Preparing for Autumn

08/10/2016 23:07

This week's prompt from Black Ship Books and F3. We want you to take us to that other world – to that other reality, where animals speak, fairies fly, and magic is everywhere. Include the following words in your story: Autumn, portal, potion, kingdom, and teacher.


Oh, where did I put that potion?” muttered Priscilla Pixie as she hunted through the cluttered shelves of her potion cupboard. “I don't have time to make a new batch! It has to be in here somewhere...”


The jars and vials clinked and clattered against each other as she rummaged through them. A couple of times, one or more teetered on the very edge and threatened to fall to the floor of her little home. With most of them it would simply make a mess, not to mention waste some very valuable ingredients. There were one or two, however, that she really did not want to release as they would some decidedly nasty effects in such an enclosed space.


Right at the back of the third shelf she found the Winter Potion that she had made – and lost – last year. With a sigh, she put it to one side so that she could rinse and sterilise the jar when she had found what she was looking for. The formula would be useless now, a full year later, and she would have to make a fresh one in a few weeks, allowing time for it to mature before she used it.


Which was, of course, exactly what had happened to this year's Autumn Potion. Priscilla loved Autumn; it was her favourite season. As Guardian of St James' Gardens, it was her responsibility to make sure that each of the seasons arrived on time and to their fullest effect. She had mixed this year's Autumn Potion to provide just the right proportions of golden and red leaves, to grow just the right number of acorns and beech nuts, and to generate just the right amount of mist to wind through the trees and around Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. When it was finished, she had put it in a very special vial and sealed it carefully before putting it in a safe place in her potion cupboard.


And now, when it would be at the peak of its potency, she could not find it.


Ignoring the growing feeling of doubt that was settling on her stomach, she took a step back from the cupboard and stared hard at each shelf in turn. Perhaps if she looked carefully enough, she would gain x-ray vision that would allow her to see through the jars at the front of the shelves to those lurking at the back. Somehow, the trick failed to work.


Oh, cobwebs!” she wailed. “This is hopeless!”


At that moment, there was a light tap on her door. She opened it and found Fiona Fairy hovering outside. Unlike Priscilla, Fiona was not a permanent resident in the Gardens. She was an Autumn fairy, so spent three quarters of the year in Fairy Land. Her job was to assist Priscilla with the Autumn Ceremony when the potion was released, and to monitor the progress of the season, helping out with any little jobs along the way.


Oh... er... hello, Fiona...”


Hello, Priscilla! Here I am again. I've just seen Frankie on his way to the portal. He said he'd had an exhausting Summer and couldn't wait to go back to Fairy Land and put his feet up.”


Yes, it was a busy Summer. We had lots of families coming through this year, so we had to make sure the leaves cast really nice, dapply shadows on the grass for their picnics. And the Park Rangers planted a wild flower meadow, so we were up early every morning to make sure that the flowers were looking their best.”


I'll bet you're looking forward to Autumn, then. It's a chance to slow down a bit, isn't it?”


Slow down? A little bit, I suppose, but we'll still have our work cut out making sure the leaves change colour at the right rate. And there's a new squirrel around; we can't let him steal all the acorns.”


We'll keep an eye on him, don't you worry. So, when do we begin?”


Begin? Oh, the Ceremony! Well, I have the potion all ready. But what about you? Tell me about life on the other side of the portal.”


Priscilla knew that there was nothing Fiona liked to talk about more than herself and that she would go into the minutest detail about life behind the portal. Hopefully, that would give her enough time to remember exactly where she had put that darned potion. The truth was that she had visited Fairy Land, which lay beyond the portal, on a field trip when she was an apprentice potion-maker. Her teacher, Prendergast, believed it was important for pixies to know all about where the fairies lived.


That way, they can't bamboozle you with far-fetched tales of gossamer hammocks and carriages drawn by mice,” he had said, stroking his long white beard.


Priscilla had found the fairy kingdom as underwhelming as Prendergast could have hoped. It was true that the fairies lived in toadstools, but the paint was peeling on many of them and most of the gardens showed signs of neglect. Their guide, an elderly fairy called Fingle, boasted that the seasons never changed and the rain fall was strictly controlled. Priscilla thought that sounded terribly dull.


Even the Fairy Queen's Palace failed to make much of an impression. Everything was pink, which set Priscilla's teeth on edge, and almost everything glittered or sparkled, which gave her a headache. She had never been so grateful to hear the words, “Time to go home!” as uttered by Prendergast.


The most interesting part of the trip was the portal itself. At the Fairy Land end, there was only one entrance. This was positioned in the central square of the fairy capital, Titania, right in front of the palace. From there, you could travel to any other portal in the world. These portals were scattered throughout the globe, usually in wooded or overgrown places, although some were in gardens. Priscilla had trained at Sefton Park, and there was a portal in the appropriately named Fairy Dell. There was also one here in St James' Gardens, near the Chalybeate Spring.


She tuned back in to Fiona's babble just as she was coming to the end of her description.


So, in the end, I persuaded the old fool to let me through. Now, Priscilla, it's nearly sundown, and we really need to complete the Ceremony before dark. Where did you say the potion was?”


Priscilla smiled. The trick had worked; she knew exactly where the potion was! She turned back to the potion cupboard, moved a few jars aside on the bottom shelf, and pulled out the Autumn Potion.


Here it is! Now, let's get on with the Ceremony.”


Author's note: Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral is about five minutes away from my house. St James' Gardens (or The Cemmo – short for cemetery) lie in an old quarry next to it. At street level, all that can be seen are the tops of the trees that grow on its floor. Chalybeate Spring trickles down a wall to feed a small pond. You can read more, here.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!



Preparing for Autumn

Preparing for Autumn

Date: 01/08/2017 | By: Dave B

Enjoyed this Rose. Portals! A slight science fiction touch to a whimsical traditional fairy tale?

Saved in the end

Date: 21/10/2016 | By: Mike Young

Priscilla Pixie - love it! Such a beautiful description of autumn in the park. And a good strategy to let her friend babble along as a delaying tactic.
We have finished our transition here in Ottawa, and are in that grey post-autumn/pre-winter season.

Perfect Time of Year

Date: 16/10/2016 | By: Joyce Juzwik

Such a wonderful job, Priscilla has. Autumn is such a beautiful time, and she is responsible for bringing out all the colors and wonders of that season. Sometimes, when you stop looking for something, you recall where you put it. Her efforts to remember where she placed the Autumn potion were distracted in such a delightful way.

Lovely story, Rose. Hope her Winter potion is delayed though!


Date: 09/10/2016 | By: Dave B

Magic! I wondered why Autumn was late. (-:

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