Bleeding Heart, by V0ID

Chapter 1- Awaken

A young girl was walking a cow back to her master's house, tugging on the rope that was looped around a smelly animal's neck. Crickets sang their evening song and an easy wind rustled the trees; leaves floating onto the forest path. Rabbits skittered amongst the tangled brush, and her mouth watered at the thought of how good they would taste if she were allowed to kill then eat them. She let herself imagine chasing after it with a speed akin to the wood spirits she secretly believed in, then skinning the animal for a stew. The main road wasn't advisable to take, lest the bad air infect you with the pestilence that was making it's way around.

Finally, after the tedious process of clearing a path for it she secured the cow in it's pen, noticing form the sun's position that the journey home had taken longer than expected. Her bare feet pattered on the dirt path as she ran into the small stone house, warming yesterday's stew for when her master returned.

Soon enough the creaky door slammed open, accompanied by the stomp of boots. The man threw aside his tattered cloak and sat in the only chair, seeming annoyed by the lack of cutlery."Do you have dinner ready for me, Cecinah?"

She wordlessly set down the steaming bowl and a crude wooden spoon; watching as he finished the whole thing. After a long day in the fields her stomach felt like it was eating itself, and after years of similar treatment her limbs were pinched and thin with hunger. Her chin-length fray of startling green hair was somehow always dirty, and her clothes were stained and tattered. It was a hard life here, but much better than living on the streets. At seven years old, the girl who would one day be known as the fearsome Witch of Brittania was a domestic slave, or what her master liked to call 'indentured servant.' He wiped his face with a hand and gestured to the bowl. "Are you stupid?" Cecinah picked up the dishes and put them back in the cabinet, hoping he'd notice the growls of her stomach. Whatever food they had around the house was consumed by her master, only the scraps finding there way onto her plate. The man shoved back the chair and settled on a worn floor pallet, grabbing his cloak once again to use as a blanket.

"Master, is there anything else you want?" She asked, longing for the hay-lined stall where she slept. When she received no answer Cecinah carefully shut he door behind her, making beeline for her bed amongst the animals.

Before sunrise was the ideal time to get up, and having breakfast to make she tiptoed into the house, not bothered by the hay that still stuck to her clothes. Afraid the rattling pots will wake her master, she takes out a hunk of stale bread to serve him. Looking through the cabinets she finds a piece of cheese, which she doesn't bother to scrape the mold off of and shoves in her mouth.

When Master still doesn't wake she rips off a tiny piece of the bread, still famished after no dinner. Tapping her fingers on the sticky table she's unsure why he isn't eager for his breakfast as usual, and risking a tiny peek under the barely rising covers, she feels what can only be described as a scream rising in her throat. Her master's skin is a seething mass of red lumps, about the size of the coins that she only sees in the marketplace.

" me." he croaks out, grabbing her arm and pulling the little girl to his side. Something rejects that touch, how his breath fetid breath chokes blankets her face and seems to smother her, and the hand plucking at the neckline of her dress. "Be a good girl and help your master... I hurt all over, make me feel-" he doesn't finish as she rips away, tears involuntarily trailing down her face when she grabs the bread and runs, away from the man who's sick in more than a few ways, away from the neglect and glass-eyed animals she used to be one of. Stopping in a dark alley to scarf down the bread, Cecinah realizes what a dire mistake she's made.

In a time of plague and disorder the streets are unsafe for women, especially little girls like her. Danger could be hiding around every corner, and the rosy morning glow still leaves a lot in the shadows. She rubs at the tearstains on her face, determined not to appear an easy target. The bread is long gone and she's still hungry, and noticing a rubbish heap begins sifting through for anything to quell the gnawing hunger. When nothing of interest is found, she sets her sight on a habit-clad woman who's walking down the alley, carrying under one arm a sack of what Cecinah hopes is cheese. The little girl tries to avoid suspicioun by walking in way she hopes is casual, and when she's parallel to the nun makes a swipe for the bag.

Instead of appearing angry the woman smiles, letting the girl stuff her face. "Are you hungry?"

Her question is answered as Cecinah wolfs down the entire bag's contents. Caught off guard by the generosity, the girl bows her head and replies. "Yes, milady."

"So polite." she smiles again, this time with a saccharine sweetness. "I can give you more food. A place to stay, too." When Cecinah looks confused she catches the girl in an unexpected hug. All that Cecinah Chulainn hears before everything plunges into darkness is the faintest whisper. "I can give you your heart's desire."