It didn’t take long for Laura to reach the Yellow Field. It was yellow because it was full of sunflowers, and the tall flowers were almost a forest for the little girl. The path curved into the flowers and out of sight. Princess Laura straightened her sunhat, and began marching into the field.
The pebbly path twisted a lot in the Yellow Field, and Laura felt sure that if she left the path and marched straight through the flowers, she’d get through them quicker. Just as she was about to step off the path, a very small voice said “Stop!”
Laura stopped, and looked around. She couldn’t see anyone. “Who said that?” she asked.
“Down here,” said the voice, and Laura looked. There was a small yellow snake on the ground, curled up around the stem of a sunflower. Laura was a little nervous and took a step back. “Don’t worry,” said the snake. “I’m not poisonous.”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Laura demanded.
“I just am,” said the snake. “Anyway, if I were you, I wouldn’t leave the path here.”
“Why not?” Laura asked. “The wizard told me not to, but I’ve left the path plenty of times already and nothing bad happened.”
“Maybe,” hissed the snake. “But before, you weren’t in the Yellow Field.”
“Why? What will happen?”
“The sunflowers are so high here that you’ll lose your way, and you’ll never find your way out. Besides, there are lots of snakes here, and some of them aren’t as nice as me, and some of them are poisonous, and some of them are big enough to eat little girls.”
Laura went very white. “Oh.”
“But if you want,” said the little yellow snake, “I’ll come along with you to make sure none of my brothers bother you.”
“Are you all brothers?”
“We all have the same mother. She is a giant snake who lives deep under the ground.”
Laura and the snake followed the twisty path through the sunflowers. Gradually, there were fewer and fewer sunflowers and more buttercups and dandelions. At last, there were no sunflowers, but a great pond that stretched out in front of them. The pond was dark green, and the pebbly path went right up to the edge, and no farther.
“This is as far as I go,” hissed the snake, and it turned to leave.
“Wait,” said Laura. “Do you want a cookie?”
“No thank you, I couldn’t eat it if I wanted to.” It slithered off into the sunflowers and disappeared.
Laura walked down to the edge of the Green Pond and thought. She couldn’t see any way across it, except to swim, and it looked too wide to go around. It was such a strange colour of green, bright like the colour of new pine needles.
She was just taking her shoes off so she could swim across when there was a peculiar coughing noise. Laura put her shoes back on and went to investigate.
There was a blue heron standing at the edge of the Green Pond. It was a very large and scruffy bird, and it looked rather ashamed of itself.
“Hello,” said Laura.
“Hello,” said the heron. “Would you mind very much helping me?”
“What would you like?” asked Laura.
“I seem to have got one of my long legs tangled in this brambly bush. And I can’t get it out.”
Laura freed the heron’s leg without much difficulty, and it strutted around, quite pleased. “Thank you so much,” it said. “Now, what is a little girl like you doing by the Green Pond?”
“I’m on my way to see the sorceress who lives at the top of the Spiky Mountain,” Laura said. “I was just about to swim across.”
“Oh no!” said the heron. “Don’t do that! The water is green because it’s poisonous.”
“Poisonous!” Laura cried. “How will I get across?”
“To thank you for freeing me,” said the heron, “I’ll carry you across. You’re not very big, so you take hold of my legs, and I’ll fly to the other side.”
“If I hold onto your legs,” Laura asked, “how will I carry my basket?”
“I’m not sure,” the heron said, “but maybe you could hold onto it with that lovely tail of yours.”
Laura tried, and discovered she could, indeed, hold onto the basket with her tail. She took a tight hold of the heron’s legs, and it flew her up into the air and across the pond as easily as if she weighed no more than a feather. It let her down on the pebbly path on the other side very easily. There was a boat drawn up on the shore on this side, which Laura thought would be very useful for when she wanted to get back.
Laura gave the heron a cookie. “Thank you very much for helping me across,” she said.
“Oh no, thank you for freeing me, and for this delicious cookie.” The heron gobbled it down and flew up into the sky.
The pebbly path went straight to the Spiky Mountain. It wasn’t a very high mountain, but the path up it was very narrow. It made Laura nervous to look at, but she started up the mountain, glad that her journey was almost over.
In a few places, the path was so narrow that she had to hold the basket with her tail, and hold onto the wall with both hands as she went along it, and in other places she had to keep good balance with her tail straight out behind her.
At last, Laura came to the top of the mountain, and there was a small house made of red bricks. The princess boldly went up to it and knocked on the door.
The door opened, and the beautiful sorceress appeared. She had a sleek black raven on her shoulder. “Princess Laura!” the lady smiled. “What can I do for you?” The raven cawed.
Laura came inside and handed the basket to the sorceress. “I came through the Enchanted Forest and across the Wide White River and through the Yellow Field and over the Green Pond and up the Spiky Mountain to see you. I brought you some cookies.”
The sorceress smiled a beautiful smile and opened the basket. Inside, there were three cookies.
“Oh no!” Laura cried. “I gave away so many to the people who helped me get here and I didn’t realise I was running out!”
“No matter,” said the sorceress. “There’s enough for us.” She gave one to Laura, and one to the beautiful black raven on her shoulder, and she took the last one for herself. The sorceress poured out some tea and they ate their cookies.
“Now why,” asked the sorceress, “did you come all this way to see me?”
“I came to ask you to take my tail away,” Laura said.
“Oh, I can do that,” the sorceress smiled, “but are you sure you want me to? I can’t put it back again.”
“Of course I want it gone,” said Laura. “It… it looks funny.”
“I think it’s a very beautiful tail,” said the sorceress with a smile. “Has it been no use to you?”
Laura thought. “I suppose,” she said, “that it kept me from falling out of the trees in the Enchanted Forest so the unicorn couldn’t eat me. And I suppose it helped me keep my balance on the log across the Wide White River. And I suppose I can hold stuff with it.”
“Are you sure you want it gone?”
Laura thought. “Do you really think it’s beautiful?”
“I do,” said the beautiful sorceress, and the raven cawed its agreement.
“I… I think I’ll keep it after all, if you don’t mind,” Laura said. “I’m sorry to have come all this way to bother you.”
“Don’t worry. It was nice to have some company for my afternoon tea.”
Laura finished her tea, said goodbye to the beautiful sorceress and her raven, and left.
After that, Laura learned to keep her tail high so no one could step on it and the royal cats couldn’t play with it. She carried things with it and walked along fences without ever falling. She put pretty bows on the end of it, and brushed the soft hair every day, and no one could say that it didn’t look very nice.
And best of all, whenever one of her four older brothers tried to pull her tail, Laura learned how to tickle them with it. And they were all very ticklish.
Story copyright Jessica L. Holland, 2003.