A Child’s Life at Sea Part 4

I slowly reach my hand out for my brother. It is so dark I can’t even see where my hand is. Then suddenly I feel something on my foot. ‘There is something on the ground,’ I whisper to my brother. ‘I felt it.’ Then I hear a splash and a croak and several other small splashes. ‘It’s just a frog, dummy,’ laughs my brother. ‘Perhaps you should try kissing it. Maybe it will turn into a prince.’ ‘Yuck!’ I say. ‘You kiss it yourself if you dare.’ But my brother doesn’t fall for that. He just keeps teasing me. I still am not able to find his arm in the dark, but hearing his familiar teasing is kind of reassuring. Then suddenly we hear footsteps behind us.

The sound is heavy and thudding, like it belongs to something really big. I hold my breath. My heart is pounding and I close my eyes, even though it doesn’t make a difference, it is just as dark in the tunnel as it is when I close my eyes. Then suddenly it is quiet again. My brother has stopped his teasing. He must be just as scared as me. I am completely frozen, I can’t even run. Then all of a sudden I feel a big hand on my shoulder and a voice whispers in my ear: ‘Got you!’

‘Daaaaad!’ Complains my brother. ‘I knew it was you!’ A flashlight lights up and I see my father laughing in front of us. My brother looks pale, but he starts laughing too. ‘Good one, dad!’ I want to laugh, but I can’t, my heart is still kind of racing around inside of me. ‘Come on,’ says my father and takes my hand in his. ‘ Let’s go see the canon.’ And we do, and just like that, with my hand in my father’s, I feel safe again, and everything is right in the world.

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A Child’s Life at Sea Part 3

‘Did the soldiers really hide in here, daddy?’ ‘Sure did, honey. They used these tunnels to move unseen underground when there was an attack. If you follow the tunnel to the end you will find a lookout post with a canon pointed to the horizon.’ ‘Did they really shoot the bad guys, daddy.’ ‘They had to, honey, there was a war and if they didn’t protect our country, innocent people would die.’ I stare at my father. ‘Did you fight in the war, daddy?’ My father laughs. ‘No, sweetie, the war was long before I was born.’ I feel a little disappointed, I really wanted my dad to be a hero. ‘Come on!’ complains my brother, ‘let’s go inside!’

We are on a small island on the south coast, known to be one of the many military bases during the Second World War. Our boat is docked by the stone pier, and my father has taken me and my brother up to see the tunnels carved deep into the mountain. They go on for kilometers and have no natural, or any other form, of light. But my father has brought a flashlight. My brother is already on his way into the pitch black tunnel. I take my father’s hand and we follow him.

There is water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel and it makes an eerie drip-drop sound that echoes far into the deep. My father switches on the flashlight, but all we can see is black wet slippery stone walls, uneven and bumpy. The ground is also wet. Our plip-plop footsteps bounce off the wall and disappear into the deep, only to return as a hollow mimic of themselves ten seconds later. The sound makes me think of ghosts dragging their skeleton feet on the ground. My brother seems to think the same because he whispers in my ear: ‘I bet it’s haunted! Soldiers must have died in here, you know.’ I shiver and all of a sudden I feel very cold. I grip my father’s hand tighter. We walk further and further in.

‘If the tunnel collapses now, we’ll be dead,’ whispers my brother. And even though I am sure my father can’t hear him, he just adds to the horror be saying out loud: ‘well kids, we have reached the point of no return. We are further from the entrance than we are from the exist.’ I swallow hard. The flashlight flashes a couple of times, and both my brother and I jump. ‘Hold on, let me just…’ My father lets go off my hand to adjust the batteries in the flashlight. Then all of a sudden it goes completely dark. I want to scream, but for some reason I seem to have lost my voice. My brother on the other hand has not. He lets out a roar, fit for a lion. ‘Daaaaaaaad, what’s going on?’ There is no answer. I desperately reach out for my father’s hand, but it is not there. He is gone. My father is gone, and with him: the flashlight.

To be continued…

The Great Fairy Rescue

pauline-bayne

It was the first day of December and it was snowing. It had started early in the morning when no one was awake. The soft powdery specks had fallen so quietly not even the winter birds had stirred in their sleep. Now a white-washed sheet of tiny fairy diamonds covered the garden gnomes and the bronze-fashioned forest nymph, giving the town garden a touch of Wonderland splendor. There was hardly any engine sounds, only a faint twitter of frosted early birds muffled by the gentle stillness of water being transfigured into ice. A lamp from a window cast a warm yellow shadow on the sparkling china rug, followed by ringlets of brightness and the fluttering of wings. A little figure could be seen in the window. It was a girl, perhaps about eight years old. She was wearing a silver-colored crown on her head, and she kept waving a starry wand back and forth, but nothing seemed to happen. The window sill was lined with porcelain Christmas Angels wearing red frocks and sporting a halo above their golden-haired heads. “Why don’t you just try flying?” said the girl. She opened the window and a cold wind blew the tiniest angel unto the floor. The little girl sighed. “Vieeennnaaaa!! What are you doing? close that window!” Vienna closed the window before her mother had even started to climb the stairs. She gave another little sigh and headed down for breakfast. So you see, she couldn’t see the tiny flutter behind the snowed-in clay pot in the garden. She couldn’t hear the bell-like whispering like falling silver. “See, Marciana, I told you she believed! Nothing is lost yet.”

“Oh, there you are, Sabine.” Marciana tip-toed out from her hiding place, dusting her feathers and tucking her scarf tighter around her little body. “You missed her, Marcy! Why are you always so timid?” “Who did I miss, Sabine?” “The human of course!” Marciana chuckled and rolled her eyes. Sabine was always going on about humans. “Come on, let’s go home while it is still snowing.” Sabine sighed. Nobody ever listened to her! The Snow Queen had said that they needed a human, and this girl, with her little winged figurines, was just perfect! “We have to hurry, Sabine, the sun is going to peak at any minute.” Marciana took hold of a snow flake and tapped it with her pinky, and the snow flake grew until it was big enough to carry the little fairy. “Why can’t we just use our own wings?” complained Sabine. “You know the magic only works with snow, Sabine.” Sabine knew that that was what the Snow Queen said, but she had never quite believed it. But nevertheless, she did as she was told, and joined Marciana on her own snow flake, and together the two little fairies ascended, and vanished into the white flutter of shimmering winter crystals.

Vienna liked her school, but she wished the lessons could have been taught outside. Even now, in the biting cold, she longed to be outside. The assignment the teacher had given them today was an essay assignment, they were to write about their dreams. Of course, Vienna’s essay was all about fairies. Vienna always had strange dreams, vivid and magical. Her favorite dreams were the ones in which she could fly. “Vienna! Vienna! The bell rung, didn’t you hear?” Elisabeth was pulling Vienna’s arm, trying to make her get up. Vienna hurriedly flung her books and pencils into her pink backpack and followed Elisabeth outside. It was a beautiful afternoon, all quiet and yellow, just like Vienna liked them. Afternoons like this always reminded Vienna of angels. Elisabeth and Vienna usually walked home together after school, but today Elisabeth had choir practice, so Vienna had to go through the woods alone. She didn’t mind though, trees were her favorite kind of beings. “See you tomorrow!” Elisabeth waved and ran for the after-school building. “See you!” replied Vienna and took a right turn on to the forest path. She was alone on the path, and the only company she seemed to have were birds twittering happily about. The snow was soft and pliant and made that delicious squishy sound under her boots. When she came to the little stream she stopped abruptly. Wasn’t there someone there? Someone…ice skating awfully fast on the frozen water? Vienna squinted her eyes, and looked closer. Yes, yes! Someone was definitely there! But, it looked like….Vienna had to look twice, yes, it looked exactly like a garden gnome!

“Oh, there you are!” said the little gnome and looked straight at Vienna. Vienna startled and had to hold on to a drooping branch, she felt quite dizzy. “But…I can…see you!” she stuttered. “Of course you can see me, silly girl, you believe, right? I mean that is what the Snow Queen said anyway.” “Yes, yes of course I believe, but I have never been able to see you before,” replied Vienna. The gnome sighed and looked at her as though she was completely clueless. “Well, that is because we have never showed ourselves to you before of course!” “But then, why are you letting me see you now?” Vienna had let go of the branch and dropped to her knees so that she could see the tiny gnome better. She had always wanted to see a gnome! Any fairy creature really, she had, up till now, only seen them in her dreams. “The Snow Queen has sent me to fetch you,” said the gnome resolutely. “Fetch me? Fetch me where?” “To her Queendom of course! Come on let’s go, there is no time to spare.” Vienna shook her head, “but that is impossible, I am much to big to go anywhere with you.” The gnome chuckled, “well, that can be fixed.” He reached into his messenger bag and took out a piece of red mushroom and offered it to Vienna. “But,” protested Vienna, “our biology teacher has told us that red mushrooms are poisonous!” The gnome snorted in annoyance. “Of course they are! The Queen made it so, she wouldn’t want just any human to wander into her land, that would be stupid, don’t you think?” Vienna nodded her head, she knew well enough what her class mates thought about fairies. “So will you take it or not?” Vienna reached out for the tiny mushroom, swallowed hard, and popped it into her mouth.

As soon as Vienna felt the bitter taste of the mushroom on her tongue, a peculiar sensation arose in her feet, it traveled up her body and turned into a tingling behind her ears. Then suddenly she was falling, but no, she wasn’t falling at all, she was…shrinking! She shrank and shrank until she was just about the same size as the gnome, perhaps even a bit tinier.
Vienna was relieved to see that her clothes had shrunk too. “There,” said the gnome, “now you are just about perfect. Put on these.” He handed her a pair of ice skates. “We are going that way,” the gnome pointed down the frozen stream. Vienna nodded and put on the skates. Together they skated down the stream, past the hoarfroadted sieve and withered straw, the abandoned ant mount, and the drooping gigantic snow clad firs. The gnome stopped abruptly when they arrived at a wind blown tree, turned over so that the roots were twisted against the sky. Vienna bumped into his back and excused herself shyly. “Pay attention to where you are going, silly girl!” Scolded the gnome. “It’s this way!” He beckoned Vienna to follow him. They both removed their skates and continued on foot towards the muddy root. The gnome tapped his pinky a couple of times on a tiny pebble and then suddenly, a tiny door appeared. Vienna stared in amazement at the door. “Well, come along! We haven’t got all day!” Said the gnome and opened the door.

Elisabeth finished Choir practice early that day, and she hurried home to play with her dog Frances. Frances was a snowy white golden retriever and he was Elisabeth’s best friend in the whole wide world. Of course Vienna was also her friend, but she couldn’t quite measure up to Frances. Maybe because Elisabeth had known Frances since he was a puppy, and Vienna she had only known for two years. “Frances! Frances! Come and play!” Elisabeth flung open the door and dumped her school bag on the floor. She expected Frances to come running and jump on her and lick her face. But he didn’t. “Frances! Come here boy!” Elisabeth was getting a bit worried. But this time Frances came trotting lazily towards her. He gave a small woof and licked Elisabeth’s foot. “Hey boy, what’s the matter with you today, why are you looking so sleepy?” She patted Frances and fetched his leash, but Frances turned on his heel and went back into the house. “Frances? Don’t you want to play?” Frances woofed again, apologetically, and went to sleep in his basket.

Vienna blinked her eyes twice. Could this really be happening to her? All her life she had dreamed of finding a secret door and visit Fairyland. And now, she was actually here! All Fairyland was bathed in a soft yellow light, and a surprisingly cold wind went swooshing by. Vienna could hear chiming sounds all over, like a thousand wind chimes or silvery sleigh bells. And right in front of her, troops of red-robed elves hastened by. Vienna realized that the music was coming from them, even though they didn’t appear to be playing any instruments. “Welcome to Cinderwood!” announced the gnome and flung his arms out lavishly. “Cinderwood?” questioned Vienna and wrinkled her nose at the strange name. “Well yes, it is the name of this place, of course!” “But I thought we were in Fairyland,” protested Vienna. The gnome snorted. “Fairyland! What nonsense! This is one of the many Fey realms, the one ruled by her majesty the Snow Queen.” “Oh, there are many?” asked Vienna excitedly. The gnome looked at her sternly and sighed. “We don’t have time for a geography lesson, lass. The Snow Queen is expecting you!” The gnome marched after the Elf troop, and Vienna felt she had no choice but to follow him. She did want to see the Snow Queen!

The Snow Queen was the most beautiful lady Vienna had ever seen! She was everything she had ever dreamed a fairy to be! Her wings were perfect sheer gossamer lace, her hair was long and silvery and her eyes full of stars. Vienna couldn’t help herself, she had to curtsy in front of this divine queen. The Queen smiled at the gesture and said in a very sweet sing-song voice: “Please, dear child, arise, I want to look at you properly.” Vienna rose and stared into the Snow Queen’s lovely eyes. “Aah, there you are, little girl. Our most faithful believer. We have been waiting for you, little one.” “Waiting for me?” asked Vienna curiously. The Snow Queen nodded and smiled. “Your majesty,” stuttered Vienna, ” Why am I really here?”. The Queen came to stand next to Vienna, she patted her head gently and, out of thin air, conjured a cup of hot chocolate topped with pink mini marshmallows, Vienna’s favorite. She gave the cup to Vienna and beckoned for her to drink. The cup was a perfect white china tea cup with little pink roses painted on the sides. It was just the kind of cup Vienna had always dreamed of drinking from. She took a sip and relished the sweet taste of the deliciously hot chocolate. The Snow Queen smiled, and then she wrapped Vienna in her delicate arms and chuckled, “Why Child, you have come to slay the dragon of course.”

Elisabeth woke up even before the sun had started rising that morning. The dark blue sky was full of white stars and there was a tiny silvery moon glittering melancholically against the sapphire backdrop. She tried to go back to sleep, but somehow she just couldn’t, so she decided to get up and take Frances for a walk. She quickly got dressed and fitted her feet into some chunky snow boots. “Frances! Frances! Let’s go boy!” Elisabeth heard a faint woofing somewhere. “Frances! Frances, where are you?” Woof! The sound was so muffled Elisabeth didn’t understand where it came from. Then she heard someone scratching at the door. Woof! “Frances, are you outside?” Elisabeth hurried over to the door and unlocked it, Frances jumped up on her and started licking her face frantically. His fur was so cold, he must have waited outside for a long time. But Elisabeth remembered saying goodnight to him and watching him go to sleep in his wicker basket the night before. “Frances, where have you been? Who let you out in the middle of the night?” Woof! said Frances and trotted over to his bowl. Elisabeth sighed, and started filling the bowl with dog food.

“But…but,” stuttered Vienna. “I am just a little girl! I don’t know anything about slaying dragons!” The Snow Queen flashed her one of her most endearing smiles. ” But you are wrong, dear, you are not so very little. You are human.” Vienna shook her head, ” No, I am not anymore! You made me tiny!” ” well, that is a mere trifle, we will get you back to your own size in no time, and then the dragon will not even be tall enough to lick your cheek.” The Snow Queen sighed when she saw Vienna’s terrified face. ” I am sorry my dear, that I have to ask you to do this. But when that Snow Dragon came down from the North and started developing a taste for fairy puppies, I just knew that we needed help from a human, and well, there aren’t many believers left in the world, so when Sabine told me about you, I just knew you were our champion. ” Sabine, who had been hiding behind a pink fairy tree, stepped out and waved to Vienna. Vienna waved back, she didn’t really feel like it, but she thought it was too rude not to. ” So,” she said and looked the Snow Queen straight in the eye, ” you expect me to go out there and slay a dragon all by myself?”. “Oh, no!” Answered the Snow Queen, ” Sabine here has volunteered to go with you.” Vienna looked distrustfully at the tiny fairy, and somehow she didn’t feel very comforted.

The Snow Queen’s magician arrived in a hurry to brew the potion that would restore Vienna to her normal height again. The potion was a simple one involving brown mushrooms and juniper berries . “And then I’ll be needing some of your hair, human girl,” said the magician and reached out to pluck one of Vienna’s hairs. “Ouch! What was that for?” Demanded Vienna. ” That was for me you silly girl,” said Sabine, and in 1-2-3 she gulped down the potion containing Vienna’s hair. Then suddenly something odd started to happen, the tiny Sabine started growing! She grew and grew until she was so tall Vienna looked like a caterpillar in comparison. ” But…but, ” protested Vienna, ” I thought the potion was for me!” ” of course we have one for you as well,” snorted the magician, ” bottoms up!” He placed a little golden tumbler in Vienna’s hand, and she obediently tipped it down her throat, and just like Sabine had done, she started growing too, until the two girls were just about the same size. Sabine smiled to Vienna and took hold of her hand. ” Hurry up, girls!” Called the now tiny Snow Queen, ” and remember, Sabine, the spell breaks at midnight, and then you will go back to being your regular fairy size again.” Sabine nodded. ” Good luck!” Said all the fairies in unison, and Sabine and Vienna, still holding hands, turned, and started their journey north to where a puppy-eating Dragon was waiting for them.

The coming evening Elisabeth decided to stay up and watch over Frances. She didn’t want him to get trapped outside in the cold again. They played for a little while, then Frances ate his evening meal and went to sleep in his basket. Elisabeth must have dozed off too, because when she abruptly woke up a little later the room was completely dark. She looked around, curious to see what had startled her, and then she discovered that Frances’ Basket was empty. “Frances! Franceees!” Elisabeth got up and started searching the room, then suddenly she heard Frances whimpering in the hall. She found him standing by the front door, clearly wanting to go out. “What is it, boy?” Elisabeth scratched Frances behind his ear. She didn’t want to let him out, but then, what if he needed to go to the toilet or something? Elisabeth sighed, she got the leash from the hat shelf and attached it to Frances’ collar. It was freezing outside, the whole lawn was covered in hoarfrost and the sky was so clear Elisabeth could see at least a million white stars up there. Frances pulled at the leash, wanting her to let him loose. ” Hold on a minute,boy,” said Elisabeth and went to make sure the garden gate was closed, then she let Frances off the leash, and he immediately trotted over to the bushes to do his business. Just then it started snowing. Elisabeth shivered in her thin sweater and looked miserably up at the bleak winter sky. ” Come on, boy, let’s go back inside!” But when she looked towards the bushes, where Frances had been just seconds ago, he was gone.

The Northgoing path was a tricky one, with slippery rocks, big enough to even challenge the two human-sized girls. It was slowly getting dark and the snow was pouring down like a vicious rain shower. “This would have been so much easier with wings!” Sighed the wing-deprived Sabine. Vienna squeezed her hand, but offered no words of comfort. It really would have been easier with wings! The snowy track was difficult to follow and became more and more so by the minute as it got darker and darker. But the two girls braved through the weather and found comfort in each other. Suddenly there was a cracking sound, and a swooshing and then something heavy landed somewhere in the snow. “What was that?” Squirmed Vienna and clung a little tighter to Sabine’s hand. ” Quickly,” urged Sabine, “get behind that tree!” Vienna and Sabine hurried over to a huge fir tree, with snow-drenched thick branches. ” Look!” Whispered Vienna and pointed to a huge white animal appearing on the same path the girls had just vacated. ” What is that thing?” Vienna tugged nervously at Sabine’s hand. ” That,” said Sabine, ” is a Fairy Werebear.”

“W-w-what is a Fairy Werebear?” stuttered Vienna. it certainly didn’t look like anything particularly friendly. “A Fairy Werebear,” whispered Sabine, “is a Snow Fairy who turns into a Polar Bear at night.” “Are they dangerous?” Vienna could not hide the terror in her voice. “Well, when they are fairies they are just as nice or naughty as any other fairy, but when they take the form of a bear….well let’s just say, they are not always reasonable.” Vienna swallowed hard. “So what do we do?” “We wait here, and hope it will go away soon.” But just as Sabine said that, the bear roared loudly and stood up on his hind legs. At first Vienna thought that it had seen them, but then she heard the flapping sound in the sky, and she looked up to see what the Fairy Werebear was roaring at, and that is when she saw it: the dragon.

The Fairy Werebear kept roaring at the dragon, and the dragon, to Vienna’s utter astonishment, looked almost scared, but then it was as though he remembered that he was a dragon and snorted out, not dancing red flames but white icy whirlwinds of thick freezing snow! The bear sneezed, fell down on his front paws and gave a last half-whimpering roar before he turned around and trotted hastily away. The dragon kept an eye on him until he was gone, and then he made a swift side-flip and headed North. “Come on,” urged Sabine, “Let’s follow him!” “But, is that wise? he might freeze us!” Sabine looked sternly at Vienna, “don’t you understand anything? That is the dragon, the snow dragon, you are supposed to slay!” Vienna gave Sabine a sharp look, “but he wasn’t that small! He was in fact quite big!” “Well, the Snow Queen might have exaggerated a little, besides, he is much smaller than the fire-breathing dragons!” There was nothing Vienna could do, she sighed and followed Sabine as they headed after the dragon. It didn’t take long before the dragon started descending and landed in front of a huge black cave. Sabine pulled Vienna out of sight, as the dragon entered his cave. “Listen!” said Sabine suddenly, “do you hear that?” Vienna pulled off her cap and listened intently, and then she heard it too, someone, or something, was yapping madly in there, in fact, it sounded just like a chorus of puppies!!

“The Fairy puppies!!” exclaimed Vienna, “They are alive!” “But for how much longer,” interrupted Sabine, “We’ve got to get them out of there now!” “But how, Sabine? The Dragon is right there!.” Sabine gave her one of her stern looks and shook her head in frustration, “but that is why we are here, Vienna. That is why you are here. To slay the dragon. How many times do I have to keep reminding you!?” Vienna’s whole body shook with suppressed anger and fear “And what, if I may ask, had you all planned I was going to slay the dragon with?” Sabine looked up at her, and then she looked at both of their empty hands. She didn’t seem to have any answers to that. “Let’s get the puppies out first, and worry about the snow dragon later,” suggested Sabine. And Vienna did not object, she couldn’t think of any ideas herself. The two girls cautiously approached the cave, and when they were just at the entrance, Sabine started calling out softly: “Come, little ones, come here! Here puppies, come to Sabine now!” “They must be tied up,” whispered Vienna, but to her astonishment a tiny fairy puppy revealed itself just outside the darkness of the cave entrance, and soon another joined in, and then another, and not long after a whole bunch of fairy puppies were trotting happily over to Sabine’s outstretched hands, but then suddenly another shape appeared out of the shadows, a much bigger shape, making an awful angry snorting sound. “Draaagooon!!!” shouted Vienna.

Sabine had just managed to get the last Fairy puppy to safety when the big white dragon wobbled out of the cave. She looked helplessly at Vienna, but Vienna had no idea whatsoever what to do. The snow Dragon came closer and closer and soon they would both turn to ice, but just as the dragon took a deep breath Vienna caught a glimpse of a broken over branch on the ground, she reached for it and started fencing back and forth with it, as though it was a perfectly sharp sword, but this seemed to just anger the dragon more. It lifted its front paw and aimed to strike Vienna, but just then Sabine shot forward with a warrior cry like nothing Vienna had ever heard before. But just as the dragon started backing away, shocked and unraveled by Sabine’s awful scream, the worst possible thing happened, Sabine started shrinking! She shrank and shrank and shrank….

…and shrank until she was back to her normal fairy size again. “Oh no!” Exclaimed Vienna, ” it must be midnight, and the spell is over! Now what do I do?” The snow Dragon stepped forward and lifted his paw, and Vienna was sure it was all over, but then she saw something, something familiar…it was a collar around the dragon’s neck…Vienna knew she had seen that collar before somewhere, but how?… where?

And then she remembered it…Frances! It was Frances’ collar, Elisabeth’s dog! “What did you do to Frances?” Vienna screamed at the Dragon, more fiercely than she had ever screamed at anyone ever before. But then something weird happened, the dragon seemed startled and started backing away, until he was sitting, hunched down on his derriere, whimpering pathetically. Vienna approached him cautiously. “What did you do to Frances?” she said again, a bit milder this time. The moment she said “Frances”, the dragon started howling. He sounded like….like….a dog crying. “What happened?” asked Sabine who had come flying on her fairy wings as fast she could to assist her friend. “I don’t know,” muttered Vienna, “he just kind of gave up and started crying.” Sabine approached the dragon, she tried pulling at the dragon’s collar, but it wouldn’t budge. “There is no way he could have put this on himself,” she stated, “it is enchanted, he seems to be under some kind of spell.” Then suddenly a mad idea came to Vienna. “Sit!” she said firmly to the dragon, and the dragon sat up abruptly. Vienna looked into the Snow Dragon’s golden eyes. “Frances?” “Frances, is that you?” “Woof!” said the dragon.

As soon as they heard the dragon woofing, the fairy puppies came wobbling on their chubby legs over to the dragon. They lay down by his side and started licking his paws. “Oh, look!” said Sabine, “they are comforting him! So they were never in any real danger after all! But, Vienna, who is Frances?” “Frances,” answered Vienna, “is my best friend, Elisabeth’s dog. But don’t ask how he can be a dragon here in Fairyland, because I have no idea about that!”
“Hmmm,” said Sabine, “maybe he ate the magic mushrooms in the forest, they work differently on animals. I have heard of it before, it is like with the Fairy Werebear, they turn into something differently at night.” “But that means,” said Vienna, “that as soon as the sun goes up, he will turn back into a dog and go home?” “Yes, that is how the spell works, but we can’t let that happen! What if the people of Cinderwood don’t believe us, and continue to hunt the dragon tomorrow night! We have to bring him back to the Snow Queen before the sun rises, I am sure the court magician have something that can break the spell entirely.” But just as Sabine said that, the sky went from pitch black to dark blue, and on the far away horizon, a golden light appeared.

“We will never get there in time!” exclaimed Vienna, “the sun is almost rising!” “We will never get there walking, but we could make it if we were all flying,” said Sabine mischievously. She fluttered her own delicate fairy wings, then looked over at Vienna and pointed at Frances. “You will have to let him carry you, it is the only way.” Vienna shook her head violently. No way was she going to fly on a dragon who was really just a dog! “You have to!” insisted Sabine sternly. “Look, the fairy puppies and I will go ahead and lead the way, Frances will just have to follow.” Vienna looked nervously over at Frances. He seemed harmless enough, now that she knew who he really was, but flying on his back! That was really asking too much trust in a dog, even though he was supposed to be man’s best friend. “Come on!” called Sabine encouragingly. She was already in the air, followed by the fairy puppies. Reluctantly Vienna got up and climbed on to Frances’ back, and as soon as she wrapped her arms securely around the dragon’s neck, he took off and leaped up in the cold pre-dawn air.

It was a race against time like none other. Vienna felt that she had never seen the sun rise so fast before. Sabine was flying like a hurricane, tightly followed by the fairy puppies, flapping and panting and trying their level best to keep up with their leader. The Dragon did not seem to have any problem at all with the speed, he only wobbled a bit now and then in the strongest gusts of wind. “See!” shouted Sabine from the front troops, “There it is! It is Cinderwood!” The sun was almost up, it seemed like they were just going to make it, but then Vienna spotted something they had not been expecting: The Snow Queen’s Archers!! And they were pointing their arrows straight at Frances!!

” Noooooo, stoooop!!” Cried Sabine, ” He isn’t dangerous! He is enchanted! Please don’t shoot!” The Snow Queen listened intently, and made a move with her hand, and then, to Vienna’s great relief, the Archers put down their weapons. Sabine was the first to land, followed by the fairy puppies, and then shyly and carefully, Frances landed, with Vienna on his back. Sabine sprang forth and hurriedly explained the circumstances. The sun was just finishing her dip behind the mountains when the Snow Queen, in a high shrill voice, called for her royal magician.

Frances landed softly on the snowy ground and Vienna hurried over to the Snow Queen. ” He is not a mean puppy-eating Snow Dragon, your majesty, he is my best friend’s dog! And he must have been lonely, that is why he took the fairy puppies.” The Snow Queen nodded thoughtfully. ” My magician is working on a cure, a counter spell of sorts, it will only take a minute.” ” But your majesty, we don’t have a minute!” And just as Vienna said that, the sun rose above the trees and Frances disappeared. ” oh no!” Cried Sabine, “we were too late!! ” The magician came running just then with the counter spell in hand. ” Quickly, Sabine take the spell,” said the Snow Queen, ” You must go with Vienna to her world through the snow portal, it will be quicker, give the spell to Frances immediately. I don’t know if it will work but we have to try!” The gnome who had escorted Vienna to Cinderwood approached Vienna and gave her a piece of mushroom. ” Eat this, and you will shrink to fairy-size again.” Vienna didn’t hesitate this time, she quickly swallowed the mushroom and felt herself shrinking until she and Sabine were the same size again. Sabine took Vienna’s hand and hurriedly grabbed on to a snow flake, and together they drifted off into space. It didn’t take long until they landed in Elisabeth’s garden, and there was Frances standing helplessly and forlorn shivering in front of the door to Elisabeth’s house. Sabine handed Vienna the spell to make her big again and Vienna gulped it down, then she ran over to Frances and shoved the magician’s cure into his mouth. Frances yelped and barked and that woke up Elisabeth who came out to see what the noise was all about. ” Vienna? What are you doing here? And what’s wrong with Frances?” ” It’s a long story,” replied Vienna, ” I’ll tell you later.” Just then Elisabeth spotted Sabine hiding behind a garden bush. ” A fairy!” She exclaimed, ” A real fairy!”. Sabine came out of hiding and did a deep curtesy. ” Did it work?”asked Vienna. ” I don’t know,” replied Sabine, ” I guess we will see tonight. But Vienna, I have to go back now. I’m not supposed to be seen.” Vienna nodded, and the two girls gave each other a heartfelt hug. ” will I ever see you again?” Whispered Vienna into the tiny fairy’s ear. “sure you will,” replied Sabine and gave a little wink, and then just like that, she was gone. That day, Vienna and Elisabeth had a lot to talk about. Vienna told Elisabeth everything that had happened, but if it hadn’t been for the fact that Elisabeth had actually seen Sabine with her own eyes, she would not have believed the extraordinary story. That night, while the two friends were sleeping, it started snowing, and one little dog, sleeping happily in his wicker Basket felt an itch on his back, and when he woke up to scratch it, he discovered, to his astonishment, that he had grown a beautiful pair of snow white wings.

The End

The Art of Storytelling

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Art by Albert Anker

I have always been fascinated with the art of storytelling. I was a storyteller before I was a writer. My favorite thing to do when I was little was to go on walkabouts with my two younger cousins making up stories about oddly shaped rocks, twining trees and little lakes, as we wandered through changing landscapes of forests and mountains. Perhaps this talent came from my mother. I will never forget the storm-torn tree with the roots reaching for the skies. It was a magical gateway to another world. A world only my mother knew about. And now me. A miniature world of trolls and elves. And I, with the magical eyes of childhood, saw it all. Or perhaps it was my grandmother who taught me to tell stories. I could not get enough of the stories she told about a wonderful land called Yesteryear. Or her folktales, always with a wicked modern twist to make me laugh.

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Art by Theodor Kittelsen

When I learned how to write, my writing was first and foremost a way to record my stories. Whenever I wasn’t busy playing you could always find me scribbling something in a notepad or sketching odd characters and fantastical sceneries in a drawing book.
Some of the stories turned into movies which my big brother shot with my father’s old fashioned video camera.

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Art by Theodor Kittlsen

When I was eight I started writing poetry. I learned the magic of words. Poems were little stories about emotions. And these stories outshone the longer narratives in my teens. Today my writing is a mixture of storytelling and creative poetic writing.

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The tradition of storytelling is old. Older than recorded history. Storytelling was the way to record history in ancient times. It was a way to teach moral, explain natural phenomena, carry on culture and traditions, and of course, to entertain. In the Norse part of the world, we had the Skald. The skald was a poetic storyteller, often working for the king. He composed actual events into epic heroic sagas, creating heroes and adding valor to kings. Our most famous Skald is Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet who composed the epic Prose Edda. This Prose is still taught in schools today, and is a valuable source to understand ancient history and traditions in the Norse world.

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Art by Theodor Kittlsen

Other famous storytellers in Norway are Asbjørnsen and Moe. During the National Romanticism in Norway in the late 18th century, there was a general revival and interest for the old Norwegian traditions and culture. This was also true for the Norwegian folk tales and fairy tales. These tales had been told on farms and around bonfires for many many years, but had never been written down. Asbjørnsen and Moe took it upon themselves to collect these folk tales and publish them in two volumes. They traveled around the country from farm to farm listening to stories and writing them down. They were also known for re-telling the different stories to the children they met on their journeys. The two volume of folk tales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe have never been out of print since they were first published in 1841, and rarely will you find a Norwegian home without one version or the other of this Fairytale collection.

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The Iron Age Farm, Stavanger, Norway

I was so lucky as to meet one of the more modern storytellers in Norway, on the Iron Age farm in Stavanger. Nina Næsheim is a professional storyteller who specializes in Norse myths and legends. It was a very special moment sitting inside the ancient stone farmhouse with the rain tapping on the roof and candles swaying in the draft listening to Nina Næsheim telling stories about the Jotne, Thor, Freya and Odin’s Ravens. Seeing a professional storyteller performing a narrative is something completely different than listening to a book being read out loud. It is then you understand that storytelling truly is an art.

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Inside the Iron Age Farmhouse, Stavanger, Norway.

I met another such contemporary storyteller in Galway, Ireland. Ireland, with its Celtic heritage, has a rich tradition of storytellers, or seanchaí as they are called in Ireland.
The stories often include the mythical Fey Folk, or faeries as we call them today. But these faeries are very far from the Disney fairies we see on screen today. The Irish Faeries were cunning and mischievous and often downright wicked, stealing babies and luring bachelors into Faerierings.
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Eddie (Edmund) Lenihan is a famous contemporary Irish storyteller who specializes in tales about the Faerie folk. Eddie is featured in the film ” The Faerie Faith”, and claims that the Faeries actually exist. His stories are often modern and stars people who have actually had encounters with this mythical folk. I met Eddie Lenihan in Galway during the yearly storytelling festival. His performance was exceptional, and he captivated his audience, young and old, with his dreamy deep voice, his shape shifting facial expressions and his faerie like body language.

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Eddie Lenihan by Valerie O’Sullivan

The Irish seanchas were not only the bearers of Faerie Lore, they were also essential in the Druid tradition. Druids were Celtic priests, or wise men, who were called upon to perform weddings and funerals. They were also the holders of the secret knowledge and were considered to be wise and knowledgeable. They often shared and distributed this knowledge in the telling of stories, symbolic tales conveying hidden messages for the listeners.
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I met a Druid priest on the island of Inish Mor in Ireland. He was a former catholic monk, but had converted to the old faith in recent times. He spent his days studying ancient knowledge and mysteries, and some of this knowledge he shared with me,standing in the stone ruin of an old monastery facing the boisterous Atlantic Ocean, his tales came alive before my very eyes as the skies and seas shifted and roared and spat out the secrets the Druid called upon.

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Inish Mor, Ireland

We all tell stories. Perhaps funny anecdotes from our own lives, or perhaps stories we’ve heard told about someone else’s misfortune or success. We are made up of stories, memories, moments of learning, experiences, our stories make us who we are. Humanity has always had a fondness for gossip, for eavesdropping, just look at today’s reality shows and social networking. Sharing our story becomes important, it is how we leave our mark on this world, it is how we prevent the sea from washing out our footprints.

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Art by the brothers Hildebrandt

Whenever I go through something difficult, as we all must do in life, I think of my life as a story, a quest, a heroic tale, something that will grow in interest, excitement and richness, the more adversary I go through. For after all, what is a story without a plot, what is a tale without a quest, what is a saga without a hero? Or in the words of Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings:

“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. ”

* All the images have been sourced from Wikimedia or Wikipedia

Further reading:

Nina Næsheim: http://fortellernina.no/node/1
Eddie Lenihan: http://eddielenihan.weebly.com/

The Wizard’s Spell

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Art by John Howe

I wrote this story for my cousin, who loves the Fantasy Genre just as much as I do. When we were kids I wrote him stories all the time, and it was so much fun! To inspire this story he gave me three words: An old woman, a dog and a forest, and I had to include all of them in my text. I had so much fun writing this, and I hope you will enjoy reading it too!

He walked over to her quickly, shook her old calloused hand, and thanked her for her effort in the Kolkaran battle. She was dressed as she had been when they had first met, her criss-crossed face half hidden in a long muddy brown cape, her whole appearance dark and foreboding. She greeted Reeves courteously, but showed no sign of affection. Dagda Mora was not a woman of sentiment, she was a spell caster, and today she had won a war for her people. Well, they weren’t really her people, but she hated “the other ones” more, and consequently made her decision.

Reeves had been followed into the hall by Baylin, and a number of woods-men warriors seeking merit after the day’s battle. He had none to offer them. He knew there would be more battles to come. Dagda Mora sat down at the head of the table, enjoying her position as the eldest, Reeves motioned for Baylin to sit down next to him to the old woman’s right. Baylin was from the Westland and his lean, but strong built, had gained him the leadership amongst the men. Baylin’s thin brown eyebrows were raised in concentration as he studied the old woman who had, against all possible odds, been the heroine of the battle. “We need a weapon,” stated Reeves, and pierced his blue young eyes into Dagda Mora’s shadowy black. “And what makes you think I can produce such a weapon?” Croaked The old lady. “You are the spell caster, and I saw what you did on the battle field today.” Dagda Mora gave a hoarse eerie cackle that made Baylin jump in his seat. “I’m not a witch, you foolish boy”. Dagda Mora’s face had turned black and ugly with the torrent of rage produced by the inarticulate insult. “You can do it, and we both know it.” Concluded Reeves, unmoved by the charged atmosphere.
Dagda Mora broke into a violent laugh. “Of course I can, but what’s in it for me?”

For a brief moment Dagda Mora and Reeves locked gazes, as if to judge each other’s intentions. Dagda Mora smiled coldly at the young warrior, challenging him with her expectant silence. Baylin knew instantly that Reeves was inviting trouble, and that everyone in this room and beyond would end up paying for the foreboding favor. Reeves stood up determinedly and cleared his throat. Dagda Mora shot him an annoyed but bemused gaze. “What will it be, dagger boy, out with it!” She demanded blackly. “You will receive whatever payment you choose.” “Ha!” Cackled the old woman and broke into a roar of laugh. “So be it, gentlemen. I will claim my payment when I find it suitable.” For some reason, this particular answer, terrified Baylin more than any amount of gold, silver or even blood. A sense of foreboding filled his lungs and made him heave for breath. Reeves sat back in his chair, relaxing quietly in his seat, a barely audible sigh of relief escaping his lips as he coolly thanked the old woman for her cooperation.

Outside the assembly hall darkness had spun it’s black net of invisibility around the small houses and cottages in the village. The air was cool, and washed over Baylin’s hot grim face like a wave of chilled water. The shadowed moonlight barely made its way in between the eaves of the snug houses. Baylin leaned idly against the wall of the long wooden building housing the assembly hall. The meeting had concluded, and Reeves had asked him to wait for him. The tall chieftain was still inside making preparations with the old witch. Baylin knew that they could not expect to postpone the inevitable battle for too long. They were living like prisoners in Kolkaran , while the enemy prepared his battle plan.

Reeves looked quietly at his brother of arms, who stood lost in thought, staring at the play of moonlight and shadow on the darkened earth, and he felt a sense of betrayal, had he promised the spell caster too much? But then again, how could he have done things differently? She was their only chance. Reeves wished he did not have to involve the young warrior in this matter. But he had no choice. Baylin was his best tracker, and without a tracker they could not enter the Forest of Roan Mor.

Reeves was forced to call a second halt, only minutes after their journey through the forest had begun, to allow Dagda Mora another rest. The two men sat quietly down at the side of the trail and listened in dismay to the old woman’s panting. The roll of thunder, still distant, had been announcing its arrival for some time now, and Reeves did not like the slow pace they had to keep for the sake of the spell caster. Soon, the storm would be upon them, and the trail would disappear in mud and darkness. Baylin glanced over at the exhausted witch, her face was bloodshot and wet from perspiration, he could hear her moaning through shallow breaths. He looked at her and felt that this quest would fail and he himself would pay the price for this failure. It angered him, the whole idea of this journey was crazy, but he was loyal to Reeves and would remain so till his last breath left his body, something he suspected would be soon if the old witch didn’t decide to turn herself into a crow or something else that would suit her haggard exterior. But even then, could this old woman really save them from the warlock of Gundaban’s army? He had his doubts.

Reeves’ sudden whisper of warning startled Baylin who instinctively drew his sword, but Reeves shook his head and motioned for them to follow him under the cover of the leafy trees. There all three flattened themselves against the damp earth and waited anxiously for whatever had caught the Chieftain’s attention. A moment later they heard the distinct sound of paws dragging along the trail from the direction in which they were headed, a huge black animal came out of the darkness ahead of them moving in the direction of their hiding place. Reeves had to restrain Baylin from drawing his sword again and charging forward. The animal pacing steadily towards them was no ordinary dog, it was a Black Varg, a northern creature triple the size of a wolf. What it was doing in these parts Reeves could not tell, but whatever the reason, their best chance of survival was hiding and hoping the beast would pass them by.

A stillness settled over the forest, broken only by the expectant breathing of the three huddled together under the tree. Baylin glanced back at the trail they had come from. The path seemed undisturbed save for the deep footprints they had themselves made just a few minutes ago. Dust and fog swirled in the dark light. Nothing seemed to move. Baylin hesitated for a second, then Reeves motioned him to slowly get to his feet. Baylin moved quickly onto the grass followed by Reeves and a reluctant Dagda Mora. Baylin looked for any movement in the dim obscure light. But everything seemed to be shrouded in a grayish light. They were about midway to the trail now, and Baylin let out his breath heavily. Then the darkness in front of them moved and seemed to surge upwards and from out of the shadows a big black monster emerged. Doglike in appearance, the creature charged forward, filling the empty space before them with its enormous body. A shriek of fury escaped its clenched jaws and pierced through the forest. Long clawed paws reached for the Warriors followed by pointed yellow teeth and burning staring eyes glaring at them viciously. Baylin and Reeves reacted instantly, drawing their swords and pushing the old woman behind them. Reeves got the first hit, his sword cutting through the monster’s exposed flesh. The Varg reared back in pain, and Baylin quickly seized the opportunity to stab it again. But to the men’s shock their swords seemed to only scratch the surface of the creature’s flesh. It’s retaliation was quick and merciless, with a roar it charged forward against the men. Reeves managed to dive out of its reach, but Baylin was not so fast, and he screamed as the monster’s sharp teeth dug into his right forearm. Another scream boomed through the forest as the Varg made a second attack burying the claws of his paw into Baylin’s left arm. Baylin fell to his knees. Reeves charged forward, but was prevented by a surprisingly strong arm holding him back. Dagda Mora.

Then, just as Reeves was about to turn and fight off the spell caster, a blinding aura of blue light that caused Reeves to squint and shield his eyes overwhelmed the forest. Reeves was momentarily blinded, but fought hard to regain his vision. He blinked and rubbed his eyes fiercely until he could make out the form of a man standing at the edge of the forest. His hands were raised and blue streaks of light shot out of his extended fingers, striking the black dog with such force it reeled back from Baylin’s unconscious body. The Varg snarled and snapped it’s huge jaws , but before it could compose itself for a counter attack, the hooded figure , partly hidden behind the trees, raised his hands again and a new arrow of light hit the dog a second time. Baylin’s body slumped heavily to the ground as the Varg finally let go of its prey, wheeled about and scurried away from the piercing blue light with a long whimpering cry of dismay. Dagda Mora let go of Reeves’ arm and he charged forward to examine his brother of arms. Baylin had sustained some serious wounds and was bleeding heavily, but he was alive. ” I can help with that, ” said Dagda Mora, surprisingly softly, and lightly touched Reeves’ shoulder, he spun around fiercely, ready to tell her off for keeping him back, but before he could open his mouth the man who had saved them appeared by his side. “This is neither the time nor the place to exchange unpleasantries, warrior. Pick up your friend and come with me. Quickly!” ” Do as he says, boy!” The rough tone of an old wicked witch had returned to Dagda Mora’s voice. “I demand to know who this man is, and why he is ordering me about before I go anywhere,” responded Reeves while heaving the body of Baylin unto his back. “Watch your tongue, you fool, this is the wizard Roan Mor himself, the lord and caretaker of this forest.”

“Roan Mor!” Reeves couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The legend of the wizard of Roan Mor was well known in Kolkaran, as it was anywhere in these lands, but surely it was just that, a legend! “There is no time, young warrior, quickly now follow me!” The wizard took the lead and reluctantly Reeves, carrying Baylin’s body, followed, with Dagda Mor making up the rear. They walked briskly until they came to a huge oak standing tall at the banks of a still blue lake. The wizard tapped his walking stick thrice at the lower trunk of the tree, then, to Reeves’ amazement, a door opened under the vegetation. In a hushed voice the wizard explained to the astonished warrior that this was the secret passage to the underworld of the woods, the labyrinthine tunnels, indistinguishable to anyone who did not know what to look for. And so, the company passed through the door, and found themselves standing on a damp ground of solid earth. Roan Mor motioned them forward along the narrow earthen corridor with patterns of roots snaking alongside the thick brown walls. A few minutes later he halted before an abrupt barrier with the look and texture of bedrock. The wizard gently touched something in the Rock and a hidden door swung open to reveal another passageway. Roan Mor stepped inside and Reeves reluctantly followed. When all three of them were inside the passageway the stone door closed noisily behind them.

Reeves noticed that the air inside the passageway was more comfortable and easier to breathe, and the dampness of the walls and ceiling had diminished. The wizard kept leading them further and further into the passageway until they reached the end of the tunnel. An iron door was fastened into the Rock in front of them. Roan Mor reached into his pocket and fished out a big brass key which he inserted into the door’s lock. The door swung open with a hard metal thud that echoed through the deep silence of the tunnel. The company stepped into a large chamber fashioned like a hall or some kind of parlor. “Welcome, guests, to my humble abode.” Roan Mor reached out his hand and gave a theatrical bow. “This is where you live?” Asked Reeves with an undisguised surprise to his tone. The wizard smiled and nodded his head. ” You may relieve yourself of your burden here, warrior,” said Roan Mor and pointed to a wooden bed in the corner of the room. Reeves realized that the “burden” was Baylin, and he carefully lowered the young warrior’s body unto the readymade bed. Dagda Mora quickly came to his aid and started, with soft gentle hands, to examine Baylin’s wounds while she was muttering something under her breath. ” Come sit, my friend.” Roan Mor motioned for Reeves to sit next to him by a table where two mugs of cold beer had mysteriously appeared out of thin air. ” Now, tell me, what are you doing in my forest? And why was a Varg from Gundaban following you?” ” it wasn’t…” Started Reeves, but Dagda Mora interrupted him. ” You know damn well what we are doing here! Don’t play games, old man! We’ve come for your spell!”

” My spell is it,” the old man chuckled as though this amused him thoroughly, “and what spell might that be, old friend?” Dagda Mora shot him a dark and threatening look. ” Oh, give it up you arrogant fool, there is only one spell that can save us all from the warlock of Gundaban, and there is only one man who knows how to cast it, or should I say, undo it.” ” I see…” Said Roan Mor, the bemused look had gone from his eyes, replaced by a hint of annoyance. ” And why would I….what was it you called it…..undo….?….this spell?” Dagda Mora’s temper flared up and she spat the words at the wizard as though they were a curse….” Because the warlock of Gundaban is about to make mincemeat out of this entire world, and unfortunately, or should I rather say fortunately, the entire world includes you too you useless old man. You can’t hide away in your tunnels forever!” Roan Mor was not very impressed by this speech, he simplyshrugged his shoulders and sighed, ” can’t I? And by the way, what makes you think I’m hiding….and another thing, my dear lady, when did you all of a sudden turn into a hero? I dare say, there is something else in it for you, besides pure altruism, I mean. Tell me young chieftain, what did you promise the old spell caster in return for her help?” Reeves looked from the fuming Dagda Mora to the cool nonchalant wizard next to him, ” anything she wanted,” he replied firmly. The wizard broke out in a loud hearty laugh, ” well then, noble lady, do inform us, what is that you want desperately enough to want to break ice with me?”

“Enough of your games! You’re avoiding the real question, will you undo the spell or will you not?” Dagda Mora gave the wizard a challenging look. Reeves had had enough, he rose from his seat and spoke, with all the authority he could muster. ” Now, will you two please stop mucking about, and tell me what this spell is and how the undoing of it is going to help my men defeat the Gundaban Army?”. Roan Mor looked up at the towering Chieftain, surprise emanated from his squinting eyes and he reached out a hand to motion the warrior to sit back down. “Easy now, boy, that tone will get you nowhere in my house.” Dagda Mora sighed impatiently. ” if you will not tell him, then I will. Long ago this forest was the dwelling place of a clan of powerful Wood Sprites, they ruled these parts without interference, but then as the battles of the black armies broke out, a wizard crossed the boundaries of their territory and cursed them. He stole their life force and trapped it inside a seed. Nobody knows where the seed disappeared to nor the wizard, but not long after, a forest of trees rose up from the ground where the Wood Sprite’s territory had been, and this forest became the forest of Roan Mor.” Dagda Mora kept her eyes fixed at the old wizard, but he betrayed no visible sign of emotions. “So,” began Reeves in astonishment, ” you are that wizard?” Roan Mor looked into Reeves’ eyes and nodded his head. ” yes, yes I am. But what Dagda Mora here has failed to include in her story is why I put the wood sprites under a spell. You see, this particular clan was a warrior clan, dark and mysterious and notorious for their, what shall we call it….inability to die….” ” immortality?” Interjected Reeves. ” No, not immortality, they simply didn’t get hurt or wounded by weapons. So naturally that would make them a very powerful alley. And that is exactly what the warlock was trying to do, to convince them to join his army and eventually his rule. Now, Wood Sprites are fickle creatures, selfish of course, and they like to play for the winning team, and I could simply not risk it. Without any sense of moral there was no telling what they would do. I suspect they would choose to play for the team that offered them the biggest prize, which would of course be the cunning warlock. So I did what I had to do to protect the people of these lands. Your ancestors, young Chieftain.” ” So if that is true,” said Reeves, glancing over at Dagda Mora, still sitting on the bed next to the unconscious Baylin, “how will undoing the spell help us now? Will we not be faced with the exact same dilemma all over again?” ” No,” answered the spell caster and stared straight into Roan Mor’s liquid blue eyes, ” because I know something he doesn’t.”

“Oh, I’ve heard the old tales too, Dagda Mora, but they are just that, old tales.” Roan Mor chuckled and dismissed the old woman with a lazy wave of his sinewy hand. “What tale?” Asked Reeves, a little annoyed now at all the half-dropped hints and secrecy between the two spell casters. “Oh, it’s not a tale, it’s something that happened long ago,” Dagda Mora looked triumphantly into the wizard’s inscrutable eyes, then turned and gazed at the expectant young Chieftain. “As I said,” she continued, “long ago…the wood sprites, the ancestors of this particular wood sprite clan trapped in the Roan Mor trees, were attacked by an army sent by none other than the warlock of Gundaban. The attack was cowardly, it came at night and was aimed at the sleeping youngsters and the females. It was over in an hour. Few survived. The Wood Sprites attempted retaliation of course, but the warlock is cunning, and he keeps himself and his followers protected by walls of black magic, once inside those walls nothing and no one can penetrate their defenses. The Wood Sprites still carry the thirst for revenge as an inheritance passed from one generation to the next. That is why I know that given a chance they would ally with us against a common ancient enemy.” ” Well, yes, that is the tale,” interrupted Roan Mor, “but I have seen no evidence of this to be true. None.” “I have, ” replied Dagda Mora with a firm finality to her old hoarse voice, ” I have seen the attack with my own eyes.” Roan Mor flinched, his eyebrows arched and he studied the old woman’s face with obvious sign of astonishment. “How…..?” Began Reeves, but Dagda Mora dismissed him. ” That will have to remain a mystery to you for now. But believe me the tale is true, and the Wood Sprites would do anything to get their hands on the Warlock of Gundaban .” Roan Mor regained his calm disposition and said with a calm cool voice: “well, that my friends, changes everything. I didn’t know your magic ran that deep, Dagda Mora, but I know a liar when I see one, and you are not lying.” ” I certainly am not!” Spat Dagda Mora offendedly. ” So, will you help us?” Interjected Reeves impatiently, ” will you undo the spell and free the wood sprites?” Roan Mor closed his eyes in contemplation, then took a long sip from the now luke warm beer and nodded his head determinedly, calmness settling over his wrinkled face, ” Yes, young Chieftain, I will do as you ask. It seems we must all lay our trust in the hands of the Lady Dagda Mora if we are to succeed in this dark quest.” Dagda Mora winced, stuck up her nose and gave a sharp satisfying ” humph”.

Reeves and Roan Mor were walking briskly through the damp forest. Dagda Mora had been left behind to tend to the wounded Baylin. Reeves was glad of it, the old woman moved too slowly for his patience. The wizard and the warrior were moving through heavy mist and rain, at times staggering on the uncertain footing of the wet mossy ground. Reeves felt his mind begin to clear and his sense of purpose return as he walked rapidly next to the wizard. The seed had been buried somewhere north of the tunnels, that was the only information Roan Mor had given away, but it was enough to give Reeves hope and a renewed strength in his muscles. Reeves’ eyes searched the darkness about them for any sign of Vargs, but he saw nothing but empty black space. Then abruptly he picked up a sound, the rushing throb of water, perhaps a waterfall or a river. Moments later they stood by the pool of a descending cascade of white foam and blue water gushing unto banks of slippery rock. Roan Mor began moving closer to the thundering waterfall, peering into the hollow gloom behind the steady spray of cold water. Reeves followed the wizard without question, his eyes still searching the whereabouts for Vargs. The mist had begun to thicken and it would not be long before the visibility would be obscured into oblivion. Roan Mor led him closer to the enormous shower pouring into mists of rainbows, then he halted and indicated in gestures, to avoid being muted by the roar of water, a small break in the waterfall. Quickly the warrior pulled his hood unto his head and together the company of two pushed off into the cascade of water.

The water was cold and aggressive and with terrific force it wet the two men to the core. Reeves felt his bone going numb, but pushed on until they were both safely on the dry open space behind the cascade. Almost immediately Reeves felt the chill of the humid gloom cutting through his skin. It was another tunnel. Or perhaps not a tunnel, more like a cave with stale mossy walls and tomblike atmosphere. Roan Mor was moving slowly forward into a corridor leading up to some kind of iron door. Reeves followed him. Forcing down a knot of despair that this hollow room had conjured in him. Roan Mor approached the iron door and fished out a key from his robes. He unlocked the door with some difficulty, but finally the heavy iron gave in and Reeves helped Roan Mor to push the door open. Inside the door a dark room, looking like some kind of old dungeon, came into view. This was a place that would terrify most humans, lifeless and lightless with a clammy chill that cut into the bones. Glancing behind him in desperate search for light, Reeves could see to his horror that the day was dimming and the darkness of night would soon blacken the place entirely. Gritting his teeth he moved forward after the wizard. Then, to his astonishment he could suddenly see a faint light glimmering in the distance. Freezing into a motionless statue he squinted his eyes to get a better look. He could see it clearly now, it was weak, but it managed to break the darkness just enough for Reeves to see his own feet and hands. Roan Mor motioned for him to follow, and slowly paced towards the tiny flame. In carefully timed steps the two moved down the slippery corridor, like blind men seeking a flicker of light. Then, as thunder in a still night, exploded a thudding noise like the sound of a tomb being closed. Reeves looked panic stricken behind him into the empty blackness, he could see nothing, but realized with a rising feeling of terror that it was the iron door closing behind them. They were trapped.

Reeves paused, staring blankly at the wall of blackness that barred their way out. Then he turned and fixed his eyes on the mysterious flickering light ahead, ignoring the desire to run back the way they had come from. He locked the thought in his mind that salvation lay in the light alone. Reeves clutched the handle of his sword tightly as if trying to draw its strength, and followed the wizard further into the graying shadows of the dark tunnel, not once looking back into the dead silent of the shut walls. Minutes, that seemed like hours passed, before the chieftain and the wizard finally stood in the fringes of the lighted mist, cast by a tiny brass lamp fueled by a sweet smelling oil. They paused, studying the mystic lamp that marked the shrine of something that still remained invisible. Reeves waited impatiently for the wizard to proceed. ” There is madness in this, young Chieftain. Mark my words. You better pray the old spell caster is right.” And with those words Roan Mor lifted the lamp as though it was nothing but a cold mug of beer and poured its content into his mouth. Then, everything went black.

Reeves stared at the empty blackness where the wizard had stood. He carefully reached out his hand, and to his relief he could feel the rugged fringed fabric of his companion’s cloak. “Are you okay?” He whispered anxiously to what he gathered was the form of the wizard. There was no reply. Then suddenly he detected a faint, almost inaudible whisper: ” we must go on.” Reeves looked into the darkness, but nothing seemed to move. A few moments passed before Reeves felt something grab hold of him and pull him into the blackened haze.

Reeves could only make out vague shadows around him, as he stumbled after the wizard. There was no sound, only the thud of their boots and scrape of shingles. There was a damp dense mist about, giving Reeves the feeling of being slowly choked to death. Roan Mor moved faster as the tunnel deepened, giving Reeves the illusion of walking downhill. They walked for must have been hours in this blackened world of half-life, blurring their senses and confusing their understanding of time and space. Then at last the deep gloom began to draw back into a grayish haze and the contours of a rough and curt landscape rose out of the haze. To Reeves’ amazement he discovered that they were no longer inside the tunnel, but outside, breathing natural air again. Then abruptly the gray haze faded and the darkness was behind them. It happened so quickly Reeves was completely caught off guard. He stood in shocked silence as he discovered that the land surrounding them was the Forest of Roan Mor! The earth stretched away to the south, broken by wisps of grassland, and far ahead, shrouded in dusty sunshine, towered an oak above a blue familiar lake. ” How….?” Began Reeves in utter astonishment, but Roan Mor just tiredly dismissed him with a wave of his old pale hand. ” There is too much in this world you know nothing about, my young friend.” And with that he walked, rather briskly for such an old chap, towards the invisible entrance of his home.

Reeves, and the now fully recovered Baylin, stood a good distance away from the two spell casters in the dark wetlands of the forest of Roan Mor. Dagda Mora stared fixedly at the croaked over shape of the wizard, muttering inaudibly to herself. Amid the starkness of the scene Reeves could see the wizard for what he really was, an old weather beaten man weighed down by too many years of trials and tribulations. But there was a soft glow to his features, coloring the view of his being like a significant spark of a moment of exceptional extraordinarity. Then the vision exploded, and both Baylin and Reeves jumped and reached for their swords, but this was not something beatable by brute force, at least not that of a man and his iron sword. Suddenly a force, like an electric current seemed to strike at the wizard, hurling him several feet from where he had stood. Reeves forced himself to keep watching, unable to move, and before him was a light so intense he had to shield his eyes, it seemed to emanate from the wizard’s entire body, surging upwards from his open mouth. Beyond it, he could see Dagda Mora, her gaze fixed at the light pulsating feverishly. There was a sense of eagerness to its movement, as it strained to be released from the body holding it imprisoned. For a moment, the two warriors, the young Baylin and the Chieftain, struggled to comprehend the shock of the revelation happening before them, and they made no effort to advance or come to the wizard’s aid. Then their concentration shifted to the trees, completely immersed in the terrific light, their tall shape cleared with frightening sharpness, and abruptly their form seem to change, revealing contours of faces, arms, eyes. The flow of light went on endlessly. Reeves and Baylin recoiled in the mystery of what they were seeing, they simply could not accept the truth of the magic happening before their very eyes! Yet, they had to, their senses persuading them with the clarity of the vision in front of them. They could not sensibly deny this reality. The spell was being lifted, the curse broken. The trees had returned to their original form. They were no longer trees, but living breathing Wood Sprites standing as tall as their previous wooden form, glaring at the dwarfed wizard who had held them prisoner for so long.

Then a shadow descended upon the forest. The bright light emanating from Roan Mor dimmed sharply. Standing erect at the clearing, tall against the misty horizon, was a massive form shrouded in dust and haze. Instinctively, Reeves knew that this was the Chieftain of the Wood Sprites. His face was dark and deep set, and a green beard grew sluggishly underneath a mouth twisted in contempt. His eyes were fixed on the little wizard lying helplessly on the ground, completely fatigued by the undoing of his own spell. Reeves cried a warning to the old spell caster, but he was too late, the Wood Sprite Chief had already closed his claw-like hand around Roan Mor’s limp body and was, with tremendous ease, hoisting him into the air. Both Reeves and Baylin drew their swords and charged against the Wood Sprite, but Dagda Mora, who everyone seemed to have forgotten, stopped them by lifting her hand and freezing them into motionless statues. Helplessly they had to watch the scene unfold, paralyzed by the old woman’s powerful spell. The Wood Sprite held a iron-like grip around the wizard’s body, slowly squeezing the life force out of him, like the wizard had once done with him and his people. He wanted it to hurt, he wanted his capturer to feel terror, panic, fear, but the wizard showed no sign of any of these emotions, he just remained calm and dispassionate. The struggle was almost over for the old man when a shrill voice cried out. A voice that echoed authority and command. It was the voice of Dagda Mora.

The words were foreign to the two warriors, but the Wood Sprites seemed to understand, their chieftain hesitated, and his grip around the wizard’s body loosened slightly. The features of the Wood Sprite Chief twisted in recognition of the words, and his eyes widened in surprise. Then abruptly the unconscious form of the wizard was dropped to the ground, whether in anger or surrender was hard to tell. Reeves stared down at the crumpled form, suddenly he felt the spell holding him back lifting, and he darted to the wizard’s side, hurriedly checking his pulse for any sign of life. Now Baylin was there too, cradling Roan Mor’s other thin hand in his. “Is he alive?” It was Dagda Mora, still standing at the same spot, just a couple of feet away from the gathering of Wood Sprites. “Yes, but barely,” replied Reeves weakly. Dagda Mora sighed in relief.

As the mist thinned, Baylin could see that the forest was no longer a forest, but an open wasteland populated by hundreds of Wood Sprites. Before him Dagda Mora was kneeling over the limp body of the wizard muttering incantations. “He’ll be alright,” said Reeves reassuringly, “the spell caster knows what she’s doing.” ” What about the Wood Sprites?” Asked Baylin, ” What will happen to them?”. ” They will fight with us. Dagda Mora was right, they hate the warlock of Gundaban, and will do anything to have their revenge over him.” Baylin nodded. ” And what about Roan Mor?” ” He is too weak to fight in any battle, besides, Dagda Mora says battles are not his thing. He prefers to stay out of it.” Baylin snorted, somehow he found that hard to believe. ” And Dagda Mora?” “Will have her payment now…” Dagda Mora had come up beside the two warriors, standing as tall as she could against the black backdrop of a brightly starry sky. She had finally come to claim her share. Her promise fulfilled, there was nothing else to do but to give in to her demands. Whatever they were.

” Fifty years ago your father Treyan, Chieftain of Kolkaran, swore an oath, he would protect his land and people, no matter what. The promise was a black one, tied together with unbreakable magic, magic he extracted from Briannen Jain, a very powerful wizard, powerful and corrupted. If Treyan ever would break his promise and retreat from a battle, even if it was to protect his people, he would die. Treyan naturally became obsessed with winning, but he was no more than a mortal man. Again he went to Briannen to bargain another spell out of him. Briannen refused. But he had a weakness: gold. Treyan knew this and bribed the wizard with all the gold in his kingdom. So Briannen gave him a spell. A cunning one. When I met Treyan he was wandering the forest hunting game. He was alone. I didn’t know who he was, and I agreed to help him catch his dinner. I used a spell to lure the game closer, and Treyan was grateful for the help. But it wasn’t the game he was interested in. It was me. I had revealed my magic to him, and Treyan needed that magic to make himself invincible, so he bound me and my magical services to him and to his ancestors for as long as I would be alive. I helped him win many battles, as I have helped you win your battles, Reeves. But time has come for that bond to be broken, and for you and your people to fight your own battles. That is my price. That is what you will give me.” Baylin looked at Reeves, the shock was apparent in his eyes, ” brother, you can’t, we need her, without her magic we will never defeat the warlock!” Reeves stared at Dagda Mora, his eyes were solemn and unblinking. ” It is a fair price, Spell Caster. And I apologize on behalf of my late father, he was wrong to trap you, and you are right. It is time for Kolkaran to fight her own battles. I release you Dagda Mora. You are free.” The old woman’s haggard face broke into a satisfied grin, and she bowed her head in greeting and left, her shadow lingering on the barren land as a new sun rose from the white peaks in the distance.

Reeves and Baylin helped Roan Mor back into his house, where they left him with the company he mostly preferred, his own. ” Now what?” Asked Baylin as they stood side by side under the tall oak they now knew so well. ” We return to Kolkaran and prepare for battle. The Wood Sprites are already marching on Gundaban, we will not let them go to battle alone.” Reeves put his arm around the younger man’s shoulder, and together they started the long walk back to Kolkaran.

Note: You are more than welcome to save this story on your device. I know on Apple devices you can save the page as a PDF in iBooks. Then it will read like an E-book. I’m sure other devices have similar options.

For more John Howe art visit: http://www.john-howe.com

The Ghost House and the Crystal Ball

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On the first day of the Easter Holidays, Cecily and I found a proper Ghost House. I, as usual, was the first to spot it. I opened the door to the potato cellar of the house boldly, and entered inside. Cecily was too scared to come, so she kept watch outside. I held my breath as I walked across the cold mud floor. I am almost ten years old, but I am braver than most kids my age. Cecily is almost eight and not brave at all. About half way into the cellar I saw something shiny on one of the many tool shelves across the wall. My heart began to pound really fast. It was a green glass ball wrapped in an old fishing net.

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“Where are you?” called Cecily from the garden outside. “I’ll be there in a minute!” I yelled back. I took the glass ball under my arm and carefully walked back outside and into the daylight. “What is that?” asked Cecily when she saw the green ball under my arm. I explained to her that it was a magic crystal ball and that we were to take it back home with us.

I carried the crystal ball very carefully back to Aunty and Uncle’s summer house. When we got there uncle explained to us that the ghost house we had discovered belonged to an old lady called Olga, but she had died and now the house just stood there empty and decaying. Uncle lowered his voice so that Aunty couldn’t hear him and said that Olga had been a real witch with a broomstick and all! “I knew it!” I said to Cecily then, “I knew that the crystal ball was magic! Olga must have used it to see all kind of magical things in.” Cecily was too frightened to say anything.

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I spent the whole evening staring into the crystal ball trying to see something in there, but all I saw was my own reflection. “We need the spell,” I said to Cecily. “I am sure Olga had to say a riddle of magical words to make it work. Let’s go to her house again tonight and ask her about the spell.” “No, that is very dangerous,” said Cecily. “Ghosts are no joke.” But I managed to convince her to come. I always do. “We’ll go tonight at midnight,” I said.

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We waited until Uncle and Aunty had gone to bed before we left. It was very dark, but we had brought our flash lights with us. Cecily walked behind me, she was so scared her teeth rattled. “Stop that!” I scolded. “You will scare the ghosts away!” But that was the wrong thing to say, because it made Cecily’s teeth rattle even more.

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I must admit that Olga’s house did look more scary in the dark, but I just decided not to be afraid, otherwise I would never get that spell. “Let’s try the front door this time,” I said to Cecily. The front door opened slowly with a long sigh. I pushed it firmly and went into the dark corridor. “Are you coming?” I said to Cecily, but she just shook her head. “Well, then I guess you will have to stand outside all by yourself.” I made my voice a little spooky for special effect. That did the trick. Cecily moved in behind me, but she insisted on holding my hand. I opened the door to the living room slowly and pointed my flash light into the dark room. Cecily sucked in her breath and gripped my hand tighter. “Olgaaaa!! Are you there?!” I yelled. “Olgaaaa, I have your crystal ball and I need that spell to make it work!” No one answered. We moved further into the empty living room. But all of a sudden out of nowhere, something huge with sharp claws jumped on me and screamed viciously into my ear. Both Cecily and I dropped our flash lights and ran out of the house screaming, with the big evil thing in hot pursuit. We managed to reach the corridor before the creature and I slammed the door shut behind me as soon as we were outside. The creature was locked inside the house.

Cecily was bawling and even I was shaking with the shock of it all, so we sat down on a couple of rocks to catch our breath. “What was that??” cried Cecily. I didn’t answer because I didn’t know. Then all of a sudden we heard a sound from one of the windows, like someone was tapping on the glass with sharp claws. I forced myself to look up at the window and there, to my horror, I saw two yellow eyes staring maliciously at us. I dragged Cecily to her feet and we ran in a panic all the way back to Uncle and Aunty’s summer house.

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We forgot to be quiet so we woke up Uncle and Aunty. Aunty was very angry with us for sneaking out in the middle of the night. But Uncle had a funny smile on his face and he made us tell him the whole story. After hearing the story Aunty shook her head angrily and said: “It must have been that wild cat you saw. He is big and vicious and growls at anyone who dares to come close to that house. Now off to bed with you two! March!”

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Uncle went with us to tuck us in, and when he put the blanked around me he said” “Your Aunty is right about the cat, but what she doesn’t know is that the cat is really old Olga transformed. You see, right before she died she put a spell on herself and transformed into a big black cat.” “Oh, I understand,” I whispered, Cecily was already sleeping, “because cats have nine lives, right?” “Precisely!” replied uncle and winked at me.

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I lay awake for some time staring into the green crystal ball. I would have to get that cat to give me the spell somehow. But next time I’d come prepared. And in my dreams I was already cooking up a magic master plan.

All the beautiful art is by Ilon Wikland. See more of Ilon’s wonderful art here: http://www.ilon.se/en/about.php