of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
cabinet turned an enquiring glass-front toward the door and began to
lurch toward it, making little tinkling sounds. Bryarus backed away,
his eyes desperate with disbelief. It followed. He crept toward the
stairs, his hand reaching behind to feel for the banister. His tongue
slipped out to moisten his lips. There! The rail at last. He started
to feel slowly backwards up the steps. The cabinet stopped and made
a little grating noise with a sad question-mark on the end. Its glass
front bent slightly to inspect the stairs.
"Wow," breathed a voice
from above. Bryarus jerked his head up to see a cluster of faces. They
showed white in the gloom of the landing. Someone stifled a giggle.
Drivula, thought Bryarus.
Of course. She'd done this; but how? And then he remembered the phial
of gunk. But surely it wouldn't work on inanimate... He looked back
at the cabinet, examining it with new insight from the safety of the
stairs. How did it manage to produce that kicked-spaniel look?
He started to creep
back down the stairs and it stood still; he reached out a hand, and
the cabinet's front snapped open. He jumped back in alarm and it slumped
into a jingling hump, whining piteously. He held out his hand again
and patted the poor shaking object. It perked up instantly; it began
to prance around him and make grating little yelps.
Bryarus let out a long
breath. "Come on then," he said, "let's get you up the stairs. Here,
boy." He pointed at the first step. It looked at the step and then at
him, and he started to walk up. It howled. Bryarus gasped and was blown
off his feet by the sound - a hundred crystal glasses shrilling to a
wet, rim-rubbing finger. At last it stopped and everyone took their
hands away from their ears.
"Wow," the voice from
above breathed again; "I mean, wow."
It took another ten
minutes to persuade their new friend that stairs, although tricky, were
not an invention of the devil to keep drinks cabinets away from their
dear masters. They could be negotiated, provided you were patient and
could imitate a crab.
When all the noise had
faded away, Cicely and Arkwright looked at each other. They began to
slide away from the wall. They gazed around with wide eyes of suspicion
at all the familiar, uncomfortable furniture surrounding them.
"Ah - urgh!" burst from
Arkwright; his eyes bulged with new shock as a warm, wet tongue slurped
at the back of his neck.
Cicely jerked round.
"Wh-what?" she said. "Oh no! Ugh; get away, you horrid thing."
Bonasus felt deeply
hurt. He was lonely. Where was everybody? Where was his bucket? Perhaps
he ought to try following them indoors... He started to push his bulk
in through the large window frame. The edges began to creak.
Arkwright ran out of
the room and sat, hunched, in the hallway. He babbled to himself.
Cicely gasped and followed
him - to return in determined fury with a large broom. "Out! Out," she
sobbed as she pelted Bonasus' heaving neck with it. "Dirty creature...
Her shouts penetrated
to the room above, and Isis stuck her head out of the window. "Oh, poor
thing," her honeyed voice dripped out. "He needs us. Bonasus!"
His head re-emerged,
festooned with brush-bristles and with a mouthful of chic linen jacket.
He spat it out and looked sadly up. His expression brightened when Isis'
head was replaced by a slopping bucket on a rope. Ah yes indeed, he
thought, this is the ticket, isn't it? And he lowered his muzzle, messily,
into the still-steaming pink liquid.
Upstairs Bryarus, with
his cabinet sitting heavily on his foot, was pondering the bottom of
yet another glass of the brew. Not half bad, he was thinking. He looked
blearily around at the untidy roomful of gods.
There was Apep. He lay
coiled massively in a corner, weeping into a bucket of his own and asking
everybody if they knew the way to Scotland - Australia would do. The
twins were sitting sympathetically on his coils and saying: "There there,"
at odd intervals.
And there was Djehuti,
who had just wandered out of the room for the tenth time, glass in hand,
muttering: "I know I -ah- had it here just a couple of days ago. You
can't just -ah- lose a thing like that; it must be here..."
If only Drivula would
get off his chest, thought Bryarus. She was huffing in his ear and that
was just a touch too close to his jugular. He shifted slightly, found
some skin with his hand and gave it a tentative pinch.
"Oooh!" the breath in
his ear vibrated, "you cruel man!" she wriggled against him and he closed
his eyes. "Look," she said. "See - there'll be a bruise there tomorrow.
Look at me!" He opened his eyes reluctantly; they skittered away from
the piece of skin which was presented to them. Her eyes looked down
into his, darkly golden. "You should pay for that," she said and her
face came down to nuzzle against his neck. He gave a strangled scream
and pushed her away. She giggled. "Coward" she said, and got up to refill
their glasses. When she came back, she squatted down companionably with
her head on his knee and her hand against the drinks cabinet.
He sighed with relief.
Now, there had been something he'd wanted to talk about, thought Bryarus;
what was it? Oh yes... "Look, you lot," he said, "don't you think something
ought to be done about the Dwatters?"
"Eh?" said Bes, from
his cushion; "Oh, them; they're all right. Maybe there's no hurry."
"I thought that's what
you were here for? Weren't you supposed to get on with the job?"
"Well yes," Bes looked
around at the others who were all busily looking at anything else, "but
there doesn't seem to be any real problem, after all. And heck, we're
all having fun here; seems a shame to go home just yet. The leakage
might have stopped and it don't look as though the Dwatters are in any
"Ummm." Bryarus thought
for a while. Something definitely niggled there, at the back of his
mind. Oh yes. "But - but, what about Postleton? Isn't that in a teeny
bit of danger; for instance, what if they do drop bombs? What
about my museum?"
Bes' eyes shifted. "Oh,
we'll stop things before they get out of hand. Eh, guys? Guys?"
Heads were nodded with
vigour; earnest murmurings of assent ran around the room.
Bryarus knew he should
feel reassured - so why didn't he? He looked around at his fun-loving,
uninhibited friends. Somehow there was a warm glow, in spite of his
unease. He smiled and gazed into the fumes from his pink-filled glass.
Strange, he thought, the way it kept steaming.
Blott was the leading light in the Improvement Committee. They wanted
action, and they wanted it now. She marched them to Derek Hartman's
house. Pigeons whirred their wings above, and their throaty "croo, croo"
filled the air. The building was streaked white with their heavy-smelling
Susie held a handkerchief
to her nose; what possessed the man, to live so close to Lower Postleton?
These Social Freedomists in the Council were a menace. Didn't
Mr. Hartman realise that as a Councillor, he had a duty to his electorate?
She stiffened her backbone and grasped his doorknocker. It came off
in her hand; well, really. She wouldn't be bothering with this, if it
wasn't important, and he hadn't kept fobbing them off on his
She hammered on the
door. The others were murmuring in discontent behind her: "Oh, let's
just put the petition through the door, and get away-."
"No, we have to see
him and make him-"
The door opened and
neat, brown-haired man looked at them with tired eyes. "Well ladies,
what is it?"
Susie handed him the
sheet of paper. "This, Mr. Hartman, is a petition signed by over a hundred
decent people. It's time we had action from the council; it's
time the filth of Lower Postleton was burned to the ground and fumigated,
so that honest citizens can sleep secure at night."
Derek ran his hand through
his hair. "But Mrs. Blott, Lower Postleton has its share of honest..."
he said, and then he looked at their tight-lipped faces and sighed.
He folded the paper and stepped back to close the door. "We'll put the
matter on the agenda for our next meeting. Good night."
"Just a moment, Mr.
Hartman. There is another matter; what's being done about the disgusting
- substance - which is collecting on the banks of the Creek and spoiling
"Well madam, the scientists
are working on the problem right now. They'll let us know as soon as
they have the answers. If that's everything? Thank you. If you have
any other worries, you're very welcome to call us during office hours.
Please take your foot out of the door, Mrs. Blott."
Susie stepped back as
he closed the door, and slipped on a pile of droppings.
Clewydd stood in her round, candle-lit room and leaned on her stick.
She looked at her pupil, then at the water-filled jar on the table,
then back again.
Olwyn sat cross-legged,
with her eyes closed, in the centre of the pentagram. Her head was flung
back, with that heavy auburn hair glinting over her shoulders. Her hands
rested, palm upwards, on her knees. She was chanting: "...May the heather
and the hazel, the honey and wild thyme, be strong and stirred in friendship-"
her voice rose as she finished the chant, "-the jar be filled with joy!
So mote it be."
There was a rushing,
bubbling sound and she opened her eyes. They flashed green with excitement.
She said: "Well, did it work? Did I do it?" She jumped to her feet.
Bertha hobbled over
to peer at the jar, which had begun to steam; she rubbed her hand over
her eyes and tapped her stick against the jar. The Welsh lilt in her
soft voice shook a little: "Olwyn, there's proud of you I am. This is
good - truly a good wine." She dipped a finger in the liquid and licked
it. "It tastes of the `musky essence of summer', indeed it does, just
as the wych-hazel recipe says. Light, effervescent and with a tang of
mead and heather-flowers. Your magical grasp of the plant ways is coming
on; but well, there's weird for you." She pointed at the cold
purple mist which boiled out of the glass in the centre of the table.
"If that were all," she continued, "I could guess maybe, what the slip
was. But," and she leaned forward to peer inside, "how did you manage
blue bubbles - and where did the frog come from?"
Olwyn hung her head.
"I don't know what happened. I was relaxing, just as you suggested;
I thought about summer blossoms and smelt heather and honey. He just
sort of popped in at the end." She reached a finger down to where the
frog grinned at her through the bubbles; he winked at her and jumped
onto her wrist.
His glossy skin was
sky-blue, with gold and purple polka-dots. "Rribbit!" he said; he splopped
down onto the floor and left a soggy trail of purple steam as he squelched
out of the door toward the creek.
Bertha cleared her throat
and poured the wine, rather absently, into two glasses. She said: "Well
now, you do seem to have a natural ability, Olwyn dear. I think maybe
your approach to the Power is a little unusual? Don't you worry
your head, cariad. We have some thinking to do, don't we?" She lifted
a glass of the wine to her lips and started straight in on the thinking.
in a darkly panelled Victorian room, somewhere in the country's capital,
a multi-party conference was in full flow. Stern-faced politicians faced
each other across the polished table, mixed with men from the various
Special Branches. Jaawdown, the chairman, sat and glowered at his colleagues
from beneath bushy grey brows. He spoke in a hard voice: "So, Gentlemen,
we are agreed; the Council in the Wold region cannot be trusted to co-operate.
They are of course Social Freedomists-" He held up a hand to still a
murmur of protest from the other end of the table and raised his voice:
"I know that this is irrelevant in Party terms at present, but they
do practise the policy of non-paternalistic non-oppressive non-interference.
We all know that this is mawkish kindliness in the face of a Danger
to Our Country." He lowered his eyebrows still further and swept them
around the table. "This terrorist propaganda appears sourceless; it
is uncontrollable. It slashes at the very fabric of Society - anarchy,
chaos; these are the very Dangers which now threaten us, from the Wold
Council's very doorstep! So," he balled his fist and thumped it onto
the table, "what are we going to do about it?"
A babble broke out and
the chairman allowed it to continue for a while. After a few minutes,
he brought the flat of his hand down on the table and there was silence.
"Gentlemen," he said slowly, "I don't like to hear the word `bomb' used
too freely at this stage. The government would become extremely unpopular
through injudicious use of violence. I may add: the political career
of any man who did not vote against such measures would soon be over
unless the public was first convinced."
A man who bore a startling
resemblance to a ferret cleared his throat. The bushy eyebrows aimed
themselves at the man from MI7 (pseudo-psychic phenomena investigations
dept). "Yes, Kraphedd?" rumbled Jaawdown.
"Well Chairman," Kraphedd's
thin voice answered, "Observation is what we need; someone who can spy
out the heart of the trouble so that we can destroy the source." His
pale eyes shifted from face to face. "You could always keep the - explosion
- as a last resort. We may be able to make use of the terrorists' own
"Hmm." Jaawdown scratched
his chin and considered the ferret-faced man. "That could work; anyone
else?" Everyone looked at his neighbour and shook his head. "Right,"
he was brisk. "The vote? Unanimously carried. Well done, Kraphedd; you
may set off at once. Time is vital. Meanwhile we shall investigate the
propaganda possibilities. Good day, gentlemen." He gathered his papers
together, nodded generally and whirled out, followed by all - except
Kraphedd sat on, stunned.
His mouth opened and closed; finally he blurted out: "But-but I didn't
The room echoed in answer.
following Saturday afternoon saw Gertrude prancing up the Watts' path.
Olwyn parked behind the Black Maria and got out with care, carrying
a bubbling three-gallon jar. She staggered toward the house. She hesitated
and placed the jar on the ground, just as the door flew open and Cicely
erupted, pulling on gloves and shouting back over her shoulder: "If
you had any decency at all, you'd stop using my home as a doss-house!
The least you can do is pay for the cleaner yourself-" she turned her
head and spotted Olwyn. She looked the secretary up and down and said:
"Well? What are you doing here this time? Still running errands for
E-L, little Messenger-girl?"
Olwyn flushed. "No;
I promised your brother-"
"Bryarus? After him,
are you? Well you're welcome to the sod. Take him away, for heaven's
She strode off, ignoring
Olwyn's indignant "I'm not! You - you..." Olwyn's shoulders sagged.
She could never think of the right words in the heat of the moment.
A face peered out from
the open doorway and Bryarus' voice whispered: "`Sewer-brained stink-Gorgon',
that's what you should have said. Save it up for next time."
"I heard that!" Apep's
voice hissed down the stairwell. "We of WACERFOU take issssue when one
of our ssissterss' names iss used in vain. The Gorgon-"
"Sorry Apep, sorry,"
Bryarus said. He came out and shrugged at the still flushed Olwyn. "He
does go on a bit sometimes. What can we do for you?"
"Well you perked me
up when I was feeling pretty pissed off, and I have been having some
success, at least Bertha thinks so, and I thought-"
Bryarus gave a puzzled
half-grin. "Hang on!" he said. "Who's Bertha?"
Olwyn went a shade pinker.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to babble. She's my tutor; she says I've got some
talent for using power, although my results are a bit odd..." she glanced
at the jar. "I thought, since you were so kind I'd bring you some of
my Wych-hazel Wine; Bertha likes it and I always remove the frog." She
glanced up at him and then her eyes sank. "I wondered too, if you meant
it - about that book?"
Bryarus wrenched his
eyes from the jar. A frog, he thought. In that? He shook his head and
answered her: "Of course I did! I've even done a bit of translating
already." He bent to pick up the wine. "Come on, I'll get this... Should
be interesting." He cleared his throat. "What kind of frog?"
"Oh, quite a happy one.
All sort of polka-dot." Olwyn turned her head. "No, Gertrude!
Sit!" Her sudden call made Bryarus jump and spill some of the liquid.
"Eh?" he said, and turned
to see the Fiat freeze in the middle of a flower-bed. It turned guilty
headlamps toward its mistress and started to hunch itself back.
said Olwyn. "You'll get some lovely oil soon."
Bryarus raised his brows,
and said: "Drivula?" Olwyn nodded and he sighed. "It has her hallmark."
Their arrival upstairs
was greeted with enthusiasm. Min's eyes brightened as he saw Olwyn and
he materialised at her side, bowing over her hand and murmuring "Sweet
priestess," in her bemused ear.
He grinned across at
Bryarus, who ignored the god and said: "By the way, Olwyn, you do
know what a `priestess' of Min's would have to do, don't you?"
The rest of the gods
had gathered around the jar and made little crooning noises. The drinks
cabinet took one look and howled; the empty sound of wind across open
bottles. "Boozo! Stop that!" Bryarus shouted and it slumped. It crawled
off to sulk in the corner. He had to stroke it and murmur self-conscious
nothings at it for ten minutes. Even then he had to threaten to use
the boxful of attic mugs, before it would produce a glass.
When the twins leaned
out to lower Bonasus' full bucket, Isis called out: "Who is your friend?"
"I cannot tell," his
voice floated back, "but she is beautiful, isn't it?"
Bryarus stuck his head
out and chuckled. "She certainly is," he said. "Olwyn? I think you ought
"Oh my goodness, Gertrude!
What are you doing?" Olwyn was warm against Bryarus' side in
the window. Gertrude looked up and cringed. Olwyn giggled at the soulful
graffiti-ed headlamps. "Lonely, were you? Go on, then." She turned away
from the window as the car started to bounce happily. Perhaps it was
as well that she didn't see a spout extend from Gertrude's petrol tank
and grope for the bucket. She would only have worried.
Olwyn looked wistfully
around the room. Bryarus looked at her curiously. "What's the matter?"
She laughed. "Envy,"
she said. "Wicked envy! If only my place were more like this. I'd love
to be able to put up friends when they visit, or just have room to do
something. A bit of space for Bast and Coddy and maybe some comfortable
seats." She shrugged. "We all have our dreams, I suppose."
Bes looked at her in
surprise. "Well, why not just make it bigger?" he asked. She blinked
at him. He lifted his heavy shoulders up to his ears in a shrug: "Grab
another one from the fourth dimension and unroll it. Simple. Here, we
wrote the `search-and-set-up' spell down, I'm sure." He riffled through
Djehuti's papyrus book and pointed to a page of neatly-drawn characters.
She looked from book
to god in confusion. Bryarus chuckled. "We'll translate for you; want
Oh yes, she wanted to
give it a try all right. Now.
They found Gertrude
steaming gently in the middle of the lawn. "Come on girl," Olwyn called
softly. The car staggered a few steps toward her and then stopped to
emit a surprised belch. Purple steam rose from her exhaust. "Omigod,"
Dusk was falling as
they towed her home with the Black Maria. Furtive figures scattered
into the shadows of Postleton East as they made their stately way through
it. Their stately progress was marred slightly, however, by hiccups
and whistling noises from the Fiat.
The gods squidged themselves
into Olwyn's room; the twins sat on the depressed cabinets, while Min,
Bryarus and Ra tried to get their legs under the table. Bes bounced
his heavy body onto the bed and it twanged forlornly at him and puffed
the scent of boiled cabbage into the air. "Right," said Bryarus and
began to translate the spell.
Bes brought out the
museum's flattened drum and deftly flicked it into shape; he drummed
a deep, rhythmic beat on it. The twins kept time with the jingling rattle
of their sistrums.
A voice from a room
in one of the flats below shouted: "Oy! Shut that row!" They ignored
Olwyn stood before the
sink, her hands spread out toward the opposite wall. Her head was flung
back and her eyes were closed; she was trying to feel the ancient
words as she muttered them under her breath.
"...so mote it
be. NOW!" she finished on a shout and opened her eyes. Her fingers curled
into claws and the tips shimmered.
The room wavered and
was dark for a second; then it lit up, grew larger, and steadied. Several
blue, polka-dot frogs flopped crossly to the carpet.
Olwyn's eyes grew round
and she said: "Wow!" The walls were a light purple, and furry to the
touch; they matched the new furniture. The tap had stopped dripping
and had turned into a cast-iron pump with a golden lion's mouth. There
were three heavy oaken doors in the wall opposite to the entrance, and
she opened one to peep in. "A dining room," she whispered; "how
posh!" That room was wide and airy. Its silk-curtained window let in
bright sunlight which had a pale mauve tint; disconcerting when you
knew it was night outside, Olwyn thought.
Bryarus gazed around
the sitting-room. "Nice place," he said, "but the large pond is a bit
over the top, isn't it? Do you suppose it's for fish?"
a brightly-coloured frog croaked behind him. It bounced over to the
pond, and jumped in with a "spludge" sound.
"Peculiar sounding water,"
Olwyn had just pushed
open the second oak slab to reveal a seemingly endless corridor, when
a knock thundered at her front door.
Without thinking, she
crossed over and opened it. Her landlord stood there and his jaw dropped
open; she slammed the door shut again. "Help!" she mouthed, and ran
for her rent money, "it's the landlord. He'll go mad! What can I do?"
Bes grinned and twisted
his hands in a rolling motion; there was a shimmer. The room did a flip
and disappeared. The depressing old bedsit was back.
Olwyn opened the door
again. The man was still standing there with a glazed look on his face
and his jaw aiming for the carpet. She thrust the money at him and he
began to recover. "Hey," he said, "you're not supposed to fiddle with
the room. You want to do that, you got to do it proper."
She smiled at him. "But
of course. I wouldn't dream of being improper," she said and began to
close the door.
"Hold it," he said.
He looked at her suspiciously and tried to crane his head to peek around
her. "I've had a complaint from below. You're making too much noise.
You got drums? I'll have a look in, if it's all the same to you."
Olwyn opened her hazel
eyes at him and held the door wide. "But of course! See? I've just got
a few friends round for tea and a chat. Is it our fault if the insulation
He glared at her and
looked around the room again with a puzzled frown. "I'm sure I saw..."
He shook his head. "Well, stop making a row anyway." He ambled off,
muttering to himself: "Must be working too hard..."
Olwyn slammed the door
and looked around at the giggling gods. She started to chuckle. A minute
later, they were rolling on the floor, clutching their stomachs and
howling with mirth. "Mind you," Olwyn said finally, wiping her eyes,
"it's a shame he turned up; it was such a lovely place."
"Oh well, you can have
it back any time. It's been captured," said Bes. He flicked his fingers.
There was a shimmer, and the new flat was back. "You see, now that this
bit of continuum has been programmed in you can call it up easy. Whenever
you want to, just roll it up again." He spent a patient half hour, teaching
her the motions. Bryarus had to beg for mercy - he was going dizzy;
and the frogs were getting cross.
Olwyn went with the
others down the dusty stairs and into the drab street. She waved them
off, and turned just in time to see two boys disappear into the drunken
Fiat's bonnet. Their legs hung out and twitched frantically.
"Gertrude!" Olwyn said;
"Put them back. Come on, spit them out." She tapped on the bonnet. The
car hunched rebelliously. She tapped harder; it opened its bonnet and
spat the boys across the road.
"Honest Missus, we never
meant no harm," said one when he'd got his breath back.
"Yes Ma'am, we'd never-"
Olwyn spoke clearly.
"It doesn't matter what you did or didn't do. Don't go too near this
car in future; and you'd better tell your mates, too. It's fitted with
a - a special new anti-theft device."
"I'll say!" the larger
boy mumbled, as they crept away rubbing their bruises. Every so often
they looked back in puzzled awe.