The Tale of Roseberry Thorne | Tankards & Tales Ep. 1
This is a transcript of Tankards & Tales Episode 1. If you would like to listen to the story as you read along, you can find the podcast episode here.
Villages are home to the most curious folk, especially those villages that are lost to memory. Some are peculiar in a prickly way. Others strange in an unnatural way. And there are some so utterly curious that you think of them from time to time, wondering just how much they’ve changed, silently hoping they never have.
The village of Feathergrove had quite a few of the prickly kind, even more of the unnatural kind. Being so hidden in a long-forgotten forest, it’s a bit of a haven for those folk. But, among those villagers, there was one curious little girl who gave the word “ambition” a run for its money. And her name was Roseberry Thorne.
Little Roseberry Thorne was a spunk girl with a voice that demanded attention. You wouldn’t think so from that little girl. She looked a bit like a fairy with her soft pink hair and those freckles splattered across her button nose. Oh, but she was a fairy who would pull at your ear and scream to get you to listen.
Walking down the dirt pathways of the village, paths which are made up only by the repetitive steps of day-to-day life, she was a presence you could not ignore. Even at four and a half feet tall, she turned heads, but typically, it was under some scrutiny.
You see, the townsfolk of Feathergrove, being so far off from other villages, towns and cities, are not very discrete in their gossip. No matter how secretive you are, you’ll find your secrets on the local tavern’s message board the next morning. And when it’s not a secret, then the gossip isn’t done in hiding.
Villagers snickered and snorted at Roseberry Thorne as she passed by, not because of her, for she carries herself very well. No, it’s because she had the misfortune, at least in her eyes, to be born to a pair of pathetic parents who never learned to become professionals at anything.
Her father, Jacoby Thorne, was a failed wizard. He had a spellbook covered in more blotches of ink than spells, and he had to create a new wand for himself at least once a week. Every spell he tried, he failed at. Some were so drastic, he developed a reputation around town that kept people away from his home on the outskirts, so as to not have their eyebrows burned off.
Roseberry’s mother burned more food than eyebrows in her work. Though Margo Thorne was quite good at tending to their garden, she was pitiful in the kitchen. An amateur she was, who never really learned how to mix ingredients properly. She liked to experiment, and without taking time to learn about tastes and food types, her creations were always… subpar, if we’re being kind. She burned down the kitchen at least a few times. The ceiling was always black from all the smoke of the oven. They just grew used to it.
Though not professionals, Margo and Jacoby were the happiest of folks, if not the happiest couple in the village. No one in Feathergrove enjoyed life as much as they did, not even their own daughter.
So as people watched the girl walk by and giggled at this girl destined to be as much a failure as her parents, Roseberry learned to develop a thick skin, with a stiff upper lip and a stern tone to match. If someone dared to say a comment in her vicinity, she never let that comment go by without a clever comeback, and clever they were, for she was a learned little girl who loved to read.
But even the toughest of the tough have a weak spot in their armor, and Roseberry Thorne learned hers the day she was picking up a gallon of milk from the local tavern. A rude old fat man, drunk of ale, told little Roseberry that like her parents, she would never amount to anything.
Sometimes you don’t exactly know why a certain comment stings so much. All you know is that it stings, and if not dealt with, it festers, and for a 12-year-old girl still growing into her leather boots, it festered quickly.
And so our tale begins with little Roseberry rushing down the path toward the edge of town to her home. In her peripheral, the slanted, crooked buildings looked like tree stumps, and tree stumps looked like slanted, crooked buildings. All the lamps were hidden by the foliage of the forest, and the only scent that proved people lived in this town was the scent of freshly-made bread from the tavern.
Her home was particularly crooked, as if made up of puzzle pieces that melted in the summer sun. Giant bushes of red berries surrounded the home, while sunflowers sprouted out of the crevices on top of the roof. The door was colored pink like her hair, a decision Margo and Jacoby made the day she was born in celebration, a decision she grew to find haunting and embarrassing.
Running out the doggy door was a sweet green wyrmling dragon. Pocket was the Thorne family pet, adopted when he was found alone in the forest in his first few days of life. He got his name after they learned he loved living inside Roseberry’s pockets, and so the baby dragon joined the Thorne family.
Seeing that wyrmling sparked an idea inside our girl’s mind, an idea made of gold in her eyes. Feeling nothing but the urge to prove that old fat man wrong, she charged into the house with Pocket at her heel and darted into her father’s study. Knowing her father was somewhere meddling with magic he doesn’t know how to wield and her mother was in the back garden collecting vegetables, she shut the door and flipped through her father’s spell book. She only just stopped herself from rolling her eyes at the untidy condition of the book, but she couldn’t help but scoff at a few spells that were aggressively scratched out.
Her eyes landed on a page with what she considered a simple spell. Levitation. With a careful reading of the spell and the useless notes of her father, she picked up one of his many wands and looked over at Pocket. The dragon tilted his head to one side, waiting for her.
With a deep breath and a confident smirk, she recited the spell. Magic pulsed through her fingers as she felt the wand tingle with the spell. She waited a moment for Pocket to levitate…
Her eyebrows furrowed at seeing nothing happen, but then afterward she noticed Pocket getting bigger… and bigger… and bigger. Pocket was inflating around the belly until he became a perfectly round balloon ascending into the air. He hit the ceiling, whining a bit at this overwhelming condition. His now unbearably large body made it impossible for him to control his wings.
A shocked and quick gasp escaped Roseberry. In haste, she scrambled through the book, searching for a way to reverse the spell, but her father’s notes were close to indecipherable to her. Frustrated, she scoffed and turned around, sad eyes looking at her wyrmling dragon floating about like a balloon.
Looking around the room to see if there’s anything that will help, her eyes landed on a map. The map was of the forest in which the village was in, and not far from the village, the map showed the home of the Men of the Floating Faces. In her studies, Roseberry knew these were masters of the arcane. If anyone could fix this mistake, it would be them. This map was centuries old, since cartographers have long-forgotten this part of the world, but if Feathergrove is still here, she thought, then surely, the Men of the Floating Faces have not left either.
So, with her stiff upper lip, she wrapped a bit of rope around Pocket, making him into a proper balloon. Then, she grabbed a traveling bag of essentials, including the map, and with Pocket’s rope in hand, she marched off. Not, of course, without a quick word to her mother saying she’d be traveling into the forest for some supplies for her studies. However, she didn’t wait for her mother’s response. She just left. After all, this little girl was on a mission.
Now, a little 12-year-old girl does not have the money for a pony to help her along her travels. Even the few coins she did have could hardly cover the cost of a few rations for the road. But Roseberry Thorne never accepted defeat, not when she hadn’t even given it a try. So, from the tavern, she marched to the edge of town where she met with the stables master.
Strolling past all the large horses, she stopped right in front of the one pony at the stables. The pony was of a cocoa color with white hair tucked behind the ear. He looked quite sweet and eager to leave the stables.
Approaching from behind came the stables master. He was an old fellow with grizzly black hair and with dry hands that were always caked in dirt.
“What do you want, little Thorne?”
She lifted her chin up to look at him. “How much for a two-day trip with the pony?”
He frowned when his eyes locked on Pocket floating in the air with rope tied around his enlarged belly. “Where’re you headed off to on your own? Oh well, ain’t surprised, parents like yours would let you run around like a mouse with its tail cut off.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“Right,” he looked at her and desperately tried to conceal his smirk. “Five gold pieces.”
“That’s a ridiculous amount. I know for a fact it’s only 3 copper to the next town over.”
“You expect me to trust a little kid like you with my pony? I don’t think so. Five gold.”
“I’ve only 5 copper pieces.”
“Then looks like you won’t be going anywhere with my pony.” And with that, the stables master walked off, leaving Roseberry stunned.
Pouting, she tapped her foot with arms crossed. Ideas zoomed through her mind to see if she could fix this, but it’s hard to bargain with a stubborn adult, even as a stubborn child.
“Oh, you fool,” she muttered at herself.
She looked at Pocket and with crooked eyebrows and a shaking head, she pulled at him as she left town, intending to continue her quest on foot.
Through the forest she went, following the hint of a path left behind by what few travelers make it deep into this part of the grove. Pocket floated above her head, his tongue sticking out as he tried to flap his tiny wings. She hummed a tune to keep up her steady pace. In her mind, it was a random tune she picked out of thin air, but really it was a tune her father would hum when rocking her to sleep in a rocking chair in his study. The tune comforted her, though she didn’t truly understand why.
After a few hours, she found the path was leading her to a bridge. This was a run-down abandoned bridge. The wood was rotting and infested with curling tree branches and a bed of ancient autumn leaves that had refused to leave. Underneath, there was a rushing river with mossy green waters, dangerously high still from rain that must have fallen only a day or two ago. The arch of the bridge was wobby and insecure, but even with the rushing waters, it held its place.
“Well,” she said, “Only one way forward, Pocket. Off we go.”
With a deep breath in, she walked up to the bridge with chin held high, but the second her feet made it to the bridge’s first step, she stopped. Gingerly, she lifted her right foot and placed her toes onto the bridge. Testing it, she put pressure down onto it.
She took another step and with her sure footing, a confident smile grew on her face. Sure of herself, she picked up the pace. This was a long bridge, and she took a little bit of time to admire the river running underneath her.
In that brief second of her eyes looking over the edge, she missed the little creature that started to crawl out from under the bridge, a creature that then turned tall and large.
Turning back, her eyes widened at the sight of a large troll crouching in front of her. The troll is round like Pocket, covered in twig-like fur caked in mud. Its bulbous nose rounds at the tip, close to hooking itself onto its thick, cracked lips. Husks poke out of its lips reaching past its all-black eyes. Its pointy ears are longer than its stubby arms that stick to its side. It has stubby legs with baffling long feet to match. In its tiny fist, it holds a stick as a staff that curls at the top.
“Answer me riddles, and off ya get.”
Taken aback, she furrowed her eyebrows and said, “I won’t have your antics. Let me by!”
“Answer me riddles, and off ya get.”
With a huff, she tapped her foot impatiently, but this was a giant creature in her way, and with one hand clutching onto her dragon that could float away at any second, she realized there was no other way but through.
“Fine then. What’s the first riddle?”
“What question can ya ask all day long, always get a different answer, and yet all the answers can be correct?”
“Oh well that’s easy. What do you think of this book? All the answers will be correct so long as the person answers with proof of the book itself.”
“Unless they haven’t read the book or don’t have proof. Opinions are opinions. It’s facts that can be rights or wrongs. You think too deep. The answer is ‘What time is it?’”
Her eyebrows crinkled a bit more. “Not true! My answer’s just as right as yours!”
But the troll merely stared at her with lazy eyes, unconvinced.
She put her tiny fists onto her hips. “Fine then. Next one.”
“This belongs to you, but everyone elses uses it.”
“Oh, well, that’s coin, of course. My coins are mine, and everyone uses it when I give them away, and when they give me theirs, it then belongs to me, so coin belongs to me but everyone else uses it.”
The troll shakes its head, “Still think too deep, you do. Coins when given away don’t belong to you anymore. That coin is gone, and each coin you get is new. The answer is ‘your name.’”
“But that’s not fair!” She said stomping her foot. “My answer’s just as right as yours! You’re not even giving my answers a chance.”
“Your answers are wrong.” He said with a shrug.
“How do you know if you don’t even give them a try?”
“Because they’re my riddles with my answers.”
Her mouth was open ready to rebuttal, but he cut her off with the last riddle. “What disappears as soon as you say its name?”
“Silence.” Her eyes held his, unwavering and bold.
“Wrong! You can’t see silence, so you can’t sees it disappear!” He said with a guttural laugh.
“No, I know you’re wrong with that one. Disappear can mean that it doesn’t exist anymore. You can even say silence is as real as this bridge!”
“Nope! Wrong you are!” He said, still chuckling.
Her face became tight and hot as her frustration grew with this creature. “Fine then, what’s your answer?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m bored of talking to you. You’re always so wrong. Off ya get.” He curled himself into a ball and tumbled off the bridge into his little nook.
“But I’m not wrong!” She yelled at the troll. “I know I’m not. My answers are just as right as yours. They’re just as right… yes, just as right…”
On she went, repeating those words under her breath, not realizing the words of the troll had planted a seed that needed only a moment to sprout and grow into an uncontrollable and infectious vine.
“You’re always so wrong,” he told her. These four words landed as acorns and grew into trees that brought her thoughts under a cold shade.
“Oh, you fool,” she told herself, shaking her head at her stupidity for falling for some troll. Who says this troll has any merit in telling riddles? … “but his answers weren’t wrong. They were just as right as mine, even if he didn’t give me an answer to the last one… Why did I not think of his answers? They’re a bit more right than mine, if I really think about it. Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am… no, not so clever, am I? Silly me. Foolish, silly me… but riddles are just fancy questions, is all. Surely, I’m not like my parents. I can still grow to be an expert at a trade or profession. Yes...”
Yes… she kept saying that word to herself, as if repeating it would change the mind of the little voice inside her head that asked that darn question, “Who do you think you’re kidding?”
And so the wound festered even more…
The humming ceased as she continued on her path. Her eyes were locked on her feet now, only occasionally looking up to see if the path kept going straight or to see if Pocket was alright. The wyrmling dragon, though uncomfortable, was patient. Uncomfortable as he was, he did eventually grow tired, and he fell asleep as Roseberry continued to gently yank at the rope.
The sun started to slowly descend, though there was still plenty of light in the sky. Clever Roseberry knew, however, that the sun is a tricky being, and in the blink of an eye, it can go from sunny to dusk. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to focus on the task at hand and kept a wide eye out for a place to rest for the night.
Her traveling then led her to a crossroads. One pointed east, the other west. Determined and clever, that Roseberry, she took the rope of the balloon that was Pocket and stepped on it, putting the sleeping dragon just above her head. Careful to keep a firm footing, she rummaged through her pack and found the map that she took from her father’s study. Using the map and the landmarks nearby, she figured out her way toward the Men of the Floating Faces… the path toward the east. A hint of a smile flashed across her face. She nodded, reassuring herself of her decision.
Readjusting her bag on her back, she took the rope in hand and moved forward down the proper path. Just a few feet away from the crossroads, however, she found a pile of leaves scattered across the path. Her eyes narrowed at the sight. These leaves, they’re too tidy on the road, too clumped on one another, the rest of the road too clean.
Bandits. The word popped into her mind before she even realized it. That hint of a smile rekindled her confidence, bringing back that stiff upper lip and that stern tone of Roseberry Thorne. She would not fall for such an obvious trap, no. No, not only did she know this was the work of bandits, but she felt the need to prove it. In her mind, she was proving a point to the bandits, showing them, when they come by, that they have to do better next time. However, deep inside her, she knew she was doing it to prove it to herself. To prove to herself that she was a clever girl, until her parents who failed at everything and who would have probably fallen for this obvious trap.
Turning around, she scanned the forest floor for a hefty branch. On the right, she found one. It was a thick and heavy branch, but just light enough for her to toss into the pit without strain.
With her free hand, she snatched it up and walked over. Standing just a few feet away, she made an underhand throw of the branch onto the pile of leaves.
The branch impaled the pile of leaves, unveiling the pit underneath that was just waiting for a poor old fool to fall in.
Her grin grew wide as she felt the satisfying lift of energy in her belly. With a turt nod to herself for a job well done, she sauntered to the right, walking around the large pit, all the while thinking how foolish these bandits were.
“Oh those f-”
Her foot caught onto a thin tripwire. She fell face first onto the floor.
Instinctively, her fist tightened around the rope, the one thing keeping Pocket from floating away. As she tried to yank the rope closer to her chest, she was yanked upward into the air by a net that was so cleverly hidden under the dust and dirt of the path.
Swaying a bit in the air, Roseberry went limp within the net, and without warning, the words came to her before she had a chance to defend herself.
“Oh, you fool.”
Her eyes dart to Pocket. The wyrmling dragon was panting as he tried to flap his wings to get closer to the net, jutting out his jaw so as to bite at it, but he was too round and just couldn’t manage it.
“Don’t worry, Pocket,” she told him, “I’ll get us out of this mess. I’m the fool that got us into it.”
With furrowed eyebrows, she glanced about the forest, noticing the two trees right across from one another with the path in between. The perfect place to set up a tripwire, and in the perfect way too, by making the trap right in front of it so obvious. How could she not have been more careful, she thought.
After only a few moments, a young boy about her age came walking toward her. He had black hair in a low ponytail and brown, curious eyes. His rugged clothing blended in with his dark complexion, and he walked around barefoot.
He looked up with hands behind his back and a small smirk on his lips, but the smirk faded away once he saw a girl with pink hair and freckles looking down at him. He looked at her with those curious eyes, asking a thousand questions in a single glance. He could only read one answer in her eyes. She had a mission she had to complete, and that could not be down within the net.
He took a quick look behind him, checking to make sure the other bandits of his guild weren’t on his tail. Assured, he looked back up at her, “I’ll cut you down, but uh, only if you give me all your coins. I can’t go back empty-handed, you see.”
“So, you’re a kind thief, then?” Roseberry asked.
“Not always, but the dragon there tells me you’ve got a quest on your hands, and I’d rather not take everything off you. Just the coins will do.”
“I haven’t many,” she told him.
“Neither do I, but once you give me yours, I’ll have more than I did.”
“Oh, you think you’re so clever, don’t you?” She said rolling her eyes, mainly for the fact that she had no choice but to be robbed of her five measly copper coins.
The boy shrugged, “You’re the one who fell for my trap.”
Her face fell with the weight of those words. She clenched her teeth and shut her eyes tight. Her cheeks flushed red, but one deep breath forced all the emotion bubbling inside her to relax. When she opened her eyes again, they landed on the patient boy.
“I have your word, you’ll let me go once I give you my coin?”
“A thief’s word don’t usually mean much, but you have it and you can trust it.”
Roseberry battled with herself for some time in that net. After what had happened, she knew this young thief was the last person she wanted to trust with his word, but seeing she was in a net with a dragon that depended on her, she felt she had no choice.
Putting the rope between her teeth, and awkwardly moving around the net, she dug up her five copper pieces and tossed them to the ground.
The young boy picked them up and tested them with his teeth. Satisfied, he walked over to the tree to their right and tinkered with his trap, until he could undo the knots and gently bring Roseberry back down to her feet.
Roseberry, in dusting off her clothes and adjusting her pack, took a long look at this young boy. He had a fair amount of muscle on his body, despite his small stature. Though scruffy and scarred, he had the eyes of an experienced bandit. His calloused hands were perfectly still, steady for the picking of any lock. His shoulders were back, chin naturally high.
He looked like a professional at his craft, no matter how seedy it may be. And she felt like an imposter and a fraud.
Sure, she was not born or raised a bandit. This boy knew nothing about the writings of Scallion the Scholar or Hildy Bane the Historian, but he exuded something she only ever felt on the surface. It’s a confidence she never truly met herself but only ever heard of.
Her nostrils flared as he tipped an imaginary hat and strolled away back under the cover of the forest leaves. Her lips dipped at the sides as she felt herself grow smaller. Poor little Pocket, the hovering balloon-like dragon, felt the need to lick her rosy cheeks, but he couldn’t get anywhere near her. He was stuck floating in the air.
With a shaky deep breath, she shook her head furiously and marched forward. The thoughts, however, held tighter this time. “Oh, you fool,” she told herself without needing to even move her lips. It was a phrase on repeat within her mind, and it was impossible to ignore. Her stiff jaw grew slack and her shoulders began to slouch as she kept going. And so the wound festered even more…
Evening crept in the way a cat strolls inside a bedroom unnoticed. The blue of the sky deepened as the crickets began tuning their instruments for the night’s symphony. The world around little Roseberry Thorne slowed down as it observed the changing colors of dusk. She tightened up her cloak as the breeze picked up its pace. Her eyes looked around to find a place to settle for the night and landed on a large log propped up against a boulder, offering the skeletal structure of a tent.
“Looks like we’ve got a little campsite for us, Pocket.” Roseberry tugged on his rope and walked over to the tent. Tying the rope on a sturdy branch off the log, she went to work. Now, Roseberry Thorne may not have packed many things when she left, but her traveling pack always had certain essentials, including candles, a blanket, a bed roll, a water-skin, and an emergency tinder box. In about 15 minutes, little Roseberry had set up quite the luxurious tent for the night. She tossed her blanket overhead, tucked her bed roll underneath, set up a campfire at the entrance, adjusted Pocket as comfortably as possibly under the tent, and after some wandering, found some wild blue flowers to decorate the tent. It was very homey and lovely…
So much so, it actually attracted the eyes of some tiny forest friends that happened to be nearby.
As Roseberry read her book with the light of the campfire, winding down for the night, three small fairies were gathering just outside her tent. Their names were Sunbeam, Apricot, and Bud, and they were Fairies of the Moonlit Thicket, a forgotten fairy grove in the land.
You see, this evening happened to be the celebration of the King and Queen of the Moonlit Thicket, for it was the anniversary of the day they were crowned nearly six centuries ago. Sunbeam, Apricot, and Bud were life-long friends who were part of the group cooking for the feast. However, the moon was rising faster than they anticipated, and tiny fairy hands can only carry so much for a feast that is meant to feed nearly one million mouths. The Moonlit Thicket was home to many, many fairies, for there were hardly any visitors around these parts, so no need to hide.
This one visitor they found, this young girl with pink hair and freckles, intrigued them. She looked a bit like them, just much, much bigger. Unused to visitors, sure they were a bit cautious, but they were more curious than anything. Soon, the moon would be high overhead and the fairies hungry for a feast. They needed human hands to gather ingredients quickly.
For a few seconds, they kept shoving one another forward, afraid to fly up to the young girl, but eventually, Apricot, the orange, frizzy-haired fairy, took the leap and flew up to Roseberry’s button nose.
“Oh hello there miss! Sorry to be a busy bother, but if you’re not too busy, I was just maybe wondering if you’d mind being busy with us in getting some ingredients for a feast we have tonight. We’re running out of time and could really use the human help!”
Roseberry had never seen a fairy so up close before, though she knew they wandered around the forests many times, they hardly approached the village even when they, for whatever reason, needed to. So, it took Roseberry a few minutes to blink and process Apricot’s words until she looked up at Pocket.
Pocket was just about ready to fall asleep as he was snuggled up against the blanket and a stick propped up by Roseberry so as to not float away, of course with his rope tied up to the log for extra measure. Still, he noticed the encounter and gave Roseberry an encouraging nod, as if telling her he’d be right here when she returned.
With reassurance, Roseberry smiled and accepted to help the fairies.
“Oh fantastic! Thank you, kind one. We’re looking for lots of things, but there’s lots of forest to find them in, so we won’t take too long, I don’t think!”
Apricot tugged at Roseberry’s hair, pulling her toward the forest. Excited, Sunbeam and Bud joined the two and led them deeper into the forest. From the natural glow of the fairies, Roseberry could travel through without any trouble. They all talked over one another in squeaky, fast-paced voices, but Roseberry was able to ascertain the essence of what she was looking for: namely mushrooms, sunflower, coriander seed, lavender, and elderflower. As Roseberry gathered those ingredients, the fairies flew around gathering what was much more difficult for her to get, such as morning dew and owl feathers.
Once the moon was just at eye-level with the treetops, Sunbeam yelled out, warning them they had very little time left to get the broth prepared. As the fairies darted like shooting stars through the trees, Roseberry followed with a gallop in her step. Her flowy, pink hair danced in the wind as she ran, and for a moment, she smiled, enjoying the fun it was running through the forest with fairies to prepare a fairy feast.
The fairies led her to a small glistening pond where a bubbling cauldron was waiting for them. For Roseberry, the cauldron was quite small, easily fitting in the palm of her hand, but for the fairies, it was quite large, making it difficult for them to move the wooden spoon inside unless all three pushed with their wings fluttering at full speed.
Panicking with the rush of time, the fairies decided to split. Apricot flew over to the rest of the cooks to see what progress was made and what was left to be done. Sunbeam rushed over to help with the finishing touches of the four-tiered cake. Bud gathered the tiny cutlery to begin preparing the curving table that only had a white sheet over it.
The three fairies had asked Roseberry if she was willing to work on the Elderflower Broth while they worked on everything else. She hesitated at first, her answer stuck in her throat, but after a quick second of thinking about her mother burning the stove at home for the sixth time that month, she quickly thought she’d surely do better than her mother at cooking a simple broth. So, she told the fairies not to worry.
Using their tiny cookbook as reference, though difficult to read, she began putting in the ingredients one at a time, saving the elderflower for last.
Overhead, she felt the moonlight beaming down at her, its mystical light growing around her as it reflected off the pond. The cauldron began bubbling a soft purple color, but to her nose, it smelled divine. The smile on her face grew and grew as she left the broth to simmer, sure she had done it right. There was no burning scent here the way she was used to back home. She wiped her hands clean of excess and ingredients and kept a close eye on the broth until it was ready to be served. Nervous to get any human touch in it, she thought it best not to do a taste test. The delicious scent was enough to convince her she had done quite alright.
A soft yet sharp gasp just behind her ear quickly told her otherwise.
Sunbeam dived down toward the cauldron, her wings invisible with how fast they were fluttering. She spoke so fast, her voice sounded like wind chimes and Roseberry couldn’t understand a word. Roseberry felt her body shaking, for even though she didn’t understand, she knew something was wrong.
Eventually, Sunbeam had slowed down enough to hear that Roseberry had done it all wrong. Sunbeam told her she had mixed it improperly, done it too quickly, put in the wrong measures of ingredients, stirred it the wrong way… Sunbeam told Roseberry she had ruined the feast.
Roseberry’s heart sank into a pit of black tar. Her lower lip shivered as her eyes watered up. She clenched down tight on her teeth and blinked away the tears.
“But I followed the instructions! I did as your cookbook told me, and it smells quite lovely!”
The words did not reach the fairy’s ear, and soon enough they were joined by Apricot and Bud who quickly turned hysterical at the disaster. The three fairies bolted to action, emptying the cauldron, preparing a new set of ingredients since they had so many, adjusted the fire, and ignored the human they had asked for help.
Roseberry couldn’t stop the tears from falling. They fell like unexpected rainfall, and they did not stop. Her chest felt heavy, and her shoulders hunched over some more, making her feel smaller still. A frown of a failure was now embedded in Roseberry’s own face.
This frown felt foreign to her, but she felt it starting to make itself feel right at home, as if it belonged there since birth.
“Oh, you fool,” she told herself as she wandered away from the three fairies of the Moonlit Thicket. “You’ll be just like them…” she thought with her parents in mind, “A failure at everything she tries, no matter how hard she tries…”
The wound was now a part of little Roseberry’s soul, without a healer in sight to try and stop it from becoming even more permanent.
That night, Roseberry fell asleep with a heavy heart. Feeling the sadness emanating from the young girl, Pocket the wyrmling dragon desperately wanted to snuggle up next to her, but no matter how hard he tried, his wings could not compete with the magic that had blown him up like a balloon. He was stuck in the air, helpless. And so Roseberry slept alone in the darkness that comes with self-doubt.
Waking up the next morning was difficult for Roseberry. Her puffy eyes were still red from late-night crying and her energy was still low despite the rest. She felt deflated, tired, and ready to go home. However, there was still the little bit of Roseberry Thorne inside her that forced her to get up, the same part of her that kept her upper lip stiff and her chin high when she walked passed the villagers of Feathergrove. Little did she know that trait came from the parents she thought so little of.
She had made it this far. She knew she couldn’t give up now.
Packing away all her things and securing Pocket’s rope in her tight fist, they went onward, following the path.
In the span of half a day, the forest transformed into a field of beige, untamed grass. Vast as the ocean itself, the field reached the far end of the horizon with a dense fog that refused to lift. Soon enough, the sun was obscured and the field became gray. Roseberry continued forward looking upward, knowing these masters of the arcane would be floating.
Eventually, as she found herself deep in the foggy field, she found floating boulders in the sky with tufts of green grass at the top. They bobbed around in the fog like apples in water. She squinted her eyes, checking the rocks for a face, but there were none in sight.
Knowing she had reached the right place, she started to call out to them. At first, she was timid, as if the fog would scold her for being too loud in this quiet field, but she grew impatient as she got no answer and got louder and louder. No answer.
She continued walking through the field. She climbed onto boulders that were still stuck to the ground to get a better view, but there was nothing resembling a floating face in sight.
After a good hour of trying, she fell to the ground in defeat. Her tears fell onto the grass blades. She looked up at the dragon balloon.
“I’m so sorry, Pocket. I did this to you, and I thought I could fix it, but I can’t. I made a terrible mistake and now there’s nothing I can do about it. If I could take it all back, I would, and I promise you now I’ll never try my hand at magic ever again.”
“Then how do you ever expect to improve?”
With a gasp, Roseberry jumped up to find a man cross-legged on a floating rock right in front of her.
The man had a straw hat that covered half of his face, showing only his long, white pointy beard and the top of his crooked nose. Though older, he had strong arms and legs, exposed by the sleeveless blood orange vest that matched the billowy trousers over his bare feet. He leaned over his crossed legs looking down at Roseberry, his right fist leaning on his thigh, his left elbow on the other thigh. He sat on top of a long boulder that was covered in mossy stone, vines trailing from the bottom as it floated above the ground. In the front, there was a strange face made of stone. It didn’t have eyes but rather stern eyebrows pointing down in the center, as if angrily concentrating, and a line that resembled a lower lip on top of the upper lip. On its forehead, there was a swirl glowing with blue light, possibly the source of the man’s magic.
Roseberry’s lips widened with joy at the sight. She was fidgety, eager to get this awful spell on Pocket reversed.
“Oh, thank the gods! I’d nearly lost all hope! Please, I need your help. I tried to cast a levitation spell on my pet dragon, but something went wrong, and now he’s a balloon! I don’t know how to reverse the spell, but I had to find a way, and you’re an arcane master, you must know how! Please, I’m begging you, help get my dragon back to normal.”
“Breathe, little one. I know why you’re here, Roseberry Thorne. I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve known you were coming since I got wind of your desire to find us. It doesn’t happen very often, so when it does, it’s hard to ignore. I’m happy to help you, Roseberry Thorne, though it may not be as you expect. Tell me, first, how is your family?”
Her face grew puzzled. “My parents? They’re fine, I suppose.”
“Still trying their hand at magic? Both with the wand and in the oven?”
“And failing miserably as usual,” she crossed her arms, unintentionally jerking Pocket around in the air.
The man tilted his head to one side. “Have they given up yet?”
“No, but they should. What’s the point of trying again and again if it leads you nowhere?”
“Because it eventually does lead you somewhere, doesn’t it? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”
Her face softened as she grew even more attentive to his words.
He continued, “You didn’t manage to get a pony for the road, so you went on foot. You managed to get across a troll’s bridge, at the cost of being called wrong, always wrong. You still made it across. You got caught in the net of a bandit just about your age, but he let you go and so on you went. You ruined a fairy feast, messing up the recipe of the fairy Elderflower broth, and that still didn’t stop you from getting up in the morning. You wandered around here for over an hour, and just when you were ready to give up, you found what you were looking for. Seems like none of those bumps in the road stopped you from getting to where you wanted to go.”
“But I couldn’t go back,” she told him, “I had gone too far to turn back.”
“And don’t you think all those hours spent over those spell and cookbooks are worth the miles you’ve walked to get here? Should your family ignore the time spent to get to where they are now, especially when there’s a chance just one more step will get them to where they want to be?”
She frowned and looked down at her feet.
“Roseberry Thorne, you are a mighty girl with more ambition some never get to know in their entire lives. I wonder if you realize that is because of the ambition both of your parents passed onto you…”
Eyes glossy with tears, she looked up. Through the bushy beard, she could see his grin.
“Don’t hide your tears, little one. They are proof of your progress in becoming a better you. Now, close your eyes…”
Roseberry closed her eyes as the man lifted his open palm. He whispered an incantation under his breath, and in an instant, Roseberry found herself back home.
Nothing had changed inside their cottage. All was the same, and yet this time, Roseberry noticed something she had never noticed before, something that had been there since the day she was born.
In the living room, on a sunny day, she found her parents looking over their spell and cookbooks. Jacoby had eyes lit with passion as he skimmed through his latest purchase from a traveling merchant. His quill raced across his parchment, making notes. All the while, he had a smile that refused to leave his face.
Next to him, Margo sat with a cookbook in her lap. She had white flour caked on her cheeks and icing in her hair, but she paid no mind to any of it. Her eyes were locked on a new cake recipe she found, and her eyes glittered with excitement as she thought about giving it a try in her kitchen.
For the first time, she noticed the joy that filled the air, the excitement in trying something new, and the euphoria in pursuing what lifts one’s heart.
Echoing through the windows, Roseberry could hear the gossip of the town, calling her parents failures who would never amount to anything.
And though it pained her to hear it, she could see it had no effect on her family. No, the energy in the room remained exactly the same, untouched as if protected by a shield of magic she could not name.
She witnessed her parents look at one another. They took turns talking about what they were going to try next, how they were going to go about it, and with a firm hug, the two went off to pursue their newest challenge.
Roseberry continued to watch them trying their hand at something new as the man on the floating boulder talked to her.
“Roseberry Thorne, daughter of Jacoby and Margo Thorne, do you see now how it is your family achieves happiness? Your parents are greater than any who excel in a matter of minutes, and that is because they never give up. Mistakes and failures play their part as do successes and rewards. They are the lessons we need in order to become better versions of ourselves. Without them, we can never grow. Your parents have given you the gift of ambition and persistence, but these gifts can fade if you lose confidence in yourself. Trust in yourself, and know that what you wish for will come.”
The vision faded away from Roseberry. She nodded to the man as the words sinked in. “I should tell them I’m sorry,” she said more to herself than anyone else, though the man nodded in agreement. With a deep breath, she looked up to the arcane master once again and asked, “Thank you… I know now, and I will tell them I’m sorry… I will… Will you still help me with Pocket?” She looked up at the dragon whose tongue was sticking out.
The man chuckled, “Why don’t you head back home to your father, little Roseberry Thorne? I have a feeling he’ll be the best person to help in this situation.”
Instinctively, she opened her mouth to protest, thoughts of her father’s failures flooding in, but she stopped herself. Remembering his words, she merely nodded and turned away, heading back to the village.
Still, she couldn’t stop thinking about how this whole trip was itself a failure. Pocket was still a dragon balloon, and she was being sent back to a person who she had never seen perform a spell successfully. “This was a waste of time,” she thought to herself. With a deep sigh, she whispered, “Oh, you fool…”
The moon was just rising from the horizon when she saw her home in the distance.
Black smoke emerged from the chimney and the lanterns all around the house were lit with different colored candles. With a sniffle, Roseberry caught a familiar whiff in the air… Elderflower…
She looked up just in time to see the silhouette of her mother being lifted into the air by her father. Her heart swelled up at the wholesome scene, and she allowed her sullen face to break into a smile, happy to be home.
When she walked inside, Jacoby and Margo greeted her with such excitement, it was almost like she had been gone a whole year. Her smile grew even wider, feeling at home with her parents.
She told them of her adventure to the Men of the Floating Faces in hopes of reversing her failed spell. She told them every detail, from the troll to the bandit trap to the fairies.
Jacoby, seeing Pocket still floating around like a balloon, ran into his study and came out again with parchment in hand.
“Well, I haven’t tried this one, but no better time than the present to give it a go, eh?”
He nudged his little girl with a grin, and she mimicked it, barely noticing the thumping of her nervous heart.
Hands lifted toward Pocket, Jacoby recited the reversal spell. He spoke slow and true, closing his eyes to concentrate…
In the blink of an eye, Pocket deflated, a bit of fire puffing out from his nostrils in the process. Back to normal, the wyrmling dragon flew around the house, free from his balloon restraints.
The family cheered and laughed as he did backflips in every corner.
Roseberry threw her arms around her father, eyes filled with tears.
“I didn’t think you could do it, Papa, I’m so sorry,” she told him.
“Neither did I, my Rose, but I guess I’ve messed up enough times that when it mattered most, it all worked out.”
“I’m proud of you,” Roseberry whispered to her parents.
Margo and Jacoby smiled at each other. Margo joined in the hug, and a new magic overcame the Thorne Family the day. It was a unifying force that created a bind that could not be broken, no matter what trials and tribulations came at them.
That night, the family dined on Fairy Elderflower Broth, which Margo learned the trick of it was to add all the ingredients at once and to stir the cauldron only twice, once clockwise, and once counter clockwise. It was a delightful dinner that helped forge a new bond between Roseberry and her parents.
Now, little Roseberry Thorne didn’t change when it came to the villagers. She was still fierce as ever, if not fiercer still, in the face of their gossip. However, it was now done in defense of her parents rather than to keep her fragile reputation alive.
I hear Roseberry grew to be a jack of all trades. A fitting career, don't you think?
Curious, that Roseberry Thorne. Who would’ve thought a bold young girl with pink hair and freckles would have such a tale to tell?
Copyright ©️ 2020 Daniela Sylmae. All rights reserved.