My plans for this week were to get something going in the garden plot I’ve got. I decided reading through the journal I’d pick a plant that’s hardy, relatively difficult to kill, and effective against a range of conditions. I settled on Surgeon Sap. It’s a very useful ingredient that’s helpful for neutralising poison, as well as healing wounds and burns.
I went to the Grove to look for it, it can be quite tricky to find, but will be very useful for me.
I wandered for the better part of a day, but my heard wasn’t quite in the search. I was more distracted by the scenery, the beautiful forest and magical atmosphere, and talking with Snowdrop.
Snowdrop fascinates me, and she’s a delight to watch. She is never bored by anything, no matter how mundane. She spend nearly an hour just racing around the trees, through the roots, bouncing over the rocks and scurrying up into the canopy. More than once she just hurled herself at my from a height with little more warning than “watch out!” leaving me to panic and grab her.
She doesn’t have much of an awareness about where or what she was before she heard me. From her descriptions the Calling was like a slow waking up, swimming through thick water, before finding herself there and knowing me.
She’s got a lot of knowledge but doesn’t know what she knows, so we’ll have to find out together.
While we were slowly walking through the woods I almost accidentally stumbled on a Nurse Willow, the tree the Sap comes from. I was gently taking a cutting to replant when Snowdrop went very still and gently nudged my hand. I froze and slowly looked up to see… well…. a unicorn. It was standing less than a dozen metres from me.
I think it had stepped out from behind some trees and we were both as surprised as each other. It looked at me, right into my eyes, and we held the pose for what felt like hours.
Then there was a crack of a branch and the moment broke, the unicorn bolted and disappeared in a flash of movement and light. Snowdrop and I were both left crouching there, slowly standing up in amazement.
I can still remember exactly what it looked like; pure white, glowing and almost painfully so, elegant and powerful.
I hope I meet it again some day.
While I was tending my new Nurse Willow sapling, taking care to let it settle in while sheltered indoors, someone came to ask my help.
It was a young man hammering on the door, he sounded frantic and nearly made me knock over some bottle in fright. He started talking as soon as I opened the door and said his partner was unwell, that she was feverish and covered in a spreading rash, but more worryingly was getting lighter and lighter.
This rang a bell with me, and if it was what I thought it was we would have to hurry. I grabbed my bag, wand, and fox, and went to the village immediately.
I’m glad I did because I was right. I examined her, asked her what she’d been doing the past few days. She wasn’t too unwell, a minor fever that was already breaking, and she seemed in good enough spirits if worried. The problem was the rash. It started on her lower arms, likely where the spores entered a scrape, but were already spreading up to her shoulders and a few patches on her neck.
It was a very typical presentation of Hover Hives, a nasty condition that while not dangerous itself can be fatal if not treated. The more the Hives spread the lighter the person gets, physically weighing less, until they start to float away. If they don’t naturally recover before this point they can float off into the sky.
Treatment is usually to fix them to the ground while they recover, but I should be able to sort this out.
I’m making these notes in a hurry in their house, luckily I came prepared enough because I think everything I need is in the village. I want some Wild Rose, a common flower, and some Milkstone. A little harder to find, but I remember seeing some around the village centre.
I started by walking to the centre of the village and looking around for the Milkstone. It wasn’t actually hard to find, Omer actually helped with his stone circles. He’d gathered stone from all over to build them in at the crossroads and one of the smaller ones had been left to settle. It’s been about a month now and grass is already growing up and over them, but I spotted the Milkstone immediately. It’s distinctively white and polished, even when uncut. It could almost be mistaken for marble but the veins running through it are white and shine slightly. If you get really close it feels damp, no matter how much you wipe at it.
I pulled out my wand and got to work. Milkstone is tricky to extract from because normally you have to crush the rock up to get even a drop of milk from it. With magic and a bit of work you can draw it out directly and save the rock, which will slowly build up more milk.
I started chanting over the rock, tracing the veins with the tip of my wand, and encouraging it to release the liquid. It took my a few moments before it started to listen but eventually it did. The liquid started building up on the surface of the stone so I stepped back and used a little magic to pull it all off the stone into a ball in the air. While it hovered there I prepared a vial to catch it and levitated it in.
Being in a hurry I hadn’t been paying attention to my surroundings and it was only when someone approached me I realised I had an audience.
He introduced himself as an adventurer, and praised me for an impressive display. He said he’d never seen anyone literally get blood from a stone, and I did have to bite my tongue to stop myself correcting him. Remembering my position and what Olma had told me I nodded and thanked him for the compliment. I could hear some of the villagers in the background talking amongst themselves, and more than once I heard “see I told you she was a witch!”.
The adventurer was very polite and asked me my name, what I was doing, before he cut to the point. He explained he was here with a small party to raid the Dungeon, and asked me if I would go with them to support them! I’ve never partnered with someone like that, and normally my forays into the Dungeon are for reagents, but they were looking for something and needed all the help they could get.
He said if I wanted to they were going to head in the next few weeks after they prepared. If I wanted to join he said to let them know. He wouldn’t tell me what they were after until we were all there, to stop people stealing it he said, but they had a tip off of something big and where it was.
I told him I would like to help, but that now I had to get going, and he was gracious in thanking me for considering it.
After that I went looking for the Wild Rose. The Rose grows everywhere in High Rannoc so it didn’t take long, I found some quite easily in a hedge by someone’s house. I asked if they’d mind me taking some for a potion and they were only too happy to let me.
While I was crouched pruning enough of the flowers for my needs I accidentally overheard something interesting and strange. There was a small group walking past who were gossiping about local events, but quickly moved onto something new…. me.
They were talking about my encounter with the adventurer already! Apparently in the opinion of the town gossip the party had come to the village specifically looking for me. The villagers know I sometimes go into the Dungeon for ingredients and I’ve obviously come out, apparently this is enough that the party came seeking my council and help in finding a powerful magical artefact.
While definitely inflated there was genuine pride in their voice when they were talking about me. They spoke about “our witch”, “she’s so young but already making a name for herself”, “won’t be long before she puts us on the map”. They were talking about the people I’ve already helped, Snowdrop, even that I apparently have bargains with the dwarves and giants alike. While it’s all true, sort of, it’s more than a little inflated.
But it was…. nice. I think. I need a bit more time to process this and maybe find out a way of stopping the rumour, but for now I need to sort out this potion.
This one is simple enough to make, and luckily I could make it in Violet’s house.
Start by boiling the milk, this will take a little while (sometimes as long as an hour). The liquid is strange and takes heat very slowly, expelling it and cooling very quickly, so you have to work fast once it’s to temperature.
While it’s heating take your Roses. You need the seeds so work through them, stripping away the petals and leaving the heads. Keep the petals as they make a delicious tea.
Once you have a good pinch of seeds per cup of milk crush them lightly with a mortal and pestle. You don’t need a powder just to have them cracked open.
Once the milk is at a rolling boil add all the crushed seeds and let it continue to boil for about half an hour. The liquid won’t boil away no matter what you do so don’t worry about over-heating it. You’ll know it’s ready when it turns a pale pink. At that point take it off the heat, leave it for a few moments and you’ll find it cool.
After that I strain it directly into a cup of vial for storage. This isn’t necessary as the seeds are soft enough to chew and swallow, but it makes it easier to drink down.
I call this one the Rock Draught.
Violet drank it down in a single swig and we could see the rash fading while we sat there. Not a moment too soon because I could see as she raised the cup to her lips it was harder for her to put her arms back down again.
She was grateful, her partner who I found out is called Casper was even more so. He kept going to pat me on the back or grab my hand but catching himself and doing a sort of half bow and thanking me. “Miss Witch” he kept calling me.
He pushed money into my hand and I counted it carefully this time. Despite him giving me exactly 30 silver I still ended up with 45 silver, and he couldn’t see anything wrong with that. Snowdrop thought my confusion was hilarious.
I also found out it was Casper who’s been responsible for my meals and supplies. Apparently he looks after a lot of the elderly in the village, preparing meals for them and taking them to those that can’t get around as easily. He gets donations from everyone in the village to do it, and seems well respected.
Watching him dote on his partner was sweet to see, he’s clearly infatuated with her and looks after her well. I don’t think she needs the doting, she could probably lift us with one arm each when she’s better, but she seems to enjoy it as well.
On the way home from helping Violet I ran into Olma again who held me to my promise and called me over to drink with the “village elders”, as she called them. What she has jokingly dubbed the “council” are a few of the oldest villagers, all well into their eighties or older. Out here that means a certain type of lady, hardy and strong, still more than capable of pulling a sheep into a pen or shouting down an errant son.
They have a little carved table they get set up in open space near the middle of the village where they watch the world go by and drink tea.
It’s not quite as aimless as it might sound, they act as almost the memory of the village. People are constantly popping over to talk to them, trade a little bit of gossip, or ask a question. Everyone gets an answer, a smile, a compliment, the right words at the right time. I can learn a lot from how they smoothly ease things.
They welcomed me in a heartbeat, chatting away like I’d always been there. I asked at one point if it was right, what with me being so young, they just laughed and said “a witch is as old or young as she needs to be”. I like that.
We talked a little about how I was settling in, how lovely High Rannoc was, how beautiful the Grove was. They spent a good deal of time petting Snowbell, taking in turns to scratch behind her ears while she begged for scraps of dried meat.
One of them pulled out a little bunch of leaves she’d got and asked if there was anything I could do with them, they’d been recommended them for arthritic pain but hadn’t been able to stomach their bitter taste. I recognised them as Hiker’s Helper, a leaf normally found in the mountains. It’s got good easing properties but tastes vile.
I took them and showed her a trick I knew.
Take some Hiker’s Helper and muddle it with a stick or pestle. You want the leaves bruised and cracked. If they’re already dried skip this step.
Add them to a teapot with a handful of rose petals and let steep in boiled water for 5 minutes. Once it’s done pour the water away and boil a second pot, let this one steep for seven minutes and pour into cups. It can be taken with sugar but no milk or cream. When prepared this way the taste is fruity and floral with a little herbaceous note and provides very quick pain relief for up to 6 hours.
I showed them all, using a little bit of power to heat the water quickly. They were very impressed, even more so when they tried it. Even those who didn’t take anything routinely felt the little aches of age fade and sat a little easier in their chairs, moved a little less stiffly.
With that the topic quickly turned to how much good I was doing for the village, even having adventurers “consult” with me. I quickly explained that wasn’t what had happened and that I didn’t want people getting the wrong idea. I got another look from Olma but the others interjected before she could tell me off.
They were quite happy to put things right about the rumour, but pointed out most everything else had been true, just exaggerated. They spent a lot of time insisting I not downplay the people I’ve already helped and that if I want to be their witch I have to accept the responsibility as well as the respect that comes with it.
I’m going to do my best to follow their advice. I still don’t feel like it’s deserved, but every day I’m becoming more like the witch I dreamed of being.
Conversation eventually turned to Auria, and they were delighted when I could remind them all of her name! They started excitedly talking about how helpful she’d been for so long. They said the only good thing about her going was a chance for a new witch to have a legacy, which was nice of them.
As we were talking they remembered something else as well, it was an offhand remark about how she could always be relied on for some spectacle. Once one of them said that it seemed to jolt the others to remember what Auria’s magical speciality was; illusion.
Illusion is a powerful field for a witch, not just focussing on making flashy lights and fake pictures (although they can often do that) but on changing perception. Nothing is more of a relief to someone than an illusionist who can make them forget their pain, remember the good times, take away their sadness to let them come to terms with it in peace.
But they can also create beautiful and amazing displays of light and sound which is what they remembered above all else. They remembered the most beautiful woman they’d ever seen who left rainbows wherever she walked and glowed like the moon.
We kept talking for most of the day before I left in the early evening, full of tea and satisfied, with a promise to return and spend more time with them.
- +45 silver (+15 extra)
- +1 reputation
- Villager Met: Violet Byrne
- Villager Met: Casper Byrne
- Other Met: Adventurer
- Witch Clue Discovered
- Planted: Nurse Willow