Priyanka Chandrasekar '23


A young, mute, and lonely witch finds a home in the nearby village.

It started with a drunken old man.

She had woken up one early morning and found him passed out on the ground. He reeked of sweat and alcohol but snored softly on her dusty doorway.

It was rare for people to come through her side of the woods, with the fog that loomed overhang, due to her use of magic.

Perhaps the villagers were moving closer to her home, taking trees down to give space to their young ones, or the man had simply gotten off and had gotten lost, only to end up in front of her home.

Either way, she should return him to the village, before people came looking for him.

She warily eyed him while he slept, noting both his fresh and old bruises and the dark eye bags under his eyes. Her hands itched to heal the injuries and her heart longed for the company of something that was not a plant or an animal.

Perhaps she could heal his injuries before sending him on his way…


Her next visitors were a group of young boys.

It had been several days since she had healed the man and brought him somewhere the villagers could easily find him.

She heard her guests before she saw them while attending to her garden.

“I can’t believe it!”

She froze at the sound of voices.

“Who knew the cranky old bastard was telling the truth!”

She winced at the foul language, silently inching forward until she could see her guests.

There were only five of them, some varying in age, all of them too young to be apprentices but old enough to run and play without their mothers watching over them.

All of them were staring at her home in awe.

“…most of the day to find this place, and it doesn’t even look the way he said it did!”

She had forgotten how much magic she had used to make sure people never found her home, but it had hurt when he said that.

But she hadn’t been expecting guests, either. If she had, she would have made the place look a little more presentable.

She watched them cautiously, as they each jostled one another before one brave one walked up to her front door and knocked.

She didn’t move.

They whispered among themselves as another walked up and repeated the action, his fist coming surprisingly light on her door.

She still didn’t move.

The biggest one scoffed. “There’s nobody home, come on, we’ll be late.”

They left, as quickly as they came. After a few moments, she went inside, mentally chastising herself for her cowardice.

She had not seen other people in so long. She should have greeted them, and invited them in! But her fear had won out, her fear of being ostracized and isolated had made her stomach turn.

Perhaps, she should lift the fog off her forest, just a little bit.

Perhaps, she should make them apology gifts.

She grabbed her supplies, wondering if they liked sweets.


The next morning, she left a bag of treats out, along with an apology note and a list of ingredients, before she went out to scavenge more seeds from her forest.

When she got back that night, they were all gone, basket, note and all.


It took a week for her next guests to come. This time, it was during a downpour.

She had been preparing a ‘grow’ blessing for her garden when someone knocked on her door.

Rap, rap, rap.

She had thought she had imagined it. After all, who would have come through her forest during such heavy rain?

Rap, rap, rap.

Her brows creased as she wiped her hands on a rag, quickly making her way to the door. She steeled herself, praying that it wasn’t a witch hunter or an angry villager who thought she had bewitched their child.

It was one of the boys who had come by earlier, the leader, along with a middle-aged man.

She blinked. Why were they here, and in such heavy rain?

She quickly herded them in without a word, quickly setting a fire, grabbing them blankets, and making some hot tea laced with a bit of magic to ward off any illnesses.

They accepted the tea, and drank it, praising her tea, not noticing anything amiss.

She gave them a quick soft smile before the man spoke about their visit.

“My son said you left him some treats a couple of days ago, for him and his friends.”

Her smile faded as she gave the man a nod.

Was he here to scold her, chastise her for bewitching his son?

“If that’s the case…”

She cast her glance aside, scrunching her skirt into fists.

“Would it be possible for you to make more?”

She looked up, her eyes wide, full of surprise.

The man scratched the back of his head awkwardly, looking sheepish. “My wife had one of them, and she’s been craving them. She’s with our third child.”



She quickly headed for her pantry, unable to keep a smile off of her face.

They liked them!

They actually liked them!

She had made extras, like she always did, and quickly placed them in a basket for them, along with some other items that she knew would help with discomfort and other issues that come with childbirth.

When she brought them out, the man brightened up in relief, standing up as his blanket fell to the floor. He takes great strides toward her, a pouch in his hands.

“Oh, thank you! I have some coins for your trouble.”

He holds out the pouch to her, and she shakes her head, pushing the pouch back to him.

“Please, I insist.”

She firmly shook her head and kept her hands by her side, not allowing him to give her the money.

The man sighs. “Well…If you insist.”

He motions for the boy to the stand as well and moves toward the door. She follows them, silently, a small bag of different treats in her hand for the young boy.

The boy accepts her gift at the door with glee, along with a strained smile from his father, before she sends them both on their way.

She makes sure they are a while away from her home before she lifts the storm from her forest, hoping she has made their path more accessible for their journey home.

The next morning, her forest’s fog was even lighter, now seeming more welcoming for anyone to enter.


He started visiting every couple of days, always asking for some sort of tea, or other items that his wife had requested.

Somedays days he brought his children with him, the boy and a little girl.

She always added some treats for the young ones and his wife. She also always refused his money.

She learned that the man’s name was Andre and that he was the village smithy.

She learned that his eldest son’s name was Adrien, and his younger daughter was named Anna, for his mother, who died of illness.

She learned that his wife’s name was Elaine and that she was the daughter of a merchant.

One day, he brought his wife with him, her stomach growing round with a child. Elaine had been taken with her as soon as she had met her.

She had made one of her first friends that day.

And soon she had other visitors, other people from the village coming to meet her.

She met Marcel, the town baker, who begged her to teach him how to make her treats.

She met Noelle, the town midwife, who asked her for some of the items she had made, for other expecting women.

She met Pierre, the town butcher, who asked for medicines to prevent illnesses from his meat.

She met Marc, the town mayor, who asked for supplies and advice about what should be done for the town.

She always refused their money, always pushing it back to them with a quiet smile.

With each day, the fog over the forest became lighter.


The dry season had come.

Her plants were well, as they would always survive the droughts that came along, thanks to her magic.

The townspeople were not as fortunate.

The town’s crops were dwindling with each day. And without the crops, the townspeople would suffer as well.

Elaine had explained to her the entire situation, with animated hand signals. Her face had grown weary, with worry and fear, even as she held her newborn babe.

Elaine told her that if the rain never came, there would be no food for the village, and any income for the next few months.

There was a chance that Elaine would lose her child.

It was never spoken, but she could tell with every break in Elaine’s voice and in all the tears that Elaine could not shed.

Long after Elaine had left, her mind still pondered on the situation.

Perhaps, she could do something about this.


The next day, there was a rain shower that let their crops grow. The townspeople rejoiced.

She watched them from afar, her cheeks aching from the bright smile she had on.


When the illness came, she placed protection wards around the village and gave the villagers potions for illness prevention.

When the market day came, she gave them charms, to bring them luck.

She gave them potions to help their crops grow more, she gave them herbs to help their children grow stronger, charms to help with fertility, and used her tea to heal whoever came to her door. She prevented wild animals from hunting their animals and children and used her magic to prevent any loss of crops.

With each obstacle the town faced, she helped them in every way that she could, always asking for nothing in return.

She always tried to keep her magic hidden, for fear of isolation but used it in every way possible to help them.

For they were her friends, every single one of the villagers. And that’s what friends do, right?


The hunters had come.

Elaine had told her about how they barged into their town, asking about witches and pushing their weight around.

Noelle had told her about their gruffness, and how they expected her to clean their injuries.

Pierre told her about how they were taking the largest share of their meat and were always wasting most of it.

Marc told her about how they barged into his home, demanding that his wife help make him comfortable.

Each of their voices was laced with worry. Each of them told her to stay safe.

She was terrified. She did not want to be taken away to be killed.

She just wanted to help her friends.


The hunters came for her in the night.

They broke down her door, bound her in rope, and destroyed her house.

She did not struggle or fight. She knew that it would only make things worse.

They took her to the center of town, making a racket with every step they took.

The townspeople had immediately rushed out of their homes, staring with shock at the scene in front of them.

She looked away from them in shame, her face already blotchy from her tears.

“Here is your witch!” The lead huntsman told the townspeople, roughly pushing her forward, “She has avoided prosecution by never entering your village. But fear not. We will destroy your witch, and we will save you all!”

She hangs her head, expecting cheers from the townspeople.

When she doesn’t hear anything, she looks up to seek a very familiar slipper smack the hunter in the face.

Elaine storms up from the crowd, a scowl marring her face.

“LET HER GO!” She screeches.

The other hunters shift their weapons, as the leader tries to soothe her, “Woman, calm down-”

Andre steps up, a hammer in his hand. “Don’t you dare refer to my wife like that-”

“Your wife has been bewitched-”

A rock hits the hunter, coming from almost nowhere.

She now notices the weapons the villagers have, from pitchforks to cleavers to torches. Some of the children even had rocks in their hands.


They chant this over and over again, their words sharp and jagged.

The lead huntsman protests this. “But she’s a witch!”

The town quiets as Marc steps up, a sword in his hand.

“We know.” he states plainly, “We’ve known for quite a while now, but she’s done nothing but help us. You will not kill her.”

She was shocked. They knew about her magic, and yet, they never said or did anything to her.

Her eyes pool with tears, not of sadness but joy.

The hunter faces her, eyes full of anger.

“You bewitched them.” He says, spitting at her feet.

The townspeople roar with fury and attacks.


The hunters never stood a chance.

Their remains were scattered across the town square, their blood drenching the dirt.

Noelle and Pierre are the ones to untie her, gently removing the ropes from her wrists and ankles.

Elaine comes up and hugs her.

“Thank the heavens you’re safe,” Elaine whispers.

She hugs her back, sagging with relief.

Others crowd around, checking to make sure she was uninjured.

She couldn’t stop sobbing, from fear and relief.

The townspeople, her friends, had protected her from the hunters.

She swore to herself that she would work twice as hard to help them in the upcoming year.


She stayed with Andre and Elaine as her home was rebuilt. Thankfully, her garden hadn’t been touched.

She spent hours each day tending to her garden, then came into town, where she’d spend the night in their boisterous home, playing games with Adrien and Anne, and helping Elaine with her baby, and making dinner with them.

It was a nice change from having dinner alone.

It was a sunny day when they led her to a new home that had been under construction for months.

The rest of the town was there, each proudly showing off what they had worked on in regards to the house.

She didn’t realize why until she saw the sign, and her garden replanted behind the house.

Mabel, it said.

She cried and wrapped her arms around Elaine, the closest person to her.

She had finally been accepted.