Meadows of Fantasy



QUEEN HELMINE OF Minland lay comfortably in amorous dalliance with her old ally Master David, High Admiral and Merchant-General of Port Able. The Minnish state barge floated majestically on the wide and placid waters of the lower Everest -- which was flowing north for a season. And betimes they played a game they invented -- they constructed, together, a fantasy world.

It had no name -- any more than had their own. It resembled their own in many other details also, such as the general climate, flora and fauna, the political, social and technological setup, and so forth. The main difference between the fantasy world and their own, in fact, was that there were no continents whatsoever -- simply an ever-changing complex of islands and archipelagoes that jostled each other as they moved at the whim of the equally unpredictable ocean currents.

Helmeth the Fair, High Mistress of the Minerals, ruled with benevolent hand the island of Rockground and its environs. Her rule usually extended over a varying batch of Rockground's temporary neighbours as well as its permanent ones, for the precious stones of Rockground were much sought after and the Rockgroundsmen had to fight hard and continuously to maintain their prized integrity. Once staunch ally, however, stood by Helmeth through thick and thin, and that was Povid, Dey of Taybel, autocrat of the other large island that could just be seen over the horizon from the Rockground coast. No mineral wealth might Taybel boast, yet its mariners fared far and wide amongst the lands of men and it was indeed an alliance well worthy of the name.

Now Povid the Dey came sailing to Rockground to sue for the hand of its High Mistress, and Helmeth the Fair looked upon him with much favour -- for he was indeed a handsome figure of a man as well as a true and trusted friend. And so they tarried together long into the night in Helmeth's withdrawing-room, attended by none save at the Mistress's summons. And there they played a game they had invented -- they constructed, together, a fantasy world.

It had no name -- as indeed their own had none that they knew of. It resembled their own world in a great many particulars, such as climate, matters biological and sociological, and numerous others. It differed from the world they knew, however, in that the islands were much fewer and larger in number, some even being of such a size that they provided enough land for two or more independent nations. And when the High Principality of Pordapple, one such nation, absorbed the neighbouring land of Silmeth, the High Prince Dayv sought to unite his house with the displaced Silmethic one by paying court to the Princess Samine. The Princess found his proposals agreeable, and was frequently from that time forth closeted in private audience with the High Prince while the formal arrangements were completed to the satisfaction of all. And Dayv and Samine, High Prince and High Princess-to-be, played a game they had invented -- they constructed, together, a fantasy world.

It had no name -- for their own world had non either. Many were the resemblances that the new world bore to the old -- the rocks and the rains, the plant and the animal kingdoms, and the race of mankind itself, were hardly to be distinguished as to the planet of their provenance. And yet there were differences too -- for continents, rather than islands, formed the bulk of the land surface. Continents that shifted indeed, according to the currents that they themselves in their journeyings created, but larger by far than the lands that Dayv and Samine knew.

In the land of Thisbria, locked in the heart of a continent called Realm, there lived a peasant lad, Port by name. Now Port loved a dairymaid called Mint, who returned his love, and in the late evenings when the day's work was over they would slip away into the meadows together. There, nestled happily in one another's arms, with none to disturb them (save perhaps other couples on similar errands), they would while away the hours by playing a game they had invented -- a game in which they constructed, together, a fantasy world.

It had no name, apart from that pertaining to the earth of which it was composed -- neither had their own. There was in fact a great deal of resemblance between the world of their fantasy and the world of their reality, for both had much the same ecology, whether as to the organic of the inorganic, and the way that the people lived and worked was broadly similar in both worlds. Perhaps the world of the lovers' imagination contained more wonders than did that in which they lived, for love brings forth the imagination most strongly -- and besides, peasants always yearn for a lightening of their load. So they filled their fantasy world with fabulous machines -- machines that ploughed the sod, cut and baled the grain, even milked the cattle. And there were machines that travelled swiftly between one place and another, carrying thither all who wished to go.

A more important way, perhaps, in which the two worlds differed owed its being to the lovers' living in the midst of a continent. The continent, so they were told, moved. Nevertheless, so far as it made any visible difference to their lives it might just as well have been still. And so the continents -- and the islands as well -- that rose above the waters of their fantasy world moved not at all, so far as the individual human being was able to discern. Only the waters moved, as the river that ran through the cornfields moved.

In this world there was a land called England, that lay on a large island in the northern hemisphere. And somewhere in the heart of England, upstairs in some remote hostelry -- it matters not where nor what -- a young scholar by the name of Dave Portable relaxed with his lady-love, the beauteous and intelligent Mine Smith.

Dave opened his eyes.

"Hello darling," he said. He breathed out with a cross between a gasp and a tender smile. "I'm tired."

"Mmmmmmm," said Mine contentedly.


Dave and Mine were married quietly in the Thisbury registry office, and after a suitably noisy reception at -- of course -- the Upside Down Women's Institute, they departed for a Cornish honeymoon.

Theo and Cynthia, on the other hand, went the following spring through the ordeal of a full-scale church wedding with all the trimmings. Neither of them, as may be imagined, wanted it in the least -- but it was part of the deal they made with Cynthia's parents. And it bears eloquent testimonial to the strength of Theo's feelings for Cynthia that he agreed to all this with hardly a murmur. The three of them then honeymooned in and around the Lake District for a full month before returning to the antique business in Much Wenlock.

Cynthia settled into her new role as one born to it, an various friends who have visited them report that they seem to be ideally suited to each other. By way of added proof, SCHALFENFEST is almost back on a regular schedule again. There is no sign of any children to date, but they've got a new puppy. They call him Skyrack, for no particular reason except that they happen to like the name. It's a bit early to tell yet, but apart from the details of colouring he looks as if he'll grow up very similar in appearance to his father. Barker is, of course, the father in question -- and one would swear he knows it, the way he acts the proud and loving parent.

Fandom in Thisbury (and District) is currently at a very low ebb. The Circle still formally exists -- it even still has a Treasury (in the trusted hands of Harry the First), but it no longer either has a club-room or any active members with the energy to organise one. The Turtle was sold "as she lay" for a fiver -- and they were lucky to get that much. All the loose properties -- books, furniture, and so on -- are scattered around the houses of various members, but nobody is particularly hopeful of ever seeing them all assembled under one roof again. The Nullgray Mouser is now a Sea Scout, a transfer of allegiance that he took with an utterly feline lack of concern.

Harry the First and Tom still see what they can of each other, the municipal obligations of the one and the familial ones of the other permitting. Russ Harbottle is still heavily committed in the courtship of his Jean, and Harry the Second perseveres in the conversion of the local virgins with unabated vigour. Bert Duckbarrow has also started paying serious attention to the fair sex, the lady of his choice being about as mundane as they make 'em -- so it looks highly doubtful at present if fandom will play much part in his future existence. And nobody seems to know what's happened to Geoff McNab.

Everybody else of any significance has left town. Cynthia's now living at Much Wenlock, of course. Dick, the "lost" member of the original Tom-Dick-and-Harry trio, is still at Oxford, and has his sights set firmly on an academic career. Owen and Ian now live in London, where they share a flat. Owen, who still sports a handsome growth of beard but has temporarily abandoned trying to write for the professional market, is a member of the Science Fiction Club of London and divides the rest of his free time between patronising the R&B club scene and chasing girls -- simultaneously if possible. Ian prefers to haunt the "modern jazz" club scene, and likewise to chase girls -- but he also reads considerably more science fiction than does Owen.

This leaves only Dave and Mine to be accounted for, and they are now pillars of Merseyside fandom. Dave has a job in the Liverpool University library. Mine has given up teaching in favour of looking after Cynthia the Second, the Portable first-born. Their flat in Birkenhead ranks closely behind the Shorrock house as a popular place of local fannish resort. They still have the club duplicator -- after Dave had carried it home from the wreck, the rest of the Circle renounced all rights in it by way of an additional wedding-present, and SON OF THE SUNKEN TURTLE has seen three issues in the part twelve months. Which is pretty good going, all things considered.




I have been asked if I would clear up a loose end by explaining once and for all the true origin of my given name.

The simple truth, however, is that I don't know. I was orphaned at an early age, and by the time I was old enough to realise just how unusual my name was, nobody who was still around was able to tell me. So I never did find out. My friends, however, will confirm that I have never ceased to speculate upon the matter.

I'm sorry I can't be any more help. It annoys me, too. Yours: Mine

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