The next night, as a full moon filled the sky, Brunda gathered several hemp bags full of dried herbs and loaded them onto her broomstick. Deftly, she boarded the narrow perch. Mandrake hopped up beside her. In an instant, they were airborne.
Beyond the forest, a bonfire flashed. Around it a group of black clad folk moved with the frenzied gyrations of wind tossed leaves. Brunda guided her broom toward the shadows that clung to the forest’s edge. She dismounted and walked toward a cauldron where boiled a foul-smelling green mixture. She dropped most of her bundles to the ground and waited to catch the eye of a hag who stood close by. Gerda was busy clapping her hands and tapping her pointed shoes in rhythm to the music. Sparks flew here and there each time her withered hands made contact with one another.
Brunda loudly cleared her throat. Gerda turned an annoyed face in her direction. At sight of Brunda, Gerda’s angry expression became a leering grin. “Brunda, Brunda! You are here.” Gerda cackled gleefully.
“Yes… but I’ll not be staying,” Brunda replied. “Pressing matters draw me elsewhere.”
Gerda’s eyes shifted from side to side. “But Magwa…”
“What about Magwa?” Brunda thundered.
Gerda watched in terror as Brunda’s faded blue eyes became two red disks of flame. Gerda raised her hand to her mouth and bit until a small trickle of blood appeared.
“Well!” Brunda drew closer to Gerda, who seemed to shrink in size with each step backwards.
In a small voice, weak as a mouse, Gerda replied, “She … Magwa has been looking for you all … all night. She’s…” Gerda swallowed loudly, eyes darting in all directions. “Magwa is quite annoyed that you, you were not here. Brunda, no!”
Gerda’s eyes had become two empty discs as Brunda raised her hand within inches of the other’s face. Slowly, Brunda lowered her hand until one bony finger rested upon Gerda’s short, pug nose.
“But I am here,” Brunda’s voice was deliberately gushing. Then it rose several octaves. “No one dictates what I do; not Magwa, not anyone! Do you understand?”
Gerda nodded vigorously.
“Good,” Brunda replied. “That is very good, Gerda. I know you do not relish spending your days as a spotted hog or worse.” Brunda chuckled softly, then pointed toward the bundles.
“These are the herbs everyone requested. Now I shall be going. Tell Magwa that I … stopped by.” Brunda gave a roar of laughter and turned toward her broom and Mandrake. A bolt of lightning flew from her fingertips and the broom raised itself off the ground. Mandrake jumped lickety split onto its handle and the broom drifted over to Brunda. She threw her leg over the handle, climbed aboard and was gone.
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