As Peggy Powler made her way along the dry-stone wall and past the remains of a long forgotten
water trough, the sight of Calder’s Way brought a feeling of welcomed-relief to the rain-sodden
Adjusting the leather strap that held her ancient bag of Majic tools on her aching shoulders, the last
Witch of Underhill took in the drab surroundings of Bogul County.
The grey sky rolled across to some far-off moorlands and marooned copses, the steady tattoo of
raindrops on the Witch’s wide-rimmed hat reminded her -along with the view, that she was alone.
Alone with her guilty thoughts.
It had been almost two weeks since she’d last seen anyone and even though there had been the
occasional small farmhouse dotted here and there near to where she was travelling, Peggy felt
that she needed this solitary time to deal with what she’d done back at Beggers Well.
The killing of the Barguest had left her feeling mentally soiled and saddened. The reason wasn’t
because of the taking his life, although she would use the word ‘it’, the real cause of her melancholy
was due to the manner that she had done it.
As the downpour eased slightly and the woman skirted around the remains of a burnt-out windmill,
Peggy wondered about the rage she had shown the blood-collecting monster as she’d hacked it’s
body to pieces.
It wasn’t like her, I know that some may think the whole idea of killing someone should be repugnent
and it is, Peggy knew that. But the greater-good demanded that this undead tormentor should be
stopped and whatever moral standards we might have, Peggy knew that the creature didn’t adhere
There’d been nothing left. It had been sixteen days since she’d lifted that woodsman’s axe and the muscles between her old shoulder blades still ached. The ferocity of the onslaught verged on manic, Peggy had cursed, wept and for a short-while, even giggled during the butchery.
It wasn’t like her.
The Elders of the town were satisfied with her actions and knowing that Witches had a duty to police the ‘other realms’ that sometimes invaded this world, they had given Peggy some of their sparse provisions as reward.
The old woman with the ‘touch of the Fey’ had left then and without glancing at the brooding graveyard above Beggars Well, she’d set out for Caulder’s Way.
The hillside that she now carefully climbed down offered a wonderful view of the famous road that led north to Solomon’s Pond, the mysterious cliff-village of Toole and many other small districts that used Calder’s Way as their means to interact and trade.
The cobbled surface was a marvel of engineering and yet, the actual builders of the long thoroughfare still remained unknown. Repairs were usually carried out by the village closest to where any damage occurred and the cause tended to be the weather. The smooth stones inserted into some-kind of cement had been identified to have come from the sea and one can only wonder what organisational skills were required to bring such a vast amount of aggregate the many-many miles from the coast.
Peggy neared the sombre meadow at the base of the hill and ignoring the questioning brays of a small flock of inquisitive sheep, she clambered over the rickety gate and surveyed the road that would be her companion for the next few days.
The thought of her meagre food supplies came to mind and caused the old Witch to furrow her brow in the deliberation of how to restock it. The dirty-green poncho held many pockets and in the one that held the loaf of bread given as part of the payment for ridding Beggars Well of the brute that had terrorised their village.
It now contained a few hard-crumbs and the remains of an apple.
The verge held some edible plants that hugged the base of the stone walls, the odd clump
of Wood Aven and nodding Bush Vetch were scattered between neatly-clipped grass and Cubby
sorrel, but the idea of a diet consisting of only scrub-plants made Ms. Powler twist her face in
The rain came again and hunching those aching shoulders, the thin-framed woman moved her
bare-feet along the cobbled highway and hopefully, some decent food.
‘Am I a murderer?’ Peggy mused as she clacked the two flints together and muttered her prayer.
The dry grass had taken some finding and it was only when she was about to give up and bed-down
without a warm backside to accompany her dreams, did she discern the shape of the cattle byre
in the failing light.
The straw and forgotten bird’s nest lifted her spirits as she gathered the makings for a campfire
and decided that the shelter would keep any further rainstorms from disturbing her sleep.
The surrounding broken fences offered some barely-dry wood and in the dark and musty shelter,
Peggy went back to her soul-searching diagnostics.
Killing the creature that collected blood in it’s lair should be deemed a noble act and the young
woman had heard of such tales around the glowing brazier outside the tent of her Mother.
Many of the Carnival’s employees would bring stories from long ago of monsters and devils
that were taken down by handsome men in the name of honour.
Yet, the Barguest known as Felix wasn’t truly a monster, he was a man. Granted, his skill of
deceiving an onlooker’s eye seemed to be something that belonged in the world of skulking
night creatures, but as he had told Peggy when his left arm lay a few feet away from his body,
it was just a trick.
There was no reference to Old Nick or a dark coven, nor did Felix hold any superhuman talents
that the Carnival folk had spoken of, he was just a sad-crazy person who could sneak into trusting
-villagers homes. Peggy had guessed where the skulking monster would have a hideaway and
stealing into the cemetary on the hill that overlooked Beggars Well, the stinking den wasn’t too-hard
The hidden-retreat in the base of the solitary tree of the graveyard held jars and jugs of congealed
blood and as the poncho-wearing Witch ventured further into underground refuge, the sight of three
hand-drawn portraits of presumably-people of the village -begrudgingly suggested to Peggy that
she done nothing more-than hacked a retarded male to death.
In the far-corner of the burrow, a skull of a deer and a human pressed home further the idea to the
wide-eyed sorceress that his compulsion was little-more than a mental disorder.
The single flame of her campfire pulled her from her doubts and she focused on rearing a decent
blaze with the careful addition of a single sliver of wood or a small clump of straw.
Anyway, she was in out of the weather.