Fungal Halo

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The forest is dark. The clearing is remote. The location is perfect for a secretive meeting of witches.

One by one they approach the fire, toss back the hood of their cloak, and greet the others with a suitably grim nod of spooky camaraderie.

“We have a new member joining ussss today,” one hisses, drawing out the “s” in “us” in a way the others would all agree adds to the ambiance.

From the shadows, a much larger figure looms, and at a gesture from the speaker, the last witch approaches, clanking with each step.

No dark cloak on this newcomer, to everyone’s disappointment. Instead she wears a bulky suit of brilliant white (porcelain?) armor painted with ornate swirls of lovely blue.

It’s a work of art, but it also utterly clashes with the vibe.

“Is this a joke?” one of them asks, a petulant note in her voice. “This is some kind of fancy knight, not a witch!”

The armor fidgets, agitated, and the newcomer gives an awkward, apologetic grin. “Sorry to disappoint?”

Another shakes their head reproachfully. “No, this won’t do.”

“I’m sorry, Jess, but she’s ruined the whole thing now,” the petulant one continues. “I don’t think I can get in the mood while one of us isn’t even dressed the part!”

The armor shudders. The newcomer whispers something under her breath.

“I doubt she’s even a witch at all, she’s—”

“You’re going to want to stop this line of speculation, girl,” the newcomer says. “My doll isn’t great at self-control when someone insults me.”

What doll?!” the whiny one screeches. “I don’t have any patience for some fake witch coming in here and threatening a coven that’s clearly taking this way more seriously than you. We’ll hex you! Don’t try us! We’ll—”

The witch’s tirade abruptly ends when the armor makes a swift movement, vaulting across the campfire and sending a gauntletted fist through her chest.

The others scream and try to scatter, but the armor is faster and deadlier than all of them.

“Aw, no, I’m so sorry about this,” the armored witch says, her face twisted in an embarrassed grimace while blood splatters with each furious kill. “It always gets like this.”

Screams of “why?” and “please stop” echo through the forest, unheeded.

“Gosh, I really wouldn’t have brought my combat doll,” the armored witch explains to someone who’s too busy being strangled to death to pay much attention, “but I kind of formed it around my own body, and you could say we’re joined at the hip these days.”

After the excitement ends, the witch borrows a clean rag to wipe herself and her armor down.

“Did you really have to lose control like that? I’m sure we could’ve won them over with a little time and my charming smile!”

The armor rumbles softly.

“Okay, yeah, maybe they weren’t real witches, but still. I need friends.”

The armor shivers again.

Other than you. Come on, jealousy is beneath us. I’m not going anywhere without you, okay?” She hugs her armor from the inside. “Let’s get you some tea to calm down.”