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|Luzula and the Northern Lights (youngsters:fairy tales, 3145 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: May 12 2006||Views/Reads: 2927/1296||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|She had never been invited to enter Asperula's cottage before and she found this, and the fact that she was expected, just a little scary…. Another bedtime story from Astrantia (following on from Luzula and the Biloba Tree).|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story cauldron standing in the corner. But then she turned her attention back to Asperula, finding it hard to read her expression; she was not smiling and yet, somehow, behind her old and wrinkled face, she seemed to be pleased about something. 'Did you say you were expecting me?' Luzula asked. 'Oh, yes,' Asperula replied. 'I knew you'd arrive at my door one day soon. How is Caltha?' 'My mother?' said Luzula, surprised at Asperula's civil conversation. 'She's very well, and away at the moment, visiting my aunt over in Passiflora.' 'Passiflora? The village by the sea where your mother used to live.' Now Asperula seemed surprised. 'You mean she's left you at home on your own?' 'She didn't want to but...' Luzula looked a little embarrassed. 'But you gave her a little encouragement.' Asperula finished the sentence for her. 'My my, you really have become the competent little witch, haven't you? Made yourself some new clothes too, I see. It's surprising what a young girl can do with a scrap of cloth and a few magic spells.' 'But how did you know that I'm a witch?' Luzula's embarrassment had turned to shock. 'I'm a witch too, aren't I?' replied Asperula. 'It takes one to know one. And anyway, I've been to a wake.' 'A wake?' said Luzula. 'You mean that someone has died?' 'Oh yes. A distant relative of ours.' Asperula's expression changed to one of sadness, but only briefly. 'Yes, very distant; which is why I've been away for so long.' She cackled at her own joke. 'Did you say ours?' Luzula asked. 'A relative of... ours?' 'Of course,' replied Asperula hastily. 'We are sisters now, aren't we? Sisters in witchcraft? And the one who died, Eremurus her name was, she was a very great witch indeed. And as with so many things in life, plants for example: when one flower dies another one blooms. And you have certainly done that. Though with a little help, I suspect. Asperula turned her attention to the satchel that still hung from Luzula's shoulder. 'Do you have it with you?' she asked, suddenly impatient and beckoning with her hand, inviting Luzula to place the satchel on the table. 'Your talisman? The heart of a shooting star, perhaps?' Luzula nodded, no longer surprised at Asperula's insight, and lifted the satchel onto the table. But the talisman was not all she carried in the satchel. 'No, wait!' she warned as Asperula reached into it. But the warning came too late, and Asperula cried out in pain as she quickly withdrew her hand and then stood up, knocking over her chair. 'Wherever did you find that?' she exclaimed, pointing with her bitten finger at the tiny lizard-like creature that was crawling out of the satchel. 'It's a Biloba!' When Luzula's pet Biloba had hatched out from its egg beneath the Biloba tree in her garden, it was no longer than a man's middle finger. But during the days since its birth it had almost doubled in size. Though, as yet, it could only flutter its tiny wings; not fly. 'That's naughty, Squill!' said Luzula. This was the name that she had given her pet. 'I've told you not to bite.' 'Bite?' said Asperula. 'When that thing grows to full size it'll eat you whole!' She reached for the Biloba and it squeaked and squirmed as she picked it up by its tail and examined it at arm's length. 'Hard to tell at this stage, but probably a male,' she said. 'Females are very rare indeed. I ought to stamp on him.' 'No!' cried Luzula, ‘he's my pet. Come here, Squill.' She took the Biloba back from Asperula and let him run up her arm and onto her shoulder where he nuzzled against her neck. 'See; he's perfectly tame. He was just a bit frightened, that's all. But I'm sorry he bit you.' 'Never mind,' said Asperula, righting her chair and sitting down again.' I've been bitten by worse things.' She reached into the satchel once more; this time finding Luzula's talisman and gazing at it in wonder. Then she reached beneath the neckline of her dress for her own talisman that was suspended there on a gold chain and she compared the two. They were both shiny, jet-black stones and each had come from the center of a shooting star, but Asperula's was little more than half the size of Luzula's. Asperula continued to gaze at the larger stone with what can only be described as a look of envy, then she put it back into the satchel. 'You have a powerful talisman,' she said. 'Keep it safe. Now, let's go for a walk. You can help me restock my herb collection and tell me the reason you came to see me; as if I didn't know already.' *** 'So you really are a witch?' Callistephus asked. It was late afternoon and he and Luzula were sitting outside the cave where he lived. 'Yes,' Luzula replied, 'everything I have told you is true. Though you must keep it secret. Stop it, Squill, that tickles!' Her pet Biloba was sitting on her shoulder again and fluttering his wings against her neck. She took a grape from her satchel and offered it to Squill, and he gobbled it down seed and all, and then squeaked for more. 'There's no more, Squill; don't be greedy.' Callistephus was watching the baby Biloba. He'd heard that Bilobas were horrible creatures, but this one seemed harmless; for the moment. 'If you're a witch,' he said, still watching the Biloba, 'and you can do magic spells, do you think you might be able to undo the magic spells that Asperula cast upon me, so that I can just be an ordinary boy again and not turn into a wolf every night?' 'I don't know.' Squill was fluttering his wings again so Luzula lifted him from her shoulder and popped him back into her satchel. 'I went to ask Asperula just that, and to ask her why she can't undo the spells herself. She told me that she'd like to undo them but that she can't remember all the spells she cast. I've got a book about magic spells and it says that to undo a spell you first have to know what the spell was, and if more than one was cast and you don't undo them in the right order, things might go terribly wrong.' 'Oh, I see,' said Callistephus, looking very disappointed. 'I thought it must be something like that.' 'But there might be a way,' said Luzula. She reached out to Callistephus and placed her hand on his. 'A way for me to find out what spells Asperula cast. Have you heard of Father Nature?' 'Don't you mean Mother Nature?' replied Callistephus, feeling the warmth of Luzula's hand as well as feeling very glad he had Luzula for a friend. 'No, not Mother Nature; Father Nature: the one who sees and hears all and forgets nothing. Asperula told me about him.' 'Where does he live?' asked Callistephus. 'He doesn't live anywhere,' Luzula replied. 'But just like Mother Nature, he is everywhere and nowhere; but Asperula says that sometimes he can be seen in the night sky and that this is the best time of year to look for him. I have to travel north and find something called the Aurora. They are lights in the sky; and Asperula says that they contain the face of Father Nature, and that if I ask him politely he might help me.' 'So that's what those strange lights in the sky are,' said Callistephus. 'I've seen them when I've travelled north sometimes.' 'You have?' said Luzula excitedly. 'How far did you have to travel? 'Not far,' replied Callistephus, 'At least, not far for a wolf; about three nights' journey, I think. Would you like me to take you? We could go as soon as the sun sets if you like; if you're not frightened to travel with a wolf.' *** 'It is very beautiful,' said Luzula. It was night-time and she and Callistephus, in wolf guise, were standing on the crest of a hill, looking at the strange lights that filled the northern skies. They had travelled for almost three whole nights, sleeping, and foraging for food, during the day, and then as the sun set and Callistephus turned into a wolf once more, continuing their journey. Anyone watching would have found the site of them quite fascinating: a wolf racing across the countryside in the moonlight, with a young girl riding on his back. 'But I can't see a face yet,' said Callistephus as he studied the sky through a wolf's eyes. The aurora, or the Northern Lights, as some people called them, looked rather like clouds but brighter and constantly swirling, like a lot of horses' tails. Callistephus yawned, showing off his set of sharp white teeth. 'Perhaps Asperula is mistaken about Father Nature?' 'No, I don't think so, Callistephus.' Luzula was carefully studying the sky as well. 'Asperula did seem to be very sure about him.' 'But if she's so sure,' Callistephus asked, 'why did she not come to see him herself?' He sat down and rested his head on his paws. 'Yes, I asked her that,' replied Luzula. 'But she said it would be no good her coming to see Father Nature because when she was younger she had offended him; both him and Mother Nature... Oh, look!' Luzula pointed to the sky where some of the swirling lights ware taking on the shape of a face. 'Look, in the sky: it's a face! The face of an old man! And he's looking down at us!' 'Who are you calling an old man?' said a deep and rumbling voice that seemed to come, not just from the sky, but from the earth as well. 'Firstly, I'm not a man, I'm Father Nature, and secondly... well... I suppose I am quite old.' Suddenly the ground began to vibrate as Father Nature began to laugh. 'But not as old as Mother Nature; she's been around for donkey's year's.' 'I'm very sorry,' said Luzula. 'I didn't mean to be rude. I hope I didn't offend you.' 'Offend me?' said Father Nature. 'Why of course you didn't offend me, Luzula. After all, you and your friend, Callistephus, have come a long way just to see me. So why should I be offended?' 'But how did you know we'd come to see you? And how do you know our names?' asked Callistephus. He was on all fours again and tilting his head from side to side as he looked up at the face in the sky. 'Because I see and hear everything,' replied Father Nature, shaking the earth with his deep rumbling laughter once more. 'Or, at least, my spies do. For instance: I know that the two of you had nuts and blackberries for breakfast.' 'Spies?' Callistephus was puzzled by this word. 'What are spies?' 'Oh just, anyone or anything who is willing to help really. Trees and very good; they see and hear lots of things. And rocks, of course... and walls.' 'Walls?' Now Luzula was puzzled as well. 'Oh yes, walls. Walls are very good. Walls have ears. Have you never heard that expression?' 'Yes, I think so,' replied Luzula, beginning to understand. 'But is it also true that you forget nothing?' 'Ah,' said Father Nature, 'now that's where occasionally there has been some exaggeration. Even I can't be expected to remember everything, can I? But I do remember all the important things.' The look on the face in the sky turned thoughtful. 'Though I can't quite recall why you have come all this way to see me... Oh, yes, I remember now, the trees whispered it to me: it involves Asperula, doesn't it.' Now the face in the sky took on a look of distaste. 'I shan't forget her in a hurry.' But then Father Nature began to laugh again. 'Why do you laugh?' asked Luzula. 'Oh, sorry,' said Father Nature, still chuckling to himself. 'It's just that I've been talking to another of my spies; trying to find a way to help you. It turns out you needn't have come all this way to see me after all. In fact all you had to do was go to Asperula's door to ask what magic spells were cast on your wolf friend here.' 'But I did,' said Luzula. 'I asked Asperula.' Again the earth shook with Father Nature's laughter. 'Oh this is so funny,' he said. 'It's not Asperula you have to ask; it's her doorknocker. He never forgets a thing. He's one of my best sources of information. Yes, you really could have saved yourselves a long journey... But it's been very nice to meet you. Perhaps we'll meet again some day.' The face in the sky began to dissolve but then briefly it came back again. 'You'll not tell anyone will you? About trees and walls and doorknockers and such?' The face watched as Luzula and Callistephus nodded their agreement. 'Good. It's just that it's meant to be a secret, you see. So... goodbye and good luck, both of you. I have to go now. I'm late for an appointment with the man in Hesperis.' And with that, the face in the sky was gone. And so was the night, because just then the sun peeped over the eastern horizon and Callistephus turned back from wolf to boy. 'So all we have to do is go back home and ask Asperula's doorknocker what the magic spells were?' he asked. 'And he'll tell us?' 'Yes!' replied Luzula, excitedly grasping Callistephus by each hand and beginning to dance him around in a circle. 'And then she or I can undo the spells, and then you will never have to be a wolf again!' *** Concealed by the trees, the jackal watched his prey as they ran towards him down the hill. The jackal's name was Malus and he had been watching the children since the first light of dawn. For a moment he considered whether he dare attack and eat them, but he was a coward at heart and preferred to let others take risks for him; so he turned away and ran off to find his friend Catan. *** I've never seen the Northern Lights; have you? Perhaps, one day, I'll see them. But you're probably wondering if Luzula and Callistephus get home safely. I'm sure they will, in the next story perhaps. Tweet
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