As the low moans of the night’s wind outside the dilapidated cow byre whispered of forsaken
souls and forlorn banshees, the naked old woman laying next to the crackling fire contemplated
Peggy Powler had seen over fifty summers and the bare, scarred and skinny body that took
warmth from the fire, wasn’t what it used to be. She was the last of the Underhilll Witches and
had never cleaved to a man in the ways of the many female-folk of the hamlets and villages
she had visited.
Oh, there had been sexual encounters. Peggy wasn’t one for turning her nose-up at a bit
of ‘leg-over’ -when the opportuntity arose, but to resign herself to be with one man…?
Gently wafting the dwindling flames of the campire with her large hat, she pondered what it
would be like to live in a house and to know the smell of the man sleeping beside her.
The Carnival had been the only home to her during her chilldhood. Madam Powler, the Fortune
Teller of the Fair and mother to the pretty-young girl in the bright-green gown -had told of many
things that made this strange world go around and the sage warnings of what men were really
all about, were never lost on the lassie who had always loved to race among the gaudy-coloured
tents and marquees in her bare-feet.
“Think of ’em as dogs…” Madam Powler had rasped during one her many drunken visits to the
bottle. Peggy had grown up with the understanding that such powers of knowing folk’s futures
had always came with a price. The price for the gift was that the flooding-knowledge would never
cease… even in your dreams.
The raven-haired woman behind the thumb-smudged crystall ball used the mead to quieten the
voices that chittered and whispered from the otherside and Peggy had accepted it.
It would always be a mystery of why the young child standing across the silk-covered table of her
mater had never been burdened with this supposed agony. Maybe Peggy wasn’t so touched?
“Aye… they’re like curs, always a-sniffin’ and always hungry” her Mother had warned and the quiet
tinkling sound from the Madam’s heavy-hooped earrings had returned to Peggy’s memories in the
shadowy cowshed has she pulled them from her past.
“Divna’ let ’em harness yer’ me-lass” Madam Powler had growled with a shake of her black mane
and then with a lazy swipe of her hand, she’d dismissed Peggy and prepared herself for the next
That cowshed that squatted on a rain-soaked hillside now was a temporary abode for the girl
that had become a woman and as the memories faded, Peggy Powler urged her old body awake
The cold morning outside promised that today, no sun would venture onto the wind-swept terrain
that encompassed Caulder’s Way, the rolling heavy clouds warned more water would be thrown down on the little woman who dabbled in spells and majick.
“Yer’ no bonny sight fur’ these eyes…” Peggy cursed the sky and spat towards the ground, the wind
grabbed the spittle as if it would never grow weary of enough water. “…Be Buggered” she hissed and
trained her gaze to the long road below her.
If any of you have ever visited the regions that our dishevelled shaman wandered through, you may
recall some of the history surrounding Bogul County.
The place known as ‘Solomon’s Pond’ had once been home to a community that prided itself on
holding the area’s biggest Summer’s-End festival and Sow-In rituals. As time had moved on, the
traditions had fallen away and now, the fifty-or-so residents of the quiet hamlet near the road
tended to keep themselves to themselves.
But not-too long ago, things had been different.
It was a time when the villagers stowed away their crops for winter and brought their animals down
from the moors and reluctantly accepted that it was a time for the land to sleep.
But before they silently said goodbye to the fading Summer, they would celebrate. People would
come from miles around to see the fiery sacrifice of the towering straw goliath and enjoy the rich
foods that the residents of Solomon’s Pond lay out every year.
The famous Hallow’s End jubilees would light the sky with homemade gunpowder and find squealing
children running through hedgerows with painted ghost-faces and carrying carved-out turnips displaying ghoulish leers.
As the storm lanterns swayed in the early-winter breezes, fiddles would be played and young maidens would offer a bare-ankle to any wide-eyed man during the dancing. Of course, the tuneful dirvish is for the young and so the old men of ‘The Pond’ would sit around a barrel of Wort Ale and recall the days when Peggy’s ancestors walked the countryside and true-majick bathed the land.
The women of the village believed that Fairy Night demanded payment and to the superstitious
it meant small cakes of oats and berries were left on the doorsteps of the houses. Fey folk would
hopefully accept the offering and the next day’s milk would not sour.
As their husbands drank themselves stupid, the women-folk would wander in a group along the lanes
and trackways of Solomon’s Pond and place small-scarlet sachets of crushed herbs to keep the smelly
-Spriggans and evil goblins from snooping around the village and tormenting the children’s slumber.
The festivities would end with a twenty-foot effigy of Solomon -himself, being ignited with tar-tipped arrows set alight and fired by two men with archer’s bows -who weren’t too inebriated and the families of Solomon’s Pond would all stand around the towering bonfire and recount the story of how Solomon the Giant created the nearby pool by pissing in it.
Peggy sighed at the town’s accounts she’d heard during her days at the Carnival and sliding the old
firearm back onto her shoulders, she set off to meet the road known as Caulder’s Way.
Maybe Solomon’s Pond would accept her visit and offer her food for a Telling or maybe a ghost will
be needed to be expelled. Whichever it was, Peggy Powler’s gait was determined and maybe this
time, a killing wouldn’t be called for.