The Witch’s Guidance

A family of four lived in the snow in isolation, this family a different kind; a family of magicians. In this small, isolated, yet warm house there lived an experienced witch who looked to be in her late twenties, their young apprentice of around 13, neither boy nor girl, and the witch-in-training’s mother and father of unknown skill. The magic of witch and apprentice had taken on mostly mundane uses around the house; on both sides of the door, there was a mirror covering the entire surface. If you looked into the mirror, the state of your reflection would take on the state of the mirror. For now, the mirror was in only standard condition; if you looked into it, you saw only yourself as you were standing in front of it.

Some changes to appearance were made using magic, but the full degree of change to each person was known only to one person – themselves. The room was a cosy little house hidden in a snow-covered wasteland, looking like any other cosy little houses hidden in snow-covered wastelands regardless of who lived inside. To one side of the room was a grand fireplace that spent most of the waking hours of the day in use even with the windows on the adjoining wall, the days short and the nights reigning. On the opposite side of the room to the fireplace were the doors to a single bedroom, presumably belonging to the witch-in-training’s parents. They needed the rest; they went out fairly often to gather firewood, only returning several hours after nightfall.

All four were content with this life; the witch taught the apprentice the trade of magic small piece by small piece be it through tomes or through demonstration and their mother and father maintained spent the majority of their time maintaining this peace.

One night normal until now, the witch-in-training became very frustrated with life after failing to master the latest thing they’d been taught. They felt they were no longer fit to be any sort of witch, that they were no longer worthy to even be here. They felt hopeless, and that the only option left was to leave in the quiet of the cabin’s night into the raging snowstorm outside.

Putting on several insulating layers and finally a witch’s shawl, they set off outside, not even opening the door or even thinking, breaking right through it in a single magic-powered bound, tearing the apprentice’s clothes in several places. The shawl was in tatters; they looked back at the mirror briefly. Despite the mirror being smashed, the apprentice looked down and they saw exactly what they saw in the reflection: torn clothes, tattered shawl, bloodied skin, broken will. Turning back round, they ran far into the distance, fading into forever’s white fog.

The witch barely saw the escape despite arriving only 10 seconds after the mirror was smashed. The apprentice’s parents anxiously stood behind the witch with a worried look or perhaps even something hiding tears, hoping against hope there was at least some good news of this. The witch put on the best insulating clothes she could find, and wordlessly marched out the door with a scarf covering the bottom half of her face. With someone with as much experience as magic as her, she could find anybody effortlessly. This sort of location magic wasn’t even magic to her any more, simply instinct.

Meanwhile, the apprentice continued to run away in a direction they hoped was still away from the cabin without a clue as to where they were headed, not paying even a single thought to the consequences of this act. Everything looked the same; there were no trees, plants, or anything to distinguish one place from another, the ground was white and glistening with snow in the dark, sometimes going uphill or downhill slightly before evening out. They continued running anyway, becoming more and more lost with every hurried footstep dooming them to this wilderness.

It was by fortune or misfortune they saw a log cabin appear in the fog ahead, as silent as their own had always been. On closer inspection, it wasn’t home. It was a dark log cabin in the wasteland, perhaps abandoned, perhaps vacated. Against better judgement the apprentice entered. It looked just like home, but many years older. There weren’t as many things as home had in the front room and the fireplace hadn’t been used in a long time. Before they had long to inspect any further there was a knock at the door.

The witch was met with the sight of her apprentice with tattered clothes and small scars covering her face and hands. She didn’t express anger but instead smiled warmly. “I’m not disappointed in you.” Her apprentice looked confused. “You’re not? But don’t you remember all my mistakes?” they said. “I’m actually 98. I don’t remember things as well as I used to. Even if I remembered, I wouldn’t be angry at all.” There was no reply, but instead the apprentice looked down at their tattered shawl. The witch continued. “You’re only young. You’re bound to make mistakes. How do you think magicians get to where they are? They make lots of mistakes along the way. In fact, magic usually involves many mistakes. More than a lot of professions. You’ve done better than many people I’ve seen in my time.”

The apprentice looked up and managed a faint smile. “Am I…am I still a witch then?” “Definitely. In fact, I remember when I was young, I thought I’d failed, so…I ran out into the snow and found an abandoned log cabin. My teacher found me and told me all I’d told you.” The witch’s apprentice expression shifted back to confusion. “Are you…” “Yes. I’m not actually a woman, nor am I the age I look as I’ve just told you. I’m you, of course. It needs some advanced magic for two of you to be here. I hid my identity because you weren’t ready to know until now. But I’m here, and you learn how and why.” From behind, the younger witch’s parents emerged. They stood still and took a look at both the faces they saw, seeing smiles of newfound knowledge. They ran to hug their child without words, their fears dispelled. The four of them walked into the empty cabin. The master witch held back laughter. “You’re going to have fun decorating this place again.” The other witch looked in yet more confusion. A beaming smile, the elder said: “This is home. We built this place. The magic you’ll learn will be what makes home. Those fireplace light shows you love so much? That’s you, only a year from now. But first, I must teach you.” Taking a tome from the bag set down onto the floor, the elder witch continued training. The loop was complete.

Only time would tell what happened between now, 85 years and beyond, but later generations would tell similar stories.

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