None Today

~

There’ll be no daily sonnet today.

Thought has wandered and gone astray.

Nimble quill won’t dance on parchment bare,

seducing lonely on table near.

 

The well is dry from which I must drink.

Chair is empty were journeys to think.

No inky tears shed, blotted or smeared.

No blackened hands bloodied and feared.

 

Letters scrambled all over my mind.

Their chosen order I cannot find.

Brittle wax puddle proves candles death.

The darkness swallows my daylights breath.

 

Blindness shackles a masked and heavy head.

I shrink into my unwanted bed.

Heart and soul content for tomorrow.

When ink, I hope, once more will flow

~*~

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Flight Lesson

~

With the first bird tweet before sunrise
An eager young fairy opened her eyes
Impatient she was to explore a new day
To discover new things, have fun and play

Silently venturing from the hollow of her tree
Taking the leap to be fluttering free
She soared through the dark above the treetops
Seeing first the sun shine on morning bunny hops

Reaching new heights she dove for the green
There twisting and turning through branch barely seen
She then came to a stop with forest floor near
Where she sat on a twig spying something unclear

The rays of dawn peaked betwixt shadowed leaf
A lone beam shone on a nest wove beyond belief
Twas silken hung with shimmers and wiggles
Whence out pops a butterfly to bright eyes and giggles

The pair swiftly flew off, with each a new friend
A flight of fancy they hoped without end
Their forest was waking from the dark of night
Ferns were unfurling to welcome the light

Morning blossoms blooming’s a colorful treat
Dew drop reflections fragrantly sweet
The bumble bee’s buzz in search they roam
Lady bugs lingering wished to be home

Crickets stopped chirping, they’re done for the day
The squirrels and chipmunks have come out to play
Frolicking freely time quickly passed by
Their world growing smaller the higher they fly

Sensing danger circling above
The butterfly thought a game the fairy would love
For his instinct foretold of a life to be short
All else he knew the fairy had taught

He said “wait down below, I’ll hide and you seek”
“But count to a thousand before you peek.”
The adventurous fairy dove quick for the wood
The brave butterfly flew higher than was good

Counting’s completed, now’s time to discover
She opened her eyes while humming birds hover
She asked of them if a butterfly was seen
One with big wings of red, yellow and green

The little birds knew not of his hiding place
Sadness now shaded the young fairy’s face
She searched high and low, both left and right
Her sight’s now shrinking in falling sunlight

Shadows grow longer with the moons turn to rise
A blanket of stars soon covered sleepy eyes
The quiet night passing, she dreamt of her tree
And the nightmare had unprepared to be free

Awakening again to a song she knows well
Birds summon the sun as the pale moon fell
The fairy sat patient on a stump by a stream
Butterfly! Oh butterfly she did loudly scream

The butterfly didn’t hear her mournful cry
Though the echo carried through valley and sky
Her parents did hear their lost child’s voice
Soon by her side they all did rejoice

The young fairy’s joy soon returned to tears
She spoke of the butterfly and of her fears
Her parents assured her he lost his way
But would surely return somehow, someday

The family swiftly flew back to their cozy home
A place shared with others in a honey comb
The fairy now waves to the butterflies, they in return
For keeping friends close is what she did learn

~*~

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The Return

Outside my window perched in a tree
Tis a winged demon that caws at me
At me it caws and caws all day
Till darkness consumes then caws go away

Tis then a candle lit, awaiting peace
Creative spark await release
The hourly chime hourly chides
This spark within creatively hides

Searching I pace in this tiny room
From shadow to shadow returning to gloom
Going in circles around in a square
Till wearily I slump back into my chair

Through random lacy limbs I spy the moon
With gentle breezes the patterns I swoon
Patterns swooning dance on dingy walls
The net surrounds and the demon calls

Consciousness concedes, silence relieves
In the dark the dark the mind believes
Rest and wait or rise and scream
Choices few at the edge of a dream

Wax drippings lapping pages bled
Of serpentine spine and heavy head
Blackness cloaks the demons night
Their quills aplenty shade the light

Demon, oh demon please let me be
Yet still they tap, tapping for me
Tap tap tapping on my foggy pane
Tap, tap tapping with no refrain

Without refrain demons tap in kind
Tapping demons tap, tapping my mind
Is this tapping, tapping to remind?
Or is it tapping to seek and find?

Oh demon cloaked with hidden face
To take from you is my disgrace
Your gifts adored left on my sill
Yet to rest on your back I am still

To be only still is reverse
Dive or fall, a lover’s curse
To soar or sink is to immerse
The spirit wishes to guide the verse

This spirit and I of common goal
Each to rise from the hole
One to fly, one to scratch and claw
Each may fall, one to caw, caw, caw

Our bond’s made to find a link
If to trade my soul I wish to think
I wish to think another’s ink
Of golden quills and wine to drink

In gilded glass I wish to wink
Then step away until I shrink
Till all is gone with a blink
But for the ink, I wish to think

I think I think, I think I see
I think I see light shines on me
Sight and sound now distortion free
The path’s clear toward tranquility

If to be a final rest, now’s to be the time
Drifting in an open mind is to be sublime
Or if to rise and most joyfully find
I’ve awakened as a different kind

To be warm of heart and cool of mind
Forward moving and never behind
Of filigree hands to align and chime
Tis then the taps return, tapping in time

Taps on the window from arms of the past
To embrace their grip the future’s cast
When cracks appear in my shield of glazing
The demon swoops for the dawns hazing

With inky beak and beating wings
Caw, caw, caw the demon sings
They dance upon the empty pages
Quills ablaze their fire rages

Then morning breaks the lidded seal
Illuminating all thought real
Am I to be taker or to consume?
Or wake to sunlight returning to gloom

Betwixt the shadows exposed by the light
Tis demons craft conjured last night
With nary a blotch nor stroke askew
Flawless leaf scribed by I know not who

I dare not share these words unknown
Through my window they have flown
The prize of demons cawing in a tree
Thus return I must this gift given me

 

 

Sck122315

A Village Uncommon

~*~

Birds are first to welcome the day.

Second’s the stable boy, warm in his hay,

next the rooster with a cockle-doodle–do.

The sun then knows it’s time to shine through.

.

The day’s now begun on this little village farm,

sounds are awakened, no need for alarm.

Chores are done first before breakfast’s had.

The boy gets scraps for which he’s glad.

.

He then fetches water to fill troughs high,

looking down he reflects on the sky.

The birds passing by all wave hello.

The boy too would like somewhere to go.

.

His only companions where pigs in the barn,

a colt in the stall and a blanket of yarn.

The pigs are noisy but warm at night.

The colt’s always worried something’s not right.

.

The boy and the colt are both small for their age.

The colt’s awkward stance was more prone for a stage.

The boy’s body covered in hair but none on his head.

His face more pale than a ghost long dead.

.

He was missing teeth, what’s left are brown.

When out to run errands he’d limp back from town.

He was bullied by piers, pitied by the rest,

that’s why the barn is where he liked best.

.

The barn’s on a farm the boy’s aunt owned.

The pigs are theirs but the rest boarded or loaned.

The crops all prospered by the boy’s hard work,

though all profits were spent on his cousin the jerk.

.

The jerk had a sister the boy thought faire,

as did  all the mirrors where she did stare.

The boy’s aunt was mean and her husband’s a brute.

They all wore frowns but the dog was cute.

.

On the boy’s return to the barn for the night,

he was much surprised by a most curious sight.

Pigs were in a circle the colt standing tall.

The hens in the middle said nothing at all.

.

The lonely stable boy was their only concern.

So a plan was hatched for the love he earned.

The colt too had thoughts in his growing mind.

There’s something, somewhere he needs to find.

.

Then suddenly a change right before their eyes.

Within the hour the colt doubled in size.

The bumps on his shoulders grew larger too

As did his hooves, now too big for their shoe.

.

The discussion’s now over and all agreed.

The boy and the colt should both be freed.

Some details whispered and the time was set,

for a barnyard adventure to never forget.

.

The boy donned his blanket like superman’s cape,

then mounted the colt for their great escape.

First are hugs all around before they depart.

Then the barn doors cracked for the plan to start.

.

The hens muffled the rooster so time was bought.

The sheep flocked to the door as they were taught.

The ducks then quacked to cause a commotion.

And the brute awakened without a clue or a notion.

.

Pigs started oinking and the cows crashed the gate.

The little dog barked but it was too late.

The boy and colt ran fast past the posts,

waving goodbye to their ungracious hosts.

.

A tear was shed for the friends left behind.

But his blanket’s aroma would always remind.

The pair dashed down the lane by the hedge-row.

Then flew over the hills where the uncommon go.

.

In search of a world thought fantasy.

A place imagined by you and me.

A place where all’s different and the same,

where none is wrong or to blame.

.

This place called fantasy’s not make-believe.

It’s a place that’s real we feel and perceive.

As the pair now see how much they’ve grown.

They come into view of a sight unknown.

.

Not commonly known this uncommon sight,

there welcomed warmly in the setting sunlight.

The Uncommons filled their common and a party had.

There all are different and all are glad.

.

A one-legged sprinter hopped by to say hi,

as did the unicorn and an eagle with one eye.

A lady strolled over who walked on her hands.

Her arms so long they dragged in the sands.

.

Her daughter followed and sparks then flew.

The boy didn’t know that there could be two.

His Pegasus introduced with shakes all around.

Their hands all touching made a warm clapping sound.

.

Hugs soon followed and a tasty dinner had.

The boy almost forgot he was ever sad.

He cuddled a tiny kitten that roars really loud.

And played with two-legged puppies that only bowed.

.

There are two-headed snakes and a toothless beaver,

also the tail-less mouse from his aunt’s cleaver.

Here everyone’s loved and their love they share,

who wouldn’t love a giant dancing bear.

.

These commons are full of Uncommons galore.

Though anyone’s welcome, there’s room for more.

The boy’s party ran late and he rose with the sun.

Then all’s back to normal in a village uncommon.

~*~

sck061516

A Lonely Princess

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Where rocky cliff meets stormy sea,

a castle perched, forever be.

Where gray stone surrounds little seen sky.

‘Twas this fortress a young princess cry.

 .

The princess post birth, her parents delight,

treasured by day, guarded by night.

Feasting with jesters, ponies, puppets and maids,

a gaggle of servants draw bright velvet shades

.

With sentry of knight to share all her dreams,

her eyes shut tight to hide her screams.

Time wasted limitless, she wished for an end.

The princess was lonely without a true friend.

..

One morning awoken by a kiss from a queen,

sleepy eyes opened to a sight seldom seen.

Golden light sparkles in diamond pane rare,

a sapphire morn burns black coal night air.

 .

A tasty breakfast served on tray in bed.

Downy pillows fluffed to rest her head.

The king arrived more jolly than ever,

with riddle to solve, if anyone clever.

 .

“What may have wings cannot fly.

Holds a heart yet cannot die.

Shaken pitch laughs off rain.

Having one a princess to gain?”

.

The joyous young girl made many a guess.

The kings’ piddling patience grew less and less.

The queen and knights all had a try.

The king muttered “castle!” with a loud sigh.

.

The room bemused by the riddler’s zeal.

Most unconcerned with how others feel.

A castle repeated in more pleasant a tone,

a home for a princess to call her own.

 .

But first a short trip outside the wall,

where grass tickles feet and trees grow tall.

There are lessons to learn from tutors wise.

There are truths to see with growing eyes.

.

Now’s time a princess must prepare,

for the eventual call of a prince to be dear.

A someday king awaits his throne,

whence you shall rest upon your own.

 .

The princess knew the day would come,

a bartered prize as was her Mum.

No fairy tale endings for spawn of kings.

“Tis a life shackled with heavy gold rings.

 .

Adventure awaits, no time for self-pity,

freedom’s short locked in a stone city.

Knowledge abounds beyond heavy gates.

The princess skips past on worn ancient slates.

.

Beneath a fine bonnet of satin and lace,

excitement glowed on her adolescent face.

Her velvet shoes barely touching the dirt,

a merry cyclone a-swirl in silk skirt.

.

Her mentor soon waves from path by wood.

Magical flora beckons, some bad, some good.

Wonders overwhelm in green forest lush.

An ocean of emeralds painted with brush.

 .

With each lash a-flutter bursts a new color.

Light and shades multiply them all more.

With the thirst of a sponge she did explore,

where surprises abound when not looked for.

 .

A gentle breeze blew, a little leaf flew,

bright sky filled in the space anew

A ray of sunlight kissed a shiny stone.

Atop a bed of dewy leaf it rests alone.

 .

With a tiny tap upon its shimmering side,

the distant fates of two collide.

Surface cracking on this egg thought stone,

a heartbeat wakened with thunderous tone.

.

Out popped a plump lump, beneath wings of scale.

A pat on the rump exposed its long tail.

A final stretch thrust shell shards to leaf.

And there lie a creature beyond belief.

 .

Warm smiles shared with a new friend.

A precious little pearl, the girl’s to defend.

The gazes shattered by a howl from the trail,

‘twas the elderly teacher, impatient and frail.

 .

The princess knew what had to be done.

The babe hid under her bonnet and bun.

Down the path she ran back to the gate.

Yelled to the guards “The teacher was late”

 .

Gates barely open she slipped through the crack,

escaping notice of the tail down her back.

Safe in her chamber they shared the night’s meal,

both sharing puckers with fresh lemon peel.

 .

Then swathed in plush robes, kissed on the head,

the fledgling was tucked safely under the bed.

Each night passing, more robes to conceal,

this teething tot with big teeth that’s real.

 .

Each day growing from the princess’s scraps,

she grew thinner, now padded with straps.

The servants grew nervous at both the sight,

one lie near weightless, one flew in the night.

.

The princess’s secret though soon was known,

when her expanding friend went out alone.

The knights became dazed by armored flight,

their swords no match for the hunger of night.

.

The king and queen where too nearly maimed.

Pawns, bishops and rooks where all to be blamed.

A wizard was called to tame the toddler beast.

His tenure cut short when almost a feast.

 .

The creature now huge, truly loved the girl.

She called her Sunshine, the princess’s Pearl.

Together they frolicked on the castle rooftop.

The king spying danger called for a stop.

 .

Shouting “time’s come to put childhood behind,

It’s now time to marry, I’ve someone in mind.

He’s brave, sweet, wise and kind, at least I’m told.

There’ll be time to adjust as you both grow old.”

.

Escorted by king to a royal coach and four,

off to be locked behind another gilded door.

Her fate was sealed by a noble families need,

alliances grown with common regal seed.

.

But with a twist, jerk and a naughty giggle,

the squiggly princess was free now to wiggle.

Breaking free, running fast, past all unaware.

She zigged and zagged toward the rooftop stair.

 .

Screaming loudly for her only friend Pearl,

who tried to save the much pursued girl.

A guard with a pike held Pearl on a chain.

Blocking the Sunshine’s escape of the reign.

 .

Seeing her friend at the top of the stair,

Pearl snapped her links then into the air.

The petrified guard fled from his post,

grabbing for Sunshine he’d surely be toast.

 .

The princess ran to the edge of the roof,

yelling to Pearl, she feared aloof.

The big eared beast sharply turned about,

hearing her Sunshine’s gloomy shout

 .

The king with guards, knights and queen,

Stormed to the roof unprepared for what’s seen.

The princess looked back, blew a kiss to her mother,

and a warm thoughtful wave to all the other.

.

Then with a carefree step she disappeared.

Plunging to her sudden death, or so was feared.

The mortified lookers all lunged for the ledge.

Hoping the princess landed safe in a hedge.

.

The king peeked over, not wanting to see,

when up rose his honey like a big bumble bee.

She hung from the neck of her dear friend Pearl,

now bonded for life, this dragon and girl.

 .

Higher she climbed with a dragons eye view,

a view to be viewed by a very small few.

Now all surveyed, now all her realm,

Sunshine’s the captain, Pearl the helm.

.

Over forest and mountains, ocean and stream,

free in a world where she need not dream.

Adrift on her Pearl upon the endless sea,

Alone they now be in their realm of fantasy.

.

The king broken hearted wept in his sleep.

The queen stricken ill with never a peep.

They later agreed to bare a new heir,

whether girl or boy was not a care.

 .

The next child’s fate was sure to be better,

born free of mind and trappings that clutter.

With a loving heart nurtured by family and friends,

then given the choices to choose their own ends.

 .

The princess returned in time for the birth.

The kingdom was full of merriment and mirth.

The princess enchanted with a friend who flew.

And all ends happily as fairy tales all do.

 *

The End

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Journey’s Home

~

I’m not just me, I’m at least three.

One sailed far hoping to be free.

One steamed airless more recently.

The oldest walked a vast frozen sea.

 ~

With passing generations this matrix grows complex.

A boundless atlas made of tiny specks.

Paper lines divide the pages of our time.

Ignorance is bliss, blindness sublime.

 ~

Unfurl the man-made charts, the journey’s just begun.

The ship of fools adrift, nowhere left to run.

Invaders, settlers or immigrant be –

all driftwood from the churning sea.

 ~

Time whispers on the ever-changing breeze.

One-eyed pirates still plunder all the seas.

Children wander a water-less beach.

Welcome shade out of reach.

~

To find a paper line they roam.

To find a future to call a home.

Pages of the atlas grown,

each a page we call our own.

*

The End

Sck101114

The Princess and the Puppy

~

 Once upon a time in the great northlands, there stood an ancient castle built long before anyone’s recollection. It was thought that the castle represented time itself and had grown naturally from the rocky hillside since the beginning of time. These great northlands were a gloomy and cold place most of the year with only a few months of sometimes warm, dry weather. It was a land of rocky hillsides sloping upwards to the north and the jagged, snow covered peaks of the hither land, home to the lost spirits.

The east and west were mostly rocky hillsides, thick brush leading to dark and dense forests beyond. The south was mostly grassy hills sloping gently downward to the forest and the river, a fortnight’s ride in the best of weather.

The inhabitants of this formidable dwelling were the nobility, who ruled, not only the land but also time itself on this lonely hillside. The king of this land was a kind and gentle man of middle years, middle height, and middle weight.  Having ruled since boyhood, due to his parents’ untimely deaths, the king was very respectful of his loyal subjects as they were of him.

The people of the surrounding village lived a very simple but difficult life, some spiritual, some superstitious, some not. Life for these villagers was indeed harsh, though not knowing differently they were content to be safe from invasion, warm in the brutal winter months and adequately fed. Their safety was mostly insured by there isolation. Though it was agreed by all that the king was there protector and they having no formal religion, was also their savior, there was actually a type prayer chanted at meals and there only holiday; Blessed be the king, his sword, his bread, babies nursed, bellies fed, hovels warm, demons dead, blessed be the kings sword and bread.

Luckily for one of the villagers, this harsh life was not absolutely horrible in this foreboding place, it was, by all standards quite comfortable. That of course was the life of the princess, the kings only child and future heir to the throne and ruler of this unbounded kingdom. A very kind and sweet young girl, she was loved by all.

Upon the princesses twentieth birthday the king called for his four most trustworthy, loyal and brave knights, to serve as messengers and venture to the four points of the compass with hopes of finding a suitable princely husband for the future queen.

The most valiant knight was to take the northern route. By far the most difficult journey, high into the rugged cloud covered mountains, endless winters and the unknown. As the days wore on, the snow grew steadily deeper and each night more frigid than the night before. Despite the hardship the gallant knight persisted for many weeks, until he and his faithful companion of many years, the chestnut mare, could go no further. The poor old mare burdened by not only the terrain and weather, but also the weight of the dwindling supplies, the kings bag of gold, the very heavy golden shield and her rider. The shield of course was not intended for battle, but ceremony and was to be given as a gift to some unknown king. It was a very special shield, crafted especially for the king when he ascended to the throne. Several more weeks pass and the knight and his old friend trudge together side by side until the snow was far too deep to walk in. Sensing his demise, the tired and weak knight built a small shelter under a tall spruce tree and let his horse go free, hopefully to return to the castle.

***

The Eastern route was chosen for the largest and fiercest knight, as his journey was sure to encounter danger and skullduggery, thus he was armed appropriately with a huge broadsword slung over his wide shoulders, a large and heavy battle shield and his kings’ fathers’ sword, worn proudly on his hip.  This magnificent sword was not however the knights, but was intended to be a gift for the king of the east, whoever that may be.

After many, many weeks of uneventful riding through the thick forest, yet another chilly and misty day was coming to an end.  Through the dusky light he saw in the distance a dilapidated old wagon and an equally dilapidated old horse, though not another living soul seemed to be about. The knight rode closer and gazed all around, seeing nothing and hearing nothing but the usual sounds of the awakening night forest. He did however smell something, the smell of freshly burnt wood. Following his nose, so to speak, he detected a hint of smoke wafting from a small pile of rocks nearby. “Who be there, show yourself at once” the knight rumbled into the dusky forest.  There was no reply, again the knight shouts, though less harshly “Who be there, I bring thee no harm”. This time a timid and frightened voice answers, “Please kind sir, do not hurt us, we are just a poor family trying to get our sick baby to the village”. The knight dismounts his horse and walks cautiously to the pile of smoldering rocks.

“Show yourselves at once” he says. Slowly the small pitiful family appeared from the shadows. “I beg of you sir, please don’t hurt us, we have nothing, we need to get our poor, little, dying baby to the village”, whimpers the distraught young mother.

The knight responds “fear not, I have not come to harm you, I too am headed to the village to see the king”.

“Oh, please kind sir, will you help us?” cries the scruffy young woman. “My baby will die if we don’t get to the village soon”.

The knight, as kind as he was large, offers a solution “we shall harness my horse to your wagon and go to the village together”.  

“Oh no, kind sir” snaps the women in reply “the trail ahead is very bad and would be to slow”.

The knight now fully sensing her urgency offers another suggestion “I shall ride with the baby to the village” he says.

“But sir, I am sure you are a true and proper knight, but a mother cannot give her only child to a stranger, you must understand” cries the evermore insistent mother.

“Of course I understand” replies the befuddled knight. “You shall ride to the village”

The young woman interrupts “Thank you kind sir, that is most generous of you, but I cannot ride such a large and magnificent beast, though” she pauses,” my husband is an excellent horseman”.

The kind and gentle knight could not refuse, as he could not bear the thought of this small helpless family losing their only child, as he too had but one child. “So be it, but you must leave at once” decides the knight.

With great appreciation, the couple bowed and praised and thanked the blushing giant. When all was said, the husband quikly mounted the reluctant beast. He took the swaddled bundle from his tearful wife, clutched it close to his chest and was off into the growing darkness with only the light of the rising moon to guide him.

The young women, now more relaxed offers to share with the knight some bread and wine from her meager supply. The hungry giant gladly accepts. Moments later our gentle and kind knight is sleeping as soundly as a baby.  At first light the knight awakens from a very deep and refreshing sleep, only to realize he was now alone, very alone.  The young mother was gone, the wagon was gone, even the lame old horse was gone.  But worse, his trusty broad sword and shield was no were to be found, yet worse still, the kings gold and gifts had also disappeared. Stumbling to his feet, the embarrassed and ashamed knight knew he had been tricked. Brushing the leaves from his cloak, he reluctantly headed home, head hung low, for his sense of duty and loyalty were greater than his sense of shame and the king must be informed of this unfortunate event at once.

***

As it was assured that the southern route would eventually lead to a large and powerful kingdom, the most intelligent and affable knight was selected. Having received the gifts and instructions from the king, he shared a sad, heartfelt goodbye with his loving wife and children and then was swiftly off to his unknown destination.

After three days of brisk and invigorating riding, the lonely knight reached the well-known river, running unusually very strong and fast for this time of the year. Unable to cross, the perplexed knight’s only choice was to follow the mighty river downstream to a suitable safe place to cross. After weeks of hazardous riding through the trail less and unfamiliar forest, he comes upon a sharp bend in the river were the water began to flow far less rapidly and he was finally able to cross. After several more weeks in the hard and unforgiving saddle, the dense forest began to thin and vast fields and pastures appeared. By late evening, lights could be seen in a tiny village beyond. The next morning the relieved knight rides through a small village, more fields and pastures and finally to a larger bustling town and the huge, foreboding castle at the end of the road.

Shortly before nightfall the triumphant knight arrives at the castle gate and there he was promptly stopped by two heavily armed and humorless guards. The largest and fiercest of the two ordered him down from his horse and explain his business at the castle. The friendly knight gladly obliged, not wanting to cause a problem. He then reached into his saddlebag to retrieve the letter of invitation from his king and then presented it to the guard.  The guard, not being able to read, passed it to the more senior guard who read the fanciful vellum scroll and inquired politely about these so called gifts. “Show me these gifts and I will bring them to my king at once” said the old guard with a smile.

The Knight feeling more at ease gives the seemingly cheerful guard the small bag of gold and the old jewel handled dagger with the gold sheath and waited.  The sun had now set and the night was growing darker when finally the old guard returned.

My king has no wish to see you; your tiny bag of gold was an insult, fortunately for you, the dagger pleased him, a little, so when you return with your king he will see you both. Now be off at once” he barked.

The confused knight stood silently for a moment, then asked for his gifts to be returned. This caused a great roar of laughter from the two guards, who then shook their long and sharp swords at the red-faced knight and repeated their order to leave; they then went back into the castle and locked the gate behind them. The disgraced knight knew there was nothing more he could do, with a long heavy sigh he mounted his horse and began his long, long journey back home.

***

The western route, like the north was scarcely traveled as the legends of the dark and evil forces beyond the forest were well known and often repeated. There was little expectation of success for this journey but was thought to be a good test for a young messenger and possible future knight. For this reason the youngest, least experienced, but most enthusiastic messenger was selected, assuming he would be frightened soon after the start of his adventure and promptly return, demonstrating at least his good judgment.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for him, the weather was quite nice, the journey mostly pleasant and the change in scenery was intriguing and exiting to the young, bristle headed messenger. After many, many weeks of riding and experiencing the endless new sights, sounds and smells of this uncharted wilderness he eventually came upon what appeared to be an endless body of water crashing on the rocky shore. The water was cool and refreshing but tasted very strange so he drank no more. Following the rocky shoreline for another day it began to transition from large slippery jagged boulders and rocks to smaller smoother rocks and stones and finally to tiny stones and sand where endless ripples of this strange liquid rolled onto the shore. The sun now high overhead blazing in the cloudless sky, our parched knight was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable and stifled in his many layers of old woolen clothing.  He dismounts his equally uncomfortable horse and removed his thick robe, heavy quilted vest and high leather boots. Feeling the cool, wet sand disappearing beneath his feet for the first time, the young messenger was quite amazed at this strange new sensation. He walked on and on with his four legged friend the rest of the afternoon in an almost blissful and jubilant state, if not for their hunger and thirst. Luckily for the parched and weary messenger the large glaring sun was now beginning to set over this vast expanse of water, creating vivid colors in the sky he had never seen. As the intense light of the day transitioned into dusk the young man spotted tiny glowing orange dots far down the beach, perhaps a village he wished out loud.  The sun had by now disappeared below the horizon and the moon and stars were glowing brightly when the much relived messenger arrived at this strange new place, there a small group of villagers, some still tossing their nets into the wondrous sparkling effervescent sea saw the bedraggled stranger and rushed to his aid. The exited and curious villagers welcomed him to their village and gave him much needed food, water and a comfortable place to rest.

After a few of hours of blissful slumber the refreshed messenger awoke to a feast in his honor. There he ate, danced and filled his kings’ gold chalice many times with the strangers potent berry wine.  It was late the next morning when the still dazed messenger stumbled from the tidy little hut perched on the lush hillside to find a perfect day and a perfect and picturesque village spread out before him, the warm and welcoming sandy beach, the brilliant emerald sea beyond and a canopy of pure blue above. He pauses for a moment to absorb the beauty and tranquility all around and with hardly another thought, he decides to stay and make his new home among the happy, friendly and seemingly carefree villagers.

***

Another winter passes and again the ice thawed to mud, the mud turned green and life once again shone on the village. Yet none of the messengers had returned and there were no suitors for the princess. Harvest time quickly arrived and most of the villagers where out of the village picking, digging or otherwise scavenging for anything of possible use during the upcoming long and dreadful winter.

As another cold damp night rapidly approached a young mother with her two crying babies nearby was hurrying to pick the last few reachable berries when she was startled, when suddenly from the fog shrouded forest appeared a man unknown to the frightened woman.  She screamed and plucked her young children from the nearby makeshift pen and ran out of the forest as fast as she could. Within minutes of the blood-curdling screams, the villagers ran to her rescue and the intruder was easily subdued, for the kind and gentle boy prince did nothing to resist. He was brought before the Master-at-arms to explain himself, the prince tells his story of his weeks in the dark and frigid forest on his way to return found treasures and the kings’ livery and to inform them that the messenger sent to the north was found barely alive, but improving.  The Master-at-arms was skeptical and wanted to throw him in the dungeon. Fortunately the King was informed and could find no reason to disbelieve the young Prince as he had already returned the small bag of gold and had nothing more to gain from further deceit. The master-at-arms then pressed the prince about the still missing golden shield.

“That was how your clever knight was found” said the prince “he hung it high atop the giant spruce tree he was sheltered beneath. Our scouts saw the glow from miles away”

The King and the Prince continued their lengthy discussion about this great kingdom to the north and of course the messenger. Having heard all the details of his heroic knights adventure and rescue, as well as the princes own treacherous journey, the king was absolutely convinced of the prince’s honesty an bravery and was then formally introduced to the lovely young princess. The two became fast friends and spent much time together; their fondness for each other grew daily and was very apparent to all, especially the jubilant king.

As the sun begun to rise over the usually harsh northern landscape our charming and considerate young prince ventured out of the formidable ancient castle. He much enjoyed his morning walks, though most days were not nearly as pleasant. As this day began clear and dry, the morning dew rose from the fields giving way to the wildflower blooms in subtle reds, yellows and lavenders all-around.  Now finished gathering a large bunch of the tiny flowers to be placed at the princesses’ bedside, as he did every day nature would allow since being in this strange new place. Returning to the castle he met with the old mid-wife who was struggling with a small log for her morning fire.

“May I help you with that” inquires the polite young prince.

“I surely could not ask that from a noble like yourself” responds the frail old woman.

“You did not ask for anything, I offered” said the prince.

“Well then, it will be much appreciated kind sir” she says in an uncommonly polite and friendly tone.

After several more trips to the wood pile, the prince returns to the mid-wife’s tiny cottage with the last of the wood needed for a week of morning fires. The cottage was very small, having only one room containing a makeshift bed, a table with but one rickety old chair and shelves everywhere they could possibly be built. These shelves were full of dusty old boxes, crocks and jars, the contents of which only the midwife knew. On one end wall of the tiny cottage stood a large, to large in fact for such a small space, stone fireplace, lined with all manner of sooty cast pots and forged utensils, the opposite wall was the heavy wooden door and the rooms’ only small, not quite transparent window. If not for the numerous rays of sunlight streaming through the old moss covered thatched roof there would be almost no light at all.  The morning blaze began to grow brighter in the blackened hearth; the prince could now more fully comprehend the cramped and dirty space, thick with the smell of old smoke and wet rotting wood.

“Please let me share with you my morning tea and biscuit kind sir” begs the lonely old woman, “it is all I have to offer you for your generous labor”.

I unfortunately cannot, for I must bring the flowers to my princess”, replies the prince. Sensing the old midwifes loneliness and despair, he promises to return directly and with an awkward wave, he dashes through the door without waiting for her response. He ran as fast as he could back to the castle, where he found the angelic princess still sound asleep. The prince, now in a rush to return to the wretched old women at the edge of the village, forgot to get a colorful piece of ribbon or string to tie the bunch of slightly wilting flowers. With little time or little thought, he pulls out several strands of his own hair and ties the fragrant bouquet, places it gently on the princesses’ bedside table and quickly leaves without a sound. Back at the mid-wives cottage the hesitant prince knocked gently on the old wooden door.

“Come in, please” snapped the old woman, “the tea is just ready, now sit please”.

The prince enters and takes a seat on the rooms’ only chair. She promptly serves the fidgety young man his tea in a tarnished and dented pewter cup as well as a small hard and stale biscuit, which she places directly on the dirty old wooden table in front of him.

“Splendid, Thank you kindly” says the polite young prince slowly sipping the hot putrid brew. “Tis very good indeed ma’am”.

The old woman nods silently and blankly gazes at the drowsy prince. Within minutes the prince is fast asleep and the transformation complete. The cunning old woman then removes the princes many layers of fine clothing and quickly replaces them with her own old torn and soiled garments. She then poured herself a cup of tea from a different pot and guzzled it triumphantly.

Moments later the old ladies neighbors were abruptly startled by the piercing howls and growls of what must be some distressed creature crying out in pain. When the frightful noises subsided to mere whimpers, the scared but curious villagers assembled on the path that winded between their cottages and hovels. There they could hear clearly the noises origin and cautiously approached the dilapidated old cottage at the end of the twisty trail. A barking sound was now heard that grew louder and fiercer as they drew near. Pausing at the open gate, the bravest of the neighbors, an overly curious little girl, pushed through the stunned crowd and rushed to the ancient wooden door and slowly pushed it open.  Before the heavy old door was less than half open a flash of white appeared, dashed by the surprised little girl and into the crowd of screaming villagers.

The confused crowd burst into a nervous laughter at the source of those demonic screeches for it appeared to be nothing more than a frightened little puppy. The adorable little dog now panting and playfully sniffing each of the relieved villagers seemed also relieved. The master-at-arms had by now been informed of the disturbance and swiftly arrived at the scene.

After much useless discussion with the villagers he proceeds to the doorway of the old woman’s cottage. Hesitantly he peaked into the tiny, cluttered cottage; there he saw the old mid-wife slumped over the small table in the center of the dark room. Slowly he approached and awoke her with a purposeful yet gentle nudge to her bony old shoulder. The dazed old woman slowly opened her eyes and slowly rose from the wobbly old chair.

***

Back at the castle the king was informed of this most unusual occurrence and immediately summons the silent old women and his typically gruff master-at-arms, now gently cradling the adorable little puppy in his massive arms.  He then explains to his puzzled king, the events he had personally experienced as well as the accounts of the other witnesses.  Leaning closer to the seated king, he quietly expresses his long-standing suspicion of the cunning old mid-wives dabbling’s in the black arts and strongly suggest that she should be locked away at once.

The king, being of a cooler head and as his fondness and partiality for her had grown over a life-time as she had helped with his only daughter’s birth, his birth and his fathers as well; therefore he must give her the benefit of the doubt until more questions were answered.

After many hours of contemplation, debate, innuendo, assumptions and frustration the king then politely asks the terrified old woman for her explanation of these unusual events. The old women’s wrinkled and puckered lips moved as her withered limbs gestured franticly, though not a single word was uttered. The king, now growing impatient, fetches pen and paper and thrust them at the midwife. The poor confused old woman reached out for the quill, but her gnarled and arthritic old hands could not grasp the slender shaft. After several more unsuccessful attempts the weeping old woman gives up and hangs her head in disgust and despair. The kind old king, sensing her despair tries to comfort the sobbing old women with a gentle pat on her cold and bony arched old back. He then summoned one of his many attendants and instructs them to take the old women to a nearby warm and comfortable guest chamber were she could rest. While the exhausted little dog slept comfortably on a soft and thick rug by the fire in the kings large but dingy chamber, the king pondered and he too soon dozed off with the comfortable puppy at his feet.  However this blissful rest was not to last for the tired old king and his new friend.

His hysterical daughter had burst into the solemn chamber to notify him of more bad news. Shaking the old man franticly, she cried over and over, “my prince is gone, my prince is gone”.

The stunned old man quickly jumped to his feet and held his distraught little princess close. “Calm yourself my dear, please calm yourself and tell me why you think your prince is gone” he says to his sobbing little girl.

“I’ve searched everywhere father and he is nowhere to be found, not anywhere, he’s gone, gone!” she cried.

The dutiful father then summons his master-at-arms and orders an immediate and thorough search for the young prince. While waiting nervously the entire afternoon, the now slightly calmer princess cuddles and bonds with the very cute and sweet little visitor, temporarily taking her mind off the terrible events of the day.  The sun now setting, the night noises beginning to rouse, the search is postponed and the villagers instructed to continue at daybreak.

By morning the search resumed and the tired villagers, who after years of gossiping, all agreed with the master-at-arms, the cunning old mid-wife was indeed a witch. As the day wore on, the prince was not be found, the reluctant king could no longer harbor any doubts of the old mid-wives guilt and she was promptly sent off to the dungeon.

***

The deeply saddened princess adopted the precious little orphaned puppy. She cherished their time together and would each night kiss his velvety little head, hoping to awake and find he had returned to his princely self. Months passed and the kissing and wishing did nothing. Another day began and the princess lay half-awake gazing at her slumbering companion nearby, trying to figure out how such an innocent and adorable little creature could bring so much pleasure and yet so much pain. Her deep contemplation however was interrupted when her chamber maid arrived with breakfast.         The withering princess was by now at her wits end, more distraught than the day before and again she ate no breakfast.

She borrowed her chamber maids’ cloak, so not to be recognized and hastily put it on over her night clothes, she then hurried to the dungeon to confront the old mid-wife. Arriving there, she found the old woman slumped in the far corner of the cold and damp windowless stone cell. The young princess, being a very kindhearted and forgiving person pitied the poor old woman and though she was indeed angry; she could not hate her. “Sorry to see you this way dear old friend” She whispered through the heavy rusted gate, “Please, I beg of you, change my prince back and I promise no more harm will come of you.”

The old women still huddled in the shadows, peering from beneath her tattered hood at the distraught young princess, didn’t respond. The princess moved cautiously closer to the gate and carefully raised her flickering candle to better see the wicked old mid-wife.   The old women now seeing the sadness and distress in the face of the beautiful princess slowly rose and hobbled toward her.  As she drew closer she could now fully sense the profound sadness in the princesses’ teary eyes. Hoping to comfort the young girl the mid-wife reached painfully to the floor and gathered a small bunch of damp and molding straw. She then pulled a long white and brittle strand of hair from beneath her hood and trying as best as she could, tied the hair around the straw and presented it to the princess. The princess slowly and cautiously reached through the bars and received the unexpected gift thankfully.  Now seeing the old women’s face closely for the first time, she peered into her eyes and immediately realized these were not the eyes of an evil old witch, but the deep blue young eyes of her handsome prince. Simultaneously they moved closer and kissed through the rusty old gate. When the much surprised princess opened her eyes she was astonished to see standing before her, her much loved and much missed prince. Her tears of sorrow now transformed to tears of joy, she then giggled for the first time in many months at the thin and gangly prince with his bare arms and legs jutting out from the very small tattered old woolen clothing and his long unkempt hair bounding from his head in all directions.  The guard was summoned and the giddy pair reunited. Hand in hand they ran as fast as they could back to the princesses’ chamber. There they found the wrinkled old women still blissfully asleep in a contorted lump at the foot of the princesses’ comfortable old bedstead.  Silently the prince approaches and gently nudges the old woman. Slowly she awakes, first with a sniff then a scratch. The scratch however proved unsuccessful as her spindly old legs could no longer reach her ears. Her blurry old eyes now wide open sees the laughing prince sitting beside her and quickly realized she had returned to her pitiful old self.

***

After many questions, few answers and much rejoicing, life on this desolate hillside slowly returned to normal. The knights from the east and south returned to a hero’s welcome and rewarded for their brave attempts. The knight of the north recovered and returned with the princes’ father and court, luckily in time for the wedding.

The wedding, of course was that of the prince and princess, it was, by far the most beautiful and festive ceremony these great northern kingdoms had ever witnessed. The knight of the north was cheered by all, awarded the kingdoms’ golden shied and given the new title of “Knight General and Ambassador of the Northern Kingdoms”. As for the old mid-wife, she was eventually forgiven and also bestowed a new title. Her new title and duty was now “Caretaker”, for she was now the caretaker of the princesses’ new bristle headed and seemingly carefree puppy.

 

The End

 

Steve Kittell

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