Scores of young men were gathered about, smashing pumpkins to test their strength, and roaring with laughter. Liliya's nose wrinkled, and Magnus offered no objections as she pulled aside into a side street. Uncommonly empty. After they had walked a bit, and the walls muffled the laughter, an ash gray cat, no more than a yearling, wandered out an alleyway, and wandered back.
"I don't think it was a ghost," said Magnus. "Or a witch."
Her mouth twitched. So he too had heard such stories. "I hope not," she said. "Too many would demand that we find its haunt, and then, because otherwise each of them would have carry a lantern, they'd badger me into coming."
"Tell them that your light will scare off the cat if it's truly either," said Magnus. "Only lantern light is mild enough."
Her laughter surprised herself.
The buildings had never seemed to tower this high, or this dark, before. Wind blasted down the streets, making her shiver. No cat prowled, no pigeon took wing -- she thought it was too barren for a ghost to haunt.
Back home it would be time for the fair, with shelf after shelf of tomatoes and pumpkins, turnips and cucumber, peaches and cherries and plums. And the old Meg would have people muttering how she was a witch, and sneaking of to consult her.
She shivered again. Lucky that chance was too far off.
"It's simple," said Asteria. "We can get it all done before they are done slicing their pumpkins into faces. Certainly before they put in lights to make them lanterns."
"If it's so easy," said Aurelie, "why hasn't anyone do it yet?"
"They are easily frightened," said Asteria. "They think that if they go to a graveyard, a ghost will haunt them. Or a witch will bewitch them." She rolled her eyes. "Let a cat walk through it, and they run away screaming."
"I see," said Rose-Lily, "that you were very careful to call it simple, not easy."