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Life for me and mine was set. Wood Women, witches to many, had a cycle. There were only two Wood Women alive at a time, a mother and her daughter. As the daughter beget her own, her mother would cease to be. But that wasn’t the only circle that justified our life.
The town was ours and we belonged to them. The crops flourished and the seasons changed, as was our want. We wove the tapestry of the town, trimmed the frayed threads, added the new ones, removed those that had faded, and kept the picture beautiful and trapped within a bubble of our making. They knew only of which we wanted them to, no more or less,.
As stories are often about a change, a disruption, so is this one. The circle of the lives of the Wood Women, the life of the town, and the sphere we had built to keep it all contained in was challenged, attacked, and eventually severed. There was another darkness in the night, untouched by moon and fire, and it held the secrets that would be our undoing.
“I am a Wood Woman. One from a long line of Wood Women. We are the forest, from and of, and we are the caretakers of the town. We see and we mend, we care and we tend.”
“I don’t understand.” His eyes were narrowed as he searched my face. As much as he complimented me on my observations, he was a bit keen, himself. “If you are saying what I think you are saying, I am unsure how to proceed.”
“Would you burn me at the stake for healing the sick? For helping women birth babes? For making sure the harvests are good and rains come when needed?”
“No, not for those things.”
“But for other things? Do I sacrifice the young and eat their hearts?” I couldn’t help but laugh, a deeper laugh than I had ever felt any time before. His face was frozen but then cracked, his lips widened into a reluctant smile. “I assure you that all I hunt in the forest is small game, not humans, and that I prefer my meat well cooked. Stews are nice and keep for days.”
“I see. Do you not have a being you pray to, though? An entity that holds your hand and controls your heart and mind?”
“Only myself, Zariah. There are no devils or demons here.”