• April Aasheim

What I'm writing Wednesday a bit late haha (February 17ths Update!)

First part of the prologue from Alchemy of a Witch: Part Three (Fermentation) Available April 16

Prologue (Lady Marguerite)

The Prioress Marguerite—Marge to only her dearest and oldest friends--was known far and wide as a woman of wisdom, the wisest of all women, it was said; nearly on par with a man. One only had to look into her glassy blue eyes--crisscrossed by a web of fine crinkles, to glimpse the vastness of her experience and knowledge. Yet, few tapped her wisdom, preferring to keep a safe distance from the prioress, as one would a hearth spewing off hot embers. Marguerite preferred their cool distance, as it allowed her time alone with her thoughts, a rare luxury in a priory so busy and large.

Marguerite was old. How old, she didn’t know. The only records of her birth were kept by the women of her former village, long dead now. With them went the entire oral history of her land and people. Marguerite’s was one of the last flames of that once burning hearth, kept alive, not through words, but through pen and parchment and secrecy. Mostly secrecy. It was ironic, she thought, that in order to preserve the truth, one often had to hide it.

These days were dark, certainly, but she held comfort knowing there were others still who kept the old ways, and kept the light of knowledge burning—though for how much longer, she had no guess—wise as she was.

It was only at night that she allowed herself to remember—remember who she was and how she had gotten here and those she’d left behind. The days were reserved for prayers and chores and an endless barrage of bells announcing this or that—but at night, while the others slept, Marguerite sometimes slipped off into her secret garden, and simply remembered. It was a rare luxury, but one she relished when she could get away.

It was the eve of the pilgrim’s arrival, just after the witching hour, that the found herself pulled towards the garden again, and to her pool. A wave of nostalgia took hold; the feeling of an impending ending to this chapter of her story, and the need to catch this moment, before it, too, disappeared.

She stared at her reflection in the crystalline pool, and the peacock with its bright plumage, posturing behind her. When did I get so old? She wondered. The moonlight softened her age, but didn’t completely blur her silver hair or the lines and folds of her face. It seemed only yesterday that her hair was the color of sunshine, her skin like summer peaches, and her body strong enough to challenge her siblings to a race or a handsome boy to a dance.

Sighing, she sat up straight and laced her hands over her crossed legs, burrowing her bare ankles down into the soil. Her siblings were gone now, and she hadn’t danced with a man since youth, but she felt as connected to that phase of her life as she did to her current one—maybe more. She was authentic then. Someday, she’d be authentic again.

There was a stillness in the garden not found anywhere else on the priory grounds, even during those days when the nuns took vows of complete silence. A silence that could make one almost believe there was no plague ravaging the land, or women being burned for superstition, faith, and political favor.

A lily pad floated across the glass pond, languidly making it’s way to the other side. “No hurry,” Marguerite whispered. For what would the pad do once it reached the other side? Stay there and stagnate? Float back and repeat the lesson? Or surrender to the depths of the pool?

Marguerite’s eyes looked towards the disappearing moon, noticing the bright star beyond it. It wasn’t a star, but the conjoining of two planets that created such a bright spectacle. She blinked, almost disbelieving. She knew from her village lore of such a star, not seen in centuries. When this star appeared, it heralded big events and great change. It was said this star appeared just before The Great Deluge destroyed the lands. Did this star foreshadow more change? Or was it just an acknowledgment of those changes that had already come?

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