Because Rebecca Church has vowed to follow The Witches Code, she isn’t allowed to reveal her background to Brian Danahey other than through riddles, illusions, and dreams. Early in The Witch of the Hills, she recites a poem teeming with clues—The Vagrant. This ballad tells the story of a wandering man who is shanghaied to fight a dragon and later wonders whether his wild adventure might have been a dream.

Later in the novel, Brian awakens at his computer to discover he typed the opening stanzas of The Story Queen in his sleep. The verses describe a lonely Gypsy who spends her days writing fairytales.

The Vagrant and The Story Queen are presented in their entirety below:

Sunlight bathes his face from blue skies overhead.
He blinks,
and sleep fades from his eyes.
Rising now amid the leaves which formed his bed,
he stands as morning dew drops dry.

Kneeling by a brook, he washes shaves and drinks.
Light beard,
blue eyes stare back at him.
Combing long blond hair, “adventure” he now thinks.
“A day
of magic is my whim.”

As he walks through town a voice from shadows cries,
“Go in,
your fortune she will tell.”
“No.” The vagrant laughs. “The future care not I!”
“Go in!”
The voice a magic spell.

“Spreading beads apart through candlelight he peers
at her,
a gypsy beckoning.
Turquoise dress, green eyes, gold bracelets, auburn hair.
“Sit down,
for we must speak of dreams.”

Grasping one rough hand she traces his life line.
a woman you will meet.”
Gazing in her eyes he sees something divine.
my heart for you skips beat.”

“Quiet you damn fool, ‘tis not a game we play.
Leave now.
Go look for maiden fair!”
Staggering out the door from darkness into day,
he leaves
the woman with red hair.

Soon he begs for coins as town folk scoff at him.
“Be gone
you useless, foolish man!”
When he moves along the clouds cause sun to dim.
soon glisten on his hands.

“Looking down at them he sees a magic spell,
of damsel with red hair.
Smitten by this face his heart again does swell.
why did you mark me there?”

Later in the day, the vagrant comes upon
an inn.
He craves warm food, red wine.
Looking in the door he’s blocked by guardian.
“Leave now,
for here you shall not dine.

“Is this not an inn where strangers eat and rest?”
The rain
a clatter as he speaks.
“You have not a pence so leave our happy nest.
‘tis gentry whom we seek.”

“Spare me just a crumb,” the vagrant spreads his hands.
“My god!”
The guardian does cry.
“This man shows the sign of damsel with red strands!
Come in!
With Shannon you must lie!”

Banquet table spread, three servants feeding him.
“I say,
where is this lady fair?”
Guard upon him stares, his friendly face now grim.
“Where’s who?
There is no lady here.”

“‘Teasing me you cur, you saw my hand tattoo,
speak up!
With Shannon I will play.’
“Learn to listen man, there’s no one here for you.
You fool,
‘tis dragon you must slay!”

Rising now from chair the vagrant blinks his eyes.
“I’ll what?
Excuse me sir.” He grins.
“Think of me as knight? A wandering man am I.
I’ll leave
this God forsaken inn.”

Dungeon down below soon changes vagrant’s mind.
He shouts,
arising from cold floor.
“Guard come get me now, your dragon I will find!”
And soon,
a key turns in the door.

Trotting down the path with golden shield and sword,
has now a knight become.
Urge to run is blocked by guard and many more.
They watch
and follow him as one.

Facing now a cave with dark smoke drifting out.
‘tis you I’ve come to fight!”
Breathing flames and steam the dragon looks about.
“You fool,
go home to live this night!”

With his hottest fire the dragon kills the guards.
the army he does slay.
Looking at the knight, he chortles at this coward.
“Go now.
With Shannon you must lay.”

Beggar’s horse is spooked, neighs, gallops far away.
Our knight,
a vagrant once again,
runs along the path as darkness turns to day.
I’ll find you now, my wren!”

In dim light he notes the inn with dungeon gone,
a cottage with white fence.
“At last,
my thirst for love is quenched!”
When he risks a knock a voice responds to him,
‘twas you I waited for.
You and I will wed, a bargain sealed by kiss.”
Red hair
he sees through open door.

Ready now to kiss her lips, her nose, her hair.
But no.
She fades with plaintive cries.
Sunlight bathes his face, he smells the morning air.
He blinks,
Away from him she flies.

“Has this dove of mine been just another dream?
Good lord,
a fantasy I loved!
Shannon was my moon and stars aflickering.”
Just then,
the beast flies past, above.

Sunlight dances past glass beads in doorway strung.
She frowns
then combs her auburn hair.
“Tell me crystal ball another day begun
who now
will tread upon my stairs?”

Gazing in the ball her eyes flash emerald green
She stands,
slips on a turquoise dress
Every day the same, she rises, dresses, preens,
then writes
of princes and their quests.

Haze turns sun to gloom, but candles quell the dark.
Gold flames
reflect within her eyes.
Other than a desk and chairs, the room is stark.
She sighs.
She sits. She starts to write.

Words flow through her pen directly from her heart
to feed
her fiery fairy tales.
Gallant knights, fair maids, true lovers torn apart,
her dreams
like ships begin to sail.

Minutes turn to hours she scribbles restlessly.
her tale
of wizard’s evil spell,
cloistering a maid so she can never flee
a glass surrounded shell.

Her Tale
Once there was a maiden and a magic man
who longed
to sit with her and kiss.
But he had no heart this man just lustful plans.
She frowned
when he proposed a tryst,
“Princess you are wrong your heart is cold my dear,”
he said.
“You judge me with your look.,
I will capture you within a magic mirror.
Your life
imprisoned in this nook.”

With the sorcerer’s words a wall of glass was formed
to block
her world from that outside.
As a looking glass this magic wall was born .
A mirror with princess trapped inside.

“Girl, a Wandering Man might save you from this place
one day,
if you can humor him.
‘Til that time tis fools and fools alone you’ll face.
Like you their focus is within.”

Living in the mirror while time slid slowly past,
she saw
all those who gazed and preened.
‘Til a beggar came and spoke to her at last.
please spin for me a dream.”

“Craft a fantasy, and I will break the spell
that holds
you fast inside your mirror.
Look into my eyes. My fortune you will tell.
My quest
begins with you my dear.”

Writers block takes hold. She rises from her chair
and strolls
to beads of shining glass.
In these beads appears reflection of her there.
She sighs.
“My soul is also trapped.”

“Such a hopeless lot that enter past these beads.
They ask
to have their fortunes told.
Fantasies and lies fulfill their every need.
I speak,
they hear, their faces glow.”

“Tis the Wandering Man for whom I wait and muse.
He cares
not for false prophesies.
Living for the day, he does not want to lose
that future holds for he.”

Shadow shades the beads. A woman peers inside,
then flees.
A chill runs down her spine.
Fortunes can be flawed, so some cannot abide
the truth
of life less than divine.

Once a prince did come some seven months ago.
He gazed
beyond the glassy beads
at the Story Queen’s red hair and emerald eyes.
But then
he bid a fast retreat.

Sunlight starts to fade an uneventful day.
She frowns
and glances round her room.
Hope that one will come to rescue her one day.
This spares
our gypsy from deep gloom.

Sunlight dances past glass beads in doorway strung.
She frowns
and braids her auburn hair,
“Tell me crystal ball, in this day just begun,
will he
arrive upon my stairs?”

Beads disturbed just then a beggar shambles through.
This man
seems like her fantasy.
Could her fairy tale be prophecy come true?
“Sit down
for we must speak of dreams.”

Grasping one rough hand she traces his life line,
a woman you will meet,”
Leering at her breasts, they seem to him divine.
my heart for you skips beat.”

“Silence you damn fool. ‘Tis not a game we play.
Leave now.
Go look for maiden fair!”
Staggering out the door from darkness into day,
he leaves
the woman with red hair.

Walking to the shelf where books of witchcraft lay,
she wants
to cast a spell on him
“You will be a knight – a dragon you will slay,
and then
come back for me again.”

“But alas”, she says, “witchcraft is not the way
to save
me from this lonely life.
While you beg for coins, I’ll sit and write today.
My tales
of dreams that come alive.”

Hours slip away no others come this day.
She writes
her poetry again.
Casting magic spells in stories free and gay.
The words
come bursting from her pen.

Should the Wandering Man come rescue this young maid
and stop
her pen from crafting dreams?
Or should fate dictate that this young lass was made
to live
her life as Story Queen?


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