Genre: Traditional Tales
Author: Mary MacFarlane
For "Tales by the Tree: An Anthology of Holiday Flash Fiction"
Dedication: To the two best friends a Fairy Elf could wish for. Without my mermaid and Dragon Queen, there would be no leaf bombs, giant worms, or late nights giggling over characters.
In a tiny tree house nestled in the Forest of Tranquility lived a fairy elf named Mairí. Today was a very special day for Mairí for this year she was hosting the Christmas Eve feast. All day she flitted from one corner to another of her four room house, decorating it for the occasion. The entire population of birds who also lived in her tree whistled Christmas carols while hopping from snowy branch to snowy branch as the aroma of baking bread permeated the crisp winter air.
Holding a sea blue ornament between her thumb and forefinger, Mairí squinted at her reflection and frowned. Not shiny enough. Quickly, she frosted the glass with her breath and wiped it clean on her forest green velvet sleeve. Much better! She eased it onto one of the tinsel-laden branches of the fir tree in her sitting room. Stepping back, she placed her hands on her hips and nodded in satisfaction. Her little house glittered and shimmered from top to bottom with silver garlands, colourful glass orbs, golden instruments, and lighted candles.
Mairí glanced out her window to the sundial on her large front porch. Oooh, they should be here any minute! She looked over her list to make sure everything was ready.
“Seaweed salad, check!
Wild boar steaks, check!
Fruit salad, check!
Black Forest pie, check!”
A sharp rap on the door sent her scurrying to see who it was. Just outside stood a tall, scarlet-cloaked figure with dragon wings spread wide. Mairí threw open her door and embraced the woman.
“Your Highness, ‘tis so good to see you! Come in, come in.”
“Elfie!” the Dragon Queen exclaimed as the warmth of the cottage beckoned her inside. Removing her cloak, she draped it on one of the protruding branches by the door and refolded her scaly wings against her back. “Is Princess here yet?”
“No, no sign of her.”
The Dragon Queen tapped a finger on her chin with a guttural hmm. “She left before I did. Did she get lost?”
As they pondered the whereabouts of their fishy friend, jingling bells sounded from under the floorboards. Mairí perked up.
“Ah, that will be her! I installed a pulley since she doesn’t have wings to get up here.”
But to their surprise, a rabbit came through the trapdoor instead of a mermaid.
“Quick, quick!” it cried. “The princess is netted!”
“Netted?!” the two gasped. They exchanged worried glances then burst into action. The Dragon Queen retrieved her cloak as Mairí doused the fire in the kitchen and the rabbit scrambled onto the Queen’s shoulder to direct them.
“There! She’s in there!” it squeaked before running off in the opposite direction.
“I’ll sneak in closer and see what’s up,” Mairí volunteered. “Highness, stay here and make sure we don’t get ambushed!”
Nodding, the Queen sat down on one of the fallen logs as the fairy elf disappeared into the shadows through the opening between the hills.
As Mairí wound her way through the woods, her long ears could just make out the sound of high-pitched cackling. Soon, the noise grew louder and a little clearing opened up in front of her. Ducking down, she crawled over to a particularly leafy bush and peered over it. Mairí sucked in her breath as she spotted their friend wriggling in a crude net. Not three feet away, four goblins sat around a blazing campfire. One of them had an apron tied around her thick waist and was stirring in the cauldron over the fire.
“Been a long time since we’ve ‘ad tail soup, Martha!” the largest one said.
“Wouldn’t think of serving nothin’ else fer Christmas, Fred,” she giggled. “Only the best fer this family!”
“Kin I skin the mermaid, Mum?” one of the small ones asked.
“But I wanted to!” whined the other.
“This isn’t good!” Mairí whispered to herself. Sneaking back to the Dragon Queen, she crouched next to her and related her findings.
“How dare they!” the Queen snorted, jumping to her feet. “Where are those buggers? I’m going to fry them up good---”
Mairí clamped a hand on her friend’s arm to keep her from storming into the goblin camp. After all, it isn’t wise to crash a party of hungry goblins, even if one can spout fire!
“I have a better idea. I’ll distract them to the opposite side of the clearing while you free the princess. Then we can get out of this creepy place!”
At first the plan seemed to be working. Mairí was able to keep them occupied looking for the scrumptious pheasant she was mimicking. They made so much noise tramping through the dense undergrowth it seemed impossible they would hear the sound of ropes snapping. But just when the Queen had freed the mermaid, one of the little goblins noticed something was afoot and gave a cry of alarm. Before one could say, “How’d you do?” the goblins had the Dragon Queen and mermaid princess surrounded.
“What’s this, eh? Stealing our Christmas feast, eh?”
“Look out, Dad, that tall un’ looks mighty fierce!”
Mairí was thinking frantically for a way out of this mess. How to appease four hungry goblins and take away their Christmas feast alive? It was impossible! Unless... unless....
“Actually, Mr. Fred, we come with an invitation!” Mairí said quickly, stepping out from her hiding place and hurrying over to the others. “To a feast--- our feast. Would you care to join us?”
“Hmmm...” Fred eyed her suspiciously. “Will there be rum pudding?”
“Yes!” said Mairí.
“Yes!” the three girls said in unison.
“Aw, Dad, kin we go?” a little one begged.
Fred mulled over the thought. “Sure!” he grinned and stuck out a beefy hand. “Mighty obliged!”
Mairí took his hand in both of hers and shook it enthusiastically.
“Glad you can come!”
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