Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe

The Witch's House

Jack the woodsman had seen some strange things in his time but watching the half naked Market Controller Humpty Dumpty stagger through the forest like ten drunken gnomes would have to rate as one of more amusing.
Jack was well aware of who the egg was as well as his reputation around the market and his relationship with the King.
Jack knew the King considered him a vital resource against corruption in the busy markets. Jack also knew the King had no idea that Humpty Dumpty was probably the most corrupt individual in the market - maybe even the whole Kingdom.
Jack was also unaware that Humpty Dumpty had been pushed off the market wall weeks ago and was technically dead.
Sometimes his isolation in the forest meant Jack’s knowledge of current affairs left a lot to be desired.

Jack’s concern for Humpty Dumpty was near non-existent because he knew his own sub-contractors had been subjected to his stand over tactics until it was mentioned who really owned the stall, then things seemed to smooth over rather quickly. Jack may be absent from the Kingdom but his reputation loomed large.

Jack assumed wrongly that Humpty had taken on someone even more corrupt than himself and had been dumped out here as a warning. If he was still around in a day or two Jack would look after him. Right now, no one was looking for him and it might teach him a valuable lesson.

Jack went back to his chopping as Humpty disappeared out of sight.
Dumpty arrived at the gingerbread house only minutes after passing Jack.

Jack was unaware that the house was even there even though he had passed it many times. A strong charm protected the house, which made it invisible to all human adults and their five senses.
The Necromancer’s suspicions had been correct in part.

Humpty filled with the scent of Fairy knocked on the door. Normally he would have just run at it and knocked it down to get to the meal on the other side but the voice in his head told him it would be polite to knock.
Inside an old lady with vacant eyes was pushing a tray of shortbread biscuits through the bars of a suspended cage that contained a plump boy. In the corner, quietly weeping stood a young girl holding a broom. A black cat with one white ear and a leather collar with silver bell was lying on top of the mantlepiece enjoying the warmth from the fireplace below.

On hearing the knock the cat stretched out, the tiny bell on its collar giving a little tinkle. The old lady with the vacant eyes responding to the bell, looked up and made her way towards the door.

On opening the door Humpty pushed the old lady aside and attacked the cat. Being caught totally off guard, the cat was gobbled down without resistance.

Humpty finished off by spitting the collar at the old lady who was still standing at the door totally emotionless.

As the collar bounced off the floor the little bell tinkled again and the old lady’s eyes lost their glaze and her emotionless visage changed to one of horror and she started screaming at Humpty, the young boy and girl, taking this as a cue, joined in.

The Necromancer had been partially right, children had been lured to the house but the old lady was not a witch, she was a slave to an enchanted cat who controlled her to do his dirty work.

Humpty instinctively knew this and after eating the cat had broken the spell holding the old lady.
She then did something that would change the future of all in the Kingdom forever.

She picked up the collar.

The old lady may have been a prisoner to the enchanted cat for all these years and although she had done things she would never forgive herself for, her self preservation instincts and fear were strong and she knew the collar had power.

So, trying to protect herself she tinkled the bell again in a misguided attempt to get rid of the monstrous rotting egg thing that was standing opposite her and scaring her (and the children) silly.

This action would be life changing for all in the room, for the old lady it meant her life would be considerable shorter. Humpty reacted to the bell and snapped at it biting off the old lady’s hand.
The voice in Humpty’s head cried out in glee.
As Humpty swallowed the hand he again spat out the collar.
At that point, everything changed.

The Necromancer had been played like a game of cards.
For the first time since he was reborn Humpty began to smile as he hungrily eyed the old lady and the children with renewed interest.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

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