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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 7

Canto 7 – Dat Killah Nite

When Fairies die, at least, when the good ones die, they do not leave a corpse behind.  The magical energy they are made of, originating from the sun, disperses into the air, sometimes leaving tiny bones behind, but usually leaving nothing. 

When the corrupted minions of the Unseely Court, the evil Fairies, die, they turn back into the mud and clay they were originally animated from.

So, a battlefield of a great Fairy battle would look exactly like the Arcanum looked as the little band of Fairies led by Flute entered into its vastness.

“The bodies of Gobbuluns are everywhere,” said Flute as he pointed out several lumps of Wartole-shaped mud and clay.  There were a couple of Cyclopes-shaped mud piles as well.

“There was a huge battle here?” asked Tod.

“Obviously.  First the dead Trolls, and now this.”  Flute shook his head sadly.

“Did our side win?” asked Poppy.

“There’s no way to tell.  If the Fey Children won, there should be living soldiers and Fairy beasts on the field.  The dead have returned to the air.”

“But, Flute, perhaps the winners have already left for home.  You don’t know for sure that we lost.”  Tod looked extremely upset.

“We shall see.  We must search the battlefield,” said Flute as he picked up a fallen banner from the Castle Cornucopia.

Glumly they continued to search the battlefield.

Suddenly, little Schtinker in Poppy’s lap became highly agitated.

“Dat killah nite!” cried the squirming boy Sylph.

“What are you talking about?”

The Sylph pointed at a silhouette on the top of a nearby knoll.  It appeared to be an armored Sylph knight astride a ridinghawk.  Next to him was a younger Sylph astride a pigeon.

“Hail and well met!” called the knight.  “You are late to the battle, Prinz Flute.”

“Lord Lancelot!  How did the battle go?”

With a short swoop, the hawk brought the famous knight near to where the roosters had stopped.  To their credit, neither rooster flinched at the presence of a red-tailed hawk.

“We would’ve lost had not the yon squire known as the Rascal and I cleverly used my immortality as a Storybook to slay the remaining Gobbuluns from the air after the Legion of Cornucopia overwhelmed the Dark Lord Ebon Sneezer.”

“None other of the Cornucopians survived?” asked Tod in horror.

“The Castle Guard remains at Castle Cornucopia,” said Lord Lancelot.  “All the rest are dead.”

The Rascal on his pigeon fluttered up.  “Lord, we must return to the castle quickly!  The Storr and Lord Toxiss will be sending a siege army there.  They will be overwhelmed without us!”

The Rascal looked at Lancelot with an expression of urgency on his young, dark-eyed face.  The knight looked back at him exhausted and pale.

“We go, then.  Prinz Flute, we need your aid, both magical and swordical.  Or our ally, King Mouse, will be lost.”

 Almost immediately the hawk launched into the air.

The Rascal looked at Flute and his companions, smiled a weak, dispirited smile, and took off on the pigeon.

“We no go wid dat killah nite!” protested Schtinker.  “Heem will murdah all ob us!”

“What is the urchin saying?” asked Tod.

“I think he saw Lancelot kill the other trolls and is afraid he will kill us too,” said Poppy.

“Nonsense.  He’s a great knight and trusted friend.”  Flute shot a disgusted glare at the child.

“Heem let alla guyz in heem armies fit furst,  den heem killah alla Trollz wayne dey iz dead.”

“Is he saying that Lord Lancelot wastes the lives of his troops even though he’s immortal himself?” asked Glitter.

“Surely not.  The little stinker doesn’t really know how to speak the Slow Ones’ English,” said Tod.

Poppy tried to calm Schtinker.  But he was deeply agitated.  And as to whether Schtinker could talk or not, she wondered at the fact that Lancelot had used the word, “swordical.”

“The situation is dire, no matter how you look at it,” said Flute.  “So, we go to Castle Cornucopia immediately.”

They spurred the roosters to run to the northwest.  But Poppy did not feel good about it.

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The Education of Poppensparkle… Canto 5

Canto 5 – Across the Open Arcanum

The next morning Tod and Flute invited the girls to look at the map with them.

“We are here, just south of the Troll Bridge and about to enter into the beanfields of the Arcanum, west of the  Slow-One Fortress called Duffy’s Farm.”  Flute pointed to the spot in the center of the map.  “We have to cross the bridge, and cut across an expanse patrolled by heroes from Demarceaux’s Hero Tree, but controlled mostly by the Unseely Court, surfacing from Castle Stoor over here.  Gobbuluns like Wartoles and Cyclopes mostly, but a few other wicked creatures as well.”

Looking across the gravel road of the Slow Ones, they could see the old bridge of metal and wood and gravel.

“There are Trolls beneath?” asked Glittershine.

“Possibly, but more likely they are sleeping during the day and will not bother us in the sunshine far above their sleeping holes under the bridge,” said Tod.

“Perhaps we should go quickly now, as the sun is bright this morning,” suggested Poppy, not wanting to risk encountering Trolls.  She had hated serving them green slime in the kitchens of Mortimer’s Mudwallow, and here there was no powerful necromancer to stop them from eating a butterfly child they happened to catch out in the open.

As the roosters crossed the road, suddenly the smell of rotten, moldy flesh told the group of Fairies that Trolls were on the bridge.

“Tod!  Spur your rooster and make it run!” shouted Flute.

“I see the trolls.  They are lying dead in the road, slowly turning into stones in the sunlight.”  Tod pulled up to a stop beside one of the three Troll bodies.  Poppy could actually hear the Troll-flesh crackling as the sunshine cooked it and made it into rock.

Flute pulled his rooster up too, and he and Glitter dismounted to look at the bodies.

“These bodies show signs of sword cuts,” said Glittershine.

“Yes.  A Fairy sword.  Possibly the Fyrehandle, the great sword of Lord Lancelot himself,” said Flute.

“Who is Lord Lancelot?” asked Poppy.

“He’s a great Fairy war hero, a Storybook Fairy since the time of the Slow One’s King Arthur,” said Tod.

“The son of the immortal Lady of the Lake,” added Glittershine.

But before they could do anything more, one more Troll was lumbering towards them, smoking from Troll sunburn and moaning in an angry way.

“This one is yours, Poppensparkle,” said Flute.  “Use your polymorphing spells to turn the creature into stone.  Put it out of its misery.”

Poppy could call the spell instantly to mind.  But when she pointed her power finger at the Troll, her stomach began to churn, and she couldn’t make the spell kill the Troll.  Not after she had seen the Necromancer kill Fairies and laugh about it afterwards.  The White Stag had taken those memories away from her.  But the situation now brought it back.

“I… I can’t do it!”

“You have to, Poppy!  Before it reaches us!” shouted Tod.

She tried to control the swirling sickness in her guts as she wrestled with killing the poor thing.  And then the spell came out of her pointer finger in a cloud of orange smoke and enveloped the Troll.  And that was somehow not right… because the smoke was supposed to be smoky-colored, not orange.

“Oh, no…”  She fell to her knees and emptied the contents of her stomach on the gravel road.

The cloud dissipated, leaving behind a… small sylph boy?  He was naked and crying.  His brown skin still was dripping with the leavings of the magical orange smoke.

Flute approached the weeping child.  “Who are you?  Did the Troll eat you, or something?”

The child looked at him with frightened eyes.

“Am no Trollz food!   Am Schtinker!  Am baby Trollz!”

“Whoa!  Poppy?  Did you turn the Troll into this sylph boy?”  Flute gasped.

“I couldn’t turn him to stone.  That would be killing…”  Poppy had to stop there and throw up some more.

“It’s alright, Poppy.  This Schtinker is still a Troll on the inside, but the new form is far less dangerous,” said Tod.

“Danger-us?  Schtinker no know danger-us.  Am no killah!  Dat nite be doe killah!”

“What did he say?” asked Poppy.

“So, what do we do with him?  If we just leave him here he will go back to the Unseely Court and be evil.” Tod shook his head sadly as he said it.

“We could kill him here and save him the trouble,” said Flute.

“No!  He’s just a child!” said Poppy, horrified at the callousness.

“We can take him with us and teach him to be good,” offered Glittershine.

“That would be too much work,” said Flute.

“How do we decide?  Take a vote?” asked Tod.

“We let Poppy decide.  She created him, he’s her child, her responsibility,” said Flute, looking her in the eyes.

“Well, that’s it then.  We take him.  I will take care of him.”

Flute looked at her with eyes she thought showed great intelligence.  And then he smiled.

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Characters From Superchicken

Superchick

These are a few of the main characters of the old story which is now my newest novel.

Superchicken is Edward-Andrew Campbell.  He is basically a me-character.  His embarrassing nickname, from a Jay Ward cartoon that used to be on TV Saturday mornings, was actually my nickname in junior high and high school.  Many of the emotional changes he goes through and the embarrassments he endures to be a super hero were based on my own experiences.  But he definitely embraces the nickname as his superhero name in a way I can only wish that I did.

Brent

Brent Clarke is the outgoing athlete sort of kid who was definitely not me.  He becomes leader of the Norwall Pirates because he pitched for the softball team, and because anyone who met him naturally assumed he was the most important kid in the group.  Others look to him for leadership even when they don’t need it.  Making friends with Brent is one of the most difficult and important tasks the Superchicken must undertake.

Miltie223xx408

Milt Morgan is the wizard of the group.  He is obsessed with magic and imagination. And though Brent is nominally the leader of the group, all their evil plans and hair-brained schemes come from Milt’s imagination.  The picture of Milt is drawn from me as a boy, but in reality he is the other Mike from my childhood, the one with a rather tough life and a heart of… well… maybe not gold, but at least silver.  He is also the one who insists on making Edward-Andrew part of the gang.

Sherry Cobble22

The Cobble Sisters, Sherry and Shelly, are a pair of identical twin girls.  They are both nudists at home on the farm place and at the nudist club in Clear Lake.  They are problematic for a shy boy just discovering girls, but Sherry definitely pursues a crush on the Superchicken and tricks him into a family camping trip at the nudist camp.

Novel Pix sc2sc

Sherry at the Sunshine Club

anita n supe_n

Anita Jones is the shy girl who has a crush on the Superchicken.  And he secretly has a crush on her.  But she is also the girl who becomes, completely by accident, the first girl that Edward-Andrew sees naked.  Love and hate, embarrassment and attraction, she is the one girl whose opinion seems to matter most.  I, of course, will never reveal the real life girl she is based on.  I could never live that down, even though we are both now more than sixty years old.

So those are a few of the main characters that make this novel work for me.  They are real people to me now that the novel is written, just as they were once real people when I was a boy and living the nightmare of being a mere boy in a world that needs heroes.

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The Education of Poppensparkle… Canto 4

Canto 4 – The Road to Cornucopia

The rooster riding was easier than Poppy had anticipated.  These chickens were not quite the same as the ones she had known back in the Necromancer’s city of Mortimer’s Mudwallow.   And Seltzerwater and Tannehauser were both apparently smarter than any chicken she had known in the Necromancer’s little river town.

Still, the first day’s progress was slow.  The cornfields that they navigated were often obstructed by foxes, pheasants, and an occasional farmer on a tractor.

They would end up making camp along the southern bank of the creek the Fairies called Pallas’s Slow Water.  They were somewhere to the West of Mortimer’s Mudwallow.  Poppy’s sister, Derfentwinkle, was now the ruler of the Mudwallow after helping the good Fairies to capture it and destroy the evil Necromancer.  It made her wonder why Flute hadn’t led them there for the first night’s rest.  They would surely be welcome.  But maybe he had some reason for not wanting her sister to know she was traveling with her new masters.

As camp was set up by Flute and Tod, Glittershine and Poppy settled the roosters.  Their reins were tied to long ropes of at least three English-measure feet so the roosters could scratch for weevils, aphids, ants, and worms.  Glitter was talking softly to Tannehauser, so Poppy tried talking to Seltzerwater. 

“You were a very good boy, Seltzer.  Tod let me guide you with the reins and I had no problems controlling you.  You are very unlike the chickens we had in Mortimer’s Mudwallow.”

“I understand you had a very hard life in your previous home,” Glitter broke into her conversation with Seltzer.  “Can you tell me a little about it?”

“Very little.  When Derfie, my sister, rescued me from there, the White Stag entered my mind and removed most of the memories of the times when the Necromancer abused me.  And since that was almost all of the times I was ever with the Necromancer, I can’t even remember his name.”

“That must have been terrible.”

“Yes.  Even with the memories removed, I still have nightmares.”

“You know that you and I are supposed to work on your spellbook this evening.  To do that, we must remove the garments that shield our minds and bodies…”

“Oh, good!  I will get to be naked once more.”

“I was afraid that your trauma might prevent you from doing that.  I understand that the Necromancer controlled your mind and body…”

“Yeah.  But I was always freeist whenever I could take wing with nothing on my body but sunlight.  These clothes are the things that make me panicky and uncomfortable.  I don’t remember it, but the Necromancer had strange fetishes that involved putting things on me.”

“Well, I am glad it won’t be a problem then.  There’s a space under those purple thistles that will work fine for our session of magical translations.”

Poppy was delighted to bounce over to the indicated thistle patch and shed what little clothing she wore.  Glittershine had a double-layer riding dress on, and that took her longer.  She was, however, quite graceful and beautiful once she was nude.  And she took care of laying out the spellbook and writing quills.

“Poppy, you must say or sing the spells in your magical imagination.  The spells will come to me by magic, and I will let them  flow through me, so that I might write them down on the paper.  That is how we translate the magic within you into words in your spellbook.”

“What is magic… exactly?  What is it made of?”

“That’s a very good question.  In fact, that is part of Prinz Flute’s magical quest.  We have talked endlessly with the White Stag about codifying magic in a way that makes it like the Slow Ones and how they developed  the thing called Science.  It allows them to have their talking wires and tellybizhions and caddylacks and things.”

“So, Science is Slow One Magic?”

“Or Fairy Magic is Fairy Science.”

 As they got into it, Poppy sang out the beautiful magics she held inside, the ones the Necromancer never found out about.  And none of the magic the Necromancer taught her was still there in her head, messing up her mind with muddy magic.

Page after page after page filled with Poppy’s own signature magic.  By the time she could remember nothing more, half the spellbook was already full.

“You have an amazing amount of spells here for an apprentice, Poppy.  But your strongest spells seem to all be about polymorphing.”

“Polymorphing?”

“Yes, changing the shape of other Fairies, animals, other Fairy creatures, and even probably yourself.  You can actually change Butterfly Children into birds and back again if you need to.  You can give wings to frogs and spider-legs to rabbits.  Though, I doubt we will ever have a need for that.”

“I suppose I can use my imagination.  But, my imagination might turn a little dark at times… thanks to my past.”

Glitter smiled at Poppy as Glitter slipped her clothing back on.  

“We have set up separate lean-tos for each of us.  We need to get in them and sleep.  Flute and I will share the watch during the night.  You two have to recover from the magic generation,” said Tod with obvious concern for how tired they both looked.

“In the morning, then,” said Glitter.

And the temporary camp settled down for the night.

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The Education of Poppensparkle… Canto 3

Canto 3 – The Rooster Riders

When it was decided that there would be three teachers rather than one for the start of Poppy’s magical training, the debate between them was about what to do next.

“I will explain as we head to the stables,” said Flute rather imperiously.  Poppy supposed his status as Prince, Prinz in the Zauberin language,  gave him that authority to decide things without asking for anyone else’s opinion.

“Not Roosters again?” asked Tod with a pained expression.

“Poppy and I can fly,” added Glittershine.  

“Rooster riding is an important skill for life in Tellosian Court.  And besides, we need to ride out to Castle Cornucopia to fulfill my duties to the White Stag’s needed magical research.  We need riding beasts that can fight back if we are attacked by Cyclopes and Wartoles between here and there.  We will be crossing lands contested by the Stoor.”

This was distressing news to Poppy.  She hated chickens.  They had bird capabilities, but dinosaur temperments.  And she remembered from her time enthralled by the Necromancer that the Stoor’s people were always ugly, cruel, and mean.  Worse even than chickens.

Of course, the walk down to the stables would take them all the way to the root of the willow tree that had been shaped into Cair Tellos.  There they would find two large Rhode Island Red Roosters, their wings strapped down with Fairy saddles to keep them on the ground and ready to ride.

“The biggun is Tannehauser en the little-un is Seltzerwater,” said the naked little stable boy.

“Those are their names?” asked Poppy.

“Yessum,” said the Sylph boy with a proud salute.

Steps made from  Slow Ones’ cracker boxes and matchsticks were pulled up to each rooster.

Prinz Flute mounted Tannehauser with Glittershine behind him.  Poppy mounted Seltzerwater with Tod climbing up behind her and taking the reins by reaching around her with both arms.  To be comfortable in that position, she had to put away butterfly wings with a Wingaway spell. Most Butterfly Children didn’t have the option to put their wings magically away in such situations, but she had never noticed how much of an advantage the spell really was. 

“So, we’re going to Cornucopia?” Poppy asked Tod.

“Apparently.  King Mouse needs assistance with something that requires some of Prinz Flute’s Invention Magic.”

“Oh.”  Of course, Poppy had no Fairy-worldly idea what the heck “Invention Magic” even meant.

Seltzerwater eyed Poppy with one creepy yellow eye before Tod turned its chicken head with the reins and spurred it to make it go.

Poppy wished she were riding naked, the way the Elder Gods made Fairies to be, but even with these clothes on, it felt good to lean back against Tod’s strong chest and feel his quickening heartbeat, knowing he was forbidden to assault her in any way.  For  the first time in her young life, she was feeling safe and unafraid.  And she really was no longer thinking about hitting Tod anymore.

The roosters ran out of the castle gate at a very fast pace.

No Slow Ones were watching, although the massive homes of the gigantic human ones surrounded Cair Tellos.  The Slow Ones’ town of Norwall had been built all around the willow tree quite by accident.  And the fairies refused to move as their kingdom had been there first.  But it mattered little.  There were many glammers, disguising magics, that kept Slow Ones from seeing fairies as they really were.  The roosters were even hidden from their big Slow-One eyes.

In minutes the roosters were through the wire field-fences and running through the farmers’ fields that made up the bulk of Tellosia’s above-ground territories.

“Did you give Poppy her new spellbook?” Flute shouted at Tod.

“Not yet, but I will do it now.”

Tod reached into his bag of holding and brought out a vellum-covered book made of highly magical pages.  Normally it would be a carefully crafted thing made by the hand of the apprentice’s new master.  This, however, was an ordinary and rather plain one bought at Oddbod’s Magic Emporium.

“Thank you!”  Poppy hugged it to her chest as a treasure she would never part with.

“I’m sorry the Master didn’t make you one with his own hands.  Master Pippen is too often thinking only of himself.”

Tod’s face was red at the embarrassing confession.

“Oh, no, Tod.  I love it.  I have never owned any such thing before.  This is something I would never have imagined I could ever own only a year ago.”

“Well, the White Stag says you have many worthy spells to be written in it.  Glittershine will help translate them by magic into the spellbook this very evening when we make camp.  You really deserve something better.”

“How could one such as I, lucky to even be alive at this point, expect anything finer?  I will thank Master Pippen over and over again for giving me a treasure such as this.”

That made Tod smile.  He had a lovely smile.

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The Education of Poppensparkle… Canto 2

Canto 2 – Aargh!  Teachers!

The sunroom was built into the hollow in the heights of the willow tree, almost at the level of the tallest tower.  A Fairy-glass ceiling let the yellow-green sunlight in and kept the snow and rain out.  The walls were covered in elaborate cross-stitch tapestries depicting famous moments in Tellosian history like the death of the former Erlking, Wotan, the killing of the evil dragon Darvon Redsoul by the Mouse from Cornucopia, and the final battle of the Gingerbread War.

“So, this is the new student I am saddled with.  The last time we crossed paths, she tried to take over my body using the soul of that horrid Necromancer.  The first mistake she makes, she gets executed.  I’ll add her head to the collection of my worst enemies.”  The booming voice, of course, was her new master, Pippen, the High Wizard of Tellosia.

“Master, you must be patient with her.  The White Stag will be mad if you cut her head off for a flimsy excuse.  Besides, she was given to you as an apprentice because she possesses great potential power, and the Stag will remind you of the lesson Eli Tragedy taught you the hard way; No student ever learned anything after their head was chopped off.”  Tod was on her side, at least.  But it didn’t escape her notice that in Zauberin, his name literally meant “Death.”

“She’s a pretty little one.  I promise to keep her in line and make her behave,” said the beautiful adult Butterfly Child, obviously the one named Glittershine.

“I don’t understand why I have to put up with such nonsense.  Before the White Stag filled in as interim Erlking, I was doing fine administering this kingdom for him.”

“Yes, but taking too much responsibility into your own hands is the reason he wants to relieve you of some of your burdens.”  Tod was very diplomatic.  That was a particularly oily way to tell the burly, golden-haired wizard that he was becoming too much of a hated tyrant.  But he did it with such practiced mastery.

The fifth person in the room was Prinz Flute.  He was Pippen’s own half-faun son and  really quite handsome.  He was, however, much older than he looked.  

He was the size and shape of an eleven-year-old Fairy boy, even though Poppy knew he had to be at least twice her age, and she was sixteen-Fairy-years old.

Flute had been silent for the initial round of complaints and soothing, placating lies to answer those complaints.  He had merely been watching Poppy intently.

“Are you going to undertake actually teaching this girl magic?” Flute now asked.

“What?  Well… I guess I must.  At least long enough to accuse her of something worth executing her for.”

“Have you tested the girl with the Magical Drassylic Script Test?”

“Oh, right.  Magic reading.  That will prove if she’s worthy to continue to live or not.”

Flute moved to a desk piled high with magical scrolls.  He plucked one out of the pile and handed it to Poppy.

“Please read that aloud, what it actually says, not whatever might be whispered to you from the background.”

Poppy unrolled the scroll, looked at the squiggly-lined gibberish it contained, and almost instantly began to read and understand.

“The fool transcribing this document is using a magical cheat to understand it, and so he is writing down what he thinks it means, The beginnings of the deep language begin with the elvish, Quenyan, but the truly deepest of the deep comes from the Draconic Drassyl…

“Enough!  That is not what it says!  I transcribed that myself.  I…”

Flute interrupted Pippen before the anger caused his blond hair to turn to flames.  He took the scroll from Poppy and handed it to Glimmershine.

“Did she not read it correctly?” Flute asked.

“Oh, my.  She did indeed read the correct Drassylic, not the Quenyan cheat text.”  Glimmershine blanched as she looked at Pippen after testifying to the reveal.

“Father, this magic student is beyond the capabilities of most to teach.  I am personally impressed by the depth of her understanding.  And to thoroughly teach her, I believe it will take a group effort.”

“A group effort?”  Pippen seemed stunned.

“Yes.  Tod can teach her the ways of the royal court.  Glittershine and I can take care of the routine teaching of magic skills, and we will come to you with matters that require such great skill that only you can handle the teaching of it.”

“Yes, that plan makes sense… Are you sure we shouldn’t just cut off her head?  You know, to be on the safe side…?”

“Oh, no… this one is a rare talent.  You cannot imagine how upset the White Stag will be if we don’t develop her skills to our maximum benefit.”

“Well, okay… But you and Glittershine will be doing the most work.  And you will hardly need me at all for the first year…”

“And that’s just how the White Stag wants it.  You remember… you have too many responsibilities and you must concentrate on where your skills are needed most.  Not… you know… wasting them.”

“Yes, I see that now.”  Apparently satisfied at last, he took the Drassylic Test Scroll from Glittershine and walked out of the sunroom looking at it and muttering to himself.

Tod was immediately kneeling before Prinz Flute.  “Oh, my Prinz, you have saved both Poppy and me.  How can I repay you?”

“By doing exactly the education plan I outlined to my father.”

“But that means you will be teaching Poppensparkle when you should be doing magical research for the White Stag.  Won’t that cause you problems of your own?”

“You don’t know what my research is all about, do you?”

“No, I guess not.”

“And believe me, I have not failed to notice how attractive this young Fairy is.  My interest in the education of this one is not only about the good of the people.”

Poppy began blushing at that.  Flute looked to be several years younger than her, and yet, she knew he was actually several years older than she was.  He was definitely not unattractive himself.  But it would be weird. Interesting… but weird.

Prinz Flute

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The Education of Poppensparkle… Canto 1

Canto 1 – Poppy’s New Digs

It was hard to get her eyes open on that first morning.  The White Stag had taken away all the memories of her abuse at the hands of the evil Necromancer, but that hadn’t kept her from having nightmares of nameless terrors stalking her in the darkness.  And she wasn’t used to sleeping in a soft bed in the Palace of Cair Tellos, the Willowcastle and Capitol of all of Tellosia.

She rubbed at both of her eyes.  She yawned extra large.  She then used the reverse of the Wingaway Spell to restore her butterfly wings.  She was still naked, and seriously planning to go out like that, looking forward to a nude sky-dance in the morning sunlight.  But the enchanted clothing, top and bottom, were still there where Tod had placed them the night before.  They were blue and lighter blue with yellow spots on them, a match for the colors of her butterfly wings.  But never in her life before had she been forced to wear clothing.  Not even the Necromancer was that cruel.  Butterfly Children were Fairies made for flying unencumbered by clothing, armor, or any other bindings.  They were magical beings meant for a life of joy and unbound freedom.

“So, you are awake,” Tod said, poking his head into the chamber where she had slept.

“Yes.  But I’m not happy.  Why do I have to be a wizard’s apprentice?  And why do I have to wear clothing?”

Tod was a fairly ordinary-looking Sylph with brown hair and large, soulful brown eyes.  And he never answered fast, always apparently thinking of all the possible answers before saying anything.  That was nothing like the evil Necromancer.  He started every answer with a yell, a threat, and an impossibly difficult order.

“When your sister and the White Stag rescued you, you were found to have considerable magical power in your little blond brain.  That means you have value.  And the White Stag decided to give you to Master Pippen in order to train you with those valuable skills.”

“So, is it like being a student, or more like a slave?”

“Well, I’m the Castle Steward, not an apprentice myself.  But from what I can see, it is more like being a slave.  But a valuable slave.  You will be treated well if you continue to obey.”

“So, I’m to be constantly whipped and told how bad I am.  I knew it!  How about answering the question about the clothes?”

“I am well aware that Fairies prefer to be nude and natural.  But Master Pippen believes that leaves you vulnerable.  Everyone who lives in the upper reaches of the Willow Castle must wear magical clothing.  One piece to protect you from mind-reading and mind-control.  And another piece to protect you from possession, like the Necromancer did to you in the final battle.”

She wanted to beat him with her fists because it seemed so unfair.  She had been a slave to the Necromancer, and now that she was free of him for the first time in her life, she would be a slave to Master Pippen.  And beating Tod with fists was entirely unworkable as a plan.  He was a full three inches tall and stood over her by more than half an inch.  And he had training in both hand-to-hand combat and blade combat.  She would never land a single light-fisted girly blow.

She picked up the clothing to look at it more closely.  It was a two-piece suit, the top part, which would cover her smallish breasts bore the pentagram of wizard-armor.  And the blue bottoms that would cover her sit-down parts were stitched  with soul-sealing designs.  The clothes were much like a Slow One’s swimsuit, the kind the gigantic Slow-One females called a “bikini.”  She guessed she could wear something that small since it was made in a way that would not interfere with her butterfly wings.

“I’m going to look ugly in this thing.”

“Try it on.  Let’s see.”

She put both parts on with some awkwardness, not being at all used to the idea of wearing clothes.

‘You are actually quite pretty to look at wearing that,” said Tod with a simple smile.

She still felt like smacking him, but the compliment was not unwelcome.

“This place is going to take some getting used to.  It’s not like Mortimer’s Mudwallow in any way.  I don’t know how to live in a castle or a royal court.  Master Pippen will have my head chopped off before the week is out.”

“Poppy, his reputation isn’t really the way he is.  He only executes Fairies if they break a minor law or make him really angry for some reason.  And besides, I am told you are my responsibility for the time being.  Only two of the five apprentices I have taken care of got beheaded.  Oh, and one exploded during a magical experiment on the roof.  But the odds are still… well, not entirely against you.”

“You should ask my sister, Derfentwinkle, about how that will probably go.  I was always annoying or arguing with the Necromancer.  And he was a scary and cruel master.  Just not as into executions as Master Pippen obviously is.”

“You don’t need to worry overmuch.  Both Glittershine and I will be nearby to help you.”

“Who is Glittershine?  Have I met him or her yet?”

“You have not… or you would remember.  She’s a Butterfly Child like you, but one experienced with Fairy magic and potions.”

“When do I meet her?”

“Now, since you’re awake and dressed.  Master Pippen is expecting all of us in the sunroom.”

Poppensparkle was not wild about this new life that had been thrust upon her.  But it was better than the painful abuse the stinky old Necromancer had heaped upon her…  At least, she dearly hoped that it would be .

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He Rose on a Golden Wing… Canto 11

Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

After lunch in the school cafeteria, Valerie found her former Pirate crew by Ricky’s locker.

“I didn’t tell you this before, but I invited Dilsey Murphy to our next confessional at the skinny-dipping pond.”  She then found herself looking into two shocked and dismayed faces.

“I don’t think I can do the naked-truth thing in front of any girl but you, Val,” Ricky said with a slight shudder in his voice.

“I can’t do that in front of anybody,” reminded Billy.  “And while we all need the chance to talk about what’s hurting us, I don’t think Dilsey will understand any of it.”

“Yeah, she hasn’t gone through the crap we have.  She won’t get what we’re talking about,” added Ricky.

“I think anyone can understand about being depressed.  And anyone can benefit by talking through it.”

“Well, maybe.   But shouldn’t we cancel the naked-truth thing?” asked Ricky.

“Cancel it,” said Billy.

“We’ll see what’s possible.  But if she comes, we can postpone getting naked.  It may be too cold anyway.”

“Yeah.  That’s a good point,” said Ricky.

“I suppose it won’t hurt to talk about Francois in front of Dilsey.  She remembers him too, I’m sure.”  Billy stuffed books in his locker as he was headed to P.E.

“Sure, of course she remembers him.”

“But she wasn’t with us during the blizzard.  And she never met Tommy or Denny,” reminded Ricky.

“I never met them either, but I remember the stories about them,” said Billy.  “But I gotta go now.  I have to dress out for P.E. or risk another failing grade.”

“So, go.  Have fun with the nakedness in the locker room, Billy.”  Valerie grinned at him as she enjoyed his annoyed grimace.

“I gotta go too,” said Ricky as he slammed his locker shut and took off towards Berensen’s room, completely forgetting his History book in his locker.

Valerie was going to head to her class when a slamming locker door eight lockers down caught her attention.

“You had some nerve ruining the dance last week.  You made yourself the center of attention and took all the joy out of the entire place.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Char.  You only understand your own selfish stuff.”

“Don’t you think I can see the selfishness in you?  Needing to be the focus of attention because you lost your daddy.  We all pity you, but it doesn’t make everything always about you.”

They were alone in the hallway.  The bell rang for fifth period.  It was a good thing the hallway was so quiet.  It meant neither girl was willing to yell and draw everybody out of their classrooms again.

“We are going to be walking on eggshells all week this week, and probably next week too, just so the crazy girl won’t have another hissy fit in the middle of everything.”

Valerie was instantly exhausted.  Her arms and legs were now full of lead.  And there was a crushing pressure in her chest.  She knew this was going to happen.  She just needed it to end more quickly than it was going to.

“You got your wish because of it.  You’re head cheerleader now.”

“I have wanted to be that since I was little and didn’t know Valerie Elaine Clarke even existed!  I worked hard for it all through junior high and high school.  And when I got it, it was not because I won it for myself, not because I beat you out for it… but because you just gave it up.  You got it all so easily.  And you threw it away.  You didn’t even give me the chance to earn it.  I will never forgive you for what you took away from me.”

“Don’t forgive me, then.  I ain’t asking.”

“And you get all the best boys, too.  Ricky is so handsome.  And he doesn’t have eyes for anybody but you.  And you don’t even bother to see it.”

“Ricky’s my friend.  Not my boyfriend.”

“See what I mean?  You threw that away too.”

“Go ahead and hate me, Char.  You are probably right to hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Val.  I always wanted to BE you.  But I have to get over it now.  I’m sorry your father died.  But that doesn’t give you the right to act the way you do.”

Valerie no longer had the power to continue the conversation.  She hung her head.  She turned slowly towards class and the inevitable tardy slip.  Charlotte walked off in the other direction, even though she had the same class that Val did.

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Notes From Outer Space

I try to follow up on the lives of the characters I have created and set in motion through the stars. But mail service from distant planets can be a problem. And a lot depends on whether you are travelling via faster-than-light photon drives or the lumbering sluggishness of generational travel.

Davalon and Tanith, the Tellerons pictured here, promised to keep in touch with me and update me about their adventures on the planet Galtorr Prime.

You may remember, if you are one of the three people who actually read the novel Stardusters and Space Lizards, that Dav and Tanith were on one of the colonized moons of Galtorr where they now basically owned the planetoid due to having material synthesizers with which to feed the starving survivors of the planet’s collapse into civil war and environmental disaster.

In their last letter, they were still unaware that power-mad politicians and man-made climate problems are doing to this planet the same things that nearly destroyed the planet Galtorr Prime when they arrived there back in 1991.

George Jetson in 1991, named by Captain Xiar after a favorite Earther cartoon character from the 1960’s.

Davalon tells me that young George Jetson is becoming a pilot. The more he crashes space ships and survives the disaster, the more he learns about what not to do. And his learning curve has definitely caused his more mechanically-minded siblings to get better faster at repairing crashed ships.

Sizzahl, the Galtorrian Lizard-girl, is now the premiere biologist on the planet, although she was still a child… a child genius, in 1991. She is working on genetically evolving the Galtorrian race by combining their DNA with Earth humans, trying to get the best of both races and praying to the Crocodile God that she doesn’t get the worst of both races in her new Fusion Galtorrians.

Sizzahl the Scientist still insists on working in the nude. Harmony Castille, the group’s human church-lady warrior leader protests this heathen behavior, but Sizzahl is immune to religious objections to her methods.

Sizzahl wants to argue with me about forcing Earth humans to evolve in a similar fashion. She points out that if we continue to treat the planet the way we are currently doing, we will need to breed in genetic abilities to resist heat and evolve lungs that have a capacity to filter out acids, carcinogens, and poisons, as well as extract oxygen directly from carbon dioxide. She has a better argument than she knows as this last letter was sent out at the speed of light in 1991 and only arrived yesterday. She is older and smarter by now. But we are also dumber and more poisoned as a species.

Brekka’s psychic link to the man-eating plant called Lester has proved to be a boon to the planet. The plant can eat scabby-zombies that are bad for the environment and create new buds which he/she gladly donates to the food supply. (New buds are not technically children because the only mind they have is Lester’s.)

Brekka enjoys a unique psychic link to Lester the man-eating plant because he/she tried to eat Brekka, but had to cough her up because Tellerons taste bad. Lester’s digestive juices seeped into Brekka’s brain, forging a telepathic link.
Pilot Farbick and young Davalon (picture from Mars orbit, 1990)

So, I sent them a reply letter. It will get there in 21 years at the speed of light. So, in 42 years I should get the information I need to write a sequel. I will only be 107 at that time.

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He Rose on a Golden Wing… Canto 10

Adagio in G-Minor (Albinoni)

Weeping violins were playing on Mom’s kitchen radio as she had it playing something from the classical music station in Des Moines. The announcer said something about the music being composed by a Venetian master, Tomaso Albinoni, in the 18th Century, and now being known as being synonymous with sorrow and sadness. As Valerie placed the spoons and the forks, she felt like it was the perfect background music for her entire life.

“So, Rance, be honest with me,” Mom said. “Did Val apologize to Dash for the misery she caused him at the dance?”

“Well, she made a promise to him about what she would never do again.”

“That’s not the whole truth,” said Valerie.

“Oh? Why don’t you explain your version of the conversation then,” said Uncle Rance with a smile that seemed somehow sad.

“Uncle Dash was afraid I was being like Stacey, that I was going to run away and never come back.”

“And what did you tell him about that?” Mom asked point blank.

Tim and Aunt Jen sat silently at their places at the table. They were both looking at her with unsmiling lips tightly pressed together… as if they feared the answer.

“You know what a cardinal is, right?”

“The little red song bird?”

“Yes, the bright red bird we often see in the snow around Christmastime. The one that doesn’t fly away when the winter comes? Never migrates? Never flies away from the cold, and the wind, and hard times?”

“What does that mean? That you promise not to run away from your problems?”

“Well, if a little red songbird can do it…”

Mom put her hand over her eyes. Was she crying? Had she said the wrong thing?

”Do you have any idea how much what you did probably hurt your Uncle Dash? You know he loved your Daddy very much. And he’s tried so hard to be like a father to you since…” A sob caught in Mom’s throat.

“She told Dash that she didn’t blame him. She blamed herself.” Uncle Rance had no right to say that part out loud. But… she couldn’t say it herself. Not after shouting it in front of Charlotte and the whole world. Why didn’t they just talk about it all behind her back like normal parents do?

“Did you know that Tim kissed Dilsey on his date? Did he tell you that?” She knew that one wasn’t hers to tell. But she needed to change the topic. Needed it desperately. She could always apologize to the king of brats later.

Tim was grinning at that.

“Is it true?” Aunt Jen asked, smiling for the first time in a while.

“How did you know that, Val?” Tim asked.

“Dilsey told me.”

“Was she bragging… or complaining?”

“What do you think, Lothario?”

“More like Romeo, I think.”

“I hope you didn’t do something you didn’t have her permission to do,” said Uncle Rance.

“You know, Val, I wasn’t done with the other topic yet,” said Mom.

“What topic would that be?”

“You are not the only one who was devastated by what your father did.”

“I know that, Mom. I was here when we lived through all of that… more than once, I think.”

She hadn’t taken the hand away from her eyes since she first put it there.

“I love you, Val. You know that, right?”

“I love you too, Mom.”

“And you know I worry about the fact that suicide might run in families… I’ve thought about it. And I am afraid you have too. Can you…?”

“Promise you?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t. But I am like the cardinal, Mom. And suicide is a form of running away.”

At that point, nobody had dry eyes but Valerie.

“I… I want you to write the thing about cardinals down for me, Val. I need that in writing.”

All Val could do was nod, or she would be bawling too.

“Well, now that we have all ruined our appetites, maybe we should think about actually eating something,” said Uncle Rance with a soft chuckle and tears still in his eyes.

The dinner changed into a rather quiet discussion about more normal family things, and Dilsey and Tim’s first kiss. And, sporadically, some roast beef and mashed potatoes was eaten too.

Later, as the Kelloggs were leaving, Tim stood in front of Valerie at the door. Tears glistened in his eyes again.

“You know, Val, I really liked the cardinal thing too. Blueberry is in the hospital. One of my Pirates is very ill.”

“Dilsey told me about that too.”

“Did she tell you we need to visit her? There are hard winter times coming our way there too.”

“We’ll be there for her, I promise.”

She wrapped him in a hug then. The first time in a very long time. He didn’t resist. If anything, he was hugging her back.

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