Marigold knew she'd be curled up in bed upstairs with her two young children - as Peter was still away - and so the young apprentice and her flame-haired friend Imogen tip-toed through the Marigold's own bedroom (which doubled as a storage room beneath the main sleeping area) making for the locked door that led to the wizard's library.
Imogen knelt down by the door, fished her lock pick set out of her belt and studied the lock. For someone of her determination and ability, it was a simple matter to pick the basic mechanism.
The door creaked open - the women froze, but no one in the house stirred - and a waft of dust, coupled with the smell of leather and mild decay, hit Imogen and Marigold.
Imogen gave a thumbs up sign and Marigold smiled. This was turning out to be easier than she'd expected.
Marigold lit one of the larger candle stubs and started to run her finger along the spines of the books on the closest shelf.
She had briefed Imogen before hand about what she was looking for (primarily books about the "Witch Of Huldre Forest"), but as the potter's daughter was illiterate, they both decided it was safer if Imogen didn't go through the books.
Marigold knew the majority of Peter's collection were treatises on magic, but some were also books of magic and these were regarded as particularly dangerous in the hands of the untrained.
After about half-an-hour (it felt much longer), Imogen was starting to get bored and twitchy when suddenly Marigold let out a tiny squeal and pointed frantically at a green tome she had pulled from the shelf. Imogen shrugged.
'Legendes Of The Grayte Foret Of Huldre' was inscribed on the cover. Marigold excitedly began to leaf through this study of the various phenomena and folktales associated with the forest. She scanned over the section on ομίχλες της μνήμης (omíchles ti̱s mní̱mi̱s or 'memory mist'), which was clearly what she and her fellow adventurers had encountered the other week, before her eyes fell on a woodcut illustration:
|The Witch Drowns A Peasant Woman|
The accompanying text explained that the Witch Of Huldre Forest (Δάσος μάγισσα or Dásos mágissa) had first appeared at the court of King Ulfric (father of the present king) in Kaerater, the capitol city of Elyntia, about 76 years ago as an ambassador from an unknown land.As Marigold finished reading, Imogen leaned in and tugged at her sleeves (the sign they had agreed to indicate that Betty was stirring).
She was making outrageous demands on the court and Ulfric, who did not suffer fools gladly, had her entourage executed before she was stripped, beaten and driven from the city. With an escort of a dozen heavily armoured knights, she was then paraded through the land, from the capitol to the Bright River in the south, as a symbol of Ulfric's no-nonsense attitude.
When the party reached the Huldre Forest, the woman was cut loose, dressed only in rags and with no food, and left to fend for herself.
As the knights rode away, she was heard cursing them before she disappeared into the trees.
While most people believe she would have been immediately killed (and probably eaten) by the orcs of Tanander, rumours persisted in the decades that followed that the witch still lived and numerous child abductions (storytellers generally believe she wants to drink their blood) and drownings have been blamed on her.
Some said she became a queen of the orcs, while others suggest she magically travelled back to the kingdom from whence she came.
They just made it out of the library (Imogen locking the door behind them) when the air was rent by an enormous farting sound as Betty heaved herself out of bed and, with a loud clatter and some fruity language, grabbed the bucket that was used for ablutions and stumbled, half-asleep, to the corner of the master bedroom.
The two young women couldn't help but giggle as they silently embraced, Marigold whispering her thanks to Imogen, who then slipped away into the night.
Marigold would have to pay a second visit to the library another night to swot up on the other matters she had an interest in.
|The Entwhistle House: Peter's Library is out the back, accessed from the lower bedroom area on the left-hand side of the building|