CHAPTER I: WOODLAND STROLLS AND WIZARD'S SCROLLS

A CHILDREN'S STORY

 
Nod and the Hydragon's Tooth   
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Introduction. Chapter One, in which our hero, Nod the Brownie, tries to help his friend who has fallen foul of the local mage. Enlisting the help of a somewhat less talented wizard produces less than impressive results.
 

od’s adventures began one autumn morning when he was taking a stroll through the wood. The breeze whispered softly among the leaves and all was quiet and peaceful until……..BANG!! A loud explosion echoed through the wood, and a large puff of karikrimson smoke rose above the trees in the distance.

Nod almost jumped out of his tiny boots with fright.” Great galloping milch goats!” he gasped. “What was that?” and he hurried off to find out. He ran through the woods towards the smoke until he came to a clearing amongst the trees, where he discovered two Brownies huddled in the centre of a ring of stones. Both of them looked very frightened.

The two Brownies were Nod’s friends, Winkum and Blinkum. “Whatever are you two up to?” he asked, “And what was that loud bang a moment ago?”

“W….we were t….trying to m….make magic like Mer the mage,” explained Winkum in a frightened little voice. “Y….yes, “ added Blinkum, “B….but it didn’t work.”

“You see,” explained Winkum, “Blinkum has a cold, and this old magic scroll tells how to cure it.”

“Ahhh…ahhh…...CHOO!” sneezed Blinkum. “S’right.”

“And where did you get the scroll from?” asked Nod, sternly.

“Errm….well,” replied Blinkum, “we sort of haa….chAAA!.. borrowed it from Mer the mage.”

“You mean you stole it,” said Nod, angrily, “and you’re going to take it back to Mer this instant, before you blow up the whole wood.” Nod steered the two little Brownies in the direction of the strange home of Mer the mage. “I……hope he’s out,” trembled Winkum.

But Mer wasn’t out. He was most definitely in, and he sounded to be in a terrible temper. They could hear his angry voice shouting “Where is it? Where’s my magic scroll?”

“Oh dear,” wailed Blinkum. “He’ll do something awful to us, I know he will.”

“Not if you take the scroll back and say you’re very sorry,” said Nod, pushing him forwards.

Trembling, Blinkum walked slowly up to the heavy wooden door. Just as he was about to knock, the door was wrenched open and out stormed Mer.

“Who has stolen my magic scroll?” he shouted. “When I get my hands on the scoundrel, I’ll…….A-HA!” At that moment he spotted the scroll tucked under Blinkum’s arm. “So, it was you!” he cried.

“N..n…no,” stuttered Blinkum. “I……I…..only b…..borrowed it.”

Mer shook his fist with rage and waved his hands towards Blinkum. He began to incant “Alakazam, alakazoo…” and any other magical words he could think of.

Suddenly…..POOF!….Blinkum vanished in a cloud of green smoke. As the smoke gradually disappeared, Nod gasped. Blinkum had gone, and in his place was a small, fat caterpillar crawling over the magic scroll.

“P…please, mister mage, sir,” wailed Winkum, “where has Blinkum gone?” Mer thrust the scroll under Winkum’s nose. “There he is. That’ll teach him to steal from Mer the mage. And if you've damaged the magic within this scroll, I'll turn you all into cavespiders and send you to live in the deepest, darkest, dampest cavern there is!” Mer shook the caterpillar from the scroll and whirled back into the house in a flurry of norsidian velvet cloak, and slammed the door. “Oh dear,” said Nod, “I never thought things would turn out like this. No, not at all.”

“I c..can’t believe it,” sobbed Winkum, staring at the caterpillar. “Surely that can’t be Blinkum.” But just as he spoke, the caterpillar gave a violent, high-pitched sneeze. “It is him,” moaned Winkum, “a..and he’s still got a cold. What are we going to do?”

“We’d better take him home,” replied Nod in a wretched voice.

He quickly made a small cage from some twigs and a piece of string he found in his pocket and carefully placed Blinkum inside. “Now,” said Nod, “let’s scarper, before Mer comes out again and turns us all into creepy-crawlies!”

Next day Nod called on his friend Speck the hobbit, who lived in a hollow tree, to tell him of Blinkum’s sad fate.

“Well, we have to do something,” said Speck. “We can’t just leave him looking like that for the rest of his life. Now then…let me think…….”

“I’ve got it!” He suddenly leapt from his chair and turned excitedly to Nod. “We’ll go to see Wizwoz the wood wizard. He’ll know what to do.” So they set off at once.

Now, Wizwoz the wood wizard was clever, but not so clever as Mer the mage, and when Nod told him the tale of Blinkum’s problem, he scratched his head and frowned. “Come inside,” he said, “I have to consult my notes.” Nod and Speck watched as he produced a thick sheaf of yellowed, musty parchments from a shelf.

“Ah, here we are,” he said, beginning to read. “How to turn a caterpillar into a Brownie in three easy steps. Step one, suspend the caterpillar by the left hind leg over a large copper pot set on a fire. Step two, fill the pot with water, and into the water throw the stalks of three sulcho mushrooms and allow to simmer for one mark of a time candle. Step three, wave the tooth of a hydragon worm over the victim four times whilst incanting the magic verse.”
Below step three, written in very precise, very swirly handwriting was the following rhyme:

Creepy-crawly hanging there,
O’er a pot with mushrooms in it,
In the firelight’s ruddy glare,
Change to Brownie this very minute.


“It sounds silly, if you ask me,” sniffed Speck. “Terrible poetry, too. Nearly as bad as Sordoc's.”

At this, Wizwoz looked annoyed. “Do you doubt my magical powers?” he demanded.

“N…n…no!” stammered Speck hurriedly. “I s’pose there’s no harm in trying it. We can’t make matters any worse, anyhow.”

“Good. Then let’s make a start,” said the wizard. “Nod, run and fetch Blinkum while we prepare everything.”

Excited and breathless, Nod soon arrived at Winkum’s little house. “Quick,” he panted when the little Brownie opened the door. “Where’s Blinkum?” Winkum took Nod into the small parlour and pointed up at the curtain. “There he is,” he wailed, “crawling up my curtains and sneezing caterpillar snot all over the place.”

“Well,” said Nod, “put him back in his cage and I’ll take him to Wizwoz. Everything should be ready by now.”

“Don’t worry,” he shouted as he left, “I’ll fetch him back before you know it, and he’ll be walking on two legs again instead of eight!”

Nod found Speck the hobbit and Wizwoz the wizard in the wood, busy with their preparations. Speck was gathering the sulcho mushrooms. “But we haven’t got a hydragon’s tooth!” exclaimed Nod. “Well…no,” Wizwoz admitted, “not a hydragon’s tooth exactly. But I’ve got the next best thing. Look!”

Nod stared at the small object in the wizards' hand. “Ooh, I see……ermm....what is it?” he asked.

“It’s my first baby tooth,” replied Wizwoz, “my mother saved it and gave it to me on my eleventeenth birthday. It should do the trick. I don’t see why it has to be a hydragon’s tooth anyway.”

“Well come on then, let’s make a start,” said Speck, throwing the mushroom stalks into the copper pot.

Nod took Blinkum from the cage and carefully tied a length of thread to his left hind leg, then hung him from a branch above the steaming pot. “Now,” announced Wizwoz, “we wait for one mark of a time candle while the mixture simmers.”

They waited for what seemed like the right amount of time, for they had forgotten to bring a candle with them, then Wizwoz rose to his feet importantly. “Now!” he boasted, “observe the magical powers of Wizwoz the wizard!” He began to repeat the magic lines that would change caterpillar to Brownie whilst waving the tooth in front of poor Blinkum.

Wizwoz came to the end of the poem; “Change to Brownie this very minute!” Then he stood back to watch the results…..if any. Suddenly, Blinkum gave a violent shudder on the end of the cord. Nod and Speck looked hopefully across at the wizard.

“Err…he’s still a caterpillar,” said Speck. “Nothing seems to be happening.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Nod, “Look! He seems to be getting fatter.”

True enough, Blinkum was growing fatter. “I d..don’t like the l..look of this,” stammered Nod. “He looks less like a Brownie than ever!”

Larger and larger swelled Blinkum, until he looked just like a caterpillar balloon. “If he doesn’t stop soon,” said Speck, “he’ll either blow up or float away.”

“My friends,” quavered Wizwoz, “might I suggest that we all turn and RUUUUN!” Hardly had he spoken when a rumbling, much akin to distant thunder, sounded from somewhere inside Blinkum. “He’s going to explode!” yelled the wizard.

As they turned to run, there was a tremendous BANG!! Nod, Speck and Wizwoz were lifted off their feet, while clouds of green smoke hid everything from view.

Nod landed with a crash in a redberry bush. Of Speck and Wizwoz there were no signs. Above the copper pot hung something that looked like a bundle of burnt rags. Struggling from the bush, Nod approached the charred bundle slowly, wafting the swirling smoke away with his hands. Suddenly the rags moaned. “Great leaping gigglepebbles!” gasped Nod, “It’s Blinkum!……hanging by his left leg!”

Just as Nod spoke, the cord snapped under Blinkum’s weight and the Brownie fell with a splash into the pot below. “Wha…what happened?” he wailed, “where am I?”

“You’re alright,” said Nod, helping him to his feet. “You were a caterpillar for a while there, but you’re a Brownie again now. The point is….where are Speck and Wizwoz?”

“I’m here,” called a voice from above. Looking up, Nod saw another bundle of rags resting over a branch half-way up the tree. “Ye Gods!” exclaimed Nod, “It’s Wizwoz!”

The wizard climbed down from the tree and dropped to the ground beside Nod and Blinkum. “Oddsbodkins!” he exclaimed. “I’ve done it! Behold! Blinkum the Brownie!”

“Never mind flippin’ ‘odds-whatsits’,” said Nod, “what’s happened to Speck? He’s gone!”

“We’ll have to look for him,” said Wizwoz, looking around. “He’s probably been blown somewhere by the explosion. Start searching at once.” All three of them began to hunt around the wood but Speck the hobbit appeared to have vanished.

After a while, Nod, who had become separated from the other two, sat down miserably on a log. “It’s useless,” he sighed, “he’s completely disappeared. It’s a real mystery,” he muttered. “I can’t understand it at all. He must be somewhere 'round here.”

“He is!” squeaked a tiny voice from behind the log. “He’s right here!”

Nod turned with a start. “Where are you?” he called, “I can’t see you!”

“Here I am,” wailed the squeak. “It’s me, Speck……the halfling sulcho mushroom. Wait a blink while I free my legs.” Nod stared in horror as a fat, ivory-coloured mushroom began to jerk itself from the ground, and finally clambered to the top of the log on a spindly pair of legs. “Great walloping wopses!” he yelled, leaping to his feet. “It is you! Wh…what’s happened to you?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” squeaked the mushroom angrily. “I’ve been turned into this by that cursed wizard!”

“Well,” said Nod, helplessly. “This really takes the cookie! First it’s a hairy caterpillar, and now it’s a talking fungus! We’ve got to find Wizwoz. Come on.”
 


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