Badgers are actually notorious for their screams. In battle, as children, in parental moments that children are not supposed to know about. They are loud, and occasionally obnoxious in their exclamations. This was something that Theolonius Bricklebook personally strove to be personally above. He was a familiar, and intelligent, he had something that other members of his race did not have. He must persevere and better himself.

But when a death goddess of vengeance has taken your grip on gravity and spun you willy nilly through the very skies above, a scream or two is called for. It may even be called the measured and appropriate response. And Theolonius Bricklebook was notoriously measured and appropriate.

“Wheeeeeee!!!!” Bethany’s screams of delight were a perfect counterpoint to the badger’s terror. She clutched tight at Arlyle’s hand, laughing at the wind rushing above and below her. The girl loved flying with Arlyle, and now they had a new friend to enjoy it with!

Arlyle kept smiling. She had to endure other beings right now, and that was a terrible turn of events. But Bethany was happy, and that made everything better.

They flew past the lake, past the great trees. Passed the long, rolling hills, to the mountains of the west. Arlyle sped towards the frozen peaks ahead, and stopped just before them. There, tucked between the mountains the broke the clouds, and the hills that swept low, were white grasslands. The fields were shrouded in a thick fog, completely covering everything.

Arlyle touched down just outside the Meadows, letting Bethany and Thelonius catch their breath. To some, this new land may have looked malevolent. To Arlyle, it was just odd.

“Welcome to Murky Meadows,” Thelonius said. “The fog settles in most of the year. Clissandra likes it that way.”

“A witch that doesn’t like the sun.” Arlyle looked to Bethany, checking her over. “Doesn’t seem nice.”

“Or maybe she has one of those skin conditions where too much sun is just not good for her.” Bethany said. “Or all her plants are fog plants, and even her magic. Maybe that’s it.”

Arlyle shrugged. They were here for an adventure.

Thelonius nodded to the center of the fog. There, jutting out of the murk, was a single stone spire. Green moss and trees dotted around it. And as Bethany and Arlyle walked up to it, the spire shuddered, and split open.

The Witch of the Murky Meadows strode from her spire clothed in pale purple. An apron was over her great cloak, the hood obscuring her face. She shuffled forward, dipping her gloved hands into a basket and pulling out dark seeds. She spread a few along her path as she went along her day.

Bethany took a deep breath, and called out. “Witch of the Murky Meadows?”

“Not today, children,” The Witch said. “I’ve too much to do.”

Bethany frowned, and ran up to her. “Witch, my name is Bethany. I am eight years old, have been to Fairyland and like my fog to be a bit more yellow, though your purple in the white is very pretty too. And I am here to spend time with you on an adventure!”

The Witch looked at her, and pulled back her hood. She was old. Lines crossed over her face. She had golden eyes, though the left eye was much paler than the right. Her mouth was set in a thin line, looking over the young girl.

“Would you…like a cookie?”

Bethany squealed, and ran over to the Witch. Arlyle’s eyes flashed, and she appeared next to the Witch before Bethany could grab the cookie. Arlyle sniffed the basket once, and nodded. No poison today.

Bethany accepted the cookie, and pointed to Arlyle. “This is Arlyle, the Scourge of Darrenfell, and my bestest friend. We are here to help you.” She made a yummy sound. “Also, you make amazing cookies.”

The Witch looked around, searching, and she spotted Thelonius. Her face set further.

“Thelonius, what have you done?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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