Last Sunday The Storyteller’s daughter has been cursed and trapped in the body of a fox she must hope for a miracle to be returned to her family.
Summer: Chapter Twelve – The Storyteller to the Rescue
Image ©Tales from the Irish Garden..
As the morning light filtered through the branches above her head, Dorothy watched her three cubs as they wrestled and tumbled around her. Eddie was still not home but she knew that he would fight to the end to return to her and their family. Human tears fell from her blue eyes as she contemplated a future for them without his love and support.
Meanwhile, across the forest and only a few feet from the fence that separated the woods from the magic garden, Eddie lay panting in the damp grass. He had been returning from the village, where he had managed to scavenge half a cooked chicken, and some slightly rancid ham from waste bins behind the Inn, when he had suddenly felt a stabbing pain in one of his back legs. As he collapsed into a heap, dropping his precious food, he felt a sense of doom about the future of his small family.
He was losing strength as he had struggled to release his foot from the snare cutting into his flesh. It was hopeless, as the more he fought against the wire, the tighter it became.
Suddenly he heard whistling nearby and snarled, ready to bite the hand of the hunter who had laid this cruel trap. He looked up and saw a pair of leggings above sturdy boots, and a gnarled hand reaching down towards him. He snarled in warning as the flesh neared his nose, but then heard a voice that he knew.
‘There, there lad, don’t fret now, let’s get you out of that wicked thing my boy.’ Eddie lay back down, worn out from the night’s struggles, and also shocked by hearing the Storyteller’s voice after four long years. He had no way to communicate who he was to Dorothy’s father, but he tried to think of a way to get through to him.
Gently the old man held the fox’s leg in his hand whilst he worked the wire until it loosened. He could see that there was damage to the foot that needed to be treated with some of his magic potions, and having released the animal, he picked him up in his arms and carried him to the cottage.
Within minutes of the wound being washed and coated with the wild herb dressing, Eddie was out of pain and eager to be on his way back to Dorothy and the babies. He knew she would be frantic by now and would not be able to leave the den as the pups were far too young. She would be very hungry, and only have enough milk for another day or so. He wanted to express his gratitude to her father in the only way that he could, by gently licking his hand. The Storyteller reciprocated by stroking the dark red fur of his patient’s head and for a brief moment Eddie felt a sense of peace.
The old man picked him up and walked out of the cottage and down the path to the wooden gate. He deposited Eddie next to the chicken and the ham, which miraculously had not been filched in his absence. He stood back and waited to make sure that the fox would be able to move easily, but was taken by surprise as the animal sat down and looked right up at him with strangely human eyes. The Storyteller was a man of magic, and not one to have flights of fancy, and when the fox stood and ran around him several times before picking up the food and moving along the path, he decided to follow him.
Through the forest they moved, sometimes on the path, and at times through the undergrowth. From time to time, Eddie would stop and look over his shoulder to make sure that the old man was keeping up with him. Eventually they emerged into the clearing in front of the den and he pushed aside the bushes concealing the entrance. He was relieved to see his beloved Dorothy gently nuzzling the babies as they drank their milk. She looked up and saw him, and she gave a delighted yip to welcome him home. He dropped the food in front of her but she was too relieved to see him to eat right then. He stood by her side and nuzzled her neck fur, gently licking her ears in devotion.
Eddie rose and indicated that he wanted her to follow him into the sunlight and bring the babies with her. The family emerged, and immediately the cubs, full of milk and ready to play, chased each other in and out of their parent’s legs and biting their feathered tails.
On the edge of the clearing the Storyteller paused and took in the delightful scene in front of him. He didn’t want to startle the vixen and her cubs, but Eddie trotted towards him before turning back again in invitation. The man moved slowly, bending down close to the ground to show that he meant no harm and found himself looking directly into a pair of eyes that he had never forgotten. He fell backwards onto his bottom, staring in shock at the two foxes in front of him. He and Eddie’s family had mourned the loss of their children four years before, thinking that some dreadful accident had befallen them or that they had been killed by some passing vagabonds. No trace of them had ever been found and eventually they had to accept that they were gone forever.
Dorothy had been so intent on her three pups that it took a moment before she looked more closely at the man sat in front of her. Tears formed in her blue eyes, revealing the human hidden beneath the russet fur. She left the cubs with Eddie, approaching hesitantly and stood by her father’s knee. He stretched out his arms and she leapt into them so that she could plaster his face and lick away his own tears.
‘Who did this to you child?’ He gently smoothed the rich red fur of the top of her head.
‘Who could be so wicked as to take you both from us?’ he paused as a thought struck him.
‘The only one who would seek pleasure from this would be the Goblin and I suspect Magnus who left around the same time you disappeared.’ Dorothy, still under the curse of silence, nodded her head slowly and the Storyteller put her back on the ground, stood up and dusted himself off.
‘If I carry the cubs, will you and Eddie come with me to the Goblin’s cave and I will make him reverse his curse that he placed on you?’ He walked over to where the now fed and sleepy cubs were lying next to their father, gently picking them up one my one; tucking the squirming fur bundles carefully into the front of his jumper. Keeping one hand beneath them to keep them safe, he and the two foxes headed off to the other end of the forest and the dank place which stank of rancid goblin.
You have already heard and witnessed the persuasiveness of the Storytellers abilities, and the following day a message was sent to Eddie’s parents to come to the cottage in the magic garden for Sunday lunch. You can imagine their shock on arriving to find their son, now a mature grown man, with his arms around the shoulders of the beautiful Dorothy, alongside three gloriously red-headed triplets, tucking into a chicken purée dinner.
As to the Goblin, he has never been seen again. Those that wander into that part of the forest are amused by the statue of stone that looks like an old ugly monkey squealing in terror. The place is no longer dark and dank, but is sunlit and is always covered in a carpet of foxgloves.
I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow for more adventures in the magic garden.
My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
I bought Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story by this author partly because it featured the same breed of dog that had been cherished pets of ours. That book held me spellbound. When I discovered the existence of this one, I bought it despite the fact that short stories are not my usual genre. It turned out to be a perfect escape from a pandemic.
This book is a little gem! Each tale is different. I was impressed by the range of moods – comic, poignant, vengeful, futuristic, romantic – each one gripping in its own way. It’s hard to pick favourites but it opens with a humorous story about AI and its thwarting of a dieter craving a treat. Another one concerning domestic abuse has a delicious twist. I had intended putting this book by the bed and dipping into it on those nights when sleep doesn’t come easily. Well, sleep suffered considerably. I read the entire book in one sitting!
If you’re looking for a multi-faceted treasury of well-written tales about the human condition, then this book is one for you. I raged, wept, laughed and gasped at some of these but there was never a sense of hopelessness or cynicism . Read it and be moved, thrilled, delighted and diverted.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021