Hello friends and welcome back to my newest installment of The Witch. Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. School last semester was particularly insane and I was in a little bit of a writing slump for the past month. Thankfully, I was able to persevere and finished my next part of my story. I’m super excited to show you guys the newest twists and turns in my small story about witches and magic.
If this is your first encounter with the world of The Witch, I recommend checking out the beginning of the story in Part 1. If you have started reading, but you missed the last chunk, go ahead and check out Part 4.
Without further ado, sit back, relax, and dive into the newest part of Manon and Renoir’s winding and magical story.
I stood in the middle of Renoir’s living room, brooding as I leaned on her newly polished staircase. Today, she had left me trousers and a loose blouse, though I don’t quite know when or how the witch actually got into my room. The roar of my rage from last night died down to a simmer, but still, just thinking about the witch made my heart beat faster and my blood boil. I looked at the clock on the farthest wall.
She’s half an hour late.
I heard a clamoring upstairs, a crash and a shatter. A part of me wanted to see what was going on, make sure someone wasn’t hurt or dead. Another part of me understood exactly why the house was so frustratingly messy before I arrived.
Madame Renoir came storming down the stairs, practically tripping over herself in the rush to get down. When she hit the landing on the first floor, she made eye contact with me, acknowledging that I had witnessed the scene she made coming down. Slowly, while still maintaining a level of eye contact, she brushed her skirt down and transformed into the polished Renoir I knew and hated. I almost preferred the messy Renoir, the one that rushed down the stairs half an hour late to her own living room for a magic lesson I didn’t even want to attend. Unlike the polished Renoir, this one seemed much more real and raw, natural.
That wildness vanished as quickly as it came, hidden behind a veneer of power and intimidation.
“Shall we get started?” Renoir said, marching towards the back of her home and expecting me to follow. No hello. No apology. Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?
“Hello!” I yelled after her as she brushed across me and expected me to follow. “You’re a half hour late.”
“A witch is never late.”
“The clamoring upstairs said otherwise,” I grumbled, standing my ground.
Renoir stopped and turned back to me, a grimace plain on her face. “Look, if you want to stand there and pout for the rest of the day before I inevitably eat you, feel free, but if you want to keep your life and honor our deal, you will follow me. Am I understood?”
I rolled my eyes. “I understood you just fine,” I spat, stalking up to the witch and staring her down with all the annoyance I could muster. “But if I am going to respect you as a mentor and not as some man-hungry demon, you must learn to be humble.”
“Humility is for the weak and the scorned. And you have no right to lecture me on what I should and should not be,” She paused, a small smile playing on her face. “That being said, I admire your bravado. It’s not every day someone lectures a man-hungry demon.”
I rolled my eyes again, ignoring the dulcet allure of that stupid smile. “Whatever. Can we just start on my lesson already?”
The witch turned back around and led me to a door I had not seen the previous day, even though I could have sworn I wiped every inch of this house clean. It was a large wooden door, built of something similar to but not quite like mahogany, with silver edges that reflected patterns and words in languages I did not understand glimmering under the glare of the sun. The door itself had a small, hexagonal doorknob, also made of the dark wood, polished smooth and softened with wear. I wanted to touch the door, run my hand over the wood and feel that natural roughness under my fingertips. I could almost feel a pulse to it, like magic or something more than that.
Madame Renoir wrapped her long, narrow fingers around the doorknob and paused, turning a tiny smirk back at me. “If this impresses you that much, just wait until you see what’s behind it.” She opened the door with a dramatic woosh.
For a moment, the bright glare of the sun blinded me, forcing me to pull up my arms and shield my eyes from the light, but once I grew accustomed to the strange, outdoor light, I saw a wonder.
The garden beyond the door was something out of a fairytale, a far cry from the bushes and thorns littering Renoir’s front yard. Toadstools dotted paths that led to lovely clusters of lavender, white carnations, sunflowers, and oh, so many roses. In between the clusters of flowers were large patches of varying shades of green, herbs by the look of it.
That explains why her meals are so flavorful.
Surrounding it all was the same bone fence was before, but something about it was much less ominous. It wasn’t inviting by any means, but it looked warm when surrounded by all that dazzling life.
“You seem impressed,” murmured the witch.
“Impressed doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Even without looking at her, I could feel Renoir’s gaze on me for a long moment, as if I was some puzzle to solve or some lock to crack. In all reality, she was probably thinking of the best ways to cook my flesh, the fragrant herbs of her garden igniting bouts of new inspiration.
Renoir turned away and took a few steps into the garden. “If you couldn’t tell by looking, this is my secret garden. Generally, I tend to keep magic out of my fields, but considering the nature of your talents, I thought this would be a great place to start your lessons.”
The mirage of the garden suddenly crashed around me. I had almost forgotten the reason I had come here in the first place. I bit back the urge to roll my eyes, to argue that I had no magic to begin with. However, the witch looked earnest. She wouldn’t have brought me out here if she didn’t believe I could learn.
Unless this is some cruel impossible task that I cannot possibly pass.
“What exactly do you wish for me to do out here?”
Renoir smiled and pointed a sharpened fingernail toward the ground. “For your first lesson, I want you to grow something.”
I stared down at the miserable little peasant girl as she pressed her hands deeper into the ground. We had been sitting out here for more than two hours and the small patch of dirt I cleared for her was still just as empty as it was before.
“I don’t think you’re trying hard enough,” I mentioned, staring down at the sad work.
Manon’s hands stilled their shaking and she glared up at me, her eyes daggers. “Say that again and I will grind your face into this dirt myself.”
I was almost taken aback by the comment. I had seen glimpses of the girl’s fire before, but never like this. Manon had grown into more and more of a mystery with every passing hour, transforming from the honest, pure peasant girl that stepped into my home into something more than that. She had begun to unfold before me like a delicate flower in the spring, but as more petals unfurled, the more I noticed that there were even more petals at her center that were still tightly closed. A part of me wanted to peel back those layers one by one, analyzing the mystery crouching in my garden. Another part of me wanted to fall back, to run back into the facade of wickedness I have so carefully built myself over these past few years.
I chose to hide.
“Have you forgotten who is the flesh-hungry witch and who is the damsel in distress in this situation?” I sneered, glaring back down at Manon.
“I am not a damsel in distress.”
“Really? Because you look like a damsel, albeit a dirty one, and when you came to me it sure looked like you were in distress.”
Manon let out a huff of air and sat back on her haunches. “I just don’t understand how you expect me to grow something out of thin air.”
“Well, I don’t understand how you haven’t figured it out yet. Considering that trick you pulled with my brush and mop, this should be childsplay to you. Just like, grow the plant.”
Manon just stared at me for a moment, her molten eyes making me feel stupid and smart at the same time. It was a very weird feeling really. I didn’t like it.
“You are a terrible teacher,” Manon deadpanned.
“Hey! It is not my fault I’ve never done this before!” I shouted back, all of my pent up frustration bursting out with a shrill shout.
“You’ve never done this before?” She shouted back, ripping her hands from the ground with a spray of dirt.
“Well, yeah. I live by myself. Not many pupils just lying around. Plus your magic isn’t exactly my area of expertise.”
“Isn’t all magic the same?”
“Ha! I wish.”
I knelt down in front of Manon, the dead and messy patch of dirt between us. “Magic varies from person to person. Some people specialize in the man-made. They can fix furniture or manipulate the mundane. Others work with the natural elements of earth. They connect to the thrum of life and learn to manipulate it. People like that can breathe life into the inanimate or the dead. Others, like myself, channel the viler things of this Earth, death and decay. All magicians can dip into the other styles of magic, but depending on where they lie on the spectrum, it becomes increasingly difficult. I, for example, can slaughter an entire villain with the flick of a wrist, but if I break my door, it stays broken.”
“That literally makes no sense.”
“But it does. Magic is not strict categories, but the manipulation of matter and energy. Not everyone can do it, but those who can are flexible above all else. Your magic deals in life and stories. I saw you in my house. You whispered something to that sponge, but that’s not all that happened. What I saw was an active exchange, the core of all magic.”
I thought of what I should say next, to nail in my point. Manon looked like she was beginning to understand my scattered logic, but I had to think of a way for her to apply it. I thought back to my own magic, a gift that even then felt raw and slippery in my hands. I ripped souls from bodies and reaped death and destruction, but even in that there was some sort of exchange. I had an idea, but it was risky. The girl may fear me enough to run away, magic be damned, or she may lose all respect for me at all.
Still, I could see the mistrust in the girl’s eyes, the stiff cut of her shoulders and the firmness in her jaw. She did not trust me, and why would she? All I had done was threaten to eat her and make her do housework in my stead. Manon’s eyes brimmed with power, if only she could see it, but to see it she needed to relax. In the end, I knew what I had to do before the words left my mouth.
“This lesson is over, for now. Tonight, you will come with me into the woods. I wish to show you the truth of what I am capable of.”
Follow the next part of Manon and Renoir’s adventure in Part 6!