Authors: Brandon Dorman
“What is wrong with you, woman?” the king sneered. “Magic can
“Actually, sir, it’s very much in the realm of possibility,” Madame Weatherberry said. “All that’s required is a simple decree that decriminalizes the act and then, in good time, the stigma surrounding it will diminish.”
“I would sooner decriminalize murder and thievery!” the king declared. “The Lord clearly states in the Book of Faith that magic is a horrendous sin, and therefore a
in this kingdom! And if crimes didn’t have consequences, we would live in utter chaos!”
“That’s where you’re mistaken, Your Majesty,” she said. “You see, magic is
the crime the world thinks it is.”
“Of course it is!”
he objected. “I have witnessed magic being used to trick and torment innocent people! I have seen the bodies of children who were slaughtered for potions and spells! I have been to villages plagued by curses and hexes! So don’t you dare defend magic to me, Madame! The magical community will never receive an ounce of sympathy or understanding from
Champion couldn’t have made his opposition any clearer, but Madame Weatherberry moved to the edge of her seat and smiled as if they had found common ground.
“This may surprise you, sir, but I completely agree,” she said.
“You do?” he asked with a suspicious gaze.
,” she repeated. “I believe those who torment innocent people
be punished for their actions—
, I might add. There’s just one minor flaw in your reasoning. The situations you’ve witnessed aren’t caused by magic but by
The king tensed his brow and glanced at Madame Weatherberry as if she were speaking a foreign language.
he said mockingly. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Then allow me to explain,” Madame Weatherberry said. “Witchcraft is a ghastly and destructive practice. It stems from a dark desire to
. Only people with wicked hearts are capable of witchcraft, and believe me, they deserve whatever fate they bring upon themselves. But
is something else entirely. At its core, magic is a pure and positive art form. It’s meant to
those in need and can only come from those with goodness in their hearts.”
The king sank back into his chair and held his head, dizzy with confusion.
“Oh dear, I’ve overwhelmed you,” Madame Weatherberry said. “Let me simplify it for you, then.
Magic is good, magic is good, magic is good. Witchcraft is bad, witchcraft is bad, witchcraft is
“Don’t patronize me, woman—I heard you!” the king griped. “Give me a moment to wrap my head around it!”
Champion let out a long sigh and massaged his temples. It was usually difficult for him to process information so shortly after a nap, but this was an entirely different beast. The king covered his eyes and concentrated, as if he were reading a book behind his eyelids.
“You’re saying magic is not the same as witchcraft?”
“Correct,” Madame Weatherberry said with an encouraging nod. “Apples and oranges.”
“And the two are different in nature?”
“Polar opposites, sir.”
“So, if not
, what do you call people who practice magic?”
Madame Weatherberry held her head high with pride. “We call ourselves
the king asked.
,” she repeated. “Now do you understand my desire to enlighten your perspective? The world’s concern isn’t with fairies who practice magic, it’s with witches who commit witchcraft. But tragically, we’ve been grouped together and condemned as one and the same for centuries. Fortunately, with my guidance and your influence, we are more than capable of rectifying this.”
“I’m afraid I disagree,” the king said.
“I beg your pardon?” Madame Weatherberry replied.
“One man may steal because of greed, and another may steal for survival, but they’re both thieves—it doesn’t matter if one has
in his heart.”
“But, sir, I thought I made it perfectly clear that witchcraft is the crime, not magic.”
have been considered sinful since the beginning of time,” Champion went on. “Do you know how difficult it is to redefine something for society? It took me
to convince my kingdom that potatoes aren’t poisonous—and people still avoid them in the markets!”
Madame Weatherberry shook her head in disbelief. “Are you comparing an innocent race of people to potatoes, sir?”
“I understand your objective, Madame, but the world isn’t ready for it—heck,
not ready for it! If you want to save the fairies from unfair punishment, then I suggest you teach them to keep quiet and resist the urge to use magic! That would be far easier than convincing a stubborn world to change its ways.”
? Sir, you can’t be serious!”
“Why not? Normal people live above temptation every day.”
“Because you’re implying magic comes with an off switch—like it’s some sort of
“Of course magic is a choice!”
“NO! IT! IS! NOOOOT!”
For the first time since their interaction had begun, Madame Weatherberry’s pleasant temperament changed. A shard of deep-seated anger pierced through her cheery disposition and her face fell into a stony, intimidating glare. It was as if Champion were facing a different woman altogether—a woman who should be feared.
a choice,” Madame Weatherberry said sharply. “
is a choice.
is a choice.
is a choice. But someone’s
is never a choice, or a fault, and it’s certainly not a crime. You would be wise to educate yourself.”
Champion was too afraid to say another word. It may have been his imagination, but the king could have sworn the storm outside was intensifying as Madame Weatherberry’s temper rose. It was obviously a state she rarely surrendered to because her apprentices seemed as uneasy as the king. The fairy closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and calmed herself before continuing their discussion.
“Perhaps we should give His Majesty a demonstration,” Madame Weatherberry suggested. “Tangerina? Skylene? Will you please show King Champion why magic isn’t a choice?”
The apprentices exchanged an eager grin—they had been waiting for this. They hopped to their feet, removed their robes, and unwound their headwraps. Tangerina revealed a dress made from dripping patches of honeycomb and a beehive of bright orange hair that was the home of a live swarm of bumblebees. Skylene uncovered a sapphire bathing suit, and instead of hair, she had a continuous stream of water that flowed down her body, evaporating as it reached her feet.
Champion’s mouth dropped open as he laid eyes on what the girls had been concealing. In all his years on the throne, he had never seen magic so materialized in a person’s appearance. The mystery of the strange buzzing and swishing noises was solved.
“My God,” the king said breathlessly. “Are all fairies like this?”
“Magic affects each of us differently,” Madame Weatherberry said. “Some people lead completely normal lives until their magic presents itself, while others show physical traits from the moment they’re born.”
“That can’t be true,” the king argued. “If people were born with magical features, the prisons would be filled with infants! And our courts have never imprisoned a baby.”
Madame Weatherberry lowered her head and looked to the floor with a sad gaze.
“That’s because most fairies are killed or abandoned at birth. Their parents fear the consequences of bringing a magical child into the world, so they do what is necessary to avoid punishment. It was a miracle I found Tangerina and Skylene before they were harmed, but many aren’t so lucky. Your Majesty, I understand your reservation, but what’s happening to these children is cruel and primitive. Decriminalizing magic is about much more than injustice, it’s about
! Surely, you can find sympathy and understanding in your heart for that.”
Champion knew he lived in a harsh world, but he had been oblivious to such horrors. He rocked back and forth in his chair as his reluctance waged war with his empathy. Madame Weatherberry could tell she was making progress with the king, so she used a sentiment she had been saving for just the right moment.
“Think how different the world would be if it had a little more compassion for the magical community. Think how different
life would be, Your Majesty.”
Suddenly, Champion’s mind was flooded with memories of his mother. He remembered her face, her smile, her laugh, but most prominently of all, he remembered the tight embrace they had shared just before she was dragged to an untimely death. Despite how rusty his memory had become with age, those images were forever branded in his brain.
“I would like to help you, but decriminalizing magic may be more problematic than productive. Forcing the public to accept what they hate and fear could cause a rebellion! Witch hunts as we know them could escalate into full-fledged genocide!”
“Believe me, I’m no stranger to human nature,” Madame Weatherberry said. “The legalization of magic can’t be rushed. On the contrary, it must be handled gently, with patience and persistence. If we want to change the world’s opinion it must be encouraged, not forced—and nothing encourages people like a good spectacle.”
A nervous tension spread over the king’s face. “Spectacle?” he asked fearfully. “What sort of
are you planning?”
Madame Weatherberry smiled and her bright eyes grew even brighter—this was the part she had been waiting for.
“When I first met Tangerina and Skylene, they were captives of their own magic,” she told him. “No one could get near Tangerina without being attacked by her bees, and poor Skylene was living in a lake because she soaked everything she stepped on. So I took the girls under my wing and taught them to control their magic, and now they’re both perfectly functioning young adults. It breaks my heart to think of all the other children out there who are struggling with who or what they are, so I’ve decided to open my doors and give them a proper education.”
“You’re going to start a
?” the king asked.
“Precisely,” she said. “I call it Madame Weatherberry’s Academy for Young Practitioners of Magic—although it’s still a working title.”
“And where will this academy be?” he asked.
“I’ve recently secured a few acres in the southeast In-Between.”
?” the king protested. “Woman, are you mad? The In-Between is much too dangerous for children! You can’t start a school there!”
“Oh, I won’t argue that,” Madame Weatherberry said. “The In-Between is exceptionally dangerous for people unfamiliar with its territories. However, there are many members of the magical community, including myself, who have lived quite comfortably in the In-Between for decades. The land I’ve acquired is very remote and private. I’ve installed all the proper protections to guarantee my students’ safety.”
“But how is an academy going to help achieve the legalization of magic?”
“Once I’ve trained my pupils to master their abilities, we’ll slowly introduce ourselves to the world. We’ll use our magic to heal the sick and help those in need. After some time, word of our compassion will have spread through the kingdoms. Fairies will become examples of generosity and we’ll win people’s affection. The world will see all the good that magic has to offer, their opinions on magic will change, and the magical community will finally be embraced.”
Champion scratched his chin as he contemplated Madame Weatherberry’s lavish plan. Of all the details she had given him, she was forgetting the most important of all—
“You seem very capable of doing this on your own. What do you want from me?”
“Naturally, I want your consent,” she said. “Fairies want to be trusted, and the only way we’ll earn trust is by doing things the right way. So I would like your official permission to travel openly through the Southern Kingdom as I recruit students. I would also like your promise that the children and families I encounter will be spared from prosecution. My mission is to offer these youngsters a better life; I don’t want to put anyone in legal jeopardy. It’ll be very difficult convincing parents to let their children attend a school for magic, but having their sovereign’s blessing will make it much easier—especially if that blessing is in writing.”
Madame Weatherberry waved a hand over the king’s desk and a golden piece of parchment appeared before him. Everything she had requested was already written out—all she needed was the king’s signature. Champion anxiously rubbed his legs as he read the document over and over again.
“This could go wrong in so many ways,” the king said. “If my subjects found out I gave a witch—excuse me—a
permission to take their children to a magical school, there would be rioting in the streets! My people would want my head on a platter!”