The Witch Bridle

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Chapter 32

Over the next few days, stealth like Lucia was a wandering spirit throughout the house. She transported herself freely and easily therein, hand in hand with the collaborative ignorance of the child-witch Thankful, who carefully guarded their secret, and Oona. Thankful served her mistress nourishment and her worship fortified the witch while she, Thankful, was reduced to a fragile little girl, too afraid to tell her mother; too afraid to confide in Oona. And through the ritualistic invocations of a loyal slave and servant, Lucia continued to gather strength and knowledge each day. Lucia influenced Oona’s behaviors with her increased presence, even though Lucia herself expended considerable resources. She masked herself from Oona, and Lucia grew increasingly confident she would capture the essence of the young witch and that her own powers would in time and soon enough take hold of Lucia’s ultimate conquest, Pi Gran Liv Maji. The Great Book of Spells and Magic!

And finally the early morning of Thanksgiving Day gave rise to Thankful who was desperate for counsel. The child-witch quietly asked Oona for her time. She dared not take her near her own room! So they went to Oona’s quarters where Thankful locked the doors and moved onto the love seat. Oona sat beside her and cradled a steaming cup of Blue Mountain blend in her hands. Both seemed to be at peace. Oona, though weary, wanted to hear what the child had to say.

“What’s real and what’s fantasy?” Thankful asked Oona. The girl’s full lips showed ruby red in the soft morning light.

Thankful looked different to Oona, who was startled by the question.

Troubled perhaps.

“What is wrong child?” Oona asked. She waited a moment and then, quite seriously, the great though weary sorceress asked, “Is it a supernatural creature, my child?” She leaned drowsily toward the child.

“Do you know who Krampus is?” a visibly frightened girl asked.

“Yes, I know of Krampus,” Oona said softly. “I will have to look him up, child. I really know very little of that mythical creature. Why, why do you ask? Krampus is not real, child.” Oona took a sip of her coffee. “And how ever did you hear of that monstrosity?” Oona’s voice rose with the question.

“Shush, they might hear you.”

“What?”

“He is real, Oona” Thankful loudly whispered. “He’s really real!”

Oona took a good breath for relaxation and then tried to lighten the mood. So she casually and relaxingly recalled, “Krampus is an old crow, clad in a suit of goatskin.” Oona feigned drama with her hands and face, and continued, “He wears a wooden mask with horns, right?” She waited only a short moment before she continued to poke fun. “He has a sort of pannier on his back to carry away ‘bad kids’ for Christmas.” Oona warmly smiled at Thankful.

The young girl looked now to be in absolute terror. “He sounds real bad,” she cried, and buried her face in her hands. Thankful quietly wept.

“Oh yes,” replied Oona. She still sounded somewhat cheerful. “He is the bad guy who follows Saint Nikolas around; Krampus is far, far away, in the alpine valleys of Germany and the hills and mountains of Eastern Europe.” Oona looked directly at Thankful, pleadingly, and put one arm around the girl. She drew her close for a big, big hug. “And surely you know who Saint Nikolas is.”

“Uh, huh,” said Thankful. She snuggled as close to Oona as she could, and left her nanny more than a bit unaccustomed to such childhood warmth. “But I’m afraid of Krampus,” Thankful said firmly now to her nanny.

“I tell you, Krampus is not really real. And I am so sorry if I leave you with a different impression. But please tell me child how ever did you hear about this…thing? Is Louis scaring you with creepy stories?”

“Uh, uh,” Thankful said.

Oona continued to engage the girl closely on the love seat. “Why do you ask about Krampus, child?”

Thankful only whispered, “He just seems real…bad.” She had not answered the question.

“Who told you about Krampus?” Oona persisted.

Thankful looked away from the witch and replied, “I read it somewhere.”

“One thing I do know, Thankful, is that Krampus is not real,” Oona labored. “His is a supernatural tale, nothing more. My dear child: Krampus is a myth!”

“How come Krampus is not real and Santa Claus is real?”

“This is Thanksgiving child! Why be concerned today with affairs of Christmas?” Oona gave the girl a hug and did not know what else to say. “Forget Saint Nikolas too.” She winked. “For now.”

For Thankful, Krampus was far more real and far more frightening than anything or anyone else except the dark lady. And she couldn’t dare to ask Oona about her. She wouldn’t. Santa and Krampus really meant nothing to Thankful compared to the dark lady. The child-witch had crafted plans to fulfill the commands of her mistress, but she wished she’d never taken Oona’s dress. Deep inside her, young Thankful was heartened to ask Oona more questions.

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