Chapter 19: The Witch in the Snow

It was hard for Mitch to believe she had been terrified, even for one second, of the blaze the Tinker had pushed her into. It hadn’t been all that hot—just very warm—and now that it was gone, all Mitch wanted was for it to return. She shivered uncontrollably in the wintery night.

As painful as the cold was, at least it was helping her feel less sick after that terrible tumble through the timechute. And at least she was on firm ground. Mitch stomped her pointy boots into the crunchy leaves just to be sure.


She bent forward to rub the old aching knees of her voyage vessel and caught sight of her striped stockings.

“Oh for goodness sake,” she muttered, wrapping the folds of her dress around her legs.

Mitch the Witch, indeed. If only Mavis and Shawn could see her now.

“Hoot!” laughed an owl in the distance.

“Oh shut up!” Mitch shouted in the direction of the noise.

“Hoot! Hoot!” the owl called back.

Mitch rolled her eyes and looked down at her compass. The gears and needles were spinning in all directions. She twisted the nobs to the second set of coordinates Miki had shown her, which would help her to find the timeshafts hidden throughout the king’s lands.

She surveyed the moonlit countryside. Ian was out there somewhere, she thought. She needed to find him…and quick!

Hours later, Mitch was brushing the frost from her eyelashes. Squinting into the wind, she craned her head up toward the sky. Her heart sank. The moon was barely visible. The black of night had turned to grey, and the first purpley rays of dawn were streaming over the hillside.

She looked around with wild desperation. Maybe she still had time. If she could just make her way back to the timeshaft—it wasn’t so far—she could check, one more time, all the places Ian might be—the gardens, the chateau, the swamp—YES! That was it! He was probably in the swamp. She had only been there twice…maybe three times…no, just twice, she was sure. But maybe, just maybe…

Iaaannn!” she heard herself crying into the cold morning light. “Iaaannn!

She dropped to her knees and fell face forward into the snow.

“Ian,” she whispered over and over again through mouthfuls of frost.

“Yes?” a voice finally answered.



Mitch felt herself being rolled over. She forced her eyes to open. Blinking away the ice, she tried to focus, but all she could see were two blurry brown orbs.

“I’m here to save you,” she said, hoping she was speaking to the right Ian.

“Are you?” the voice asked doubtfully. “Well you certainly smell as if you’ve been traveling for a while.”

He looked bemused at the witch in the snow.

“This is no time for jokes!” Mitch rasped angrily as his face came into focus. “We have to get back! We have to go now! If we wait, it will be—Oh no!” she cried, catching sight of the sun rising over the hill. “Oh no, no, noooo!”

She struggled to pull her frozen body up into a sitting position.

“It can’t be!” she pleaded.

She looked desperately from the sun to Ian, hoping against all hope he would have a plan. Maybe there was some kind of loophole to this whole time travel by full moon thing. Maybe he knew of a way to get them back sooner—like tonight, or even right now!

Well?” she asked expectantly, forgetting she hadn’t actually said anything.

Ian looked back at her with a puzzled expression. 

“What are we going to do now?”

“About?” Ian asked, raising a coppery eyebrow.

“About getting back home!”

“Oh—well, I’m headed to the Fireside myself. We could walk together.”

Ian had become used to the villagers’ strange ways of communicating with him after the moon cycle reset. It was as if they knew him, but weren’t quite sure how. It took a few days before things got back to normal, but once he was back in the good graces of the countess, the villagers seemed to take for granted he had always been around.

This exchange with the old woman was starting to feel even weirder than usual though. For one thing, he didn’t need to hypnotranslate with her. She seemed to speak and understand his English just fine. For another, she kept looking at him like she expected him to do something. He had just offered to walk her to the village, but she had collapsed into tears muttering something about her granddaddy.

Her granddaddy? he mused, eyeing her grey hair and deep wrinkles. How old must he be? 

Realizing the old woman wasn’t going to stop her crying any time soon, Ian decided it would be best to try and comfort her.

“Oh come now,” he said, awkwardly patting her back. “It can’t be all that bad. I’m sure you’re uh—granddaddy—is okay. And it’s just a short walk to the village.”

“I don’t want to go to the village,” Mitch wailed. “I want to go home! They’re probably all so worried about me!”

The old woman leaned into his shoulder and let out a long, heart-wrenching sob. Ian stretched his neck as far back as it would go to keep his nose out of her stinky, greasy hair.

“I can’t imagine,” she continued between sobs, “what they all must be—sniffsniff—thinking!—hiccup!—Granddaddy’s poor heart must be breaking with fear—sniff, cough—and, Uncle Oren will be just as worried—hiccup!—even if he doesn’t show it. He’ll probably—”

“Wait a minute!” Ian cut in, pulling back from the old woman so he could get a good look at her eyes. They glittered like gold in the morning light. Could it possibly be? 

“What did you say? What name did you just say?”

Mitch looked blankly at Ian with snot dripping from her long nose.


“No!” Ian shouted. “After that! Uncle who?”

“Oren?” Mitch asked, startled by the sudden change in Ian’s tone.

“Oren who?” Ian demanded, giving her shoulders a shake.

“What do you mean Oren who?” She shrugged off his grip, suddenly feeling quite annoyed at his pushy questions.

“I mean Oran who?!” Ian snapped, rising to his feet.

Uncle Oren!” Mitch shouted crossly, struggling to stand on her own.

For the first time, she noticed the heavy wool cloak Ian was wrapped in. Feeling the icy wind blowing through her own tattered clothes, she became even angrier.

“What?” she challenged. “You been living in that stupid castle with your warm, fancy clothes too long to remember who Oren is?”

She gestured toward the turrets of the Chateau du Soleil rising out of the morning fog.

Ian’s freckly face flushed with anger at the insult. 

“It’s a chateau!” he retorted hotly, too mad to think of anything else to say. 

Mitch rolled her eyes. “You know you have some nerve! Do you even know what I’ve been through tonight—what I’ve been through this month?! Who are you to interrogate me about my family? I got news for you, Ian Holtfield. I ain’t interested in saving you no more! You can find your own way back to Ol’ Cypress for all I care! I’m getting out of here.”

She turned on her heels and stomped off toward the flarefield.

“If you’re who I think you are,” Ian called, running to catch up with her. “And you’re here why I think you’re here, then you aren’t going anywhere for another month! And even then,” he continued, as Mitch turned to face him with a furious look. “You’re not going anywhere without my help. Now look, I’m sorry I got so worked up back there. It’s just—”

He ran a hand through his coppery hair, searching for the right words.

“You can’t imagine how long I’ve been waiting for someone to come! All the ideas I had about why no one had yet… It’s enough to drive a guy crazy! But look,” he said, pulling Mitch close.

“Before I say anything else, I need to know who you are. More importantly, I need to know who you aren’t. Now you said something about your Uncle Oren. Please,” he asked, searching her eyes for the answer he wanted so desperately to hear. “Will you tell me…Oren who?”

Mitch stared hard at Ian.

“You’re Ian Holtfield?” she said finally. 

Ian nodded.

“Agent of the Collective?”

He nodded again.

“Greatest fighting force for good—”

“—of all time,” Ian finished. 

Mitch nodded. 

“Arlington. My uncle is Oren Arlington. My granddaddy is Graham Scarlett. And I’m Mitch. Mitch Scarlett.”

New chapters of The Secret Corridor will be published every Friday to Listen at SpotifyApple Podcasts, or Buzzsprout.

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