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A Spring Picnic


by betti666

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With a crisp breeze in the air and a dapple of sunlight bursting through the branches arching over the small but homely hut, just within the boundary of the Haunted Woods, Sophie had made a decision. Spring had sprung and what better way to celebrate than to go for a proper picnic. Not just some Carnapepper Finger Sandwiches wrapped in paper while out for a walk. No. This called for the basket - the works.

     ‘Right,’ Sophie thought to herself as she clasped her hands together. She would need to prepare a few things before she set out; decide a destination, pack up the food, find her blanket and also locate her Meowclops who she hadn’t seen in a few hours (so that they could join the excursion too). As a rather solitary figure, Sophie still appreciated the company of her long-time single-eyed companion and couldn’t imagine going on this picnic without them. She gave a long low whistle in the hopes it would catch her attention and set to the rest of her tasks. ‘She’ll be here before it’s time to go’ mused Sophie to the room.

     Usually, Sophie’s days were filled with a mixture of research - pouring over her veritable library of magic books and tomes of natural history, flora, and fauna of the Haunted Woods - offset with brewing her concoctions in her cauldron, and crochet. She would go on long rambling walks through the woods regularly; when she needed to feel a strong breeze after hours in the fumes of her cauldron creations or just to mull over a difficult puzzle away from her four walls. It was unusual, however, to make a day’s mission out of a picnic.

     She started to hum as she pondered what she should include in her basket, she was really only feeding herself, with a small treat for her Meowclops of course, but she also wanted to spice it up a bit beyond her ordinary options.

     So, there had to be sandwiches, that was a given. To make it cuter than usual she decided on a few Cucumber Korbat Sandwiches for that sophisticated flair. There would need to be a sweet treat or two too - she threw in a few Almost Gummy Rats and some Bat Cookies for good measure. Why not a can of Candy Corn Fizzy Drink too? To balance out the meal she also thought about mixing up some Cole Slaw. She set to dicing the cabbages, grating carrots, and throwing them into a big tub. Then she added the mayonnaise and lemon juice and gave it a good stir.

     As Sophie was reaching up to grab the lid for the Cole Slaw tub she caught a little pot of Potion of Corruption with the sleeve of her robe and brought it tumbling from the shelf right into the Cole Slaw she had just made. She saw the little pot tumble in slow motion, failed to catch it and resigned herself to fishing it out and washing off the mayo from its surface.

     However, the lid must have been poorly sealed as when she went to pluck the little container out, the potion emptied straight into the mix. Once intended as an ingredient in a future enchantment, the Potion of Corruption was now fully part of her salad. The ‘slaw, instead of just gaining a subtle magical glow from the potion’s addition, began to writhe and twist of its own accord. Within moments the pulsing became more of a reshaping and the vegetables in the mixture seemed to come alive, a face forming in the centre of the swaying clump.

     Sophie gasped out loud as the transformation concluded and the Cole Slaw had become an impromptu Cole Slaughter. Unusual to say the least, and not the way she had seen today going.

     The picnic was officially on hold.

     Sophie was sure she had read about these creatures before - not quite enough to know how to react immediately - and slammed the lid onto the box before the cabbage creature could escape. She then stumbled backward, nearly tripping over her faithful Meowclops who had finally reappeared in the hut, listening to the muffled hissing of the sentient (or at least semi-sentient) salad she had fashioned.

     Her Meowclops arched its back, fur standing on end, as it stared suspicious and wide-eyed at the now vibrating tub on the tabletop. Sophie on the other hand was hurrying over to one of her bookshelves to do some mighty fast research and try and locate anything at all that would assist her in putting an end to this sudden and off putting situation. She whispered a quick search spell and the spines of a couple of books glowed in response.

     She flipped through the nearest and located a paragraph that she had read once before, albeit a long time ago. Oh yes, the building sense of dread set in further as she re-read the following passage:

     ‘Barely ever encountered and even less researched, your Author has very little to write about the mysterious and often spontaneously found Cole Slaughter. Conjured or created when conditions are just so, a Cole Slaughter must be formed from some already existing and fairly fresh Cole Slaw. It is rumoured (but I cannot confirm) that breaking down the substance into its composite parts will break the enchantment. As I’ve heard say:

     Even ants will avoid this picnic!’

     Well, Sophie resolved, that didn’t clear up much. But, it did give her some ideas for how to proceed. What she really wanted to attempt was some sort of time reversal but that would be really complex and involve extra wards to be drawn up - so that it was targeted enough to not unravel reality. Too complex for a Wednesday. Dispelling magic was her next thought so she returned to the counter and, without removing the tub’s lid, started to cast her spell.

     Unfortunately, this approach failed from the outset - nothing could be dismissed, paused or removed - the Cole Slaughter seemed to become even more agitated, even beginning to growl. With this not working, Sophie returned to what she had read and settled next on seeing if she could break down the Cole Slaughter back into the Cabbage, Carrot and Smatter of Mayo that she had previously combined.

     Sophie closed her eyes, this time also feeling for the aura of the ancient magic of the Swamp for guidance, and whispered the chant of another spell, this time attempting once again to bring the Cole Slaughter under control.

     The air shimmered with ethereal energy as Sophie’s spell started to work. Slowly but surely, the Cole Slaughter's rage began to subside. It shrank back down to its original size, now a docile and slightly confused pile of animated vegetables. With one final phrase the box popped open and the red cabbage strands started to float out from the mass of salad, then the white cabbage, finally the carrot. A puddle of mayo remained in the original dish as each other ingredient was deposited into separate containers.

     Unfortunately, Sophie could no longer trust this produce and she would have to destroy it further, one constituent plant at a time. That bit should be easy though as she kept her fire burning at all times for her cauldron. As long as they didn’t recombine, the Cole Slaughter should be no more.

     Sophie smiled, reassured that there should be no more mishaps with her food. At least, hopefully not today… After all, magic is unpredictable.

     She looked around the kitchen of her hut once more and settled on packing some apples instead of attempting anything more complex. She repacked the basket and headed out into the Swamp with her Meowclops trotting happily at her heels. Thankfully, despite the chaos, there was still time for a picnic.

     The End.

 
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