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~In a swirl of autumn leaves

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A figure emerges. Quite out of season with the world, but quite in season with herself, a dumpy little crone with flyaway hair steps onto the quiet, sleeping village streets. She looks about at the detrius left from the winter, branches still down, leaves in doorways, and she thinks to herself, "Now, there's some as would think this a dead or dying place, but there's some as would know that this place can never die at all, at all. It is my home, after all, and while one person keeps it in their heart and mind, it will go on forever. HOWEVER...my shop is in sad disrepair, and I've no done my part to keep this place vital, no I haven't. So there'll be no pointing of fingers, nor murmurings of blame, not on my watch, there will not be. Come along, children. We have work to do."

As she moves forward, two shadows hug her heels. One is a lovely tabby cat with tiger gold eyes, and the other is a darkling tortoiseshell with moss green eyes. Oddly, and amusingly, each of the kitties is ridden by a rattie, and all seem quite content with the arrangement. She and her entourage scamper along the roadway towards a small shop with a peeling sign that proclaims "Light a Single Candle" in scaborous gilt lettering, hanging by one rust chain from an ornate and rusting scrollwork support. The windows are glazed as much with dirt as with glass, and the once-pristine doorway is filled with the dead leaves of two seasons' absence. The once-neat window boxes are filled with weeds, although some of the heartier perinnials have begun to push their way into the spring sunshine and make soft promises to riot if given just a bit of care and love. Care and love...tis all that's needed here to put all right. And the little crone has that in aplenty to spend here. Not only on her own shop, but on the entire village. If she has to do it alone, so be it, she will. One dark doorway at a time. This is her home, and she is back in it.

She unlatches the door and opens it, wrinkling her nose at the dust and damp. Both cats and the ratties sneeze and give her a disgusted look. "I know, Loves, I know, I've let it come to a rare old pass, but naught a bit of elbow grease won't repair. Let me find that broom, and get these windows opened and a bit of air moving, and the doors, think on, and we'll be on the way. But first things first..." Grabbing a couple of cushions out of a chair, she takes them out and briskly beats them together, raising clouds of dust, then takes them back in. "There you go, Loves. A place for you to nap till I can get this place in order again. Now, it's coolish today, and I think we can stand a bit of a fire in the fireplace and the stove, just to knock off the damp and chill a bit. There's tea and tinned milk and a bit of tuna in my pack, so lunch is taken care of, and we'll see after that."

Suiting action to words, she set to work with a will, starting top and working to bottom with dust cloth and damp rag and polishing compound and broom until the front room shines. "I know, children...I could have witched it faster, but there is something satisfying about this work, as well as a bit of atonement. I'll keep my witching for the heavy work in the storerooms, thank you very much. THAT might be a bit beyond me. That, and the carpentry. I think I might have a bit of a hard time coming by a carpenter here just now. BUT...the store is fresh and clean, as is our living space, and there's food in the cupboard again, so we're set. Not much in the way of neighbors just yet, but I'm hopeful. Yes, I'm hopeful. And you four are better company than many a two-footed creature I've met, by a long shot."

She settles in by the fire with a new book she's been wanting to read in her hands, and plans tomorrow, when she must begin making candles and replacing stock. No, there's noone to buy or barter just yet, but...one doesn't worry about the lack of mature crops when one is just planting the seeds yet again...With the ratties chirring gently on her shoulders and the cats purring gently on her lap, the Dumpy Little Crone of Crone Corner is finally ready to call herself "back at home."
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