Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chapter 13 – A Shadow in the Forest

 Jane was back long before sunset, but she didn't dare to come inside. Toadmila heard her pacing up and down outside her front door, until it was nearly dark. Then the pacing stopped and there was a shy knock on the door.
“I'm not ready,” Toadmila said, waving the door open, without raising her eyes from her work.
Jane came in and stopped by the door, watching as the magic did its work. In the growing darkness, the spell flowing from Toadmila's wand looked like glittering dust, changing colors as it spun in the air above a small slab of something hard and translucent. When the spell was over and the glittery dust faded away and disappeared, the sun had long set, and the house was covered in darkness.
“This usually takes a few days,” Toadmila said, gesturing at the table in front of her, where the object of her work lay concealed in darkness, “but magic can speed things up. Now all we need is a... ritual.”
Jane shuddered.
“Will it involve dancing naked with a bunch of goats?” she asked.
It was too dark to see her face, but her voice was trembling. Toadmila wondered just what sort of outrageous rumors did the villager make up about witches.
“No dancing,” she said firmly. “And no goats, I promise.”
She conjured up a wisp of light and let it float onto the table. The soft glow seemed to calm Jane down a bit. Toadmila packed the products of her work into a small bundle and handed it to the girl. Then she lifted the wisp from the table and made it float above her left hand.
“Come with me,” she said.
Jane followed her quietly out of the house. Outside, the dark trees swayed menacingly in the cold wind.
“Hang on to my arm so you won't get lost,” Toadmila said.
Jane hesitates for a moment, torn between her fear of the witch and the fear of the unknown hidden in the darkness. Then she lunged towards the glowing wisp and snatched Toadmila's arm.
For a while, they walked in silence. Jane clung to the witch's arm, stumbling along the way, her eyes searching the darkness that surrounded them. A gust of wind made her jump, bumping into Toadmila and nearly knocking her down.
“There's something out there,” Jane said, looking at the trees. “Something dark.”
Toadmila nodded.
“It was inside the hut when I got there,” she answered. “It got out. But it's not here. Everything around it dies, so it's easy to tell where it is. Just stay away from any dead trees and you'll be fine.”
“It's nearly winter,” Jane whispered. “All the trees are dead in winter.”
“Then you'll just have to stay away from the forest all winter,” Toadmila said coldly. “Anyway, you shouldn't need my help after tonight.”
Jane opened her mouth to say something, but she froze, staring at the ghostly apparition in front of her.
“That's mist,” Toadmila said, pointing at the pale mass hovering among the trees. “From the lake. It won't be long now.”
They walked in silence a little further, Jane clutching Toadmila's arm with redoubled strength. They could feel the warmth from the lake spreading in the air as they approached. Finally, they reached the edge of the water. A large, pale moon was raining down beams of silky light. On the surface of the lake, its reflection glittered like a giant pearl. Toadmila shook her wand and her wisp of light disappeared.

“You can let go now,” she said sternly. “We're safe here.”

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