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Witches and Enchantments

April 16, 2021

This week in the Cold, we’re continuing our autopsy of the fairytale genre, as well as the construction, from the ground up, of a brand new tale of magic, morality, and love, titled “Romakaji.” Hopefully, it’ll be one for the archives! What I love about fairytales is that they are a wellspring for the tropes of so many literary genres: romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, young adult, historical fiction, and horror. I’m sure I’ve missed a couple.

To date, on our storytelling journey, we’ve examined the following elements: wishing upon a star, the appearance of mysterious strangers, and the allure of damsels in distress. It’s only fitting that we continue by addressing the role magic plays in these narratives.

All fairytales have an enchantment at their core, and the most memorable include some manner of sorceress casting spells and creating mayhem. Like putting a princess to sleep, feeding a poisoned apple to a step-daughter, turning a handsome, young lad into a frog or a beast. The list goes on.

Evil Queens, witches, and fairy godmothers change the course of a maiden’s life, most often entangling her lover in their mischief, providing obstacles, but also opportunities for a smitten pair to show their devotion to one another, to demonstrate their worthiness of true love. If a damsel and her “prince” pass the tests offered by a good or bad witch, their bond is stengthened and their destiny is sealed.

But only if…

“Romakaji” Part 4

By Yours Truly

It did not take long for Romakaji and Lionel to begin to savor the sounds of each other’s voices. To be charmed by the architecture of a smile, the twinkle in an eye, the sincerity of a touch. To ache when they were apart. Three days, two hours, twenty-two minutes to be exact. It was after Lionel quit caring where Romakaji had come from; he only knew she belonged in the cottage, with him. It was after he stopped wondering how she’d fallen into the pond. It didn’t matter – only that he’d saved her from the water. It was the moment he decided that whatever secrets she held close, they were trivial compared to having her with him for always. Because if those secrets would, even for a moment, make him reconsider his love for her, he didn’t want to know them.

Romakaji had felt the sweetness of her feelings for him from the first time she heard him say her name, so the three days and some that it took for Lionel to stop asking her questions, to cease in his efforts of trying to get her to remember who she was or where she had come from – were but a waiting game. Waiting for him to catch up. She wanted to forget her years in the pond, or at least pretend to, and he needed to imagine that Romakaji was just a normal girl, albeit one with a memory problem.

This suited them both.

Only try as she might, Romakaji could not help but be burdened by the knowlege of her peculiar existence. Of the witch Cressida’s curse, that had condemned her, as a young village girl, to life in a pond for hundreds of years. Two Hundred Ninety Eight years, twenty one days, and…oh, what did it matter? A long time! All to protect her from a suitor she could not stand the sight of. A dreadful man who had murdered Cressida, making Romakaji’s curse an indefinite one.

That’s why on a Monday, nine weeks, one day, six hours and ten minutes after Romakaji had been carried into the cottage by Lionel, she found herself alone. After many sweet kisses that morning, Lionel had gone to the city for his business. He’d wanted Romakaji to join him, but she was not keen on leaving the confines of the village just yet. Of course she didn’t tell him that. Romakaji told Lionel she was feeling tired after a poor night’s sleep, and reluctantly, he’d agreed to go on his own. But the truth was, it had taken her two weeks alone to leave the property on which the cottage sat, and she never, ever went anywhere near the pond, for obvious reasons.

Her fears of unintentionally breaking the as yet unknown strictures of her new enchantment were certainly part of why she didn’t wish to go, but there was another reason. With Lionel gone, Romakaji could rummage through his genealogy research unencumbered.

Once she was sure he was away, she sat down at his laptop computer and began working it’s buttons and keys the way Lionel had done – she remembered his every move perfectly. Ravencroft – that was the family name she was looking for. She was sure at least some of the witch Cressida’s descendants would still be in the area.

Turns out nearly three hundred years does a lot to scatter a family line, and there was only but one Ravencroft left. A Sybil Ravencroft who lived in the next village over. Going to see this Sybil would mean leaving the confines of her village, and possibly breaking one of her new rules of enchantment, but for this outing, it was a chance Romakaji was willing to take. She bundled up – it was a cool, late winter day and Romakaji was no longer quite as impervious to the cold as she had been when she lived in the pond – and went on foot to the address she’d found on Lionel’s laptop.

The walk was pretty and foggy, and with each step Romakaji’s trepidations faded. They were replaced by the sheer thrill of travelling to a place she hadn’t been to since she was a little girl. Much of it looked similar – the houses that lined the streets in the oldest part of the village were still there. They just gave way to newer ones which echoed the older structures in form if not building materials. The more recent homes were made of brick instead of stone. A brand new store which advertised provisions was but a rectangle with a lot of large windows up front.

On the outskirts of the village, Romakaji let herself into a gated garden and approached a small, stone house. One of the oldest ones. She pressed a button that would alert the dwellers of the house of a visitor. Lionel called it a doorbell.

A young woman, presumably Sybil, opened up the door wide, taking up much of the frame. She was no older than thirty, with long, black hair and a severe middle part. “Can I help you?”

Romakaji cleared her throat and told the woman her name.

“I’m new to the area and live just down the road,” she said. “I thought I’d come and introduce myself.”

Sybil gave her name in return and invited Romakaji in for a cup of tea, just as she’d hoped. The house was nothing like Cressida’s home had been – all dark and woodsy, full of dried herbs and smelling more of the forest than the forest itself. Sybil Ravencroft’s home was light and colorful, with new furniture and modern light fixtures. It smelled of herbs and nature, yes, but it also smelled of expensive perfume and Italian cooking.

They sat in the parlor and talked of the weather, of how much the surrounding villages had changed since Sybil was a girl, and how nobody seemed to stay anymore. But all the while, Romakaji got the feeling that they were really talking about something else. She had sensed this otherness from the moment Sybil had opened the door. The woman’s eyes had scrutinized her, and Romakaji had the feeling that if she had really been nothing more than a new neighbor come to introduce herself, Sybil would have chatted with her in the doorway for a bit, then made her excuses, promising that she would invite her new neighbor over sometime, but not meaning it.

“Ravencroft,” Romakaji said, taking her chance. She nibbled on some shortbread and blinked her eyes, trying to appear as if she was searching through her memory. “I once knew a Ravencroft, you know.”

“Did you?”

“Cressida Ravencroft. Oh, but that was a long time ago.”

“Hmm.”

Sybil leaned in closer and plucked a pair of eyeglasses from her end table. “What a lovely necklace,” she said. “May I?”

Romakaji nodded and watched her as she beheld the charm, touching the pearl at its center and turning it over to see the seal of Count Furfur. Sybil narrowed her eyes and licked her lips.

“Where did you get it?”

“I don’t know,” Romakaji said, quite honestly. “I thought an admirer had given it to me, but it turns out I was wrong.”

Sybil raised an eyebrow and folded her hands.

“It was most certainly an admirer,” she said. “But not one you would ever want to meet, I imagine.”

Sybil draped her arm over her sofa back and looked Romakaji up and down. “I don’t know who you really are, and whether you decide to tell me or not is your business. But I should tell you I knew from the moment I saw you that you are enchanted. I suppose you’ve come to see if I can help with that.”

Romakaji wasted no time in telling Sybil her story. The young witch appeared neither surpised nor disturbed by the revelations of her guest, and remained quiet until Romakaji had imparted every detail. She then refreshed their tea and added a splash of whiskey to each of their cups.

“The truth is, I don’t know if I’ll be able to be of any help,” she said. “It is significant that a grandmother of mine is the originator of the spell that cursed you, and such a blood bond does have an effect on magic, but Count Furfur complicates things. A mere witch is no match for an Earl of Hell.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Romakaji asked.

“For starters, I can cast a spell that will uncover the nature of the new enchantment that was put into play once your lover rescued you from the pond. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.”

Photo by Devin H on Unsplash

Sybil got to work immediately, burning a small bowl of dried sage and fresh lavendar next to an old mirror and a scattering of small animal bones. She sang a spell in a language that was probably some ancient form of their own, but Romakaji could not understand a word outside of her own name, which the witch used with some frequency during her incantation. When Sybil was done singing and chanting, she laid her head on a pillow and seemed to fall asleep. Romakaji sat next to her for several minutes, and was about to awaken her gently, when Sybil opened her eyes and sat up.

“It is much as I suspected,” she said. “As long as you wear the necklace, you will grow more beautiful with each passing day, although the process has slowed somewhat since you left the pond. Something about water does that. You will also continue to remember every detail of your life. And you will remain immortal, more or less.”

“What do you mean more or less?”

“Well, nothing and no one is truly immortal. Not in the realm of the flesh. I mean, the world will end one day, your necklace could catch on a branch and be torn from your neck. You may wish to take your own life.”

“If Lionel grows old and dies, I can see how I would want to take my own life,” Romakaji told her. “Is there a way my necklace can extend my enchantment to him?”

Sybil shook her head. “No. For every day you grow lovelier, he grows older and one day closer to his death. And furthermore, when you die, if you are still under the spell of the necklace, you will belong to Count Furfur forever, and he can do with you as he wishes.”

“What would he want with me?” Romakaji asked.

“The magic is quite clear that it is he who threw the necklace into the pond for you to find. It was he who made it possible for you to meet Lionel and fall in love. It is he who has plans for you. But as for what those plans are, you’ll have to ask him.”

Until next time, my Cold friends…

And don’t forget to check out the new Cold podcast! This week we talk about the relevance and value of beauty in our lives and in fiction. How our own perceptions of beauty affect both the stories and characters we are drawn to, and how we interpret them. If you like what you hear, please hit the follow button!

4 Comments
  1. Damn, that’s good. Enchanting? Spellbinding? Enthralling, at the very least. 🙂

  2. Cat McKenzie permalink

    Tori I think beautiful is also in the spoken word. Tones ,inflections ,,choice of words all come into play and make the beauty. It can be much like your PodCast, so little of history ,a little of description and what evoked that beauty. I did find myself comparing, and is surely that is one of many purposes of speech. I grew up in South Side Chicago in the 1040/1960 era. My neighborhood was mostly Polish and Irish Immigrants. Giant Catalpa Trees lined our street,every home was kept near and tidy, had because we were in top of each other our homes divided by a “narrow gangway”.. Aesthetic Beauty was certainly in focus. The beauty of Cultures unfamiliar, of strange foods, of languages never before heard blending, and the fascinating people themselves. I honestly think I had a charmed chilhood, jammed to overflowing with beauty. Then you mentioned the contrast between Chicago and Virginia, what a night and day comparison ! I lived in Leesburg for 25 yrs, I heard and felt exactly what you were saying. I do miss the massive beauty of all areas of Virginia ! It sounded like you might have been in the Fredericksburg area to my ear, for me it was going through Middleburg any time of year. What a great , thoroughly enjoyable Pos Cast…I’m hooked now !! Thanks so much !!

    • Yes – totally agree about beauty in the spoken word, Cat. What an ommission (and for a writer)! Leesburg is beautiful – I live near Charlottesville at the foot of the Blue Ridge. Middleburg is pure magic, too. Are you back in Chicagoland?

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