Telling Tales 217
Say What Now?
Ye’d not ken it ta look at him, but he’s a prince, he is, Conomor. Aye, Ah saw him back in tose days, saw his motter before he was born, and big as a house she was. Te queen, nature-ly. Now, tere ar hunderds af kingdoms on tese islands. Everyone’s settin up alliances wit tis oter king or tat oter king. Tryin to make sure tat tey’ve got friends where tey need tem.
So his parents, ye see, tey’re not parents in te way ye might tink af yer own parents. Tey didn’t love each other. It was political, ye understand. And tat meant tat te boy Conomor wasn’t so much af a beloved child as he was anoter piece af a political puzzle. So tat’s why what happened next happened at all.
I’ll tell ye my opinion. Never invite a fairy to a party. Tey got different standards, fairies do. Prideful creatures. Not made af eart, air, fire, and water like ye and me. Tey got teir own humors, too, none af tis melancholic, sanguine, bilious, choleric. Tey’re different as different can be, and tere’s no use tryin ta understand’em. Unpredictable tey are. Tey’re contrary creatures, see, and if one af’em likes a ting, anoter’s goin to want it. Got a queen af faerie cursed into lovin a donkey tat way, I tell ye, after she refused a king af faerie te human boy she’d stolen. Same ting wit invitations. Bring ten fairies to yer home fer a ceremony and sure one af’em’s goin ta be angry about someting tat ye done.
Tey all ken, te parents. I guess tey figure nine blessins is wort a single curse. Not me, but ten I’m a simple man who doesn’t need eiter blessins or curses, no matter.
Te boy is flush wit blessins at his christenin. He’ll be strong and smart and wise and all tose tings. He can use any weapon he lays his hands on, and if he can’t, his hands are nearly as good as any weapon anyhow. He’s brave. Strong as a bull, fast as an eagle, fierce as a lion. Got no obvious weaknesses. Eight fairies see ta tat. But te last fairy, aye, it’s always te last one. Maybe she’s upset she’s last, Ah don’t ken, but she’s te one ta say, Ach, young lad, it’s not goin to be all wine and roses and te blood af yer enemies. Nay.
She says to his parents, she says, on te boy’s sixteent birtday, he’s goin ta strike a devil wit a shovel and tat’s goin ta be te end af it. But ach, what happens ten? One af te fairies comes late and she can’t undo what’s been done, but she can change it just a bit. It won’t be a devil what he hits, she says, but a wizard.
Still has ta be powerful, after all.
Tey do everyting tey can, te parents. In te weeks leadin up ta his birtday, tey destroy all te shovels, all te spades, even te hoes and te rakes. Anyting ye might use fer diggin. But tere he is outside te castle walls, workin wit a sword and a spear and he digs tat spear inta te ground and he pulls up some dirt and he does it again and again, attackin te ground like an enemy.
Ah don’t ken why.
He hits a root, or what he tinks is a root, but it’s te foot af a wizard it is, and tat’s when all af te real problems begin.