An Unexpected Apprenticeship

Millie carefully picked her way down the stairs, only looking up at her destination when she was halfway down. What she saw had her staring in amazement.

The hollow was a tiny, piled up village, gathered back against the hill, to face a grassy square and an open view to woods and trees beyond. The entire place was lovingly overrun with plants, and small animals scurried, soared and hopped around with no sense of fear or urgency.

It was only after standing, staring for some time that Millie became aware of how quiet it was. She wasn’t sure if she just hadn’t been aware, or if a sound that had been there before had stopped.

It made her realise the other strange thing. There were no people. And yet it didn’t feel abandoned. It felt lived in and loved and she didn’t think that just came from the animals and plants.

Her mother used to smile at her creativity when she said such things at home. She didn’t seem to understand that Millie could feel the emotions of a place in the same way as she felt heat or cold. After a while, Millie kept it to herself. It was boring being teased, however gently, for something you took seriously.

Millie stepped down into the grassy area fronting the village and looked around. Again, she had several paths to choose from.

The bluebird danced toward one little sunlit lane in invitation but Millie ignored it. It was her that needed to feel her way through, not someone else. She closed her eyes and absorbed the surroundings.

There were two pulls on her senses, one to a table set for tea under a pergola in the centre of the clearing, the other drew her towards a small path leading into the ever-present forest.

Millie frowned, two, what was she supposed to do now? The bluebird continued trying to entice her in its direction but she stubbornly remained where she was, glaring at the little creature.

“This is my journey, you’re not supposed to try and influence me, it’s bad luck.”

The bird plumped down on a branch with a decidedly put out trill.

Millie moved carefully towards the choices nagging at her senses. They were both in the same direction for the moment, so, if she went slowly, she had a little more time before she had to make a decision.

She stepped up to a strange divide, where the grass changed colour between one blade and the next. It seemed the pergola was surrounded by some sort of border, so any step over it would commit her in the same way as entering the path beneath the trees. She turned and paced the perimeter, trying to understand what her senses were telling her.

She completed the circuit and knew she had to make a choice, time had run out.

She closed her eyes again and focused on every other sense, then took a deep breath and stepped over the invisible edge.

Nothing seemed to change, until she realised a raven was sitting on the edge of the pergola’s roof, looking at her approvingly.

“Are you going to try and influence me as well?”

It cawed, and answered, “Hardly, this is your journey young witch, I’m simply here to answer questions on your alternatives, should you have them.”

“I still have alternatives? I thought I just chose.”

“And like so many choices, it has led you to yet more.”

Millie stomped over to a convenient bench and plonked down in a huff, “This is getting too complicated. I just want to start my apprenticeship and get on with being a witch.”

“But what kind of witch do you want to be?”

Millie looked up in fascination, “I have a choice?”

“You more than any. You have a talent that can be manifested in a number of different directions.”

“So what are my current directions?”

“You have three, follow the bluebird, follow the forest path, or stay here for someone or something to arrive.”

Millie grimaced, “I don’t know that I like just waiting around, but this place feels loved and happy, and that’s probably important. And what is my talent then? I thought I was supposed to be a plant-growing witch like Mrs Honey.”

“You could be, although it would be a waste of potential. You’re a greenwitch child.”

If Millie hadn’t already been sitting down, she would have done so. A greenwitch was a rare being, with magic connected to all growing and living things. According to her classes, there was only two other greenwitches in the whole world.

“Should I apprentice to one of the other greenwitches? How could I find them?”

“It’s one of your choices. Another choice is to be a healer, especially of plants and animals, and your third is building things from nature and natural products.”

Millie stared, “How do I know, how do I choose?”

“Think about them and which one pulls at your heart. Stand and feel, with that option at the front of your mind. The path you want will open.”

Millie closed her eyes and felt her way through each of the futures presented to her.

She opened her eyes and took a deep breath, “Alright, I know what I want, magic, show me the way.”

The pull to remain in the pergola vanished, as did the one to the forest. Instead, the tug led her to one of the houses bordering the green area and that was the one she followed.

The raven chucked behind her and said to the bluebird, “Tough luck bubble-beak, she never even looked at your path.”

The bluebird chirped rudely in reply and winged its way down the lane.

Millie knocked on the door, it was opened by a woman slightly older than her mother, with a ready smile and dancing eyes.

“I’m so glad you chose me. Please come in, you must be starving by now.”

The woman waved an arm and the raven took off, circling and calling out, “She’s chosen, you can resume your duties now.”

Millie stepped over the threshold, dimly aware of movement and conversation starting up behind her as people emerged from the houses and the forest, calling to each other and chattering excitedly.

Mille sat at the kitchen bench she was waved to and gratefully took one of the sandwiches offered.

“I did make the right choice didn’t I?”

“Well I think you did, but I’m not really an unbiased observer in this. The others will be a little miffed but I think they’ll come around.”

A deep breath, and out again, Millie asked, “So what does a greenwitch do and how do I start becoming one?”

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