Once upon a time, there was a very angry fairy princess. Her mother was Queen Red Leaf. Her court lived in a Japanese maple beside a small lantern in the Azalea Garden. Her mother was warring with the samurai rats living under the Bridge of Singing Water. She had allied with the Orange Blossom fairies. The fairies of both courts encircled the Wren Palace.
“Mother,” growled the usually dulcet-toned princess. “Why must we wait here by the Wren Palace with these heavy spikes? My arms are killing me!”
“Yesterday,” began Queen Red Leaf with an air of having repeated this one too many times. “Blue Coda and his assassins attacked the wren family and prevented them from eating any of the bird seed in the Wren Palace. We are here to be sure they do not come back.” Blue Coda was the Samurai Rat leader.
“Why is this our problem? I could be sunbathing on Idlewild Rock right now!” This was her usual plan for a beautiful day. Princess Shinobu noticed her cousin, Prince Hiro of the Orange Blossom fairies, glance quickly at her and then turn his shoulder to her. Princess Shinobu breathed in deeply, held it for a moment and then breathed out deeply in the way her mother had taught her.
“My daughter, the creatures of the air and water belong to us.” Queen Red Leaf’s good nature was wearing a bit thin. “Their well-being is important to the balance in the garden.”
“But the Samurai Rats were our allies last winter when the water snakes came up from their burrows and stole the young of the field mice.” The Princess tried to calm her tones and speak in a respectful way.
“The water snakes came out of hibernation too soon and they upset the balance of the garden.” Queen Red Leaf nodded. “Blue Coda was very indignant. He agreed with Queen Clementine and I that the water snakes needed to be driven back into hibernation. This time, we do not agree.” Princess Shinobu looked past the shoulder of Prince Hiro where Queen Clementine of the Orange Blossoms, was politely pretending not to hear the disagreement between her sister and niece.
“The wrens are our allies and friends.” Queen Red Leaf explained softly. “This new bird feeder the head gardener installed was meant for the wrens. Blue Coda and his court have always eaten the seeds spilled by the birds, the water plants and the takings from the tea house. Now he wants all the seeds for his own. The wrens are diminishing. The long winter last year was hard on them. They need these seeds.”
Princess Shinobu felt a bit ashamed of herself. She did not realize the wrens needed the seeds so badly. She had assumed they had tried to keep the Samurai Rats from getting the fallen seeds. She just didn’t want to have to do what her mother wanted all the time. She wanted the right to think for herself and make her own decisions. She felt that day would never come.
The azalea bushes moved as if from the wind, but the air was still. Then the long grass parted, and the nose of Blue Coda twitched as he emerged from hiding.
“Queen Red Leaf!” Blue Coda rose up on his hind legs and towered above the tiny fairy queen. “I have been listening. My assassins surround you and Queen Clementine.” All around the fairies, rats crept out of the grasses surrounding the fairies and the Wren Palace.
Prince Hiro raised his spike high as a rat assassin blocked the sun. “Back off,” he told the rat assassin bravely.
“You must not be greedy!” Queen Red Leaf cried quickly, hoping to avoid fighting.
“You have plenty of other food, but the wrens have only these seeds until the flowers seed!” Queen Clementine added.
“We would be friends not enemies.” Princess Shinobu agreed, scared but proud now to be holding her spike. She thought of her friend, Friday Wren, who sang silly, irreverent songs to her by Idlewild Rock on beautiful days. She thought of Mother Wren who worked so hard every year with a new nest and new eggs.
“The water snakes are angry that we drove them back to hibernation, and they have stolen our young!” The angry assassin standing over Prince Hiro bellowed and swatted at his spike.
“We will talk to the water snakes on your behalf if you will honor the agreement to take only the seeds that fall to the ground, and leave the Wren Palace to the wren family.” Queen Red Leaf offered.
“Mother Wren is terrified of your assassins, Blue Coda,” Princess Shinobu pointed out. “The whole garden would be diminished if the wrens left.” Princess Shinobu had thought of a good argument, but as she said it, she realized that it was also true. Sunbathing at Idlewild Rock would be lonely without Friday Wren’s songs. They made her laugh. Suddenly, she understood what her mother was always talking about – the balance in the garden. “The wrens are our friends, and we cannot watch them starve, any more than we can watch your young be stolen. My mother will help you.”
Blue Coda dropped to all fours. The assassins started to back away from the fairies.
“We will apologize to the wren family. We were overcome by greed and grief. We forgot we were friends.” Blue Coda nodded, and as one, all the rats turned and retreated into the grass.
Queen Red Leaf placed her hand on Princess Shinobu’s shoulder. “I have never been more proud of you.”
Queen Clementine and Prince Hiro came over and gave her a hug and two ceremonial kisses on her cheeks. The two courts crowded around laughing with relief now that the war was over, and the wrens were saved. The wren family flew in, and chirped their thanks. Friday landed on top of the Wren Palace and sang like a crow, making them all laugh.
The water snakes did not want to release the young of the rats. The snapping turtles sided with the fairies. The water snakes’ allies, the muskrats, turned double agents and confirmed that the water snakes were hoping to disrupt the alliance between the samurai rats and the fairies. They had almost succeeded, but for the quick words of Queen and her daughter. Since Operation Rat Kidnap had failed, and the muskrats had deserted them, the water snakes released their hostages and quietly settled down. Balance was restored to the garden in time for Mother’s Day.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham