A couple of weeks ago we were thrilled to congratulate the winners of our Wicked Young Writers competition in association with the Library of Birmingham. The lucky winners, Lauren Bull (13) and William Bezzant (10) met Wicked cast members dressed in Susan Hilferty’s stunning Tony® Award winning costumes on the panoramic balcony of the Birmingham’s iconic Library to collect their certificates before heading over to the theatre to enjoy a performance of Wicked followed by a backstage tour and a goody bag to take home.
In our first blog entry, we wanted to share Lauren’s winning story – picked for it’s magical storytelling and excellent use of suspense and drama with a fairytale storyline…
Chasing a nightmare
The wind howled across the top of the old oak tree that stood in the centre of the woods. The autumn was upon the land; great cloaks of leaves duveted it, shielding the ground from the naked eye. A robin called in the trees above, twittering his call for the world to hear. Along the path, an elegant carriage, pulled by two fine, sleek back horses, came riding up the old, deserted path.
The horses were rounded in the middle, giving any onlooker the impression that they were clearly well looked after, and the groom was doing his job, for their ebony black coats danced when the sunlight through the trees caught them. The carriage was a most splendid sight as well, painted with wisps of gold, and carved with intricate patterns of old legends and folk tales.
But onto the story- and a curious one at that, for on this day, an old crone stepped into the path in front of the carriage. She held a hand up and the horses stopped in front of her, their muzzles quivering with anticipation.
“What’s the hold up?” a stern voice came from the carriage, disturbing the previously tranquil air. The voice was masculine, and sounded like it belonged to a middle- aged lord or royal.
“It’s an ‘ag, Lord Farthington. Tis nothin’ but an ‘ag” the chauffeur of the carriage spoke in a thick country accent, and frequently missed the ‘H’ from his words.
A head peered round the window of Lord Farthington’s transport. A handsome olive face, sea grey eyes and sleek fair hair revealed the Lord, whom in annoyance came forward to see the obstacle preventing his ride home. He was a large fellow, about as round as his horses, and he puffed on a pipe, which was sending large smoke rings in the air.
The ‘hag ‘couldn’t have been more different. She had a mop of unwashed, unbrushed, ash white hair that his most of her face from view. Well, you could see her eyes, as black as ink, as cold as winter.
There was no mercy in those eyes. She was wearing rags, patched and torn in just about every part of her garment.
“Spare some change? It’s rather chilly isn’t it?” She spoke with the voice of rusty door hinges, but whatever the weather was, it was nowhere near as chilly as her tone.
“Miserable wench! Out of my way! I have no business with you!” Lord Farthington dismissed her with a wave of his hand and a puff on his pipe. He began to climb back into his ride, but the hag was still watching him.
“Just a tuppence could shelter me tonight”
“I said ‘NO!’ Now, be gone!”
“Just a tuppence could feed me tonight! Just a tuppence could bathe me tonight!”
Farthington ignored her. Over the clattering of their hooves, as the chauffer reared up the horses, they heard the hag say;
“One by one
The days go by,
Every time the cockerel crows,
A friend of yours will die!”
She gave a shrill cackle and left. Lord Farthington gave her a cheery wave, unconcerned, and carried on his way. He had been visiting his good friend ‘Sir. Blightard’ and the two had reminisced over old times and high tea (whilst servants looked on enviously).
That night, Farthington climbed into his freshly made bed, and dreamed of his wealth and riches, the hag gone from his mind.
The sound of ma cockerel crowing woke him from his sleep. He yawned, opened one sea grey eye and heaved himself (with difficulty) off the bed. Instantly, his dresser came forwards to ‘help’ him into his Tuesday best. Lord Farthington had not only a Sunday best, but a best for every day of the week- he was that rich.
A rapping on his door disturbed his dressing and his chauffer, whom had driven the carriage he had been to visit Sir. Blightard in the day before rushed into the room.
“Ah, Jeremy my good fellow! How’s-“
“Lord…Sir…Sir Blight…Sir Blightard is dead!”
“What!” Farthington exclaimed, “The old bean was fit as a fiddle! What is it?”
Beetroot with anger, Lord Farthington demanded the cockerel to be killed- lest any more of his friends were to die. As each morning came, unsuccessful servants reported more and more deaths to his chambers. In blind panic, Farthignton searched for the cockerel himself all day… and all night… and so the weeks went on. He was driven mad with grief and despair, and he lost his appearance- and quite a bit of his middle come to think of it! All his servants fled, his chauffer died, his fiancée was taken away, and even the ebony black horses suffered the cockerel fate. But he never did catch the bird… not until his own departure day… no one knows what became of the hag or the cockerel and you know what? No one ever will…”
My nephew stared at me, spellbound by the story.
“Is that true aunt?” he asked, his lower lip quivering.
“As true as mud, and ‘bout as pure as too!”
His sky blue eyes lit up with imagination.
“Off to bed- long journey tomorrow” I reminded him.
He rushes up the stairs, not bothering to wave good night. His dreams were filled with hag. And in the morning he woke up to the sound of a cockerel crowing.