Malinda and Botula didn’t need to stop in Addersvale for directions. The burned-out section of forest was visible from miles away as they whisked along on their broomsticks.
“When I suggested that you make a dragon, I didn’t mean for you to turn it loose on the countryside,” Botula said.
“It wasn’t my intention,” Malinda said. “It didn’t like the growth spell I put on it, and it bolted.”
Botula grunted derisively.
The two witches landed in a clearing at the edge of the trees. There was something lying on the ground that at first Malinda took for a scorched goathide sack.
It was a goat. A whole dead goat, dried and shriveled, as if all the juices had been sucked out of it. There were burn marks, and a jagged round hole near its neck.
“Doesn’t look like a dragon attack,” Malinda said.
“How would you know?” Botula said. “Dragons aren’t real. What did you make this dragon out of, anyways?”
“A louse,” Malinda said. “I thought it was a good way to start, with something small, you know. But it was just a little too small, and so…”
“Fantastic,” Botula said. “Just fabulous. Do you know what youv’e done? You’ve created a fire-breathing, blood-sucking, vampire dragon! And it’s GROWING!”
“Oh dear,” Malinda said.
“All right,” Botula said. “What’s your plan?”
“Catch it and take it home?” Malinda suggested.
“How about turn it back into a louse?” Botula asked. “Do you think you can do that?”
Botula's eyes bulged. She pointed to the goat, then to the smouldering forest, then threw her hands out as if to demand why in the world Malinda wouldn’t just want to undo this horrible disaster that she’d created.
“Oh dear, I suppose you’re right,” Malinda said. “Give me a few moments to work out a spell reversal.”
Malinda sat down and read through her spell again. It was a good spell, one of her best, even though she’d only dashed it off in an hour or so. That was the trouble, she hadn’t been thinking it through carefully enough, and now with Botula pacing the clearing and shaking her head at the dead goat, it was even harder to think.
Doing a reversal wasn’t too complicated, Malinda could do that, it was a matter of mechanics, but there was something else tickling at the back of her brain. Some idea that maybe she could find a way to mend this spell if she just kept staring at it long enough.
A burst of flame flashed in the woods, and Botula shrieked ias a long, armored neck with a gigantic louse’s head reared up over the burning tree tops.
Too late for thinking.