The Ishi and the Witch: A Short Story of Fantasy by Cam 3 of 3
Humans and Ishi came from far and wide, many traveling all night, to be part of what was being called a revolution. The numbers of humans and Ishi were astounding even to them. None could recall such a gathering in the kingdom. As one, they marched toward the castle, chanting as they went. Unity was being forged in spite of the vast differences between the two populations.
The march was only a ruse. It was of incredible importance that it worked, but the demands they were to present to the witch were only a diversion. The people knew there was real danger that the witch would unleash her anger and magic to destroy them all. Timing was crucial.
At the same time that the crowd approached the castle, Billy, Orin and two human men stole to the rear wall of the fortress. Located in the center of the stone wall at ground level was a wood door that looked like a mouse hole in the baseboard of a human's house. The door had to be opened or beaten down, and the success of the whole operation depended upon it.
The door had a simple lock, but something else was holding the door closed. Was it magic? One man had brought a very large hammer. He successfully knocked the lock off, but the door remained immovable. They all pushed together to no avail. They knew they were taking too long, that the people in front of the castle were now stalling. Anytime the witch could lose all patience and strike out in anger.
Orin had the other three stand aside. He backed up to the door. He was a big and powerful elkish.
"Think of the deerish who died the day I came here," said Billy.
"Think of all who have suffered and died at this woman's hands," said one of the men.
Orin closed his eyes and saw again all the death and destruction lying in the witch's wake, including the death of his wife, Mist's mother. His hind quarters rose into the air, his rear legs drew forward. Billy saw such determination in the elkish eyes, that he knew. He knew.
Two massive hooves struck the door with a blow that splintered both wood and magic, for magic it had been.
The mass of Ishi and humans at the front of the castle had advanced on the gates. The witch stood on the parapet at the top of the wall. Many in the crowd reported that she became distracted and looked confused at one point in time, turning first one way, then the other. Orin later deduced that it was the breaking of the magic on the door that had startled her.
The two elkish and two men sprinted into the castle. They were searching every possible room, but the structure was enormous. There were no guards, no servants. The woman and child lived in the castle alone.
Finally Billy called for the others to stop. They grew quiet and listened. They could hear the muffled roar of the crowd outside. They were banging on the front gates with hammers, hooves, fists and feet. The four strained to hear something different. What were they listening for? Then there was a lull in the crowd's roar, an instant in time and they could hear the crying of a little girl.
They had no desire to harm or frighten the child, so the door was opened slowly and the men entered first. The elk kept silent until it was necessary for them to speak so the child wouldn't be frightened. The men told her they were taking her to her mother, which was true.
They left the way they had entered. It was still crucial that they remain undetected. Time was running out.
"Billy," said Orin. "Can you carry the smaller of these two men?"
"I will, whether my body wants to or not." Billy lay down so the man could climb onto his back. Orin did the same for the other man and the girl. The race was on.
Up on the parapet, the witch was conjuring her magic. Across the meadow, two elkish carrying three humans flew like the wind. They slowed and stopped at the gate in the middle of the meadow. It had been Billy's idea. He had told Orin about the watch he had been wearing when he entered their world. It had stopped working immediately. The plan was based on that fact. What worked in one world, might not work in the other.
One of the men carried the little girl out into the meadow where the witch would be able to see from her elevated position. The man held the child up over his head.
"There is your mother. Do you see her on top of the wall?" said Orin.
The girl began to cry again, then to cry out more and more loudly, until the witch heard her daughter's voice.
The witch exhibited magic none had ever seen before. She stood on the top of the wall, above the parapet and leapt. It might be that not even she knew if it would work. But it did work, and she gathered speed as she flew across the meadow to rescue her daughter.
There was little time for Orin, Billy and the men to act. They hadn't foreseen such a display of magic. But they reached the door, opened it and pushed the child out into whatever lay on the other side. The witch landed and stared at the door. She locked eyes with Orin, then Billy and each of the men. Then she ripped the door open and passed through, never to be heard from again in the realm of her former kingdom.
Orin and Billy waited in silence. The crowd of humans and Ishi silently crossed the meadow toward the gate. They had waited long enough and the cheering began. The witch had been banished.
Orin turned back to celebrate with Billy. The boy was examining his own hands, his legs, his face. Mist was with him.
"It worked," said Billy. "Her magic is gone." He looked around for all the Ishi he wanted to say goodbye to.
"Billy!" Orin was alarmed. "The gate, Billy, go now."
The gate was flickering between solid and semi-transparent. There was no time at all for goodbyes. Billy sprinted to the gate, pulled and waved a hand above his head to the cheering of the ishi and humans.
It was silent as soon as he pulled the door closed. He turned and saw the witch and her daughter huddled together on the footpath that led through the woods. He walked over and put his arms around them. What else could he do?
It was about ten-fifteen on the same morning Billy had gone through the gate. He had been gone for two and a quarter hours. I found the three just like that, Billy embracing a woman and a child. All three were weeping. We stayed long enough for Billy to tell me the story. The woman, the witch, even added details of her own. The will to fight had dissipated with her magic.
We all walked together toward Billy's house working on the details for the story of a homeless woman and her child. Nobody would believe the truth. Nobody but me.
So there you have it. My first telling of Billy's story. I've already told you that Billy passed on recently. He was not an old man when he went, but he was ready. The witch, we called her Caprice, passed away a few years ago.
As for me, I married a beautiful young woman several years after these events. Today we walk together through the woods, and she plays little tricks with magic that her mother taught her. It's strange how the magic grows stronger where the gate once stood.