Chapter 5

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

Seven leagues away from Dilara’s camp, the witchdoctor sat in his gnarled old rocking chair, the wood twisted grotesquely as was the old man’s face. Contorted in a permanent grimace, his mouth twisted up, lips pouting forth as if ready to spout more endless delirious knowledge the doctor was known for in the village of Otakun.

“A storm is brewing, Freso.”

“Is it a bad one?” The young apprentice sat hunched by the fire in the middle of the hut, warming his ice-cold hands against the licking orange flames.

“The worst.” The elder pushed himself out of his chair and hobbled towards the cauldron, which boiled hot water over the fire. “It is the worst in generations, my boy. Decades ago, our chief of-”

“I know the story, wise one,” the youngster interrupted.

“Ah, Freso.” The old witchdoctor did not seem phased by the young apprentice’s interruption. “Everyone knows the story. But not everyone understands…”

“What do you mean?” Freso took his hands away from the fire and helped his teacher place the cauldron onto a thick wooden board on the ground.

The elder did not reply for he was too staring intently into the depths of the gurgling water. Freso worried about what he saw there. He also worried about whether he would ever be able to see things like that. His teacher had sight. Freso was still a boy. Were such people born with sight or did they learn it?

Once the water had subsided into little ripples and then finally stilled, the witchdoctor painfully leaned away from the cauldron and shuffled back to his rocking chair. Freso moved to assist when his teacher suddenly stopped by the wooden wall of the hut and stood there as if staring into nothingness. Just as Freso was about to speak, the witchdoctor slowly moved his hand towards a crevasse in the wall and from there pulled out a tiny grey fabric parcel – an ancient fabric, surely more than a century old.

“How old are you, Freso?” the witchdoctor inquired in his gravely voice, the lips spouting saliva as he formed the word Freso, as if taking extra care to emphasise who he was talking to. There was no need. His usually hazy, almost blind eyes stared as clear as the moon lighting a night trail, scorching Freso’s own eyes with their intensity, so that the boy took a step back.

“I am eight and ten, wise one. Almost. I turn this age tomorrow eve.” Freso looked down respectfully.

“Eight and ten. You are almost a man grown, Freso.” The witchdoctor lifted his free veiny hand and patted Freso heavily on the shoulder, then slid painfully onto his rocking chair. “Almost.”

“Wise one-”

“You have interrupted me before and now it is my turn.” A glimmer of a smile – a sad one – featured on the old man’s crooked mouth. “There is much to learn. Sit down before me now. And listen.”

With that the witchdoctor began unravelling the little faded parcel.


Excellent! Now we get into the story from two POV and the tale begins to take on a three dimensional look. There is meat on the bones for us to chew. Anna has also cleverly avoided telling the old story twice by inviting the reader to turn the pages back if they forgot the plot. This is really good writing that has me waiting for the next episode. I can't wait.
I agree Ray. Anna has given the story subplot and layers. The characterisation is also excellent. This line reminded me of Gollum, "the lips spouting saliva as he formed the word Freso, as if taking extra care to emphasise who he was talking to" And leaves it open for the next writer by leaving us keen to find out what is in the parcel.