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By Robin Sloan

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And she was angry. ” The writer said nothing, only gazed up at her. She looked completely different now. Of course, so did he. Her lips drew tight. ” Now, I need to tell you: the writer was terrified. He knew the witch could snap her fingers and bring her curse to a sudden close, or simply cast a new one. She could transform him into a fish or a fern. But, even so, he rose to his feet. And he bowed low. Time had taught him a few things. “Thank you, kind witch,” he said. “I did not realize, a hundred years ago, that your curse was a blessing.

His joints tightened and his heart pounded in his ears. He fell to his knees, but he got his hands around the serpent’s neck. It was a shocking sight: the monster’s mouth, yawning wide with rows and rows of jet-black teeth, and below it his shaking hands, white as paper, thin as bones. He leaned and swung with every shred of strength he still possessed, and he bashed its head against the river-rocks, again and again. The serpent loosened its grip, and died. The witch was there now, cradling their sobbing son in her arms.

And even in this young form, there was a depth to her eyes: tiny crow’s feet that betrayed all the things she’d done, all the places she’d seen. The writer was sharp and attentive, and he held court like a king in his tiny house. A very strange thing happened that night, there where the river met the road, just beyond the bridge. The writer and the witch fell in love. # # # THE WITCH MOVED IN, which strained their relationship at first, as it usually does—but even more so in this case given the size of the writer’s house.

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The Writer & the Witch by Robin Sloan

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