It was early in the evening and Phoebe was waiting at a fork in the road for the stars to come out and guide her way. She often relied on the stars to guide her way, less like a sailor and more like an astronomer. She looked up at them and read stories and parables in them, and took the meanings she saw seriously.
So for now Phoebe waits for the stars to tell her where to go. She wears a dark cloak the color of moss growing on rock in the forest that she has flipped over one shoulder so she can enjoy the cool night air. Her pants, some sort of homespun cloth that look like it would be itchy, a simple light brown. Her top is a stark contrast, turquoise blue silk that would look out of place on a female pirate, or sultans wife. And barefoot, oblivious of any rocks or sticks she might step on, but enjoying the grass between her toes.
Her outfit isn't the only thing that makes her look a bit odd, but the stick at her waist that she wears like a sword makes it look like she is playing at being a swashbuckler with his cloak tossed back ready to fight. Also on her belt hangs several small glass bottles filled with various colored liquids. A key, bell, whistle, and a small geode also hang from her belt. And who knows what is in her backpack.
Phoebe hadn't always been so strange. For a few days after she was born she was pretty normal. Then when she was taken and carried off under a hill to live with a faerie clans ruling family. And there in the Fae she was strange due to being normal, and grew up trying to learn to be strange. And even though she has long since moved on and lives with mortals once again she never really gave up the practice of being strange. Saw no point.
So waiting for darkness to come Phoebe hums to her audience, the stones and trees, wind and water, earth and sky. And while the tune is simple she hopes it pleases them, and before she knows it the stars have filled the sky, and so she quieted herself and read them as she was taught with the strange stars of the Faeire realm she grew up in. And despite these stars being completely different she sees the paths before her and made her choice and turned right.
And as she steps to head down her path she stops, staring at the empty path before her. She freezes in fear because for a split second she had seen a dark familiar figure in front of her. A figure that only Phoebe had ever seen and she could never describe it quite right. She remembered telling one of her sword trainers after he asked of her deepest fear.
”He wears a dark cloak that covers hides his body and always seems to be billowing smoke out of it. The smoke is black as ink and moves all around him hiding his features.”
”He? So it was a man.”
”No, maybe? I think of him as a man, but you wouldn't be able to tell it by looking at Him. I think he has two legs, and only one head. Beyond that it is hard to say.”
”Does he talk or attack you?”
”No... well I use to talk to him. I had conversations with him. But I was a bit loopy back then, not really wired right.”
”You should have seen me.” Skinny and unafraid. Wearing clothes she found in peoples yards or trash, lived in a junkyard. This was she had escaped and ran from the Hill. A was a little wild child who saw magic in all the world. She was Maya then. But that is another story. ”And he doesn't move.”
”What do you mean?”
He doesn't attack me, he doesn't move at all, not an inch. Still as a statue, the only thing that moves is that black damned smoke.”
Even back then it had been years since she had seen the figure anywhere besides her dull dreams. And years have passed since then. But for that fraction of a second that figure was in front of her blocking her path. She wanted to turn and run down the other way to avoid him. But she knew the stars had said her path could be dangerous, but is the path filled with adventure and excitement. A path to deeper understanding of herself and the world around her. Her chosen path, chosen by her, and she would not turn away because of fear. Not fear of him.
So she continued down her path, despite the feeling in Phoebe's gut of this path being dangerous it seemed innocent enough. She traveled first with a pair of bickering squirrels who followed her trying to get her to give them treats for free, but she demeaned favors owed from both of them. Then with a cloud of bats, who remained silent to her ears but seemed to flock around her expectantly. She followed them blindly as it quickly became to dark to see as clouds moved in to cover the stars and moon. But listening to their wings flapping she followed them as they swooped around her making sure she didn't run into any trees.
And then she saw a destination in the darkness, a fire in the distance. So Phoebe made her way that way leaving the bats behind in the darkness silently waiting for her.
The woman whose fire Phoebe had found has a small covered wagon and seems to be cooking something in a large cauldron on her fire. She is dressed in a dark ragged cloak, wearing a large black pointed hat that flops over to one side, with a wide brim. And if you look closely on her nose you might spot a wart or two, though they are fake if you look even closer.
”Ah hello there, you startled me. Come sit down my dear, what is your name.”
”Why should I tell you that when you are so clearly a witch.”
”Just because I am a witch is no reason to be rude. As a matter of fact quite the opposite.”
Phoebe tends to take her time when talking, often pausing for an awkwardly long time before responding as she thinks things over. This is one of those times. Maybe the witch was right, this could be one of those helpful old witches right, and even if she wasn't it would be better to be polite but wary.
”I am called Phoebe, and I thank you for your freely offered gift of a place at your fire.”
The witch just laughs at this and gives a small bow while trying to stop from chuckling.
”Girlie I am not going to swindle a thing like you this late at night this far from anywhere. Sit with me if you choose, I mean you no harm, maybe I could even help you.”
”Help me with what?”
”That fear you are carrying around with you. Any plain fool can see it.”
The witch means how twitchy and nervous she appears since seeing the figure earlier in the night. But Phoebe takes it to mean that she sees the figure and quickly looks around for him. Drawing a chuckle from the witch.
”There is a medicine I have for fear, it could help you.”
You think I would trust your medicine?”
”Oh it can be dangerous I suppose. Because to defeat your fear you must face it. Do you think you are strong enough to face your fear?”
Again Phoebe pauses sorting the thoughts in her mind. But this is her Destiny right? To face this is the path she choose. She couldn't turn away now. Besides she didn't fear this witch all that much, she had power herself.
”Give me the medicine.”