The idea is to tell a short story based on the week’s theme. To provide us inspiration, each theme will be the title of a TV show. This week’s theme is from, Charmed, which ran as a television series in the United States from October of 1996 to May of 2006. Charmed holds the distinction of being the longest running hour-long series featuring all female leads. If you wish to join Tales on Tuesday, please visit Nessa for the list of upcoming themes, and remember, your story does not have to relate to the series.
Hollister Martin rode his horse into the witch woman’s clearing and stopped just shy of the stone circle boundary. The rocks were ward stones and crossing them without the witch woman’s permission meant certain death. Hollister tipped his hat back on his head so his face could be clearly seen and he waited. He’d couldn’t see the witch woman, but he was pretty certain she could see him.
He waited. The hot sun beat down upon his back. The trail was dusty and he was thirsty. A canteen hung from the saddle horn but he didn’t reach for it. He knew to wait patiently. No fidgeting. No calling out.
The horse stomped and blew. Sweat gathered beneath his hat and trickled into his eyes. Hollister blinked, but he did not move. He sat there for the better part of an hour without taking his gaze off the stone cabin in the middle of the clearing. No smoke issued from the chimney. Not a twitch came from the curtains. Was she even home?
The sun beat down without mercy. Hollister felt his neck burning. The horse grew more and more restless beneath him. Still he waited.
The bartender at Gambler’s Roost told Hollister that if the witch didn’t like his looks, or took exception to him for any other reason, she’d curse him or kill him — or both. Hollister figured that’s why he was baking in the sun. On the other hand, he was still alive, so hope remained.
So intent was he on watching the house, that Hollister didn’t realize the witch woman had slipped up behind him until he felt his gun leave his holster. She heaved the heavy Colt .44 into the clearing. Hollister saw a silver shimmer of magic as it passed above the ward stones.
He couldn’t disguise his instinctive flinch or the restless prancing of his mount, but Hollister tried to show no other reaction. Wearing his best poker face, he turned his dark gaze on the witch woman. She was smothered in a tattered brown robe that bore patches upon patches. The original fabric was a coarse, heavy wool. She couldn’t have been any cooler than he was.
Her face and hair were hidden from view within the shadows of the hood. Hollister snagged the canteen strap free of the saddle horn with his little finger. He extended it toward the witch woman. She reached up and took it, but her hand never escaped the folds of her robe.
She twisted the cap from the canteen and smelled the liquid inside. Hollister waited. She raised the canteen to him and ordered, “Drink.” The single word did not reveal her age. She could be sixteen or sixty.
Hollister accepted the canteen, lifted it to his lips, and took a long swig. The water was warm and tasted of metal, still it refreshed him. He extended his arm and once again offered the canteen to the witch woman. This time he chanced a smile.
She lifted the canteen to her lips and sipped, careful not to reveal her face within the folds of her hood. She paused, evaluating the taste. Hollister reminded himself to breathe and tried to sit nonchalantly. She tipped the canteen up again and drank freely. Hollister couldn’t surpress the smile that claimed his face.
She raised her left arm and her sleeve fell back revealing a slender, graceful hand with well groomed nails. She used it to push the hood from her head. A riot of shimmering copper and gold curls escaped the dull brown fabric. She looked up at Hollister with startlingly green eyes and gestured with the canteen in her right hand. “If I am not mistaken, this is one of my own love charms in this canteen. You must know it will have no effect on me, yet you drank of it. You know you are bound to me now?”
Hollister looked down at her and answered. “I have been bound to you since I was 16 years old and you found me in the desert with an Apache war lance in my chest. You nursed me for three months. I pledged my undying love to you then, but you said I was too young. You sent me away.”
“I did,” she agreed. A smile curved her lips and a dimple flashed in her cheek. “I gave you that love charm and told you to find someone else.”
“You also said,” Hollister reminded her, “That if in ten years I found no one worthy of the potion, I could return and use it on you.” He swung his leg over the horse and jumped to the ground, landing lightly in front of the witch woman. “That was ten years ago today,” he said.
She reached out and took his hand. “Welcome home, John.” Together they turned and stepped over the ward stones.