Deleted scenes from LOST WITH LEEKS: Queen Ash and St. Nicholas

Photo of water dungeon
The view into the dungeon in the castle that inspired the Blackfly Kingdom. The rope is attached to a round wooden disk. Prisoners had to balance on it to keep from falling into the Rhine River below. Tolls must have gotten paid pretty quickly in the past to avoid this Water Dungeon. Image: Pfalzgrafenstein castle, Kaub, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2021.


These two bonus scenes were written from Queen Ash’s point of view while I was working out the story for LOST WITH LEEKS. Enjoy!


In the Blackfly Kingdom, Queen Ash spread a huge black net over her castle, from one side of the Rhine River to the other. Confused bats veered off at the last moment and flew around the poles at the ends.

Unfortunately, Rudolph the reindeer didn’t have radar. His feet got tangled in the net. St. Nicholas set the sleigh down on the roof of the Blackfly Castle.

“Gotcha!” Queen Ash came out on the parapet. “You’ve been flying through here every year with goods and you’ve never paid customs. Here’s your bill!” She handed him a fat scroll tied with a black velvet ribbon and ordered her Blackfly archers to pull the net closed around the sleigh.

“I’ll keep your sleigh and reindeer for your deposit until you pay in full,” Queen Ash said as she held open the door for St. Nick.

“My reindeer need a warm, dry place to stay,” St. Nicholas said, unhitching them from the sleigh. The reindeer stamped on the roof tiles and broke off pieces.

“Stop that!” Queen Ash said. “They can stay in the courtyard as long as they don’t make a mess. Archers! Spread the net over the courtyard once they’re in.”

The reindeer flew down into the heart of the Blackfly Castle and St. Nicholas followed Queen Ash down the stairs.

“Been busy? Haven’t seen any of your boots out by the front door in years,” St. Nicholas said.

Queen Ash sniffed. “You’d only put coal in them if I put them out.”

“Still have a lot of gingerbread left, then?”

“You heard about the Christmas market?” Queen Ash glowered at him.*

“It is my business,” he said. “I was glad to see your booth there. That’s the whole reason I flew by. Thought there might have been some empty boots waiting for me.”

“Hah!” Queen Ash opened the door that led down to the water dungeon. “This is the only thing that’s waiting for you.”

“And here I thought the Christmas spirit had found you at last.” St. Nicholas offered her a candy cane with black stripes. “I had these made just for you.”

Eagerly Queen Ash unwrapped it and licked the curve at the top. “Oh! I love black licorice!” But then she caught herself. “You’re trying to soften me up, but you’re not leaving until you’ve paid all your back customs. That comes to . . .” She took out a black accounts book and ran her finger down the list. “15,000 gold coins.”

“Ho, ho!” St. Nicholas said. “You’ll have me here as a guest for quite some time if that’s what you’re waiting for. I hope you’ve ordered enough hay for the reindeer.” He went peaceably down the stairs as if he knew he wouldn’t be there long.

Note: When you sign up for my Readers List, you’ll get a free copy of TROUBLE AT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR (and find out about Queen Ash’s disaster!).

Blackfly Kingdom Hospitality

“Oh, St. Niiicholasss!” Queen Ash yodeled into the echo-y dungeon, a few days later. “I have a surprise for you!” Stopping at the edge of the well, she batted her eyelashes at St. Nicholas.

He leaned back against the wet stone wall and tilted his head back, adjusting his spectacles. “Have you now?”

Why wasn’t he beaming with gratitude? Queen Ash frowned.
“You could look happier!”

“What is it then?” St. Nicholas asked.

Queen Ash snapped her fingers and two Blackfly archers stepped forward and saluted. “Bring the prisoner up!” The archers heaved on the winch and brought up the swing.

“Oh, you’re letting me go?” St. Nicholas face brightened. “That’s a nice surprise.”

“You’ll see,” Queen Ash said.

“Or letting me visit my reindeer?” St. Nicholas said, clearly trying to lower his expectations.

As if a queen couldn’t give good presents. Queen Ash huffed.

“Keep quiet, old man,” one Blackfly archer said, but the other looked uncomfortable. “I have two little kids at home.”

Queen Ash looked him over. She might have to change out the guards to tighten security.

She led them past the courtyard. The reindeer stampeded over to the side as soon as they saw St. Nicholas. He patted their heads and talked to each one.

It was as if he didn’t care what her surprise was! She’d worked so hard on it. First she’d sent plasterers, then painters, and then carpenters. Exhausting. “If you’re finished with your pets, we can get on with the show here.”

St. Nicholas followed her meekly up the curved stairs to the next level. They passed the big bread oven.

“Is King Schwartz gone?” St. Nicholas asked and Queen Ash gave him a quelling look.

“King Schwartz would never leave ME,” Queen Ash smiled a secret smile and fluttered her eyelashes.

“The fire in the oven is out.” St. Nicholas pointed. “I thought maybe the king was traveling.”

“He’s in Paris at the patisserie conference,” Queen Ash said. “He likes messing around with flour. When he comes back, he’s going to make me a giant cream puff, glazed with chocolate as black as night.”

One of the Blackfly archers snorted. The same one that had mentioned little ones before. Queen Ash made a mental note to cut his pay. She pointed to the Rhine river, far below them now. “If you need a refreshing bath, you can leap from here. Or you can take a lap around the castle.” Queen Ash tapped her foot, meaningfully. “Your choice.”

The archer saluted and rattled down the stairs to go to his self-administered punishment. St. Nicholas wiped his brow on his sleeve.

“Here we are,” Queen Ash said, when they reached the top level. The remaining archer sprang to open the door and stood back at attention.
“I’ve had this room done up just for you. It’s 800 Euro a night. That almost covers the reindeer feed.”

St. Nicholas stepped into the tiny room. It should have had a wonderful view of the Rhine in all directions, but the windows had been plastered over. There was a strong smell of fresh whitewash.

But there was a clean bed, made up with a black velvet comforter, and a black porcelain pitcher of water with a bowl for washing. Compared to balancing on the dungeon float, it was an elegant room.

“Very nice,” St. Nicholas said.

“It’s the best AirCastle room I have,” Queen Ash looked modestly at the floor. No one would be able to say she wasn’t treating St. Nicholas with every possible consideration.

If they did, she’d show them the plasterers’ bill. This kind of improvement wasn’t cheap. It was a shame about the windows, but if she hadn’t plastered them shut, those flying reindeer would have found a way to carry him off, even without the sleigh.

St. Nicholas sneezed. “Paint,” he said.

That was a rude thing to say about her nice surprise.
“Until the fumes die down, it’s better not to have a fire in here,” she told him, quite kindly. After all that time in the dungeon, he should be used to the cold. Wasn’t he from a cold climate anyway? That’s why he had all these silly reindeer. “Well, enjoy!” She looked around the room one more time.

St. Nicholas lay down heavily on the bed. No manners at all. Had he forgotten there was a queen in the room? She raised her eyebrows at the archer, who prodded St. Nicholas in the stomach with the end of his bow.

St. Nicholas’s eyes opened and, seeing the archer, he got to his feet. “Sorry, ma’am.” His eyes fell shut. “I haven’t seen a bed in a while. It’s a lovely surprise. Thank you very much.”

Queen Ash fluttered her eyelashes and hoped he would fill up her boots this year. He owed her for the last few decades. She needed them filled up with gold coins, so she could pay her debt to Cochem. After he’d paid for his room, she’d have a little nest egg so that next time King Schwartz went to Paris, she could go too.

“Oh, one more thing,” Queen Ash said. “There’s a calendar for you on the wall, so you can keep track of the time. If you’re going to make your rounds for St. Nicholas’s Day.”

St. Nicholas looked at the calendar and then at Queen Ash. “It is hard to see the sun from in here. How thoughtful.”

Her surprise was working. St. Nicholas would ask to send a letter to his bank as soon as he’d had a night’s sleep. The queen was sure of it.

It was the only sensible thing to do. She wished he’d hurry up and do it.

She locked him in.

To find out how Prince Nero (Queen Ash’s son) rescues St. Nicholas, read LOST WITH LEEKS. As you can imagine, it’s quite the story!

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Lost in a Campground

Stone castle walls with skinny steep wooden staircase (half-covered with wooden roof)
This rambling castle with ruins and tunnels is the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom. A tunnel is an easy place to lose your sense of direction. Burg Rheinfels, (literally “Fortress Rhine Cliff”) in the central Rhine valley. © Laurel Decher, 2019, St. Goar, Germany.
Do you have a good sense of direction? How about the rest of your friends and family?

The second Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, LOST WITH LEEKS, is all about getting–you guessed it–lost. Prince Nero has a magically magnetic personality. He’s charming, but he wrecks compasses and maps.

I don’t know about charming, but I’m an expert at getting lost. One of the worst times as a child was in a huge campground.

I found the shower building. No problem.

But when I came out again, nothing looked familiar.
Hundreds of tents and campers stretched out in all directions. The sunset showed me West, but that didn’t help me. I didn’t know where I’d come from.

I also didn’t speak any French. By filling my hands with water from the wash room sink, I tried to mime that our tent was near the lake. *blushes* Needless to say, that didn’t work.

The colors of the tents all faded with the light. Finally, I walked out from each side of the building. In straight lines, so I couldn’t get MORE lost.

Eventually, I tripped over our tent lines and recognized where I was.
The arctic explorer returns to base camp. I could have died out there!
*cue Star Wars theme*

My family was unfazed. *Okay, it was July.*

How about you and yours? Do you have a story about getting lost? What helped you get “found” again? What are your favorite tips to keep your kids from “staying lost”?

P.S. Today is the last day for the free Seven Kingdoms short story TROUBLE AT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR. You might get lucky if the price hasn’t changed everywhere yet.

If you missed it, you can sign up for my Reader’s List and get the first five chapters of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS free. (That’s the first Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, about the magic of speaking up.)

Each Tale stands alone, so they can be read in any order.

tablet phone ebook hardcover images of LOST WITH LEEKS

If you get lost as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures in LOST WITH LEEKS

Click here for more about the book.

Happy Day-Before-St. Nicholas-Day!

Small bread baked in the shape of gingerbread men in a bakery window
These “Bread Guys” are in a Luxembourg bakery. ©Laurel Decher, 2019.

Would your family like to celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day this year? At our house, it’s always been a nice start to a busy month.

Making Stutenkerle or “Bread Guys” is a fun, easy, and reasonably healthy after-school activity on December 5th.

Afterwards, the kids can do what German kids are doing: clean their boots and put them out for St. Nicholas.

On December 6th, our kids’ boots were full of things to get their own presents organized.

  • Gift bows or
  • tags,
  • ribbon,
  • a roll of wrapping paper.
  • And a chocolate St. Nicholas.

And the Bread Guys!

Bread Guys make breakfast the next morning VERY cheerful.

In the Rhineland where I live, you can buy Weckmänner in the bakeries.The word sounds like “Men who wake you up.” I’m still waiting for someone to explain that to me. . .  🙂

What, no German bakeries?

The easy way to do this:

  • refrigerator biscuit dough from the grocery store* and
  • raisins,
  • sprinkles,
  • almonds,
  • red hots,
  • or whatever you have for decoration.

*Fun fact:Knack und Back” is the German name for those refrigerator rolls that you smack (“Knack”) on the counter and they pop open. “Back” means to bake.

Stuck for ideas for those shiny clean boots? How about a copy of. . . . [you saw that one coming, didn’t you? 🙂]

Boy holding leeks in a hot air balloon with dragon and fairy godfather overhead, sleigh chained to the hot air balloon basket


A Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, Book 2

Argh! Crown Prince Nero is lost again. That’s what he gets for trying to fly a hot air balloon. Thanks to his fairy godfather’s gift, every map and compass goes kerflooey as soon as Nero touches it.

Even worse, his royal mom has just kidnapped St. Nicholas.

If Nero can’t find his true North in a hurry, he’ll never rescue him before St. Nicholas’s Day!

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Lucy Goosey


Happy St. Nicholas’s Day!!!

There’s more to explore!

The second book in the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale series is all about exploring–with a prince who has no sense of direction!

A map of the Seven Kingdoms from the Proclamation. The kingdoms in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys are: Cochem, Marigold, Indigo, Magenta, Saffron, Rose, and, of course, Blackfly! ©Laurel Decher, 2019

Just for fun, here are the real castles that inspired the Blackfly and the Saffron Kingdoms. LOST WITH LEEKS stars the Blackfly Prince Nero and the Saffron royal twins: Prince Magellan and Princess Saffy!

Nero’s a trouble-magnet–for compasses, maps and magical creatures. Worse, his royal mom has kidnapped St. Nicholas. Nero’s got to map out a rescue right away!