In a small corner of Avalon lived a community of witches, amid a secluded wooded glade hewn out by a glacier as the ice age had ended. The glacier also left behind several caves, ideal accommodation for the witches. In one of them lived a witch named Beverley with her five-year-daughter, Viviane, and two other ladies. It was a chilly January morning, and though there had been an overnight dusting of snow, it had cleared quickly in the sunshine. But the dew in the air was freezing and sparkled like diamonds.
Thinking it best to let her daughter keep warm and sleep in while she goes about collecting herbs and grasses for her potions, Beverley left Viviane inside the cave, behind the fire she’d lit at the entrance – a large fire of timber collected from the surrounding woods. The sparks she’d watched rising from the two-foot-high flames had reminded her of the day the late king’s father had been burned at his pyre all those years ago, before Uther had taken Camelot’s throne, when she’d thought the flashing sparks had looked like leaping fairies.
Income was scarce to come by for the witches, and some in the community – which had grown considerably in recent years – had turned to black magic, making spells to enable the men of the kingdom to control their women. As a result, the community had gained a bad name, especially since some of the king’s subjects had grown mad or murderous under the influence of those black spells. This had led the council of knights to force a decree from King Uther Pendragon demanding that the practice of witchcraft be outlawed and that all witches be executed.
Uther’s problem was that one witch had helped him a while ago in getting an heir to his throne. Uther and his wife hadn’t been able to have children no matter how hard they’d tried, Uther’s wife was barren, but then he’d turned to Beverley, and she’d cast a spell, and magically, they’d had a strong son. Arthur was now five years old and would inherit Camelot’s throne on Uther’s death; the lineage was now established. Uther could rest in peace knowing he had done his duty for the nation.
This morning, Uther sent out a detachment of thirty soldiers to destroy the enclave and the witches within it. However, he ordered that one witch, Beverley, be saved at all costs. The soldiers approached the enclave not expecting any trouble; the hamlet was situated in the dugout surrounded by thirty-foot rock cliffs with several tree-lined paths leading down.
The captain and his men, who were dressed in leather armor comprising a head cap, vest, and a Celtic-type kilt to keep the cold out were spaced around the top of the cliffs. Their swords were raised high, the sunlight glinting on the polished metal, but evil shone in their eyes that day. The witches saw the sun’s beams reflecting on the swords, and it momentarily blinded them. The soldiers on the high ground openly picked out their prey from those in the enclave below.
A particularly ferocious, well-built soldier said to his colleague, “I’ll take the blonde one there if you take the redhead.” He fondled his groin in anticipation, and his kilt was now projecting. Wait till she feels this, he thought.
“Yes, I like the look of the redhead,” was the response.
The captain said to his men, “I want those blades covered in blood by the end of the day.”
The witches were a peaceful, isolated people and did not move; they believed the Woodsman, god of the forest, would protect them. Several uttered vicious curses, all to no avail; the soldiers were adamant.
The captain yelled the order: “Charge, but it is imperative, on peril your own life, to save the witch Beverley. You all heard the king’s order.”
Vengeance on their minds, thirty bloodthirsty soldiers descended on the camp, swords held high, and they yelled the battle cry: “Death to the witches.”
Like many soldiers at war, they intended to take their pleasures from the young witches. The hags would be left to die by the sword, but the young ones would be raped first.
A massacre happened that day. Women and children were raped and slaughtered, and bodies, covered in blood and mutilated, littered the ground. Beverley had a knife in a scabbard under her dress. As a soldier attacked her, lifting her skirt – she was one of the pretty ones – she managed to get the knife out of its scabbard. The soldier raised his kilt to reveal his erection. Beverley raised her knife, and with one quick slash, his penis fell to the ground. Blood squirted out of the wound, covering her. The soldier screamed in pain as she plunged the knife between his ribs and into his heart. The screaming stopped as the soldier fell on top of her.
She feigned death, and when she thought the coast was clear, she heaved the soldier off and ran to the cave where her daughter was still asleep. She comforted the waking child, telling her to keep quiet. The encampment had been razed to the ground; soldiers were laughing at what they had done. A soldier walked past the entrance to Beverley’s cave but did not go in.
Inside, Beverley was ready with her knife. “I’ll kill any bastard who comes in here,” she whispered to herself.
Half an hour later, it was quiet outside, and Beverley ventured gingerly out, telling Viviane to stay inside.
Everywhere was carnage; the ground was littered with dead bodies of women, many naked and covered in wet blood. Wooden huts were burning, and children lay mutilated. Beverley vomited at the devastating sight.
She cried out, with tears running down her face, “How could the king do this to us? You are supposed to be a fair man, Uther.” Several dead soldiers lay nearby, but one, the captain, was still barely alive. Beverley went to him; she felt compassion as she raised her knife, intending to kill him, but then she asked herself, Why?
The captain managed to mutter, “What’s your name?”
“Good, I have obeyed my instructions, then. King Uther said you were to be saved.”
“Did he now?” said Beverley as she plunged her knife into the captain’s chest. Maybe Uther was more grateful than she had thought.
King Uther had issued the decree under pressure; he was a gentle man, really.
Five years passed, and Viviane was now ten years old. Beverley had given up casting spells after the carnage all those years ago and taken on a low profile. Witchcraft is like a gift, though, or a curse: once received, it never goes away. Beverley had been ill for some months now. She knew she was dying; her body seemed to be eating itself away. She could not cast a spell to stop that, but on her deathbed, she cast one more spell on her daughter.
Beverley had always been grateful to the king for allowing her to live, so she charged Viviane to look after the Pendragon name and to promote the formation of one country that would one day exceed the might of the Roman Empire. She put a spell on Viviane that she would always be a spirit after her death and thus able to carry out this charge.
The years passed, and by 590 AD, the beautiful and feisty girl Viviane had grown into a desirable twenty-five-year-old. She had many of the local boys seeking her as a bride, but she was true to only one.
Her long blonde hair, which was usually down to her shoulders, was almost horizontal in the wind, but it showed off her bright blue eyes. On this day, she was standing at the edge of the lake at Camelot with her boyfriend. She was very impish, and she knew it.
Viviane challenged her boyfriend to a swimming contest, saying that he could not swim the lake as fast as her. The challenge was taken up, and despite the threat of encroaching severe weather, they decide to go ahead. “We are not cowards,” Viviane said, although her boyfriend wasn’t so sure. He was not prepared to let Viviane best him, though.
Taking off their clothes, they stood at the edge of the lake; Viviane thought it should take about ten minutes to swim across. They dove into the rough water, and as soon as they set off, the weather deteriorated even further, and the lake turned into a raging torrent. The wind picked up, and the water was like a sea: waves showed white horses, and the spray blew in their faces. Lightning flashed from cloud to cloud, followed by roars of thunder. Viviane’s boyfriend was way out in front, but sadly, she was overcome by the foaming current.
The water entered her mouth, and she started choking on it. Her boyfriend was well ahead of her now, so he didn’t hear her calls. Viviane panicked, and though she managed to come up for air one more time, eventually, she sank for good.
It was midday, and a large barn owl was sleeping on the top branch of an oak tree on the edge of the lake. It suddenly woke up and flew over the lake, descending to where Viviane was drowning. Then, while flying in a circle, it dropped a twig on the spot where the young woman was sinking. Behind the owl, in the distance, could be seen twenty-four white doves flying in line to the spot where Viviane was going down.
When they reached the oak twig, they circled over the spot while the barn owl flew back to its tree to resume its sleep. Viviane’s boyfriend could not see her, but he saw the doves circling. At that moment, a ghostly hand appeared from the lake, and then another, followed by the spirit of Viviane’s body. The lightning was now coming down to the ground, great bolts of jagged blades followed by explosions of thunder. A bolt hit Viviane’s spirit, and she lit up as she ascended to the sky. She turned to her boyfriend, who was still swimming, and blew him a kiss, the last one she would make, and then she flew up into the heavens.
Viviane drowned that day, sinking to the bottom of the lake, but her spirit lived on. Her boyfriend never forgave himself for not hearing and rescuing her. Viviane’s body was never recovered despite her boyfriend making many dives, and she was missed in Avalon, but her spirit returned when it was needed, as her mother had decreed. Although her mother’s charge was to transform Avalon into the British Empire, Viviane had her own goal: to help misguided youths on their way to adulthood.