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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