A fairy tale told as a series of 100-word drabbles, by Sara Light-Waller.
This is the beginning of the story which will, eventually, take the shape of a full book.
Part 1: Finding The Ship
The princess awoke in Slumberland. She sat on the marble steps and waited. When the Elfin-knight appeared, she was ready.
“Where’s my waistcoat? Tonight is the revel at the Elfin-Mount and I seek the hand of the Mer-king’s daughter.”
“Thistle Tassel” said the princess. A golden waistcoat appeared in her hands. “Will you pay?”
“Give me a berth aboard the Ship that sails to Mars. I seek the Old Man.”
“The Old Man is lost. Everyone knows that.”
“Then I shall find him and bring him back. The worlds have been too long without him.”
“What’s your name, pretty maid?” said the Elfin-knight.
The princess’ eye turned steely. “My name is lost, as are my people.”
“I must call you something.”
“I’m a clockmaker, call me that.”
“Clockmaker.” He rolled the sound over and under his tongue. “Very well.”
He presented her to his mount, sea foam white with horn of ivory and a dished face.
“You’ll ride behind me on a pillow.” He snapped his fingers and a cushion appeared on the crupper.
The mount’s goat tail lashed.
“My mount doesn’t like you, Clockmaker.”
She snorted. “It’s a unicorn, why would it like me?”
The Elfin Knoll was neither cave nor barrow but a grand hall whose guardians were twin cypress trees with euphonious voices and long, green flails.
“That’s a splendid waistcoat,” said Lash, the right-hand tree. He was the greedy one.
“The Mer-folk will take it,” said Thrash, the left-hand tree. He was the smart one. “They love shiny things.”
“It’s a gift for the Mer-Princess,” said the knight.
“With you inside it? What a fine gift you will make!” Thrash laughed.
The knight growled. “Let us in now, we’re here to see the king.”
The trees bent backwards and the doorway opened.
The Elfin-King and Queen were a splendid couple. He had a long nose ending in a hook and she, long mauve braids worn as a flapper rope.
“This girl seeks the Old Man, Majesties. I’ve promised her a berth aboard the new Ship.”
The queen stroked the griffin sitting beside her. The beast purred. “Are you sure, my dear? Our Ship’s making a one-way trip. It won’t return.”
“I understand that. But, I must go. I’m on a Quest.”
“Truly?” said the king, rubbing his nose. “Then I’m sorry for you. But you shall have your berth nonetheless.”
“We sail tomorrow,” said the Elfin-shipwright, who was also the captain. He squinted through his monocle. “Is it wise to start a journey with such a long face? If you’re unhappy later, where will your face go?”
Fairies were so literal.
Clockmaker forced a smile. “Is this better?”
“Oh yes. I’ve never known a good voyage to start with a downcast expression.”
The Elfin-knight, resplendent in his golden waistcoat, bid Clockmaker farewell. “My mount was wrong about you and he is never wrong.”
Clockmaker looked away, knowing full well that the steed was right. She was not to be trusted.
Clockmaker was lying about who she was. Well she had to, didn’t she? A clock-making sorceress wasn’t worthy of the Elfin court. And she needed that introduction to gain passage on the Ship.
If she failed, her family would be lost forever.
A mean-spirited client complained that their time-traveling clock was faulty. In a temper they cursed Clockmaker’s family into the mists.
The last she saw of her father was leaning out a tower window — “Find the Old Man and you’ll solve the curse. Now hurry!”
The girl’s head drooped. “But how? He’s on Mars…! No matter, I’ll find him.”
The faerie-galleon hovered like a heavy balloon, tethered with ropes of Minotaur hair and the breath of giants. Its sails shone dawn-bright, fooling the sun with their color, even at midnight.
“She’s a fine ship,” said Clockmaker.
“A work of art and love,” said the captain, “based on the Old Man’s designs.”
“Will she really soar through the heavens?” It seemed hard to imagine.
“Oh yes, indeed.” The captain straightened his hat. “But there will be dangers. I hope you won’t be too frightened, my dear.”
“Never,” said Clockmaker. Though, in truth, the journey scared the stuffing out of her.
Clockmaker’s heart thumped as the turf dropped away below.
A faerie-beldame joined her on the rail. “Human girl, are you supposed to be aboard?”
“The King granted my passage. And, besides, I’m not human either. Both my granddames were witches of good repute.”
Whiskery lips smiled. “Are you excited for the journey?”
“It was hard to get here. And I hear the rest of the expedition will be even harder.”
The beldame laughed. “If you believe that, then it will. That’s how magic works, right enough.”
Clockmaker had forgotten. She whispered, “Thistle Tassel” and courage poured into her heart.
End of Part I