Winda the Witch Excerpt

Winda the Witch: Tales of the Spooky Folk


Gobbler, as always, knew Winda was up to no good.


"Why are you smiling?" he asked. "Nothing good ever comes from you wearing such a smile."


Winda, despite herself, nearly bumped her head against the window she stood against in surprise, as she watched the long column of the Spooky Folk march past her home on the Great East-West Road. Her family was amongst the throng, taking their place in line with the other families of Witches and Warlocks on their journey to the Wall. 


It was Halloween Night in Octoberlund, and all the eligible Spooky Folk were on the march, heading for one of many gates that dotted the Wall, the ancient and crumbling boundary between Winda's world and the Otherland of Humans. It was on this night that all of the Witches, Warlocks, Werewolves, Vampires, Ghosts and the rest of the Spooky Folk dressed up in their most terrifying garb and took their annual journey over to the lands of the Humans, to compete with each other in games to see who could scare them the most. The winners returned the following day with the benefit of power and prestige that lasted until the next Halloween Crossing.


But not Winda. Oh no, she had made the mistake of losing control of both her power and her temper, and as a result, at the eligible age of twelve, she found herself grounded, forced to stay at home and baby-sit her younger siblings. And, of course, forced to put up with Gobbler.


"Oh, leave me alone, pumpkin head. Just because I'm smiling doesn't mean I'm up to something," Winda shot back. Even though Gobbler had startled her, the smile still lingered on her lips.


"Technically speaking, I can't have a pumpkin head," said Gobbler. "You see, I'm all pumpkin to begin with, save for these knobby arms and legs your family so graciously gave me. But that aside, I've known you for all of your twelve harvests, and I've yet to see a grin on your face that doesn't require me being punished for whatever harebrained scheme you are up to."


"Well, maybe this time is different," said Winda. "I'm almost a woman now, you know, and a woman is allowed, even required, to be mysterious at times. So quit reading into things so much. I'm simply in a good mood, that's all."


Gobbler's face slanted to one side, an expression that Winda knew, from long experience, was akin to cocking an eyebrow. Watch-o'-Lanterns didn't have eyebrows.


"Hmmm," was all he said, but mercifully he quit following her around and snooping.


Winda breathed a sigh of relief and went to her small room, which she had finally received on her last birthday. Her younger siblings now shared her old room. She quickly rushed in and fastened the door behind her. She could hear the click clacking of Gobbler's spindly, stalk-like feet as he moved up to the door. She held her breath until she heard a loud "humph," followed by the retreating sounds of his footsteps.


Then she began packing. Her traveling gown was donned, with her many pouches of spell components (not the icky kind, which of course limited the spells she could cast). A bag that held more on the inside than seemed possible she stuffed into her belt, as well as her Novice wand. A stout pair of pointy shoes she stepped into next, followed by her battered, nearly shapeless Witch hat. The stealthily snatched sandwiches from her mother's kitchen (no true Witch can resist a sandwich) came next, which went into her bag. Finally she took up her broom, hesitantly. If she hadn't needed to get to the Wall quickly, she would prefer walking on her own solid legs. But the border was nearly a day's walk from her house, and no member of the Spooky Folk could cross the Wall after the sun rose the day after Halloween. Thus the Ancient Laws read. One final look around to make sure everything was in order, and then she quietly slid her window up and began to climb out.


The pale sun was setting as she carefully eased her feet to the ground, avoiding the brittle leaves of brown, red and gold that lay around the house. Her mother loved to make her rake them up into big piles on Chore Day, which really wasn't so bad, since she and her younger siblings loved to jump into them. There was nothing better than to run and leap and land in a huge pile of soft leaves. Luckily for Winda, she had raked up the leaves around her bedroom window, but the sun had set before her mother had made her pick them up and cart them off. So she made very little noise as she softly closed the window behind her and sneaked out of the yard and into the shelter of the woods that lay just beyond. She realized she was holding her breath as she stepped into their confines, and with one last look behind her she let it out in relief.


"Whatcha doin'?" 


Winda jumped in surprise as Gobbler stepped up onto a tree stump not five paces off to her right. The little Watch-o'-lantern could be surprisingly quiet when he wanted.


"Gobbler! What are you doing here!" Winda shouted.


Gobbler placed his hands on the approximate location of his hips, if he had them, and glared back at her.


"I asked you first! I knew you were up to no good."


"It doesn't matter what I'm doing, Gobbler. Because you're staying here. And quit being so nosy already!"


"Nosy? I'm only merely doing my duty, young lady. Which is more than I can say for you. After all, you're supposed to be staying at home, watching after your brother and sister, but noooooo, you're dead set on crossing the Wall even though you've been grounded for--"


"Wait! What? How did you know I was going to the cross the Wall?"


"Well"--Gobbler blinked-- "I didn't until now. You just said it, after all."


"Ooohhhh, you make me so irritated I could scream! Go home. You can't stop me. I'll be back tomorrow before my parents get back. They'll never even know I was gone."


"Oh they won't, will they? No, because it's not like I would tell them. Oh no, not dear old Gobbler. Who is treated so well by his adoptive family. So kind, especially the middle daughter--"


"You wouldn't," Winda said.


"Oh yes I would. And will. I'm not gonna let you run off and cross the Wall by yourself, having all sorts of adventures and fun, while I'm stuck at home watching your bratty little brother and sister. Oh no. I'm coming with you, or I'm telling."


"Coming with me! Absolutely not! It's gonna be hard enough getting around in Human Town looking like I do by myself, much less with you by my side. How am I gonna explain what you are?"


Gobbler stamped his foot. "Because it's Halloween, you idiot! Everyone's gonna be dressed up as monsters and celebrities and aliens, and--"


"Wait, how do you know what celebrities are?" Winda asked. 


"Sometimes I sneak peeks over your shoulder when you're looking into the Scrying Pool. Stop interrupting me!" Gobbler yelled, and his whole gourd flared an angry crimson color. It was true. For many years now, Winda had felt like she didn't belong in Octoberlund. The Land of the Spooky Folk hadn't felt like home since she had gotten old enough to realize what would be expected of her once she became a full-fledged Witch. Then one day Winda had discovered the secret of the family's Scrying Pool. Looking into it, and concentrating on your heart's desire, you could see other worlds and times. For Winda, the pool had shown her the Human world, and she had been obsessed ever since.


"All right, all right. Sheesh. Don't get so angry. Look, even if I did let you go with me, and I'm not saying I will, what are my little bro and sis supposed to do while we're gone?"


Gobbler looked at her dumbly for a minute. "You mean, seeing how we're surrounded by friends and family they can turn to for help, the nearest merely a few hundred paces away, how are poor little Waldrop and Winslet gonna survive for not even a full day on their own? Even though the pantry and kitchen is fully stocked, not to mention all the leftovers from the Crossing party lying around? Even though both of them are a little chunky to begin with, and could stand to lose a few pounds?"


"Gobbler! That's mean! And you're one to talk--you're perfectly round, and waddle when you walk."


"I can't help it, that's my natural shape! Plus, it's not my fault that your family placed my legs in odd positions when they first created me!"


"Shhhhh, quit yelling! Okay, I'm sorry." Winda stopped and looked at Gobbler for a moment. "You really are intent on going, aren't you. Why?"


"Because you'll get into no end of trouble without me. And you'll need my help more than your brother and sister at home ever will. And I've actually been over the Wall, and know a little bit about the Humans."


"You've been over the Wall? Gobbler, why didn't you ever tell me?"


"You never asked," the Watch-o'-lantern sniffed. "And if I told you I knew you would pester me night and day with questions about what it was like over there."


Winda opened her mouth to object, then sighed and shut it. "You're probably right. Okay. Look, I'm sorry, Gobbler. You can come with me. But!" Winda held up a finger to stop the little pumpkin man from capering in joy. "Only on one condition. You have to listen to me, and do everything that I tell you. You may have been over the Wall before, but this is my adventure. If you can promise to stick to these simple rules, then you can go."


"Oh of course, mistress, of course. I'll be good, just you wait and see. You'll barely even know I'm around. I'll have you know I can be quite sneaky and quiet when I have a mind to."


"Yeah yeah, you already said that. Okay, let's go. We're wasting time with all this jibber- jabbering."


Winda and Gobbler walked for nearly ten minutes until the woods around them began to thin, and they soon found themselves in an open clearing. The late afternoon air caused her to shiver in excitement. It was a time of possibility, of excitement and adventure.  Winda straddled her broom, then waited for Gobbler to position himself in front of her. He climbed on and wrapped his spindly fingers and legs around the stick.


"Ready?" said Winda.


"Ready," cried Gobbler in delight.


Winda concentrated, and the broomstick rose slowly into the sky. As the ground retreated below them, she looked around anxiously to make sure there was no one around to spy their leaving.


"Yippeeee!" Gobbler shouted.


"Gobbler! Quiet! You know I'm not the best flier. No more outbursts."


Gobbler quieted, and she could tell by his body language he was sulking. But not for long. As they sped away from the clearing, over the tops of the pine forest that began to thicken the closer one got to the Wall, he couldn't resist one last "wooohooooo!"


But Winda didn't call him on it this time. She was too busy concentrating on their destination, and controlling the broom. And of course, trying desperately not to think too hard about how high they were, and how bad it would hurt if she fell off. Here we come Humans, she thought. Finally.


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Created by J.K. Campbell