The other day I was challenged by The Britchy One:
“please write me a witch story!” she said.
“Good Witch or Wicked Witch?” I asked
“Both” She replied.
“Challenge Accepted” Said I….
So I wrote a story called The Woman in the Wood – See here:
Here is the next part.
Early one morning, the woman in the wood rose to tend to her chickens and collect their eggs.
The sun was only just reaching the treetops bathing the forest glade with just a slight amount of its dawn rays.
She was dressed in her plain brown dress and apron over a faded red blouse. She covered her red hair with a brown scarf to protect it from dust and dirt.
The weather had been dry of late and so the ground was particularly dusty.
As she stood there throwing grain to her hungry hens who clucked and pecked around her feet, she heard the sounds of a horse’s hooves on the dry compacted earth. It was some way off in the distance, but coming closer.
Her senses told her that whoever it was, was searching for her, with purpose. It was not just a traveller taking a short cut through the forest. She had ways and means to prevent being found if she wanted to. She could make people lose their way in the forest, so they end up going back the way they came. She could make them pass on by seeing only a ruin, instead of the neat little cottage in its well-tended garden. Her inner voice told her not to do this. It told her to let this person come. She always listened to that voice, her instinct. She remembered a time, when she had been young and foolish, she had gone against that inner voice and lived to rue the day. Many had perished because her voice that time had told her to hide and she had not. They had come to take her and burn her and she had defended herself against those poor fools. Had she hidden herself, as her voice had told her then, they would not have had to die and she would not have their blood on her hands or the weight of guilt on her heart.
Having finished feeding her hens, she grabbed her broom, made of hazel wood and birch twigs and began sweeping the yard. Her ear kept listening to the approach of the stranger on their horse. Closer and closer they came until the horse came trotting into the forest glade. Atop the horse sat a man in a travel-stained cloak. It was a deep green colour and edged with gold braid. The Man pulled up on the reins to make the horse come to a halt and then leapt down from it. He strode over to the woman and he gave her a smile.
The woman was taken aback slightly; in all the years she had lived in this lonely forest, no one had smiled at her. Occasionally people came for her herbs and healing but only worry and fear showed on their faces. This man had given her a gift, the gift of his smile. She stopped her sweeping and smiled pleasantly back at him.
“Excuse me, fair lady. I am looking for an old woman people say dwells within this wood, A witch, I have been told. Can you tell me where to find her?”
“There is no one who dwells in this forest but me, my Lord. What can you want with such a woman? Are you a Witch-hunter then?”
“No I do not wish her any harm, I assure you. I have come a long way, because I was told there was a woman in the forest with great powers who can help me. My father is dying and I seek some potion or magic that will make him well again. He is a good man and so many people rely on his wisdom and guidance.”
“Are there no Wise-women or healers where you are from who can help you?”
“There are none left. I’m afraid that any such women were all burned at the stake a long time ago in the purges. My Grandfather was a superstitious man and he had been told that his Kingdom would be ruled by a Witch and so he had every lonely woman who worked with herbs taken and burned. He was a terrible tyrant and many people rejoiced the day he died from a fever. It had been justice, in a way, because there was no one left who could cure him, he’d burned them all.”
“Your Grandfather ruled a kingdom? So you are a Prince are you? Please forgive me for taking your time. You must be on your way. I am afraid that no old woman dwells near here. You could try heading north, I am more unfamiliar with that part of the forest.”
The Woman turned her back on the stranger and returned to her sweeping.
“No please don’t turn from me because I am a Prince. Think of me only as a son seeking help for his sick father. I have a strong feeling you know something. Please help me.”
“If there are no wise-women where you are from, who told you to seek for an old woman in this forest? It is a long way to come and surely rumours do not travel that far?”
The man looked down at his feet and coloured slightly in embarrassment.
“Well If you promise not to think me foolish, I had a dream. It was such a vivid dream, I just knew it was true. The dream told me to go west and search beyond a mountain, over a river and within a great forest. There I will find someone with the power who can save my father. I followed these strange instructions and indeed have climbed over a mountain and crossed a river.”
“A true dream was it? Yes, true dreams do come to those in the greatest need, but did it tell you to find an old woman then?”
“No actually, it was the people in the villages around this area who told me about an old witch who lived in the woods. In my dream she wasn’t old. She had red hair that shone in the sun.”
The woman then tore off her brown head scarf. At that moment the sun shone through the clouds and the wind blew her red hair back from her strikingly beautiful face.
The man looked shocked and took a gasp of air. It was the woman from his dream. He knew he had found what he was looking for.
The Woman looked into the eyes of this handsome man. She felt that he would teach her something important. Softly she spoke to him.
“Come into my cottage, I feel we have a lot we need to discuss.”
Together they disappeared into the quiet little house. They talked for hours, about the land the man had come from. About his father and his illness. They talked too about dreams, for dreams can be very important. They can show you your deepest desires and also make you face your greatest terrors.
There is more to this story, but it will have to wait for another time.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 14/May/2018