This is the last of the Village Witch exercises, and–I have to admit–I’ve been putting off working on it for a solid month. Right after I finished scenario D I typed out the description for scenario E and just couldn’t go any further. War? How do you begin preparing for that? Should you even do that? It really took total procrastination for me to realize that I could, in fact, do some things both practical and magical in this scenario. Although my own response is a little more open ended (I don’t thoroughly describe every little thing down to the last measure and “set” my response for about the first hour after Weyland visits me), I think I get across my point and the direction of my planning quite well.
It is a fine spring day, and you are working in your herb garden, but your mind is not truly on what you are doing. Spring is not just a time for planting, it is also a time for reviewing. The past few years have been peaceful, because the Laird is a vigilant warrior who guards his demesne well. Unfortunately, raids by the pirates from across the water have been on the increase, and this year the Laird has summoned the levy to meet at his castle on the first new moon after Beltane. The Laird is a wise ruler who knows it’s vital to get the planting done or it won’t matter whether the pirates are defeated or not.
Beltane is now past, and the gathering is less than a fortnight away. Your mind is heavy with the thought of the village lads going off to war. You’ve watched most of them grow up. You now it’s likely some of those who march away will not return.
You hear a halloo from around the front of the cottage. Wiping your hands, you walk around front and see Weyland the Smith limping up the path towards you. Weyland’s limp is the result of a wound taken while beating off raiding pirates nearly ten years ago. Then, Weyland led the villagers who had answered the Laird’s summons, and it was he with his hammer who slew the pirate chieftain. This year it will be young Jock Roderick and Rob the Forester who will be leading those who answer the Laird’s call.
Weyland greets you and accepts your offer of both a seat and a stoup of ale. He drains the tankard in one draught and, being the direct man that he is, comes right to the point. Word is that the raiders are stronger this year than ever before. As the acknowledged leader of the village elders, he has come to ask your assistance. What do you do?
What I want to do is hide in my house and never leave it again. The thought of warfare turns my stomach, and the potential loss is unbearable. I can’t stand to think of Eileen without her Jock, or Will (who is still not entirely recovered from his goring months ago) without his accomplice Rob. My heart breaks when I look at my own home and my own fields: what would become of them if we were displaced? How could we make it through the winter if our little community is not able to harvest what we now sow?
I have to take some deep breaths and ground before contemplating what could be magically done, I’m so strained and scattered. Once I do so, I’m better able to see the scenario at hand now: the pirates may, in fact, never come to our community. The Laird is taking preventative action and seeking to engage the pirates before they do more than the light, frequent damage to the coastal towns. Engaging the pirates will likely result in casualties and injuries, but—with numbers and careful strategy—we really stand a chance at surprising and defeating the pirates.
Magically speaking, I could immediately start working on 4 things:
- I can begin anti-casualty workings on the troops. It would be a good thing to send them into battle with some sort of identifying card in case they are mutilated. We could make those and charge them with protective energy so that each man is physically carrying some sort of protective amulet.
- I can do what I can to help boost the men’s confidence in their fighting abilities. I can work some charms or do some energy work with the troops themselves, but I recognize that absent of this, the men derive lots of their confidence from their leaders, from recognizing the strength of their leading ability, the sagacity of their choices, and their fairness in all decisions. It might be wise to focus my attention onto the different troop leaders and do what I can to augment these talents.
- Much of the success of our campaign depends upon having adequate troops and great strategy. I can work on magically facilitating the Laird’s ability to find that strategy and in communicating with the neighboring communities. We might not be able to succeed with just our own men and resources, and the other surrounding communities also have a vested interest in quelling the pirate threat. If we create an alliance with the various communities, who knows? We might be able to bring together enough man power and visible force to send the pirates running for their ships without so much as letting a single arrow fly.
- I can work on coordinating healer training with Abraham the Bonesetter and all interested parties. It might be impossible to make everyone competent physics in their own right, but we could drastically increase our nursing abilities. We could also get multiple people in several communities working on gathering together necessary supplies–cobwebs, garlic, opium poppies, etc—so that we can do our best to help all injured (hopefully our men and pirate alike).
I communicate these ideas to Weyland, and he immediately brightens up.
It hadn’t yet occurred to our Laird to work upon forging alliances with the neighboring Lairds, but Weyland can immediately see the appeal. Not only can we drastically increase our total troop base, but we can coordinate with other village leaders and create a rumor that a large supply trade between communities will happen in a certain place—one that will provide us a strategic high ground and will be outside all our own villages. This can radically decrease the probability of any one village’s property damage. Weyland’s also very excited at the prospect of coordinating a widescale healing plan; after all, he knows more than anyone that had a healer seen to his own battle wound earlier and with better resources, his bone and muscles may well have reknit cleaner and have spared him a decade and more of limping.
Weyland gathers himself up to leave and share this information with the Laird—but I ask him to stop by Abraham’s and as him to come see me as soon as he can first. Abraham and I should start soliciting our own healing contacts as soon as we can, and we should meet to begin planning who we can contact in the different neighboring communities, what resources we will need and can procure, who we can train, how we can set up a field physic station, and the other various logistics.
In the meantime, I can sit and start to plan some of the smaller parts—the things I can mostly do myself.
In thinking of how best to craft the identification card/protective charm, it occurs to me that we oddly have a quantity of holly wood available to the village wood workers, thanks to Rob’s resourcefulness. Holly’s clean, ivory-like white wood would set any woodburned inscriptions into high relief. We could easily cut discs from the branches too small for major wood working, inscribe the soldier’s name on one side and a protective sigil on the other. Add a hole and a cord, and the soldier could easily wear it about his neck. As most of the village is now aware of holly’s protective properties (thanks to Eileen and Jock’s plantings of it around their house), I think most would find the choice of wood to be appropriate. It’s also especially appropriate for a soldier’s protection given how many times it occurs as a wood used in Celtic battle myths. It’s also something used in work done to ease the passage into death—and, in the sad cases where physical protection falters, it would be a blessing to facilitate an easy death for the mortally wounded.
So in charging the tags as protective amulets, I could easily invoke the energy of the holly wood itself. I think I would ultimately like to do more with the actual soldier who will bear the tag, though. If the soldiers can take an active part in creating their amulets, I think they will be more likely to think of them and ‘invoke’ their energy before and during battle. I’m a little loathe to add too much in the way of physical bulk to the tag, for I certainly do not want to hinder our soldiers in any way, and whatever we do it will have to be quick—especially if we amass a quantity of soldiers.
As I ponder this, my eye falls upon my gathering basket. I had intended to spend the afternoon gathering gorse blossoms—which typically bloom most around the spring equinox, but they’re a little late this year—with the purpose of turning the coconut-smelling blooms into gorse wine. It’s a favorite in this community: I only have a few bottles left of what I put up two years ago, but the year-old batch is fully cured in the cellar and just waiting to be drank. Gorse, however, might just be even more of a protective wood than holly, especially if you consider how thorny of a bush it is and how resilient it is: it’s often one of the first plants to retake a burnt field…which is especially frustrating for our herdsmen given that we often burn the fields to get rid of the gorse in the first place!
I think it would be a relatively simple thing to charge a quantity of gorse wine with the express purpose of adding protection to our soldiers, and it would be an equally simple thing to have the soldiers anoint their identification tags/amulets with the wine and have them perform their own protective chants, charges, or prayers over their own amulets. I could even easily guide them to keep in mind their own desired outcome from the battle while they do this—maybe seeing themselves at home safe with their families following the battle, or watching as the blows of a pirate’s sword glance off their shields.
As I think this, it also occurs to me that since the gorse is—for better or worse—everywhere, if (no, when) the Lairds select a piece of land to lure the pirates to for the battle, I and any of my fellow witches could also work to charge the gorse already on the land to help keep our men safe. In fact—based on the law of contagion—we could work the energy flows to have the living gorse on the land augment the protective, gorse-anointed amulets the soldiers wear further target the protective energies to our soldiers and away from the pirates. There’s still a lot to work out in this plan, but I think I’ve got solid outlines here to continue refining upon.
Turning to boosting the leadership and confidence of the troop leaders goes, I could at the very least adapt their identification sigil to something that taps into these qualities more than the strictly protective sigil. I’d like to do something more, though. Maybe make a special badge from materials that facilitate courage, leadership, sagacity, clear thinking, etc.? I’m thinking that might keep them more aware of their special role and its importance. Mundanely, I should probably firmly nudge our community members who have leadership experience in battle—maybe Weyland and Rob—into giving explicit leadership training to the leaders in this campaign. Teaching the leaders how to actively use these qualities will probably go very far, and my own talismans can work to keep that training prominent in their minds whilst under the pressures and stress of real battle.
Just as I start sketching possible plans in this avenue, Abraham knocks on my door. This will have to wait: we have our own planning to begin!