Florian is of those kids who’d rather read than play ball with his friends. Which is just as well because he doesn’t have any friends.
Florian is also a fairy prince. Yeah-right. That’s what he says, too, when a strange woman visits his father’s caravan and tells him that unless a spell is renewed by the king of Celestia within seven days, the world is doomed. His father is disabled so Florian finds himself with a crown on his head, setting off to Celestia in the company of his father’s cranky horse, which turns into a none-less-cranky unicorn, and his father’s three motorbike-riding friends, who insist they are elves.
Ruled under the tight fist of Florian’s mother, Celestia has become a place where males, human or otherwise, are not welcome, let alone allowed to come near the shrine to speak the words of the spell, just forgetting about that tiny detail that Florian doesn’t have any magic. He seeks help from Celestia’s only male inhabitant:
a hermit magician, who tells him that to find the solution, he must unshrink the dragons.
Excuse me? Dragons?
Read part of the first scene below.
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Seven Days to Save The World (And Other Homework Projects)
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Florian.
Uh-oh, you say, this is a fairytale, because they always start with “Once upon a time”.
And you’d be right, because it a tale about fairies. About evil fairies, and greedy fairies. You see, fairies are not all pretty with glittery wings and frilly dresses, but Florian didn’t know that yet.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Florian.
What sort of name is that, you’d ask? Which parent who loves their children would call a boy Florian? Jack, James, Morgan even, but Florian? That’s ridiculous, you’d say.
And all of the children in Florian’s class would agree with you.
Florian-the-sissy, they called him, or Florian fat-boy, and this is how, when this story starts, he jumped off the school bus alone, while his classmates jeered at him from the back seat.
The bus rumbled off, leaving Florian alone by the side of the road, with the nasty things they’d said still ringing in his ears. He wasn’t going to cry, he was not that sort of boy, but he didn’t know how to face his father about yet another jumper lost.
He crossed the road and slouched up the long driveway that led to his father’s caravan. Green fields stretched out on both sides of the muddy path, Mr MacDonald’s cows in one paddock, his father’s horse in the other.
Florian jammed his hands in his pockets, imagining what his father would say. He’d look at him with those stern eyes, and then he’d say, “Are you sure they threw your jumper in the creek?”
Florian would nod, and then, and this was the worst part, his father would push himself up, limp to the other side of the caravan, while his walking stick went tap-tap-tap on the floor, and he would draw the money tin from under the bed. He would give Florian a handful of coins, and say, “Now make sure you don’t lose it again.”
And then Florian would have to go into the uniform shop and dig in the old cardboard box that was shoved underneath the rack with brand new girls’ dresses, some still in plastic. He would have to untangle school pants with holes and jumpers that looked more purple than blue from washing them too many times. The worst thing about that box was that someone had scrawled “Recycling” on it, but what they’d really meant to write was Florian’s name, because no one got clothes from that box. It stank of mould, too.
From the other side of the fence, the horse made a snorting noise that sounded as if it was laughing.
Florian glared at the animal. “Yeah, you laugh. Next time I find you in Mrs MacDonald’s rose garden chasing her dogs, I’ll tell her that she can keep you.”
The horse tossed its head and trotted off, as if it was offended.
Stupid horse. Florian didn’t understand why his father kept it. If it wasn’t escaping from its paddock, it just stood there all day. It wouldn’t even let anyone ride it.
Sunlight glinted in puddles and off the handlebars of three motorbikes that stood to the side of the caravan.
Florian’s heart jumped. His father’s friends Boris, Per and Juni were here. He ran down the drive at a trot, and into the dimness of the covered awning of the caravan, kicking off his shoes.
Per sat on Florian’s bed, his hands clamped between his knees. His wild mane of bushy black hair hung forward over his shoulders.
Juni and Boris sat on the floor, playing a game of cards. Juni just slammed a couple of cards on the pile between them, his black-clad back towards Florian. A lank blond ponytail hung to his waist. Seated opposite Juni, Boris looked up. He pulled his beanie down over his freckled forehead. “Afternoon, boy.”
Florian stopped, trying to make sense of this unusual situation. “What are you doing in here? Where’s Dad?”
Normally, the men would sit with his father in the van.
His father’s walking stick leaned against the caravan, but the door was closed.
Florian opened his mouth to speak, but then the sound of voices drifted through the thin panel.
“Go now. I didn’t invite you to bother me!” His father’s voice.
“No, Aurelius, you don’t see it. You have no choice. It has to be done.” The voice sounded high and thin, and cracked like that of an old woman. What was more, she had used his father’s full name; most people just called him Leo.
His father’s voice replied, the words inaudible.
Florian stared at the tree men now looking up at him. “Who’s that?” There had only been three bikes outside.
Boris flicked red hair over his shoulder. He took the pile of cards from the floor and pushed them into a tidy stack, showing tattoos of ivy leaves all over the back of his hands. “A visitor.”
Yes, Florian could see that. Typical vague answer like Boris liked to give.
“What’s her name?” Florian tilted his head so as to hear more of the conversation.
Juni heaved himself to his feet and went to stand in front of the door. “Eavesdropping is considered poor manners.” His beard, curly and blond, hung halfway down his chest. He stuck his hands in the pocket of his black leather jacket. Always the stickler for rules, he was. Not suitable for kids’ ears, we’ll tell you when you’re eighteen—blah, blah, blah. That was six years before anyone told him anything. Florian wanted answers.
He turned to Per, still seated on the floor. Per was usually more reasonable. He understood things. “Can anyone tell me what’s going on? Who is that woman in there? Why can’t I see father?” Was he sick? Was he behind paying the rent? Or school fees?
Per smiled. “I know what you’re thinking, boy.”
See? Per understood. With his snake-tattoos covering his arms, and his huge black beard, he might look fiercest of the three, but he was really a softie. He was the only one who could come close to that cranky old horse. “So—Dad isn’t in trouble?”
“Florian, take it from me: your father has no debts, at least no debts that involve money. He is in good health, or no worse than yesterday.”
There was more, Florian just knew it. “But…?”
“The real problem is worse. Much worse.”
Florian glanced whispered, “Worse?”
Before Per could answer, the caravan door opened and his father stood in the doorway. Dressed in his usual checked shirt and faded jeans, he looked no different from normal, but the expression on his face was more grave than Florian had seen it. “Come in boy.”