preacher,” a stout voice calls.
From the direction of the colony, a single townsfolk walks up the hill. With a huff, he raises a noose tied from cordage and presents it to Preacher Daniels. The preacher takes it from the townfolk’s grasps and lifts it high.
“Seem familiar?” he announces for all to hear, dangling the cordage in my direction. “A rope that those savages bestowed upon this witch. I find it quite appropriate that she hang from it.”
‘It is not a rope, but cordage. I believe it is made from a plant called bulrush or, my preferred name, cattail,’ I muse with a tiny smile and half-closed eyes. ‘It was a rather curious plant. They taught me a bit about twisting it into cordage. That cordage was the result of my efforts. It was a good day.’
“Unfortunately,” he shouts, slinging the cordage into a thicket, “ Those savages’ craftsmanship is much too shoddy and will not support this wench’s weight. Hence we shall use rope produced in our cultured motherland.”
‘...I was not exactly skilled at making cordage.’
Another townsfolk approaches, presenting Preacher Daniels with a much thicker noose. He nods, thanking the man.
Seeing the object that will be used to slowly strangle the life from me, my urge to smirk fades instantly. Instead, it is replaced with fear and anxiety as my hands begin to shake violently, but I make certain to hide them from the townsfolk’s prying eyes.
‘I have nary a desire to give them the satisfaction of seeing my trembling. If I am to die, I shall die while providing them as little of a performance as possible.’
Preacher Daniels begins to attempt to cast the noose around one of the sturdier-looking branches. He shows obvious signs of struggle, but the townsfolk are too distracted to notice.
While he works to prepare the noose, I run my eyes across the many faces who have graciously come to see me move onto the next life. When our eyes meet, some scowl, others turn their nose up, and some firmly meet my gaze as if declaring, “thou deserve this.”
Breaking eye contact, I gaze off into the distance. ‘It would appear the entire town has come. I heard Thomas killed a deer the other day.’ I sniff the air smelling the unmistakable aroma of cooking meat. ‘And it seems they plan to enjoy it while I dangle beneath the willow tree.’
Hearing the rustling of the willow tree’s branches, I turn my attention back to Preacher Daniels. I watch as he tugs both sides of the rope a few times, making certain it is sufficient before returning his attention to me. “Constance Nightingale, thou hast been found guilty of witchcraft by Her Majesty the Queen. Additionally, thou is believed to have betrayed the colony by trading and selling information to the savages resulting in the loss of three of the colony's people. Thus, thou has been sentenced to be hanged upon this hill. Here thou may be cleansed in the God in Light’s brilliant and undeniable radiance.”
As things progress, my legs join my hands, trembling of their own volition.
‘This shall be over soon. Aye, then I shall never have to suffer hardship again... Though, I wonder if she will appear before the end.’
I straighten my legs as much as I can to hide the shaking and attempt to turn my thoughts elsewhere. Looking for something to muse, I observe Preacher Daniels. He sighs and shows a bit of displeasure toward having to watch his speaking practices in order to humor my request.
‘London Parlance is not that difficult, Preacher Daniels; I rather fancy it. I am not incapable of the Queen’s English; although I am a bit rusty, I simply prefer not to due to past resentment. In fact, I would say the Queen’s English actually comes to me more naturally than London Parlance in some ways.’
These thoughts may seem out of place, but they manage to help me calm myself ever so slightly. The preacher grabs the noose hanging from the willow tree and motions for Thomas to bring me forth.
With eagerness, Thomas shoves me forward and pushes my head low. Peacher Daniel grabs my red hair, pulling it through the noose, then works it over my head. He moves from my front to my side and yanks the knot, tightening it around my neck. The roughspun fibers of the rope rub against the delicate skin of my nape, causing it to burn and itch.
Preacher Daniels turns toward the gathered townsfolk and bellows, “If anyone has any departing words for Miss Nightingale, please deliver them forthwith.”
With his words, one woman storms forward. “Thou will roast in the pit for what has been done, hedge-born! ” The woman spits, and I feel a wet glob strike my cheek. As the spittle runs down my face, I stare at the woman with a blank expression.
“My apologies,” I reply, avoiding her blistering gaze, “I do not seem to recognize thy face.”
Her brows furrow as she grits her teeth. Raising her palm high, she swings her hand toward my cheek—a heavy smack echoes.
The woman once again strikes me across the face. “Thou evil witch! Betrayed us all, and my family paid the price!”
I turn my eyes away from the woman. “Oh. Thou art Mrs. Sue then… I am sorry, but as I have stated previously, I traded medicine to the natives for food and nothing more.”
Mrs. Sue strikes me again. “Liar! Everything is thy fault. Thou was never meant to be a part of this colony from the beginning, damned stowaway!”
I think back to how I arrived here. ‘Aye, I will not deny that I was a stowaway, but in my defense, I feel being confined to a barrel for three nights before being discovered was suffering enough. Worse yet, the barrel was not properly secured, so I spent many a night rolling about.’
“An unmarried hag living in the woods alone like a savage!” Mrs. Sue screams with eyes that seem as if they are attempting to escape their sockets, “Never contributing anything to the colony, but those cursed medicines! Yet nary a person complained. Now see what has happened; my husband, son, and daughter are all gone!”
Shaking my head, I deem it better to give her a half-truth than attempt to explain my relationship with the natives. “I lived alone in the forest because I tend to not get along with others and not because I planned to do anything wicked. I am sorry about thy family; I do not know what happened. I pray they shall be located.”
My words do not seem to dampen Mrs. Sue’s anger at all; rather, they seem to make her even more livid.
Furious and in a rage, Mrs. Sue slaps me time and time again. Each slap sends a resounding echo into the trees and fields that surround us. With my hands bound behind my back and Thomas holding my neck from behind, I can do naught but endure the barrage. After an unknown amount of time, she gradually loses strength. Falling to her knees, she weeps. Another woman, the town’s midwife, steps forward and begins to comfort Mrs. Sue.
With Mrs. Sue’s assault over, I notice my vision has narrowed due to my swollen face.
“Does anyone else have any other words for this witch?” Preacher Daniels shouts.
“Burn in Hell!” a young man cries.
The young man picks up a stone and flings it at me. The stone strikes my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I try to drop to my knees, only for Thomas’s grip around my neck to tighten, preventing me from toppling over. The young man’s action seems to have ignited something as more townsfolk pick up stones.
The noose unexpectedly tightens, forcing me to stand on the tips of my toes.
“Thomas, please move from there,” Preacher Daniels says.
“Aye, Preacher,” Thomas replies.
The sounds of footsteps can be heard moving away. A moment later, stones begin pelting my body, tearing gashes of horrendous size. I can feel the warm, wet sensation of blood seeping from the wounds at a frightening pace as I struggle to keep my composure. The pain is excruciating, and once a stone strikes my head, I begin to lose mindfulness. Still, another stone smashes into my throat, forcing me to lose my breath, stealing some of the little time I have left to enjoy the cool fresh air.
The noose slackens, so to guard my throat against another stone, I stare at the ground, wondering if the Preacher will just have me die in this way instead. With the top of my head exposed, some townsfolk seem to take it as a target and hurl stones at my scalp.
As a stone hits my collar with a crack, I hear Preach Daniels shout, “That is quite enough!”
The stones cease at once, and through my swollen and bloody vision, I can see Preach Daniels approach me as the pain from my shattered collar grows ever more intense; I cough, sending a spatter of blood onto the Preacher’s gown.
He frowns but manages to spit out his words, “Any last words, witch?”
I take a moment to ponder before smirking. “I suppose all I can say is, I have a strong feeling that thou art responsible for—”
The Preacher raises his palm and strikes me with such a force that I feel as if I might vomit.
“Thomas, prithee, assist me in raising this wench,” he scoffs.
The two hurry to the willow tree, glaring at me before drawing the rope. The noose becomes tighter, and my feet leave the ground; time seems to slow to a trickle. I stare at the townspeople and look into their eyes that seem to be full of naught but hatred and repugnance. Over my brief twenty-one-years of existence, these are eyes I have become quite familiar with.
‘All of this befell me because of my illness or rather my curse.’
The wind blows, and my vision sways as I continue to rise higher above the townspeople. My body kicks as it strives to make contact with the ground. The rough rope digs into my flesh as if it was always meant to be there. A trickle of blood rolls down my neck, staining my shirt red.
‘Blood can be so difficult to wash out.’
Despite my best efforts to suppress them, I can feel burning tears streaming down my cheeks like a cascade as they mix with the blood from the stones’ gashes. My broken collar pops, and from below, I overhear the Preacher grunt and declare with evident pride, “It is too late for regret wench, but do not fret thy soul will be cleansed in God’s blinding light!”
‘It’s unfortunate. I gave them the satisfaction of seeing my weakness.’
My vision darkens; though, it’s not to the extent that I would not recognize such an old acquaintance arriving. In front of me, a black haze floats in the shape of a girl. She faces me as if she has come to say adieu to an old friend.
‘So thou came after all.’ With great bitterness, I stare at the hazy girl. ‘Well, fare thee well, thou art most assuredly a liver-eater. Thou shan't find me this time.’
I manage to turn my eyes downward in such a way I can see the tops of the townsfolk’s heads. My brows furrow as my gaze burns at them like the inferno of the Pit of Hell itself.
‘And to thee, Roanoke, I say adieu as well. Verily I desire thy meager bread be sour and thy days brief! As the saying goes, today me, tomorrow thee.’
Between the salty tears, the metallic taste of my own blood, and the agony of my own collapsing throat, my pale lips form one last tiny smirk at my own climactic last thoughts...
Yet. This cannot stop the sheer terror as my eyes dart every which way beholding the blackest night I have ever beheld closing in all around me.
Body has ceased functions—Essence flow lost. Devotion to a True God level presence, not detected. Consciousness being pulled to Tenebrous. Soul must return to void.
Proceeding to void to await reincarnation opportunity… Failure.
Attempting to proceed to void to await reincarnation opportunity… Failure.
Attempting to proceed to void to await reincarnation opportunity… Failure.
Transmuting soul…. Talent detected, incorporating into transmutation.
The conscious is required to transmogrify and ignite.
Beginning search for the conscious in Tenebrous.