The Parting Of The Ways

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Uncle Tony, The Magical Storyteller

It was a Tuesday afternoon and chucking it down with rain. Athene and Anthony were up in the attic reading as usual, and for once they usually crowded house was quiet.

Nick, Simon, and Mr Pennington were all at work, Mark was at the stage school helping with the children, and Isabelle was in Horsham looking at wedding dresses. She was going to go shopping properly with Celia in London for one, but Isabelle just wanted an idea of what she was looking for. Michael was sleeping as normal.

Anthony had his arm wrapped around Athene as he read her love poetry, and Athene had her eyes shut as she let Ovid’s wonderful words wash over her.

“Uncle Tony!” called Niki up the attic stairs.

“Aunty Athy!” she called toddling into the room.

“I think we’ve had enough of Ovid today,” said Anthony putting away the Amores as the toddler came into the room.

“Found you!” she exclaimed.

“So you have,” said Anthony in a tone of the utmost surprise.

“What do you want to do?” asked Athene lifting Niki up onto the large bed next to her and Anthony.

“Flowers!”

“We can’t pick flowers today,” she explained calmly, “it’s raining too hard.”

Niki stuck out her little lip, and it seemed like she was about to cry.

“Now don’t cry sweetheart,” said Athene gently holding Niki close as Anthony passed her a handkerchief.

Athene carefully dried Niki’s little eyes.

“Why don’t we have storytime?” asked Anthony knowing his niece's favourite thing to do in the world.

“Yes!”

“Hobbits?” asked Anthony.

“Yes!” she said nodding her head excitedly.

Anthony got off the bed to go and get out the Tolkien.

“No book,” she said shaking her head.

“Oh, you want to make up a story?”

“I know one,” chuckled Athene, “but it’s silly.”

“Oh go on Athy,” chuckled Anthony wanting to hear it.

“Whenever I wanted a story my Grandpa would always tell me the exact same one.”

“It was a dark and stormy night,” said Athene ominously, “three robbers sat in a cave. One robber said to the other, Bill, tell us a story. And so he began….”

“It was a dark and stormy night,” she continued laughing, “three robbers sat in a cave.”

“You’re joking right?” asked Anthony, “that’s not a real story.”

“Yeah, I didn’t ask Grandpa for stories much,” laughed Athene.

“I can do better than that,” said Anthony shaking his head, “and you can help Athene.”

“Once upon a time,” he began, “a long time ago, there was a magical kingdom, with elves and fairies and magical flying horses called Pegasus’s.”

“Hobittses?” asked Niki hopefully.

“Not in this land no,” laughed Anthony, “but there aren’t any orcs though.”

“This land was ruled by a kind and just king and queen,” continued Athene, “king Stefan and queen Bridget. The people in the land were very happy, but the king and queen were very sad, they had no children.”

“Oh no!” exclaimed Niki.

“It’s alright Cariad,” said Athene settling Niki on her lap.

“I thought I was your Cariad?” muttered Anthony.

“You can have more than one Cariad,” chuckled Athene.

“Anyway,” she continued, “the king and queen couldn’t have children, so every night queen Bridget would wish on her favourite star for a child, but her wish was unfulfilled, until one night.”

“On a very magical and special night,” continued Anthony, “a fairy came down from the star to talk to the queen.”

“Dear queen Bridget!” said Anthony in a high squeaky voice.

Niki started to giggle at Anthony’s fairy voice.

“I have heard your wish and it is a good one, in nine months from tonight you shall give birth to a beautiful baby girl, and a handsome strong boy.”

“Queen Bridget thanked the kind fairy, and then fairy was gone in a puff of smoke.”

“The queen was astounded,” said Athene, “she couldn’t believe that the fairy had granted her wish and had given not just one child but two.

But sure enough, other the next few months the queen’s tummy started to grow, until it was as huge as a massive beach ball. The nine months came to an end, and the queen and king welcomed a twin girl and boy, who they called Achilles and Penelope.”

“Oh good choices,” beamed Anthony to Athene.

“Now everyone in the kingdom was happy," said Anthony, "and as the years went by, the royal prince and princess grew. Achilles grew into a handsome young warrior, nobody could beat him at the sword or the bow and arrow, nobody was better than Achilles and Achilles knew it.

But Achilles wasn’t exactly the brightest, which is why it was a good thing that his sister Penelope was not only extremely beautiful but exceptionally wise. Penelope was always reading something and knew about all the different creatures in the land and could speak five different languages, including Elvish.”

“On the prince and princesses eighteenth birthday,” continued Athene, “there was a great celebration, because they had come of age, and suitors came from all the lands to try and court the hands of the brave Achilles, and the wise Penelope.”

“There were so many gifts, Achilles had been given a golden chariot, with Pegasus’s to pull it for him, so he could fly across the sky. Penelope was given many beautiful dresses and pieces of fine jewellery, but her favourite present was from the royal librarian, who had written her an account of the royal family and the quests of all the different kings and queens and princes and princesses to date. It had beautiful illustrations to go with the stories. At the back of the book, were several blank pages with only a few words written on them, Prince Achilles and Princess Penelope.”

“They were in the middle of celebrating,” said Anthony, “when a dashing young knight came rushing into the castle and knelt down in front of the king and queen.”

“I am the brave Prince Odysseus, from the kingdom of Telvora. It is a beautiful and plentiful land, but we have been attacked by a dragon once a month for the last three months. He has been taking our people!

"Please help us King Stefan the Just and Queen Bridget the Kind.”

“Of course, we’ll help you,” said King Stefan, “please rise, dear boy, how can we help you?”

“We have heard in our land of your son and daughter, the magnificent Achilles and princess Penelope the omniscient.”

“I wouldn’t say I know everything,” muttered Penelope under her breath.

Odysseus heard her and nodded at her smiling.

Penelope blushed slightly as Odysseus continued.

Anthony had started telling the story on his won by this point, and he was so good at it that Athene let him get on with it.

“Please, allow your son and daughter to help us defeat the dragon.”

“A quest!” exclaimed Achilles holding his sword in the air.

“You want Penelope too?” asked King Stefan, “but she can’t fight!”

“I’ve read every book in the library father,” she interjected, “I know how to fight a dragon!”

“Besides, if Achilles goes without me he’s so stupid he’ll probably go the wrong way.”

“Hey!” shouted Achilles, “that’s not fair!”

Penelope raised her eyebrows at her brother.

“Alright maybe it is true,” he chuckled.

“If you take them with you,” said Queen Bridget, “you have to promise to bring them back safely. They’re the only children we have.”

“Yes, your majesty,” said Odysseus bowing.

“Once you have defeated the dragon, if you both wish it, you may marry my daughter Princess Penelope.”

Odysseus and Penelope smiled at each other. There wasn’t going to be any problems there. All they had to do now was defeat a dragon.

“How far is it to your kingdom prince Odysseus?” asked Penelope.

“It is many days ride, nearly a months, by the time we arrive, the dragon shall have attacked again.”

“Not if we fly,” said Penelope beaming.

“Well I’m sorry little sis,” chuckled Achilles, “but I unlike you don’t have a set of wings, we can’t fly.”

“No stupid,” said Penelope rolling her eyes at Achilles again, “but your flying chariot can!”

“Oh yeah!” said Achilles nodding in realisation.

Achilles grabbed his best sword and bow and arrows. Penelope grabbed her best books on dragons to read during the flight.

Prince Achilles the Mighty, Prince Odysseus the Brave and Princess Penelope the Wise, all climbed into the spacious solid gold chariot, and the stable boys prepared the four Pegasus’s for the long flight.

“Good luck darlings!” said Queen Bridget hugging her beautiful children before.

“We shall return!” said Prince Achilles taking the reins, “with the head of the dragon!!”

There was a large cheer from the court, as they made space for the Pegasus’s to get a running start. And they were off, straight up into the sky, flying over tiny villages and huge mountains.

Prince Odysseus was thoroughly impressed, it was much faster to fly than travel by land, the same journey that had taken him very nearly a month, would probably only take half a day. Princess Penelope seemed completely unfazed and curled up on the floor of the chariot to read her book on dragons.

“According to this, they only hunt on the night of the full moon.”

“That’s tomorrow,” said Odysseus joining Penelope on the floor and reading over her shoulder.

“They camp in caves in the mountains,” she continued.

“Well, there is a mountain, we might be able to find it before tomorrow.”

“And apparently, they can talk.”

“They can?” asked Odysseus, “I mean it’s been saying something, but it’s all been jibberish.”

“Ah yes, but that because dragons only ever talk backwards, if he was trying to say ’Hello Prince Odysseus,” it would say “Olleh Ecnirp Suessydo.”

“Oh right,” muttered Odysseus.

“It also says they only attack when they have to,” continued Penelope, “they usually only hunt for food once a month, and don’t attack humans.”

“That’s strange, for the last few months that dragons been attacking our kingdom.”

“If we can figure out what the dragon wants before the full moon tomorrow night, maybe he won’t attack again?”

“Maybe,” said Odysseus hopefully.

As they flew over all the different lands, Odysseus explained to Penelope about all the different kingdoms and places he had visited.

“I wish I could travel like you,” she beamed.

“Well, if we get married, we can travel together.”

“You’re wonderful you know that?” said Penelope smiling up at him lovingly.

“And you two are sick makening!” said Achilles.

“We’re here,” said Odysseus as night began to fall.

Achilles pulled at the reins, and the Pegasus’s started to fly lower, before stopping outside the gates of the royal castle.

The king and queen of Telvora came rushing out of the castle to greet their visitors.

“Odysseus!” exclaimed the queen, “you’re safe!”

“I’m fine mother,” said Odysseus.

“Who are you young friends Odysseus?” asked the king.

“These are Prince Achilles the Mighty, and Princess Penelope the Wise from the kingdom of Cawdor.”

Achilles and Penelope bowed and curtsied deeply to the king and queen.

“Rise, Prince Achilles, and Princess Penelope,” said the king, “your fighting prowess and wisdom is legendary. You have come to help with the dragon?”

“Yes my liege,” said Achilles, “and take its head back to hang on the castle walls in the banqueting hall at Cawdor.”

“Unless it’s a friendly dragon,” interjected Penelope.

“Yeah,” muttered Achilles smiling foolishly, “unless it’s friendly.”

“You all must be exhausted,” said the queen, “come rest, you have a long day of questing tomorrow.”

Achilles and Penelope slept on soft beds that night, whilst Achilles Pegasus’s rested from their long flight.

The next day, the two princes and the princess got up at dawn to begin climbing the mountain next to the castle.

As they got further up the mountain, they started seeing makeshift cabins, that had clearly been built quite recently.

“That’s strange,” muttered Odysseus, “nobody lives on this mountain, the terrain isn’t good for growing on, and most people are scared away by the dragon.”

But this was clearly not true, as there were about half a dozen cabins spread around the small mountain. They eventually reached a cave where there were five or six people whispering nervously in the mouth of the cave.

“Prince Odysseus!” called one of the peasants.

“Why are you living here?” asked Odysseus, “why hasn’t the dragon eaten any of you?”

“We don’t know,” pleaded one of the women, “it kidnapped us, and keeps on trying to talk, but we don’t understand it. It wont eat us though.”

“I’ll try,” said Penelope walking into the cave bravely followed by Achilles and Odysseus.

“Don’t forget Achilles,” she said, “you cant kill it if its nice.”

“Fine,” grumbled Achilles, “but it would look cool on my wall!”

As they walked further into the cave, they could hear the rumbling of the dragon.

“Olleh!” called a frightened voice from further back in the cave.

“Olleh?” asked Penelope holding a flaming torch sigh so they dragon could hear them.

She had to remember to speak backwards so the dragon could understand her.

“Ohw era ouy?”

“Ssecnirp Epolenep.”

“Stahw rouy eman?”

“Ffup eht cigam nogard.”

“What’s it saying?” asked Odysseus.

“It’s saying its called Puff the Magic Dragon,” said Penelope confused.

At this point, the dragon came walking nervously into view. It was quite small for a dragon, and bright red, with a friendly face.

“It’s a girl,” said Penelope.

“Great,” drawled Achilles, “it’s nice to know what gender it is!”

“Ask her why she’s been attacking my kingdom, and why she hasn’t those people she kidnapped.”

“Yhw era uoy gnikcatta eht modgnik?”

“M’I yelnol,” said Puff the Magic Dragon looking thoroughly miserable and a tear coming to her eyes.

“She’s lonely!” exclaimed Penelope.

“Oh!” said Odysseus is realisation.

“Yhw t’tevah ouy netae eht stnaseap?”

“M’I nairetegev,” explained the dragon.

“Apparently Puff is a vegetarian, she only took the people for company, but they don’t understand her, and she doesn’t understand them.”

“Well if we have people come visit Puff if she’s friendly,” said Odysseus, “and the children play with her she won’t take people. Also, now we know what’s she’s doing, we can learn how to talk backwards.”

“I love you, Odysseus,” said Penelope smiling up at him.

“And I do, my sweet Penelope,” said Odysseus kissing her softly on the lips.

“Can we go home now?” asked Achilles thoroughly disappointed that he had just finished his first quest and not killed anything.

“Sure,” chuckled Penelope.

Achilles, Penelope and Odysseus flew back to Cawdor, and Odysseus and Penelope got married the very next day. On their honeymoon, Penelope and Odysseus went around all the kingdoms and travelled the world.

And they all lived happily ever after.”

“Now that,” said Anthony as he finished, “was a story.”

Niki was beaming at him wildly, Athene was looking at Anthony dumbstruck.

Her boyfriend was not only sexy, intelligent, brilliant at the piano and great with kids, he apparently could now make up stories on the spot. Athene somehow loves Anthony even more now.

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