The forest witch wearily stuck her shovel back into the unforgiving soil, levering up another dry mound.
Would anything ever grow here?
She lifted the shovel, and paused, thinking she had heard something. None of the town’s folk ever came up this way. Once, she had lived on the outskirts of the town, and helped the town’s people with their medicinal needs. But a travelling reverend had convinced them that she was ungodly, and she had been chased from her home. They had killed and strung up her dear cat and friend, Cotton, claiming she was the witch’s familiar and her conduit to the devil. The witch sniffed and roughly wiped her hand across her eyes at the thought of her innocent Cotton’s brutal death. As she shook her head to clear her maudlin thoughts, she heard it again; a faint sound . A coo. Almost like….a baby.
She turned her head swiftly, scanning the perimeter. There was nobody around. The sound came again. It seemed to be emanating from the mound of earth she still held on her shovel. Gingerly, the witch placed the shovel on the ground, then reached over and brushed gently at the dirt with shaking fingertips. There, amongst the grit and soil, lay a baby!
A mandrake root baby!
The witch pressed her hands to her face in awe. The love that filled her was instant. She already knew, as it’s eyes met hers, that she would keep it. She knew that it was unheard of to keep and nurture these creatures of folklore . It was considered unnatural and strange. But the witch was at peace with that, as she knew that she herself was considered unnatural and strange. And now two strange, lonely and vulnerable creatures had found one another.