|The Halloween Witch’s Holiday|
Griselda (though few knew her by name) raked a wolf fang comb through her thinning grey hair then stared at the unsightly clump she’d removed in the process. Gazing into a silver mirror, she beheld a hunched and weather-beaten crone, the lineaments of a once elegant lady painted over by deepening shadows under the eyes, overshadowed by a nose that resembled a vulture’s beak, distorted by sagging skin that shapelessly framed her face and obscured by a thousand wrinkles. Griselda grinned, revealing a lone black tooth that stubbornly clung to receding gums. "With each passing year I grow more beautiful!" she cackled.
Nicodemus growled as if to gainsay his mistress and Griselda tossed him a greying fish-head that he sniffed at suspiciously then reluctantly nibbled. Nico was one of a hundred black cats that prowled and befouled the battered log cabin that was the Halloween Witch’s home. Though grudgingly fond of their mistress, they all looked forward to Halloween, when they’d be given away to Syrnians who’d almost certainly introduce them to a better class of cuisine.
"It’s not my fault I can’t bloody cook for you all!" Griselda shrieked, banging her webbed hand down on the dressing table. Nico yowled and leapt onto the mantelpiece. "Were my husband alive things would be different… he was a wonderful cook but oh, what a selfish man. Inconsiderate enough to die of leprosy and leave me alone to take care of everything."
Yoruba the owl hooted twice from her perch by the front door. Griselda turned and fixed the wise old bird with a steely glare. "You have something to say?"
"Mistress," the owl replied in a languid yawn. "Nybbas the Warlock was indeed a good master. But why should his death cause a rift in your relationship?"
Griselda considered for a while. "You have a point," she conceded. "In many ways he’s a better husband dead than alive. For one thing, I no longer have to put up with his snoring and constantly flatulence. His long, accusing silences seem to be getting worse though."
"No mistress, no," Yoruba sighed. "You miss my point. I meant your husband, being a warlock, possesses an immortal soul. If you really wanted, you could raise him from the dead and your burdens of work would be halved."
"I know that you idiot!" Griselda screeched. "But I so hate to disturb him. He looks so untroubled there, lying in his grave. Indeed, I remember his dying words: 'At last I shall have peace and quiet!' This quoth he, before leaping into his coffin with a gurgle of glee."
"But mistress," Yoruba continued patiently. "Are you not constantly complaining about your workload and the fact that you've never taken a holiday? If Nybbas were here to take care of Halloween, you’d be able to attend the festival of naked druids at Yisildor Bay."
"Yisildor Bay?" exclaimed Griselda. "Do you have any idea how far that is? That’s not even on this planet!"
"Then take a looong holiday," Yoruba drawled. "Travel the worlds, experience different cultures, meet new people."
"I don’t like people, especially new people," Griselda snarled. "Still, there are new places I’d like to visit... and I haven’t been to a quidditch game in a while." Yoruba shrugged her shoulders, as if to say 'it’s up to you.'
"Very well," grumbled the witch. "But you’ll have to help me disinter him. There’s nothing more undignified than an old lady digging up her husband in the middle of the night."
Nybbas sensed his eyelids flick open. A split-second later, his eyes embraced his widow’s adoring countenance.
"Oh for Friddick's sake, not you," he sighed in despair. "And I was just getting comfortable."
"Nybbas my love," Griselda tunelessly crooned. "Did you enjoy your little nap?"
"Yes, or at least I was enjoying it," Nybbas grunted. "I was having this wonderful dream about the barmaids at Huppele Pub and a particularly steamy sauna."
"Nybbas…" Griselda soothingly intoned.
"You want something again don't you?" her husband sighed. "What is it this time?"
"Well my love," Griselda continued, "Halloween will soon be upon us and I was wondering if you might… do the honours for me? After all, I haven't had a holiday in such a long time. And you did choose to go and die just as things began to get busy in our lives."
"Choose to go and die?" Nybbas bellowed. "I had leprosy!"
"Oh come now," Griselda crooned. "There’s no use pining for the parts of you that have shrivelled up and won’t grow back. Will you help me or no? You used to look so dashing riding your Ghost Crow! Step out into the moonlight so I can get a good look at you."
Reluctantly, Nybbas crawled out of his coffin then stood upright under the full moon's unforgiving eye. His bald head glowed a putrescent green and what remained of his beady little eyes seemed to cower in bloated sockets. Patches of rotten skin peeled from his face; his dry lips formed a scar under a nose that had decomposed to resemble a squashed parsnip.
"Still so handsome!" Griselda lovingly simpered. "They'll love you, I know they will!"
"And I suppose they'll be wanting something new again this year?" Nybbas grumbled. "I know Syrnians, they're never content with their lot. Always wanting new items and whining like steaming kettles when they can't get them." Nybbas strode from the unsightly graveyard in the front garden into the log cabin and climbed the stairs to his bedroom. Griselda followed and watched as her husband flung open the doors to a cobweb-ridden wardrobe.
Griselda glanced poignantly at their bed. "We've had such wonderful times here..." she tearfully reminisced. Nybbas shuddered in visible distress before inspecting the contents of the cupboard.
"Oh Nybbas, you're not thinking of giving them your old clothes are you?"
"And why not?" Nybbas countered. "The garments of an Undead Warlock are rarities indeed. Besides, Syrnians will collect any old crap so long as it's limited edition." He removed an ancient pair of breeches and dangled them triumphantly in front of Griselda to illustrate his point.
"Oh Nybbas no! Not your pants!"
"Dearest one, if I don't bring my pants along for the ride, half of Syrnia will complain about not being able to thieve a full suit."
"And if you do bring your pants along for the ride, half of Syrnia will be dead before they get within a mile of your suit. I'm sorry my love, but a whiff of your pants would curdle the innards of Dark Lord Abu himself."
Nybbas froze, his face turning a greyer shade of green. "Foolish woman! You dare speak the name of the Dark Lord? Of he who must not be named? Do you wish to bring a thousand curses upon our house?"
"Oh darling," Griselda chided. "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. Besides, it's only his full name we’re not supposed to mention."
Nybbas squinted to examine the pants. "Well I suppose I could give them a wash," he grudgingly conceded.
Dawn streaked red across a cloudless sky as Griselda the Halloween Witch prepared to depart. She stroked each of her hundred cats in turn before planting a peck on Yoruba's beak and one on each of her husband’s cheeks. Resting her heavy bag on her lap, she straddled her broomstick awkwardly before turning again to Nybbas.
"Don’t make it too easy on them, even the lazy ones like a challenge from time to time," she advised.
"How long will you be gone?" Nybbas enquired.
"Oh, I don't know. Probably a week, perhaps a month, possibly a year. Maybe two, five, ten years, I don't know. Let’s just see how I get on, eh?"
"Enjoy yourself, my darling!" Nybbas gleefully cried as his wife began to hover. "And don’t you hurry back on my account, please feel free to take as long as you like so that you really enjoy your holiday."
"I shall, I shall!" Griselda squealed, before rising unsteadily into the air and swooping off into the sunrise. Thus the Halloween Witch departed from Syrnia, perhaps never again to return to this world.
Yoruba fluttered from her perch to sit on Nybbas' shoulder, and both silently pondered their new situation. Finally Yoruba spoke.
"I sense a page has been turned in Syrnian history," the owl hooted ominously. "The time of the Halloween Witch has passed, but the time of the Undead Warlock is only just beginning..."
 00:43 Excessum[O.G.]: *runs in and kisses Kari and HH*
 23:27 Arivae[TLO]: is that the drink you told me to have in Aruba? i totally forgot to get one! i have to go back!