When you are a witch in my world, you are cast into the forest. We are told there is no place for you in Good society, and that we will perish among the demons and fae whom we love. We are told as children that the forest is a dark and wild place, with no governments, and no rules. There is no polite society in a place with beings whom no one sane could comprehend, slumbering in the shadows of ancient trees. There are dark beasts whom my kind dance with on the full-moon nights around a demonic hellfire, and thus, we are forsaken by all in Good society.
I did not know I was a witch until I was cast out.
My hands did not invoke terrible gods; my eyes only sometimes watched the moon; and my mouth was naïve to the spoken spells. Though, I had never been an acolyte of the churches, and I never planned on being one. Perhaps that was one of my many mistakes.
The maw of the forest had greeted me that first night, looking decidedly uninviting—like the folktales said it would be. But then, the fireflies flew from the shrubs, twisting round in their gorgeous splendor. Perhaps it was a faerie’s trick; perhaps it was an omen; but I followed it, having been tired of the endless crying I did in the day. I needed some hope. My hands were newly freed from my iron shackles, and I no longer wanted to feel the fire burning beneath my feet every time a man looked at me. There needed to be something else.
And there was.
The trees twisted and curved as I passed by, leaves shuddering with the wind passing through. A storm was brewing on that inky night, and I felt power boiling in your domain. In your absence, there was little for me. Yes, I had my talents, accomplishments, and perhaps my beauty, but nothing else. That would be enough for most—those are all the Good qualities of a potential married woman—but it never seemed to be enough for me. I was occupied with too much wonder, and lofty with pride. My parents had faulted me for it.
But when the forest had led me down your left-handed path, with the fireflies blazing the way, I found myself before your dais, the moon shining atop the crown of your head.
The fireflies had transformed into a court of faeries; and the shadows that I thought I had imagined passing through the forest, out came beasts and witches from them, firelight twinkling in their palms. The wind stopped in respect for you, it is undeniable. They all stared at me, perhaps expectantly. But before everyone, I felt I had nothing. Especially before you, at first. You sitting so poised on your wooden throne, a crown made of brambles and roses, with the moon sitting above it. Gods, how afraid I had been. With fear, I had kneeled. Good women kneeled before their kings? Didn’t they?
You were after all The Demon Summoner; you, the malevolent watcher; you, the King of Crows; you, the son of the Moon goddess; you, the menace to Good. But for someone so allegedly beastly and malefic, all I could think of was your godly beauty. So ethereal.
“Lift your head,” you had commanded me, voice reverberating amongst the glade. I nearly flinched if I weren’t in so deep a daze, and I made the mistake of looking directly into your eyes.
The stories were true. You had two, great, silver glowing eyes that watched me carefully. And in your gaze, I found the godliness of old—of tale. The godliness that the churches had sought to make me revere in other beings, but all along, it had really been in your forest. There is such power in your gaze, I’m sure you know this, for when we met eyes, I felt your dominion over the enchanted forest. I didn’t know what it meant, this power of yours, and what it meant for me. And then you had spoken my name with that resonant voice, and I felt my knees lift me off the ground.
“You are free to leave, if you wish, before the boundary closes again.”
You gestured to a moonlit path, trees opening up to a pasture. Beyond it, I saw the nearest town, glowing warm and inviting. The miles between the town and the forest seemed to shorten in some instances, the hills rolling with the manipulation of your magic. I stared, awestruck. I had never seen such a display of power, in anyone, witch or otherwise. All at once, a ringing fell prey to my ears, and buzzing reverberated to my fingertips. What could have told me to stay?
Lifting my hands, I found them flaming with an orange, hot blaze. It burned my eyes to look at. But then the forest erupted into a hollers and cheers. Closing my hands, I found the beings of your forest raising their hands of fire. I turned to you, and your eyes were twinkling. Almost as if you had found something. I hadn’t known what at the time.
But for now, I know.