Sunday, December 29, 2013

Into the Land of the Elves: The Stone

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, author
July 6
12:27 PM

The Stone

            Sometimes a writer can find her best material in her own backyard.
            Well, maybe not if she has a particularly boring backyard. But with a backyard like mine, with its mile-high cherry tree (an excellent spring and summer hotel for squirrels), its miniature forest, its row of bright orange tiger lilies (planted by the people who used to live here), and its bright green garden pond (abandoned by the people who used to live here), there really is no end to the number of great things to write about.
            But for the next few days, I will be writing about something I didn’t know was in my backyard until just this morning. Since I’ve lived here for just a little over a year, you’re probably wondering what exactly could have slipped past my radar for so long. Well, this morning after breakfast, I decided to take a nice walk through the mini forest. It really is a mini forest, with all the trimmings of a real forest compressed into a small and convenient package. The red cedars and spruces and oaks are small (for a tree) but many. They form winding pathways, lush green groves, and bright, pretty clearings just like in the real forests. There are even small lakes and streams, formed by the medium-frequent rainfall. It’s the perfect place to walk, the perfect place to relax, and the perfect place to get some good material.
            I went out there with my notepad and wandered around in the way I always do, looking for things to jot down. I jotted down everything I could think of, and I jotted down things I’d already jotted down on previous walks—the deep Christmas green of the spruces, the way the sunlight shines through the trees, and the exact sound of the rushing stream (“kssshksshksshksssh”). But when I passed by something I was sure I’d never jotted down before, I knew that I had to get a closer look.
            There was a cluster of wild magnolias, all in bloom for the beginning of summer. Their silvery-green leaves and starry white flowers stuck out at me among the usually quite somber greens of the other trees. They were arranged in the formation of an arch, and looked almost as if they formed some sort of doorway. Below the arch, brush plants and vine clusters and small shrubs grew in a haphazard mess, as if to block off the doorway the magnolia trees formed.
            This I had to write down! Already, I was seeing everything that this archway could be: it could be a doorway to another world, like Oz or Fairyland or something along those lines. It could be a quick-transport portal to another part of our world—step through the arch and you’ll find yourself in China or Japan or Africa, or perhaps even another time period. Behind it was an old house, and there lived an eccentric woman who held on to a dark secret. It was blocked off because—well, I didn’t really get a chance to think over why it was blocked off. But I wanted an even closer look. There could have been something extremely useful to me beyond that archway, and I wanted to see for myself.
            I wandered through the scratchy brush plants as well as I could. They struck my ankles and left tiny scratches and cuts, but I didn’t let that stop me. I picked the vines apart and threw them aside. Something tugged on my left pants leg. I assumed it was another brush plant and I reached down to brush it out of the way. That’s when I discovered the stone.
            It was a small, round stone, the color of a jade. It was stuck inside my sandal and resting against my ankle. I picked it up, held it in the palm of my hand, and just looked at it, taking in every detail that I could write down: the stone was a perfectly circular shape, not a sphere but a disk, like a CD. It was a jade green color that matched the red cedars scattered around the forest. Certain lights turned it the color of the silvery-green magnolia leaves…
            I turned it over in my hand. On the back was some sort of carving, which appeared to be done with a needle. It looked like this:

It might have been found by some little kid who had decided to scribble on it. But I am not the type to stick to “might haves” without any further investigation. After lunch, I’ll go back to that magnolia archway to see if I can find anything else of note.

1:27 PM
            The magnolia archway was unblocked, just like that. The brush and vines had been cleared aside and I could go beyond the archway. I held on to the stone tightly and took one step, then two, three…the magnolias formed a neat pathway, and as I kept walking I had a strong feeling that I was going somewhere really far away, which was really silly—it was only a few steps into the woods, after all.
            On my tenth step, I ran into a massive spiderweb, complete with a massive brown spider—a daddy longlegs, from the looks of it. The web was stretched between two branches from two different magnolia trees, and I couldn’t go any further without demolishing it. It was such a big, well built web, and the daddy longlegs was such a pretty, almost regal looking spider. I didn’t want to demolish it.
            But I would really like to see where that path leads. I need to figure out an alternate route.

3:05 PM

I’m at the magnolia archway and I took my diary with me this time. I feel as if this could lead to something big, and I want all the documentation I can get. The archway is still unblocked (did I expect it to be blocked off again? I’m not sure). I’m going in. I’m going to count my steps. I should hit the spiderweb after ten.
            Hello, Mr. Daddy Longlegs. You go about your business, sir. I promise I will not disrupt your afternoon routine. There’s some thick shrubbery surrounding the path. I could go around the web by stepping through that, but it’s going to cut up my legs pretty badly. Is that a trumpet I hear up ahead? Are there any native birds that sound like trumpets? Man, this brush is thick. And ow, I think I just cut my foot on a thorn! I must’ve stepped on one of those thorny vines. It doesn’t hurt much, just about as bad as getting a shot from the doctor.
            I can’t see the path anymore. How could I have lost my way so easily? I’ve explored in places much bigger, darker, deeper, and harder to navigate than this, and I’ve never lost my way! There are a ton of spiders out here, and I’ve been running into webs to and fro. Some are brown spiders, some are black spiders, some green, some white, and I think I saw a yellow one. The detours around webs must have turned me around. But still, how could I have strayed this far from the path?
            That trumpet sound is still going on. I am going to stop writing for now and start trying to find my way back.

4:40 PM

            I jotted everything down in my notepad as soon as I was able to make my way out. It took a while, and I nearly destroyed the webs of several poor spiders in the process, but here I am. I’m staying home for the rest of the day.
            That trumpet sound played until I made it back to the daddy longlegs’ giant web. It was a continuous, staccato “HONK! HONK! HONK!” and I wonder what kind of bird would make a cry like that—a forest-dwelling goose, perhaps? It sounded a lot more like an instrument than an animal.
           The stone was in my jeans pocket the whole time I was out there, and right now it’s resting in my left fist. I’ll keep it on my bedside table tonight, and I’ll keep it with me when I go out for tomorrow’s investigation. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Secret Worlds and Fantastic Creatures: A Fairy from Space

Here on Earth, fairies are very, very elusive and rare. But up in space, where anything is possible and most everything is unexplored, there is a small planetoid that is home only to fairies. And one day, one of the more adventurous of these fairies decided that she wanted to see what other planets were like. So she had the interplanetary aeronautics department build a spaceship for her, and she set off on a voyage into space.
            An interplanetary voyage from Earth would take decades or even centuries, but that is because our spaceships are not powered by the magic of fairies. Spaceships powered by fairy magic can reach other planets in a very short time, and that is how this fairy voyager was able to reach Earth in only a matter of days.
            To the fairy, Earth looked like a magnificent blue crystal. She had once visited a cave that contained misty blue gems of all sizes, and she thought that Earth must be an enormous version of one of these gems. What a wonderful place to land! she thought, and she set the ship’s course for a landing on Earth.
            But when she landed, she discovered that it was not blue, but green; the ground she stood on was a vivid, eyecatching green, and scattered all around were tall structures covered in different shades of green. But when she looked up, she saw the beautiful misty blue she had been expecting, and it was just like the crystals in the cave. Those gems must be green inside, just like this one, she thought. I will have to break one open and see.
            As she walked along, she heard an odd babbling sound coming from a spot beyond the tall, green structures. She followed the sound, and found a stream of clear, dazzling liquid rushing against some grey rocks. It was very boring, compared to the rich red streams from her homeland. By now she knew that this was not a giant crystal; as far as she knew, crystals did not have streams in them.
            The babbling was not the only strange sound she heard—there were strange sounds coming from the tall, green structures as well. “Peep, peep, peep,” went the tall, green structures. Were the structures themselves making that sound, or was there something inside of them that was doing it? The fairy approached one of the structures for a closer look. It was covered in flat, bright green disks that rested on knobby brown bars. She broke off one of the disks to see if it was making that peeping sound. The disk felt light and thin in her hand, and it was made out of a very strange kind of rough paper. She held it to her ear, but no sound came out of it.
            Something was moving under the green disks. The fairy took a peek, and beheld a tiny flock of feathery little creatures, twisting their heads and hopping around and peep, peep, peeping. They were just about the funniest little things the fairy had ever seen, with their black, beady eyes and their short, skinny legs. She was sure that she could watch them all day, but she had so much else to see on this strange and funny planet.
        She returned to her ship and set its course for a voyage around this big, blue gem of a planet, wondering what other interesting things she would find. And she came to the conclusion that there could never be a planet as big, beautiful, and interesting as this one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rainbow Ice, Sugary Castle

Sherbet stars, rainbow ice,
a sugary castle in the land of sweets—
where ice cream houses stand along
the white, creamy, milky streets.
The sky is cream, the earth is candy,
and the moon a big white sugar drop.
At the pink cotton candy fair,
the carousel has a big red cherry on top.
The pixie-dust clouds come and pass,
the lemon sun rises and sets,
the fishermen out in the lemonade sea
catch candy fish in their peppermint-string nets.
Ice cream ships blast off into
the galaxy of honey and milk.
And on the land below, the people
don apparel made from chocolate silk.
Yes, there is nowhere quite as sweet
as right here in the land of sweets,
with its rainbow ice, its cream sky, 
its sugary castle, and its milky streets. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cancelled: Aliss and the Rose Dragon, The Children of the House on Briar Point

I will be unfortunately cancelling these stories because I really don't feel like they're going anywhere.

However, keep an eye out for new material to be added this week and next, including a new Secret Worlds and Fantastic Creatures, new poetry, and hopefully a new tale to take the place of these cancelled ones.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Children of the House on Briar Point: Emily Meets the Sisters

Another girl was at the door.
Rebecca and Rosalind had seen other girls before,
but only on the other side
of the big white fence.
People never crossed to their side.
They rather liked it that way,
because they found it very hard to trust people.

People were loud.
People were rude.
People stole things,
hurt things,
and always showed up where they were not wanted.

“Who are you?” Rebecca asked the girl.

“I’m Emily,” the girl answered her.
“Those are my persimmons lying
on your front steps.”
Her voice shook,
and she was looking at her feet.

“Those can’t be your persimmons,” said Rosalind.
“They weren’t on your side of the big white fence.”

“They are mine,” insisted Emily.
“They fell from my tree,
so they are my persimmons.”

“Oh,” said Rosalind.
“Well, thank you very much.
They were very good persimmons.”

“But you stole them,” said Emily.
“You stole them and I want them back.”

“I’m sorry,” said Rebecca,
“but we’ve eaten nearly all of them.
But we can give you back the ones
that we didn’t eat.”

Emily looked up.
 “Thank you, I guess.
But I don’t have much else to eat,
so please don’t take any more of my persimmons.”

“You don’t have anything to eat?” asked Rebecca.
“Nothing?” asked Rosalind.

“Not much,” said Emily.
“I live alone
and there isn’t much I can get by myself.”

Rebecca and Rosalind looked at eachother.
Then they smiled.
“We have plenty of food,” said Rosalind.
“You can have some of ours.”

They didn’t trust people,
but Emily seemed like such a nice girl.
They didn’t think that such a nice girl

should only go with such a small amount of food. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Aliss and the Rose Dragon, part 2

When Aliss told her parents about the Rose Dragon, they were very surprised to find out that their daughter had befriended a dragon, but they accepted the dragon and told her that she may stay in the garden for as long as she wished.
            Aliss and the Rose Dragon became the dearest friends. Aliss’ morning and afternoon excursions to the garden now included delightful meetings with the dragon as well as the flowers. The Rose Dragon was perfectly agreeable to allowing the girl to climb up on her back and slide down off of her long neck. They would chase eachother through the garden and tumble and wrestle and laugh until their sides ached. Sometimes the dragon would tease Aliss by gently butting her like a young goat while she was tending to the flowers or reading or daydreaming at her table, and sometimes Aliss would retaliate by gently tugging the dragon’s tail and running off  to hide under a hedge or behind a bush. The dragon always found her, and when she did the two of them would laugh and embrace and taunt eachother playfully. Aliss taught the dragon the songs and stories she learned at school, and the dragon would quietly and respectfully listen and nuzzle her in approval when she finished.
            The spring turned to summer, and the Rose Dragon remained in Aliss’ garden. Aliss was released from school and was free to spend entire days with her. At night, the Rose Dragon would open up her rose petal wings and Aliss would climb into them, and the two of them would sleep together amongst the frogs and crickets that came into the garden to sing their songs.
            One afternoon Aliss’ parents were leaving for an out-of-town wedding. They told Aliss that they would be away until next afternoon, and that a friend of the family named Kara would be coming to keep an eye on things.
            “Can’t my dragon take care of me?” Aliss asked.
            “Of course she can,” said Aliss’ mother. “Kara will only be dropping in to make sure the two of you are all right.”
            Aliss’ eyes widened. “What will Kara say about my dragon?” she asked in alarm.
             “We told Kara all about your dragon,” Aliss’ mother assured her, “and she promised that she wouldn’t do anything to disturb her.”  
            Even after this reassurance, Aliss did not trust Kara. When her parents left, she ran to the garden and warned the Rose Dragon, “My parents will be away until tomorrow afternoon, and their friend is dropping by to check on things.” The Rose Dragon bared her fangs in alarm, and Aliss knew she would have to be very protective of her until her parents returned.
            Aliss stayed by the Rose Dragon’s side, and the two of them remained vigilant when Kara dropped by. But when Kara saw the dragon, she only waved politely to her and didn’t get too close. “She is a beautiful dragon,” she told Aliss. “You are very lucky to be her friend.”
            “I am!” cried Aliss. “I am very lucky to be her friend!” Aliss stopped worrying about Kara, and Kara treated the dragon with respect. She let Aliss stay out in the garden, and brought dinner for her and the dragon to Aliss’ table.
            “The Rose Dragon doesn’t eat food like me,” Aliss explained to Kara. “She eats sunlight and water, just like flowers.”
            “I see,” said Kara, and took the extra food inside to save for the next day. As much as she wanted to get to know the dragon herself, she had been told that the dragon was very distrusting of humans, and she didn’t want to do anything that might alarm her.
           Aliss and the dragon spent the rest of the afternoon playing hide and seek in the hedges, and that night Aliss slept curled up in the dragon’s soft rose petal wings. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Children of the House on Briar Point: Emily

Emily climbed over the big white fence
and set out to find who had stolen her persimmons.
At first she thought it might’ve been a squirrel.
“Do squirrels eat persimmons?” she asked herself,
and then she decided that they did not.

“Then perhaps it was a bat,”
she mused to herself.
She did not think that she wanted to meet a bat.
“Do bats eat persimmons?” she asked herself.
She could not answer that question
because she had never seen a bat.

There was another house
on the other side of the big white fence;
a tiny cottage, just like hers.
But it was much older
and built of stone,
and it was painted white
while hers was painted yellow.

What a peculiar little house it was,
and how pretty!
Emily thought someone very nice must live there.

But then she saw the two persimmons
lying askew beside the white steps.

She thought they must not be so nice after all.

Emily cautiously walked to the door—
up one white step, then the other, then the third.
She didn’t know what she was ought to say,
but she knew she must get her persimmons back.

She knocked on the door.
One, two, three little knocks…

Secret Worlds and Fantastic Creatures: The Key

A lonely little key was lying on the bank of a quiet little stream.
The key was plated with real gold and inlaid with real jewels, and carved in an intricate manner that indicated whoever had made it had worked with extreme care and consideration. Clearly, the key was intended to serve some very special purpose. This was a very important key, but it could not serve its purpose lying on the bank of a stream, with nobody around to take it and find its use. 
The key was found by a little bluebird strolling along the bank of the stream. “What a lovely addition to my nest!” she exclaimed. “I’ll weave it in, and I will have the most beautiful nest in the tree!”
She took the key, brought it to her nest, and weaved it in among the leaves and twigs. But it did not make the nest look as decorative as she thought it would; it was overshadowed by the leaves and twigs, and all it did was provide a glare when it caught the light of the sun. The glare was very annoying for the bluebird, and she felt that such a beautiful key really did not belong among leaves and twigs, so she took the key out of her nest and left it on the bank of the stream where she had found it. Decorating a bird’s nest was not the key’s purpose.
The next day, the key was discovered by a nereid swimming along the bank. “Oh my! What a treasure!” exclaimed the nereid. “I am going to keep it with all my other treasures!”
She took the key, brought it to her den, and set it on top of her pile of treasures. But though the key was very beautiful, it looked out of place among the pearls, jewels, and gold coins that the nereid kept. The nereid’s jewels were the size of soccer balls, and the tiny jewels that decorated the key looked very insignificant in comparison. The nereid decided that the key did not belong in her pile of treasures, and she brought it back to the bank of the stream. Becoming a nereid’s treasure was not the key’s purpose.
The next day, the key was found by a big green frog out for a morning stroll. “I will wear this around my neck,” said the frog, “and it will look so beautiful on me that nobody will ever call me an ugly wartface!”
            He took the key, brought it to his swamp, and threaded the stem of a flower through the intricate loops. He tied the stem and slipped it over his head. The key was cold and heavy against his chest, and he found it very hard to walk with it weighing him down. “It’s very beautiful,” the frog mused, “but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be worn around the necks of frogs! Oh well, I suppose it wouldn’t make a difference; I’m such an ugly wartface anyway!” So the frog took the key from around his neck, untied the flower stem, and set the key back on the bank of the stream. But nobody called him an ugly wartface—in fact, he was rather beautiful for a frog. Being worn as a necklace by a frog was not the key’s purpose.
            For the next few days, the key was passed by. Nobody noticed it. Nobody picked it up or tried to find a use for it. It seemed as if the wonderful key would be forgotten. But finally, the key was noticed—not by a bird, a frog, a nereid, or any other creature of the forest, but by a human being from the village nearby. He was walking along the bank of the stream on his way home from a hike, and he nearly tread on the key. He picked it up and examined it. “This is an odd little key,” he mused. “I wonder what it’s for. I’ll hold on to it and find out.” He placed the key in his pants pocket and continued on his way.
         It is unknown what happened to the man or the key, but perhaps he finally found the key’s purpose. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Prince and the Desert Queen, part 6 (ending)

            The prince had to kiss the queen three times upon waking and three times before going to bed. He was made to sleep beside her every night, with his arms wrapped around her and her head resting near his chest. The prince was denied food and made to sit with his knees in the hot sand if he did not comply with the queen’s demands, if he mentioned Princess Clara or his old life, or if he refused the queen’s advances.
            One night, the prince decided to attempt escape while the queen slept; he didn’t know or care where he would go off to, if only it was as far away from Queen Lizana as possible. Taking advantage of the lack of courtiers and servants, he quietly slipped out of the palace and took off running. He ran as fast as he had when he had chased the peahen—an animal which would go on to be despised by him for as long as he lived. He kicked up trails of sand in his wake and the fine clothing that the queen had provided him was dusty and stained.
            The desert seemed to go on forever, and the prince wondered just how much of it was under Lizana’s reign, and how much was just empty desert. Perhaps she was not even a real queen, but a crazy, wicked sadist who came across a long-forgotten palace and decided it was hers. When the prince could no longer run, he fell to his hands and knees and crawled, ignoring the possibility of further bites and stings from the poisonous creatures in the sand. He crawled until his legs were numb, and then he was forced to drag across the sand until he finally collapsed.
            When the prince woke up, he expected to find himself back in the awful desert queen’s chamber, to see her glaring down at him with her icy blue eyes. “You tried to leave me,” she would say in that voice that was so like a snake. And then who knew what she would do to him for attempting to escape?  But he was not back in Queen Lizana’s chamber; he was staring up at a cloudless sky. Grass tickled the back of his neck and the palm of his hands, which were reddened by his crawl through the hot sands.  
            The prince staggered to his feet and beheld his surroundings. This was no desert, but a field. He looked behind him, and when he saw grass in place of sand, he jumped up and let out a joyous cry. He had escaped! He had made it out of Lizana the Desert Queen’s realm, alive, and unscathed except for his sore body and ruined clothes. He would never have to kiss her awful face or return her horrible advances or be denied food or made to sit with his bare knees in the hot sand.
           Prince Ephraim had no idea where he was now, or where he was supposed to go, or even if there was anywhere to go at all. All he knew was that he was free, and his desire to find his way back home to his kingdom, his people back at the palace, and his beloved princess motivated him to continue onward. To this day, Prince Ephraim still wanders through the world of the fairies, endlessly searching for the way back to his kingdom. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Children of the House on Briar Point: Rebecca and Rosalind

This is a story written in verse. New parts of this story will be added every Wednesday, in addition to the regular Wednesday update.

The girl placed four tiny orange fruits into her sister’s hand.
“Here, Rebecca, look at what I found
on the trees by the big white fence!
I tasted one already.
They’re so soft and so deliciously tart.”

Rebecca looked at the small, smooth orange fruits.
She took an experimental bite of one of them.
The fruit tasted like nothing
she had ever tasted before;
it was soft as a cake
and as sweet as a candy,
but there was the slightest hint of bitterness
reminiscent of an unripe apple.

“What is it called?” she asked her sister.


“If you found them by the big white fence
how do you know that they don’t belong
to the people who live on the other side
of the big white fence?”

“Because it was on our side of the fence,”
her sister assured her.

“Was it?”


“Then they’re ours,” said Rebecca.

Her sister sat beside her
and they ate the strange, small fruits together.
The juices dribbled down their chins
and they giggled.
“Rosalind is a dribbleface,” Rebecca chanted tauntingly.

“So are you!” Rosalind shot back.

They laughed.
They were always laughing. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Prince and the Desert Queen, part 5

Lizana’s palace was even finer than Prince Ephraim’s own. The furniture was made of perfect white ivory and decorated with intricate carvings of various scenes; the back of a chair depicted a peacock by a lake filled with lotus blossoms, a table featured a maiden sunning herself under a willow tree, and a desk featured an image of an orchard full of white-blossomed trees. The walls were lined with silken tapestries and the floors boasted soft plush carpets and velvet rugs. There was a curious absence of courtiers, pages, servants, or waiting ladies.
            “Where are your servants?” asked the prince. “Where is your court? Is it only you here?”
            Lizana nodded. “Yes. This palace is mine and mine alone.”
            “Can you truly call yourself a queen without a court?” the prince ventured to ask.
            The queen did not answer him, but the way she tensed up told him how he had offended her. “My apologies,” said the prince, and he remained silent.
            They reached the queen’s bed chamber, where she set him down on the silk bedspread. “Show me your wound,” she said.  
            The prince turned his back to her. She lifted his tunic, and he felt her gently work the stinger out of his skin. She rubbed some sort of cooling ointment over the wound that dulled the pain. It was a soothing process, yet he felt very uncomfortable. He didn’t pay much mind to the cold, stinging liquid she administered next; he didn’t think he could feel any worse than he already did, no matter what kind of pain he was in.
            Finally, she pricked him with a syringe and held it there for about a minute before working it out. “It is done,” she told him. “The remedy has been administered.”
            “Thank you kindly, Queen Lizana,” said Prince Ephraim, turning around to bow to her. He got off the bed and waved to her as he headed for the door.
            The queen caught him by both arms. “I did not tell you that you may leave,” she said.
            “You told me that I may return home after I told you that I loved you and you gave me the remedy,” the prince reminded her.  
            “But if you love me,” said Lizana, “then why would you ever want to leave me?”
            The prince felt his stomach tighten up. “Queen Lizana,” he ventured to say, “did you not give me permission to return home?”
            “Yes, I have given you permission,” said the queen, “but you also told me you loved me, and said you meant it. If you really loved me, and if you really meant it, then you would not want to leave me. Otherwise, I cannot help but feel that you have told me a falsehood.”
            “You said you were willing to let me go my own way!” cried Prince Ephraim, though he knew how futile it was. It had all been a trick and a test all along, and the prince’s anger and fear mixed with his shame for having fallen for it.
            The desert queen began to pull him back to the bed. He struggled against her and tried to break free, even kicking at her, but she caught him around the throat and said, “Behave now, or you may find yourself receiving another sting. And this time, there will be no remedy!” Her voice was like that of a desert snake. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yellow, Orange, Red

The curtains of the summer show
are colored yellow, orange, red.
At the opening of the show,
these colors are the ones that led
us into all the joy, the laughter,
the love, the friends, and all the fun.
Yellow, orange, red we saw
as we played in the summer sun.

The curtains of the summer show
are colored yellow, orange, red.
At the closing of the show
these colors are the ones that led
us into orange pumpkin spices
and the bright red leaves on trees,
and the yellow rays of sun
and cool air blowing from the seas.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Prince and the Desert Queen, part 4

“I cannot accept your love,” said the prince, “for doing so means betraying my own. If I must die to stay loyal to my betrothed, then that is what I am going to do.”
            “You are a fool,” Lizana said. “You will have a chance to see your betrothed again if you do as I say. I love you, and because I love you I am willing to let you go your own way. But this is only if you are willing to accept my feelings for you. If you do not accept, the venom from the sting will take hold, and you will die. Your betrothed will mourn you. Is that what you wish?”  
            “Oh, no,” said the prince, “that is not what I wish at all! I will accept your feelings for me if it means you will set me free!”
            “Very well,” Lizana said. “First, you must tell me that you love me and that you accept my love for you.”
            The prince said, “I, Prince Ephraim, accept the love of Lizana the Desert Queen, and I fully return the feelings she has for me.”
            Lizana’s eyes brightened like turquoise stones catching the light. “Do you mean it?” she asked.
            Of course I don’t mean it, the prince thought, to set his mind at peace. I could never say those words to any other than my love, the beautiful Princess Clara of Alingrad. But if I am ever to see her again, I must make sure the desert queen does not know that! “I do,” he told Lizana. “I mean every word of it.”
            “Then kiss me,” said the desert queen.
            Prince Ephraim began to feel sick to his stomach. “But, my lady…”
            “Don’t you call me ‘my lady.’ Call me ‘my love.’”
            “My…my love,” the prince stammered, “we have already shared a kiss. Is that not enough?”
            “It is not enough,” said Lizana. “I kissed you then. I want you to kiss me.”
            “Well…very well, then,” said Prince Ephraim. “Come closer.”
            “Can’t you pull me closer?” asked Lizana. “Are you so afraid to touch me?”
            This isn’t right, thought the prince. This isn’t right at all. But if I were to die, what would become of my princess? Shakily, he reached for the queen’s shoulders. He touched one shoulder, then the other. He began to pull her in. Her eyes were glistening like the gems in the moat around the shimmering white palace, and he could see the anticipation in them. He had to think about his hands to stop them from shaking. He had to think about each of his actions or else he’d never be able to do it…Pull her in, lean in close, press your lips to hers…
            He kissed her, and was left with the taste of the cinnabar-colored makeup on her lips.
            The queen pulled back and stared into his eyes for a few moments before she said, “Would you like the remedy now?”
            “I would, if you please,” said Prince Ephraim. “The sting grows more and more painful by the minute, and I think I can feel the venom setting in—it is making me feel quite tired and nauseous!”
            “Come with me to my palace,” said the queen, “and I will give you the remedy. But you must let me hold your hand while we walk.”
           “Very well,” said Prince Ephraim. He held out his hand for her, and she took it. Her hand was so warm that it kept his own from shaking, though the rest of his body trembled until he thought it might fly apart before they reached the palace.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Crickets' Final Song

The crickets sing the final song
of the departing summer;
the theme song of the opening
of a new chapter.
As we move into the autumn,
what of the summer will remain?
And what will still be with us
in the winter after?

The crickets cannot sing the song
of what lies in the future.
They will only sing
of things that are now done.
They will give us a reminder
that we move forward with the seasons—
and also, they’ll remind us
of all that’s lost and gone. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Aliss and the Rose Dragon, part 1

The Rose Dragon lived wherever vegetation was plentiful. She had no permanent settlement; for one month she may live in an open meadow full of asters, for the next she could be found in a field of mayflowers, and sometimes she would even take shelter in the garden of someone’s home; these occasions were few and far between. It was on one of these rare occasions, when the Rose Dragon was nesting in the garden of a pretty white cottage, that she formed a close friendship with a little girl named Aliss.
            Aliss was the sole caretaker of this garden; though it had been planted by her father a while back, he was a busy man who didn’t have much time to tend to it, and it didn’t take long for him to grow tired of it. Her mother worked in a doctor’s office, and was too busy taking care of people to bother caring for flowers. But Aliss had all the time in the world for flowers. She loved them like she loved close friends. Every day just before school and just after school, Aliss would go out to the garden and tend to the flowers. After giving them their meal of water and fertilizer, she would spend extra time with them. She had a little table and chair that she set out in the center of the garden, and here she would sit and enjoy the company of the flowers until she was called away to one of her other commitments.
            The Rose Dragon was distrustful of humans. She thought they were too loud, too wild, too prideful, and too irresponsible with nature to take any liking to them. Whenever she took shelter in a person’s garden, she would change her appearance to blend in with the surrounding vegetation. She would be mistaken for a tree or a patch of flowers and never discovered at all, until she moved off to another settlement. But in Aliss’ garden, she was discovered for the first time. 
            The Rose Dragon had taken a peculiar interest in Aliss, who was so gentle and so good to the flowers in the garden. Every morning and afternoon when she came out to tend to the flowers, the Rose Dragon couldn’t help but watch her as she kissed the flowers hello and engaged in cheerful one-sided conversation with them as she gave them their water. She did not match the Rose Dragon’s observations of other humans at all. Other children Aliss’ age were often very rough with flowers; they would yank them from the stalks or pick off their petals or even pull them from the ground. The Rose Dragon disliked children most of all for this reason.
She could not dislike the one child she knew who was kind to flowers. But she couldn’t entirely trust Aliss either—after all, she could harbor any other shameful qualities that humans possessed. She would spend her mornings and afternoons observing Aliss carefully, keeping one eye open and hoping that it would be mistaken for a sunflower or a black-eyed Susan. But when Aliss saw the dragon’s eye, gleaming and watching her intently, she let out a cry.
Immediately, the dragon abandoned her camouflage and rose to her full height. She spread out her wings, which looked like the petals of two giant roses, and she tilted her large, leafy head down to look right into the little girl’s eyes. Her bright green scales gleamed in the sun, and her fangs were bared. Aliss beheld this imposing sight in silent awe, then she finally stammered, “You’re…you’re beautiful.”
            “I am as beautiful as I am dangerous to those who wish to harm me,” said the Rose Dragon. “I suggest you be very careful, child, for I have taken a bit of a liking to you. It is rare that I take a liking to a human, and ever rarer that I do so for a child. I advise you not to do anything that might change my mind.”
            “Harm you?” said Aliss. “I think you’re lovely, and I would never harm a lovely thing.”
            “You don’t think I’m so lovely that you might want to pick at my petals or pry off one of my scales, do you?” asked the Rose Dragon.
            “Of course not,” said Aliss, shaking her head.
            The dragon softened. She had been right that this was not a typical careless, wild human child. She hid her fangs and allowed herself to look a bit more gentle and sociable. “Then we can be friends,” she told Aliss. “But if we are going to be friends, you must ensure that no harm will come to me while I am here.”
            “Who would harm you?” Aliss asked.
            “What would your parents do if they saw a dragon in their garden?”
            “They would be very surprised,” Aliss said. “And they might ask me how the dragon got here. But they wouldn’t harm you if they knew that you were so nice.”
            The dragon shook her head slowly. “I don’t think we should take the risk of surprising them,” she told Aliss. “I think you need to let them know that I will be staying here for a while, and that we are friends.”
            “I can tell them that,” said Aliss. “But they aren’t home right now.”
            The Rose Dragon gently laid her head on the girl’s shoulder. “Will you promise to tell them as soon as they return home, then?” she asked.
            “Yes,” said Aliss. I can do that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Prince and the Desert Queen, part 3

The prince pushed the woman off of him and staggered backwards. For a moment, he struggled to regain his senses; the woman was looking at him, and her lips had curled into a satisfied smile, and her topaz-colored hair was tossed back over her shoulders. Her eyes asked, “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?” The prince fought in his head for what to say. Finally, at a loss for anything else, he just said, “Why?”
            The woman laughed—a deep, rolling, throaty sound that resembled a growl more than a laugh. The prince felt that she was mocking her. He had to say something more. “Why did you do it?” he asked. “Why did you kiss me like…like that?”
            “Because I love you,” the woman answered.
            To the prince, everything began to feel like a mirage again, or perhaps a dream. Nothing about it seemed real, and he wondered if perhaps he had somehow fainted in the forest while he was chasing the peahen. Maybe he had run into a tree branch and was knocked out. He couldn’t remember running into anything, but there was certainly a possibility. Or else it was an effect of the venom from whatever had bitten him. The prince held his head in his hands and shook back and forth, muttering to himself, “This isn’t real. This isn’t real.”
            The woman sat down beside him, slipped her hand under his chin, and pulled his head up so that he looked right at her. He thought she was going to kiss him again, and tried to pull backwards, but she grabbed him with her other arm and pulled him close to her. Before she could do anything, he asked abruptly, “Who are you?”
            Instead of kissing him again, the woman placed her other hand on his cheek. “I am Lizana, the desert queen,” she told him.
            “It is a lovely name,” said the prince. He tried to remove her hand from his cheek, but she held it there like a vice. “So this is your desert?” he asked.
            “Indeed it is,” she replied.
            “And you love me?”
            “I dearly love you.”
            “You are a divinely beautiful lady,” the prince told her, and he meant what he said. “But we do not know eachother. Until today, I have not laid eyes on you, and I am certain that you could say the same about me. How could you love me?”
            “I have laid eyes on you,” Lizana said, “many times.”
            “Have you? Well, why do I not remember this?”
            “I was in the form of a peahen,” Lizana said, “and I watched you from under hedges and from the bushy undergrowth. I concealed myself in the thickness of the forest and watched you while you hunted. When you retired to your quarters, I snuck into the palace grounds and watched you through your chamber window. I watched you from the chicken farms and the pig pens. I watched you from the courtyard. Nobody pays any mind to a peahen, after all. It’s the males and their brilliant feathers that turn heads.”
            The prince felt as if his stomach was twisted in knots. “You’ve been watching me all this time, while I was not aware?” he asked in bewilderment. “My word, I’m sure I do not like that! I do not like that at all! Why didn’t you simply show yourself to me, or go in through the palace gates and request an audience? You are a queen! They would never turn away a queen, though they would ask her of her business with the prince, and I’m quite certain they would not like your answer! But oh, the wound on my back is beginning to throb! Something in the sand bit me not long ago, and it’s quite alarming. I think it must have been a venomous spider. Do you have a remedy for such a thing? If you do, I would be so much obliged if you were to heal my wound.”
            Lizana was not looking at him. She was looking at the golden sands below her feet. The prince could see that her shoulders were beginning to shake, and he thought he must have really offended her. “Oh, my lady, please don’t be so vexed!” he cried, and gently patted the queen’s shoulder. “I don’t wish to hurt you. I’ve only been taken aback by what you told me. Wouldn’t you be quite taken aback if somebody told you that they had been watching you for days and days without you knowing it? And anyway, I have a betrothed, and we are to be married on the first day of the next spring. She has been my betrothed for years and years, and I love her dearly and could never give her up. You are a beautiful lady—indeed, one of the most beautiful I’ve laid eyes on—but you really must seek another!”
           Lizana looked at him, and her eyes stung him in the heart the way the creature in the sand had stung him on the back. “When you are ready to accept my love,” she told him, “then you may have the remedy!” 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Secret Worlds and Fantastic Creatures: The Clearing

A crow caws. A blue jay screeches. A sparrow sings. They are joined by the frogs, whose clicks and calls mingle with the bubbling laughter of the creek and the cheerful chatter of the fairies, elves, and nymphs. The sounds blend into one harmonious song which can never be heard anywhere else but here.
A tiny brown frog dives into the creek from his spot on a shady leafy plant. He swims until he reaches a spot on the creek bank covered in bright green moss. Here he meets his good friend, a young water nymph. She smiles, takes hold of him, and gently helps him up onto the shore beside her. “Thank you, Honeysuckle,” says the frog, nodding respectfully. “You look just as pretty and bright as you always do. How has your morning been so far?” The little nymph blushes at the compliment and gives her grass colored hair a cheerful toss. “My sisters and I found something beautiful on the shore by our home!” she chirps. “They let me keep it, and now I would like to give it to you, Reginald! You could wear it on your back like a cape or shawl, and it would make you look so handsome!” She opens her hand to reveal a small leaf the color of a ruby.
The frog lets out a cheery cry and takes a great leap into the air. “Oh my! It is stunning! Do you really want me to have this? Wouldn’t you want to keep it for yourself?”
            Honeysuckle shakes her head. “No,” she says, “I want to give it to you. Come here, so I can place it on your back and we can see how handsome you look with it on!”
            While Honeysuckle and Reginald’s meeting goes on, in another part of the clearing a small green spider is hard at work spinning webs. He is one of the local weavers, and today he is especially busy because the elves will be having a ball at the end of the week; every elf in the clearing wants a new gown or a new suit. An entire row of trees is covered with the handiwork of this spider and the other weavers employed by the elven tailors. The webs glisten like silver in the light of the sun. When the morning has drawn to a close, the green spider has spun enough and gathers up the silk to be taken to the tailors.
            The four elven tailors, who run their workshop in a patch of huckleberry greens on the bank of the creek, inspect the crop of silk the spider has brought to them. “It is very fine,” says one, “but is it enough?”
            The other says, “It is enough, but is it fine?”
            The third says, “I think it is only enough for one gown.”
            The fourth says, “I think it is enough for three.”
            If they do not approve of this crop, the spider will have to spend the rest of the afternoon spinning an entirely new crop, and he was hoping to take the first few hours of the afternoon off. He crosses his little green arms and grits his tiny teeth in anticipation of their answer. Finally, the four tailors look at him, smile, and say, “We can accept this. Thank you. Please start your afternoon work at three-thirty today.”
            “Thank you, sirs!” the spider says, and scurries back to his little hole to catch up on some much needed rest.
            The three squirrel brothers, Acorn, Oak, and Nut, are playing a chasing game in the trees that tower over the creek. Their rustling in the leaves awakens a grumpy old elf lying against a rock for a nap. “Silly boys,” he mutters, shaking his head and retiring to his home in an old stump. The two older boys pay him no mind and continue their wild chase. But being so high above so much water makes the youngest brother, Nut, too nervous to run as fast or jump as high as his brothers. Instead, he cautiously scampers along the branches and stops to look down, causing him to lag behind.
            “Nut, come on!” Acorn hollers. “If you’re not going to keep up, then don’t play!”
            “I don’t want to fall in,” says Nut.
            “You won’t fall in if you’re careful,” says Oak.
            “I am being careful!” says Nut. “But when I’m careful, you tell me I’m not keeping up!”
            Oak sighs and scampers over to his younger brother. “This isn’t a game for you, Nut,” he says, shaking his head. “Why don’t you go find something else to play?”
            Nut sighs dejectedly. “Fine,” he says, “I will.” And he scrambles down the tree and off under a patch of wild sumac. Though he’s disappointed not to be able to play with his brothers, he knows that his good friend will be along soon; this spot under the sumac is his friend’s secret place. Sure enough, along comes a pretty little red squirrel with a white flower tied around her tail; her signature accessory. “Hi, Nut!” the little squirrel says, nuzzling his cheek.
            “Hi, Freya!” Nut nuzzles her cheek in return.
            “Nut, have you ever seen a human?” asks Freya.
            “What’s a human?” asks Nut.
            “Something my big sister told me about,” says Freya. “She says they’re two-legged giants with ugly faces, pink flesh, and hair all over their bodies.” She shudders. “I don’t like them. They sound scary. You’ve never seen anything like that, have you, Nut?”
            “Of course not!” cries Nut. “If I saw anything horrible like that, I’d call my brothers and they’d throw nuts at it!”
            “My sister says that humans live beyond the creek,” says Freya. “But they can never come into this clearing, because there’s too much water and mud. They’d fall in!” She and Nut laugh at this image.
            “Or else they’d get their giant feet stuck in the mud,” says Nut.
            “Yeah,” agrees Freya. “Humans can never come here.
             And as far as any resident of the clearing could remember, nothing so horrible and frightening ever has come into the clearing; they would certainly remember if it had. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Elf and the Magnolia, part 8 (ending)

            Throughout the rest of that day, Goldenrod did not play with his siblings or climb to the treetops or dance among the leaves or visit the other finches or his spider friend. He remained by Summer’s side, holding her close to him and kissing her and saying, “I love you, Summer. I love you, I love you” over and over again. He slept by her side for one final night, crying into her brown petals. The next day, when it was all too clear that Summer was really dead, he carried her corpse to the top of the tree and let her sail away on the wind.
            Goldenrod returned home after sending Summer off and said solemnly, “I will never love another.”
            His mother took him into her arms. “Never?” she said.
            “Never,” he told her.
            “But what if you were to find a lovely elf maiden?”
            “I don’t want any elf maidens.”
            His mother asked no more questions then. She held him and rocked him gently back and forth as he cried into her feathers.
            Months passed. Summer turned to autumn, and Goldenrod’s brothers and sisters talked of marriage and their plans to migrate. Goldenrod had recovered from his grief, but he did not speak of courting. He wondered what would happen to him when the winter came and the finches migrated south. He would be grown then, but without a suitor. Would he go with his mother?
            Goldenrod approached his mother in the nest one November morning. “Mama,” he said, “where am I going to go when winter comes?”
            His mother turned to look at him, and there were tears in her eyes. “You will be going with other elves,” she told him.
            Goldenrod’s heart began to flutter. “Really? I’ll be going with the other elves?”
            His mother nodded. “I’d been holding off on this for as long as I could manage,” she told him wistfully, “but now it’s time.”
            “But I’ll get to see you when you come back in the spring, right?” Goldenrod asked. “I want to help you raise my new brothers and sisters.”
            His mother took him into her arms, and her tears finally began to pour out. “Of course,” she said, kissing the top of his head. “I’ll come back for you as soon as I return.”
            Goldenrod pressed his cheek into his mother’s shoulder and held her as if he never would let go. “Mama, what if the other elves don’t like me?” he asked.
            “Oh, Goldenrod, who wouldn’t like you?”
            So when winter arrived, Goldenrod’s mother carried him off to a place in the forest that he’d never seen before and had never had any desire to see; the magnolia grove where the other elves lived. In winter, the elves didn’t take shelter in the branches of the magnolias. Instead, they migrated to the knot holes in the bark and the roots. The mother finch set Goldenrod down outside one of these knot holes, kissed him, and told him that she would come right back for him the very day she returned to the forest. “Please have a good life with the elves,” she told him.
            “I will, Mama,” said Goldenrod. Then he hugged her. “I love you, Mama.”
            “I love you too, my dear Goldenrod.”
            Then the two of them tearfully parted company.
            There Goldenrod stood, outside of a strange knot hole belonging to strange elves that he wasn’t sure would even like him. For a while, he paced outside, wondering what to do next, when a pretty young elf maiden strolled up behind him. “Hello,” she said cheerfully. “Are you lost?”
            Goldenrod looked at her, and beheld another elf for the very first time. “Yes, I’m lost,” he told her. “I’m very lost. You see, my mother is a bird—a finch—and she’s flown south for the winter. I’ve lived with her all my life, even though I’m an elf, and now she says I have to stay with other elves until she comes back in the spring. When she comes back, I’ll get to help her take care of her new babies. But right now, I need to find some elves to live with. Do you know who lives in this knot hole?”
            “Yes,” said the girl. “I live in this knot hole. Why don’t you come inside and tell me everything from the beginning, and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
            Goldenrod was overjoyed that the very first elf he met turned out to be so kind. He told her everything that had happened over the summer that he was born: he told her about the mother finch that had taken him in, and who would come back for him in the spring. He told her about his brothers and sisters, and how they had accepted him as a bird, and how he had believed he really had been a bird until his mother had told him he was an elf. He told her about the flying lessons and the courting. He told her about his spider friend. And most of all, he told her about Summer.
            “I think you’re very beautiful, and very kind,” Goldenrod told the girl. “And I think that I would like to get to know you. Maybe I might even grow to love you. But I’m afraid that I could never love anyone as I loved Summer.”
            The girl said, “Why, don’t you know that when next summer comes, there will be hundreds more magnolia blossoms? The trees will be full of them! Do you think you will court another?”
            Goldenrod shook his head. “I’m glad that I will get to meet other magnolia blossoms,” he said, “and I bet they all will be very, very lovely. But I am loyal to Summer, and I can never, ever love another the way I loved her.”
           Goldenrod stayed with the kind elf maiden, and they both reached their marriageable ages within a few months. But they didn’t court, and they didn’t marry. Goldenrod stayed true to his word; he never did marry. His heart belonged only to a magnolia blossom named Summer.