Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Spring: Chapter Seven – Jeremy the Donkey by Sally Cronin

Yesterday an encounter in the magic garden left Queen Filigree more than a little breathless and romance is in the air.

Spring – Chapter Seven – Jeremy the Donkey

Image © Tales from the Irish Garden

As the magic garden came into bloom, creatures that had been sheltering in the nearby forest during the icy winter began to run and play in the long grass and hedgerows. On the edge of the forest was a small farm, with a herd of beautiful black and white cows and a rather bad tempered bull called Gerard. He had a fearsome temper unless he was romancing one of the ten big-eyed cows in his herd, and even the farmer, Michael, took every precaution when moving him from field to field.

This meant enticing the bull over to the barred gate, and offering him peppermints which he was addicted to. Once his head was over the gate and he was munching away happily, Michael would slip the rope through the ring at the end of his nose, and the bull would then follow quietly behind his master; into the next field.

After one such occasion, when Gerard was safely secured in his own private paddock, Michael let his donkey, Fiona, in with the cows, who always welcomed her with a skip and a little dance. Fiona was normally ignored by the bull when he was grazing with his harem, but the donkey had given them a lovely surprise earlier in the spring. By her side was her son, who was just a few weeks old, and who looked the image of his father. Fiona had been lent to Michael’s brother Thomas the previous winter, to help his donkey Ned pull some fallen trees out of the forest to be cut up for firewood. They had spent some time on their own in Michael’s small paddock, and clearly had become close friends. Now Fiona guided her beloved son Jeremy into the herd of cows that gently inspected and kissed him in welcome.

He was a beautiful baby with large brown eyes like his mother, but strong long legs like his father. The cows thought he was adorable and Fiona was filled with pride as she watched her son being adopted by her herd sisters. None of them saw the anger filled face of the master of the herd however, as he glared across the barbed-wire fence at the little infiltrator. Gerard did not care that Jeremy was a donkey. He was male and that was unacceptable. As the bull chewed on the last of his peppermints, he hatched a plan to get rid of the usurper.

His plan took a few weeks to put into action, since he was now kept separate from his herd by the fence and the iron gate. However, he spent the time fruitfully, pushing his big wide shoulders and rock hard forehead into the wooden gate post. Because Michael just threw the occasional bale of hay over the gate, and only checked Gerard out visually as he ate the offering, he didn’t notice how unstable the gate post had become.

One morning when the bull saw his master drive off in his cart to market, he gave one final push to the damaged post. It collapsed into the field where his herd was grazing peacefully. They and Fiona looked up to see the angry bull, shouldering the now lopsided gate aside and charging towards them. The cows immediately sensed that Gerard’s target was the small and vulnerable Jeremy, and they ganged up together, facing the bull as he closed the gap.

Fiona in the meantime, nudged and pushed Jeremy to the hawthorn hedge that enclosed the field on the forest side, edging him towards a small gap in the greenery.

With the thunder of hooves behind her, Fiona knew there was little time; she was going to have to get Jeremy through the hedge without any delay. She was desperate; aware that she might be pushing her young son into a strange and potentially more dangerous world. But if he stayed it would be even more perilous.

Just as she felt the hot breath of the bull across her tail, she managed to push Jeremy through the small hole in the hedge, and felt him pop out the other side. She nimbly kicked up her heels and caught Gerard across his big beefy nose, twisting to one side as he crashed into the green barrier.

She ran up and down the edge of the field calling to her baby; finally hearing a faint cry as Jeremy, now very bewildered, located her voice.

‘You have to go my son. You only have minutes before that monster breaks through the hedge,’ she desperately tried to get her son to listen to her through his crying. ‘Find the path into the forest and follow it until you get to the magic garden. The Storyteller will take care of you.’ Fiona turned to see that Gerard was madly trying to push himself through the small hole he had created, still mad at the innocent young donkey.

‘Go Jeremy, go now and I will find you one day I promise.’ With that the plucky mother donkey charged at the enraged bull, nipping at his heels with her sharp teeth. Momentarily distracted, Gerard backed out of the hedge and started slashing the grass with one of his front legs, head down and preparing to charge.

But the bully had not taken into account the love that the herd of cows had for Fiona and her son. He was not expecting to find his path blocked by several enraged wives, whilst the others gathered around him to the sides and rear. All the snorting in the world was not going to make any difference against the combined efforts of his harem, who stared at him with determination and anger.

Eventually after much huffing and puffing and stamping of hooves, Gerard nonchalantly sauntered across to his own field, stepping daintily through the open gate, satisfied that he had accomplished his mission of ridding his herd of another male, however small.

Jeremy in the meantime had run as fast as his gangly long legs could carry him. Spotting a sunlit path through the mighty trees, he followed his mother’s instructions until he emerged into a wide grassy field full of meadow flowers. He stood petrified; camouflaged in the shadow of the forest, beginning to feel very alone and hungry.

With a startling whoosh, a long-eared face appeared with a bunch of buttercups between its teeth. Jeremy jumped back in alarm, finding himself backed into the gnarly bark of an old oak tree.

‘Don’t be afraid pet,’ A high-pitched voice issued forth between the petals of the buttercups.

‘My name is Neville and I have been sent by The Storyteller to take you to the vegetable
patch in the magic garden for some supper.’

Jeremy was surprised that he could understand this strange creature, but the mention of food helped persuade him that he should follow his new friend.

‘Come on pal, let’s get hopping, I need to get some carrots before the rest of the warren gets hold of them.’

With that Neville turned tail and hopped off through the long grass. Jeremy took a tentative hoof forward, and then galloped after the rabbit along the path he made towards a distant house; smoke billowing from its chimney.

Soon the young donkey emerged from the meadow grass and passed through an opening in a wooden fence. Neville was there, pulling up a carrot, and he also saw some mice and a badger helping themselves to other vegetables. There were even two foxes eating out of a bowl of chopped chicken wings, and a squirrel drinking from a pan of water. It was very strange indeed.

Jeremy was used to the kind human hand of Michael, his master, so was not afraid when an old man walked into the vegetable patch, heading towards him leading an enormous white goat on a rein.

‘Hello there Jeremy, I heard you were coming to visit us.’ The Storyteller’s soft voice comforted his new visitor. ‘You are going to stay with us and you will see your mother soon, but in the meantime, Esme here is going to be your foster mum and give you some warm milk.’

Warily, Jeremy sidled up to the strange creature that turned to look at him with large wise eyes. He nudged her underbelly and snorted with delight at the rich and strong tasting milk he found. He barely felt the gnarled hand that stroked his back or the sound of his new friends foraging. He missed his mother but he felt safe in this magic place.

Over the next few weeks Jeremy grew bigger and stronger, making some very special friends amongst the other inhabitants of the garden. He even came to the attention of Queen Filigree, who would lead him by a halter and rein of silk as she wondered the garden. Small moss lined baskets of woven twigs were balanced on his back, holding precious herbs and medicinal roots that her majesty would turn into healing potions and tablets.

His only sorrow was that he missed his mother very much; each day he looked towards the forest to see if she might have followed the sunlit path through the trees. The queen and the Storyteller could see that the little donkey was pining. They put their heads together and discussed the problem as they sat on a large toadstool in a patch of sunlight.

One day, after spending a delightful day foraging in the woods for mushrooms for the upcoming royal banquet for King Patrick and Queen Seren, Jeremy and her majesty returned with laden baskets bouncing on his back to the rear of the Storyteller’s cottage. As the Storyteller unloaded the mushrooms, Jeremy heard a gentle throaty purr from behind him. He whirled around to find his mother walking towards him being led by Michael the farmer. He took off like a rocket and was soon standing alongside Fiona, touching her warm coat so closely he could hear her heart beat. She gently caressed his face with her breath and a wave of love and happiness swept through them both.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jeremy saw the Storyteller shaking hands with his former master and some paper changing hands. The queen came over and stroked between Fiona’s ears and gently touched her long face.

‘Hello Fiona my dear, lovely to have you join us and we can now gather many more mushrooms and herbs, the three of us together.’

That evening, Jeremy introduced his mother to all his friends as they gathered in their special vegetable patch. That spring night passed delightfully as new friends exchanged their life stories.

©Sally Cronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next Saturday for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

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

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

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

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Winter: Chapter Twenty – Betrothals and Surprises by Sally Cronin

Last time we left Queen Filigree, lying on the floor in a faint….Chapter nineteen

Winter: Chapter Twenty – Betrothals and Surprises

Prince Ronan was summoned to the queen’s dressing room and rushed to his beloved’s side. ‘Darling heart, please wake up, my love please.’ He was beside himself as he looked down at his wife’s ashen face. The door slammed open, and Doctor Doesugood raced into the room as fast as his bunions allowed.

‘Clear the way, out of the way you buffoon… oh… sorry your highness.’ He gently pushed the prince to one side, kneeling gingerly on the floor by his queen’s side.

‘Please leave me alone to tend to my patient; I will call you immediately I have a diagnosis Prince Ronan.’

Bewildered and trembling the prince was led away by the ladies in waiting as the doctor produced a vial of essential oil from his waistcoat pocket. As the smell of sandalwood filled the queen’s nostrils, she gasped and opened her eyes.

‘Ah thank goodness your majesty,’ the doctor patted her hand. ‘For a minute there I thought you were a goner!’

He called to one of the hovering ladies-in-waiting to assist him up from the floor, whilst others gently lifted their queen on to a red satin-covered day bed. There he completed a thorough examination which involved tongue pulling, ear tweaking, eye rolling and a good thump on the chest. After asking some impertinent questions about bodily functions and other activities, he prescribed an hour’s nap followed by a chamomile and honey infusion.

He patted his patient’s hand and whispered in her ear, eliciting a gasp from the royal lips, and tears to roll down her cheeks. The prince was summoned who knelt beside the day bed, whilst the doctor explained his prognosis. Sobbing, Prince Ronan gently kissed his wife’s ashen cheek and prepared to sit with her whilst she slept.

After the prescribed tea and nap, Queen Filigree rose from the couch and told Prince Ronan that she must attend the party that night to allay the fears of the courtiers. Before he left to don his own finery for the evening, they enjoyed a tender embrace that brought comfort to them both.

There was another reason that the queen’s presence was required at the gathering tonight, as her daughters were eager to introduce their two suitors to the court. Persephone and Narcissus both hoped that these two handsome princes from neighbouring kingdoms, might be on the verge of requesting their hands in marriage. With stomachs fluttering in excitement they sashayed across the red carpet behind their stiff-backed mother, bowing and smiling at the courtiers that lined the way. They sat in blue velvet chairs either side of the queen and her consort, watching with anticipation as two handsome Irish princes walked down the centre of the chamber, kneeling in front of the royal party.

Prince Frederick rose first and approached the dais holding a golden casket which he opened and placed at the feet of Queen Filigree.

‘Your majesty, with these precious pearls from the East of the lands, I humbly request the hand of your daughter, Princess Persephone in marriage.’ He paused and smiled at his intended fiancée. ‘I am to be given my own lands and substantial income on my marriage and I am first in line to the throne of Wexdonia.’

The queen glanced at her husband and her very eager daughter who was muttering ‘please, please, please’ to herself with her fingers crossed in the lap of her lilac coloured ball gown.

Queen Filigree smiled at Prince Freddie as he was usually known, and gestured for him to rise and stand behind Persephone on the dais. He placed his hand on his beloved’s shoulder and she smiled fit to burst.

It was now the turn of Prince Nathan to plead his case, and he gestured to a footman at the door of the chamber, who nodded in turn to another out of sight. The whole court turned to the entrance, wondering what an earth would appear that was suitable as a gift to the queen in return for the hand of her daughter.

With a clip-clop of hooves, the tiniest horse you can imagine was led through the doors towards the prince who gathered the silver reins in his hand. He turned to the queen and approached with the little steed high stepping by his side.

‘Your majesty I wish to present you with one of our miniature horses that are bred for their ability to dance.’ Enthralled the queen forgot her recent collapse and walked forward to take the reins from the young man. He gestured to the court musicians who began to play a light and frothy waltz, and the little horse bowed to the queen on one exquisite little foreleg, gliding around her as she stood still in amazement.

Queen Filigree began to mirror the creature’s fluid movements and it was clearly a magical moment. For a few minutes the queen and her new companion circled the dance floor until the music stopped. Reluctantly she handed over the reins to one of her grooms to take the little horse to the royal stables, where she ordered it to be housed in the finest of stalls.

She announced to the gathering that she accepted Prince Nathan’s request for the hand of Princess Narcissus, and to the cheers of the assembled guests he joined his betrothed with the rest of the royal family.

Despite still feeling a little queasy, Queen Filigree felt a sense of great happiness at not only forming two very critical alliances here in their new home, but also securing two kind and adoring husbands for her much loved daughters. She clapped her hands to announce that the guests should retire to the dining chamber to enjoy the stupendous meal that had been prepared by Chef Marcelle, knowing that all would require fortification before dancing the night away.

All through the evening Prince Ronan remained as his wife’s side, and they only took to the floor once to gracefully circle the floor. The courtiers were relieved to see that the colour had returned to their queen’s cheeks, and Doctor Doesugood remained close at hand in case of a relapse.

Not wanting to spoil her daughter’s celebrations, Queen Filigree and her husband retired to their chambers earlier than usual, but not before whispering in the Storyteller’s ear. He nodded gravely and watched as the couple slipped away before resuming the Viennese Waltz with his daughter Dorothy. Having been parted from her for so long, when she was transformed into a fox by the evil goblin, he treasured every moment that they now spent together. He was truly blessed, and he smiled as he thought about the lovingly hand-carved rocking horses that he was now creating for his three red-headed grandchildren.

The night was a huge success, and weary and rather the worse for wear after consuming several barrels of Amber Nectar, the court slipped away, one by one to their comfy feather beds.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.

One of the recent reviews for the book

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:

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you join me tomorrow for the final chapter in the story…Sally

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

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Chapter Seventeen -Autumn: All Hallows Eve – Part One by Sally Cronin

Autumn: All Hallow’s Eve Part One.

You have now met some of the more prominent residents in the magic garden, and forest, but it is now time to meet those who are members of a community of rare and often maligned creatures. Those that write horror stories, delight in scaring young children, (and adults too if truth be known) with blood, decay and things that go bang in the night. Even those who practice the art of healing, are not excused from the propaganda of those who are ignorant and cruel.

The Storyteller had been their protector for centuries, providing them with lands, unwanted by farmers or other locals, where they could live in peace. There was one condition to this arrangement, and that was they must work in harmony with their nearest neighbours in the village of Freakish. Over the last couple of hundred years, an understanding had been reached between the villagers and those who preferred to walk in the shade. I would like you to meet a special friend of the Storyteller who has a tale to tell about Halloween.

Bethany looked around her cosy cottage and smiled with satisfaction. The lanterns around the walls glowed eerily; candlelight flickering through fangs and gaping wounds in the flesh of the pumpkins. The table was laid with fresh baked treats; the result of many hours toiling over her wood stove. A large pot now bubbled away on top of the said appliance. A wonderful aroma of rosemary and thyme filled the air with an enticing promise of tender meat and dumplings.

Of course you could not have a Halloween party without lots of sweet pastries and candies, and these too added atmospheric colour to the festive table. Blood red velvet cupcakes competed with the dark chocolate of the Devil cake, and green whipped cream glistened in a skull shaped bowl.

Her friends would be arriving shortly; making their way carefully along the path in the forest in the dark, and then through the narrow opening in her protective hedge. A woman living alone in a remote cottage needed to be careful of intruders, human and creature. The poisonous oleander was perfect for that purpose; both beautiful and deadly.

Those who were welcome and came to her for remedies, and for the mushrooms that she grew so abundantly in her garden, were given the knowledge of safe passage. Those who were uninvited or strangers, were warned by a sign along the path; ‘Minefield’. That usually did the trick!

Bethany turned her attention to her outfit. She loved her little black dress that came out for parties. For her age she had very good legs, even though she said so herself, and whilst her hips were a little wider than they used to be, she still looked spell-binding. She laughed to herself; her cat Cecil stirred and stood up from his preferred position in front of the wood stove. She walked across, stroking his arched back as he wound around her aforementioned legs as if agreeing with her assessment.

‘I hope you’ve rested up Cecil, it will be a very busy night,’ she gently massaged the cat under his chin. ‘Lots to do yet before the guests arrive so we had better get a move on.’

The cat moved over to the red velvet sofa and leapt nimbly up onto the soft cushions. With his paws tucked beneath him, and a gleam in his eyes, he watched as his mistress continued her preparations.

The first to arrive, as the sun set below the mountain behind the cottage, was Viktor looking stunning in a black velvet tuxedo with a cape that swung from his shoulders. He walked in without knocking as was his want, and did a twirl just inside the door.

“What do you think you ravishing creature,’ he flashed his pearly white fangs. ‘Do I look terrifying or just incredibly handsome?’

Bethany cocked her head to one side and felt a slight stirring of interest. No, best not go there as it would only end in tears; hers. Besides it was probably the result of drinking too much ginger and honey-mead whilst she was putting on her makeup. She thought she had overdone the potent root a little and it tended to make you feel a little saucy.

She went over and gave Viktor a hug. ‘You look stunning as always my friend,’ extinguishing the look of yearning in his eyes as she emphasized the status of their relationship.

He smiled ruefully. ‘The others are right behind me all dressed up in their most appropriate Halloween finery,’ he laughed as his fangs flashed in the lamplight. ‘We will certainly give the villagers their money’s worth this year.

Just then the door was pushed open and her other friends arrived in a group. Zenia and Zoran in their decaying Zombie outfits emerged into the room first; emanating an aroma that competed with the smell of the stew rather unfavourably.

Bethany wrinkled her nose and reached behind her for her homemade deodoriser made from geranium and peppermint. The two lovers entwined their bony fingers protruding from the end of their tattered costumes, and oblivious to the mist of floral scents that encased them, went over to admire the food laden table.

Behind them came her best friend. Geraldine was not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination but she was the life and soul of the party. Bubbly and a teller of tall tales, she was not in the slightest bit ghoulish as her makeup and costume would suggest. Bethany gave her a huge hug and stroked her friend’s green and red highlighted long hair.

‘Ger… You look stunning tonight,’ she stepped back to admire the entire ensemble. ‘That purple and blood stained dress suits you so well.’

Arm in arm the two women headed for their other friends who were already sipping mead and chatting away by the table. As the evening wore on, the food, and probably too much elderberry wine, was enjoyed. Laughter filled the small cottage as their plans for this Halloween night were discussed and enhanced.

As the clock struck nine times, Bethany clinked her empty glass and called for order. With some delay her friends ceased their inebriated conversations and stood waiting for her pronouncement.

‘It is time good friends, to wend our way through the oleander and the forest to the village and pay our respects. You know the terms of our agreement with these good people. We live safely here amongst them, but we must, this one night within the twelve months, frighten the life out of them, so that they appreciate the lives that they have for the rest of the year.’

Costumes were straightened and her friends assumed their most fitting expressions for the occasion. Glasses were put down on the table and one by one they filed past Bethany who was now holding the front door open to the cold night air. Apart from Zenia who gave a little hiccup as she passed by, the group was silent.

However as Viktor sidled past he flashed his fangs at Bethany and whispered close to her delicately pointed ear. ‘You needn’t think that clove of garlic on a chain around your neck is going to stop me.’

Bethany smacked him on his shoulder and he laughed as he exited the cottage.

Exasperated, but not totally immune to his charms, his proposed conquest moved to the cupboard by the door and extracted her broom. Checking that her hat was on straight, she draped a long cloak over her mini-dress and turned to the red sofa.

‘Come along Cecil, you lazy moggy, hop on; we have places to be and fun to be had’.

©Sally Cronin image Tales from the Irish Garden.

To find out just how the friends will frighten the life out of the villagers.. tune in next Saturday.

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book..chapters eighteen and nineteen next week..

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

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Spring – Chapter Six – The Magic Garden Comes to Life by Sally Cronin

Spring – Chapter Six – The Magic Garden Comes to Life

A month after the arrival of Queen Filigree and her court, springtime had brought magnificent colour and creatures to the magic garden. However, there was still sadness in the heart of its queen as she had lived in her previous magnolia tree palace for over 700 years. She had been married twice in that time. Once for over 450 years to a tall and dashing king who had made her heart sing. But he had fallen for one of her ladies-in-waiting and, after fifty years in exile, had been banished to the world of humans.

The Queen in those fifty years had been romanced by many who were keen to be king of her magic palace and its riches, but only one had captured her heart. A blonde and very handsome prince who was some years younger and who had the singing voice of a lark. They had married one summer and had been blissfully happy for twenty years until one day, completely out of the blue, her king had been struck down by a bite from a mosquito and had never recovered. Her majesty had been heartbroken but she was still a young woman, as far as fairy queens go. She yearned to find someone to dance and laugh with and to kiss beneath the glittering firefly chandelier.

Apart from this lack of male attention, she had to admit that their move to this green and welcoming island had been for the best. Despite missing some of the refinements of her palace in Spain, she appreciated that those had taken place during her 700 years on the throne. There was no reason why she could not bring some of those niceties to this palace in time. Income was beginning to pick up from sales of the very special honey that was being produced by the Queen Bee and her subjects. A local amber nectar brewery had commissioned a barrel a month to add to one of their special brews for the coming summer festivals they so loved here. A barrel of honey took a great deal of bees and time to produce, but the income would keep the court in food and necessities for an entire year.

The people were a delight too, and she was particularly fond of the Storyteller whose life had also held sorrow. He was reluctant to talk about his family but she sensed that one day he would share what was troubling him. He had been so generous and clearly she and her court filled a void in his life; which brought her joy. And as for the Dapperman, he was a positive gift for any woman of taste, and she delighted in her new wardrobe of such exquisite design and colour.

The Storyteller assured her that the magic garden that surrounded the magnolia tree was completely safe to venture forth into, and with the warmer weather of late spring, Queen Filigree found herself in a wild part of the garden with the scent of roses perfuming the air. She sat on top of a broad headed mushroom by some old steps; guarded by her faithful eagles who attended her whenever she left the safety of the palace. They had flown across from Spain at the wing tips of her carrier goose, and now resided at the top of the palace with the pigeons until needed.

She was wearing one of the new day dresses that had been designed by the Dapperman, and her hair had been freshly styled by her chief lady in waiting. She crossed her legs and admired her new emerald green shoes that matched the silky material of her dress, thinking how sad it was that there was no handsome suitor to admire it.

As the heady scent of the roses filled her nostrils, she closed her eyes and let the rays of the sun fall onto her flawless complexion. Was she really destined to spend the next thousand years of her life alone? Was there anyone in this new and strange land who would be suitable for a woman of her position? Suddenly she sensed that her eagles were moving around in an agitated manner and opened her eyes… She was somewhat reassured that the Storyteller had been adamant that no harm would ever befall any of the court in his magic garden, but something had spooked her guardians.

‘Well now, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes’. With a gasp of outrage, Queen Filigree turned to find herself staring into bright green eyes beneath an unruly mop of red hair. She blushed as she realised that she was staring, but she had to admit the face that went with the eyes and the hair was remarkably handsome.

‘Do you know who you are addressing?’ she demanded haughtily. She was even more annoyed when this was met with very manly laughter, and turned to her guardians who were standing wing to wing in front of their queen.

‘Begone you impudent wretch or I shall set my guardians on you and you won’t be laughing then.’ She crossed her arms and gave the man her most regal glare.

‘Suit yourself darlin’, but I have come a long way to meet you, and the least you could do is invite me down to that palace of yours.’

‘Darlin’, who are you calling darlin’ you ruffian.’ With that Queen Filigree got off the mushroom and began to walk back through the garden with her eagles close at her heel.

From behind her she heard footsteps along the stone path and looked over her shoulder to see the tall stranger following. She had to admit, in his heather coloured linen trousers and fitted tweed jacket he looked like a fine figure of a man, and for a moment she wondered if she had conjured him up when day-dreaming of romance in the sun?

‘Why are you following me you horrid man, go away or I will order my eagles to tear you to pieces.’ Even her eagles looked at her sideways when she uttered this bit of nonsense. They hadn’t picked anything to pieces except their dinner for centuries; relying on their size and wingspan to intimidate.

‘Allow me to introduce myself to your majesty,’ the stranger softened his voice to a rather alluring tone. ‘My name is Prince Ronan, and I have come to pay the respects of my father and mother, King Patrick and Queen Seren of the Kingdom of Sean-Choill in the forest to the south of here.’ With that the prince stopped on the path and waited for the queen to respond.

‘Well why didn’t you say so in the beginning?’ Unexpectedly, the queen felt a little fluttering in her heart at this surprising turn of events.

‘You may follow me and make your formal presentation to the court, but please maintain your distance.’ She had to say, she didn’t appreciate the grin that spread across this impudent prince’s face but, as she turned back to the path, she found herself smiling in anticipation.

Her heart was not the only one that was all of a flutter at the appearance of this strikingly handsome redheaded man, as he crossed the threshold of the palace, and was escorted by the royal guard into the throne room… The queen flounced into the velvet covered seat and crossed one elegant leg over the other. She beckoned to Prince Ronan to approach; waiting for him to drop to one knee in respect… Instead he walked right up to her and took her delicate hand in his own. He grinned at her, winking, as he leant over and kissed the captured palm, before returning it to her lap. Despite the audacity of the man, Filigree had to admit that she had not felt this young in the last 50 years.

He stepped back and stood with his hands behind his back, and once Filigree had regained her composure, she smiled regally and gestured to one of the footmen to bring across a chair to sit on.

‘You may now speak,’ she announced imperiously.

‘Thank you so much your majesty,’ he smiled charmingly. ‘I am here on behalf of my mother Queen Seren, to ask if she and my father might pay a visit next month, when they travel through the magic garden on their way to their summer home in the land of Meath.’

His green eyes stared directly at the queen and she felt a blush rising up from her neck to bring a glow to her cheeks.

‘That would be entirely acceptable, and please convey my pleasure at the prospect of meeting the King and Queen. We would be delighted to accommodate them in the guest chambers and hold a dinner in their honour.’

She gestured to her court social director and rose from the throne. ‘Please accompany Sir Justin to his office where you can discuss the dates and times of arrival and please convey my best wishes to your parents.’

He bowed elegantly, and dismissed, turned and followed Sir Justin out of the throne room.

However, just as he reached the ornately carved doors, Prince Ronan turned and winked at her, causing her to gasp with irritation, tinged with a little bit of excitement. Perhaps it might be time to call in Dapperman to plan her new dress for the royal visit.

©Sally Cronin 2018

Image Donata Zawadzka Tales from the Irish Garden.

One of the reviews for the book

claire ford fullerton 5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! December 14, 2018

I was attracted to this book because of its title. Show me a title concerning Ireland, and you’ve got my attention! I had seen good reviews of this book and, as are legions of others, have been a devoted fan of author Sally Cronin’s blog Smorgasbord on WordPress for years. And so it was that I bought Tales From the Irish Garden, not fully knowing what to expect. To say I was roped in from the onset puts it mildly! I was immediately bowled over by the minute details in this highly creative story, one part fantasy, one part fairy story and all parts sheer, delightful suspension of belief. Only, and here’s the kicker, as I read this engaging story, lured along by its romantic, magical undercurrents, I began to intuit the deeply human parables! Sally Cronin is a writer gifted with insight, humor, whimsy, and unparalleled story pacing abilities. Tales From the Irish Garden invites the reader to enter a plausible, magical realm so real as to make the reader want to stay there.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews

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

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