The Cauldron

He lingers near the lady’s fire soot collecting on his white shirt while he attempts to raise the courage for this endeavor. She sleeps in her small wooden home not even ten feet away, and he’s terrified to wake her. She is sure and true with a slap or an arrow, so he knows better than to anger her, yet constantly finds himself on the wrong side of her wrath. He quite expects to wake some morning as a squirmy little bug the pretty witch can stomp. He shivers. His strawberry blond hair shines golden in the flickering flames while he struggles to lift the cauldron from the hook, but he’s half her height, and his arms are still filling in with the muscle of manhood even though he’d gone through a growth spurt this past summer. The cauldron is hung too high for him to easily pull it down. The chill autumn air bites through his shirt as he sweats and struggles to lift the half full black metal pot from its resting place.

“Hurry or we will be caught,” his best friend whispers. With his dark hair and clothes he blends into the darkness much better, and he’s safer crouched behind a nearby tree.

“Help me and we shall be done twice as fast,” he hisses back. There’s a small chuckle then a boy a few years older than he is emerges in his dark green tunic, a shadow to the first youth’s light, and together they heave. The cauldron clunks off the hook into the embers.

“Ouch!” the blond whimpers brushing the sparks from his bare feet. The other boy in his boots elbows him aside fondly and braces himself lifting the cauldron.

“Quiet,” the raven haired teen groans eyes darting to the round wooden hut nearby, but no incensed witch comes screaming out after them. He pulls their treasure away from the fire and together the two teens struggle to make a fast get away with the heavy pot dangling between them.

“This is a lot of trouble to see the future,” the shorter boy grumbles to his best friend.

“Knowledge is worth some pain,” the other boy says with a sly grin jerking his head to the side to try to get his long dark hair to fall out of his clear blue eyes.

“Better yours than mine. Next time you’re not rousing me from bed for your foolishness,” the younger one grumbles with a laugh as they finally figured they were far enough away from the witch’s home to drop the cauldron to the forest floor. They were in a clearing, tall trees reaching with naked fingers to the sky. The water inside the pot was pitch in the night save for the silver of the moon vibrating in the steaming water.

“How do we use it?” the smaller boy asks his friend cuddling up to his side for warmth. They huddle there with the frost forming on the grass for several moments contemplating the cauldron.

“I don’t know. She stares inside and sees her future,” he concedes with a smile and a shrug. The younger boy sinks an elbow into his stomach and he grunts holding his side. “You’re getting strong,” he laughs. The glare he gets sends him into another peel of laughter that he stifles with a hand over his mouth. “You’re full of courage, are you not? Look,” the older one demands wrapping his arm around the smaller boy, drawing him closer.

“You want to know. You look,” the younger boy demands, but he does as he’s asked with half a smile. He leans forward and inside the moon swirls in his vision. He sees nothing in the cauldron, however, as he stands there wrapped in the warmth of the friend he loves most, the only person he’d die for aside from his dear mother, the moon shivers and trembles. Not in the cauldron, but in his mind, scenes lost from time unfold. He gasps in horror at the secrets yet to be unfurling, but through it all there is love as well. The constant presence he’s come to count on. Looking away he burrows in closer to the taller boy, pushing his face tightly to his friend’s chest, shaking his head. He doesn’t want to know everything. He certainly does not, but it’s good to know they will always be together.

“This was a fool’s errand. You are right. You are always right,” the darker boy gasps out the words after several minutes, but his hunger for knowledge keeps his eyes fixed on the endless darkness inside the battered, old, soot dark pot. For all that he claimed not to be the brave one, he hadn’t closed his eyes. He hadn’t looked away.

“Idiotic brats. I know it was you. Bring it back now.” A young woman’s irate yell sounds from outside the tree line and both boys jump in their embrace. Sharing a look they’re jolted from the seriousness of the moment. The short blond snorts out half a laugh, mischief lighting his eyes. Together, holding hands, they race as fast as they can through the darkness away from the clearing to search for a safe warm place to hide in and sleep away the little bit left of the night.

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