The Witch of Bardobay

I was once told of a beautiful maiden, a witch, who lived in the sleepy farming village of Bardobay. Now, once they had been a fishing village. But very quickly after her presence was known, did everything from lowly shrubs to herbs grow healthy and big…and so the people of Bardobay became farmers. And this witch made her home in the fields.

This story is different from most, because this witch was not rendered so powerful by hatred, anger, or grief – but love.

She loved the world she lived in, her surroundings; her respect and admiration grew so until she reached the point where even the mother felt the connection, and began to return it. Never had one of her children been so close to her. Where the gold haired witch ran through the fields, they grew fantastically. Stalks higher than a man! And never were plagues problem. To these fields, none of the customary pests flocked, not to these verdant feasts – because she offered the creatures instead her own home, her own food.

Every villager appreciated the witch, and the security having such an earth witch meant. Every mother sent to the witch food – bread baked fresh, and dishes made from surplus harvest. Fantastic meals the like of which none in Bardobay had conceived before the witch. Every child was busy vying for the honor of brining these meals to her. For the witch was a blessing upon the village, and sang sweetest to the children.

Young maidens all spent some time in the make of clothes for the witch, when none where needed for the family. They made basic one layer shifts and skirts, though every one was of the softest cotton, donated happily. Romping through the oft muddy fields ruined anything the witch wore fast.

More and more of the men in the village began to farm, abandoning their docks, and little dinghies. Rapidly, then, little Bardobay was noticed. By merchants first, who took in the extraordinary quality of the harvests with greedy glances. Then, the king's men noticed most, and began to take their supplies greatly from little Bardobay, once a fishing town. Finally, it came to the king's attention.

All sent men seeking the secret, but none prevailed. There was no secret, and none would believe that the case. None would believe that it was a lowly earth witch who brought about this fortune.

Sleepy little Bardobay flooded with honest workers from other towns; second and third sons with no other prospects. The village women were rapidly taken and enamored with these strange men, and began to spend more time being courted than worrying about the beautiful witch. "Another will not have found a man, and will worry about the witch," they would say to themselves as they saw all of their sisters at the dances.

Merchants came and made the villagers rich, and servants rapidly followed to the once-humble town. Children were born to richness, raised in Bardobay's reputation, and knew nothing of hardship. Families once dearest of friends, were driven apart by jealousy and suspicious speculation of their neighbors.

Tiny infractions and arguments began to devolve to fists and swords more often.

Only the children who had once taken food to the witch remembered her. Children once decked in rags came to her in fine silk, brocade, and jewels – carrying with them only what scraps they could sneak from the kitchens. Food that was not made with a loving family in mind, not made from food begot by their own fingers and work. The once-children would come, and they would try to make the witch sing, but she would not. They were no longer of the earth. She no longer recognized them.

They left her, one by one, and did not return.

Years passed, but regardless of how the villagers acted, what they forgot, the witch knew nothing but the earth, and continued to run through the fields. For much time they grew gold every year, and the villagers began to forget about the witch completely, never tending their own fields anymore. Hardly did any of them even oversee the harvest.

The last generation of children to bring the witch food grew up, and married, and had children that they did not tell of the witch of Bardobay, the cause behind its fortune.

Meanwhile, the witch eventually gave up every bit of the gifted food to the animals, whom she still asked to come into her home and stay away from the fields. Loyal to the end, they remained there in her home, when she became too weak to run, to walk, to stand, to move. She stirred only rarely. So lost was she to the songs of the earth, that nothing but dance could stir in her mind.

And then one morn, she awoke more sober than every before in so much time. The pests, so called – her only faithful companions – she finally saw were wasting away with her. On shaky legs, with barely any strength left to her, the witch of Bardobay fastened her door ajar. So that the animals would see the way out, see that they must live.

It was spring, there was much food outside. She had managed to run enough before her collapses that the fields grew tall.

Reluctantly, they fled her tomb. The witch laid down, and did not get up.

The animals mourned, and the noise attracted a stray young woman out for a walk. She was the granddaughter of the last generation to know of the witch in the fields. Dressed in fabric rich as gold, as gold as the witch's hair. Never had this sheltered maiden heard anything such as the din coming from the witch's cottage. Curious, dressed in her velvet, the woman's curled hair shown dark against so much bright. Mud splattered the end of her clothes, instead of the witch's rags, but she did not notice, so lost was she to the strange sounds.

The maiden walked through corn fields, where no paths ran, confident in her sense of direction. But something she had never even heard of existing came into view, a derelict hovel, the likes of which only the poor maintained.

She looked into it cautiously; unsure of what she would find, what might attack her. Instead of handling the scene with customary, ceremonious, grace, the maiden screamed shrilly at the sight of the body. She did not stop screaming as she ran back to her family's home, shouting her terror of a body in the field, mourned by animals.

None that heard her thought her crazy, because she was the innocent daughter of the House – but they could not fathom an old lady in the middle of the corn fields. Her grandmother knew immediately though, and that generation of home-spun once-children quickly understood who had died. The witch.

That winter, the crops died, and the next summer they stayed dead.