THE BAD SKOON

November 14, 2017

‘If you don’t behave, I’ll send you to where the ferns grow, and there you’ll be eaten by the Bad Skoon.’

The witch’s daughter narrowed her eyes and presented to her mother a skeptical expression on her as of yet still smooth green face.

‘Oh, there’s no such thing. And if there is, what is it? And I don’t care because I’ve got my powers ready.’

The witch mother snorted an impressive snort from her long bumpy green nose.

‘Your pitiful powers will be no match for the Bad Skoon. It has a great round lump of a body and 8 long poison fern leaf legs. One touch and you freeze, only to slowly melt until nothing is left but your still seeing eyes, which the Bad Skoon then gobbles up with a terrible gnashing of its daggery teeth.’

The witch’s daughter thought this new information over.

‘Well, mother, I have decided to clean the cauldron after all.’

The witch mother nodded once.

‘I thought you might.’

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BEYOND THE MIST

November 6, 2017

She disappeared into a whiteness of mist above the billowing waves.

Far from home she flew to dwell in the comforting echo of caves.

With blended thoughts, dark and light woven, she sat, content to wait.

Oh, what revenge she would deliver. Oh, what horrible fate!

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WHEN THE RED LEAVES SHOW

October 24, 2017

The great brick castle on the hill wore  a mantle of magic ivy. In winter the leaves were white. In summer and spring they were green. In autumn they blushed red as red. The people at their labors in the village and fields below paused from time to time to gaze with pride at the castle’s beauty. And when it came to be that at long and at last the Queen gave birth to a Princess their joy was complete. How soon was joy complete to be snatched away? Within a day.

‘Until the Princess Fair reaches her fifteenth birthday, she must never know when the red leaves show,’ proclaimed the sayer of sooth, staring with a frown at the bubbling potion in the ruby goblet.

The Queen’s mind whirled first in dismay and then in orderly contemplation. Her depth of thought had gifted her from infancy with well respected and admired serenity.

‘So,’ said the Queen, betraying no sign of alarm. In truth, she stifled a yawn. ‘I shall raise Lady Fair myself alone until her fifteenth birthday in the Far Desert.’

And the people saddened when they learned that they would lose their Queen and the new Princess Fair for fifteen years. And though, as the years passed, they maintained the castle with brush and broom for the lonely King’s sake, whenever they gazed up at it from the village and fields, it wasn’t really the same.

When Lady Fair was ten years old she strode up to the palm tree in the oasis where the Queen sat and announced, ‘This is ridiculous. I can’t wait five more years before seeing the magic ivy on my own castle home. Five years is way too long. The sayer of sooth probably didn’t know what he was talking about.’

The Queen reasoned with her daughter, as she had so done since Lady Fair had learned to talk at the age of one. And when she felt that her well respected and admired serenity had once again won the day, she said, ‘Let’s play hide the bowl in the sand.’

The Princess pretended to be content and played at hiding the bowl in sand with clever sparkle. That night, however, after waiting to hear the Queen snore in slumber, little Lady Fair burrowed under the tent and ran free in thrill. She headed straight for the brick castle fifty miles distant. She knew the way? Had she not pried the knowledge from one of the young supply caravan attendants? She had.

Red of red was the magic ivy embracing the red brick castle. Dawn broke. Lady Fair stared. Oh, glory! Red of red! The world trembled. The wings sprouted. Lady Fair was Lady Fairy. She flew off into the sky.

The Queen returned from the Far Desert. She sat with the King each morning gazing at the sky. Sometimes the King said, ‘Five more years were all we needed to keep her.’ Sometimes the Queen nodded. Sometimes she didn’t.

 

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AFTERMATH

October 17, 2017

purple dragons fought in the sky

a rain of scales fell on castle stairs

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THE TRIDENT

October 11, 2017

‘Where’s my slender trident? I distinctly remember leaving it leaning against the shed. Is it leaning against the shed? No, it is not leaning against the shed. So where is it? I’m looking at you, Bernard,’ said the witch.

‘Look at me all you want. I know nothing about the silly trident,’ replied the raven, shuddering its neck feathers.

‘Now I’m looking at you, Charlotte,’ said the witch, turning her most withering gaze toward the black cat.

‘There’s nothing in the world I care less about than your trident. You probably jammed it into the ground in the green wood so you could wander around babbling nonsense unencumbered,’ replied Charlotte, unsheathing her claws to have a nice rake across the gravel.

The witch whirled around in fury and strode off into the green wood. She kicked a tree, threw dirt clods into the stream, bit her own arm, threw herself to the ground and sobbed. When none of these things produced the slender trident, she sat up glowering, her face a silent storm. It was then that she noticed the slender trident stuck in the ground next to a stand of lush green yellow bushes.

‘Oh, yeah, heh, heh,’ she mumbled in embarrassment.

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THE HOLLOW

October 4, 2017

‘Oh, find the ghostly hollow where color melts away, and deadly shoots of cane await in silent fog so gray,’ sang the grandmother.

‘Why is the cane deadly? Why is it foggy in the ghostly hollow? How do I find it?’ asked the granddaughter.

‘You must discover the answers to the first two questions on your own. As for how to find it, take this basket, climb the stairs to the top of the cliff, cross the mesa, ford the river, climb up through the forest, crest the peak, and you will stare down into the ghostly hollow. Descend and enter. I pray for your safe return,’ said the grandmother, and she handed the basket to the granddaughter and turned away to hide her tears.

The granddaughter carried the basket outside and paused to gather courage and to gaze at the forbidden stairs marching up, up, up to the top of the cliff. She took one deep breath and began her journey with a single strong stride followed by another and another. Cliff, mesa, river, forest, peak, she arrived at the place where she stared down into the ghostly hollow. Clutching the basket, clothes tattered, hair matted here, wispy there, she descended.

She twisted and bent her way through the sentinel cane shoots. She disappeared into the fog so gray. Silence. Stillness. Time.

Three years later the grandmother heard a knocking at her door. She pushed the window curtain aside to see who was there. She gasped, clutched at her chest, and fell unconscious to the floor.

The grandmother, struck blind and deaf and mindless, babbled and sang. The visitor cared for her. The visitor survived. The visitor’s claws and tusks were kept razor sharp with the file she stored away in the basket with her other treasures.

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WHITE MOUNTAIN

September 23, 2017

Euphonia Gasp stormed into the witch’s cottage and flung a worn out shoe against the wall. Then she flung another worn out shoe against the other wall. The witch glanced up from her sewing and smiled.

‘I take it you haven’t succeeded in finding White Mountain,’ said the witch.

‘No. There’s no such thing. You lied. I found Pink Mountain, Blue Mountain, even Yellow And Black Striped Mountain. You lied. The White Mountain treasure does not exist. You lied, you liar,’ said Euphonia Gasp.

Fortunately for Euphonia, the witch was amused, and in her eyes the merriest of twinkles danced.

‘Tut, tut, tut, my dear,’ said the witch. ‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I will repair your shoes and give you a hint.’

So saying, the witch waved her right hand, the one holding needle and thread, in a complicated pattern as if she was leading an orchestra into battle. The flung worn out shoes leaped fully repaired to Euphonia and bounced off her stomach.

‘Oof,’ said Euphonia, and she stepped into the newly lovely shoes. ‘What’s the hint?’

‘Treasure is found when least you look. Bind your fortune to a long lost book,’ said the witch.

‘That’s it. That’s the clue?’ said Euphonia, and she barely suppressed the urge to remove and fling her shoes. Instead, she turned and left the cottage, muttering, ‘Long lost book, long lost book.’

‘Wow. She fell for it again. I can’t believe it,’ said the witch’s cat, sliding out from behind the sewing basket. ‘Why do you keep torturing her year after year?’

‘I’m a witch. It’s what I do,’ said the witch, and she hummed a happy tune as she returned to her sewing.

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CANDELABRA

September 4, 2017

Once in a land lost long ago, the royal family despaired. Each of the fourteen regal sons of the regal lord and regal lady had failed to free the land from the shackles of enchantment which rendered the land’s every living creature clumsy. Constantly heard were cries of ‘Sorry about that’ and ‘Whoops’, not to mention baser shouts of disappointment and frustration. Falling into streams and cleaning up spilled milk were common sights. And the despair reached its peak when the citizenry realized all hope was now to be pinned on the regal pair’s youngest child and only daughter, Candelabra. To that end, she was summoned into the presence of her regal parental pair.

“It’s up to you now,” said the regal lord from where he had most recently fallen.

“Yes, that is so,” confirmed the regal lady, accidentally knocking a goblet full of nectar from the arm of her throne.

“Finally,” said Candelabra, and she turned and marched confidently from the great hall into the courtyard, through the ornate entrance, across the drawbridge and into the stand of slender trees beyond the moat.

“Is it safe?” whispered a voice from above. Tree foliage rustled. An elderly crone thrust her head out through the leafy curtain.

“Yes. I don’t have to pretend to be clumsy any more. They have at last asked me to end the enchantment which they should have done in the first place I don’t have to tell you,” said Candelabra with a measure of indignation.

“Fools must fail again and again before they turn to the wise,” whispered the crone. “Here. Throw it in the moat.”

Candelabra bent down and picked up the coin dropped by the crone. The crone smiled and wisped away. Candelabra threw the coin into the placid water of the moat. Clumsiness was only an unpleasant memory throughout the land.

In the end when she came to be the lone regal, Candelabra ruled wisely and warily.

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JEWELS

August 28, 2017

The display of jewels twinkled on top of the square cut board. The baker’s assistant nervously shifted her weight from foot to foot. And why not? She had won the right to select one jewel by winning the hopping race, outstripping by a good margin all the other assistants in the flung far and wide queendom. The Queen tapped her shiny green shoe impatiently against the marble floor.

‘Well,’ she said, rolling her eyes, ‘make a decision. I haven’t got all day. Queens have duties, you know, some even more important than this, if you can believe it.’

The Queen was a sarcastic Queen, but her subjects didn’t care as long as she remained beautiful.

‘I wonder…’ said the baker’s assistant, her hands writhing and twisting, one in the other.

‘What? You wonder what?’ asked the impatient Queen.

‘Could I have the board instead? It would make such a splendid surface for kneading,’ said the baker’s assistant in a rush of words.

The Queen snorted slightly and side-eyed the wall.

‘Make it so,’ she decreed, and stepped briskly out of the grand hall, throngs bowing as she passed by.

And that is how the baker’s assistant came to possess the finest breadboard in all the flung far and wide queendom.

 

 

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SHAPESHIFTER

August 10, 2017

While the glittering whirl and sash of the Grand Inaugural Ball was at its frenzied peak, deep down dark behind a cobwebbed wooden door in the castle’s long forgotten underdungeon, the shapeshifter worked her magic guided by the glowing time chart’s moving fingers. The night of glory was at hand. Sparks flew. Bright was the dazzle. And Fablenna, for such was the shapeshifter’s name, melted away, pouring herself into herself as a white vessel in the shape of a globe. From the underdungeon she shimmered to glide above and form on the Table of Feast. She waited for the music to stop, a signal that soon to arrive at the banquet table would be the flushed and hungry dancers.

‘Oh, what a lovely round white pot,’ cried the new Queen. ‘Can it be mine?’

Rosy red of cheek, gleaming of eye, she dashed forward and grasped the pot, lifting it high to show one and all. Time froze. Fablenna oozed, dribbling down to encase the joy frozen young Queen. A shuddering. Some trembling. The new Queen had a new sparkle in her eye. Time resumed.

‘I will shatter the pot. It will bring us good fortune,’ said the Queen, and she flung the white globe to the floor, where it shattered for good and all.

Later that night, alone in the velvet and satin splendor of her chamber, the new Queen shifted shapes to her heart’s content and sang quietly the song she had composed for the occasion, Fablenna’s Triumph.

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