“Strike Breaker,” part 7 & finale

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

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
Part 5 here.
Part 6 here.

“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.


Happy writing!

“Strike Breaker,” part 6

Hello! Here is part 6 of my fantasy story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike.. While I’m finishing my blog “re-do,” I hope you enjoy the story!

Strike Breaker, Part 6

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
Part 5 here.

Image by Zdeněk Chalupský from Pixabay

Princess Amadea eyed the frog on her kitchen floor. “Where did you come from?” she asked, not expecting an answer.

To her surprise, the frog opened its mouth again, and said, in a very deep voice, “Good-day, Miss –”

“This is the Princess Amadea,” Mistress Periwinkle put in sharply, “and you’d do well to remember that!”

“Forgive me,” the frog said solicitously. “I’ve been out of circulation for awhile. Good-day, your Highness.”

His manner was strangely courtly, especially for a frog. Amadea looked at him more closely, but he looked just like a frog, albeit a large frog. How had he gotten here?

“Is there something we can do for you?” she asked. “We’re in kind of a hurry around here right now.”

“Yes, and her Highness hasn’t got time to be talking to a frog,” said Periwinkle gruffly.

Amadea, who thought that Periwinkle was being a tad too unfriendly to the poor creature, said quickly, “We’ve got a banquet to prepare –”

“I have but one request, your Highness,” said the frog. “But first, are you truly a princess? The daughter of the old king?”

“Of course she is,” snapped Periwinkle.

Amadea said, “It’s all right, Periwinkle. I’ll sort this out. Can you . . . work on laying the silver or something?”

This had the unfortunate effect of upsetting Periwinkle even more. She put her nose in the air, and said, “I suppose I can try.”

When Periwinkle had left the kitchen, the frog said again, “I have but one request.”

“What is it?” asked Amadea. The shouts of the protesters outside reminded her that time was running out.

“I respectfully request a kiss.”

That’s all I need, thought Amadea. A fresh frog with aspirations to royalty. At a time like this.

“Well, you see – I’ve got this Banquet of Lords to put on –” She checked her chronometer. “– in less than an hour. And the elves are on strike, the wood fairies deserted us and took the food with them. As you can understand, I’m rather busy at the moment –”

“If you would bestow upon me a kiss,” continued the frog, “the spell will be lifted.”

Wonderful, thought Amadea. An enchanted frog.

“I couldn’t possibly help you until after the banquet –”

She stopped, realizing how hopeless it all was. She might as well cancel the banquet. At this point, it would take a small miracle to pull it off. Talking more to herself than to the frog, Amadea muttered, “What does it matter, anyway. I’ve got a kitchen full of goblins with no master, and Lord Harrington and the others will be here any moment –”

“Oh, that,” said the frog, carelessly. “If it’s just a catering problem you’ve got, that’s quite an elementary problem.”

“What?” asked Amadea. “You don’t understand. If I don’t put on a good show for this banquet, they’ll insist on my marrying Prince Edgar. And, well, nothing against him or anything, but –”

A sudden thought occurred to Amadea. She leaned closer to the frog. “You aren’t a prince, by any chance, are you?” she asked. “A prince, enchanted by an evil witch?” From the sound of his deep voice, she imagined an attractive, muscular man with dark brown eyes. Perhaps he’d have a slight greenish tinge to his skin, but she could overlook that, if his other qualities commended him –

“No, I’m not a prince,” replied the frog. “I am – I was – Prince Edgar’s personal chef.”

(To be continued!)

Happy writing!

Life lessons learned from rowing & “Strike Breaker,” part 5

Image courtesy Pixabay.com.

Hello! As you know, I’m working on a blog re-do, and I’ve got some fun things in the works. More soon!

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, and this fall I’ve been learning to row. I had been a runner, but injuries started to sideline me, and one afternoon in early October I thought, why not try rowing? I vaguely remember a week’s rowing as a teenager, in a summer program on Seattle’s Green Lake, and I still remember the synchonicity of rowing as a team, and of the beauty of being right on the water, and I thought: let’s give that a try!

Fast-forward to now, three months later, and I’ve been through a huge learning curve with the sport. First: you can’t learn everything at once. Like any endeavor that involves physical coordination and muscle memory, it’s overwhelming at first. Like anytime you’re a beginner, you feel like you’ll never get this. It’s frustrating and it goes through your mind to give up.

But you know, when you’re on the water and it’s quiet, and you look out at the horizon and see white-blue wispy clouds that are doing nothing but hanging there for you to admire, and you feel the bump of the water cradling the hull of the boat, just inches from your seat, you think about all the people who made their way on this lake before you who may have pulled their crafts across the water with oars or paddles and who saw the same clouds, the same water, who felt the same early-morning breeze on their faces.

And then you remember you’re in the boat with seven or four or three other rowers, all striving to work together to make the boat go forward in a coordinated, rhythmic, organic way. And you pull on the oars the best you can, you hear the swoosh of the oar blades in the water beside you, and you move forward.

Learning to row. The movements come easier a little at a time. The feel of the water, and the breezes, and seeing the clouds on the horizon makes it all seem real. And connected to everything else.

Learning to row. When things get intense in the boat, I try to look out and remember: one day it will all come together, the form, the rhythm, and the pacing, it just takes time and practice, it just takes patience and determination. You just have to keep going.

And this is like writing, no? You take each scene, each story or poem, each essay, and you do your best at that one thing. As you go along you get better at it. Slowly, and with some frustration and faltering moments. One day it will all come together. In the meantime, the only thing you can do is learn. Learn and keep trying.

While I’m working on my “blog re-do,” I’m serializing a fantasy story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike. Here is part 5 below.

Strike Breaker, Part 5

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.

Image courtesy Pixabay.com.

Within a few minutes the shouting outside where the picketers had been chanting was abruptly silenced. When Amadea cracked open the scullery door to see what had happened, she was stunned to see nothing but a new flock of woolly sheep placidly grazing on the small hillock near the back gate. She surmised the sheep were the elf strikers. They looked exceedingly oblivious to their fate. She sighed with relief at the wonderful peace she felt without the threat of Mitchell hanging over her.

The goblins appeared in the scullery, looking like slightly smaller versions of Ezriel, the master, gaunt, thin creatures, with grayish skin and pointed ears. Amadea sent Periwinkle to find suitable livery for them. They stood in a clump in one corner of the scullery, drooping, heads down, and muttering to themselves. They didn’t look dangerous, at least not at the moment.

When Periwinkle returned with a stack of the bright royal blue and gold braided livery of the palace, Amadea asked, “Do they always behave like that?”

Periwinkle clucked her tongue. “Tricky devils.”

Amadea took the livery and approached the goblins. There was a dusty sort of smell about them, like the smell of old books shut up in a library too long. She tried not to breathe too deeply.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Where is your master?”

They pulled away as she came close. Their muttering increased. They shuffled back and forth, back and forth, not answering her question.

This would never do. At least with the elves on strike, she and Periwinkle had been handling the necessary arrangements with what seemed like a minimum of fuss. Now, she had false sheep grazing where the strikers had been – and who knew when they might suddenly be changed back into the loudly protesting elves – and this band of ne’er-do-well goblins occupying a corner of her kitchen.

She had to get hold of the goblin master. She pulled out his card, which she had been careful to put in a pocket when she changed. She inspected it closely. But there was no indication of how he could be reached.

“We’ll just have to work around them,” Amadea said to Periwinkle.

Mistress Periwinkle shook her head. “I’ll keep an eye on the silver, that’s for sure,” she commented.

Just then a filmy brightly colored mist began filtering through the heavy wooden door. As it wafted into the kitchen it brought the scent of tangerine and lime. Amadea felt as if she’d been transported to a fruit orchard.

“Wood fairies!” Amadea exclaimed. The unmistakable citrus odor signaled their arrival, she remembered. If she could just keep the goblins corralled, and somehow manage the serving without too much fuss, she could still pull off the banquet. She strode up to the orange-and-green colored mist and said, in her most lively voice, “Welcome, oh Fairies of the Wood!”

The mist resolved into the forms of tiny figures. At the forefront was a tiny woman about the size of Amadea’s finger, dressed in flowing green robes, whose tiny green wings fluttered as fast as a hummingbird’s. She wore a little golden crown on her head, indicating she was the queen. The rest of the figures were a variety of ladies and gentlemen, all with tiny wings, accompanied by a trailing caravan of food dishes.

The tiny queen spoke. “I am Silvana, your Highness, come to provide the food for your Banquet of Lords. And this is –”

Suddenly Silvana’s tiny face took on a look of horror.

She sniffed the air, then looked in the direction of goblins still huddled in the corner of the kitchen. “What is that?” Silvana hissed.

“Goblins!” she shrieked. The rest of the fairies stared with equal horror on their faces.

At the sound of the fairies’ hisses, the goblins abruptly stopped their shuffling and scuttled in the direction of the fairies floating in mid-air.

“Really, they’re harmless,” Amadea tried to tell the fairies, but she was drowned out by the bellows, grunts and groans of the now-boisterous goblins, scrabbling for the fairies, who departed swiftly through the locked wooden door, disappearing along with the trail of food dishes. Amadea watched, transfixed, as the horde of goblins pounded and scratched on the door after the vanished fairies.

She sank down on a kitchen stool. The food was gone. The goblins were out of control. And, outside, she heard the unequivocal sound of elves on the picket line again, apparently now transformed back to their usual selves.

It was no use. She’d be married off to that disagreeable Prince Edgar before the next full moon.

She looked at Periwinkle, who was frowning at the goblins. “What should we do now?” Amadea called, over the loud scraping of the goblins and the distant shouts of the elven protesters. Mistress Periwinkle shrugged and rolled her eyes.

A gray vapor began to rise from under the door. Great, thought Amadea, what now? As the smoke began to clear she saw something at the foot of the door.

A very fat green frog.

It was the size of a large turtle, emerald-green with dark brown speckles on its back. It opened its mouth and said, “Croak.”


(To be continued!)

Happy writing!

“Strike Breaker,” part 4

Thanks for following along on my serialization of “Strike Breaker,” a story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike. Here is part 4!

Strike Breaker, Part 4

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

As the smoke cleared a strange figure stood in the kitchen.

Periwinkle came to Princess Amadea’s side, and they both gazed at the figure. He was all skinny legs and arms, and he stood a bit taller than one would expect for a resident of this kingdom. He wore a scarlet morning coat, a blue silk tie, dark blue trousers, and on his head, a gleaming top hat. When he saw the two women staring at him, he removed the hat and held it in his hands.

Periwinkle gave a little gasp. Amadea, too, was surprised to see his ears were long and pointed.

Periwinkle crossed herself superstitiously.

“Good-day,” he said. “Have I the pleasure of addressing her Royal Highness Princess Amadea?”

Amadea nodded, still coughing slightly at the smoke. “And you are –?” she asked.

“My card,” he replied. With a flourish, the odd creature took out his card and offered it to Amadea. It read, “Ezriel, Goblin Master.”

Periwinkle gave a sharp intake of breath. “Not goblins!” she exclaimed.

Amadea had only a vague notion of what goblins were. She had never seen any, nor could she remember her father mentioning them to her as a child. She had an impression they weren’t the most trustworthy of creatures, but she didn’t think that was reason enough to fear them, as Periwinkle seemed to. But then Periwinkle had always been superstitious.

Ezriel’s smile never wavered. “Oh, there’s been bad talk about goblins for ages,” he said. “But I’ve found through my work that goblins are in fact most easily trainable and highly well-adjusted creatures. I think you’ll find their services can be quite satisfactory, especially on an emergency basis –”

“Goblins are trouble!” Periwinkle broke in. She gave Ezriel a look of pure revulsion.

“There has always been a lot of nasty prejudice against goblins,” he said.

“Prejudice! What a lot of nonsense!” Periwinkle went on. “They’ll rob you. Steal the children –”

Ezriel sighed. ” – curdle the milk, make your livestock go barren –” He shook his head, an indulgent smile on his face. “It’s sad, really, that the old stereotypes continue to be perpetuated.”

“What do you want from me?” Amadea asked.

Ezriel bowed again. He said, “I understand you’ve got a bit of a situation here. The Banquet of Lords is to be held here tonight, and your union of elves has inconveniently gone on strike . . .” His smile was sympathetic.

“We’ll manage,” Amadea asserted, just as she’d said to Mitchell.

“I believe I can be of service,” Ezriel continued. “I can arrange it so your guests will not notice anything out of the ordinary, so that everything goes perfectly –”

“You could get rid of the elves?” she asked.

“Not remove them. I could mask their disturbance, however. Not only that, my goblins could provide the palace service that is normally done by your elves.”

“And what would be the cost for such a service?”

“Well,” Ezriel said smoothly, “normally I do charge a premium for such service. But, in this case, I am willing to forego my usual charge in exchange for certain considerations.”

“Such as?”

“That you consider replacing the elves with my goblins . . . permanently.”

“Your highness!” hissed Periwinkle. “Not . . . goblins!”

Amadea considered the situation. She hated to go against Periwinkle’s judgment, but she couldn’t afford to settle with Mitchell. Perhaps it would work out. What choice did she have?

“How soon can your goblins be here?” she asked Ezriel, ignoring Periwinkle’s gasp.

Ezriel smiled even wider. “Everything will be arranged immediately,” he said.

“And you’ll do something about the picket lines out there?”

He nodded. “It’s as good as done, your highness.”

A sense of relief swept over Amadea. Soon everything would be taken care of. It would all work out.

She had a momentary concern that Periwinkle might abandon her, given her loathing of goblins. But after a long silence, Periwinkle said, “Well, you’ll need someone to protect you, with those dirty devils about. Let the heavens protect us now!”

(To be continued!)

Happy writing!

binge watch

:) by mikest is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
🙂 by mikest is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered/the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,/praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.” – Richard Michelson, “More Money Than God”

You drank all the champagne last night but you forgot until you woke up this morning – well, closer to noon – and you saw the six empty champagne bottles lying on the carpet.  The green shag carpet in the basement rec room of your mom’s split-level in the suburbs.  Who was it last night, Margaret and Tanya and Jeremy and Peter, they all came over to celebrate the solstice, at least that’s what they said last night, even though the winter solstice is still a month away.  Thank goodness your mom’s in Baltimore visiting your sister, that’s why you had the place to yourself last night, so that you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone else, and by the time she gets back you’ll have the place back to normal-looking, six champagne bottles in the recycle bin – maybe even off the premises, so she doesn’t get suspicious.

But then your cell phone rings, and it’s a Facetime call, and it’s your mom.  Your mom.  You click the button, “Accept,” and you put on your normal-happy face and drop into your cheerful nothing-going-on-here voice.

“Mom!” you say.  “How’s Baltimore?”

She’s wearing bright purple sweats and a yellow scarf.  “Just went for a jog,” she says.  You see your sister’s fifties-style ranch house kitchen in the background, pink appliances and all.

“Jog?” you say.  “You never jog, Mom.”

“Your sister took me around the track at the high school,” she says.  She pauses.  “Right after we watched the video.”

“What video?  You mean NetFlix?” you ask.  Your mom has just recently signed up for streaming NetFlix and you’ve already caught a season or two of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on the TV upstairs.

“The video.  The party video,” she says, pleasantly enough.

Your head is spinning.  Is it the champagne hangover making you groggy?

“Mom, what party?”

“You know.  Jeremy, Tanya, Peter, and . . . what was that other girl’s name?”  In the background, your sister says, “Margaret,” all echo-y in the kitchen.

You pause.  She’s not supposed to know about that.  She’s not supposed to know about the champagne and all.  She’s in Baltimore, for chrissakes.

“How did you -” you manage to say.

“Nanny cam, sweetie.  They put them on the Internet these days.”

It sinks in.  You glance around the rec room, searching.  Where is the damned camera?

“Just thought I’d let you know.  You’ll probably want to tell your friends you’ll be busy for the rest of the week.”

“And if I don’t?” The words are out before you’ve even thought about them.

“Well, there are new videos going up on YouTube every day,” she says sweetly.  “Your sister’s going to show me how just as soon as we’re done here.”

“We’re done, Mom,” you say wearily.

“I thought so.  Love you!”

As your mom’s face winks out, you silently curse your sister for being more net-savvy than you – she always was – and your mom for being the all-around sneak that she is.

By the time you’ve washed up the dishes an hour later, you’ve got a plan ready for the rest of the week.  It takes less time than you expect to set up a new subscription to Amazon Prime, and your mom’s Amazon account still has the same password from when you lived at home full-time in high school.  Binge-watching premium movies is a great way to spend the week, and you’ll look innocent enough on any hidden camera in the house.  Interstellar.  The Hunger Games.  The latest Mission: Impossible movie.

And she may not even see the bill for a month or two, who knows?