Tianna tried to make good on her promise to fix things with the Islanders.
It genuinely touched me that she was really trying for me. I told her I loved her more and more, because I seemed to fall more in love with her every day.
My farm was doing well; she sometimes came over to visit me, though it still made her uncomfortable to be away from her home. She didn't really understand my fascination with animals.
"I only adore bears," she said firmly, "The other creatures . . . not so much."
I held up a fat chicken with shiny black eyes.
"How could you not love them?" I asked, burying my forehead briefly into its feathers. It squawked happily when I sat it back down gently.
She shrugged, grimacing in distaste.
Though she was making an effort for me and I appreciated it . . . I couldn't say I fully approved of her tactics. When I went into her home one Tuesday evening, she was proudly holding up a large bottle filled with a strange bubbling liquid.
I sat down on the floor next to her largest bear – the one she cherished the most – and yawned, thinking nothing of it.
Witch Princess was always concocting something new – she was easily bored. But if I'd been alive for thousands of years, I'd probably be somewhat bored, too.
"What's that?" I asked, mildly curious.
Tianna grinned triumphantly. "The answer to the whole Harvest Festival issue."
I raised one eyebrow, instantly wary. "Oh?"
"Yes." She chuckled and took my hand.
My surroundings melted away, and then I was floating. It was hard to make out where I was in the dark, but – after squinting for a while – I recognized the rooftops of the few buildings on Sunshine Islands.
Witch Princess laughed at my baffled expression. "Your reactions to my magic are so funny, Mark."
Her dark eyes flashed with amusement, and the skull glowed a bright yellow color. I smiled tenderly. I was the one making her happy. But then my caution returned when I remembered the way she'd brought us here so abruptly.
"Tianna, why are we above Vendure Island?" I asked.
She grinned at the cool note in my voice. "Your little Island friends wouldn't be so forgiving of my little Festival stunt, now would they?"
"Can you blame them?" I muttered.
Tianna leaned forward to kiss my lips, and press her palm to my cheek.
"No," she breathed quietly. "But I'm not used to considering other people's feelings."
"You're so evil." I pretended to glare.
Witch Princess shrugged. "Take it or leave it."
I chuckled, and then forced myself to be serious.
"Seriously, why are we here?" I repeated.
She held up her bottle – a potion, of course. "We'll just have to get rid of that nasty first impression," she snickered.
I made a face. "It will make the Islanders to forget?"
"Yes. It won't hurt them, I promise, and it won't erase much." Without another word, she tipped the bottle so a single drop dripped onto the roof of the Animal Shop.
She did the same with the rest of the buildings, on all the other Islands, with the exception of her own and the church.
"Will this work?" I asked without thinking.
Tianna glared. "Of course it will. I was very precise with this one. You really should be thanking me, Mark. This was very hard to make."
"Different potions are harder to make?" I asked curiously.
Witch Princess took my hand and zapped us back to her house. She snapped her fingers, and the bottle disappeared into thin air.
"Of course," she said. "Some are nearly impossible to concoct, simply because getting the ingredients is so difficult. Other witches have died in the attempt to retrieve them."
"You'd never do that, would you?" I asked, shuddering. "Risk your life for a stupid potion?"
Tianna looked away, suddenly seeming distant. A long silence passed, and dread began creeping up my throat, piercing my heart.
"Tianna," I said, touching her arm.
Her eyes met mine. "I've tried before, Mark," she admitted to me quietly, "I've never succeeded, but . . . I've always escaped with my life."
"You don't need potions like that," I said persuasively, "Just stick to what you know."
Witch Princess shook her head, a little sadly. "You don't understand, Mark. Some of them could be more powerful than you could even dream. They could do impossible things . . ."
"It doesn't matter," I insisted. I looked deep in her eyes, trying to push away my frightened feelings.
"Promise me you'll never do anything like that. It's just stupid."
The skull was suddenly tinged blue. She looked away, and I detected an emotion in her gaze that was strange. Guilt. I could only hope it was for past actions, and not what she hoped to accomplish in the future.
"I can't, Mark," she said quietly.
I threw up my hands in frustration. "Then what, Tianna? Am I supposed to constantly worry about you dying over some stupid potion?"
"No," she said fiercely, "You won't. It wasn't something I did on a frequent basis."
Pain twisted in my heart. "They're more important than I am to you," I sighed. "Your potions, your bears, your . . . magic."
Witch Princess blinked, as if completely shocked by this statement. A long silence fell over us, and she didn't answer. Conflict raged in her eyes, like someone was wrenching her in two. Then she sighed, and abruptly kissed me, long and deep. I let her, but I pulled away after a moment, anxious for her reply. Finally, she managed to breathe.
"No. That's the strange part, Mark . . . Nothing's ever mattered to me besides my magic. Not other people or witches, not any objects or relatives . . ."
She grimaced. "Well, maybe Witchkin matters a little."
I laughed a little, but it sounded weak.
"I love you, Mark." Witch Princess shrugged. "More than . . . anything."
Her voice was awed, like she couldn't believe her own statement. It mystified her, like the strangest concept to grasp in the world. I kissed her again, and then held her in silence for a while, her forehead on my chest.
"No high-risk potions," I murmured softly.
"I can't agree," she sighed.
The argument hung in the air, but I chose to ignore it for the moment. We'd just have to agree to disagree.
Witch Princess came with me to Vendure Island the next morning, clutching my hand and glancing around suspiciously. It was time to make a new first impression on the Islanders, now that the first one had been completely erased.
Tianna had insisted the green bubbling potion took only minutes to take effect, but she must regret telling me that now. She'd promised to be nice today. Even to Natalie. Denny approached me first, his eyes appraising Tianna openly, but not rudely.
He grinned at her widely, but he leaned away slightly when she flashed a returning smile at him, her dark red eyes seemingly sweet.
"Who's this, Mark?" Denny asked.
I breathed a sigh of relief, now that I knew for sure the strange potion had worked.
"This is Wi – Tianna, Denny. My . . . girlfriend." I didn't really care for the word – it seemed so superficial. Like I should describe her as more than that. And maybe I would, in the future . . .
"Nice to meet you." Denny nodded at her, but he didn't offer to shake her hand.
Tianna seemed to appreciate that.
We went around the Island then, re-meeting everyone. We saved Natalie for last, and the two were thankfully civil to each other.
"See?" I said to Witch Princess quietly when she had zapped us to my house. "You can get through introductions without poisoning anyone."
She rolled her eyes. "Just barely."
Witchkin was annoyed.
Apparently she'd challenged her Aunt to a huge magical battle she'd been sure she could win – and lost.
She paced my house, muttering unintelligibly under her breath. Sometimes she would stop randomly to insult me – it seemed to make her feel better.
Finally, after the third 'moron', my patience ran out and I snapped, "Why are you hanging around here, anyway?"
"Meadow Island's full of irritating Islanders," she grumbled, "And I don't want to be anywhere near the old bag right now."
I searched my mind, trying to think up a way of getting her to leave without her turning me into a frog first.
"I wish I was with Tianna right now," I said.
"You can't," Witchkin growled, "She's busy."
I nodded, my voice calm and cool. "Yes, I know. But when I see her, I'm going to give her a nice, long kiss."
Witchkin grimaced in horror. "You're gross."
"I could kiss her forever," I went on, as if she hadn't spoken. "It's just that good."
Witchkin exhaled loudly, and she glared unkindly.
"I'm not leaving because of you," she said, jutting her chin out defiantly, "I'm going because you're boring. And mentally deranged."
A light mist began forming around her – she couldn't disappear as quickly or inconspicuously as Tianna all the time – but just as she was beginning to fade away, she tilted her head to the side, as if listening to something.
She smirked, only her face visible to me now through the mist.
"You're about to have a visitor," Witchkin sang sneakily.
And then she vanished completely. I rose from the chair I'd been sitting in, wary about Tianna's treacherous niece's reaction to this visitor. Who could it be? I waited a full thirty seconds before someone knocked lightly on my door, three times.
I pulled it open – and found myself staring at a round, childish face framed by light red hair. Wide blue eyes stared at me with a strange mixture of pity, curiosity and . . . fear?
"Good afternoon, Alisa," I said, smiling.
Her answering smile was nervous; her expression was cautious. "Hello, Mark. May I come in?"
"Sure." I gestured inside, hoping to put her at ease.
But she slunk by me quickly, as if I was a snake that might strike at any moment.
"Coffee?" I offered after a minute.
Alisa shook her head and wrung her hands together nervously. I waited in silence for a while for her to begin. When she spoke, her voice was shaky.
"Nathan doesn't know I'm here," she admitted quietly.
I blinked, more than a little surprised. Alisa generally never did anything with Nathan's knowledge. I was pleased with how calm I sounded when I replied.
Alisa's eyes were suddenly brimming with tears. "Oh, Mark, I feel so sorry for you," she sobbed, burying her face in her hands.
I moved toward her quickly, and touched her arm. She flinched away, so my hands hung in the air for a moment before I left them drop to my sides. Confusion was my strongest emotion at this point.
"Why, Alisa? I'm perfectly fine, I promise."
She shook her head. "No, of course not," she insisted. "You've been bewitched. By perhaps one of the world's most evil creatures."
I blinked. "Who? Tianna?"
"Of course. The witch." Alisa nodded, wiping at one of her eyes. "She's obviously placed you under some sort of spell that caused you to become besotted with her. She's using you, somehow. For her own personal gain, of course. Witches never consider anyone other than themselves."
Anger welled up inside me, and my tone was harsh. "Tianna's done nothing of the sort. I'm with her of my own free will."
Alisa sighed and looked away, still grieved. It was obvious she didn't believe me. I was suddenly suspicious.
"Is it really you who believes this, Alisa? Or is Nathan putting ridiculous thoughts into your head?"
Alisa glared at me, more fiercely than I thought her capable of. "Nathan has done nothing throughout my life but give me helpful guidance and knowledge."
I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Alisa, I honestly don't care whether or not you believe me. I'm with Tianna for one reason."
"What is that?" She wondered.
A small part of me was amused by how perplexed she was.
"I love her."
My words hung in the air for a long time. Alisa's eyes widened, and they flicked wildly around for moment, as if they were tangible, visible things.
"Witches are powerful, Mark," she murmured quietly. "They can make you believe things. Do things. But that's not the point. I'm here to warn you."
"Warn?" My eyebrows shot up.
"Yes." Alisa nodded. "Nathan has been observing you for quite some time, and he's simply convinced that you cannot go on spending time with the witch."
I blinked, shocked. I knew that Nathan and Alisa were concerned for me, what with their love for the Harvest Goddess, but I never believed they would go so far as to intervene.
"It's none of his business," I said angrily.
Alisa shrugged. "That's not really the point. I don't know what he'll do, but . . . it can't be good."
Her eyes were suddenly pleading. "Please, Mark, listen to me. I'm only trying to protect you. She doesn't love you. She's a witch."
Anger so fierce I could swear I saw bits of red clouded my vision, overwhelmed my mind. How dare she speak to me this way.
"Please leave, Alisa. Your purpose has not been achieved." I wrenched the door open.
Sadly, she walked outside, with one last pitying glance at me. As she walked away, before I slammed the door, I heard her mutter one thing.
"This can't end well."
A/N: I promise, I will finish this fic eventually.