Thread Rating:
  • 2 Vote(s) - 5 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Peggy Powler & The Desert of The Dancing Dead
The moth fluttered once more on the sticky lattice and then resigned itself to the silken trap of the eight-legged monster that
approached from its den in the corner of the window-pane. The observer of this natural predator-prey pact moved her eyes
from the drama within the gossamer snare and peered out at the Great Sea, the evening was coming in fast.

Peggy Powler sighed in her cosiness and bringing one of Myrddin's many candlesticks closer, she went back to reading
the old tome that the snoring Magician had given her that very afternoon. The Book of The Wretched contained ancient -but
badly-written spells and to say it was tough going was an understatement.

It had been two weeks since Sow-In had been celebrated in the little fishing village of Salterhead and now was the lull before
Wintertide. Peggy had arrived just before the celebratory bonfires had been set alight along the beach and even though her
heart yearned to get to the old wizard's home in the cove just off from where the honouring of the Otherside was taking place,
the little Witch did allow herself some time to enjoy the festivities involving the community she often spent the winter beside.

With a glance over at the table piled with old leather-bound books and paraphernalia of glass pipes and tubes that occasionally
offered beautifully-coloured bubbles and strange farting noises, Peggy noticed her gift of a taffy-apple to Myrddin had still gone
So she read the dubious charm about how to deal with a toothache instead.

The brew was sweet and Peggy allowed the feeling of relish to thrum through her body as she sipped their ritual evening supper.
"...Then I'll take it that thy encounter with the Pond-Devil ended fruitfully?" the bearded practitioner of old charms asked as he
wiped his bristles of of the delicious foam and his guest responded with a nod due to her being focused on acquiring the dregs
of her own beverage.

"Aye..." Peggy eventually replied as she savoured the flavour "...the folk of Lubberhouses awarded me a brass button that
-Ah' was told on good authority, kept Hobs from stealin' me-underclothes". This brought a rare raising of Myrddin's brushy
eyebrows and a smile that was enjoyed by both conjurers of majick.

The sea continued its lulling background anthem as the couple soaked in the serenity of the magician's little home and the old
clock in the corner of the room ticked the beat of such a cost. Time shares a tariff with that elusive endeavour called experience
and for Myrddin, that payment had been paid in full.

"The Witching-hour approaches and old bastards like myself need to be under the blanket before mischief arrives..." the old man
quipped and with a grunt, lifted his century-old bones from his favourite chair. "...but If sleep alludes thee sister, there's a peculiar
article that found its way to my door..." Myrddin absently mentioned with poor theatrical investment. "...Maybe it will while away an
odd hour or two before the Sandman taps thee on thy shoulder" he tendered and pointed a razor-shell fingernail towards a badly
-torn scroll resting on another stack of books.

"Fair dreams" Peggy whispered softly from her perch near the window and watching the ancient man shamble into his bedroom,
she wondered if Myrddin had just declared his annual trial for the woman titled the last Witch of Underhill. Peering over at the dark
rolled-up document balanced on bound manuscripts about the convoluted politics of Mountain Spriggans, Peggy wondered why
she hadn't noticed it before.

"Because it wasn't there before..." she giggled softly to herself and hearing the sneck of the Magus' door click shut, the little Seer
maintained her grin and carried the candlestick with her for further investigation. Looking down on the damaged scroll, she mused
"Moth or Spider, that's the question?" and began her examination.

It was made of a rare paper and Peggy guessed at Touchwood because of the faint whorls that moved when human eyes weren't
looking upon it. As Peggy lightly felt the brown texture, it told of a regular interaction with regular folk, possibly a family.
A small stain of what might be cooking-fat tipped the outer-edge and if one pushed their imagination, faint imprints of what might
be from a dog's teeth grabbing at the scroll, could be vaguely felt.

But just with a cursory glance at the item, what it offered conflicted with the standard pattern of using paper to convey a message.
Touchwood as a recording tool was a laborious undertaking and an expense that ensured that whatever this epistle contained,
the words have to be valuable enough to endure the clock of this reality and all that it brings.

In some northern counties, the colloquial title for Touchwood was 'Dragonskin', a name borne out of its durability. Some say a fallen
God was impaled on a Touchwood tree and his blood charred the bark into an almost stone-like condition. In the canton of Henge,
they'll swear that it was the tree that Gellan was crucified on for his error of opening the gates of sin.
The bare-footed Witch had heard them all and she held none of them in regard, except when adding flavour to a late-night fairy-tale.
Maybe the great Wizard had misstepped this time...? she wondered, maybe Myrddin had found a dud?

And so Peggy continued her appraisal whilst carrying a frown of confusion, there was no ornate brass ark to protect the blemished
scroll -a usual barrier for any missive of value. This ragged token had lived a life in the open and thus, its condition hinted of the level
of its importance.

But there was a clue to where this scroll had possibly originated and reaching for Myrddin's highly-polished crystal, the inquisitive
Witch peered into the magnified world that may help in Peggy's guessed-at quest. It wasn't much, but it was there and how it survived
could be down to the wax's simple blind luck.

In all of the counties that Ms Powler had roamed, there were many constants and one of them was the art of message delivery.
Written communication was generally carried by couriers known as The Midnight Mail who galloped on horseback through the night
and brought the letters and parcels to the recipients. To ensure a message was not only kept private, but also had an identifying mark
from the vicinity of the sender, a wax seal was used to keep a scroll closed and a stamp determined which community it came from.

In the shire that Salterhead sat, a metal seal stamp of a mermaid holding a thresh of barley was used. In Malton County, a rendering
of a stylised ladle beside a wooden barrel was pressed into the hot wax to indicate the local industry. The contrasting depictions of
social divergence in seal-stamps was a hobby in itself.

The colour of the wax had a bearing too. Red meant officialdom, possibly council, administrative and governance. Green was usually
used when commercial enterprises needed to communicate and blue was strictly aristocracy and royalty. Although in the realms of
the high-born, such tidings were usually delivered by a special messenger. Plain white Lanolin wax was commonly used if an average
villager wishing to get a message to another part of the land.

Some districts did occasionally use distinct ghees to alter their wax compositions and this one was grey, which meant Develdite.
Develdite is an outdated cacti oil primarily used in the mining industry before the black stuff from underground was discovered.
Now it's mainly used for colouring in paints and grease-proofing. Peggy smiled to herself as she strongly believed this wax came
from the Wildhorn territory in the south. Focusing further on the fragment of grey tallow she was staring at through the polished
lens, there was something imprinted that came to a curved point.
A spear...? no. The tip of a pickaxe...?, maybe.

Carefully unfurling the badly-handled scroll, Peggy breathed in softly and prepared to read its contents.
It was a poem.

It was noon when Peggy squinted out of her satchel in the corner of the room and spotted the skinny legs of her host swaying beneath
the only table in the tiny cottage that wasn't piled with venerable literature. Myrddin was humming to himself and preparing to eat his
midday meal whilst reading a large book held together with gold-metal hinges.
Scratching her backside and yawning quietly, she idly guessed it was Molark's guide to Mizmazes.

"Is it a sham?" the old Wizard asked without looking towards the naked woman reaching for her discarded poncho. If another question
was to follow, it would have to wait for a mouthful of quince pudding to be swallowed and this gave Peggy an opportunity to dress herself.

The winter sun was doing its best to light up the dust-motes in the room and the long shadows reminded her that Spring was still a wraith
holidaying somewhere else. Peggy remained silent to the query until she'd visited the out-house and dowsed herself in the cold water of
the trough beside the back door. "Reet" she said to herself and went back to the puzzle that resided in the old letter.

"Where did yer' get it?" Peggy asked as she dried her hair with a small towel that had gratefully appeared on the lap of her satchel.
The day had escaped her and she felt that a lot of catching-up was to be done before the old man smiling at her could call a result on
her latest test.

Myrddin stroked his beard and a large crumb of pastry fell onto the sun-warmed floorboards and rolled to the leg of the chair Peggy was
relaxing on. During their discussion -and something that Peggy had been surprised at on her first day staying with her favourite mentor,
a Dormouse would appear from a hole in the skirting-board and take care of the discarded morsel.

"It was a passing tinker with an eye on yonder ornament and the sale of a brummagem bracelet..." he answered and showed a wry smile
to what the damp-haired sorceress might be thinking.

The large silver platter that this traveller was alleged to have had an interest in, hung on the wall above Myrddin's evening chair and had
been given to him seventy years-ago when he'd saved a Baron's daughter from a band of ruffians with a certain type of waywardness on
their minds. The middle-aged warlock had chosen the prize because of the engraving, a dragon flying over intricately detailed village that
reminded Myrddin of the coastal community he now lived alongside.

In previous visits to Myrddin's home, he would sometimes mention the indebted nobleman's consoling the magician that dragons didn't
really exist and Peggy would laugh along with her host at the ignorance of those who hold themselves so highly. Didn't exist...? pah!

And the boorish degenerates who had threatened to steal the poor young lady's chastity ...?
Well, if one travels a hundred leagues westwards and keep an eye out for a large house with blue-grey tiles on its many rooves, there's a
meadow where poppies always seem to grow no matter what crop is sown. Beside that field, there's a copse of very old ash trees and in
those trees, a rookery. The wizard turned them into crows... or so the story goes.

"...Indeed, this ear-ringed roamer failed to convince me that the badly-carved manacle once belonged to some so-called magician called
Myrddin and grasping that no sale was viable, attempted to urge me to donate the plate" Myrddin explained with honey-soaked tones.

Peggy Powler grinned at the telling of the tale and wasn't impatient for the punch line, it was times like these that she could just curdle in
the spellbinder's genuine warmth. Raising his eyebrows to ask if the little Witch required a refill of her cup, he poured them both another
measure of sweet dandelion tea and returned to his yarn of how the scroll came into his possession.

"Oh he was a charmer, this one and when he barged past me... well, it took all of my strength just stay on my feet!" the affable old gent
explained and took a sip of his brew. "He persisted in his invasion and later, I found his bag of useless sundry held the unsettling letter
that intrigues thee" he added and laid his gnarled hand on the page he'd been reading.

The old Warlock's features altered slightly as he turned his gaze to the Torchwood papyrus and sighed. "I think it was a cry for help
and fell into the wrong hands" he murmured and clicked his tongue in a sign of regret, a sound that made the mouse scurry back to
its den.

Peggy glanced over at the parchment of interest and wondered how to prepare her questions of what it contained. Then she recalled
Myrddin hadn't finished his story and so asked him what happened to the brusque seller of worthless trinkets. The bushy centenarian
smile returned from behind his briar of hair and whispered "you're sitting on him".
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
"So me-task... yer' request, is to seek out the author of that letter and...?" Peggy Powler asked and let question trail off as she
stared out at the calm ocean. The old Magician was sweeping the veranda of his little home and humming again, apparently
Dormice draw a line at cleaning outside of the cottage.

Myrddin shooed the last of the wind-blown sand from the dried boards and placing his broom against the rune-shaped balusters he
deliberated on his next words. "Thee will have seen the words 'Chorus Mortuus' mentioned in the poem?" he enquired as he carefully
traversed the seaweed-strewn beach. The bald heads of water-worn boulders protruded from the tide-damp sand and monitored the
fabled sorcerer's progress.

The last Witch of Underhill took the hand of her host as he arrived on the terminator where the lapping waters had finally reached their
zenith, now came the receding when the Great Sea would race back to his only love over the horizon, the seductive orb we call the moon.

"Yes, 'Ah' saw 'em and Ah' know what they meant..." Peggy answered with a tone of light chagrin. There were times when she could
slap the old bugger beside her for his doubts on her nous as a journeyman of majick. "...It means 'the Dancing Dead'" she added and
went back to watching a fishing dory making its way out from Salterhead's little quayside.

The pair of landlubbers felt the enjoyment of a person setting forth on an adventure where an outcome has many variables to deal with.
The older of the observers reminisced on past expeditions, the younger pondered on what lay ahead. Bow and stern.

After a few moments of stillness, Myrddin said "It might be dangerous out there in the desert, not many travel to such an inhospitable
bailiwick". The warning drew a nod from the little woman in the poncho and also the soft antipole "Aye, but when isn't it?".
The notion that the man she saw as her grandfather hinting that he knew her future destination didn't go amiss either.

"Let it go Peggy..." the magician said finally as he released the Witch's hand and turned to go, "...let it go and stay here with me"
But the woman peering at the fisherman preparing to test himself against an unknown quarry knew you just can't let it go, can't let
it swim away. Turning to follow the acclaimed wizard who'd fought evil all of his life, she knew Myrddin was thinking the same thing.

Regardless of the kindly-features her host was presenting, Peggy retained the belief that sitting on a broomstick wasn't just a silly
idea of conveyance, her bare backside would be bruised only a few minutes into the journey.

Myrddin's eyes tracked the reluctant pilot as she stepped back and forth along the path under the veranda and occasionally peeked
at him though the balusters. With the decision to go to the barren lands of the scroll finalised, getting there required the century-old
thaumaturge to conjure with a different type of hermetics, that of verbal persuasion.

"Of course, Silas Mumbles takes his cargo of ale along to the Vienna Arch in a couple of weeks, maybe thee could hitch a ride wiith
him?..." the wily warlock suggested and fingered the besom's birch sticks in faux contemplation. "...In a few months time, thee'll be
close to the Wildhorn border" he supplemented doubtfully and looked positively at the coy Witch as she stepped onto the recently
-swept terrace.

Peggy snatched the hazel staff of the brush and showed narrowed eyes towards her genial tutor, "Yer' a bugger and yer' know it..."
she hissed but failed to maintain the spoof anger. "...And Me-ass'll be black n' blue" she added and pondered her decency on riding
such an oddly-shaped household item.
Then the serious part arrived.

There is a rare broth -some call it an ointment, that when poured onto an object or a person, can render matter lighter than air.
Its ingredients are only known to a few and guarded well. Some speak of smallage and other plants that make the salve a way of flight,
but there are other elements needed that do not come from the simple plucking of greenery off the side of a road and we'll leave it there.

The night is the best time for flying and with a long embrace and the obligatory curtsy, Peggy fed her inborn need to wander the land.
Calling goodbye to the bearded man waving as she set out for the wilderness where the Dancing Dead await, the little Witch held onto
her hat and waited for the clouds to reveal the stars.
And for those who are interested, Peggy sat on birch-section of the broom.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
Amazing,,,  minusculeclap
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
[Image: attachment.php?aid=936]
Thanks so much for posting. I love reading these.
Shivering under her hat and the constellation of Hettan Major, Peggy Powler mulled on what she knew of the Wildhorn enclave
and rued that she hadn't utilised her satchel as a passenger seat. She'd have been snuggled-up in her bag and certainly warmer
if she'd thought it through -the last Witch of Underhill mentally grumbled to herself.

Nearly thirty years must've passed since she'd visited the desert region and even then, it was only due to a request to drive out
a vicious Bug-Goblin that was contaminating a village well. The expulsion occurred during her journey from the Billings Heights
and after the exorcism, the wind-blown community of Piedmont had promised a memorial would be erected in her honour.
Peggy had been happy just have her canteen refilled.

Dropping ungainly through the dwindling clouds and saying farewell to the myriad of twinkling stars, the little sorceress braced
herself for an untidy descent. The broom had been twitching for some time now and as the dark arid terrain appeared beneath
her dangling legs, Peggy wondered if the magic had all but gone. A minute later, her misgivings were proven.

Some believe birds do not accomplish true flight, their debate is based on the idea of feathers managing air-flow through their
barbules and should really be classified as a form of 'slow-falling'. Bats -by some, could be said to accomplish sustained flight.
But brooms belonging old Magicians and arm-waving Witches cannot fly under natural means and as the sandy bank raced up
to meet the half-naked woman falling from the sky, such discussions become moot.

Thanking Herne the Hunter for her tumbling coming to a halt before a rather nasty-looking cactus, Peggy gathered herself whilst
surveying the chaparral landscape of the Wildhorn district. A couple of miles in the distance, faint lights could be seen emulating
the fading celestial pin-pricks in the velvet firmament above.

Closer to the rump-rubbing spellbinder getting to her feet, she noticed her hat had survived the poorly-executed landing and was
convalescing beneath a tall termite mound with the magic-spent besom sticking out of it. Picking her favourite headwear from the
ground and shaking the dust from its wrinkles, she eyed the hazel-handled aerial vehicle and silently agreed flying is for the birds.

Wildhorn was an odd place -Peggy mused as she tramped towards the small town ahead. The winters here never took on the
same weather conditions that other counties endured. Snow did fall on the mountains to the east, but rarely did those who lived
in the hundred mile-wide basin ever feel the cold flakes on their well-tanned faces.
As the sun was still behind those same high sierras, the little Witch soaked in the coolness of a land that never really went cold.

A dark shape fluttered past a few feet away and believing it was late-for-home bat, Peggy shook her head jovially and produced
a smile she hadn't aired since yesterday. It was good to be wandering again in her usual mode and those who used the skies for
travel can keep it. "And that means you, Mr Bat" Peggy said good naturedly.

But only a few seconds later, she thought she heard a faint squeak and was sure she heard a soft rasping voice coming from the
direction that the long fingered mammal had been heading. A small amount of scrambling beneath some shadowy underbrush
informed the little Witch that the bat had been snatched as an early breakfast.

Looking towards the sleeping community and then back to where the strange sounds emanated, Peggy gambled that a few
minutes of nosiness wouldn't do any harm. She knew what killed the cat and it wasn't curiosity.

There was a grove of young Yuccas on the upper-part of the rise with desert-holly surrounding their bases. Peggy squinted in her
early-morning enquiry of the area and wagered the sage bushes guarding a tall cactus was where the ambusher was hidden.
"Stay quiet" a whisper slipped from beneath a clump of foliage near her bare foot and furnishing a smile again, Peggy hunkered
down and was careful to hide her lack of under-garments.

There was a net full of fluttering bats, a stick with an almost-dead moth impaled on its whittled point and a pair of apprehensive
eyes staring back from the obscurity of the bush. "G'morning" the squatting sorceress stated and after two rather slow blinks,
the eyes answered "Good morning".

Desert Gnomes or as some like insult them with, 'Boonie-Jingles', usually inhabit the foothills due to their penchant of subterranean
living. The one hiding under the sage bush was a little off his accepted stomping ground, but Peggy put it down to his mysterious
act of capturing -what looked like, twenty bats.

"You are Fae?" the young-sounding shadow asked warily and Peggy nodded that he was correct. This gesture brought a bit of
jostling as the small fledgling Gnome came out of hiding and got to his feet with his flapping pre-dawn catch. 

"Dunnett" the jet black-haired lad said and bowed watchfully. "Thank yer' son, but no... it gives me terrible wind, this early in the day"
Peggy replied and widened her smile at the potential joke. The Gnome with the boyish gaze merely frowned at the comment and
stated his position once more, "No... my name is Dunnett"

Taking off her wide-brimmed hat and presenting a bare foot forward, the wicked Witch introduced herself and resisting the urge to
ask if he had a brother called 'Bin-There', Peggy Powler asked about the contents of his fluttering net.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The dark-haired Desert Gnome felt the merit of his idea fading along with the gloom that fled from the breaking day.
Attaching flying animals to one's body doesn't equate to that body being able to fly. It just means you have a lot of
flapping animals deciding -through flight, to do what individual animals do when presented with a situation not natural
to their standard behaviour.
Peggy Powler explained this quicker by pointing to the bats trying to get out of Dunnett's net.

Standing there in his sandy-coloured knee-length shorts and the obligatory multi-pleated desert vest, Peggy felt like
she'd stolen something from him, came to his home and kicked his dream from under his bare dusty feet.

Ceding to the rationale of the kindly Witch, the crestfallen young Fae knelt down and began to release the engine of
his desire of soaring above the desert and undoing the release-lace of the mesh, his sadly-looking face told Peggy
she should really cheer him up in some way.

As the shadows of the badlands began to strengthen in Wildhorn County, she looked around for something to entertain
the Gnome -now that she'd shattered his expectation and wondered if she dare mention the broom protruding from the
insects' home.

"Done it?" Peggy asked and then quickly corrected herself, "I mean, are they all away, me-lad?". Dunnett looked up
from his crouch with regretful eyes and nodded, the home-made Yucca-leaf net was neatly folded and that was another
trait of Desert Gnomes she recalled, they never wasted anything. As the skittering black sky-mice raced off in the same
direction that the couple's shadows were pointing, Peggy offered her idea.

And so finally, the last Witch of Underhill set out across the wilderness knowing that her first interaction in Wildhorn had
began with an unsteady start, but was repaired when fully appreciated. The little Gnome boy was now hurrying towards
a partially-defunct flying broom with a hope that their was still enough life in it to fulfil his wish and Peggy was on her way
to find out about a poem that told of something that humans shouldn't know about.
And the day was only starting.

'Welcome To Barren Wayz. Pop: 38' the weathered sign proclaimed as Ms Powler came off the desert floor and followed
the stony track into town. The sun was still in its morning stage, but with the walk and her recent sitting around on her fanny
at Myrddin's home for the last few weeks, Peggy would have to concede that she wasn't glowing -as ladies are quoted to do,
in the Witch's common parlance, she was 'sweatin' like a bugger'.

Out to Peggy's left, a group of single one-storey cabins hunkered like pariahs waiting for an invitation to join the Barren Wayz
population count. "Maybe miners" Peggy mumbled to herself as she lost sight of the log-walled structures and the regular town
buildings took over the meagre scenery.

Taking off her sweat-stained hat as she passed the placard, she had to squint to take in the vista of the slowly-waking community
that couldn't spell. A typographical-irony in a way -the panting Witch mused as she pondered dunking her head in a nearby horse

Seeing the water held a greenish tinge, Peggy -instead, eyed the wooden commercial buildings huddled together in what she
guessed was Main Street and even though the morning heat had sapped some of her usual jovial attitude, she still managed
to smile when she realised the dusty thoroughfare of Barren Wayz was their only street.

There was the usual Dry Goods store with shadowed windows offering everyday household items and a range of groceries.
Two structures seemed to offer nothing for a visitor to the desert community and so Peggy took a guess that these were private

After a typical freight wagon-sized gap, a one-floor office where the Midnight Mail was picked-up and dropped-off stood beside
a prestigious-looking Bank that also advertised itself as an Assay Office. Peggy's red-rimmed eyes moved back to the 'we-sell
-everything' trader and wondered if basic mining equipment was available too.

A Butcher's shop and a Baker's outlet were next, Ike and Mike -they think alike, and then a drinking establishment branded 'The
Wildhorn Wet' stood as the final building before the desert waited to purloin such a boastful claim.

Peggy peered down into the algae-kissed water and saw the reflection of one the buildings that made-up the opposite of what
locals may call Main Street. The word in the planked-trough said 'fferihS', but the Witch knew that the bars on the windows told
a passer-by everything and that included the stone-faced man watching her from one of the glass apertures.

A Blacksmith's with its doors open was next and another type of clock resided there for those still snoozing in Barren Wayz.
If there's no sound of a hammer beating against hot metal, then it's still early and every farrier knows this to be true.
With a small fenced-off space to stable a couple of horses, a quaint barber shop joined the queue to pamper a visitor to the
town in the desert. An off-white sign in its window advertised tooth-pulling was also available.

Then a few more private homes stood along the boardwalk, finishing with another store that sold hardware and a three-floored
wooden building holding a scrolled sign with the imaginative name 'Board & Lodgings House'. Peggy showed an amused face
in the shadow of her wide-brimmed hat as she noticed there was no house of worship in the passel that made up Main Street.
Maybe Father Jacobs' spiritual journey needed to be lengthened?

"Just passing through, Ma'am?" a deep voice from the Sheriff's Office asked.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
When it came to any reasonably sized coterie in a county, there was always a dominant functionary like the one now
looking down at Peggy Powler from the wooden alameda of Barren Wayz. The sidewalk creaked under the weight
of the fat man in the dark scarlet long-coat and the attentive Witch leaning against the water trough recognised that
the hue of his garment signified his position.

"G'morning Sheriff...?" Peggy said politely as she curtsied and let her tone ask for his name. The big man with the
big gut protruding from his open coat just softly snorted and looked out to where the newcomer had appeared from.
"The next town is over twelve leagues from here and I don't see no canteen on your shoulder" the constable drawled
and move his hand just enough to show a large sheathed knife beneath his robe of office.

Nodding with a smile, Peggy slowly reached into her satchel and keeping her mocking of the town's custodian to a
limit, she produced her leather-bound water container from her trusty bag. "Just keepin' it out of the sun, Mister" she
replied and resisted to use her finger-charm.

The corpulent sheriff nodded back, but didn't look at the female wanderer, his eyes attempted to indicate that vigilance
was a regular act for such an important occupation. "Well... we're a quiet town, Ma'am and I keep it that way by moving
on drifters and vagrants" he bombinated during his constant surveillance of the sun-bleached buildings that were only
there because of quarrying a chosen type of rock from the ground.

"Forgive me Sir, I'm Peggy Powler, the last Wi..." Peggy began, but the fat man interrupted her introduction with "As I
was saying, we don't need problems here... there's a hand-pump out in the back for a refill to help you on your way".
This time, the portly marshal used a growling tone in his counterfeit advice.

The little Witch from the teensy-weensy borough of Underhill noticed with irritation that the morning was moving
quickly towards noon as she sat at the peace Officer's desk and asked her questions. Sheriff Brunton -for that was
his name, stood patiently in the corner of his office on one leg with his sun-scorched Boss of the Plains hat on his
head -upside down and his fat thumb between his pudgy lips

"...So you don't know anyone from the mining community who could afford to buy Torchwood?" Peggy queried and
almost put her bare feet up on the elbow-worn desk scattered with paper to imply busy dedication. Then she recalled
that such an act may reveal her undress beneath her poncho to the hypnotised constable and went back to attempting
to pry some useful information from the plump merry-andrew waiting in the corner.

Brunton offered that the expensive material was possibly ordered in from a large town by one of Barren Wayz's retail
outlets and with a blossoming smile, Peggy felt inclined to pull the fake tough-guy out of his bewitchment. But looking
towards the barred-window and the bright street outside that the good-sheriff kept clear of visiting miscreants, she
caught herself and searched for another question.

"Officer Brunton...?" the Witch asked as she got to her feet and acquired a quick response in the affirmative. "...If you
were going to buy Develdite, which store would you go to?" she adjured. The capacious copper of Barren Wayz had
acted exactly as previously ordered and stuck his thumb in his mouth before answering and Peggy was forced to wait
for the answer because he wobbled when he withdrew the digit.

"Haver's Dry Goods Store, Ma'am" he said and the defenceless little woman informed Sheriff Brunton that he'll return
back to his duties in one hour and if he ever met her again, he'd lose control of his bowels.
Of course, the law officer agreed.

In a place where a young shepherd of Kettlefog County went about tending sheep and a stoic Grim-figg refilled his
pipe beside a roaring fire, winter was frolicking with its ordnance of bleak weather. Just a couple of hundred leagues
away, the sun was shining and Peggy found it puzzling that the sun vacationed in such a realm of abandonment.

Then again, it is peaceful -she assumed as she stepped lightly across Barren Wayz's dusty highway towards Mr Clark
Haver's emporium of fine reasonably-priced commodities. On the stoop, a selection of brooms propped inside a small
wooden barrel at the open doors to the Haver's store assisted in the Witch's attempt to maintain a happy smile as she

"Aw hell... it's that Powler woman again!" the proprietor moaned softly as Peggy's eyes adjusted to the shadows.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
"Aw hell... it's that Powler woman again!" 
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
[Image: attachment.php?aid=936]
Mr Clark Haver wasn't Clark Haver -well, not previously when he first met the prospective customer who now stood
on the threshold of his establishment. Back then he was known as Obadiah Havenshaw and he was a professional
asshole. As Peggy Powler beamed at the rat-faced, almost-bald man in the cloth-apron, she was sure that fact was
written down somewhere.

Around four years ago in a wealthy area of the county of Cooridge, it was decided to harness the power of a river
that tumbled down off the basalt cliffs a few miles from an affluent town called Trasker. Trasker had also been a
mining town like Barren Wayz, but their favoured aggregate was Gilitte, the stone used for softening leather.

This rock -composed of fossilised seashells and pumice, holds a duel benefit in the leather industry as it applies the
ideal amount of abrasiveness to animal hides and erodes after an appropriate duration to ensure regular sales.

Using fairly shallow shafts around the land of the town to obtain the valuable mineral, the population grew along with
its prosperity. And so with the money rolling in over the years, the Elders of Trasker put forth a plan to exploit the falling
waters of their nearby river named -unsurprisingly, Trasker River.
The only hiccup was that the current design of a watermill-wheel couldn't survive the constant impact of such a cascade
and due to the depth of the pool at the bottom of the waterfall, the currents were unusually slow-moving. This is when a
certain thin-faced chap called Obadiah Havenshaw appeared and offered his idea of a dam.

Needless to say, the newcomer -who had the gift of the gab, convinced a Trasker committee to invest in his own design
of a barrier because he was an expert in the field of water-management. In reality, Havenshaw was a con-man and with
pumice being a porous stone -and hence the decrease in river flow, the construction not only eventually collapsed due
to the foundations being set on absorbent bedrock, the sudden release of water drowned two goats and took out the
Mayor's garden where his prized marrow resided.

I won't belabour the importance of the Cooridge County's famous vegetable competition, but Obadiah Havenshaw must
have had one of those strange aversions to community-based tournaments involving groomed-legumes, as he quickly
left town the same day his dam fell down.

Peggy Powler had witnessed the whole thing from its Panglossian start to its saturated finish because she happened
to be in Trasker wrestling with a rather-nasty demon that enjoyed ruining the delights of Madam Epstein's house of
ill repute.

The little Witch of Underhill had even attended the town-meeting where Havenshaw had rendered his bunkum and told
him so. But like most people too-willing to see the coin as their way to happiness, they went along with the seemingly
practical man with the silver tongue. A year later -when Peggy returned to Trasker, she could only smile as she saw the
washed-out streets and the rage of being fooled by a charlatan.

And now...

"Aw, come on Ma'am..." Haver bleated as he rushed around from his product-enticing counter to meet the little woman
in the grubby poncho and too-large hat, "...You can't just walk in and ruin a man's business like this!" the skinny rascal
added and keeping clear of the memory of his dubious past, he closed the double-doors behind her.

Peggy sidled up to the well-polished work-top and waited like a hopeful customer would. "Ah' have a question or two
and then Ah'll be out of yer' hair" she said, recalling his sweating receding hairline when he'd proposed his doltish
scheme. Clark Haver returned to his place as a merchant and his disposition hadn't improved.

"I'm doing well here, I keep myself to myself and I haven't rocked the boat..." Clark lamented softly and with flickering
eyelids, did his best to convince the Witch -who can turn folk into trees he'd heard, in a similar manner he had swayed
the salad-growing Mayor to build that stupid dam. "...Can't you find it in your heart to give a guy a break?" he mewled
quietly with the idea of some-sort of trade.

"Torchwood, I need..." Peggy began and since it seemed to be a habit of the inhabitants of Barren Wayz to interrupt
their transients, Clark Haver quickly scampered sideways exclaiming that he had some of the costly paper and would
be happy to donate it to the Witch's obvious-paramount cause.

Removing her hat in exasperation, Peggy watched the frightened man collect the ream of tough material from a shelf
next to a wooden container of flashy-looking peacock quills and return to the counter. "As much as you need and you
can have them at net-cost" Clark said with a smile that rivalled the woman's earlier greeting.

"If yer' value yer' trade and what's beneath yer' apron, yer'll keep quiet and listen to what Ah' ask, okay?" Peggy stated
with a tone that could freeze water. Haver -a man who knew when the game was up, gulped and nodded only once.

With the knowledge of who had bought the Torchwood paper and the usual whereabouts of the purchaser, Peggy
reckoned it was time to visit one of her favourite businesses and often held a bit of flesh to add to the bones of an
investigation. The Witch's shadow pooled beneath her as she wandered over towards the Blacksmith's workplace
and the thought on what Clark Haver had told her about the young woman with the name of Sarah Bowe.

The fly-by-night storekeeper had said she lived in a cabin out towards the foothills in the west and rarely came into
town. Surprisingly, she lived alone except for a huge coy-wolf that Haver had once asked the plain-faced woman to
keep tied-up outside of his premises. Peggy had pressed the wilting cad on how she made a living and with sweat
dripping off his chin, he said he didn't know.

When Haver had stutteringly suggested that her income may be connected to the fact that during her scarce visits,
she would go to the Post Office further down the street, Peggy's false-mood changed and she thanked Clark was
his time. To show that there were no hard-feelings between them, the amiable Witch accepted the candy-stick he
offered her.

Bram Janssen was scoffing a large piece of potato pie whilst sitting on his anvil. It was noon and obviously the time
for bolting potato pie down one's throat with gusto. Peggy discreetly entered the shaded foundry and curtsied as her
eyes adjusted from the outside glare.

"Fair travels, Mr Janssen..." she said and wafted her hat near her face to imply the external and internal heat. This bit
of theatre also doubled as an ice-breaker. "...Not a great day to be labourin' over an oven" the petite walk-in taunted
pleasantly as she absently popped the donated sweet-stick in her mouth.

The massive Blacksmith chewed on his fare and eventually nodded towards the tiny female who'd ventured into his
shadowy abode, entered and alone -he thought with a wander into dark thoughts. However, when the unshod visitor
announced her name, any carnal thoughts that the wide-shouldered Janssen had been entertaining fled quickly when
he realised who she was and worse, what she might do if he tried anything.
"Fair travels to you too, Ms Powler" he eventually replied around his final chunk of masticated lunch.

As Peggy cautiously asked Bram the giant metal-pounder about Sarah Bowe and her private life, she was slowly
forming a picture of the person who may have written the poem. Let's say she lives a simple life and let's say her
written balladry brought in some monies, but why mention the Dancing Dead...? Could the old legend of the terrible
malady be alive and well in the forsaken lands around Barren Wayz?

"Uh?" chirped Peggy as she pulled out of her evocation and squinted towards the colossal silhouette near the open
doors. Bram Janssen didn't look over his shoulder to repeat his utterance, he merely stayed in his position of eyeing
the quiet town outside of his forge and said "That's the Bowe-girl there... just going into the Mail Office".
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The Postal Office was open, which to Peggy Powler seemed to be an unusual situation as she assumed a sleepy town
like Barren Wayz wasn't a hub for much correspondence. Maybe it was due to the Sheriff's crotchety manner to anyone
around him or even the Witch's view that folk like Clark Haver wished to allow the world outside of this desert community
to forget about them, whatever it was, Peggy was mildly surprised to see the little door ajar as she loitered on the dusty
street to speak to the user of the trusted conveyor of private information.

Through the immaculately-clean window of the building, the last Witch of Underhill surveyed the the young woman standing
beside a sitting tail-wagging brute that Haver had claimed was a wolf. Sarah Bowe wore her shoulder-length hair in a tight
platted pony-tail that lay on a cardigan unsuitable for such a climate. This told Peggy that she hadn't walked into town and
somewhere behind this line of property, a horse waited. Men's jeans that had seen better days hung from her belted hips
and just like the work-boots, dried paint could bee seen.

The canine seemed affable enough as he watched his master in conversation with the bushy-moustached man adjusting
his sleeve-garters and listening intently to his only customer. Yes... Peggy would agree with the sham of a storekeeper who
didn't know anything about water-course barricades, the big animal was a coy-wolf.

The sun was ramping up its heat and Main Street seemed an inappropriate place to be hanging about. Bram Janssen's
establishment had struck-up it's usual sound of metal being forced into a shape under the power of a hammer and Peggy
glanced across the space between the Postal Office and the Dry Goods Store. There was the man once called Obadiah
Havenshaw sweeping the boardwalk and occasionally looking to see if his nemesis was returning.

A man and a woman shuffled across Main Street from the lodgings hostel and with great pleasure, Clark Haver invited them
inside his harborage of fine goods. With one glance of contempt towards Peggy leaning on the empty horse-rail and then he
was gone.

Peggy held back a chuckle and nonchalantly scanning the structures across the way, her eyes settled on the empty windows
of the Sheriff's Office. Dropping the cheerful features from her face, the little Witch still held firm with her decision to allow
the big law man to discharge his body-waste if-or-when he lays eyes on his would-be poncho-wearing victim.
But that still didn't mean she should create a situation for him to do so.

Then a faint voice saying "Thank you again" came to Peggy's attention and straightening her satchel -along with her hat, she
quickly mentally prepared to introduce herself to another possible lead about the strange poem from Myrddin's cooler county.
"Er... Miss Bowe, may Ah' speak to yer?" the little woman standing in the hot street asked politely and just as Clark Haver had
described, Peggy could see why he would say that Sarah Bowe was plain-looking.

It was the clothing that did it really, Sarah wasn't ugly and sported a face that might tell an onlooker that she was someone
who did her own thing and struggled in her journey to resist external assistance. 'Prim' would be the word Peggy would use,
but for someone like Sheriff Brunton, he might suggest the adjective 'Prissy'.

Placing a hand into the thick fur of her pet's neck, Sarah Bowe surveyed the stranger in the large hat and shabby cape with
suspicious gray-blue eyes. "What do you want?" she said uneasily and slightly emphasised the pronoun 'You'.
Offering her best smile, Peggy acknowledged the fact that this woman knew her. 

As the two-wheeled buggy discovered another fist-sized rock to trundle over, Peggy Powler cautiously patted the wary-eyed
woolly hybrid sitting between her and the wolf's owner. "I wrote that almost two years ago..." Sarah said and kept her eye
on the unruly terrain before the cart. The ex-mining pony clopped along in the same gait it once pulled Benzonite-filled
wagons and when the priggish lass clucked the reins and the pack-animal ignored her.

"...It was just a silly poem, a... a creative moment when I penned my thoughts, that's all" Sarah snapped softly and stared
out at the uncultivable landscape. As the bumpy journey continued in silence, Peggy thought back to when they had first
spoken and how she'd convinced the straight-laced woman to accompany her back to her cabin.

"I have nothing to say, I'm just a simple writer for the newspaper in Jericho" Sarah had informed the Witch following her along
the wooden walkway. Peggy had to almost jog to keep up and fearing for any sudden attack from the furry canine, she felt she
would have to get straight to the point and quickly.

"Where did yer' get the phrase 'Chorus Mortuus' from?" she blurted and almost collided with the Bowe woman as she
drew to a halt. Sarah stared for a couple of seconds before answering and Peggy watched her eyes flick left and upwards,
she was creating a false response -the Witch realised.

"I got it out of a book, okay...?" Sarah replied crassly and was about to turn back towards where her ride waited, when she
added " was an old book and I keep old books" and failed miserably to hide her deceit. Peggy knew it and Sarah knew
that Peggy knew it.

The Witch of Underhill then made her play to find out more and wiggled her little finger just a tad. "Then yer' won't mind
me seeing this book. The phrase is rare and was meant to only known by those of the mystic circles" she stated quietly.

"Such a book should never be allowed to fall into the wrong hands... if yer' don't mind me sayin' so" Peggy slowly told the 
woman who had seemed to be drained of any annoyance. Peggy didn't enjoy acting like this, majick wasn't a parlour-trick
to be used instead of level-headed discourse. But needs must and so with a quick scan of the dusty street to ensure their
little parley had gone unseen, Peggy advised Sarah Bowe that it might be prudent for her to invite her little acquaintance
along to view this alleged esoteric compendium.

"Do they still mine here?" Peggy asked absently as she gazed out to where a certain Desert Gnome had ran off to discover
her defective flying-machine. Cacti fought the eternal conflict with sage brush and blocked-in tumbleweed, but together,
they strove to cover the desert floor and feeling another bump vibrate up through the wooden seat, the little Witch wondered
if maybe the physical collateral damage of such a war was what they were riding over.

Sarah sighed enduringly and responded without the need to show her disdain for being fooled into bringing her passenger
along. "Not really, the Benzonite quartz petered out around three years ago and many of the prospectors moved on. There's
a reason why it's now called Barren Wayz". This last piece of information came with a note of lampoon and a swish of her

As they came over a slight rise, Ms Powler and Ms Bowe could view the shallow valley where the latter lived and where the
former believed a clue awaited regarding the Dancing Dead. There was no old book with such arcane knowledge residing
between its sun-dried pages, Myrddin would have said so.

But the knowing of such a phrase may still be held by a fellow-Seer and the reason to impart it to the young woman urging
a bloody-minded pony to get its ass moving, as something Peggy really needed to know. Just then, somewhere under the
wide-brimmed hat, a little alarm bell went off and the girl's surname had something to with it.

As a vague calculation began in Peggy's thought-process, the large pet leaped from the carriage and began racing towards
the one-story log cabin. The wolf-dog was yelping loudly and its master seemed unperturbed by the sudden disembarking.
"My father must be back from his walk" Sarah mentioned and steered the stubborn pony to a hitching pole near a sawn-off

The bounding shaggy cur smashed through the door in its eager merriment to reach the Sarah's parent and disappeared into
the shadows of the well-made chalet. A minute later, the woman in the paint-spattered jeans and her smaller guest stepped
into the same obscurity.

"You took your time, Peggy... is Myrddin with you?" asked Doctor Duckworth Bowe and fell backwards off his chair when the
receiver of the query punched him in the nose.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
"Yer' a piece of work, Ah'll give yer' that..." Peggy Powler snarled as she held out her arm towards the confused coy-wolf. "...and Ah'd
be grateful if yer' control yer pet" she added, swivelling her gaze from the man laid on the floor and the growling mutt in the fur coat.

Duckworth Bowe retained a smile to his long-lost friend as he checked his nose for bleeding and without taking his eyes off Peggy,
snapped one word and the fanged beast suddenly became the playful fur-ball from the trek across the desert. The tongue-lolling
wolf took up its tail wagging again and retreated to an old rug in the corner of the room.

"Still my best girl, Peggy" Duckworth smirked as he got to his feet and speculated if she'd found it in her heart to forgive him.
However, there was no such single locution or exculpation from the daughter of the man wiping dust from his denim pants, when she
suddenly slammed a chair across the back of Peggy's head and felled her like a tree. A small tree, mind you.

Sarah peered into the canvas satchel and wondered why the wandering Witch would carry it around considering it was empty.
The woman's perplexed features brought a smile to her father as he looked up from his reading. "It's a magic bag, my dear daughter...
only Peggy holds its power" he said and glanced towards the bedroom where the unconscious owner of the pouch was laid.

After carrying the subdued sorceress into Sarah's quarters at the rear of the hut, Duckworth had struggled to scold his only issue for
the actions of her temper and when asked why Peggy had lashed out at him, the retired Doctor of the occult had merely returned to
his books without answering. The young Bowe woman guessed -just like many facets of her father's mysterious past, it would be a
long and complicated explanation.

It had been only weeks after leaving the Carnival when a seventeen year-old rain-soaked Peggy Powler had arrived at a small wood
near to the village of Hatton in the Corn. The summer shower had caught the girl unawares as she'd taken a short-cut across a field
that displayed why the small community had gained its name and with most of the day still ahead, she ceded that a few minutes under
some heavy foliage would allow her single item of attire to dry off.

Peggy had enjoyed her solitude and used the quiet journey to recollect the spells and charms that her mother had given her. The little
teenager had taken Madame Powler's certitude that her future would bring further opportunities to acquire more and hopefully, a better
-fitting hat than the one Mr Volcano had donated her.

"It suits you, lass..." the fire-eater had assured the prospective poncho-wearing necromancer beaming outside of his tent and adjusted
it to keep the sun out of the new owner's eyes. "Your Ma told me it has magic, but it's never revealed it's hocus-pocus to me" he said
and smiled back at the girl he considered one of his kin.

Peggy stared up at the tattoo-covered Carnival attraction and whispered "Ah'm gonna miss you". She'd hugged him then and smelling
his familiar scent of brimstone and cooling lava, she hoped the wide verge of his gift would hide her tear-filled eyes.

Now standing in the breeze-cool copse, the occasional raindrop evaded the leaves and drummed a single beat onto her big hat that
brought back good memories of her time before this backcountry quest to improve her powers of majick. The shower would be over
soon -Peggy thought to herself and then she'd ply her trade in the hamlet that waited down the road. Maybe a place to spend the
night might present itself -she convinced herself buoyantly and smiled up at the dripping folioles.
It felt good to be alive.

Back in the desert, an older Peggy Powler moaned softly as she opened her eyes and peered at the reason for the wakening.
Unlike the fresh rain she'd felt on her face as a fledgling Witch, she now endured a wolf's long tongue licking moisture across her
nose and lips. "Gah, yer' mutt" she whispered and noted the dull ache from the back of her head.

Remaining where she was, the last Witch of Underhill gently pushed the coy-wolf away and contemplated her situation.
Duckworth Bowe was alive after all, he had a daughter -and probably the one that walloped her from behind. There was also the
fact that either Duckworth or his daughter wrote the poem and from the last words the Doctor had spoken, the verses had been
scribed to draw herself or Myrddin to this godforsaken place.

But for what purpose...? Had the harrowing spectre of the Dancing Dead reappeared or was it just a cruel piece of bait to entice
a fellow-magician to this cabin in the desert? Questions that need answering and a bruise that needs healing, Peggy thought as
she listened to the occasional descant in the next room.

With only the sound of a large tame lupus panting next-door, the wincing Witch slowly moved her hand to inside of her poncho
and felt around for what she needed. The candy-less candy-stick was still there, but Peggy was confident enough of the treat
remained on the sliver of wood to perform its function. "Maltose" she murmured to herself and began the spell.

"...And I can assure you good people of Hatton in the Corn, that such a pathosis will not come here" the middle-aged bearded
man in the long gown proclaimed to the crowd standing around the village well. There were two of them -Peggy noticed as she
neared the centre of hamlet. The younger figure alongside the composed announcer standing on the wall of the watering place
was offering the same congregation a winning smile and the young Witch noted that he was also nodding in the right places. 

" But Mr Mirror, what's pathosis?" someone in the twenty-or-so keenly-listening assembly asked and the man who had made the
claim emulated a grin similar to his cohort. "I'm sorry, I meant curse or your assumed worry..." he explained with a tone of courtesy
and added "...and my name is Myrddin".

After giving his assurance that he and his colleague would locate and destroy this unknown dilemma, the sanguine man called
Myrddin advised the congregation to return to their homes and feel confident their woes are unfounded. Peggy stood beside a
snoozing mule and patted its nose as she watched the scene before her. Maybe it was her young callow years, maybe it was a
hidden envy of having such sway of a group that bothered the rookie Witch or maybe she was right on the mark... but her initial
thoughts were that the two men were just full of...

"How's your head, Peggy?" Doctor Bowe asked softly and pulled the reminiscing sorceress from her memories.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The sun finally got bored with the little melodrama regarding the daughter of Peggy Powler's long ago lover exacting revenge for
her Pa receiving a punch in the beak and began to drop behind the hills to the west. The female who suffered the younger woman's
animus now stared out at the cooling landscape that the great orange orb had left with long shadows.

Wildhorn County held a beauty of its own, especially at this time of the day. The tall cacti stood like sentinels around the stunted
canyon and the ground-hugging tumbleweed and sage brush softened the boulder-strewn sides that kept the Bowe residence

Occasionally, the little Witch soaking in the hush would notice a movement in the undergrowth and wonder if it was coyote-wary
rabbit or even a Desert Gnome adjusting his position for a better view. Whatever it was, Peggy felt she was being watched and not
only by Sarah Bowe standing at the cabin's window.

"So she was a girlfriend back in the day?" Sarah asked with a light tone of hauteur that her own father could possibly have had a life
before her late-mother. Peering out at the small woman in the large hat and shabby poncho, Sarah selfishly mused that such a person
couldn't be someone who would catch the eye of the only man in her own life. The latter part of that thought caused a regret that she
wished not to dwell on right now.

Doctor Duckworth Bowe smiled to himself as he stirred a pot of his home-made pottage, "She's a Witch and I am..." then corrected
himself, "...was a Warlock, we walked between the same worlds together" he said with an inner-mirth. The man who had once owned
hair as dark as the shadows Peggy was now enjoying,  sprinkled a sliced piece of cholla into his bubbling dish. The current subject
of this futile discussion had saved his life and by doing so, saved many others being attacked by the blight that haunted Hatton in the
Corn. Now a true Doctor of medicine with a greyer-mane, he wondered if she could do it again.

He had forsaken the majick art that the little woman outside wielded like the ladle he currently stirred with and the Dancing Dead were
threatening once more. No granulated pharmacon or herb potion will best the abomination that lies asleep in the desert, only the elixir
that Peggy holds could fix it.

Myrddin had bowed at the girl in the large hat and introduced his apprentice before himself, the beguiling grin reappeared and Peggy
resisted it. "We could do with your help on this matter, Ms Power..." the older man confided in the strap-of-a-lass before him and gently
lead Peggy and his student away to the entrance of a tavern. "...The madness that will prowl into this ward holds an evil that I feel will
require all our hands to the tiller" he cautioned.
Myrddin then motioned towards the Inn and asked "Will you take a meal with us, Peggy?"

She'd heard his words and warning, but the teenager was more irked by her distraction caused by the handsome man standing with
the features of an intense listener next to his instructor. His name was Duckworth Bowe and he was a cad -the lass with the nice legs
thought and after showing her respect to the bewhiskered Wizard, the novice Witch sought a place where she would spend the night.

Duckworth had come to her that night in the barn and as she had threatened and later, as the dawn had threatened, they had made love.
The next day together, they had made war.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
"It started around three years ago..." Duckworth Bowe said as he tore off a chunk of bread and dunked it into his homemade stew.
The meal wasn't much, but the Doctor believed it was at least something to line their bellies for when they left later. The night had
arrived properly and now he figured it was time to tell the tale. "...I'd been out collecting fuller's earth for one of my experiments,
when I came across -what I thought at first, was an old miner's cemetery".

Peggy Powler spooned the vegetables around on her own plate as she listened and decided not to look to Bowe's daughter accusingly.
If the Witch's recollections were correct, Barren Wayz had popped up when a large seam of Benzonite quartz was discovered over ten
years ago and the ruckus for such a mineral at the time ensured a boom town could be quite lucrative for those who support the everyday
living of those that dug the stuff out.

Of course, their were accidents and people died. Miners -too quick on making a fast frollis and not concerned with safety, would burrow
into the rock of the foothills and not appreciate what weaknesses they were creating. As the interest in the quartz and the access to it
waned, the town shrank and a place of rest for these diggers would be left behind.

Sarah nibbled at her own meal and kept her eyes from catching the Witch's cold gaze. She shouldn't have done what she'd did and now
she was squirming in her own self-guilt. Whatever her father had found out there, was out of her own league and even when she'd visited
the place where he'd mentioned, it just seemed like a forgotten graveyard that had been ravaged by predatory animals.
Although... Paxo, her coy-wolf had whined and refused to enter the little shrub-lined basin.

"I thought the fororn place had become a foraging-ground for the critters that live out there and so I decided to give the deceased some
respect..." Duckworth had continued around a mouthful of pottage-soaked bread "...I replaced the makeshift coffin lids and re-interred
their remains". His audience remained silent as he prepared his thoughts for what was coming next.

When the weird-looking creatures came cavorting out of the night, the young girl called Peggy Powler believed she'd walked into a
nightmare and it just couldn't be real, it just couldn't be. The great Myrddin was already shouting at the top of his lungs strange spells
that the novice Witch had never heard before and Duckworth was still creating the large circle of Haven that he'd told her about earlier.

The man who'd shared the barn with the seventeen year-old was now pouring a special mixture of what a lay-person would suggest was
a white powder and what looked like beads of coloured glass around his recent swain, the incantation-bellowing Myrddin and himself.
Peggy didn't think Duckworth was going to make it in time and so, picked up one of the small sacks that they'd had brought out earlier
and began spreading the odd contents.

It was a hybrid of aragonite and what some call 'snake-stones', an evil spirit-banisher mixed with the calcite to bolster the commonplace
powder used in majick. Good stuff, if you can make a circle of it before the Dancing Dead get to you. But at the time, the teenager just
did as she thought was correct and hoped on Herne's great ragged horns that she didn't end-up as one of them.

They had met in Hatton in the Corn's village square just after she and Duckworth had gratefully accepted poorly-carved wooden mugs
of -what looked like, hot chicory from a little woman who'd also left a small bag of unknown contents near the village well. If the already
-waiting bearded wizard had wondered why his apprentice and the newcomer had arrived together that morning, the stoic sage had
kept his musings to himself.

Now, he was busy giving out his instructions to five men who nodded excessively to every word Myrddin said. The middle-aged yeomen
carried shovels and mattocks on their shoulders and left after a couple of minutes of the magician's tutelage. Turning to his dutiful doublet
of tenderfoots, he had asked them to bring the four sacks of substances and follow him to a nearby field.
All very military-like, the inexperienced Peggy had mused. But later, she would reprimand herself for that juvenile way of thinking.

The day had been long and the village-men had toiled hard to dig the long trench where corn used to sway, the Powler girl had repeated
the words given to her by Myrddin and had been advised on their correct pronunciation. There was no fuss of social standing or feelings
of resentment regarding dictatorial oversight, things needed to be done to stop the approaching evil and lives were in danger.

As the light faded and the diggers called out their gratitude as they scurried back to their homes, it now could be considered that Myrddin,
Duckworth and Peggy were equals. But considering what was climbing out of some coffins right now, parity was the least of their worries.
Then they came.

At first, the approaching deformed dancing corpses were attempting to sing from dirt-filled diaphragms and as Peggy focused on spreading
another inner-ring of the sacred gilings into the grass of the meadow, she had to moil her grit not to just break out in tears.
They were horrible, broken puppets that were once beloved humans. Revolting bone-figures capering in rags, some stumbling and losing
mummified limbs, others still with crumbling earth falling from their eternally-open mouths.

Looking up from her task -as one of the palled forms hopped close enough to see its withered innards, she saw the dancing cadaver blow
apart as Myrddin pointed towards it. "Abito Defuncti Daemonium" he proclaimed in High-Speak and as the grey ashes were caught on the
night's breeze, the next emaciated automaton staggered forward to take its place.

Duckworth was reading from a small book he'd fished out of his pocket and finishing her side of the circle, she quickly hustled beside him
and began to declare the strange words on the pages. Peggy's tone was of terror, but it was in harmony with the man she shared warm hay
with last night. Together they were Myrddin's choir and the great Warlock conducted the symphony of the Damned.

The Doctor picked up the half-empty plates and waited for the apparent questions to come, he scraped the remains of the meal into the
wooden bowl Duckworth had personally carved for his furry friend watching from near the cabin's rear door. Since Paxo didn't race to gulp
down the food, the chef for that evening wondered amiably if the word 'friend' was a tad too strong.

"Did you find the contaminator?" Peggy asked as she rose to pay for her supper by washing the crockery, but Doctor Bowe held his hand
up. "For what Sarah did today, you -my good lady, and myself will be enjoying the desert night, whilst my daughter pays a debt".
The person in question remained silent, but nodded in her punishment.

Duckworth sighed as he verified his insignificance beneath the spectacle of stars, it so big and we down here -he thought, are so small.
"It's been two years since I visited that remote gulch and I left when I realised that my constant burial actions were useless" he said to
the woman beside him admiring the same panorama. "I stayed there many nights and never saw the devil that was responsible for the
awful displays..." he added and looked to the gritty-sand at his feet. "...The old ways have left me Peggy, my poem was a cry for help".

Peggy nodded out into the desert and wondered what fates were in motion to have a Tinker acquire the scroll, for it to land at Myrddin's
door and for a certain Witch of Underhill to be intrigued enough too investigate further.

Adjusting the strap of her satchel, that particular sorceress replied "then, Ah' think it's time we cleaned this mess up too" and watched her
long-ago lover return to the cabin to get his coat.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
They had left the cabin just as the pale moon had peeked over the dark contours of the foothills and with Duckworth Bowe
commenting that the potter's field lay over two miles away, the last Witch of Underhill had demanded a heavy pace to get
to there as soon as possible.

"These buggers might not be as lazy as the ones we last entertained" she remarked amusingly over her shoulder at the
puffing practitioner of medicine and asked again if he could recall those days. Duckworth struggled to dredge his memory
for the specifics of their first encounter with the Dancing Dead, but his featured brightened when he remembered one name
that Myrddin had stated.

So without contemplation of the verbal effects, he gave it life again with utterance and caused Peggy to turn swiftly around
with blazing-eyes and unconsciously clutch her satchel. "Jack Dor" Duckworth hissed and the memories came tumbling back.

As the trio of weary wizards had sat on the wall of the well in Hatton in the Corn's marketplace, the sounds of singing came
to their ears as the returning farmers enjoyed the camaraderie from their recent act. Under Myrddin's orders, the remains
of the unknown bodies were deposited in the trench they'd dug earlier, the ditch that Duckworth and Peggy had first lined
with the contents of the last sack of majick powder. Now just a slight mound remained.

It was morning in the little village and jubilation waited to be unfettered. With the men-folk all patting each other on the back
and their women coming out of their little homes, Hatton in the Corn could get back to being a peaceful settlement again.
"You've done well, my dilettantes..." Myrddin cooed and standing up, he stretched his aching spine. "...Now we've only one
last task to perform" he added and walked away towards the dark entrance of the Blacksmith's foundry.

With questions unanswered, the two puzzled and tired younger members of majick lumbered after their teacher with the
enigmatic prose, both sets of eyes demanded what was this 'last task?'. Standing on the threshold of the business, they
watched their master at work.

The forge was cool through lack of use and the Smithy was one of the men outside enjoying the village's merriment, but to
Myrddin, such a stark reality meant nothing. Rolling back his sleeve, he began to mouth words and wave a hand over the
coke-filled furnace, Peggy and Duckworth glanced at each other and then stepped further in together.

"You are Madame Ruth Powler's daughter..." the sorcerer stated over his shoulder and continued with his whispered spell.
"...She is a great Witch and you will be too, one day" Myrddin added and moved his fingers as if drawing flames from the
cold forge.

Peggy stepped closer and watched the strange proceedings. Making fire from thin-air was something she'd seen her Ma
enact back at the Carnival, but the young girl believed that such lessons waited somewhere up the path of her future.
Maybe teaching was in session right now -she thought and attempted to catch the magician's words.
Then the coals began to glow.

"It's called a Lapis Veneficus, a weapon of great power" Myrddin muttered and the bare-footed young girl beside him could
see his eyes were shut tight and he was sweating. Moving her own eyes back to the incandescent blue-white embers, Peggy
ogled at the oval-shaped object appearing in the shimmering air above the burning cinders. It smouldered with colours of
bubbling magma and seemed to hold a terrible storm inside its surface.

"With this, we will defeat the master of those we've put to rest..." the distressed Magus hissed and added "...and you will
be the one to deliver the death-blow". Peggy looked towards the other person that stood beside Myrddin and waited for
his input, but all Duckworth could do was gawp like a fish out of water.

"We'll be needing a container" the Warlock grunted in his mystic exertion and seeing Myrddin's pained expression, the
two apprentices knew they didn't have much time left.

Peggy Powler softly tapped the hand of the man beside her and pointed towards the derelict that was once a graveyard.
Doctor Bowe had been snoozing on the warm sand of their agreed hideout and now he raised his head and peered over
the collection of brush that concealed their position.

"Otshee Soneto" the Witch muttered and Duckworth had to scramble his brain to recollect its meaning. Wiping his eyes of
the Sandman's glue, he whispered back in the form of a question. "Bad Spirit?" and a single nod confirmed that his acuity
was still valid.

All but one of the coffins had be desecrated and to those uninitiated in the realms of majick, it would seem wild dogs or
other desert predators had dug up the resting places and yet, no bones or torn clothing lay about in the gritty soil. But the
tell-tale sign was that all the loose dirt from the graves had been pushed outward and from a force from within the hole.

"See the one over near the boulder?" Peggy breathed and her lover of former times squinted his eyes to see in the gloom.
The moon was out and right above the cemetery, but its frail radiance reminded Peggy that winter was still hanging around.
It was skeleton climbing out of its tomb, a long-dead miner with it's jaw smashed -probably due to a cave collapse and now
the murkiness of the night lured it instead on the darkness of the mine.

Then another bulged from its makeshift casket and unfurled like a filthy flower seeking the false light above from the remote
tide-mover. More aped the taboo-actions until the ten-or-so Dancing Dead arose from what was supposed to be their eternal
slumber and began to do their horrible masquerade.

Duckworth's hair seemed whiter under the blanched sky-pumpkin and his skin tried hard to copy the colour. "Do you think he
will come tonight?"  he said with a tone of dread and the little Witch in the poncho patted the bag on her bare thighs and
answered softly "Aye... Ah' hope so".
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The bucket had once been used in extinguishing an accidental fire at Hatton in the Corn's main meeting house, The Cobb Inn.
It was that same receptacle that Daniel Grundy -the owner of the Blacksmith property, had sat on and promised himself to be a
better man on the night his first son was born. Until this morning, drink hadn't passed his lips since that day of commitment.

So as Duckworth Bowe chose it as a possible candidate to hold the newly-created Wizard Stone, the wooden pail can be said
to have a history of nobleness in some form. Now with the young man staring wide-eyed as Myrddin transferred the hovering hot
aggregate towards the bucket, it seemed a new note in the vessel's account was about to occur.

Alas the choice was a poor one and both Duckworth and Myrddin would have to agree that the sight of the quickly-burning insides
of the pail was a good indication that a better container was needed. "Maybe a bucket of water is needed to put out the fire in the
bucket?" the older Magician suggested whimsically to his crestfallen pupil, but it failed to cheer the sad-faced young man gazing
down at the charred and smoking pitcher.

Peggy Powler wasn't faring any better. Leather thongs hung from wrought-iron hooks and old farrier tools waiting for repair shared
shelves with cobwebs laden with the husks of flies that ventured into the establishment. An badly-scarred cowhide apron dangling
from a nail looked promising, but the fist-sized hole in its front-pocket caused the young girl to put her hands on hips and snort
through her nostrils.

"Howay yer' bugger..." Peggy cursed "...yer' in here somewhere" she whispered into the musty shadows at the back of the foundry.
A wheel rim attempted to glint in the faint daylight seeping through the eaves above and a deflated pair of bellows lay like forgotten
lungs of a long-dead giant beside a pile of unused lengths of black metal still tied with farmer's twine.

Closing her eyes as her mother had told her, she mentally called out to the object she desired, it had only worked once and even it
wasn't exactly correct. But that's a tale for another time. As Duckworth's panting quietened and Myrddin muttered something about
a bucket, Peggy thought she heard a different resonate.

"Thiixo'oe" the bare-footed teenager believed she'd it sounded like and then it came a again, "Thiixo'oe". Opening her eyes and
scanning the dusty darkness at the rear of Mr Grundy's workshop, she thought she saw the source of the possible word. The blade
of a bent pickaxe lay across it and some discarded straw almost hid it from view, but Peggy saw the dishevelled canvas sack.

Avoiding the prongs of a waiting-for-repair hay-fork, she made her way to the corner of the wooden building where the abandoned
and unwanted resided. Mouse-droppings and old bird nests wait in line with the useless things that we throw away as the world moves
along and something that was once held dear, becomes merely a memory of a time when such objects were cherished.

Peggy kneeled down in the gloom and pulling the strap of the crumpled satchel clear of the rusty tool, she said hello to her new friend.

Jack Dor remained in the shadow of a large Ferocactus and watched his dead minions dance as well as the woman who'd thought
she'd expelled him from this realm. The tall thin man in the long dark-red coat unconsciously touched the side of his face where Peggy
Powler's damned Lapis Veneficus had touched him and wondered what other attributes she'd acquired since they'd last met.

Sitting up there on the hillside with the man who'd visited here before, Jack Dor stirred his thoughts like the twisted limbs of his puppets
out there in the night and educed ideas of he and that little prole in the revealing poncho. The last Witch of Underhill... a rated prize
indeed for a simple Daemon such as himself.

"He knows Ah'm here" the source of the hiding ghoul's ruminations said and checking Duckworth's horrified gaze, she recalled Myrddin's
lecture on the owner of these tragic funambulists.

"It's just a bag...!" Duckworth snorted as Peggy held out the large satchel beside the bearded magician, "'ll melt straight through it"
the young man assured his fellow-apprentice of the Majick arts. Myrddin smiled to himself as he carefully manipulated the smoking
stone towards the young girl's offering. "Aye, yer'd think so..." Peggy whispered to nobody and showed a face of determination, "..but
Ah' believe in it" she added with a gritted tone.

The brightly-radiating element crackled and spat as it neared the worn aperture of the hip-sack, but the grip of it's new proprietor held
steady as the Lapis Veneficus disappeared into the darkness of the satchel. Both Duckworth and Peggy waited with bated-breath for
the moment the stone clunked unceremoniously onto the foundry's floor or the bag suddenly burst into flames.
Their smirking mentor gently closed its flap and waited for his junior students to exhale.

"Now, let us seek out a Daemon..." Myrddin said softly and ignoring the wide gazes from the couple before him, he strode towards the
daylight of Hatton in the Corn. "...I'm sure Mr Dor will be waiting for us" he added as Peggy blinked at the gawping Duckworth and then
carefully slipping the strap of the satchel over her shoulder, the pair followed the great Magician out of the Blacksmith's shop
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
During the trek to the heavily-timbered outskirts of Hatton in the Corn, Peggy Powler and Duckworth Bowe listened to Myrddin
as he explained the whole situation. This elucidation came after a question from the young girl in the donated floppy hat.

"Are you sure it was that word?" the hairy-faced magician asked without looking at Peggy and instead, scanned the wood-line
for any sign of their mysterious foe. The seventeen year-old was attempting to keep the prickly ears of long wheat from intruding
beneath her poncho as she hurried to keep up.

"Yeah, Ah' heard someone or somethin' say 'Thiixo'oe'" Peggy replied and offered a glare of contempt towards the grinning
young man watching her grimace as a particular spike of the cereal found its mark. Myrddin gave his response as he aimed
their direction towards a wheel-rut where the bristly wheat would be lesser.

"It's from an older language..." the sorcerer said "...from a time before man forced the Fae from the lands and changed the
natural majick from its celebrity. It means 'Peg' and who -or whatever spoke it, was speaking to you" Myrddin informed the
open-mouthed Witch and noticed she stroked the bag hanging from her shoulder. "Being from a Fae bloodline, I would've
wagered you guessed that?" he added and offered a meaningful glance.

Duckworth broke into the conversation by asking about the journey to the shadowy wood they were approaching and this is
where the older necromancer began his account of someone known as Jack Dor.

When the war in the heavens finally ended and the decision was made to cast out those who'd dared to question what the
canny call 'The Way', many of the defeated chose to be bound to the land where the moon shines. There were giants in the
earth in those days and it was deemed that the Fallen -due to their manner and lack of physical form, would be shunned by
those they shared this world with. The victors of the centuries-long conflict were the celestial-beings known as The Seraph
and swore to monitor the Dybbuks who'd sipped from the cup of evil.

The Fae were wiser and abandoned their place alongside the taller humans, they knew that destruction and corruption were
hiding in the tall grass of the future. They aimed their self-exile to remote parts of the lands where they could continue their
own preferred ethnology without the concerns of diversity.

But as time went on, some of these trust-less devils learned how to be of form and became acquainted with the more-ignorant
residents of the land. Then they began to lay with the daughters of men who bore children to them. The error was eventually
seen and those artful villains who'd dared to dally with the human females were judged once more and then tossed into the
Gallery of Flames.

But some of the offspring of these unnatural couplings were spared and as these half-humans moved on through time, the
tenacity from those who guarded heaven and the cursed below, waned. Magic became accepted and just like most tools
that mankind harness, it was diluted by the need to covet via the separation of strands in the orphic discipline.
A unique gift was reduced to bits of property.

When the Reformation came and outlawed the use of this sortilege, it was discovered that in certain instances, a toleration
for this mystical force would be needed due to social-management and that some things cannot be solved with the use of
any newer divine deities. Hence begrudgingly, there are outliers like Myrddin and Peggy Powler.

Jack Dor was one of these excused Daemons and now sought a power from wherever he could find it. As the ousting of the
transgressors was taking place, Dor had secretly slain his mother and set-out to find his offending father. Witnessing the
punishment after his vanquished parent's denouncement, he avowed to torment those who he shared this existence with
and became the ghost, the disruptor and the dasher of hopes.

Holding the ability to pass between the world beyond the veil and the realm that adhered to limited life, Jack Dor frolicked
in his trickery and often rejoiced in his selections of bedevilment. The semi-Daemon shrewdly avoided the reckoners of his
actions and strongly believed -just like the assiduity of those who'd damned his father, Exorcists were becoming far and few

Now leaving the itchy stalks of the corn, three of these wardens of majick stepped towards a seldom-used graveyard hiding
amongst the trees and Jack Dor stirred in his buried tomb and felt a fear he hadn't tasted in a long time.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
It must be getting on towards dawn -Peggy Powler wondered, as she slowly revealed her tool for Jack Dor's final demise
and witnessing the four-foot long staff appearing from the Witch's magical satchel caused Duckworth Bowe to wonder if
he wasn't really tucked-up in bed and dreaming.

"What is that?" the Doctor asked and leaned closer on the incline for a better look. Peggy laid the smooth-honed wooden
rod on her thighs and smiled across the dark at the astounded academic. "It's called a Wiggan Stick me-darlin' and Ah'm
goin' to rid yer' desert of yon Daemon with it" she promised and her affable features hinted a determination he hadn't seen
for a very long time.

It had been hued from the oldest tree in the world and kept well-away from the Machiavellian-hands of humans. Decorated
with runes of long-lost symbols of charm, the oak shaft tapered slightly at one end and a sheath of copper hid whatever lay
beneath. What could be considered a handle had been carved into a clenched claw of an unknown animal of yore.

Duckworth gazed down at the abhorrent circus below and then looked back at the petite woman he'd once believed could
be Myrddin's equal. "You're going to beat Dor to death with that?!" he exclaimed and wondered if the bump on the head
that Peggy had acquired from his daughter had finally sent her over the edge.

"Nay me-canny lad..." the Underhill Witch said coyly, "...somethin' far-more harmful" and pulling at the small metal scabbard,
Peggy exposed a sharp point with small holes bored in the shape of a spiral. "Jackie-boy is in fur' a real treat" she hissed
and got to her feet.

They say the couple of hours before dawn is when the soul is at low-ebb, when the tide of life is it at its shallowest and the
best time that Death goes about his business. For those in the ways of Majick, they know that this duration is also a grand
time to put any malignant hellions back to the beyond.

Now slowly making her way down the sandy bank, Peggy Powler was resolute that this particular dastardly Daemon would not
slip her judgement again and be banished as the Seraph meant it to be. Ignoring the clumps of sagebrush tickling her beneath
her poncho, the notion that her actions were similar to the last time she'd met Jack Dor didn't go unnoticed.
Book-ends, maybe.

The graves that Myrddin, Duckworth and Peggy investigated weren't really something one would call a final terminus.
One may suspect they were an accumulation of burial spots that a suspicious person would suggest an area where something
grim had occurred and to continue this atrocious activity, the provider of the contents of the holes had hidden his prey amongst
the woodland around Hatton in the Corn. There were no markers, no pile of soil to indicate a grave and certainly nothing to imply
any consecration from a religious party.

There were just holes where the Dancing Dead had climbed out of and toppled small trees that grown after an interment that had
become an obstacle when the deceased were encouraged from their resting-places. Peggy noticed discarded pieces of paper
laid about and believing they were notes of the bereaved, she daintily picked one up and read it.

The parchments contained odd-looking marks that one day, the last Witch of Underhill would understand and appreciate. Hieroglyphs
that spoke a language beyond human utterance and syllabaries that belong to those beyond the veil. With a glance of caution towards
the young man who stood next to her, she stuffed the arcane missive into a pocket of her poncho and delicately ventured forward.

"Be careful my children, here there be monsters" the older thaumaturge hissed and without taking his eyes from the undisturbed
grave, pointed at the canvas bag that hung from Peggy's shoulder. "It's time" he added almost inaudibly and stepped softly towards
the slight mound half-hidden under a withered crab-apple tree and surrounded by parched clumps of wormwood. As Myrddin softly
placed his feet on the ground near his goal, he gestured to the seventeen year-old to hand him the Lapis Veneficus.

Then the grave exploded.

Duckworth Bowe watched with awe as the woman he'd once shared physical intimacy with, cleaned the remote ravine of the cavorting
cadavers. With a mysterious cane that held the antithetical pictographs that a seventeen year-old girl had once read on a ragged piece
of paper, the Dancing Dead became small clouds of dust and then, no more. Using words that the man of medicine could not even hold
in his mind for more than a second, Peggy Powler walked among the derelict graves and drove out the pathetic puppets of the Daemon
known as Jack Dor. 

The profane creation from such a long-ago sacrilegious mating began to scream his rage, the bare-assed runt in the stupid hat dared
to trespass into his haven and disturb his enjoyment. The so-called Witch that he'd even felt a pang of lust for, was now walking among
his collection and destroying his congregation. The little boo-hag needed to taught a lesson again -he thought and stepped out onto the
remains of his private parish.

"So, the girl I see before me has learned some new tricks" Jack Dor hissed and readied himself for battle. Peggy Powler turned to face
the demon she scarred long ago and casually placing the Wiggan Stick against her shoulder, replied "missed me?!"

With the word 'whore' on his lips, Jack Dor raced forward to take his rightful compensation for the side of his head and at the same time,
the bare-assed runt in the stupid hat hoped the spell she'd recited back to Myrddin as she'd climbed aboard the broomstick, would work.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
If you ever visit the quaint little hamlet of Bettiscombe, there's a wall that has no connecting structure or belongs to any building
that the residents of the small village use. It just stands there, crumbling masonary of dried lime mortar and fired bricks with the
remains of gypsum in a couple of places.

Back a century or so, a nameless Magician ousted one of the Fallen's children with an implement similar to the one Peggy Powler
was now wielding. If you're polite enough and ask the older folk of Bettiscombe, they'll tell you that the blast from such an exorcism
was so intense that it left the shadow of the Daemon embedded on the wall.

Mind you, there isn't much left of the off-white plaster, but there are blackened marks on the remains... if you look hard enough.

As Myrddin fell backwards from the sudden disgorging from the half-hidden grave, Peggy Powler felt her bladder release the
equivalent physical manifestation of her shock at what she was witnessing. Whether Duckworth Bowe produced such warm
liquid, the prone bearded magician and the teenager would never know due to the young attractive man fleeing the glade of
the damned.

Ignoring the trickle on her bare feet, the last Witch of Underhill gazed with wonder at the dusty creature standing over the human
that was supposed to slay him. Jack Dor was over six-feet tall and wore a dark-red surtout with gold buttons running down the
right-hand side. A similar-coloured braiding hung from the epaulettes and met just beneath the collar of a dirt-smudged black shirt.

The Daemon sported knee-high boots over his dust-smeared black pants and a strangely-carved belt-buckle of gold to match
the overall effect. Peggy observed all this in the wink of an eye and in the moment before she believed Dor was about to pounce
on the sorcerer at his feet.

"Eh... Bugger-lugs..." Madame Ruth Powler's daughter barked "... yer' ever tried yer' hand wiv' a Witch?" and attempted her best
engaging stance. Peggy had never been one to show-off her slim figure for attention, but she knew a bare thigh tilted correctly can
go a long way to distract a man's -and hopefully, a cacodemon's eye.

Jack Dor had seen this type of ploy before, but being only the result between the cleaving of a Fallen and a human, he still paused
in his initial stratagem to rip Myrddin's throat out. Cold eyes of grey scanned the little female pushing her chest out and offering a
smile of allurement.

"You'll be Fae, I would surmise?" Dor cooed mockingly and pondered whether to make the girl one of his dancers or just enchant
her with his charms. A wash and a change of clothes would certainly improve the daring shoeless wench -he thought as he felt the
man at his feet move. "A demoted, just like myself" he derided and appreciated her attempted diversion.

"I will deal with you in moment, darling" the Daemon muttered and moved his steely-gaze towards his immediate intruder. Jack Dor
had fought magicians before and this one would follow in their footsteps he mused. "It's time indeed" he scorned at the scrambling
skinny-legged prone figure in the dark robe.

That was when the young Witch made her move.

It would be easier to explain the result of Jack Dor's assault by observing the desert scene through Doctor Duckworth Bowe's eyes.
One moment the easy-standing Witch was smiling flirtatiously at the oncoming Daemon, the next she'd fallen backwards in the
similar manner that Myrddin had done all those years ago.

The man who'd abandoned his one-night-lover and his teacher and sought solace in the desert, now watched as the scarred Jack
Dor flew over the tumbling Peggy and screamed in a presumed anger of missing his target. However, Duckworth was wrong.

It wasn't the pain from the wooden stake sticking out of his groin that was causing the Daemon to bellow loud enough for Sarah
back in the cabin to hear. It wasn't even the fury from being out-manouvered by the little scruffy Hob in the daft hat. The surging
agony came from the strange leaking from the Wiggan Stick's perforated point combined with the incantation that Peggy Powler
was providing.

With features that a more-studious person than the heavily-breathing man on the incline may have appreciated, the last Witch of
Underhill went about ridding the county of Wildhorn of a very old bogeyman. Jack Dor had enjoyed a good innings and used many
poor souls during his appalling -but covert, reign, now it was time to pay the Ferryman.

"Vulgaris diaboli, videte thy verba et amplexus via spiritus, Abito aeternum" Peggy Powler stated with her best commanding tone
and getting to her feet, she watched the Wiggan Stick do its work.

Staying with the thoughts of our imaginary intellectual observer, he may have admired the forthright address of the banishment
and the simple fact  that half-starved little Seer from a drunken mother and an unknown father, was taking-out a demi-Daemon
on his own turf. All the while, without shoes, without underwear and in attire that could do with a good wash.
It's classed as big-stuff in Magician circles.

While we're on about the credible dominions that operate in the environs of sorcery, the small holes that spiralled around the sharp
point of the Wiggan Stick protruding from Jack Dor's crotch, held a very special venin. A strange miasma that derived from those
who dabble in the transmutation of natural materials.

True alchemy was a favoured discipline in certain Fae assemblies and during early experiments, this weird vapour was discovered.
They called it 'Thursettun', which some believe came from combining the the human words of  'thurse' -meaning giant, ogre or
monster and 'Ettun', which translates to devourer. As a small side-note and not relevant to our tale, if we belabour the use of our
observing character, in the future, 'Thursettun' will also be reluctantly agreed on to be a contender for Dark Matter.
(Something to do with gluons!)

This cabalistic gaseous poison was now disrupting Jack Dor's ability to escape the reality he was currently in and barring the Daemon
from escaping the agony he was feeling. "You stunted harlot... do you know what you have done?" the frightened Hellion screeched
as he stared at the baton sticking out of his privates. Peggy showed a face of cruel enjoyment and thankfully, the wide brim of her hat
stopped anyone from seeing her bitter expression.

"Yer' once copied someone's words when yer' messed-up at our last encounter..." the Witch said as she approached the twisting form
of the disintegrating half-breed. "...Permit me to use 'em again" Peggy added with a lilt of sarcasm as she leaned close to the tormented
features of the subject from her teenage demonic engagement.

Noticing the typical light-displaying splits in the physical composition that Jack Dor presented as himself to those of Peggy's reality, she
knew she didn't have much longer to deliver the Daemon's epitaph and so adjusting the strap of her faithful satchel and making sure her
hat was set correctly, she spoke the words.

"It's time" she whispered and with a fizzle, Jack Dor was no more.

Myrddin would later comment on the speed that Peggy showed as she jammed the Lapis Veneficus into the face of the grinning Daemon
that threatened to terrorise the neighbourhood of Hatton in the Corn. Quickly rolling out of the way of the squealing well-dressed monster,
the magician was surprised that his -now only votary, showed such courage as she leapt forward and smashed the radiating stone into
Dor's wicked -but dapper, features.

A moment later, the dishevelled clearing was quiet except for Myrddin groaning as he got to his feet. Peggy was just standing there looking
at the air where Jack Dor once inhabited and her mind was bound in puzzled glue. "He... he's gone" she mumbled and struggled to move
her eyes from... well, from a moment of disbelief.

The older shaman stepped close and gently steered the shocked seventeen year-old by her shoulders towards the path they had first used
to enter the place of horror and the one the coward she'd made love to had utilise to quickly skedaddle. 
He's gone for now, my sister of the Fae..." Myrddin said in hushed tones "...but I have no doubt that we will encounter him again" the kindly
Wizard supplemented as a blackbird struck-up its melody in a nearby elderberry bush.
"Aye" said the young girl, but could honestly say she didn't know at that moment what she was agreeing to.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The journey back to Duckworth Bowe's cabin was a quiet one and Peggy Powler felt that the burden of sleep was the reason
for the lack of discourse between herself and the man who'd witnessed last night's discharge of Jack Dor and his Dancing Dead.

Dr Bowe only spoke twice and it involved gratitude and later enquiry of where the last Witch of Underhill would go next.
Peggy had responded with a mild shrug and suggested westwards and the milder climate of next county of Farraman.
This tender -Duckworth believed, was only offered in order for him to shut up.

The early sun wasn't old enough to drive the night chill from the landscape and the pair fell into a trudge of resigned self-reflection.
The terrain didn't offer any ease in their trek and only hindered any prospect of positive thoughts. Peggy tiredly weighed her future
of travelling the highways and country lanes in her search to oust the malevolent-side of life, each of her footsteps dragged through
the gritty-sand like a mime of what lay ahead in her calling.

Duckworth wondered if his attempt to marry modern science with the wizardry his companion on the trail was adept in and reluctantly
came to the conclusion it was a way of shrouding his guilt of failure in the latter. He quickly appended this answer with the idea that
he was just struggling from lack of sleep.

The sight of the clay-shingled roof of his home brought little comfort to his assessment, but did help in picking up the speed of their
return to normality.

"What lies ahead for you?" Myrddin asked as the girl in the poncho collected her things in readiness to leave. They had eaten well in
Hatton in the Corn's only tavern and the hefty meal had been brought with gusto and repeated assurances from the innkeeper that
no defrayal was required.

Peggy Powler looked over at the seated magician with some of his breakfast trapped in his whiskers and adjusted the strap on her
new item of apparel. The big satchel was empty again and the youngster was learning that its legerdemain was something she
would have to get used to.

"Me-Ma told me that me-feet will find the reet path and Ah' just have te' follow 'em" the novice Witch replied and waited for the
advice she'd learned was customary from older folk than herself. The kindly sorcerer merely nodded and whispered "sage tidings"
to a girl he knew wouldn't be a novice for long. With a nod and the time-honoured manner of leave-taking, Peggy wished Myrddin
fair travels and left The Cobb Inn.

But in the bright morning sunlight, she felt her first requirement was a safe place to lay her head and get a good dollop of sleep
under her belt. The idea of the barn where she'd spent the night with the coward called Duckworth caused Peggy to turn westwards
and chance a find of a secluded haystack somewhere in a soporific meadow. Leaving Hatton in the Corn, Peggy pushed her optimism
and wondered if a quiet stream would afford itself for the lithe teenager in the large hat to take a much-needed bath.

After sleeping for most of the day, Peggy now sat in the half-barrel tub and waited for Duckworth's daughter to bring another bucket
of warm water. The heat of the day was now being burnt-off as late-afternoon raced towards early evening and the promise of another
panorama of amazing skies. The little Witch adored these moments of privacy and with the removal of the grime accumulated during
her congress with the rambunctious minions of Jack Dor, feeling clean of body -as well of mind, caused Peggy to readjust her earlier
negative fealty towards her chosen vocation.

Sarah Bowe had also been unknowingly partly-responsible for Peggy's current upbeat self-appraisal of ridding the towns and villages
of the unruly supernatural. She'd apologised for her earlier behaviour and when her father had retired to his room, privately asked
her weary guest for forgiveness. Peggy had held her hand and in accepting the redress, enjoyed the wholesome flourish of genuine
relief on the younger woman's face. To retain the feeling of euphoria, the fatigued-shaman had asked how the chair was fairing after
its encounter.

It always astounded the little Witch when it came to these moments and she had often wondered if it was simply due to her incapability
to appreciate her her own standing in any level of a community. The exaggerated actions of gratitude, the offering of gifts and the praise
given when she performed her tasks, there was no need -Peggy would say. She'd be happy with just shelter for the night.
It seemed Duckworth's daughter was different.

During her father's and the sorceress' daytime slumber, there'd been unasked-for work done. A freshly-brushed poncho lay neatly-folded
over a nearby horse-hitch, alongside Peggy's dust-shaken hat and bag. The barrel Peggy was now sitting in supported a small plank with
a metal dish of beans and sausage on it accompanied with a mug of sweet-chicory.
Boons for bewitchment -the content naked woman assumed and went back to mapping her morrow.

"Another brew?" Sarah asked with a beaming smile and a steaming pot of chicory, the evening was in full-force and the drowsy wizard
had been caught off-guard during her wool-gathering. Farraman County was the next shire over, but Peggy estimated the distance was
close to over a hundred leagues and such a walk wouldn't be sprinkled with settlements. One had to get to Shadrach's Corner and then
head along a lonely track-way before arriving anywhere that could be called a village.

Bandits were rare nowadays, but the landscape was barren and Peggy missed the familiar surroundings that tracked Calder's Way.
The musings of those leafy lanes and warbling evensong from roosting birds had dragged Peggy down into the welcoming embrace
of forty winks.

With a glance towards the would-be waitress in jeans, Peggy croaked "Aye, thank yer'... and Ah'll be needin' to get out of this soaker
before Ah' shrivel". This brought a surprising chuckle from Sarah and thoughts regarding the single woman's situation came to the
medium's mind again. Sarah Bowe needed a man who wasn't her father, Ms Powler believed and ignored the duplicity of her belief.

Thanking her host for a refill as she clambered out of the barrel, the nude necromancer wondered how she could put her point of view
to Sarah without being intrusive. The large towel hid any facial clues to her ruminations. "How far would yer' say Farraman was from
here?" Peggy asked absently as she briskly dried herself off and noticed the confused gaze of the woman with the coffee pot.

"You're leaving us so soon?" Sarah asked received a nod of affirmation from the buck-naked little Fae with the face of someone who
didn't seem to care about the concept of hospitality. The wily bugger called Peggy Powler plied a piece of her trade that had served
her well in the past and occasionally helped people stuck in a mind-mire.

"Aye, it's a fair-old walk fur' a little 'un like me-self and there's a whole world out there to savour..." she answered abstractedly and
gave the impression that the 'world' she had mentioned, would leave one behind if loitered on. "...There's ghosts to lay and fellas too"
Peggy mumbled as she shrugged on her favourite poncho. Duckworth's only child seemed slightly pained by the Witch's harsh comment,
but the lack of levity in the remark was part of the recipe.

Sarah remained silent as Peggy sipped on her drink and somewhere, a boo-boo owl called out to its mate. Then the result the guest
was hoping for came from her host standing in the desert. "I was thinking... I could take you in the cart to Shadrach's Corner and it
would only take a day" Sarah suggested with a look that the last Witch of Underhill had seen many time. Hopefulness.

Peggy displayed a face of faux-contemplation and finishing her brew, agreed that it would be a grand idea. Now all she had to do was
have a chat with Duckworth Bowe.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
Glancing at the woman with the flinty gaze, Duckworth Bowe instructed his daughter that whilst she was out on the rugged highway
that led to Shadrach's Corner, she should venture into the town of Fellowstone. Only a few hours ride from where Sarah would be
dropping Peggy off, the wealthy municipality held a wider variety of supplies than Barren Wayz and the Doctor assured the beaming
Sarah she would enjoy the experience.

"Maybe I can get some reading done in peace" he tacitly remarked to the little Witch standing beside him in hushed tones and seeing
the coy-wolf bound into the back of the cart, Duckworth felt a pang of relief mixed with a knowing that change lay somewhere up ahead.
"Whey, that's a quality idea" Peggy Powler agreed and both she and the grey-haired father of her ride reddened slightly at the sorcerer's
poor acting performance.

With a awkward hug of farewell for the man who had once been her lover, Peggy allowed Sarah to help her onto the cart and off they set
to another road and another day. They both waved until they disappeared around a large outcrop and then faced their respective futures
with a thin buoyancy. Sarah would meet a Bookkeeper in Fellowstone and a year later, they would marry. As a side note, Paxo would be
the ring-bearer and the bride's father would catch himself thinking of Peggy during the ceremony.

As the day lazily padded on during their passage, the last Witch of Underhill slowly extracted the story of Duckworth's time between the
last she'd seen him and today. Sarah had related her father's past with relish and considering the lassitude-of-a-trail they were on,
it helped to pass the time away.

When they stopped to water the horse and themselves, the usually reserved young woman was still babbling like a fishwife, but her listener
showed herself throughout the telling to be a keen adherent of what was said. Presumably after beating a hasty retreat from the horror of
Jack Dor, Duckworth had travelled to a city and gained an education in the modern imitation-version of majick, science.

As he progressed in this false field, he had aimed his prow towards medicine and cultivated a customer-base in a village that Sarah could
not recall the name of. It was there that the admired-Doctor Bowe met Sarah's mother and not long after, they wed. The tone of the woman
currently at the reins of the cart changed when she added that Victoria Bowe had died of consumption when Sarah was eight summers old.
Since then, both she and her grief-stricken father had hidden from the world that had cruelly taken the only woman they had loved and
existed in their desert-surrounded impasse ever since.

Peggy had smiled out at the barren topography when she heard that and switched the subject. Things would change and the bubble that
Sarah and Duckworth had used for all these years would be pricked in only a day's time. Leaning back and stroking the tongue-lolling beast
behind her, the nodding and listening Witch mused that such certain predictions were beyond the new-fangled mumbo jumbo called science.

Peggy and Sarah made camp at just a few yards from Shadrach's Corner and it might be reasonable to explain the layout of the area where
they were cooking supper of sausage and beans. With the foothills behind them, the terrain became as flat as a pancake. The trail came out
of a ravine Peggy was sure that within a couple of years, the lack of use would allow the desert's aboriginal flora to make the rutted-route

With chaperons of giant Ferocactus and rows of sagebrush laced with withered Desert Lily, the track travelled in a fairly-straight line until
all that accompanied it was the remains of a wooden picket fence that Peggy guessed must be a half-a-mile long. Who built it is unknown
and just because it was part of the junction that was titled Shadrach's Corner, the name had nothing to do with the architect of the weather
-ravaged set of paling.

The rustic intersection acquired its name from a long-dead grumpy old bastard who took it upon himself to demand a toll for using -what
he assured any traveller, was his personal route. It mattered not to this enterprising idiot that anyone needing to visit Farraman County
could just steer around his imagined terminus and continue their journey. No, Shadrach the contumacious clodpoll would sit outside of his
tent positioned where the mysterious fence stopped and wait for someone to pay for the use of his alleged part of Wildhorn's road-system.

Some might say that it was a certainty that due to this stupidity and the old man's cantankerous nature, that he was found one morning
by a passing county law enforcement officer, with an axe protruding from his head and a single frollis in his grimy clenched hand.
And so this was why they call it Shadrach's Corner.

They talked into the night of many things, of Peggy's exploits and Sarah's aspirations. When Duckworth's daughter enquired about the
night in the desert with her father, the little Witch arranged her explanation to slightly hint at a revisit of a past romance and act of a
type of blessing for the strange graveyard in the desert.

When pressed on how Peggy met her Pa, Sarah was led to believe that it was a chance encounter that separated merely due to their
individual callings. Relishing her supper, sausage-chewing Peggy took it that her ambiguous account sat easy with the woman who'd
dispensed with the pony-tail.

They slept to calls of whip-poor-wills chasing their own style of night-feasts and the big moon looked down on easy dreams and hopeful trails.

As Simon Butterworth woke unusally early to grab some breakfast and get back to finishing the dubious out-goings of his latest client, he
momentarily pondered on why he'd been dreaming of sausages. The handsome young man grabbed his spectacles from his side-dresser
and rising, went to slay the possibly apocryphal white whale basking in the account books of Collins Hardware & Horse Tack.

Mrs Blundell -the house-keeper at his parents' home was making her scrumptious Saguaro-cactus-shaped pancakes and they were not to be
missed. This was why a minute after bolting from his bed, the second son of the Butterworths of Fellowstone was assiduously rechecking his
poorly-scrawled figures draped across the well-thumbed ledger. To many, Bookkeeping seemed a tedious task, but for the twenty-nine year-old
splashing water onto his face, trailing financial transactions and recording day-to-day business was like reading an interesting story.
To be blunt, Simon unashamedly enjoyed his career.

Today was Tuesday and that meant another meeting with Fellowstone's major retailer, Myles Grissom. Nice guy, but hated paperwork and
detested showing where is money came from. Simon watched himself fasten his bow-tie in the large water-stained mirror and idly wondered
where he'd be next year.


Sarah Bowe was a dot on the horizon as Peggy Powler lost sight of her behind a long embankment of sand. Old journeys were ending and
new ones waited just around the bend and just over the borders of imagination and awareness. The bare-footed Witch peered at her sparse
surroundings and hoped her odyssey would quickly acquire better foliage than the dried Creosote Bush and unmoving Saguaro Cacti.

Leaving her fancies of lush greenery swaying to a warm breeze and the sound of busy bumble-bees, Peggy thought about the woman in the
horse-drawn cart and what lay ahead on her path. Would Sarah's prospective beau be Mr Right...? What would their children be called?
Maybe years from now, a little girl with ringlets would find a big hat in a dusty attic and putting it on, wonder why she was called Peggy?

Peggy grinned at a stark long-dead Torchwood tree and once more, appreciated the milestones that the Fates drew great humour from.
"You buggers never miss a trick" the Last Witch of Underhill whispered genially and set her path towards whatever the same facilitators
of destiny had in store for her.

The End.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=10363]

Attached Files Thumbnail(s)
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)