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Zaubera was possibly the most powerful witch in the world. She hadn’t always been, though. There was a time when she wasn’t even evil. Zaubera was just a farmer woman living by herself in the small town of Jorgsborg. She was a dabbler in the magical arts, just as every member of her family had been for generations. But she never used her talents to do anything more than help her grow the tastiest turnips the world had ever seen. Still, the magic freaked out her neighbors. Despite her many attempts to befriend her fellow Jorgsborgians, Zaubera was always ignored—or worse, mocked. One particular group of local children used to stand at the edge of her property and call her names like “worm lips” and “hedgehog hair.” Discouraged, Zaubera gave up and retreated to her cottage to live the life of a hermit.
Then came the fateful day when one of the local hunters managed to capture one of Sturmhagen’s giant, fire-breathing beavers. The man brought the creature back to town to show off his catch—big mistake. The beaver broke loose and went on a rampage, setting nearly every home in Jorgsborg ablaze. As the fire raged out of control around her, Zaubera projected a magical force field around her farm, keeping herself and her home safe from the flames. But she noticed a trio of children trapped by the flames, the same children who insulted her daily. Zaubera dropped the shield around her home and protected the children instead. She lost everything she’d worked for, but, she thought, at least the townspeople would finally appreciate her.
Suddenly, a hero arrived. The armored Sir Lindgren galloped into town on his white stallion and quickly slew the beaver. He then rode up to Zaubera and told her to release the children. Confused, she dropped her shield. Sir Lindgren scooped up the kids and rode away.
As the town began to rebuild and people returned to their homes, the townsfolk didn’t thank Zaubera. In fact, they shunned her more than ever. And then she caught wind of a new bard song, “The Ballad of the Knight and the Beaver,” in which the hero knight not only slays the beast but rescues three children from the clutches of a wicked witch. It was at that point that something in Zaubera snapped.
Fine, she thought. If they want a villain, that’s what I’ll give them. She got her gnarled hands on some ancient magic spell books and taught herself some dark magic. Then she wreaked havoc on the town. She used fireballs to blast down every cottage that had been rebuilt. She tore up gardens with sorcerous winds. She shot bolts of mystical lightning at the very children whose lives she’d saved earlier, sending them running, screaming and crying. Everyone fled. And no one ever returned to Jorgsborg.
*Art copyright © 2012 by Todd Harris.
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