Looking for a short story I read around late-90s. I'm pretty sure it was part of a short story collection in a book, and was not new at the time.

There's a witch or some kind of otherwise magical woman who lives out in a cave. There's also a man who comes to find her - I think it's implied that they used to know each other or maybe once had a romantic relationship before she became a witch. His country is at war with a particular group of people who have been pillaging his towns, and he's seeking her help to defeat them.

At the end, he ends up going into a special room in the cave to do the magic to defeat the opposing group of people. He has visions of all of them being sucked into the Earth and realizes that he is not only killing those specific individuals who attacked his country, but all people who belong to that group, including children and those who never participated in the war. Eventually the entire group is sucked into the Earth and they are wiped out of existence.

The price he has to pay for this magic is that the man goes blind. He finds this out when he wakes up after doing this magic, and the witch holds a candle in front of him which he cannot see.

Details are a little fuzzy because I was about 5 years old when I read this (but despite that, it was definitely not a story for children, it was targeted to an adult audience and not little kids like me scrounging around for old books in the basement). I specifically remember that the group of people he defeated were sucked into the ground, and that he goes blind as the price for working this magic.


1 Answer 1



This story by Patricia Wrede was first published in Tales of Enchantment. From the Wikipedia description:

A king named Evan Rydingsword, whose land is threatened by a powerful enemy and torn apart by war, goes to ask the powerful Earthwitch, a person who channels the raw power of the Earth, for help. He arrives to discover that it is his old lover, Mariel, not a crone as he expected. Mariel left him 14 years ago because his ambition overpowered her, and she has served almost all of her seven-year term as the Earthwitch. Evan is proud, but years of war and leadership have made him a better man than he was, and he offers his life to the Earth in exchange for help for his people. The Earth complies, and causes the ground to open beneath his enemies and swallow them up. The price the Earth then demands of Evan is Mariel's life. He feels his sword pulling toward her, and rather than kill her, cuts off his own hand with his dagger. He awakes blind and crippled. Mariel tells him that he is no longer king, although his people defeated their enemy. He will be the Earthwitch after her, but once he has served his seven-year term, they may be able to be together, as "just Evan and Mariel," without any politics, power, or ambition to tear them apart.

  • Amazing, thanks! I had this weird feeling it was called something like 'Greenwitch' and thought I was confusing it with the book from the Dark is Rising series, but it was actually close. I've been wondering about this one for a while, thanks again!
    – anodrr
    Apr 9, 2017 at 0:37

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