For the fourth tale of Flashmas the Wildwood gave to me …

Allan Rues His Words

Photo of the head of a Raven with his breath fogging the air.

The first glimmerings of winter had come to the Wildwood. The air fair hummed with cold, shrubs and trees glittered in the dawn light, spiderwebs looked like spun silver, and the tiny windows of the Witch’s cottage shone, resplendent with the frost-ghosts of ferns. 

The Witch, having dug out her winter cloak and set it to air three days earlier, tugged the voluminous folds more tightly around her as she collected water from the spring. On returning she spied a large dark shape ensconced in Victor’s frost bright branches, a shape that lifted his sharp beaked head as she approached.

‘Wotcha Witchy!’

‘And Good Morning to you too, Allan,’ she said, ‘what brings you to my door this morning?’

‘Bacon.’ Allan spread his wings, gliding out of the tree to land on her hastily raised arm. ‘And Callie.’

‘Has She ever given you permission to call Her that?” the Witch asked, trying not to sound a disapproving as she felt whilst not spilling either water or raven onto the path.

‘Nah, but she don’t mind.’ Allan leapt down to the path and cocked his head up to look at the Witch, black eyes a-glint with mischief. ‘See me ‘n Callie, we’ve got an understanding.’ 

‘We do, do we?’ 

A shadow passed over them as a second, larger, and entirely white raven swooped down and landed on the Witch’s back doorstep.  The Witch lowered her pail and Allan gulped audibly as the bird shook out its wings and then shifted

‘Hail, oh Cailleach,’ the Witch said, bowing low to the imposing woman who now stood before her; snow white hair drifting around her lined face, swathed in a cloak of corvid feathers and gripping a staff of Yew. ‘Your presence is an honour as always. I bid you welcome to the Wildwood and to my home.’

‘Your hospitality is honour enough, my dear,’ the Cailleach said, bestowing a smile on the Witch that faded as she turned her gaze on Allan. 

‘You however-’

‘Let his tongue run away with his imagination, My Lady, as is the way of many a raven.’ The Witch inclined her head in a much smaller but no less deferential bow. ‘May I offer you refreshment inside?’

‘You are kind,’ the Cailleach said to the Witch even as she continued to glare at Allan, who was doing his best to disappear. ‘And this is your home. So I will make nothing further of this slight-’

‘Thank you ever so my lady goddess,’ Allan gabbled, rushing forward, ‘I’m ever so grateful and I promise I won’t take your name in vain ever again and I’ll-’

The Cailleach swung her yew staff around and down, so it bounced off Allan’s beak with a resounding thwack. His words stopped at once and he gave one muffled squawk before falling totally silent.  

‘Much better,’ the Cailleach said before turning swiftly and making for the door. ‘Now we can all hear ourselves think.’

Allan clawed at his beak, now firmly frozen shut, and looked up at the Witch mournfully. 

‘You should be thanking your lucky stars that’s all she did,’ the Witch said, picking up the pail of water and following the Goddess into her house. ‘If you’re lucky it’ll have thawed by the time the bacon’s done.’

This story is the fourth of a twelve part series that was written at the start of December 2022 in response to daily prompt emails from Writer’s HQ for their 12 Days of Flashmas challenge. It is presented here pretty much just as it was originally written on the fourth day of the challenge. If you’d like to know more my explanatory post can be found here.

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