October 29, 2021

The Word Witch, By Kelly Jarvis


Editor’s note: This beautiful, imaginative story is like nothing else we’ve ever published on EC. It proves that Kelly Jarvis is a
WORD WITCH herself. And it’s a glorious celebration of the witch right at Halloween time. (Kate)

Once upon a time, words had saved her life.

She had seen the word DANGER dancing in the flames of the fire on the night the King’s soldiers arrived to burn her village to the ground. Her tribe of healers practiced the sacred arts, but they knew little about ANNIHILATION until they saw the word form in the rivers of blood dripping from the soldiers’ swords. The word RUN rose in the dying breath of the elders.

So, she ran.    

She ran through the night until the morning sunbeams refracted off her tears, surrounding her with crystal rainbows of HOPE. When she reached the forest clearing, she began to build a house of words.  

She chose sturdy beams of oak and cypress, words like FIERCE and INDEPENDENT swirled into the dark rings of their heartwood. She planted a garden where RENEWAL unfurled in blossoms each spring, and when she was lonely and frightened, she searched the horizon and recited the words she saw drifting in the clouds: ENDURE, BELIEVE, and REMEMBER.

***

She was terrified when, years later, a soldier approached, but the word WOUND oozed from the deep gashes that crossed his chest, and she reached out her hand to help him as her people had taught her to do. He was burning with fever and covered with dirt and blood.  

She brought him to her bed and applied a poultice of comfrey and chamomile to draw out the infection, tying the herbs in place with a clean cloth. She held the soldier in her arms and sang him the healing songs she had learned by heart.

She brewed pots of soup, carefully sprinkling spices over her cauldron, spelling STRENGTH in every spoonful. She hauled buckets of clear water from the pond to bathe him. Slowly, words like TENDERNESS and FIDELITY appeared in the air between them, pulling them closer to one another like a magnetic force. She could hear the word SOULMATE in every beat of his heart. When they stood together beneath the pine trees and pledged their lives to one another, ETERNITY was written in the stars.

***  

She knew that he would leave her and return to his regimen. Although it had taken him months to recover from his wounds, the word DUTY was seared into his brow, and it glowed with increased vibrancy as he grew stronger. When he left, rain poured down from the sky and LONELINESS floated in the mist that hung near the ground. Three months later the healer was awakened from sleep by a sharp pain in her chest. DEATH drifted across her line of vision.  

She knew her soldier would never return.

***   

That winter it snowed SOLITUDE and a white frost lay upon the earth like a blanket. One evening, as the grieving healer sat wishing she could be swallowed by the growing darkness, a new soldier approached, asking for her help. “Please,” his voice was desperate. She trembled and turned her gaze to the setting sun. Shades of muted color spread across the horizon and she saw ENDURE, BELIEVE, and REMEMBER still written in the shadows of light. 

She followed the soldier to a field where a battle had been lost; the word PAIN pulsating from every blade of grass. She moved through the wounded, assessing them as her village elders had taught her. She wrote RECOVERY into healing salves for the strong. She stirred RELEASE into potions for the dying. And for those left behind, she steeped heartache tea, adding the words COMFORT and PEACE to the concoction as though they were seasonings like ginger and cinnamon. 

That night, the words she used to help others, saved her life once more.

***    

Stories of the healer spread, and the lonely house that had been built of words became a pilgrimage for the weary, the hurt, the hungry, and the heartbroken. She shared her songs for soothing fussy children, and helped guilty husbands pluck bouquets of sweet smelling hyacinths for their angry wives, each purple petal dripping with prayers of FORGIVENESS. She mixed medicines for the ailing and placed her magic hands upon the bodies of those who buckled with grief and pain. For each spell she found the perfect word and wrote or spoke its power into healing.

One day, she discovered an abandoned infant on her doorstep, and when she bent down to lift the crying child, the most beautiful word she had ever seen, DAUGHTER, was bouncing in the baby’s golden curls. LOVE crystalized in the air around them, wrapping them in a warm pink glow.

***    

As her daughter grew, the healer taught her to read the hidden words in the world around her as she had been taught by her own mother. She taught her to see SNOW in the clouds and to delight in the way violets released PROMISE in the spring. As soon as the girl could hold a quill, she taught her to write her own words, and before long, mother and daughter worked together in harmony, their mutual charms and incantations sending twice the healing energy to those in need. 

Time passed, as time does, and the little girl grew up, fell in love, and raised her own children in a house of words that she built just next door.

***

No one was surprised when the aging healer took her last breath, for the edges of the words she had seen throughout her life had long since begun to blur, and she sometimes mixed up words when distilling her remedies. When she was lowered into the ground, her daughter took a handful of black soil and wrote ETERNITY over her grave.  

***   

The house of words and all who visited it are gone now, but, in a forest clearing, where the stars shine silently down upon a long forgotten tomb, where a quiet wind whispers through the pines, the sacred words, ENDURE, BELIEVE, and REMEMBER, endlessly write themselves in the clouds that drift across the moonlit sky.

***

Bio: Kelly Jarvis teaches classes in literature, writing, and fairy tale at Central Connecticut State University, The University of Connecticut, and Tunxis Community College. She lives, happily ever after, with her husband and three sons in a house filled with fairy tale books. She is also Enchanted Conversation’s special project’s writer.

***

Image from Pixabay.






17 comments:

Randy said...

What a beautiful story and an incredible way to see the world. This story is a reminder that HOPE, LOVE and STRENGTH are out there if we know where to look for them.

Judy Lunsford said...

Just absolutely beautiful.

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelly Jarvis said...

I am so happy you liked the story!

Jamie Calli Savage said...

What a beautiful story, Kelly! I appreciate the words, and the reminder to always be on the lookout for messages and lessons.

Kelly Jarvis said...

Awww, Jamie thank you for reading! That means the world to me!

Deborah Sage said...

Ahhh, beautifully done. The Word Witch eloquently reflects the power of words.

Steve Aelfcyning said...

That truly was ENCHANTING.

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you, Deborah! Words can be so powerful, and I am so happy you think my story reflects that!

Kelly Jarvis said...

Thank you Deborah and Steve! I am so happy you liked the story!

Kasey said...

Truly a word witch. Loved the story!

Michele Castiola said...

A gift such as yours delivers words that can heal. This story is absolutely beautiful!

Stanley Parker said...

Beautiful work, Kelly! I always look forward to your stories!

HulderMN said...

Spellbinding!

Lynden Wade said...

Gorgeous story, Kelly! Bittersweet.

Stef Rozitis said...

"that winter it snowed SOLITUDE" I thought this was a beautiful story and interesting idea!

E.A. Lawrence said...

I love this story. It reminded me of an Ursula K. LeGuin short story in her book "Changing Planes." Thank you for reminding us that language is magic. :)

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