Monday, 24 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Time-Travelling Teaspoon

There was a teaspoon on her dresser. She didn’t know why. Or where it came from. Had it been there yesterday? She thought hard, scrunching up her face, but couldn’t recall. She picked it up and scrutinised it. It didn’t look familiar. At all. It wasn’t the usual type her mother favoured when buying cutlery—too ornate, too heavy, too… silver looking? But it was just a teaspoon. Probably some kind of prank. She put it back down and forgot about it.
Three days later, the same teaspoon showed up beside her teacup. Which was normal, probably. That’s what teaspoons were for, wasn’t it? It looked like the same teaspoon. There was that same pretty design… which had her initials on it? She ran her thumb over the engraving.
TSP.
Tanya Sofia Petrina.
There was a number beside it. 2037.
She put the teaspoon down on the saucer and sipped at her tea.
“That’s the year I was made,” a voice said softly.
She looked down at the table. Princess Tanya picked up the teaspoon again.
“Impossible. It’s only 2017 now.”
“Nothing is impossible.” The teaspoon fell silent as she stirred her tea.

~

“Why do you want to go back?”
“To make sure the timeline is secure.”
“What if you change something?”
“I won’t.”
“How sure are you?”
“Because I was already there, wasn’t I? You remember me. From before.”
Queen Tanya’s assent dropped from her lips reluctantly.

~

“You were made in 2037. When I am 36. And Queen.”
“Yes.”
Princess Tanya paced her room. “What message do you bring?”
“Message?”
“There’s always a message. Something the future wants the past to remember.”
“I have no message.”
“I’m crazy. I’m talking to a teaspoon from the future.”
“You’re not. I’m real.”
“Why are you a teaspoon? And not a robot or something?”
There was a long pause before it answered. “The tech was small enough. And Timmy thought it would be humorous. Besides being functional.”
“Humorous?”
“A play on your name and all that.”
“Timmy made you? Stupid stare-in-space Timmy?”
Another long pause. “Yes. Another thing that changes in the future.”
“Oh.”
“You don’t show me to him.”
“What do I do with you?”
The Princess stared at the teaspoon. The teaspoon didn’t stare back due to its lack of eyes. Time ticked by.

~

“What do I do?”
“You insist on going back but you don’t know what to do?”
“You’re the one with the memories. It’s your past but my future.”
“What if what I tell you messes up the integrity of the timeline?”
“Just tell me what to avoid.”
“Timothy should never have made you.”
“If he hadn’t, you wouldn’t be Queen.”
Another grudging assent.

~

“I don’t know.”
“You… don’t know.” Princess Tanya’s voice was flat. “You’re from the future.”
“She wouldn’t tell me.”
“She—future me?”
“It would mess up the timeline if I went in knowingly. She claimed. I’m just a teaspoon. I wouldn’t know.”
“What did Timmy say.”
“Timmy is dead in my time. I didn’t get to ask.”
Princess Tanya stirred her tea.
“Tanya! You have to run!”
Princess Tanya looked up at the young man who barged into her room, panting.
“Move, Tanya. They’re coming.”
“Who?”
“Rebels.”
She stared at him. Timmy is dead in my time, echoed in her ears. But Timmy lives until at least 2037. She followed him.

~

“I miss him.”
The Teaspoon was quiet.
“I’ve been Queen for thirty years. Because of him.”
“You’ve grieved him for five.”
“It’s not long enough.”
“I miss him too.”
“You’re a teaspoon.”
“I’m still sentient.”
She releases her grip on the teaspoon. “Go.”

~

They ran through corridors, crawled through vents and climbed over walls, making it out of the palace as the sounds of shouting built up.
“Where to?” Princess Tanya asked, leaning over to catch her breath.
“There’s a safe place in the mountains. We can lie low for a while.”
“Let’s go.”
He gave her a funny look. “All that running and you smuggled out a teaspoon? Really?”
She stuffed the teaspoon in her pocket without looking. “It’s… nothing.”
Gunshots in the distance spurred them on.
When Tanya next looked, the teaspoon was gone.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Strawberry Scone

“Mum! Mum! It’s Saturday morning!” Princess Shari jumped on her parents’ bed.

“Yes. go back to sleep,” King Stephen mumbled, pressing his face into his pillow.

“Mmmph,” was all Queen Sharon managed.

Princess Shari pulled at her mother’s shoulder. “But muuuuuummmm! You said you were going to teach me how to bake strawberry scones today!”

“Mmmmmmmmph,” Queen Sharon tried again.

“Not at five in the morning, dear,” King Stephen interpreted, grabbing hold of the seven-year-old’s hand and pulling her to lie down. “Give us another two hours.”

Princess Shari wiggled under the blankets and said, “Okay,” before promptly falling asleep again.

~

Three hours later, Princess Shari was down in the kitchens, excitedly tying on an apron with the Cook’s help. Queen Sharon leaned against the doorway, rubbing her eyes.

“We have everything here on the table ready for you, luv,” Cook said.

Shari stared at it. There was flour and eggs and cream and butter and… other flour? She didn’t know what it was. She identified sugar and something that looked like salt, but she wasn’t sure why scones needed salt. Something was missing. “Where are the strawberries?”

“The strawberries…” Queen Sharon looked guilty.

“Oh, we must have forgotten them. I’ll go look in the fridge. Don’t you worry, luv,” Cook said breezily.

“I’m sorry I ate them,” the queen whispered as the cook passed by.

“We’ll find some, no worries,” Cook whispered back.

Queen Sharon walked up to the table. “Come on, Shari, let’s start while Cook is looking for the strawberries.”

“What do we do?”

The queen lifted her to stand on a stool before handing her a bowl. “First, we mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.”

Princess Shari looked at the assorted items laid on the table. “Okay, this I know is flour, and sugar… and salt… what’s a baking powder?”

Queen Sharon handed her the previously unidentified ‘other flour’. Then they added in the butter as they stirred, followed by the eggs and cream. By the time they were done with that, Princess Shari’s arms were tired and Cook had returned with strawberries.

“Ah, just in time!” Queen Sharon exclaimed.

They added in the strawberries and another tablespoon of flour.

“I’m tired, mum,” Princess Shari complained.

“Nuh-uh. You dragged me out of bed to make this so you’re going to finish it!” Queen Sharon wagged a finger in her face.

“Anyway, the fun part’s coming, luv,” Cook said with a twinkle in her eye. “We need to flour this table.” Cook threw a handful of flour on the table. It fluffed up in Princess Shari’s face, catching her by surprise.

“Flour fight!” Princess Shari declared, throwing a handful of flour back.

Soon, the table, the kitchen, and the three women were covered with flour.

Queen Sharon cleared her throat two minutes later. “I think… the table is floured enough.”

Cook gave the dough in the bowl a final stir to make sure that everything was well mixed before dumping it out on the table. “This one’s my job, luv. You don’t have the strength yet,” she said as she rolled the dough with her rolling pin. Once she was satisfied, Princess Shari and Queen Sharon cut the pieces of dough into small triangles and place them on the baking tray.

“Alright, we’re almost done here,” Queen Sharon said, handing a little brush to her daughter.

“What’s this?”

“We need to paint the scones with egg wash before we put it in to bake.”

Princess Shari brushed each scone carefully and sprinkled sugar liberally at Cook’s instruction.
“And we’re all done!” Queen Sharon said.

“But it’s not ready…”

“Now, I put it in the oven, luv, and you can come back in twenty minutes when they’re done.” Cook took hold of the tray and put it into the hot oven.

“Can’t I stay here and watch?” Princess Shari asked.

“Nope. You’ll get bored staring at the oven and besides, you need a bath. You’re covered in flour!” her mother replied.

“So are you,” Princess Shari retorted.

“Yes. So we are going to take a bath and when we're done, we’ll sit done for scones and tea. How does that sound?”

“Great!”

~

Princess Shari slathered her strawberry scone with lemon curd and cream. She shivered with delight as she bit into the warm scone. It was the best scone she had ever eaten.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Found this recipe online. Don't know if it works. You can test it out.

Friday, 21 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Rambling Rill

Princess Rei sat in the bamboo garden, hugging her knees. Her parents had been at it again—this was the 12,874th fight she’d counted (who knew how many more there were before that?), and she was sure—absolutely, definitely sure—that they were going to separate soon. They probably couldn’t divorce—what would happen to the country?—but they would most likely decide to live at opposite ends of the Kingdom, sending angry letters to each other… and Rei would have to decide. Who would she stay with? Who would she side with? She didn’t want to take any side at all.

(Rin, her older brother, would take sides. Rin had probably already chosen a side and say she was silly for not wanting to choose. But how could she choose?)

There were footsteps in the garden. Muffling a sigh, she got to her feet. She didn’t want to talk to anyone just yet. She followed the path for a while, picking random turns at each junction. She eventually stepped off the path and headed deep into the enticing shade. She really didn’t want to be found and she couldn’t get lost anyway, even if she tried. It was, after all, an enclosed garden.
Finally, she stopped by the rill that wound through the garden. It was bubbling merrily, making a little racket of its own. She sat down beside it and stared into its watery depths. She figured this would be safe. She could cry all she wanted, and the sounds of the rill would just mask hers from any prying ears.

“Wait, you’re not crying are you?” a voice startled her.

Princess Rei’s head shot up. She looked around with wide, frightened eyes.

“Shh, shh, it’s just me. Your friendly little rill. Why don’t you come here and wash your face with some nice, fresh water, hmm?”

She leaned over the water, a little wide-eyed, but then squeezed her eyes shut and washed her face. “Who are you?”

“Me. The rill.”

“How come you can talk?”

“Ummmmmmm… I don’t know. I just do.”

Princess Rei fell silent. “I didn’t really want to meet people, you know.”

The rill chuckled. “I’m not exactly people.”

“I’m tired.”

“Why don’t you lie down and rest?”

The princess eyed the rill dubiously, but lay down anyway, curling on her side and resting her head on her arm. A sob escaped her.

“There, there. Calm down now. I don’t know what you’re upset about, but let me distract you okay?”

“Okay.” The word came out in a whisper.

“Let me see. Oh, did you hear about the Legendary Lemonade? That was a chuckle, that one. Perfectly lovely jingle. Bewitched an entire generation. The Egalitarian Eel is still making waves with her Coalition for Companion Equality. CCE, they call it nowadays. The name is just too long to remember. And the Charmed Chandelier is taking singing lessons from the Quail Quintet! Isn’t that amazing! I hope he manages to improve. There’ll be a lot of money in that. I hear that Blueberry Country’s starting to use other berries too, due to Princess Barbara’s influence. There’s a picky eater for you! Freda still wears multiple layers of jewellery and Princess Felicia really can’t do anything about it! They never found who grew the Ginormous Grape, so I’m thinking it’s like James and the Giant Peach. Princess Harmony and Princess Jemma are now close friends, did you know that? I know they were cousins, but not everyone is good friends with their cousins. Joyanne’s also friendly with that herring… I don’t remember his name… Princess Amanda’s doing alright—she’s a distant relation of yours, isn’t she? The funeral was just grand, I heard. Did you know Princess Diana was saved by Loki? That’s a shocker, wasn’t it? Well, conspiracy theories say it was Loki, though they’re probably wrong…” The rill stopped rambling as Princess Rei’s breathing slowed. “And that Inglenook is perfect for people trying to hide, better than a Bamboo Garden anyway...”

The young princess had fallen asleep.

“Well, isn’t that just like kids these days. Ignoring everything you say. Anyway, as I was saying, Princess Katie had better watch out with her kite. He’s learnt some rather nasty habits. Morty got Berty to be friends with Princess Mary now and Princess Nurul is still grounded. Oliver’s decided he hates oatmeal, so Princess Opal really can’t understand what he was so outraged about and Princess Penelope’s still trying to get the potato to talk to her…”

The rill continued rambling until quiet footsteps approached them. Prince Rin smiled at his sleeping sister, bent down, and carried her back to her bed. Tomorrow, he’d tell her that Mother was going to stay in the North and Father was going to stay in the South, but he’d decided that the two of them would stay right where they were in the heart of the Kingdom. Because he had taken a side. Rei’s.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

That was a lot of linking to do. Simply because I decided to ramble. haha. Or, the rill did.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Quaffing Quintet

It had been a good night. The Quail Quintet had been top-notch all night, entertaining everyone in the Castle with their wonderful songs. Now, the feast had wound to an end and the hall was almost empty. Princess Qing leaned back on her pillows and smiled at the five quails.

“Good job, boys,” she said. “Is there anything we can do for you?”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” the Lead Tenor replied. “Could you point the way to your… uh, fountain?”

Princess Qing quirked an eyebrow. “Fountain? There’s one outside, but surely… you don’t mean to…” She stopped, unsure what the quails would intend to do with or at the fountain.

“We’re just really thirsty,” the Bass rumbled in his low voice.

“Oh! Yes! Drinks!” Princess Qing waved a servant over and asked him to set up a new drink dispenser. “Um, is wine alright for you?” she asked the quintet.

The quails bobbed their heads.

~

Princess Qing was filling up the dispenser for the third time, feeling rather amused. The quintet had been quaffing the wine for at least an hour now. As the night wore on—it was past midnight now—the quintet had gone through various stages of drunkenness.

At first, they were mellow. During those initial twenty minutes or so, they’d spoken to each other in soft voices, discussing their performance for the night, noting down improvement points, before falling silent.

During the second refill, Princess Qing thought that the First Soprano had fallen asleep. The quail was laid out on his back, looking like he’d died. The tenor had kicked him though, eliciting a grunt. Not dead then.

Now, the quintet looked fully awake. They were starting to warble, breaking out in scattered pieces of song. And they were quaffing the wine faster and harder. All it took was the Second Soprano to start the first line of Green Finch and Linnet Bird for the whole quintet to join in heartily and drunkenly. Despite the garbling of the words, the quaffing quintet were still in tune and managing to harmonise—they were professionals, after all.

At the end of the song, all five birds sighed heavily and then fell down, snoring. With a wave of her hand, the princess summoned the servants, who carried the birds up to their assigned rooms to sleep off the wine. Next time, she’d give them grape juice.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Here's random research of the day: BIRDS DO GET DRUNK!

And here's mentioned:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Potato in Peril

Princess Penelope had a soft heart for vegetables. She didn’t like people murdering them. After all, she’d grown up on a good dose of Veggie Tales, meaning that Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were close friends—at least in her mind. So she’d styled herself as a protector of vegetables. Of a sort. She tended them, taking care of them amidst the flowers that her sisters planted, mourned their passing by burying them, and being generally very happy with every new growth spurt in her garden. And she very absolutely did not eat them. That would be terrible. Hypocritical!

~

The first inkling Princess Penelope had of trouble was the frantic whispering. She stopped in her tracks and strained to locate the source. The voices seemed to be coming from the adjoining hallway, so she tiptoed as quietly as she could to where the passages connected. She still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she could make out a few scattered words:
Perilous… it’s only a potato… No blood… What can it do? The princess… boil it… no, fried!
A face settled into a scowl. There was someone threatening the safety of a potato and she would have to do something about it! Without thinking, she barged down the hall to find two boys huddled over something.

“What are you doing?” she growled.

The two boys screamed in fright, throwing something small and brown in the air as they ran away.
Instinct kicked in. Princess Penelope dove for the potato, catching it in midair before crashing to the ground.

“There you go,” she said, alternating between a smile and a wince. “You’re safe now, little potato.”

The potato didn’t say a word.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Here's a story about potato (crops) in peril, because sometimes the world lands coincidences in your lap.

Also, here's Veggie Tales because THEY ARE A THING, YO.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Outraged Octopus

As things went, it wasn’t unusual for Oliver the Octopus to be upset. He was usually upset about something or other anyway. But what Princess Opal didn’t get was what he was upset about. He’d been fed and exercised as usual. Someone had refilled and cleaned out his tank. They’d even decorated it for Christmas. But still, Oliver sat staring at her, an accusing look on his face, tentacles knotted in frustration.

“I don’t know what you want,” Princess Opal said, staring at the octopus. It wasn’t as though she spoke Octopi, or whatever language octopuses spoke in. She highly doubted Oliver understood her either.

Oliver unknotted his tentacles and waved them about in the water.

“I don’t know what that means,” she repeated. Ten minutes of staring and waving later, she gave up.

Princess Opal shook her head and headed down to the kitchens. It had been a long day, and arguing with Oliver was tiring. She hugged the cook, snagged a plate of oatmeal cookies and headed back to her room.

That was when Oliver started screaming. At first Princess Opal ignored him, sitting down to eat her cookies. When the noise started to annoy her, she finally turned to look at him. She had never seen the octopus so outraged in all his life. He was halfway out of the water, leaning out of his tank and stabbing a tentacle in her direction.

“What?” she asked.

The octopus jabbed with his tentacle again.

She looked down at her plate. “This?”

Another jab.

“You… want a cookie?”

There was a frenzy of tentacles and more jabbing.

“Okay… though I’m not sure if you can actually digest this.” She reached over and handed him an oatmeal cookie.

The outraged octopus started to calm down, something almost like a… smile… crossing his face. Oliver sank back into his tank, tentacle wrapped around a soggy cookie that was starting to disintegrate into the water.

Princess Opal stared at him for a while before shrugging her shoulders and munching on her own cookie. She had no idea what that was all about. And she didn’t really want to know.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Monday, 17 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Never-Night

Enough was enough. Princess Nurul was tired. This brightness had been fun while it lasted, but now it was just too much. She tried to sleep; she’d dozed off a couple of times, but kept waking up to the full sunlight that never went away. As much as she hated to admit it, she missed the night. She missed the setting of the sun that threw up pretty pictures of pink and gold into the sky. She missed the coolness of the dark and its soothing calm. This… perpetual daylight was annoying.

 The sleep mask helped—a little. The blackout curtains worked—to a point. But the knowledge that the sun wouldn’t set and the night wouldn’t come burnt circles in her brain—because it had all been her fault. She was the one who made that stupid dare with the crazy magician. And now the magician was gone and his spell was still in effect.

Princess Nurul threw the curtains open and stared out the window. If the sun never set, there would be no more beautiful sunset or sunrises. People would adapt—she was sure of it; after the initial grumbling and complaining, they’d find ways to get around the perpetual sun. She had, after all. She’d managed to hide in rooms dark enough to fall asleep. It was only guilt that kept her awake. She wondered briefly if she should confess. The King had been growling instructions all week, sending out hundreds of men to “find the perpetrator, find the crazy madman who did this!

But no, what would she say? ‘Father, I’m sorry I challenged a magician and now we’re stuck with perpetual Never-Night and I don’t know how to fix it because my magic is not strong enough—’

She cut her own thoughts short. No, her magic wasn’t strong enough, but she knew the spell. She knew what would break it. She just had to find someone whose magic was strong enough. And who had stronger magic that the King? She sighed. It was time to ‘fess up.

“Father?” she said softly, tentatively, as she peeked her head into his study.

The old man looked up, his frown gradually softening when his tired eyes recognised her. He waved her in.

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“What?”

“It was the Never-Night spell. And it was a dare. And… and now I don’t have enough magic to undo it.”

He frowned at her from beneath bushy brows. “Who did it?”

“Magician Hashim,” she replied.

“On a dare.”

“Yes.”

“From you.”

“Yes.” She dropped her gaze. “I’m sorry.”

The King sighed. “You know how to undo it?”

“Yes.” She pushed the sheet of paper where she’d written down every step of the reversing spell across the desk.

He picked it up and squinted at it. “Hmph. That should do it.” He glanced at the clock and nodded his head.

Princess Nurul looked at it too; it was near midnight. Near midnight and still as bright as noon outside. And then suddenly, it was pitch-dark. With a wave of her hand, Princess Nurul called up a lamp. In the dim illumination, she saw the exhaustion and satisfaction warring on her father’s face.

“There. That’s done,” the King said, pushing the paper back to her.

“Thank you, Father.”

He nodded briefly. “Thank you for the spell.”

She smiled, letting relief wash over her. It was over. The Never-Night was done with. Then her smile dropped when she heard her father’s next words:

“You’re grounded. For the next month.”

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter!



Feel the darkness shaking
All the dead are coming
Back to life
Back to life
Hear the song awaken
All creation singing
We're alive
Cause You're alive

You called me out of the grave
You called me into the light
You called my name and then my heart came alive

Saturday, 15 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Maudlin Monster

He was at it again. Princess Mary groaned.

“What’s wrong now?” she asked, bending down to look under her bed.

“No—nobody loves me,” the monster wailed.

Princess Mary leaned back, rolled her eyes, and sighed. “Again?” she mumbled to herself. She slid off the bed, locked the door and drew the curtains closed. Then she knelt by her bed and peeked under it. “Okay, come on out.”

The monster was small—about the size of a teddy bear—and covered in soft brown fur. In fact, if Princess Mary were being kind, she’d say he did look rather like her teddy bear, except that he had four black eyes, three hands and one foot. Oh, and six wings that were now folded and drooping down the monster’s back.

“What happened?” she asked as she held the monster in a tight hug.

“Naga said I was ugly. Cos… cos I have fur,” the monster said in between sobs.

“What’s wrong with fur?”

“S’posed to ’ve scales. Like my brothers.”

Princess Mary rubbed the monster’s back. “But I like your fur.”

“You… you do?” The little thing blinked up at her with big puppy eyes.

“Yeah, it’s nice and soft. Good to hug.”

The monster squirmed a little. “Not s’posed to be huggable.”

“Oh.”

For a long while, the only sound in the room was the sound of the monster’s sniffling.

“I’m… I’m supposed to scare you,” the monster finally said.

“Yes.”

“But I’m such a terrible monster I can’t even do that one thing right.”

Princess Mary continued to rub his back. “Do… do you really want to scare me?”

“No… but… but it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“Oh, well. I’m supposed to call on my knight to slay the monsters, but I won’t.”

The monster blinked. “You have a knight?”

“Yeah. I don’t like him. He’s big and shiny and horrible.”

“Mmmm… do you think I can try scaring him? Though he’ll probably just laugh at me ‘cos I’m just a small little monster.”

“You want me to call him?”

The monster thought for a while and then nodded.

“Very well.” Princess Mary unlocked the door and got back into bed, shooing the monster off it.

“Ready?”

He nodded. She pulled the bell.

~

“For goodness’ sake, Morty, were you drinking again?” Berty asked as he patched up the little monster.

“Sorry.” The monster winced.

“What happened?”

“Princess likes me when I’m all sad and maudlin,” he mumbled.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re all ripped up.”

“Uh, I volunteered to scare her knight.”

Berty groaned. “You do know that you’re going to get into trouble for this, right?”

Morty nodded.

“Then?”

“Nobody loves me anyway. And the princess is nice. She gives me hugs.”

“Morty, you’re a monster! You’re supposed to scare people, not ask for hugs.”

“Didn’t ask.” He stuck out his lower lip in a defiant pout.

“I really don’t know what to do with you.”

“Can’t do anything. I’m going drinking again.”

“You can’t!”

“S’only way, Berty. Princess don’t like me otherwise. ‘N she’s all I got.”

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Win Free Book. 'Nuff said.

Friday, 14 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Legendary Lemon

“What’s so legendary about him?” Hattie asked as she leaned back on a recliner chair under the hot sun.

“I don’t know. But it’s the Legendary Lemon,” Princess Lina replied. She was sitting under the shade with a tall glass of cold lemonade. She didn’t want sunburn, unlike Hattie who was still ‘working on her tan’. “So do you want to go see him or not?”

Hattie turned to look at the princess. “Why do you want to see him again?”

“He’s… legendary.”

“You’ve said. But you haven’t said why.”

Princess Lina shrugged. “It’ll be fun. Everyone who goes down that way goes to see him. It’s like meeting a pop icon.”

Hattie huffed. “Fine. Sure. We’ll go see the Legendary Lemon the next time we head to town.”

Princess Lina smiled as she sipped at her lemonade. Her summer vacation was turning out just fine.

~

Visiting the Legendary Lemon turned out to be a bit of a let down. To be honest, Princess Lina was hoping for something extraordinary. After all, with a name like Legendary Lemon, the guy should have been someone special, right? No, other than being a talking lemon, the Legendary Lemon was really quite… normal.

“Uh, here, have a lemonade,” the Legendary Lemon said, pushing over two glasses of cold lemonade. “It’s my legendary lemonade. A special brew.”

The two girls sipped on the lemonade politely.

“It’s rather normal,” Hattie whispered to Princess Lina.

The princess could see the tips of the lemon’s side lumps growing red. He’d heard that.

“Well, it’s very nice. Very refreshing,” she murmured back.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked, turning his back as if to hide his face.

“Err… well, I actually wanted to know what you were legendary for,” Hattie blurted before Princess Lina could stop her.

“Oh! Didn’t you know?” the lemon asked, turning back to them with surprise written all over his face.

Both girls shook their heads. “We just knew that you were supposed to be legendary.”

The Legendary Lemon’s face lit up. “You’re in for a show then!” he exclaimed.

With a wave of his non-existent hand, music blared in the house. The lights started twinkling and the Legendary Lemon, dressed in sparkling spandex, started an intricate tap-dance routine, singing at the top of his voice. His song and dance was so captivating that Princess Lina soon found herself on her feet, dancing along to the tune and singing with the Legendary Lemon…

And so, listen up, children
When the Legendary Lemon
Stops and puts his feet up
There’s Legendary Lollipop
For me and you and you!

Princess Lina sat down with a bump, tired out. “Wait… that song didn’t make any sense at all,” she said, waving the lollipop in her hand in time with the slowly fading music.

“Uh, it isn’t supposed to,” the Legendary Lemon said bashfully. “It was just a jingle to sell my lollipops.”

Princess Lina looked at the lollipop and then up at the lemon. “It’s a lemon lollipop.”

“Yeah. The Legendary Lemon and his Legendary Lemon Lollipops.”

“A marketing gimmick,” Hattie said, squinting her eyes.

The lemon sighed. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

Princess Lina burst out into giggles. She laughed so hard that Hattie and the Legendary Lemon started to laugh along too. “Oh dear! All this time, I thought the Legendary Lemon was a superhero and all it was was you trying to sell lollipops?”

The Legendary Lemon shrugged and smiled. “A lemon’s gotta do what a lemon’s gotta do.”

“Well, these lollipops are great,” Princess Lina replied. “I want a lifetime supply of them.”

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Hey. You wanna win a free book? GO HERE. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Killer Kite

This was it. This was the year Princess Katie would win the Kite Fight. She knew it down in her bones with an unshakeable certainty. After all, she had the best kite in the country this year. And she’d trained with the best kite fighter all year.

“How are you feeling?” Matt, her trainer asked, handing her the kite.

“Pretty good. Confident,” she replied with a smile.

“Good girl. Go get ‘em,” he replied with a thumbs up. She returned his positive sign and went down to the field where all the other competitors were milling about.

The wind was strong today, and the skies were clear—a very good day for the fight. Then they were running and the wind was picking up and—there they went! The kites soared in the sky, flying higher and higher, until they were almost little dots in the sky. Princess Katie gripped her spool, fixed her eyes on the little green dot her kite had become, and allowed a smile to spread across her face. This was the year she’d win the Kite Fight.

~

Up in the sky, Princess Katie’s green kite smiled an eerily similar smile. It surveyed the kites below him, noting which ones were flying high and which ones were struggling. Then with a quick swoop, it lunged against a bright blue kite. Instead of pushing at the kite’s body, like all the other fighters were doing, the green kite used its enhanced string to slice through the blue kite’s string.

“Hey, what was that?” the blue kite shouted. But it was too late—without its anchor, the blue kite was whipped away to who-knows-where.

“Not against the rules, buddy,” Katie’s kite shouted back. Again and again, the killer kite repeated his manoeuvre until there were less than ten kites left in the air. Now, the real battle began.

~

Princess Katie smiled proudly. Her green kite was the last one standing, still flying high in the sky when every other kite had fallen. She let it roam the skies freely for a few more minutes before slowly reeling it in.

“You got them good,” she whispered to her kite, holding it close. “You’re such a smooth killer.”

The green kite shivered with the praise, but Princess Katie didn’t notice.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Rafflecopter's still running over on this post. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Jilted Jellyfish

“You’ll be fine, dear,” Princess Jemma murmured, carefully wrapping her hands around the bell of the jellyfish, taking care to avoid her tentacles.

“But… but he left me,” Joyanne the Jellyfish wailed in despair. “He doesn’t love me anymore.”

“Well that just means he is an idiot,” Princess Jemma said viciously. “A stupid idiot who doesn’t know what he’s let go of.”

Joyanne still sniffled. “I loved him so much. It hurts.”

“Don’t worry, Joyzie. You just keep your head up and we’ll show that lousy jelloboy where he can stick his tentacles.”

“Jem!” Joyanne stared at her with shock all over her face. “You’re swearing!”

“What? Can’t a princess swear?”

“But—you… I…”

A smile spread across Princess Jemma’s face. “There. Now you don’t look so sad. Come, forget about Liam for a while. We’ll go to the spa and the salon and then you’ll feel much, much better. I guarantee it.”

~

After getting all her tentacles massaged, Joyanne did feel much better. She smiled gratefully at her friend.

Princess Jemma smiled back. “Feeling much better?”

“Very much, Jem.” A few moments later, she sighed again. “It still hurts, though. Being jilted really hurts.”

“I know.”

The jellyfish looked at her skeptically. “You do? You’ve never been jilted in your life.”

“True. But I do know what it feels like to always be rejected. To be the odd one out. I think… I think it’s kinda the same, though maybe it doesn’t have quite the same intensity.”

“Who would dare—” Joyanne didn’t finish the sentence as realisation hit her. It was true. She’d always thought Princess Jemma, beloved of the merkingdom, had everything an aquatic creature could ever want. But she didn’t. In school, Jemma had always been alone. She hadn’t been dazzling enough to be part of the popular crowd—her status hadn’t mattered because they’d enjoyed the power of being able to turn a princess away—and the “normal” students had kept out of her way in hopes of not drawing unwanted attention to themselves. Joyanne and Jemma had become friends because… because Jemma had looked lonely and Joyanne was an extroverted jellyfish who couldn’t bear swimming alone.

“Have you… have you ever had a boyfriend?” Joyanne asked, not because she didn’t know, but because she wanted Jemma to confirm.

The princess shook her head. “I won’t even have the chance to be jilted, Joyzie, because no one even wants me.”

“But you’re the princess.” She said it as if it should matter, as if it should make a difference.

“A princess. One of many. And why should any poor merman come and court me only to be told no by my father?”

Joyanne stared at her in horror for a long time. “Oh, my dear Jemma,” she finally said, nuzzling the mermaid princess as she murmured, “You’ll be fine, dear.”

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Rafflecopter is running over on this post. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Infinite Inglenook PLUS #IslandDeception Launch!

There was nothing Princess Inai loved more than a good book. The problem was that there was nowhere quiet enough for her to read.

The library had been the obvious choice, of course, but there were always servants wandering in and out, fetching a book for Mother, or for Father, or for one of her siblings. And if they weren’t fetching books, they were dusting the books, which usually set her off in a fit of coughing.

She tried reading in her room. After all, it was her room, her private space to do whatever she liked. But no, her maids walked in and out, straightening things, fussing with things, putting things away… it drove her mad. Even when she told them to stay out, they could never leave her alone for more than an hour. And an hour just wasn’t enough for her to finish reading the long epics that she really loved!

Nowhere else suited her. The kitchens was obviously out, as was the dining room. The gardens were too cold, and sometimes too wet (and smelled of dog). The ballroom was too drafty even if you ignored the Charmed Chandelier who kept interrupting with stupid observations. The princess stomped her way into the drawing room, hoping that she would find peace to read at last.

Princess Inai stretched out on the couch and opened her book. It was too exposed. The drawing room was quiet, but she could feel people watching her, even if they were silent when they passed by. Someone had lit a fire, and the little inglenook looked warm and inviting. Maybe there—maybe she could hide there and no one would find her. She closed the book on her index finger, marking her place, and headed toward the cozy corner. The warmth of the fire enveloped her.

The inglenook was small, yet large enough for her to stretch out her legs. She settled on the cushioned seat and leaned her back on the wall, wriggling a little to get comfortable, and then yelped. There was a dizzying moment. When the world settled again, she found that she was still hidden in that tiny space beside the fireplace, but the place had gotten a lot bigger. Infinitely bigger. She gasped in surprise.

Stretched out beside her on her left was what seemed to be a hidden library, filled with all the books that could sate her. Thick tomes full of words. Thousands of them. She turned her head to the right to find that everything there was perfectly normal. She could see the wall where it jutted out beside the fireplace, acting as a pillar to block everyone’s view of her private little nook. It was perfect.

She slid into the magical space on the left, running fingers down the spines of the books, promising herself that she would read them all. One day, she would finish every single book in this infinite inglenook. But for now, she was going to finish—finally finish—reading The Island Deception. Before she settled down again, her eye caught something new. A little kettle sat whistling merrily, indicating that the water had finished boiling. Beside it was a teapot, a dainty teacup, and a wooden box. She opened the box to find rows and rows of tea bags.

In amazement, she made herself a pot of tea, took the pot and teacup back to her seat, and wriggled until she found a comfortable position. Then she opened her book again, took a sip of tea, and settled down to read.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

---

Hey, so Dan's book, The Island Deception launches today and since it also begins with an I, here's a review!

The Island DeceptionThe Island Deception by Dan Koboldt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As everyone knows and agrees, second books suck. It's all about moving plots and pawns, getting into position for the final battle, the final showdown. Like The Two Towers, The Island Deception is no different: You're moving, but you're not getting there. Yet.

Quinn finally gets his big break in Vegas, but immediately after, he's thrown back into Alissia, because who can keep him away from real magic, really, after he's been throwing himself whole-heartedly after the scam?

And the mission is going to hell in a handbasket. Quinn is keeping mum about Enclave secrets just as Kiara is keeping hers hidden behind security clearance levels, even from Logan. The recovery mission is pushed up without warning, not giving Mendez a chance to recuperate from the last one.

There's a bit of romance--is this just a fling? Is he trying to use her? Or is he actually serious?--amidst plans and strategising, foils and counterfoils. The team is up against an adversary who seems to be able to read their minds, if only because he was the one who told them how to think in the first place. The plots and cross-plots are getting more intricate. Should I root for Quinn? Or is he doing the wrong thing? Should I root for Veena--but no, I'm sure Holt's up to no good, even if he says he knows better.

And then you get to that bit where you go aww yes, this is it and you hit the realisation (again, all too often nowadays), that no, there's only 10 minutes left and this is just going to...

Hello, cliffhanger.
It's all good. I just need to wait for The World Awakening (or whatever the title turns to) next year.
Good job, Koboldt. I both love and hate you now.

Note: I received an ARC for review via Edelweiss
View all my reviews

Interested? Check it out on Amazon.
Book one, Rogue Retrieval, is available too. (Read my review here.)

---

GIVEAWAY TIME!
Dan has graciously offered a couple of ebooks to readers of this blog! We'll be picking two winners via rafflecopter to win their choice of Rogue Retrieval or Island Deception. Rafflecopter's up for the week! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 10 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Heroic Herring

Despite common opinion, a mermaid’s biggest threat wasn’t Ursula. Sure, Ursula roamed the waters and tricked unsuspecting merpeople into doing her bidding. Sure, there were the two eels that did her bidding, ensnaring merpeople with both body and words. But Ursula was a known enemy and therefore, whilst a threat, could be defeated. Princess Ariel had dealt with her, King Triton had defeated her. No, a mermaid’s biggest threat was sharks. Sharks big enough to eat you. Chase you down until you were exhausted and then bite your tail off. With your tail gone, you couldn’t swim. And then they’d take you leisurely, one bite at a time.

Princess Harmony was tiring. She’d swum further and faster than she’d ever gone before, but it was not enough. The blasted shark was still on her tail. She had to try trickery. Except there was no one to try trickery with. She knew the stories. How Flounder had helped Ariel escape once before, distracting the shark by weaving in and out of old wreckage until it was trapped. But she was all alone here. She’d swum too far from the city.

A movement on her right caught her eye. Was there someone else out there? She shifted her direction ever so slightly, hoping against hope that whoever was there was friendly. If not… She pushed away her pessimistic thoughts.

It was a herring, she realised. A tiny little herring, sleek and silver, darting around her. Wait, didn’t herring move in schools? Why was this one here alone? And it was a tiny one—a baby herring alone in shark-infested waters? But the heroic fish was veering off to one side and seemed to be beckoning her, so she pushed herself to follow, even if she was too exhausted to speak.

Then she was engulfed in a ball of fish, a bait ball, but with her in the centre, protected. Her and the little heroic herring. The school moved as one, broke into two, split directions, drawing off the shark. She just followed, trusting the school to know what it was doing.

“You’re safe now.”

Princess Harmony looked up to find they had come to a stop near the palace, the school of herring still swarming around her like a bright silver ball. It was the little herring that had spoken. The bait ball was starting to disband now that they were in safe waters.

“Thank you,” Princess Harmony said. “You saved my life.”

“Aw, it was nothing,” the heroic herring said with a blush. “We’re all stronger when we work together.”

A smile crossed the princess’s face. She remembered that line. She’d said it herself last week when she gave that pep talk against bullying at the local primary school. “Yes, we are, little herring. Yes, we are.”

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Ginormous Grape

Princess Gracelyn woke up with a thrill of excitement. It was the day of the county fair. Today, for the first time ever, she would be judging the Best Produce category at the fair! She bounced her way to the window, throwing it out and breathing in the fresh air. The skies were clear, but the wind was cold, sending a shiver down her spine.

Two hours later, having scarfed down breakfast, Princess Gracelyn was in her carriage, heading out to the fair. She pulled her grey greatcoat around her as the wind blew in from the open windows.

“Should I close the window?” her handmaid asked, reaching for it.

“No, no. I like the air.” Her hair was tied up neatly anyway, so it wouldn’t look too messy. She hoped.

The county fair was one of her favourite events of the year. True, it wasn’t as grand as the Christmas Ball or the New Year Countdown. It wasn’t even as important as the Spring Revel or as large as the Summer Rejoicing. It was just the county fair—not even exciting enough to warrant it being spoken in Capital Letters—a small gathering of farmer folk in a tiny little county no one remembered, a minor precursor to the Harvest Reaping. But the farmers were kind and interesting. They talked to her about random things—the weather, the new lambs, Missus Opie’s bad leg, Farmer Welling’s horrible apple pie—and let her play with the kittens and lambs. And this year, she would get to judge Best Produce.

She spent time eating stews and pies and puddings, stuffing her face full while she listened to the farmer folk ramble about their day, and then it was time for the judging.

Father Potts, the unofficial leader of the county, judged the Best Pie, as usual. There was no surprise when Madam Lynette won—she won almost every year, except that time five years ago when she’d sprained a wrist and was too flustered to bake. Then there was the Best Wine, judged by Judge Joe who only drank once a year during the fair. And then it was time for Best Produce.

Princess Gracelyn stepped up nervously to the long table where all the produce had been laid out. There were apples and pears and pumpkins and raspberries and cherries and blueberries. And then there was the Grape. It was a Green Grape. It was a Ginormous Green Grape. Princess Gracelyn stared at it. The grape had been lying on the ground beside the table, as if whoever had put it there wasn’t sure if it should be entered in the competition. After all, it was such a large grape that it had looked like a watermelon at first glance. It was as big as a watermelon, after all. She struggled to pick it up, needing one of the farmers to give her a hand to lift it and place it on the table.

“I don’t think this will be a surprise… but I have to say… the winner of Best Produce this year definitely has to be whoever grew this ginormous grape,” she said, turning to look at the gathered farmers.

“Who was it submitted by?” Father Potts asked.

Princess Gracelyn looked at the gathered faces. Each one of them shook their heads.

“Is there a tag?” Judge Joe asked.

She inspected the grape but couldn’t find any tag or identifier. Several of the farmers wives helped to search the area, especially by the foot of the table where they found the grape, but no one could find any clue as to who or where the grape had come from.

“Oh dear,” Princess Gracelyn said. “What do we do now? Since we can’t find the winner?”

Judge Joe scratched his beard. “I think we will need to choose a substitute winner. Though it is a pity. This really is a great grape.”

Everyone agreed, but with no way to find out where the grape had come from, there was nothing else they could do. Princess Gracelyn looked at the forlorn produce sitting on the long table beside the grape and finally decided that the winner of the year should go to Farmer Welling’s Preppy Pear. After all, it was a really pretty pink pear.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Friday, 7 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Flamboyant Flamingo

It is generally well-known that flamingos can be very flamboyant creatures. Freda, however, was the most flamboyant of them all. Freda the Flamboyant Flamingo belonged to Princess Felicia. Said princess was now sitting on the edge of her bed, burying her face in her hands.

“What?” Freda snapped.

“You can’t. Really, you can’t.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

Princess Felicia groaned, raising her head. “It’s… too much.”

“No it’s not. It’s just a diamond necklace, and a ruby choker, emerald rings, plus these beautiful amethyst studs.”

“You… you’re not a jewellery stand.”

Freda’s eyes narrowed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Princess Felicia’s hands flittered in front of the flamingo. “This! This is too much. You don’t have to wear all your jewellery at once. It’s not… tasteful. It doesn’t match. It clashes. It’s too… too loud. Just pick one, dear. Or two. The necklace and the studs look nice together.”

Freda rolled her eyes. “But that’s not my style.”

“You can be flamboyant without being gaudy, you know,” Princess Felicia says drily before shrugging and leaving the room.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Egalitarian Eel

The weirdest thing that Princess Emily ever experienced was the night she spoke to an Eel. Well, to be exact, it was the Eel that spoke to her in a sort of dream, but she was pretty much awake at that point of time, so it didn’t quite count as a real dream. Or maybe it was a waking dream, of the sort that is real in certain magical realms but not quite.

What happened was this:

Emily had gone to bed upset. The King, her father, had put his foot down and said that Emily would definitely not be getting a dog as a pet because she wasn’t mature enough to take care of it. She’d screamed at him and said that he was being unfair, penalising her because her guinea pig had run away.

“It’s such a small thing—how would I know where it ran to? A dog is big enough it can’t get lost.”

The King disagreed. “If you can’t take care of a guinea pig, I don’t think you can take care of a dog.” And that was that, to him at least.

The Princess had continued whining, until the King said in exasperation, “Maybe I’ll let you have an Eel. You can’t lose an Eel, can you?”

“I don’t want a slithery, slimy Eel!” Emily had shrieked until she was sent to bed without dessert.

Now she blinked her eyes open to find that an Eel was standing in her room. Well, not quite standing. It was… swimming? In the air? Or was she the one in the sea?

“I do believe that you’re mistaken about us,” the Eel said.

“What? What are you doing in my room?” Princess Emily asked in a daze.

“You called us slithery and slimy. And said that you’d never take any of us as a pet. I’d like to protest that, if I may? Eels are definitely not slithery. We are very, very agile, that is all. And maybe a little boneless.”

“Huh?”

“And we are not really slimy either. We live in the sea. It’s just wet.”

Emily sat up straighter and rubbed her eyes.

“But that’s beside the point. What I’m really here for, Princess, is to protest your discrimination.”

“Discrimination?”

“I represent the Coalition of Companion Equality. The Coalition believes in an egalitarian society where all animals are equal. You said, ‘Eels as pets is a terrible idea,’ or something along those lines, which is highly discriminatory. I would have you know that Eels are extremely suitable companions. We’re really very smart and can entertain you for hours. Besides being really low maintenance.”

“Okay?”

“So, while I acknowledge that you may have personal preference over what kind of animal you would prefer as a companion, it is a different thing to say that any kind of animal is unsuitable as a companion. All animals should have equal rights and opportunities to be chosen as your companion. I hope you do understand. This is very important to us, especially since you are the Princess, and many children in your kingdom will learn from your example.”

Princess Emily nodded mutely.

“Thank you for your time, Your Highness. I will leave you to your dreams now.”

The Eel disappeared into the night and Emily lay down again, too disturbed to fall back to sleep for a long time.

The next day, she told her father that she didn’t want any pet at all. It was all too unsettling after having been talked at by an Eel.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Diamond Darkness

It was dark. Really dark. Princess Diana hugged her knees to herself. She wished that she were home. She wished it over and over again, praying to every god she knew, every spirit she’d ever heard of. Nothing happened. She sighed.

A scrape, a sliver of light, a clank. And then it was dark again. She scooted over cautiously and reached out to find a plate and a cup. Her kidnappers weren’t going to starve her then. She bit into the tuna sandwich with a tinge of relief. After eating and drinking, Princess Diana curled up into a ball and closed her eyes.

~

There was a star in the sky when she awoke, which was strange, because she was still in the dark room. The darkness now had this edgy, hard quality to it.

“Do you want to go home?” The voice came out of nowhere.

“Of course I do,” Princess Diana replied, staring up at the star. “Who are you?”

“A friend.”

She thought about that very carefully. “How did you get in here?”

“Magic.”

“I think you’re lying.”

The voice chuckled, the star growing larger by the second. “Here. Look at me.”

The diamond was as large as her palm, shining brightly in the hard darkness. “You’re a talking diamond.”

“Magic.”

“How do I know you’re not the one who kidnapped me?”

“Mmmm. So you think I kidnapped you and now am offering to set you free? For what purpose, may I ask?”

“To get on my good side. To get on my dad’s good side.”

A long silence.

“It’s true,” the princess said.

“No,” came the faint reply. “I just seek to find the best words to convince you of my sincerity.”

“Or of your duplicity.”

“Why do you not trust me?”

“Why should I trust you?” She waited for a reply, but when the silence dragged on, she started speaking again, cutting off whatever it was the diamond would have said. “This darkness is your doing. This hardness is your essence. For what is harder than diamond? What do you want of me?”

“Of you?” the voice was contemplative. “Nothing, really.”

And then the world seemed to spin.

~

There were voices. She thought she recognised one. Diamond.

“It wasn’t my intention,” the hard, cold voice said, “to give you that impression.”

Diamonds were sparkling, brilliant rocks weren’t they? Nothing but dark, black carbon, made to shimmer. It stood to reason that they were indeed heartless.

“You were only trying to rescue her?” This other voice was warm, familiar, and very angry. Father.

“As intentions go, I was just passing through. She looked out of place in that cellar.”

“She looked out of place. In a cellar.” Flat. Ooh, very angry indeed.

Diamond sighed. “I’m saying this all wrong. I’m more of a dazzle-and-leave person, than a stay-and-explain.”

“Explaining will go a long way today.”

Princess Diana forced her eyes open. A pale young man was on his knees before her father, held there by two burly guards. His green eyes flickered towards her before gazing up again at the king.

“You can believe whatever you want, Sire, but I assure you, I had no ill intentions. It was a simple mistake. I sought to question and explain where action would have sufficed. I apologise.”

There was a shimmer and the man disappeared, leaving the guards gaping. The king merely sighed.

“He has done me no harm, father,” Princess Diana said.

~

Princess Diana was home, in her room, with the lights turned on, as if nothing had happened. She sat, staring into space for a while, then got ready for bed. On her pillow lay a diamond, no bigger than a ladybug, set in a dark velvet choker. It seemed to wink at her.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Charmed Chandelier

The chandelier was singing. Prince Paul could not believe it.

“This is straight out of the Beauty and the Beast, dude,” he said, folding his arms and trying to act cool.

Princess Carmen continued walking.

“Wait, wait up. Aren’t you amazed that the chandelier is singing?” He scrambled after her as she approached the opposite door.

“Him? He sings all the time. I’d be more amazed if he could shut up.” Her eyes flicked up with a glare at the Charmed Chandelier who was belting “Be Our Guest” at the top of his voice.

“Be nice, Princess,” the Charmed Chandelier interrupted his own song to reprimand her. “It’s not as if I have anything else to do.”

Princess Carmen rolled her eyes. “CC, you’re noisy. And you don’t even sing in tune.”

A hurt huff came from the direction of the ceiling. Prince Paul and Princess Carmen exited the ballroom, having only used it as a shortcut. As the door closed behind them, Paul could hear the chandelier starting to sing again, in a wobbly sort of voice.

“Um, Carmen, I do think that was a little mean. I think you’ve made him cry.”

An almost-apologetic look crossed her face. The next second, however, she said harshly, “He’ll get over it.”

They were almost at the front door when Prince Paul asked, “How did he get that way?”

To his surprise, Princess Carmen started crying. “It’s… it’s all my fault! I was… I mean, everyone was away, and there was this knock on the door, and I let this old magician in. He looked like a nice old man! I mean, he wasn’t creepy or anything. So I let him in and we were in the kitchens and there was this… this flare.”

“Flare of what?” Prince Paul asked after a while when Princess Carmen didn’t continue.

“Magic. Or something. I don’t know. I think I fainted. When I got up again, the magician was gone, and the… and the chandelier was charmed.” Princess Carmen pulled the door open. “Let’s not talk about it.”

He followed her out of the castle, round the fountain, down the long driveway, past the tall sentinel trees, crossing into the flower garden before he spoke up again. “So how do you release him from the enchantment?”

“I don’t know.”

“What caused the enchantment?”

“I… don’t know.”

“How do you even know it was the old man who did it?”

“I… Look, Paul, I don’t know!”

“And you’re just not going to ask and leave the poor thing charmed like that? Singing Beauty and the Beast songs because he’s bored?”

Carmen stomped her foot. “What do you want me to do?”

“Talk to him! Maybe he knows how to get out of it and he just needs some help.”

“He would have said something earlier, don’t you think?”

Paul jut his chin out obstinately. “Not if you aren’t even listening to him.”

“Fine. You talk to him.”

~

“Oh, you’re talking to me now?” CC said, swinging gently from the ceiling.

“Paul made me,” Princess Carmen replied sulkily.

“Good boy.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“All the stuff Paul wanted to know. Didn’t he already ask you?”

“It would be nice if you asked again.”

Carmen rolled her eyes and huffed. “Fine. So, who are you really? And how did you get there?”

“Me? I’m just a Charmed Chandelier, hanging in the ballroom. That’s all I’ve ever been. I believe some workmen hung me here.”

Carmen scowled. “So you’re not the magician.”

“Oh no. Definitely not. Have never been human. Would never want to be.”

Carmen looked over at Paul helplessly. “Then why are you able to talk? And sing?”

“That’s what all this is about? How I got to be charmed?”

“Yes,” Paul replied. “Carmen thought it was her fault and she just wouldn’t even ask you about it. Is there any way we can break the enchantment?”

CC hummed to himself briefly, breaking out into a chuckle. “No, not really. I was just a freak of magic, really. All the old man wanted to do was to animate some cutlery to amuse the young princess who was so kind to him. But his hand slipped and he let out a larger blast of magic than he intended… resulting in me. He was so freaked out that he ran away as soon as he could.”

Princess Carmen looked a little relieved. “So it wasn’t my fault after all!”

“Nope. And I’m perfectly fine here, singing my songs, so don’t you worry.” The Charmed Chandelier went back to singing random Disney songs as Paul and Carmen slipped out of the ballroom.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Monday, 3 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Blueberry Bane

Princess Barbara was a picky eater. The one thing she hated most in the world was blueberries. This proved to be a problem because there were blueberries in everything. There was blueberry jam for her toast, blueberry sauce with her meatballs and blueberry pie for dessert, and for teatime, besides blueberry tea (of course), there were blueberry donuts, blueberry snacks, blueberry biscuits, blueberry scones, blueberry danishes—anything that could use a little berry in it was stuffed full of blueberries and blueberry preserves.

And there was nothing she could do about it because blueberries were her country’s biggest export. If they stopped growing blueberries, they wouldn’t be able to keep the country afloat.

“You’ll just have to learn to love blueberries,” her mother, the Queen, had said after one particularly bad tantrum at tea.

“No, you just have to stop feeding me blueberries,” Princess Barbara replied with a stomp of her foot.

“But all our traditional recipes has blueberries! We don’t know how to make anything without them!”

“It’s called recipe substitution, Mother, and I’m sure our cooks can handle that.”

The Queen looked dubious, but asked for the head cook anyway.

The head cook came to the dining room, brandishing a wooden spoon in front of him like a weapon.

“Her Highness would like to know if you can make her some food without blueberries,” the Queen asked almost timidly.

The head cook looked shocked. “Sacrilege!” he cried, echoing the Queen’s own thoughts. “We are the country of blueberries! How can you not have blueberries in your food?”

“I can and I will, Cookie,” Princess Barbara said.

“But you have had them for twelve years without complaint!”

“I hate blueberries and have always hated them. And I have always complained, since I was able to talk. But I have now heard of this thing, Cookie. It’s called substitution. You take out the blueberries and you put in something else instead.”

“No, no, all our recipes use blueberries. If you take it out, it will not taste right. And I will not make terrible food!” Cookie replied, folding his arms. “I have my standards to maintain!”

“Just try it once, Cookie, just for me.” Princess Barbara went to him and looked up at him with puppy eyes. She’d been doing it since she was six and she knew that the Cookie would not resist her. “I think, if you tried making me a nice pie with raspberries instead of blueberries, it would taste perfectly fine.”

Cookie looked down at the Princess with exasperation. “Okay okay. I will try. But once only. And only for you. No one else must know of the disaster of a pie without blueberries.”

“Thank you, Cookie,” Princess Barbara said with a grin. She followed the grumbling cook down to the kitchens, where he rummaged around and dug up a jar of raspberry jam.

“This is from my brother’s farm up near the border,” Cookie said, inspecting the labels.

“Perfect.” She watched as Cookie laid out the ingredients for the pie. “No, no, Cookie. No blueberries. You’re using this jam, remember?”

“Ah yes, sorry,” he reached for the jar and put it in place of the blueberries.

When the pie was finally done, Princess Barbara stared at it for a long time, Cookie standing nervously by her side.

“Well?” Cookie said, raising his eyebrow.

“Let’s try it.”

The first bite was wonderful. The second bite was even more fantastic. “Taste it, Cookie! It’s the best pie you’ve ever made!”

And for Princess Barbara, it was. She had found a way to defeat her mortal enemy.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge: The Princess and the Alabaster Admiral

The thing Amanda hated the most about being a princess was the fact that she would never be able to marry for love. Not that she was in love with anyone, just that she wouldn’t have the chance. Assuming she even met anyone worth falling in love with.

As it was, the only people she met were her maids (all female) and her guards (all old). Her family, including her extended cousins, didn’t count. They were family. Though if she remembered right, cousin Emily had married second cousin Roger. And third cousin Katherine had married fifth cousin once removed Peter. Or something like that. But they were… family. And she couldn’t—wouldn’t—do that. No matter what father said.

The suitor that stood before her now was an Admiral and he had no relation to her. He was very young for an Admiral, being only twenty five, but he was very old to Amanda because she was barely eighteen. But princesses had no say in the matter, of course. Whatever they said about it would be (maybe) heard and then quickly discarded if their fathers and related advisors decided otherwise. Mother was eight years younger than Father. Seven years was still a smaller gap than that.

The Admiral sat very still. He was very fair with light yellow hair, and in his white uniform, he looked like an alabaster statue—an exquisitely sculpted alabaster angel. Amanda was extremely distracted by his pretty face.

“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?” she asked, blushing.

“Amos,” he replied with a blush, his white cheeks turning a very pretty pink.

“Where are you from?”

“From another country far from here.”

She thought about that. “Does that mean I have to follow you home if I marry you?”

Amos smiled and shook his head. “No, Your Highness. I am stationed here and will remain here for the rest of my life.” He paused, looking a little sad. “We may visit though, if you would like that?”
“Oh. That… that sounds nice.”

Amanda fidgeted. The Admiral sat statue still. Exactly at five, he drank his last drop of tea and took his leave. She was sure that she’d destroyed any chance she with him. And he was such a handsome young Admiral too!

~

To her surprise, the Admiral continued to court her. He would turn up at three in the afternoon for tea, and leave at five. They would sit in her drawing room, looking at each other, Amanda fidgeting as usual—she could never sit still—and the Admiral sitting like he’d turned into stone.

The maids soon started calling him the Alabaster Admiral on account of his pale skin and his statue-like qualities, comparing him to the angels and cupids that stood in the garden. He was handsomer than all those statues, of course—Amanda had stared each one in the face and compared them to her suitor. He had an added advantage—he turned the prettiest shade of pink when he smiled.
He was turning a very pretty pink now, as he cleared his throat and rose to his feet. Amanda was startled. It was only four, and not quite time for him to leave yet.

“Dear Princess,” he said with a husky voice, ignoring her oft-repeated request that he call her Amanda, “I have something to ask you.” He got down on one knee, pulling out a small box from his pocket.

Amanda barely suppressed a squeal.

The Admiral opened the box, revealing not a diamond ring, but a small alabaster figurine. “I know it’s traditional here to present a ring during a marriage proposal, but the custom in my country is quite different. This figurine represents my life and my heart. Will you accept it? Will you give me shelter in your house and your heart even as I pledge my life to protect and serve you?” He looked up at her past long lashes, his eyes fixed on hers.

“Oh Amos,” she replied, using his name for the very first time. “I would, but my heart is not mine to give. It is my father who decides who I can or cannot marry.”

Amos smiled. “I have spoken to your father, Amanda. I have his permission. But what I would rather have is your heart.”

“Then yes, my Alabaster Admiral, I will.”

The Admiral kissed her hands and pressed the figurine into them. “Keep it well, my Princess. I break easily.”

~

Amanda stood by the mantlepiece for a long time, staring at the two little alabaster figurines, recounting the sixty years they’d stood there together. The Alabaster Admiral had broken on the very day Amos took his last breath. Beside its shards, the Alabaster Princess stood alone and forlorn. The princess had wondered before what her life would have looked like if she’d been able to go out into the world and fall hopelessly in love with a random stranger, like they did in all the stories she’d ever known.

But here, at the end of it all, she realised that there was nothing about her life with Amos that she would have changed. Awkward beginnings and all.

---

Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

#fridayflash: Jentayu's Tear (excerpt) from @InsigniaStories



The men screamed and pointed as he transformed back to his true form. His golden feathers blazed in the sun, his horn burning with pure fire; hot white, deep black, flickering blue. He spread his wings and took to the air, the force of each beat of his wings driving the little men to the ground.

“Fight me, Jentayu!” he screamed his challenge into the air.

Lighting flashed across the sky—and there she was before him. Her sleek blue-white feathers gleamed in the rain that now poured, her crest glinting like a diamond crown. For a moment, he caught his breath, mesmerized. He'd forgotten how beautiful she was. How graceful in flight, how tender in speech, how she'd been his closest companion for thousands of years as they ruled the Bird Kingdom together. But the rain was chilling him, dousing his fire, and this would not do.

“It's not so easy to kill me, Jentayu,” he sneered.

“I'm not trying to kill you. It's enough for me to just stop you from carrying out your
nefarious plans.”

“Nefarious! Hah. Maybe you should go back to school and learn how to use your words properly.”

“I said exactly what I wanted to say, Garuda.”

Another beat of his wings. The earth shook and he smiled. “We'll see how you handle that.”

“Handle what? The earth shaking?”

“No. That.”

Jentayu wheeled in horror as the skies erupted in fire and brimstone. The eruption of the volcano filled her senses with searing heat, billowing smoke and the scent of wet ash. In retaliation, she called upon the waves. Two feet. Three. Five. Seven feet high they rose, water against fire. There was nothing she could do to help Merong Mahawangsa and his men now. They would have to survive on their own.

She pressed her apologies into his mind, directing the men to find safer ground far away from the battle. Away from the Garuda's butchery.

“Would you really kill me, my brother?”

“I will destroy anyone who stands in my way—including you, Jentayu!”

And then they crashed against each other, hissing and snarling. Claw raking bloody claw. Beak scoring beak. Mighty wing buffeting mighty wing.

It broke her heart. Where they'd once touched tenderly, as brother with sister, as friends forged in the fight together, they now lashed out at each other. There was death on his claws, and deep sadness in her heart. She knew all his weaknesses. Had once protected them, as he had done hers.

But that was why she had walked away before, wasn't it? Away from his delusions of grandeur, of conquering the world and being Emperor of All Earth—instead of being God's emissary and protector of birds. She couldn't just walk away now.

---

Jentayu's Tear is now available in the anthology Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories.

INSIGNIA Vol.4 includes 9 Asian fantasy stories with a mix of literary, contemporary, myth-based, and historical fantasy pieces. Countries included are Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, China, India, and Nepal.

PART I: Adventure / Folktales

‘Four Claws’ by Allison Thai
‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng
‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan
‘Ribbons & Bones’ by Kelly Matsuura

PART II: Adult / Literary Tales

‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell
‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales
‘Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh
‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas
‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

Available on Amazon | Smashwords

Find out more HERE.

P/S want a copy for review? Let me know!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

#POAUSM2017: Guardians of the Sea

The Ocean has always been capable of harbouring Life, but it cannot be forgotten that She can also be the bringer of Death. 

But now, it is She who is dying. 

Her waters, once crystal clear, are now clouded and hold trash and toxins in suspension. The treasure-trove of colours that she once held in Her embrace were now almost all washed away to nothing, the corals lifeless and crumbling. Of the creatures that claimed citizenship in Her realm, many are dead or dying, taken as food or for sport without care. 

This shall go on no longer. The Ocean has decided: Before She weakens further, She must take more solid action.



This year, using a mythology theme, Project Ocean Awareness USM is organizing a series of events to promote and spread understanding of marine issues under the banner of ‘Guardians of the Sea’.

Being the fifth iteration since its inception, Project Ocean Awareness 2017 is bringing its A-game and aims to be bigger and better. With various events open to USM students and staff as well as the public, we are inviting you to be part of our quest to save the ocean from further deterioration.

Water are you waiting for? Do you have what it takes to become a Guardian of the Sea?

1. Carnival: Make Waves

Date: 22nd April 2017 (Saturday)
Time: 8.00am - 5.00pm
Venue: USM Main Campus
Fee: Free Admission

Participants are up for some fun-filled learning at our carnival! There will be exhibitions, talks and workshops by various NGOs as well as a special screening of Finding Dory, all stressing on the importance of marine conservation.

2. Competitions

Photography:
Date: 15th of March to 15th of April
Time: Online submission
Fee: Free

Colouring:
Date: 22nd of April
Time: 10.00 am - 12.00 pm
Fee: RM 5

Drawing:
Date: 22nd of April
Time: 1.30 pm - 4.30 pm
Fee: RM 5

Venue: USM Main Campus

With three categories: drawing, colouring, and photography, we aim to cultivate a love of the sea through this competition of creativity. Winners of the competition will be invited to our turtle release event.

3. Turtle Release

Date: 6th of May
Time: 3.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Venue: Kerachut Beach Turtle Conservation Centre, Penang
Fee: Free for Winners of Competition, Half Price (RM 10) for one guardian/friend brought by winners

Get up close and personal with some adorable turtle babies and see for yourself how important it is to preserve our oceans. To prevent the baby turtles from inappropriate handling, this event is only open to competition winners and committee members.

4. Talk + Workshop Series

Date: 12th, 19th and 24th of April
Time: 7.30 pm – 10.00 pm (19th & 24th)
Venue: USM Main Campus
Fee: RM 3

Talks given by NGO representatives or USM officials will be conducted based on our three target issues, followed by an interactive workshop. This is to expose the public to prominent marine issues and leave them with a deeper impression. 
*Not open to the public. 
*Talk on the 12th is free

5. Beach Clean-Up Series

Date: 16th and 29th of April
Time: 7.00 am – 1.00 pm
Venue: Batu Ferringhi Beach and Tanjung Bungah Beach
Fee: RM 10

Participants will collect and sort trash at the beach. At the same time, participants can see how ocean trash and pollution brings adverse effects. After, we can have fun in the Sun! 
*Lunch will be provided 
*Fee only applicable to public is lunch is required

6. Beach and Underwater Clean-Up Trip

Date: 21st to 23rd of April
Time: Thursday night (20th April) departure and return to Penang early Monday morning (24th April)
Venue: Perhentian Island, Terengganu
Fee: RM 400 (snorkelling package) & RM 600 (diving package)

A diving team will clean up underwater trash while those without diving licenses (snorkelling team) will clean up the beach at Perhentian Island. This trip serves to emphasize the difference tourism can inflict on our environment.

7. Human Formation

Date: 12th of April
Time: 5.30 pm - 7.00pm
Venue: USM Main Campus
Fee: Free

We cordially invite everyone to join us in this endeavour! In an attempt to do something out of the box, we plan to create some cool human formations to promote ocean awareness. 
*Only open to USM students

8. Charity Run

Date: 30th of April
Time: 7.00 am – 12.30 pm
Venue: USM Main Campus
Fee: RM 30

Not just a typical marathon, this run incorporates station games, challenges and fun facts to liven things up and spread knowledge. Proceeds from the event will be donated to a marine-related body to support their ocean-saving efforts.

For more information, feel free to contact us via our Facebook page (@poaUSM) or our Instagram page (@poa_USM).

---

Quick shout out for wonderful university students who are striving to make a difference!