(A short children’s story By Cassie Borodenko)
Jenny and her brother Josh lived in a rather old house in a lovely little English village. Their dad had left when they were still babies, leaving them to live with Melody their mother. She didn’t really care about her children, all Melody was interested in was pretty clothes, dancing and parties. She didn’t feed her children or help them to get dressed, so Jenny and Josh had to learn how to look after themselves from a very young age.
The only good thing that Melody did for her children was to take them to school every day. There, the children were given food to eat, had kind teachers, interesting lessons and plenty of friends to play with. But they were sad because their mum would never let them visit their friends after school or invite people to visit because it would interfere with her own social life. Jenny and Josh would often dream about being adopted by a nice mum and dad, who would look after them properly.
One sunny day, on the way home from school, Jenny and Josh found something interesting hidden in some bushes. They picked it up in amazement, finding it to be a shiny, orange coloured egg, the size of a football.
“Wow!” Josh exclaimed, “We should cook this for our dinner when we get home.”
So the children picked up the egg and hid it in Josh’s school bag. They continued to follow their mum who was waltzing on ahead of them.
When they got home, they went straight to the kitchen, where they filled a large pot with water, and carefully lifted it up to the stove. They dropped the egg in the pot and waited for it to cook, excited about the feast they would have for supper. They weren’t worried about their mum finding them, she was prancing around the living room to a pop song on the radio, with a bottle of wine in her hand.
Suddenly, the egg began to wobble and crack and without warning, a beautiful bird shot out of the cooking pot. She had lovely red, gold and orange feathers that flickered just like a fire.
“Thank you for freeing me!” the bird called out, with a beautiful, song like voice. “I don’t know how long I’ve been trapped in that egg.”
She began to fly around the kitchen excitedly, stretching her feathers wide and enjoying the feeling of not being cramped up in a small space any longer. She stopped when she saw the children’s disappointed faces.
“What’s wrong?” the bird asked them kindly.
“Well, we’re hungry,” murmured Josh, “And we were quite looking forward to eating that giant egg.”
“Oh, I see,” replied the bird, laughing.
She beat her beautiful wings together three times and a plate of delicious ham and cheese sandwiches appeared.
“Wow!” the children exclaimed, “can you make anything?”
“Can I have chocolate cake?” asked Josh.
“And strawberries?” piped Jenny.
The bird beat her great wings again and, sure enough a huge chocolate cake and a bowl filled with juicy strawberries appeared.
The children began to eat excitedly, enjoying their delightful treat. But Josh paused to ask hopefully, “Can you make any wish come true?”
The bird considered carefully before replying, “I can only give you what you need, I can’t grant all your wishes, I’m not a genie you know!”
“So you can’t make me a new TV, computer, skateboard, smart phone…”
“No,” interrupted the bird, “those things are nice, but you don’t actually need them.”
“How about a new mum and dad?” asked Jenny cautiously, “we need them.”
“Sadly, I don’t have that kind of magic,” replied the bird apologetically. She went on to explain that she was in fact a princess, called Henrietta from a far away land, who had been turned into a phoenix and trapped in the egg by a wicked witch. She told them that as phoenixes had some magic powers, she also could do a little magic.
She told them that her husband, prince Herbert had also been tricked, trapped in an egg and sent far away. The wicked witch meanwhile was living in their castle, pretending to be the true queen of the land. Henrietta hoped that now she was free, the children would be able to help them to find her husband and get back their castle. Jenny and Josh agreed.
“But can we help tomorrow?” asked Josh, yawning, “we’re sleepy.”
“Of course!” said Henrietta brightly, “you two go off to bed, I’ll look for Herbert’s egg for a while before I go to sleep.”
After a few hours of scouring the nearby bushes and trees, the phoenix returned to perch on the end of Jenny’s bed to rest.
The following morning, Jenny awoke, thinking she had been dreaming. But seeing the splendid phoenix perched on the end of her bed assured her that yesterday’s surprises had been real. Soon, her brother bounded into the room to also make sure he hadn’t imagined the wonderful bird in their kitchen. When Henrietta awoke she smiled at the children and greeted them warmly.
“Good morning children,” she sang sweetly. “Have you had breakfast?”
Jenny and Josh stared at her in amazement. They couldn’t remember the last time they had been offered breakfast before school. Usually they just ran to school, where the school dinner ladies would give them jam and toast, feeling sorry for the two skinny, hungry looking children. Their mother certainly never bothered to cook for them, in fact they would often have to wake her up to walk them to school, as their teachers told them they were too young to walk around by themselves.
That morning was the best they’d had in a long time. Henrietta beat her wings to provide a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs and sent them to get washed and dressed. The children didn’t wake their mum up to take them to school like they normally would. They were excited to introduce their princess phoenix to their friends and teachers and were worried their mum would find some excuse for sending Henrietta away.
On the way to school, they all looked for signs of Herbert’s egg, especially around the place where they had found the phoenix egg. Unfortunately they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Just the usual sights of country lanes, busy with people going to work and other children, walking happily to school with their parents. Everyone stared open mouthed at the two children walking merrily to school with the brightly coloured bird soaring beside them.
Once the children arrived at school, the phoenix told them she would fly around some more to continue her search for prince Herbert. Jenny and Josh were disappointed to not have the chance to introduce her to all their friends and teachers, but hoped she would allow them to do so when she came to collect them at the end of the day.
The day seemed to pass very slowly. Josh got into trouble for not finishing his homework that was due that day. His teacher, Miss Smith considered herself to be an understanding woman, but she certainly did not believe the story the ten year old boy told her about finding a phoenix who was really a princess on his way home from school.
“The stories children make up to avoid doing their homework…” she chortled to herself.
At the end of the day, Henrietta came to collect Jenny and Josh. Their teachers tried to protest that a bird couldn’t walk them home, and they needed a responsible adult to collect them.
“But this is a princess!” squealed Jenny.
The teachers laughed in disbelief, so the phoenix flapped her wings three times, causing the teachers to become confused and allow them to go on their way.
Henrietta told Josh and Jenny that she had made an exciting discovery while they were at school. She had asked some animals and birds to help her to look for the egg that prince Herbert had been trapped in. A friendly squirrel had seen a large red egg in the forest, but hadn’t had chance to look at it for long because he’d been chased away by an angry dog. Henrietta suggested that the children should join her to look for the egg, before she took them home.
So Jenny, Josh, Henrietta and the squirrel set off for the forest. They got even more surprised looks from passers-by than they had received that morning, perhaps because of the squirrel sitting on Josh’s shoulder.
When they arrived at the forest, the squirrel lead the group to the place he had found the giant red egg. Luckily it was still there, nestled at the foot of a large oak tree.
“Did the witch turn Herbert into a phoenix too?” asked Josh.
“I’m not sure,” came Henrietta’s uncertain reply, “I didn’t see what she had transformed him into, just that he was also trapped in an egg.”
“How do we get him out of the egg?” asked Jenny curiously.
“Well, I think we should try the same thing we did to hatch Henrietta’s egg,” suggested Josh.
The others agreed and returned to the children’s house to cook the egg. They had to hide the egg and phoenix from their mum, Melody, who happened to be waiting at the front door for a friend and was quite confused to see the children returning from school.
“Where have you been all day?” she demanded angrily.
“School of course,” replied the children, “we tried to wake you this morning to take us, but you were sleeping too soundly, so we walked to school without you.”
Melody believed their story, although the children were sure that it was only because she hadn’t been listening carefully. She had been too busy putting on her lipstick and glancing down the road for any sign of her friend. The children and phoenix went into the kitchen and put the shiny red egg into the same pot of water they had used yesterday. They waited for the egg to warm up enough to crack, like the Henrietta’s had done.
It took a long time for the egg to begin to crack, when it finally did, the children had a huge shock. No phoenix hatched from this egg. Instead, a large, red dragon burst out of the egg, almost filling the room. The dragon had strong wings, sharp claws and he was covered in shiny scales.
“Oh, thank you for freeing me!” boomed the dragon, “A wicked witch turned me into a dragon, trapped me in that egg and sent me far away from my kingdom.”
“Herbert?” asked Henrietta gently.
“Yes, it’s Herbert,” the dragon replied, looking rather sorrowful.
The phoenix flapped her wings excitedly and tried to greet her husband with a kiss. Although she found it rather difficult to kiss him with her phoenix beak. They started to eagerly talk about all that had happened since they last saw each other, until Henrietta saw that the children were beginning to look tired and hungry. So she beat her wings together three times to magically create a dinner of sausages and mashed potatoes for everyone.
“I like this kind of cooking!” she announced eagerly.
While they were eating, Herbert and Henrietta planned how they could get home and take their castle back from the wicked witch. Of course, they also discussed how they could turn back into humans.
“Can we come too?” asked Josh.
“Of, course not, it will be too dangerous for two small children,” replied Herbert crossly.
“Well, they could be helpful…” said Henrietta, before whispering a plan to her husband.
Josh and Jenny were a bit suspicious about what they were planning so secretively, but trusted that their new friends Henrietta and Herbert would keep them safe from any dangers they might find. They also thought that it would be better to have an adventure with a dragon and a phoenix, than to stay at home with their mother, who didn’t even remember they were there for most of the time.
Herbert suggested that they should wait until nightfall before setting off.
“Imagine how many people will get suspicious about a huge dragon flying around the place,” he chortled.
So, they all had a nap while they waited for nightfall. After a few hours, Jenny and Josh awoke to Henrietta excitedly nudging them. It was pitch black outside, there were a few stars twinkling in the sky and the moon was hiding behind some clouds.
Herbert was trying to squeeze through the back door. He was finding it difficult because he was so big. The children tried pushing him, but he became totally stuck in the doorframe. Henrietta laughed at the sight, then told them she could try to use her phoenix magic to help. She beat her wings together three times, which somehow made the doorframe big enough for the dragon to squeeze through.
Once out in the garden the dragon invited Josh and Jenny to sit on his back. They then set off on their journey, with the children holding on as tightly as they could. The phoenix flew gracefully, looking all around for landmarks to help point them in the right direction, as well as keeping an eye out for dangers. The dragon was a little clumsier in his flying, he hadn’t had a chance to practice, so kept bumping into trees and street lights.
“Why can’t Henrietta carry us?” moaned Jenny, leaning out of the way of another tree branch that Herbert had crashed into.
“Because she’s too small, silly,” replied Josh, who was beginning to look a little travel sick.
After a short while, the group came across a friendly flock of geese. Henrietta and Herbert asked them for directions, they weren’t entirely sure how to get back to their homeland, as it’s hard to see where you’re going when trapped in an egg! The geese kindly volunteered to show them the way. Although they refused to carry the queasy children, who were still not enjoying their bumpy dragon ride.
The children looked in amazement as the group flew swiftly over fields, mountains and cities. They fell asleep while flying over the sea. Many hours passed, before the dragon and phoenix stopped flying. When Josh and Jenny woke up, they found they were all perched on the top of a church roof. They saw Herbert thanking and waving good bye to the helpful geese, while Henrietta prepared a snack of jam on toast by beating her wings again. She offered everyone some toast, before sitting down for a rest.
The children didn’t recognise this town at all. Everything looked different to their little English village. This town was near the sea, with tall, red-roofed buildings, narrow streets, plenty of palm trees and exotic looking plants.
“I don’t think we’re in England anymore…” Jenny murmured.
“Of course not,” replied Herbert, “we are close to our castle. There it is, on that hill over there.”
He pointed to a magnificent looking castle, on a steep hill. It was surrounded by a beautiful garden and was painted all the colours of the rainbow.
“We did not decorate it like that!” exclaimed a surprised Henrietta.
“That wicked witch really loves bright colours,” giggled Jenny and Josh.
But Herbert didn’t look as amused as the others.
“I think…” he said carefully, “that those bright colours may be magic spells, to stop intruders.”
The prince and princess exchanged nervous glances.
“We’d better go and find Cynthia,” said Herbert, “she’ll be able to help.”
“But everyone will see us if we start wandering around the streets!” exclaimed Henrietta, “then the wicked witch will just capture us or send us away again.”
She explained her plan that she and Herbert should hide, while Jenny and Josh go to look for Cynthia and bring her to meet them in their hiding place. After they finished their snack, the children got on Herbert’s back again and they flew to a cave nearer to the castle, where they could hide.
The prince and princess gave the children instructions to where they could find their friend Cynthia. They were a little nervous to be wandering by themselves around a foreign town in the middle of the night, but they were also excited to be on this adventure.
They walked through the town until they came to the house their friends had described. It was a tiny house, no bigger than their mother’s shoe cupboard, with pink walls and a thatched roof. It was surrounded by beautiful smelling roses and bluebells. Jenny was about to lean closer to admire a particularly beautiful rose, when a tiny fairy, wearing a blue nightgown, suddenly banged open the little door and rushed to Jenny’s side.
“Stay away from that flower!” she called urgently, “it’s poisonous!”
“Why do you have poisonous flowers in your garden?” asked Josh suspiciously.
“To scare away unwanted intruders of course, like burglars and wicked witches,” the fairy replied, smiling.
She went on to explain that she was Henrietta and Herbert’s friend Cynthia. She knew they were on their way to find her because she happened to know one of the friendly geese who had shown them the way. She knew that they would come to find her, so had been waiting for them. She explained that she was incredibly excited to see her old friends again, and of course agreed to help them in any way she could. She went into her house to change her clothes, explaining that she couldn’t really face the wicked witch while dressed in her nightgown.
While she was changing, Josh and Jenny looked at each other in amazement.
“Herbert and Henrietta didn’t tell us their friend was a fairy!” Jenny giggled.
“Well, we’re already travelling around with a dragon and a phoenix, why not add a fairy to our magical group?” replied Josh.
Cynthia returned, wearing a sparkly, violet coloured dress and proudly carrying a golden magic wand.
“Lets go!” she called, allowing Josh and Jenny to lead the way to the cave where her friends were hiding.
Once there, Cynthia greeted her old friends, then burst out laughing.
“You do make a charming dragon and phoenix!” she teased.
“Yes, but we really need you to help us to turn back into people,” chirped Henrietta.
Cynthia told them that she was terribly sorry because she couldn’t help them turn back into humans again. Only the witch had the power to reverse the spell. She suggested that they should all sneak back into the castle, capture the witch and ask her to turn them back to normal.
The sun began to rise as they spoke, casting a beautiful orange glow over the town. But Henrietta and Herbert began to worry that one of the witch’s guards would find them in the daylight.
“Its ok, I can make us all invisible!” Cynthia reassured them, waving her wand before anyone had a chance to protest.
“The guards won’t find us now!” she laughed.
The problem was, that now they couldn’t even see each other. They were all completely invisible.
“Ouch!” squealed a startled Jenny, as Josh accidentally stepped on her invisible foot.
Cynthia suggested that they should all hold hands, so they wouldn’t lose each other. This wasn’t so easy, but they managed to somehow grab onto another person’s hand or claw to make a chain. Cynthia decided that she should lead the way to the castle, as she was the expert in magic. The others reluctantly agreed, they were still not impressed at being completely invisible.
It didn’t take long for them to reach the gates to the garden surrounding the castle. It was guarded by two large, ugly trolls, who smelled rather like rotten cabbage. Henrietta quickly beat her wings together three times, to magically send the trolls to sleep.
“I did that because I was worried about what Cynthia might do to them,” whispered Henrietta.
“Hey!” called Cynthia indignantly, stamping her invisible foot, “I was only going to tie them up with magic rope!”
With the trolls asleep, the group were able to open the gates and sneak into the garden unnoticed. The garden was full of brightly coloured flowers, which Cynthia warned them may be poisonous, like the ones in her own little garden. The garden was also patrolled by more ugly trolls, who stopped to sniff suspiciously, whenever they came near the invisible group. On one occasion, Josh moved out of the way to avoid having a troll step on his foot, but accidentally fell into a large yellow flower.
“Help!” he yelped, “I’m all itchy!”
He began to frantically scratch at the red spots that had quickly covered his face, arms and legs. Cynthia helpfully swished her wand, to produce an ointment for Josh to dab on the rash, which instantly soothed it.
They continued their journey, but found that even the path was enchanted in places. Jenny squealed suddenly when she stood on a square and a huge hole appeared in the ground. She fell into the gap, but Henrietta quickly caught hold of her invisible arm and pulled her to safety.
“Be careful everyone,” called Cynthia, “I think those squares in the path are enchanted to send you to the castle dungeons.”
So they carefully avoided them, until they arrived at the front door of the castle. The door was locked, and of course the group knew that they couldn’t just knock on the door because then they’d surely be captured. So they decided to climb up to an open window.
“Don’t touch the paint on the castle walls!” squealed Cynthia, “it’s enchanted, like the flowers.”
So the children and Cynthia carefully climbed up the ivy that was growing on the castle walls, making sure to not touch any of the paint. Herbert and Henrietta flew to the open window and waited for them.
Once at the window, they peered inside the room to find the witch sleeping in a huge, four poster bed. The curtains were embroidered with twinkling stars and the bed frame was covered in diamonds and jewels. The witch even slept with a crown on her head.
“She really thinks she’s the queen,” murmured an astonished Jenny.
Certain that the witch was sleeping soundly, the group climbed silently through the window into the witch’s bedroom. Herbert waited outside, as the window was too small for such a large dragon to enter and he didn’t want to become stuck again. The witch began to stir in her bed, calling her servants to bring her breakfast. Suddenly, she sat bolt upright and pointed threateningly at the invisible group by the window.
“What are you doing here?” she screeched, her voice full of anger.
She snapped her fingers and made the group reappear, laughing shrilly at the sight of them.
“Oh Henrietta, how funny you look!” she cackled.
“She doesn’t look as silly as you!” Jenny answered bravely.
Indeed, the witch did look funny, with her bright green nightdress, a long warty nose and a beautiful diamond-covered crown, perched at an angle on top of her untidy pink hair. The witch sneered as she snapped her fingers again to tie the group up with magic ropes.
“Now, I shall send you to the dungeons, you’ll like it there!” she sniggered.
She was about to snap her fingers again to perform this magic, when suddenly the dragon breathed fire through the open window, frazzling the witch. She looked all black and singed, rather like burnt toast. As soon as the witch was frazzled, her magic wore off. The ropes disappeared and Henrietta and Herbert turned back into humans. This was a bit of a problem for Herbert, who had been flying outside the window. He suddenly lost his dragon wings and fell to the ground. Luckily, Cynthia was still a fairy and waved her wand to magically make a soft, fluffy, giant marshmallow for Herbert to land on.
“Thanks,” he called, feeling relieved.
The witch was not impressed with the situation. Henrietta grabbed hold of her before she could summon her guards or snap her fingers again.
“Now,” said Henrietta, “we will lock you in the dungeon and take back our castle!”
“Hooray!” the children cheered.
“But you’ll never defeat my guards,” threatened the witch, speaking in a slightly softer voice than before, still weak from being frazzled by the dragon.
As she spoke, a group of the witch’s smelly trolls arrived, curious about all of the commotion.
“Seize them!” the witch screeched.
The trolls lunged towards Henrietta, Cynthia and the children, when Herbert suddenly rushed into the room, pelting the trolls with pieces from his giant marshmallow. The silly trolls stopped to eat the marshmallow, which gave Cynthia time to cast a spell to magically tie up the trolls.
“Oh! Why did I choose silly trolls to be my guards?” squealed the witch, as she was also tied up by the magic rope.
“Because no one else wanted to work for you!” called Cynthia, as she grabbed the end of the rope and tugged them down to the castle dungeons.
She safely locked them in a cell, while the others looked for any other guards or servants that were working for the witch. Herbert and Henrietta found several of their own servants hiding in the kitchen. They were very excited to see the prince and princess and explained that the witch had forced them to continue working there, anyone that disagreed with her was sent to the dungeons. The chef was so happy to see them that he began to make a cake to celebrate! The other servants agreed to help put the castle back to normal, including removing the poisonous flowers and enchanted paint covering the castle walls.
After many hours of cleaning, troll chasing and cake eating, the castle was finally back to normal for Herbert and Henrietta. They all sat down to relax on the comfortable chairs in the throne room, when Josh and Jenny began to feel sad.
“What’s wrong?” asked a concerned Henrietta.
“Well, now that the adventure is over, we’ll have to go home, won’t we?” said Josh nervously.
“Of course not!” declared Herbert.
“We want to adopt you!” said Henrietta, smiling broadly. “We’d already decided to adopt you before we left your house in England, so I got your mother to sign the adoption papers when you were sleeping.”
“But how did you manage that?” asked a surprised Jenny.
“Oh it was easy,” she laughed, “she was so excited to dance with a phoenix, that she agreed to sign the adoption documents. I even gave her the address of our castle and a plane ticket, so she can visit if she wants to.”
Josh and Jenny were incredibly excited by the news and gave Henrietta and Herbert huge hugs, squealing “thank you”. The chef went to bake another cake in celebration, while Cynthia danced happily around the room.
The children’s lives changed radically. They were very happy to live in the splendid castle, where they were well cared for by the prince, princess and servants. They went to a lovely school in the town, and made lots of friends who enjoyed visiting them for dinner in the castle. The chef cooked delicious food for them every day, and they soon forgot the many times when they had gone hungry while living with their mother.
One day, Melody came to visit them and was awfully sorry about the way she had forgotten to feed and take care of them. Josh and Jenny forgave her, and she agreed to stay at the castle, to help look after them, as she had really missed them after they left. Melody was no longer solely interested in parties and dancing, except for on special occasions. Fortunately for her, the townspeople were so excited by the return of their prince and princess, that there were quite a few balls at the castle to celebrate.