A witch lived alone in a hut in the woods. There, she'd prepare potions, perform spells and curses, and cast bewitchments and incantations. A hundred and fifty years old was considered very young for a witch, but the people in the nearest town ignored that.
She was distrusted at first but townspeople begrudgingly came to accept her services. Naturally, the first ones who sought her help were the poor. Farmers, beggars, and humble labourers. Treating diseases, difficult childbirths and exorcisms were among her daily tasks. The witch eventually realized that if she wanted to make a name for herself, she'd have to work hard. From zero.
Because not all witches had to go through all of that.
But she wasn't one of the good, accepted witches.
Ironically, that was one of the things that made people slowly welcome her presence and seek her services. Witches moved into covens. Witches flew together. Witches had networks of support and solidarity.
But Lorelei didn't.
Was a single woman truly dangerous?
The fruits of her hard work slowly started to show. Her first clients, the poor, began seeking her help out of desperation and a lack of options. So did the first merchants and servants. They came requesting for her to deal with illnesses, beauty matters and ancient spirits. The witch had to take a firm stance since she soon started to receive requests for curses and deceptions against others. Love rivals, family feuds, and money problems were problems she wanted to avoid at all costs.
That was one of the reasons why well-to-do people only approached her when in desperation. Even if their payments were much needed, the witch knew it was better to remain neutral. They only sought her help when things were beyond their control.
The witch could deal with everything, or at least improvise a way to do it.
Her contributions to the community didn't keep her safe from prejudice and menaces, even if she knew how to keep herself safe. Priests and doctors, guards and knights, governors and rich merchants had mixed opinions of her.
Rumours arose, too.
About how she was the cause of some problems. About how bad things started to happen more often because of her and about how one would be marked forever if they sought a witch's help.
That she was akin to Urganda, The Unknown*. That she was connected to Balthasar, the wolf rebel**. That they would be turned into pigs, as Circe*** did to Odysseus' sailors. That she would harm the children of the town, as Medea**** did.
But Lorelei paid them no mind.
She had already learned how to protect herself from worse things.
And besides, troubles were already present in that small town before she moved there. If people gained more consciousness of them, then it was thanks to the witch's intervention. One of the reasons she had chosen that town was because it was particularly messy. And very isolated.
The witch also worked on her personal projects.
One was a preparation to summon a familiar.
Familiars were important. They aided with domestic tasks, assisted on matters of magic, and helped maintain security across the grounds, but, most importantly, familiars keep company for their masters.
Because Lorelei was a very lonely woman.
She knew it was a very important occasion. Some enchantresses made familiars out of animals close to them. A couple of sorceresses were famous because giants were their familiars. But the witch wanted to summon her own magical familiar.
She wanted the magical companion to be genuine, to be hers.
No external factors. No critics or opinions.
Something that would belong to her. That no one else could touch or order around.
Her first familiar was a raven. And she was satisfied with the result: a raven could reunite intel and be good for communication. The witch cast spells and enchantments over her raven since a magical one looks vastly different to a natural raven. Hers was a black creature with runes across the body and purple eyes. Thanks to Lorelei, the raven now had black feathers.
Dark colours, purple hues and clever eyes, that was what her raven looked like.
And so, Lorelei and her raven kept company with each other. They researched their magical arts, healed animals and people, and helped farmers with their crops.
Years passed, people died, and Lorelei soon gained enough fame. She was wary of newcomers but discovered none boosted connections with her old coven.
And that was for the best.
One night, the witch decided she craved the company of a lover. Women have their needs, after all. And so, she prepared her magical tools to summon a companion for a single night.
What appeared in front of her wasn't an incubus, a succubus, or any kind of sexual demon. What she summoned was a prince. A fae prince, of around her same age.
None could explain what happened. And upon his request, the prince was returned home.
Slightly vexed (the witch wanted nothing to do with royalty, thank you very much), she tried changing her summoning places. In the middle of the woods. By the lake. At the entrance of a hidden cascade. In the mountains. Even by a tumulus, even if she tried to avoid the local tumulus as much as possible.
But her fae prince kept appearing. And after some quarrelling, both agreed that something was deeply wrong. He'd be sleeping, studying, practising magic and suddenly appear in front of her. And at first, none wanted it. But upon worrying over a hidden clause or a geas, they agreed to spend a night together, thinking it would be a good way to break the curse.
The witch and the prince enjoyed a good time, agreed to never see each other again, and he left.
Lorelei would laugh at herself every time she recalled the encounter. And decided that from then on, she'd only take her lovers from the closest town, which slowly started to turn into a city. It was safer. And she knew how to choose her partners carefully, to avoid problems and misunderstandings.
But one cold night, it was raining and the witch realized travelling wasn't worth the effort. And believing the mysterious bias that affected her summons was gone, she tried to summon a lover for a single night.
The fae prince appeared again. This time, it looked as if he came from a battle. His clothes were torn, there was blood and dirt across his fine clothes, and he had the eyes of a berserker. There was a cut across one of his pointy ears.
The witch calmed him down by throwing a bucket of cold water toward the armed figure. It always stopped dog fights in the town. Out of nowhere, the prince thanked her for the intervention and offered gold and riches. It was about time he was summoned, if not, then, ''that halberd'' would surely have claimed his life.
''So, did I summon you from battle?'' inquired Lorelei, the witch of a simple town.
''So it seems'' Answered Nicholas Wildflower, prince of the Seelie Court, Son of the Sun, Flame of the People, Half-Lord of the Sídhes and Child of Danu.
''I have treated wounded soldiers before''
''Then, yes. Perhaps, I would need some help''
His wounds were superficial, and she cured him in no time.
''Do I have to return you now?''
''I would rather not''
''We already won the battle. And I believe it would be for the best if I don't appear for a while''
He looked slightly offended.
''Of course not! I fought valiantly and ardently for my people. It's just that they can do well without me for a couple of days''
''Isn't the Crown Prince needed to uplift the morale of his countrymen after a long and torturous battle?''
He made a derisive gesture with his hand. And ignored her sarcasm.
''After two hundred years with them, that wasn't the first battle I fought''
The witch decided it would be wise to avoid the topic.
''And so, why did you summon me for?''
She also decided it was wiser to avoid that topic.
''I was practising my spells''
''We are still bounded, aren't we?''
''Yes, we are''
''I suppose that's too bad''
They talked no more.
Prince Nicholas took a bath. And Lorelei decided that it wouldn't be too bad to entertain a guest for a couple of days.
The witch had few clients during the cold seasons and most involved emergencies. She had learned to not charge the services of humble folk; instead, she'd ask for information, information concerning the presence of certain herbs and the movements of people.
For she always remained wary of her coven, even if all ties were cut down.
The witch started to spend most days and nights in the arms of her elven prince. From him, she learned that he was soon to marry a princess, as expected of people from his rank. Strangely enough, the witch didn't feel jealous or sad. She simply nodded her head.
It was according to the flow of things.
''We have to solve this problem'' she said one night.
''Do we have any clues?''
''The truth is that when I summoned you, I was experimenting with a new technique''
''Don't you have a licence?''
The witch felt sad. It wasn't something she liked to talk about. Well, it's not like the prince hadn't realized it himself. Most witches lacked working licences.
''Don't you have connections with your coven?''
''I don't like them''
Those were his only words. And for Lorelei, it felt as if he had prickled a big bag with a needle. And all the contents fell, out of a simple comment.
And the witch talked, she did. The witch talked about being born in the lowest rank of her coven, about judgement, about opportunities being taken away, about having her first familiars snatched and killed for their magical energy, about being forced to serve. The witch talked about indifference, about loneliness and sadness.
The prince listened in silence. He didn't attempt to console her when she cried, nor interrupted her when the tale became dark and scabrous. In the end, he prepared her a herbal tea and she drank it. And after that, she went out.
The witch remained outside for three days. One of the reasons she never acquaintanced herself with a new coven was because that town was close to the borders with the human world. And that precisely was why she chose that place to live and train: the propinquity with the Unknown meant an afinity to magic and good resources to learn from experience.
When the witch returned, she found the prince ready to depart. She bade him farewell and her raven familiar croaked with disappointment.
Lorelei decided it was about time she started travelling. People who meddle with the Unknown often find odd consequences for their actions. And she needed answers.
The witch sealed her home, in both magical and mundane ways, took the necessary elements for her survival and journeyed up the mountains. After days, she reached the coast. She wasn't sure about what to look for, but on the second day, a boat sailed in her direction, and she understood it was what she needed.
Ugly-looking giants and monsters were the crew. A beautiful woman introduced herself as Urganda and invited the witch to a soirée. On the beach, crew, familiars and witches danced and sang. The witch didn't know parties could be so fun. She always watched the town celebrations from afar, careful to not meddle more than unnecessary.
The witch tried to not show her feelings. The truth was that it wasn't a normal party. She drank, she ate and she chatted. A couple of crew monsters asked her for a dance and she did her best. The witch didn't know what they were celebrating, nor did she care.
She enjoyed herself until Urganda called for her.
This time, she looked like an old woman. Myths stated Urganda was old. Myths also stated no one knew her real form. Old lore told stories about how the immortal sorceress always helped prince Amadís, about her wonderful powers and more. Like Merlin giving counsel to King Arthur.
Urganda told the witch a tale. A tale about prejudice, jealousy and greed. The witch learned about a baby princess destined to marry a fae prince. But he was cursed since he was young, and the king didn't want his daughter to suffer tribulations in a foreign land. So, he searched for the help of an ancient witch, who offered to free his son from the curse in exchange for money. The curse would be placed upon a body double of the lower ranks.
Lorelei felt the bile in her mouth. She summoned Nicholas, who appeared to be taken out of a battle (yet again). He, again, thanked the witch for her opportune intervention against an axe aimed at his head. Urganda called for them and both followed the old lady to the shore. There, she ordered Lorelei to climb a rock and sing. And for Nicholas to do the same. Urganda pushed both to the shore and drowned them. She also dragged the corpses out of the sea.
By sunrise, they were free of the curse. Urganda and her crew retired to the ship and sailed away.
The pair returned to the prince's lands. The pair burned an ancient witch and retrieved four treasure chests of a dying coven. The sorceresses in the witch's memories were bigger and older than her. The ones she found were already old, dead or ignorant of the past.
The pair travelled to the nearest kingdom, ruled by a beautiful princess who welcomed her fiancée.
The princess carried the sun in her hair. The witch had a dishevelled black mess.
The princess' skin was like porcelain. The witch's skin was dark and rugged; the result of years of working and journeying under the sun.
The princess used the most beautiful gowns and jewels. The witch used the same old rugged tunic and pants.
No one understood why the prince preferred a witch over a beautiful royal heiress. When the pair left, the princess was without a fiancée. (Not that she deeply minded, the truth was that the princess preferred women. But she had to keep appearances up).
When the fae prince returned to his Seelie Court, no one was too surprised about his disappearance. Nor about his presence again. The witch found out the Seelie Court wasn't very different from the Unseelie Court when it came to manners and brutality.
Nicholas Wildflower was crowned king soon after that. His first act was to marry a common witch, so common she even lacked a surname. Her dowry was a treasure contained in four cursed chests. No one was particularly worried about that, for the fae are very different to humans in that regard.
The Ancient Lore states that the princess from the neighbouring kingdom ruled unmarried until she passed of old age and the crown went to her nephew. More vaguely, it also describes a fae King and his Witch-Queen that ruled together for many centuries.
Below I'll write some info on the folkloric and mythological references used for this story
* Urganda, The Unknown (a.k.a., Urganda, La Desconocida): an old, sometimes monstrous, sorceress from Iberian folklore. She'd advise young knight Amadís de Gaula. Her role is similar to the Merlin of the Arthurian Cycle.
** Balthasar, the wolf rebel: An original character of a story I tried to sell. It wasn't successful. At some point, I know I should rewrite the story and upload it here.
*** Circe: A sorceress that Odysseus/Ulises found in his travel back to Ithaca. Dudette turned his sailors into pigs and later (depending on the version) demanded Ulises sleep with her in exchange for turning them back. Yup, pretty shady. It's traditionally believed she fell in love with Ulises but had to let him go.
**** Medea: Otakus may remember F/SN's Caster.
I'm joking. A witch from Greek mythology used to be a princess but accompanied the adventurer Jason on his trips. It didn't end well.
And finally, Lorelei. According to German Folklore, a siren caused numerous deaths with her song. Named after a rock in the Rhine river. Apparently, she started as a maiden that threw herself into the river after being deceived by her lover.
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