Friqke’s Story (The Ash Witch)
The spring morning began in obnoxious twinkling pastels. The sharp sun cut her eyes; this was unexpected, and unwelcome. Compensating for the gloom of past weeks, the sun and green were doing battle on the shreds of clouds and blue. The sky fought back, bursting forth in broad strokes of grays, blacks, and bruising thunder. But it was the war of heat she loved: the spring storm was a sign that ice and fire were fighting for power, even if the brooding rain was the price she had to pay, extinguishing her own heat. The performance was worth it, though slightly aggravating.She had learned the skills of mixing water and fire to produce living smoke; why couldn’t the gods?
When the showers stopped and the sun came back out, it was weak and muted. The rain had won.
Pitiful excuse for light, the sun choked on its own phlegm. It was a draw between the crystals and the fire. She put another log in the hearth, to stave off the chill, as her imp jumped on her back, sliding down her blouse with a monkey-sized paw, bit her shoulder near her collarbone, a little too low for her comfort, so she slapped him to the floor. He splattered on the wood planks like spilt oil, pulling himself back up like a street clown, overly dramatic, disjointed, moving in reverse, slowly, glaring at her over his near nonexistent bird-like shoulder. He grumbled a small curse in his unintelligible forked tongue, and scuttled off near one of the oak table legs and licked his left hand and arm. It was a tic he had, to lick himself in that manner when insulted or hurt. And she slapped him often.
In retribution, he pinched her in her sleep, and poked tiny sticks in her temples. She dismissed it as fleabites.
In this cottage at the edge of the woods the Ash-Witch lived, alone save for her imp, an arrogant guard, and bumbling blind demon. They were conjured friends, not loyal, enslaved by dark magic. She knew the consequences for its use and practice, and she herself was enslaved by the necessity of constantly creating a new soul for herself, consuming them like sweets. Fortunately her teeth were sharp as blades, and hidden behind a false, pretty smile.
Indeed, she was enchanting. She had to be, to get what she wanted. Stray travelers, beggars, thieves, rogues, woodsmen, knight or knave, all manner of gentlemen and scoundrels were her quarry. Friqke jumped one loop ahead of the hangman’s noose, like a circus trick, just when the village women’s suspicions grew to the boiling point, as her minions reported imminent plots of her neck doing aerobatics from the nearest tree. It was odd, but she could stay in the hovels and cottages outside of a village for generations before she would have to go—she just imagined the village women needed her services as much as the men. She kept them occupied, and only until the women noticed their men not pestering them, did they start to gather the weak ones up like part of their nesting broods.
This rainy spring morning, however, her dissatisfied restlessness and boredom tortured her. She slapped her imp again, simply because she didn't care for his glare. The bumbling blind demon huffed away, slumping and pouting, forever resigned in his fate, and chastising her. The demon guard smirked. Friqke conjured more sweets, and ate them until her tummy hurt.
And it started to rain again.