Seated in the front of a dark carriage with scarlet reins in hand was Viktoria Fahlstrom, her unmoving emerald eyes fixated on the sun shining through the trees above at an angle. If her impromptu calculations were right (which they always were), daylight would disappear behind the horizon in just under an hour. However, she was more than well-equipped, and the unlit lamps around her were less of a concern than her eventual destination, supposedly only paces away on horse.
The thick forest hugged the only road tightly around her and gave no insight as to what was behind its trees, once more reminding Viktoria that she had ordered her only guardian to stay in the Quinley Estate and was essentially gambling that she’d be fine on her own. Even the carriage behind her was mostly empty except for the spoils of her countryside errand run. Eventually, she saw a small cave-like formation at the side of the road and slowed down.
Mud splashed in reaction to the impact of Viktoria’s black boots when she landed, thankfully, just missing the bottom of her equally dark cloak. The inside of her cloak, as well as the vest on her chest, were a green so dark they almost blended with the black of her pants or her shoulder-length hair. The only glimmer in her outfit was given by the gold necklace around her neck, though it disappeared swiftly under a grey cravat. She picked up her lamp and entered the cave without even a millisecond of hesitation.
Inside, it was almost completely dark, the only source of light being the fire under a dilapidated cauldron. A strange vermilion substance bubbled and swirled in it, and a small kitchen made of wood had been built into the stone wall of the cave. Various vegetables and animal body parts lined shelves and a curiously large heap of dirty brown rags lay in a ball in front of the bubbling cauldron.
“Hag,” Viktoria stated in an almost bored tone. “I’ve come for information.”
The ball of rags slowly unfurled into a similarly spherical small woman, the rags over her body and mess of silver hair covering her face. A staff emerged from the rags, clutched in her left hand, and her right hand jutted into an accusatory point.
“Information you already have, little one,” she croaked back.
Viktoria raised an eyebrow slightly in expectation.
“I have divined your fate already, cursed child. As pain and death have covered your past, so shall they dominate your future. In merely a month, you shall, for the first time, face enemies far worse than I or your guardian, Gerhardt Quinley.”
“Fate, like all machinations, are eventually mine to change,” Viktoria answered, crossing her arms under her cloak. “Tell me of these enemies.”
The hag shook her head and raised her staff.
“You’ve taken enough.” she snapped. “Go now or be smote.
She grinned widely, revealing teeth more crooked than the stones around her. “After all, little one, you have gambled and come here alone.”
Arms still crossed, Viktoria sighed calmly and closed her eyes in thought.
“It seems your usefulness precedes you.”
Viktoria had barely finished speaking before one of her arms jutted out under her cloak with a silver revolver held tightly at its end. Before the hag could even react, it briefly illuminated the cave and blew a hole in the center of the hag’s throat. Bluish blood gushed forth and the hag keeled over, struggling vainly to speak a curse word as she hit the ground.
“You might have missed it while living under this rock, but this is the 19th century.”
Originally Published on www.bandersnatch.ca Vol.50 Issue 02 on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020