Hedgewood

Alright, so Hedgewood is for sure paradise, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a seriously dramatic couple days.

I’m gonna try to break this down as succinctly as I can, but there’s a lot of ground to cover. Apologies. Bear with me, and good luck:

1. Things I Have Learned About Witchcraft

I thought I sort of knew why the witches were meeting: new covens popping up where they shouldn’t have been able to exist seems like the sort of thing they would need to discuss.

I probably should have known it was a bit more than that by the way Celeste was all freaked out for having called the summit, but see, I have ✨anxiety✨ So, when I see another person being a lil dramatic, I just sort of expect them to be slightly overreacting to stuff. Not in a rude way, like it’s not like I’m rolling my eyes at her or anything, I just sort of figure that if someone is worried about something, that’s a fair response, but they’re probably overreacting a little bit, and everything will be less scary than they think.

NOT the case here. NOT at all the case.

The covens are fully terrifying. They’re not a little terrifying. They’re fully terrifying. And they haven’t gathered together all at once in literally hundreds of years. There are NO living witches that have ever gone to a summit.

I thought that meant that it was an old tradition that people didn’t necessarily follow, you know? Or that the covens were like… sorta lax with their traditions? Not like, in an insulting way — I just imagined witchcraft to be like how lots of religious people only really actively practice their traditions a few times a year. Not that they don’t identify with their religion, or it doesn’t effect their worldview all year, like I don’t mean it disrespectfully. Just like how a lot of people are more culturally catholic than practicing? I thought witchcraft was sort of like that.

NO. INCORRECT.

I have learned a lot about witches in the last few days.

For starters, there is not a single tradition in witchcraft than anyone takes lightly. Despite the fact that there is no living witch to have ever been to a summit, they all know exactly how it’s done, because the instructions are carefully recorded in everyone’s grimoires.

(Grimoires are apparently the big ass books where covens keep all their traditions. I stole one once, if you remember that.)

We’ve been strictly barred from witnessing or participating in any way, so I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I know for a fact that there’s a lot of protocol that everyone is minutely following, because BASS IS HERE, and he’s been keeping us as updated as he’s allowed to. Which honestly isn’t that much, because for the most part this whole thing is totally secret, and to be honest, we’re all sort of surprised we’ve been allowed to stay at all. We pretty much do nothing all day while the witches meet.

There are nine known major covens in the US, and representatives from all of them are showing up.

I already know the Scelerats and the Flynns, and it turns out they’re some of the less intimidating covens. And in case you didn’t remember, the Scelerats run a hotel for monsters, and Celeste is a Flynn witch, so like the intimidation bar is NOT LOW.

I can’t even really keep them all straight. It’s not like they’re going out of their way to make themselves known to me, and also, the Hawthornes have been low-key keeping me away from them because in my experience magically inclined people tend to notice my demon eye A Little Too Much, so I don’t even have super solid information to pass forward. But I’ll do my best. Here’s a list of

The Nine Major Covens in North America, Their Big Identifiers, and How I’d Rate Them:

1. Scelerat: Fund our lifestyle, and pay our hospital bills, run a hotel for monsters, make a mean drink 10/10

2. Flynn: Not super solid on what their like… big thing is. Potentially they’re psychics? 10/10

3. Hedgewood: Plains witches, run the hospital, genuinely warmest, loveliest crowd, 100% will save your life 10/10

4. Moreau: New Orleans, lots of snake tattoos, dress like literal royalty, I audibly gasped when they came in, best vibes on earth 10/10 I wish I was their friend wow

5. Mason: Virginia, whitest women I’ve ever seen in my life, literally, why are you wearing white gloves, it isn’t 1953, specialize in mind control????? 8/10 absolutely terrifying. Would rate lower, but I’m too scared

6. Cierva: Southern California or Texas??? Desert witches for sure, cool ass bone jewelry, tattoos on scalp under their hair that like pokes out around their hairline. 10/10 so cool I want to scream

7. Tituba: Literal Salem witches, changed their surname to Tituba in honor of the first woman accused in Salem 10/10

8. Zamora: Florida, best collection of scarves I’ve ever seen, according to Bass, they’re all big singers? 10/10 I love music

9. Van Der Vos: literally walked into this place looking like they were on an editorial photo shoot for Vogue, New York City, rumored to be the most powerful of the covens, but potentially only because they’re so rich 10/10

What else have I learned about witchcraft? I mean, probably something, but I can’t think of it now, so here endeth the section.

2. How We’ve Spent Our Time Here; Or, a Prime Example of the Difference Between the Hawthorne Boys

Let me set the scene: it’s late in the morning, but we just woke up. Did I enjoy my time at Haven, waking before the sun and immediately beginning some grueling physical labor? Yeah, you know what, I sort of actually did, but you know what I like even better? Sleeping the fuck in.

So it’s late in the morning, and we’re all eating breakfast, at one of the little metal tables in the lounging garden, when Julian gets it in his head that he’s going to spend the day getting it into his head that he’s going to learn as much as he can about greenhouse’s unique, bizarre butterfly creatures.

So to that end, he spends all afternoon observing their behavior from afar, taking careful notes, snapping photos with his phone, sitting very, very still and recording the ways they all interact with each other, what they eat, which plants they seem most interested in, whether they seem to seek heat, or light, or moisture, just trying to get a handle on what makes these things tick. He’s taking minute, intricate notes in his little black moleskin that he takes out when he’s really feeling nerdy.

Meanwhile, Neal spends his morning demonstrating different ways to float in the pool and asking me which one makes him look the most dead, and then at about noon he notices that a bunch of butterflies seem to be gathering around these deep, champagne-flute-like blooms and he goes huh, I wonder what’s in those.

So he gets out of the pool, walks right over, and sniffs the bloom. He says, “ay, Shiloh, come look at this, I think it’s full of juice.” And then without even a second of pause, not even a moment of hesitation, this idiot ducks under the flower and turns it over on his face, drenching himself in mystery flower juice.

Like… listen, I know this adult human male has at least two functioning brain cells. I know he does, because he’s always using them to make sure I don’t do anything too stupid. But literally, the moment he’s not the only functioning adult it’s like huh flower juice from another planet? That seems like something I should put on my face.

Now, we were told point blank that nothing in the greenhouse would hurt us, so if he was going to dump mystery fluid on his face, this was probably one of the better places to risk it. And if I’m honest it smelled amazing, citrusy, and sweet, and just lightly floral, like orange blossoms and honeysuckle, which just doesn’t scream will kill you with acid, to me.

Within just moments of dumping the stuff on himself, the butterflies were suddenly obsessed with him. They landed on his shoulders, and in his hair, their huge, jewel-colored wings opening and closing. And with them all so calm and close, landing on his hands, we were able to see that they have strangely mammalian body features. Not entirely, obviously. But they had mouths rather than probiscuses, and their limbs have almost feline hips and joints, with tiny little hands at the end — not as dexterous as a monkey, more like a squirrel or sugar-glider.

Neal was able to hold them in his hands, and pretty soon he was testing out the rotations of their limbs, and the way their wings work. It turns out their wings can sort of relax and go super limp, and they become almost like fabric. Or, if they give them a shake, they get sort of stiff and hold a shape. Sorta like a snap bracelet hahahaha.

Neal only managed to get them off him by jumping into the pool and even then they all followed him in. Turns out, our little butterfly friends are perfectly happy in the water. They just let their wings go limp and paddle around with their weird tiny limbs, their wings billowing out behind them like colorful jellyfish.

Who’s method was better?

Difficult to say, though I would argue that Neal potentially gets disqualified because he 1. Has no method and 2. If that flower had been full of nice smelling acid instead of nectar, or if those butterfly friends had decided they wanted to eat anything that smelled like nectar, he would be using this hospital’s facilities in a very different capacity. Meanwhile, Julian has carefully detailed notes and the likelihood of him hospitalizing himself is almost zero, so despite his methods being slower, I would argue they’re potentially wiser.

But you’re not here for dumb Hawthorne shenanigans. I know you’re here for the sick ass witch content. If only I had more of it, but I’ll do my best 🤓👉🏻👉🏻

3. Wait, So, Why Are Witches Summiting Exactly?

Great question. Pretty much just thought it was about the whole, you know, new covens popping up. And yeah, according to Celeste, that’s been part of it. But you don’t gather to discuss new covens popping up for literally days, do you?

Well, maybe you do. Witchcraft is super into tradition. Celeste put it really beautifully the other night, trying to explain to me how witchcraft works and where it comes from.

“Witchcraft — or the magic that we refer to as witchcraft — is deeply connected to intention, tradition, and the land,” she explained. “We inherit our witchcraft. It is something that generations before us spend their lives tending in order to pass on to us. Magic is how our way of life, our cultural identity, manifests itself.”

Okay, so then… anyone who repeats a way of life for a long time gets magic, right?

“Well, not quite,” Celeste said. “We don’t entirely understand this, but you also need set some kind of intention. Witches are essentially farmers for a crop that takes multiple lifetimes to grow. And intention is like, the seed. You can repeat the same farming behaviors over and over for a thousand years, but if you haven’t planted anything nothing will grow.”

Which is all very well. Except the women at Haven weren’t setting the intention to gain magic, and yet…

“Yeah, we don’t know,” Celeste admitted when I voiced this confusion. “It almost never happens. As far back as we can remember — and witches have long memories — new covens are always born out of witches leaving their old covens to start new ones. So they use magic from old coven land where they were born, but at the same time, they begin a relationship with new land, planting new seeds and creating new traditions for future generations.”

Or at least that’s what I got out of the conversation. It’s a lot to take in.

So why is this happening now?

Celeste clammed up at that point in the conversation. Wouldn’t tell us another word.

Luckily my boy Bass was there to fill in the gaps. Illegally. Love you, Bass. (Bass if you’re reading this, which honestly if anyone has the skill to find this blog disaster, it’s for sure you: Hey. Please don’t read too deep into that time the Hawthornes suggested you have a thing for me, I know you don’t bro, we’re good.)

Bass came and found me for lunch in the lounging garden on the second day. Bass is the easiest person in the world to hang out with. Remember how awkward it was trying to convince Rook to like… acknowledge me in any way? Yeah, well Bass saw I was here, gave me a huge hug, said, “Hey I’ll find you later and we’ll have lunch, you have to tell me all about the sludge, your medical bills were insane.”

And bam, friendship. WAS THAT SO HARD?? (I haven’t heard from Rook in weeks, btw. Am I surprised? No. Have I tried texting him first? No, obviously not. Am I devastated beyond belief? Yes. YES. Do I occasionally stay up wondering what about me is so fundamentally unloveable? Absolutely. Would I be doing that with or without Rook? Yeah, probably, fuck off.)

ANYWAY. Bass came and found me in the lounging garden for lunch, just like he said he would. And I did tell him a little bit about our adventures. He super loved the Fog story, and was stoked to hear I was friends with Rook, because according to Bass, he’s a “super great guy. Great listener. Just like, gold through and through, you know?”

I’m not sure there’s anyone Bass would say wasn’t gold through and through, but that’s beside the point.

So anyways, I’m gearing up to tell the story of the Goatman, when the Hawthornes joined us.

They had their whole reunion scene, big hugs and thumps on the back etc. etc. And then Julian got to work:

“So you’re here for the Summit! Congratulations!”

Bass beamed. “Yeah, thanks,” he said. “My mom’s both proud and sorta pissed that I’m here instead of her. But Grandma wanted me to come cuz I’ve gotten so good at coding lately, so…”

And then on like that with some pleasantries, before Julian pointed him towards his topic of choice.

“So how are the meetings going? Reaching any conclusions?”

“Well,” began Bass, the open-est book in the world. “I thought they were just gonna talk about how everyone’s getting super powerful.”

Which was news to us. We thought the summit was about the new covens, not witches getting super-charged abilities.

“It’s been wild,” Bass went on. “I mean, you guys get it, you’ve had case after case all year. But for us it’s like — I mean, I used to be able to pretty much able to use computers a little bit better than most people, and now look.” He waved his hand and his fork floated into the air. “Even just a year ago, I couldn’t have done any actual levitation. It’s crazy out here. And I mean, that’s not even the half of it.”

He leaned closer for maximized drama.

“Did you know Lily and Masma are here from Palefish are here? Never in all of recorded history has a summit allowed a sorceress to join a summit, but here they are. Apparently it was decided they had a lot to offer the covens in regards to chosen one spells, since so many are being fulfilled apparently.”

Neal choked on his drink at that point.

“That’s uh,” he managed, “something they’re discussing, is it?”

“Yeah,” Bass said, oblivious. “Apparently Palefish found the Dog Saints. Or maybe just some of them, I don’t know. We’ll see. That would be insane though. I love Dog Saint stories.”

This time it was Julian’s turn to double-take. “Dog Saint stories?”

“Oh yeah,” Bass said. “Are you kidding? Those were my favorite stories as a kid. Adventures of the Dog Saints during the last pariapsis? Iconic.”

When none of us made any indication of having any idea what he was talking about he hesitated. “Oh, is that a witch thing?” He made a face. “Sorry, I never know what just witch kids grow up knowing and what’s common knowledge. Like I was sure that King Arthur was a witch thing, but apparently that has like a bunch of movies or something. Oops.”

But listen, I had no idea what he was talking about on a lot of levels, okay. Like what the fuck is pariapsis? According to Julian pariapsis is when an orbiting mass reaches the closest point in its orbit to the center mass of its solar system.

But when we asked what we asked Bass what he meant by pariapsis he got sorta awkward.

“You know, like… when things start getting super magical and crazy?” When it was obvious that we had no idea what he meant, he said, “shit, is that a witch thing, too?” He made a face. “You should ask my grandma, I don’t really understand it.”

And that was the end of that conversation.

Or at least, that was the end of that conversation at lunch. Later, when Bass had gone back down to join the summit, Julian said, “You should probably tell Celeste.”

“Yeah,” Neal agreed. “Fuck me.”

To which I said, “Tell Celeste what?”

And Neal said, “That the reason I can always tell she’s lying is because I have a damn Dog Saint power.”

Which, not to be too cheesy 90s movie about it, but *record scratch*

“I thought that’s why you guys broke up?” I said, and Neal glowered at Julian who suddenly became very interested in the dirt under his fingernails.

“It is,” he admitted, and then sighed. “I may have just told her I was psychic.”

HA. Let that sink in. This idiot, this dude who it is literally IMPOSSIBLE TO LIE TO, got caught in a lie that was ending his relationship, and his solution was… to just lie more.

No wonder Celeste dumped his ass.

Why?”

Neal made his wordless, wrinkly-nose, whine noise. “I didn’t want to.”

Which at the time I took at face value and just figured he was an idiot coward with no spine.

But now that I’m thinking about it damn. I knew the Dog Saints were like… a thing or whatever. But I didn’t know they were like, stories witches tell their children levels of a thing. If Dog Saints are the witch children equivalent to King Arthur, I might not cop to being one of them either. Fuck that.

Also, it’s not like I’m super excited to tell the whole world the miraculous story of the time I was resurrected, which is impossible and has never happened before. So. Maybe this is a glass houses, throwing stones situation. Either way,

4. Neal Did Not Explain to Celeste Fast Enough, She Found Out In the Summit and There Was A Fight

It was ugly hahahahaha.

She came down to the garden that evening while the summit was recessing for dinner, and all three of us knew immediately by the look on her face — wild, with a side of weepy — that she knew.

“Psychic?” she demanded.

Neal got to his feet to intercept her, or maybe guide her towards somewhere a little more private. “Celeste —” he began.

“Don’t,” she interrupted. “Don’t try to explain.”

The butterfly creatures started to get agitated. I could tell because they all started flapping their wings extra hard.

“You don’t even owe me the truth,” she said. “I know that, I get it. But to hear you’re that from Lana’s little sorceresses, of all people… jesus Neal, do you know how humiliating —”

Neal laughed humorlessly, and that was when Julian and I realized it was time to find any other part of Hedgewood hospital to occupy.

“Wow, I am so sorry I embarrassed you in front of your friends Celeste, that must have been really horrible for you,” he said and ooof, it was so cold. “Now, is there something else you want from me? Because for fucks sake, if there is, I’d be thrilled if you would tell me what it is because so far —”

And that’s where Celeste finally cracked, and shrieked, “Is there something else I want from you???”

And at that point Julian and I were literally RUNNING up the stairs, but they were really shouting at each other hahahahaha even if I’d wanted not to hear what they were saying, I wouldn’t have been able to help it.

You let me think you were a common, low grade psychic using your sight to manipulate me!” Celeste cried, and I’m putting it in italics because she wasn’t like BELLOWING at him, but also a common exclamation point does not adequately portray the ✨agony✨ “I gave you every opportunity to defend yourself!” Her voice cracked and the tears started, it was so awful. “I wanted there to be a reason you didn’t tell me, you IDIOT, and there was!”

It was horrible, and by horrible I do mean that I absolutely live for the drama. But the real important part of the story is what she said next:

“Do you have any concept of what’s coming for you next?”

Julian froze on the stairs ahead of me so suddenly I ran into him.

“We are on the brink of pariapsis,” Celeste said. “Magic is returning. Rifts are opening. The world is hurling towards unknown chaos, and you —” she pushed his chest gently for emphasis, “—and your idiot brother—”

“Hey,” Julian said, indignantly and I had bite my lips to keep from laughing.

“— are right at the center of it!”

Julian started bristling, and at this point I know him well enough to know that he can’t resist the opportunity to tell someone that just because they have some stupid abilities, doesn’t mean they’re like automatically involved or whatever, so I have him a firm shove in the back to make him keep going up the stairs. And that was the end of that conversation for us. We spent the rest of the evening helping Sylvia Hedgewood tend to the few actual patients they have.

Which was what I was doing when,

5. Sylvia Hedgewood Said the Strangest Thing

So, you need just a little bit of context to understand this story, and it’s gonna feel like a hard turn.

There are four wings at Hedgewood Hospital: the greenhouse, the laboratory, the surgery, and rehabilitation.

The greenhouse is the best, obviously, because it’s full of cool ass plants and these weird butterfly creatures, who are apparently pollinators. We’re not allowed in the laboratory, the surgery is down inside the hill, and as far as I know no one is allowed in there, because it’s where the Hedgewood witches do most of their actual medical work.

BUT I have gotten to see some of rehabilitation. Rehab is where most of the other witches are staying in rehabilitation, and listen we still have the better deal, but rehab is amazing. It’s a bright open hallway full of windows that open out onto beautiful views of Hedgewood land. It’s full of natural light and breezy white linen.

So that’s where I retreated to when there were too many feelings flying around in the greenhouse.

As much fun as I’ve had at Hedgewood Hospital, it probably should be acknowledged that it is very much a hospital. And not just any hospital.

“Officially we’re a hospice center,” Sylvia explained, as she filed paperwork in the office. “Mostly for kids who have been in and out of hospitals for most of their lives, kids who have reached the end of what modern medicine can offer them.” She shut the file cabinet and turned to look at me. “Usually we’re here to assist as they pass through this to that, but sometimes — more often lately — we work miracles.” She narrowed her eyes, studying my face — my demon eye — thoughtfully. I was expecting some comment, or maybe a question. Instead she said, “the patients I work with, they mostly have a very frank relationship with death. Most of them have known to some degree that death was on their horizon. We of course can offer some insight into the process, if a patient is struggling to adjust.”

She was narrowing in on her point, I could tell because she fixed me with a look. “It is the unknown, I think, that frightens them. Which is a shame, because we don’t know any better than they do, what’s on the other side. No one does.”

My stomach twisted.

I mean it’s not that I know what happens or anything, hahahahahaha. I don’t know shit. I certainly don’t know what normal people get. How many people die right next to a unicorn? But still, she was looking at me a little too closely. Does she know? Doesn’t seem like she would. But she was sure watching me like she knew something.

“If ever you thought you’d like to be a healer,” Sylvia said. “You’d be welcome to learn here.”

I’m so awkward. Like, obviously I was flattered and everything. I said something like, “cool, thanks,” and then got back to helping her file.

I didn’t think much of it until later that night.

Julian and I didn’t dare go back down to the greenhouse until it was nice and dark out. Celeste was gone. Neal was floating on his back in one of the pools.

“Everything okay?” Julian asked. Neal gave him a thumbs up and otherwise didn’t move at all.

It was really quiet and awkward after that, so in an effort to make the silence stop, I said. “…So Sylvia offered to teach me to heal today.”

I was expecting this to be a mildly interesting anecdote. Alas.

Julian looked at me like I’d sprouted a third eye. “She what?”

“I mean, I’m sure she was just being nice,” I said, blind-sided by his surprise.

Julian laughed, disbelievingly. “No,” he said. “Witches are never just being nice.”

“I mean it was pretty casual, it wasn’t like —”

“A witch offered to teach you her craft?” Neal said. He’d even sat up in the water to frown at me. “That is never, never casual.”

I wasn’t really sure what to say to that, I just sat there dumbly.

“Do you want to take her up on it?” Julian asked, and that’s when I started getting really frantic.

“It wasn’t like… an invitation for right this second,” I said. “She just said if I ever wanted to learn she’d teach me.”

“And do you —”

“No,” I said before he could finish. “It was just a funny thing that she said, it wasn’t that serious, jesus.”

Neal let out a low whistle. “We have got to get out of this place.”

And this place is paradise, but he’s not wrong.

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