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The Fairy Godfather Breaks In


malign

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Once upon a time, there was a fairy godfather. He was just an ordinary guy like you or me (if you're a guy, and relatively ordinary, at least by some definition, no matter how broad), but one day he received a pair of ruby slippers and a wand in the mail. With the slippers on, he could fly, and when he waved the wand, he could make people happy. So he decided to become a free-lance fairy godfather. This is one of his stories.

One day at the beginning of the Winter Festival, as he was flying through the town, doing good, he chanced to meet a woman with a thick beard and big upright bunny ears. Now, he had encountered some odd beings in the course of his travels over the years, and he knew of no reason why bearded, bunny-eared women should not exist, but he could honestly say that he hadn't met any, until that moment. So he stopped to talk to her.

"Hello, young, um, lady. I must say, I have never encountered one of your kind before. Have you come from far away, for the Festival?"

The young lady blushed furiously and averted her face, mumbling something about cheering up a friend. Then, to the godfather's astonishment, she pulled off the ears and beard to reveal a perfectly ordinary, if somewhat redder than average, woman.

She tried to explain, "It was merely a costume, sir, that I had borrowed. My name is Janet. I was going to visit a friend at the castle. She's feeling poorly, and she is under the care of a healer who lives there."

After introducing himself, the fairy godfather decided to accompany her to the infirmary. Where better to spread a little cheer? So, together, they walked up the hill to the castle gate.

But, when they reached the portcullis, they were amazed to find the gates closed. The castle gates normally stood open, and moreover, it was the time of the Winter Festival. There should have been a crowd of people going in and out, vendors shouting their wares, children and dogs and all. Instead, they faced the blank timbers of the castle gates.

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There were a couple of serious-looking guards standing on either side of the gate. But, every time they tried to talk to them, to ask them why the gates were shut, they were ignored. Of course, it's a guard's duty to stand his post without flinching, for hours, even if children tease them or if dogs mark them as territory. Okay, maybe even the most experieced guard would flinch at that last one, but he would never desert his post.

However, the godfather had encountered a similar situation before and knew exactly what to do. One swish of the wand, and the guards were much more friendly.

"Wotcher, mate? What brings you out on such a beautiful winter's day?" one guard asked.

"We were hoping to go into the castle to see a friend in the infirmary there. What has caused the gates to be closed at the height of the Winter Festival?" the godfather said.

"Ach, aye, a bad business, that. The healer came to the king yesterday, to tell him that there was plague in the countryside. The king then ordered the castle closed until the danger passes." He added, "He don't seem to mind leaving us out here, though."

Leaving them chatting amiably to each other, the godfather drew Janet to one side.

"That story is very strange. Wouldn't you expect a healer to come forth to minister to the sick, if there were a plague? While closing the castle would prevent the plague from reaching the garrison, it cuts off the common folk from all aid," the godfather observed. "Perhaps I should go see for myself what is happening inside."

With that, he drew Janet further from the gates. They zigzagged through narrow streets of tumble-down houses to a remote side of the castle wall. When he was sure that no one was watching, he told Janet to wait there, and clicked his heels. Rising straight up the blank wall, he flew up to the ramparts. He peeked over carefully, then flew higher still, to a balcony on the main keep of the castle. He knew that he would encounter fewer guards in the inner halls of the king. He also knew that that was where the infirmary was located.

He peeked through the hangings covering the balcony door. A nurse was moving among the beds at the far end of the room, but other than her, there were only patients in the beds. Only about half the beds were full. When the nurse went through a door to the next chamber, he slipped inside and looked around.

Finding one patient awake, he spoke to her. "Are there many of you sick from the plague? I'm seeking the friend of a young lady named Janet." The old woman was surprised, "Plague, sir? Is that what they're telling people? We've been sick, yes, but we're mostly on the mend, now. But for some reason, they won't let us out of the infirmary."

The fairy godfather stared. "Do you mean that there is no plague, after all? Why would the castle be quarantined, if this illness is not serious?"

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"Because the king is afraid!" came a voice from a few beds away. Turning to see who had spoken, the godfather saw a young girl sitting up, looking angry.

"I am Esther," she introduced herself, "and I am a chambermaid to the queen. I was there when the healer brought the news that there was a sickness in the countryside."

"And what makes you think the king was afraid?" asked the godfather, doubtfully. He had met the king, though only at public occasions, and found it hard to believe that the strong confident man he had met could be afraid of much of anything.

"Because I saw it with my own eyes!" Esther exclaimed. "He paused as if listening, for a moment, then his eyes widened and his face went white. He nearly dropped his drinking flagon! He ordered the castle closed and all of the sick quarantined, and practically ran from the room!"

Despite the girl's account, the godfather still found it difficult to accept. He knew that in his youth, the king had led his men into battle often. No man had ever accused him of cowardice. Perhaps there was something they were missing.

"I must find a way to see the king," he said.

At that moment, the door to the infirmary burst open, and armed guards spilled into the room. Their sergeant grabbed the godfather's collar.

"Aye, you'll be seeing the king soon enough, spy!" he rasped theatrically. "Just before he sentences you to hang for violating his orders!"

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{Well, you and I know that the godfather could easily have freed himself, just by waving the wand, but knowing that, we also can guess that he would be perfectly content to be brought before the king in this fashion, knowing as all of us do that he could free himself at any time, and knowing that he will inevitably do so, as we know this is his story, after all ... Oy, this darned omniscience can be very annoying at times!}

The soldiers led the godfather to a cell in the dampest, most vile dungeon that he had ever seen. This would have been a more impressive description if it were not also the only dungeon he had ever seen. The guards did not confiscate the wand or the ruby slippers, because as we all know , fairy items can be very difficult for ordinary people to see.

Eventually, they brought him supper, but other than the fact that it was brown and resting on a plate, there was nothing remarkable about it. He decided it might be time to start that diet that he'd been considering.

Even though he was in solitary confinement, he spent the night waving his wand at the other inhabitants of the cell, just to see the roaches and rats dancing together. Something about it made him feel useful. Plus, if you have an interest in dancing, you can learn quite a bit from four- and six-legged dancers.

Finally, a new day dawned in the outside world. Of course, the only change in the dungeons was that the sleeping night guard was relieved by a fresher smelling one, who promptly fell asleep, also. He slept right through the clatter of a squad of men tromping into the room, opening the rusty cell door, and shoving the godfather up the stone steps. He slept while the rats scarfed his breakfast and threw the useless silverware on the floor. He slept on while the roaches rehearsed the grand finale to their upcoming Boredway revue, which was just as well because they were using his lower lip as a stage.

After being led, pushed, and dragged through a variety of castle corridors, past chambers and chapels, privies and bood-wars, the squad opened a large oak door and threw him onto the stone floor. Raising his head, he found that he was in a large audience room. There weren't many people in it, just a few bureaucrats waiting in the wings, while the king sat at a large table at the far end.

But wait! What was that thing hovering near the king's head? It looked like an overweight hummingbird that had recently eaten something very sour ... But no, could it be some kind of fairy? Well, if it was a fairy, it was by far the ugliest one the godfather had ever seen.

When it realized that the godfather could see it, the fairy froze in astonishment, then zoomed behind the king's head. At that moment, the king looked up and noticed the godfather on the ground before him.

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"So this is the spy my guards told me about," said the king in his old confident tones. He addressed the godfather directly.

"Spy! What have you to say for yourself? Why shouldn't I just have you executed?"

"Because, sire, I have done nothing wrong." Several courtiers gasped. The godfather rose carefully to his feet. "I came to see what manner of happening could have caused his majesty to close the castle against a mere sickness among the people. I feared for your royal person."

The king laughed. "Well, look at me, man, do I appear to be in any distress?"

"Yes, milord, you do!"

The king was surprised, everyone else in the room frozen in shock. The godfather quickly drew his wand and waved it. But the effect was strange; the wand seemed to bounce back in his hand, and only some of the courtiers at the edge of the room smiled. The king, on the other hand, was outraged. He stood up suddenly.

"What is it that you mean, man? I've never felt better in my life!"

And over the king's shoulder, the godfather saw the ugly fairy taking aim with its wand.

Suddenly he felt himself shoved hard to his left, though there was no one who could have pushed him. The flash and sizzle of some kind of spell hissed past his ear, and he heard the unusual sound of hogs wearing armor from behind him. Rolling to look at the sound, he saw that his entire guard detail had been turned into pigs.

Turning back towards the king's table, he saw the little fairy taking aim again, no longer trying to hide. The godfather raised his own wand and deflected the spell this time, sending it hissing into a wall and causing one of the tapestries to grow a snout. He scrambled to find something to hide behind in the empty room, but found nothing. Again he felt a shove, and found himself ducking through the door he had come through. The door slammed shut by itself, and he leaned against it, breathing hard.

"Oh shit!" he whispered without thinking.

"That's 'Oasht'; I do wish you wouldn't keep mispronouncing it," came a voice from his right.

"Ah! Who are you?" the godfather gasped, having a hard time dealing with his second apparition in the span of a couple of minutes.

"Why, I am your guardian angel, of course," said the apparition in smug tones. "Oasht, at your service." And the godfather could see that it did, indeed, appear to be a tiny angel, with white robes, beautiful feathered wings, and a glowing halo. The only thing that seemed less than saintly was the expression on its face, much like a surly butler who has decided that his master is not quite what one would call 'old money'.

"Oookay," breathed the godfather, "but was there actually a need to scare the BEJEEZUS out of me!" This outburst, of course, only deepened the frown on angel's face.

Drawing himself up to his full six inches, the angel sniffed, "I have just saved you from a series of nasty spells, any one of which would have left you rooting in garbage for the rest of your shortened life, after which you would have been someone's ham!"

"So that was you that kept shoving me out of the way ..." {Clearly, the godfather had less experience with being omniscient than some others we might mention.} "But why didn't the wand work? That whole room should have been happy the minute I swished it."

The angel looked at the godfather as if this point should have been obvious from the beginning. "That was a real fairy casting those spells at us! You think an ordinary human with no instruction book stands a chance against a trained fairy with an attitude as bad as that one's? You're lucky to be alive, or at least not oinking, and that's only because I was there."

"Okay, then," said the godfather, showing that he had, in fact, been keeping up. "You seem to know more about this fairy than you've been telling me. Start talking."

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"Well," began the uncomfortable angel, "do you have a name in your language for everything? I mean, some people call it 'Creation', some the 'Cosmos', some the 'Universe'. The point is, the name doesn't matter at all: it's just there, and doesn't care what you call it. Well, the Universe has a direction, a flow; if it had a mind, you might call that its 'Will'."

"So, what's its will for us?" asked the godfather, who was a man of few words when he knew that a squad of piggy soldiers were searching for him.

The angel grimaced. "Well, of course, no one knows the entire will. I can say that all creatures are part of it, though; they would have to be."

"Can you not tell me anything useful, then? Do the good guys win, that's what I want to know?"

"Oh, no. Both good and evil are part of the Universe. The flow maintains them both; they both have a role to play. In fact, the Universe causes some beings to come into existence solely to further one or the other. I, for instance, am an example of a being created to do good." {"Well", you mean.}

"And that ugly fairy back there is on the other side?" asked the godfather, beginning to realize just how deep of a mess he was in.

"I'm afraid so. His name is Murphy, and his story is a long one. Suffice it to say that he is a primary agent of, well, call it 'chaos' rather than 'evil'. He is not that skilled; however, he has a talent for disrupting the plans of others. That is a primary thread in the Universe's overall will, so that only its own plan prevails.

"Once, long ago, this unremarkable and unaccomplished fairy stumbled upon a spell of considerable power. It is now known as Murphy's Law, and it has caused much suffering in the ages since. The Law, as usually quoted, says, 'Whatever can go wrong, will.' However, it is not perfect, for Murphy himself is far from perfect. Instead, the Universe saw to it that Murphy in his eagerness made a rookie mistake that left a sizable loophole ..."

"Never mind that," the godfather interrupted, as he was far more worried about practical survival, at the moment. "How do I work this wand? I don't stand a chance without some kind of weapon."

"Ah, that," the angel murmured. "Well, it's not hard, really. You just have to make the Universe do what it wants to do."

"Um, what? You mean, if the Universe doesn't want to do what I want it to do, nothing happens?"

The angel nodded. "I know it's hard to understand. But you would hardly expect the Universe to take orders from just one person, would you?"

"No, I suppose not," the godfather responded thoughtfully. "So, how do I know what it wants to do? I can't feel the Universe!"

"Ah, but you can. You've just not tried very often." The angel smiled. "But, if you've ever sat on a hillside and listened to the quiet, if you've ever watched the stars twinkle or listened to the wind in the trees, you've felt the Universe. I mean, it's not as if you can really get away from it, though many people try. But any time any person decides to listen for the Universe, it'll be there; we're all a part of it.

"And, when you listen to the Universe, sometimes you can get a feeling for where it wants to go. You have to be careful, though, to distinguish what it wants from what you want."

The godfather asked, "And when I know what it wants, how do I make it happen?"

"Well, the wand serves as a focus, nothing more. You have to concentrate your will and want what the Universe wants with all your heart."

"Is that all?" asked the godfather sarcastically.

But just then, there was a grunting and a clattering from the end of the corridor, and the squad of pig guards turned the corner and saw them. With a chorus of oinks, they charged.

The godfather looked around, but there was nowhere to run to. He looked at Oasht.

"Use the wand," the angel suggested quietly.

"I ..." the godfather hesitated.

"If you don't, we're pigfeed," urged the angel. "Well, you are. I'm an angel. No pressure, though."

"Um, right." The pigs were halfway down the corridor, now, and speeding up. They had some difficulty running, because most of them were trailing equipment that no longer fit them and clothing that they had shredded in their frenzied search of the castle. Still, they looked pretty nasty and out of sorts ... and close.

The godfather forced himself to close his eyes, and tried to feel what the Universe wanted that might be useful. Did it want pork chops? Did it want pigs to fly? Well, obviously not. So, what did it want? Suddenly, he felt a tiny bit of the flow of the mighty Universe, and he realized that what it wanted most of all was, things as they really were.

So he focused all his energy on that thought, and waved the wand just as the first pigs were upon them.

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The godfather decided not to open his eyes right away.

If things were okay, they could wait, and if they were really bad, he'd rather not see.

At the last moment, Oasht had shoved him back and upwards, and the ruby slippers had made him bounce up to the ceiling by reflex. Now he was hanging in the corner, trying to figure out by sound alone what had happened.

As he had closed his eyes, he had been hearing the clattering of pig's hooves on the stone floor, their grunting and clatter as they rushed to catch him. As the wand moved, though, the sounds had become muffled, like soft feet slapping the floor and flesh bumping into flesh. There had been a rush of air, though he wasn't sure whether that was Oasht pushing him and him taking flight. Then the group in front of him had come to an uncertain halt, and he heard human voices murmuring to each other. He thought he might risk a look.

Opening one eye for a quick peek, he saw a squad of half-naked soldiers staring up at him in awe. Their clothes were in tatters, where any were left at all, and their armor and weapons were in disarry. He did notice that a few of them still had them, however. He scrunched both eyes shut again and cringed into the corner, waiting for the inevitable strike.

"Oh, dear sir, was it you that changed us back again?" "Thank you, thank you!" "How can we ever repay you?" The clamor of gratitude made him open his eyes again in surprise.

The men were reaching out to him, some of them on their knees, but none of them seemed threatening any more.

"Me? I ... well, all I did was ... I mean, yes, I suppose it was," the godfather stammered. After all, even if he didn't understand how he'd done it, clearly it was better to be the one who had.

One of the men moved to the front and bowed to the godfather. "On behalf of myself and all my men, I thank you. We owe you our lives and are at your service. I am Sergeant Chalmers. Our first priority is to get you out of this castle." He looked down at himself, blushed, and tried unsuccessfully to cover various parts of himself with his hands. "Perhaps, our second priority ..."

As the squad separated, scavenging through nearby rooms for any serviceable clothing, the godfather finally had a chance to whisper to Oasht: "What actually happened back there?"

The tiny angel beamed. "You felt it! You felt the will of the Universe."

"You mean, Nature abhors a porker?"

"No, no, of course not. Pigs are fine, in their place. But the Universe wants its creations to be true to themselves, to be what they really are, inside. And you felt that, and made it happen, and all is well."

"But," the godfather objected, "if the Universe didn't want those men to be pigs, how did Murphy make it happen?"

"Ah, well," said the angel triumphantly, "it must be because it did want them to become pigs, at that moment! After all, you needed to know that Murphy was your enemy, and you needed some way to learn how the wand works."

"You mean, the Universe planned all that, just for my benefit?"

"Oh, no. The Universe plans everything, but only for its own benefit. It is possible that it plans to use you as one of its instruments, however."

"What if I don't feel like being played like an instrument?" asked the godfather, who was in general a fairly contrary guy.

"Oh, you definitely have a choice. When you can feel the Universe's will, nothing says you have to act in accordance with it. Now, fighting the will of the Universe isn't easy, though it can be done. It isn't interested in dictating your life down to the details, though. It is by definition a big-picture thinker. And it's quite capable of finding, or creating, other instruments.

"On the other hand, you have already chosen to be its instrument, just by using the slippers and wand. Whose will did you think you were doing, anyway? It may have felt like it was your own, but only because in the matter of helping people be happy, your will and the Universe's were flowing together. Is it so bad working for a Universe that wants the same things you do?"

The godfather mumbled something and fell silent. The squad of men gradually reassembled in the hall, wearing whatever clothes they could scavenge. A few were blushing in hastily-altered women's clothes, but no one made fun of them. They remembered all too well their recent lives as pigs. In fact, it seemed likely that the king's guard might be short a few deserters, come evening time. There's something about being changed into a pig that might very well make a man reconsider the glamorous life of a soldier, and return as a prodigal son to the family farm. Such is, at times, the will of the Universe ...

The squad surrounded the godfather protectively, and headed down the corridor to find an exit from the castle.

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Progress through the halls of the castle was remarkably easy. In fact, the place seemed deserted.

"I don't like this," the godfather muttered to himself.

The unfortunate thing about the design of castles is that they make a determined effort to reduce the number of entrances as much as possible, and therefore, the number of exits. The sergeant had led them by a devious roundabout route, but in the end, they had come to the only way out. They waited behind the door to the castle courtyard, on the other side of which was the huge gate in the castle wall.

The sergeant opened the door a tiny crack, and looked out. He shut it again, quickly but quietly.

"The king and the entire remainder of the garrison are spread across the courtyard, in front of the gate! There's no possible way past them!"

The godfather closed his eyes. He relaxed and breathed deeply, trying to feel which way the Universe wanted him to go, this time.

He knew he couldn't lead these men into a fight with their own comrades. He could also feel just how wrong it would be to leave Murphy in charge of the castle. He wasn't sure exactly what he could do, but he knew he couldn't just run away. That left only one possible course of action.

"Sergeant, you and your men stay here," the godfather instructed. "If I fail, someone must manage to get news to the villagers. Try to blend back into the garrison and wait for an opportunity to escape later.

"I ... must go out there alone." A few of the soldiers protested, but the godfather would not listen. He turned to Oasht. "Will you help me?"

The angel looked solemn. "As much as I can. But you do realize that all humans are mortal. I cannot guarantee your safety; I can only help."

"Of course, old friend," the godfather replied. "Do what you can, that's all anyone can ask. You told me something similar, yourself, not long ago." The angel blushed and nodded.

Steeling himself, the godfather slipped through the door into the courtyard. Arrayed in ranks across the full width of the yard, the majority of the castle's garrison stirred. There were shieldmen in front, with long pikes, and rows of archers behind. At the flanks, cavalrymen reined in their nervous horses. At the center, among his house guard, the king waited. Slowly, the godfather advanced across the open cobblestones toward him.

He stopped ten paces away. The king took a step forward and spoke.

"You have violated the sanctity of the castle and our royal person. Your life is forfeit. What have you to say for yourself?"

"Sire," the godfather replied, bowing low, "I have come to rescue you from the evil influence of a being known to me only as 'Murphy', who has enchanted your highness and ..."

"Enough!" the king interrupted. "Archers! Shoot this man!"

The godfather felt the forces at work around him; Murphy's scheming presence, the helpless anger of the enslaved king, Oasht's angelic serenity. Most of all, he felt the will of the Universe and he knew with all his heart that he was not meant to die this way. With that confidence, he had barely to move the wand. Not one of the whistling flight of arrows unleashed by the king's archers found its mark.

Seeing the power that the godfather had already mastered, Murphy decided to take up the fight himself. With a flick of his wand, he stopped time for the king and his men, and moved out from behind the king.

"You think you can stop me? You don't even know how that wand works!"

"Nevertheless, I must try. It is the will of the Universe." The godfather stood his ground.

"What does that matter? Don't you know who I am? I am Murphy, and I cast the spell that will forever bear my name: Murphy's ... Law!" And the fairy hurled that last word at the godfather as if it were a curse of its own.

The force of it made the godfather step back a pace. His foot caught on an uneven cobblestone, and he fell backwards on his hands. His wand clattered to the ground a few feet away.

The ugly fairy gloated. "Whatever can go wrong, will! Where's your Universe now? I have won!" And he drew back his arm to cast his favorite spell.

"It's all around you, idiot, and it won't be denied," the godfather replied in a ringing voice.

As Murphy's body turned to cast the spell, the tiny little toga that covered his body slipped off his shoulder. Trying to keep himself clothed with his free hand and deliver the curse at the same time threw him off balance. He spun wildly in the air and lost control of both this spell and the one holding the king's men in thrall.

Suddenly, the courtyard was full of pigs. One of them, seeing the spinning Murphy as just about right for a tasty meal, snapped him out of the air, leaving his wand to clink on the stones of the courtyard.

The godfather rose slowly to his feet, dusted his palms together, and picked up his wand.

"Oh, Oasht," he said, carefully separating the syllables, "what a horrible way to die!"

"Oh no, sir, he's not dead," Oasht laughed. "It's much harder to kill one of the Universe's special creations than that. However, he might be wishing he were dead, about now. Without his wand, he's pretty helpless in there until Nature takes its course."

"This too shall pass, though, eh?" the godfather joked. And together they enlisted Sergeant Chalmers and his men in rounding up the yard full of swine and taking them out through the gate to a pasture by the river where Murphy might be deposited some time the next day. There would be time to change them back into men afterwards.

As they opened the gates, they were met by a crowd of townspeople, who had gathered in front of the gates when they heard the sounds from over the walls. A woman broke through their ranks and seized the godfather's arm.

"Oh sir, you're alright! Have you any news of my imprisoned friend?"

"Janet! How are you? I'm not sure where she is, but the castle has been liberated, and you may go inside to search for her," he replied.

She looked at him coyly. Replacing on her head the bunny ears that she carried, she asked, "Won't you accompany me? We still must find a way to thank you." And she wiggled her bunny ears invitingly and began to pull him by the arm.

Resisting for a second, the godfather turned back to Oasht. "But wait! What did happen, back there? How could we possibly have defeated Murphy at his own game?"

Oasht grinned. "Well, you see, sir, as I told you before, the Universe saw to it that Murphy's Law should have a flaw in it, that he didn't even notice when he cast it. You see, the weakness in Murphy's Law is ..."

"It applies to him, too."

THE END.

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Thank you, sweety; it was for you.

Don't point out to anybody that I still have no idea what Murphy was going to do with a castle of his own.

But I've had that punchline waiting almost since I created his character. Murphy isn't really evil, powerful, or even a major part of life, though I know it hurts when you get caught by his law. I swear to you that there are higher laws, though. Oh, and that this too shall pass. :-)

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