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A Strange Day in July
Dorothy, Age 13, Ottawa, ON

Merlin, the old mage, sat in his wooden cabin. Its tired, straw roof sagged. Its cobwebbed one room had a miserable old bed, shelf and fireplace. Outside the house was a wood pile that always had enough wood and inside, the shelf always had enough flour, egg, milk, water, salt and yeast to make bread. All this, if Merlin provided the rich Miller’s boy good luck charms and the Miller’s daughter marriage potions. How he made these potions, you will know later. But Merlin’s “treasure” in the room was a gleaming oak table upon witch he kept his potions, herbs, crystal balls, magic tokens and magic mirrors. Merlin had put a complex spell on the table so it was invisible and un-feelable to everyone but him. Merlin was gazing through a mirror right now.

Merlin was about 200 years old and maybe seven feet tall. His old, haggard face was accented with a bald head, piercing blue eyes, a comical nose that was always changing shape, a kind mouth and an eight foot long pearl white beard. He gazed through the mirror marked: “My poor lambs” and sighed. His head nodded and he drifted off into the land of sleep. As he sleeps, we will honor the Miller’s family with a visit. On second thought, maybe we should just watch them.
            
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“I will not go to the river! Why must we always go to the river? It's hot and we cannot swim in the river,” was the angry screech. “At the ocean, we can swim. We never go to the ocean!” and with that, the speaker stormed out of the Miller’s study.

The speaker was the Miller’s fifteen year old daughter Christina. Christina or Christiane as she liked to be called because it sounded “more mature” was tall and rigid. Her coppery hair was set in ringlets all the way down her back. She had selfish black eyes that could make anyone shrivel and cringe- except for her father, brother and nurse. Her long body was a tattle-tale. Telling everyone all about her characteristics- stern, commanding, selfish. Yet her long-known sorrow, longing, courage and determination were hidden behind her mask of temper. Christina’s mother, Julie, had been a cheerful young woman who always made everyone happy. When Christina was one, her mother’s cheerfulness evaporated and she died after some mysterious contact with magic and gloom made a home in their mansion.

Christina stood fuming with anger as her nurse, Gretchen, and her brother, Henry found her. Gretchen was a prim and proper old lady who was a devout Christian and she always wore green. Henry, on the other hand, was the same as his twin sister, just a bit louder and more arrogant than his sister, his grief forgotten.

“This was your idea wasn’t it!” thundered Cristina and added saucily. “Nanny Gretchen.”

“Yes!” bellowed Henry in agreement. “You’re always trying to torture us by going to the river on sunny days!”

“When I was your age, I found it quite enjoyable to go to the river for an afternoon of embroidery while my brothers fished for our supper!” reprimanded Gretchen in a shocked tone.

“Well, I hate embroidery!” screeched Christina.

“And rich boys don’t fish, their servants do!” added Henry. It was obvious though, that he just wanted to get outside and into their grand carriage.

“Softly there, softly! Ye could break thy voices, and me ears!” grumbled a maid that had just arrived. “M’lady, m’lord, Mistress Gretchen, the master and the mage say that you are to go to the mage to get your new tokens.” Explained the maid with a bowed head.

“Very well. Tell the master we’re on our way. Now shoo!” ordered the nanny and the maid scurried off. Neither Christina nor Henry even thought of disobeying because they both feared magic. But as they were leaving, Christina muttered under her breath “That old cheat!”
            
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Bang! Bang! Bang! Merlin slowly opened his eyes and thought “It must be the children!”  He opened the door, beckoning the twins in, and politely shooing their nanny out. “Pray sit on the bed. I owe you an apology for making you come on such short notice.” Merlin murmured politely. He snapped his fingers and the chains he had given the twins last month appeared in his hand.

As the twins watched Merlin turned to face the fire and whispered “A gniddew hctam rof Christina!” and bent down to pull a small, flat, purple stone out of the flames. His gaze shifted and a pocket appeared in Christina’s dress and into this pocket he put the purple stone. “Guard this with your life!” he told her.

He turned back to the fire and muttered “Doog kcul rof Henry!” and he knelt down to pull a small, flat, green stone out of the fire. Meanwhile, a pocket had appeared in Henry’s trousers. Merlin dropped the stone into the pocket. “Guard this with your life!” he told him. Merlin showed them to the door and handed Gretchen and Christina up into the carriage. “Goodbye my lass and lady! Be careful!” Merlin whispered as the carriage trundled out of sight. Then he went back to sleep.
            
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A fancy carriage jolted to a stop at a grassy knoll next to the river. The driver of the carriage leapt down from the box, knowing that ‘the Lady’ would be upset if he didn’t hurry. “M’Lady Christina, M’Lord Henry, Mistress Gretchen, you are here and I apologize for the bumpy ride.” Gretchen floated down to the ground and the driver placed a chair down for her. The twins stomped down behind her and moved toward the water’s edge, with the idea of skipping stones.

The sun, a sparkling gold pendant, danced and admired its reflection in the waves. Tall spikes of green grass poked up around an un-compromising black-gray boulder. The stony earth and grass had the fragrance of spring after it rained. Little gusts of wind pushed and played with the waves. The emerald blue water lapped at their feet. The miniscule, flat stones simply begged to be skipped.

Henry skipped a few stones, then whispered to Christina “Give me your stone. It’s the perfect size for skipping and after it has skipped out over the waves, it’ll be gone for good!” Christina handed her stone over and Henry skipped across the ripples, laughing and dancing. But it came back with the speed of a bullet, knocking Christina unconscious before returning to its pocket.

As she lay unconscious, a small voice in her mind said “Be careful, little one! This is how your mother died! Now be good.” and she woke to shouts of “Nanny Gretchen! Help! Christina’s unconscious!”

She got up grumbling. A relieved nanny soothed her and called for the driver to bring another chair. Christina sat down and asked sweetly for her embroidery. Nanny Gretchen looked at her as if she had horns but handed her the embroidery, thinking do herself “At least this change is for the good!”

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