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The Heart Town Witch plants a garden

A story by elfkat aka Kat Robb

A witch had moved into this town and after a few missteps was accepted and loved by the people of the town. She lived at the edge of the town in a fantastically turreted and towered house of many colours and a garden where bluebells were really blue bells and roses had sweet faces. She went by the name of Miss Fay. The Mayor of the town had re-named her after he had found out she hated her name because it wasn’t a properly witchy name, her given name was Penelope Faery Rainbow. That just wasn’t a proper witch name and even he had agreed it was pretty awful to be a witch with a name like that so now she was Miss Fay.

One day Miss Fay decided she needed to do something nice for the Mayor. He had done so many nice things for her to help her to fit in in Heart Town. She thought of how much he liked her chocolate pistachio brownies but that wasn’t special enough. She thought she might give him a surprise party but she wasn’t sure it would stay a surprise so she dropped that idea. She contemplated this idea for days and then she had it. Everyone in this town had lovely neat little gardens but none had the special flowers that the Heart Town Witch grew. Their pansies didn’t have sweet little monkey faces and their marigolds weren’t merry and real gold and she knew Milly, the Mayor’s wife admired her garden a lot so she decided to help them with their garden.

The Heart Town Witch snuck over to the Mayor’s pretty little house and planted a garden in the middle of the night. She planted sunflowers and moonflowers and coral bells. She planted morning glories and Jack in the Pulpits. She planted hens and chickens and gazanias and tulips and a lot of other pretty flowers that grew in her garden but she had forgotten something. The flowers in her gardens behaved because they knew her and loved her and because she was a very magical person. She had forgotten that they might not behave for ordinary people, as ordinary as you could be and still be made of crystal.
She went off to her house and her bed happy and pleased with the wonderful gift she had given the Mayor and his family. Who wouldn’t want a lovely garden filled with amazing and magical plants.

The Mayor’s family woke up this next morning with a start. The whole house was lit up with a very bright light the minute the sun had come over the mountains that surrounded the town. The Mayor jumped out of bed and went running around the house looking for the source of the light and then the noises started. There was laughing coming from the garden outside and bell ringing? The smallest of the Mayor’s children yelled at him to look out the window and the whole family went running out onto their wide porch and quite a sight met their eyes.

The sunflowers were shining like the sun. So bright that the Mayor sent everyone back into the house for dark glasses. When they went outside again they were truly amazed and the neighbors had come and were staring over the garden gate.

The gazanias were laughing loudly, the blue bells and coral bells were singing and ringing. The tulips kissed anyone who got near them. The gay feather plants were tickling everyone with big purple ostrich feathers. The gladiolas were talking like they were friends of Pollyanna. The only one that wasn’t making a ruckus was the moonflower who appeared to be asleep and the Mayor had a feeling that come night fall the yard might be almost as bright as the sunflower was making the yard now.

The Mayor gave a great sigh and looked at his family most of whom were standing with their hands over their ears looking at the garden with their mouths hanging open. The Mayor gave another great sigh. He knew who had done this and she had done it again. She tried her hardest to do something nice and it had gone a bit wrong. How was he going to tell her to take her gift that had obviously taken a lot of thought and work back?

His wife looked at him smiled and pointed in the direction of the Witch’s house. He gave a third sigh and went in to get dressed. He headed over to the Witch’s house with no clear idea of what to say.

He knocked on the door with a heavy heart. He really didn’t want to hurt her feelings. The Witch threw the door open with a bang. “Do you like it? Isn’t it beautiful? I tried my best to make it nice.”

The Mayor looked at the Witch. “Would you like to see it on the daytime?” he asked.
My family really appreciates the hard work you went to last night but you really must see it in the sun.” He couldn’t think of a nicer way to put it.

“Oh, yes!” the Witch cried and grabbed her favourite shawl from the back of the nearest chair and she hurried out the door. They hadn’t gotten very far when she could hear singing and bells ringing. Then she heard the laughing and she began to get worried, she had a very bad feeling something had gone wrong. They turned the corner and she was almost blinded and she snapped her fingers for her sunglasses and she knew she was in trouble. The crowd was now 3 deep at the Mayor’s garden fence and they were laughing and pointing at all the flowers in the garden.

“Oh, they got out of control didn’t they?” The Witch was getting upset. She tried to do something nice and she’d failed again. She guessed that the flowers behaved in her garden because she was the Witch and they knew they had to but here they were free to misbehave and they did.

The Mayor’s family gave a cheer when they saw the Witch. They knew she had been doing something nice even if it had unintended consequences and the children now that they were more used to it were playing jump rope with the Johnny Jump Ups and laughing just as hard as the gazanias.
The Mayor’s wife, Milly came and kissed the Witch on the cheek and said, “This is a lovely gift but could you make them behave a bit?” The Witch looked at the Mayor and his wife.

“You aren’t mad?”

“No, it was a bit startling earlier but we know you were trying to do something nice for us. Now how can we help make it better?”

The Witch thought for a moment. She was going to have to take some of the rowdier members of the garden home. They just wouldn’t behave here. “How about I leave the ones who will behave here and take the rest home, would that fix it?”

The Mayor nodded and rolled his sleeves up and told the children to bring the wheel barrow from the garden shed.

So the Witch got her trowel out and bundled the gazanias and the coral bells and blue bells into the wheel barrow. She took the sunflowers and violas who were playing a Bach viola piece. She took the tulips who were being awfully fresh and the daffodils who were just plain silly and sent them home with the Mayor’s children.

“Is it all right if I leave some other quieter ones? She asked a bit hesitantly. The Mayor and his wife nodded and the crowd cheered because since it wasn’t their yard they had quite enjoyed it.

The Witch set to work. She rearranged the roses and their shiny faces and the pansies of all colours with their monkey faces. She magicked over from her yard the candytuft and the phlox were content to huddle in a corner and be quiet. She got the gay feather smaller feathers. She asked the cannas to be encouraging but much more softly and put the gladiolas near them to make a cheery spot and the garden slowly transformed to a much quieter place but just as lovely.

She stood back and looked at her work. She hadn’t realized what some of her plants would do but she meant well.

The Mayor and his family came up and hugged her from all directions. It almost made her ribbons pop.

The Mayor thanked her and asked her if she could plant some gladiolas and cannas near the school. He thought that might be just the place for them.

The Heart Town Witch headed for home happy. She was so glad to have friends and she really had meant well and she had tried her best. The Mayor pointed out to her that was all anyone could ever ask of anyone and it had worked out in the end, hadn’t it? She trundled the last wheelbarrow home with the crab apples and the Black-eyed Susans. Those really had been a mistake she giggled to herself as she went.

The Heart Town Witch learns to sing

A story by elfkat aka Kat Robb

Once upon a time for that is how all good stories begin there was a town called Heart Town. Heart Town was a beautiful place. It was neat and tidy with everything just so and the people were pretty too. They were all made of crystal and where most people’s meat hearts should be they had a heart of red crystal. Those hearts were all tied up with ribbons of every colour because in this town when you were loved by someone your heart received a ribbon tied in a bow of their colour. Everyone in this town had many, many ribbons tied around their hearts all tied in different kinds of bows. Silly bows, foofy bows, simple bows as individual as the people that had tied them.

A shy witch had moved to this town and her name was Fay. Well, that’s what the Mayor of the town had decided she could be called. Her real name was Penelope Faery Rainbow which was just not a good name for a witch. Names are funny things once you are given them they don’t go away because they define at least part of who you are so somewhere deep inside she was Penelope Faery Rainbow but not most of the time.

Every Sunday night something wonderful happened in this town. At the stroke of seven on the town clock everyone started to sing. First the people’s hearts started to chime with a lovely sweet sound and then the people would sing with their hearts. One person in town wasn’t singing but no one knew this, yet…

The shy and formerly lonely witch, Miss Fay wasn’t. She sat alone in her fantastically turreted and towered house and listened and wished she knew how to join in. Miss Fay had moved to this town as a grown up and had no idea how to make her heart chime or how to sing along with the people. She just didn’t know the song that everyone else had learned as a child. So she sat in her big stuffed green chair and listened to the town every Sunday night.

Once she had known this happened every Sunday night she made sure she was home that night. She didn’t want to be embarrassed about not knowing how to sing or chime her heart. So she sat at home and dreamily listened while sipping her tea and wished she could join in. It never occurred to her she could just ask someone how. She was still new to this friend making thing. She had only just told people her name a bit ago. She thought maybe she could ask the Mayor how they did it but she would feel so silly and stupid she hadn’t done it yet. Maybe she would do it next time the Mayor came to tea. Maybe while he was trying one of her new pastries. He sure seemed to like them and he always took some home with him for his family. But the Mayor came to tea several times just to chat and see that she was all right but she couldn’t seem to get her courage together to ask him but then something changed.

She had lived in this town almost a whole year so she hadn’t been part of all the celebrations and town functions yet and one day she got an invitation in the mail. It was a lovely thing with ribbons and beautifully cut shapes and a painting of a red crystal heart on the front of the invitation. This was a very special invitation. Once a year the town’s people got together on a Sunday night and sang together. Everyone was invited and she could tell from the invitation that she really was expected to go. What was she going to do? She had no clue how to sing the song or make her heart make those beautiful sounds. Maybe she could say she was sick or move away before next year’s celebration? But she really loved living in her cozy funny looking house and she really loved her beautiful garden. She loved the weather in this town. It only rained when the weatherman said it would and stopped right on time when the garden had had just enough. So she always knew she could go up to her tiny observatory and watch the stars and planets. What was she going to do? She worried and she fretted and she put off replying to the invitation because she couldn’t figure out how to answer. And then the Mayor came to call…

Because sooner or later things that you have to do come back around and have consequences if you don’t do them and in this town the Mayor would come to your door to see if you were all right.

Miss Fay answered the knock on the door. The Mayor always knocked. He never poked the door bell. She thought was very strange but she was too shy to ask him why. Maybe on another day she would but today she was afraid it was about that beautiful invitation with the heart on the front. She opened the door slowly. And there stood the Mayor in his crisp black suit smiling at her. “Won’t you come in, Mr. Mayor?” She asked.

“You know I asked you to call me Ben way back before the garden party? “ The witch nodded shyly. She still was having a small bit of trouble calling people their names. It was just so personal.

“Why haven’t you replied to the invitation we sent out?” The Mayor, err, Ben asked.

The Witch looked down at her shoes. They were really quite interesting shoes. They were black and laced up and had a nice blocky heel and an opening where her big toe could peep out but they weren’t that interesting and sooner or later she was going to have to answer the Mayor.

“Won’t you come in Ben? I have some new chocolate pistachio bars for you to try.” And the Witch bustled off to her kitchen grateful she had thought to something to do besides look at her interesting shoes and her big toe.

When she had brought a tea tray back into the front room the Mayor was seated in his favourite overstuffed chair of deep blue. “You still haven’t answered my question.” said the Mayor.

The Witch looked down as she fixed her tea still unable to meet the Mayor’s kind eyes and she said in a very low voice. “I don’t know how to sing like everyone else does. I’d feel silly going and just standing there what if I can’t do it?”

The Mayor looked at her. “How do you know until you try, Miss Fay?” Miss Fay busied her self with the tea set and re-arranged the chocolate pistachio bars into a complex castle.

“Well, what if I can’t sing and everyone else can? I’ll just ruin your celebration and everyone will be mad at me.”

My family will come to escort you to the town square tomorrow night and we’ll just see how it goes. I promise it will be all right.” The Mayor stood up and thanked her for tea and left without giving her time or space to say no.

Miss Fay sat stunned. No one had ever done that to her before. Maybe she would just stay in her favourite pjs all day and he’d feel too embarrassed to make her go but she decided that the Mayor was a force of nature and just might make her go even in her favourite gnome pajamas. So the next night at a quarter to seven she sat in her white wicker chair out in the garden when the Mayor and his family all showed up to escort her. She went to meet them and walked between the Mayor and his tiny wife Milly followed by all the children. She thought there were six but they kept moving and messing up her count. They looked like three sets of twins but she couldn’t tell for sure and she was too shy to ask.

They arrived after the short walk at the town square where there was a statue of a heart with ribbons tied on it and the whole town was gathered around it in a large circle holding hands. Ben and Milly grabbed her hands so she couldn’t get away and the town clock started to strike seven and a weird thing started to happen in her chest. When the town’s people’s hearts started to chime her heart started to vibrate just a little bit and she heard a small sound from it. The Mayor and his wife turned to her and smiled.

“See, you’ll be just fine. You just have to listen and believe that you are part of all of us because if you are going to live here we are part of you too.” The Mayor whispered this in her ear. Everyone in town was starting to sing and she could feel it all through her body and she started to relax. It didn’t matter that she didn’t quite know the tune in her head her heart seemed to know it and that was all that mattered as she started to sing with the rest of the town. This was a good place to live and now every Sunday night she could sing and chime too. She liked that. It was good to be a part of something and the witch smiled and sang.

Heart Town Witch

A story by ElfKat aka Kat Robb

Once upon a time there lived a witch in a town known as Heart Town. The witch had moved here because she was lonely and wanted someone to love her. She had gotten in a lot of trouble over that. People in Heart Town were people made of clear crystal who had beautiful ribbons tied around their red crystal hearts. These ribbons were all different colours, a different colour for each person that loved them.

The witch had gotten into a lot of trouble because she had tried to hold onto the ribbons so she could be sure of who loved her and the whole town had gotten all tangled up and some had fallen and gotten cracks in their bodies. The town’s people were all made of crystal so that everyone could see their hearts and no one had ever even gotten a scratch before the witch had arrived in town. Some of the people still hadn’t gotten over that. It just wasn’t what they were used to but the poor lonely witch had another problem now. She wouldn’t tell anyone her name and people were starting to avoid her again. This had made her sad again.

Names are important things. When you have someone’s name you could call it and get someone’s attention or ask them to do something. The witch didn’t want anyone making her do something she didn’t want to do so she wouldn’t tell anyone her name. The witch didn’t understand the power of two different words, “yes” and “no”. She was convinced if some one asked her to do something and they knew her name they could make her do it. This was a town of very nice and polite people who would never make anyone do anything they didn’t want to do but the lonely witch wasn’t good at helping and she wasn’t very good at even trying that was why she was the lonely witch after all. Besides that she really hated her name. Her name was Penelope Faery Rainbows. That was just not a good witch name. She thought a good witch name was something like Agatha or Esmeralda or Guisbertha not someone who could be called Penny.

So when she went out she was always addressed as “Miss Witch”. She was getting tired of this but she really wasn’t outgoing enough to tell anyone her real name. She was shy and had a hard time making friends at all. The town’s people had finally had enough of this. They got together again and decided that the Mayor should speak to her again. That’s what worked the last time and they saw no reason to change now. They were a very practical town of people and if it worked once it should work again, right?

So Mr. Mayor went across town to visit the witch. He actually liked visiting the witch because she had a beautiful garden and always had fresh pastries and cookies. The Mayor was very fond of baked goods.

The witch’s house was very strange. It was all higgledy-pigglety. It was full of strange towers and funny shaped windows like moons and stars and had a widow’s walk around the top. It was also painted in many colours. It had a teal tower and a cobalt blue tower next to a turret that was painted emerald green. The porch was painted lavender with white pillars and was covered in pink roses that filled the air with a sweet scent and even though it was all mixed up it all sort of mixed together and was quite pretty.

Mr. Mayor opened the gate on the white picket fence and walked up the garden walk. It was filled with flowers. There were columbines and foxgloves. There were nasturtiums and abutilons. There were violets and lavender and sage and marigolds and pansies. The whole garden was filled with colour and around the edges she had planted pumpkins. There were some of the biggest pumpkins he’d every seen. And as he walked up the walk he had an idea. He wondered if it would work. He walked up to the door and used her doorknocker. It was in the shape of a pumpkin too. She must really like pumpkins.

The witch answered the door wearing her apron. She had been inventing a new cream treacle scone recipe and had flour on her nose and all over the brim of her hat. She wasn’t a bad looking witch. She was round where she should be round and not where she shouldn’t be. She had big blue eyes that twinkled when she wasn’t being shy. “Wouldn’t you like to come in Mr. Mayor?” She asked, “I have some new scones that should go nicely with the raspberry jam I made yesterday or would you rather have lemon curd?” She shooed him into her front room.

The Mayor looked around in wonder. There were always so many things to see here. She had bookcases full of books. She had things made of glass that spun and twinkled and made rainbows all over the room. She had an enormous desk that had a huge open book that he saw had a recipe written on it. She also had the biggest cat he’d ever seen sleeping on a foot stool with one eye half open studying him quietly. Mr. Mayor sat in a big overstuffed chair next to the tea table that had a large steaming tea pot in the shape of a big green cabbage.

“So Mr. Mayor, what brings you over to my house on this bright sunny day?”

“Well,” Mr. Mayor started just a wee bit uneasily, “It’s about not knowing your name and I bet you don’t even know mine, do you?”

The witch looked ashamed. “No, everyone just calls you Mr. Mayor and I’ve never heard anything else.”

“You should be around my wife. She uses it a lot.” Mr. Mayor laughed. “My name is Aloysius Benjamin Honeydew but you can call me Ben. We would like to know your name so we don’t have to keep calling you Miss Witch. People here in this town are very kind and won’t make fun of it no matter what it is.”

The witch was blushing and fidgeting in her chair. “I have a awful name for a witch. My mother had no sense of a proper name for a witch so I never tell people my name. I’m afraid I’ll become my name and it’s just too silly.”

“Surely it can’t be that bad, can it?” asked the Mayor.

“Well, you be the judge, it’s just not a proper witch name. It’s Penelope Fairy Rainbows.”

The Mayor choked back a giggle. He could see that maybe a witch wouldn’t like such a foofy name. “I can see that that might not be a name a proper witch might like or even one you could grow into like Aloysius. Have you tried shortening it?”

“Do you think ‘Penny’ is any better?” the witch asked.

“Maybe not.” The Mayor was thinking quickly. “How about Fay?”

“That isn’t too bad.” The witch thought that wasn’t too awful a name. It didn’t make her cringe like her real name in fact that just might work. “Miss Fay? That isn’t too bad but how do I let people know nicely what my name is? I’ve been here almost a year and it seems kind of late and embarrassing to spring it on people now.”

“I have an idea.” said the Mayor. “Why don’t you have a party and invite people to your garden and you could share some of your wonderful pastries and have tea. You could send out invitations and just put your name on them and that way you don’t have to walk up and tell everyone your name. We could also put a pretty sign out on your fence that says ‘Welcome to Miss Fay’s Garden’. Would that be all right?”

The witch sat back in her big chair and thought and thought while the Mayor took another scone and heaped lemon curd on it. She wouldn’t have to leave her house except to go to the post office to mail the invitations. She could just stay in her garden and welcome people in but what if they wouldn’t come? She worried.

“What if no one comes?” She asked fretfully.

“Oh, they will come. People are always curious and they know from taking walks that you have a lovely garden from the outside. They will come, trust me.” The Mayor got up to leave and shook the witch’s hand. “It was nice to see you again Miss Fay.”

The witch sat in her chair for a moment. She got up and got her special feather quill and a packet of stationary and sat down at her desk. She dictated the invitation to the quill and let it get busy writing the invitations out. What was the good of being a witch if you couldn’t let something else do some of the work? She went back to baking. She had just thought of a new raspberry cookie recipe that would be good. She might as well use that jam she had just made for cookies for the party. Later that afternoon she mailed the invitations.

She woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and looked out her bedroom window at the sky. It was going to be a beautiful clear day for the party, so far so good.

She had been tidying her garden all week. The gnomes that lived in an oak tree in the back had been helping and she knew the dryads, devas and faeries had been helping too. All the colours of the flowers were perfect and there wasn’t petal out of place. She was going to set up tea in the side garden where she had conjured up some comfortable garden chairs. So much to do and what if no one came?

Three o’clock came and people started to line up at the gate. Their heart ribbons tied in gay bows and their crystal all shiny. The witch relaxed. People had come. She went out to greet them. The Mayor’s family was first in line. “Hi Miss Fay! We’re here!” they cried!

The witch went eagerly to greet them. She shook hands with everyone and remembered most of their names. They all greeted her happily and called her Miss Fay and she didn’t mind the name a bit. The witch learned a lot that day. She learned that if she was nice and friendly people would want to be her friend too. Now if she could bring her self to share the scone and cookie recipe…

Heart Town

Once upon a time there was town where the people were all made of very strong crystal and if they fell down they didn’t break. They were a very beautiful people and the most beautiful thing about them was their hearts. Their hearts were made of red crystal and looked like Valentine hearts. And one of the many unique things about this very special town is that they were all well loved and every one knew just how loved they were.
How did they know how loved they were? When some one was loved in this town their heart would have a lovely ribbon tied around it with a bow because love leaves a mark on your heart. Everyone always made sure that their ribbons were tied with a bow so that everyone was free to walk around. Because everyone in this small town had a different colour ribbon the hearts were full and amazingly colourful. And in this lucky town no one ever tried to see how many ribbons were on the hearts they just enjoyed their beauty.
One day a new person moved into the town. She changed the balance of things. When she met people she liked she put her ribbon on like every one else but because she was afraid of losing people she held on to the ribbon and tied a knot instead. She was afraid of losing the love she had collected.
Pretty soon people in town were falling down because she hadn’t let go of the ribbons. For the first time in their lives they were showing cracks. It was terrible. The ribbons trailed all over the street and got tangled around street lamps and cats played with them, dogs tried to bury them and birds tried to carry them off to make nests.
The town’s people got together and decided something had to be done. Their children would never make it to adulthood if they started having cracks like this. Some day they might break. So they decided to do something for the witch, for a witch she was. They normally liked witches. Witches did a lot of good work in town but this one needed help badly. She just had the wrong idea about things. So they went to the witch with a pair of big scissors.
“Dear Miss Witch,” they said, for they were always polite to each other in this town. “Would you let us cut the ribbons you are holding and tie you some beautiful bows?”
“No!” said the witch. “How will I know who loves me and who I love if I cut the ribbon and don’t hold on tight?”
“You will just have to trust like the rest of us that you are well loved.” said the town’s people.
“But that’s not right. What if someone doesn’t love me? What will I do?” wailed the witch.
“Not everyone is always loved by everyone. We all leave marks on people’s hearts. We just always try here to make a beautiful mark. We let go and let people come back and tie a bow on our heart when we are ready for them. And if they are never ready to do that we find other people in town who will love us. Tripping people and holding on to their heart ribbons is wrong and makes people like horses on reins in other towns. Even our horses here don’t have reins. You need to let go and trust and I as Mayor of the town will tie the first bow.” He picked up his ribbon and followed it back to the lonely witch and as she cried and shivered he tied a beautiful bow. One by one the people who had met her and cared for her tied bows on their ribbons. She was shivering so hard they thought she might crack herself. Not every one tied a bow, some people didn’t know her well enough and some people didn’t like her very much so they cut their ribbon. This made the witch cry with the loss but not everyone as the Mayor had said is loved by all. Some people just don’t like being held on to so tightly. You just have to grow up and accept this as fact.
The witch looked down when they were done and stopped crying. There were simple bows and frilly bows and silly bows but still there were enough bows to show that she was loved and liked. The town’s people had made their point and she was just going to have to trust that she was loved as much as her heart showed. And from then on there were no more cracked crystal people in town from tripping on ribbons and this made all the town and the witch happy.

Littlest Druid makes a friend

Once upon a time the Littlest Druid was down by the shore. The Druids had moved to their summer village by the water a few weeks before. Aisling had been sent to gather dulse again. It’s all she had done since they had moved and she was a little tired of it. What she was really tired of was not sleeping. Every time she wanted to sleep she felt like some one was watching her and it was diving her a little crazy and it was making her even clumsier that usual. So she was gathering the seaweed. She didn’t even like eating seaweed that much.

She just wished what ever was watching her would stop so she could sleep. Maybe if she took a nap? She rolled up in a skin she had found down by the shore to take a nap behind some rocks. She couldn’t believe her luck at finding it. It was a beautiful seal skin and some one had taken a lot of care to make it soft and cozy. She wondered who had been careless enough to leave it here in the rocks but since they had she was going to use it.

It wasn’t working. The sun was still too bright and the sand was itchy and the rocks were poking and she just wanted to sleep! So she gave up and folded the skin back up and went back to collecting the dulse.

She watched the gulls fly in and out and stalk the tiny crabs that lived by the shore and she picked up more dulse. She wandered up and down the rocky beach. She’d watched the druids take the coracles out to fish earlier in the morning and she saw them when they brought their catch home. She even saw the fish eagles out at sea hovering over the waves. The colony of seals up the beach had been making a lot of noise earlier but now they seemed to have quieted down to take their own naps in the sun.

Every once in awhile she sat by the waves  and watched the sets come and in and tried to see beyond the ninth wave where there was supposed to be magic happening all the time according to the boys but she never saw anything magical. She saw some dolphins leaping in and out of the waves playing. She saw some flying fish way out on the water. She watched the sunlight dance and sparkle on the waves and all the time she felt eyes watching her. She felt like they were focused on her back and for some reason not very happy with her. Well, she thought, that wasn’t exactly a new feeling. It seemed someone was always unhappy with her for some thing. Although, that seemed to not be happening as much lately. Things seemed to have been getting a little better until now. No one had really yelled at her in weeks. Just maybe raised an eyebrow. She just wanted to sleep, really, really, and truly sleep. She wondered if the faeries were doing this to her. Why they would want to do that she didn’t know she didn’t think she’d done anything to them. She got into enough trouble with out making them mad.

She huddled by the shore as the sun was starting to go down. It was almost time to head back to the village for dinner. She wrapped the skin around her. She was the only one left on the beach. She turned to go…

“Give it back!” she heard.

Aisling whipped around and didn’t see anyone. It hadn’t been very loud maybe she was just imagining it. She looked up and down the shingle. Rocks and a few gulls and sandpipers and that was it. Who had spoken?

“Give it back! It’s mine and I need it?”

This time she turned and saw someone her size on the rocks.

“Who are you?” Aisling asked. “And what do you want?”

The person leapt off the rocks and ran toward her pointing at the skin around her shoulders.

“I hid it in the rocks and you took it! Give it back!” the person said.

“How do I know it’s yours and you aren’t just saying that?” Aisling replied.

He stood looking down and said quietly, “Because it fits me.” The boy was just her size and strangely silvery looking skin. He had huge kind brown eyes that at the moment were looking both uncertain and angry.

Aisling was confused. “Are you the one who has been watching me and what do you mean, it fits?”

“It’s my skin. This was my first time alone and I thought I had hidden it well and you took it.” The boy started to cry.

Aisling took off the skin in a hurry and handed it to the boy. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it was yours. It’s just warm and soft and very beautiful. What do you mean it’s your first time alone?”

The boy looked a bit guilty. “I’m not supposed to go ashore without my parents or the rest but I wanted to see what the land was like?”

“Do you mean you live in the ocean.!!!” Aisling goggled at the boy.

“Yes and it’s supposed to be a secret. You won’t tell will you?”

Aisling thought a bit. She thought it might cause a lot of trouble if she did tell and no one believed her so she said, “Help me pack up my basket and I won’t tell but you have to stop watching me!”

The boy looked at her. “Alright… You’re sure you won’t tell?”

“I promise on the hope of a silver bough.” Aisling swore. “if you promise to stop staring at me.

“Okay, what ever a silver bough is and I promise to stop staring at you unless you want it. I swear by the ninth wave.”

The two smiled at each other and packed up the baskets of dulse quickly.”

Aisling had been thinking. “Are you a ?”

“Yes,” the boy answered before she could finish.

“But I didn’t finish!!!”

“You were going to ask if I was a selkie, weren’t you? Yes, I am.”

“Okay, will you come and visit me again sometime? I get lonely gathering this stuff.” “If you let me have some,” the boy said with a grin. He slipped the beautiful silver skin over his shoulders and changed into a small equally beautiful seal and lollopped into the waves. A flash of a flipper and he was gone.

For the first time in weeks no one was watching her and Aisling relaxed and sighed. She picked up the baskets and headed towards the village and wondered when she’d see her new friend again.

We are still here…

I stand on a hill as the sun rises in the distance. I watch the metal clad men sweat and bend to move the heavy stone they have cut. They think to raise a wall to keep us out. It will not work.

For years we have over run their orderly camps with their white tents and their flapping banners. For years our people have beaten them back with weapons that would seem no match for theirs but we win. We win because they have no heart. They come from some place warm and they shiver when they go against us, their naked limbs turning blue and bumpy in the cold.

They go against us in great blocks while we fire our arrows and throw our spears from high rocks and from behind trees. They flee when we set fire to the heather to chase them down a hill. They cringe when our women join us in a screaming charge. We fight naked and painted in all the traditional designs in the rich woad and we terrify them with our disorder and we win.

So now, their leader in his mighty helm of bronze and horsehair plumes watches as they labour to build their stone wall across the whole of the countryside to keep the mighty Picts out. We, who are a tiny people. We, who live in small villages, have frightened and worn out the mighty Roman army. We have won. For now…

Until the next people who think to invade us try but our goddesses watch over us as well as our weather. We are here and we will always endure…

Aurelia makes a friend and learns a lesson

Aurelia, the jellyfish, wobbled. She didn’t like wobbling. She wanted to swim like a fish. She wanted to control where she went. But Aurelia was a jellyfish. She was at the mercy of tides and currents. She floated along with a host of other jellyfish. She actually liked being a jellyfish most of the time. She was a moon jellyfish and was a beautiful glowing white. She was proud of her even white cilia that moved thru the water but she dreamed of swimming. She just wasn’t built for swimming.

She watched the sharks hunt around her. She was really glad they didn’t like to eat jellyfish. She thought they didn’t like being stung when there were other fish that didn’t sting.

She watched the big groupers swim by slowly and ponderously. They looked very important. They moved as if the weight of the sea was on their shoulders.

She watched the anemones wave their tentacles in the water to catch whoever was unlucky enough to swim too close and laughed at the clown fish that teased the poor anemones because they couldn’t sting them.

She loved watching the bright orange garibaldis. No matter how deep she looked she could always spot them. They looked so cheerful swimming in and out of the kelp forest. Ohh! How she wanted to swim like them until she saw someone eat one. Hmmm. That didn’t look so nice.

She watched the male seahorse and his cargo of little ones scud across the sea floor. He looked like such a proud dad.

She saw that even the starfish could slowly creep across the sea floor. She did think the starfish was awfully mean to pull apart those poor clams that were just sitting there resting. And it was kind of gross.

She tried moving her cilia like the sea horse moved but it just gave her a cramp and tied some of her cilia in knots. It took her a long time to get them all moving in the same direction again. She wasn’t going to do that again.

She tried pulsing her canopy but it really wasn’t swimming she’d need fins for that. She had been floating along with the rest of the bloom when she passed over a stone with a picture on it. It was the face of a woman with snakes for hair. Here deep in the water the snakes looked like they were moving almost like Aurelia moved.

The picture started to move and the woman sat up and looked at Aurelia. The snakes on her head were moving! Aurelia had never seen stone snakes and she moved closer to look at the woman.

“Who are you,” said Aurelia. Gazing at the woman with awe. There was something very special about this statue.

The woman laughed and bubbles went everywhere. “I’m Medusa, little one.” The statue said.

“Why is that funny” Aurelia was a little hurt. She didn’t like being laughed at.

“Do you know what the humans call jellies?” The woman asked

“No, I don’t know any humans.” Replied Aurelia.

“Medusas,” said the statue. “You are named after me.”

“I am?” said Aurelia.

“You are, the humans think you’re tentacles are like my snakes.”

“I guess they could be but aren’t snakes usually on land?”

“Yes, but they needed a name for you and all your relatives so they used mine. I don’t mind. I think all of you are beautiful, especially you moon jellies.”

“You do? I’m just like every other moon jelly except that I want to swim. None of the others do and they think I’m silly.” Aurelia said sadly.

“But you move so beautifully. It’s like dancing.” Medusa said.

“I want to move fast and go where I want and not just follow the currents along.”

“Well, we are all built to move the way we move so I don’t think having fins will help unless you also have a backbone but what if I can show you a way to move faster if just for a little while?”

“Okay, you can do that?” asked Aurelia.

“I can show you. Follow the current to the shore not far from here on the other side of the kelp beds. You need to follow the tide in and ride the waves but you have to be careful and not let your self get beached. If you get beached you will die. You have to ride the tide back out. You can do that as long as you want. Humans have even made a sport of it but I suggest you do it at night where they won’t decide to hurt you. You will be able to see by the glow of the night waves. Go, little one and try it tonight.”

Aurelia let herself float to the shore. This was exciting! She caught the edge of the tide and let her self float on the evening tides. Suddenly she was picked up by a huge wave and pushed round and round at a speed that made her very dizzy. She was passed from wave to wave and was headed straight for the beach. She let herself go and then she was on the beach. She let go and was drawn back into the wave and back out to sea. She decided to try it again. She rode the waves again and again until she was very tired and floated back out past the kelp bed. She rode the current until she found Medusa again.

“Thank you,” Aurelia told Medusa for that gift.

Medusa looked at her and the snakes danced in the current over her head.

“I just gave you a way to be happy the way you are. That’s all anyone can do to help a friend.” Medusa closed her eyes and the snakes froze again into stone. Aurelia floated awhile. Glad to have a new friend and hoping Medusa would wake again one day but for now Aurelia was content to just be a jelly.

The Littlest Druid celebrates La Fheill Bhrighde

Once upon a time, Aisling was sitting on the side of the hill above the flocks of sheep. She was thoroughly wrapped in a sheepskin coat and leggings and she wondered if the sheep cared that she was wearing one of their old friends. It made her feel funny until she remembered how cold she would be if she wasn’t wearing them. She was feeling marooned.

She’d been sent out here to watch for the ewes to start bearing their lambs. She wanted to be back at the village while they got ready for Imbolq but once again she had made herself unwelcome. Everyone was all excited for the feast and ritual. Most of her friends were more excited about the feast than the ritual. It had been a long time since the Winter Solstice festival and the winter had been cold and hard. It was time to celebrate spring’s return.

She had been trying to help out with all the preparations but her teacher and the Chief Druid had finally sent her out here to be with the sheep.

They had told her it was a very important job but sitting here alone in the cold it didn’t seem so important. It seemed like punishment. She lowered her head to her knees and felt a rush of self pity.

She always meant well but things just didn’t seem to ever work out well for her. She had been helping with the beeswax candle making but got distracted making wax build up on her finger. She couldn’t help how nice and warm the wax had felt on her hands and it smelled so good!

Somehow the druidess in charge of the candlemaking hadn’t seen it that way. She’d gone over to hold the wool that a group of women were spinning and some how it ended up in one big knot instead of a ball that they could use to knit.

So now she was here, by herself, while the regular shepherds went in for dinner and a nap. They had told her not to worry. None of the ewes were ready to give birth yet so all she had to do was sit.

So she sat in the dark surrounded by sleepy, stupid sheep even the sheep dogs had gone with the shepherds for their dinner. She gave a heavy sigh.

The Chief Druid had said this was an important job because they couldn’t start the celebration until the ewes gave birth and their milk came in. This usually happened around a full moon and a half after solstice so it was a few days yet. He had said someone had to be here because sheep sometimes got into trouble and the mother died giving birth so someone had to be with her and some one had to make sure the lambs would be alright. Aisling just felt punished and not important at all. The only thing she could see was that if there was extra milk there would be really good cheese and she loved cheese.

She was trying to stay awake by counting falling stars and watching the Aurora shift and move across the sky. One of the boys had said it was Brighid’s green skirt moving across the sky and she wondered if she tried hard enough she could see the rest of Brighid.

She was starting to get really drowsy when a ram hit her from behind and rolled her forward into the grass. “Hey!” The ram stood looking at her and then turned to run across the field. He stopped to see if she was following so she did.

He turned around and started running again toward the far eastern part of the field. She struggled to catch up. He was moving really fast. She had no idea a sheep could go that fast. She fell twice and each time he stopped and waited for her to get up.

What was happening here? The shepherds had promised nothing would be exciting in the least but she had a feeling they were wrong.  At the edge of the field was a dip and in that dip was a very pregnant ewe. She was bleating softly at the ram and she looked like she was trying to give birth. She was on her side and Aisling knew that wasn’t good. Sheep give birth lying down but she didn’t look right.

The ram butted Aisling again. Aisling knew she was in real trouble. The sheep’s side was heaving as she strained. Something was very wrong and Aisling was very scared. They had promised nothing would happen and as usual they were wrong! She had never even watched let alone help a sheep give birth and there was no one else around.

Aisling started praying to Brighid because she couldn’t think of anything else to do while she patted the sheep and tried to remember to breathe.

What was she going to do? If the sheep or the lambs died she’d be in real trouble then and it would mean a bad celebration and year.

She was too far away to call for help. She just kept stroking the sheep’s head and felt a tear down her cheek. She’d really done it this time. They had promised it wasn’t time yet!

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. There was a woman in green kneeling next to the sheep. The woman smiled at her and began to touch the sheep gently to find out what was wrong.

She motioned to Aisling to hold the sheep’s upper body and rolled up her sleeves and reached into the sheep’s birth canal to straighten the lamb that came sliding out. The sheep gave a jerk and turned to lick her lamb while the lamb tried to stand. The woman gently pushed the lamb toward the mother’s teat and wiped her hands on the grass.

She watched the lamb and ewe for a moment and smiled. She stood up and gave Aisling a hug.

“You did well and now you better go tell the shepherds and the Chief Druid what has happened. It’s time for the feast.”

Aisling looked at the woman. She was dressed all in green with embroidery of red, black and white around her dress. The woman had red hair worn in braids like a crown and had warm blue eyes. Aisling wanted to ask her name but she had a feeling she knew who she was. She had asked her to come after all.

“Yes, I am who you think I am. You asked with all your heart and I came to help. Prayers are always answered when you ask. You just may not like the answer.”

Aisling looked at her with doubt. She looked at the Goddess and she looked at the ewe and her lamb. The ram had sat down with his legs folded under them and just looked at the two of them. She decided they were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Brighid gave Aisling’s hair one final stroke. “You’d better go and tell them the news.” She said again and gave Aisling a slight push. “But don’t tell them I was here. Let it be our secret. They don’t need to know. Well, maybe the Chief Druid.”

She laughed and walked away over her shoulder she said, “Keep trying Aisling, just keep trying.”

Aisling took off running back across the field. The boys were right. The Aurora did look like Brighid’s skirt she thought as she ran.

The flame we keep

I was born as I flew from the flint down through the air into the straw in a bowl many hundreds of years ago. The bowl was carried by a woman to a lamp and I have been tended by women ever since, a constant parade of ever changing and ever the same women, always 19 at a time.

Women of all sizes and shapes, at first they were mostly women with red hair like my flame or hair dark as the soot I leave behind or hair as grey as ash. I burned year after year tended by these 19 women but every 20 days and I was left alone. Then I was tended by the Goddess who seemed as ever changing as the women. Some times she was young as a spring lamb and as fresh as dew chanting poetry and singing as she kept watch. Sometimes she was older and had muscles and would come in blackened and sooty and smelling of iron and sweat. Sometimes she was much older and came in smelling of flowers and leaves and had a peace in her face as she tended me that soothed my fiery spirit.

It went for years like this first tended by women robed in white or green who sang to their Goddess and of the people they prayed for and much later the women changed to a somber black robe and were swathed in cloth and only their faces and their hands were visible to me. They sang different songs. Songs that didn’t always seem to be about their Goddess but the Goddess still came. She used to wink at me and tell me stories. She said they didn’t always know who she was anymore but she loved that they still faithfully tended her.

Then the men came, men in steel like the Goddess smelled of, men reeking of hate and with ugly looks on their faces and they tried to douse me with water and leave me as a steaming and cold thing. They didn’t know that the women had taken a gift from me and hidden me in a lantern and took me in a boat over the water. I burned and burned in that new land for hundreds of years and then, not so long ago more women brought me home and I am tended again in this place near a well, ever tended by women but now every once in awhile a candle dips into me and I’m taken to a new lamp or a new candle or even sometimes a radiant and lovely bonfire and I am tended by new people. People of all colours and races, people whose faces shine back at me all over the world and not just women but men too. People whose face shines with love for their Goddess or saint, people who pray for other people to be well and strong or whole in what ever way that needs to be even if well and whole means a quiet ending.

And every twenty days my Goddess, Brighid returns to me. Telling me stories and smelling of herbs or of hard work before she goes out again into the world and the people she loves and I shine in many places, on many hearths and I shine for my eternal Goddess.

This story is also available in my book The Heart Town Witch and Other Stories.