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The Ugliest Witch in the North Country.

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Grim up North.". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Xander turned into a snake? A hideous witch on the rampage in Halifax? Willow and Buffy going nuts and acting like animals? It must be because it’s ‘grim up north’.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Miscellaneous > Music(Recent Donor)DaveTurnerFR1513,191061,2432 Nov 102 Nov 10Yes
The Ugliest Witch in the North Country.
By Dave Turner.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Buffyverse or this traditional song/story. I write these stories for fun not profit.

Crossover: The Buffyverse with the traditional song/story ‘Alison Gross’, also a very minor ‘Monty Python’ cross.

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation; Written in glorious English-English. Both English and American idioms are used throughout this fic.

Timeline: Post Season 7 (no comics).

Words: 3000+.

Warnings: None.

Summary: Xander turned into a snake? A hideous witch on the rampage in Halifax? Willow and Buffy going nuts and acting like animals? It must be because it’s ‘grim up north’.


Halifax, Yorkshire, England, Winter, 2003.

It was a dark and stormy night…well, it wasn’t really stormy. A cold wind blew in off the moors and a fine drizzle fell from out of a cold dark sky, so, as far as Buffy Summers, slayer and California girl was concerned, it was a dark and stormy night. She shivered as she pulled her woolly hat further down over her ears and trust her hands deeper into the pockets of her waterproof jacket. Sometimes she really regretted the closing of the hellmouth in Sunnydale; at least it would have been warmer with there being hell on Earth.

Giles had said that there was another Hellmouth in Cleveland; they’d been half way to Ohio before he’d plucked up the courage to mention that he meant the one in Northern England. Even that couldn’t be too bad, Buffy had thought at the time; like England, land of scones and crumpets. Surely the winters couldn’t be as bad as the ones she’d read about in Ohio. It still amazed her how wrong she could be.

Leaning against the corner of the terraced house where she hid, Buffy looked across the open ground towards the tower block and wished she’d brought her hip flask with her; a shot of vodka would warm her up right about now. Apart from the wind stirring the branches of the trees that grew around the playing field nothing moved; this was beginning to look like a bust. Hearing footsteps behind her, she turned to see the huddled form of Willow Rosenberg hurrying along the street towards her.

“Hey!” Willow smiled out from under the hood of her rain coat, she waved a gloved hand and tried to sound hopeful, “Any luck?”

“No, nothing,” Buffy sighed, “where’s Kennedy?”

“She had to deal with a nest of vamps in Leeds,” Willow explained, “she’ll be along tomorrow.”

“Good,” Buffy muttered absently.

Talking of Faith, which they hadn’t been, what the heck had happened to her? After all this was why Buffy was here tonight. Two weeks previously she’d asked Faith to deal with a witch who was making life unpleasant (no make that ‘more’ unpleasant) for the good people of Halifax. Faith had gone, she’d called in saying she’d found the witch, one Alison Gross, and was going to deal with her that night.

Then it was as if Faith had never existed; after that message they’d heard no more from her. Buffy had quickly become worried; Giles had even called the police. A check of all the local hospitals, prisons and mortuaries had shown not a trace of the oversexed slayer. Next Buffy had sent Xander; she’d given him strict instructions to find Faith but not to confront Gross at any cost. Now he was late for his rendezvous with Willow and herself.

“I blame myself,” moaned Willow.

“How come?” Buffy turned and gave Willow an incredulous look, “If there’s any blame being handed out I should get an extra big helping for sending them here without proper back up.”

It didn’t seem to matter how many slayers there were it was never enough.

“I loaded them both down with, like, charms and protection spells and stuff,” Willow explained miserably, “What if this Gross woman is more powerful than me?”

“Hey,” Buffy gave Willow’s arm a comforting squeeze, “no one's more powerful than you, Will. Chances are they’re both in some warm comfortable hotel for the last week having a vacation.”

“Hope…” began Willow but Buffy cut her off.

“What’s that?” Buffy bent and searched through the sports bag at her feet, when she stood up again she held a long, sharp sword in her hand.

“What’s what?” Willow looked around nervously, “I didn’t hear any…what’s that!?”

“You heard it too?” Buffy searched the dark playing field with slayer enhanced eyes but saw nothing.

“Yeah,” Willow looked up and down the street as she readied a magical flare, “like a sort of slithering, sliding noise, like a great big…”

“Snake?” Buffy asked quizzically.

“Yeah,” agreed Willow, “just like a…”

“No!” exclaimed Buffy as she pointed behind Willow, “SNAKE!”

Turning Willow saw a huge serpent-like creature loom over her. It hissed as it swayed from side to side not three yards from her, its human shaped head turned towards her ready to strike. Buffy pushed past the startled witch and raised her sword ready to kill the loathsome thing.

“NOOOO’sssss!” hissed the snake, “Bufsss, Willssssss, it’sssss me ssssander!”

“Sander?” both women cried in chorus.

Buffy lowered her sword and took a good look at the snake’s face.

“Xander!” she cried in shock, “W-what happened?”

Xander tried to shrug, but without any shoulders no one noticed and Buffy just thought he was ignoring her question.

“It was that witch-bitch wasn’t it?” Willow figuratively started to roll up her sleeves (after all she didn’t want to do it in reality, she’d not want to die of exposure) ready for a magical dual with the evil witch.

“Yesssss,” hissed Xander, “cansss yousss turnsss messs backssss, Willsssss?”

“I don’t know,” Willow replied uncertainly, “I’ll need my books I expect.”

“Canssss youssss at leassssssst letss messss talksss properlyssssssss?”

“Hold on,” Willow muttered some Latin under her breath, “How’s that?”

“Great merciful Zeus!” cried Xander without a trace of any extraneous sibilants, “Thank-you Will, if I had arms I’d hug you!”

“Okay,” Buffy put her hand to her forehead, “like now you can say it and not spray it, what the hell happened?”

Coiling his body around a handy streetlight, Xander got himself comfortable.

“Alison Gross,” he began, “that lives in yon tower block, the ugliest witch in the North Country.”

Willow and Buffy exchanged concerned looks, something didn’t sound quite right here.

“She trysted me one day up to her bower and many a fair speech she made to me,” continued Xander as if it was the most natural thing in the world to sing his report. “She stroked my head and she combed my hair, she set me down softly on her knee…”

“Big woman is she?” Buffy asked, Xander continued singing and ignoring her.

“Saying, if you will be my lover so true so many good things I would give to you,” Xander paused for a moment giving Buffy an opportunity to break into his tale of woe.

“Umm, Xander,” she began hesitantly, “why are you singing, like some sorta folksong or something?”

“I am?” Xander looked genuinely surprised.

“Uh-huh,” nodded Willow, “I’m sorta expecting you to like start with the ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s’ almost any time now.”

“Must be the spell,” Xander suggested.

“That’s just nasty,” muttered Willow darkly, “as if turning you into a snake…”

“Worm,” corrected Xander.

“Sorry, worm,” Willow continued hardly missing a beat, “wasn’t bad enough; she makes you sing all the time.”

“Worm?” Buffy frowned, “He looks like a big honking snake to me.”

“No,” Willow turned to Buffy ready to lecture. “In English mythology the thing Xander’s been turned into is called a Worm or T’Worm. It’s like a monster snake but harder to kill.”

“Thank-you, Miss Giles junior,” Buffy muttered under her breath before saying, “Yeah that’s all fine 'n' dandy, but how do we un-snake…”

“Worm,” corrected Xander and Willow.

“Sorry,” Buffy rolled her eyes, “de-worm Xander and kill the witch-bitch?”

“We could take him to the vet’s,” sniggered Willow and received black looks from both Buffy and Xander for her trouble.

“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Buffy shivered as a particularly cold blast of air found its way under her jacket, “we’re not going to achieve anything standing about in the cold and wet.”

“I saw a pub down the road a ways,” Willow jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “What say we get out of the cold and have a drink?”

“What about Xander?” Buffy started to walk eagerly towards the pub as Willow fell in beside her and Xander uncoiled himself before sliding along behind them. “Won’t the locals say anything?”

“Hey,” smiled Willow, “you’re forgetting, this is England everyone will pretend not to notice.”

“Oh, yeah,” Buffy grinned and nodded her head, “sorry I forgot.”


Walking, or in Xander’s case sliding, into the public bar of the ‘Rat and Ferret’ public house, Buffy found that the only other customers were four old Yorkshiremen reminiscing about how tough life had been in their youth. Their stories appeared to get wilder the more they talked. They did not, however, seem to notice that the two young women who’d just walked in had been accompanied by a large snake with a human shaped head and an eye-patch.

Walking up to the bar, Buffy ordered a double vodka for herself, a gin and tonic for Willow and a pint of best bitter with a straw for Xander. The barmaid, a short blonde east European girl served her without batting an eyelid; she couldn’t remember the last time anyone had ordered a pint with a straw, what next she wondered, cocktail umbrellas?

The three sat, or curled, in a corner alcove and sipped their drinks. The four old men had got onto how their parents would kill them and dance about on their graves singing ‘glory hallelujah’ after they’d come home from working 26 hours a day at ‘t’mill’. Buffy checked them out to make sure they weren’t zombies.

“Not a bad pint that,” Xander let the straw fall from his mouth after draining the first third of his drink.

“Yeah, okay,” Buffy sipped her drink in a ladylike manner, “so, what happened next?”

“Oh yeah,” Xander thought for a moment before saying, “Away, away, you ugly witch, go far away and let me be. I never would kiss your ugly mouth, for all of the gifts that you could give!”

“Oh, damn,” Buffy had forgotten about the singing spell, “can’t you just…”

“Alison Gross she must be,” Xander started on some sort of chorus, “the ugliest witch in the North Country…”

“Xan…” Buffy tried to butt in again but was cut off before the words were out of her mouth by another line of…

“Alison Gross she must be,” reiterated Xander, “the ugliest witch in the North Country!”

Silence fell for a moment across the pub.

“Have you finished?” Buffy gave Xander and Willow (who was recovering from snorting gin and tonic down her nose) her best angry chipmunk glare.

“Yeah,” Xander nonchalantly sucked up beer through his straw.

“So,” Buffy held onto her temper with both hands, “tell me everything that happened next…remembering that if you burst into song or even start rhyming I’ll tie you into a really big Xander-worm shaped knot!”

“Hey,” complained Xander, “I can’t help it, I’m under a spell, remember?”


A little while later.

“You’d better untie him,” Willow looked sternly at Buffy; “it’s not really his fault.”

It had been somewhere around the third or fourth verse that Buffy’s patience had finally snapped. Xander had been explaining about how he’d refused ‘a cup of the good red gold’ just before he’d made clear (once more) how he’d told the witch ‘no’, that Buffy had reached across the table and tied him into a large bow.

“Sorry,” Buffy stood up and heaved on Xander’s tail; he shook himself free and gave her a hurt look.

“This ‘grass green horn’ sounds interesting,” Willow tried to take a leaf out of the local’s book and act as if nothing had happened, “it could be that it’s the focus of her powers. If we can stop her using it we should be able to kill her.”

“What about this calling on the moon and stars thing?” Buffy wanted to know.

“Sounds like simple pagan magics to me,” replied Willow knowingly, “it’s the horn that sounds important.”

“Okay then,” Buffy stood up ready to face the evil (and really-really ugly) witches.

“Hey,” cried Xander apparently no worse for his previous contortions, “what about another round? I’d buy but,” he gave a shoulder-less shrug, “no pockets.”

“I’ll get ‘em in,” Willow got her purse from her bag and headed for the bar.


As the blonde, redhead and large T’worm left the pub they passed by the table occupied by the four Yorkshiremen. Josiah turned to his friend, Obadiah and winked knowingly.

“Of course,” Obadiah began, “in my day we had proper monsters…”

“Aye,” agreed Josiah, “with greeet big teeth an’ claws.”

“In a cracked cup an’all,” added Cyril absently.

“We’re on t’monsters now,” Obadiah reminded Cyril.

“Oh, we are?” Cyril looked from one friend to another as they all nodded their heads, “sorry.”

“Aye,” Norman took a pull of his beer and sighed, “they don’t make t’monsters like they used to, th’knows.”

“No,” they all agreed sadly.


The battle against the witch, Alison Gross, was short and victorious but not without its casualties. It fell to Xander to deliver the coup de grace when both Buffy and Willow had been put hors de combat. Miraculously, Xander found himself returned to human form once the witch was dead. Finding his clothes, he quickly dressed and phoned Giles at Slayer Central. Giles arranged for a car to come and pick them up, saying that it’d take a couple of hours to get to them. Xander told him to send the car to the Rat and Ferret public house; they’d wait for it there.


Once again the barmaid of the Rat and Ferret didn’t bat an eyelid when the handsome one-eyed American guy came to the bar and ordered drinks for himself and his two friends. The four Yorkshiremen sitting across the room acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world to see a young man being accompanied by a person sized Red Squirrel and a similarly sized Chipmunk.

“Sorry,” Willow sat and fluffed up her russet coloured tail, “I forgot all about the silver wand…”

“Never mind,” Buffy sounded as if she’d been sucking on helium, “I expect it’ll wear off in a while, I mean Xander’s back to normal so its only a matter of time.”

“I expect so,” replied Willow her tufted ears flicking backwards and forwards. “At least we’re human sized and can talk, not like poor Amy.”

“Oh god yes!” Buffy reached for the bowl of nuts that Xander had placed in the centre of the table, “That’d be mucho badness!”

Buffy picked up handfuls of nuts and put them in her mouth.

“Hey,” squeaked Willow reaching for the nuts, “those are for everyone y’know!”

Buffy’s cheeks were bulging with stored peanuts.

The fur flew as there was a loud squeaky argument over possession of the bowl of nuts. Xander seeing the hard look the barmaid was giving them was forced to step in and separate the warring, furry woodland creatures.

“Ladies! Ladies!” cried Xander pulling the two squabbling women apart, “Please, there’s nuts enough for every one, there’s no need to act like animals!”

Having restored order Xander sat down and watched his two best friends for a moment.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” he said full of righteous indignation, “you might have been turned into,” he paused while he looked from Buffy to Willow, “what I have to admit are real cute fluffy creatures,” he smiled at the looks he received from the two women. “But, may I remind you that Faith is still missing.”

“Sorry,” Willow squeaked with a hang squirrel look.

“Yeah,” Buffy’s helium powered voice almost made Xander laugh out loud, but he managed to keep a straight face, “sorry Xander.”

“And so you should be, I mean if Faith was here she’d move…” Xander was interrupted by a loud pop.

Looking around Xander and his menagerie saw Faith standing no more than a couple of feet away. She was wearing a mink fur coat, a diamond tiara, hi-heels and a confused expression; she was also striking a pose that left little (well, actually nothing) to the imagination.

“Hey,” she looked around in confusion as she wrapped herself in her mink, “what the hell happened?”

“FAITH!?” cried Buffy-Chipmunk and Squirrel-Willow, they held on to each other as they looked in terror at Faith’s coat.

“Dog and cat, mink and rabbit,” squeaked Squirrel-Willow as she pointed at Faith, “their fur is theirs and not for jackets!”

“No blood for vanity,” agreed Chipmunk Buffy.

“Where’s…” Faith looked at Xander, “Hey, never mind. Harris,” she smiled, but not in a nice way, “my face is up here y’know?”

Xander tried to wipe the silly grin off his face as Faith walked over and sat down at the table and picked up Xander’s pint. Just then the barmaid came over and asked them to leave; they were disturbing the old gentlemen.



You may like to copy and paste this to you’re favourite search engine and hear Steeleye Span singing ‘Alison Gross’.

Steeleye Span - Alison Gross Lyrics (traditional).

Alison Gross that lives in yon tower
The ugliest witch in the North Country
Has trysted me one day up to her bower
And many a fair speech she made to me
She stroked my head and she combed my hair
She set me down softly on her knee
Saying if you will be my lover so true
So many good things I would give to you
Away, away, you ugly witch
Go far away and let me be
I never will be your lover so true
And wish I were out of your communy

Alison Gross she must be
The ugliest witch in the North Country
Alison Gross she must be
The ugliest witch in the North Country

She showed me a mantle of red scarlet
With golden flowers and fringes fine
Saying if you will be my lover so true
This goodly gift it shall be thine
She showed me a shirt of the softest silk
Well wrought with pearls abound the band
Saying if you will be my lover so true
This goodly gift you shall command


She showed me a cup of the good red gold
Well set with jewels so fair to see
Saying if you will be my lover so true
This goodly gift I will give to thee
Away, away, you ugly witch
Go far away and let me be
I never would kiss your ugly mouth
For all of the gifts that you could give


She turned her right and round about
And thrice she blew on a grass-green horn
She swore by the moon and the stars of above
That she'd make me rue the day I was born
The out she has taken a silver wand
She's turned her three times round and round
She muttered such words till my strength it did fail
And she's turned me into an ugly worm


The End

You have reached the end of "The Ugliest Witch in the North Country.". This story is complete.

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