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Peggy Powler & The Puddledown Incident.
#21
She knew that it must be a dream, an hallucination conjured from the blight that cavorted in her body and now pranced in her
fevered mind like the demon that once infested Phineas Stappen. Somewhere far off, a crow cawed its annoyance at the silly
pomp and ceremony, a midnight cherub announcing the terrible union of the damned.

In a dress made from a stitched-together flour sack proclaiming John Turnipseed as Puddledown's finest Baker, Peggy Powler
stood at a golden altar in the church of the new religion and watched through a veil spun by spiders as the priest pulled down
the hood of his vestment to reveal his gleaming grinning skull. 

The straight-laced voice of Finley Teasel came from her left and turning to see the little Brownie smiling up at the Witch in her
bridal gown, he advised "Don't take this one for granted" and adjusted the remains of his front door under his arm. Then the
strange music began and Peggy felt the reverberation coming through her bare feet from the tall pipes that stood behind the
shimmering table.

Staring up through her filigree mask, the light-headed enchanter observed the huge ducts become gangly cedar trees swaying
in a sea-breeze against a beautiful blue sky. The chantry was gone and now, she was poised near a broken dolmen where a
Myrddin the greatest of wizards waited with an open book resting on the remains of the stone monument.

"Do you -Peggy Powler, take this soul to be your lawfully wedded husband...?" the old man said and glanced to the right of his
once-upon-a-time pupil. Struggling to breathe, Peggy slowly turned to see Accam Dey standing beside her, all gore-covered
and grinning like the cat that had got the cream.

"...A canny Spellbinder would take me home with her" the great wolf hissed menacingly and glimpsing the dark-blue silk cravat
around his blood-soaked neck, the little Witch welcomed her unhinged world suddenly turning to black.
...................................................

Tara Cornfoot cooled the gasping woman's brow and waited for Percy Barleycorn to finish dressing the red-raw wound on the
Witch's thigh. The Fern-leeches had done their task and now all they could do was wait, Old Barleycorn had said so. Tara felt
her usual impatience bubble up, but dowsed it with practical fact that the Fae Witch was in a battle with a fever and only time
would know the outcome. Rising to bring more water, she hoped it would be soon.
...................................................

The pond was a strange phenomena, although if you asked Ezra Coldpot or Pookie Nimbles, they would say it just a place
where pliny-mussels came to play and sometimes saltwater crabs visited for reasons the pair of Elves hadn't quite worked
out yet. The truth was that when the tide was high, water was forced through a league-long subterranean fissure in the
terrain and kept the small pool filled with marine creatures from the Great Sea.

"Ah' spoke to Tara this mornin' and she said the woman might pull through..." Ezra said absently and wriggled his toes in the
squelchy sand. "...She reckons she's been fightin' wiv' a wolf" he added and rolled his pants up further like Tara had warned
him to do. Pookie nodded from the shore and taking off his stockings, he tucked them into his shoes.

For a moment, the small item of footwear held his attention and he couldn't fathom why. It was a shoe, a simple moccasin that
his Pa had made him two years ago and yet, it meant something that alluded the innocent youngster. Then a vivid blue butterfly
left its perch of a Jasmine flower and fluttering past Pookie Nimbles on an uncharted journey, his introspectiveness of his own
shoe vanished.
...................................................

She was in a large, but dimly-lit underground chamber where someone presumably lived. Peggy sluggishly blinked as she
surveyed the root-bound ceiling and as she slowly became more aware of her surroundings, felt the heavy material that laid
across her naked body. She was in a bed.

There was a flickering fireplace where a stone hearth was filled with a steaming cooking pot, surrounded by large metal basins
and smaller porringers for the eating of stews. The silhouette of a small woman knelt in front of the flames and seemed to be
preparing a meal. Peggy searched her cobweb-strewn mind for how she'd arrived in this place and could only find an image of
an Elf-boy stammering a jumble of words beyond her grasp.

"Where am Ah'?" the little Witch croaked and felt a thirst she hadn't encountered 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"
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#22
I can't thank you enough for this. I love the story and the style.
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#23
(01-19-2022, 04:09 AM)ABNARTY Wrote: I can't thank you enough for this. I love the story and the style.

Yes, I have to agree with you.
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
[Image: attachment.php?aid=936]
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#24
The Kittiwake floated in the up-draught from the breaking waves and seeing the lone figure sitting in the grass was no danger,
banked right and moved on to the more important task of feeding its young. Peggy Powler lifted the brim of her hat and watched
the soaring white bird wheel away across the grey sky and sighed at the ease it could change its own situation so quickly.

Not that she was dissatisfied with her own current setting, the little Witch's health had returned with a pace that even the Elves'
physician had commented on. Apparently even at Percy Barleycorn's old age of one hundred years, surprises were still available.
For the first time in a long age, Peggy had felt a sense of being home during her convalescence and as the weeks had passed by,
the small community of Fae seemed to have accepted her as one of their own.

Now with merely a limp to acknowledge the damage that Accam Dey had accidently inflicted on her, the sorceress was selfishly
relishing the peace and quiet of a place forgotten by the rest of the world. For a whole week, Peggy had forced herself to leave
the crutch -that the two boys who'd first found her, had made and carefully limp to this sloping bank of grass and stare out to sea.
No trawlers or ocean-going galleon had passed and now as the fog still hung onto the morning, she could feel reassured that this
day would be just like the one before.

A familiar dark-red bonnet bobbed along the slim track that led down to where some of the other seabirds nested and under that 
dowdy capote, Mrs Mews shambled back from her every-other-day forage for Fulmer and Puffin eggs. She was a round woman
and as Peggy smiled on seeing the approaching figure, she guessed the Gods had a certain mould that people like Mrs Mews
were cast in from birth.

"Fair elements, Missie" she'd enunciate with a serious tone and like a bonnet-wearing cannonball, roll past without looking the
necromancer's way. Peggy would answer with 'Fair travels to you, Mrs Mews" and attempt to draw a smile from the frumpy
Elf with her own welcoming grins. In all the time she'd watched the baggy ovoid return from her morning task, the Last Witch
of Underhill had to admit defeat in failing to crack the impenetrable features of the enemy to coastal avians.

Every other day, always the same greeting and always one sleeve rolled-up from pulling the eggs from the birds' burrows.
The wicker basket that held her gains had a lambskin cloth over the top and was always at Mrs Mews' far side -presumably
away from the Witch's prying eyes.

With the indignant squawks of the invaded careering off the distant cliff face, the egg-shaped woman would saunter on until
she disappeared over the rise back to where Tara and the others went about their own everyday chores.
Mrs Mews, the Elfin clock.

But as the surroundings settled back into a world where only a certain laundered-poncho-wearing Peggy Powler existed, she
would reflect on her recent past and quietly pick apart the incident of Puddledown that had brought her to this point.
It was Phineas Stappen all along.
...................................................

As she'd laid their beside the ancient dolmen, Peggy's mind had struggled from dealing with the crunching blow from being
shunted into the stones along with Accam Dey's heavy torso landing on top of her. Initially, the dazed Witch believed the wolf
was dead and that the Gandy-Padfoot was now preparing to slay the investigator who sought to reveal the creature's alter-ego.

But as the ugly brute leapt in its final act of killing, the Beast of Hexham laid across her legs had suddenly turned and grabbed
the monster of Puddledown and rolled off towards the hole beneath the stone mantle of the old burial mound. Peggy had watched
with vacant eyes as the pair scuffled and clawed at each other. Accam Dey's rear paw flicked out and caught the stunned woman's
leg during the melee and drew -not just a terrible gouge in Peggy's thigh, but a scream of pain from her trembling lips.

Then there was silence. One moment, the two predators were snarling in their combat, the next there was just smeared dirt and
flattened turf. They had gone... the pit that may have served as a timeworn grave now had new occupants and the only attendant
at the sudden funeral lay battered and bleeding.

Phineas Stappen had tricked them all and at the end, it took a devil more cunning than himself to bluff the old Shoemaker into
letting his guard down. Accam Dey, the hellion that thought like a man and could read your inner-fears, the bane of the innocent
and bringer of doom had saved Peggy's life and now staring out at the sun-resisting sea-fog, she smiled as she thought what
people would say if they'd heard her say so. But here on the lonely breezy bank that held old Mrs Mews' footpath, Peggy could
say it and did.

It would be another two weeks before the sole-survivor of what occurred that dreadful night on the mound came to terms with why
she hadn't used her spells to rid Wheatland County of her friend hidden inside the Gandy-Padfoot. As Peggy had watched Ezra and
Pookie mesmerised in their quest to empty the pool of its inhabitants and savouring a bowl of hot pottage along with some of Tara's
homemade bread, Peggy reasoned that her poor-examining prowess and inability to quickly conjure-up enchantments and hexes were
solely due to a type of unheard sibilation that she'd read about in Myrddin's book.

The arcane manuscript spoke of a silent sound that upset the mind and caused a type of 'brain-fog' to those in close proximity to the
actual animal or when it was in human form. This inaudible vibration was said to be generated from the creature's throat and would
temporarily disable the use of regular communication.

Peggy thought back to those quiet periods that Phineas held dear in his home and how he tended to shrug when she explained her
bewilderment at what was happening in Puddledown. He couldn't speak because he was discharging the contemplation-breaking
sonance that brought on the vagueness to cogitate. The little Witch felt a dull rage attempting to swell in her stomach, but glancing
towards the serene scene of the two young Elves paddling in the water, she self-mockingly suggested it was merely flatulence.

A few seconds later, she admitted that yes, she'd been played for a fool and deserved the title. But if the award for such a humiliating
and humbling laurel was this fine bowl of stew -the little Witch thought, she accepted the brand with a low curtsy that would make
most men swoon.

The Gandy-Padfoot and the Beast of Hexham were no more and wasn't it a certain bearded wizard who'd once told her to not judge the
gait of the runner, but how he holds himself over the winning-line? Sopping up the last of her mulligan with the gorgeous bread, Peggy
couldn't have agreed more with the old bugger.
...................................................

Epilogue.

The three Elves watched as the Witch dropped her satchel over shoulders and set her hat on her head. Peggy was certain now that
anytime she came to a problem in a human community and couldn't find the exit to a particular labyrinth, spending a few hours with
the Fae would clear the mind-clutter and bring her back to her centre.

"Ah' cannot tell yer' how much yer've helped me back on me-path te' fixin' what needs fixin'..." the sad-faced Witch said without looking
into the trio's eyes. "...And Ah' hope Ah haven't been a burden" Peggy appended as she traced her hands on her clean poncho.

Pookie's face was wet from the constant tears he produced and the Elf's regular sobbing indicated he would be incapable of saying
anything for some time. Ezra had liked the little woman who'd taught him how to feel for and steer mussels that were further out in the
deeper parts of the pool and felt content that the crutch he and Pookie constructed hadn't gone to waste after all. 
He didn't weep, but he knew he had to look glum.

Tara Cornfoot pretended that she'd forgot to hand over some provisions and so busied herself by moving around the kitchen and banging
cooking implements too loudly. "Aye, it's that time Ah suppose, but it's been nice havin' yer stay with us..." the Elf-woman said bluntly as
she pushed a bundle of food into Peggy's satchel. "...But yer' never know, yer' might happen back this way some day" she added softly
and offered a rare momentary smile that failed to hide her hope.

"Yer' take care of yer'self, Tara..." the little Witch whispered and then with a clearing of her throat, Peggy added volume to her voice when
she turned to speak to the pair of mollusc-catchers. "...And you-two buggers catch more mussels, yer' hear?!" she scolded them soundly.
But the faux harshness did no good and the youngsters ran to hold the famous necromancer who had lost one false friend, but had gained
three genuine others.
...................................................

The sun was setting when a content Peggy Powler found her way back to the fabled sea-cobbled road of Calder's Way. As bats stalked
the deep-orange air for their supper, the cheerful Witch walked another mile into the evening before she spotted an old signpost that told
of three villages that could possibly have need of her counsel.

Pondering on whether to spend another night out here in the countryside among the sky-hunters, shrubbery-sniffing hedgehogs and the
odd-foraging badger or try for one of the hamlets, she smiled in the warm gloom at the obvious answer. With a grunt of exertion, Peggy
tossed the strap of her satchel over the weathered post and tested the weight.

Satisfied that her backside wouldn't take a bruising from a middle-of-the-night collapse of the directory, she climbed in and promptly
felt the weariness of today's journey. It was good to be back on the road and Peggy knew that it would take some time to be back to
her normal self.

Settling down within her faithful tote, the cozy Witch's hand touched something that -at any other time, would have caused any sense of
sleep to flee like a moth from one of the night-flitters outside. At first, she thought that the package Tara had dropped into her bag had
loosened and spilled out its contents, but feeling the smooth material, she came to terms with what it was.

It was a strip of cloth that in the light of day, Peggy would wager was the colour of cobalt. A ribbon of blue that she'd once tied around a
ferocious wolf as a sign of confederation. But how had it got into her satchel...? The Beast of Hexham was wearing it when he'd hurled
the thing that Phineas Stappen had become -and himself, into the deep hole. 

Lifting the flap of her makeshift bedroom, Peggy Powler peered out into the Summer's warm darkness and for no reason she would
ever fathom, smiled. Somewhere out there, Accam Dey -for good or ill-will, was out and about tonight.

The End.

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[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#25
Pretty good artwork too. 

Obviously, that is not what PP looks like. Nothing even close to what's in my head, so...

Thank you tinybiggrin
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