Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Inglewood Hamlet, there was a young girl named Kate who was very unique. She was the eldest daughter in a coven of witches.
Though she was only thirteen, her eyes had already started to turn black. Her mother, Rachael, had explained why this was: “It’s so people can see the wisdom inside of us. The depth of the black shows the depth of the magic inside of us.”
Kate missed her blue eyes. She would look at herself in the mirror and wish for her eyes to be the blue of a waterfall or a cloudless sky. This didn’t work; in fact, it just made her skin or hair turn blue instead. Thankfully, her mother was able to put her right again.
Rachael was the head witch of the coven that lived in Inglewood Hamlet. She always taught her two daughters and her one son that life had to be respected and honoured, that everything in life was a gift. The witches were respected for their magic and the way they loved the land. If anyone needed help with their crops or their animals or villagers needed help with their love life, the witches were happy to help. They aided with the births of children and with those that passed on.
The witches also provided a lot of magic that the villagers didn’t know about. They held many rituals and services during the full moon or the harvest to make sure that the magic stayed alive inside Inglewood Hamlet, for theirs was a land built on magic. Kate could see it thriving in the land, through the growing of flowers and trees to the strange mist that surrounded Inglewood Hamlet that shone like stars at night.
Kate knew that inside the mist, there was also a forest that spanned the entire width of the kingdom. Rachael had told Kate never to go there alone. “For creatures of magic should be left to their own devices. They work in ways that we can’t understand.”
Knowing that her mother was wise and so she paid heed to her words until one fateful day. She was wandering through the village when she heard the scuffle of footsteps behind her. Kate turned quickly and saw Amanda Havenforth, one of the other girls that lived in the village. Walking on either side of Amanda were Prudence Cavandish and Beatrice Gooderich, Amanda’s two friends. The three girls were plain and unkempt. Kate knew their reputation of malice first hand; she had been party to their teasing and misdeeds and tried to give them a wide birth when she saw them in town.
Walking a little faster, Kate heard the footsteps of Amanda, Prudence and Beatrice quicken pace as well. Kate had had trouble with these girls before. They had been good friends for many years, but as her eyes had started to turn black, they had started acting cruelly towards Kate. Her mother had tried to comfort her daughter.
“They are wary of the power you will one day have and of the power you already wield.” Rachael held up her hand and Kate pressed hers to it. Where their palms met, little stars erupted into the air.
“But why can’t they treat me as they used to? We were friends only a few weeks ago! Why are they treating me this way?”
Rachael gave her daughter a kind look and pulled her close. “Because they are afraid of you. People will always fear that which they don’t understand and treat it unkindly.” Rachael stroked Kates hair. “But here me daughter. You must never use magic against them. It must always be used in kindness.”
“What use is magic if we can’t fight back with it?”
“Magic is used to make the land full of plenty, to help the seasons pass, to help the sun set and the moon rise. We do not use magic to harm other people. Promise me.”
Looking into her mothers eyes, the sparkling stars that they had created still floating in the air, Kate said “I promise.”
Now though, as she walked quickly away from Amanda, Prudence and Beatrice, she wished she had never made that promise. The three girls began to walk even faster and so Kate picked up speed. She nearly fell when she felt something rush by her, grazing her cheek.
Kate stopped and turned to look at the three bullies. Each girl held a pile of rocks in their apron and each girl had a dark grimace upon their face.
“Witch!” Prudence yelled. She threw another rock, this one hitting her in the shoulder.
“Sorceress!” Prudence screeched. She threw an even bigger rock which hit Kate in her in her stomach. Kate put a hand there, as if to ward away the oncoming pain.
“Devil’s bride!” Amanda cried and threw not a rock but a piece of jagged glass. It sliced into Kate’s forehead and drew blood that began to drip along her face. It was the drawing of blood that did it, that tore away the shaky hold Kate had on her patience.
She raised her hands and felt her eyes go completely black. Storm clouds moved in above them and the trio of girls looked up at the sky. Kate let her hands fall down and there was a rumble of thunder, followed by three tongues of lightning. They fell to the ground in front of each girl, blackening the ground.
With a strangled cry, Kate turned and ran. She ran as fast as she could, until her legs felt as if they had turned to water. It was only as her senses returned to her that Kate realised where she had run. She was at the edge of the mist and could see the small stars within it glowing and pulsing like so many lights. She reached out and touched one and was rewarded with a pleasant, warm sensation running up her arm. Beyond the mist was the forest, its trees thick with vibrant green foliage.
She considered running back in the other direction and was going to do just that when she heard footsteps approaching from behind her. Kate knew that Amanda, Prudence and Beatrice were coming after her and this made her choice easier. She stepped into the mist and into the cover of the trees, letting the darkness close in around her and hoping that it would keep her hidden.
Kate had never been in the forest without her mother or one of the other coven witches, but she was not afraid. Witches honoured the light and the dark, knowing that one could not exist without the other. She wandered under huge branches heavy with leaves, some of the stars from the mist following closely in her wake.
Soon, she was deep in the forest. There was little light here and the stars surrounding her twinkled dully in the blackness. Hearing a rustling in the leaves in front of her, Kate called out “Who goes there? I’m a friend not a foe.”
She hear the whining of a dog and wondered if an animal was in peril. She put her palms together and blew into them. A fire sprang to life there, the sparks making more stars in the shadows. The Witch fire illuminated the dark and Kate saw a large wolf in front of her…or was it something more?
As Kate watched, the wolf’s limbs began to change shape. The legs began to grow and she saw tows begin to sprout out of the fur as feet made themselves visible. Fingers began to grow as hands revealed themselves. The wolf’s fur began to vibrate and a soft hum filled the air as a breeze flew through the trees, taking the wolf’s fur with it. Where the wolf had been there was now a boy.
He lay shivering slightly from the change and had dusty gold hair that shone in the shadows. The boy stood and looked at Kate with kind eyes. “No mortal has ever seen me change before. Their eyes do not see what they can not explain.”
Kate held out the fire she had created. “I’m not a mortal. I’m a witch.”
He gave her a generous smile. “That explains things. I am called Xavier”
“You’re a werewolf.” Kate said softly.
He gave her another of his wide, sincere grins. “Well observed.” He reached behind one of the trees and withdrew some clothing: a simple tunic, cotton pants and a leather belt, a pair of roughly hewn boots. As he dressed he asked her: “Tell me, why does a witch hide in the forest?”
Kate drew in a shocked breath. “How do you know I’m hiding?”
“Only those who are hiding here enter the forest alone. They are either foolish or recklessly brave. Since you are neither of those, then tell me: why are you hiding in the forest?”
Xavier came closer to her and she saw that he was only a year or two older than she was. “When did you become a werewolf?”
“Are you avoiding my question?”
“No, I’ll answer it. Just answer mine first.”
“Very well then.” He gave her a piercing glance and she saw that his eyes were a golden yellow. Rather than frighten her, his smile was warm rather than frightening and his teeth glowed in the light of her fire. When he spoke, his voice was deep, as if he held the shadows within it.
“I became a werewolf when I was born this way. My mother and father were both werewolves.”
“Oh, there are three of you here?”
“Just the two of us I’m afraid. Hunters in the land across the sea took my father from us. It is just my mother and I, now.”
“What happened to your father?” Kate voice was a whisper.
“Hunters found out what he was and they went after him. The King lets us stay here to protect us.”
“Oh, so are you the reason I’m not allowed to go into the forest?” Kate said eagerly.
“I believe you’ve had three questions. Now you answer mine: why are you hiding in the forest?”
The fire in Kate’s hand dulled a little, losing its sparks. “The girls of the village tease me and they’re mean to me. They bully me and treat me horribly. They were throwing rocks and glass at me a while back.”
Xavier looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. “I see. And do you care about the opinion of these girls?”
Kate shrugged. “Not particularly.”
“Good. Then why are you hiding from them?”
“Well, they’re going to hurt me.”
“Only if you let them. Those that are frightened will always attack. It is the way of mortals, I’m afraid. You shine so much brilliantly than they do. Those that are afraid will try to snuff out any candle or flame.”
He closed her hand so that the palms were together. They were left in darkness and, though her fire did not normally hold any warmth, she felt the spark of it in her palms, as if waiting to break free. A lot of the warmth came from Xavier’s hands.
Kate opened her hands and her flame came alight again so that she could see Xavier. He looked down at the fire that Kate held. “But like any true flame, they will always come back. They may try to blow out a candle, but any true flame always perseveres.”
Xavier held out his hand to her. “Come, I want to show you something.”
The flame in Kate hand brightened. “All right.” She took his left hand with her right and as they moved deeper into the trees, Kate blew on the flame so that it became a small round ball of light. It shone a with a white glow and it looked as if Kate were holding the moon.
Xavier took her to the deepest part of the forest. The shadows were dark, but there was a light that she could see coming from between the tree trunks. The glow intensified as they got closer. “What is that, Xavier?”
“Do you know the true reason that you’re not allowed to come into the forest?”
“I thought it was because you and your mother live here.”
“There is more creatures here than werewolves. No, it is something more. Come on now, we’re almost there.”
They weaved their way through a few sets of trunks and then Kate came to abrupt halt. In front of Kate was a tree, but it was not like the others. It pulsed and glowed with a beautiful, soft light. She could almost here a soft music, as if wooden flutes were playing.
Kate’s whisper was one of fascination and awe instead of fear. “What is this?”
“This is the magic of Inglewood Hamlet. This is its heart. To you see how it glows?”
“Well, this runs in you.” He cupped her hand holding the small globe of light. “You should not be afraid, you should celebrate what you are.”
“I do!” She was affronted for a moment. “I am very proud of being a witch!”
“I don’t doubt this, but then why do you let these mortal girls make you feel terrified? You can do what you need to survive. My father couldn’t.”
“But do what you will but harm none is witches creed. I can’t break that and I won’t be like them. I won’t hurt someone else.”
He looked at the light in her hand. “Does this light hurt you?”
“No. It’s my witch light. It never hurts me.”
“There you go then. Use that light. You can use your power to do good or do harm, Kate. It’s always a choice.”
“I know that. But what do you expect me to do?”
He raised his eyebrows at her. “Do you think they will follow you into the forest?”
Kate sighed. “Probably.”
“Good. Then do what I say. We haven’t much time.”
They heard the girls before they saw them. Their voices screeched through the trees and the smaller birds took flight at the sound. “Do you really think this is a good idea?” Prudence said. “I mean, I’ve never been this far into the trees.” Her voice was filled with a sliver of fear.
“They say that there are beasts here.” Beatrice whispered. “They say that these beasts eat humans!” There was an air of panic in her voice.
“Shush, both of you! They’re going to hear us! Witches and werewolves have super keen hearing!” She whispered this out in a salient hiss. “When we find that witch, I’m going to cut her again!”
In the shadows of a clearing, Xavier whispered: “Are you ready?”
Kate looked into his golden eyes and saw the playfulness there. She was not afraid. “I’m ready.”
They saw Amanda first. She had a mean look on her face and another glass shard in her hand. Kate almost smiled when Xavier let out a frightened moan. Kate saw Amanda stop in her steps, Beatrice and Prudence bumping into her.
“Do you think I’ll let your insults slide?” Kate said loudly. She tried to make her voice sound menacing.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Xavier said, almost shaking. “I didn’t mean anything by it!”
“Well I’m going to show you what I can do to people who call me names.”
As they had practiced, Kate let a shower of silver stars fly from her hand. They covered Xavier like a blanket for a moment and then glowed softly so that they lit up the clearing and cast shadows on the leaves. Xavier let out a strangled noise and began his slow transformation into a wolf. Amanda, Beatrice and Prudence stood there with mouths open in shock and fear.
Xavier rubbed his wolf’s nose against Kate’s hand. Kate looked down at him. “Now go on, take some time to think of what you did. I will change you back when I calm down.”
Letting out a small whine, Xavier trotted further into the forest. Kate turned around and let out a small blast of air fly from around her. It ruffled the leaves of the trees and made her hair fly out a little, as if she had conjured the wind. “Oh, hello Amanda, Beatrice and Prudence. How nice to see you! Lovely evening, isn’t it?”
Amanda quivered and let out a moan, turned and ran. Beatrice and Prudence looked like they would faint any second now and let out twin squeals, turned and followed suit. Kate waited until they been gone a while before she let the laughter erupt out of her.
Xavier slipped out of the shadows in human form again. “Don’t laugh too hard, you’ll injure yourself.” He gave her another of his wide, open smiles.
“I’m sorry, but the looks on their faces were everything I could have wished for.” Kate wiped a tear from her eye and took a deep breath. She smiled at Xavier. “How can I ever repay you?”
“For what? You did everything.”
“Yes, but it was your idea. I would never have thought of any of that.”
“I’m sure you would have in time.”
“So, you didn’t answer my question. How can I repay you?”
Putting a finger to his chin in though, Xavier had never looked so handsome to her. Finally, he looked at her and said: “Will you come see me in the forest from time to time? It does get lonely here sometimes.”
Kate felt a blush light up her cheeks. “I’d like that very much.”
“Then it is settled. And until we meet again, remember: the power is in you, Kate.”
She nodded and began to walk out of the woods. Before she was completely free of the embrace of the trees, Kate turned to look back at Xavier, but he was already gone.
Or so the story goes…