Tiny bubbles gathered in masses along the smooth curves of the pebbles. A rusty 3 legged metal stand stood in the centre of a stone room. From it hung a pot just inches above an open fire. The pot was filled with water and at the bottom lay an assortment of pebbles in various colours and sizes. Some were dark grey, others golden brown, some were even covered in speckles, and the white ones looked like dove eggs.
“Pebble soup! Mmm, my favourite,” grinned the young witch as she peered into the pot. Her red locks brushing past her shoulders and falling into her face.
The water started to ripple at the surface. One large bubble burst through. Plop. More bubbles grew and made their way to the surface, breaking free and distorting the view of the pebbles.
“These aren’t just any pebbles,” said the older witch. Her hair was pinned up into a tight silver bun. “They were collected from the babbling brook right at the base of the snow covered mountain during a full moon.”
“Wow! I’m sure these are just bursting with flavour!”
The older witch reached into a nearby basket and pulled out a tied bunch of fresh coriander leaves. She snipped through the tie and tossed the leaves into the pot. She continued to add ingredients; a dash of cinnamon, 1 jasmine flower, a handful of mushrooms, and a cup of beans.
She grabbed a long wooden spoon and began to stir the soup. Round and round she stirred. The ingredients moved in a whirlwind motion.
“Please hand me the purple sparkle powder,” the old witch gestured towards the small cupboard against the wall.
The young witch jumped to her feet. She had been sitting on a small wooden stool, watching the entire process and admiring the graceful movements of the old witch as she cooked. She ran to the cupboard and found a small glass jar filled with bright purple powder. It glittered like stars in the night. She skipped over to the old witch and handed it to her.
The old witch flipped open the small glass jar lid and emptied its entire contents into the soup.
A flash of purple lit up the room as the pot's contents began to change colour. The intense purple was followed by a dark red glow, then blue, then silver, and finally a warm golden glow before a puff of smoke was released from the liquid's surface.
“It’s ready,” the old witch announced with a smile.
“Hooray!” cheered the young witch.
A nearby woodcutter removed his worn brown gloves as he moved closer to the next tree marked with an X. He inspected the wood and contemplated whether to chop it down.
He moaned to himself as he looked at the massive pine in front of him, “Chopping trees is such hard work. I should have chosen a different career.”
He glanced over at his axe propped up against the stump of a pine he had chopped down earlier that morning.
“My axe is so old and heavy. If I could afford a newer model my life would be so much better,” he sighed. “If I am lucky I’ll make a bag of pennies for today’s work. Not nearly enough to cover the cost of a new axe. Not even close.”
Just as he was about to rant some more about how things never seemed to go his way, he noticed a flash of purple out of the corner of his eye. He turned towards it and just as suddenly as the flash had appeared, it disappeared and the colour changed to a dark red glow. The glowing light originated from deep within the forest. He was intrigued and started to make his way towards it. The colour changed to blue, then silver and then finally gold. He followed the light until he found its source, a small stone cottage nestled amongst the trees.
The curious woodcutter moved closer to the cottage and peeped in through one of its tiny wooden framed windows. He watched the witches intently as they drank from the colourful brew that they had just cooked up.
The young witch took a sip of her soup. Oh how magical this soup was. The flavours changed in her mouth.
“It’s butterscotch, no wait, it's candy floss, ooh, this tastes like a chocolate brownie, apple pie, passion fruit, caramel popcorn, and speckled eggs!” she exclaimed in delight.
The woodcutter watched in amazement. He too wanted to try this amazing soup with all its delicious flavours. If he could just taste it, or even better, sell it and become rich! He hatched a plan to steal the soup from the witches. He would wait until dark and while the witches were asleep, he would sneak in and take it. The woodcutter slipped away and hid behind a nearby tree waiting for the dead of night to make his move.
The moon hung high in the sky and the woodcutter waited anxiously, complaining under his breath at how long this was taking. The forest was silent except for a soft rustling in the leaves as a small forest creature scurried about its business. The yellow light shining from the witches’ cottage finally went out.
The woodcutter crept up to the wooden cottage door. He slowly twisted the doorknob so as not to make a sound. Carefully he pushed the door open inch by inch, getting it just wide enough to move past. The light of the full moon shone through one of the tiny windows making the pot in the centre visible. He tiptoed towards it and grabbed hold of the pot handle. He was just about to lift the pot off of its hook and make his way out of there when his greed got the better of him. He wanted to taste the soup right now!
He used his hand to scoop up some of the liquid and brought it to his mouth to take a big sip. Slurp.
Oh how this pebble soup had so much flavour. Wait, the flavour was awful! This was not right he thought to himself, as more flavours began to fill his mouth. He tasted rotten eggs, then bitter berries, sour milk, mouldy bread, burnt pie, and raw fish. His mouth twisted in disgust, his stomach began to groan and he felt rather sick. He fell to the floor and began rolling from side to side, moaning as he did so.
All the noise woke the two witches. They found the woodcutter writhing on their stone floor looking rather green and ill.
“What are you doing in our house?” demanded the old witch.
The woodcutter could barely get the words out, “Your soup. It is the worst thing I have ever tasted!”
“Oh!” laughed the old witch. “That will teach you to come in uninvited and try steal from us.”
The young witch seemed concerned, “I don’t understand, why is our pebble soup making him sick?”
“Not everyone will experience pebble soup the same way,” explained the old witch. “Those who live with negative thoughts will taste the foulest of flavours in each pebble. Those who have positive thoughts taste the most delicious flavours.”
The young witch considered this for a moment. She realised the woodcutter would never experience pebble soup the way she did unless he changed his way of thinking.
The woodcutter groaned loudly and gasped for air. He staggered to his feet and stumbled out of the front door. He vowed to himself that he would change and return one day to taste pebble soup as it should be.