Thistle's     Coven

written & Illustrated
by Lora Craig-Gaddis

From his perch on the upstairs window ledge, Pooka could hear Elsie singing to herself as she moved around the room behind him. Paws tucked to his chest in classic kitty yoga position, he was trying to focus on the late October sunshine warming his back.  However, every few minutes, Elsie’s voice would find a wrong note, jarring him out of his meditation and causing the tip of his tail to twitch irritably.  He wondered if there was a Cosmic Law that said witches were not allowed to carry a tune!

A small movement in the garden below caught his attention. His eats flicked forward, then his eyes bugged open and he almost toppled out the window as he sprang to his paws!  He hissed; his back arched and his fur stood straight out in all directions!

Elsie turned just in time to see his tail disappear under the bed.  She lifted the hem of the quilt and peered under the bed.  Two gold eyes, round with horror, gazed back at her.

“Look out the window!”

Curious, Elsie leaned out the window and looked down.  She blinked a few times.  Then she pinched herself, closed her eyes and opened them again. It didn’t help.  Traipsing across the bridge and up to her house, was a single file procession of solemn little fairies. They were all dressed in identical flowing black robes and wearing tiny pointed black hats!  At the head of the parade, dainty nose in the air and looking Very Important, marched Thistle!

“Oh Poopy Pentagrams!” Elsie rolled her eyes.  “What now?”

She bent back down and tried to coax her cat out from under the bed. “Pooks, it’s only Thistle and a bunch of fairies dressed like…”

“I SAW what they were dressed like,” growled Pooka.  “I’m staying here!”

“I’m sure there’s an explanation!”

Pooka waited.  She couldn’t think of one. The cat retreated further under the bed.

“Fine,” declared Elsie, “be that way!” and by herself she went downstairs to answer the door.  However, when she opened it and looked down at the tiny troop of pixies all dressed like witches and gazing up at her, she almost wished she’d joined Pooka under the bed!

“Halloween is still a few days away,” she informed them. “And since when did fairies start trick or treating?”

Thistle lifted the wide brim of her hat so she could look up at Elsie. “This is my coven!”

The little witch felt her heart sink.  It was as bad as she’d thought!  “Your what?”

“My coven!” Thistle gestured to the troop lined up behind her like well-behaved school children.  “I’m training them to be witches!”

“And now we’re on a field trip!” piped up one little pixie with curly brown hair. “We’re going to go see a real witch!”  She leaned her head out and peered past Elsie in happy anticipation.

“This is Elsie,” Thistle announced.  She’s the witch I told you about!”

The fairies silently looked Elsie over.  They obviously had their doubts! 

“Well,” conceded one sprite after a moment. “She is dressed like us!”

Their tiny pointed hats all bobbed in agreement.

The little witch stood back from the door.  “Perhaps you’d better come in,” she said.

  As the fairies (she counted seven of them besides Thistle) marched into the parlor, Elsie spotted Pooka slinking down the staircase.  Apparently his curiosity had gotten the better of his judgment.

The fairies arranged themselves in a dinky circle on the parlor rug with Thistle in their center.  Elsie headed for her favorite chair by the hearth being careful not to step on any of them. 

“Now, tell me all about this.”

One sprite, slightly smaller than the others jumped up and down and clapped her hands in excitement. “We’re going to be witches!” she sang out.

“Bramble!” Thistle admonished her wee protégé.  The fairy instantly sobered.

Addressing Elsie, Thistle explained: “These are my students and I’m going to teach them all about witchcraft!”

“But Thistle, “ Elsie objected.  “They’re fairies – not witches!”

Thistle folded her arms across her chest and tossed her head defiantly.  “Why can’t they be both?  Fairywitches!” she demanded.  “I am!”

“You are?” asked a startled Elsie.

“Of course,” Thistle nodded.  “I know all about witchcraft and spells and stuff!”

“And where did you acquire all this knowledge?” Elsie wanted to know.

“From being around you and Aunt Tilly!” exclaimed the sprite, beaming at her proudly. “Besides,” the fairy flew up, hovered next to Elsie’s ear, and continued in a lower voice, “I can always come to you if there’s something I’m not sure about, right?”

“I suppose so,” Elsie murmured uncertainly.  She had caught the horrified look on Pooka’s face peeking around the corner into the room.

“Thanks, Elsie!” Thistle whispered, and then in a louder voice she marshaled her little troop.  “All right, fairywitches, this way to the herb room!”

They filed out of the room toward the back of the house where Elsie made her concoctions.  Elsie and Pooka trailed slowly after them feeling quite helpless before the onslaught of Thistle’s enthusiasm.

By the time they entered, Thistle was already holding court on the wooden worktable.

“These are herbs,” she told them, waving an arm at the gleaming jars lining the shelves. “They are good for lots of magickal things!”

An exceptionally pretty, dark haired little fairy asked: “Are there any that work for love spells?”

“Lots!”  Thistle assured her.

The fairy twirled a strand of hair around her tiny finger and looked speculative.  “Like what?” she wanted to know.

Thistle looked momentarily stumped and quickly read some of the labels. “Like, like…ah-HA!  Rose Petals!” she cried triumphantly.

The little fairy asked, “Well, what do you do with them?”

Thistle scowled at her.  “Berry,” she said sternly. “These are deep, mysterious and arcane subjects requiring much study and dedication! You can’t expect me to teach it all to you in one day!  All right, everyone,” she brightly addressed the rest of the assembly. “Now you’ve seen the herb room!  Any questions?  No?  Good!  Let’s go back to the parlor!”

The tiny creatures all looked at each other in bewilderment and then obediently followed her out of the room.  Berry, bringing up the rear, continued to glance over her shoulder at the jar of rose petals as she left.

Elsie looked down at Pooka next to her feet.  “I see you came out from under the bed.”

Pooka glared at her.  “This is not good!” Obviously he expected her to do something about it!

The little witch shrugged. “Fairies don’t focus on one thing for long,” she told him. “By tomorrow they’ll have lost interest.”

  They found the pixies back in the parlor in a circle on the rug again.

“Now,” announced Thistle.  “We are going to raise a Cone of Power!”

“What’s that?” squeaked Bramble.

“It’s a thing to raise magickal energy,” Thistle explained.

Another little fairy asked, “Well, how do we do it?”

Thistle told them, “We all hold hands and fly in a circle really fast!”

The fairies dutifully joined hands and eight pairs of gossamer wings began to quickly vibrate.

Elsie told Pooka, “We’d better stand back.”  They retreated to the edge of the room to watch.

Within moments, the circle of pixies was a blur of motion whizzing through the air.  Pooka felt dizzy just watching and he noticed Elsie’s eyes were wide as she clutched the back of a chair for stability!

Several tiny voices sang out “Wheeeeeee!” but one was heard to object. “I don’t feel good!”  A moment later, a small drop of nasty greenish brown liquid came flinging out of the spinning circle and splatted on the wall.  Then came choruses of: “Me neither!” and “Please! Can we stop now?” 

They heard Thistle announce: “Fairywitches, halt!” and all the little fairies came tumbling to the ground.  Some simply sat where they landed, hands holding their heads while their eyeballs rolled around in their little faces.  Others collapsed on their backs moaning, while a few struggled to their hands and knees and were heard making tiny retching noises.  Thistle looked around at them and said uncertainly, “Maybe we need more practice…”

Pooka smiled smugly up at Elsie and reminded her:  “Cats don’t clean carpets!” He then strolled off to the kitchen, his tail waving high.  Elsie, eyeing his departing backside, felt the urge for a well-aimed kick – just this once!  However, she sighed and went to get a rag and bucket.

 

After the fairies had staggered back out the door and the mess in the parlor was cleaned up, Elsie joined Pooka in the kitchen.  The little cat had just finished a bit of left over lunch and was now busy cleaning his whiskers.  Elsie sat heavily in one of the chairs around the table and was quietly thoughtful.  Finally she said, “By tomorrow surely they’ll have forgotten all about this nonsense.”  Pooka stopped washing and just looked at her.  

The next day, however, the Pixies were back.  Bright and early they congregated on Elsie’s front step and when she opened the door, she almost slammed it shut again!  Instead, she barred the entrance and told them, “You are NOT bringing bugs into my house!”

Pooka peered around her skirts.  Each fairy had some sort of crawling, hopping or flying insect with her.  Thistle looked up in astonishment.  “But these are our Familiars,” she insisted, “and we have to train them!”

Feeling a little on the dense side, Elsie repeated: “Your Familiars?”

Thistle rolled her eyes in exasperation as she struggled to keep hold of the beetle she had chosen for herself.  “Well, you can hardly expect us to have a cat or a crow or anything else that’s 10 times bigger than we are!”

Elsie shook her head as if trying to settle its contents.  “Outside!” she told Thistle.  “Today’s lesson must be held outside!”

“Oh, all right!” sighed Thistle. 

The fairies turned and paraded back out into the yard where, once again, they formed a teensy circle and set their “Familiars” in the center.

Elsie and Pooka watched from the steps.

“Now, fairywitches, I want you each to concentrate on communicating telepathically with your Familiar!  Ready?  Go!”

However, once released, the “Familiars” seemed to be concentrating on escape!  The fairies were soon busy chasing down and trying to recapture hastily retreating ants, centipedes, leafhoppers and caterpillars.  Even Thistle was having a hard time catching her beetle again.  Finally, the only fairy left where the circle had been was Bramble, who had brought a snail.

Little dark-haired Berry, in a fit of anger, threw a pebble at her nimble-footed insect.  She flew back to Bramble’s side complaining bitterly. “Why do we have to do all this stuff?  I only want a love spell to make that stupid elf, Bracken, like me!” and she flounced to the ground with a sulky pout.

Before long the rest of the fairies joined them, their tiny faces flushed.

“Thistle?” panted one (who was quite out of breath)  Must we have Familiars in order to be fairywitches?”

Thistle, who was just as out of breath and temper as the rest, waved a hand in lofty dismissal.  “Oh, no!” she told them.  “Witches don’t really need Familiars.  They don’t actually DO anything anyway!”

At this, Pooka stood up and stomped indignantly into the house.

 

Later that afternoon, Elsie was busy in the kitchen of her little cottage.  Halloween was coming and every year she enjoyed making treats for the costumed children who visited her. Already she had tins and baskets filled with crunchy, sweet popcorn balls and soft, chewy molasses cookies.  Their spicy warm aroma filled her little kitchen.   Glancing through the window as she stirred a bowl of pumpkin pie mixture, Elsie smiled and shook her head.  Outside in the yard, the coven of “fairywitches-in-training” sat in a circle under an old oak tree.  Thistle was conducting a Workshop and their tiny heads were bowed in concentration on the project she had assigned – tying bits of dried grasses to the ends of their wands to make “fairywitch brooms.” 

“Of course, we don’t really need them for flying,” Thistle had told her assembly, “but witches use them for magic, too.”

“But I already use my wand for magic,” objected Berry who was turning out to be the most vocal dissenter in the group.

Their leader explained patiently, “Yes, but that’s only Nature Magic – helping trees grow, making seeds sprout and keeping streams busy.  Stuff like that.  Don’t you want to do Real Witch spells?”

Berry nodded reluctantly.

  Thistle left them to their task and flew back to the cottage and fluttered through the kitchen window. She settled herself on the counter next to a tin of cookies and, breaking off the corner of one, began to nibble on it thoughtfully.

Elsie set the bowl on the table and turned to check her oven temperature.  “How’s the group coming?” she asked over her shoulder.

Thistle smiled brightly. “Wonderful!” she exclaimed.  “I think they have a real aptitude!”

Elsie smiled knowingly: “Getting a bit bored, are they?”

Thistle’s shoulders drooped a bit.  “I think so,” she sighed.  Then she immediately brightened again as she added confidently, “But all that will be fixed tonight!”

Pooka, who had leaped up onto the table and now had his face buried in the bowl, looked up quickly.  He appeared rather silly with his whiskers and chin coated with pie filling but his expression was serious.  He knew there would be a full moon tonight.

The same thought had apparently occurred to Elsie.  “What’s happening tonight, Thistle?”

The fairy finished her cookie crumb and dusted off her hands.  “Tonight I will teach them some spells!”

Pooka and Elsie exchanged a look. 

“I’ll be under the bed,” the little cat informed his mistress.

Elsie started to ask where on earth Thistle had learned spells, since she knew her own magick was always of a subtle and discreet kind.  Then she remembered the time her little friend had spent visiting with Aunt Tilly.  Elsie’s aunt tossed spells around as freely as confetti and Thistle must have picked up a few! 

Instead, she shook her finger at the fairy and began to warn her: “Now, Thistle, so far this has all been fun and fine and no harm done.  But before you start having fairies do witch magick, there’s something you should know!”

Thistle looked up at Elsie, her pixie face showing polite interest.  But before Elsie could continue, they were distracted by a strange ruckus outside.  Tiny curly-headed Bramble appeared in the window, her small wings a blur of agitation.  “Oh, Thistle!  Come quick!” she cried and disappeared again.

Thistle shot out the window and Elsie dashed over and leaned out to see what was happening.

The red and golden leaves that still clung to the old oak shading the fairies’ workshop shivered and shook!  High pitched giggles and jeering laughter could be heard from its branches and acorns rained down pelting the pixies below. Thistle’s coven clung to the little hats protecting their heads and darted in every direction trying to avoid the nuts! 

Pooka leaped to the windowsill alongside Elsie and looked out.  “Elves!” he growled.

And sure enough, a moment later Elsie saw a number of tiny figures shimmy down the oak’s trunk.  They were still laughing!  One little boy stood with his legs spread, his fists on his hips and stuck out his tongue.  “Fairies trying to be witches!” he scoffed.

“Yeah!” added another little fellow all clad in brown and green. “Why don’t you stupid fairies go back to the forest and grow something!” 

Thistle flew at him in a rage. “Why don’t you go crawl down a toad hole!” she countered, and whipping out her wand, she smacked the elf on his head.

 His eyes bugged out for just an instant before his elf form was replaced with that of a very large frog that towered over tiny Thistle.  She shrieked, panicked and ran.  The frog bounced after her.  The other fairies turned and flew to her rescue, dive-bombing the frog – except one dark haired sprite who darted in the opposite direction around the side of the cottage.

The frightened Thistle recovered her wits enough to use her wings and flew out of reach of the frog leaping up to catch her.

“Turn him back, Thistle!” pleaded her coven.  The boy elves gathered around and scolded them.  “See what happens when fairies think they’re witches?” they yelled.

Suddenly, Elsie heard a crash of broken glass come from her herb room!  She wasn’t sure which way to go!  At this point the angry elves and the furious fairies were nose to nose in confrontation and it looked as if both sides might come to blows at any moment!

Her dilemma was solved (along with the question of what had broken) a second later when she saw Berry dart around the side of the cottage.  Her arms were filled with as many dried rose petals as she could carry!  She paused for a moment in midair while her eyes scanned the tiny mob of fairies and elves.  Then her vision singled out one particular little elf wearing a gold cap and she dove in that direction.  As she got close enough, she began throwing the rose petals at him, chanting: “Roses for Love, It's you that I pick; Roses for Love, the spell will stick!”

The elf threw his hands up to ward of the petals. “Hey!” he cried out. “Quit that!”  He broke from the group and ran into the forest with little Berry in swift pursuit.

“That must be Bracken!” Elsie grinned at Pooka, who winked back. 

By now the fairies and elves were to the point of shoving and serious insults.  Elsie grabbed her broom and dipped it in a mop bucket still full from the morning’s housework.  She dashed outside and into the fray with Pooka on her heels.  Swinging the broom, she showered the tiny mob with sudsy water, drenching each and every one of them.  They shrieked in protest and all scattered in different directions, fleeing into the surrounding woods. 

All, that is, except the frog, which Pooka now held firmly under one paw. 

Elsie scooped the frog up and dropped him in the pocket of her apron.  “We’ll have to change him back,” she told the cat. 

Pooka cocked his head.  “Can I play with him first?”

Elsie answered him with a look.

  The rest of the day was strangely quiet.  Berry returned eventually, complaining that her love spell hadn’t worked.  She then flew off in search of the other fairies.

 

In the evening, after supper, Elsie cuddled down in her favorite chair next to the fire and tried to read.  For some reason, though, she couldn’t concentrate on the words and found herself reading the same paragraph over and over.  She knew something in the air was bothering her, but what?  She was about to put the book aside and get out her tarot cards when Pooka jumped into her lap, his paws on her chest.  His whiskers inches from her face, he stared into her eyes and gave a loud  “Mrrrroooowl”.

“What is it, Pooks?”  She stroked his head. 

The cat sat down in her lap and looked around the room uncertainly. “I don’t know,” he said.  “Something just isn’t right!  I feel it in my whiskers!”

Elsie rubbed in front of his ears – one of Pooka’s favorite spots -- and tried to soothe him.  “We’re probably just upset over this silly Fairywitch business.  Come on.  Let’s get you to bed.”

Pooka’s head shot up dislodging her hand.  “Elsie!  Thistle said they were going to do spells tonight!”

 “Oh Pooks!  Surely not after everything that happened today!”

But Elsie was wrong.  

Her first clue came while she was setting the syrup jug on the table for breakfast. (This morning they were having pancakes.)

The sound of feathers fluttering in the kitchen window and a raspy caw told her Edgar had arrived for his meal.  But when she turned to greet him – instead of a shiny black crow, the bird in the window was bright blue!

“Edgar?”  

He answered with another caw and then strutted back and forth on the ledge, showing off and preening. 

Elsie held out her arm and Edgar flapped over and landed on it.  She examined his feathers closely.  They weren’t dyed.  They had actually turned blue!  The crow was obviously pleased with the results, but Elsie was not!

 

“Uh-oh!” came Pooka’s voice from the doorway.  Edgar flew to the ground and the cat padded over to him.  “What happened?” he asked.  

“I woke up pretty!” exclaimed the bird happily.

“What did he say?” Elsie wanted to know, and the cat told her.  Although she and Pooka conversed freely, she had trouble understanding Edgar’s crow language.  As now, Pooka usually served as interpreter.

“Ask him if he saw anything unusual last night.”

Edgar’s reply was a raucous laugh.  “Fairies!” he cawed.  “Lots of fairies!” and then he added for Elsie’s benefit:  “I didn’t eat them.”

Nevertheless, the witch knew that Thistle had never forgotten Edgar’s interest in her as a tasty morsel when first they’d met.  She hadn’t been comfortable around the bird since then.  Elsie was afraid she was seeking a bit of pixie revenge!  The question was, what else had the little band of fairywitches been up to in the night?

“Pooks, I think we’d better go to town today.”

The little cat agreed.  

The village was a glorious riot of fall decorations.  Pots of colorful chrysanthemums and ivy stood outside all the shops.  Every step and post sported a carved pumpkin.  It all seemed very nice and normal until they reached the center of town and the village green – which was pink!

Several small groups of townsfolk were clustered around discussing the phenomenon.  Elsie and Pooka exchanged a look and edged closer to one of them to hear what was being said.

“How do you suppose they did it?” An elderly gentleman was shaking his head in amazement.

A middle-aged man with a broad, jolly face exclaimed: “Must have taken all night! Do you suppose now we’ll have to call it the Village Pink?” He hooked his thumbs under his suspenders, laughing heartily at his own joke.

The prim sounding voice of the schoolteacher, Mrs. Crabtree, spoke: “It’s no laughing matter, John Beasley!  Why, in our day we just soaped windows…”

“And overturned a few outhouses,” he reminded her with a wink. 

“Yes...  well!  At least we waited until Halloween.  We didn’t start the mischief days before!” the schoolteacher harrumphed.

The elderly man added, “We didn’t stick any cows in trees either.  Wonder how they managed that!”

Mr. Beasley laughed again.  “Wasn’t Lavinia Hinkle mad!  Took ten men to get that cow down.  She says the kids will get no treats out of her this year!”

Mrs. Crabtree snorted.  “As if she ever passes out treats!”  And then, shaking her finger she  added,  “I’ll bet it was those Kettlesworth kids.  They’re always up to something!”

Suddenly she noticed Elsie standing nearby. “Hello, Elsie.  I didn’t see you there.”

Elsie greeted the others.  When asked what she thought of “The Village Pink,” she simply smiled and shrugged her shoulders, indicating, without actually lying, that she was as bewildered as any of them.  

The elderly gentleman left, mumbling into his beard about kids these days, and John Beasley drawled reluctantly, “Well, I’d better go get that loaf of bread for the misses before she comes looking for me.”

“Haven’t you heard?” asked the schoolteacher.  “There’s no bread this morning.”

Mr. Beasley looked concerned.  “Old George the Baker isn’t sick, is he?”

Mrs. Crabtree’s eyes twinkled.  “Worse.  He’s smitten.”

“What?”

“From what I heard, George was headed in to work at dawn to get his ovens fired up.  Emily Tiddle was just opening her dress shop next to the bakery.  I imagine she’d decided to go in early, what with Sally’s wedding coming up.”

“Well, what’s all this got to do with my bread?” thundered John Beasley.

“He’s been baking nothing all morning but currant buns and taking them over to Emily.  She loves currant buns, you know!” and Mrs. Crabtree gave Elsie a nudge and a wink.

“You mean…” gasped Elsie.

The schoolteacher nodded.  “He’s in love!  And when I stopped by the dress shop, Emily Tiddle was carrying on worse than one of my students – blushing, dropping things, giggling, I tell you.  And at her age!” Although she tsk-tsked and shook her head, Mrs. Crabtree looked quite pleased for her friend.

“Well, I’ll be,” John Beasley grinned.  “After all these years!  Wonder what made him finally notice her?  Guess the misses will just have to make her own bread today.” He said “Good day” to them and headed in the direction of his house, no doubt anxious to share the gossip with his wife.

“I’d better get going, too,” sighed Mrs. Crabtree.  “I’ll be seeing you, Elsie.  You too, Pooka.”  The schoolteacher liked cats.

Pooka gave his best cat meow in reply; she scratched his chin and then left.

Pooka and Elsie exchanged a look and headed back toward home. 

 

As they neared the cottage, they heard a thunderous symphony of caws.  As the little house came into view, they could see the branches of the surrounding trees were filled with crows all squawking and cawing and flying from branch to branch, juggling for position.  Many more were perched all over the roof of the cottage.  On the lawn, proudly strutting back and forth and apparently still thrilled with his colorful plumage, was Edgar.

“Pooks!  What’s gotten into them?” the little witch cried.

Pooka’s fur stood on end. “I don’t know!  I can’t understand! They’re all yelling at once.  They sound mad!”

With that, he flattened his ears and streaked across the yard.  A single bound sent him sailing through the kitchen window.

Elsie tried plugging her ears as she ran after him.  The noise was deafening! After a few moments of fumbling with the latch, she tumbled through the front door, slamming it on the commotion outside.   She leaned against the door, panting to catch her breath, then made her way into the kitchen and closed the window to further dim the sound.

“Great Goddess Petticoats!” she cursed.  Just wait till she got hold of that headstrong little fairy!  There was no doubt in her mind that Thistle was behind all of this.

The thought had no sooner crossed her mind than she saw the lid of the flour canister over the stove raise a few inches.  A pair of wide, frightened pixie eyes peeked out.

Elsie waited.

“Is it safe?” came a high little tremulous voice.

A cupboard door swung open a crack and a little nose and two more eyes peeked out.  “Elsie?  Is that you?”

The little witch saw a diminutive form squeezing out of the teakettle spout.  Berry dropped onto the stove and, twisting around, spread her wings and checked for damage.  Seeing none, she grabbed the corner of a nearby dishtowel and began drying off her wet legs.

A fourth little fairy crawled out from behind the cookbooks.  Then a fifth emerged from under the old stove.

One by one the members of the fairywitch coven crept out of their various hiding places.  The very last to appear was Thistle, who had concealed herself in the familiar sugar bowl.

She shoved the lid aside, climbed over the edge and dropped to the table.  “Hi, Elsie,” she smiled uncertainly, and waved her sugar-coated fingers.

The other fairies flew to the table and gathered around her. Their little eyes were round under their pointed black hats and their small mouths were shaped in frightened circles.

Pooka leaped to the windowsill and stared out through the leaded glass at the crows still congregating in the yard outside.  His tail beat fiercely on the ledge and his teeth chittered together threateningly at the birds outside.

Thistle seemed to shrink even smaller than she already was as Elsie bore down on her.  “What did you do?” the little witch demanded.

Before Thistle could answer, curly-headed Bramble piped up.  “We made a Cone of Power!”

Another little fairy squeaked:  “It was amazing, Elsie!  You should have seen it!”

Bramble added, “We were so good!  We all agreed to keep going ‘til one of us threw up!”

A very small fairy with a mop of golden curls raised her hand reluctantly.  “That was me,” she admitted sadly.

Elsie sighed and looked at the ceiling.  “So what happened?”

Berry continued, “Thistle told us to all concentrate on a Magick Thing we wanted to happen.  But do you know how hard it is to concentrate when you’re flying in a circle really, really fast?”  She pushed her tiny witch’s hat back from her forehead and glared at Thistle, who looked down and studied the table’s surface.

Elsie asked: “And what Magick Thing were you trying to make happen?”

Berry sighed, “Well, I was doing a love spell.”

Another little sprite giggled: “All I could think of was a nursery rhyme I heard!  You know – “Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle…?”

 “…the Cow jumped over the Moon,” Elsie recited.

The sprite clapped her hands, delighted.  “That’s the one!”

Elsie shook her head in despair.  “So you all were working your own separate magick?  Not one of you was focusing on the same thing as another?”

The fairywitches all shrugged their shoulders at each other, clearly perplexed.  Finally, Bramble asked, “Were we supposed to?”

“Never mind,” sighed Elsie.  “Then what?”

One of the pixies told her, “Soon these pretty bubbles were spinning off of our circle …”

Elsie nodded. “Concentrated magick without a focus.  Wherever the bubbles land and pop, something will happen. But what’s with the crows outside?”

Thistle, still looking down at the table, told her, “One of those bubbles landed on Edgar.  Now all of the crows are jealous and want us to make them blue too!”

“And you don’t know how to do it, right?”

Thistle looked up then, her tiny face crumpling and her lower lip trembled.  “And they don’t believe us.  Elsie, they say they will eat us if we don’t make them blue like Edgar!”  

Suddenly there was a hammering at the leaded glass panes of the kitchen window.  Pooka scrambled back, startled by the sudden appearance of the strange spectacle demanding admittance.

Elsie opened the window a crack. The crow’s insistent caws filled the room for a moment and then dimmed as Bracken, the boy elf, crawled through the opening and Elsie shut the window again. Berry gasped as the elf stood up, fists on his hips.  Bits of roses were plastered all over him.  There was one on the side of his face.  Others were stuck to his back, legs and chest.  There was even one on his foot.

“Are you a witch?” he demanded of Elsie.

She nodded, wordless, just staring.

“Well, can you get these stupid flowers off me? ” To demonstrate, the elf tugged so furiously at the one clinging to his foot that he knocked himself over – but the petal could not be dislodged.   “You see?” he asked.  “This has to be magick! Someone put a curse on me and I need a witch who can take it off – NOW!”

Behind a curtain of hair, Berry’s face was as red as the dried rose petals stuck to Bracken.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

Bracken twisted around and turned his glare on her.

 “You mean YOU did this?”

 “It wasn’t meant to be a curse!  Stupid Thistle said it was a love spell. I just wanted you to like me!”

There was silence for a moment as Bracken stared at Berry astonished.  Finally he said, “I like you.  At least,” he amended, “I would if you tried acting like a fairy once in a while instead of a witch!  Not that there’s anything wrong with witches!”  Now it was his turn to blush as he suddenly remembered whose house he was in and whose help he was soliciting.

“That’s all right, Bracken,” Elsie smiled.  “I know what you mean.  The thing is,” she told the little coven of up-turned faces, “I don’t try to do fairy magick because I’m a witch.  It isn’t in my nature.  And on the other hand, witch magick requires a certain, well – a certain concentration that isn’t natural to fairies.”

“Is that why our spells didn’t work?”

“Well, Berry, I wouldn’t say they didn’t work.  But without the concentration it’s hard to control the results. The magick just sort of bounces around and you don’t know what will happen. ”

“Concentrating gives me a headache!” frowned Bramble.

“Being fairywitches was getting boring anyway!” one of the pixies sighed.

Another nodded, taking off her pointed hat. “Too much work!” she said.

“I was really getting tired of throwing up,” agreed the curly-headed blond fairy sadly.

Elsie breathed a sigh of relief.  “So, no more fairywitches?”

They all nodded and Berry added, “It’s much more fun just being fairies!”

“What about you, Thistle?” Elsie asked.

Thistle looked disappointed, but reluctantly agreed – no more fairywitches.  “But what about the spells we did already?” she wanted to know.

“Well, the Village Pink will go back to being green as it grows out. Miss Hinkle’s neighbors managed to get the cow out of the tree.  And, as far as George the Baker falling in love with Miss Tiddle, if the love isn’t real, then no spell can make it last.  If it is, then two lonely people have found each other and no harm done.”

Thistle tugged on Elsie’s apron.  “But what about the crows?”

The little witch frowned.  “That is a problem.  And I only see one solution.  I’ll have to turn Edgar black again.”

Pooka, who’d been listening while keeping watch out the window, said, “Edgar’s not going to like that!”

“Is he still out there?” Elsie asked.

Pooka replied that he was and still strutting like a king in front of the other crows.

“Then I’d better do it now.  Thistle, I need to know what magick you were trying to do in that cone.”

Thistle looked uncomfortable.  “Promise you won’t laugh?”

Elsie raised her eyebrows.  “Okay...”

“I don’t” declared Pooka, jumping down from the sill and padding toward them.

Thistle stuck her tongue out at him, then turned back to the witch.

“Well, I’ve always heard that really special things only happen during a blue moon.  I wanted our magick to be extra special and so…”

At that Pooka did laugh and, despite her promise, Elsie, too, chuckled.  “And so you tried to turn the moon blue?”  She shook her head and smiled fondly at the sprite.  “Oh Thistle, only you would think of that one!  Remind me to explain to you sometime about blue moons.  But right now, I have work to do!”

She disappeared momentarily toward the back of the house, emerging a few moments later.  In her hand was a black-handled knife.

“You fairies had better stay in here,” she told them.  “Come on, Pooks!”

The moment they heard the cottage door shut, each and every little fairy dashed to the window, pressing their tiny noses to the glass.

They saw Elsie in the middle of the front yard with Pooka beside her, walking around in a circle.  The hand holding the blade stretched out before her as though drawing a line that connected and encompassed herself, Pooka and Edgar.  Her mouth was moving but: “I can’t hear what she’s saying!” complained Bramble.

“Open the window, Clover!”

The red-headed fairy perched on the latch peered down at Thistle.  “Are you kidding?  The crows will get us!”

“Just a crack,” Thistle told her, and then impatiently flew up and pushed Clover off the latch. “Here.  I’ll do it. Berry, help me.”

The fairies pushed up the window latch and shoved open the window a few inches, then piled one on top of the other, craning their faces through the crack to hear what was going on…

Where Elsie had traced with the knife, the air shimmered and rippled with iridescent hues.   She then seemed to divide the circle into four parts, moving to each one, saluting it and drawing a symbol in the air.  Each sign she left behind seemed to spring to life, crackling and sparkling.

“What’s she doing, Thistle?”

Thistles eyes were as wide as the others.  “I don’t know!”

Elsie then moved to the center of the circle while Pooka prowled its inner perimeter in a clockwise direction.  Edgar, on the ground next to Elsie, flapped his blue wings and cawed in protest, but the rest of the crows were now silent.

Elsie pointed her knife at the ground then raised it over her head, skyward.

“Look!” cried little Bramble, but the others quickly shushed her.  Elsie was speaking again and now the tip of her blade was pointed at Edgar.

 

“Blue is the sky,

Red is the rose,

White is the moon

And black is for crows!”

 

The blue of Edgar’s feathers seemed to grow a shade darker.

Elsie repeated the chant over and over, and with each repetition, the crow’s feathers grew darker still until finally Edgar was as shiny black as before.

Elsie then repeated the motions she’d gone through before, only this time in reverse.  The fairies watched as the symbols disappeared and the rippling rainbow colors of the circle flowed into the earth and vanished.  Edgar gave an indignant caw, rose into the air and flew off toward the forest.  All the other crows followed after him noisily.

Elsie wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and the cat flopped to the ground.

“Whew!  Well, Pooka, I guess that’s that!” the little witch sighed.

Suddenly eight tiny fairies tumbled out of the window and a chorus of excited little voices was heard crying out: “We want to be fairywitches!  We want to be fairywitches!”

 

The end

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