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E - Everyone

The Fire Underneath of Things - 22

by fortis


Grey

~1121 words

Few people talked about magic, much less witches. It had all been rather a shock when the world-at-large had discovered (or rather, re-discovered) the existence of magic. While they weren’t trying to burn witches at the stake anymore, most people tended to be very wary of “those sorts of people.” Grey was no exception. His parents had never much talked about magic, other than it being “unnatural.” He’d always had a vague fear of magical folk, though he had never met one personally.

Now he found himself lost in a magical neighborhood. The houses seemed normal enough, if a bit dark and looming, but there was something off about the whole feel of the place. While Downtown, where he lived, was quietly sleepy and peaceful at this time of night, and Dockside was rowdy in places, Grey felt like Hazel’s Hill was too quiet, almost as if he was being watched stealthily. No crickets chirped and no frogs croaked, no loud snores came from within any of the houses and no smoke puffed cheerily from warmly-lit bakery shop chimneys. Grey’s footsteps were the only sound, a hushed tapping against the cobblestones. The streets were uneven, crooked, and somewhat slimy, as if a whole herd of slugs had trawled over it just a minute before.

A fog had fallen over the town, and Grey couldn’t see the stars to even figure out which way was north. There was no way he was going to be able to find his way home. Hazel’s hill was much bigger than he thought it was. He sat down on a stone bench outside a shop window that read, “Potions, Poultices, and Poultry,” and began the long wait for sunrise, when he could tell directions at least. He hoped the rumors of people disappearing here were just rumors.

Nothing happened for a long time, except that Grey got increasingly colder. He was numb, and the darkness and monotony and silence made his eyelids heavy. Just as his mind was drifting into sleep, a noise dragged him back to his cold stone bench. He opened his eyes and just about yelped when he saw a girl staring at him from a couple feet away.

Her most striking feature was her huge eyes. They were dark like her hair and dress, and stood out against her pale skin. Her face was round, but her nose was sharp. “Who are you?” She asked.

“Grey,” he spluttered. “Who are you?”

“They call me Gwen. What are you doing sleeping here? You shouldn’t be out at this time of night.” When she spoke, her voice sounded somehow whispy and flowy, like she was in a dream.

“Then what are you doing out here?”

“I was just- I’m the one asking questions here. Never mind what I was doing.” Her eyes flicked to the street behind her, but it was deserted as it had been all night.

Grey was curious what she was trying to hide. “I’ll only tell you what I’m doing out here if you tell me first.”

Gwen regarded him seriously, then seemed to relent. She sat down on the bench beside him. “Okay, but you’ve got to promise not to tell the police.”

“Why would I do that?” asked Grey surprised. “It’s not something illegal is it?”

Gwen snorted. “Said the guy who’s been outside all night. Compared to you, I’m an angel.”

“What’s wrong with being outside?” Grey protested.

Gwen looked incredulous. Then a spark of realization dawned on her face. “You’re not a witch, are you?”

“Of course I’m not!” The look of realization spread to Grey’s face this time. “Are you?”

“Of course I am! This is Hazel’s Hill! Only witches come here. Are you completely stupid?” Even when she was speaking sharply, the whispy, dream tone to her voice remained, almost as if she were constantly stage-whispering.

“No,” said Grey, but Gwen didn’t seem to hear.

“Okay, I’ll make this simple so even you can understand.” She said, in a voice like she was talking to a four-year-old. “Your folk don’t like my folk. So your folk make up rules to keep my folk from scaring them. One of those rules is we’re not allowed outside after sunset or before sunrise. Your folk are afraid of the witching hour.”

“Oh.”

“But the witching hour is only one hour! They don’t need to keep us locked up for the whole night! They don’t even need to keep us locked up for the witching hour. We’re not going to hurt anyone!”

“You’re not?” Grey said weakly, taken aback by this sudden vehemence.

Gwen looked disgusted. “I bet you grew up with stories about how all witches are evil and want to turn you into a frog and cook you in their cauldron to keep themselves young or something.”

“Well, don’t you?”

“Of course not!” Gwen exploded. The sound echoed across the street, and she suddenly looked frightened. “Listen,” she continued in a quick whisper, “Everything you know about witches is probably wrong, so just clear it from your head.”

There was a moment of awkward silence where Grey didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t just erase everything he’d ever known about witches from his mind. He sought to change the subject. “So what are you doing outside?”

“Practicing my powers. The witching hour doubles our power, just in case you didn’t know. We can use as much magic as we want without getting tired. It’s great! And I need practice. Stirring up a tiny breeze during any other time is about all I can do without completely exhausting myself. I’m a wind mage,” she explained, as if that would make Grey less confused.

“Okay…” said Grey slowly, trying to wrap his sleepy head around this new information.

“So now it’s your turn! You tell me why you’re out here, in Hazel’s Hill, by yourself, at night time.”

“I’m lost,” he said with a shrug. “Any chance you know how I can get back to Downtown?”

“Yes,” Gwen said, folding her arms. “But why should I help you? Your folk have been persecuting my folk for centuries. I see no reason to be nice to you at all.”

“Because I’ll call the police on you if you don’t?”

“You wouldn’t dare. And if you do, I’ll have my father hunt you down and turn you into a frog!”

“Please, I just want to get home,” Grey said, suddenly desperate to get out of this strange part of town.

“Make it worth my while,” Gwen said, examining a fingernail that looked as sharp as a talon.

Thinking back to his conversation with Ruby, Grey said, “How about a favor?”

“Deal,” said Gwen with a sharp smile.

--

A/N: I don't know if I like the name Gwen. I think I might change her name to Eerin. That's technically an Aboriginal name, but I really like it. An it means "Small Grey Owl" and her Familiar (basically animagus in harry potter but witches are born with it) is an owl. Open to suggestions though.

Maybe like an owl Genus? Like Strix, or Jubula, or Surnia, or Athene (ooh cool but might be a little too on the nose?), Aegolius (Aegolia?), Ninox, Tyto (Tyta?), or Otus?

But I also really like Eerin still.


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305 Reviews


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Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:38 am
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Querencia wrote a review...



We meet again. ;) and I'm far too excited about witches.

The streets were uneven, crooked, and somewhat slimy, as if a whole herd of slugs had trawled over it just a minute before.

I couldn't find what trawled actually meant other than fishing? Did you actually mean to type crawled, or is that just some word I haven't heard of? Kind of funny, anyway. Herds of slugs. XD

“They call me Gwen. What are you doing sleeping here? You shouldn’t be out at this time of night.” When she spoke, her voice sounded somehow whispy and flowy, like she was in a dream.

Hm, this description kind of throws me off. It's making me think of something soft, dreamlike, and "whispy and flowy", but in reality you've described Gwen as having sharp nails and a sharp smile, and she kind of says sharp things- I feel like the dreamy voice description doesn't really line up with how you describe her later, so it seems a bit out of place, as I'm more inclined to believe the latter descriptions based on the dialogue.
Even when she was speaking sharply, the whispy, dream tone to her voice remained, almost as if she were constantly stage-whispering.

Then you say this, which kind of makes sense. At least I can imagine her stage-whispering, but it's still a little hard to mentally hear the dream tone. It's probably fine, but I just can't get a good grip on it in my mind- maybe that's what you intended in the first place.

Wow that was about all I had! I really loved Gwen though. If you didn't pick a name already, I totally want Eerin or Strix. :)

-Q




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Thu Jul 20, 2017 11:40 am
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BlueAfrica wrote a review...



I like the name Gwen, myself. So that's my two cents on your question at the end there.

Gwen looked disgusted. “I bet you grew up with stories about how all witches are evil and want to turn you into a frog and cook you in their cauldron to keep themselves young or something.”

“Well, don’t you?”


Wow, Grey. Wow. Wow.

I'm really enjoying Gwen. I dunno if it's because our introduction to her is her telling Grey off before she even knows who he is (or isn't), but I really like her and I'm glad the end of the chapter leaves no doubt about the fact that she definitely will show up again in the story.

I also like Grey's interaction with her better than with Ivy - I think it's just because he's so scared right now and also too interested in Ivy to be a creep at all with Gwen.

I thought this part was kind of funny.

“I’m lost,” he said with a shrug. “Any chance you know how I can get back to Downtown?”

“Yes,” Gwen said, folding her arms. “But why should I help you? Your folk have been persecuting my folk for centuries. I see no reason to be nice to you at all.”

“Because I’ll call the police on you if you don’t?”

“You wouldn’t dare. And if you do, I’ll have my father hunt you down and turn you into a frog!”

“Please, I just want to get home,” Grey said, suddenly desperate to get out of this strange part of town.

“Make it worth my while,” Gwen said, examining a fingernail that looked as sharp as a talon.

Thinking back to his conversation with Ruby, Grey said, “How about a favor?”

“Deal,” said Gwen with a sharp smile.


Like, Gwen was all willing to talk with him and question him and stuff even after she found out he's one of the people who's been persecuting her people for centuries, so I don't know how seriously I take this "why should I help you" and "my father will turn you into a frog" she suddenly lapsed into. I don't know if you meant it to be that way or not. It doesn't surprise me that GREY believes it, because, well, he's scared right now, but I'm safe and sound outside the story. It made me chuckle, though.

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Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:39 pm
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PrincessInk wrote a review...



Hello! Sorry I missed a couple of chapters D:

For your A/N part, I do like the name Gwen but any other name would sound great! I agree that Athene, though a lovely name, would be quite blunt in relation to its meaning. I like Eerin but my favorite is Strix! Makes me think of a unique twist with Trix/Trixie, which I really like! Either way, it's for you to choose :D

I do have a question and it may be because I didn't read a few chapters: how did Grey figure out he was in a witch-y neighborhood? Just curious. It seems as though it's dark and foggy and so it must be pretty difficult for Grey to get his bearings? I liked the way you described it though. The silence is quite eerie, I can imagine, and often in dark places, having everywhere be just silent can be creepy.

One other note I have is that for the second half of the conversation much of the lines use "said". Okay, so I'm not about to suggest to get replacements like "uttered", "ejaculated", "asserted" but rather I'd suggest using action beats like body language and other dialogue tags. Because of this, the dialogue feels a little talking heads and I think that replacing some of the said tags with action beats would improve it.

Right now the dialogue feels...too easy? Gwen is spilling out the information without too much effort from Grey's side to pry in, even though that is strictly illegal. And the fact that "why should I help you when you've been discriminating us" feels rather on-the-nose, unless that's how Gwen behaves in front of everybody. Even if she speaks her mind, I'm not sure she would say that.

I'm already enjoying to read about Gwen. She sounds like a very peculiar, but likable and reckless girl. She's kind of different from Ivy and Nikki, but this is probably mainly because she lives in a rather different environment--rather constrained. I can easily understand her frustration with the government for hemming her "folks" in, not allowing them to go out at night.

Hope this helped! Feel free to ask if you have any questions :D





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