Today I post my final draft of my Writer in Motion story. Week 4 is a second week of swapping manuscripts with critique partners, and I had the pleasure of working with Jeffrey Ricker and S Kaeth! I enjoyed reading both their stories, and my own manuscript has definitely benefitted from their insight! I feel like my aged sorceress is much cannier and my prose much smoother thanks to their help. So here’s the final (ha!) version :
High up in the hills, where the wildflowers bloomed and the grass grew tall and brown, there lived a boxy little woman in a boxy little house. Both appeared ordinary and undistinguished, but appearances lie, for this was no mere dwelling, and she was no simple crone.
Once she’d been the most powerful sorceress in seven worlds.
And once she’d had the freedom to come and go at will.
Now here ye sit, the old woman said to herself, forgotten by all. She gulped down what she hoped was wine, not some toxic elixir she’d brewed and forgotten. It hardly mattered any more.
Not long ago, she had joined a band of rebels locked in battle against a tyrannical king. Rumor had it, he practiced black magic, but the rumor was wrong. Madam Sorceress could have told the rebels that. But their money was good, their motivations were noble, and she was beguiled by the youthful vigor with which they spoke of their cause. She had once been so idealistic herself. So, she brewed up a potion, with frog livers and bat wings, the last breath of a condemned man and the first tear of an abandoned bride and served it up to the rebel leader.
He grimaced at the smell. “This will grant me invisibility?”
“Much more than that.” The sorceress pitched her voice low, spreading her fingers before her and widening her eyes. “Drink it and you shall disappear completely. Your footfalls will be as silence. No hound will smell you and raise the alarm. No guard will feel the breeze as you sneak past.”
The young man lifted an eyebrow. “If it’s even half as effective as you say . . .”
Young jackanapes like this one never did take such threats seriously. “Heed my words,” the sorceress said darkly. “The potion will perplex all the senses, even your own. Keep in mind both your purpose and your name, else your mind shall weaken, and you will disappear even to yourself.”
“Dangerous magic indeed,” the leader had said, an unreadable look in his eyes. Yet he drank the potion in one gulp, and promptly vanished from view.
Should’ve suspected right then and there. Who would drink that noxious brew without a second thought? The sorceress took another swig of wine and moved her hand in lazy circles at the wall before her, which swirled in shades of purple and green.
The rebel had snuck into the tyrant’s palace, made quick work of the king and slew the queen, ending the dynasty before she’d even a chance to scream.
A week later, the new king had summoned the sorceress before him. Lad wants to thank me in person, since he’d never have won the throne were it not for me. So, she dressed herself in her finest garments, mustering as much elegance as a squat old woman could and stood before the new king seated on the ancient throne.
How the zealous young rebel she had lent her magic to had changed! He wore dark robes, and an inklike black stain crept across his golden crown. His eyes still shone, with a fervor she’d taken for idealism, which now seemed feverish, not quite safe.
A chill crept over her heart. You wanna see one what works in black magic, that’s him right there.
Beside the king stood a mirror, the full-length kind in which noble ladies oft liked to admire their fancy gowns. Full of himself to boot, the sorceress thought. She swallowed and curtsied as best as she was able, arthritic joints and all.
The king inclined his head. “Sorceress.”
She tasted her doom as she rose and met his eyes. “To what do I owe the honor of this summons?”
He clasped his hands and leaned back on his throne. “You’re here to discuss your new accommodations.”
She cocked her head, dread pooling in her belly.
“I’m afraid I cannot allow you to remain in my kingdom. You are far too dangerous.” Though the young king looked as handsome as ever, his voice creaked worse than the sorceress’s old joints.
Tyrants oft replaced tyrants, it seemed. And yet, his manner spoke of more than simple despotism, of something toxic, rotten at the core. The sorceress stepped back, glanced discreetly behind her to see the guards blocking the door.
“Nothing went wrong,” she protested, a rising squeak in her voice. “You got your throne. I never asked for more than what was fair.”
The king looked down, almost chastened, humble. “That potion I drank could have cost me my soul.”
She eyed him warily. I’m not so sure it didn’t.
The king snapped his fingers and a flame arose in the palm of his hand. “It is a magic I have yet to master myself.”
The sorceress’s mouth dropped open. She’d been played a fool. He didn’t need me; he was testing me. And now that I’ve passed, I fail.
The king gestured grandly at the mirror. “Behold your new home.”
The sorceress crept forward, squinting. Then her eyes grew wide. The mirror did not reflect her surroundings. Instead, it showed an unfamiliar land, hilly, with brown grass and wildflowers . . . and a tiny boxy house.
An old sorceress is nothing more than an old woman. Both are easily tossed aside. Well, not if she had anything to say about it. She scrunched up her face. “Can’t live in a tiny place like that.” It was humiliating, that’s what it was. Sent away to live in a box. Pet toads and mice got more respect. She crossed her arms. “You’ll never make me go.”
“You may fight me, if you wish,” said the king. “I am younger than you, and stronger. I will take your magic, your will and your life. Go, and your magic remains to you—if only inside the house.”
Something rattled in her chest; her extremities suddenly went cold and dry. Yet there remained a spark of hope inside her, waiting to be stoked into a flame. “I can keep my magic?”
The king nodded slowly, his face a mask.
While I have magic, I have hope. She pulled her shawl about her, and hunched over, her steps halting and slow. Let him think she was cowed, let him forget she was aught but a retiring old woman, no fight left in her. He underestimated her at his peril. With a deep breath, she entered the mirror, and walked towards the house little than more a casket, more a prison than any home she’d ever known.
From that day forth, she lived there, the greatest sorceress in seven worlds, now forgotten and ignored by eight. She spruced up and stretched the interior with her charms, so it was spacious as a sprawling manor. Her magic was her only companion as she schemed inside her heart.
Until there came a knock on her door.