Okay so I’m nice and tired because we’ve been driving all night. Celeste is with us. She’s spent the trip either on the phone explaining herself to various coven members, or gazing out the window, pointedly not speaking to Neal.
We’re in farm land now. Big rolling fields. Sprawling deciduous trees with tire swings. Rows of poplars that hiss when the wind blows. Lots of horses and cows.
Apparently we’re going to a place called Hedgewood Hospital, which is coven land. Just in case it wasn’t obvious, a summit is when all the covens meet up to discuss an issue that affects all of them, and it makes sense that if new, oblivious covens are gonna start popping up all over the place, that’s something the existing covens should discuss.
When I asked, “How many covens are there?” Celeste only responded with, “one more than there should be.” Which was not what I was looking for.
Julian added, “witches tend to play that information close to the chest, but to the best of our knowledge there are 9 covens founded by colonizers, immigrants, and descendants of slaves in North America. Native and indigenous peoples use of magic is their own, and we don’t know the details of how it works.”
America is a truly disgusting place, but that’s a discussion for a smarter blogger than me to tackle.
We’re almost there apparently, I’ll check back in when we’re closer.
Oh my god, I can’t even — I thought my little woods house was paradise?
We turned off the highway and drove on a long dirt road for a long time before finally reaching a stone wall, and a gate.
Celeste got out of the car and opened the gate.
“Brace yourself,” Neal said, and we drove onto coven land.
“For what?” I asked, and then was immediately hit with a rush of — I’m not sure how to describe it, because it was unsettling and unexpected, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Like it felt good and peaceful, but also, I didn’t sign up for that, so it also felt a little bit like having a contact high.
Before us spread… I mean it was a farm, I guess. But you know how Marie Antionette had a little farm to go play farmer on when she was bored of living in literal Versailles? This is what I imagine her farm looked like. Open fields, distant orchards, river sparkling. Like the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, but without the big ass house, you know?
I was just on an actual, functioning farm, and it was idyllic okay, it was beautiful, but like — there was definitely mud on it. You know like we definitely shoveled shit haha. This place, even now, in the beginning of November, was warm and golden as honey comb.
“What is this place?” I asked.
Celeste sighed deeply. “Welcome to Hedgewood,” she said. “Hedgewood witches are healers.”
She said this with a certain distaste.
I knew the main building when I saw it. It was a pretty, stone building on the top of a hill, with a corn husk wreath on the round, red door and a thriving herb garden lining the wide, cobblestone path. It was surprisingly humble — it appeared to be only one story. The roof was thatch of all things. It was a proper little witches hut. Or at least, that’s what it looked like from the outside.
There weren’t any other cars around, so we just parked off to the side and got out. It was a chilly day, so I stole one of Julian’s sweaters.
Celeste didn’t knock, she just opened the door and went inside. “Hello?” she called.
Inside, the room was a wide open space with stone floors, and stone seating built right into the walls. The whole place was crowded with plants, and at the center of the room was a pool of clear, steaming water. Lillies floated on it, despite the season. It felt as if I’d ducked into a warm, cozy, cave, dotted everywhere with cushions and rugs. It smelled earthy and warm.
“Hello?” Celeste called.
“Is that Celeste?” The woman was tall and willowy, with a deep voice, probably in her early sixties, wearing billowy white linen. She arrived through a door on the far end of the room, a door which filled the room with light when she opened it. She opened her arms wide. “At last, the witch who finally called us together!”
Celeste crossed her arms and sulked. “Yeah, well,” she mumbled. “I didn’t have much of a choice.”
“Of course you didn’t,” the woman said. “Welcome. We’re all so glad you’re here. Come, let us show you where you’ll be staying. We’ve opened all the wings in the hospital. It’s a very exciting time!”
We all followed the woman, who’s name turned out to be Tilda, out of the cave room and through a door and into an enormous, wide open glass room.
It was built into the side of the hill, so when we opened the door we were standing at the top of a metal spiral staircase, overlooking an absolute jungle of potted plants.
“We hope you don’t mind staying in the greenhouse,” she said. “I thought, being from Seattle, our Flynn witches might appreciate a little extra vitamin D.”
It was warm, just a little bit muggy, and, to my delight, full of what I’m gonna call butterflies, though I can tell you right now, they’re not really butterflies. I mean yeah, they’ve got beautiful colorful wings that are roughly butterfly shaped, they’re about the size of my hand, and they definitely seem to flit around like a butterfly would. But they also give off little flashes of light, and I haven’t gotten a close look at one yet, so I can’t be certain, but their bodies just don’t seem all that… insect-y to me. I dunno, I’ll give you more info as I get it, but I’ve been too distracted by everything else in the greenhouse to look too close.
For example, the vine growing on the handrail of the spiral staircase turned all it’s blooms to face us when we came in, and I swear to god at the center of those flowers were eyes.
“We do ask that you do your best not to interfere with or injure any of our plants here,” she said. “Many of them come from worlds not our own, and are very rare and sensitive. Everything in this main room is harmless, but not necessarily edible, so I recommend not grabbing any snacks. I do however recommend bathing in any of the pools, the water is pumped up from the hot springs, and the plants in them have many healing properties. Celeste I’m sure you’ll be too busy to enjoy this much, but the rest of you are welcome to help yourselves.”
There were so many plants in the room, spilling over their pots, crowding along trellises, and draping down from the ceiling that I honestly didn’t even spot the wide swimming pools set into the floor until she mentioned them. They pools were filled with plants, some floating on the surface, others growing up from the bottom, but there were indeed what appeared to be stairs and ladders for human access.
Tilda led us to the wall of the greenhouse that was set against the hill, and opened a door, beyond which was a hallway.
“These rooms aren’t the best lit,” she admitted. “But they’re quite cozy, and I would encourage you to spend as much of your time in the greenhouse as you can. Just be certain you stick to this main central greenhouse, as I can’t guarantee your safety in the rooms beyond this one.” She smiled beatifically. “I can’t tell you how happy we are to finally have you all here. We’ve heard so much about the Hawthorne brothers. And you…” she considered me. “You’ve caused quite a stir haven’t you?”
I don’t know what that means, and I’m not sure I want to.
“I’ll leave you to get settled. Celeste, let me show you where the rest of your coven are settled down, and then if you will join us upstairs? I’ll send a girl to fetch you. And the rest of you, don’t forget to take a jar into your rooms for light. We don’t allow guests to light candles near the plants.”
And with that it was just the three of us.
Our rooms were literally caves, cut into the side of the hill. Skylights made from foggy glass let in some light, but for the most part, the rooms were dim, cozy little burrows with no evident electric light. I wasn’t sure what Tilda meant by take a jar at first, but on a rough bookshelf in the hall between our three bedrooms, there were a stack of old jam jars, carefully screwed shut.
The sign just said, open for light. I don’t know what I expected hahaha.
Neal obviously opened it right there in the hall and out of the jar poured dozens of — I mean, I’m not even really sure how to explain it, except to say they were dusty, floating, little sparkles. They shimmered around us, gently illuminating the hall with golden light.
“Magic,” Neal sighed, shaking his head, but his face was all lit up with wonder, so he can act as immune as he wants, I know better.
I’m writing this from the portion of the greenhouse called the “lounging garden,” which is essentially just a corner dedicated to the greenest, downiest mosses you can imagine, arranged around a steaming pool. Neal is in the water. Julian is trying to get a good look at the butterflies, obviously.
I know there’s a witch summit going on somewhere in this place, but listen, I could spend fifty years exploring this one room of greenhouse and not get bored, so I’m gonna let future Shiloh worry about that.