Kempt has been kept waiting.
The Mountain King is shouting at a pair of fauns. The male faun has his arm around his partner and her hand on her pregnant belly. They both look up in drop-jawed horror as the Mountain King — no taller than themselves and with the potbellied musculature and round balding head of a hairier, more bulbous-nosed and less subtley-ironic Socrates — stands upon the foot-worn footrest of his throne (carved out of mountain oak and shiny from years of oily- & salty-skinned reclining, slouching, tossing and turning, thumping and slapping, and general overuse) and hurls nearly-incoherent insults (something about half-witted abortions of curdled goat’s milk and feeble-winded shit-streaked reed-pipings) down from on high.
No one knows what’s raised the Mountain King’s ire, and no one dares ask. The Mountain King’s Hall is a small grassy depression atop a great mountain. Besides his majesty’s throne, small wind-tortured bristle pines and cold gray boulders are the only furniture. A mountain dragon, approximately a thousand times bigger than the king and the two fauns combined, shifts uneasily on his scaly haunches. A mountain minotaur, also more than capable of barehandedly dismembering the trio, adjusts his uncomfortable seat upon a granite boulder that glints in the sun and grates his shaggy mountain-ox rear. His shovel-sized sharp-clawed hands nervously roll and unroll a parchment petition that he’s been waiting to discuss with this far-reaching, fair-leveling mind, this great leader of all the mountain folk. A giant mountain toad — warty, bulge-eyed, over three feet long and perhaps a hundred pounds, sinks down into the long sharp grasses, his elastic belly spreading out as he seeks to disappear into the earth. Kempt, who is farther back in the hall, leans against a scraggly pine, which wiggles a little at the sudden weight, but which, taking its cue from the general atmosphere of the Hall, refrains from saying, “Hey! This is my spot! I staked this out over five hundred years ago! It’s not my fault you spend your life drifting aimless from one locale to the other, never satisfied with where you are, who you are, what you’ve found, what you’re given!”
In time the king calms down and rather absentmindedly leans back into his wooden throne. “So restore the goblin to her normal form and going forward please bring all such concerns to this court BEFORE taking any kind of retaliatory measures. And in the wide-spreading light of the ever-dawning future, let’s refrain from casting spells on other woodland creatures, particularly other faeries. We really don’t want another of those enchantment arms races that caused so much chaos in days of yore.”
“Yes of course, your majesty, thank you your grace, but there’s still the matter of … “ and here, head and horns bowed, the manly faun widened the small velvety fingers clutching his wife’s round tummy. The king raises an impatient palm: “I command any faeries present to step forward immediately!”
Because, you see, though fauns are themselves faeries, they cannot undo all enchantments, and are especially hampered when a spell has been cast specifically against themselves.
And so lined up, unhappily, and blinking all of them from side to side like they’d been prodded up into a police line-up, a unicorn, two gnomes, and a goblin, while a couple woodland sprites flew up — heads bowed, on bashful, backward-yearning butterfly-wings.
“Which of you can uncurse the faun’s unborn child? Tell me true! Over- or under-describing your powers I hereby declare a capital offense!”
Why even say that? Everybody knows that the ones that kings and queens of magic are the sprites, and that all the other magic beasts are only even allowed to perform their wizardry because the sprites are an easygoing and non-confrontational lot.
With wriggles of their dainty noses (noses that, were it not for the sparks given off as they wriggled, would in this overcast Mountain Hall not even be visible to the eyes of most mountain folk) the sprite’s ensured that the faun’s child would be a happy, healthy, and lucky creature. The fauns tried to embrace the sprites but of course missed and tumbled into each other, laughing and rolling together in delight upon the soft springy darkgreen grass. The mountain king guffawed, slaked his thirst upon his pinewood chalice, and bade the mountain dragon tell him the news from his many other peaks, peaks that he is seriously considering visiting himself in person, and please tell the inhabitants of those crags that if and when his majesty inspects their domains, he expects order, discipline, and gentle kind resolve from all his subjects at all times or else!
Copyright: AM Watson