Once there was a witch…

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And she was a friend to all in the forest.  She was beautiful and wise, well known for her good magic and healing ways.  Her long brown hair fell in waves past her shoulders and her eyes were dark as night.  No one knew where she came from, but her name was Lily.

Lily knew all the secrets of forest plants and what medicines and magic would help cure and ease pain. She not only helped the people in nearby villages, but was also a friend to any and all animals that sought her out.  Even the plants and flowers seemed to realize she was there to help them.  Many of the people called her witch because of her affinity with all in the forest.

One day, she was on her way home after helping an injured deer in the Far Meadow.  She smiled, as she recalled the little half-grown doe and how she had hopped around after being healed.  She loved healing others, Lily thought to herself, as she walked through the Small Forest.  This path was the fastest way back to her cottage and she had no fear of the forest animals.  They were her friends and she always enjoyed walking between the tall trees.

But this time there was something different.  A stillness she had never noticed before.  The forest was too quiet.  The animals and birds were all suddenly…gone.

She looked around and realized there was movement behind the trees.  Strangers were in the forest.  Perhaps someone was lost.  As she started to call out, an arrow sliced through the air not two inches in front of her.  No time for visiting, she thought…and ran as fast as she could through the trees.

She recognized this arrow.  It was from a band of men, who lived some distance beyond the Far Meadow.  She knew if they were here, there was only one reason.  They had come for her.   She had rejected their chief’s proposal a month earlier, but she thought they were still on good terms.  Apparently, not.

As she ran, Lily realized she would soon reach the edge of the forest and end up on the cliffs with their long drop to the river.  She could do many things, but flying was not one of them.  Even her magic had its limits.

As she turned around, she looked for an ally.  Any ally.  She decided to ask the trees for help.  One group of large elms told her they would hide her in their branches.  She only needed to climb up and they would protect her.

So, she climbed and the trees hid her from the warriors.  As the men looked around, they grew increasingly frustrated.  A lone pine tree broke its own branch, hoping to make the men think Lily had gone that way to jump into the river.

The men argued about whether to jump in after her and during their argument, they ended up pushing each other into the river.  The last man swore the tree branch gave him some help, but the others did not believe him.  They went back to their chief and told him the witch must have drowned.

In return for their bravery and help, Lily told the trees she would grant them any wish she could.  The pine tree asked that it might fly like the wind, but still protect her always.  Lily granted its wish and turned the tree into a beautiful eagle, large enough for her to ride.   This would be her most faithful friend for all their days…and now they would both be able to escape any enemies.

She asked the elms what wish she could grant them, but they did not want to leave their home.  Their wish was to be able to move around and see the rest of the woods and even visit the Far Meadow.  Lily told them that the pine tree kept its needles all year round, so she could change it into a creature that moved about anytime.  But the elm loses its leaves every winter, so even in a new form it must sleep part of the year.

The elms agreed and she changed them into lovely, large creatures.  They were able to move about all summer and enjoy the forest and the meadow, but before the snow came they went into caves and slept.  And that is how bears came to live in the forest…..