The Witch in the Mirror – Part 12

The forest clearing was silent except for the distant murmuring of a brook. The night was bright for it was a full moon. Snow still lay in white heaps around the clearing but most of it had melted under the early spring sunshine over the past few days.

A rabbit paused in the clearing and twitched its nose. It seemed to be testing the air, but as there was no scent of danger it crouched and began nibbling the fresh grass shoots. Soon it was joined by another rabbit. An owl hooted in the distance as one of the rabbits sat up and twitched its nose again, its furry ears twisting to catch the distant sound. A twig cracked beyond the clearing and both rabbits quickly scurried away from their burrow.

A few moments later a human figure appeared in the clearing. The figure was wrapped in a dark cloak with a deep hood covering the head. A flash of purple velvet flecked with gold sparkled in the moonlight for a moment before the figure moved into the shadows. A careful observer might have caught a glimpse of a feminine face for a moment as she looked up at the moon before quickly lowering her head and letting the hood fall back over her face.

The woman held a bundle in her arms wrapped in an old shawl. She knelt to the ground and placed the bundle gently on the grass. A dainty gloved hand reached inside the cloak and withdrew a leather purse. With great deliberation she undid the string and placed the purse on the ground beside the bundle. She quickly looked around the clearing to check that she was still alone before pushing the hood back from her head. A long plait of silver hair fell from the hood and almost reached to her waist as she kneeled in the grass. She removed a glove and took a handful of herbs from the purse which she then spread in a circle around the bundle.

She raised her hands to the moon and began praying to the goddess. A beam of moonlight fell into the circle. The baby opened her eyes and began crying.

‘Hush, little one,’ the woman cooed softly. The baby quieted and looked steadily into the woman’s face. ‘When the time is right, my little dove, the goddess will return you to us. Until then I must protect you from the king. He must never find you or we are all doomed.’

The woman lifted her face to the moon and began praying to the goddess again. The herbs began to smoke before briefly catching fire, then turning to ash.

‘Blessed be the goddess. May she watch over and protect you.’

She stood with the baby in her arms and looked over her shoulder as she was joined by an older woman wearing a worn dress. The shawl around her shoulders suggested she was a peasant from the village.

‘We must hurry,’ the older woman said. ‘I must return before I am missed. Bryn will soon be home and wanting his supper.’

She gently took the bundle in her arms.

‘Hello, precious one.’

‘Her name is Ailis.’

The silver haired woman bent and kissed the child’s forehead.

‘Take good care of her. You will be contacted when it is time.’

She pulled the hood back over her head and wrapped the purple cloak tightly around her body before melting back into the darkness.

The blacksmith’s wife kicked dirt over the circle of ashes before returning to the path that led back to the village.

The full moon shone one last time, sparkling off the crescent pendant hanging around the baby’s neck, before it disappeared behind dark clouds.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 11

‘Emily, it’s morning, love―time to get ready for school.’ Mrs Wells’ voice penetrated the fog of Emily’s sleep. She put her head under the pillow and tried to ignore her mother. She had almost fallen back to sleep when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come on, sleepy head. You can’t spend all day in bed.’

‘Is it morning already, Mum?’ Emily’s voice was muffled by the pillow. ‘Couldn’t I stay home today, just this once?’ She rolled over and stretched sleepily.

‘You already know the answer to that, young lady. Now hurry up before you are late.’ Mrs Wells smiled as she walked out of the room and closed the door behind her. ‘You get ready while I fix you some breakfast.’

Emily swung her feet onto the cold floor and stretched again before standing up. She reached for her school uniform and stood at the dressing table studying her face in the mirror. Her eyes were bleary from lack of sleep. They were normally a light blue but this morning they were just a pale grey, like the winter sky. Her skin looked red and blotchy. Emily thought about the woman from her dream. Her skin had been smooth and fair, with just a trace of freckles across the nose.

As Emily looked at her own reflection in the mirror she wished she knew more. She wondered if the dreams had anything to do with the book. Her mother had said that dreams meant nothing and she should stop worrying about them but this was the third time she’d had the same dream. Each time the woman came closer. Last night was the first time she had touched her.

Emily ran her brush through her hair absently.

The sounds of her mother moving around in the kitchen stirred Emily from her reverie. She could smell the cooking wafting through the air―scrambled eggs and toast as usual. But Emily wasn’t hungry. She never felt like eating first thing in the morning. It made her feel sick.

‘Hurry up, Em. You don’t want to be late for school,’ Mrs Wells’ voice rose from the kitchen. She said something else but Emily wasn’t listening.

Emily pushed her hands into the pockets of her blazer and looked out the window. She felt like she should cry but she didn’t know why. She closed her eyes. The world outside was shrouded in grey fog and the sun was just a faint glow on the horizon.

Refresh your spirit

scarfselfie

Refresh your spirit from the human condition
With dancing and all things fab,
Don’t be the girl that was left behind
In an illusion wrapped in a cloud

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 10

Emily looked up at the stars. Their twinkling brightness in the autumn sky was comfortingly familiar. At least one thing wasn’t all screwed up.

The moon was large on the horizon.

Mist drifted slowly over the precipice, shrouding the valley far below.

Emily couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here but she knew she was being followed. There wasn’t much time. She had to keep moving.

Then she heard it. At first it was just a dull drumming on the breeze. It got louder. Wind swirled the trees violently.

A voice came from behind her and Emily quickly stood up in fright.

A woman appeared out of the mist, reaching out her hand. She wore a long red velvet gown with strange symbols embroidered in golden thread. The gown closely fitted the elegant, shapely figure beneath. A wild tangle of dark curls hung over the woman’s shoulders.

Emily found herself reaching out. She had no control of her own body.

Her heart was racing.

As the woman moved closer Emily was pressed back against the rock wall. She couldn’t move. All she could do was watch the red dress coming closer. The golden patterns swirled hypnotically in the mist.

Emily felt the woman’s breath against her cheek. She could smell her perfume. The woman stroked Emily’s hair and then closed her eyes as she began chanting.

‘Forces higher

I call on thee

Awake this child

From her dream.’

‘Who are you? Who are you?’ Emily cried out.

There were tears on her cheeks.

The woman hesitated for a moment then began to fade.

Emily woke in the darkness of her bedroom.

She was shivering uncontrollably.

Through the curtains she could see clouds slowly clearing to reveal a full moon. Stars were beginning to appear and the bright moonlight cast shadows in the alley below. As Emily laid her head back on the pillow a shadow moved silently away from the building.

We had all kinds of things

lovetattoo

We had all kinds of things
But the narrative didn’t go that way
It was meant to
It was meant to be full
Of dances of colour
Of midnight strolls
Of smiles and sighs
And dresses hiked to our waists
For love is precious
But the apple still tasted bitter,
The thorns were still sharp
And now it’s too dark
To read fairytales anymore

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 9

Princess Alyce knelt on the floor in front of her trunk. The lid was open and she gently placed a gown inside. She sat back and looked around the room.

What else do I need to pack?

She pushed her long black hair behind her ears. She was already wearing her travelling dress and the cloak and bonnet were waiting on the bed. The journey back to the Diamond Castle by sea was a tedious two weeks. Still, it was better than travelling over the Westerly Mountains.

It had been six long months since she’d been home. Six months since she had felt the warmth of the eastern sun on her face. Six months with no company or playmates other than her tutor. She had barely even seen her aunt in that whole time and for the last few weeks she was away on official business. Princess Alyce grimaced. She could have gone with her aunt instead of being stuck in this dreary castle.

Alyce placed two more books in her trunk. One was The History and Geography of the Southern Isle and the other was her own Book of Spells. They were both heavy, leather bound journals that had been handwritten by some long forgotten scribe. Alyce had made her own additions in the margins with a quill. Notes that she could come back to that explained things better.

She was so tired of being told of what to do. When she returned home she would demand her mother give her some real responsibility of her own. Rather than being banished all the way to the other side of the Isle she would take her rightful place in the court.

But, no, she wanted more than that. She wanted more than just being a stiff figure in a fancy dress. Princess Alyce wanted to be a hero. She wanted to do something monumental. Really make her mark and become a legend.

She threw herself down on the bed and closed her eyes. There were so many things she wanted to do. She could picture herself, sword in hand, standing in the prow of a boat to take the fight to the Northern Isles. Everything she had read about the Northern Isles sounded so exciting—dragons, evil princes… and no magic. In the Northern Isles it wouldn’t matter that she couldn’t control her magic. It wouldn’t matter that her sisters were better witches than she was. Nothing would matter but the strength of her sword arm and her ready wit.

Princess Alyce was smiling to herself when she heard the knock on the door. She groaned as she rolled over in time to see her tutor gently push the door open. Alyce suddenly sat up when she saw the tears on her tutor’s face.

‘What is it Narna?’

‘Oh Alyce…’ Narna sat on the bed and took Alyce’s hand in hers. ‘I don’t know how to tell you this… It’s your mother— ’

Alyce felt an icy hand clutch her heart. She began to cry.

Narna put her arm around the princess’s shoulders and cried with her.

Sometime later Narna told Alyce that she wouldn’t be going home just yet.

‘Your sister is to be crowned Queen, but—she is to be married—to a northerner.’

Alyce was shocked.

‘A Northerner? How could that be?’

‘Princess Katharine wrote that you are to stay here until called for. She said you would be safe here.’

Safe? Safe from what? From my own family?

‘Why can’t I go home, Narna?’

Alyce began to cry again. This time it was from frustration. So many dreams to fulfill and she was still stuck here at the end of the world.

Searching for a female revolution

Tomorrow I am setting out
on the fairytale freeway
in relentless search for lost paradise,
just woman, the road and nature;
escaping the angel in the house,
swept by excitement – revolutionary words,
that rage with hunger in the gathering storm

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 8

Half an hour later Emily was on her bed, lying on her stomach. The green book—journal, whatever it was—was open and propped up against a pillow. Emily’s lips moved as she read.

The clock in the kitchen ticked loudly as she kept reading until late into the night. Her eyes began to get tired and she put the book down and lay her head against the pillow.

What was it with that Alyce anyway? Was she just bored? Or was there really witchcraft? Witchcraft! Imagine if there really was such a thing as witchcraft. If there was I would create my own very best friend.

Emily wondered if there were more books about witches in the school library. Tomorrow she would go and look. She felt a tingle of excitement and picked up the book again.

As she turned the page a small booklet fell out.

She picked it up carefully. The pages of the booklet were old and musty. Emily opened it to reveal what looked like a simple handwritten poem on the first page.

By circle one begin my spell

By circle two my love will dwell

By circle three bring her to me

By circle four for evermore

Repeat this spell three times every night to get your heart’s desire—by light of the third moon following the solstice your true love will be revealed but beware for the untrue heart will turn this spell into a curse for all eternity. It can only be undone by a stitch of true love’s hair.

Use with caution was scribbled in pencil down the side of the page. Emily turned page after page to reveal more of the same. There were strange symbols drawn all over the booklet.

Was this poetry or—or was it really a spell book? There was no such thing was there?

She ran her fingers over the symbols, tracing the shapes of interlocking circles and triangles. There was a faint tingling in her fingertips, like static electricity. She quickly pulled her hand away.

Maybe it was just her imagination. With the tip of her index finger she traced the symbol again—no, it was definitely tingling. Then she thought she heard whispering again. She quickly put the booklet back between the pages of the green book and put the book under her pillow. Her heart was racing as she rolled over and turned out the light.

Moments later she sat up and pulled the book out again. She had to find out more. She opened it up and began reading,

The crescent represents the waxing and waning of the moon. Crescent is derived from the Latin word creare which means to create, so the crescent moon is linked with the creative power of the mother Goddess. Eastward pointing horns indicate a waxing crescent.

Emily turned the page and kept reading.

Pentacle—its apex points upward toward the divine Goddess. It also suggests the importance of five aspects—earth, air, water, fire and spirit.

By the time her mother came home later that night Emily had fallen asleep. Mrs Wells smiled as she pulled the doona over her daughters shoulder. She didn’t notice the green book poking out from under the pillow.

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