He dropped back over the wall, pockets bulging with the rampion he’d plucked from her garden. His wife needed it so much… If he could just make it back to the cottage without –
“Going somewhere, Miller?” croaked the voice he’d been dreading.
“Ah… um… j-just c-clearing my h-head… a l-late c-c-constitutional…”
“I see,” replied the Witch, “Because if someone had been trespassing in MY garden, particularly if they were stealing MY herbs, there would be consequences.”
“W-well, I’m s-s-sure I- n-n-n-nobody w-would d-d-dare…”
“Yet they did, you timid fool. I can see what’s stuffed in your breeches, and it’s quite evidently not there to enhance your masculinity.”
With a lightning movement, the Witch caught the Miller by the wrist in an iron grip, and marched him squirming and sweating to his cottage. Standing before the frightened couple, she laid out her demands, the air crackling around her in incandescent arcane fury.
“Keep the herbs, but if you wish to spend the rest of your miserable lives breathing air, you will never again trespass in my domain,”
“N-no, w-we wouldn’t d-dare…”
“I shall have all the flour I demand, free of charge…”
“Of course, yes,” interjected the Miller’s wife,
“…and the baby that is born, you will give to me.”
The couple gasped, and opened their mouths to protest.
“If you don’t wish to have to return to the water to breed, you disgusting ingrates, you will comply with my demands to the letter,” threatened the Witch.
Nine months passed, and true to her word, the Witch rapped sharply on the door of the cottage at the third stroke of midnight.
“Where’s the baby?” she demanded.
“It… it’s l-l-l-late…” stammered the Miller.
“Late!?” screeched the Witch. She shoved the Miller out of the way with formidable strength and forced her way into the bedroom.
The Miller’s wife lay in bed, pale and clammy, and nearly unconscious. The herbs she craved were dried and bunched ready for infusion into tea.
The Witch looked at them for a moment, then spun round to face the Miller.
“You!” she screeched, “What did you take from my garden?”
“R-r-r-rampion… my w-wife c-c-c-craved it so… ” started the Miller.
“You should have left the herbalism to the experts, you dunderheaded louse,” snarled the witch. “This is hemlock.”
~ Nathan B, 2015