Read the story for free here or download it for your e-reader from Smashwords!
In the Blue forest, in a meadow by the creek, lived a witch named Ellie Little. The forest was so called because all the trees there were, yes, you’ve guessed it, blue; blueberry firs, birches the color of sky-blue forget-me-nots, sycamores as dark as the midnight sky and trees and shrubs of all imaginable shades of blue.
And Ellie – they didn’t call her Little because she was small for her age. She was precisely a hundred and two years and ninety-three days old. For you see, Ellie was a witch and witches live a lot longer than ordinary people do; so by the time she reached her hundredth birthday she looked and felt like any other ten-year-old girl. People called her little because it was her last name. As you might already know, sometimes surnames come from a place where the person was born. Well, Ellie came from a tiny village in the North where winters lasted for almost an entire year, and the village was called Little.
But let’s get back to our story.
Ellie lived in a small wooden caravan and like every self-respecting witch had a magic wand, a large black cauldron, a broom and an old tome (a tome is a large, heavy book) named Old Tom. Old Tom was an old friend of hers. She inherited him from her grandmother, the great witch Aurora Little. It was a very special book not only because it held uncountable spells and potion recipes but also because it could talk.
Ellie herself was a special witch. She could wield magic, cast spells and brew potions that could turn pumpkins into carriages and mice into horses just like Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Or, to tell the truth, she was still learning how to do that. She loved brewing potions and practicing new spells but most of all she loved to use her powers to cook.
Old Tom knew lots and lots of recipes – magical unicorn meringues (don’t worry, they weren’t made out of unicorns, they came out so fluffy and sparkly that this is the name they ended up with), blueberry tarts with a sizzle, an upside down cake upside down, and then, of course, there was Ellie’s favorite – magical mushroom muffins. There was nothing magical about them except for the taste (if you happen to like mushroom muffins, that is). And to prepare them one would need not just any kind of mushrooms, only the blue mushrooms that grew in the Blue forest would do.
It was the first day of summer. Ellie set out on her daily walk to collect some fir cones and blue nettles (bring thick glows, they sting!) for her new potion – it would make the broom sweep her little dwelling all by itself. And of course, she was out to get some blue mushrooms because the ones she’d gathered last summer and had hung drying in neat strings by the fireplace were all long cooked and eaten.
She had a wonderful walk, the earth smelled of last night’s rain and there still were droplets on the grass and leaves. Down by the creek, right after the old fallen oak, Ellie said hello to the old owl whom, as it happened, was her grandmother Aurora’s old friend. The owl opened one eye and ‘Hoo-hooed’ back at her, falling back to sleep.
Ellie returned home and left her basket on the table in the small kitchen. It was such a nice and warm summer day that she’d left all the windows open.
‘Old Tom, find me the best mushroom stew recipe, please,’ Ellie called cheerfully as she skipped into the living room, kicking off her shoes into the corner by the door. She waved her wand at them and the shoes walked themselves to their place under the clothes rack.
‘Hmpf,’ grumbled the book as the little witch turned its pages.
‘And then mushroom muffins for dessert!’ she called to the book as she walked back to the kitchen. ‘Keep looking! I will start the fire under the cauldron.’
But as she entered the kitchen – horrible horror! The basket was empty! Not completely empty, the blue nettles were still at the bottom of the basket and the fir cones were scattered across the floor but the mushrooms were missing.
‘Baked bananas!’ Ellie exclaimed as she stared at the basket. ‘It was full of mushrooms and now… Now they’re all gone!’
She looked around the room – under the wooden table, behind the green armchair with white daisies embroidered on its upholstery, by the cupboard and even behind the curtains but there was no trace of the mushrooms.
She walked back into the living room, now her steps were less bouncy.
‘I have found a wonderfully delicious stew recipe,’ Old Tom spoke, and as he did so, his pages rustled, making every sound hiss which came out as ‘delish-shious sh-shtew’.
‘No need,’ Ellie plopped into the armchair. ‘We will be eating carrot soup,’ she sighed and then added, ‘again.’
The next day the little witch set out to collect the precious mushroom once again. She’d walked in circles around the forest and by the time it was nearly lunch hour she had her basket full of mushrooms, their cyan caps glistening in the midday sun.
‘Allrighty, then,’ Ellie said as she carefully put the basket on the kitchen table. ‘You stay here,’ she pointed a finger at the basket and went to the living room. Soon she was back, carrying Old Tom, which was almost her size. She lay the heavy book on the kitchen table.
‘Heat the butter in the pan and fry frogweed for three and a half minutes before adding freshly ground giggleroot…’ lisped Old Tom. He didn’t finish the sentence as Ellie slammed him shut.
‘Ouch!’ he exclaimed which sounded more like ‘Achoo’. ‘Careful there! I am ancient (he hated being called old even thought that was his name and instead called himself a more refined word – ancient) and priceless,’ he complained and then added, ‘and one of a kind.’
‘Purple pumpernickel patties!’ Ellie exclaimed as she pushed the grumbling tome aside.
She stared at the basket which lay on its side on the floor and the mushrooms – you’ve guessed it, they were all gone! Ellie looked around the little kitchen and this time she found a mushroom stalk under the table and one on the windowsill.
‘Hmm,’ she said, twitching her button nose. ‘Tom, I think I know what happened.’
The tome rustled its pages.
‘I think we’ve got ourselves a mushroom thief!’ Ellie exclaimed, staring out the open window.
After having blue moss toasties and apple compote for dinner (which were nowhere as good as mushroom muffins), Ellie spent the evening flipping the pages of the old (beg your pardon, ancient) book and brewing a potion in the large black cauldron. Finally, when the moon shined pale light over the Blue forest Ellie put the basket into the cauldron and chanted a spell,
‘Spider webs, a lily pad,
Stir three times, then slowly add
Lizzard’s breath and snake’s old skin.
Hold on tight to what’s within!’
The next morning Ellie woke up very early. She was so excited, eager to test if her spell would work. As usual, she set out on a walk, greeted the old owl by the creek, walked to the fallen tree and collected a whole basket of mushrooms. When she got back home she placed the basket on the table and hurried into the living room, trying not to give away the excitement. She hid behind the armchair and waited.
‘How long do you think we will have to wait for?’ she whispered, peeping from behind the arm of the armchair.
‘Shh,’ Old Tome hushed, ‘I think I hear something.’
Ellie heard it too! There were noises coming from the kitchen. She jumped out of her hiding place, ran into the kitchen and pointed her wand at the basket with a loud, ‘Aha! Gotcha!’
The basket was closed and was jumping up and down. And there were growling noises coming from within.
‘Grrr,’ the basket growled and then hissed. A thin wisp of black smoke rose from it.
‘Fire!’ the Old Tome called from the living room. ‘Fire! Somebody save the ancient tome!’
‘Calm down, you silly old book,’ Ellie told him and approached the basket. Slowly she touched it with her wand, keeping her face as far away from it as she could, and tapped three times.
The basket opened and inside she saw no one else but the mushroom thief.
‘Are you…’ Ellie could not believe her eyes, ‘A real dragon?’ she stretched.
She’d heard of them, of course, from her grandmother and the old books of lore – tales about big, scary winged lizards who could breathe fire and swallow a horse whole with all the knight. Besides, everyone knows that dragons were long gone. No one’s seen them for over a thousand of years.
From within the basket, a little scaly creature stared back at her. It held its own tail tight in its tiny claws and hissed at the little witch. There were two batlike wings folded neatly behind its back.
‘Grrr,’ the mushroom thief roared at Ellie and breathed a small flame of blue fire. As he did so he spread his wings, probably to look scarier.
‘You are a real dragon!’ Ellie exclaimed and clapped her hands.
‘Tom, what do dragons eat?’ she asked the book.
‘Besides horses and knights with all their armor?’ the book was still offended at the little witch. As he flipped the pages back and forth, he grumbled, ‘Maybe they eat little inconsiderate witches.’
‘Tom, stop being such a grumpybug. Besides, he’s too small to fit any of those things into his mouth. Or is it that you do not know?’
Old Tom flipped a couple more pages and then proudly said, ‘The dragon, also known as the draconus or dragonis, is a fungivore, which means it eats mushrooms.’
‘Mushrooms?’ asked Ellie, looking at the little dragon. ‘Of course! Mushrooms!’
Ellie opened the cupboard and took out a jar filled with mushrooms. ‘Here!’ she stretched a hand with a mushroom in it towards the dragon. He pulled away at first but then sniffed it and grabbed it from her. He breathed dragon flame on it and then dug into it.
‘Mystery solved!’ the little witch exclaimed. The dragon had already finished the whole mushroom and was stretching out his arms for more.
‘No wonder they grow so big, eating so many mushrooms,’ Ellie laughed and handed the dragon another one.
‘Dragons,’ Old Tom continued, ‘have a very keen sense of smell which allows them to smell out mushrooms miles and miles away.’
Ellie handed another mushroom to the little fellow who chomped away at it happily.
‘Dragons lay only one egg every hundred years and a dragon egg takes up to a thousand year to hatch,’ the book chatted away as Ellie continued feeding the dragon his favorite mushrooms.
From that day on the dragon lived with Ellie in her little caravan and they both enjoyed dragon flame-grilled mushrooms and the magic mushroom muffins. For the rest of the summer they went collecting mushrooms and potion supplies together, and in the evening Ellie practiced her magic and cooking skills while the dragon kept her and Old Tom company (although the latter one was a bit weary of the dragon flames but soon grew to like the little fellow). For the night the dragon would settle in the cauldron with a small flame underneath it, keeping him all warm and snug, and Ellie would tell him a bedtime story (the ones about knights were his favorite).
And as Ellie headed off to tell the dragon another bedtime story this one has come to an end.