Salem

DarinValore

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Witches and demons are not real. Magic is most definitely not real. Society romanticizes these things and feeds varying interpretations of them to people through religion, movies, video games, and novels. People believe that little boys can play sports on brooms, and that a lightning bolt scar means destiny and greatness. They believe that, with enough salt and the burning of bodies, spirits can be put to rest. They believe that demons can be tamed and unleashed upon the evil in the world. Witches are thought to be warty old women who want to feast on children. None of these are real.

At least not in the sense that society has come to believe them to be…

Seth sighed as he entered the Barley Sisters’ Books and Novelties store. The chime above the door sounded and the young, attractive blonde woman behind the counter smiled courteously to him, “Welcome back, Mr. Davenport,” she greeted him with a smile, her scanning eyes obvious to anyone who would have been standing there.

“Now, Cindy, how many times do I have to tell you not to call me that? Mr. Davenport is my dad,” Seth smiled back and kept walking.

“A bad habit I suppose,” she replied, “Will it be the usual today?”

“Yes. I’m looking for a good read,” Seth answered as he made his way to the door in the back of the shop where an ‘Employees Only’ sign hung.

Cindy nodded and reached below the counter. Seth assumed she was drawing the same sigil she always did that gave access to the real room within the tiny shop, the inner sanctum. Sure enough, the moment he opened the door, he found himself within a room where the witches of the Silver Rose met.

The room he found himself in was much larger than the library shop. It was a round room with two floors that were alive with people hustling from countertop to countertop for ingredients or bookshelf to bookshelf for particular tomes of power to read over. The countertops on the bottom floor had doors that opened to storerooms where ingredients were easily accessible. The top floor was secured by a wooden railing that looked as old as time but was sturdier than steel. Bookshelves stretched from the ceiling to the floor where witches could peruse for ancient knowledge or simply to sharpen their particular skills. Straight in front of him was the second set of doors he needed to walk through, but before he could, he had to walk through the gawking eyes of the witches presently there.

It was always a gauntlet of rumors and suggestive comments. Witches often said what they meant and meant what they said. This time was no different as he made his way through and caught bits and pieces.

“Look at the size of that man.”

“They just don’t make Aspids like that anymore.”

“I heard that’s why he still hasn’t been paired with a witch.”

Most of the rumors and words didn’t bother him, except for that last one…it seemed to always get to him. He was the only Aspids of his age and class that still hadn’t been paired with a witch. He hadn’t understood why, but he had never questioned it. He always helped in any way he could when he was needed. Some day, he would be able to fulfill the role he’d always trained for.

Once he made it through the other door, Seth found himself standing in a room with the Council of Five. These were the oldest, wisest, and most powerful members of the Coven. At least, that was what the requirements used to be. With the passing of time, younger witches were permitted to join so long as they showed immense power and promise, incredible restraint, and wisdom beyond their years. Right now, only one witch was on the Council that didn’t look like they were one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. That was Celeste. She joined Rowetta, Susan, Penny, and Tracy, each powerful in their own rights despite their frail appearances.

Whatever they were discussing quickly came to an end when he stepped in. Celeste offered a gentle smile. Seth tried to not notice it. There was history there, some pleasant, some not so pleasant.

“Mr. Davenport,” Rowetta started, “Thank you for answering our summons so quickly.”

“When the Council calls, you answer,” Seth returned.

“Yes, even so,” she continued, “Thank you.”

“We’ve been given news that the Cromwell estate has an heir coming into town to check out the house,” Tracy added, her almost milky eyes sunk in her head. She was the oldest of the Council, but the most respected. Frail and blind, she could still filet a man alive with a whisper. Frightful woman.

“The Cromwell house has been inactive for two generations,” Penny, a woman in her fifties with red hair cut in a bobby style added, “If there indeed is an heir to the estate, we must know if it is a male or another witch. If so, she will need protection considering all the recent losses. We cannot afford to continue to lose good witches.”

“If she’s a good witch,” Celeste spoke up, “There’s a reason why the Cromwell house has been dormant. The last Cromwell abandoned her post and her sisters. If this heir is indeed a witch, she cannot be trusted.”

“We won’t know unless we get a chance to speak with her,” Penny fired back, “We won’t get a chance to speak with her if she’s dead.”

“Witches,” Tracy interrupted when she noticed how uncomfortable Seth had become being a bystander in a bickering match, “We did not bring Mr. Davenport here to watch us bicker.” They all agreed.

“Seth,” Celeste was the only one on the Council that would ever call him by his first name. It must have been a perk of sleeping in the same bed with him for five years, “The Council wants you to watch this house. If it is indeed a woman, get close to her and keep her safe. If she shows that she has the gift, you will serve as her Aspid.”

He was both excited and disappointed. His card had finally come up, but he might be the Aspid of an inexperienced woman who might not even know if she’s a witch. If he was standing before his own bosses, he might have protested, but no one argued with the Council.

“As the Council Sees,” he spoke the customary phrase of submission.

He started to back away to head back out when Celeste spoke again, “Oh, and Seth, if she proves to be a member of the Others, kill her.”

“As the Council Sees,” he repeated as he walked out.
 
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Ashi

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Convenient. That was about the only word capable of describing the appearance of the letter in the rusted, galvanized mailbox. There hadn't been so much as an advertisement in months, not since the post office finally halted the flow of mail to the country estate whose owner passed some months before that. Despite the numerous calls, they still delivered mail to a dead woman for six months, not taking the slightest hint from the overfilled rectangular dome burgeoning with post to the point that it spilled out on the ground. So, when the granddaughter turned onto the dirt and gravel drive, the sight of the weather-worn red metal flag standing erect came as a mild surprise. She half expected to see the backlog packed in to the top of the mailbox; however, there was only a single white business envelope with a rather curious return address: a P.O. box in Salem, Massachusetts, of all places.

Strangely convenient, the timing of it, coming about when the property just sold. The enclosed document was a notice from a probate court, requesting legal action in regards to the inheritance of real-estate, addressed to Esther A. Cromwell. The trouble was that there were four generations of Esther A. Cromwell's, the last of which was Ettie; and the document was surprisingly nonspecific as to whom it meant. She could only guess that it meant her grandmother, for it was her house the letter was sent to. Ettie had returned to finish cleaning it out, boxing up what remained of her grandmother's belongings after the estate sale. She already had the things she wished to keep, but would weed out a few things here and there while she gathered what was left to donate. Some part of her said this was a complication that she didn't need, yet another told her that it was a change she did.

Some might have called it fate or destiny, the timing of it, when the last blood ties Ettie had to the town she grew up in were severed. Her mother was long since gone, having passed when Ettie was younger. With her father out of the picture, she was raised by her grandmother, and now she was gone, too. Ettie had been living in town to be closer to work, a full hour away from where her grandmother's property resided in the backcountry of the county outside of any city limits. For some time, she ruminated on the idea of a change of scenery, a fresh start elsewhere. Perhaps she should take this as a sign to go for it? Alas, the deciding factor in whether she should stay in her lifelong small hometown or venture to newer pastures was not the letter or the many phone calls she had to make to get a hold of the probate court and the person in charge of that particular case. What decided her was the box she found in the attic, which she had started cleaning between said calls, whilst she sat on hold.

In the box were a number of haphazard-seeming things: several photo albums little larger in size than the photos they preserved, a silken pouch with a braided draw cord containing dried flowers, a book on herbology that must have been older than modern print, and a ring keeping old keys. Of course, that wasn't all, but those were the things that piqued Ettie's interest the most. She flipped through the photos, ignoring the jaunty music playing on the other end of the line. Her family's history always intrigued her, considering how little her grandmother ever told her; and it was right there in her lap, in the photos, in the house they depicted. The house in the letter. Had to be it.

A two-week's notice and a broken lease later, Ettie made the near-thousand mile drive from rural northern Kentucky to the eclectic New England town to answer the probate. She wasn't sure she would claim the house if she could, or live in it if she did. Truth was that she had no idea what to expect. Something bid her go and she did. So, when finally she arrived the next morning to the address mentioned in the court's letter, she wasn't exactly disappointed by what she saw, albeit she wasn't exactly thrilled either. It was an old house, ivy climbing up the side and across the front. Years of neglect showed in obvious wood rot around window sills and porch beams, and the roof would most certainly require replacement. Ettie grimaced, sucked in a breath between her teeth.

"Alright, well, it's a free house. I guess I can't complain." Her tone as she spoke to herself betrayed her uncertainty. Crossing the path and ascending the steps to the porch, Ettie reached into the pocket of her jacket for the keys from her grandmother's attic, stomach lurching. She tried the door on a whim, finding it locked, and shuffled the keys. One key, then another. When the third key didn't fit, she knew worry and with baited breath tried the fourth. "Damn. One more." She shook her head. If the last key wasn't it, then her intuition was wrong. "Moment of truth." It slid into the hole with relative ease.

The young Cromwell took a walk about the house, surveying work to be done. There was some furniture left, covered by sheets and layers of dust. The oak boards creaked beneath her feet, especially on the stairs, but they largely seemed sturdy. The more Ettie saw, the more seriously she considered staying. It was a lovely house and it just felt.. right, somehow. By the time she completed her walk-through, she determined that she would stay. Should. It was the fresh start she needed and it was an opportunity to learn about her heritage as a Cromwell.

"Order for Ettie." The barista called over the counter, prompting Ettie forward to retrieve the order.

On her way to run errands, Ettie stopped off at the first café she came across. She had gotten breakfast on the road, but that was a while ago. She took the large coffee in one hand, breakfast sandwich in the other, and inhaled the rich scent of fresh medium brew.
 

DarinValore

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Watching and waiting had never really been a thing that Seth was very good at. He was always the one who preferred action when necessary, and getting to know this woman who had found her way into the Coven's lingering gaze through the house of a traitor was going to need a more intentional route. His curiosity peaked the first moment he saw her.

She had beautiful blonde hair that framed soft features and a frame that complemented all of it. She was attractive by any man's standards, though Seth tried to remind himself that this was a job first. Investigate then potentially become her Aspid. After that, their relationship could be anything it shaped up to be.

He shook his head. He was already using the 'R' word. Celeste was the last woman he'd ever used that word, 'relationship', with, and she made short work of him.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. He needed to stay focused.

When his mark walked into the coffee shop, he took that as the perfect time to introduce himself and get to know her. Standing behind her, he tried to look as inconspicuous as possible while still keeping his eye on her should she change her mind. He brushed his hands against the khaki cargo pants he wore then tugged at the navy blue t-shirt he wore that barely fit around his arms though the rest of his body fit comfortably inside. It was one of the downsides of being as large as he was.
When she got her order and took a deep breath of her coffee, he took it as the only opportunity he was probably going to get to say something without sounding creepy. "This place makes the best brew in town," he told her as he stepped up to the counter and ordered his usual. The young barista behind the counter gave him a wink before she went to work on it. Seth spotted the breakfast in her hand and shrugged a little, "Though, if it's breakfast you want, there's a little ma and pop place just a couple blocks away that makes the best breakfasts."

"Sorry," he said as he paid for and grabbed his coffee, "I just saw you really enjoying the scent of your coffee. I'm guilty of that pleasure, too. I'm Seth," he offered his name and hoped she'd repay in kind.
 

Ashi

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Ettie closed her eyes, releasing the breath that drew in the dreamy aroma to lightly blow upon the liquid's surface, dispelling the thin plumes of rising steam. Her lips grazed the round edge of the paper cup, poised to test the flavor before she resolved to put a lid on it, lest she need to adjust the amount of cream or sugar. A few shuffling steps - shuffling because she wasn't quite looking where she was going and she didn't want to risk spilling the hot drink - turned her back to the counter and far enough away from the line that the next person could step forward. The voice registered before the words spoken, before the possibility occurred to the blonde that they were directed at her, drawing her attention in a sidelong glance towards the owner.

"H-huh?" Her coffee-colored eyes widened, affixed at once in a doe's gaze upon the man who had been standing behind her in line. "Oh, good to know." She looked rather like a deer in headlights as she scrambled for some reply, still so uncertain that he was speaking to her that she peered over her shoulder as inconspicuously as she could manage to be sure there was no one else. She completely missed the one-sided exchange between him and the barista. "Well, where were you, like, ten minutes ago? I could be eating a breakfast platter instead of a sandwich." Ettie joked, giving something between a smirk and a grin. She sipped her coffee, made a face, and turned toward the little station set aside for customers which provided cream and sugar among other things.

"A coffee lover, what a relief. Had you said the same about tea, I'm afraid we couldn't be friends." Face downcast over her coffee, Ettie stole a discreet appraising glance at Seth through the curtain of her shoulder-length hair. He looked like he got that a lot, broad as he was. She bit her lip, forced herself to focus on the cup in front of her. Hastily, she finished adjusting the coffee and put a lid on the cup, as if by doing so she could put a lid on her own thoughts. "Ettie, nice to meet you." She offered a hand while she still had one free, adding lower, "That's E-T-T-I-E, not to be confused for E-D-D-Y." While she didn't like to seem particular or the type to knit pick, she had grown up with people getting her name wrong and had grown thoroughly tired of it. Still she cursed herself for even mentioning it the second it left her mouth.

"I'm guessing you're a local with a sixth sense for newcomers?" With a touch of grim humor, she thought, "Or he's a serial killer with a knack for identifying single women traveling alone in new places. Just my luck." Drink in hand, Ettie started towards the door, scouting the tables outside. They were warm with the sun despite their umbrellas. "I don't take it I'd be lucky enough that you happen to be a contractor, too? Or a probate officer?"
 

DarinValore

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"Well, Ettie," he said as he followed her outside into the sunlit patio of the coffee shop where beige plastic tables and black chairs awaited them in the shade of umbrellas alternating the same colors, "I frequent this coffee shop often, and I have never seen you before. I would have remembered if I had," he tried not to look like he'd just dropped a cheesy line, but he was never really good at hiding that sort of thing. Instead, Seth cleared his throat and continued, "I assumed you were new to the area, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to introduce myself."

He gestured toward an empty table that was nestled in the corner of the black steel fencing that secured the perimeter of the patio, "I hope it's okay if I ask you to have coffee with me. I'd kick myself later if I didn't ask. And while I get to enjoy your company, you would benefit from it, too. I'm not a probate officer, but I can be quite the handyman. You can tell me a little bit about yourself, and I can help repair whatever you need help with. It's mutually beneficial."

"Get close to her and keep her safe."

Celeste's words echoed in his head reminding him that he had to succeed. That he had to charm, claw, or scratch his way into this young woman's life without her fully knowing the details. A part of him felt bad for her. He'd learned to mask that a long time ago. In this case, it would have done him no good. This was his time to shine, to show the coven that he could do his job. Ettie would have to forgive him later…at least he hoped she would.

"Come on," he pointed with a tilt of his head, "I'll even give you directions to the mom and pop place, so you can try it the next time you've got a hankering for a good breakfast."
 

Ashi

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"That definitely doesn't sound like something a serial killer would say." Ettie mused, choking down the urge to laugh with a sip of coffee. That was not to say that she found the very real possibility to be humorous, but making a joke even just to herself at least made it feel less real. The line did strike her as a little cheesy, which she did find funny, but had to admit she found it strangely charming. Perhaps that could be attributed to the fact that Seth was the first to try such a thing? Or maybe it was his seeming awkwardness in doing so that he couldn't quite play off? Whatever the case, she decided to play along.

"Well, you assumed correctly." The blonde weaved between the tables and chairs on the patio, making her way to the one in the corner. "No- yeah! It's actually refreshing in a way. I honestly didn't expect to meet anyone on the first day in town, let alone anyone.." she paused, searching for the right word, "friendly." The two syllables she blurted out weren't exactly what she was looking for; although, the word was a safe choice. Rather than allow herself to say something more, she took a bite of her sandwich. It gave her a moment to contemplate a response that was less likely to make her cringe later.

"Well, I hope you at least know someone who can replace a roof." Ettie agreed around another bite, recalling that she was starving a few minutes ago. "I'm better at answering questions about myself than producing those details on the fly. That was always the bane of any job interview." Her lips quirked in an awkward smile, contemplative gaze flickering between direct eye contact and the cup in Seth's hand. "Oh! I like breakfast food. Any time of day and even multiple times a day. So, I may still hit up that diner for dinner." She grinned, brushed her fingers through her hair.

"Pancakes are my absolute favorite, especially homemade from scratch. My grams made the. Best. Pancakes. But, um, what about you? Surely, you don't expect to get off scot-free?" Pale brows arced over expectant eyes, playful yet intent. Ettie reclined against the back of her chair, one leg crossing over the other, and took another bite, waiting.
 
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DarinValore

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Seth took the seat across from Ettie and idly spun his coffee cup between his fingers on the table. He scanned the streets before he spoke, "Ya, Salem gets a bad rep because of history, but not everyone in Salem will try and kill you." He offered her a playful smile before he brought the hot coffee to his lips. He felt its warmth slide down his throat and let out a soft 'ah' in appreciation.

"As far as your home goes, I can do pretty much anything inside. If you have drywall that needs replaced or a new paint job. I can always help with that. I can do flooring, too," he let out a puff of air in thought and continued, "I know a decent plumber, and I think I could scrounge up a number or two for a couple of roofers for quotes if you'd like. Wish I could offer you more, but my expertise ends when things get super technical."

He leaned back and let his eyes take in her features. In the morning light, her hair shimmered, acting like a halo that perfectly framed her face. She really was easy on the eyes.

When she redirected the attention from herself to him, it shook him from his silent admiration. He leaned back against the chair and nodded with tight lips, "I guess that's fair. If I'm expecting you to reveal your secrets, I should be willing to do the same." He let out a deep sigh before he continued, "I'll let you in on my most secret of secrets," he leaned forward and looked around to make sure no one else was listening. A mischievous look crossed his eyes and he spoke in a whispered tone, "I like pancakes, too." He leaned back and playfully exhaled, "Yep. Never told a soul that. Feels good to get it off my chest."

"For real, though," he scratched his jaw, "I grew up in Salem. I know all the hot spots, and I'm a pretty open book. Ask me anything by you want. Secrets only ever make things worse."

Except for when you're lying to a woman's face just to get in her good graces so you can spy on her to determine if she's a witch who's in danger of being hunted down and murdered by Inquisitors. Then secrets are perfectly alright….right?
 
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Ashi

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"History, huh?" Ettie repeated to herself under her breath, eyes drifting to the street on the other side of the fence. The history of the town of Salem hadn't crossed her mind when she made her whirlwind decision to move; but now that it was brought to her attention, she could see it. Every other shop and café must have been witch-themed. She'd passed a museum on her way to the house and there was even a lane marked on some streets with the silhouette of a witch on a broom. Quite intriguing, especially considering that her great-grandmother never spoke about any of it despite growing up in the house in question. Why not? What was she trying so hard to forget?

"Well, if all goes well with the probate, I most certainly will take you up on that." Convenient that the first person the young woman should meet was so generous as to offer his time and skills to help her out. In the recesses of her consciousness, where the only entertainment of such a thought was relegated to a gut feeling, was an inkling of suspicion. While she did not actually think Seth a serial killer, it all came off as too convenient, too good to be true. Of course, any catches, consequences, or hang-up's regarding the house were yet to be known. Engaged by the conspiratorial air, Ettie leaned forward to hear Seth's whispered secret better over the hustle and bustle passing them by.

Eyes widened, lips slowly breaking into a smile before laughter erupted from her slim form. Passersby stopped momentarily to watch what seemed a ridiculous sight, started by the sudden outburst. A few particularly watchful pairs of eyes narrowed in disapproval, as though the clear, bright sound was a witch's raucous cackle. Ettie failed to notice, nearly folded over herself and trying to catch her breath. Perhaps it wasn't really so funny; albeit, she found it hilarious.

"That was good." Ettie sighed, finally coming down from a laugh she hadn't known she needed. She brushed her fringe aside with a quick sweep of her fingers. As one who would do her duty by a conversation, she picked up where Seth left off. "My great-grandmother grew up here. It's actually her house that I might inherit... and have to renovate. If all goes well." She snuck a peak at her phone to check the time. "I need to stop by the courthouse, or whatever legal office handles that around here. I'm technically not even supposed to be in the house, but I have keys. Hopefully, you're not a cop, either?" She smiled, if a bit sheepishly, and bit her lip. Seth said he wasn't a probate officer, but she didn't consider the alternatives before speaking. Internally, she smacked her palm into her forehead.

"Perhaps you wouldn't mind showing me the way? I'd like to try to get there before everyone goes to lunch." At that, the sandwich didn't last much longer. The sooner she finished, the sooner she could be on her way and get things done. The coffee she took with her, sipping along the way. "So, you grew up here... has Salem always been this.." Ettie made a vague gesture with her hand, "witchy?" The vibe she got merely walking the street was one of autumn and festivity, like every day was Halloween. Had it felt like that for her great-grandmother, too? "Has your family been here a long time? Supposedly my family had been here as long as the town itself."
 

DarinValore

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"I think I could show you the way," he agreed before he gulped down the last of his coffee and rose from the table. He tossed the empty cup on the way out and then pointed down the street, "It's not a quick walk, but if you're enjoying the weather and the sights, then it won't be a long one either."

As they started walking, the inevitable question arose. Everyone who visited Salem always asked questions about the occult side of things. After all, the city had a bad rep in history thanks to the Salem Witch Trials. No one outside of the covens really knew the true impact of those horrible events. In fact, they were still felt today because the occult still worked throughout the city. It was just the average Joe didn't know that behind all these decorations and the guided tours was a darkness that was constantly at war with the light. That real people died because of superstitious Inquisitors, idiots who didn't know the spell the cast was real, and witches hellbent on raining vengeance on the world for the mistreatment they'd all endured. It was truly horrible.

"Witchy," he smiled, "Not sure I've heard it said that way, but ya. You can't be as infamous as Salem and its history surrounding the occult without getting…witchy. It's a great tourist attraction and brings the city a lot of money. At this point, it's a branding thing. There are plenty of places that don't get witchy, too. The closer you get to the churches the less you'll see. And there are the skeptics. They generally don't participate."

They walked past a series of shops and other businesses. Each one was themed in one way or another to attract those who might be visiting Salem as tourists. The further into town they walked, though, the less things were themed and the more they looked official. That wasn't to say there were no themes. The streets still had 'broom lanes'.

"We weren't part of the original founders that came with Endicott in 1628, but the Davenports have been a part of Salem for a really long time. Salem's in our blood, and we're committed to it. That's the family line, anyway," he tucked his hands into his pockets and shrugged, "It really isn't so bad here. It's not a big city like Boston, but there's enough people for you to still have your privacy. Plus, the history isn't such a bad thing. How many people can say there were witches in their town?" he smiled and pointed with a nod toward the courthouse, "There's your building, Ettie. I'm sure they can handle whatever you need. If not, they can point you in the right direction."

"They could also provide you a list of your lineage if your family really has been here since the founding of Salem. If your family member was born here, it'll be on their list for sure. All of that is public knowledge anyway."

Seth slowed to a stop outside the courthouse, "Listen, I have to head to work. Do you think I could buy you another cup of coffee or maybe," he smiled sheepishly, "dinner?"
 

Ashi

Cat Lady of Questionable Sanity
FOLKLORE MEMBER
Posting Speed
  1. One post per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. 1-3 posts per week
  4. One post per week
  5. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Action-adventure, adult characters, alternate universe, anime, crime drama, cyberpunk, darker themes, drama, dystopia, eastern, edo, epic quest, fairy tale, fantasy, feudal, futuristic, grimdark, heian, high fantasy, low fantasy, magic, modern, modern fantasy, modern scifi, paranormal, psychological, romance, scifi, supernatural, urban fantasy.
"Poor choice of words?" Ettie grinned, an awkward smile that squinted her dark eyes that, paired with the momentary rise of her shoulders toward her ears, looked rather like she was wincing. Perhaps it wasn't the most flattering descriptor of the town or its apparent culture; however, in her mind, it was better than the alternative cultish. It sounded less like quirky fun and more like brainwashing. "Ookay, no more true crime documentaries for you." She thought to herself, steeling a sideways glance over the rim of her coffee cup. Glance turned into another appraising sweep, slower than before and with more attention to finer details. The top of her bright head barely reached above his shoulder.

"And where do you fall? Believer? Skeptic? Perhaps you even gallop about with a broom?" Another grin, mischievous and full of silent laughter. "There's probably more witchy towns than history has recorded, but certainly few can say their town made literal history." She shrugged her shoulders, tossed her empty cup in the trashcan on the sidewalk, and took a long look at the building. What seemed a whimsical adventure lost a great deal of its whimsy all at once, the reality of things like inheritance and legal proceedings finally setting in.

"I like to think that the answers are in the house somewhere, but I suppose this is a good place to start." She paused, brushing the toe of her shoe along the line in the pavement that separated the sidewalk from the path to the door of the courthouse. Her slim fingers brushed hair behind her ears, trailed down the length of the locks to twist them coyly about a finger. "Maybe you can show me that diner." A thin veil of pink colored her cheeks as she bit her lip. On impulse her hand slid into the pocket of her jeans, pulled out her phone. They could exchange numbers and perhaps meet up at the coffee shop later and go from there.

What luck, she thought, turning with a wave to enter the building, that she should meet someone in only the first hours of being in town. And someone so handsome, to boot! Ettie mused on this luck as she approached the front desk clerk, who looked none too pleased to be interrupted.

"Can I help you?" She adjusted her glasses on the bridge of her nose, her flat tone suggesting the inconvenience. "I hope so? I'm Esther Cromwell; I'm here to answer the probate for my great-grandmother's house. I'm afraid I didn't make an appointment." Ettie fished the letter out of her pocket, unfolded it and slid it across the desk. The clerk, apparently surprised by the young woman's name, picked it up; her narrowed eyes must have scanned the entire length of the document five times before it sank in. "Ah, yes. I'll let Mr. Abbott know you're here. Please, take a seat." She picked up her desk phone, punched a button, as Ettie sat in one of the empty chairs arranged along one wall.

Convenient, the speed with which the probate officer made to see the Cromwell heir and without an appointment, too! John Abbott, by no means the scrawny bookish type, shook her hand with a strong grip and marked ardor. He seemed almost excited to meet her, or perhaps he was simply passionate about his job? Those were the only explanations she could think of for the intense look in the man's eyes as they fell upon her, but she wouldn't linger on it. The will in question, he said, left the estate to whomever was next in line with the Cromwell name. It wasn't limited specifically to Esther A. Cromwell; although, that was the name mentioned. Mr. Abbott declared he would get everything squared away, that he doubted there would be any court proceedings required. All Ettie needed to do was sign the appropriate documents, which she could do right then and there. Great! So much progress for one day and it was barely noon!

On her way out of the office, Ettie stopped at the clerk's desk again. Seth mentioned that they ought to have public records here and she intended to inquire about them. The receptionist sent her to another office, where another clerk pulled the latest record, dated back to the 1940's. The name on it: Esther Anne Cromwell. Her grandmother. The one before that, dated in the early 1930's was Esther Agatha Cromwell, her great-grandmother. There were others, going back farther than Ettie ever would have expected, though none went so far back as the 1600's. If such a thing were to be found, it would likely be at the public library in the historical archives. So, it was that she spent a great deal of the afternoon scouring the shelves for as much local history and genealogy as she could find. There was disappointingly little mention of the name Cromwell, though a great deal about the history of Salem itself, much of which was no different from any other historical account.

Thusly, Ettie determined that the answers she sought were likely in the house. On her walkthrough of the second floor, she had seen the door to the attic. She would try there first. Despite finding the right key and unlocking the door - she heard the bolt slide - the door wouldn't open. The door was stuck fast in the frame; no amount of pushing or pulling would budge it. It required more strength than she had, but she could think of someone to ask. She sent Seth a text, asking him if he'd swing by instead of meeting at the coffee shop.
 

DarinValore

129% of people exaggerate.
Original poster
FOLKLORE MEMBER
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
When Seth got the text from Ettie, he was caught off guard. He had told her he would help her whenever she needed, however she needed it, but hadn't expected her to reach out so soon. In fact, it wasn't the best of times for him to receive the text considering he was sitting across from Celeste going over his first interaction with the new girl.

Seth had told her everything that Ettie had revealed which was surprisingly little. The woman had no idea that she was a descendant from a long line of witches and was most likely gifted herself. It was going to make his life easier knowing that she was unaware. Maybe he could use it to convince himself that what he was doing wasn't wrong.

"Was that her?" Celeste asked.

"Yes. She asked me to stop by the Cromwell house," he answered.

"Do you know why?"

Seth shrugged and then shook his head, "Beats me."

Celeste hummed. Her brow narrowed in thought, "Well, it might be better than dinner. It's less formal and more intimate. Should be easier for you to get close to her that way."

Seth smirked, "That must have been difficult for you to say."

"Don't start," she returned as she leaned back, "You know why I broke it off."

"Ya," he said as he pushed up from the chair. Still hurt, but he wasn't going to let her know that.

"Keep me updated?" she asked as he walked away.

"Sure," he said.

After his car came to a stop in the Cromwell house driveway, Seth stared up at the house in thought. He was following orders, but it didn't make it easier. In essence, he was trying to get a woman to fall for him so that he could keep an eye on her just in case he needed to protect her or kill her. It was stupid, but if the Coven deemed it necessary, he had to do it. After letting out a deep breath, he turned off his car and made his way toward the door. His knuckles raked against the door before he took a step back and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
 

Ashi

Cat Lady of Questionable Sanity
FOLKLORE MEMBER
Posting Speed
  1. One post per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. 1-3 posts per week
  4. One post per week
  5. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Action-adventure, adult characters, alternate universe, anime, crime drama, cyberpunk, darker themes, drama, dystopia, eastern, edo, epic quest, fairy tale, fantasy, feudal, futuristic, grimdark, heian, high fantasy, low fantasy, magic, modern, modern fantasy, modern scifi, paranormal, psychological, romance, scifi, supernatural, urban fantasy.
"I shouldn't have bothered him this early. I probably just seem desperate." An irate Ettie picked her phone up and set it down for the umpteenth time, unable to decide whether she should message Seth again and tell him to forget the previous one. That, she reasoned, would only look worse or perhaps give him the incorrect impression that she wished to cancel on him. Then again, she was desperate - desperate to get into that attic lest she die from her curiosity. Was the door just stuck or had it been sealed in some fashion, perhaps from the inside? The more her various attempts to open it in the meantime failed, the more hellbent she was on succeeding. Each time she second-guessed and reached for her phone, her hope that Seth might be able to help held out and prevented her.

What might have been an eerie moment of silence passed between his knocking and the sound of her footsteps descending the stairs, muffled by the door as they were. The heavy oak slab swung open on the frazzled blonde pushing her wild tumbleweed hair from her face. A wide range of emotions played over her features before they settled into a sheepish smile. She adjusted one strap of her white tank top upon her freckled shoulder.

"Hey," Ettie breathed an awkward laugh and stepped out of the way of the door, effectively inviting Seth in. "Sorry about the, uh, unexpected change of plans. I was kind of hoping you might be able to help me, though?" She gestured with a thumb over her shoulder to the stairs. "I have been trying all day to open this god forsaken door. It unlocked with the key, but it must be stuck or something. It's driving me up the wall and back down again." Without preamble she started up the stairs, turned down the hall. It was dimly lit, with only one working bulb. An array of tools lay about the floor in front of one door; there were a few new marks about the doorframe. "I guess I was hoping you might have some luck? I'm this close," she pinched her index finger and thumb together, "to getting dynamite and blowing it open." She leaned against the wall beside, crossed her arms.

"Maybe I need a magician to come say some magic words and open it. Or a witch." She snerked, rolling her dark eyes. In her mind, the very thing Salem was built on didn't exist. The witch trials were the result of superstition. There was no such thing as witches, certainly no magic or spells. That was the stuff of folk tales and Hollywood gimmicks. "At least the utilities were easy enough to turn on." She stood upright, took a step back to look at the door with more consideration. "What do you think? Sledge hammer? A few kicks? I'd try removing the hinges, but they're on the inside, so that's no good. Worst case, I have to scale the side of the house and try the window." Ettie's tone maintained a joking air; however, she was serious.