Inspired by and a follow on to Mazy Rings, Troublesome Things which tells the tale of Letty, Mabel and Mrs. Lefay and then What Came After in At An In-Between Place where Letty recruits Polly to her cause, both by Rthstewart but not part of The Stone Gryphon.
The return to Experiment House from Narnia was bedlam. The Head was screeching about lions and convicts. They were all in the infirmary crying like the pathetic bullies they were from nothing but scratches and crop thrashings. Jill was sure none of Them would have managed to have gotten out of Harfang without being eaten the way she herself had and certainly would not have survived killing a witch who had turned into a snake.
As soon as she could, Jill snuck away to hide her fancy clothes in her dormitory, changed into a (mostly) clean uniform, and met Scrub in the dining hall where all the students had been directed. It was crowded and hot and there were a lot tea cups and many adults in uniforms - the Home Guard, the local constables, and even some women from the nearby RAF base - who were all running around with clipboards and whistles.
"They took the Head away in an ambulance," Scrubb muttered.
Then, Matron said they must go back to their rooms and pack because the school was closing for an inquiry. Jill wanted to start crying. Both Mum and Papa were far away doing things in the War so there wasn't anyone at home -- they had sent her away to school just so they could do their patriotic duty. If a student didn't have anywhere to go, they would be sent someplace else with "Friends of Experiment House." This sounded miserable as Jill didn't think Experiment House had any friends. She really didn't want to contact Grandmother Doris because she kept about a dozen Siamese cats and two bulldogs in a tiny flat in Manchester that smelled like urine and lye.
Scrubb looked miserable. "I don't want to go to Harold and Alberta's and all my cousins are still in school, too."
They'd just gotten back after months and months away, though they only left that morning. They had saved the Prince of Narnia, almost been eaten by Giants, and battled a giant snake.
I don't want to go to Grandmother's. I don't want to go to Grandmother's. I want to stay with Scrubb. Think of something, Scrubb!
Scrubb suddenly smacked himself in the head. "I know, Pole! We can go see the Professor! That's who Peter stayed with over the hols!"
That's how they ended up on a very late train to Oxford. Scrubb fell asleep next to her on the seat and Jill knew she was exhausted but just couldn't settle. Something seemed different. She scrubbed her eyes but the look of things stayed the same, that is, everything looked different.
Why did that man at the end of the car have something thick, black and pulsing in his chest?
Why did it look like there were things with wings and fangs outside the train, flitting about the countryside they were rolling through? She didn't think they were moths or owls.
Why was Scrubb so clear and everything else so blurry?
She kept rubbing her eyes but it didn't go away. I must be really tired.
When they finally stumbled off the train - it was well past midnight - she knew immediately who was meeting them. Professor Kirke was tall, old, thin, and gray, with spectacles and a kindly manner.
Miss Plummer was dressed like a man in khakis, a tie and boots and she was a kaleidoscope of colour. The shaggy black and white spaniel that was with Miss Plummer wasn't a dog.
Jill started giggling. I'm so tired, I'm hallucinating.
As clear as a train whistle or a school bell, she heard someone say, "Oh, my poor child. Welcome. Don't be frightened." She realized it was either Miss Plummer or the dog talking to her, even though their lips weren't moving. And dogs didn't talk here, only in Narnia.
"Pole?" she heard Scrubb say, but it sounded like he was talking from the bottom of a well. "Pole, this is Professor Digory Kirke. He went to Narnia first. And Miss Polly Plummer…"
She started swaying on her feet and the ground flew up and hit her in the nose.
Jill blinked awake and tried to remember where she was. I'm in bed. I'm still wearing my clothes. Where am I?
She sat up. It was quite late, probably early afternoon given how bright it was. The world still looked different, all blurry.
Her nose hurt. She probed it and felt a bandage on top of it. Her bag was in the corner on a chair. The room was white and very messy. There was a desk that looked to have been hurriedly shoved into in the corner that was covered with piles of paper and mouldy texts. They had planned to go to the Professor's cottage in Oxford so that must be where she was. She had never been to a Professor's home but imagined this clutter was what it would look like.
"Scrubb?" she called out.
A minute later she heard footsteps and a knock. "Jill, it's Polly. May I come in?"
She still had to blink and then shaded her eyes. Polly was carrying a cup and saucer and still looked like a rainbow.
"I'm sorry, Jill, that's just the way of it at first. You will become accustomed to it and we need to get some proper food into you right away." Polly set the teacup down on the desk.
"Become accustomed to what? All the colours?"
"Among other things, yes. Why don't you have a wash and a fresh change of clothes and then come join me and Digory in the kitchen. Eustace has gone to meet with your cousins to tell them about Caspian dying. He didn't want to leave you, but I thought you needed sleep more. You will be able to meet the Pevensies later."
"Thank you, I'll be right there."
The tea helped though it was bitter and needed more milk. Scrubbing her face and brushing her teeth and hair helped, too. She remembered her tea cup and saucer and careful balancing them, since they were the good china, left the spare bedroom and followed the voices. As the cottage was very small, she wouldn't have had a problem finding the kitchen regardless.
"I do not approve, Polly, but you knew that already," she heard the Professor say.
"While I don't need your approval to proceed when we both know this is what's best, your support would be helpful, Digory."
"That you have, Pols. I wish only it were not necessary."
"The blame falls with her and with them so don't you start..."
Jill's here, another voice said, female, but it wasn't Polly. And it was like she heard it someplace other than her ears.
"You should have said something, Sadie!" Polly snapped.
I did. There was a big yawn.
"Hello, Jill," the Professor said. "Do join us. We have eggs, real ones, and toast for you."
Jill stepped into the kitchen, feeling very confused.
"Did I hear the dog talk?"
Yes. My name is Sadie you silly human.
"Please, Jill, sit and I can try to answer some of your questions and you can answer some of ours," Polly said. "Let me refill your teacup while Digory gets you a plate."
The kitchen was very small and Jill had the sense that it normally was for the Professor only. Polly was sitting on a stool and Sadie was crammed under the table.
Now that she was awake, she noticed something else very strange, besides how she could hear a dog and Miss Plummer was multicoloured. She knew that Miss Plummer and the Professor had both been to Narnia a long time ago when they were children by using the magic rings. Scrubb had told her all about it. Miss Plummer, though, looked much younger than the Professor. Miss Plummer's hair wasn't gray yet and her face wasn't wrinkled and her hands didn't have deep vein lines. Maybe it had to do with the rainbow colours.
She took the empty seat at the little table and Miss Plummer poured more tea, in Jill's cup and in her own.
"Thank you." She helped herself to milk - she'd remembered to bring her ration booklet and would have to give it to the Professor.
Miss Plummer was stirring her own tea cup with a little spoon. Except the spoon was stirring by itself.
"You are a show-off, Pols," the Professor said and set a big plate in front of her with two whole eggs.
The Professor sat, a little stiffly, in the chair next to her; the chair legs scraped the floor and Sadie grumbled.
Jill stared at the food; the eggs had a nice runny yolk and the toast was very thick with a bit of plum jam.
"Is something wrong, Jill?" Miss Plummer asked.
"Are the eggs too runny? I can..."
"No Professor, that's not it. I just am remembering that yesterday, I had powdered eggs at school and then weeks and weeks on the moors eating smoked eel and biscuit, and then nearly getting eaten by the Giants. But also yesterday, there was a wonderful breakfast with the Centaurs in their cave and before that, I ate pigeon pie, cold ham, salad, and honey cakes with Rilian, Scrubb and Puddleglum in the Lady's house."
At her feet, Sadie growled.
"What?" she asked, looking down at the dog who wasn't really a dog.
"We'll get to that," Polly said and pushed Sadie with her toe. "And you either be helpful or be quiet."
Jill sniffed. "It's a lot to take in."
Miss Plummer's spoon stopped stirring. She took it out of the teacup and handed it to her. "Why don't you try, Jill?"
"Is it a magic spoon?"
Jill set the spoon in her teacup. "What am I supposed to do?"
Tell it what you want it to do.
Of course it's me. Tell it what you want it to do. Keep it simple at first.
"Move," Jill told the spoon.
It did. So much so that her tea sloshed out on the saucer.
The spoon stopped and rested on the side of her cup.
"Is that magic?" She looked up at Miss Plummer and the Professor. "Did I just do magic?"
Sadie sneezed in a way that sounds just like, Why are humans always so dim?
The Professor started polishing his spectacles on his sleeve. "So it would seem. This is new, since you returned from Narnia?"
"Yes, Sadie, we know. I saw it as well."
Professor Kirke slid the plate back to her. "Now, Jill it is important that you eat."
She didn't feel hungry and felt now that she might be sick.
Eat. One bite.
Jill did and immediately started feeling better. The colors weren't so vibrant and she now realized that it had all been making her head hurt. It was delicious and she dug in.
"Better, isn't it?" Miss Plummer asked.
She cleaned her plate and sopped up the last of the egg with the toast. "Thank you, Professor. That was the best egg and toast I have ever had."
"Would you like more, Jill?"
"No thank you."
The Professor took the plate away to the basin -- the same place as the other breakfast dishes -- and sat back down.
"Now, Jill," Miss Plummer began in a very serious tone, "Digory and I have some very important questions to ask and you mustn't be afraid to be, and really you must be, very truthful."
"You have done nothing wrong but you have come back from an extraordinary experience different than before and we need information so that we may advise you and help you make good decisions."
She appreciated the Professor saying these nice things but he was polishing his spectacles again even though they were very clean.
"About the magic, you mean?"
"Among other things, yes," the Professor replied and glanced at Miss Plummer.
She really didn't want to talk about flubbing the Signs and not listening to Puddleglum but Jill nodded. Lying afterwards would only make it worse.
"So, let's first go over your new powers," Polly said. "You only noticed them once you returned yesterday?"
"And from what Eustace told us last night, you were in the company of the Lady of the Green Kirtle, at least twice?"
Again she nodded. "Do you think my being with her made me like her?"
"Not like her," the Professor put in quickly. "But, we've seen before that for someone who is already inclined to magic, being around magic will often bring the talent forth."
Magic. Real magic. Jill fingered the spoon again and said, "Move." It bounced off the table and onto the floor. "Oh! Sorry!"
Show off, Sadie muttered.
Miss Plummer reached down and picked it up.
"It seems, Jill," the Professor said very kindly, "that Narnia has turned you into a Witch."
Before Jill could even think of what to say to this extraordinary revelation, Miss Plummer stood. "Now that you've had a good meal, it's time we were off."
Sadie said Finally and scrambled to her feet.
"Jill, you aren't the first girl who this has happened to. There are some other ladies here in town that you should meet."
Professor Kirke cleared his throat. "Ahem, Polly, are you quite sure? Letty is one thing but Mrs. Lefay is not…"
"Jill helped defeat what appears to be one of the Fae Nine who's been meddling in Narnia, again. She can manage Mrs. Lefay. And if there's a problem, that's why Letty always has the iron railroad spike in her pocket."
And if there's a problem, I'll eat Lance.
I am a Witch.
Jill really didn't know what to make of all this. She was a Witch. Was it really that surprising? Narnia was magical, after all.
They were walking across town from the Professor's cottage near his College. She'd never seen like this before, with all colors and things thudding and quivering in people. She spotted the occasional strange creature peeking out from behind lacy curtains in flats and shops on the street. They were small and she glimpsed flat noses and pointed ears. Some of them waved and others seemed very shy and hid away. She was very surprised to see little figures skulking about near the drains for they reminded her of the gnomes of the Underland. There were shiny and fluttery things in the trees that weren't birds.
"Please call me Polly, Jill. Witches are on a first name basis."
She didn't want to point so she whispered, "Do you see the same things I am, the faces in the windows, like over there in booksellers? And how people like that woman going into the shop has an angry red splotch on her chest?"
"Every Witch, in my experience, sees different things, Jill. I do see the creatures you mention and it was very good of you to not point for they are quite shy. We have a veritable infestation of kindly, industrious Brownies on Oxford's High Street and I think word has gotten out that there is a new Witch and all want a glimpse of you."
Jill was very glad she hadn't pointed rudely. Even she knew that Brownies were bashful and very hard-working. It was very flattering that they wanted to see her.
"I see colours as you do, I suspect, but I don't see any person with splotches. You plainly left Narnia with a skill in spellcasting and perhaps you are seeing illness or debility in some way -- a healer would be very useful to our work. My own skills are in finding, divining, and some spellwork."
Polly took long strides and was carrying a heavy carpet bag and swinging an umbrella like it was a sword. It was making her think of Mary Poppins. Who was also, she supposed, a Witch.
"Did your skill come like mine did, after Narnia?"
"Yes, though mine came on much more gradually. We've had cunning folk in my family tree though not recently. I learned the craft from Letty Ketterley, who is Digory's aunt. I've adventured with Letty for many years." Polly stepped carefully over the kerb and Jill saw two long fingers retreat back into the drain and heard a low grumbling complaint.
Miss Plummer smiled. "You are quite the celebrity, Jill."
"Sorry," she whispered to the gnome in the drain. "Perhaps later we might meet."
"Letty's home is near the Oxford Castle. She's found it's helpful for managing Mrs. Lefay if she can always have a view of her former prison."
This led to a lot of questions.
"What was Mrs. Lefay in prison for?"
"The operative question was which time. As you would expect, Mrs. Lefay has been gaoled for being a Witch. The usual nonsense, though with a grain of truth. Digory found in some mouldy gaol records that she was imprisoned for cursing a cow to give sour milk. She has also had to stand at the dock for selling love potions, that either didn't work as promised, or did work as promised, with tragic consequences. Mrs. Lefay is very dodgy."
"Letty has taken it upon herself to keep Mrs. Lefay from instigating further mischief. She made things quite difficult for Letty and her sister, Mabel, who was Digory's mother. Digory is absolutely correct that you must not trust Mrs. Lefay at all. Her magic is not very strong anymore which is good but she is both very clever and very wise. And those like Mrs. Lefay are odd and do not see morals and virtue as we do. She is quite dangerous, in her own way."
"Mrs. Lefay, is she really..." Jill could not quite bring herself to say it, even though she was now a Witch and she had been to Narnia, well, technically mostly she'd been in Ettinsmoor, but the point remained.
"That is an excellent question, Jill. She is very, very old, ageless, really. She once told Letty she had been banished. She cannot touch iron. And she hates the Fae Nine. Not that I would trust anything Mrs. Lefay says on the matter, but I think she was Fae, possibly one of the original Nine, and they cast her out. If she was once Morgan le Fay, perhaps she was banished for her behavior with King Arthur."
"The Fae Nine?" Polly had mentioned them before.
"Another excellent question. You'll learn a lot more about them - the Fae Nine are our work, Letty's and mine. Digory has spent many years in the Bodleian researching them for us. They are profoundly magical, very powerful Fairies who have assumed many shapes over time and relish in causing calamity. Letty first encountered them in the guise of Muses in Atlantis, not coincidentally, right before a volcano erupted and the whole city fell into the sea. Digory believes these Fae were the Nine Witches of Caer Lloyw and they pop up all over the world and throughout Britain wrecking havoc wherever they go."
Jill was seeing where this was going. "And in Narnia, too?"
"Yes. Eustace told you about how Digory and I used the rings and brought Jadis into Narnia by accident and that Aslan let Digory take an apple from the Tree of Protection to save his mother?"
"You think Jadis was one of the Fae Nine?"
She's asking good questions, Sadie put in. Maybe she's not as stupid as typical humans.
She's right here and can hear you, Jill retorted.
"Letty is sure of it. Letty thinks that Jadis was the same Fae she encountered in Atlantis who tried to steal Mabel and then put a Fae curse on her. That curse would have killed Mabel without the magic apple. I think the Lady you describe is another of this lot, one of the Fae Nine that we've not seen before and obviously very dangerous."
They walked briskly across the Castle Mill Stream. Jill agreed that having to stare out at the Oxford Castle and prison would be very grim indeed. Polly led her to a row of houses along the water. One in the middle looked unexpectedly bright and gay, which was surprising with the War going on. The garden was very tidy and beautifully blooming. It wasn't what she expected a Witch's house to look like.
There was plaque at the gate that read TLSDSH Society and beneath that there was a sign, "Unless an emergency, inquiries may be directed to the back door, 6 o'clock to 8 o'clock in the evenings on the first Monday, second Saturday, and third Thursday of the month."
"TLSDSH?" Jill asked, tracing the brightly polished brass letters with her finger.
"The Ladies Spellcasting, Divining and Sorceress Hunting Society," Polly said with a little grimace. "It was Letty's mad idea. The visiting hours are for people who come by for potions, poseys, charms, and spells."
Polly rapped on the door with her umbrella.
Honestly. Sadie, sounding very impatient, pushed the door with her nose.
The door swung open and the entryway to the row house was as neat as the garden. It was long and narrow and there were pictures on the walls, flowers in the vases, and umbrellas in the stand. There was lots of lace and doilies and a smell of dusty, dried roses.
"Yes, Letty. And I've brought a new recruit!"
There was a heavy footstep on the floorboards and a tall, broad woman with an eye patch and gray hair tied into a tight bun emerged from a room. She was wearing a long, dramatic flowing coat that made her look like an actress.
"Oh you are brand new, aren't you my dear?" Letty's voice was deep. She put out her strongly calloused hand and Jill shook it, a little timidly. Letty was very intimidating even though she glowed the same way Polly did. "I'm Letty Ketterley."
"Jill Pole, ma'am. I am very pleased to meet you. I've just returned from Narnia with Scrubb and seemed to have learned magic."
Polly put a nice hand on her shoulder. "Jill helped defeat a woman who kidnapped a Prince, killed a Queen, was in league with Giants, and turned herself into a snake."
"And when she died, a whole city broke apart and fell into an underground sea," Jill thought to add, given what Polly had told her about Atlantis.
"Just so," Polly said. "I think we have another one, Letty."
"Eh, who's there?"
Mrs. Lefay - it could only be she - hobbled into the corridor leaning heavily on a cane with a bone handle. She was very short and round and her face from the front was almost square but when she turned to the side, her nose was so long and her chin jutted out so far, they almost met. Her colors were muted and sickly. She was holding a gray thing under her arm that was supposed to be a cat but was really some sort of terrible, misshapen, and very miserable thing that was just horrid to look at. He was and wasn't a cat in the same way that Sadie was and wasn't a dog. But Sadie wasn't sad or abused like this.
That's Lance, Sadie said. No matter what he did, he didn't deserve this.
"You need more to eat, Jill," Letty says decisively and a little overloud. "You've still got fairy food clinging to you."
By the time they retreated to the sitting room in the back of the house, there was a plate of sandwiches and lemonade set out on the tea table. Jill spotted a little pair of kindly brown eyes peering at her from a mousehole in the floorboard. Thank you, she whispered and then politely looked away. When she looked back, the eyes were gone but there was a plate of biscuits and a pyramid of plums on the tea table.
There were several birdcages in the room on the sideboard under the big picture window that held a lovely aspect of the Oxford Castle and prison. Like everything else, the room was very neat and tidy. It smelled fresh and there were pretty flowers and frilly curtains.
She was famished even though she had had a big breakfast not that long ago. Jill dug into the cheese, cucumber and tomato sandwiches. She didn't like Letty's talk of "fairy food" because everyone knew you didn't eat the food any magical being offered...
She sat down heavily on the elegant divan with a sandwich in each hand.
"I ate fairy food, didn't I? At the Lady's house."
It didn't stop her from gulping down the whole sandwich and starting on the next.
"You did," Polly replied, very kindly, sitting next to her. "You're fine, fortunately."
Sadie came and settled at her feet. You're fine for now.
"It's why we're stuffing you with wholesome food and it's very good that you have a healthy appetite for it," Letty said, helping herself to sandwiches. "But I'm afraid you'll be carrying that taint with you for some time."
"Life or love," Mrs. Lefay cackled.
Sadie growled and one of the birds in the cages on the sideboard rustled.
"What do you mean?"
"Magic always comes with a price," Polly said. "For Witches the price is usually in the form of a choice that, at some point you will have to make for yourself." Polly poured some lemonade and handed her the glass.
Being in magical households did have their advantages. The food was delicious and far more bountiful than what she was accustomed to in England now with the War. It was probably the Brownies.
Letty was daintily nibbling at the biscuits, which looked a little funny given what a rangy woman she was with the eye patch, broad shoulders and big, booted feet. "Mrs. Lefay refers to a choice a fairy may offer you, where you must choose between a longer life or love. That's not always how it presents itself, though."
Jill looked between Polly and Letty and, how despite their worldly experience and confidence, they appeared younger than her own mother. And Letty was the Professor's aunt, too. And neither woman was married. They were both very happy. "You both chose life, didn't you?"
"When the time came, yes," Polly said with a fond look at Letty.
"I've never regretted it," Letty replied.
"I never had a choice," Mrs. Lefay mumbled. She was gnawing on a sandwich gripped tightly in one of her claw-like hands. Lance tried to sneak off her lap but she dragged him back by the neck and kept petting him.
Jill looked away from the very unpleasant sight as one of the birds rattled in a cage again. Except, now that she took a closer look, she realized they weren't decorative birdcages and the things inside them weren't birds.
The cages - there were three of them - were heavy, wrought iron with big padlocks on them. One of the things trapped inside fluttered its blue-gold pearly, translucent wings and snarled, exposing a mouthful of needle-like teeth.
Mrs. Lefay laughed. "How do you like our prisoners?!"
Jill gulped down her sandwich and washed it down the lemonade. "Are those fairies?!" They were hideous and plainly very wicked, and though their outward colours were pretty, inwardly they were twisted, gnarled, and colourless.
"Not fairies, precisely." Polly said between mouthfuls of cheese sandwich. "Those are three of the Fae Nine that Letty and I have captured. You can't actually kill them, though you can subdue them with iron and the iron cages weaken them and prevent them from enchanting us."
"How? Where?" Jill asked, with hundreds of other questions immediately springing to mind.
"We are the Ladies' Spellcasting, Divining and Sorceress Hunting Society. Hunting sorceresses is what we do." Letty raised her glass of lemonade. "Cheers."
Jill turned her head for a moment and the tea table was cleared of the sandwiches and there was a steaming pot of tea and tiny lemon cakes decorated with violets. She poured a little milk into a saucer, walked it carefully over to the mousehole, and whispered another thank you. As she turned away, out of the corner of her eye, she spied a little hand pulling the saucer into the hole, somehow shrinking the saucer, or expanding the hole, so it fit. Magic was really a remarkable thing.
They all settled in again. Jill was in a big wingback with a very elegant roses print and Polly and Letty very close to one another on the divan. Mrs. Lefay was slumped over in a rocking chair, with a hand wrapped possessively around Lance who was trapped in her lap. She was snoring a little and Jill wondered if she might be asleep but caught a glimpse of her sharp and brightly alert gray eyes.
"So, Jill, tell us about the Lady of the Green Kirtle," Polly said, using her fingers on a spoon this time, instead of magic, to stir her tea.
Maybe Polly had been showing off that morning.
So Jill told them all about how lovely and musical the Lady was, how enchanting her voice, and how utterly cruel and wicked she was. Rilian had been ensorcelled to believe he was in love with her, which made Letty and Polly exchange many dark looks and Sadie growled. Jill felt as if she was missing something important here but did not ask about it as the whole of it made her very uncomfortable and she was certain it was all utterly vile. Letty and Polly were very interested in how the Lady had bewitched them with the magic dust and the lute.
After telling all of it, and answering their many, very clever questions, Jill felt absolutely wrung out and helped herself to two cakes and another cup of tea. She wondered how she could have ever thought that the Lady's cold ham and pigeon pie were delicious. It took really good food to make you really appreciate how bad magic food was. She knew it wasn't a mistake she would make again.
Polly leaned back in the divan and crossed her legs. "What do you think, Letty? That business with Rilian is new."
"Doing it for political gain, yes. The kidnapping and seduction reminds me of what we saw Erato try in Molimo last year."
At the mention of "Erato," one of the Fae in the cages rattled the bars and hissed.
Sadie growled and the Fae quieted.
"Do any of the Fae transform into things, like snakes?" Jill asked.
"That's also new," Polly said and tapped her fingertip to her lips. "We'll need to brush up on our transfiguration and summoning spellwork, Letty."
Letty put her arm over the back of the divan. "It doesn't sound like Terpsichore trying to get her Ninth back."
The tone in her voice was so harsh, Jill understood better how much Letty probably really hated the Fae who had nearly killed her sister.
Mrs. Lefay stirred in her chair. "Calliope. The use of voice and music to enchant. That's Calliope. When I knew her, she was Tyrone, but she's the same. Not seen her since Caer Lloyw."
"Yes," Letty said slowly. "That does make sense. Knowing her name will make it easier to find out where she's slunk off to in the Wood."
"Excuse me, Polly, but we killed her. If she was this Calliope or Tyrone person, we killed her. The serpent," Jill shuddered, "was hacked to bits."
Mrs. Lefay cackled in her corner.
"Would that that were so, Jill," Letty said, sounding very sad and glaring at Mrs. Lefay. "We've not found a way to kill one of the Fae Nine, Jill." Letty pointed to her own eyepatch and gestured at the cages. "It's not for want of trying."
"Even Aslan couldn't kill Jadis," Polly said. "We've seen her in three..."
"Four," Letty said curtly. "Terpischore has escaped up to four times. She knows we watch Narnia closely and didn't dare go herself."
"But how do you find them?" Jill asked. "If she's not in Narnia and has somehow gone someplace else that's not here, what do you do?"
"Oh, that's the easier part!" Polly exclaimed. "It's the same way Digory and I first went to Narnia. We use the rings and travel to the Wood Between The Worlds. I use my divining rod and we find likely worlds they've slunk off to, jump into the pools, and go."
"It can take a prodigiously long time," Letty said with a sigh. "Polly and I have been hunting them for 30 years."
"34, Letty, dear."
Letty smiled and nodded. She was very pretty when she smiled at Polly. "We'll need Digory to get back to the Bod and see if he can find anything about Calliope and her weaknesses and the sort of world she might be hiding in. I want to give some thought to what creatures might be summoned to subdue a serpent, assuming that's a power she's chosen to cultivate."
"Mongoose?" Polly suggested.
"A big bird," Jill said thinking of how being able to swoop in and attack from above would have helped. "Maybe with iron talons?" She could suddenly see a big eagle in her mind, swiveling its claws forward to slash at the serpent's eyes.
"Goodness, Jill!" Polly exclaimed.
She blinked just in time to see a great bird flap her wings in the middle of the drawing room and then disappear in a puff of white smoke.
Letty clapped her hands. "Oh well done!"
The Fae rattled their cages and snarled.
This was very exciting. Jill jumped to her feet, scattering crumbs and feeling badly for the Brownies she just created work for. "I'm ready!" An iron poker appeared in her hand and she swung it about experimentally. It felt a little light. Maybe it wasn't real yet.
She was eager to dash off to hunt the Fae who would have destroyed Narnia. She would make them pay for all the murder they had done.
But Polly and Letty were taking out notebooks and pencils from their pockets. "Research first, my dear," Letty said. "Hunting after."
She slumped back into the armchair and dropped the poker; it dissolved before it could hit the floor.
Polly held up the teapot. "Might I warm your cup, Jill? And then I'd like to see if we can get that bird you summoned to take on a more corporeal and permanent form."
A special thanks to my child and Liriel for keeping me from making a really dreadful and deeply ignorant mistake.
The Nine Witches are found in many sources, including Nordic and Celtic folklore and mythology.