The Witch of The Dark Water
written by: Finn Hall
Near the village of Pitsligae there is a wide open, but very dark loch. In fact, there is one large loch and three smaller ones. On an island in the middle of the big body of water, known as the Blake Loch of Turclossie, legend has it that there lived a witch. Now witches aren’t always bad and scary, in fact most are not. But, as it is with people in general, you do get the odd one who is very, very nasty.
This witch falls into that category.
The loch sits in a peat bog, and as in most peat bogs, faeries also lived there. They played among the cotton grass, and hid in the heather. Deer was known to come down to the waterside, as well as hares and occasionally a family of cranes. But over the years sightings of smaller birds became less.
The faeries couldn’t understand why this was.
They started finding skeletons of small creatures, including ducks and moorhens littering the banks and surrounding foliage. Strange little holes in the ground started to appear.
Now faeries don’t like puzzles and mysteries, so they set about trying to find out the cause of this calamity. Around the body of water they built several wooden hides, not like bird watching hides, more like little fences. Over the days they took turns in sitting behind these barricades, keeping an eye out for whatever was creating this carnage.
One grey evening, as autumn was turning into winter, two of the lookouts heard a sort of whooshing noise. At first they weren’t sure what it was, due to the light, but soon saw it was a flock of migrant birds. They smiled to themselves. They heard another sound, very similar to the first. And thought nothing of it.
Not until the birds suddenly started making all sorts of noises and were flapping about as most of them, in a frightened manor, took off into the air.
Being very alert now, the watchers peered through the gloaming to see the witch had left her island and was snatching and grabbing the poor creatures and eating them, feathers and all. Leaving nothing but bones lying on the dark ground.
She then, using her long and bloody fingers, started digging in the damp peat and soil and pulled out long wriggling worms, which she swallowed whole.
The faeries were sickened at such a sight.
“How could she do this? They said, “We all live in harmony here. Nature abounds.”
The witch, heard them, but not knowing who or what said these words, jumped on her broomstick and flew back to her island.
The following morning the faeries called a meeting. All that could gathered in the circle midway between the water’s edge and the trees. Discussions took place and a decision was made. They decided that in one week they would all gather at twilight, when they knew, as happened every year, a colony of Brent Geese were known to stop off and rest here for a few days.
So on the given day, the faeries strategically placed themselves around the area. Some on the banks of the water, others amongst the reeds and grass. Sure enough very little time had passed when the flock of geese descended, tired and weary, to their temporary abode.
A good time passed, and nothing happened. The birds continued to rest, feed and chat to each other. The guardians were just about to call it a night, planning to return the following evening, when they just about heard the strange sound caused by the broom flying witch. She had only time to grab but one or two of the poor birds before the faeries put their plan into action.
They immediately cast a spell making the air so heavy that the surprised witch could not take off, then the chief fairy, Cavoch, jumped up in front of the malevolent being, and cast an extremely powerful spell.
She turned the witch into a tree. A tree that could never grow, and never die. The tree sat far enough back from the edge of the dark water, that the little birds could sit on its branches and peck and sharpen their beaks, without fear of falling into the water.
And there to this day it remains.
Some say that if the sunlight and conditions are just right, you can see a shimmer as the captive witch tries to escape her tree shape.
But the spell is so strong, that after enduring the pain, she lets out a shrill scream and ceases the futile attempt to escape.
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