They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a pink-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.
The vicar’s cousin Luigi turned up on a visit.
Where the vicar was a portly, blunt-nosed khaki-skinned utilitarian sort of a critter his cousin was svelte and smooth with eyes of burning gold.
The village sucked in a collective breath and the sensible female populace gossiped behind its work-roughened hands.
The silly ones fell like ninepins.
Matters came to a head when the daughter of the blacksmith and the niece of the lady of the manner indulged in a bout of face slapping and hair pulling outside church on a Sunday morning.
Luigi found it all highly amusing.
Nanny didn’t share his amusement. She wandered over and stood with her hands on her hips.
Luigi curled his lip. “Was there something, gnome?”
“There was. Knock it off. Or else.”
“Or else what?” He belched a small blue flame.
Nanny took a handful of something out of a pocket and blew.
It’s stupid to underestimate an earth witch, and it’s even stupider to flame a handful of potato flour. The explosion ignited the dragon’s eyebrows, and was the cause of much rustic humour.
Luigi hasn’t been to visit again.
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