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Title: The Silver Shoes
Author: jsblume
Style/Genre Prose / Fiction / Fantasy
Description: The Wicked Witch of the East takes over.
Notes:

Colin straightened up, arched his back and heaved a deep sigh. Putting down his needle and the shoe he had been working on, he stretched the kinks out of his fingers and then rubbed his weary eyes with balled fists. The dim sunlight and fragrances wafting through his workshop window told him dinner would be on the table soon, and he'd best get to the house before Freyleen came after him. She liked it when he made the effort to be on time.

Pushing back his stool and standing, Colin shuffled out of the workshop and walked the ten paces to the adjoining house. He opened the door and paused, breathing in the aroma of lemon fried fish. He smiled with intense satisfaction; Freyleen sure knew how to cook! The grumble in his belly brought him out of his reverie. He stepped into the house, closed the door, and strode into the kitchen. Freyleen looked up from the stove and smiled. He kissed her on the back of the neck and then sat down at the table.

"Did you go to market today?" he asked.

"It's Friday," she said, setting the plate of fish in front of him. "You know that Friday is fish day in the market. Monday is beef, Wednesday is produce, and Friday is fish."

"Today is Friday?"

Freyleen grunted a response as she sat down across the table from him.

Colin fed forkfuls of fish into his mouth. "I've almost finished with the new shoes for the mayor."

"They could name the days of the week after shoe tools, you'd keep better track."

"I promised him I'd have them ready for the Beltane celebration." Colin scraped his plate and scooped the last of the fish and broccoli into his mouth. "I'll finish the stitching tonight and apply the colors tomorrow. Dry and stretch them on Sunday. Present them on Monday."

"Don't you dare lick that plate!"

Colin froze with the plate halfway to his lips; his tongue quivering in anticipation. She squinted at him and raised a finger, but he was spared from her tirade by a knock at the door.

Dropping the plate, Colin stood and hurried to the door. Opening the door and peering into the fading twilight, he was startled by a hooded figure standing close to the door. The figure pushed past Colin and into the house. Swinging around behind Colin, the figure pushed the door shut and then leaned against it heavily.

"Colin, who is at the door?" Freyleen called from the kitchen.

"I don't know! Stay in the kitchen!" Turning back to the stranger, he said: "Who are you? What do you want?"

The figure reached for his hood, and Colin jumped back, looking around wildly for something he could use as a weapon. He was about to reach for the poker resting in the fireplace when the stranger dropped his hood. Colin stared for a moment before breaking into a huge grin.

"Menik!" Colin cried out grasping his old friend by the shoulders. "By the Wizard's beard, it is you!"

Menik raised a finger to his lips and rested a hand on Colin's chest. "Have you a bite to eat, my friend?" he whispered.

"Where are your manners?" Freyleen said, bustling over and taking Menik by the arm. "We have just finished our meal, but we have some left over. Come with me."

"It is good to see you again, Freyleen," Menik said, allowing himself to be led to the kitchen.

Colin frowned. "I will be in the workshop," he said as he turned back to the door.

"No! Please!" Menik said. "I must speak with you."

"After you eat!" Freyleen said, pushing him into a chair and began to prepare a plate for him. Colin followed them into the kitchen, pulled the spare chair from against the wall and sat down at the table.

Between mouthfuls, Menik answered Freyleen's questions as best he could, filling her in on almost everything that's happened since they last saw each other. Despite her best efforts, Menik skillfully avoided certain topics, promising to explain everything soon.

With a loud belch, Menik pushed away his plate and leaned back in his chair, patting his belly. Freyleen cleared away the dishes, placing them unceremoniously in the sink, and sat back down.

"So, tell us," she said, "what you have not been telling us."

Menik looked about uncertainly. Leaning forward onto his elbows, he signaled for them to come closer. "Do you remember Checho?" he whispered.

"The Good Witch's apprentice?" Freyleen said.

"The very same."

"It's been said he was killed after the Good Witch became ill," Colin said.

"He went into hiding - with this..." Menik pulled a roll of parchment from inside his robe and handed it to Colin.

Colin unrolled the parchment and looked it over. He whistled softly. "I thought these were a myth!"

"What is it?" Freyleen asked, barely able to restrain her desire to know.

"The Silver Shoes," Colin said.

"No!" Freyleen said.

Menik nodded. "The Good Witch is dying because of a subtle and powerful spell cast upon her by a Wicked Witch who has designs to take over. She has destroyed her pair and entrusted Checho with the spell - the very spell you now hold in your hands."

"How did you come to have this?" Colin asked.

"Checho hid himself in the hills south of here."

"Quadling Country?"

"Yes. As you know, I had settled down in just north of those hills. I woke up one morning to find a message from him on my table. I went into the hills that night and met with him. Somehow, the Wicked Witch has spelled him, and he is dying the same as the Good Witch. He needed to pass on the Spell of the Silver Shoes and I was close. We both thought it was best if I didn't hang onto it, just in case."

"You brought it to me!" Colin was studying the parchment with excitement. The mythical Silver Shoes were legendary for their powers.

"Colin, in all of Munchkinland there is no one else I could trust with this." Menik pulled his hood back over his head and stood up. "I must leave while it is dark."

"Please, don't go!" Freyleen pleaded, standing and reaching for his arm.

Menik slipped around the table to the back door. "Colin, please find a safe place for that."

The mayor of Munchkinland looked up from a stack of papers on his desk.

"Well, come in, come in, I haven't all day you know."

Colin gulped and tripped across the threshold, nearly dropping the box he carried.

"Y-your m-majesty," he said.

"I'm the mayor, Colin, not the Wizard of Oz. Are those my shoes?"

"Y-yes m-mayor, they are." Colin took a few steps forward, bent down on one knee, bowed his head and raised the box as an offering.

"Tsk! Tsk! Stand up, for Oz's sake! Bring the shoes here."

Colin rose to his feet and walked to the desk. He handed the box to the mayor, who stood up and eagerly set it on the desk and opened it. Taking the shows out of the box, he looked them over with glee.

The shoes had bright yellow laces tied in sparkling bows. The inner side and insteps were striped shades of green and blue, while the outer sides were striped orange and red. The sole curved up sensually into a four inch heel, in which the mayor would stand almost five feet tall.

"Oh, very nice! Well done!"

"Th-thank-"

"Yes, yes! Splendid. My secretary will see that you are paid." The mayor sat down with the shoes in his lap, grinning at them.

Colin was staring at the ground as he walked, so he missed the puff of smoke and nearly ran into the figure who appeared before him, blocking his path. He looked up and into the hard, wide, bulging eyes of a woman with burgundy skin. She wore a plain black frock with a burgundy sheen and a black pointed hat. In her right hand was a broomstick which she brandished, halting him in his tracks.

"Well, well, my handsome," she said in a screechy voice.

"Ulp!" he said. "You... are... uh..." He'd never met a Wicked Witch before.

"I know who I am, my dear. And I know who you are, as well. You are in possession of something I want, but first you must do something for me." She waved the broomstick over his head and muttered an incantation before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Colin stood for several minutes, confused about what he was doing and where he was going. He scratched his neck and looked back down the path.

"That's Munchkin City, that direction," he said. "I must be heading home. From seeing the mayor. I have something very important to do." Colin took off at a jog.

Colin headed straight for his workshop, heedless of the fading sunlight or the smell of vegetable stew coming from the kitchen. Climbing under his bench, he opened the hidden compartment and pulled out the parchment with the spell for the Silver Shoes. He studied it in the waning light long enough to fix in his mind the supplies required, and then returned the scroll to its hiding place.

Muttering to himself and scavenging around his workshop, Colin didn't notice Freyleen standing in the doorway.

"Colin!" she said in a voice mixed with anger and disappointment. "And when did you return? Did you notice the sunlight, or that dinner is almost ready?"

"Dinner? A soft suede would be good. That should take up the silver. I'll have to use the lacquered last, though."

"Come along, then," she said, taking him by the arm and leading him out of the workshop and into the kitchen, where she sat him down. Turning to the stove, she ladled out a bowl of potato and vegetable stew and placed it in front of him.

Colin was examining the spoon. "No silver here. This won't do." He put the spoon down and examined the bowl of soup. "Nothing here I can use." He began to stand up, but Freyleen pushed him back in his chair and handed him the spoon.

"Eat!" she said.

Colin shrugged his shoulders and began to eat, all the while looking around the kitchen for ingredients to complete the spell. Finishing his meal, he nearly made it to the front door before Freyleen grabbed his arm.

"No, you don't!" she said, and dragged him to bed. "You will get some rest!"

Colin passes a restless night. He dreamt he was being chased by burgundy colored broomsticks wearing silver shoes and laughing manically at him. He woke up several times in the night, but every time he laid his head down to sleep, the same dream haunted him.

At the crack of dawn, Colin was dressed and on the road. He needed to stop at the smithy's shop. The workshop was still closed up, so he rapped on the door of the house.

"Colin!" Gregor said when he opened the door. "Early day! The wife and I are just sitting down to breakfast. Care to join us?"

"Silver?" Colin asked.

"Um, no. Bacon, eggs, biscuits. Join us!"

"Mm, not hungry. I need some silver. About a pound."

"A pound! I don't know that I have that much on hand."

"A pound. Yes, yes. A pound will do it."

Gregor noticed the wild look in Colin's eyes and stepped out of the house, closing the door behind him. Colin turned and walked toward the workshop. Gregor followed helplessly.

"About a pound of silver should do it," Colin said, standing and staring at the workshop door.

Gregor shook his head and walked around Colin, opening the door to the workshop. Colin followed him in and walked directly to Gregor's supply of silver. Hefting a couple of pieces, he nodded.

"About a pound should do it."

"Now wait!" Gregor said, putting a hand on Colin's arm to stop him from leaving. "I need that silver for a job."

"This is perfect. The soft suede will take it up nicely." He took a few steps forward, but Gregor gripped his arm and held him back.

"Colin!"

"It's a very important job. Very important. About a pound of silver should do it."

Gregor stared at Colin for a moment. Colin appeared a bit crazed.

"If it's that important, Colin, I suppose I can spare it."

"This is perfect. The soft suede will take it up nicely."

Gregor allowed Colin to leave with the silver, and stood watching him walk down the path home.

"Is that Colin?" Maya called from the house.

"Yes." Gregor scratched his head and walked over to stand by his wife. "He's acting very strangely."

"What is it he wanted?"

"A pound of silver."

"Whatever for?"

"A pair of shoes, I'd guess. He said it was very important."

"Come in for breakfast. Later you can walk over and check on him."

"Yeah."

Gregor and Freyleen watched Colin through the window of his workshop. The late afternoon sun cast an eerie light on the shoemaker as he hunched over his work, painstakingly painting the shoes with the melted silver.

"He's been at it all day," Freyleen said. "Not even to stop for lunch."

"He had a crazed look about him, almost as if he'd been-"

"Spelled. The thought had crossed my mind."

"I'm betting we can break it!" Gregor reached for the door, but Freyleen stopped him.

"No," she said, showing her bruised arm. "He's the strength of the madman if you try to stop him."

Colin suddenly straightened up on his stool. "Done!" he whispered.

A puff of smoke appeared in the workshop. When it cleared Gregor and Freyleen saw a woman with burgundy skin, wearing a black frock and pointed hat. She brandished her broomstick and addressed Colin.

"Excellent, my handsome!" she cackled.

Colin picked the shoes up from the table, knelt down and placed them on the floor in front of her. The Wicked Witch upended her broomstick, pointing it at the shoes and tracing a pentagram around them, all the while muttering an incantation. When she was finished, the shoes sparkled, and she cackled with glee. She waved her broomstick across her feet and her boots unlaced themselves. Stepping out of the boots, she daintily stepped into the Silver Shoes.

Raising her broom over her head, the Wicked Witch repeated a phrase to herself three times as she clicked her heals together, and disappeared from the room. Without the puff of smoke.

The following day, Munchkinland resounded with the news: the Good Witch of the East was dead, and the Wicked Witch had taken her place. Tradesmen and farmers alike were immediately notified of her needs, to be paid at far less than market rate.

Copyright @2012 by jsblume. All rights reserved.
jsblume has granted JS Blume Publishing™ non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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