flashfic

Sand and Sea

Once there lived twin witches, one of sand and one of sea. The witch of sand built towers studded with conch shells and polished fragments of glass, and hung them around with rusted chains and lockets grown over with old coral. The witch of sea danced in the foam with the octopuses and porpoises, and braided kelp-strands into her hair, and the frayed old rope of anchors. In the evenings the towers crumbled away as the waves lapped over them, and the two sisters met to roast fish over driftwood fires.

The witch of sand slept in a cottage above the undulating line of tide-marks, and combed out her hair every morning to the cries of gulls. During the days she sometimes wove tapestries from mer-hair and sail-strands and gold thread picked out from rotting banners. At other times she amused herself with sand-paintings, which were never twice the same, sometimes of whimsical winged snails, sometimes of mournful otters.

The witch of sand slept on the sea itself, amid the cushioning glow of jellyfish, and clothed herself in transitory jewels of brine. During the nights she painted moonlight portraits of ghost ships–some of which were mistaken for the genuine article–and arranged the spume into maps of distant nations. Sometimes she spun temporary mirrors of ice so that she could admire the sea’s shifting faces in it, only to send it shattering across the waves.

The twins’ birthday approached, and they quarreled–albeit in a friendly fashion–over how to celebrate. Should they create a splendid castle of sand for the occasion, or dive down among the anemones? (They could have settled the matter by age–technically, the sea-sister was older–but that would have been too easy.) Gather pebbles from the beach or dive deep for lost jewels? Dance barefoot on the sand or swim among the seals? Since they were both witches, they turned to divination to determine the answer.

The twins shared a cauldron, a gift from their departed mother. Together they cast in powdered baleen and gold coins stamped with the visages of pirate queens, ink of deep-diving squid and tiny exquisite abalone-inlaid boxes, honey that bees had made from the flowers that bloomed along the beach and splinters from the great warships of dead empires. They chanted poems in the language of the sky as it kisses the far horizon, and the moon as it silvers the sands at night.

At last the ritual came to its conclusion, and the brew within the cauldron quieted to an unmoving sheen. The twins peered over the cauldron’s rim, hoping for a vision to resolve their dilemma. (Even small dilemmas require rituals in the world of witches.)

They were not disappointed: within the glimmering depths, each witch saw her sister’s face. They looked up from the cauldron at each other, then burst into laughter. They agreed to spend the next year in each other’s domain. Then, that settled, they prepared their customary dinner of roast fish, well-content with the answer that had already been theirs.

For dormouse_in_tea. Prompt: witches.