(Photo found at http://tinyurl.com/ayaussg)
Hours later… Mandrake lay curled up in his corner by the hearth. He watched as intrigue glistened in Brunda’s dark eyes. They locked upon an entry in her large recipe book, under the title, “Poisonings,” its subject concerning an herbal toxin that was both tasteless and without fragrance.
“Listen to this… ‘Its only distinction is a gray-green color and knobby shape.'” Brunda traced a bony finger across the last words of the recipe: “‘leaves no discernible trace save that once ingested, victim is left quite dead.'”
Carefully, she marked the place before closing the massive book and sat thrumming her fingertips against the tome’s leather cover. “If I chose this spell, there’s still the problem of collecting all the necessary ingredients and figuring out how best to administer them. In all my years, I have never resorted to taking another person’s life, though many of my colleagues had and would do so again with little remorse. I would rather thwart the Earl by other means if other means are found. Still, I’ll keep this spell in reserve.”
Mandrake blinked his eyes. He had grown accustomed to Brunda’s outspoken meandering that sought no answer save a willing pair of ears to listen.
It was the night before All Hallows’ Eve. The auspicious date and the moon’s alignment made it perfect for gathering some of the more elusive herbs available only at this time of year. The old sorceress took her wicker basket and disappeared into the night.
The forest seemed to hold its breath in anticipation as the witch and her cat entered its domain. A weeping willow tree bore its tenuous branches to the earth, pointing toward a mound just beneath its leaves. Here Brunda sank to her knees and began digging until she unearthed a root in the shape of a miniature man. Quickly, she wrapped the sod covered radix in a piece of cloth, bound it with twine and placed it in her basket away from the other herbs so as not to spoil them with the manroot’s noxious bearing.
“We are finished here, Mandrake.” Brunda gathered the cat up onto her shoulder. “Let’s be about our other business.” With her broom tucked beneath her and a swirl of black cape, Brunda was airborne, flying low across the terrain that surrounded her land.
Once she had reached the outer perimeter, she drew a small black pouch from inside her cloak, loosened the satin drawstring and took a pinch of saffron dust between her fingertips. Every few feet she paused to sprinkle the stuff into the atmosphere while chanting incantations. Several hours later, when she had encircled the entire outer rim, Brunda replaced the pouch and flew back to her cottage.
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