“Grissie, the Council would like to see you.”
Griselda looked up from the pot of Wart Stew she was boiling and stared aghast at the blond twig standing in front of her. She looked the young witch up and down. She was wearing a pink hat of all things. Griselda turned her attention back to the pot and continued the incantation the young witch had interrupted.
“Grissie, ignoring me won’t make me go away. The Council demands your audience and as you know…”
Griselda sighed. “My name is Griselda, even to my friends, you impertinent wench.”
“Pardon me, Griselda. The Council has sent me to escort you to the Grand Wizard’s Chambers.”
“What does the Council want with me? I no longer pay dues, as I am sure you know. I went on my own long ago.”
“One does not just leave, as I am sure you well know. You used to be the best Punisher the Council had. I grew up admiring your work. I wanted to be just like you… that’s why I joined.”
“You wanted to be just like me?” Griselda stepped around the cauldron and glared at the witch. “Dressing like a simpering, empty headed, troll licking, school girl is how you achieve that?”
The witch smiled. Egads, her teeth were straight and white. This was a witch who saw her dentist on a regular basis. “Warts are no longer in and the green look went out before your time, Grissie. Just because we are witches, that doesn’t mean we can’t look nice while we are cursing someone.”
“My name is Griselda…”
“And mine is Patience, but I am quickly losing mine. Now shall we go? The Grand Wizard doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“Tell Boris he can take his wand and shove it up his nose.”
Patience pulled her own wand out of her cloak. “Tell him yourself.”
Griselda rolled her eyes. This hag was really grating on her nerves. Wart Stew was temperamental and if she didn’t put each ingredient in at just the right time and say the incantation in exactly the right rhyme, it would curdle. She flicked her finger at the insolent shrew, intending to turn her into a toad. She needed a toad for the stew anyway, one with lots of warts. But the jinx backfired and bounced back at her. Griselda had been a witch long enough to recognize a backwards whammy when it happened and quickly dove out of the way. The spell missed her ... her cat wasn't so lucky.
“Look what… what you did!” Griselda shrieked, snatching up the toad that not only had a large amount of warts, but also had whiskers and a tuft of black fur at the top of his head.
Patience laughed and Griselda winced, because even her laugh was musical. “You were the one that cast the hex, Grissie, did you really think the Council would send a Punisher that didn’t know how to protect herself?”
Griselda eyed the witch a little more carefully. She didn’t look like a Punisher, she had assumed she was a Fledgling. “Why would the Council send a Punisher? I’ve not done anything that goes against the Covenant.”
“Did you not turn Harold Wynn into a newt? And then cook him into a pie?”
“Did you ever meet Harold Wynn?”
“I did. He was… interesting.”
Griselda snorted. “Interesting isn’t the word I would use. Troll, now that’s an accurate word.”
“Regardless of his character, he is the High Lord's nephew…”
“Was,” Griselda said. “I ate him, so he is no more.”
“If only,” Patience said. Then she waved her arm and Griselda found herself standing in front of the Council… and Harold Wynn.
“Harold, good to see you!” Griselda said, trying to cover her surprise. She hadn’t considered that he’d come back as a ghost. It had never happened before… at least not as far as she was aware. “Transparency suits you.”
“Transparency suits me? I’m a ghost, you hag!”
“And it’s done wonders for your shape. I see you you’ve lost some weight.”
“Again… I’m a ghost! I can’t eat… everything falls right through me.”
“It is really pretty gross,” Patience said.
“I want her punished,” Harold said, turning towards the Council.
“She will be,” The Grand Wizard said.
“Bubbling toad horns, Boris, you can’t be taking him seriously. It’s not like I turned him into a cockroach.”
“You baked me into a pie,” Harold complained, “and then ate me.”
“You were delicious too,” Griselda chuckled.
“The problem,” Boris said, “is that he’s a ghost now and he is driving the High Lord to distraction. Pops in on him when he’s eating dinner and watches him eat.”
“I’m envious,” Harold said. “Out of all the things I used to do, eating is the one I miss the most.”
“It makes his Lordship angry.”
“His Lordship,” Harold snorted, “wears boxers with red hearts under his robes.”
“That’s the other thing, he doesn’t like you peeking in his drawers.” Boris looked at Griselda, “He caught him the other day with his head inside the closet. The door was shut… locked even, and Harold just poked his head inside. He’s been doing that everywhere.”
“He has,” Patience confirmed. “I was reading a book the other day and he stuck his head right through the pages. And then he told me what it said on the last page. Completely ruined the story for me.”
“It was The Wizard of Oz. Everyone knows what happens at the end.”
Everyone knows what happens in the end of the movie,” Patience said. “The book could be completely different. They never go by the book for the movies.”
“This is why I baked the little troll,” Griselda said. “He’s annoying.”
“He was annoying when he was alive,” Boris said. “Now, as a ghost, he is unbearable, and you are responsible.”
“I can see that,” Griselda said, “and I will accept my punishment, but does it have to be dealt by this cotton candy witch? She’ll probably turn me into something lovely, like a little girl. With pig tails.”
“She’s not going to turn you into anything,” Boris said. “Your punishment has been decided. As has Harold’s.”
“What?” Harold asked. “My punishment? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Griselda, what prompted you to turn Harold into a newt and bake him into a pie?”
“He annoyed me.”
“That is why you are being punished Harold. You annoyed Griselda, you annoyed Patience… who is really hard to annoy, and you annoyed your uncle, the High Lord. Don’t annoy the High Lord. That annoys me. And when you annoy me, you get punished.”
“So what are you going to do to me?” Griselda asked. “If you are going to turn me into something, could you at least make it something hideous?”
“I’m not going to turn you into anything,” Patience said. “You are going to go back home just the same as you are now… with one exception…” Patience pulled out her wand and waved it towards Griselda. Nothing appeared to happen, but Patience seemed satisfied.
“What did you do?” Griselda asked.
“I bound you and Harold together. You turned him into a newt. You baked him into a pie. You ate him. He’s yours.”
“NOOO!” Griselda started to fall to her knees to beg Patience to change her mind, turn her into a little girl, a butterfly, even a dandelion, anything but chaining her to Harold Wynn, but before she could, Patience waved her arm and Griselda found herself back in her cottage, along with Harold’s ghost. The last words she heard was that insanely wicked witch’s words, “Try to learn a little patience. You’ll need it.”