Popular Fairy Tales

Hello there! Have you ever wondered why fairy tales have such a powerful impact on our hearts? Well, because we’re going to go on an adventure into the beautiful world of fairy tales – you know, the ones that have been rocking routines at night for centuries!

There’s more to fairy tales than dragons, heroes, and villains. They’re like hidden mirrors that reflect our deepest thoughts and feelings. These ageless themes of love, bravery, and good vs. evil are woven into the very fabric of these stories.

Are you ready to go on an adventure with me? Let’s go into “Finding the Magic: A Dive into the World of Fairy Tales!” It’s going to be a wild trip where reality meets with the fanciful and storytelling transports us to regions beyond time.

A Tale of Magical Canvases and Flowerland Wonders

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a young artist. He painted everything he saw around him: cosy red-roofed houses, a kind baker in a white hat with a large tray of golden rolls, mischievous boys running around in the street, a nightingale singing in the branches, a blue river and other things.

But most of all he loved painting flowers. In the town where the artist lived, there was a big park with remarkably beautiful flowers. The artist could stand in front of his easel in the park all day long, painting roses, lilies, dahlias, tulips, daffodils and peonies.

Once an old lady was taking a walk through the garden where the artist worked. She stopped by the artist in admiration. After a while, the artist felt someone watching him and turned around to look. “What a beautiful park this is,” the old lady said. “I haven’t seen such colours in years.” “Yes,” said the artist.

“They are very lovely. I’ve already finished my work. Keep it to remember our town.” With these words, the artist took the painting from the easel and held it out to the old woman. “Thank you, young artist,” the old lady took the painting with a smile. “I live nearby, so I’ll get you a bag for the painting. Or better yet, let’s go to my place, you must be tired after the stroll, and you can rest there,” suggested the artist.

“Thank you once again,” the old lady nodded and went along with the artist to a small house with an orange roof. Upon entering the house, the artist assisted the old lady to a comfortable chair and ran to the kitchen. Moments later he came back with a jug of milk and a piece of sweet cake.

“Please have a bite while I am looking for a suitable bag,” he said, offering the old lady some milk and cake. “You’re a very kind young man,” the old lady replied. “Thank you.”

When the old lady said these words, the artist seemed to hear the bells ringing somewhere. He looked around, but all the sounds subsided. The artist brought a canvas bag, put the painting into it and returned it to the old woman. She had already eaten the cake, drunk the milk and was peacefully dozing in the cosy old chair.

The artist decided not to wake the old lady up, thinking she must be very tired after the walk. He put the painting by the armchair, covered the old lady with a soft blanket and headed to his room.

At night, the young artist dreamt of being in a beautiful garden with magic flowers and trees. The young artist had never seen such flowers before their petals glistened in the sun, shining with different colours.

No sooner had the artist gotten a better look at the magic flowers, when someone called him: “Admiring my flowers, Nestor?” a tender quiet voice asked. The artist turned around and saw the very old lady to whom he had given the painting. “How do you know my name?” Nestor asked in surprise.

“I know a lot about you,” the old lady smiled. “Come on, I’ll show you my garden,” she invited Nestor. Nestor walked beside the old lady along the wide path. The young artist looked in astonishment at the amazing flowers, trees and bushes — so magnificent was the garden. The old lady glanced at Nestor tenderly but didn’t say a word. After a while, they went to a large meadow awash with colourful flowers.

Bright butterflies were flying over it. A big, beautiful house with turrets towered over the meadow. “Well, here we are,” said the old lady. “This is my home.” A red shaggy long-eared dog ran out to meet the old lady and Nestor, wagging its tail cheerily.

Birds twittered merrily in the trees, and some small butterfly-like creatures appeared in the windows of the house. Looking closely, Nestor saw that these were little people, the size of a white lily blossom. Each of them had translucent wings of various colours: golden, soft green, pink, purple, violet and sky blue.

Suddenly the windows of the house swung open, and the wonder-people flew out to form a multi-coloured cloud around the old lady and Nestor, while the air was stirred by incredibly beautiful music.

The old lady and Nestor stepped onto the porch of the big house. Little people rose and flew into the house through the window. The charming music began to sound very quietly as if it was coming from somewhere in the distance. The doors of the house opened, and Nestor found himself in a bright and spacious hall. The delicate scent of lily-of-the-valley and lilac tickled his nose.

Beautiful vases of various shapes and sizes with exotic plants stood throughout the house. The old lady and Nestor walked on the soft green carpet to the wide staircase with gold railings, which rose in the middle of the hall.

Hardly had they set foot on the first step, when the old lady took Nestor’s hand, and they immediately found themselves at the top of the stairs. Nestor looked at the old lady in surprise, but she only smiled back. After just a few steps, they entered a spacious room, with a throne at the far end. “Well, here we are,” said the old lady, heading for the throne. “Who are you, good woman?” asked Nestor.

“I am the Queen of Flowerland, my name is Rosalind.” Nestor noticed with surprise that it was no longer the shabbily dressed old woman to whom he had presented the painting in front of him. She was now wearing a beautiful gold-hemmed white dress and a small shining lily-shaped golden crown on her head.

“I invited you to this castle to thank you for your kindness,” the Queen went on in a gentle voice. “I’ll give you a brush and some paints.” Queen Rosalind clapped her hands twice and at that very moment, from somewhere above appeared two wonder-men.

One of them was holding a tiny box of paints, and another — a brush. “Such small paints,” Nestor thought. “There is not enough for even half a painting.” “Don’t worry, Nestor, they will last for a long time,” Rosalind smiled at him. She opened her palms, and the men placed the paints and the brush there.

They immediately grew to a size more habitual for Nestor. “Well, here you go.” Nestor took the paints and the brush from the queen’s hands. “These paints are magical: everything you paint with them will become real as soon as you finish your work — everything except people.

Keep the paints! They should not get into the hands of evil or greedy people. Just remember that these paints have one important property: each time you paint something for yourself, they will diminish; and if you use them to help others, they will grow, making up for all that you have spent on the painting, and a third of what you had spent on yourself.” “So,” Nestor said, “for the paints not to diminish, I have to paint three times more for others than for myself.” “Exactly,” Rosalind smiled. “Thank you, Queen Rosalind!”

Nestor said. “Tell me where your country is, I have never heard of it.” “My country is within a day’s trip from your town. But not everyone can get here. Only one whose heart is open to beauty can find the way to it,” with these words the Queen rose. “Now I have to go: I still have much to do. And you can have a walk around the garden. When you feel like going home, just say it out loud and clap your hands.”

Before Nestor had said anything in response, the Queen already vanished. Nestor left the house and walked along the yellow path. He wandered through the garden for a long time, looking at the rare flowers. Finally, the young artist got tired and said: “Take me home!” and gently clapped his hands. At that very moment, he woke up in his bed. Nestor stood up and looked around — yes, he was really in his room.

It was morning already, the sun was shining outside the window, and birds were twittering merrily. “What a wonderful dream!” thought Nestor, “as if I had been to the fairyland.” On the table, he noticed the same box of paints and the brush which Rosalind had given him. Nestor ran down the stairs and rushed to the chair where he had left the old lady the day before. She was not there anymore. Instead, a white rose was lying in her place.

“Rosalind!” called Nestor, but no one answered. Nestor poured some water into a vase and carefully put the flower into it.

Nestor’s Magical Journey with Princess Gabriela

After breakfast, Nestor took an easel and headed for his favourite spot in the park. After walking for a bit on the stone pavement, Nestor saw the neighbour girl, about six years of age, who was sitting and weeping on her porch. Nestor went up to the girl: “Hi, Ariana, why are you crying?” “Oh, Nestor, I broke a porcelain vase, the one that my granny gave me,” Ariana raised her tear-stained face. “What shall my mum say when she returns?!”

“Don’t cry, Ariana. Show me the vase pieces, maybe I can help you,” Nestor said. Ariana hurried into the house and came back a minute later with the fragments of the vase in her hands. “I once saw this vase. Wait here for a little while, I’ll be back soon.” Nestor picked up the pieces and walked back to his house. He quickly ran up the stairs and went into his room.

The paints were still lying on the table. Nestor attached a canvas to the easel and set to work. An hour later the vase was ready, and as soon as the artist put the final touch, it flew out of the canvas. Nestor could hardly catch it. “Wow!” he exclaimed, “the paints are really magic!” Nestor touched the vase in disbelief. The vase was exactly like Ariana’s. It was made of thin translucent porcelain and finely painted. Nestor gently tapped at the vase — it gave a melodic sound. The artist looked at the paints: all the jars were full to the brim, as though they had never been touched.

Nestor put the vase into his bag and headed for Ariana’s home. How surprised and happy the poor girl was when she saw the vase intact. “Thank you, Nestor! I didn’t know that you have the same vase!” Ariana exclaimed happily.

Nestor just smiled and walked on to the park. Having arrived, Nestor set up his easel and began to paint a bush of white peonies. They had just reached full bloom and pleased the eyes with their fresh look and splendid beauty. After a while, a young woman in a light pink dress approached the flowers, her golden hair falling in thick curls onto her shoulders.

The girl leaned over the peony bush, breathing in the sweet scent, then straightened up and looked at Nestor. Her glance made the artist’s heart pound very quickly, as if it wanted to break out of his chest. He had never seen such a fair lady.

As if spellbound, Nestor was looking at the girl’s golden curly hair, her silken skin, light blush and big brown long-lashed eyes. Nestor felt as if he was once again in Rosalind’s magical garden. He even heard the same magical music. The girl came up to the easel, looked at the painting and smiled. “So lifelike,” she said, “you are a true artist.”

Her voice seemed like the most beautiful sound in the world to Nestor. “I love flowers, they are all so different, and yet so lovely,” the stranger continued. Nestor had not yet answered her when two women dressed in gorgeous white-collared blue dresses ran up to the girl and began to cackle. “Your Highness, we’ve been looking for you for a whole hour. Your father will be very unhappy. You know, there is a ball at the palace tonight, and you need to get ready.”

With these words, the woman took the stranger to the gilded carriage that was standing a few meters away. “Your Highness?” Nestor muttered in surprise. “So that was Princess Gabriela! Oh, if only I could see her once again!” Nestor whispered, watching the carriage. “Today at the ball everybody should have a peony. The princess announced this season the flower season, and today’s ball — a peony ball,”

Nestor heard snatches of conversation between the two girls that were passing by. “Yes, I know, I just cannot decide which peony — pink or white — to attach to the dress,” affectedly said the girl in the green dress, pointing to the peonies. “Do you know that the king promised the first dance with the princess to a young man who brings the most beautiful peonies to the palace?” quickly said the girl in the yellow dress. “Just fancy him to be a lame gardener,” her friend answered.

“How could the princess dance with him!” The two girls giggled and went on their way. “Silly pea-geese,” Nestor muttered after them. Suddenly, a brilliant idea occurred to him. The young artist would be the one to bring the most beautiful peonies to the palace! Nestor quickly folded his easel and hurried home. He took the magic paints and got to work. He began to paint peonies which he had seen in Queen Rosalind’s garden: light pink with a thin golden rim on the petal tips.

When the work was done, Nestor took a half-step away from the easel. The room was immediately filled with the fresh fragrance of peonies. Nestor carefully took the flowers and looked at the paints — this time they were not replenished, and those that he had used retained the brush marks.

“Well, but the flowers will help me see the princess again,” Nestor thought, getting ready to leave for the palace. Dressed in a new suit, Nestor carefully picked the flowers up and went outside. Fifteen minutes later, he came to the front gate of the royal palace. The whole yard was filled with huge bunches of peonies. The chief royal gardener approached Nestor: “Have you brought peonies for the princess?” “Yes, I have,” said Nestor. Gardener looked closely at Nestor’s bouquet.

“I’m the chief royal gardener. A lot of peonies grow in our garden, but I have never seen any like these for the first time. Where are you from?” “I live in this town,” said Nestor. “Strange, I thought I knew all the flowers in our town. Well, give me your bouquet, and you can wait in the pavilion over there. The princess will select the best peonies in a quarter of an hour.”

Nestor gave him the bouquet and went to the pavilion as directed by the gardener. About fifty young men had already gathered near it. “They are the ones who brought bouquets for the princess,” he guessed. Meanwhile, the royal servants lay a red carpet on the lawn near the pavilion and started to place bunches of peonies in beautiful vases on both sides of the carpet.

There was a variety of peonies: white, pink, cherry; lush and open. Nestor’s bouquet stood almost at the end of the flower alley. Nestor was awaiting the princess’s appearance.

At last, solemn music was played and Princess Gabriela, surrounded by her maids of honour, lovely girls in bright dresses, entered the garden. The princess herself was wearing an exquisite blue silk gown. Nestor found her even more beautiful than in the morning. “Oh, what flowers!” chattered the maids of honour. “Oh, what delicate fragrance! What a charm these peonies are!

What a great idea these flower balls are!” The princess stepped onto the red carpet, and the maids of honour remained standing near the alley.

Light of admiration sparkled in the eyes of the princess when she looked, smiling, at the bunches of peonies on both sides of the carpet. Some flowers made the princess slow down; she stopped in front of others to breathe in the gentle fragrance.

Finally, she came up to the bouquet brought by Nestor. The young artist’s heart started throbbing violently. Gabriela stopped in front of the flowers, gently touched the gold-rimmed rose petals, smiled and went on. Reaching the end of the alley, the princess turned to the side of the pavilion and rewarded the young men who had brought the bouquets with a grateful smile. Then she returned to the beginning of the flower alley.

The chief royal gardener hurried towards her. The princess whispered something to him, to which he readily nodded. The princess and the maids of honour set foot on the paved ground, and the royal gardener went to the flower alley.

Then the trumpets blew, announcing that the princess had made her choice. The royal herald appeared near the princess and spoke in a clear voice: “Ladies and gentlemen! Her Royal Highness Princess Gabriela has made her choice. We will now see the lucky one who has the honour of opening today’s ball of peonies with Princess Gabriela!”

In complete silence, the chief gardener stepped onto the red carpet, walked over to the bouquet of peonies with the golden rim and raised them high above his head. “The choice has been made!” the herald proclaimed. Immediately the trumpets blew.

“We ask the person who brought the flowers to come here!” Unable to believe his luck, Nestor made a few steps onto the red carpet and came up to the princess.

Meanwhile, the royal gardener detached one flower from the bunch and gave it to Gabriela. The girl took the peony and handed it to Nestor. “This will be your pass to the ball,” she turned to the artist. “Attach it to your evening dress tonight. The ball starts at eight o’clock in the evening, sharp. I will be happy to open it with you,” she smiled at Nestor. Nestor took the flower and bowed to the princess.

“Thank you, Your Highness,” he barely managed to say. The royal servants pushed him aside, and the princess, surrounded by her ladies, returned to the palace.

Magical Night at the Royal Flower Ball

Nestor hurried home. Half an hour later, Nestor put on a new suit and shoes that had just left the canvas and looked at himself in the mirror — he no longer looked like a poor artist, but resembled a respectful nobleman.

Nestor pinned the peony which the princess had given him to his dress and hurried out of the house. The closer Nestor came to the palace, the more people he saw gathering around. Nestor heard some of them whisper: “Look — this is the young man who is going to open the ball with the princess.”

At the palace gates stood the guard, blocking the way for unwelcome guests. When Nestor approached, the guards looked at the peony pinned to Nestor’s suit and stepped aside, allowing him to pass.

“This way, please,” the royal servant smiled politely, pointing to the path that led to the front palace entrance. At the entrance, the princess’s head maid of honour approached Nestor and led him to the dance hall, where the band was already playing, and there were quite a lot of guests.

All the men pinned peonies to their suits, while the women decorated themselves with bouffant hairstyles, dresses and even shoes. The maid of honour brought Nestor to the door from which the Princess was to appear and whispered: “Don’t be afraid of anything, Nestor, follow your heart.”

Nestor looked at the maid of honour in surprise and recognized Rosalind. He wanted to say something in response, but the maid of honour gently smiled and disappeared into the crowd already. The fanfare blared forth, and the guests stepped back, creating a live corridor.

The king and the queen entered the ballroom. They crossed the room solemnly and sat down on tall gilded chairs. The music subsided for a few seconds and then sounded with renewed vigour when the princess appeared in the doorway.

The young artist’s heart fluttered, and without a moment’s hesitation, he approached the princess. He bowed deeply to her, offered her his hand and they walked to the center of the ballroom. After a short break, the music started again. Nestor and the princess started whirling in a dance. They were sliding effortlessly on the polished parquet floor, with every man’s admiring eyes upon them. Never in his life had Nestor been so happy.

He wanted the melody to go on forever, and for them to waltz on and on. But the music stopped… Nestor elegantly bowed to Gabriela, and the princess smiled back softly. Suddenly a shrill whistling wind gust sounded; it smelt damp; one could hear the rustling of dry leaves in it. The candle flames trembled, and some even went out. “Oh, no!” the princess gasped, “not this.” “What happened?” Nestor asked.

“It’s Queen Droughty,” Gabriela said quietly. Just then an elderly woman in a dark brown dress, with a grey cobweb shawl over her shoulders, and a brown hat shaped like a dry twisted leaf on her head appeared in the doorway. She gave all those present a hostile look, which made all the flowers in the room wither at once.

Only the peonies that Nestor had brought remained intact. “Do not touch her, Droughty!” The king rose from his seat and rushed to the princess. But Droughty stopped him with an imperious gesture. “She will live in my kingdom,” she said hoarsely. “You killed my son, and now I’ll take your daughter, I need an heir.

And no one can stop me.” “Guards, protect the princess!” the chief royal guard commanded loudly. Several guards hurried to the princess. But Droughty only shot an evil grin and blew at the guards. Immediately they turned into big dry leaves and flew off.

“Do not touch her!” Nestor stood up for Gabriela when Droughty held out her bony hand to the girl. “Ha-ha-ha!” Droughty laughed ominously, waved her hand and a gust of strong wind threw Nestor to the other end of the ballroom.

Droughty grabbed the princess and raised her hand. At the same moment, they span up in a whirlwind and vanish in the air, leaving only a handful of dry leaves on the floor. Nestor rose to his feet and saw Rosalind beside him.

“Where, where did she take the princess?” he asked, looking at Rosalind with hope. “Tell me, and I’ll go to search for her.” “It is very dangerous,” Rosalind shook her head. “Dangerous? What is all that to me? I cannot live without the princess. I cannot live knowing that I’ll never see her again. Tell me, Queen Rosalind, how to find Gabriela.”

“Okay, let’s go, I’ll tell you.” Nestor and Rosalind left the room quietly, leaving the weeping king and the queen, and the guests who were trying to comfort them. “Well, listen,” Rosalind began her story, sitting on a bench in the royal park and gesturing for Nestor to sit down nearby.

“This story began long ago before Princess Gabriela was born. The king of this country was still young then. It was time for him to marry, and he chose his bride — the beautiful Angelina.” “The queen?” Nestor said.

“Yes. She is still good-looking, and at that time she was the most beautiful girl in the whole kingdom. So, when it came to wedding preparations, a man who introduced himself as a skilful gardener came to the palace. He was given a job there. Once, when young Angelina was walking in the garden, he grabbed her, pulled her into his carriage and drove the horses forward.

Fortunately, Angelina managed to call for help. The king heard her scream, dashed in pursuit of the villain, caught up and started to struggle with him. The king was stronger: he defeated the phoney gardener and freed his bride.”

“It was Queen Droughty’s son,” Rosalind continued. “He was in love with Angelina as well and wanted to kidnap her to marry her. His mother Droughty once swore to take revenge upon the king. And now she took his daughter to make Gabriela her heiress.” “Where does Queen Droughty live?” Nestor asked.

“In her Arid Kingdom. There are no living plants in it: not a tree, not a flower. Everything is covered with grey dust, cobwebs and dry fallen leaves. No birds are singing, no streams gurgling; only the rustling of rats and hissing of snakes. The sky is yellow, and there is neither sun nor rain in that land.”

“Poor Princess Gabriela! She will not be able to live in that kingdom. She will die! I have to rescue her. Tell me how to find that realm. “It is very dangerous. Its borders are guarded by ferocious beasts; they are ready to devour anyone who sets foot on Queen Droughty’s land.” “I will defeat them using the paints that you gave me to draw a sharp sword.”

“You will not be able to defeat Droughty’s valets with just a sword,” Rosalind shook her head. “But I like your courage and determination, Nestor. I’ll help you get into Droughty’s kingdom, avoiding the fierce guards. Listen carefully.

Within a three-hour walk to the north of your town, there is an abandoned dilapidated house. You will immediately recognize it — a chill creeps from its walls. Even on a sunny day, it smells damp, and woodlice crawls all over it. Right by the house there is a large dead tree that creaks loudly when someone is approaching. You must find the watchtower-shaped gap in the old garden pavilion behind the house.

That is the entrance to Droughty’s kingdom.” “Is this gap large?” “No, Nestor, it is no larger than your little finger.” “But how would I get through it?” Nestor wondered. “Take this ring,” Queen Rosalind gave Nestor a gold ring with a beautiful green stone. “Put it on. This ring is magic. Once you turn it on your finger to the left and say Grow smaller!, you’ll become forty times smaller.

And if you turn it to the right and say Grow larger! you’ll become forty times bigger. Thus you will be able to get into the kingdom. Another important property of the ring is this — if you hold another person’s hand, you will both grow or diminish in size. Be careful. Watch the ring and the paints, they will be your loyal assistants,” Queen Rosalind said and vanished in the air. Nestor rose from the bench and went home. There he went to sleep to set out on his journey at dawn.

Journey to the Dry Kingdom

The next day, as soon as the first rays of the sun touched the ground, Nestor jumped out of bed and prepared for his journey. First, the young artist put the magic paints and a canvas into the bag. Then he took a loaf of white bread, some fruit and a bottle of water. Having packed these simple supplies, Nestor put on his travel suit and set off.

The streets were deserted. Nestor firmly stepped forward with a strong intention to find Gabriela and help her return home. After leaving the town through the north gate, Nestor found himself on a smooth wide road that ended on the horizon. The young artist started feeling tired when, at last, he noticed the house described by Queen Rosalind. It stood in the middle of an abandoned garden overgrown with nettle and thistle. The garden was surrounded by an old decayed wooden fence. A grass-grown stone path led to the house.

The house itself was run-down and looked gloomy with its dark windows and the circling crows. Nestor stopped to examine the sinister building and then gently touched the lopsided gate, which swung open with a screech. Nestor stepped on the stone path and walked towards the house. One could see the huge dead tree by the house, a tree that looked like a watchtower.

Hardly had Nestor taken a few steps forward, when the tree cracked loudly, swaying slightly. Nestor bypassed the old house, breathing in the smell of mold, and saw a small pavilion at the far end of the garden. The pavilion, was old and moss-covered, just like everything around it. Its wood planks went partly rotten and black.

The moment Nestor placed his foot onto the first step, a rat jumped out of the pavilion and slipped flash-like past his feet, hardly touching him. The young artist began to examine the old pavilion in search of a watchtower-shaped gap. He moved from one column to another.

He walked around the pavilion three times before he finally discovered what he had been looking for. On the second column to the left of the entrance, there was a gap in the shape of a watchtower as if someone had cut it with a little knife.

Nestor turned the magic ring to the left and said: “Grow smaller!” And at the same moment, he felt as if he was falling into the abyss. He even cried in surprise. Before Nestor knew it, he found himself on the floor of a large pavilion. Everything around him seemed unrealistically huge. Nestor raised his head: the watchtower-shaped gap appeared to be sky-high. “How shall I climb up?” the young artist thought.

Nestor turned the ring to the right and said: “Grow larger!” At that moment he felt a warm air flow from below. Nestor seemed to blow up like a balloon. But a moment later, he was once again looking at everything from his own height. “This is great!” Nestor broke out in amazement. He stepped onto the bench to make it easier to climb the column, turned the ring to the left and said, “Grow smaller!”

And once again he became so small that an ordinary glass could easily cover him. Now the front door to Queen Droughty’s realm seemed closer. Nestor came up to the old wooden column, which now seemed gigantic, and walked a few steps forward until he noticed the steps which, like a thread, led straight to the gap. Nestor began to climb upwards. “Well, I never noticed the stairs when I was tall,” said Nestor.

Fifteen minutes later Nestor reached the tower-shaped gap. He stood for a moment to catch his breath before he looked inside. There was a cave in front of him. Nestor took a few steps and stood still, adapting to the darkness. Everything was obscure, rustling, murmuring and whistling sounded here and there. Soon Nestor noticed a small spot of light and began to walk towards it.

The closer he approached, the larger and brighter it became. Soon Nestor saw that the light was pouring through the back door of the cave. He picked up the pace and reached the door a few minutes later. In front of him was a garden, very similar to the one he had just left, but the leaves on the trees were dry and scarce, and the ground was abundantly covered with fallen leaves, which seemed to be everywhere.

Nestor went down a familiar narrow staircase. Reaching the bottom step, he jumped onto a large bench, turned the ring to the right and said: “Grow larger!”

And, once again, warm air started blowing from below, and the young artist grew to his usual size. Nestor started walking along a narrow path, past the dark house, and soon he saw a wooden gate. The house, the gate and the pavilion were similar to those in the living garden. But all the plants, including the tree guard, were parched. The gate creaked loudly, and Nestor stepped onto the wide dusty road. The sky here was an unusually dirty yellow.

Everything seemed to be in slumber: no twittering of birds, no chirping of grasshoppers, no sign of any single living flower or a tree. Everything around was just dry: grass, bushes and trees. Dark building outlines could be seen in the distance. “Who lives here, in the dry realm? It may be a village,” thought the young artist, taking a long look at the dusty horizon, and went to the nearest house.

The house was built from light yellow brick and covered with straw. A hedge made of odd wooden planks separated the house from the road. Nestor opened the wicket and entered the yard. Next to the house was a lawn covered with dry yellow grass.

In the middle of it there was a semblance of a flowerbed, but the flowers on it were also dried out. By the flowerbed, there was a wooden table with benches on each side. “Anybody here?” asked the young artist, stopping at the door of the house.

There was some clatter inside and a little boy of about five appeared on the doorstep. He stared at Nestor with unsettling curiosity. Then he slipped back into the house. “Hey, wait a minute!” called Nestor. A slight noise and whispering sounded in the house, and the boy turned up in the doorway again, accompanied by an eight-year-old girl. The girl glanced at Nestor and smiled amicably. “My name is Lily, and this is my brother Reed.”

“I am Nestor. It’s my first time here. Is this Droughty’s Kingdom?” “Yes, it is. She is the queen.” “Everything is so bizarre here: the trees and grass are all dry. How could you live here? You need water to survive, don’t you?” “The queen’s servants dispense water and food. The queen is kind, she takes care of us.” “Kind?! Do you find Droughty kind? She kidnapped the princess straight from the ball yesterday,”

Nestor blurted out. The children looked at the young man with astonishment. “What princess?” Lily asked at last. “Her name is Gabriela,” Nestor said, calming down somewhat. “She is more beautiful than all the flowers in the world,” he added dreamily. The children stared at Nestor in amazement. The artist looked at the dry grass and faded flowers.

“You’ve never seen live flowers,” Nestor guessed. “Could flowers be alive?” Lily asked distrustfully. “Did you really come from another land? The queen’s servants say that people who live in other lands are evil. You don’t seem vile,” she added after a pause. Lily looked at Nestor closely. “You must be tired after your trip,” she said. “I’ll get you some water.”

With these words, the girl ran into the house, and her brother followed her. A moment later they reappeared in the doorway. Lily was holding a small clay bottle and a cup in her hands, and Reed — a plate with some dry bread and roots. The children came up to a small wooden table and put the bottle, the cup and the plate on it. “Help yourself, please,” Lily smiled, gesturing to the table. Nestor sat down on the bench. Lily poured a cup of water and moved the plate closer to Nestor.

The young man drank a little from the cup with a wince. The water was muddy and had a moldy smell. Nestor took a bite of dry bread, barely managing to swallow it and looked at the children with compassion. They had never seen anything beautiful, eaten anything delicious, had not even drunk clean water… Well, it was high time for him to get the magic paints out. Nestor laid out the canvas on the table, got out the paints, the brushes and his favourite pencil.

The children fell silent and watched Nestor with curiosity. The artist set to work. At first, he painted a porcelain jug of water and two cups; then a large tray loaded with delicious food: juicy fruit and scrumptious buns, sweet biscuits, candy and candied fruit. Before making the final touch, Nestor said cheerfully to the children: “Now close your eyes for a moment and make a wish,” he winked at Lily and Reed. The children quickly shut their eyes.

As soon as Nestor put the final touches on the canvas, the jug and the tray turned real. Food aromas instantly reached the little noses, and the children opened their eyes at once. “Are you a magician?” Lily asked. “You can fulfill wishes.” “No, I’m not a magician,” Nestor smiled.

“What are you waiting for? Go on!” The children did not have to be asked twice — they immediately began to dig into the food on the tray. “Just take your time, eat sensibly,” Nestor said softly, admiring his new friends. Nestor poured clean water into the cups. The children took the cups and cautiously took a sip. “It’s water, pure water, the way it should be,” Nestor explained. Having eaten their fill, the kids started telling Nestor about life in the Arid Kingdom.

Much to the artist’s surprise, the children really did not find Droughty wicked. On the contrary, they sincerely believed that she was the one who made it possible to live in their arid land. Nestor told the children about his world, which was full of colours, aromas and flavours. “Oh, if I could only visit your land,” Lily said dreamily. “Me too,” Reed nodded his head. “I’ll try to help you, I just don’t know how yet.

Where does Droughty live?” “Over there, there is an old castle on the hill.” Lily waved her slender hand towards the hill looming on the horizon. “Well, I have to go,” Nestor rose from the bench, gathered his belongings, said goodbye to the children and walked along the dusty road to Droughty’s castle.

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Written byIrina Bilan
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