Who Killed The Flowers? by M.E. Heller by M.E. Heller - Read Online

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Who Killed The Flowers? - M.E. Heller

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Chapter One

The Queen’s Nose

When Queen Celestine woke up her nose was jiggling. It went on wiggling and jiggling, even when she held it firmly between her long ringed fingers. Was it searching for a smell? It had abruptly awakened her, spoiling the very nice dream she’d been having. And even while her nose danced about, her wings hurt. She’d rolled over on them in her sleep. Getting old was a pain, even for a fairy.

The Queen of Air lay under the Quilt of Momentos upon which were sewn scraps of gowns, ribbons, old flowers, and other remembrances of children she’d rescued when she was a fairy godmother. Over her bed was a deep blue canopy, upon which were painted stars and planets and a great white full moon to represent the evening sky. She’d have lain there all day staring up at that painted sky, but she was hungry and it was time to face the morning.

Ignoring her nose for the time being, Queen Celestine sat up and leaned back against the pillows. Turning to one side, she reached for the bell cord beside the bed and shook it briskly. Seconds later, a short round elf with inquiring eyes came running, then flying, then running into the room.

You rang? You rang? You rang? the elf inquired.

Of course, she replied, hoarsely. How else would you know to be here? Where’s my tea? That silly butler should have brought it by now. If you see him lurking about, tell him I want two sweet buns this morning, warmed if you please, with lots of butter. She saw no point in avoiding fat at the age of two thousand years.

And Friggis, she went on. "A smell is missing. I find the air quite different today. Inquire as to what is gone from it, immediately! You may open the curtain as well, so I can see the flowers. Perhaps then my nose will be still.

The elf, looking rather confused, made no reply and, as well, made no move towards the curtain. Instead, he stood very still, as if he’d been suddenly turned to stone.

I said: she shouted this time. Open the curtain! Am I not the only deaf person here?

If you please Mum, replied the stricken elf. I’m forbidden to open the curtain ‘til the butler says so. Something about he’s the only one who can besides Marigold, besides Marigold, besides Marigold.

Having uttered this unwelcome information and to escape another outburst from his mistress, the doorelf turned quickly on his heels and ran out of the room as fast as his short legs could carry him.

What could be wrong with that silly elf? she wondered. Is opening a curtain so difficult? Annoyed at how the day had begun, she lay back with a sigh, closed her eyes, and muttered:

They shall hear about this.

The encounter with Friggis so distracted her she’d almost forgotten her nose. Remembering it again, and thinking it might keep on messing about for who knows how long, she lay back against the pillows with a sigh and tucked the Quilt of Mementoes around her waist in readiness for her breakfast tray.

Queen Celestine had been old, even for a fairy, when she retired. Godmothering, her former profession had required a lot of running about. As Queen of the World of Air, she could stay in bed and read and, s she got older and older, it had become difficult to sit or stand for long periods of time. Swelling, her personal physician, had recommended bed rest.

The queen’s bedroom was one of the larger rooms in the palace. Considering it was where she’d be spending most of her time, the elves had done a nice job preparing it. They’d positioned the bed so her feet faced North, with an excellent view of the elaborately carved bedroom door. On her left, upon the western wall, was a huge library of books; including a rare collection of fairy tales and reference books on magic, plants, and flowers. The deep shelves climbed clear to the ceiling. Some of the books had been those of a specticaled librarian elf by the name of Lender. The librarian elf had been fascinated with books and the idea that fairies should learn to read. Unfortunately, the idea never caught on. Most fairies hadn’t the inclination or the time for reading and none had checked out a book from Lender’s library in years and years.

On her right, facing East, beyond a curtained, windowed wall, was the garden.

She was thinking how nice it was to have fresh flowers every day when she heard someone fiddling with the bedroom door handle.

Come in for goodness sake, she cried.

A short fat elf entered the room. He pushed before him a teacart bearing a silver tea service and cutlery, a fancy teacup and saucer and two steaming buns on a pink china saucer. The elf wore a grease-spotted black jacket and trousers, and a soiled napkin lay folded over one arm. Without a word of greeting, this elf, who was the butler, proceeded to pour steaming hot tea into the flowered cup. Deftly then, and with an extravagant flourish, he removed the tray from the cart and placed it on the queen’s lap, announcing, after a deep bow:

Your breakfast, Mum

I’m not completely blind, she snapped. Mmmmm. Buns. Good. And hot tea. Where’s my rose?"

None are fresh today, Mum, mumbled the butler.

Speak up! she cried.

I’m sorry, your Highness. No fresh blooms," he repeated, somewhat louder.

What are you saying? Her nose had resumed its wiggle and she could feel her face getting very red. "The garden is full of roses. Go out and pick one this instant. If you won’t then get Marigold or whomever else you can find and tell them to do it. Meanwhile, my nose hasn’t been working properly. You must open the curtain so it can smell something. Then perhaps it will stop jiggling."

Very good, replied the butler in a tired voice, but I beg Your Highness to wait for Marigold, as I have important duties with which to attend.

The butler turned quickly on his heels and, grabbing hold of its handle, pushed the breakfast cart rapidly in front of him and out the door.

Forcord, she called after him, "What do you mean; important? How dare you! What could be more important than opening the curtain, like you’ve done every morning for hundreds of years."

She gave up with a deep sigh, for Forcord was surely beyond hearing. In spite of everything, she was still very hungry and thirsty, so she took a sip of tea and a bite of bun.

What in the world is going on around here, she muttered to herself between bites and sips of tea. Why is everything so difficult? Determined to find out, she reached across her breakfast tray for the bell cord.

Again came Friggis, this time limping due, she imagined, to a collision with Forcord and the breakfast cart.

You rang? You rang? You rang?

Friggis’ repeating could set one’s nerves on edge.

Open the curtain, please.

I’ll get her. I’ll get her. I’ll get her, blurted Friggis, again rushing out of the room.

She’d started on the second bun when a very small fairy and another one twice the size but with half the energy and determination, came into the room and stood beside her bed. The smaller of the two was Marigold, a flower fairy named after the orange marsh marigold. She wore a gown of that color and a mop of orange ringlets framed her heart-shaped face. The taller one had a longish neck, a sharp nose, and wispy yellow shoulder-length hair. This was Pansy, named after that particular flower. Celestine found their different appearances funny until she remembered the curtain.

"Why doesn’t anyone do as I say? Please, one of you, open the curtain so my eyes may see the flowers and my nose may smell them."

I’m sorry your Highness, but the flowers are dead,. Marigold spoke this loudly, so the Queen could hear, something the others often failed to do.

Come now, Marigold dear. It’s too early in the morning for joking.

"I’m not joking, Your Highness. The flowers are dead."


Yes. Dead.

"Every rose? Every carnation? Every petunia?"

All dead.

Dead, echoed Pansy.

Dead dead dead, offered Friggis, who’d just come back into the room.

I don’t understand, she moaned. The garden was fine yesterday. I was going to have the gardeners separate the bushes that weren’t getting along. It was my first thought when I woke up. What shall we do?"

First let’s get you dressed, offered Pansy, sweetly.

I was wondering, the Queen murmured softly, feeling suddenly in deep distress, why I couldn’t smell them.