Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a chapter. There’s good reason for that, it’s nothing bad but it’s also something I don’t want to go in to here, though I might blog about it later.
Meanwhile, mysteries are being resolved and some questions at least are being answered in…
Chapter 79 – In His Dreams
The more Mrs Woosencraft explained, the more intrigued Foxy became. As her hostility faded she occasionally interjected comments of her own. She even went out to the kitchen to refill the kettle.
‘Why don’t you sit in your chair?’ Foxy said on her return.
Gratefully Mrs Woosencraft sank into the cushions.
‘Move up, Tim,’ Foxy said.
Tim lifted Morse onto his lap. The cat’s eyes never left Foxy and she frowned back at it.
‘Never mind him,’ Mrs Woosencraft said. ‘He’ll get used to you.’
Tim didn’t find Mrs Woosencraft’s explanations all that easy to follow. There were long stories and there were long stories, hers seemed to be recapitulating most of human history. He had a few questions of his own.
‘You still haven’t said why you really wanted to find Foxy.’
Mrs Woosencraft pursed her lips. ‘Because I’m old. I’m the last keeper of Deg Naw Wyth, and only an average one at that. I’ve never seen Deep Magic and this felt like my last chance before I well, you know – cark it, brown bread, pushing up the daisies.’
‘Deg Naw Wyth. What does that mean?’
‘It means Ten, Nine, Eight, and the name is a trick because all of those numbers can be broken. It came up from Africa centuries past and took root here. Once– Oh, that was just once and an age before my time. All that’s left are a few fragments – lucky seven, everything I say three times is true.’
‘Un Deg Naw,’ Tim said thoughtfully. ‘You named your cats after numbers?’
‘Well, yes. It was tempting to be clever and call them things like Hilbert and Keith and Heegner, but to be honest it made them easier to remember.’
‘It’s not very affectionate.’
Mrs Woosencraft shook her head. ‘They don’t mind, and they’ve got their own names. Secret ones like ‘Scrwch’ or ‘Yrowl’ they don’t want us to know about. We were all in this together. They wanted to see a mermaid. Don’t ask me why, cats just like looking at them. Me ? All I wanted was to meet someone who knew one of the old ways.’
Foxy took over. ‘Our magics don’t overlap, we’d lost contact. My mother warned me about cats but she didn’t know why, it was just something we knew. We had forgotten they could be a sign, a request for a meeting.’
‘Such a shame.’ Mrs Woosencraft shook her head sadly. ‘Poor little scrap.’
‘What happened to her?’ Tim said.
‘I did,’ Foxy said regretfully. ‘I’d only just come ashore and straightaway she was there, following me. I decided better safe than sorry.’
Tim could believe it. He remembered her reaction to finding Morse in her flat and shifted uncomfortably. It was a difficult thing to discover the woman you– He had to know. ‘Did you–?’
Foxy shook her head emphatically. ‘I scared her off. A lot.’
Mrs Woosencraft squeezed Foxy’s hand. ‘We’ve both made mistakes. I want you to call me Dot. All my friends do.’
Despite their reconciliation Mrs Woosencraft was exceedingly glum.
‘The skill is gone. Nobody is interested in the old ways. I don’t have a student, not even a chubby little goth girl in black lace, purple hair and a nose ring. Soles on their boots like breeze blocks, some of them. Nineteen isn’t very far to go at all. Ethel managed twenty-three and a bit of twenty nine. Her tutor mastered thirty-one. These days hardly anyone even knows their thirteen times table.’
‘There isn’t enough room in our minds for everything,’ Foxy said. ‘New things push aside the old. Then the new becomes old and the very old ways return in a new form.’
‘I think she’s right,’ Tim said. ‘Foxy and I managed a divination with maps. And I–’ He became self-conscious under Mrs Woosencraft’s suddenly penetrating gaze. ‘I can make things happen in my dreams.’
Mrs Woosencraft cocked her head. ‘Tell me more.’
Tim narrated his experiences with Asklepios.
‘That’s right,’ Foxy said.
‘You knew all this too?’ Mrs Woosencraft exclaimed.
‘I was going to get around to it.’
Mrs Woosencraft flapped her hands with excitement. ‘Show me his pendant.’
Tim pulled it out from his shirt. Mrs Woosencraft cupped her hands around it without touching.
‘Hmm,’ she said. ‘Whatever was there, it’s gone.’
‘You don’t believe me,’ Tim said.
‘I do, but I’d like to see you do it.’
‘It’s not that easy,’ Tim said. ‘I have to be asleep.’
Mrs Woosencraft settled back into her chair. ‘Well, I think it’s just about time for my nap.’
To be continued…