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Just because things are nice now, doesn’t mean they always are, right? Fresh reminds herself of the fair back in the west. During that celebration, people there had been unusually jovial and loud as well. Well, except to her, but that’s not relevant. Surely, by this time tomorrow, everyone is going to go back to being… heavy.

 

- Right?

 

Fresh feels the cold night-air pressing up through her hair as she holds onto the handle of the broom with a vice-like grip, flying through the darkness of the starless night. The icy, persistent wind that encases her isolated form, high above the lights of the world, reminds her that right now, in this confusing instant, she feels particularly cold, particularly lonely. But she doesn’t trust herself enough to let go of the broom, so instead she just shivers, squeezing her arms against her chest without loosening her grip. The witch’s moon might be shining bright, but none of the people below seem to care about it in the least.

 

In fact, some of them even take delight at the sight of it, as if it were some rare natural wonder of the world, like a particularly vibrant rainbow.

 

Fresh circles around the city, always avoiding any stray beams of light that might find their way to the sky, always encapsulated by the cold, lonesome wind as she lands on one roof after the next, peeking down off into the streets, into the windows for any signs of what she has come to expect of this world; hardship, treachery, deceit, violence, anger, hate, prejudice, greed, lechery, injustice, cruelty and dozens of other terms.

 

But she sees no such things. It doesn’t matter where in the city she flies to, which roof she lands on, which passersby she stalks from the air, which windows she creeps towards, pressing her face against the warm glass to peek inside. Everything looks… exactly like she had expected this world to look, during her initial arrival into it. It’s light. Everything, everyone is light. This is the ‘other world’ she had envisioned in her oldest dreams of another life.

 

“I don’t get it…” mutters Fresh to herself, kicking off and shooting back into the sky. This doesn’t make any sense. Jubilee had warned her about the central city and the nobles since the two of them had come together in the north. Basil had warned her a few times as well, begging and pleading with her to never do anything to attract the attention of the horrible people dwelling in such a horrible place. Her friends wouldn’t lie to her. She’s sure of it. The barkeeper and her story too. It all doesn’t add up. While she doesn’t know about the barkeeper, she is certain that Jubilee and Basil are a lot of things and that both of them have their own issues, but they aren’t liars.

 

So what’s going on?

 

The wind tousles her hair and she shudders. It’s very cold up here. She looks around herself, searching for something, anything, to give her an answer as the night-chill bites her face. Something blue catches her eyes.

 

Fresh flies towards the roots of the giant tree, seeing a large opening in the base of it, below the castle towards the left. The central-dungeon. There is a large plaza outside of the dungeon and people, even now in this late hour, stream their way in and out through the fog. Oddly enough, some of the people exiting the dungeon seem to carry the same confused, bewildered expression on their faces that she herself has. As if they didn’t understand where they were either. Outside of the dungeon-gate are dozens and dozens of vendors and stalls and this seems to be the heart of the fair. There’s a large open-area in the middle with music and dancing. The dungeon certainly isn’t guarded in any sense. In fact, the area outside of it is full and welcoming, lined with fountains and benches. All around the currently full plaza are taverns and shops and smiths. She can even see an adventurer’s guild sign from up here. “But…” she shakes her head. No. It’s not worth thinking about.

 

Somewhere off to her side, music starts playing very loudly as well, as some band sets ferverously to work. In the castle, by the sounds of it. Fresh looks towards it for a moment, fighting the urge to sneak into the dungeon to see it for herself. Sighing, she turns her broom around and heads towards the new music. She doesn’t need to look around the city anymore. This isn’t a place someone like her belongs in. It’s too nice.

 

The castle is nested up atop the roots of the tree, but she notices that no other structures are built into or onto it, as if there had been a determined effort to preserve the natural wonder that it is. Even the castle, which adorns a single gigantic root, seems to be built on a massive stone foundation laid over the root, rather than directly on or in it.

 

The gates, connected to the main road are wide open and people move inside by the hundreds, as some great event seems to be starting. Swooping in over the walls, she hovers just outside of a watch-tower’s window, staring through it at the backs of the two guards who are looking out of an opposite window, down towards the courtyard below.

 

“I’m telling you, I could take him,” says the one on the right.

 

“You?” asks the other one, very skeptically. “You think you can take on the hero?”

 

“I can,” affirms the man on the right, sounding pretty confident.

 

“Seppel,” says the man on the left, sighing. “- you can’t beat me in a fight.”

 

“He’s just a twig!” argues the man, Seppel, apparently. “My boy has more muscles than him!”

 

The left guard shakes his head, sighing. “They all arrive like that, you c-rank.” He knocks the other guard on his metal helmet. “Give it a couple of months. He’ll be bigger than your mother,” laughs the man. “Gods know what backwater they pick them from. But they sure fucking grow fast.”

 

Fresh blinks, watching as the two get into a spat about Seppel’s mother. Deciding she’s heard enough, she flies off again. The castle has a large, open courtyard just past the front gate, which is essentially a second market-place, by the looks of it. Stalls and vendors line every inch of it and people seem to be having a fantastic time. Just a bit further is a second gate, just as open as the first and this seems to be where the ceremony is getting ready to start.

 

The second plaza has a raised stone terrace, which sits only a little higher than the ground. Shamrock could probably rest his chin on the floor of it, if he were standing below and two easily accessible staircases lead up towards it. Just behind the platform, is the castle itself. Closed off and guarded.

 

This plaza is where the band is, off to the side on a second, very colorful stage that seems to have been set-up just for the festival. They’re pretty good, honestly. Fresh finds some small delight in the music, even with the bitter cold gnawing on her. There isn’t a lot of music in this world. She had forgotten how much she really missed it. Fresh finds her head swaying from side to side and her icy fingers tapping against the broom.

 

She has to be careful to stay up a little higher now though. This area is brightly lit. But she needs a good vantage point as well. The keep. Flying towards it, she hovers next to an off-shooting tower, landing down on a ledge that has no window access, just beneath a balcony. She doesn’t get off of her broom, not wanting to risk falling as this isn’t really a great place to stand. But at least here, she’s protected from the wind, from one side. It’s too bad that it seems to be coming from the other direction though.

 

She wishes she had taken her blanket with her.

 

So… now what? She supposes she’s just going to have to wait until the ceremony starts. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be long now though. Her contingency plan, the crystal hidden in the west, did it work? Did her message ever get through to the hero, wherever he might have found himself at that time? And even if it did, after tonight, he’s hardly going to listen to a word that she says anyways, let alone believe her, right?

 

The band finishes their first song and starts their next and this one seems to be the real draw of the show. The crowd, having finally started to fill up the second plaza, seems to organically make a sort of dancing area near the stage and she watches as people seem to take right to it.

 

It really is cold up here.

 

Shivering, she huddles herself against her broom, watching the distant festivities as she feels the surprisingly strong vibrations of the giant drum on the stage, even up here. The orc manning it is really giving it his all. It looks like it’s going to be a long, fun and exciting night for everyone down there. She sighs. Well, flying is exciting too, right? Fresh leans back, sitting against the cold wall. With one hand, she holds onto the broom and with the other, she grabs the lantern, pulling it free from its harness.

 

“You wanna dance with me?” she asks the destroyed lantern, holding it against her chest with one arm as she sways her body slowly from side to side to the music, up in the darkness where nobody can see her. Which is probably for the best, she imagines that she looks pretty sad. Being a witch really is very lonely business when you're not at home.

 

Swaying, she sighs. She wants to go home. She doesn’t want to be at some stupid party. She doesn’t want to cast some stupid curse on some stupid hero in some stupid city. She wants to go home and to tell her friends that they’re not opening the store tomorrow morning, because they have to spend all day warming her up again and that’s that.

 

But she’s pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

 

She’s pretty sure that she’s going to be stuck here until the hero finally makes himself seen and then she’s going to do something she doesn’t want to do and feels horrible about and then she’s going to fly back home and her friends are going to yell at her, if she doesn’t lie to them and just not tell them about this at all. But there’s no way they won’t find out anyways. It won’t take a week before word spreads to the east that the terrible witch of the north had made an appearance.

 

In summary, it might all be over already, really. The store, her new friendships and family, her new life as she has made it. There’s no way back from this, not that she can see from up here at least. Fresh is glad that the music is so loud as she squeezes the jagged lantern harder against herself as she feels the familiar cold, the very same frigid aura that had accompanied her from her old life, return to her. Even up here, even this high and hidden away, it has found her again. The bad-thing has finally reached her once more, despite all of her efforts and struggles to keep it at bay. But at least with the loud music to cover her voice, at least with the darkness of the starless night to hide the rest of her already obscured form, she can cry in solitude.

 

“Rough night?” asks someone from above her.

 

IAH!” Fresh yelps in surprise, flailing her arms as she jolts, almost throwing the lantern away in her surprise. She only barely catches it by the tips of her fingers, catching herself with her arms wrapped sideways over the broom, her legs dangling down into the air.

 

“Look out!” cries the person and she feels a hand grabbing her. A hand obviously not strong enough to hold her weight, but one that tried nonetheless. The broom cooperates, guided by the lantern and rises her up towards the balcony that Fresh flops down onto, flopping around like a dying fish for a moment as she catches her breath and double-checks that the ground beneath her is really solid.

 

Panicking, she scrambles to her feet and looks at the very confused face staring back her way. “Are you alright?” asks the person who helped her up. “Cool hat,” she says. “Wait! Are you that witch?!”

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Dun dun duuuun?

 

Thank you kindly for reading!

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Razzmatazz

Bio: I am a studied expert in the field of XR (Virtual/augmented/mixed-reality technologies), a government-trained media and information specialist, as well as a severe hobby-occultist. Most importantly, I love to write! Thank you kindly for your interest. Because of you, I can stop screaming into the void for a little while and keep making more exciting content!

In my spare time, I write free web-serials under the moniker "Razzmatazz".

The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror and slice-of-life.

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Comments(61)
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Snaiper34521 ago

Thanks for the chapter

"Cool hat," says the girl. "Wait! Are you that witch?!"

This is a princess. (It could also be a hero, but according to the conversation of the guards, a hero = a guy (probably))

If this is a princess, then I hope Fresh will kidnap her and make her his new friend.

rorriM ago

Wait

Did the fountain

Pull off a bait and switch?

Is fresh even meant to actually curse the hero or cause something else that requires to be in that mindset

Nomadic Chronicler ago

TyftC!
Yesss!
The Time has Come!
It's time for Fresh to shine!
Time for a fresh wind to clean the bloody cobwebs!
Let THE HERO be unleashed... Just slightly on an altered course :D

xxcoder ago

Stage is now set! Let's see what happens after that lol

Angela Campbell ago

well wild encounter a go lets hope it doesn't end badly that we end up having to cast two curses in one night this is hard enough but the hat comment sounds like promissing luck!

Shark Bait ago

That depends on which Witch are you referring... The witch of the North? The Witch of the West? The Witch of the East? Well, actually I'm all of the above! I think...

Thanks for the Chapter!

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