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Aurane considered. She used the herbs of the forest for alchemy and understood their nature. Herbs could be used for many things but the stones were curious. They were unlike the normal stones she saw close to the river bank, smooth and flat from water running over them. The stones the forest witch held out looked like jewels with colors dancing within them. What enchantment was it?
Even though Aurane knew she should choose herbs, which were safer than the beautiful unknown, she pointed to the stones. “Stones.”
The forest witch grinned. “Stand still.”
Humming a tune she circled Aurane, scattering the stones as she walked.
“What are you doing?” Aurane asked, suddenly frightened she’d made the wrong choice.
“Binding the stones to you,” the witch said. “Now be quiet while the spell takes hold.”
Aurane held her tongue, shivers running up and down her spine. She understood the witch’s game. She needed a favor, one she was unwilling to do herself and Aurane had stepped into the wrong place as the wrong time.
After what seemed like an eternity, the witch finished her spellwork and gathered up the stones, gently placing them into a bag. She spoke, her voice in a low sing-song tone as she worked. “The stones need to be returned to the crystal haven from whence I took them. They are part of the balance. . .”
“Of the forest?” Aurane interrupted in surprise. “You stole these stones and the forest became dark?”
The forest witch held up a hand, there were runes painted on her palms and her finger tips were black with ash and soot. “Nay, I stole these from a troll and to avoid the wrath of the trolls, the crystals must be returned. I’ve bound the stones to you so now you carry the curse, and the trolls will not stop hunting you until you return them.”
Aurane’s hands tightened into fists. “You tricked me!” she cried.
The forest witch smirked. “I could only bind the stones to someone willing, and you were willing. Now it is your problem. You’ve done something for me so it’s only fair I return the favor and tell you what I know about the Curse of Wisperwood. Will you listen?”
Aurane’s face was hot with anger. Part of her wanted to fight the witch, but she’d decided to use her powers for healing, not harming others.
“It’s up to you,” the witch went on. “I always keep my end of a deal. Come to my house and I will share what I know. Or you can take your chances in the forest, being hunted by trolls.”
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