Morte de Jack – the Fourth Part of the Jack Saga

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, Jack ruled well and wisely, and made many enemies. All the citizens of his kingdom loved him like their own father, and took a personal interest in all his family affairs. They had rejoiced when his daughter Rose married her wonderful husband Prince Joseph, and they mourned when his snippety, crotetchety, well-meaning mother passed away. She had lived a full, rich life ever since Jack had come down from the beanstalk, vintage-1653946and though she often complained, unable to shake off those earlier years of constant misfortune and accustom herself to the splendors of her comfortable existence, she had always been inordinately proud of her son.

Yet, there were those who salivated to see his head on a platter. Jack had spent his life eradicating the evil around and in his lands, and there were many witches, goblins, dragons,  werewolves, and other fearsome beasts who boiled hot in their revengeful hate against him. fairytale-1735371Including a whole family of giants who hated him for killing their evil uncle. (Except they really hated him for stealing the golden harp – they didn’t care about their uncle.)

They held a gathering in the dark forest, which was called so because daylight never penetrated through the deep foliage overhead, to decide what to do about this aggravating king.

“We should curse him!”

“Kidnap his daughter!”

“Eat him for dinner!”

Now, evil creatures do not have good imaginations. As they clamored loud for all these ill fates to befall the king, they did not stop to consider that everyone had already been tried, and failed. But the witches were cleverer than the rest, and putting their three heads together (witches always come in threes, just ask Macbeth), they hatched a plan. It was not completely original, but it had more potential to it than any of the other suggestions.

They gathered their forces together, and marched off against the kingdom of Jack.

architecture-3095716_1920As they marched they burned every farm and town they came across, so that they people fled to Jack’s castle ahead of the marching horde. They begged Jack to save them, and Jack rose from his throne, called his knights together, and rode out to meet the enemy. Every able-bodied man took up a sword to march behind their beloved king, while Queen Miranda and her daughter Rose stayed behind to care for the women, children, and elderly. (I think they had the harder job, but they liked it better).

The clash of blade against teeth, the meeting of two great armies, the cries of living and dying, were too epic to convey on a mere piece of paper. King Jack slew every giant that bent to kill him and Prince Joseph pierced the heart of every wicked witch. While knights Rojo and Verde killed the werewolves that jumped at their throats, Sirs Richard and George faced the fairies that buzzed against them like angry wasps. Terence and Corncob led the charge against the two dragons, and Serence devotedly defended the life of his king with every thrust and parry of his blade.

What the heroes did not know is that, while they fought with every ounce of their strength to protect the innocents back at the palace, the enemy had cunningly sent a small team to circumvent the battle and infiltrate the kingdom. While Jack killed giants on the battlefield, a witch, with a retinue of fairies, entered the palace, killed the guards, and stole away the queen and princess.

Successful, as Jack always is over evil, on the battlefield, Sir Serence told the King he should return home and leave the clean-up to the knights. “Reassure your people and the queen. We can handle this mess.”

Jack was grateful, and he and Joseph headed back to the palace accompanied by the wounded who could travel. Imagine the elation he felt, returning after a grueling day, after performing unsavory chores, to see his wife and daughter, and the weak of his kingdom, whom he loved with his whole being, to tell them they are safe – perhaps forever. The enemy is slain or fled, weakened and demoralized. Imagine how he anticipated embracing his beautiful, loving wife, who has taken such excellent care of his subjects in his absence. Imagine how he yearned to hold some little children in his arms, for every young citizen knew he cared for them like a proud grandfather. With these expectations, then, buoying his spirits, imagine his utter devastation when he returned to the palace to find the little ones cowering beneath tables, his knights all slain, and his wife and daughter gone.

sad boy“What has become of you?” he asked the young boy who threw himself against the king’s leather vest and clung while he cried.

“Someone came and took them away. An ugly hag and vicious pucks!” he wept.

As Prince Joseph herded the young ones into the room where the rest of the citizens had fled, fearing the worst for their little children, Jack realized the devious nature of the battlefield. He had been lured away from the palace so his family could be stolen from under his nose.

“What next, King-Father?” asked Joseph, his face white with loss, but his stance at attention. Wherever his wife was, he would find her again. With Jack beside him, he would not fear.

“Your majesty,” said John, a young soldier who had been wounded in the arm in the battle, “we can care for your people. Go. Find your wife.” All the lightly wounded soldiers nodded, rallying together for the king as he had always rallied for them.

Jack lifted his sword. “Let’s go.”

Chapter 2 Coming Soon…

The Dove Princess

Princess - The Dove PrincessOnce upon a time, a king’s daughter loved dogs as her dearest friends. She had all manner of species about her all the time, and whenever she went for a walk, she always brought at least two with her. She trained the dogs herself along with her brother, who loved them almost as much as she did, and they spent all their free-time with them.

One afternoon, the princess decided to train one of the newest puppies, so she set off on a walk with Klitus and Grimus, two old, wise dogs, and OrangeYellowBlack, OYB for short, the frisky puppy.

“Shall I come with you?” asked her brother eagerly. He wanted to get out of a long meeting with his tutor. “OYB might be troublesome.”

She laughed at him. “I’m sure I can handle him,” she said, and made the prince watch her run away with the dogs while he had to go to his lesson.

The woods beside the palace were a golden green, full of playful shadows, butterflies, and trilling birds. She knew to stay only in this wood, since further on, against the very edge of her father’s kingdom, there was a deep, dark forest, ruled by a sorcerer.

 

OYB - The Dove Princess
OrangeYellowBlack, the frisky puppy

Klitus and OYB ran ahead, and then back again, and then on ahead. The princess practiced calling OYB’s name and making him learn to obey. Grimus plodded on patiently beside her – her loyal, faithful watchdog.

Out of the trees beside the path hobbled an old, ugly, hunchbacked man. He was pulling himself along with a gnarled staff, and grunting as he came. He did not seem to see the princess until he nearly ran into her, and she had to hop out of his way.

“Watch it! Ah, princess, I didn’t see you. Have a few coins for a poor old traveler?”

The Encounter in the Forest
The Encounter in the Forest

The princess was frightened by his awful appearance and brisk manner, but she was too polite to show it, and fumbled in her purse for some coins.

He stomped over to receive them and, as if by accident, hammered his staff into Grimus’s paw. With a squeal, Grimus jumped back and growled lightly in his throat. He did not like or trust this old man, and his paw pounded so painfully he could not walk on it, and had to limp on three legs.IMG-5755

“Oh, Grimus, my darling, are you alright?” The princess bent over her friend and the two other dogs danced excitedly nearby, unnerved by the event.

“Oh, terrible accident that,” mumbled the beggar. “Whoops. Didn’t see him!” He whirled about as if to help, sending his stick going in every direction and nearly whacking the princess’s head off. Though it missed her, it hit OYB in the rear, and with a cry of panic, the puppy took off running into the forest.

“Ho, there! All this fuss is putting me out!” cried the old man, but the princess ignored him and called and called for OYB to come back.

“Oh, where is he? OYB!” She was so upset that she ran after her lost puppy without a second thought, closely followed by Klitus. Grimus whined on the path, torn because he wanted to go too, but knowing he would be no help hobbling on three paws. So finally, he turned back toward home, leaving the beggar grumbling to himself on the path.

When he reached the palace, he barked like a mad pigeon, and everyone yelled and told him to be quiet, but he only got louder and louder, until the prince, who was studying geography and finding it exceedingly dull, heard the noise and ran downstairs.

“What is it boy?” he asked, and Grimus started limping back toward the forest. “Something’s wrong,” said the prince to himself, and followed after.

Grimus led the prince to the place where they had met the beggar, but there was no sign of him. So he began to sniff the ground, and then took off after his beloved princess’s scent.

To both their horror, the scent led them right up to the dark forest, and there, against the outermost tree, lay Klitus, dead.

Grimus whined and wept over his fallen companion, and the prince knelt beside him. “You must go home,” he whispered. “This is no place for an injured creature.” Grimus looked at him with large, worried eyes. “I’ll be alright, you know,” the prince assured him. “The sorcerer never harms young men.”

Dark ForestSo with his tail between his legs and his ears hanging past his mouth, Grimus trudged back to the palace, and the prince disappeared into the black shadows of the dark forest.

Immediately beneath those trees, day turned to night, and he could see no further than the stretch of his arm. As he searched for his sister, he began to despair. There was no sign of her. Instead, there was a big black toad the size of his fist sitting on a mushroom.

“Have you seen my sister?” he asked the toad.

“No,” he croaked. “All I see all day are the black flies that fly around my head.”

A little further into the forest, he found a lion. “Have you seen my sister?”

“No,” he growled. “All I see all day are the scuffling hogs I eat.”

Even further, a snake was coiled around a tree limb. “Have you seen my sister?”

“I have sssseen only the miccce that I sswallow whole.”

The prince searched for two more days until his strength relinquished itself to the weight of his desperation, and he fell to the ground and slept.

In his sleep, a dream came to him. He saw OYB run into the forest in fright, and his sister chase after him. He saw a mighty black crow fly across the gray sky and land in a tall, dark tower in the very middle of the forest. The crow changed into the evil sorcerer, the dark master of the land, and with a wave of his staff, he transformed the princess into a beautiful dove.

When the prince awoke, he no longer searched for a princess, but called out in a loud coo for a dove. Finally, a coo came back to him.

From the very tops of the trees flew down a bird on a single beam of light and alighted on his shoulder. He kissed its beak, and the dove nuzzled its head into his cheek.

“Oh, my dearest sister, how shall I save you from this fate?” he asked her. She cooed softly in response and a tear fell from her eye.

“I will save you!” he declared, and headed off for the black tower with his sister still on his shoulder. When they reached the mighty fortress, the prince banged on the door.

The Sorcerer's Dark Tower
The Sorcerer’s Dark Tower

“Sorcerer!” he yelled. “How can I save my sister?”

The sorcerer stuck his head out of the tower. “Go away!” he shouted, and disappeared back inside.

He pounded even harder. “Sorcerer, how can I save my sister?”

This time, there was no response. For ten minutes, the prince yelled and pounded. Finally, the sorcerer returned to the window.

“I said, go away! Or I’ll turn you into a dove!”

The prince pounded so hard on the door that the wood splintered in two, and then he ran up the spiral staircase.

When he arrived, the Sorcerer was very angry. “Go away, I tell you! Why do you test my patience? I’ll enchant you!”

The Dark Sorcerer
The Dark Sorcerer

“Everyone knows you do not enchant men. I’m not leaving here until you tell me how to lift her curse.”

The sorcerer groaned with annoyance, but he saw he could not get rid of this boy. “Very well,” he snarled. “You must leave her in this forest for three years. You cannot return home – instead, you will wander the world as a nameless beggar collecting one whole seashell from each ocean and stringing them into a necklace. After three years, if you put that necklace around her neck, she will turn back into a girl. Now go away and leave me in peace!”

The brother and sister said a tearful goodbye at the edge of the forest. Just as the prince turned to leave, however, he heard a tiny bark and from out of the foliage leapt OYB. With a coo of joy, the dove lighted on the animal’s head, and the prince left them together, relieved that his sister would have a friend in her exile.

At the first cottage he came across, the prince traded his rich royal clothes for the costume of the resident peasant, and then departed into the world to find the shells.

At the first ocean, he encountered a polar bear and wrestled with him on an iceberg until, finally, he overcame the beast and collected the shell. Just before reaching the second ocean, he faced a giant, evil koala bear who tried to kill him with a rifle. But the IMG-5756prince defeated the evil Koala, took the rifle for himself, and found his shell. At the third ocean, he strangled a sea serpent. At the fourth, he slew a gigantic spider. And finally, in the final year, when he had traveled, and suffered, and grown into a man, he came to the fifth ocean.

Evil Shark
Evil Shark

There, he picked up the final shell and threaded it onto the string he had worn around his neck for three years, then he sold the shark to local fisherman who could make use of its parts, and with the money from the sale, headed back to his own country.re, just as he bent to pick up the final shell, a giant shark flew out of the water and came right for his throat. He leapt back, pulled out the rifle, and with one single shot, killed it in the head.

He went straight to the forest, and there, right where he had departed from her all those years ago, he saw his sister waiting. He ran up, placed the necklace over her head, and she transformed instantly back into a princess. The sorcerer knew when his magic had ceased, and he flew instantly to where the prince and princess were embracing.

“I have completed your tasks!” proclaimed the prince.

The sorcerer had never expected to see the prince again, and he was very angry. But a promise was a promise, so he had to let them go. But before they did, he said to them, “You have escaped my power for now, but someday beware…I will come after your descendants.”

The brother and sister headed back to the kingdom with their now grown dog OYB, and their father the King, who thought both his children had perished years ago, received them with tears of joy.

The End

 

Keep a look out for future stories about the Sorcerer! Why doesn’t he enchant men? What will happen when he goes after the prince and princess’s descendants? Why is he always so cranky?

Images were made by myself and my four-year-old brother

Elves and Concrete

Once a little boy was born at the bottom of a long line of other boys and girls. Because he was the very last, all the traits, good and bad, of all the previous children funneled down to him, and filled his little body with all kinds of creativity, ingenuity, naughtiness, and sweetness.

This little boy was peering down at the concrete when we were stopped at a red light the other day. He causally remarked that the street had cracks in it. “I don’t know why it has them,” he said.

“You don’t know?” I asked. I could have told him that as the weather grows colder, the molecules in the concrete freeze, expanding and pushing against each other until finally, the road heaves up and falls back down again, divided. I could have told him that, but instead, I told him the truth. “Well, there are little tiny elves with little tiny pickaxes who come out to mine the concrete. They collect the rocks from it to build their castles.”

Baby with car @mybabydom“Hm,” he said, accepting the truth as only a child can. He was silent for a long while, before he asked me to explain exactly how small the elves and their pickaxes were.

“Oh, I’m not sure. Pretty small, I would imagine, since we can’t see them. No one has ever seen them, you know.”

“I can see them,” he said, looking out the window and at the street.

I was surprised. I’d never known anyone who could see them before. “You can? Well, how big are they?”

He sized them up. “About the size of penguins.”

This was bigger than I had expected.

When we were leaving the store a half hour later, he stared at the ground as he held my hand across the parking lot.

“There are more cracks here,” he said, but I didn’t hear him. I was distracted by other things. “There are more cracks here,” he repeated, tugging my hand.

“More cracks?”

“Yes, the elves have been here, too.”

“Ah, yes!” I said, remembering. “You’re right. We just can’t see them.”

“Because they’re black.” He climbed into his car seat.

I thought I understood. “Oh! So they can blend in because the road is black.”

He looked at me from the corner of his eye, then double-checked the road to make sure nothing was wrong with his own sight. “No.” he corrected me when he had made sure. “The concrete is purple.”

I saw that he was right, and I shook my head as I drove home. I had thought I had all the answers, but it was clear now that he was much more in touch with reality than I.

child looking at car

Images courtesy of LJHolloway Photography, @mybabydom, and nos.twnsnd.co/search/child+in+car

“Rumpelstiltskin” by Elizabeth Russell

Hello. Come in to my little shop, why don’t you? Sit on that little stool, eh? Gaze about at my lovely golden wares, yes? Lots of lovely golden things.

What’s the matter? You got a problem with me? Oh, I see you know who I am. Well, then, I won’t condescend to tell you my name. That witch of a queen has made it known across the entire god-forsaken world.

Oh, won’t look at me now, eh? Turnin’ to awkwardly face the wall? Well, tell me now – must have had a reason for coming in here. What was it! To gaze at the dwarf? “Did he really stamp his foot through the floor?” “Can he really spin straw into gold?” That’s the great, monumental question!

Rumple_throught_the_floor
In his anger he plunged his right foot so
deep into the earth that his whole leg went in

And now I’ve made you cry. Everyone cries; no one likes Rumpelstiltskin – no one loves him. There’s a reason for that, and it’s probably why you’re still here – why you haven’t left the little stool in the corner. To hear my story.

And why not? I’m old and defeated, and I don’t know how it can hurt me anymore to tell it. But you won’t like it. It’s no fairy story of magic wishes. But maybe that’s what you want. Do you feed on other’s misery? Do you revel in their demise? Well, you will revel in mine.

Once, there was a little boy born of a pauper father who abused him from the moment he struggled out of the womb and gasped his first breath of cold air. Who would not begrudge the child a morsel of happiness? Who would not take pity upon him the moment they felt his fragile life in their hands?

anderson_grimms_millers_daughter
She had no
idea how straw could be spun into gold, and she grew more and
more frightened, until at last she began to weep.
But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man.

His father. He fed him like a dog from only the rinds of squashes and the pits of plums, the bones of pigs and the bladders of cows. He beat him on the head until the boy was almost senseless, but it only fueled him into a passion of rage and revenge. He sat day and night in the grime of the mud floor hovel, scheming hatred in his heart. One day, as he gnawed on the bone of a raccoon, sucking even after all the flavor was long gone, he saw a rat scurry across the ground.

“If only I was like you, fortunate rat, who can gather for himself all the food he needs and go contented, unmolested, to his hole beneath the ground. If I could but thrive on my own without the help of a parent, I would be content.”

To his unbounded surprise, the rat answered him. “If you would like to be self-supporting, commend thyself to the devil, for he surely is in a place to help you.”

The urchin glanced about the low hovel. “Surely the devil would never come to such a low and dirty place as this, for he loves wealth for its own sake, and will revel in it where he may.”

Arthur_Rackham_Rumpelstiltskin
Round about the fire
quite a ridiculous little man was jumping.                            He hopped upon
one leg, and shouted –
to-day I bake,                            to-morrow brew,
the next I’ll have the young queen’s child.
                                                          Ha, glad am I that no one knew
that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.

“You are correct,” the rat returned. “Travel to the cloven pine bereft of its needles in the midst of the city, and you will find the devil’s palace.”

So the boy set out with only the rag about his middle, for that was all that belonged to him in the world. When he arrived in the city, he wandered about until he reached the tree, shriveled and hunched in a black corner of an alley, not even attempting to reach the light of the sun with its branches. The boy climbed in and found himself in the midst of a great palace, shining with gold and jewels and black ebony and lined with carousing courtiers. In the midst of the mighty hall sat the devil on a throne of glittering garnet.

“Why do you seek me?”

“I wish to support myself so I can be rid of my father and wreak my revenge upon him.”

“You can have what you seek in return for a favor.”

The boy swore to agree to anything.

“Every year, you must bring me a child in exchange for you to keep your soul. If you hold to this bargain, you will come to spend eternity here with me amidst these riches, but if you break it, you will be condemned to eternal damnation.”

The boy agreed to the bargain, and the devil swept his scepter into the glistening air and transformed him from a useless, starving child to a dwarf who could spin straw into gold.

And so you have heard my story. Every year, I kept the bargain by tricking women into giving me their children, but then the queen discovered my secret and crushed me, and so I have lost my soul. Now I will spend eternity in hell, and it is only a matter of time before I find myself there. Do you pity me? Do you hate me? Do you laugh at me?

Rumpelstiltskin_Art_of_narrative
“Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?”
“The devil has told you that! The devil has told you that,” cried
the little man.

But wait – don’t I know you? Why are you suddenly so familiar, and not at all horrified by my tale? I remember you – you were there, that day, in the devil’s chamber! You come here to claim my soul and bring it to your master.

But stop! Come no closer! Pray, don’t rise from your humble, tottering stool! For I have a plan, a scheme, a new deal – I intend to travel to the neighboring village, and my friend the rat will assist me in my plan. He and his family will infest the town, and when the villagers scream in panic, I will lead the rats away with my friendly piping. Don’t you see? Then those stupid people will trust me. They will pay me. They will grovel at my feet. Then I will tell them to gather all their children in the square so I can lead them to a happy place for the day. The parents will gladly give up their little ones, trusting blindly to my happy music; and piping merrily, I will lead the innocents to the cloven pine. There, I will deliver a hundred children for my pay.Pied_piper_Rackham

Don’t you see? The devil will have to accept. I know he will. He will make this bargain – he must! Don’t move! For he would never take all those children and still demand my soul. No, I have been a faithful servant and brought him many souls. He will be merciful.

And I will trust to the devil’s fair nature, for what is our bargain to a hundred children? The devil does not keep account. He will forgive me. He must. He will….

 

Photo Credit:

Rumpelstiltskin cover image; Rumpelstiltskin’s foot through the floor; Ann Anderson’s Miller’s daughter; and Arthur Rackham’s dancing dwarf are courtesy of artpassions.net

The Devil Told You by Rie Cramer, courtesy of artofnarrative.tumblr.com

The Pied Piper by Arthur Rackham, courtesy of steelthistles.blogspot.com/2012/04/pied-piper-of-hamelin.html

Further Reading:

 

anderson_grimms_millers_daughter
Grimm’s Original Rumpelstiltskin tale
Robert_Browning's_Pied_Piper
The Original Pied Piper Tale – “The Pied Piper” by Robert Browning
pied-piper-of-hamelin - Elizabeth Forbes, 1859-1912
Steelthistles.blogspot.com – An excellent article on the nature of Fairy Tales through the lens of the Pied Piper
lg_5c6352fc6d77-ture-story-of-pied-piper-of-hamelin_feature
Is the Pied Piper story a true tale? 

 

 

 

The Bird Who Would Not Fly

IMG_E5413

Once, there was a little bird who did not want to fly.

“Why don’t you want to fly little bird?” I asked, crouching down with my hands on my knees. I had to do that because he would not hover in the air before me.

He chirped, “I have two good strong long legs and what else are they for but to run with? Everyone I know sticks to the status quo, but not I!

“All the other birds can soar like an eagle, zoom like a plane, or hover like a helicopter, but I choose a different destiny!

“I will run like a leopard, walk like a tractor, glide like a Mercedes! That is my dream!”

I smiled at him. He was so full of the fighting spirit. But then I thought of something. “What will you do if a cat tries to eat you?”

“Oh, my. Oh goodness gracious. Oh darn! I hadn’t thought of that…

“Ah ha!”

“I will clad myself in armor so that if he eats me he will find me indigestible and will spit me back out again!”

“What a brilliant idea!” I told him. “But what about if a car almost runs you over? Surely you would fly away then.”

“Never! I will be like a tornado and speed across the road!”

“All of that sounds very nice. And very good ideas. But I have only one more question. What will you do when winter comes and you must migrate south?”

Now he looked very sad, and his head fell down to his toes. “I suppose I must give it up and die from the cold, or break my resolve and fly again.” He looked up at the bright blue above us.

“But then I will miss so much of life! I will not see the details of the flowers blooming in the crisp of April. I will not amble slowly past a lilac bush and breathe in its fragrance. Life will fly past as fast as I fly, and I will not be a special little bird.”

He looked so downcast at the thought, and his reasons for walking suddenly sounded so noble, that I impulsively lifted him into my hands. “Little bird,” I said; “Brave little two-legged bird who will not fly, you will come home with me. I will keep you warm in the winter and safe from predators, and at your own slow pace, you will be the bird who would not fly.”

The End

“My Wolf Friend – The Final Part” by Elizabeth Russell

David“There is a boy in my castle. He is my friend and is waiting for his enemies.” I knew this was what Andrew was saying as he told the allies of my fate. He would bring soldiers to fight for my cause – I knew he would. But why did he not come? The night kept getting later, and still he did not come back to me. There were crashings and growlings outside the gates, a terrible roaring, snorting, and stamping and I trembled at the approach of my enemies. The oak door shivered on its hinges and I knew Andrew would not return before it crashed down. I looked around the courtyard and found my sword and shield, which were hanging where I had put them when we built the high walls, and standing guard in the dark, I got ready to meet my enemies.

With a mighty crash they rushed my castle, and there were more wolves than I had ever seen. I slashed with my sword and slew as they approached, but there were always more, and I slew again and again, crying out into the darkness, “Back, you foul beasts. Hiya! Take that!”

Alone, I fought those animals. Their blood had bathed me but still I did not falter, and all night long, I fought them. When there were at last too many, and I could not stand my ground, as they yapped at my bones to drink my strength, I finally ran away.night

The wolves were breathing heavily at my feet, tearing at me with their teeth as I disappeared deep into the woods. How would Andrew find me now?

I did not know it right then, but he had gone straight to Diane when he left me, and without hesitation, she had leapt from her bed and run to the castle. But just when she got there, she saw me disappear into the woods. So she followed me into the woods to take me home.

All of a sudden, I felt her warm arms around my chest, and I fell into her. My chest heaved but I fed on her strength and she gave me all she had. “I’ll give you the energy of my pumping blood,” she whispered, “If you will be the bones. Give me your endurance.”

“Let’s be wolves,” I whispered, “howling at the great white moon.”

“There’s no moon tonight,” she said.

“There never is unless the wolves howl at it,” I explained, surprised that she did not know this. “But they’ve all become enemies, and Andrew is not enough. We have to be wolves and light up the night.”

I couldn’t see her face, but I heard the smile in her voice. “You and me light up the sky? What a beautiful idea.”

I could hear the barking and growling coming closer – we were running out of time. “Quick!” I cried. “Howl!”

We lifted our faces to the dark sky and lifted up a howl of sharp beauty. Our voices trembled and blended, soprano notes floating high into the night. There was a faint glow, a silver disc shimmering like a reflection in water, and I was excited. It was working!

But then the wolves caught us. Her blood was on my bones, and I fled. I thought she was beside me, but when I looked back, they were carrying her away. I was too tired without her strength, and could not fight anymore. I sank into the ground and fell asleep.

I awoke to the sound of my dreams. Uncle was yelling at Andrew, telling him he couldn’t go, it was crazy, it was impossible, it was too much. When I opened my eyes, it wasn’t a dream because they were both standing in front of me. It was the first time I had woken to yelling and not thought it was my father.running-dog-2185090_1280

“They kidnapped her,” growled Andrew. I had never seen him mad before, but he was now. “They took her so you would save her.”

“So it’s a trap,” uncle said it like it was an excuse.

“They are your enemies, and you left David and Diane to face them alone. If it hadn’t been for your fears we would have returned in time to save them.”

“Andrew?” I whispered and they both rushed to my side.

“David, oh David!” cried Andrew, and I felt his warm tears running down my cheeks as he bent his great head over my face. “Are you really alright? We thought we’d lost you.”

“There was so much blood,” whispered Uncle, who had fallen to the ground in shock. “We thought…we thought…”

“We thought they’d eaten your heart,” supplied Andrew and uncle shuddered. He didn’t understand war talk like me and Andrew.

“No,” I said, “but they drank all my blood and took my strength.”

Andrew nodded. He knew what I meant, but uncle was confused so my friend explained. “David cannot fight anymore. I must stay to protect him, and you must go save Diane.”

“I told you I can’t do that! I don’t know how to fight. Besides, it’s a trap – they’re standing in wait to kill me.”

“Uncle,” I said, “we all know how to fight. You’ve just forgotten. Here, take my sword. You can use it to save her.”

Uncle stood above me large and whole, and I lay beneath him beaten. But I saw now it was the other way around.

“How can I face my demons?” his voice shuddered from him in a moan. He was not asking us, but was facing away into the forest. “Oh, Melissa. You were my strong sister and I was your valiant warrior, but now I have forgotten how to fight. You left me to protect your child, and I am too weak. I stand alone in the darkness and hear the echo of my breathe, and though you may be the one who is dead, all I see is my ghost. I am shaking like a leaf – with all my flaws and all my faults,” he fell to his knees, clasping his hands before him up at the stars. “I am a wreck.”

My eyes followed his clasped hands up to the shining sky above us, and I saw the archer. But it was different this time. This time, the archer was my father. Then I saw the twins there too, and now it was my mother and uncle when they were children. The entire heavenly menagerie gathered behind them, ready for battle.

“Andrew,” I whispered to him so uncle could not hear. “Where are our allies?”

“Oh, David, I’m sorry – they would not follow me. They need a man to lead them.”

“David,” uncle’s voice startled us. “David, I have failed you. I left you to fight both our enemies all alone. I don’t know if I can defeat these wolves, but I will go save Diane.”

Then with my sword gripped tight, he ran away into the forest. As soon as he was gone, I jumped to my feet. I had energy again! Andrew quivered with excitement and stood ready.

“Come on, my friend!” I yelled. “Let us ride together, one purpose, one fight, one wolf in the night!” Then we flew through the land, calling upon all creatures to rally to our cause. We found the queen of the bees and she flew before her subjects. We met the prince of the foxes, and he gathered his army. We met the baron of the bears and his large family armed themselves for our cause. The sound of trumpets filled the forest, trembled the trees, and roused our hearts. Our blood boiled freely and we howled like the wind.

We descended upon the wolf den where uncle was slashing his sword and slaying his enemies and Diane was urging him on as she battled her captives. I thought to myself that she had the heart of a lion. We fought those wolves until the sun lit up the morning sky and the stars faded from view. We saw that the battle had brought us to the door of the castle, and we were standing on the drawbridge. Our allies left us to go back to bed, but Andrew, Diane, uncle, and I stayed.

“Look at that river,” Diane marveled. “How it rushes wild in the moat. This is a true castle, David.”

“There may be more enemies it will have to face,” said Uncle, “and foul weather.”

“It is made well of heavy stones,” declared Andrew. “Heavy stones do not fear foul weather.”

child-1835730_1920Uncle came over and put his hands on my shoulders. “I will never again leave you to face your enemies alone, my little one. You are my prince and I am your knight, and I am going to build an empire for you.”

“Let us be wolves!” I cried. “And howl at the moon.”

Uncle started to protest that there was no moon, but Diane put her hand on his shoulder. “Just trust us.” Then we all howled at the brightening sky, and it was not just soprano tones, but vibrating baritone and wild, deep throated calls that rose together in a complete sound beating against the sky. And just in the last moments when it was visible, the moon was a lacey, silver disc against the blue.

IMG_4941

The End

 

This story was inspired by a playlist my brother compiled called Wolves.

It included songs from:

Of Monsters and Men

Mumford and Sons

and The National Parks

Photo of moon by Breno Freitas on Unsplash

“My Wolf Friend – Part 2” by Elizabeth Russell

A voice called my name from far away. I usually wake up in the middle of the night thinking that my dad called me. If he ever does call me again, I want to make sure I hear him.

But when I opened my eyes to the orange glow of the nightlight, it wasn’t my dad calling me. It was Andrew. I hadn’t realized before when we were outside just how big he was. He was gigantic! The whole room was full of his gray and white hair, and his eyes looked like full moons in the darkness.

priss-enriquez-180336“David, get up,” his deep growl rumbled urgently. “We have to escape before your enemies arrive.”

“I saw one earlier, peeking at me through the window.”

“That was their scout who they sent ahead. Soon, the whole pack will descend upon you. Quick, get on my back and I’ll take you somewhere safe.”

I stood up on my bed to reach his mighty back, nuzzled my legs into his thick hide, and felt the rise and fall of his warm breathing beneath me.

“Are you holding tight?” His words vibrated through me. “Very good, here we go.” With a mighty leap, we rose out of the house, above the weather-cock of the barn, and into the dazzling stillness of the stars.

nathan-anderson-143021

Dad told me the stars are a menagerie. I love that word, ‘menagerie’. I had to practice it fifteen times before I could say it right, and now I just say it to myself sometimes because I like it so much.

“Do you see the cluster right there?” Dad once asked me, pointing to the sky from our favorite spot by the backyard fence. “That’s an ox. And that one, it’s a scorpion. If you’re ever lonely, you just have to remember the heavenly menagerie.”

Now, flying through the air on the back of my friend, the scorpion reached out his claw to me, and I touched it, smiling because I knew his tail held no poison. The bear bellowed and Andrew howled back. I laughed because I couldn’t understand the words, and liked not understanding.

Andrew’s leap had taken us so far up in the air that I had forgotten about the ground, but as we descended, I remembered my enemies.

“What will we do about them?” I asked him.

“Your enemies will not stop until they have destroyed you,” he said solemnly. “We must mount a defense.”

He landed beside our wooden castle with its turrets and moat. Bounding across the entry, he slid me off his back in the courtyard and turned the lever to raise the drawbridge. “That will deter them for now. We must form a plan.”

I was ready to fight. I clenched my fists and took my prepared stance. “Let them come!”

Andrew laughed at me and shook his majestic head. “You are a true warrior, David. But you cannot face this pack alone.”

“I have you.”

“And you always will. But we are not enough. I am going to go find you allies.”

“What are allies?”

“Friends. People to fight with you.”

“But you’ll leave me alone.” My heart dragged me down and I fell to the floor with my head in my hands. “Please don’t leave me alone. In the dark.”sad-child

He sighed sadly and nudged my hands, then licked the tears from my cheeks. His breath was warm and comforting, and I buried my face in his coat. sad boy“I don’t want to leave you, you’re my best friend. But I am not enough to protect you. If I don’t find more defenders, they will rip down the doors and I will fight to my dying breath – they will not touch you so long as I live.” His words, fierce and emphatic, tore from his chest. “But they will kill me, and then they’ll kill you, and I cannot let that happen. I will not! So I must go, and I must leave you alone. You will be safe here for awhile, and I’ll come back – I promise.”

He parted from me as Moses’ mother must have done when she put him in the Nile, and leaping over the turret walls, disappeared into the night.

“My Wolf Friend – Part 1” by Elizabeth Russell

“There are wolves in my backyard,” I told my uncle this morning. “Some of them are my enemies.” He seemed to find my statement humorous, so I said nothing more about it. After all, some people just don’t understand.

When I finished the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich he gave me, I headed out to the little dip in the property behind the house. It was my uncle’s property, but he didn’t seem to know much about it. He didn’t know about the rabbit warren beneath the root of the third biggest tree, he didn’t know about the abandoned fox hole in the hill, and he didn’t know about the fallen tree limb that was big enough to build a fort behind.

child-997231_1920

It was while I was building the fort that I met Andrew my wolf friend. He is gray and silver with a streak of brown on his back and he liked my fort.wolf-2096652_1920 “I will help you build it,” he told me. “We must make it strong enough to keep out your enemies.” When we finished the fort, it was bigger than a castle and surrounded by a twelve foot moat. I tried to show uncle, but he was busy working, and he couldn’t see the tall spires around the warehouse that jutted into the peninsula of his property. “I’ll see it later.” He handed me his oily rag that he rubbed all over the tractor spokes. “Put this in the shed and then get ready for bed.”

I think the night is a little scary and a little exciting. Mom says it’s the same world only more magical, but dad says it’s God’s way of reminding us everything must end. When uncle came to put me to bed, I asked him what he thought the night was, and he said it was when the earth turned around so the sun was on the other side. I don’t think he understood my question. Uncle sat on the bed with me and read from The Blue Fairy Book, but he doesn’t do it like mom. He doesn’t give them voices. He listened to me say my prayers, and when I asked what he wanted to pray for he said, “Nothing. Just say your prayers.”

“Do you want the nightlight on tonight?” he asked from the doorway.

I said no.

“Do you want the door open?”

“No.”

He closed it so that I was completely enfolded in the cold darkness. I lay staring at the varied shadows on my ceiling and thought about mom. Finally, I dropped my stockinged feet onto the carpet and padding across the room, stretched up on my tiptoes and flicked the nightlight switch. It was an orange light with a revolving shade casting shadows of animals onto the walls. One of them was a wolf.

I opened my door a crack and then went to my chair by the window. When you go to your window when it’s dark outside, at first all you see is darkness, but if you stare long enough, you start seeing things. Usually, I see the tree line behind my uncle’s property with the white lights of the city casting a haze above them. Sometimes the moon is out and makes it so I can see other things, but tonight it was dark and black, and even the city seemed asleep. The only thing I saw were two bright lights staring at me through my window. I stared back until they blinked at me to show they were eyes, and I jumped a bit. I opened the window, but they were gone.dog-647528_1920

Although I should have thought it was Andrew, I didn’t. I knew it was a different wolf, and my spine prickled. Maybe my enemies were coming for me.

My uncle’s slow, sad voice drifted from the kitchen and around the crack in my door. “…makes up something new every day. It’s still two months until school starts and he has no friends. I don’t have time for him. He plays all alone all day behind the back lot.”

The back lot. That was where I played. I tiptoed along the wall until I stood just outside the kitchen door, then brought my chin down to my knees and listened.

“I don’t know what’s good for him, Diane. I don’t know what to do with him. Sure, yes, he’s a good kid. He never does anything wrong. That’s not what I mean, that’s not the problem. He never,” he paused, like there was a half-hiccough in his throat. “He never talks about them. Instead, he talks about wolves and enemies and castles. No, don’t say that. Yeah, well, I don’t want to hear about it. If he is stunting his psychological development, then so be it. He’ll grow up demented and insecure, but what can I do about that? Don’t go there: we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about him.”

He kept talking but I wasn’t interested. He was talking to Diane about somebody, and getting upset about it. I liked Diane. She was uncle’s friend who came by every day, and sometimes she brought us food. She had long legs and long hair, and I always thought about the word tight when I saw her. She had tight riding jeans and boots, and a tight pony tail. I asked her to live with us yesterday, but she laughed at me. I didn’t mind; sometimes you don’t mind when adults laugh at you.

“Between you and me, David, I wouldn’t mind that. But your uncle’s a bachelor and used to it, and it’ll always be that way.”

Even though I wasn’t sure what she meant, I nodded. I was too busy that day searching for a place to build my fort to listen to adults explain things. It was that afternoon that I found the fallen tree limb behind the warehouse.

“David.” I looked up at my uncle standing tall above me. “David, why are you out of bed?”

His face was haggard and his large hands hung limp by his sides. I knew he was too tired to punish me. I stood up to save him the trouble. “I’ll go to bed now.”

His voice paused me half way down the hall. “Wait, did you hear what I was saying to Diane?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What do you think about it?”

“About the good kid?”

His mouth twitched beneath his short beard. “Yeah.”

“Is he your friend?”

His shoulders dropped even further. “No, he’s not my friend.”

“I think he needs a friend then or he’ll be lonely. I was lonely until I met Andrew.”

“Ok, go to bed David, and stay in this time. I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

“For Never and Forever” by Elizabeth Russell

Sophia raced gleefully across the long grasses of the unmown field. Her bare toes caught at tangled vines on the ground and tore them free, kicking up dirt and dust in her wake. “I wonder if he can see me?” She looked behind and saw his head rising above the swell behind her. She giggled into her pretty hands.7de9b1e9a7b861dc25a889bf0c95823b

Daniel saw her watching him and paused at the top of the hill, his hands on his knees, breathing in gulps of air. “Stay right there!” she heard him yell above the swirl of the wind.

She yelled back though she knew he could not hear. “For never and forever!” With a flap of her cotton skirts, she flew away from him again, and lost in the chase, he pursued across the rolling ground.

It wasn’t the running that she wanted. She wanted him to catch her. But how could he unless she ran?

Legs flashing back and forth, the sun flitting between them like a flapping projector, in, out, in, out, slowly, the sphere made its way to meet the earth.

Daniel would never catch her. She had too much endurance. He paused again at the top of a steep swell, watching her disappear into the treeline ahead. Smiling a grin of the conqueror, he ran sideways and around to the other side, and set his trap.

Sophia wove about the trunks. She could not see him behind her anymore and she was lonely. Her toe snagged against a root and she lurched forward but caught herself against rough bark. Her heart sank – where was Daniel?

But she had already committed to the chase. She must see it through to the end. Again, she sped along her way.

There was the end of the wood ahead, soon she would be in the clear. The road was solid and clean and she ran faster and faster, hair whipping her face, skirt slapping her legs. This time it was not a root but a soft, giving rope that caught her toes – it had not been there a moment ago. She lurched forward but there were no trees to catch her fall – she would slam her face into the dust.

Warm, strong arms, a sweet smell of windy hair, teasing, laughing, crinkled eyes caught her and held her close. She was snared in a sweet net. Daniel had outwitted her.

He lifted her high and twirled her round in the air, until she giggled and closed her eyes against the wind.

“I’ve caught you fair and square. Never run again, my love. Stay with me forever.”

ee4e319090d8ef44627fc45af5b80585

First image credit: quotesgram.com/img/women-chasing-men-quotes

‘Wild Flight’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, you loved me with a sacred love.

You took my shaking hand in yours and led me to the fields of wild birds.

The birds nested in the long, still grasses that only waved when we passed through,

but we disturbed them with our tread and about our heads they flew.

In tumult and splendor and high, shrill calling

they up and in, and in and out, and rising, whirling, falling.

Your hand upon my arm, with vibrant, strong delight,

tightened hold when in surprise, the wild birds took flight.

And soaring ‘bove to the blue-gray sky, I felt your heart wing from your chest,

For intertwined and interknitted are our two beating breasts.

Higher, higher, ascending, soaring, your flight up to the clouds,

and with a wrench my own heart followed, soaring after yours.

Our heads were tilted to the sun, and with a sweep of your arm,

You gave me all the world.

There in the field of wild birds, beneath the red and glistening sun;

amongst the  silent grasses hushed from motion,

You gave it with a question.

You swept the whole expanse of earth, and with full sweep,

came back to me, both hands upon my arms.

You looked deep, deep into me, and gave me all the world.

I welcomed you with bated breath, gasping with the weight of it.

The birds, unseen, they settled down, beside our still and staring forms;

nestled again beneath the grasses, safe in their own nesting homes.

And once again my own heart beating, pulsing one with yours.

We had one heart, now, you and I, and your arms held on to mine.

IMG_E5685

Picture Credit:

Image 1: Artpassions.net, Arthur Rackham

Image 2: Elizabeth Russell

‘The Spirit of the Age’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, a young lad dreamt of a beautiful princess who was scared and lost in a forest. When he awakened, he was haunted by the memory. He tumbled out of bed, went to his desk, and recorded the dream before his mother called him down to go to school. As he grew, he often saw the face of the princess in the glowing blue eyes of one of his schoolmates, or the glistening blond hair of another. He never saw all of her at once, but every girl reminded him of her in some way. He was positively captivated.

The other boys would often point and stare at him, and jest about how ‘romantic’ and ‘silly’ he was, but they secretly envied him. He was so courtly and respectful to all the girls that every one of them, whether she was beautiful, stately, talented, intelligent, or popular, loved him.

sft9_fairy_girl
Every girl reminded him of her in some way. He was positively captivated.

When he grew into a young man, and still had never dated or even asked a girl to a dance, the other boys wondered if he was a player. But that was not his intention at all. Although he respected the company of many girls, he was still irrevocably in love with the sad, lost princess.

He decided to dedicate his life to finding her. So he went to school to be a detective and then set up his own practice in the line of finding lost persons.

a_knight_rode_up
He decided to dedicate his life to finding her

Years and years passed, and still she eluded him. Despair tugged at his heart, but he could not relinquish his dream. Her haunted eyes possessed him with deep desire to free her from her fear. One night, after solving a harrowing case of a kidnapped daughter, he stumbled into bed with the sad face of the little girl he had saved before him. As he drifted into welcome darkness, he found himself standing in the center of a black wood crowded with silver, glistening trees. And to his joy, half concealed in the forest but approaching ever nearer, was his lovely lost princess.

Her eyes were as sad as he remembered, her hair as brilliant and golden as the sun, her steps as hopeless. Her clothes – he noticed this time with his sharp detective eyes – were once white, but now smeared with dirt, grime, and dark blood. They hung damp upon her emaciated form.

“Who are you?” he breathed in wonder, scarcely believing his good fortune.

“I am the spirit of the modern age. Do you not recognize me?” Her voice was melodic, captivating, and ever so sad. It chilled his heart and stung his eyes with tears.

“What have they done to you? How can I help?”

“You can’t do anything!” she cried suddenly, lashing out against a nearby trunk, pounding it with her arms and legs. In dismay he ran forward, and wrapping his arms around her, held her still until she grew calm.

After a moment she fell limp against him and wept. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Why do you care? No one cares.”

He tenderly released her and she sunk to the ground, her white, spoiled dress a wet rag sprawling in the dirt.

kn_inthewood
She sunk to the ground, her white, spoiled dress a wet rag sprawling in the dirt

He sat across from her, moving gently and tenderly as he often did with his wounded, traumatized victims.

“If I let you in on a secret, do you promise not to tell anyone?” he asked.

She peered at him through her damp drooping hair and nodded.

“I wish I didn’t care,” he confided. “It makes life ever so much more difficult. If I cared about nobody, no one but myself, I could do anything I wanted. I wouldn’t continually face danger and heartbreak; I could have a nice, clean desk job, and at night I could forget all about work and take advantage of beautiful girls, cheap drinks, and vibrant city life. I could do all that – many men do. I could have two-point-four kids, a lifeless marriage, and a safe, well-manicured SUV that was my pride and joy. What’s wrong with all that? I’ve asked myself so many times. What do you think?”

She was intrigued. Her head was tilted to one side, and she looked like she wanted to be scandalized, but was not sure why. “I think it sounds boring.”

He laughed, surprising her. “Yes, though that’s not exactly an argument against it. Sometimes I would very much like life to be boring. No, I do not do what I do because of the excitement. It’s because if I didn’t, if I chose not to care, I would hate myself.” He stared at the ground, embarrassed.

bauer_hiding_in_a_tree
I am happy when I help you

“But you’re not happy.” She was leaning forward, her long, shining hair gently caressing the ground.

He too leaned forward until their foreheads touched. He looked deep into those pools of sadness that were not so desperate as when they first met, and in a moment, he understood his purpose, his entire life…he understood her. “I am happy when I help you.”

He reached out, touched her dry cheek, and then everything dissolved, and when he awoke the next morning, he rose with purpose, dressed with a light heart, and went out whistling into the streets of the city.

 

Photo Credit: Artpassions.net

‘Snakes and Toads’ by Elizabeth Russell

 

ppk26_exquisitex
Every fairy is born with a special gift for the earth

The wind howled through the tree tops the dark morning I was born. It raged through our world and whipped fairies about pell-mell. My brother told me it was a sign. You see, I am a curse to my people. Every fairy is born with a special gift for the earth, and usually the gift is beautiful, but mine was terrible. From the very first moment that I opened my wee fairy mouth and cried a tiny cry, toads and snakes multiplied in our forest. I wept and wailed like any other child, and the toads and snakes bountifully infested the woods, and ate any fairies they found. By the time I was three years old, and accustomed to be shushed by everyone I knew, a third of my people had been consumed by my creations. And by the time I was old enough to understand the full significance of each word I spoke, we were very few indeed.

One day, though I do not remember it, the giant beasts came to our home, and swallowed up my parents. They tried to eat my brother. He fought them but there were too many and he would have been devoured. Then they saw me, and paused in their destruction. The yellow eyes of the toads gaped at me, and the red eyes of the serpents slithered up and down my body. It was as if they were in a trance. In this moment of opportunity, my brother surged through the air and sliced off all their heads. From then to now, he has taken care of me.

Since the age of four, I have not spoken one word; the last words I ever spoke were a plea.

I spoke them the day my people tried to kill me. You see, the fairies were terrified of my gift and thought they would all die. They came to my brother and declared that the only way to stop this terror was to end my life. It was one fairy or all fairies, they said.

I was a quiet child, cowed by my brother’s eternal insistence on my silence, but I still spoke a little every now and again. I did not think that he loved me. Not, that is, until that day when they told him I was expendable, dangerous, a ‘monster’. He flared up at their words, his face red and white with anger, and declared that I was the sweetest, most innocent child in the whole world! “She is the greatest victim of this entire tragedy, and you would kill her? I will never allow it!”

My brother’s gift is for stone: he can mold it into any shape he likes with his hands. He cleft me a hole in a rock to lock me away from their fear and desperation, but I fought him, writhing in his strong, big hands. “Kill me!” I cried at last, risking the truth that I now knew. “Please, dear brother, kill me.” My tears mingled with his as he carried me inside the rock and laid me down upon the smooth floor.

“You must stay here now. And I will take care of you.” He left me there and sealed up the hole behind him so no one could ever get in. And I have been here ever since.

 

****

 

My brother, on his daily visit to me yesterday, seemed oddly excited. His cheeks were rosy-colored and bright, his eyes danced strangely, and his mouth kept smiling in a most peculiar manner. I signed to him, asking what was going on, but he just shrugged and said “Nothing, nothing at all.” But I know there is a mystery here, and I will find it out.

dulac_arielx
Beautiful maiden with a divine smile

Sure enough, I was right! My brother has met someone, though he will not tell me her name. He says she is most beautiful and smiles divinely. I made up my mind, when I heard this, to catch a glimpse of her, so I silently begged him to carve me a window in my stone home. It has been so many years since he locked me in here that there can be no harm in it now. I finally whittled him down – he loves me too much to long deny me a wish – and bored a small hole in the rock face. Curled up beside it, I watched eagerly each day for a ‘beautiful maiden with a divine smile’. Finally, yesterday, I saw her! My brother was not wrong: there is something absolutely enchanting about her. While I watched, my brother approached her with a bouquet of clover, and she gingerly accepted it. Then he reached forward, shyly but surely, to kiss her hand, but she blushed, her eyes widened with fear, and she jerked away from him, clambering atop a mushroom and crying out “Do not touch me! Do not touch me!” My brother’s shoulders fell is dismay, and I was filled with anger for someone who would wound him thus. But just at that moment, a toad hopped upon her from behind, and before my brother could slay it with his sword, the great beast fell to the ground, a stone statue.

Whatever is living that touches her flesh turns instantly to stone.

No wonder he loves her. She is made of both him and me.

****

awaiting_ArtPassions.net
We were tied together in our misfortune

Her name was Rowanna and I grew to love her with a great love. We were tied together in our misfortune and in our love for my brave, selfless brother. She moved in with me in my stone retreat, and both our days were brighter because of each other. She would tell me stories of her adventures, and I would weave her beautiful things from grasses and flowers. We were always happiest when my brother came to sit and visit for a few hours.

But one day, our happiness ended. My brother, as he came to us and we could see him through our window rounding the corner with a happy song on his lips, was suddenly set upon by a great serpent and carried far, far away from us.

We were not going to sit there and let him be taken without a fight, so we tried desperately to force our figures through the little window, but it was no use: we were trapped.

wings_Wulfing
Rowanna, who like a kindred spirit understood my intention

Then, in desperation, I did something I had not done in fourteen years. I spoke.

“Dear Lord, help me,” I prayed, willing with all my might for the toads and snakes to come to me, and to my astonishment, I made them appear right before us, their great bodies swelling inside the little stone room. Then Rowanna, who like a kindred spirit understood my intention, put her hand upon their slimy and scaly bodies, and with all her strength, turned them to stone. But not any stone: the toughest, sharpest granite possible. Then we used the hardened creatures to cut our way out of the boulder and into the light of the sun. I felt the warmth of the golden day and the blinding, pure light of the sky, and, for the first time since I was a child, I was free.

But I did not care. Freedom meant nothing to me without my brother. “Come on!” cried Rowanna, and we flew over the ground, searching as far as our eyes could reach.

I saw him first and swooped down, Rowanna flitting behind me. A large garden snake pinioned my brother and held him before a mighty, fat toad that sat like a pile of lubber upon a royal throne, bedecked with crowns of diamonds and necklaces of flowers.

“Where is the Lady of the sisslers and croakers? Where have you hidden her? Why have you silenced her?” the Toad King was shrieking at my brother. I floated down and landed beside him.

“No, no, you must go! You cannot be here,” my brother struggled wildly, but I looked calmly at the Toad, who stared back at me with monstrous, round, dull orbs.

“Who are you? We will eat you! Speak! Have you nothing to say?” He croaked and shrieked, but I was silent.

“You would eat her?” asked Rowanna amused, and the toad looked up.

“Ah!” he cried, “it is the Witch! Vile fairy, you have killed one too many of my people.”

“Yes, I kill you; but she creates you.”

“Thisss isss our misstresss?” asked the serpent that guarded my brother, snaking his tall head over me.

wulfing_calyx_ArtPassions.net
There was a great blast of light like lightening

“Why do you not speak? Why do you not create more of our kind?” demanded the King.

I signed to my brother, and he spoke for me. “Do you not see that she chooses to remain silent? I do not force it upon her: you do. It is you who killed our people, our mother and father, and would kill me once you have your will. My sister is no monster, and she has no wish to create them.”

“Very well,” he snarled at me. “If you will not give us what we want, then we will take what you have! Hisser, kill the boy!”

My mind went blank; I saw the snake rear his head to strike, saw him coil his mighty frame in a great tower, saw his fangs glisten in the sunlight, and then, in the stillness of frozen time, I knew my brother was going to die. I panicked. I whipped my brother’s sword from his side and rushed forward to impale the fleshy beast.

At the same moment, as blind to my actions as I was to hers, Rowanna darted forward full speed to stiffen and silence the attacker.

As she reached his body to turn him to stone, I stabbed so hard I audibly grunted, and our hands touched. There was a great blast of light like lightening. The next thing I knew, I was lying on soft moss with my head resting on Rowanna’s stomach, and the clearing empty of any serpents or toads. My brother stood over us.

“What happened?” I asked dazedly and then covered my mouth. But nothing materialized.

My brother helped me to my feet. “When you touched, a mighty blast of wind blew over the clearing and whirled the beasts away, but did not blow over me.”

Then he reached down, and despite her attempts to avoid him, he grasped Rowanna’s hand and pulled her to her feet.

“Your curses are broken. You have saved each other.”

Rowanna and my brother fell into each other’s arms, and after a moment of love, pulled me in too. I wept aloud, and then I laughed: I did not remember how wonderful it can be to laugh.

deliverance_Salumith_Wulfing
I wept aloud, and then I laughed

 

Images Credit to ArtPassions.net

‘The Fairies’ by Elizabeth Russell

 

 

Our tale begins one crisp October day when a young boy awakens early in the morning on a small farm in a small village.  He dresses himself and goes out to feed the pigs squealing in their pens.  This is his duty every morning: rain or shine.  Then he eats his breakfast and walks down the path that leads to his school.  He travels through the woods, because no one else travels to school this way and he is a solitary boy who likes to travel alone.  He always goes to school every morning and he always travels through the woods, so thus far, his day has begun as always.  But what is about to happen next is not what happens every morning; indeed, it had never happened before and it has never happened since.

As he walks through the woods, the boy finds a small trail that leads off from the main path.  Being a curious lad, the boy decides to follow the path and see to where, or whom, it leads. Perhaps he is disobedient by not going straight to school; perhaps he is adventurous by walking down an untrod path; but as he is young, innocent, and curious, and it never occurs to him that he is disobedient or adventurous, we must forgive his fault and merely follow him into the unknown.

He walks long and far for two hours when he begins to feel the gnawing rumbles of hunger tickling his stomach. Just as he thinks he should stop and eat his lunch, the little boy catches sight of a draping, drooping apple tree.  A lone, solitary deciduous tree in the midst of a pine forest strikes us as odd, but the boy is not surprised; to him, it is quite natural that just as he grows hungry, he finds a lovely gift. He reaches up, picks the ripe fruit, and walks on, enjoying the satisfying roundness in his hand, the sweet crunch between his teeth, and the full feeling of his stomach.

He walks till the sun shines her rays on the top of his curly head and the warmth that floods down to his whole frame makes him sleepy and hungry. He eats his lunch on a fallen, mossy log, and then curling up, drowses away for a short hour. When he stretches and rouses and resumes his journey, he is thoroughly refreshed, and runs about, pulling at low-hanging leaves, leaping up to catch overhead branches, and bounding down from rocks and logs.

 

 

The path is not a difficult one. It does not have any sharp twists or turns but instead meanders about as if it does not know where it is going and is in no hurry to get there.

Just as we begin to wonder how far he intends to go, he suddenly comes upon a semi-circle of berry bushes. We are watching his face; his curious, roving, sparkling blue eyes that have darted about all day, now rivet firm and bright upon the ground before him. His mouth hangs open a moment, and then slowly lifts into a wondering smile of pure joy. Little rainbows of color reflect across his dark skin. We follow his gaze and see what holds him so fascinated. Within the semi-circle of blue and black bushes shines a tiny, crystal castle.  It is magnificent: standing only three feet tall, it is made completely of glass or perhaps diamonds; it has numerous stories and many sharp spires jutting up from the main part.  Perhaps it is a doll house for some very tiny dolls. The boy’s movement catches our attention again, and we see him stoop down beside the castle, wrap his small arms around it, and, putting all his muscles into the effort, try to lift. It is a funny image; his face is puckered in the effort but the palace does not budge an inch. A shiny, miniscule something darts out from one of the windows and lands on his arm. We look down, expecting to see a small insect, but instead, behold a tiny person about four inches tall.

lilyfairy_

The boy holds his arm very still to inspect the little person.  She is a very pretty little thing, and looks to be eleven or twelve years old.  She has long, golden hair and is dressed in lush green clothing woven from leaves; what is most amazing are her wings.  They are shaped like a dragon-fly’s and made of a spider-web material; if she were not lighter than a feather, they would not hold her up.

The tiny girl inspects him. She never speaks, just looks at him from the top of his black head to the bottom of his sandaled toes. Finally, she smiles and her body shakes as if she is laughing, yet still no sound comes forth.  She spread her wings and flies down to the crystal palace.  Cupping her hands around her mouth, the leaves in front of her sway a little as if from a breath of air, and immediately, all about us, hundreds of tiny creatures flit about. They cascade from the palace and surround the boy, marveling at his size and strangeness.

He is careful not to move a muscle for fear of hurting the tiny people; nor does he speak a word for fear of frightening them away.  He only stands and watches as they move about in their myriad, beautiful patterns of synchronized flight.  Their wings are magnificent, airily catching at invisible beams of iridescent, shining sunlight and sending them dancing in little rainbows all over the castle, the bushes, and the boy.

After what seems like an eternity of bliss and beauty, his first friend flies down to the castle and plucks a small, glass flower from one of the tall spires; she flutters before the boy and holds it out to him.

The flower is twice the size of the tiny person and quit heavy; the boy does not expect the weight and nearly drops it when the tiny creature effortlessly hands it over.smblue_fairy

Then, as instantly as they appeared, all the little creatures vanish.  All, that is, except the first.  She still flutters near, reluctant to go.

After a moment she darts over, kisses his cheek, and then shyly disappears into the castle.  His round, innocent face crinkles in a smile of pleasure, and a small dimple, which we know was not there before, graces his cheek where she touched him.

The boy turns and walks back down the trail. We are tempted to stay in the clearing: to learn more about this little castle, perhaps to document our find and map a path to it. We would not have to sell or exhibit it – we could leave the little creatures strictly alone – but perhaps we could zone the area and turn it into a natural park. But when we look down – well, did we really expect it to remain for us? We are reminded of what the boy already knew: the sight is not a burden, but a gift, and our responsibility is not to protect, but to respect it.

 

We follow him back the way he came. When he leaves the forest, he heads straight for school, where the bell for first period is just ringing and all the children are filing to their classes. So the little boy has not missed his school day despite his long adventure.

But in his small, baby hand he still holds the crystal flower, and in the curve of his little cheek, he keeps a dimple.

THE END

‘Rose and the Prince’ by Elizabeth Russell

(While this story stands alone, it is also the third is a series. Read #1, Jack and the Princess here, and #2, Jack and Princess Rose here)

Once Upon a Time, the most beautiful princess in all the land was Princess Rose. And she was not only beautiful but absolutely good. Her main mission in life was to give food and clothing away to the poor, distributing it with her own hands to the dirtiest and most destitute of the citizens in the kingdom. Her father and mother, King Jack and Queen Miranda, were as proud as their citizens to have such a wonderful daughter. They believed she was wonderful on her own merit, but the people of the kingdom knew that she had been raised so by her parents, who were the holiest rulers the kingdom had been blessed with for time out of mind.

Yet it is impossible for anyone to grow in kindness and goodness without some people hating them, and the King and Queen, possessing authority and power as they did, garnered more enemies than the average individual.

Every day for many weeks, when the princess went out of the palace on her rounds to bring food baskets to the poor, she was maliciously watched by beady eyes from behind dark shadows and hidden alleys. Sometimes she would feel the hair on the back of her neck prickle and lift, and then she would whirl around to see what might be following her, but she always saw nothing.

Nothing, that is, until one day a gigantic, fat, bulbous bear waddled into the village and heedlessly stampeded through the palace gates to eat up all the extra food that was set aside for the poor. He had been sent on this mindless mission by a person who hated the royal family, and hated Rose most of all.

The palace guards tried to stop the bear, but they could do nothing against its layers and layers of protective fat. After being peppered with twenty or more arrows, the odious beast just waddled back the way he had come.

The princess wept, and the entire kingdom along with her. (Except, of course, those few who hated the royal family because they were good, and so whispered to each other that this is just what comes of setting yourself up as so much better than everyone else). The royal family was at their wits end about what would happen to the poor and helpless of the kingdom.

The princess went to the king and pleaded to him, “What shall I do, father? How can I help our people?”

“My daughter,” said her loving father, sitting her down beside him, “your mother and I have an idea. The kingdom of Coresh is wealthier now than ever before, and the prince of that land is about your age. We can invite Prince Joseph to come stay with us and throw a great party in his honor. If you fall in love with him, then you can marry and unite our kingdoms for the benefit of our people.”

She considered his proposal carefully. She knew that her mother had married her father for love and no other reason, so she determined to only marry this prince if her heart truly desired it. After all, this was only one idea that they could try for the good of the kingdom, and if it failed, they could pursue others. So she nodded and said that yes, she would meet this prince and see if she fell in love with him.

They invited the prince to stay with them for a month, and to impress him, began the visit with a great party. It was a royal affair, with dukes and bishops and counts and courtiers. Everyone of importance in the kingdom was invited.

Everyone gathered in the splendid ballroom, mingling and enjoying the lovely refreshments, when the trumpeter announced the entrance of Princess Rose. When the prince first beheld the beauty of King Jack’s daughter, standing at the bottom of the staircase and gazing up at her as upon a goddess, he was stricken to the heart. From that very moment, he wanted nothing more in the world but to marry her.

Rose, however, was not so fortunate. She was generally unimpressed when she saw him at the foot of the staircase, gaping at her with round eyes and open mouth like a puppy. She strictly told herself not to be deceived by appearances, and after all, if he wore a different expression, his face could have been rather pleasant. She danced with him all night and found that, although he was handsome, strong, and a good dancer, his brain held nothing deeper than the depths of his dull blue eyes. She tried to speak of the states of the kingdoms, and he managed to interpret her remarks as clever observations of the weather. She brought up the current theological debates circulating amongst the clergy, and he misinterpreted her statements as mere pious niceties. As a last resort, she attempted to discuss the training methods of knights and squires, and he grew most animated, taking it upon himself to boast of all his greatest and most impressive exploits on the training field of battle.

At the end of the evening, her father found her between dances and requested the next. She melted into his arms in gratitude, and enjoyed the peaceful cadence of the dance.

“So, what is the verdict?” he asked as they swayed to the violins.

“I’m spoiled by you. There’s just no man who can measure up.”

“You flatter me, my dear. Do you expect to find someone exactly like me? Can you not appreciate him on his own merit?”

She smiled in a way that told him the prince was really a lost cause.

“Very well. What shall we do about caring for our poor?”

She looked around the room. “We throw a great party….Let’s throw a charity ball.”

The king smiled at his resourceful daughter. “And the prince?’

“There’s no real harm to him. We can let him wear out his welcome.”

He grinned, and then frowned in thought. “Can we afford another party? We threw most of our resources into this one to impress the prince.”

She smiled impishly as he twirled her around, and he knew she had a trick up her sleeve. “We can’t. But Lady Geraldine most certainly can.”

Lady Geraldine was the King’s Aunt’s Brother-in-Law’s Cousin, who had married into the family from a low but wealthy station. She had little interest in aiding the poor, but she craved Royal approval far too much to turn down a chance to work with the beloved princess on a pet project.

The young princess, for the next few days of palace life, found herself greatly regretting her leniency toward the visiting prince. If he had looked like a puppy dog that first night, he acted like one now. From dawn to dusk the princess employed all her ingenuity to escape his unwelcome attentions, and it was a constant game of cat and mouse. What made it far worse was the apparent fact that Prince Joseph had no clue she sought to avoid him.

Her propensity to send him on long, pointless errands only gratified his idea that she had his heart romantically wrapped around her little finger. Her constant questions about ‘wouldn’t you be more comfortable in the stables?’ or ‘isn’t it time for your midday meal?’ filled him with joy over her loving concern for his welfare. Finally, her forthright confessions of a far-distant marriage with a still unfound partner only soothed any doubts about her feminine modesty.

Princess Rose eagerly awaited the night of Lady Geraldine’s Charity Ball for more than simply philanthropic concerns: the ball was to take place far from her home and Prince Joseph was not invited. She looked forward to a night free from his unremitting attentions.

It was with alarm then, when, at the breakfast table the morning of the ball, she overheard the Prince requesting permission from her father to escort her to the party.

She turned pleading eyes upon the King, and he stuttered that he would give the prince his answer later.vintage-1653121_1920

He went up to his daughter after the meal.

“Father, please, you must tell him straight out that I am uninterested in him. Perhaps he will hear it from you. I went so far as to tell him that I do not see a future between us, but he seems to hear my words as encouragement! I don’t know what to do!”

He smiled at his beautiful daughter. “Be easy on him, my dear. There was a time I might have behaved so foolishly towards your mother.”

“But you will say something?”

“Yes. I will speak to him.”

King Jack found the prince strolling through the gardens, lost in weaving the imagery of the multi-colored blossoms into an eulogy of Rose’s incandescent radiance. The prince was not a bad sort, only rather pathetic, and so it amused and saddened the king to end his blissful dreams.

He sat the young man down on a stone bench and gently but firmly told him that his daughter was not interested in a marital union. The prince was shocked: he cried out that the princess had given him every encouragement. He grasped in vain at memories rich with the sweet scent of her presence, but could recall no hint of her disapproval. The king watched him flounder a moment, and then repeated, for surety’s sake, that his daughter truly had no designs upon the prince.

“What have I done? What can I do? King Jack, I adore your precious daughter: no, more than that, I love her! I would die, lay down my life, perish, grapple with the hounds of hell, for her sake. Can I not prove this? I must prove it!”

The king lay his hand on the prince’s shoulder. “My boy, you can prove nothing. Your death will serve no good but to determinately wipe you from her life forever. And at this point,” he stated bluntly, “she might find that a welcome change.”

Joseph’s shoulders drooped deeply, and he hung his head. Then he turned serious, pleading blue eyes upon the king. “Please, sir. Please advise me. All I want is for her to be happy. But if there is some way…something I can do…I must try, even if I fail!”

The King respected the prince’s resolve. “Very well. I cannot promise that anything you do will improve Rose’s opinion of you. I can, however, tell you some of what she finds lacking in your character. If you believe that after diligent work you can supply what is lacking in your person, then I here and now extend an invitation for you to return in a year’s time and prove it to her.”

The prince leaned forward eagerly to hear tell of all his faults. The king recited them in a pragmatic list, and the prince nodded curtly at each one,

“Lack of interest in politics; lack of knowledge regarding politics; lack of interest in anything academic; lack of true understanding about science, religion, literature, or medicine; general distaste for anything deep or thought-provoking; a tendency to over-romanticize life; reciting poetry with no true understanding of its deeper nuances; and finally, your nagging tendency to follow my daughter around ‘like a puppy-dog’, as she puts it.”

“I had no idea those things were important to her. Whoever heard of anyone liking politics or religion? They are an everyday part of life, but liking them?” This was a new concept to him.

“If you develop a thoughtful understanding of these things, and learn to improve your blind gaze of life and love, you may – and I say may – have a chance to win my daughter.”

The prince beamed gratitude and left for his home immediately to gain a deep insight into these mysterious realms of knowledge. Great was the astonishment of his old tutor when he barged in upon him and demanded lessons in Aristotle, Archimedes, Ptolemy, and Aquinas, and still deeper was his surprise at the prince’s diligent interest, which stretched into not only a week or a month, but month after month, for an entire year.

Rose’s philanthropic pursuits developed significantly over that time, and her unremitting efforts brought benefit not only to her own kingdom, but all the lands far and wide. The poor and needy had never known such loving care.

The same menace that had once unleashed a bear upon the palace kitchens, devastating the princess’ charitable work, still hated her and everything she did with a passion. It had not been idle through that year, only silent, waiting for a chance to strike.

Evil, like the earth, waits for its prime season. On April 3rd of the next year, which happened to be Good Friday, the waiting, lurking presence rose up to make its move.

Princess Rose sang blithely to herself as she dug inside her garden, which was going to be, unlike most Princesses’ gardens, not a bright medley of blossoms and sweet fragrances but a veritable rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and grains. She tilled the thawing earth and enjoyed the warmth of the midday sun on her bent back, when she heard the approach of shuffling feet. It was an old hag with a dirty cloak.

“Hello, my dear,” spake the hag, “and who might you be, such a sweet little thing?”

“I am Princess Rose. Do you need anything, mother?”

“Oh! Youth, naturally. Goodness. All those intangibles that pass away easier than water through your fingers.”

Rose smiled sadly. “I can only offer you food, lodging, and a warm smile. Will you accept it?”

The hag smiled back, but it was a terrifying grimace, and Rose stumbled back despite herself. “I said,” repeated the old woman, “that I want your youth!!”

And with that, she waved a hidden wand and dissolved herself and the princess into thin air.

The witch bragged to all her friends that she had captured a princess, and soon word came to Rose’s parents. All the kingdom was in alarm for its beloved princess, and King Jack and Queen Miranda feared greatly for their beloved daughter. The King prepared to go out and seek her just as he had years and years ago when she was an infant, and he gathered together all his aged knights. Since Sirs Serence and Terence had both passed away a few years before in a battle against the gnomes of Karesh, his remaining knights were Sirs George, Richard, Corncob, Roho, and Verde. They were all hale and still handsome, and eager to set forth to find their beloved maiden. Sir George stood brave before the king, trying desperately to conceal his notable limp; Sir Richard gazed forward steely-eyed, praying that no one remembered his black eyepatch; Sirs Roho and Verde gripped their swords tight through the shaking of their oncoming arthritis. Corncob was the only one who did not shake, wobble, or lack depth perception, upright as he sat in his wheelchair.

The King looked over his brave-hearted retinue and his heart sank. As eager as were these men’s faithful hearts, their mortal bodies did not have the strength. King Jack realized that he needed younger blood.

Prince Joseph was in the midst of composing a theoretical juridical treatise on the proper treatment of blacksmith injuries in the winter months, which, due to his devoted efforts to interview every blacksmith in the kingdom, he found far more fascinating than he ever anticipated, when he received word that King Jack was looking for young champions to rescue his daughter. Immediately, and still grasping the roll of printed parchment in his hands, the prince rushed determinately to King Jack.

“I will save her!” he cried on entering the palace, a blot of ink glistening on his nose.

Jack raised his eyebrows and said nothing, fearing that if he spoke to this frustrating youth, he would not be very gracious.

“Just tell me where she was taken, and I will save her life. I don’t care if she loves me or not: I care nothing for such things. I care only for her safety.”

The Queen sighed. “This is not the time for idle boasts, Prince Joseph. If you want to save our daughter, then save her, but don’t make useless speeches.”

“Right! Do you know where she is?”

The king grew red in the face and seemed about to burst, but the Queen, who possessed more natural patience, laid a hand on her husband’s arm and said deliberately, “As we said in the summons, the witch of Xaranx kidnapped her and wishes to steal her youth and corrupt her goodness. You must travel to Xaranx and kill the witch to free Rose.”

The prince’s fiery resolve paused a moment at that. His chest remained half-inflated for a long moment in between a breathe to declare his adieus and a distracted reverie.

“You have killed before, haven’t you?” asked Miranda hesitantly.

Joseph stuttered uncomfortably a moment.

“Maybe, at least, a squirrel or raccoon?”

There was still no coherent answer.

Then Miranda could no longer contain her husband’s rage, and really, she no longer wished to, and he roared out, “What did you think would happen, anyway? You’d gallop across the fields and swoop the princess into your saddle? You’re no better than you used to be! Still living deep inside your dreamy head: the world is not all rainbows and flowers and kisses, boy! It’s gore, and hatred, and enemies, and death!”

The prince was visibly shaken, but significantly affected. His year of study, reading, and learning had not been in vain. He may have lacked any real-world experience, but his readiness for it was greatly increased. He squared his shoulders and stood tall before King Jack and Queen Miranda, and for the first time since Jack had laid eyes upon him, the Prince was truly handsome.

“I may not know what I get myself into. I may not have the experience I need. As I learned from Beowulf, however, everyone has to start somewhere, and this is my opportunity to swim the length of the sea. Who knows? If I do not perish in this attempt, I may go on to slay monsters! Farewell, your majesties: if I return, it will be with your daughter.”

The King and Queen watched him leave, and then Miranda began to giggle, and then to laugh out loud.

“What?” asked her husband in annoyance.

“Everything!” she gasped, thinking about his comment that someday he might slay monsters, and yet that was exactly what he had set off to do. “But mostly,” she giggled, “he reminds me of you.”

“Me?” Jack was revolted.

“Standing there, an ant in the midst of a giant’s castle, so fiery and in love, declaring that you would rescue me no matter what the risk.” She looked at her savior with great love.

“Give him a chance,” she said. “Love can overcome many faults.”

Joseph arrived at the Witch’s cottage around nightfall, when the forest made strange noises and normal objects distorted into gruesome, misshapen wraiths. He pulled up his horse and dismounted, his scroll of juridical theory in his belt and his sword in his hand.

He knocked at the cottage door. There was the sound of scuffling and creaking from inside and then the old witch stood before him, wearing a lovely gown of pink satin that looked ghastly on her.

“What do you want?!” she screamed, annoyed that someone had interrupted her preparations for regaining her youth.

“Uh, I uh, um,” stuttered the prince.

“No soliciting!” she cried, and stepped back to slam the door in his face.

But at that moment, the prince had a brilliant idea. He smiled brightly, sheathed his sword, and smoothly drew out his blacksmith thesis, stepping possessively into the house.

“Ah, but my dear old mother, your reputation precedes you! You see, I am the proposer of a brilliant business scheme that will make us both filthy rich, and I have come to present this scheme to you. I hear that you are on the verge of gaining youth once again, and what is youth without riches? I have here an uncommon insight into the ways and workings of blacksmith forges. You see, when blacksmiths injure themselves, kingdoms have no means of offering compensation or care for them. They’re left out in the cold. Well, if we increase the amount of blacksmith injuries with your magic, and then I market my doctor services to heal those injuries (but really, you’ll heal them again with magic), we could make a fortune! With my marketing skills, and your charisma…we’d be unstoppable! Come on, mother — what do you say?”

“Well, I…”

“You don’t have to answer now. In fact, why don’t I just read you the notes I have here? I think you’ll find them very enlightening so you can make your decision. You just sit right down here in the easy chair, and I will read to you.”

Now, this was a very greedy witch, and the Prince’s proposal did not displease her. If she had no princess currently bundled into a trunk in her attic, she would have jumped at the idea. As it was, she was torn between listening to the scheme and throwing the strange marketer out of her home. Since, however, the prince’s actions gave her no room to argue politely, she sat down and let him read to her. This was a legal, hypothetical treatise, and as we all know, anything legal and hypothetical is extremely boring, and there is no quicker remedy for insomnia. Despite her best efforts, after an hour of “therefores”, “henceforths”, and “consequentlies”, the witch’s pointed chin rested deeply inside her shriveled bosom, and head-splitting snores screamed and growled out of her nose.

The prince took no time to congratulate himself or marvel at his good fortune, both of which he was very tempted to do; but as soon as he was certain that she was lost in slumber, he snatched his blade from his side and cut her throat so that her gray, wrinkled head bounced across the wooden floor.

Then Prince Joseph pounded up the stairs and into the attic, where he saw a trunk against the far wall. It was locked.

“Princess Rose!” he called out, “Are you in there?”

Rose managed not to sigh in disappointment: after all, she had heard all that had passed below, and the prince had risen considerably in her estimation. “I am here,” she yelled. “The key is around the witch’s neck on a chain!”

Joseph ran back to the hag and found the key, slippery with the witch’s blood. He put it carefully in the lock and freed the Princess.

After stretching her legs, back, and arms, Rose looked around for Joseph, but did not see him anywhere. She went outside, and he was there by the horse.

“I want to thank you for saving me.”

Joseph smiled sadly. He was glad that she was safe, but he did not expect her to like him anymore than she had before. After all, what was he but an ignorant man who happened to be born with a title? That did not grant him brains, brawn, or virtue.

“Thank you, your highness,” he bowed respectfully. “But I need no thanks. I want you to know that I will always consider you a friend, and I will always come if you need me.”

Rose was surprised by his answer. She found, to her consternation, that she was blushing. But she hid it well. She climbed on the horse in front of Joseph, and they started for home.
vintage-1653146_1920

Along the way, to break the uncomfortable silence, Rose commented on Joseph’s legal treatise, of which she had only heard snatches in her imprisonment. Her one, innocent question was enough to launch the young scholar into an extensive monologue of the mistreatment of blacksmiths and the legal potentialities that could benefit them. The philanthropic princess, far from falling asleep in the enumeration of these details, grew excited and asked intelligent questions of her own, and proposed possible solutions. Both forgot their discomfort with the other, and were shocked when they reached the castle in what seemed like no time at all. Rose was actually a little disappointed when she tore herself away from Joseph to greet her happy, relieved parents.

Jack offered a sincere apology to Joseph and invited him to dinner. Before they all went inside to eat, Rose put a hand on the prince’s arm, holding him back for a moment.

“Joseph,” she said, addressing him directly for the first time. A deep blush overspread his face.

“Joseph, you said before that you would always be my friend, but I wonder…There was a time when you wanted more than that.”

“Yes,” he said breathlessly, consumed with fear and hope.

“Well, I do believe…I want more too.”

There never was a prouder and yet humbler prince than Joseph in all the world than on the day that he joined in marriage with the daughter of King Jack and Queen Miranda, the beautiful and pure Princess Rose.

The End

Further Reading:

Jack and the Princess

Jack and Princess Rose

‘Catspaw and Devil’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, not too long ago, in the far distant hills of the continent, in a little nook surrounded by towering mountains, there was a quaint country village. Tucked right up against the base of one of the peaks, with a roof of living grass and a door of solid oak, sat a lovely, proud cottage. It was so terribly prideful of itself, with its engraved lintel, painted shutters, and drooping, scalloped eaves, that
even though it sat in the shadow of the mountain, it shone bright with the light of the sun. Without the house lived the pure-white sheep, speckled gray cow, prancing, prattling geese, and long, carefully-hewn rows of golden wheat. Within lived the hale farmer, his red-cheeked wife, his three rambunctious, healthy children, and finally, his red-eared, allegiant sheepdog. If the house was proud, the dog was ten times more so: he had the best home, the best family, and the best master in the world.

Though this home was a veritable paradise, the neighboring village was anything but. The tavern, the most respectable of the assorted, dubious joints that haunted the dark corners of the muddy streets, was home to unsavory costumers, often characterized by a drooping cigar dangling from a scraggly chin, or an eye-patch half-obscuring some questionable jagged mark of former ill-deeds.

On the night our tale began, many such miscreants decorated the smoky interior of this place when, much to their one-eyed consternation, the door kicked wide open to immerse the murky interior in rays of forbidden light.

“Close the blasted door!” cried a hoarse-voiced card player.

When there was no reply, all heads turned, squinting, toward the rectangular opening, to see perfectly outlined in the center, the silhouette of a standing cat.

Scratch, scratch went his paws upon the old wooden floor as he made his slow, deliberate way to the bar.

“No weapons allowed,” growled the bartender.

The strange feline slapped a bill on the counter. “Never ask me to retract my claws.”

In that den of thieves, outlaws, and vagabonds, everyone turned away to mind his own business. They knew who the stranger was: one note of his voice betrayed him. He was the notorious bounty hunter, Catspaw.

 

The farmer, parking his tractor in the last light of the calm, well-worked day, looked up in contentment at the distant peaks of the mountains. There the pink, orange, and purple sunset danced in a medley over the undulating, oceanic curves. He reached down to pet his red-eared dog Devil, the cuddly, frolicsome creature so named in a moment of mirth.

dog-2024644_1280“Come, my friend. Mother will have dinner on the table. I can smell it from here.” These were the fateful last words of the friendly farmer.

Right after he said them, two ruffians from the shadows leapt out upon him, encircled his arms and chest, and threw a sack over his head.

Leaping into action, Devil romped about, biting ankles and making a nuisance of himself, but the kidnappers merely kicked him away, threw his beloved master into the back of their beat-up pickup, and drove away, kicking up a far-off trail of dust.

The farmer’s red-cheeked wife answered Devil’s cries of “Yelp! Help!” by running outside and promptly bursting into tears.

Her neighbors heard the commotion and scampered over. After interpreting her hysterical words in much the same way you might translate a foreigner with a heavy accent, the neighbors were horrified. But one neighbor did not panic.

“I hear Catspaw is in town. He is staying at the tavern. Never fear, dear woman, he will save your husband.”

“No! No!”cried out Devil, as he had been doing unheeded for the past few minutes. “I will save Master. Never fear! Devil is here!”

But no one listened to the little red-eared sheepdog.

“Yes, yes, the brave bounty hunter Catspaw. He will save my man.”

The whole retinue of wife, children, and neighbors set off for the town, leaving a dejected Devil trailing his tail in the dust, whimpering and alone.

“No! A dog’s love is true! I will find my master: I don’t need any old bounty hunter!” He squared his chest, perked up his ears, and set off down the road after the truck’s trail of dust, tracking with his up-tilted nose the heavy odor of burned petrol.

 

After about half an hour, with his energy high, his hope sustaining, and his feet still bobbing briskly along the road, Devil saw a statue on a rock beside the dusty concrete shoulder, barely illumined in the last light of day.

It had two pointy ears, a gray concrete hide, a red pointy nose, two black eyes, and extended claws sharpened from real silver, so it seemed. Devil extended his tongue to test the material of this strange statue, only to receive a decided, furry whip slash across his snout.

“Yow!” he yelped in surprise and darted backward.

The statue, of course, was no statue, but Catspaw himself, patiently awaiting Devil’s arrival.

He leapt lightly to the ground, stirring furrows in the dirt with his claws.kipling_cat_who_walked_by_himself

“I was awaiting your arrival. You can turn back now. I will take it from here.”

His voice was like sophisticated gravel falling into a quarry, bouncing off boulders and rippling, scattering to the bottom.

“No!” barked the canine. “Devil is here! Never fear! I will rescue my Master. He is counting on me!”

Without disturbing a hair of his iron gray coat, the bounty hunter silently sized up Devil, who bravely threw out his chest.

“I can see I am not dealing with an amateur, who only follows his heart. You are a fearsome beast, bred for battle: your teeth made to tear a throat, your brawn to suffocate, your claws to sharpen themselves on bones. You will never back down in the face of death. And if you fail, you will walk into that unknown abyss, confident that you faced each trial with cunning, bravery, and fire.” All the time he spoke, he slowly paced about the dog, working his way in ever tightening circles until his stiff fur brushed right up against the other’s quivering hide. When he reached the last three words, he spat them in derisive scorn, and Devil whimpered at each.

Now the speaker sat back on his cool, confident haunches and looked the passionate pet in the eye. “Leave the rescuing to the professionals.”

For a moment, Devil stood in the dust, torn between his fear and his love. But “No!” he cried. “Dog’s are faithful! Never fear, master! Devil is here!”

Catspaw shrugged lightly. He was too sophisticated to argue, so he silently endured the other’s exuberant company, and they both set off down the road.

After an hour, when the moon was just peeking her head over the tips of the mountains, they saw a ramshackle hut in the distance.

“That, my friend, is the hut where your master is hid.”

Devil was very excited and wagged his tail so hard that his entire body shook. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he cried.

“Patience,” advised Catspaw. “We must make a plan before rushing in. I will take point, you will wait behind. If anyone attacks you, call out. That is the plan.”

“That’s a good plan!”

Devil waited while Catspaw disappeared into the barn. Quivering with impatience, he sniffed the ground and air to pass the time. But then he noticed something odd. He did not smell his master, only a strange, sinister presence. It was a trap!

Barking wildly, he raced into the barn. “Yelp, help, Catspaw! Catspaw, my master isn’t here!”

“You imbecilic canine!” cried Catspaw. “You’re ruining the plan!”

Then a net dropped from the ceiling right above him, but Devil, who was wagging his head all about, saw it and knocked the cat out of the way. The net dropped onto empty air.

Catspaw, with a dignified air, shook himself, and then coolly, with his sharp, extended claw, cut the rope that held the net, causing one of the kidnappers to plummet to the floor of the barn.

When the kidnapper opened his eyes, the notorious bounty-hunter stood over him and little birds faded in and out in circles around his pointy ears.

“All right, scoundrel.” Catspaw’s sword wavered inches from the kidnapper’s throat. “You will tell me immediately where you have stashed this hapless mutt’s master.”

“I-I don’t know! Honest. I don’t got no brains in this operation.”

Catspaw, his intelligent, sharp mind noting the pathetic emptiness behind the crook’s fleeting eyes, harnessed his sword and deftly tied the kidnapper to a chair.

“There you shall remain until we return with the authorities. I hope, for your sake, that our search does not take too long. Come, Devil of mine, you have, despite my best attempts to the contrary, proven yourself useful. You will take point, and your smellerific nose will guide us to the ill-starred farmer.”

Devil beamed and wagged in overawed rapture as he set off briskly down the continuing path, with Catspaw marching erect behind him.

The full moon’s radiance illumined everything in the darkness of night. The trees threw themselves against the speckled sky, only visible where they blotted out a group of stars. The dog and cat plodded patiently on.

“This is it! This is it!” cried Devil finally, pointing like a hunting dog toward a tall, abandoned grain silo. “My beloved master’s scent is most strong here.”gobleboots

Catspaw and his new companion went up to the door. “They are indeed inside, my friend; I can hear them. Let me take on the bandits: they are no match for your farmyard innocence. While I keep them occupied, you find your master.”

Catspaw burst into the silo like an avenging angel, his body a sleek blur of furry-osity, his blade – snick snick – sliced the air, and, most terrifying of all, his complete silence. Taken by surprise, the kidnappers scattered in fear, but there were more of them than the cat, and they soon rallied against him. No one of them was a fit match for his skill, but together, they made a formidable opponent. The silo was crumbling to pieces so that there were beams of moonlight spotlighting the floor and clouds of shifting dust blowing up in eddies all around.

Devil found his master, tied to a chair and hidden in a dark corner.

“Devil, you good dog!” cried the farmer, “Untie me boy, bite through the ropes: there you go. Oh, how I’ve missed you!”

“Good, ill-fated master of my new companion Devil,” cried out Catspaw through the mêlée. “You must retreat this vile granary of defalcators on the infinitesimal chance that I am overrun.”

“Never fear! Devil is here!” cried the faithful dog and threw himself into the fight, biting and barking, and getting in Catspaw’s way.

The farmer fled, but discovered the beat-up truck parked outside with the keys in the ignition. So he drove it through the silo door, knocking the whole crumbling tower over and causing much confusion. Catspaw, the only being alive capable of keeping his head in such turmoil, tied up all four of the villains before the dust of the fallen building had quite settled.

Then they dumped the kidnappers into the back of the pickup, the loner Catspaw sat up front in the passenger seat, the devoted Devil lay content across his master’s lap, and the fortunate farmer drove off down the road, back toward his village, his home, and his family.

 

The End

fullsizerender

Artwork courtesy of:

ArtPassions.net

Pixabay.com

‘A Stubborn Story’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who refused to go into her story. It lay open beneath her with colorful illustrations of far off lands, enchanted castles, and speaking frogs, but she refused to go in.

“I am a free spirit, and I will sit out here as long as I want.” Her feet stuck out in front of her, her arms folded across her chest, and her chin projected in a stubborn tilt.

The storyteller cajoled, threatened, warned, did everything possible; he finally started to write, but it was no use…she would not go in.

Inside, there was a very lonely frog. All about him were colorful trees, rivers, and skies, but in his heart, he was inconsolable. One day, as he hopped beside a stream, he saw words writing themselves in the sand.

“Dear enchanted prince,” said the words, “your girl will not go into your story. I’ve done everything I can, but it looks like you’ll have to remain a frog forever. My sincere apologies, Narrator.”

The frog read the words, puzzled. “I did not know I was a prince,” he thought to himself. “That is very interesting. I wonder why this girl will not come into the story? Perhaps she is the reason I am so lonely, and why the company of no female frog is stimulating. I always thought they had very little to say about anything. Perhaps,” a sudden thought occurred to him, “I will leave my story. If the girl will not come to me, I will go to her.”

It was night in the storyteller’s house, and the Narrator was fast asleep on his desk. The girl stood up on the paper and looked down at the colorful illustrations, spying them out in the faint candlelight. They were very pretty, but rather two-dimensional, so she picked up her short skirts and jumped off the book, off the table, and to the floor. Then she jumped up on the ornate chair leaning against the bookshelf, and onto the bookshelf itself.

On one of the shelves was a large volume, much larger than her own story. Curious, she reached up, and with great straining, she tugged it from its place and toppled it over. Then, with all her might, she pulled back the big front cover. On the inside leaf was a full-page image of a tiger. It was a book about Africa.segur_seven_crow_princes

She sat up all night, turning page after page, and marveling at each image she saw. There was a mighty serpent, coiling larger than branches about the base of a gnarly tree. There was the slurping river sloshing muddy water up and down its banks, hiding crocodiles, water snakes, and bumbling hippopotamuses.. There were long giraffes with necks that stretched to the tops of trees. And finally, there was the noblest of beasts, the most frightening of creatures, the most beautiful of monsters – the massive elephant.

When she reached the back cover,  she stood on top of the massive book and pulled down another. This was smaller, and the pages more crinkly; it was an old, old book. The stories inside told of flying, flying over the earth, flying into the sky, catching a flight of birds and flying to another planet1. She felt as if she were flying herself. Possessed of a mysterious mania, she pulled down book after book, devoured story after story, until finally, daylight edged between the windowpanes and the sputtering candle extinguished. The Narrator woke up.

“Why, little girl!” he cried, his eyes wide with awed wonder. “You’re not so little anymore!”

Indeed, she was not a little girl, nor even a little character: she was a full grown woman, as tall as him, with beautiful straight brown hair pulled into a practical ponytail, and wise brown eyes behind dark-rimmed spectacles. She was beautiful, intimidating, and magical.

“What will you do? You will never fit into my story now.”

“No indeed,” she smiled, and then laughed. “But then, I never wanted to go in there. I will go live my life now. Good bye.” She opened the door to the outside world and disappeared into it.

The Storyteller sat a moment flabbergasted, scratching his head and marveling that a thing he created could move away from him so easily.

“Ahem,” said a voice. “If you don’t mind, I’m looking for Narrator.”

The storyteller looked down, and what should he see but the frog sitting on top of the story in front of him.

“Well, what are you doing?” he cried. “You were already in the story.”

“And now I have come out. To look for the girl. Are you Narrator?”

“I’m not sure anymore. The stories don’t seem to need much narrating.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I would like to find this girl.”

“I don’t mind, but I think I should warn you. She’s not a girl anymore, and I don’t think she can break your curse. This is the real world, you know, and she’s become a part of it now.”

“Ah, yes. I see. I suppose, then, I must become part of it as well. What must I do? What should I learn?”

The Narrator looked at the bookshelf where all the texts the girl had read still lay open. He squared his shoulders.

“We must read,” he said. “If I can not tell a new story, I will tell many that are old, and so give life and understanding to what is new.”

He pulled down the texts and the two got to work reading all the books in the storyteller’s home. After three days, they had read them all, so they went out and down the street to the booksellers. In the cluttered, dusty, wonderful shop, they continued to read and learn, and after three years, they had read all the books there. They were rather legendary in their town, the man and the frog who read aloud together, and many people came to see them over the years and listen to the stories. One day, the Narrator left his hat on the ground by accident, and by the end of the day, it had collected thirty dollars. So he always did it from then on, and though they were not rich, they did not starve.

One day, word came to a newspaper company in the big city that there was a man and a frog who read aloud in a little town. One of the reporters there, a girl with a brown pony-tail and dark-rimmed glasses, wondered at the story, and went there to listen and write a story.

They were reading The Little Prince, and the words stirred something long forgotten in her heart. img_4700She looked and saw that the Frog, companion to the man, was crying. With her article as an excuse, she asked him why.

“The Navigator has lost the prince, and the prince may have lost his rose. It reminds me of a girl I came here to find, and I may now have lost her forever.”

The woman’s heart went out to this poor creature, so apparently sensitive and intelligent. She forgot that he was a frog, but leaned in and kissed him tenderly on the top of his head.

Then the Narrator, closing the book and reaching for the next one, caught sight of the girl from the corner of his eye. He dropped both volumes, started up, and gave a great cry which made all the spectators startle in surprise.

“My friend!” he cried to the Frog. “This is she! The girl you came to this world to find.” He looked at his friend, but he was gone. In his place stood a tall, lanky, handsome young man with green eyes and a mop of dark blonde hair.

They were all joyously happy and embraced in rapture all around. Eventually, the Man and Woman married, moved in with the Narrator, and all three of them told stories together for the rest of their lives.

The End

Attributions:

Antoine de St. Exupery. The Little Prince. (Picture taken by me from Scholastic Inc. 1943 edition)

Artwork courtesy of artpassions.net

‘Jack and Princess Rose’ by Elizabeth Russell

Remember how Jack killed the Giant and saved the whole country from starvation? Remember how after that, he married the princess that he loved very much?

Well, this is what happened after…

Once upon a time, the kingdom flourished. In fact, it thrived. It was so happy that even the little junebugs sitting on the September flowers and dying from frost were happy. Life was that good.

But all good things must turn with fortune, and so it was that one mild mid-november morning, when the sun shone blithely upon the prosperous kingdom of Jack and Miranda, there came a great shaking in the ground and the sound of an earthquake. The sound came from a herd of savage bears that roared into the marketplace and upset all the stalls and peasants. Miranda had recently given birth to a little daughter named Rose. Her nurse had chosen that morning to take Rose out in her stroller and now the bears descended upon them. They frightened the poor nurse so much by their baying and growling that she fell down in a faint, and then they grabbed the princess and left the kingdom.

Of course Jack was not about to sit around and do nothing, so he called all his bravest knights to the throne room. He asked them to come with him into the wide world to save his daughter. All of his knights loved King Jack very much, and they swore at once not to return home until they had found the baby princess. The queen wept terribly but Jack assured her that all would be well and Rose returned safe.

“And what of you, Jack?” she wept. “Take care and do not be rash, or you will never save our daughter.”

Jack promised to be careful, and with that, they set out into the wide world.

When the road separated into four different directions, Jack sent them off in pairs. Sirs George and Richard went South to the Sea, Sirs Corncob and Terence went North to the Frigid Ice Caps, Sirs Roho and Verde went West to the Great Desert, and King Jack took his closest friend and bravest knight, Sir Serence, with him to the Eastern Mountains.

But the wide world is full of dangers, both to the body and soul, and each knight that went on this adventure would be tested ere he returned.

drew-hazlett-41775

King Jack and Serence travelled night and day until they reached a gigantic house as big as the castle wherein Jack once encountered a princess-stealing Giant.

“Of course!” he cried when he saw it. “The bears worked for a giant. I should have known this would happen to her. Rose!” he cried, running throughout the castle with his sword drawn and his speed terrible. “Rose!” But after he had run from the bottom of the castle to the top, and back again to the bottom, with Serence following only a few steps behind, they had seen no Giants or any sign of Rose.

“Your majesty,” said Serence, “I do not believe she is here.”

“No, you are right,” agreed Jack. “They have taken her somewhere else. We must find this giant!”

He ran outside, mounted his horse, and began immediately to scour the mountainside.

luca-bravo-24241

While the two companions roamed the mountains, Richard and George headed toward the sea. When they arrived it was night and the entire shore was lit with glistening starlight. Moored on the beach before them, the two knights saw a beautiful ship with sails of moonlight and oars of stardust. On the ship were beautiful maidens singing and beckoning the knights on board.

“Come with us,” they sang, “and we will take you to your little lost princess.”

Both knights went toward the ship but George paused. “Wait,” he said, “It is night, and it is now things may appear to be different from what they are. While I desperately wish to board this ship, I think we should wait until morning and see if it, and its passengers, still look as fair in the light of the sun.”

This seemed like good advice to Richard, so they set up camp on the sandy shore and fell asleep to the calls and songs of the fair maidens.

When the sun rose the next day, George awakened with the dawn and looked out at sea. There was no sign of the beautiful ship: only, in its place, a little rowboat with two oars and a handful of dolls. “My, my,” said Richard when he awoke.

“Yes,” agreed George, “it is good that we waited, or we would have lost ourselves to a dream.”

Then they climbed into the rowboat and pushed off, heading along the coast to search for the baby princess.

dmitrii-bogdanov-93092

Heading North toward the frozen tundra were the knights Terence and Corncob. Terence was a large knight who had a high opinion of himself, and Corncob was a stupid knight, who had an accurate opinion of himself. They reached the frozen ice caps and continued on their way when suddenly they came across a tiny castle. The castle was made completely from ice and glistened in the sunlight.

“Terence,” said Corncob, “I believe this castle is where the bears took the Princess Rose. I have a feeling about it.”

Terence laughed. He laughed and he laughed, and then he laughed still harder. Even Corncob was chuckling in the end.

“Oh, oh! You’re too much, my friend,” protested Terence. “Not even an infant would fit in that palace.”

“Well,” said Corncob humbly, “yet I still have a feeling about it. I am going to stay the night and see what happens to it.”

Terence shrugged. It was already getting dark and here was as good a place as any to sleep. They made themselves an enclosure out of snow and lay down for the night.

A few hours later, Corncob awakened and went out under the stars where the Northern Lights lit up the vast expanse above him.vincent-guth-136078 But right at his feet was another rainbow of colors: the little palace had come alive and different-hued lights poured out of every window. Corncob bent down and peered in to see all sorts of fairies partying, singing, and dancing. They were mischievous fairies, and Corncob soon saw the little princess in the arms of the fairy queen.

“Terence,” Corncob awoke his friend, “The bears were really fairies who kidnapped our princess and made her small so they could keep her in their palace.”

Terence, of course, did not believe this for even that split-second of time when you are still half-asleep and everything sounds believable. He chuckled and shrugged the knight off, but Corncob was persistent, and eventually Terence looked into the palace just to silence his friend.

“Why!” he cried out in alarm. “They’ve got our princess! We’ll save you princess!” but at his yelling all the fairies saw Sirs Corncob and Terence and immediately worked their magic so that the two men disappeared into thin air, only to find themselves on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

wilson-ye-180961

In the west we find Sirs Roho and Verde who have just reached a town on the outskirt of the great desert. From a local merchant, they bought food and water, skins, and a map: “Follow the main route on the map and do not rest,” warned the man who sold it to them. “Do not veer off or you will be dead men.”

So the two knights started across the hot, scorching desert. They made good time the first day; but on the second, they started to notice that all the creatures they passed, big and small, were very lazy.

“The lion lays out in the sun all day,” said Roho.

“And the snakes slither as slow as mud on a bank,” agreed Verde.

“If they can take their time,” said Roho,

“Then why can’t we?” finished Verde.

These two knights, it turns out, were very lazy. They might be brave and loyal, but they were lazy. So they started to take many rests along their way, and each time, the stops grew longer and longer, and they ate up more and more of their food.

At last, they had only one more skin of water and one more loaf of bread, and when they checked the map, they were only half-way across the desert.

“We shall perish!” wailed Verde in fright.

“This is all your fault!” said Roho.

“Look!” cried Verde. Roho looked and they saw great cliffs before them. The map took them around the cliffs, but they could clearly see that there was a way through them.

“If we take this route,” they said, “we shall surely not die.”

They were all set to go through the cliffs when Verde felt something tugging at him. He looked all around, but could see no cause for it. Yet, as he went closer to the rocks, the tugging grew more intense. All of a sudden, he realized that it was his conscience.

“Drat!” he cried. “I’d forgotten. The map-seller told us to follow the map or we would die for certain.”

“We shall die for certain anyway,” said Roho.

“We should pray for guidance.”

Well, it is one thing to take lots of breaks because you are lazy, but as anyone knows who has tried it, prayer is in no way the task of a lazy man. Verde and Roho were both out of practice, but they concentrated and fervently asked for guidance.

When Verde looked up, there was an angel before him. “If you go through the cliffs,” the angel said, “you will certainly perish. In the same way, if you go around, you will start to feel yourselves die, and this is because you were lazy and drank all your water. But if you persevere, I promise that you will arrive at the other side no matter how famished you are.”

With this guidance, both men took themselves bravely in hand and set off around the cliffs. Soon they were dying of thirst. They dragged one foot ahead of the other under the hot sun and felt their tongues swell like hot balloons. But they pressed on and remembered that it was all their fault for stopping so often before. Just when they saw the gates of heaven opening before them and heard choruses of angel choirs, they stumbled onto an oasis. They rejoiced and plunged in the water, drinking and splashing and coming all the way back to life.

When they were sufficiently revived, Verde found a lamp beside the spring, and upon rubbing it, a genie streamed forth.

“What do you wish to know?” the genie cried in a deep voice that reverberated from tree to tree.

Roho looked at Verde and Verde cried up to the genie. “We wish to know, oh great one, what has happened to our fair princess and how we may bring her home.”

“You have asked wisely,” said the Genie. “The princess has been taken by fairies to their palace in the North. To outwit the fairies and rescue the princess, you will need three things: The Blanket of Sleep from a Witch, The Purple Berries of Paradise, and Mud from the Amazon.”

“Blanket, Berries, Mud,” repeated Roho to himself, over and over again.

“Thank you, oh great genie. That is all we wished to know.” Then they left the lamp on the oasis, packed their skins with water and their food bags with grapes, and headed southeast to the sea.

 

Serence followed his king all through the mountains as a faithful friend and obedient subject, but he was confused. After another day, he said to Jack, “Your majesty, what makes you think it was a giant that lived in that place? And why would he steal your daughter?”

Now, it turns out that that place they had been was magical. It preyed upon your worst fears. So Jack had thought it was a castle, but Serence had seen it for what it truly was: a large, uninhabited cave. Jack was very afraid that a giant would keep his daughter locked up for the rest of her life, just like his wife had been kept, and he would never find her. Now he let those fears control what he saw, and he wasted precious time grappling with a useless demon.

“Of course it was a giant!” he cried impatiently at Serence. “Who else would live in such a great castle?”

“Your Highness,” said Serence in confusion, not wishing to contradict his king but also too truthful to live a lie, “I saw no castle, but just a cave.”

Now, Jack was a fair and humble king, and he knew Serence would never lie. So he stood in mystification a moment, and finally determined that they would go back and investigate this contradiction.

When they arrived, he found that it was indeed just a hole in the mountain. He fell to his knees in penitence. “I have led us farther away from my daughter and wasted precious time. I have been rash and fearful. Can you forgive me?”

Of course, Serence protested that there was nothing to forgive, and so they set out southwest to the sea to find if any of their companions had had more luck than they.

 

 

George and Richard were still rowing on the sea along the coast, and as they rounded a corner, they saw two figures in the distance on an island who immediately began to call and wave to them. It was Terence and Corncob. Of course the two sailors took in their oddly found companions, and the boat was so full that the water came right up to the edge and they had to bail desperately with their hands until they reached the mainland. Even so, when they landed, all four men were soaked through. Terence was not very happy at all, but Corncob liked the sound of his squishy boots, and George and Richard just wished that the life of a knight could be more romantic.

When they got back to the place where George and Richard had first found the boat, whom should they see but King Jack and Serence waiting for them. And there, in the distance, were Roho and Verde plodding toward them. They were all met, and George, Richard, Jack, and Serence reported that they had found nothing. But Corncob and Terence cried out that they knew where the princess was.

“As do we!” said Verde. “And what’s more, we know how to rescue her.”

Roho and Verde told of the three items: the Blanket, the Berries, and the Mud and immediately all the knights were afire to find these items to save the babe from the clutches of the vicious fairies.

olivier-guillard-49712

They went to the house of the witch and came upon her just as she was about to poison an unsuspecting traveler.

“Stop, Witch!” they cried, and she threw her hands in the air in surprise and venomous anger.

“AHH!!” she screamed. “So you have found me at last! But you shall not take me alive as your father-in-law once did! Oh no, I know all about your little daughter’s capture, and I cackle at the thought. Serves your family right. Now you will never know the location of your precious blanket.”

Then she lifted the poison to her own lips to drink. But the King was too quick and knocked it away with his sword before grabbing her arms and holding her tightly.

“So long as I am king you shall not have the satisfaction of taking your own life. Now where is that blanket?”

But she would say nothing more. Jack handed the witch over to Richard and told him to take her back to the palace. The witch would be locked safely in a cell, visited by a priest daily until she died of old age in the hopes of saving her shriveled soul. (And though this was no doubt the best and holiest decree Jack could ordain for her, I personally feel very sorry for the priest.)

When Richard was gone and the almost-poisoned traveler received clear water, the King and his remaining knights ransacked the house. But they really did not have to look far, for the blanket lay in glory and full sight upon the witch’s bed. And really, where else would you expect to find a blanket?

Next, they traveled to the end of the earth to find paradise. And when they got there, they found a golden ladder that stretched far above them into the pink and golden clouds, for here it was always sunset and dawn: the end of this life and the beginning of the next.

“I once climbed a beanstalk,” observed the King, as they all stared up at the veil between two worlds, “believing it to be a way to heaven. I would gladly make the real climb to save my daughter.” But then he looked down in true humility. “But I would not let the witch take her own life, and who am I to decide my own fate? No, I will pray and ask for guidance from above.”

image-1265277.jpgThen he removed a little from the others, knelt down, and stayed there all night.

In the morning, Verde awakened to see before him the same angel who had guided them through the desert. It was holding out a bowl filled with purple berries.

“Take this to your king,” it said, “it is not his time yet.”

When Jack rose and came back to his knights, Verde stepped forward and solemnly presented him with the bowl. There were tears in all the valiant knights’ eyes, and the king’s as well, for they loved him dearly and were very grateful that he would remain with them, and the king was relieved that he would see his wife and daughter again.

marvin-meyer-184335

They continued on their way to the last place: the Amazon. When they arrived, they were very tired, hot, and thirsty. They found slippery mud slides all around that slipped into the river, and there were little springs that bubbled up from the ground, offering cool, refreshing relief. Corncob followed his instinct (which is what he always did, and it always had a fifty-fifty chance of being either idiotic or dumbfoundingly wise) and plunged onto the slippery slides, covering himself in cool mud, and lapping clear water from the springs. All the other knights followed suit, although the King retained his dignity and climbed down to the spring, where he filled all the water-skins, and drank from one himself. Then he filled a bowl with mud from the ground. Finished, he watched the knights frolic for a moment, and then called them to order, and they stood at attention.

“We have collected every item,” he told them; “It is time to go rescue my daughter.”

So they set out. But as they were halfway to the frigid ice caps, they encountered an evil werewolf! His vicious eyes gleamed at them so maliciously that they all stopped still.

“ARRG!” he growled. “I have hated the royal family many years, and my only consolation was the witch that I could visit and we would both air our grievances daily. But now you have taken even her away from me, and I will punish you! HA!” At that last word, he reached out and swiped the bowl of mud from the king and drank it all down. Then he ran far away, but the mud was such that it made him a wolf forever, and he would never again become a man.

The king was cast down in sadness and knew not what to do: knowing that he must waste more time by returning to the forest but dreading any more delay.

But then George cried out merrily, “Well, friends! Our filthy hides will have to save the day today! Sire, we are all covered in this mud: take it from us and we can continue on our way.”

Then the king smiled and they went on in joy until they reached the tiny castle in the frigid north. There was the little glass house, and all within were quiet and asleep, for it was daytime and fairies sleep during the day.

Then the king spread the Blanket of Sleep over the castle. He reached in and drew forth his miniscule infant daughter and mixed some berry juice with her milk in her teeny-tiny fairy bottle. While he did this, the knights were taking each impish, sleeping fairy out of the castle one-by-one, and spreading the Amazon Mud on them so that they would always remain fairies and could not transform into vicious bears. Then they removed the blanket, and the princess and the fairies all woke up. The princess was her normal smallish size again, and the fairies were fairies forever. They screamed in anger but could do nothing worse than buzz around the King, Knights, and Princess.

They returned home in triumph, and the Queen was overjoyed to see her husband and daughter again. There was a celebration that lasted twenty days, but all the knights went right to their rooms to take a bath.

 

The End

Keep Reading:

Rose and the Prince

Image

Fairy Tale Definition #1

Fairy Tale: A story intended for children that bursts the bonds of childhood and speaks to the innermost hearts of the old.

Image

‘Jack and the Princess’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack. He lived with his mother in a cottage on the outskirts of a kingdom, right between the town and the outlying farmland. The kingdom was going through a period of drought: everyone was starving, and Jack and his mother were no exception. One morning, his mother said to him, “Jack, we are going to starve. You must take the cow into the village and sell her for what you can get. We will live on what she sells for a few weeks and then we will die.”

So Jack took the cow and headed down the path to the village. On his way, he met a hobbling old man who carried a little handkerchief. Inside the handkerchief, the old man said, were four magic beans, and he offered to trade Jack the beans for the cow. Jack saw that this was the most he would get for the dried-up, starving cow and gratefully accepted. When he got home, however, his mother was less than pleased and grabbing his ear with one hand, threw the beans out the window with the other. “How could you!?” she cried. “We were supposed to live for another few weeks, but now you will go to bed with no supper tonight, because we have no food to make a supper with!” And at that, Jack went to his bed, tired out from his walk and his empty stomach.

The next morning when Jack woke up in the early light, he found a great plant had grown up where his mother had thrown the beans. All the way up to the sky it reached, and further even than that. It was taller than the tallest skyscraper in our world.

Well, Jack knew he had not long to live and decided that there is no moment like the present, so he started making his way up the vine. “Maybe I’ve already died,” he thought, “and now I’m climbing up to heaven.”

But eventually he found himself at the top, and the beanstalk supported a great castle – a castle larger than the biggest prison in our world. It was a castle made for giants.

Jack went inside and was in awe of all the magnificent things he saw there: sparkling gold, glistening jewels, gorgeous velvet, and exotic spices. Most of the things were far too large for a normal-sized man like Jack, but some were people-sized, and these he picked up and fingered: some were softly embroidered, others were prickly-plated, and still others glassy smooth. He breathed deeply and there wafted a most heavenly scent upon the air. Jack could have stayed in that castle forever; he was beginning to lose himself in the radiance of it all when he was suddenly startled by something far more beautiful. Through the door at the other end of the room emerged a lovely girl of normal, person-sized height. She was adorned in a dusty apron, carried a dirty broom, and her hair curled around her forehead in sweaty, frazzled wisps. But nothing could dim the vibrant, fresh beauty in her face or the stately way that she held herself erect.

fairytale-1735330-copy

She started when she saw Jack and dropped her broom. “What are you doing here?” she cried in alarm.

“I did not mean to startle you, miss. I found a giant beanstalk and climbed it to find myself in this beautiful place.”

“This place is not beautiful at all,” exclaimed the girl. “I know it glistens and dazzles, but it is all false finery that covers the den of a troll. My master eats any man that he can find, and he will eat you if he smells you here. You must leave immediately.”

As you might have guessed, Jack was instantly head-over-heels in love with this beautiful girl, and because of this, her concern did not fill him with proper caution; instead, since he had a dreamy nature, he was grateful for her concern, and he saw her through stars and galaxies, shining in the glow of the stained-glass window draping its light upon her.

“My name’s Jack.”

“Please, Jack,” she begged, “please leave.”

“If I leave,” he said, “you must come with me for I will not leave you to live with a man-eating troll.”

“I cannot go,” she started to tell him, but then Jack, who really was starving to death, suddenly fainted.

When Jack awoke, he was lying on cold stone beside a ginormous fire with a cold cloth on his forehead. The smell of hot soup wafted to him from a bowl at his side.

“You should really eat,” came the voice of the girl, and he turned to see her standing on top of a giant wooden countertop cutting up vegetables. “You look like you’re starving.”

Jack ate without another word, practically swallowing the entire bowl in one gulp. He was that hungry.

“Thank you.” He started to climb up the leg of the counter-top.

“No!” cried the girl. “I was telling you earlier, I can’t leave but you must!”

“Why can’t you leave?”

“I am the princess of the kingdom below.”

“Princess Miranda?”

“Yes. I was kidnapped three years ago and forced to cook and clean for the giant. I have a spell on me, and if I try to escape, this whole castle will fall down upon the kingdom and kill everyone.” Jack had reached the top of the counter, and she handed him an apple. “Now you must go. It is almost his lunchtime and he will be down shortly. Then he will eat you and I will have to watch.”

Jack’s heart leapt at her concern. “There must be a way to break the spell?” he asked.

“So long as he has his magic items, he will have power over me.”

“What are his magic items?”

The princess pointed to the corner of the kitchen. “His magic golden eggs and magic golden harp give him all his spells.”

Suddenly the entire room shook, and Jack fell against the wooden counter-top. The princess, who was more used to it, just wobbled a bit.

“Quick!” she cried. “We are too late, he is coming! You must hide.”

She slid down the leg of the counter, and he followed her, then she grabbed his hand and raced to a cupboard. Jack was too overcome by her touch to do anything but completely obey her. She pushed him inside, and before he realized what had happened, she had sliced his hand with a knife.

“Ah!” he cried, pulling away.

“No time!” she cried and taking his hand, dripped his blood into a bowl. “Wait until he is eating then leave through that door. Go down your beanstalk and never come back here again.” Then she shut him up into complete darkness except for a small sliver of light between the cracks.

He saw the princess take the blood that she had drawn from his smarting hand and pour it into the giant’s bowl of soup. If he had not been so completely in love, Jack might have shuddered at the fact that he himself had just eaten that soup.

“FEE, FIE, FOE, FUM!”

The room shook and the pottery on the shelves clinked and rattled. “I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN!” The ground quaked as the largest man you have ever seen rumbled into the room. Jack peered through the sliver of a crack and bounced up and down with each heavy footfall. The giant turned his head so that he could see the hugeness of his face, the wideness of his shoulders, and the fierceness of his eyes. Then he did shudder. No, he quaked; and not from the vibrations of the giant’s steps.

“Do you, sir? That’s just a little something special I put together for you. I managed to bargain it off Mrs. Dungbury of Gigantic St.”

“AH! YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE!” The giant sat down at the large table and  started eating like a mad animal, pouring soup in his mouth before even having time to swallow.

Then Jack took his chance. He leapt out of the cupboard, and the giant was so busy with his soup that he noticed nothing else. The princess watched him anxiously, but Jack did not head straight for the door like she had told him; he jumped up onto the table in the corner, where the golden eggs and harp were laid out in all their glory. The princess in fear shook her head at him, but he ignored her and picked up the eggs one by one (there were three of them, and each was very heavy). Then he reached for the harp, but it was magical, and played music whenever anyone touched her, so now she began to play herself, and at hearing the sound, the dinner table shook as the giant lifted up his mighty head.

“WHY DOES MY BEAUTIFUL HARP PLAY MUSIC?” he asked the princess.

Jack rabbited and raced across the kitchen floor for the door to freedom, but he still clutched the golden eggs to his chest.

“I do believe she just wants to make your dining experience more enjoyable, sir,” said the princess, and sighed with relief when she saw that Jack was safely out of the room.

Jack climbed down the beanstalk as quick as he could. When he got to the bottom, he found his mother waiting for him.

“And where have you been all morning? Do you expect me to starve to death alone?!” She stood before him with arms crossed over her chest in her strictest manner, but he could see how thin her cheeks really were.

“Mother, look!” he cried, holding out the eggs that he had wrapped in his shirt.

“Oh, my!!” she cried out and threw her hands high into the air in astonishment.

They sold the eggs and got enough money from them to live on for the next ten years.

But Jack could not forget the Princess Miranda, so the very next morning, he got up earlier than the sun and started climbing the beanstalk again. As soon as he entered the palace, he headed for the kitchen to find her.

“Princess!” he cried, when he saw the lovely girl at the giant fireplace. She was standing on an iron ladder to reach a huge, boiling stew pot and using a great spoon to stir it. Her face was flushed and her arms straining, but her back was strong and she looked more beautiful than ever.

“Jack!” she yelled at him, “you’ve come back! But why? You must have sold those golden eggs and are no longer starving. You’ll get eaten!”

“No Princess,” he answered her, “I will not. I will steal the golden harp so that you can escape from this man-eating giant, and his castle will not fall on your kingdom.”

“Oh, Jack…” she cried with rising hope, but then she pulled back, shaking her head. “No, no. I can’t accept this. I won’t let you put your life in danger again. I’m the princess, and it is my duty to keep the kingdom safe: all of it.”

But Jack just grinned at her foolishly. He did so like it when she worried about him.

“FEE, FIE, FO, FUM!” The ground heaved and the pottery clattered. The pot over the fire swayed and the ladder tipped. Jack jumped forward to steady it, but the Princess, who was very used the trembling, had already caught herself against the brick.

“Quick!” she cried. “This is very early for him to come; he must have smelled you!”

Jack knew what to do and jumped inside the cupboard. When the Princess came to him with the knife and bowl, he dutifully held out his hand. Without flinching, the princess took his blood and shut him inside the cupboard.

“I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN!”

“Do you smell that?” she cried gaily. “It’s the last of it that I got from Mrs. Dungbury.”

While the giant was busy gorging himself on the stew, Jack once again slipped out of the cupboard and made for the table in the corner. There was the beautiful golden harp which he took up and then ran across the table.

But the enchanted harp, alarmed at Jack’s wild motions, played vigorously in dismay.

“WHY DOES MY BEAUTIFUL HARP PLAY MUSIC?” the giant cried out in anger and whirled toward the corner-table before the princess could distract him.

“RAARGH!” he cried in rage when he saw Jack holding his precious magic harp.

“Run!” screamed the princess.

“Come on!” cried Jack as he raced across the kitchen to escape. He grabbed the princess’s hand and now she could do nothing but obey him. She followed him outside and to the beanstalk, and they both started climbing.

The giant followed close behind, but he was slower and had to search for strong parts of the vine to hold him up. They were halfway down before he had really started.

“I’LL GET YOU! AND I’LL DROP MY PALACE ON YOUR KINGDOM!”

“No, you won’t!” Jack yelled up as they kept going down.

“What if he does?” asked the Princess when they reached the bottom. The whole ground shook with the giant’s footfalls.

“He won’t,” said Jack, and ran to the back of the house where he got an ax. Then he went back to the vine and started chopping.

“HA HA!” cried the giant, “YOU’LL MAKE IT FALL ON THE KINGDOM ANYWAY!”

“Not if you fall the other way,” yelled Jack and at that, the vine fell over. And sure enough, Jack chopped so it fell across the fields and pastures, crushing the meagre, dried-up crops.

The giant was dead with no harm to the kingdom.

There was great fear when everyone felt the earthquake of the palace crashing onto the fields. The kingdom panicked at the loss of the crops, but when they gathered about the fallen beanstalk, they rejoiced over all the wealth of treasures within the Giant’s palace.

In the giant’s attic, cellar, and pantry, they found mountains of seeds and nuts, hordes of dried fruit and vegetables, oceans of grain, and hills of dried meat. No more starvation, no more death, and no more illness, all thanks to Jack’s heroic conquest.

There was, of course, wonderful rejoicing at the return of the princess, and she, of course, married Jack. Her father was not thrilled that she would marry a farmer, but he was too happy to have her back to argue hard with her choice.

The End

Keep Reading:

Jack and Princess Rose

Rose and the Prince