Time passed slowly for the witch. It always seemed that way when every day in the woods, alone in her modest but ornate tree cottage, she spent her time idly, doing whatever she pleased in the comfort of her solitude— day after day. First the morning came with the gradual rising of the sun, light filtering through the leaves above her home. She did not like the sun very much. No— correction. She did not like the sun at all. She considered herself nocturnal, if anything, preferring to rise with the owls as the sun sank underneath the horizon, but her sleeping schedule was far too erratic for that to be the proper term. In fact, she usually slept very little— usually opting to read, write, experiment, or otherwise fiddle around. Outside of her short, infrequent naps of course. Even so, despite the rumors passed amongst the city folk (usually about how she eats naughty kids or something like that,) mornings were usually the time visitors travelled to her home in the woods, seeking out her services— whether it be commissioning some sort of concoction (aphrodisiacs— poisons— she preferred the illegal sorts,) asking for a fortune, or whatever else she was apparently well-known for. The afternoons, she preferred to nap in the branches of her tree, with her fox companion (usually) not far from her. She loved the quiet of the forest, the gentle wind, the smell of grass wafting along with it, and the hum of life which was a lullaby to her ears. Meanwhile her evenings were spent collecting various materials for her own more or less nefarious purposes, taking her to the far reaches of the forest for fae wings, dog teeth, amanita extract— whatever she found. And she would take these, place them in jars, bottles, parcels, and hang them from the branches of her tree.
This was probably one of the reasons she found a good number of her ingredients missing. Usually her bones. Such thefts could be almost always attributed to a certain swamp-dwelling priest who Malistra had the displeasure of knowing. She'd been watching over the young man for quite a long time, and yet, even so... he was always a bit of a mystery to her. Not that she tried to unravel him. Mal preferred to keep out of others' business. But she remembered, years— no, centuries ago— when the priest was first abandoned in the marshes in his infancy. She never really intervened directly, but she did her part to make sure the serpents did not get to him, or any of the other less-than-friendly inhabitants of the wetlands.
Nevertheless, she seemed to have unintentionally endeared herself to the swamp prince Chiwen. And that meant she would always be in short supply of bones.
Recently, however, she felt a strangeness in the air that she couldn't quite put her finger on. News from the cities came by rarely to her, and she usually cared very little about the insignificant lives of those filthy, short-lived humans, but sometimes tidbits of information piqued her interest. She had a keen sense of fate, and regardless of whether or not she gave a shit, she could feel the threads tighten and slacken beyond her control— and she noticed a few snapped unexpectedly not long ago.
But more important where the threads that were now inseparably tangled.
She had no idea how long ago it was when Chiwen last sent her a message. Something about taking care of the swamp, leaving on some kind of journey— something like that. She found this to be incredibly odd for the priest, who spent the vast majority of his life in near constant solitude, with only herself (sort of) and the marsh life as his constant companions. Not that it was any of her business, of course. But she figured it couldn’t possibly hurt to have her familiar check on him— just to make sure Chiwen wasn’t dead, or dying, or trapped in the stocks, or otherwise being a severe inconvenience. And now, to receive news of his return— and with a strange man in tow, no doubt— well. Mal felt a distinct sense of… something. Something she didn’t understand. It was a feeling somewhere between annoyance and concern, except it made her want to throw a couple rocks at Chiwen’s head for being such a dunce and bringing strange people into their sacred land— and also, she had to wonder exactly how and why her fox came back to her in such poor condition. It was annoying. Nate was hardy, but he wasn’t immortal, and frankly, only she had permission to do those sorts of things to him.
So Mal promptly sent a message over to the priest and his… human. Summoning them to her immediately. When she heard the knock on her door, she opened it just a little, to examine the unfamiliar male from the comfort of her shadows.
“Chiwen,” she started, opening the door just a crack more. “He smells strange.”