The Four Charms -a fairy tale of inner wisdom, p.1Karem Barratt
The Four Charms
A fairy tale of inner wisdom
By Karem Barratt
Copyright 2013 Karem Barratt
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Princess Rebecca woke up with a knot in her stomach. She was feeling cold and woozy. She left her bed wanting – really, truly wanting, that it was not August, nor the seventh, nor her birthday. Now, usually Princess Rebecca was all for birthdays. She actually had been known to drive people crazy, talking about her birthday weeks and even months before the event, planning games, stories, meals and guests lists. But today she was turning eleven, and that changed everything, for, according to the rules of the kingdom, she would no longer be a child. Today she would become an apprentice.
The princess washed her face and teeth, changed into her clothes, brushed her hair and practiced different faces in front of the mirror, until she found the right expression that would disguise her fear. Last night, as she practiced her dancing in her bedroom, she had had asked the stars shining outside her window to give her bravery and cleverness. Today she had to act as if her wish had come true. She sighed and walked towards the palace’s great hall, where she knew her parents and all the court would be waiting, hiding behind curtains and chairs, to give her a “surprise” birthday breakfast.
Maybe being an apprentice would not be too bad, Rebecca thought, as she walked down the corridor. It basically meant that she would learn how to be a proper princess, dealing with the kingdom’s problems, helping the people of the land, taking part in all the ceremonies and stuff. The princess blew out some air and felt better. Yes, it couldn’t be too bad, could it? It was not as if she was going to be responsible for the whole kingdom from now on – she would be an apprentice for a good 10 years. Nobody would expect her to be brave or smart right away. She was only eleven after all. Princess Rebecca smiled, this time for real, and eagerly opened the hall’s door, ready to hear the Happy Birthday song from her family and friends.
The great hall was silent. It was silent and gloomy and empty, except for a bent figure near the chimney. It was a young, be-spectacled woman, sitting (Princess Rebecca gulped) on a floating broom.'
'Ah, finally, the princess,’ said the woman.
‘Who...who are you?’‘
'You are not very smart, are you? Who do I look like? Cinderella’s fairy godmother? I am the Wicked Witch, naturally!’ ‘There’s no such thing as wicked witches’ Rebecca said, without thinking, ‘just people who worship nature and call themselves pagans or wiccans. My Mum old me so.’
‘Ooo, my mum told me so,’ chanted the witch. ‘Well your mum ain’t here now, is she?’
‘Where is she? Where is everybody?’
‘How should I know? Apparently I don’t exist – there’s no such thing as wicked witches, remember?’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, it’s just that I’m a bit... panicky.’
‘That’s better, I mean, really, one works hard to be the worst witch of all times, studying spells and curses all day, making salamander juice and ogre tooth cake to pay for one’s studies at Witch University, only to have a girl say that one does not exist...’ sniffed the witch, cleaning her runny nose with her sleeve.
‘Please don’t cry,’ the princess said, lightly touching the witch’s arm, ‘just tell me where my parents and friends are.’
‘Oh, them,’ said the Witch as she blew her nose, ‘I turned them into stones, of course.’
‘What! You horrible, mean, person! Why would you do that?’
‘Well, I’m a wicked witch. It’s what I do. Now, here is the deal...’
‘Deal? You want money to turn them back into humans again?’
The witch raised her eyes and some smoke came out of her ears.
‘You are behind your fairy tale reading, aren’t you? Listen carefully princess, because I don’t have all day. Before the sun sets you have to come back here with the four charms or everyone in this palace will stay as stones forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever –the witch gasped for some air - and ever. Got it?’
‘No, I don’t get it! What four charms? Where am I supposed to find them?’
‘Gee, what are they teaching in Princess School nowadays? The charms are four enchanted jewels of some type, which, according to my text book, are hidden in your magic garden and can only be found by the apprentice – that is, you. The charms are part of my homework and I need them by tonight.’
‘We have a magic garden?’
‘Oh, dear. All right, I am a reasonable witch and I like to play fair, so here is your first hint: find Grand Master #39 and he’ll tell you what to do.’
The sounds of bells suddenly filled the great hall.
‘Nine o’clock! Time to go. Happy quest! And remember, you have until sunset,’ exclaimed the Witch as the broom began to shake. ‘Ta, ta!’
The broom took to the air, blue and red sparkles jumping out of its bristles.
‘Wait! Where do I find Grand Master #39?’ Rebecca shouted.
‘Where you usually find a frog!’ replied the Witch, and with that, she flew out of the window.
Princess Rebecca found herself utterly alone in the great palace hall. The wind swelled the curtains and made them look like fat red ghosts. Rebecca breathed rapidly, her knees trembling. For a moment the princess thought she would fall to the floor and start crying. She wanted her Mum to hug her; her Dad to tell her that everything would be fine; her friends to huddle over her and say it was all a mistake. The girl felt hot tears building in her eyes and hastily brushed them way. No, Rebecca decided, she would not cry, not now, and gathering her skirt, she ran out of the great hall, to the royal garden. There is one place where you are sure to find a frog, Princess Rebecca said to herself: in a cool, shady lily pond.
The lily pond had always been a forbidden area for Rebecca. Her parents had been very clear that she was not even to get close to the pond, as they feared she may fall into its deep waters. Hence, for much of her life, the place had been a shadowy spot in a corner, separated from the sunny garden by a tall wrought iron gate. Although Princess Rebecca had dutifully obeyed her parent’s command, she had been curious enough to notice where the gardener hung the key to the gate – right behind the flowing willow tree.
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