Old hag by *veprikov
Being a witch is not the highest paid job in the world.
I JUST FOUND THIS PICTURE AND I’M GOING TO CRY WHY THIS
I JUST WANT HER TO GET HER PRETTY PURPLE HAT AND BE HAPPY
I would kill for a companion piece to this, where she gets her hat..
no seriously why hasn’t any replied to this image with a picture of her in the pretty hat c’mon tumblr please
she bought the toad a pretty hat but not herself
;-; i’ll buy you the hat. don’t be sad *sobs*
#YOU JUST /BROKE/ MY FUCKING HEART WHAT THE FUCK #I WANT FIC I WANT MORE ART I WANT HER TO BE HAPPY I MIGHT ACTUALLY CRY #WHAT THE FUCK #I SUDDENLY AM IN PAIN BC OF HOW MUCH I CARE ABOUT THIS FICTIONAL WITCH FUCK YOU #ART
Someone give her the hat, please. D:
Here you go. She got her hat as a gift from a lovely gentleman. :) Hope you all are happy now.
this post was an emotional rollercoaster
Edwin’s only been in town for a week, but he’s already grown used to the sight of the old hags everywhere. They’re a sad remnant of the old ways, a sign of the townspeople’s ignorance and superstition. Edwin’s a university-trained physician. Science, knowledge, and hygiene, that’s what medicine’s all about, not this, this… quackery, these outdated traditions, old women with warty noses and their talk of magic.
This particular hag looks shabbier than most, her threadbare dress patched many times. She’s clutching a toad to her chest (A toad! Horrible. Unhygienic.) and is eyeing a purple hat in the store’s display window. The hat’s made of silken, shimmering fabric, and there are silver chains trailing around its rim. She doesn’t look like she’d be able to afford it. Poor old woman.
The hag turns around, and maybe she’s caught the look of pity in his eyes, because her lined face turns hard and cold. She looks him over from head to toe, his glasses, his brand new white doctor’s coat, his unlined face. It’s like her eyes bore right through him, but he knows she’s seeing nothing but his youth and inexperience. These old hags aren’t ever willing to respect someone his age. She sniffs, turning away, dismissing him with that one single glance. Edwin clenches his teeth.
"Sanctimonious old charlatan," he mutters under his breath, loud enough for her to hear. He feels sorry for it immediately after, ashamed; that’s not the way his mother taught him to treat old ladies. But it’s too late to apologize. The hag is already gone.
It’s not the first birth Edwin’s ever attended alone, but it’s the first time things have gone this terribly wrong. There’s no one to call for help. The nearest physician is all the way down in the city, two hours’ walk away; the mother’s not going to have that kind of time.
The baby’s screaming, a shrill, high-pitched wail that’s not helping Edwin’s concentration any. The little girl’s going to be just fine. It’s her mother he’s worried about. The bleeding won’t stop, and Edwin’s already done everything they taught him in university, most of it twice.
"Why aren’t you doing anything!" the father says, pleading. Edwin flinches.
"I, I’m doing –" He breaks off, helpless. Nothing, he’s doing nothing, he doesn’t know how to help, and this woman is going to die.
"Call Margret," the father says, and one of the maids runs out the door. Edwin should feel shame, but he feels nothing but gratitude. Someone’s coming. Someone’s going to help.
Margret’s the old hag. She comes rushing through the door, dumps a heavy-looking bag on the floor, sets her toad on top of it, and whirls on Edwin. Edwin tries not to flinch from her hard grey eyes. “You the doctor, boy?” she says.
"Yes," he says, and it comes out sounding like sorry.
"You’ve had her lying with her legs up?"
"Yes! Since the bleeding started!" Edwin says.
"Made her drink the snakeroot tea?"
"Yes! Of course! Two full cups, but it didn’t help, she just –" He’s stammering. Margret’s face makes it clear she’s got no time for his excuses.
"Made sure the placenta’s all the way out?"
"Yes! I checked, it came out whole."
"Well, then you’re not doing so badly, are you, boy?" The old hag says, and he blinks at her, dumbly. "Now let me show you an old hags’ trick."
The trick, like most things involved in childbirth, is squishy and unpleasant and disgusting. The mother, who’s been growing ever more still and pale, opens her eyes and screams. Edwin flinches. “No!” the hag snaps. She puts her hand on his and forces it down more firmly. “No flinching! Healers don’t get to flinch!”
He nods and sniffles and keeps up the pressure, and slowly, slowly, the horrible torrent of blood slows to a trickle, and finally it stops. The mother’s eyes slide shut again, but she looks better, a little bit of color back in her cheeks.
"You’ll remember this for next time?" The old hag says.
"Yes! Yes, thank you. My God. Thank you," Edwin says.
The father falls all over himself to thank her, too, trying repeatedly to press a heavy purse of coins into her hand. Margret waves off anything but a cup of tea.
She’s getting ready to leave, heavy bag slung over one shoulder, that awful toad perched on the other, when Edwin finally gets up the courage to call out to her. “Miss?”
"Yes?" she says, coolly impatient.
He swallows hard. “The next time something goes wrong,” he says, knowing now that there will be a next time; there’s always a next time, in medicine. “…may I call on you?”
"That’s what I’m there for, boy," she says.
Margret opens the door just as Edwin’s raising his hand to knock. “Yes?” she says. Her voice is sharp and impatient. Her threadbare dress has grown yet another tear on the arm, carefully patched and mended. Even her toad seems to be scowling at him.
Edwin holds out the hat like a talisman. “I thought you might like to have this,” he says.
For a moment, her sharp eyes catch on the pointed purple hat, the delicate silver chains lacing the brim, and there’s something like hunger on her face. And then it’s gone, and there’s nothing but that impatient scowl.
"Hags don’t take payment," she snaps.
"It’s not payment. It’s a hat," Edwin says. They stand looking at each other for a long moment. It’s beginning to drizzle. "It’s going to get wet," Edwin says quietly. She watches him, motionless, for the space of another heartbeat, and then she gently plucks the hat from his fingers.
"Well then I guess you’d better come in, boy," she says. "That fancy university of yours teach you how to make a willow infusion?"
"No, miss," he says.
"Then you’re going to learn now."
[Apparently you can’t do those ‘read more’ cuts on photo posts? Sorry for the length, people trying to scroll past this. :( If anyone knows a way to insert a cut, I’d be grateful to know!]
Forty years from now, there will be new doctors, with starched coats and soft fingers. Snakeroot tea will have become rauvolfia infusion, and no one will check if the placenta’s all the way out because there will be machines to check instead.
But on the occasions the young men and women are wrong and don’t know what to do - and there will be occasions; there always are - people will call for the traditionalists, those hags and geezers with their knowing looks and their distrust of programs doing the work of healers.
And one of them will be an old man, face lined and shoulders drooping, wearing a kind smile and an old grey hat with a purple band. He’ll brew the tea and tut and put his steady hands to work in ways that look like they should probably kill the patient but never do.
And if asked about him, about the way that ratty hat stays on his head no matter what, people will just shrug and say, “Oh, that’s Edwin. He always wears that thing.”