The Witch of Wendalltop lives in a cozy cottage in the mountains just north of town from which she gets her name. She is the third witch of her family to inhabit the quaint cottage. It is nestled in the shadow of Ram’s Peak amongst the impossibly tall evergreens native to the region. The trees provide adequate shade in the summer and cut the icy winds of the frigid winters. Beside the house is the garden now dull and lifeless as winter approaches. Just on the other side of the garden stands the woodshed filled with oak and rock tree logs. She expends a great deal of effort each year insuring she has the best logs for the cold winter. The ones that burn hot but are not overly smokey. Beyond the woodshed is the forest sloping up to the snowcapped mountain. From the outside, there is not a more picturesque cottage in the whole Kingdom.
The same cannot be said about the inside. While it is not filthy or grimy, the small cottage is crammed full of stuff from wall to wall (and from floor to ceiling in some spots). There are crates filled with dried plants, and boxes stuffed with various mushrooms. There are jars containing all manner of creatures suspended in a thick liquid. Books and papers coat every flat surface. Shelves filled with bones, teeth, and tufts of fur line the walls. There are pots for brewing potions and pots for cooking dinner all piled together near the wood stove. Amongst all the compacted chaos, hunched over the table stands the Witch. As the fire burns low in the fireplace, she is muttering to herself. She has a disheveled appearance, and the look on her face says she forgot that she forgot something. She continues to mutter to herself as she flips the pages in her mother’s spell book.
“Surely there is something in here…. There has to be a way…”
“Caw!!!” rang out the snow-white raven from its perch just above the table.
“Hush Eepoe! I need to focus. I am running out of time,” said the Witch without even looking towards the bird. Eepoe was strange even by white raven standards. His dark intelligent eyes proved he was not simply albino but something else entirely. And he was old. In fact, he was almost as old as the Witch herself and had been with her for almost thirty years.
“Caw!!” This time the Witch looks up at her companion.
“You are right of course. I never should have taken this contract. What was I thinking? Even an experienced witch with a cauldron full of natural ability would struggle to find a way to be completely undetectable by eyes and ears,” lamented the Witch. Eepoe cocked his head to the side but remained silent.
“And let’s face it, I am neither of those.” She reaches down to the book and slams it closed revealing the papers scattered underneath. One page is a letter which states that her Grand Inquisitor Satille, her employer, will be arriving tomorrow expecting results. No one ever wants to disappoint the Grand Inquisitor. People that do are never heard from again. So, for two months she had tried any and everything she could possibly think to try. Two frustrating and tiring months with no results. She sighs warily. She knows she is doomed.
“I bet my mother could have witched her way through this,” she says mostly to herself. Eepoe hops down off his perch to stand on the closed spell book. As the Witch lightly brushes his head with the tips of her fingers, she says, “Guess all that’s left is to try the potion mother called Dream Shadow. Her notes say its wicked difficult, and even she never mastered it enough to try it. But I have to Eepoe.” She flipped through the spell book till she found the recipe for the potion she was after. After reading its entirety twice, she felt she could attempt it. Her mother’s handwriting was all over the page noting optimal temperature to mix certain liquids and what angle to slice the Death’s Hood Mushrooms. There was one especially troublesome note about never attempting this spell alone for some reason the Witch could not decipher. The hand written note had faded with age.
For the next couple of hours, the Witch works furiously on the potion. Just as she is wrapping up the final steps, the first giant snowflakes of the winter starts to gently float down out of the sky. With a look to Eepoe, the Witch takes a deep gulp of the finished potion and waits. Seconds drag by and turn into minutes. Nothing happens. Feeling completely frustrated, the witch walks over to the large side window overlooking the garden. She is so tired. As she watches the snowflakes glide down, she realizes how sleepy she has become. Grabbing a blanket, she pulls it tight across her shoulders still staring out the window till she drifts off to sleep.
Her teeth chattering startles her awake. The fire was just embers now, and the cold had invaded the little cottage. She needs more logs for the fire, so she gets up and glides outside. She doesn’t feel tired anymore rather quite refreshed, but she is still bone deep cold. Halfway across the garden she hears Eepoe call to her. She turns to look for him, but a white raven is hard to make out in the snow right at sunset. Then he lands beside her and starts pacing. She admires her friend of so long watching as he makes little tracks in the snow. It is only then in that moment, she realizes she did not leave a single foot print in the snow. Immediate relief washes over her. The potion works. She was saved. Her employer would be so happy with her. She skips back to the cottage and as she passes the window, she notices her body still sitting in the chair. Her head is still resting upon her folded arms on the window sill. It had worked! She stares at her body feeling something nagging at the back of her subconscious. A tingle that is persistent and not letting her fully enjoy her moment of triumph. She completed a spell her gifted mother had never dreamed of finishing.
“I am a witch and a good one,” she thought trying to convince herself, but still something was eating away at her. Finally, as she watches her shoulders rise and fall with each breath, she is filled with terror. Eepoe caws loudly from the edge of the roof right above her head, but the she does not hear him. The Witch cannot take her eyes off of her body as the fear threatens to completely engulf her. She is frozen not from cold but from dread. She stares at her body with no idea how to get back inside.