"Silly Smira," her half-brother Kamm sneered, a radish-hued swampling with her father's cruel brow. "Celery cannot grow in swamps. Foolish you are to think that one day you could be queen."
"So it shall be. You will see," said she.
And off she went, deep into the tangled wetlands where wandering eyes strained to see. At last she arrived at the spot, and thrust her claws deep. On and on she toiled, dredging deeper into the muck, kicking up sickly shades in the emerald waters. As fatigue crept in, she dug in her heels, until at last she bumped across something stout. "This is it," she pawed with renewed vigor.
From the muddy pulp she fished out a tattered purse, the one that the faery had chimed about.
Not too shallow
Nor too deep
This taxing trove
Yours to keep
She filled it with seeds from under her dress, and buried it once more. "On and out they shall sprout. Till magic binds and stalks unwind." She danced.
The aid of faery magic was essential, especially if she hoped to grow anything in these lands. It saddened her to think what her brethren might do if they happened upon the spritely spirit. Darklings were cruel scavengers at heart, with a keen taste for faery flesh. To spare her soul, she did not lend an ear to their dastardly tales of faery treachery, but their wicked words still resonated.
At last the swamp illuminated. Eagerly she scooped up the shambled reticule. From its feeble cloth she plucked out a single seed, unlike the hundreds poured in. Closer still she peered, the seedling shining like a star. Abruptly it sprung from her hand, and burst from its gelatin shell. She gawked at her bounty: a tangle of limp, spidery leaves and nothing more.
"What am I to do with this weed?" She tossed it in the mire. Bubble it did, all around, till the waters steamed into a fetid broth. A creature of the swamp's refuse rose, bemoaning its labored invocation. "Slumberwort, why do you steal me from my sojourn?"
"Not I. A faery made you be. I came to her, seeking stalk for my murky haven, and instead she delivered you, o servant of stringweed."
"A faery? From what divine quarter?"
"Underwood is fowl," he grumbled. "A boggie's bowl of fright found you in place."
"Indeed," she frowned. "What shall I do? A touch of celery I must find, to love and nourish my mingy peers."
"If I do not raise stalk, then these lands will forever be deemed a wasteland, as will I. No suitor of noble virtue will have me."
"Are you suggesting a goblin prince? Do such things exist?"
"Aye. And celery is the goblin gold that springs them from their muddy holes. A princess am I." She curtsied.
"Indeed," he replied. "Heart of gold, take mine of kale; from it all things prosper. In return, all that I ask for is the purse from whence I came."
Smira thought it a fair exchange, and handed it over. And in her hand he placed his final offering before recoiling back into the putrid waters.
A fair distance back she trekked, skipping from puddle to puddle with glee. In her father's dying oak she placed the heartling, and abruptly a stalk of celery shot into the sky. Creatures gathered from all around, gaping at the vast vegetable.
“Whoever did this must be a mage of the highest prowess,” elves whispered among themselves.
“‘Twould be my sister, Smira,” Kamm grinned.
Many offered their hand, goblin and human alike. ‘Stalkers’ her father called them, and he would have none of it.
The neverglade teemed with curiosity till the giant stalk grew seeds of its own. More and more stalks shot up, and soon its legion began to sing. Not sweet lullabies of fae, mind you, but wretched rants that shattered the ear. The celery just would not stop growing, nor singing.
Desperate to stave off the masses from fleeing his kingdom, King Gondegook called Smira to his throne. He inquired about her trip to the mudlands, and when she told him about the faery and the beast, his face darkened. "I warned you about playing with faeries. Now they have played us."
"But father, all the beast wanted was the purse from which it sprouted."
"Purse? From whence?"
“Deep in the mire. No more did I imagine its use."
"‘Twas not a purse, but a faery trinket, buried long ago and hoped forgotten." Gondegook’s massive hands shook with rage. "Reclaim gifts, faeries cannot. Duped into returning the harvest bag, you have."
"But gave his heart did he, this creature of the bog."
"A trick. ‘Twas the faery all along. And how many seedlings did you drop in?"
"Hundreds," she frowned.
"Then a hundredfold shall rise. Faeries they are, forged from the flesh of celery."
Suddenly the stalks sprung to life, tearing out their roots, and dancing in the bog. They jumped down the muddy lodgings, caroling their sadistic chants, enough to send all of Gooklun fleeing into the wastelands. Unable to stomach their hideous shrieks, Gondegook and the royal family exited the swamp, leaving behind but one.
Smira gaped at the faery folk, her accidental creation. And from them, the sweetest helping stepped forward.
"Beautiful creature, a princess you must be," said he.
“And thee, a prince,” she blushed.
“Hopefully I regale the fantasy you hold dear,” he smiled. “Dillsing I am known.”
“Dillsing.” She peered at his silver stalk. “A name meant for a king.”
“I would be honored if I could have yours.”
Awestruck, she could not move her lips nor tongue, her heart swelling larger than it had before.
Soon after, he offered his hand, and this one she accepted. And so Smira became Queen of Hollowree, the unlikely union between goblin and enchanted stalk. Though not the fairest, Smira was adored by all of Adura, her loyal subjects making her rich in more ways than she could fathom.
Yet this is not the place for words such as ‘Happy’ and ‘Ending,’ for strange things happen when you mix faeries and goblins alike.