Category: Creatures of Fantasy

The Secret Pen Pal

It began the evening that the king and his family were standing on a balcony, smiling and waving to the knights who were preparing to battle in a tournament. “Maybe we could let the winner marry our youngest,” the king said to his wife.

“That’s a terrible idea,” the queen said.

“It might make it more interesting,” the king said.

The youngest princess calmly shoved him. The king stumbled and an arrow thwacked into the wall where he’d been standing. Everyone on the balcony crouched to hide behind the stone wall.

“Where did the arrow come from?” the queen asked. She turned to the youngest princess. “Did you see it coming?”

Outside the balcony, they could hear shouting. Another arrow hit the wall above their heads. The oldest princess started herding her husband and children inside. The others followed, all of them crawling to stay hidden.

Once inside, the doors closed, the family waited for word from the guards. The foolish archer was a knight from a nearby kingdom who believed he had some claim on the throne through a third cousin. He was quickly caught and thrown in the dungeons.

“I think you saved my life,” the king told his youngest daughter that evening at dinner.

“Does that mean you owe me a favor?” the princess clapped her hands. “Good! I want to marry my pen pal.”

“You’re still writing your pen pal?” the queen asked.

“Of course I am. We’re best friends.” The princess deliberately took the third fork in instead of the second. Her mother frowned.

The king looked confused. “What pen pal?” He absently picked up the third fork as well. Everyone at the table switched forks.

The queen leaned forward and patted his arm. “The one she’s been writing to since she was eleven.”

The king thought for a moment. “I thought we didn’t know who was sending those letters. They just started showing up one day.”

“That’s right.” The queen set aside her fork with a sigh.

The king leaned in and whispered. “I thought we decided it was an imaginary friend. I thought all the letters were in her handwriting.”

“I heard that.” The princess dropped her fork and narrowed her eyes. She picked up the second spoon in and started eating her potatoes.

The queen rolled her eyes. “You haven’t met your pen pal. He might be anybody at all. Why don’t you meet him first?”

“Invite him to the palace for a week,” the king said. He absently switched his fork for his second spoon. The queen sighed as everyone at the table switched from their fork to their spoon.

The princess grinned. “And if I like him, I can marry him, right? I did save your life, after all.”

“Very well,” the king said. He looked down as a piece of potato slipped off his spoon. “Why are we using spoons to eat potatoes?”

The next morning, the youngest princess brought her fountain pen to the breakfast table. When her older sister wanted to sit down next to her the youngest princess stopped her. “You can’t sit there, my pen pal is sitting in that chair.”

The queen leaned forward to look over the table. “That’s a pen.”

“He’s enchanted,” the princess said.

“Of course he is,” the queen said. She didn’t sound convinced.

The youngest princess took her fountain pen around with her everywhere that week. She introduced the pen to her friends and family as her fiance. The king and queen weren’t sure what to think.

At the end of the week, at dinner, the youngest princess turned to her father. “I still like him. I’d like to get married, just like you promised.”

“You want to marry your fountain pen?” The king looked over at the pen sitting on the chair next to his daughter.

“You promised,” the princess said.

“But it’s a pen. I’m not sure that’s legal,” the queen said.

“I saved the king,” the youngest princess said. “You promised.”

And so, two months later, the youngest princess walked down the aisle to meet the waiting fountain pen sitting on an embroidered pillow in front of the priest. As the priest started the ceremony, the pen started to glow.

Moments later, a handsome young man was sitting on the pillow. He was dressed in old-fashioned, but appropriately fancy clothes. He looked around for a moment, then grinned and stood. He grabbed the princess’s hands and they smiled at each other.

The priest had stopped speaking, and was staring at the young couple. The princess turned to look at him, still holding her unenchanted fiance’s hands. “Go on, then. We were just getting started.”

“I guess that explains why the letters were in her handwriting,” the king whispered to the queen. “I’m glad I won’t have a pen for a son-in-law.”

“Me too,” the queen whispered back. They all lived happily ever after.

Flashback Friday: The Rose Prince

This story was originally posted on May 11, 2017. I like this story. It’s one I can imagine telling as a bedtime story and then turning it into a series of stories as the characters have further adventures. That’s the kind of story my kids like best.

One day, Princess Matilda cut through a rarely used courtyard in the older part of the castle. She was late to archery practice, so she was taking the shortcut.   Most people didn’t use the short cut, because there was a tall fence with spikes along the top at the end of the courtyard.

However, Princess Matilda wasn’t most people, and she knew the trick to climbing the fence. There were chips in a few of the stones in the wall of the castle next to the fence. If she ran straight at the wall and jumped, she could use the chipped spots as toeholds. If she climbed quickly enough and turned and jumped just right, she could sail right over the fence.

Of course this meant she had to tuck and roll to survive the fall without breaking anything, but that was part of the fun.   As long as she shook the dust and bits of grass out of her hair, no one had to know.

Halfway through the courtyard, Matilda paused.   There in a corner of the courtyard where some weeds had sprung up in cracks in the stonework, a little rosebush was growing. She would come back later. Matilda secretly loved roses. For now, she raced ahead, then turned and ran straight at the wall.

The next day she returned with tools she’d borrowed from a gardener. She cleared away the weeds and then sat by it. It looked so lonely standing by itself in the corner.   She told it a little about her day, and placed some pebbles around it in a ring. When she left, she promised to come back.

She came back often to clear away weeds or water the rosebush when it hadn’t rained in a while. She brought pretty pebbles or bits of wood that caught her eye and added them to the ring around the bush. Every time she came, she stopped to talk to the rose bush for a little while.

The rose bush grew and branched out. After several weeks, it sprouted a single bud.   Matilda began visiting more often, hoping to see what the blossom would look like once it bloomed. One day, she came to the courtyard early for archery class so that she had time to check in with her rosebush.

The flower had bloomed. It was a simple rose, but the fragrance filled the courtyard. It was lovely. Matilda leaned in closer and smelled the rose. It was wonderful. “You’re perfect!” she said. Then she kissed the soft petals.

The rosebush began to sparkle. It grew brighter and brighter until Matilda had to squint to look at it. Then there was a flash of light. Matilda blinked the stars from her vision, while holding her bow at the ready.

There was a young man standing where the rosebush had been. He was wearing glasses and his clothes were well made but practical. He was smiling. Princess Matilda frowned. “Who are you?” she asked.

He opened his mouth to speak, when there was another flash of light from the opposite side of the courtyard. Matilda turned, bow up and arrow notched, while stepping back so that the strange man was at her side rather than her back.

A young woman dressed in black was pointing a stick at her. Matilda’s eyes narrowed.   That was no ordinary stick. The woman raised her eyebrows and scowled.   “You broke my enchantment. You had no right to do that. I shall turn you both into frogs and let my cat chase you.”

Matilda shot an arrow through the top of the woman’s tall black hat. “Put your stick down,” she said. “Or next time I wont miss.” She notched her arrow. The woman lowered her wand.

“Hide here all you want, little prince,” the woman said.   “If you ever come back home, I’ll get you.” There was another flash of light and she was gone.

“So, you’re a prince who was turned into a rose bush?” Matilda asked.

“Well, I was turned into a seed that grew into a rosebush,” the prince said. “But otherwise, yes.”

“Why did she do it? Did she steal your kingdom or something?” Matilda asked.

“I have three older brothers. As far as I know, the kingdom is fine,” the prince said. “However, that woman was responsible for killing thousands of striped gilkie birds. She used their tongues in a hair removal potion. When I submitted a proposal to the court that the birds should be protected so that they didn’t all disappear, she got angry.”

“Hair removal potion? Do people like the bald look where you’re from?” the princess asked.

“No, they don’t like leg hair,” he said.

“Weird.”

“I know, right? Besides, if she hunted until the birds were all gone, she wouldn’t be able to make her potion anyway,” the prince said.

“That makes sense,” the princess said. “Did you explain it to her?”

“Sometimes people don’t want to listen. I tried to explain how everything is interconnected and everything relies on other things for survival. If you take out a link in the chain, you could have dangerous consequences. She muttered something about how the strong survive and that I’d see that nature wasn’t gentle.”

“Then she turned you into a seed?” Matilda asked.

“And tossed me into the wind,” the prince said.

“So, what’s your name,” Matilda asked.

“Frank. I’m sorry I hadn’t introduced myself, I feel like I know you so well after all your visits,” Frank said.

“Then I guess it’s my turn to get to know you better,” Matilda said. She smiled.   “I know something already.”

“What?”

“You still smell like roses. It’s nice.” She laughed as Frank tried sniffing his arm.

“I do?” he asked.

“Yes. Would you like to come in for sandwiches?” Matilda asked.

“Don’t you have archery class?” Frank asked.

“Oh, you’re right. Sandwiches can wait. Come cheer me on,” Matilda said. She stooped to pick up the black hat and pulled the arrow out of it. “Do you think she’ll come back for this?”

“I guess it depends on whether she needs it back or not,” Frank said.

“You’re probably right,” Matilda said. She stuffed it into her quiver. “Well, let’s go. I hate being late.”

Secret Passage

Austin was at the library, looking through the history books. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he was sure he’d know it when he saw it. Whatever it was.

First, he took out a book about the history of flight and flipped through it. Nope. Then, a book about film history. Nope. He spotted a book about the history of pencils. A whole book about pencils? Interesting, but nope.

That was the end of the second shelf. He knelt down to read the titles on the bottom shelf, and walked sideways on his knees as he scanned each one. Just before he reached the end, something hit his arm as he side-walked. Ouch.

He turned, rubbing his arm, and looked down. There was a doorknob attached to the wall. There wasn’t a door, or even an outline for a door, and the doorknob was rather low. How strange.

Austin tried turning the knob, but it wouldn’t turn. It seemed to be locked, which didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t a keyhole, so how could it be locked? Besides, why would you lock the knob when there wasn’t even a door?

Wait a minute. Austin sat back on his heels and looked more closely at the wall. If the knob was locked, maybe there really was a door here after all. If it didn’t need a key, maybe there was a button or a lever somewhere.

Taking the books off the shelf one at a time didn’t work. He made sure to check the knob after each one, and it stayed locked. There was nothing behind the books, either. The wall seemed to be perfectly flat, other than the door knob.

He tried knocking on the wall as though it were a door. He tried tapping different patterns on the wall. He knocked and tapped quietly, of course. After all, this was a library. Nothing seemed to make any difference.

He tried stepping on each inch of carpet within sight of the door, but there were no clicking sounds, and all of the carpet felt the same. The adventure stories made this seem much easier.

What was next? Magic words. That sometimes worked. He really hoped they weren’t in a different language, because he didn’t know very many words in other languages. He counted to ten in Spanish. Nope. He tried random hissing sounds. Nope.

“Open Sesame.” Nope.

“Abracadabra.” Nope.

“You are a very lovely door.” Nope.

Austin sighed. “Please open.” There was a clicking sound. Austin turned the knob and the whole wall slid sideways, leaving an opening next to the bookshelf.

Inside, there was a short, dark hallway that turned sharply. A little light shone from around the corner. Cautiously, Austin stepped inside. If this was a secret passage for polite people, he needed to remember his manners. “Um, thank you?” The door slid shut.

Was that a good thing? Could he open it from the inside? He’d better check before going any further. “Please open.” The door opened. “Thank you.” It closed.

He walked forward and peeked around the corner. The next hallway was even shorter, and ended in a frosted glass door that was lit brightly from the inside. He thought about politeness and knocked quietly at the door.

A little monkey answered the door. He was wearing a suit and hovering in mid-air. This was probably because of his giant wings. Austin was a little surprised, but tried to continue to be polite. “Pardon me,” he said. “I found this secret passage by accident. I was curious.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” the winged monkey said. “You’re welcome to come in.”

“Thank you.” Austin stepped through the doorway.

The room inside looked like a lot of the other reading rooms in the library. It had comfortable chairs and a small window and shelves of books. There were a few other doors that perhaps led to other secret passages.

Unlike the other rooms, there was a large tank of water with a mermaid in it. A unicorn stood by the window. A short green person with one large eye was sitting in one of the chairs.

He briefly looked around at everyone in the room, but didn’t mention how strange they seemed. Politeness was important here, he knew that. So he didn’t say anything and instead walked over to the bookshelves and started looking at the books.

The history of leprechaun gold? Mermaid battles of the last five hundred years? Modern Sphinx riddles? This was more like it!

He pulled out the last book and looked for an empty chair. He found one and sat down. The room was quiet, except for the occasional sound of a page being turned. It was just right. Austin settled in to read. Being polite really paid off. It was almost magical.

Flashback Friday: A Terrible Headache

This story was originally posted on June 17, 2017. I had been having a lot of bad headaches, but there wasn’t an obvious cause. Could there be any good causes for a terrible headache?

It hadn’t taken long to change out of the little cloth gown and leave it in a pile on the crinkled paper covering the exam table. Now, Marcie waited in the exam room, staring at the posters on the wall.   The picture of the inside of the eye was a little creepy. She turned and read through the poster on the importance of sunscreen.

Marcie pulled out her purse and started flipping through her receipts.   It’s too bad that phones couldn’t be used inside the building. If she could turn on her phone, then she could look at Facebook or check her email. She shoved the receipts back inside her purse and shoved her thumbs into the center of her forehead.

She’d had this headache for weeks now, and it was only getting worse.   Aspirin wasn’t taking the pain away anymore. She couldn’t focus for very long, couldn’t really think. However, she was afraid to go to the doctor and hear the results. Her Google searches seemed to prove that these weren’t migraines. Something was very wrong.

The doctor had confirmed her worries when he sent her right away for further testing. It had all happened so fast. That was the part that made her worried the most. Surely, she wouldn’t need to be tested so quickly if it wasn’t something terrible.

She looked up when someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” she said.

The doctor opened the door, carrying a folder. He smiled and sat down. “I’ve had a chance to look at your results. I have good news and bad news. Which would you like first?”

Marcie took a deep breath. Should she ask for the bad news and get it over with? No, then she’d not be able to appreciate the good news. “Good news first.”

“It’s not a brain tumor or an aneurysm. In fact, it’s not really anything abnormal at all,” the doctor said.

“But I already had my eyes checked. It wasn’t that,” Marcie said. What else could it be?

“No, I imagine you have great eyesight, right?” the doctor asked.

“I’ve never had any problems with my eyes.” Marcie glanced at the eye poster and looked away quickly. “My eyesight is better than normal.”

“Do people tell you that you have a soothing voice?” the doctor asked.

“I was the narrator in all our school plays,” Marcie said.

“And is the pink stripe in your hair natural?”

“How did you know?” Marcie asked. “What does it mean? Doctor, what is the bad news?”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d really call it bad news. It depends on how you look at it.” the doctor tapped the folder on his knee.

Marcie frowned. “Just tell me.”

“Well, it turns out that you are transforming into a unicorn,” the doctor said.

“What?”

The doctor opened the folder and pulled out some black and white images.   He clipped them to the wall and pointed with his pencil. “If you look here, at the middle of your forehead, you can see the horn bud developing.   I’d say that you have another three weeks until it surfaces. At that point, the transformation will be much more rapid. Do you have any trouble digesting meat?”

“I’m a vegetarian,” Marcie said. “I have no idea. Doctor, unicorns aren’t real. Even if they were, people wouldn’t change into them.”

“Of course they would. It happens all the time.   It’s just that when it happens, their records are erased and everyone forgets about them.” the doctor tapped his pencil on the lumpy bright spot on the image.

“Then how do you know about them? It just doesn’t make any sense,” Marcie said.

“Doctors are allowed to know, in order to help their patients. We swear an oath only to reveal the information to unicorns. I am never able to remember specific patients afterwards though,” he said.

“What will happen with my apartment? My job? My family?”   Marcie asked.

“I don’t know. The unicorns take care of all that. At least, that’s what I think happens.”

“So what do I do?” Marcie asked.

“I really don’t know,” the doctor said. “But here, take this with you.” He handed her the file folder. “We most likely won’t remember you tomorrow, so it won’t do us any good.”

“But my headaches…”

“I can’t write prescriptions for a patient that won’t be in my system tomorrow,” the doctor said. “Ask the unicorns.” He stood up.

“You’re leaving?”

The doctor held out a hand and Marcie took it. He shook her hand gently. “It was nice to meet you. Good luck,” he said. And then he left.

Marcie picked up her purse and her folder. That wasn’t how she’d expected this to go at all. She juggled everything into one hand so that she could push a thumb into to the center of her forehead. Her head hurt.

Dog Wishes

This story was originally posted on June 29, 2017. I love writing stories about wishes. There are just so many things that can go wrong. I think we often don’t really know what’s best for us. It’s also easy to overthink things.

Did you know that every dog gets a wish? One day the dog fairy comes and asks what they want most. Then, poof! They get their wish, just like that.

Mostly dogs are pretty happy as they are. So, they wish for extra dinner or a sunny day or that someone would scratch behind their ears. The wishes are so easy that they almost grant themselves.

But once there was a dog that probably spent too much time thinking. He would have been happier if he’d jumped into more muddy puddles or barked at a few more people passing by his yard. But instead, he was sitting and thinking, and that was the cause of his problems.

One day, when he was resting in a patch of sunlight, sitting and thinking and ignoring the squirrels dancing around his yard and making faces, the dog fairy appeared. “What is your wish?” she asked.

“Do you know what would be handy?” the dog asked. “Having hands like a human.”

“Is that really your wish?” the dog fairy asked. “You only get one you know.”

The dog sat and thought for a moment more. “Yes,” he said. “That’s my wish.”

“So be it,” the dog fairy said. And the dog had human hands. He held them up and turned them this way and that.

“Thank you,” he said. The dog fairy smiled and disappeared.

The dog stood up. It was uncomfortable walking on his new hands. He tried to stand on his back feet, like he’d seen humans do, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

In the end he carefully picked his way across the yard, avoiding the sharp rocks and prickly weeds. It took him an hour or more to figure out the doorknob. As soon as he was inside, he raced straight to the kitchen.

The dog pulled open the fridge. He knocked down containers and tried to open them. Some things tasted great. Others were terrible. Some containers he couldn’t figure out how to open at all.

He hadn’t even started on the drawers when he began to feel sick. He left everything as it was and hobbled down the hall to Jack’s room.

Jack was his special human, and the dog wanted to curl up on Jack’s bed until he felt better. The dog was grateful that the door was open. He wasn’t feeling up to trying another doorknob.

He jumped on the end of the bed and curled up in his favorite spot. When he looked up, he was facing the mirror on Jack’s closet door. He held up his new hands. They didn’t look right on the end of his front legs.

The dog turned his back on the mirror and hid his hands under his chin. He fell asleep, and while he slept he dreamed.

The dream started out quite nice. Dogs were lining up, asking him to open things for them. Even cats were in line, clutching tins of cat food to their chests and looking hopeful. He used his amazing hands and could open everything on the first try.

But then, they wanted to run a race, and he couldn’t keep up while running on his sensitive human hands. Would he never be able to run again? How would he play fetch with Jack? Did it mean no more walks?

And then he saw the dogs barking softly to each other. When he looked at them, they stopped barking and looked away. A little dog laughed and then pretended it was coughing. His new hands did look strange. Maybe this had been a bad idea.

He woke up when the front door banged closed. Had he left that open? He could hear Jack yelling something in the kitchen. Oops. He’d left a mess in there.

He looked down at his odd human hands. What if Jack didn’t recognize him anymore? What if he didn’t like them? Why did he wish for hands? They were going to get him into trouble.

“Dog fairy?” he barked softly. “If you’re there, please give me my paws back.” Nothing happened. He could hear Jack coming down the hall. “Please, dog fairy.”

His paws changed back to normal just as Jack opened the door. The dog was so grateful, that he told his story to every dog he met, and they told all the dogs they met. The dog spent less time sitting and thinking and more time playing with Jack. And he was happy.

Dogs still pass around the story today. As far as I know, no other dog has wished for human hands.

Flashback Friday: Monster Cooking

This story was originally posted on June 23, 2017. I like writing about monsters that are like us except for a few things that are very different. The fun is deciding what will be different and what will be the same.

It was monster Papa’s turn to make dinner. He loved to make dinner. It required thought and creativity, and it was very relaxing. If only all chores were this great.

“What’s for dinner, Dad?” little monster asked.

“Candle wax and string,” monster Papa said.

Little monster cheered. He sat down on the stool at the counter. “Can I watch?”

Monster Papa smiled. “Of course you can.” He pulled out a large tin can and started throwing in the ingredients. String, candle wax, toenails…”

“Why toenails?” little monster asked.

“So that you’re always on your toes. What’s that over there?” Monster Papa looked to the left. Little monster turned to look and monster Papa poured a bag of candy into the can.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t quick enough. Little monster leaned forward to look into the pan. “What was that?”

“What was what?” monster Papa asked.

“What did you add to dinner?”

Monster Papa started squeezing lemons into the mix.   “Lemons, so that you’re not afraid to move forward when things go sour.”

“No, before that,” little monster said. “What was it? What was in the bag?” Little monster kneeled up on his chair and tried to lean over the counter and look into the tin can.

“It’s a surprise,” monster Papa said.

“It’s not something gross is it?” little monster asked.

“Of course not,” monster Papa said. “Well maybe a little.”

“Tell me, tell me, tell me, please?” little monster clasped his paws together under his chin. “Please, please, please.”

“Stop using your best manners, or I’ll tell your mother,” monster Papa said.

Little monster made a scary face. “What did you put into dinner?”

“Fine,” monster Papa said. “I’ll tell you. It was hot peppers, so that you’ll have biting wit.”

“You just put that in,” little monster said.

“Okay, I’ll tell you. Listen closely, because I’ll only say this once. It was…” monster Papa mumbled the last word.

“It doesn’t count if I can’t hear it,” little monster said.

“Oh look, the peppers are working already, and you haven’t eaten them yet. That’s amazing.” Monster Papa covered the tin can with foil. “Time to put this in the oven.”

“If you tell me I’ll shred the newspapers into tiny pieces and scatter them all over the living room,” little monster said.

“That would be nice,” monster Papa said. “We could turn on the fan and pretend it’s a blizzard.”

“So will you tell me?”

Monster Papa sighed. “Fine. I added candy.”

Little monster scowled. “Ewwww. Why?”

“So that you grow up sweet,” monster Papa said.

“I don’t want to be sweet.” Little monster stomped his feet.   “Who wants to be sweet?”

“It will help you appreciate the scary moments,” monster Papa said. “It’s important to have balance. Besides, it’s sweet to say I love you, and I say that all the time. It’s okay to be sweet sometimes.”

“Fine,” little monster said. “But I’m not eating it. Not if there’s candy inside.”

“Tell you what. Eat three pieces of candy, and you can pick the rest out.” Monster Papa set time on the oven.

“You can have them, Papa,” little monster said.

Monster Papa made a face. “I guess it’s good for me, right? Well, go tell Mama that our casserole surprise will be ready soon.”

“Okay. I love you, Papa,” little monster said.

“I love you too, my little monster.”

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