A Wyrde Woods Tale
By Nils Visser
Part 4: Goody Malone to the Rescue
“What the rabbits…” The Stupes intuitively aimed their torches at the silvered bottle, which promptly exploded into the brilliance of a flash of lightning.
Joy removed her thumb from the bottle’s opening and began to chant, “Fus sceal feran, fæge sweltan. Mod sceal thee mare, thee ure mægen lytlath.”
“Witch!” one of the Stupes hissed, and stumbled backward.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” the leader snarled, but he too backed off a little.
Joy ignored them, her focus entirely on the ancient words, her tone increasingly exuberant. “Sitte ge, sigewif, sigath to eortha! Næfre ge wilde to Wyrdwuda fleogan! Næfre ge wilde to Wyrdwuda fleogan!”
She looked at the bottle expectantly, as did all of the others.
Joy’s heart sank.
“Blimey,” Maisy said.
“Right,” the Stupe leader said. “The nidgets have had their fun. GRAB THEM!”
The other Stupes moved at the children, to halt almost immediately as Will began to shout.
“Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive!”
Maisy joined him “It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive!”
Nan Malone’s bottle, however, remained bereft of any kind of animation.
“Fools,” the Stupe leader berated his colleagues. “They’re playing tricks on—”
His voice was drowned out by an almighty crash and splintering of wood within the ruined church.
Joy realised instantly what Nan Malone, the only Guardian who never feared the creature, had done, even before the stale and musky air that had been trapped in the church’s crypt for centuries reached her nose.
Maisy and Will’s words echoed in her thunderstruck mind.
It’s alive. It’s alive. It’s alive!
“What the blazes?” Will made to turn around, and Joy reached out with her free hand to stop him.
She issued urgent instructions at her friends. “Get on the ground, roll up into a ball. Keep your eyes shut. Do NOT open them until I say…”
“But Joy, what…” Maisy began to protest.
“LISTEN to me,” Joy hissed. “Do it NOW.”
Her friends were puzzled, and a little frightened, but did as Joy commanded.
In the nick of time. Joy didn’t need to turn around to confirm what was emerging from the ruins. She could read it on the faces of the Stupes, who stared dumbstruck, two of them dropping their torches and fumbling with shaking hands for their shotguns.
Joy also sensed its presence. A menacing and malicious aura, with a seemingly primeval appetite for destruction. It was hauling in deep breaths, as if relishing the sweet taste of fresh air after centuries of confinement. There was a rustling sound as it unfolded its great wings, shaking the dust off its black feathers with something between a sob and a sigh escaping from its sharp beak.
The Stupes, staring straight into those red glowing eyes, trembled with fear and began to back off, away from Ellette Hornsby’s tomb and the nightmare that had appeared behind it – one described so accurately by Maisy and Will earlier on.
“Take the chavees,” their leader implored. “Leave us be.”
Joy felt those glowing eyes behind her boring right through her soul.
Nan Malone had been the only Guardian to feel sympathy for the creature. The monstrous entity, Joy knew, would bear little love for those associated with the Guardians as a whole. Yet, Nan Malone had chosen to aid Joy by releasing the shadow that had languished so long within the crypt. The old healer wasn’t visible, but here now nonetheless, that much was clear.
“W…what is that thing?” the bulky Stupe asked in a small frightened voice.
“Ufmanna,” the Stupe leader answered. “The little bitch has released Ufmanna.”
Joy shut her eyes, half-expecting to feel the creature’s talons sinking into her flesh, seeking to claw out her heart.
We released you. We mean you no harm.
There was an angry snort behind her and Joy tensed up.
So be it.
She spread her arms wide – Nan Malone’s bottle still in one hand –, arched her back, and turned her face to the moon.
Spare my friends. They have naught to do with this.
She could hear Ufmanna’s wings as it took to the air, making straight for the tomb. It shrieked eerily, much as a scritch owl would, but the sound was magnified a thousandfold and seemed to pierce Joy’s very bones.
Ufmanna came close enow to snatch Nan Malone’s bottle from Joy’s hand. Without a pause though, sweeping right past her to head straight for the Stupes.
One of the shotguns was discharged with a thunderous blast, but the shot was panicked and not aimed properly, kicking up a small fountain of earth at the base of Ellette’s tomb.
The rat-faced Stupe dropped his gun, the barrel smoking, and scampered out of the churchyard, screaming like a stuck pig. The others followed in a blind panic, dropping torches and guns, the bulky Stupe whimpering pathetically, the leader crying for his mother.
Ufmanna pursued, its torso the size of a man’s but on the whole much larger due to a fearsomely broad wingspan. It clutched Nan Malone’s bottle in one claw, holding it with care because Joy had no doubt that it could have easily crushed the silvered glass just by flexing its talons ever so lightly.
The Stupes made it out of the churchyard and fled toward the Taunflow. Their frightened screams appeared to be mocked by Ufmanna, the creature no longer scritching like an owl, but mimicking the men’s horrified cries of fear instead. Ufmanna, Joy knew, liked to play with its victims with the cold dispassion of a cat toying with a cornered mouse.
Unable to withstand their curiosity any longer, Maisy and Will scrambled onto the tomb just in time to see the Stupes stampeding down the broad dirt path before they were swallowed up by the night, Ufmanna’s dark shadow on their heels.
“What the hell!” Will exclaimed in disbelief.
“Did that…thing…come out of the bottle?” Maisy asked.
Joy hesitated, before answering, “Naun, out of the crypt. It were lured there after the plague, and sealed in…”
…with powerful spells by the Guardians who survived Nan Malone.
“What kind of animal is it?” Will asked.
“Naun an animal,” Joy said. “Ufmanna means Owl Man. Tis man-made, in a fashion.”
“Aha,” Maisy said, as if that made perfect sense. “Like Doctor Moreau.”
“Or Frankenstein,” Will added. “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful!”
Joy stared at them speechlessly. The mere sight of Ufmanna was enow to drive most folk out of their own minds, and here her friends were discussing it casually as if they had just been to the pictures again.
“Nah-ah.” Maisy shook her head. “I reckon Moreau. You made us…things! Not men! Not beasts! Part man…part beast! Things!”
Will added sombrely, “I must confess that I lost faith in the sanity of the world.”
The cousins chuckled and chortled, a sound that drew Valkerie back to Maisy’s shoulder. It occurred to Joy that her friends were likely to be partially in shock and employing the magic of the silver screen to cope. There was a broth Joy could make, at the cottage where she lived with her mother, which would leastways take the edge off.
Mum’ll find out soon enow that Ufmanna’s free. I had no choice, twere that or be taken to Malheur. But I’ll get a proper dish of tongues no matter what.
In the distance, the Stupes stopped screaming one by one.
“We’d better go,” Joy decreed. “Ufmanna might come back.”
There were no objections. Maisy didn’t even frown when Joy told her to leave the torches and shotguns where the Stupes had dropped them, even though Joy knew for sure Maisy would be much disappointed to not be getting her hands on a shotgun.
They walked away from Tuckersham in silence and at considerable pace. It wasn’t until they had passed Lewinna’s Pond that they eased up somewhat.
“Joy,” Will said hesitantly. “That bottle, the words you spoke…are you a—”
“Yes,” Joy answered quickly, reckoning there was no point denying the obvious. “But your spells worked bettermost too.”
“My spells?” Will asked.
“The both of you. I’ve heard of the magic of the silver screen afore, but nohows believed it to have dunnamuch power.”
Maisy laughed. “It ain’t quite like that, is it?”
Joy shook her head. There were things she could no longer keep from her friends after this night, but nor could they deny the power of the pictures, not after what Joy had witnessed. To prove her point, she exercised her first foray into this new magic, by admitting to the cousins that she was ready for her first ever visit to the moving pictures. This was partially because Joy reckoned she should educate herself in this manner of magic, and partially because it took the cousins’ mind off Tuckersham and Ufmanna. They spent the rest of their walk to Joy’s home in a fervent and very learned debate on whether to take Joy to The Door with Seven Locks or The Thief of Bagdad. Valkerie, casting a wary eye upward, was the only one in the company who observed a witch in a bottle sparkling like a diamond as she orbited the silver moon in the gentle grasp of a dark shadow, free at last in the night sky.
The author, told once too often that he spent too much time in his imagination, finally took the hint and moved there on a full-time basis. He now divides his time between the Wyrde Woods, a Steampunked smuggling world, and the high seas in search of the Flying Dutchman. www.nilsnissevisser.co.uk
Joy, Maisy, and Valkerie feature in Secrets of the Wyrde Woods: Forgotten Road. Will is added to the mix in Will’s War in Exile. A much older Joy and Will feature in Escape from Neverland and Dance into the Wyrd, as well as a certain troubled soul in army boots and skull-patterned dress, and Ufmanna, the Owl Man of Tuckersham. A translation of Joy’s spell can be found in Draka Raid, also set in the Wyrde Woods forever and longer ago when Viking raids were fashionable. You could try googling the spell, I suppose, but where’s the adventure in that?
 Dr Henry Frankenstein (played by Colin Clive)in Frankenstein (1931)
 From Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (1818)
 Sayer of the Law (played by Béla Lugosi) in Island of the Lost Souls (1932)
 From The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (1896)