Having promised myself to post a bit of storytime every Friday, I now have a standard to keep up with. Werrl, at least, hopefully you enjoy what I write.
A few Fridays back I started “A Friday Fairytale”, to skit the way in which movie-style fantasy is written. But whenever I allow the pixies that are the story characters, into my house to take over a story, weird things happen. This is why I never plan a story in advance – how should I know what the pixies want to get up to?
Here are the previous instalments of “A Friday Fairytale”.
In short: Nadisda is a being of pure magic who is ripped from her magical world into the here-and-now world (mildly dystopian, mildly in the future, begging yr pardon, author comfort zone). But wait, it gets better…
(EDIT: Ooh, I’ve just realized: This may confuse readers who haven’t read the first 3 chapters. Valentine is Mike.)
4 – Commune
When Nadisda surfaced next, the first sensation she had was of being somewhere warm, safe and comfortable. Thank the Stars! Because her body felt as though someone had taken a heavy hammer and beaten every part of her into splintered pulp. All except her head, which was under water – but at least not as badly as it had been.
There was a girl sitting next to her on the floor. She herself was lying on something soft. A bed of sorts, perhaps of moss. It was dry and warm though, so probably not moss after all.
“I’m Jen,” the girl introduced herself. “Mike says you’re Nadisda. What an unusual name!”
The forest fairy nodded. “So is Jen.”
“You must try and drink this,” said Jen and held out a cup for Nadisda. The fairy looked at it. Did she really have to sit up and drink something now?
“It will make you better,” urged Jen.
Nadisda sat up and took hold of the cup, but screamed and let it go again. It was lucky that Jen had not yet released it. A bit of the piping hot liquid spilt over the blanket.
“Steady on,” said Jen. “Sorry. Mike warned us that you had a bad fall, and you cracked your head, so you’ll react to weird stuff.”
Nadisda scowled and shook her head. What on Earth had Valentine meant with that?
“It’s hot medication,” insisted Jen. “You’ve got a serious case of sewer-flu.”
“What’s that?” asked Nadisda, though her body reminded her what it was.
“We should get you to a doctor,” added Jen. “We’re checking if we have the funds.”
“A doctor?” echoed Nadisda, wondering what that was.
“Yes. It’s that bad. C’mon now, drink up!”
Nadisda carefully took the hot cup again, this time prepared. She sipped the steaming liquid very slowly. It tasted strange, bitter and sweet at the same time.
“Where’s Val – where’s Mike?” she asked between sips. “Can I speak to him?”
“He’s out hunter-gathering,” said Jen factually. “But I’ll tell him when he comes in.”
Nadisda drank up the beverage which made her feel strangely better. Maybe it was just the heat that penetrated all the way into her bones. She handed the cup back and lay back on her cushion. A soft, purple cushion. The bed was purple too; and the blanket was fluffy and blue. She wondered. The Princess had such commodities – blankets filled with feathers or lamb’s wool. Was everyone in this world a princess?
“So, where are you from?” asked Jen.
Nadisda smiled. “The Magical Realms. Where I come from, I live deep in the forest,” she said nostalgically. “My cave is cosy and warm, and adorned with flowers and moss. It’s very beautiful. And of course the trees are always kind to me.”
Jen nodded and regarded her with pity.
“Don’t worry, girl, we’ll get you fixed up! You really did hit your head hard, didn’t you?”
Mike came in a little later that evening. He unpacked his backpack, for all to see and share.
“There you go, Ben, that video card.”
Ben, tall, gangly and with wild long hair of an indeterminable colour, let out a whoop of delight.
Mike took cans of food, bread, milk, sugar and some fruit out of his pack, for Jen to pack away in the semi-functional kitchen. There was no fridge as the electrics had been cut long ago; they lit the place with candles. So their food had to be accordingly.
Mike let the others loot the rest of his backpack, and shot a glance in the direction of the door to the short passage.
“How is she?”
“Still confused,” said Jen. “She asked that you go talk to her when you come in.”
“Will do.” In the door, he turned and studied the evening’s loot pensively. “Guys, this is not forever. Sooner or later our program will go viral, and then we’ve got it sorted. We’ll never have to steal again.”
“So say all of us!” said Nancy, grabbing a cucumber and saluting with it.
Valentine entered the room where Nadisda was lying on a mattress on the floor. He crouched down to her and felt her forehead.
“Still a nasty fever,” he muttered. “Seems like it’s getting worse.”
“Jen came in and gave me something to drink,” mentioned Nadisda feebly. “It did make me feel better.”
“Hotmeds,” he surmised. “Supposed to fix a fever in a blink. It does, but only for the common flu, not for sewer-flu.”
“What is sewer-flu?”
“If you’ve been in the sewers, and you’ve been exposed to the bad air in there, and the rats and bugs,” he said. “Especially if you haven’t ever been down there before. But I think in your case there’s something else.”
“There’s more?” How much worse could it get?
“Two things,” said Valentine, sitting down comfortably on the floor next to her mattress-bed. “Firstly you’ve never been to my world before. You don’t have much of an immune system. Every virus going around is going to make a meal of you.”
“What is a virus?” She just couldn’t seem to get an answer to that question.
“Never mind,” said Valentine. “It doesn’t matter, because I have another theory. I think what’s hitting you much harder than the viruses is the fact that in this world you have no magic.”
Nadisda rolled her eyes, waved her hand, and the whole ceiling became a creeping tangle of wallflowers. Painted ones.
“You were saying?” she prompted.
Valentine smiled so broadly, she thought she saw tears in his eyes.
“The others won’t believe this,” he whispered. “No. We won’t tell them. This is our secret. We did it! We brought genuine magic into this place! I thought we’d failed, back in the canals. I thought you’d lost your magic when you transitioned into my world.”
“Didn’t you see the ferns and moss I conjured for myself as a bed, back in – what did you call it – the sewers?” she asked quizzically.
“Ferns and moss? There was nothing, girl! You were imagining.”
She sighed and idly painted the walls with her fingertips, too. It didn’t help the pain in her head. And she paused and stared at the young man.
“Wait a minute – are you saying you brought me here deliberately?”
Mike shook his head. “Pure accident, I promise!” She couldn’t tell whether he was lying.
“So maybe it’s not that,” said Valentine. “Maybe it’s really just the sewer fever. We should get you to a doctor.”
“Yes, that’s what I wanted to ask: What the heck is a doctor?”
“Something this world needs, as you see,” said Valentine. “Someone to make you well again.”
“And what is a virus?” she pushed, irritated that once again, her question had been dodged. Her wrath expressed itself in a very small bouquet of plaster-of-Paris roses sprouting out of the doorknobs of the cupboard.
“You won’t like it,” warned Valentine.
“I already don’t. Tell me!” A small sketch sprang up on the ceiling, of a villain being strangled by vines.
“It’s an invader, a very small creature that gets into your blood and multiplies thousands of times and makes you sick from inside.”
Nadisda went deathly pale.
“You look like you want to puke,” observed Valentine.
“What’s that?” she groaned.
“Never mind. Something we don’t do. Let me -” and he jumped up.
“No, wait, stay!” begged Nadisda, but he had already left the room. Abandoning her to the deepest misery and disgust she’d felt in all the time she could remember.
“Tonight,” said Mike as he, Jen, Nancy and Ben put the system together, fuelled by a newly recharged car battery, “tonight we beat the crapp out of that Hero Hugo! Who’s with me?”
The other three gave him hi-fives. Ben ripped open a few packets of chips that Mike had looted at a fuel station miles away. Nancy went to the small, dirty kitchen and dipped four mugs into the vat of ginger beer they were home-brewing, with plenty of raisins drifting on the top of it. She brought the mugs back to them one by one. Mike was already deeply engrossed in something, hacking away at his cobbled-together laptop.
“What’re you up to, sunshine?” she asked, batting her fake eyelashes at him and handing him his mug of iffy brew.
“Taking this thing to a new level,” he said off-handedly, never pausing in his programming. “They will have such a surprise when they hit level thirty – if they ever do!”
“Why? What’re you putting in?”
“Let’s say,” Mike looked up with a grin, “her name is Elena. Don’t go there without me leading you guys, alright?”
The modem lit up.
“And we’re live!” announced Ben with glee.
A crunch on her moss.
Nadisda opened her eyes. She was on her own mossy bed in the depths of her cave; but she hadn’t dreamt the whole thing with Mike and the place he called the ‘real world’, this she knew by the way she felt. Miserable, sore and grim.
She arose from her mossy bed and came out to look. The Villain was there, as she had thought; but something was different about him. Somehow he wasn’t quite as evil as usual. She also thought if she looked very carefully, she could see the mischievous young face of Mike behind Valentine’s evil features. It had come as a surprise how young he was in that other world. Then again she had also come out there as a teenager, or fairy equivalent.
“Hey, fairy,” said Valentine. “Feeling better?”
But wait! Nadisda glanced about in confusion. “I’m home! You did it! You got us home!”
Valentine reached out to touch her arm. His hand went right through her.
“You’re transparent,” he said. “You’re not really here. Don’t let it worry you, fairy.”
The whole forest glade suddenly came up in white, ghostly flowers that glowed slightly in the half-dark.
“I’m really still in that house, right?” asked Nadisda, frightened. “And you really are still Mike?”
“That’s right,” smiled Mike, and his villain-age fell away from him, revealing the teenager underneath. “And you really still have all your magic.”
“So how can I get back, for real?” she asked.
“Don’t worry, Nadisda. I’m working on it. We’re all of us on a quest looking for the moonstone. I suspect you need that back.”
“It belongs to Faff,” said Nadisda. “I promised to return it. It’s twelve thousand years old.”
“This stuff is brilliant!” said young Mike with unconcealed glee. “Twelve thousand, hey?”
“Loaded full of Luna’s rays shining on an older Earth,” said Nadisda seriously.
“The stuff of poetry!” grinned Mike. “Hang tight, girl. Tomorrow we get you to a doctor – but we must be careful that you don’t lose your magic from Earth medication.” He listened up. “Whoa. Time for me to go, someone’s coming!” He slipped away between the trees.
Hooves clopped closer, and with a small fanfare, Hero Hugo appeared between the trees.
Nadisda took a good hard look at him. Was there an Earth teenager hiding behind this one, too? Or was he truly from the Magic Realms?
“Magic witch creature!” stated Hugo brassily. “Hast thou any ken of one villainous villain by name of Valentine? If he came through here, let it be known that I shall slay him, unto his utmost death!”
Nadisda shrugged. Antlers grew from Hugo’s horse’s head.
“What have you done, witch?” bellowed the hero. “Restore my steed without delay, or I shall visit woe unto thee!” He ripped out his sword and pointed it at her throat. Nadisda blinked. The sword turned into a pennywhistle and Hugo’s golden glimmering helm turned into a three-horned jester’s cap. And suddenly there was a question in Nadisda’s head that she had no idea where it had come from.
“What have you done with the knight errant?” she asked. “The Shadow Knight of the Princess?” There was this history, all of a sudden. The Hero had somehow done away with the Princess’s knight. But the moment Nadisda wondered where this new information had come from, she realized it wasn’t new. It had been there for a while – in fact since the knight errant had vanished.
“Oh, begone, foul witch,” snapped Hero Hugo. He bullied his mount into the forest, to follow where Valentine had left.
Nadisda rubbed her nose. The horse turned into a seal.
Hero Hugo found that the riding was a bit slower after that, especially since the seal was rather playful and wanted to take breaks to fetch and retrieve sticks. Also, riding it had turned into an interesting challenge.
The wood fairy retreated back into her cave and lay down on her moss bed again, feeling depleted. The whole place felt wrong. Something was pulling at her, to fall asleep again.
A curse for Hero Hugo, she thought. So he wishes he were dead. She understood the sentiment better now. And she also realized that she had picked entirely the wrong curse.
Jen sneaked into the darkened room to feel Nadisda’s fever. It was still pretty high, but there was also a sign of moisture coming through at her temples.
“You’ll make it, girl,” whispered Jen at the sleeping foundling teenager, whose pitch-black, long curls wreathed poetically across the blanket and pillow. “You’ll be fine. Stick with us.”
She got up again, making sure there was enough water for the sick vagabond to drink, and nearly stumbled over something. A potted rose in full bloom, with its sweet scent that was noticeably improving the air. She smiled to herself and whispered, “aw, Mike! You’re such a romantic!”