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The Witch's Tale: How a Wicked Witch Found Her Happily Ever After
Silverlight was the perfect fairytale kingdom. Its king was wise and handsome, and had once been a prince who went on grand adventures. Its queen was beautiful and kind, and had once been a princess under an evil spell. They had three daughters, each lovelier then the last, and all well versed in the art of being proper damsels in distress.
The kingdom also had evil sorcerers and magicians, as any in that realm should have had to be proper. There were enchanted woods with unicorn’s pools, gryphons’ aeries high in the mountains, and dragons’ caves filled with gold and the bones of fallen heroes.
Witches lived in swamps, fairies in meadows, and princesses in the castle. Silverlight was the perfect fairytale kingdom.
Serenity hated it.
According to tradition, she should have been old, hunchbacked, warty, and ugly. Quite the opposite was true, though. She was young, tall, had clear skin, and was in fact considered rather pretty for all that she was a witch.
As she was supposed to, she lived in a small cottage in the deepest, darkest part of the woods. She brewed potions until they came out her ears, practiced her cackle until her throat was sore, placed curses on unsuspecting maidens, and gathered enough belladonna and nightshade to stuff a bed several times over.
Serenity didn’t care for the act one bit. She loved to fly on her broomstick, true, but she also liked helping people, taking long walks in the sunlight, and singing to or playing with the animals that lived around her cottage. She kept up the pretense of being a normal witch as best she could, but her heart wasn’t in it.
She was working in her garden—another thing she wasn’t supposed to enjoy, but did—when the envoy to the Witches’ Council arrived. She was a proper witch, straight out of a child’s nightmare, with hideous boils on her face, a hunched back, and straggly grey hair.
Serenity sat back on her knees and inclined her head. “Envoy Corvia. To what do I owe this honor?” Her words dripped with sincerity, but the other witch heard the bite of sarcasm beneath the politeness.
Corvia shook her head irritably and thumped her broom on the ground. It would have made more of an impression on stone, but the feeling was still there. “There’s no need for that, Witch Serenity.” Her words sounded defensive, but she winced slightly at Serenity’s name, which was so un-witchlike. “We both know that this was a long time coming.”
Serenity stood and brushed her hands off on her black skirts. “Why? I’ve done everything I was supposed to! Many people are scared to even venture into the woods anymore because of the Wicked Witch who lives here.” Wicked was the highest title a witch could claim, and was much sought after. Serenity knew that people used it about her not knowing its true meaning, but it had to count for something.
“Many, not all,” Corvia was quick to point out. “Those who have seen you laugh at the ones who call you wicked. You're just…too pretty, Serenity.” The shorter, older witch shook her head. “We have standards, you see. Can't have one witch getting laughed at, or it makes the rest of us look bad. I'm sorry, but if you don’t do something absolutely awful before the next full moon, we’re going to have to take your magic.” Without another word, she turned away, mounted her broom, and kicked off.
Serenity watched her dark shape rise into the sky, and then bitterly tore her eyes away. She stood for a moment with her head bowed, but then she looked up. Jade-green eyes flickered with resolve, and she squared her shoulders. “All right. Something absolutely awful. I can do this.” She walked inside her neatly kept hut and firmly shut the door behind her.
“I can't do this!” she wailed an hour later. Her one-room hut glowed cheerfully with firelight, the flames flickering dangerously close to the books that were strewn everywhere. Serenity finished flipping through another witchcraft tome and tossed it over her shoulder despairingly. She slumped, burying her head in her arms. Her voice emerged somewhat muffled. “Spells to turn princes into frogs, to set a princess to sleep for a hundred years, and to poison an apple, but nothing that hasn’t been used a thousand times already. I want something new. I need something new. I have to be a witch!”
She stood and tripped her way over to the bookshelf, where only one book remained. With a grimace, she pulled it down and staggered over to the table with it, groaning under its immense weight. It slammed into the wooden table hard enough that Serenity feared it would leave a dent. She couldn’t move it again to check, though.
“The Wytche’s Booke,” she read quietly. “Oh, please have what I'm looking for.”
As she was about to lift the cover on her last hope, a great wailing rose from outside, sounding like several small animals being roasted alive. Serenity bolted from her seat and ran for the front door, grabbing her broom. Not so that she could flee, but so she could beat into submission anyone who was trying to harm innocent creatures.
She had a soft spot for animals.
But nothing was being tortured outside her door. Instead, two of the foxes that often visited her sat at the base of one of the smaller trees around her garden, grinning up at the other animal they had trapped in the branches. Serenity could only see the bristling tip of a dark grey tail in the darkness, despite her rather excellent night vision.
“Shoo!” she said emphatically to the foxes, waving her broom at them. “Go on, scat! Don’t you know better then to abuse your fellows in my garden? If you don’t learn, I’ll turn you into statues, hear?”
The vixen shot her a disbelieving look. Like all the other animals that came to Serenity’s home, they knew she would never carry out her threat. Still, they left as she ordered, and Serenity turned her attention to the creature they had driven up the tree.
“You're safe now,” she called up softly. “You can come down. I sent them away.”
There came an affronted yowl, and a cat’s dark gold eyes peered down at her indignantly. “I didn’t need help,” he informed her crossly. “And I wasn’t up here because of them. It just seemed like a nicer place to be then the ground at the moment.”
Serenity bit her lip, trying to hold back a smile. “Of course not,” she said solemnly. “But if you wish to come down now, I can give you some milk inside. But only if you feel like it.”
There was a sudden scrabbling as the cat nearly fell out of the tree. The incredulous silence that fell over the clearing lasted for all of twelve seconds before his eyes appeared again, looking huge in the light of the rising full moon. “You can understand me?” he asked in shock. “What are you, an animal speaker?”
Serenity’s lips thinned and an expression of annoyance crossed her pretty face. “No. I'm a witch.”
There was another disbelieving silence, and then the cat ventured cautiously, “Aren't witches supposed to be old and…well, ugly?”
With a huff, Serenity turned on her heel and stalked back towards the house, muttering angrily, “Standards! Everyone has standards! Do you think I wanted to be the Beauty of Briar Canyon when I was younger and be a witch as well? Can't anyone think of a witch as something other then the ancient crones in the stories? Bats’ bones and lizards’ eyeballs!”
Just as she was about to slam the door of the cottage in the proper style—and show the cat just how much of a witch she could be—there came a scrabbling from the tree, and the cat jumped down. He landed rather unsteadily, with nowhere near the grace most cats had, and then streaked over to Serenity as fast as his long legs could carry him. His front claws sank into her skirt before she could duck inside.
“Wait!” he yowled. “Let me in! I can help you!”
Serenity gave him an arch look. “I believe that I'm not the one in need of help at the moment, Sir Cat. But thank you ever so much for thinking of me.” Her parting words, delivered with a scorn that would have made the king himself wither, stopped the cat cold. He didn’t seem to know what to think. But when she started moving again, he regained his wits in a rush.
“Stop!” His growled order, sounding like it should have come from a much bigger cat, made Serenity hesitate, though she didn’t halt. His next words changed that.
“I was a witch’s cat! I know spells that other witches don’t! I can teach them to you.”
He lurched against her leg as she stopped suddenly. Serenity looked down at him, a hopeful light coming to her eyes.
“You wouldn’t by chance know how to curse a princess, would you?” she asked.
“I'm not sure about this,” Serenity muttered, leaning over the cat and peering down at he spell he was showing her, in a book she would never have thought of looking in. “That’s a pretty major spell, and while I'm a pretty good witch, I do have limits.”
“Are you a witch or not?” the cat demanded. “Use emotion for a focus and you can't go wrong. It’s a variation of the classic spell that’s most commonly used on princes. It should work for whatever you're planning.”
“It should be wicked enough,” she said doubtfully. “But I don’t know if I can pull it off.”
The cat yowled in annoyance. “It’s easy, witch. And I’ll help, so you don’t have to be scared.”
Serenity scowled at him. “I'm not scared, cat, just apprehensive. And what is your name, anyway? I can't keep calling you ‘cat’ all the time.”
The cat looked away, as though embarrassed. “It’s Riddle.”
Serenity blinked at him. “That’s not very cat-like. Most of you have names like ‘Wind-That-Leaves-the-Grasses-Silent’. Or something in that vein. You know, hunter names.”
Riddle gave her a look and turned away, showing her his back in affront. “You will notice that I haven’t said anything about your name, Serenity. It doesn’t sound witchy at all. In fact, it’s downright serene.”
“Oh, shut up, mouse breath,” Serenity muttered, turning back to the book. “I sure hope you meant what you said about helping me, because we have a lot of work to do if this curse—and this tale—is going to turn out smoothly. It’s time to get started.”
The cat sighed and twitched his whiskers. He turned back and started describing the workings of the spell.
To her surprise, Serenity actually enjoyed having Riddle around. The cat was touchy, rude, sarcastic, and…well, sweet. He could spend an hour helping her get the smallest part of the spell right, picking over details until she was ready to scream, and still have the patience to teach her the next part with the same distinction. He was funny, too, with his comments and stories about the witch he had lived with before. She had been the textbook version of a witch that every maiden and young woodcutter was taught to avoid. Riddle had hated her. Soon, Serenity could see why.
“Aren't you glad that not all witches are like that?” she asked on the third day, after he had finished telling her about the time the witch had tried to lure a couple of children into her house, only to have him foil her plans by leading the pair into the woods around the swamp.
Riddle looked up at her, and there was something definitely un-catlike in his eyes as he watched her mixing herbs.
“Oh, yes,” he said quietly. “I'm very glad, indeed I am.”
Serenity felt two spots of color rising in her cheeks at his tone, and promptly dropped the spellbook on her foot.
The yelp she let out seemed to startle Riddle from his un-feline contemplations. He leaped away to get the next bunch of dried herbs, leaving Serenity alone with her thoughts.
Riddle crouched on the top of the boulder that sat by the path, keeping an eye on the road as Serenity scrabbled on her knees in the dirt. She was trying to get the final bit of the spell in place, and it wasn’t cooperating.
“Are you done yet?” the grey cat demanded, looking down at her briefly. “Come on, Serenity. It shouldn’t be that hard.”
“Then you come down here and try to stuff a kicking frog’s leg into a hole in the ground,” Serenity snapped. “Because I'm not having very much luck at all right now.”
Riddle yowled out a single word, and the leg Serenity held went stiff. She stuffed it into the hole she had dug and shoved dirt over it just as it came alive again, kicking away with a vengeance. Serenity sat back on her heels and looked up at Riddle. “Tell me again why the frog leg had to think that it was still alive?” She didn’t question the cat’s use of magic; after all his time living with a witch, she would have been astonished if he hadn’t picked up anything.
“So that the spell would have some sort of focus,” Riddle explained. A look of respect came into his dark gold eyes as he looked at her. “This spell is actually very wicked, since it’s meant to focus on a princess. While lots of princesses will kiss frogs in the off chance that one of them might be a prince, no self-respecting prince is going to willingly kiss a frog for no reason. With your power behind it, the spell should pack quite a punch.”
Then he seemed to hear something, and swiveled around. His ears twitched. Serenity didn’t wait for him to tell her what it was; she leaped up from her crouch and hastily pulled on the ancient brown robe she had found. It covered her black dress—of the kind only worn by witches, it was a dead giveaway—and made her seem old and frail thanks to the illusion spell she placed on it. In seconds, an old woman with white hair and wrinkles sat on top of the rock at the crossroads, waiting for someone to come along.
As luck—or fate—would have it, the very first person to come riding down the path was none other then Silverlight’s eldest princess, in all her princess-ey glory. Serenity had to hold back a growl at how perfect the older girl was, all long blond hair, big blue eyes, and pouting rosy lips. She made Serenity feel positively ugly. And had her seething with jealousy.
And then a sharp set of claws dug into Serenity’s lower back, making her hiss in a sudden breath.
“Focus!” Riddle hissed, and Serenity took comfort in the fact that not all the males in the area were staring at the princess with dumb, lovesick expressions, as most of the princess’s escorts were doing. Though, in the long run, their distraction only made Serenity’s task easier.
She scrambled down from the stone and tottered into the center of the path, effectively blocking it. The party pulled to a sudden halt, all of the fancily dressed nobles staring at her with something akin to horror.
“Might ye have a bit o’ bread?” Serenity whined. “I be so hungry, and they turned me out o’ me village, as I'm too old to work.”
One of the handsome knights moved his horse forward and tried to push her out of the way with his highly polished boot. “Move along, grandmother,” he ordered. “We haven’t the time to waste here. Important matters hold our attention at the castle.”
“Ha’ ye a copper, then, to spare for an old woman?” Serenity asked in a wheezing voice, trying to hide her growing anger. That anger was exactly what she needed to power the spell, though, so she didn’t move.
“Who is this rabble?” The princess’s voice was sweet and cold as she eyed the (supposedly) helpless old beggar in her path. “Clear her from my way immediately. I must go on to the castle without delay. The ball is about to start.”
Another lord drew his rapier and poked at Serenity with it. “You heard Her Highness. Get yourself to the side of the path, or we will be forced to run you down.”
That was what Serenity had been waiting for. Those words gave her enough anger that her power all but exploded inside her, hot flames of it leaping into her eyes. With a flourish, she stepped back and flung off her disguise. The party stared.
Though she didn’t know it, they weren’t staring just because of her sudden—and magical—appearance, but because of her beauty. Even Riddle stared at her, transfixed by the sudden brilliance of the witch in front of him. Later, when he had been disenchanted, one of the lords described her as “So beautiful it hurt to look at her,” promptly followed by a loud croak. Habits gained as a frog were hard to lose.
“I am the witch of the Silverlight Woods,” Serenity declared, not knowing their thoughts. “You have invaded my land and shown needless cruelty. And for that, you must be punished.” Serenity brought her hands up and spoke the words for the first part of her spell. There was a flare of jade-green light, and shouts rose from all around the princess as pure chaos broke loose.
With a word from Serenity, the knights’ horses threw their riders and bolted home, leaving the men cursing on the ground. The green light caught them, swallowed them, and spat out animals. A small army of woodland creatures left the path at a run, deciding that they could blame animal instincts later if they were called cowards, and choosing the woods over the angry witch.
The princess screamed in very good distressed-damsel form as she was knocked from her sidesaddle by a swirl of jade light. As she fell, though, she began to change. Her skin took on the color of the magic around her, her eyes bulged, her hair fell out, and with a pop, she turned into a frog.
Serenity lowered her hands, allowing the magic to fade as she surveyed her handiwork. There were none of the knights left on the path, and the princess was currently hopping her way into the forest as though her life depended on it. Very wicked for a day’s work, she decided. The Witches’ Council would have to let her keep her magic now.
And then she heard a sound behind her. She twisted and stared in absolute shock as one of the knights rose from the ground with anger etched plainly in his face.
“Witch,” he bit out. “You know not whom you deal with in this. You shall pay for what you have done to the princess!” With that, he pulled a black necklace from around his throat and hurled it at her before she could do anything to counter the hex she knew the amulet contained.
“Serenity! NO!” Riddle yowled. The cat launched himself off the boulder. He leaped in front of Serenity, and the curse hit him full on. There was a blinding flash of ugly red light, and he was catapulted back into Serenity’s arms.
She gripped him tightly, feeling the limpness of his body, the fading, wheezing breaths, and sank to her knees with a whimper of shock and disbelief.
“No,” she whispered. “Riddle, why did you do that? You didn’t have to.”
The cat didn’t answer, and Serenity closed her eyes. If she had tried to catalog her emotion at that moment, she would have put pain at the front, followed closely by anger.
Serenity looked up at the knight. Anger glowed in her eyes, and her dark hair swirled around her with a life of its own. Grabbing her anger, her fear for Riddle, she wrapped the power it had given her around herself and stood to face the knight. He was gaping.
“That—that wasn’t supposed to happen!” he stuttered. “The kindly wizard always defeats the witch and saves the princess!”
Serenity’s hands clenched into fists. “Looks like you chose the wrong fairy tale. And haven’t you heard? No one rescues the princess the first time. It just isn’t done.” With that last word, she hurled all of her magic at the knight.
Kindly wizard he might have been, but no one could have withstood that sheer volume of power. There was a wrenching sound and a scream, and a cockroach suddenly sat in the center of the road, staring up at Serenity with all the incredulity a bug could muster. Serenity smiled nastily as she raised a foot.
The cockroach moved so fast it seemed to disappear. One moment it was there and the next it was gone.
Problem successfully dealt with, Serenity dropped to her knees next to Riddle again. He lay deathly still, and he didn’t seem to be breathing. Sorrow welled up, overwhelming and stark, and Serenity had to bite back the tears that wanted to fall.
“Oh, Riddle,” she whispered. “Thank you.” She leaned down and kissed him gently on the head.
The moment her lips touched his head, there was a sudden flare of magic that knocked the surprised witch back into the bushes next to the road. A large yelp of shock and pain erupted from the shrubbery as she landed in a gorse bush. Stunned, she tried to push herself to her feet, unable to grasp what had happened.
A warm, human hand closed gently around her arm, and she was pulled to her feet by a strong grip. Serenity found herself gaping into the face of an extremely handsome young man with the cat’s dark gold eyes. He smiled at her and pulled her into his arms, careful of the scratches she now sported.
“You saved me, Serenity,” he said with a grin. “You broke the spell!”
Serenity rocked back on her heels, still staring at him. “I don’t understand. Who—who are you?”
“Oh, sorry. I'm the Sorcerer-Prince Riddle of Arven,” he said, bowing slightly to her. “I made an old witch angry when one of my spells interrupted hers, and she put a curse on me. I was to be a cat until my true love kissed me.”
Serenity felt the two spots of color return to her cheeks, burning like fire. “You mean I'm…”
Riddle nodded, smiling at her. He really was exceptionally handsome. “Yes, Serenity, you are. And haven’t you heard? The prince always marries the maiden who frees him from his curse.”
“That’s a stupid rule!” Serenity pointed out, not sure why she was. But if she didn’t say something, she would start to babble nonsense. She was close to it already. “What if you don’t even like the one who rescued you? Then you’d be stuck with someone you hated.”
“But I do want to marry you,” Riddle said. He looked sideways at her. “That is, if you like the idea. If you don’t…”
“I think it’s a very good idea,” Serenity said emphatically. She smiled. “But surely I'm not supposed to be content with just kissing a cat, am I?”
Riddle laughed. It was a nice laugh, too, Serenity thought. “No, I don’t suppose you are,” he said, and kissed her.
Serenity decided that maybe fairy tales weren’t so bad.
And so Serenity, the young, beautiful, clear-skinned witch, left the perfect and magical kingdom of Silverlight and moved to the less perfect—but just as magical—kingdom of Arven, where things were not all as they should have been. In Arven, dragons protected the fields from rampaging unicorns, gryphons were the preferred mounts of the people, and damsels went on grand adventures and rescued handsome heroes in distress.
Riddle and Serenity were married, much to the delight of the prince’s kind stepmother and selfless stepsisters, as well as his father, who had once married a beautiful princess he rescued from a curse and had regretted it for years.
Later, the sorcerer-king Riddle and his witch-queen Serenity lived in Arven for the rest of their days (except for a few adventures, of course), and though the rest of the perfect kingdoms avoided their land, they lived happily ever after.