Ink Washes and Crosshatching
Interview With Brenda Lyons
On 23-Book Deals
News for September
Oskela's Ravenby Lisa Cree
Once more, Oskela the witch sent her beautiful raven Quoy out into the night to find her husband. They all left her sooner or later because, well, she wasn't the most striking of women. I say not striking, but those who saw her were often struck by how ugly she was!
She had an enormous pointed nose which bumped and hooked over a thin line which was once her mouth, which through the years of bitterness had been wizened to a thin line. Nobody ever looked her in the eye, or at least they thought they didn't. It was quite hard to tell from one minute to the next where she was looking. I say that, but her eyes were beautiful, they could even have saved her face... it was just that they didn't match! One was small and slanted like that of a fox with a strong brow, the other large and round like a young princess with long thick lashes brushing her cheek. The warts come with the profession, as does the straggly, greasy, unkempt hair.
For those of you who are eating while reading this, I'll get back to the part about the husband. For some time now, Oskela's husband, the Prince Smyd would leave her tower at night to see his ex-wife, Dyndra.
Dyndra and Smyd were actually still married... but Dyndra had traded him to Oskela for a spell. His fault really, because at that time their union was going through a very rough patch and our Prince had decided to visit another.
The aforementioned spell was to get rid of that "other". In return, the witch Oskela wanted a husband to replace the last that ran away.
Prince Smyd despaired. Each night he skulked through the forest towards Princess Dyndra's castle and saw the raven circling above him. Through fear of what would happen if Oskela ever found that he and his love had rekindled the flame, he hung his head and turned back to the tower.
In the castle opposite, Dyndra sat waiting for her love to arrive. She became more and more impatient as the nights went by. She kept the mistress of Smyd on a perch by the window. She still called the bird by her original name "Ingrid". Ingrid still recognized her name and didn't seem too bothered that she had spent the last couple of years wearing feathers and fleas. She and Dyndra were now quite good friends.
One morning, while Dyndra was drinking a cup of refreshing tea there came an idea. She looked over at the bird that used to be Ingrid. "Let's see how seductive you can be in your bird form".
That evening, prince Smyd was just about to turn back when he saw a ghostly form floating through the sky towards him. He and Quoy watched as the bird sat on the branch and sang. It was Ingrid! She flew down further and sat on the prince's shoulder. Nuzzling her downy head into his neck, she sang softly. Above, Quoy the raven became more and more upset to have lost the attentions of this beautiful stranger to a human.
He ruffled his feathers.
And when all else failed, he resorted to brute force!
Quoy swooped down over Prince Smyd's head, who started flailing his arms around to get rid of the winged attacker. The little bird, upset at having her song interrupted, went on the attack herself, and above his head, all that Smyd could see were a ruffle of tawny and black feathers. This was his chance! Now he would be able to visit his love in peace. While those two were otherwise occupied, he rushed off and finally gained the castle and spent the rest of the evening in Dyndra's arms.
At dusk, he started his way back to the tower. On the way, Prince Smyd saw Quoy and Ingrid next to one another on a branch.
The next night, when Prince Smyd set off, Quoy passed over his head without even giving him a second glace. A little further down the road, Prince Smyd found Quoy and his new conquest sitting on their branch enjoying the moonlight. The two males watched each other as he passed as if calling a truce.
This carried on for weeks on end, until one day Quoy arrived at the tower late and Oskela was already having her breakfast. He gave her the usual story - that the prince had been out hunting a ghost stag in the forest and flew onto his perch. When he arrived at his seat, he turned and saw a small tawny feather slowly floating to the floor... he looked at Oskela, who was looking in horror at this small brown feather!
The feather landed. "Why! All this time..?!" - The witch was at a loss for words. She leapt from her chair and stood looking out of the window at the castle. After a few minutes of reflection, she turned and with a voice low and calm said:
"Well, this should be quite amusing." She snatched Quoy from his perch and put him in a potato sack. He struggled, but this was in vain, because the witch was holding the neck of the sack closed with her bony hand.
The smell of old potatoes was horrible, and all Quoy could see now of the outside world were small pinpricks of light. He tried to put one of his beady eyes near a hole to see where she was going. Oskela was so agitated that every time Quoy got close, she swung the bag and he found himself trying to regain his balance. "Get yourself here!" he heard, then the prince's voice. "Hunting Indeed!" the witch cried, then a Flash!
The sack opened and Quoy fell to the floor. He found himself in Dyndra's castle, which, although he had never before visited, he found familiar.
Next to him was Oskela, of course, and the prince, Smyd. Before him, a beautiful woman with long red hair was holding his beloved tawny bird.
Oskela looked at them all. "My raven, you don't recognize your old home?" Pow! Quoy took on his original form.
Dressed in a worn black suit, with dark blue piercing eyes and a heavy moustache, Quoy stood looking around him and tried to remember what had brought him here. He had been a servant in this castle... his life was here. He remembered his duties, his quarters. Even his wife worked here and they had planned to ask if they could raise a family within these walls.
Seeing the perplexed look on his face, Oskela continued, "I know one spell, and one only... I turn people into birds. I told you this, when you visited me on that rainy evening but you insisted! I can't leave my door open talking about the where and why nots to strangers when I have no husband to cut wood for my fire! You suspected that your wife was in love with another, you wanted the power to keep track of her. I turned you into a raven, so that you could follow her through the night without being seen.
"It's no good!" Quoy said. "I had completely forgotten who I was once in bird form and spent my time following your husband!"
"You were closer than you think," said Oskela "Now you have your wish...here she is!"
Everyone in the room covered their heads to protect themselves from the coming Wapoo! Or Zip! Or whatever was next.
Nothing. Smyd looked at Quoy, Quoy looked at Dyndra, Dyndra at her little tawny bird who looked back at Oskela, cocking her head to one side.
"You don't see her? Take another look!" Oskela swung her arms around indicating every corner of the room.
They just winced this time, and still nothing happened.
It suddenly dawned on Quoy what Oskela had been saying all this time. Quoy walked over to Princess Dyndra.
"I?" he said. Quoy gently took the tawny bird from the delicate hands of princess Dyndra. He looked into the bird's eyes, and knew that somewhere within that fast-beating heart lay the soul of his long lost wife.
"Yes, Yes!" said the witch. Poof! And there was Ingrid.
Ingrid had grown up a servant in the castle as had Quoy, and they had planned a long and happy life together. But youth can be so fickle sometimes. For a couple of months Ingrid had fallen under the charm of Prince Smyd. She had so wanted to be the princess for once. She hwanted to give the orders rather than take them. This had made her forget what was really important to her... her love for Quoy.
The two couples stood together looking into each another's eyes with so much love, the royal beauty of Prince Smyd and Dyndra next to the simple charm of Quoy and Ingrid.
"Now, there you go - all so beautiful back in your original forms! But how ugly and foolish you are on the inside! Your beautiful love is full of treachery, and if that's all you have to offer - I'd rather be alone," said Oskela. "Now, if you have all had enough of bothering a poor old lady for one year, I'll be heading home..."
Oskela turned and headed out of the castle entrance muttering "I must learn how to turn people into worms;, they are a lot less trouble..."
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