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Elvenia and the Winter Witch

A Faery Wish Parent Story


 Elvenia sank more deeply into the hot, bubbling pool of water, resting against a basin hewn out of a glorious mountain.

The pool was tucked beneath a ledge that formed a shallow cavern, protecting the warm water from wind and falling snow. Elvenia looked out onto a ring of spruce and fir trees, and more mountains in the distance.

It was gloriously beautiful.

A cooler pool was set into the mountain just up the way, but Elvenia didn’t know why anyone would want to sit in such a tepid thing in the dead of winter, with snow on the ground.

The air outside was frigid, and the steaming water carried the slight pong of sulphur that made the back of her mouth taste funny. Whatever. It was worth putting up with for the warmth and whatever magical healing properties the minerals supposedly held. Also, the scent of balsam from the spruce trees helped mitigate the sulphur smell.

Winter break. Her first since starting the job she’d trained for most of her life. Elvenia was finally getting used to her Faery Wish Parent gig. At least, she thought so. Kind of.

It had been a little over a year, as humans reckoned time, and she’d helped six people change their lives for the better. All they needed was a little boost of magical confidence. An increased sense of imagination and wonder. A chance to try something new.

Or, in one particular case, a sharp kick in the butt.

But something felt off.

Maybe she just needed a break. Space to regroup and take in the lessons she had learned. Time to focus on her own dreams. But frankly, Elvenia was tired, and a little confused. It was almost as if she needed a Wish Parent herself.

But she’d gotten her wish, hadn’t she? She was doing work she enjoyed, helping people, and her skills were improving. She had even gotten an extra sparkle added to her star-tipped wand, along with a commensurate raise in pay.

So why was she feeling out of sorts? What in the Nine Worlds was wrong with her? She was beginning to feel…almost ungrateful? And for a Fairy Wish Parent, that simply would not do.

Maybe she just needed to go back to the basics. There were things she’d learned in her first years of study that had become second nature to her Wish Parent magic. But maybe she’d grown lax?

She ducked her head underwater and emerged with a sputter, nostrils filled with eau de rotten egg. It was supposed to be good for you, and luckily this particular hot spring didn’t stink as badly as others she had visited in years past. Nonetheless, she made a note to not dunk her head a second time.

All right. What was one exercise she could work on while not leaving the bubbling pool of warm mineral water?

Right. Gratitude.

Breathe in gratitude—ignoring that it currently smelled of rotten eggs—breathe out magic.

Pause.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out magic.

Pause.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out magic.

Her central nervous system relaxed a few more notches, and the air around her began to sparkle as Elvenia’s breath pumped magic out to mingle with the steam.

She was just getting into the groove of it when bright whistling broke the air. It was a jolly, jaunty tune, and whoever—or whatever—was making the sound was highly skilled.

Elvenia hoped the whistler wasn’t here to eat her. She scrambled from the pool, leaving wet footprints on the smooth stone surrounding the large basin, and reached for the warm wool robe she’d bought herself as a winter gift. It was done up in shades of blue, orange, and turquoise and made her happy.

Right now, she just wanted to not be naked in front of whomever the approaching whistler might be.

It wasn’t that she couldn’t engage in a magical fight naked, it just felt…undignified. Besides, the fighting arts had never been her specialty. She wasn’t that sort of Wish Parent.

She quickly fastened her robe shut, just as the snow crunched outside. Footsteps. She tilted her head to listen, as she drew her wand from one of the deep pockets set into the robe. The crunch crunch crunch sounds telegraphed the gait of a biped, so at least she knew whatever or whomever was coming was likely shaped like her.

Elvenia shoved her feet into warm, wool-lined boots and stepped toward the front of the shallow cavern just in time to see a startlingly beautiful woman, lips puckered, forming the instrument that made the delightful noise.

Not a human woman, though, with hair as white as the snow her deerskin boots crunched through, tilted up eyes as brilliant a blue as the winter sky, and a flat nose that flared gracefully at the nostrils.

The woman wore an embroidered deerskin coat with a fur lined hood pushed back, and had a sprig of holly tucked behind one tapered ear. That seemed like it would be painful to Elvenia, but, hey, everyone was different, weren’t they?

The woman caught sight of Elvenia and stopped, lips still mid-pucker. She blinked, and then her mouth rearranged itself into a smile as blinding as the sun bouncing off the snowy mountain floor.

“Hello!” Her voice had a slight lilt to it, and her face was friendly. So. Not coming to eat Elvenia. That was good.

“Hello,” Elvenia replied.

Then they both just stood there.

Finally, the woman took a step toward the overhang. “Are you not going to invite me in?”

Well, that was confusing. Elvenia glanced around. “This is not my home. Simply a public bathing pool.”

The woman laughed, tilting her head back to the sky. Her voice bounced off the cavern wall, filling the space with chiming as if a hundred tiny bells were being shaken by invisible hands.

As she laughed, a flock of cardinals in varied shades of rust and bright red, flew in a graceful arc around the woman’s head before landing like bright ornaments on the snow-covered spruces and firs.

“Who are you?” Elvenia blurted.

“The one you called for,” the woman replied, stepping forward once again.

“I… I did?”

“Your heart did,” the woman replied, bright eyes turning serious. “Your doubts did.”

Another step.

Elvenia stood her ground, trembling slightly, though she didn’t know why.

“My doubts?”

“Despite your great successes, and that wand in your pocket, you still doubt the power of your magic.”

Elvenia sank to the ledge surrounding the basin. “My magic…my magic is fine.”

“Ah,” said the woman, stepping beneath the overhang. “But that is not enough for you, is it?”

Elvenia groaned. Was that what was wrong?

“But I worked through all of that with the Faery Counselor during the final years of my training! I made peace with my skills and talents!” Her chest was heaving beneath the heavy wool, and her fingers gripped the base of her star-tipped wand. “My magic helps people who need it! Who cares if it isn’t grand, and world-changing? Who cares if…”

The cardinals rose in a rush, before settling on the branches once again.

The woman stepped toward Elvenia and crouched in front of her.

“You care, Elvenia. You are Elvenia?”

Elvenia sniffed and nodded, unable to look into the woman’s bright blue eyes.

“You still think who you are—what you are—is not enough. I am here to show you otherwise.”

“What? But…”

The woman reached toward her with one pale, ungloved finger. She did it slowly, as if giving Elvenia the choice to be touched or not.

Elvenia held her breath, sitting as still as she could.

The tip of the woman’s finger touched Elvenia’s third eye, and, with a tingling rush, the mountain, the cavern, the birds, the trees, the sulphur, all faded away.

And Elvenia Saw. She saw, flickering like an old-fashioned film, the six people she had helped so far.

But the stories unspooling in front of her didn’t look the way she remembered. Something was wrong. That man, whom she’d left so happy with his puppy and his newfound work volunteering at the shelter? He sat miserable and alone in his apartment.

The woman she’d given a boost to, increasing her luck at work and in love? Rode the bus with a scowl on her face, her mousy hair a tangled mess, her work clothes rumpled.

The lives of person after person rolled by in flickers as Elvenia watched, unable to help them.

Once the final film reel was done, the tingling in her forehead ceased, and she slumped forward, breathing in the frigid, sulphur and balsam-tinged air.

The woman caught her shoulders, setting her gently upright on the ledge once more. Then she gently wiped the tears from Elvenia’s face.

This time, Elvenia looked the woman dead in the eyes, anger and sorrow warring in her heart. “What happened? What did you do? And who. Are. You?”

“I am the Witch of Winter. The Singer of Snow. The Princess of Yuletide. And I did nothing but show a future without you, Elvenia. A future without your help and intervention. A future in which those people never had a taste of your magic and what it could do.”

Elvenia’s heart ached, but she felt something else there, too.

“You mean…”

“Your magic is enough, Elvenia. It is more than enough. Don’t you see? Your magic changed those people’s lives, and they are better off now than before you came.”

Elvenia could see that, and her heart lightened, just a bit. But was it truly enough?

“There is so much suffering…and I…I can’t fix it!”

That. That was the thing she had not allowed herself to voice, not even to herself. But it had been there, gnawing like a worm at her heart.

“Ah. You don’t see. Elvenia?” The woman tilted her head to one side, looking so much like one of the cardinals that followed her, Elvenia almost smiled. “How many Faery Wish Parents are there in the world?”

Elvenia looked out at the trees, the red, and russet-colored birds. A light snowfall had started up again, spreading a fresh blanket of white.

“I don’t know. Thousands? Tens of thousands?”

“And?”

Elvenia held that bright blue gaze once more. “They’re all better than me.”

The woman laughed again, setting the cardinals to flight. It took longer for them to settle again, but when they did, the Witch of Winter did something quite surprising.

She bundled Elvenia into a hug. A hug that smelled of cinnamon and cloves. Of cooking apples and warm bread. Of hearthfire and snow.

Every place the witch’s body touched hers, Elvenia felt magic.

And the last part of herself that had been closed off, watchful and waiting, relaxed, as if she had never left the steaming pool.

“They are not better than you, Elvenia. They are simply different, with different talents and skills. Each of us has a part to play in the unfolding story of this world and all Nine Worlds.”

The woman drew back, and cupped Elvenia’s cheek with a warm hand.

“You are perfect, Elvenia. Exactly as you are. Your magic is just the magic all those people needed. Will you claim it?”

Elvenia stood once more and took in a shuddering breath. Then she stepped away from the Witch of Winter, away from the pool and the shallow cavern. She stepped out into the gently falling snow, with the trees, and the cardinals. She smelled magic on the air. The Winter Witch’s magic, to be sure, but something else, too.

She smelled her own magic. Lifting her wand, Elvenia smiled, a true smile, the first in far too many months.

Her magic swirled and sparkled through the falling snow, wreathing the star tip of her wand.

“I, Elvenia, Faery Wish Parent, claim my magic, from this point forward.”

The witch stepped closer, lending her support.

“I claim my power, and the good I do in the world. I claim…I claim the fact that I can do a lot, but I cannot do it all.”

The Winter Witch whooped and clapped her hands in joy.

The star on Elvenia’s wand lit up with a flare, then subsided once again. Elvenia’s boots felt sturdy beneath her feet, and the cold kissed her cheeks.

She felt alive. Comfortable. Right.

The witch grasped Elvenia’s left hand and squeezed. “Better?”

“Much. Thank you.”

Then Elvenia laughed.

“I guess I needed my own Wish Parent after all.”

“Sometimes we all do,” the Winter Witch replied.

Elvenia glanced sideways at her. “Even you?”

The witch’s mouth spread in a grin.

“Even me.”

 


 

 This story was generously funded by my Patreon supporters. I'm so grateful to each of them.

 

 

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