Artist Statement:

There are many clever things that I could have put here. But I didn't. Instead, I chose to
give you the most colorful portrayal of the life and times of Sarah Ritter that I find myself
capable of. Please take a load off and enjoy her grand adventures.

Sarah Ritter was born on February 13, 1992 in the picturesque villas of Italy. From an early age, she exhibited impeccable talent among her family's panda menagerie circus – her specialty featuring reading classic literature with the treasured creatures. She began her collegiate English studies when her family, complete with pandas, retired from the circus and migrated to central Illinois to escape their illustrious fame in Europe. Since then, her work at
Illinois State University has reflected both her daring nature inherited from her circus life and her child-like love for the world and those creatures in it. She experiments primarily with various forms of fiction in an endless search for the best vessel to carry her unique thoughts and stories to the awaiting masses. When she isn't diving into the depths of the literary world, she spends all her possible time with her beloved fiancé and visits with numerous fuzzy four-legged loved ones, as well as with some two-legged individuals

Once Upon a Quirky Tale

Sarah Ritter


A long time ago, in a land far away, there lived a beautiful princess. Despite her beauty
and wealth, the princess was sad because she had lost her favorite pony. No one could find him
and she had looked everywhere. Then one day, out of nowhere, a prince appeared at the castle.
The princess knew then that her pony could be -


"Oh, what a load of rubbish!"


Lia snapped the book shut angrily and threw it into the grass. Blowing her brown hair out
of her eyes, she leaned forward and glared at the available scenery. The tiny village nestled into a
valley made a picturesque view for anyone unfamiliar to the area. To Lia, the handful of homes
and town hall left something to be desired, as usual. Standing, she grabbed the book from the
ground and walked to the edge of her cliff-side perch.


"I spent my last two month's wages on you," she snapped at the offending item in her
hands, "You promised me adventure and you give me a frilly insipid princess." Raising her arm,
Lia heaved it into the air, watching the book's sinking progress intently until it disappeared from
her sight. Nodding in satisfaction, she turned and began her descent back into the valley.


Fit and agile, Lia made the climb to her perch almost every day, attempting to get a
respite from her boring village life. Her brown locks bounced against her back as she jumped
lightly from rock to rock, absently using handholds as familiar to her as her own reflection in the
mirror. Brown eyes that peer out of a round face framed by brown curls. It was ironic how her
plain appearance only served to show how strange she was, surrounded by villagers with thick
black hair and rich green eyes. She had long ago stopped waiting for a fantasy ending such as her
prince to riding into the village, declaring her a long lost princess. She was a simple orphaned
village girl and if she wanted anything better, it was up to her and her alone to get it.

Reaching the bottom of the cliffs, Lia crossed through the wheat fields, trailing her hands
through the grain. She was just like it – reaching for the sun, trying to become something more
than a seed stuck in the dirt. If only Lia could find the water and light she needed to grow,
feeling the wheat disappear as she stepped out of the field.

 

"Amelia Anne Lake, I thought I told you not to go gallivanting off to heaven knows
where!"

 

She winced at the shrill voice and looked up, sighing resignedly. "Sorry, Mrs. Havershire,
it won't happen again."

 

The heavy matron bustled towards her from the nearby houses, continuing to gripe,

 

"That's what you say every time, Amelia. You should know by now that I don't believe that
sorry act."

 

Lia gazed at the matron's moving lips, letting her mind drift while pretending to listen to
the latest scolding. She had heard it all before – the usual speech about how fortunate she is that
she was found as an orphan and raised in a caring village. Right, because everyone had gone so
far out of their way to give her a cot in the barn and a basket for her two dresses, dresses she had
since converted into pants and a shirt. They couldn't really expect her to wear those like all the
other village girls when she was the only one subjected to field work with the boys. No, pants
worked out so much better, causing her to further envy the boys of the village.

 

Mrs. Havershire's scream broke through Lia's wardrobe contemplations and she
refocused on the matron's face. The woman's pudgy face was stark white, hher eyes opened wide
with fear.


"Mrs. Havershire, what's wrong?" She questioned, bewildered.


The matron's hand rose shakily, pointing at something beyond Lia. When turned to look,
Mrs. Havershire screamed again, this time spouting an actual word:

 

"Dragon!"


With that said, Mrs. Havershire bolted towards the village at a surprisingly rapid pace for
someone her size and age, leaving Lia behind without a second thought.


Knowing the wood and thatch homes didn't stand a chance against a dragon and running
was futile, Lia remained still and refused to be afraid, studying the dragon staring past her. Easily
as large as the village homes, its thick scaly hide shone a bright emerald green. Matching catlike
green eyes blinked as its head tilted to the side, seeming to reflect a sense of confusion. As she
took note of its giant paws and swishing tail, the dragon's mouth opened. Lia shut her eyes,
waiting to feel the fire breath hit her, burning her alive.

 

"Well, that was rude."

 

She opened her eyes at the words and stared at the dragon in shock, "What?"

 

The dragon's green eyes moved to focus on her and it spoke again, "I've never
understood the strange greetings you little ones have. Yelling and running away is common, but
utterly confounding."


An astonished giggle slipped past her lips and the dragon assumed a surprised and happy
expression. Sitting back on its haunches, it carefully reached its paw towards her. "Darius
Theodore Mackleby at your service, young lady, and it is ever a pleasure to see a friendly face."
Never one to scare easily and truly liking the dragon, Lia awkwardly grasped a claw and
shook his paw. "So you're not going to eat me?"


He appeared startled, his tail twitching rapidly, "Sweet merciful heavens, of course not.
Dragons do not eat people. In fact, I don't even eat meat. I'm a vegetarian, you see. Very
beneficial health-wise, I think, although not always quite as tasty of a diet. Tree bark wears on
you." He blinked a few times then lowered his head to her eye level, "Now what was your name
again, little one? Forgive me, I believe I've forgotten."


Finding his rambles delightful, Lia introduced herself with an amused smile, "Well,
Amelia Anne Lake is my name, but you can call me Lia."


His eyes twinkled, "Very well then, you may call me Ralph." At her confused expression,
he expanded upon his previous comment, "It's my favorite name I've come across in my travels.
Something about it just tickles me inside."


Smelling adventure, she settled comfortably on the ground and questioned him, "Do you
travel a lot?"

 

Ralph lay down beside her and nodded vigorously, "Oh, yes, I've been traveling for
years. In fact, I'm a collector of knowledge. Anything I read I remember, so I travel all over
searching for books. Delightful books, boring books, adventurous books, old books, new books
…" He drifted off and blinked a few times, then abruptly slapped his paws over his muzzle.
Perplexed, Lia leaned closer. "What are you doing?"


He mumbled something through his closed muzzle and her brow lowered in further
puzzlement. "I can't understand you, Ralph."


Ralph attempted communicating again and Lia got the gist of the muffled word, "You're
going to sneeze? Be my guest, just don't aim for me."


He tentatively removed his paws one at a time and then whispered to her, "But, you see, I
have a sneezing problem. When I sneeze, I tend to… tend to…" Ralph's eyes widened in alarm
and he let loose a thunderous, "ACHOO!" With his massive sneeze, fire shot out of his nostrils, 5
hitting the wheat next to them. In mere seconds, the fire began spreading rapidly through the
field.


Lia, trained for such dangers, darted to the well in the village square, speedily pulling up
a bucket full of water. Knowing there was no possibility of extinguishing the fire on her own, she
yelled for help, but no one emerged from their homes. When she made it back to the field she
expected to find an uncontrollable wildfire. She pulled up short, surprised to instead see Ralph
pouncing and stomping on the flames, now almost reduced to coals. The sight would have been
comical if not for the dire circumstances. Lia rushed to him, pouring water out onto the burning
embers near his feet. In an ingenious move, Ralph spread the wet ash around, easily smothering
more embers. She made her water run a few more times, allowing the large dragon to dampen
the whole circle of ash and coals.


By the time they finished, Lia was a sooty mess. Collapsing on the untouched grass, she
heaved a relieved sigh and commented wryly, "So when you sneeze, you shoot fire."
Ralph sat nearby, looking like a disciplined puppy. "Allergies. It sometimes makes the
handling of books precarious. I once sneezed in a city library. I tried to tell the head librarian I
could relay the contents of missing books word for word, but for some reason he kept insisting I
leave. It's not my fault. Libraries are surprisingly dusty." He glanced to the side and huffed then
his sad eyes refocused on Lia. "As I was saying, I truly am sorry."


Lia studied the damaged field, noting only a small corner had been destroyed. "Well, it
could have been worse. You saved almost all of it with your quick thinking, putting it out the
way you did."


His ears perked up at her admiring tone and he cleared his throat, obviously pleased. He
opened his muzzle to speak, but halted at the sight of the villagers peering out from behind their humble homes. Standing and bowing his head politely, he addressed them in a friendly tone,
"Greetings, people of…" He broke off and blinked once or twice until Lia whispered the town's
name, "Romilac! I don't suppose your village is the proud home to an outstanding array of
novels? That is why I stopped by really, to investigate. I smelled the undeniable musty scent of
knowledge."


When the villagers remained silent and still statues, Lia spoke up, "We do have a few
books, but they are boring old books of politics and science that the school makes use of."
Ralph danced excitedly, his large green eyes sparkling, "Oh, may I see them please? I
make a solemn vow not to sneeze again. Unless I do, in which case I will point myself away
from anything vital."


She glanced over at the villagers, picking out Mrs. Havershire standing by the members
of the town council. Waving her hands, she called for permission. "Can I show him some of our
books?"


Once again, they remained mute, their eyes wide in their pale faces. Lia shrugged and
began walking, leading Ralph to the town hall. As soon as she neared them with the dragon
trailing behind her happily, all the villagers scrambled to hide in their homes. She strode through
the small town confidently, ignoring their frantic fear. Unlike them, she dared to embrace that
which she didn't understand.


Reaching the town hall, she pulled the door open and quickly retrieved the limited
number of books the town called their own, stacking them up on the ground for Ralph. He
promptly curled up and began anxiously studying them one by one, greatly resembling a large
cat sunning.

 

"Amelia!"

 

Glancing around, Lia spied the owner of the hushed voice partly concealed by the town
hall's wall. Mrs. Havershire gestured at her wildly and she stood to make the few steps to where
the matron hid.


"You must stop consorting with that monster and come with me to take shelter."


"I don't understand why. He's perfectly safe and quite entertaining," she said, shooting a
glance over her shoulder at the dragon enthralled in his world of words.


"But Amelia, you don't even realize the danger you're in! You might as well be walking
into the werewolves' lair with a lamb!" Mrs. Havershire whispered frantically.


"Werewolves?" Ralph raised his head from the pile of books and looked over at them.


"Oh, werewolves are harmless – not frightening in the least. In fact, they resemble dogs more
than wolves. All kinds of dogs, too. Large, medium, small, brown, black, white, red, blonde,
hunting, toy, work, long-haired, short-haired…" His voice drifted off, continuing to rattle off
canine traits as he resumed peering at his books.


Lia grinned at his absent minded behavior, and then continued her exchange Mrs.
Havershire. "You see? Ralph is harmless. But we're wrong about this world because we don't
know it anymore."


The woman shook her head and her eyes darted to the floor, "I'm truly sorry, Lia, but
you'll have to leave Romilac."

 

Her heart skipped a beat, "What?"

 

"The council gave me instructions if you appeared resistant. They have declared you a
danger to the town and a victim to the vicious dragon that has invaded our precious land. You are
to leave as soon as possible and no one is to assist or harbor you."

 

Lia stood in shock, unable to believe she was being banished due to the villagers'
uneducated prejudice and fear of change. Before she could think of a response, Ralph spoke
gently from behind her.


"Then you are free to accompany me on my journeys, if you wish, little one."


"You would let me?" she asked, her voice a mixture of gratitude and wonder.


His great head moved up and down. "I have long wondered if having an assistant might
solve the problem of humans screaming and running from me. You would be doing me a great
favor if you accompanied me and I would greatly enjoy sharing my experiences, both current and
past."


Smiling in relief, she realized here in front of her was the escape she had searched for –
the promise of adventure and a life more suited to her. "How soon can we leave?"

 

Ralph stretched and shook his hide then directed his gaze to the forest surrounding the
valley, appearing to be pondering thoughtfully for a moment. "I believe I have overstayed my
welcome, as I tend to do. I propose we embark on the first step of our partnership right away. I
would wager we can find more intriguing material than what lies here. What say you?" With a
playful look aimed at Lia, he pranced off towards the woods.

 

Ignoring the stutters of Mrs. Havershire and the stares of the villagers, Lia grinned
excitedly and quickly set off after Ralph. Soon the lithe form of the young girl and the emerald
dragon vanished into the trees, eager to begin a quest long awaited.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790