MOEMOE (CURIOSITY), an original Tahitian legend

There is an island in the middle of the ocean upon which sits a lone banyan tree. It wasn’t always thus. Legend has it that this strange island had once been inhabited by women with beautiful voices. No one had ever seen these women but sailors would return from their travels spinning tales of hearing the tones of melancholy singing in the dark of the night. Whenever they tried to approach the island, they were rebuffed by treacherous waters. The voices were silent during the day; this island still but for the rustling and flight of brightly colored birds circling above.

There was a man in a village named Onoono. A curious sort. He had been so all his life, and he had heard story after story of this mysterious island and its elusive inhabitants equally long. Naturally, he longed to see and hear such things for himself. One day he managed to convince his mates to seek out this mystical place and away they went. They found an island encircled by brightly colored birds. Unsure if this was the place, they made landfall and decided to explore. Without warning, they were set upon by that same flock of colorful birds. Seemingly fearless, the birds flew close around the men, brushing their hair with their feathers, chirping at them lively. Onoono’s friends were unnerved by this unnatural behaviour and tried to swat away the birds, but the birds were undeterred. Onoono, however, gazed upon these creatures with wonder and noticed one bird in particular whose feathers were the color of the sunrise, and who, in turn, took special interest in him. His mates began to fear these aggressive birds and urged Onoono to leave. So enamored was he of his bird, who he called Maruao, however, that he refused. “Come back for me later,” he said distractedly, entranced by his bird. Frustrated, his mates left him and made their way back to their boat. But they had tarried on the island too long and the previously calm seas around the island had given way to a frenzy of tumultuous waves. Their boat had been destroyed by the roiling waves, dashed upon the rocks, leaving them no hope of escape. Realizing they were trapped, they went back in search of Onoono.

They found him among the flock of birds, keeping a watchful vigil on the one the color of sunrise. The men were still wary of the birds and tried to keep their distance, but as night fell the men were greeted with an unexpected sight. When the sun had dipped past the horizon and darkness blanketed the island, all the birds began to transform into women. Frightened, the men hid themselves away but Onoono stepped out from their hiding place, eager to speak with the women, excited at the prospect of learning more about them. The woman who had been his sunrise bird saw him and approached him, a smile upon her lips. Seeing the two getting closer, her sisters descended upon them in a panic and pulled Maruao away from him.

As one the women sang a song of woe. There once was a sorcerer named Tuputupua who was envious of Oro’s powers of creation. Wanting to be like the god, Tuputupua began to bring into being creatures of his own on this island. However, when he created human women, that’s when he drew Oro’s ire. “You are no god! For your arrogance, I curse your human women to live as birds,” thundered the god. But Tuputupua pleaded with Oro for mercy, “Punish me if you must, but please spare my creations. They are innocent of my wrong doing.” Taking some pity on the women, Oro cursed them to live as birds only while the sun is up, allowing them to keep their human form at night. “Beware, no human creature of yours can ever touch a human of my making. Heed this warning and I may yet be more merciful toward them. Defy this and they will suffer even worse consequences.” Many years had since passed, and their sorcerer father was dead and gone, but the women prayed to Oro every night in the hopes that he would return them to their full human forms.

Moved by this tale of sorrow, the men emerged from their hiding place and walked cautiously toward the women. The women tried to shy away from them but could not help but be drawn to them as well, fighting between their desire to meet with human men they had never seen before and knowing that a worse punishment awaited them should they defy Oro’s wishes. Free from the prying eyes of her sisters, Maruao sought out the curious man again. Though she knew it was forbidden, she reached out a hand to stroke his hair and his cheek, wanting to know if it felt like her own. Onoono was delighted and inspected her just as closely. They clasped hands and smiled at one another. Sensing that something was amiss, the sisters turned toward the couple and were aghast to see their fingers entwined. As they tried to run to the couple to separate them, all the women suddenly fell to the ground. The men watched in horror as the women began to transform into strange and savage four-legged beasts covered in fur and possessing multiple eyes. The beasts snarled and snapped their jaws then turned on the terrified men and chased them deeper into the island. Only Maruao, the sunrise bird, ran away from all of them with the Onoono trying to follow her.

The beasts cornered the men and viciously attacked them. The men tried to defend themselves, but in the end man and beast only succeeded in killing one other. Onoono, having lost track of the beast he had been chasing, stumbled upon this carnage and began to weep for his dead friends, blaming himself for the fate that had befallen them. Onoono sensed quiet footsteps behind him and turned to see the remaining beast stalking him, all traces of the woman and bird he had gotten to know seemingly gone. “Please,” he implored, “don’t kill me.” Maruao only growled in response. Onoono pulled out the knife he always kept with him as, with a howl, Maruao lunged at him.

MOEMOE (CURIOSITY), an original Tahitian legend

There is an island in the middle of the ocean upon which sits a lone banyan tree. It wasn’t always thus. Legend has it that this strange island had once been inhabited by women with beautiful voices. No one had ever seen these women but sailors would return from their travels spinning tales of hearing the tones of melancholy singing in the dark of the night. Whenever they tried to approach the island, they were rebuffed by treacherous waters. The voices were silent during the day; this island still but for the rustling and flight of brightly colored birds circling above.

There was a man in a village named Onoono. A curious sort. He had been so all his life, and he had heard story after story of this mysterious island and its elusive inhabitants equally long. Naturally, he longed to see and hear such things for himself. One day he managed to convince his mates to seek out this mystical place and away they went. They found an island encircled by brightly colored birds. Unsure if this was the place, they made landfall and decided to explore. Without warning, they were set upon by that same flock of colorful birds. Seemingly fearless, the birds flew close around the men, brushing their hair with their feathers, chirping at them lively. Onoono’s friends were unnerved by this unnatural behaviour and tried to swat away the birds, but the birds were undeterred. Onoono, however, gazed upon these creatures with wonder and noticed one bird in particular whose feathers were the color of the sunrise, and who, in turn, took special interest in him. His mates began to fear these aggressive birds and urged Onoono to leave. So enamored was he of his bird, who he called Maruao, however, that he refused. “Come back for me later,” he said distractedly, entranced by his bird. Frustrated, his mates left him and made their way back to their boat. But they had tarried on the island too long and the previously calm seas around the island had given way to a frenzy of tumultuous waves. Their boat had been destroyed by the roiling waves, dashed upon the rocks, leaving them no hope of escape. Realizing they were trapped, they went back in search of Onoono.

They found him among the flock of birds, keeping a watchful vigil on the one the color of sunrise. The men were still wary of the birds and tried to keep their distance, but as night fell the men were greeted with an unexpected sight. When the sun had dipped past the horizon and darkness blanketed the island, all the birds began to transform into women. Frightened, the men hid themselves away but Onoono stepped out from their hiding place, eager to speak with the women, excited at the prospect of learning more about them. The woman who had been his sunrise bird saw him and approached him, a smile upon her lips. Seeing the two getting closer, her sisters descended upon them in a panic and pulled Maruao away from him.

As one the women sang a song of woe. There once was a sorcerer named Tuputupua who was envious of Oro’s powers of creation. Wanting to be like the god, Tuputupua began to bring into being creatures of his own on this island. However, when he created human women, that’s when he drew Oro’s ire. “You are no god! For your arrogance, I curse your human women to live as birds,” thundered the god. But Tuputupua pleaded with Oro for mercy, “Punish me if you must, but please spare my creations. They are innocent of my wrong doing.” Taking some pity on the women, Oro cursed them to live as birds only while the sun is up, allowing them to keep their human form at night. “Beware, no human creature of yours can ever touch a human of my making. Heed this warning and I may yet be more merciful toward them. Defy this and they will suffer even worse consequences.” Many years had since passed, and their sorcerer father was dead and gone, but the women prayed to Oro every night in the hopes that he would return them to their full human forms.

Moved by this tale of sorrow, the men emerged from their hiding place and walked cautiously toward the women. The women tried to shy away from them but could not help but be drawn to them as well, fighting between their desire to meet with human men they had never seen before and knowing that a worse punishment awaited them should they defy Oro’s wishes. Free from the prying eyes of her sisters, Maruao sought out the curious man again. Though she knew it was forbidden, she reached out a hand to stroke his hair and his cheek, wanting to know if it felt like her own. Onoono was delighted and inspected her just as closely. They clasped hands and smiled at one another. Sensing that something was amiss, the sisters turned toward the couple and were aghast to see their fingers entwined. As they tried to run to the couple to separate them, all the women suddenly fell to the ground. The men watched in horror as the women began to transform into strange and savage four-legged beasts covered in fur and possessing multiple eyes. The beasts snarled and snapped their jaws then turned on the terrified men and chased them deeper into the island. Only Maruao, the sunrise bird, ran away from all of them with the Onoono trying to follow her.

The beasts cornered the men and viciously attacked them. The men tried to defend themselves, but in the end man and beast only succeeded in killing one other. Onoono, having lost track of the beast he had been chasing, stumbled upon this carnage and began to weep for his dead friends, blaming himself for the fate that had befallen them. Onoono sensed quiet footsteps behind him and turned to see the remaining beast stalking him, all traces of the woman and bird he had gotten to know seemingly gone. “Please,” he implored, “don’t kill me.” Maruao only growled in response. Onoono pulled out the knife he always kept with him as, with a howl, Maruao lunged at him.

Renzar and Talyah

Renzar’s eyelids grew heavy, his nose dipping low as his custom made spectacles began to slip off his face. The book of meditation practices he had been reading lay at his feet, neatly bookmarked. Focusing on the ebb and flow of his breathing and the clearing of clamoring thoughts cluttering his mind, he began to descend into a peaceful repose.

“Renz!” Talyah yelled, startling him out of his revery. Renzar snorted himself to wakefulness, his spectacles falling to the gold coin covered floor with a soft tinkling. He blinked at the general direction of the disturbance.

“Tal?” He asked, swiveling his head around, “is that you?”

“Who else would it be?” She demanded.  She sounded angry. Or merely awake. Hard to tell with her sometimes.

“Well, it’s not Tuesday, is it?” Renzar asked, still trying to get his bearings. He shrugged his shoulders, unfurling his massive wings slightly.

“No, it’s not.” The echo of her hesitant footfalls were muffled as she gingerly picked her way around the various treasures littered about the cavernous yet brightly lit hall.

Renzar turned toward her voice, rearranging his considerable bulk atop a shifting pile of coins and various other gold things. “So what are you doing here?” She tapped him on the fore hoof, hoisting up his spectacles with both hands. He lowered his head so she could secure them around his ears.

“I really must make a strap of some sort,” She muttered to herself. Renzar carefully adjusted the specs with a talon and grunted in satisfaction. His face contorted itself into what one could only assume was a smile.

Talyah, on the other hand, was not smiling. Renzar was a novice in the study of human behavior, but even he could tell that she was definitely not in the mood for an in-depth and insightful discussion about the many benefits of a regularly maintained meditation practice.

“Errrm… something wrong?” He asked solicitously.

“Besides everything?” She flung both her arms up and let them fall limply by her side.

“There can’t really be anything besides everything, can there? I mean, by definition, ‘everything’ means —-.”

“There’s a stupid prince after me,” she broke in, tucking her chin as low as she could and crossing her arms tightly across her chest. “Of the Charming line. You know them?”

He nodded in assent. “A persistent bunch.”

“A persistent annoying bunch,” she amended. “I have a couple of cousins who fell prey to their lot. Happily ever after my big fat —-“

Renzar made a rumbling sound in the back of his throat that sounded like the earth unfurling its limbs after a long nap.

“Eye,” she said. “I was going to say ‘eye’.” The dragon turned his head and stared at her with his unblinking amber colored eye. Talyah stared back for a beat before turning her head away, rubbing at her now watery eyes.  There was no out staring a dragon. “Anyway,” she continued. “I need you to kill him.”

“What?!” Renzar squeaked. Dragons don’t squeak but Renzar made an exception.

“Well, that’s what you do, innit? Princes come to slay dragons, dragons incinerate them. Wet, lather, rinse, repeat.” She brushed some dirt from her leather trousers in a manner Renzar would have thought to describe as “studious nonchalance.” Had he ever thought to describe her actions at all.

Renzar primly sat up to his full height, which was impressive even for a dragon, and pursed his lips. Inasmuch as a dragon can purse his lips or even has lips to purse.  “How long have we known each other?” He asked.

Talyah waved an arm. “Most of my life?”

“And how many princes have you seen me, how did you put it?  ‘Incinerate’?”

“None, but —-“

He silenced her with a raised talon.

“But,” she persisted, “It’s not as though I see you everyday. I don’t know what you get up to when I’m not around.”

“Oh, so I’m just roving the countryside, wantonly setting fire to princes, then?” Talyah shrugged. “Just a mad dragon scorching the earth and everyone on it for no discernible reason. I mean, how is this even a remotely appropriate thing to ask? Ludicrous,” he muttered and tossed his head. His pearlescent obsidian scales flashed a brilliant purple then turquoise and back to black again.

“So you’re not going to help me?” she asked incredulously.

“Why does ‘help’ in this case have to mean murder?” He demanded.

Talyah threw her head back in what Renzar surmised was frustration and made a gurgling sound in her throat while clawing the air. “Why do you always have to be so melodramatic?” She wailed. And before Renzar could object or even point out that between the two of them, she was the one more likely to be described as such, she barreled on. “Besides, you know how they are! They never take ‘no’ for an answer! Even if I ran away, assumed a new identity, cut off all my hair, he’d still find me!” She clenched and unclenched her fists and kicked at the coins by her feet as she paced to and fro.

Renzar made ready to launch into a tirade against her disrespectful treatment of his treasure, but just then they heard the echo of Talyah’s name being called by a rather robust baritone in a distinctly sing songy way. It set the dragon’s scales on edge.

“You led him here???” Renzar could barely contain his outrage. Had he a pearl necklace, he would have clutched at it.

“Of course I didn’t lead him here!” Talyah countered. “Not purposefully anyway. Must have tracked me here. I told you!”

Prince Charming found his way onto the balcony overlooking the great hall, spotted Talyah by the dragon and immediately drew his sword. “Foul fiend,” he bellowed. Talyah and Renzar rolled their eyes in unison. “Fret not, dear heart. I shall slay this beast and free you from its evil clutches!”

Talyah raised her eyebrows at Renzar and inclined her head ever so slightly. Renzar responded with an almost imperceptible shrug. “Dear heart?” He whispered.

“I told you he was an idiot,” she proclaimed in response; loud enough to ensure that the interloping prince could hear.

In an obviously well-rehearsed maneuver, Charming vaulted over the balustrade and leapt onto the pile of treasure below. However, in an unpracticed maneuver, the pile, not being as compacted as he expected and less inclined to be so agreeable, shifted dramatically beneath his weight exposing the hard stone slab underneath. And sadly for Prince Charming, he lost his footing all together, allowing his head to connect soundly with the unyielding stone. A loud and squealchy thud reverberated about the hall. Renzar and Talyah winced.

The duo slowly made their way toward Prince Charming’s now immobile body.

“Huh.” Talyah said.

“What?”

“Never seen a dead body before,” she said. “He just looks like he’s sleeping, no?”

“With his eyes open?” Renzar asked.

“Well.”

“And half his head caved in?” Talyah opened her mouth for a response, realized she had none and clamped it shut again. “With all this blood —-“

“All right already,” she snapped.

“I suppose it’s too late to inform him that I’m neither foul nor a fiend.” Renzar offered.

“I suppose so,” she agreed. “Although, he probably wouldn’t have believed you anyway.”

“No. He didn’t seem the type to listen to reason.  Especially from a dragon. Points for alliteration, though.” They stared at the corpse a while longer until Talyah broke the silence.

“Now what do we do?”

“‘We’??? When did this become a ‘we’ thing? You’re the one who brought him here!”

“I did no such thing! Besides, what do you want me to do? Carry him out of here, bury him in the backyard, then?”

“That sounds like a most excellent plan!” The dragon exclaimed.

“It’s a terrible plan!” The princess countered.

“Why? I mean, I’m sure your parents have taught you to clean up your own messes.”

“My parents are the King and Queen. You really think they would teach me that?”

“You see? That’s your problem. You expect everyone else to do your bidding. You never take responsibility for your own actions.” Renzar carefully pushed his spectacles up his nose. In all the excitement they had slipped off his ears and slid dangerously low.

 

“Oh, that’s my problem, is it?” She huffed, arms akimbo.

“One of them.”

Talyah paused. “You know what, I’m going to do us both a favor and ignore that. For now. Because right now my problem isn’t my shoddy upbringing or whatever it is you were implying. My problem is that Prince Charming is dead, and his people are going to come looking for him and if we, yes we, don’t do something about this,” she waved her hand at the corpse, “they’re going to track him here and to you. Which,” she snorted. “Is perhaps what you’ve been angling for all along. Forgive me, oh mighty one. I didn’t realize fending off hordes of sword wielding princes and other detritus hell bent on invading your pocket of paradise here was on this year’s to-do list.”

Renzar waited until the last echoes of her diatribe faded away. “Are you quite through?” He asked with maximum haughtiness.

“Could be,” she answered stiffly. He sat motionless. “So then?” She prodded.

“I could do with a little less sarcasm,” he muttered.

“Well, I could do with a little less dead and bloody prince staining the floors,” she shot back.

Renzar scowled at her. She was annoying when she was right. But to be fair, she was also annoying when she wasn’t right.

“Now,” she continued in a more measured tone. “I can get rid of him but not in his present state.” She stared at the dragon and wiggled her eyebrows. He gave her his best blank stare. “You know, if you were to …” She simulated filling up her lungs full of air. He remained still. She pursed her lips and made as if to exhale loudly. He continued to stare at her stoically. “With the fire and the … you know…” She trailed off.

Unlike the rest of his kin, Renzar greatly disliked breathing fire. Hated it even. He could count on two talons the number of times he had done so. Mostly because it gave him terrible dyspepsia and dried up his throat and sinuses something awful. It would take days of a steaming regimen and flavorless broth to remedy. But it was, apparently, a day of exceptions. He sighed in resignation and motioned for Talyah to step aside.

“Oh, wait!” She called out. Renzar clamped his mouth shut and nearly choked on the heat rising from his belly. He coughed out a puff of smoke. “Sorry,” she said as she came out from behind him. “I should probably hang on to your specs.”

“Why?” He strangled out as more smoke escaped from his mouth.

“Just in case.”

“Right,” he replied. He had no idea what she was on about but was loathe to spark another round of pointless arguments. He hoped the sooner he dispensed with this unpleasant business, the sooner he could return to his meditation practice. He lowered his head toward her, and she deftly removed the spectacles from his head. Talyah scampered behind Renzar as the dragon took a deep breath.

 

Renzar and Talyah

Renzar’s eyelids grew heavy, his nose dipping low as his custom made spectacles began to slip off his face. The book of meditation practices he had been reading lay at his feet, neatly bookmarked. Focusing on the ebb and flow of his breathing and the clearing of clamoring thoughts cluttering his mind, he began to descend into a peaceful repose.

“Renz!” Talyah yelled, startling him out of his revery. Renzar snorted himself to wakefulness, his spectacles falling to the gold coin covered floor with a soft tinkling. He blinked at the general direction of the disturbance.

“Tal?” He asked, swiveling his head around, “is that you?”

“Who else would it be?” She demanded.  She sounded angry. Or merely awake. Hard to tell with her sometimes.

“Well, it’s not Tuesday, is it?” Renzar asked, still trying to get his bearings. He shrugged his shoulders, unfurling his massive wings slightly.

“No, it’s not.” The echo of her hesitant footfalls were muffled as she gingerly picked her way around the various treasures littered about the cavernous yet brightly lit hall.

Renzar turned toward her voice, rearranging his considerable bulk atop a shifting pile of coins and various other gold things. “So what are you doing here?” She tapped him on the fore hoof, hoisting up his spectacles with both hands. He lowered his head so she could secure them around his ears.

“I really must make a strap of some sort,” She muttered to herself. Renzar carefully adjusted the specs with a talon and grunted in satisfaction. His face contorted itself into what one could only assume was a smile.

Talyah, on the other hand, was not smiling. Renzar was a novice in the study of human behavior, but even he could tell that she was definitely not in the mood for an in-depth and insightful discussion about the many benefits of a regularly maintained meditation practice.

“Errrm… something wrong?” He asked solicitously.

“Besides everything?” She flung both her arms up and let them fall limply by her side.

“There can’t really be anything besides everything, can there? I mean, by definition, ‘everything’ means —-.”

“There’s a stupid prince after me,” she broke in, tucking her chin as low as she could and crossing her arms tightly across her chest. “Of the Charming line. You know them?”

He nodded in assent. “A persistent bunch.”

“A persistent annoying bunch,” she amended. “I have a couple of cousins who fell prey to their lot. Happily ever after my big fat —-“

Renzar made a rumbling sound in the back of his throat that sounded like the earth unfurling its limbs after a long nap.

“Eye,” she said. “I was going to say ‘eye’.” The dragon turned his head and stared at her with his unblinking amber colored eye. Talyah stared back for a beat before turning her head away, rubbing at her now watery eyes.  There was no out staring a dragon. “Anyway,” she continued. “I need you to kill him.”

“What?!” Renzar squeaked. Dragons don’t squeak but Renzar made an exception.

“Well, that’s what you do, innit? Princes come to slay dragons, dragons incinerate them. Wet, lather, rinse, repeat.” She brushed some dirt from her leather trousers in a manner Renzar would have thought to describe as “studious nonchalance.” Had he ever thought to describe her actions at all.

Renzar primly sat up to his full height, which was impressive even for a dragon, and pursed his lips. Inasmuch as a dragon can purse his lips or even has lips to purse.  “How long have we known each other?” He asked.

Talyah waved an arm. “Most of my life?”

“And how many princes have you seen me, how did you put it?  ‘Incinerate’?”

“None, but —-“

He silenced her with a raised talon.

“But,” she persisted, “It’s not as though I see you everyday. I don’t know what you get up to when I’m not around.”

“Oh, so I’m just roving the countryside, wantonly setting fire to princes, then?” Talyah shrugged. “Just a mad dragon scorching the earth and everyone on it for no discernible reason. I mean, how is this even a remotely appropriate thing to ask? Ludicrous,” he muttered and tossed his head. His pearlescent obsidian scales flashed a brilliant purple then turquoise and back to black again.

“So you’re not going to help me?” she asked incredulously.

“Why does ‘help’ in this case have to mean murder?” He demanded.

Talyah threw her head back in what Renzar surmised was frustration and made a gurgling sound in her throat while clawing the air. “Why do you always have to be so melodramatic?” She wailed. And before Renzar could object or even point out that between the two of them, she was the one more likely to be described as such, she barreled on. “Besides, you know how they are! They never take ‘no’ for an answer! Even if I ran away, assumed a new identity, cut off all my hair, he’d still find me!” She clenched and unclenched her fists and kicked at the coins by her feet as she paced to and fro.

Renzar made ready to launch into a tirade against her disrespectful treatment of his treasure, but just then they heard the echo of Talyah’s name being called by a rather robust baritone in a distinctly sing songy way. It set the dragon’s scales on edge.

“You led him here???” Renzar could barely contain his outrage. Had he a pearl necklace, he would have clutched at it.

“Of course I didn’t lead him here!” Talyah countered. “Not purposefully anyway. Must have tracked me here. I told you!”

Prince Charming found his way onto the balcony overlooking the great hall, spotted Talyah by the dragon and immediately drew his sword. “Foul fiend,” he bellowed. Talyah and Renzar rolled their eyes in unison. “Fret not, dear heart. I shall slay this beast and free you from its evil clutches!”

Talyah raised her eyebrows at Renzar and inclined her head ever so slightly. Renzar responded with an almost imperceptible shrug. “Dear heart?” He whispered.

“I told you he was an idiot,” she proclaimed in response; loud enough to ensure that the interloping prince could hear.

In an obviously well-rehearsed maneuver, Charming vaulted over the balustrade and leapt onto the pile of treasure below. However, in an unpracticed maneuver, the pile, not being as compacted as he expected and less inclined to be so agreeable, shifted dramatically beneath his weight exposing the hard stone slab underneath. And sadly for Prince Charming, he lost his footing all together, allowing his head to connect soundly with the unyielding stone. A loud and squealchy thud reverberated about the hall. Renzar and Talyah winced.

The duo slowly made their way toward Prince Charming’s now immobile body.

“Huh.” Talyah said.

“What?”

“Never seen a dead body before,” she said. “He just looks like he’s sleeping, no?”

“With his eyes open?” Renzar asked.

“Well.”

“And half his head caved in?” Talyah opened her mouth for a response, realized she had none and clamped it shut again. “With all this blood —-“

“All right already,” she snapped.

“I suppose it’s too late to inform him that I’m neither foul nor a fiend.” Renzar offered.

“I suppose so,” she agreed. “Although, he probably wouldn’t have believed you anyway.”

“No. He didn’t seem the type to listen to reason.  Especially from a dragon. Points for alliteration, though.” They stared at the corpse a while longer until Talyah broke the silence.

“Now what do we do?”

“‘We’??? When did this become a ‘we’ thing? You’re the one who brought him here!”

“I did no such thing! Besides, what do you want me to do? Carry him out of here, bury him in the backyard, then?”

“That sounds like a most excellent plan!” The dragon exclaimed.

“It’s a terrible plan!” The princess countered.

“Why? I mean, I’m sure your parents have taught you to clean up your own messes.”

“My parents are the King and Queen. You really think they would teach me that?”

“You see? That’s your problem. You expect everyone else to do your bidding. You never take responsibility for your own actions.” Renzar carefully pushed his spectacles up his nose. In all the excitement they had slipped off his ears and slid dangerously low.

 

“Oh, that’s my problem, is it?” She huffed, arms akimbo.

“One of them.”

Talyah paused. “You know what, I’m going to do us both a favor and ignore that. For now. Because right now my problem isn’t my shoddy upbringing or whatever it is you were implying. My problem is that Prince Charming is dead, and his people are going to come looking for him and if we, yes we, don’t do something about this,” she waved her hand at the corpse, “they’re going to track him here and to you. Which,” she snorted. “Is perhaps what you’ve been angling for all along. Forgive me, oh mighty one. I didn’t realize fending off hordes of sword wielding princes and other detritus hell bent on invading your pocket of paradise here was on this year’s to-do list.”

Renzar waited until the last echoes of her diatribe faded away. “Are you quite through?” He asked with maximum haughtiness.

“Could be,” she answered stiffly. He sat motionless. “So then?” She prodded.

“I could do with a little less sarcasm,” he muttered.

“Well, I could do with a little less dead and bloody prince staining the floors,” she shot back.

Renzar scowled at her. She was annoying when she was right. But to be fair, she was also annoying when she wasn’t right.

“Now,” she continued in a more measured tone. “I can get rid of him but not in his present state.” She stared at the dragon and wiggled her eyebrows. He gave her his best blank stare. “You know, if you were to …” She simulated filling up her lungs full of air. He remained still. She pursed her lips and made as if to exhale loudly. He continued to stare at her stoically. “With the fire and the … you know…” She trailed off.

Unlike the rest of his kin, Renzar greatly disliked breathing fire. Hated it even. He could count on two talons the number of times he had done so. Mostly because it gave him terrible dyspepsia and dried up his throat and sinuses something awful. It would take days of a steaming regimen and flavorless broth to remedy. But it was, apparently, a day of exceptions. He sighed in resignation and motioned for Talyah to step aside.

“Oh, wait!” She called out. Renzar clamped his mouth shut and nearly choked on the heat rising from his belly. He coughed out a puff of smoke. “Sorry,” she said as she came out from behind him. “I should probably hang on to your specs.”

“Why?” He strangled out as more smoke escaped from his mouth.

“Just in case.”

“Right,” he replied. He had no idea what she was on about but was loathe to spark another round of pointless arguments. He hoped the sooner he dispensed with this unpleasant business, the sooner he could return to his meditation practice. He lowered his head toward her, and she deftly removed the spectacles from his head. Talyah scampered behind Renzar as the dragon took a deep breath.

 

The Witch in the Woods

The woman was studiously minding her own business when she heard a ruckus outside her house.  She cautiously cracked the front door open and peered out.  Two small children were voraciously stuffing fistfulls of the exterior wall into their maws.  The woman opened the door wider.  “Can I help you?” She inquired. The two children ceased their feasting, icing and cookie crumbs and dirt smeared across their faces and their hands.  The boy stepped in front of the little girl. The woman made note of their disheveled appearance.  “Have you two been in these woods all night? Would you like to come in?”  The little girl stared hungrily at the brightly lit interior of the house with big round eyes while the boy pushed her behind him as he backed away. “It’s nice and warm in here and I can make you some proper food,” the woman said.  The boy’s hand went to his stomach and he stopped in his tracks to look at the girl.  They had a short whispered consultation before slowly shuffling into the open doorway.  

“So,” the woman began, “you have any names?” She asked as she secured the door closed with several locks and latches. The children watched her warily in silence.  “Right,” she said.  “No first names. That’s smart.”  She made her way to the kitchen and told the children to make themselves at home.  They timidly sat at the kitchen counter, their heads swiveling and eyes darting all around the room.  “Looks much bigger on the inside, doesn’t it?” The woman set two plates of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and two glasses of milk in front of the children who eyed them with suspicion.

“Are you a witch?” The little girl blurted out which earned her a sharp pinch from the boy. “Oww!” She yelped.

“I’m sorry for my sister, ma’am,” the boy said.  “She doesn’t know any better.”  The little girl jutted out her lower lip and rubbed at the sore spot on her arm.

“No. I’m not a witch,” the woman said with a chuckle. “If you thought I was, why did you come inside?”

The boy chewed on his lip. “Only, you live in the middle of the woods in a gingerbread house.”

The woman nodded. “That I do.”

“They say there’s a witch who lives in a gingerbread house in the middle of the woods. Who eats children.”

“Who says that?”

The boy gulped.  “People.”

“Well, I don’t eat children. That’s disgusting. Besides, if you thought I would eat you, again, why would you come into my home?”

The boy blinked at her while the little girl suddenly produced a large hand cannon from somewhere in the folds of her dress. She rested it on the counter pointed directly at the woman’s chest and eyed the woman coldly.

“Nice place you got here,” the little girl said.

“It’s all right,” the woman responded coolly. 

“My brother and I have been looking for a new place to live ever since our cow of a stepmother forced our father to kick us out of the house.”

“Hmm, imagine that,” the woman murmured.

“So I think we’ll stay here a while.”

“Is that so?” The boy got up from his seat and approached her with some rope in his hands.

“What do you think, sis? The witch in the woods will fetch a good bounty,” he said.  

“She could. But I’m hungry for some real food and that oven looks pretty big,” the little girl said without taking her eyes off the woman.

When the boy got close enough, the woman quickly pulled him to the floor and snapped his neck before he could do anything but die with a look of surprise on his face. By the time the little girl had realized what was happening, the woman had already launched a knife at her, burying it cleanly into her forehead.

“Where do these damn kids keep coming from?” The woman asked the silent room.

The Witch in the Woods

The woman was studiously minding her own business when she heard a ruckus outside her house.  She cautiously cracked the front door open and peered out.  Two small children were voraciously stuffing fistfulls of the exterior wall into their maws.  The woman opened the door wider.  “Can I help you?” She inquired. The two children ceased their feasting, icing and cookie crumbs and dirt smeared across their faces and their hands.  The boy stepped in front of the little girl. The woman made note of their disheveled appearance.  “Have you two been in these woods all night? Would you like to come in?”  The little girl stared hungrily at the brightly lit interior of the house with big round eyes while the boy pushed her behind him as he backed away. “It’s nice and warm in here and I can make you some proper food,” the woman said.  The boy’s hand went to his stomach and he stopped in his tracks to look at the girl.  They had a short whispered consultation before slowly shuffling into the open doorway.  

“So,” the woman began, “you have any names?” She asked as she secured the door closed with several locks and latches. The children watched her warily in silence.  “Right,” she said.  “No first names. That’s smart.”  She made her way to the kitchen and told the children to make themselves at home.  They timidly sat at the kitchen counter, their heads swiveling and eyes darting all around the room.  “Looks much bigger on the inside, doesn’t it?” The woman set two plates of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and two glasses of milk in front of the children who eyed them with suspicion.

“Are you a witch?” The little girl blurted out which earned her a sharp pinch from the boy. “Oww!” She yelped.

“I’m sorry for my sister, ma’am,” the boy said.  “She doesn’t know any better.”  The little girl jutted out her lower lip and rubbed at the sore spot on her arm.

“No. I’m not a witch,” the woman said with a chuckle. “If you thought I was, why did you come inside?”

The boy chewed on his lip. “Only, you live in the middle of the woods in a gingerbread house.”

The woman nodded. “That I do.”

“They say there’s a witch who lives in a gingerbread house in the middle of the woods. Who eats children.”

“Who says that?”

The boy gulped.  “People.”

“Well, I don’t eat children. That’s disgusting. Besides, if you thought I would eat you, again, why would you come into my home?”

The boy blinked at her while the little girl suddenly produced a large hand cannon from somewhere in the folds of her dress. She rested it on the counter pointed directly at the woman’s chest and eyed the woman coldly.

“Nice place you got here,” the little girl said.

“It’s all right,” the woman responded coolly. 

“My brother and I have been looking for a new place to live ever since our cow of a stepmother forced our father to kick us out of the house.”

“Hmm, imagine that,” the woman murmured.

“So I think we’ll stay here a while.”

“Is that so?” The boy got up from his seat and approached her with some rope in his hands.

“What do you think, sis? The witch in the woods will fetch a good bounty,” he said.  

“She could. But I’m hungry for some real food and that oven looks pretty big,” the little girl said without taking her eyes off the woman.

When the boy got close enough, the woman quickly pulled him to the floor and snapped his neck before he could do anything but die with a look of surprise on his face. By the time the little girl had realized what was happening, the woman had already launched a knife at her, burying it cleanly into her forehead.

“Where do these damn kids keep coming from?” The woman asked the silent room.