I have a thing for twisted fairy tales. Here’s one of mine. Hope you like it.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gretchen who lived in a cottage in the woods with her mother and father. She was a lovely girl with dark curls and soft brown eyes.
Gretchen’s father had work that caused him to leave their cottage for weeks at a time. When he left, he always said to them, “You must both watch over each other while I’m away.” Gretchen knew her father really meant for her mother to watch over her. She couldn’t think of any reason why she would have to watch over her mother.
One morning Gretchen woke to find her mother in bed, burning up with a terrible fever. “Oh, Gretchen, I don’t feel well,” her mother said. “I’m afraid of what might happen if my fever doesn’t break. I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important, but I need you to go to the village and get some medicine. I’ll write down the name for you.”
“But the village is on the other side of the forest,” Gretchen said. “You told me never to go into the forest because of the evil witch and her wolf.”
“I know,” her mother said, looking sad. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I thought there was any other way. You just have to keep a careful eye out.”
Gretchen knew that she had to go. And so she took the paper with the medicine’s name written on it, and tucked it into her wicker basket under a cloth napkin for safekeeping. Then she pulled on her red cloak and, keeping her father’s words in mind, started toward the village.
Gretchen kept a sharp lookout as she got farther and farther away from the cottage. She’d never been in the forest alone.
She hadn’t gone far when she spotted a pair of eyes watching her from the bushes. She gasped. It was the wolf that belonged to the witch.
The wolf stepped out into the path in between Gretchen and the way home. She screamed and ran the other direction.
Blinded by her terror, Gretchen soon ran off of the path. She could hear the heavy footfalls of the wolf behind her. She looked back. The wolf was easily twice the size of the wolves her father hunted around their cottage.
Gretchen ran until she could no longer hear the wolf behind her. When she risked another glance she found that it was gone.
Gretchen dropped to the ground, panting. She looked around her, and found that she was in a clearing full of rabbits and birds. The rabbits gave her an appraising look, and then went back to munching grass and clover.
She could hear a stream nearby and realized how thirsty she was. She pulled herself onto legs still wobbly from her run, and made her way towards the sound.
The stream was cold and clear. Gretchen knelt on a bed of soft moss to drink. Once her thirst was satisfied she realized how comfortable the moss was. She stretched out, setting her basket beside her, and fell fast asleep.
Gretchen wasn’t sure how long she slept in the sun, lulled by the gentle sound of the stream. When she woke the first thing she saw was a shadow of a large animal standing over her. She gasped, thinking it was the wolf again.
It wasn’t. It was a silver, glittering unicorn.
“How beautiful,” Gretchen murmured, rubbing her eyes.
The unicorn tossed its head, making its silken mane flow and sparkle in the sunlight. Then it lowered its horn, and stabbed towards Gretchen.
She moved just in time to get no more than a grazing blow on her arm. Before the unicorn could attack again she scooped up her basket and ran back towards the woods.
As she ran through the meadow the rabbits that had seemed so sweet and peaceful before now seemed like they were trying to trip her. They jumped in front of her feet, forcing her to jump over them.
The unicorn was catching up to her. She tried to duck into the trees, thinking that she would be able to lose it the way she’d lost the wolf. But it kept coming, dodging through the trees with dexterity that was surprising in such a large animal.
Looking over her shoulder, Gretchen didn’t see the tree root jutting out of the ground. It caught her foot and she fell, her basket bouncing away from her down the path.
The unicorn was on her before she could get up, standing back on its back legs, pawing at the air and crying out in apparent fury. It lowered its head, and Gretchen knew that this time she wouldn’t be able to get away.
A snarl filled the air as out of the brush came the great wolf. It slammed into the unicorn, forcing it away from Gretchen.
The unicorn stabbed wildly at the wolf, but it wasn’t able to land a blow. It finally managed to get to its feet, but just then a green bolt of lightning came from behind Gretchen to strike it. She jumped to her feet and turned to see an old woman hobbling towards her. Her walking stick was raised, and pointed towards the unicorn.
“Get out of the way, girl!” the woman cried. Gretchen ducked behind a tree as the woman hurried to help the wolf. Together, they finished the unicorn off.
Gretchen came from behind her tree to collect her basket as the old woman hobbled over to her. “What are you doing out in the woods by yourself?” she asked. “It’s not a safe place with these beasts running around, especially not for little girls. They eat virgin’s hearts; doesn’t anybody pay attention to these things?”
“You’re the witch!” Gretchen said. “But you saved me.”
“You have no idea how tired I am of that sort of reaction,” the witch said with a sigh. Her wolf trotted to her side, his face covered in unicorn blood. “I sent Brutus here to watch over you, and you lose him in the forest. Now you’re questioning my intentions? If you were my child, I’d give you such a paddling!” She shook her walking stick at Gretchen.
“I am so sorry,” Gretchen said.
“Well, you should be,” the witch replied. “Just because I’m a witch doesn’t mean I’m a wicked witch, after all. What are you doing playing about in the woods, anyway?”
“My mother’s very sick,” Gretchen said. “She needs me to go to the village to get medicine for her.”
“What kind of medicine?” the witch asked.
Gretchen took the piece of paper from her basket, and handed it to her. The witch looked at it and said, “That’s a powerful fever potion, that is. Your mother must be very sick.”
“And my father said that we must look out for each other while he’s away,” Gretchen said.
“Of course,” the witch replied. She seemed less angry than she had. “I’ve got something in my bag that will help your mother, I think. And with a fever, the sooner you can break it, the better.” She went back into the woods the way she’d come, and soon returned with a large bag. From it she took an envelope full of herbs, and handed it to Gretchen. “This will do it,” she said. “Brew one tablespoon full every two hours. Make sure she drinks it all.”
“Thank you,” Gretchen said, tucking the envelope into her basket.
“Now, if you don’t run off on Brutus, he’ll see you safely home. Those damn unicorns are all through these woods, and they can smell little girls. I’ll check on your mother the day after tomorrow. Witches are good for something, you know.”
Brutus came to stand beside Gretchen, his tongue hanging from his mouth like a panting dog. He was so large that his shoulder was even with her own. Now that he’d saved her from the murderous unicorn, that seemed a great comfort.
And so, with a parting farewell to the witch, Gretchen set her hand on the wolf’s back, and they started back towards her cottage home.
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