The Ragwitch

The Ragwitch by Garth Nix Read Free Book Online

Book: The Ragwitch by Garth Nix Read Free Book Online
Authors: Garth Nix
Tags: Science-Fiction, adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Childrens, Young Adult
undying cloth, it is increased!”

4
Gwarulch by Night/The Ragwitch Looks to the South
    T HE A WE-GUH-AY-ER ,” P AUL said once again, trying to match Aleyne’s pronunciation. The two of them sat at the prow of the River Daughter, which was rapidly making progress down that difficultly named river, aided by the current and the poling of Ennan and Amos, the brothers who owned the narrowboat.
    As Aleyne had expected, Paul had slept through two nights and a day, waking only that morning, rested if no less anxious. They had immediately embarked on the River Daughter, and the pair had spent the morning talking. Paul had spoken of his “adventures,” and of Julia and the Ragwitch; he’d also learnt that Aleyne was in fact Sir Aleyne, a Knight of the Court at Yendre—though from Aleyne’s description of what he did, he sounded more like a cross between a policeman and a parkranger, and he didn’t look at all like the knights in books or films. Aleyne had a particular love of the river Awgaer, and spent much of his time on its waters, or in the villages that shared the river banks with the wildfowl and water rats.
    “Perhaps you should just call it ‘the river,’” said Aleyne, laughing at Paul’s eighth attempt. “I hope you can do better with Rhysamarn—the Wise might refuse to see you if you can’t pronounce the name of their favorite mountain.”
    “Really?” asked Paul, who was often taken in by Julia’s jokes, but Aleyne was already laughing, his black mustache quivering with each chuckle.
    “No, lad—just my joke! But the Wise are strange, it’s true, and Rhysamarn is a strange mountain—or so they say.”
    “You’ve never been there?”
    “Well, I have almost been there,” replied Aleyne. “But I didn’t see the Wise. It was some years ago, when I was more foolish and rather vain. I thought to ask the Wise…well, I thought to gain some insight into procuring the love of a certain lady—a passing fancy, nothing more.”
    “What happened?” asked Paul eagerly, hoping that Aleyne (who was looking rather sheepish) wouldn’t avoid the question and trail off into a completely different story.
    “To tell the truth,” continued Aleyne, “I was halfway up the mountain when my horse brushed a tree and knocked down a wasps’ nest. The waspschased me all the way down to the water trough at the Ascendant’s Inn, and my face was so stung I couldn’t go to Court for weeks—or see the lady.”
    “Perhaps you did see the Wise after all,” laughed Amos, who had been listening at the stern. Ennan laughed too, till both had to pole hard to keep the narrowboat straight within the current.
    “Maybe I did,” said Aleyne. “The lady in question did turn out to be rather different from what I had thought…”
    “Yes, but why are you taking me to this Rhysamarn place?” asked Paul. “Will the Wise find my sister, and take both of us back where we belong?”
    “As to the first,” answered Aleyne, “only the Wise could possibly know what has become of your sister—especially if she has become mixed up with…the One from the North.”
    Paul noticed that while Aleyne didn’t make the sign against witchcraft as often as old Malgar the Shepherd, he still did it occasionally—and he didn’t like using the Ragwitch’s name, now that he suspected She really did exist. “The One from the North” was the phrase he used to speak of the Ragwitch, or “Her,” with a hissing, audible capital “H.”
    “And for the second,” Aleyne continued, “I have never heard of such a place as yours, with its…carz and magics, so I suspect that if it does exist—and I believe you—the Wise will know of some way to get you back there.”
    “I hope so,” replied Paul sadly. Relaxing in this boat was all very well, and safely exciting, but it was still the world of the May Dancers, their forest…and the Ragwitch. Paul wished the Ragwitch had taken him, rather than Julia, so his sister would be the one who had

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