This is my first ebook, and I confess it was more than a little frustrating at times. There may have even been tears and swear words involved on occasion. But it was so worth it!
I was also very lucky in the people I met along the way. I certainly owe a ‘thank you’ to Celine Jeanjean. Her willingness to share information and her insights helped me more than I think she realized (not to mention I love her steampunk adventure series The Viper and the Urchin). And of course my editor, Kathy Macfarlane. A good editor is a treasure, and I could not have asked for better. Thank you, Kathy!
So the ebook for Lumina and the Goblin King is finally finished and out the door *finger crossed*. You should see it on all your favorite book buying sites by November 11th. I promise to post links here, so keep an eye out!
I will admit getting it ready was a bit stressful, and it took all of this past week to finally finish it up, but it was worth it. The good thing is, once everything was finished, I was able to spend a little time out in my butterfly garden. To celebrate, I thought I would post some pictures of said garden (a few of which I did not take yesterday). And of course, I had to include a few pictures of my research assistant as well.
they were surround by huge trees. Thick silver chains hung down from their trunks, stretching like a glittering web across a small clearing. In its center was the most exquisite minute castle built entirely out of the palest alabaster. It sat just about head height above the ground; rocking gently in its silver cradle as a sweet-smelling wind whispered soothing lullabies through the evergreen needles above.
The princess and the phooka walked full round it ducking under the silver chains as they went. There were no windows to be seen, and only a single door without a knocker or a knob. There was, however, a bell pull beside the door, though there was no bell attached to it. Try as she might, the princess could see no way to reach it. In the end, it was the phooka who climbed long the silver chains on his nimble cat feet with the bell between his teeth. He placed the bell on the hook meant for it. Once it was in place, Fairer-than-a-fairy pulled the bell chain, and the clapper, now free of its cotton wrapping, rang a pleasant chime. The knobless door opened, and with the phooka’s help, she climbed in through the door. As soon as they crossed the threshold, it closed quietly behind them.
The room they entered was pitch black, save for the light coming from the lantern in the princess’s hand. The single room they stood in seemed to fill the whole of the castle. Gold and jeweled stars set in the ceiling above them, twinkled in the lantern’s light. There was no furniture to be seen, except an elegant couch around which rainbow-hued curtains hung; opaline specters swaying softly as the castle gently rocked like a boat on a calm sea. A man lay reclining on the couch. When the princess approached him she found that his eyes were open but seemed blind to all around him. She had no way of knowing if this was indeed her Rainbow Prince, but she thought him very handsome all the same. Of course, if he truly was the prince with whom she had spoken to all these years, it would not have mattered how he had looked; she would have thought him handsome. For the heart sees the world differently, and through it, all things can become beautiful.
The phooka, a sleek black tomcat once more, jumped up onto the man’s pillow and patted his cheek with a paw, but the young man did not stir. However there was no time for the princess to wonder at this as there were more pressing things for to attend to. She was quite sure that as soon as they had opened the door, the fairy Lagree would have known someone was at the castle. She was also sure that they would be a reckoning as soon as the old fairy caught up with them. Fortunately, a plan had been growing in her mind since they crossed the Lake of Mirrors. She left the couch where the man lay, and setting the lantern in the middle of the room so that she might better see what she was about, crossed over to the door through which they had entered. There she took out the hand mirror which she had been carrying in her bodice, and propped it on the wall beside the door, angling it just so. To her surprise, it began to grow larger. It grew and grew until it stood taller than she, and twice as wide, on great golden feet. She went next to the wall across from it and took out the jug which held the water from the Lake of Mirrors. Using the skirt which had once held the bell, she washed the wall until it too shone silver, careful to look only over her shoulder at the mirror she had propped up on the wall next to the door. When she was done she left the jug and cloth in a corner; taking up the lantern once more, she went back to where the man lay. The cat still sat on the pillow beside his head, but now small red dots now marred the prince’s smooth cheek.
“Tsk, be careful you mean thing!” she scolded. “Why would you do such a thing!”
“Because he hasn’t said a thing,” the phooka, human once again, groused from where he still sat on the pillow, poking the prince’s cheek with his finger. “Can he not see you!”
“Is it such a wonder that he can’t see me, trapped in a dark place such as he is?” she asked. Carefully she unwrapped the glass rose, holding it up so that the radiant flame burning within the lantern could cast its light through it. A brilliant rainbow sprang from its petals and fell across the prince’s eyes. His blind gaze cleared, and he turned to look at the princess who stood beside him. And although Fairer-than-a-Fairy, having never seen him in the flesh, had not been sure that he was indeed her Rainbow Prince, he certainly knew her. A smile as bright summer sun lit his face at the sight of her.
It was at that very moment that Lagree arrived. Flinging open the castle door, the wicked fairy saw the two young lovers surrounded by the lantern’s light, an island amid a sea of darkness. With a howl of rage, she raced in straight away, reaching out with her cruel hands to grab them. This time, she would just throttle the life out of them and be done with it. But her hands closed on empty air, as though they were ghosts. There was no flesh beneath her bony fingers. She turned to go back the way she had come, but she found she couldn’t. And that, of course, was because it was not the two lovers themselves that she had seen, but their reflections, cast from the mirror that Fairer-than-a-Fairy had placed near to the door, onto the wall which she had painted with the waters from the lake. It was towards that very same mirrored wall that Lagree had rushed, intent on catching the two young lovers, only to be caught herself. So there was nothing she could do as she watched Fairer-than-a-Fairy and her Rainbow Prince run, hand in hand, out through the door. Nor was there anything she could do when the reflection of the cat who was with them, winked one pumpkin-orange eye back at her as they left.
Once the three of them, the princess, the prince and the phooka were free from the castle, they laughed and hugged each other happily. The castle door closed behind them and they took the little brass bell from where it hung. As soon as they had, the whole castle seemed to melt. Much to prince and princess’s surprise, it became a tiny pond, shining mirror bright in the darkness of the deep wood. It was of course the very same pond in which the phooka had tossed the princess all those years ago. “If you jump as far as you can out into the middle, you will come out the other side, back into your very own wood,” said the phooka. Fairer-than-a-Fairy hugged her friend fiercely. “Will you come with us? I am not sure what awaits me when I return home, but no matter what it is, it will better if you were with me,” the princess said sincerely for she held no ill will towards the phooka for having been the one to steal her away. “Yes, please come with us,” the prince added. “We would have been lost long ago had you not been a friend to Fairer-than-a-Fairy.” The phooka agreed, thinking it a fine idea to go, and live in the mortal realm. Truth be told, he really did like sleeping on the princess’s feet and purring in her ear. And he figured the beds at the castle would be much softer than the one they slept on at the old fairy’s house. Having decided, he turned himself back into a fine black horse. The princess and prince climbed on his back and together they leapt into the mirror bright pond.
In the end, it turned out even better than anyone could have hoped, for it seems that time moves differently in faerie than it does in the mortal realm. So, it had been only fourteen months, not fourteen years since the princess had gone missing. And though the king and queen were surprised to see their daughter now grown, with a suitor in tow no less, they were both so overjoyed to have her returned that they did not let such a thing bother them for very long. The king, who had been the saddest of all, could not have been happier, welcoming them all with open arms. Even the pumpkin-eyed cat who seemed to delight in shedding black hairs all over the castle’s white pillows. In time, the prince was reunited with his family who it turned out lived just beyond the eastern sea; and they all gathered together to celebrate the joining of the two young lovers. They lived happily with their friends and family around them. Even as the years passed into decades, and they themselves became the rulers of their lands, time diminished neither the virtues, beauty, nor the mutual affection of King Rainbow and his Queen, Fairer-than-a-Fairy.
Things are coming together, and soon Lumina and the Goblin King will be out for all and sundry to read. I can’t wait!
No. Really. I can’t wait!
So here is an excerpt. Thanks to my editor, Kathy, for suggesting which scene to share with you all.
“Lumina slept the day away, not waking till late in the afternoon. Which, in and of itself, was not really a surprise; unlike the being she saw standing at the edge of her glade when she awoke.
The white stag stood just beyond the trees’ shadow, bathed in brilliant light. He was a sight to behold with his pale coat sparkling like new fallen snow beneath the sun’s caress.
He must have been waiting for her to wake, because as soon as she saw him he started towards her. Even beneath the dimness of the trees he was magnificent, glowing like the moon at her zenith as he made his way through the glade to where Lumina was.
Stopping at a respectful distance away from her, he lowered his head to regard them with his moonstone eyes.
“Goblin King,” she said, standing at his approach and offering him a curtsy. “You were not expected.”
Puzzlement filled his pale eyes for a moment, but then he slowly nodded.
“Perhaps I should have sent a messenger ahead,” he said and Lumina worried that it had not been puzzlement, but offense that she had seen in his face. She hastened to make amends.
“It is not to say that you are not welcome,” she assured him, although her statement was just on the edge of truthfulness.
A whisper of whiskers tickled her arm as the silver cat passed her, boldly walking up to the white stag.
“No cream, no fish, no cheese?” he said as he rubbed his head along the stag’s jaw, his tail curling impudently over the elegant muzzle as he did so. “Then why did you come to see me?”
“I did not come to see you, you impertinent thing. I came to see your mistress,” the white stag retorted. “Good afternoon, lady. I realize my coming was unexpected but I was hoping that you would join me for a few hours.”
“You wish to spend time with me?” she asked, a bit alarmed at such an idea. “To what end?”
“To what end,” he chuckled, leaning even closer as he did so. Soft breath whispered over her, cool and fresh like the air just before a storm. “Because I wish to court you. I would rather it was the price of your heart, not the price of your debt that brings you to me on our wedding day.”
Lumina found her heart pounding at the thought, but whether it was with anticipation or terror she could not say.
“And I have things I would share with you. Things you might find of interest,” said the white stag, retreating a little. “Come with me, fair one, and I promise that you will be as safe as if you had never left your glade.”
“And will you return me to my glade?” she asked, with more confidence than she felt.
The white stag nodded his head. “My oath in it, before the church bells finish tolling the midnight hour.”
The silver cat gave a little sneeze. “Well… then… there is no reason for me to go,” he said.
“What do you mean, Dearest?” Lumina asked, more than a little unnerved at the thought of being alone with the Goblin King, even in his guise as the white stag, which was admittedly less intimidating.
“No cream, no milk, no fish, no reason for me to go,” he said, sitting down to wash his ears. “But don’t worry about me, Mistress,” the silver cat said, pausing to look at Lumina with big round eyes. He blinked once, slowly; the picture of cat innocence.
“My Lady, I would be happy to carry you,” the white stag said soothingly, tilting his proud head so that she might easily sit on his antler if she chose to. And so she did, somewhat hesitantly, glancing at her treacherous companion, who only blinked innocently at her again. She wrapped her arm around the burnished silver brow tine as the stag lifted his head smoothly.
“I will see you soon, Dearest,” Lumina called back as the stag stepped out into the late afternoon light. The silver cat closed his eyes tight, giving her a knowing cat smile, before going back to his washing.“
By midday, they stood at the edge of a wild wood made entirely of clear glass.
The princess slid from the phooka’s back, and he was once more a young man. “The Forest of Glass,” he said. “Some place you must go that I can not follow, but if you would heed my advice I would say now is as good as time as any to put on those boots.” She sat down on the ground to follow the phooka’s advice, for it seemed quite good advice to follow. “One thing more,” he said. “While in there look for two blooms you find pleasing to the eye, pluck them and bring them with you. They may prove useful before all of the tale is told.”
And with that, he promised to see her on the other side of the wood, and turning himself into an eagle, flew off. Once he had disappeared from sight, the princess made her way into the forest. Tall trees of cut glass spread their branches above her. Beneath them, brambles twisted themselves into tunnels through which she carefully slipped. Grass made of spun glass crunched loudly beneath her her boots. Every leaf and stem she passed tore at her dress. But she paid little mind to the danger because rainbows danced all around her, sparkling on every leaf, petal and blade of grass. They turned her thoughts towards the Rainbow Prince, and she wondered if he could see her even though she could not hear his voice in the colors surrounding her. Plucking two roses from the arching canes above, she turned them this way and that, watching as the light fell through their prism of petals. She decided then and there that after she was free from her geas she would not go back to the fairy Lagree. Instead she would set out to find her beloved, if he could be found. She carefully removed her torn skirt, thankful that she wore two more beneath it, and wrapped the blooms. Tucking them safely in the bag of cotton, she continued on her way, finally coming out from the Forest of Glass. The phooka was waiting for her there. Mounting on his back, they headed off.
The sun was low on the horizon when the phooka stopped again. The princess slid down from his back and once again he stood beside her in the guise of a man. “Up ahead is the Garden of Bells, though you can not yet see it,” he said. If she listened closely, she could hear a faint sound on the wind. “Once again we come to some place you must go that I can not follow. But if you would keep the madness from your mind, then you must keep the sound of the bells from your ears. The cotton in your bag should do the trick.” “That is good advice that I shall be happy to heed, but there is a thing that I should tell you,” Fairer-than-a-Fairy said as she pulled two pinches of cotton from her bag. “After I have seen this quest through, and my geas has lifted, I plan to continue on in search of the Rainbow Prince.” “Oh, and so I was sure you would,” said the phooka and there was laughter in his voice, “for as I have said before you are a brave girl to have weathered what you have without a tear or complaint. If that is to be your road, then one more suggestion I would make. The bells in this garden have many a virtue. So while you walk through, look for a bell that feels true to your heart. If you find one, bring it with you, for I am sure that it will be of some help, before all is said and done.”
With that he turned into a eagle once again, and flew off. The princess stuffed the cotton in her ears and continued on her way. She soon came to a garden gate, opening it she went through. The long light of the evening glinted through out the garden on bells of every kind and size. They grew down from the trees and up from the ground in silver and gold and colored glass. Even bluebells grew here and there, whose tolling only dead men could hear. They all swayed gently, whether the breeze raced through them or not. But the tufts of cotton did their job well and she heard not a thing. Though all were beautiful, with their delicate designs and jeweled clappers, there were none that stood out to her mind until she came to the gate at the very end of the garden. There hanging next to it was a plain brass bell. It filled her heart with such longing for a home that she had all but forgotten. Stuffing more cotton from her bag around the clapper, she gently lifted it from its hook. She wrapped it in her second skirt and tied it tightly to her belt. Then passing through the gate, she hurried along the road to where the phooka waited for her, and away they went.
Night had already fallen by the time they reached the sandy shores of a waveless lake. The water stretched out, as still as a mirror, beneath the starry sky. A high-prowed boat, glowing with a soft pale light, sat quietly at its edge like a crescent moon come to earth. The sand shone like silver stardust beneath the phooka’s hooves as they made their way towards the lake. He stopped just short of the water’s edge and the princess slid from his back. In a blink he was there beside her, a pumpkin-orange eyed youth once more. “Ah, the Lake of Mirrors. And there is our boat, waiting patiently,” he said. “Fortunate, because you will have to cross it if you wish to reach the orge’s house. Happily, this time I can come with you. Fair warning though, beautiful though it may be, this water is not for gazing in to, lest you lose the whole of yourself in its reflection. So take care to keep your eyes on the horizon.” With that warning in mind, they stepped lightly into the boat together, and it set off of its own accord.
They glided in silence across the lake, with only the stars to light their way. Their eyes they kept fixed firmly on the horizon, so as not to fall to the temptation of down into the water. When they were almost half way across, Fairer-than-a-Fairy took out the jug of water, now near to empty, so that they might finish what was left off between them. As she held the now empty jug, a thought came to her. “Should I fill this with the water from here?” she wondered aloud. “Not if it is to be for drinking, but if you had in mind for it another purpose, then perhaps it could prove useful.” She thought that having water that could capture one in its reflection, could indeed prove useful. But how to safely fill the jug, now that was the question! It turned out to be a question that the phooka had an answer to. Because when she voiced it, he quickly reminded her of the little hand mirror she had taken from the old fairy’s trunk. She took it from her bodice, and turned it just so. Until the silvered water they glided across appeared in its surface. Looking only at the hand mirror, she carefully dipped the empty jug into the water, taking care not to touch it herself. When she felt she had enough, she pulled it up and corked it. Still looking away, she tore the hem of her dress to wipe the rim and all the places where the water might have touched. “At this rate, I shall be unclothed before our quest is done!” she said. But when she looked she was glad she had, for the cloth now shined back at her as though it too was made of mirrored glass. She was careful not to look directly at it.
They landed on a rocky shore, and left the boat glowing softly on the beach behind them. When scarcely a minute later she looked back, it was no where to be seen. Although a thin moon now rose in the sky just ahead of them to light their way. They climbed up steep paths that wound and wound through rocky crags until a cottage appeared just ahead of them. There they stopped and hid behind a huge boulder. They would need a plan if they were to get the fire and leave without the ogre using Fairer-than-a-Fairy’s bones for toothpicks. Luckily, the phooka had already thought on just such a plan. “We need only wait,” he assured her. “Locrinos goes out most every night leaving his wife to sit at home. Although still an ogress, it is said she has a sweeter nature than her husband, and perhaps a gift may make it sweeter still. What do we have?” They laid out all that they had from boots to bell, and decided that the roses from the Forest of Glass would be the best gift. “They are lovely, but I don’t see why we need give her two when surely one will do,” he said. “I am glad you think so for the colors they cast in the light remind me of my love and I can’t bring myself to part with both,” Fairer-than-a-Fairy admitted. “But one I could give up, if it will soften the ogress’s heart towards us.” While she spoke, she broke a rose from the stem, pricking herself on a glass thorn. Three drops of blood fell on its petals turning them deep red so that they shone like garnets, even in the thin light of the crescent moon. “Hmm, better still,” said the phooka. “But have a care to spill no more blood. We wouldn’t wish to give her ideas.” And with that, he took her finger and licked it. And just like that her skin was healed, as neat as you please.
They did not have to wait long before they saw the fearsome ogre leave the house, a sack thrown across his back. He gave his wife a kiss and left, hollering over his shoulder that he would be home before morning. The two friends waited to make sure he was well and gone, before marching up boldly and knocking on the door. The figure that opened it filled the doorway, but was not at all what one would expect an ogress to look like. She was buxom and quite pretty, that is if one could ignore the small horns on her head and the fearsome tusks sticking up from her lips. They greeted her most politely, and told her that Lagree had sent them (which was the truth, after all), then showed her the darken lantern. They offered her the rose as a gift, just as they had planned, and she took great delight in it. “Ah, mortal blood always smells the sweetest!” she sighed as she brought the garnet hued petals to her nose, gesturing for them to come in. “There is the fire, and you are welcome to it.” A giant hearth took up a whole corner of the cottage. Across the front of it were two doors made of metal and glass. When Fairer-than-a-Fairy bent to open them, she quickly learned that the fire they hid, was of no ordinary flame. It burned with the same bright light as the sun, so that she could not look directly at it. The heat scorched her face and out of the corner of her eye, she could the figures of salamanders dancing at the edges of the flames. She knew with absolute certainty that if she were to reach her hand in, it would be burned to the bone. While she sat back on her heels, unsure of how she was to overcome this obstacle, she heard the phooka talking to the ogress. She realized that he was telling her of the Rainbow Prince, and Fairer-than-a-Fairy’s love for him. Tears rose unbidden in her eyes, chasing themselves down her cheeks, and she was at a loss to stop them. “Tsk, tsk, child,” the Ogress tutted. “Such a waste!” and held a bowl beneath Fairer-than-a-Fairy’s chin to catch the tears as they fell, only taking it away when it was near to brimming. The Ogress dipped her finger in the bowl and tasted it, rolling her eyes to the heavens as though it were the most wondrous ambrosia. “Umm, heartache and hopelessness! Such bitter tears do make the finest beer. My husband will be so happy! Such wonderful gifts you have given me, let me give you some in return.” She handed the princess a long wand from a myrtle tree, and a small gray stone with a single band of white quartz circling its middle. “The first will let you light the lantern if you can find a way to keep the salamanders from devouring it before you can gather the flame. The second is a wishing stone. Follow the path that continues beyond the cottage and it will bring you to a sea. When you are standing on the shore, hold the stone and make a wish, while tracing the path of quartz that circles it, then throw it into the water. It will take you to your heart’s desire.” Fairer-than-a-Fairy took the wand and the stone from the ogress. She put the stone in her pocket and when she did so felt the hazelnuts that were in there. Taking a handful out she tossed them into the hearth. The salamanders came to play with them and while the nuts crackled and popped, she reached in with the myrtle wand. The tip lit after a moment and she was able to light the lantern with it.
With that their quest was completed. She could feel the geas fall away like a collar from her neck. They bid the ogress goodbye, wishing her well in her beer making, and headed off down the path she had told them about. It wasn’t long before they reached the sea. It stretched out in front of them, glittering beneath a blanket of stars. There they stopped and Fairer-than-a-Fairy took the wish stone from her pocket. “You know with that stone you could return to the mortal realm, and Lagree would be none the wiser,” the phooka pointed out. “Truly, I could, but what good would it do me without the Rainbow Prince there to share it with. I have been gone twice on seven years, and I do not even know if there is a home to return to,” she said. “And what of you my friend? It was indeed a great harm you did to me when you stole me from my home, but your friendship over these many years has been a salve to my tortured heart. You owe me nothing more, yet still you seem ready to go on with me. What is it you seek for your future?” “I don’t know,” the phooka admitted. “I find it best to read a story straight through and not to skip to the end. So let it be what it will be. But I have to say, I like sleeping on your feet and purring in your ear.” That said, he turned himself into a cat, and leapt to her shoulder where he tickled her cheek with his whiskers. The choice made, she traced her finger along the path of of the white quartz, and made her wish. She closed her eyes and sent the stone sailing out over the waves.
My previous posts spoke mostly of goblins, but they are not the only ones you’ll meet in the story of Lumina and the Goblin King. There are also other fairies and elementals that play a part.
The four (sometimes five) elements have long played a part in ancient folklore and alchemy, and elementals were often seen as the embodiment of these elements.
Salamanders are often associated with fire in classical folklore. Usually, they are pictured very much the same as your regular, every-day salamanders, looking not much different than the one you might find in your backyard. However, in folklore they could not be harmed by fire and it was believed that they could even control or start fires. – I will admit, I took great liberties with them in my story.
Sylphs are another such elemental. Invisible beings with an affinity for air, I have always pictured them as whimsical and easily distracted. It isn’t hard picturing the riding on the winds as they race over the earth.
Nixies are not elementals, but they are water spirits generally found in Germanic folklore. There are a variety of names for them: neck, nicor, nokk, nix, nixy, nokken… just to name a few. They are said to be shapeshifters and are sometimes pictured as having a tail, much like mermaids, or having feet like a frog. When in her human form, a Nixy can often be recognized by the wet hem of her dress.
Truthfully, you will find spirits in many things as you explore myths and folklore. Trees, for example, have been held as sacred since early times. Elder, oak, thorn, and ash; willow, rowan, apple and hazel; each of these trees, and many more besides, are considered to be the haunts of fairies or to have spirits of their own. Each one comes with its own set of rules and warnings. In Lumina and the Goblin King, the Rowan Maiden is just such a spirit, living in harmony with her rowan tree, and changing with the seasons as he does.
To be honest, I am immensely excited to have you meet them all. I hope when you read Lumina’s story (or the silver cat’s, depending on who you ask) it sparks a little of your curiosity, and you find yourself wanting to explore more of the folklore which makes our world so rich.
I first read Fairer-than-a-fairy in Andrew Lang’s Yellow Fairy Book. Though apparently, the story was originally published in 1718 as Le Princ Arc-en-ciel. It was done so anonymously, however, it has often been attributed to the Chevalier de Mailly.
I will admit, I kept only a few elements from the original story. However, this reimagining of mine is still the tale of a young woman’s quest to rescue an imprisoned prince. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good quest! If you do as well, then keep reading.
(Fair warning, all these tales are unedited, so there will be typos and grammatical errors. All artwork is still conceptual or in progress and may or may not appear in the final book.)
Fairer than a Fairy
Part 1 of 3
Once upon a time there was a small kingdom that stood at the edge of a fairy wood. It was ruled by a good king and a good queen who were just and kind. They had been married for many years and were happy in all things save one, they had no children. They had almost given up hope when wonder of wonders they were blessed with a lovely baby girl. The king and queen were overjoyed. The king, in particular, thought she was the most perfect thing in the world. He loved her dearly and would tell all that would listen of her beauty, saying often that she was fairer than the Fairy Queen herself. Now it never occurred to the good-natured monarch that his boasts might insult the Fairy Queen, bringing the hatred and jealousy of her court down on the little girl. But that is exactly what it did. And when the girl was seven years old, they stole her away.
The little princess had been playing not far from the wood’s edge, when the most handsome pony she had ever seen came dancing up to her from over the grassy meadow. He had fuzzy little ears, and a shaggy forelock that hung down over his face. He was so adorably round that she had no fear of him and was soon up on his back even though he had not a single bit of tack on him. She quickly came to realize her mistake for it was not a pony’s back she had climbed onto, but a phooka’s. Away the fairy horse raced, faster than fastest steed in her father’s stable, straight into the fairy wood. Around trees and over briers they sped, until they reached a tiny pond, shining mirror bright in the darkness of the deep wood. There the phooka stopped, and tossed her neatly into the water where she quickly sank out of the sight of mortal men. He stood there considering her fate as he watched the ripples die away into stillness and thought it sad. The little princess had been brave, for although she clutched at his mane fearfully, she had shed not a single tear as he carried her away.
But it wasn’t to her death that he had carried her, for the little mirror pond was actually a doorway to faerie. And that is where she found herself, surrounded by a host of strange creatures. Whether fair or foul, they all looked on her with distaste. “So this is the little mortal who is fairer than our queen,” they jeered and mocked her, calling her “fairer-than-a-fairy” as they pulled her along. They left her in the care of Lagree, the oldest of their tribe whose cruelty was sly and subtle. She did not beat the little girl but instead set her to work, cleaning a house that would never stay clean and tending a fire that the old fairy warned must never go out. For if it did, the relighting of it would be so perilous a task that the princess would most likely not survive it. The chores were arduous, but it was in the little torments that the fairies truly found their vengeance. So often did the young princess hear them call her “fairer-than-a-fairy” that she soon thought it her own name and forgot that she had once had another.
There were two bright spots in her otherwise deary life. Two friends that came in the form of a sleek tom cat and a monstrous hound. They were her near constant companions and when one was not there then to other was. In their company, the other fairy’s torments were less.
Many years passed, and the princess grew accustom to her lonely life. She obeyed the old Fairy’s orders, and by degrees forgot all about the life she had had before. One day, whilst in the courtyard, sweeping the never ending dust that gathered on its flagstones, her eyes fell on the fountain in its center. The sun’s light shone on it in just such a way so that it produced the most brilliant rainbow. She stopped in her work, captivated by its dancing colors.
Wasn’t she surprised when the rainbow spoke to her!
From the center of those vibrant colors came the most pleasant voice. It was that of a young man, and the words he used were so kind that for a moment she found she couldn’t find any of her own to say back to him. It had been so long since anyone had spoken to her so gently that surely this was just a trick of her imagination. A fancy brought about by her loneliness, because there was no one visible in those bright colors. Still, she answered the voice’s greeting, finding that it had been long enough that she didn’t care if it was her imagination or not. And so she found herself talking long into the day. She learned that the voice belonged to the eldest son of a powerful king who had, quite unwittingly, angered the fairy Lagree. Not being the forgiving sort, she took her revenge by depriving him of his natural shape, imprisoning him in the form of a rainbow. If he still had a body and what might have become to it, he had never known. Had, in fact, given up caring some time ago until he had caught a glimpse of Fairer-than-a-Fairy while she was going about her tasks. Since then he had hoped she would look his way so that he could speak to her. And finally that day had come. Now, he felt that his life once again held some meaning. His declaration touched her deeply, for she felt that in the Rainbow Prince, as she had begun to think of him, there was someone who could truly understand what she herself had endured. So she shared all that had happened to her and what things she could remember from the life she had had before the one she now lived. She had become so lost in the conversation that time slipped away from her. Thankfully, that was not so for her faithful friend the cat. He nudged and bothered her until she realized that she was quite late in tending the fire. It was hard to say goodbye to the Prince. But she promised to keep watch every day so that she might speak to him whenever the light fell on the water in just the right way. It turned out that the cat’s reminder was timely indeed, because when she went to check on the fire, it was nearly out. She carefully added oil to the basin and trimmed the wick, all without letting the flame die. Gently closing the lantern door when she was finished to protect the flame from being blown out. All the while, she shivered at the thought of her fate had she let it go out.
The next day, and every day after that, the princess went to the fountain whenever the sun shone brightly to check and see if the Rainbow Prince was there. When he was, they would talk for as long as the light lasted. Their friendship grew quickly, and over time it deepened, becoming something much more.
Now it was bound to happen, and so it did one fateful day. The princess lost track of time while she was talking to the Rainbow Prince, which in and of itself was not an uncommon thing. However, this time neither the cat nor the hound were there to remind her of her tasks. The fire which Lagree had charged her to never allow to go out, did. Worst yet, it was Lagree herself who found the lantern, now dark and cold. All the while her lovely prisoner sat unknowing in the courtyard still talking to her Rainbow Prince until a dark shadow fell across the sparkling fountain. The bright colors vanished. Fairer-than-a-Fairy turned to see Lagree standing there, a terrible glee gleaming in the old fairy’s single eye. Then the princess saw the darkened lantern in her hand and a cold shiver ran down her spine. “So this is where you have been lazing about! Well we can’t have that,” Lagree said, but she didn’t sound angry at all. In fact she sounded almost happy as she reached out and easily cracked the fountain into pieces. The princess watched in horror as the water flowed away across the stones taking with it any chance she might have had to see her prince again. “You let the fire die, and now you will have to relight it,” the old fairy said, handing the lantern to young woman, “and only the ogre Locrinos has the flame you need for such a task.” “Ah, he so does find young meat the tenderest! But you would have to reach his house before worrying about such things,” Lagree continued, her one tooth glinting as she smiled her cruel smile. “Ah, the many interesting places you will have to travel through first. Every step through the Forest of Glass will cut your skin, and the Garden of Bells will drive you mad. So by the time you come to the Lake of Mirrors, well, you might welcome an end to your journey!” “Then why should I go on the journey at all?” Fairer-than-a-Fairy asked. “As I see it, either way will prove an ill choice for me.”
Old Lagree let out a terrible laugh.
“Because I put a geas on that lantern, foolish girl” she said. “As soon as your hand touched it your fate was sealed. No matter what you do, you will have no choice but to continue your journey until the lantern is once again lit.” “And if I die in the trying?” the princess asked. “Well at least I will be rid of you!” Lagree said, then left her, still chuckling. Fairer-than-a-Fairy went back to the small closet where she slept and sat on the meager pallet which was her bed. And there for the first time since she had been carried away, she wept. That was how her friend the hound found her. He laid his head in her lap and she gently stroked his ears. “You know, it is not the journey that lies before me, nor its possible end that makes me sad,” she said, tears still wet on her cheeks. “It is because now the Rainbow Prince will be all alone again, and most likely will never know my fate. He will think I abandoned him. That is why I am crying.” “I do not doubt it,” said a voice that she did not recognize.
When she looked down it wasn’t the hound’s monstrous head in her lap, but rather that of a youth who smiled up at her with pumpkin-orange eyes. Gasping, she jumped up, leaving the young man stretched out on her bed. “Who are you?” she demanded, and the youth sat up. “Who am I? I have been your friend these many years. I am the hound that has lain at your feet. And the cat on your pillow who purred lullabies in your ear when sleep would not come,” he replied. “I am also the phooka who stole you away, and for that I am truly sorry. But if you will trust me as you have as you have so far, I hope to make amends.” The princess could not think of anything to say, but she cried all the harder, feeling as though she had lost not only her love, but her friends as well, all in the same day. The young man reached across to hold her hands, his eyes earnest and sad. “I am sorry princess, and I swear since then I have done the best by you that I could. But, Lagree is old and powerful. If she had seen me here, she would have banished me from your side and you would have truly been alone!” And it was true that the princess had rarely seen either the cat or the hound when the old fairy was at home. “But now is not the time for tears,” he insisted, and his eyes shined with mischief. “The way before you may look dark, but as you well know, looks can be deceiving. This doom may actually be a boon, before this story is over.” “How so?” she asked, hopeful despite herself. “First let us fulfill this geas, to do that there are three things you will need: a pair of boots, a bag of cotton and a hand mirror. All of which you can find in the bottom of a trunk that sits at the foot of the old fairy’s bed. But how to get them, now that is sticky point.” “Perhaps not, if you are willing to help,” she said, after some thought. “You know that Lagree has only the one good tooth, which she has to keep in a strengthening potion every night. And that she takes it out in the morning to eat her breakfast. If you were to steal this from her she would give chase for sure. Then I could steal into her room, take what we would need from the trunk, and she need never know.
When the morning came, Fairer-than-a-fairy woke and dressed, putting on every skirt she owned (of which there were only three), one on top of the other, then set forth on their plan. The phooka waited patiently in his guise as a cat, and just as old Lagree was taking her tooth out of the potion, he leapt up and stole it away. She gave chase, as they had hoped, and the princess slipped into the old fairy’s room. There at the foot of the bed was a trunk and in the bottom, just as the phooka had said, sat the boots, the bag and the mirror. She carefully tied the boots and the bag of cotton under her skirts in just such a way so that they would not clank or sway, and thus give her away. Then she slipped the mirror in her bodice. She feared at first that is would not fit, but it seemed to grow smaller and smaller until it fit perfectly. She was back in the kitchen before the Lagree returned and so old fairy was none the wiser. When Lagree returned, tooth in hand and much annoyed, she sent Fairer-than-a-Fairy off on her journey with only a jug of water and a pocket full of hazelnuts.
The princess had worried for the phooka, but she needn’t have for there he was, just a little ways down the road, a lovely black horse with wild pumpkin-orange eyes. Quite different from the shaggy maned, round bellied pony she remembered. He snorted at her. She mounted on his back, and away they went.
In order to save a dying silver kitten, a kind-hearted sprite makes a desperate decision. A choice that will change her life forever. Because all debts come due eventually… and a debt to the Goblin King is no small thing.
Caught up in an age-old enmity, can Lumina have to find a way to make good what she owes and still keep all she holds dear? Will the price of her choice be more than she can pay?
No matter the answer, some things are worth the cost, whatever it might be.
Coming soon! November 2020.
At its heart, Lumina and the Goblin King is a fairytale – complete with goblins, fairies, elementals and the like – plus one opinionated silver cat. I know for some, it is important for you to know what you are getting into before you buy a book. Unfortunately, there are so many labels now a days, and everyone has a different idea of what those labels mean. So needless to say, I am reluctant to assign them. However, I can say that there is no obscene language or mature scenes; although there are some mild thematic elements.
I guess you could say the story is closer to a Grimm fairytale than a Disney one.
And truthfully, Lumina and the Goblin King was not really written with younger readers in mind; although that is not to say some wouldn’t enjoy it. In fact, I suppose you could say that anyone who likes fairytales would find something that appeals to them: a touch of romance, a touch of trouble; a Fairy Queen, a Goblin King and a sprite far out of her depth; a roguish phooka; and of course, an incorrigible silver cat. The last two, I will admit, were my favorite to write! And I can’t wait to have you meet them. So keep your eyes open because I will be posting links right here on my blog once they are available.
Up the steps she climbed and her feet were as light as air because her journey was almost at an end. As she went she wondered if her sweetheart was okay, would he be surprised that she found him despite his dire prediction? Would he be as overjoyed to see her as she would be to see him? But that was the question, was it not? Would he be happy to see her after she ignored his warning and betrayed his trust? Her heart began to grow heavy with such thoughts, so that when she reached the top of the stairs, it was though her feet had turned to lead. A grassy hill top rose up before her. On its crown was a lovely castle made of airy spires as delicate as spun glass. She by contrast was as grubby as a beggar-maid, with her shoes full of holes and her once fine dress worn down to threads. Aurelina could not bring herself to got to the front door, but instead went round to where the servants would be found. Once there, she knocked on the door and asked if there was work to be had. The servant who answered the door did not recognize his former mistress. But he was kind enough, and was told that there was work to be had in the kitchen, if she was willing to work hard. And so she did, scrubbing pots and carrying trays until her arms were sore. Sneaking glances of her raven-haired love whenever she could. Most often she saw him when cook would send her out into the kitchen garden to pick vegetables for that night’s dinner. Always the Raven King would come out onto his balcony to stare out across the sea. One day the cook caught her at it. “Well, Missy,” she said, “if you have time to be mooning about, you have time to help others out!” and sent her off to steward so she might help with the upstairs cleaning. The steward looked disapprovingly at Aurelina’s tattered self but sent her off anyway to help sweep the chambers and make the beds. That was how she found herself in the Raven King’s bedchamber, staring at the rumpled bedsheets. Unable to help herself, she laid down, resting her head on his pillow. It was soft and warm, and brought to mind happier times when she and her sweetheart would talk and laugh in their castle of alabaster with its shining silver roofs. Truth be told, she would be happy to live in the crude little hut he had first brought her to, if only they were living in it together. Yet she still could not bring herself to reveal who she was, fearing that she would learn he no longer loved her. That truth would hurt her far worse than the loneliness of being so close to him, and him not knowing. It felt as though she were further away from him now than ever she had been while on her journey.
* * * *
That night, when the Raven King went to lay down in his bed, he found a single hair, bright as spun gold gleaming across his pillow. It pierced his heart like an arrow, for he missed his Aurelina and often wondered where she was out in the wide world. He carefully wrapped the golden strand around the third finger of his left hand and fell asleep to dream of the smiling face of his love. This went on for far longer than it should, but that is be expected. People often are fools when the heart is involved. One season passed into the next and Aurelina would sneak in to lay her head on the king’s pillow and he would find golden hair every night and wrap it around his finger.
There did finally come a point where the Raven King decided there needed to be a resolution. So he went out as he usually did in the day, but snuck back in to hide in his closet. Shortly after, he saw one of the servants come in to clean. Her back was to him, she wore a tattered dress that may have once been fine and her hair was caught up beneath a large handkerchief. She lay down on his bed, much to his surprise, resting her head with a sigh on his pillow. He waited for a moment, then crept out to look down on the sleeping woman’s face. Her cheeks had been darkened by the sun and made rough by the wind and the hand beneath her cheek was callused but that did not stop him from recognizing his own heart’s desire. Gently he brushed his hand over her head, drawing with it the handkerchief. A river of golden hair spread out across his pillow and his bride, lost to him so long ago, opened her glorious eyes. Startled, she gasped and sat up. “I truly did not think I would see you again in this life time,” he said and a soft smile was on his lips. “Why did you hide yourself among the servants? Why did you not show yourself to me?” “I was not sure if you would be happy to see me,” she admitted. “I thought you may be mad at me for betraying your trust, and not heeding your warning.” “I was mad, for a time,” he said. “But only because I was forced to leave you. I knew it was a risk to give you the napkin before we were wed but even so, I would have you happy no matter the cost to myself. Yet you found me, which could have been no small feat. How did you manage such a thing?”
So she told him of her travels and all that she had gone through to find him. He, in turn, finally told her of the curse that his stepmother, the dowager queen, had put him under so that he might never find a queen of his own, in order to force him as far away from his father’s kingdom as she could. The princess told him of how she watched him and laid her head on his pillow every morning after he was gone and he showed her the strands of hair that he had wrapped about his finger. And in this telling all was made plain and what ever secrets or doubts there might have been between them where banished like ghosts. Finally the golden-haired princess and her raven king where reunited. The band of hair encircling the Raven King’s finger became a solid band of gold and a matching one graced Aurelina’s finger, so now they might never be parted again.
“All around them the surface of the lake began to shiver. Their boat shied and shifted beneath them, as two pointed ears rose up from the depths. They were soon followed by a pony’s shaggy head, and before long a phooka was standing chest deep in the water beside them. His mane hung lank with waterweed and lilies. His hide was the same color as the space between the stars, but his eyes glowed green like marshlights.“
– excerpt from Lumina and the Goblin King
Mischievous and delightfully tricksy, the phooka is a shapeshifter who is said to take on any number of different forms – hounds, hares, goats, even eagles – but the one of its favorites is that of a horse or pony. Usually a seemingly harmless creature who just so happens to be in the perfect place when a weary (or tipsy) traveler needs a ride. Of course, its not the ride they expected. But a wild race over high hedges and through sucking bogs most often ending with the rider being tossed into some pond or puddle; the phooka laughing all the while. Sometimes the rider would come to a darker end, but usually the phooka is just out for a bit of mischief and is much less murderous than the Scottish Kelpie or Each-uisge. In fact, it can be said that they are generally well-disposed towards humans. However, they do enjoy leading them astray. Pouk-ledden it is called, and those that find themselves caught up in such a glamour can wander round and round the whole night through without knowing where they are. When the morning comes, they may find themselves far from home or standing on their very doorstep.
There are many places and times of year associated with the phooka. Samhain (Oct. 31st-Nov. 1st) is one of those times, which usually marked when the last of the crops were brought in. It was (and sometimes still is) tradition to leave a small portion of the harvest, the “phooka’s share”, in the field to placate him.
I have to admit, the phooka has always been my favorite, even from the time when I was very young. A fairy that can be a horse? How could a little girl who loved horses not like such a creature! I still have a big soft spot for them, and they often appear in my stories, usually as irreverent rogues. They inevitably turn out to be some of my favorite characters to write.
Phookas have appeared in many different books, under many different names (pooka, pwca, púca, pookha, phouka, pouke, to name a few). One book I have read many times over the years is “The Grey Horse” by R.A. MacAvoy. An interesting story to read if you like a book with historical flavor as well as an otherworldly element.
Other books I have enjoyed that were published much more recently are the Faerie Sworn series by Ron C. Nieto (The Wild Hunt, The Wild Curse, The Wild Herald). The series definitely has its own unique flare, but the most compelling thing about it is the personalities and logic of the fae in it which are undeniably not the same as a human’s. It also explores the fact that there are rules, cautions and consequences for those humans who find themselves caught up in fairy dealings.
I have mentioned several other sources in previous posts that are good places to read more about the phooka. But there are also many website that are worth taking the time to explore. Here are some of the links: