Toothless is the ultimate insult for a witch. Nothing terrifies a witch more than feeling toothless, and nothing makes a witch more dangerous than the quest to regrow her teeth and renew her magic powers. Prologue

As newts and salamanders regrow severed limbs, witches regrow magical powers. Prologue

The old farmhouse was stone, a warm, sunny biscuit stone, with a shingle roof, silver at night under the moon, and draped with snaking apple boughs in season, when the big bright apples, fretted by the fickle valley wind, would bump and squeal against the window glass. The rain too sometimes blew against the glass, in sudden hard spatterings when the wind gusted, making inside at night all the cosier, warm and snug by the fire, where Elspeth and her father sat to chat, dream and talk over their day in two matching chairs, their feet on the tufted rug on the old oak floor, the air humid, sweet with the scent of baths just taken, whilst the valley outside watered and tended itself from its rim of starry clouds. Chapter 1

The morning dew studded the tattered web like galaxies of stars, like tiny rising moons, planets strung on filaments, hundreds of them, singular dawning worlds, some dazzling and beaming, and others gleaming with a gentle pearl gleam that quickly melted the last of Elspeth's fury clean away. And each sphere contained a miniature vision of loveliness, a world of creatures waking, a valley cupped among soft mountains, not this valley, but other valleys, in universes their own, complete, opening, rosy with their own secret mornings. Chapter 1

Then amongst the notes of the birds, as clear as them, she heard the spider introduced. The name like a mystic signature, a haunting windblown tune, reached her hearing, and she heard the spider's royal name in purple and gold: Payat L'Rishiya. Chapter 1

Bright the night and cold the morn,
Bright as fleece and gold as corn,
Crab-apple, nettle and bittercress
Soothe the weary shepherdess . . . Chapter 4

My candle was my brave companion, though what it disclosed are not things one friend shows another. Chapter 5

I pointed my friendly light towards the scattering of inoffensive skeletons upon the ground, the frameworks of houses for souls no different from mine, or so I supposed, until I looked more closely. What bones were these? Chapter 5

The worm chews quietly in the ground, yet its palace has gates to the infinite. Chapter 8

'We call her the Big Bad Pig,' Isabel whispered. 'Like the Big Bad Wolf, only she's definitely more pig than wolf.' Chapter 9

Bees when making outward journeys
Always fly in threes.
Bees returning to their hives
Always fly in fives.
If nine bees flying in threes
Leave the hive to roam,
How do they arrange themselves
In order to get home? Chapter 12


'Don't you sing the song:

When nightjars pipe
And the moon smells ripe?'

'I sang it at my mother's knee. Was my favourite. Long ago.
Long ago. Much more long ago than your long ago.'
The goblin looked wistful.
'Before my mother died, she gave me it for a keepsake.'
'What did she give you?' Elspeth asked.
He held up a thing like a petrified mushroom.
'My mother's knee. My good luck charm.' Chapter 13

'M.O.T.H.R. That spells mother.'
'Yes, but this picture isn't my mother.'
'You wrote mother.'
'I know but . . . there's no E. Mother has to have an E.'
'I can't spell,' the goblin said. 'But I can smell. And I know what this picture is. This is a witch, if ever I saw one. But not a pretty witch like you. No! This is a real stinker of a witch.' Chapter 13


'Once upon a time, I fell in love. Oh, that makes you smile, Miss Witch. And well you may. I fell in love with the sweetest, the deliciousest, the gorgeousest goblin you ever smelt. Pink as a piglet she was, with pointy little teeth and a voice like a cricket singing. Feemie! Her name was Feemie. Beautiful Feemie.' Chapter 16

'Fire, the wheel, the flushing toilet, money and men on the moon — all were anonymous donations from regenerating witches. Oh yes, without witches humankind would still be in the mud. Time was, the debt to Satan was acknowledged. But not any more. People are too
smug.' Chapter 23

Mater parvulum amat nutrire. A mother loves to feed her little one. Chapter 23