The River took human form as the wizard passed. “Wizard,” she said. “I need to ask for a favor.”
“Of course, Madam,” he said. “How may I be of service?”
“The fairies are at war and my little water sprites aren’t safe. Please take the youngest and hide them until the war is over,” the River said.
“Of course, of course,” the wizard said. The River smiled and flowed as water again. Six tiny blue children were now standing next to the wizard on the riverbank. They looked up at the wizard with wide eyes.
The wizard clapped his hands together and smiled. “I know just what to do. Everybody hold hands.”
The children held hands and the wizard muttered and waved his arms. The children vanished and a tiny apple seed dropped onto the grass where they’d been standing.
“Perfect!” The wizard said. “That will keep them safe and out of trouble.” He popped the seed into his pocket and forgot all about it. He also forgot about the hole in his pocket. The seed dropped back onto the riverbank as the wizard left.
Years passed as the wizard wandered. He sometimes disguised himself and performed puppet shows for children or spied on kings. He amused himself with this and that and mostly made things better.
One day, he passed the River once more. The River once again took human form. “Wizard,” she said. “The war is over. Please bring me back my little sprites. I hope they have behaved well for you?”
“Of course, of course,” the wizard said, suddenly remembering the apple seed. He checked his pocket and remembered the hole. How long had that been there? He couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter.
The wizard muttered and waved his arms, performing the spell to undo his enchantment and call the children to him. The apple tree beside him vanished, and thousands of copies of the small children appeared from all directions, filling the riverbank.
The children held hands in groups of six, all looking around quietly with wide eyes. The River frowned. “What has happened to my sprites?” she asked.
“I hid the sprites in an apple seed, and you know how it is, plant an apple seed, get a thousand apples. Of course, each apple has copies of that first seed,” the wizard said. He waved an arm. “Now you have lots of water sprites. Isn’t that great?”
“But what will I do?” the River asked. “This many water sprites in one place will make it rain all year long. Look, the clouds are already gathering.” They both looked up at the sky that was rapidly filling with dark, ominous clouds.
“Oh, and here I am without an umbrella,” the wizard said. “Well, I was glad to help, you’re very welcome. I’d better go.” The wizard ran away, darting around the blue children filling the riverbank.
The River spent the next month traveling, taking the water sprites to live with Rivers far from her own. Everywhere they passed through experienced unusually heavy storms. Places that had experienced long droughts rejoiced. Children splashed in puddles. Everyone else wished for the rain to finally end.
Finally, the River returned home with her original six water sprites. She was tired and hoped to never leave her own bed again. The story of what the wizard did had been spread as far as she’d traveled and farther.
For many long years, whenever the wizard approached a river, it began to rain just over him. He found it very inconvenient and rather ungrateful. After all, he’d been doing her a favor, and he had kept the sprites safe.
Of course, he had been lucky. What if a bird had eaten the little seed after he’d dropped it? The wizard refused to think about it. He continued to be annoyed every time he had to walk around with wet shoes that made squishy sounds when he walked, until he finally bought an umbrella. But that’s a different story.