When There Were Witches continues from yesterday:
The twins stayed up half the night changing the colour of everything in the house. They put different coloured floorboards in every room, with ceilings to match. They made the roof tiles blue to match the sky, and the outside walls green to match the grass. They changed the colours of their clothes and their bed sheets and both umbrellas. They tried to change their hair colours but that didn’t work. Their hair was essential to who they were. Bertha was red, Brynja was yellow. Nothing could change that.
A little after 4am they collapsed on Brynja’s bed, exhausted and happy.
“I see why you like doing it.” Bertha smiled, “It feels really nice.”
“Really nice,” agreed Brynja, “but you’re right, it is a bit frivolous.” They both laughed. “Tomorrow, we should do spells from the Garden chapter!”
By the anniversary of their mother’s departure, the twins were not only proficient at many of the spells in the book, they had learned to make up their own. They wrote a spell to do the dishes, another to sweep the floor. They used magic to plant seeds and water them. They used magic to pick the fruit. They even used magic to cook the dinner. Whatever needed to be done when they didn’t feel like doing it, was done with magic. That left them with a lot of time on their hands.
“I’m bored,” said Brynja.
“Do some painting. It’s fun!” Bertha was painting a portrait of one of their frequent visitors, a pig called Alfred. “Alfred. Alfred, tt-tt-tt – look at me please darling, I’m trying to do your eyes.”
Brynja scrunched up her nose. “Naa. I don’t see the point. I could do it better with magic.”
“Well it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact I think it’s nicer if …”
“Circumlinisti stibio verus Alfred!”
Bertha gasped. “Alfred! … Where did he go?”
“Here he is!” Brynja, grinning, held up a beautifully framed painting of Alfred which was faultlessly realistic.
Bertha was stunned. “That’s amaz-ing … did he just blink?” Her sister laughed. “Is that Alfred? Did you turn him into a painting?!” Bertha did not think it was funny. “Change him back! You’re frightening him!”
“Change him back! Now!”
Brynja muttered a few more words in Latin and Alfred was back on the armchair momentarily before dropping to the floor and leaving the house.
“How could you do that?” Bertha was really angry.
“He’ll be back tomorrow, you can finish your painting then.”
“I don’t care about the painting! How could you do that to Alfred? He must have been petrified! How would you like it if …?”
“Oh will you, chill, out!”
“I didn’t hurt him. He probably doesn’t even have any memory of it. He’s fine!” Brynja left the room and slammed the door behind her.
The following morning at breakfast the atmosphere was still frosty. Both witches ate their toast in silence.
“Refresh!” Bertha opened the window.
“Clausa fenestrae.” Brynja closed it.
Bertha scowled. “You’re such a … witch!”
“Ha! Good one!”
Bertha took another bite of toast and tried to take the high road. But the low road beckoned. “What’s with the Latin all of a sudden? You’re such a show off!”
Brynja smiled coldly. “Just wanted a new challenge I guess, since I’ve mastered the magic.” There was a wicked glint in her eye as she slowly pushed the toast rack across the table. “You can have this, I don’t want any more,” and she left the room.
They didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the day. The next morning Brynja slept in so Bertha had breakfast on her own. Brynja had hers a couple of hours later which meant they weren’t ready for lunch at the same time, or dinner. The distance between them expanded. Eventually, almost a week after the painting incident, Alfred came back to see Bertha.
She could tell right away that he was troubled and, with a swift and gentle magic word, “Speak,” she enabled him to tell her exactly what was on his mind. He warned her that Brynja was upsetting the balance of nature. For her own amusement, she had taken possession of the forest and filled it with plants and animals who didn’t belong there, forcing out those who had always called it home. He feared for the future and told her what she already knew – that Brynja must be stopped.
Bertha finally understood why her mother had kept the spell book from them. Magic had made Brynja arrogant and selfish. She had separated herself from nature and the other beings with whom she shared the world. Magic had made her think she was better than everyone else. But what was more worrying was that Bertha had not been sent the pain when Brynja broke the law. The one law, do naught to others which, if done to thee, would cause thee pain, did not apply to witches.
Bertha rushed upstairs to find the spell book and turned straight to the last chapter: Discipline Spells. There was the spell Ermendrud had taught them, To Punish A Law Breaker, and one other – A Last Resort. The spell’s introduction explained that a witch without self-control was the most dangerous threat a world could face and must be stopped at all costs. Bertha was sickened by detailed descriptions of horrors which had happened on other worlds where errant witches had gone unchecked. Only she could protect her world from such an outcome.
With heavy heart she collected the ingredients needed for the spell: a lock of Brynja’s hair from Mother’s locket, and a black rose. Then she went to find her sister.
Brynja was in the meadow, using magic to make a herd of deer run races for her amusement.
“Please don’t do that,” Bertha tried one more time to appeal to her sister’s better nature.
Brynja turned and scowled. “I want to do it, so I will!”
Bertha was sad. “Why are you doing this? You never used to be like this. Magic’s made you mean.”
“What do you know about magic? You’ve only just dipped your toe in the water. If you embraced it like I have you’d know how small your life is.”
“My life is full. It’s balanced. Yours is dangerous. You are dangerous, and if you don’t stop now, I’ll be forced to stop you.”
“Will you?” Brynja asked with a smirk.
“Yes,” said Bertha sadly, “if you won’t stop now I’ll stop you permanently.”
Brynja threw back her head and laughed. “I’m bored of listening to you now,” and, with a flourish, “Silence!”
In the second before Brynja’s spell hit her, Bertha rubbed a handful of her own hair against the black rose behind her back and whispered the magic word, “Sacrifice!” A moment later she was nothing but a scattering of poppy seeds in the grass.
“Nooo!” Brynja’s heart-rending cry filled the sky. “Bertha! Come back! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do it!” She dropped to her knees and sobbed. “Please Bertha, please come back. I’ll be good – I promise! Pleease Bertha, please come back!” With her prayer left unanswered, she tried desperately to resurrect Bertha with magic. “Veni domum! Come back! Revive! Resurrect! Revivesco!”
Bertha, unable to bring herself to take her sister’s life, had sacrificed herself in a way that she hoped would fill Brynja with such regret that she would, ever after, restrain her own excessive and frivolous use of magic. What she didn’t anticipate was just how damaging that regret would be.
Thinking that her own selfish and unnecessary abuse of magic had killed her sister, Brynja tore into her house in a violent rage against all magic. Unable to find the spell book where she’d left it, she commanded it to appear before her.
“Ego legere magicae ex hoc mundo!” In that moment the spell book was banished and with it all of Brynja’s magic.
She still feels the pain every time someone breaks the law, but she can’t cast the spell to punish them. So the world has been left to the mercy of people who no longer fear the wrath of a benevolent witch and often don’t take care to do as they would be done by. I’m sure you know what kind of a world that is.
A sad ending 😦 I’m sorry,
but if you want a happy ending check out the other stories on the fairy tales page 😀
vegan, vegan fairy tale, vegan story, vegan children’s story, juvenile fiction,