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It is.... maybe 60% of a fic. Ish.

I reread Witches Abroad this week and I all I really wanted is painful family fic with granny weatherwax and her sister. I realized I would have to write it myself, and I had some images, so I wrote it.

This is... most of a fic. I'm posting it to show people, tbh. There are chunks missing, and I'm not sure how the character development will work, but. Hey. I wrote.... 1700 words in the span of 8 hours, and that's not bad.

(features character death, of a sort.) 

This is a story about stories, and also about Stories.

(The distinction is important - there is a example and an Archetype; there is a horse and then there is Pure Horseishness. A Story is simple, both more and less than real life, or even a simple story - a story is just a recounting of events, but the Story is the /pattern/; a story tells you what happens, a Story tells you what is /supposed/ to happen. A Story is about all people, or tries to be - a story is about a person.)

The Story goes like this - good against evil and freedom against control, and siblings against each other. The Story goes like this: there is a wicked witch trapped within another realm, unable to escape the thing she used to make herself powerful.

The story goes like this: Esme Weatherwax talks to mirrors, sometimes.

Someone else might've said that they hadn't intended to do it. The shard of mirror ended up in her pocket by accident, maybe, or destiny. But Esme Weatherwax refused illusions, especially to herself. She had wanted to take a piece of the mirror, and so she did.

Gytha Ogg walks up the familiar path to Esme's cottage. Just one friend askin' after another, just a nice social visit, oh no, turns out Esme is off in another village this week, I'll just have a peek around to make sure everything is all right and feed the goats, perfectly innocent and friendly -

Which is of course why Esme opens the door before Gytha has gotten close enough to pretend to knock, very much present and accounted for and not in Slice like she was yesterday.

Esme raises an eyebrow at her. Gytha smiles, unapologetic. She's known Esme for almost a century but Esme's know her just as long, and has learned how she works like one grows familiar with the volcano next door, assuming of course that the volcano spouted dirty jokes and alcohol rather than lava.

They stare at each other for a moment in silence.

"You'll be here about the mirror, then."

Gytha's smile slides away, and she inclines her head. She won't tell Esme that she was worried, because nothing would get the door slammed in her face faster, but she is. Talking to mirrors might be a harmless quirk of an old witch. It might be the beginning of Cackling. It might be - something else. Gytha's not sure which she'd prefer, really. Esme nods once, sharp, and steps aside to let her in.
Gytha thinks about asking for tea, about making polite conversation, but Esme's already moving over to a cloth covered thing in the corner of the room. Esme pulls it off without ceremony, muttering, "Well, come on then, not like you have anywhere better to be..."

It's not a mirror, but that's not reassuring. it's a frame, empty but for a shard large enough to see maybe half of one's face and little else. Esme Weatherwax meets her own eyes - until they aren't her own eyes anymore, and the shard isn't so small either. Or - it is, but the rest of the frame is suddenly full of glinting silver like a pond of that - what was it called, named after a god, fancy wizard bloke talked about it once. Mercurus or Mercenary or something.

Esme's reflection is not longer Esme - the woman is taller, though not by much, and prettier in a way that implies that all of her imperfections have been smoothed out artifically, and she's lost something else along with them. Gytha Ogg has no concept of "photoshop" or indeed "computers", but if she were ever exposed to its use, she would think it made people like Lily Weatherwax.

"There's no reason to gloat, little sister-" The mirror surface ripples as those jewel blue eyes snap to Gytha, and a cold part of the cheery old witch was glad to see the faintest catch of fear in them. "Oh. You've brought the other one. Finally going to kill me, then?"

Esme snorts. "If I wanted you dead, I'd've shattered the mirror by now. Don't need an audience for that."

"Wouldn't you want one, though? You need someone to tell the Story, afterwards." The capital letter slotted into place easily, and Gytha almost sighs. She can see the shape of things now, in the twist of Esme's frown and Lily's not quite enthused aggression.

She might've prefered cackling, really.  Cackling she could have done something about.

"How can you stand it," Lily says, eventually, listening to Esme snarl and grumble, "Not knowing if it'll work? Not knowing how it ends? You could, you know, you could be /sure/ -"

Esme whirls on the mirror, and for a moment she is a storm - no, she wears the storm, and Lily thinks that might be an important difference. "How could /you/ stand it?" Esme snaps back. "Always bein' /certain/? Always bein' in /control/?  Never makin' something bigger and better and newer than yourself, never finding anything in the world that you didn't put there?"

(Because that's the problem, in the end: Stories are limiting. Stories say And This Happens Next.  They're formulas. They're predictable. Take one young girl, add red coat and basket, mix in a wolf and bake in a forest for a few hours. We're not surprised. We /can't/ be surprised. Everything goes exactly as we expect it to.)

Lily stares out from the mirror, blue eyes wide. She opens her mouth but Esme isn't done.

"Everything in its place," Esme spits, "Everyone in their roles. Nothing happens that you don't know about, nothing that you don't see coming. Nothing wild, nothing unexpected, nothing /new/. Just reflections of what came before, repeating forever 'n ever. That's no way for people to live. That's no way for a /person/ to live." Lily is surprised, and horrified, to see glints of softness in the sapphires of her sister's eyes. "So scared of bad surprises that you never let yourself have a good one."

Lily blinks out of the mirror.

Esme lets out a breath, and covers the mirror with its habitual cloth.

Esme is getting older, and Lily isn't.

Lily thought she would be happier about that. 

"....Esme." Lily says. Her sister doesn't look up, but doesn't need to. "I think I know how to leave the mirror."

Esme nods into her tea. "You've known for a while."

Lily closes her eyes, swallows. There's no need for it but the mind remembers things that the body doesn't. She used that fact, often enough. "I have." She swallows again. "I just don't know what will happen when I do."  Another pause, the admission costing her something. "I'm scared, Esme."

She opens her eyes, and that costs her something too. She meets her sister's eyes and sees no judgement there, and she's not sure if that makes it better or worse.  She closes them again.

"When we fought, I saw Death."

"Aye, I did too."

"I might die when I leave the mirror."

"And ye might live. Which're you more scared of?"

Lily's eyes jerk open, and she thinks, /oh. Surprises. Something that you couldn't have thought of yourself./

She's smiling, she realizes. She's smiling and she's terrified and she has no idea what is going to happen to her and -

Well. Maybe she does, a little bit. She /was/ a witch, once. She stopped listening to anything but herself when she became a godmother, but she thinks she recognizes the Call, faintly. Maybe it will happen as soon as she leaves - maybe leaving will simply open herself up to Death once more.

"I don't know." She laughs. She can't remember the last time she felt joy. "Let's find out."

Lily closes her eyes, and thinks, "I am me. I am me, there is no one here but me. I am not a story. I am not a reflection. I am me."

She lets out a breath, and steps out of the mirror.

Esme watches her sister step out of the mirror - she looks real, in a way she never did before, not like something made out of light and reflection but something solid and true. It's the first time she's really seen her sister, she thinks.

The mirror shatters, and so does Lily.

Esme Weatherwax stares at the empty picture frame for a while, sipping her tea, and then stands up to take the frame off of the wall.

(Stories have to end, and so do stories. And so do people, eventually.

But after the ending, and before the End, Esme will send a message to Gytha and Gytha Ogg will come. They will talk, quietly, about nothing and everything - Gytha will make tea and make sure that Esme drinks it, fretting very slightly, which Esme will notice but pretend that she didn't.

Esme will take the empty frame and a shovel out to an empty space in the clearing around her cottage, and Gytha will try to take the shovel away from her but not try very hard. Esme will dig a hole just deep enough to cover, place the picture frame in it, and then fill the hole up again.

Gytha will produce a drink, and Esme will take it and drink it. They will not speak. Eventually, Esme will let out a breath, nod once, and walk away. Gytha will follow, and grab her hand, and Esme will not pull away.)

(Somewhere Else, at the End, a woman will find herself in a desert. She will not know what waits for her on the other side - there are no paths here, and no patterns. She will swallow, and start walking.)

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