M3 Margueritte: The Hag Returned

Margueritte and Elsbeth got thrown into the same cell, and this time it was a real cell in the Magistrate’s hall.  Three days later, the queen got tossed into the cell across the hall.

“They are all under the spell of that Hag,” the queen explained through the little hole in the doors.  “Since my grandnephew, Finnian was driven out, she has come to capture poor Urbon’s ear, and I think she has taken his mind as well.  I told her I bow to Jesus alone and she and her Abraxas could both go jump in DuLac as far as I am concerned.  And here I am.”

“You told her that?”  Margueritte laughed.

“Rather cheeky of me I suppose,” the queen admitted.  Margueritte could not see if she blushed from embarrassment, but the words sounded that way.

“Margueritte.”  Elsbeth interrupted and practiced fainting on the bed.  “I’m starving.”

“You get used to it,” Margueritte said.  “So, Finnian McVey was your grandnephew?”  She wanted to get this straight.

“Yes, and I am so sorry, you know.  I had no idea what kind of man he was.”  She sounded sincere.

“But who is this hag you speak of?”  Margueritte got really curious, not the least because of the queen’s use of the word, hag.

“Why, Curdwallah.  I thought you knew,” the queen said.

Margueritte blanched and felt the lump rise in her throat.  “No.  Not possible.  Roland killed Curdwallah.  I saw the sword go right through the hag’s heart.”

“I guess he did not kill her well enough.”  The queen responded, and that was where they had to leave things because the door opened.  The guard came back from wherever he went.

In the morning, the queen got removed from her cell.  It did not sound like a reprieve.  If she had been pardoned, Margueritte felt sure she would have got them out as well, somehow.  She and Elsbeth prayed that the queen at least got better quarters, prisoner though she might still be.

“I’m starving,” Elsbeth kept saying.

“Eat your shoe,” Margueritte said at last.

“Eew!”  Elsbeth made a face at the thought.  “This place is disgusting.”  Margueritte gave Elsbeth a look that required a response.  “Okay, I learned how to clean from Maven.”  Elsbeth admitted.  “But even I think this place is disgusting.  I might have eaten my shoe if I hadn’t been walking around here for five days.”

“Six days,” Margueritte corrected her.

“No, five.  I’m fairly sure,” Elsbeth said.

“Six,” Margueritte insisted.

Elsbeth decided not to argue.

“Do you think Owien got through?”  Elsbeth asked.  That became her other litany.

“Yes.  I pray he did, but right now I am worried about Father and Mother.”  Six days, even five seemed a long time to not know what was going on.

At that moment, her Father and Mother were surrendering.  They did their best after the men came racing back from the north.  They reported that all the Franks in that area, and their families were slaughtered.  This happened before Elsbeth and Margueritte were noticed to be missing.  At that point, there did not seem to be much they could do but pray.  Barth had to build some kind of real battlements, and as soon as possible.

Thomas of Evandell finally went in search of the girls, and Grimly went with him after doing everything in his power to reassure Barth and Brianna that they were all right.

“I would know if they weren’t,” he insisted.  “I would know.”

Everyone worked day and night to prepare, and good thing, because a small army came out from Vergen after the third day and laid siege to the battlements around the triangle.  They got most of the women and children out and on the road to Paris before the siege set in, but Brianna, of course, would not leave.  Several other women felt the same way.  Father Aden and Jennifer wanted to stay in the chapel, but they were forced to flee with the others, and that proved a good thing because the chapel was the first thing the Breton burned.

Three attempts to breach Barth’s defenses failed, though the Breton outnumbered the Franks ten to one.  Men under an enchantment generally did not fight well.  They were sometimes slow to react.  All the same, the engagements were bloody, and there were losses on both sides.

At last, Lord Bartholomew made a mad sortie with half of his remaining men, while the other half, escorted the remaining women and not yet twenty-one-year-old men and made a dash for the Paris road.  Sadly, the enemy had prepared for this.  Barth had to surrender, as he knew he would, though he suspected it would mean his life.  Brianna, also got caught and surrendered at just about the same time.  The seventh day was spent escorting the Frankish prisoners to Vergen.

On the seventh day, Thomas of Evandell ended up being thrown into the Queen’s old cell.  “Glad to know you are safe,” Thomas told them.  Margueritte waited until the guard had to relieve himself.

“Where’s Grimly?”  Margueritte asked.  “Isn’t he with you?”

The answer surprised her.  “Who is Grimly?”  Thomas was not going to be taken in, but he was not exactly free of the enchantment, either.  Margueritte could not think of what to say, and then the guard returned, so it became pointless to continue talking on that subject.

She asked about her mother and father, and Elsbeth pushed her way to the door to hear the answer, but there was not much Thomas could tell them.  He left before things heated up, thinking that as a Breton and the king’s bard, he could pass freely among the people.  He did well for some time, he thought.  He wasn’t sure.

“Anyway,” he said at last.  “At least you two are safe.”  That seemed most important to him.

“I’m hungry,” Elsbeth said, but Thomas could only laugh.  Margueritte could only frown.

On the eighth day, Elsbeth got dragged out of the cell.  She fought and screamed so clearly her hunger had not been acute.  Margueritte fought alongside her, but eventually Elsbeth got dragged down the hall and the door slammed shut.  Thomas got taken next, and Margueritte found herself on her knees, but her prayer seemed blocked in some way.  That felt curious.  Only then did it occur to her that she was half Breton, and something touched that half of her mind and heart and blocked her.  It had to be the source of the spell, and the one behind it.  She got excited and scared at the same time.  And then she had another thought.  Margueritte focused her little electric shock in that corner of her mind.  She felt the blockage jump, if she did not imagine it.  Somehow, she understood something important.  She was Frank in her other half, which is to say, she was Germanic and of Odin’s people.  By blood, she came from the place that would be certain death for Abraxas if he should ever go there again.  Festuscato had seen to that.  Rather, Nameless did, and she thought a message of some sort was in order.

“Show your face or directly interfere in this time and place and you will find that death I promised.”  She felt the blockage in her mind and heart jump once again, and this time it was not her imagination; and then the blockage left her altogether, and she prayed until they came to fetch her.

###

Margueritte blinked in the sunlight, but she recognized Roan and Morgan as they grabbed her and dragged her to where the wood had been piled high and a stake had been driven deep.  She got tied to the stake, and it appeared there was going to be a ceremony.

“Curdwallah.”  The word escaped Margueritte’s lips as her eyes adjusted and she saw the witch standing beside the king.

“My poppet,” Curdwallah said with a wicked smile.  “You should have remembered that I cannot be harmed by any weapon forged by man.”

“You have been accused of the heinous crime of witchcraft against the state.”  King Urbon spoke, as if reading from a script.  “The penalty for this crime is to be burned alive.  Have you anything to say for yourself?”

Margueritte looked as closely as she could at Urbon, and in his eyes.  “Where is Gandalf the White when you need him?”  She wondered out loud.

“Wait,” Curdwallah said, and all of the Breton paused in what they were doing.  “I would hate to see you go without gloating just a little.”

“I thought you said it would be worse for you if I died.”  Margueritte remembered that much.

“No, dear,” Curdwallah spat.  “It will be worse for you.  By the time you are grown again from a baby, Europe will belong to the great, true god, Abraxasss.”  She drew the last out like a snake.

“Jesus is Lord.  You cannot win.”  Margueritte heard her mother’s voice.  She turned her head and saw several cages.  Her father had one, and he looked like a man all but crushed, yet unwilling to surrender at the last.  Elsbeth and her mother were in the next cage, and they looked untouchable.  Goldenrod sat in a small cage of her own and she looked lost and confused.  Thomas had his own cage as well, but he looked equally confused.  Father Aden was in the final cage, which meant the troops sent to Paris and the king never got through.  This looked bad, and Margueritte suddenly felt afraid for Jennifer and the baby.

“Your Christ will be swept aside along with that arrogant and power-hungry Prophet.”  Curdwallah cursed.  “The true god with the power over life and death is the one who cannot lose.”

“But he has lost already,” Margueritte said, as she caught something out of the corner of her eye.  “And he dare not interfere here, lest his very existence come to an end.”  Margueritte was not fooling, but Curdwallah laughed.

“Light the pyre,” she ordered, and everything went mad at once.  The fairy Lords, Larchmont and Yellow Leaf disarmed the guards while Lady LeFleur and Grimly began to open the cages.  Old Lord Birch zapped Marguerite free of her bonds while Luckless’ well aimed axe slew the man with the torch.  And Hammerhead arrived.

He confronted the Hag, and Margueritte could barely breathe, “No.  Hammerhead.”  The hag changed into the eight-foot monster she was and knocked Hammerhead into a building so hard, the whole wall crumbled.

“I am too strong for you now,” the Curdwallah Hag said.  “Burn her!”  Margueritte had little time to think.  Her hands shot up, but the Hag laughed at her puny electrical jolt.  The Taser effect, though, had not been aimed at the hag.  It hit the man who picked up the torch and the torch set the Hag’s fur aflame.  Instantly, Curdwallah began to grow and howl deeper and louder than ever; but Lolly stood right there with a bucket full of water the lazy pyre builders left lying around.  The water did the job.

The Hag screamed and shrank and began to melt from the inside out, just like the Grendel.

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