“Mother Freegrass, This is Princess Raniel, who has come here on a quest!”, said Mother Raniel and the young princess got to her feet, bowed from the waist and invited the imperious Mother Freegrass to sit on the newly-vacated stool with a smooth gesture using her left arm. She drew her left arm to her side quickly and repeated the gesture with her right hand, as was befitting for a Lady of such stature. Mother Freegrass smiled at her, removed her cloak, folded it across her knees and sat down. " So Princess Raniel, tell me all about this quest of yours please, to see if I can be of any assistance or lighten your load by any means". Her voice was clear with just a tiny hint of laughter, like the gurgle of a distant mountain stream. Princess Raniel looked at the crone for help, but the crone was buzy tending to the fire and seemed completely absorbed by the task. She was on her own here, Baronness Serapin’s lessons hadn’t prepared her for this either. She muttered a croaky “Milady”, then wrung her hands in front of her, not knowing how to continue. Then Miracle of miracles, there was another knock at the door So everyone’s attention was drawn towards it. The crone rose quickly and headed to open it. She opened the top half to reveal an old crook-nosed hag, covered by a dirty grey shawl. The new arrival smiled crookedly and said " Widow Raniel, I’m here for that potion, I thought you were expecting me and didn’t know you had “company”. " The crone opened the other half of the door and invited the hag inside. " Widow Welby, pleased to see you as always, and allow me to introduce you to a distant relative, Princess Raniel"
The hag crossed the treshold, giving a low muttering groan, accompanied by a strange jerky movement of her left hand as she stepped inside. She headed straight towards the corner in which Princess Raniel cowered, holding both hands out in front of her, left palm down, right palm upward. Raniel knew what to do here, this was how Widow Kava had always greeted her! She put her own arms in front of her, crossed them above the wrists and received the hags hands into her own as they simultaneously mouthed “the secret oath which must not be spoken” The Widow looked at her with a heavy-lidded penetrating stare , held her a moment and then released hands and eyes simultaneously. They had exchanged, and Raniel felt relieved that ,for once, she seemed to have got something right. Then the Widow turned to greet the other ladies in a similar fashion. Before she could advance towards them Mother Freegrass approached her, left hand outstretched towards the Widow’s left shoulder. She let her hand rest there for but an instant, then turning sharply, she withdrew towards the fireplace. Old Raniel then greeted the widow in a similar fashion and the two ladies sat again near the fire. " Willow Welby", said old Raniel suddenly, “Change has come and And I shall no longer be able to provide you with the means to cast warts on the face of Lady Goosebery’s eldest daughter, as you expected. Your Wanda will just have to come up with some other charms to win the Heart of Master Kerradons youngest son. Since the arrival of Princess Raniel, I am now working with Mother Freegrass and her sisters of the healing and caring arts. You are dismissed”
Part 7 of the Raniel saga