Algolian Fairy Tales
by Joel Fagin

Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time...

...there was a little girl who lived in a cheery little cottage on the edge of a rather unpleasantly deep, dark and dangerous forest full of biomonsters.

The little girl had a habit, at least in winter (when the forest was deeper, darker and even more dangerous), of wearing a cloak with a hood. It was red.

One day, deep in the cold heart of winter, the little girl was stuck indoors where it was warm with altogether too much youthful energy. She was running around the house, yelling and playing with imaginary friends and generally getting underfoot.

"That's enough!" her mother cried, exasperated, after the little girl had almost upset her when she was carrying a fresh, hot cake from the oven. "If you have so much energy," she said, "you can take it outside." She cut the cake in half and put that, as well as some fruit preserve, bread, and a hot jug of slightly alcoholic fruit juice in a basket and put a red and white checked cloth over the top, tucking it in at the sides to keep it warm.

"I want you," she said to the girl, "to take this to the lonely old woman who lives in the forest." The girl nodded eagerly. "Now, I don't have to warn you," she added, "about the monsters. Keep to the path, and move quickly. Is that clear?"

The little girl nodded.

"Right, off you go."

What they didn't know, neither the daughter or the mother, was that outside the window, a monster was pressing one long raggedy ear to the shutters and trying not to drool. It had come out of the forest because, even for monsters, the winter was hard and food difficult to find.

A little girl, alone and unprotected. He forgot all about the pen full of rappies he had come for. A little girl was a much finer meal, and would last a week if carefully kept.

But, he must be careful not to lose his prey. The little girl would be cautious in the forest, but not at the house of the lonely old woman.

The beast had the perfect plan, he thought, and he loped off into the forest.

The little girl set off, cheerfully swinging her basket, and vanished into the deep, dark, dangerous wood.

The monster arrived at the house of the lonely old woman a long time before the girl, who was taking her time and enjoying being outside. He raised himself on to his hind legs, leaning against the door jamb to do so, and knocked.

There was a long wait before a voice said "Come in."

The beast frowned. He had expected her to come to the door. The door handle would be a problem since he had smooth talons instead of fingers and no opposable thumbs. He fumbled a couple of times, but the thought of the little girl coming up behind him leant panic to his efforts and, after a final fumble, the knob turned and the latch clicked.

Perfect! The monster squeezed its shaggy hide through the door, hungry enough to even eat a thin, stringy, old and lonely woman at the moment.

A little later, the little girl in the red hood came skipping up the path. She knocked on the door, and heard a voice invite her in. She pushed the door open and went in.

The old woman was in her bed, the covers drawn up around her neck.

"Hello!" the little girl said. "I have a present for you," she said, holding up the basket.

"Bring it here," said the figure in the bed with a smile.

"Hang on," the girl said. She put the basket down and then shook the water from the dripping trees outside from her cloak. It was then when she noticed something odd about the woman.

"What big eyes, you have!" exclaimed the girl, full of curiosity and the figure in the bed smiled in a friendly way.

"All the better to see you with my dear," it said. "Now, bring the basket here."

The little girl picked the basket up again and walked over, leaving damp footprints on the wooden floor. Then she noticed something else.

"And, my, what huge ears you have!" the girl exclaimed again. The grin on the bed got wider.

"All the better to hear you with, sweet child," said the bed-ridden figure. "Now, bring the basket over and I'll share my meal with you."

The girl took a few more steps before noticing the final odd thing.

"And, my!" said the girl, her own eyes now quite wide. "Why is there a dead monster on the floor?"

Rika shrugged. "I'm going to make it into a rug," she said.

The Dragon Bridge

Once upon a time...

...up high in the mountains between Piata and Molcum, there was a stone bridge over a deep ravine. Just underneath the bridge was a cave, and deep within the cave lived a huge and horrible dragon. A kaite dragon, in fact. It was the last of its kind and good thing too. Kaite dragons have wicked talons, a whipping tail and lightning breath. They are evil, cruel and intelligent creatures, and this one was particularly evil, cruel and intelligent.

It had, in fact, built the bridge. It was much faster for travellers to use the dragon's bridge than going around the mountains and, so far, no one had missed the occasional one who had been snatched up and eaten by the creature.

The dragon also had very keen hearing, so he could hear footsteps on the path long before the person arrived at the bridge. He was listening now. There was someone coming, and the dragon was hungry. Just one person, too. Easy prey, it thought.

When the footsteps were right on the bridge, the dragon slipped out of its cave and slid onto the bridge like wind-blown silk. Its three eyes blazed as it lowered its head to look at its petrified prize.

"Hello, food," it said with a grin.

"F... f... food?" stammered the food.

"Food, yes," said the dragon. "I'm going to eat you!" It reached forwards, talons grasping.

"But you don't want me!" the food exclaimed. The dragon paused.

"Why not?" it asked, quite reasonably.

"There's... because..." the food stammered, and then it seemed to get an idea. "Because there's a fat merchant coming up behind me!" he said. "Yes, a fat merchant, much better fare than I. I am but a lowly student from the Academy." Indeed, the food was pale and thin. Not much meat on him at all. The dragon cocked his head, listening.

There was someone coming up behind the student. Heavier steps, which meant a bulkier man, and a cart as well. The food seemed to be telling the truth. The new food was still quite a way away though, and the dragon was hungry. Still, this food barely seemed worth it.

"Okay," it conceded with bad grace. "Be gone with you, then! I shall wait for the merchant you speak of." The dragon slipped back over the side in a flash and the student hurried across, immensely relieved.

When the footsteps of the merchant-food were right on the bridge, the dragon slipped out of its cave again and onto the bridge.

"Hello, food," it said with an even more evil grin than before.

"F... f... food?" stammered the merchant-food, letting go of his hand cart.

"Food, yes," said the dragon again. "I'm going to eat you!" It reached forwards, talons grasping.

"You don't want me," said the merchant quickly and the dragon narrowed its three eyes, suddenly suspicious about what was coming next.

"And why not?" the dragon interrupted before the merchant-food could speak further. "You are large and plump. A good meal."

The merchant-food gestured to his ample stomach. "This is just fat. Not good to eat at all. You want someone with muscle, someone with meat on their bones."

"True," the dragon conceded, now eyeing the merchant with vague distaste, "But I am hungry and cannot wait much longer."

"You don't have to!" the merchant-food exclaimed desperately. "Behind me on the road is a young, fit lady with lots of meat on her bones."

The dragon listened carefully. There was, as the merchant-food said, someone else coming. His stomach was rumbling now, but the food before him was not healthy food.

"Very well," said the dragon, "but this is the last time." It darted off the bridge again, moving like water.

"Thank you," said the merchant. "You will not regret it." He picked up his cart and hurried off.

When the footsteps of the lady-food were right on the bridge, the dragon slipped out of its cave yet again and on to the bridge.

"Hello, food," it said, showing its best and most evil grin. Then it paused, uncertain, in the face of an even nastier grin than its own.

"Hello, money," Alys said.