The weight of devotion

  By Bon

chapter 1

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Thick, twisted bracken clawed at Travis' ankles as he trudged downhill. All of the whispers around town had led him to the base of the largest hill. There was a witch in the area and he had promised Princess Maria that he would not return until either he or the witch was dead.

Almost one month had passed since the King had been murdered – slain in the dead of night under the full moon. One hundred guards walked the halls of the castle and yet nobody had heard a thing. Nobody had seen anything amiss. It had to be magic.

Travis climbed up and around to avoid the marshy ground that was longing to devour him. The trees were tainted there – rotten and gnarled. He stopped at one and leaned carefully against it to catch his breath. His body was not used to journeying far from the citadel. As a baker's son, his hands were more accustomed to kneading dough than wielding a weapon. Still, he had given the princess his word.

For over a decade, Princess Maria had shown him more kindness than he had earned. Her nightly visits to the kitchen had started at a young age. It had been before either of them were really aware of the vast difference between their bloodlines. He'd taught her how to make bread and she'd taught him to read. They'd shared meals together at midnight and read stories until the sun come up. It had been years until Travis noticed that Maria rarely ate more than a morsel during those meals. It had been even longer when he'd figured out that it was her way of making sure her peasant friend had enough to eat. Stealing food from the castle's pantry would have had him cast out on the street but with Maria, nobody could say a thing.

Travis was sure he owed the princess his life, or at very least, his happiness. That was why he was to be the one to kill the witch.

It had to be soon, too. The full moon was nearly risen and Travis was getting hungry. That was the one downside to Maria's caring nature. He was easily the most well-fed servant in the castle. It kept him healthy, for sure, but while his fellows could get by on scraps and leftovers, his stomach was unaware of his station.

If he had been born a lord, or even the son of a blacksmith, his frame would have been expected. For a servant boy, however, he drew a few eyes. He was not completely skin and bones like those he shared quarters with. Maria had always been sweet about it, even going so far as to tailor the clothes he got handed down. Travis definitely regretted his overindulgence as he started to move again. He wanted to rest so very badly but it was not a choice that he had.

All of a sudden, he caught a whiff of food through the trees. Travis followed it, taking care to not make a sound as the scent of meat and vegetables grew stronger. Before long, he caught sight of a small cabin. The modest dwelling was surrounded by a garden of plants he did not recognise and the smell of food began to make his stomach rumble.

Travis snuck closer to the cabin and peered through the window. Inside, he saw a young woman tending to a large cauldron in the fireplace. He ducked as she turned around and was surprised by her beauty. He'd expected a wicked, twisted crone but, no. This witch was almost ethereal in her beauty: long, fiery red hair to her waist, a full figure and gentle features. She was positively captivating.

That didn't change a thing, of course. Travis was not going to be swayed so easily.

When the witch turned around again to add something to the cauldron, Travis took his chance. He charged through the door without a second thought and thrust his dagger forward. He had never attacked anything larger than a small boar before. His heart hammered in his chest as he felt resistance and then hot blood spilling over his fingers. He heard the witch gasp as she spun around to see her attacker. With that, she crumpled to the floor, staring up at him with the largest blue eyes he'd ever seen.

Travis froze. That had been too easy. Had he gotten the wrong person? Doubt crept it's way into his heart until the woman at his feet began to speak. Her face twisted into a snarl as her words evaded him. Travis couldn't make out a word over the blood pounding in his ears but he was sure they were not kind.

All beauty had faded from the witch's face as her eyes pierced his soul. She continued to speak but no longer looked at him. Instead, her eyes were fixed on the empty doorway, as if speaking to someone there.

Immediately, he went to wash his hands in the basin by the window. He didn't stop scrubbing until he was interrupted by his stomach growling.

In a sudden moment of clarity, he realised that he had just turned his back on an enemy. Sure, he'd seen her die, but that was not something he should have done. He spun around, expecting to see the witch standing before him or to see the spot where she had fallen empty. No, there she was, just where he'd left her.

Travis felt sick. The witch had been a murderer, but now, so was he. Semantics aside, he had taken a life. For Maria, he'd take a thousand lives, but that didn't make it feel any better.

The nausea was replaced with a sudden pang of hunger and his eyes were drawn to the cauldron in the fireplace. Most of his mind told him that he needed to leave that cabin immediately, that he wasn't safe, that he couldn't eat in the presence of a dead witch. There was a part of him, though, that told him otherwise. He was practically starving, he'd eaten through his rations hours before and he needed strength if he was to get back to the citadel.

Travis walked over to the fireplace and peered into the cauldron to see the source of the heavenly scent. There was no purple goo bubbling away, no magical mixture drawing him in. It was stew.

Normal, run of the mill, meat and vegetable stew.

It was still a risk, but Travis couldn't help himself. There was a small, clean, wooden bowl on the table. He filled it half way and hesitated for just a moment. He was hungrier than he had been when he'd entered the cabin. No, Travis was hungrier than he had ever been in his life.

All hesitation gone, Travis lifted the bowl to his lips and began to gulp down the hot stew. As soon as it touched his lips,, Travis was grateful that there was plenty more because he knew he was going to need it.

It was the best stew he'd ever had. It was thick, full of flavour and so warming. Travis finished the bowl and immediately went back for more. The second bowl went down just as easily as the first and barely touched the edge of Travis' ravenous hunger.

He took a third serving without thought. The cauldron was still easily two thirds full and Travis found himself wondering who the witch had been cooking for.

Travis kept eating with abandon, gulping down bowl after bowl until the cauldron was empty and his brain was swimming in fog.

Where was he? What had he been doing? It was like a spell was being lifted... A spell... The witch! He'd killed the witch!

Travis came to his senses and it was like a punch to the gut. Literally.

Travis was suddenly aware of an intense aching in his stomach, accompanied by waves of nausea. He looked down at himself and realisation hit him as he took in the sight of his comically swollen abdomen.

The cauldron was empty. It had held enough stew for at least eight people. Travis gingerly touched his stomach and flinched at the searing pain it caused. He'd never overdone it like that before, not even on those nights that the princess had left him with a whole cake to... clean up.

He felt off balance and he needed desperately to lay down but there wasn't time. Outside, the sky was darkening and Travis knew how dangerous the forest was at night. He had to get moving.

Travis waddled towards the door, breaths shallow. He had one hand braced against the lower curve of his belly in a futile attempt to stop it from moving. It felt like gravity was trying to punish him. Every step was agony but he had to keep moving.
17 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 4 years , updated 3 years
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Comments

2steppinfa 7 months
Your stories are so hot! I reread them all the time!
GrowingLoveH... 3 years
Your writing is always excellent. I can never get enough. I love this story so much.
Lilscottishgal 3 years
“Are you sure he's not just greedy?” had me HOWLING
Fatchance 4 years
This is... AMAZING! Clearly there is so much more intrigue to come!
Flipthecoin 4 years
Enjoying this so much. I can't wait to read more.
Littleextra 4 years
Really great read, thanks for posting! smiley
2steppinfa 4 years
O M F’n G!!
DemoniaFFA 4 years
I love love love this story!! ♥️
Can't wait for more! ☺️
Built4com4t 4 years
Well done
Chrissmithy 4 years
Absolutely brilliant!