Last Sunday a small badger came to the magic garden to seek help from the queen. An evil crone has threatened his family if he does not return with some of the royal jelly to cure her arthritis:
Chapter Fourteen – Summer: The Rescue Mission
Image Tales from the Irish Garden
Within a very short space of time, which is quite unusual for the fairy court, which moves at its own leisurely pace normally, everyone was gathered in the throne room. The captain of the palace guard, Sir Rodney Flabbergast, stood to attention by the side of his seated queen. Prince Ronan was pacing the floor impatiently, running his hand up and down the hilt of his golden sword, eager to get on with the impending tussle. The Queen Bee had been brought down from the rooftop hives on a silver cushion, and had been placed on the arm of the throne where she gently buzzed. The double doors opened and the two eagle guardians who had accompanied the queen from Spain, and dealt with the evil witch the year before, strutted across the floor, glaring at all those assembled in case of danger to their sovereign.
One other personage arrived, the court physician Doctor Doesugood, tailed by his two assistants, who requested permission to approach her majesty, where he proceeded to whisper for five long minutes in her ear. Queen Filigree nodded her head and smiled and then leant down closer to the Queen Bee to confer with her. With a louder than normal buzz, the bee bounced up and down once or twice in agreement.
The Storyteller was sat in a velvet chair in place of honour at the foot of the royal dais and Basil struggled to stay awake. Queen Filigree nodded for the old man to relate the story and to get everyone up to speed.
What followed must remain secret for the time being to maintain the element of surprise, especially as the witch was not above employing spies, in the form of rogue moths, to act as her eyes and ears within the palace walls.
Preparations continued throughout the day. The eagles took to the sky, and after patrolling the outskirts of the forest, they took up position high in the treetops either side of the beleaguered badger sett. Soldiers of the royal guard left the palace and the magic garden in groups of three and concealed themselves in the undergrowth awaiting the exchange at midnight.
In the palace the Queen Bee conferred with her top drones before filling three walnut halves with some of the precious jelly usually only reserved for herself and Queen Filigree. They were handed to Doctor Doesugood who carried them carefully down to the throne room to be placed in a special box to keep it fresh.
The Storyteller, on discussion with the others in the group, was detailed to carry Basil back into the forest at dusk, and to secrete himself into the bushes to keep an eye on the young badger as he waited in the dark for the witch to return. On the walk, he talked it through with the young broc, calming his nerves and reassuring him that the entire resources of the fairy kingdom were on his side, and that he needed to be brave for just a little longer.
‘She loved the rose didn’t she?’ Basil looked up in to his new friend’s eyes. ‘And you do forgive me for what I did to your garden, don’t you?’
‘Listen boy,’ the Storyteller’s voice was gruff with emotion. ‘You wanted to protect your family and I respect that, so enough said. But next time you feel the need to steal my flowers come and ask me first, okay?’
‘Okay, I promise,’ and the badger snuggled down for the last mile of the journey.
Four hours later, as all of the assembled guardians and soldiers watched from their hiding places, Basil sat himself down on a clump of late blooming onion weed, waiting nervously for the hag to appear.
As the midnight hour approached, the forest animals suddenly hushed, and through the silence, a loud rushing and chortling was heard. With a snapping of twigs and a sudden shout of pain, the whirling dervish descended into the clearing having hit a few branches on the way down.
‘Ouch, ouch, ouch, blasted knees.’ With a thump, the witch fell off her broom and turned to face the terrified badger. ‘Well you little munchkin, have you got the ransom to pay for the release of your snuffling family?’
Basil nodded his head vigorously and held out a large oak leaf bearing the three half walnut shells containing the precious royal honey.
The old crone hobbled over to Basil and snatched the prize out of his claws, cackling as she sat down on a nearby rock to check out the contents of the walnut shells. She sniffed, dipped her blackened long nails into it and touched them to her rancid tongue. She continued to chat to herself as she thoroughly inspected the ransom.
Finally satisfied, she picked up her broom and waved it in the general direction of the entrance to the sett. With crack and a thump, the earth that had blocked the burrow, fell inwards creating an open doorway, and within minutes a greying snout appeared followed by two inquisitive eyes.
Basil rushed over yelling excitedly. ‘Granddad, granddad, it’s okay I have paid off the witch.’
Slowly the elderly badger pushed himself out of the tunnel and stood between his grandson and the evil old woman.
The witch however was not paying any attention as she first rubbed each knee with the honey, cooing in bliss as the sweetness infused into her bony protuberances. She then downed the last shell’s contents and sat for a moment or two savouring the taste.
She wobbled over to her broom stick and tossed one leg over the handle in preparation for take-off. As she did so the Storyteller stepped out of his hiding place and walked towards her. She caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye, and was just about to turn and remonstrate with him, when she was startled by a whooshing sound that appeared to be coming from two separate directions. Looking up she was horrified to see two massive eagles descending from their perches in the treetops, recognising her adversaries from the year before. This was not going to end well!
Running as fast as her knees would allow, she raced across the clearing in a desperate effort to get off the ground. But something was wrong. It felt like her knees were locked in place and as she opened her mouth to shout expletives and curses at the two rapidly approaching giant birds of prey, she found that her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth.
The Storyteller put his arms around the two badgers and suggested that they turn away now. Without the witch’s ability to curse anyone, the palace guard broke from cover and surrounded the odorous creature as she stood quivering with rage. The old crone wriggled helplessly as two soldiers attached silk rope to the front and back end of the broom.
Basil and his grandfather kept their faces turned into the Storyteller’s tweed jacket but it didn’t prevent them hearing the most horrendous scream of terror. Being nosy by nature they turned their snouts heavenwards to see the witch being hauled up into the air by the eagles swinging between them as they headed off into the midnight sky.
After making sure that the whole of Basil’s family was safe and that the other entrances to their home were now open, the Storyteller walked back to his cottage to catch up on his sleep after such an exciting day. The next morning, it was with some trepidation that he approached the rose garden, and was relieved to find all was as it should be. As he clipped bushes back and inhaled the heady scent, he heard footsteps on the path. He turned to find the fairy queen and her husband walking towards him hand in hand.
‘Good morning Storyteller,’ Queen Filigree held out her hand to her friend. ‘We just wanted to let you know that the witch will not trouble us again.’
The three of them strolled out of the bower into the vegetable patch, whilst the queen explained that the eagles had deposited the witch into the hands of the guardians of an island off the west coast of Ireland. She was incarcerated in a beehive hut, and her broom had been thrown on the cooking fire. Without the ability to speak or walk for all eternity, her days of terrorising humans, and all other creatures, were over.
The old man had loved the adventure and missed his little furry friend, but he needn’t have worried, as occasionally, in the late evening when everyone else was asleep, there would be a tap at the door and Basil would pop in for a chat and a cuddle.
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©Sally Cronin 2018
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
Valentina‘s review Mar 16, 2021it was amazing
This is an entertaining book written in the format of short stories that portray ordinary people, very interesting people, observed in real-life situations overcoming all their challenges in a positive way. Author Sally Cronin with her empathetic voice makes people’s dreams and passion come alive. There are poems and pictures scattered throughout.
The stories are vignettes of people’s lives that make this book a great reading and leave the readers feeling good about the world and people.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021