The bus driver announced that there would be a half hour stop at Wurt Wurt Koort to change a tyre. The road from Waldmeer to Darnall ran through the hills and forests of the Leleks. At the highest point was the little town of Wurt Wurt Koort. From the Wurt Wurt Koort Town Hall, if one looked further inland, one could see Darnall in the distance. In the other direction, one could just make out the sea. Waldmeer lay beside it.
At one time, Wurt Wurt Koort was a thriving, respectable hill-town, thus the presence of a rather pretentious town hall. However, the death of a local child changed all that and now it was surviving, but barely. Further, it was rumoured to be run by witches. It was said that they were the only ones who remained. They weren’t bad witches. In fact, a number of them had businesses and were visited, with some success, for healing, readings, and other mysterious type activities. There was a leadership group or coven of thirteen. They were all women, although, these days, they said that they were gender-neutral. They ranged from fifty to positively ancient. Their headquarters was the local cafe, the Wurt Wurt Koort Tearooms, which was next to the town hall.
It was a brilliant morning. It was promising to be a hot day but it wasn’t hot yet. Anyway, the air in the hills was always cooler than in Darnall. Five more minutes till Wurt Wurt Koort, thought Faith. She loved watching the passing trees. They were so majestic, yet so humble. Her mind wandered to a year ago when Gabriel was living with her in Waldmeer after accepting a teaching position at the Darnall College. It was a happy, content time. She recalled a conversation they had, one morning, about dreaming. Later, on his way out the door to work, Gabriel looked at her intently, stepped back a little, and said, “Well, you are awake now and here. Just remember that Amira, or one day you will dream yourself to another place altogether.”
Faith hadn’t thought of that conversation for a long time. Huh, she thought, from the mouths of babes. I did dream myself to another place altogether! After a moment, she thought with a smile, Maybe, he wasn’t such a baby, after all.
The bus pulled up next to the Wurt Wurt Koort Town Hall. Faith glanced at the road sign which had graffiti on it saying, Witches Rule. It wasn’t difficult to recognise them. With more pleasure than anticipated, Faith walked past a large wooden table in the tearooms with about eight women. Not a coloured head in sight. Most had long hair. Some wore it loose. Some had braids. All were completely unfashionable and totally at home with it. Their clothes were a great outburst of colour and long flowing skirts seemed to be the preferred dress code. There were several loud and enthusiastic conversations going on at once in the group. One woman had, what was probably, a grandchild in a highchair next to her.
The reason Faith was travelling to Darnall today was to introduce herself to Thomas and Grace. She had heard that Thomas was completely renovating the old Darnall Arcade. It was becoming not only the preferred arcade of the town but it was also attracting increasing tourist interest with its innovative design. Thomas and Grace were in their shop, Mac & Mac. True to their age, background, and natures, both were delighted to meet Faith as Amira’s cousin. Too tactful to ask about the details of Amira’s absence, they concentrated instead on Faith’s similarity to Amira in looks and demeanour. Being ten years older than Amira and closer to their age, they felt a natural inclination to want to be friends with Faith.
Grace showed Faith the rest of the arcade, pointing out Teresa and Bryan’s shop, Handspun. Like every other shop in Thomas’s arcade, it was flourishing.
“They have just returned from their honeymoon,” said Grace of Teresa and Bryan. “They had a lovely family wedding in the Waldmeer Convent in spring.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” said Faith, perhaps, a little too sincerely.
“It’s great for Teresa’s girls,” said Grace. “Bryan is a good stepdad.”
“How old are Teresa’s girls?” asked Faith.
“Josephine is sixteen and Rebecca is fourteen.” said Grace.
Goodness, growing up, thought Faith.
“Just between you and me,” said Grace with only goodwill, “I think it took Bryan a bit of convincing to get Teresa to marry again but now she’s totally on board.”
“I hope so,” laughed Faith. “Too late to abandon ship now.”
“And too early,” smiled Grace cleverly.
Grace has really grown; thought Faith, her confidence, sense of humour, and general level of happiness.
Only one of the original four healing shops had remained in the arcade. The rest had closed or moved because the rent was too much or the new, vibrant feel of the arcade was not in line with their own business mentality.
“Thomas always says,” said Grace, “‘What isn’t growing is dying.’”
There is definitely no place for the dying in Thomas’s arcade, thought Faith approvingly.
“Hello, Gabriel,” said Grace as he walked into the arcade. “Have you met Faith, yet?”
“I certainly have,” said Gabriel giving them both a kiss hello. Faith was rather surprised. “Amira asked me to look after Faith’s son for a little while,” said Gabriel.
“Yes, well, it was rather more than a little while,” said Faith apologetically.
Although Faith had told herself that Gabriel couldn’t see who she was, it wasn’t exactly true. He, actually, could see her. Of course, he didn’t know that Faith was Amira (after her ten years in the Borderfirma Mountains) but it would have been impossible for him not to know, at some level, that Faith was exactly the same as Amira. One cannot spend so many years with another person and not recognise them. He recognised her alright, but he didn’t want to. He was hurt and angry that the Amira he knew had gone away. More than that, he was angry about all the challenging things that came with Amira. It wasn’t even a matter of whether she was right or not. He didn’t want another person like Amira in his life. And this version was older and would be even more Amira than Amira was. Relationships always bring about the dissolution of our delusions. And thus it would have remained except that all Life hears of such defeating self-talk is, Blah, blah, blah.
“I see your lips movin’ but I can’t hear a thing,” says Life. Life always does what It wants.
Blight in the Night
On the return bus trip, a woman about Faith’s age sat next to her. After nodding to her, Faith remained quiet. Unless a situation called for Faith to speak, she didn’t. She had no need of idle conversation.
As the bus rattled through Wurt Wurt Koort, the woman said, “I was born in this town. Pity about it these days.”
“Really?” said Faith.
“Oh, I’m not from the witch bloodline,” laughed the woman.
“I see,” said Faith urging her on.
“When I was a child, there was a fight for leadership in the witch clan,” said the woman. “Normally, we all lived side-by-side with no problems. There was a lot of respect in those days. However, the witch clan fight got nastier and nastier. Rumour had it that the head witch had become dark in her old age. There was a challenge for leadership from one of the younger witches. As the old witch got worse, she lost her supporters and was eventually told to leave. She left, but scrawled on the town hall that night,
Hold onto your daughters.
Try as you might.
They’ll be gone by daylight.
Carnage of our fight.
The woman pointed to the Wurt Wurt Koort Town Hall as the bus rattled past. “The witches cleaned up the graffiti by mid-afternoon,” she continued, “but everyone had seen it. They were scared. A vindictive witch is no match for ordinary folk. For a while, no one did anything. We all waited. Three months passed and then the ten-year-old daughter of the contesting witch died from a mysterious illness. That was it. If the new head witch couldn’t keep her own daughter safe, how could she protect everyone else’s daughters? So, everyone left, except the witches. Even some of them left.”
Dancing, Magick, and Fun
That evening, Faith told Bethany all about Wurt Wurt Koort. Bethany was riveted to the conversation and so Faith was not surprised when, the next day, Bethany told her mother that she was going to visit Wurt Wurt Koort. Although Bethany was Faith’s daughter, she was also the future ruler of the Borderfirma Mountains. That was more important. And so, in spite of her maternal instincts, all Faith said was, “Leave Lentilly here with me. Have a lovely day.” Both knew she was saying, Be careful.
Bethany loved the place. However, it wasn’t just love. She saw a need and she knew that that need was hers to fill. A few days later, Bethany said, “Mum, I’m going to start a children’s class at Wurt Wurt Koort. It will be all the things that come naturally to us Borderfirma people. All things happy. Dancing, music, and a little bit of magic for interest sake.” Bethany had always been a creative soul. Faith nodded but didn’t say anything. She knew that a children’s class meant that not only would her daughter be in Wurt Wurt Koort but so would her granddaughter. Bethany continued, “The thing that is missing from Wurt Wurt Koort is happiness. It went when that child died. Because everyone knows I am not from the witch bloodline, I think they will start to trust that the little town is safe and venture back into it. They will think that I don’t really have magic in me because I’m not a witch.” Bethany and Faith both laughed at that thought. Little would they know that the magic in Bethany was more than many of those witches combined.
The class was called, Dance, Magick, and Fun. It went so well and grew so quickly that within the month, Bethany was expanding her budding business and decided to rent a cottage in Wurt Wurt Koort. Faith took a deep breath and helped them move. The two future queens of the Borderfirma Mountains, thought Faith. On their own. In the domain of the witches. She went outside and listened to the waves at the bottom of her hill; so familiar and untroubled. Like everyone else, thought Faith, they have to walk their own path. And they have to grow into their right to rule. She saw the eagle family at the edge of the forest. The babies were growing fast. Faith then told herself, Anyway, the girls need to enjoy life. Who knows what will come their way? And so Bethany and young Lentilly lived in Wurt Wurt Koort with all their light and beauty and the little town seemed to skip with joy and relief.