“The Luck of a Raven” by Annabel Taylor

Written by plumtree

Topics: 2021-22 School Year, Complete Archive (2012-2020)

At the crest of a willow forest in the South of England there was a small village called Stonywood. But any stranger to this place would see that the village was clearly divided into two parts – the Witch Side and the Human Side.

The Human Side was full of overgrown ivy homes with cobblestone streets and dreamy walkways. The Witch Side was a different story.

It was in the depths of the willow forest, that the sky above was as dark as pen ink. There were small stone huts around the forest, old as time. Anyone who wandered the Witch Side knew that there was some sort of unexplainable magic in the air. There were many witches on this side of Stonywood. Different kinds of witches, in fact. Crystal witches and nature witches and cosmo witches all walked through the willow forest.

However, this story is about a very special witch. And a very young one, at that. Ravyn Starr had dark hair, the color of, well, a raven. She was tall and confident, and always wore ebony colored robes. But everyone in the village knew that Ravyn’s best trait was her smile. It was as bright as the moon on a murky night. But once upon a gray Sunday evening in Stonywood, Ravyn was not smiling. Not at all. In fact, she was frowning quite profusely.

“Beatrix, look,” Ravyn said. “The ravens have not flown over yet. And it’s almost past sundown.”

Ravyn’s sister, Beatrix, rolled her eyes. “Just because those ravens don’t come, doesn’t mean the world is doomed. You’re too superstitious for your own good.” Beatrix threw turmeric and a box of crow feathers into the healing potion she was mixing. A bubbling noise sounded from the cauldron.

“But the only time they haven’t passed our sky was the night Auntie died,” Ravyn said, frowning.

Beatrix froze, ignoring her words. “Go find something to do. Why don’t you go bottle some graveyard fog. We need it for Mum’s potion. You can take the pathway through the forest.”

“Fine,” Ravyn muttered. She knew Beatrix just wanted to change the subject. They were both very close to their Aunt Evanora, who had died the year before from an attack by the humans. Ever since, Ravyn’s mum had banned her and Beatrix from ever crossing the boundary between the Witch Side and Human Side.

Ravyn grabbed her wand from the windowsill and walked out the door in her ebony robe and a navy-blue witch’s hat. She didn’t quite feel like bottling graveyard smoke. Instead, she wanted to find the ravens.

Before Ravyn knew how to talk, she knew that ravens were sacred in her community. They were considered such good luck that Ravyn’s mother had decided to name her after them. If the ravens flew overhead before sundown, it brought good luck for the coming evening. If the ravens did not fly overhead before sundown, well, in simple terms, all would be doomed.

Ravyn trudged through the forest, wand at her side. She cast a lux spell, which brought light to the tip of her wand in the dark forest. She trudged through the eerie silence.

A strange noise sounded from ahead. Ravyn strayed behind. “Hello? Who’s there?”

She heard a little squealing sound. A girl, about her age, appeared from behind a tree. “WITCH! Please don’t hurt me. Please. I’m innocent! I’m a very good girl. I’ll do anything!”

Ravyn laughed. Human girls weren’t as scary as her mother made them out to be. In fact, they were scared of her. “It’s alright. I promise I won’t hurt you. But why are you here? At this hour? Haven’t your parents warned you about the ‘evils’ that lurk in this part of Stonywood?”

“How do I know I can trust you?” said the girl.

“How do I know I can trust you? Your kind have been warring against mine for centuries. We’d need to have a defense mechanism if we were to protect ourselves.”

“Okay. I’m Janie.”

“Nice to meet you, Janie. I’m Ravyn,” Ravyn noticed Janie’s scared expression. “So, tell me, what are you doing here?”
“I came to warn you and the other witches. The humans have made a plan to c-c-come and b-b-burn your village,” Janie stuttered.

“Of course. Now I know why the ravens didn’t fly over.”

“What do you mean?” Janie asked, perplexed.

Ravyn told Janie about the ravens. “Oh dear. Oh, this can’t be good. What should we do?”

“I have an idea. But it could take some work.” Ravyn was everything that a good witch should be – confident, fierce, stubborn and certainly a force to be reckoned with. But Ravyn was also everything a witch shouldn’t be. She was kind hearted and curious and hopeful – and she was determined to make peace between the humans and the witches.

Janie shook her head. “I can handle work. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

And so, Ravyn told Janie her plan, and together, they collected almost a thousand witch robes and hats from the storage house. Ravyn told Janie to pass them out to every house on the human side of Stonywood, with about a thousand notes that read: “This is protective gear against the witches. Please wear it tonight and meet at the edge of the forest.”

Meanwhile, Ravyn had her own work cut out. After she said goodbye to Janie, she ran home and told Beatrix to tell all the witches to meet on the edge of the forest.

“Why?” Beatrix asked, naturally.

Ravyn smiled. “You’ll see.”

While Beatrix was out of the house, Ravyn poured a bag of powdered sugar, cornstarch, and dried mandarin slices into a boiling cauldron. The mixture turned into a liquid syrup, which she poured into small molds that were typically used for bread. Then she let it cool and waited.

She looked out the frosted window. Today was the last day of October, the last day of crinkling leaves and sunkissed days. There was something beautiful and sad about Autumn. It was the start of everything but also the end.

A new moon looked down on her. She opened the door and walked out with her hardened syrup snacks, the cold air shocking her skin. Ravyn hurried down the forest path, where all the witches, including Beatrix and her mum, were waiting, the ends of their wands glowing in the darkness.

“Well?” Ravyn’s mum said. “What are we waiting for?”

Ravyn handed out her syrup snacks to every witch and warlock, and said “Just hold these and wait.”

“What’s going on, Ravyn?” Beatrix asked.

“Just trust me,” she said with a smile.

The witches heard a sound from behind the bend. Ravyn’s mum froze. “I know that sound! It’s human footsteps!”

In technical terms, Ravyn’s mum was right. But when the people around the bend stood in front of the witches, it seemed that…they were witches too.

The humans were all dressed in dark robes and witch hats and nobody could tell who was who.

A witch (or a human) said “Where are the witches?”

A witch (or a human) responded “They’ve tricked us! Now we can’t tell who’s who!”

Someone else said, “How do I know you’re not a witch?”

“I’m not! I promise!”

“So, you say.”

The chaos continued as people tried to tell each other apart, but it was no use. Ravyn found Janie and took her to the front of the crowd. “QUIET!” she yelled.

The crowd turned silent.

“Now, you don’t know whether I’m a human or a witch, but I can tell you that I planned this.”

The crowd booed.

“Who does she think she is?” said one, “What is she doing?” another asked.

“I think it’s time we make peace. We’ve been at war long enough, and honestly, it’s quite exhausting. Why can’t we live in harmony? Why can’t we move forward and learn from the mistakes of the past? The witches have never harmed the humans. Yes, they have broomsticks and wands and cauldrons, but you all have the wrong message. And witches, humans are just like us, but without the magic part. So, let’s not try to differentiate who’s a witch and who isn’t. Tonight, everyone is a witch. Please, come into our homes – we have delicious syrup snacks!”

At first, the crowd was silent, and Ravyn thought that the chaos would continue, but a ripple of agreement began to sound through the crowd. The two girls looked at each other. Ravyn gave Janie a hug. “I couldn’t have done it without you. I think maybe you and I have had the first friendship between a witch and a human in all of history.”

Janie smiled. “You said it yourself. Tonight, everyone’s a witch.”

That evening, the witches opened their homes – but in a way, they also opened their hearts. They handed out syrup snacks – as promised – which are now called candy. To this day, children still go from house to house, asking for candy dressed as witches on the last day of October. And every night since then, the ravens flew overhead before dawn.



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