The Conrad Consequences

by Richard Campbell

Conrad and the Prophesy

Good Fairyland was suffering a strange and rather undignified crisis. Everything had been going so well, Christenings were up and security had been intensified to the point where the Bad Fairies were seldom able to interfere. Of course few Royal babies were appearing, monarchies were falling by the wayside and being replaced by Republics at the drop of a hat, or rather, the drop of a crown, but with a change of policy and some clever publicity, Christenings attended by Fairies had suddenly become quite popular. The Old Guard bemoaned the fact that their services were now demanded by quite ordinary people and reminisced nostalgically about the good old days. But there was no doubt that the economy was on the up and up and life had improved for everyone. However, there is always something to spoil things, a fly in the ointment, so to speak, and this particular insect affected everyone in the Realm from the Fairy Queen downwards.

Conrad and Tinkerbeau were playing with their kitten which they had named, for some strange reason, Diddle. Where the animal had come from they had no idea. There were several cats in the Realm, Dick Whittington's lived close by, the beautifully dressed Puss whose footwear was hand made in Paris was seen frequently, plus there was the nautical cat who was married to an elegant and extremely musical owl. However, none of them, as far as the young fairies were aware, had kittens, so where this small stranger had originated was beyond them. Conrad was of the opinion that he was an illegal immigrant from the mortal world who had somehow managed to slip past customs and immigration.

Such things were not unheard of. There had been a major row some time previously when a refugee from Bad Fairyland had been granted asylum when the harrowing tale of her treatment by the Bad Fairy Queen (who was notorious for her bad temper and wicked ways) had become known. Public sentiment, however, had shifted when the asylee was accused of coming here and taking peoples' jobs after she attended her first Christening and conferred a gift of beauty on an extremely plain child who desperately needed it. Where did she get the wherewithal for such a substantial gift? The Good Fairies, whose noses had been put out of joint, were quick to point out that in the case of a commoner baby, which this one most certainly was, protocol dictated a far smaller offering. The arguments had escalated until the Queen had been forced—much against her will as she tried to keep out of politics—to intervene and settle the matter. The furore had diminished but was still rumbling in the background.

Whatever Diddle's status, it had been love at first sight when his soft cries had attracted their attention and it was a moot point as to whether Tinkerbeau and Conrad had adopted him or Diddle had adopted them. Because he might be subject to deportation, they told no-one of his appearance and smuggled him into their dell.

He was a delight, quickly learnt his name and responded to either of them calling, 'Hey, Diddle, Diddle, where are you kitty?' with quivering whiskers and delighted purrs as he emerged from whatever cosy corner he had found to snooze in. They loved playing with him but made sure their wings remained folded as he had a tendency to pounce gleefully on anything that moved. This was something of a problem at first because the excitement of rumouring always made their wings unfurl. The kitten seemed to understand how delicate they were and only patted them gently but to be on the safe side Tinkerbeau, who was a better speller than Conrad, came up with something that kept the little animal occupied, happy and contented when they were otherwise engaged.

The little feline, like every cat ever born, was intensely curious, poked his nose into everything and was never happier than when fiddling with their possessions. Not that they had many but dells, by their very nature, are full of all sorts of nooks and crannies so he was never bored and seldom ventured outside, not feeling the need to find other things to fiddle with.

Although they were amongst the first to notice the crisis several odd things happened before it really came to their attention.

For one thing, all was not well in Bad Fairyland. The Bad Fairy Queen, furious at the defection of one of her subjects and even more so at the subsequent granting of asylum and a pension by the Good Fairies, threw the tantrum to end all tantrums which sent her entire population cowering to the far corners of her dark realm. Not satisfied with that she decamped to the Balkans (which she had always disliked) and was so wicked there that the inhabitants (a self righteous group of environmentalists, with the accent on the mental) were left reeling and made up their minds to emigrate the instant they had packed their possessions and found a way through the unlikely barrier of thorns which surrounded the entire region.

Unfortunately for them, the mortal world, on discovering their intention, hastily threw up an even unlikelier barrier—thicker, stronger, and more prickly—added a moat filled with sharks, alligators, piranhas, crocodiles and anything else they could think of, and even debated hiring HT&CC (Hadrian, Trump & China Co) to build a wall around the perimeter of the moat. After all, nobody likes a killjoy.

Finding her palace deserted on her return the Bad Monarch flew into another rage and disdaining any form of persuasion, commanded the Bad Fairies to appear in her presence at once on pain of electrocution by lightning, drowning by flood, suffocation by tempest, and sundry other pains (to be specified later) up to and including dismemberment. Even more cowed, her minions assembled to receive a severe tongue lashing. She did have a rather peculiar tongue after all.

The only one to escape her rage was the Realm's one and only apprentice who being young and small was more agile than the rest. She was silly enough to think she'd got away with it, not being aware of her Queen's awesome powers of discernment, until she became the object of a spell that turned her into a dog to remind her of the respect due to her Sovereign. A rather peculiar animal to be sure, but nevertheless, a small dog of extremely dubious parentage.

Slightly mollified (the Queen was never averse to a little wickedness at other peoples' expense) but still angry enough to use language that no member of Royalty should be acquainted with, she turned back to her subdued entourage and finished her harangue by stating, "When I say jump, you cows will jump. The only thing you'll say is; jump over what, ma'am, and how high? And we'll start right away. Now jump!"

After receiving the obligatory questions, she indicated the Ministry Of Official Nastiness (MOON), and told them, "Over that. As high as you can and until I tell you to stop!"

So, in accordance with an ancient prophecy, disguised as a rather senseless rhyme for the amusement of small mortal children, each cow jumped over the MOON. The only one who didn't was the little dog who had of course been deprived of her wings during her transformation. However, she laughed uproariously in spite of her troubles. To see the bad fairies, who had always been mean to her, struggling over the ministry roof, panting, red faced from the effort and becoming more weary and clumsy by the second, was such fun she almost split her sides.

Meanwhile, the three occupants of a somewhat notorious dell were feeling a little peckish. Two of them had expended a considerable amount of energy rumouring, while the third had been running around like a mad thing under the influence of Tinkerbeau's spell. It was then that they struck the snag which was soon to become a national crisis. There were no spoons or dishes to be found. Feline and fairies gazed at each other in astonishment. There had been plenty of them at breakfast and a simple spell that even Conrad could cast had washed and put them away.

"Are you sure you got the spell right?" Tinkerbeau enquired.

"Of course I did. I've done it hundreds of times."

As his companion appeared doubtful, Conrad, anxious to vindicate himself, fetched a knife, fork and plate to demonstrate his expertise. For a few seconds, nothing happened apart from a small quiver. The three items, not having been in use, were sparkling clean already and didn't feel the need to indulge in further ablutions. They had been talking quietly and resented the interruption of what had been an interesting discussion on the snobbishness of Crown Derby, now made in Thailand, but which still considered itself better than anyone else, although the plate had remarked, misquoting a certain mortal playwright, 'if you drop them, do they not break?' However, a spell is a spell so they reluctantly washed themselves again and put themselves away.

"See! No problem. We'll just have to borrow some."

However, the neighbours had suffered a similar loss, as had not only the neighbourhood, but the entire Realm. It was unheard of—and highly inconvenient.

The Queen had arranged a formal banquet at which her Chef's world renowned soup—his own secret recipe, carefully made, delicately flavoured and appreciated by only the most exquisite of connoisseurs—was to be the starting course.

Utter disaster! There were neither dishes to serve it in nor spoons to eat it with. Rejecting with horror an ill conceived suggestion, which seared the Chef's soul, that it be served in cups or mugs—CUPS! MUGS!?!—he took to his dell and refused to be comforted. It was far too late to cancel the banquet so instead of the renowned soup, the catering staff had to serve sandwitches instead. Unfortunately, few of the diners appreciated the taste of either sand or witches, and definitely not when combined. The witches objected as well.

"Something has got to be done!" snapped the Fairy Queen as she contemplated the dismal remnants of her banquet. "And I mean now!" she snarled.

It was without precedent. She was an extremely gracious sovereign, carrying out her duties impeccably and with good humour, but this! It was simply too much! Particularly when she overheard the visiting Monarch, in whose honour the banquet was being held, remark to her consort in an indiscreet and rather too loud aside that she hadn't travelled all this way to eat exactly the same stuff she got at home.

The GOOF (Grand Officer Of Fairyland) cloaked himself in his dignity (it had become something of a bad habit of his) and wracked his brains to little effect. The only conclusion he could come to was that it was all Conrad's fault. Everything had been fine until Tinkerbeau had been despatched to fetch him from the Mortal world. He'd known right from the start that it was a mistake. And look at the result! Rumours about the pair had even reached Bad Fairyland and continued to grow, aided and abetted by the two young fairies themselves who didn't possess a buttercup's worth of discretion between them. Someone had even coined a new word for what they got up to—rumouring! And the rumour was that they rumoured all the time in that dell of theirs. If he ever laid hands on the coiner of the word, he would…he would…well he'd do something! If he had been a gambler instead of a gamboller he'd offer odds it was one of the wayward elves. It was just the sort if thing that would appeal to them.

Meanwhile back in the notorious dell, Conrad and his Twinkie felt they should do something about the situation. It didn't really affect them very much but Diddle was plainly missing his favourite dish which he tucked into happily several times a day, the recipe for which Conrad had got from the Queen's chef himself. Of course it needed tweaking to make it suitable for a kitten but Conrad had intoned the spell so often he could do it with his eyes shut and his mind on something else. As it turned out, that particular something else had been his fairy boy and deciding to change the word 'dish' to 'dishes' in the spell, to obviate the need to repeat it and thus leave more time for rumouring, had the unfortunate result of affecting every dish in the Kingdom. Even worse, his thoughts about Tinkerbeau had wormed their way into spell as well.

The results could hardly have been foreseen. Dishes had instantly fallen in love with spoons and unable to contain their passion long enough to become engaged in the conventional manner, persuaded them to elope. Not that it took much persuasion, spoons being the type of utensils that went into things without much—if any—thought, and thoroughly enjoyed stirring things.

Of course Conrad and Tinkerbeau had been totally involved in rumouring at that point and simply hadn't noticed when Diddle's dish ran away with the spoon next to it.

Thus the prophecy was complete.

Eventually, and in desperation, the Queen issued a proclamation offering a substantial reward to anyone who could effect a return of the missing utensils after it was discovered that no spell was able to duplicate the originals or to fashion new ones.

"Um, Twinkie," said Conrad in a tentative voice, "Do you think we should have a go and try to get them back? There is the reward, you know."

"What would we do with it? We've got everything we want and anyway, we don't even know what the reward is, except that it's substantial."

Conrad smiled at him. "You're everything I want, but, well, there's Diddle, you know."

"What about him?"

"Well, if anyone discovers he's here, they might send him back to where he came from."

"We don't know where he came from."

"Well, somebody might know and then, and then…"

Tinkerbeau looked grave. At least as grave as it's possible for a fairy boy to look—which isn't very. "You're right. If we managed it we could ask for him to stay as our substantial reward. But as we don't know how it happened in the first place…"

Conrad gulped. "I, er, think it might have been, er, me."

"Er, you?"

"Er, me."

"Er, really?"

"Er, yes. You see I wanted to use my wand and rumour with you…"

"You always want to use your wand," his fairy boy interrupted happily.

"…and I sort of changed Diddle's dish spell," he went on manfully, or rather boyfully.

"Er, oops! What did you change?"

Conrad explained.

The youngest and newest fairy, accompanied by his Fairy Boy and holding a small kitten waited anxiously until the GOOF, wearing an even more pained expression than usual, appeared to take them into the presence.

It had happened again, the Grand Officer Of Fairyland thought grumpily. What was the use of age, experience, and status in face of the tradition of the youngest succeeding when everyone else had failed? When he recalled the time and trouble he'd gone to when attempting the return of the dishes and spoons (and almost succeeding too!) he sighed. Some things never changed. Morosely he led them through the doors and up to the Fairy Queen who awaited them in full regalia, smiling graciously.

They took their places between the two sponsors. On their left was the Nautical Cat, while on the right was a magnificent Puss dressed to the nines including hand made boots. Both had happily agreed to sponsor the small immigrant when they realised that neither of their jobs were going to taken away by him as they didn't have jobs in the first place.

The ceremony went ahead. A very elegant Owl (the spouse of the Nautical Cat) sang beautifully, and finally Diddle was presented to her Majesty who touched him lightly on both shoulders with her wand (a somewhat different type of wand to Conrad's which wasn't waving at all just then).

Thus did Diddle, a lowly kitten of unknown origin and parenthood, become the latest addition to Good Fairyland and entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof.

Conrad and his Twinkie smiled happily at each other. It had really been very simple. All they had done was repeat the words of the prophesy backwards:

Spoon the with away ran dish the and
fun such see to laughed dog little the
moon the over jumped cow the
fiddle the and cat the diddle diddle hey.

Of course things were never quite the same afterwards. The dishes and spoons, although rather shattered by their brief period of unbridled love and passion, pulled themselves together and regained their strength so quickly it's best to daw a veil over what they got up to in dark cupboards after they had washed and put themselves away.

But to the amusement of the wayward Elves, and the absolute horror of the GOOF, rumours abounded!

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