Friday, February 9, 2024

“The Fine Art of Spellweaving” • by Catherine Tavares

Tricia averted her gaze to the tips of her pointy black boots as Mother Jina, Matriarch of the Western-Most Coven of Witches and proctor of Tricia’s final potion exam, fixed her with a soul-piercing stare. 

As she watched, a singed leaf fell from her hair and floated to the floor, where it joined the charred remains of its brethren.

“Um…” Tricia took a deep breath to try and steady herself, but choked on the acrid scent of smoky wood and floral ash.

“What was the plant that you used?” Mother Jina interrupted.

Tricia swallowed a large lump in her throat before speaking. “Uh, Rohani’s Night Candle—er, Noctilanta lucerna, ma’am.”

“And you were keeping it where?”

Tricia gestured halfheartedly to the shattered and blackened frame next to them. “The kitchen window, ma’am. A well-ventilated—”

“In a ceramic pot?”

“Runically reinforced, yes, so—”

“And did you read the instructions given to you before beginning your potion assignment?”

“Yes, but—”

“What were those instructions?”

“To collect four flowers from Noctilanta lucerna under a full moon at midnight, which technically I—”

“And is uprooting an entire magical plant and repotting it in your house a correct interpretation of those instructions?”

“Sort of?” Mother Jina gave a pointed look to the jagged new skylight that graced the ceiling, and Tricia winced. “Okay, no, but it was really cold the night of the full moon,” she blurted in a rush, “and I haven’t been sleeping well since exams started, and I’ve seen this done for plants with non-magical properties before, so I just… I mean, I thought…” Tricia’s shoulders slumped. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Indeed.” And it was the calmness with which Mother Jina spoke that told Tricia there was no way she was going to become a witch now. Years of study wasted because Tricia was too attached to her diurnal lifestyle to be bothered with following directions. She felt her eyes begin to burn from more than just the smoke.

“Do you know what I see here, Tricia?” Mother Jina finally asked. Tricia glanced at the chaos around them and wisely said nothing.

“I see,” Mother Jina continued, “flagrant disobedience to a centuries-old recipe. I see a novice disregarding the wisdom of one of the most learned witches in history. I see the fine art of spellweaving shoved into a window box. Do you know what that is, Tricia?”

Tricia sniffled pathetically, quietly composing her last will and testament in her head, “No, ma’am.”

Mother Jina gripped Tricia’s shoulders tight, eyes sparkling. “That,” the Matriarch said, “is genius!”

Tricia’s mouth fell open, but Mother Jina beamed.

“Forty-six years I’ve been a witch,” she crowed. “Forty-six years of trudging through the woods during the ungodly hours of the night for a measly flower or leaf. I can’t believe I never thought of this before! Bringing plants inside for harvesting. Cultivating them as… as houseplants! It’s brilliant!”

“But—” Tricia flapped her hands at the destruction around them. “I blew up my house!”

Mother Jina waved blithely. “Oh, attempting to tame a magical plant on your own was beyond stupid of you. But we witches haven’t lasted this long by resting on our laurels. I must say, I admire your gumption.”

Tricia could hardly believe it. She felt a smile start to creep onto her face. “So… I pass? I’m a witch!”

Mother Jina laughed. “Tricia, you blew up your house. You certainly do not pass.”

Tricia sank onto the remaining kitchen chair. “So, I’m… I’m…” She couldn’t even say it.

“Finished,” Mother Jina provided brusquely, picking her way through the debris toward the door. “For now, certainly. But… given the circumstances of your failure… I suppose you can try again after another six months of supervised training.”

“Really?” Tricia shot to her feet, bowing and stumbling outside after the Matriarch. “Thank you, ma’am! Thank you!”

“Yes, yes, yes. I’ll be back in a week to discuss your apprenticeship options, and I expect this disaster you’ve created to be cleaned up by then. Oh, and Tricia?” Mother Jina said, snatching her broomstick from where it still stood upright, despite there no longer being a wall to lean against.

“Yes, ma’am?”

Mother Jina mounted her broomstick and fixed Tricia with a stern glare. “Until I return, do not attempt the domestication of any more magical flora, or it’ll be more than your house destroyed next!”



Catherine Tavares is a speculative fiction author of the sci-fi and fantasy variety and a member of both SFWA and Codex. An avid reader, she spends most of her time haunting the shelves of her local library, but she can on occasion be persuaded to try a new recipe or work on a new knitting project. You can read her work and learn more about her at

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Richie said...

One of those ideas that makes me wish I'd thought of it!