The Weird Woman

We were drunken.  I admit it.  Not falling down or even singing.  But we were drunk enough to make an unwise choice.

We were celebrating, but sad.  Hubmaier was leaving, moving to the University of Ingolstadt to finish his degree under Eck.  And I had been named professor of theology extraordinarius, a position that entitled me to a half salary of 25 florins a year.

So we dined at the Quill Tavern, an establishment as superior to the Hog Snout as Pegasus is to a nag.  There we feasted on doves and bacon, white bread, and fruits.  And we had a bottle of dark red French wine.  We all partook except the young monk Michael, who scrupulously obeyed the university’s ban on alcohol.  The rest of us were not so scrupulous.

Then Fabri, who had won a case in court and been paid well by the benefactor, ordered some Feldliner (new) wine.  Then, the proprietor of the tavern, seeing Fabri’s good robe and our looseness with money, brought us a couple pints of mead.

We walked Michael to his house and left him there.  Then someone–I know not which one–said, “Let’s go to the tanners’ quarter.”

The tanners lived downstream from the main city in an inferior suburb call the Neuberg.  But it was not the tanners that we wished to visit, but a house of cards and other vice located between the almshouse and the lazaret, where those with contagious diseases were imprisoned.

No one answered, but as one man, we turned in that direction.  We took a back way through a copse, that we not be met on the main thoroughfare by university acquaintances.  In the midst of this wood, she suddenly blocked our way.  We had one lamp, which Zell raised.

She wore a black cloak and hood with a red sash.  Not a crone, she had smooth skin and eyes jet black.  Alluring she might have been, had she not raised her shoulders and curled her back with a hiss like a cat.

What are these?  Four pretty boys, slipping stealthily without noise?”

We stopped.  After a moment, Fabri said, “Begone!”

You begone, smithy’s son.  The Black Hoffman leaves for NONE!”  She cackled the last word and pointed at Fabri so suddenly that we all jumped back.

Without a word, each man wondered how she knew that Fabri’s father was a smith.

After a moment, Zell said, “We only wish to pass.”

From the future to the past, you shall see your fate at last.”

“Our fate?” Hubmaier said.  “You want to tell our fortunes then?”

“We have no wish to traffic in the black arts,” I said.

The Hoffman blesses with her sight, those who sneak about at night.”

“Let’s just go back,” Zell said.

She turned toward him and walked closely round him, sniffing the air. When she moved, the faint tinkling of bells or charms could be heard beneath her cloak.

YOU will cross the river first; then tow HIM for his great thirst.”  Whirling round, she pointed her finger at me.  I was to be the one with the great thirst.

Then she walked over to Hubmaier and, to his credit, he stood his ground when a lesser man might have cringed, for she stroked the budge trim of his robe and her voice became tender, mournful.  “Like a hare, they run you down. . .

And YOU!” she suddenly whirled and pointed at Fabri with a hiss, “You will be the hound!”

“Four pretty boys, two love,” she pointed at Zell and I.

“Two hate,” she pointed at Fabri and Hub.

“The Hoffman leaves you to your FATE.”  And with that, she simply stepped into the darkness and was gone.

We stood in silence for a long time.  My heart was racing until I could scarce draw breath and shivers ran like mice up my arms and neck.  Then someone–I know not which one–turned back toward town.

We have discussed this endlessly but find no answers to the riddles.  What will Zell cross before me and then aid me to cross?  Will Hubmaier be hounded by Fabri?  Why?

Fabri says she was a crazy gypsy, and that it means nothing.  Hubmaier fears he has been cursed by a witch.  And I know not what great thirst may await me.

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Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 7:21 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a very talented and classy writer. I hope she will be famous.

  2. Oh, that is good Wolfgang! Very good!

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