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Luzula and the Northern Lights (youngsters:fairy tales, 3145 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: May 12 2006Views/Reads: 2403/905Story 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. 


   


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