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(The Girl in the Woods Part III)

Kaia’s knock on the door read impatient. She waited, slightly rocking, and was about to rap again right when a large man opened the door.

He was from the village. Kaia dropped the shock and bowed, pushing herself aggressively through.

The witch’s home swarmed with smoke, Oihane herself standing before her cauldron with an attentive stare. She glanced up to see the young blonde woman enter and her expression changed to interest. The witch held up her finger to ask for a moment. The pot’s bubbles each popped in succession and Oihane relaxed.

Swooping out some liquid into a vial, she eyed Kaia and asked, “How can I help you, my dear?”

Kaia glanced at the large man watching her and shrugged. “Oh, you’re busy. I can wait.”

“We are almost done here,” she said. “Please, tell me what you need. You’re new to town, right? It usually takes quite a lot to force someone to come to me for the first time.”

“Well, I’m not as much of a virgin as you’d like to assume,” she replied. “And I’m going to need him to leave before I can say anything.”

The man looked at her.

“Personal things,” she added.

The witch said nothing more, wrapping the glass up in yellow paper and tucking a feather into the fold. She handed it to the man who hesitantly placed a few coins in her palm and then proceeded to leave. Looking at the money with a little reluctance, the woman sighed before carelessly tossing it into a box on her table.

“The problem with dealing with so many peasants is they hold too much importance on gold and refuse normal trade,” she sighed. “But at least I can always count on having money if I need to deal in the human world. Now…” The woman leaned up against her table. “How can I help you?”

Kaia didn’t answer at first, distracted, trying to subtly read the open book next to her. After a moment of realizing that the woman had spoken, she jerked. “What?”

The witch didn’t repeat herself. “You are the sister of the newcomer named Rasmus, true?”

Kaia frowned. “What did he tell you about me?”

“Enough,” she said, trailing a finger along the table as she approached. “But I recognized you only due to his features. You look alike.”

“It’s the hair,” she said, brushing hers back. “The blonde stands out.”

“It’s striking,” she said.

“Yeah, well, you can’t have it. I’m assuming you’re going to take my money as well?”

The woman sighed, turning away in irritation. “Well, if that’s the best you have to offer. I must wonder what it is you want then.”

“A scrying spell.”

The witch raised her eyebrows. “Another one?”

“A different one,” Kaia assured her. “One that would be a little easier. A little girl.”

The woman pursed her lips.

“The little girl, to be precise, the whole town has been looking for,” Kaia continued. “I don’t suppose anyone has come here to ask you for that yet?”

“No,” the woman said softly. “They haven’t.”

“You have heard about it though, I imagine,” she said. “Right? They did tell you?”

“Yes, they told me. I imagine that they haven’t asked because most don’t even know of what I can do. They probably thought it was out of their power.”

“Uh-huh,” Kaia said. “Well, if you could do that for me, it’d be great, because my brother and I are expected to find her, and, well, it would be easier if you could just tell us where she was.”

The witch immediately started assembling the supplies, suddenly finished with the conversation. Kaia continued to look through the objects on the table.

“Of course, they probably hired us because they don’t want to find her, but hey, I think we owe it to them to prove them wrong, don’t you think?”

The witch paused. “Where is your brother now?”

“In the woods,” she said. “Randomly searching about for her in a completely non-strategic way. You know.”

“I see.”

Kaia didn’t move to help as the woman shuffled about, appearing busy.

“What is it?” Kaia demanded. “Do you know something?”

Glancing at her, the witch shrugged casually.

“It’s just…” Oihane started.

“Yes?”

“The men were questioning me about you and your brother,” she explained. “They don’t know what to think of you.”

“Our lifestyle tends to induce midlife crises,” Kaia replied. “They see my brother, young, adventurous and handsome, and start to envy him in a ridiculous fashion.”

“I find it alarming that you would call your brother handsome.”

“We do have similarities.”

“I’ve never heard someone speak of their brother so fondly.”

“Well,” Kaia said, shifting off the table. “In my culture it is actually pretty common. We like to keep the bloodlines close, so intermarrying is common. But,” she shrugged. “We’re not sure if we’re going to follow with tradition yet. Wait until we’re ready. He likes to take things slow.”

The woman’s face flushed white before a sudden realization turned it to a scowl. “You’re lying.”

Kaia just shrugged with a broad smirk.

“I’d be careful in that village if I were you,” the witch said. “The townsfolk are as paranoid as any and quick to blame. If you can’t find the little girl…”

“What do you know about her?” Kaia asked. “Do you think it’s likely that we’ll find her?”

Oihane paused, adjusting her thoughts. She visibly recognized the distrusting look Kaia gave her.

“I do not hear many things,” the witch snapped. “They do not talk to me or give me casual conversation. They come to me to make their lives easier and still try to look down on me. If I knew anything of the child, I would say, but as it is, I only have heard word in passing conversation.”

“And what exactly did you hear?”

“They told me one was missing, that was all.”

Kaia frowned at her callousness, asking, “Did they mention how?”

“Nope.”

Both waited for the other’s clearly definite response. Finally, Kaia demanded, “Don’t you care in the least?”

“Not my child. Not my monkeys.”

“Huh.”

Turning back to the cauldron, the dark haired woman began to focus intently on what she was throwing in the pot. Kaia kept an eye on it suspiciously.

“Have you any encounters with a witch before?” Oihane asked Kaia pleasantly.

“Only one,” she replied, leaning to peer in to the brown contents. “For a moment. She was old. Don’t you want to clean that first before just tossing things into it?”

“Nothing that was in there will affect this potion in the least. Do not sit there and pretend you can tell me how to do my job.”

Kaia focused on a far wall, muttering, “Probably explains a lot.”

The woman slammed down her spoon. “Why isn’t your brother here?”

She shrugged. “Don’t find me a good company?”

“No.”

“Well then hurry up and I’ll get out of your way.”

The two women stared at each other. The witch chucked a handful of salt into the potion. It popped.

Their eyes did not waver and their expressions remained locked. A deep, binding thought became connected between the two and suddenly they both found themselves with the stomach pain.

The witch’s hand was tense as she held a dangling jewel into the brew, the thing swinging from a gold string. Hand on one hip, she gave her customer a polite smirk, not to be the first to break the bout of silence.

Kaia severed their gaze, suddenly interested as the woman moved to pull from the thousands of papers lining her shelves a large map. Oihane slapped it down on the table. Kaia stood over the witch’s shoulder as Oihane delicately swung the crystal around the sheet.

“You must be quiet while I concentrate,” the witch snapped.

“But the witty repartee!” Kaia said.

Oihane didn’t even glance back at her. The rhythmic swinging grew more and more tense, her hand loose as her wrist tried harder.

They stood there for a long time.

Kaia didn’t really know what she expected to happen. Eventually, she realized that no matter what she thought, it wasn’t what was going to occur.

“Well?” she said.

The witch’s head turned with a snap, hair fluttering around in a clean sweep. “What did I say?”

She continued to rotate the gem. Kaia continued to watch. She pursed her lips. Finally, she said, “Yeah, but I didn’t think it counted unless you were actually doing something.”

Oihane kept trying. The swinging grew more and more violent. Kaia watched the witch’s shoulders went tense, the woman clearly feeling Kaia’s judgment.

Still nothing happened.

The witch slammed the crystal on the table. Kaia jumped. Slumped over the map, Oihane took a heavy breath.

“Well, then,” Kaia chirped. “Did it work?”

The woman glared at her. “I get no readings.”

“So… It didn’t work,” Kaia nodded. “I suppose that happens. A lot. In every circumstance anyway. It can’t really be helped. At least not by you.”

The witch threw herself around, spinning to face Kaia with a snarl that did not mar her beauty a bit. “There are plenty of things it could mean. She could be off the range of the map. She may be…” She racked her mind. “Dead.”

“So. There are two things,” Kaia said. “Not including the most obvious one of course.”

“I did everything right!” the witch insisted. “Do not insult me.”

Kaia just shrugged, backing out. “Well then, I guess that means I don’t have more to do here. Including pay, of course. I’ll be on my way now, back to square one, I guess.”

“This is not something you should just ignore! My scrying hasn’t worked in days. It means something. Perhaps I did not know enough about the little girl in question. You did not even tell me her name.”

Kaia waved her off, turning to the door.

“You did not bring me any of her items. You should return with her belongings. That can give you a more inclusive answer. It is not a mistake! This means something.”

As she opened the door, she stopped, looking back to stare at the witch.

“You know,” Kaia said lightly, “At first I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I mean, yeah. Grandparents. Old right? In this world, makes sense they’d be hard to find. They’re barely living. But it occurs to me now that maybe I was being too rash to trust you like that. Clearly Rasmus didn’t. Otherwise, why didn’t he come back here and ask you himself?” she shrugged. “Quandary. Anyway, good day now.”

And she slammed the door after her.

The witch stood in her little hut, face turning red, the silence of humiliation all about her.

“They’re probably all just dead,” she shouted.

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The Girl in the Woods Part I | The Girl in the Woods II | III | The Girl in the Woods IV










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