Mrs. Camberwell stared in wonder at the open field before her. One blink ago, she had been standing in her classroom, gazing into the glass globe that Ms. Compton had gifted her. After she’d heard the voice of her former mentor, a memory flashed through her mind of a cottage nestled in an abandoned field.It reminded her of the summers she had spent with her family vacationing in Vermont, driving for miles past old meadows filled with wildflowers and run down barns.
Now, she suddenly felt the heat of the sun blazing down from above on a meadow filled with some of the same wildflowers she saw as a girl. On a nearby rise sat a small cottage with day-lilies bordering the faded walls. White birches lined the path up to the gate and stone wall that surrounded the property. As she gazed across the sea of grasses, there was a figure standing at the edge of the meadow where the grass morphed into hemlock and oak.
She had one of the dresses Ms. Compton always wore, bright red with pearls draped round her neck and brown flats. She smiled warmly when Mrs. Camberwell spotted her.
“You never really get used to the blink, do you, Vanessa?” Her voice creaked with age. The wind whispered quietly in the trees as she stood waiting. Vanessa Camberwell stood quietly in disbelief. No one had called her by that name in months, not even her neighbors, her fellow teachers, or her friends. They all had pulled away as if repelled by some force. Gazing across the field at Ms. Compton or at least, the woman who looked like her, she knew she needed answers and walked closer. As she did so, Ms. Compton did the same.
As they closed the distance, their legs brushed against goldenrods, Queen Anne’s lace, ragweed, and vetch; grasshoppers flinging themselves out of the way as they marched on towards each other. At the top of a spindly oak, an indigo bunting rang a warning song about flames and took off soon after. The wind whispered their thoughts back and forth to one another.
“Who are you?” Vanessa wondered as she approached.
The elderly woman stared at her in disbelief, but continued walking toward her.
“You know me! I am Tommelise; Fae from the Rhineland and I’m concerned about you, Vanessa.” Her appearance began to shift like a mirage before her.
“Why did you bring me here?”, she began, but before her thought concluded, she blinked.
When she opened her eyes, the elderly woman had vanished. Vanessa looked down and gasped. Instead, an small fairy, no taller than 6 inches stood before her on an overturned tree trunk. Her ruddy brown hair rolled in curls down her shoulders and over her wings decorated with sky blue drops and a gold trim. She wore a simple green tunic with a matching knee length pants. Her feet looked as if she had just walked through a bed of coals and resembled insect legs.
“You know, you’re not the only one who grieved when she died.” Tommelise began, her voice now higher pitched and trembling. She stared hard at Vanessa; her hazel eyes quivering.
“What I didn’t expect was that you to have held it in for as long as you did”, she shouted, her eyes welling with tears. “But, to have forgotten your coven mother is another thing entirely!”
“Coven mother?” she thought, ideas popping up and down in her mind. “I haven’t heard the phrase “coven mother” since…?” She looked upon Tommelise her eyes widening as a single thought crossed her mind, swiftly followed by another. But it was too late to stop the first!
The rush of heat in her chest came first, then the pit of her stomach twisting with guilt about…her.
Tears, big ones, gathered in her eyes and rolled like globs of tree sap down her rosy cheeks. Surprised, she gasped and let out a small cry. Another blink and she heard her voice give one last thought.
“What have I done?!”
Suddenly, a different voice, silky, cold, dark, slid into Vanessa’s consciousness. “She became nothing as you soon shall be.”
She wailed when she heard this, collapsing to the ground and shrieking like a banshee, curling her fingers and making fists as she screamed. The whispering wind charged away from her and swirled in angry columns; the pleasing trill of crickets and birds replaced by her anguished cries.
“Vanessa!”, exclaimed Tommelise, but it was too late. A gust blasted her from the stump and into the wind. Spreading her gold-trimmed wings, she fought the twisting air to get closer to her, but to no avail.
The ground below her seem to be burning as the flowers and grasses where they stood were beginning to smolder and fizz. As the wind howled louder and louder, lines of jet fire crisscrossed the ground in a pattern, with several circles burning into the earth. The trees beyond rattled as they began to fall, one by one. After ten fell, two landed in an upside down “V” forming an angle above the circles. A line drove through the center like a prohibition sign before a crescent moon appeared below the burning sigil.
The sanctuary shook as the skies turned to twilight purple and behind Vanessa, the shape of a hooded form began to rise from the crescent emblazoned on the ground. A nearby patch of deadly nightshade caught fire and as their leaves were singed by the flames, the figure materialized.
Tommelise glared at the witch before her. The figure who stood behind Vanessa watched as she collapsed on the burnt circle that spread like oil at her feet. She was panting, wheezing almost before she spoke her last words and fainted.
Gwendolyn Goodhorn stood with their head cocked sideways and chuckled. Their eyes glowed blue beneath a hooded cloak brimmed with black feathers. Through the cloaked opening, Tommelise spied the gilded breast plate of The Morrígan, an armoured skirt with feathered edging, and iron boots. She was never certain if she was talking to a woman with a very square jaw or a man with lush eyelashes. Regardless, their presence indicated one thing; the sanctuary was breached.
Gwendolyn spoke, their voice silky and diplomatic. “Well that’s no way to speak to an esteemed guest of the glass globe, now is it Ms. Compton?”
Tommelise’s eyes flashed as she chanted, “Tear-thumb, kudzu, bittersweet, bind this bitch’s hands and feet!” Her tiny wings glowed green as she leapt from her stump and concentrated her power onto Goodhorn.
Tendrils of plants sprang from the stump upon which she stood rushed toward the black cloaked witch. Prickers and thorns pierced garments and the vines wrapped tightly around wrists and ankles.
“Oh, Tommelise”, Gwendolyn gasped with delight. “I had no idea you felt that way about me.” The vines held fast and raised the black cloaked being high into the violet sky.
“Shut up, you old hag!” Tommelise replied, clapping her wings together. The vines tightened with blood pooling along the bonds. “How did you come to be here!?”
“You’ll learn in time, my dear. For now, all you need to know is that the age of butterflies is ending and the time of crows has come”, Gwendolyn answered grinning; showing sharp yellowing teeth that would make a dentist wince.
Upon uttering the words, the figure burst into a flock of hooded crows, rose into the violet sky, and vanished amongst the stars. Tommelise looked first at the skies as they returned to their late summer blue and then down at Vanessa. She glowered and sighed before heading over to revive her fallen daughter.