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The Last Act of Fate

By Amelia Brown

This is a tale of three witches who lived long ago.  One was young and fair, one of middle years, the third so old her teeth no longer sat inside her mouth.  They were weavers by profession, but their fame lay in the greatness of their patience and the apathy of their care for humankind.
            But perhaps they were not so apathetic as one might think.  Perhaps they were only waiting, waiting to perform a last act.  One known only by means of a story.
            It began with a girl.  Eldra.  A fair village lass of humble beginnings who caught the eye of a prince.  So in love with Eldra was the prince, that he carried her off on his horse one afternoon, to the delight of gossiping tongues in the village and the horror and sorrow of her mother.
            Though Eldra’s mother had creases round her eyes and though each step she took caused great pain, she followed the prince in hopes of gaining her daughter’s freedom.  But her steps were as slow as the prince’s horse’s were fast, and the mother fell quickly behind.
            Kneeling in the dust, she prayed that her daughter be spared her fate.
            As the mother rose from her knees, three women suddenly appeared before her, young, old, and middling of years.  One spun thread at a wheel, one weaved a large tapestry at a loom, and the last held a pair of shears and, on occasion, cut.  Around their feet lay large candles lit as though they had only moments ago been elsewhere, for in the sunlight of midday the flames held no necessity.  As they performed their domestic tasks, their aura was that of strength and something more than magic.  And so the mother told them what she had set out to do.
            ‘Yes, yes, I see,’ said one of them, though she did not look at Eldra’s mother.  Rather, she looked toward the tapestry she wove and studied it intently. 
            ‘There is little that can be done, I think,’ said another, spinning the thread as a matter of routine.
            ‘Not little,’ said the third, the sun’s light glinting off her shears, as her eyes roved over the mother’s creased face.  ‘But not pleasant.’
            ‘Can you do nothing?’ asked the mother, her face suddenly weary.
            ‘We can,’ said the first, her voice slowing as her eyes passed off the tapestry onto the desperate face.
            ‘But it could cost,’ said the second, her hands stilling at her wheel, her voice considering.
            ‘A great price,’ said the third, her shears closing round air, her gaze piercing.
            ‘I’ll give anything,’ the mother pleaded.
            ‘Anything?’ said the first, her eyes suddenly wide.
            ‘She is sincere,’ said the second, her mouth round in awe.
            ‘Never have we seen the like,’ said the third, her eyes narrow.  And then she gave a sharp nod.
            ‘And yet, your offer is fruitless, for you can do nothing,’ they spoke in unison. 
But as they spoke, their feet moved out from under them, each hitting a candle just so, and as the candles fell, their flames licked at the wood of the spindle, the cloth in the loom.  And in that instant, the young one and woman of middle years disappeared.
            Only the old woman sat, the shears in her hands, as she watched the work burn.
            Reaching into the pile of flames, she pulled forth a single charred thread, and bent it.
            In moments, the mother saw her daughter riding toward them on horseback.
            The mother looked at the old woman, who had risen from her seat.
            ‘How can I thank you?’ the mother said.
            ‘There is no need,’ said the old woman.  ‘Too long have heroes tried to make us act for their welfare.  We have long waited to receive a selfless request and knew what we would do should such a time arrive.’
            With that, she too was gone.  And with her, the last act of fate.
           

The Boy and the Garden

By Amelia Brown

Once upon a time there was a garden.It was filled with buds and near-blooms and branches laden with leaves about to burst.A thick ancient wall encircled the garden, one that had no door.And so it had remained, wild and empty, for century upon century.
So it was that one day a little boy, born under the boughs of a hemlock tree in the middle of winter where he was all that survived the night, found the stone wall before him.Forced to wander for bread, he had travelled far and wide.And when he came upon the ancient barrier, he circled round only to find he had come completely around without sight of door, nor crease, nor crack—nothing to tell him what it was that lay inside. Such was his intent study of the wall that the sound of a cough caused him to jump and swing about in a sudden, startled motion.His gaze fell upon a woman bent under the weight of years, her withered, spotted arm upon a staff, her eyes a sharp, twinkling blue. ‘You desire to know what it is that lies beh…

A Trick of the Badger

By Amelia Brown

Once upon a time when the wind was cold, the trees damp with fog, and the air thick with magic, a portly badger crawled into view and parked itself in front of an Enchanted Forest.
'Hail, Forest,' the creature said, its breathing heavy as though it had come a long way. The hail was met with silence.  And then a swift breeze moved through branches—almost the sound of a sniff. The badger raised a skeptical brow, but said all the same, 'You can go on pretending, if you'd like.  But I have tidings that you may want to hear.' Still silence met the creatures gaze, who gave a small smile, and propped its furry head upon its paw. A wind moved this time, a sound that resembled a sigh. And then the Enchanted Forest spoke. 'Alright, let's have it,' the Enchanted Forest said. 'Ha ha!' exclaimed the creature with a smack of his paws.  'I knew it!' 'Yes, very good.  Well done, you.  Etc, etc,' the Enchanted Forest said in a tone that t…

The Blink

By Amelia Brown

A feeling was lost long ago—one of rhythm, of moving changes, of subtle swift vibrations that tell of changing seasons, of coming ages—where the future sang on breezes.
It slipped away when a blink lost it—the eye that beat too fast. It roved elsewhere, and in such roving, went away from patterns and gentleness and truth. But it was not a feeling that could slip between thoughts—it was felt in the pulse that lies beneath skin, in the warmth of light on bare faces, in a gentle breath that lingers after the wind has gone.  And it could have lasted forever. But for the blink. For the blink changed direction, let go, reassessed—and found itself wanting. As it wanted, the world changed, fell into loss—as do all things that go unobserved.              And the world was left wanting, too. Sometimes, though, something feels found.A beat that fades in and out of the world at the sight of the shapes of wonder.  A sigh no more than an absent caress that holds the weight of ages. And when a…

Tomorrows

By Amelia Brown

Once upon a time there was a princess who bathed in glistening moonlit pools, drank the light of the stars like nectar, and danced through orchard groves in twilight as though there were no tomorrows.
But she was second in line to a royal throne.Dressed in the finest swaths of shimmering fabric, eating of the most delicious and sumptuous foods, and issuing decrees at the bequest of a sovereign, the princess knew there were tomorrows. Such tomorrows that she had once held prominent in her desires. Such tomorrows in which she had begun to take little interest. For she had come to despise fine linens, choice foods, and blunt power. At night she would escape and bath and dance and drink—letting life flow in and around her as it never could within the walls of the palace.And then she would return, weighted by the sorrow of what her tomorrow held. It should not come as a surprise that one night she ran deep into the forest, far deeper than she had ever gone before. Stumbling upon …