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Writing Magic 

2nd Prize Winner

Anne Elliott

She called on the old gods to stir the heart of the third son of Irvine, burning freshly cut foxglove and the nine fern stems as directed.


Then she hoped and waited.


The church had banned all of the old ways but it didn't stop them. There was still guising at Halloween, wassailing in December, first-footing with Hogmanay. Visits to the wise women happened all year. They ensured the minister didn't see.


Two wise women had been burned as witches in the next parish, but theirs had still been willing to sell Isla the love spell she’d needed. She'd been in love with Robert Irvine for as long as she could remember. He was always so kind, often stepping in to save her from his older brothers who thrived on being bullies. It had never gone beyond kind words, but she couldn't expect him to notice her with so many other young lasses around.


Summer over with still no declaration from Robert, she decided something had gone amiss. She went back to the bean feasa for a second love spell. The old woman wouldn't give it.


‘If it hasn't worked, tis for a reason,’ she told her. ‘To try again could bring a curse.’


Isla thought that nonsense and insisted. Wouldn't leave without it whatever the woman said. Robert was her true love.


Isla performed the rite again carefully at dawn, adding butter wort to the fire this time, and discreetly blew a pinch of the ash onto Robert as the Irvines walked past her in church.


Then she hoped and waited.


He spoke to her after pulling his brother, Iain, from her path, and came to her rescue again the day Iain blocked her pew. Her heart soared thinking the spell finally working. Nothing more though. Still no declaration of love.


Her mother found her crying in the barn after hearing Robert was leaving to help his uncle, the blacksmith in the next village, the demand for iron collars too much work for one man. She confessed her sadness was due to unrequited love for the third son of Irvine.


‘Who?’ her mother asked.


‘Robert, the third son.’


‘Robert’s not their third son, he's their…’, her mother counted. ‘Fifth. There were two babes lost between him and his brothers, and others besides, did you not think of that?’


‘So there's no third son living?’ She thought of her wasted prayers and all the eggs she'd paid the bean feasa with, payment her mother was yet to discover.


‘Yes, the third son's Iain.’


The realisation that she'd wished for her bully filled her with horror. Isla ran all the way to the bean feasa but she was gone, taken away by the constables to stand trial.


When she returned home, Iain was waiting and her parents smiling.

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