13th April

The Two Magicians

from an old ballad

There she stood in her finery, taking the air, tall, handsome, proud. Think you’re something, don’t you? the blacksmith thought.

She hardly glanced at him outside his forge, grimy, sweaty, thick as a bull. Coarse brute, she thought.

‘Aye, lady,’ he called. ‘Red suits you. Are you waiting for a ride? I’ll give you one.’

‘Go to hell, pig.’ She bent to the ground and came up with a pinch of dirt. Tossed it away. ‘You’re not worth that! I wouldn’t go with a blacksmith for anything. I’d sooner be dead and buried.’

‘And I wouldn’t pay a button for you, and if I did it would be too much. But I’ll ride you, lady, see if I don’t.’

No ordinary souls, this pair. Sparring was their entertainment. The rest of the town kept well clear of them. Rumour was they were witch and wizard – magicians anyway. She threw him one last look, and turned herself into a turtle dove. Up she flew. Ride me now if you can, she thought.

Suddenly another dove was with her. They banked and wheeled as he tried to force himself upon her. Enough of this, she thought, diving rapidly. At the last moment she changed into an eel, and slipped into the burn with hardly a splash.

A speckled trout was at her side, herding her in under the bank. The blacksmith’s glint was in the eye of the fish. Still here? she thought. She surfaced as a duck and flapped across to the millpond.

Seconds later a drake with a big red comb was lunging at her rump. You’re determined, she thought, but I’ll be rid of you yet. Swiftly she switched into a hare, and loped off up the hill.

She heard panting at her heels. A greyhound was after her, the same wicked gleam in his eye. Right, she thought, that does it. She transformed herself into a grey mare and gave the dog a good hard kick, sending it skyward.

Something thumped down on her back, a black saddle, with stirrups and pommel all pointed and gilded. She felt the girth tighten under her belly. Bastard, she thought. She took off at a gallop.

Reader: Alana Jackson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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