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CHAPTER ONE

Spryte of Gebinning




This is a tale of Spryte, the sprite, who lives on the Mirror Earth -- a world where Magic is alive and a variety of wonderful (and fearful!) beings each have their own special niche in the grand scheme of the Universe. It is a world more simple, yet more subtle than our own, where clumsy machines merely imitate magic, and men must discover their own purpose in life if they can.

Of all the races and breeds inhabiting Mirror Earth, the sprites are the cleverest. Sly and quick, they love mischief -- their own harmless mischief of riddles and ingenious tricks, and the mischief of others, which it is their unique privilege to avenge for all of Mirror Earth's denizens.

Even without magic, the sprites are crafty and resourceful. With their pale green skin, they can blend quickly into the shadows of the Grand Forest where they make their homes, and their large pointed ears alert them to the approach of friend or foe from far- off. But the magic of Mirror Earth gives the sprites powers beyond their natural gifts; for they have strength out of all proportion to their usual small stature -- in our world, a sprite would be dwarfed by the bulk of a common rosebush! -- and moreover they can shift their size at will. The little green sprite you stand chuckling at one moment may, the next, tower over you like a giant!

But that is enough of *the* sprites. This tale is about *our* sprite, Spryte.

Spryte awoke this morning like any morning, to the bright beams of the sun lancing through the lush leaves of his treehome in Gebinning, the very center of the forest.. Birdsong filled the sweet-smelling, gentle breeze of dawn, and he heard too the subterranean rustling of the nightdwellers returning to their dark tunnels. A morning like any other morning. "Why, then, do I feel so mischeivous today?" Spryte asked himself aloud, springing from his bed and quickly donning the snug, pale-blue trunks he favored. (There is no real need for clothing in the Grand Forest, where the weather is always clement, but sprites are modest beings and Spryte is no exception.)

Spryte passed through the leafy corridor from his bedchamber into the kitchen, put the kettle on, and began brewing a cup of spice tea for his breakfast. Just as the kettle boiled, he heard a familiar rustle from below -- a visitor climbing the trunk of his treehome, and he knew from the particular rustle just who that visitor was. "Good morning, Spryte, isn't it a lovely day!" cried Buck the Cub, poking his furry face upside-down through the foliage and beaming at his friend.

"Come in here, you daft cub," Spryte chuckled, "You'll have your beard full of leaves." Much as he liked his friend Buck, Spryte was sometimes exasperated by his absurd antics. All Cubs are silly to some degree, but Buck was particularly so. "Sit down and have some breakfast with me," Spryte invited, pouring the tea into shining green cups and setting out a loaf of sweet bread and a pot of golden honey.

"Thank you, I've had breakfast already, but I"ll have some tea, please," Buck replied, reaching eagerly for the steaming cup and nearly upsetting the table in his haste. "Here! Take care, there, my friend, unless you'd like a repeat performance of the last time you mucked up my kitchen!" Spryte scolded. The furry cub sat down meekly, pouting and shifting uncomfortably on his bottom in reminiscence. Spryte relented, remembering that he'd been in an irritable mood on that occasion, and had used the tawse with perhaps a bit more vehemence than necessary. "Drink your tea, Bucky, and brighten up, I'm not going to wallop you," he grinned at his fuzzy friend.

"I didn't mean to knock your table, Spryte," the cub apologized, "But I feel so, I don't know, so wound-up inside somehow this morning!" "Now isn't that odd," Spryte said, taking a sip of his tea, "I felt the same as soon as I woke. I wonder what could the reason be?" he mused.

Suddenly Buck sat upright in his chair of twigs, sniffing intently. Cubs have a keen sense of smell, and a magical one at that. "I -- I smell something, Spryte," furry Buck whispered, his nose quivering. The slim green sprite cocked an eyebrow in interest; his fuzzy friend had rarely seemed so agitated. The cub's big brown eyes grew wider as he went on sniffing the air. "Well, then, what do you smell?" Spryte demanded. "Hurry up and tell me before you sniff all the air right out of my house!" he laughed.

"I -- I smell -- I smell MISCHIEF!" Buck shouted, and as he jumped up in alarm, crash! -- back fell his chair to crumble into splinters, smash! -- away flew the shining green teacup and shattered against the treehome's trunk.

"Mischief!?! I should say you DO!" Spryte shouted angrily, abruptly expanding to twice the cub's height. "Look what you've done now!"

"Oh -- oh, I'm sorry, Spryte! I didn't mean it. But I smell really BIG mischief, and it scared me!" Buck was contrite. "Well perhaps you do, you bad cub, and that's why my palms have been tingling all morning! But you've broken my chair and smashed my cup, and it's more than my palms that will be tingling in a minute!" Spryte announced, seizing Buck by the ear.

It is every sprite's nature to avenge mischief, and that nature was particularly strong in Spryte. And in the simple world of Mirror Earth, mischief is avenged simply -- with a spanking. Unfortunately for Buck the Cub, his fur wasn't as luxurious as that of some cubs, and he had no fur at all on his bottom, a lack he was particularly aware of as Spryte drew him across his pale green knees with that furless bottom turned upmost!

"Please, Spryte, it was an accident!" Buck pleaded to the floor, as the suddenly-twice-his- size sprite placed a powerful arm around his waist to hold him securely. But the only answer that came was a resounding

W H A C K ! ! !

as Spryte swung his hand down forcefully against the rounded bare bottom. "OW!" Buck yelped, the hot sting of the spank making him wriggle in Spryte's grip.

WHACK! "OWW!" WHACK! "YOWTCH!" WHAACK! "YEOW!"

Poor Buck: once Spryte's vengeance was roused, no pleas or tears or promises could subdue it. Only the proper color -- red; and the proper temperature -- very hot; would satisfy him. And though there were many pleas, a bushel of promises, and more than a few tears over the following minutes, Spryte continued until he achieved the desired result: a very hot, red bare bottom wiggling frantically on his lap.

WHACK! "There, now, you naughty cub, perhaps you'll be a bit more careful from now on!" Spryte said, delivering one last spank 'for good measure.'

"I w-will, I p-promise, Spryte!" Buck pledged through his tears. "See that you do, then," Spryte reminded him, patting the cub's sore scarlet bottom and setting him up again, to stand sniffling with a furry fist screwed into his eye.



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