I wrote this story for my Writing Sister, Kimberlee. Happiest of Birthdays honey! Sending sparkles and love!
Once upon a time, or so the story goes, there lived a Queen in a land beyond Inglewood Hamlet. She was very wise but also carried with her a terrible curse…
Looking out at her lands, Kimberlee sighed.
There was still so much to do and so little time in which to do it. It didn’t help that Xander, her constant friend and advisor, was pacing the floor behind her like a dog that was looking for a bone.
“Xander, stop pacing. You’re going to fall through the floor.” Kimberlee said, not unkindly.
She stood and walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’m okay, really.”
Xander let out a huff. “No, you are not. Look at you! Have you looked in a mirror lately? The curse is eating away at you!”
Walking towards a mirror that hung in her chambers, its edges done in silver filigree that had been shaped like stars, Kimberlee took in her appearance. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Her skin looked ravaged, old before its time and had taken on a translucent quality. When the early light from the morning came across her skin, Kimberlee looked as if she were transparent.
She ran a finger along the filigree around the mirror. “I have looked at myself, Xander. I don’t see what that will do for me, as there isn’t much left to look at.”
“You must stop this.” Xander said.
“I cannot. You know I cannot.”
“But the curse will take everything away from you.”
“No,” She said. Turning away from the mirror, she looked at him. She walked towards him and took his hand in hers. “It’s not taking anything from me. I am happily giving it away. It is the way magic works.”
“Yes, but your curse!” Xander said, urgently.
She patted his hand. “It is the way of my curse. There must always be a price for magic, my lovely Xander. You know this.”
“A price yes, but not your life. For every grain of magic, you put out there into the world, maybe it causes the trees to wilt or the petals on flowers to fall into the wind or the waters to rile up and increase the tides. It shouldn’t take your life from you.”
They had arrived at the crux of the matter, as she knew that they would; as they always did. They had had this argument many, many times over the days, months, years and decades together. Kimberlee had heard these same words over the millennia that they had been together.
“Xander, I know this. We’ve had this same conversation many times and nothing has changed for me. This land thrives and survives on magic. Would you rather the land dies and withers away, that the people that live within the kingdom of Inglewood Hamlet suffer when they are my responsibility?”
She went to her balcony and looked out at the land once more. It practically shone in the bright sunlight of the day. “I have kept this land and the magic within it alive for so long that to let it fade because of my wish to live, well that would be a tragedy that I can’t contemplate. If there is another way, I have yet to find it.”
“But they don’t even know you are keeping the land and their magic alive.” Xander whispered. They had had this argument often, too.
“That is the way it must be.” She said. Kimberlee went back into her chambers and sat on the edge of her bed. “Now, leave me Xander. I’m tired. This mornings pull of magic was strong and I want to rest for a while.” She stroked his face. “Precious Xander, do not worry. This is the way of things.”
Xander watched Kimberlee lay down and he placed a kiss on her forehead. He would not let this happen. He would not lose her and would not let the land pass into shadow. Xander knew that this is what would happen if nothing was done. Goddesses need energy and magic, too, only it was difficult nowadays. When no one believed in you, you began to wither away.
Xander wouldn’t let that happen. He stepped out of her chambers and began to shift and slide into his true form. It took only a moment and there was a shower of sparkles that filled the air and then settled on the ground around him. Xander had resumed his true form.
He was and had always been a border collie. Kimberlee had found him one morning while she was enjoying a walk in the enchanted woods nearby and had given him his human form, as she was so desperate for some company. Since her touch, he had been able to change back and forth at will.
He would bring them to her, all these people that lived with the benefit of Kimberlee’s magic. The instinctive function of a border collie is to herd. Xander would bring a herd to Kimberlee. Shaking out his fur, Xander left the dwelling he shared with Kimberlee and set off out of the forest, across the desert towards the town of Inglewood Hamlet. He knew where it was, having gazed at it for eons across the sands.
The town of Inglewood Hamlet gave off a subtle pulse of magic so that it shone softly, even in complete darkness. There were always magics and miracles happening there. Xander let the magic pull him towards the town.
When Xander came to the border of the town, there was a thrum of magic running through the air. He knew that Kimberlee had put that border there to keep everyone safe. Would it let him go through? Putting one paw over the border to Inglewood Hamlet, Xander felt a warm caress of magic, almost as if Kimberlee were welcoming him.
Feeling nothing amiss, he stepped completely into the town and headed towards the town square. He wanted to reach the greatest number of people possible. Xander knew that she wasn’t going to perish tomorrow, but he had to reach as many people as possible. He didn’t know how he would do it, Xander just knew that he had to try.
As he walked through Inglewood Hamlet, he noticed the most curious thing. His body was changing back to that of his human form. With each step, he became less canine, less animal and more human. With every step, he shed away more of his fur so that by the time he got to the town square, he was dressed in his soft brown and white travelling clothes that he wore in his human form. The colours of the clothes matched those of his fur.
He stood there, wondering how he was going to get his message to the people of Inglewood Hamlet. How could he help them to believe in the otherworldly when they already believed in and used magic on a daily basis? How could he get them to believe that the magic came from someone as unexplainable as the magic they possessed?
Xander spied a store that sold musical instruments. He walked towards it and went inside. The shopkeeper, a man with brilliant red hair and green eyes.
“Hello, sir! What can I help you with? We have many harps on sale, and a delightful harpsicord. There are also several stringed instruments to choose from. What tickles your fancy?”
Taking a look around the shop, Xander spied something that would do the job nicely. “I’d like that flute, please, if it’s for sale.”
“Oh, it is! Isn’t it lovely? Made entirely from silver and fashioned by the wind. Shall I have it wrapped for you?” He held up some brown paper and twine.
Xander shook his head and put money on the counter. “I’d like to play it now, if I may.”
“Of course, sir.” He looked at the pile of gold on the counter. “Please sir, this is too much.”
Smiling, Xander said, “Keep it. It’s for you and the kindness you’ve shown me today.”
Exiting the store, Xander went to the centre of the town square and stood in the shining sun. There were a few people who saw him who later said that, just for a moment, the face of a dog looked at them, and then he was a man again. It was probably the heat of the day, they thought later.
Putting the flute to his lips, Xander began to play. He didn’t play any particular tune or song, more he played what came to mind when he thought of Kimberlee and her gift to these people. He thought of everything that she had given up, everything that she meant to him. Xander played from the depths of his heart and the deepness of his soul. His song was given more power because it was fashioned from the air within him.
When the last breath of air left his lips and the final note was played, there was silence all around him. He waited to hear the people declaring their love for Kimberlee, their knowledge of everything that she had given to them and their belief in her.
Instead, he heard and saw something far different.
Across from him, a man who had been walking by an older woman stopped and turned around and helped her carry her purchases. A young man walked hand in hand with the man he loved and stopped to share a kiss. A woman who had been admonishing her small son a moment ago looked at him with a feeling of such love that the air around her seemed to sing.
Everywhere he looked, he saw signs of love. An older couple clasped hands and walked with a skip in their steps as they were joined by a younger couple who had two small children with them. Xander saw the similarities and realized that he was looking at three generations of one family. They were unified and whole.
There was a subtle music in the air too, made up of laughter and conversation, the sound of horse’s hooves on the cobblestone, the tinkle of glassware and the clink of silverware. He turned and saw people dining at the local restaurant, meat pies and ale at the ready.
This was not what he meant to do, but where the square had been mostly empty and quiet before, his music had created the joyful scene in front of him. Xander was saddened, though. He had meant to herd the people towards Kimberlee, to show them that they had to believe in her.
“Oh, sweet friend.” Said a voice beside him. “They already do.”
Turning, Xander saw Kimberlee standing beside him, looking younger than she had in a very long time. “But I wanted them to realize their magic came from you!” Xander said. “I wanted them to believe in you and help to make you better.”
Kimberlee gave him a brilliant smile. “But don’t you see what you’ve done, Xander? You’ve helped them to realize something far more important.”
“What could that be?”
“Why, that the magic comes from within them, of course. I may feed the land the magic it requires, but their belief in magic and their own skills helps to keep me alive. You’ve reminded them of that.”
“What, they create magic with conversation and eating?”
“Yes, and with singing and painting and with love, Xander. Love is the greatest of all magics and you have filled the village of Inglewood Hamlet with so much love, all because of your love song to me.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, my friend.”
They watched the scene of joy for a moment longer. Then, Kimberlee turned to Xander. “Fancy a walk in the woods? It’s been so long since I’ve enjoyed that.”
Xander nodded and let himself shift back into his other form with a little poof of smoke, wind and light. People who saw this later said that they must have imagined it, that it had been a woman with her dog the entire time.
So the story goes…