witch stared at her books with an open mouth while scratching her
head. Something wasn't right. The words all made sense, but
somehow they just didn't fit. She couldn't possibly be expected
to procure such items here. She was all the way back in
these dreadful swamps with few avenues of travel available to
her. Besides, where was she supposed to get a unicorn horn. I
mean really, where would you find that anyway? The last
unicorns had all died or vanished if they had ever really existed
was the salamander wool. That sort of thing didn't even exist.
Salamanders don't have fur she thought pensively. She knew
swindlers and the like procured cloth covered in asbestos and
said it was such, but it couldn't possibly mean that, could
and pearls she could find. Dragon's blood was no problem if one
considered the giant reptiles here close enough. Bat hearts were
simple enough, and powdered human bones were only a cemetery
away. She had but to visit the old churchyards nearby. But where
was she going to find such items as she required that were beyond
over her lists of substitutions. Kappa blood and parts sometimes
stood in for demon blood and parts in the Orient. Tiger's essence
could replace chimera breath. The scales of some small fish for
mermaids' were acceptable. Even harpies' feather's could be
replaced with eagle or falcon feathers when in short supply.
But damn it all, where do you get a unicorn horn when you've
never even heard of where to find them?
at the book. It was just a stupid book anyway. She had volumes of
spells and potions books that were more reliable. This one was
written by some witch she chanced upon dead some years ago. It
had taken her six months to figure out that the book was written
in some obscure Arabic, and then she spent two years translating
it. She hated it, but it did have some very useful spells
and potions in it.
attempt from this book was a love potion. She was smitten with
some young man on the plantation at the end of the swamps, and
she could never get him to outright accept her. No, she wasn't
ugly. She may have been over five hundred years old, but she was
still a handsome woman. Her bright blue eyes had never lost their
sparkle, and her blonde hair still had that golden sheen of a
teenager. Her chest was still full, and her waist was still slim.
She had never had any trouble with men before, but she wanted a
more permanent arrangement. Leaving her chosen occupation was not
an option, and she could not see that her looks would keep him
here for long if at all.
book!" she cried when yet another ingredient didn't seem to fit
corner a black cat snoozed idly, and jumped at the sound of her
screams. "What is the matter with you?" the cat hissed.
stared at her cat. She seldom spoke at all, and in the nearly two
hundred years she had been with her she said so little she
sometimes forgot she could talk.
"I wish I
had never found this book at all. These ingredients are
impossible to find, and I don't want to spend forever looking for
pondered her predicament. Her large green eyes closed while she
concentrated. She purred contentedly while she stroked her silky
black fur. Then she spoke.
take the trouble to look up another spell, or better yet, catch
yourself a man with lower rank. They seem to be more
even consider it. "You've been alive long enough to know where to
find this stuff too. Now, be a good kitty and tell me what you
over on her back and allowed her to stroke her belly, a sign of
trust, and purred adorably. "Unicorn horns are too rare for you
to go chopping them off, but why not try a nice narwhal? Or maybe
you could just use salamander skin. There are enough of them
around here to make a nice pair of boots."
the cat off the table. She could be so incredulous when she
chose. She did have a point. A narwhal horn was easy to come by,
and it would look and be similar to a unicorn horn. A solution
that was eminently practical and affordable was very rare, but
here it was. She dashed out the door and headed for her little
boat and poled herself to the town.
hour later she returned with her supplies, but her cat was gone.
It wasn't unusual, so she didn't worry. She mixed them all as
instructed, and performed the necessary rites. She waited three
days and then poled herself to the edge of the swamp where the
plantation sloped down to meet the murky water. She poled up to
the shore that was covered by willows and made ready. He rode
daily around the plantation, and he was sure to be nearby. She
was right. There he was. His stunning blue eyes sparkled, and his
dark hair flowed. He was standing with some lovely girl, and he
was holding her left hand. Then he dropped down on one
jumped out of her little boat. The girl was certainly pretty, but
she was no match for her beauty. She quickly unfastened her
cloak. Her dress was low-cut, and her bosom heaved appropriately.
She stepped out from behind the long branches and strode to meet
the girl's hand and stared directly at her. He couldn't take his
eyes from her while she absently, or so it seemed, butted the
other girl out of the way.
it seems I'm too late," she said tragically laying her arm across
her forehead, "you have fallen for another while I had my back
back to the other girl who stood nearby. Her long red hair blew
in the gentle breeze, and her deep green eyes were filled with
dismay. He looked from girl to girl, his face showing his
uh, that is…." he was floundering very well at this point.
didn't forget me so quickly?" she purred, "I know I didn't forget
that afternoon in the stables."
girl's eyes went wide.
all too pleased to play with me then. Could it be you only used
me?" Her eyes filled with mock tears.
that, well, I think Abigail here might be having my baby. I can't
let her father find out. He'd kill me."
deteriorating rapidly now.
snarled, "I am also carrying your child. You can't marry us both,
back and forth helplessly. Each woman was now glaring at him and
tapping her foot dangerously while menacing him with her belly.
He dropped to the ground and began to weep. "If only I could have
something to drink!"
easily done," the witch said sweetly. She pulled a small flagon
from her little bag. "Here, drink this."
woman made a strangled cry, "You have no idea what you're doing!
man drank it down quickly. "It burns my throat, but it's quite
sweet. Funny, it tastes a bit like almonds."
thirstily while the women watched: one with joy and the other
with horror. Then he turned to the witch. "Since I know your baby
will come first I'll marry you, but what about Abigail?"
shrugged, "Me first. I have no family to care for me or my
at the other girl, "I'm sorry, but she's right." The girl smiled
wickedly, but she walked away in a dignified manner.
important happened next.
and the young man, Devon, got married. She didn't have his baby,
but she did get her man. They were only married a few months when
he was trampled by his own horse. The young man's father couldn't
seem to find any trace of his daughter in law's so-called family,
and she did match the description of the swamp witch people had
seen for years. He suspected her, and he chased her into the
swamps, all the while intending to burn her.
returned to her humble cottage in the swamp. She knew her cat
could fend for herself, and expected her to return when she
realized she was home. Much to her surprise, the cat was sitting
in the window with a look of knowing on her face.
not go well, did it?"
snarled, "No, they think I killed him. Then the old man got wise
and hunted me down. So, I guess I'm back."
jumped down from her perch and went out the door. She called out
softly and then came back in. She stared at her mistress, "I hope
you plan to repay me for all my suffering."
started towards her pots and books, "Oh, I'm sure you managed.
You don't need me to feed you. You can do for yourself, but I am
sorry I left you."
hissed, "You are as foolish as you are old. I told you not to bid
for the attentions of that boy. His father was certain to figure
it out. You go into town too often, and they have seen you not
age too much. Anyone else would not have bothered."
looked at her, "And what did I do to you? You can care for
made such a face, "This!" she hissed. She pointed to three black
kittens with glowing blue eyes. They all chattered and fussed
merrily with one another in piping voices.
stared at them with an open mouth, "Where did you come by
made a face, "I sent you after those substitutions to keep you
busy, and I knew you had to take three days to make it, but I
didn't know he was gone until that afternoon. You were supposed
to get there too late! Then you wouldn't listen. You lied to get
what you wanted, and then you had no pity."
the other girl?"
hissed the cat, "And now, these are your kittens! If you had
listened to me we would both be happy, and I wouldn't be alone
with three kittens!"
jumped down and darted for the door. The witch still listening to
the chattering and mewing looked bedraggled already. "Surely you
aren't going to leave me here with your kittens?!"
looked over her shoulder with a mocking face, "Maybe next time
you'll take the advice of a black cat."
She took a
few more steps and then stopped, "By the way, I'm well over a
thousand, not two hundred, and unicorns still live in this swamp
if you still want to catch one. But take my advice and catch some
nice fish instead."
another glance she laughed wickedly and disappeared into the