Each Ten Word Tale is written using ten words suggested by children. The Midsummer Field is inspired by ten words chosen by Year 1 pupils Isla and Sophia. 

Spot the 10 words - unicorn, fairy, lair, daisy, pink, camouflage, ice-cream, racket, love, puppy - and enjoy the story!

Chapter 1

Cora was moving house. Her family was staying in an old house in the country for the summer while they waited for their new home to be ready. Midsummer House came with two aunts, one uncle and swallows nesting under the roof. It had higgledy-piggledy rooms, twisty staircases, an orchard and a wide field filled with wild flowers that stretched as far as a ripply stream. Cora stayed with her aunts and uncle, who were all vets, while Cora’s mum and dad fixed up the new house.

If you met Cora, she would tell you her favourite colour (blue), her favourite food (ice-cream), her favourite sport (football) and her favourite animal (unicorns). Unicorns had been the theme of every birthday cake and every dressing-up costume since Cora was small. Unicorns were on Cora’s duvet cover, her towels and her blanket. Cora wore unicorns: she had unicorns on t-shirts and on shorts. Now she was eight most of Cora’s life was spent in her school uniform but under the uniform? Unicorns. Yes, even on her underwear.

One morning Cora was chatting to her uncle about the animals he had met in his job. She told him her favourite animal was a unicorn.

“But Cora,” said Uncle Tom, laughing at her, “Unicorns can’t be your favourite. Choose a penguin or a puppy or a frog. Unicorns aren’t real.”

Cora did not know how to disagree with him. Her aunt told Uncle Tom off. “Now Tom. Cora can believe in unicorns if she wants.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” snapped Uncle Tom, sounding very annoyed. Cora was afraid she might cry and slipped out of the house and into the field, pushing her way through the long grass and the yellow poppies and moonpenny daisies. Her throat felt fat with tears. She hated quarrels.

She did not notice as a tear splashed onto a flower at her feet.

She did notice when a very small voice said, ”Ow!”

Stooping down she saw the tiniest person you could imagine amongst the poppies. This gentleman, smaller than your smallest finger, wore stripes all over, with a pale pink waistcoat and fluttery wings. His hair was leaf green. He looked very wet, as if he had been out in the rain without an umbrella.

“Stop crying. You’re soaking me,” he said, shaking the drops from his hair.

Cora stopped crying at once in astonishment.

Chapter 2

“Have you a tissue so I can dry myself?” asked the tiny gentleman, “and why are you crying?”

Cora passed him a tissue from her pocket which he used like a giant towel until his hair stuck out in green tufts and his clothes and wings were dry.

“I told my uncle I love unicorns and he laughed and said they don’t exist,” she said.

“People say that fairies don’t exist but here I am, sitting peacefully in your midsummer field, until you sobbed all over me like a thunder storm.”

Cora wanted to ask a hundred questions but now the tiny gentleman was dry he seemed in a hurry to go. He returned the wet tissue.

“I’m late for supper and but I’ll be in the field tomorrow afternoon. Come and find me.”

Cora promised that she would.

“And don’t be too cross with your uncle.”

The little man dived into the green ocean of the grass, disappearing at once.

Cora walked back to the house full of excited thoughts. Uncle Tom was waiting for her in the kitchen with a large slice of strawberry cheesecake looking sorry.

“I am very sorry,” he said.

Cora remembered that the fairy gentleman had told her not to be cross. She said, “That’s OK.”

She sat and talked with her aunts and uncle for a long time about amazing creatures they liked: monitor lizards, giant pandas, seahorses, hummingbirds. The three vets had many interesting animal stories to tell. No one mentioned unicorns. Uncle Tom said he would take Cora to the museum in town the next day, to show her something weird he promised she’d definitely like.

Cora was glad he said they would go in the morning. She did not want to explain to someone who didn’t believe in unicorns that she had an appointment with a fairy in the afternoon.  

Uncle Tom’s old car was useful when he was working with farm animals and had to drive up bumpy farm tracks but it was terribly noisy. “Sorry about the racket!” shouted Uncle Tom, over the clanking and chugging of the engine.

“No worries!” Cora shouted back. They didn’t speak again until Uncle Tom drove into a car park. “Shopping first,” he said. The aunts had sent them off to town with lots of jobs. Cora’s mum and dad would be back in two days and they were going to have a welcome feast. Uncle Tom and Cora went to the library and the bank, bought everything on the shopping list and posted three parcels.

“All jobs done,” said Uncle Tom, leading her into the museum.

As soon as she stepped inside, Cora felt the whoosh of old things. Glass cases of bones and stuffed animals were on one side of the entrance hall, glass cases of fans, hats and shoes were on the other side; over their heads hung old flags, tattered but splendid, red and gold.

Uncle Tom led Cora through the bones and animals to a case at the back of a small room. Inside there were three stuffed puffins, a great auk and a walrus. “Look!” said Uncle Tom, pointing.

Stretched across the front was a beautiful twisted horn, as pearly pale as Cora had always imagined a unicorn’s must be. “What is it?” she asked.

“It is the horn of a narwhal. Some people call the narwhal the unicorn of the sea because of the horn. The horn is really a long twisty tooth. I thought you’d like it. I think it’s beautiful.”

Cora understood that Uncle Tom wanted her to know that he did believe in some wonderful things. They set off to find ice cream before rattling home in the car.  

Chapter 3

After lunch, Cora went straight to the field, wondering how to find one tiny person in such a big place. She tried calling, “Hello”, first in a whisper, then in a normal voice, then quite loudly. She walked all the way to the ripply stream, searching for a hint of stripes or fluttery wings. Nothing.

She said stood on the bank and said, “Is anybody there?” in a final hopeless whisper.

She was shocked to hear a great growly gravelly voice say, “Yes!”

The voice was not the voice of the tiny fairy but of something huge and alarming and something huge and alarming was rising from the ripply stream in front of her very eyes. Like a mossy green wave, the creature rose to the height of a tree and stretched its wings and yawned widely. A dragon!

Cora was the most speechless she had ever been in her life.

 “Who are you?” asked the dragon.

Cora was relieved to hear a tiny voice chirp, “She’s with me.” There was her little gentleman, stripes and wings, standing right beside her.

The fairy spoke to the dragon as if they were old friends, “I’m glad you’re awake because I want to introduce you. I met Cora yesterday. She was crying in the field because someone said unicorns did not exist.”

“People say that dragons don’t exist but here I am,” said the dragon, rather proudly for such a big old scaley beast. She observed Cora. “She’s looking rather scared today.”

“She probably thinks you eat people,” said the fairy gentleman.

Cora found her voice at last. “If you both exist and I can see you, what about unicorns?”

The dragon laughed so her scales rattled and she began to cough little puffs of fire into the blue summer sky. Cora was quite worried that something might catch fire.

“People can’t see unicorns. We hardly ever see them and we’re magical creatures.”

The fairy gentleman was thoughtful. “But this is a midsummer field and it is nearly midsummer. Couldn’t Cora get a glimpse?”

Cora was amazed. A glimpse of a unicorn!? 

The dragon shook her scaly head. “There’s probably a way of course. In magic there’s always a way… but I don’t know it. I’ll have a think. Let’s meet tomorrow.”

“OK,” said the fairy, “See you then.” He dived into the green shadows.

“I’m off to my lair to eat a few princesses,” said the dragon. She puffed another little flame, which Cora realized was her way of laughing. “Only joking. I have to get my twins from school.” The dragon disappeared into the stream and Cora was left alone.  

Chapter 4

The next morning everyone was busy. After a few jobs, Cora was free to go out. Her head was a swirl of questions. Had she really talked with a fairy in the field? Had she met a dragon lady (or was it dragoness?) by the stream? Was she going to get a glimpse of a unicorn?

The fairy gentleman appeared as soon as Cora stepped into the long grass. He flew near her ear, talking to her as she walked towards the stream.

She asked him to explain about the midsummer field.

“Midsummer fields are fields where nothing else, except living, growing things, has ever been. They are full of magic on midsummer night. Your field is a midsummer field.”

“And what about not-seeing unicorns?”

Unicorns are very secret. I think being seen hurts them somehow. Even us magical creatures cannot see them except sometimes on midsummer night. If there is moonlight, unicorns gather in midsummer fields to bathe in it. They wash themselves in it like you might wash yourself in a shower. The light sticks to them, it outlines them. Tonight is the very best time to glimpse them but we’d need to be careful that the unicorns and you would be safe.”

Safe? Cora wondered how dangerous just glimpsing could be.

When they reached the stream, the dragon rose from the water, her green scales gleaming. She gave a little puff of a hello. “I have a plan, a good one,” she said. “Follow me.”

They used her tail to cross the stream and the dragon led them towards the green hills in the distance. After an hour they reached three hills in a row. Cora hoped they did not have to climb them because she was feeling hot.

The fairy seemed to suspect what the dragon’s plan might be. “Are you sure about him?” he asked.

“He’ll have the best advice,” said the dragon, fanning herself with a branch. “And he’ll know how to help.”

“Who?” asked Cora.

“Shhhhhh,” said the dragon. “He’s stirring.”

Cora looked for a creature moving but instead the whole ground started shaking under her feet; as the grass shifted, she saw that the hills were the feet, body and head of a great green giant. He lay like a sunbathing sleeper on the ground in the sunshine.

Something opened right by where she was standing. An eye.

A giant was looking at her with an eye as big as her head.

The dragon started talking to him at once.

“Good Morning sir. We’ve come with a question. This is Cora. She has loved unicorns with her whole heart all her life. Someone has told her they don’t exist. We wondered, as it’s midsummer and she lives right beside a midsummer field, if we could give her a little glimpse of the unicorns. We know how pleased you are with anyone who believes we exist when others say we don’t.”

The giant’s head, with its hair of long grass and its eyes, bright and beady, turned to Cora. His mouth opened like a cave. “People say that giants don’t exist, but here I am,” he said, shrugging his hilly shoulders. “Cora, you need to know it hurts unicorns to be seen by humans for even a minute. If I help, you must look for a few seconds only. Do you understand? You seem quite a young human, and you’d also need to stand very still. Can you do that?”

Cora nodded vigorously.

The giant smiled. “Very well. If these two will help you, so will I.” His mouth and then his eyes closed and he merged back into the landscape, the grassy banks a camouflage for his great body which lay green and still.

“He’s doing you an honour, Cora,” said the fairy.

“I thought he would,” said the dragon, smiling quietly.

They set off home.

The three friends parted at the stream, agreeing to meet before midnight at the edge of the field.    

Chapter 5

The rest of the day passed in a whirl. Cora helped in the kitchen and the orchard. She prepared her parents’ room and ate a big supper. It was easy to pretend to be sleepy and go to bed early. At eleven o’clock she got up quietly as everyone else was asleep. She went down the twisty staircase and across the kitchen, closing the door softly behind her. It was very cold outside. The field looked lovely in the moonlight: the grass blades shining like silver, the pale flowers shining like gold. Cora stepped in. “I’m here,” she whispered and her heart gave a little lift as she saw the giant striding through the field with the dragon, the fairy perching on her shoulder.

“Now,” said the giant. “You’ll need my breath to hide you so the unicorns can’t tell a human is here. They would be afraid and disappear. Come close.” Cora came …. very close. The giant breathed. The strangest sensation. You might imagine a giant’s breath might be like something very old, perhaps a damp cave or a cellar but it was like spring, green and bright as his eye, like buds opening in the morning or the flowers that open on a summer night. Jasmine and rose. Wood sorrel and thyme. Cora felt very clean and green.

“Now we will all be still,” the giant said and lay down. The dragon lay down very close to the giant, curling her green body and tail into a small hill. “Climb on,” she said. Cora climbed into the giant’s curve and onto the dragon. Her scales felt firm and sure, like steps. Cora felt surrounded, safe.

“Hold me close enough to hear me when I whisper. I’ll tell you what to do,” said the fairy, climbing into Cora’s hands, his wings quivering against her fingers. “Close your eyes,” he said softly, “and be still.”

Cora stood perfectly still. Everything seemed to be holding its breath. She thought to herself, It’s midsummer night and I’m standing at midnight in the moonlight in the middle of a flower filled field waiting for unicorns. Real and unreal, possible and impossible.

“Hush,” breathed the giant, though no one was talking. “They’re coming.” A rushing sound like wind in leaves. Cora could feel something. Was that the skim of a warm unicorn body, the flick of a tail, the waft of a silvery mane, the tip of a pearly horn? 

“Look,” whispered the fairy. “Look,” breathed the dragon. “Look,” said the giant, his great voice soft.

And Cora looked.

They were there, as the fairy had said, the edges of their shapes washed in light, unicorns of every colour, all silvered by the moon. And they were not small or frail but huge, greater than horses, all swimming in the pearly sea of the moonlight. Cora could have reached out and touched them if she had not felt her friends and her promise holding her close.

“Enough,” said the giant. “Enough,” breathed the dragon. “Enough,” whispered the fairy.

And Cora felt it was enough and closed her eyes. 

She did not know how many minutes or hours had passed while she stood with her eyes closed, feeling aware of the fairy fluttering in her hands, the dragon under her feet and the giant beside them. At last a silence came again. Cora gave a little shiver and heard the giant say, “They have passed,” and she opened her eyes.

Climbing down from the giant and the dragon, walking towards the house through the cool dewy grass, Cora felt wonderful but also a bit sad. She felt she was walking from magic towards the everyday. She loved the everyday of her aunts and uncle and her parents and old museums and rackety cars and shopping lists but if she were to lose magic? She felt an ache like tears as the giant stood waving and smiling, while the dragon and the fairy walked to the very edge of the field with her to say goodbye.

“Is this last time I see you?” she said, “I need to know.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said the fairy gentleman. “I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow ….no …” He hesitated, squinted at the sky like someone checking the time on a watch. The sky was no longer full of moonlight but was that blue rimmed with lemon-green that means it’s almost morning. “I’ll be waiting for you later today!” he said and dived off a daisy into the green shadows.

“And I was hoping you’d meet my twins tomorrow,” said the dragon over her shoulder as she headed off to the stream.

“And I expect visits,” said the giant as he disappeared, laughing, into the green distance where the sun was beginning to rise and shine over the hills and stream and the flower-filled midsummer field.  

© JSS for Learn to Love to Read, July 2022


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