In a land where grass is pink and the moon goes bump in the night, how does there come about a flying pig, something only heard of in fairytales? And so this tale opens with a home-bound girl, picking her travels across the land to reach her waiting abode.
It was a cold morning that Michella awoke, frost rippling the ground as it melted away with the rising sun. Tediously she rose, shaking off the sleep as she moved around her make-shift camp. Taking an egg from her bag she cracked it over her piled wood, watching a fire erupt into flames as yolk slipped onto logs. For no other reason than warmth the fire continued to crackle in the cold, as the girl dressed quickly and ate her breakfast of seasoned bread. Looking around she found herself ready, and began on her way, leaving the fire to crackle. It was only a small egg, the fire would soon die.
Weary from travelling Michella was looking forward to home, to the humble dwelling where she had spent her childhood.
Yip yip yip. Michella looked to the side, finding a hogsnout hiding in the bushes. It's purple body was fat and round, but thinner than most, with long fine hair gliding from its square face.
"Yip yip yip." Michella bent and held out her hand, urging the creature forward. "C'mon, I won't hurt you; you're too cute for that."
Cautiously the hogsnout turned to her, taking a few precarious steps her direction.
"That's it, c'mon." She took some bread from her bag and held it out in her hand.
Without a moments pause the hogsnout was there, grumbling up the bread in an instant.
Yip yip yip.
"Here you go," Taking out more she held it out again, and it was gone before she had time to blink.
"You're a hungry fellow aren't you."
As if answering it nudged her hand.
"Okay, but last lot, otherwise I'll go hungry."
Stroking the hogsnout it looked up at her, a wanting look on its face.
"No, no more."
"What you doing talking to an animal?"
Michella spun round in horror, finding a young man, riding a burgundy beast. The beast snorted in apprehension, stamping its three legs through the dirt.
"So, where you hoping the hogsnout would turn into a handsome prince."
"Course not," Michella said, indignant in speech. "I was merely feeding it."
"You feed with food, not with your mouth." As he said this he reached into his bag, throwing out some grains onto the grass. Michella followed his hand to his face, finding the subtle grooves of his chin, and the nose that looked cracked in three places. Deep brown eyes darted over the grains, as his swift dark hair was pushed in the wind. "See wasn't that easy, I didn't say a word."
"But then you don't get any satisfaction."
"Oh but I do. I know now that that hogsnout won't be so hungry because of me."
"Of course, only a Westener would think that." A Westener was a family of witches and wizards, known throughout the land for their cruel acts, and ruthless abilities. To be called one was a disgrace indeed, unless you were a Westener, which they would then take as a compliment.
"What if I am?" He climbed from his beast, landing in the dirt with a soft thud. "You never know."
"Nah, your ears are too big."
The criticism had him cringing, hands quickly flying to his ears. Michella smiled, pleased out her desired effect.
"Now if your too busy worrying about those ears of yours I'll be on my way." And with that Michella hitched her bag onto her shoulder and continued on her.
Barely had she gotten far when she heard the clunking of the burgundy beast behind her. With a sigh she kept walking, fingering the necklace at her neck. It's amethyst rue sparkled in her hand, softly whispering its quiet rhyme to her:
One flower may die
A life another
But pray for hope
And wish surrender
One wish she got. Anything she could want. And through all her hardships she had saved it, waiting for an imperfection to show its face so she could combat it.
Slowly the deep dark woods grew up before her, until she had almost reached its fringe.
"Wait!" The too loud call came from behind her.
With an obvious sigh she turned, finding the man closer than she thought.
"You're not going through the deep dark woods are you?"
"Yes I am, now if you're done, I'm about to be late for my meeting with the woods." She turned, about he would leave it.
"Wait," he called again. "You know a Westener lives in there."
Michella turned, surprised. "A Westener does not live in there." She was sure of it. "Only Mrs Tumbiles does."
"A Westener." Pride showed onto his face at what he thought was his obvious win.
"Mrs Tumbiles is not a Westener." Though Michella had only met her once she knew that Mrs Tumbiles could not be a Westener.
"Yeah, didn't you know?" He smirked.
"Okay, if you're so sure, let's go see Mrs Tumbiles and ask her."
"No!" His reply was too fast, his smirk far behind him. "That's not safe."
"Well then you can stay here or go wherever you're going, I am going through the deep dark woods." Michella turned, hoping it to be the final time. Three steps and she was wrong.
"I'll come with you then, I have to pass through here." He drew his beast up beside her. "Would you like a ride?"
They walked in silence through the woods, hearing only her muffled footsteps and the beast's clops. Occasionally a Sollo would dart before them, reaching for something on the ground before opening its wings and taking flight.
Suddenly a baby dragon landed before them, taking both of them to fright. Taking careful glances at each other they stood stock still, as the dragon snuffled around on the ground. A breath of fire erupted from its mouth, dying into the dry leaves. Just as suddenly as it had appeared it had done again, flapping its tiny wings into the air.
Both looking up they found its mother waiting just above the treetops, covering them with shade.
"Wasn't that cute." Michella continued walking, hearing the clops restart.
"You know what would be cute?" Michella passed her words through the air, finding the noise better than the silence.
"If pigs could fly." She laughed at the thought, sending a nearby sollo into the bushes.
"That's not cute, that's gross."
"It would be incredibly cute."
"Yeah well it's never going to happen."
"It could." Michella again fingered the necklace around her neck. Pigs could fly; they just needed a little help. Almost tempted to prove this young man wrong she let go, knowing that it wasn't worth wasting.
"The day that pigs fly, I'll, I'll, I'll marry you."
Michella laughed, humoured at the thought. "Yes, cause I'm going to marry a complete stranger just because a pig flew across the sky."
"I'm not a complete stranger."
"I don't even know your name." She realised this as she said it. Neither knew the others name, introductions had been skipped.
"Well my fair lady." He slipped off his beast, suddenly courteous. Flourishing his hat he bowed. "My name is Dimitri Coranzia Aplitue. May I inquire yours?"
"Michella, just Michella."
"Well Just Michella, shall we continue on our way?" He offered his arm, and she took it, laughing.
"Why suddenly so nice?'
"Cause the first thing I ever learnt was that when you introduce yourself you have to make a good impression." He laughed. "Might be a bit late for that though."
"True, but there's always the second impression." The girl found herself beginning to like him, His brazen actions before being pushed to the back of her mind.
They continued walking, the beast trailing behind them obediently. Each step brought them closer to the other side, and the sunnier path that waited for them. As they travelled the road grew thinner and, they both knew, they were getting closer to the centre of the woods. Their footsteps hurried to pass the fearful point, each one bringing them still closer.
"Hello dears." The voice came unexpectedly, both minds only on getting past, not what was around them.
Michella saw her first. The old bent woman, greying hair tightened into a wispy bun.
"Hello Mrs Tumbiles." She nudged the motionless body beside her, willing him to say something.
Michella sighed inwardly, annoyed at her companions obvious fear.
"Where may you two be off to?" Her voice was rough and scratchy, croaking out its words.
"I'm heading home," Michella stated, no fear plaguing her. She was sure Mrs Tumbiles wasn't a Westener.
"Yeah me to. I mean home, not her home, my home," Dimitri stuttered.
"You must both be very tired, come rest at my house for a little while."
"Oh no thank you," Dimitri lost his mumbling to speak with hurried confidence. "We best be getting along, want to get home before dark you see."
"Oh but my house isn't far, then I can show you a shortcut."
"We'd love to pop by for a moment. Dimitri just overestimates everything," Michella lied, hoping the truth to not be released.
"Come along then." Mrs Tumbiles turned and began to make her way through the trees, growing further away. Her voice rose into a mumbled song. "Once poor lass went out on the road, time, time, time again."
Michella went to follow, taking one step before she felt the hand on her arm.
"Let's go Michella." He began to tug her the other way.
"No, nothing is wrong with Mrs Tumbiles." She yanked her arm from his grasp, once again beginning to make her way. Mrs Tumbiles had disappeared into the trees. Her voice was the only thing to show she existed.
"Ride away now lass, time, time, time again."
"It's not safe." Though his protestations continued he had fallen into step beside her, dodging the trees as she did.
"Where are you now darlings?" They heard the ragged voice up ahead. "Ah." They had emerged, finding a quaint cottage before them.
A bed of flowers presented a colour patch below the two windows on either side of the wooden door. The roof held stone statues of various creatures balanced precariously, each looking more lifelike than the last. But it wasn't the flowers or the stone that held their breaths, it was the colours. Planks of wood lay across to build the house, each one a different colour, merging to form a wondrous malformed rainbow.
"Close your mouths of the warkole bugs will get in."
They both closed their mouths hurriedly, neither wishing to choke on the tickling bugs. Dimitri began to tie his beast to a tree, then changed his mind, knowing it wouldn't run away.
"Well come inside."
They were both ushered into the homely looking room. A bed lay against one wall, an empty hearth on another.
"How about a nice hot cup of juice?"
Dimitri's mouth remained closed.
"Scared of the warkole bugs?" Michella whispered in his ear as she passed to take a seat on one of the chairs. The chair creaked under her weight.
She jumped up in a fright, looking around her.
"Oh no need to worry about that," Mrs Tumbiles came over soothingly. "That's just Denis."
"The chair, you may want to stay away from him." Mrs Tumbiles ambled her way, continuing to the fire where she was brewing juice.
"Oh right." Carefully Michella choose another chair, happily sinking further when she found it made no reply.
Dimitri remained standing by the door, only coming when she continuously motioned for him to sit down. Still when there he remained standing, keeping one arm resting on her chair.
"Here we are." Mrs Tumbiles shifted away from the fire, carrying a tray laden with three steaming mugs of what smelt like beetle juice.
"Oh sorry, I'm allergic to beetle juice," Dimitri said hastily, shaking his head to the offered juice.
"Good thing this is dragon juice then." A mug was thrust into his hand. "Now drink it all up, wouldn't want to waste any of it."
Michella swiped her frivolously, enjoying the taste of this rare drink. Dimitri though, raised it to his lips and paused, considering whether or not to drink. With an inward sigh that was heard all around he drank, but only a sip slipped through his lips.
"Oh hot, I think I'll let it cool." He set in down on the table. "Oh!" The mug had disappeared, sliding through the table.
"I should have told you the table liked dragon juice," Mrs Tumbiles stated plainly, as if table always drank dragon juice.
"Well, we've had out juice, we'll just be going now." Dimitri dodged around us and made for the door.
"So soon, don't you want something to eat," Mrs Tumbiles eased.
"No, thank you, we really should be going." He reached for the handle. Two hands reached with a quickened pace for the door. Leaning back he pulled, hard.
"Something to eat," A plate of biscuits lay in Mrs Tumbiles hands, her expression seeming oblivious to the panic of the young man's face.
"Mrs Tumbiles, it's time we were getting on," Michella said, fear coming to her. "We'll take some biscuits and eat them on the way."
"Oh no, you can't do that." Her voice grew hard and deep, her wiry hair turning into a crisp black. As they watched the lines left her face, her slouched back smooth to straight. "You can't do that."
"Dimitri..." Fear held every inch of the girl's body, her mind racing as she realised what was happening. Carefully she moved towards him, eyes keeping fixed on the woman at hand. Every ounce of age had shifted from her body, leaving behind a woman they did not recognise, a woman that was beautiful.
Michella had reached him, joining her sweaty hand with his.
"What do we do?" His whisper was urgent, and stunted.
"You sit down." The melodic voice had come from the once-old Mrs Tumbiles, a smile on her face. As her voice rang out a gush of wind raced through the room. Both hands slipped from the others touch as they flew with heightened speed to opposite ends, where they bumped into waiting chairs.
The evil voice rang out in a gush of laughter, filling the room with song.
"What do you want?" The words were spat through Dimitri's mouth, his hands struggling as he fought the invisible bonds.
"Little girlie knows what I want."
Michella's mind immediately turned to the necklace hiding beneath her shirt. She could feel it pulsing, it's quiet song singing out to her.
One flower may die
A life another
But pray for hope
And wish surrender
Maybe this what would she needed to use it for. But somehow, at the back of her mind, there was something telling her not to, something to tell her to save the wish for another day.
"Yes that's it, that pretty little stone." The woman advanced, slowly gaining til she was right there, looming before Michella. "Just give me the stone and you and your friend can leave.
Her mind sped with what to do, the options to take. With quickened ease her mind stopped on one. "No." She reached out her foot with speed, knocking the impending foe to the ground. Over and over she kicked, each time finding her bindings loosening, until... She was free! Swiftly she rose, finding Dimitri do the same.
Together they ran for the door, padding over the wooden boards.
A loud cackle erupted behind them. "You're not getting away that easily."
Behind them the door burnt to flames, leaving a gaping hole of fiery warmth.
"Can't we just settle this like gentlemen," Dimitri pleaded, "or ladies." He stepped forward, and though his voice showed no fear, it pulsed through its veins.
"The necklace girl," The woman's voice croaked, showing the old woman beneath.
One flower may die
"Or I take it."
A life another
Michella grabbed the necklace in her hand, feeling its unused power pulse in her hand. Fear began to form an idea in her head.
"Give it to me!" The woman took a step forward.
But pray for hope
"Now!" Another step
And wish surrender
"Ahhhh," the woman lunged forward, fearful as she saw the powers of the jewel about to be used.
Michella saw her jump, only seconds before she fell with haste to the side.
And with that the woman fell to the fire behind them, her voice coming in screams as she crackled in the flames.
"Michella?" The door had changed, returning to its normal stance.
"Huh?" She looked around. Everything seemed fine.
"She's gone, you saved us." Dimitri smiled with pride covering his face.
He took her arm. "Let's get out of here, okay?"
They walked from the door, finding no remnants of the fire or the witch. With silent movements Dimitri took his beast, and they walked back to the path. After some time, Dimitri broke the silence.
"What's so great about your necklace?"
"I get a wish from it." Just one wish, one wish that she had almost used. But still she did not know what she would've wished for.
"Saving it for anything?"
"Yeah, I suppose, I just don't know what."
They continued to walk in silence, stopping as animals passed to trek their travels across the path, pausing as the sollos flew through the air.
"You were right," Michella admitted. "Mrs Tumbiles was a Westener.
"Yeah, I was, wasn't I?"
They once again continued their silent paces. Though they had no known each other long, their experiences had brought them together, their past differences mixing to form an unforeseen friendship.
As the light grew to show the end of the deep dark woods they both felt relief, their weary minds thankful for the open space.
But as they left the woods behind Michella felt another kind of happiness, one that showed in the small house not far off.
She pointed to it. "That's my home." Off the track she knew they would have to turn their separate ways and, opposite to what she had felt earlier, she had no desire to.
"You might encounter another Westener on the way."
She laughed, thankful for his excuse. "You never know."
And now their silence had turned to words, their talk being the most it had been all day. They stopped just shy of the gate, their smiles both turning to sad grins.
"It's been nice meeting you Dimitri, thank you." He voice was all sincerity.
"You saved me, I should be thanking you."
"What will you wish for?"
As Michella stared at him, at his swift hair and dark eyes, she found her wish.
"One flower may die, A life another, But pray for hope, And wish surrender." She looked at him and smiled. "I wish pigs could fly."