Gisela was seriously ill. She was feverish. Her father’s medicus, an old man who was easily overwhelmed and usually drunk, sent for the witches. Gerbert d’Aurillac, her spiritual teacher, shook his bald head. It behooves the girl to go if she must go, he said. His face had no expression though he loved the child. Gerbert was filled with the promise of paradise. The idea of Gisela leaving to join the angels seemed to fit her angelic nature. Imagining her all grown up, with bad skin, rotting teeth, aches all over that would show in her walk, woes that would affect her aura, hurt him. – The witches came. There were two of them, red-headed twins. They brought tinctures and mixed fresh maggots, palm oil and mangled small creatures, some dried, some dripping with blood, into a bowl to which they then set fire, screaming and muttering loudly, so that Gisela in her high fever stirred and reached out for someone. One witch took her hand and bent down to the girl. The other one danced around the room, holding the bowl up above her head. Gerbert, by the window, shuddered, his mouth contorted. The witch began to twist faster and faster while her twin was talking to Gisela, mumbling to her, marching old holy words straight through the child’s ear into her skull, where they entered the bloodstream and looked for the enemy. The monk’s fingers twitched in the same rhythm and he found himself falling into a trance. He knew it would be dangerous to witness the witches brewing and dancing but there was an energy in it that he’d missed badly since he’d been asked to educate the young princess. Gerbert didn’t even notice when the hags stopped, tucked the girl in, rubbed the concoction on her lips and left for the unseen place they’d come from. Gisela healed quickly thereafter: the fever fell that same night and she asked for solid food the next morning. She had no memory of what had happened but when she bounced on one leg across the meadow in the castle yard, she chanted a little melody that hadn’t been heard in church, an odd melody that made Gerbert’s ears prick up because he sensed the uncanny in it.