literature

The Raven Lady (short story)

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The Raven Lady by Mr-Ripley

Once upon a time around the beginning of the 19th century, there was a girl named Adaryn. She was an orphan. Her parents died when she was just a baby. She was raised up by her aunt Cholena in an isolated old house deep in the wood, somewhere in South Dakota. Aunt Cholena was quite self-contained and secretive. She had some ugly scars on her face which she had never told Adaryn how she got it, but it might had been the reason why Adaryn had never seen her aunt going far from the wood. The only friend Aunt Cholena had was a flock of ravens that lived around her house. She could communicate with them very well as if they were not just a kind of animal. 

Aunt Cholena didn't want Adaryn to talk to strangers especially men from the village nearby that came to hunt in the wood sometimes. She never explained why. Sometimes Adaryn couldn't help wondering if one of them had broken her aunt's heart before, The only man Adaryn could talk to without any problem was Mr.Henryson who was the only neighbor she had in the wood. Mr.Henryson was a friend of Adaryn's father. He was a kind old man living with his wife Hannah, who was a smart woman, in a house between Cholena's place and the village. Cholena and Adaryn asked Mr.Henryson to bring them some stuff from the village sometimes since he went there quite often to trade things and visit his daughter who married a man in the village. Though there was another house in the wood, but it once belonged to Adaryn's parents, and had been deserted after they both were killed by a big bear.

Adaryn always followed Aunt Cholena's orders whether in her presence or not. It's not because Adaryn was really an obedient girl, but because she felt like she couldn't do anything alone without being seen by the inquisitive eyes of the ravens. Adaryn knew these ravens were very loyal to Aunt Cholena. It hardly gave her any different feeling between being alone with the ravens or with her aunt. Adaryn also knew that people in the village were afraid of Aunt Cholena too. Most of them believed that her aunt was either a witch or a scary old maid that nobody wanted to associate with. They hated her ravens too because these flying rascals came to damage stuff in their farms and stole their food sometimes, not to mention the annoying noise that often awakened them at night. Adaryn was not sure if her aunt was a witch, at least she had never seen Aunt Cholena using any witchcraft before. The only migical thing Aunt Cholena taught her was commanding the ravens to do something useful like finding some fruits or casting some harmful wild animals away when they came too close. 

Many years passed. Adaryn had grown up and become a very beautiful woman. She began to go to the village herself to sell fruits and buy things back home once a month. Adaryn asked Aunt Cholena to command the ravens to stop following her into the village. She gave Aunt Cholena reason that nobody in the village like the ravens, and she could not sell any fruit with the ravens flying around. Aunt Cholena wasn't pleased with the ideas, but she knew she couldn't rely on Mr.Henryson all the time since he got much older and rarely went to the village like before, moreover, she also needed some medicine from the village since she was getting older too.  

Most of the men in the village were enchanted by Adaryn's charm including the village chief's son named Vince who seemed to have a love at first sight with her, though his parents had already considered many decent girls throughout the village to be his fiancee. Adaryn had realized the fact that nobody wanted a poor girl whose aunt was rumored as a witch to be their daughter-in-law. But she could not help falling in love with Vince either. Why not? He was very polite and handsome, and his father Mr.Byron was rich and had a lot of influence.

Vince managed to meet Adaryn everytime she came to the village, and seized the precious stolen moment together by bringing her to many places she wanted to see. Their relationship kept developing so fast within a year, but they had to keep it secret as much as they could since both his parents and her aunt would not accept it easily. However, some villagers especially the girls seemed to be able to sense it, and were unhappy with this affair. They tried to brainwash everyone to stop trading with Adaryn, but Adaryn didn't care since Vince often bought all her fruits as soon as he saw her. What Adaryn worried about most was how long she could keep this secret from Aunt Cholena, and how she could make Aunt Cholena let her go. Aunt Cholena seemed to want her niece to stay in the wood with her forever. 

One day in the summer, two men who followed Adaryn from the village and flirted her along the way back to Cholena's house vanished and were found dead later in the wood with many strange wounds all over their bodies. Nobody could find the cause of the young men's death. The murderer could be some wild animals or human. Nobody saw Adaryn coming to the village again. No villager dared to go into the wood either.

It had been almost three months now that Vince had not heard any news from Adaryn. He tried to go see her at Cholena's house, but his father strongly forbade him. However, he finally got her letter from Mr.Henryson. She said in the letter that Aunt Cholena had known about the affair, and would not let her come to the village again. She also suspected Aunt Cholena of the two men's death. She believed that the ravens could do anything that her aunt commanded. She could not stand Aunt Cholena anymore, and wanted to run away to live together with Vince somewhere far away from all the problems. She asked him to reply her letter as soon as possible and tell her when and where he would be comfortable to come meet her. The meeting point should be somewhere outside the wood for his safety. 

Vince felt relief to know that Adaryn was okay. He replied shortly in the letter that he would wait for her at the cemetery on the 1st of September which was coming on the next Monday. He knew Adaryn was familiar with this place because it was located on the border between the wood and the village. The cemetery was a quiet place and far enough from the influence of his father. It was also near a road that he could take her to other villages. Vince gave his letter to Mr.Henryson. Adaryn had already asked the old man to bring her the replying letter whenever he came back home. Mr.Henryson was willing to help. He sympathized with Adaryn. He had seen her since she was a baby, and always wanted to see her get freedom from her aunt and live her life as the way she wished for.  

Vince heard a shocking news about Mr.Henryson on Sunday. The old man was found dead on the way back to his house in the wood. The same unidentified wounds were found on his body. Nobody talked about the letter. Maybe it was taken away by someone. Vince was afraid that Adaryn might had not received his letter. However, on Monday, he still went to the cemetery and waited for her all day, but she didn't appear. He decided to go take Adaryn away by himself on the next day. Mr.Henryson told him once how to find Cholena's place by starting from his house. It would take one or two hours if he came by horse. Vince told nobody about his plan except his close friend Ronny whom he asked to accompany him in the wood. 

Two days later, some villagers saw Ronny walking totteringly from the wood around noon. He looked terrible with messy hair and was bleeding from some wounds on his legs, arms and face. He gasped for breath before telling that he and Vince were attacked by a flock of ravens while they were stopping to drink water at a brook on a way to Cholena's house. The horses were frightened and ran away. Ronny finally could escape from the rawens but Vince could not. The ravens killed him intentionally and cruelly. Ronny also heard a scary laughing voice from an old woman behind his back while he was running away. He didn't see anyone but believed it was from Cholena undoubtedly.
 
A big group of villagers with weapons led by Mr.Byron rushed to Aunt Cholena's house immediately. They found Vince's body drowned in a bloody brook in the late afternoon. Mr.Byron looked at the body of his son with his tearful eyes. He swore furiously that he would kill the witch and burn her house as soon as he saw her. It became twilight when they arrived Cholena's place. Then, they all stunningly found that the whole house had already been on fire. Nobody saw Cholena, Adaryn or even a noise of a raven. However, after the fire was extinguished, there was one burnt corpse found in the ruin, and its condition was too bad to identify who it was. It's also hard to analyze who burnt the house and who could get away from the fire. Nobody officially lived in the wood again after Mr.Henryson's wife, Hannah, had moved to live with her daughter in the village.

One year later, the undertaker reported that he saw a scarred woman in black gown from a long distance. She was walking among a flock of ravens inside the cemetery around midnight. They all vanished into thin air before he could see them closer. Two bouquets were found after the woman had gone. One bouquet was placed on the tomb of Vince, the other one was found on the tomb of Mr.Henryson. The same incident kept happenning regularly on the 1st of September every year. Nobody knew who the woman exactly was and where she came from. 

However, in Hannah's opinion, what the mysterious woman kept doing every year indicated that she might had been Adaryn undoubtedly. She might had a violent fight with Aunt Cholena after Vince's death. The fire might happened during the fight, and it might had been the cause of both Cholena's death and the scars on Adaryn's face. This poor girl seemed never could escape from the ravens even after her aunt's death. Aunt Cholena might had commanded the ravens never to let her niece go out of the wood again. And if Adaryn could escape from the ravens, how could she escape from the ugly scars on her own face? Adaryn might had to live a lonely life somewhere much deeper in the wood where nobody could see, but still kept yearning for someone to stay together. She might had no neighbor or no relative left. The only friend she could talk to must had been those scary ravens who killed her lover. Wasn't it even worse than the life her aunt used to live?
This is the first time in my life that I wrote a short story, and it's also written in English which isn't my first language at all. So, it might be far from perfection. I was just inspired to write a story from my own imagination after I finished reading a Patricia Highsmith's novel from The Ripliad series, which was the first English novel I have ever read until the last page. I noticed that she always wrote it in past tense, except in the dialogues of the characters. So I followed her way, but my grammar looks so confusing even for myself. =D (Big Grin). And I also find it's hard and take a lot of time to find the right English words that have the exact meaning I wanted to use in my story. Some words I used in this short story were just found in dictionary that I had never seen or heard of before. 
However, I hope you guys can picture the story in the same way I want it to be. And above all, I wrote it just for fun, and I hope everyone enjoyed it too. :) (Smile)

If anyone has a better idea for the plot, or find any mistake in my English language, please feel free to share or correct it in the comment. I would be appreciate it. Nod

Note : Cholena is a Native American name originating with the Delaware tribe, while Adaryn is a Welsh name. Both names mean "bird".

This is the artwork I made for this short story.
The Raven Lady by Mr-Ripley
© 2015 - 2022 Mr-Ripley
Comments20
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Noitusan's avatar
Very well written. What sad and disturbed story. :-(