The Warrior and the Witch
The following is a little story that was cut from my book due to... well.. irrelevance. But I think it's a cute fairytale-esque story, and decided to post it here so that it may live on. Hope you enjoy it.
The Warrior and the Witch
by Sara C. Snider
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #8f1f1f;"]L[/dropcap]ong ago there was a Warrior who, after many years of battle, found himself with no more enemies left to fight. He grew fat and discontent and decided one day that a wife would bring him happiness. But the Warrior, having terrorized all his neighbors, found that no one was willing to give to him any of their daughters. So he went to the woods where the Witch made her home.
“Witch!” he called. “I am in need of a wife and you will find one for me!”
The Witch, knowing the Warrior’s lust for violence, merely nodded her head and said, “What kind of wife would my lord wish?”
The question gave the Warrior pause, for he had not expected to have a choice in whom he married. “She must be beautiful,” he said. “With eyes that sparkle like the stars. And she must be lithe like a willow and equally graceful.”
The Witch, hearing his demands, nodded her head and told him, “Such a woman would be a worthy wife, indeed. But such a woman is difficult to find. You will need to fetch for me three items and with them I will find you your wife.”
The Warrior nodded, eager to begin and so the Witch told him of the first item.
“The first item you must fetch for me is a gemstone. But not any gemstone will do, it must be of exceptional quality and catch the light before casting it out in a thousand directions. For no other gemstone is as beautiful nor shines as brightly and so shall your wife be of equal beauty, with eyes that sparkle with equal clarity.”
The Warrior grinned, for the task would be easy.
He hurried back to his estate and threw open chests of treasure that he had plundered during his conquests. He had many fine things of gold and silk and many, many gemstones. He gathered them all and examined each one. As beautiful as each gemstone was, none of them cast the light in a thousand directions. He began to despair until finally he found a perfectly shaped diamond. He held the diamond to the light and rejoiced as it cast upon the walls a thousand tiny rainbows. The Warrior hurried back to the Witch and placed the diamond into her weathered hands.
The Witch examined the diamond, holding it up to the light until she saw for herself the thousand rainbows cast upon the walls. “Very nice,” she said, and placed the diamond on a table. “The next item you must fetch for me is the branch of a willow. But not any branch will do, it must be a young branch, cut at the height of spring. For no other branch is as lithe and so shall your wife be equally lithe.”
The Warrior’s heart sank, for it was now only the beginning of autumn and he would have to wait many months for the height of spring. But wait he did and, when the spring was at its peak, found a willow on his estate and cut from it a young, green branch. He returned to the Witch and placed the willow into her weathered hands.
The Witch examined the branch, bending it and twisting it until she was satisfied. “Very nice,” she said, and placed the branch on the table with the diamond. “The next and final item you must fetch for me is a feather. But not any feather will do, it must be a feather from the wing of a swan. For no other animal is as graceful and so shall your wife be equally graceful.”
The Warrior, once again, grinned, thinking the task to be easy.
He hurried back to his estate, and searched the ponds and lakes for a swan, but there were none to be found. He travelled to his neighbors’ lands, but neither did they have any swans. He traveled across the land, searching high and low for a swan, but found none. Not until he had traveled for an entire year did he find a swan, gliding upon a lake in a distant land. He plucked a single feather and, a year later, placed it into the Witch’s weathered hands.
The Witch examined the feather, waving it through the air. “Very nice,” she said, and placed the feather on the table with the diamond and willow branch. “You have now brought to me all three items. Let us begin, then, so that you may find your wife.”
The Warrior grew giddy with excitement; so eager was he to meet his new wife. The Witch made him stand in the middle of the room and placed upon his head the perfectly shaped diamond. The Witch then tied the willow branch around his wrists and placed the feather on the ground at his feet.
“Now you must remain still,’ she said to him. “Or you will break the magic and your wife will be forever lost.”
Once the Warrior agreed the Witch then danced around the room, chanting in a strange tongue. She threw a bundle of wet herbs onto the fire that filled the room with pungent smoke. As the Warrior’s eyes teared, the room around him shimmered and blurred.
“Witch!” he cried, growing fearful of the Witch’s magic.
But the Witch said nothing.
The Warrior’s lungs burned from the smoke and he made to leave the Witch’s hut, but his hands were bound fast with the willow branch and his legs would no longer obey him.
“Witch!” he cried again, fury rising in him over the Witch’s treachery.
The Witch laughed, her vague form still dancing around him in the smoke. “Fool!” she cried. “Coming to me to find you a wife. I’d sooner drown myself than condemn one of my sisters to the likes of you. Your warmongering has tainted this land and I shall take great pleasure in ridding it of you. Eyes like stars you wished for your wife, but the only stars you will see are the stars that surround you, for into the night sky I will banish you. The feather you procured will send you through the skies as surely as any bird, and the gemstone will cast your light into a thousand directions, sparkling brightly for all the world to see. For even one such as you has beauty to give, loathe though you are to part with it. It is more than you deserve, be thankful I do not condemn you to a worse fate.”
The Warrior was not thankful. So great was his rage that he trembled and shook and broke the willow branch that bound him. Yet the Witch did not see for all the smoke that had filled the room. The air around the Warrior continued to shimmer and blur as the house around him faded into blackness. But before all had turned dark, the Warrior grabbed the Witch and dragged her with him into the night sky. And there they remain, ever opposing each other as their light shines in a thousand directions.