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Petra and the Elves
Nina, Age 12, Tolland, CT

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl named Petra, who lived on a farm with her parents……

“Uh oh.” Petra mumbled to herself. “Not again!” She rubbed her eyes with her callused hands to see if their brown depths deceived her. They did not. For the seventh time that month, there were three less chickens on Armison farm.

When the first three went missing, Petra’s father had assured her mother and her that it was just that they had become a small meal for a lone wolf, passing by the farm, but lately, not even he could convince himself of that.

“Could it be bad luck?” Petra thought. “Or a curse?” The latter thought made the girl shiver.

The thirteen year-old rapidly raced back to her and her parents’ house on the farm where they lived, in the kingdom of Thait, her blonde hair trailing in the wind behind her.

As soon as the elder Armisons heard Petra’s news, her father through his hands in the air.

“We can no longer tolerate this!” He stated.  “More than half of our income comes from these chickens and their eggs.  We must go to town to buy more immediately, and hope that they are not stolen as well.”  He looked at his only daughter, his only child.  “You shall stay her and tend to the farm while your mother and I are absent.”

So, it was decided.  Petra’s parents left for town that afternoon.

          *   *   *

That night, as Petra slept by a crackling fire in the cabin’s stone fireplace, she awoke to the sound of singing.

“Who could that be?”  She wondered.  “Our neighbors live at least a mile away. And hardly anyone ever visits.”

After the singing had been going on for several minutes, Petra got up to investigate.  Out the door she went.  She gingerly stepped across a stone walkway to where a vegetable garden beyond the chicken coop lay.  The sight that she saw awed her. There, among the lettuces and zucchinis of the spring’s vegetable garden were three, miniscule elves, slowly riding on the backs of three chickens, chanting a rhyme.  From what Petra could distinguish, the rhyme sounded like this:

“Clever elves, sly elves are we.
For stealing and trickery,
Cheating and treachery,
The finest elves be we three.”

Petra’s eyes widened as she tried not to screech in outrage.  Without a moment’s hesitation, or even a thought about her preceding actions, she leaped out of her hiding place and grabbed all three elves from the backs of the chickens who now squawked in both fear and confusion.  Up close to the miniature creatures, Petra could make out some important features in the moonlight.  She saw that they had long, pointy ears, prominent noses, green, lantern - like eyes, hidden under short, red hair, and one golden tooth in each of their wicked grins.  Now, these tiny men squirmed in her grasp, begging to be free.

Then, one made a bargain that caught Petra’s ear, as a ruby’s glint can catch an eye.  This elf, by far the smallest of the three, yelled out, “If ye’ lass let us go, we shall grant thee three wishes!”  in a desperate voice.

Petra looked at him and his companions.  She measured the offer in her mind.  She carefully lowered them upon the ground, until only the smallest elf was left in the palm of her hand.  He stood up and spoke, looking directly up at her.

“When ye’re ready to make your wishes three, call upon my brothers and me:

Wishes three, oh wishes three
How can your choices be
So tricky?”

And with that, the elf hopped out of her hand and disappeared with his brothers into the forest.

          *   *   *

The next morning, Petra woke to the sun's bright rays dancing across her face. She felt better and healthier than she had in a while, and decided to take a walk outside.  After breakfast, and finishing her morning chores, she set out for town at a skip. This was not the same town that her parents were going to, but it was still about a mile away. But Petra had grown up on a farm, and was quite strong, physically. When the girl finally got to the small town, she giddily skipped down the cobble-stoned streets.

Eventually, she passed by a church.  It was there, on the church steps where  Petra noticed an old blind man.  His wrinkled face sported a very large nose.  He was singing to himself, “Oh if I could see, if only it would be.”

Being well-mannered and merciful as she was, Petra inwardly smiled inwardly at this sight, and thought to herself, “I know what I’ll do! I’ll have an elf give him sight!”  The girl quickly chanted the rhyme that she had learned the night before.  In mere moments, one of the three elves appeared before her.  “Oh why ain’t it the girl child from the night a ‘fore!  Dearie dear, have you come for more?”

In reply to the question, she said, “Please grant that poor man sight.”  The elf’s eyes twinkled mischievously and he threw out his hands to the man, only to disappear immediately.  At first, Petra thought that nothing had happened, but all of a sudden, the man on the steps looked around him at his surroundings, and hopped up into the air shouting, “I can see!  I can see! Oh bless me I can see!”

He didn’t appear to see Petra standing by a tree near him, and though Petra herself had very keen eyesight, she missed seeing the unusual green flash that spread around the old man’s eyes as he half-ran, half-leaped away.

          *   *   *

Later, as Petra walked across a bridge to the other side of town, she saw a young girl at about the age of five who was weeping over the river. Petra patted the girl and gently inquired as to what was wrong.  The little girl replied sobbingly that her doll had fallen into the river, and washed away.  Under her breath, Petra silently sang the tune that she had been taught by an elf just the night before, while walking down the bridge from the child.  “Ah!  Why call me herie dearie?”  said a voice behind her. She turned and saw another elf from the night before.

“Please give that little girl down the bridge a doll.”  Just as the elf preceding him had, this elf raised his arms and vanished from sight.  Then, there came a cry from the little girl down the bridge.  “My doll!  My doll!”  Petra smiled to herself and slowly walked away.

For the second time that day, the thirteen year-old had not noticed a vital piece of information.  As she walked away, the young child tucked her thin, red hair behind long, pointy ears and smiled, revealing one golden tooth.

          *   *   *

Finally on her way home after admiring a few goods in the small markets, Petra saw an old woman limping along in the opposite direction.  It was then when Petra knew what to do with her third wish.  Without so much as another glance in the unhealthy woman’s direction, the thirteen year-old called for an elf.  Before Petra had even finished the rhyme that was now familiar in her head, the tiniest elf of the three appeared, and said in a sing song voice, “Your last and final wish of three, tell me now what shall it be?”

“I’d like for her”, Petra indicated the old woman, “to be well again.” This elf didn’t even smile.  He didn’t look at the old woman.  He didn’t even throw his hands up in the air or anything.  He just vanished from the girl’s sight completely.  Not even a full second had passed when the old woman was leaping in the air, healthy once again.

Petra grinned from ear to ear.  She felt good about herself, and all the helpful things that she had done today. If only she might have noticed the woman’s very large and prominent nose or her golden front tooth.

          *   *   *

When Petra finally walked through the door to her house, it was nearly dark. The crickets chirped in the grasses, the stars shone, and not a thing seemed to be out of place. That was when Petra realized there was a small, glowing figure on the windowsill. To her utter amazement, the figure on the windowsill was a fairy.

The miniscule figure had twinkling, green eyes, and long, blonde hair, much like Petra’s own.  She had pointy ears and a very small and subtle nose.  But the most extraordinary feature was the pair of silver, glistening wings attached to her back.

“Wh-who are you?”  Petra asked, shocked.

“I am Ambrosia, fairy of the woodlands, sister of three unbelievably sinister, eleven brothers.” Ambrosia sighed.  “Let me explain.”

“My three brothers, Liam, Tirim, and Erin, love playing tricks on mortals. They had been stealing chickens from your farm.  When you caught them, Liam, the smallest and most clever, found it a good opportunity to play a prank. He offered you three wishes, but managed to cheat you out of all of them.”

“But I used the wishes myself.  How -” Ambrosia interrupted.

“The three people that you helped were not real.  They were my brothers in human form.  You see, elves have the ability to change their forms.  Liam, Tirim, and Erin, “morphed” into human forms, so that you would use your wishes on them.  Now, I can’t return your three wishes, but I can grant you three gifts.”

Petra gave Ambrosia a questioning glance. The fairy continued. “I can give you the gift of insight, so that you can always recognize the true nature of a situation; the gift of happiness, so you will be able to cure any grievance; and lastly, the gift of health. With this last gift, no mortal sickness can harm you, and you can have the ability to heal anybody of anything short of death. Would you like to accept or decline the responsibilities of these gifts?”

Petra couldn’t answer. Surely she wanted the gifts, but she was still processing the information. Apparently, the fairy understood what Petra was doing, and smiled. Petra was glad to see no golden teeth in her grin, and at last managed a feeble, “Yes please.” Ambrosia raised her hands. Suddenly, the fairy dematerialized, leaving a dazed Petra standing beside the windowsill.

          *   *   *

Eventually Petra must have gotten to bed, because she woke there in the morning. Rubbing her eyes she wondered if the events of the last two nights before had really happened. She sighed and stretched her arms under her pillow.  She felt something there.  She grasped two objects and studied them. Petra smiled at what lay in her palm, knowing now that she had not imagined the events from before.

“Fairies.”  She chuckled, shaking her head. The girl placed one silver wing, and a chicken feather back under her pillow, and got up to do her morning chores, before her parents came back.

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