Yesterday The Storyteller with a little help, releases his daughter and her family from an evil curse and there is much celebration in the magic garden.. this week more trouble on the domestic front…
Summer: Chapter Thirteen – Trouble in the Rose Garden
©image Tales from the Irish Garden
After a month of honeymooning at the Royal Palace in Meath, and enjoying the company of King Phillip and Queen Seren, the happy couple returned home to their own realm beneath the magnolia tree. To be honest for the first few days they were rarely seen as they kept to their chambers, fortified by exquisitely prepared meals by Chef Marcelle accompanied by copious amounts of the restorative mead, made from the fermented honey of the royal bees.
The two princesses were, of course, impatient to hear all about Prince Ronan’s family holiday home, and after much persistent chatter, and in an effort to remove them from their chambers, he promised to take them there the following summer.
The magic garden was overflowing with colour and glorious scents that were hypnotic. The Storyteller would wander through the long meadow grass to the secret nooks and crannies where herbs and spices grew untamed and vibrant. His favourite place however, was in his rose bower, where every bloom was lovingly tended on a daily basis. After his breakfast of oatmeal and prunes, he would make his way into his sanctuary with secateurs and a wooden trug to fill with the fragrant blossoms. He knew that Queen Filigree was enamoured of the colour and scent of the Papa Meilland Rose that he had cultivated from a bush his French cousin had sent him. The rose loved the warmer dryer climate, and would not normally thrive where rain and cold winds could lash the delicate flowers. However, in this magic place, all plants grew and flourished, especially when touched by the hands of this gentle gardener.
On this particular morning, as the sun shone on dew covered leafs and petals, the Storyteller eagerly anticipated an hour or so amongst the roses, inhaling their aroma and listening to the royal bees as they collected sweet pollen.
This morning the peace of the garden was shattered by a roar of anger, and the sound of the trug and implements hitting the stone path that wended its way through the bower. The Storyteller stared around him at the devastation. Beautiful, but wilting red flowers littered the earth around the rose bushes, which stood sadly and partially naked in the sunlight. In despair the old man raised his hands and bowed his head in sorrow. He took a deep breath and raised his head to see if he could find what or who had done this to his treasured roses.
‘I have to find the perfect one… it has to be the best or she won’t grant my wish… oh I can’t decide… what am I going to do?’
The Storyteller turned towards the voice and spotted a black and white flash partially hidden beneath the hedge that bordered the garden. He moved towards the intruder with retribution on his mind, pulling the leaves of the hedge apart to reveal the suspected culprit of this carnage.
There sat a young badger sheltering from the daylight surrounded by rose heads and a big, juicy wriggling worm that he had clearly dug up fresh from the vegetable patch.
‘What have you done you miserable broc,’ the Storyteller was beside himself. ‘You have ruined my rose garden, for what exactly? And it better be a good reason, or I will turn you into a statue for pigeons to poop on!’
The young badger pushed back into the foliage and stared up at the angry old man, who even he knew, had powers beyond belief.
‘Please, please, I am sorry,’ he held up his long clawed paws pleadingly. ‘My family are being kept captive by a witch that has taken over our part of the forest, and she said that unless I get a king’s ransom of royal honey for her arthritis, she will turn them into the only moles in Ireland.’
The Storyteller beckoned the nervous animal out from under the hedge, and with the waddling creature following behind him, he headed for his deckchair where he enjoyed secret naps in the afternoon. He noticed that the badger was holding a very large, red velvet rose between his paws and reached out to remove it from his claws.
‘No please, no… I think that this is the one that will persuade the fairy queen to let me have some of the royal honey, please let me keep it.
Begrudgingly, the old man sat back in his comfy deckchair and gave an exasperated sigh.
‘Okay, out with it, give me the full story, otherwise I can’t help you.
The youngster inhaled the scent from the rose in his grasp and then lifted his head and looked at the Storyteller with tears in his eyes.
He explained that two nights ago as he and his brothers and sisters were playing outside their sett in the moonlight, a great black object flew down from the tree tops and landed with a thump right in front of them. Their parents and the other adults had just returned from the forest after digging up roots and finding fresh grasses for their bedding. They had left the youngsters working off some of their energy, so that they would sleep through the long day to come, and were deep underground in their soundless world, oblivious to the danger to their offspring.
Before the terrified young badgers, crouched the ugliest crone imaginable, waving her gnarled and blackened broomstick around threateningly.
‘Now you little flea ridden bundles of joy,’ the old woman waved her broom at them to make sure she had their attention. ‘I am in desperate need of the royal honey made for the fairy queen for my dodgy knees and you are going to get it for me. Stop bleating and tell me you understand me!’
Cowering together for comfort, the four of them nodded in agreement. ‘You, the cocky looking one at the end, what’s your name?’
‘Basil your worship, and may I say that you are extremely beautiful and fragrant.’
‘Flattery will get you nowhere you little vermin… but you will do.’
With that she approached the four of them, and nudged Basil’s two sisters and brother tumbling into the entrance of their home. With a wave of her broom the earth caved in and he could hear muffled cries from behind the wall of earth.
‘And don’t think that I have not blocked all the secret entrances to this foul den of iniquity either.’ She cackled to herself until she began coughing and spluttering.
‘You need to go to the palace under the magnolia tree and tell that uppity Queen Filigree to give you three walnut shell halves of the best royal honey she has, otherwise your family will be trapped underground for all eternity.’
With that she mounted her broomstick and made her pre-flight checks. ‘I will be back tonight at midnight and if you haven’t got my honey, you will be very sorry.’
Off she flew into the dark night, narrowly missing a tree as her wonky knees failed to correct her trajectory.
The badger looked up at the storyteller pleadingly. ‘I know the queen would not let me have the honey for nothing, and I had heard that she would do anything for one of these luscious roses, so that is why I was trying to find the best.’
You would have to be a very hard man to ignore those brown eyes and beguiling features. And we all know that the Storyteller was a push over when it came to the creatures in and around the magic garden. With a sigh he rose from the bench and lifted the young badger into his arms.
‘Right, young man, we have work to do, but first I need to fix this mess you have made.
Close your eyes so the flash doesn’t blind you.’
Basil rested his head thankfully against the rough material of the old man’s jacket and closed his eyes. It was daylight and he should have been fast asleep in the safety of his sett with his family, and he gently began to snore.
The Storyteller smiled down at the little chap and placed his hands over the furry ears. There was a large flash and a clap of thunder and the rose garden was restored to its former glory, except for one bush that was missing a large, velvety red rose that was still clasped between the paws of the sleeping badger.
Two hours later, the Storyteller, with the young badger still asleep in his arms, was ushered into the courtyard of the palace where the queen and Prince Ronan were enjoying a late breakfast of homemade scones, strawberry jam and fresh cream. The couple were delighted to see their friend and bade him join them at the table. At this point with the smell of strawberry jam permeating his sensitive nostrils, Basil woke with a sneeze and froze in awe of the esteemed company he found himself in.
Stroking the black and white fur gently, the Storyteller related his tale to the increasingly astonished audience.
‘Blast,’ spluttered the queen unregally.’ She looked across at her new husband. ‘I thought we had dealt with that old besom wielding crone once-and-for-all last year in Spain.’ She smiled warmly at Basil, reaching out to tease the beautiful red velvet rose from his clasp.
‘I believe that is for me young man,’ she smiled gently at him. The young badger, frozen in adoration, reluctantly gave up his prize assisted gently by the Storyteller. ‘Breathe young fellow, breathe, the old man whispered in his ear.
After smelling the fragrant rose and nodding in appreciation, Queen Filigree called for her lady-in-waiting, hovering outside the door to the courtyard, eager for snippets of gossip to relay to her nearest and dearest.
‘Stop listening at keyholes Lady Ellie otherwise I will send you back to that garden as a dog and slave to the humans.’ Lady Ellie sniffed defensively and curtsied as low as she could manage with her stiff back.
‘Your wish is my command your majesty, and I am eager to do your bidding.’
‘Please summon the captain of the palace guard, request the presence of the Queen Bee and alert the Eagle guardians that they will have a long night ahead of them.’ Bristling with importance, Lady Ellie scurried off on her errand as the queen turned to her husband.
‘My darling,’ she placed her hand on his muscular arm. ‘Are you up for a little mischief in a good cause?’
‘Always with you my dearest, always.’ He stood and headed for the door. ‘I will just go and get into something more appropriate for the adventure ahead.’ With that he winked at his queen, waving goodbye to the Storyteller and his furry companion.
To be continued next weekend…..
I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next weekend 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