My story Sealskin is published in the current issue of Enchanted Conversation magazine. I’m grateful to the team at Enchanted for their continuing support. Thank you, Amanda!
The table of contents is here
and you can read my story here
I have a second flash fiction fairy tale retelling in Enchanted Conversation magazine! You can read it here. It shares the bill with a Rapunzel story, so of you’re more into hair than frogs, there’s something for you too 🙂
A very short three-liner this week for Sonya’s photo prompt.
photo by Ronaldo Santos via Unsplash
A knuckle raps on the window and a deep, husky voice calls, “Excuse me.”
I raise the sash, puzzled—I’m on the fifth floor—and the rest of my life suddenly turns into a fairy tale.
With a dazzling smile, the dream reaches out. “I think you dropped these.”
First of all, happy birthday, David Bowie, and thank you for being my lucky star. Today, Enchanted Conversation magazine published my fairy tale flash piece based on the story of the Little Match Girl. The Starman was looking down on her too. You can read the story here
I couldn’t resist taking another piece of fake news and giving the true story. If you’ve ever had doubts about the ethics of taking sides with a sneak thief, you might like this ‘original’ version.
If you like it, don’t hesitate to push the blue button.
I saw this competition in Sacha Black’s newsletter and thought I’d enter. I love fairy tale and folk tale retelling so it’s right up my alley. You can read my story here. If I’ve understood the rules of engagement correctly, the story needs to have five likes to be considered in the competition, so if you have a few minutes, please go here
and give it a read and a like, if you did.
This short story is inspired by Sue Vincent’s gorgeous photo.
In the middle of a distant ocean was an island fringed with inlets that made natural harbours, and with many rivers that made fertile valleys. The island should have been prosperous but the lives of the farmers and fishermen were blighted by the presence of a dragon. The uplands were blasted bare by the dragon’s breath, and the land could not be farmed. Any sheep that wandered out of the safety of the valleys were soon swept away in the dragon’s claws. Fishing barques that ventured too far from the sheltered coastal waters were also game for the beast. The fishers and farmers had not the means of killing the dragon or chasing it away, and their children, one after the other, packed their bags and went to seek their fortune on the mainland far away.
At night the dragon slept, but with half an eye open. The boats that slipped away under cover of dark waited for a strong tide and a good wind that would carry them far away by morning. On one small farm, an old couple said goodbye to their youngest child at sunset and watched in silence as the muffled oars pulled out into the tide and the dark sail unfurled. Their eyes were dry, but they knew that soon they would be unable to work their smallholding, and they in turn would have to leave and seek the charity of their children on the mainland.
On the dunghill in the farmyard, the cock, a vain and aggressive creature, heard their sad words and understood in his limited way, that the life he knew and loved as chief of all he surveyed, would soon be ending. He had sometimes seen the great leathery bird with feathers that looked more like fish scales, swooping and diving in the sky above, and was full of envy. To envy was added anger, because the leathery bird had driven away the farmer’s flock, and there would be no one to take his place when he died, no one to feed the cock and his flock of hens.
The morning after the last of the farmer’s chicks left the nest, the cock crowed a defiant challenge. The hens listened, the dog heard but took no notice, and the cat watched to see who would answer. The sun rose and the morning wore on, but for all the cock’s singing, he could not attract the dragon’s attention. So he left the barn, he left the farm, he fluttered along the narrow track that wound up to the plateau. At the end of the valley on the edge of the uplands stood a single tree with singed black branches. The cock flew up onto the topmost branch and crowed again.
In his lair, the dragon opened a lazy eye and saw the fiery bird with its peacock pride in the lonely tree. In the dark depths of the scorched earth, a spirit stirred and saw a glimmer of light. The dragon stretched his wings the colour of scarabees and leapt nonchalantly into the air. The earth spirit breathed fire from the depths into the bird spitting angry sparks, and the cock spread his wings, russet and red and green and blue, and fluttered in his ungainly way to meet the dragon. The earth breathed, and the cock grew. His wings spread wider and wider, his feathers caught the sunlight like burnished bronze, thicker and stronger, wider and taller, and he threw back his head and gave a cry like the shriek of an eagle.
When the two met, the cock was as huge as the dragon and his spurs glittered wickedly. The dragon, who saw only an angry, outsized chicken, plunged with outspread claws, that raked through the cock’s flourish of plumes and caught thin air. The cock kicked, once, twice, and the dragons leathery wings were ripped in two. The dragon belched flame in fury, but the earth breathed again and turned the fiery breath back on itself. The dragon roared and plummeted, twisting and turning, as his useless wings wrapped him in a strait jacket of flame.
The cock crowed a song of victory and cast his cunning eye over the valleys, searching out the barns where the grain was stored. He turned his awkward flight away from the plunging dragon, intent on destruction of his own, when the wind veered from the north and hissed, No more!
In an instant, the air froze as cold as a January midnight, and both the cock and the dragon turned from fire to ice, creatures of frost, until the wind blew through the crystals of their scaled and feathered effigies and blew them away.
In the valleys and the villages by the sea, snow fell for a day and a night, though the year was almost at midsummer. But when the snow melted and the sun returned, the first green shoots in a dragon’s lifetime appeared in the fire-blackened soil of the plateau.
This bit of whimsy is for Sue’s Thursday photo prompt.
Once upon a time, in the wilds of the far Northlands, there lived a community of trolls. The pride of their tribal lands was not the snow-capped mountain, the majestic glacier or the deep, dark fjord, but a beautiful, silk-smooth, impeccably rolled bowling green. Every Saturday evening, the elderly and not so elderly trolls would troll over to the bowling green and spend the long hours of Nordic moonlight solemnly rolling polished rocks across the greensward. The idyll, alas, turned to tragedy after the visit of a cousin from the south.
Everything in the Northlands was new to Eamon, the mountains, the glaciers, the fjords, but nothing appeared stranger than the game of bowls. In fact, Eamon found it utterly incomprehensible. The ball games he was used to were much more boisterous, if not riotous, accompanied by growls and roars and the loss of many limbs. Which is why, when the troll doyen, in a friendly gesture, handed Eamon a bowling ball and offered him a turn, it was more or less inevitable that someone was going to get hurt.
The punishment for Eamon’s gross abuse of hospitality was to be left out when the sun rose the next morning. You can still see him, a paw to his mouth in a gesture of horror, and his unfortunate, headless victim. A lesson to all hooligans.
Once upon a time there was a princess who had gained the reputation of being strong-willed, intelligent, incorruptible and upright. Curiously, this made her an unsaleable commodity. Her mother despaired of finding her a husband and her father was growing heartily sick of explaining away his daughter’s attitude to disgruntled ambassadors. The problem was, that being strong-willed, intelligent incorruptible and upright, the princess found it impossible to spend more that a few minutes in the company of her many suitors before she was either bored rigid or furious.
“I refuse to marry a man with the intellect of a boiled potato and the charisma of a dead rat,” she said of the Sultan of Ispahan’s son.
“That’s what you said about the Rajah of Pashastan,” her father said in exasperation.
“No, he was the toad with the manners of a baboon and the morals of a…of a Rajah,” she retorted.
“Well what about Prince Fabian of The Scented Isles?”
“Thick as a brick and wet as a Bank Holiday Monday.”
“King Hakkon the Nordling?”
“He tried to bribe me with a huge pile of gold he was going to steal from his people and call it ‘The Princess Tax’!”
The king threw up his hands in despair. “If that’s going to be your attitude and you refuse to make a marriage that will be advantageous for the kingdom, then you can take over the troll-trawling from your Aunt Jasmin whose eyesight is no longer up to it.”
“I would rather trawl for lice in the hair of a mountain troll than give myself to any of the royal pretenders you have found so far,” she said with dignity and went to prepare herself to descend into the dungeons where the mountain troll was kept.
Any treasury with a captive mountain troll was assured of never running dry, as it is a well-known fact that the lice of mountain trolls are of solid gold, as long as they are removed from their host by the fingers of a princess. The lice-picker’s fingers don’t really have to belong to a princess, but the pretext has always been a good one for dealing with uppity female members of the royal family. Aunt Jasmin, for example, had, in her youth, smashed the skull of a prince with wandering hands using a millefiore paperweight.
After an initial (understandable) reluctance, the princess began to find her new occupation rather interesting. Each louse was unique and quite beautiful in its own golden way, and the glass jar where she placed them was filled with an ever changing pattern of light. In addition, the company of the troll was much more agreeable than that of the pretentious and vacuous princes and courtiers, the only company that had ever been allowed her.
The troll, despite his years of captivity had a fund of stories of the wild dark mountains and the deep dark forests of his home. As the jar of tiny golden beasts filled, and the troll’s stories painted a magical fresco across the dungeon walls, the princess found herself being drawn deeper into a wild plan. One evening, long after she had picked a last golden louse and dropped it into the glass jar, and the troll’s deep voice had fallen silent, she gave a great sigh.
“I’d love to see your mountiany land,” she said.
“You’d like it there,” the troll said in his slow, booming voice. “Waterfalls and forests, and the golden beasts that fill the shadows with bright glitter. We don’t like the full sun, you know.”
“And the little golden beasts are drops of sunlight?”
The troll smiled, a slow and charmingly hideous smile, and nodded his shaggy head. “Trolls don’t like Sun’s fierce rays, but we keep drops of his light about us to keep up company in the long winter nights.”
“And there are no princes?”
The troll shook his head. “No kings, no queens neither. Just trolls and beasts.”
“I think I will like it there,” the princess said and got to her feet. She took a key from her pocket and unlocked the troll’s shackles. Then she tucked the jar of golden sunlight under her arm and gave her hand to the troll. The castle slept. No one crossed their path as the princess led the troll to her room high in a tower.
“This was my christening present from my fairy godmother,” the princess said as she shook out a multi-coloured carpet.
“Magic?” the troll asked.
The princess grinned. “All aboard!”
“Home!” the troll roared as the carpet billowed and whisked them through the open window and into the starry night.
And that is how the princess took the mountain troll home and released the golden sun beasts that dance all through the winter nights with the silver moon drops and the blue and green water stars and fill the northern sky with lights.
Philosophy is all about being curious, asking basic questions. And it can be fun!
Not a literary magazine for ordinary times, but a journal for an exceptional one. Writing the pandemic, together. Image, Somewhere in Time by Hengki Lee: Instagram @hengki_lee
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