The Raven


This is my entry for the 2018 April Fool's Day contest. I hope you enjoy it.


EYES BLACK AS night glittered with eerie intelligence as they watched the man splitting firewood below. From the perch of a thick branch, the raven tilted its head first one way than the other, carefully studying the human's every move. There was a light April chill in the air, yet he seemed comfortable enough wearing only a simple linen shirt and breeches, and his boots. The next log split with a loud crack. Throat feathers fluffed up, the raven let out a call that echoed through the forest.

Ignoring the bird, Bradan added another log to the chopping block, lifted his maul. The strong muscles of his broad back rippled under his shirt as the blade came down, separated the wood into clean pieces.

Bouncing from foot to foot, the raven answered the splintering sound with another shriek.

Pausing, Bradan wiped his brow with his sleeve, looked up to where the bird was once more staring at him as if it was inspecting, measuring him. Then dismissed the thought with a shake of his head. Although known for their intelligence, the raven was likely just checking if he had any food on him.

When he bent down, reached for the next log, Bradan heard a flapping of wings. Straightening, he noted the bird was gone. An odd sense of relief washed over him. There were plenty of birds in this forest, making their home in the vast wilderness mostly undisturbed by humans. Yet something was different about this one.

The animal had shown up at his cabin every day for the past week—watching, studying, yet never coming too close. One day, he'd caught it sitting on the rail of his porch, staring at him through the window. While the seeds Bradan picked up on his monthly trips to the nearest town hung undisturbed in feeders.

Once more, he had the eerie feeling that the raven might not be after food, after all, but him. Then he blew out a breath, chuckled at his imagination. It might do him some good to spend a few days in the company of humans, he mused. Before he began expecting the bird to start talking. Next time he headed to town, he'd rent a room at the tavern for a night or two, he decided with another shake of his head. Then focused back on his work.

Gently, the raven landed on the leaf-strewn forest floor, hopped a few steps forward. Its eyes shone brightly as it attentively scanned its surroundings. Sensing no sign of danger or observers, it shook its blue-black feathers, let out another harsh, grating call.

A moment later, mist rose from the ground, cloaked the bird's shape. It obscured the dark form that rose along with it, growing larger and larger. Then the haze faded, little tendrils drifting through the air until they vanished, leaving no trace behind. In place of the raven an old woman stood, draped in a coat made of countless black feathers.

Her face was leathery and deeply lined with age, her nose too large, her lips too thin. All but a few of her teeth had long ago rotted and fallen out of her mouth. Her long gray hair hung in brittle strands down her back. Only her eyes glittered with a vitality that proved her tremendous power.

Cackling, for it had been a most interesting week, the Dornhar Witch stepped closer to the tall outcropping of rocks covered in moss, vines, and brambles. At the sweep of her gnarled hand, the wall of stone and greenery flickered, then faded, revealing the cave the witch called home.

Her shoulders were stooped as she walked inside, took off her coat, and hung it on a rack next to the entrance. Soundlessly, the illusion of rock and vegetation slid back in place behind her, forming a curtain that hid her from the outside world. It took no more than a small movement of her eyes to have the cave awash in warm light. The fire in the chimney corner blazed, then settled, and candles arranged around the place flickered to life.

Despite her age, her movements were spry and agile as she made her way over to a table laden with jars, bottles, and containers holding ingredients for potions and spells. After a week observing the strong, delectably attractive man at his cabin, she was ready to proceed.

On the way, she passed a large cage, recently empty. A smile curved the corners of her mouth. Soon, it would once more house a vassal who produced the essence that granted her such long life. The Dornhar Witch trembled with pleasurable anticipation. She couldn't wait to introduce the man she'd been watching to his new home.

Reaching the table, she pulled out a bowl, began to gather the ingredients she'd need for the potion. After all these years, she knew every last detail of the ritual by heart. Thanks to an ancient warlock's spell book she'd discovered some hundred-and-forty years ago, she'd learned how to use the seed that brought forth life to prolong her own life indefinitely.

Arousal tingled in her loins as she remembered all the wonderfully sensuous encounters she'd had since her discovery. No one could claim that she wasn't thoroughly enjoying the pleasures that acquiring the seed brought. And while on the outside her body might be aging, on the inside she was every bit as healthy and insatiable as she'd been in her youth.

Glancing at the cage, the Dornhar Witch let out a dry chuckle. True, she needed men's seed to heal her body, to extend her life. But she readily admitted that she also kept men there to sate her every sexual need.

She added some cubeb berries to the bowl, set the jar aside, grabbed another. Her latest pet, a tall, blond man, lean and muscular, had lasted much longer than all the ones before. To her delight, he'd also been well skilled in bringing a woman to pleasure. And his gorgeous face and body had been a joy to behold. But in the end, he, like all the others, had finally succumbed to madness.

It was a regrettable side effect that the potion which fueled a man's arousal to inexorable limits and bound him to her for life also caused him to go insane eventually. Yet there was nothing she could do to change it. So she simply considered it an opportunity to add a little variety to her life.

Yes, her last pet had been potent, sated her well. But she had a feeling that his new man she'd chosen wouldn't disappoint. Thinking of him, of what she'd observed, she carefully adjusted the ingredients to match his character, his attributes, his other traits.

A little dash of Arling root, a little spice of Wirym. They would ensure that his need to mate would be so strong that it would easily overpower any resistance. The spoonful of Moonyar mushrooms would keep his cock hard and throbbing, his balls producing load after load. She added herbs and oils from various plants to make him yearn for her, to bind him to her. Then used her power to ensure the components and combination were just right.

Satisfied the mixture was complete, she used a pestle to grind it into fine dust, mixed in a little water. Then added it to a small cauldron, set it over the fire to boil. Another cackle broke through her dry lips. With his broad, rippling muscles, that ruggedly handsome face, the man she'd been watching for a week now should make a wonderful replacement for the lithe, blond youth.

Another sweep of her hand, and a bowl of stew and a goblet of wine appeared on the small table she used for eating. Knowing the potion would take a while before it was ready, she sat down, picked up a spoon. As she savored a taste, she thought of the man who would soon occupy the empty cage in her cave.

He was magnificently virile. Pure, unadulterated male. He'd likely be rougher, more primal when bedding a woman. So very different from the man she kept before. Still, she found that the thought of having such a rugged man take her, use her to sate his needs was incredibly exciting.

Since looks could be deceiving, she'd used magic to check for any signs that there might be more to him than what met the eye. But, after a week of watching, overserving, and reading his energy, she'd detected no hint of special powers. He seemed to be no more than one could see—a simple human man.

She'd also learned that he lived alone, never entertained any visitors. So she wouldn't have to worry about anyone interrupting while she executed her plan. Since he hadn't made his way to town this past week, he should be running low on supplies. He'd likely be thankful for a loaf of fresh baked bread—a perfect disguise to mix the potion into.

Her approach decided, she rose to check on the brew bubbling over the fire. It was almost finished, its magic strong, she noted. A satisfied smile played around her lips as she set out another bowl, filled it with dough with a flick of her wrist. Then she lifted the small cauldron from the fire, added its ingredients to the bowl.

Rubbing her hands together, she prepared to add a bit of her own magic to the mix, just to be sure. The laugh that rustled in her throat sounded wickedly delighted. She enjoyed the anticipation almost as much as the execution of the ritual. The tingling in her loins was already turning into a throbbing.

It didn't take long before all was finished, the loaf of bread just fresh enough so she could claim she'd baked it this morning. Cackling, the Dornhar Witch added it to a basket along with some apples. Covered them with a thin cloth. It was marvelous to have such powers, she mused. Otherwise she would have had to spend the whole darn day in the kitchen.

With everything completed, she took another minute to gather and focus her powers. Then parted the curtain that hid the cave, and stepped outside.

The raven's call echoed through the forest as it took flight.

A short while later, mist rose from the ground behind the shelter of thick vegetation not far from the lone cabin. Once it cleared, the Dornhar Witch held out her arm, and the basket appeared at her side. Examining her gnarled, wrinkled fingers, she knew there was only one thing left to do. She closed her eyes, and the image of the old woman flickered, then vanished in a flash.

Like a snake shedding its skin, the woman who emerged from behind the cover with a basket over her arm was strikingly beautiful. Sleek auburn hair tumbled like a waterfall down her back. Her porcelain skin was smooth and unlined. Laughter danced in her deep blue eyes, and her full, sensuous mouth curved upward with amusement. For the next few hours, even the outside of the Dornhar Witches body would look like it had in its youth.

The rocking chair creaked as Bradan slowly moved it back and forth. From his seat on the porch, he watched the woman approach. She was a rare beauty, he admitted, her body luscious with ample curves. His groin tightened instantly. It had been near three weeks since he'd had a woman on his last trip to town. And there was something utterly sensual about the sway of this one's hips as she walked closer.

Still, he was wary, so he studied her carefully. One didn't often encounter a woman alone in this forest. Far less likely yet one so beautiful. There were no other cabins nearby, no reason at all for her to have ventured near his home, really. Her presence was more than a little suspicious. As she drew near the porch, he rose, walked down the three steps to meet her.

"Hello." The Dornhar Witch sounded a little breathless and excited as she greeted him. But she surmised it would only give her more credibility. "I'm so glad I stumbled across your cabin. Fool that I am, I opted to be adventurous, take a different route home from town today. Thought I would explore a new part of the forest, see what treasures it might yield. And, don't you know it, about an hour later I was lost."

Massive forearms crossed over his burly chest, Bradan slowly nodded. The woman seemed genuine enough. And her story was believable, offered a perfectly reasonable explanation for her presence here. People rarely ventured off the known paths, for it was easy to get lost in this vast forest. Still, he wasn't quite convinced.

"It seems a rather lucky turn of fate that you so happened to stumble upon my cabin."

She had sensed that he was highly intelligent when she'd read his energy these past few days. So his cautious attitude did not come as a surprise. "Well, actually, I started keeping an eye out for so much as the slightest sign of habitation the moment I realized I would not find my way home on my own." She jerked her head up toward the cabin's roof. "The smoke rising from your chimney saved me. The moment I spotted it, I knew there had to be a homestead or at least another person nearby."

When he only nodded once more, still not looking quite convinced, she decided it was time to make use of some feminine charms. Trailing her hand over his arm, she demurely lowered her head, looked up at him with pleading eyes. While she beamed him a smile that was utterly flirtatious. The combination had melted countless men's hearts over the years.

"I'm Illiana, by the way." She didn't hesitate to use the name her mother had given her those many years ago. He would no longer be able to remember it a few days from now. "Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me rest my feet for a while, get a drink of water." All she needed was for him to let down his guard the slightest bit. "And perhaps we can see then if you can point me back in the right direction."

The mention of heading home seemed to have done it. Or, perhaps, it was the female charm. Either way, he unfolded his arms, turned. "I'm Bradan. Come on up, have a seat. I'll get you some water."

His voice was deep and gravelly, and sent delightful little shivers down her spine. She tried her best not to let the feeling of victory show in her expression as she followed him up the stairs. Sinking down onto the rocking chair, she set the basket at her side. The first hurdle was behind her. Now it was time to focus on the next.

Bradan came back out of the house a moment later, held out a cup of water to her. As she took it, sipped, he kept studying her. There was some fire in that woman, he mused. Everything about her spoke of a strong, confident personality, not easily subdued. Yet she hid it well behind a proper, almost submissive attitude, likely ingrained in her by her upbringing. Overall, it was an entirely alluring mix that had his groin tightening even further. He wouldn't mind exploring the underlying sensuality that was as much part of her as her dark red hair a little further.

He chose to lean back against the porch's railing, she noted, rather than sitting on the footstool near the rocking chair. It kept him towering over her, emphasizing his dominant position. But that was fine by her. He could keep on thinking he had the upper hand. It would make him that much less cautious.

She took another sip of water, measuring him the way he measured her. He was strong, incredibly strong. His body tall and broad, and heavily muscled. At the thought of having him cover her, feel him spread her around his throbbing girth, she felt twinges of pleasure deep in her core.

His thick, dark hair was short and just a bit shaggy. A short, scruffy beard lined his powerful jaw, a firm mouth with thin lips. His cheekbones were wide, his browbones prominent. Overall, his features were deeply masculine, rugged. Yet nonetheless strikingly attractive.

Oh, yes, he'd make a marvelous and potent replacement for her latest pet, she mused as liquid heat pooled in her loins. And he was nothing if not virile. Already, she could see the outline of a thick bulge under his breeches, could feel the air all but sizzle between them. And she hadn't even fed him the potion yet. Barely, just barely, she managed to suppress the delighted laugh that wanted to bubble from her throat. Well, since he was already aroused, she might as well proceed to tackling the next hurdle.

Grabbing the basket, she threw back the linen that covered it. "Would you like some bread? It was baked fresh this morning, and it's the only loaf I didn't sell today in town. I was planning on using it with the stew tonight, so it wouldn't go to waste. But we have more than enough at our home."

His jaw worked as he leaned forward, examined the contents of the basket. "Where did you say you lived again?"

"I didn't."

Her smile was just mysterious enough to add to her allure, Bradan conceded. In answer, his own mouth curved up at the sides. "I'm afraid I might have a hard time pointing you in the right direction, then, since I cannot read your mind. Your home could be anywhere." He accepted the hunk of bread she'd broken off, held out to him. And his smile turned into a grin that was surprisingly boyish and disarming. "Unless you plan on roaming the forest all night, you might want to give me at least a little hint."

So he was able to smile. Illiana let out a throaty chuckle. And, my! He was even beginning to flirt with her. Well, this was going much better than anticipated, she mused, tapping a finger to her pursed lips as she feigned debating how much to tell him. She tried her best not to let her excitement show as he took the first bite of the bread.

When he'd finished half of the chunk she'd handed him, she pretended to relent. "My family and I live in a fair-sized cottage down by the Geblyr stream, near where it meets the miller's pond.

"The miller's pond, huh? I guess that explains why your family makes a living off bread. Really tasty bread, at that." If he noticed the quick gleam in her eyes when he finished the chunk, he didn't let on.

"The mill belongs to a distant cousin." It wasn't really a lie. Both the mill and the cottage had been in her family for generations. Illiana had merely omitted the fact that the last time she'd lived there had been well over a hundred years ago.

Setting the basket back down, she leaned forward a little further than necessary, gave him an excellent view of the creamy slopes of her breasts. Then she straightened once more, threw him another look from under lowered lashes.

The sight of the ample cleavage had the pulse pounding in his rock-hard cock. As did the coy glance—even if it hadn't fooled him for a moment. There was no denying that despite her pretense of proper behavior, the woman was an utterly sensual creature.

He wanted her. Yes, he wanted her. Wanted her wild and unbridled in his bed, moaning and arching up under him as he drove into her. And he had just the idea how to make his desire reality. Carefully schooling his face into a thoughtful expression, he shifted his weight.

"I'm afraid I have some bad news." He waited for her eyes to meet his before he proceeded. "You've managed to come quite far out of your way. It will take you at least a couple of hours to make it back your home. Even if you hurry, you will not reach it before dark." He threw a pointed look over his shoulder, to where the setting sun cast an orange glow through the trees.

Illiana leaned back in the chair, blew out a breath. "In that case, I consider myself incredibly lucky that I found your cabin. I've had to spend the night in the forest before. And I admit it is not an experience I care to repeat." She gave a little shudder for emphasis. "There are countless dangers lurking in these woods after dark."

Both of his dark brows lifted slowly while amusement played around his mouth. "You deem it safer, then, to put yourself at the mercy of a barely civilized man?"

Her head fell back, exposing the delicate column of her throat, and her laugh rang out, delightfully wicked and clear as bells. Then she shot him a look that was pure sultry, pure seductive. "I rather much enjoy being at the mercy of a man."

Braden's breath caught in his lungs, and his cock gave a violent throb under his breeches. So, she'd finally dropped the act. He had expected it to take a little longer than that. But he was certainly not complaining. Desire was burning like a roaring flame in his groin, threatening to consume him. He was somewhat shocked by its intensity, since he generally prided himself on his control. Yet there was something about this woman that drove him near mad with need. And if she was willing, he'd be a fool not to take her up on her offer.

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bySylvana_Thornton© 6 comments/ 9440 views/ 13 favorites

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