The poof trees
Once upon a time, in a faraway wood, there was a witch called Rosalinda of Riverwithno, but everyone knew her as Fiddlesticks, the witch. She gained that nickname on her own, because of her many blunders and mistakes. For example, once, a villager asked her for a potion against toothache and she gave him a levitation potion. When the poor man drank it, he started rising in the air, and he floated and floated crying for help. The whole village went out to try to catch him with butterfly nets. It was a memorable event! Some villagers climbed on trees, while others waited for him on their rooftops. Finally, it was so much fun that, a long time later, children still chased him on the street and asked him to float again.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, wasn't good nor bad; she was absent-minded, a bit clumsy, and very short-sighted. She wasnt't bad tempered, but she wasn't very sociable either. She was neither young nor old; neither fat nor thin; neither tall nor short. Her hair was brown and her blue eyes sparkled happily through her glasses. She loved riding her broom, cooking magical potions, and picking berries, roots and mushrooms in the woods. When she was nervous, she usually sat close to the fireplace on her favourite armchair or rocking chair and made soap bubbles to relax herself.
Our witch lived in a wood house, with a straw roof, eye-shaped windows, a mouth-like door and pillars shaped like two legs, which allowed the house to turn when it felt like it, and to stretch and shrink at will, raising and dropping the living. The witch's house had its own temper, so that, if someone who it didn't like came to visit, the house closed its door and windows, and, if that wasn't enough, it turned around, showing the visitor its behind and sending out alarming noises. With these measures, almost everyone ran out in panic.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, lived with a cat and an owl. The cat was called Milkifu. His hair was short and black, and his eyes, green and expresive. He was lazy, sleepy and carefree. He used to blow off Fiddlesticks's assignments, and pretend forgetfulness.
The owl's name was Luf. She was medium-sized and grey-feathered. She had penetrating honey-coloured eyes, and she was vivacious, restless, happy, a bit noisy, very lively and optimistic. She loved being part of everything, so much so that, sometimes, she went ahead and acted out of time.
This adventure begins one sunny morning, when our witch woke up startled.
—Hello! Is anybody up?— she asked energetically.
—No. No-one.— Milkifu meowed with a lack of enthusiasm.
The black cat yawned slowly, half opened his green eyes, and closed them again.
—There was no-one up. Why so much fuss?— he mumbled and continued dozing happily.
—I'm nervous.— said Fiddlesticks. —Today I have to pick the swell-swell-swell-poof fruit. I need it for some potions. It has to be today, because the poof trees bear fruit only once a year, and the fruit stays on the branches only during that day, and then it swells, swells, swells, and explodes.
For those who don't know, the poof trees grow close to the River Withno, called like that because it's a river of fresh water with no sugar.1 Fiddlesticks had to go there on her broom so as not to be late.
1. Translator's note: In the original Spanish “fresh water” is “agua dulce” which literally means “sweet water”, thus giving place to a word game.
—Let's see if this time you arrive on time and make it.— Milkifu whispered half asleep.
—Let's see if this time you arrive on time and make it.— Milkifu whispered half asleep.
—Yes, last year was a complete disaster.— our witch sighed. —I got lost in the woods, and by the time I arrived to where the poof trees grow, the fruits were exploding one ofter another. The few I managed to pick burst in my hands with a loud “poof”. They stained me and my broom so much with their sticky purple juice!
The black cat laughed heartily and woke up once and for all.
—Yes, I remember it well.— he said amid laughs. —You were purple a whole week. I wanted to lick you, to check what you tasted like. Could you do it again? Pleaaaase...
—Don't be mean.— Fiddlesticks said. —This time I'm going to succeed. I know! I'll take Luf as guide so I don't get lost in the way.
And our witch jumped out of bed, washed her face, combed her hair, and put on some clothes quickly. Without her glasses on yet, she began speaking to the owl. She talked and talked, and Luf was listening carefully, or at least that's what Fiddlesticks thought.
—Did you hear everything, Luf?— the witch asked, while looking for her glasses.
But no-one answered.
—Luf, are you asleep? Wake up already! I need you.
—Bloody glasses, bloody memory of mine! Where can they be?— Fiddlesticks whispered. —What a way to begin! Milkifu, do you know where they are?
The cat yawned without interest, stretched slowly, and wondered whether it was worth it to give her the glasses, which were right there. He finally decided to turn around and continue dozing, but then his tail touched the witch's elbow, and when she moved her arm, she stumbled upon the glasses.
—Oh, thanks, dear Milkifu! You're so good!
The witch put on the glasses and realized that she had been talking to a vase, instead of the owl.
—Luf, pretty, come quick!— Fiddlesticks, the witch, called leaning through the window.
The grey owl with honey-coloured eyes came instantly, and the witch told her her plans again.
They all had breakfast together. Later, the two friends prepared for the trip and began the journey, leaving Milkifu to take care for the house.
Impatient Luf went out flying first, followed by the witch on her broom. They overflew the woods where they lived. The owl went so fast that she had time to greet her acquaintances and go back to Fiddlesticks. At one particular time, Fiddlesticks, the witch, got distracted and lost sight of her friend.
—Luf, where are you?— she shouted scared —Oh, I see you now. There you are. So far?— and she added —Get lost this year, like the last? No! No way!
Our witch waved her magic wand and solemnly pronounced a spell directed towards her flying broom:
—Goobble-dee-doo, goobble-dee-dee, until the flying ends, I will follow thee.
What Fiddlesticks didn't know was that she had the wrong bird. The one she thought was the owl was actually a kingfisher who took her directly to the river, dived searching for fish, and, to the witch's amazement, was followed by her broom. Fiddlesticks lost her balance, and, so as not to fall completely into the water, she grabbed the broom with one hand and with the other she pulled up her skirt, while she slowed down with her feet on the water surface, to end up doing a sloppy water skiing on the river.
—Yipee! Yipee! This is so much fun!— she exclaimed happily —Thank you, Luf.— she continued, talking to the kingfisher whom she couldn't see well through her water-splashed glasses. —But we don't have time to lose. Remember, I have to pick the swell-swell-swell-poof fruit.
At that exact moment, the bird she was following dived into the river to catch a fish. Of course, our witch's broom followed suit, and Fiddlesticks plunged into the water.
Everyone who saw it, frogs, birds, fish and insects, couldn't stop laughing. Fiddlesticks, the witch, emerged from the river soaking wet and she letting out a jet of water through her mouth. She immediately undid the spell on the flying broom, and continued a while longer sliding on the surface of the river, just like on an ice rink.
Meanwhile, Luf, the owl, had found her again. She observed the scene, stopped on a tree branch and laughed heartily along with the frogs.
—You look very funny, Fiddlesticks, but we have to go on. Let's go!— she said laughing.
After a moment's rest, they restarted their journey upstream, and, at noon, they arrived where the poof trees were.
—Look, Luf!— the witch pointed. —How much swell-swell-swell-poof fruit, and how pretty it is! It's ready to be picked.
—Can I help you?— the owl asked solicitous.
—No, better don't. You know that the trick to pick the fruit without it exploding is to hold it with both hands and shake it energetically from one side to the other so it gets dizzy, and then, tear it. And you can't do it. They are too big for you, almost your size!
Fiddlesticks took a tiny bag from a pocket and whispered some magic words, which changed it into a big sack where many swell-swell-swell-poof fruits could be placed.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, began working; she shook the fruits with decision and energy, while the owl overflew the scene with curiosity.
—One, two, three, to the sack with thee— our witch chanted happily to set the rhythm.
Luf, the owl, perched herself on a poof tree branch to watch calmly what was happening. The witch picked more and more fruits, and, without realizing it, she took the owl and started shaking her from one side to the other. Poor Luf, scared speechless, couldn't say a word; very dizzy, she fell off the tree, and Fiddlesticks picked the closest fruit without shaking it. The fruit began to swell and swell, more and more, and it burst right in her face with a loud “poof”, covering her in purple juice.
—Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!— laughed the birds who were watching from some close-by trees.
—Cousin, have you seen that loser over there? She's purple and sticky.— one of them said.
—She's so dumb!— the other answered. —Even little chicks know that when the poof tree fruit begins to swell and swell, you have to run away.
Luf didn't feel like laughing, nor did she understand what was going on, because she was still dizzy and stumbling on the ground. She was mumbling confused:
—This is too much! I can't stand it any more, I can't.
Meanwhile, Fiddlesticks was trying to clean her hair and face, whispering wonderingly:
—I don't understand... I had shaken it so well! The fruit should have been very dizzy. I had made an effort...
—I can tell... — the owl sighed wobblyingly.
A bit later, Fiddlesticks, the witch, continued picking swell-swell-swell-poof fruit. Purple but happy, she finished the job at mid-afternoon. She tied the sack with the fruit in it to the broom and, along with the now recovered Luf, she began the journey back home.
When they arrived, the house didn't recognise the witch. It turned on its legs and showed her its behind, giving out a loud raspberry.
—But it's me, your Fiddlesticks!— our witch said.
—Yes, yes... fiddlesticks and phooey.— the house answered proudly. —My Fiddlesticks is not purple. You must be her double from another planet. But you're not her!
—Yes, I am!— insisted our witch. —A swell-swell-swell-poof fruit exploded on me.
—That's the dumbest excuse I have ever heard. I'm sure you're saying that to confuse me, so that I let you in.— the house replied.
—House, listen, she's coming with me.— the owl said patiently. —You do recognize me, don't you?
—I can't hear. I can't hear anything at all.—answered the house.
—House, let me in!— Fiddlesticks repeated.
—La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la— the house chanted quickly so as not to hear the witch.
—Ok, either you let me in or I turn you into a giant igloo.— said Fiddlesticks very seriously, tired of waiting.
—Oh, so cold! Now that I hear, I do think that your voice is familiar.
The house turned around again and opened its door. Finally, Fiddlesticks, the witch, and Luf were able to come in. They found Milkifu dozing very comfortably on the armchair. The black cat opened his green eyes and started laughing:
—I see you took my advice and did it again.— he meowed happily —Let me see, let me see, what do you taste like?— and he licked her leg. —Yuck! You don't taste like blackberry.
Luf, the owl, retired to her favourite corner and didn't move until dinner. Fiddlesticks, the witch, was feeling tired but satisfied: she had enough swell-swell-swell-poof fruit to prepare her magic potions.
Visit to Malignia
Grumpy, the owl, came flying into the house of Fiddlesticks. He had a message for her from her cousin, Malignia, the witch, that said: “Come see me soon, cousin. I need your help with some business. I wait for you.”
Fiddlesticks felt a bit disquieted. She thought her cousin was very weird, because she was always in a bad mood, and she enjoyed wrong-doing and hurting people. That's why she didn't have a good reputation among magical beings, even if she was very good with her witchcraft. Once, she petrified a flock of birds because their chirping annoyed her. Another time, she transformed a dragon's treasure into mud, just to see him cry. She didn't like flowers, nor plants, nor living beings in general. Sunshine caused some sort of spot-like rash on her skin, that itched and turned her even more irritable than usual. That's why she lived in a sinister tower, on top of a mountain always covered by black clouds that barely let some sunshine in, and lighted Malignia's mournful house with their lightning bolts.
Malignia, the witch, always dressed in black. Her skin was a loathsome greenish colour, and her shiny yellow eyes could make anyone's heart shrink. She lived with Grumpy, the owl, and a black cat, called One-eyed because he was missing an eye.
—Luf!— Fiddlesticks, the witch, called —Do you want to come with me to visit my cousin Malignia?
The feathers of our owl stood up. She almost fell down out of fear. Taking flight, she said very quickly:
—I have a lot of things to do, a lot, a lot...
And she rushed out through the window.
—Well, what about you, Milkifu?
The black cat woke up with a start. He opened his eyes wide like dishes and mumbled quickly:
—No! I have to hunt some mice.
Then, he jumped out of the window and climbed on a tree. Fiddlesticks was left alone. She shrugged her shoulders and prepared for the journey. A while later, our witch left on her broom.
Fiddlesticks arrived to Malignia's house at night, although that didn't matter much, because it felt like night all day long. She knocked with the huge knocker three times. An awful howl was heard, and the door began to open slowly, screeching terribly.
—Come on in, cousin. I was waiting for you.— said a nasty voice.
—How are you, Malignia?... Just a moment.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, took out her magic wand, shook it in the air, and, with a smile, told her cousin:
—That's it, your door won't screech anymore. I fixed it.
Malignia got pale, and growled:
—What a way to begin. I called you— she continued —because I need to join our powers to do some witchcraft. I want to surround my tower with a pit of burning lava to avoid unwanted visits. And if that is not enough, I also want to grow around it an impenetrable jungle of bushes and carnivorous plants. And, finally, I want to summon some ghosts so they help me around the house.
The first night, the witches began with the pit. They took out their magic wands and, on top of the tower, lit by bolts of lightning, they yelled their spells challenging the wind. Fiddlesticks, the witch, got her glasses wet because of the rain, and she couldn't continue reading the spell. She still had some words to pronounce, and she had to say them using her memory. The earth trembled and opened up with a terrible noise, followed by a chilling silence.
—That's strange!— said Malignia looking towards the pit —The lava is not burning, and I don't even feel the heat. Well, let's rest until tomorrow, and then we'll see what happened.
Next morning, Malignia woke up to the smell of fresh hot cocoa and churros.2
2. A churro is a fried-dough pastry, very popular in Spain and other countries.
—What's that awful smell?— she exclaimed opening her eyes.
When she came out of her room, she realized that her house looked different. She stumbled into Fiddlesticks, who was coming to greet her, all smiles.
—Hello cousin! Did you sleep well? I had some nightmares and couldn't sleep. So I decided to help you with the house, dusting, clearing the spiderwebs, and enchanting it so that it remains like this for years to come.— she said looking satisfied. — I see that you're are so happy you are speechless, and I can see thankful tears in your eyes.
Malignia, the witch, continued without saying a word, trembling from head to toe out of pure rage.
—It's no big deal, cousin, we are family.— Fiddlesticks went on —Come, let's have breakfast. I hope you like hot cocoa with churros. I love it.
But Malignia still was unable to talk.
They went into the kitchen and had breakfast. It turned out that Malignia hated hot cocoa with churros.
—Cousin, eat some more. There is plenty... Do you want another cup of hot cocoa?
Malignia had to drink a potion of relaxing herbs because she was starting to feel ill.
After finishing, the two witches looked out the window, and they saw the pit around the tower, but instead of burning lava, there was a shiny red surface.
—What's that?— Malignia asked going out to find out.
She stood doubtfully in the edge, leaning over to have a better look. Meanwhile, Fiddlesticks, who had come running after her, was unable to stop in time, and unintentionally shoved her. She heard a “splat”, then a muffled cry, a short silence and:
— Ough, disgusting! Strawberry jelly! I hate it! I'll have to bathe.
Malignia ran towards the bathroom, while Fiddlesticks tasted some of the jelly and said:
—Mmmm, tasty! This is much more interesting than burning lava.
At night, Malignia looked even more crestfallen than usual.
—Cousin,— Fiddlesticks told her — I have prepared the potion to grow plants. We will surely need it.
The two witches climbed on their brooms and crossed the pit. They poured the potion into a big cauldron and pronounced the spells to create a jungle of bushes and carnivorous plants. Malignia paid a lot of attention to Fiddlesticks's words because she was starting to mistrust her. This time, the spell words were correct, so she thought that everything would turn out alright. You just had to concentrate and imagine the desired result. Fiddlesticks, the witch, looked very focused. What Malignia didn't know was what her cousin was thinking about: “Oh, how nice it would be to have here a meadow, with lots of flowers, colourful butterflies and little animals... I have to imagine a jungle of bushes and carnivorous plants. But that would be a pity. A meadow full of life is much more fun... I have to imagine an impenetrable jungle of butterflies, flowers and animals. And, now that I think about it, some birds would fit nicely. I have to imagine an impenetrable meadow full of flowers, plants and animals...”
The two witches pointed their wands toward the cauldron and exclaimed:
—Let it be so!
A purple cloud emerged from the cauldron, forming a ring around the pit, and undoing itself into a thin rain. The earth began to vibrate, and green shoots began to sprout all around. The witches, a bit tired, decided to go back home.
Next day, when they went down to look at the result, Malignia had an anxiety attack. Before her, there was an immense meadow, full of flowers, butterflies, bees, birds, and other animals. Malignia fell back and passed out. When she regained her consciousness, Fiddlesticks, the witch, was by her side, holding her hand and telling her:
—Cheer up, cousin, it looks fine.
Malignia felt very ill. She could barely walk, and her legs were faltering.
—By the way,— Fiddlesticks added matter-of-factly —since you weren't moving, I fixed that ugly skin you had. I hope you like it! Now it's smooth and pink, instead of green and scaly like a lizard's.
One of Malignia's eyes began to twitch uncontrolably.
The third night, to summon the spirits, the two witches went down into the dungeons. It was a dark and sinister place. There were rings on the walls, and big chains hung from them. There were also several torture items lying on the floor. Fiddlesticks, the witch, felt goosebumps, she didn't like being there. Malignia, mournful and with a furrowed brow, looked at her with mistrust.
—Cousin,— she said — I want to summon three spirits so they serve me. There is no time to lose, because it's almost midnight.
The two witches lit up a fire, and started to circle around it, while chanting their spells and throwing magic dust into the flames. These were growing and making strange shapes in the air. Fiddlesticks thought that her cousin needed someone who could clean and arrange her house, who could cook tasty dishes for her, and help her relax, because she sensed that Malignia was very tense. Suddenly, an odd wind blew in, and three thin mists appeared, turning slowly into three figures.
—Good, finally!— Malignia exclaimed. —You are my servants.— she proclaimed with an evil smile. —Cousin, let's go to the living room to rest for a while. And you three, to work!
The two witches went upstairs and settled in the armchairs. Immediately, a moving violin solo began playing.
—What's that hellish noise? My stomach is turning.— Malignia complained.
—I actually like it.— Fiddlesticks answered. —It is very relaxing.
—Relaxing? I feel like climbing on the walls.
Malignia looked in the direction of the sound and was dumbstruck when she found one of the ghosts playing the violin. The ghost asked an amazed Malignia:
—The lady doesn't like the violin? Maybe you would prefer the harp?
And immediately, without hearing the witch's response, the violin dissolved into thin air and a harp appeared, whose melodic chords almost made both witches cry, although for different reasons.
Malignia didn't have any time to react, because from the other end of the room, a ghostly figure was gliding through the air towards her, with a big plate full of delicious food on each hand.
—I have prepared something to munch on. I hope you like it. I'll go fetch some more.
Malignia opened her mouth to scream in horror, but at that same moment, she saw the other ghost polishing the lamp that hung from the ceiling and cleaning the windows almost at the same time. Malignia, the witch, couldn't take it anymore: the room vanished before her eyes, and the poor witch fell to the ground, passing out.
When she woke up, it was daytime already. Her cousin Fiddlesticks was by the bedside.
—Oh, nice! You had me worried. Do you want me to do anything else for you?
The sick witch got up sharply from the bed.
—No, thank you, you've done enough.— And after a moment of silence, she added — You're my cousin, and I respect you, you have a terrible power, but I can't take it anymore. Go back home already!
Fiddlesticks, the witch, didn't take it the wrong way. She missed Luf, Milkifu, her house, her woods, her things...
—Cousin, do you want me to visit you soon, to check on you?
—No, no! There's no need, I will visit you.
They agreed on that. Our witch climbed on her broom and flew out of the window. She was happy with her visit and she thought she had helped Malignia a lot. Moreover, she had left her in the good company of three efficient servants. And there remained also the red jelly pit and the big meadow full of plants, flowers and animals.
—It's quite alright.— she told herself happily. — Only those black clouds are messing the picture now.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, couldn't help herself. She took her magic wand, shook it in the air, pronounced a spell, and the clouds parted to let the sunshine in, lighting Malignia's tower.
—Yes, Malignia, I will miss you too.— Fiddlesticks replied flying away on her broom.
The village fair
—Fiddlesticks! Fiddlesticks! Fiddlesticks!— Luf, the owl, called excited as she came in flying hurriedly through the window. —I bring news!
—Yes? What news?— Fiddlesticks, the witch, asked pausing from watering the plants for a moment. Our witch had a very peculiar method of watering the plants: a small storm cloud would move magically from one pot to the next, discharging some rain.
—The crow Longbeak has told me that in the neighbouring village they are going to celebrate tomorrow a fair with a market, you know.— Luf continued.
—How interesting!— Fiddlesticks exclaimed. —I'm sure there will be lots of stands of different artisans, exhibitions and tournaments.
—Yes, and competitions, dances, fire lights...— the owl added nervously.
—I'm going to participate.— interrupted the witch. —I'll compete in the cake tournament, since last year I was left unsatisfied.
—Oh! And I will participate in the flying exhibition of birds of prey.
—Good idea.— Fiddlesticks, the witch, said. —Moreover, I want to see the stands. I like peeking among the things the artisans bring and tasting the dishes and pastries prepared by the people. What a honey they have! And what marmalade, what cheeses, what chocolate!
—Stop it, you are making me want to go along.— Milkifu burst in licking his whiskers. —It's a good thing I'm cautious. It's too crowded for me.
—Yes, it's true.— Luf said worried. —I don't dare to fly among so many people either. I'll better stay on the high branch of some close tree and observe from there everything that goes on.
—That's fine.— Fiddlesticks said. —For the cake tournament, I will choose an old recipe of a delicious cherry cake. It is so delicious that it makes you sing out of joy when you try it.
—I actually feel a lot like singing.— the black cat commented, tidying his whiskers and looking dreamily at the witch. —You could prepare a small one for me, so I don't feel so alone in the house, while you two go out to have fun.
—OK, you glutton. I'll cook you one.— Fiddlesticks promised.
Fiddlesticks kept her word. The day of the fair, very early, she prepared two cherry cakes, a big one and a small one. She shrank the big one and put it well packaged inside her pocket. She left the small one on the living room table.
Then, the witch flew out on her broom in the company of Luf. A few minutes later, Fiddlesticks landed in the woods, close to the village. She shrank the broom, put it in her pocket and directed herself towards the fair. Luf was following her from a distance. The fair took place in a meadow in the outskirts of the village. There were plenty of people already. You could see rows of diverse looking stands. The villagers and visitors went from one to the other, looking, trying, negotiating and talking.
Luf alighted on a tree branch not too far away to observe, and Fiddlesticks mingled with the crowd. The witch was looking with sincere interest the stands of exotic articles brought from far away places, and those of materials, wooden objects and carpets.
—Respectable lady, I see you're drawn to this carpet.— a strange-looking vendor, with a turban on his head, said to her —It is clear that you have a keen eye, and that you're an expert and demanding shopper.— he continued with a nice and kind smile —This carpet, brought from the far East, is very old. It's not just any carpet. But a magic carpet.— he added in a soft voice looking sideways, as if afraid that someone else could hear them.
—A magic carpet?— Fiddlesticks repeated surprised. —And what does it do?
—This carpet can fly.— the vendor explained solemnly, joining the palms of his hands over his chest and playing with his fingers.
—Can it? Really? I already have a flying broom.— our witch answered as if it was the most common thing in the world.
—Do you? But can you lie placidly on top of it? You can on my carpet. It's completely guaranteed. And being you, I'll sell it cheap.
—Well, I'll think about it. Thank you.— Fiddlesticks said.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, continued walking about the stands. She stopped before one with aromatic herbs, teas, incense and different remedies. Right then, she looked up and noticed a beautiful young woman, whose familiar yellow eyes made her shiver.
—Hello Malignia! What are you doing here? How nice to see you again!— Fiddlesticks said.
The young woman mumbled:
—I am not your cousin! I am not here! And you haven't seen me! Plus, I'm leaving already.— after which, she turned around and ran away.
Fiddlesticks shrugged her shoulders and thought: “She's so weird! We could have had so much fun together!”
Our witch arrived to the fishmonger's stand. He was sad and lonely, because no-one was coming by. Plus, people covered their nose whenever they came near and even changed directions. Fiddlesticks felt very sorry for that man and his stinky fish, and decided to help a little. She shook her magic wand covertly, and the air began to smell like lemon and rosemary. It was so nice that it invited to stop and enjoy the smell. At the same time, the fish wagged their tails vivaciously, moving as if they had just been caught. A big trout stood on its tail and said with a loud voice:
—Come and see! Fresh fish, alive and kicking! Come before it swims away!
The visitors were stopping before the stand.
—Look, mom, that fish talks!— a kid pointed.
—No, son, fish don't talk, it's the vendor, who is a ventriloquist.— the mother explained. —He does it so well that we can't even see his lips moving.
Meanwhile, the fishmonger wouldn't say a thing. He was just blessing his inexplicable good luck and selling more and more fish.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, left the place and reached the end of the stands, where a group of people were practicing archery. Fiddlesticks, satisfied and happy with herself, thought: “Today everything goes my way. I'll try my aim with the bow.” The witch took the bow and the arrows. She stood in position, prepared an arrow, tensed the bowstring, pointed towards the bullseye, closed her eyes for a moment to concentrate better... and in that instant the bowstring went loose with a loud “boink”.
Fiddlesticks, the witch, opened her eyes worried, looked at the bullseye, but couldn't find the arrow. She looked around and, finally, she saw it. The arrow had hit a hive, piercing it through. A menacing buzz began to be audible, growing louder and louder, because more and more angry bees were coming out of the hive. The little swarm of furious bees directed itself towards a bull that was nearby, chewing grass calmly. The animal got very scared and crashed into a fence from the pigs' pen. These escaped and ran loose all around the meadow, to the dismay of their owners.
—My pigs! My dear hogs! Help!!!— the owners of the pigs were shouting.
Some of the villagers and visitors came running to help them trap the animals, with different results: some ended up riding on top of the pigs, like in a rodeo; others ended up lying in a puddle of mud; and yet others fell on their faces on the grass, and so on and so forth.
—Look at my muddy clothes!— one of the villagers was complaining.
—Bloody pig, come here! I've told you to come!— an angry neighbour ordered the pig he was grabbing by the tail.
—Someone help me down this hellish creature!— a young man screamed riding a pig and holding the animal by its ears.
—A net, a net! Someone bring a net!— one of the owners asked.
To sum up, this incredible show lasted for a while and caused a great amount of laughter and chatter among everyone present. When it had finished, no-one quite remembered how it had begun, and Fiddlesticks was able to get away without any trouble.
Fiddlesticks kept walking from one stand to another. A villager whom she had helped with a toothache recognised her and greeted her:
—Hello, great enchantress Rosalinda of Riverwithno! Would you like to try my cheesecake? I cooked it with great care. Since my teeth no longer hurt, I'll eat it with you. See? Now I can eat anything I want.
—Oh, thanks! I will try your cheesecake gladly.— our witch answered smiling.
—And put some of my honey on it. It's delicious.— the villager suggested.
After this sweet recess, the witch cheered up and went to see the bird stand. There were parakeets, goldfinches, nightingales and canaries. The nightingales performed a duet in her honour. It was a beautiful melody, that made everyone around leave whatever they were doing and come closer to listen.
—And now that I remember, what can my dear Luf be doing?— Fiddlesticks wondered when the duet had ended —I bet she's nervous before the exhibition of birds of prey. Thank you a lot for your wonderful song,— she said to the singing birds —but I must go now.
Fiddlesticks took her leave on the birds and went to seek her loyal owl. Luf was still on the same tree where the witch had left her.
—Oof, oof, oof! At last!— the owl sighed on seeing her —I've spent the whole morning pacing on this branch without daring to fly.— she said nervously. —Plus, the exhibition where I want to compete is about to begin. Let's go already, careless witch!
—Alright, alright. Let's go.— Fiddlesticks said.
Luf perched herself on the witch's shoulder, and the two friends made it just in time for the exhibition. First, it was the turn of the king's falconers with their noble falcons, that offered a splendid show of their abilities. The audience clapped enthusiastically. Later, a hunter brought a tamed eagle owl, that circled the meadow several times and came down to his arm. After that, it was the turn of an imperial eagle, that glided majestically over the heads of all those in presence causing their admiration. Then, Luf came out, intimidated, very nervous and very eager to fly. She flew from one end of the meadow to the other very quickly. Later, she started to zigzag in midair, losing some feathers, and continued circling round chaotically, screaming:
—Oof, oof, oof!
It looked like she was about to explode.
—Careful! She's crazy!— someone yelled.
—No, she's not crazy. She's just excited to be flying before such a respectable audience.— Fiddlesticks answered.
Luf stopped in mid-air, did somethink like a curtsey and went flying away directly into the woods. From far way she heard the clapping of the audience, surprised by the owl's unusual flying and Fiddlesticks's “bravos”.
It was time already for the cake competition. The cakes were displayed on several big long wooden tables. There were cakes made of strawberry, chocolate, apple, cheese, custard, caramel, nougat, nuts, raisins and honey, berries, different types of pies, etc... each one more delicious than the next. Among them, the witch put her own magic cherry cake with a lot of illusion.
In a different table, there was a giant cake covered in cream, candied cherries and sliced almonds, made by the royal baker. It wasn't in the competition because it was a gift from the king to the village.
The five jury members were tasting the cakes one by one and writing down their opinions. One judge, chubby and amiable looking, stopped often to go back and try again one of the cakes, because, according to him, he had forgotten its taste, although the rest thought he just had a sweet tooth. Apparently, all the cakes were delicious, since the judges were smacking their lips with joy, and exclaiming happily from time to time:
—Oh, how nice! It tastes like glory! I haven't tried anything like it! This is unbeatable!
When they tried Fiddlesticks's cherry cakes, the chubby judge, to everyone's surprise, sung in the high voice of a tenor:
—This is marvelous!
Another judge with a bass voice answered:
—I agree with you. I'll take another portion.
A woman with a contralto voice intervened singing:
—Stop right there. Leave something for the rest.
The situation was turning into something like an improvised opera. The fourth judge sung in a funny voice:
—I want it for myself!
The other four answered all together:
—No way! And shut up, because you can't sing at all.
—That I can't sing?— the judge sung.
—You actually bray.— the others answered in key.
—My grandmother said I had a lovely voice.— he sang off pitch in a squeaking voice.
—Your grandmother must have been deaf to say so.— the others sang back.
—You are deaf! You have no musical ear.— the judge cackled off key.
A woman from the audience exclaimed desperately:
—Shut him up! My ears are bleeding, and I'm going to faint!
The off-key judge angrily took a cake and threw it at her with all his might, hitting her right in the face. The contralto judge sang:
—My sister, you hit my sister!
And, in turn, took a cake and smashed it into the culprit's face. He set out on a cake attack against the rest of the jury, and the battle expanded to the rest of the audience. In no time, those present weren't recognisable anymore; they were all covered in different types of cream of all colours, pieces of cake and pie, they looked like a very sweet brand of monsters! Many, between one throw and the next, tasted the “ammunition”. There were shoves, swinging, slips, and, in one of them, the glutton judge fell on the giant royal cake and sang:
—It is delicious!
It was like an invitation to the rest of the audience to throw themselves at the cake. In sum, it was a great battle, sweet and fun.
In the evening, there was dancing. Even Fiddlesticks, the witch, danced, although she barely knew how. She stepped several times on her partner's feet and tripped over her neighbour's dress, making her and several other dancers fall on top of the orchestra.
—Watch your step, lady!— people were telling her.
—What a disaster!— someone said.
—Sir, would you mind getting your head out of my tuba?— one of the musicians asked. —I have to continue playing.
—That's what I'd like.— a mutted voice grumbled from the depths of the instrument.
Night had already settled in when the fair ended with some nice fireworks, and Fiddlesticks, the witch, feeling very hapy, went flying on her broom back home. When she arrived, she heard the voices of Milkifu and Luf singing a duet and a choir of little mice voices joining in.
This fair will be remembered for many years to come in the village.