Kaninchen closed the shop early. She had awoken that morning with the beginnings of a headache and as the day had progressed so had the pain until now it verged on migraine. Having snapped at everyone who’d entered The Canny Cauldron for spells and relationship advice, the word had passed around the village of Upper Weeping that Lady Dove was in a mood and consequently The Canny Cauldron was best avoided. Not a soul had entered the premises after lunch, the heat from an impending storm had driven her to dismiss and send her young apprentices off with a picnic basket to devour in the relative cool of St. Willaston’s Park.
Collecting her bathing things together she set out to walk to Marla’s Washhouse. They had an arrangement, a bathroom was always available should she need it and today a bath was what was needed to soothe the woes of humidity away. Having hurriedly greeted Marla, Kaninchen climbed the stairs to the third floor where the private bathrooms were. She closed the door behind her remembering to turn the key and lock the world out.
With a sigh of relief she pulled the dratted pins out of her hair and slowly and methodically unravelled the plaits. She massaged her aching scalp, causing little bolts of light to flash around the room, darting in and out of the turquoise curtains, landing gently in the cascades of her auburn hair, which reached to mid thigh. If the apprentices had seen her they would’ve gasped at the sight, for Kaninchen was indeed much younger than the folks of Upper Weeping thought. Hidden under the hair and veils, capes and flowing dresses, maquillage and jewellery was a young woman not much older than the apprentices themselves. Lady Dove was only twenty-two years old but hid this fact for her own safety. Even in as accepting a melting pot as Upper Weeping young women who lived alone without so called male protection were labelled and targeted.
When she’d first come to Upper Weeping she’d set herself up as a mysterious married woman whose husband was elsewhere. Where is he? They would ask. Away, she would say. After a while they forgot to be curious and now seven years later she was accepted as “The Widowed Lady Dove”. No one dared harm her just in case Lord Dove really did exist and would one day turn up out of the blue ready to avenge any wrongdoings. Lady Dove was therefore untouchable. Besides she was an excellent businesswoman. The Canny Cauldron was financially solvent. Her spells and potions were the most efficient in the whole of the region. In a place like Upper Weeping it was not done to question process and if sleight of marriage was involved then what the eye don’t see The Regent wouldn’t behead over.
Kaninchen filled the old enamel bath with lukewarm water, tossing in vervain and lavender, mint and camomile, and a small pinch of crushed mustard seeds. Completely immersing herself she felt the weight of the day recede out into the village where it belonged. Let the tides of storms and males stay outside, in here, in this her private place, Kaninchen would relax and dream.
She slipped into a dream of cold mists coiling around, enclosing forests and hollows, cliff tops and shoreline. As it wrapped it stifled sound as if nothing lived or breathed, loved or bred, sang or cried. It was a time before everything. She sighed contentedly in her sleepy bath, her head resting on folded towels upon the special headrest Marla the Wash had designed for comfort and safety, after losing a few too many customers. With her head back and her feet afloat, Kaninchen drifted deeper into dreams, oblivious to the first rumble of thunder in the distance.
As she dreamed, the mists began to lift revealing the land before Upper Weeping existed. Rabbits bobbed in and out of multi-coloured wild flowers dancing in the sun and breeze. Butterflies chased Dragonflies skimming above the waters of the lakes, just out of the reach of silvery jumping fishes swimming in the inviting blue reflected from the sky. Gulls screeched at passing albatrosses, whilst swallows darted in and out of fruit trees filled with papery blossoms ready and willing to produce in some future fecund time. The whole of Pre-Weeping teemed with plant and animal life, creatures of the land and of the water. It was a paradise, a paradise that swallowed Kaninchen’s migraine, burying it deep underground, enabling her to sink even further into her dreams unaware that deep in dreams nightmares may wait.
Menacing grey clouds appeared, rolling in off the sea. They clashed and clattered their way across the land, scattering animals and birds in the blink of an eye. Even the flowers seemed to fold in upon themselves in self-protection. Rain beat everything into submission, scraping streams out of rock, flooding all in its path.
Kaninchen flinched with each clap of thunder and lightning strike. This was the storm of all storms, the apocalypse of the past. Illuminated in one ginormous lightning bolt, am amorphous creature began to crawl out of the sea. With a painfully slow precision it moved itself across the sodden low-lying lands and up into relative safety on the higher more protected parts of Pre-Weeping. Here it rested until the storm had passed and an unearthly silence filled the air. This calm after the storm had caused a ripple of fear to spread across the land: something did not fit in; something wicked had infiltrated their paradise. The animals were afraid.
Whilst Kaninchen slept on in her rapidly cooling bath of nightmares past, the storm of all storms had hit Weeping too, causing much damage and flooding. Gale force winds had ripped tiles off roofs, shredded tents and shattered many an ornate awning. Too much rain in such a short time had brought flooding to the village. In fact all of Weeping, even the more affluent and law abiding Lower Weeping, had suffered from this storm, though not to the same extent. Parts of the village had inadequate sewerage at the best of times and these were not the best of any times. Lady Dove slept on in her bathroom above the floods, oblivious to the destruction below.
As time passed the amorphous creature found itself a home deep within the rocks above the shoreline. It began to call and as it called other creatures came from all over the known world. At first the pioneers came with drays and tents. Soon the tents were replaced with wooden huts and mud brick homes as a more permanent town, now named Weeping, was constructed. A castle, turreted and strong, was constructed out of stone and a leader, always named The Regent was installed. Around this castle the rich built their mansions, roads were constructed and the railway connected Weeping, both Upper and Lower to the rest of the known world.
Below the castle, embedded in its foundations, the amorphous creature remained, growing ever larger on the fears, emotions and greed of the inhabitants above. It demanded flesh on festive occasions and in a town with such varying customs as Weeping there were many feasts and celebrations where a sacrifice was required. Its tentacles reached out to touch the whole of Weeping, even to the more esoteric sections of Upper Weeping.
It cannot hear or even speak, yet it knows everything: every plot and plan for rebellion ever made and each parcel of gossip anyone has ever uttered. Not one speck of Weeping life escapes The Regent, for this is whom the tentacled creature is, The Regent in his true form. Weeping grew from the mind of The Regent. It serves to nurture his lust for power. He is permanently hungry.
In her dream rapidly becoming nightmare, Kaninchen feels the power in the searching tentacled mind of The Regent. She moans and mutters in her bath as he tries to probe her mind, this intruder in his dreams of the past. She fights back pushing him out. He reels in shock at the strength of this being. No one has ever had the power to deny him entry. Intrigued and not a little annoyed he pushes harder, determined to discover the identity of this ….woman? He forces his way in as Kaninchen screams and writhes in pain. He sees glimpses of a crown, soldiers fighting, bodies thrown off a cliff top and a little girl sealed within a tree with her animals and birds for company. With one huge scream Kaninchen forces him out of her mind and awakens to loud knocking on the bathroom door.
“Lady Dove! Lady Dove! Open up Lady Dove. Kaninchen… Are you alright???” The knocking becomes more frantic as Kaninchen wraps herself in a voluminous dressing gown and opens the door.
“Oh Lady Dove” exclaims Marla the Wash, “We heard you screaming and thought you’d been attacked!” As Marla says this she looks around the room as if to reassure herself that no one else was there.
“I must’ve been dreaming Marla” Kaninchen says as she hugs the gown tighter, shivering a little in fright. “Storms in nightmares Marla that’s all, Storms in nightmares”
“Aye there’ve been storms alright. Downstairs is all flooded, pongs to high heaven it does what with the sewers overflowing! You’re better off up here out of the mess! Taking in Kaninchen’s pale and anguished face, she gently pats her on the shoulder “You just get yourself dry and into some warm clothes. When I get the fires going again I’ll make us some tea. When the waters have receded we can see how The Canny Cauldron has fared in the storm” The mention of her shop brought Kaninchen back to reality.
“The Cauldron? Damage?? Max? Lina? Are they okay??”
“Don’t you worry about them, they’re sitting in my drawing room right now eating Cook’s chocolate cake and scaring each other with tales of ghosts. More sense than my daft husband who’s out there in the muck somewhere and with soldiers on the streets too. He’ll never learn!”
With that Marla left the room and Kaninchen sat down heavily on the stool. Soldiers on the streets! That’s what she’d seen in The Regent’s mind in that split second before she’d broken their connection. The Regent was planning to move against the peoples of Weeping again. This time he would surely come for her too. She began to hurriedly dress, she must warn everyone but would they believe her?
Under the castle The Regent filtered through scraps of memory in his vast mind. Tales of the child enclosed within a tree had been told by travellers centuries ago. Some said she’d been trapped for her protection, others that it was a punishment for evil deeds unknown, still many more said it was all a load of codswallop, a story told to scare children into good behaviour. Now he knew it was all true, and that child now all grown up was hiding somewhere in Weeping. She must be powerful to have hidden herself from him for goodness knows how long. He must find her.
He sent a message to his soldiers via The Regent face the people of Weeping believed to be their leader, “Attack the village of Upper Weeping and bring all the women to me!”
Copyright October 2014