A Trick of the Badger
Once upon a time when the wind was cold, the trees damp with fog, and the air thick with magic, a portly badger crawled into view and parked itself in front of an Enchanted Forest.
'Hail, Forest,' the creature said, its breathing heavy as though it had come a long way.
The hail was met with silence. And then a swift breeze moved through branches—almost the sound of a sniff.
The badger raised a skeptical brow, but said all the same, 'You can go on pretending, if you'd like. But I have tidings that you may want to hear.'
Still silence met the creatures gaze, who gave a small smile, and propped its furry head upon its paw.
A wind moved this time, a sound that resembled a sigh.
And then the Enchanted Forest spoke.
'Alright, let's have it,' the Enchanted Forest said.
'Ha ha!' exclaimed the creature with a smack of his paws. 'I knew it!'
'Yes, very good. Well done, you. Etc, etc,' the Enchanted Forest said in a tone that too easily belied the sarcasm. 'Now, get on with it, will you?'
'That's not my name.'
'That's my name.'
'Get on with it.'
'Well, alright then,' said Gerald with a cough. 'Three wizards, seven princesses, one knight errant, one knight afeared, a dragon, a donkey, and twenty-two gnomes are on their way to take up residence.'
'Take up residence where?'
'You mean, here, here?'
'That's what I'm trying to mean.'
'You mean, all of them?'
'Even the donkey?'
'As far as I understand it.'
'There's no more room!' said the Enchanted Forest, with a voice rising in panic.
'They are not under that impression.'
'Whatever. I've got eleven castles, three haunted woods, fourteen princesses—eight of them locked in towers—three groups of elves that all hate each other, a wounded knight, a cursed knight, and a virtuous knight who gets more annoying by the hour. There are four wizards who are constantly bickering about which one of them has the longest beard—none of them, for all their magic, seem to be able to construct a tape measure, so it’s all weirdly measured distances between hands. Twelve mermaids each have their own ponds, and are constantly either drowning people or falling in love with them. There's two warring factions of the giant rodent variety, a dragon family with an egg about to crack open, seventeen lost princes who keep walking around in circles and getting drowned by mermaids, a gingerbread house, and a lion.'
'Gingerbread house?' the badger questioned as he looked at the swaying leaves and needles with more than a hint of longing.
'It’s stale,' the Enchanted Forest said flatly.
'Ah, well,' said the badger, 'not much room.'
'None at all,' said the Enchanted Forest firmly.
'Stretched too thin, it seems,' the badger added musingly, a claw on his chin.
'Can't take anymore.' The Enchanted Forest might well have had the resolution of crossed arms.
'Then I feel I ought to tell you that I did think I heard one of the wizards talking about a forced expansion.'
'Ach!' screamed the Enchanted Forest, and in a second it had disappeared leaving nothing but grass behind.
The badger grinned and wiped his paws, trotting through the grass. It was always so much easier to carry on one's journey through a field.