A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger

The handsome but uncharming prince having been magicked, the witch and her coconspirators know it’s time to focus on finding Ella. The witch looks around the table.

“Mrs. Janedoe and Mrs. Worthington,” she says, “you are two of our most highly experienced sauceresses…I mean sorceresses. Mrs. Bezukhov, you are also a woman of great, if temporarily diminished, power. Let us work together and see what we can do. Surely when people of good will work together they can raise energy that leads to positive results. Yes?” She looks around. “Please come up to my study.” The ravens of course know they are members of this ad hoc coven, and Mrs. Bezukhov goes out to her little room (actually a stall) in the barn to fetch her old scrying stone.

“Now,” says the witch, “we need to find out where Ella is and—”

“Before that,” says Kahlil, the prophetic raven, “we gotta fly that…er…sausage to the city ’n’ drop it on that lousy prince and hit ’im where it’ll do the most good. Make sure he got the message, doncha know. I got a new buddy who’ll fly with us.” He waves a wing at the window and another raven flies in. “This’s Icarus.” The new raven bows. “Despite his name, he’s a good flyer ’n’ he knows the safest routes to the capital and the bestest ways to get around the city.” Kahlil shows the bagged sausage to Icarus, who studies it and shakes his head like he’s just been attacked by a million fleas. “Okay,” says Kahlil, “youse girls just keep an eye on us in that there scrying stone.” He starts to rise from the table, but Mrs. Worthington stops him.

“Before you leave,” she says, “we girls have another task. I have a feeling Ella’s going to need more help than ravens can give her. I think we should make her some flying—maybe fleeing—ointment.” As the other women nod, she begins pulling herbs out of her pockets. Rose petals. Mugwort. Dittany of Crete. Sage. At the same time, the witch takes some beeswax out of a drawer and sets it on a tiny alchemical oven to melt. The women call in the elemental powers of the four directions, then grind up the herbs and certain tiny crystals and mix them with the beeswax.

Mrs. Fairy waves her wand, which is now back up to full power, over the ointment. It begins to sparkle. “You need to take this with you,” she says.

“How we gonna carry it?” Edgar asks. “In that heavy mortar?”

“Hmmm. We should’ve thought of that earlier,” Mrs. Janedoe begins, but the witch opens another drawer and pulls out a very large snail shell. “Yesss!”

With the ointment in the shell and the shell in a clean baggie, the ravens are ready to go. “Youse girls keep an eye on us,” Kahlil calls as they fly out the window.

The women now place Mrs. Bezukhov’s scrying stone in the center of the table and, so to speak, turn it on and focus it on the capital city. What do they see?

First, the formerly handsome prince, storming around in his mansion, obviously whining about something. (The scrying stone shows only silent movies.) Nearby—a tower built of rough brick. It has no doors and only one high window, out of which a small winch and a basket hang on a ragged rope. A minute later, the prisoner comes to the window. Ella is dressed in rags, her hair chopped off near her scalp, bruises up and down her arms (and who knows where else). She looks extremely depressed. When she looks out the window, it is as if she is staring straight into a movie camera.

Having found her, the women try to speak to her. They call out. They try tapping Morse code on the stone. They draw sigils and runes. They click on Send. Nothing. Elle just keeps staring out the window. Soon she starts crying.

And now, four ravens inside the mansion. As Domina waves one wing in the direction of the tower and its prisoner and Edgar says something, Edgar drops the bagged sausage on the prince’s head. Then the ravens peck out his eyes and the eyes of several other aristocrats in the mansion.

When the ravens arrive at the tower a few minutes later, they land on the windowsill and speak with Ella, who becomes almost animated. When they give her the shell with the ointment in it and explain the plan, she moves away from the window to rub the flying ointment on her body. She comes back into view looking slightly cheerier and dressed in different rags. She is also carrying a basket like Mrs. Fairy’s.

“Hooray!” the witch and her coven cheer. “Goddess keep her safe in the air.” Mrs. Fairy waves her wand again and Mrs. Janedoe and Mrs. Worthington draw more sigils in the air. Mrs. Bezukhov crosses herself and mutters a short prayer, and the witch pronounces a spell.

As they watch, Ella climbs unsteadily up on the windowsill and pulls an almost bald whiskbroom out of her basket. The ravens begin pulling on it and—voilà, the broom grows longer. The ravens help Ella balance on it…and a minute later they all take off. There are some steering issues, quickly resolved, and then (two ravens still on the broom) they rise above the city and circle the prince’s mansion three times. Now up to speed, they zoom toward the country.

“Thank you all so much!” Ella cries when she arrives. After hugging Mrs. Fairy, who promptly transforms the girl’s rags into more presentable clothes, Ella thanks the other women and hugs them, too. It is suppertime. Everyone, including the four ravens, enjoys the feast. Ella can’t remember the last real meal she had. Afterward, she and the witch put their heads together to begin making significant plans.


Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Categories: Authorship, Community, Female Saints, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Awakenings, Fiction, Folklore, Foremothers, Friendship, General, Healing, Literature, meditations

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13 replies

  1. 1. Ravens are one of the smartest animals.

    When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.

    If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.
    2. Ravens can imitate human speech.

    In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.
    3. Europeans often saw ravens as evil in disguise.

    Many European cultures took one look at this large black bird with an intense gaze and thought it was evil in the flesh … er, feather. In France, people believed ravens were the souls of wicked priests, while crows were wicked nuns. In Germany, ravens were the incarnation of damned souls or sometimes Satan himself. In Sweden, ravens that croaked at night were thought to be the souls of murdered people who didn’t have proper Christian burials. And in Denmark, people believed that night ravens were exorcized spirits, and you’d better not look up at them in case there was a hole in the bird’s wing, because you might look through the hole and turn into a raven yourself.
    4. Ravens have been featured in many myths.

    Cultures from Tibet to Greece have seen the raven as a messenger for the gods. Celtic goddesses of warfare often took the form of ravens during battles. The Viking god, Odin, had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), which flew around the world every day and reported back to Odin every night about what they saw. The Chinese said ravens caused bad weather in the forests to warn people that the gods were going to pass by. And some Native American tribes worshipped the raven as a deity in and of itself. Called simply Raven, he is described as a sly trickster who is involved in the creation of the world.
    5. Ravens are extremely playful.

    The Native Americans weren’t far off about the raven’s mischievous nature. They have been observed in Alaska and Canada using snow-covered roofs as slides. In Maine, they have been seen rolling down snowy hills. They often play keep-away with other animals like wolves, otters, and dogs. Ravens even make toys—a rare animal behavior—by using sticks, pinecones, golf balls, or rocks to play with each other or by themselves. And sometimes they just taunt or mock other creatures because it’s funny.
    6. Ravens do weird things with ants.

    They lie in anthills and roll around so the ants swarm on them, or they chew the ants up and rub their guts on their feathers. The scientific name for this is called “anting.” Songbirds, crows, and jays do it too. The behavior is not well understood; theories range from the ants acting as an insecticide and fungicide for the bird to ant secretion soothing a molting bird’s skin to the whole performance being a mild addiction. One thing seems clear, though: anting feels great if you’re a bird.
    7. Ravens use “hand” gestures.

    It turns out that ravens make “very sophisticated nonvocal signals,” according to researchers. In other words, they gesture to communicate. A study in Austria found that ravens point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object to get another bird’s attention. This is the first time researchers have observed naturally occurring gestures in any animal other than primates.
    8. Ravens are adaptable.

    Evolutionarily speaking, the deck is stacked in the raven’s favor. They can live in a variety of habitats, from snow to desert to mountains to forests. They are scavengers with a huge diet that includes fish, meat, seeds, fruit, carrion, and garbage. They are not above tricking animals out of their food—one raven will distract the other animal, for example, and the other will steal its food. They have few predators and live a long time: 17 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.
    9. Ravens show empathy for each other.

    Despite their mischievous nature, ravens seem capable of feeling empathy. When a raven’s friend loses in a fight, they will seem to console the losing bird. They also remember birds they like and will respond in a friendly way to certain birds for at least three years after seeing them. (They also respond negatively to enemies and suspiciously to strange ravens.) Although a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness,” the birds appear to be anything but.
    10. Ravens roam around in teenage gangs.

    Ravens mate for life and live in pairs in a fixed territory. When their children reach adolescence, they leave home and join gangs, like every human mother’s worst nightmare. These flocks of young birds live and eat together until they mate and pair off. Interestingly, living among teenagers seems to be stressful for the raven. Scientists have found higher levels of stress hormones in teenage raven droppings than in the droppings of mated adults. It’s never easy being a teenage rebel.

    From the web, I remembered that I always see ravens in pairs–I was right, ravens are usually in m-f pairs, but, your ravens could be teenagers, see #10.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Love this post, Barbara. I am tempted to see if I can make flying/fleeing ointment. It might come in handy!


  3. A wonderful story about women using their spiritual power to help other women – so much for the Prince Charming saving the day by riding up on a white horse! My favorite line is “Afterward, she and the witch put their heads together to begin making significant plans.” I can’t wait to read more about the “significant plans”!


  4. Those last words about Ella and the witch “making significant plans” is pregnant with possibilities! Hope they carry them out soon.


    • Next month! We’re going to learn more about El Presidente as well as more about the witch and her friends. And (when I get it written–I’m working on some more plot twists) more adventures.


  5. Thanks for the awesome story, Barbara. I love your creativity!


    • Thanks. I’m working up to at least three or four follow-on stories. I need to keep track of the characters and the coven of ravens. Writing these stories is fun.


  6. I love this. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next. I look forward to them every time you post!


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