Miel | 16 | he/they | Juniper Creek
When Miel was a pup, he was scared of his own shadow. He spent a not insignificant portion of his newborn and toddler years in wolf form—much to the shock of his parents who had assumed the family gene had been lost to time (the last known lycan before him was his maternal great-grandmother.) As he grew older, Miel gained a little more control over the shifts and even enjoyed showing off a little to his peers at school, much to the chagrin of his instructors.
At 13, the shifts stopped abruptly, leaving Miel halfway between—part wolf (ears, tail, teeth, and claws) but decidedly human in presentation. He missed that part of himself but no therapists could identify a clear sense of the root cause.
The next year, Miel was walking home from high school when he saw a new cafe that opened up—the Witch's Brew. Even as he rolled his eyes, he stopped inside. It was a cozy space that not only sold coffee and tea, but all kinds of curios—crystals, wands, bundles of dried herbs... but what caught his eye the most were the bath brews. Each concoction promised varying benefits to soothe the mind, body, and soul.
This isn't a story about how he bought a magic bath potion that kickstarted his shifts again. (It was a blend of milk, honey, oat, and chamomile.) It awakened something new in him—a passionate desire to learn how to craft experiences that would soothe others the way this bath calmed him.
He applied for a training position at the cafe—mostly cleaning tables and dishes, stocking shelves, and running out for deliveries. After a few months, however, he was able to make his first batch of potions: a lunar-infused bath crumble that created a thick layer of milky, moisturizing foam and shimmered silver and pink in the water. Its magic was designed to open one's intuition and welcome kind dreams at night.
A few years since Miel began to hone his practice, the Witch's Brew could barely keep his stock on the shelves! His mentors knew before he did that he was well overdue for his Magical Year. Though they were sad to hear he would be packing his bags to leave the Creek, they knew it was time.
With his parents help, he applied to several positions in neighboring towns in search of a mentor. After some back and forth, and many meticulous pro- con- lists courtesy of his father, Miel applied to work under Reyna Kobayashi at the Kintsukuroi Inn at Aspen Falls where our story begins.
Active memories and Experiences
Chapter One: The Harbinger of Spring
As the first rays of dawn filtered through my curtains, a loud thumping on the door woke Ren who subsequently tugged at my pajama sleeves with her felt beak. “You’ve slept through that racket long enough,” she cawed, “go see what the fuss is about before I tear my own stitches out.”
She perched on my shoulder as I stuffed my feet into slippers, twisted my body into a quick stretch, and padded to the door.
Even though I have been practicing magic for two years now, I am still in awe of how little I truly know about the world.
Sat in my doorway was a fluffy rabbit with long, floppy ears, a set of curling ram horns, shimmering fairy wings, and a long trail of moss-speckled sprouts between its shoulder blades that curved around her neck and chest. Her wings fluttered until she floated to my eye level, puffing out her cheeks even as she spoke.
“Little witch, I am your Harbinger of Spring come to claim my respite during your Magical Year,” she said in a pitched voice that tinkled around the edges, “You must tend to me before the season’s end.”
I scrunched my nose as my wolf ears flattened back into my hair.
“Little? But you’re barely larger than Ren and she was a baby toy before she awakened as a familiar.”
The fey nipped my hand and flew off in a trail of amber dust and descended onto the windowsill. The sunlight spilled through her wings casting a rainbow of hues onto my duvet.
“Where’s your hospitality? Has nobody taught you any manners?”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” I drew in a breath as I crossed the room and settled onto the bed, resting my head against the sill. “Truce? What’s your name?”
“My name is—” As she fluttered her wings her open mouth made a sound like wind chimes rocked by a gentle spring breeze; nothing I could replicate with my own tongue. “But you can call me Chime, I suppose.”
“Chime,” I repeated, spreading my palm open under the prismatic glow of her wings, “Nice to meet you; I’m Miel. How can I be of service to you this spring?”
Her pink nose twitched in approval as her delicate paw met my hand, “My blooms require four nourishments to flourish. Sunlight, water from a flowing stream, a bed for sleep, and a token from your love.”
“Sunlight, water—wait, what?”
“A locket of hair, a confession, a first kiss: you know, tokens of love! Nothing fuels Spring’s spirits like young love.”
“B-but I just moved here.” A flush spread from my cheeks to the tips of my human ears. “I barely even know anyone. Love isn’t exactly on my mind right now.”
Metallic laughter peals from Chime’s mouth as she nestled into a pool of morning sunshine.
“Well, you’ve one of four. Better get a move on for the rest!”
After having breakfast with the other witches, I walked to the Arboretum. It was the first route in town I memorized, at the insistence of my parents who are still fretting over me being “cooped up” at the inn. I lay down in the grass nearby a stream and spread out my bomber jacket as a makeshift blanket to catch my breath. The air smelled of sweet spices and pine, lulling me into a brisk nap. When I woke up, I filled my canteen with water and whispered a blessing before sealing the cap.
On my walk back, I paused at the Pineda Bazar and bit my lip. I didn’t know what kind of bed would suit Chime. Would it be more sensible to stop at a pet shop? Obtain a planter box from a florist? As I tugged open the door, a delicate bell announced my presence. A woman came round from the back to the register carrying a broom.
“Tuloy po kayo! Can we help you?”
It took a moment for me to respond because truthfully, I didn’t fully know why I had entered the shop. My hands had acted impulsively on their own and it was too awkward to just back out.
“Uh, I’m just browsing for now, but thank you!”
She gave me a nod, eyes glancing briefly to my ears, the corners of her mouth raising slightly, and then cupped a hand around her mouth to call out “Adon!” As she disappeared into the backroom, I overheard a murmured exchange before a tall boy emerged wearing goggles and a smock smudged at the waist with ink and paint.
“Oh, hey, Miel!” He said, pumping disinfectant into his palms before extending a hand out to me, which I accepted. “My mom asked me to show you around the shop?”
“Oh, um, I’m only browsing, I’m not even sure what I’m looking for really..”
“Ah, come on, browsing’s easier if you know where to look, right?” He said with a wink as he discarded his safety gear and rubbed his hands together. “Now, where to begin?”
Adon guided me throughout the shop, occasionally stopping so I could take in the displays, or to comment on pieces that had especially storied histories. There were shelves of elegantly bound books that smelled of dust and ink, ornately carved furnishings that overwhelmingly fragrant with oak and cedar, and racks of silk dresses and wool coats with the faint traces of perfume and cologne from their former owners. Each corner had art tucked onto shelves or hung for display. It was simultaneously cluttered and organized and set my heightened sense of smell into overdrive.
“And over here is my playground,” Adon said, waving me toward an area behind curtains, practically bouncing on his heels. “I’ve just had a shipment of more items to restore come in so this will all be reorganized again soon, but—”
The room was softly lit by twinkling lights with a large, plush chair in the corner and a fluffy rug on the floor. The walls were covered from top to bottom with floating shelves holding all assortment of toys from translucent and vibrant video game consoles to dolls and stuffed animals.
“This one is fifty years old! I had to fully reroot the hair and it took ages for me to find the right photo to identify a perfect match for the shade and texture it originally had. And this one’s face was cracked but you would never be able to tell by looking at it now. Probably took me three days to finish. And this console needed a full rewiring on the inside since because someone probably spilled water on it, but it works like it was brand new. And…”
Adon’s enthusiasm was infectious as he recounted projects over the past few months, recalling every repair session in clear detail. In the corner, I noticed a small basinet.
“That one,” he said plucking it from the floor and lifting it into my arms, “had a split in the wicker and the lining was completely shredded. It took a while to identify the material—willow—but I was able to get a decent color match. My mom helped me choose the lining since it was impossible to replicate the original textile, but this is from the same time period at least!”
Our hands brushed against one another on the underside of the basket as he passed it over to me. I nearly dropped it, but caught myself and hugged it to my chest.
“Um, I think, maybe, I’ll buy this one.”
“Really?” His smile was lopsided as he walked me back out to the register not unlike his mother’s. “Is it for Ren? The handle should be sturdy enough for most ceiling hooks if she was hoping for a window perch.”
I shook my head as he rang me up. “I was visited by a demanding Harbinger of Spring this morning. She wants to be near the sun, so I thought..”
“Oh, wow! I’ve never seen a Harbinger in person. They say they’re supposed to be good luck.”
“Uh-huh,” I rub my elbow not wanting to admit that I knew startlingly little about what I was getting into myself. It wasn't the first time he knew more about this magic world than me.
“Come by again any time; we always have new stuff come in.”
My heart thudded in my chest on the entire jog back to my bedroom. Ren and Chime were in mid-conversation about my education for the year ahead, but stopped abruptly and stared at the brown lacquered basinet in my arms.
“Well, look at you,” the Harbinger rang turning a somersault in the air. “You found all four in record time.”
“There’s water in your canteen, very clever, and this bed will do fine hung up by the window, though you’ll need to keep the curtains drawn each morning, sorry to say.”
“That’s only three,” I insisted. “Sun, water, and a bed. I didn’t fetch anything else.”
Ren shook her head as the fey creature jingled.
“Hearts rarely lie even if you can’t hear them yourself. You might not have noticed, but something else fetched you.”
Chapter Two: Rinse and Repeat
Now that I have been living in Aspen Falls for a couple of weeks, I have settled into a routine at the Kintsukuroi Inn. Here is a copy of my current schedule for posterity:
Even though I don’t see a lot of foot traffic at my shop yet, it’s nice to have a space that’s mine. Back when I was still working at the Witch’s Brew for Holly, it felt amazing to have one of my bath potions featured under the glass desk, to watch the stock sell out within a few hours as customers paired potions with tea, coffee, and pastries. It will probably take a while—maybe with some creative marketing strategies—to acquire repeat patrons in such a large city. For the time being, it’s nice to nestle items in their baskets on display knowing that they are handmade by me from the brew to to the labels. Over time, I’m sure I will decorate it for the passing seasons, pack sample sachets for frequent patrons, maybe connect with other local witches to set up a booth at artist markets.. I know my dreams are big and I still have so much to learn, but sitting at my desk fills me with inspiration for all that is to come.
Once my formal training sessions begin, my schedule will probably shift pretty drastically.. at least for a few days of the week. I don’t know what kind of teacher Reyna will be, but since her area of specialization aligns close with mine, I’m eager to learn as much as possible from her. Cheri says that I’m really lucky that there was an opening this year and I DO feel incredibly fortunate to be here. But sometimes I can’t help but get the feeling that some of the students who have been here longer, like Bryn, might not warm up to me as quickly.
But I can’t control that. I’ll just do my best and stick to the plan!
(And that doesn't include time for mindless day-dreaming, Chime, so let it go!!)