Manchu was the smartest man in Castle Graystone. The wizard, librarian, and adviser to The King, studied more than any other person in castle. In fact, he was the only one who studied.One day, this conjurer of tricks was sweeping the floor of his library of endless, self-organizing books, and discovered another broom. The broom’s handle was crooked, cracked, and chipped. Its bristles were black and frayed. The broom looked like it couldn’t clean anything.

Manchu was certain the broom did not belong to him. “How did that ugly thing get in here?” he asked, knowing that, even though nobody was around, if he posed a question to himself, it would lead to an answer. That answer he thought was to find out who the broom belonged to, for someone around must know. He left his library and walked about the castle.

Manchu asked each person he passed. He approached a soldier, held the broom up to him, and asked, “Is this your broom?” The soldier said no, and continued to march on.

The scent of fresh baked bread drew Manchu into the kitchen. Inside the kitchen, more than two dozen little chefs, with little hats and big shoes, scampered around, cooking, stirring, and baking all manner of foods. “Is this your broom?” Manchu asked as he passed each little chef. None of them answered, for they were too busy to stop and answer a question about a useless old broom.

Manchu decided to speak with the head chef. The head chef was, as usual, bent over with his head near the large oven. “Is this your broom?” Manchu asked, holding it out before the head chef. The head chef knocked the broom out of Manchu’s hand. “What was that for!?” Manchu asked.

The head chef said, “Don’t put that broom so close to the oven. It will catch fire! A wizard ought to know better than to play with fire.” Manchu picked up the broom. “Now that I’ve seen it, I think the farmer mentioned something about brooms.”

Manchu was growing tired of holding the broom. He thought he could leave it with the farmer, and he wouldn’t notice. When he arrived at the stables, he found the farmer putting a horseshoe on a horse. “Excuse me, is this your broom?” Manchu asked.

The farmer shook his head. Just as Manchu was leaving the stables, the farmer said, “Oh, hey, wait. I have seen a trader in the market with a broom like that. Usually with a bunch of odd trinkets and things that I wouldn’t buy. But the market is a good place to look for information.”

Manchu dragged the broom on the ground as he left the castle grounds and headed to the market. The marketplace was pretty empty, for most of the trading of the early day had already happened. There were a few merchants lingering around, and so he approached the first one. “Is this your broom?” he asked.

The merchant said with a laugh, “I wouldn’t sell something like that! That broom is all used up. You ought to throw it away.”

“The farmer said that there was a trader who visited with a broom like this.”

“Now that you mention it, I do recall a woman from the Evilish Woods that tried to sell me toads and tongues the other day. Said she was from the northwest, where there were too many toads around her house, and she had to get rid of them.”

Manchu traveled to the Evilish Woods, still dragging that broom along the ground, sweeping up dirt along the way. The Evilish Woods were north of Castle Graystone. There, lots of dead trees, fit for kindling a raging firestorm, were inhabited by the creepiest, crawliest, creatures in the land. It didn’t help that the crows were constantly circling it, and a fog drifted from one place to another.

Manchu wasn’t afraid, for he was a wizard, and a wizard only fears fear. He found a small hut in the northwest corner of the woods. The wood hut had a grass roof, and had beautiful decorations on the outside. The inside must have been equally beautiful.

The wizard knocked on the door, and a little old lady answered it. She wore a black robe, her long gray hair was hanging down under a wide brimmed, pointed hat. Manchu believed this woman to be a witch, and said, “I came here to return your broom, but now that I know it belongs to a witch, I shall keep it from you. You will use it to harm others!”

The broom did indeed belong to the woman, for she attempted to grab it from Manchu. “That broom belongs to me. If you keep it, I shall cast a curse upon you!”

Manchu laughed at the witch’s claim. “Ha! I know a witch can’t cast a curse without her broom. No, I shall keep your broom, and keep the people safe.” Manchu left the woods, dragging the broom along the ground, picking up even more dirt along the way.

The wizard mumbled and grumbled as he returned to his library. He tossed the witch’s broom into a closet and slammed the door shut. “I’ve got more important things to do than worry about a stupid broom.”

For the next few days, Manchu continued to study history and magic, to gain knowledge and grow. As he was reading, he began to read words incorrectly. He said, “Het”, instead of “The.” He soon grew tired when he began to read. His eyes couldn’t focus, even with his glasses on. Manchu eventually couldn’t read anymore, the words just made no sense to him. A wizard who can’t read is no wizard, indeed.

“Why can’t I read!?” Manchu cried. His cry was heard by his books. They shook awake and flew off their shelves. His books flew across the library and crashed into the closet where he hid the witch’s broom. “Stop that!” Manchu commanded.

His books didn’t listen. They continued to chuck themselves and hammer away at the closet, until they knocked the door down. When the broom fell to the floor, all the dirt it had picked up went everywhere. Now his library, that he just swept, was covered in dust. “Blasted witch!” he shouted. “Fine! You win! I’ll give your broom back!”

Manchu returned to the witch’s hut. This time, when he knocked on the door, a beautiful, young woman, with curly blonde hair and green eyes, answered the door. “Yes sir?” she asked.

Manchu held back the witch’s broom. “Who are you? Where is the witch?” he asked.

“Witch?” the woman asked. “There is no witch here. There has never been a witch here.”

Manchu was confused. “I was here just a few days ago. I must return her broom, for she had placed a curse upon me, and I can no longer read. My library is a total mess!”

The young woman thought for a moment. “Sir, one moment, please.” She closed the door.

Just as soon as the door closed, it opened again, and the witch was there. “Oh, you again,” said the witch. “Have you changed your mind and want to return my broom?”

“Yes!” Manchu said. He chucked the broom right at the witch.

When the witch caught the broom, a bright glow covered her, and she transformed back into the beautiful woman. The wizard was pleasantly surprised. The witch responded by saying, “Now that I have my broom… I shall place a curse on everyone!” She cackled and laughed in a menacing tone.

Manchu was upset. “What!? You truly are a witch! Well, I, as a wizard, must put a stop to you!” He began to cast a spell to destroy the wicked woman. His hands had fireballs in them.

The witch chuckled. “Yes, indeed, sir, I am a witch. I shall place a curse on everyone unless, of course, you’d like to fly with me on my broom.”

Manchu put his hands down, and without stopping the spell he was casting, the fire in his hands caught his robe on fire. “Ouch! Ouch! Help! Help!” The witch took her broom and beat the fire out. “Oh my, you saved my life. Thank you! Yes, I would love to fly with you on your broom.”

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