Chapter Three

witch
Mortrid the Witch

The day was spent in gathering and working the cord and only a little bit of travelling was done. Which was just as well for two young elves that had set of a day behind them. Herbs and Mushroom were to young to be allowed to go with them but sneaked off the next day and had been trying to catch up.

Elves can not be tracked through the forest they do no damage to anything and after a camp leave nothing behind. When a fire is made the ground is cleared and about an inch of soil scraped off which is put back when the fire is out. So Herbs and Mushroom could only hope that they would catch up before they meet the witch.

Another camp was made for the night a fine meal was enjoyed by all. It was the last night before they would come to where Mortrid the witch lived. Stardancer and Moonbeam Would keep watch so they could sleep safely but they all found it hard to sleep.

In the morning After a slow start to the day they set off. On the way there was a final discussion of the plan. They would set the trap, Grubs who was a fast runner would get the beast to chase him. And lead it into the trap where everyone would fasten the net around it and then tie it up. Thoak would go up to the front of the shack where Mortrid lived and get her to come out. While the elves would go in through the back and take her book of spells. Without her book she could not do any more evil magic.

As they started to get near to where the witch lived they noticed that the trees were not growing properly and there were no plants growing. All the beautiful things of the forest had died. On they went, slowly getting nearer. The trees were now few and far between and were twisted with no leaves. Mortrid had taken the life out of the forest.

They felt chilled to be in such a lifeless place.The fairies had not followed. If they left the living forest they would lose their magic and die. So they came as near as possible and would wait for them to come back.

“There it is”, said beetle, “can you see the beast?” asked Cobweb. The shack could be seen with a wisp of smoke coming out of a hole in the roof but no beast could be seen. So they went about setting the trap. Bramble found a good place just out of sight of the shack but still quite near to it. Two dead trees and a small dip in the ground. “This is good” said Thoak “and we are in luck the branches are still quiet springy”. One of the branches was pulled back and tied off then the net was hung from it. 

old shack
Mortrid’s Shack

A cord was tied across the trees to make a trip. So when the beast chased Grubs it would trip over and the net would then spring over the beast. While the beast was tangled in the net they could tie it up.

The beast could be heard growling and snarling somewhere near by. Redberry, Cobweb, grubs, Bramble, Beatle, Nettle, and Thoak all felt very scared. “we could eat some of the berries” suggested Cobweb. “A good idea” replied Nettle “so thats what we shall do” but this time no one laughed.

They ate some of the yellow berries that The Lord High Elf had given them for strength, and felt a little better. It was time for Grubs to go, he had to, there was no other way to get the beast into the trap. He walked off slowly with the others wishing him luck. He could not get too close to the beast or it would certainly rip him to pieces just close enough so he could run away when it chased him. 

Grubs looked towards where he could here the sound of it snarling He picked up some twigs to snap to try and get its attention Hoping he did not have to get to close. Snap, the snarling stopped and quicker than you could imagine the savage beast was bounding towards him it was coming much faster than Grubs had reckoned on, he turned and ran as fast as he could but it was not fast enough the beast gaining on him all the time his legs could go no faster the trap was still some way off he knew the beast was right behind him snapping at his heels.

Thoak and the others waiting at the trap looked on with horror at how fast the beast had caught up with Grubs. And there was nothing they could do. Then it struck a savage blow to Grubs it swiped him across the back Knocking him to the ground. 

Grubs had been running so fast that he rolled over a couple of times and jumped back on to his feet and kept going but he had been badly hurt. The beast was about to strike again as Grubs ran through the trap. Thoak released the branch with the net on, it sprung round but the net missed the beast.

The branch, hit it on the head with a great cracking thud. The beast was stunned and fell. Quickly the net was put over it and tied, the beast started to recover and struck out striking Cobweb on the arm and leg with its large sharp pointed claws he did not scream but staggered back and fell with his arm and leg badly cut. More of the cords were used to truss it up so it could not break free. Now securely bound up the beast started to gnaw at the cords of the net. “Yes yes we have done it”. Cried the elves. “he will not bite through elfin cords” said Bramble. 

Then they turned to see Grubs laying on the ground not moving and hardly breathing with terrible wounds to his back and shoulder. Next to him was Cobweb also with wounds that he would die from if they could not get them help very soon. The sight of their friends in such a state was very upsetting for them. They gathered round them at first not sure what to do for the best. “The potion, give them some of the healing potion” said Thoak and took the bottle from Nettle, the elves were all in a state of shock after all that had just happened.

Thoak gave some to Cobweb “just a little sip it is very strong” he said in a voice that did not hide his sadness. Then very carefully they sat Grubs up so that he could drink some. He was in a lot of pain but no sooner had he managed to drink some of the potion than the pain stopped and the wounds stopped bleeding.

“We must get them back to the forest away from this dead place”. Said Bramble. “Then we can tend to them properly”. They all agreed it would be the best thing to do. “No wait”. It was Cobweb. “If you do that then there will not be enough time to get the book from Mortrid”. Cobweb was right but they could not leave them to die. When just then the two young elves Herbs and Mushroom arrived. The young elves came upon a scene that made Mushroom fall down in a faint. 

The young elves should have had a real telling off, but here was the answer to there problem, The telling off could wait till later. They would all carry Grubs and Cobweb to where the fairies were waiting. Then Herbs and Mushroom would look after them until they came back. Herbs was very good in the knowledge of healing and with the help of Stardancer and Moonbeam they should be okay. This was quickly done and they soon found themselves back at the shack where Mortrid the witch lived. This time with out the beast to worry about.

Now it was Thoaks turn he was not looking forward to meeting the witch and was very frightened as he walked up to the shack. He decided not to knock on the door he did not want to get that close. Thoak stood a short way off from the front of the shack all he had to do was get Mortrids attention for a little. While his friends got in through the back to get her book of spells. Thoak looked at the shack it was a most ugly thing made out of rotten wood and fungus that seemed to be holding the bits of wood together.

Time to let Mortrid know he was there. Thoak called out “hello I am Thoak” no answer, he called out again “hello I am Thoak friend to all the forest”. With that the door creaked open. He hoped that the elves would be quick and she did not cast a spell on him before the task was done.

Mortrid stood in the door way she was the most horrible looking witch you could imagine. She had a long nose that came down past her chin her teeth were rotten her face had not been washed for about fifty years and was covered in warts with one very large one on the end of her nose that wobbled about as she moved her head. A new wart grew ever time she cast an evil spell. She wore a long black dress that had mould growing on it and her hair stuck out like twigs.

“Where’s Bone-ripper”. She said in a shrieking voice. “what do you want, stomper”. Her voice more of a cackle this time. Thoak felt himself shacking and hoped she did not notice. “Who is Bone-ripper” he replied hoping that he could keep this up till the elves got the book. Thoak noticed that she was holding a large heavy stick long enough to lean on as she stared at him.

“What are you doing here stomper”. She shrieked again. “Oh I’m just passing by. I’m looking for some land to grow my food on”. Thoak had managed to get Mortrids attention so he kept talking. “I have been living in the rocky places for a long time, no good for potatoes. So I thought I might see if there was better land in the forest somewhere”.

While Thoak was doing his best to get the witch to come out the elves had found a small opening around the back of the shack. Below the small opening in the wall that served as a window was a large pile of rotten food. Perhaps this is where she fed the beast or just tipped out her rubbish. Bramble steeped on the pile of rotten food and looked inside. 

Inside he could see a fire burning with a large black pot hung over it. There were some shelves with jars on them, one of the jars was made of glass with a stopper tied in place a first it seemed empty but when Bramble looked again he could see it had a very faint mist inside. In the middle of the room was a large table with a big book on it. There was a chair near the fire. Mortrid stood in the doorway talking to Thoak. With a squelch Bramble felt himself sinking into the pile of rotten and very smelly things. 

“The book is on the table”. Said Bramble “if we are quick we can get it before she sees us”. With that the four elves climbed in through the opening being as quiet as possible just the odd squelch as they stood on the pile of rotten food. Nettle would wait by the window ready to run off when they passed him the book while the others crept over to get it.

Thoak was still trying to keep Mortrid out side and thought things were going well when he saw her nose started to twitch, then she shrieked “I smell elves”. With that she turned and went inside “elves horrid elves” she shrieked again. 

The plan had failed all was a panic with the witch screaming and the elves running about trying to keep out of reach. Thoak ran inside to help his friends. The witch tripped him with her big stick as he came through the door as he lay on the floor she hit him on the back with the stick so hard that it knocked his breath out. “Now your done for you nasty, nasty little creatures”.

Mortrid was about to pick up her book of spells to cast some evil magic on them when Thoak tried to get to his feet she went to hit him again but one of the elves garbed the stick. She swung the stick and Redberry went crashing against the wall with a great thud then lay on the floor. Thoak was now on his feet and managed to pull Redberry clear as another hefty blow was aimed at him. With even more of a panic they ran about trying to get out. Everything in the shack was getting knocked over and even the fire had been spilled from its grate.

If Mortrid got to the book it would be the finish of them. The witch was a lot stronger than they had expected and everything they did to try and get the book did not work finally with all of them trapped in a corner Mortrid picked up the book.

She started to read out a spell when the door burst open and a great wind blew in and blew everything around leaves blew in and the wind even blew the large cooking pot over. 

As Mortrid tried to read out her spell the pages of the book got blown about and her spell got muddled up then bang Mortrid had turned herself into a big stone toad the book fell on the floor. And then they heard “Helllo its onliee mee” everyone cheered “well done Twips”. “Glad tooo beee of help myy friends”. They all thanked him for saving them from the witch.

Even Thoak was very glad to see him. “Nice tooo see youu again Thoak”. And with that he went on his way blowing all the leaves about as he went. Willow the wisps do not stay in one place for long. “byee byee” and he was gone.

The embers of the fire that had been scattered about had been fanned into flames and the shack was starting to burn. “We better get out quick” said Beatle. So they helped each other to get out they had just got out side when Bramble remembered what he had seen. 

“Thoak its in the glass jar” Bramble did not have time to explain what he meant as the fire had now taken hold, there was no time. He just ran back inside the smoke and the flames were to much for the elf and he was quickly over come by the heat. Thoak was there in an instant and picked him up, put him over his shoulder then he grabbed the jar ran back out side and got clear of the shack as it went up in flames. 

Thoak sat Bramble on the ground and they all watched as the shack burnt. As they watched they had not noticed that the savage beast had got loose from the net and was running towards them. It ran straight passed them and into the burning shack. There were bangs and clouds of coloured smoke the flames grew higher and higher and burnt hotter and hotter. A few minuets later there was nothing left. They did not know why the beast had done such a thing but a least now it was gone along with everything else. All had been burnt to ashes except for the big stone toad that had been Mortrid and there she would stay and never do harm to the forest folk again.