Category: Creatures of Fantasy

Dragon Games

The troll scratched his head and looked around in confusion. It was his normal state anymore, ever since his first day as an exchange student at the dragon school.

“I thought we were going to play hopscotch,” he said at last. “Trolls are good at hopscotch.” This was, of course because they cheated. Goff probably knew a thousand ways to cheat at hopscotch. It made the game more fun.

This was not like any game of hopscotch he’d ever seen. The squares were too far apart. Some were on random floating islands. Others were on patches of lava. Goff wasn’t even sure where to begin.

The dragons all laughed. “This is dragon hopscotch. What did you think it would be like?”

Goff frowned. “How am I supposed to play this? I’m not fire-proof and I can’t fly.”

“I guess you can’t play. That’s too bad,” one of the dragons said in a sweet, entirely insincere voice. “Maybe there’s another game you’d like to play?”

“Rock, paper, scissors?” Trolls were good at that too. They cheated, of course. Troll sleight-of-hand was legendary. It was a slightly-less-well-known rule of thumb to never play rock, paper, scissors with a troll. Maybe the dragons hadn’t heard it yet.

“Sure, but we call it boulder, tree, spear,” the same dragon said sweetly.

“But it’s played the same, right? Rock, paper, scissors?” Goff demonstrated the signs. “Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, and scissors beat paper.”

The dragon smiled a wide, sharp-toothed grin. “Pretty much. But hand gestures are for weak little things like baby humans. Everyone go fetch your boulder, tree, and spear. It’s time for a battle!”

The dragons scattered. Goff watched a dragon wrench a nearby tree from the ground and sighed. He never got to play any dragon games. Why did he keep trying?

Life on Dragon Island continued, with everyone laughing at Goff and leaving him out. Classes were an exercise in strategic stage magic for the poor troll. He went through so many matches and hidden fireworks in flame-blowing classes.

Treasure hoarding was easier, because he just had to make things look sparkly to impress the teacher. A good coating of sugar syrup made even cardboard sparkle. Glitter was just icing on the cake, or rather added sparkle on the sugared cardboard.

It was gym class that was his personal nemesis. He had to focus all his energy and concentration in darting and avoiding and being somewhere else when flames and talons and giant, heavy, scary things were spinning in every direction. When he got home, he was going to be the undisputed king of dodge ball.

You many be wondering about the more academic subjects. Apparently, dragons didn’t read well. His host family said it was something about how the words on the page were just too hard to see. Dragons saw the world more with their heat sensors and sense of smell and such. So, dragons learned things like math and science and history by memory. At home.

Dragon parents didn’t want their darlings scorching everything in sight or ripping holes in the furniture, so they sent them away to school to learn those things. And it was always good to look at other hoards to get new ideas for their wish lists.

This meant that Goff, who was a wily, clever troll, never stood out at dragon school. And when the neighborhood dragons gathered to play games, he was left out yet again. Goff wondered who set up this ridiculous exchange program and what they were thinking.

And then it happened. Once a century or so, the negotiations with the magical creature council came up, and the residents of Dragon Island were required to send a representative. That was this year.

“None of us can read, dear,” Goff’s host mother said. “And all the contracts are written in teeny tiny words. We’re pretty straight-forward, and they’re always trying to trick us. That’s why we asked you to come. Can you get us a good deal?”

“You could have warned me,” Goff said. “I don’t know anything about international creature law. I’m still in school. Wouldn’t an older troll be a better choice?”

“This is how we’ve always done it. It worked fine before. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

And he was. Goff found thousands of loopholes and ran circles around the magical creature council. None of them had grown up as a troll, and they had no idea how to cope. Finally the head of the council snatched the contracts away. “Let’s just leave things the way they were. It’s been working fine so far.”

“That’s fine with me,” Goff said. Everyone else agreed.

And then all the dragons loved him. They even agreed to play the games his way sometimes. He always won, of course.

“I had no idea trolls had such hidden talents,” one of the neighborhood dragons said. “If we ever need help with rules or contracts, we’ll have to invite another troll to be an exchange student. This worked so well.” And thus history continued to repeat itself. Goff considered warning the other trolls, but then decided that the next troll might like a chance to play the hero. It was almost as fun as cheating at hopscotch.

Flashback Friday: A Meal for the Eyes

This story was first posted on August 25, 2017. I think that most people hope to leave behind a lasting legacy. However, often our most important work isn’t the kind that is hung in a museum or a palace. I think it would be nice to be able to do both kinds of work.

The artist unsealed the scroll with trembling fingers. It was a summons from the emperor himself. After decades of work, he might finally have a patron. The artist did a little victory dance and grabbed his purse. This called for cake with dinner.

The next morning, he packed up his paints and brushed and canvases. He sent them ahead and asked the messenger to leave them in his new studio. Then he packed up his clothes and books and personal items and cancelled the rest of his lease.

He said goodbye to his neighbors and waited for his ride to the palace. He had no idea what to expect, so he dressed in his nicest clothes. But, he was brought straight to his rooms and served a nice meal. He would meet with the emperor the next morning.

So, the next morning he re-wore his nicest clothes, doing his best to smooth out the wrinkles. He tried to give himself a pep talk. “Stop worrying. This is every artist’s dream. Your paintings will hang in the palace and live on forever. This is the next best thing to immortality. You’ve finally made it.”

A guard escorted him in to see the emperor. The artist bowed. The emperor smiled. “Ah yes.   Welcome. I am impressed with your talent. I think that your paintings are just what I’m looking for.”

“What would you like me to paint?” the artist asked.   “A portrait? I am well-known for my portraits.”

The emperor laughed. “Oh no, that wouldn’t do. I need you to paint food. The tastier looking, the better.”

“Food?” the artist asked. “Like a still life? Would you like me to include some mementos in the picture?”

“No, I think that would be a mistake,” the emperor said. “Just paint food. Bring me the first painting at the end of the week.   If it pleases me, I will have a contract for you to sign.”

“Thank you,” the artist said. He bowed and left.

He spent the next week painting tempting, almost-real food on a blurry background. Melty cheese, crisp toast, and jewel-like berries seemed to float on the surface of the canvas. He was constantly ordering new models for his work from the kitchen, because he kept taking bites of things absent-mindedly as he worked. It was a long week.

The emperor was thrilled with his painting. “It’s perfect,” he said. “Here’s the contract.”

The artist accepted the first scroll from the emperor’s advisor. He signed the non-disclosure agreement, and then he was handed the contract. He started reading through it and then paused. “This is a contract for a chef,” he said. “I’m an artist.”

“Of course you are,” the emperor said. “But you are painting meals, so you are a chef.”

“But they aren’t really meals,” the artist said.   “Even if they’re meals for the eyes, eyes don’t eat.”

“But this isn’t a meal for the eyes,” the emperor said.   “Come with me and bring your painting.”

The artist followed the emperor and his advisor through a maze of hallways. Finally they stopped in front of a large door. The emperor pushed it open. He smiled as a large furry thing rushed forward and leaned against him.

It had black fur and giant eyes as blue as the sky.   And it had a giant mouth full of very sharp teeth. No one else in the room looked at all nervous about the emperor petting the scary furry thing, so the artist tried to be brave. When it came over to sniff at him, he took a deep breath and managed to not run away screaming.

“I think she likes you already,” the emperor said.   “That’s wonderful.   Give her the painting.”

The artist made himself hold out the canvas. The furry thing ripped it away from him and ate it in a few messy bites. It was gone. The thing made a warbling noise, and the emperor clapped his hands.

He turned to the artist. “You see. You’re a chef, and a very good one. If you keep painting this well, I’ll double your salary.”

“Come this way, and we’ll finish the paperwork,” the advisor said. They left the emperor and the furry thing behind and walked down the hall to the empty room.

The artist stared at the contract. Was this the end of his dreams for the next best thing to immortality? Would all of his work be eaten? He looked up at the advisor. “Will I be able to paint other pictures? Pictures that will hang in the palace and not get eaten?”

The advisor smiled. “I’ll add it to your contract. If you paint one meal a week, you will be permitted to paint one official portrait of the emperor each year.”

“Show me where to sign,” the artist said. And when he went back to his rooms he did a little victory dance and ordered a cake from the kitchen. He made sure to sketch it before he ate it.

Human Tales

“Tell us a story, Grandma,” the oldest fairy child, Aurora, said. “A human tale. Those are the best.”

“No, I want to hear about the dwarf colonies on the moon.” The middle fairy child, Miles, stomped his foot. “Grandma is always telling human tales.”

“That’s ’cause that’s what Grandma tells best. I want a human tale, too.” The youngest, Autumn, nodded at Aurora, who smiled smugly. Miles scowled, knowing he was outnumbered.

“A human tale it is,” the old fairy said with a nod. “I know just the one.”

Once, there was a little fairy living in a big tree in the woods, just like this one. But the tree was knocked down by a storm, and the little fairy was separated from her family. When the storm stopped, her wings were wet and she was lost in a part of the woods she didn’t recognize.

“Oh, that’s awful!” Autumn interrupted. “Didn’t her mama and daddy go look for her?”

“Of course they did,” Grandma said. “They just hadn’t found her yet. They got tossed around in the storm, too. It was a terrible storm.”

Autumn frowned. “But they aren’t dead, right? If they’re dead I don’t want to hear this story.”

Miles clapped his hands. “Great! I want a dwarf story.”

Grandma shook her head. “They aren’t dead. Let me continue the story.”

She climbed up on a big rock, waiting for the sun to dry out her wings so she could fly up and look for landmarks. Unfortunately, her wings weren’t quite dry when a large animal came sniffing around the rock. It wasn’t wild, and didn’t know fairies. It was a dog. It picked up the little fairy in its mouth and carried her away to a human house.

“Did it eat her?” Miles asked. “Is the story over now? There’s still time for the dwarf story.”

The little fairy did not get eaten. Instead, she was carried inside the human house.

Aurora leaned toward Miles. “See. Grandma already said that. Now be quiet. I want to hear about the house.”

He scowled back at her. “It wasn’t me interrupting this time.”

Inside the human house, there lived a whole family of humans who were not at home when the fairy came to visit. The dog left the little fairy in a bowl of water by the door and wandered off to lay on a soft floor covering. The little fairy’s wings were wet again, and she was in a human house shut away from the sun and wind.

The little fairy tried to leave through the little door the dog climbed through, but it was too high for the little fairy to reach, and the big door around it was too smooth to climb. If her wings were dry, she could fly through the little door, but they were not dry. The little fairy needed to find a safe patch of sunlight.

“This wouldn’t have happened if she visited the dwarves instead of sitting on a rock,” Miles politely pointed out.

There weren’t any patches of sunlight. The fairy didn’t know what to do. “I wish there was some way to dry my wings,” she said. Just then, there was a wooshing sound nearby, and warm air blew up from small holes in the floor.

“The human house granted her wish? I didn’t know human houses did that.” Autumn bounced on her feet.

Miles rolled his eyes. “She should have wished to be home. She’s not very smart, is she?”

The fairy dried her wings in the warm air. Just as they were almost dry enough, the dog stood up again and looked around. The little fairy could hear the pounding of giant feet outside the door. The fairy squeezed herself against the wall by the big door and waited. The door opened, but she picked the wrong side of the door. Instead of being safely hidden behind the open door, she was clearly visible to the humans coming inside.

“There must have been a better hiding place than next to the door,” Miles said. “She’ll be lucky if they don’t step on her. Humans don’t look down.”

Startled, the little fairy flew into the air. Her wings were dry! The humans screeched and waved their arms around as they stumbled backwards. The little fairy flew past them and flew up and up until she could see the far away mountain and the edges of the forest. It took the rest of the day, but she found her home, and her family. They moved in with the little fairy’s grandparents until they could find a new tree home. And they all lived happily ever after.

“That was lovely,” Autumn said. “I’m glad they lived happily ever after.”

“They always do,” Miles grumbled. “It’s a human tale.”

“I liked the magic house that granted wishes. I would have wished the house was a field of bluebells.” Aurora patted her little bluebell hat. “I love bluebells.”

“Humans don’t really have magic wishing houses, right Grandma?” Miles asked.

Grandma smiled. “I think they do. I was that little fairy.”

The children gasped.

“Well, if it was a true story, and there really are magic wishing houses, then maybe this human tale was as good as a dwarf story,” Miles said at last.

Grandma smiled. “Thank you, Miles.”

“I still say you should have wished to be home, though.”

Grandma laughed. “I’ll remember that next time.”

Flashback Friday: Wishing for Wishes

This story was originally posted on July 25, 2017. I like the idea of this story. I think it would be even better as a longer story with more explanation and such. (For example, how does the alligator talk to everyone? Is he a normal alligator?) Maybe someday I’ll sit down and write that story.

The alligator swam as quickly as he could.  The rainbow was fading.  “Wait,” he said.  Instead of waiting, the rainbow started to fade a little faster. Fortunately, alligators are faster in water than on land, and this rainbow ended over water.

With a final burst of speed, he dove under the water and sat on the pot of gold.  A few seconds later, a leprechaun popped into view.  It flailed its arms and legs for a moment, and then surrounded itself and the alligator and the gold in a bubble of air.

“Give me back my gold, you big lizard,” the leprechaun said.  “What would you do with gold anyway?”

“Maybe I’m turning into a dragon and need to build a hoard,” the alligator said.

The leprechaun’s mouth dropped open.  “You can do that?” he asked in a squeaky voice.

The alligator snorted.  “No, of course not.  I just want a wish.  Grant me a wish and you can have your gold back.”

The leprechaun shut his mouth and scowled.  “I won’t be granting a wish to something with teeth like that.  Keep the gold.  It will do you no good.”  The leprechaun folded its arms and disappeared with a crack.  The bubble of air disappeared with him.

The alligator waited another half hour underwater and then gave in.  Even he would need to go up to breathe eventually.  Once he left, the leprechaun would come for the gold.  He could take it with him, but what was the point?  He didn’t want the gold.  He wanted the wish.  And the leprechaun made it clear how he felt about that.

This was not the first time or the second or third time the alligator had been denied a chance for a wish.  He’d wished on the first star.  He’d found a stray campfire to blow out on his birthday.  He caught a leaf as it fell.  He held his breath as he ran through a tunnel.

Every time, a fairy popped in front of him and told him that their wishes were not for alligators and to stop wasting their time.  No one asked him what his wish was or told him how alligators could get wishes.  It just wasn’t fair.

However, alligators are stubborn, and this one wasn’t any different.  He had a wish, and he was going to find a way to get it.  It wasn’t one he could work towards on his own, so he needed to find help.  Well, he’d just keep looking.

He caught a fish and let it go.  The fish laughed at him and swam away.  He rubbed a camping lantern with his paws.  The genie popped out, grabbed the lantern and vanished.  He blew the seeds off a white puffy dandelion.  A fairy appeared, gathered all the scattered seeds and blew a raspberry at him.  “If you try this one more time, I’ll send the fairy princess to stop you.  She’ll turn you into a beetle,” the fairy said.

The alligator did not give up.  There had to be a way for alligators to get wishes.  And then one morning, he heard a faint cry for help.  He rushed towards the voice.  He found a frog cornered by a snake.  The alligator knocked the snake out of the way.

The snake looked up, and his expression went from angry and annoyed to terrified.  The alligator grinned to show all his teeth, and the snake slithered away.  “I’m doomed,” the frog said.  “I’ve gone from the frying pan into the fire.”

“Nonsense,” the alligator said.  “Did you know that you are speaking in English and not Frog?”

“I am?” the frog said.  “That would have made things a little easier, I suppose.  If I wasn’t about to be eaten.”

“You have a feel of magic around you, and you don’t talk Frog.  I’m not going to eat you,” the alligator said.  “So, tell me your story.”

“I’m an inventor.  I invented a self-flying broom.  It made the witches’ guild angry, and they turned me into a frog.  I can only become human again if a princess kisses me.  In this day and age, I think that’s a near impossibility.” The frog sighed.

“Does it have to be a human princess?” the alligator asked.

“They didn’t say,” the frog said.

“Then it doesn’t.  Follow me,” the alligator said.  He went to the meadow and picked a white, fluffy dandelion and blew.  A majestic, angry looking fairy appeared.

She glared at the alligator.  “You were warned,” she said.  She lifted her arm.

“Wait,” the alligator said.  “This human needs your help.”

The fairy princess turned and looked at the frog.  Her eyes narrowed.  “He looks like a frog, but there is magic surrounding him.  Tell me, frog, how did this happen?”

“I was cursed by witches.  I can turn back if a princess kisses me.”  His voice shook.

“Oh, very well.  I never did like witches, so I wouldn’t mind spoiling their plans,” the fairy princess said.  She blew a kiss at the frog, and in a swirl of light he became human again.  “There,” she said.  “Now their spells won’t work on you.”

Then the fairy princess turned and glared at the alligator again.  “As for you, knock it off.”  She disappeared in a clap of thunder.

“What was that about?” the inventor asked.

“The fairies refuse to give wishes to alligators,” the alligator said.  “It isn’t fair.”

“What is your wish?” the inventor asked.

“I want to fly,” the alligator said.

“So that it’s easier to catch and eat things?” the inventor asked.

“No.  So I can fly.  I mostly eat fish, and flying wouldn’t make it any easier to catch them,” the alligator said.

“Well then,” the inventor said.  “I think I can help you.”

A few months later, the alligator was darting around in a rocket-propelled suit.  It was as amazing as he’d always dreamed it would be.

Little Monster Goes to the Dentist

It was that terrible, horrible, awful, scary time of year again. No, it wasn’t Halloween. That would have been much, much better. It was time for Little Monster to go to the dentist.

“My teeth are fine,” Little Monster said. He smiled a wide, sharp-toothed grin. “See? They’re all there and they work great. Why bother the dentist?”

Mama Monster rolled her large yellow eyes. “It won’t bother the dentist. It’s her job to check on monster teeth so they stay healthy.”

Little Monster coughed a little, unconvincing cough. “I think I have a cold. We’d better not spread it around. We might as well reschedule.”

“Hmmmm.” Mama Monster picked up her purse. “We’ll let them know when we check in, but I think it’ll be fine.”

On the way to the door, Little Monster fell dramatically over a chair. “Ouch! I think I broke both my legs. I’d better go lie down.”

Mama Monster scooped him up and carried him out to the car. “I guess I’ll make an appointment with the doctor as well.”

Little Monster sat up straight in his booster seat, looking worried. “Actually, I think my leg is all better now. I don’t need to see the doctor.”

“Well, that’s good.” Mama Monster started the car and drove to the dentist’s office.

At the front door, Little Monster paused. “Are you sure we need to go to the dentist today? Wouldn’t another day be better? We should think about this. I think it’s a bad idea. Remember my cold?” Little Monster coughed another little cough.

Mama Monster opened the door. “Come in and sit down. I’ll let the receptionist know about your cold.” Little Monster sat in a terrible pink chair with a scowl. Mama Monster walked up to the front desk. “Little Monster thinks he might have a cold.”

“That’s fine,” the receptionist said. “The dentist wears a mask and gloves.”

At that moment, Little Monster knew that he was going to actually see the dentist and there wasn’t much he could do about it. It’s not easy being a little monster. He decided that someday he would get to choose whether or not to visit the dentist. He would choose to not visit the dentist.

All too soon, Little Monster was sitting on an awful dentist chair decorated with horrible rainbows. The dentist came out wearing a frightening people mask and people gloves. Little Monster screamed. Mama Monster and the dentist chuckled as the dentist changed her mask and gloves to something more normal.

Little Monster didn’t think it was funny.

“Have you been brushing your teeth?” the dentist asked, leaning his chair back.

Little Monster smiled widely. “Yes. I brush everyday with my brussel sprout toothpaste.”

“Oh, the green slimey one? I love that toothpaste,” the dentist said.

“So, since I brush everyday, I don’t need to be here, right?” Little Monster tried to sit up.

Mama Monster put a paw on his shoulder. “Nice try.”

“Open up,” the dentist said.

The next twenty minutes weren’t so bad. Unfortunately, after the dentist finished poking Little Monster’s teeth with something sharp, she turned to Mama Monster and said something scary. “His teeth look boring.”

“Oh no,” Mama Monster said. “I was afraid of that. I kept hoping they’d get more crooked as he got older.”

“I’m afraid that if you don’t do anything, they’ll remain straight as straight can be.”

Little Monster crossed his arms and glared. This was hard to do when lying in a dentist chair, but Little Monster was always good at glares. “I like straight teeth.”

Mama Monster shook her head sadly. “The other monsters at school might tease you.”

“I don’t care.” Little Monster turned his head away from the dentist. “They’re my teeth, and I like them. I don’t want braces.”

Mama Monster sighed.

“Maybe we can wait until he’s a little older.” The dentist clicked a few keys on her computer keyboard. “But the later you start, the later it will be until he’s done. I’ll send you home with some brochures. We can customize his look. We have a lot of options for artful, attention-getting crooked teeth.”

“I want to go home,” Little Monster whined.

“Not yet,” the dentist said. “You still need to get your teeth cleaned.”

“But I brush them every day,” Little Monster said. No one listened. Little Monster resolved to catch the flu next time he had an appointment. He never wanted to go to a dentist appointment again.

Philosophical Discussion Over Spring Water

Winterborn listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots and the warm sun at his back. The forest hummed with all the living that seems to burst into a crescendo in the summertime.

Louder still were the footsteps that approached the spring. Winterborn opened his eyes, just enough to see the visitor. The light that filtered through his leaves made dappled patterns on the surface of the spring. A little elf with hair the color of new leaves sat on the bank of the spring, legs crossed. He nodded at Winterborn. “Father of this glen, may I share this spring?”

“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.” Winterborn watched as the elf took a small white cup by the handle and dipped it in the spring, leaving rings of ripples.

The elf sipped the water and smiled. “The water is sweet.”

“Perhaps.”

A butterfly landed on one of the blossoms of a nearby bush. The elf put down his cup and leaned forward to look more closely. “Two delicate and beautiful creatures. Sisters in spirit, both at the height of their beauty.”

Winterborn shook his branches in laughter. Elves loved poetry and appearances. “I don’t think that’s quite right. One would have to be the younger sister, yet to reach her metamorphosis.”

The elf turned the cup in his hands. “I don’t understand.”

“That’s a berry bush. The blossom is like a caterpillar, waiting for its change into the bright berry.”

“But a berry isn’t as lovely as a blossom,” the elf protested. “The blossom is so delicate and fleeting, more like the lovely butterfly.”

“Many think that children are more charming than adults. They are certainly more delicate. But I think that the squirrel and the rabbit who visit this bush in late summer would be happy to debate with you over the loveliness of the berries.”

“So flowers are like caterpillars?” The elf looked at the blossoms suspiciously. “That just doesn’t seem right.”

“It depends on the flower. All fruit comes from flowers, but that does not mean that all flowers become fruits.”

The elf watched the butterfly float on the breeze and choose another blossom to land on. “Do some butterflies become something else?”

“No, butterflies are like flowers that never grow into anything else.” Winterborn stretched out his branches just a tiny bit further into the sunlight.

“Like children who won’t grow up?” The elf was still watching the butterfly.

“No, like elves or trees that grow to the right size and then don’t change at all.”

“Ah.” The elf sipped his spring water and was quiet for a while.

A stronger breeze swept through the glade around the spring, scattering a few loose leaves and whisking the butterfly away.

The elf looked up from his cup. “But should we change and become something better?”

Winterborn’s branches shook again in laughter. “Can’t we become better without becoming something else?”

“But the butterfly and the berry blossom…” The elf began, and then paused as if uncertain what he wanted to say next.

“The butterfly and the berry blossom are not trees or elves or rabbits or squirrels. They have their growth to attend to just as we have ours. If there is life and growth and improvement, does it matter that it looks different for each one?”

The elf smiled and put his cup away. “Truly you are wise, father tree.”

“Perhaps. I have had more years to stand and think. Your wisdom will come if you continue to think and ask questions.”

The elf stood. “May I come again?”

“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.”

The elf walked away, back the way he came. Winterborn closed his eyes and listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots.

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