Once upon a certain hallowed night in late October sat the Sea Witch at her dinner table in silence. The meal she had prepared was laid out upon a simple cloth with candles, gourds, and pussy willows, and across from her a place was set before an empty seat.
As she soaked up the last of the elderberry sauce on her plate with a bit of bread, the raven on its driftwood perch gurgled a loud, low croak into the quiet.
She frowned up at him in his corner, finished chewing her bread and stood from the table before she spoke.
"That's not like you, Nox. You know we don't speak during a dumb supper, it's for communing with the dead," she said, gesturing back at the empty seat only to find it occupied.
"Don't scold him, he's paying more attention than you," said the ghost.
"Frigga Thor and Odin!" the Sea Witch exclaimed. "Grandmother! You startled me!"
"Well catch your breath dear and sit back down," the ghost said urgently, "I'm here because your sister needs your help and I can't stay long."
The Sea Witch sat. "What's wrong with Adelaide?"
The ghost sighed, pinching her translucent brow, "I have been blessed with two gifted and brilliant granddaughters, but only one who is wise enough not to talk to faeries."
"Oh no," said the Sea Witch.
"Precisely. You understand. I can't reach her and she doesn't realize she's under an enchantment, she feels nothing. But by Samhain's end, it may be strong enough to drown her."
"Drown her? Well, what kind of -" But the chair was empty again.
The Sea Witch scoffed.
"Do you believe that?" she said looking up at the raven. He croaked a low croak.
"Me neither. She didn't even try the pie I made for her! Always in such a hurry, always somewhere to be."
The raven swooped down from his perch then, and landed on her shoulder.
"Ow! Okay! Yes, we're going to help Adelaide!"
She only needed a few moments to think before she began pulling jars off her shelves, filling the crook of her arm with little clinking bottles filled with different herbs and oils. Barefoot, she swept out the back door and made a swift circle around the garden, gathering leaves of this and that, and ran back inside with cold, wet toes.
Taking one last appreciative look at the picturesque dumb supper table, she deconstructed it, and then laid out her bounty of ingredients. A bottle labeled "Moonwater" went into the cauldron first, followed by the bay leaves, upon which she had written her spell.
She whispered indiscernibly as she ground the rosemary and nettles with mortar and pestle, hummed fragments of enchanting songs as she sprinkled in the star anise whole. Watching closely, the raven offered croaks and clicks of concern, and the occasional purr of approval.
"Clever, right?" she looked at him for confirmation and he flapped his lengthy wings in agreement.
The pot was heavy when she carried it outside to hang it over the fire pit, but she managed to lift it just high enough to get the handle on the hook. She lit a fire with dry twigs and built it up to a blaze beneath the cauldron, whispering as she watched her concoction come to a boil.
"Once the clouds have taken up all of the water from the potion in my cauldron, you'll go and tell them they must move East, all the way to the mountains," the Sea Witch said to the raven.
So as the potion boiled down to the pulp of the Sea Witch's spell, the raven watched for her signal. And with the blessing of her glance, he took flight into the sky, circling the last of the rising steam on his way to give her message to the clouds.
By the time the Sea Witch snuffed the last candle on her bedside table that night, her spell had bumped against the mountains to the East and begun to gather itself, growing heavier until it fell upon a cleft of forested mountainside. There it slipped down the trees and into rivulets, rejoining in a small pool before tumbling over a sheer face and into a deep and narrow riverbed.
Under the light of the waning crescent moon the Sea Witch's magic took hold, coalescing and expanding from the mouth of the waterfall and enchanting the entire length of the river's meandering course out to sea. Some time around the witching hour, the spell passed by the little seaside cottage where the Sea Witch slept, and stretched itself out into the bay where coastal townsfolk would later report unseasonable bioluminescence.
At dawn, Adelaide the Woods Witch rose as she usually did with the crowing of the rooster, feeling nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary. As usual, she set the kettle to boil as she watered her plants and pulled back the curtains to let in the morning sun. And as usual, the squirrels and rabbits trailed at her heels as she walked gracefully with her mug of elderflower tea to the wide and shallow river behind her house.
A creature of habit, the Woods Witch liked to start her days by walking barefoot down the river with her tea. Every morning, she greeted the crawdads and salamanders around her toes and the birds in the branches above her head, harmonizing with the chorus of wind and birdsong, and telling each of the trees how beautiful they were looking that day.
But the moment Adelaide stepped into the river that morning, she stopped short. Suddenly, she became aware of a chain of little white flowers around her neck, and she could not remember putting it on. She tugged on the chain. It came loose in her hand, falling in pieces to the water. She stood there and watched the little bits of stems and blossoms swirling around in the currents moving past her ankles until they had all been swept away, and then she slowly lifted her mug and took a sip of her tea, puzzled.
Just then, a raven croaked from the canopy above her and lifted off. She looked up and found the swaying branch he'd been watching from, catching a glimpse of wings before he swooped out of view.
It was a familiar croak.
And her sister had that knack for water magic.
And she was standing in a river...
“Nox?” She called out after the raven, much too late. She’d have to ask Alesia about it.
The Woods Witch's routine was well known to the Sea Witch who awoke, unworried, quite a bit later that morning. In her cottage on the coast, she had steeped her tea and sat down with an engrossing book when there was a rapping at her window. She got up again to open the latch for the glossy corvid on the sill and he flapped into the room ungracefully, landed on the table beside her breakfast and began plucking berries from her plate.
“So?” she prompted.
The raven made a soft, cooing sound and returned to eating her currants.
“Good,” she said, taking her seat. “Good.”
She scratched the raven between his wings. “It’s Samhain, you know. Finish those berries now and come with me to Grandmother’s favorite spot on the coast. We’re going to leave her some of this pie while the veil is still thin.”
HAPPY SAMHAIN, SEA WITCHES! DON’T GO LOOKING FOR FAERIES!
Such a lovely story! Loved it!