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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 11

Canto 11 – Battle Plans

The meeting that followed the feast was limited to the Mouse King and Zam his wife, Prinz Flute and his three companions,  Lord Lancelot, and the Rascal, who was forced to sit next to PoppenSparkle because he was apparently no longer welcome as Lancelot’s Squire.  Schtinker, of course, wanted badly to be there, but he was taken to the bathhouse with the other Sylph children that didn’t pass the smell test before bedtime.

“I think the solution is obvious.  We use Poppy’s Polymorph Spell to turn as many Gobbuluns into Fairies as it is possible to do.  We bolster our army with the converts from theirs.” Prince Flute looked pleased with himself as he announced the plan to the whole table.

“Nonsense!”  Lancelot sat with his arms folded in front of him and his reddish, tired eyes glaring at the map on the center of the table.

“Why is it nonsense?”  Flute insisted.

“Because we are doomed here.  The Stoor has his ugly army, and Lord Toxiss brought his vast army all the way from distant Sheek-a-go.”

“The Slow Ones actually pronounce that place Chicago,” Tod corrected helpfully.

“I don’t care what you call it.  The point is… we are so outnumbered, they will overwhelm us, slaying everybody who is not immortal, and then swarming down to Cair Tellos to do the same to them.  We have only one play here.  We make a glorious last attack, kill so many of them before they overwhelm us that they can’t muster a big enough force to overwhelm Cair Tellos.  We will die heroes.”

“You won’t die,” pointed out the Rascal.  “You are an immortal Storybook.  The rest of us will all die for your glory and you’ll walk into Cair Tellos to claim all the credit.”

“You wound me, Rascal.  Did I not save your life a dozen times over in the Battle of the Arcanum?”

“You did.  But you decimated the entire army doing it.  We would have sold our lives better defending the castle rather than fighting them on the open fields.”

“Okay, perhaps we choose to die on the parapets of Castle Cornucopia.  Maybe we can take more of them out if we make them climb our walls and pour down the hot oils as they try to climb up…”

The Mouse King cleared his throat.  “Zam and I have three little mouselings to care for.  And there are hundreds of Sylph and Elf children left orphaned by the war that could use new parents.  We don’t want anyone to die who doesn’t have to.  And don’t we know that at least a few of the Gobbuluns out there are citizens of Cornucopia that have been changed by Lord Toxiss?”

“We won’t do ourselves any good to change a few of the Gobbuluns the way the girl did today.  It won’t make a sizeable enough difference, and she will just exhaust her magic getting Gobbuluns changed so other Gobbuluns can kill them.  It would be futile… a wasted effort.”

“I think, Lord Lancelot, that the point where your heroics are sorely needed, is at the gate where you and your best soldiers can defend and gather the changed ones into the castle as we change them.”  Flute smiled as he obviously was trying to manipulate Lancelot’s ego.

“You cannot change enough of them with one little girl casting one little spell.”

“We can do better than that!” said Glittershine.  “I helped PoppenSparkle write the spell into her spell book.  I already am familiar with the spell.  Tod and Flute can also study it.  We will have four Wizards, not one, changing bad guys into good guys.”

“If we should happen to accidentally win the war that way, what will you do with all the new Fairies?  Where will they live?”

“You know good and well, Lancelot, that the Castle Cornucopia is huge.  We have thousands of towers, secret rooms, mushroom gardens, Fairy houses, businesses, and entertainments in this big, old barn that haven’t had enough Fairy people to live in them since King Pallas and his army were destroyed by Darvon Redsoul, the Great Dragon.”  The Mouse seemed to be getting a bit hot under the collar to Poppy.

“And as Glitter mentioned, there will be four talented Wizards helping to repopulate the place,” said Flute, grinning like a fox.

“Very well, then.  It is obvious that you have to learn the hard way.  I will go along with this plan if only to prove you wrong.”

“Will your plan really work?” the Rascal whispered to Poppy.

“I think so.  I am not as confident as any of the rest of you, but I am just learning how to be a Wizard.  But if Flute believes in the plan, then, I think I believe in it too.”

“I hope so.  I thought it was a great honor to be chosen as Lord Lancelot’s Squire.  But right now, I just need to see him proven wrong… even if it kills me.”

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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 10

Canto 10 – In the Home of the Leaf Witch

The Mouse King seemed extremely happy that Poppy’s spell brought him new Sylphs, Butterfly Children, and Elves.  He led all the new folks to the feast hall that had apparently been closed up for a while before their arrival.

“Please,  make yourselves at home.  You are welcome here, as long as your allegiance shifts from the Unseely Court to our people!” the Mouse said enthusiastically.

“You are not going to feed these imposters when they could be put to better use attacking the enemy on the battlefield?” growled Lord Lancelot.

“Nonsense.  These Fey Children are our brothers now.  We need them to fill in for all the families we have lost recently.  We must make them feel welcome.”

A beautiful young-looking Sylph girl wearing only leaves and a simple loincloth came into the room leading a chain of Sylph children, each carrying bowls of freshly made food.

“Zam has welcome feast for all new guys!” said the girl.

“Who is Zam?” PoppenSparkle asked Tod.

“She is.  Zam is the Mouse King’s wife.  She’s a very unusual Sylph, better known as the Leaf Witch.”

Poppy suddenly realized how many of the spell scrolls she’d been given to read since her liberation from the Necromancer had the Leaf Witch’s name on them.

“She has magical skills like yours,” said Flute to Poppy.  “I discovered her when we needed to slay the dragon, Darvon Redsoul.”  He smiled,  beaming with pride at his own accomplishment.

“How do we know we can trust these people?” Lancelot said loudly to everyone.

“What do you mean?” asked the Mouse King.

“Less than an hour ago, all these people were Gobbuluns!  Or am I mistaken about what I saw?”

“You are not mistaken.  PoppenSparkle, my newest apprentice, has developed a rare spell that polymorphs members of the Unseely Court into full-blooded members of the Fey Children.” Prince Flute indicated Poppy where she sat next to him, and all eyes turned to focus uncomfortably on her.

Lancelot focused angry, red eyes on her.  “So, how exactly did you do that, Miss Butterfly Witch?”

“Well, I… uh…”

“I kin tells ya that!” exclaimed young Schtinker.

“Oh?  And how does she do it, then?”

“She makes ‘em smarter!  They changes cuz they is no longer dumb enough to be Gobbuluns.”

“And what does it mean, then, that you sound so dumb?”  Lancelot glared so fiercely that Schtinker hid behind Glittershine’s wings.”

“That’s it!  That has to be how they do it!” shouted a young Elf from across the hall.

“And what do you mean by that, Gobbulun-boy?” Lancelot shouted back.

“I was a Gobbulun just a short while ago because Lord Toxiss had me as a prisoner of war, and he changed me from an Elf into a Cyclopes. He did it with a spray of smelly goo that made me get dumber and dumber until I believed I was a Cyclopes.  The Butterfly Witch changed me back by making me smarter again with her magical mist.”

“Of course!  As simple as that!” said Flute, slapping his bare knee with the eureka moment.

“What do you mean?” asked Lancelot.

“It’s the fundamental magical formula that we have been researching all this time.  The key is knowledge… intelligence!  Our very existence is based on the beliefs of Slow Ones that there is magic in the world, simply not yet understood by their science.  And believing in something can make it so.  So, by increasing intelligence and understanding, you build a foundation to hold up that belief.  The more you know, the more strongly you believe!”

“So, how does that help us at present?  We are surrounded by the enemy, stupid, malevolent, violent Gobbuluns, outnumbering us by hundreds to one.  You want to teach them all basic grammar or something?”  Lancelot was wildly gesturing in all directions as he spoke angry words.

Zam the Leaf Witch suddenly climbed up on the table so she could look down on Lancelot with a goofy grin on her child-like face.  She ignited a purple, magical flame in her right hand.

“You is not getting it, Lancy.  Is not smartness from the head we is talking about.  It is from the heart.  Knowledge and Love combined is what be magical.  Miss Poppy-Sparky is right to change Gobbuluns to Fey Children.  Even they is knowing it be more right that way.  You needs to try a dose.”

Whatever the purple fire in the witch’s hand was, she launched it directly at Lancelot’s chest.  But when it struck the area where his heart should be, it burst and dissipated.

Lancelot looked dumbstruck.  And then, obviously, that was immediately converted to shame.  He turned and left the feast hall with his head hanging low.

“Lord Lancy have been doing the fighting thing for too many, many years.  He be kinda down-hearted. We forgives him.  He will get better.”

The feast settled down into conversations and the enjoyment of Fairy dishes like mushroom tips, bean sprouts, dandelion butter, and mint leaves.  The relieved residents of Cornucopia welcomed the new replacement Fairies that had once been Gobbuluns.

“She’s a treasure, that one,” said Flute, pointing at Zam.  “No one gets the better of her in her own feast hall.  Not even Lord Lancelot.”

“What was that spell she put on Lancelot?” Tod asked.

“A heart spell of some kind,” answered Glittershine.  “But didn’t you notice?  It didn’t reach his heart.”

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PoppenSparkle’s Summer Vacation

Many doctors’ appointments, eye treatments, and needed exercise to combat diabetes have all conspired to fill my time to the point that I haven’t gotten publishable work done on the writing projects. So, today there is no completed Canto 10 to share on the novel-writing day. It will be called In the Home of the Leaf Witch when I do have it published.

So, today I will share some meta-data that you might be interested in if you wonder at all how a novel project proceeds in the mind of an extra-goofy writer.

Poppy’s little novella (a book between 15,000 and 25,000 words in length) was conceived as a sequel to The Necromancer’s Apprentice, which is both a parody of the story The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the Mickey Mouse version, and a coming-of-age story about a Sylph girl named Derfentwinkle. Derfie is an enslaved servant of an evil Necromancer at the beginning of the story, sent on a suicide mission against the leaders of the good fairies in Tellosia. She ends up captured alive by an eccentric Sorcerer named Eli Tragedy. He reforms and trains her to spite the Necromancer, his old enemy.

Derfentwinkle is the main character of her story, and the sister of Poppensparkle in this story.
PoppenSparkle is a Butterfly Child. That means she is a Fairy who can fly with butterfly wings. Her sister saved her from the Necromancer, and it was discovered that she has rare magical talents that the Kingdom of Tellosia desperately needs.

The Fairies of Tellosia are tiny compared to the human beings they live around. They call humans the Slow Ones because humans are easily fooled by Fairy glammers and disguise magic.

Glittershine is one of PoppenSparkle’s teachers.

Poppy’s magical education begins as a journey on rooster-back from the Fairy Castle of Cair Tellos to the distant Castle of Cornucopia where a war is raging and several critical magical problems have to be solved.

Prinz Flute, the son and heir of the High Wizard of Tellosia, has taken over Poppy’s education.

So, if you are actually waiting impatiently for Canto 10 to drop and appear on this blog, keep an eye on us here at Catch a Falling Star. It will get published as soon as it is acceptably written and edited. And if you are not waiting for the next installment in the way readers once waited for the next chapter of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, thus contradicting Mickey’s delusion that he is in any way like Dickens as an author, you can continue to glance at the pictures, ignore the text, and move on without clicking the “like” button like most readers do.

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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 9

Canto 9 – The Mad Fight

Prince Flute’s rooster riders made a mad dash for Castle Cornucopia.  They all knew that their presence was desperately needed.  But more than ever was their presence required since Poppy’s new spell provided an answer to the war problem that the Fairies never had before.  Bad guys could be changed into allies by magic.  And once having a taste of life as a Sylph or an Elf, the Gobbuluns definitely preferred to stay in their new bodies on the side of the Fairies.

“We promise to fight hard for the Cornucopians,” said the Elf, the fastest learner of Fairy English.  “There is no going back for us.  And even if we have to fight and kill our former friends, they are such low and horrid creatures that we will not shed a tear over them.”

“Not ebben for me wifey!” added one of the Sylphs.  “She be too uglee and stoopid for keepin’.”

They all rounded the final turn, and Castle Cornucopia was laid out before them.  It was, of course, actually a Slow One’s barn with Fairy ramparts and towers added to all the wooden walls, but disguised by magical glammers that made the barn appear to be a normal functioning palace for milk cows.

But the truly unbelievable part was the fact that the entire defense force, instead of manning the fortified walls and ramparts, were out in the middle of the field to the east of the castle, surrounded by a sea of raging green Gobbuluns and enemies from the Unseely Court.

“What’s this?  Why is Lancelot attacking rather than defending the castle?” Prinz Flute was shocked.

“He be mad, dat one!” called out Schtinker.

“We have to help them survive.  That is the entire defense force of the castle about to be slain!” cried Tod.

“No, no, no…!” called out Glittershine.

Flute turned to Poppy and put a hand on each of her arms.  “Can you polymorph a really large number of Gobbuluns into Fairies?”

“I… I don’t know.  That takes an immense amount of power.  It will completely exhaust me, and I doubt I can change enough of them to make a difference.”

“Can you try, please?  As many as you can, on the side closest to the castle so the encircled army has a way to escape.”

“I will do the best I can…”

PoppenSparkle gathered all the energy her tired body could hold.  It wasn’t enough because she hadn’t absorbed enough sunshine since she had changed the four from the abandoned barn.   But it would change a few dozen completely.  She crackled with the summoned charge of energy, and then carefully spied out the area of fighting Gobbuluns she meant to target.

The power left her fingertips as soon as she uttered the trigger word and formed into a lightning bolt before becoming the transformational cloud over the writhing Gobbulun bodies.  They twisted and morphed as if they were made of clay and became mostly naked and poorly armed Sylphs, Elves, and Butterfly Children.

“Men of Cornucopia!  Follow me back to the castle!” shouted Prinz Flute, dashing forward to toss fireballs with his wand into the crowds of green Wartoles that hadn’t been touched by the polymorphing cloud.

“No!  Hold your ground men!  We will be covered in glory this day, even if we all die.”  Lancelot seemed outraged at Flute trying to take command.

“Look at all these new Fey Children on our side, Lord!  We now have a chance to hold the castle.  Why should we still go through with the plan to sacrifice ourselves?  We don’t have to die now!  And you will not die in any case.”  The Rascal was obviously defying his master.  But it was effective.  The Sylphs under Lancelot’s command broke ranks, fighting only to protect their escaping  brethren.  The mass of Fairy warriors flooded back towards the castle, carrying Flute’s rooster riders and all the newly made Fairies with them.

At the castle gate, Lord Lancelot, King Mouse, and Prinz Flute all pulled up short of it to shout at each other.

“How dare you countermand my battle plan?” roared Lancelot.

Prinz Flute, taken aback, quickly replied, “How dare you try to get everyone killed in spite of the fact that I provided you with a means to survive the day, and possibly win the war?”

King Mouse was a Pixie, of the kind that take on the partial form of woodland creatures.  His head and paws and tail were all very mouse-like, while his body was very hunman-shaped and capable of wearing a suit of Fairy armor.

“I know your status as Tellosian Hero means you outrank me, Lord Lancelot, but as King of Cornucopia, I side with Prinz Flute on the question of whether today is the day we all die or not.”

“Well, we can’t exactly reform the troops and attack again now.  But I would rather take the fight to them than hole up for a siege and defensive last stand.”

Prinz Flute seemed to be actively trying to calm himself.  Poppy appreciated how calm he could make himself in dire situations.  “You must come in and listen to the new plans I have formulated.  I have made a breakthrough in magical research that might win the day for us without fighting battles against foes that outnumber us.”

Angry as Lancelot still seemed, he nodded his assent.

The Rascal ran up to him to make a report on the retreat into the castle.

Lord Lancelot eyed him coldly.  “I have no time for disobedient underlings.  Rascal, you are dismissed from my service.”

Crestfallen, the boy turned and walked back into the castle without making a report.

“Now that we have more men to defend the walls with,” said King Mouse, “let’s retire to the throne room and discuss further strategy.

Flute signalled to Poppy, calling her to him.  “You have saved the day yet again, PoppenSparkle.”

“I only did the magic.  You made it happen.”

“You look exhausted, little one.”

She smiled.  She was actually taller than Flute, but not about to contradict him.  He put his arm around her to guide her.

Lord Lancelot stood in the gateway, looking at the stupidly confused horde of Gobbuluns.  He finally turned and entered too so that the gate could be shut and barred.

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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 8

Canto 8 – The Abandoned Barn

As the group continued to ride the roosters, little Schtinker could not stop talking.  Poppy talked to him as soothingly as possible, hoping to calm him and quiet him.

“We is headed to badness!” insisted Schtinker.

“You should say, We are headed for trouble,” corrected Poppy. 

“We are headed for trouble.  That knight don’t care bout ennybuddy but his own self.”

“You mean,  That knight doesn’t care about anybody but himself.

“See there?  You know it yourself!” said the exasperated Schtinker.

“You know,” said Flute leaning over from his rooster saddle to look Schtinker squarely in the eyes, “This kid is learning to speak better almost instantly.”

“This kid can thinks bedder dan he ever does before.  Troll thinking comes hard and slow.  But my mind is getting faster da more I uses it.”

“Let’s make for that abandoned barn over there.  We need to study this polymorphed little phenomenon a little bit closer.” Flute pointed at the huge rotting structure that had once been the kind of fortress for cows that Slow Ones called a barn.

“But it is urgent that we get to Castle Cornucopia fast,” warned Tod.

“I have an idea that we may benefit more by what Poppy has learned to do with her magic than any sword swings or fireballs we could add to the battle to come.”  Flute grinned as he spurred Tannehauser towards the run-down old barn.

“You is no knowing what you is doing, Prinz-guy.  Dat barn be da home of Gobbuluns!” warned Schtinker.

“Yes, I know.  But tell me, Stinky, do you really want to become a Troll again?  Or would rather stay a Sylph boy?”

Schtinker got suddenly wide-eyed and serious.   “You mean I can be dis permanent-like?”

“He can, can’t he, Poppy?”  Flute asked.

“I would have to make a difficult spell translation to turn him back into a Troll, and I like him better like this.”  PoppenSparkle smiled at the wiggly former Troll.

Schtinker gave her a hug for the sheer joy she had apparently filled his little Sylph body with.

Once inside the old barn Flute made the group dismount and gather in a circle amidst the old tractor-tire ruts on the barn’s dried mud floor.

“Poppy, I need to cast a rather invasive spell on you to measure things in your mind. You will have to disrobe for me to do it,” Flute said. He was not asking for permission.

“Sure. I prefer to be naked.” Poppy had no trouble slipping off the bikini-like armor that protected her from mind spells. Her butterfly wings magically unfurled.

Flute pulled a scroll out of his pouch attached to his loincloth. “Messen Sie die Metriken in ihrem Kopf. Finschole!” Sparks flew out of his fingertips and embedded themselves in her forehead. Poppy’s field of vision turned into multicolored clouds.

“Aha! It’s just as I thought. Her polymorph spell not only reshapes the body, it boosts the intelligence in the parts of the brain of the subject that serve the principles of light. It’s a mix of changing the shape and changing darkness into light.”

“So, what does that mean?” asked Tod.

“Let me test the boy to make certain of it.” Flute cast the same spell on young Schtinker.

“Just as I thought. We can turn Gobbuluns of various sorts into Sylphs, Elves, or Brownies simply by turning their inherent darkness into light.”

“Weez doan no wut you iz talkin’, but weez tanks you for bringin’ us chickie meatz an Fairy bodeez to eats!”

Four Gobbuluns gathered together atop a rotting hay bale with mushrooms growing on it. They were armed with spears that were basically sharpened sticks.

Prinz Flute looked them over humorlessly, then broke into a huge smile. “Poppy, I think we may have just found some recruits for the upcoming battle. Can you morph them the same way you did Schtinker? Please?”

Poppy leaned into the spell and enveloped the three Wartoles and one Cyclopes in her spell cloud.

The Gobbuluns didn’t even have time to scream. The cloud dispersed leaving behind three Sylph warriors with iron-tipped spears and one Elf with an Elven bow and quiver of arrows.

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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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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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