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The Witch of Canyon Valley

The turkey watching Laurel from the side of the road was much too still for a turkey and that's how she knew right away it was a witch.

In the way you were supposed to do, she stopped, backed up three paces and bowed her head, before continuing on her way. The turkey kept its eyes on her the whole time, moving not an inch from the sage bush it stood in front of. For good measure, Laurel gave it another respectful nod before the road turned around the rocky slope and she lost sight of it entirely.

"I think there's some kind of turf war going on," her mother said when Laurel told her about the encounter. "There have been more witches around lately than I've ever seen in my life."

"A turf war for Canyon Valley?" Laurel said. She bent over to pull another green onion out of the soil. "I thought Oak Witch had claim over the area."

Oak Witch, so dubbed because of the live oak bark that seemed to be in half her concoctions, was the nicer name for Maga, who was less affectionately called the Buzzard Witch, both after her personality and the raggedy look of her turkey form.

Laurel's mother heaved her own basket of sweet potatoes onto her hip. "I forgot to tell you this morning. The latest gossip is that Maga has died."

Laurel gasped. "What? Who told you?"

"Delia. She said that Tara went by yesterday evening for a stomach cure and when Maga didn't answer, Tara busted her way inside and found her dead."

Laurel blinked. "I guess that explains a lot. People had been complaining she wasn't fulfilling orders."

Her mother nodded. "It's probably a good thing Tara went in like she did, though in any other case, she probably would have gotten a week of blindness out of it."

"I guess the witches knew long ago." "They always do."

Laurel wondered who would set up in the area. Perhaps a surrounding witch would absorb Canyon Valley into their own territory. Or maybe a young witch would swoop in and claim the area for her own. Though that seemed unlikely. Canyon Valley was a prized area and the powerful witches would fight tooth and nail for it.

So, Laurel was of course shocked when four days later, the new witched waltzed straight into the town market to announce herself.

The day before, people had seen smoke, and the glow of spells, coming from the Buzzard Witch's old house. Obviously, someone had moved in. No one was brave enough to go ask for spells the first day. The custom was to give a new witch at least a fortnight of gifts before asking any favors.

So, nobody was sure exactly what to do when they saw her in town that morning. People dropped things they were holding and bowed repeatedly. Mothers hurried their children back inside before they thought she'd had a chance to see them. But instead of turning the water green or making everyone speak backwards, the witch rushed to the middle of the square and raised primrose around the big fountain.

"I'm Relga, the new witch of Canyon Valley and we're going to start doing some things differently here," she said. Her voice was high and melodic and it tinkled when she laughed.

Laurel glanced at her mother. "What do you think that means?"

The bracelets on Relga's arms clinked when she shook them. "I know Maga's speciality was medicinal magic, and I am certainly good at those, too. But my specialty," she clapped her hands together, "is love spells and I can't wait to start working magic here."

"This is the witch who beat out all the others?" her mother whispered.

Laurel wanted to tell her to be quiet, but she was wondering the same thing. And glancing around at the starry-eyed Delia and Tara and all the other girls her age, Laurel had a feeling things were about to get interesting.


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