The Ragwitch
down onto the floor. She tried to squirm away, but the Ragwitch bent down, pinning her with one outstretched hand, as her toothy maw bent closer and closer towards the helpless victim.
    As she fainted, Julia caught the partial image of the old woman’s left hand reaching up to touch a tiny silver acorn to the Ragwitch’s side. Then it and everything else vanished into a panicked blackness.

7
A Friend of Beasts/Lyssa
    P AUL LOOKED BACK up at Rhysamarn again, unsure of how he’d gone so far in such a short time. He’d only left Tanboule a few hours ago, but he was already past the grey shale and the heather, and was once more looking down on green fields neatly separated by low stone walls. Directly below him, a road stretched from right to left, cut into the broken ground where the foothills of Rhysamarn flattened out into the valley.
    There were quite a few sheep about (they were black and scrawny, unlike the merinos Paul was used to), but there was no sign of any people—or of any kind of house or village. The valley grew wider to the east (or what Paul thought was east), so he cut across in that direction, walking easily down the hill to the road.
    Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t really a road,but more of a well-travelled track. Paul noticed wheelmarks in the yellow clay, and for an instant, thought of cars. But the tracks were treadless, and very narrow. Still, they were tracks, and a sign of other people, so Paul kept heading east, feeling reasonably cheerful. Tanboule had said nothing to ease his mind, but at least he now had a definite purpose, even if it did sound a little bit mad.
    Paul laughed to himself, imagining asking a passerby for the Earth Lady’s address, or directions to the Water Lord’s house. He was still giggling a little when a voice suddenly addressed him from behind.
    “Hey! Boy! Have you seen a hare go past?”
    Paul turned around slowly, expecting to see whoever had spoken, but the road was empty, and there was no one over in the fields, or up on the hill.
    “I said, have you seen a hare?” asked the voice again, from the sound of it, not too far away. At the same time, a dark shadow fell across Paul, and he shivered, instinctively looking up to face whatever new horror might be there.
    “Well, have you seen a hare?” asked the voice, a little angrily—and this time, Paul could see the speaker. About ten meters above, a huge balloon drifted silently along, the bright yellow lozenges painted on its sides brilliant in the sunlight.
    A wicker basket swung below it, suspended by a complicated tracery of ropes and wires. In thebasket, a rather short man was hanging over the side, calling to Paul. “Have…you…seen…a… hare! ” shouted the man. “You know, like a rabbit, but with longer ears!”
    Paul looked around quickly, but couldn’t see anything. “No, I haven’t seen a hare!” he shouted. “Where’s it supposed to be?”
    “She!” shouted the man. “It’s a she! And she’s supposed to be…oh, never mind! I’ll come down.”
    Paul watched as the man leaned back into the basket and vanished from sight. He was expecting a loud hiss of escaping air or gas to make the balloon sink, but there wasn’t a sound. Instead, the balloon silently rose up several meters, and started to steadily climb into the sky, accompanied by a loud outbreak of what sounded like the man cursing and swearing.
    The balloon started to head east, so Paul followed it, since it was heading in his direction anyway. It went up and down rather erratically, before finally coming down to land, several hundred meters up the road. The short man immediately got out, and began fastening ropes to the stone wall, an ancient stump and anything else nearby that looked solid. Obviously, he’d had to land like this before, as the balloon started to rise again, till the anchor ropes were at full stretch, and the basket was a meter or so above the ground.
    Closer to, Paul saw that the short man was infact, more

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