It was the pumpkin that brought me here.
I wasn't to take any homegrown tame produce in the gardens, nor from the grocer's, which was really just as well since I didn't have a garden and no money to buy with. But if I had either of those things I wouldn't be in this situation in the first place - swamp water leaking into my socks and a mausoleum of oak and cypress boughs hanging above.
You have got to be real desperate to seek help from a Fen Witch. Besides the obvious reasons of witches being strange and frightening and spiteful folk, there was also the fact that even finding a Fen Witch is a horrible complicated process. They say you had to walk some, ride some, try some, follow some, lend some, cry some, shout some, swim some, climb some, lie some, and sing some, and if you weren't careful you still wouldn't find her. Even if you did, there'd still be the matter of payment (because nothing in this world's free but trouble).
Everybody knows magical folk don't have need for cash money, they trade only in what they can use, and to do magic proper, you need to work with live things. I'd have loved to bring along a rich supply of columbine, or wormwood, or nightshade, or a nice fat hen I had none of them things, so I had to make do with whatever I could manage in the bayou.
That leads to the pumpkin what brought me to the fenland. I found it sittin' pretty as a picture near a hollow log. It had a nice weight to it and made a nice healthy thunk when I tap-tap-tapped its flesh. It was the color of sunsets in late summer, with a touch of the harvest moon. If that weren't a good item for spell-casting, I didn't know what was.
But when I troughed onwards through the dank and mud, the pumpkin weighing down my poor back, I came to the same place I had before, with the hollow log and the bald cypress with an X carved in the trunk. I'd thought I'd taken the right route, but obviously I took a wrong turn somewhere, probably got mixed up when I passed the rock what looked like a catamount.
So, I went and lit out again, this time making double sure I went in a straight line and not in a circle. After some time I started to see the kingfishers, flashing blue and green in and out of the trees and ferns – a good sign I must be getting close. I'd heard tell this particular Fen Witch hung about kingfishers, same as other witches mulled about with cats or toads. I staggered on through a pricker bush to come face to face with… a cypress with an X in the trunk.
Okay. No more fooling around, now. Time was slipping out from under me, the sun was sinking down into the swamp and soon I'd be too lost to find anybody.
I put my eye to the branches and took careful note of the kingfishers. If I looked close, I could make out how they were sort of lined up (in a chaotic flying about way) and lookin' north. North was where I had to go, follow the birds, find the witch. I took a moment to make sure of my bearings and took a step forward to find myself flat on the marshy ground.
I tried to stand back up, but my foot slipped out from under me and suddenly I was pulled down into the murk of the swamp, horrified to discover that I'd misjudged in stepping into mud. The pumpkin, still sitting beautifully orange a few feet away had a vine untangling down to where I could reach it. I grabbed onto the fine for leverage to pull back on outta there, but somehow I was pulled further in down to my knees, then to my waist, then to my collarbone. Somewhere high in the branches and in the ferns the kingfishers made crackling, cackling calls.
I had never seen the Fen Witch, but I knew her when I saw her, with hair in tangles, and her eyes far away and glossy. In one hand she held a knife that shone the color of a harvest moon. In the other she thumbed through a bag of glowing pumpkin seeds.
She leaned way down, down, to look me in the eye, and in a syrupy voice she told me, "It was the pumpkin that brought me here."