Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Twenty-one – The First Christmas by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the final chapter of Tales from the Irish Garden. I hope you have enjoyed your visits to the magic garden to meet all the characters who live there.

Winter: Chapter Twenty-One – The First Christmas

On Christmas morning, the queen awoke and luxuriated in the warmth of her goose-feather mattress and cover. Beside her, she felt Prince Ronan begin to stir, and she reached out and touched his hand. He raised himself up on one elbow and smiled down into her beautiful face.

‘Are you sure that you have the strength for the long day ahead my love?’ He gently moved a stray lock of hair that covered her eyes.’

‘I will be fine my darling, my appetite is much improved and in fact I think that I could even manage a quail’s egg omelette and some oat cakes this morning.’

Ronan leant over and rang the bell on his bedside table, and within seconds there was a discreet knock on the door, before one of the ladies of the chamber entered with a fresh pot of chamomile tea and ginger nuts.

Half an hour later the couple relaxed with a last cup of tea before dressing in their red and blue finery for the Christmas celebrations. The Storyteller had invited the couple, and their courtiers, to a special service with his family at the chapel of the forest. Out of respect for their dearest friend and their new country’s customs, they accepted and were looking forward to the experience. They collected the old man and his family in their coach drawn by two pink and white rats and headed off deep into the woods with winter sun and crisp air invigorating the whole party.

The large clearing was surrounded by trees that were hundreds of years old and stretched to the sky with strong and gnarled branches. If they could talk, they would have astounded the congregation now staring up in awe, by tales of dark and golden days, kings and queens who scorched the earth and those that tended it. Suddenly there was a rustling in the undergrowth and slightly alarmed, the queen and prince turned to the Storyteller for reassurance.

‘Please do not worry your majesties,’ he smiled at them with a twinkle in his eye. ‘It is just the forest dwellers arriving to give thanks on this day for all that we have been gifted.’

He began to walk around the perimeter of the clearing and parted bushes and long grass to beckon out the inhabitants. Slowly, all varieties of creatures from furry foxes to slithering earth worms gathered in a circle around the humans. Once all were assembled, a gap appeared, and an old man with a long white beard and simple linen shift walked into the centre, holding high a long staff which he banged three times on the ground.

‘We gather today to give thanks for the protection of the forest, the warmth of the sun, the life giving rain and the bountiful food in the forest and magic garden.’ He paused and cast his eye at those surrounding him. ‘There is a season to all things, and this is a time of short days and long dark nights, but it heralds a time of rebirth and reflection. Give thanks for our bounty and vow to preserve the wondrous environment we have been blessed with to ensure that the circle of life is unbroken.’

As the gathering bowed their heads, the birds in the trees began to sing a joyful chorus that filled those listening with emotion and delight. Queen Filigree clasped the hands of both her husband and the Storyteller; filled with renewed hope for the future. She also knew that it was time to inform the court of the reason behind her recent ill health and face the future whatever it may hold.

Back at the palace the preparations for the Christmas lunch were in full swing. The princesses’ betrothed were coming to stay along with their parents, so the guest chambers had been touched up with paint and dusted thoroughly. Bedding was aired out in the winter sunlight on branches of the magnolia tree, and mattresses and pillows pummelled with paddles to ensure no unwelcome visitors had crawled into the feathers.

Chef Marcelle was beside himself with stress, and Doctor Doesugood had been dosing him with various calming and soothing potions for the last week. Thankfully there were excellent stores of dried fruits, grains, plant oils and nuts, and provided the quail’s egg and goat’s cheese soufflé, which was the main dish of the feast, rose to the occasion, there would be no problem.

Dessert was a deep and rich pudding made from fruit and nuts served with custard flavoured with vanilla. Traditionally little gold nuggets were placed in the pudding mix and were much sought after by the diners, however Doctor Doesugood was dreading the aftermath and two or three days of dentistry before him.

As always, the generous Storyteller had provided bottles from his stores. In honour of his host’s Spanish connections he had arranged for two bottles of the finest Jerez to be sent from a cousin who lived in the region. A warm amontillado, it was the perfect aperitif for a cold bright Christmas morning. There were three bottles of white wine which had been chilling overnight outside the Storyteller’s cottage, and three bottles of Rioja, decanted into small but perfectly blown cut glass crystal pitchers that would be placed on the table. There was plenty to go around the 200 guests that were expected, and there was always the Amber Nectar to fall back on.

In the last few weeks the seamstresses and the Dapperman had been working overtime to get all the outfits ready in time, and the royal party would all be in blue and red velvet whilst the staff would be wearing white and black with red tasselled hats. Then there was the small matter of the gifts! Being the first Christmas in their new country had made this quite a challenge, as their normal suppliers were thousands of miles away.

However, with a little ingenuity and some sneaking off to the local markets by the younger royals, parcels of all shapes and sizes had been carefully wrapped and placed beneath the pine tree that had been brought in from the forest. It was a first year sapling, and reached high up into the vaulted ceiling of the chamber. It sat in a large gold pot that was filled with the rich earth from the magic garden, as this tree would be planted back in the forest once its glorious decorations had been removed.

When the royal family arrived back from the ceremony in the forest, they gathered in the anteroom for a glass of sherry and the distribution of private gifts, as well as an opportunity to meet the parents of the two young men now joining the family. They seemed as delightful as their sons, and there was much laughter and chatter as they got to know each other.

The queen was feeling a little fatigued by the morning’s activities, but she was determined to make it through the day and not spoil the fun. She sipped on some cold ginger tea to invigorate and settle her stomach whilst prince Ronan stayed by her side, one arm protectively around her waist. The gong sounded for the main event to begin and the royal party filed into the dining room and took their places at the top table. The guests had already been seated and before the first course, the Storyteller was invited to say a few words.

‘It is with great honour that I invite you to join us today to eat and drink and be merry. We give thanks to the forest and to nature for this wonderful bounty. And to our gracious hosts, Queen Filigree and Prince Ronan.’

Two hundred guests picked up their knives and forks of silver and tucked into the first course of roasted mushrooms with fried courgette flowers stuffed with almonds and truffles.

The magnificent meal took two hours to enjoy, and there was much merriment around the table as voices got louder and louder. As the last spoonful of custard was scraped from the plates, Prince Ronan clinked his spoon against his crystal glass. It took a few shouts from various guests down the long tables to get the chatter to stop, but eventually they all looked to the top table expectantly.

The handsome prince stood and invited his wife to stand beside him. With a flushed face and look of love she took his hand and faced her court.

‘We have some news that we wish to share with you.’ The prince was clearly very emotional and took a moment to compose himself.

‘You will have shared our concerns about the health of our beloved queen in recent weeks.’

He looked out across the sea of faces, clearly anxious about what he was about to say next.

It is with great joy that we announce that her majesty is expecting a baby to arrive in the summer and we hope that you will join us in celebrating this greatest gift with us today.

Queen Filigree gazed up into her husband’s face and found it hard to believe that it was less than a year since she and her court had fled Spain to this suspiciously green island. Little had she known then, she would find love and such deep friendship. Her happiness at her daughters’ upcoming marriages and alliances with other fairy kingdoms were completed by the news that she, at her rather advanced age was to have another child.

She reached down and asked the Storyteller to stand beside her, and she kissed him gently on his cheek. If it was not for this kind, wonderful old man, none of them would be standing here today. She looked out across the room at the smiling and laughing faces, and felt deep joy, knowing that the future was bright with new dreams and possibilities.

The End.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.

A recent review for Tales from the Irish Garden

Jul 31, 2019 James rated it  Five Stars

Tales from the Irish Garden is the third book I’ve read by Sally Cronin. There is a connection with this book to one of her earlier ones (that I haven’t read yet) but the author does an excellent job at covering what happened in the first publication so that you you’re not missing out on anything critical to the story. After enjoying this magical fantasy novella, I’ll be sure to check out the original Tales from the Garden in the future. Let’s chat more about this story…

There is an entire world beneath a beautiful magnolia tree where our characters have lived for a very long time. Unfortunately, the tree will be chopped down and the land will be re-purposed by its new owners. What will Queen Filigree and her fellow creatures do without a home? She and her many wonderful friends (and perhaps a few not so friendly) take us through the seasons on their journey to find a new home and re-build their lives. Among the travels are romance, friendship, and hilarity. We meet fantastic characters such as the Storyteller, royal pigeons, Jacamo the pigeon master, butterflies, the Dapper Man, the donkey, foxes, piglet, mice, and so many more.

Toss in various holidays and seemingly normal events for humans, and you’ll have have a grandiose (in a good way) tale about a new romance for the queen, a marriage, and a surprise. Each mini-story adds up to the larger world of all those who live in the magic land. What they experience might feel like a metaphor for what us humans go through in life. The imagery is beautiful, and the settings are stunning. I felt like I was in the fountain or traveling through the gardens… whether I was a tiny mouse, a bird in flight, or a furry animal gallivanting around. There is levity too, so the entire piece is well-balanced. It’s the kind of writing that easily reads itself– simple yet descriptive, immersive, and crafty. If you enjoy fantasies and the charming world of our animal, insect, and fairy friends, then you will love this one;

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews and Amazon links: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thank you for reading Tales from the Irish Garden and I hope you have enjoyed.. Sally.

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

Next week a new serialisation – Just an Odd Job Girl – a novel of rejuvenation and some laughter.

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Winter: Chapter Nineteen – Winterising the Palace by Sally Cronin


Winter: Chapter Nineteen – Winterising the Palace

As the stores beneath the palace began to accumulate under the watchful eye of Chef Marcelle, other preparations needed to be made to ensure the palace remained dry and warm in the coming rainy season.

The Queen was not looking forward to her first winter in her new home. She was a fairy who had lived for hundreds of years in almost year-round sunshine, where she could sit in a branch of her magnolia tree, soaking up the rays.

Of course she appreciated that, to maintain her beauty, she needed to take care not to get burnt, but with the fountain of youth to hand she was secure in the knowledge that her face was unlikely to ever wrinkle. She did not like rain in the slightest, and during their first year they had experienced the vagaries of the Irish weather system; which seemed to be the reverse of her native home, with 300 days of rain and 60 days of sunshine.

However, do not imagine for one minute that Queen Filigree was not grateful for the safety of her new abode or the wonderful people she had met. She couldn’t imagine not having the dear Storyteller in her life, and she would have never have met her dashingly handsome new husband, Prince Ronan. Still, the coming months filled her with dread, and she summoned Doctor Doesugood to consult on a preventative diet to assist in maintaining her joie de vivre.

He prescribed a diet of a quail’s eggs, served on an oat and almond bread toast and a baby spinach leaf for breakfast, wild salmon fishcakes with marjoram and dill sauce for lunch – courtesy of the Storyteller’s recent poaching expedition. And for dinner Cremini mushrooms cooked in butter and strawberry yoghurt, especially fortified with sunshine from Michael’s dairy farm.

The doctor had an apothecary’s shop providing herbs and spices, and he gave the queen a large box of assorted teas to drink during the day, including ginger with raspberry, and frankincense with chamomile. He had also handmade a very special gift for his queen, which when revealed startled her majesty into admiring gasps. It was a firefly feeder with 20 vertical rows of tiny cells that were filled daily with amber nectar. In the evening the fireflies that the queen had brought with her from Spain, would now gather on the feeder and after one sip of their favourite beverage they would create a bright light for her to bask in the glow of. The doctor assured the queen that just twenty minutes each evening would maintain her healthy glow and she was thrilled.

He did however warn his patron that after the allotted time the fireflies would be rather tipsy, and would fall off into the padded tray conveniently placed. He told her not to worry as they would sleep it off and be ready for action the following night, since the amber nectar was addictive.

With her own health and that of her family now taken care of, it was time to make sure that the palace was water tight. To this end she requested the presence of Jacobi the old pigeon keeper who slept in the roof with his charges. The royal pigeons with their feathery legs were one of her joys, and she could often be found in the rafters, stroking their soft feathers and cooing in harmony with them.

Along with Jacobi, she also asked for the master web maker to be brought up from the dark recesses of the palace basement, along with the spit master. These three creatures were bred from special ancient stock, and whilst the pigeons had flown ahead of the main party when leaving Spain, the precious spider and the spitter frog were carefully placed in moss lined baskets and transported on the backs of the swans.

The web maker was reverently placed on the table in a wicker basket of the finest quality as befitted his standing in the court. The queen carefully lifted the lid and reached inside and scooped the creature into the palm of her hand. Two very large eyes opened and two spiny arms reached out to tenderly caress her wrist.

The giant spider sat happily as the queen explained her requirements. Occasionally there would be a nod of the giant head and a quick tickle with its forelegs on her delicate skin that made her giggle.

‘So we have that clear then Sir Arachnid?’ The queen paused to await acknowledgement.

‘You will encourage your team to spin 100 large webs which will be stacked ready for use between the oak leaves provided, and have them ready in the next five days.’ Two taps on her wrist, and a little wiggle of the spider’s back end confirmed the instructions. She placed her most revered servant back in his basket, and he was whisked away by a footman to his lair where his 200 troops awaited eagerly for the challenge.

The spitter frog master arrived in the throne room under his own steam. He enjoyed the run of the palace along with his team of expert fly catchers. This was especially important in the summer months when the bluebottles, fat and bloated from feeding on dead things, would push their way into any cracks and crevices in the magnolia tree’s defences. They would scoff anything they could find including the delicious honeycomb which was created in the rooftop hives. Two spitter frogs guarded the entrance to the apiaries and it was a much requested duty, as bluebottles make a stupendous treat for a frog.

‘Good morning Sir Spitface and I hope you are well today.’ The frog hopped up and down and gave an enthusiastic croak.

‘I need your team’s assistance on a special project,’ she gestured that she wanted him to hop onto the table in front of her.

She indicated a large piece of parchment in front of her, and explained that she had asked the drones from the hives to conduct a survey of the roof of the palace; identifying areas where rain might find its way in.

‘As you can see there many places, where the roof is aligned to branches of the tree and water might seep through. I have asked Sir Arachnid to provide a hundred web patches, and Jacobi to collect the fragrant parcels dropped by the royal pigeons, to provide the filler of the smaller cracks. I need you and your frog support team to use your saliva to seal them in place.’

The frog hopped around the parchment for several minutes, studying the various problem areas, and then gave a croak of assent. ‘Excellent,’ the queen gently tickled the amphibian’s knobbly head.

Over the next few days, the worker bees, fairy handymen and the frogs gathered around spots where the roof met the magnolia branches, placing the web patches, filling in small cracks and sealing all in place with frog spit. Jacobi and the Queen Bee inspected the repairs and announced their satisfaction to her majesty, who commented that the proof was in the pudding!

Sure enough, two days later there was a deluge as a front swept up from the south. Apart from one little spot that needed a little more spit, not one single drop made its way into the palace, and this of course provided a perfect excuse for a bit of a party. However, as her ladies in waiting slipped the pale pink silk dress over her head and patted it into place, Queen Filigree began to feel quite unwell. She wondered if she had overdone the ginger and raspberry tea earlier, but the next minute her ladies gasped as she slipped to the floor.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.

Tune in next week to find out what ails the fairy queen…..

One of the reviews for the book

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews and Amazon links: 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 Twenty 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 – Autumn – Chapter Eighteen – All Hallow’s Eve Part Two – Freakish Village prepares for the Zombies by Sally Cronin


Last Sunday I introduced you to the alternative folk who lived at the edges of the Storyteller’s magic garden...Chapter Seventeen – Part One All Hallow’s Eve

Autumn – Chapter Eighteen – All Hallow’s Eve – Part Two – Freakish Village prepares for the Zombies

Down in the village of Freakish, the villagers had been preparing for this night for the last week or so. Mothers slaved over costumes for their children, often biting their lips to prevent a slip of the tongue when pricking their tender fingertips with a needle. Every year one of the residents of the community on the hill would act as consultant, and this year Zenia and Zoran had both volunteered.

With pegs on noses, the mothers had gathered for a meeting to discuss the best way to make the costumes, and as an outcome, all the rags and old unwanted garments were gathered together and picked over by the consultants and placed into piles. They explained that some of the clothes would need to have cuts placed in strategic places, such as over the knees and thigh parts of the trousers for the boys. They also suggested taking already tatty shirts and ripping the sleeves and collars off and perhaps a couple of buttons. For the girls, they suggested that the mothers sew together oddly assorted coloured rags into shift dresses with ragged hems.

With the main costume out of the way, the committee moved onto the decoration phase. Mrs Dumphries, who made the dyes from the local plants, said she would take care of the reds, greens and dark browns required. Mrs Stipple who was married to the local butcher promised to get thin strips of cow hide to dye and hang from arms and legs. The thing that made them all scratch their heads was how to find a way to copy the dollops of flesh that hung so decoratively from Zenia and Zoran’s faces. Miss Fortescue, who acted as backstage makeup artist for the local dramatic society, said that she would take care of that little problem on the night.

Well pleased with the progress of the Freakish village preparations, Zenia and Zoran assured their friends that the night was going to be one of the most successful in decades.

As the sun set and the moon rose high in the sky, the villagers dressed their children in their costumes; with some taking the extra precaution of placing garlic amulets around their necks. They knew that those who were different from them, meant no harm, but just in case one of them got a bit carried away, four strong men were provided with sprays of frankincense and marjoram, which whilst not fatal, was known to give 99% of all zombies and ghouls the heebie-jeebies.

If past Halloween nights were anything to go by, these precautions were unnecessary, and as the villagers laid out tables of pumpkin fritters, apple pie, goat’s cheesecake and fresh cream, they chatted and laughed excitedly. Around them the children of the village, hideous and foul smelling, raced around trying to pick bits of artificial skin from each other’s bodies. The odd squeal indicated where an unfortunate child had some of his own ripped off over enthusiastically.

The church bell began to toll and a figure was seen to flit in and out between the gravestones. The game was on, and suddenly screams and howls of terror filled the village square. Dressed in robes of white, with a flaming torch in one hand and a dismembered head in the other, a man raced towards the knot of families as they stood frozen outside the community hall.

With a fearful screech, the creature skidded to a halt in front of the terrified villagers and threw the head at their feet. In the light of the torch a diabolical face could be seen glowing gruesomely with green and red slime. With a cackle a disembodied voice lashed into them.
‘Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha….’

Mrs Dumphries, with her hands on her hips advanced towards the rotund prankster, noting in passing that the bodiless head was made of papier-mâché.

‘Father, you nearly frightened us all to death, whatever were you thinking, we weren’t ready yet!’ She wagged her finger in his face, and with a collective sigh of relief, everyone surrounded the priest and patted him on the back.

It was now time for the real fun to begin, and everyone piled back inside the large hall and sat cross-legged in a circle. Miss Fortescue and the committee blew out all the candles and joined their friends on the floor. You could have heard a pin drop, and even the children sat quietly in petrified silence. After what seemed like an hour, but was only really a few minutes, they all heard the creak of the main door as it was pushed open by an unseen hand. A window at the back of the centre banged shut, and a sudden rush of soot was heard as it settled with a thump into the grate. There was a sharp intake of breath as a cold slimy hand brushed against a man’s cheek, and Mrs Dumphries shrieked as she felt the gentlest of bites against her neck.

The children were of course completely delighted by the whole shebang, and the ghouls and pranksters paid particular attention to making their parents scream and cry out for mercy. Small packets of sweets were left in the laps of the youngsters along with little practical jokes for use during the rest of the year. If you have ever wondered where itching powder and whoopee cushions came from, now you know!

An hour later and every one of the villagers had been scared half to death, and Bethany decided that they would indeed be much more grateful for their lives in the year to come. She relit the candles, and with a massive sigh of relief, and nervous laughter, the villagers got to their feet, with one or two stalwart men required to get the fat little priest upright.

Cecil the black cat sat on the mantle above the fire yawning with boredom, having seen it all before many times. Bethany and her friends went from person to person shaking hands and hugging some of those they had known for decades; patting eager children on the head, complimenting them on their magnificent costumes.

It was time to hit the party food and whilst Zenia and Zoran did not usually partake, they gladly passed amongst the guests, topping up glasses with the amber nectar. The Storyteller had been hiding in the community centre kitchens for the main festivities to finish. To be honest he had a bit of a dicky heart, and was not sure he could take all the frivolity. However, he had brought a surprise for the gathered villagers and their visitors, and huge cheer went up as he appeared followed by his band of musicians.

He asked Bethany if she would join him for the first dance and with grace and much admiration they executed a Viennese Waltz perfectly. The Storyteller gestured to everyone to take to the floor and soon there was a heaving mass of men, women and children prancing and reeling, rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ and twerking in time to the beat.

As the church clock struck midnight, the visitors shambled away to the hills where they would remain out of sight for another year. Bethany was cornered by one or two of the ladies, and with Cecil waiting impatiently by her broom; she dispensed some pre-prepared potions that she knew were always in demand. Miss Fortescue in particular was very keen to find a fragrance that she could wear behind her plump little ears to attract Jack Hammer the local blacksmith.

©Sally Cronin – Tales from the Irish Garden 2018

One of the reviews for the book

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

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

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

 

 

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Chapter Sixteen – Autumn: The Kindness of Mice by Sally Cronin


Chapter Sixteen – Autumn: The Kindness of Mice

After the piglet race, the leaves in the forest and the magic garden began to turn brown and cold winds whipped across the treetops with a whistling that alerted all who lived in this special place. Stores were being collected and added to special chambers in the bowels of the royal palace. Seeds, dried summer fruits, flagons of amber nectar and small hessian bags of the finest flour, milled along the river to the south of the forest. The Storyteller had recommended this particular mill because of fine qualities of Herbert who ran it with his son Calum.

One night as he joined the queen and her husband for a light supper, he related the story of how mice, which are usually the much preyed upon pests in most mills, were actually protected and revered in this particular grain crushing establishment.

It is common for mice to be caught up in the hand threshing at harvest time, and be swept into the back of horse drawn carts that transported the grain to the mill. Usually several cats, and rat-catching dogs, would patrol the building and its surroundings; grabbing any unsuspecting rodent silly enough to hitch a ride.

However, Herbert was a very kind and gentle man, and did not want to cause unnecessary suffering to these little creatures. Before any crushing of the grain was begun, he removed small stones, leaves and other unwanted materials through giant sifters. There were usually four or five of the little rodents left running around looking for an escape from the high sided prison. They were scooped up by a leather gloved hand and placed gently into a wooden box with holes drilled into the sides. At the end of each day, the miller’s son Calum would harness their horse Ned to the cart, and head off to the next county. There he would open the lids, tipping the mice out into a wild meadow that would never be mown, and was covered by luscious wild grains and flowers.

You might think that this is rather laborious, and that a couple of feisty farm cats, would have made short shrift of the forty or so mice that the miller caught every day. However, there was a special reason for his thoughtfulness.

When he was a small boy, his parents had been very poor. His father had broken his leg badly during harvesting one year and could no longer work. His mother would toil in the fields instead, but if they didn’t save enough or grow enough in their small garden, it would be a very lean winter. One Christmas night the little boy was huddled in his cot, shivering with hunger and the cold. In the flickering candlelight he saw movement on the old stool by his bed. At first he thought he was dreaming, but rubbing his eyes in amazement, he saw three mice scurrying back and forth up the legs and down. When he looked closer he saw that they were leaving little morsels of bread and bits of apple.

As you can imagine he wolfed down the food, and through the night it kept coming. In the morning he told his mother of this strange event and she felt his forehead fearing that he had caught a fever. She went down stairs to boil some water to give him, and was astounded to see that the kitchen table was laden with all sorts of crumbs and bits and bobs of fruit, including some late blackberries. By the fire were hundreds of small pieces of coal and with a shaking hand she placed some on the fire with a few sticks collected from the forest. She went out to the shed where their one hen was kept safe at night to find an egg still warm to the touch.

She found a little drop of brandy in the bottom of a long discarded bottle, and took out the packet of lard and a small pack of flour she had managed to buy for their Christmas dinner. Putting all the offerings and the scraps she had found into a large bowl, she mixed it together with the egg. She used a little lard to grease an iron pot and poured the mixture in, tying muslin over the top to seal it. She put a large pot of well-water on to boil and placed the bowl over the top to steam.

That Christmas lunch was the best ever, and the pudding was delicious. The family sat back with full stomachs for the first time in weeks and all of them gave thanks to the little rodents that had showed such kindness to them. It was clearly a change-of-luck gift, as the day after Christmas, a knock on the door startled them as they sat eating the leftovers in front of the fire.

Herbert’s father limped across the stone floor; partially opening the door so as not to let the cold wind into the house. He found a tall man, finely and warmly dressed, on the doorstep carrying a large hamper and who, smiling at the bemused man, asked if Betty was home.
On hearing her name she ran to the door and flung herself into the stranger’s arms. ‘Oh my goodness, can it really be you, Ciaran… I thought you had been lost at sea?’

The tale took two hours in the telling, but to cut things short, since I know you are keen to know more about the mice. It turns out that Ciaran was Herbert’s uncle, who had been shipwrecked many years earlier and given up for dead. In fact he had been washed up on a beautiful desert island, and in the course of his explorations, had discovered a chest of treasure. He had been rescued this summer and had returned to Ireland a wealthy man.

You see what I mean about the change-of-luck gift from the mice. Ciaran bought and renovated the local mill and Herbert’s father worked alongside him. Once he left school he joined them, and when they passed away he was left with this excellent business. As his father had done before him, he swore never to harm a mouse, and over the years thousands had been rescued from the grain instead of being put through the hopper onto the grinding stone.

Eventually, fewer and fewer mice found their way to the mill. The areas that Calum deposited them in were left wild and undisturbed, with plenty of food all year round and plenty of safe places to nest and bring baby mice up safely. Offers were made to buy the land by the farmers in the area, but they were always told that the land was not for sale at any cost.

If you are wondering where the rest of the treasure went that was found on that far of desert island, wonder no more. It bought many acres of meadow where not just mice, but animals, birds and insects thrived whilst enriching the surrounding countryside with their pollen gathering and droppings.

©Sally Cronin 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: 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 Seventeen tomorrow Sally.

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

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Chapter Fifteen – Summer – The Piglet Races by Sally Cronin


Chapter Fifteen Summer: The Piglet races

It was now August, and the long summer days in the palace and the surrounding garden were filled with laughter and parties. The Storyteller introduced the court to another interesting activity that delighted them. Whilst the humans in the Emerald Island were devoted to the sport of horse-racing… the little people known internationally as Leprechauns but locally as Lerpersians, had a love of miniature piglet racing.

As you will have gathered by now, the Storyteller was able to move between both worlds, and could assume the appropriate stature at will. He had returned from the town’s final horse race of the summer, and had managed to acquire, at the farm market that flourished next to the racecourse, six of the most fastidiously bred piglets, born of champion dam and sire racers.

They were also very pretty, and over the next week the fairies came over to the cottage to admire these little darlings. Specially made saddles were being prepared that would hold two fairies strapped into wicker chairs, enabling each to hold one of the reins. This was not a sport for the faint hearted, and the queen ordered helmets to be made from seed pods, with a silk strap to keep them attached. There were also seat belts to keep the riders in their wicker seats, and strong protective gloves woven from goat’s hair.

The helmets were dyed a different colour so that the spectators could keep track of their favourites, and the piglets had large numbers painted on their rumps using beetroot vegetable colouring. Each little steed was put through a rigorous medical by Doctor Doesugood, and the Storyteller supervised the mowing of the track on the lawn next to the magnolia tree. It had an intricate fence of wattle, with a separate paddock where the runners and their jockeys could warm up before the race.

As with any race day, the action was not restricted to the track. Residents of the magic garden, Summer from the cottage next door and Michael from the farm were all invited to set up stalls selling food and drink. To make sure that everyone had plenty to spend, Queen Filigree went into her treasure vault and distributed ten golden linseeds to all the servants and kitchen staff, with twenty of these precious seeds going to her chief courtiers including Chef Marcelle.

The Storyteller also wanted to ensure that all the residents of the magic garden and the forest had sufficient to bet on the races and to buy food and drink, so he provided each person ten poppy seeds, with instructions that they were not to be ground up and smoked as this would lead to far too much unbridled behaviour.

The sun was shining brightly on the day of the races, and gaily coloured stalls lined the perimeter of the track. There was also a VIP pavilion for the royal family, the Storyteller, his daughter, Dorothy, and her family. Inside tables were laden with pies, sandwiches and cakes made by Chef Marcelle and his team. The Storyteller contributed two bottles of fine red wine and two of champagne, as well as amber nectar and strawberry juice for those who did not normally imbibe. Which, he chuckled to himself, was not many!

The food to buy on the stalls was just as varied, and the amber nectar tent seemed to be doing a roaring breakfast trade. Clearly, things might get a little mischievous later in the proceedings, and members of the royal guard were drafted in as stewards to ensure that scuffles and shenanigans were nipped in the bud as quickly as possible. Oddly, those that had disgraced themselves in previous years were nowhere to be found. Apparently their charabanc broke down on the far reach of the forest with no chance of them reaching the event before its final race!

For the week prior to the race meet, the Dapperman and his crew of seamstresses had been busy making brightly coloured summer dresses for the ladies, and light linen suits for the men. Whilst the colours of the dresses were much admired, there was quite a bit of discussion about the length of the skirts and the appropriateness of low necklines. In the end, her majesty intervened and indicated with a piece of string the acceptable allowance for both. Whilst disappointed with the edict, the ladies of the court resorted to other embellishments to stand out from the crowd.

Fascinators are wisps of silk and multi-coloured feathers that perch upon the head. To meet the demand for this first major event in their new kingdom, the Dapperman employed the services of the nimble Orb Weaver spiders who worked in his tailoring emporium.

They were experts in weaving threads into various forms, including lace, and were much revered for their skills. Since time was short, it was decided that all the ladies of the court would have the same round base made from silk and cuckoo spit produced by the froghopper tribe. This frothy white substance could be found liberally splashed on most plants in the magic garden, and the Dapperman had it collected by one of his assistants, fresh each morning.

Once the round base had hardened, feathers that had been collected from the grasslands around the forest over the years and stored in the famed accessory vault at the tailoring rooms, were added higgledy-piggledy all around the brim. The colours were vivid and the fairies were immediately fascinated with each creation. Just in case you were wondering where the name for these head adornments came from!

Of course, Queen Filigree was to have a very special fascinator made to enhance the beautiful turquoise gown the Dapperman had already designed for her. The prized iridescent peacock feathers, imported from the island of Ceylon, crowned her majesty’s head in opulent splendour. There would be no doubt at all at this well attended event, who was the fairest of them all.

The races were an opportunity for those currently unattached to meet the love of their lives, and spirits and hopes were running high. None more so than for the two princesses Narcissus and Persephone, who had been delighted to hear that invitations, sent out to neighbouring kingdoms, had been accepted, with several eligible young princes among the attendees. The young royals might have been only teenagers in fairy terms, but they were approaching 100 years old, which is a good age to settle down.

The queen and Prince Ronan led the court out into the garden, via a carpet of red rose petals that had fallen as nature intended, and not by badgering. As the royal party trod across the petals, the rising scent both entranced and inebriated. Everyone was in excellent spirits as they entered the VIP tent for a restorative glass of champagne, and a meet and greet of their invited guests. After a very pleasant half hour chatting with neighbouring royalty and, in the case of the princesses, eyeing up the potential suitors, the queen and prince led the way to the seats in the grandstand. Here, multi-coloured silk canopies protected the VIPs from the now scorching summer sun. There was much jockeying for position, and that was just in the seating arrangements in the royal enclosure, not those competing in the races.

Finally the crowd drifted towards the wattle fencing; children were hoisted on to their father’s shoulders, and betting slips were gripped tightly in expectant fingers.

There would be three heats with two piglets competing in each. One steed was ridden by fairies and the other by Lerpersians. The first entrants exited the paddock and paraded through the crowd, prancing and shaking their twirly tales in response to the cheers and slightly inebriated strategic suggestions. They took their places on the start line, with the odds in favour of the Lerpersians. These tricky devils were known for not only their piglet riding experience, but ability to extract them from a farmyard expertly in the dead of night, and be a hundred miles away by breakfast. However, Queen Filigree was confident that her chosen fairy riders would be a match for any nefarious little person. She had chosen them personally from her swan express pilots, knowing they had both the stamina and skill to ride these slightly rotund creatures.

A line of silk dotted with red handkerchiefs was raised to piglet chest height, and the two runners in the first race, pranced in place, eager to get away. With a flourish Chef Marcelle yanked the line upwards from his position to the side of the start line, and with a shout from the crowd they were off.

After the three heats it was clear that the Queen had been right to be so confident, and the line-up for the final was two fairy piglets and one Lerpersian. The Storyteller at this point, decided that a word in the ear of the Lerpersian trainer might be in order. In previous years, there had been some underhand shenanigans in the final, resulting in displacing opposing riders, and on one occasion spiking of the favourite rider’s amber nectar with crushed cherry seeds. Thankfully, it was not a large enough dose to be fatal, but certainly sufficient to result in the rider being carried off on a stretcher.

The royal party watched with interest as the Storyteller and the Lerpersian trainer had a quite heated discussion, before their friend returned with a satisfied smile on his face. They saw the trainer approach his rider and hold out his hand, and a very disgruntled Lerpersian handing over a packet of some kind, a large hairpin and a feather duster. The Storyteller explained that it was a last resort, as piglets get hysterical when you tickle them, tending to roll over on the spot.

By now the crowd was getting a bit boisterous. Most had been drinking all day in the hot sun and, as yet, the food had been mainly ignored. There was plenty of time for eating and dancing to the band once the winnings had been counted up. There were hundreds of linseeds and poppy seeds bet on the last race and most had put an all-or-nothing wager on their favourite piglet.

The line of flags went up and the three piglets shot down the track egged on by their riders and the cheering crowd. Around they went, swapping the lead position as they cut each other up on the turns and raced ahead on the straight. Everyone took to their feet in the stands as the piglets approached the finishing line; one second the Lerpersian was in the lead and the next second one of the mounts ridden by the fairies. The noise was indescribable and even Queen Filigree was leaping up and down in excitement. Princess Persephone and Narcissus even dropped their ladylike composure in an effort to catch the eye of the visiting princes, and were screaming for their two piglets as loud as any fishwife.

With a last minute burst, the Lerpersian egged his mount over the line first, and with a roar the crowd erupted either throwing hats in the air, or stomping on them, depending on their fiscal fortunes. No-one was more than surprised than the victor’s trainer, who had thought that winning fair and square was completely out of the question, and he made a note to follow the same tactic at the next meet.

Whilst disappointed not to have won the race with her jockeys, the queen graciously went down to the paddock and congratulated them on their efforts. She slipped the royal riders a small bag of linseeds, with instructions to go off and have a very good time. With the races over for the day, the track was cleared of piglet droppings, and the band set up at the start line. Food stalls did a roaring business, amber nectar and wine flowed freely and one by one couples took to the floor to dance the night away.

With more than a little satisfaction, the queen noticed her daughters on the arms of two very eligible princes and, fingers crossed, there would be an autumn wedding or two. Time those two girls were married! She was comforted that they would not be too far away, with days like this one to be looked forward to every year.

©Sally Cronin 2018 – image Tales from the Irish Garden.

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: 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 Sixteen and Seventeen tomorrow Sally.

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

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Chapter Fourteen: Summer – The Rescue Mission by Sally Cronin


Last week a small badger came to the magic garden to seek help from the queen. An evil crone has threatened his family if he does not return with some of the royal jelly to cure her arthritis: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-summer-chapter-thirteen-trouble-in-the-rose-garden-by-sally-cronin/

Chapter Fourteen – Summer: The Rescue Mission

Within a very short space of time, which is quite unusual for the fairy court, which moves at its own leisurely pace normally, everyone was gathered in the throne room. The captain of the palace guard, Sir Rodney Flabbergast, stood to attention by the side of his seated queen. Prince Ronan was pacing the floor impatiently, running his hand up and down the hilt of his golden sword, eager to get on with the impending tussle. The Queen Bee had been brought down from the rooftop hives on a silver cushion, and had been placed on the arm of the throne where she gently buzzed. The double doors opened and the two eagle guardians who had accompanied the queen from Spain, and dealt with the evil witch the year before, strutted across the floor, glaring at all those assembled in case of danger to their sovereign.

One other personage arrived, the court physician Doctor Doesugood, tailed by his two assistants, who requested permission to approach her majesty, where he proceeded to whisper for five long minutes in her ear. Queen Filigree nodded her head and smiled and then leant down closer to the Queen Bee to confer with her. With a louder than normal buzz, the bee bounced up and down once or twice in agreement.

The Storyteller was sat in a velvet chair in place of honour at the foot of the royal dais and Basil struggled to stay awake. Queen Filigree nodded for the old man to relate the story and to get everyone up to speed.

What followed must remain secret for the time being to maintain the element of surprise, especially as the witch was not above employing spies, in the form of rogue moths, to act as her eyes and ears within the palace walls.

Preparations continued throughout the day. The eagles took to the sky, and after patrolling the outskirts of the forest, they took up position high in the treetops either side of the beleaguered badger sett. Soldiers of the royal guard left the palace and the magic garden in groups of three and concealed themselves in the undergrowth awaiting the exchange at midnight.

In the palace the Queen Bee conferred with her top drones before filling three walnut halves with some of the precious jelly usually only reserved for herself and Queen Filigree. They were handed to Doctor Doesugood who carried them carefully down to the throne room to be placed in a special box to keep it fresh.

The Storyteller, on discussion with the others in the group, was detailed to carry Basil back into the forest at dusk, and to secrete himself into the bushes to keep an eye on the young badger as he waited in the dark for the witch to return. On the walk, he talked it through with the young broc, calming his nerves and reassuring him that the entire resources of the fairy kingdom were on his side, and that he needed to be brave for just a little longer.

‘She loved the rose didn’t she?’ Basil looked up in to his new friend’s eyes. ‘And you do forgive me for what I did to your garden, don’t you?’

‘Listen boy,’ the Storyteller’s voice was gruff with emotion. ‘You wanted to protect your family and I respect that, so enough said. But next time you feel the need to steal my flowers come and ask me first, okay?’

‘Okay, I promise,’ and the badger snuggled down for the last mile of the journey.

Four hours later, as all of the assembled guardians and soldiers watched from their hiding places, Basil sat himself down on a clump of late blooming onion weed, waiting nervously for the hag to appear.

As the midnight hour approached, the forest animals suddenly hushed, and through the silence, a loud rushing and chortling was heard. With a snapping of twigs and a sudden shout of pain, the whirling dervish descended into the clearing having hit a few branches on the way down.

‘Ouch, ouch, ouch, blasted knees.’ With a thump, the witch fell off her broom and turned to face the terrified badger. ‘Well you little munchkin, have you got the ransom to pay for the release of your snuffling family?’

Basil nodded his head vigorously and held out a large oak leaf bearing the three half walnut shells containing the precious royal honey.

The old crone hobbled over to Basil and snatched the prize out of his claws, cackling as she sat down on a nearby rock to check out the contents of the walnut shells. She sniffed, dipped her blackened long nails into it and touched them to her rancid tongue. She continued to chat to herself as she thoroughly inspected the ransom.

Finally satisfied, she picked up her broom and waved it in the general direction of the entrance to the sett. With crack and a thump, the earth that had blocked the burrow, fell inwards creating an open doorway, and within minutes a greying snout appeared followed by two inquisitive eyes.

Basil rushed over yelling excitedly. ‘Granddad, granddad, it’s okay I have paid off the witch.’

Slowly the elderly badger pushed himself out of the tunnel and stood between his grandson and the evil old woman.

The witch however was not paying any attention as she first rubbed each knee with the honey, cooing in bliss as the sweetness infused into her bony protuberances. She then downed the last shell’s contents and sat for a moment or two savouring the taste.

She wobbled over to her broom stick and tossed one leg over the handle in preparation for take-off. As she did so the Storyteller stepped out of his hiding place and walked towards her. She caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye, and was just about to turn and remonstrate with him, when she was startled by a whooshing sound that appeared to be coming from two separate directions. Looking up she was horrified to see two massive eagles descending from their perches in the treetops, recognising her adversaries from the year before. This was not going to end well!

Running as fast as her knees would allow, she raced across the clearing in a desperate effort to get off the ground. But something was wrong. It felt like her knees were locked in place and as she opened her mouth to shout expletives and curses at the two rapidly approaching giant birds of prey, she found that her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth.

The Storyteller put his arms around the two badgers and suggested that they turn away now. Without the witch’s ability to curse anyone, the palace guard broke from cover and surrounded the odorous creature as she stood quivering with rage. The old crone wriggled helplessly as two soldiers attached silk rope to the front and back end of the broom.

Basil and his grandfather kept their faces turned into the Storyteller’s tweed jacket but it didn’t prevent them hearing the most horrendous scream of terror. Being nosy by nature they turned their snouts heavenwards to see the witch being hauled up into the air by the eagles swinging between them as they headed off into the midnight sky.

After making sure that the whole of Basil’s family was safe and that the other entrances to their home were now open, the Storyteller walked back to his cottage to catch up on his sleep after such an exciting day. The next morning, it was with some trepidation that he approached the rose garden, and was relieved to find all was as it should be. As he clipped bushes back and inhaled the heady scent, he heard footsteps on the path. He turned to find the fairy queen and her husband walking towards him hand in hand.

‘Good morning Storyteller,’ Queen Filigree held out her hand to her friend. ‘We just wanted to let you know that the witch will not trouble us again.’

The three of them strolled out of the bower into the vegetable patch, whilst the queen explained that the eagles had deposited the witch into the hands of the guardians of an island off the west coast of Ireland. She was incarcerated in a beehive hut, and her broom had been thrown on the cooking fire. Without the ability to speak or walk for all eternity, her days of terrorising humans, and all other creatures, were over.

The old man had loved the adventure and missed his little furry friend, but he needn’t have worried, as occasionally, in the late evening when everyone else was asleep, there would be a tap at the door and Basil would pop in for a chat and a cuddle.

* * *

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

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: 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 Fifteen tomorrow Sally.

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

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: 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 Fourteen and Fifteen next weekend. 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 – 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: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-chapter-eleven-summer-the-foxes-by-sally-cronin/

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

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

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

 

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Chapter Eleven – Summer: The Foxes by Sally Cronin


Chapter Eleven – Summer:  The Foxes by Sally Cronin

Foxes are not liked by the farmers, especially those who have hens clucking around their farmyards. At night they hustle the indignant birds into their fenced off hen-houses, where they sit muttering all night on straw nests. As the moon rises above the forest, the red coated hunters slink around the paths, wending their way to their favourite hunting grounds. They are hopeful that there would have been a child who has neglected their chores and left a gate open, or a farmer who has supped too much beer in the pub, forgetting to herd his birds to safety.

The foxes knew to avoid certain farms, where shotguns with piercing buckshot had been fired in their direction before, and with sly cunning, the doglike creatures flickered in and out of the moonlight.

What the farmers forget is that by June, there are pups to be fed. Their father will leave them safe in their den, whilst he desperately tries to find food for the mother as she cares for their hungry offspring. Anything that moves is fair game, and rabbits and rats scuttle back into the shadows when they get the scent of the red devils. But even in the midst of the summer, when all kinds of creatures are abroad, the lure of the chickens and their eggs is fierce. Once the pups are old enough they will enjoy the softened meal that their parents will cough up for them to enjoy… and rabbits become even more wary, as their own young play in the twilight of the summer days.

However, there were a devoted couple of foxes that had been together for nearly four years. They usually searched for food side by side at night all year around, until this year when the female had given birth to three pups. On this particular night in early summer, the mother guarded the den and the dog fox had been gone since the sun went down. The night grew darker and the vixen became concerned that her mate had not returned yet.

The pups were becoming bolder and she knew that soon she would have to take them outside into the forest glade where their den was situated, to let off steam as they wrestled and played tag. They also now had bigger appetites; their demand for food was constant. She was looking forward to the few hours’ sleep she would enjoy when their father returned with enough food for all the family.

The night grew darker and the hoots of the owls in the forest reminded her of the passing hours. She had learned much in the last four years, and had seen the dangers that faced her kind as they hunted in the dark. They had encountered humans with long sticks that spouted fire who guarded the farms, and hidden in the grass were wires that nipped at your heels; sometimes catching you in their grasp. Stray dogs, much bigger than a fox, also patrolled the forest, looking for sport and a meal, and the vixen spent her days in fear for the future of her young offspring.

She still had some milk, and eventually she quietened the pups with a feed before tucking them into her belly to keep the warm as they slept. She kept vigil, waiting for the sound of her mate as he moved aside the branches that concealed the entrance to the den. Even though she was becoming desperate, she remained unwilling to disturb her babies as they snored gently beside her.

This pair of foxes was very unusual in as much as they did not hunt for other creatures and had never stolen a chicken or eggs. They only scavenged the food that had been thrown out from human houses and inns, preferring the tasty spices and seasonings that the scraps had been cooked in. Foxes would often overturn bins, rummaging around in the resulting mess to find edible pieces of cooked food and raw trimmings, especially in a hard winter. But it was strange to find foxes that only ate this by choice.

You see, these foxes began their lives very differently. The dog fox had been born into a wealthy human farming family at the south end of the forest. Tall, handsome and muscled from all his labour on the land, and caring for the large dairy herd, he had the pick of the girls from the local village and surrounding farms. At the dances he would twirl them around, and there was a fair bit of kissing behind the barn; leading to a slap or two.

Then one day, whilst walking in the forest, searching for a lost brown heifer, he spied a young maid washing in one of the small pools of water that collected after the rain. He had never seen anyone so beautiful with her long red hair that almost stretched to the ground, and delicate white skin like the finest porcelain. His heart was captured, and he moved slowly forward so as not to disturb this exquisite stranger, wishing to enjoy this vision as long as possible.

Then he stepped on a dry twig, snapping it with a crack that startled the ethereal creature into leaping to her feet and running off through the forest. The lad swore under his breath and turned to find the missing heifer standing right behind him with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

For weeks, the lad who was called Eddie would slip away in the middle of the afternoon before the evening milking, to the forest and the pool, in the hopes of spying the russet haired nymph again. Venturing further he came across a wooden fence that he knew was the boundary of the magic garden. His parents told him that the Storyteller was a good man, but that there were other creatures in the garden that might do him harm should he trespass. He walked the length of the wooden barrier until he was in sight of the Storyteller’s cottage; rewarded by the sight of the subject of his dreams, as she came out of the back door, and threw some corn down for the chickens. She glanced up and saw him watching her, and he noticed her wondrously blue eyes widen as she recognised him. Eddie smiled, and after a moment or two the girl beckoned him in through the gate in the fence.

He didn’t even bother to open it with the latch, vaulting over the top and walking nonchalantly over to the cottage.

‘Hi, I’m Eddie Walsh…I live down to the south of the forest on a farm.’ The girl seemed tongue-tied, but after a second or two she smiled at him and the lad was smitten for life.

‘Hello Eddie, I’m Dorothy’, she held open the door to the cottage. ‘Would you like to come in for some tea and meet my Pa?’ There was no need to ask twice, and Eddie was through the door like a ferret up a trouser leg. He was in heaven as he watched the slim girl as she led the way into coolness of the kitchen.

So a courtship began, and having met Eddie, the Storyteller was delighted that Dorothy had found such a strong and kind young man. After a few weeks Eddie’s family came over for Sunday lunch, and within weeks they young couple announced that they were engaged. There were wonderful celebrations with dancing and music, and you have never seen such a happy gathering in your life.

However, there was one who was not happy about the engagement, and that was a young Lerpersian who had been cast out of his father’s kingdom, several counties, away for behaving badly. He had been sent to the Storyteller by his father, to work in the magic garden and learn to treat both others and nature with more respect.

At first he had been surly and disruptive, but the Storyteller had been patient with him, listening to his gripes and gently putting him in his place. His name was Magnus, and after a few weeks he was finally asked to supper one night in the cottage kitchen, where he met Dorothy. He was not immune to her beauty, and his dreams began to be filled with visions of them being married and returning to his father’s castle with his honour restored. However, within days and as he was just about to ask for the hand of this stunning creature, Eddie turned up and ruined everything.

In the depths of the forest, in a dark and dank place, lived a goblin that was feared by all who knew of his devilment. Sometimes the villagers would venture to his damp cave to buy spells from him; of the evil kind. Business had been slow of late as the Storyteller had discouraged those around the magic garden from resorting to malicious thoughts and deeds, and the goblin was only too delighted when Magnus turned up with a request that would bring pain to the old man.

For the price of a stolen piece of gold from the vault at the Lerpersian castle, a spell was cast on Dorothy and Eddie that would devastate their families, and leave them forever wondering what had become of them. As the two lovers made their way through the leafy forest, hand in hand, the goblin cursed them to a life as foxes, to live beneath the earth in a den, struck dumb for the remainder of their lives.

To be continued….

©Sally Cronin

Image Tales from the Irish Garden.

One of the reviews for the book

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews and Amazon links: 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 Twelve and Thirteen next weekend. 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 – Chapter Ten – Summer: After the Festival by Sally Cronin


Chapter Ten – Summer: After the Festival

Following the departure of the royal party and the happy bride and groom, the court slowly recovered from the whirlwind romance and non-stop festivities. However, for the two princesses it was proving difficult to return to their previous studies and lessons in etiquette. Without their mother to monitor their every move, they found it quite easy to slip away for a few hours into the magic garden or the forest to wander the paths, spy on the forest folk and fly around the treetops in a very unladylike manner.

But, after a few days even this began to lose its charm, and on overhearing one of the footmen discussing a Summer Festival in the kingdom beyond Michael’s dairy farm, they decided to push the boundaries of decorum even further. Dressed in clothes borrowed from one of the younger chambermaids, and their faces wiped clean of makeup and sparkling powder, the two young women blended in with the excited festival going crowd. It was dark by the time they reached the neighbouring kingdom and they relished their anonymity as they watched the dancers exuberantly welcoming the new season by firelight.

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. 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 had warned both her daughters that things were a little more relaxed at parties in their new home, and that should they be out in company, some boyo might take advantage of them. This particularly applied to any drinks that they were offered, and to make sure they kept an eye on their glasses 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 fast as possible and find her way back to the festival site. She must locate her sister quickly and return home with her; otherwise when the queen arrived back from honeymoon, she would have her wings clipped for the next month, and no doubt locked in the dungeons in the palace under the magnolia 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 water-lily 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 slippers 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 an exhibition of yourself in front of all those strangers.’

The deer wandered over, her fascinator falling 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 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.

©Sally Cronin

Image Tales from the Irish Garden by Donata Zawadzka.

One of the reviews for the book

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

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

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