Asta was too old for this shit.
Specifically for this cow shit, although she was pretty sure there were horse apples here, too.
She was looking her 80th birthday in the face. She had grand-nieces and nephews and even a couple great-grands. She had lived a nice long life already and planned to keep doing so for some time.
If she didn't twist her ankle, break her hip, and end up dying of something like exposure or coyotes out here in the middle of the woods.
But when you were the Aunt of your family and you were known, in whispers and rumors, as the sort of person who could make things happen - a little mojo, a lot of wisdom, and maybe a little bit of genuine magic - well, when someone came to you and asked you in good faith - and Asta may not have been the most powerful witch but she could tell, without any effort at all, if someone was asking in good faith or bad - asked you for help, to make something happen - well, you did.
And that meant, in this case, that in the middle of a cold and mucky spring, Asta was finding a lost cow. It wasn't the sort of thing you could delegate.
The problem was, the damn thing didn't want to be scried, didn't want to have the bones cast for it, and you could not, as it turns, easily read the cards for a cow. She would have to check that later, to see if it was just this cow or cows in general.
Which meant, in Asta's experience, that the damn thing had wandered into South Swamp, that area that sucked up everything, from water to old cars to souls, and absolutely devoured the sight.
So here she was, in her brother's muck boots, hiking deep into the swamp on the back edge of the family property. If she couldn't scry, well, there were other ways to find things. And if one ignored the will-o-wisps, well, one could find even more.
She was too old for this shit.
She would not be too old for this shit until she, too, was sucked up by the swamp.
A branch snapped, sounding like a gunshot. She held very still. On the other wide of a deep patch of water, she could hear the thing breathing.
Looping a rope that was spelled to within an inch of its life around her wrist - she was not going to come this far and then not bring the damn thing home - Asta strode deeper into the swamp. This place could grab your ankle and you'd be drowned before you knew what had happened. It could spit up treasures some idiot had lost a century, three centuries, a millennium ago. It could eat a cow - or an aging witch - without a problem.
"Gotcha." The spelled rope wrapped around a spotted, cranky cow's neck in a single move, just as the water grabbed one of Asta's boots and pulled. She held onto the rope. The rope held on to the cow. The cow, startled, headed for dry land like it should have done hours ago.
Asta held on, quite literally for dear life. The water grabbed and pulled and sucked up her ankle, taking sock and boot and the bottom of her pants. The cow moved faster; the rope was stronger. Asta was hauled onto dry land and then, from there, out of the swamp entirely, cursing and spitting and yanking on the rope and, above all, not letting go.
When the cow hit the pavement, it finally stopped. Asta, soaked to the waist and missing a boot, found her feet. She had not had a ride like that since she was a young girl. She - perhaps - was not quite too old for this shit anymore.
"Giddyup." She slapped the cow on the ass and walked along with it at a much more sedate pace.
Bertha the cow was coming home, and, it seemed, so was Asta.