It was Halloween at the Gornetz Platz. Darkness had fallen long ago. The rain which had descended intermittently all day drizzled on. The only other sound on the Platz was the low howl of wind. The trick-or-treaters who had been prowling earlier that evening had long since gone home to warm fires and hot drinks. Not a sound could be heard coming from the big San or the villages dotted around the mountains.
Mist swirled mysteriously around the roof of the large, well appointed building that housed the Chalet School. Inside it was quiet and still - girls and mistresses alike lay sleeping. Then, breaking the silence came a sound.
It came from deep within the building coming, one might say, almost from the belly of the school. If the Platz had not been so still it would have been easy to miss. It was a faint, but very distinct cackle.
The eerie laugh had come from a room at the very centre of the School, on the lowest floor of the house. This room was where regular, if infrequent, meetings were held between four talented witches. The room was convenient, secluded, and beyond even Matron’s sensitive hearing range. It happened to be a kitchen, so the witches had named themselves the Coven of the Kitchen. On this special evening the Coven had come, together with their familiars, to hold their annual Halloween meeting.
The leader of their esteemed group was also the oldest member. She sat at the head of the large kitchen table, her black robes elegantly draped over the chair. She strangely did not appear to have been accompanied by her familiar. It was at once obvious from her stance and the ways in which the other witches behaved towards her that she was very much in charge. She had not been the one to emit the cackle, but instead sat observing her contemporaries in silence, perhaps reading their thoughts as she gazed at them with her clear eyes, that had never needed glasses.
Just then a jet black cat hopped up on to the table and strolled across it, passing the leader. It paused briefly as it passed Hilda, with a glance in her direction before continuing its promenade towards another witch. The second witch, named Karen, reached out to the feline and stroked her fondly. The cat was of course Karen’s own familiar. As the Head Cook at the School, Karen was easily able to justify her pet as a mouse catcher. Such was Karen’s rule of iron in the downstairs rooms that no-one had ever dared wonder aloud why the cat caught mice by simply staring intensely at them until they spontaneously burst into flames and disintegrated.
Meanwhile in a corner of the kitchen the third witch was having a rather hard time persuading her own familiar to stay put. It seemed to want to roam around, as the cat did, but as it was a large cow and the kitchen was not really very big, that was not awfully convenient. The third witch, getting more and more frustrated with shoving the cow back in its corner and trying to interest it in a box of some kind of food, eventually lost her temper and got her long, slim, silver tipped wand out. A muttering, a shake of the wand and a sudden flash of light and the cow was finally still.
The fourth witch, who had been watching the proceedings, was about to let out another cackle when she caught Hilda’s eye on her. Instead she shook her long, knee length mane of black hair (which she wore loose only for meetings of the Coven), and walked towards one of the other chairs pulled up to the table. She was joined by Karen, who also took a seat.
Hilda looked pointedly at the remaining witch, who was now walking round the stationary cow gazing at it thoughtfully. The white streak in her hair glowed a little as she considered the animal. The cow blinked back at her.
“I’m not sure if I haven’t done that spell too strong again,” she said, before giving up her observation and joining the other witches around the table.
“We shall now begin the business of Halloween,” announced Hilda, rather grandly, and raised her wand dramatically.