Ligea Poe

For the most part, Monica didn’t think about the rankings, or if she did it was with that surprised little equanimity that was her hallmark. But every year, when Witchweek released their annual report, to see herself solidly at 17, year after year after year, well, it ate at her. “Seventeen,” she said, and threw the magazine down, discontented and out of sorts. “Seventeenth again!” I mean, she said, sure it’s the top twenty and think of all the hundreds of witches who’ll never even break the hundred, but still! Twenty years at seventeen and younger and more modish witches were ahead of her, complacent and poisonous. Hadn’t she invented more simples than any of them? Who knew the ways of herbs better, how to heal and how to wound silently? In the hilltop councils who spoke before her?

She had something to prove. She put on her hat — the one with the wide brim and the small purple flowers around the band — and went to town, for to see the smith.

“Smith,” she said. “Elliot Smith.”

“Yes,” he said, sweating from the forge, head too small upon the spread of his shoulders.

“I need a mannikin, a clever doll, Smith, all of silver with joints of gold, and with this mark upon the soles of its feet and the top of its head, and I need it by Thursday week.”

“You’re crazy,” he said. “Thursday week? If I did nothing else, and worked day and night, you might have it in a fortnight. I don’t even have that much gold and silver. Christ.”

“All that I have, Smith. Please?”

He growled and ran his fingers through his thin hair. “Argh, fine. You’ll have it when it’s done, and that as soon as I can.”