Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
“The entire family was ordered hanged by King Charles the Cruel,” Golif Tremble explained to Ludenia Bath as she searched the bodies in his cart with bony fingers, “half under the age of four … for vagrancy among other crimes!” The witch wasn’t interested in why the riffraff were slain … only the condition of the corpses. She swatted away a cloud of flies and cursed softly. The parents appeared to be squinting the instant their necks snapped, an ordinary acceptance of their bad luck. The six children showed dramatics. Their eyes were literally popping from their sockets along with their tongues … astonished horror brilliantly caught at the moment of death.
“I’ll take the lot,” she hissed.
The merchant was taken aback, wondering how the witch could carry so many and to what use the bodies would be put to. Ludenia thrust one skeletal hand into a bag that looked as if it had been sewn from a snakeskin and dropped coins into the merchant’s palm. “If this isn’t enough … say now or forever hold your peace,” Golif thought of his wife waiting at home … both women had murder in their eyes.
“For another shilling,” he whimpered. “I suppose I could let you the use of my cart … as long as it is returned.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Ludenia told him producing a small knife that gleamed in the gas lights. “I only want the eyes!”
Her hands moved like string-threaded bones as she cut each eyeball from its socket and dropped it into a glass jar. “Before the moon rises my kaulakoru silmät shall speak,” the witch whispered. Golif noticed her tugging on a long necklace hung around her thick neck with what looked like piano wire. Animal eyes started just below the pointed ears on each side of her head … bear, wolf, goat, cat and snake. There looked to be just enough length left in the wire to add eight pairs of human optics.
“What of these?” Golif gestured toward his bloody cart.
“Feed the dogs!” Ludenia smiled. “And hope they don’t want more.”
The witch was disappearing into the nighttime market crowd when Golif noticed the coins in his hand transforming into beetles. A large silver one bit his finger. “Stop that witch!” he cried. “I’ve been cheated!”
Later Golif was explaining his misfortune to the town constable. “She wanted the eyes for a necklace?” The officer was writing everything down on a slate board.
“Yes. She called it a kaulakoru silmät,” Golif said.
The policeman put the slate away. “We’ll never find her now.”
“Why not?” Golif was furious.
“A kaulakoru silmät makes the wearer invisible,” he said.
She blindly bugged away the merchant’s price.
No witch has ever bargained very nice.
Weeds for words she deftly grew …
A trick because he wanted few …
Back to a hut bulged out with flies and lice.
When in the dark the stars began to rise.
She opened up the jar that held the eyes.
Untied the string … of note to ring.
Button teeth … close everything.
Then tore her jagged hands to make the ties.
Softly shining silver slippery scissors.
Watchful waiting waves was wheezing whizzers.
To cut the strings to loops that bind …
Fleshy scraps for crows to find …
And wet the knots between her smiling kissers.
The moon peeked out now hidden in a cloud.
With thundering voice words spoken really loud.
He called her name … a former sane.
No more laughing … in the rain.
Look not upon that hidden by a shroud.
The witch was prowling shadows by a moat.
To catch a herdsman walking with his goat.
She cut his throat from ear to ear …
Don’t walk alone you’ll never fear …
To heed this simple warning that I’ve wrote.
The gate to the village was bolted with a huge wooden cross to keep out witches. Lamar Finch was awakened at three AM by an incessant banging. The retired magistrate and his wife lived in three small rooms above the entrance in return for their service. In his flannel nightshirt, Finch peeked through a round porthole in the door, to see who could be disturbing the city at this hour. “Let us in!” A distraught man driving the team begged as he tried to settle his terrified animals. “The depths of Hell have cracked open and I fear the agents of doom are upon us!”
The banging on the door proved to be the lead horses ramming into it with their bridle bits and they thundered through the bloody gate when Finch opened it dragging the wagon behind them.
“Thank God!” the man jumped from the cottage wagon as soon as Finch closed the heavy wooden door and secured it with the cross. “It’s been a long journey and with the full moon we decided to push on through!” The back door to the house on wheels opened and a cursing woman (no doubt the driver’s wife) and only lacking a fish-knife in her knobby hands, flung herself to the ground and lunged for her husband. “I’ve got knots on my head as large as chicken eggs,” she cried. “Who said we desired to be bounced from our beds and slammed against the walls in payment for your rash use of a whip?”
“I never once touched the whip; these animals ran for their lives!”
The village was awake and people stumbled out of doorways and leaned from windows to hear the man’s tale. After introducing himself as Herman Baines, and accepting a tankard of ale, the man explained. “She appeared out of nowhere … standing in the center of the road! She wore a ghastly robe that looked to be made of human hair and with fleshless hands spreading fire.”
“What robbers stop wagons at night in this way?” The Mayor pointed an accusing finger at Baines. “Is this the first drink you’ve had this night?”
“I’m no drunkard!” Baines grabbed a lantern from one of the villagers and directed the candle light to the sides of the wagon, “and it was murder not robbery that she had in mind!” Black handprints made of charcoal were burned into the outside of the wagon as if some fiery demon had fought to get inside.
Baines’s wife helped another, younger woman, climb from the wagon. The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. The crowd gasped as the first rays of dawn showed a stunning maiden with breathtaking eyes and hair golden as the rising sun. “Where are we mother?” the girl muttered sleepily. The old woman pointed at the ground and ignored her question, saying only. “Stay here, Elsie.”
All eyes were on the girl. She looked about without interest until her green eyes happened upon Golif. She smiled and it took the merchant a moment to catch his breath. Nowhere in the kingdom was a girl more beautiful or desirous.
“Where are the others?” Baines’s wife looked about helplessly. “There were three wagons when we left Leeds.”
Baines pointed to the sky about the village gate. Plumes of black smoke rose into the sky with blinking embers like stars being born. “Rising to heaven, I pray,” he said, “and not being dragged into the depths of Hell.”
The village men were smitten by her charms.
And Golif vowed to take her in his arms.
He tried his best to make Elsie see…
His heart was filled with misery…
As suitors came from cities towns and farms.
The Baines retired with the sinking sun.
But Elsie said her day had just begun.
She sang and danced… in taverns bright.
Selling kisses … to the night.
Feeding feeling falling frolic fun
The mayor left his self-appointed throne.
And bid his clinging wife to stay at home.
He looked for poisons far and near …
To pour into good morning dear …
To marry twice then he must be alone.
Within a week the mayor’s wife was dead.
Choking on a spoon while still in bed.
While Golif bought … a new red coat.
Suitors sang the … poems they wrote.
To try to turn the lovely’s pretty head.
The town became a reckless burning band.
To try to win the maiden’s lovely hand.
Baines told them all to take her not …
“That shaggy bitch is all we got …”
And hopes poured out like hour glass ticking sand.
While the village men were consumed by rollicking nights and sleepy days, the farms outside were experiencing a time of terror. A shepherd had a third of his flock butchered in one night and the rest a week later. Almost every cow in the countryside stopped giving milk and those who did delivered a foul red liquid that had the look and texture of blood. There were haystacks ablaze and barns burned almost nightly. It fell to the women to discover the source of the Devilry … the men’s attention was stolen by Elsie. A priest was summoned from the city and he determined there was a witch at work in the realm … and there would be no relief until the thing was discovered.
The men of the village seized on the idea as a quick way to end their own marriages and wives were accused of being witches for things a minor as burnt bread or mice hiding in cupboards. A stain on a dress became the mark of the beast and a wrinkled shirt a foul curse of old age. There were not enough fingers to point to the suspects. Many were accused but only a few found innocent. The fires of justice extracted screaming confessions almost daily. The entire village was poisoned. Wells were filled and new ones dug but still there remained the bitter taste of contagion. There were no natural deaths … only dark curses and clever murders.
It was during this time that the king came to visit with a company of soldiers. He ignored the carnage in this part of his kingdom and was soon also smitten by Baines exquisite daughter’s charms. “She has stolen my heart,” the king thundered. “I am no man of justice if I don’t lock her in my bedroom for her crimes!” Charles the Cruel tried every trick to capture the young lass’s attention but like with all her other suitors she had a talent for disappearing just when a promise of romance was forthcoming. He informed the Baines’s of his intention to take Elsie back to his castle to be his consort and they were stunned. “His Royal Majesty must be mad!” Herman muttered to his wife. “I must forbid it … or forever settle my soul in Hell!”
That night the Baines’s wagon was burned as well as the loft they rented above the gatekeeper’s apartment. A company of soldiers stood by and watched. Only Mrs. Baines survived, running from the flames in a burning nightgown and throwing herself down the village well. She was pulled out the next morning, singed to a blistered baldness but lucky to be alive. Her poor husband was no more than a blackened pile of bones in the charred timbers. The king took pity on the widow because of her daughter and agreed to take her along with them as a castle’s kitchen helper. And Mrs. Baines held her tongue against the madness.
The screams came almost nightly in the town.
Mother pulled from well in sooty gown.
When every single witch is dead …
We’ll finally find our rest in bed …
The lustful men in love all gathered round.
They watched the king in fury take their love.
The priest prayed intervention from above.
When cruel Charles thundered … from their homes.
The men all gathered … sticks and stones.
He stopped and vowed he’d finally had enough.
The soldiers burned the town from spire to spire.
They sacked the church and set the moat on fire.
No living thing was let alive …
To listen to the reaper’s scythe …
As village town became a funeral pyre.
The king’s fine carriage rumbled through the soot.
As soldiers, servants trampled ashes foot.
Through farm and fields … turned black from green.
To carry home … a future Queen?
A land where rains of justice wasn’t put.
The city streets were turned into parade.
Rubber necks all strained to see the maid.
Such a lovely sight to see …
The mother filled with misery …
Such a disaster folly love has made.
The exquisite Elsie kindled such desire in the king that he wasn’t satisfied to have her only as a consort. His lovely wife was discovered days later at the bottom of a tall stairway with a broken neck. Charles the Cruel wasted no time in announcing his upcoming marriage. The entire city was consumed by the elaborate festivities to come.
Mrs. Baines was helping to tidy up after an elaborate banquet following the wedding ceremony. The king and his new bride had already retired to the royal bedchamber. “I must say,” one of the women helping to clean the tables said. “I would have thought that as mother to the bride you would have been given a higher station!”
“Mother?” Mrs. Baines said. “This entire realm has gone barmy but that doesn’t mean I have to be part of the madness! Elsie has always been the family dog …. Nothing more. My poor husband tried to explain to everyone in the village but no one would listen.”
Upstairs in the King’s bedchamber, Charles the Cruel watched from under the covers as his lovely new bride removed her clothing. “What a strange necklace!” the king declared.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another like it!”
“Oh really?” Ludenia said as she held up one of the eyes suspended inside a glass ball. “If you look closely you must see that some of these eyes resemble your own.”
“That thing is ghastly,” the king declared. “Take it off!”
“It’s called a kaulakoru silmät … to not see.” Ludenia told him as she loosened her skirts. “It gives the wearer the power to appear as anything. We are called invisible because people see what they wish to see. My new family loved their pet so much and I didn’t want to disappoint them after having rung the poor thing’s neck.” She rolled one of the glass balls in her fingers. “I’m afraid the human eyes in this necklace are from your poor brother and his family.”
“My brother was no more than riffraff,” the king gasped, “the fact that he was older made him and his family a danger to my throne!”
“My foolish sister was very happy being married to your poor brother,” Ludenia said, “and they had no desire for power or riches … still you wisely had the entire family hung.”
The king was still stricken by her breathtaking image. “Come to bed now,’ he insisted, “and I will make you forget about your dear sister!”
“I already have,” Ludenia said as she fumbled to remove the necklace last. “I worked very hard to get you to come to the village. You and I are much alike. We crave power and the riches power brings …” She smiled showing sharpened teeth and a reptilian face. “I do not intend to share my kingdom with anyone either.”
The watchmen had just blown out the last lamps when a horrifying scream came from the king’s bedchamber … and it awakened half the sleeping castle. “Has Elsie bitten the king?” Mrs. Baines muttered. Then she rolled over and went back to sleep.
With thunder’s rumble shaking stony towers.
The witch Ludenia practices her powers.
At night with only stars for light …
She flies a broomstick, what a sight …
To scream above the fields where reason cowers.
By day she rests as beauty’s breathless Queen.
By night a phantom better left unseen.
A wink they sigh … a nod they die.
Tomorrow widows … all will cry.
For selfish rule with terror cruel and mean.
Ludenia Bath is pleasure for the eye.
Broken hearts un-mended often die.
To be her king means everything …
And murder is the price of ring …
For spellbound suitors for her hand do vie.
She dresses from her bed with sleepy yawn.
To become that which necklace places on.
kaulakoru silmät … wives smell a rat.
And wonder what … became of cat.
To mourn the winds of justice ever gone.
She lies awake with moonlight streaming in.
The cost of power often sleeps with sin.
Boney fingers stretch to feel …
Necklace on the window sill …
And waits for morning shadows to begin.