The Barncester Chronicles
The Barnceseter chronicles
A tale of a not so bad witch and a rather put-upon dwarf.
Based on the racist, sexist tale of the blue light by the Brothers Grimm.
By A D Hunt
1.A tale of tales.
‘It is the dark ages!’
‘-What do you mean? That it was dark?
‘-No…well not exactly dark, its just-‘
‘-Well, there is a bit of conjecture here… the period of time known as the dark ages is-‘
‘-Look, can I start please?’
‘Sorry, yes, yes, please go on.’
‘-It is the dark ages.’
‘-When was it, Stan, I mean exactly?’
‘ Well… most scholars believe it to be -roughly speaking- around about the Middle Ages, or from about 500 to 1500 BCE… some say it ended at 1066 with the Norman Invasion… it wasn’t dark as such…it’s a, a categorization, used by historians, to commonly describe the period between the fall of the Roman Empire, the beginning of the Italian Renaissance and the Age of Exploration.’
‘-What’s a historian Stan?’
‘Well, that’s another matter altogether, a historian is a-
‘-Look all of you, PLEASE PLEASE just shut up! I’m trying to tell a story here.’
‘yeah, sorry, continue.’
‘-Can I continue?’
‘yes… please. ‘
‘It was the dark ages…(a long pause…) a time of great upheaval…A time mostly run by rich and powerful men, who forced other men -but mostly women- to work for gruel.
‘Well…that’s that’s not entirely true is it…I mean there was an economy…and the Romans left-‘
‘-Ok, fine! That’s it! I’m leaving… I came a long way to tell you this story, and- ‘
‘-look, we’re really, very very, sorry… please, please continue.’
Sigh…’where was I. ‘
‘-You said it was the dark ages.’
YES. It’s the dark ages! A time very different from today. There existed a great deal of hardship and suffering… especially for witches, dwarfs and anyone who wasn’t white, possibly red-haired, or Blonde haired or – ‘
‘-It’s a bit like now -you know- after Brexit.’
‘Oh for God’s sake will you all please just shut up!’
‘Anyway, our tale begins in Barncester,the precise date is unknown and an elderly, though not a very unattractive woman, wearing a pointed hat, with the word “witch” written on it, a carrot on her nose and a fake wart on her cheek -formed out of a bit of dried turnip and stuck on with mud- is being dragged in front of the local magistrate, who can be recognised as he is the only person not covered with shit. He is standing outside the town hall, by a large group of dirty faced men who are shouting “WITCH” at the top of their voices:
2. The witches tale.
‘-WITCH! WE FOUND A WITCH!’
‘-SHE’S A WITCH!
‘DUNK HER IN THE POND!
‘BURN! BURN! BURN!’
The magistrate, a rather large portly man with a rough beard and sunken eyes stars at the crowd in astonishment.
‘A witch you say?’
A shortish wiry man suddenly pipes up.
‘She turned me into a newt!’
There is a pause, as the crowd turns to stare at him.
‘I got better’ he says quietly.
‘Anyway, she looks like a witch.’
‘They put these thinks on me.’ the woman shouts.
‘Oh no we didn’t!’ the crowd shouts.
‘OH yes you did!’ bellows the woman.
‘Did they?’ The magistrate looks at the crowd in shock.
The crowd starts to look around at the sky and their feet, until a quite tall, lean narrow faced man admits rather sheepishly; ‘Well…yeah…we did… that…we put on the hat…the carrot… and the turnip….but …SHE’S A WITCH SO LETS BURN HER ANYWAY!’
‘BURN’ shouts the crowd.
‘Look…just let me go!’ The old lady spats.
They call you a witch, what have you to say in your defense?’
The magistrate is staring towards her.
The old lady stares at the magistrate and in a low voice ask's
‘What if If I was to say I wasn’t a witch would it make any difference? what If I…I’m a simple old lady, practicing a bit of healing in my scabby old cottage in the woods…would you ignore what I’m saying and burn me anyway? ‘
The magistrate looks at the oldish lady shrewdly and then at the large group of dirty men, then back at the oldish lady again.
‘ Well… between you and me…the crowd haven’t seen a good burning in a month or two, so probably not, but for the sake of justice, let’s hear what you have to say.’
‘Well then I am Witch…but I will have my say before you string me up. My name is Rosalind and I have been a witch since I was about thirteen years of age. The trouble is, in this so-called enlightened age, free from Roman occupation, people like us are hounded, caught, strung up or burned to death! My dearest friend Julie, was out collecting honey one month ago, I hear she was collecting it to help her with a tickly cough. The next thing I hear on the Witchline is that some man knocked her on the back of her head and brought her here, where she was dunked. DUNKED! The person isn’t going to float if he or she is tied to a chair! It's elementary physics!’
‘What’s physics?’ asks one of the crowd.
‘Shut your face you!’ Rebecca scowled at him, before continuing.
‘Then don’t forget my dear friend Doris, accused of being a witch because she didn’t like the intentions of Mr. Hoskins, that tub of lard Butcher in town! Men! Its all about men! Men and their penises!’
‘Errum…’ the magistrate interjected, ‘This isn’t helping your case.’
‘Maybe not, but I’m having my say. I left the town of Barncester twenty years ago and took up living in a hovel I made for myself in the woods. It's nice there, mainly because you peasants are afraid of it!’
‘Who are you calling a peasant!’ shouts another from the crowd.
She ignored him ‘For years, I was happy…finding medicinal cures, selling them on Witch line to my fellow witches, meeting up in the woods during the solstice and dancing…its not that bad a lifestyle, especially if you hate men. The trouble was, I began to get lonely, so I contacted the Fremley. -It’s a place between this world and the next; where beings of light live- an I conjured up a friend whom I called Colin. I expected a huge muscular nice young man that could help me around the house if you see what I mean. Instead, because of my fear and anxiety about men I suppose, a blue dwarf with a flame out of his head appeared….However, he was the nicest man I have ever known. He tended the house, answered my every wish and made me feel quite happy. Until one day, and to my total astonishment, he arrived with the biggest amount of treasure I had ever seen in my life before.’
‘Well, he’d obviously stolen it; and I couldn’t go into town with it, so I ordered it away deep into the well at the back of my house, where there was a hidden cave. Needless to say Colin took the treasure down there, but because In my foolishness, I ordered him to stay with it, an I never saw him for a great many years.’
‘Time passed… until quite recently and the war between Barncester and Eddlington by the riverbank began, and ended. This led to many men -fortunately- being killed in battle. However, sadly some came home. One day, about a month ago, a soldier and a particularly heavy pipe smoker at that, knocked on my door and asked for work.’
‘At first, I was a bit nervous, as, to be honest, he was a man; and I didn’t like the lookofhim, all nose and chin, youknow what I mean… But I agreed and paid him to tend my garden. Now, my garden Isn’t that big…just enough for a few rows of vegetables, it normally takes me an hour, but it took this man all day. So I paid him, then, feeling sorry for him…then I asked him to stay for some more work around the house. Which he dutifully did. About a week later, I began thinking about my dear friend Colin trapped underground, so I asked the soldier for one last job: to clear out the well at the back of my house.
‘He had just started the job when all of a sudden he fell in. I remember looking down into the well and asking if he was alright… in the dim light I could see the soldier and next to him sat Colin! I was so overjoyed. I begged the man to give me my friend back. But he said “NO!” and accused me of being a “WITCH!” That was it. I boarded him up in the well, hoping that it would be the last I saw of him….Unfortunately, it wasn’t…. because the next thing I know, here I am standing in front of you lot being called a witch by this bunch of peasants.’
‘we’re not peasants!’
‘Yes, you are! now FUCK OFF!’
The magistrate looked down at the ground for some time before he passes the sentence… when he does, the crowd is relieved. Unlike poor Rosalind…after all the magistraite thought, where does she think she’s getting off with… calling us peasants!
3. Colin’s tale.
My name is Colin, and I am a height challenged person of the blue coloured persuasion, who also has a blue flame coming out of the top of my head. This, I would like to point out, isn’t my fault. You see Witches are in contact with the Fremly, where we all live in our natural state. In the Fremley I am usually seen as a blue light. But I take on many forms when conjoured. The trouble is, this is the dark ages, and witches have a terribly difficult time. It was several years ago that this particularly beautiful witch who, when I had originally met her, had lovely flowing firey red hair, elfin features and forest green eyes, conjoured me. I thought she was the picture of loveliness. However, she was in fact, subconsciously so scared of men, that when she conjured me up, she made me into something she could cope with…a sort of blue coloured version of Peter Dinklage…with a flame coming out of the top of my head… It didn’t matter though, because I really liked her…in fact, I was so attracted to her that I stole a load of treasure!
You know, if she had asked, I could have made her into a princess, put her in a huge castle, and protected her with an army the size of Mordor, but she never did… not once… after being trapped in the well, for, honestly I don’t know how long, I meet this scrawny rat faced soldier man, you know the type all nose and chin, who lit his pipe with the flame from the top of my head, and I being held by him, well…sad to say was bound to do his duty.
‘ Well…he was shrewd enough to understand me and selfish enough to get what he wanted. So…I got him out of the well… forced my poor, now elderly, but still beautiful Rosalind to get strung up, and made him rich enough to stay in the Royal Barncester hotel….Then the twat asks me to get the magistrates daughter and force her to clean up after him! -I tell you Men and their petty revenge!’- Now.. I warned him…. I told him this was a totally stupid idea, but you know…he didn’t listen, instead, he got me to keep her for three nights… well after I helped her escape…she lost one of her shoes, not that I had anything to do with it I might add, and fortune would have it that the hotel was searched by the magistrate, the shoe found in his room and this soldier twit was finally caught!’
At that point I thought, YES! I might be able to get away from this lazy tit of a soldier, but life tends to kick you hard sometimes, and this time I was kicked firmly in my blue bollockss… because…just as he as he was being led to the overnight jail to be hung the next day, he bribes one of his old soldier mates, who just happened to be passing, to get him his jacket where, yes you’ve guessed it, his pipe lives in one pocket, and I live in the other… so yes… you got it right again, not only was I forced to set soldier boy free, I was also forced to sit on the magistrate until he gave his daughter to that fucking soldier in wedlock!’
‘Now, here I am, ten years later, locked in this birdcage by the hearth; stuck in a shit hole of a house with his miserable wife, and a terrified magistrate for an in-law with this rat-faced man who smokes some foul crap all day… still… I can’t complain… in a couple of hundred years it's 1066 and all of this will be over! Because YES! the Normans are coming! Now, won’t that be fun?