The barkeep gave me a sour look when I requested a pitcher of water in addition to the ceramic mug of beer he sloshed down next to the platter of boiled fish and vegetables. He glanced down at my right arm when he returned with a cork stoppered vessel and I turned away from him, putting my shoulder between him and the white cloth bandages. I had chosen the table furthest from the fire despite the November chill seeping in through the stone foundation. After the barkeep returned to his post behind the oaken countertop I stripped the moist bandages to reveal the dry, cracked skin beneath. The patch of red inflamed flesh had grown and now the skin from my wrist to my elbow itched and burned. I resisted the urge to scratch and tear at it with my fingernails and, instead unstoppered the stoneware pitcher and splashed the cool well water over my arm. The stream of water brought instant relief as I massaged the droplets into the skin. The door burst open and three large men in heavy wool cloaks entered the tavern, I quickly wrapped my arm in the bandages and waved them over to join me.
As the three men arranged themselves around the the table shortswords concealed beneath their cloaks clanked against the table legs; the locals drinking at the bar quickly paid their bills and left. I tossed a heavy leather bag on the table which clinked as the leader among the three loosened the drawstring and counted the coin contained within. He shared weighty glances with each of his comrades and then turned back to me.
“We are not murderers. Why, in God’s name, should we seek out this woman for you?”
I unwound the bandages to show my arm to each mercenary in turn. The leader crossed himself as he saw the hideous mark: as moisture returned to the dermis its appearance had changed; it was smooth, greenish, and translucent and I could see the blue veins and purple flesh throbbing beneath.
“It is getting worse. This woman, Jehanne, has put a curse on me and only her death will remove it.”
“Tell me your name.”
“I am Lotario.”
“Lotario, God as my witness, I swear to you, this will be done.”
In the end the deal was done and the three men rode off in pursuit of the witch and I returned to my house to wait and pray.
The horseman pulled up in front of the modest two-story dwelling and tied his steed at the hitching post. He hammered the door with a fist and, when there was no response, turned the handle; the door was unlocked. The house was in disarray, unwashed pots and dishes littered the dining table and the fire had gone out, upstairs a trail of clothes led to the bathroom door. The clawfoot tub had been filled for a bath but the water was ice cold. As the horseman shook the water from his hand and turned to leave, he saw motion from the corner of his eye. Turning toward the bath with amazement he saw a pair of tiny black beady eyes staring back at him. The frog puffed out his throat and croaked noisily.