When she got to the forest, she called and called for her lamb but still, he did not come to her. Slowly, Ndaziona started walking deeper into the forest.
The forest was quiet and cold. It had a strange feeling about it. It was as if no animals lived there at all. Suddenly Ndaziona heard a noise. She turned around just in time to see something moving between the trees.
“Who’s there?” she called nervously.
A strange creature came toward her.
“Little girl,” the creature said, “don’t go any further. Muononga Zinthu, the witch of the forest, is in her winter cottage.”
Ndaziona explained that she had lost her lamb and needed to find it. The creature shook its head.
“I have not seen your lamb go this way, but if he has, Muononga Zinthu will be having him for supper tonight. Forget the lamb and go home.”
Ndaziona felt really frightened. Yet she knew that she could not abandon the only friend she had. She shook her head.
As bravely as she could, she said, “Thank you for warning me, but I will go on.”
The creature shook its head. “Very well, but take this with you for luck.”
Reaching up, the creature took an odd-looking stone from a small hole on the tree and gave it to Ndaziona. Ndaziona put it in her coat pocket, thanked the creature, and went on her way.
The forest grew colder, darker and more unfriendly. The trees grew closer and closer together, leaving only a space for a small path between them.
Suddenly, in front of Ndaziona was the most horrible house she had ever seen. The house looked like an enormous skull, and its windows were the hollowed out eyes of the skull. It stood on top of enormous chicken legs that seemed to sway in the wind. Around the house was a fence of bones and skulls. Ndaziona turned to run, but the trees moved together and closed her path.
Ndaziona heard a cackling laugh.
“I have been waiting for you for a long time, little one. There is nothing that I like quite as much as little girl stew.”
Ndaziona turned to face the witch.
“Munonga Zinthu Bony Legs, where is my lamb?” she asked as bravely as she could.
“Your lamb has not been here,” said the witch, “but I dare say that it will come to find you. Little lamb stew is also one of my favourite dishes.”
Muononga Zinthu grabbed Ndaziona by the arm and dragged her inside. Her bony fingers and nails bit into Ndaziona’s skin. A mangy dog snarled at the doorway, a scrawny cat hissed and scratched Ndaziona’s leg, and a huge, hairy spider climbed down the wall and spun a tight web to cover the door.
Muononga Zinthu began to get the fire ready. She made Ndaziona fetch a huge pot and fill it with water. Then she made her cut up the strangest vegetables she had ever seen. They were slimy and smelly and Ndaziona thought they must taste disgusting. When she had finished, Ndaziona sat shivering, trying not to cry. She put her hand into her pocket and felt the stone that the strange creature had given her. She rubbed it with her fingers.
Muononga Zinthu seemed suddenly distracted.
“Mmm, I have never cooked lamb and a little girl together before. I wonder what that would taste like? Perhaps I will wait for tomorrow when your lamb comes looking for you. Hmm, yes, that’s what I’ll do. Tonight I will go and do evil somewhere else. Don’t even think of escaping. My cat will scratch your eyes out, my spider’s web is stronger than steel and my dog’s bite is worse than anything you can imagine.”
After Muononga Zinthu had left, Ndaziona cried. She was cold and hungry. She tried to go to sleep but as she lay down, the stone in her pocket dug into her leg. She took it out. Strangely, it had felt smooth, before it felt jagged. She traced her fingers over the stone and wished she were eating supper in her own home.
Tell us: What do you think will happen next?