At the tender young age of 13, Maka Albarn started her apprenticeship with Miss Blair. She knew, right from the start, that Miss Blair was not a normal witch, and that's saying something, because no witch has ever really fit the definition of "normal" to begin with. (To be fair, what most people mean by "normal" is actually "stultifyingly boring.")
It would be many months until she put her finger on exactly what was not normal, however.
In all honesty, Maka thought as she took her intensely detailed notes on the local flora and fauna, she would not have gone to Miss Blair for an apprenticeship at all if she'd had any other options. The woman rarely came into town, but when she did, she had a habit of being flirtatious with Maka's father, Spirit - an oddly ethereal name for a man of such worldly pleasures.
Maka was not entirely sure what her mama was up to at this moment. However, she did know that she had left because of Papa's philandering ways, and while the witch had not done anything with him as far as Maka knew, she had at first felt dirty for even going near her.
And yet before she left, Mama had said: "You have so much potential, sweetheart. I know you don't like the witch that lives nearby, but I want you to learn from her."
And because Mama had asked, Maka swallowed her pride. Early the morning after her mother left, she also left home without telling her father, made the three-mile walk to Miss Blair's little house, and knocked on the door.
While waiting for an answer, she observed the home with some distaste. It was positioned on the edge of a forest and a field of wheat, which was nice, but the house itself, well-
It was a pumpkin.
Not an actual pumpkin. A colossal wooden replica. How could she ever get along with someone this obscenely gaudy?
When Miss Blair opened the door, she gasped giddily at seeing Maka.
"Ah, hello! What's happening that brings you to my home?" she asked. Listening to her voice, Maka realized that she didn't know Miss Blair's age at all, and she couldn't tell, either.
"I- I think it's time to start my apprenticeship and I was wondering if you could do it?" Maka squeaked more nervously and with far less confidence than she had originally expected. If her words had been written, there would have been multiple question marks at the end.
"Of course!" the witch exclaimed. It all happened so fast that Maka would one day look back and realize that her request was not a surprise at all. In the moment, however, she was dealing with being swept up in a bear hug by her new mentor, who had always struck Maka as exceedingly catlike but now seemed more like an enthusiastic puppy.
For a week, Maka felt like she was simply tolerating Miss Blair - "No, just call me Blair! Only call me Miss Blair in front of townsfolk."
Miss Blair - er, just-Blair - seemed to be partially a nudist. She would walk around at home unclothed for days at a time, and at first Maka was too afraid to ask why - would it be rude? Would it send Blair into some kind of angry frenzy? She just didn't know - but she finally mustered the question. Blair answered, "It's important to be naked sometimes. You need to be comfortable in your skin, not your clothes." Maka was still not sure how well this justified it, because she had grown up learning that nudity is shameful and only ever leads to Sinful Things We Don't Talk About Around Here, but it did sound like good advice.
Slowly, her judgments of Miss Blair began to unravel.
She was still uneasy with the knowledge that when men were around, her mentor would flirt shamelessly. It was a quirk that Maka would probably always have trouble dealing with. But Blair was also easygoing and at peace with the world in a way that Maka had never seen before.
After watching her deal with some men who were trying to rob an elderly storeowner brandishing some crudely-made weapons, Maka also realized the older woman could actually be quite terrifying (as well as athletic) and merely chose to act sweet, flaky, and friendly most of the time.
Most of the tasks Blair gave Maka, especially at this point, were quite mundane. Being a witch, she said, is not about the stuffy, showy, snobbish magic they teach at Unseen University. Being a witch is about finding the magic in everything, learning how it flows through and around oneself. Good witches do years of hard, hands-on work instead of poring over musty, ancient tomes, so Maka spent a lot of time outside tending animals, building whatever Blair asked her to for whatever miscellaneous whimsical reason, and observing the local flora and fauna.
Blair did consider Maka's interests, though, which just happened to include musty, ancient tomes. Maka learned about the magic of those tomes, such as how to read the minds of the people who wrote them and who and what had possessed them over the years. She learned languages through context alone. She learned about why books do matter to an impoverished, illiterate seven-year-old homeless boy tossing stones into the thick waters of the River Ankh.
It was not until she had been living with Blair for three months that Maka's opinion of her was entirely erased and rewritten.
A severe illness swept through the nearby little town, and Spirit fell victim to it. For the first time since leaving home, Maka felt ashamed to have been so angry at him; once again she found herself sleeping in the bed in the room that he had never changed when she left. Because there were so many sick people, Blair and Maka stayed in town for the week helping to heal the ill. Naturally, part of this included healing her own father.
"But I don't know how to heal sickness," Maka confided. She was sure that she was in far over her head. "I don't even know how to keep myself from getting sick."
"You do know," Blair said, taking her hand and looking into her eyes. "I wouldn't be bringing you here if I thought you couldn't handle it. Remember to be gentle with the magic that runs through you and others. Remember to be patient. Remember all the times we've talked about connections, and how the magic in your blood will do its best when you are putting everything into the littlest tasks for others."
Maka had trouble putting her energy into dealing with too many people. She was too nervous, and she knew she would get sick as well if she tried.
In fact, it was Blair who would leave the house during the day and visit countless other homes. Maka instead stayed with her father and made soup all day.
For the first day, he did not speak when she got home. This worried her, because usually her father was the obnoxious sort who fawned over her every move and he should have acted overjoyed to see her. Instead, he laid on his back with his eyes closed while she kept him company.
Halfway through the next day, he opened his eyes and smiled and she got him to eat soup. His first words were "Nguh - spicy!"
"Miss Blair makes it. Chicken and herbs. It's good for you," Maka said apologetically.
The rest of the week sped by. There were no official words of reconciliation spoken between Maka and her father, but both felt a warmth return to their hearts which had not been there since Mama left. There had been only two deaths in the town, and one had happened before the witches had arrived. Maka actually gave her father a hug, and she and Blair walked home in the evening.
"I never want to see chicken and herb soup again," Maka groaned.
Blair grinned. "May as well get used to it, sweetheart. It works. Also, I wanted to let you know you didn't do too badly for your first time, but you'll need to work on your anxiety and confidence."
Maka only nodded and felt a little embarrassed that she hadn't learned more, learned faster.
Life trundled on, though, and everything - including everyday chores and learning tasks - went back to normal quickly after that. One day, while doing her observations in the forest undergrowth, Maka found an oddly-shaped instrument.
After pulling it out and cleaning the dirt off, she realized it was a scythe.
Author's Note: So there you go. All the chapters will not be this short, but I really wanted to post the beginning. As you can see, I've messed with the Discworld a little bit and the story/style is also not for everyone, but if you have enjoyed it so far I hope you will continue to enjoy it!