Ever at My Shoulders…

When Mother died, I inherited the circled staff, but the familiars were not yet grown so it kept them in line. I wanted to banish them, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

“They will come to guard you in the dark times, my child.” Those were her last words.

But you were a witch. There was never any other kind of time…

Noises, shadows, scents of carrion, cinnamon, lavender, and things in jars that writhed and crawled, slithered and mewled, with fangs inside of jaws that broke things in half and devoured, and rending claws that disemboweled and severed limbs, and things with glowing eyes that gave me nightmares.

All mine, forever, or for as long as I held the circled staff.

At first, the sun lost warmth, and then the rich, warm yellow brightness I once closed my eyes to feel on my childhood face seemed veiled in perpetual clouds.

I neglected the herbs in the garden. I neglected the cottage.

I neglected my innocence, and the better parts of myself.

And with each passing stage, the familiars grew nearer.

Their oily, rancid spirits oozed into my dirt filled pores, and ethereal cords of attachment formed like spider silk. It was pleasurable, but lethal, like a warm blade pressed to a sensitive, tender spot that made you tingle.

I couldn’t stop it, and didn’t know if I would if I was able.

Soon it didn’t matter anymore, but now, it’s become everything.

We’re all grown now, these familiars and I, a family of strangers, eager to explore the world to see what we can offer it, and take what it has to offer us.

But I must ever guard the staff, for these creatures are ever at my shoulders, and if they take it as their prize the world we know will become one we can neither survive nor escape.

So they wait, even as they follow, and watch, even when they sleep.

It seems Mother cursed me after all.

But then again, she was a witch, and that’s what witches do.

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