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|Hieracium and the Great Wave (youngsters:fairy tales, 3388 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Jul 25 2006||Views/Reads: 4209/1656||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|…his thoughts were of sailing off to foreign lands where battles were waiting to be fought, and where princesses waited to be rescued... Another bedtime story from Astrantia.|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story turned to wave to Luzula. Ranunculus was an old but strong man and would often do work for local farmers, like helping with haymaking or delivering crops to other villages. 'But where?' said Hieracium. He was dressed like his father, in rough homespun shirt and breeches and a leather jerkin. 'It must be a long way if we need to take so much to eat.' He gave his mother a last wave as the horse and cart rounded the bend in the road. But then something in the back of the cart moved. 'Tritoma!' exclaimed Hieracium. ‘what are you doing here?' Tritoma had just appeared from behind one of many sacks of new potatoes. 'I like journeys too,' replied the cat as he climbed up onto the seat between father and son. 'But you're a stowaway!' exclaimed Hieracium. 'Isn't he, father?' 'I suppose so,' said Ranunculus, chuckling at the thought. 'But if you want to come along for the ride, Tritoma, I don't mind. 'That's easy for you to say,' said Crocus, swishing flies away with her tail. She was Farmer Fescue's carthorse, and quite used to pulling heavy loads, though she liked to grumble about it. 'And I'd like to know how far we are going, as well,' she said. 'Just to the ocean and back,' said Ranunculus. 'The ocean!' exclaimed Hieracium. He had been to the ocean only once before and had been fascinated by the huge and restless stretch of water. 'I love the ocean! Will we have time for a swim?' 'Time for more than that, I hope,' said Ranunculus, giving the reigns a gentle shake. 'We're going to Passiflora. Get along there, Crocus. We haven't got all day.' *** Tritoma was asleep at the foot of the huge bed, but Hieracium lay awake listening to the muffled sounds of conversation and laughter that came from below. After a full day's journey, they had arrived in the coastal village of Passiflora where Ranunculus had made his delivery to a tavern called The Periwinkle and then arranged for a night's lodgings there. Passiflora was built high on a cliff-top, from where a steep track wound down to a sandy beach at the head of a bay that made an ideal safe harbour for fishing boats. To Hieracium, it seemed a wonderful place: a place just like the ones in the storybooks, with smugglers and pirates around every corner. Also, he had never stayed at an inn before, and even climbing a staircase was a new experience; so, unlike Tritoma, Hieracium just could not get to sleep. But eventually he did sleep, and as he slept his dreams were filled with treasure and pirate ships and sea dragons; one of which was just about to eat him alive when he woke to find his father snoring loudly beside him and the innkeeper's daughter standing beside his bed. 'I'm seven. How old are you?' she said. Hieracium could just make out the shape of the little girl silhouetted against the early morning light from the window; though he could easily have taken her for a boy as she had short hair and seemed to be dressed in boys' clothing. 'Ten,' replied Hieracium, blinking the sleep out of his eyes as he looked at the girl. 'We're going fishing,' she said. 'You can come if you want.' Hieracium looked towards his sleeping father. 'Unless you're too scared.' 'I'm not scared,' said Hieracium. 'I'll meet you outside then,' said the girl, leaving Hieracium to get dressed. As the girl left, Tritoma came in, licking his lips after an agreeable visit to the kitchen. 'It seems you have a new friend,' he said. 'Father was very late to bed last night and he smelt of that drink he likes: the one that makes him walk funny. Rum, I think it's called. It usually makes him sleep late, as well, so we should have plenty of time for fishing.' *** 'You don't get seasick, do you?' said the girl as her uncle's small fishing boat was carried out of the bay by a light breeze and the outgoing tide. The boat was painted bright blue and had a single mast and two triangular sails. 'I don't think so,' Hieracium answered, as he watched the cliff-top village of Passiflora grow smaller. 'I've never been on a sailing ship before.' The girl laughed at Hieracium's ignorance. 'The Marguerite isn't a ship, she's a fishing boat!' The girl's name was Caltha. Her face was tanned, and her hair was bleached by the sun and the salt air to the colour of seashells. She had already explained that The Marguerite belonged to her Uncle Vinca who was sitting at the tiller guiding his boat out to sea. Vinca was a typical fisherman, with a weather-beaten face and thick curly hair and a beard. And he had taken an immediate liking to Tritoma, who was sitting comfortable on his lap. 'Stand by, Caltha!' Vinca shouted, as he made ready to change course. 'Get down!' Caltha warned Hieracium. 'We're going to tack.' As Vinca pushed the tiller, turning the ship's rudder, the boom – that's the wooden beam attached to the ship's mast and mainsail - came swinging across from one side of the boat to the other, and would have knocked Hieracium overboard if Caltha had not tugged at his sleeve and pulled him down. 'Thanks,' said Hieracium, cautiously watching the boom in case it came swinging back across the boat. But as a strong gust of wind filled the sail and the boat leapt forward through the waves and splashed him with spray, he grinned broadly at Caltha. 'What does tack mean?' he asked. 'If the wind isn't blowing the way we want to go,' Caltha explained, 'we have to sail across the wind for a while and then turn and sail across it the other way.' 'Stand by!' Vinca shouted again, and this time Hieracium ducked his head down in plenty of time before The Marguerite turned and the boom swung across, except that this time the boat lost most of its speed. Vinca nudged Tritoma off his lap and then left the tiller to lower the mainsail. 'Time to fish,' announced Caltha, opening a wooden chest in the center of the boat and taking out two fishing lines complete with hooks and silvery lures. Vinca reached into the chest and took out a net, which he unfolded and cast over the stern where it trailed behind the boat as the southerly breeze pushed it gently along parallel to the shoreline. Hieracium had been river fishing with rod and line but was unsure what to do with just a line. 'It's just like catching crabs from the rocks,' Caltha explained, 'except here the sea is much much deeper.' She quickly uncoiled her line and lowered it into the water on the starboard side of the boat, and Hieracium did the same while Tritoma watched with interest, noticing that the fishing line was much thicker than the one that Hieracium used on the river. 'Hungry?' Vinca asked, unwrapping a parcel of bread and cheese and handing some to the two children. 'There's nothing for you though, Tritoma. But maybe a sardine or two later, eh?' He gave the cat a scratch behind the ear and then went back to the tiller where he could keep one eye on his net and the other on the coastline to be sure they were not drifting too far out to sea. The bread and cheese tasted delicious and they washed it down with cups of fresh milk which they shared with Tritoma. And as Caltha threw a handful of breadcrumbs over the side, several tiny but brightly coloured fish appeared from nowhere and darted about with open mouths until a seagull swooped down and frightened them away. It was then that Hieracium felt a sharp tug on his line. 'I think I've caught a fish!' he exclaimed as he began to haul in his line. 'Careful,' warned Caltha, 'if you pull too hard you might loose it.' Tritoma had to move out of the way as Hieracium, puling hand over hand, was covering him with wet fishing line. But as he jumped up and balanced on the side of the boat he soon saw Hieracium's fish come struggling to the surface. 'Quite big,' he observed. But before the fish was hauled into the boat, a bigger fish leapt out of the water and swallowed the first fish whole and then dived back down, taking Hieracium's line with it. 'Keep hold!' Caltha shouted excitedly, as the line sped through Hieracium's fingers. 'I've never seen that happen before! You've got a really big fish on your line now!' Hieracium managed to grasp the line, and Tritoma and Caltha watched as he struggled to haul it in. But the fish was strong and made Hieracium fight for every handful of line. Vinca had left the tiller and come to watch. It was like a tug of war, and he was impressed by Hieracium's determination as, bit-by-bit, he fought the fish and hauled in the line. 'It must be a very big fish,' he said, as he felt the deck begin to tilt under his feet. But as the sea became noisier and he looked over his shoulder, he saw that it was not Hieracium's fish that was tilting the deck of his boat but an approaching wave: the biggest wave he had ever seen in his life. He ran to the tiller to try and steer the boat into the wave, as that was the best way to avoid being capsized. 'Hold tight!' he shouted over the roar of the surging water as The Marguerite began to turn. At first Caltha and Hieracium, engrossed in the fishing, didn't understand Vinca's warning, but as they turned and saw the huge wave, they abandoned their fishing lines and looked for something to cling to. Caltha made a grab for the mast and clung there shouting at Hieracium to do the same, but Hieracium had turned to take hold of Tritoma and just at that moment the top of the wave curled and crashed down onto the boat and washed them both into the sea. The Marguerite shuddered but then shook off the water and rose to the top of the wave. Then Vinca and Caltha ran to the side of the boat and looked over, but Hieracium and Tritoma were gone. *** 'Where am I?' Hieracium asked as he woke. His clothes were damp and he seemed to be in some sort of cave; except that the cave was made of a kind of rock he had never seen before, and through it, shone a watery daylight. 'We're safe now,' said a familiar voice. It was Tritoma, and he was sitting on the floor of the cave beside Hieracium. 'We were brought here by dolphins.' 'Dolphins?' said Hieracium. He had heard of dolphins but never seen one. He got to his feet and looked around the cave. The rocky floor was a sandy colour, while the curving walls and roof were almost translucent, like the glass in a window, and beyond them was water. 'We're under the ocean!' he said with surprise. 'You are quite correct,' said a female voice. 'Under the coral, in fact.' Startled, Hieracium turned towards the voice and saw a beautiful woman with waist-length golden hair, sitting at the edge of a pool of clear water. And then, as the woman smiled at him he saw that she was no ordinary woman, for instead of legs she had a fish's tail. 'Are you a mermaid?' Hieracium asked. 'I am indeed,' said the mermaid, and my name is Inula, and I am the daughter of King Lathyrus, the ruler of the seabed. I will take you to see him now.' Then, amazingly, as the woman moved, she changed: her fish's tail was replaced by the skirt of a long flowing gown that shimmered in the sea-light. On her head was a sliver crown and, as she stood upright, Hieracium saw that on her feet were silver slippers. 'This way,' said Inula, as she led Hieracium and Tritoma around the pool and towards a long dark tunnel. The tunnel led to another cave, larger than the first, but made of the same type of translucent rock. At its center, beside another pool, sat a King Lathyrus. He too wore a crown and a long flowing silvery gown, and gathered around his throne were people – if people was the right word for them, as most, though dressed like the king and his daughter, had silvery scale-like skin. Though all of them seemed troubled by something, as they were in such deep discussion that they did not even notice the arrival of Inula and her two guests. But King Lathyrus noticed. 'Ah, here is our fisherman,' he said in a loud, grim voice that immediately silenced his courtiers, making them turn and look disapprovingly at Hieracium. 'And here is his friend, Tritoma.' Hieracium, noticing the disapproving looks and at the same time remembering his fight with the fish, thought it best to say nothing, while Tritoma calmly walked up the king and leapt into his lap, causing the courtiers to gasp. But King Lathyrus smiled and stroked Tritoma affectionately, as though it was his habit to do so. 'You are lucky to have such a friend,' he said, looking now at Hieracium. 'Did you know that you owe Tritoma your life?' Hieracium looked puzzled. 'But I thought we were saved by dolphins,' he answered. 'No, not saved,' said the king. 'Just brought to us... drowned.' 'Drowned?' Hieracium did not understand. 'Yes, drowned,' said King Lathyrus. 'But a cat, I have learned, has nine lives, and your friend, Tritoma chose to continue with this one.' Hieracium still did not understand. 'But I am not a cat,' he said. 'If I had drowned then surely I would be dead.' 'Quite so,' agreed the king. 'Except that here in the realm of the seabed, I have the power of life or death over those who trespass; and your friend Tritoma persuaded my daughter that your life was worth saving.' Hieracium looked at Tritoma, remembering how the two of them had been washed overboard by the great wave and sucked into the depths of the sea. 'Is it true that we drowned?' he asked. 'It is true,' Tritoma replied as he jumped down from the king's lap. 'And now this life counts as my third instead of my second. But it is not to me that you owe your life, but to Princess Inula and King Lathyrus - and the dolphins, of course.' At that moment two dolphins surfaced in the center of the pool and swam over to Inula, speaking to her in a language that Hieracium did not understand and causing a ripple of alarm amongst the assembled courtiers, some of whom dived into the pool and disappeared. Then Inula spoke to Hieracium and Tritoma. 'The great wave that washed you into the sea was caused by tremors in the seabed,' she said, 'and the tremors have weakened the magic that keeps the seawater from entering these chambers, so now, for your own safety, you must leave.' Hieracium looked at the pool, and sure enough the water level was slowly rising. 'Quickly,' said Inula, pointing to another dark tunnel. 'Follow that tunnel and it will lead you to safety. Goodbye Hieracium and Tritoma, and good luck.' And with that, she too dived into the pool and Hieracium saw that as she did so, she once more took on the form of a mermaid. Now the king was on his feet and giving orders to the few remaining courtiers, and Hieracium and Tritoma were forgotten. 'I think we have outstayed our welcome,' said Tritoma. 'It is time we left.' And so, reluctantly, and with many a glance back towards the pool, Hieracium followed Tritoma into the tunnel. *** 'But what happened next,' Callistephus asked. 'Did the tunnel lead them to safety?' 'Oh, yes,' replied Thymus, 'eventually... But we'll save that story for another time, shall we?' Tweet
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