Follow the Flying Fish
Sir Thomas the Young descended the rope ladder to walk in front of Trout the Ox. He was hoping exercise would help him forget the angry farmers and he was distracting himself with keeping an eye out for Giant Trolls in the woods. Suddenly he realized it was silly to be looking for Giant Trolls when the last ones could be heard from miles away. Sir Thomas the Young wanted a new distraction.
“Tomato, have you any skill in music?”
Tomato was hunched over and melancholic from thoughts of angry farmers. Her plain brown and patches dress was all rumpled as she sat with her blue stockinged legs crossed, and even her little brown shoes with the tarnished buckles seemed utterly unhappy.
But Sir Thomas the Young’s words cast a spell upon the little page. She bloomed like a flower in the sun and even her braids seemed to bristle with life. Her entire body radiated joy all centered upon her large sparkling eyes beaming glissfull shimmers.
“In fact, yes!” Tomato almost fell from atop Trout the Ox, she screamed with so much delight. Tomato dug furiously in the great pile of supplies on Trout the Ox’s back, then held her prize, a very plain-looking, scratched but well kept lute. Tomato took her seat again between Trout the Ox’s horns but she was so excited and fidgety that some time passed before she situated herself.
Sir Thomas the Young had stopped walking to watch his twittered page. She finally held still and sat gleaming with joy. Lute in hand, Tomato’s anticipant eyes were wide open like shining brown saucers.
Sir Thomas the Young smiled. “Tomato?”
“Yes?” Tomato chirped.
Sir Thomas the Young continued carefully, seeing the explosiveness of her joy. “Is it possible that you could accompany that instrument with your voice?”
A sound like a grunt escaped from Tomato as she jolted with an almost frantic urge to do summersaults of delight off of Trout the Ox’s head and down the trail. But Tomato controlled herself and carefully, lest she scream with happiness, answered, “Yes.”
Sir Thomas the Young’s sideways smile crawled to the other side of his mouth. “Very well, page.” He turned and continued walking. “Entertain us with song.”
Tomato loved music with a ferocious affection and she knew Trout the Ox was an admirer himself. Finding out that her knight was a fan of song filled Tomato’s mind to bursting with fancies of endless journeys and campfire evenings surrounded by blissful music. Tomato took a deep breath to calm herself, plucked a few of the lute’s strings to make sure it was in tune, then began.
“There were three ravens sat on a tree,
They were as black as black might be.”
The smooth sound of Tomato’s lute was a sweet melody joining her voice and it warmed the hearts of even the rocks along the path. Trout the Ox’s head swayed from side to side.
“The one of them said to his mate,
Where shall we our breakfast take?”
Sir Thomas the Young quite enjoyed the good playing and singing of his page. He had already begun to dance his steps in a sort of skip as he walked. But he was unprepared for the sudden energy that drove Tomato into the next verse.
“Way down in yonder grass green field!” Tomato jumped to her feet and the lute wailed under a hail of strokes.
“There lies a knight slain ‘neath his shield!”
Trout the Ox’s head moved up and down with the beat.
“His hounds they lie down at his feet!
So well they do their master keep!
His war hawks fly so eagerly!
Not in the sky ‘nother bird could be!
No other fowl dare him come to see!”
Sir Thomas the Young was surprised by the strength in Tomato’s music, by the speed and vigor with which she played. But it all seemed to activate a mysterious drive inside Sir Thomas and he could feel the emotions of the words. Before he even realized it, Sir Thomas the Young was dancing up and down, side to side, swinging his arms and stomping his feet with delight.
“Down there comes the fallow doe!
As heavy with young as she might go!
She lifted up his bloody head!
And kissed his wounds that were so red!”
Sir Thomas, Tomato and Trout the Ox were in a storm of energy, dancing and jumping. Even the rocks with the warmed hearts seemed to roll and the trees waved their leafy arms in the sky.
“She got him up upon her back!
She carried him to earthen lake!
She buried him before the prime!”
Tomato stood suddenly silent and so did Trout the Ox. Sir Thomas the Young stumbled to a stop and turned to face them. The trees rustled all around.
With a slow lingering haunt, Tomato sang the last words, “She was dead herself ere even-song time.”
And just as Sir Thomas the Young was wondering if the song was over, Tomato’s face flashed such a beaming smile, Sir Thomas jumped with surprise.
“Did you like it?” Tomato almost shrieked she was so thrilled. “I did not make up all of the words, but I think I am the only one who sings it quite like that!”
“I doubt I have ever witnessed a performance with so much passion or feeling, Tomato. You could out sing an orchestra in power and skill. What is more important, you love your music as a songbird does her chicks. I am honored,” Sir Thomas the Young bowed, “to have such a musical wonder as my page.”
Tomato giggled and turned a bashful shade of red. Her eyes sparkled and Sir Thomas thought she looked so delightfully happy she might be a crown upon Trout the Ox’s head.
Now, singing and dancing had occupied so much of their attention that none of them noticed they had come upon a cottage so large it was quite possibly the home of Giant Trolls. Though shaped like a humble cottage, the building was big as a castle and the front door was tall enough for a tree to walk through.
“Giant Troll House?” Sir Thomas the Young looked at Tomato. Tomato nodded. “I suppose we should then reprimand them, but we have not seen them do anything bad.” Sir Thomas the Young puzzled over the predicament.
“Being a Giant Troll means you have done something bad,” Tomato assured him.
“But what do I say if the only crime I have seen is to be a Giant Troll?”
“Say to them,” pretending her knitting needle was a sword, Tomato pointed it at the cottage, “in the name of small and kind things, I, Sir Thomas the Courageous, command you to shrink and be nice!”
Sir Thomas the Young rubbed his chin in thought. “No, I do not think that would work.”
But even as he pondered, a Giant Troll Woman with an enormous dress and spectacles burst through the door.
“So, I DID hear someone whispering outside my door,” The Giant Troll Woman smiled wickedly, for trolls can only smile wickedly. And with that, she snatched them up all three and jumped back inside.
Dropping them in a metal bowl, the Giant Troll Woman danced about the kitchen fumbling with pots and pans in preparation for their fate.
“You will surely make wonderful spices when I dry you out and crumble you into shakers!” the Giant Troll Woman sang.
Sir Thomas the Young, Tomato and Trout the Ox scrambled at the sides of the metal bowl, but the walls were too smooth and steep. Sir Thomas the Young held the Never Ending Roll of Sticky Grey Ribbon, also called Tape, in one hand, and the Mixing Spoon in the other, but neither seemed of any use in escaping giant mixing bowls so he put them back in his pockets. Then Sir Thomas reached into his Bag of Simple Things and pulled out a rope.
“Now we can escape.”
“But what about Trout the Ox?” Tomato grabbed Sir Thomas the Young’s hand to make certain she had his attention, for Trout the Ox’s safety was a very important matter to her. “We could never pull him out.”
So Sir Thomas the Young produced an ox ladder from the bag, but it was too simple and the rungs broke.
“I have an idea,” said Tomato, and Sir Thomas the Young went to work pulling from the Bag of Simple Things the items she needed.
Humming happily at her work, the Giant Troll Woman did not notice the sawing and hammering that came from the mixing bowl on her counter. Nor did she notice the patchwork cloth balloon that began to rise from it. She did not even notice when the hot-air-balloon lifted away from the bowl carrying a hastily constructed chicken coop with Sir Thomas the Young, Tomato and Trout the Ox tending the sail, stove and bellows.
In fact, the Giant Troll Woman might never have seen them and their flying Chicken Coop Balloon. A window stood open offering the perfect escape route but that window also had a draft. The draft blew the Balloon Coop across the kitchen and right in front of the Giant Troll Woman’s face. The Giant Troll Woman shrieked in surprise and dropped a pan.
Encouraged by having frightened such a fearful Giant Troll, Sir Thomas the Young jumped to the counter pointing his Broken Sword at the Giant Troll Woman. “In the name of all things that are small and happy, I command you to stop cooking!” The etchings on the broken blade glowed blue and Sir Thomas the Young’s voice rang through the Broken Sword like the whistle of ten thousand tea kettles.
The Giant Troll Woman fell backwards with surprise and broke a giant chair, then she ran screaming from the room. As Sir Thomas the Young slipped down a table leg to the floor, he could hear the Giant Troll Woman returning with her husband.
Tomato landed the Coop Balloon on the floor. “You better stay on the ground,” said Tomato. “Sir Thomas the Brave might need your help.” As soon as Trout the Ox stepped out, the Balloon Coop leapt into the air.
“What grimy grub has startled my wife?” The huge terrible Giant Troll Husband thundered into the kitchen. Then he saw an ox running across the floor and a chicken coop suspended from a flying balloon and he was utterly perplexed. “What is all this?”
Flying the Coop past the spice rack Tomato grabbed a giant peppershaker. Sailing over the Giant Troll Husband’s head she shook the shaker at him. “Take this, you nasty old troll!” shouted Tomato.
The Giant Troll grabbed at Tomato’s Coop but every time he looked up to see where it was, his eyes and nose filled with pepper and he would cry and sneeze.
Tying the rope from his Bag of Simple Things around a stove handle, Sir Thomas the Young gave the other end to Trout the Ox. “Wrap up his leg, Trout.”
Round and round Trout ran wrapping the Giant Troll Husband’s ankle to the stove. Sir Thomas the Young grabbed a board from the broken chair and with strength that lie partly in his new diet, but mostly in his heart, he whacked the Giant Troll Husband in the knee.
With a painful howl and a blinding sneeze, the Giant Troll Husband tried to jump away but his ankle was fastened to the stove, so he fell full on his back and Trout the Ox had to run to escape being crushed.
Having all of the fight knocked out of him, the Giant Troll Husband shrank to human size. His wife was afraid and shrank as well. At the same time they were so startled by all the commotion that they could not be mean or nasty, so they stopped being trolls and became normal people.
Her chicken coop landing lightly, Tomato stood firm atop its roof with a shout. “Behold, Sir Thomas the Knee Smasher, in his kindness and ceaseless grace has saved you from your own nastiness, you Used-To-Be-Trolls. It would be wise and advisable for you to be grateful and thank him lest he smack you around some more.”
Sir Thomas the Young stood with the enormous board in his hand, smiling and blushing at Tomato’s flattery.
“And how are we now to use our home?” the Used-To-Be-Troll Woman sniped.
“And how are we to make a living after being so long as trolls?” The Once-Troll Man snapped.
“We cannot even open our own door!”
So before the Once-Troll Man and Woman demanded any kind of payment, Sir Thomas the Young and Trout the Ox jumped into the chicken coop and the three of them flew out a window.
Sailing through the woods, Sir Thomas, Tomato and Trout the Ox looked at the Giant Troll House behind them. All three were flustered at the ingratitude of the farmers and Once-Trolls.
“You cannot expect people who have recently been trolls to be nice at all,” Tomato spoke. “Even if you have saved them.”
“Trolls we can fight,” Sir Thomas the young grumbled. “It is the people of this land who frighten me now.”
The woods were thick and close so Tomato guided the Coop above the trees where the balloon would not rip. Tomato knitted again with her big needles that strange silver and white thing Sir Thomas the Young could not understand. Later, Tomato cooked a vegetable dinner in the stove that made hot air for the balloon. They had already completed two adventures since lunch and all three were quite hungry.
Sir Thomas the Young sat on the floor watching Tomato singing softly as she prepared to wash the pots and bowls after their meal. He was thinking of how much she did for him and how very little he did for her. Sir Thomas the Young decided he was being ungrateful and even though he had never washed a bowl, and did not at all want to do it, he should offer to help.
“Tomato, you cook for me and clean up after me, choose the finest places to camp and do most anything you can think of to make me comfortable. Is there no way I could help you? Perhaps I could wash the bowls and pots with you?”
Tomato dropped her bowl in horror and her braids seemed to stand on end. Her eyes were wide with shock and her mouth hung open.
“Heavens desert me!” Tomato gasped. “Can you imagine what kind of page I would be if I allowed my noble knight to mess his adventuring hands in simple chores?” Then she had a frown. “What kind of page do you think me, Sir? For I had thought myself at the least a decent page, and not even the most lowly of pages could stand by and allow their knight to worry himself in trivial matters such as these!” Then she pointed a finger at Sir Thomas the Young. “Shame on you! Shame on you, Sir Thomas the Mean! How dare you insult me so!”
Sir Thomas the Young was beyond words at first. He had no notion that Tomato would be so offended by the idea of him washing bowls. And he felt bad that she was so unhappy with him.
“You are the finest of all the pages I have ever seen,” said Sir Thomas the Young. “I have seen hundreds of pages serving their knights, and none could compare to you, my remarkable Tomato.” Sir Thomas the Young stood on his knees. “And from this I know that you are the most learned of all people in the duties of a page. But as for me, I have only a scarce knowledge of what a knight is to do. And that is how I have come upon this terrible blunder and offended you. You must forgive me for this offence, Tomato. I beg you to forgive me, for now that I have you, I do not know how I would get along without you.”
Sir Thomas the Young remained on his knees with his hands in his lap. Tomato was so delightfully tickled by Sir Thomas the Young’s praise that she blushed three shades of red at once. She looked at her pots because she was too shy to look up.
“A knight should beg nothing,” Tomato spoke softly, fumbling with her pots. “But since you request my approval I can wholeheartedly give that to you. I must lay the blame on myself for I had not let you know that such a remarkable knight as yourself should never wash pots or bowls when he has a page to do it.”
Tomato chanced a look at Sir Thomas the Young and he was smiling so favorably at her that she could not help but smile as well and she turned away with demure. And the Flying Coop was so full of praise even Trout the Ox felt that his coat shone more brightly.
Now Sir Thomas the Young had another idea. But he was frightened of saying it because he was not sure what would offend his good page.
“I have something more to say on the matter, but if I mistake or blunder in the thought, will you not be angry?”
“I will not, but only pride myself that I am able to aid such a handsome knight in learning what a page is for, Sir Thomas the Kind.”
“When I left Essex, the Palace Pot Scrubber gave me this rag.” Sir Thomas the Young removed the Washing Rag from his pocket. “The Pot Scrubber told me that this is a Washing Rag and that Palace Pot Scrubber is a good job. I do not know if it is of any use to you, it looks plain, but it has properties that one whose life is cleaning all the pots of a kingdom finds useful.”
Tomato took the Washing Rag. It was, indeed, a very plain rag with frayed edges and black stains. But being from a palace was a good thing. Tomato thought that the rag might be special.
“Could this rag be magical, Sir Thomas?” asked Tomato. “Like your empty bag that is full of everything and your sword that makes so much noise?”
“It could very well be. But no one told me how to use any of what they gave me,” Sir Thomas the Young shrugged. “I do not think my father even knew that the Broken Sword would give me a loud voice. I suppose it is up to us to find out how this rag is to be used.”
Tomato hummed with thought as she looked at the Washing Rag. She rubbed the bowls a few times but the Washing Rag did not clean them any better than an average rag. She shook it at the bowls but it did not wash them magically either.
“This Washing Rag is a mystery to me, my knight,” said Tomato shaking her head. “It is a frustrating thing.”
Sir Thomas the Young became angry with the Washing Rag. He was trying to make the work of his good page a little easier and the Washing Rag was being stubborn.
“How dare you frustrate my page, you dirty rag!” Sir Thomas shouted at the Washing Rag. “Now quit being lazy and wash those bowls!”
The Washing Rag shot from Tomato’s hand so quickly she hardly saw it go. There was a fierce rattling of all the dirty bowls and in the second it took Sir Thomas the Young to blink the job was done. The Washing Rag had cleaned them all so thoroughly, they shined, and wooden bowls are not known for shining.
“Well, this is a fine rag!” Tomato cheered as the Washing Rag flew back to her hand.
“At least it is of some use.” Sir Thomas the Young looked sadly at the roll of Sticky Grey Ribbon from the King of Essex and the Mixing Spoon from the Palace Cook, neither of which he could imagine a good use for.“Clean Trout’s horns!” Tomato cheered, and the rag zipped away cleaning the ox’s horns until they gleamed.