“But Agatha, you conjured the bird last year,” Hepseba said
Agatha pushed her pointed hat back on her head and glared at her younger sister.
“Coven ranking determines who is tasked to conjure each part of the feast. I am still the senior witch above fourth rank and that means I am in charge of the bird.”
“Aunt Agatha couldn’t you just let someone else do it for once. How else will the rest of us ever learn the proper incantations if you get to conjure every year?” Young Beatrice was the youngest witch of the coven and normally was relegated to conjuring the three demon bean casserole.
“Be silent child,” Agatha said. “You should focus more on your casserole spell. Do you remember your attempt at the last feast still? The demon larva were still twitching when it was plated. If you can’t properly summon something as simple as a casserole what do you think will happen if you try to materialize the bird?”
“That’s not fair,” Wilma said, rushing to the aid of her cousin. “You know darn well that the casserole spell was partially consumed by that cacaodaemon four Yules ago when Reggie bumped into mother while she cast. Everyone has had to ad lib since then. I think Beatrice did a marvelous job under the circumstances.”
“Be that as it may,” Agatha said. She drew upon the slightest part of her power and light sparked from the corners of her eyes to remind everyone of her status.
“I will conjure the bird and that is final.”
“I don’t think so child,” a quivering voice from the doorway drew the attention of the assembled witches.
In the doorway stood a stooped crone. Her face was so wrinkled with age it appeared as if someone had placed a raisin under her enormous witch’s hat and animated it to speak.
“Granny Olga,” Agatha shrieked. The horror in her voice was evident to everyone in the room.
Olga was the oldest witch on the continent. Rumor had it that she was over 300 years old and had conjured the very first feast bird when the coven had come to America.
“I think by rights I am the proper witch to summon the feast bird,” Olga said.
Her words were barely intelligible as she spoke through leathery lips around her remaining two teeth. Her voice had a raw quality that acted like sand paper on the ears of her listeners and it took the assembled witches a moment to parse the exact words she had spoken.
“Granny, you retired over 60 years ago. You gave up the right to summon the feast when that happened,” Agatha said. Everyone could hear the petulant note that entered her voice.
“Have some respect for your elders,” Beatrice said.
“Don’t talk to me about respect,” Agatha said and spun on her sister. “How about you show some respect for our traditions and remember that once a coven leader retires they are supposed to go off to the gray lands and never return. One of you must have called Granny back just for spite.
“The poor woman should be enjoying her retirement with cabana demons waiting on her hand and foot, not being drawn back to this wretched cold place to slave in the kitchen.”
Agatha glared around the room at the other witches who stood idly by watching the argument.
“You lot, stop slacking and begin summoning. This feast isn’t going to prepare itself. This is none of your affair.”
She waved her wand and each of the junior witches yelped as a spark of power spanked their posteriors, spurring them into motion.
Agatha turned back to face Beatrice and Granny Olga as the muttered sounds of incantations and the gentle bamfs of materializing dishes filled the room behind her.
“Granny, you are more than welcome to our feast but I must protest. You will be our honored guest but your powers are too frail to summon the bird. I am coven leader and it is only proper that I do so.”
“Damn it Agatha,” Beatrice said. “This is exactly why this coven has stopped being fun. You’re just determined to be the sole arbiter of what is done or not. This is the twenty-first century after all, not medieval times. It’s about time we start doing things democratically.”
“This is not a democracy,” Agatha said and raised her golden wand.
“I am the elder,” Olga croaked and raised the gnarled stick which served as her wand.
“No damn it, it’s time for a change,” Beatrice said and raised her lacquered black wand.
All three witches began the summoning incantation. Agatha raced through the words faster than the others trying to complete the spell before they could undermine her authority.
“I’m summoning the damn bird,” she shouted and waved her wand at the center of the table.
Thunder cracked and a gout of flame shot from the serving tray in the center of the table. A shape coalesced in the flame. It was a noble bird of sufficient size to feed a small army. The flames died and the assembled witches beheld the feast bird. It was not the crispy skinned, juicy meal they were used to. This bird retained its feathers and its head. It stood on the platter and regarded the witch who had summoned it. Atop its head were golden horns and it somehow clutched a trident which glowed red with heat in its wing joint.
“You dare summon me?” It bellowed in a voice that shook the rafters.
“Well it appears you have laid the side dishes for quite a feast.”
The demonic bird waved its trident and a dozen more horned birds materialized beside it.
“Come brothers it has been too long since we feasted on roast witch.”