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Sneak Peek of Ivy and the Meanstalk

Below are the first three chapters of Ivy and the Meanstalk.  Warning: there are major spoilers for the first book.  If you haven’t yet read Ivy’s Ever After, I suggest you turn back now.  You can read Chapter 1 of that book here.

Chapter 1: Wedding Day Woes

I’m starting to attract bees, Ivy thought ruefully, making shooing motions at the black-and-yellow speck buzzing in the air over her left shoulder.  I wish Drusilla hadn’t insisted on an outdoor reception.

Sighing heavily, the princess stared in dismay at the bulky bridesmaid dress weighing her down like a sack of sour apples, a dress that her deliriously happy fairy godmother had conjured up that very morning. 

“I’ve had it planned for ages,” Drusilla had gushed.  “But I wanted it to be a surprise.  I can’t wait for you to see it.  It’s going to be the most beautiful bridesmaid dress ever!”

Unfortunately for Ivy, Drusilla’s idea of “the most beautiful bridesmaid dress ever” was a huge, poufy gown made entirely of fresh flowers—roses, gardenias, orange blossoms, hyacinth, and a long sash of curly green vine heavy with honeysuckle.  Drusilla had charmed the flowers so that they would remain fresh and sweet-smelling.  As an added touch, the fairy had enchanted over a dozen white butterflies to flutter gracefully around the colorful collection of blossoms, so no matter where Ivy went, she was always at the center of a swarm of bugs. 

Drusilla had nearly cried the first time she saw Ivy in the dress.  She had said it was as lovely as a field of spring flowers.  Ivy thought it was the most hideous thing she had ever seen, except for maybe the giant spider she had once gotten an extremely close look at when it had tried to eat her.

But Drusilla’s worth it, the princess reminded herself, flooded with a mixture of fondness and resignation.  I want her to have the perfect wedding, even if it means having to wear this nightmare of a dress.

One good thing about having the reception outdoors, besides the glorious spring weather, was that Elridge was able to attend.  Elridge would have never fit inside the castle.  While a relatively small dragon, he still was very nearly the size of the castle’s gatehouse.  But here in the castle garden, he could linger by Ivy’s side and watch wedding guests dance to a lively tune played by a quartet of musicians.

“Mother sends her apologies for not coming,” said Elridge, thumping his tail in time to the music, causing nearby flowerpots to jump every time it struck the ground.  “She’s still not very comfortable spending time in the valley.”  Ivy knew that Elridge’s mother, the fearsome Dragon Queen, was still getting used to the idea that the humans of the valley kingdom of Ardendale were no longer her mortal enemies. 

“Luckily, as the new Dragon Liaison to Ardendale, I can attend as her official representative,” Elridge said proudly.  Small and somewhat timid, Elridge had always been an embarrassment to the rest of the dragons who lived in the Smoke Sand Hills, even to his own mother.  But since helping to bring peace between the humans and the dragons, and even learning to read, Elridge was now looked upon with a great deal of respect.  He was extremely pleased when the Dragon Queen had seen fit to name him the official Dragon Liaison to Ardendale, especially as it gave him an excuse to spend even more time with his dear friend Ivy. 

“Mother did send a goatskin gravy boat as a wedding gift for Drusy and Boggs.  She’s been saving it for a special occasion.  Oh, dear me, you don’t think they already have one, do you?”  Elridge’s scaly brow creased with concern.

“I’m pretty sure they don’t,” Ivy assured him, “although I wouldn’t tell Toadstool what it’s made from.”  She glanced over to where Drusilla’s beloved pet pixie goat lounged on the sun-warmed stones of the garden walkway, eating stuffed mushrooms off a silver platter set out especially for her.

“No, of course not.  Wouldn’t want to upset her delicate sensibilities or anything like that,” grumbled Elridge.  Unlike normal goats, Toadstool had the gift of speech, a fact that Elridge often bemoaned, given how much the spoiled, bad-tempered creature complained.

Ivy’s gaze drifted to the stretch of grass serving as a dance floor.  “How come Drusilla gets an amazing dress while I’m stuck looking like I need to be pruned?” she asked wistfully.  Her godmother, spinning with her new husband in the center of a circle of dancers, looked more beautiful than usual, if that was even possible.  Her loose, snow-white hair shimmered like ice crystals in the spring sunshine.  Her long, flowing gown was just as glittery, catching the light with diamond sparkles.  The only spots of color against Drusilla’s fair skin and white gown were her beautiful violet eyes.  As always, she glowed with magic and light.  Boggs, the castle’s very aged—and very human—gatekeeper, was quite a contrast to his youthful fairy bride.  He loved Drusilla dearly, however, and she was never happier than when showered with his affection.

“Look at the bright side.  At least you smell like gardenias,” said Elridge.  “I love the smell of gardenias.”  The dragon leaned close and inhaled appreciatively.  He promptly started coughing.

 “Sorry . . . ugh, I think I just breathed in a butterfly.”  The dragon snorted loudly, and a white butterfly popped out of one of his melon-size nostrils.  Startled, the butterfly fluttered in place for a moment before returning to its post, flitting around Ivy’s fragrant gown.

“I wish Drusilla had told me what she had planned for my bridesmaid dress,” complained the princess.  “I would have tried to talk her out of it—or at least convince her to leave off the butterflies.”  She brushed at one of the pesky creatures fluttering so close to the side of her head that its wings tickled her ear.  “But at least I had fun helping with the wedding arrangements.” She broke into a sunny smile.  “It took us weeks to get the menu just right.  Drusilla was extremely particular.  It drove Cook batty.”  The princess giggled at the memory of the castle cook throwing up her flour-dusted hands when Drusilla insisted that the fruit tarts be garnished with golden raspberries instead of red ones, to match the yellow peonies in her bridal bouquet.  “But the food turned out wonderful, didn’t it?”

“It is really good,” Elridge agreed with enthusiasm.  “I ate four roast pigeons, a rack of lamb, and two stuffed piglets all by myself.  And who knew liver could be so tasty?  After today, I won’t need to eat again for a week, maybe two.”  The dragon patted his belly contentedly.  Now that he was spending time with humans, Elridge was branching out from the typical dragon’s diet of wild goat.  “Drusy probably shouldn’t have pulled you from your studies so much, though,” he said, his face suddenly serious.  “Tildy was really upset that she had to postpone your geography lesson three times so you could help Drusy pick ribbon colors.”

The princess felt a twinge of guilt at the mention of her nursemaid.  “I know Tildy means well, but if she had it her way, I’d do nothing but study all day.  Ever since Father said I was to inherit the throne, she hasn’t given me a moment’s peace.”  Ardendale had always been ruled by a king.  Daughters didn’t typically ascend the throne, but after Ivy—with Elridge’s help—had saved the kingdom from certain destruction at the hands of an evil prince, her father had proclaimed her a worthy successor.  “I don’t understand why she gets her stockings in such a bunch.”  Ivy waved a hand dismissively, agitating two butterflies in the middle of circling her sleeve.  “I can have lessons any old time.  It’s not every day that Drusilla gets married.”

“But it isn’t just wedding preparations that have been keeping you from your studies, is it,” persisted Elridge.  “What about last week, when you were supposed to read those north prickly pear confections, and we flew up to Cradle Lake to watch fidget flies instead?” 

“The Prickly-Aldwin North Interkingdom Conventions,” Ivy corrected, making a disagreeable face.  “They’re hundreds of pages long, Elridge, and all about boring stuff like peace alliances and interkingdom relations.”

The corners of the dragon’s mouth sagged in a guilty frown.  “Still, I shouldn’t have let you and Drusilla talk me into going.  It could have waited until after you finished your assignment.”

“Fidget flies only live for a few hours after they hatch.  We would have missed the clouds of them dancing all over the lake if we had waited.  And Drusilla hadn’t seen fidget flies in over fourteen years.  They don’t have them on the Isle of Mist, you know.”  Drusilla had served as fairy godmother to the royal princesses of Ardendale for as long as anyone could remember.  But her last goddaughter, Ivy’s mother, had died when the princess was born, and Drusilla had been so overcome with guilt that she had fled the human world to the Isle of Mist, a magnificent, underground fairy kingdom.  It seemed the perfect place to escape her grief.  On the Isle of Mist, all fairies did was feast and celebrate.  They never thought about anything unpleasant, and their biggest worry was when the next party would be.  It was only six months ago, shortly after Ivy’s fourteenth birthday, that Drusilla had left this frivolous existence and returned to Ardendale to resume her role as Ivy’s fairy godmother and reunite with her true love, Boggs.

“Fidget flies dance every year,” Elridge said matter-of-factly.  “It’s not like this was her last chance to see them.”  A furrow formed between his eyes.  “Drusilla really should do more to encourage your studies.  I know fairies like to enjoy themselves, but life isn’t all fun and games.”

“At least Drusilla knows how to have fun,” retorted Ivy, thinking perhaps Elridge’s new post as Dragon Liaison to Ardendale might be going to his head.  “Lately, all everyone else does is throw lessons and lectures at me.”

She hoped Elridge would pick up on her not-so-subtle hint, but the dragon plowed on, undeterred.  “I don’t know why you hate studying so much, anyway.  You love books.  You were the one who taught me to read.”

“I love stories,” corrected the princess, exasperated.  “Tales, adventures, exciting things.  Interkingdom conventions hardly make for riveting reading.”

“Well, you have to admit, Tildy has a point.  If you’re going to rule Ardendale one day, there are important things you need to know.”

“You’re starting to sound just like her,” muttered Ivy.  “You worry too much, Elridge.  It’s Drusilla’s wedding day.  We should be enjoying ourselves.”  She gave the dragon her most pleading look, pouting pathetically and blinking up at him imploringly.  It was a look that had always worked on her father when she was small.  “Pleeeeease?”

Elridge tried very hard to hold his stern expression, but the corners of his mouth twitched.  Then his face split into a toothy grin.  “Oh, all right,” he said with a good-natured laugh.  “But please stop making that ridiculous face.”

Chapter 2: A Visitor at the Gate

“Hullo, Ivy.”

The princess turned toward the friendly voice and found the castle’s stocky stable boy, Owen, strolling up from the opposite end of the garden.  She was surprised by how nice he looked, his clothes clean and his curly red hair neatly combed for once.  Usually, Owen was busy working in the stables and was covered in dirt and hay.

Ivy realized she was still making the silly, pouty face that she had given Elridge.  Horrified, she quickly sucked in her lower lip and tried to act casual.  “Oh hello, Owen,” she said breezily.

Elridge glanced back and forth between the princess and the stable boy with a strange expression on his long, reptilian face.  He suddenly seemed a bit embarrassed to be there.

“Um . . . I think I’m going to . . . uh, get a piece of that delicious-looking cake.  Yes, that’s it—a nice piece of cake.” The dragon hurried off in the direction of Drusilla’s five-tiered white wedding cake, which was the size and shape of a large fountain.  Vanilla sauce actually spouted from the top and flowed down the sides in white cascades.

“It was a nice ceremony,” Owen said in a cheerful voice.  “I’ve never seen Drusilla glow so brightly, and Boggs has been grinning like a barn cat getting his belly scratched all day.”  Two rosy spots suddenly appeared high on the stable boy’s cheeks, the color very nearly matching his hair.  “And you . . .you look very . . .”

Ivy shifted, suddenly feeling sillier than ever.  “Foolish?  Absurd?  Ridiculous beyond words?”

“I was going to say flowery.” Owen laughed.  “Really, Ivy, the dress isn’t that bad.”

“Easy for you to say.  You don’t look like a walking shrub.”  The princess sighed.  “But don’t say anything to Drusilla.  I told her I loved it.”  Ivy let her eyes wander to the dance floor once more.  “And I really shouldn’t complain.  I mean, Drusilla and Boggs do look really happy, don’t they.  Drusilla was thrilled to finally have a wedding.  Do you know she’s been engaged twenty-four times?”

Owen looked stunned.  “Really?”

“Well, Drusilla is hundreds of years old,” said Ivy.  “And you know how much bad luck she’s had when it comes to relationships.”  The princess thought of how her godmother was always spouting off about her countless failed romances.  Ivy caught Owen’s eye, and they both burst out laughing.

“All kidding aside, I think you look very nice.” Owen shuffled his ungainly feet.  “I’d ask you to dance, but I’m not sure I could put my arms around you without squashing a couple of poor butterflies.”

Ivy didn’t know what to say.  The idea of Owen’s arms around her was alarming and yet, at the same time, just the tiniest bit . . . nice.  She flushed with embarrassment.  “I’m a lousy dancer, anyway.”

“Me too,” said Owen.  He cleared his throat uncomfortably.  “Maybe Elridge has the right idea.  Want to get some cake?”

Relieved, Ivy agreed at once.  The two of them made for the banquet table near the boxwood hedge, passing Toadstool on the garden walkway.  The tiny goat immediately released a volley of squeaky sneezes.

“Didn’t I tell you not to come near me in that dress?” she whined in her nasally voice, shooting the princess a nasty look.  She had a golden bow around her neck for the occasion, but the look on her stubby face was anything but festive.  “You know I can’t tolerate dirt—or anything that grows in it.”  Up until six months ago, Toadstool had lived with Drusilla on the Isle of Mist, where everything was made of quartz and crystal, even the trees.  She hadn’t taken well to the “dirty” green world aboveground.  “I just stopped sneezing from all the grass out here—why anyone would put grass in a garden is beyond me—and now you’ve gone and made my eyes water and my nose get all drippy again.”  She sniffled intensely, as if to prove how much distress she was really in.

“Sorry,” said Ivy, and she and Owen hurried away from the querulous little goat as quickly as possible.

Elridge was chewing on a large chunk of wedding cake—one whole tier, from the look of it.  Ivy’s friends Rose and Clarinda were at the banquet table, too, but they had considerably smaller slices.  Rose looked lovely in a dress of dark blue, with matching ribbons in her golden curls.  The dark-haired, soft-spoken Clarinda looked equally fetching in lace-trimmed mauve.

“Oh good,” said Rose, bubbly with her usual high spirits.  “We were about to sit down and eat our cake.  You’re just in time to join us.”

“I don’t think Ivy can sit in that dress,” Clarinda said, eyeing the princess’s gown with concern.  “All the flowers on the back will be crushed.  Probably some butterflies, too.”

“I didn’t think about that.” Ivy groaned.  “Great, I’ll just have to stand for the rest of the day.  And my feet are already killing me.”  Drusilla had magically enlarged two lady slipper orchids for Ivy to wear.  They were terribly uncomfortable; pebbles poked straight through the delicate bottoms and into the princess’s feet.

Elridge swallowed a mouthful of cake so large that Ivy could see a bulge travel down his throat.  “Maybe you can lean against a tree,” he suggested, licking vanilla sauce off one of his claws.  “Just with one shoulder—very carefully.”

“And maybe we shouldn’t stand so close to you,” said Rose, glancing down at her plate.  “A butterfly almost got stuck in the icing on my cake—and here comes another bee!”

For about the hundredth time that day, Ivy wished she were wearing something normal.

“Ivory!  Princess Ivory!” A voice cut through the crowd as sharply as a brass bell.  Ivy knew its source at once.  Tildy was the only person who ever called her by her full name.

“There you are!” The nursemaid swept up from the direction of the castle.  Her plump form was draped in a periwinkle gown, and her graying hair was neatly pinned to the back of her head.  Ivy caught a whiff of the lavender water she always washed in.  “I need you to run and fetch your godmother,” she commanded in a rather pinched tone.  “There is a man asking for her at the castle gate.”

“For Drusilla?” Ivy was puzzled.  “But it’s the middle of her wedding reception.  Are you sure he isn’t looking for someone else?”

“Quite sure,” Tildy replied testily.  “Only your godmother would know someone this odd.”  Tildy thought Drusilla was as flighty as fairy dust and only tolerated her because she was Ivy’s godmother.  “He looks rather . . . frazzled.  Thinks he can just show up in the middle of a wedding reception and insist upon seeing the bride.  Really, some people have no sense of propriety!  He’s clearly not a man of breeding.  Best get Drusilla out there before he stirs up any trouble.  I asked him to wait outside the castle gate, just to be safe.  He said Drusilla would know him,” Tildy continued primly.  “His name is Gizzle the Green.”

Chapter 3: Gizzle the Green

When Drusilla heard the visitor’s name, her fair face went even paler than usual.

“Gizzy, here?”  Her normally lovely bell-like voice sounded tight and strained.  “But . . . how?  Why?  I mean, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of that maddening mage in centuries, and then he just shows up out of the blue on my wedding day.  Did he say what he wants?” Her violet eyes were as wide as medallions.  She seemed nervous—frightened even—which was most unlike her.  Ivy had seen her fairy godmother stare down the ferocious Dragon Queen without batting a beautiful eyelash.

“I don’t know what he wants,” Ivy said.  “I figured he was a friend of yours.”

“No,” said Drusilla, a little too quickly.  “Not a friend, exactly . . . although he and I were once close . . . a very, very long time ago.”  She looked away guiltily.

“He’s one of your old sweethearts!” Ivy exclaimed, a little louder than she had intended.

Shhhhhh.  Keep your voice down,” Drusilla hissed, lowering her own to an urgent whisper.  She shot a furtive glance toward the dance floor.  Boggs was out there, enjoying a waltz with one of the serving girls from the castle kitchen.  “Oh, this could be a huge disaster.  I hope Gizzy’s not here to ruin my wedding day.  We didn’t exactly part on good terms.”  Drusilla moaned and buried her face in her hands.  “And he wasn’t just a sweetheart.  We were supposed to get married.”

Ivy drew a sharp breath.  “What happened?”

“Gizzle’s job is very important to him,” Drusilla said bitterly, lifting her head.  “He said he loved me, yet he spent more time at work than he did with me.  I called off the wedding.  I bet he’s still angry.  He always was the type to hold a grudge.  What if he makes a scene in front of my guests?  My beautiful wedding will be ruined.  Oh Ivy, what am I going to do?”  Drusilla’s violet eyes were bright; she looked ready to cry.

“You have to talk to him,” said Ivy, laying a comforting hand on her godmother’s shoulder.  “We can’t just leave him standing outside the castle gate.  Besides, maybe he dropped by to say hello because he just happened to be in the neighborhood.”  She tried to keep her tone light, but the words sounded unconvincing even to her.  Ardendale was an isolated valley.  No one ever “just happened to be in the neighborhood.”

“Yes, you’re right, of course.  I’m sure it’s no big deal.” Drusilla took a steadying breath, then she lunged forward and seized one of Ivy’s hands in both of her own, gazing at the princess with large, pleading eyes.  “Ivy, come with me?  I don’t think I can face Gizzy alone.”

Ivy swallowed with difficulty.  She had heard enough of Drusilla’s stories to know that a good number of her godmother’s old suitors were . . . well, odd was the only word for it.  Wizards, weather warlocks, knights errant, monarchs, fairy fire mages, mimes, and mortals of rather dubious natures—including pirates and spice smugglers—had all courted Drusilla at one time or another.  She wasn’t sure that she wanted to meet one of them, but she didn’t have the heart to say no.

“Of course,” she said, pushing her reluctance aside.

“Oh, thank you, Ivy,” gushed Drusilla, still clinging to her hand like a miser to his last coin.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Ivy gave her godmother a reassuring smile.  “Everything will be fine,” she said, “you’ll see.”

Once the princess set eyes on Gizzle the Green, however, she wasn’t so sure.


Tildy hadn’t been exaggerating when she said the man outside the castle gate looked frazzled.  Long mousy hair hung about his face like a curtain, with the stub of a nose poking through the part in the middle.  It did a poor job of hiding the sorry state of his face, for through the greasy strands of hair Ivy could see scratches on his pale cheeks and a purple bruise beneath one eye.  His green robes were torn, and his calloused hands clung to a twisted ashwood staff.  Ivy blinked, for before her eyes the staff was sprouting, shooting out twigs, branches, and leaves that grew larger and larger, all stretching out as if to caress the man’s battered face.

“Drusilla,” he said, eyes lighting up as he caught sight of Ivy and her godmother approaching the gate.  He limped forward to meet them, leaning heavily on his staff.  As the edges of his robes pulled away from his mud-splattered boots, Ivy could see a crescent-shaped scar on his left leg.  It was a strange wound, made up of what looked like dozens of little punctures.  Judging from the still-oozing scabs, the injury was fairly recent.

“Gizzy,” Drusilla replied, forcing a smile.  “How nice to see you after all this time.”

“Yes,” agreed the man.  “What’s it been—eight, nine hundred years?”

“Something like that,” said Drusilla.

“You’re looking as lovely as ever,” he remarked, taking in the fine figure she cut in her dazzling white wedding dress.

“Thanks,” said Drusilla, shifting uncomfortably.  “And you look . . . um . . . well.”  She purposely averted her eyes from his torn robes and bloody leg.

The branches on the man’s staff had now grown so long, it looked as if he were holding a small sapling.  Leaves were stroking his face lovingly.

Pfffft.”  He spit away a cluster that brushed against his lips.  “Get off me, you deciduous delinquent.”

It was then that Ivy heard a rustling sound and noticed a strange tugging sensation come over her body.  Looking down, she saw that the hundreds of flowers on her dress had turned their tiny heads toward the man, stretching and straining as if desperate to reach out and touch him.  The honeysuckle sash at her waist actually started to grow, until the green ends reached the ground and snaked out toward him.  The butterflies were greatly alarmed; they flapped their wings wildly, but Drusilla’s charm held them firmly in place.

“Sorry about that,” said the man, noticing the effect he was having.  “Plants can sense sources of green magic.  They’re quite drawn to me.  Gets a bit bothersome sometimes.”  He slapped away another affectionate branch.

“This is my goddaughter, Ivy,” said Drusilla.

“Ivy.” The man nodded approvingly.  “Hedera helix.  Fine ornamental climber.”

“If you say so,” said Drusilla.  She turned to the princess.  “Ivy, meet Gizzle the Green.  He’s from the North Continent.  He’s Assistant Head Plant Mage at the Blooming Brightly Institute of Magical Flora.”

Former Assistant Head Plant Mage at the Blooming Brightly Institute of Magical Flora,” Gizzle corrected.  He drew himself to his full height and puffed out his chest importantly.  “I struck out on my own some time ago.  Nothing new or exciting ever happened at B.B.I.M.F., what with that bunch of flower-happy old biddies running the place.  All they ever wanted to do was cultivate new varieties of magical flowers:  magical Bellis perennis, magical Lathyrus odoratus, magical Convallaria majalis.  And don’t get me started on the magical marigolds.  I mean, really, how many types of enchanted Tagetes patula does the world really need?  I wasn’t about to squander any more of my precious time growing marigolds that sparkled or blew bubbles.  I had far more important work that needed my attention.”

By this time, the vine at Ivy’s waist had grown almost long enough to touch the edge of Gizzle’s tattered robes.

“Fine specimen of Lonicera periclymenum,” he said, glancing down at it.  He eyed the rest of Ivy’s dress critically.  “Would you like me to give you something to take care of that nasty infestation?”

“I conjured up those butterflies, and I think they’re beautiful!” Drusilla’s voice tightened with indignation.

“Oh yes—of course they are,” Gizzle said hurriedly.  “Very lovely.”

But Drusilla seemed to have lost all patience for niceties.  “So Gizzle, what brings you to Ardendale—on my wedding day?” she asked bluntly.

It was Gizzle’s turn to look uncomfortable.  “Well, I know things didn’t end very well between us,” he said, “and I figured it was time to bury the hatchet.  Not long ago, I visited the Isle of Mist.  I heard from some of your fairy friends that you were getting married, so I thought I’d stop by to offer my congratulations and let you know that I forgive you for . . . for . . . for breaking our engagement and tossing me aside like some lowly weed you yanked from the garden of your heart.”  The corner of his bruised eye started to twitch, and Ivy couldn’t help thinking that he didn’t sound very forgiving at all.  “I mean,” he added quickly, “for things not working out between us.”  He fumbled in the pockets of his robes and drew out a loop of multicolored beads.  “I even brought you a little present, just to show there are no hard feelings.”

“That was sweet of you, Gizzy,” said Drusilla, looking hugely relieved. 

“It’s a necklace,” said the plant mage.  “I made it myself.”

Drusilla examined the small beaded necklace with interest.  “These beads look familiar,” she said.  “I think I’ve seen something like them before.”

“No, you haven’t,” snapped Gizzle.  “Wh-what I mean is, those beads are very, very rare.”

Drusilla slipped the strand onto her delicate neck.  “Thank you, Gizzy,” she said.  “Would you like to come into the garden for a slice of wedding cake?”

“No, thank you,” said Gizzle.  “I must be off.  I have important work waiting for me.  It was nice seeing you again, Drusilla.”  He turned to leave, but Ivy’s honeysuckle sash had coiled tightly around his ankle.  The princess had to give it several solid tugs before it finally let go.  With a brief nod of good-bye, Gizzle turned and hobbled toward the road.  It was slow going, between his limp and the fact that his staff was now the size of a small tree.  Branches were starting to wrap around his neck, choking him in a leafy hug.  He had to stop to pry them off before continuing.

“Gizzy always was all work and no play,” said Drusilla.  “I don’t know what I ever saw in him . . . although he did bring me the most beautiful flowers.  For the record, I really like magical marigolds.”  She watched Gizzle’s retreating form thoughtfully.  “His work must be a lot more exciting these days.  He never used to get roughed up like that at B.B.I.M.F.”

Ivy hadn’t cared for the moody little plant mage and was glad he was gone.  The flowers on her dress had finally settled down.  She turned to walk back to the castle garden with her godmother, being careful not to trip over her honeysuckle sash, which trailed behind her like a curly green kite string.

“You were right, Ivy,” said Drusilla, as they entered the garden.  “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.  I even got a gift for all my trouble, although these beads don’t go very well with my wedding dress, do they?”

Ivy leaned over to examine the necklace.  “If it weren’t for all the strange colors, I’d say they looked like beans,” she said.

“It would be just like Gizzy to use beans to make jewelry,” said Drusilla, rolling her violet eyes.  “He always did have all sorts of seeds and shoots lying around.”

They passed Toadstool, still lounging on the stone walkway with her eyes closed.  Her platter of mushrooms was empty, her belly was bloated, and her mouth curved in a satisfied smile.  The ribbon around her neck was half undone, the ends stained with juniper sauce.

“Oh Toady-Woady, your pretty ribbon is ruined,” cried Drusilla.  She quickly bent and pulled it free.  Slipping off Gizzle’s necklace, she fastened it around the goat’s little neck like a collar.  “There, it looks much better on you, my lovely little darling.”  The fairy leaned down and planted a kiss on top of the goat’s bristly white head.

Toadstool was so comfortable and content, she didn’t even crack an eye.

Text Copyright© 2011 by Dawn Lairamore. All Rights Reserved.