"You don't age, do you?" Hesper laughed as her fox nuzzled against her ear to wake her up just as enthusiastically as he always had. Noelani gave a smile with all his teeth that seemed quite odd for an animal, but in Hesper's eyes, it made him seem magical.
Noelani had been by her side for fifteen years and she never once had to question his loyalty. The longer he stayed with her, the more human he became. Hesper wouldn't be surprised to see him walking on two legs and talking the next day.
Over time, she had attempted countless enchantments upon him to improve him in any way. One that she had been focusing on the most was a spell to make him never age. This sounded hopeless and she didn't know exactly if it worked or not, but all the evidence so far showed that it was.
But like she always told herself, she was not a witch. Though she was more intact with the natural and spiritual world around her and could use its energy to her benefit, she could not preform miracles. She could not sprout wings and fly like an angel, she could not make the mortal immortal, and she most certainly could not put a stopper in death.
Oh how she wished that she could do all those things, even if it did make her an actual witch, she didn't care. She was already being treated like one, what would be the difference if she really had its dangerous powers? She looked at her companion and could not imagine what she would do without him. She knew that he was just like her. An outcast. Perhaps it was how trusting he was, or his loyalty to a human. Maybe just the strange colour of his coat, but something obviously had pushed him out from his species or made him abandon them, just like her. Maybe that was why the two of them got along so well. If she had the ability to make them both immortal so they could live forever, she would. Really, she had already tried many times...
Hesper sat up in her bed and let her legs stretch out onto the cold, wooden floor. Yes, it most certainly was cold, breezy actually. Judging by the consistent golden glow in the room, the fire was still very well lit, but the gold was matching with another colour. A pale light.
The door hung open, allowing the October atmosphere to seep into her home. Hesper gave Noelani a questioning look as she got up to close it, but then she noticed something. Upon the floor were big, muddy boot marks, vaster than the size of her bare foot. They belonged to a mans shoe... As if on cue, she heard something outside. They were large thudding foot steps to match the foot prints on the ground. Someone was outside.
Hesper leaped across the room, silent and stealth and immediately retrieved her bow and loaded it with an arrow. Crouching down in the corner, aiming her weapon at the door, ready to fire at the intruder, she noticed Noelani. He still sat in the middle of the room with a faint grin on his face as he stared at the door happily. Stupid animal! Perhaps he wasn't becoming as smart as she hoped.
The steps became heavier and louder until Hesper could see the mans shadow appearing through the door frame. She tightened the bow string and held her breath as she watched the man enter... But it wasn't a man... It was just a boy!
A pair of gray eyes locked on her immediately as the person stepped foot into the house. "Whoa!" He shouted as he stumbled back a step, dropping a basket that was full of some kind of white flower.
Hesper jumped to her full height and took advantage of the cowering boy who seemed unarmed. She stepped forward with a snarl on her face, tightening her bow string in preparation to let it fly if he made any wrong moves.
"What do you think you are doing!" Hesper yelled at him. Before he could answer, Hesper heard a sharp growl from her side. Stealing a glance down at her heels, she saw that it was Noelani growling protectively up at her. What was wrong with him today?
"Noelani, here knows," The person replied. The boy who must have been in his teen years broke a cautious smile at her. Hesper was confused.
"Who are you?" She asked, still not lowering her bow.
"I thought you'd recognize me." That was true, this boy did seem familiar, but so did everyone. Who was to say that he wasn't here to arrest her for a magical crime that she didn't commit. Hesper thought hard.
Noelani's growl cut off as he began to make a chuffing sort of sound. Was he choking? Hesper looked down at him to see that he was perfectly fine. Instead, it seemed that he was trying to say something. Hesper watched as he struggled to carve the air that escaped his lips into a certain sound. But she could make out the first noise of the word.
O... O-o "Oliver!" Hesper screeched as she realized it, thanks to the guidance from Noelani.
"Yes, finally!" The teenager laughed as he let his arms fall from the air when Hesper lowered her bow.
"Is that really you?" Hesper asked as she dropped her bow without a care.
"I would know, yeah," He answered as he stepped back in the house. Hesper could see it now. His brown hair and gray eyes. He must had been about fourteen now and was growing up to be a magnificent man. Hesper ran up and hugged him. He was now a few inches taller than her.
"I thought I told you not to come up here alone," She laughed in his ear. He laughed as well as they pulled apart.
"I think that I can handle myself now," He replied. She believed him. One would mistake him for an eighteen year old. "I'm so sorry that I couldn't visit ever. I really wanted to... but my parents..." He trailed off into thought. Hesper knew how that sentence would end.
"I understand. I'm just happy to see you. You scared the hell out of me!" Hesper was filling with joy as she talked. It had been years since she had a friendly conversation. A one sided talk with Noelani did not count.
"Sorry, Noelani let me in," He said as he indicated towards the little fox who was casually licking one of his paws.
"He let you in? How did he ever manage that?" Hesper asked, curious to know the answer.
"He popped the door open some how when I knocked. You were too far gone in sleep to notice." Hesper was impressed with her fox when she heard his words. She could also tell that Noel was trying to be humble, but he was proud of himself, obviously.
"He's clever," Oliver remarked. "Always has been for a fox."
"Yes, I trained him well." Hesper smiled. "Come in, Oliver. Come in!"
Oliver agreed to her invitation to enter, even though he had already coming in uninvited already to retrieve her basket. He had been trying to do her a favor by picking all the Snowdrop flowers for her, but all of which were scattered over the floor. While Hesper made tea, he cleaned up the flowers.
"So, tell me how you've been! What brings you here?" Hesper asked cheerfully as she poured the boiling water atop the dried Snowdrop peddles from her harvest last year.
"Oh, no reason..." Oliver muttered. Hesper did not like the tone in his voice. She stopped dead while she was scooping sugar into the steaming glasses to turn and take in his figure. He was lying. She could see it in his eyes that refused to meet hers as he pretended to be interested in staring at the wall.
"Why are you here, Oliver?" Hesper asked more firmly when she handed him his tea. "Somethings wrong. Isn't there? I wasn't expecting to see you until you were much older, if you even remembered me. The last person I expected to see was you as a teenager spending his Sunday to visit an old wierdo up in the hills. Tell me what is wrong..."
Oliver sat for a moment in awe as he looked into her pale eyes that had not changed one bit since the last time he saw them. It was plain to realize that those eyes saw much more than the normal pair could. Snapping out of his trance, he sat up straighter and answered he question. "Theres been... some strange activity going on in town," He reluctantly replied.
"What do you mean by strange?" She asked immediately as she took a seat across from him, folding her legs under her flowing blue night gown.
"Two children have disappeared over this year. There are no leads onto where they've went." This was unfortunate news, Hesper thought, but she still did not see the reason why he had to come up here and tell her. Oliver must have seen her confusion and answered her next question before she could even put it in words. "...The towns people... They- they are suspicious that it was you."
Hesper concentrated hard to not choke on her sip of tea. Swallowing hard, she fixed Oliver in her glare who was preparing to respond to many questions that he did not know the answer to. "Why would they think that?" She asked.
"Probably because they are idiots, Hesper. When they can't explain something, they try and solve it without real evidence. You're the first person that they seem to think negative of because it is all over the streets. This sounds kind of like how you were tagged a witch.
"But I'm not-"
"Not a witch, I know," He interrupted her as her voice became more frantic.
"And I didn't-"
"You didn't do it, I also know this," He sighed.
"But why...?" She trailed off as she placed her cup on the table next to her, her eyes becoming lost in thought. "I don't understand why they would accuse me of doing such a thing... I haven't even been in the town in,- in eight years!"
The two of them sat in a silence for many minutes. Oliver sipped his tea awkwardly, not knowing what to say. If he did make a remark, he doubted that Hesper would hear them, she seemed to be glimpsing into another world.
Quite suddenly, after what must had been about five minutes of silence, Hesper rose from her chair. Oliver watched her curiously as she wandered across the room, her hip ramming into the table which caused her to stumble clumsily. This only made her fall into another smaller table, making all the items on top fall to the floor in a clatter. But still, as if she hadn't noticed, she walked over her possessions, stepping on shards of broken glass and crushing the more fragile objects even more, not seeming to care about it, as if in a trance.
"Are you okay, Hesper?" Oliver asked, concerned as he slightly stood from his chair.
"Fine, fine," She spoke in a monotone voice, "Please excuse me for a moment..." Without another word, she turned and collapsed down on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Oliver let a moment pass until he couldn't stand looking at the look on her face much longer, something was wrong.
"Hesper-" He began as he stood up, but then he realized something as he watched her eyelids slowly slide shut. He had heard about this from his parents when he asked why Hesper had lived in the hills. His father was more than happy to explain all the bad things about her. About her beliefs, about her strange incantations, her spirituality and traditions. Her knowledge and how she used it for curses to only do harm. He had particularly boasted about how she would randomly pass out and then return and carry on with whatever she was doing previously as if nothing had happened. He claimed that she did it because she was glimpsing into hell, taking orders from devils to carry out in the mortal world for them. Even when Oliver was younger, he knew that all of this wasn't the truth, and it was so far fetched that it almost made him laugh. But he didn't retort to this because he knew how much it meant to his dad. And he had found out the hard way of what happens when he doubted his dads lessons, so he just kept it to himself ever since.
Oliver eased himself back in his chair as he smiled to himself. This must have been one of her little black out moments that he was told about. He knew that she wasn't doing anything bad, or 'demonic' as some people may have said. She was just doing what she was good at, and Oliver had to admit, he quite admired it. He had never met anyone so extraordinary, and different. Sadly, the word different seemed to be coded, and in the eyes of nearly everyone, its definition meant: bad, evil, harmful. If only they could see that it meant quite the opposite, only if they chose to embrace it to their benefit.
Oliver sat back as he waited for Hesper to come back to and took a sip of his tea. He was surprised at how oddly sweet the Snowdrop peddle tea was.
"Its the wolves!" Hesper gasped as she sat straight up from her bed in a flash. "They took those little children!"
"What? How do you know?" Oliver asked as he got up, steering himself around her cluttered furniture to get to her side.
"I saw it just now," She said while taking a deep breathe.
"You- you can see the past?" He almost whispered. Hesper must had seen the wariness in his eyes as he uttered those words. She glared at him as she spoke.
"Yes, Oliver. Is there something wrong?"
"No, just curious..." Hesper watched him for a moment, but when his eye settled on hers, they didn't leave. Instead they looked into hers expectantly. Probably for an explanation.
"Its a skill, Oliver. I'm more known for glimpsing into the future. But if I concentrate hard enough I can visit the past. It's harder and uncomfortable. So I don't do it very often."
"Wow, you're known for it? I didn't even know you could do that. That's amazing!" Oliver spoke.
"Well of course you didn't. They probably told you a different story I presume," She said as she stood up and collected Oliver's empty cup Right she was...
"So it was the wolves that killed them?" Oliver asked.
"Not kill. Kidnap." Hesper placed the dirtied dishes in a pile for cleaning. After she did so, she did not turn back to look at Oliver. Instead she just stared out the window in front of her as she continued. "They've taken them somewhere..."
"Where?" Oliver asked eagerly. Hesper paused.
"I don't know. But what I do know is that you need to go home."
"It's getting dark, Oliver. It won't be safe much longer," Hesper said, picking up her bow from the floor.
"Safe? Do you really think that I am going to get attacked by a wolf?" Oliver said boldly.
"Yes," Hesper said as she went to retrieve her quiver, not noticing that she completely crushed his pride. "Get up, up. I'm taking you back."
"Umm, I don't think that's the best idea," He said while jumping up from the chair that he had just sat down in, "Especially not with a bow and arrows slung over your shoulder.
"They're afraid, are they?" She said while she put on a jacket and tied it at the waist. "Good. So if they leave me be then I won't attack. Same rules as the animal they think I am. Come on, stay by my side." She urged him out the door and slung the quiver and bow over her shoulder. Noelani followed behind as they departed down the hill.
"Don't look so grim, Oliver," Hesper muttered out of the side of her mouth. "Or else they are going to think that I did something to you. Keep your head up."
Oliver did as he was told and stood at his tallest height, also adding in a faint happy smile. The two of them walked down the street of the town. The sun was well down and the streets were lit by lanterns hanging from the porches of the buildings. The streets were lined with people who were viewing little booths that were draped in selections of strange clothing. They were so distracted by the booths that they almost didn't notice the two of them strolling by. But Hesper couldn't help but notice a few stares.
"What is all this stuff?" Hesper craned her neck to whisper up at Oliver who was at least a good foot taller than her.
"What? All the costumes?" He asked.
"Is that what they are?" Hesper realized that the booth she was looking at was covered in masks. "Why are they selling costumes?"
"Its the first of October."
"Don't you know the holiday later this month, Hesper?" Oliver sounded a little astounded.
"No. Doesn't ring a bell,"
"Wow. You know so much but at the same time so little. Does the word Halloween mean anything to you?"
"Oh, yes I've heard about it," She said casually.
"Have you ever went out on Halloween as a kid? Dressed up and trick-or-treated?"
"No, never. Sounds like a waste of time..." Hesper said without a care, not realizing that Oliver silently declared to himself that he wouldn't trick-or-treat again. Perhaps she was right. It was a waste of time. Especially for a fourteen year old, soon to turn fifteen in January.
"Get inside!" Oliver's father barked. Oliver took no time to hesitate and did as he was told and abandoned Hesper's side. She almost wanted to load her bow when she witnessed Oliver's father grab the collar of his sons shirt and harshly pull him inside. Once Oliver was in the house, his father turned back to Hesper with the most dangerous look upon his face. Hesper spied Oliver cowering way behind his father, watching with great apprehension.
"Hello again, sir," She chimed.
"What are you doing with my son?" He growled.
"What?" She asked as if she were surprised that he would take such a horrible tone with her, "Am I not allowed to spend time with my friend?"
"Friend? You're old enough to be his mother!"
"Actually, sir, no. I am much too young to be his mother," She laughed.
"Bloody lies. God knows how old a witch like you could be!" He fumed.
"She's not a witch!" Oliver's shout was heard. They both turned to look at him standing in the middle of the hallway furiously. "She's nothing more than a very wise women!"
Hesper beamed at these words. She had to admit that she was proud of Oliver. For living in what she could tell was a rather mean family and still worked past the lies they probably spat at him daily. She gave him a wink which made his face break into a little smile. But that smile of hope vanished at the sound of his father snarling at him in rage.
"Get up to your room!" He barked. "I'll deal with you later!"
Hesper caught a wisp of a pleading look in Oliver's eyes as he cowered back then ran up a pair of stairs to his left and disappeared. She felt a spark of anger ignite in her chest, but held it back as she turned back to his father who was stepping out into the night and shutting the door behind him. Taking a couple precautionary steps back, Hesper spoke in most cheery voice she could up at the man was a least a few feet taller than her.
"So, where were we?"
"I was contemplating whether or not you will be brought to the police station dead or alive. The rewards the same," He spat.
"No, now you see how I know that was a lie?" She spoke in a clever manner. "I'm not wanted because if I were, I would have been arrested by now. You all know where I live. You can even see my house on a clear day." She smiled up at him as he narrowed his eyebrows. "So," She continued on, "Therefore, if you try to forcefully take me somewhere I don't wish to go, that is abduction. And if you kill me, well..." She chuckled, "That's murder. Do I make myself clear?" He stood there, glowering. He knew she was right.
"You killed those kids," He growled.
"Then why am I not wanted by the police?" She countered politely, inside she was thriving about how she was mentally and verbally beating him into the dirt. But physically? Well he had the upper hand. But he would be deeply mistaken if he were to think that brawn would over power her. Oh, she would like to see him try.
"Because the police are stupid." His temper was rising.
"Well, clearly not. Since they have relied on a simple, yet magical, thing called evidence to prove that I, in fact, did not lay a finger on any child in this settlement."
"That's a lie!" He spat.
"How so?" Hesper risked a glance up at a window of the house to see Oliver's head peering through a pair of closed curtains. She had thought she felt someone watching. Before turning back to Oliver's father, she gave him a quick smile. She doubted that his father noticed, his dark, bushy eye brows were so furrowed, she was almost positive that they were blocking a good portion of his vision.
"My son! Eight years ago. Was it you that left that mark on his arm? Or was it your ruddy fox?" Hesper heard Noelani growl at the mention of his name. She had nearly forgotten that he was here. "I know that it wasn't a wolf that did it!"
"Sir," She sighed with a smile, "Why would I wound a child then heal him?"
"Then it was that stupid animal!" He nearly exploded as he lunged a quick step forward, but Hesper beat him there. She placed her boot firmly on the ground before Noelani. Her gown swept in the air from the sudden movement then settled like a drape in front of the fox, blocking him out of view. If this didn't stop Oliver's father enough, she made sure of it by giving him a dangerous glare. He stopped dead when his eyes met hers. She knew how her pale eyes seemed to glow in the night, and she knew that this would scare those who thought her a witch. So she used it to her advantage.
"I've heard his arm healed well? I mostly used one of my favourite healing ingredients on his bandages, Willow leaf extract. He told me that it was nothing but a faint scar a few days after." Hesper tried at conversation. She knew it was hopeless before she even opened her mouth, but she was just showing that she wasn't going to sink down to the level of an argument. His shouts alone were already enough to catch the notice of passers who were heading in the direction of the town square.
Oliver's father said nothing. Hesper didn't know exactly what to say either, but then the picture of Oliver's face after his father yelled at him came to her mind. Giving a sly smile, she began.
"I would like to make an offer- no- A request...-no. What's the word I'm looking for? Oh, more of a statement." Hesper spoke with her head high, eyes wide and unblinking in an attempt to keep him scared enough so he would listen and stay in place. It seemed to be working. Before she continued, behind her mystic eyes, she was forcing everything she knew about hypnosis and persuasion.
"I would wish to collect Oliver every now and then throughout the week to accompany me up at my home for a while. You know, help out with a few things. I was thinking Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will collect him from school on the weekdays." Hesper was making this up as she went. But she quite enjoyed it. It let her go with the flow...
"Why would I ever do that?" He asked. Worry had taken place of the anger in his voice, his eyes not leaving hers. She could see sweat building on his brow. She smiled as she realized that he was at her mercy.
"Oh, I don't know," Hesper yawned. "You know how lonely an old withered lady like myself can get all alone up there. But if you don't like the idea of letting me having him the easy way... I'm sure that there are a few sneaky tricks up the sleeve of a witch." She nearly snarled the word in which she knew he despised the most. She noticed him gulp, but she did not blink. He was trapped in her glare.
"Kidnapping," He shuddered.
"Hardly. Not if he comes willingly," She said.
"You're a murderer. You'll curse him!" He finally spat out.
Hesper narrowed her eyes and saw the fear build in his. "Hmm," She slyly smiled, satisfied at his terror, "I can see that it would be a waste of breath to try and teach you a truth... But at least Oliver was smart enough to see through your rubbish. It may be Halloween soon, sir. But no matter how good the costume, you cannot disguise the lies to those with the sharpest minds." Hesper finished. Releasing him from her gaze which made him exhale a breath she knew he was holding the whole time, she turned on her heal and walked down the street, feeling pretty smug. As she did this, she noticed Oliver still watching in the window and gave one last quick smile. But wait- she nearly forgot!
"Oh, and," She stopped where she stood and turned back to face his father who was still frozen to the spot in a daze. His eyes weakly flashed up to hers reluctantly, "If I notice one mark on Oliver and hear of any wrong doing from you...well, lets just say you can expect a less friendly visit from me." Before she turned away to begin her walk home, she locked her deadly, pale eyes with his once more and took in their last signs of shock and terror. She had a little hop in her step as she skipped down the streets. Oh how she had wanted to do that for the longest time!