“A flogging?” Edgar glared at the front page of his newspaper and sniffed heavily. Emily knew glaring and sniffing meant she would be unlikely to get him to change his mind easily. Edgar tapped the front page. “Flogging’s too good for him.”
Emily sought to appease her husband. “Well he is only a little bit guilty, dear.”
“Little bit guilty, a little bit guilty? He’s a thieving so and so, that’s what he is. It should be a hanging offence at least.”
“Well the goose was just there, and I suppose it was just too tempting for him.”
Edgar flashed his wife a look of annoyance. As far as he was concerned she was far too liberal in her views, for which he blamed her upbringing. Her parents were over keen on being loving, caring fairy folk who allowed their offspring to do and dance as they liked. “It’s the do and dance syndrome again, isn’t it, Emily?”
“Never mind, the point is that we cannot allow outsiders to just waltz in and take the giant’s goose, or anything else, any time they feel like it.”
“Well he didn’t just waltz in, dear. He climbed up that green bean stalky thing.”
“However he got up here is irrelevant. The goose’s golden eggs are the cornerstones of our economy. Allowing strange boys called John—”
“—or whatever his name is.” Here Edgar flashed his wife another annoyed look. “Allowing strange boys called Jack or John to just pop up here and help themselves to our financial assets is intolerable.”
“Funny he hasn’t got a name.”
Edgar was thrown by Emily’s change of conversational direction. “What? Who?”
“The goose. Old giant has had him ever such a long time and never named him. It’s a shame really.”
“No it is not a shame. The goose is the goose and the giant has chosen not to name him, and that’s not our concern.”
“Well what’s his name then?”
“We’ve just been through that. He hasn’t got a name. He’s just the giant’s goose.”
“No, I mean old giant. What’s his name, he must have one?”
“Well of course he’s got a name. I mean he’s a giant, they all have names don’t they?”
“What is it?”
Edgar had to think a little before he remembered. “Boris.”
“Well that’s not very original. But then giants can’t be choosers. Why isn’t he using his name then?”
“He doesn’t like to.”
“Why ever not?”
Edgar shrugged. “Says it reminds him of his mother.”
“Because she named him Boris?”
Edgar shook his head. “No, because Boris was her name as well.”
Emily bit back a comment. Giants were a funny lot and one thing Emily prided herself on, like any good fairy should, was never to mock another’s appearance or way of life. There were enough strange looking creatures with strange ways up here in the land above-the-clouds without mocking a giant’s mother’s name choice.
Changing the subject she asked, “You popping out later to see to the unicorn’s new foals?” Her husband rustled his newspaper hoping she would take it as a hint that he wanted to be left alone to finish it in peace. He had returned twice to the front page story already. It was all about the boy Jack and his unauthorized entry above-the-clouds by use of an overnight growing plant. Not put off by the paper rustling Emily continued, “Only if you are, could you pick up a few things for me?”
Edgar abandoned trying to read the sports page and sighed heavily. “Yes, what exactly?”
“Well something nice for dinner I think. We’ve got my sister coming over.”
“What again?” Edgar pulled a face. “Does she live here?”
“She wants us to meet her new boyfriend. He’s an elf.”
Edgar sighed heavily again. “What is it with her; can’t she stick to her own kind? There’s plenty of young fairy boys around.”
Emily smiled. “Well she likes this elf boy apparently. She says he’s special.”
“The only thing special about elves is they smell a bit.”
“Edgar! I’m really surprised at you. What a thing to say.”
Edgar tried to retreat again behind his newspaper but could not concentrate as he sought a retort. “I speak as I find,” he finally muttered from behind the letters to the editor page.
Emily tutted loud enough for him to hear and got an irritated rustle in reply. She loved her husband, and he was good King of the fairies, even if a little grumpy at times. Emily knew he still longed for the old days, when his grandfather had been King and there was no fairy council. Then the King made all the decisions, so his word was immediate law and instantly obeyed-or else.
Edgar’s father had changed all that once he succeeded his own father as King. Emily remembered vividly, as a newly married girl, Edgar’s father announcing to the court that from this moment on he would appoint a council to take over running things above-the-clouds. As King he would then become almost a figurehead, with few responsibilities or control. Prince Edgar, her new husband, had squeezed her hand with excitement as the assembled fairies cheered the King’s announcement.
Those had been heady days as the new council began making changes. Edgar had been appointed the King’s representative on the council, and each evening excitedly came home to tell Emily all that had happened.
That was such a long time ago now, well over five hundred years. Edgar had become King when his father died, and for the last two hundred years or so had faithfully supported the council, even though at times he disagreed with it—like now.
Emily needed to get the conversation back to Jack. “The council has decided the punishment and that’s that, Edgar. You can’t change it, so it’s no good sulking.”
“My grandfather would have. He’d have the little swine executed.” Edgar put down the paper and looked reproachfully across at Emily. “Do you know the giant has been crying for days now? He’s almost inconsolable at the thought that he might have lost his goose.”
Emily waited for a moment or two before quietly suggesting, “Of course you could request the council change the sentence.”
“Hah! That lot wouldn’t listen to my request for a proper punishment. Bunch of new-age fairies they are. Believe in reconciliation and rehabilitation, that’s if they know how to spell them. This Jack person will get his two dozen lashes, a handshake, and an invitation to the council’s Christmas party. Just you wait and see.”
“Well actually,” Emily said carefully and slowly, “I was meaning you could ask them to reduce the sentence.”
Edgar was silent for several seconds, his brain unable to accommodate what she had said. “Clemency?” finally popped out.
“A royal appeal for clemency?”
“Why above-the-clouds should I do that?”
Now it was Emily’s turn to sigh. “Oh I do wish you wouldn’t keep repeating what I say, dear. It could give someone the impression that you’re stupid. It’s not good for a King to give the impression he’s stupid.”
“But….” Edgar spluttered to get out what he wanted to say, “….economics? Emily, whatever are you talking about?”
Carefully Emily led Edgar along the path she had prepared. “What does the giant do with his golden eggs after the goose has laid them?”
“Well sells them of course.”
“Well there’s only the one market up here above-the-clouds.”
“And he pays his taxes like a good giant, which means the council get a quarter of what he gets.”
Adopting an air of mystery Emily leaned towards her husband. “They could get ten times that amount.”
Edgar blinked in surprise at his wife before asking, “How?”
“Let Jack take over selling the golden eggs.” Before Edgar could react she hastened on, “Down below-the-clouds a golden egg can fetch at least ten times what it does up here. The council gets the usual tax of one quarter what Jack gets, which means it gets ten times more coming in for each egg than it does now.”
Edgar’s mind boggled at what his wife had told him. “Who told you all this?”
Edgar’s mind frantically searched for who Brian might be before he gave up and asked, “Whose he?”
“My sister’s boyfriend. The elf that’s coming to dinner.”
“Well how does he know?”
“He’s the new jailer. He’s been talking to Jack while the trial was on. That’s why Jack climbed up to try and steal the goose. Up here we use the gold just for jewelry and such, but down below-the-clouds they’ll pay ten times what we do.”
Emily had judged her husband’s reaction well. The thought of the extra money had instantly replaced his earlier indignation. To ensure he understood her fully Edgar carefully asked, “So you want to do a deal with this Jack?”
“Yes, dear. We give him the franchise on handling all golden eggs and collect the normal tax rate.” Emily could see he was thinking about it. He just needed a bit more of a prod. “Just think, dear. That’s why your old dad appointed a council, wasn’t it? Financially the monarchy was in chaos. Everything had to come from a decision of the King, and that was a terribly inefficient way to run a modern Kingdom. We needed some sound business principles to put the fairy kingdom on a respectable financial footing. Now, what will it be like if we can increase the cash flow in to the fairy kingdom? Less need to have a council constantly meeting to squabble about every detail of the budget. There’ll be lots more money coming in, so things will just get paid for without endless council meetings. Perhaps they might be so grateful they could even pass some decision making back to the monarch.” Emily made sure she had eye contact when she put the final point across. “Like sentencing criminals for example?” She almost smiled when she saw his eyes light up.
Edgar leaned back in his chair. “And this Jack character will go for this?”
Emily adapted a serious face. “Well not if he’s going to be flogged he won’t,” she warned.
“So if I get his sentence reduced?” He raised his eyebrows to encourage her answer.
“Brian will enter into negotiations with Jack on our behalf. Collecting taxes is still under your control, so you can reveal it to the council as a fait accompli when everything is signed.”
Edgar thought for a moment then said, “One problem.”
“The goose that lays the golden eggs belongs to the giant. He’ll never agree.”
“We can take the goose from his estate when he dies. Say it's back taxes owed.”
Edgar frowned and shook his head. “No, giants live almost forever. He’s got millenniums in him yet.”
Carefully and quietly Emily said, “Jack knows someone who could help with that.”
Edgar’s eyebrows flickered. “What’s his name?”
“I don’t know, but they call him the Little Tailor. He started off in the garment industry, but now he specializes in giant killing.”
Edgar glanced at the paper’s front page again, and then dropped it on the table. Emily could see his anger had all but abated. The thought of a massive increase in funding had obviously given him cause to reconsider his views.
Finally he asked, “So when’s this elf fellow coming?”
“He’s called Brian, dear, and he’s coming for dinner tonight.”
Edgar gave another sigh. “Well, I suppose I’d better see what he has to say for himself. But I insist we count all the silver before he goes.”
“Yes, dear. You’re King, so whatever you decree.”
I read about Carmina Magazine and that it sought rewrites of classic fairy tales, so submitted a story that fitted this criteria. The king of the land-above-the-clouds is annoyed about the intrusion of Jack and his beanstalk, and Jack's attempt to steal the goose that lays the golden eggs. However his queen is aware of the financial benefits of exporting the goose's golden eggs. And if the giant might object that his are eggs being stolen, then the queen knows of a little tailor (from another fairy tale) who specializes in dealing with troublesome giants—for a price.