It has been five years since we last heard from Nando and Honeybelle. A lot has happened to them over those years. The wedding was beautiful, all that they could have wished for. Family and friends from far and wide attended, bringing good wishes and sumptuous gifts. Not only fairy folk attended but their animal friends as well, the dragons and the flying horses were especially welcome. They were gifted with a cottage and a parcel of land by their friends, the Lord and Lady Elrond and Galadriel.
One year later they were blessed by, glory of glories, twins! A boy named Arnaldo, a girl named Sugarbelle (nicknamed Bella by her father). Contrary to what most would think, the little boy was much like his mother, fair with golden curls and sweet demeanor. His sister, however, was her fathers daughter through and through. Beautiful with olive skin and dark hair, she was the adventurous one, constantly getting into one thing or another and, like as not, taking her brother with her. Not that he was an unwilling accomplice, oh no, he was quite willing to take her hand as they made their way about the grounds, poking small noses into every nook and cranny. Arnie adored them and spoiled them even more than their doting parents. Nando and Honey did insist upon good manners and respect from them, and they were good obedient children, but still, when the urge to explore hit......
One lazy, bee-buzzing afternoon when the children were down by the stream playing Pooh-sticks with Arnie, a cloud passed unexpectedly across the sun. Even though Arnie was an android he felt the sudden chill which caused him to look up. Something was not right, he knew, but his attention was momentarily distacted by Arnaldo's cry from the little rustic bridge: "My stick! My stick won, ha-ha!"
His sister was frowning because she hated losing. "All right," she shrugged, then looked up and pointed. "Arnie, there's a witch up there, I saw her!"
"Vitch?" the android's Germanic accent rang out. "Ach, no little one, I think not."
"It was, I saw it! Riding a broomstick across that dark cloud!"
He inclined his head and squinted upwards just as the sun sprang into view again. "I am thinking you imagined it," he teased, sweeping her up and swinging her round. "Und now - ve go back home und haf some toasted muffins, ja?"
"Ooh yes!" Sugarbelle agreed: "And marshmallows too?"
"I expect so!" he grinned. But all the same he could not help stealing a glance at the sky as they all headed up the hill - followed by Kasper, their baby dragon - because he knew that Sugarbelle had not imagined anything.
(NB: Information about the above. This story is being continued as a sequel to previous adventures of Nando and Honeybelle by Caryl and Bobbie. We take it in turns to add instalments, but at the same time we also invite anyone who feels they would like to add to the story to do so. There is no real pre-arranged plot. Just follow the leader. :)
Note from Bobbie: Yes indeed, anyone who feels they would like to add a storyline or a new character please feel free! Now, on with our story.
On returning to their home Arnie and the children discovered an old family friend had stopped by for a visit. "SNOOT!" both children yelled with delight, and ran to hug him. Snoot the elf had shared many adventures with Nando and Arnie and was sure to receive a warm welcome by all.
"Well now, what's this I see?" he asked with a grin, "Two tadpoles and an old bullfrog!" causing the children to burst out in giggles.
"Snoot, guess what I saw" said Sugarbelle, her voice bursting with excitement. Snoot, obliging her, started naming things like a rat in a hat or a goat with a coat making her laugh harder!
"No,no Snoot, I saw a witch!"
"A witch?" Snoots eyebrows rose a fraction as he gazed at the little girl.
"Yes!" she said "A witch! She was riding on a broomstick right across the sky,,whoosh!" and she made a swooping motion with her arms. "Arnie missed her and so did Nollie, but I saw her!" she said proudly! Just then Honeybelle announced tea was ready and the twins raced to the house to wash. Snoot and Arnie watched them go then Snoot turned to his massive friend and said quietly "A witch Arn?"
"Ja, is vat ze little von said, I not see, but she haf eyes like Nando, shaap and fah-seeing!"
"So, we tell Nando, this afternoon?"
"Oh ja, ja, vee tell him as soon as he is home!"
Honeybelle shouted again, "Come on you two, or their will be no pastries left after my two walking stomachs get through eating!" She ducked back into the house with a laugh. Arnie and Snoot slowly walked to the house, pondering what the little girl had seen.
Meanwhile the witch in question, Strega Maria Consuela da Medici was alighting from her broomstick in the depths of the forest and cursing softly because she knew she had been careless. The girl-child had seen her! And possibly the man-man-machine as well! This was not part of the plan but she could just not stay away! Furious with herself, she flounced inside her cottage and slammed the door. One glance at the enchanted mirror told her that pulling such a face did not improve her looks.
Strega was crowned by a tangled mop of grey hair although her face was young, and would have been beautiful but for the cruel slash of red lipstick that she always wore. She usually dressed is loose black robes - unless her mission called for charm and seduction. Then Strega used to make the most of her voluptuous figure by donning siren-like gowns with low necklines and split sides. Sometimes she was successful, sometimes not. In any case she tended to be scornful of mortal men and only used them when necessary.
Love and desire had been unknown quantities in her life up until now, although she was still very young for a witch. No mortal man had enchanted her or even turned her head for many years - not since her sister, Rotheca, had been borne away by aliens. Strega was jealous of that, it sounded exciting.
Strega crossed the room to the little window and stood there sighing as she looked out at the gently swaying trees with little birds flitting from branch to branch. Her recent journey had been in vain. It had not quelled her restless need for just one glimpse, just one sound, just one single hope that he might have appeared . . . . for Strega was hopelessly in love for the very first time, and she would do anything, anything at all, to win the mortal man of her dreams. His name was Fernando Jimenez Emilio Santiago Sauzal, known as Nando.
Nando had returned after several days gone on elven business and was sitting at table with hot tea in front of him and a child on each knee. The children were happy to have their father back and was excitedly telling him about their days while he was away. Nollie, whose name was officially Arnaldo Fernando Honey Sauzal (with much rolling of eyes and a disgusted, "Mama! Why?!") while his older sister (three minutes) was named Sugarbelle Fernanda Galadriel Sauzal, fondly known as Bella. Nollie had just finish an epic tale of finding frog spawn in the pond and beating Bella twice at Pooh-sticks, Nanado laughed and gave him a quick squeeze before turning to Bella, "And you, my sweet Bella, what were you up to?" Bella told him of teaching Kaspar, the baby dragon, to hunt for truffles and how he unearthed a snake which he immediately flamed, "like a good boy" she said with a smile. Nando congratulated her and picked up his cup to take a sip of tea, "Oh, and I saw a witch too!". Nando carefully put the tea down untasted, "You saw what my love?" Nando was not sure he had heard her correctly. "A witch Papa, she was on a broomstick high in the sky! Me and Arnie and Nollie were at the bridge and I saw her...whoosh!" again she made the swooping motion with her arms. He looked up saw Honeybelle giving him a guarded look, when she slightly shook her head he gave his daughter a kiss and suggested they both go out to play before darkfall, with a firm "but stay in the yard!"
Arnie was the first to speak when the children left.
"Nando, I did not see the vitch, I vas vatching young Nollie on the bridge, little Bella told me she saw her, but I vas too late."
Honeybelle placed her hand on Nandos shoulder, "Could it be true, after all these years, could there be one of them around?"
"I don't know Honey" he said, "I just don't know."
Late into the night Strega sat hunched over the big wooden table in her kitchen, studying her books of spells by the light of two oil lamps. Every so often she would utter a hiss of annoyance or a frustrated sigh. On a wall opposite hung a large mirror with a greenish tinge, and whenever she spoke to it a ghoulish face appeared, supposedly dispensing wisdom. Strega had not consulted it since it had last told her: "Fernando loves his wife, more than life." It had then gone on to recite the many qualities of 'Fernando the Spanish part-mortal and part-elfen being who abides in nearby Inglewood Glade' and how his angelic children meant more to him 'than all the rubies and pearls in Rivendell'.
Strega had uttered a bitter laugh at this before turning back to her largest spellbook. It was a hefty tome with leather-bound edges. Written diagonally across the faded cover was the word 'Transfigurations'. She did not use it often because changing shape and form could be a lengthy, risky - and sometimes painful - business. Ever since Strega had turned herself into a crow so that she could spy on Nando through a window of his cottage, she had been reluctant to undergo any further shape-changing (or Protean) spells because on that occasion she had been careless and narrowly escaped being eaten by a cat.
However . . . the more she thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. Did not all small children adore little fluffy animals and love to chase them, catch them, hold them? Strega sat back in her chair for a moment and smiled to herself. Yes indeed.
Leaving the book open she got up, stretched, and then carefully extinguished the oil lamps before going through to a small adjoining room and laying down on the bed. Then she smiled again. Tomorrow my dears.
Strega was not sleeping, she lay staring at the ceiling, she had a lot of planning to do. This must be done very carefully, she could afford no mistakes. The smallest detail, if done wrong, would be disastrous, she must not let anything get in the way of achieving her goal. The one thing she had wanted, yearned for, all these years, Her Fernando! Yes, she always thought of him in this manner, Her Fernando! No matter he had wife and children now, they meant no more to her than a speck of dust on a window, and she was sure they could be wiped away just as quickly. Now, on to her plan, first she must decide what animal would be best. Her first thought was sweet, fluffy bunny, no child can resist them, however, they had predators, big fast predators, she had not forgotten the crow and cat incident, which broke her out in cold sweat even to this day. No, it must be an animal that was just as sweet and innocent, just as easy to catch (with some help from herself) but what? She rose from her bed and walked to the window , looked out into the darkness, thinking hard. Just then a stag walked out of the forest, bent his antlered head and began to crop the sweet grass that had managed to grow at forest edge, avoiding the poisoned ground her home sat on. As she watched him an idea hit her, yessss, she thought, yes, that could work. Sweet, beautiful and always gentle. Excellent at hiding but fleet of foot when need be, indeed, no child can resist the creature, especially a young one! A smile touched her lips as the stag, finished eating for now, walked back into the forest. She returned to her bed and lay down, she must try to rest now, she had a lot of studying to do and some rare herbs to find come morning.
Strega had never been blessed with an abundance of luck; but then, witches never were. However, on this occasion things could not have fallen more conveniently into her plans.
From her watchful position at the edge of the wood she could hear the delighted laughter of the twins as they fished for tiddlers in the little stream. Parting the bushes carefully she squinted against the sun as it sparkled on the water. There. Two little figures on the bank brandishing rods and nets, with a large picnic hamper close by. But . . . . Strega looked around for the usual looming figure of the one she called the ‘man-man-machine’. These androids were such a nuisance because they did not always respond to her spells; and whenever they did, it often had the opposite effect to that which she had intended. Very awkward and embarrassing.
However, today . . . the babysitter was not Arnie but the elf from Rivendell named Snoot. She saw him watching the children while he sat on a tree-stump, whistling and carving something out of a stumpy piece of wood.
Very softly, Strega whispered something. Although he could not possibly have heard her, Snoot looked up at once, peering all around. “Sombulatum,” she hissed, “Elfen.”
The wood fell from his hand. For a moment his eyes filled with horror as he realised what was happening, and he started to choke. Snoot’s effort’s to stand were useless although he struggled as hard as he could. Within seconds he had fallen into a deep sleep as he slumped, head down, knees bent, on to the mossy bank.
Strega smiled. “Oh my,” she whispered “The Fate Gods are with me.” Quickly she delved into the pocket of her skirt and drew out a small phial which she had prepared many hours ago. Glancing around and backing away into the shade of a nearby oak, she raised it to her lips and drank. It tasted revolting and she almost gagged, but stifled it with her fist before slowly sinking to the mossy ground with one whispered word: “Fornum mutatio!”
As she slowly sank to the ground she fixed the image of a a small fawn in her mind. A doe, with big expressive brown eyes and the spots of a newborn. She gasped as an immense pressure engulfed her, even though she was expecting it, it still was not a pleasant feeling. Her clothes fell away as her arms and legs contracted and body transformed. With a last shudder she stood, still panting a bit, and collected her thoughts. Peeking out from under the brush she saw the children, totally engrossed in their fishing, they had not noticed the sleeping Snoot, but even if they had, they would have only giggled and continued their play until time to wake him and eat. They were content just to enjoy the warm sun, the water and their fishing.
Strega planned her movements very carefully. She must act timid, very shy, taking slow careful steps out of the bushes she came into full view of the children and stood, waiting for them to see her. It took a few minutes but soon Bella looked around to check on Snoot and saw her. She reached out to grasp her brothers wrist tight and whispered "Nollie,oh Nollie look!". Nollie glanced up at his sister with a "What?" but Bella quickly shushed him and pointed. Looking in the direction of her finger he spotted the fawn and uttered a quiet "Oooooooo". The children were thrilled to see the little creature, and slowly got to their feet, waited a minute and carefully advanced to the fawn. With low voice and outstretched hand Bella crept closer, murmuring soothing words to the fawn, which stood watching them. Nollie was close behind Bella and whispered, "Wonder where its mama is?'' Bella shook her head and kept her eyes on the fawn, who seemed to be unafraid and ,yes, friendly. Bella finally reached the fawn and, to her delight, touched its soft nose. Nollie quickly followed suit and stroked the fawn down its side, marveling at how calm it was. The fawn allowed the enchanted children to stroke her a few minutes more then turned and quickly walked back into the bush. With cries of dismay the children followed her, followed her into the bushes, into the unknown.