Magnolia’s blazing purple eyes peered through the lush curtain of foliage behind which she hid. The only break in her camouflage was the malevolent glint that would sparkle. And reflect in the moonlight. Her hatred found its full vent pouring through those eyes and their magically purple color, found only in her family line of witches, morphed and darkened to the blackest of blood suggestive of the internal bleeding she wished to inflict on her victim.
The wooded copse in which she hid was blooming with the verdant, seductive bounty of fresh springtime. No trace of the winter past remained and the sprouting life was suggestive of lover’s birth.
It is said that hate is nothing more than misdirect4ed love, but in Magnolia’s case, this was not true. Her hatred was raw and pure in its murderous strength. She mumbled constant incantations, her words no louder than a breath.
Her victim was unsuspecting and confident in her safety, for her own purple eyes, brighter and happier than Magnolia’s, were a telltale sign of her shared heritage, much as she would have preferred to deny her witchy history for the ties weaved to her sister. To her, love was everything; the flowers of spring her favored children and the vines and twigs adorning her arms and head her devoted lovers and cherished companions.
Yet, her sister was no fool. Despite Magnolia’s careful attempts at secrecy, Aster knew Magnolia’s habits, as well as her insatiable hatred.
“Aster.” A man’s voice momentarily broke Magnolia’s concentration so the thread of words was temporarily unhinged.
Aster turned gracefully with a welcoming smile on her face. All the goodness and new life of spring seemed attached to her being and its full force was released through her smile, bathing the newcomer in breezy warmth and the heady scent of wildflowers.
Magnolia quickly resumed her chanting.
“Marcus, I’ve been waiting for you.” Aster greeted the man with outstretched arms, leaning into his friendly, lingering kiss.
“I’ve thought of nothing else but this moment since you bid me to meet you here.” He could not take his eyes from her. Aster’s enchanting beauty mesmerized him, to the point that he could focus on nothing else. Her lengthy history had not been disclosed to him, an ordinary, workingman, but her otherworldly purple eyes pierced his soul as if she could see into that abyss, was privy to his innermost darkness and chose to associate with him in any case.
Her return kiss was less friendly and more sensuous, making his heart beat rapidly in his chest and other places.
“Come.” Aster said, breaking away abruptly. “We must go from this place if we are to be truly alone. Evil waits for us here.” She shot a glare in Magnolia’s direction, leaving no doubt that she knew of her sister’s whereabouts.
They had waited too long, for Magnolia had foreseen their departure and spoke quickly so as to finish her spell casting before it was too late.
Though his bones trembled and his legs felt weak, Marcus bowed his chest and stepped daringly in front of Aster when Magnolia burst forth from the bushes, ice in her eyes as well as in the air around her, for while her sister summoned Spring, she was Winter incarnate and her very presence bespoke a cold and final resting place, for while Spring warms up the frozen Winter, she was the Mistress of Death and even the finest of spring days means nothing to the dead.
Marcus, though nothing but a mere man, was not immune to the change in tensions, nor the cold wind that was a shock to his system after leisurely basking in Aster’s loving glow.
She was shouting, now, the end of her evil poem. With dark hair blowing back from her shoulders by an unknown force, skin as pale as the death she loved to inflict and eyes glowing fire, she was a terrifying sight to behold.
Even Aster felt a shiver of fear as the words met her ears. Their impact was known to her in ways Marcus would never understand. He held her pinned behind his back, hoping to protect her from whatever Magnolia intended.
Neither moved as Magnolia’s words rang out clear and loud,
“Alas for love, for love is gone,
As Winter takes its hold.
Lover’s kiss shall be no more
When hate rules hearts so cold.
Snow will fall, and so shall you.
The grave hungers for her man,
But death is a fate far too kind.
Life carries a more fitting ban.
You are cursed to be alone and lost,
Seen and heard no more.
To wander alone shall be your fate.
Winter lasts the seasons four.
Eternity is yours to have, to hold.
As a lover’s vow must say,
But love will die along with you,
Lost in a snow that will last alway.”
The gestures Magnolia made as she screamed looked almost like a dance, but the consequences were dire, for as she spoke, Marcus noticed some changes, subtle at first, but gaining in intensity.
Snow began to lightly fall from the sky, hissing like acid when they hit the warm ground, but quickly increasing in urgency and strength as ice spread from under Magnolia’s feet, overtaking the flowers and greenery and forcing them to bend to her unyielding will. By the time she finished speaking, the Earth was white and an angry blizzard filled the sky, embedding the trees and the fields with its wrath.
As the last syllable fell from Magnolia’s lips, Marcus felt something even colder slice through his heart. At first, nothing seemed to change.
Then he heard Aster cry out. He turned around to reach from her, to protect her, but he was now one with the breeze and his hand passed straight through her. He could see her words when she spoke, pouring forth from her mouth in reds and blues and purples that were a stark contrast to the overwhelming whiteness surrounding him. He was the wind and the snow, translucent but still in existence as himself.
“What have you done?” Aster screamed at her sister, who stood watching with a self-satisfied smirk.
Marcus took a step away from the scene, then another. He could still feel the solid ground beneath his feet, albeit cushioned by the many layers of snow. That was comforting, proving that he was still him, still existed. That is, until he looked behind him and saw no footprints. The wind had died by now, satisfied with the success of Magnolia’s spell. All was still. The fresh snow lay in drifts and was undisturbed by his walking.
He existed. He was there, but he left no imprint, had no effect.
“Come now, little sister.” He heard Magnolia taunt. “You couldn’t really have thought I would do nothing; that your actions against me would have no consequences.”
“Abigor was a murderer of innocent people, Magnolia.” Aster shrieked. “Marcus was a good man.”
“Love for love.” Magnolia shouted back. “I loved him and you destroyed him, even though I pleaded for his life. I begged you to let him be, humiliating myself in every way I could, but you acted like you couldn’t hear me.” The depth of pain that still resided deep in her being was agonizingly reflected in Magnolia’s voice; her misery echoed in her stance. “You knew how much I loved him.”
Tears rolled down Aster’s cheeks. Her voice was hardly more than a sad whisper. “I know you did, but you have to see that I had no choice. Many lives were saved through Abigor’s death.”
“Life for life. Love for love. Now we’re even.” Magnolia turned and walked away, feeling equal parts satisfied and disappointed in the culmination of several years of revenge-seeking.
Aster looked to have been left alone, but she was very powerful amongst witches and despite her sister’s perfect execution, she could sense Marcus’s presence. He had not gone far, though there were no physical signs that was nothing more than dust.
Marcus’s vision was blurred, and he lingered close to Aster, willing her to see him. He tried to touch her, but his hand continuously passed through.
Aster did not move from her spot for a long time. She stared into the distance as if in a trance. Marcus never left. He was alone in this in-between space and after a full hour had gone by, he began to wish he was fully dead.
Aster echoed his thoughts, whispering into the void, hoping he could hear her. “If only you were really dead, perhaps there’d be something I could do, but this I have no control over.”
She closed her eyes, taking one deep, shaky breath after another, letting herself feel the cold, feel her existence and her strength before opening her eyes and declaring with feeling and purpose an incantation of her own.
“Evil separates what life has called its own.
Winter has claimed her man,
But Love is stronger than the Mistress of Death
And holds hope within her plan.
In life and death, the lines are blurred
When love has gone away.
This sacrifice is mine to make
And make it all do this day.
Return me to my love,
For though gone, he is not dead.
Spring has spoken, hear my decree
As sure as my blood runs red.”
Instead of a frozen stake to the heart, she was filled with warmth and the unseasonal snow began to melt, awakening the flowers and leaves it kept trapped beneath.
Marcus materialized before her eyes and she smiled gently, knowing deep in her heart that they would never return to the fullness of life but rejoicing that she would not have to face the desolation of living through the ages without the one to whom she had pledged herself, for she had but one love to give and she gave it wholeheartedly.
“What did you do?” Marcus said, eyes wide with shock and fear. It was obvious he had not been returned to life, for words were still visible and their feet left no prints. Even as joy filled him when he wrapped his arms around her, dread filled him along with the knowledge that she had done something irreversible.
She didn’t answer, but kissed him with her feelings and passion on her lips, silencing his doubts and objections. They would do no good now anyways.
Aster looked deep into his eyes and he was given a second shock. “Your eyes are brown.” He gasped. “What happened?”
“I am no longer a witch. My magic and abilities left me when I renounced life to join you here.” She held a finger to his lips to cut him off when he opened his mouth to respond. “Don’t say anything. Nothing you say can change anything now, and my decision was not made rashly. The seasons will continue, one after another as surely as the days and my legacy will not end simply because I will not be there to see it happen. In time I would grow bitter as my sister, love having been stolen from me, as I stole love from her, pure as my intentions were. This is the better choice.”
And so their fate, sealed with a kiss from which many were to follow, was decided and with joy they set forth to wander, invisible to the eye and leaving no trace of their path, but neither lost nor lonely.