Rowland 4. The Fairy Queen

00.00.00 00.00.00 loading
Fairy Queen of the Woods

Sponsored by Storybird.ai - Create a custom audio story just for you!

Hello, this is Jana and welcome to Storynory.
I’m back with the next episode of Childe Rowland in which we find out what has happened to Titha, who has mysteriously disappeared.

The four children of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere gathered in the stable to decide what to do.
Rowland said: “We have enough gold. We can repay the Innkeeper’s debt to release Titha from the fairies.”
But Edmond, the middle brother, held out his hands and said: “Don’t you see? This is an obvious trick. Titha has probably gone to stay with a relative. They concocted the whole story to deceive us into giving them gold.”
“No!” insisted Ellen. “I’m certain Titha would never be party to a dirty trick like that. She is like a sister to me now!”
“I think Edmond is right,” said the eldest brother, Benedict. “We must not give them gold. It’s a trick.”
Ellen, her eyes full of tears, said: “Rowland, you won’t let the fairies keep Titha will you?”
“I have more than enough gold coins,” said Rowland. “But I won’t hand any over to the Innkeeper. I shall go to the woods and exchange the gold for Titha myself. That way I shall find out if the whole story is true or just a wicked lie.”
“Oh Rowland, thank you! At least you are a true knight!” said Ellen. And then turning to her other two brothers, “You will go with him to protect him, won’t you?”
“No,” said Benedict. “I’m the eldest, and I have warned all along against this foolish trick that we have been falling into. If Rowland believes these incredible stories, that is up to him. But I give my order that he cannot take Excalibur with him. It is our father’s sword, and the symbol of his kingship. It belongs to all of us. He has no right to lose it through his stupidity when he falls into an ambush by robbers or fairies or both.”
“That’s right,” agreed Edmond. “This is an obvious trick. You will be ambushed. They won’t repeat their last mistake. This time they will come in greater numbers and you won’t be able to fight them off, and you will lose, not just the gold, but the sword that belongs to all of us”
“So young brother, go if you wish, but Excalibur stays with us,” said Benedict.
“All right,” said Rowland, unbuckling Excalibur and handing it to Benedict. “Give me your sword. You can look after Excalibur while I am away. But I want it back as soon as I return.”

Rowland needed the Innkeeper to show him the location of the fairy circle in the woods. He set up a horse and cart to make it easier for the Innkeeper to travel. They set out in the late afternoon. As they were rattling down the lane, Ellen ran out of the inn and jumped up onto the cart. “I’m coming too!” she insisted.
They drove into the woods until they could go no further. They tied the horse to a thorn tree and walked along a path. As the trees grew thicker and thicker, Rowland could not help wondering if they were being led into a trap. It was growing dark. How would they ever find the way out?
Eventually they came to a clearing where a ring of white flowers were like little lights, forming a magical circle. They sat down on a tree log.
“What are we waiting here for?” asked Ellen.
“You’ll see in due course,” said the Innkeeper. The air was growing cooler. Ellen shivered.
“I feel like we are being watched,” she whispered.
“I think I can hear footsteps in the woods,” said Rowland.
“Just wait, you will hear music next,” said the Innkeeper.
And he was right. The notes of the fairy music drew closer and closer, and soon a band of little people appeared out of the woods and began to dance around the circle, faster and faster, until all at last the ground opened up in the centre of the circle. A bright light arose out of the opening, until it became clear that the glow emanated from a golden crown on top of the head of a tall and elegant woman dressed in green velvet. She was followed by two miniature knights in armour, about half her height. Their raised visas revealed gnarled and fierce faces with alert eyes scanning right and left. The dancers threw themselves onto the ground and chanted in unison.
“All hail Sybil, queen of the fairy folk.”
The light from the crown was bright enough to illuminate the entire fairy ring and the tree trunks that surrounded it .
The Innkeeper stood up from the log, shielding his dazzled eyes with his hand, and then went down on one knee.
“Fairy Queen, I have returned to ask you for the return of my daughter.”
“ Innkeeper, we have missed you since you left our company. Your daughter is down below. She is awaiting your return.”
“But I need her with me at the inn, and my friends have brought gold to repay my debt.”
“Good friends indeed. Step forward and show me the colour of your gold.”
Rowland stood up and walked slowly into the brightly lit ring, being careful not to step on any prostrate fairy dancers. He did not kneel but he said:
“This purse contains the gold coins.”
“Hmm,” said the Queen. “You will have to bring them down to the Fairy Treasury to be weighed.”
“Where is the treasury?’ asked Rowland.
She turned and gestured to the opening in the ground, and the steps down.
“The Treasury is in our world,” she said, “Beneath yours.”
“But your majesty, you can trust my word, I am Rowland, son of King Arthur. I carry the honour of the Round Table in my heart. So you see there is no need to weigh the gold. ”
“Not all those knights were that honest, you know,” retorted the Queen. “If you want to repay the debt, it has to be weighed by the Fairy Treasury, that’s the law.”
“Whose law?”
“My law.”
“Alright then. I will take the gold to your underground Treasury. Who will lead the way?”
“You shall come with me,” said the Queen.
“I’m coming with you,” called out Ellen, running forward.
“No you’re not. It might be a trick.”
“You can’t stop me. Titha is my friend, and I will make sure she is released before I return up to the air,” she insisted.
“Let her come too,” said the Queen. “You will both be my honoured guests, provided that you are honest. But first, before you enter my palace, you must surrender your sword. Humans cannot carry arms in my palace. That is also my law.”
One of the fairy knights stepped forward. Rowland drew his brother’s sword from his side, and then, holding it sideways under the palms of his hands, he presented it to the knight, who then turned and showed it to the queen.
“I thought you said you were Rowland, son of Arthur.” said the Queen.
“I am.”
“Then why do you carry this human sword? Where is Excalibur?”
“Excalibur is with my brother, Benedict, who is also a son of Arthur,” replied Rowland.
“Why did you let it out of your sight? Merlin entrusted the famous fairy sword to you, not your brother.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because it is a fairy sword and is our property. It was leant to Merlin by my sister, the Lady of Avalon. She did so without my permission.”
“Well I did not bring it, your majesty.”
“I see that you are cunning like your father. Well now, we shall descend.”
She turned around and stepped towards the opening in the ground.

The Queen led the way down the steps, followed by one of the fairy knights. Ellen and Rowland went next, and the second knight came behind them. The steps, cut into the earth, formed a spiral like an underground tower. Deeper and deeper they followed the light from the queen’s crown, until at last they came to a gleaming golden gate guarded by Knights with long axes. They passed through the gate into a bright hall, where the ceiling was held up, and lit by shining gold pillars. All around fairy folk were working at making ornaments, like gold leaves, or apples of rubies and emeralds, or toy mice made out of diamonds.
Then they walked through the hall, before descending more steps, deeper into the ground. Eventually they came to a much smaller chamber, in which sat three old men with crumpled faces.
“These are the fairy bankers,” said the Queen, “They will weigh your gold.”
Rowland handed over the purse to one of the bankers. He emptied three gold coins onto the table. He looked up at the queen with his heavily lidded eyes:
“Your majesty. There is insufficient gold to repay the debt. This human gold only weighs half of our fairy gold, we need twice as many coins.”
“So!” said the queen, pointing a long finger at him: “You tried to deceive me, eh? You are a faithless fraudster like your father! Now you are my prisoner!”
“Your majesty,” replied Rowland, “You have not weighed the gold.”
“No need for weighing, we can see there is not enough.”
“Your Majesty, you said that it was the law that the debt must be weighed. Is this fairy justice? You don’t follow your own laws?”
The queen nodded. “It can be weighed if you wish. It will not make any difference.”
The banker put three pieces of fairy gold on one side of the scales, and Rowland’s three pieces on the other.
“Your majesty,” said the banker, “They are in balance.”
“What kind of trick is this?” demanded the Queen.
“Your majesty, there is no trick. You lent the Innkeeper fairy gold, and I have returned fairy gold . The debt is paid. My character does not know deceit. I am as honest as my father.”
“And from where did you steal this fairy gold?”
“The King of the Elves gave it to me,” said Rowland, “as a parting gift when we left his dark tower.”
And Ellen said: “We’ve paid the debt. Now please will you release Titha?”
“You have indeed repaid the debt,” said the Queen. “I shall show you Titha. We have grown quite fond of her. You will see that she has enjoyed a most comfortable stay with us.”
They followed the queen along a corridor to another room, in which they found a dining table, laid out with fine foods and drink.
“We cannot send you home without trying some of our fairy cuisine,” said the Queen. And then turning to one of the guards, she said, “Fetch the prisoner Titha, so that she may join us for supper.”
They took their seats around the table. While they waited for their friend, the queen explained what the foods were. There was bread with butter from buttercups. Milk and cheese from Milkweed. Sweet smelling honey, of course. Many berries, grasses, and herbs, some of which were recognisable. Mushrooms of the forest. Lark’s tongues, and hummingbird hearts. And dainty cakes and pastries.
When the guard returned with their friend, Ellen sprang up. “Titha!” She ran over to hug her. But Titha seemed drowsy.
“Hello, Ellen,” she said, sleepily.
She took her seat at the table, but had trouble pulling the chair back. She was clearly not herself. Ellen looked at Rowland. They both understood, the food contained magic that made humans sleepy. It was the same trick that the Elfin King had played.
The Queen said:
“Do not be shy. You must be hungry after all of your adventures!”
Rowland replied, “Thank you your majesty. I don’t have any appetite.”
“Come come, a growing boy like you needs to eat if you want to be strong and fight off your enemies.”
And Ellen, adopting a sisterly tone, said, “Rowland, have you been a good boy and taken your tonic today?”
“Tonic?” asked Rowland.
“Yes, your tonic,” said Ellen, handing him a little glass bottle. “Three drops in your water before every meal. You know what Merlin says, ‘prevention is as good as a cure.’” She turned to the Queen and said: “He never has any appetite until he’s had his tonic.”
Rowland, not sure if he was understanding his sister’s meaning, sprinkled three drops in his cup of water.
“Now drink it all down!” insisted his sister.
Then, when he handed back the bottle, she gave three drops to Titha and put three drops in her own water.
“Wonderful,” she said when she had drunk her own tonic. “Now we can eat.”
She reached out and put some of the food on her plate. Rowland followed her cue. He ate as slowly as possible, and as little as was polite. Ellen meanwhile took several cakes, and even Titha seemed to wake up and had an appetite. The queen watched them. At length she said:
“I expect you will be feeling tired. Would you like to lie down and rest.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” said Ellen. “But it’s time for us to be going. Titha’s father and our brothers will be worried on our account.”
“Yes, we are ready to leave now,” said Rowland.
“But you look so sleepy,” said the Queen. “And it’s well past bedtime.”
“Your majesty,” said Rowland, “I have never felt so wide awake. We have paid the debt of fairy gold. Now let us be on our way. You gave your word that we would be in no danger.”
“Well,” said the Queen. “I am surprised by your attitude. Guard, escort these young humans back up to the human world. But if any of them grow weak or weary on the way, bring them back here for some rest.”
“Yes, your majesty,” said the Guard.
But Ellen, Titha and Rowland did not grow weary on the way back to the surface. The drops of tonic had been brought by Ellen from the Land of the Elves. The drops were the same remedy for the magic sleeping potion that the King of the Elves had used to revive them. And so Titha was joyously reunited with her father, and Ellen and Rowland told their brothers a most interesting true life fairytale.