GF_Fiction

 

The Witch's Fence

by R. Kaia Holt

 

 It started with the fence: good, solid chestnut rails to keep out the darker sorts and heavy yew posts for added power, each one planted over a charm for one type of warding or another.  Inside it lay the witch’s garden.

He eyed the damage thoughtfully: the trampled soil, the pulled down beans, and the neatly snipped off tomato seedlings that were now just little green stalks poking out of the ground.   The witch was moving among the wreckage of her garden, and he could taste the mix of her anger and dismay before it soured into bland annoyance.

“It looks like deer,” he offered, slipping a little further into the mortal world.  And, except for the lack of hoof prints, it did.

“Deer?” she looked over at him as he leaned against the boundary of the fence, posing as if he were naught but a concerned neighbor.  He’d even bothered with the illusion of a human form, albeit with eyes green as new leaves.  Not that she was fooled.  A sneer curled on her lips as she took in the way his hands rested just shy of touching wood.  “Deer can’t get past the wolfclaw post.”

Leaning as far forward as he dared over the fence that still hummed with power, warning him about what would happen if he attempted to cross it, he smiled.  “I still say it looks like deer.”

She didn’t appear to hear him, though, letting out a little wail of dismay as she discovered what had happened to the summer squash.  Wisely, he took himself off before she spotted what remained of her carrots.

That was the beginning; then came the three nights of the trial.

 #

The first night held little interest for him.  In the old days it would have been an enchanted briar, thorns spelled silver and nearly doubled in length.  He watched her coil a bladed wire over the top of her fence with a sort of mild bemusement. 

“It’s cheaper and easier this way,” was all she said.

#

She was unruffled by the first night’s lack of success when dawn found the cold iron vanished as if had never been and her sunflowers gone the way of the tomatoes while she slumbered.  After all, the witch was as well versed with this ritual as he.  She was less sanguine about the loss of her clover.

 #

The second night she laid a circle.  He could feel the power of the spell in both worlds; a distant tingling that grew stronger as the mortal air, laced with flecks of dandelion seed, prinked against his skin like sunshine in the winter.  It opened a sort of longing in him that was both dangerous and quietly nostalgic as he remembered the way those of her bloodline could burn like summer and flame.  Rather than stay by that heat, he spent the second night of the trial in the highlands, wrapping a sliver of twilight around himself like a cloak and skipping laughingly away whenever he felt the confusion of mortals who’d glimpsed his glimmering trail.

#

He arrived at the edge of the witch’s fence just before daybreak, bringing a little of the cold air down from the mountains in his reddened cheeks.  As the chill of it drifted across the fence and reached her sleeping form, she roused and blinked grumpily at both him and the damage around her.

“Third night tonight,” he said.

She glanced up at the brightening sky.  “I know.”

“Last chance to stay awake and solve the mystery on your own.”  He grinned, her irritation sizzling over him.

“Third chance, only real chance, I know.  I know.”  Then, under her breath, “You sound like my mother.”

He blinked.  Humans.

She looked back down at the lightly dewed blanket she’d used as shelter from the spring chill and began to fold it, ignoring him.

“What shall you try tonight?  Burrs?” he questioned.  The simplest plan had the best chance of success; she knew enough to know that.

She grimaced.  “And stab myself all night?  Not a chance.”

He frowned.  “Bells then?”

“For something that can make it though my fence?  I don’t think so.”  Her smile cut the air.  “You know very well that they draw in the lighter sort.”

“If you want a danger to keep you awake....” he hinted.

She rubbed a hand over her face.  “Nice try, but no.” 

“A companion then?”

He could sense she was amused.  “Friends exchange names.”

He scowled.  “You ask for a favor none of my kith or kin have granted a mortal for centuries.”

“Your request was just as bold.”  These words were not just amused but pleased.  “I am not wholly unfamiliar with the power of my lineage.”  Sarcasm twisted its way into her tone.  “And we both know you already know what’s been breaching my fence.  You could just tell me.”

He tilted his head in acknowledgement.

“As you wish,” she raised her eyebrows teasingly, and he wondered at her sudden good cheer.  “And the plan, if you truly want to know, is coffee.”

He blinked.  All right.  Coffee.

#

Glee lightened his footfalls as he stepped into the world the next morning and found her muttering to herself as she wove a mix of grey and brown hair into a knotted charm.  She sighed when she spotted him.

“You couldn’t have just told me it was unicorns?” she said by way of greeting.

“You’ve been most entertaining,” he replied, dancing a little jig on his side of the fence as she scowled.

“Glad to oblige.”  She said.   But she wasn’t.  Not at all.  “A three night trial, over unicorns,” she grumbled as the silence stretched out.  “They don’t even need a real warding, just a charm.”

He grinned broadly.  “Most entertaining,” he said, again.

She snorted and shook her head.

He wondered what he could lure in to test her fence next.  And how many of the light court she’d willingly risk binding out.  The yew and chestnut hummed behind him as he slid back out of mortal sight.