This is the 8th chapter in the Fly Pig Tales collection, a fantasy story anthology about a mystical tavern in a fantasy world. The stories in the series are connected and beginning your reading in Chapter 1 will improve your experience.
One morning, as the morning shift arrived the door burst open and a blizzard blew into the tavern. Along with the snow, wind, and chill, a lone figure, wrapped head to toe in coats and blankets waddled in. Ambrosia and Nemo helped brush down the snowman and peel of layers of mostly frozen gear to reveal a frostbitten Saint Bernard with a small barrel hanging around his neck. After showing the dog to a seat, Marigold appeared with a steaming mug of tea and set about tending to the guest’s needs.
Within a few minutes, a young havelina wandered in from somewhere in the Desert Kingdom and identified himself as Adam. He was trying to join the Varangian Guard, a band of desert warriors who guarded the border between the territory of the Underground Kingdom and the rest of the rest of the world. He’d spent days wandering around, to no avail. Now, thirsty and exhausted, the young boar slumped at a table and muttered to himself about fulfilling his family obligation.
Over the next few hours, guests wandered in from all over the 12 Kingdoms and The Flying Pig began to buzz with excited conversation as travelers marveled at the strange restaurant they had found in the middle of nowhere or in a spot that they’d visited hundreds of times before. Excitement over the strange way The Flying Pig just showed up magically gave way as plates of food made their way to the guests. After that, every conversation revolved around how unique and delicious it was. For the first time in years, Ambrosia enjoyed working. She made people happy, took care of their needs, listened to the predicaments they’d escaped from when they found their way into the tavern, offered encouraging words, and made helpful suggestions.
Nearly halfway through the day, a knock came at the smallest of the doors in the dining room. Dwalin heard it over the noise of the diners’ conversations. It’s not clear how he managed, though Ambrosia suspected it had something to do with the fact that he was literally a part of the building now. She wandered over to the diminutive door and listened carefully. When the knock came again, she opened the door wide and was greeted by three young fairies, who peeked in through the door.
“Why is this place underground?” the little blond one standing at the front of the group asked.
“No,” Ambrosia responded slowly. “Is there a reason you are underground?”
“We’re chasing a rabbit,” chimed in a second fairy, this one with wavy chestnut hair.
Ambrosia crouched and looked past the trio of young fairies into the cavern behind them. It was huge and filled with a sprawling city. There was only one place where underground cities existed. These young ladies were in the Underground Kingdom. This was many things, not good being near the top of the list.
“Why don’t you sweet little things come on in, and we will get you some dessert,” Ambrosia cooed, doing her best not to scare the trio away. Fairies did not belong in the Underground. And little girl fairies especially didn’t. Ambrosia had been there once or twice as a Godmother and knew the Ynderground was serious business. Fairy spies, using invisibility magic, sometimes went into the Underground to check up on what was going on – in the event the kingdom began preparing for another invasion of the topside kingdoms. Undergrounders were notorious among fairies for their hatred of fairy folk. They did magic, but it was different. Magic and machinery often mixed in an effort to control the world around them. In addition, the Underground used most of its magic to prepare for wars. It had been that way since they had fallen under the rule of Saladin. Ambrosia shuddered at the thought of the dictator.
The trio of fairies looked at each other for a moment and squealed in unison before rushing past the ex-godmother and skipping their way around the dining room. They shouted and screamed with delight while making such a ruckus that the entire tavern froze in place to watch the show.
“Tea Party! We finally found the Tea Party! Where are the hats?” the little blond fairy shouted.
“Tea party?” Ambrosia replied, confused by the strange little girls who clearly didn’t know they had been inches from becoming prisoners who would have been subjected to all sorts of terrible things as a part of stealing their magical abilities. “Sweeties, how about you come tell me about this tea party and how you ended up in that awful place?”
The three girls stopped their parade around the diner and stared at the ex-godmother.
“You are going to have a tea party for us, aren’t you?” the little girl with the brown wavy hair asked, innocence dripping from her words. Ambrosia recognized a good “cute child face” when she saw one. This child was great at getting her way.
“I can definitely have a tea party with you. I’ll even put on my fancy dress,” the ex-godmother assured the girls. “First, can you please tell me all about this tea party and why you are looking for it in the Underground? And what are your names?”
“The tea party with the white rabbit, of course!”the fairy with the wavy brown hair replied as though everyone in the world should know about the white rabbit tea party. “And I’m Liana. I’m a fairy princess.”
“White rabbit?” Ambrosia asked, hoping one of the three fairies would start to shed some light on the situation.
“The white rabbit from the fairy book, silly. I still don’t think we followed the right white rabbit. He didn’t have a watch and didn’t say he was late even once. I think it was just a regular old rabbit that we chased around for no reason,” the blond fairy interjected. “Oh, and I’m Abbegail. I’m a princess too and our part of the Fairy Kingdom is much nicer than her part.”
“Nu-uh! Ours is way nicer,” Liana shouted.
“Stop. If you start arguing, we won’t have a tea party at all. Please tell me about this fairy book,” the ex-godmother interjected more sternly, hoping to get the conversation back on track.
“We borrowed a fairy book from the library about a girl named ‘Allison Underland’ who had a tea party with an angry hat man. We wanted to have a tea party like theirs, so we’re finding it,” Abbegail explained.
“I see. We’re going to put on a fairy book tea party?” the ex-godmother said, the reality of the situtation finally dawning on her. Fairy books have a powerful magic about them that isn’t completely understood by anyone. In fact, no one is really sure where they come from. Some fairies have ‘the gift’ and receive the stories in dreams. They seem to come from somewhere else, another world probably. The fairy people keep their books close and rarely share them with outsiders. Occasionally, they are given away as shows of gratitude for great acts of service or heroism. Some of the books have been loaned to universities that study them. Apparently, someone left this Allison story where these young ladies had an opportunity to read it.
“How did you end up here in the Underground? Surely you didn’t follow a rabbit all the way to the heart of the Underground Kingdom?!,” the ex-godmother asked.
“It’s called ‘Underland’ and we’ve been here for a long time. I’m not sure how long. We got on an underground river with a boat. We floated for days. I told them that there wasn’t a river in the story, but they didn’t listen,” the third fairy half-whispered. Her shyness was an obvious contrast to the other two girls, which made it not surprising in the least that they hadn’t heeded her warning. “I want to go home now,” she continued.
“And what’s your name, sweetie?,” the godmother asked.
“London. My parents named me after another fairy book about being called into the wild,” she replied quietly. “I’m a princess, too,” she added with a shy smile.
“Ok, girls. We might need to figure out how to get you three home. You’re in a very dangerous place. The Underground Kingdom is not a good place for fairies to be,” Ambrosia explained.
“Underland!” Abbegail corrected sharply.
“And we are having a tea party! You promised!” Liana shouted.
“I’m going to go find our rabbit!” Abbegail announced, turning toward the door.
“Wait! Stop!,” Ambrosia urged, jumping between the girls and the door. “If you go back out there, something awful could happen to you!”
“It’s ok. Allison got in trouble with the Red Queen and she got away. We can do the same thing,” Abbegail explained.
“I can set up a tea party for you here,” the ex-godmother announced. “Buttercup, can you get a tablecloth and a teapot and cups? Also some cake.” The yellow-haired pixie snapped into motion at the instruction. Pixies were well aware of the evils of the Underground Empire. They were the most aggressive hunters of the pixie folk. She wanted to do anything in her power to help keep the fairies in the the Flying Pig and away from whatever awaited them in the Underground city.
“You need to have an angry hatter,” London announced, her voice barely audible over the sound of the other two fairies squealing.
“OH! And mouse that falls asleep in the tea,” Liana added.
“And marching hair!” Abbegail shouted, jumping up and down.
“I think it’s a hare, like a rabbit,” London corrected.
“Ok, I may need my wand for this,” Ambrosia sighed, realizing that the fairy princess Underland Tea Party might be more work than she bargained for. “Argos, sweetie. Can you come get my wand, please?”
The minotaur tromped from the kitchen, pausing to examine the scene with the trio of little girls dancing, skipping around the room, and screaming about a tea party.
“Uh, a tea party with fairy princesses?” the minotaur asked, horrified at the prospect of being roped into whatever situation had wandered through the doors of The Pig today.
“You know I love you?” Ambrosia asked, her face a mask of innocence.
The minotaur snarled in reply.
“I couldn’t find a tea set. Here are some cups and a pot you can make tea in,” Buttercup announced, wandering in from the kitchen with a mismatching set of mugs teetering on an iron pot. “Also, I couldn’t find a tablecloth. Here is a big towel.”
“That doesn’t look like the Underland Tea Party from the book,” London observed, doubtful about the direction the party was going in.
“Wait,” Ambrosia urged, taking the wand from her husband. “I can fix this.”
Buttercup spread the towel out on a table and set the pot and mugs up. The princesses grumbled to each other about the place settings, observing that they could’ve had a nicer tea party at home. With a flick of her wand, Ambrosia morphed the eclectic tea set into fine china, with gold leaf pressed into to the edges and images of rabbits wearing suits and carrying pocket watches running around on the cups themselves. The spell animated the images after a moment and sent the rabbits chasing all over the set. The teapot itself was in the shape of a rabbit, complaining about being late whenever tea was poured.
”You’re not dressed right for the tea party,” Liana observed of the ex-godmother.
“And there’s no marching hair,” whined Abbegail.
“Just a moment,” Ambrosia replied walking through the diner until she found a table full of rabbits. “Mr Roger, I was wondering if your daughter could please join us for a tea party? I am trying to keep these princesses from being horribly killed in the Underground Kingdom.” Ambrosia explained, motioning at the three girls skipping around the table with the rabbit themed tea set.
“Uh, do you want to go to the tea party sweetie?” the rabbit asked his daughter.
“Yes, Daddy!” the little girl squealed.
“Well, come on then Jessica,” the ex-godmother sang, guiding the little girl to the table with a hand on her shoulder. “Can you march over there for me?”
“She’s a rabbit, not hair!” Abbegail snapped.
“It’s H-A-R-E, like a rabbit. Not hair like on your head,” London corrected.
“Oh! I guess that makes more sense. And look! She’s marching,” Abbegail said, pointing at Jessica as she marched up to the table.
“You’re not dressed right for a tea party! And where’s the hatter? Also, what’s a hatter?” Liana demanded.
“A hatter is a guest wearing a hat,” the ex-godmother replied, her tone hopeful. She wasn’t sure she could get the fairies to believe it, but it would be more challenging to find a hat maker than it had been finding a hare who could march.
“I guess that makes sense,” Liana sang. “But where is he?”
“Sweetie,” Ambrosia said turning to her husband, whose eyes narrowed. “I need you to do me a favor.”
“I have something to deal with in the kitchen,” Argos said suddenly, taking a step away from the rapidly forming tea party.
“Wait! Don’t you want to keep these lovely girls here so they don’t go back out into the Underground?” Ambrosia whispered sharply to the minotaur. He froze in place for a moment, weighing whether or not he was going to give in. Ambrosia saw her husband’s indecision, stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. “You’re the best.”
The minotaur knew he had lost and tromped to the table in defeat. Flopping down with the girls, he snarled a bit before picking up his teacup. Ambrosia shot a blast of magic at a nearby plate, transforming it into an ornate top hat with a large feather hanging low behind it. She snatched the hat up and placed it on her husband’s head.
“There you go, mad guest in a hat,” she announced with great flourish. “Now for my outfit.” With a wave of her wand the kitchen door slammed open and her godmother dress danced in on its own. In a moment, she was wearing the ornate outfit that she’d sworn she’d never wear again.
The tea party was chaotic, to say the least. Abbegail explained that it was necessary to change spots every few minutes and that everyone had to tell a riddle or recite a poem when they moved. When Argos complained that it didn’t make any sense to do any of that, London replied that the book said that was how the tea party was supposed to work. Rolling his eyes, Argos dutifully shifted spots and told riddles, though his riddles didn’t make sense.
After several times around the table, Argos grumbled about it being a waste of time. Liana corrected him, saying that it was ‘murdering time’, because the Red Queen in the book said it was. She began to explain about how it’s never tea time because time was gone, but she got lost in her explanation and gave up.
“The Pig lets people in from different times,” Dwalin announced from across the room. “Is that kind of the same thing?”
“Kinda,” she replied. “Can we go anytime we want? I want to go to last Thursday so I can eat that dessert again.”
“Not really. People can come in from anytime and anywhere. They can’t go back out into any time,” Ambrosia explained.
“Oh. That’s not as fun,” the fairy replied, disappointed.
After an hour of tea party, Argos pretended to smell smoke from the kitchen right as the conversation turned to favorite dolls and which shade of pink is best.
“That’s probably my soup burning,” the minotaur announced, standing and walking to the kitchen.
“I don’t smell anything,” London announced.
“That’s because you’re a fairy. We minotaurs have very sensitive noses. Also, I’m a highly trained cook,” Argos explained, hoping it would be enough to get him back into the kitchen. Opening the kitchen door, he announced: “Oh! Look at that mess. I’m sorry girls. I have to clean this kitchen right now. I guess there’s no more tea party for me.”
“I think I need to go back to my daddy too,” Jessica the marching hare announced. “Thank you for letting me go to your tea party.” She stood and curtsied before marching back to her table.
“Was this enough tea party for you girls?” the ex-godmother asked.
“We didn’t have a sleeping mouse,” Abbegail observed, “but I guess it was ok.”
“Ok, ladies,” Ambrosia began slowly. “We need to have a chat. I know you three came into the Underground looking for a tea party, but you are in a lot of danger. Down there, they hurt fairies. If you get caught down there, you won’t ever get to go home.”
“No. Allison got home. We can get out of the Underground Kingdom,” Liana replied.
“Yeah! We read the book. We know what happens. You’re probably just mistaken,” Abbegail chimed in.
“Wait a minute. Maybe we should listen to the godmother,” London suggested. “She did have this party to keep us here. She seems to really want to keep us from going back into the Underground.”
“I don’t know. Are you sure?” Liana pressed her friend, clearly doubting the suggestion.
“Well, why would she lie to us?” London reasoned. The other two girls thought for a moment before shrugging in unison.
“How did you get so far down into the Underground? If you two started anywhere in the 12 Kingdoms, you would have had to travel a lot of miles to get anywhere near a city,” Ambrosia asked.
“The underground river!” Liana shouted.
“And the slide!” Abbegail chimed in. “The slide went SO FAR!”
“And I think there was some magic involved. It’s like there was something that transported us closer,” London inserted.
“Can you tell me a bit more clearly? Start at the beginning and then tell me what happened next,” Ambrosia suggested.
“We started chasing the white rabbit. It was in the jungle,” Liana started.
“So, your part of the Fairy Kingdom is in the canopy over the Jungle Kingdom?” Ambrosia interrupted, happy to finally get some clear information from the girls.
“Yes, but we are from all over the Jungle. Our parents let us stay together while they traveled to the Swamp Kingdom to some coronation. We wanted to go, but we couldn’t. I bet they’re at some kind of fancy party right now,” Liana lamented. “Some of the fairy queens brought their daughters. I heard that Rose-Marie from the fairy realm in the Northern Woods got to go. It’s not fair.”
“Yeah! We had to stay behind with Abbegail’s cousins. They’re watching us, and it’s no fun. Or, it wasn’t fun until we found the ‘Allison Underland’ book, and we started looking for a rabbit to follow to a tea party,” Abbegail explained.
“We found a rabbit in the Jungle and followed it down a hole, but it was a strange hole. It fell down a long time. Much longer than it should’ve. We were able to talk to each other while we were falling,” London explained.
“That sounds like transportation magic alright,” Ambrosia mused.
“Then, we landed in a river. It was moving really fast, and it separated and went down slides,” London continued.
“The slides were my favorite part! They were so fun and went on for so long,” Abbegail explained.
“They ended in a pool. That’s where we got out and started walking until we found this place,” Liana finished.
“I see. I think the slides were the water lines for the city. They have to run water into the Underground cities because there are so many people living there. They cut pipes in the stone to run the water down to where they live. You three are lucky that you didn’t end up in the middle of the city, or they definitely would’ve caught you,” Ambrosia explained.
Liana and Abbegail seemed indifferent to the danger, having decided not to believe the ex-godmother about the Underground. However, London seemed to be a bit more cautious.
“How do we get back home?” she half-whispered. It didn’t seem likely they’d be able to swim back up the river or climb back up the pipes. That also didn’t account for the strange transportation magic that had probably moved them so close to the Kingdom.
“Why would the Underground Kingdom put transportation portals to get into the Jungle Kingdom?” the ex-godmother wondered aloud.
“I don’t think we can find our way back to the portals,” London said, releasing a concern she’d be nursing since the trio had fallen into the river. “What are we going to do?”
Ambrosia thought about the problem for several minutes, wondering about potential solutions. Sending the princesses back into the Underground alone was too dangerous, especially if they had to travel upriver to get back to the exit to the portal. Sending anyone out with them was out of the question. Nemo had altered The Flying Pig to make it so improbability magic would drain away when it was overloaded, but he had warned them to never test it. Every time it happened, The Pig would be more likely to destroy itself. Besides, because the entrance to The Pig could move around in time, it was possible to leave and end up in a time where the restaurant hadn’t been built yet. Then you would never be able to get back. Or worse, Nemo warned her than if a person left and ran into themselves in a different time, it could destroy all reality. She briefly considered sending them out through the vault into the Godmother’s headquarters. That wasn’t really an option because Nemo had put a lock on the exit, and if she did manage to get it open it’d mean The Pig would be discovered without a doubt. Inspiration struck her like a bolt from the sky.
“Girls, what are your favorite magical animals?” she asked in her sweetest tone.
Their answers came all at once, but were very predictable. Theywere typical fairy princesses, who only got to see those animals only occasionally, despite the fact that their bedtime stories were loaded with the creatures. In reality, the unicorns and pegasus were unruly and dangerous creatures that were inherently magical in a way that made them extra dangerous. The stories they read princesses rarely mentioned that fact.
“How would you girls like to be unicorns with wings? Then you can fly home on your own. I’m a godmother and I can change you so you can go home,” she suggested. At the suggestion, Liana and Abbegail’s mouths fell open. They exchanged excited glances and began to squeal. London was a little less excitable and far more practical.
“How will we get out of the Underground?” she asked. “And then, how will we know the way home?”
“The city uses fires to cook. It’ll have to have a chimney to let the smoke out. If you fly to the highest place, there should be a vent. Once you are out, fly as high as you can, until you can see the sea and the mountains. Make sure the mountains are on your right and the sea is on your left and fly as fast as you can until you get to the Jungle Kingdom. Don’t land in the territory of the Underground Kingdom, no matter what you do. And you have to get home or somewhere safe before midnight. If you don’t, you will turn back into fairies, and you’ll be on your own.
With a swirl of her wand, Ambrosia cast the spell. The trio of princesses lifted off the ground in a cloud of swirling sparkles and chimes. The magic took hold and the girls morphed into a trio of pegasi, each with a horn sticking from their forehead. The magical creatures filled the center of the room. The girls looked each other up and down and squealed with delight.
“We’re unicorns!” Abbegail cried out.
“You’re a pegasus!” London screamed with delight.
“I can’t believe it!” London sang out.
The girls tried to prance around the room but discovered they were entirely too large to dance about in their customary manner.
“Ok, you guys need to hurry. Head for the ceiling and get out of the Underground as quickly as you can,” Ambrosia encouraged them. “Don’t wander or play. Just go.”
When the door opened, the girls discovered they were also entirely too large to exit through it easily. After a few minutes of crouching and crawling with wings folded up to be as small as possible, they managed to get through the tiny doorways. Once they all gathered outside The Flying Pig, the tavern disappeared. They excitedly soared into the Underground laughing as they flew.
Inside The Flying Pig, Ambrosia turned to the room where the guests and waitresses stood, mouths agape at having witnessed one of the most bizarre scenes any of them could remember.
Ambrosia returned to her work, wondering what sort of thing she should do for her husband to make up for the tea party.
Did you catch any of the movie/book references built into the story? Every story I write has a handful of references built into the story. Let me know how many you found and which ones and the readers who find the most will be recognized in a post on Fridays when I’ll reveal them all. Click here to tell me what you found!
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