• charles-daniel mcmillon

A Witch's Task

Alright, carefully, even the slightest mistake in the amounts could cause it to explode. This is my third attempt, and the client wants a perfect potion. An invisibility potion, something that can only be made in a pitch-black room and with precise percentages of materials. The last ingredient Dragon Root, an extremely rare and volatile substance, if I mess this part up I’ll have to remake the entire potion from the very beginning.

“Mama!” A shrill voice yells out.

The door creaks open and a bright light envelops the room. Almost as soon as the light hits the cauldron, the broth reacts violently. And in a moment, it explodes a thick cloud of black soot enveloping the room and returning the world to darkness.

“Mama.” She yells out again much to my annoyance. “I feel icky.”

“Carol, calm down, we’re going to get cleaned up,” I say reaching out and grabbing her soot-covered hand and walking down the hall. “As always, you’re such a troublesome child.”

It takes a lot of scrubbing but I finally remove all the soot off of Carol’s soft features and fair skin. Her raven black hair and piercing blue eyes stare at me in amazement as I scrub the soot off of my obviously less fair skin. When I return to the lab, I’ll have to clean everything to remove the soot, but what can I do about the Dragon Root?

“Mama!” Carol yells out moving towards me. “Mama!” She yells out in her shrill voice.

“What?” I ask trying to hide my annoyance.

“I wanna go on a picnic.” She says.

“Huh?”

“Blake was saying her Mama and Papa took her out on a picnic the other day. I wanna go on one too.”

I roll my eyes. “Why?”

“Huh?”

“Why do you want a picnic? I mean if it’s just eating we can just eat at home and then I can get back to work….”

She scowls at me in annoyance. “Mama, all you do is work!”

“I have to. I need to put food on the table or else you’ll starve to death and do you want that?” I ask glaring at her.

Tears bubble up in her eyes. “But Mama!” She yells out as she slowly begins to cry.

I sigh. Carol isn’t my actual daughter I keep reminding myself of that, but I can’t help but feel this annoying connection to her. It might be because she resembles her birth mother oh so much. My old and dear friend, much to my own annoyance, Noel.

“Mama!” She yells out again rushing towards me with snot running down her face. “Please Mama!”

“Be careful or you’ll slip,” I say annoyed.

And as expected she slips on the bathroom’s tiles and falls on her face. She lifts her head and cries more staring up at me.

“Fine,” I say exasperated. “We’ll go on your damned picnic. Got it?”

“Really, Mama?” She asks immediately changing her tune. “Yay!”

I sigh. “Listen, do you remember the rules I set when we leave the house?”

“Yes. Don’t talk to strangers. Stay in your sight. And… um.” She says slowly losing her train of thought.

“And avoid monsters, remember we attract monsters easily so we wear our witch’s cloak outside at all times, got it?”

She raises her hand. “Right, Mama!”

I gather some things and place it in my magic satchel, it’s a bag with an almost limitless amount of space, perfect for gathering ingredients. After finishing I dress Carol up in her witch’s gown a long black robe magically enchanted to hide our magical aura. Carol’s, in particular, is quite strong, one day soon I’ll need to begin her magical studies once she’s finished primary school.

“Ready to go?” I ask looking back at her.

“Yes, Mama!” She says energetically.

We exit the house a small cottage in the woods and I hold out my hand tossing out a scrap of paper. As it lands a large smoke cloud springs forth and a large figure appears. Carol’s eyes open wide and she rushes ahead with excitement.

“Doggy!”

“For the last time he’s not a dog, he’s a land dragon far superior to any canine if you ask me,” I say happily walking ahead. “Now come along, we’re going.”

“Yay, picnic!” She yells out.

The two of us travel some distance on the dragon’s back with Carol clinging to my back. I’ve long since delayed naming him, I’m generally terrible at such things. Carol’s name was on the note her birth mother left when she ran off with that demandable swordsman, if not for that I probably would just be referring to her as girl for years until it became too odd.

Anyhow Carol watches in amazement excitedly as we travel deeper and deeper into the forest. I often keep her sequestered in the house unless she’s going to town for school, so today is like a field trip for her. I do hope to one day allow her to travel around more, but first, she’ll need at least the basics of magic down.

“Mama, what’s that?” She asks pointing out into the distance.

I look ahead and notice a wiggling bush that seems to be watching us. “That’s a Planton, it’s a simple monster harmless, really.”

“There are so many monsters Mama, Ms. Cammie was telling us about how Adventurers go out and slay them.”

I smirk. “Yeah, an Adventurers' life is dangerous because of it though. Best to just become a witch and make potions in the safety of your own home.”

“Right, then we can spend time together Mama!” Carol says happily clinging tighter.

Well, it’s more of a side effect of my work, but whatever makes her happy, I guess. “Anyhow, we’re going somewhere dangerous so don’t leave my side okay?”

“Dangerous? Why would we be going to danger for a picnic?”

“Because I need Dragon Root, and if I don’t get any, I won’t finish the potion in time.”

“But Mama, picnic…” She says her grip loosening.

I sigh. “Come now, there are more important things than just going along with every little whim you think up.”

She lets go of me and leaps off of the dragon’s back rushing off into the forest. I clench my teeth and dismount glaring at the spot she ran into.

“Carol, I’ll give you five seconds if you don’t come out your grounded for two weeks,” I say projecting my voice.

Carol’s a scared kid, the moment I start to sound mad she’ll come running terrified. I count my voice getting louder with every passing number only for nothing to happen when I reach zero.

“Carol?” I ask holding back my innate concern. “Come on Carol, come out here now!”

Despite my misgivings, I decide to follow her path into the brush and chase after her. I shouldn’t be worried, Carol’s a girl afraid of her own shadow, she’d never go that far away. However, my worst fears are concerned when I notice the black fabric stuck to a protruding branch.

“Oh, damn it.” I grab the fabric in my hand and stare at the cloth noticing of my own handiwork with the enchantment. “Great it wasn’t bad enough you ran off in the forest, but now you’ve made this ten times worse.”

The enchantment is ruined if the garment is ripped or torn, however, it’s an easy fix. But Carol doesn’t know enchantments yet, and she’s just a kid. She’s easy prey for a monster, I have to hurry up and find her.

“Dragon, come!” I yell at the top of my lungs.

The dragon rushes to my side and I hold up the fabric. His sense of smell is strong so he can easily track her down and at a rapid rate. I leap onto his back and the two of us rush through the forest chasing Carol’s scent.

It hasn’t been long so she couldn’t have gotten too far unless a monster caught her. Considering Carol’s natural magical ability, she attracts monsters like flies, and she can’t defend herself. If she’s been snatched up, then hopefully it’s a monster with some form of sense, and not just a beast looking for some food.

“Mama!” Carol’s voice rings out. “Mama!”

Dragon turns almost immediately and leaps through a large bush towards a river bank. On the side of the river, a trio of orcs stands around surrounding Carol as one holds her up towards the group.

“Mama!” She yells out panicking and flailing her feeble arms.

Of course, of course, it had to be orcs. I have to hurry, they’re deciding which one of them will eat her, I have to hurry or else she’ll die.

“Dragon!” I yell at the top of my lungs.

I leap off of the dragon’s back and it rushes ahead at top speed knocking over the orc holding Carol. I move as fast as my legs will take me propelled by the dragon’s momentum to catch Carol as she falls. Catching Carol causes my knees to weaken and I fall to the ground with the two orcs staring at us.

“Mama!” Carol yells out looking up at me with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry Mama!”

I hold her tight. “Stop crying. I’m here now and no one’s laying a finger on you again.”

“Mama?”

The other two orcs stand and look down at me as I hold Carol. I reach into my bag and grab a vile. A special concoction made for just so such an occasion.

“Don’t you filthy beast lay another finger on my dear daughter!” I yell at the top of my lungs.

I remove the stopper on the vile and let loose the contents, a large blast of energy in the form of a dragon shoots out from within. The energy washes over the orcs and almost instantly they disintegrate into dust leaving nothing behind.

“Mama?” Carol asks curiously.

I look ahead with the dragon eating the last orc and I stand sighing loudly. “It’s okay Carol, now let me fix your gown.”

I tie the hole in Carol’s gown and then redo the enchantment. I lean back falling to the ground as Carol looks down on me curiously.

“I’m sorry Mama,” Carol mumbles with tears in her eyes. “If I hadn’t run off then…”

She cries, she always cries. But I’m partially at fault for this one so I lift up and pat her head to calm her down. “Listen, I’m not a great Mama, but I’m trying.”

“No Mama’s great, Mama’s the best mama around.” She says with tears in her eyes. “Carol’s the one at fault for being a bad kid and not letting Mama work.”

I snatch her up and hold her. “Listen Carol. Mama’s not the best Mama, but I’m trying. I…. I want to be the best kind of Mama for you alright, so be patient with me and maybe don’t slam open the door to my lab, okay?”

“Okay, Mama,” Carol says.

I sigh and reach into my bag. “Well the day’s not over yet, but I’m not finding any dragon root tonight.” I pull out a blanket and place it on the ground in front of us. “Now help me unfold this blanket and we can have our picnic.”

Her eyes widen. “Really, Mama!”

“Yes, the sun hasn’t gone down yet, so I figured we could at least have a little one. I had wanted to do this after we found the dragon root, but I figured why the hell not right now.” I say with a wide grin on my face.

Carol leaps up and unfolds the blanket. While it might be a bit morbid for us to eat where we just killed a few orcs, those asses deserve it so it doesn’t matter to me and Carol’s already over it. The dragon is eating the remains of the orc it tackled and after pulling out a few jars Carol and I begin our meal.

I twist open the jars and to Carol’s surprise food pops out of them. Sandwiches, fruits, and some vegetables make up our spread and Carol stares at it wide-eyed.

“Well go on then,” I say taking up a sandwich. “Hurry up though, I still want to go looking for dragon root.”

“Yes, Mama!” Carol yells out happily.

Carol might not be my actual daughter, she’s a child that was left on my doorstep I’ve been caring for. But over these years, watching her grow I can’t help but feel for the girl. Whether these feelings be truly maternal or not, I don’t know, but I greatly care for her either way. My dear daughter Carol, I can’t wait to see just how much and how strong you will grow.

“Mama!” She yells out with a wide excitable grin. “I love you, Mama! I love you so much!”

I can’t help but blush at such words. “Come now, Carol. You should really focus on your meal right now.” I take a bite of my sandwich trying to hold my composure.

“Right, Mama!”

Carol, as always, you’re such a handful, but it’s not all bad.

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