Illustrated (Very) Short Stories
The Coachman’s Revenge
Heavy rain and wild wind slashed at the coach as it rumbled along the road. Though freezing and soaked to the skin, the Coachman’s masterful driving kept the carriage from overturning. A tremendous clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning that lit the night sky frightened the horses into a mad run. Quickly regaining control, the Coachman braked to a stop. Climbing down from his seat, he could hear cursing as his employer rapped his walking stick against the roof of the coach.
“Damn it, man! Why are we stopped?” Lord Miserton demanded.
“Begging your pardon, My Lord,” the Coachman said speaking through the carriage window. He dared not get inside and so stood in the pouring rain trying to explain. “The horses are afeared. We will not reach Miserton Hall in one piece if we continue in this storm. It would be best to wait here until the storm abates.”
“Wait?!” shrieked Lady Miserton. “Do not be absurd! Impudent man, afraid of a little rain.”
Lord Miserton let loose another string of curses. “You shall be sacked upon our return home if you do not find us a proper inn to stay the night!”
The Coachman paused before answering, “My Lord, if we turn left at the next crossroads there is a place that may have accommodations.”
“Then take us there at once!” ordered Lord Miserton shutting the carriage window. “Remind me to sack him anyway,” he muttered to his wife.
Turning left at the crossroads the Coachman headed toward a high hill upon which stood a fortress glowing eerie white in the darkness. A few skeletal trees clung to the sides of the barren hill. The Coachman expertly guided the horses up the steep incline and stopped before the front gate. It unbolted immediately as if the company had been expected. He jumped down to open the carriage door.
“My Lord, this is the home of Viscount Sanguis. He has been known to take in stranded travellers.”
“Never heard of him! Get us inside this instant!”
The Coachman showed Lord and Lady Miserton through the open door where they were greeted by an ancient female servant. “Follow me,” she croaked and led them inside.
A tall spectral man appeared, seemingly out of thin air. “Ah, visitors. Welcome, I am Dywyll Sanguis. My housekeeper will make you comfortable by the fire.”
When the visitors were out of sight, Viscount Sanguis turned to the Coachman and handed him a small black velvet bag heavy with gold coins. “Thank you, sir,” he whispered. “I shall drink well tonight.”
The Coachman smiled, tipped his hat and went back out into the night. The storm had ceased and an unusual orange full moon lit the sky.
Lord and Lady Miserton were never seen again. Although the bodies of a man and woman were found at the crossroads; dressed in rags, puncture wounds on their necks and drained of all blood……
©Morgaine du Mer 2016
The new moon was already rising as Esmeralda hurried away from the office. Having to stay late for the third time that week, most likely without anything extra forthcoming in her pay envelope, was rather disheartening. Crossing rapidly to the High Street to buy ingredients for dinner, she gazed up at the sky and did a double take. The crescent moon glimmered a shimmering pink! The green grocer’s and the bakery were closing, so she quickly made her purchases and began to head back down the street.
Suddenly, twinkling lights at the very end of the block caught her eye. A new store? It certainly was not there yesterday. By now all of High Street was shuttered, but the lights were on in that one shop. “May as well have a look,” she thought. The lilting sound of a harp could be heard as she approached the unusual looking establishment. The sign and the door were well-weathered, remnants of at least two centuries ago. She peered into the display window, astonished by the whimsical array of lavishly adorned hats……
©Morgaine du Mer 2008
The New Hat
Miranda pulled her threadbare cloak closer, shivering in the cold autumn wind. The sun was setting as she hurried to the market. Not much would be left at this hour, but whatever she found would be less expensive.
Everything started out well enough when they wed four years ago. John was a junior clerk at the bank with a promising future. Both were ecstatic when she announced she was with child. Then all seemed to go wrong. He blamed her for the miscarriage and began to denigrate her appearance, cooking and housekeeping. He gave her a new broom, sarcastically suggesting that it might improve her abilities. He became belligerent at work and was passed over for promotion. After work he went directly to the pub, staggering home late, criticising the meal and Miranda. When she suggested he might stop wasting money on drink and increase the budget, she was rewarded with a slap.
Frightened but determined, Miranda formed a plan to leave. She saved a few coins from the meagre household allowance every week. She rationed everything, ignored John’s complaints and silently bore his abuse.
Miranda arrived so late most of the market stalls were shut. She chose carefully, purchasing only a few vegetables and a small chicken. As she turned to head home, she noticed a new shop at the end of the lane. An array of colourful hats were displayed in the window. It had been so long since she had a new hat. ‘It will cost nothing to look’, she thought.
The shop door opened. Stepping inside Miranda was overcome with a sense of well-being. The proprietor, an elderly lady with long white hair wearing an old-fashioned gown of blue velvet smiled. “I have just the hat for you.” Miranda hesitated; she had no money for luxuries. “Do not concern yourself with cost. This hat has already been paid for.” Miranda thanked the woman again and again before rushing home.
Miranda set her market basket in the kitchen. And then carefully unwrapped the hat in the parlour. As soon as she put it on she felt light and free. She peered at herself in the mirror. From the corner of her eye she spied the broom leaning against the settee. She did not remember leaving it there, taking a step backward as the broom began to glow and advance toward her. Suddenly, Miranda had a grand idea!
John trudged home, drunk as usual, cursing as he entered the dark and cold house. No fire had been lit and no dinner awaited. He angrily called for Miranda but received no answer. Neither Miranda nor the broom were ever seen again.
©Morgaine du Mer 2007
A Castle Fairy Tale
A Castle All Her Own – Part 1
“It is the most unheard of thing I have ever heard!” exclaimed the King, his usually calm face distorted with a mighty scowl to rival that of any ogre’s.
The Queen sighed in dismay. “Young lady, why can you not be more like your sister, Princess Magnifique?”
“Forsooth,” the Princess quickly replied. “If I were more like Magnifique I would be less like myself.” The Queen sighed again in exasperation.
“She speaks true,” the High Priestess said to the High Magician whilst hiding her smile behind her hand.
“One cannot argue with logic,” the High Magician replied, also hiding his smile lest he make the King even angrier. “The Princess indeed lives up to her namesake, Warrior Queen Rebelia the First.”
The Queen sighed again, this time more audibly. The King bellowed at his advisors. “Is this predicament not troublesome enough without superfluous chattering amongst yourselves?” His voice echoed so loudly that those strolling in the garden outside the audience chamber could hear every word. Knowing when to retreat, the High Priestess and Magician slowly backed out of the room.
“A princess does not live in her own castle by herself! Who would defend you?” asked the King in a last attempt to reason with his recalcitrant daughter.
“I have excelled in swordsmanship; I can take care of myself,” the Princess calmly answered. “And I would not be alone. There would be folk aplenty assisting me in running the castle.
Having had his fill of contrariness and contretemps, the King stormed out of the chamber, quickly followed by the Queen. Perhaps naming their youngest daughter after such an intractable ancestor had been a mistake. Although, however unconventional, Queen Rebelia had been a formidable ruler, ridding the land of brigands and uniting the kingdoms against the ogres and trolls.
Like most folk in the realms, Princess Rebelia had studied the arts of the sword and self-defence; an ogre or troll attack was always imminent. But unlike most, she had gone on to engage in advanced sword training and battle strategy with her older twin brothers, Prince Strong and Prince Able. Like her sister Magnifique, Rebelia could sew a fine seam, weave a tapestry, cook a delicious roast duck and was an accomplished herbalist. But there, the similarities between the sisters ended. Whereas Princess Magnifique married the handsome Prince Forthright and was predictably living happily ever after, Princess Rebelia had ignored her various suitors; declared they were all boring. As everyone knows, there is nothing worse than a royal bore. So despite being of marriageable age for three years, she remained gleefully unattached, much to her parents’ consternation. Instead, she traversed the countryside wearing combat boots, riding alongside her brothers, engaging in swordplay, and striking fear in the hearts of any ogre or troll who had the misfortune to stray too close. Her reputation in battle became known far and wide.
Feeling rather unhappy about the argument, Rebelia left the audience chamber after her parents’ departure and ambled about the maze garden. There, she came upon the Royal Estate Agent, who having overheard the dispute, produced a scroll containing a list of the available castles in the area.
So for the next few days the Princess and the Estate Agent visited properties. Rebelia found none to her liking until they stumbled upon a small castle, not too close but not too far from her parents. It was a bit rundown and in need of renovation. However, there was a nice garden with room for expansion and it overlooked the sea. And as everyone knows, location, location, location is key when choosing an estate. So the Princess hired the Royal Decorators and together they transformed the little castle into a beautiful abode.
Word spread quickly throughout the realms that Princess Rebelia was not only fearless in battle, she maintained her own stronghold and excelled in the home-keeping arts as well. Once again a queue of suitors appeared. Needless to say she rejected all of them and continued to live happily on her own, much to her parents’ vexation. “I shall not settle! I will not marry until I find my equal.” she informed her worried parents. The queue of eligible men continued for a few more years until Rebelia found the one that was worthy of her. But that is a story for another day………
Another Day – Part 2
The shy young priestess curtseyed low before the King and Queen, the High Priestess and High Magician. She bade them follow her from the Reception Hall, through the Solarium and outside into the Rose Garden. There, she led them under a curved trellis covered with roses of various sizes and colours. The fragrance was captivating. She seated them in comfortable chairs around a small carved wooden table upon which stood a large silver bowl filled with ripe cherries, a silver pitcher of water and four jewelled goblets. She filled the goblets with water and informed the royal guests that the Princess would join them shortly, curtseyed again and hurried away.
The King and Queen gazed about in amazement at what they called Castle Ramshackle when Princess Rebelia was out of hearing range. Three years ago when Rebelia had insisted upon moving into the somewhat dilapidated castle, they had vociferously expressed serious doubts that anything could be accomplished. Although invited frequently, they had visited only twice before today to see the progress and had not been very impressed. Now, they marvelled at all the improvements. The Reception Hall and Solarium, though rather spartan compared to their own grand castle, were suitably furnished and inviting. The Rose Garden was literally a masterpiece. It overlooked the abundant Herb Garden in which they could see a young woman clad in a simple indigo-dyed garment and straw hat as she kneeled and pulled weeds.
“Dear, we must ask Rebelia’s gardener what he has done to produce such magnificent roses,” said the Queen.
“Mistress Gardener! Please inform the Head Gardener he is wanted in the Rose Garden,” the King called out to the woman in the Herb Garden. A significant raising of eyebrows and smiles passed between the High Priestess and the High Magician.
The woman stood up and whirled around to face her parents. “Oh, I am sorry! I was so busy with these weeds I did not realise you had arrived,” Rebelia said in an attempt to apologise. “By the by, the Head Gardener is a she,” Rebelia added; not being able to refrain from surprising her parents with her radical ideas.
The King frowned and the Queen gave one of her famous sighs in addition to a disapproving glare. “Rebelia!” she admonished. “It is quite unseemly for a princess to appear in gardener’s garb!”
“Surely you must have folk to attend to this work instead of grubbing about in the dirt yourself!” the King exclaimed in an irritated tone.
“Yes, Father. Of course I have gardeners.” Rebelia replied calmly. “But how would I know if work of any type is done properly until I have accomplished the task at least once or twice by myself?”
Another audible sigh from the Queen, a loud ‘harrumph’ from the King and more silent smiles passed between the High Priestess and High Magician.
“I shall go change into more suitable attire for entertaining. And please enjoy the cherries. It is the first crop this year. I picked them myself this morning.” Rebelia smiled. Confounding her parents was always such great sport.
“Quite unseemly!” the King and Queen loudly replied in unison as their contrary daughter rushed inside.
A short while later, Rebelia appeared before her guests in a clean gown bearing a silver tray of cold sliced duck, just-picked greens, freshly baked bread and a pitcher of ale. “I thought we might have our midday meal here in the garden.”
“And I suppose she baked the bread, picked the greens and hunted the duck herself,” the Queen muttered under her breath to the King.
“And brewed the ale herself as well, no doubt,” answered the King sotto voce.
With trepidation the King and Queen accepted very small portions from the young priestess who was serving the meal. A few bites and they were not only surprised but praised the quality, declaring it delicious. A sentiment echoed warmly by the High Priestess and High Magician. Rebelia beamed with pride as the entire party asked for seconds. Suddenly the Sergeant at Arms appeared, bowed low before the royal guests, and whispered to Rebelia.
“It appears there is a man at the gate who has met with an accident and is in need of assistance,” the Princess informed the group as she arose to see to the stranger.
A knowing look passed between the High Priestess and High Magician; they had foreseen this very event in the scrying mirror some days prior but wisely kept the knowledge to themselves.
The Princess returned shortly, followed by a man of average height garbed in the simple deerskin outfit of a huntsman, torn and dirty in several places. He was limping. His curly tangle of shoulder-length fiery red hair and light green eyes automatically marked him as a stranger in the known realms.
He winced in pain as he bowed low before the assembled party. “Despite his appearance, he possesses proper manners,” the Queen whispered to the King. “I wonder if he possesses a proper manor,” the King whispered back, hoping the man might be an eligible bachelor.
“Your Majesties,” the man, though obviously in pain, bowed low again as he addressed the King and Queen. “My horse lost a shoe, fell over, and down I went, tumbling across hill and dale, saved from certain death by landing upon your doorstep,” the man smiled brightly in an attempt at humour to explain his dishevelled appearance whilst removing the leaves and twigs from his hair. “My name is Hhroldgar; my friends call me Harry.”
“Forsooth, Hhroldgar” announced Rebelia. “It is upon my doorstep you have landed. I am Princess Rebelia, Lady of this castle. “My parents are rulers of this realm and live in their own castle.”
“My apologies, my Lady”, countered Harry, bowing again and smiling. “Rebelia, an apt name for such a forthright as well as enchanting princess.”
‘Oh, dear, another prospective suitor. Flattery will reap him nothing’, thought Rebelia.
To him she replied, “My sister’s husband is called Forthright; I am forward-thinking. My Stable Master and Blacksmith will see to your horse and my Healer will see to your bruises. And then, please join us for the midday meal.” She summoned the Wise Woman, who led the young man into the Herbarium.
He appeared a short while later, still limping, but clad in clean borrowed clothes, a bandage on his left wrist and looking quite handsome with the dirt washed from his face and hair combed. He gratefully accepted a plate of food and slowly sat down on the low stone wall that surrounded the Rose Garden.
“Young man, you hail not from these realms; though you speak our tongue well,” the King stated without preamble. “Why are you here?”
“Father please, do let the man eat and drink before an interrogation!” Rebelia gently chided as she poured ale into a mug that the server had brought.
“A stranger always brings questions,” Harry smiled at Rebelia. “The food and ale are excellent, my Lady. As it happens, I am here for a wedding. Today I thought to go exploring and met with my small accident.”
At that moment, the Stable Master appeared and addressed Rebelia. “My Lady, I am afraid your guest’s horse is temporarily lame. Not to worry. He will recover, but cannot travel for at least a fortnight.”
Expressions of alarm quickly appeared on four faces, all for different reasons. Harry was very concerned for his horse. The King and Queen were apprehensive about a stranger in their midst. Rebelia was uncharacteristically flustered at the prospect of providing lodging for an uninvited guest. Serene as ever, the High Priestess and High Magician merely nodded and smiled like the cats that got the cream. What happened next was rather interesting………
What Happened Next – Part 3
Harry insisted upon seeing to the horse at once and limped as quickly as he was able after the Stable Master. “Admirable, the man seeing to the horse himself,” the King said thoughtfully. “Although undoubtedly there is more to his story and I shall know all.”
“As both man and horse must stay to recuperate; I shall remain with the Princess if that is agreeable to Your Majesties”, offered the High Priestess. The King and Queen readily agreed. And for once, Rebelia was silent as she was discussed aloud by her elders.
Harry made his way slowly back from the Stable to the Rose Garden. “It is as the Stable Master says; my horse cannot travel until the bruised leg has healed. Now I find myself in the awkward position of prevailing upon the Princess for room and board.” Rebelia, still speechless, nodded assent.
“So then, young man. Do not prevaricate! Who are your parents? How do you come to be here in our realm?” the King demanded.
Harry bowed again before the King and Queen. “Your Majesties, forgive my manners. I am Hhroldgar, son of Hhroldgar and BláthAirgid, son and daughter of Hhroldgar and Orga, Hhroldgar and CrannGlas….,” and he continued on for quite some time naming his ancestors in a melodious language until the King held up his hand and bade him get to the point.
“I am from the Isle of Mists which lies across the Narrow Sea,” Harry complied quickly.
“What lands are these? The Land of Faerie, mayhap?” questioned the King, frowning at the prospect.
The Queen shrank back in her chair. ‘Of course’, she thought, ‘Rebelia ignores all proper suitors, a potential husband appears and he is of the Fae!’
Harry went on, “How I come to be here in your land I admit is a tale somewhat strange, even to myself. My people are much like yours in many ways. Most of our ancestors were of the Faerie Folk. So even today some of our offspring are blessed with magickal powers. Long ago The Faerie ruled all the isles on our side of the Narrow Sea and created the Unfathomable Fog which covers it to keep our lands hidden from yours. Nine days ago, our High Priest conferred upon me an honour most important. He instructed me to sail across the Narrow Sea to attend a wedding in your realm as a representative of our people. The High Priest cast a spell strong enough to lift the Fog long enough for us to sail across the Sea. He told me nothing more; only that all would be revealed upon my arrival on your shore.”
“We know of no forthcoming wedding in our realm or any nearby,” the Queen interjected; suspicious of what appeared to be a most dubious tale. Although she was interested to learn more about the man with such an impressive-sounding pedigree.
“There was no welcoming party upon my arrival,” Harry politely ignored the interruption and continued. “So I made camp and waited for another day with my two companions in the hope of being met. When no one appeared, I went in search of the nearest folk and met with my accident instead. My companions must be wondering what has become of me.”
Rebelia found her voice at last. “Companions?! We shall ride out to retrieve them if you would tell their whereabouts to my Sergeant at Arms. There are ogres and trolls about! You and they shall be my guests until your horse is ready to travel.”
The King and Queen consulted with the High Magician and High Priestess, who assured them they detected no duplicity in the man’s explanation. They reminded their Majesties that it had been so long since the Narrow Sea had been crossed that some had forgotten that many on both sides of the Sea had illustrious Fae ancestors. (What they refrained from mentioning might have caused an unnecessary royal rumpus. So as those in charge of magick often do, they wisely kept that information to themselves.) The High Magician stated he also would remain with Rebelia to allay their fears. Satisfied, the King and Queen called for their Coachman to take them home.
Rebelia organised the search party and made ready to ride with them. Harry wanted to ride out as well, but the Wise Woman insisted that he stay behind so as not to make his injuries worse. And the High Priestess insisted that Rebelia stay as well; it was very bad form to leave a guest unattended.
As the search party rode out Harry and Rebelia looked at each other. “Well, then,” Rebelia said at last to banish the awkward silence. “I best get on with the wedding, I mean weeding!” Embarrassed, she abruptly hurried away to change back into her gardening costume.
Upon her return Harry volunteered his assistance. “I fear I know very little about gardening but if you show me what to do I can certainly make myself useful in exchange for your hospitality,” he smiled.
‘He does seem nice,’ Rebelia thought. But to Harry she retorted, “Suit yourself. Guests are not required to work.” She was irritated and knew she had been impolite but did not know why.
Harry’s every attempt at conversation as they worked was met with monosyllables. He finally gave up and they continued in silence until almost every weed had been pulled. The sun was beginning to set when thankfully the sounds of the hunting horn, men and horses at the front gate signalled the search party had returned.
Rebelia, with Harry limping several paces behind, greeted the party at the gate. Introductions were swiftly made and Harry’s companions, Tréan and Maith, followed the Stable Master. Protocol required he settle male visitors in quarters above the stables. Harry limped after them, but the High Magician insisted the three men would stay in the castle. For the second time in one day, Rebelia was silent.
After being shown to their chamber by the Sergeant at Arms, he instructed them to come down to the Dining Hall for the evening meal when they heard the gong strike three times.
Rebelia, the High Priestess, High Magician, and two of the young priestesses, Estrelia and Auralunia, were already seated at the table when Harry and his companions entered the Dining Hall. Rebelia noticed that the visitors, Harry in particular, looked exceedingly handsome now that they had taken the opportunity to bathe and don fresh clothing. The guests complimented Rebelia, first on the castle and then on the meal. Conversation between the young people began slowly at first, but soon reticence gave way to laughter as the evening progressed. By the end of the meal, the High Priestess and High Magician concluded all was going according to plan………
The Plan Unfolds – Part 4
Day dawned and at the morning meal, the young priestesses and Harry’s companions continued their lively conversations from the night before. But Rebelia and Harry were once again reserved with each other. Directly after the meal, Tréan and Maith went to exercise their horses and assist the Stable Master; Estrelia and Auralunia back to their studies with the Wise Woman. Rebelia’s lack of experience with entertaining guests made her unsure of what to do next. She eagerly accepted the High Priestess’s suggestion that she walk with Harry in the Orchard to speed the healing of his leg and then return to the Rose Garden to rest.
Unbeknownst to all, the High Priestess and High Magician knew that this meeting between Rebelia and Harry had been prearranged 300 years before by the monarchs on both sides of the Narrow Sea. It was predestined the two would meet and form an alliance between the two peoples. Though clearly, a bit of magick was required to evoke a betrothal. Two things were necessary: Harry must see beyond Rebelia’s contrariness and Rebelia must acknowledge that unlike her previous suitors, Harry would encourage her to always be herself. And both must arrive at these conclusions within the fortnight if this alliance was to succeed.
To this end, the High Priestess conjured a spell. She spread a handful of powdered rose petals onto a small round plate made of gold. She traced the names ‘Rebelia’ and ‘Hhroldgar’ and the symbol for ‘archery’ in the powder linking the two names. She intoned a few words in the arcane language of magick whilst swirling the powdered petals together. She emptied the powder from the plate into a small blue glass bottle and went to the Rose Garden where the High Magician was waiting with two goblets of water fresh from the enchanted spring. The High Priestess poured the rose powder into the goblets and placed them on a silver tray on the table. Then both withdrew behind the trellis and waited for the magick to happen.
Presently, Rebelia and Harry returned from the Orchard with a small basket of cherries. It had been quite warm in the Orchard and both were thirsty. Though Harry would never admit it aloud, his leg hurt and he was grateful to sit down. They drank the water and ate the fruit in silence. After a short time, they both felt remarkably refreshed in a curious sort of way and gazed at each other as if seeing one another for the first time. Both smiled and conversation began. Behind the trellis, the High Priestess and High Magician nodded approval.
As Harry could not yet ride but was anxious to do more than merely pick weeds or sit still waiting for his injuries to heal, he asked Rebelia if there was a practice field for archery. Rebelia was immediately in favour of this idea and called the Sergeant at Arms to arrange for bows, arrows and targets to be set up after the midday meal. They impressed each other at the practice field; both excelled at archery. More importantly, they began to see each other in a new light. And archery became their favourite activity.
As the fortnight passed, Rebelia and Harry became more at ease with each other. A true friendship developed followed by love; although neither could express their feelings in words. To be sure the bond was real, the High Priestess reversed the spell. Rebelia and Harry were still enamoured of each other; the magick that brought them together was a success. Would a proposal and agreement be forthcoming?………
The Fortnight Ends and A New Story Begins
The Wise Woman examined Harry’s leg and pronounced him healed. The Stable Master did the same for Harry’s horse. As Harry and his companions made ready to sail back to their homeland, he realised the wedding he had been sent to this land to attend was his and Rebelia’s. He bolted from the chamber, collided with Rebelia in the passage way and they both fell to the floor. She had been on her way to declare her love.
“Well”, said Harry. “As long as I am down here on one knee I wish to propose. Rebelia, I love you above all others. Would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
“Not the most dignified of proposals,” Rebelia laughed. “But yes, I will.”
The High Priestess and High Magician sent word to the King and Queen that their daughter was betrothed. Surprised and elated they began preparations for the wedding that would take place on the next full moon. A message was sent to Harry’s parents, who sailed across the Narrow Sea in full Faerie regalia. Both sets of parents were overjoyed at the match.
The wedding was a grand and glorious affair lasting three days, with a multitude of folk from both sides of the Narrow Sea. It was agreed by all that Rebelia and Harry would spend half the year in each kingdom. They sailed to the Isle of Mists so Rebelia could meet more of Harry’s people and learn their customs. When they returned six months later Rebelia and Harry had exciting news for her parents; news they had once despaired of ever hearing. She was with child!
Rebelia and Harry’s first child was a boy, called Hhroldgar, of course. He was much like his father with curly red hair and an engaging, outgoing personality. Two years later he was joined by a sister they called Angharad, who followed him about from the moment she could walk. As they grew, they enjoyed learning, playing and competing with their cousins from both sides of the Narrow Sea.
On young Hhroldgar’s tenth birthday, the family were living in the Isle of Mists. The King and Queen, Harry’s parents, arranged a celebration and folk from both sides of the Narrow Sea attended. Young Harry, already an accomplished rider, was presented with his own horse as was the custom in the Isle of Mists.
When the family returned to Rebelia’s homeland, Angharad insisted on learning how to ride as well. A pony was found for her and she was overjoyed. She persisted in leaving her bed chamber and sleeping in the stable with the pony. She also refused to use a saddle, riding with only a bridle in the manner of her ancestor, Queen Rebelia. When she asked for a wooden lance in order to participate in mock jousts with her brother and cousins, her parents refused. Attempting to explain there was plenty time for that later produced a small tempest for which Angharad was becoming well-known.
One day Rebelia’s entire family were gathered around the Horse-Riding Circle, watching the youngsters perform their latest riding feats. Angharad wanted to ride alongside her brother, and was unhappy being made to wait to ride with the others of her age.
Rather exasperated Rebelia turned to Harry and asked in all seriousness, “Wherever did our daughter learn to be so contrary?”
Rebelia’s parents looked at each other and smiled.
(And yes, everyone did live happily ever after!)
©Morgaine du Mer 2016
The King’s Wish
The King closed the door to his bedchamber and wandered to the open window. A soft breeze fragranced by roses wafted in. He knew he should be happy. The crops and animals were flourishing and promised a fruitful harvest in autumn. His people would not be hungry during the dark and cold days of winter. He had successfully negotiated treaties with the allied kingdoms to combat the trolls and brigands that still roamed the countryside. His coffers were filled with gold and silver.
Yet, he did not have what he truly desired; a queen to share his life. He had met several lovely ladies from his and neighbouring kingdoms but not one had captured his heart. As he gazed out the window he suddenly remembered a most unusual experience he had when he first became king. A dream of a beautiful woman that seemed so real he still could not be sure if he had actually been asleep. He had even written a poem about the vision and searched amongst his belongings until he found it. He unrolled the parchment, brought a candle to the window, and read it aloud.
Oh red fairy,
where did you get to?
Come visit me, won’t you,
at my window tonight?
Like you did before,
back in the age of possibilities.
Slip the green foreboding gaze,
of the fairy queen,
defy her jaundiced law.
Slip in between,
the hornbeam trees,
come flutter on spring-loaded breeze
to see your mortal lover once more.
Come via the old familiar path,
over the crooked stile,
along the brook a winding sunken mile.
I’ll mark the way,
with tea lights in jars,
draped from groaning oaks,
and sleeping beeches,
tied with golden ribbons you left,
and strands of fairy hair I stole.
Follow the fuzzy bunting,
through the boundary gate,
and around the dry stone wall,
past the pacing caged old mare grunting.
past the hanging tree …
but look away for me …
Mistress come to your master,
I need to believe in fairy magick again tonight,
to bring me back from the brink,
before I sink too low,
before I let this last ponderous tangle
of strands of childhood wonder go,
in exchange for those that twang in off-key tones,
which bode no good for battered bones,
before the book of fairies closes,
for the long bedtime.*
As he finished reading, a light appeared in the distance. As it drew closer, it assumed the shape of the woman from his vision. Golden and sparkling with stars, she extended her hand to meet his. He was not dreaming; she was real.
*A Kiss Before Bedtime ©Doubtpuppet 2017
The King’s Wish, A Faerie Tale ©Morgaine du Mer 2017
I was inspired to create this illustration after reading “A Kiss Before Bedtime”. Many thanks to my friend, Doubtpuppet, for allowing me to incorporate his beautiful poem in my short story.
Dreaming of the Faerie King
It was a lovely sunny Spring day. Too nice to stay indoors and do housework. A walk in the forest would be nice. Birds were chirping, the trees were just beginning to leaf out and here and there, flowers were bursting into bloom. She meandered about for quite some time, no particular direction in mind and found herself in an unfamiliar part of the forest. Perfect for exploring! The trees were closer together and it was a bit darker here. She could hear birds in the distance and then a chill mist enveloped her. She suddenly felt rather hungry and sleepy. And sat down on a log by a pond, leaning against a huge oak. She had never seen a pond in this forest before. Gazing up she saw a small waterfall, little glittering lights hovering about. The air became damp and heavy as she leaned against the tree, her eyes closing…. drifting…. drifting….
She dreamed of the sea and starry skies. She dreamed of a dragon with golden eyes. Then she dreamed of the Faerie King. So handsome and delightful was he as bowed low before her. So mesmerized she could not remember what one must never do when meeting the King of Faerie. She looked down and her housedress had turned into a ball gown. He asked her to dance. And away they waltzed. He offered her tea and cake. And then she did not awake, but stayed forever in his kingdom.
(Based on an actual event. One must never accept food or drink in the Land of Faerie if wishing to return to the mundane world. I did not accept the first time but should I meet him again….who knows?)
©Morgaine du Mer 2016
So Mermaids ARE Real!
Amidst the raucous cheers of the Victoria and Albert Explorers Club, Alistair gave a jaunty salute and picked up his portmanteau. He quickly descended the iron rungs of the ladder into a curious round apparatus held fast by cables and pulleys to a specialized crane on the dock. His feet quickly touched the bottom of the gleaming copper and brass diving bell. His fellows on the dock pulled the ladder out of the bell, attached the hose which pumped compressed breathing gas into the copper chamber and closed the hatch with great fanfare. Experiencing a fleeting moment of claustrophobia in the cramped compartment, Alistair heard the sound of the air pump working and breathed normally once more. He quickly unpacked his case onto the small folding table, producing a flask of hot tea, linen-wrapped scone, small leather-bound notebook, sharpened pencils and his newest prized possession, a George Eastman portable Kodak. He had the camera specially shipped all the way from America for the purpose of this diving adventure and was the first in the Explorers Club to own one. It was the enlightened year of 1890 after all, and one must keep current with the latest scientific equipment!
He removed his jacket and sat down on the small camp chair, clasping the table as the diving bell was slowly lowered into the cold blue waters of the Atlantic. Pulling his pocket watch from his waistcoat, Alistair placed it on the table, opened his notebook, and with pencil at the ready peered through the larger of the two portholes. Tick, tick, tick, the sound of the watch reverberated in the small chamber. A few curious fish swam by; ordinary and not even worth photographing. However, he looked down for a moment to make certain the camera was prepared in the event something interesting did swim by.
When he looked back up he nearly jumped out of his skin! There, framed in the large porthole, peering in at him was the most amazing creature he had ever seen. Definitely female, she had pale luminous skin freckled with scales, very long wavy green hair the colour of seaweed, huge turquoise-coloured eyes. Her webbed hands were pressed upon the glass and he could see her fish-like tail from the smaller port hole. “So mermaids ARE real!” Alistair exclaimed aloud.
They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity and then Alistair moved the camera closer to the edge of the table and pointed it directly at her. Her eyes opened wide and she looked so frightened that Alistair quickly covered the camera with his jacket to allay her fears. Again, they gazed at each other intently and Alistair slowly opened his notebook; if a photograph was out of the question he wanted a drawing of her at the very least. She watched his every move as he quickly sketched her likeness. He turned the book around so she could see the drawing. She was fascinated; then a mournful look changed her countenance as she gazed upward towards the ocean’s surface. Drat! Alistair instantly realized he unfortunately could never reveal his astounding discovery to anyone! The poor creature would be chased and harassed mercilessly in the pursuit of science. He closed the book and hid it under his jacket and smiled. She rewarded him with a beautiful smile of understanding and with a flip of her tail she swam away, glancing back once over her shoulder.
Alistair sat in dumbfounded silence for a few moments, his reverie interrupted by a school of anglerfish swimming by. He half-heartedly snapped a few photographs of them and whatever other fish floated past the porthole. Presently he heard a clanging sound and felt movement as the diving bell was slowly brought back to the surface. As he emerged from the bell, his club members were all shouting “What did you see?”. “Nothing very interesting; I photographed a few fish”, said Alistair. His fellow Explorers were unanimously crestfallen, but Alistair smiled secretly to himself….. 🙂
©Morgaine du Mer 2013
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