Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Winter – Chapter Five – The Dapperman – Sally Cronin


Winter – Chapter Five – The Dapperman – Sally Cronin

The next few days passed in a blur as Queen Filigree, Persephone and Narcissus and the rest of the court settled into their new quarters. Whilst the royal family had managed to bring a good selection of their regal attire on the goose transport, most of the other courtiers and servants had only managed to bring one change of clothing. Clearly this was going to be problem within a short space of time, despite the fact that a site for the new laundry had been found.

At the top of the new palace, next to the pigeon house, was a chamber with a steady supply of dripping rainwater through a gap in the roots. This fed a trough that flowed into large barrels, fashioned from fallen bark from the forest, and waterproofed with moss mixed with heated pine resin. The fairy engineers who had designed this system many years ago for the previous occupants, had also found discarded tin cans in the woods that had been carefully sliced in two lengthways, to provide excellent washing pots.

Since a palace full of smoke is not ideal, the kitchens were also on this level with chimney stacks from the ovens venting the workspace into the open air. Water would be taken from the barrels in large soup pots fashioned by the tinsmiths over the years. It would be heated over fires on a metal trivet alongside the carefully constructed brick ovens. The head laundress would then bring her assistants in to collect the hot water, pouring it into the two half tin cans. The first was for washing clothes with Soapwort, made from flowers collected from the garden, before being rinsed in the second vat of hot water.

Mangles were then used to remove the excess water, before the clothes and linens were set to dry on rods suspended from the ceiling in the warmth of the kitchen.

In Spain in the warm dry climate, the fairies had worn light clothing, and to be honest, some didn’t wear anything at all except for a strategically placed lily petal. But even though it was spring in the Emerald Island, it was very cold for these warm-blooded creatures, and they were now wearing several layers. The trouble was they had brought so little with them that they were now fighting amongst themselves over bits and pieces; quickly becoming threadbare and ragged.

The head laundress requested an audience with the chamberlain, who in turn approached her majesty with the problem. It so happened, that Queen Filigree had extended an invitation to the Storyteller, to join her and her courtiers for a celebration dinner, and it was to be this very night.

Her newly appointed head guardian duly arrived, shrunk to the appropriate size; dressed in his best suit and wearing patent leather dancing shoes. He bowed low to her majesty and then waved forward three wizened old fellows carrying a violin, flute and a lute.

‘Your gracious Majesty I would like to present a small gift towards this evening’s proceedings, since I know you were forced to leave your own stoned band behind.’ With that he pushed the trio in front of him.

‘These are the O’Reilly brothers, Liam, Herbert and Willie and they are here to entertain us through dinner and for dancing if you will permit them.’ He looked at the queen for approval.

Queen Filigree clapped her hands in delight, ordering that the band be brought some amber nectar from the royal beehive, and that they be positioned at the end of the ballroom. Having seen the three brothers happily seated on chairs on the bandstand, she led her honoured guest to the top table to sit at her right hand side. She introduced him to her daughters and they instantly fell under the charm of this eloquent raconteur. He in turn, starved of female company for many a year, twirled his fulsome moustache and made the most of the opportunity.

As they dipped into the first course of roasted cowslip tongues with crispy ants, Queen Filigree mentioned her current problem with the lack of clothing for the rest of the fairies in this much colder climate. The Storyteller listened attentively, and then going slightly against protocol, placed his hand on the forearm of her majesty.

‘I have just the man to help you your majesty and, if you will permit me, I shall make arrangements for him to call tomorrow with his staff of tailors. You will find no better person in the whole of the Emerald Island when it comes to creating attractive but robust clothing for both his elite customers and those who might have less to spend on a suit.’

With that little problem out of the way, the evening proceeded, and in the fashion of those who inhabit the Emerald Island, the Storyteller insisted that every courtier stand up and deliver a piece of verse, a song or a comical anecdote. This indeed was a strange custom, but as the amber nectar flowed, and the courses continued to tickle the palate, each of the queen’s inner circle stood up and delivered their party piece. There was much laughter and good natured ribbing of the participants and Queen Filigree became a little concerned as her own turn rapidly approached.

She stood up from the table and the rowdy crowd immediately went silent. She indicated their special guest and smiled to her audience. ‘Far be it for me to steal just one more moment of anticipation of our honoured guest’s own contribution.’ Pausing for effect she touched the shoulder of her companion. ‘Without further ado, I give you the fabled Storyteller, who I know is going to delight us all with one of his own stories.’

With a flourish of her hand she sat down and applauded as the Storyteller took to his feet.
He stood a little unsteadily for a moment as he adjusted to the amount of amber nectar he had imbibed, and then smiled at his audience.

‘Stop me if you have heard this one before!…’

The following day the Queen was partaking of a long soak in her rose-water scented bath, recovering from the night before. Her head seemed to be ringing in time with the dandelion clocks outside the entrance to the palace; reminding her that she must get her bell master to prevail upon them to only ring between the hours of nine in the morning and ten at night. But, overall she was very happy with her new palace and the surrounding gardens and forest were delightfully green. Since their arrival a week ago there had been an unseasonal dry period, but the local weather expert that had been provided by the Storyteller, warned that a wet front was coming in.

She rang a bluebell by the side of the bath, and her lady of the bath chamber, Brianna, popped in immediately with two large fluffy cottontail drying mitts they had managed to push into the last cases as they fled Spain. They were spun from the moulted underfur of specially bred rabbits, and were soft and absorbent. This reminded her majesty that she needed to start a new breeding programme with the male and female that had been sent ahead with the pigeons. She smiled to herself knowingly, as she surmised that the project might already be well underway.

Dried, dressed for the day and fortified with a glass of beetroot and fennel juice, Queen Filigree glided down to her state room to consult her advisors on the various plans in place to ensure their well-being in this new land. She walked in to find a fashion show in progress, and was taken aback by the lack of ceremony that accompanied her entrance. The cause for this kerfuffle was a little man in a black and green velvet jacket with a tape measure in one hand, and a cushion of gold pins in the other.

‘My dears, that is not the way to walk when wearing knickerbockers. Please stand up straight, knees parallel and toes pointing forward’. With that, the tiny man demonstrated the correct pace and posture to best show off the tweed trousers being modelled by half of the royal council.

Queen Filigree was not used to being ignored and clapped her hands to get the attention of the mannequins.

She regarded the startled faces that turned towards her, and was gratified to see that her chancellor had the grace to look embarrassed. Her advisors all rushed forward bowing and opening a path way to the throne, and the now mollified queen passed gracefully through.

Having seated herself she gestured to the little man and his tape measure to come forward.

‘And who, my fine man, would you be?’ she asked imperiously.

With an elegant bow, and a perfectly extended stockinged leg, the little man made his obeisance to the queen. He rose to stand in front of her with a delighted smile on his round and pink cheeked face.

‘Your Highnessnessness,’ He approached to the steps of the dais. ‘I am the Dapperman, and I have been sent by the Storyteller, with my assistants, to provide your court with the clothing that they will require for our unpredictable and unusually damp weather.’

He ushered forth his three assistants who in turn bent their knees to her majesty, and he introduced them as Leuan, Zane and Freddie. Over their arms they carried piles of brightly coloured clothing of all types, trousers, skirts and dresses with wonderfully tailored tweed jackets and coats.

‘You are welcome Dapperman, as are your assistants.’ Queen Filigree settled down and looked around the room before leaning forward to whisper ‘I am afraid, we do at this moment have limited resources, as our honeycomb banks are depleted until the hive can be rejuvenated by your spring flowers.’

The small man leant forward as far as protocol allowed and whispered back to her. ‘Your majesty, the Storyteller has covered all of this season’s clothes as a welcome gift to your court, and only asks that he be invited to more of your stupendous parties.’

Very relieved that the honey stores would not be depleted any further, the queen signalled for the fashion show to resume, and to summon all the servants that they might also be suitably attired. With a lively jig supplied by her borrowed trio of musicians, the O’Reilly Boys, the next few hours passed in a wonderful blaze of colour and style. Even the Queen retreated behind some discreetly placed shell screens to change into some very fetching tweed wear.

By the end of the day, all the residents of the kingdom, from the chief advisors to the lowliest kitchen maid, had been measured for a wardrobe of warm clothes, some more fashionable than others, but without exception, everyone would now own a pair of waterproof boots and a cape that would cover them from head to toe on rainy days.

The Dapperman appreciated that this was a rush job. He sent his assistants post haste back to his factory on the edge of the forest where a team of experienced seamstresses would whip up the unusually large order, working day and night. Their boss was a generous man and with a hefty advance from the storyteller in his pocket, he ordered Zane to order in some bottles of homemade ginger beer and some brack, the fruit loaf favoured in this neck of the woods.

With her court now due to receive their changes of clothing within a few days, her majesty requested the presence of the Dapperman in her private chambers to look over her diminished wardrobe, and of her daughters, that had been brought from Spain. Aware of the need for respect when measuring his royal patrons, the Dapperman requested that Lady Ellie hold the tape measure under his direction. In all honesty he was quite taken with this exotic creature with jet black hair and a slightly haughty air about her. Her eyes were the deepest green and he had to shake himself to come back to the task in hand.

Queen Filigree and the two princesses sat around a table and consulted the design on display and the swatches of silk and satin. The colours were slightly more muted than those that they were used to in the bright light of Spain, but they were delighted with the vibrancy of the imported silks from the orient. Many hours passed and the Dapperman held court as he sipped amber nectar and nibbled on buttered oatcakes. Seldom had he enjoyed such illustrious clients and he was going to enjoy throwing all his creativity and skill at the project.

As he left, many hours later, he did a little jig and flung his topper into the air. In his pocket was a small but beautifully formed ruby. The queen had been very grateful for the generosity of the Storyteller to her court, but wanted to bear the cost of her finery herself.

There would be something left over, after the new wardrobes had been designed and created, for some beautiful matching shoes for her majesty made from the imported cast-off skin of the slow worm. As the Dapperman skipped through the meadow, towards his factory, he also thought about the emerald linen that was left over from an order last spring that would match the eyes of the exotic Miss Ellie. A gift perhaps, in return for her services this evening, and perhaps it might lead to a thawing of her imperious nature.

©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 six next Saturday.. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Fiction — The Truth About Fairy Tales by HL Carpenter


Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

This is the second post from  mother and daughter writing team HL Carpenter (Helen and Lorri). They have two blogs and one is for guest posts and book promotions which I featured last week and is a great place to share your work Top Drawer Ink Corp. Now I want to focus on their other blog and their own work.. and here is a short story… keeping the fairy tale alive.

Fiction — The Truth About Fairy Tales by HL Carpenter

I can tell you two things about fairy tales. First, it’s absolutely false that only a princess can de-frog a prince. I’m not a princess, and one kiss from me released my prince, Mack, from his wicked curse.

Second, the endings are totally wrong. It’s been a month now, and I’m starting to think whatever hope Mack and I had for our happily-ever-after is doomed. No one approves of our relationship because I’m not royalty, and because Mack…well, Mack’s still sort of a frog.

I want my fairy tale back.

Image source: tzunghaor via openclipart.org

The palace is a riot of colorful strobe lights, music, and laughter. I’m standing to one side of the dance floor, corralled by Princess Allison. She’s a true princess, from the tines of her towering tiara to the painted petunias on her tiny toes.

She eyes my newly green hair and says, “Listen, Cindy, I’m really happy you like kissing frogs, and I’m especially grateful you saved Mack. But you have to give up this silly idea he’s going to be your boyfriend. He’s not for you, sweetie.”

“Of course he is, Allie.” I scratch my elbow and smile at her. “Haven’t you ever read a fairy tale? Only the prince’s true love can free him from the evil curse.”

“You only half-freed him. And it’s time for you to buzz off so a real princess can finish the job.”

“Nope. Not gonna do it.”

She crosses her arms and scowls. “You do realize there’s a reason he was turned into a frog in the first place, right?”

“He mentioned your mom,” I say, as Mack hops up next to us.

He grins at me. At least, I think he’s grinning at me. It’s hard to tell, since his eyes are on opposite sides of his face. He says, “Want to dance?”

“Love to,” I say, at the same moment Allie says, “Yes.” I guess she can’t tell who he’s looking at either.

I grab Mack’s hand. “Sorry, Allie. First dibs.”

When Mack and I are face to face on the dance floor, I gaze into the eye that’s aimed at me. He says, “I like your hair. Frog green suits you.”

“Thanks.” I lean toward him and whisper, “I’m shedding.”

A hush descends, as if the band and the chattering nobility surrounding us have left the ballroom. Mack leans away, and I half-expect him to walk off the dance floor. Instead, he lowers his head and whispers back, “Goes with the territory. Still happens to me once a week.”

“Allie could change that.”

“I’ll pass. I like being me.”

“The kiss—”

“Yes,” he says. “It changed both of us.”

“You okay with that?”

“Yep.” He pulls me closer. “I’m thinking of ditching this clambake and going for a swim in the lily pond. You interested?”

“Absolutely,” I say, and think, this fairy tale might have a happy ending after all.

©HL Carpenter 2014

Ah…lovely story… definitely a Fairy Tale….

About HL Carpenter (Helen and Lorri)

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter duo who writes family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity Their website Top Drawer Ink Corp  also offers opportunities for promotion for other authors and their books.

A selection of books for adults, YA and children by HL Carpenter

One of the reviews for Murder by the Books

Peggy M McAloon  5.0 out of 5 stars Is the Answer in the Missing Journals & Accounting Records?

The mother-daughter duo known as HL Carpenter created a character in Fae Childers who can go the distance. Murder by the Books is well-paced and will hold your interest to the end.

I have a long-standing background in researching financial scams and con-artists, so the topic was a perfect one to entertain me on a cold and dreary Saturday.

Fae Childers is so horrified by the suggestion that she has embezzled from the accounting firm she leaves without defending her decades-long career with the firm.

The fact that her boyfriend has sided with the owners causes her to stay in seclusion in her apartment in Tampa. Wallowing in self-pity, she’s intrigued when a letter arrives informing her of an inheritance from a grandmother she had no idea existed.

The lawyer she encounters in Seafoam appears to be thoughtful, compassionate and handsome. Why is Fae drawn in so by his passionate green eyes? Could Ret Karaffa be at the center of the murders and break-ins that suddenly seem to happen with an unnerving regularity around all the people her grandmother came in contact with while living along the coast in Seafoam?

You’ll learn to love to hate the annoying local reporter, Pat Jablonski. Will she show up dead in the surf too?

The real mystery is whether or not the killer believes that Fae has inherited her grandmother’s abilities to see things most of us will never experience. Will he or she recognize the piercing headaches as the same ones Fae’s grandmother had before she solved the mysterious puzzles the inhabitants of Seafoam had with unnerving regularity?

The missing journals and balance sheets hold the answers, but will Fae discover them in time to save herself and protect the vast inheritance everyone is focused on? What of the handsome Ret? Will he provide the love connection she’s been looking for her whole life?

This book has a clever plot, interesting characters, and enough last-minute revelations to keep you interested from beginning to end. It was a fast read filled with richly defined backdrops. I thought I’d figured it out three times before I finished it. You’ll need to pick up a copy to find out if Fae has fortune-telling instincts like her grandmother.

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B007SHS9LA/

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HL-Carpenter/e/B007SHS9LA/

You will find a lot more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820921.H_L_Carpenter

Connect to HL Carpenter

Website and blog: https://www.hlcarpenter.com/
Author Guest posts: https://www.topdrawerinkcorp.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hl_carpenter
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hlcarpenter/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hlcarpenter/

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will head over to both of Helen and Lorri’s blogs to explore them further and to take advantage of their kind offer to promote your work.. thanks Sally.

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Chapter Three – Winter: A Place of Sanctuary by Sally Cronin


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 wellbeing 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

One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden

Tales from the Irish Garden is a wonderful book. It has the magic of the Narnia Chronicles, the mystery of The Secret Garden and the delight of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

As I read this book I became completely immersed in the world of Fairy Queen Filigree and her court. I shared her anxiety as she searched for a new home where her people and bees could be safe and participated in her delight when the perfect spot is found on the faraway Emerald Island.

It is not an easy task to undertake such a big move but the fairies managed it admirably with the help of some of their friends. The Storyteller, a delightful elderly man, is a wonderful new character you will meet and get to know and he proves himself to be kind, thoughtful and understanding. In no time at all the fairies are settled into their new home, kitted out in clothing more suitable for the colder, damper weather and even aided in meeting new friends.

Of course, life is never straightforward and Queen Filigree and the fairies experience their ups and downs, losses, romances and worries as they adapt to their new environment. There are plenty of celebrations and happy moments to smooth the way and it all makes for a very entertaining read.

The illustrations in this book are deserve a mention as they are amazing. They are the creations of talented illustrator Donata Zawadzka.

Robbie created a beautiful fondant Queen Filigree to accompany her review on her blog.

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 Four next Saturday.. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/

Tales from the Irish Garden serialisation- Previously in the Magic Garden by Sally Cronin


In the first volume of stories (Tales from the Garden), we left Queen Filigree, and her magic kingdom of Magia, recovering from an attack from the Winter Fairy who had threatened to disrupt the final summer ball of the year.

The Winter Fairy inhabited a garden deep in the heart of the Emerald Island. It had been his kingdom for a hundred years, and in a fit of pique, a number of winters ago, he had frozen everything within his realm, including the humans and animals. He was now bored, but on
the grapevine, he heard of a place where the sun shone for three hundred days a year, and this fired up his imagination. Timing was perfect, as he was told that if he could freeze the ancient fairy kingdom on the night of the summer ball, when all were dancing above ground in the gardens, they would be frozen into statues and visible to humans for all eternity.

Although it was only October, he had left his kingdom and blown on westerly winds towards this sun-filled country. The lands that he passed over experienced bitterly cold winds and frosts that made the people huddle in their homes around hastily lit fires. Weather experts predicted that this unusual early freeze was without a doubt, the sign that a new ice age was imminent.

The Winter Fairy however, had underestimated the power of a secret underground movement in his own kingdom. There was a rat in his organisation and a rabbit and a vole.

The rabbit and his family, had cousins who enjoyed the patronage of Queen Filigree in the magic kingdom, in fact one of them played in the royal band. He was a bit too fond of the Amber Nectar, but a good sort all the same. On the outskirts of the frozen lands was a forest that had refused to be turned to ice and, to be honest, the place was a thorn in the Winter Fairy’s side. The Elms and the Oaks claimed superiority and rights over the land, erecting a barrier of pollen that made the Winter Fairy sneeze and his eyes run. Finally his discomfort had encouraged him to look in other directions for his fun.

In the forest, the birds and animals that had been driven out by the cold from their homes, lived and thrived. Among them were the Messenger Birds, an elite flock of white and black pigeons who carried notes around the globe for the price of a handful of seed. As soon as the Winter Fairy left his kingdom, icicles began to melt and slowly the long frozen land began to thaw. The rabbit whistle-blower had overheard the evil being muttering to himself about his plans to invade the sunny south, and knew that he had to warn Queen Filigree and her Guardians of the danger approaching. He went around the underground folk and managed to scrape together a handful of seed, although he had quite a job getting the rats to give some out of their plentiful store, most of which had been stolen from travellers passing through the forest.

The head messenger came down to the sorting office, which was set up at the boundary of the forest and listened carefully to the rabbit’s message. Within minutes, a young and eager pigeon was winging his way by the express route across the mountains, to get ahead of the Winter Fairy, and warn those he intended to freeze. Worn out, and almost at the end of his strength, he reached the Kingdom of Magia a few hours before the last summer ball of the year, just in time for the Queen and her Guardians to put a plan in place to thwart the frozen- hearted demon.

With the help of Fluffy the Dragon, who blew hot winds to the north, The Winter Fairy arrived to find the garden deserted, and his intended victims partying the night away beneath the old magnolia tree. Despite his best efforts, he failed to breach the defences to the palace and was left stamping his foot in frustration as the snow fell all around him. In a huff, he flew ever southwards, only to find himself in the middle of a desert so barren of life, it refused to freeze. Harsh sandstorms pummelled him, whisking him skywards where his wings melted, and he fell to ground on top of a waterless dune. He found an abandoned lizard’s burrow, and sat at the entrance, with all eternity stretching before him to contemplate his wickedness.

Meanwhile… Back at Magia the snow melted and the weather returned to its normal windy autumnal pattern. The guardians settled down for a quiet few weeks until the Winter Festival, when the fairies and the inhabitants of the garden would again be out-and-about to celebrate.

To be honest they needed little excuse for a party. However, little did they know that more changes were on their way, and that this time the Queen, and her guardians would be unable to stop the resulting devastation.

The story continues…tomorrow…..

©Sally Cronin 2018

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 one tomorrow.. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#Family – My Mother’s Fairy Tales by Jennie Fitzkee


This is the second post from the archives of Jennie Fitzkee, who with a career as a pre-school teacher for over thirty years, has some inspiring posts that reinforce that the ability to read and books are two of the best gifts we can give our children. On her blog she also shares wonderful posts about her family and will be sharing four of those with us in the coming weeks.

My Mother’s Fairy Tales by Jennie Fitzkee

My mother gave me her childhood book of fairy tales when my children were young. This wasn’t a book she had ever shown me, or my brother and sisters. I think it was my teaching and my newfound love of children’s literature that prompted her to give me the book.

I was thrilled and excited. I read many of the fairy tales, especially the ones I knew. I remember calling Mother and the conversation we had on the phone. It went something like this:

Me: “Mother, these fairy tales are terrible.”

Mother: “What do you mean?”

Me: “They’re violent.”

The silence was deafening. I could see the stiffening and the tension, and I wasn’t even there. I could see the eyes tightening and the chin rising, even though I wasn’t there.

My mother was a no-nonsense, tough woman. She always idolized her grandfather who was a coal miner from Wales. He came to America, made a fortune in mining in Pennsylvania, lost everything in the depression, and then built his fortune once again. It wasn’t the money, it was the grit her grandfather had that my mother admired.

Mother’s father, her beloved grandfather’s only son, was killed in a mining accident when he was in his 30’s. Mother’s mother (Lulu to me) practically fell apart and spent a year in Paris with her children to recover. That year, 1928, they lived in the same apartment building as the famous singer Maurice Chevalier, who often sang to my mother. She was eight years old.

A fortune was spent in only a year. My mother watched her mother in weakness. After that, my mother became a very strong woman. When my father, her husband, died as a young man, my mother was able to manage her four children with a positive presence and a stiff upper lip.

And that is why she bristled when I told her that her Grimm’s Fairy Tales were violent.

Cinderella. Well, in the original Grimm’s story, there is no Fairy Godmother. Instead there is a weeping willow tree by her mother’s grave, and birds. The birds get her the dress for the ball…which lasts for three days. They also pick out the lentils from the ashes for Cinderella so she can go to the ball.

The glass slipper. OMG. The evil stepmother tells the first daughter to chop off her toe, and the second daughter to cut off her heel in order to make the glass slipper fit. Of course the blood sends the Prince back to the house each time. When the Prince and Cinderella marry, the birds peck out the stepsisters’ eyeballs. Really.

Do you recognize many of these titles? “Little Red Cap” is the original “Little Red Riding Hood.” It has two different endings. I read this to the children at school last week.

Popular fairy tales are popular to their readers. In the days of the Brothers Grimm, children died, life was hard, disease and terrible working conditions were common. Hot water and a big meal was a luxury. Therefore, those stories were not scary or violent to their readers. Even into the early 1900’s.

Today, people think Disney movie adaptations are violent. If my children called me to tell me how violent Disney movies were, I would have been just like my mother; shocked and defensive, and bristling. Shielding children from what happens in life is not the way to go. Storytelling and books and fairy tales are a good thing.

I’m my mother’s daughter.

©Jennie Fitzkee

About Jennie Fitzkee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.

I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie

Blog: https://jenniefitzkee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennie.fitzkee
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jlfatgcs

My thanks to Jennie for sharing this post from her archives… I remember reading the Little Match Girl and weeping buckets aged 7 … those fairy tales are not all Happy Ever After…..

What was the fairy story that you remember most?

If you would like to share your stories about family, including our fur babies.. then please take a look at the details.

Posts from Your Archives and the theme this time is all about family.

  1. Personal memories of childhood or teens that are still fresh in your mind.
  2. Family history, stories of your parents, grandparents and further back if you can.
  3. Fur family past and present.
  4. Favourite recipes.
  5. Memorable holidays.
  6. Places you have lived.
  7. Memorable homes you have lived in.
  8. Grandchildren tales.
  9. Any family related post – education, health, teen years, elderly care, lifestyle.
  10. Please remember that there are some younger readers who visit.

I think you get the idea.

The aim of this series is to showcase your blog and any creative work that you do from books, art, photography and crafts. You pick between one and four links to posts that you have written for your own blog from the day you started up to December 2018, and you simply send the link to those blogs to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

You have to do nothing more as I will capture the post and images from your blog and I will then post with full copyright to you.. with your creative work and your links to buy and to connect. I might sometimes need a little more information but I am quite resourceful in finding out everything I need.

So far in the Posts from Your Archives from September 2017, there have been over 700 posts from 200 + bloggers that have reached a different audience and encouraged more readers for their own blogs and current posts.

The only issue is the number of photographs and if there are more than five photographs in the post I will do a reblog rather than a separate post. (Media space)

Previous participants are more than welcome

If you are an author who would like to share book reviews and interviews on Facebook then please click on the Literary Diva’s Library image

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Garden – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part Two 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.

Yesterday I shared Part One of the Last Summer Ball and The Winter Fairy : https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/smorgasbord-short-stories-tales-from-the-garden-the-last-summer-ball-and-the-winter-fairy-part-one-by-sally-cronin/

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy Part Two

Yesterday the fairy kingdom received devastating news that the Winter Fairy was up to mischief and determined to bring a devastating early winter to their garden. The queen and her court must make preparations and plans to thwart his evilness.

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 in 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 anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thank you very much for dropping in today and next weekend I will be sharing the final story in the book over the two days. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Garden – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part One 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.

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part One

It was a lovely end of summer afternoon and all within the magic garden was quiet. It was siesta time and most of the inhabitants, both in the fairy kingdom beneath the magnolia tree, and the stone guardians were napping. They needed their rest, as tonight was the last ball of the season, and for days everyone had been racing around in preparation.

There had been an early start to this summer with very high temperatures in early May. The heat had continued to suck the moisture out of the air for the last few months. For the humans this meant extra work watering the foliage which brought colour and wildlife to the magic garden. But now the temperatures had settled down to provide warm but gentle days, which were welcomed by all who shared this special place.

The head of the guardians was worn out. The fairy queen was being particularly demanding about the preparations for the dance tonight and he now dozed in the late afternoon warmth.

‘Psst, psst,’ came a persistent buzz in the large guardian’s ear. He decided to ignore what was surely an uneducated insect who clearly did not who he was pssting.

‘Psst, master, psst,’ clearly a very, very ignorant insect.

The lion opened one eye and glanced to his right. He groaned inwardly and resigned himself to some wasted time of nonsense.

Eager to impart some nugget of news to the head guardian, Fizzy the rabbit looked up adoringly at the lion.

‘He’s been seen, he’s coming, we have to do something, he is on his way, we have to panic.’

The lion looked down at Fizzy and shook his head slowly from side to side. Of all the creatures under his care this was the one who caused the most problems. Since a young rabbit, he had been a sugar addict; craving what was commonly called the Amber Nectar.

If you wanted to find Fizzy you just had to head towards the nearest Amber joint and he would have his whiskers deep in the blooms.

It was clear that Fizzy had made a stop off at the nearest amber bar and was going to be hyper for the next hour. The lion knew he would get no peace until he had listened to the whole story and just hoped he had enough time to finish his nap before the ball.

‘Slow down Fizzy and tell me what the problem is,’ the guardian said patiently to the rabbit who was bouncing up and down on his tail.

‘The Winter Fairy is on his way and is bringing a very, very cold front with him,’ the rabbit drew breath. ‘He will reach us tonight during the ball and everyone in the garden will be frozen in place and visible to the humans forever.’

‘Okay Fizzy just who saw him and where?’ The lion was slightly more concerned now this was potentially catastrophic.

‘My Irish cousins were playing near their burrow a few days ago and heard him cursing and ranting in the trees above their heads.’ Fizzy held out one of his paws to the lion and touched his leg.

‘They sent a pigeon to bring me the message and it says he is bored stupid with hanging around for October and wants to get on with his job now.’

This was not good news. The lion knew that he had to warn the Fairy Queen and the other inhabitants of the garden. The most immediate decision concerned tonight’s festivities. At night all the statues came to life for a few precious hours. If they and the fairies were unexpectedly frozen in place and visible to humans, the magic garden would cease to exist.

He had to think and he couldn’t do that with the excited rabbit bouncing up in down in fear.

He gently sent Fizzy on his way and called in his butterflies who acted as his messengers within the garden. Their first priority was to find the Fairy Queen and call the counsellors together for a cabinet meeting.

The last the lion had heard, his queen was indulging in some retail therapy in preparation of tonight’s ball. A tad disrespectfully for this venerable guardian, he did wonder what she needed with another pair of shoes and a new hat.

To be fair, the Fairy Queen was thinking just that herself when the delicate butterfly alighted on the back of her chair with a vital message from her head guardian. With a wistful last look at the jewelled shoes and matching hat, she turned and headed back to the palace beneath the magnolia tree accompanied by the messenger.

The queen called together her ministers and they all listened as the guardian spoke remotely through his intermediary. Clearly this was a dangerous situation. Not just because they would have to cancel the ball, but because the preparations for the winter were not complete. Without the usual stores of honey stored in nutshells in the cellars of the palace, there would not be enough food for the fairy population during the longer than usual dark months.

Just then another butterfly flew into the chamber and delivered even more devastating news. Reports had arrived in from the French Fairy Federation or the FFF’s; that the Winter Fairy had put a spurt on and was only a few hours away.

Part two tomorrow – can the fairy kingdom ward off the evil winter fairy?

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of the story today and of course would love your feedback..Part two tomorrow – Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Garden – The Goose and the Lost Boy 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.

The Goose and the Lost Boy by Sally Cronin

A short walk from the magic garden was a lake filled with fish and home to waterfowl of every description. The ducks had lived in peace for many years and had grown old and fat on the luscious green shoots that flourished close to the water’s edge.

Occasionally a goose or two would fly in and rest their weary wings during one of their long migrations between the northern lands and Africa. One bright afternoon a pair of young feathered lovers arrived and settled in for the night amongst the bushes. The female was weak and sick and her mate stood over her as she lay exhausted in the grass.

When the morning sun sent a blush of gold across the blue of the lake, a sorrowful song was heard by the inhabitants of this water world as they awoke from their slumber.

Instead of leaving and continuing his migration, the male goose prowled the lake, honking at any fowl that crossed his path. He was wild with grief and could not leave his mate behind. This carried on for several days until he too became weak with hunger. He lifted himself out of the water to die beside his beloved.

As he laid his weary head upon the ground he heard a goose cry from the other side of the lake. A call from one of his own kind. In desperate need of comfort, he rose unsteadily and slipped back into the mountain cold water. He headed towards the sound and searched from side to side to find the one who was calling him.

Instead of a goose he saw many of the large ducks who had previously annoyed him, clustered around a large animal. He had not come across any humans before, but if he had, he would have recognised the figure as an old woman, in a tatty grey coat, sitting on some rocks just out of the water. She was making honking noises and clucking with her tongue as her entourage of ducks clustered excitedly around her.

Intrigued the goose paddled closer until he could clamber out of the water and hide amongst the crowd of waterfowl. A hand reached out and he stepped back in fear. But hunger got the better of him. The smell of fresh popped corn enticed him closer and he began to eat ravenously and without caution.

The goose was not the only lost soul that was hiding out beside the water. A young teenage boy, who had run from a harsh father, was camped under trees at the far end of the lake. He had been scavenging from the waste bins of the houses in the neighbourhood and also by catching the occasional crawfish. He had seen the old woman coming to this same spot each day with her bag of corn. He had also noted that each time she left there was one less large plump duck amongst the dwindling group.

The boy had heard the heartbroken goose as he had paddled aimlessly through the water, and his own heart had gone out to the large bird. Now he watched from behind an old tree trunk as the old woman cackled and clucked as the corn disappeared into the goose’s beak. The young lad was horrified as he could see that this was not going to end well. At risk to his own safety he dashed from behind the tree and pushed the wrinkled crone sideways. She toppled over and slipped off her perch into the water screaming abuse at her assailant.

He scooped up the goose and turned away from the startled ducks that flapped off in panic. He dare not turn around in case the witch put a curse on him and his heavy companion. He skittered out into the narrow road and raced as fast as his legs could carry him. Up ahead he saw a large black gate with a small gap to the side of it. It was very narrow, but he was half-starved, and if he turned sideways he could just squeeze himself and his now struggling burden through.

The goose was indignant and getting into a right strop. He was totally unaware of the danger he had been in. Or the fact, that if he not been hauled unceremoniously from the feast he had been enjoying, he would now be in a witch’s kitchen with a roasting hot future ahead of him.

Heaving a massive sigh of relief the boy loosened his grip on the goose slightly and the bird turned its head towards a new sound. The lad lifted his face up to find himself staring into the eyes of an enormous lion. The great beast was bedecked with two butterflies, fluttering their wings in the heat of the midday sun.

‘I am a guardian of the secret garden and you have trespassed. What have you to say for yourself boy before I turn you to stone?’

The boy was petrified. He had come from a home where strength had been measured in how many slaps you could administer to a child before they ran away. He closed his eyes and felt sick with fright. He also felt guilty that he had indeed run away, and left his two younger brothers behind to face a similar fate.

The goose wriggled in his arms and the lad looked down at the long graceful neck of this spirited bird. He took a long breath and began hesitantly to tell their story. As the words flowed so did his passion and his determination not to desert another vulnerable creature.

He risked looking deep into the lion’s eyes and as he finished his tale, he imagined he saw a softening in the stern gaze, and even the butterflies appeared to stop fluttering their wings in anticipation.

After a moment the lion nodded his great maned head and told the boy to sit on a stone bench before him.

‘I know of the witch of whom you speak,’ he rumbled. ‘She was blown here across the seas from a place called Scotland many moons ago. I believe she had purchased a new broom and the test flight was not as uneventful as expected.’

The big cat paused as his recollections came back to him. ‘She could not speak the lingo of course and was like a fish out of water over here in Spain. She tried to steal food but the locals around here are handy with their hunting rifles and soon saw her off.’

A long rumbling laugh came from his huge belly. ‘She had a craving for something deep-fried that was a delicacy back in her native city and she decided that crispy fried fairies might make up for its lack in her diet.’ He paused for affect.

‘She came over the hedge one dark night in a stealth attack on the occupants under the magnolia tree when they come out to dance. However one of my eagles who was on patrol spotted the old besom… pardon the pun!’

‘He dived down and plucked the evil crone out of the night sky and flew her fifty miles away to the forest… Unfortunately looks like she has found her way back again.’

The boy and the now quietened goose listened enraptured by the story but were shaken out of their reverie as the lion cleared his throat loudly.

‘Hmmm… well this does not solve the problem… there are only two choices available to trespassers. Go back the way you came or be turned to stone.’ He looked down, not unkindly, at the now quaking pair.

‘Perhaps there might be a compromise but I will need to confer with the other guardians and the Fairy Queen first. I will send out my personal assistants to enquire of the others what your fate should be. They have your story and will relate it on their journey.’

He realised that the two must be hot and thirsty having sat for hours in the baking sun. ‘Off you go now to the fountain of life and drink. Then sit in the shade until I call for you.’ With that he dismissed the pair to a leafy part of the garden.

The boy cupped his hand and filled it with sweet water, offering it to the grateful goose first before drinking his fill. As they quenched their thirst they saw the two butterflies take flight on the journey that would decide their fate. The goose showed no inclination to run from the boy and settled down on his lap as they waited in the shade of the tree.

The butterflies had been given strict instructions about who they needed to contact in the secret garden, but first they stopped off at the eagles station to ensure that air cover would be available in case of a witch attack.

Having established a safe airspace the messengers continued to a private part of the garden where the resident therapist, Dr. Filibuster Buck (who moonlighted in the Stoned Band as the back-up singer) was in a session with Pearly Girl. Anyone who knew the sweet child understood that therapy was necessary due to her constant frustration levels with her stoned band. The seven dwarves, who comprised the garden’s orchestra, were an emotional bunch.

Wiffy never seemed to be happy, Sniffy was still using the sneezeweed and then there was Ditsy, who was as daft as a brush.

Anyway, the butterflies appeared at an opportune moment in the session, and both Doc Buck and Pearly Girl listened with interest and cast their vote.

After leaving Dr. Buck and his patient, the butterflies did a circuit of the garden collecting votes from the various residents, before ending up at the magic magnolia tree. They needed to collect the final votes from the fairy queen, her new toy boy husband and her hundreds of subjects who lived in the roots and undergrowth. It was dusk so they hovered in the leaves until the moon lit the branches and the first fireflies glowed above the pathways and homes beneath them. Before long a court page ushered them into the palace. A place where we humans cannot follow….

In their leafy part of the garden both boy and goose lay asleep in the soft grass… The bird had eaten the tender green shoots and drunk more water and now lay cuddled against the beating heart of the boy. It was the first time since he had lost his beloved mate that he felt safe and he was content.

The boy too had eaten some of the fruit that had hung from the branches above his head, and as he clasped the warm feathered chest against his own, he prayed that they would be allowed to stay together in this sanctuary.

As the moon rose in the sky he heard the flutter of wings above his head and he knew their fate had been decided. He gently cradled the sleepy goose and followed the colourful messengers back to the lion and stood before him quietly.

‘The decision has been made,’ the lion said gravely. ‘The inhabitants of this secret place do not wish to put you at harm from that old witch so have offered you a choice.’

The boy held his breath and the waking goose seemed to understand how important the next words might be for their future.

The lion continued. ‘You can leave of your own free will if you wish. However, if you would like to remain here in safety you will be turned to stone and become apprentice guardians under my tutelage. You will help protect the smaller citizens of this world from evil like the witch and the goose will make an excellent and very loud sentry.’

The boy let out a long sigh and looked down at the goose in his arms. The bird was alone too, and as he had mated for life, he would continue to wander the migration route in solitude. The decision was an easy one. He smiled at the lion who nodded in pleasure.

The two butterflies flew to each side of the pair and the boy felt himself lifted up high in the air.

Gently the two large flying beasts carried the boy and the goose to a ledge overlooking the mountains, under the shelter of a jutting roof with strong stone to the back and sides of them. As the butterflies released their precious cargo the boy felt a wave of peace begin at his feet and spread up through his body.

The goose turned to stone in his arms and the last human thought that he felt was happiness… they were safe and together they would become the best guardians ever of this magical sanctuary.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed the story today and of course would love your feedback.. More from Tales from the Garden next week.. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Garden – Little Girl Lost 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 – Little Girl Lost by Sally Cronin

I am a long way from home and find myself in a strange place listening to a language I do not understand. The winter nights are colder than I am used to and the wind is harsh as it brings snow and ice to fill my basket and numb my bare toes. Now the searing sun is blazing down and although I have been placed in a shady place, it is not like the green and mild garden of my home.

I was given to an old lady many years ago to stand in an alcove on a bed of lobelia that frothed around my feet with soft blue. She would look out of her window from her high backed chair and each day she would fill my basket with water for the blackbird to drink from after he had eaten his sultanas for breakfast.

As the seasons passed many people would come and go along the path beside me. I would hear them say such things as ‘Isn’t she sweet? and ‘Such a pretty little girl’. I felt that I was special and cared for. Each new season the blue ceramic pot in front of me would hold new flowers. Geraniums in the summer and wintering flowering pansies for the winter. I loved to watch the old lady spend her afternoon carefully placing the new blooms around the rim.

As the years went by my friend became frailer, and I was moved closer to the window for her to see me, but I still kept watch over the garden and the creatures that visited. On warm days she would venture outside with her stick and touch the top of my head with her frail hand.

‘How are you today my fairy princess?’

Other creatures popped into amuse us at dusk. The hedgehog who stole any sultanas left by the blackbird and the fox and her cubs. I could hear the old lady laughing as she stood by the window watching them at play.

Then one day there was no more laughter behind the window. People came and went and the garden seemed to wait with bated breath. Suddenly it went dark as I was covered by many layers of popping material and I could not see. I was packed tight between boxes and for many days I was bounced between them.

When my eyes were uncovered I found myself alone on a balcony without friend or foxes. And I was sad. But then one morning I woke to find that with the sun, had come new friends, and in my basket were special stones from around the world that had been given to me to safeguard.

I had been placed on a step with a view over the garden and mountains and strong companions stood beside me to keep me safe.

I am happy now and whilst I miss the old lady I have my friends and a place by the front door where all that come and go can see and talk to me. My new mistress whispered to me as she placed another stone in my basket. ” Wherever we go; you will go with us little fairy princess”.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed the story today and of course would love your feedback.. More from Tales from the Garden next week.. Thanks Sally

My WIP – Tales from the Irish Garden- with Illustrations by Donata Zawadzka


I first published the following story in February of this year and at the time Donata Zawadzka had just been introduced to me by Paul Andruss.  Tales from the Irish Garden was just a twinkle in my eye, but I was already writing some stories down to be included.

Eight months on and I am delighted to say that Donata has now produced four wonderful illustrations that I will be using as part of the artwork for the collection. Because I loved this illustration so much, I have also bought the original to use in the book with this story.

Tales from the Irish Garden, follows on from Tales from the Garden which was set in Madrid Queen Filigree will be forced to relocate from her home in the sun in Spain to her cousin’s kingdom in Ireland… expect some misadventures along the way. New characters such as Jeremy the Donkey will play their role in making Queen Filigree welcome, and there will be badgers, mice and eagles…

This story was prompted by the stunning illustration by Donata Zawadzka and you can find out more about this talented artist after the story.

after-the-festival-1

Tales from the Irish Garden – After the Festival story by Sally Cronin – Illustrated by Donata Zawadzka

Princess Persephone slowly and painfully regained consciousness, and keeping her bleary eyes closed, tried to establish exactly where she was. Her wings might have been gossamer thin and delicate, but right now they felt like a ton of bricks. Her head was pounding and it seemed that her body had been stretched over a barrel that was making munching noises.

She felt obligated to make some form of protest at this treatment, but found that her mouth was so dry, her tongue was glued to the roof of her mouth. By all the gods, including Zeus and Hades, what had someone done to her? The last thing she remembered was drinking some gold label, honey nectar made by the Lerpersian brewery in a cave near Glendalough. She was sure she had only had a couple; it had tasted as sweet and innocent as its name.

The crunching and chewing sounds continued beneath her, and finally she managed to open her eyes; nearly falling off the barrel. In front of her face was a delightful tiny straw hat, perched between two very large ears sticking out at right angles. Persephone burped in a very un-regal manner and covered her mouth with a shaky hand.

‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,’ she mumbled behind her fingers. Her older sister Princess Narcissus was going to kill her when she got hold of her.

‘Are you talking to me?’ she heard a rather squeaky voice from somewhere in front of her. Persephone managed to raise herself up into a sitting position and without making too many sudden moves, surveyed her surroundings.

‘Hello, is anybody there?’ She glanced from left to right, carefully manoeuvring her still weighty wings. She waited expectantly; head tilted to one side.

‘It’s about time you woke up you little madam,’ the voice seemed clearer now that the chewing sound had ceased.

‘I have been carrying you all night and my feet are killing me.  Which, if you are wondering, is why we are in the middle of this stream of cold water.’ The head attached to the hat and ears in front of her swung around, so that one very large brown eye was staring up at her.

Persephone was now very confused and began to suspect that someone had slipped a Micky Finn into her class of honey nectar last night. Her mother Queen Filigree had warned both her daughters that some boyo might take advantage of the visiting princesses to the festival, and to make sure they kept an eye on their drinks at all times. She was in so much trouble, and no doubt she had managed to ditch Narcissus at some point and would get it in the neck; a frequent occurrence.

She had to get out of this hallucination as quickly as possible and find her way back to the festival site. She must find her sister quickly and return home with her, otherwise she would have her wings clipped for the next month, and be locked in the dungeons in the palace under the oak tree for good measure.

She tried to slip off her mount into the water, and in the process discovered that she had been riding a sizeable spotted deer. What was even weirder was that it seemed to be decorated with bits and pieces of her sister’s eclectic outfit she had been wearing last night. Including that saucy fascinator now perched between its ears.

‘Oh no you don’t missy,’ a protesting voice issued forth from beneath her. ‘Now that you are sobering up, you can undo the damage you did last night.’

‘Damage, what damage?’ Persephone was becoming irritated by this badgering that made her head pound even more. ‘I’m the one who has been drugged and stuck in the middle of this hallucination with you; so back off.’

Having finally managed to slip off the back of the deer, Persephone found herself up to her knees in the freezing water. She was also now on the level of the animal’s head and could look straight into those big brown eyes that appeared to be vaguely familiar.

‘Now do you get it you little spoilt brat?’ The harshness of the words and tone were slightly alleviated by the sight of several lotus blossom stems hanging from the sides of the deer’s mouth.

The enormity of the situation had a sobering effect on Persephone as she lifted her legs in and out of the icy water. Things were beginning to come back to her and this was definitely not good. Not good at all.

She clung to the neck of creature. and as she felt the big heart thumping away beneath her hand, it brought back the hypnotic sound of the drums reverberating around the camp fires at the festival last night. As the honey nectar had taken effect, she had felt herself released from her regally ingrained decorum; rising to her feet to dance in time to the intoxicating beat.

Despite her sister’s repeated protestations, Persephone had been swept away with the other revellers, in a wild and organic melee. She swayed as she remembered the thrill and the fever of that freedom.

‘I see it’s coming back to you madam, and you better sober up fast because I am not carrying you any further.’

Persephone decided that if she was not to freeze her sparkly boots off, they had better move from the stream on to dry land. She gently grasped the halter of flowers around the deer’s neck, leading her onto a grassy bank strewn with daisies. These proved irresistible to the animal, who dipped her head to chew enthusiastically.

Persephone lay back in the softness of the emerald coloured grass and white and yellow flowers for a moment; then shot upright and placed her head in her hands.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, what have I done?’ She looked over at the object of her despair who had turned her head at the sound of her name being called.

‘What you have done missy, is to cast a spell on me last night, just because I was trying to stop you making a Lerpersian of yourself in front of all those strangers.’

The deer wandered over and her fascinator fell off her head and into Persephone’s lap. Her sister picked it up between shaking fingers and looked up into the eyes that she knew so well.

‘You better be able to fix it missy, otherwise mother is going to exile you to live alone on Inishtooskert for the rest of your life,’ a hint of maliciousness crept into the vitriolic tirade.
‘You will never meet a Prince Charming there, will you?’

Persephone could tell that Princess Narcissus, who she often told people was aptly named, was getting more and more riled up and that never bode well.

‘I know, I know, don’t worry I can fix this,’ and with that she scrabbled around in her hessian bag that was still thankfully slung around her body. Desperately she searched the deep and dark interior looking for her spell book. Finally, just as she thought that it had fallen out as she had rolled drunkenly around on the deer’s back, her fingers closed over the spider’s web cover.

The dark brown eyes of her sister looked on expectantly as Persephone flicked through the book of spells, one minute nodding her head, and then the next shaking it in frustration. Then with a huge sigh of relief, she found what she was looking for.

She stood up shakily, and placing her right hand on the large wide forehead of the deer, she uttered the required antidote to the original spell.

‘Flabbergast and Flippity Gibbet with a twist of flighty fingers of fidgeters, return my sister to her original body,’ she paused and then added a little insurance policy. ‘And befuddle her brain into forgetting all that passed last night.’

Which is why, the disgraceful shenanigans of the young Princess Persephone, have remained a secret until today; and are only being revealed to you, the select few.

The End.

©sallycronin Tales from the Irish Garden 2017

Illustration by Donata Zawadzka

I think you will agree that Donata’s work is stunning. Perfect for children’s books, fantasy and fairy tales and of course book covers.  I am so looking forward to sharing the other illustrations that she has completed for the book.

Connect to Donata Zawadzka

View her website : http://dezawadzka.wix.com/donatasgallery
Buy her work on Redbubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/donattien/works/7004053-the-birch-maiden?c=32080-ink-illustrations
Like Dona on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donataewa.zawadzka?fref=ts
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DonataEZawadzka

I hope you have been entertained by the excapades of Princess Persephone.. I am sure that she will be getting up to more mischief in the future.. not so sure about Princess Narcissus!   Thanks Sally