Updated: Oct 10, 2021
This paranormal, romantic, and fantastic short story is dear to me. It was the first short story I shared with other fellow authors at the Writers’ Mastermind Mash-up 2020. Well, I only read the first part of it back then. Now, I bring it entirely to you, and I hope it captures you as well.
The old, solemn bridge spread before Delinda, and the river underneath rambled on the rocks covered with moss. It seemed about to rip the bridge’s pillars and take away any soul that dared to step on it.
Years had passed since a person laid a foot on that bridge and less crossed it. However, on the other side, the forest encouraged the young woman to fetch what her heart longed for: the amulet to bring her beloved Devin back. And only the ancient witch could make it for her.
The villagers had warned Delinda about going to the older sorceress because no one who saw her had returned. They said those seekers became food to the demons that wandered in the woods. Yet, the long nights Delinda had embraced with sorrow, waiting for Devin to come back from battle, had instilled blind but courageous despair in her.
Inhaling the humid spring air deeply, Delinda walked down the bridge with short, firm steps. Once she crossed it, she looked back and smiled. Nothing happened to her; she was confident enough to go on.
As Delinda stepped into the forest, a cold wind whistled, and her long red hair shivered like tongues of fire on a stormy night. A chill ran throughout her slim body as she halted and listened to the birds and crickets chirping, the owls hooting, the crows rattling, and the wood cracking.
The forest was talking to her, or was it warning her?
Delinda shook the doubts out of her head and walked between the beech and oak trees. Their thick foliage hid the warm, golden sun rays, but she kept walking.
Finally, she arrived at a clearing where white lilacs and pink buds grew everywhere. Delinda heard a strange shriek in the distance, but her heart was deaf, her limbs numb, and her senses shut to beauty or surprise.
The shadows crept up the silent trunks while she lay on the comforting green, breathing the intense, moist scent. The wings of darkness embraced her as the cool, silver rays of the moon painted the field.
“I need to sleep for a while,” she whispered to the void.
“No! You must go on. Keep searching for the old witch before it’s too late for Devin,” a voice ordered in her mind.
Delinda stood up and walked with hefty steps to the border of the woods. Suddenly, the sounds of the forest became sharper. She stopped.
“Don’t listen to them! One more step, dear, and you will reach your destination. One more step,” the voice mumbled.
Delinda entered the woods, and everything around her went silent. Not a shriek, not a craw, not a whistle, not a sign of life. However, she dragged her body between the leafless trees, their trunks with expressions of horror and wonder of their own.
“I must do this for Devin. Devin...” Delinda repeated because she was forgetting why she was there.
The forest was consuming her thoughts and emotions.
Within a short time, Delinda found herself in a spot as ancient as the Kalevala. She stood in front of a cave covered with a dried honeysuckle curtain.
“You are finally here, dear,” echoed the voice not in her head this time but within the cave.
What came out could have flustered anyone. However, Delinda seemed to have expected it.
A slender, tall shape in black appeared behind the dried leaves, and bony fingers pushed them away to let her pass. Long, silver locks and a wrinkled face showed age traces on the pale, almost translucent skin. The blurred blackness that replaced the eyes and the sharp yellow teeth that smiled wickedly at her was the most horrendous.
“What do you want, Delinda?”
Delinda shivered as if a cold blast woke her from a nightmare. She fixed her eyes on the witch’s ghostly face while her mind wandered among her thoughts.
‘Remember, Delinda,’ she told herself.
“You came to stay with me.” The witch’s silhouette floated to Delinda, whose mouth dropped open as the cold fingers grabbed a red lock of her hair. “Will you stay with me?” The witch’s hoarse voice resonated in Delinda’s core.
Delinda shook her head. “No. Someone is waiting for me.”
“Who, Delinda? Who is waiting for you?”
Delinda lowered her gaze. For a moment, she thought she saw out of the corners of her eyes the roots of the trees shifting. She remained quiet; no answer would come to her.
“A long-gone love has drained you from life, my dear. But let me fill you again,” the witch whispered near her ear and smelled her hair.
The old sorceress brought her index finger to the white, soft flesh of Delinda’s neck. With a small scratch from her pointed, yellow nail, a drop of blood poured from the dainty slit. The witch licked it with her viper-like tongue.
Mesmerized by the sorceress’s poison, Delinda’s lips drew a faint smile, and her eyes shut closed. The shadows danced around her as the roots of the trees crawled to her feet. They caressed her ankles, thighs, and waist. The plump, rough tubers pulled her slowly down. Tiny thorns drew out of the roots and trespassed her soft skin.
Lying in the middle of the forest, the trees sucked her blood. Only then, Delinda remembered her love for Devin and the amulet to bring him back. Yet, she was at peace. The roots offered a sweet comfort to her suffering.
The witch’s laugh was distant but deeply delightful, for the trees started to wear their forgotten greenery again while the forest drained Delinda out of strength.
The gray, stormy sky was falling apart as lightning and thunder shook every corner of the Earth.
The drops of rain bounced off Devin’s broad shoulders, and the shadows covered the scars he had gained on the battlefield. He thought he’d never set foot in his village again and less see his beloved Delinda.
Devin entered the village horseless in his ragged uniform and a woolen bag on his shoulder. He walked down the dark, empty paths toward familiar places, yet his only interest was to reach Delinda’s cottage.
When he finally stood before her stoned doorsteps, Devin dropped the woolen bag to the ground and knocked firmly on the grey door. After a few minutes, the door opened, and an older woman peeked from behind it. Her wrinkled forehead creased as her brows lifted in surprise at seeing Devin’s tired and blood-stained face.
Delinda’s grandmother had to look up as if peering at a tower, but not even his height and strong frame intimidated her. With tears welling up in her eyes and a shaking but angry voice, she snapped, “It’s your fault! If you had left before she met you, Delinda would still be with me. You, devil, caused her death!”
Her cold words seized his soul. He had expected the battle to harden his heart, but what he heard pierced a new desolation in him. He wished to meet Delinda’s smiling eyes and her warm embrace to fill him with hope and comfort. Yet, he found himself unable to manage the pain of losing her.
As if struck by a horrific realization, Devin asked in a rumble, “What do you mean, old woman? Where is my Delinda?”
“She was so desperate to bring you back that...,” the grandmother trailed off to let out a sob. Then, she stammered, “She went to the forest... to meet the sorceress.”
His heart skipped a beat as he shook his head in disbelief. How could Delinda do this to him? He had promised he would come back. Instead of waiting for him, she decided to break his heart.
Without giving it a second thought, Devin took an ax from the woolen sack and rushed to the bridge.
He didn’t look back when he was in front of it and crossed it under the rain, which drummed against his chest as if wanting to stop him from entering the greedy forest.
The storm stopped at dawn.
The clouds gave in to the first rays of the sunrise, and the sounds of the forest reminded Devin, who had been walking the whole night, that he was still in the land of the living.
The sharp chirping, craws, and hootings filled the space around him, but Devin cared little about anything other than his despair and longing for Delinda.
As he dived deeper into the forest, the shadows shifted among the trees, like mourning ghosts, and the roots clambered toward him, hindering his progress. The more he advanced, the gloomier the forest became until he reached the clearing. A vast field of dried grass and dead buds, whose colors remained in oblivion, covered the ground.
“Take me with you, Delinda,” he begged to the void, raising his amber eyes to the sky. “Please, don’t leave me alone.”
He held his ax tighter as he advanced toward the other side of the forest. But as soon as he trespassed the borders, the sounds shut down, and a green glimmer between the dried branches and thick trunks caught his sight. It was a blurred trail.
He raised his brows in confusion. The sudden dizziness that took hold of him shoved him to the ground. Devin scratched the dirt till he found the strength to stand up again and dragged his feet toward the unseen path.
A piece of land, dressed with splendorous greenery, appeared before him. Orange, pink, purple, and white lilies adorned the ground, while the trees showed exaggerated broad leaves of different shades of green. Colorful butterflies flew here and there, and mockingbirds sang in the high.
Devin looked around distrustfully while walking heavily to the opening of a cave covered with a thick emerald honeysuckle curtain. While the scent of its delicate flowers filled his lungs, his eyes fell on a strange shape on the ground among the thick roots. Tiny pink buds gathered around the figure as if cradling it in a soft bed of nature.
Devin gawked at the soft curves of a frame that seemed like a maiden. Shock grabbed his heart at the sight of wood meddling with real flesh and muddy locks of red hair.
He lifted the ax above his head and shoved it down against the roots with all his might. The tubers shifted, and a low shriek escaped from the sleeping trunks. Devin dropped the ax when he saw no result at cutting the wood and brought his rough hands down. Blood oozed from his palm lines as he tore some roots away from Delinda’s static silhouette. However, more blood poured from the broken limbs.
Busy with saving his beloved, Devin didn’t notice the black floating shape observing him. Yellow teeth smiled maliciously, and the viper-like tongue licked the absent lower lip. The witch was thirsty; she was sure the brokenhearted man would satisfy her.
“Stop! You’re hurting her,” she grumbled and drifted to Devin.
Despite his sorrow and delusion, Devin couldn’t help letting out a gasp of rage. He stood up like an imposing tower, his brows furrowed in disgust.
“Witch, let my woman go, or I’ll finish you for good!” Devin roared.
The older sorceress grinned and then laughed aloud, opening her mouth, which seemed like an endless black hole.
“Poor, petty soul,” she scoffed, “Do you believe so? What if she wanted this? Your lovely Delinda came voluntarily to me and found peace here.”
“This isn’t true. I want Delinda back!”
“What if you cannot have her back?” the witch whispered near him. “Her blood has already mingled with the dirt. She is mine now, and I must say Delinda is so delicious,” she hissed with satisfaction ringing in her voice.
Devin growled in despair and lunged at her. Instead of crashing what looked like a fragile frame, the witch disappeared and reappeared beside Delinda’s abused body. She bent down to pick some blood from Delinda’s chest with her pale, bony index finger and licked it, savoring the warm, rich liquid.
Devin knew it was impossible to fight against her old magic. He fell to his knees and begged her, “Please, let me have her. Let me be with her!” He looked at Delinda when suddenly he caught the glitter in her open eyes.
He crawled to her and cradled her head with cautions not to hurt her. Then, he blamed her with a loving, rough voice, “Why did you do this, Delinda? I was going to return to you.”
Delinda’s stiff limbs tried to move in vain. Her voice came out in a gurgle, “Go away.”
“There’s only one way to let her live,” the witch echoed behind them.
Devin turned to her, never leaving Delinda. “What is it, sorceress? Speak up!”
“I’ll let her live if you make a Sampo for me. I want the purest and truest Sampo.”
Devin shook his head. “The Sampo is nothing more than a myth.”
That was what everyone thought, but the ancient sorceress knew the truth behind the myth.
“You have a golden heart and a pure soul. Your will is as strong as a mountain, and you live by your values. You’re loyal, fearless, and perseverant. Such humans are scarce nowadays, for they carry the spark of true love. Such hearts can attract the Universe’s rarest and richest wealth and grant eternity to whoever possesses them.” The witch explained patiently with a mechanical voice that softened with each word she uttered. She smiled as her fingers caressed Devin’s robust features.
He was paralyzed by what she was conveying to him. No more rage, grief, or fear embraced his heart, but a sudden peace and a deep love of belonging.
“What must I do, then?”
“Your heart, combined with Delinda’s, will make this land sacred and eternal. You can only unite with her through these roots, and I’ll be happy to receive your blood, such a powerful mixture of love and sacrifice!” While she spoke, the Earth beneath Devin shook, and glittering elements appeared from under the dirt. “You will build a Sampo out of iron, gold, and diamond just like your heart, Devin. Then, you will be one with Delinda till eternity.”
With determined movements controlled by invisible strings, Devin carried the metals and stones and worked them with a hot hammer, whose heat didn’t disturb or hurt him.
Moons and suns passed while Devin worked unstoppable until he completed the Sampo. A golden box resistant to time and space and brighter than the daylight would serve the witch to keep the lovers’ hearts. The sorceress was satisfied and granted Devin his wish.
As Devin stepped onto the humid grounds where Delinda’s silhouette rested, the roots shifted to give him space beside his beloved in a deadly embrace.
The lovers who find this spot in the Northern European forests are blessed with everlasting love in today's world. They say Delinda and Devin’s shapes can be seen among the roots, in the land that never dies.
I would love to know in the comments what your thoughts are about this short story. The Witch's Sampo was originally called The Witch's Amulet. However, since it's inspired by the Finnish mythology of the Sampo, I thought it was more convenient.
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