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Authors: Paul Kater

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BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
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"Oh yes, I am certain." William took another
sip in appreciation.

They finished their food, after which Hilda
offered him another round. "There is plenty, I think. If you want
two plates, that's no problem either."

"I don't want to be impolite, but no thank
you. I am almost bursting at the seams," said William.

Hilda looked over the table to inspect him
and his clothing, and decided he was exaggerating again. No signs
of ripping in his clothes. "Okay." A flick of the wand later the
plates were gone and the wine glasses were filled again. The wicked
witch had already made a load of burning candles appear earlier, as
darkness had taken over the outside world.

William looked at the woman with the long
grey hair and the jet-black eyes, who sat there toying with her
glass, staring into it. She had a pretty face, he had already
agreed on that with himself long time ago. Not a ravishing beauty,
but definitely pretty. He was fascinated by the way she expressed
herself, sometimes hard as a rock, yet occasionally she struck him
as uncertain or immature. But, he thought, that could come from her
not having people staying that often.

The candlelight made her features look soft,
so very unlike how she was.

"What are you looking at?", Hilda asked
without taking her eyes from the glass.

"You."

"Don't."

"Why not?", William asked.

"I don't like it when people look at me. Not
like that."

"Not like what?", William dared to ask.

"Like I am a person worth looking at for the
looking. I am not. I am a witch, and I want people to look at me in
awe. Or with fear. Not for..." She could not find the proper word,
or didn't want to find it. "Just so you know."

"Fair enough," William agreed. "Maybe you
want to tell me what's on your mind then? You've mentioned
something like that a few times already, so it must be something
big."

Hilda looked at him and sighed. She reached
over the table and picked up a piece of paper from the small
mountain that was there. "Here."

William took the paper, looked at the emblem,
felt the consistency of the paper and wondered what it was made of.
Then he read the calligraphically written note, all the way down to
'to the death'. "Oh, right. I would not feel too tickled with that
hanging over my head..."

"I've had more of those before. Got out of
them alive," Hilda said, trying to make it sound as if it was not a
big deal.

"And yet you are worked up about this one,"
William said.

It was exactly the thing she did not really
want any ordinary to know. But then, she reasoned with herself,
William was not your average ordinary. He was, after all, the
person who had been crucial in her returning home so many years
ago.

"Lamador is a powerful sorcerer. Powerhungry
even. And he's spending far too much time on becoming even more
powerful. I don't know what drives him. It can't be king Herald,
that guy's powerful and wealthy enough." Hilda filled their glasses
again.

William rubbed his chin. As he moved, Hilda's
eyes were glued to his hand for a moment, then she watched her
glass again. "Has it appeared to you that perhaps this Labrador has
gained power over king Herald, and that this king is only a puppet
in the sorcerer's play?"

"Lamador. Not Labrador," Hilda said. She
thought of what William had said. "You might have a point there,"
she nodded, "it would not be beyond Lamador to cast a spell over
his king in order to expand his power even more."

She looked at William. "Is it warm in here or
what?" The wicked witch touched her cheeks. "Ooh, very warm... I
should go open a window or so..."

As she tried to get up, it was as if suddenly
lead was delivered into her legs. She had to grab hold of the table
so she could remain on her feet. "Oh, crappedy crap," she groaned.
She had forgotten to dilute her last couple of glasses of wine and
now she was paying for the price.

Hilda fell back in her chair and groaned some
more. "All your fault," she said accusingly to William. "Without
you I would not have drunk so much and talked so much and maybe
found a problem to my solution- oh wait... that should be the other
way round. I think."

The witch had for certain hit the bottle in
the right way, which to her was the worst way imaginable: she was
drunk.

Hilda shook her hand, hoping for a wand to
appear. That could get the alcohol out of her. Alas, the alcohol
had temporarily disabled her ability to summon the wand, so she was
facing the ultimate catch-22.

"No... no... I don't want this..." She stared
at William. "I don't want to feel like this, William. Make it go
away, yes?" Again she struggled herself up from the chair, and this
time she appeared to succeed, but attempting a step forward proved
too daunting a task. Hilda stumbled and fell over the table,
grabbing at anything that could give her some hold before she would
slide down to the floor.

William had quickly reached out and caught
her hand in his, holding her onto the table that way. He got up,
holding her hand, and then wrapped an arm around her. He lifted the
skinny witch up from the table and held her so she could stand up.
It was obvious that without help she was not going anywhere but to
the floor.

"No, William, you cannot hold me like that,"
Hilda muttered as she tried to pluck his arm away from her. She
could just as well attempt to lift a mountain; her strength had
left her completely. "I am a witch, you know, a very wicked
witch."

"I think you are a very drunk witch at the
moment, Hilda, and I should get you to bed," William calmly said.
"So if you tell me where to take you, I'll make sure you get there
safe and well."

"No! You cannot go into my bedroom!", she
shouted, once more trying to free herself from the arm.

As the attempt failed again, she turned
around in his arm, so she faced him. She put her hands on his
shoulders. "Now listen- Oh... strong shoulders. Did you know you
have strong shoulders, William?" She started giggling as she
squeezed the man's arms. "You are strong, William, but you cannot
carry a witch to her bed. No no no, you cannot- whoops!"

William had lifted her up in his arms and was
walking towards the stairs. This was a tricky thing as there were
no candles anywhere. Nor a lightswitch.

"Hello, house, can you supply some light
here?", William gave it a try.

The house remained silent, and the book
salesman took that as a no.

"Oh, lights," Hilda giggled as she let
herself hang loose , sprawled in his arms. "Wheeee!"

She moved her hands a bit and suddenly
colourful sparkles floated around them. It was not exactly the
light William had hoped for but it would suffice to get the witch
up the stairs.

"Hilda, you have to sit up a bit and put an
arm around my neck," he said, "otherwise your head will hit the
wall."

"Okay, okay," she mock muttered, pulling
herself up on his arm. "But don't worry, I have a hard head
William." Her speech was getting more and more difficult to
understand. She snuggled against him, her arms around his neck, her
head bobbing against his shoulder as he walked up the stairs. By
the time he reached the small hallway on the top floor, Hilda was
sound asleep.

"Great," William mumbled to himself, looking
at the plenitude of doors that were still visible in the fading
light of the sparkles that were dying away. "Which door..."

The house was not asleep. It opened the door
to the bedroom of the wicked witch.

"Thanks," William whispered. He slowly went
into the room, hit his knee against the bed and, having found it
that way, he lay Hilda down. In a corner was a small floating stick
with a single flame. William used that to light a candle.

With that light at hand, he straightened
Hilda's dress as well as he could, pulled the covers over her after
taking off her shoes, and then blew out the candle again. He left
the bedroom, closed the door behind him quietly, and repaired to
his own room.

All the strange events of the day kept him
awake for a long time.

7. Household hassle

"I hate myself." Those were the first words
that came from under the covers that were on the bed in Hilda's
bedroom. They came, of course, from Hilda. They were spoken in a
mere whisper, and even the whisper was too loud. "I hope this
works."

A hand appeared. A wand appeared. A soft sigh
of relief came from under the duvet. The wand was pointed
downwards, a spell was murmured.

Seconds passed.

The covers were kicked away violently,
something in which the witch was severely hindered by her dress. "I
am going to kick that idiot out right now!"

Hilda, wrinkled clothes and hair rather in a
mess, jumped from her bed, wand ready to fire. She stomped out of
the bedroom and kicked the door to the guestroom open- to find the
bed empty, the duvet folded back and the windows open. Fresh air
and sunlight were streaming into the room. "Now what the
hell..."

She looked around the room. William's clothes
were still there. His bag was there. But the man himself was not
there. It was quite difficult for Hilda to keep up her anger as the
subject of it was not there to receive it.

The wicked witch turned and descended to the
living room. As she was halfway down the stairs, there was the
smell of fresh bread, fruit, flowers and tea coming up the same
stairs to greet her. She stopped and looked at one of the pictures.
It was an ancient image of a famous wicked witch, who on one
occasion had not been wicked enough. Hence the picture.

"Do you know what's going on?", she
asked.

The face in the picture looked
apologetic.

"Urgh", reacted Hilda, and continued her
journey down the stairs.

The sources of the smells she had already
encountered were becoming stronger. As she stepped into the room,
she came to a standstill, staring at the table. Bread, obviously
warm and straight from an over. Flowers. Flowers?? A teapot floated
over three candles to keep it warm. A basket of fresh fruit was on
the table also.

William appeared from the kitchen, carrying a
tray with something hot. He wore his new velvet pants and an apron
that Hilda recognised, but she wasn't sure when she had seen it
last. She had no idea where the oven mittens came from. "Hello, and
good morning. Come, sit, a decent breakfast will certainly help
you."

"You!", she snapped at him, pointing her wand
at him, her mood temperature dropping to sub-zero values..

"Yes? Is something wrong?" William did not
wait for her to continue; he walked on to the table and put the hot
pot containing vegetables on the table.

"What's all this? What have you done? And
what happened last night?" Hilda was especially worried about the
latter, as there was a worrying amount of nothing that she could
remember of it after a certain point. And even that certain point
was rather uncertain and fuzzy.

William took off the mittens. "Okay, in that
order: 'all this' is known as breakfast. A bit lavish perhaps, but
your kitchen is a maniac when it comes to making food. What I have
done is make it, as far as your kitchen utensils let me do what I
wanted. You ought to teach them to back off when they are told to.
And last night nothing happened, except that you got drunk."

"And?", Hilda demanded further
explanation.

"And you almost fell, so I carried you to
your bedroom and put you in bed."

"And?", she still wasn't satisfied.

"And then I went to sleep myself, hoping that
you would not have a sore head this morning. Judging from how you
are acting, that seems to be not the case."

"And that is all?" Hilda tapped her wand
against her leg impatiently.

"That is indeed all. Now will you sit down
for breakfast?"

"And how do I know that you are telling the
truth?" Hilda was not one for believing everything just like
that.

"Well, you don't. You'll just have to believe
me." William pulled back her chair and waited.

The witch stared at him. "That is my
chair."

"I know," said William. "I am just being
polite. I'm holding it for you so you can sit down more
easily."

"Leave my chair be. I can sit down by myself,
thank you very much," Hilda grumbled. She walked to her seat with
brisk steps and sat down, her mood not improving yet.

Her anger and frustration became overwhelmed
by the sight and smell of the food that was on the table, and she
watched the salesman like a hawk as he walked around the table and
sat down himself. "You look ridiculous in that apron," she shared
with him.

"You think so? I find it rather cute," he
grinned, "never thought though that I would ever wear a yellow
apron with bunny skeletons. But if you think it is ridiculous..."
He took off the apron and hung it over another chair.

"William...", Hilda slowly said.

"Hilda?"

"You are not wearing a shirt."

"I know. It was too hot in the kitchen and I
did not want to get stains on the shirt, so I took it off." William
poured her tea.

"Oh." Hilda could not drag her eyes off his
naked torso and blindly grabbed things on the table, almost burning
her fingers on the hot veggies. "Crap!"

William frowned for a moment, then understood
where the issue resided. "Oh, I see..." He got up, fetched his
shirt and put it on.

"Oh..." Hilda sounded only slightly
disappointed. The two goldfish on her cup grinned and the witch
sucked her almost burnt fingers.

As they ate, Hilda's temper faded away with
each fork-load of food. It was amazingly good. "You know how to
cook," she said.

"I take that as a compliment," he said, "so
thank you."

"Hm-mm."

As she had finished, she leaned back in her
chair and looked at the man over her teacup. "I had every intention
of kicking you out of the house when I got up," she said.

BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
10.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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