Emily Critchley

Alice and Tom awoke in a heap on a cold stone floor. Clutching his bag and staff he asked “Alice, are you ok?” With a groan and a mumble Alice replied “Aye Tom, I’m alright, but what are these around my wrists?” Tom took Alice’s hands in his, and stared longingly at her wrists. She was wearing metal bracelets, one on each wrist, both embellished with gemstones. There was some kind of Latin text engraved into them. The left one said “MALEFICA te deserant circumda” and the right one said “Potentiae tuae abiverunt“. Roughly translated they said “Bind you Witch, may your powers be gone”. Tom gazed at Alice, “oh dear Alice, these are binding bracelets. While you wear these, you have no powers. They can only be removed by the person who placed them on you” Tom sighed “Even with all my Spooks knowledge, I cannot remove them”. Alice looked worried, “can you at least try Tom?” With that, Tom moved his hands towards the left bracelet, and his fingers touched the cold metal, a loud hissing noise was heard, and Tom fell backwards onto the floor, clutching his hand. He’d been burnt by the bracelet. “Shine a light Alice, how are you wearing those?” Alice looked shocked, rubbing her hands over the bracelets, they were cold as ice.

Alice pulled out her herb pouch, and gave Tom some calendula. “Here” she said “put this on, it will help heal your burn”. Although Alice had no Magic, her herbal knowledge was second to none. After all, knowing a little about some herbs is not magic. She was just clever, so it wasn’t all bad.

Little did they know, but Tom and Alice had been captured by the most powerful Witches in the Country. Demdike and Chattox. Tom had merely only heard of these two hags; being told by The Spook they had been killed years ago. But it would seem he had been misinformed. Demdike and Chattox had returned, and now him and Alice were in grave danger. More so than they had ever encountered before.

Elizabeth Southerns was the one they called “Old Demdike”. She was about 5ft tall in stature and slender, with long white hair. Her skin was pale and smooth like porcelain, and her eyes were the brightest of blue. It’s been said that people get lost in her eyes, quite literally, with tales of children going missing, and young men never returning home to their wives.

Chattox on the other hand, or Anne Whittle as she was born, was quite the sight. Her hair was as black as night, tied back in a plait with a red ribbon around the bottom. Her skin was dirty, and she had several warts, she was missing 3 teeth, and her fingernails were long and sharp. Chattox wore a patch over one eye. Legend has it, that under the patch, was a glowing red eye, so powerful, that those who have seen it, have never lived to tell the tale.

“What shall we do now Tom?” exclaimed Alice, “I am useless without my powers, I have my suspicions who put us down here, I can smell her, and we are in a whole World of trouble if I’m right” Tom glanced over at Alice, “who do you think is powerful enough to have done this? I thought we’d taken care of the county’s most powerful Witches?” he exclaimed, “So did i” sighed Alice. “I think we have been captured by Elizabeth and Anne, my 3rd great Aunties”. Tom gasped, “you don’t mean Demdike and Chattox do you?” with a worried look on her face Alice replied “Aye Tom”. With that, Tom struggled to his feet, and picked up his bag, to his horror it was empty. All the contents had been taken, the silver chain, his salt and iron, everything. “Alice, my bag is empty” he exclaimed, “those hags have taken everything!” “Wait Tom,” cried Alice “your staff”, Tom glanced at his staff on the floor, “that’s not my staff he yelled, it’s just a branch off an old oak tree!” Alice and Tom looked at each other, starting to panic. They were powerless against Demdike and Chattox. What would they do now? How would they escape? They had to find a way, or this could very well be the death of them both.

Alice looked hopeful, “we should take a look around Tom, maybe there’s something hidden in here that can help us escape”. The room they were in was small and damp, with a tiny pile of straw in the corner. There were no windows, and only one door. The door was locked tightly, with barely any room to even rattle it. There was a small opening at the top, which had bars on, it looked out into a dark corridor, lined with other cells, and fiery torches fixed on the walls. The other cell doors, each had 2 huge, medieval style, drop iron bar locks on them, and some kind of mechanical lock too. Something so secure, wasn’t letting anyone out in a hurry. “Look Alice,” whispered Tom. Peering through the small barred window in the door, she said “Oh no Tom, we can’t even break out. Your magic key won’t work, and I have no magic at all” she cried, “Shhhh, can you hear that, Tom? Someone is coming!”

A warm glow from a fiery torch was coming towards them down the corridor. Two muffled female voices could be heard, and there was some kind of animal too. As they got closer, it was all too clear what the four-legged beast was, it was a wolf, a huge grey wolf, with glowing red eyes, drool dripping down from its sharp teeth. It was obviously under some kind of spell, serving as the Witches deadly weapon.

“Awwww look at them Annie,” chuckled Demdike, “helpless, defenceless and weak. It’s quite hilarious” she laughed, sarcastically. “The almighty spook, Tom Ward, and his pretty little Witch are trapped here at last” giggled Chattox “You did such a wonderful job to capture them Lizbeth, it’s quite remarkable!” Alice glared at her great aunties through the tiny window on the door. “What do you want with us you wicked old hags, thought you were dead!” The corridor erupted with laughter, Chattox almost fell over, “they thought we were dead” cackled Elizabeth, clearly very amused. “They’d have a job to kill us” Anne replied, “we are the most powerful Witches in the Country, we can’t be killed, it’s that simple, and now we have two new toys to play with” she grinned “what shall we do with them first Lizbeth?” Alice and Tom held each other’s hands, knowing how defenceless they were, and seeing the pure evil which confronted them, they had to come up with a plan to escape.

“Quiet down you old crows, you ain’t scaring us!” Alice yelled, the wolf jumped up and snarled through the bars on the window, knocking Alice off her feet. Tom ran to her aid to check she was ok, “I’m fine Tom, that stupid mutt”. The Witches were howling with laughter. “Christopher!” Demdike yelled, “What a good boy you are!” “Christopher?” Alice said, frowning curiously. “Yes,” said Elizabeth, “you know Christopher, he’s, my son!” Tom gasped, “you turned your own son into a wolf? what kind of monster are you?” Demdike grinned, and tilted her head to one side, glaring deeply into Tom’s eyes, “that’s what happens when you disobey me master ward, there are no second chances. After all, I cannot be killed. My castle is full of surprises, who knows what you’ll see next!”  The hairs on the back of Tom’s neck stood on end, and a tingly feeling ran through his arms and his legs. The magic and power that emitted from Elizabeth, was like nothing he’d ever come across before. “Goodnight sweet Mr Tom. Goodnight little miss Alice” whispered Demdike, and with that Alice and Tom drifted off into a deep, dark, sleep. What would they face while in the clutches of Demdike and Chattox?

Tom slowly stirred. His head pounding, his vision blurry. He could hear a voice by the cell door. “Psssst, Alice it’s me, Katherine. Are you there, It’s me, Katherine Hewitt. Alice!” Tom looked around for Alice, but Alice was gone. “Who are you”, Tom replied, “and where are you? Where is Alice?” Tom began to panic, how had Alice just disappeared, the Witches must have taken her. “I’m Katherine Hewitt” the voice replied, “but you can call me Kat”. Tom looked around, but he could see no one. “Where are you Kat? Where is Alice” Tom looked around again, he noticed something new in his cell that caught his attention. It was a painting on the far wall, barely visible in the poor light. About 25 inches in length, and mounted in a plain wooden frame. The painting was of a large forest, with huge pine trees. The sky was blue, with some small white clouds. In the foreground there was a small wooden cottage, with a thatched roof, and windows. The front door of the cottage was open. Outside the cottage was a small pen, with some pigs in. Roaming free outside were some chickens, and a small bay pony tethered to a tree. It was quite a pretty little painting. But wait, there was someone in the cottage. Tom edged closer to the painting, his eyes getting wider and wider. Tom took the painting off the wall and held it in his hands. The girl in the cottage window was Alice. Just as she had been when he last saw her. She had a frightened look on her face, but was motionless and trapped in the canvas. There was another girl in the painting, with bright red hair, and a blue dress. She was feeding the chickens. Tom looked closely at her. “No need to stare” a voice said. “Katherine Hewitt? Are you in the painting with Alice?” he wondered “No silly! I’m by the door, the old hags are asleep!” Tom leapt to the door and peered out the small window, there stood a small girl, no older than 8 or 9, with red hair and green eyes, wearing a torn and shaggy brown smock, with no shoes. “I’m Katherine” she whispered “I want to help you”. Tom looked at Kat with a sigh of relief, “my sister is trapped in that painting, and now they trapped Alice in there too” she explained “Demdike did it she did, put us under a sleeping curse and sent my poor sister into that painting, now I’m Demdike’s servant, trapped here in this castle forever, unable to leave. Bound here i am see.” Kat showed Tom her wrist, she had a bracelet on too, just like Alice. “If I set foot outside these grounds, I will be turned to stone by this bracelet” Kat sobbed “I can’t take it off. Tried everything I have. It’s stuck on forever”. Tom’s eyes were heavy with remorse, he could have cried for poor Kat, but his Alice was stuck, motionless in the painting. Trapped and bound forever. Would Tom ever hold or kiss her again?

“I better go,” whispered Kat, “if Demdike and Chattox find out i am here, they will be sure to punish me good and proper. I will be back Tom,” Kat said. Off she went into the dark of the corridor. But Kat did not come back.

Tom wandered back over to the painting and held it in his hands, staring longingly at Alice whose face did not move, but she was looking back. “Oh Alice,” he sobbed, “Whatever shall I do my dear sweet Alice”, tears began to fall from Tom’s tired eyes, and he hugged the painting close to his chest. Tom curled into a corner and wept, praying that this nightmare would come to an end.

“Wake up, you lazy toe rag!” screeched Anne, Lizbeth wants to play! Tom stirred and winced, his eyes fuzzy, his senses all muddled. “Where am i?” he groaned. “You are in our main entertaining room, where all our guests are brought to play!” Tom looked around. The room was huge, and well lit. The walls were wood panels, there was a huge roaring fire at the far end. Christopher the wolf lay sleeping on the floor in front of it, as it crackled and popped. There were paintings all around the room. All of different scenes. Some of mountains, others of rivers. One thing they had in common, was that they all had people in. Some old, some young, but all of them contained people. People who had been trapped by Elizabeth and Anne. Tom looked around, and there on the wall behind him, was Alice’s painting, where she was trapped, although oddly she had moved. She was no longer in the window, but sat under one of the pine trees, with her head in in her hands. She’d moved, which meant she was still alive! Although she was locked in there and motionless, she was very much alive!

“Please let Alice go!” Tom cried, “look at her, she’s sad and frightened. Please free her. Free her and take me instead” he exclaimed. “Awwww Annie he wants us to free his poor little miss Alice” Elizabeth mocked “he wants his pretty little girlfriend back”. They cackled together, like two nasty bullies in the school playground. Tom was enthralled with rage and picked up a nearby chair, just as he was about to hurl it at the Witches, he was frozen where he stood, like a statue. Unable to move a muscle, but still quite aware of his surroundings. “Tut tut tut” said Elizabeth, folding her arms “that’s no way to behave now is it! Your mam would be quite disappointed”. Chattox grabbed the chair out of thin air, and placed it back on the floor. “What will we do with this young man?” questioned Chattox. “Hush Annie, I’m thinking”. Tom’s eyes fixed on Alice in her painting, a single tear fell down his cheek. “Feed him to Christopher?” Annie suggested. “No that’s too quick and boring” sniggered Elizabeth. “Torture him in the most unthinkable and revolting of ways?” chuckled Annie. “No, we did that with the last one!” exclaimed Elizabeth. “I know, he wants nothing but to be with his dear little Alice. Annie my sweet bring me that painting we call “the dark forest” will you” Demdike requested. On the wall opposite Alice’s painting there was a gap. A space for a new painting. Tom gulped. He was utterly powerless against Demdike and Chattox, and he knew it. Had Tom finally met his match?

Annie returned with a large painting, which she hung on the wall, directly opposite Alice’s. It was a dark a gloomy forest, with no sunlight and no animals, just a small broken wooden shack, and evil yellow eyes that glared through the trees. There was a fallen down tree, a large boulder, and a broken chair outside the wooden shack.

Demdike and Chattox laughed and snarled, knowing exactly what would become of Tom and Alice. Elizabeth walked slowly up to Tom, gazing deep into his eyes, Tom transfixed by the piercing blue ocean that engulfed him. “Now then Tom, my dear sweet boy, this won’t hurt” she advised. Demdike stared through Tom’s eyes right down into his soul, she took a breathe and whispered “I knew not who had wrought with skill so fine, what I beheld; nor by what laws define. He had created life and love and heart. Now you shall be, a work of art” she closed her eyes, kissed him on the lips, and Tom vanished from the room. “Excellent Lizbeth! Incredible” exclaimed Annie, clapping her hands franticly. There in the dark forest painting, as if he had always been there, stood Tom Ward, gazing longingly across the room at his beloved Alice. Locked in the painting.

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and months into years. Tom and Alice watched powerless, as Demdike and Chattox tortured and stole soul after soul. Some were put into paintings. Some were turned into living statues, others into servants. One poor young chap was fed alive to Christopher! Their evil saw no boundaries. Tom and Alice gazed at each other across the room for the rest of time. As the years went by, Alice and Tom grew old too. Some days Alice was with the bay pony. Other days she was feeding the chickens. Tom sat in the broken chair, growing old day by day. Eventually, the fragile and elderly beings in which they had become, simply disappeared.

Although, It’s unknown what happened to poor little Katherine Hewitt. The paintings which lined the walls of the Witches Castle can still be seen today. Some say the famous painting “Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante” is secretly the work of Demdike and Chattox, whom slowly trapped all of 103 helpless people inside of it, and that they bewitched the so called “artist” as a cover up. But we shall never know. To this day Elizabeth and Anne have yet to be caught and punished for their crimes. So next time you see someone in a painting, give them a smile or a wave, because who knows, they could be gazing right back at you.

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