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Catananche and the Artesian Well (youngsters:fairy tales, 2961 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Dec 25 2005Views/Reads: 4019/2193Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
'Witches can look any way they like,' said Malus. 'Maybe it's time we left, before she puts a spell on us…' Another story from the fairytale land of Astrantia.

Catananche and the Artesian Well (Another tale from Astrantia) 

© 2005 Ian G. Hobson 

Do you remember the stories of Callistephus, who lived in the enchanted
land of Astrantia, where mythical beasts, and witches and warlocks were 
commonplace?  And do you remember his encounter with the villainous 
Catananche; the creature who was half leopard and half bear?  Well, 
Callistephus was not the only one to have trouble with Catananche, or 
Catan as he was more often called. 

One day, long after Catan had returned to his home in the north of
Astrantia and forgotten all about Callistephus, he was asleep beneath a 
favourite tree at the top of a large rounded hill, when he was rudely 
awakened by three of his cronies.  What are cronies?  Well, friends, I 
suppose; though I wouldn't want friends like these. 

One, whose name was Malus, was a wily old jackal; a trickster and a
thief, even worse than Catan, and a coward through and through.  
Another was Cytisus, a golden-haired fox, who might not have been such 
a bad fellow if he had not made the wrong sort of friends.  And the 
last was Ginkgo Biloba, a large winged lizard-like creature, who could 
change colour, to blend in with his surroundings, so as to become 
almost invisible. Ginkgo Biloba was slow on foot and he walked with a 
twisting motion, with his long snout swinging from side to side.  But 
occasionally, to avoid being left behind, he would flap his great wings 
and sail above the heads of his companions. 

'Catan!' called Malus, the jackal, in his high-pitched voice, as he
approached the spot where Catan was sleeping. 

'What is it?' asked Catan, sleepily opening one eye.  'Can't you see
that I'm resting?' 

'Wake up!' replied Malus.  'There is something to the east, something
moving across the flatlands.  Something or someone is approaching our 

'You mean my territory.' Catan opened his other eye and yawned.  'You
forget, I have royal blood, and these lands belong to me...  Anyway, 
how big is this... something? 

'Big enough to be a caravan of merchants, we think,' replied Cytisus,
the golden fox.  He stopped just short of Catan and scratched his side 
with a hind leg.  He was a little afraid of Catan and didn't like to 
get too close. Ginkgo Biloba, who was lagging behind, suddenly flapped 
wings and leapt forward, landing close to Malus. 

'Mind those wings of yours, Gink!' exclaimed Malus.  'You almost knocked
me over.' 

Ginkgo Biloba folded his wings and tasted the air with his long forked
tongue.  'If I'd meant to knock you over, he whispered, 'you'd be on 
your back with your legs in the air.' 

'Stop squabbling!' ordered Catan. ''Where is this caravan of merchants?'
  He got to his feet and stretched and then looked towards the east.  
It was late in the day and the light was beginning to fade, but in the 
distance he could just make out a long snake-like shadow making its way 
south-west.  'You are right, it does look like a caravan,' said Catan.  
'And look, they are turning towards that group of trees; probably 
planning to make camp for the night...  Quickly, let's go before we 
loose sight of them in the dark!' 

And with that, the four unlikely comrades set off together downhill,
with Catananche bounding along, followed by Malus and Cytisus, and with 
Ginkgo Biloba trailing behind but occasionally flapping his wings and 
flying ahead. 

As darkness descended they lost sight of the travellers and even the
small clump of trees, beside which they were camped.  But soon they 
were guided by the light of several campfires and the smell of smoke 
and the sound of music.  As they drew closer, Catan signalled the 
others to follow as he led them around the camp, so as to approach from 
behind a thicket of small bushes and brambles.  And from there they 

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