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 [18+] I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, For Lar
mellery
 Posted: Feb 24 2016, 01:10 AM
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A bundle of hay that snaps into a tent big enough for one when willed to. A woven bag made from gullygirl hair that holds any word you whisper into it and nothing more. A scale that will never lose balance and always judge true. A penny to pay the magwitches. All this and more is packed into a hardy leather sack that hangs around the belly of the timberdeer. It is only a sapling as of now, with green toes and pink buds adorning the antlers, but soon it will grow into maturity and produce the ripe nectar one can earn a living from. Two days ago Bittersweet dipped her pinky finger into one of the pouting buds and sampled the honeyed liquid that gathered, and found it good enough to make a few simple broths. To numb your mouth, for growing in your fur. Little things worth a coin or two.

For now the young witch settles herself into gathering. Blue mushrooms, foliage from a stump, petals from the white flowers that bloom after heartache, and of course the staple of potionwitches; herbs of every kind. The scent of them so fresh makes Bittersweet's pointed nose twitch.

The woods are said to be enchanted, but then one is hard-pressed to find anywhere that does not have such rumours surrounding it. The trees that populate it turn from pale green at the edges to umber in the centre, and the deeper you go, the more the roots writhe their way from the soil until there seems little tree left beneath the surface. The trees Bitter stands next to have slashes through the bark, and under the skin is flesh blue and cool as glass. With careful scrapes the witch picks off the dried sap that causes such a sheen and brings forth a flowing that she captures in cork-topped bottles. The sap will be useful for polishing mirrors and shoes.

Across the continent and beyond there are as many types of witches as hairs on a head. A potionwitch is one of the most common, the type closest to non-witch. The majority of them are either children, partners to gatherers, or women who also work as midwives. Bitter is past her 20th birthday now, both too-old and too-young for the work, and she dreams of the day she can lead her timberdeer out of the woods and take the path to a city. The name of the city burns without syllables in her throat, and will one day swell on the tongue and take shape as the name of her destiny. A million dreams light up her mind. Will she be the kind of witch that grows the plants for potionwitches? Will she be a warriorwitch, astride her deer in shining plate? A scholar? A philosopher? A hermit? She is young, and it is too soon to say.

Black hair shining like tar under red ribbon, and sand-coloured shoes with bells on the heel. Peasant's dress that nips at the waist, thick woollen tights. The clothing of a local girl. Though it has been years since Bitter has lived in those stone houses, she trades for her clothes to avoid making them herself. Strange for a potionwitch to have no mind for delicate work. Stranger not to have left yet. The first bottle is filled with sap and placed on the ground.
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Lar
 Posted: Feb 25 2016, 09:53 PM
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How enchanted these woods! How the grass burns its brilliance, how the glistening berries in their clusters on the thorn-bushes hang like bells, how sweet the exotic birdsong overhead. How beautiful freedom, and how becursed; how utterly lost she is beneath the trees. Twice she passes the same tree—or she thinks it is the same, for the branches twist in almost the same way the second time around—and tears nearly well in her eyes. There is no mistaking the chatter of chipmunks watching her as anything other than discussion about her incompetence. She would turn back if only she knew where back was!

And so the journey goes as the trees turn from pale-leafed wonders to umber-headed beasts and the sky's blue fades from sight. There is no discernible path through patchy dirt and dead leaves, though these woods are oft-trodden from the city of Greenlope to the nameless village in the heart of the forest. She remembers watching them as a girl—merchant caravans gone off into the yawning green, destined for the rich sides of Bear Mountain far in the distance—and thinking how wholly the woods swallowed them all.

Eidarch could be one of them, if she were dressed in merchant brights. Instead she wears a cloud of white, her skirt puffing in the breeze; a dozen different patterns of lace coat her arms. Her delicate hands are wrapped tight in gauze, he face sheerly veiled—and beneath it all, triangular markings painted in white decorate her skin. The only truly bare skin on her body is her feet; where her soles pass, the mossy ground shrivels to brown dust. Even her fair hair is plaited with baby's breath and expensive lilies. Eid is a thing of beauty, not practicality—and all the forest knows it.

The greys and greens eventually give way to blues and golds, and then to a stand of trees with telltale marks of a gatherer having peeled away their bark, and then to the little clearing where Bittersweet stands with her cervine companion.

"Oh," Eid says, her vowels long and luscious. "Excuse me." Her eyes go wide behind her veil—they are the blue of cloudless winter sky, and framed with lashes darker than they have a right to be. And then at length, after the silence has time to bitter and itch, she adds, "Are you a witch?"
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mellery
 Posted: Feb 28 2016, 07:40 PM
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If the decorated girl speaks like a harp, the witch speaks like a limerick, the honk of a recorder, the tune of some creature of the forest duff. A toad, perhaps, or one of the feathery applesnakes. Beings such as they often talk to witches, sensing a kinship, and can be bargained with for valuable fungus. There is little they require in exchange. Perhaps a drop of blood, perhaps a breath, perhaps a seat at your shoulder. A fitting type of voice for a lowly potionwitch. When she reaches the city she will shed it and buy a lovelier one. She will purchase a fluffiness for her hair, a whiteness for her teeth, a shine for the eyes.

All this lies in her future and for now she straightens to look at the girl. Bittersweet holds her neck higher than usual and her vertebrae creak.

This stranger is a vision if ever a person deserved the word. She is too light for the woods. Suspicion curls in the witch's jaw. She drops the knife and the bottle and they clatter. “I am.” She is distracted by the paleness and doesn't see the dusty foot-trail.

Her people are too easy to recognise and they are bound to accept any task asked of them, so long as the payment is sufficient. There are many bindings for witches. “What have you come to ask of me, girl?” The easiest way to find a witch is to need something, and the need is not always conscious. Many times a stranger will appear at her doorstep with no idea how they left their home, and inside them will be need. There is always a dance to this ritual. A witch exists in choreography, manners, a play to uncover desire. Bitter knows the deception of chance encounters.
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