Zelkova paddled across the lake, taking care to disturb the water as little as possible. She slipped the oar in the water, pulled it towards her, and gently lifted it before repeating the process all over again. She could almost believe she was alone, and that she was paddling out in the open air. Crystals sparkled in the cavern ceiling, and Zelkova could almost believe that they were stars.
Ruby turned and scowled at her. “Do we have to go so slow?” She pushed a lock of red hair away from her freckled face. “At this rate, we’ll never get there.”
“We’re going fast enough, especially since it’s just me paddling. I could pitch you overboard—see how fast we go then.” She smiled.
Isobel walked around the mound of earth as crickets chirped in the evening air. On the hill, the branches of a great yew stretched across the twilit sky. The old woman had told her to come here—either at twilight or dawn. Isobel hadn’t wanted to wait, and so here she was, wandering through darkening field as the dampened grass chilled her feet.
She looked around, but the hill and surrounding field remained empty, other than the one yew tree. She turned towards it as she remembered what the old woman had told her. Kneel, she had said. Kneel and then bleed.
“Xantho-what?” Widow Mayfair said from the plush red armchair in her stately parlor.
Ceras sighed. “Ceras. Xanthoceras. Everyone just calls me Ceras, though.”
The widow sniffed. “I should hope so. What were your parents thinking, giving you such a name? And for such a scrawny lad.” She clicked her tongue and shook her head. “A person needs to grow into a name like that. If you ever do, I’ll eat my handkerchief.” She put such a handkerchief up to her nose, peering at Ceras over frills of lace with rheumy and disdainful eyes.
With introducing Hazel earlier in the H post, I thought it would be fun to continue with her as well for W. This one is more an exploration of her background and character than a story. But I enjoyed getting to know her a little bit better.
Witch Hazel and Willow
“Witches wither and warlocks weather,” Willow chanted in a melodious voice as she walked along a winding forest trail. “That’s the difference between us.”
Hazel frowned and wrinkled her nose. “That’s not much of a difference. What is it that they weather, exactly?”
“Life, my dear girl. They are like boats in a storm—you’d best cling to one should you ever hope to find safe harbor.”
The sharp air stung my nose and throat as I breathed. The air tasted tangy, like salt and lemon on silver. I made my way through the marsh, the damp ground soft beneath my boots. With each step in the squelching mire, the sweet-sharp tang of vinegar thickened.
Pale vines that were almost translucent in the light ran along the ground in tangled brambles. I followed them, coming to a wood-penned pasture within which a single sheep grazed.