Something loomed before her in the mist. Slowing she approached the first one to the side. Only when she was right next to it could she see what it was, a massive fir-tree, its trunk larger round then she could wrap her arms around. The path narrowed yet continued on through the trunks, a forest of fir trees. Continuing on the mist began to slowly thin until she stood in a large clearing of both mist and trees. The sun struck her eyes hard enough to make them water. It was the first time a true sun had shone on her in the mists. It blazed over the house as if trying to melt the mist away by will alone.
A strange house stood in the center of the clearing. The house was four-sided with a peaked roof like the ones at home but there the resemblance ended. It stood, held off the ground by four large trees, one at each corner of the house. Under it, a creek ran merrily over rocks and moss. On the ornate peak of the house that was facing her, three crows sat watching her. A red crow the color of blood sat at the top of the gable with a white and black crow sitting below it on either side of the roof.
A rope ladder hung from the porch giving a way into the house. The girl paused at the edge of the creek, quickly washing her face and arms and trying to tidy her hair before moving to climb the ladder. The front porch was flanked by skulls which sat atop posts; their grinning smiles greeted her as she pulled herself onto the porch.
“Sorry,” she told the skull whose post she had used to pull herself up over the edge. “I did not know that was your post. I will not use it again without asking.” She felt silly talking to a skull but nothing was as it used to be, it might be like in the fairy stories her Grandmother told, anyway it never hurt to be polite.
Gathering her courage and straightening her clothes, she knocked on the heavy wooden door. After a moment it swung open. Before her stood Jedza in all her glory, she looked like every witch the child had ever imagined bundled together and made real. She was tall, with a long hooked nose and beady black eyes. A mane of grey hair fell down her shoulders and back, woven with random braids. Each braid had small objects braided in, rings, links of chain, bird skulls. She was dressed in layers of different materials, silk, leather, animal skins, and velvet of many colors fought to be seen. Her skin was a grey wrinkled weathered map of folds and lines. She gripped a stout wooden cane topped with another skull. Her long nails were pointed and black like claws. She observed the child before her, nostrils flaring.
“Well, what do you want?” She demanded crossly, showing pointed teeth that were pearly white.
“I wish to work for you, Madame.” The girl managed to stammer.
“Why would I let a small thing like you work for me? You are human; you would break everything you touched.”
“I wouldn’t, Madame. I would be very careful and I am a hard worker.”
“I have no need for another helper, I have servants a plenty.” She said with a nasty smile. Pulling something from a pocket, she crushed and scattered the pieces to one side. Immediately the bits began to gather themselves into a small pile which was then whisked off the porch.
“I said no. Now leave.” Turning away she slammed the door on the child.
The child began knocking again. Knocking, waiting a few minutes and knocking again. With a slam the door opened again.
“I told you to leave!” Jedza yelled.
“Would you like me to start polishing the porch, Madame?”
“Polish the porch?”
“Yes, Madame, I can polish the wood till it shines for you.”
“Fine, do so.” The door was again slammed in the girls face. With a sigh, she set down her things and got to work. She found a bucket and hauled water up the ladder to the porch one bucket at a time as she cleaned as best she could with watch and a rag. Once that was done she got a quick drink of water and hunted the creek for rushes. Digging deep she found the roots. When pressed they dripped oil that she could use. Stuffing her basket full of bulbs and two rocks to press them in, she went back up the ladder. She oiled and scrubbed the wood till her hands were raw, till the sun was setting. Then she cleaned up her supplies and went back down the ladder to bury the crushed bulbs and to wash up. It was full dark when she climbed the ladder. The black crow now sat at the top of the gable. Jedza waited for her when she pulled herself over the last rung of the ladder and onto the porch.
“Hmm, not bad, not bad, but not well either. I have decided child. You want to work for me then you will work. I have some tasks I need done and you will do them. If they are not done to my satisfaction then you will become one of my true servants bound to be for eternity. Do you agree?”
“How many tasks?” the child asked, wary after having so many of her biscuits wasted on bad questions.
“Three tasks, if you can complete them to my satisfaction I will give you whatever you ask of me. Are we agreed?”
“How long do I have to do the tasks?”
“What does it matter to me? When you are done, you will come to me and tell me you are finished, I will inspect the result and the next task will be given to you. You have until you give up and become my servant, till you complete the task or till you die.” Jedza said smiling her pointed teeth at the child.
“I agree. What is your first task?” She said, ignoring how her hands wanted to shake.
“The land this house is upon is my Kingdom. Everything between the mists here is mine. Beyond the house are mountains. High on the highest peak there is a field with blue roses growing. You are to go and bring me back as many as you can carry.”