Hello, my little moppets,
Auntie Millie is here with a tale of Miss Franny, a hedgewitch, her magical cat, Izba, and a fabulous flying chair. Franny and Izba travel the world on fantastic adventures that sometimes go differently than planned. Miss Franny must never forget to be home before nightfall or suffer her chickens' wrath for an empty dinner bowl. I hope you enjoy this tale and will revisit your old auntie soon.
Izba sneezed all over Miss Franny's notes with the force of a typhoon, blowing them to the four winds. He reached for his handkerchief to stifle the next sneeze just as his nose erupted over the tea tray. He'd woken up this morning with a wicked cold and felt miserable.
"Oh, dear! You sound dreadful, Pet." Miss Franny offered her cat a cup of tea with lemon and honey to help ease his symptoms.
Suddenly, she remembered a reference to an elixir of health known to cure common colds in an old magical scroll.
Miss Franny had brewed many healthful tonics as a hedgewitch, but curing a cold was especially tricky. Unfortunately, the formula was lost years ago. The scroll mentioned that a partial copy may remain in the ruins of Gregor Utsar's castle.
After sharing her thoughts with Izba, Miss Franny suggested they travel to the castle's ruins to search for the elixir's formula.
"Perhaps enough remains of the formula that I could work out the remaining ingredients and reproduce the elixir," she remarked.
Izba was skeptical but agreed it would be better than continuing to suffer.
Miss Franny consulted her codex of magical places and learned that the castle ruins lay in the Highlands, where Gregor was last known to live.
Before embarking on their journey, the hens needed attention. Setting things right with the girls was always challenging, and today was no different.
"So, you're leaving us here to starve? Waste away to feathers and bones?" squawked Hazel.
Chickens have little tolerance for empty food bowls and even less tolerance for cats.
Looking annoyed at Izba, the girls strutted away, mumbling about how they should have let the cat drown in the watering bowl when it was a kitten.
"If you must starve, consider it a sacrifice for a higher cause," said Miss Franny with a wink. She scattered seeds and crusts of bread on the ground before leaving.
The hedgewitch took inventory of the tea cart, ensuring no hardships would befall them. On the last trip, they had forgotten the sugar!
Izba took his place, adjusted his fez, and proclaimed that all was proper for the adventure to begin. Clapping twice, the hedgewitch commanded the chair to be on its way sooner rather than later.
All fell still for an instant, then, whoosh! The chair, its occupants, and the tea set lept forward. The chair and its passengers flew high above the surrounding landscape. She quickly consulted the scroll to gain her bearings before clapping her hands and, in a loud, firm tone, ordered the chair to seek Castle Dunbar of Loch Morar.
Away they sped. Soon, the Scottish Highlands could be seen in the distance.
As they approached the site, Izba asked, "How can the formula's writing still exist if the castle is ruined?
Franny told him that the under chambers remained intact while the upper structure had fallen into disrepair.
The hedgewitch explained that Gregor scratched his ideas on the wall of one of the alchemy rooms before trying them.
"No sense wasting good parchment for a faulted idea," he'd been heard to say.
"Time to tidy up," remarked Miss Franny. She clapped twice, and the tea set made itself proper in time for their arrival at the castle.
Once on the ground, Miss Franny observed that little remained of the castle's walls but had no trouble finding the secret entrance for the lower levels.
Making the circle sign, the witch clapped once before throwing open her arms. At first, nothing happened. "Perhaps the lower levels have also collapsed," suggested the cat.
"Patience, Pet. It has been over seven hundred years since anyone has visited Castle Dunbar. Some things take time to get moving. For example, a particular cat in the morning," remarked the witch.
Izba pretended not to hear what she'd said and instead focused on the secret entrance.
"There!" cried the cat. "It's moving!" And, so it did. Slowly, the stone entrance slid sideways with increasing speed.
Once the dust settled, Miss Franny set about lighting a lantern. Carefully, they made their way deep into the castle's inner chambers.
The alchemy room was at the end of a long downward passage. Izba was astonished by how well-preserved everything was in the lab. Even the glassware sparkled.
"Well, you can say one thing for Gregor; he was a very tidy chap. Hardly a speck of dust," exclaimed Izba.
Miss Franny thought this was particularly odd, and then an idea sprang into her head. She picked up a handful of powder from the bench and scattered it about the floor. A tiny whirlwind appeared, swept the mess up, then vanished.
"As I suspected. Gregor enchanted the room with an Ifrit to keep it in order while he was away," explained the witch.
"Too bad the little guy doesn't know Gregor is never coming back," remarked the cat.
The explorers began their search of the chamber walls for the missing formula. As it turned out, there was not just one scribble-covered wall; instead, all the walls contained markings.
Franny and Izba carefully read each formula but were unsuccessful in their search.
"It looks as though the scroll was wrong, Izba. The formula is not here," said Franny with great disappointment.
Exhausted, Franny sat on the floor to rest her weary legs. As she leaned against the wall, it moved slightly.
In a flash, she was on her feet and calling Izba. "Quick, give me a hand and push on this wall," she sputtered.
The wall slowly opened, revealing shelves filled with powders and potions.
Quickly, the two resumed their search for the formula. Once again, Franny met with disappointment.
"Well, we gave it our best try. I guess it's time to call it a day," sighed the hedgewitch.
Izba sat quietly, staring at the backside of the swinging wall. "What about this side of the wall?" he said.
Franny lifted the lantern, revealing more scribbles on the wall's hidden side!
There it was! Not a partial copy of the elixir but the complete formula, as sharp as the day he scrolled it!
With parchment and pen in hand, Franny carefully recorded each symbol of the elixir while Izba double-checked her work.
Then, they closed the secret room and made their way to the surface entrance, which they sealed to protect the treasures resting below.
Climbing into the chair, the witch gave a sigh of exhaustion followed by two claps and an order for the chair to take them home.
After feeding the thoroughly annoyed chickens, Franny settled with a cup of tea to enjoy the starlight.
Izba's congested snores reminded her that Gregor's elixir awaited her magical hand. For now, though, Miss Franny felt the great satisfaction of a successful day.