Original plans for The Vardo, by the Creative Conjurer, Craig Nagel
In the middle of a meadow stood the vardo, as colorful, rooted, yet feral as wildflowers. Above it, the first light of the day made cracks in the periwinkle of the ending night, and then worked its way in through the cracks in the vardo windows, made by the blowing and swaying curtains. We always slept with the windows open, the Sister Witch, and I, to let in the sounds of the night. Owl screech and fox scream. Howling wind and cicada whine. Before those open windows were hung bells, strings of bones, and charms for protection, to keep the dark spirits out.
When that morning light crept over the the tops of the elms and old oaks in the East, and found my face where I lie sleeping, I would turn away from it, my head still lost in dreaming. But not the Sister Witch, who would always rise early. This was our pattern, her lighting the fires of the new day, and me dousing the flames at the close of it. So she would wake, and stir, and step outside where the mists rose off the meadow grasses, under the sun and morning moon, and strike her flint to light our fire. She would put the coffee pot on the edge of the burning sticks, and as the alchemical process between water and grounds worked its magic, I would rise to join her. Our mornings were woodsmoke and feathers, bone pipes and amber. Sunlight peering through the beveled glass and pressed flowers of the vardo's windows, casting rainbow prisms that danced and bounced around us, alighting upon our cheeks and hair. The day would unfold into dusty bare toes tracing sigils in the dirt as bells jingled against ankle bones, below the frayed hem of skirts. Spirits would be consulted. Bones would be thrown upon wild boar skins. Cards would be read as incense swirled. And I would divine by lithomancy, thirteen stones telling me my future. Frangipani and sandalwood warmed on the pulse points over veins where wildness flowed, the silken skin of youth all that stood between us witches and our blood magic. Herbs would be harvested by the signs, tied in red woolen yarn we had spun and dyed ourselves. A pinch of this one, a sprig of that, ground with a mortar and pestle cupped in the palm, while songs and chants were whispered over them. All while the sun journeyed in an arch overhead, to the elms and old oaks in the West.
Then, night would begin her descent, pushing down the coral, rose, and purple of the sunset behind the far hills. Bats would swoop overhead, the flap of their wings feeling to the ears like black leather fringe feels to the flesh. Around the fire, with light and shadow playing across our faces, the Sister Witch would pluck and strum the mandolin, while silver ribbon plumes of smoke drifted ever higher from our fire, under shooting stars and the Dippers, big and small. I would stir the pot of supper, and refill our goblets with crimson wine, and we would toast the Spirits of divinity and blood, while spectral ancestors raced across the sky on the dark backs of wild horse ghost clouds. At the last, the Sister Witch would climb into the alcove, while I extinguished the flames in the hissing, popping, sputtering song of water, smoke, and ember.
There was magic in that vardo. Magic we created by spell, hex, and talisman. Magic we created by art, story, and song. The magic of sisterhood. Eventually the wildflower colors of paint chipped and peeled. The red spokes broke on the wheels. The undercarriage sagged. We were making different magic, and we went to take it out into the world, away from the meadow, and the fire, and the bat filled night. We went our separate ways, untying the silk scarves that had bound us. We wandered until long silver roots grew out from our toes and burrowed deep into the soft soil, tethering us in new lands; me in the valley of a river, the Sister Witch atop a high hill. Babies grew in our wombs, settled on our hips, nursed at our breasts, and clung to our necks. Our powers were never more potent, more powerful. We still worked with stones, spells, and spirits, separately, though we spoke often through crows, and starlight. If I send a message down a swirling stream, the Sister Witch will answer it. If she casts a message into the summer winds, it will always find me. This is the way of it.
The vardo no longer exists. It broke down completely and returned its magic to the belly of the land. If you could wander that spot you would faintly hear mandolin, ankle bells, and incantations upon the wind. Where it once stood now bloom the most beautiful flowers, the very colors of the vardo, which push their way up through the hallowed earth each spring, past the bells, strings of bones, and charms that remain, slowly sinking, sinking, back into the grass of the meadow.