Hello! I am so excited to let you know that I have finished the plans for my blog re-do, and my next blog post will include an announcement on the direction I’ll be taking.
Thank you so much for being part of my community! I am grateful for your being my audience, however long you have been part of my readers. I have learned so much from you, and you have been a special part of my writing process.
Here is part 7 – and the finale! – of my fantasy story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike.. Thanks for all the wonderful comments on my story as we have gone along.
Strike Breaker, Part 7
“Oh!” Celia’s vision of a handsome prince vanished. She drew back. “Prince Edgar’s –? Ugh,” she said, in spite of herself.
“And you’re absolutely right about him. He’s horrible,” the frog went on.
“What are you doing here?” she asked the frog.
“Oh, he has no taste, Prince Edgar. I tried to prepare for him the most elegant of dishes — duck a l’orange, coq au vin, vichoissaise — but did he appreciate it? No! All he would eat was boiled venison meat and mushy potatoes. That swine! He ought to be turned into a pig! I told him so!”
“And then what happened?”
“Oh. He had this witch on his payroll turn me into — what you see here. A frog. But if you, a genuine princess, were to give me a kiss –”
Celia thought it over. “If I kiss you,” she said, “you’ll turn back into –”
“– a chef. Your personal chef, if you don’t mind my assumption.”
What the heck, Celia thought. It couldn’t make things any worse than they already were.
She stooped down, putting herself at eye level with the frog. He did smell a little like a pond, the warm, sunny, lazy kind of pond with jumping fish and lily pads, and lots of little peepers. Up close, though, his skin was even more slimy than she’d thought, his eyes bulged, and the bumps under the surface of his skin looked positively revolting. Still, she was accustomed to preparing game after it had been brought down, or eating seared rabbit meat around a campfire.
She shut her eyes and pursed her lips, giving the frog a light brush with them somewhere near his head, she hoped.
A bell sounded. She opened her eyes.
Before her stood a tall, skinny young man, wearing a white chef’s uniform. He bowed a deep, respectful bow, and took her hand, to kiss it lightly. “My name is Wilfred, at your service. I am deeply indebted to you –”
“What were you saying about this being a catering problem?” she asked.
Wilfred looked around the kitchen. “Oh, yes. No problem.”
She’d heard this before, most recently from the Ezriel, the goblin master. Her doubts began to return.
“Exactly when do the guests arrive?” he asked, in a brisk, efficient tone.
“In about thirty minutes,” Celia answered. “Dinner’s in an hour.”
He clucked. “Doesn’t give us much time. Ah, well, it will have to do.”
“The wood fairies were supposed to provide the food . . .” Celia’s voice trailed off.
He clapped his hands. “Wood fairies? Brilliant! Where are they?”
“That’s just the thing,” she said apologetically. “They were here, but when they saw the goblins –” She gestured toward the goblins, still scraping at the kitchen door.
Wilfred nodded knowingly. “Wood fairies can’t abide goblins.” He wrinkled his nose. “Don’t blame them.”
He brightened. “Still, easily enough managed.”
Celia was beginning to wonder if Wilfred really knew all he claimed to know.
“First things first,” he added. He bent down and searched the floor. “Hmm, yes, it should be here somewhere . . . Aha!” He picked up something too small for Celia to make out, and held it up for Celia to see. It seemed to be a tiny, rainbow-colored feather. “This will do it.”
Wilfred waved it in the air, and Celia heard a faint sound, like raindrops falling on broad leaves. That done, Wilfred muttered, “They always leave a summons token. They’ll be here in a trice.” He tucked the feather into his uniform.
“Now for the goblins,” he went on.
Going to the pantry where the spices were kept, Wilfred searched among the small jars, and again said, “Aha!” He carried one spice jar to the counter and, extracting a pinch from within the jar, he tossed it toward the bunch of goblins, calling: “Winklepicker!”
Instantly, the goblins froze in place, as if they were statues.
“An old incantation,” Wilfred said to Celia. He held up the spice jar. “Coriander. Goblins are allergic to it. Makes them temporarily paralyzed.”
“Are you some kind of enchanter?” Celia asked in amazement.
“Heavens, no! I just know my spices, that’s all. — Ah, here are the fairies now.”
At that moment, the fairies reappeared through the door. They seemed oblivious to the stationary goblins bunched in a pile against the inside of the door. Seeing Wilfred, the queen fairy seemed to shimmer in delight, and she positively cooed at him.
“Wilfred!” she said. “What a pleasure to see you!”
“Delighted to see you again,” Wilfred said. “I suppose everything is in order?”
“Oh, yes,” the queen said. “There was a — misunderstanding before –” She looked disapprovingly at Celia. “But I’m sure that’s all been cleared up.”
“Wonderful,” said Wilfred, fairly purring at the queen. “We may expect the food momentarily?”
“It will be taken care of,” the queen replied. And, sure enough, the food caravan reappeared. Wilfred directed them to the dining hall. “You’ll find tables to receive the food in there,” he said. The queen, the floating caravan, and her entourage glided off through the doorway.
Celia, amazed, watched the fairies pass. Everything was falling into place, after all. She’d never have believed it. Thanks to Wilfred, it looked like she wouldn’t have to be married to Edgar after all.
Just then, there was a knock on the door. The guests! She thought in panic. It was early, still! Surely, they couldn’t be here this early —
Periwinkle opened the door. It was only Mitchell. Celia’s heart sank as she remembered the elven strikers.
Mitchell’s grin became a leer as he caught sight of Celia. “Just checking to see if you’d changed your mind about a settlement –”
His grin died as his gaze landed on Wilfred. He seemed to shrink back from the door.
“Mitchell? Is that really you?” Wilfred asked.
Mitchell’s face went white. “Uh, I, well –”
“Last I heard, you were doing a tidy eleven years in Prince Edgar’s dungeon . . . a small matter of pilfered doublets –”
Celia relished the moment. “Is this true, Mitchell?” she asked. “How interesting.”
Mitchell stammered, “I — it was a frame-up.”
Celia said, “I think this affects your position, don’t you?”
Mitchell muttered something under his breath, and then he said, “I’ll have to talk to my constituents about this.”
“Meantime, let’s suspend the picketing, just for this evening. In the morning, we can discuss a reasonable settlement — and you won’t have to be sent back to Prince Edgar’s after all.”
Mitchell scowled, but he touched his had and bowed his way back out the door, saying, “Very well, your Highness.”
The shouts and picketing died down a few minutes after he left.
Celia turned to Wilfred. “I must say, I’m very impressed with your performance. I happen to have a vacancy in palace management, ever since my master elf passed on –”
“Well,” Wilfred said, with a raised eyebrow, “I am between positions, as it were. But you’ll be no friend to Edgar if you take me in.”
“I can handle it. He’ll be miffed, but he won’t dare do anything.”
A few weeks later, Celia was out hunting with the best of her huntsmen. She reflected on how useful it was to have Wilfred around. Her father might have done things differently, but the Council of Nobles was satisfied, for the moment, things were running smoothly at the palace, and she was well rid of Mitchell. At least she wouldn’t have to marry the dreadful Prince Edgar. She could take her time choosing a consort, and the time would come when she would do just that.
Sometimes it pays to kiss a frog, she thought. In many ways, a good chef was much more valuable than a prince, anyway.