Chapter 14: In Which Madison Proposes a Duel

As Madison moved toward the little table on the patio, now covered with fresh vegetables, nut-flour bread, cured meats, seeds, nuts and cheeses, she was feeling like this was a very bad idea. She was quite hungry, and the old couple’s eyes seemed very inviting to Madison, but she knew that something was very wrong. As the Sort-of Knight complimented the kindly old couple on their beautiful home and the lovely lunch, the Princess decided to concentrate on working out her doubts.

First, it seemed like there was no entrance to the farm—no laneway or break in the hedge. it was almost as if no one ever came or went from the little grove, which Madison knew almost never happened with real homes. The name, “Daffodil Farm”,” was suspicious to Madison—there were no daffodils in the clearing—actually, no flowers of any kind. And Madison knew that daffodils grew back every year, so the old couple’s explanation made no sense at all. She sat down cautiously and decided that Daffodil Farm was a made up name.

As Westley and their hosts chatted amiably before eating, Madison looked at the fresh vegetables on her plate. She decided to test her theory.

“Did you grow these wonderful vegetables?” she asked in her sweetest voice possible.

“Oh, yes dear,” the grumbly-voiced woman answered. “We love gardening. And we love entertaining little girls.” She put her finger on Madison’s cheek and sent a shiver of fear and disgust through her spine.

Because it was late in the spring, and there was nothing growing anywhere in the garden, Madison knew they were lying. Besides, it seemed like things would appear in the clearing without her noticing, like the table and patio, which she did not notice the first time she looked through the hedge at the little cottage. And where did the meat and cheese come from? Neither of them had gone into the house at any point, nor were there any bags or baskets to be seen. No, Madison decided, the food had just appeared.

But who could make food and tables and gardens just appear? It was at that moment that Madison realized where she had heard the voices before—the man’s high-pitched whine and the woman’s throaty croak. They were the witches who were outside the door of the chapel when the castle was under attack.

Madison looked over to Sir Westley, who was about to put a large slice of bread with meat and cheese into his mouth.

“Don’t eat that Westley!” Madison shouted as she jumped up from the table.

Instinctively, the Knight dropped his lunch back onto the table. The sandwich he had made turned into a fistful of maggots crawling over a piece of moldy bread.

“That bread wasn’t gluten-free!” Sir Cummerbund said in horror. Madison rolled her eyes, knowing that the wheat content of the bread was the least of their worries. Before their eyes, the entire meal turned into white, slithering maggots and black, convulsing earwigs. Madison felt her tummy roll with disgust and her chest get tight with fear.

Westley jumped back from the table and pulled his sword, swiftly placing it at the throat of the male witch. It was the first time that she had seen Westley do anything that seemed even the least bit heroic. She would have felt safer with Sir Westley Cummerbund, III, in charge, except that the female witch pulled her wand and pointed it threateningly at the Princess.

And as she drew the wand, before their very eyes the man and woman’s peasant clothing turned into elaborate coloured robes of gold and purple and green and pink—colours that Princess Madison thought did not go well together at all. Not only did their clothing turn into tacky shades, the friendly look faded from their faces and they looked to Madison like truly menacing foes.

“What should I change her into?” the female with said in her gravelly grunt. Madison remembered the pair of witches teasing the soldier in the hallway outside the chapel, and the horrible sound he made when he was cursed by them. As the witch held her wand inches from Madison’s face, she heard in her head the pathetic sound of the transmogrified soldier: “Hisss-farnf, hisss-farnf, cough-tngts, hisss-farnf,” like a giant snake choking on a harmonica.

“If you move a muscle,” Westley said in his most threatening voice. “Your friend will never move again.” Madison could see that her companion was trying hard to be brave. His hand was shaking, and he accidently scratched his victim in the neck, causing him to bleed.

“Sorry about that,” Westley apologized.

“You are apologizing for scratching me while threatening my life?” the old man shrieked in laughter. The woman laughed with him, and they gargled and shrieked in mocking delight.

“I don’t find that funny,” Westley said seriously. It was not a clever line, Madison thought, but as he said it, he pressed the sword closer to the man’s windpipe. The woman grew suddenly serious and began to utter threats of her own.

The sun no longer shone brightly in the clearing. Madison’s heart pounded in her chest as the adults threatened each other, their voices raising and echoing in the glade. She winced each time the witches spoke, wondering if she would be turned into a stuttering, carnivorous squirrel or an awkward teenage platypus with acne.

Finally, Westley suggested a solution.

“I propose a duel,” he said, pretending to be brave.

“You cannot match my wand,” the woman jeered.

“Nor you my steel,” Sir Westley quipped.

“We are at an impasse then,” the male witch said, hoping to add something helpful to the conversation. The sword was poking into his neck, and he was about to cry in the pain.

“How about a duel of wits,” Madison suggested. Even though they were fighting over the life of the Princess, they were surprised when she spoke. “If we win,” she continued. “We get safe passage through the forest and you promise never to harm us again.”

“And if we win?” the pinched-voice man cried out, actually in pain this time.

“If you win,” Madison answered, taking a deep breath. “Then you can do whatever you want to us?”

“Can we turn you into something unnatural?” the woman asked, lowering her wand.

“Yes, anything at all.”

The woman growled out a hacking laugh with great delight. Westley dropped his sword, allowing the man to join the woman. They danced in a circle, cheering and laughing, screeching and gargling in excitement.

Westley moved close to Madison.

“Do you know what you are doing?” he whispered to her.

“No, I don’t. But I had no other choice.”

Suddenly, the old magic couple stopped dancing and cheering. The female witch turned toward the Princess and said in an ominous voice:

“Let the dual of wits begin!”

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Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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