This story is by Trynda E. Adair and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Samouel stood at the cliff’s edge.
Over the vast body of water, farther than he could see, the warm yellow disk sunk lower in the sky. Hues of dark ominous pinks painted the clouds in a beautifully chilling sight.
Samouel sighed. His breath hung in the chilled air before being brushed away by the breeze. The cold season was approaching faster than they had expected, but it wouldn’t matter much longer; their legion would bet gone soon.
“Centurion!” A male voice shouted from somewhere far behind him.
Samouel didn’t move.
His eyes closed as the crash of waves against the rocks below, thundered in his ears. Dry leaves surrounding him rustled in the passing smokey breeze. Screams echoed in the distance, just loud enough to make Samouel’s stomach twist with the need to vomit.
“Centurion,” The legionary puffed nearer this time, “The last of the tree’s have been lit.”
Samouel’s heart jumped, eyes flying open at the sudden intrusion. He didn’t care if the last of the yew and oak trees had been set alight. The Isle of Mona whaled as the unstoppable force of Rome savaged her; Samouel didn’t need to be told. If he returned to deliver the killing blow now, he would have to pass Lilith’s charred, lifeless body. The sight of her fiery red hair catching the flames from the orange and brown oak leaves still burned in his mind; he couldn’t bear to see her now.
For the good of the empire; Samouel sighed to himself and turned to face the legionary.
His heart jumped to his throat as his eyes fell on the amber haired Druidess. Scraps of robes hanging from her lanky pale body greyed from soot and tinged black at the tips; The ends of her loosely braided hair was blackened and twisting in on itself.
Without a second thought, Samouel stepped toward his secret lover, arms outstretched and ready to envelop her. There was no doubt she’d be killed, or worse, if the legionary saw her.
He’d almost lost her once, he wasn’t about let it happen again.
Samouel’s arms seemed to move impossibly slow in comparison to Lilith’s as she stepped forward and pushed against his polished iron breastplate with her long fingered hands.
His feet stumbled backwards, looking for any traction on the dried grass.
The ground disappeared from under his feet and his stomach sunk as Samouel tumbled off the edge of the cliff.
Samouel’s head bolted upright from the table top.
His arms flew across the table surface, knocking aside a bronze drinking cup. Hours old wine spilled over the ridge, before the cup toppled over and the rest of the burgundy liquid seep into the cracks in the wood.
The scrolls pilled nearby started to drink up the bitter alcohol, making his heart leap in his chest.
“Dammit!” Samouel barked, tossing aside the ruined scrolls.
Samouel covered his burning eyes with both hands as he tilted his head back and released a heavy sigh. All the alcohol Samouel had drunk pounded in his head and sweat beaded over his hot sun-kissed skin.
Dry wood and stale earth still lingered in the air of his tent alongside the smell of burning oil form the lanterns. Just the scent of her made his heart ache. It would be gone soon and all that would remain of his lover, would be the memories that tormented his mind.
“Oh, Lilith.” Samouel sighed, if only he’d been faster; The beautiful druidess who’d enchanted him would still be alive. Samouel had arrived at the grotto she called home moments after the mosaic of Oak leaves caught fire.
“Did you think I was so easily destroyed?” The deep scratchy voice of his lover spoke clearly from behind him.
The hairs across the back of his arms rose beneath the warm wolf-skin wrapped around his shoulders as he rose from the seat.
As Samouel turned, the heavy stench of seared flesh and burnt hair crashed against his senses before he caught sight of the familiar woman standing straight as any statues seen in the temples back in Rome. The blackened ends of her now strait shoulder-length hair twisted in all directions and the robes decorated with runes hung from her boney figure the same as in his drunken terror.
Samouel hesitated as his heart demanded he take a single step towards her.
Lilith should have died, tied to her oak tree, it wasn’t possible that she stood before him now, in his tent.
“Venefica.” Samouel whispered before he would stop and think of the word coming from his lips. Lilith’s unsetting charcoal grey eyes flared at the Latin she understood likely better than he did.
“I am…” Lilith started, her smouldering statuesque face remained unchanged as she stepped toward him, “not. You Roman’s are all the same; Prejudiced and bloodthirsty.” The waves of fury seeping from her words and coming off her in waves made the pounding in his chest increase to the point Samouel thought his heart would burst.
Warmth spread through his loins and a breath caught in his throat as she pressed him back against the rickety table.
Samouel opened his mouth, but the words of apology and regret to his lover dried on his tongue. He did his best to push aside thoughts of laying her back on his bed and begging for Lilith’s forgiveness; there would be time after he explained.
“I thought you better than that Samael.” Her hot wood-smoke perfumed breath drifted over his skin. Samouel’s eyes drifted closed at the gentle brush of her lips against his and feeling of her gentle touch against his chest. In that moment she cared little that she’d said his name oddly, all he wanted was to feel her warm touch again.
“I am much more than a sorceress.” Lilith whispered finally as she stepped away, the tips of her fingers now black with a light layer of ash, “you know this.”
The searing heart started where Lilith’s fingers had been only moments prior.
Samouel’s hand flew to his tunic, tearing at the fabric as the heat grew and grew. An unintentional cry left his lips, but it did little to stop the spread of the burning. A strait rip tore thought the tunic and displayed his once bare chest now covered with strange black burns.
Panicked eyes searched for the magnificent druidess, only to find her standing before the single flap entrance.
“Lilith,” Samouel growled, reaching a hand towards the woman as pain pulled him to his knees.
The rage in her eyes drained into pity before she turned away. Lilith’s fingers traced a strange symbol, similar to the ones on his chest, in black ash across the entrance.
When the strange woman stepped out Samouel was sure he saw the inside for a volcano instead of the evening forested island he expected.
Samouel bellowed a mix of rage and excruciating pain at the flap before the fire inside his chest engulfed his racing heart and he collapsed on the dirty floor of the tent.