by Sophia R. S., 15
Once upon a time, in a forest not far from a large, bustling village, lived a young witch named Evanora. Despite the village’s chastising of witches and the rumors of black magic, further endorsed by the noble Barclay family, Evanora was quite kind and kept to herself in the forest. The only time people would ever visit was taking a wrong turn in the forest, only to find her and be frightened of a wrath that would never come, or when they chanced upon her garden of flowers and stopped to steal or admire them. It was lonely, but a peaceful existence for Evanora.
However, one night as she gathered indigo sweet flowers for a potion, she heard a noise in the brush. Visiting animals weren’t uncommon, so she paid it no mind until she heard it again, louder than a fleeing rabbit or irritated raccoon could make. Drawing near as well. She turned to face the unknown creature only to realize it was a human, adorned by a purple cloak and hidden from the moon. The newcomer was frightful, but Evanora welcomed them into the field, curious of the night dweller.
The new person was rather shy to her questions, though she has come to accept this as normal. When she asked their name, they responded “May,” with much hesitation. When Evanora asked where she was from, she replied “The village,” with equal pause. When Evanora asked why she was out at the high of the moon, she replied, “I come here every night, though I must have come much later than I often do. The moon is often much lower when I arrive. Why have you come here?”
“I always tend the flowers at the high of the moon.”
The longer the two spoke, the more they believed they learned of each other. Evanora was an odd lady who lived apart from the village as to never have the worries of others’ judgement, and May was a housewife to a well-off merchant, who escaped to the field every night so she would not always bear the weight of responsibility. The first night, the two were content in their meeting, uncertain their paths would cross again. However, the next night, Evanora tended to her flowers during the wake of the moon and worked slower than she often does, wondering whether May would return now knowing of her living here. And sure enough, May returned, and Evanora welcomed her. May was rather confused seeing her here.
“You’re not often here this early.”
“Am I not allowed to work at an earlier time?”
“No, I am merely surprised.”
The two spoke that night, once again. And once again, they falsely learned more of each other. May spoke of her duties as a housewife, cooking and cleaning and visiting the marketplace, and Evanora spoke of her life alone, how she has learned to read the sky for rain and clean the well and trap a rabbit for stew. They listened to each other in enthusiasm, and when the moon reached its height, May promised to return. And so, the next night, she did. The two spoke more of the way Evanora lives, and she decided to teach May one or two skills she has learned such as how to set a trap and how to tell if a rain is coming. These skills only made her more curious and eager to learn, returning the next day to learn the flowers in the field and how to care for them, and the next day learning how to see without the moon. As time passed, the more they trusted each other, and the less they hid. May’s full name was Mabel, and she was not a merchant’s wife. She was trusted with the knowledge that Mabel was a Barclay. This brought immense fear to Evanora; if she found out Evanora was a witch, surely she would tell her family and bring about the witch’s end. She became rather careful of her words, one day trying to learn what she thought of witches.
“I heard in your town, many people are hateful of witches.”
“That is true, yes.”
“What do you do if one is found?”
“We burn them at the stake.”
“That sounds frightening. Do you ever feel remorseful of it?”
“Rarely. Witches are capable of truly vile things.”
“But are they not capable of good?”
“Very few, my father says, but we cannot take such a risk.”
“Has any of your family met a witch they have not executed?”
“Only I have. If I were to mention I found a witch, they would accuse me of witchcraft and if I could not prove I have no affiliation, I would either be cleansed through only the most rigid ways or be burned at the stake. Father has warned us that the good of our land is worth more than the blood he must spill to protect it, even if it must be his own.”
This brought a mix of emotions to Evanora’s mind. If Mabel were to find out, she could not speak of Evanora without risk of her own death. It was not favorable that her secret would be kept on risk of execution, should it be learned, but it was all she could hope for.
The days soon turned to a month, and Mabel and Evanora grew ever closer. Every night she could spare, Mabel escaped her dull, rule filled world in favor of the meadow to speak with Evanora, to help grow her garden and learn things both in and out of the normal, such as which berries in the forest were any use to eat, or how to feel the amount of time past without any help besides yourself. Though, the more Mable stalled away, the longer she stayed, and the more careless she got. She would forget to close her window and it would be oddly cold in her room the next morning. She would forget to lock her door and would be one late worker away from being presumed missing. She stayed out too late and would be tired the next day. These were far and few between, but were still too common for comfort. Common enough that, one evening, someone noticed her escaping and attempted to find her. Mabel could find her way to the field much quicker and easier than the worker could, however, so it was well past the wake of the moon when they got to the field. There, Evanora was speaking to Mabel about some budded flowers.
“These ones are particularly special. They only bloom at day, and return to a bud at night.”
“If they’re this pretty at night they must be beautiful in the day.”
“They are. It is a shame so many people will disregard them or even destroy them because they’ve been used by witches. They are beautiful things.”
“They are indeed. If they were not the mark of a witch I would plant them among the castle. Though I fear one would recognize it.”
“An unusual work, something so lovely a mark of something thought to be so ugly.”
The worker realized that Mabel was likely speaking with a witch, or could even be an apprentice herself. They would have stepped in to help or confront Mabel, but had no way to defend themself against the possible witch, so they had to trust the princess would be safe for the time it took to return to the palace and explain what had happened to the king. Receiving the news his daughter could be learning witchcraft he was in equal parts furious, frightened, and heartbroken. What caused her to go astray? But regardless, he must uphold his code; the good of their land comes before their own blood. And if he must, he would trial and burn his own daughter alive to uphold that code. So, when Mabel returned home that night, she was confronted by her father and sent to bed with the knowledge that night that she was going on trial for witchcraft.
The day of the trial was long and anxiety ridden, the people startled over the fact that a Barclay was going on trial for witchcraft apprenticeship, the king the most shocked of all. Mabel was asked many questions, some too quick to give a proper response. Accusations and assumptions ran rampant, leaving her lost and stressed. The heat of the sun made her tired in the later half of the day. By sunset, she could feel nothing but worry, fear, and pain when they concluded that Mabel Barclay was a witch, and must be killed. So by the wake of the moon, when she thought she would be visiting Evanora again and learning this or that, she was whispering her goodbyes for the air to carry as the kindling below her feet sparked to life in a hungry blaze.
The wake of the moon came, and Evanora worried when Mabel did not arrive. Mabel warned her as often as possible of when she could not visit. What changed today? She waited until the high of the moon, when she would most surely arrive by. No trace of her. Realizing she would not arrive, Evanora did her best to rest that night, worried of their circumstances. When morning came and day passed, her worries continued. When the wake of the moon came and Mabel was still not there, she understood something was wrong. So, she donned her cloak and left in search of the princess, magic wired to harm or heal the moment she needed it too.
When she arrived at the village there was a congregation, speaking of killing the forest witch for luring princess Mabel into the world of curses and black magic. This only made her search more frantic. Seeing her nowhere in the town worsened her state. The last thing she could do was look in the graveyard. This brought her terror, but she brought herself to do it. And there, she found Mabel, charred and barely recognizable from the reds and blacks adorning her once fair body.
Most of the village heard Evanora’s cry of melancholy that night, an eerie wail of grief that echoed on the wind. Though few could hear her more quiet pleading for the image in front of her to not be true, her whispered promises of revenge, and her enchanted tears falling onto the char and creating purple flowers that bloomed and seemed to glow in the moonlight. Once the tears in her eyes ran dry, she noticed the alluring flowers, touching one with a delicate hand. A final reminder of Mabel.
“Lemayblo. Bloom of May.”
These flowers brought a new strength to Evanora. A new drive, a festering urge. An urge to avenge.
“Spread your seeds far across this dastardly village, Lemayblo. Cast your vines farther than they cast their accusations, and let them see the petals and leaves that mark their heinous murder. They take a harmless life in fear it will be a danger, they will receive the danger they so gladly seek to destroy!”
The lemayblo flowers quickly began to spread, out of the graveyard, to the village, to every home. They rooted in the walls and in the food, and encased the people who had the misfortune to rest through her cries. As the village became overrun by the flowers, and people ran to the castle for protection, Evanora watched it all with a grieving smile. She watched the knights attempt to drive away the growing forest of flowers only to flee or risk entanglement, she watched the castle be infiltrated, she watched fire be thrown over the castle walls and at the village to try to destroy the feral fauna at the cost of their village. But even as the hay burnt, the wood caught flame, the stone turned ashen grey, the flowers persisted.
Mabel would not burn. Not this time.
The village has long since been abandoned, and called “Evanora’s ruins” in memory of her curse. Some brave explorers dare visit, though those who have dealt cruelty to the different without reason nor reform do not leave the ruins. The lemayblo flower is very well regarded, known to only bloom at night and symbolize love, revenge, death, and heartbreak. Some who visit can recount hearing a melancholy cry on the wind, or feeling abnormal hot spells around the houses. Some even say they can see Evanora’s and Mabel’s ghosts. They’re often seen in the fields nearby the ruins, burns adorning their bodies and tending to the flowers, every night at the wake of the moon.
Middletown, New York
Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: This tragic tale of two unlikely best friends is packed with imagery and folklore quality. The world-building is richly imagined and described, the pacing is perfect, and we can’t help but root for our main characters—despite some pretty ominous foreshadowing. The ending haunts.