The Winter Witch

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~Chapter Two~ A Frozen Village

Bergdorf was a village tucked away within a mountain valley, surrounded by trees and a large river near by. It was a good place to live, its people, though sometimes nosey, could be an understanding folk. But like many of those who lived in Bergdorf; there were rules that must be kept in place.

One such rule was if a person where to see those of Elven folk that of the Sidhe, you must leave them be. Do not make eye contact with one and go the other way for it could bring misfortune. Though now many of those who lived in Bergdorf found it rather silly, especially if those of Elven blood made their way through the village selling their wares or buying something, a shopkeeper would not say no if a person of Elven stature came along and had a bag of coin in hand. However, there were still those stuck in the old ways, wanting nothing to do with those who could use magic.

Enya could see both sides to it, even though she did not live in the deep confines of the village, most of the people treated her and her family with genuine respect. Especially her father Arthur, since before his death he was a renowned hunter and had been known to treat those of Elven blood and even the Sidhe with equal to greater respect.

Yet it was because of that, her father was often criticized by the elders in the village, those who had lived far longer then anyone else, even that of the current mayor. Going so far to say that he would be cursed one day and would lose his heart to the black monsters that roamed the mountainside at night.

But it wasn’t those creatures that ended her father’s life, no; it was an arrow to the chest that had done the deed. Which was merely seen as an unfortunate hunting accident that had gone wrong, Enya didn’t know what to feel when it happened, she still didn’t. She didn’t want to think on it too much if she did she would cry again. And that was the last thing she wanted to do.

As Enya walked through the village, trying to quickly make her way to the marketplace, she could overhear instances of conversation from several people, how the river was becoming slightly more difficult to fish with the water constantly freezing overnight and how a few animals were slowly become even more scares then before. It was a definite problem, but the villagers also seemed optimistic, that this storm wasn’t the worst and they would get through it. Like many others before it.

She walked on with the fox not far behind and headed over to a stand where bread was being sold, the fresh warm smell of baked bread always seemed to have an effect on Enya and many others. The smell always seemed to draw people to it, that and the woman tending the stand with her kind generous smile.

“Good morning Enya,” the owner of the stand Emily said when she saw Enya making her way over. “It’s a bit warmer today isn’t it?”

“A little, but last night was pretty awful, I had to unstick my door with hot water.” Enya said when she reached the stand, the woman was in her mid to late forties with her light brown hair showing streaks of silver as there showed to be lines around her eyes and mouth indicating her age. But it didn’t stop her from teasing other people like her husband from time to time.

“Was it the ice again?” when Enya nodded to woman sighed. “That always seems to be the case recently, doesn’t it? This morning it felt so bitterly cold I thought I would turn into an ice block before setting up the stand. Thankfully my store is in a good place, but others are not that lucky. On the bright side we and the innkeeper have been getting a lot of business as of late, so I guess it evens out somewhat.”

“You and your husband run that bakery, and the inn also has a pub it’d make sense for people wanting to go there then to be outside in this weather.” The bakery, inn and a number of other local shops were run in the heart of the village, even though the marketplace thrived well it didn’t have much to contend with when it came to places where you could go inside to stay warm and buy what you need then from a stall outside in the freezing cold.

Enya then looked around noticing how a number of other stands and even a few stores weren’t even open yet, or hadn’t opened at all when the snowstorm hit.

“Looks like some more stalls have closed again.”

Emily merely rested her elbow in her hand as she looked at the other stalls. “Well you can’t blame them for that. Even if it is a business, the weather has been hard on everyone. It’s no surprise that a number of stores can’t open because of it. Though with the recent ones I think it might be due to illness, being out in the cold all day will affect the body.”

“Then maybe this might help,” Enya said as she lifted the smaller basket of medical herbs. “I was going to bring this over to the town’s doctor so he and his workers could buy some off me when I finish up here.”

“Ah, so I take it you brought me more eggs?” she asked and Enya held up the larger basket to reveal the eggs and the woman smiled. “Wonderful, my oaf of a husband has been complaining of the lack of eggs that our chickens have been producing, so this will make him very happy. Will three silver coins be good enough?”

“Actually, I need to buy some bread and buns from you today, so it’ll just be two silver coins and fifty copper.”

“Hmm, you drive a hard bargain my dear.” She said almost teasingly before smiling at her. “You have a deal,” as they did a trade Emily spoke. “Are you still by yourself?” Enya merely looked at the woman with a questioning stare so Emily added. “Your mother Gwendolen, is she still away?”

Enya nodded. “She is, but it can’t be helped she was called to a neighbouring village near the town of See-Stadt before the snow began.”

“Your mother is a notable doctor; even our town’s doctor acknowledges her abilities. I think he freely admits that he wishes more people had her skill. If she had been there when your father…” she gasped and trailed off realizing what she was about to say. “I’m sorry dear; I didn’t mean to say that.”

Enya slowly shook her head. “It’s okay, she wished that too.”

“Your father was loved by everyone; it’s still hard to imagen that it’s been two months since then. But it must be harder on you with your mother away. It’s been nearly two weeks and yet she still hasn’t returned.”

“The storm is probably what’s causing it.” Enya told her.

“But that’s the odd thing isn’t it? It’s supposed to autumn, not winter, and even if it did snow it shouldn’t be this much. People are starting to wonder and even become a little scared...”

Enya didn’t speak as she packed the bread away in the now empty basket. “I should get going, with all the snow the days have become a lot shorter and I don’t want to be outside after dark ether.”

Emily looked at the girl with slight worry. “You know Enya, you could stay with my husband and I for a while. It might be easier on you, you don’t have to do this all by yourself.”

Enya merely offered a faint smile, but even though she did that she knew it wasn’t a genuine one. “I’ll be alright, besides, when my mother does return I want to greet her.”

“If you’re sure, our offer is open for you for as long as you need Enya.”

With a slight nod of thanks Enya left the market with the fox sticking close to her, she felt him press up against her when she paused to allow a wagon to pass by. His presents soothed her a bit from all the tangled emotions that she had lacing around her heart.

She gripped her coat, grasping a necklace that was hidden underneath her clothes as her shoulders began to shake. Roux pushed his head against her and made a sound to get the girl’s attention, she looked down at the fox and smiled and petting his head. “I’m okay Roux, thanks…”

They left the market quickly as they could and headed to the medical building that was used for the injured and the sick. It was a place she had visited several times in her life, not because she was always ill but because her mother would often work and assist there when the village’s doctor had too much on his hands.

The medical building, or hospital as it was also called, was a rather large structure, with at least three floors and five windows across, the whole building was made of red coloured brick and the window frames were painted a stark white while the two front double doors were that of a dark brown colour. With the constant fall of snow, it made such a deep contrast, and still so when the snow would become dark from mud when so many people would walk through it.

With large wide steps Enya avoided the very mucky parts and rushed to the door to open one only to have one nearly smack her in the face. Roux quickly snatched his jaws into little Enya’s coat and just managed to pull her back into a deep mound of white snow.

“Honestly, he calls himself a doctor when he won’t even treat my nephew!” Enya looked up to see a haughty woman with a scowling expression and in fancy dress; she merely glanced at Enya before huffing a breath. “Come along Richard,” the woman said in an agitated tone. “We must return home; your uncle will be angry by this action.”

A boy begrudgingly emerged from the building, also dressed in expensive clothes, with dark blond hair and deep blue eyes, he noticed Enya still in the snow, he glanced back to the woman before going over to the girl and offered a hand to help her up, she merely looked at his hand before his face then took his hand, as he then quickly eased her out of the snow.

“Thank you,” Enya said to him then noticed that his right cheek had some slight swelling.

The boy named Richard looked as if he was about to speak only to have the woman snap out. “Richard! Leave the common girl alone and get over here this instant! We are going home!”

The boy cringed slightly in response before looking back at Enya and then merely let go of her hand and ran to the woman being careful not to slip. “I’m coming Aunt Margret!”

Enya merely looked at the retreating figures of the mean looking woman and young boy before turning to the fox who was now tugging on her coat.

“Okay, okay I get it. Let’s go.” She said as she went to the door but paused when she saw a sign that read: “Volunteers needed.” With this medical building people would often be asked to volunteer to assist for those in medical care, much of it was just minor cuts or casting a limb and resetting a bone back into place. It was always how things were done in this village with the lead doctor going around and making sure everyone was in top health though now it seemed like it was busier then ever. As she opened the door Roux shook the extra snow off of his body before going in as Enya followed. Right as she entered the building Enya saw several women and men wearing white clothes while assisting those in greater need. While others who had been looked at were being visited by relatives and others fast asleep.

“Stay here Roux,” Enya told the fox and he merely curled up by the door patiently waiting as Enya made her way through the building her grey eyes scanning the people looking for the one in charge. It didn’t take her too long to fine the man she was looking for.

Doctor Erich Fortner, with black hair showing signs of turning grey and his sharp brown eyes seen behind a thin pair of spectacles, to those who did not know him they would think he was a harsh man. He could be when overworked, but those who knew him understood he only wanted people to be healthy.

He paused in giving a diagnosis when he saw Enya before turning and speaking to one of the women who aided him. After finishing what he was saying to the man who lay in bed the man then went to Enya. “You showed later then usual; I was beginning to think that you might be sick as well.”

“As well?” Enya repeated as she followed him. “Are some of the volunteers ill?”

“Yes, some with colds and others with fevers. I sent those who show the slightest of sickness home to prevent others from getting ill. The last any of us need is an epidemic.”

Enya looked at the man with slight confusion; she didn’t know what that word meant. “Doctor, what does “epidemic” mean?”

He looked to a number of those who were ill and being cared for by family before moving her along to his office to talk. “It means a lot of people could get sick and not get any better. With this sudden change in weather not many people were prepared for it, especially since it was supposed to be the harvest season. Everything seems to be a complete and utter mess. The farmers are frantically trying to preserve what crops they have, but it’s difficult. No one is even sure why this is happening.”

“A number of people didn’t have their stands open today in the market, have any of them come through here today?”

“Some, other family members come to collect medicine. Speaking of, you’ve brought your mother’s herbs, haven’t you?” Enya held up the basket to him as he inspected the contents of the leaves. Before pulling out a bag of coin and handing it to her. “Same as last time,” he told her as he removed the herbs from the basket. “I know some say it’s difficult on the hill where you live but the herbs your mother grows are always exceptional. Good thing too considering what’s been happening.”

“Has something else happened?” she asked as she put the money away.

“You haven’t heard?” he said looking at her with slight surprise and when Enya looked at him with slight confusion he said. “A number of farmers that have grown their own medical herbs have been destroyed. I just received word yesterday evening that someone has been going around burning what they had.”

The little girl looked at the man with shock and horror. “What? Why? Why would someone do that?”

“No one is sure, but we need that to make medicine now more than ever, with this unaccounted shortage it’s going to be difficult to maintain what we have so far. Some are thinking about leaving to the town of See-Stadt. But even then, there’s no guarantee that things are any better there then here. Especially after dark.”

“The town by the lake, mother made her way past there to get to a village close to the mountain, I hope things are not any worse there then it is here.”

“You’re worried about your mother.”

Enya stopped in what she was doing to look out the nearby window. “I keep thinking it’s because of the snow but I can’t help but worry if something happened.”

“Your mother has always done wonders with medicine,” Doctor Fortner told her. “She may be delayed from helping those in need. Such things cannot be helped at times.”

“I know,” she said softly. “But it doesn’t make things easier.”

“It very well can be,” he said before leaving the room. “Now, I have to continue my rounds. Don’t push yourself Enya, and if you so much as feel just a little bit sick. I want you to come right to me; you’re alone right now you need people to look out for you. Do you understand?”

“I do Doctor Fortner.”

“Good, let’s all hope this blows over soon. Have a good afternoon Enya.” He said before heading back to his work tending to the others who were ill.

Enya walked back to the front entrance where the fox seemed to be getting looks from a few onlookers wondering why a fox was merely waiting by the door, and when Roux saw Enya approach he stood up and circled around her once before nuzzling her hand with his snout. She smiled at him and went to reach for the door only to stop when she heard a man shout.

“It’s a witch’s curse I tell you!” Enya turned to see an elderly man on a bed, his hands and feet wrapped in bandages. The old man had suffered from frostbite and from the looks of it, delirium from lack of food. “A witch has cursed our village! Soon there will be nothing but ice left in her wake!”

Her heart pounded wildly in her chest from the sudden fright as the fox stuck close to her, she didn’t like hearing that. Not all those who used magic were evil, her mother told her that many times when she was little. And no one knew the cause for the sudden snowstorm, things like that just made it worse. Even if he was just a sick old man hearing such things could cause people to worry even more.

Shaking her head Enya left the building and out into the cold of the outside, the sky was now a bright blue and orange mix, soon the sun would set and everyone would have to be inside. But at the moment Enya didn’t care about that.

“Come home soon Mom…” she said to herself as she grasped the necklace hidden underneath her clothes once again, as she silently wished that this storm was not the cause of a witch or any magical being.

But then who’s to say that it wasn’t?

Only time could tell what the cause of it could have been.

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