A story of magic, romance and hilarity featuring Grandmother Stockett, an old woman who is visited one night by a group of three strangers, who all seem oddly familiar with a past that Euphadora Stockett had forgotten she had.
Grandmother Stockett sniffed the herbs she held in her withered and aching fingers, snorting as one of the leaves whipped itself up her nose. With a great sneeze she shot the offending piece of vegetation out of her nose, accompanied by a wad of similarly coloured snot.
“Blast. Stupid damned herb.” She wiped her nose on the dirty black material of her sleeve and proceeded to peer at the bunch of herbs she still held. “Damn these old eyes. Are yeh Spopmuttle or aren’t yeh?”
The weeds stared blankly at her, only moving in the gusts of wind that battered the old woman who crouched in the dark ditch at the witching hour.
“Confound yeh!” She muttered, turning in the ditch to try and find some more light with which to see. “Always were a tricky blighter, but yeh’ve really taken the teapot now. Sending old granny out in to the dark, and in witching hour! At least I’ll be safe from idiots; they’ll all think I’m some evil old witch out to turn ‘em to toads. Simple minded fools, although they’re kind enough to me.” She told the herbs as they nodded in the wind. “Don’t yeh bow yer head at me weed, I ain’t no damned and blasted royal. Lousy schmucks. What sort of royal family just sit there on their padded backsides while those bloomin’ NorMacs take everything we have? I tell yeh, I’d do a better job ruling from me armchair than those pathetic-“
A sharp crack filled the air and Grandmother Stockett stilled, the hand not holding the herbs tightening on her sturdy old walking stick.
“Who’s there?” She rasped her voice hoarse but firm.
The only sound in reply was the heightened rush of wind that dove past her, tugging at the herbs in her hand. She tucked them in to an inner pocket and patted them.
“Stay there. We’re leaving.”
She gripped the walking stick once more and stepped forward. The mud squelched under her feet and made them slide, but she held firm to her stick and pressed forward.
“Don’t know what he’s thinking letting me out all on me own. Being old don’t fool real witches. I might have taken on a few hooligans in me day but that was before it took me more than an hour teh walk teh town. Damn and blast the ungrateful sop. Strutting around, stealing the hearts of all those pretty young girls…” She continued to mumble as she hauled herself from the ditch, slipping once or twice and getting mud on her skirt. “Ah teh hell with yeh!” She cried and pulled herself over the edge of the ditch and in to the road. The wind was stronger here, bitter, and rain had begun to pour again as she’d dragged herself up the bank.
“Confound it.” She muttered and pulled her black shawl closer. Then, steadily, she began to make her way up the road.
Grandmother Stockett stopped. Although the wind howled and the rain poured, there was no mistaking the sound of a twig, broken under foot.
“Two in a matter of minutes.” She mumbled to herself. “That’s not good by any standards. Better watch yerself Euphadora.” She peered around in to the gloom and then raised her voice. “Who’s there?”
She could have sworn she heard a low, dark chuckle in reply, but shook her head. There was no way to be sure in this weather.
“Now yer being silly. It’s just yer old mind, playing tricks on yeh. Best yeh just get home and go to bed.” She told herself. Just then she heard another noise; this time it was not a chuckle, but the snicker of a horse and the rumbling of wheels. “Now see, yeh’ll be run over in the dark, all because yeh were searching for some scary shadow.” She scolded herself. Moving to the very edge of the road she stopped and peered through the rain for the sight of the horses she had heard. After a minute or two, the sound became more distinct, and she could hear the jangling of a harness. Then, through the rain, she spotted it. Two horses, pulling a small carriage that was dark even in Grandma Stockett’s standards. As the carriage reached her it slowed, and she gripped the walking stick.
“What do these want? And how’d they see me in all this?” She muttered to herself. “Go. Leave an old woman alone.”
The carriage stopped and after a few moments, she spotted the door opening. Light illuminated her, and for a moment she had to raise her hand to her eyes, blinded.
“Are you alright dear?” A voice, not unlike her own, called and, blinking, she looked up to see a woman just a little younger than herself peering out of the carriage. “What are you doing out at this time, all by yourself?”
“Picking herbs.” She found herself saying.
“Well why don’t we take you home? It’s the witching hour, after all.”
“How do you know I’m not a witch?” She called back, narrowing her eyes at the figure silhouetted in the door. The woman was wearing black; a fitted dress of black velvet that was more expensive looking than the carriage itself. The wearer chuckled and shook her head.
“Come inside Granny, away from the storm.”
Grandmother Stockett hesitated. On the one hand, it was the witching hour and strange things happened to people during it. But on the other hand she was tired, aching and wet, and all she wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire and sleep. The sooner the better.
“Alright.” She said, and took the few steps between her and the carriage easily. The woman in velvet disappeared inside, and Euphadora Stockett was left to climb the steps herself. “Hmph.” She huffed quietly. “The manners of these rich toffs.”
With a lot of huffing and puffing she hauled herself in to the carriage and in to the first available seat. Only then did she look around.
Three women sat in the carriage, all staring at her with a friendly familiarity. This was strange enough, since Euphadora Stockett never encountered people of their high standing, but stranger still was that there was something familiar about them. She stared at the woman who had spoken to her, then at the next, a younger, but still almost middle aged, woman with a cheerful grin on her face. Then there was the last, a young girl, probably twenty who was staring back at her with a mixture of astonishment and awe.
“Will I really look like that?” She asked, and the other two women immediately shushed her.
“Please excuse her. She’s not used to this yet. But then, neither are you of course.”
“I’m sorry?” Euphadora asked, furrowing her eyebrows as the carriage began to move. “Used teh what?”
“Ah of course! The amnesia. I’d forgotten.”
“Amnesia?” Euphadora repeated, frowning even further so that her eyebrows almost covered her eyes. “How’d yeh know I had amnesia?”
“Well you don’t remember the spell do you dear?”
“Spell?” Euphadora’s eyebrows shot up, and the girl next to her giggled. “Yeh… are yeh witches?”
“Well of course we are!” The middle aged woman piped up. It was only on her second glance at this woman that Euphadora noticed they all wore the same dress, if in slightly different styles. “And so are you dear.”
“Yeh’re doo-lally!” She replied. “Stop the carriage, I’d rather walk.”
“No no, we must explain to you. It looks like we caught you in the nick of time too.” The elder woman said, smiling gently. “You see Euphadora, tonight is the night you die.”