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March 2nd, 2017

Cauldron
It was dusk. The colors of the forest were warm, contrary to the temperature. The camp fire crackled and sent embers flying up into the darkening sky. Cai had skewered a rabbit, the sole product of a day's worth of hunting, and was now cooking it over the fire. Oscar kept his eyes trained on the rabbit, his mouths salivating at the thought of breaking the day's fast.

When the rabbit was darkened, Cai moved it off the fire and used his fingers to free a piece of it's flesh. He put it directly into his mouth, without stopping to admire the glistening fat attached to the skin. His eyes closed as he tasted the warm greasy morsel dissolve in his mouth.

"Hey now!" Oscar said as he almost fell over to join in. "That's for the both of us. It was a team effort!"

Oscar came and made sure to pinch a piece off that was noticeably larger than the one Cai had taken. He chewed it greedily, and swallowed.

The two children picked every digestible piece from their prey, and sat back to enjoy the fire.

"I think we should do it tomorrow. You want to try?"

Cai looked at Oscar. "It's a myth, you know. It's just an old woman who lives in a shack, not a witch."

Oscar smiled. "It doesn't matter whether she is a witch or not. It's the cauldron I'm after."

"The story of the cauldron is a myth too. We've even seen her out foraging for food before." Cai sighed. "But if you want, we can go tomorrow and knock on her door. Maybe she'll share with us some secret spots to hunt."

Oscar grinned. With their bellies now full, the two boys spent the new few hours recounting the tale of how they had caught their harrowing hare.

The next morning, Cai rubbed his eyes and opened them. As the world became clear, he noticed Oscar staring at him. "Well, come on. You said we'll go visit the witch. Let's do it." As they walked, Oscar became more and more excited. "Do you think we'll get a chance to take the cauldron?"

Cai stopped, "We are going to visit the woman who lives here. We are not thieves. We do not steal."

"We are not thieves from people. Witches are fair game."

An hour later the two boys approached the shed where the woman lived. Oscar's excitement quickly turned into nervousness. "Do you think she's actually a witch?"

A frail looking woman cracked the door open when they knocked. "Who be you that knocks on my door?"

Cai bowed slightly. "We are just children, I am Cai and this is Oscar. We have had trouble finding food. We wanted to know if you could share your knowledge of the area."

The woman eyed both of the boys carefully.

Cai stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small group of dried plants. "Here. We can offer you some borage that we have collected. It goes well with the rabbit in the area."

The woman walked out. "Follow me." She led Cai around the side of her shed and opened a cabinet. Inside were a collection of dried meats. She pulled a leg out. "Here, you can have this. As for knowledge about the local game, I have none to offer. I suggest going to the pond and stalking animals as they come to drink." She handed the leg to Cai, then looked around. "Where is your friend?"

Cai and the woman walked back to the door and saw a glimpse of Oscar running away through the foilage. The woman quickly went into her house. Cai heard a loud shrieking sound and started to back away. The woman returned to the door. Smoke started billowing out from her dress and her hair seemed to ripple. "Your friend stole my cauldron! He will pay-"

Cai took off in the direction he saw Oscar running. He felt static tingling in his back and heard the sound of thunder as he ran, but he did not turn around. Cai made it back to their makeshift home, and worried. It was almost nightfall when Oscar came tromping into camp. He was holding the large cauldron, now full of stew, and wore a large grin.

"It works, Cai! It's not a myth at all. Come have a taste."

Cai helped Oscar carry the filled cauldron over to the firepit and peered inside. "What is this?"

"It's the cauldron. You put in a piece of food of any size and it will fill it with food. It's magic. I told you she was a witch."

Cai had already had eaten two spoonfuls. "This is delicious! It's a little sweet, but wonderful." His thoughts then turned to the woman, "But won't the woman starve?"

"She's a witch, Cai. I bet she can just conjure up a feast if she wants."

The two boys didn't think more of it and stuffed their mouths. That was the first night in a year that they would sleep full.

They both sat around the cauldron the next morning. "So how does it work?"

Oscar picked up an pinecone and threw it in. "The legend is that you just throw something in. If it is edible, then it will turn to food."

They both peered inside and saw the pinecone sitting motionless at the bottom of the dirty cauldron. They waited a moment. Then Cai said, "I guess pinecones aren't edible. What did you put in yesterday? That stew was delicious."

"I came across a blackberry bush and threw one in. We feasted on a single blackberry last night."

The two boys then went to collect various items to try out. Cai collected an acorn and an oxalis tuber, while Oscar found a gobo root and a chanterelle mushroom. Cai went first. He threw in the tuber. Both boys peered into the cauldron and watched. At first, nothing happened. Then the tuber started to pulse, bubbles grew on its surface. One of the bubbles popped and a liquid flowed out. But it kept coming out; soon the tuber was covered completely. But the liquid continued to grow. It stopped only when it reached the top of the cauldron.

Oscar was grinning, "Isn't that something." The two boys took a taste of the stew.

"It's delicious. This is really amazing."

Despite having been hungry not a couple days before, the buys now poured out the oxtail stew onto the forest floor. They tried each of items that had found, one by one. By mid-morning, their stomachs were full and a patch of the forest floor had been well fertilized.

Cai looked over at, "Oscar, maybe this was a good idea." He then looked at the cauldron. "You know, that thing looks dirty. If we're going to be eating from it, I think it could stand a good brushing."

Oscar stayed laying on the ground, "Sounds good to me." He watched as Cai collected a set of pliable twigs and assembled them into a brush. Cai made quick work of the top and insides of the cauldron. Suddenly, Oscar noticed a figure in the distance. It was just standing there watch over them.

"There's a bit stuck at the very bottom. I can't seem to reach it." Cai leaned his body in with his legs up in the air. In his precarious position, he continued to brush the bottom of the cauldron.

Oscar noticed the figure approaching. "Cai! The witch has found us! We must go."

Cai jumped at the news and fell head-first into the cauldron. Oscar came to help him out but he saw bubbles forming all over Cai by the time he got there. One popped and liquid started flowing out. Soon there was nothing in the cauldron but a stew. Oscar stood frozen as the witch approach. She took out a spoon and had a taste. "It's delicious."

The witch turned around and started walking away. The cauldron floated up in the air and followed slowly behind her. She turned to face Oscar. "You'll join your friend in my belly if I ever see you again." Oscar stood frozen, watching as the witch and cauldron slowly disappeared into the forest.