Ataneq sat at the edge of the court, watching both with fear and relief. Relief that he hadn’t been called out for judgement, as Euthalia had, fear for the life of his friends. Petals came to settle on his shoulder.
“See, I told you she was angry,” she said.
“I didn’t say I didn’t believe you. I just said I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“You could have delivered her to the Queen and forgone the growing of her anger.”
“Would you betray your own house guests?” he asked pointedly. Petals didn’t answer, but shifted uncomfortably. He saw the phoenix fly into the court, wondering at its beauty, but before he could point out the bird to Petals, there was a loud sound, and a sharp, bright light. He threw up his hands to cover his face. All around him, the different fairy folk stirred and talked, and he turned to look at the tall woman, face as grim as the queen’s who stood with an arm around Jane.
He stared in wonder, but something else caught his eye. Far beyond the throne, half hidden in the recesses of the wood, an old crone stood, silently watching.
“Do you see what I see?” he said quietly to Petals. “Just there, behind the Great Yew.”
“Hmmm,” Petals hummed to herself. “I have seen her before. She wanders these woods quite often, with two or three others.”
“What do they call them?”
“I believe in their language they are Ragana. Minor witches who deal in herblore and hedge magics.”
Ataneq looked at her carefully again, but it was too far to make out her features clearly.
“Do they ever travel alone?”
Petals shrugged. “Not that I’ve seen. Now that you say it, it is a little strange.” With that, the fairy zipped away. Ataneq turned his attention back to the court.
“So you finally return, Iliana,” The Queen said.
“Return, Mother? No, I come to claim back what is mine.”
“Did you not have human lovers before, mother? Am I not a child of one your unions?”
“But far in the land of man without the strength of our powers, how do you not consume him? How is he still alive?”
“That is a tale not for this court, Mother. Restore him to me and I will tell you of it one day.”
“No, tell me now or he does not leave alive.”
Ivy looked down at her husband. “Jane, take care of your father,” she said before answering the Queen’s summons.
He was fading, and I had no clue how to keep him alive, when there was a knock on my door. The imps answered it, divining that it was a fairy creature. An old crone entered my house and walked right into our bedchamber.
“What do you want?” I asked her, both angry and distressed.
“Do you treat those who would help you this way, Leanen Sídhe?” she said mildly.
“Can you help? How? Who are you and how do you know who I am?”
“Oh, the Ragana can help you, sure enough. That is your name for us, is it not?”
I told her frankly then that I had never seen hide nor hair of the Ragana in years and knew nothing about them but a name.
“Oh, we are old crones, we are, we keep to ourselves, we do. But I divined that you needed help this night. And so here I am.”
“What do you wish for in return?”
“Ah, the price, always the price. You are wise to ask first. I ask for safe passage in the Old Kingdom, for as long as I shall need it.”
I wanted to ask her why she could not ask you herself, but I felt in my heart she had reasons of her own. So I assented. “For as long as you shall need it, and not a moment more.”
“You drive a hard bargain. Ah, well. But that will suit my purposes.”
That night she taught me her herblore - medicinal flowers, herbs that protect, herbs that strengthen, roots that deaden your need for power. I have lived as a human for long enough that my secondborn is of almost pure human blood. But my firstborn has inherited, as all firstborns will. How he survived until the night I learnt the Ragana’s craft, I do not know. For only once I staunched the need for lifeblood did realise how much I drew of him.
Back to the theme list.
Ragana, is an old looking female, or witch. Mostly has dark intentions and powers to control forces of nature. They probably were old ladies living by the forest, having a good knowledge of plants and their use for medical and other purposes