Category: Creatures of Fantasy

The Frog Contractor

The princess loved to play with her golden ball. It was surprisingly heavy for its size, so tossing it up in the air and catching it was a really good workout. She was very careful never to drop it, because she’d heard horror stories about other princesses who had to make terrible deals with amphibians.   Besides, she’d scratch the lovely mirror-like surface and she wouldn’t be able to check her hair and makeup every time she caught the ball.

Unfortunately, despite her fabulous reflexes and careful tosses, the princess did drop the ball one day. When the princess tripped over a chair leg on the furthest balcony while checking her eye shadow, the ball had flown over the railing in a graceful arc.

The princess briefly admired how the sun glinted off the lovely golden surface before racing to the railing. Sadly, the balcony jutted out over a very steep hill. The princess shrieked in anger when she saw her golden ball hit the rocky hillside.

“The scratches,” she said. “The scratches!”

The servants came running. She ignored them, watching the sparkling toy disappear from view. Then, she turned, shaking in anger. “Who was responsible for placing this chair?” she asked. The unfortunate servant who hadn’t correctly pushed in the chair was fired within the hour.

However, the man’s loss of employment didn’t bring the ball back, so she glared at the assembled company. “Fetch me a frog,” she said. “Now!”

The frightened servants ran. They checked the fountains and the koi pond and the well. The boot boy, more adventurous than the others, trekked out to the creek. He managed to catch a large frog that had been sunning itself on the bank.

He rushed the frog to the princess without changing out of his muddy boots.   Two servants hurried behind him, mopping the floor. “Here you go, princess,” the boot boy said.

The princess put on her gloves and took the frog. “Frog,” the princess said, “I have lost my golden ball.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, princess,” the frog said.

“I am ready to make a deal for its return,” the princess said. “I have of course called the royal lawyer in order to protect myself from your tricks.”

“Will you put me back in the river when we’ve found your lost ball?” the frog asked.

The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Yes,” the princess said.

“That’s good enough for me,” the frog said. “Let’s get this over with.”

The lawyer nodded again and wrote out some forms. The princess signed them and the frog left a handprint. An hour later, the legalities were complete.

“All right, where did you last see it?” the frog asked. The princess held the frog over the edge of the balcony and described the path that the ball took. “That’s not going to be easy. I may have to hire some help. I’ll make the arrangements, but you’ll need to pay them for their work,” the frog said.

“You’ll have to talk to my lawyer again,” the princess said.

“Very well,” the frog said. He whistled loudly several times. A magpie flew down and settled on the edge of the balcony. They conversed for a few moments in chirps and whistles.

“She says her flock will look for your ball, but they want a penny each.   And she says that they must be shiny pennies,” the frog said.

“How many are in her flock?” the princess asked.

The frog spoke with the magpie. “Twelve,” he said.

The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Very well,” she said.

There was another hour where the frog, the magpie, and the princess signed forms. Then the magpie gathered her friends and the flock of magpies departed. A half hour later, the magpies returned. The leader hopped forward and chirped to the frog.

“She says that it’s embedded in a tree at the bottom of the hill,” the frog said. “Don’t worry princess, I believe I know someone who can help.”

“Who is it and what will they want?” the princess asked. She sounded annoyed.

“A local beaver should be able to rescue your ball. He’ll probably want some limited logging rights and a house building permit,” the frog said.

The bird whistled, and the frog nodded. “The magpie is willing to deliver the message and guide the beaver to the tree. However, in return she’d like another penny.” The bird whistled again. “Ah, yes, of course,” the frog said. “She’d like it to be shiny please.”

The princess sighed and looked at her lawyer. The lawyer fished a penny out of his pockets. “It’s on me,” he said. “Let’s cut out some paperwork where we can. My hand is starting to hurt.”

The magpie took the coin and flew away. The lawyer massaged his hands and then started preparing the paperwork for the beaver’s possible requests. A half hour later, the beaver appeared on the balcony. He was happy with the offer and agreed to do the work without any additional bargaining.

Once the paperwork was complete, the magpie led him away. The magpie returned with the ball an hour later and requested yet another penny. The lawyer sighed and handed it over. “Why do they need shiny pennies?” he asked.

The magpie chirped. The frog nodded. “She says that’s a secret.”   The magpie picked up her penny and flew away.   The princess ignored everyone while she looked over her misshapen, scratched up golden ball and scowled.

“Will you return me to my home now, princess?” the frog asked.

The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Very well,” she said. “I’ll send for you if I need your help in the future.”

“Unfortunately princess, I will not be available. I have just decided to move to a new home far, far away.   Farewell,” the frog said. “I’ll find my own way home.” And he hopped away.

 

The Witch Returns

The wedding party went home. They had to deal with whatever legalities are necessary when a group of people are enchanted into chess pieces by a relative and then go missing for several months. “I don’t envy them the paperwork,” Melinda’s mom said.

Melinda had managed to avoid Miss Ganon since then. Hopefully, she’d be able to keep it up for the rest of her life. She didn’t like the idea of sitting in that dark living room gathering dust and waiting for someone to come sneeze on her.

So, when her mom sent her out to play, Melinda went to the park on the far side of the neighborhood. She met up with her friend Mabel, who was already playing explorers with Lenny and John and David and Susan. “Lenny thinks there’s a clearing in the middle of the bushes over there. We can set up camp there,” Mabel said.

“Hey! I’m the leader,” John said. “I get to decide what we do next. You’re just the navigator.”

“Then I say the map says to go that way,” Mabel said. “What do you think?”

“I think we need to decide on a job for Melinda,” John said. “Any ideas, Lenny? You’re my vice-president.”

“I thought I was First Mate,” Lenny said.

“No, you’re the First Lieutenant,” Susan said.

“What was my job again?” David asked.

Just then, there was a rustling sound in the bushes. Everyone turned to look just as Miss Ganon stepped out. Melinda stepped behind John and hoped Miss Ganon would just go away. Instead, Miss Ganon looked at all the children and nodded. “You’ll do, she said. “Lions, I think.”

She pointed to each of them and muttered. Then she snapped her fingers. Melinda felt hot and cold and sick. Everything looked blue for a moment. She tried to yell for help, but all she could hear was a roaring sound.

She looked around.   She could see five other lions.   Miss Ganon smiled a not very nice smile and clapped her hands together. The world went blue again and everything around them blurred.

When the dizzy feeling faded, Melinda realized that they were now in a large white tent. There were also zebras and elephants and two bears. Miss Ganon looked around. “Hmmm,” she said. “It’s a good start.   Listen up now, children. You have just run away and joined the circus.”   She cackled.

The animals all began to roar and bellow. Miss Ganon frowned. “Silence,” she said. “Or I will turn you all into bacteria.” The animals quieted at once. “Very good,” she said. “I recently found this tent abandoned after a wedding I attended. I have decided to sell it along with a circus to go with it.   It will have the added bonus of making the neighborhood much quieter.” She cackled again.

She began to stalk around and mutter to herself as she examined the animals. Most of them backed up as she approached. This always made her laugh. She stopped in front of the lions. “Six lions? What was I thinking? I’ll make half of them tigers,” she said. She held up a finger.

One of the lions turned and ran. Melinda watched him go and tried to decide if there was another way out of this.   Was there a way to make yourself sneeze? It worked with the enchanted chess pieces. But would it still work to end the spell if you were the one enchanted? Would the witch just turn her into something that couldn’t sneeze?

Miss Ganon clapped and the lion was back in place. “No you don’t,” she said. She looked around and smiled her not very nice smile again. “I expect all of you to obey me. If you don’t, there will be consequences.”

She pointed a finger at a zebra and muttered. She snapped, and its stripes all turned red. She pointed to the circus tent and muttered.   She snapped, and it turned yellow. She pointed to the lion that ran. He shivered as she muttered. She snapped and it was as small as a kitten.

Miss Ganon laughed. “None of you can stop me,” she said. She pointed to another lion and muttered. He stood tall. She snapped and he grew and grew. His head brushed the top of the tent and he had to crouch. The other animals moved out of the way.

The witch pointed at him again and began to mutter. Before she could finish, the giant lion ate her in one bite. A few seconds later, all the children turned back. In the place of the giant lion, Lenny lay on the ground clutching his stomach.

“I don’t feel so good,” Lenny said.

Melinda and John helped him up. “I’ll help you get home,” John said. “After all, you’re my vice-president. Or First Mate or something.”

“You probably shouldn’t eat anything for lunch,” Melinda said. “Just in case.”

The children left the tent, which had been set up in Miss Ganon’s backyard. “It looks bigger on the inside,” Mabel said.

“I hope that’s the last we ever see Miss Ganon,” Melinda said. “That was awful.”

“She’s eaten up, isn’t she?” David said. “I don’t think you come back from that.”

“I hope not,” Melinda said.

 

The Witch

Melinda checked the order form again and knocked on the door. A tall woman dressed in black opened the door. Her gray hair was pulled back tightly in a bun, and her thick dark eyebrows were pulled down in a glare. “Yes?” the woman said.

“Miss Ganon?” Melinda said, holding the order form in front of her like a shield. “I have your cookies.” She nodded her head at the bag sitting next to her on the front step.

Miss Ganon took the order form and looked over it. “Very well. Bring them in and I’ll get my purse.” She led Melinda into a dark, dusty living room. The curtains were closed and the lamp shone weakly. “Wait here, and I’ll be back,” the woman said. “Don’t touch anything. I’ll know if you do.”

Melinda thought about sitting on the sofa and decided that might be considered touching.   So she stood awkwardly next to the little table in the center of the room. The table was empty except for a chessboard. Melinda looked a little closer. The pieces were surprisingly detailed. She could even see the buttons on their suits and dresses.

Melinda shuffled forward and bent over to peer at a piece that had its mouth open in surprise.   The dust was thicker near the table, and moving closer stirred it up. Melinda began to sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all over the chess pieces.

There was a flash of light and a roar of thunder. When Melinda finished blinking and could finally see again, she looked around in surprise. The chess pieces were gone and the room was filled with people.

There were thundering footsteps on the stairs. The woman was coming back. “Run!” someone said. Every one began to run out of the room away from the footsteps.

“Which way to the door?” A woman yelled.

“Go left,” Melinda said. They all rushed from the house, back into the brilliant sunlight.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” a man yelled. He turned right and kept running. Everyone followed. A little girl grabbed Melinda’s arm and dragged her along. After several minutes, several of the older people started to look ill. They panted and wheezed, and still they ran.

Melinda was shocked that the woman hadn’t caught up with them yet. Perhaps she didn’t want to confront them out in the open. Or maybe she’d gone the wrong way on one of the turns they’d made.

They turned again.   The street looked familiar.   “Turn here,” Melinda said. “You can hide in my back yard.” She directed them to her house and opened the gate.   Everyone hurried through and huddled together under the trees in the far corner of the yard while they caught their breath.

“I’ll go and keep watch,” a little boy said.

“Be careful,” a woman said. “Maybe I’ll come with you.” They hurried across the yard and crouched by the gate.

“This is all your fault,” an older woman said to a woman dressed in a poofy white wedding dress.   “You’re the one who didn’t invite her.”

“I sent invitations to everyone on the list dad gave me,” the bride said.

“I thought she was dead,” a middle-aged man said. “There was an obituary and everything. You thought she was dead too.”

The older woman scowled. “We should have gone to the funeral and made sure she was dead.”

“We didn’t have any notice and it was on the other side of the country,” the man said.

“Why did she even want to come to the wedding?” the bride asked. She smoothed down her dress. “She hates all of us. I think she was just looking for an excuse to come and curse us.”

The man standing next to her straightened his tuxedo and frowned. “So your aunt is a witch or something?”

The girl sighed.   “Great-aunt, and apparently so.”

Just then, the little boy came running up. “She’s coming! What do we do?”

“Into the house,” Melinda yelled. Everyone ran.

Melinda’s mom came into the living room. “Melinda, who are all these people?”

“Um…” Melinda began. The doorbell rang. “Mom, tell her I’m not here!”

Melinda’s mom rolled her eyes and left. She came back a few minutes later. “Melinda, Miss Ganon brought over the rest of your cookie orders. She said you left them at her house. She said her chess set is missing too. She’ll come back later to talk to you about it.   Melinda, what is going on?”

That’s right.   The order form had her address on it.   Miss Ganon hadn’t needed to follow them at all. “Mom, how hard would it be to just leave on vacation for a few weeks? Before she comes back?” Melinda asked.

“Melinda.”

“Who wants to help me explain?” Melinda asked.

 

A Hero with Shining Scales

The traveler tipped his head back and checked the position of the sun. It would be time to set up camp soon. The terrain was suitably rocky. Perhaps there would be a small cave nearby where he could find some shelter for the night.

He checked the sky again. It might rain in the night.   He’d better start looking for a nice cave now. So, he stepped off the path and began to pick his way around the side of the mountain. It was a slow process. If there weren’t so many trees, he’d try flying.

The traveler paused and perched on a tall boulder and scanned the area. There had to be a faster way to do this. He sat still for a moment to think. A cool breeze blew by, and it carried with it the faint sound of someone crying. He decided to follow the sound. Perhaps if he found a way to help them, they’d be grateful enough to point out a place for him to stay for the night.

He picked up his bag in his talons and swung it over his shoulder. He followed the sound through the woods to a pretty meadow on the other side. A dragaina was hunched over, wings limp, sobbing. “Hey pretty lady, why are you crying?” the traveler asked.

“A horrible human princess stole my baby,” the dragaina said. “I tried to rescue him, but a knight held me off until another could sneak up and hit me in the head with a metal club. When I awoke, they were gone and I don’t know how to find them.”

“Don’t cry.   I will help you find him,” the traveler said.

The dragaina’s wings perked up and her eyes were wide with hope. “Really? Could you find him?”

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “Dragon’s honor.”

“Oh, thank you!” she said. “He’s all that I have left of my husband who was killed by those evil knights. They stole all our hoard too.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Ma’am. Tell me where the nearest river is and I’ll start looking for your little one,” the traveler said. Unfortunately, he had heard many stories like this in his travels. It was fortunate that in this case some of the family had survived.

He followed the dragaina’s directions to the river and began to walk downstream. Human settlements needed water, and they didn’t like to work hard to get it if they didn’t have to. Sure enough, he soon found a bridge spanning the river. On either side was a wide human road.

He followed the road away from the woods into a valley. In the center of the valley, a human town was settled snugly inside a stone wall with a large keep at its center. That was probably where the fledgling was being held captive.

He waited until night. The storm cloud rolled in and blotted out the moonlight. A fine misty rain put out the torches and sent the guards to huddle inside their guardhouses. The traveler glided in silently without being seen. They never looked up.

He flew around the keep and peeked into the windows. It wasn’t too hard to spot the princess’s room. Her enormous bed was draped with embroidered silks. The fledgling was curled up on the rug beside the bed, shivering. He was collared and chained to the wall. Humans were always so barbaric.

The traveler used his claws to slowly pry the window open. The princess didn’t stir, but the fledgling lifted his head and looked around, sniffing the air. When he saw the traveler he stood and raised his wings in greeting. The traveler smiled.

He bit through the leather collar and helped the fledgling out the window. The fledgling perched on the window ledge while the traveler closed the window, careful to make as little noise as possible.

Unfortunately, the princess woke up. “Stop!” she shrieked, racing towards the window. The fledgling froze. The traveler scooped him up and jumped, just as the window burst open and the princess called to the guards. He spiraled up, higher and higher, pushing through the heavy rain and avoiding the arrows. Then he flew through the clouds back to the dragaina.

Mother and son hugged each other and cried. “Thank you,” the dragaina said. “I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Do you know of somewhere I can stay out of the rain tonight?” he asked.

“Of course.   Let me feed you a meal as well,” she said.

He followed her to her cave. They ate a quick meal, and then the fledgling fell asleep, curled against his mother’s side. The traveler sighed and looked out into the dark night outside the cave. “You can’t stay here any longer you know,” he said.   “It’s not safe.”

“But where will we go?” she asked. “We don’t have any other family.”

“I don’t know,” the traveler said. “I’ve been looking for a safe place for long time.”

“I’ll come with you,” she said. “There’s nothing left for us here. We can leave in the morning.”

The traveler thought for a moment of the danger of traveling in groups. But he knew that she could use the help, and it would be nice to not be alone. “All right,” he said at last. “Perhaps together we can find a place where our people will be safe and humans can’t find us.”

“I think we will,” she said. “And maybe the humans will forget about us and stop looking for us. It would be nice if my son didn’t have to grow up in fear.”

“If we do find a place, we can gather our people,” the traveler said.   “And maybe their grandchildren will someday believe that humans only exist in stories.”

“I will do all I can to make it happen,” the dragaina said. And together, they did.

 

Vampires on Vacation

When vampires go to the beach, they go at night.   They like it best when it’s cold and foggy or rainy. They cover up from head to toe in heavy clothes and wear death preservers filled with lead weights so they can walk on the bottom of the ocean. They bring blood in thermoses and sit around a pile of kelp that’s inside a ring of stones. They tell scary stories about kids around a campfire with long sharpened sticks.

When it’s time to go home, they don’t gather shells or bottles of sand. They know that there will be shells and sand the next time they come. Vampires live a long time. They like the beach because it is always there and doesn’t really change, even though it’s a little different every time they visit. The shells may be different shells, but there will be shells. There will be sand and rings of rocks and kelp and waves. There will be moonlight and stars too, if they aren’t lucky enough to catch a storm.

It may be a long time between visits. Vampires live a long time and there are many places for them to see. The beach will wait for them, it always does. And when they return, they will let the fish swim in their hair and look for new shipwrecks to explore. They’ll shiver at the idea of impulsive children with deadly pointy sticks coated in sugar or cooked meat and applaud the fantastic lightning shows. Then they’ll make sand castles and graveyards and churches with crypts. And then they will go home and leave the shells and sand and kelp and rocks for the next time they come.

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