Monday, May 27, 2013

The Fairy Queen's Maid

Once there lived a girl named Daisy. She had golden hair, green eyes, and porcelain skin. Her father was a wood cutter, and he loved her very much. Anytime she went to play in the forest, he cautioned her to be careful and not to wander too far. He died when she was seven. Now, Daisy had a brown tabby cat that she loved with all her heart. The day her father died, she wept and wept, but her cat pawed at her arm and said, "Get to your feet, Child. You must find your way in the world, or there'll be no food for either of us.

"But Kitty," the young girl sniffled, "I have no skills with which to make my way."

"Hush now, pack your clothes and any food you can find." Kitty said, "I know where we can find work, but it may take a few nights to reach. When you're packed, go to sleep, for the path may only be seen in moonlight."

Daisy did as she was told and soon was fast asleep. She awoke to the calling of Kitty and hurried to her.

"It's time to leave. Are you afraid?"

"No, Kitty. I am not afraid."

With that, the two slipped into the night, following a moon milk silver path. They silently stole past the sleeping doe, the hunting wolf, and the singing insects, as they entered the woods. It was hours before either spoke, but Daisy finally did.

"Kitty, where is it we will find work?"

"At the Fairy Queen's palace, Little One," Kitty purred.

These words Daisy took to heart, for the Queen of fairies was said to be the kindest and most beautiful being. No human had ever found her palace, but Daisy trusted Kitty more than anyone else, so she picked up her pace and followed the cat as diligently as ever. For many more hours, they walked.

"Oh Kitty!" Daisy finally burst, "I am so thirsty. Please let us rest for a spell."

"Dear child," the cat responded, "we mustn't stop yet. A little bag of water is in your pack. Drink from it."

Daisy did as she was told, and not long after, they reached a little glade.

"Here we will rest." Kitty said, and rest they did, until the next day's sun set in the west.

"Wake, Child. We must be on our way."

They walked for hours and hours in silence until Daisy cried out to Kitty, "Oh Kitty! I am so hungry. Please let us rest for a spell."

But Kitty replied, "Dear child, we mustn't stop yet. There is food in your pack. Eat of that."

Daisy did as she was told, and not long after, they reached a second little glade.

"Here we will rest." Kitty said, and rest they did, until the next day's sun set in the west. Then they awoke and continued on their way. They walked  for longer than they had either night before, and Daisy began to be afraid that they would never stop. "Oh Kitty," she wept, "I am so tired. Please let us rest for a spell."

"Dear child," Kitty whispered, "we mustn't stop yet. A little farther, I beg you."

And so Daisy continued on, weeping, for her shoes were worn to tatters and her legs could barely support her, but it was not long after that they reached a third little glade where Kitty told her to rest. It was when the next day's sun was high that Kitty woke Daisy.

"Child," she purred, "we are nearly at the Fairy Queen's palace. We must now follow the path lined with rose bushes."

In moments, they reached the palace. There they were given baths, food, and a good night's sleep. The next day, they had an audience with the Queen, who was as lovely as any story and more. She had the longest golden tresses, that rivaled the sun; violet eyes, that inspired song; and a smile like every mother's. Upon hearing of Daisy's predicament, she insisted on being of help. It was thus that, as long as Daisy helped the maids wherever she could, she would be provided with food, an education, and a place to sleep. Kitty was also provided with food and was allowed to sleep with Daisy, if she kept the mouse and rat population to a minimum. They lived there happily for many years, and Daisy grew into a beautiful young woman.

She was out in the forest one day, gathering berries, when she saw a magnificent grasshopper caught in a web. Her heart ached with sympathy, and she cut him loose.

"Thank you fair maiden," he said with a bow, "What can I do to repay you?"

"Nothing is needed," the sweet Daisy replied

"Then take this crown, for I am the King of grasshoppers, and when you need me, put it on your little finger, and I will be there."

"Thank you very much." Daisy took the crown, put it in her pocket, and continued along.

The next day, she was sent to the fairy market. On her way down the path, Daisy heard a frog crying at the bank of a pond

"Whatever is the matter?" she asked.

"I was playing with my silver ball, but when I threw it into the air, it became lodged in that tree above us, and now I can't reach it."

"Oh." Daisy said. She looked up and spotted the ball. It was just out of her reach. Refusing to give up, for a weeping frog is the most heart wrenching sound, Daisy picked up a stick and poked at the ball until it fell to the ground, where the frog happily reclaimed it.

"Thank you so much!" he croaked, "As heir to the amphibian throne, I vow that, should you ever need my assistance in return, you need only drop a pebble in this pond."

"Thank you," Daisy said, and she picked up a pebble and slipped it in her pocket.

A week later, she was tending the fire in the great hall after everyone else had gone to bed, when she saw something moving in the flames. A salamander had become trapped when a piece of wood fell on top of his tail.

Taking the poker, Daisy lifted the wood just long enough for the salamander to crawl out.

"Many thanks, I don't know how long I would have been trapped, if not for you," he gasped.

"It was the least I could do." she assured him.

"My kingdom and I are in debt to you," he said, "Take this piece of charcoal, and, if you ever need my help, throw it into a fire."

She graciously accepted the gift and slid it into her pocket. It was months before she ever needed any of their help.

It came to pass that the Fairy Queen called Daisy into the throne room.

"Dearest Daisy," the Queen said, "my cousin seeks a bride, and you are kind, beautiful, and true to your word. I do not know of a better bride. If you are willing, he has set three tasks that you must complete, for his bride must be worthy."

"I would love nothing more." Daisy replied, for the Queen's cousin was rumored to be a true and wise gentleman.

"The first task is to raise an army that is small but large. He will be here in the morning."

Later in the day, Daisy related all of this to Kitty, who softly replied, "Call upon the Grasshopper  King. I have a plan for you."

So Daisy placed the crown on her little finger, and Kitty explained her plan to him.

The next day, the Queen's cousin was greeted by an army of grasshoppers, riding steeds of mice. They numbered in the thousands, and he consented that, although they were small, they certainly made a large army. He then set the next task: to bring forth a wonderful sound from an unconventional orchestra. She had two weeks time.

Daisy didn't need Kitty's advice this time. She hurried down to the frog prince's pond and dropped the pebble in.

"How may I help you?" he burbled, for his mouth was still partly underwater.

"I need your finest musicians to play a song at the palace of the Fairy Queen in two weeks time. I hope I'm not asking too much."

"Consider it done."

And indeed, in two weeks, everyone in the palace was drawn to the windows by the sweetest sound. The fairy children rushed to the courtyard and tried to dance like adults. The adults closed their eyes and let the sounds wash over them.

"Well done," the Fairy Queen's cousin told Daisy, "Tomorrow, you will answer a riddle."

The next morning, Daisy was brought to the throne room.

"Tell me," the Queen's cousin began, "What burns in our homes, out of our homes, and is not fire? What has a heart and a mind, but is rarely seen?"

Daisy thought and was at a loss until she felt the charcoal in her pocket. Then she laughed. "The answer is that which is lost in legend, the salamander."

After she returned to her room, she threw the charcoal into the fire and thanked the Salamander King for his help.

The morning of the wedding, which was to be a grand affair with fairies, grasshoppers, amphibians, and salamanders in attendance, Daisy stood by a window alongside Kitty.

"Are you afraid?" Kitty asked.

"Yes, Kitty. I am very afraid."

"You needn't be, for I will be with you always."

And she was.

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