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The Fairy Godfather On The Road: The Washer Of Londry


malign

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For new readers, I thought I would introduce the Fairy Godfather.

Basically, he was just a guy living in a small cabin in the Enchanted Forest until the day that a package arrived for him in the mail, containing a magic wand and a pair of ruby slippers. Wearing the slippers, he found that he could fly, and with the wand, he could channel the power of the Universe to make people happy. I have recorded a few of his adventures, well, chiefly for my own amusement, but I'm sharing them in the hope that they might amuse others.

By the way, the core idea for this story came up in a conversation with 'sedsed' here, months ago, and it's been eating its way through my brain ever since.

The Fairy Godfather On The Road 2

The Washer of Londry

Deep in the Forest, at the foothills of the mountains, a swift-running stream splashes down from the heights onto the plain below. There, at a bend in the stream, lies a little village. It grew up around the flourishing business of an enterprising washerwoman named Madam Londry. She had started the business in her youth, and worked tirelessly to make it grow. Now, she and her employees took in washing from all the surrounding villages. Pack mules came and went with bundles of clean and dirty linen, and she became a rich woman. With riches came power, over her employees and over her village. Eventually, it was even named after her. Still, she was not satisfied ...

One evening, our traveling duo, the Fairy Godfather and his Panda Warrior companion, found themselves on the outskirts of the little village. The streets were full of bustle, as people hurried to finish their work before night. Clearly, here was a place where business was good. Weary of spending nights in the woods, they decided to find the local inn. It was nearly full, but they did not mind sharing a room. After putting down their sleeping gear, they headed to the inn's public room for some ale.

The room was crowded and noisy when they entered, but many heads turned to watch them, and the noise level dropped suddenly. Despite the crowd, people made a point of moving away as the travelers found seats. The Godfather looked at them in surprise, but the Panda simply concentrated on his menu. When a serving girl finally came over to them, she refused to look at the Panda at all. Addressing the Godfather, she said with a sneer and a disgusted voice, "We don't serve his kind here," and walked away. Several of the nearby patrons snickered.

The Godfather stood up angrily, hand on his wand, but the Panda laid a restraining paw on his arm. "It happens," he murmured. "Some people see fur and think we're somehow different. A fight would not change their minds."

"But what does fur have to do with anything?" the Godfather demanded.

The Panda looked up at him from under his eyebrows with a slight smile. "Does a logical question like that seem like it would change any minds, here? Doesn't look like it to me. So perhaps it would be better if we just left." They turned and headed for the door.

But near the entrance, they found their way blocked by a tall well-dressed woman with broad shoulders and strong hands. She spoke to them. "My apologies, travelers. The townspeople in these parts are not very cosmopolitan. I am Madam Londry. I own this establishment. Please let me entertain you in my private room."

The Godfather stammered his thanks, and they followed her down a short hall to a warm room with a fireplace and comfortable chairs inside. Before closing the door after them, Madam Londry yelled down the hall, "Bring steins of your finest ale for my guests and me!" Then she closed the door and put her back to it.

The travelers studied her for a moment. She was an imposing woman with a direct gaze, and she was clearly sizing them up, in her turn. Then she came forward and ushered them to big chairs by the fire. "Sit, sit, please," she urged.

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She settled into the large custom-made armchair facing them on the other side of the fire and cleared her throat.

"We have heard stories, even in our small village, of the exploits of the Fairy Godfather. Am I mistaken in believing that you are he?"

Surprised, flattered, and impressed by her grammar, the Godfather did not notice that once again his companion was overlooked. "No, you are correct; I am he," he replied.

At that moment, there was a soft knock on the door, and a servant, not the girl from the public room, brought in a tray carrying three large earthenware steins of chilled ale, put it on the low table in the middle of the room, and left without saying a word.

Madam Londry immediately picked hers up and sipped from it, smiling at them over the top of it. The Godfather did likewise, except he may have gulped his, slightly flustered at finding out that he was famous. He thought it was very good, and had some more. The Panda lifted his stein, but did not drink from it.

"I have a business proposition to discuss with you," Madam Londry began again. "You see, we have heard of those exquisite slippers of yours, that allow you to fly at will. I believe that if you would license the technology to us, we could make more of them and sell them. The demand would be huge, and of course, as the inventor, you would receive a percentage of the sales."

"But ... I didn't invent them. I found them. In fact, there wasn't even a manual," the Godfather stammered in confusion.

"Well, surely you have some idea how they work," Madam Londry frowned.

"Only that they're magic and I can fly when I'm wearing them," he replied honestly. And for some reason, he felt compelled to add: "And don't call me 'Shirley'."

"Well, then give them to me, and I'll have some of the men who built my 'Mechanisms to Remove Soil from Clothes' look at them. They'll figure them out." She added to herself, "And I must think of a better name for those washing machines, while I'm at it." Addressing the Godfather once again, she added, "Besides, I would think the man wearing the ruby slippers would be accustomed to being called 'Shirley'!"

Outraged, the Godfather tried to jump up, but found that his body would not obey. In fact, his muscles were not responding at all. He was paralyzed. "You've put something in my ale!" he cried.

The Panda jumped up in alarm, and moved between the Godfather and Madam Londry. "It's a good thing I didn't drink mine, then."

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The Godfather looked up at him with his eyes only. "Anticipation?"

The Panda nodded. "That, and it smelled like badger urine."

"I didn't smell badger urine," the Godfather objected. "Wait, that's what badger urine smells like?"

"I'm afraid so," the Panda replied grimly.

"I certainly hope that's not what badger urine tastes like," the Godfather murmured.

The Panda turned back to Madam Londry, bamboo staff at the ready. "Your plan has failed, Madam. Release us."

Suddenly, over her shoulder, a tiny malevolent being appeared, hovering awkwardly on its fairy wings and rubbing its hands together. "Her plan may have failed, but mine is doing just fine!" it said. "So, I guess I don't need her any more," it added, tapping her on the head with its wand. She slumped into her chair, unconscious.

"You!" the Godfather and the Panda exclaimed together. For it was a being they recognized, their nemesis Murphy, the evil fairy who had caused them both so much trouble.

"Yes, indeed," gloated Murphy. "And you, you have both stumbled blindly into the trap I laid for you. I just put a few thoughts into the mind of the Madam here, thoughts that lined up with the ones she already had. Thoughts of developing a product that would allow her to move beyond her one little village, to dominate the entire region. Such a petty goal! But by such means the will of the Universe is advanced."

"Of course," he continued, "she would never have been able to duplicate the slippers. She doesn't even believe in magic! But all I needed her for was to immobilize the two of you long enough for me to take over."

"Then you too have failed," countered the Godfather. "My companion is not immobilized."

Murphy sneered. "Of course she is! Do you think she's going to abandon you, or the wand and slippers?"

Then, seeing the look of shock on the Godfather's face, he laughed out loud. "You mean she didn't tell you? Your trusted companion? Never let you know that she's a female?"

The Godfather's eyes shifted to the Panda's face in mute inquiry.

She had the good grace to blush, thereby adding yet another answer to the age-old question of what is black and white and red all over.

"It's true!" she said. "But think: would you have been able to treat me as a full partner in your adventures, if you had known? It is the custom of your species for males to shelter the females. The ways of my people are different. You would simply have made it impossible for me to use my training. So, I didn't exactly lie, but I did let you believe what you assumed."

The Godfather was not sure he entirely agreed with this definition of truthfulness, but he did not reply, because Murphy was continuing.

"So, why not just give me the wand and slippers, and no one will get hurt," he gloated, advancing on them.

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"Never!" cried the Panda, stepping into his path.

"I was hoping you'd say something like that," the tiny fairy cackled, and immediately began firing handfuls of spells at the Panda's head.

It took all of her training not to be hit as spells flew at her as fast as Murphy could cast them. After all, she had no magic of her own, only her agility and training. She twisted and turned, rolled and tumbled. She dodged those spells that she could, deflected others with a flick of her staff. For a while, she was hard pressed.

But she was, after all, a highly trained Warrior, and Murphy was not. She began to find the rhythm in his spellcasting, his preference for certain spells and how long it took him to cast each one. Finally, she met one of his spells just right with the tip of her staff and sent it rebounding back at him. Murphy was forced to dodge, giving her a short gap in his barrage of spells. When he looked back, she was no longer where she had been.

She had vaulted back to where the Godfather sat immobilized, snatched the slippers from his feet, and put them on. Despite the different shape of her feet, the slippers seemed to fit, though they were no more comfortable than they were for the Godfather himself.

Now Murphy was facing a Warrior who could fly at least as well as he could. In fact, if he were really honest with himself, he had never actually mastered flying, and the Panda's agility made up for her greater bulk. But Murphy was not ready to give up yet.

He redoubled the speed of his spellcasting, trying to avoid falling into any pattern. Even airborne, the Panda had no real way to fight back, and was forced to remain on the defensive. Murphy bore her back until she was fighting directly in front of the Godfather's chair. Soon, she would tire and be hit.

Finally, she dived to one side, turned, and flew past the Godfather. Gasping, "Forgive me," she snatched the Godfather's wand from his belt, flew over his shoulder, and crashed through the window into the courtyard of the inn. Zigzagging away over the rooftops, she was gone.

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Both Murphy and the Godfather gaped at the Panda's sudden retreat. Then Murphy realized that she had got away with everything he had set out to capture. For a while, the spiteful fairy whizzed around the room, periodically shooting angry spells that blasted little figurines off the mantel and burned holes in the carpet and chairs. However, he finally calmed himself and faced the paralyzed Godfather.

"Well, it looks like I was wrong. She's run out on you, and taken all your magic with her. Perhaps she wasn't quite as good a friend as you thought, eh? I love it when the good guys turn out to be just like me," he gloated. "That's alright, though: I have a little torment all prepared for you. Then, at least I'll be rid of you, and I can concentrate on eliminating your disappearing friend."

Murphy gave a flick of his wand, and two large carts full of muddy clothing appeared near the door to the room.

"In fact," he said absently, obviously concentrating on what he was doing, "if I'm lucky, she might even come back to try and rescue you."

Hovering over the carts, he sprinkled a little gray dust on the top of each pile of clothing. "A little corpse powder ..." he muttered. Then, screwing up his eyes in concentration, he began whispering a complex spell, accompanied by intricate movements of his wand. Finally, he looked up and smiled, and a horrible sight it was, too.

"But if she does, I'll be ready." And he flew up to hover in one corner of the room, out of sight from the window.

The Godfather kept his eyes glued on the carts. He did not know what Murphy had done, but he was sure it was not something nice.

There! Had something moved in one of the carts? Yes! Something that might have been white once, but was now a muddy gray lifted itself onto the rim of the cart, then flopped off onto the floor with a squelch. At first he thought it had simply fallen out, but then it drew itself up and lurched towards him. It looked like a man's shirt trying to move around without the man. It even lifted empty sleeves towards him as if it could reach him more quickly that way. It was as if ...

"That's right!" Murphy exclaimed, having watched the Godfather's reactions.

"Zombie laundry!" And he whizzed around near the ceiling, cackling with glee.

Now other garments were lifting themselves up in the carts and throwing themselves over the sides. Here was an empty flower print dress, there a pair of men's pants, even an unmatched sock hopping along without a mate. Soon there were dozens of lurching figures advancing slowly across the room. The sight might have been ludicrous, if the Godfather were not certain that there was a malevolent spirit awake in each garment. He suspected that he would be in real trouble if any of them reached him.

Yet here he was, immobilized without his wand or any means of escape. Was this, in fact, going to be the way he perished?

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But then he thought, "I don't know how it feels about me, but I know the Universe doesn't want Murphy to win! A tie maybe, a way for both good and evil to continue to exist, but not the annihilation of one by the other. So, there has to be a way ..."

Putting his fears aside, the Godfather concentrated on relaxing, on sinking into that quiet calm from which he might be able to feel the will of the Universe. Despite the slowly advancing menace, he stilled his thoughts and slowed his breathing. Gradually he felt the peace that always came over him when he immersed himself in the flow of the Universe.

He remembered something that Oasht, his guardian angel, had told him long before, that the wand was really only an amplifier, a way of directing the energy that he channeled from the Universe. Perhaps he could still do some magic, even without it! But, what should he try?

He realized that Murphy's spell must be requiring a lot of energy, that it could not be easy for even a skilled fairy to make zombie laundry be a part of the will of the Universe. So there must be some easy way to return things to normal, but what? There was nothing in the room that looked promising.

He looked at the laundry army, much closer to him now. It seemed unlikely that he would be able to find something that would kill the malevolent spirit that inhabited each garment. After all, they were already dead. But maybe something that would prevent them from moving ... There must be something that allowed the spirits to move the clothes, something that stiffened them so that they could stand like that.

And suddenly he knew! The answer came to him so powerfully that he could feel the surge. It was so strong that he knew that the Universe had responded, somehow.

But he did not know how the Universe had responded. He saw no change in the room, in the zombies, in Murphy. But he knew that he had to act, and for that he would need to be able to move. He allowed his consciousness to merge with the Universe, once again.

His mind flowed down the nerves of his body, tracing their pathways, feeling their blockage. He saw where the paralytic drug was stopping the flow of messages to his muscles, and with a flexing of will, re-established normal communications.

Then he stood up. And all hell broke loose.

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Murphy goggled at him, nearly forgetting to stay airborne.

The zombies lurched forward, trying to reach him before he escaped.

The Panda dived through the window back into the room and swooped over the Godfather's head, dropping him his wand.

Murphy recovered from this second surprise more quickly, and started shooting spells at both the Godfather and the speeding Panda.

But somehow, the Godfather remained embedded in the feeling of flow. It was not that he knew what was about to happen; instead, it was as if he somehow made the correct moves even though he did not know. He plucked his falling wand out of the air without looking. He blocked each of Murphy's spells effortlessly, as if the fairy were moving in slow motion rather than as fast as he could. Not only that, but his own counterspell pinned his opponent to the ceiling, helpless.

Meanwhile, the Panda had pulled out of her dive directly over the advancing zombies, which by now were only a sleeve's length away from the Godfather. She carried a gallon jug in each hand, and she began pouring liquid from them onto the garments. Wherever the liquid hit them, the zombies went limp and collapsed. Some that had only been splashed continued to flop around until she hit them again, but soon none of the zombies remained, only sodden rags seeping mud into the carpets.

The Panda landed in front of the Godfather, and gratefully returned his ruby slippers. Standing on one foot, she carefully rubbed the other.

"Do they hurt like that for you, too?"

The Godfather merely nodded.

"Then you're a better man than I. By the way, how did you know I was coming?"

"I didn't," the Godfather replied. "But I knew something was. And whatever it was, I was sure it would be the right thing." He smiled. "It's good to see you again. Thank you for saving my wand and slippers."

The Panda blushed for the second time that day. "I just did what had to be done. The same as just now: I had flown around trying to think of some way to rescue you, but I couldn't. So I stayed nearby, knowing that you would think of something. Then, when these bottles appeared in my hands and I saw what they were, I knew what you needed me to do."

And she threw the empty bottles of fabric softener on the floor.

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The Godfather found a small box and effortlessly confined Murphy in it with an intricate spell he had not known how to do the day before. He released Madam Londry from her Murphy-induced faint. She seemed not to remember any of what had happened, or why her sitting room should be awash in dirty laundry. But she no longer seemed dangerous, and the companions allowed her to bustle out of the room to organize the cleanup.

They themselves decided not to stay in the inn that night, after all. Instead, they picked up their gear and went to camp a short distance outside of town. They built a roaring fire and ate a big meal. Yet, it was not exactly a celebration; too many things remained unsaid between them.

The Panda tried to start the conversation by gesturing towards the buzzing little box that still contained Murphy. "What will you do with him?"

The Godfather shrugged. "I'll have to let him go, in a day or two. It won't hurt him to spend the time thinking about his tendency to overdo things. But, he is part of the way of the world, and far be it from me to change that."

The Panda nodded, clearly hesitating over the next question. Finally, she cleared her throat and asked, "Now that you have mastered the flow and have become fully a Fairy Godfather, what will you do?"

The Godfather considered for a moment, knowing that she was asking about their partnership. "I don't see any reason to change what we've been doing. After all, the need hasn't changed. As far as I'm concerned, the quest continues: to find where we're needed most, and to work there to do as much good as possible. What do you say?"

The Panda smiled. "I'm glad to hear you say that: I feel that our paths still run together for a while. But I'm sorry that I didn't tell you ..."

The Godfather interrupted her: "You were probably right; if you had told me before I had seen you in action, I might have reacted to you as a female instead of as a partner. I'm glad I know better, now. But can we make a deal: no more secrets?"

The Panda laughed, "Sure! Tell me about your first love!" Seeing the look on the Godfather's face, she relented. "Okay, how about, no more relevant secrets?"

"Ha, deal!" the Godfather replied. "That was some pretty tricky flying you were doing. I've never tried half the things you tried on your first attempt." And, relieved, they turned to discussing their recent adventure as the night grew old.

The Space Before the Next Beginning

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