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Children's Fiction

Papillonia and Rowena
Tariq Adam

'Fenchurch had told me to make the most of this period of gluttony, as I'd probably never get the chance again.'

I remember those days fondly. It was very much the end of an era, things were slowing down, coming to their logical conclusions. Fenchurch always seemed to be one step ahead and told me what to expect during our regular meetings at the Small Hours Cafe. Food was usually at the top of the agenda and we would gorge ourselves on whatever delicacy was in season at the time, washing it down with copious amounts of coffee to keep ourselves awake. Fenchurch had told me to make the most of this period of gluttony, as I'd probably never get the chance again. When asked to explain he usually became all vague and changed the subject. Gradually, though, he loosened up and began to speak more and more of "the life to come". I could never work out if this was meant to be a religious reference or a more general statement about our changing circumstances.

Soon after our friendship started the council transferred me to a flat at the top of a tower block. As my weight increased I began to get lethargic and found it harder and harder to keep up our meetings. Fenchurch, of course, had predicted this and didn't seem too disappointed although he exuded a barely repressed air of melancholy which seemed somehow related to our dwindling time together.

Eventually, the time came when I decided I could no longer leave the flat and lived mainly on home-delivery pizzas and curries. Fenchurch came to visit me only once during this period, something he described as a "parting shot". Again, he didn't go into specifics but seemed to imply that I was on the verge of a great new adventure. In my grossly obese and fatigued state I found this very hard to believe.

I remember the last time I went to sleep as if it was only yesterday. My dreams that night were oceanic, as if my mind was travelling through vast depths of uncharted underwater canyons.
The next morning, I felt better and fitter than I'd ever been. Looking in the mirror, I saw that I was somehow young again and had undergone a dramatic change in appearance. Instinctively, I went into the living room and out onto the small concrete balcony. Sitting on the railing, I dangled my legs over the edge and looked at the people below, many of whom, like Fenchurch, would sadly never experience what I was about to.
Gingerly, I eased myself off the ledge.
I flexed my wings, feeling the blood surging to fill the newly-formed arteries. Papillonia spread out all around me : a magnificent tableau of new perspectives.

Chapter One Rowena the Magical Princess

Rowena was a beautiful young woman who lived at number Eleventy Seven, Windmill Lane, in the village of Ob, far to the north of the World. She had three beautiful sisters, each beautiful in their own way and each with a special skill, which they enjoyed and put to good use.

The oldest sister loved to cook and would spend hours in the kitchen preparing mouth-watering meals and scrumptious snacks for family and friends.

The second sister delighted in dressmaking and provided the whole family with a wide selection of clothes to wear throughout the year as well as selling some to the other villagers.
The third sister was a born singer and would entertain the whole village at festival times with her haunting ballads and love songs.

But Rowena had not found her special skill. Most of all she loved to read. She would often sneak into Grandfather Babu’s secret library, which was inside the deserted old windmill at the top of the lane. Babu had long since disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving behind a collection of strange old books. Most of them were in languages Rowena didn’t understand, but she managed to read some of them and in this way she gained knowledge about the rest of the world which none of the other villagers knew. She would regale them with stories of fantastical palaces, exquisite cities and magical animals. Of course none of them believed her and said that it was time she got married and forgot about her fanciful ideas. For Rowena was very pretty and, having a kind heart and lively mind, had attracted the attentions of the finest young bachelors in the village. Many of them had come to her father to ask for her hand in marriage but she had refused each time, using a number of excuses. However, she usually said that she was not ready for marriage nor did she find the prospect of domestic duties very exciting.

Not knowing what else to do with her, Rowena’s father persuaded her to help him in his work. He was an herbalist, expert in concocting natural medicines to heal the villagers’ common ailments. For a while Rowena was happy with the work. But she soon grew bored of it and started inventing her own potions from recipes she found in her Grandfather’s books. It soon became apparent, however, that Rowena’s new treatments quite often didn’t have the desired effects. One old man had bought a balm to darken his grey hair but instead found it turned him invisible! He had spent the whole day as a disembodied voice. His poor family thought he had turned into a ghost until evening time when, thankfully, the effects wore off. Others complained of becoming lighter than air, being suddenly able to see through walls or understand the language of animals. Though these effects were certainly interesting what the villagers really wanted were cures for things like fever and backache. Besides, these unexpected side effects quite often made the recipients feel as if they were going mad, not a feeling that the simple village folk particularly wanted to experience.
Finally Rowena’s father had had enough.
"What are we going to do with you," he asked her, "or more to the point, what do you want to do?"
Luckily, Rowena had already made up her mind. Without hesitation she said: "I want to be a wizard!"
© Tariq Adam, 2003
email: creativecapital@hotmail.com


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