(Read Part One over here.)
The old woman pushed passed me and marched to the table, dropping a large parcel onto it with a sigh of relief and then lowering herself onto the bench with a groan. I stayed at the door, frozen to the spot. We stared at each other in silence for a moment.
“Well?” she said impatiently. “Are you going to give me a crick in my neck from staring up at you, or are you going to sit down?”
I closed the door and half-stumbled to the table.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “There must be some mistake. I’m not a witch. I thought this house was abandoned, I just came in for the night to shelter from the rain. I’ll leave, immediately -”
“Nonsense.” The old woman cut me off. “You found this house because it let you find it, and it would not have let you find it unless you were its witch.”
There was a moment’s silence as I tried to make sense of this statement. I couldn’t.
“What do you mean ‘it let me find it’? And what do you mean ‘its witch’?”
She sighed. “You’re not from this kingdom, are you?”
“Of course I am.” I said, a bit offended. “I’ve lived in Erendiel all my life.”
“We’re not in Erendiel. We’re in Valrick.”
I began to feel that this conversation was spiralling far out of my control.
“I think I know what country I’m in.” I said with as much firmness as I could manage – which wasn’t much, unfortunately.
“One forest looks much like another in the dark and the rain,” the old woman said. “Take a look outside and see if you’re still so sure.”
I walked to the door, opened it, and looked outside. She was right. The trees, the grass, the birdsong, all were slightly different than what I was used to. This was not the same forest I had started out in. I walked back to the table and collapsed onto the bench.
“I don’t understand.” I said. “How could I travel across two kingdoms in a single night without even knowing it?”
The old woman sighed. “Listen, girl – what’s your name?’
“You don’t have to tell me your real name if you don’t want to, but I have to call you something.” She said, rather impatiently.
I thought for a moment. “Triniel. You can call me Triniel.”
“Triniel.” She repeated. “Townsfolk call me Grandmother Witch, but as you are a fellow witch, you may call me by name, which is Lineris. This area has been without a witch for over six years, Triniel. I imagine it was getting tired of waiting for a suitable candidate to just wander in, so it decided to go and find someone. It found you in Erendiel and brought you here to the Deepwood of Valrick, to be its witch and serve its people.”
“I’ve been taken captive…by a forest?” I said.
“By a piece of a forest, yes. There are twelve witches in the Deepwood, each serving their own witchdom. And you’re not a captive. You can leave whenever you like, although the witchdom wouldn’t have taken you if it hadn’t sensed that you wanted to leave.”
Well, I couldn’t deny that. I had wanted to get out of Erendiel. I had wanted a new life…but a life as a witch?
“Why would it choose me? I don’t know how to be a witch. I don’t know anything about…about any of it. I’m not…I’m nobody.”
“Good,” Lineris said curtly. “If you’re nobody, there’s nothing to prevent you from being a witch. Here’s your chance to be somebody.” She pushed the package she had been carrying toward me. “The other witches of the Deepwood will be visiting you in the next month or so to introduce themselves and present you with your welcome gifts. Here’s mine.” I carefully unwrapped the brown cloth to reveal a small, plain but sturdy cauldron. “You’ll want to get yourself another one in town of course,” Lineris continued. “You should always have at least two pots: one for potions and one for food. Never confuse the two! You do not want magical residue in your soup, believe me.” Having dispensed her no-doubt excellent advice, she stood up and started for the door.
“Wait!” I said. “You’re leaving already! I don’t…what do I do now?”
“Well, the townsfolk will have seen the smoke from your chimney by now and will know there’s a new witch in residence. You may be getting your first customers soon, so I suggest you start studying!” Lineris replied shortly, nodding towards the books on the shelf. “The handwritten ones are the notebooks of the previous witch. There’s also a blank one that’s for you. You’ll be expected to keep detailed accounts of your experiments and of any spells or potions you invent, as well as a journal of your day-to-day affairs.”
“There’s no blank book.” I said. “I was just looking at them before you came in, and they’re all filled in.”
I looked on the shelf, and sure enough there was now a seventh book, its pages blank and the inside cover inscribed with the words “Here are Recorded the Works and Days of the Witch Triniel.”
“But…” I said. “I just made up that name. How could it possibly…”
I turned around, but the old witch had vanished. I sighed and carried the book to the table. I sat down and looked around for something to write with, and was startled to see a sharpened quill and inkpot on the table in front of me. They had definitely not been there a moment ago. I sighed again, took up the quill, dipped it in ink, and began to write.
(I won’t be continuing this story on my blog because I will – at last – be moving on from my witch theme soon. If, however, you are interested in following Triniel’s journey, I will be continuing her story on my fictionpress account.