The Conrad Consequences

by Richard Campbell

Conrad and the National Elf Service

The GOOF sighed. Why was it always left to him? He was a Grand Officer Of Fairyland of course, but none of his predecessors had ever had to face anything like this. He glanced at his dandelion clock and sighed again. Almost time for the meeting. Making his way to the Town Dell, he wondered what it was all about this time. It was unusual for the Bad Fairyland Ambassador to demand a meeting, but after her indignant missive had arrived he supposed it was inevitable.

Relations between Fairyland and Bad Fairyland had never been particularly good. He shuddered when he recalled the last Christening both had attended. The good fairies had come away from it successfully although he would never understand how, considering the quality of their last resort. And that was a tradition that would really have to go; that of the youngest always making good! Meanwhile he'd better gird up his loins to deal with the Ambassador. Although the diplomatic note had been somewhat obscure he had a bad feeling about it

It didn't take long before his forebodings became concrete facts. The BFA as she was known didn't Mince her Words, being, as she proudly made clear, not a WM (Word Mincer). He wished there was a cure for the Acronym Plague, it struck at will and few were immune to it but so far those who dabbled in alchemy (amusingly known as 'science' by the mortals, and fairies who should know better) had been unable to find a remedy. Be that as it may, there was no getting away from her words, minced or otherwise. Bad Fairyland was being brought into disrepute. This, she conceded, was perfectly alright when brought about by one of their own, but her Queen was both horrified and upset when it happened through the agency of another realm, particularly the one to which she had the honour to have been appointed Ambassador.

She was the master, or rather the mistress, of the obscure sentence, the hidden meaning, the cleverly disguised insult, and the velvet fist enclosed in the iron glove. What it came down to, however, was that rumours of certain goings on in a certain dell by two certain young fairies had not only taken her own realm by storm but threatened the very stability of all Fairyland itself. What, she went on, in an awful voice, had Good Fairyland, as represented by himself, been thinking to allow such happenings to take place? Was it symptomatic of a change of attitude, a deliberate and blatant encroachment in fact, on the rightful preserves of the Realm she had the honour to represent? Her Queen—All Praise to her Sublime Majesty, she murmured, one never knew when she might be listening—the very Heart, the very Soul of Reason and Understanding, had been devastated on hearing the tales and sought redress from the Realm that had permitted—nay encouraged!—the harrowing stories. Exaggerated, she had no doubt, but was there not usually a clarity of Truthful Fire behind the Smeary Smoke of Rumour?

And what the hell was he going to do about it? she demanded in a completely different tone of voice.

He finally managed to get rid of her after enduring a nauseating description of the Regret, Sorrow and Hurt felt by her Sovereign (whose wicked ways and evil temper were known to all and sundry).

Conrad and Tinkerbeau of course, it couldn't be anyone else, and what was he going to do about it? The two young fairies were so wrapped up in each other (quite literally if rumour was anything to go by) they were unlikely to listen to anything he said. In any case, he thought with irritation, where the hell the did the Queen of Bad Fairyland get off? If what he'd heard about what she did in the Balkans recently was even half true, she had no room to talk!

At the same time if the rumours had permeated up to her level, it wouldn't take much longer for them to reach the Mortal realm, and relations were difficult enough already without that.

One of the principal exports of Good Fairyland was attendance at Royal Christenings where gifts were conferred on the Christenee according to a strict and ancient protocol. Sadly, with the move towards Republicanism, Royalty was so much on the wane that the economy was in trouble. There was of course a strong belief in fairies but it simply wasn't the same as in the olden days. It had taken him some time to grasp the subtle difference, and remarks like 'damned fairies are everywhere these days' hadn't made a great deal of sense. He thought he had a handle on it now—was that the correct term? Mortalspeak was irritatingly obscure at times—epitomised by the goings on within Conrad and Tinkerbeau's dell, outside it, and at any and every opportunity.

After consulting his own Queen, who was not averse to Bad Fairyland being brought into disrepute—wasn't that what it existed for?—he was told to deal with the situation in any way he thought fit. After all that was what he received his enormous salary for. Just make sure that any solution was according to tradition. Far too many traditions were being ignored these days.

After some thought, he sent for Conrad.

"There have been rumours," he began.


"Yes rumours. About you."


"Please don't repeat everything I say," the GOOF said, without much hope, "Or we'll never get anywhere."


The GOOF sighed. It was a word that, in his opinion, well brought up young fairies didn't use. Then he remembered that Conrad hadn't been brought up in Fairyland in the first place and wondered if it would be possible to return him to his previous life. No, he concluded regretfully, the Queen would never agree. She was rather old fashioned in some ways.

"The rumours have even reached Bad Fairyland and their Queen has been in touch."

Conrad managed to stop himself in time and pretend he was clearing his throat.

"She says that you're bringing the whole of Fairyland, and her Realm in particular, into disrepute."

"Disrepute?" repeated Conrad, then added when he noticed the GOOF's pained expression, "What does disrepute mean?"

"It means that everyone is talking about the place in a bad way."

Conrad looked surprised. "Doesn't that happen anyway? I thought that was what it was there for."

"Of course it is, it's…well, never mind that. The thing is, she's not happy about it and when she's unhappy she likes to do something to make her happy again. Like she did recently in the Balkans."

"Boll cans? What do people put in the cans, bolls?"

"Bolls?" repeated the GOOF before he could stop himself.

"Yes, in the cans. Bolls. What are bolls anyway?"

"Not bolls, balls."

"Why on earth…" Conrad frequently reverted to Mortalspeak when under stress, the correct term of course being, 'Why on Fairyland' (pronounced 'WOFL' by victims of the plague), "…would people put balls in cans? What sort of balls? And whose?" he added apprehensively.

The GOOF blinked and shook his head. How had it come to this? "There are no balls and no cans. I said Balkans! It's a place, an area rather, in the East of the Mortal world. She goes there when she wants to do something especially wicked."

"Why?" demanded Conrad, with considerable relief. For a moment he'd been afraid…

"She hates it. Always has. And I don't know why," replied the GOOF before Conrad had a chance to ask. "Anyway, that's beside the point. The point is there are rumours and they have to stop so I have decided that you need some distraction. You and Tinkerbeau have far too much time on your hands. Idle hands do the Devil's work," he quoted, although not sure he was using the phrase in the correct context. On second thoughts, again according to rumour, a fair amount of hand work did go on in the notorious dell so the phrase was doubly appropriate, although as abstruse as most Mortalspeak.

Conrad flew back to the dell and complained bitterly to his fairy boy. "He said we've got too much time on our hands, but I don't think we have enough for things as it is." Tinkerbeau giggled as he always did when Conrad was whining. "So he's found us a job. We're going to work for the National Elf Service."

Tinkerbeau giggled again as he contemplated the idea of Conrad at work. "Wait a minute," he squeaked suddenly, "Did you say us?"


"You and me?"


"You and me both?"


"Both of us together?"


"Me too?"

"You got it!" Another mortalism of which the GOOF would have heartily disapproved.

"I don't need another job. I've already done one."

"I know," Conrad wrapped himself around his fairy boy, "And I love you for it."

Very much later, after adding to the rumour mill, Tinkerbeau asked, "What's the National Elf Service anyway?"

"I don't know. The GOOF went on so long I stopped listening and nearly fell asleep, but I think it's something to do with wayward Elves."

"All Elves are wayward, it's the way they are. They're born that way."

"He seems to think they shouldn't be and wants to change them. So he's set up this thing called the National Elf Service."

"They won't like it, you know. Nor will we."

"I'm not really worried, In spite of what he thinks we'll still have time for lots of rumouring."


"I think that's what he called it, I was thinking of you and wasn't listening."

"Was your wand waving?"

"It always waves when I think of you. And as I'm thinking of you right now…!"

Two young fairies reluctantly reported for work the following morning, both somewhat the worse for wear. They had felt the urge to make up in advance for possible deprivation just in case. The Departmental Dell wasn't particularly large, the housing crisis being what it was, and not overpopulated. They were the only employees. Their first act was one of defiance. Both refused to punch in the Dandelion Clock on the grounds that flowers had feelings too and always carried out their duties faithfully. The HOD (Head Of Department) had been dubious himself but the GOOF had assured him it was the way things were done. However, the clock had never forgiven him for being punched, which it considered a fearful insult, and in retaliation cleverly maintained two separate times, forcing him to work double the hours while his employees worked half. If that.

The first task assigned to them was to locate all the wayward Elves. As they were all wayward both by right and by birth, it wasn't difficult. The problem was what to do with them once located. In fact the located Elves welcomed them with open arms detecting, as if by magic, a certain waywardness in the fairy boys themselves, which was much to their taste. They swept the bemused pair off to a series of parties which had been going on for as long as elves had existed.

Elves, in spite of extremely strong constitutions, do have to sleep occasionally but only to regain sufficient energy to return to whatever party they're currently attending. Of course time out from partying is taken to enjoy parties of a different variety (a type well known to the fairy boys) but the seeds are always sown at the original party and then later, in whichever party they are partying with in private.

Tinkerbeau or Twinkie, as Conrad called him affectionately, and Conrad thoroughly enjoyed themselves returning to work late enough for the Dandelion Clock to grant them several hours of overtime even though the HOD still had many hours to go before finishing work for the day.

"Would you say we've got time on our hands now?" queried Tinkerbeau when they reached their dell.

"Quite a lot, and I'm wondering what to do with it."

The rumour mill sprang into action!

"What are we going to do about the wayward Elves?" a thoroughly rumoured fairy boy enquired later.

"Nothing," replied Conrad. "We like them as they are, don't we?"

"The GOOF won't be pleased. He's got plans to reform them."

"Fat chance!"

Translating this strange idiom with the ease of long practise, Tinkerbeau frowned. "But suppose he does. I think we should have a plan of our own."

"I know! We'll set up a secret National Elf Rescue Service, and every time he tries to unwayward one of them we'll rescue him and wayward him again."


"We'll just take him to another Elf party."

"I love it, as long as we do the rescuing before the GOOF and the HOD go too far."

"We'll spy on them," exclaimed Conrad excitedly, thrilled to follow an ancient and honourable tradition, "Then we can warn any wayward Elf they've got their eye on before they get their hands on him."

"I never knew a tradition like that existed," Tinkerbeau remarked after Conrad explained in more detail.

"Fairy spies are a mortal thing. You go to Cambridge University to learn how to become one."

The spies put their plan into action straight away. They would inform their employer of the name and location of a wayward Elf then, with the connivance of the Dandelion Clock, flit off on the pretence of going out to lunch, and warn the proposed victim. It worked very well due to the Dandelion clock (which had an astonishing ability to hold a grudge) who gave them as many lunch times as they needed.

On the odd occasion when a wayward Elf was too busy partying to heed the warning and ended up in the Unwaywarding Centre, they managed his rescue with the help of the Dandelion Clock which simply changed the time to a point before the arrest had taken place. The clock, which had faithfully carried out its duties until the HOD's punch brought it to its senses, had discovered that it had delightful, though long suppressed, criminal tendencies and thoroughly enjoyed being a co-conspirator. This left the GOOF worse off than before as the wayward elves, under considerable stress, relieved it by partying ever more frantically while Tinkerbeau and Conrad, with the connivance of the Dandelion clock, had even more time on their hands of which they took full advantage.

Altogether it was something of a relief when the Queen of Bad Fairyland, on a flying visit to the Balkans to do something wicked and deprived of her treat because the entire population—weary of her antics!—had emigrated, threw a monumental tantrum of such awesome power that the climate was permanently altered and the entire region became warm, pleasant, balmy and Mediterranean.

This was hailed with delight by a large and noisy group of mortals who went around proclaiming self righteously, "We told you this would happen, but would you listen? No you wouldn't and it serves you right. We've been warning you about Global Warming forever." Immensely pleased with themselves, and on the grounds that as it had already happened further change was unlikely, they packed all their belongings and went to live there.

Unfortunately for them, when her Bad Majesty became aware of their impudence in ascribing the change of climate to their own theories rather than to herself, she took considerable pains (visited on them frequently and rather painfully) to teach them the error of their ways and enclosed the whole area in an unlikely wall of impenetrable thorn bushes. This served two purposes. It gave her yet another reason, as if she needed one, to dislike the Balkans, and prevented the occupants from escaping when she was in the mood to do something wicked there.

The GOOF, following the hallowed mortal tradition of BBM (Burying Bad News), took advantage of the furore to disband and get rid of all traces of the Unwaywarding Centre, terminated Conrad and Tinkerbeau's employment and washed his hands of them. Then he spent several happy hours composing a strong (and most undiplomatic) Diplomatic Note which he delivered to the Bad Fairyland Ambassador personally, leaving that personage, for once in her life, entirely speechless and without a wing to fly on. Altogether, he mused, a very satisfactory conclusion all round.

Two happy fairy boys returned to keeping the rumour mill in full employment, the wayward elves relieved of the fear of being unwaywarded partied happily and the Dandelion clock, after its taste of rebellion, resigned its position.

Shortly afterwards It was granted the highest award the grateful elves could bestow, the SOAK and Bar (Service Of Absolute Kindness), the Bar part being carried out by a thorough soaking every day. In fact it never worked again, never had another dry day and lived a happy and sybaritic life until, much mourned by the elves who had become extremely fond of the old soak, it was carried off by an over indulgence of alcohol in its roots.

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