She asked me to wait outside until she could clean the place up a bit but when I finally got to go in I initially judged she was instead just messing it up more — to irritate me, perhaps, or just to demonstrate that she was hard at work over here on the outer islands in this witch house. No time for tidiness with so many spells to perform (!), one of which — *which* — apparently brought me here. She said she and her “mates” (fellow witches) bought into the quartz business on a tip from Lisa the Vegetarian who they knew from the Omega continent. “And where are Lichen, Wendy?” I queried after finally being invited in. “Warm your hands first,” she demanded, and after I protested that I was just fine in terms of temperature, she turned around from casting her latest spell and indicated the fire. “Just do it,” she said, so I did and then I realized my hands *were* cold, my whole body, and it had been so all my life. Only now was I truly warm, truly alive even. She asked, “better?”, and I replied, “yeah… h-how did you do that?” “Oh you don’t know the half of it, the half of the *half* of the half. You are merely an apprentice,” and I realized she was speaking truth. This from my warm vantage point now. She was not an irritation any longer. She was a sage, she was a source of all knowledge, a conduit. Just like she had always been. Except I didn’t realize it. Until now.
I suddenly became cold again. I went back to the fire, knelt down and warmed once more. “It only lasts about 5 minutes or so,” she said about the latest spell. “I’m still perfecting it, but: pretty good, eh?” Fern Stalin turned all knowing, all seeing. Pretty good indeed.