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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IVY

July 17, 2017

“I must have the finest of red bricks and the most binding of gray mortar to build my giant cube,” said the Queen.

And so it came to pass that a monstrous cube of bricks, fair dwarfing the palace, towered above the city. Plague followed drought followed war, and devastation ruled. The city became abandoned rubble, then disappeared under desert sands. Buried, too, but perfectly preserved, was the giant brick cube. For it was enchanted and possessed a secret hidden inside. The Queen, now aged 800 or 8,000 or 80,000 years or more, sat in darkness, waiting. She was the secret hidden inside.

Then, after a millennial span of time, rains returned, and the desert bloomed. A wind attacked with seeming purpose the sand covering the brick cube. When the cube stood fully exposed in rigid splendor, the wind retired. The Queen inside awoke from a long dream.

“Ah, time to try again,” she muttered. Roots punched down through the soles of her golden slippers and grew in length, branched, slithered under and up, crawling to cover the walls on the outside of the brick cube. Leafy the green ivy grew in lovely embrace of the cube. And not one man, woman, or child ever saw it, for the Queen, Gaia, had cured the world of humanity.

 

 

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THE LAND OF PIE

June 24, 2017

Once upon a time in the Land of Pie a call went out to all the cherry wedges scattered here to yon and back again to gather at once on the Platter of Display in the Central Courtyard.

‘What can this be about?’ asked Mavis, a slender cherry wedge hurrying through the rhubarb patch.

‘We’ll know when we know,’ answered Helen, the slightly more abundant cherry wedge sister of Mavis.

Before long all 8 wedges of the royal pie had assembled in a proper circular round on the Platter of Display in the Central Courtyard.

Well?’ said 7 of the siblings in unison, directing their attention to sibling number 8, Judd.

The worried Judd responded, ‘The Land of Cake has signed an exclusive treaty with the Land of Ice Cream. We’ve been betrayed!’

‘Oh, is that all? I never liked ice cream anyway. Melting is so unattractive,’ said Helen.

An argument ensued, some calling for arbitration, others agreeing with Helen and urging everybody to go home and forget about it. Some blueberry wedges and a lemon wedge or 2 watched the debate with varying amounts of interest, a lot to none at all. In the end, Helen’s supporters prevailed, and all 8 wedges wandered off to 8 divergent destinations, from Custard City in the north to Crust Village in the south.

In 2 months time, having discovered they no longer could live without pie, the Land of Ice Cream declared the treaty with the Land of Cake nullified.

When the news got to Helen, she turned to her pecan wedge friend, Portia, and said, ‘Who cares?’

‘Not me,’ replied Portia, and she returned her attention to the checkerboard, where she proceeded to jump 2 of Helen’s vanilla tarts with her own chocolate.

 

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THE BAD PUMPKIN

June 5, 2017

Long ago in the Realm of Flowers a pumpkin grew to be huge, orange, and rotten. It rolled and bounced viciously around the garden wreaking havoc. Its cruel laughter rang all the day throughout the realm. The flowers, at a loss for what to do, held a secret meeting late at night in the old abandoned greenhouse.

‘We have to do something,’ said the leader of the daffodils, renowned vanguards of Spring. ‘Here I have a sack filled with many white pebbles and one green pebble. Whoever draws the green pebble must do something to rid us of the evil pumpkin.’

White pebble after white pebble was drawn, and in time the sack was held out to the Rose siblings, Ivy and and her little sister, Daisy. Ivy, the eldest, drew first. White pebble. She sighed in relief. Her relief was short-lived, however, because Daisy drew the green.

‘I’ll go with you,’ Ivy volunteered instantly, and the pair of roses exited the greenhouse without delay.

‘What now?’ asked Daisy when they paused to rest next to the grassy knoll.

‘I have an idea. I’ve had it for a long time. When the horrible pumpkin begins bouncing and laughing at dawn, this time we’ll talk to it,’ said Ivy.

Daisy shrugged. She was reluctant to call her sister a fool. So she trailed her sister to the pumpkin’s patch and waited to see what would happen, all the while, mind you, prepared to run away like the wind’s faster cousin. Dawn broke as they reached the patch, and the pumpkin stirred. Daisy crouched, ready to flee.

‘Oh, pumpkin, you are so handsome,’ called Ivy. ‘I’ve heard that the fishes at the bottom of the river adore you. They have built for you a glowing orb and a crown of diamonds. They long for you to visit them and receive their gifts. All they ask for in return is to sing your praises.’

The horrible ugly fat rotting pumpkin’s brain seed quivered with greed. Then the horrible ugly fat rotting pumpkin rolled and bounced directly to the river, plunged in and was never seen again.

The Rose sisters were granted permanent positions at the top of the Grand Trellis.

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EONIA

May 8, 2017

In the concrete city of Pastel, the pavement sweeper’s daughter, Eonia, was often observed standing on the pebbled slab nearest the small square of dirt and tugging on one of the auburn ringlets hanging below her left ear, a sure sign that she was deep in thought.

‘Eonia! Come mix the brick paste,’ called her mother.

Eonia did not move. Had she heard?

‘Leave her be,’ said Eonia’s father. ‘She’s thinking deep like as she does. She’s inventing a garden in her head, as ever and always like she does, you know.’

Eonia’s mother sighed and said, ‘It’s all well and good to think thoughts, but how is that going to repair the back wall is what I’d like to know.’

‘Orange on the way to scarlet,’ Eonia mumbled. For her, you see, in that moment, the square of dirt before her was the single place existing in the universe. Such was the fierceness of her composed concentration that what happened next was instantly and, I might add, universally accepted with celebratory awe by all in the concrete city of Pastel.

The orange on the way to scarlet flower remained fully in bloom forever there in its square of dirt.

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THE FOUNTAIN OF WONDER AND GLORY

May 2, 2017

In the Valley of Soot the bleak town of Scraps sprawled in the mud next to the sludge stream.  In the worst of the huts Little Scratch crawled under the splintered beam to breakfast.

‘Here now finally, are ye?’ said Little Scratch’s mother. ‘ Eat your scrape of tar and hurry up about it before I throw it on the rancid heap.’

Little Scratch barely managed to swallow the scrape of tar and hurried to the pit to visit her grandfather, the only grown person in the whole wide world she loved who loved her back.

When she squeezed under the barbed wire and crawled down into the pit and saw her grandfather sitting there, she said, ‘Grump, won’t ye please tell me again about the Fountain of Wonder and Glory?’

‘Ah yes, my little heart, ye know, I do believe ye have enough length on ye now to seek for yourself the Fountain of Wonder and Glory,’ said the grandfather.

Little Scratch shivered in thrill and crouched low to her grandfather’s side to listen. Not fifteen minutes later, carrying a pouch of gravel seeds tucked in her least ripped shirt, she swam the sludge stream and trudged over the hill of thistle prickles and broken boulders. In the distance she saw Left Mountain and Right Mountain. Following her grandfather’s instructions, she headed for Left Mountain, which was the mountain on the right.

A month later, standing atop the cliff marking the summit of Left Mountain, she turned her pouch inside out and pincered out the last of the gravel seeds with thumb and forefinger.

There, that’s done it for that, she thought. Now I follow Grump’s final instruction.

Without hesitation, she flung herself off the cliff. A sound of wind. A rush of cool. She fell. And awoke on silver sands at the edge of a lake. She gazed at the miracle. The Fountain of Wonder and Glory lifted its many-colored arms in spray as if to celebrate Little Scrape’s arrival. Little Scrape shuddered in bliss. Her shirt was soft and had nary a rip.

‘Thank ye, Grump,’ she whispered.

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THE TINIEST RAINBOW

April 17, 2017

One day the cloud city groaned and rumbled. The grand rainbows hurried to the assembly grotto, crowding and shoving in order to get the best view of the coming storm. Would the storm achieve enough moisture tumbling sufficiency in ratio to the sunlight to require a rainbow? And if it did so, which bow would be selected by the chorus of siren sprites? The seven siren sprites stood importantly in a row, wings glistening, arms folded across chests, and gazing out at the developing storm. The storm grew impressively, lashing about with flurries of gushering rain, drenching gullies, causing rivulets to rush. Then it retired.

Now, it so happened that at this moment when the storm retired, the tiniest rainbow went slinkying by the assembly grotto’s entrance. She paused, curious to see which grand rainbow would be chosen to go spanning. She saw the seven sprites conferring, leaning together in a tight circle. Then they parted and turned, and the sprite in blue silks sang out to the rainbows.

‘It has been decided,’ she trilled. ‘You there, in the doorway, tiny rainbow, you shall span this day.’

The grand rainbows grumbled, but nevertheless slid aside, for the sprites had spoken. The tiniest rainbow, thrilled to a maximum blush of all her colors, leaped to span, and oh, it was grand. She grew to an impressive length, and when she returned, she was the grandest of the grand rainbows, and ever after she soared to span after the most especially highly graded storms of storms.

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THE SISTERS

March 12, 2017

When, in a queendom far away and long ago, the Queen gave birth to identical twin girls, a soothsayer was summoned to say the sooth.

Regarding the infants with his deeply knowing eyes, the soothsayer said, ‘They must be parted before they reach the age of ten, never more to meet again.’

The Queen said, ‘What is this nonsense? What do you mean? Tell me more if you would leave this palace alive.’

The soothsayer said, ‘The sooth has been said.’ And so saying, the soothsayer disappeared in twin spires of smoke, one spire green, the other blue.

It took all the skills of the chamberlain, the domo, and even the cook to soothe the Queen’s wrath at the sooth said by the soothsayer. Peace was restored to a manageable degree in three weeks time, and work on a great wall separating the queendom into halves was undertaken. With tenderest care, plans were drawn for an eastern palace to be built for the Princess Mandy to occupy on her 10th birthday. At the same time, plans for Princess Sally’s western palace were also scriven on the finest vellum.

The pair of princesses passed the years as inseparable companions. They were kind and loving, a delight to one and all. The Princess Mandy always wore blue. The Princess Sally always wore green. Such was the single way to tell them apart. For their startling orange hair and deepest blue eyes fair brought all who saw them an initial gasp followed by a quivering in the knees.

At last separation day was  almost upon them, and they met in the garden.

‘We will meet again,’ whispered Mandy.

‘We will meet again,’ whispered Sally.

Ten years passed. Princess Mandy brooded in the eastern palace. Princess Sally brooded in the western palace. Despite their frequent efforts, the great wall had triumphed in keeping them apart.

Carrot, Mandy’s jester, worried about her kind mistress. While mending a tunic, Carrot suddenly stood up from the bench and said, ‘I will do something about this!’

At that very same instant in the western palace, Celery, Sally’s jester, flung down her knitting and cried, ‘I will do something about this!’

What did the two jesters do? They each went to the wall and requested a jester exchange. The wall official saw no reason to deny the request. Celery went to Mandy in the east. Carrot went to Sally in the west. And cleverness blossomed in the two palaces when the jesters changed identities with the pair of princesses.

Mandy approached the wall, trembling in the pale togs and raggedy boots of Celery. On the other side of the wall, Sally, for her part, quivered in the orange patch silks and green boots of Carrot. The wall officials yawned and opened the doors to the passage, one on each side. The sisters rushed to embrace.

The flames tore around the queendom, consuming it to the last leaf, the last twig. Arms around each other, blended, slender, the sisters sat joyous in the charred landscape.

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THE THIRD WISH

March 5, 2017

Once during a time of uneasy peace, a storyteller roamed from village to village. This storyteller wore a tattered green cloak and a drooping gray stocking cap. When news of her approach arrived, the elders would send all the children to gather in the square while they themselves hid away in cellars, not making a sound and hardly daring to breathe. And when she left, the villagers would mourn for the lost one, give thanks for the saved.

And so one day it happened that the children of Wheatfield, a village serenaded by a nearby stream, were gathered in the square awaiting the arrival of the storyteller. They were all quietly terrified, never before having experienced a storyteller visit. That is, all save one were terrified. Clever Tamitha, the blacksmith’s daughter, wasn’t the least bit afraid. She had heard about the so called ‘horrible’ storyteller, of course, and now she was eager to see her.

‘Finally,’ she announced to the crouched, huddled together, and quivering children of the village, ‘we get to hear what this scary storyteller woman has to say. I’d like to see her try to scare me with some silly story. Ha!’

The huddled children exchanged glances, eyes flaring up with the tiniest flickers of hope. For you see, they all knew about Clever Tamitha and how she was smarter by far than anybody ever had been in the history of Wheatfield.

‘Who will answer?’ cried a cracked voice from beyond the village wall.

“I will!’ shouted Tamitha in reply.

Bony hands, green flash of cloak, drooping cap, withered face, scraggly white hair, these appeared all of a moment on the path at the head of the square. A wide crooked smile revealed the razor teeth.

‘You?’ asked the storyteller, voice flavored with scorn. It must be said here that Tamitha, the only child standing, was small and thin.

‘Me,’ said Tamitha, arms folded across her chest in defiance.

‘Very well,’ said the storyteller with a cackle. ‘One of three Wishes I offer thee, the Wish of Ice, One, the Wish of Wind, Two, and the Wish of Fire is number Three. Choose your story wisely.’

Tamitha thought hard. In icy winter the stream froze. Fields of grain waved wildly in stormy winds. The ember glow at her father’s forge were for Tamitha a comfort.

‘Three,’ said Tamitha.

Green flash of cloak, thunder clap, a fiery number 3 raced from the sky at Tamitha and consumed her. The storyteller left. The villagers mourned the lost one, gave thanks for the saved.

And where Tamitha lived the birds sang sweetly and the garden grew lovely flowers.

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THE MAGIC WHEEL

February 26, 2017

Durabella was dutiful, kind, and never smiled. She roamed the fields far from her little cottage. She gathered herbs and bumbleberries for to make and bake a pie for the miller’s wife, who was ailing. When her apron’s pockets bulged with treasure, she turned to make her way home. So it was then on cresting a hill that she noticed the old wooden wheel leaning against a pair of spindly trees.

‘Strange,’ she said. ‘That wasn’t there before. Was it?’

She approached the wheel which was fair as tall as she was. The spokes were gray with age. The thin metal rim of the wheel was rusted. The hub, cracked almost ragged, seemed to Durabella as if it would give up and fall away to dust at the slightest touch. She touched it.

Nothing leaned against the pair of spindly trees. Scattered around them were bumbleberries and twigs, twists, and leaves of herbs. Durabella roamed the star world, smiling.

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