Village Witch Scenario C: The Plot Thickens…

I believe I originally wrote my response to this back in August while high on Vicodin (and I didn’t even take all of what was prescribed me!).  I pulled it out and revised its rambles, since the coven is getting together on the 30th to review our answers to the scenario.

I think I may have taken liberties with mine, since we seem to be looking at magical solutions.  However, with this scenario I realized that I had very little direct knowledge of the situation from Johanna’s point of view.  Most of what was included was gossip and a necessarily biased presentation from the Rodericks.  So my magic was pulling together the communication pretty mundanely and getting the Rodericks to do a few mundane things to make them feel more physically secure.  Not really all that magical, I’m sorry to say.

You are outside your cottage on a fine brisk fall day, working on a deer hide provided you by Eileen’s cousin, Rob the Forester.  Abraham the Bonesetter has dropped by for a visit and you chat with your old friend while he watches your progress on the hide.  As you glance up from your work, who do you se trudging up your path, but Eileen and Jock Roderick with their baby daughter Eithne.  You can see by the worried looks on both their faces that this is not a pleasant visit.

A quick look at Eithne as they approach assures you that the child is healthy.  Abraham had asked after them just this morning, since he had recently treated Eithne for the croup that the infant had suffered in the last month.  You greet them and offer them some of the fresh cask of ale you just opened.  Jock accepts with alacrity.  After chatting about the local happenings for awhile, you gradually steer the conversation around to the purpose of their visit.

It seems that in the year or so since Eileen and Jock were handfasted, the neighboring manor has been taken over by a new owner, the Lady Johanna von Greiss.  Lady Johanna was a widow.  It was, in fact, rumored that she had outlived several husbands and was quite wealthy.  It was not a rumor, but a widely known fact that Lady Johanna was both quite lovely and a woman of strong appetites.  These two points were the subject of quite animated discussions among both the men and women of the countryside, although often for very different reasons.

Lady Johanna was also not someone to cross.  Several people, either men who had refused her attentions, or women who had objected to the attentions being shown their men had met with most unpleasant, but mysterious accidents.  One, a highly accomplished swimmer, had drowned.  Another had died when she tripped and fell, piercing her throat on the spindle of her spinning wheel.

For the last three months or so, Lady Johanna had been making seductive suggestions to Jock.  This presented a problem since Eileen and Jock had promised to be faithful to each other for the year and a day until it was time to renew their vows.  (Jock has confided to you that they thought it best to have a trial period before they promised never to take another lover.  As Celts, they have numerous alternatives to simple monogamy.)

Until last week, Jock had been able to avoid offending Lady Johanna with an outright refusal.  Last Saturday, however, she had come upon Jock fishing by the local river, the Willamette, and had become quite importunate.  Jock blurted, blushing, that she had taken off all her clothes, saying she wanted to go swimming.  Then she had tried to get him to take off his and go in with her.  When he refused, although he admits shamefacedly, with some reluctance, she threatened him with consequences of refusal.

Since then, both Eileen and Jock have had a number of minor, but increasingly serious accidents.  So far neither of them have been really hurt, but they are frightened.  They are even more concerned about the possibility of something happening to Eithne.  Yesterday evening, Lady Johanna burst into their cottage at supper and told Jock he had until the dark of the moon to accede to her demands or his entire family would suffer the consequences.  When darkness fell they began to hear strange noises outside their cottage.

They implore your help.  What do you do?

Dang, is this a sticky situation. I’ve not yet met this Lady Johanna, but she has been a primary topic of gossip these past few months, so I’ve heard quite a bit about her. Now that I think about it, all the gossip and its wildness was pretty inevitable. It is so unusual for any lady to be the sole person in charge of a manor and estate; of course she’d be an instant object of curiosity. Since it is even rarer that such a lady be young, beautiful, wealthy in her own right, and a foreigner to boot…well, it’s understandable that the stories told about her would be fantastical. She is, after all, a fantastical person.

I know the stories are more than a little overblown. For example, the swimmer who drowned was accomplished, but foolish. He tried to swim in icy water, and his muscles likely seized from the cold. Similarly, the unfortunate spinster had a reputation for keeping a slovenly workspace and likely had her own carelessness to blame for her terrible death. Therefore, I had thought I wouldn’t pay much attention to the gossip until I’d gotten a little closer to the lady in question and could form my own opinions…but it looks like that’s going to be rushed. Jock and Eileen are terrified—Eileen’s practically suffocating Eithne, she’s squeezing her so hard. Something has got to be done.

The moon is just past full now, so that means we’ve got roughly 13 days on Johanna’s timeline to figure something out. Since the Rodericks are so frightened right now, I invite them to stay with me for a few days while Jock, Abraham (who immediately volunteered his own help), and the smith work to fortify the Rodericks’ cottage. Even though we’d worked to protect the property from the sidhe, we didn’t work on creating locks and barriers against people. So the men will work on setting up locks in the Rodericks’ cottage so that they can easily secure the property while they are both inside and away. At the very least, this will help prevent anyone from bursting into the home uninvited. Eileen promises me that she’ll plant some thorny bushes around the windows to further dissuade anyone from entering there too, so she and I will go about the village over the next few days collecting surplus rose crowns from our friends and neighbors and planting them under the windows. Combined with the spiky holly all around the cottage’s foundation, we’re confident that these plants will thwart all but the most determined intruders (and eventually make the Rodericks’ lives much more sweet and beautiful, too).

With the Rodericks working on immediate and physical fortifications, I can work to get some real knowledge of Lady Johanna. Since she’s a lady and mistress of her manor and lands, the lord and lady of our own lands must have called upon her at least once since she established residence. Luckily, I can request an audience with our own lady, since I had served as her midwife in the past and still provide her with some assistance regarding her female health concerns. Sure enough, within hours of requesting an audience, I am granted a meeting the following day.

The discussion I have with my own lady proves fruitful. Lady Johanna—thankfully—is not quite the evil Black Widow village gossip makes her out to be. My own lady tells me that Lady Johanna had the misfortune to be wed to an elderly earl when she was practically a child, since her own noble family desired wealth and the earl desired an heir and thought a young bride would counter his elderly enfeeblements. Unfortunately, youth and beauty alone cannot overcome certain weaknesses and Lady Johanna remained a wife only in name. Worse, as a child suddenly placed into power, Johanna only really learned that anything she desired was hers to be had; she had been sheltered from seeing the consequences of her whims. However, she was as pious a Christian as she could be given her limitations.

When her husband’s death had left Johanna the sole heir to his wealth, she realized that she would cede control of her fortune to a husband were she to remarry. However, since she was still a very young woman, she also wished to have a lover and finally set aside her unexpected virginity. Keeping a man, however, would make her a social pariah in the German lands, so Johanna removed to the Gaelic lands, where she had heard the people made temporary marriages in handfasting and took multiple lovers throughout their lives. It sounded like utopia to Johanna, so she purchased an estate and removed to these lands to live out her life. Knowing that she was the landed gentry, however, she knew that she would have to be the aggressor whenever she was interested in someone. Therefore, she’d been very overt with her attractions ever since.

My lady and her lord had been amused with Johanna’s foreign preconceptions and behavior up to this point. However, after I told her of Jock and Eileen’s plight, my lady was shocked. In addition to the general reprehensibility of her demands, Johanna was out of line in commanding a serf of another estate to do anything at all. My lady decided that, as the only other woman in a comparable rank to Johanna’s for miles around, she would have to speak to the woman and educate her as to the true nature of Celtic relationships, the responsibilities landholders have towards their serfs, and the consequences that interference with another estate’s serfs may have on the amicable relationship between lands. My lady invited both me and Eileen to speak with Johanna as well in this upcoming meeting. I agree, and promise to speak with Eileen about attending, too.

I am fairly satisfied that this matter will largely be resolved mundanely once mutual misunderstandings are cleared. I am a little worried though that this Johanna might have a magical bent, since she oddly specified the dark of the moon as Jock’s deadline. Of course, since the moon had just turned full when she burst in upon the Rodericks, Johanna could have just chosen this time so as to be unambiguous in her limits. After all, she doesn’t seem to have a great appreciation of peasant life and might not know that we can, in fact, keep tract of days numerically. Still, there is a chance she may have some malevolent magic in mind.

If this is the case, it wouldn’t be wise for me to directly ask her to lay off, so I decide the situation requires the use of some divination to figure out the reality of the situation. So I turn to my tarot cards.

Isolating the court cards from the deck, I ask to be shown the nature of Lady Johanna’s core personality and draw the Queen of Swords. Usually I associate this card with a level of perception, which Johanna doesn’t seem to have given her demands of Jock. However, the sharpness of wit seems on par; after all, Johanna would have to have some smarts to have thought up this way to get everything she thought she wanted. This queen wields her intellect like a weapon in that pursuit, much as Johanna does, and approaches problems laterally, which Johanna also does. This queen and Johanna also take action and hold control. So I think that Johanna does have the ability to be perceptive, but has not yet developed that skill as much as she has her others.

I shuffle the cards and ask to be shown Johanna’s past influences, and I draw the nine of pentacles. This is a card that depicts the attainment of wealth and luxury, but often at the price of controlling passions. I shuffle again and ask to be shown Johanna’s present state, and draw the Devil. To me, this card represents unbridled avarice. Coupled with the previous card, it looks as though the carefully checked passions of the past have been opened up in a big way, and Johanna wants more and more and more. She risks self-destruction if she continues on this path, and will probably find nothing but loneliness if she succeeds in obtaining the form of her desires. After all, possessing a man’s body isn’t the same thing as possessing his heart. I shuffle and draw a third card, asking what the nature of Johanna’s threat was. I draw the seven of pentacles, which shows a farmer regarding some carefully tended plants that have yet to bear fruit. It’s a card that addresses the progress of a material foundation. I feel confident that this means that Johanna’s threat was a more material than a magical one, and that her consequences maybe referred more to preventing her serfs from seeking Jock’s smithing skills rather than launching a detailed metaphysical assault.

I now feel very confident that Johanna is just a selfish, misinformed young woman in need of a good friend and a sound reality check. I think my lady wants to provide these things to our new neighbor, and I am not opposed to making new friends either. I will also encourage both Jock and Eileen to offer her friendship after everyone sits down with the ladies for a frank discussion. If Jock and Eileen still feel as though they require metaphysical assistance, I’ll discuss crafting a witch bottle with them. This would require filling a small bottle with all manner of bent needles and pins, rosemary, and wine. Evil is attracted to the fragile jug, and will get pricked by the pins, drowned by the wine, or repelled by the rosemary. We could bury the bottle in one of the far corners of the property, but given how the Rodericks share it with the sidhe, I would counsel them to pry up a hearthstone and bury it there in their home. We could consecrate the jug for a specific purpose, or whatever Eileen and Jock feel they need. The specifics would require more discussion with the Rodericks, but I would have them construct the bottle, and I would help them write the consecration, and we would all perform it together.

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