The Cotswolds Witches

Part Two
By: Steve Carr

From the depths of a glowing mist that suddenly appeared at the opposite end of the kitchen, a gentle voice said, song-like, each word filled with musicality, "You must not kill your grandmother, or anyone, ever."

The fae folk standing around Trail dropped to one knee, their heads bowed. "King Pathways," they mumbled reverently.

"King Pathways, my father?" Trail said aloud, astonished. "How did you know what I was just thinking?"

"I've always known what is in your mind and in your heart," King Pathways said.

Trail's head was filled with questions, but he muttered only one. "Where's my mother?"

"That answer can be found at the Church of St. James in Coln St. Dennis," his father said.

It was then that Dreadsmore's heavy footsteps could be heard crossing the dining room heading for the kitchen.

King Pathways turned into a brilliant, luminescent light and then exploded into a million sparkling, shimmering tiny stars.

Trail found himself standing in the woods with all of the fae and magical folk with him. He looked at Lothor. "How do I get to that church?" he asked.


"Traveling far beyond the woods is very dangerous for those of us who have lived in them our entire lives," Lothor said as he walked along the road, bathed in moonlight. "We lose what few powers of magic we have."

Walking beside Lothor, Trail glanced furtively at the fairy. "Dreadsmore told me I needed to be schooled in the art of magic. What did he mean?"

"Portia and the other witches plan to use the magical powers you have to make them even stronger."

"The nuns always said my powers were peculiarities," Trail said.

"The only thing peculiar about you or your powers is that you are half fae and half mortal because of your combined fae and mortal parentage, something never seen before in the long existence of the Cotswolds woods."

Trail stared at the lamplight glowing in the distance at the entrance to the business area of Coln St. Dennis. "Why didn't my father appear to me before this?"

"For him to return to visit you from the Realm of Forever, he must be truly concerned about what Portia has in store for you."

They walked on, silently, their shadows cast on the walls of Cotswold stone that lined both sides of the road. Like everywhere in the Cotswolds, everyone had retreated to their homes for the night and the stores, shops and even the pubs, had closed for the night. They entered the business area just a little before midnight. Staying close to the fronts of the shops and walking in the darkness beneath the awnings, they made their way to the stone bridge that crossed the narrow and gently flowing River Coln. On the other side of the river lay meadows illuminated by moonlight. Just beyond that stood the Gothic church of St. James. Its square belltower poked into the night sky. The two hurried across the bridge and meadow as if careful not to be seen, although no one else was around. They stopped at the front doors of the church.

"I think it best you go in by yourself while I keep watch out here," Lothor whispered. "Surely Portia and Dreadsmore noticed long ago that you were no longer in the house and are out looking for you."

Without touching it, the church door opened.

"My beloved son I have awaited your return," a female voice called out from deep within the church.

Trail walked in as the door closed behind him. Behind the altar at the end of the long aisle between the pews a panel in the stained glass window flickered like the flame of a candle. From it the voice spoke again. "Your father has kept me informed of your every movement in America and the days and hours of your return here to the Cotswolds."

Tentatively, Trail walked down the aisle. "Why did you abandon me?" he said.

"I knew that with your father dispatched to the Realm of Forever by your grandmother, that my fate would soon be sealed and I couldn't bear the thought of you being in her cruel clutches, so I had you taken as far away to be cared for by a an old friend, but the elf who was tasked with getting you to that destination feared for his life and left you on the doorstep of that orphanage, pinning only a piece of paper with your name on it onto the blanket you were swaddled in."

"Are you never to come out of that window?" he said.

"A curse from a Cotswolds witch has never been reversed," she said.

In that instant the windowpane burst into flame. "Leave now, my son, danger is on your heels."

Trail turned and ran down the aisle and flung open the door. There stood Dreadsmore, his hand around Lothor's broken neck, dangling the elf's lifeless body like a rag doll.

"Queen Portia has lost her patience with you," Dreadsmore said, leering maliciously at the boy.


In the next moment, Trail found himself standing in the middle of the pentagram painted on the floor in his grandmother's house. The thirteen Cotswolds witches, including Portia, stood around the pentagram, their hands linked. Wisps of smoke from the lit candles in the sconces danced in the air above their heads. The witches hummed in unison emitting a sound similar to a swarm of bees. They had their eyes fixed on Trail.

"You have my blood, the blood of a witch, coursing through your veins," Portia said at last, coldly. "You saw what happened to your mother for going against me, against all of the Cotswold witches."

"I have the blood of an elf in me, like my father," Trail answered back, angrily.

He was then levitated from the floor and began to spin around, slowly at first and then faster and faster.


The breeze that came through the slightly raised bedroom window was warm, damp, and filled with fragrances from the meadows and the woods. Trail sat up in his bed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. For a moment he thought the few memories he had of the events of the night before had all been a dream, and then he looked down and saw his shoes on the floor. They were covered in the dust accumulated from the road during the walk into Coln St. Dennis. The memories of the entire night quickly flooded his mind. In the very moment he thought of the witches standing around the pentagram, the door opened and his grandmother walked in, followed by Dreadsmore.

She stopped at the foot of his bed and glared at him. "I should have left you with the nuns in America, to never know your heritage."

He crossed his arms tight across his chest. "Why didn't you?" he said defiantly.

"You are an anomaly; part mortal, part elf, part witch. The other witches believe you may hold the key to how to rid the Cotswolds of the fae and magic folk for good."

"Why don't you just turn them all into slaves or kill them like you did my father?" he said.

"Too many of them prove elusive, and as you saw, sending them to the Realm of Forever doesn't rid us of them. Those fae and who enter the Realm still haunt us in one way or another. Permanent banishment from here and the beyond is the only solution that will allow the Cotswold witches to rule this region without any interference." She walked to the window and looked out. "With you lies the answer," she said.

Trail looked up to see Dreadsmore staring at him in a way he hadn't before. He didn't want to misjudge what he thought he saw in Dreadsmore's eyes, but he though there was the look of concern, and kindness.

Portia whirled about, pointed at him with her long, slender index finger, and screamed, "Tonight when the witches want to see your powers, be ready to display them, or else." She then vanished, leaving behind a quickly dissipating cloud of black mist.

"Lothor was once my friend," Dreadsmore intoned before turning and leaving the room, closing the door behind him.


The news of Lothor's death had spread quickly through the community of fae and magical folk who lived in the Cotswolds woods. Their collective voices filled with mourning and anger grew louder and louder in Trail's mind, at first only background noise in his dreams, but clear and urgent as if spoken directly into his ears by the time Portia and Dreadsmore had left the room. Trail got out of bed and dressed quickly. He then went about doing what he had done more than once to run away from a foster home; he tied bedclothes together to form a rope, hung it from the window sill, and climbed out the window and down the improvised rope.

Standing at the bottom of the rope was Dreadsmore who grabbed Trail by the back of his shirt collar, keeping the boy from running away.

"Let me go," Trail pleaded. "You're still an elf even if you no longer look or act like one. Somewhere in you there is the heart of an elf."

"Also in me is the fear of being sent to the Realm of Forever by your grandmother and the other witches," Dreadsmore said.

Trail pulled away, but didn't run. He looked up at the servant's unhappy face. "How is it that thirteen witches hold so much power over the Cotswolds?"

"I thought the fae and magic folk already told you," Dreadsmore said. "Your grandmother was the first witch, at least the first after hundreds of years when there were no witches at all. The ashes of her body was uncovered from a Cotswold stone quarry where she had been burned at the stake and buried by villagers long ago for practicing black magic. She returned to life, then found and released the others from their graves in the same quarry. They have yet to go after those they despise and plan their revenge on, the mortals, but it will happen in time. But first they plan to destroy the kingdom of the Cotswold fae and magical folk who protect the mortals."

"Hmmm, from the depths of a Cotswold quarry," Trail mused aloud. "Take me back inside," he said. "I won't put up any more struggle." "Gladly," Dreadsmore said. "It will keep me in the good graces of your grandmother."


From his bedroom window, Trail watched as each of the twelve other Cotswold witches arrived in black hearses, got out of the vehicles and went into the house under the cover of darkness, as always. The noxious fumes from the teas and potions that Dreadsmore and his grandmother had been brewing all afternoon filled the air. He had been tied to his bed by an enraged Portia since being brought back into the house by Dreadsmore, freed from the binds that held him there only a short time before by his grandmother who was as sweet and kind in manner and tone as any grandmother could be.

Dreadsmore entered the room and seeing Trail at the window, said, "They have come to witness you demonstrate your powers."

"I won't disappoint them, or my grandmother," Trail said. He followed Dreadsmore down to the first floor, where the thirteen witches stood in a circle around the pentagram."

Portia pointed to the center of the pentagram. "You know what is expected of you. Take your place, there."

Trail stood in the center and looked around at the expectant expressions of the witches' faces. They had linked hands and were humming softly. "My father said never kill anyone," he began, "but you can't kill what is already dead." He then looked up at the ceiling, seeing through it all the way to the Cotswold stone that formed the walls, floors, roof and chimneys above it, and clapped his hands.

Before they could react, the house collapsed around and on them, burying the thirteen witches beneath piles of Cotswold stone. He stood perfectly still for several minutes as the dust settled and then glanced up at the starlit sky. He felt a pang of sadness that Dreadsmore also met his fate and was immediately sent to the Realm of Forever as he too was crushed beneath the stone.

The fae and magical folk came running and flying out of the Cotswold woods and across the meadow to the ruins of Portia's house where they broke into merriment and song.

From another direction, running up what had been the driveway, was his mother, her arms spread wide.

The End


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