Sorceress Part 1
First part of a story I have been working on for a long time.
I sat on the top of the bluffs, my legs dangling over the side. I lifted my face up to the sun, enjoying the morning light. I could see for miles up here, and everything seemed peaceful in the early morning sun. I breathed deeply, feeling calm. A scuff off to my right and behind me caught my attention. I turned slightly, to see a man slowly inching his way along a precarious ledge, his eyes on me. Red-blonde hair, blue eyes, he had that cute guy-next-door kind of look. Standing next to me he probably would be a bit taller than I was.
“Don’t jump.” His tone was calm.
I blinked. What was he talking about?
“Listen, I understand. You are in a dark place, and jumping seems like the only solution, but it’s not,” he continued, still slowly working his way toward me.
I still didn’t understand. Why was he telling me not to jump? I looked around, trying to figure out why he was so concerned, and realized that I was sitting on the edge of a cliff, with no way down, leaning forward. He thought I was jumping to my death. “No, I’m not going to jump,” I told him. “I’m perfectly safe up here.”
“Still, why don’t you come with me back down the bluff a bit. You can hold my hand; I don’t want you to fall.” He took another step, reaching out his hand to me. Then his eyes widened as the rock under his foot crumbled and he began to fall. I jumped.
Before he even had a chance to yell out, I had grabbed his hand and was holding him, suspended in the air. He looked up and stared at me.
“You can fly?!”
“Of course. How do you think I got up there in the first place? The trail was clearly marked as unsafe.” I replied, slowly lowering us both to a relatively flat part of the bluff below. One hand gripped his, the other the handle of the broom I was riding. I shifted on the padding, trying to find a slightly more comfortable spot. I hadn’t had time to settle properly on the broom before I grabbed the man’s hand. He chuckled, then looked down and didn’t make another sound until his feet were safely back on the earth.
“So you’re a….”
“A witch, yes.” I finished for him. He seemed a bit shocked from his almost fall.
“You’re a witch, you fly on a broom, and you weren’t jumping. Right.” Yep, definitely shocked.
“Do you think you’ll be ok getting back home from here?” I asked him. I didn’t want to have to escort him home, but I would if the shock was bad enough that he couldn’t handle hiking down the rest of the way.
“Yeah…I’ll be fine.” He looked at the trail leading down. It was solid all the way. “Probably. I definitely won’t hike up that far again for a while.”
“A good idea. Well, be careful on your way down.” I told him, then took a moment to get settled properly on the broom before taking off. I flew to the top of the bluffs again, and circled a few times, but my early morning peace was broken. Giving up, I flew back to town.
Technically, telling him I was a witch was inaccurate. I was a sorceress. But to those who were not familiar with the different levels of magic users, it didn’t really matter. Witch was the most common term for any woman who used magic. For some reason, wizard was the most common word for any man that used magic, even though most male magic users were only warlock level. I blamed a certain book series for that one.
Within ten minutes I was over the town and close to my house. There were a few other witches and warlocks in the town, but few liked to fly brooms. They preferred other modes of transportation, like cars. I thought broom flying was the best. It gave me a wild sense of freedom. I had trouble explaining to people why I liked to fly. To many, flying meant riding something with wings. Like an airplane. Or a giant eagle. But I loved the feeling of having no rules about where I could fly, how high or how low, what speed I went at, or even following a set road or course. On a broom I could go anywhere.
My house came into view, and I landed on the back balcony, on the second floor. The door from the balcony led directly to my room, and made it an ideal place to take off and land if I was in a hurry or didn’t want to go through the rest of the house. Inside my room I set the broom in a corner, and changed my clothes for something more suited to the hot summer weather. The mornings may be cool, and flying always meant there was some level of wind chill, but it was still summer, and I hated being hot.
Once changed, I ran a brush through my hair and went downstairs, my husky, Mickey, at my heels. Rowena was there in the kitchen already, with breakfast waiting on the table. Rowena and her husband, Duncan, were brownies. With the awakening of magic some years before, mythological creatures began emerging, making most myths fact in some way, shape, or form. Rowena and Duncan looked human, but half the size, and were elders in their family. Their faces bore wrinkles, the kind that showed the owner had laughed and smiled often. Their hair was white. But they were by no means elderly in any other way. They were both much stronger than me, and their magic was different than mine. Once I had acquired the house and began living it in, they had shown up one day, saying they would help me with “magic and life”, as Duncan put it. They had been invaluable to a new sorceress, and would no doubt continue to be so.
I sat down at the table with Rowena, and we waited for Duncan to come in from the garden. He did, covered in dirt, but as he stepped through the door, he muttered a word and the spell embedded in the doorframe whisked away the dirt. The spell in the frame had been an idea of mine. Nothing could beat a good shower or bath, but for when you needed to get clean in a hurry, and weren’t picky about still feeling a bit grubby, the cleaning spell was perfect.
We ate breakfast, discussing the day’s plans. I filled them in on what happened that morning in the bluffs, and both brownies laughed and shook their heads.
“Humans,” Rowena said. “He must be new to the area. Most people living around here know we’ve a few witches and a sorceress, and that only magic would have gotten you up the bluffs that high.”
I shrugged. “He’s probably at the bottom of the bluffs now, wondering what happened. If he is new here, I’ll probably see him eventually on my rounds.” I finished eating, then cleaned up my plate. “Right, I’ll be in the stillroom for the morning. Some of those herbs are done steeping, and I need to make up some more of the arthritis cream for Mrs. Hobness.” Rowena and Duncan nodded, and I went on my way. Mickey followed Duncan outside, to inspect the garden.
Hedge witches were the type of witches who specialized in natural remedies. They usually had a small territory they took care of, at least a couple of miles. Our town was big enough to need a few hedge witches and hedge warlocks as well as some stronger witches or warlocks who specialized in charms. Unfortunately, we didn’t have as many as we needed. I was a sorceress, but often I fulfilled the role of a witch. I made remedies and charms, mostly to aid with illness and ailments. I always had a few people come up to me every few months, asking for other types of charms, like a love potion, or forget-me-not charms. I politely refused each and every one of them.
Magic was a tool, to be used. How it was used depended on the user. I believed in using it for…well, the easiest way to say it is for good, but I focused a bit more on balance rather than overwhelming goodness. The world was a mix of chaos and order, and magic was the same. It was my philosophy that the best way to use magic was without harming anything. However, good can be done through chaos or order. And hey, I had to have some fun with it, right?
Being in the stillroom was always relaxing. The walls were a clean white with dark wood accents and furniture. I took a look at my list of remedies and dates when they were last made. Pulling a notepad toward me, I wrote down the ones that should be almost out, and the people that would need them. That done, I began mixing. I found making potions and remedies a bit like cooking. You had a recipe you followed, and tweaked as needed. The mind cleared and focused on the task at hand. I made sure to infuse most of the mixes with a bit of magic, to increase their effect.
After what seemed like only a short time later, but really was a few hours, I heard a quiet knock on the door. I put down the mortar and pestle I was holding and rolled my neck and shoulders. A line of glass jars and bottles sat on the counter in front of me. I nodded in satisfaction, cleaned up, and put all the jars and bottles in a basket. This I carried out to the kitchen and set on the floor by the door before sitting down with Duncan to eat lunch. Rowena had already eaten, and was bustling around the kitchen, finishing up some mini pies and cakes for customers. She had a knack for knowing what people needed or craved. I would take the food with me on my rounds.
As I finished eating, I began writing a list of all the people I would need to visit today. Mrs. Hobness was at the top, with a batch of arthritis cream and some of Rowena’s good whole-grain bread. Further down was Irene, who needed some more stretch mark cream and no-ache lotion for her pregnancy and feet. She would also get an apple pie from Rowena. Then there was Mr. Domor, who had stomach issues and needed a tonic and Rowena’s bread as well. The list went on. I would visit half a dozen people in the afternoon.
Rowena packed the last of her baked goods in the basket, giving me last minute instructions for some of the customers.
“Now don’t forget to remind Irene that the whole pie is for her, not just a slice. She needs to keep herself and her baby healthy, not worry about how much pie her husband might want. And the Carabels’ girl, Lily, needs to stop eating so much sugar. The bread is for her; the pastry is for her mother.” I nodded and made notes on my list.
After bidding Rowena good-bye, I placed the basket on the rack specifically built for it on my bike and took off. Sure, I could have flown, but carrying a heavy basket while on a broom isn’t easy. Plus, this way I got some exercise in.
The day had warmed up considerably, but I had a cooling charm on the handle of my bike, so riding around the town wasn’t nearly the sweaty activity it could have been. I stopped at Mrs. Hobness’ house first, parking my bike by the mailbox. She answered almost right away.
“Why, hello dear! I was just saying to Tom how my arthritis was acting up again, wasn’t I, Tom?” An affirmative noise from further inside the house indicated her husband’s agreement. “Come in out of the heat, I’ve some fresh lemonade made.” She opened the door wider to admit me, before closing it and going down the hall to her kitchen. Mr. Hobness was sitting at the kitchen table, reading over the newspaper, but looked up and greeted me when I walked in.
I sat my basket on the table, and pulled out the whole-grain bread and the arthritis cream. Mr. Hobness pulled the bread towards him as his wife handed me a glass of lemonade, and I could see the makings for a sandwich sitting in front of him. He had been waiting for me to deliver the medicine and the bread so he could eat lunch.
“Mr. Hobness! The bread is for your wife,” I scolded good-naturedly. “Rowena gave me specific instructions to give it to her, not you!” He shrugged, focused on his sandwich-making.
“Now dear, Rowena knows he likes the bread as much as I do. Tell me, how have you been?” Mrs. Hobness sat down beside me and accepted half of a sandwich from her husband. I spent a good twenty minutes in her kitchen, chatting and enjoying the lemonade. As I got up to leave, she stopped me. “Lauren, I met a nice young man earlier this week, who just moved here.”
I hummed. “Somewhat tall, has reddish blonde hair, blue-gray eyes?”
“Yes!” She beamed at me. “You’ve met him then? I think you should ask him out to coffee, I’m sure the two of you would get along well!” Ah, Mrs. Hobness, ever the matchmaker.
“Thank you, and if I meet him again, I’ll consider it. I’ll be going then!” I said quickly and stood up, grabbing my basket. I learned long ago that vague agreement with her matchmaking schemes got me out of the line of fire much more quickly than anything else. She walked me to the door and waved good-bye as I rode off.
The next couple of deliveries were quick, dropping off the medicine and giving the necessary greetings and instructions, before moving on. At Irene’s house, I stopped for a longer visit. This was her first baby, and she was getting very close to her delivery date. I wanted to make sure she was doing well, and she appreciated the company. I helped her organize her house a bit, and made sure she ate some of Rowena’s pie before extracting a promise that she wouldn’t let her husband eat the rest by himself. She also mentioned meeting the new addition to our town, though thankfully she didn’t try to be a matchmaker as well. I left after promising to make a charm to ease her insomnia.
I stopped by the Carabels’ for my final delivery, because Lily would be home from school, and I enjoyed playing with her for a few minutes whenever I visited. I left her mother with strict instructions on how much sugar Lily could eat. Her parents had trouble saying no to sweets, and Lily already had several cavities and was very hyper whenever she was given sugar. I made a tonic that helped with her teeth, and another that helped with the hyperactivity, but neither were cures. They really needed to stop stocking so many desserts and treats in their kitchen. A few were fine, but Lily’s meals were almost completely made of desserts and candy and soda.
As I walked down their front path toward where I had leaned my bike against the fence, I heard someone call out to me. I looked around and found the man from that morning.
“Hey!” He said, walking closer.
“Hi,” I said back, placing my basket on my bike and lifting it away from the fence.
“Were you visiting some friends?”
“Making a delivery.”
“Oh, you’re a delivery woman.” He looked somewhat confused. “Why not just use your broom?”
“Because the basket is heavy when I first start, and I enjoy the movement I get on the bike. And I’m not a delivery woman. I make potions and things for some of the people here, and I like to bring them what I make, rather than have them come to me.”
“I see. Do you live nearby?”
“A couple blocks away. Why do you ask?” I was ready to go home and eat dinner. All that bike-riding had made me hungry.
“I was wondering if I could walk you home. I’m Josh, by the way.” He held out his hand.
“Lauren,” I said, shaking it. “I’m fine if you want to walk with me. How long ago did you move here?”
“A few days ago. So you’re a witch, you fly on a broomstick, you make potions, and you deliver them on a bike. Do you have a black cat?”
I wrinkled my nose. “What kind of question is that?”
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” He looked abashed. “I’ve only heard about witches, I’ve never really met one.”
“And with all the stories and books out there about witches and magic, you choose to ask if I have a black cat? I don’t, by the way. I have a husky named Mickey.”
“Sorry,” he said again. “A husky, huh? I like dogs too.”
An awkward silence hung between us for several steps. Finally I couldn’t bear it and asked “So where are you working?”
He looked a little surprised and relieved, like he had avoided some doom or something. “The high school. I’m the new physics teacher.”
“Oh really? Physics was one of my favorite classes in high school.”
“Oh? I would have thought English or theater, since you’re a witch.”
I stopped walking, and stared at him. “Why?” I asked in a clipped tone.
“You know, for the drama, and the mystery.”
And now I’m done talking to you. I thought. “Thank you for the riveting and unbiased conversation. I can take myself the rest of the way home.” I said sarcastically and hopped onto my bike, peddling away. I ignored his calls behind me.
I fumed all the way home. Who the hell makes such stereotypical assumptions? “Oh, I would have thought English or theater, you know, for the drama and mystery, because you’re a witch.” I mimicked. I got home and parked my bike in the shed behind the house before going in through the back door. “Well, let me just get my crystal ball and cards, and read your fortune. Hmm, it looks like you’re going to be an asshole in the near future!” I slammed the basket on the table, the wicker handle creaking under my death grip. Mickey whined from where he sat by Rowena, hoping to get some scraps.
Rowena stared at me from the kitchen. “Bad day?” She asked.
“Oh, the usual from everyone. It’s the new guy who really pissed me off. The one I ran into this morning on the bluff? He asked to walk home with me, and then started spouting off biased assumptions about what I like or do, or what kind of pet I have, simply because I’m a witch! Geez, if I had let him keep talking, he probably would have asked if I had to twitch my nose before I could do any magic!”
Rowena nodded. “I think Duncan wanted some help weeding the garden,” she said thoughtfully.
I hummed, grabbed my sunhat and stalked outside, still muttering to myself. I put on my gardening apron and gloves before plopping down in one corner of the garden, and started taking my frustrations out on the weeds that had been foolish enough to grow in my garden. Duncan said nothing, just watched me for a minute before retrieving a bucket from the shed and setting it next to me. For the next half hour, I weeded row after row of plants, before my steam finally blew out. By that time, I was hot, sticky, dripping with sweat, and exhausted.
I slowly pulled off my gloves, got up and dumped the bucket of weeds in the compost, before hanging up my apron and hat and going inside. I went straight upstairs to my room where I stripped out of my dirty clothes and hopped in the shower, letting the cold water wash away the dirt and sweat, and my remaining anger.
It shouldn’t surprise me that there were people out there who had no real understanding of magic. But still, his presumptions annoyed me. I sighed and turned off the water. I would just have to be polite whenever I saw him in public. No need to interact with him any more than that. I slipped on a sports bra, t-shirt, and shorts, ran a brush through my hair, and walked back downstairs to find some food.
Rowena had already set the table for dinner, and was just placing the food on the table. Chicken curry with rice and naan. One of my favorite dishes. I smiled at her and sat down, waiting for Duncan to arrive. Once he did, we all sat down and began eating. I filled them in on my deliveries, but neither mentioned Josh, which was good, because I still felt like I could punch him.
After dinner I helped Rowena clean up, and discussed Irene’s insomnia.
“I think the charm should be on something she doesn’t need to wear to bed,” I told her. A traditional charm for sleep had to be worn, but I didn’t think Irene would like that, nor would it be safe.
“Then your options are something she hangs over her bed, or has on her nightstand.” Rowena told me matter-of-factly as she handed me a freshly washed plate. I took it and dried it with a towel while I stared off into space.
“No…” I said slowly, putting the plate down and reaching for the next item. “It could be in a cream for her hands. That requires less magic, and will last longer too.” Rowena nodded.
“Make the base of the cream lavender and chamomile, which are already naturally soporific, and just enhance the effect with a bit of magic. She can take it with her when she travels.”
“Yes!” I agreed, already thinking about the steps necessary to make the charmed hand cream. Rowena chuckled and took the towel from me.
“Go on, I’ll finish the dishes. You’ve got that look in your eyes that says there’ll be no talking to you until you’ve started the charm.”
I thanked her and ran to the stillroom, where I spent the rest of the evening sunlight preparing the ingredients for the cream. Once everything was ready and steeping, I went back out through the kitchen and into my library, where I grabbed a book on charm-making, and another on mythological creatures. I’d always had an interest in mythology, and felt that as a sorceress, it was best if I was well-versed in anything mythical, magical, or legendary, just in case I ever encountered it. My family history had taught me that you never knew what you would run into.
I bid goodnight to Rowena and Duncan, who were on the back porch, enjoying the evening air, and went upstairs to read for a bit and then go to bed.
The next morning, Rowena handed me a grocery list and told me to get out of the house. I grabbed some reusable grocery bags and hopped in my car to head to go shopping. Yes, I have a car, and I really only try to use it when walking, flying, or biking are out of the question. I was picking cold things up from the grocery store, I needed the car to save time and keep the food from spoiling.
My first stop was a florist’s, run by a hedge witch who also sold herbs and other ingredients in the back part of her store. There I picked up some herbs I didn’t grow in my garden, usually things that had to be found in the wild or picked during a specific month or moon phase. I also gave the florist some herbs and flowers I did grow. We had a nice bartering system in place.
Then I went to the grocery store and pulled out Rowena’s list. For the next several minutes I lost myself in wandering the aisles and looking for various items. Until a unfortunately familiar voice pulled me from my internal dialogue.
“Hey.” It was Josh. Seriously, couldn’t I get a day to myself after what he said? I glared at him and continued shopping.
“Are you ignoring me now?”
“No, I’m not talking to you because I’m still pretty mad and might turn you into a toad or a cockroach and step on you. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not dramatic and witchy enough for you, is it?” I said without looking at him.
“Look, what I said yesterday was insulting, I know. I just want to apologize and ask if we can start over.” He sounded ashamed, but that still didn’t make what he said any better.
I stopped walking, took a deep breath, and turned to him.
“I accept your apology. Don’t ever do anything like that again, or I will turn you into something small and gross and step on you. Now, I am going to finish my shopping in peace.” I swiveled back to my cart and continued on my way.
The rest of my time in the store was peaceful enough, though I was aware of Josh’s presence in the nearby aisles the whole time. I didn’t like that.
He didn’t attempt to talk to me until after I had checked out and was loading the groceries into my car. He stopped a couple feet away, probably concerned I would jerk around and zap him into a grasshopper or something if he got any closer. Joke was on him, distance didn’t matter, I could do it from 1 foot away or 100 feet away.
“I’d like to buy you some coffee as part of my apology. Please?” I wasn’t looking at him, but he sounded like a sad puppy. Would he be giving me puppy dog eyes if I turned around? Better not risk it.
“No thank you.” I put the cart away in a corral and got into my car. He was still standing there as I backed out of the parking spot and drove out of the lot. Oh well. Just because he apologized didn’t mean I had to instantly forgive him and be friends with him right away. He could work for it, if I was interested in being friends, which at this point, I wasn’t.
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Niche topic & fresh perspectives