The sky above me is bright with the light of the stars, their light gentle and cold on the snowy ground. The light guided my path, illuminating the trees around me, if I had left on a cloudy night I would have never found my way.
I pull my arms tighter around myself, my breath coming out in puffs of white. I wished the stars were kind enough to lend their heat as well, but the stars were cold and so was I.
The snow crunched under my feet. I cursed the recent snowfall that would show my path to any who might find it. Not that it would matter if they didn’t find me in time.
I fell into a kind of trance as I walked, trusting my feet to find their footing as my eyes watched the stars. It wouldn’t be long now I guessed.
All too soon, I reached the bottom of the witch kill, almost stumbling into it. I dropped my gaze to the small hill before me, a tiny hut perched on top like a crown. A light glowed in one of the windows like a guiding star, the barest traces of smoke curled form the chimney.
My sure feet found the path and I began my ascent up the hill. The stars gathered more closely here, arranged in a bright pool, bathing the little hut in their light.
When I reached the top, she was waiting for me. Standing in her doorway, the inviting light and warmth beckoning me behind me.
“I guessed you would come this night,” Her voice was quiet and had the harshness of one who has breathed in many winters.
“Then you know why I’ve come?” My own voice came out in a croak.
The witch nodded and turned towards the light. “Come, I have prepared tea, you must be frozen after walking so far.”
I hesitate on the doorstep, the dividing line between the cold light of the stars and the warm light of the witches fire. I was suddenly struck with doubts, was this the right thing to do?
I looked up at the stars again, and watched as they seemed to glow brighter than before. I took that as a sign and stepped into the small hut.
The warmth came over me like a wave and immediately sent pins and needles inot my fingers and toes.
The witch guided me to a chair neat the fire and pushed a mug of steaming tea sweetened with honey into my hands.
I sipped the hot liquid gratefully, feeling it’s warmth slowly spread.
I gazed around the small hut, it was more lavishly furnished than I had expected. A heavy trundle bed, it’s wood lovingly carved and painted with spring flowers took up one wall. Bundles of dried herbs hung from the ceiling, their earthy scent filling the room.
The sound of hooting drew my gaze up to the rafters where a pair of snowy white owns nested, their golden eyes watching us.
“They’re names are Marya and Houdin. They’ve been with me for a very long time.” The witch sank into a chair across from me, her old bones creaking with the effort.
I sipped my tea and studied the witch. I’d seen her before, when she would come into the village to trade for supplies.
She had always looked exactly the same, year after year ever since I was a young child. Old and ragged, like she could die at any time.
But here, in her hut under the stars, the witch seemed younger, stronger. Her white hair was pulled back in an intricate braid and she wore a finely woven shawl embroidered with roses.
And her eyes, I ‘d never seen such a pale blue, light a pair of twin stars shining from her face.
“So, she began when I had finished my tea, “you’ve lost someone close to you, yes?”
I nodded, clutching the empty mug, trying to absorb any lingering warmth.
“And so you’ve heart the stories, that I am and witch and I can do things?”
I nodded once more, feeling stronger now.
“And you have payment?”
I nodded a third time. I reached aching fingers into my fur coat, finding the small pocket hidden deep inside. I pulled out a small bag and set it in the witches outstretched hand.
She weighed the small bag thoughtfully. I held my breath and hoped the stories I had grown up with were true.
“Yes, this will do.” I let out my held breath with a soft sigh. The witch quickly hid away the small bag.
“Come now, we must do this quickly, dawn is already on it’s way.” The witch hustled about the hut, putting away the tea cups and trading her embroidered shawl for one lined with tiny silver bells that chimed as she moved.
I moved more slowly, my bones still not recovered from the hike to the witch.
Eventually the witch led me outside, back into the starlight.
She led me to a small clearing behind her hut. Standing stones, none higher than my waist, made a large circle.
The witch motioned for me to stand in the center of the circle.
“What was their name child?” The witches voice was clearer now, the years falling away.
“Geralt, Geralt Bloom.” I whispered the name of my husband, slain two months prior when warriors from another village attacked.
“Look up then and see him.” The witch pointed one long finger up to the stairs clustered over the hut.
“See how bright he shines for you.”
My eyes wide, I searched the stars. There, one star looked brighter than the rest, it’s light pulsing gently, like a heartbeat. I could feel tears streak down my cheeks, warm before freezing in the cold air.
“Keep your eyes on him.” The witch commanded. I didn’t even dare to blink.
The witch began to chant in a low hum, moving around the rings of stone, the bells on her shawl ringing in my eyes.
As she changed I could feel myself getting lighter, the starts growing larger and brighter until they were all I could see.
I couldn’t hear the witches bells anymore. Nor was I cold. I was warm, finally warm with my Geralt at my side.
Stars aren’t cold after all.