Kess’ Tale

As told by Kess to her husband and chronicler Robert Dole Sigerson II

It be sayd that when the new made moon first blessed its light upon the realm of the magical isles, it shown upon a single drop of dew cradled by a leaf of the enchanted tree of life and fairy kind be birthed. J.B.Dexter

Ed Note: Ed note: Kess request that ‘It be known to all who mayhap read this aloud that the word is t a l e and not t a i l as no fairy be possessed of a tail and any other such derivative expressions would be most certainly considered rude’.

The woods of the enchanted realm of the British Isles serves as the contextual origins to many accounts of woodland creatures of myth, legend and reality. Fairy narratives are all of these and more with images bold, daring, evil and virtuous. Fairy beings are as robust as humans and sometimes they are more spirit than corporeal. Yet perhaps the truest version is they reside in a realm just beyond complete descriptive explanation.

Indeed humans understanding is often limited by observations weak in enchantment and bewitchment and thus will only know that there be the wisp of a touch or the blink caught off of the vision. Contributing to our misinterpretations are that most fairies remain as slight as to be believed an insect. Indeed others are near hominid in stature and form living amongst us as our fellow humans. We being creatures mostly unknowledgeable of their true nature, will fail to grasp them at all. To comprehend these charmed souls we must look back to learn their beginnings and follow them through their blossoming, dominance and decline. A decline not as possibly supposed by the hand of man who all but ignored them but rather of fairy’s kind own fashioning.

Chapter One: New Beginnings

Being new to a world already ancient, necessitated that fairy kind find a means of being a measured portion of a most teaming and diverse realm. A realm already full of nymphs, pixies, elves and the dreaded mischief making clurichaun, far darrig and leprechaun. Although these latter three in these early days they were much smaller themselves and not nearly as man like as they were to become.

Most other creatures initially ignored the fairies but as needs produced competition for resources that be less than abundant. The fairies soon found both enemies and predators with few friendly kinds to support them. After all being a not a donor to the overall environment marked the fairy kind as non-fruitful and of little use to any other creature kinds. So fairydom had to bargain a way to survive and contribute. They began to realize this ambition when they learnt that they could provide an essential link between the sun and the plants of Earth by enhancing vitality makeovers at a tiny level among a plants most elementary components.* This “magic” caused the plants to grow more robust and abundant thus serving most other creatures.

*See physics text on applied quantum processes in photosynthesis

Now Fairies’ had found their magic. Seeing into most growing flora and then invigorating from within, Fairies became an essential part of forest growth and life. As an importance the fairy’s first true alliance arose with the Rowan trees. The Rowan (Ronn or Ron) is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman be made. Also the Rowan saved the life their god Thor by bending over a fast moving river that Thor was swept into. Thor used its branches to reach safety.

The tree is also know as “wayfarer’s tree” or “traveler’s tree”. Those who undertake an excursion do not lose their way with the Rowan’s protection from getting lost. Curiously the Rowan is said to shelter humans from fairies. By placing a Rowan branch over their doorways fairies could not enter human homes. Howsoever, the fairies believe that this reasoning had turned the bread basket inner side out. If humans stayed behind closed doors fairies were free from their harmful ways. Thus the tree offered fairies protection.

The fruit of the Rowan is quite edible being a fairy favorite. Sometimes the humans too would avail themselves of it. And there were instances when both did seek its pleasure at identical occasions. All of which brings us to the story of the brothers Fain and Fable.

Chapter Two: Fain and Fable

Fain:

Fable:

Fain and Fable were fairy birthed as non-same twins. They subsisted in the magical forest of Caledonia with their parents Sir Padum and Lady Fevee. Being of fairy nobility much was expected of them. Their home be among the Rowan trees and their community concern was the berry product of this verdure.

Sir Padum and Lady Fevee’s Royal Grant acreage ran the whole of the Fay Bend of Sprite Stream. The entire village of Emph was engaged in the upkeep of their grove. Each season Emph was among the grandest yield of the Royal lands. Queen Keiiey would come and celebrate Hærfest Festival and rejoice in the bounty. It be known that Queen Keiiey favored them not just because Lady Fevee be her sister but because Emph be true to fairy kind’s quintessential nature.

In order to achieve these undertakings the village had two varieties of citizens; growers and protectors. Growers were folk who labored to feed, maintain and harvest the Rowan crop. Protectors fended off the creatures who would partake of their labors. Fairies indeed did share with the beasts* of the forest but at a time and amount of their own choosing.

*Beasts were any other being, animal or insect. To fairy kind of the ancient world all other manner of creatures were of an inferior kind and thus termed beasts.

It was within this contextual circumstance the boys grew to early manhood. Fable being quick to learnt the ways of farming such that he soon became a manager of some vast numbers of Rowans. In his position was Fable be an exemplar performer of the tasks of nature and his fruit grew abundant and virtuous.

Fain being of robust frame and fundamental combatant instincts was an inherent protector. He quickly obtained skills of defense and practiced offense given the size and power of the threat. Fain ascended the ranks and soon became a Commander of Forces for the village. But be the disposition of well-developed trends, they move afar from other kinds such that their nature no longer feels akin.

So thus did Fain and Fable become such that they did often avoid the company of each other in favor of those with whom the tendencies did favor. For a time life be life and all be well. Yet did come the night best know now as the divergence. The legion holds that the flawed kinship came to be due to the smallest of affects being nothing more than a misidentified intent and a few bit of spirits.

Fain had spent the greater portion of the evening at his favorite pub resulting in the expected inebriation which this fact is held in little doubt by all. Fable it be said was sent by his father to fetch his brother home although some contend that it was nothing of the sort. These folk see Fable as the party who came looking for a squabble to embarrass his brother for being in such a state. These same folk see Fable as also being somewhat woozy from beverage as well.

When Fable did find Fain an argument between the brothers over the need to return to their father’s home did ensue. Fain ordered his brother to leave him be and backed this up by the claim that he be the elder son and Fain being the young need to leave him be. Fable should probably had left this go but instead Fable retorted that he did not hold to the fact that a few minutes more made Fain the superior and replied with the phrase “the least be the best”. Now this expression has two meanings to the fairy folk. To Fable and his kind the remark meant that he be just as good as his brother. However, to Fain the remark could also be taken that the he the elder brother was unworthy of his station.

As be the case Fable left the pub only to be pushed down by his brother as he walked away. A fight between them did followed with much the expected outcome as Fain was a trained combatant and Fable a mere farmer. As Fain ended a top his kin administering what was in the least a severe beating but given his superior strength it could become most worst a hand grasped Fains mighty arm and held in back with even superior strength.

Fain being positive that no fairy could best him, turned upon this unwelcome intruder and proceeded to attempt bring a lesion upon him as well. How so ever, this not be the case. The strange stood tall and he easily defected each blow and quickly managed to completely elude Fain‘s attacks with great dexterity. It is thought by some that this was due to Fain’s intoxicated state, which may be of truth.

Still while the match ran its course as the interloper also matched Fain’s many expletives almost verbatim. However, this person did not seem to comprehend the meaning of the words. Finally due to exhaustion and the effect of drink Fain fell to the ground defeated without a blow to his person even struck.

“Who be you to mock me thus?” Fain managed to ask.

The person managed only to repeat back a form of Fain’s words in a parroting fashion. Fain gazed at him for a moment and then promptly passed out. The person then went to where Fable lay and tended to him. Fable looked at this individual and saw initially multiple images before one took over his vision. Fable reasoned that this was due to the beating that he had just received from his brother.

“Who be you stranger,” he did ask.

The person said, “You be…stranger.”

“Thee does not understand fairy tongue do you?” Fable asked.

“Tea does thunder stand fairly tongs yoo-hoo,” the person said or something to that effect.

“So you were not mocking my brother, you just repeated what you thought you heard,” Fain replied as the stranger helped him to his feet.

This was clearly too many words for the stranger to repeat from what obviously to him was a foreign language. He merely replied, “Maak.”

“Ok what shall I will call you then until you can give me a more proper name?”

“Maak,” the stranger replied again.

Fable regarded him and replied, “Mach be that what your name?”

“Maak,” again can the response.

“Very well I will call you Mach,” Fable said. Mach helped Fable to his feet and assisted him to leave the scene of his fight with Fain. Meanwhile Fain’s comrades tended to him and Fable could tell that his brother was coming around and most likely would be just fine, that is when the drink wore off.

Much be made of this pugilistic event through the ages as being the origins of the two royal houses of fairy kind. Whilst some truth be found in the telling and the retelling of this occasion, there be much more to the separating of fairy kind than simply this lone incident. However, at this point the story will take a decided point of view in that the house of Fable is the primary knowledge basis for what remains of this tale and one should judge occurrences reported here with this in mind.*

*Kess believes that what she reports, “be facts most true”. I would be remiss if I did not report that certain represented facts to be somewhat “exaggerated” in their nature. I also will report that my wife packs a pretty good punch to the deltoid when crossed. She may be more closely related to Fain than she would allow.

Chapter Three: The Fairy Wars Begin

To say that Mach was an odd sort of being would be non-embellishment of the most highest order. Foremost he was indeed intelligent as he soon learnt the fairy tongue. Still save for Fable, Mach seldom spoke to the other fairies. However his reclusive nature was honored but not well understood as fairy kind seldom produces such individuals.

Further it be obvious that Mach not be fairy in origins but he never relayed to anyone from where his origin be. He displayed facets of a living being, a mechanical apparatus (which fairy kind at that time had no knowledge in that regard) and a spiritual being. He looked no different for the most part as any fairy person which would be that he looked like a miniature human. However even to this day fairy kind find this representation or comparison to be most insulting as they would claim that humans were modeled by the creator from them only in a less perfect way so as to allow a distinction between the two.

Nevertheless, Mach could do things that appeared to be most magical like producing from his hand two sharp opposing blades in order to trim back foliage that had grown beyond need. At other times he just seemed to vanish as if made of vapor coming off a pot of tea in the winter only to reappear later. He also gave the impression on those occasions to return as if changed in a manner consistent with being more wizened and if possible more aloof. However being a close friend with Fable, folks gave him allowances for his exotic nature.

As for Fable, he became the leader of the farming community. His was a leadership derived from a passion for his work and expertise in cultivation and production. The village thrived with prosperity and plenty for all.

Fain for his part left his brother be and instead strengthened his forces and many threats had been noted and needed to be watched. The foremost among them seemed to lie with the so called Newcomers. These giants were so self-absorbed and brutal that magical creatures fled at the mere sight of the creatures. They were interestingly fairy like but of an ugly nature and general appearance. The Newcomers invaded magical space with little notice of interest in the indigenous creature’s wellbeing. It came to be known the Newcomers had no magical gifts and were therefore considered to have been derived from an inferior origin most likely being born from a lowly Hawthorn tree.

However before the Newcomers became a true threat the war with the tree crawlers began.

These sects as the locals also called them were at first a simply a nuance. They scavenged for fallen leaves and other eatable trash and did the locals a sort of favor cleaning up the forest. Fable however, did not see it in this manner. They did not communicate with the fairies nor did they acknowledge them much like the Newcomers. What seemed worse was that the sects did learn to climb trees. At first they began to remove only the dead leaves which again served the fairy’s purpose but then with not such an admonition the tree crawler began to take the fresh green leaves as well.

Upon hearing this Fain and his men decided to put a stop this practice which proved to be a harmful interaction. When two fairy soldiers blocked the creature’s way the sect at first successfully went around them. The solders pursued the creature and each one of them grasped a hold of the thing’s rear segment. A fight then ensued and while the creature succumbed to injuries, it inflicted much damage when it struck one of the fairy soldiers with his jaws. The soldier’s wounds proved to be fatal as well. In addition several more sects fell into the mallei as fighters to come to their own kind’s defense. The result was many lives lost on both sides before both the two forces had withdrawn.

After this patrols of fairy regulars stayed with the farmers and further incidences continued to occur. The sects held off for now but concern for the safety of all was rising. This prompted the first Council of Emph conducted by Queen Keiiey herself. It be a sober meeting with no ceremony or pretentiousness with the whole of Emph attending. Even Queen Keiiey dispensed with royal protocol and sat among her people in a plain chair but still within the center of her royal chamber in her Emph residence. All the subject sat around her without the assistance of chairs.

“Who will speak of our needs,” she asked. Fain and Fable exchanged looks before Fain rose to address the assembled.

“Your Grace we be under attach and we must immediately declare that we be of a warfare position. Troops must be assembled and generals appointed.”*

“If war conflict is declared then such positions be filled without a hesitation,” Keiiey declared. “But first bare me council. Does battle combat be our only choice?”**

“We of the farm are perplexed of alternatives,” Fable said has he now rose to his feet too. “We not be of war conflict… in manor where avoidance seems most prudent. Neither or even less, we be unsure that without at least the most protection that can be afforded that we can tend to our crops.”

*Fairies had no need for generals in time of peace which made going to war that much less than likely.

**Fairies use double nouns when heighten meaning is to be implicit.

“Protection without declaration and preparation of battle struggle is without meaning or measure,” Fain declared in his most diplomatic voice which was very persuasive. The room grew still as the queen hesitated to respond.

“You majesty if an outsider may speak,” a voice distant called out. The queen looked up and considered the personage who stood beyond her circle.

“What manner of being are you Sir and now is it that you attend?” She asked. ***

“He be my ally and comrade if it pleases thee,” Fable said.

“Very well then approach so you be heard,” the queen said and so Mach approached the circle.

“Your Majesty I have lived among your subjects for many moons that pass before us. I leant that they are a people of simple delights who abhor war and violence,” Mach began.

“May haps but will war battle when it be necessary,” Fain interrupted him as those with him cheered his response.

“The Queen bade him speak. Hold thy tongue until he be through,” Fable demanded.

*** Fairy royalty will use is or are instead of the familiar be when it fits a need for an elevated level of expression.

After a long interlude of noise and open talk, the Queen stared about the room and it fell suddenly most quiet. “Please continue Sir and be without interruption,” she said sternly. “Thee name be….?”

“I am Mach from another realm far removed from this where The One does director lives,” he said.

“The One?” the Queen asked.

“The Father of us all,” Mach replied.

The Queen seemed taken back by this but Mach did not bother to explain further. “He would instruct that when such conflict does occur that open discussion among the disputing parties be the first effort to bring about a lasting peace as war seldom does not until much has been lost on both sides.”

“He would instruct cowardly response in matters of death of kin!” declared Fain.

The room again burst into loud discussion until the Queen rose and glared. When all drew quiet once more the Queen turned to Mach.

“It is not cowardliness that He instructs but brave response in facing a would be conflicting force with only an open hand,” Mach responded.

Fain furrowed his brow. “Talk is of the weak and defenseless and this we be not.”

An alarm sounded from outside and all dashed outside to see with horror a legion of sects approaching. They did not appear eager to discuss either. Fain wasted no time waiting for his orders. He and his men rushed forward with weapons drawn.

A dreadful, deadly engagement quickly ensued. The sects were more numerous that before and they seemed to have learned something from their past engagement. They spread out their forces and advanced from a central point. This served to thin the fairy lines as the soldiers drew separated from one another as the sects ballooned forward.

Meanwhile Fable and his fellow farmers watched in horror as the sects quickly advanced and the fairy warriors both withdrew and separated further apart. Mach had already join the fray. Fable seeing what was happening turned to his fellow hands and cried out, “Grab thee tools and take them on or we all be lost!”

The farmers turned fighters took ploughshares and turned them into to swords in a manner of speaking. The reinforcements soon turned the tide of the sects advance. Meanwhile Fain through sheer determination managed to rally his troops to force a wedge between the advanced two thirds of the sects and the rear portion. This cut their leaders of from their base and spit and surrounded the sects. In the confusion the sect base was forced to withdraw as the encircled force were steadily choked off and isolated down to fewer and fewer troops.

Still the sects fought with ferocity. Fain was to the rear of the formation as suddenly the sects reversed themselves and attempted to break free in the opposite direction. They moved with great swiftness and dexterity. Fain was suddenly caught in the open as his men drew apart as the sects charged ahead. A very large sect clamped his sharp jaws around Fain and lifted him off the ground. Fain’s armor barely held as the sect’s jaws progressively tighten. He would soon be cut in half.

Then the sect hesitated and seemed confused before he dropped Fain and fell dead. From behind the sect came a whoop as folks saw that Fable had taken his hoe and sliced the sect in two between the abdomen and thorax. Fain sat on the ground in pain but whole. For the first time in a long while he smiled at his brother.

Chapter Four: Trials and Tribulations

That evening Fain took the invitation proffered by his brother Fable and attended the evening meal at his house with their parents. It was the first such family reunion since their falling out. Much had happened to change the family and much catching up was in order. The celebration elsewhere was loud and full of false claims of ultimate victory over the sects but here a more sober and accurate assessment was that there was no end in sight. Still there were things to be thankful for and new family to meet.

Fable had his first opportunity to introduce his wife Shareeb to his brother and their months old son Pucindale. All this was not news to Fain but their rift had caused an absence that Fain now regretted.

“He be a large lad for such a young age,” Fain noted as he had just a little trouble holding the struggling child.”

“Indeed and there be others larger than he in the village. It seems we may be growing a crop of giants,” Fable replied as he helped move the lad to his mother’s arms for his latest feeding.

“This be an effect of Rowan berries?” their mother, Lady Fevee’s asserted. “They be bewitched by gnomes and pixies.”

“Mother,” Fable said shaking his head. “It just be the resolute of decent nourishment.”

“I am telling each of thee that the two are teamed up against us and mean us harm,” Lady Fevee’s replied most sincerely.

“How does large healthy babies bring us harm?” replied Fable.

“Human tales again,” laughed Fain. “There be no such creatures.”

“They be the illegitimate sons of giants, ya know it’s so,” she declared.

Her two boys knew it was useless to continue to argue with their mother. She had been raised on the tails of human kind being out beyond the magic impediment where even the fairies of wings could not penetrate. Fortunately Shareeb came to ask her mother-in-law to help her change little Puck.

After they had left Fain said, “You know brother, Pucindale be a fine family name but Puck lacks a certain…”

“Quality of respect?” Fable said.

“Now that you noted as such,” Fain replied. “Affirmative.”

“It be his mother’s folk who started calling him that and it stuck. Hopefully when he reaches age he will stop that as you did with your picktag.”

“Who could allow Faye be the name of a mighty warrior?” Fain responded with a guffaw.

“Agreed brother…a toast to the mighty warrior Fain,” he said loudly enough for one and all to hear.

“And to the brave brother who risk his life for that same warrior,” Fain replied. A drink was had for each and all. This was to be their last happy occasion together.

Over the next several weeks* the fairies worked ceaselessly to construct traps and walls. The walls were covered vines laced with thorns.

*Fairy weeks last 10 days but their days are only 18 hours long.

The sects were to be allowed to climb over the walls and into the village catching themselves up in the snares thus allowing the farmers to draw near enough to attach them. Otherwise the farmers were no match for the sect out in the open. The soldiers meanwhile prepared for face to face combat through rigorous training exercises.

Fain and Fable met briefly in the village late one day.

“So be we ready?” Fain asked.

“We farmers are prepared to do our duty but… we make poor soldiers,” Fable admitted.

Fain waited and watched to see that no one else could hear his next words. “I fear brother that it will matter little.”

“What does thee know that is not for wide consumption,” Fable asked quietly.

“Our spies have been observing the enemy’s compound. They have been waiting all these weeks so as to make larger their quantities. They now number in the thousands,” Fain said forlornly.

Fable studied his brother’s eyes and found no solace. He then looked off into the peaceful surroundings that was their home and which will soon be their grave.

“It be best if thee could engage the elders and remove womenfolk and undersized offspring to the Queen’s care,” Fain said our spies believe that we have not much time.

Fable nodded and grasped his brother’s arm tightly before turning away. Little else need to be said.

A few days hence early in the morning the earth began to rumble as the enemy’s forces commenced their charge. The fairy’s defenses did hold the initial tide as farmer and soldier fought courteously. But as the volume and mass of their opponent grew an unstoppable surge overwhelmed them and most all the defenders were lost. Mach managed to pull a badly injured Fain to safety. Fable who ended up fighting at his brother’s side died a valiant hero and enhance forth be remembered as such.

Many moons did pass when fairies dared to return to the battle scene. To their great surprise the village lay clear of debris and death. No sect was anywhere to be found. The fairies further found that the dead of both sides had been buried in one mass grave marked with scented vegetation. Since the fairies knew not what was to be expected they send two embassies to meet with the sect queen, Mach and a slowly recovering Fain. They expected to be treated as vanquished foes but were instead warmly welcomed.

The sect compound was strangely quiet and almost deserted. When Fain and Mach went underground to meet the queen in her chamber they were shocked to find a debilitated but young appearing monarch. She actually greeted them in fairy speak.

“It is well that you have come. We need to bargain a peace and begin to reconstruct your kind’s deeds here,” she declared.

“Begging your pardon your majesty but you were the victor. We have come to broker a peace,” Mach replied.

“That was the last queen’s war. Shortly after she died. Our way is to produce many more queens and let them fight for the right to rule,” she stated in a tone that conveyed a profound sense of loss. “In the struggle that followed many sects were lost and even more fled with other queens to far off lands.”

“And this is now a limited hamlet,” Fain asked.

“It will remain so unless you have a need to restart our war,” she replied.

“I need no such thing,” Fain responded.

“That would be most obliging to us. In truth we have been poor stewards of your tree and the fruit it supplied is most dwindled,” she added.

“Do you wish a truce and will allow us to return and care for the trees?” Mach asked.

“We need no truce. We neither see ourselves as victors or at war. We wish to live within our ways and you as well. Our people lack the foods that can even support our reduced size. We would bargain to provide labor and support if you will care for the trees and help them to produce,” the new queen answered most sincerely.

The accord reach that day ended the first fairy war. From hence to today the sects and the fairies lived side by side in a mutual beneficial relationship.

As for Fain he eventually succeeded to the throne and his reign was dedicated to his brother. Prosperity did return to the kingdom and all was well for his time. However, once Fain was gone a new controversy arose that pitted Fainians against Fables as Fain left no heir. This be where a larger than most lad named unfairly Puck does comes to contribute to fairy legion.

Pucindale was a middle youth when news came of his uncle’s death. It had been most known that the old King was nay in good health, so his demise was of no great issue. The query of succession was thought to be set as one young boy Dirk Bagg was to follow his father as king. However, a challenge was claimed by several noblemen due to the boy’s uncertain heritage as it was claimed that he be of illegitimate origins.

All of which never even made a robin’s beep in the village of Emph. For Puck life with his mother was of a blissful nature. Puck tended the Rowan trees demonstrating abilities much like those of his father. Being the largest around and yet of a mild nature made Puck one of the favored in the small community. He gladly used his largeness to aid neighbors with their tasks and when a harvest was due, Puck lead the way to pick and load the crop. He even carried to the sect queen the shared portion in payment of the labor contributed by them kind.

So when the courier from the royal court arrived with a message for the gentle giant, Puck was taken off his shield. He open the summons and was made innocent by the command that he should attend a meeting called by the King’s Council in the capital city, Caledon, one day hence. The message further required his mother Shareeb to attend. It had been years since she had attended court as she and her brother-in-law were never close.

The trip was more arduous for Shareeb than either she or Puck had anticipated. They had dressed rather simply as they knew the roads were rough. However they had not foreseen the numbers of persons on the roadways. It seemed that many more folks were leaving Caledon than going to it. These things delayed their arrival by many hours and so it was well into the night when they passed through the city gates of Caledon. As few ever traveled the roads by night, there was no one to greet them or show them to a lodging. Given the lateness of the hour the guards at the gates merely allowed them to pass without inspection and returned to their rest. Puck searched and found a stable for them to sleep in until the morning. This actually proved fortunate as forces had gathered the day prior at the gates to both facilitate their coming and to disrupt it.

The following morning Puck found early market venders setting up and purchased food and water. Again despite Puck’s large size no one knew of him here and so his uniqueness failed to arouse interest or than the usual cat calls by fools who no better ways to pass the day. He did hear from the venders that a poor unfortunate man and an older woman had been murdered the day before just as they had been allowed to pass through the gates. The perpetrator of the crime just seem to vanish into the crowds. He had not been caught. They supposed that the two dead souls had been killed for their monies as they were well dressed individuals. Puck informed his mother, who seemed very disturbed by the story. They found lodging that afternoon in a small, run down inn far from the palace. They decided to wait until the following morning when Shareeb would be fully recovered from their travels.

The following morning once they had refreshed and replenished they walked to the Royal Mile road and then on to the palace. While Shareeb recalled the edifice, Puck did not. He was amazed by its size and grandeur and so he appeared like the average itinerant drifter caught up in the grandiose of the big city.

That being the case he drifted into the courtyard with his mother among the travelers and tourists as the daily ritual of trade and show began. It was noisy and busy with barkers selling trinkets and games of chance (with literally no chance of winning). In Queen Keiiey’s rein there was none of this but old and debilitated Fain was little able to deny the daily affair as the crown had need for the tax revenue obtained by the commerce developed inside the gates. It was no secret that Fain was a poor manager of funds and that sinister entrepreneurs had moved in to take advantage of his dotage.

Shareeb glared about with a look that froze many in their pursuits. As the expected din of monitory exchange quieted an official stepped out from one of the balconies about to see what the matter was.

“Who causes this disruption,” he shouted. All eyes turned to Shareeb.

“Disruption?” Shareeb questioned. “I would term it a return to civility,” She continued.

“You there, who be you to interfere in this royally sanction affair?” He shouted down at Shareeb in a manner that was clearly intended to intimidate her.

“Shareeb Princess of Emph daughter by marriage to Sir Padum and Lady Fevee, and…widow of the beloved… Prince Fable,….SIR!” She shouted back with more reverberation and authority than this man could ever hope to achieve.

The man drew in a deep breath and looked like he was about to be sick.

Shareeb pointed to the closed palace door and continued. “OPEN THE DOORS and let my son Pucindale and I… ENTER! As for the rest of you vermin….BE OFF WITH YOU!” For an old woman she still could command respect. The court yard cleared immediately.

Once inside the man who had challenged her, tried to explain his rudeness. Shareeb ignored the lout until he said. “Dear Lady…”

“Your Highness or does this Kingdom still have royal protocols,” she snapped back at him.

“Indeed your Highness, it is just that we heard rumors that you and your son be dead,” he managed to respond.

At this Shareeb halted her stride and again turned on the man. “Who be saying this?” she asked of him.

“Lady Feef,” he immediately answered.

“LADY…Feef, the whore of Bubbinburrow ?” Shareeb inquired.

“Um….well she be from Bubbin…,” he began. Shareeb’s look told him enough for him to understand that he not need to continue. “Your Highness the throne room is….” Another glare from Shareeb silenced him for good.

Puck for his part was rather enjoying seeing his mother displaying her royal boldness once more.

The throne room was a depraved image of its former self. The prior splendor it once enjoyed had vanished. Anything and everything of value had been removed and sold or stolen. Shareeb averted her gaze as she came to grip with the reality and misery that Fain’s finally days had brought.

“What is the meaning of this?” a small boy said as he peered down at them from what amounted to a wobbly old chair precariously balancing upon a rug draped wooden box, where once the royal throne had stood. The lad wore a crown of sorts appearing to be more of the quality of a child’s toy than something anyone who ever ruled would have placed on their head.

“What are you supposed to be?” Shareeb asked.

“I am His Royal Majesty, King Dirk Bagg,” the lad said pompously.

“Hades you be,” Shareeb responded.

“Shareeb?” a woman just entering the room said. “How did you… find your way here?”

“Feef,” Shareeb muttered under her breath. “You mean you thought we were dead.”

“Well there had been stories of a past unfortunate incident,” Feef began.

“Yes unfortunate but the question it seems be how far in the past was this event assumed to have occurred,” Shareeb volleyed back at her.

“Why whatever do you mean?” Feef answered curtly her cold, icy stare matching Shareeb’s. She then stood next to her son on the faux throne.

As the two women fixed each other with determined countenances their sons did as well. Puck then drew closer and his size produced a conspicuous withdrawal from Feef and Dirk. Puck began to walk about as he studied them. For their part they tried to remain in place but Pucks presence made them most uncomfortable. No one said another word for several long minutes until a nobleman leading a troop of palace guards arrived.

Shareeb regarded the nobleman and the two obviously recognized one another.

“So you live Shareeb,” the nobleman said as he directed the guard to take up positions between the mothers and sons much to the relief of Feef and Dirk. He was Fain’s closest friend and right hand man.

“Renshaw I see you outlived your King. We are glad to be invited here to claim the crown and save us all from the imminent demise of the realm,” Shareeb cried out.

“The matter has been addressed as you and your son were considered lost to the realm,” Renshaw stammered.

“I would have thought that the royal messenger after meeting with us, would have returned with our acceptance of your invite. Surely his report would have been enough to set aside such lies as to our demise,” Shareeb replied.

“He never returned,” Renshaw replied with a facial expression of guilt. “We are limited by our means of support. The funds are sparse here.”

“I see so you did not bother due to ‘limited funds’ to do your job and follow up or question any of these events as perhaps acts of treason,” Shareeb responded as she stepped closer to him. He too backed away from her.

“How dare you,” Feef interrupted now feeling secure behind her guards.

“SILENCE YOU OLD COW,” Shareeb shouted as Feef slunk back again. “So this is how the kingdom now runs. Thieves steal the palace bare, couriers are murdered, and noblemen are cowered while an illicit little brat sits on a pretend throne?”

“We do what we can,” Renshaw finally replied after several long, quiet moments.

Shareeb looked about and shook her head. “Come Puck there is no Kingdom left to save. It has died and knows not how to lie still within in its grave.”

Returning to their rooms Shareeb was exhausted by their day and fell into her bed. Puck sat nearby keeping watch. Late in the afternoon as darkness began to gather a knock came upon the door. Puck grasped his blade and slowly opened the door. A person stood beyond the entranceway. He was tall, angular and dressed in a dark cloak with his face covered. Still even in the growing shadows you could see him scrutinize Puck.

“Thee has the aspect of thy father,” the male person said. “May I arrive?”

Puck raised his arms to the side to indicate that the man should do likewise in order to demonstrate that he bore no obvious weapon. Puck assumed he had hidden ones as only a fool would travel bare. However, Puck was not in fear of what did not lie immediately in hand. The man complied and Puck stepped aside.

Once puck had closed the door, the man dropped his hood. He bore a hawk like nose with grey penetrating eyes that spoke of intelligence. His gaze quickly set upon the room and finally back to Puck. “You need to awake your sleeping mother. It is essential that we all discuss your future,” he said.

“And you are?”

“My name is Mach. I was your father’s most trusted friend.”

“Should not you be older?”

Mach regarded the lad with an expression that revealed admiration. “Excellent observation. I will explain. We have no time to waste. Go wake your mother. Your lives depend on it.”

Mach was immediately recognized by Shareeb although she too found him without continued age from when they last met.

“Time is of the essence as the assassins are closing in,” Mach began. “We must flee now.”

“Back to Emph?” Puck asked.

“You will be no safer there than here. The kingdom holds no place of hiding,” Mach continued.

“Then where?” Puck asked.

“It be the real world then with man kindings,” Shareeb answered.

Mach nodded his head, “We must go there at once.”

“Me should stay… this is my world. That realm be not!” Puck objected.

Mach placed a hand upon his shoulder and said, “Here is not your future. Here is only death. I have seen it.”

“He be exact with truth, Puck you must flee,” Shareeb said.

“We must flee, Mother,” Puck replied.

“No it is too difficult a journey for me. My time has already fled me. Now be your time most true.” Shareeb then gave her son a most lasting hug.

“But…” Puck began when sounds of hard ridden horses approached.

“Out the back whilst I delay,” Shareeb cried as she shoved her son toward the door behind them.

Puck hesitated but Mach grasped his arm. “It be what it must,” he said.

Puck exchanged a loving look with his mother for the last time and left through the door. Three horses awaited them. One would be left behind riderless.

Shareeb grabbed a fire iron and set herself for the intruders. “Prepare to meet mother beastie,” she whispered.

The journey to the real world was at first a long trek from the kingdom into a deep wasteland where the flora did not grow and the fauna dared not reside. The land gave way to non-adhering clumps of loam as the sun and sky did not shine. A pale and soft light hung just above the earth as if the footlights of some peculiar playhouse.

Mach dismounted his horse and indicated to puck to do the same. Mach waved a hand and the horses faded away. “We walk from here,” he said. “Focus only on the light. All other is an illusion meant to keep you here,” cried out Mach as the wind sudden arose as a vortex appearing to form in an instant swirled about them.

Puck was caught up in the sensation quite like an encircling water spout that called out to him. It beckoned him toward it in an effort to lure him in, rather than allowing Puck to walk straight ahead. The sounds and the spout like motions hung on to Puck as each step grew more difficult than the last.

Then abruptly the light grew into day, the noise ceased and a very different world appeared to them. Tall trees hung over them and the air was alive with all manner of sects. Huge flowers hung over head as their path was barely open to the sky.

Mach stopped and peered about. “It is always worse the first time you pass through the porta,” he said.

“What would happen if I veered off course, Puck asked.

“Nothing much, really. You would end up where you started… and you would be year into the future.”

“A year?”

“There is significant time variability here,” Mach said. “You will see.” Then he told Puck of a magic spell that would enlarge him and cloth him.

“But me be large now,” Puck objected.

“Not here,” Mach answered as he suddenly grew very large. Then after multiple fails Puck finally enlarged but to a stature much less than Mach’s.

“Me try again,” Puck said.

“It will not change. You can only get so large. This be my size because it is my nature. In the kingdom the smallness of me is also a spell,” Mach explained.

Puck now became aware of his surroundings. He was in a garden area and beyond the confines of the place were buildings and most large people similar to Mach. “I be truly small,” Mach sighed.

“Yes but you will still pass as a human, just a short one,” Mach assured him.

“It be a most unfortunate spin of events.” Puck frowned.

Mach nodded but said nothing more about it. “Come we will go to my lodgings.”

Puck followed him as best he could with shortened legs.

“Puck one other thing you should know about this place and it is important. If you die here your essence does not go back into the magic as it does in the magical realm,” Mach explained.

“It does not! Then it be mortal to die here?” Puck asked.

“Yes and no, as it is the end of one form and the beginning of another but different than fairy passing,” he responded.

“Me be small and mortal and this be better than Emph?”

“Actually yes because here you will establish your new kingdom and it will be unbounded by the limits of trolls that now effect your world.”

“Trolls be the ones who have taken the kingdom to ruin?”

“Yes Feef be in league with them.”

“Me feel most ruinous for me kind then,” Puck said.

“Which, my good fellow is why we will start over here, mayhap in the wood we just be in,” Mach said.

As they walked a man engrossed in his reading almost ploughed into them.

“Best be careful where thee walk, Will,” said Mach.

“What oh, please pardon me…uh Mac…,” Will stammered.

“McDonald,” Mach responded. “Your neighbor.”

“Yes, yes indeed McDonald,” Will replied. “Pardon Sir I be soft in my head when browsing one of my works. And who be this lad?”

“My nephew uh…,” as Mach spoke a small bird with an orange breast lighted on a nearby tree branch. “Robin…,” Mach said.

“Goodfellow,” Puck quickly added as he reached out and shook Will’s hand. “Robin Goodfellow. Please to meet you Sir.”

“Yes Robin this is William Shakespeare,” Mach said. “He is a playwright.”

“The term playwright is something I am unfamiliar with,” Puck said.

“Unfamiliar? From where do you hail son?” Will asked.

“Fairy…” Puck began.

“Fairfield in Liverpool,” Mach hastily added.

“Oh yes within Merseyside County. I know of it,” Will replied dropping Pucks hand. “Here for a visit,… Robin?”

“What…no, I mean yes but I will also be looking for work,” Puck added.

“Really what type be that?” Will asked.

“I am handy with tools and I be strong… for me size,” Puck replied.

“I could use someone of those talents,” Will said. “My wife keeps upon me to fix this and that but I seldom make it through to the end of a chore.”

“If ya be willing Sir, I could lend my services,” Puck said.

“Good, good…ah,” Will hesitated.

“Robin…Robin Goodfellow,” Puck restated.

“Yes, well Rob come by tomorrow early as the cock crows and I shall find work for you.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Puck replied just barely before Will was off again his nose buried in his manuscript.

Puck and Mach watched him go. “Is he any good this… playwright?”

“Yes I have even seen some of his plays. They were quite good. ” Mach offered.

“Plays… like staged events?” Puck asked.

“Yes it is considered to be a form of amusement,” Mach replied.

“He seems so…distracted,” Puck noted.

“Yes it is his way. Well let’s be on shall we?” Mach said as he began walking again. “You have been here only minutes and you already have employment. It is a very good start. Your mother would be proud.”

Puck stopped for a moment as he pined for his mother but he refused to dwell on her fate. She had always been strong and even if she had died protecting him, his mother was his hero to the end. She deserved better than a self-indulging pity party. He would emulate her and take pride in who she was instead.

Chapter Five: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

When Puck showed up early at the Shakespeare house the following day only his wife Anne was awake in the kitchen making breakfast. She of course knew nothing of the arrangement but gladly sent Robin out to fetch more wood from the bin. To Puck this sounded like an easy task until he found the wood bin to be twice his height with a large heavy metal lid shut and closed by a latch just beyond his reach.

Undaunted he found an old crate which Puck turned upside down next to the bin.

He then scrambled up open the lid of the bin and found several pieces of cut wood neatly stacked up to just below his reach. Again unconcerned and fearless Puck leaped inside the bin. Of course the lid shut on top of Puck. About this time Susanne the oldest Shakespeare daughter came outside to retrieve water from the well. She heard Puck trashing about as he tried to find his footing in the dark upon the loosely bound wood.

Opening the lid, Susanne looked down upon the now well-lit Puck. He smiled sheepishly back at her.

“Look here little man what you think you’re doing there?” Susanne asked.

“I am doing what Mrs. Shakespeare’s asked of me,” Puck explained.

“My mother told you to lie down in the wood tub?”

“No she asked me to fetch wood from the … what did you call it?”

“Tub…a wide, open, deep, typically round container with a flat bottom used for holding objects usually liquids but since we haven’t the money to replace the old bin we use this.”

“You certainly know about quite a bit about tubs,” Puck said.

“My daddy taught me to read. He thinks I am as shrewd a lass as there be in this village.”

“Indeed, you sound so to me. Umm could ya lend me a hand?”

Susanne reached down and Puck took her two hand and pulled himself up to a level support he sound on the inside of the metal container. He then reached down and began handing Susanne pieces of kindling. After that Puck helped her pull up the well bucket and then held her bucket as she pour the water from one to the other. All in all it was a beginning of a mutual friendship and assistance relationship between the two of them.

By the time they had reached the kitchen once more the entire household was engaged in early morning activities. Will was preparing to go to his theatre for an early rehearsal. He had forgotten all about inviting Robin Oddfellow to work for him. Puck quickly corrected his name to Goodfellow which served to make no impression upon Will what so ever.

The couple’s younger daughter Judith remarked, “The little person is funny.

“Don’t mind her,” said Susanne. “She is just twelve.”

“Well you are just two years older than me,” Judith shoot back at her.

“And it shows,” replied Susanne.

“The both of you need to shush and get to the table to eat your meal,” their mother called out to them. “Robin have you eaten?”

“No but I can wait until I get back to my uncle’s place. He…”

“Nonsense, sit over there at the high bench on that pillow and eat,” Anne instructed.

He got a bowl full of some mashed grains and cooked fruit and topped with milk along with a couple pieces of bread. He was unsure of the concoction at first but after taking a bite, Puck rapidly took it all in and then had a bit more.

“It will make you grow,” said Judith.

“Well I am already full size and quite large for a fairy person,” Puck responded.

“Fairies aren’t real,” said Judith.

“He is just deluding with you,” replied Susanne.

“What’s ‘luding’ mean?” Judith asked.

Susanne just rolled her eyes as she cleared the table.

Puck spend that day helping with household chores and familiarizing himself with the new tools he found in a shed behind the house. Hoes and rakes look the same, but shovels were bent more than Puck had come to expect which made digging for him much more difficult. To Puck a hammer and a mallet were the same thing. He had never seen a chisel. Saws were about the same however even if they were a bit too long as well. Puck did not despair his lack of size or the unwieldiness of his tools. Rather Puck embrace the challenges of the same and moved ahead with jobs assigned and being persistent managed to perform in excess of expectations. As Will was often off for London to work, Robin Goodfellow was asked to stay and reside within the house in quarters that we designated for a servant’s keep. On occasion Puck would find himself alone after all the others were to bed and yet he was not yet so drowsy.

During these whiles he would return to the master’s study and read the plays that were yet fully scripted. On such was Hamlet which intrigued him much. Having learnt that the Shakespeare’s had lost a son named Hamnet, the name upon the covering peaked his interest. Once Puck discovered that the main character and his father were Hamlet he wondered if some of his master’s feelings for his lost son was manifested within the writings. To Puck’s keen mind there was no such reference but the inner feelings of Hamlet were strong and did suggest nature of loss upon that boy. His awareness of own being was raw and marked by the comprehension that much could be spoken and yet some truths remain unexpressed and cloaked in feigned insanity. Hamlet’s sentiments were fluid, disordered, broken and unsolvable. Were these his master’s inner thoughts concerning the loss of his child? Was his writing about Hamlet the solace and relief to his own grief?

It was unknowable as Will never would share his inner thoughts maybe not even with his wife. However, deep despair was expressed in their private moments and lack of undisturbed slumber. Puck knew this as fairies have keen hearing and his bed chamber lay beneath theirs.

“To die, to sleep — to sleep, perchance to dream — ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” (Hamlet)

The play, Puck came to realize was the message and communication of enflamed emotions. Though the distraction of his thoughts were the muses whispering and interfering with his mind. Puck knew of these intruders. They be inspirational goddesses of literature and were the daughters of Zeus. Invisible and soundless they communicated directly to the intellect. The muses meant no harm but still their effect over time was too great and served more to rob the man of his rationality. So to attend his master better, Puck sent them away which required assistance from Mach.

Mach late one afternoon invited Will to join him on a walk in the woods. As they proceed there the muses spoke of thoughts of the summer wind within the trees and joys of nature. They whispered stories of the hunt and bold knights and as they did Mach engaged Will such that such accounts were easily lost upon the man and he relaxed and for once let the muses’ noise cease within his mind. Puck then cast a spell taught to him by his mother. The muses were made confused and for a while were lost within the wood. It was a trick that Puck did regret but it ministered an ease upon his mind and Will could more effortlessly sleep.

For quite a while after however, Will seemingly lost his skill to script his plays and so a fear of failure began to grow within the man. Not wanting to cause him displeasure Puck intervened and became his muse instead. When Will was home Puck bayed him to read his works and Puck grew to be his theatre audience. And often after hours of back and forth about Will’s tales, Puck would again cast a spell upon Will such that sleep would come warm and with absence of thought. And when his master had gone to bed, Puck did write within his manuscripts Will’s thoughts and some of his own in a hand so much like Will’s that he could not part them. If Will knew or could recall of these event, he never did say. However, much of what were said between them became parts of the many plays later written. As well Will continued to find his release from continued despair.

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended:

That you have but slumbered here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream.

Chapter 6: Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Puck spent much time with Susana and Judith much like a babysitter might these days. Still as the children grew so did a link between Puck and Susana. At first it was mere brother like and protector as well as guide to things of nature. Puck would take them for walks and demonstrate a few fairy tricks such as in the fall changing the colors of the leaves from green to red and yellow before their very every eyes. And at times conjuring the songs of birds in an ever heightening chorus or the same for crickets on a summer’s eve. Their delight when young amused him and make Puck feel special. However, that singular honor did create a grander effect upon Susana as she became near of age.

It was Mach who noted it to Puck after a time the four of them spent gathering wild flowers on a late spring day.

“She is infatuated with you Puck,” Mach declared when the two girls were farther off than they.

“Aye she be a wondrous child,” Puck said to him.

“She is no longer as much a child as she is a budding woman or haven’t you noticed?”

Puck turned red as he tried to beg off a reply. He had indeed noticed and it was something he had tried to avoid considering to himself. But now Mach had seen it in them both and it must have been most apparent.

“It is said that humans cannot mix with fairy kind. Their ‘togethering’ is unjust to the world,” Puck said. “My mother told me this once. I often wonder why.”*

*This be non-truth, as I am proof. However, it once be thought…Kess.

“She had the vision from what I have learned in my times with her. It was not a seeing but rather the gift of knowing what might be. I was told this by your father,” Mach replied.

“So I must end it before it becomes a way?” Puck asked.

Mach merely nodded.

After that Puck spend less time with the family and more time with Will in the theatre. There Will paid him less heed as he must be just one more performer. Thus Puck’s time as a muse gradually grew less significant.

Still one bright moment did occur to make Puck a fortunate soul.

Late one afternoon in mid-summer, Puck was helping build on the stage in order to allow more room for sword play. Steps and elevations were built to allow the actors to lift their scenes and emulate sword play upon higher ground for all to better see. Puck was busy sawing planks when unexpectedly his eyes lifted to meet the gaze of a pretty young and rather short girl with rather curly red hair who had come with food for the builders.

When her cobalt blue eyes met Puck’s brown eyes it was as if an auburn stone had skipped upon and then been swallowed up by a cool mountain lake on a sunny day. Puck was frozen stiff by her presence in the playhouse. She carried a basket full of eatables but Puck was not hungry for this. Now he was as if he were a man stranded upon an isle and had just been visited by a mermaid. It be a dream he thought and before he could say a word she had left.

Another worker nudged him and asked if Puck be in a fit or something? Puck shrugged it off but inquired as who the maiden might be.

“Oh she owns the Jinni Bakery. It is said that she gives the place a touch of magic. But be with care my fiend Gloriana is a different soul. She shines with hidden charms and tricks. It is said she is half fairy ya know,” he said with a laugh. “She be a test for many men and none can match her wit and winsome. It is as if she puts a spell on them to wear the head of an ass.”

Puck turned to look at the man and was stunned to see him to appear now to be quite serious. Puck decided that he needed to stop at this bakery when he had time off several days later. The shop was not but a short walk from the theatre in London. This being quite early in the morning few folks were about and as Puck approached the shop he could see the staff working diligently by the light of the new day. At first he did not see her as Gloriana was much less tall that the others and so she was often concealed by the counters and furniture. Eventually Gloriana took note of him. She motioned him to come to a side door.

Puck rounded the building and was almost struck by the door when she opened it. Gloriana stood above him as a set of two steps separated them. “So it took ya long enough to come see me, now didn’t ya,” she said with the sharpest of a Scottish accent.

Puck’s heart sank a bit. Somehow he had really wanted to believe that she was a magic creature but how could that be with such a brogue. “I was working in the theatre until this very day,” he replied.

Gloriana looked snappishly at him and then about before she said, “So tell me why does the next King of the Fairies works at such a menial job?”

Puck gawked at her for several seconds. Gloriana just beamed back at him.

“You be as feisty as they say,” he replied.

“Have to be to keep up with the likes of these human kind.”

“When are you free?”

“Late morning. Ya want to go shoppin’ with me?”

“Indeed I would.”

“In the meantime ya had your start-on (a term which fairy folk use at times for the word breakfast),” Gloriana asked.

“Not had time yet,” Puck replied.

“Spend time here while I ply ya something’,” she replied.

Her word usage was definitely from the old world and in specific, the fairy land. Puck was most excited to see what else this clever young maiden had within her.

They met at her shop later and walked the many blocks to a particular square where she liked to buy her provisions. They chatted about little things while walking. And Puck was so taken with her that her failed to notice much else. It amused Gloriana that he was so heedless of his new surroundings.

“What,” asked Puck after a while as she could not suppress herself?

“Look about ya Puck and tell me what ya see.”

“And there,” he said. “I just told you my name was Robin Goodfellow and yet you called me…

It was then that Puck saw for the first time that the square that they had just entered was filled with all manner of pixies, brownies, sprites, clurichaun, far darrig, elves and even a leprechaun or two. Puck stopped and stared.

“Welcome back Your Majesty,” Gloriana said.

“Back?” Puck questioned.

“You be within the magic world again. This place be here for us creatures to pass between. I be sent to inform ya of the need for you to return and be claiming back your rightful crown,” Gloriana declared.

“But Dirk…,” Puck began.

An elderly elfin man approached and spoke, “Old King Bagg is on his least good legs and the kingdom is in a poor condition.”

Puck listened as they told of the woes and sorrows that had befallen them since the reign of Dirk. At first Dirk had united them in a false need to defeat the trolls and ogres before they would attach their kind. Puck knew from Mach that Dirk’s mother had been in league with the trolls. Apparently it was an affiliation that was expendable for Dirk.

In what seemed a great and noble fight, they had won. However, then came greed and avarice as their unity collapsed and the spoils of war became the cry of the victors. Eventually infighting began and all that was gained fell back into the enemy’s hands. The war raged on for many years and eventually a peace of sorts came when both sides lost interest in the fight.

“This is as if many, many years had passed,” Puck said with some incredulous and confusion.

“It has Your Majesty,” replied the old elf. “Time be different here.”

“I am not a king but a mere working person as was my father. King like actions be foreign to me,” Puck explained.

“It be me duty to teach you of these things,” Gloriana exclaimed over the groans and complaints of those folks who had gathered around Puck. “We agreed that King Puck would need some time to sort through all that we have laid upon him,” she continued as she quickly inserted herself into the discussion.

“But we have longed suffered,” one sprite spoke up and the crowd roared behind his words.

“And whose fault does this be owned by, but us and not King Puck. Ya still desire instant fulfilment of your yearnings without a blade of grass from your fields of sorrows.”

Even Puck at this point did not know what exactly Gloriana was saying but he decided to speak up in order not to be found to be a weak person. “I am grateful that you have come to seek me out in your times of need. I will take your request most mindfully under deliberation. I will need time to focus my thoughts on how this may come to pass. I will require much more information in order to understand the need and potential responses. Gloriana will coordinate the efforts for such knowledge to be brought forth to me. I request your patience as it is of necessitude. To wage another war at what cost be it to lose once again within our own lands? What price is too small or too great?”

This had the effect Puck desired as the group became calm once more. There was much conversation with those present concerning the difficult times that had come upon all of the kingdom. After a while of thoughtful discussion Puck left with Gloriana and their provisions.

“That be an excellent speech and exchange with our folk,” Gloriana declared after their return to the human realm.

“It is mere words filled with emptiness unless I find a way of providing a path out of desolation. And you my good woman lead me there without a though of preparedness. I am most displeased with thee.”

For the first time since Puck had known Gloriana she was still.

Puck stayed true to his words and studied the needs of the magic beings as he pressed on with life in the human realm. However his time here seemed less like one he would be able to sustain.

The Forest of Arden in Warwickshire, near the home of William Shakespeare.

“The idylic life inside the forest. It diverges with the “fallen” world outside this forest,” Will said. “The Forest is a magical place, where strange coincidences occur, strange apparitions appear, and where people are transformed through self-discovery, or by finding love.”

“I apologize Sir but do you not mean contrasts rather than diverges?” Replied Robin Goodfellow. “As it would be opposing rather than simply an off shoot.”

Shakespeare glowered at the lad. “You play Puck, a clever, mischievous elf, sprite or jester that personifies the wise knave. Am I correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Then knave do not correct me as I contemplate the play!”

“Yes sorry sir….” The lad stalks off in embarrassment as he did so he ran into a friend.

“It would be wise Robin if instead of correcting the playwright, perhaps you should demonstrate to him how you would make the play better,” Mach suggested.

Puck nodded thoughtfully.

“All right take it from the top,” Will yelled.

It was all quiet on the set. In the scene, a company of actors led by Bottom was rehearsing their play in the woods.

Will looked at his fellow actors. “Where is that prop boy with the donkey costume? The rude mechanicals, you see, will ride the donkey off the set after their rehearsed scene. He’s their mode of transport.”

A fantastic crashing sound was heard as a man with an ass’s head stumbled onto the stage struggling to pry off the prop.

In doing so, he tumbled over and knocked down the actors and the brick wall prop came crashing down.

Everyone was laughing hysterically, except a perturbed Will Shakespeare. “What in the blazes? Who dost destroy my set like a complete ass?”

A muffled sounding elfish voice apologized profusely. “I be at fault, Master Shakespeare. This, I fear, is Puck’s last disaster.”

“Thou hast that right. I should sack you this instant. I should bid you good night.”

“It’s all right, Will,” said Kemp, Shakespeare’s top comic actor. “In fact, this gives me an idea for my Bottom character. He should have his head turned into a donkey’s. He acts like a jack ass and he becomes one.”

“I see. There is a certain dreamy quality to it plus it was damn funny to watch that skinny green hose wearing kid stumble about. You’re all right, Puck. You’ve made magic happen.”

By this time, Puck had pried off his mask at great effort and was showing a rather perplexed look. Magic? Did they know about fairies, then?

“I’m passing good at spells but the real talent lies with my Aunt Titania.”

“Yes, a little magic is just what we need in this play,” Will Shakespeare said, smirking. “Now maybe an evil fairy king can put a spell on the actors in the woods. It’ll be a good contrast to the tragedy of the jilted lovers.”

“About that,” Puck said, emboldened by his accidental rewrite of the play. “I sort of got confused and handed the wrong cue scripts to the wrong young lovers.”

Ned Allyn, who was playing Lysander, ran onto the stage with an angry look on his face.

“Now see here Puck, I don’t know what trick you’re trying to pull but all of us actors are now confused about who loves who. You’ve thrown our actors for a loop.”

“Oh no,” Puck said, shaking his head in shame. “I’ve made a rotten mess of your troupe: A nightmare. Master Shakespeare. It’s clear. My services are no longer needed here.”

“No, no, no my boy!” The Bard said after considering the consequences of the lovers pursuing other partners. “You’re idiocy has rewritten this play to something better, you see. The actors in rehearsals seemed bored as hell. But now a comedy of confused love has now befell my love-stricken youths. A comedy of a silly sort is now my aim. You are to be given credit, not blame.”

“It was rubbish before,” said Kemp. “But I absolutely adore. These silly mistakes. What if we take our stagehand here and make him the fairy that took circumstances that were ordinary and mixed them up into something like a weird midsummer night’s dream.”

“Aye, Puck will you join our acting team?” Shakespeare implored.

“But I’ve messed things up. Why are you not offended?”

“Because,” said the Bard, “through your accidental magic, all my plot holes are mended.”

And so it was that the great playwright hired a fairy actor to set his sloppy play right. And it was more magic than accident. But Puck didn’t want anyone to know that real fairy magic was behind the show.

That be how it came to be that some write named Shakespeare gained great fame. Puck stuck around to play himself in the show. But he soon moved on, and eventually he knew that he must go back to the land of fairies. Gloriana stayed close by his side and their relationship did grow after she had learnt that King Puck was indeed a different soul than Puck the writer and actor be.

However first Puck established a home of his own in the Forest of Arden. This was his sanctuary from all the demands now being laid upon him. Gloriana stayed there too but only in the capacity of servant.

It was here that he be was happy for a time. However, eventually he decided to return to his homeland to confront Dirk.

Puck’s and Gloriana return was back through the whirling maelstrom which now seemed less menacing. It as night once he had regained the realm and the air was filled with fireflies which here were actually flying fairies carrying lighted tiny lamps to lead a stranger’s way.

Initially Puck was less of an interest to the local population than one may have expected for the land was fraught with misfortunes including poor crops, endemic poverty, lawlessness and loss of comradery or caring for one another. Puck wondered the larger towns and villages searching for that which he once embraced about his kind love of self and others, cooperation, a sense of family and he found none. Worn down by it all he decided to visit his home. The farm was gone as lands lay fallow and dead. His house now reduced to rubble. He did find his parent’s graves as well as relatives both recalled and unknown. His mother’s headstone simply bore her name. There was no date of words of kindness engraved upon the simple headstone. Puck cleaned up the cemetery of debris but the farm was without redemption. He decided that they should leave as it was for in needed much on going care and there would not be any.

Puck found the old house which was simply four walls and rubble. He removed the rubbish and up righted some furniture that still held. He lit a fire in the old fireplace and he and Gloriana ate a meal from their packs. This was no longer his home. It was a sterile likeness of the home he once knew but the joy it once held had dried up and blown away long ago.

Puck wondered if he should stay and start over. He could say farewell to his old life and settle down once more here. His night however, was one of ceaseless dreams of the past but none of the dreams ever ended in a future for him here.

The next day Puck and Gloriana went to the village of Emph. He was not recognized there although one old man said that with his large size (for here he was once again large) reminded him of Puck. Most of the villagers recalled stories of Puck, some were embellished and beyond recognition to even him. But Puck decided that he would convene a group of folks and buy them at bit of ale from the old pub that still stood. Once there after a few rounds he began to entertain folks with his tales of old. After a while someone will ask him how he knows so much about those times and he would say because I am Puck. Gradually the fairy folk come to believe in him as he told his full story. Eventually someone would ask if he would reclaim his throne by confronting the now old King Bagg. After many such request Puck asked if he did confront the king what would be gained. Could the land be saved or their pride return by doing this? Why not he would ask could he not just stay here and start to rebuild the village. Invariable the people saw the king as being the blight upon the land and that nothing would be better until he was gone.

“You knew what we must find here,” Puck said to Gloriana one night before their fire.

“It was what you knew as well Sire.”

“Tonight it is not Sire nor any kingly moniker. I simply be a fairy male in need of your company.”

“It be what thee need it to be and I with it,” Gloriana replied.

“I often fail to understand your meaning, Glo,” he laughed.

“I am sure you won’t fail to this night,” she answered.

So after renewing their souls, Puck and left for Caledon. He did not ask Gloriana to go with him. Puck knew that he alone must go and do this thing.

The city was all but abandoned with few individuals on the streets and even fewer in the squares and open places. The place was almost unrecognizable. The once proud gates lay in tatters. The halls inside were stripped bear with no torches to light the way. The stone floors and walls rang hollow as Puck walked through. In many places the ceiling had given way and the stones lay in heaps great all about. Then there was a sound of pacing and shouts ahead. Puck carefully advanced to the spot from whence it came. There in the throne room walked a feeble old man dresses in tattered robes and foot wear. He brandished a pipe as if it were a sword and swung it about as if he was slaying imaginary beast. Puck studied him for several minutes before he decided to proceed inside and announce himself.

“Are you of need of anything?” he asked.

The man wheeled about clumsily and stared over at him.

“Are you of need, Your Majesty,” he corrected Puck.

“Your Majesty?”

“What ails you man does thou not know your King?”

“Dirk?” Puck said as he moved forward.

The man stood perfectly still as he watched the giant approach. He did not even blink.

“Puck at long last you have returned to reclaim your throne. Tell me why have you not aged as did I?” Dirk replied.

“I have been somewhere where time flows differently,” Puck said as he positioned himself just feet away from the old King.

“The real world?” Dirk snapped.

Puck did not immediately reply.

“Are you here to slay me then?” asked Dirk.

“It does not appear to be necessary as you seem to be well on your way toward death anyhow,” Puck noted. “I suppose though I could avenge my mother murder however.”

“Your mother?” said Dirk. “My men didn’t kill her. In fact she beat them to a bloody pulp.”

“She did?” Puck replied.

“Don’t sound so surprised she was one tough old broad. I had my men, with great difficulty I might add, bring her in to me. I questioned her about where you had gone and without hesitation she said to the real world. Needless to say I was relieved. So I sent her home to your village where she lived out her days in peace.”

Puck was both relieved and happy for her.

“I leave you now old King with piddling left to be called a kingdom. It will die as will you with little note nor much remembered.” With this Puck walked away from the frail old retch.

Gloriana arranged meetings throughout the land as they passed word of the need to migrate to the world of human kind. The distress of leaving was little but the fear of the outside world was what most of their discourse came to be about. There seemed little to bring with that that had much value except the few belongs of a personal nature. At least until they breech the outlying villages in the far north. While speaking in an open public market, Puck was distracted by a shiny object held by a girl child nearby. Puck stopped abruptly and went over to examine the object.

“With much apologies your royalship,” her poor father began. “Please to not be offended. I will toss this useless soft yellow pebble away.”

“No wait,” Puck replied as he held out his hand and the child surrender the chunk of worthless rock to him.

“It be fool’s stone. It has a bit of a shine but little value as rock or metal as it bend and breaks too easily and it is way too heavy for use otherwise,” he continued.

“Do you have much of this?” Puck asked.

“Heavens Sire the land is filled up with the stuff. We ken hardly farm the place without running into the blame stuff,” he answered.

Puck gave the rock to Gloriana and her large blue eyes drew wide. “Gold?” She whispered.

“Please take us to where it be found,” Puck asked.

From that point forward on the fairies had a commodity for trade in their new land. They did share with the other magical people but the leprechauns keep hiding it away which served only to lure the human kind to follow them about in order to steal it from them. The fairies instead doled out enough over wide enough an area per time to obtain a nice about of currency without attracting too much attention.

King Pucindale ruled over in the Forest of Arden over his village of New Emph with his Queen Gloriana for many a day. For the fairy kind Puck’s great success served as an invite to lure them to what had been a scary mortal wilderness. And like Mach they spread out beyond the confines of the forest to new lands beyond and all was well for a period of time as fairy kind kept mostly to themselves and just beyond the sight of most humans.

As for Puck he never saw Will or his wife again but he did chance upon Susanne one more time. She was walking within a dell of the wood when suddenly she turned and he was there.

At first neither did speak but eventually Susanne bid Robin a smile.

“You look well sir,” she said.

“As do thee,” Robin said returning her smile.

“Where have you kept yourself all these days,” Susanne asked.

“Oh wondering about with elves and pixies within the confines of this deep forest,” Puck replied with truth.

Susanne laughed, “I see that fair Puck still lives within you.”

“More than ever my lady,” Puck replied.

“You were my father’s favorite you know. He would have gladly given you my hand if you had but asked,” she said sweetly with no malice.

“And I would have been honored to have made that contract if it were in my power dear Susanne. A last it was not meant to be… or not to be if you prefer…” Puck laughed.

“It was not the question for it be more noble never to have asked than nobler in the mind to suffer,” she answered.

“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” Puck finished. “Your father would have seen the humor of our situation.”

“We were not to be Romeo and Juliette, were we fair Robin?” Susanne asked.

Puck bowed and took her hand and kissed it. “I not be Hamlet either and both be fortunate my lady.”

They said no more as Susanne left the glen where they did meet a final smile linger on her lovely face as she turned to go.

Puck turned to go and ran straight into Gloriana. Her look was of one who might have seen it all.

“It seems your days upon the stage are still within you,” she said coyly.

“Not in the least for my retirement from performing is now very much complete,” he replied.

“Indeed,” she said taking his hand. “Then we best be off from this arena and not find our way back,” she said with her smile wider now.

Puck simply nodded and headed home hand in hand.

Chapter Seven: Princess Zenda

She was born and named Zenda Phaedra Fain Fable. It was a hopeful name that would serve to reunite the fairies as a single identity once more but it was not to be. Over the years since King Pucindale, fairy kind had been attenuated by an influx of all manner of magical creatures. The fairy monarchs had sought to maintain rule over their portion of the forest but the woods had also been thinned by the infringement of mankind. Eventually fairy creatures left to reside throughout the British Isles and Europe. This served to relive the crowding but it also diluted the population of fairies to those of trolls and other creatures significantly. Eventually the trolls began to dominate their weaker brethren. In addition incidents of interactions of magical creatures and man increased. The most notable was a group of fairies that managed to get photographed by human girls. This even succeeded in attracting the attention of notables such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.*

The exposure of this kind has since brought tourist to seek magical beings within the woods with such interest that now only fairy dwelling remain in the village of Emph. Magical kind deserted and were forced out of much of this world and reside now mainly in their own realm. We will learn how this came to be.

Zenda was the only child of Merle the Large the last true king of the fairies in the old order. Merle and his wife Phebryanne were kind and gentle folk of the forest who could not comprehend the abuses trolls set upon mankind. At first King Merle made efforts to cajole the trolls into self-restraint in the best interest of magic kind as human banded together to seek revenge upon the trolls and ended up doing damage to Emph and other areas of fairy dwellings.

*Not to be confused with Sigerson who was originally this person. However earlier in his life Sigerson time traveled away from Doyle and both became separate beings. Sigerson eventually became the author’s father. See the Cassandra Adventures for more details.

The trolls were nay impressed. Eventually King Merle sent soldiers out to control the trolls. This only managed to incite troll backlash and soon the fairies were at war with the trolls and their allies which often included other low ranking magical kind such as banshees, some types of brownies, dwarfs and elves, gnomes, gremlins, hags and hobgoblins. This became a constant conflict which waxed and waned for many years.

Meanwhile Merle and Phebryanne gave Zenda as protected environment as they could. She was kept from away from the outside world as much as was possible. Zenda did not even know of the existence of the warfare and unrest. Her life was refined by elders who taught her the ‘right’ kinds of knowledge and graces. She learnt the old ways of Fain and Fable, the righteousness of Puck and the kindness of fairy nobility. However as Zenda was more cleaver than her instructors realized. An older Zenda began to comprehend that there were other domains that did not fall so neatly into these legends. Her readings smuggled to her by friends within the realm told of strife and misgivings among her own kind. For even as she loved her parents, Zenda came to realized it was not enough to be gentle of spirit and of good intent.

Eventually one night the Guardian came to wake her. She knew him not but knew of him. Zenda was both frighten and sad as she knew what this meant.

“You have come to take me away from here as my parent’s lives as well as my own are in danger,” Zenda said to the man dressed in black. Zenda had heard of him in whispered conversation. Although he looked to be human, he was not exactly this. He had been around since the times of Fable and was his companion. His name over time had been forgotten but Kings knew him as the Guardian who preserved the royal family in times of need.

The man nodded and said, “It is time to go, Princess.”

“And what of me parents?”

“They have chosen to stay.”

“And thee would allow this?”

“It is not mine to say, Princess.”

“Where would you take me?”

“A land far away in a world set a part,” he answered.

“Do not treat me as they do. I be young but not a babe. Speak to me of this place,” Zenda said as she dressed without modesty as this was not the time for such.

“It is rough and mainly untamed but it resides in this realm. There you will be unknown but until your parents arrive you will be alone.”

“Ya mean if me parents arrive,” she replied.

He looked upon her continence with a deeper understanding of the girl. She was intelligent, brash and brave, traits that will serve her well but exposure to the weaknesses of them as well. She would tend to rely on her own intellect primarily. She would make errors of stating too much when silence was needed. And she would not take enough heed of impending dangers. Zenda had much more to learn which gave him a positive inclination about attending to her further growth.

“Waste no more talk,” he replied. “Your horse awaits.”

“I have never ridden,” she replied.

“You are large enough and I have seen your lithe ways in your performances in the fairy games.”

“You spy upon me?”

“I see and observe you for times such as these. Now no more words it is time to go.” He took her arm as he moved Zenda toward the doorway.

“My parents I will see them first!” She said as she jerked her arm from his grasp.

“It will not be possible for they are not here at the castle.”

“Are they already dead?”

The guardian did not reply. Their horses awaited them in the courtyard. He helped her to mount her stead and they were off. Zenda took one look back and bid her old world goodbye. She thought she glimpsed her mother in a window waving to her as they rode out. Still it may have been a wishful thought instead.

They rode into the night as the almost full moon shown through a deck of thin clouds. At first Zenda knew the trail but quickly objects began to morph into foreign forms and the pathway diverged multiple times. Zenda followed the Guardian with blind faith. She wonder why she felt that she could assert such complete trust in him. He was like a companion who had in some way always been there and yet the Guardian was a complete stranger. Her conscious mind wrestled with her hidden self as the two were in conflict about his nature. Still she had little choice as Zenda realized that she had no other path open to her for now.

Time moved strangely and then after a while suddenly it was altered. What had been a cool night was instantly a warm bright afternoon. Deep full clouds covered parts of the sky in puffs of white tops and dark bases. The land was arid and rocky with mountains all around. The air was dry and thin and Zenda felt slightly nauseated.

The Guardian had slowed and then stopped as he looked about with some satisfaction.

“When is this?” Zenda asked.

“When?” asked the Guardian.

“It all changed. Night fell into day and land became most unlike me own. Time evidently changed as well as location. Me want to know first how time be different so quickly,” Zenda explained. “Place be known after.”

The Guardian smiled. His face was not heavily lined as Zenda studied it. This meant that he was not use to such expressions.

“You are correct we travels through time and to be more correct a couple of centuries,” he answered.

“Ahead or back?”

“Ahead.”

“Then we be safe here?” Zenda said back to him.

“Yes, except for the snakes, wolves, coyotes and the locals of course.”

“Then we are in the American southwest,” she asked.

Again he smiled as his face also reflected a query forming upon it. That suited him she thought. He should do more of it.

“I love the study of foreign fauna and flora,” she answered to his unspoken question.

“Welcome to Colorado your Highness,” he replied. She looked thoughtfully at him but now did not speak. Good he thought. She held her tongue. Get more data before asking more questions. He nodded his approval at her. “Come,” he said. “Time to go home.”

Zenda watched him ride ahead a little before she followed. It was odd to think of yourself living in a future so far ahead in time and away from your home. Unexpectedly it made the passing her parents seem less sorrowful she thought as they began to ascend a trail into the mountains. After all they has now been deceased for hundreds of years. It was almost as if they were mere ancient ancestors. Then again they were not and a sorrow hit the pit of her stomach. For a long time she said not a word but followed the Guardian to her new home.

The village of Snowmelt was in a valley at the base of a large mountain of the same name. Their home was upon a small street called Baker. The building reminded Zenda of her home land and their doorway was slightly more elegant than the surrounding ones. The significance of the address meant nothing to her. The first floor was where the dining room was located through an open doorway and it could be seen to the right from the bottom of the entry hall stairs. To the left was a parlor area. A hallway to the right of the stairs led to the rear of the floor and eventually turning left into a large kitchen area. Up the stairs was a landing with a closed door to the left and an open door to the right. The stairs preceded up to the right to another level. They entered the room on the right.

A strange manner of being greeting them inside. She appeared to be made of air but she still had a physical presence. Mach called her Martha Louise or most of the time just Martha. If Martha had a surname Zenda never knew what it may have been. Martha ran the house. In addition she was the cook, house servant and the only individual who was allowed to talk back to Mach.

After tending to their needs which included providing biscuits (in the states they are called cookies) and cold milk, Martha left them but said before that, “Supper is sharp at six missy in the dining room. You will find fresh clothes in your room. Also there is a tub and running water and I suggest that you bathe first.”

After she was well out of sight Zenda asked, “Is she always so….”

“Exacting?” Mach replied. “Yes she was designed that way.”

“So you… made her?”

“Yes, she is kind of an image being with abilities to move objects.”

“She looks rather like vapor at times,” Zenda noted.

“Indeed,” Mach replied thoughtfully. “Come I will take you to your room.”

They walked up to the stair and found a large open area with rooms off to each side. “This floor is entirely your own,” Mach told her. You may use it as you like. There are two bed rooms to the right and left. The one on the right has been designed to match yours from the palace. The left is less ornate.”

Zenda found herself rather intimidated by the one that really did resemble hers back home. “This is startling,” she said to Mach.

“If you find it to be too intimidating we can rearrange it,” Mach replied rather impassively.

“We will see,” she said as she walked further inside.

“Through that door you will find the bathroom. Like the palace there is running water. The fixture are however rather different from what you have been used to. I have designed them to be rather advanced in scope. You will get the knack of it I suspect.

Suddenly another girl appeared at the door. She had the same red hair and cobalt blue eyes that Zenda possessed. She was evidently as startled by Mach and Zenda as they were of her.

“Sorry wrong room,” she blurted out as she quickly retreated from the doorway.

“Wait!” called out Zenda as she ran after the girl. However when Zenda reach the doorway the girl had inexplicably disappeared.*

*Kess also recalls this event now but it seemed to insert itself into her memory rather than initially existing in her recollection of being at the house.

Zenda turned to Mach and said, “She is gone. Was she a vap too?”

“A vap?”

“Like Martha,” Zenda replied.

“I have never seen her before,” Mach replied. “In this house time often varies and parties get temporarily displaced in time. Since I do not know her I suspect that she was from the future.”

“She rather looked like me but she was not me… was she?”

“No but a relative perhaps.”

Zenda studied Mach and then said, “I hope to see her again.”

Diner was a quiet affair with little conversation. Zenda sat at one end of a long table and Mach at the other. He wore a coat and tie and Zenda was clad in a full length yellow and beige dress with puffy sleeves. Martha served them but she did not spend much time in the room with them. Finally with Martha returning to the table to check on their progress, Zenda asked of Mach if Martha could not join them.

“Why whatever for, child,” Martha as she poured more water into their glasses answered before Mach had the opportunity to reply. “I do not eat or drink.”

“But you could stay and talk,” Zenda answered as she looked poignantly at Mach.

Mach stared back in a puzzled manner before looking up at Martha and saying, “Yes do join us Martha Louise.”

Martha was taken back by the statement but slowly she grasp a chair midway between them and sat down. She sat without speaking but she did look at Zenda rather than Mach. So Zenda asked, “So what do you do Martha when you are not working?”

“I always work, every day,” She answered.

“But at night when the guardian sleeps?” Zenda replied.

“Mr. Mach may not sleep for days but when he does I… knit.”

“Oh well you must show me what you have made,” Zenda replied with interest in her voice.

Martha nodded and granted Zenda a soft smile. Then all was quiet for a while.

“I have an idea,” Mach suddenly said as he rose to his feet. “Martha why don’t you show Zenda the town tomorrow?”

Martha turned to face him with puzzlement upon her face, “You will not be joining us?”

“I have much to do. You can handle it,” Mach replied. Martha also stood and as she began removing dish ware from the table. “Yes sir I shall be most pleased to do.”

“Oh good, then tomorrow after breakfast?” Zenda said.

Martha nodded nervously and left the room. Zenda looked to Mach. “She seems taken back by the idea of escorting me about.”

“She should as she has never left our building before,” Mach said as he walked away leaving Zenda to gaze back at him as Mach ambled up the staircase.

The next day Zenda and Martha sent the entire morning wondering the village. First they went to the shops that Zenda had ordered most of their supplies from for the house. She was so pleased to announce that she was Mr. Mach’s personal servant or sometimes chief servant if she wanted to impress them. The truth was that she was both. Around mid-day they stopped for lunch in a small café. It was for real people but her kind, which the word vap began to catch on with folks, could also go. In reality Mach had created a large number of them and most many years before Martha.

They both ordered cucumber sandwiches and lemonade. During her lunch Martha told Zenda about being born. At first she was a mere pattern of thought. She could see in a way. It was like looking at a moving painting that Mach had termed pictures. Martha could not control where she was looking or how long she would watch the objects around her. Finally she began to understand what she was supposed to do. She began categorizing what she saw and why these objects were significant to her. Once she caught on then she began to see more and more. It was an exciting time for her.

“But why did not Mach instruct you about what you were to do?” Zenda asked.

“Well I suppose it was about learning to be an individual rather than something requiring continuous instruction. Some of us…vaps are like that where all they do is certain repeatable tasks. They have little capacity to advance into individuals. Others….”

“Like you?”

“Yes like me, we grow and learn and are somewhat like reals. The more I learned the more I could do. Gradually through my efforts I gained form and substance.”

“Does it bother you that you are not a… real?”

“Heavens no child if I were a real I would have to face all the trials of life with its expectations, incompleteness, failures and disappointments. We do not actually suffer from bad…oh what was the word Mr. Mach used…karma.”

“Karma?”

“Destiny or fate… the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future …”

“Then something I do wrong causes me to have a bad future like my parents dying?”

Martha patted Zenda’s hand and said, “No dear your parent’s deaths involved someone else’s Karma but you were affect as a consequence of it.”

“So we cannot avoid bad things?” Zenda asked.

“From what Mr. Mach tells me, he spends a great deal of his time trying to stop bad things from happening to good folks. However he is just one….whatever he is…being I guess.”

“What is he actually?”

“A spirit being of some kind. God sent him here to foster good in whatever way he can, is what he told me.” Martha said as she re-ate her sandwich several times. She really seemed to enjoy doing this.

The sight of her doing so, made the jest of their conversation a little easier to take but Zenda thought about what Martha had told her for a long while. She for the first time began to wonder why God had placed her here.

In a few short years Zenda grew both physically and intellectually. Her physical strength and abilities were her greatest talents. She became an expert rider, swordsman, and fighter. Mach also taught her the skills of a hunter and a bowman. Her intellect was also a gift as she excelled in languages, math and science. However, strangely as a fairy she did not perform magic well at all. As hard as she would try her spells were weak and ineffective. She decided that it was best that she was no longer part of the fairy world. However, Zenda was to learn differently.

One afternoon as Zenda was practicing running and shooting arrows at targets, Mach suddenly appeared. He looked too serious even for him.

Venda did not rush up to meet him but allowed Mach to close the gap between them at his own pace.

“What troubles you Guardian?”

“Your Kingdom,” He replied.

“I was not aware that I had one,” she said.

“It is your karma that you have one,” he replied.

“It is not what I desire.”

“Your people suffer greatly.”

“Those people….abandoned me and murdered my parents. They suffer from their own karma. It is not mine to change,” she replied most bitterly.

As Zenda had grown older their relationship had evolved. Mach had transitioned gradually to a coequal adult mentor rather than the parental one he had been initially. However, even though Zenda was now an adult she still felt the sting of loss from her youth. This emotional transition had yet to be made.

“You speak with distain and intellectual misdirection,” Mach noted.

Zenda glared back at him but it was more out of displeasure of his correctness than of him personally. “So what? Do I not have a right to believe thusly?”

“Rights are not always the same as responsibilities. You are their touchstone to a life they have not yet know but need to obtain.”

“And what of my needs?”

“We should go back to the land of magic and see what the essential needs are for both you and the people.”

“You are a trickster Mach. I do not trust your intent,” she said as she moved away from him and began targeting again. This time she was not nearly as accurate as she had ben accustom to being.

Mach just watched without further discussion. At first Zenda was calm but as she faltered further she became enraged and then finally she abruptly ceased the training and marched away. Mach did not watch her go. He knew that she needed to cry without him around.

However, she did not do this alone as she sought out Martha. The two of them spent a significant portion of the afternoon together. Zenda retelling her emotions of loss and anger and Martha simply embracing her and listening.

Finally after a while Zenda pulled away from her and said, “You must think me weak.”

“Weakness is being unable to cry. Penning up emotion destroys the soul and mind.”

“How did you get to be so shrewd?” Zenda asked.

“I read a lot and I think about you and Mach both. You are a study in contrasts. He is often unspeaking and alone. You are vociferous and yet also alone.”

“I have you,” Zenda objected.

“I am a vap and thus unreal.”

“Don’t say this. You are very real to me.”

“You need Mach and he needs you.”

“You make him sound like…like”

“A lover?”

Zenda was shocked at her words and she could no longer look Martha in the face. “You speak nonsense,” she said as she intentionally walked a few paces away. “This something you could not have seen.”

“I do not just see, I observe. You have become a woman and he is… well a man like being.”

This made Zenda laugh. She turned toward Martha. “So I am falling in love with a man like being am I?”

“It beats a vap,” Martha replied with a smile.

“Mayhap I need more suiters?” Zenda smiled back.

“Mayhap,” Martha replied laughing herself this time.

They did not speak for several moments. Finally Martha asked, “Do you desire my opinion about a return to the magic lands?”

“I both desire it and dread it.”

“That is wise. You have forced yourself to fit in here in this realm but even here is not a true representation of the real world. It is a sheltered keep. I fear the world beyond is far worse than we can actually image. I’ll never know it but I am sure that you will not desire living in it.”

“So if you have a point to be taken please enlighten?”

“What are you training for?”

“I… do it to better myself.”

“You fool only yourself. You have no stake in that place. You train to return home. In fact you must do so in order to advance your life. Here is what you already made it to be and it can be no more. Just like your suiters will not develop in this space neither will you continue to grow and flower. And Mach must go as well. He can no longer hide from the world.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“He hurts too. No one becomes use to being almost eternal.”

“I thought that he was immortal.” Zenda replied in a shocked manner.

Martha shook her head. “I know this because he said so when I was still just a collection of thoughts. I asked him if I was alive and he said no. The he said be grateful for if you are never alive then you will not know death. I then asked if he knew death and he said yes through many others too numerous to count. Then I asked if he would die and he said that yes even he will cease to be.”

“So here he hides from death?”

“No here he hides from life. He does not grow or interact as he use to do in either world. He uses you as an excuse at times as your protector.

“I have grown into a person who could care for myself,” Zenda objected.

“This is why he encourages you to go home.”

“Like a baby bird I need to fly from the nest.”

“He needs this as much as you do. He must fly from his hermitage.”

“But what of you?”

“I am not going anywhere…literally!” Martha declared as she stood and walked out the door. “But I do expect frequent visits,” she said again smiling back at Zenda.

Zenda watched her go and she felt like she was leaving her mother for a second time.

First they returned to the British Iles and took a few moments to view what once had been New Emph. A few isolated homes remained that were curiously preserved by humans as an example of fairy life in the woods. However, New Emph was long gone now as her people had been too open about themselves and human tended to try and capture fairies for their own. Their relationships with other beings both here and in the magic realm seemed doomed to failure.

Then eventually Mach led Zenda down the path between realms which was difficult now for even Mach to divine at times. “The magic of your world tries to close itself off rather than allow traverse between. It is not altogether a bad thing,” Mach told Zenda.

Zenda began to wonder where she really belonged. Was she a small but powerful human with little magic she could render or an unrecognized fairy royal with no kingdom to call her home to?

The day was crisp and fall was in the breeze as golden leaves had begun their fall from the Rowan trees. There was a feel of enchantment in the terrain flowed out before her in deep green hills and densely leafed forest while a sapphire sky showed above.

“I recall me time here and I had forgotten its beauty,” Zenda said.

Mach said nothing. He just let her stand still taking it all in. Gently after a long while he took her shoulder and pressed her forward. Zenda turned and nodded as she now depended upon him to lead the way.

Several days into the land they took camp beside waters that laid out like some immense lake beyond their eyes reach.

“This be Fable’s Sea?” Zenda asked.

“Yes it goes to the north and eventually it curves back east. It is fed by the Keiily Mountains in the distance,” Mach said.

“You take me in by the farthest way so that I could see the best the land has to offer,” Zenda said.

“It is the land of your forbearers. Its names are like a living tribute to your family. It is your inheritance and providence.”

“Mach, you are most sly and I thank you for the tour. But the fate of this land resides elsewhere. My role here is simply one of an observer. It owe me nothing and I return the favor.”

“Indeed, princess,” Mach replied.

This time Zenda gave him a sharp look but said nothing. They made camp and Zenda sleep under a canopy of bright stars. She dreamed of being a little girl at play in a world at peace.

Crack! A loud noise woke them both from slumber. Dawn was just breaking and the sky was lit with reds and oranges. Below them upon a dirt road a cart lay on its side beneath it reclined a fairy male thrashing about to free himself. Mach and Zenda crossed the distance between in a hurry as the male seemed close to panic. He saw them coming and instead of being somewhat comforted by their approach he began to flail even more.

“Easy my man we will free you,” Zenda called out as they arrived.

“No you are likely road bandits here to rob me of my possessions and likely then kill me,” he shouted back at them.

“Then you would rather we did nothing?” Mach asked.

The stout male looked at him inquisitively like he must have heard him wrong. “If it spared my life and possessions…yes,” he replied.

Mach shook his head and then lifted the cart from him. The little male then quickly rolled over and positioned himself behind the cart in a manner as if to fight them.

“We are here to render assistance not mayhem,” Zenda said.

Before this fellow could utter a reply his cart all but completely collapsed at his feet. He bore an expression of defeat as he looked down upon the ruin. “Make your strike quick and lethal upon the first blow, I beg you,” he said sadly.

“No instead what we will do is make a fire and cook breakfast. We have meat and eggs. Will that due?” Zenda asked.

“You would feed me prior to killing me?” He answered. “What manner of fiendishness is this?”

“A much more civil one,” Mach replied.

“Does you have bacon?” he asked.

Zenda put her arm around him and began to lead him back up the hill. “We do indeed. How do you like it?”

“Crisp.”

“Then we shall make it so,” Zenda replied. “But before we eat you must tell us how you happen to be here….what did you say your name was?” Zenda inquired.

“Fud of the House of Fable,” he said.

“Is that so?” she replied.

“Indeed I am a direct descendant of King Fable hisself,” Fud said proudly.

“I wasn’t aware that he was ever actually the king,” Zenda said as she winked at Mach. Mach just rolled his eyes.

“Well he should have been so. It is much the same,” Fud replied with a bit of embarrassment coating his words.

“Yes I see,” she replied with acceptance of his explanation. “Tell me Fud where do you live?”

“Oh me wife Fay and I live near the Village of Emph or what’s left of it. We are manufacturers ya know.”

“Oh really.”

“Aye me Fay mends garments and makes new ones too. I make…. things.”

“Things?”

“Ah well mostly I fix things that be broke but on occasions I thinker about and make new stuff. Like a hoe with a spear on the other side so ya can break the ground more easily.”

“It sounds useful.”

“Oh yes indeed I have had many request for the same from all sorts of folks ya know.”

“I am sure you have,” Zenda said as she and Fud continued to bond over the important details of his life. He and Fay lived their entire lives in the same place. They knew little of the world beyond them. They had some schooling enough so they could read “what they need to” and write their names. Fud was coming home from what had become a regional market where the old castle had once stood. He went there to sell goods for coin. He had hoped to buy a used cart and supplies for their needs.

“But the selling did not bring much money and the cart… well it had seen its last days,” Fud said rather sadly.

“We’ll help you make a new one,” Zenda declared.

“Pardon ma’am but I have not the coin for the wood,” Fud said rather sheepishly.

“Then we will fell a tree,” Mach said.

“Sir you not be from around here are ya know that the Lord Sheriff requires a hefty fee for that.”

“Who is this Lord Sheriff?”

“He be Ranke.”

“Ranke?”

“You really must be from far away. He is the Troll Overlord here abouts,” Fud said almost in a whisper.

“Oh, I see,” Zenda replied. She looked to Mach who returned her gaze with an “I told you so” expression.

Mach made their fire and Zenda cooked the bacon and some eggs. Fud sat down next to the fire and eagerly consumed a plateful and asked about more. Zenda ended up sharing all of their bacon with Fud who belched his gratitude in a manner that must be how one showed appreciation here now. Zenda took it as funny but Mach did not.

Fud whipped his mouth with his sleeve and said, “I am in most gratitude that you feed me and decided not to be killing me.”

Mach looked down upon him from where he stood to eat and replied, “The day is young yet.”

Fud looked up at him rather like a sorry puppy. Zenda, who now stood on the opposite of the fire frowned and mouth the word stop to him. Mach smiled back at them both. Fud sat there looking confused and a bit fearful of the tall man in the western outfit.

“You be human, right?” Fud asked.

“Something like that,” Mach replied.

“I be told that your type can’t visit here,” Fud said.

“You can if you know the way,” Mach replied.

“So we be able to go back out of our magic land?” Fud asked.

“Why would you want to do that?” Zenda asked him.

“The trolls be unkind overlords. They care not for fairy kind. They say that no one can proceed beyond the vale to the land of human kind. If this not be true then many would leave this very day.”

“How far is it to your home,” Zenda said to change the subject.

Fud stood up and pointed ahead to a far hill. “It be a walk of several turns to arrive just beyond Fain’s Hill. We be getting there just before the mid of the day if we leave soon.”

“Then it is what we will do,” Zenda said. So they broke camp and fud lead then off through the valley and up and over Fain’s Hill.

Fud gave them a walking tour of the landmarks as they went. The valley was where Fable first learned to farm the Rowan Trees. Fain’s Hill is where he defeated the Sects. The Sects had longed passed and it was a shame according to Fud as they kept the trolls away.

The valley beyond was called Emph and not too long after they came to Fud small house. It was a basic one room cottage with a thatched roof and hardened mud brick walls. Fud said that his people had lived there since Queen Keiily reined. Before they reached the house fay came to greet them. She literally sparkled as some fairies still did and Zenda was pleased to see this.

“Now Fud what be you draggin’ home with ya now?” She said displaying a great smile.

Zenda realized that she needed to present herself but thought better of using her own name or Mach’s either.

“I am Cass and this is my…husband Jon,” she answered.

Mach turned and looked at her questioningly.

“Sure who else would a lady travel with,” Fay replied. “Please do come into to our humble dwelling,” Fay replied.

Once inside the modest abode, Fud told the rather remarkable tale of how Jon and Cass had saved him from the trolls. Fay seemed to know full well that her husband embellished the truth and therefore took his words to be less dramatic that said. Fud for his part did not seem to notice.

“So did ya get some supplies with the coin?” Fay asked.

Fud smiled broadly and produced two bags of beans and rice along with an assortment of vegetables. Fay seemed most please at what to Zenda were meager amounts of food stuffs.

“But me chart did not withstand the onslaught of the trolls I am afraid,” Fud admitted to her.

“Well it was utterly beyond its best days that be for sure,” she said as she put their meager supplies away I a small pantry. “Now seeing as ya saved me husband’s life ya be staying for supper now for sure,” she said to them.

“Only if you allow us to supply the meat for your dinner,” Zenda replied.

“Meat?” Fay replied.

“Yes we have slices of ham but I am afraid that Fud ate all of the bacon,” Mach said.

Fay looked to Fud with an expression of shock and said, “Bacon?”

“It be a trifle amount,” he replied.

Mach laid out a supply of ham that made Fay’s eyes bulge. “I am going to set up a camp site for my bride and me,” Mach said.

“It is that time of month so you might want to lay out two tents,” Zenda said.

“No need my precious. Such things do not keep me from my love’s side,” he answered with a sly smile.

“Oh now isn’t that sweet,” Fay said as she took Zenda’s arm and led her to a chair. “I have some salts that help with the cramps my dear if ya be needing such.”

“Thanks,” Zenda replied as she slightly sneered at Mach as he walked out the door.

That evening as Zenda rejoined Mach at their camp fire, she noted that only one tent had been set up but that Mach had placed his bedroll in a covered area nearby.

“I am sorry about my rather clumsy introductions, but I thought that our names may still be recognized by the people here,” She said as she sat down near him.

“Definitely, the locals particularly recall the lost Princess Zenda and her abductor the ephemeral creature called Mach. They do also tell of the tragic loss of her parents King Merle and Queen Phebryanne. They are careful to not name the trolls for their deaths. Still our names would have been taken as either a mockery of their traditions or a source of great concern. Either would be most difficult for Fey and Fud as they are simple folk with difficult lives. If a reveal is to be done it must come at the castle ruins where all manner of public declarations are made.”

“I am not here to make any declarations. I came to see what the land and the people were like,” Zenda replied.

“And how is that working out for you?” Mach asked.

She looked up at him expecting to see a mocking grin but instead she saw only sadness. A sadness she too now shared with him. “It is worse than you portrayed.”

“Unlike Fud I tend to understate. I knew even if I were to express the facts in a manner depleted of emotional content, it would sound disingenuous. Your memories were of a land long past. What it is now is a disintegration of the fairy ways and culture leaving only faded memories of what once was.”

“Camelot,” Zenda replied.

‘Indeed,” remarked Mach.

Many days past in an idyllic fall environment with cool night and pleasant warm afternoons as Mach and Zenda built an adjacent structure comprised of wood from trees. It was little more than a covered space with one door and no windows. Though they had been warned that the Sheriff would take much in coin as tax upon the small lodging Ranke had not yet come.

“Ranke not miss a new chance to collect,” Fud told them.

“That will be fine with us,” declared Mach. “We look forward to the pleasure.”

Of course eventually on a rainy morning the large figure of the troll sheriff stood at the edge of the property.

Standing eight foot tall and holding a club the size of a small tree, Ranke even made Mach seem quite small by comparison. He glared are the new structure and bellowed, “Who dared to make such a building without my permission? I am warning you Fud there will be a heavy fine to pay!”

“The property belongs to me,” Zenda said as she strolled out of the small hut like structure with Mach close behind her. Each of them carrying a sword.

Ranke snarled at them as drooled dripped from his ugly mouth.

“Who are you pixie?”

“Pixie? You dare insult me by such a name you over grown toad,” Zenda roared back at him.

Ranke stiffened at this and then lumbered forward and swung his club at her. Zenda and Mach easily avoided the would-be blow as they parted each moving in the opposite direction. Ranke again growled as he turned side to side trying to maintain them both insight.

“Tell me Ranke how is your vision? I have been led to believe that trolls had difficulty seeing moving objects,” Mach called out to him. Ranke swung at the place Mach had just stood and he found nothing but empty space.

“You mustn’t turn your back on folks as it is quit impolite,” Zenda shouted as she slapped her blade against his posterior. Ranke swirled about and found nothing as Zenda moved in a counter direction. Ranke slowly began turning to his right in a circle and Mach and Zenda kept just in and then out of his sight.

“Stop your games small ones and face me or are you afraid of me?” He shouted angrily. Mach took the opportunity to strike Ranke in the face with the flat of his sword before easily avoiding Ranke’s counter blow. Ranke then began to lumber about swinging madly at anything in his way which eventually was their tiny structure. The place crumbled instantly but the strike released a trap which fell upon the hapless being. He was immediately encased in living chains which magically enveloped him. The more he struggled the tighter the trap enclosed upon him. He cried out in anger and his bellow could be heard for miles around.

“Now there’s a nice troll. Just sit still and the bad old witch’s chains will relax some,” Zenda said.

“You’ll pay for this pixie,” Ranke bellowed once more but as exhaustion overcame him he quieted. “Who?” Ranke finally said.

“Who am I?” Zenda said. “We are sending you to the palace of the Lord Troll, dear me what’s his name Biscuit?”

“Bitcett, Lord Bitcett” Ranke muttered bitterly.

“Yes Bitcett. You will arrive by fairy chart which I estimate will take several days as you pass through village after village bound like this. Get used to them mocking you. However once you are at Bitcett’s palace the chains will fall free.”

“WHO!” he cried out again.

“Tell your lord that Zenda has returned to claim her kingdom,” she declared stepping toward the beast with such a fierce look and tone that it even make the huge troll draw back from her.

“Zenda? Zenda is dead,” Ranke replied.

Zenda jabbed her sword right under his chin in the fleshy sag beneath his jaw. “You will only wish that it were true after I get through with you and your kind,” she said in a whispering breath.

“Chatar!” Zenda shouted and the chart under the chained troll began to move slowly away as he began to shout curses upon them all.

Mach stood next to her now. “You know for a fairy who is not too good with magic you did that spell quite well.”

“You’ll spoil me yet,” Zenda replied. She then turned to see the utterly bewildered expressions on Fud and Fay’s faces.

“It looks like you have some explaining to do,” Mach said.

Chapter 8: The Wicked Queen Zenda

Zenda took some time to sit with Fud and Fay and converse with them about herself and Mach.

“You be her, Zenda, the Zenda Phaedra Fain Fable daughter of King Merle and Queen Phebryanne?” Asked Fay.

Zenda nodded and Fud jumped up and began repeating in progressively emphatic words how he knew it all along. Finally Fay calmed him down and he sat back down and stared at Zenda in silence while his face reflected both wonder and astonishment.

“You be here to free us then?” Fay inquired.

“Yes…” Zenda paused and then continued. “Initially I intended mostly to meet the people and find how they were doing. But Mach….” She said gesturing to him.

“You be Mach?” Fud queried to him. Mach slightly inclined his head. This time Fud drew back and keep his tongue.

“After taking me throughout the dominion of fairies, Mach convinced me that this realm was in such a state that only war against the trolls could allow improvement in our circumstances,” Zenda continued.

“But war with the trolls is not winnable. They are too large and we are weak,” Fay objected.

“That is what they want you to believe,” Mach told her. “Yes one fairy against one troll would be a loss. But many fairies is another matter.”

“Some would die…” Fay lamented.

“Yes,” said Zenda. “The price of freedom is great of that there can be no doubt. I do not ask this of anyone who cannot see that for themselves.”

Fud turned to Fay and said, “What be her words mean?”

“That you need to stay here and…and…”

“And protect Fay,” Zenda finished for her.

“I can do this,” Fud answered immediately as he stood once more and grasped at first a rake and then after due consideration a hoe.

Fay smiled weakly at him. “Fud be most brave as will others. I am sure the cause is noble and many will render aid. I am unsure of the outcome,” she added in a very serious and quiet utterance.

“If I cannot gain the force that I must possess then I will free Ranke before he has returned to Lord Bitcett,” Zenda said.

“And I will confuse his mind in any case such that he could not recall what has happened,” Mach added.

Zenda and Mach soon left them on horseback and caught up with Ranke. Mach soon rendered him silent and content as his magic cart wheeled along. By near darkness they reached the ruins of the old castle of Queen Keiiey. Fairies drew near and inquired as to what was happening but few took up the cause. After another day and a half it was clear that fairy kind had no wish for war with the trolls. Those who had followed them this far were sent back home. Then they released Ranke that third night and he wondered about and eventually he took to the woods toward troll lands.

They camped at the edge of the forest that night. Zenda became despondent and said little at dinner. Finally Mach said, “I apologize for misjudging the response from the people. In Fable’s time the unity was much greater.”

“There are no fairy people, just fairy individuals barely being civil to one another,” Zenda replied. “They see no bond or tradition to connect themselves to a unified cause.”

“Yes, I agree the fairies have no taste for war and have nothing to gather around. There is no sense of identity.” They both fell silent for a while.

“Then perhaps we should give them one,” Zenda suddenly declared putting down her food.

“What?”

“I am thinking of Sir Robin of Hood,” Zenda replied. “I should become the Wicked Queen Zenda who resides in the forest. I will rob from the trolls and give to the fairies. The people for their part will call me evil and wicked and fain support of the trolls against my malevolent deeds. This way I will give them the example of resistance fighters without in sighting the wrath of the trolls or the declaration of war!”

Mach studied her words for a while and then raised his water pouch and declared, “To Your Highness, the Wicked Queen Zenda!”

“And you shall be my,” she said looking at his long lanky frame sprawled out before the fire. “My … Little Jon.”

That evening they set out their strategy. They would keep to the densely wood regions where trolls had difficulty moving about. The trolls deployed best at night as their vision being soundest at night and much poorer within the bright light of day.

Zenda’s hooligans would attack the trolls at mid-day when they slept. Then their band of evil fairies would withdrawal to the thick woods to sleep before twilight. At night they would move camp while keeping an eye for troll patrols that hunted them in the dimness of the timberland.

At first her troop was composed of just a few outcasts who thrived already by attaching fairies and trolls alike on narrow forest roads. Of course attacks on fairy kind was forbidden in Zenda’s Woods. These early soldiers came and went but gradually the core of their men began to form especially when they heard it was just about attaching the trolls. Gradually her band of merry fairies began to number in the hundreds. They took the gold which since Puck’s time became the coin of the realm and bought supplies from friendly folk in the small towns and villages. This in turn brought prosperity to the people all at the expense of the troll over lords.

Needless to say Lord Bitcett was none too happy with Zenda. He placed a hefty price on her head and doubled his troll troops who scoured the woods for her. However, days, weeks and then years passed as the Wicked Queens reputation grew and the trolls began to appear to be weaker and more inept. As for the fairies they also began to be less afraid of the trolls and lent Zenda more and more support. Fay and Fud were eager supporters, who often gave the trolls tacit support and then brought Zenda reports of their movements and operations. This was also the same in many villages across the land. It was said by the people that the elusive Queen Zenda ruled the land but not from a mighty fortress but rather from a hidden forest glen.

Meanwhile Bitcett became more and more infuriated by the situation. However being a troll he had little mental capacity to render a solution for his troubles. Then one day a fairy came to visit him by the name of Mord. Bitcett sent him away several times but the Mord was persistent. Finally Bitcett allow him an audience.

Mord was smallish and almost childlike and if it were not for his very light mustache he could easily been confused for one.

“What do you want?” Bitcett demanded immediately upon seeing Mord.

“I require nothing you Highness. I am here to give you something,” he said.

“And what would that be?”

“The head of Zenda.”

“If you come to mock me, I will behead you for sure,” Bitcett sneered.

“In deed not Sire, as I am most eager to see her dead,” Mord continued.

“And why is that?”

“I am her cousin…distantly. Still when she is passed I will lay claim to the throne and as the new King I would serve as your vassal.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“I wouldn’t if I were you as fairies cannot be trusted.” Mord declared.

Bitcett studied him now more closely, his face was menacingly grim. “You speak in riddles, why?” he replied.

“It is merely the truth oh Lord. I am small and no warrior. My gift is my intelligence. If I were you, I would be eager to hear what my plan was and then if it was gifted enough I would agree knowing that with little effort you could do me in at any time,” Mord answered.

“I am beginning to be intrigued especially by your bluntness, fairy. Tell me more.”

“We can capture her in a trap.”

“Bah we have tried that before many times and we never capture her!” Bitcett shouted.

“Zenda does little of the formal raiding any more as her thieves have taken on this task. However, she would lead a raid if the trap involved you,” Mord said with a grin.

“What!” cried out Bitcett’s lead warrior Khan? “It is a trap your Majesty.” Most of his men now began to roar with anger and call for the death of this fairy.

Bitcett stopped their howls with the raising of his hand. “Go on,” he said to Mord.

“It would be a trap within a trap, Sire. You would lure Zenda in by inviting her to trap you and once this has occurred, your reserves would charge in to capture her instead,” Mord explained. This time when he finished the room was silent.

Bitcett stared at Mord for a very long time and gradually he began to smile and soon after he bellowed with laughter.

At their camp fire that night Zenda sat with only Mach as she had requested his personal council.

“You seem most preoccupied my Queen,” Mach finally said after a long period of silence.

“Will you quit calling me that? We are alone here and I don’t need the man I love elevating my status, just be yourself,” she replied.

“I am in your tent but out in the open I am your faithful follower. It is the respect you deserve,” Mach responded as he tended the fire.

She grimaced and pocked the fire with her stick. Finally she spoke again, “I am with child.”

Mach halted his actions and looked intensely down at her. When she failed to look up, he sat down beside her.

“Aren’t you afraid that the men will see?” Zenda said.

“Are you certain of your facts?”

Zenda now looked at him and smirked. “My facts are quite certain I assure you.”

“I knew that this was possible but I never thought….”

“That I could bear children?” She asked.

“No of course you can. You….you know what I meant,” he said now smiling back at her as he grasped her hand.

“It is not going to be a little mechanical contraption right?” Zenda said.

“No will be a fairy human being,” he assured her.

“Good I really am looking forward to changing cloths and feeding and not winding him or her up,” she laughed.

“I have batteries and transistors for that,” he replied.

“What?”

“I jest.”

Then unexpectedly Zenda drew quiet once more. “What now my…dear?” Mach asked.

“I have a foreboding that I cannot rescind,” she answered.

“About the child?”

“I am unsure if it is that or me or perhaps all three of us.”

Mach said nothing but just held her close.

Several days later Zenda received word that Lord Bitcett and Mord were seen together traveling through a nearby forest in a royal carriage with a small contingent of soldiers. Zenda nodded at the news and then looked to her husband Mach who studied her closely. Her eyes set dark within her face. She nodded once more and Mach swung into action. The men were positioned to intercept the coach just as it passed an open area between sections of wooded hills. Zenda took a place at the advanced party of interceptor. Mach was at her side and Fud and Frey watched from the protection of the woods.

The coach paused before rolling out into the open. Troll men were stationed between the gaps in cover and presently the horses started forward at the mid-point Zenda’s fairy men attached with Zenda at the lead. She avoided the troll guards with ease. In fact she realized that they were avoiding her as well. Zenda set her jaw and raced her stead toward the coach. Bitcett stepped out his sword drawn but held loosely to his side. Mord followed but at the sight of Zenda he drew back near the rear of the coach where troll guards advanced forward to protect their leader.

Bitcett waved off his men as Zenda approached. She dismounted her horse and abled past his guard to face Bitcett face to face. Mord huddled into the rear of the coach. Bitcett dropped his sword to the ground.

“So it would it would appear that you have me surrounded, oh wicked queen,” he declared.

“You might as well capitulate Lord Bitcett you are ensnared by my troops but please take up your sword as I wish to slay you honorably in front of your men,” Zenda said loudly for all to hear.

She held her sword now straight out and only a half a foot from his throat as she took a stance directly in front of him. In the back ground sounds of conflict rang out all about them. Then suddenly a bugle sounded and trolls poured out from the surrounding woods to trap Zenda’s men between the two lines of troll soldiers. Bitcett laughed out hardily.

“It seems oh queen that I have no need to use my sword as I have a trap of my own.”

Zenda did not bother to look about as the trolls encircled them. She also did not drop her sword.

“Ah but it is now your turn to surrender Zenda,” Bitcett declared as he placed his hands upon his hips and roared with laughter.

Zenda did not move as if she could not fathom having lost the initiative. Then a second different bugle sounded a bit father off than the first and hordes of fairy soldiers descended upon them.

Bitcett looked startled and he reached for his sword. Zenda separated Bitcett’s head from his body with one swift stroke. Troll fighters when they heard that Lord Bitcett was dead began to submit to capture. Zenda stood watching the scene when a sudden sharp pain struck her through the back and she collapsed to the ground. She rolled to her left side and saw Mord holding Bitcett’s blade.

After this things appeared to move very slowly and to Zenda she seemed to be floating above it all.

Mord held the sword downward and looked as if he was going to strike her again. Fud suddenly appeared and he plowed into Mord knocking him under the wagon. Then Mach and Fey arrived and Fud told them that he saw Mord about to slay Zenda. Mach demanded to know what had occurred and Mord rolled out the other side of the coach Mord called out to him that Bitcett had wounded Zenda and that he had sliced off Bitcett’s head to protect her.

Mach looked about and shouted at him, “And just how you managed to get his blade from him and cut his throat from the front!”

Mach advanced began to advance around the coach but instantly a person appeared directly in front of him. A woman shimmered into existence. She was dressed all in white.

“We have no time for this if we are to save your wife,” she declared as she placed a hand to Mach’s chest. She then touched a badge upon her chest and she along with Mach, Fud, Fay and Zenda shimmer and dissolved away.

Zenda began to ascend upward into the sky. She enter a vortex of some kind that shown with a bright light at its end. As she approached the light she slowed down and then suddenly she was in a clearing in the woods. It was the most beautiful woods that she had ever seen. She saw fairies walking about, running through a glen and having a wonderful time laughing playing like children even though many appeared to be adults.

Presently a person came and stood by her side. He was a familiar looking fairy and after a short period of time he began to speak to her but not with words but instead through thoughts. They talked about the place they were in and she expressed how lovely it was and how happy she was to be here. The person smiled at her but he shook his head.

“It is not your time yet,” he told her. “You have more to do and you have your child to care for.”

“I have no child,” she told him.

“You will and it is important that you are there for her,” he replied. 
 “Alright,” she said to him.

“Also know that though you be different, you are still the same to us,” he added.

She then began to drift away and it at this point that she realized that she had been talking King Fable.

The next thing Zenda recalled was waking up on a bed of sorts in an enclosed room as mechanical things loomed about her. At first she saw no one but then a man came out from beside one of the devices. He smiled at her and at first she did not recognize him. Then it came to her it was Mach only he looked different. He was wearing a peculiar suit of clothes and he was definitely unlike himself. He was older, with a more lined face and a different manner altogether.

“How are you feeling,” he asked.

“I definitely hurt all over,” Zenda managed to respond.

Mach nodded and said,” Dr. McCoy had to perform a significant amount of surgery to save you.”

“Dr. McCoy?”

A curtain parted to her right and the woman in white stepped forward. “So you are awake,” she said as she busied herself looking at and adjusting a mechanism nearby.

“I take it you are Dr. McCoy,” Zenda asked.

“Call me Mary as we are family,” she said laying a hand gently upon Zenda’s abdomen.

“Where am I?” Zenda asked.

“In my medical facility,” McCoy replied.

“Do I need to ask again,” Zenda said a bit impatiently.

Dr. McCoy sighed. “I have… violated a number of… travel rules to bring you here. Let’s just say it is somewhere out of your time.”

Then another set of individuals crowded in around her bed. This time it was her Mach, Fud and Fay. Zenda looked from one Mach to another. Finally her Mach spoke.

“Mr. Holmes here,” her Mach said gesturing to the other Mach arranged to have us transferred to this hospital…of sorts. He is me but from a time in the future. Needless to say he knew all about your injuries and he prepared the doctor for what she needed to do.” 
 “And what of our baby?” Zenda asked hesitantly as she too touched her abdomen.

Dr. McCoy replaced her hand on Zenda’s. “You had a direct injury to her womb and….”

“Oh no,” Zenda began to cry.

“Wait just one second and let me finish,” Dr. McCoy interrupted her. “I transferred you pregnancy to a surrogate host.”

Zenda blinked away her tears. “A what?”

Fay stepped forward and took Zenda’s hand and placed it on her somewhat bulging abdomen. “We be doing just fine. She be a strong girl child.”

Zenda blinked her tears away as she caressed Fay’s belly. She then smiled at her.

“Generally I don’t tell my patient’s all about their procedures just after they wake up but since we are telling you everything there is something else you need to know,” Mary said. “Mr. Holmes was aware that you would need extensive surgery, much more than even I could do as your body went into complete shutdown. So he produced transplants from his own body prior to your arrival.”

“Transplants?” Zenda asked Holmes.

“We are, each of us,” he said gesturing toward Mach. “We are part machine and part human.”

Zenda looked to Mach but said nothing.

“You need to rest now,” Dr. McCoy said.

“Wait you said that we were family,” Zenda asked. “Were you just being polite?”

“No, see that bearded man over there,” she replied. The man waved at them. He was tall and sturdy and he appeared to be quite pleasant. “He is my husband Robert. Your daughter will marry our son one day. It is a long story. But again you need your rest for now.” With that Mary began to usher them away all except for Mach. He took a chair at the bedside and held her hand.

“I feel so puny like this,” Zenda told him.

“You had me scared. I thought that despite Holmes’ assistance that you were going to die.”

“No Fable wouldn’t let me do that,” she said as she started to drift off to sleep. “What shall we call her?” she asked.

“Who?”

“Our baby silly. I recall the young girl we once saw in the house. I think she was named Kess.”

“How do you know that?” Mach asked.

“A mother knows these things,” she said as she drifted off.

Zenda never returned to her fairy land. After Kess was born, she lived in Colorado along with Fay and Fud for several years.

However, Mord had claimed Zenda’s rightful throne after he told the fairy soldiers that Mach and Zenda had fled in fear and that he had slayed Bitcett.

Her soldiers did not actually believe him but when Zenda failed to return the people wanted a king and a return to life as normal as they could have it. So he was crowned. Of course Mord could not allow Zenda to come back and when he heard that she might be alive in the real world he sent assassins to kill her. They thought that they had accomplished this when they “slayed” a vap posing as Zenda and so Mach and Zenda let them believe this.

After this however, Zenda and Mach feared the worst from Mord particularly if he found out that Zenda was still alive or that she had a child. So Mach closed off the fairy land to travel into the real realm but first they reluctantly sent Kess back to live there with her “parents” Fay and Fud and hide out right under Mord’s nose.

Eventually my wife Kess grew to adulthood and made it back to the real realm where she met me. Now we maintain a quiet life raising our two children Phaedra and Author along with our nanny Mrs. Hudson on our strawberry farm. We hope to never have anything to do with fairyland ever again.

You may well ask however, what of Zenda and Mach? Is Mord fated to rule unchanged and how will fairyland fare under unjust rule?

Well that is another story…