Winter: Chapter Four – The Flight to the New Land
Back at the Palace it was pandemonium, with fairies flying around in a discordant symphony of gossamer wings. Finally, after a day of panic, Queen Filigree ordered her advisors to bring all the members of the court to the ballroom so that she could address them. She also summoned Jacamo the pigeon master, the Queen Bee from the royal hives and Sir Gregory’s chief butterfly messenger; all of whom were essential to the planning of this massive migration to the new land.
‘I want you all to sit down on the chairs provided and close your eyes for a few moments to compose yourselves.’ Queen Filigree looked around the ballroom to make sure all complied with her order. When all the fairies were sitting calmly, she took a deep breath herself, and then issued the following edict.
‘Unfortunately we cannot pack all that we have collected in the last 700 years, and we also cannot transport many of our stone guardians that have guarded our secrets so well.’ The queen heard one or two gasps and ran her eyes over the crowded chamber until she spotted several of her courtiers with their eyes open in dismay.
‘Fairy Nikisha, close your eyes this instant and pay attention.’ Immediately she saw the little blonde fairy’s eyes snap shut again.
Satisfied that she had everyone’s attention she continued. ‘Those guardians that we cannot carry by swan, will be transported north for safety to Prince Zachary’s palace, where one day he will be king. He lives in a safe haven that is protected land, and they will be welcomed there. I charge them with caring for my beloved son and his family for their lifetime.’
Those listening heard the break in their beloved queen’s voice, as she shared this news of their revered guardians. ‘It is with much sadness that I lose their loyalty and wisdom, but we will be taking with us the eagles, who have been our guardians since Roman times, and the Princess Lucinda who came to us from my mother’s kingdom in Anglo.’
Tears were in the queen’s eyes as she took a moment to calm herself. She knew that she had done the best she could for her beloved guardians, and she smiled wryly at the thought that she would even miss that wretched Stoned Band.
‘Now, all of you are to take one silk bag from the corner, and that will be sufficient for some clothes, toiletries, personal mementos, and a honey drink and blueberry muffin for the trip. The Swan Express will be supplying us with Canadian Geese to carry the passengers, and Swan Cobs for the household items such as furniture, linen and gold.’
Queen Filigree clapped her hands. ‘Now, open your eyes all of you, and has anyone got any questions?’
Immediately the Queen Bee lifted one of her furry feet and waved it in the air and began to buzz her question.
‘Your majesty, what about my subjects, and the stores of beeswax and honey, how are they to be transported?’
‘Thank you for asking Queen Bee. You and your hive will be transported in special honey baskets that will be provided by Swan Express. They will be strapped to their most experienced employees, and will leave in two days.’ Satisfied with the solution, the bee queen left to organise her minions.
The next three days passed in a much more orderly fashion, with treasures taken up from the roots of the magnolia, to waiting swans with capacious saddle bags that were filled to the brim. When they left fully loaded, they also carried a senior courtier, who would organise the unpacking and furnishing of the new palace on the Emerald Island.
With only a day to spare, Jacamo and the queen, released all the non-nesting pigeons into the warm spring air to make their own way. A message had already been sent to the Storyteller who had built a dovecote in the branches of the magnolia tree in preparation for their arrival, and within three days, they were all safely roosting and exploring their new surroundings.
On the last day, a line of Canadian Geese lined up on the grass, as a queue of nervous fairies, clasping silk bags with their treasured possessions, waited to fly up to take their seat along the bird’s broad back. Each was tied on with a thread of spider’s silk and a humming- bird moth moved between them checking they were strapped in and comfortable.
The last goose in the line was reserved for Queen Filigree and her two daughters, with considerably more bags of belongings than those flying in economy. But, as a queen it was important that she meet her new guardian, the Storyteller suitably attired.
With everything loaded, she turned for one last look at the garden that had been her home and kingdom for 700 years, following her arrival as a young bride to the handsome prince.
He was now long banished to the human world for his dishonourable behaviour. However, she had many happy memories of her life here, and she would so miss her guardians in the garden, now departed for her son’s palace. She looked up at the branches at the broad green leaves of the magnolia, and saw the tears that had formed on the tips dripping onto the ground. Her own eyes overflowed and she wiped them away with sorrow.
With a deep sigh she flew up to the broad back of the goose where her throne was tied down with spider silk, ready to receive her royal behind. A humming-bird moth brought her a glass of amber nectar, and a packet of honeycomb mixed with ginger in case she felt airsick during the flight. After thanking the flight attendant, the Queen checked that her two daughters were safely seated behind her, and waved her wand in the air to signal that the goose could take to the air.
The goose did a circuit of the now empty magic garden to check that no fairy had been left behind. With a final wave Queen Filigree said her farewell and settled down for the long flight to her new home.
Two days later, with the aid of a tail wind, the goose carrying Queen Filigree and her daughters, arrived in the garden of the Storyteller. As the now weary bird circled to land, the queen looked down at the greenest garden and woods that she had ever seen. She was used to her garden in Spain, remaining much of the year brown and arid, going months without rain. Even in the winter just past, with little snow, the grass had barely recovered and some of the bushes and shrubs had failed to come to life again in the spring.
This was a very good start, and hope flared in her heart again, as she saw lines of geese on the ground close to the magnolia tree that was to be her new kingdom. It seemed that all had arrived safely, as had the swans now pecking at corn and seed that had been strewn across the emerald grass for the hungry birds by the Storyteller.
He was standing waiting by a small strip of red carpet, dressed in his best suit and with a freshly shaved face. As the queen flew down from the back of the goose onto the carpet, the human shrank down in size and stepped out to meet her.
‘Your majesty,’ the smartly dressed man greeted her warmly. ‘It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to your new kingdom beneath the magnolia, where all your belongings are now safely installed. He waved his hand in the direction of the tree, as her excited subjects and courtiers spilled from the roots, rushing towards their queen in joy. She held out her arms and hugged each one with thanks for their safe delivery, and then turned to their new guardian.
‘Thank you Storyteller for your kind hospitality, and I hope that you will join us in a few days, once we are settled, for a banquet of celebration and in your honour.’ The old man smiled in delight and offered to show the palace chef his extensive kitchen garden, and also the herbs available in his neighbour Summer’s garden.
With the greeting ceremony over, Queen Filigree and her daughters were escorted into her new Palace where she found that her courtiers had been busy overnight preparing the chambers. She asked to see the Queen Bee to make sure that she was satisfied with her new quarters, as they were dependent on the honey for so many of their needs. Happily there was a satisfied and a productive hum coming from the roof of the palace, which had access to the garden and the wonderful array of flowers and greenery surrounding their beautiful new home.
After a simple supper prepared by Chef Marcelle, the queen wandered through the passages and caverns that had been another royal palace many moons ago. She admitted to herself that her predecessors had certainly had great taste, and she loved the throne room with its turquoise lacquered walls and drapes of the most vibrant pink. The throne was covered in a woven cloth that combined the two colours, and as she sat and rested her arms on the carved wood armrests, she gave a sigh of relief.
Her imagination had been running riot for the last few weeks, conjuring up every kind of disaster. She slipped from the throne room and down the corridor to her bedchamber, pushing open the door to find a warm glow coming from a roaring fire in a beautifully decorated granite fireplace. Lady Ellie came forward with one of the royal silk nightgowns over her arm, and gently led her over to the separate dressing room to remove her travel crumpled clothing. Before she placed the featherlight nightgown over her majesty’s head, Lady Ellie gently washed her body with a soft natural sea sponge dipped in warm water. Filled with minerals, not only was the dirt removed but the queen’s body was infused with nutrients to aid restful sleep.
Within moments of her head hitting the silk pillows, gentle snores could be heard and Lady Ellie quietly let herself out of the door and into the corridor. The palace was silent as the courtiers and servants slept soundly, content with their new home. All that could be heard was the gentle buzzing from the beehives in the roof and cooing of the messenger birds.
©Sally Cronin 2018
One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden
Sally Cronin’s Tales From the Irish Garden (2018) is the delightful story of 900+ year old Queen Filgree, fairy royalty forced to move her entire family from the warmth of Spain to the strange green Isle of Ireland where she must hide in the magical invisible (almost) garden of the powerful Storyteller. The book’s twenty-one tales take us through her first year in sanctuary as she gets to know her new home, the powers of the magical garden, the good-hearted and spirited members of her new community, and the magical creatures that live with her. Each tale relays an event that affected the Queen’s household such as the bewitching of the Storyteller’s daughter, a royal visit from a neighboring Prince, the maturing of her two daughters, Jeremy the donkey, piglet races, her own marriage, and more. Each can stand-alone but as a whole, they build a dramatic timeline of events that change the Queen from a lonely exile to fulfilled wife. With each tale, I felt closer to the queen and came to admire her attitude and civility.
I’ve read several of Sally Cronin’s books (click to see my review of Sam). She is a skilled storyteller who knows exactly how much to reveal and when. This book is no exception. Despite being fantasy, the writing is down-to-earth and easy to follow, with exactly the right amount of world building so I understand the fantasy world without getting confused by its differences from our human one. The result is a story told in tales that is fast-moving and atmospheric with a strong sense of where and when. Read these lines. See if you don’t agree:
“Even her eagles looked at her sideways when she uttered this bit of nonsense. They hadn’t picked anything to pieces except their dinner for centuries; relying on their size and wingspan to intimidate.”
“…enticing the bull over to the barred gate, and offering him peppermints which he was addicted to.”
“The main course was poached quail’s eggs and stuffed courgette flowers, filled with minced nuts, mushrooms and goats cheese and fried in crispy batter. This was served with chips and Chef Marcelle’s renowned curry sauce, a favourite after a night of drinking amber nectar.”
“The Queen’s guard, consisting of twenty highly trained and athletic young fairies, were sent off in full ceremonial uniform to await the advance troops of the visiting royal party at the invisible gate at the far end of the magic garden.”
Since I have a blarney stone’s-worth of Irish in me, I paid particular attention to the setting, especially those pesky leprechauns. Though the story is fantasy, it is also about oh so human dreams of love, happiness, and eternal youth. In a few words: It is delightful. Fun. Happy. Whimsical. Highly recommended for anyone with a child within them who dreams that miracles can happen.
If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/
Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.. Chapter five tomorrow.. Sally.
The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/