Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.
They said that only the cursed fell in love with a witch. But for a while, Tawny thought they could make it. Most lovers think themselves an exception to the rule, and in that regard, she was very ordinary.
Briar was a blacksmith, too, not a noble prince. His heart was tougher than hers, hardened by the fires of the forge and the cruelty of men.
“A viscount brought his horse today,” he told Tawny one night as they sat by her fire. “The animal was so badly whipped, it was limping, but the fool insisted it had just thrown a shoe.”
“And what did you tell him?” Tawny asked.
“That I could change the shoe, but it would not help the horse run any faster. He looked at me in the eye and said…” Briar gritted his teeth, then continued, “He said that if I don’t like his money, he would go to another blacksmith… and tell his court not to bother me.”
She thought for a while, then said, “It must not be the first time he’s mistreated his horses. I would assume his father had words with him, and now he wants to pretend it was not his fault.”
Briar shrugged. It was the same difference to him whether the viscount was cruel or just foolish. Tawny thought about pushing the subject, then decided against it. The night was waning – there would be more time for this later.
She was wrong.
The news came to her through the children, as it often did. They ran into her garden, screaming and jeering, and she had to wait a few seconds until she could make out what they were saying.
Briar had hit the viscount when the latter came again to have his horse shoed. The viscount’s men had responded by rushing him. Briar was strong, but he was not strong enough.
Tawny ran all the way to the village. Halfway there, she found the pub owner and his wife trying to carry Briar up the lane to her house. His head was lulling to the side.
“Lay him down,” she said grimly. Her lover’s face was blank and empty.
Gently, she closed his eyes, then brought her hand to his chest. It was still warm. If she focused, she could almost feel his heart, struggling to beat despite the wounds severing it. “Thank you,” she told the people who had gathered around her. “You should go.”
There was an uneasy murmur, and then someone came forward. “The priest won’t want to bury him in holy ground.” Only the cursed love a witch. “Sorry, Tawny,” he added.
She nodded again. “Very well. I will take care of it.”
Then, without requesting more help, she picked up Briar and carried him all the way back to her cottage.
“Don’t worry, my heart,” she whispered as she advanced. “We will be together. One way or another. I will make it happen.”
From somewhere around her, she could hear Briar murmuring his assent.
The Witch’s Heart is available as print and other merch on Red Bubble.