It was a bright, sunny day and a morning mist hung over the dewy grass. Jack was a simple farm labourer, meant to tend the fields. Now he had to report a missing lamb to the girl who was going to be in charge of the flock today. That girl was Lottie and when Jack saw her, she was sitting on a stool, feeding a baby lamb from a milk bottle and cooing to it. He gawped at her. He couldn't help it. She was perfection. Eyes as blue as fragments of a fresh spring sky, long golden hair that glinted in the sunrise, lustrous skin, a freckled nose and cheeks, exquisite features, lips like rose buds, her whole body, lithe and graceful, long legs exposed as she sat on the stool and firm, rounded breasts …
She looked up. "You OK, Jack?"
A red headed girl came up to them. This was Lottie's sister, Astrid. She had striking blue eyes, like Lottie's, and a heavily freckled face. "Yeah, Jack, what are you gawping at?" Astrid was sniggering. Jack realised he had been gawping at Lottie.
"One of the lambs is missing," he stammered.
Lottie's brows drew together in concern. "I'll find the poor thing. Don't worry. You two had better get along to the fields. You don't want to be late."
Astrid rolled her eyes. "Come on Jack, can't stand gawping all day…"
Lottie knew that lambs occasionally wondered off down the hillside. She looked down the slope of the hill and saw a little black lamb lying there. She hurried down to it. The little creature bleated. Aw, the poor thing had a broken leg. Lottie would have to carry it.
"Would be good, to actually do summat," murmured a scratchy voice nearby.
Lottie turned round and frowned at the old lady wrapped in a green cloak who had appeared.
"What do you mean? I'm going to take the poor little thing back. I'll have to ask Heidi, the farmer, how to mend its leg."
"Wouldn't it be great to do it yourself? Heal the little beastie straight away? Trust old Grenzie. She knows how, my pretty."
"If you know how, please tell me," said Lottie. Although she didn't really see how it was possible.
The old lady brought out a stone jar from the folds of her cloak. "I was lookin' for someone to give the mantle to… can't really do it myself. I mean, that was never an option…" she touched her own cheek for some reason. "But this has a magic spell. Trust old Grenzie, my dear."
Lottie had to try to help the little lamb, even though it seemed unlikely that Grenzie knew what she was talking about.
"How can I heal the lamb straight away?" she asked with a smile.
Grenzie held up the jar. "First, anoint your pretty face from this jar. Then concentrate and hold the beastie's leg."
Lottie shrugged and unscrewed the lid of the jar. There was a luridly bright yellowish-green ointment that smelled of clay inside. She put her fingers in the jar and a blob of ointment stuck to them. It felt cold on her hand. She touched it cautiously to her cheek and it stuck and to her amazement, she felt it spreading out all her cheeks, nose and forehead and chin, making her entire face feel cold and … bubbly.
She gave a little cry and clutched her face. Then a warmth spread through her.
"Hold the lamb's leg," said Grenzie sharply.
She took hold of the lamb's foreleg and a warmth spread to her hands … To Lottie's amazement, the little lamb's leg snapped back into place and the lamb stopped bleating in pain. The lamb stood up again.
"You can make things grow, dearie. Take the jar," said Grenzie.
Lottie took the jar and warmth spread from her fingers and the jar filled with ointment again. Lottie now had the magic touch.
Astrid looked up and stared. Lottie was coming towards the turnip field, a little black lamb trotting at her heels. Astrid stared, because Lottie now had a shiny, bright yellowish-green face.
"Hallo, frog princess," said Astrid standing up and holding out her hand. "Good to meet you. Have you seen Lottie?"
"Ha ha," said Lottie. She didn't have eyebrows anymore. Her lips were a dark green, almost black. Her skin looked really smooth and shiny and glistening in the sunlight, like it was damp. Why was she dressed like that?
Lottie picked up the lamb. "Look. I've healed his leg."
Astrid raised her eyebrows. "Oh, right. Is this a joke of some kind?"
Lottie wrinkled her shiny green nose in semi-disgust. "You think I'm lying? Hmmm... I know it's incredible… but look."
She knelt down and took hold of a turnip that had a gash in it. Her hands glowed and the gash in the turnip healed…!
Astrid narrowed her eyes. "You say you healed the lamb as well… Something's happened to you. You've got this power. Why you and not me?" Astrid felt resentful that this magic happened for Lottie and nothing happened for her. Astrid could do things with that power.
Lottie held up a jar. "I put this on my face. That was it."
"OK…" Astrid took the jar from her sister and opened it. Bright green stuff inside… her heart beating faster, she picked it out of the jar and put the cold blob on her nose and gasped as it spread all over her face and she felt a bubbling sensation. The sensation settled and Astrid felt a warmth spread through her. "Now I can do it too?"
Lottie laughed. "Sorry, but you look funny."
"You can talk."
"I mean you look green," said Lottie.
"Your face is very green," said Astrid sticking out her tongue. "Isn't there a mirror somewhere? That's what this spell does, clearly. Turns your face green and gives you powers."
Lottie looked worried. "Wait a minute. I look like you?"
"Nothing wrong with how I look," said Astrid.
"You can't see yourself," said Lottie with a wry smile.
"Let's find a bathroom mirror then," said Astrid. Just like Lottie to focus on their green faces and ignore what was important.
They went to the washroom and gazed at their green faces, side by side, reflected in the mirror.
"You're right…" murmured Lottie. She washed and scrubbed her green face, achieving nothing but getting her face and hair wet. She gazed anxiously at her sopping green face in the mirror again. "How'm I to go about looking like this? The guys will all see me…" she gasped. "Frank will see my like this." Astrid knew she had a crush on Frank.
"You're fixating on the wrong thing," said Astrid. "We have magic now. We can heal things at a touch. This is very important. Our jobs are going to change. Our lives are going to change. Just think about that. I bet Frank would be impressed by you healing stuff at a single touch."
Lottie nodded and pushed her long, damp hair away from her green face. "We have to talk about it."
They went down to the tavern and went over to the counter. Lottie held up her ID card.
The barmaid raised her eyebrows. "Is this a joke?"
"What? No!" said Lottie.
"Your face is green. I can't tell if that's you."
"I don't think our ID is any use now," said Astrid, taking Lottie's hand and leading her to a table. She gazed into her sister's green face. "We have responsibilities to use our powers right. We can heal people who are sick or hurt, right? And should Gabi be in on it?" Gabi was their youngest sister and Lottie's favourite.
Lottie looked pensive. The sunlight shining in through the window shone off her green nose and cheeks. "I – I think Gabi should have powers, but I don't know about turning her face green. She's such a pretty and sweet little darling."
"What? And I'm not a pretty and sweet little darling?"
Lottie cupped her green face in her hands. "A green face suits you. Really. Not me though, I used to be beautiful. Now look at me. Frog lady"
Astrid rolled her eyes. "You're droning about your green face again. We can heal things. Let's focus on that. What else can we do? Presumably we can heal people too? The hurt and the sick. This is important." She paused and sort of something. They could heal, but what else… their father had died the previous winter and this had hit Astrid hardest. She had been his favourite. Astrid hardly dared hope, but if there was any chance they could also help the dead… She had to know where the magic came from. "Where did you get the jar, Lottie? And how?"
Lottie sniffed. "A strange old lady name Grenzie gave me the jaw and said it would heal the poor lamb. I put it on my face." She touched her shiny green cheek. "And then I held the lamb's broken leg and healed it. Simple, eh?"
"We must find Grenzie then, and get some answers," said Astrid.
Lottie nodded. "Right. Come on then."
The sisters left the tavern and made their way to the hill where Lottie had found Grenzie and the magic. On the way they passed by Ingrid, one of the milkmaids. "Hey there, girls. Why are you dressed like that? It's not Halloween."
Lottie folded her arms.
"Yeah, great Ingrid," said Astrid. "This isn't makeup."
Lottie sniffed. Astrid felt a bit exasperated, but even so, she took her sister's hand to reassure her.
"Whatever," said Ingrid. "Listen, one of the cow's is sick and Heidi the farmer is getting worked up over it."
"We'll be right along to fix it. We'll sort it out with a single touch," said Astrid, leading Lottie away.
"Well then, a great deal of trouble will be saved," said Ingrid drily.
At the foot of the hill, they both called for Grenzie. After a while, she arrived. Astrid saw that she didn't have a green face like her own.
"Hello, my dears. Looking green in the cheeks, I see. You have both taken up the mantle," said Grenzie. "Me, I didn't wanna to lost my school girl complexion." She made an annoying, prissy face.
"Tell us what it's all about," said Astrid. "Where do these powers come from and what can we do?"
"You can heal, dearie," said Grenzie.
"But what exactly do we heal?" Astrid wasn't sure how to ask this, but the words came out in a rush anyway. "Can we heal… the dead."
Lottie gave her a sharp look, narrowing her blue eyes.
"Your questions can be answered, dearie," said Grenzie. "If you follow this map." She handed Astrid a ragged old piece of parchment. A map. Then she abruptly disappeared from sight! More magic?
"Come back. Please!" Called Astrid.
Lottie placed a hand on her arm. "Come on," she said softly.
Astrid glared at her sister. The expression in Lottie's blue eyes was soft. The sunlight glinted off her golden hair and shone off her green nose and cheeks and forehead.
Astrid realised she was breathing hard through her nose. Well at least they had the map. They would find out the answer to her heart's desire soon enough.
"First, there's a sick cow that needs seeing to. Then we have to talk to Mum and Gabi," said Lottie.
They sisters went quickly to the cowshed. Heidi the farmer was there with a crowd of girls, all milkmaids. They looked up and the milkmaids stared at their green faces mouths agape. Lottie stopped in her tacks, her mouth open in indignation, but Astrid stepped forwards. "I think I can heal the cow."
"My dears… have you been painting your faces?" Heidi's eyes were wide and disbelieving.
"Watch," said Astrid, sitting by the cow. The poor creature had a high temperature, that much was obvious and she looked nervous – a sign she was in pain. Astrid put her hands to the udder. Maybe some kind of infection… A warmth spread through Astrid, from her face to her hands and the cow's udder spurted a stinking, brown substance. A steady stream of the muck spurted into the bucket. Lottie sidled over, watching anxiously. The infection continued to pass through the cow's udder until … the teats spurted out normal milk again. The infection was cleared away. The cow was no longer feverish or scared.
"My dear Astrid, that was amazing," said Heidi.
"Lottie and I have healing magic now," said Astrid. "We can cure all the sick animals. You should give us a pay rise."
Lottie nodded. There was a faraway look in her blue eyes. Astrid wondered – should they share the secret of this healing power with the other girls?