A couple of friends and I have been doing weekly challenges to write based off of a random prompt pulled from a cup. So far I am having a ton of fun with this. I am writing so much lately and it’s bleeding into other projects like my novel, or some short stores I have been wanting to work on.
This weeks post is late. I did not have internet for an amount of time and was unable to post so this prompt was for the week of Jan. 29th-Feb. 4th. Since I have chosen, for reasons, not to participate in the prompt for Feb. 5th-11th I’m posting this prompt now. It’s well over 3,500 words again.
Week 3: Outside the cabin the wind howled, while inside the old womans fire was almost out.
The wind shook trees for miles, as there was nothing but trees for miles. The moon stood bright in the sky touching nothing but the thick canopy; the forest beneath was black as pitch. All but the clearing. Had anyone bothered to measure they would have found it dead at the centre of the woods. No roads came up this far, the closest dead ended a mile away.
The cabin sat at the very heart of this clearing and had sat thus for generations untold, usually empty and dark but tonight smoke was pulled from the chimney by the unending wind and the windows were lit with flickering orange light.
The wind howled, covering even the din of tree branches crashing into one another yet over it all came one small voice. Small but commanding;
“Come little maiden
Surrender to the pull
All woman are witches
When the moon swells full.”
Through the front window could be seen a woman, in her mid-50’s with a bit of a hunch in her back. Her grey hair was piled in a haphazard way atop her head. She smiled as she worked.
“There are magicks in this world that many do not understand; forces that even I can not fully understand but I respect them all the same and so will you. Do you hear me Hafwen?”
The old woman turned from her table, cluttered with dry straw and large shears, to look at the child seated before the fire. The girl, opposite of the old woman in every way save the eager smiles plastered on their faces, nodded with enthusiasm. Her dark pigtailed curls bounced like little springs.
“Mother,” said the third person in the room. The woman, was looking up from her smartphone to frown at the old woman. “Her name is Veronica. Please stop with the Hafwen shit.”
The little girl on the floor frowned at her mother but the old woman just waved her comment away and turned back to her work.
“You may call her what you want dear, but her *name* is Hafwen. In any case humor your old mother, its been six years I can’t start calling her something else now.”
The younger woman rolled her eyes and flicked her thumb to scroll her current page.
“No one but you calls her that.”
“No one but me calls you Eostre anymore but we both know that is your name.”
The young woman didn’t look up from the glow of her phone, and the old woman didn’t turn from her task collecting up the straw into a bundle. The little girl just lay back on the carpet to stare at the fire watching it dance and waiting for her grandmother to give her more instructions. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Now Hafwen, a respect for the old magicks is the first step to accessing them, something your mother forgot.” The young woman stuck out her tongue at her mothers back but she didn’t see.
“At some point though all you have to do is trust that the magick will be there to catch you. You have to surrender to it. There!”
She clapped her hands together and smiled at the bushel of straw in front of her. Turning back to the room she gestured to the little girl.
“Okay Hafwen, it’s time to find your handle. Go on now.” she gestured towards the door leading outside. Hafwen didn’t look as enthusiastic about this but glanced with creased brows at the window where all that could be seen was the vague shape of swaying trees. She looked at her mother for assistance.
Her mother looked between the young girl and the dark forest outside. The whistle of the wind was dimmed inside but it wasn’t hard to tell the night was a hostle one.The young woman just shrugged.
“Put on your cloak, Veronica, you’ll be fine.”
The girl huffed but said nothing as she got to her feet and walked to the coat rack by the door. On it were all manner of coats and cloaks, both bright modern fabrics, and dark older styles. The girl touched none of these, instead she reached behind them all into the shadowy corner and pulled out a small bundle of fabric the exact color of the darkness. She shook it out and flung it over her shoulders, she struggled for a moment to fit her large pigtails under the hood but once that was managed she stood before the older woman all but invisible in the dim light.
Her mother put her phone down and came over to tug at the hem, at her insistence the cloak got longer, covering even the girls black boots. With a kiss the woman pushed her daughter towards to door. There was a roar as the door flew open, but not a thing inside the cabin so much as rustled. The six year old took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold, her mother shut the door and sat back down.
The old woman had eased herself into a rocking chair by the fire and was laughing.
“See, you believe in magic.”
Her daughter rolled her eyes again and began to pull her long brown hair into a bun similar to her mothers. “Of course I do Mum.” she said. “I wouldn’t send my child out in this if I didn’t.”
The old woman nodded. “Good. Sometimes I wonder where your head is, I wonder if I messed up somewhere…”
Her daughter huffed. “No Mum, believe it or not me being a normal mother is a success. I only hope Veronica-”
“You will not!” the grandmother pointed towards her daughter, cutting her words off. “Don’t ill wish her. Not today.”
“Mother it’s not gonna work! Be realistic, it didn’t work with me it won’t work with Veronica.” her voice quivered more than she realized. Her eyes began to blur with tears. Her mother showed her no sympathy just watched. “Face it Mother, your magic died with me.”
The old looked at her daughter, so similar to herself yet different in all of the ways that mattered. “You have magic Eostre, I smell it in your home all the time. Just because you hide it from that husband of yours-”
“Oh now we get to it!” the woman threw up her hands. “How dare I marry a Muslim man!”
The old woman slapped her hand to the arm of her chair and the candles in the room flared, lighting the room to uncomfortable levels. The fire remained unchanged.
“How dare you hide who you are Eostre!? You know damn well any godly man is who I want for you but you don’t even show him your true self!”
“THIS IS WHO I AM MOTHER!” she held her arms wide, displaying her bright modern clothing, her smartphone, her wedding ring.
“You are a witch Eostre.”
“MY NAME IS ESTER.”
“You are a witch Eostre.”
“YEAH BUT i CAN’T-” she swallowed her words, face red, tears spilled over as she shouted the words but still her mother showed no emotion. They both remained seated, staring at one another while outside the wind howled and the moon shone down.
After a moment the old woman nodded “Hafwen will.”
They said nothing for a long while. The candle light died down, and the fire began to dwindle. When the door burst open minutes later both replaced their hard faces with smiles for the little girl standing there, not a hair out of place, holding a long thin tree branch.
“Will this work gran’ma?” she held it up for inspection beaming a toothy grin at her accomplishment. She didn’t look on her mothers direction so she didn’t see how the woman turned away and rubbed the moisture from her eyes.
The grandmother though got to her feet and cheered.
“Perfect! Perfect Hafwen. Now, put that down here by the fire and grab Granny three sharp knives from the cupboard.”
When these were retrieved she and the girl sat with the branch between them, admiring its twigs, and knobs.
“These stay if you want but the bark must go, its your handle so it’s up to you. We have to follow your lead on this.”
“I want this twig to stay” the girl pointed to the twig close to the end of the branch.
“That’s a happy little twig, I admire your choice. Now Eostre, get over here and help carve your daughters broom handle.”
The young woman took a deep breath which she let out in a long sigh. She set her phone down on the couch and slid to the floor with her mother and daughter. Each woman took up a knife but the eldest looked at her daughter expectantly.
“Mother why don’t you do it.”
“She grew in your womb.”
The woman closed her eyes, took a deep breath then looked at her daughter.
“My greatest joy, as Mother this night
Lies with the smile of my child, fruit of mine own womb
Soon to grace these skies in her first flight
To this end I bless your heart, your womb, your broom.”
She laid a hand over her Childs heart, over her maiden belly, and finally on the branch. Then she looked at her own mother who nodded, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
The three generations set to work carving the bark from the branch. They took their time and put care into each touch of their blades. They removed the twigs and knobs, all but the happy one granted a pardon. They worked in silence with only muted hum of the wind and the crackle of the small fire as background to their task. When they finished the the trees outside were swaying at dangerous angles and the fire was burning low.
“Your fire is almost out Hafwen.” the grandmother said. “It’s time.”
The girl jumped up pulling the ties from her pigtails, getting one tangled in her excitement.
“Can I cut it gran’ma!?”
“No, that’s your mothers job.” the old woman met her daughters eye, holding out the shears. “Will you assemble your daughters broom Eostre?”
The mother froze, uncertainty plain on her face. She looked from her mother, questioning, hard and her daughter, the love of her life all excited and hopeful. She reached for the shears.
Her daughters practically squealed bouncing around for her mother to get at her long tangles mass of black hair. The mother ran her hand over the silky curls once before selecting one near the top of her daughters head. She pulled it upward, stretching it to almost twice its previous length, then snipped it close to the scalp. Like a spring the freed hair bounced up to meet her hand returning to its original length and curl, not seeming to mind that it was no longer attached to the head that grew it.
The young girl wiggled, the grin on her face wide and eager as she watched her mother take this long rope of hair, and the newly smoothed branch over to the work table. The mother was silent, knowing she was being watched, knowing a mistake would ruin everything.
She gathered the straw around the end of the branch whispering a prayer to the Moon to watch over her daughter, then she secured it by winding the curl around and around before tying it off. If her spell was flawless the knot would never unbind.
After half an hour the room was getting dark, the fire was dying, she was out of time. Before her lay a broom, much like the one her own mother had crafted so long ago, the broom that never flew despite its perfect creation.
She closed her eyes, and whispered another prayer to the Goddess she’d ignored for so long; all she wanted was a normal daughter. A normal life. Yet at each turn magic reared its head, calling her, pulling at her. She fought it constantly, until she couldn’t, and then she would play her small magicks, and pretend it was nothing. This was not nothing. This was her daughters broom. If her magicks did not hold it would fall apart in the air; and if they did then her child would fly. Or she wouldn’t and would have the blessing of a normal life.
Breathing deep she handed the broom to her daughter and with the old woman at the lead they all went outside just as the fire blinked out.
Around them the winds screamed, the trees shook and leaf litter flew through the air. The womans hair whipped to the side and she stumbled under the force but her mother and daughter walked straight and calm. Nothing at all touched them. The woman stamped her foot and her hair fell in a tangled mess, free of the assault of the wind.
“You have to show it who’s boss Eostre” her mother called back, having never turned around. “Wind will always take advantage of it sees you’ve been slacking.”
The woman huffed and set about smoothing her hair but said nothing. Her daughter only giggled clutching her broom in a white knuckle grip.
The grandmother snapped her fingers and out of the trees flew a broom of her own, similar to the girls in structure but secured with a rope of straight blonde hair. The girl watched this with wide eyes then looked at her own broom and back again.
“Will mine do that?” she asked. Her grandmother smiled, behind her her mothers mouth twitched and she crossed her arms.
“It might.” the mother said.
“It will.” the grandmother said.
The girl gave a short nod. “It will.”
“Call your broom Eostre.”
The young woman stared at her mother as if she had suggested the most ludicrous thing in all the world. In a way she had
“Mother no.” she said. “we both know mine can’t. . . *I* can’t fly.”
Her daughters stared up at her, amazed by this news. “You aren’t coming too?” she whined. “But. . . But. . . ”
“Veronica.” her mother snapped. She looked as surprised as the girl by her sharp tone, when she spoke again she was calm her voice smooth as honey over the roar of the wind.
“Veronica you went out in the woods tonight to get your handle, you don’t need me to hold your hand anymore.”
The girl still looked unsure but said nothing. There was truth in what her mother had said after all.
“Call your broom Eostre. It’s tradition if nothing else.” the old womans voice mirrored the tone of her daughters, like someone speaking to a frightened animal.
Her daughter rolled her eyes and sighed. She raised her hands high and gave two sharp claps “Come!”
For the space of a second nobody moved, each wishing, in their own secret place, that a broom would come shooting out of the woods. Then another second. And another.
“Well that was fun.” The woman said. “Is there any other ways for us to rub in my face what a shitty witch I am?”
A lock of her hair blew across her face. Her daughter laughed.
The old woman waved all of this away and ushered them all into a circle, holding hands and facing each other. No one spoke but they were each deep in their thoughts. One hoping her wisdom will be passed down. One at odds with her hopes and her fears. One confident that she feels the pull
“Hafwen, it’s time.” The grandmother said. “There are no instructions dear. Either you can or you can’t.”
“Bless your flight Veronica” her mother added by rote, the scolded herself.
The girl looked at her mother, then her grandmother, last of all the broom in her hand.
“What do I say?”
“It will come to you Hafwen.”
“It’s actually kind of scary how it happens sometimes; just say what comes to mind”
The girl closed her eyes and lifted her face to the moon.
“Maiden, Mother, and the Crone,
Gather here under the full moons light
With Allah and the Goddess waiting
To bless this, my first flight.”
Her mother groaned. Her grandmother laughed. The girl opened her eyes worried.
“Did I do it wrong?”
“No no Hafwen,” the grandmother said still giggling. “That was perfect. Now let’s go!”
The young woman watched how her mother positioned her broom and perched on the handle; how her daughter mirrored her motions with an ease that she herself had never felt. She knew then, in that moment before it happened, that her daughter would fly and there was nothing to be done but let it happen. The little girl pushed off the ground and hovered, wobbling, looking for her balance, only feet from the ground. Like a newborn foal getting its legs she teetered to one side before righting herself and setting off on a short, crooked path around the cottage; still only about 4 feet off the ground. Her grandmother followed her, giving advice and pointers and within minutes the girl soared above the trees. Still looking very much the toddler but bolder, and more confident she and her grandmother took off into the night.
The young woman was left alone. She went inside, clicked on the generator and the electric light then went back to her phone.
They returned in a quarter hour, flushed and excited. The girl climbed onto her mothers lap to tell her all about what it was like and her mother smiled and was excited for her, ignoring the ache in her own heart.
“It was so amazing mama! I didn’t wanna come home!” the girl finished her breathless account of the flight, still clutching her broom as all young witches clutch at their brooms in the early days.
Her grandmother was seated in her rocker, a small smile on her lips as she watched her legacy. The girls mother was smiling too, and she surprised herself by meaning it.
“Well go on and play then.” she said shooing her child off of her lap. “Just keep your cloak on, and stay above the tree tops.”
“Stay within the forest,” the grandmother added. “The wind will tell me if you stray too far”
The girl nodded but she was already pulling on her cloak and slipping off into the night. Both women gave a sigh.
“That was exhausting.” the grandmother laughed.
“You’re telling me.” the mother reclined on the couch and closed her eyes. “Ugh. Why did I let you talk me into this shit. I’m never going to be able to give her a normal life now. How can I tell her to lie to her father?”
“She’s always lied to him. She lies about me, she lies about you, and she lies about herself. Eostre you know this.”
The young woman rubbed her face with her hands then turned to look at her mother.
“My name is Ester and we don’t do magic in my house Mother.”
“And now you lie to me. I smell it Eostre. I see your flowers that shouldn’t grow in your climate but do. I feel the gentle push of the protection spells you put on all the sharp corners when Hafwen started walking. I also know about the little room in the hall closet.”
The young woman sat up. “What little room?”
Her mother raised an eyebrow. “Hmmm…maybe Hafwen is lying to you as well then. Explains why its so sloppy, the whole closet reeks of magic. She probably had to try a few times to hold it together.”
The woman lay back down eyes closing again. “Great. Just great. Stop letting her read your fucking spell books Mother.”
The conversation fell off as each woman was busy with her own thoughts. After a while the young woman, eyes still closed cleared her throat.
“So. Anyone else flying this moon?”
The old womans mouth twitched into a smile though her daughter didn’t see.
“A few. Hafwen might even run into Gweneveres granddaughter out there tonight.”
There was another pause.
“We are actually going to get together tomorrow night.” the old woman continued. “Nothing formal, just the Coven and our families and such as a little congratulations party for the newest flyers.”
Her daughter opened an eye to peek at her.
“It would be good to get Hafwen involved with her family, Eostre. You as well. A witch without a coven is a lonely soul indeed.”
Her daughter said nothing so she pressed on.
“If you are ever going to be honest with that husband of yours now is the time. Any later and you’ll have to explain why his child has been flying for years without his knowledge. We’re good with ignorant family, we’ll ease him in.”
Still her daughter didn’t speak, just narrowed her eyes a little. The grandmother leaned forward in her chair and smiled.
“It would be an excellent time to announce to everyone at once that you’re expecting.”
Now the young woman sat up. “Damn it Mother!” she cried. “I wasn’t even sure yet!”
“Yes you were.”
“We’ll go okay! I’ll bring Takir and *you* can tell him. Deal?”
Outside the winds tore through the trees, and beyond the forest line they rattled signs and made lights flicker. Even the bravest travelers steered clear of the woods that night. If not for the winds, then for the black shapes some claimed to see flying across the moon that night. Some even swore it looked as if they were playing tag.
I am happier with the idea than i am with the execution. I don’t even edit these beyond spelling but if I ever decide to come back to this I want to condense it. There’s too much dialogue I think.
If you want to play along at home our prompt for next week is: