Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Three – A Place of Sanctuary by Sally Cronin

As I am going to be in full on writing mode for the next couple of months and it is a over two years since I last shared Tales from the Irish Garden.. I thought I would it bring it out of mothballs for those of you who might have missed the first time around..

Yesterday Queen Filigree sent out New Year’s greetings by feathered messengers to family and friends to try and find a place of safety for the court. These are stories for ages 10 to 100+

Winter: A Place of Sanctuary

The magic garden was bordered by ancient forests, and during the frozen years the surrounding farms and villagers had been protected by the cloud of pollen produced by the trees, in response to the threat from the Winter Fairy. Life had gone on as it had for centuries, but it was with great relief for all who lived around the woods, that there was now a warm breath of spring in the air.

Most of the old-timers knew the Storyteller, and had been grateful for his intervention over the years during times of hardship. He was a kind old man and despite suffering tragedies of his own, he had never turned down a request for help. When news arrived of the lifting of the curse, villagers packed up baskets of food and fruit, taking the paths through the forest to welcome him back from his imprisonment.

To the south of the forest that bordered the Storyteller’s garden, was a cottage on a small plot of land with a pretty flower borders and vegetable patch. A widow and her children had returned to her family home last year when her father had passed on. The mother was a healer, growing many herbs that she made into essences, and sold to the villagers who would come to her door. The village was too remote to have its own doctor, and she was welcomed home from the city with her children with open arms. Along with her healing gifts, the mother, whose name was Summer, was also of royal fairy blood. Many hundreds of years ago there had been a love affair between a farmer’s daughter and a fairy king who had fallen for her red-haired beauty. Although through the years, that magical connection had been diluted, it was still powerful enough to give Summer the ability to work with nature, and understand the language of animals. She was not sure if this gift had passed to any of her three children, but she had a feeling she was just about to find out.

Summer looked out across her vibrantly coloured spring garden and smiled in satisfaction at the vivid green patch of herbs. She searched for her two sons and daughter; catching sight of them standing by the door to the garden shed, and wondered what they were looking at.

The three young observers peered into the dim depths of the shed, and the eldest, who was no longer a child, but a young man, placed a protective arm across the shoulders of his younger brother and sister. They had come to collect wood for the stove in their living-room, and having opened the door, had been startled by the sight before them.

After a moment or two Alexander realised that their visitor was not going to bring harm to Jonathan and Savannah, and the three of them quietly eased into the gloom.

Gently they moved towards their guest who looked at them with weary and bewildered eyes. As they drew closer, Savannah suddenly smiled and reached out her hand to the bedraggled speckled bird with his winged legs. Without hesitation the pigeon hopped from his perch on a wooden coat peg, and sat cupped in the young girl’s hands. Just then there was a rustling noise in the corner of the floor, and as their eyes became accustomed to the poor light, they saw two more black-and-white birds huddled together on top of an old basket of logs.

At first, Alexander wondered how the birds had managed to get into the shed, but then noticed that the small window had been blown open by the recent high winds. Luckily for these weary travellers; who would have surely died if they had not found this small sanctuary.

Jonathan ran inside to find his mother whilst his brother and sister waited with the weary visitors.

Alexander watched as Savannah raised the black and white speckled bird towards her face; it seemed to be whispering a message in his young sister’s ear. A few minutes later their brother returned with their intrigued mother, a shallow dish of fresh water and some bird seed that was put out every day for their own garden birds. The three pigeons clustered around the welcome food and water, and the family backed away leaving the birds to their meal.

As they sat around their kitchen table with mugs of hot chocolate and cookies, Alexander asked Savannah if the bird had really been talking to her, and if so what had it said.

The young girl’s eyes lit up and she beamed at her mother and brothers. ‘He told me that they are fairy messengers sent from a Spanish queen, and were blown off course by the storm. A rescue party will be sent out to guide them home, and we must look out for a butterfly that will be searching for them.’ Savannah who had always believed in fairies and magic, wriggled in her seat in excitement. ‘The pigeon said that he could tell that I would understand him as I was clearly very special.’

Summer smiled at her youngest child and was delighted to know that her gifts had been passed onto her lovely red-haired daughter.

Throughout the next day, the new young guardians of the magic pigeons, checked on their well-being several times. Within hours the birds looked stronger, and even came out on the roof of the shed to sit in the winter sunshine and fresh Irish air.

In the late afternoon, Jonathan came rushing into the kitchen waving his arms and twirling in excitement. ‘It’s here, it’s here,’ he shouted in delight. The whole family rushed out of the back door and sure enough, perched on the wall of the garage was a brightly coloured butterfly.

Savannah stood beneath the creature and stared up into its eyes. It fluttered its wings in understanding, and as the three children walked away across to the garden shed it followed gracefully in their wake.

Respectfully the family stood back as the butterfly entered the shed, and after a few minutes they returned to the warmth of the kitchen to observe through the window. The pigeons flew out of the shelter and perched on the garden wall next to the house. One of the birds fluttered onto the wooden gate and stared into the kitchen; nodding his head several times. The two brothers looked at their sister who smiled happily.

‘He says that the butterfly will guide them home now that the winds have dropped, and they will be home safely in two days,’ Savannah cocked her head to one side as she absorbed more of the bird’s message.

‘Our home is now protected by fairy magic and we are officially appointed as a Royal Pigeon guest house to be used on long journeys across this part of the world.’

She turned to her mother who stood watching this interaction with delight. ‘Mother, the pigeon says that he is breaking protocol,’ she shook her head at the word, but her mother nodded in understanding.

‘He is carrying an important message from his queen, but we would not understand the fairy writing so he has to break his bond and utter the words. His queen and her court are in danger, and she is looking for a new home, and he wondered if we might know of a safe place where she could bring her court to live?’

Her mother thought for a few minutes and then smiled. She nodded her head and beckoned the children to follow her to the end of the garden and through a gate that suddenly appeared in the hedge. The children stared at their mother, but she just laughed and told them to follow her along the path through the forest. High above them the canopy of trees sparkled as the spring sunlight filtered through them to light their way. The three pigeons and the butterfly flew from branch to branch as they watched their new friends walk swiftly through the trees, until they entered the brightness of the day again.

The pigeons and the special envoy lined up on a branch of an old oak tree and stared in wonder at the emerald jewel before them. Hedges of brilliance surrounded a garden full of bushes, budding with gems of purple and rose. There was a fountain in the middle of a lush and wild field, gushing sweet water that flowed over its brim and onto snowdrops and bluebells surrounding its base. Fruit trees gathered in an abundance of blossom to the side of a stone cottage, standing proud in the middle of the land.

But the queen’s messenger’s eyes settled on the most wondrous sight of all. A tall and ancient magnolia tree grew by the side of the house, with large pink buds just waiting to burst into beautiful blossoms. It was a fairy tree, and the pigeons knew that beneath its strong trunk, lay a wonder of roots that arched into chambers fit for a queen. Summer and her children walked hand in hand across the lush grass towards the house, and as they did so, the back door opened, and the Storyteller emerged to greet them. The pigeons and butterfly followed and perched on a limb of the magnolia, observing the humans as they talked. The Storyteller approached and looked up at them and immediately spoke to them in their own language.

‘You are welcome to my land which has been released from the curse of the Winter Fairy. There once lived a mighty Fairy King and his court in the palace beneath this tree, but he left for warmer climes 100 years ago. Please convey my best wishes to your queen, and tell her that she is free to come and share this garden with me for all time. I am the guardian of the land and will remain so for many hundreds of years to come.’

The pigeons and their companion fluttered down to the Storyteller’s outstretched hands, sitting there for a moment or two, absorbing his essence. Finally satisfied, the butterfly flew away, followed by the birds who circled the house several times, imprinting the location before winging their way back to Spain with this wonderful news.

Two days later a very happy Jacamo carried a wicker basket down from the garden to the pigeon loft where he and Queen Filigree fussed over their beloved birds. They listened to the story of their adventure, and learned about the three special rescuers, and the offer of a new home in the Emerald Island. At first the queen was a little bit doubtful, since it had been the home of their arch enemy the Winter Fairy. However, she had heard from one of the southern realms that he was now grounded for all eternity in a sand covered desert and no longer a threat.

She called a special meeting of the council, and plans were drawn up to move the contents of the palace, and as many of the guardians from the garden, to their new home as quickly as possible. The deadline for the new owner to begin the destruction of the house was only a week away and there was no time to waste.

A few days later as the children played in their overgrown garden in the Emerald Island, one of their new black and white feathered friends arrived, carrying a personal note of thanks, written on gossamer silk paper and infused with magic so that they could read it. They dashed inside to their mother as she prepared their evening meal, excitedly relating the news that the royal court of Magia was on its way by swan express and would be here in the next two days.

Summer and the children hurriedly made their way through the forest to inform the Storyteller of the imminent arrival of the Spanish court, and to help prepare the palace for its new occupants.

©Sally Cronin 2018…

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next week as the Spanish court packs up their treasures and mounts the evacuation of their home.

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

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Short Stories – #Spain – Tales from The Garden -Chapter Eleven – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part Two by Sally Cronin

It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

Last week as preparations were being made for the last fairy ball of the summer… devastating news arrived from Ireland about the Winter Fairy who was bored and decided to cause mayhem two months earlier than usual.

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy Part Two

The Fairy Queen, Filigree, called her counsellors together to put into action the Disaster Prevention Plan they had hoped never to activate.

Before making her final decisions about the operation, the queen called upon the toothless gnome who was the fairy soothsayer. Spread out on the table in front of her, placed on the magic blue silk cloth, was the gnome’s crystal ball.

Her majesty was getting impatient and snapped at the quivering figure standing before her. ‘Well, what are you waiting for? she glared at the poor creature. ‘Are we definitely going to be in for an early freeze?

The gnome had rarely been called upon during his five hundred years in his capacity of soothsayer, and was not sure if his magic divining powers were still working. He waved his hands over the crystal ball and muttered the magic words loudly for maximum dramatic effect.

‘Bumble, grumble, fumble, crumble’.

Queen Filigree and her courtiers leaned in and gasped in horror. The crystal ball had clouded into ice crystals before their very eyes. None were more surprised than the gnome who hid a delighted and relieved toothless grin behind his gnarly hands.

‘Right,’ said the queen having composed herself. She pointed at one of her closest advisors.
‘Ampletum, I want you to go immediately and take a message to the Queen Bee,’ She closed her eyes for a moment as she gathered her thoughts.

‘Tell her majesty that this devastating cold front is coming in within hours and her hives are in danger. Suggest that she have a final sweep of the last of the summer roses with her swarm and then retreat down into our honey cellars. This will provide us with much needed stores for the winter and a safe place for them to stay warm’.

Ampletum hurried off to do his queen’s bidding; trembling nervously at the important task he had been assigned.

The queen looked around her chamber and her eyes fell upon one of the cheekiest of her fairy advisors. Pinchit was a bit of a rogue but he knew everything that was happening in the garden at any given time and this task would require his specialist knowledge.

She beckoned him over and whispered in his tufted ear. ‘Find me Fluffy,’ she looked at his wily little face. ‘I know you know where that rascal is and I need you to go to whatever rock or log he is hiding under and bring him to me immediately.’

Pinchit bowed his head and scurried off to climb up the staircase through the magnolia roots to the magic garden. He headed off around the corner of the villa to the uncultivated wasteland by the back fence. It was a safe bet that he would find the sun loving Fluffy basking himself on the hot sand.

Pinchit spent a few minutes explaining the dire situation they were all facing. Fluffy, first and foremost was concerned about himself. Dragons do not like the cold which is why they have their own internal combustion system. He thanked Pinchit for the warning and was about to turn away to find some safe place in the foundations of the villa when the fairy tapped him on his nose.

‘The Queen is demanding that you come with me Fluffy as she has a special job for you.’ Pinchit hooked one of his fingers through the dragon’s nostril and muttered menacingly. ‘She said not to take no for an answer.’

Ten minutes later Fluffy settled down on his haunches and glared at the Fairy Queen. In her long reign these two had been at loggerheads as her royalness was unimpressed by the dragon’s habit of starting little fires in the garden when he sneezed. This happened a lot in the spring when the pollen count was high, and despite the fairies giving him a very potent anti-histamine, he refused to take prescribed medication of any kind.

Queen Filigree came down off her high horse, commonly called her throne, and sat in front of Fluffy. She held out her hands and smiled at the bemused dragon. ‘I would like you to do me a great favour,’ she paused and prayed she would choose the right words for this vital request.’

Meanwhile just an hour away to the north tiny snowflakes began to fall on the parched earth. It settled quickly as the inhabitants looked out of their homes in amazement. Animals and insects alike were caught unawares and already the fatal cold claimed its first victims.

Out in the magic garden the Queen Bee had rallied her swarm and accepted the invitation issued by the Fairy Queen. Bees visited every last summer rose in the garden and made their way, heavily laden through the roots of the magnolia tree into the honey caverns beneath. Here special honey fairies directed the thousands of insects into the roof of the specially constructed cellars, where they began to build an intricate honeycomb.

The fairy kingdom would now have sufficient supplies for the long winter ahead and the bees could reside in safety away from the devastating cold.

As these preparations continued the Fairy Queen knew that she had to do something to raise the spirits of those beneath the magnolia and also amongst her stone guardians in the magic garden. Wrapping herself in a cloak of gold silk that kept the chill from her delicate bones, she visited each member of her loyal entourage.

The Stoned Dwarf band huddled beneath the old oak tree in the fading sunlight and looked at her sadly. They had been rehearsing for the last three months to perform at tonight’s final ball of the summer and now this would not take place. She gently touched them on their pointed heads and requested that they strike up a song to keep the rest of the garden in high spirits as they went about their urgent tasks. Before long the cheerful sound of music reached every corner of the magic kingdom.

The queen also flew down to the sandy wasteland at the back of the garden and perched for a few minutes on a small mound of rocks. Beneath her, with chest expanded to its fullest extent, Fluffy blew hot breath northwards. With the help of a snuff box of fairy dust, the dragon was able to extend his normal range by fifty miles. He was tiring but he had managed to keep the freezing cold front at bay for that very important extra few hours.

His reward was to spend the winter months in a specially prepared fire-proof chamber in the royal palace. The queen happily reflected that the extra heating would be very welcome once they got into the deepest and darkest nights of winter!

Finally the preparations were complete. The Fairy Queen had visited all her statues within the garden and with the final trail of insects and one very tired but satisfied dragon, she retreated to the warmth and safety beneath the magnolia tree.

As a special surprise and a thank you to all her subjects and the special guests, her Majesty had opened up the giant ballroom and had the firefly chandeliers dusted off. Instead of the Dwarf Stoned band, in the corner of the ornate chamber, an old fashioned gramophone was wound up and the air was filled with the sounds of a Viennese Waltz. The delighted fairies and their guests took to the floor as the fireflies created an aerial display that took their breath away.

With Fluffy safely tucked up for the winter and without his magic dragon breath, the cold front advanced rapidly. The Winter Fairy flew into the magic garden delighted with his childish prank. He stood in the deep snow and looked around him excitedly. Instead of frozen fairies, insects and out of place statues there was….nothing. Just one obnoxious fairy, alone and barely visible in a blanket of white.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story collections

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

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Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this snippet from Tales from the Garden.. thanks Sally.

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Summer: Chapter Thirteen – Trouble in the Rose Garden by Sally Cronin

Summer: Chapter Thirteen – Trouble in the Rose 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……

©Sally Cronin 2018 – Image Tales from the Irish Garden – Donata Zawadzka

One of the reviews for the book

Step into the enchanting fantasy world of Sally Cronin’s Irish garden where beneath the roots of her Magnolia tree resides a magical kingdom filled with fairies, witches, goblins, and leprechauns protected by the wisdom of the magical Storyteller.

This book is part of a continuing saga called “Tales from the Garden,” which originated in the author’s Spanish garden. However, I feel that this book stood alone quite well on its own, as there was a chapter dedicated to catching the reader up with past fairy events.

The story is told in sections denoting each of the four seasons. Each segment of the story shares the lives of magical creatures who with help from the Storyteller and the inhabitants of the fairy kingdom manage to overcome insurmountable odds.

In its way, this book is a triumphant celebration to acceptance and getting along with others who are different from you. It also reinforces the creed that you should love your neighbor as thyself. These are fabulous themes to teach children and as gentle reminders for the rest of us who are enjoying our second childhood.

I spent a blissful three nights reading about Queen Filigree and her magical kingdom beneath the Magnolia tree. The ending was sweet and fulfilling, filled with new dreams and possibilities.

In addition, the reader will find exquisite drawings by the artist, Donata Zawadzka, to make this lovely book complete.

As a Fairy Whisperer myself, I can only say this book gratified my continuing belief in the fairies and all things magical.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5  Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5  Reader Enrichment: 5  Reader Enjoyment: 5  Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews and Amazon links:

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book..Chapter Fourteen and Fifteen next weekend. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here:

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Summer: Chapter Twelve – The Storyteller to the Rescue by Sally Cronin

Last week we met the foxes who had been changed from their human form by the evil goblin, the female was the Storyteller’s daughter:

Summer: Chapter Twelve – The Storyteller to the Rescue

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.

©Sally Cronin2018 Image Tales from the Irish Garden by Donata Zawadzka

One of the reviews for the book

Step into the enchanting fantasy world of Sally Cronin’s Irish garden where beneath the roots of her Magnolia tree resides a magical kingdom filled with fairies, witches, goblins, and leprechauns protected by the wisdom of the magical Storyteller.

This book is part of a continuing saga called “Tales from the Garden,” which originated in the author’s Spanish garden. However, I feel that this book stood alone quite well on its own, as there was a chapter dedicated to catching the reader up with past fairy events.

The story is told in sections denoting each of the four seasons. Each segment of the story shares the lives of magical creatures who with help from the Storyteller and the inhabitants of the fairy kingdom manage to overcome insurmountable odds.

In its way, this book is a triumphant celebration to acceptance and getting along with others who are different from you. It also reinforces the creed that you should love your neighbor as thyself. These are fabulous themes to teach children and as gentle reminders for the rest of us who are enjoying our second childhood.

I spent a blissful three nights reading about Queen Filigree and her magical kingdom beneath the Magnolia tree. The ending was sweet and fulfilling, filled with new dreams and possibilities.

In addition, the reader will find exquisite drawings by the artist, Donata Zawadzka, to make this lovely book complete.

As a Fairy Whisperer myself, I can only say this book gratified my continuing belief in the fairies and all things magical.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5  Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5  Reader Enrichment: 5  Reader Enjoyment: 5  Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

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Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book..Chapter Thirteen tomorrow. Sally.

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Garden – Chapter 4 – Pearly Girl and the Dwarves Stone Band by Sally Cronin

In the summer I will be releasing Tales from the Irish Garden.. stories of magic and fantasy. It is the sequel to Tales from the Garden published in 2015 and I am going to share the stories from that collection with you in the next few weeks.

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

Tales from the Garden – Chapter 4 – Pearly Girl and the Dwarves Stone Band by Sally Cronin

Pearly Girl and the Dwarves is a stone band that plays at all the fairy balls, weddings and birthday celebrations. To the human inhabitants of the villa, they were also playthings for the children who have grown up over the last fifty years and were loved by many.

Unfortunately, like many of the stoned rock bands of the past, the dwarves had not always behaved well. There were a couple of incidences when one or two of the band, who will remain nameless, sniffed a little too much of the pollen of the sneezeweed that grew at the bottom of the garden. They had been banned from playing at any of the fairy events in the kingdom of Magia for the last fifteen years.

The children of the house had also grown up and left and the band found themselves huddled on the windswept ledge on the back side of the house gathering moss and covered in swallow poop as the birds used them for target practice.

Finally in the late 90s the new owners discovered them in their isolated outcrop and decided to relocate the group to the top of the garden under a large shady tree where they could resume their musical endeavours without disturbing the household or the neighbours. The fairy queen, seeing that they had returned to human favour, decided to give them another chance with a dire warning of consequences should there be further unacceptable behaviour.

Although the band was tucked away in a quiet part of the garden, the abundant wildlife that had made a home in this serene spot soon began to move out. Unfortunately the dwarves were all a bit out of practice, particularly Thrifty with his kettle drum who had gone a bit deaf and drowned out the rest of the band and was asked to stand in the corner.

Shifty was on the fiddle but the others kept their eyes on the expenses. Nifty was on the saxophone, Hefty on the base drum and cymbals and Ditzy blows his own trumpet.

Wiffy tuned up his guitar and that just left Sniffy the male vocalist of the group who insisted on being accompanied by his best friend Buck the rabbit. Buck was okay as a backup singer but Sniffy failed to realise that his BFF was in fact the cause of his allergies. I know that I said that I would not reveal the names of the culprits behind the banishment from fairyland but you can probably guess that Sniffy was not blameless!

Anyway after a few weeks the band was in fine fettle and eagerly awaited the arrival of their lead singer Pearly Girl.

The fairies were holding a birthday party and tonight was the band’s first performance of the summer and the first in fifteen years. Their future as a band and their chance of staying out in the garden instead of in exile on the poop covered ledge was dependent on their performance and behaviour.

Buck, as he tended to move a lot faster than the rest of the band, went off in search of Pearly Girl.

He looked everywhere and even asked the resident hippie if he had seen her. The hippie had heard that Pearly Girl and Buck’s cousin Fizzy, had been on the town the night before, and might have got themselves arrested. This was not good news and Hippie and Buck hurried over to the garden’s naughty corner to see if he could find out more.

They found Fizzy almost immediately, obviously still plastered from the night before and they spent precious minutes trying to get some sense out of him. Even Hippie had a go and finally they were told that Pearly Girl was the other side of the holding area in a dreadful state.

Buck and Hippie had their work cut out for them if they were going to get Pearly Girl in shape in time for the performance. Buck got the rest of the fairy juice off her and Hippie raced around getting her clothes and make-up organised. With just minutes to go and as the audience and the photographers arrived they got their star act ready.

The stage was set, the sun shone and the band began to play their first song. ‘One Day my Prince will Come’ and Pearly Girl walked through the garden to join them. As she began to sing the audience broke into rounds of applause.

The fairy queen and her court were duly impressed with the two hour performance and signed a contract with the stoned band to perform at their mid-summer ball the following week.

Happy to be off the poop laden ledge for good, the band wandered off in search of the sneezeweed and a jug or two of organic rosewater laced with some fermented bee pollen.

©sallycronin Tales from the Garden 2015

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