Fool's Gold and Fairy Stones
MY NAME IS SUNDAY WOODCUTTER, and I
am doomed to a happy life.
I am the seventh daughter of Jack and Seven Woodcutter, Jack a seventh son and Seven a seventh daughter herself. Papa's dream was to give birth to the charmed, all- powerful Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Mama told him seven girls or seven boys, whichever came first. Jack Junior was first. Papa was elated. His dream died the morning I popped out, blithe and bonny and good and gay, seven daughters later.
Fortunately, coming first did not stop Jack Junior from being a wunderkind. I never knew my eldest sibling, but I know his legend. All of Arilland's children grew up in Jack's shadow, his younger siblings more than most. I have never known a time when I wasn't surrounded by the overdramatic songs and stories of Jack Junior's exploits. A good number of new ones continue to spring up about the countryside to this very day. I have heard them all. (Well, all but the Forbidden Tale. I'm not old enough for that one yet.)
But I know the most important tale: the tale of his demise, while he served in the King's Royal Guard. One day, in a fit of pique or passion (depending on the bard), he killed Prince Rumbold's prized pup. As punishment, the prince's evil fairy godmother witched Jack Junior into a mutt and forced him to take the pup's place. He was never heard from again.
They say my family was never the same after that. I wish I could know my father as tales portray him then: loud, confident, and opinionated. Now he is simply a strong, quiet man, content with his place in life. It is no secret that Papa harbors no loyalty to the royal family of Arilland, but he would not say a word against them.
My second- eldest brother's name is Peter. My third brother is Trix. Trix was a foundling child whom Papa discovered in the limbs of a tree at the edge of the Wood one winter's workday before I was born. The way Mama tells it, Trix was a son she didn't have to give birth to, and he made Papa happy. She already had too many children to feed, what was one more?
My sisters and I -
"What are you doing?"
Sunday's head snapped up from her journal. She had chosen this spot for its solitude, followed the half-hidden path through the underbrush to the decaying rocks of the abandoned well, sure that she had escaped her family. And yet, the voice that had interrupted her thoughts was not familiar to her. Her eyes took a moment to adjust, slowly focusing on the mottled shadows the afternoon sun cast through dancing leaves. "I'm sorry?" She posed the polite query to her unknown visitor in an effort to make him reveal himself, be he real or imagined, dead or alive, fairy or -
"I said, 'What are you doing?' "
Sunday forced her gaping mouth closed. Caught off-guard, she sputtered the truth: "I'm telling myself stories."
The frog considered her answer. He balanced himself on his spotted hind legs and blinked at her with his bulbous eyes.
"Why? Do you have no one to whom you can tell them?" Apart from his interruption, he maintained an air of polite decorum. He's smart, too, Sunday thought. He must have been a human before being cursed. Animals of the Wood only ever spoke in wise riddles and almost- truths.
"I have quite a large family, actually, with lots of stories. Only..."
"Only no one wants to hear them."
"I do," said the frog. "Read me your story, the story you have just written there, and I will listen."
She liked this frog. Sunday smiled, but slowly closed her book. "You don't want to hear this story."
"It's not very interesting."
"What's it about?"
"It's about me. That's why none of my family wants to hear it. They already know all about me."
Excerpted from Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. Copyright © 2012 by Alethea Kontis. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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