When Lorna untied the knot, she found herself — somewhere familiar. The trees were gray, the leaves were dark, and she could smell the dampness in the air. Beneath her feet, the leaves were wet. She glanced around. There were thorns. A crow screamed nearby. Somewhere — behind her, to the left — there was a brook. The brook led back to the village, if you went upstream.
Lorna walked forward. She untied the knot fully, and then she plucked a different string from her pocket, her fingers working quickly. She had to hardly look at what she was doing. She could feel the strings vibrate. Someone was near–
She barely stepped out of the way in time. A figure fell. Lorna stopped and turned. The figure scrambled in the leaves, regaining her feet. A dull brown dress, a grey apron, dark brown hair, cut short, and finally the girl turned to look Lorna in the eyes.
Lorna looked back at herself. Her eyes were wide, frantic, terrified. There was a cut on her cheek and on her neck. Her nose was rubbed raw with dirt and more dirt, or perhaps blood.
“Quickly,” said this Lorna, “Which way to the village?”
“A doppelganger,” Lorna guessed.
“Tell me, stranger, please, which way to the village? The witch has been gone for three days, I only just escaped — father said mother could hide me, that she would, she could, where is the village?”
“A specter,” said Lorna. “A mirror specter, or an uncreative one.”
Lorna grabbed her shoulders. “Please, miss, please tell me, I have to find my way home — the witch could be back any minute–”
“You’re the witch’s girl,” said Lorna. “The one everyone keeps talking about. I saw you, you were throwing leaves in the king’s palace.”
“It was me, miss, please, tell me where the village is.”
“You have been Lorna the whole time,” said Lorna.
“Please, please, miss, please, where is the village?” Lorna fell to the ground. There were tears in her eyes, they looked so much like her mother’s, like Lorna’s. “My father only just cut the scarf, and I’m free, and the witch will be here soon, I’m sure of it, please, tell me where the village is!”
Lorna froze. She looked around. She scuttled off, struggling on four limbs. She found a tree, and hid behind it.
Lorna could sense it too. She looked around, clutching her knot. She wrapped the two ends around her two index fingers. She wrote runes in her head, thinking of the power. The air smelled of swamp and rot. The witch was coming.
She turned, and there she was, the witch.
“Where is my sister?” asked Lorna.
“You have no sister,” said the witch.
“I do have a sister,” said Lorna, “She is my only family, and you will return her to me.” She twisted the knots in her fingers.
But the knots struggled against her fingers. One knot poked a different direction than she meant. Lorna felt the mud beneath her feet. The witch was trying to throw her off her balance, take away her movement. “You never had a sister,” said the witch, “You even called her Cousin growing up.”
Lorna started a new knot, feeling the roots beneath the mud move. If the earth was free, then so were the trees.
“She is like a sister now.”
“She is not even a girl.”
“She is my only family now.” Now, with Jonpast’s daughter huddled behind a tree, Lately would be Lorna’s only family indeed.
“I am your mother,” said the witch.
“You are not my mother.” Lorna frowned.
“I am your mother,” said the witch, “I carved you from the rotten earth of this forest and nestled you in the arms of a dumb animal of the village.”
“Then the earth of this forest hates you,” said Lorna.
The roots snapped out of the earth, throwing mud every which way. But the witch threw out her arms, and great rocks knocked the roots out of the way, leaving her unharmed but covered in mud.
“Are you surprised then?” said the witch.
“I have met Jonpast’s daughter,” said Lorna. “She is no peer of mine, dumb and scuttling on the earth, throwing leaves every which way. You cannot touch the soil of humanity.”
“You threw leaves into the halls of great kings because you cannot touch their ground.”
Her right foot sank into the mud, but Lorna’s magic undid her shoelace, and she touched the mud with her own stocking foot, feeling the ground between her toes. The witch’s lip curled in fury. A vine snapped behind Lorna, but she plucked a snot. The roots caught the vine and pulled down the tree. The witch sailed into the air. She lifted up her hands, and water poured into the earth.
Lorna screamed, and fire burst forth. The water evaporated into steam.
“You tricked the hunter into switching his child, and then you were trapped by your own servants for fourteen years!”
“I own my slaves,” hissed the witch. She flew behind Lorna.
Listen, I haven’t written the parts before this so I’m just gonna stop it here, okay</i<