Ida Outhwaite, Classic Fairy Illustrator

Ida Outhwaite, an Australian whose work flourished during the Golden Age of Illustration, is well remembered for her work with fae and children. Her images managed to capture the sense of childhood and fae without being too sweet. And her color palette was rich and pleasing to the eye. I'm surprised she isn't more well known, even though much of her work is nearly 100 years old.

You can read more about here here:

And here:

Her work is also plentiful on Pinterest. 

Some images:

The Rain Issue 2016 Table of Contents

Magic, fairy tales, nature, mystery, suffering, love and joy are all present in the six works featured in the 2016 rain issue of Enchanted Conversation. Mother Nature in all her power, glory and cruelty wends her way through these works.

The moon also makes an important appearance, as do strong references to "Snow White" and "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." And eggs? We got 'em. Mother love is explored, as is the confusion parents feel when kids don't turn out how we expected. Through it all, there is the steady thrum and patter of rain--sometimes helping, sometimes ruining, but never truly controllable. No fairy tale witch can ever match the sheer power of weeping clouds.

When I came up with the idea of a rain issue for EC, I wasn't sure it would work, but as I noted in an earlier post, the problem wasn't with too few writers and poets sending in excellent submissions for this issue. There were too many! I hope you'll love my choices. I do. Here is a table of contents:

"Waking Up Snow White," By Kim Malinowski

"Raindrop," Amanda Bergloff

"In The Rain House," Shannon Connor Winward

"River Child," Chanel Earl

"The Egg Memorial," Caroline Yu

"Secret Passage of the Eldest Princess," Star O'Star

Waking Up Snow White, By Kim Malinowski

I smooth the wet fabric around her collar,
trace and tuck her gown.
We are both wet from rain, and I can see that she has awoken,
tears trickling down.
I taste the brine as our lips
Nothing happens, she doesn’t pretend to wake up.
I know what dead lips look like—shriveled and pale—like so many lovers.
Too many apples to count. I’ve waited and practiced
and now her lips are soft and full.
I hold her hand, trace a line and whisper—“I know you are awake.”
She takes her hand back.
“I was never asleep, just waiting.”
“Well, I’m the Prince.  I’m supposed to rescue you.”
Rain trickles down my back.  There should be fireworks or something.
Not wet.
“Maybe I’ll love you,” she smiles.
“Maybe I’d like to be dry.”
I brush her cheek with my hand, savoring the softness.
I pick her up, and we go inside.

Kim Malinowski earned her BA at West Virginia University and her M.F.A. at American University.  She currently a student of The Writers Studio.   Her chapbook is forthcoming from Kind of a Hurricane Press.  Her work has appeared in War, Literature, and the Arts, Mythic Delirium, as well as others.

Altered image by Heinrich Lefler

Raindrop, By Amanda Bergloff

Once long ago, a Queen sat embroidering by her palace window. It had been a long winter with many frozen tales to tell, however the first signs of Spring began to show in the palace gardens below.

The Queen worked steadily on her embroidery, but looked up when a little bluebird landed on the windowsill and sang a beautiful song which brought a smile to the Queen’s face. The little bird was delighted that it pleased the Queen with its song, so it stayed on the sill throughout the afternoon. While the Queen enjoyed her new companion’s song, she noticed that the first daffodils had bloomed outside the window in the garden under the beautiful blue sky overhead. As the afternoon wore on, clouds gathered, and a gentle Spring rain fell to coax the rest of the flowers in the garden to follow the bloom of the daffodils.

The Queen sighed and spoke to her friend. “Oh, little bluebird, how I wish I had a daughter with a voice as sweet as your own, eyes the blue of an endless sky, hair the yellow of a daffodil, and the sweet nature of a gentle Spring rainshower.,”

The bluebird listened to the Queen, for it was enchanted and had the power to grant wishes. Although the bluebird could not completely understand the Queen’s language, it understood in general what she asked for and said to her, “I will grant your wish, oh kind and gentle Queen.” The Queen did not hear the bluebird’s words since the Queen did not understand the language of birds, and it only sounded to her like the bluebird’s song.

And indeed, the Queen’s wish was granted for the next Spring, a daughter was born to her. The King and court rejoiced, and the little princess was presented to the King in her cradle. Only her eyes and hair were visible above the blankets.

The King smiled broadly.“Her eyes are the blue of an endless sky, and her hair is the color of a yellow daffodil.” But when the King pulled the blankets down so he could see his little princess better, he was shocked. The little princess’s baby skin was a light green color.

“Why...with her yellow hair and green skin, she looks just like a daffodil, itself!” He exclaimed to the Queen. The King’s voice startled the little princess, and she began to cry in her cradle by the open window. A small cloud formed outside and a gentle rain fell.

The King and Queen saw the rain and looked at their little princess. They wondered how this could be, until the enchanted bluebird landed on the windowsill. It sang its song to the princess, to which the princess opened her tiny mouth, and the same bluebird’s song came out of it.

The Queen immediately recognized it. “By all enchantment, my King, this bluebird answered a wish I had last Spring only too well.” she said in amazement.

The King and Queen looked at one another, confused as to what to do about their strange and unusual baby. But when a raindrop splashed on to the little princess’s face from the open window, the Queen picked her up and lovingly wiped the raindrop away.  

The Queen smiled and said to the King, “We will call her Raindrop, for she is as sweet and precious to me as the sweet rain that brings forth the flowers in Spring.”

The King nodded and from that day forward, Princess Raindrop was the light of their lives.

The nursemaids and ladies in waiting that attended Raindrop were all sworn to secrecy as to the strange appearance of the little princess, and the Queen decided that Raindrop would be covered completely and wear a veil under the pretext of modesty when she was amongst others. The King and Queen wanted to spare their little princess from the unkind natures of people who would not understand or look past Raindrop’s unusual outer appearance to see her true sweet and gentle nature.

Years passed quickly, and no one in the vast kingdom knew what the mysterious princess really looked like. They went about their lives and did not question it.

Raindrop always wore her veil and performed her royal duties throughout the kingdom, but was happiest when she was alone in her own private garden that was bordered by high hedges. In her garden, she did not have to worry about prying eyes when she shed her veil. She understood the language of birds and spoke to them there, and she learned to call forth a gentle rain whenever she wanted. All the birdbaths throughout the kingdom were constantly filled with sweet, clear rainwater for the birds, and the kingdom never suffered from drought, for Raindrop was able to send rain where it was needed. She read books and learned many things in the time spent in her special garden, and she grew into a most interesting princess with rare talents that no one ever saw.

It was finally time for the princess to be married, but the King and Queen worried that no prince would accept Raindrop’s light green-skinned appearance, let alone her ability to understand and speak to birds or her ability to bring forth gentle rain and cherish her like they did.

But Raindrop said, “Do not despair, my dear parents, for I have devised a series of riddles for a prince to answer. If they can solve a puzzle of words using their wits to see beyond that which most cannot comprehend, then I will know he will be able to understand and accept me for who I am.”

The King and Queen agreed to allow Raindrop to determine her future husband in this manner, for they desired that Raindrop be happy and loved by a prince that was truly worthy of her uniqueness. Secretly though, Raindrop hoped she would never have her riddles answered because she had grown quite used to her life the way it was.

And with that, the King and Queen let it be known throughout the land that they would be holding court on one special day. All eligible princes could come then and seek the hand of the princess by answering her riddles. The prince who could answer them all would win her hand in marriage.

Many princes came from far and wide with their entourage for the chance to answer Princess Raindrop’s riddles. Each prince was called into the main courtyard, one at a time, so that the mysterious, veiled princess could ask them the same four riddles.

Many princes did not understand why they had to answer riddles. They thought their handsome looks would make the princess choose them without having to answer even one. These princes were turned away immediately, while other princes attempted to answer, but failed.

Raindrop was quite pleased with herself that no one could answer her riddles and most gave up before trying. She thought that no prince could understand her if they could not even match wits with her.

Finally, there was only one prince left. He entered the courtyard in a grand fashion, dressed in the strange custom of his land. He was covered from head to toe in robes of white with a large hat that hid his face. His mother, the Queen of his land, had accompanied him on his journey and was offered a seat next to Raindrop’s mother, out of respect.

The prince bowed low to the princess and said, “I have travelled far from my kingdom to answer the riddles of the mysterious Princess Raindrop, and seeing that I am the last one, I know that no one else has answered correctly. I would like to try to win your hand in marriage, so please, ask me your first riddle.”

Raindrop nodded her veiled head. “Here is my first riddle, oh prince. How can you see into forever with no beginning or end?” she asked.

The prince took some time thinking about the riddle. He stood still, lost in thought, then suddenly looked up and answered, “By looking up into the cloudless blue sky. It has always been there and will last forever. It has no beginning or end.”

Raindrop was surprised. He was the first prince to answer her first riddle.

“Yes, you have answered correctly,” she said. “And now, I will ask you my second riddle, oh prince. How can the sun be in two places at once?”

This riddle took longer than the first for the prince to think about. He sat down and stood up several times, then realized the answer was along the edge of the courtyard all along. He laughed and answered, “A daffodil, with its bright yellow flower, brings the yellow of the sun to the ground. It is both in the sky and at your feet, so it can be two places at once.”

Raindrop was shocked that the prince’s second answer was also correct. She thought that surely he would never be able to answer the remaining riddles.

“Here is my third riddle, oh prince. How can music be heard, but not played on any instrument?” she asked, her worry rising because the prince was half way to claiming her as his bride.

This riddle took even longer than the previous two riddles for the prince to think about. He paced back and forth in deep thought. He turned his head this way and that, trying to bring forth the right answer. Finally, he shook his head in defeat, until a sound caught his attention. He laughed once again and answered, “The song of a bird is music that is all around us and is not played on any instrument.”

Raindrop stepped back at his correct answer and spied the bluebird the prince had seen on a branch near her in the courtyard. She thought to herself that it was only by chance that he guessed correctly, and it would not happen with the last riddle.

“You have done well. There is only one riddle left to answer,” said Raindrop, the sound of fear rising in her voice.

“Princess...if I answer the last riddle correctly, will you remove your veil, so that I may see your face?” the prince politely asked.

Raindrop knew that he would never answer the final riddle, so she nodded in agreement and continued. “My final riddle for you, oh prince, is my most difficult one: What is a tear most pure?”

The prince stood as still as a statue, thinking on this final riddle. He knew this was the most important riddle of them all, for he would claim the Princess Raindrop if he got it correct. He stood there until Raindrop thought he had fallen asleep standing, when he suddenly laughed more heartily than before.

“That is the easiest question you have asked, princess, for the answer to your riddle is hidden in plain sight. I will not only answer in words, but I will also show you.” And with that, he moved his hands and made a small cloud appear between him and the princess. A gentle rain fell between them in the courtyard.

“A tear most pure is a single raindrop, for it is clear and sweet without the salt that is present in a princess’s tear. The answer to your final riddle, was your own name. It was hidden in plain sight, and that is the best kind of riddle.”

Raindrop started to tremble. She knew what this meant and she must keep her promise. She lifted her veil, revealing her eyes the blue of an endless sky, hair the yellow of daffodils and her light green skin.

“Do not fear, my princess,” the prince said tenderly. He reached up to remove his hat, which had hidden his face, to reveal his own red hair that stood straight up, and most wondrous of all, his light green skin. He called to the princess in the song of a bluebird and Raindrop, who understood the language of birds, answered his call of love in the same manner. They both rushed together to embrace in the gentle rain the prince had created in the courtyard, never to be parted from that day forward.

The prince’s mother, who was seated next to Raindrop’s mother, leaned over and whispered to her, “My favorite flower was a red tulip in Spring.”

The two Queens nodded and smiled to one another.

And the bluebird, who had saved its most beautiful song of love for a moment such as this, sang on.

Amanda's bio: "I am a science fiction/fantasy writer with stories published by Darkhouse Books (Stories from the World of Tomorrow) and World Weaver Press (Frozen Fairy Tales.) I love all things pop-culture - paint and write daily - read obsessively - and the interior of my mind looks like vintage fairy-tale-art."

In the Rain House, By Shannon Connor Winward

In my dreams, the moon of mother's eye
splits and cracks, a river swells against
the branches of her lashes
and when it breaks, I wake up gasping.
It rained again last night. It froze today

my roof sagging with a drop of it
round and heavy as my head.
The grass stuck together, white, jagged
protesting my grunts and kicks, my need
to carve a door.  The afternoon rain

sloughed it clean again, but I am cold, cold. 
Summer is a ghost.  The birds
don't sing to me, the flies and beetles
have all gone; no chirrups, no roars.  The stream
has belched over its shores, and the rain

keeps coming back, thrashing petals
from their necks, knuckling across my leaf-
shadow floor.  I have worn
through my lady slippers, my gown
mother's careful stitches fray and shiver

my worry chokes and croaks like toad words
mud in my throat. It's time
to go.  Go where? The rain
will crush me, it will turn to snow. 
The sky is huge, the field is vast

a rough, shorn sea—I will be buried there
unless the owls find me first. They ask
when will I feed them, when will I crawl
from this house—it won't stand
forever; it yellows, it rolls

on itself, the honey brittles.  I will starve.
Oh, Mother, I am afraid. I miss my little
brown walnut bed, tucked and rocked
in your warm breath, your scent of bread.
Do you think I left on purpose?

Do you pray for me? Do you mourn?
Do you thumb shut the window?
Do you sift the barleycorn?
Do you imagine me here, stuck like hoarfrost to what
I cannot change?  It will rain, and I will drown.

The rain keeps coming down.
I used to row in circles round my basin pond.
My thoughts go round in circles.
I once rode the wild current
crossed the world

lashed to a butterfly.  He was my friend.
Now he's gone.  If I had wings, I would have
caught him, I would soar home, but I have only
these tiny feet, and Time is monstrous.  It marches on.
The rain stomps autumn beneath its heel

and winter is rushing in behind
with its ice and fear, its crystal pain. 
But to hell with tears, to hell with rain. It's time to go
go soon.  I'll lasso the moon; either that or die here
with all her wishes, all her dreams of me.

Shannon's bio: "My poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Analog, Gargoyle, Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Gingerbread House, and past issues of EC, among others. My poetry chapbook, Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was nominated for an SFPA Elgin Award.  I am also a staff writer for Pop Culture Madness and a poetry editor for Devilfish Review."

River Child, By Chanel Earl

There was once a river. It was broad and steady and flowed through a great valley where it brought life to the woods and fields. In the valley, in a modest farmhouse on the river’s banks, lived a farmer and his industrious wife, who had no children.
The farmer’s wife longed for a child, and everyday as she went about the washing and the cooking, the weeding and the churning, she dreamed of the day when she would have a child to assist her.
“Come, girl,” she would say as she carried the wash out to the line, “Help me with this basket.” And she would imagine the girl assisting her.
“Son,” she would call out if she noticed the farmer had forgotten his lunch, “run this out to your father.” And then she would walk out to the fields herself, thinking of how much easier it would be if she could have a child to do the errand for her.
In the evenings, when the day was done and the dinner was ready, as she sat at her small table, she would sigh and imagine a great, noisy table with many chairs.
She did not talk to the farmer about her fantasies. They used to dream of children together, but as the years went on and the children did not come, his dreams withdrew, and eventually gave up. Now the dreams were hers alone, like the deep sadness she saw in her husband’s eyes.
One day after the farmer left for the fields, and after the farmer’s wife finished milking the cows and collecting the eggs, she set out to work in the garden. It was a gray day in early spring, and the sky drizzled rain so slowly the woman wondered if it was really rain at all. As she worked digging dirt and planting peas, she noticed the roar of the river. It was easy to ignore the ever-present sound of water flowing through the valley, but today the woman heard it with increased interest, for among the sounds of water, she heard the soft sound of the rain hitting the river, and with it indecipherable voices speaking, calling, whispering and even singing.
The woman walked to the banks of the river and called out, “Who’s there?” But although she listened intently for a response she heard only more voices. “Hello? Who are you? Are you good? Are you friends?” She asked each question in turn, but was met only with the unwavering rumble of water flowing over rocks, the steady quiet sounds of the rain, and the voices like a haze over her ears.
“I hear you,” the woman said, “and I don’t know who you are, but I know what I want. Can you send me a child?” As she finished her request, the rain started in earnest. It fell like a waterfall from the sky, drenching her through in mere moments. Still she stayed at the river, whose roar was now deafening as the rain beat against it. The river rose, and soon the farmer’s wife was standing ankle deep in water. As she looked through the rain she saw a figure approach her; a young girl wearing a simple white cotton dress came out of the river and took her hand.
“Mother?” the girl asked, and the woman, her tears falling like the rain that surrounded her, led her to the farmhouse.
The River Child was given the name Celia, and she brought joy to the farmer and his wife, who felt renewed life whenever they looked at her. She was at times sweet and helpful, and then it was as if anything were possible. She helped the farmer’s wife with the laundry and it took half the time. She helped the farmer with the planting and the plants grew twice the size expected. At other times, she was defiant and impulsive, and then it seemed there was no end to her energy, and the farmer’s wife wondered how she could ever keep up.
To the farmer and his wife, Celia was their own child, but they lived in fear that any day she would return to the river.
“Celia,” the farmer’s wife told her every morning, “I love you, and I want us to be always together, so I need you to keep one rule for me. “ At this point Celia nodded her ascent, knowing what would come next. “Never go near the river.” The farmer’s wife commanded, and Celia obeyed.
The valley grew hotter and hotter with each passing month, and on one sweltering day, when the sun itself seemed to be melting out of the sky, Celia said to her mother, “It’s so hot, Mother. We should take a short swim in the river, the cool water will revive us both.”
“No,” the farmer’s wife said. “The river is dangerous. You could be carried away or drowned. I never want to talk of this again.”
Celia listened and obeyed, but inside she carried a longing to see the river that had been forbidden to her. And the next day, after a long afternoon of working in the hot sun, she asked once more. “Mother, I am nearly boiling, it is so hot. Please let me swim in the cool river.”
Again, the farmer’s wife said no. Instead they sat in the shade of a willow and fanned each other to cool off.  “I know you want to go to the river,” the farmer’s wife said, “But I’m afraid to let you go. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Celia understood, and vowed to herself to obey her mother’s wishes, even as she felt the river pulling her at every moment.
The hot summer months were ending. Celia and her mother put up the vegetables from the garden, then Celia and her father harvested their crops and prepared them for market. The heat began to lessen as the days grew shorter, and the farmer’s wife worried less and less about the pull of the river on her daughter. The small family celebrated the harvest with music and dancing in town, with full meals of ripe berries and sweet corn, and with long picnics under the shady trees.
Celia didn’t ask again if she could go to the river, and when she felt its call, she drowned it out with extended conversations with her mother, singing and dancing and the delicious fruit of their harvest. By the time the leaves began changing and the nights became cold, the farmer and his wife had stopped worrying about Celia’s sudden departure, and only Celia knew that the pull to the river was stronger than it had ever been. At times she would wake up at night shaking and go on walks, not toward the river, but following its course at a distance. She heard voices calling, singing and whispering, but she couldn’t make them out. On these nights she returned home restless and sorrowful.
Then the rains came. The dry summer heat was gone and the autumn weather brought with it heavy rains that fell and fell and fell like they were never going to stop. The fields turned to mud.
The river began to rise. And Celia, at her parent’s request, stayed inside the farmhouse. The water reached the garden, where the last of the pumpkins began to float on the surface like lily pads. The water reached the fields, which sent the livestock to the barn, and then, when the water reached the barn, the farmer and his wife had to go together to find a new home for the cows and chickens.
“Stay here,” Celia’s mother said. “We’ll be back soon. Whatever you do, just stay inside.”
Celia nodded, determined to obey in spite of herself, but she felt it coming for her, chasing her, a chorus of voices insisting it was time to return. She hugged her parents, and whispered goodbye.
The rain increased its relentless beating, and while the farmer and his wife worked to save their chickens and goats, the water advanced toward the farmhouse. The porch was soon buried. Water seeped up through the floorboards, and began to flow into the house. As the water hit Celia’s feet, she vanished into the water from which she had come.
And with that, the rain stopped, the water receded. The farmer and his wife returned to an empty home, where they mourned their lost child, but unlike the long grief of former years, this time they mourned together. The farmer took his wife in an embrace as they remembered the joy Celia had given them.
The next spring, after milking the goats and collecting the eggs, the farmer’s wife began her work in the garden. As she sat, she noticed the roar of the river and felt a soft drizzle of rain on the back of her neck, her hair tingled, and she ran to the river, listening to the sounds of the raindrops hitting the water. There she saw the familiar face of her daughter, smiling. And holding Celia’s hand was a little boy. “Mother?” he asked as the two children reached out to hug the farmer’s wife, tears in her eyes.

Chanel Earl's short story collection What to Say to Someone Who's Dying is available at most online bookstores. You can find out more about her at her blog: 

Altered image by John Byam Liston Shaw.

The Egg Memorial, By Caroline Yu

I did not want to use a rabbit. Rabbits should not lay eggs. But some creature needed to and I could not take the hen. Long ago, a boy climbed a beanstalk and stole the hen from our fine city in the clouds. I’ve heard he told horrid tales about us, claiming we were nasty giants rather than fairies. I also heard it took years to get the hen back. So I knew not to ask the fairy queen if I might borrow her hen. Besides, the hen’s feathers were not golden and her eggs were. She would not work.
You see, some fairy needed to return rain to the ground kingdom. I ask you, how could such be done without making a gold rabbit lay eggs?
Months without rain had left the kingdom dry and decrepit, like an ancient parchment. Yet in its golden days, the kingdom looked lush as a dew-covered rose. Its meadows used to be a blinding green. Many a shepherd blinked at their brightness as he led his sheep. In the forests, wind wove through the trees, and leaves rustled like silken skirts. In the village, gardens yielded produce more colorful than rainbows. The dirt roads made soft sounds when tread upon. At the main road’s end, a stone castle rose proud and tall. It looked quite regal, though if any king lived there, he’d long been forgotten. The kingdom’s people were fair and good. Such people need no king.
Thus the ground kingdom thrived in every way. We fairies flitted into the hearts and minds of its people. We left laughter and found peace. All was as it should be.  
Then the miller’s daughter died.
Once, the young girl carried her suppers to beggars and clambered over fences to visit crotchety hermits. Often, she’d skipped through the market, singing made-up ditties. Her giggles bounced off the market stalls, until even the sternest sellers cracked smiles and lowered prices. The child brought more joy to the village than any fairy, until her illness came. She became a pale and pinch-faced thing, who writhed on a small mattress.
The girl’s mother felt relieved when her daughter passed into our city. We filled the child’s pockets with sparkling gifts before sending her on to eternity. Yes, her mother felt relieved.
Her father felt as dead as his daughter. He grieved without tears, in the harmful way that shrivels the soul and makes it seek loneliness.
Hoping to comfort him, his wife hired two painters, to create her daughter’s portrait from memory. For reasons too pathetic to mention, both failed. In fact, the painters failed so utterly that our fairy queen grew angry. She flew through the clouds, fuming and sputtering about idiot mortals. And in her anger, our queen forgot to send the rain.
The kingdom’s grass grew dry and sharp. Thick dust wrung the strength from the air, until the breeze died. All turned brown, brittle, and ugly as a wart-riddled toad. Produce perished. People became hungry and poor. Money seemed to vanish. The ground kingdom turned as dry as the miller’s soul and as strange as a lonely father who craved no company. 
Well. No fairy would dare to tell the queen she’d forgotten something. If I wanted the queen to remember the rain, I’d best remove the source of her anger. What better way than by giving a rabbit golden fur?
I needed the rabbit to attract the attention of the painters’ former assistant, Ella. Ella was an important part of my plan, and because real rabbit fur affected her allergies, I decided the fur would be golden.
I mentioned Ella used to assist both painters, though neither knew she worked for the other. The painters’ ignorance did not exist because Ella had sense to keep quiet. She simply never told painter Abigail she worked for painter Oliver.
Ella never said much to people. She lived alone and saved her words for the wooden rabbits her father, a carpenter, carved for her. She named them, kissed them, and served them tea. Yet Ella yearned for a real rabbit – a secret she kept intentionally. Why hurt her wooden bun-bun’s feelings?
So. I gave a real rabbit golden fur. Then I appeared in Ella’s kitchen to inform her a hypoallergenic rabbit stood outside. If she caught him, she could keep him.
Ella squealed like a child on Christmas then darted out the door.
“Wait!” I called, fluttering after her. I’d forgotten: Abigail and Oliver must help catch the rabbit. They needed its gold-filled eggs. Gold would buy canvases. Canvases could become portraits, and portraits would heal a miller and appease a fairy queen. At least, that’s what I’d wanted Abigail and Oliver to think. Thanks to my poor planning, they’d think nothing.
The rabbit did his part. He shot out of Ella’s reach, darting down the road and kicking up dust clouds – thick dust clouds. Luckily, sunlight struck the rabbit’s golden fur. Ella stumbled through the dust after the blinding light, calling, “Here, Bun-bun!”
Well, this was fixable. With a flick of my hand, I directed the rabbit toward Abigail’s cottage. He scampered back in the other direction. Ella spun and stumbled after him.
Now things were in motion. I retreated to my cloud city, where I could see whatever I chose.
First, I looked in on Abigail. She slumped over her table, flipping through a cookbook. Since the loss of rain, nobody else bothered with cookbooks. When produce could not grow and cows gave no milk, what was there to cook? But Abigail did not want to cook food. She wanted to cook water. Recipes for food were found in cookbooks. Therefore, some cookbook must hold a recipe for water. Abigail was practical – if a little foolish.
Soon Abigail heard scurrying, calls of “Here, Bun-bun!” followed by “Oh! He lays eggs!”
When Abigail rose and opened her door, she found an egg on her threshold. She picked the egg up, which made the gold coins inside it jingle. Normally, a practical woman might not believe an egg could be filled with coins. But like everyone else in the kingdom, Abigail felt desperate. She left the egg on her table then headed out to search for more. Follow the commotion, she told herself. It was the practical thing to do.
Under my guidance, the commotion headed toward Oliver’s cottage.
Since the loss of rain, Oliver sprawled on his mattress and moaned poetically. Poetic moans, he reasoned, would summon the rain. Oliver was poetic – if a little foolish.
Soon Oliver heard scurrying, calls of “Here, Bun-bun!” followed by “Eggs! Give me his eggs!”
Oliver stopped moaning, leapt up, and peered out the window. Through the dusty haze, he spotted a blinding light. Follow that light, he told himself. It was the poetic thing to do. After a good stretch, he charged out the door.
So there the three were, stumbling through the dust, groping for a golden rabbit. Each reached the rabbit at the same moment. Each gripped a handful of golden fur – and found they couldn’t let go.  
As the dust cleared, three stunned faces blinked at two others. The squabbles that followed sounded worse than angry chickens. Ella demanded Abigail and Oliver release her pet. Abigail demanded Ella and Oliver release her new source of income. Oliver demanded Ella and Abigail release the source of his current inspiration.
It soon became apparent none could release the rabbit (part of my plan, of course). Abigail, being practical, suggested they take the rabbit into Oliver’s house. Ella used her free hand to support “Bun-bun” as the three shuffled toward the cottage.
Once the rabbit had been lowered to the table, he laid an egg. Abigail snatched it. She raised her egg as though toasting the others. “Here’s to a portrait beautiful enough to bring back the rain,” she said, and cracked her egg against the table’s edge.
Abigail waited for coins to roll across the table, but none did. You see, if someone cracked the egg to spend its gold, the gold disappeared (also part of my plan).
Abigail blinked at her empty eggshell as the rabbit laid again.
This time, Oliver snatched the egg, shook it, then cracked it. Again, the coins disappeared. He glanced at Abigail. “Sounded like there’d be gold inside. I thought I had my second chance.”
Ah, mortals. So disappointed when wealth won’t come their way. Yet what problem can be solved with money?  
Oliver did not mention why he’d failed at first. I told you the reason was too pathetic to mention. Yet if the painters won’t, I must: each painter sent Ella to ruin the other’s portrait.
Why, you ask? The painters were not competing. The miller’s wife had hired both to paint a portrait. The painters sabotaged each other’s work for one ridiculous reason: Abigail was practical and Oliver, poetic.
Oliver found Abigail’s paintings unoriginal. Creating a copy was not creative.
Abigail found Oliver’s work illogical. Lines, squiggles, and splotches were meaningless. So Abigail sent Ella to unwrap Oliver’s completed painting, slash it with a letter opener, then wrap it again. Oliver had done the same.
The village postman delivered two damaged portraits to the miller. A grieving father looked upon two defaced paintings of his dead daughter. Abigail and Oliver lost their chance to heal the miller. And the fairy queen frowned at painters who’d ruined the miller’s gifts to satisfy themselves.
“I painted her laugh,” Oliver whispered.
Abigail raised an eyebrow. A laugh? No one could paint such a thing.
Oliver cleared his throat. He opened a drawer beneath the table and pulled out his painting supplies. He painted the only white thing in sight: an egg.
The golden rabbit had just laid another. Oliver took it with his free hand. He gestured for Ella to hold the egg as he painted it yellow. Yellow for the sunshine the miller’s daughter had played in. Blue zigzags for the roads she’d skipped along. Red notes for the silly songs she’d sung.
Oliver explained each part of his work to Abigail. “Her laugh,” he finished.
Abigail took the next egg the rabbit laid. Ella held it while she painted. Yellow to match the girl’s curls. Blue to match her eyes. Red to match the ruddy color of her cheeks. Abigail painted the child’s lips apart and added dimples. She held up her egg for Oliver to see. “Her smile.”    
The painters exchanged eggs. Both were surprised to find they admired the other’s work. Then Ella said, “You used the same colors.”
Oliver met Abigail’s eye. She smiled as he chuckled. So they had. Perhaps the practical and poetic used the same tools to create different kinds of beauty – a fact both might have realized sooner. Now, without money for canvases, neither could right their wrong.
Oliver lowered his head. Abigail heaved a shaky sigh. Ella? Ella had a second moment of brilliance.
“Pity the miller can’t see your eggs.”
Oliver’s head shot up. Once again, he met Abigail’s eyes. A light flickered there – and the light looked very poetic.
For the next two weeks, Abigail painted the miller’s daughter doing her favorite things. Oliver painted her compassion and joy. Ella asked her father to design and build a shelf for displaying eggs.
When all was finished, the three delivered the egg-filled shelf to the miller’s cottage. Oliver and Abigail would have preferred to send Ella alone. She knew what every egg meant. There remained, however, the problem of being attached to the rabbit. So it was that one rabbit-loving assistant and two embarrassed painters presented an egg memorial to the miller.
The miller listened as Abigail and Oliver explained how they’d tried to capture his daughter’s spirit. He fingered the smooth eggs, letting their stunning colors refresh his soul. Last, he did what he could not do when his daughter died: he cried. His grief seemed great, greater perhaps than it had when his daughter first left him. But sometimes joy is a seed in need of water. One must cry before joy can grow.
The miller’s wife tried to thank the painters, but a sound like applause overpowered her soft-spoken words. All spun toward the cottage’s tiny windows. Outside, the air was veiled in falling water.
Yes, the queen’s anger subsided, and she remembered she’d forgotten the rain. She sent it in torrents that restored the kingdom’s glory. In other words, I succeeded. Who would have thought I could do so by inspiring artists to paint money-filled eggs? I am brilliant in my own way.
 The egg memorial now hangs in the miller’s cottage. At night, he weeps for his lost daughter. During the day, he fingers the eggs and smiles. His joy is growing,
Oliver, Abigail, and Ella are fast friends. They had little choice, as each still has a hand stuck to the rabbit. I could not figure out how to free them and gave up trying. Why bother when they are happy?
The three moved into a cottage surrounded by a garden, lush and green from frequent rain. Each day, they fill their garden with painted eggs. Often, people visit. They sift through hedges and peek between flowers, hunting for eggs. Some crack the eggs in search of gold. Most do not.
Even fairies fly down to the garden. They listen to mortals talk about the colorful eggs. Everyone has a reason for why the eggs are beautiful. No one is told their reason is wrong.
Bio: Caroline says, "In addition to Enchanted Conversation, my fiction has been accepted by Timeless Tales, Plays children's magazine, and Ladybug."