1. Laughing with the king
Two very disapproving cats regarded the two soggy magical humans they pretended to look after. The wet king next to the two, sitting in the fountain in front of his palace, was of less interest to them, but these two people in their dark clothing were behaving in an outrageous manner, which could affect the cats’ reputation. More appropriately: they were behaving outrageously again.
The king’s wife stood at a safe distance from the splashing water and looked almost as disapproving as the cats did. “Walter. Stop that!”
“Too late, it’s over!” King Walt called back as he got up and waded to the side of the fountain. William the wizard gave the king a hand to get him on dry land safely. “Thank you, William. That was fun.”
Hilda offered to dry the king, but he declined. “I’ll go in and scare some people with this outfit, but thank you for offering. It’s been too long ago that we had a water battle like this, Grimhilda. I can’t thank you enough.” King Walt loved their games around the fountain, and lately the magicals had taken the time to come up with some interesting new twists.
To the relief of Obsi and Grim, the magicals made themselves presentable and dry without first taking an embarrassing trip home. They paced around the waiting brooms, tails twitching. The humans had their fun, now things should be normal again for a while.
“Next time I’ll change the water into jelly,” Hilda told William as they picked up cats and mounted the brooms to fly off. “Let’s see how far we can go.”
“We’ll have to find something to occupy the queen with though,” William said. “She seems bored, and keeps interfering.”
“We’ll think of something. When we can have fun with a king, we can certainly have fun with a queen.” With these wise words the magicals kicked off and took to the skies while two cats looked at each other and performed the feline version of frowns.
“There was a witch here, while you were gone,” the house announced as Hilda and William entered.
“Who was she, and what did she want?”
The house sighed, making some sideboards creak for added effect. “I am a house, not an interviewer of strange visitors.”
“You’re also very nosy, so tell us.”
“You offend me. But very well. The witch was not from near here, talked with an accent. Her name was Ranee and she seems to own something called Ranee’s Witcherette, although I have no idea what that is. She was, of course, looking for you, because there is something strange happening in the area where she lives. Witches arguing, little fights and things like that. She wanted to know if you had heard of things like that happening here.”
Hilda, sitting on the purple couch in front of the fireplace, looked at the ceiling. “And what did you tell her?”
“That she should come back when you are in, because I don’t know everything that you hear.”
William came out of the kitchen, floating a tray with mugs of tea and cookies in front of him. “You’re quite well informed for a house that is not an interviewer of visitors.”
The house remained silent, finding this remark unworthy of a sharp riposte. It also remained silent when there was a knock on the door, mere moments later.
“House, you’re really being a pain today,” Hilda muttered as she got up to open the door. “And who are you?” she asked the person standing outside. Clearly it was a witch; Hilda sensed the magical aura that hung around the woman.
“I am Ranee. Although some call me Angel, but don’t ask me why.” The woman had long white hair hanging down in a dazzling amount of tiny braids. There were coloured feathers braided into it, and beads that sparkled in the light when she moved her head. Her black eyes curiously examined Hilda. “Are you Grimhilda the wicked witch?” The house had been correct, the woman spoke with an accent, one that Hilda had never heard before.
“Yes, I am, and I’m glad that my fame has spread, since you’re clearly not from around here. Come in, we’re just having tea.” As Hilda let Ranee in, she asked: “So why do people call you Angel?”
“I have no idea. That’s why I said not to ask. It’s useless.” Ranee looked around the witch’s living room and saw the wizard. “Oh! You must be Williard!”
“No. Close, but not quite. It’s William. William the wizard. Come in and have a seat. Tea?” William magicked up an extra cup. “Sugar? Cream? Lemon? Spiders?”
“Spiders?” Ranee frowned as she sat down in a chair next to the couch.
Hilda laughed. “It’s not common, but we can cater for everything. But in this case he’s just being silly. So what brings you here? You sound like you’re from far away.”
“I am from far away indeed. Have you ever heard of Glomorra?” Ranee asked Hilda as she kept an eye on William. The wizard was pouring tea and she clearly wanted to make sure that the spiders were indeed nothing more than a jest. William noticed the woman’s stare and conjured up a few chocolate spiders next to her cup, which made Ranee grin.
“Glomorra. Is that a place? Sounds more like a disease. And no, I’ve never heard of it,” Hilda shrugged.
Ranee scowled at the wicked witch for a moment. “It is a very nice place, not so warm as here. It’s in the north.”
William wondered about about her ‘warm’ remark. It was early spring and certainly not warm. Ranee had to be from very far up north.
Ranee then explained about the bickering among the magicals in her area, and the occasional small fight. “We wondered if other people had heard about that, so a group of us set out to travel in every direction and find magical people in other areas. I was sent here.”
Hilda shrugged again. “Arguing among witches is the most common thing. We all think we know best and try to convince each other of that. And sometimes that does not happen in the nicest way. Is that why you came all the way here?” The witch could hardly believe that. She also felt a bit ticked off that Ranee had come to her on assignment, not because of her fame.
Ranee sipped from her tea and confiscated one of the chocolate spiders. “Oh, nice, we have almost no chocolate in Glomorra.”
Hilda sighed. “That makes it even worse than a disease!”
Ranee looked a bit hurt, but repressed that by going for another chocolate spider. “The bickering in our area is not just that anymore. Witches and sorcerers have been injured.”
Hilda dropped her tea mug, scaring the willies out of the panicking goldfish. William skillfully captured the mug before it did any damage. “What?! Talk about worse than a disease! Crappedy crap. Injured how?” Ranee certainly had captured the witch’s attention, and that of the wizard as well.
“Well, it started when two witches had an argument, and they started throwing canon balls at each other. Charged with magic and explosives.”
“Oh. That’s taking things a bit far, they must have had quite a difference of opinion,” Hilda said, wondering what might have caused such an outburst of anger among magicals.
“Not really. One had made a new broom, and the other thought it looked a bit odd,” Ranee explained.
“Uhm…” William had no other words for that.
“Magic and explosives. Over a new broom.” Hilda had a hard time believing that. Brooms were personal, and their looks did not matter except for the fashionable flowerwitch who only used a broom for sweeping anyway.
Ranee nodded, as she eyed the last chocolate spider. “May I?”
“Of course.” William made the thing crawl to Ranee.
“Yes, all that over a broom. And that is just one incident, Grimhilda. We had a few sorcerers getting into a magical dispute and one of them ended up missing a leg. And a troll-worker summoned a troll to flatten an entire village just because they refused him entry to the tavern. Which was with reason, by the way, because troll-workers smell like trolls.” Ranee rubbed her nose at the memory. “And that is why I came here, to ask if you have heard of similar incidents.”
Hilda was certain they hadn’t. They’d remember things like that. “I’ll ask Baba Yaga, maybe she heard something.”
“Babs?” William wondered. “What would she hear. all alone in that dismal forest?”
“You’d be surprised, William,” Hilda said as she walked to her crystal ball and cast the spell to talk to her bestest girlfriend. Baba Yaga did not respond. “Well, so much for that. I guess she’s not at home.”
“Probably got in a fight somewhere,” William joked. As Ranee looked worried, he assured her that he was only making fun. “You can make her angry with enough effort, but you don’t get in a fight with Baba Yaga. You won’t live long enough for that.”
“I see, although I am not sure if that is a good thing,” Ranee carefully expressed her feelings. She was intrigued by the two cats that had jumped down from the book shelves and sat looking at her. “They are beautiful cats.” Obsi meowed his agreement with her words, before the magicals could destroy the moment. “Where did you get them?” Ranee then asked.
Hilda exchanged looks with her wizard. “We’re not certain. Most of the time it feels as if they got us.” Then she recalled something. “I noticed you did not have a broom with you.”
Ranee nodded. “I did not bring one. We agreed that flying a broom will attract the attention of other magicals, and the possibility of getting in a fight then is a lot greater, so we decided to walk and travel with small convoys.” As if she guessed Hilda’s next question, she added: “It took me almost a month to come here.”
“Suck an elf. That’s a long time. Your feet must hurt!”
The white-haired witch grinned for a moment. “I put some magic in my shoes to prevent that. But I am glad I have arrived, trust me. And I hope there is something you can do to help us, because we have tried everything we could think of, and nothing had any effect except for the worse.”
“Then you’re either lacking imagination, or desperate,” Hilda deducted. “And considering the journey you made to get here, I’m guessing you are indeed desperate. But let me tell you, if we go to Glomorra with you, we’re flying.”
“Oh joy,” said the house with a gloomy intonation, startling the visitor from far away. “So I am going to be chained up again?”
(Hilda 10 – Magic on the Rocks – chapter 1)