Where we went on our holidays #21: Castle Loevestein
Today was a perfect day to go cycling along the river: a dazzling blue sky with a nice cooling breeze. Gulls wheeling in the Dutch sky and a hundred frogs croaking in the flooded meadows.
We rode high on the dike and crossed the water whenever we discovered a ferry. My wife Josje is a great fan of ferries, and I like them, too.
When we arrived at castle Loevestein there was a kind of country fair going on: stall after stall filled with antique stuff I am quite capable of not wanting, even if they paid me to take it away.
A group of singers clad like fishermen were belting out a chantey about the cruel sea and the scandalously low price of fishes, which were “paid for with the life of the poor sailor and the tears of his sweetheart”.
“Say, young man,” I heard behind me, “I have exactly what you need.”
Now I hail from last century, 1952 to be exact, and I am seldom called a young man anymore. When I turned, I understood why I was but a boy in her eyes. This lady was as ancient as the trees and probably had been manning this very stall when the first stone of the castle was laid.
Don’t ask me how I knew, because her face was quite unlined and her braided hair a glossy black, but fantasy writers have a kind of sixth sense for these things. It also helped that an albino bat was sitting on her shoulder.
She pointed to an armchair with two quite ugly dolls. The biggest doll held a glowing bowl with a single off-green shoot on her lap.
“You collect dolls,” she stated. “And these are the best! Wind them up and they creep into the house of your dearest enemy without waking the most alert cat. The doll in lace, well, she owns a dozen needles. Quite poisonous and when she drives one into his eyeball, that is it. He won’t even have time to scream.”
“Eh, sorry,” I said, “I never kill people. I write about guys who do and that only seldom. And I don’t collect dolls.”
She didn’t hear me, or probably chose not to hear me. “Now the little one, he is something different. He follows your victim and eats his shadow. Licks it right from the ground, and you know what happens with people who have lost their shadow.” She laid a hand on my shoulder. “I know you want them.”
And suddenly I did. There was nothing more precious, nothing more collectible than these dolls.
“You are right,” I said. “What is the price?”
Not that it mattered. I wanted the dolls so much, I would have paid any price.
“I got you a Cola Light,” Josje said and pushed an ice-cold bottle in my hand. “What are you looking at? You don’t collect dolls.”
It was the way she said it, half-joking: I suddenly didn’t want the dolls anymore. I couldn’t even imagine wanting them.
The lady hissed. “How did you know? How did you know the right words to break my spell? Are you a witch, too? A dark elf?”
Josje frowned at her. “What do you mean?”
The lady threw her hands in the air and wailed. “You didn’t even know!”
There wasn’t a thunderclap and the stall didn’t vanish, but suddenly the dolls were just junk, the woman quite ordinary.
Black magic is deeply dangerous but very fragile. And an ice-cold bottle of Cola Light is indeed the least magic object in the world.
The EndRecommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in