The Witch Arch

The Witch Arch. A simple Roman style doorway made out of stones in an arch, but a gateway to the Goddess of all Witches - Hecate. Under her influence, there is always a Supreme Witch in our realm, and Hecate wants vengeance for the witch trials, on all of humanity for the slaughter of her kind. The American Civil War. July 1st 1863, the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania U.S.A. Can a seven year old girl and a wounded confederate soldier overcome the Supreme Witch and defeat Hecate's evil plan?

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1. Chapter 1 - The American Civil War

'The Witch Arch' was unbreakable. I say 'unbreakable' but the almost Roman style rounded arch doorway itself could be dismantled of course, breaking the link from our world to the other one, but the stones themselves could never be destroyed. Nor could the stones be lost, for you see, if the Supreme Witch wanted to find them again she could simply cast a spell out into our world and they would eventually find their way home to her. People would find themselves compelled to dig deep holes in their garden, climb great mountains, or purchase diving equipment and scour the seabed for them. They'd make journeys lasting many years, crossing half the world to bring the large segments back to her, without really questioning what they were doing, or why, and ignoring all reason presented to them.

The ancient ten foot high arch had been broken many times since its creation, the stones scattered far and wide and returned home again and again. 'Home' changed every time the stones were brought together again, spanning the globe.

The Supreme Witch also changed each time. Witches, even with their unnaturally long lives had come and gone, lived and died, passed on the 'call of the stones' spell, forgotten it, and suddenly knew it when one had no logical right to expect to know it. Sometimes it was a whisper on the wind they would hear whilst walking alone, or a terror in the night instructed to them via nightmare.

Perfectly normal women leading perfectly ordinary lives as teachers, wives, daughters and even a Queen or two found themselves becoming drawn to witchcraft when no suitable dabbler of the dark arts were available, especially after the witch trials dispensed of a large number of their kind. They'd eventually end up playing the part the fate of the arch had intended for them. They'd become obsessed, embittered, haggard, hiding in shadows and living in hovels, acting out their new persona until nothing remained of the girl or woman who was once known. So, you see, we all have a role to play in life, and through the power of an ancient magic there would always be a Supreme Witch to maintain and guard 'The Witch Arch'. At this stage you may very well ask - why? What does The Witch Arch do? Well, we'll come onto that shortly.

This leads us to a battlefield in Gettysberg, Pennsylvania, July 1st 1863. The American civil war. Confederate General Robert E. Lee is leading his southern states army in an attempt to invade the free forces of the North. Although he ultimately looses this battle two days later he has some success on this day and pushes back the hastily assembled Union Army.

However, there are casualties even in the smallest of victories. William Baker, private in the Confederate army is injured and limping by a shot in the leg, he flees and retreats to the hills south of the town.

He tries to hide in a barn but is discovered by Miss Rosa, a young primp and proper spinster and a little seven year old girl named Dora Haynes.

He considers shooting at them on their discover but cannot bring himself to harm an innocent woman and child in this dreadful war.

Miss Rosa explains to him she is a spinster, a pacifist of a kind, and war disgusts her, she tells him she has no interest in handing him over to the authorities and will allow him to remain in the barn. She comes back to remove the bullet and dress his wound with a mosslike dressing she'd learnt to make from natural ingredients. After all, despite being a teacher she had grown up on a farm and knew a trick or two, even if she'd picked up a few more in the last year or so. She put it down to the war at first, it forced you to be more resourceful.

He asks who the child belongs to and Miss Rosa explains she is an orphan. She brings the soldier some food and water that evening and explains further.

Dora Haynes, a seven year old girl had been unlucky. Her father had died in January 1863 in the trenches, not from gunfire but smallpox. In March, her mother, who had always been of an unstable mind anyway was stricken by grief and killed herself by a shot to the face.

On hearing the shot, Dora had been found by their neighbour who insisted on being called Miss Rosa to the little girl. Dora described how her mother had insisted on dressing her in her best dress and shoes, brushed her hair and then proceeded to put the pistol in her mouth and pull the trigger in front of her.

There had been no real orphanage in the 2400 population strong town until shorty after the war had ended, a necessity after the huge battle.

Miss Rosa took pity on the girl and had taken her in as it appeared there were no friends or relatives who could assist.

Miss Rosa was not all she seemed as it turned out, for she was the current Supreme Witch, although she was not entirely aware of this. She'd indeed been a spinster and had inherited her fathers farm but was socially awkward and had never married. She'd been looking after Dora for four months and part of her was becoming increasingly glad her mother had killed herself. This secret glee shocked her, many of her emotions and feelings were changing these days, and fast. She didn't like what was happening to herself.

William Baker was an attractive young man, it didn't matter to her he was from the so called enemy, confederate or Yankee it was all the same to her. They were all American damn it. She found herself opening up to him.

What she didn't tell him was that she knew when it had started of course, looking back, about a year ago she'd started having the dreams. A dream of a beautiful but terrifying woman who appeared to her as a relatively normal looking woman, but sometimes shifting into a three woman version of herself, all standing back to back with each other like a conjoined set of triplets.

That's when the first person came to her with one of the stones. They had travelled many miles to bring it to her and simply left. Many more people came and in her dreams she was instructed to build the arch, which she did laboriously until she was missing one last piece.

Despite herself, she found William very handsome, and planted a kiss on his cheek, being a typical man he responded and they quickly fell into each others embrace as Dora slept in the main house.

That night Miss Rosa returned to the house ashamed but at the same time thrilled and fell into a deep sleep. She was visited again by this strange female creature bathed in light and instructed once again to finish the Arch. The creature told her the last stone was hidden in a small cave not far from her house in a small woods near a stream.

The early morning was a dangerous time to go looking for this stone with Dora, but the battle wasn't near to them, despite the small chance of hidden soldiers and deserters. They found the cave and Miss Rosa explained the space was small, only a child would be able to crawl throught. Dora resisted and Miss Rosa reminded her that she was ungrateful, an orphan with nobody else to love her, and that she needed to earn her keep. She'd been beating the child daily for the smallest of infractions very shortly after taking the girl in. She had no idea if it was the broken ideal of having a child, or the growing dark magic and hate that was surrounding her, but she warned the child she had better crawl into the cave or face a serious beating until she agreed.

Dora did as she was told and indeed found the last stone, it was heavy for a small girl but she evertually pushed it and herself out of the cave away from the insects of the forest.

They went straight home, to the back garden, Miss Rosa climbed the wooden ladder and using the heavy stone pushed the artificial 'holding stone' from the top of the Arch which had been holding it up. It was not as difficult a task as it might sound, for you see, the stones wanted to be together.

"Now that it's done," asked Dora, "what do you think it does?"

"I've told you before," replied Miss Rosa holding back her contempt which she didn't consider to be her, "I'm not sure, but I suppose we are about to find out."

They stood back and inspected the Arch in all it's glory. There was an expectant air, and she didn't know why but Miss Rosa started singing a soft song in words Dora did not understand. The light changed, but only on the other side of the Arch. The dull grey early morning light of Gettysberg bore down around them, but on the other side of the Arch it got brighter and brighter, like a warm summer day, warm and yellow. It had been around 76 degrees the day before but cloudy, as they approached the Arch and looked through at the familiar Gettysberg landscape there was not a cloud in the blue sky.

"Dora," said Miss Rosa, "walk around the other side."

Dora did so and they stood on opposite sides of the Arch.

"Miss Rosa!" Dora exclaimed, "I can see you but the sky is cloudy like normal, the warm sunshine is gone."

Dora waved at the woman, "can you see me?"

"I cannot see you child but I can hear your voice," Miss Rosa replied, "watch me as I step forwards and tell me what you see."

Dora watched as Miss Rosa stepped forward and disappeared in front of her eyes, she exclaimed "Miss Rosa! Miss Rosa!"

Dora ran around to the sunny side of the Arch and saw Miss Rosa standing a few feet into the Arch on the sunny side looking back at her. They tried to talk to each other but could not hear each others voices. Miss Rosa stepped back into our world.

"I could not hear you child," she ventured.

"I could not hear you either mother," the child said excitedly.

"I am Not your mother," Miss Rosa scowled, "do not forget yourself."

Dora looked sad and confused at her own sudden outburst.

"Take my hand," Miss Rosa softened, "let us investigate this new world."

They did so, it looked just like the landscape that would be there if they had not stepped through the Arch, but that strange sunlight persisted. They came to a point where in the distance they could see a roman style circular domed pergola, with six columns holding up the roof.

"I bet this isn't in our world," said Dora.

"I think you're entirely correct," Miss Rosa replied.

As they approached a figure materialised in the pergola.

"Do not be afraid, child," said the beautiful woman with long flowing brown hair and black robes, "I am Hecate, Goddess of all Witches."

Miss Rosa asked, "are you the one who has been giving me these nightmares?"

"Nightmares come from within," replied the witch, "you have been experiencing an awakening."

"I don't want to feel this way, I feel conflicted in a way I never felt before."

"Yes, but now you feel joy, and hate, and passion, you are alive in a way you never were before."

"I want to be myself again."

"Is that how you felt last night? In that soldiers arms? Looking into his eyes?"

Miss Rosa looked at the floor.

"For it is no shame, to fall in love, to feel those emotions, it is natural. As there is always Hecate, there is always a Supreme Witch, and I have chosen you. You cannot deny your attraction to the power, the dark power that I have given you."

Miss Rosa said nothing, she just looked ashamed.

Dora shouted, "what is the purpose of all this?!"

The witch smiled, "yes, to business."

Hecate held out her hand like a perch and a bird appeared on her outstretched finger.

"This," said Hecate, "is a Jinx bird, otherwise known as a Wryneck bird. He is a handsome devil is he not? He can turn his head full around like a snake, and if he catches your eye he can curse you. If he pecks you as his brother the woodpecker might, even for a second, you will be entraced."

Dora asked, "what do you want from us?"

Hecate was enraged, "I want revenge! Revenge for the witch trials and all other woman of magic who have been slaughtered by your precious God fearing kind! And you will obey me! You will assist me in my task!"

Miss Rosa and Dora stood terrified unable to speak at this creature as she changed into three woman, identical, stood back to back in a circle, conjoined like triplets at a freak show.

"Take this bird and use it as your familiar Supreme Witch!"

The bird flew about Miss Rosa's head as she screamed and landed on her shoulder.

Hecate looked disgusted, "do not fuss!"

The Goddess of Witches held out her six arms and a large flock of Jinx birds come forth from her. They for in the direction of The Witch Arch.

"Bring me killers," hissed Hecate, "bring me murderous men. Bring me the soldiers of this battle. Their blood, once sacrificed on my altar, will empower me and punish humanity for their crimes against me. The birds will seek out soldiers and curse them with a look, entrance them with a peck, they will be compelled to come to the Arch and meet their end with me."

Dora bursts into tears and screams at the witch, "no! This is evil and wrong, you can't make us!"

Hecate simply laughs to herself, "you are lucky to even be here before me child, only a witch can bring through a non-witch, do not make me hurt you child and those you care for, I can make your life a long one filled with pain and regret!"

Miss Rosa turns to Dora and says, "I must do as she asks, we'll go back to our world and you don't have to be involved."

"You Want to do it," Dora accuses, "don't you?"

Miss Rosa smiled a sad smile. There was little more to be said and Hecate bid them back to our world.

Outside the barn Dora pleads with Miss Rosa, "please don't do it to William, he could have shot us and he didn't, he is a good man."

"Go back to the house!" Miss Rosa pushes the girl to the ground. Dora runs back to the house.

Miss Rosa shows the bird to William with the full intention of cursing him, she can control the bird now she has embraced her new persona, but one look at him and she can't help but feel love for him, so soon and so unexpected, but powerful. She perches the bird on a rake and it watches as they make love.

Meanwhile, on the edges of the battle the birds land on soldiers heads and peck away at them.

By night over a thousand soldiers have gathered at the Arch. Miss Rosa has been escorting them into the bright world for they can not go in without her.

Dora is concerned for Miss Rosa and confesses the whole story to William. He has a hard time believing it but it's clear the girl is distressed. She convinces William to come rescue the woman. "If there is chance she is in trouble I must come to her assistance, even if it means I may get caught up in this battle." He admits to Dora he does not have a girlfriend and would like to save Miss Rosa if they can.

They go out to the back garden where the field with the Arch is. Dora and William see Miss Rosa from a distance and a gun shot appears to come from the nearby woods, Miss Rosa is floored and injured, they run to her as she drags herself into the Arch. William spots the shooter from the woods aims and fires, there is silence.

"I think I got him," William said, "but we must make haste for more will come."

"I'm not sure it will work with me," said Dora, "it seems to only let people in when they are with her."

"Let's try," William replied, "we can but try and stop this madness. Maybe if we pray to Jesus he will grant us access to the Arch to try and save her soul."

"Yes," said Dora in a small voice holding back the tears and putting her hands together, "Jesus."

William gets on his knees and puts his hands over Dora's small hands. They close their eyes and William leads the Lords Prayer with Dora trying to say it along with him.

William stood up, Dora held up her hand to William and led him towards the Arch, they step through.

"It worked," said Dora, "now we must find Miss Rosa, she can't have gotten far."

They find her dying on the path, a shot to the chest. The Jinx bird sees them and flies off in the direction of the pergola. William gets down on the ground and lifts her head in his hands.

"I was hoping something might become of us," said Miss Rosa as she coughed up a little blood. William wiped it from her face, and said "me too Miss Rosa."

"Come to me Dora," Miss Rosa instructed, "I'm so sorry child, I thought I could look after you well, turns out I was always destined to be alone. I'm not fit for other people."

Dora cries, "No Miss Rosa! Don't die! Jesus sent us in to save you."

Miss Rosa looks as if she is trying to tell Dora something, but slips away.

William comforts the girl for a moment but he is all too aware how short time is, he says "be strong for now child, come."

"What now?" Dora says, "we can't just leave her here!"

"She's... gone. We must leave Dora," said William, "this place is no place for us. We cannot defeat this magic. We must destroy the Arch."

"What about the soldiers?!"

"Their fate is sealed we cannot save them from this evil, all we can do is seal this portal."

They make for the Arch to exit and Hecate manifests in the Archway.

"Do not leave!" Hecate appeared to be having trouble manifesting at this spot, as if her powers were weaker nearer the Arch itself.

"There will always be a Supreme Witch!" Hecate screamed as her image flickered, "did you not wonder how you were able to enter this world child?!" Her death means nothing! You were her apprentice even if you didn't realise it! Her powers were passing to you, any witch can pass through the Arch! Now she's dead YOU will twist and turn into the next Supreme Witch!"

Dora begins to cry.

"She lies!" William shouted, "do not think you can trick us with your sour words demon."

They exit the Arch running right through Hecate's disintergrating image.

There is sound of a battle nearby.

William Baker takes the end of his rifle and continiously rams at a stone until it is dislodged and the Arch crumbles to the ground.

The gathered soldiers appear to be coming to their senses. He takes Dora's hand and they run back to the barn.

The war is over, the authorities find them and William is taken away. Dora is handed over to the authorities. She is taken away to a nearby city and put into an orphanage. She would return to Gettysberg a few years later when the orphanage is opened there. William, now a free man in the United State's of America comes to live in Gettysberg and rents the farm from Miss Rosa's estranged family.

"I'm so glad you come back for me," said Dora, "now that you've adopted me, can I call you daddy?"

"Of course Dora," he replies with a smile and hugs her.

He embarks on a quest to scatter the stones far and wide. He prays for inspiration.

One day there was a knock at the door.

"I've come to help," said the man, "I don't know why... but I feel there is something I must do here."

"Yes," replied William, "there is..."

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