Tag Archives: elf

#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #16

by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2018


Today’s fortune says:

Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.


Regina sat in the highest room atop the marble tower on the Isle of the Turquoise Clouds. In honor of the coming moment, she wore midnight blue velvet, her river of black hair swept up and held in place with clusters of diamonds. On the desk before her lay two pieces of parchment. On one, a list topped by the word Temptation. On the other, a similar list topped by the word Opportunity. She contemplated the words written beneath Temptation, inked in the blood of a rare night bird. Words of power. Words of warning. Dangerous words. As such, all the more attractive.

Beneath Opportunity lay words written in ink made of water from the Sacred Spring of Seven Rainbows mixed with the crushed petals of the Sunrise Lotus, which blossomed only on the morning of the first day of the New Year. Fortune favored the prepared mind. Regina had made her preparations with the greatest care. The decision that lay before her could alter destinies beyond the scope of her imagination, perhaps even beyond the reach of her dreams.

The first full moon of Spring hung round and bright. The night-blooming flowers raised their faces in its silvery light, loosing their fragrances upon the evening breeze. The constellations graced the heavens with their sparkling patterns. Regina read the lists again, then bent her head. A nod, a bow, a gesture of surrender to the ineffable powers of Chance and Fate.

The hourglass ran empty. The moment of decision had arrived.

At the base of the tower, the ship’s bell rang three times. Regina rose from the desk, taking one list with her. She walked to the ivory lattice gates that opened onto a shaft running the length of the tower. Summoning a turquoise cloud, Regina descended to the ground floor. She raised one hand and the heavy oaken door swung inward.

Before her stood a creature that came up to her shoulder. It wore a white shirt, blue lederhosen, black shoes with shiny buckles, and one of those ridiculous Robin Hood-style hats that failed to hide the creature’s pointed ears. On one small hand rested an oblong box wrapped in scarlet silk. On the other hand rested another oblong box wrapped in silk the blue of a perfect summer sky.

“The red,” Regina said.

“You are certain?” The creature’s high, reedy voice sounded like crickets. “The penalty is the loss of our deliveries for the remainder of your lifetime.”

“Do not presume to instruct me. The next decision I make could cause you considerable pain.”

The creature bowed. “As you wish.”

Regina took the scarlet box and unwrapped the silk. To choose Temptation was to risk everything she’d learned, everything she’d built. To choose Opportunity meant running the same risk, but the reward was tremendous.

The silk fell away, baring a box made of sturdy brown paper. She opened the end flaps. A tube of mirror-bright silver slid out onto her palm. Inside lay twenty-four discs of the finest baked confection known to any living being.

“Well chosen,” the creature said. “Few can penetrate the logic of the double-bluff.” It stepped back and made Regina another bow. “Until next year.”






Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, creativity, fairy tales, fantasy, Fiction, Food, Humor, Lillian Csernica, nature, sword and sorcery, Writing

Santa Claus Needs You!

by Lillian Csernica on December 5, 2016


The letters to Santa Claus have begun to arrive. Right after Thanksgiving, I let the local post offices know that once again I’d be ready, willing, and able to join the network of Volunteer Elves all over the U.S.  We answer the letters children write to Santa Claus. We help keep the magic of childhood bright and sparkling.

If you believed in Santa Claus when you were little, please consider lending a hand this holiday season. There are always more letters than there are volunteers available to answer them. Would you like to know how much joy a letter from Santa Claus can bring? Let me share with you some moments from the more than ten years I’ve been answering these letters.


One young lady asked for a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I called the bookstore, explained myself as a volunteer with my local post office, then told the clerk about this very specific request. Would the bookstore be interested in make a donation? The manager asked me to come on over and bring the letter with me. The result? The store donated a gift certificate for the full amount.


Another young lady appealed to Santa Claus to help her convince the kids at school who kept telling her Santa didn’t really exist. Would Santa please send her some sleigh bells so she could prove to her classmates Santa Claus is real? I found two jingle bells, one large, one small, that looked a bit weathered and put them in a padded envelope along with Santa’s reply to the young lady’s letter. A few days later, my mail carrier brought me a note addressed to “The Post Office Santa Claus” from this young lady’s parents. It said, “Thank you so much for keeping our daughter’s dream and belief alive. WE LOVE YOU!”


One year a letter came from two kindergarten age children, a brother and sister who included their school photos. It was clear to me that an adult had helped write the letter. The kids wanted Santa Claus to know that their family had just received housing assistance, so they were going to be moving. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them on Christmas Eve. The children each asked for a single toy. Would Santa please bring their mother something nice, maybe perfume?

Thanks to the help of some enthusiastic postal workers, a very generous toy store, and my long-suffering and very supportive husband, we delivered two large, brightly wrapped gifts to the children’s home while the kids and their mother were out looking at Christmas decorations. Grandma was there baking pies. I discovered she’d been the one to help the kids write their letter. They watched a TV show about the people who volunteer to answer letters written to Santa. The little boy had asked Grandma if she thought Santa Claus really would answer their letter. Grandma suggested they give it a try.

One of the happiest moments of my life will always be the way Grandma burst into tears when we brought in the gifts for her grandchildren. I apologized for not knowing what perfume might be best for their mother, since so many people have allergies. Grandma said that didn’t matter. The best gift we could have brought Mom was how happy the kids would be when Grandma told them Santa’s elves had not just answered their letter but made a special trip to bring them their presents.


Be a part of the magic. Stop by your local post office. I know more than a few mail carriers who have been the ones to answer the letters they pick up on their routes. The Post Office provides a starter kit, and there are lots of examples and suggestions online.

Happy Holidays!



Filed under charity, Christmas, classics, creativity, dreams, Family, family tradition, fantasy, home town, legend, Lillian Csernica, love, mother, parenting, Writing

L for Legend

by Lillian Csernica on April 14, 2015

Legend (1985) is one of those tragedies of film-making that leave you sitting there thinking, “This could have been so good!”

The Lord of Darkness is lonely.  Instead of settling for finding a consort, he decides to destroy the power of Light completely by killing the last two remaining unicorns and seizing their horns.  He sends his goblins out to do the deed in the magical forest.

Tom Cruise plays Jack, a young fellow who frolics about in this same forest with an elf, a fairy, and two dwarves.  Mia Sara plays Princess Lili, who meets up with Jack in the forest.  (There is no castle or royal family or Unpleasant Betrothed in this movie.  Princess Lili exists in something of a medieval vacuum.)  Jack offers to show her the unicorns.


Hands up, everybody who thinks this is probably a really bad idea.

Sure enough, the Lord of Darkness’ goblins follow Jack and Lili and succeed in shooting the unicorn stallion with a poisoned dart.  Jack gets all upset, knowing how dangerous this could be.  Lili, who is apparently a heartless airhead, laughs off his worries and throws her golden ring into the pond, saying she’ll marry whoever finds it.  She’s standing in a magical forest where goblins have just assassinated one of the only two remaining unicorns and she’s willing to marry whoever (or whatever) is the first to find her ring and return it?  When I was sitting in the theater watching this movie, this was the point where I decided Lili deserved whatever happened to her.  Here’s a hint:

From here on the plot takes some strange turns.  For a while it felt like I was watching two different movies that had been spliced together in alternating scenes.  My thinking is Ridley Scott has enough material for two or three movies here.  Putting all of it into one movie doesn’t work because some fairy tales are meant to stand alone and cannot be mixed together into one big glittery enchanted stew.


This is an elf playing a violin while standing in the snow surrounded by a cloud of soap bubbles.

The truth is, Legend is worth seeing, especially for Tim Curry playing the Lord of Darkness.  All that makeup can’t possibly interfere with or obscure his talent.  Legend won a lot of awards centered on cinematography, costuming, and special effects.  The complete version ran 125 minutes long.  Screenings indicated that taxed the attention span of audiences, so a total of 30 minutes were cut from the film prior to its official theatrical release.  What made it to theaters was a rush job, butchered and stitched back together.  Once you know this, you know why continuity goes to hell in a handbasket when Our Heroes are about to attempt the daring rescue of Princess Lili. In 2002, Ridley Scott released his director’s cut, giving the world the movie he intended to make.


Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, fairy tales, fantasy, Horror, legend

H for Hawk the Slayer

by Lillian Csernica on April 9, 2015

If I had to pick just one movie as the single worst sword & sorcery film ever made, the disjointed godawful mess that is Hawk the Slayer leaps immediately to mind.

Voltan (Jack Palance) is the bad guy, elder brother of Hawk (John Terry).  Voltan has killed not only Hawk’s wife but their father as well.  Voltan is determined to possess the “mindstone,” the sword, and rule over whatever patch of swamp these people call home.

As part of his evil scheme to force Hawk to give up the sword, Voltan kidnaps the Abbess and holds her for ransom.  A large portion of the movie is spent running in and out of this abbey, shooting the equivalent of sitting-at-the-inn scenes, and holding two battles there.  At some point Voltan’s son Drogo shows up.  He’s a chip off the old block, plotting against Voltan in what appears to be a fine family tradition.

Here’s a piece of Drogo’s dialogue, which indicates the general incoherence of the script:

“Now this must stay a secret between you and me. Not only will I bring back the head of this Hawk, but I’ll have the gold as well. Then Voltan will see who is the lord of the dance.”

The middle of the movie consists of Hawk running around gathering up his minions.  He ends up with a group straight out of bad AD&D fan fiction: an elf, a dwarf, a giant, the sorceress, and a guy named Ranulf.


Consider the cinematography.  It’s painfully obvious that of the magical disappearances of some characters are nothing more than a matter of stopping the camera, the actors leaving the frame, and starting up the camera again.  Then there’s the bargain basement trick of running the film backward, to say nothing of the “flashbacks” set at different point in Hawk’s life which were clearly all shot on the same set on the same day.

The so-called special effects are embarrassing.  There’s this movie’s magic sword, called “The Power.”  The pommel is a hand that grabs the “mindstone,” a chunk of crystal that enables Hawk to control the sword via telekinesis.  The sword is the only thing Hawk can move, because his face is locked into the same stony expression throughout the entire movie.


There’s the Glowing Hula Hoop of Doom.

My favorite, hands-down winner for the Cheesiest Special Effect of All Time, is the “magic” cast by the unnamed sorceress during the climactic battle.  She sticks her arm in through the doorway and somehow spews a steady stream of bright green Silly String at her target, covering the man’s head and shoulders.


For the grand finale, the final confrontation between good brother and bad brother, what could possibly be more appropriate than forty-five seconds of actual combat rendered in slow motion?

The ending is a lame attempt to inspire suspense and anticipation for the sequel, Hawk the Hunter.  Well gee, it’s been thirty-five years.  Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.




Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fantasy, Goals, Horror, Humor, sword and sorcery