As Leroy the Smelly slept in the grass, Fairy Ashlyn swiped his keyring from his belt and flew up to the tower window with her brand new Golden Fairy Wings. Since eating the Golden Olive she'd been peaceful and calm and her wings had not disappeared even once. Now that Leroy's curse on Alexander had been broken, all that was left was to free Princess Nanette and Kid Joey and his friends would have finished all their quests!
Princess Nanette accepted the keys from Fairy Ashlyn, astonished that she'd gotten them away from Leroy so easily. In fact, he'd slept through the whole thing.
"So all I have to do is go over there and use one of these keys in the lock on that door and I'm free? Just like that?"
Fairy Ashlyn nodded happily.
Princess Nanette pursed her lips, then said, "Seems too easy. Sure it's not a trap?"
Fairy Ashlyn hadn't thought of that, and it showed on her face. Uh oh.
Kid Joey and Kato and Alexander looked up at the tower window as Princess Nanette stuck her head out with Fairy Ashlyn perched upon it, leaning on her crown looking worried.
Princess Nanette asked, "How do I know there's not a monster or evil genie or some such thing outside the tower door?"
Kid Joey and Alexander exchanged glances, then looked down at quietly snoring Leroy. "She has a point," said Alexander. "He is one evil, mean wizard. Take it from me."
"Yeah, but I think he's changed. I think it's like Grandma Crystal and Gramps Blaze said, the love, and your sister's family ties, and magic dust have weakened him. Even if there are monsters in his castle, I'll bet his power over them is not as strong."
"Maybe. Fairy Ashlyn would never have gotten his keys off of him before. She would never have gotten near enough to even touch him," Alexander said.
The boys and Kato headed for the door to the dungeon that Leroy had forgotten to close on his way to nap in the grass with the sun beaming down on him, warming him through to his heart.
"He never would have left his door unlocked before either, especially the door to his dungeon. He was careful about anybody getting inside and finding out his magical secrets, not to mention anyone he had locked inside getting out."
Alexander looked up at the tower, and yelled, "We'll be up soon. The door is open down here."
"Be careful! He's a mean one!" Princess Nanette called out warning to her brother and friends.
And Leroy snored on, smelling like a big ol' banana split there in the grass.
Kato started carefully down the steps into the dark dungeon, and the boys followed fast, when they heard him bark. It was not a happy bark, but a bark of alarm. A bark of danger.
It took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dinginess of the place, but soon the boys saw cages. Cages with little boys and girls inside!
Kid Joey and Alexander rushed over intending to let the children out, but of course the cages were locked.
Kato bolted for the outside door, barking, tail a-wag.
Kid Joey and Alexander looked at one another, and before they could say anything, they heard Kato woofing beneath the tower window and Kid Joey smiled.
"I know what he's up to," Kid Joey said, and at that moment Kato burst down the steps from outside, Leroy's keyring dangling and jingling from his mouth.
"He got them from Princess Nanette. Smart dog!" Alexander said, petting Kato's head. Kato licked the boy's gentle hand as Kid Joey unlocked all the cages and freed the children within them. Four boys and two girls thanked Kid Joey, Alexander, and Kato, then ran outside through the field (which they hoped they'd never seen again, as you will learn about later in this story) and into the woods, at last free of mean old Leroy.
Kid Joey and Alexander were happy for the kids (they had no idea how accurate the word "kid" was, for they didn't know Leroy's story yet. Not near all of it, but they had a job to do, a quest to fulfill.
"Princess Nanette, after all, is the one who told Fairy Ashlyn what she had to do to earn her wings. She told her about the Golden Olive of Peace that would help her quiet her temper and get the Golden Wings," Kid Joey told Alexander as they slowly and carefully crept through Leroy's creepy castle.
Alexander stopped, his eyes wide. "Wait. Ash ate olives?"
Kid Joey smiled. "Her weight in olive."
"No way. My sister hates olives!"
As they made their way up the winding staircase on the way toward the tower, Kid Joey told Alexander the story of how his sister earned the Golden Wings and became a full-fledged fairy.
"Wow!" Alexander said as they arrived at the tower room door.
"Good. No monsters or meanie guards. That's a relief," Alexander said as Kid Joey tried a key in the lock.
"Doesn't work," he said and tried another.
He came to the last key.
It didn't work.
"Oh no," Alexander whispered in despair. "What are we going to do now?"
Kid Joey smiled a grand smile, and grabbed Alexander by the sleeve, tugging him along back down the spiraling tower stairs. "I have an idea," was all he said in his rush.
Once outside, Kid Joey ran several yards away from the castle and looked up into the sky.
In a soft voice he sang, "Oh Grandma Crystal?" and suddenly, before the eyes of Kato, Alexander, Fairy Ashlyn, and Princess Nanette, Kid Joey vanished into swirling mist.
The princess and children exchanged horrified glances, but Kato barked, his tail wagging and seemed to know that Kid Joey was in no danger.
In less than fifteen seconds Kid Joey was back, with a big surprise. And I mean BIG.
Out of the swirling mist came Kid Joey, riding on the back of a huge, flying dragon with golden-orange scales that sparkled in the bright sunshine like pirates' treasure.
And Sir WHIP was just that – a treasure.
He flew directly to the tower window, flapping his enormous wings, waiting while Princess Nanette climbed onto the windowsill then onto his broad shoulders, where she hugged Kid Joey.
"Thank you, Kid Joey, for helping me!" Then she hugged Sir WHIP's neck too. "And thank you, Sir WHIP, as well."
And with that, Sir WHIP swooped to the grass far below and landed smoothly, bent his head to the ground so his passengers could disembark.
Once everyone was safe and sound they hugged and laughed and danced for joy.
All except Leroy, of course, who slept in the grass still.
"Time to get answers," Fairy Ashlyn said, her voice tinkling like a little bell.
Princess Nanette, Fairy Ashlyn, Kid Joey, Kato, Alexander, and Sir WHIP formed a circle around Leroy, holding hands, magic flowing through them, setting them aglow.
The brightness awoke Leroy and he sat up, looked around at faces of innocent children he'd been mean to, and Princess Nanette, who he loved and never really meant to hurt, but of course he had. Because of selfishness and pride.
Leroy's head hung low as he realized his powers were nothing sitting within the white magic circle.
"Why are you so mean and cruel?" Princess Nanette asked right off.
"How could you lock little kids in cages?" Kid Joey asked, angry.
"How could you turn my brother into an ugly farting dragon?" Fairy Ashlyn said, then turned to Sir WHIP and quickly added, "No offense, Sir WHIP. He was ugly. You're beautiful and kind."
"I understand," Sir WHIP said.
"Do you hate karate?" Alexander asked.
"Do you hate happiness and beauty?" Princess Nanette asked.
Kato growled and nipped at the hem of Leroy's sleeve, instinctively not liking him for being so mean.
But at the same time, Kato and Princess Nanette, Fairy Ashlyn, Alexander, Kid Joey, and Sir WHIP sensed that there had been a recent change of heart in Leroy. Not only could they sense it deep in their hearts, but they saw he was deeply ashamed. He sat, slumped, there were tears in his eyes and his head hung in embarrassment as he said, "I'm very sorry. So sorry."
Children, fairy, dragon, and dog exchanged glances, and somehow knew the reformed wizard meant the apology. They could feel the sincerity; they knew he was for real.
"But why?" Princess Nanette asked. "Why?"
And thus Leroy began his story.
"When I was little I lived with my mother in this place, only there was no castle, but a rickety shack that leaked rain, the icy wind whistled through it in the winter, and the heat sucked the sweat down our backs in the summer.
"One very cold winter my mother got sick. Really sick. She told me there were special vines that grew in the forest, and to please bring her the seed pods from them so she could make a special medicine tea to help her get well.
"While I was in the woods, I met a wizard. He was a very powerful magician who gave me seed pods from his pocket. They were different than the ones my mother had described, but he promised she would get well, that she would never, ever get sick again, and I would be rich and powerful and live forever."
Kid Joey wondered how old Leroy really was.
"I'm four hundred and twenty-three years old, young man," Leroy answered, reading Kid Joey's mind and giving him quite a start.
"Wow!" Alexander said.
"Yes, well, while some of it came true, the old meanie didn't tell me the bad stuff that would happen.
"Like all I could eat was black magic beans; nothing else, ever. And black magic beans are what makes me farty. Leroy the Smelly," he said, looking around at the faces of Fairy Ashlyn and Alexander. "Oh yes, that's right, I know what everybody calls me behind my back. Did you think I didn't know? Couldn't read their thoughts? Really?"
"So you were cursed?" Princess Nanette asked in a softer voice, a tiny spark of sympathy beginning to warm her heart, but no such spark had fired up Alexander's who said, "So you went around making everybody else as miserable and unhappy as you?" That's just mean."
"I didn't start out to be mean, but everybody hated me. No one would sit with me anywhere or anytime. Not even my mother could stand to be in the same room with me. People's eyes would water; their noses would burn, and every now and then someone would actually throw up."
Princess Nanette began to really feel sorry for Leroy. "You must have been very lonely."
"The little kids who lived around here in the village on the other side of the woods were cute. I used to cut the grass so they could play with their balls and hoops and such.
"But when I was outside tending the field with my scythe, they ran because of the smell, and they started calling me Leroy the Smelly. They were the first and it really hurt my feelings. Here I was, making a nice field for them to play their games in and they were teasing me.
"So I turned them all into little baby goats, or kids as they are called, one pretty afternoon. From then on, they could eat the grass and tend the field for themselves."
"Oh my," Princess Nanette sighed, the warm sympathy in her heart chilling over. "Spitefulness is mean, Leroy. They were cruel too, but they didn't understand. You might have tried to explain…"
"I couldn't get close enough! They ran from me – from my stink!
"So I had this big castle, land, all the black magic beans I could eat, grew on vines all year round for me. Just as the cloud of stink grew over my castle.
"Even my mother moved far away. I hated everyone, everything, until I saw you, Princess Nanette, one day, walking in the woods, then petting the little goats in the field.
"My heart melted at the sight of your beauty; I prayed every day and night you would somehow be mine. But how could I ever make you know? How could I whisper sweet words of love in your ears when my farts kept you at such a distance?" Leroy hung his head, then continued. "So I enchanted the tower room so that it wouldn't stink, but smell like lavender and rose petals, and then enchanted you as well for awhile, long enough to have you drop into a deep sleep in the field, so that I could carry you up into the tower and keep you there. I couldn't bear to see the fright in your eyes at the sight of my ugly, warty face, the tears in your eyes from the stench. You were the one beautiful thing in my whole rotten life. I couldn't let you run away from me."
"Right," Fairy Ashlyn said, snottily, "better to lock her up and make her miserable and make her hate you."
"What did I ever do to you?" Alexander said. "I never teased you or hurt you in any way. Why would you curse me?"
Leroy's head swung low again in more shame. "Princess Nanette used to watch you in your dazzling white gi – I used to dream about doing the crescent kicks and roundhouse kicks, that so enthralled her, and made her eyes shine.
"But I knew if I put on a brilliant white outfit like that, and moved around so much it would just make me fart all the more, and the pants would have stains and stink and Princess Nanette would be even more disgusted with me. I had to find a way, because I was so jealous, so bitterly disappointed that she didn't love me; I had to find a way to make her forget all about you. So poof! You became Grando-the-Farting-Dragon, as stinky and ugly as me."
Leroy put his hands over his face in tears. "I am so, so sorry; I mean that," he sobbed.
The circle of friends sat around the old wizard, still absorbing his story. And then, as he wiped his sopping face with his sleeve, he asked in a moist, shuddering voice, "How did you make the farting stop?"
The friends all looked at one another, shrugging, until Kid Joey spoke up.
"Gramps Blaze told me, just before Fairy Ashlyn and I went to China to find Grando that love and kindness beat out hate and meanness. That's why patience and kindness earned Fairy Ashlyn her Golden Wings. "That's why her magic dust worked on Grando and evaporated your curse. That's why the goat "kids" changed back into human kids. And why your farts stopped stinking. Because love always wins."
Leroy looked around the circle. "You don't hate me?" he asked Princess Nanette.
"I could sense your feelings, Leroy. It always seemed to me that you were more lonely and sad then you were mean. I know you did mean things, but I always hoped you would change, and now it seems you have."
"Can you ever forgive me, my sweet Nanette?"
"I already have," Princess Nanette said, and it was then that Leroy, for the first time in many, many years, leaned over and kissed someone. His lips kissed Princess Nanette's and his heart softened, and his warts and wrinkles faded away, and he became her prince.
As they kissed some more, the circle of friends about them watched as the fart cloud above the castle faded into wisps of vapor and then disappeared completely.
Birds and butterflies flew in and out the windows, breathing the fresh, clean air.
The Prince and Princess led their friends into the sparking palace (all the cobwebs and dust from centuries had magically vanished) for cakes and tea (and steak for Kato and pulled pork for Sir WHIP) and much celebration for soon there would be a royal wedding.
Kid Joey, Kato, Sir WHIP, Fairy Ashlyn, and Alexander, promised to return to attend.
"We wouldn't miss it for all the tea in China," Kid Joey said to Prince Leroy and Princess Nanette. Then he turned to Alexander. "Speaking of China, do you still want to meet a Chinese Dragon?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye.
And just like that, the rescue was done and new adventures started.
Outside in the fresh air and sunshine Kid Joey sang, "Oh Grandma Crystal!" and the crystal ball mists began to swirl about him, Kato, Sir WHIP, and his new friends Alexander and Fairy Ashlyn.
The last he saw of Prince Leroy and Princess Nanette were their smiles and blown kisses…
…because love had indeed prevailed.
TD – 2/12/2016