The line of men were soldiers and they seemed to be searching for something.
Sophie leant closer and whispered (so as not to alarm them) "what are you looking for?"
The men all looked up in amazement. “she can see us” one said, “better send for the king” said another.
Just at that moment a small man wearing a circlet of pure gold appeared from behind a stem of watermint. Just from his bearing you could tell he was the king and presently another person this time a woman appeared from the same place. Sophie could see another circlet of gold around the woman's head. She was clearly the Queen. She had been crying, her face was red and she looked distraught.
Everybody stopped and stared at Sophie, Sophie stared back; then as if to break the spell the tiny infant began to cry once more.
Sophie slowly wriggled forward towards the people. The soldiers stepped back afraid, the King and Queen did not move. They had heard the baby cry. Sophie gently lowered the basket into the arms of the queen. As soon as she released the basket the tiny people disappeared.
“Oh no” she cried, “I cannot see you anymore”. A few stems of watermint quivered and presently a tiny voice carried over the burbling of the river, “I am King Caltha and I give you my heartfelt thanks for saving the life of our daughter Petala”.
Sophie turned her head this way and that desperately looking for the King. He continued” you cannot see me unless you touch something that is made with the very heart of our Kingcups.” The King’s voice moved and presently Sophie felt a minute touch on her hand and all of a sudden the people appeared. The Queen who had been standing close to Sophie had reached out and touched it. The touch was so delicate it felt like a piece of grass had tickled it.
Sophie wanted to ask a thousand questions but the Queen just looked up at her smiling and the questions just melted away. All she could manage was “Hello my name is Sophie” (which looking back Sophie felt was rather lame).
The Queen inclined her head and said graciously, “hello Sophie I am Queen Celandine, and I also want to thank you for saving the life of our daughter. We would not have been able to save her the current is too strong for us”.
Sophie closed her mouth with a click and tried to gather her scattered thoughts. “Your welcome your majesties, I am honoured to have been able to help you.”Sophie replied in her best voice.
Sophie was also aware that when she spoke all the little people put their hands over their ears. Sophie lowered her voice to a whisper “ I do apologise for speaking loudly I am not used to addressing people as little as you”.
Several Soldiers raised their bows, but the king waved his hand at them ordering them to lower their weapons. “ This giant is not being rude”, he said “she is only stating the obvious”.
“oh dear” whispered Sophie “ I did not mean to cause offence , but compared to me you are rather……. The King coughed and Sophie’s voice trailed off, clearly size what best not mentioned.
“Now” said the King, “we are preparing ourselves for our summer ball and we would be honoured if you would join us as the guest of honour?” “Wow” said Sophie “Oooooh Yes please…… I mean your majesty is too kind” she amended. The Queen hid a smile and continued, “the ball takes place at Bel-tine, three days hence and you would be most welcome to attend; when sunlight hits three forks.”
“Three forks?” asked Sophie , the queen looked puzzled for a second, “why bless me child I will have to show you how we tell what time of day it is”.
Sophie looked down at her own wristwatch “ Oh golly Mum and Dad are going to kill me” She cried. “Oh sorry”she whispered “but I have to get back home. We are all going out to see my grandparents who live in the next valley and Dad said he wanted to live early to avoid the traffic. I only came down here to see if the ducks’ eggs had hatched."
“Oh no” said the King,” Mrs Mallecroft told us her eggs will not hatch until the day after tomorrow”.
“Mrs Mallecroft?” Sophie replied enquiringly.
“The duck.” The King laughed.
Sophie scrambled to her knees and in doing so let go of the Queen's hand, immediately the people all disappeared.
“Not again” moaned Sophie.
The Queen shouted “Sophie my dear please take this”. Sophie gently lowered her hand again she felt something being pressed into her palm. Instantly the people reappeared as if by magic.
“Take special care of it and you will always be able to see us” the Queen said. In her palm no bigger than Sophie’s little fingernail was a tiny stone the colour of a Kingcup.
“This jewel is made using the petals of the Kingcup and will allow you to see us and more importantly keep you safe from harm. But remember," the Queen continued, “the magic loses it power the further away from the mother plant you are."
"Be safe Sophie” she added and Sophie got to her feet carefully, thanked them all once again and hurried back over the fields towards Cowslip Farm.