Damsel Knight Part 1: Chapter Ten

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"Drink up my dear," the witch says, with a gummy smile. "It's only milk and honey, but it should bring back some warmth to your bones."

Bonnie looks down at her cup; a tiny delicate thing made of wood and carved with prancing kittens. She glances back up at the witch with mistrust. The witch said her name was Claudia and to call her that, but it doesn't fit her, like her house doesn't fit her.

Witches are synonymous with black magic. Everyone knows that. It takes special training, and a certain kind of person to wield magic wisely and become a druid. They start their training before ten summers of age, and are older than herself and Neven when they are allowed to perform the simplest of spells. The uneducated witches are dangerous to everyone they come across.

Magic has a price, and if you don't know how to pay that price correctly, it takes. Sometimes it's only the witch that suffers, but often magic will take from those around them as well. Crops suffer, children are stricken with sudden disease, whole flocks of animals die without cause.

Witches are evil. They feed off the people around them to get the things they want. Little more than parasites, Jack always said. They featured a lot in his puppet shows, sacrificing other's animals for beauty, even their own children for youth. They form pacts with dark spirits to kill people, and poison cities for fun.

This house doesn't look like it's owned by someone who talks with dark spirits. It's a roundhouse in shape, but the walls are made from carved wood instead of wattle and daub. A stone hearth burns in the middle of the room, and opposite the door, the cabinet stands packed with some of the smaller carvings.

Every surface, and most of the walls are covered with knitted wool of some description, giving it a cosy feel. You can't look in any direction without seeing a carving standing on the dirt floor or jutting out of a wall. Even the table they're sitting around is held up by a strange, but happy looking creature with huge ears and a long wooden nose.

"An elephant," the witch says, seeing her looking. Having no teeth slurs her speech, but Bonnie soon finds her ears adjusting to it. "My King thought them magic, until he managed to procure one from the Romans to study. A creature of flesh and blood like you or I, but no less magnificent don't you think?"

"The King doesn't trade with anyone outside the circle," Neven says. He'd been near frozen through after they finally gave up the search for Alice to find warmth. His skin still veers too much toward blue, but now he's sipping his milk his eyes are more focused.

Bonnie takes that as a good sign and takes a sip of hers. It tastes sweet and warm, the heat settling comfortably in her stomach.

"This King doesn't. A folly that will cost him. No man can achieve great things without help, and no country can achieve greatness without looking to others for ideas." She takes a long drink from her carved cup, decorated with songbirds. "No child, it wasn't your King I was speaking of, it was mine. King Goron, father of this King Robin before a dragon slew him. King Goron was a different kind of King. Courageous. We invaded more countries than I can count, and every one bended their knee to us. He knew more of magic than anyone who came before him, and after him I would think."

Neven's mouth gapes open and closed. Bonnie feels the same way. "King Goron died one thousand years ago."

Claudia chuckles into her cup. "And you're surprised at little old me for living that long, but not King Robin for looking much better than I do after these long centuries. Or King Goron. No one's sure about his age, but everyone agrees he had at least five centuries before he met his end."

Neven splutters, then stays silent, obviously not wanting to offend her. Bonnie has no such qualms.

"You're a witch," she says bluntly. "Trained druids help the King stay youthful. Witches have no such training."

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