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Two lovers, forbidden by their families from seeing each other, stood on a featureless hillside beneath the grey, feeling the beginnings of rain spattering on their skin, and waited for the witch.

When she came they felt her as an absence in the wind and noise, a small pocket of calm and silence, draped in wool and rags and black. She listened to their problem, and their wish to be together, and then asked them if they were sure.

Then she handed them a small phial, filled with ground bark and water. “Drink this”, she said. “You will know what to do.”. The man took the glass and held it to the light for the woman to examine it. When they looked down, the witch was gone.

They stayed there on the hill as the wind grew, holding each other fast against it, until in the distance familiar shapes emerged from the fields. They would be found and parted, and that would be an end to the matter.

The man took the woman by the shoulders and she him by his, and as the searchers reached the bottom of the hill they kissed. Brown eyes became brown knots, hair grew into tangles of leaves, skin melded with skin and coarsened to bark, and by the time the first cousin reached the top of the hill all there was left to show they’d been there were the two trunks of a tree, splitting at the roots, wrapped around one another.