Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXXIII

So close... just one more entry, methinks, and then I can let it all simmer and come back for a really solid rewrite (so much rewriting) in a few months.


The day came- longer than I thought it would, but of course swallows must fly more slowly with a rider- when Bluebeak appeared to have settled in for the winter.  My scrying revealed a place of lush vegetation, jewel-toned flowers, and the deep blue sky that indicated great warmth.  Quite different from what was outside my own front door, as winter continued its icy stranglehold.  I would not need my wools or furs, at any rate.

As I stepped through the mirror into the scene before me, I felt a moment of resistance, as though I was attempting to step through molasses.  Slowly I pushed deeper, until it seemed as though my entire body would be captured and stuck in the strangely thick aether that linked my cottage with the other side of the world.  I fought down the panic that began to blossom in my belly- if I slowed enough, if I stopped moving, would I be trapped in the mirror forever?

But then, just as I felt my heel swallowed up by the resistance, my fingertips broke through, and my arm quickly followed.  And then I was standing on top of a crumbling white building, surrounded by extremely startled swallows who exploded into the air like a expletive-spewing whirlwind.

For my part, I began to sweat immediately, and I realized that this place was hot as the hottest summer day in my woods.  Well, Elisa would certainly appreciate that, as well as the cheerful golden sun that was sparkling off the white stone around me, although I shuddered to imagine what summer must be like.  I needed to find shade quickly, lest I pass out.  But first-

“Thomelisa!” I cried, setting the swallows into another frenzy of swooping and shrieking.  “Where are you?”

She did not answer me- or if she did, I couldn’t hear it above the ruckus the birds were making- so I tried another tack.

“Bluebeak!  I’m looking for Bluebeak!”

This shocked the flocks into momentary silence, and in fact a good many of them winged their way to a further off bit of the palace- for surely that’s what this enormous structure must have been.  Those that remained chattered breathlessly amongst themselves at how strange it was that a human could speak.

“Which of you is Bluebeak?” I demanded, gritting my teeth at my lack of a Compulsion spell.  “I have business with him!”

At last a single swallow came and hovered briefly in front of my face, then darted up to a little alcove above my head.  He poked his face out to eye me, and as he did I noticed that his beak was a rather startling shade of blue.

“Bluebeak,” I said, letting my relief color my tone.  “I owe you a great debt, my friend.”
“You…” he ruffled and then smoothed his feathers nervously.  “You are a witch.  Witches don’t like to be in the debt of anyone.”

“No, we do not,” I admitted.  “But I would gladly indebt myself to you for the rest of all your descendents lives, for what you’ve done for me.”

“You’re her mother, aren’t you?”  He hopped out to the very edge of the alcove, and I could see he was wearing a delicate little scarf, just right for a tiny woman to cling to.

“I am,” I said.  “Where is she?”

“With her people,” Bluebeak said, and I thought I heard heartache in his voice.  My own heart froze.  To have come so far, only to have lost her again-

“What do you mean… with her people?  I’m her people!”

“No, you’re not,” he said sadly.  “No more than I.  We can love her, and she can love us, but we are not the same as her.”

“The same as- are you telling me that there are others like my daughter?”  I wasn’t sure if it was the sun, or the revelation, but I felt faint, and had to slowly lower myself to sit on the vine-covered marble.  Bluebeak fluttered down and landed on my knee.

“Except they have wings,” he said.  “But she tells me they’ve offered to make her wings, as well.”

Make her wings,” I whispered, staring out towards the hazy horizon.  “Wait-” my gaze snapped back to his, and he ruffled again in discomfort.  “She told you?  Does that mean she’s nearby?”

“Yes- just near that fallen pillar there,” he said gesturing with his beak.  “I knew she wouldn’t be comfortable living in my nest, so I told her to choose a home amongst the flowers, which I know she loves.  That’s where she met him-

But I wasn’t really listening any more, because I was too busy looking for a route down off the roof.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXXII

(EDIT: I just today [the 28th] realized that something went terribly wrong with the formatting on this, but I think I have it fixed now?)

I picked this up again in an attempt to get it finished before the New Year.  I think there's maybe another 800-1000 words left to go (for reference, tonight's entry is about 600), so here's hoping I can finish it up before the weekend!  I have a lot planned for 2018, and I don't want this to fall by the wayside for that long...


The other thing I found beneath the earth was the little nest where my daughter had tended to Bluebeak.  She had made it hay, flower down, and leaves.  And the bird- Triple Faced Goddess be praised- he had added to the mix his own feathers, curling and dancing beneath my breath.

I scooped the entire thing into my hand, laughing at my good fortune, but careful not to let it fly away.  At last I had something I could track!  I tucked the bundle carefully into one of my pouches, pulled out a old brass key, and spoke the word that would take me back to my own cottage.

I spent the next week planning how best to follow them.  I didn’t have enough power to track them constantly- I must do it intermittently.  And I needed greater speed than my two feet would give me- perhaps more speed than the four feet of a horse would give me.  And I’d need to go over mountains and seas, as well.  If only I could fly, like the swallow…

Witches can fly, of course, so long as we have a vessel large enough to bear our form.  Brooms are particularly popular, because the most skilled among us can imbue each individual piece of straw with a flight spell,allowing the tool to be used again and again without the need to respell it.  But then, brooms are really only good for short flights- I would not want to sit on one for the thousands of miles my child might be traveling.

What I needed was a carriage of some sort, something I could sit in comfortably as I flew, something that would even have enough room to carry supplies, so that I wouldn’t have to descend more than necessary.

That thought started me down the road of writing out what supplies I might need, which led me to check my Index for what sorts of things I had in my storage room.  And as I ran my finger down the list, considering what might be useful in what ways, it occured me that what I needed wasn’t a carriage at all.  What I needed was a way to travel without moving.  I could summon anything in this book to my hand and it would simply... be there.  It didn’t come rolling across the dirt, or swimming across the water, or flying through the air: it simply appeared, as though dropped through a portal in the aether.

I needed a portal spell for myself.  A reverse-summoning, as it were.  A spell of sending.

It shouldn’t take much power, in the grand scheme of things- it didn’t have to be continuously cast, like the spell of Greater Understanding.  I should be able to charge it with a single moose- no, I’d better go with two bears, in light of last winter’s activities- and I could certainly build up enough magic to power it, as long as I didn’t cast any other spells for a month or so.

The days and weeks sped past as I worked the mental problem of how to Send myself to where my daughter was.  In the end I decided that once a tracking spell showed Bluebird settled in one place for longer than a fortnight (I restricted myself to checking that infrequently), I would scry him- and once I had an image of where he was residing, I’d turn the mirror into a portal, and step through.  I’d be trapped there once I did so, but that was no matter- I could always make my way home, with Elisa, in a more conventional manner.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXXI

(see, after a few days off, I'm back at it again!)


“Thomelisa wait!” I shrieked, but of course she did not hear.  And I had no spell of Command to give strength to my words, either.  Fleeter than thought, the tiny black shape vanished into the sky above my head, angling to the south and east.

I stood, numb, staring into the curving blue space that now hung empty.

But had it really been them?  Was I really sure I’d seen a rider on the swallow’s back?

I swallowed hard, feeling the truth in my gut.  I was sure.  I knew it as surely as I knew the exact shade of my daughter’s hair, the exact timbre of her laugh.  Once again she had been taken- but this time in rescue.

I turned slowly back towards the corn field they’d emerged from, a new sort of darkness uncurling in my chest.  For Bluebeak to have rescued Elisa, as he had been so determined to do, there must have been something to be rescued from.  I flexed my fingers, feeling the spells of Cutting and Breaking I kept in my palms.

It was time for someone to realize the folly of keeping a witch’s child from her.

It took me no time at all to unearth- literally- my daughter’s captors: a mouse and a mole.  I tore the truth from their minds with non-too-gentle spells, and learned how Elisa had spent the past ten months: kept away from the sunlight and flowers she loved so much.  The mouse was stupid and narcissistic, but she had kept my daughter alive when winter came, and Elisa had felt true gratitude towards her- perhaps even misguided love.  Because of this, I allowed her to die painlessly.  The mole, however, had sensed my child’s terror of the darkness, of the tunnels, had been perfectly aware of her misery and, in fact, had been titillated by it.

He did not die painlessly.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXX

(another year, another NaNo in the bank.  the story isn't finished yet, but don't worry- i'll keep at it until it is.)
My daughter did not, to the best of my knowledge, have any sort of resurrection magic, but rescuing a wounded bird was definitely the sort of thing she would do, and I had taught her some basic herb craft.  And circumstances aside, how many girls fitting her description could there possibly be in the world?

The swallow who told me the story did not know who the rescued swallow was- no one from her flock, certainly, but perhaps from the flock of the one she’d heard the story from?  After much maddening back and forth, I learned that the flock in question had not yet begun their migration, and had not plans to do so for another month or so.

That being the case, I decided to go to them.

It took me a half moon to locate the proper flock, and when I did I discovered that the rescued bird did not, in fact, belong to that flock.  But at least this time the bird I interrogated was able to assure me that the bird in question- whose name was Bluebeak- absolutely did belong to a flock whose territory was further to the east.

And so I traveled on.

Summer was wheeling its way towards autumn, and every day greater and greater flocks of birds flew over my head.  Sometimes I would call out to them, but they did not answer.  Sometimes I would say a prayer and cast a spell of Command, and then they would descend, and answer- but for nothing.  None of them was Bluebeak, or knew of him.

Until the day one did.

Autumn had begun in earnest, the fields ripening gold, the leaves a riot of flame, and the sky a hard and distant blue.  I knew time was running out to catch a swallow- only the stragglers remained, so in my desperation I used the last of my Command spells- and this time the nervous flock I called down did know Bluebeak- and his strange story.

They said he had injured himself the previous year, fallen behind at migration time, and they had counted him as one dead.  But then, miraculously, he had returned to the breeding grounds in the spring, healed and obsessed with the tiny woman he said had brought him back from the brink of death.  According to Bluebeak, when he’d fallen to the earth below he’d fallen into the earth, where he lay in the cold darkness as one dead, until suddenly he was not dead; he was warm, and covered in flower-down, and being tended to by a woman with a kind voice and a kinder touch.  She’d nursed him all through the long winter, and he although he could see how unhappy she was to be living beneath the ground, he could not convince her to leave with him when the spring came.

“Who knows if it really happened, or if it was just a fever dream,” said a swallow.  “But he was convinced it was real, and convinced he had to save her.  When the time for migration came again, he left, saying he was going to bring her with us.  We haven’t seen him since.”

“But where?  Where did he go to?”

“He said it was off our regular path- when he fell behind he tried to join in with one of the flocks that winters closer by, but of course he couldn’t keep up with them, either.”

“That tells me nothing!” I said, and something in my eyes caused them all to try and flee, but of course they could not, not until I let them go.  One of the other birds fluttered,

“A corn field!  He said when he fell it was into a corn field!”

A corn field!  I laughed aloud, a sound somewhere between mirth and despair.  Could it be- could she have been there all along, but underground?  I released the flock, and they exploded back into the air.  I must retrace my steps one last time.

I moved quickly,  much more quickly now that I was not stopping to examine everything for signs of birds, and before the moon completed her change I was within sight of the copse.  The day was a beautiful one, the sun high and warm, the air perfectly clear.  So clear that, as I grew closer still, I was able to make out a single swallow burst up out of the stubble that remained of the cornfield.  So clear that I was able to discern his outline was odd, almost as though he had a tiny rider between his wings.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXIX

The following months were tedious beyond telling, so I will not try.  I will say only that it is exhausting to keep alternating between hope and despair constantly for hours, days, week, and months on end.  Speaking to creature after creature, with nothing to show for it except a growing appreciation for how terribly dull such creatures are.  I gradually began to move in an outward spiral, tracing and retracing the same terrain over and over again, the same conversations over and over again.  I began to wonder if I shouldn’t craft a spell that would ask the questions for me, and imbue various insects with it, let them fly about the countryside on my behalf… but even at my most desperate, I couldn’t deny the many, many ways that could go wrong.

The only upside to this time is that my power, while being steadily drained to fuel the spell of greater understanding, did manage to store up a bit of a reserve.  I would never again reach the level of power I’d enjoyed during my youth (not until and unless I ended the spell) but at least I could craft small spells without killing myself, if the time came.

It was almost exactly a year from the last time I’d seen my daughter that I at last heard a rumor of her- no more than a handful of days past the anniversary, certainly.  A small flock of swallows- the vanguard of their kind, if you will- chose an old, lightning blasted stump as their temporary nesting site, one stop of many during their leisurely migration.  I was not thrilled about talking to the birds- the small ones inevitably proved to be a strange mix of cunning and deeply stupid, and always flighty about speaking to a witch.  Ones that flocked in such large groups, as swallows do, also had a tendency to forget which one you were speaking to- they seemed to be of the opinion that to talk to one was to talk to all, and as long as someone answered you, it didn’t matter if it was the one one you had questioned.  It may have been less irritating if I hadn’t been asking about their individual experiences.

But irritating as it was, I was more stubborn than they, and in the end one of them said that while she had not, herself, seen anyone matching Elisa’s description, she’d overheard another flock-mate repeating the story of a tiny girl who had brought a fallen swallow back to life.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXVIII

The long bath was welcome, the long sleep wonderful- but when I woke I was not recovered enough to leave.  It took nearly a full turn of the moon before I at last felt myself up to the physical challenge of the journey, and by that time the first hints of spring were beginning to thread through the air.  I fought down my frustration by telling myself it was just as well- the warmer the days got, the more creatures would be stirring, and the more souls I could questions as to my daughter’s whereabouts.  It had been just over half a year since Elisa had been taken… the trail might be long cold, but as least now I stood a chance of picking it up once more.

The snow had vanished by this point, but the wind was still bitterly cold and forceful, and the icy mud splashed higher and higher up my shins as I slogged along beside the stream.  The trees has vaguely greenish and pinkish casts to the tips of their branches, as though they were thinking so strongly of budding that they’d begun to do so in spite of themselves.  Here and there I saw the soft silver shine of pussywillows, and felt a pang of sadness as I remembered how Elisa and I would turn the little catkins into extravagant fur coats and hats for her.  The air held the twin promise of death and new life, and I shuddered.

What had taken me perhaps five hours to traverse in the summer time took closer to seven now that the ground was so sloppy.  It seemed no time at all, however, after how long I’d been waiting, and the sun was still well above the horizon when I spied the little copse of trees in the distance.  I quickened my pace, ignoring the ache in my hips, and almost wept with relief when I stood at last between the spreading branches of the trees.

“Thomelisa!  I’ve come back!”

There was no answer to my cry.  I had not expected there to be one, I couldn’t not try.  I would begin my hunt for someone to question soon, but first I dropped my pack, dropped to my knees, and began crawling around each and every trunk, to see if Elisa had replied to any of my messages there.

She had not, and the trees stirred with vague discontent as they felt my presence, the one who had wantonly carved their flesh.  I fought down my disappointment that there was no sign of my daughter, and apologized to them as prettily as I could, even going so far as to bury a few charged crystals, that they might taste a treat in recompense.  They were young yet, and not able to communicate in more than the occasional emotion, but they seemed somewhat soothed by my offering, and I felt no objection when I explained that I might be climbing them later.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXVII

Nothing responded- I’d have to go out into the world to try it.  Deep winter was not, perhaps, the best time to go searching for small animals to speak with, but I didn’t dare set off on the real journey until I was sure of it.

And then I laughed aloud.  Why the obsession with small animals?  This spell should allow me to communicate with any animal, including the chickens that were even now nestled down in their little straw-filled house.

I drew myself up slowly- how long before my stamina recovered?- threw a warm blanket around my shoulders, and slipped my feet into my fur-lined boots by the door.  There was fresh snow on the ground, a full six inches that hadn’t been there when I’d begun the spell.  I carved a dark path through it as I shuffled out to the chicken coup, the little crystals slipping in beneath my blanket and soaking the hem of my shift.  After this I would take a warm bath, sleep myself out- and then I would leave.  After this.

I pulled the coup door open, letting in a little swirl of wind and snow, and the chicken closest to the door let out a small squawk of indignation.  My heart seemed to have taken up residence in my throat, forcing me to clear it twice before I managed to say,

“Sorry about the cold.”

“If you’re so sorry about it,” muttered the chicken, eyes squeezed resolutely shut, “Close the damn door.”

Gleefully I obeyed.  I understood her!  I scanned the yard for evidence of other creatures I might speak with.  A sudden shower of snow from a tree caused my eyes to whip upward in time to see the persimmon flash of a bullfinch, fluttering from one perch to another.

“If you come down to me,” I called out, “I will give you some berries.”

The little bird cocked its head, considering me.

“You’re a witch,” it said at last.  “And I’d be a fool to get within snatching distance of you.”

I laughed, delighted.  “Clever one!  But no- I’m not after any beating hearts today.  You’ve already given me what I need- I will leave you a great feast when I go, and you and your family may feast to your hearts’ content!”


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXVI

In a way it was harder to strip their power without killing them; it required greater control.  But I had always excelled at control, and the part of me that enjoyed a challenge thrilled at the test- could I disable both of them long enough to simultaneously drain them?

I could.  I did.  I left them nothing, left them crying aloud in fear and anger, but left them alive, with their children to comfort them.  I was overflowing with power, felt as though I should be glowing in the darkness.  They’d been more disciplined than I had, by far; they’d not done any great works for a decade or more, and for a moment I felt I could touch the faces of the Goddess herself, could reach back through time and pluck my daughter to safety before she was ever threatened.  But of course I could not.  What I could do, what I did do, was draw the the darkness around myself, and vanish from the village as if I’d never been there, with not even footprints to mark my passing.

I reappeared in my cottage, at my hearth.  Now that I had everything I needed- components, life force, and power to spare- now I could move swiftly, I would.  I had placed the spell in my own throat, not daring to put it in anything that might be taken from me.  It was dangerous to continuously cast from your own body, but it was better than the alternative.  I had charged it with the life’s blood of twenty moose, the freely-given life force of two five-hundred-year-old trees, and now I would weave in the power that I had gathered.

It took more power than I’d anticipated- if I hadn’t gathered up Kvenna and Roshen’s power, if I’d relied only on my own store, it would have killed me.  I tried not to think about that, as my power levels continued to drop, and a cold sweat broke out on my brow.  It didn’t matter what might have been- what mattered was what was, and what was, was that I did have enough power, enough control, to make my will reality.

With a final flare of power I felt the spell snap into place, ready and waiting to be cast.  I felt faint, and lowered myself shakily into a chair, took a sip of the warming tea I’d prepared before I’d begun.  It was warming no longer: it was cold as ice, and I realized that the finalizing of the spell had taken longer than I’d been aware of.  All the more reason not to hesitate.

I spoke the word to activate the spell- and nothing happened.  Or rather, the spell triggered, but beyond that- nothing.  I let out the breath I’d been holding, and then a shaky laugh.  What had I been expecting?  There was nothing living in the cottage besides myself, after all!

Or was there?

“Hello?” I said.  My throat hurt, as though I’d been screaming, and I tasted blood.  “Is anyone there?”


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXV

Kvenna and Roshen had hidden their trail well, I’d give them that.  Not quite as well as I had, but then, I only had the one witch to hide, not two.  As I hunted them down I wondered when and how they’d managed to fall in love.  Because surely that was the only reason to have disappeared as they’d done- together.  It was rare for two witches to fall in love- we tend to be a self-centered lot, and having to take the feelings of another into consideration often seemed to be a great deal more trouble than it was worth- but I imagine that, having done so, they’d be both more and less dangerous.  More, because they’d show no mercy in trying to protect the other.  Less, because having something you care about more than yourself is a weakness easily exploited: just look at the state I was in.

In the end I found them- passing themselves off as a pair of ordinary humans, perhaps with a touch of the hedgewitch about Kvenna, but nothing to arouse the suspicions of their neighbors, or the interest of any passing witch.  I recognized Kvenna’s subtle touch in the alert-charms they had scattered about the road leading to the village where they lived.  Charms made to give them notice of the level of power approaching individuals might possess or- and I was impressed with this one- might be carrying on them.  I approached in deepest night, beneath the thinnest sliver of a crone-moon, and chose not to let the charms notice me- or the contents of my pack.  A simple spell, carried in a piece of goose down I had tucked in one of my mittens, put the humans and animals of the village to sleep, although I wasn’t fool enough to try it on anything within the walls of Kvenna and Roshen’s cottage.  Unless they were complete idiots (which they were not) they’d have charms set to detect any spells trying to breach their perimeter.  With that in mind, I planned to breach it the old-fashioned way: through a window.  The charms they’d have set against ordinary thieves would be easier to overcome, by far.

When I came to the frost-etched window, however, I paused: it was glowing with a golden light, indicating Kvenna and Roshen were still awake.  I peered in and saw that indeed they were, the two of them sitting in front of the fire, bundled in blankets, with a handful of candles lit about the room.  It was nearly three hours past midnight- why were they awake?  It wasn’t necessarily a reason to abandon my plan, but it did complicate matters a bit.

And then the blankets around Roshen stirred, and Kvenna shifted, the two of them sharing tired smiles, and I realized what I was seeing: a small child was sleeping in Roshen’s arms, and an infant was nursing at Kvenna’s breast.

I froze.  It had not occurred to me, that others might choose the same path I had- might choose parenthood.  Why would that not occur to me?  Ofrse had a son, why not these two?

I stared harder at the child in Roshen’s arms: it could not have more years than my Thomelisa, although she, of course, appeared fully grown, while this child was still baby-round in the face, and gangly through the limbs.

For a brief, terrible moment, the darkest, coldest voice in my heart pointed out that here was something fortunate: four witches for the price of two.

I jerked back, violently.  No.  I am not that wicked.

I crouched in the snow beneath the window, and chewed on my thumb.  I would not kill children, not for the miniscule amount of power they might hold.  My mind went to my own child, alone in the frozen wilderness, with no-one to look after her, and my will solidified.  I would not leave these children orphans, either.  I could only take Kvenna, or Roshen.  Not both.

And then another voice pointed out that, strictly speaking, I didn’t have to kill either of them, to take their power.  Just because I’d always done it didn’t mean I had to do it this time.  They weren’t likely to chase me down- they’d known they’d been drained, but they’d also know that whoever had done it could have killed them, and chosen not to.  They might move, they might create better defenses once they’d rebuilt their power stores, but they were unlikely to go looking for me.  And if they did?  Well, I’d deal with that when the time came.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXIV

(here a bit, there a bit, everywhere a bitty bit...)


As I have mentioned, I’d been out of the game for a good long while- and more specifically I’d faked my death to get out.  Which meant I no longer had contact with any of my old… contacts.  Which meant that figuring out who was still in the game- or who the newcomers were and whether or not they’d be worth my time- was no easy process.  Ideally I’d want someone who, like myself, hadn’t been practicing magic for a while, and therefore would have a nice bit of power built up.  Which meant finding someone else who was so far out of the game that the others left them alone.  Which mean trying to figure out who, among those I believed to be dead, might not actually be dead- and then tracking them down.


The first step was identifying those whose deaths I had not a) directly caused or b) been present for (the overlap between those two groups was great, but not complete).  And then I examined the stories surrounding the deaths, looking for patterns that reminded me of the stories I’d put out around my death.

In the end, I came up with two names.  Kvenna, and Roshen.  The two had supposedly destroyed one another in a duel, but even at the time I’d found that tale suspect.  Roshen was a powerful witch, to be certain, but he lacked Kvenna’s finesse- the two of them had had completely different styles.  He might have blown her apart, or she might have stripped the blood from his veins, but it seemed unlikely that the two of them would have chosen spells similar enough to one another that they’d have wound up reverberating the two of them into oblivion.  At the time I hadn’t cared enough to pursue it (although I had made a stop by Kvenna’s dwelling to raid her supplies- the lack of protection on them was evidence enough that she wasn’t planning on coming back) but now… now perhaps I would be so lucky as to find not one, but two power sources for my spell.


Thomelisa Taken XXIII

(I'm so tired, you guys: we did a lot of driving today.  So tonight's bout of writing took a lot of very serious Self-Lecturing to get my butt in the chair and my fingers to typing, and in the end it was mostly me trying to work more of the magic system out... which is to say, the plot doesn't really progress at all, and things also don't necessarily make sense.  But I got my 10+ minutes of writing in, and surely some part of it will be useful in the long run.  Happy Thanksgiving!)

It did, indeed, take me months to craft the spell of Greater Understanding.  And as summer became autumn, and autumn began to wend its way towards winter, I began to realize that winter, for Elisa, was especially deadly time of year.  Always before she’d spent it in my company, with the food that I provided for her.  Left to her own devices, she was perfectly capable of gathering nectar from flowers, or eating from tiny sweet berries that grew near the earth, or even creating miniature salads from certain edible leaves, and prying open fallen nuts.  But what would she do when the frosts came, and the plants died?  Not to mention that the first snow of the season might well kill her; even the tiniest snowflake could cover her face entirely.  My sense of urgency grew greater still, but unfortunately the nature of magic does not care about one’s urgency.

Certain components had to be left for lengths of time- to charge, or to await a specific phase of the moon, or a particular direction of the wind- and during those times I turned my attention to the problems of power and charging.  To the first I had no easy solution, but to the second I decided to spread out the harvest.  First and foremost, I would take a few moose- they were just as dangerous as bears, true, but they were also substantially larger, and for my current purposes large was more important than safe.  If only they weren’t so damnably solitary- it would take time to track them in any reasonable number.  Still, I could take them without permission.  The trees on the other hand, I must negotiate with.  Old growth trees had life force that was almost beyond the scope of my understanding, but adult trees (that is to say, trees with more than five decades) had their own magic- and that magic made it so that nothing could be taken from them that they did not freely give.  You could steal from younger trees, of course, but it angered the older trees, and a witch with any sense at all did not anger trees.


Thomelisa Taken, Pt XXII

In the end I decided to be simple: I pulled out my knife, and began carving.  For as long as the rain fell, I carved, into the trunk of every tree, near the grass, facing all different directions, five letters: T WAIT

When the rain stopped I’d carved nearly ¾ of the available trees, and decided it would have to do.  It might have been a complete waste of my time, but it would have to do.  I wiped my knife clean and re-sheathed it, then took the time to bandage my knuckles and push my hair out of my face.  Finally I stood,  re-settled my back, and stared long into the trees.

“I’ll be back,” I said.  “I will come for you.”  I didn’t whisper.  I didn’t shout.  But there was power in my words, power in the promise I was making, charged by the blood soaked bandages on my hands, and I felt the atmosphere shudder with it.  Then I turned away, and began the long trek back to my cabin.

I walked because I needed time to think.  To think about how to do what I wanted to do, where to get enough life force to charge it.  Generally speaking, I prefered animals to vegetables when it came to large-scale spells, because it took a great deal less time to grow a new adult bear than it took to grow a new adult tree.  But bears (or moose) are rarely found in numbers to rival a mature forest.  And then of course there was the consideration of how much power it would drain from me.  Power builds up over time, of course, but most witches use it often enough that they keep a more or less reliable amount on hand.  I hadn’t been doing real magic- with the exception of the past few days- for years, so I had a considerable reserve.  But to craft this spell would drain me, even if I used some of the power I’d stored in crystals.  It would take me days to recover enough to feel comfortable leaving the house, and if the need should arise for more power, in my pursuit of my daughter… I shuddered to think of not having.  Unacceptable.

The solution, then, would be to find another source of power, to augment my own.  And that required even more thinking.  Taking someone’s power was always tricky- and even if one managed it, it had an annoying way of angering other witches in the area, who got paranoid that the thief might come after them.  Which is why I, personally, had always just killed the ones I’d taken power from- killed them in such a way that it looked like an accident, no less, because no one goes hunting for Accidents of Fate.  But such “accidents”, of course, required even more planning, and more damn time.  I ground my teeth, the beginnings of a migraine pushing against my skull, and regretted that I’d killed Ofrse so rashly.  I’d been out of the game for a long time- where was I going to find another witch on such short notice?