“Bubble double, spoil and rubble.”
“Have you got that right, dear?”
Bjarnhilda raised her long and warty nose out of the pot she was stirring, just missing its rim. “Of course, I do.” She continued, “Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
Dufa sniffed, her potato of a nose creating a distinct echo off the cave’s flame-flickering stone walls. “Well, it won’t do to add stale newts’ eyes. Wait until Moogun returns with the fresh ones.”
“I’m here!” Moo bounced into the dark, dank cave like an overinflated beach ball.
“You’ve got them?” Dufa asked.
“Such cute little newties!” tootled Moo. “It was a shame to pop their bitty eyes out!”
“Just you make sure you didn’t squish any,” snarled Bjarn. “Nothing spoils a pretty poison spell faster than squished newts’ eyes. They must be added whole.”
“Pish-posh! They’re whole.”
“They’d better be. This baby under the star means trouble for us!”
Dufa shrugged. “I doubt it. We’re ghost witches, after all.”
Moo gushed, “Baby toes! So delicious in mustard-honey sauce!”
Bjarn looked up from the cauldron… “Can’t you think of anything but your stomach, Moo? This is serious!”
“Serious?” Dufa shrugged again. “How so?”
“Haven’t you heard what the skalds are saying about him? They’re calling him the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega, the Son of Man. In fact, they say that he intends to let the poor inherit the Earth. The poor! A bunch of filthy, ragged do-nothings, always looking for a handout!” She wiped her spike of a nose on her tattered sleeve.
“So what? If he’s paying attention to the poor, he won’t have time to bother us.” Dufa scratched her left knee.
“He’ll destroy the old gods soon enough.”
“Bah! What have Odin and the others ever done for us?”
“It doesn’t matter. We’ll get the chop along with them.” Bjarn took the eyes one at a time from Moo’s proffered hand and plopped them into the potion’s dark goo.
“Perhaps we should send a bat-gram to Loki?”
“You’re crazy, Moo! Loki is nothing but trouble.”
Moo’s eyelids fluttered. “But he’s so-o good-looking and just a little mischievous.”
“He’d love to watch the old gods dropped one by one into a live volcano, us along with them!”
“I just thought he might be able to help with this baby thing.”
Dufa shook her head. “Forget about it, Moo. We’ve got nothing to worry about. Peace, justice, love – people don’t care about those things. People want wealth, power and revenge. Besides, blood, fire and death are much more entertaining than butterflies flitting around a meadow, or little girls dropping coins in beggars’ cups.”
“Then maybe we should start a little war? You can’t worry about babies when a screaming barbarian is trying to take your head off with an ax! Nobody in Jerusalem likes anybody else, especially their neighbors.”
“Wars are expensive to get going. Have you checked our treasure chest lately?” Dufa peered into the pot. “Poison is cheaper.”
Bjarn muttered, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first – bah! And humbug!”
Moo sighed. “That wouldn’t be so bad. I’m always last around here and it isn’t always pleasant.”
Bjarn stirred harder. “Well his birth is being called a miracle.”
“His mother was a virgin.”
Dufa sneered, “You show me a virgin and I’ll show you a liar!”
Moo sighed again. “I was a virgin once.”
“Shut up, you idiot! We’ve got to intervene before this Prince of Peace stuff gets out of hand.”
“Calm down, Bjarn. That potion is one of our most effective poisons. It will solve the problem.”
Moo slipped the last golden eyeball into the murky brew.
“Done!” Bjarn lifted her dripping spoon from the pot.
Moo giggled. “Now we must coat the baby’s apple with it.”
“Fool! Babies don’t eat apples!”
“It worked with that girl, the pretty one, Snow what’s-her-name.”
“This isn’t for the baby, dear. It’s for that King.”
Bjarn grinned. “That’s him. A sip of this Berserker juice in his wine and he’ll go mad with rage.”
Moo’s eyebrows made half-moons above her limpid eyes. “And then what?”
Bjarn’s grin exposed all three of her teeth. “He’ll kill the brat for us.”
Dufa grabbed Moo’s wrist. “Don’t lick your fingers, fool! Remember what happened with that sleeping potion?”
“Such a nice nap!”
“Yeah, a peaceful week around here for a change, but not if you suck some of this stuff down. I don’t need to spend a week dodging your chicken hatchet!”
“It’s not that sharp.”
“Stop your bickering, you two! We’ve got work to do.!” Bjarn pointed at the cave’s entrance. “To the brooms, girls.”
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
The Bard’s immortal witches deserve more opportunities to play. I’ve tried to give them one!
Robert Walton is a retired middle school teacher and rock climber. His novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. Most recently, his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” was published in Cricket Media’s February issue of Spider magazine. His website - Chaos Gate on WordPress.