Chapter 5: The Grand Witch

 

The Carriage that was waiting to carry Jenny and Molly and Sir Lucas to the Council of Witches was not at all what you would expect it to be. For a start, it had no wheels or doors. And there were no horses to pull it. It was, in fact, just a very large bubble floating just above the ground. You could see right through it. Right through to the other side! Jenny was getting quite used to things being strange in Raggedy Lyme. But this was really VERY, VERY STRANGE.

‘Do we have to get inside it?’ asked Jenny.

‘Yes, of course,’ said Molly. ‘It’s a Carriage.’

‘But, what if it bursts?’ asked Jenny.

Molly laughed: ‘It can’t burst, Jenny! It’s made of spider threads, so as soon as you step inside, the threads just join back together again. Watch me, and then do the same.’

Molly walked right up to the Carriage and then just stepped into it. Jenny could still see her perfectly well, smiling and beckoning her inside. So Jenny took a deep breath and followed her in. And as Jenny passed through the strange bubble wall, she could feel the tiny, tickly threads touching her. She hurried to stand beside Molly and watched Sir Lucas step in to join them. And, just as Molly said they would, the tiny threads closed behind them. Jenny could still see the people and houses all around them. And the Purple Path beneath them.

Molly pointed to the side and told Jenny to take a seat.

‘But Molly, there isn’t a seat!’

‘There will be as soon as you sit down, because the threads will catch you and make a seat around you.’ And that is exactly what happened.

When the three of them were sitting comfortably, Sir Lucas pointed in the direction they wanted to go, and slowly the Bubble-carriage began to flow along the Purple Path. Jenny could see the people outside standing to one side to allow the carriage to make its way. Some of the people, mostly children, waved as they passed by. And Jenny and Molly waved back. But Sir Lucas just concentrated on the path ahead and looked very serious.

After not very long at all, the Bubble-carriage slowed and stopped. Jenny looked through the wall of the bubble to see where they were. Then she gasped. The Bubble-carriage had stopped alongside a drawbridge that stretched across a wide moat, towards a Golden Archway. And beyond the Archway stood a magnificent Castle that seemed to be made of Pink crystals.

Sir Lucas pointed to the Archway and, as the Bubble-carriage moved very slowly across the drawbridge, Jenny had time to peer out of the side of Carriage and look down into the moat. It was full of water lilies and toy boats and beach balls. And Jenny could just see a large inflated dolphin, hiding behind a patch of bullrushes.

‘That’s where we keep all the floaty things that get LOST at the seaside,’ explained Molly.

Once they were through the Archway, the Bubble-carriage stopped and Sir Lucas stepped out into the Castle courtyard. He bowed low as Molly and Jenny stepped out beside him. Jenny looked around her. The sound of the banging drum was much louder here inside the Castle grounds.

BOOM … BOOM … BOOM …

And there seemed to be a lot of marching going on: grown-up soldiers marching and children marching. Then Jenny noticed a troop of marching boys coming towards them. They were all dressed the same as Sir Lucas and they all had a mass of curly Green hair. And each one of them carried a Golden sword on his belt. Sir Lucas stepped forward to greet them.

‘These are the Queen’s Raggedy Knights,’ whispered Molly. ‘They are the bravest of all the Knights in Raggedy Lyme, and Sir Lucas is their Captain.’

Jenny watched Sir Lucas salute his troops. Then she took the opportunity to ask Molly about the drumming: ‘Molly, who is beating the drum? It’s even louder here than it was before.’

Molly pointed to one of the distant towers: ‘It is the King. He has locked himself in his chamber and he is banging on his drum. He thinks that it will help him remember.’

Jenny didn’t think that was at all a likely way of remembering, but she thought she had better keep quite. After all Raggedy Lyme was a place that was very different and very difficult to understand.

*

The Raggedy Knights marched ahead of them as they walked towards the Castle. Then they stepped aside as Sir Lucas opened the Castle Doors to let Jenny and Molly through.

Now, castles can be quite dark inside but the inside of Raggedy Lyme Castle was bright with candle light and flickering firelight, and the light of the millions of crystals that lined the walls. It was enough to take your breath away. And Jenny was already feeling quite breathless at the thought of meeting the Witches. ‘Are the Witches here?’ she whispered.

‘Yes,’ said Molly. ‘We must go straight to the Old Hall. The Grand Witch will meet us there. And she will introduce us to the Queen and to the Council of Witches. Come, Jenny.’

Sir Lucas did not go with them. Instead Molly took Jenny’s hand in hers and led her through the bright empty passageways. Jenny tried not to hold her breath. She just walked beside Molly and tried to be brave and bold, and at last they arrived at the Old Hall. The doors opened as they approached and they walked through them.

It was a very big hall and it was quite dark inside. It was also completely empty, apart from one very long table that stretched the whole length of the Hall. There were many carved chairs arranged all along it, and, as far as Jenny could see, most of the chairs were quite an ordinary size. But at each end of the table Jenny could make out a tall, golden throne. Jenny wondered where everyone could be. She waited for a few moments and then she whispered: ‘Where is everyone?’

‘You’ll see,’ said Molly. ‘The Queen and Her Council of Witches will be here soon. But the Grand Witch wants to talk to you before they arrive.’

‘What does she want to talk to me about?’ asked Jenny.

Molly smiled and said: ‘You’ll see soon enough!’ Then Molly turned towards the open doors and said: ‘Ah, here she comes now!’

Jenny could hear footsteps approaching. She felt very, very nervous. She could hear her own heart beating in her chest, almost as loud as the King’s drumming. Then suddenly the Grand Witch was standing in the bright light in the doorway. Jenny’s heart actually skipped a beat. She tried to see through the brightness but her eyes had become used to the dark.

Then the Grand Witch stepped into the Hall: ‘Hello, Jenny dear,’ she said.

And Jenny’s heart almost stopped completely, because standing in front of her, wearing a long White cloak and a magnificent flowery crown of jasmine and orchids was someone she already knew. It was Grandma Lily.

 

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