“So, it’s really not anything too terrible,” explained Viviane, as they walked through the forest.
Jean nodded. “Right. That’s why everyone stared at me like I’d just gotten a death sentence. The Hedley Kow is nothing too terrible.”
Viviane sighed. “Well, it’s not something horribly pleasant either, but… well, you saw them.” She shrugged. “This isn’t exactly the high point of Marsh witchery. Not like the days of Luned Bringer of Woe. Then the Badb and the Grand Coven of the Marsh were feared and respected. The Ashuranas paid us tribute! The Cthoniques asked us to settle disputes! The Lightlanders quivered in fear at the mention of our names!”
“Uh-huh,” said Jean quietly, somewhat surprised by her elder sister’s sudden animation.
“We maintained numerous bloody feuds for reasons that were remarkably petty!” noted Viviane. “We had a family tradition of crossing over into Bellamarina, and setting the Ducal palace on fire! The Badb and Nemain received their weight in cloves, yearly from…”
“I get it, Viv. We were spooky and respected,” said Jean. “And now we’re less so.”
Viviane sighed. “Yeah. Sorry, Jean. It’s just… when I was growing up, some tiny portion of that glory still remained. Then it vanished. And there was just me.” She shut her eyes and shook her head. “Well, me and a handful of witches my age, all trying to be as good as the ones who came before us…”
“What about Mother Flint?” asked Jean.
“Deidre is in the same boat we are, though she hides it better,” said Viviane.
Jean blinked. “Wait--she has an actual name?”
“Had I guess,” answered Viviane with a frown. “The Flint witches have been passing on those weird ways of theirs for a long, long time, and they hate it when you call Mother Flint anything but Mother Flint.”
“Still--you knew her when she was a kid…” continued Jean.
Viviane nodded. “Yep, and while I’d like to say she was nicer back then, the truth is, she was the same miserable c-ontrary bitch she is now.”
Jean rolled her eyes. “‘Contrary’…”
“It’s an accurate term,” said Viviane sourly. “Anyway--to return to my point--these women overestimate the dangers of… well, all sorts of things. The Hedley Kow is a nuisance. A persistent nuisance, but still, just a nuisance. I admit I haven’t been able to take care of it, but that’s just because I’m so bus…” Viviane felt a tug on her sleeve. Jean was pointing towards a tree. Viviane glanced at it. “Oh, shit.”
Hanging from the tree were several bodies tied there with what looked like their intestines. Carved into the tree were two words: MY LAND. The du Lac sisters stared for a while.
“So… a persistent nuisance,” said Jean at long last.
“Well, remember, we’re a family that made a tradition of burning down a neighbor’s palace,” said Viviane. “Our version of nuisances tend to be… a bit extreme.”
Jean gulped. “So--I’m getting the pestle for this, right?”