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SHORT STORY - july 2021

Once upon a time, there was a witch.

She lived in the woods, in the eerie, blown-out carcass of an old duchy—a place of crumbling bricks and tarnished silver and lush velvet curtains gnawed raw with age and dust and ruthless, pitch-black winter—and she died in a half-rotted drawing room, its ceiling rimmed with ash and its walls stained gray from a ghostly barrage of gunpowder.

She was nameless, pastless, confined to a world in which magic was a price to pay and a bargain to make.

There were tens upon dozens upon hundreds of stories—warnings—about what the witch was capable of. About what she could do to you if you weren’t careful enough, weren’t clever enough. She had dark magic, old magic, forest magic. The rumors spanned curses and jinxes and soul eating, fortune telling, amnesia spells for newlyweds and bloody, blistering vengeance for the heartsick. She could trick you—she could turn you.

She was a monster, snarling and rabid, and she needed to be put down. Needed to be buried. Needed to be returned to the cracks between here and there, that nightmarish neverland realm that could only exist if summoned, and could only be summoned if the moon was missing and the bones of her cage were already warped and gaping. She could not be reborn if she was forever undead.

It would be a thankless task, of course.

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