Today’s prompt was very silly so I fiddled with it a bit to fit a Green lake tale *wink*
(Image located here)
Millie looked at the empty page, fidgeted in her seat, gave up and rose to stare out the window. Not a child to whom words came readily tonight’s homework was a trial. Miss Bindhook, who took Millie’s class for spellcrafting, had asked them all to write a short piece – but stipulating not less than one page and in normal handwriting, for she knew her reluctant writers too well – describing the attributes of the modern witch. All the pieces were to be included in the latest edition of The Witches Zodiac, a quarterly scroll put out by the heads of year.
Leaning her elbows on the sill and heaving a deep sigh, Millie stared out to the rolling fields; just now stubbled and covered in scavenging children, gleaning what little remained of the harvest. She wanted to be out there, not stuck inside. How she had come to possess Witching she could not tell, but word of her playing with fae folk and occasionally disrupting local magic energies with her untutored magic had quickly reached Grandmother Ida and off to school she’d been bustled. Heathenfield was a wonderful place, full of clever witches only too eager to pass on their knowledge and to explain to the young people just how special they were, and yet…
Millie so wanted to forget the paper and quill, and she was on the verge of clambering over the sill when she heard a familiar voice, saw a familiar figure step from the shade of a hazel tree.
“I never liked homework either, Millicent.”
“I… well…” Millie gave up, climbed out into the yard and crossed to Grandmother Ida, “It’s too hard!”
“Life is never meant to be easy, child. Come, walk with me.”
Millie never felt quite so special as when Grandmother Ida chose to spare time for her, and she stood a little straighter, walked with a touch more confidence as she fell into step with the tall, grey-haired woman who ran Green Lake in all but name. They crossed onto the path between the bare cornfields; Millie noting how all the children stopped, turned and bobbed curtseys or sketched bows when they spotted Ida. She pretended the recognition was for her until Ida’s gentle reproach.
“Not yet, Millicent, but perhaps one day, if you can finish your homework.”
Millie wasn’t really listening, although she managed a quick ‘s’cuse me’ before darting into the field. Ida watched the gawky child run to a little one who had fallen. It wailed for its mother but Millie cuddled it up, brushed it down, and chatted to it. Ida thought the girl as yet unaware of the gentle healing magic she was exerting on the child’s grazed knees, but she only smiled when Millie trotted back, a little shy and awkward, stumbling over apologies.
“Mr’s Grain’s boy, Jeffy. His ma’s not got a lot of time with all the washing she takes in and his big brother is supposed to watch him, but he gets caught up in big boy games. Little Jeffy just needs someone to let him know he’s not forgotten, s’all.”
“Indeed. Shall we?”
Ida resumed their gentle amble, slowly heading their feet in the direction of Green Lake itself. Along the way she watched Millie pick up kindling for Old Mrs Farthing – as she was always known – currently wracked with arthritis and unable to gather for herself, snatch up some cress for a potion she knew Miss Bindlock was working on, stop and listen to the troubles of Mr Arthur and his pigs, gently suggesting a simple cure that Millie would bring for him the next day, halt a band of children from setting fire to a pile of leaves – which proved to contain a hedgehog ready to hibernate – explaining the dangers to them, the animals and the forest from uncontrolled fires before tucking the hedgehog into her apron pocket to find him a better winter bed, and finally handing over a large piece of tin she’d found to Brack the Boggis who happened to cross their path with a broad grin on his face and a wink for Ida.
They halted on the lake shore, the emerald green waters still as a mill pond whilst evening began to draw down. Soon it would freeze and the great water would become the village playground for a couple of months, but for now it was calm and peaceful.
Millie realised Grandmother Ida had suddenly slipped into serious mode after their long walk filled with village matters. She followed the line of Ida’s gesture and watched the centre of the lake. It remained smooth for a moment or two and then began to turn, a gentle spiral lifting up from the surface in a mist of sparkling green drops until it formed a vaguely human shape. A feminine face appeared, ageless, smooth but somehow Millie knew it was kind. Diffuse green eyes fell upon her and she felt the urge to kneel, but Ida caught her under the elbow, keeping her upright, whispering from the corner of her lips:
“A witch kneels to no being.”
The voice which issued from the lake being was neuter, a thing of rippling waters, dancing spray and tinkling rain.
“Little witchling, I have seen you this day and I find it most puzzling that you cannot describe a modern witch with ease for have you not been an example? I have seen you comfort, listen, and give aid where it was most needed. You knew the when and where for you know Green Lake and you know her people, both fae and mortal. What more is a witch but one who knows when and where to apply her knowledge? Share my thought with your class and continue on this path. I feel, one day, your childlike fantasy of obeisance will come to be if you do. Be blessed, little witchling.”
Ida didn’t stop Millie this time, allowing her to pay respect to the Green Lake spirit before they turned for the village. Millicent looked up at Ida with a tiny spark of doubt in her eyes.
“Did you do that to teach me a lesson? Make that spirit I mean?”
“Certainly not.” Grandmother Ida grumped and Millie was content, almost running home to write her piece for class. Behind her back, Grandmother Ida made a small symbol in the air and the the Green Lake spirit smiled before returning to the water.