When Fools Buy Gifts

This original short story is based on the classic short story “The Gift of the Magi.”


Bria Garrett

A beautiful, festive holiday wreath.

Mornings in the forest were always the brightest. The sun rested at such an angle that it reflected perfectly off the nearby ocean, sending rays directly back into the sky. The yellow sky left no room for shade, not even under the tallest oak. Fortunately, mother nature was kind, and the day wasn’t too hot. Just warm enough for life to be out and roaming.

A small lizard-sized water dragon scampered along the rocks of the forest, searching for any kind of water. The creature didn’t make it far, however, and only a second later, it was lifted from the safety of the soil and grass.

“Hm,” Bacchus hummed, observing the blue and white stripes of the reptile. He placed it down, reaching into his satchel, and took out a flask of water. He unscrewed it with a quick motion and carefully dumped some on the rock he laid the dragon on. The dragon perked up and gratefully rolled in the water.

Bacchus chuckled, “Isn’t that better little guy? Hot day for a dragon of your type to be out of the water.” He closed the flask and lazily tossed it back into his bag.

The fool tossing out water stood back up, his legs bent and furred like a goat but the torso of a man. A proper faun. His skin was a dusty tan adorned with freckles and beauty marks. To go along with the deep brown fur of his legs and tail, he had a fluffy head of curly hair with a sharp pair of black horns poking from each side of his head.

While most fauns wander shirtless around the woods, not Bacchus. He wore a proper cloak, a deep emerald green color that shined in the sunlight. This wasn’t by choice but rather the result of marrying a prestigious man who insisted on him dressing properly. Some of his natural charm fortunately still showed because of the beaten-up black satchel tossed loosely around his shoulder.

He was making his way back from the town, and he had a twinge of disappointment in his heart. Today was his anniversary, and he wanted to buy a gift that would really show his love, but to his dismay, work hasn’t put much gold into his pockets, and his husband chooses to indulge in expensive and classy hobbies.

Magic folk such as his lover were like that. While those without that gift were used to living in the lower class and owning things that were cheap, those with magic had holes burned into their pockets trying to buy all of the items they needed to keep up with it. Neither of the two men were very wealthy, as Bacchus’ husband, Quintus, didn’t and refused to use magic in work.

Either way, Bacchus felt an ache in his heart, knowing he wouldn’t have near enough to buy anything of value to his husband. He knew Quintus would be grateful for anything, yet Bacchus still wanted something that would really, truly matter.

Bacchus had been browsing the shop area when a certain item in the window of a shop caught his eye. An absolutely gorgeous black book with words in illuminating gold. A spellbook written by a wizard anybody, no matter status, could recognize. He knew that was what he wanted to get, yet when his eyes fell to the price tag, his stomach dropped. Four gold coins.

He’d already spent the majority of his coins on food and drinks for a nice dinner, and adding that with their regular bills, he had only one gold coin left. The rest was copper and chump change. Not nearly enough to even get close to the price of the book.

Yet still, he wanted nothing more than to buy it. He had spent a majority of the walk back trying to find ways to earn the money. Nothing came to mind.

He felt a weight on his arm, and he pulled it up to get a good view. The blue and white dragon from earlier hung on to one of the many charms of his bracelet. The blue light of the enchanted jewel glowed through the thin skin of the creature just enough to where Bacchus could tell which it was.

He carefully pulled the dragon off, not thinking much of it. Dragons have the brains of pebbles; the poor thing must’ve thought the charm was water. But as he was putting the creature down, Bacchus lit up with joy. He had an idea as foolish as the dragon in his hand. He should sell the bracelet.

It was a prized possession for sure. Six bright jewels with different enchantments placed on them, all hanging on a solid silver chain. Each gem had a silver clasp holding it to the chain. It was worth a fortune, and it was something he had owned since he was a kid and took great pride in caring for. It was his, however, and he paid no mind to anything that belonged to him. He loved it, but it was just a bracelet, and trading it for a gift for his loved one would be fulfilling enough to make giving it away not hurt any.

He galloped happily (and fastly) back the way he came, forgetting even to put the water dragon down. When he made it back to town and felt the wriggling on his palm, a bit of panic hit him. Hurriedly, he ran into a nearby store and politely requested a cup. The shopkeeper tiredly handed him one, and Bacchus quickly filled it up with water. He placed the creature in it, promising himself he’d make a stop by the ocean once he finished up his shopping.

He put a thin cover on the cup and placed it in his bag, wedged between his flask and a bottle of medicine so it wouldn’t spill. Once he knew the dragon would be fine, he hurried over to the stand of a well-known merchant only a walk away. She was a collector, the materialistic sort, and the perfect person to sell any valuables to. Oddly, she only enjoys having rare items and gives out her money charitably.

He walked to the stand and politely tapped the wood. The merchant stood up from her seat. She was an older woman, clearly thinning as she aged and rather short. She had a friendly look to her and an almost permanent smile because of wrinkles. A shopkeeper smile. It’s almost an instinct by now.

“What could I do for ya?” she asked, her high-pitched voice shrill and her accent adding a drag to the beginning and end of her sentence.

Bacchus cleared his throat. “Well, I was wondering if I could sell this ol’ bracelet to you.”
She looked up, clearly interested, and her smile grew wider. “Oh! I’m sure ya can. Give it here, boy, let me price it,” she extended her hand, open-palmed. Her hands reflected her age, boney, wrinkled, and trembling subtly. Bacchus slipped it off, wishing it one last goodbye in his head, and then dropped it into her hand.

Her eyes widened with a joy you’d only see in a hoarder’s eyes. “Are the gems real?”

“Yes,” he spoke, “And they’re enchanted too. You can test ’em if you’d like.”

She nodded and reached to the bottom shelf behind her stand. She pulled a glass bottle with an opaque blue liquid bubbling inside it. She uncorked it and, with no grace, sloshed it onto the bracelet in her hand. The bracelet began to glow, with each jewel shining even stronger than the chain.

She smiled. “Real silver, real jewels, real magic. I like that. I’ll give ya two gold for the chain and one silver per each jewel. There’s six on here, yea?”

Bacchus’ face dropped, but it was quick to transform into a grin. With that much, he’d be able to buy the book and have money leftover. He nodded happily, shaking her hand to solidify the deal. She reached the shelf directly below the top of the stand, grabbed a red felt pouch, and slipped the two gold and six silver coins into it. She pocketed the bracelet and tossed the bag to him.

“Thank you, miss! Thank you!” He said gratefully, grabbing the bag and running off.

As he ran, he heard the woman’s faint, “T’was a pleasure!”

He ran off to the store he saw the book. A quaint place, obviously owned by a wizard of high status, even the door looked prestigious and fancy. As he pushed it open, there was a faint chime from a bell he couldn’t find no matter where he looked.

The shop owner sat behind the counter, sitting straight with a book pinched open between his index and thumb. His eyes darted up with an interrogative glare, but he said nothing. Just watched quietly.
It didn’t bother him much. It was normal for folks to be cautious in this world, especially folks with magic. So he ignored the eyes on him and trotted to the back section of the store, where books lined the walls. His eyes darted around for the one, that specific book he had seen. It was the gold text that caught his attention, and he quickly scooped it up.

He walked to the wizard at the counter, who evidently stared at him the entire time. The wizard looked at the book and then at Bacchus, back and forth, judgmentally. Bacchus uncomfortably laid the book down.

The wizard squinted, “Who are you gifting this to?”

“My husband.”

The wizard’s glare dropped, his question answered, and he casually opened his book again. “Five gold.”
“I…I thought this book was four gold?” Bacchus asked.

The wizard looked up from his book. “You misread the sign. Four gold for all students and wizards. Five for everyone else.”

“You’re just assuming I’m not a wizard. How do you know?”

The wizard snapped his book closed, “Five gold.”

Bacchus reached into the felt coin bag and irritatedly placed four gold coins and two silver on the counter. He snatched the book and quickly trotted from the shop, not wanting to say another word to the rude wizard behind the counter.

Finally, out of the shop and done shopping, he tucked the book into his bag, getting a sharp reminder of the dragon in a cup. He worriedly opened the cup, finding the dragon under the water, spinning. He let out a relieved sigh, covered the cup again, and traveled to the ocean.

It was only a short distance from his home, so the trip wasn’t an inconvenience. Bacchus kneeled down by the shore. The water sloshed softly against sand and rock, pulling back sharply each time. Bacchus lifted the cover of the cup and tipped it, allowing the dragon to run out. Yet he didn’t. He sat in the cup unmoving. Even when Bacchus tilted the cup upward, the dragon only gripped it, refusing to leave.

The faun stood up and covered the cup again. If the dragon wouldn’t leave, he might as well keep it as a pet. He’s had an empty fish tank for a while either way. A small smile crossed his lips. He was hoping for this outcome.

He placed the cup back into his bag and began the short walk back to his house. He and Quintus lived deep into the woods. They chose a home far away from any neighbors but close enough to the town to where the journey back and forth wouldn’t be too much work. It was a nice area, shaded but vibrant in color and woodland life.

Their house fit the appeal. It was a cabin more than a proper house, yet it matched its environment. The dusty tan wood came directly from the trees of the surrounding area, and the light pole held a small lantern, enchanted never to go out. Quintus would say the place isn’t all that, but Bacchus could never stop being amazed at its beauty.

It had been five years since the two built this place together. Five years since the first night, they decorated the walls and moved their stuff inside.

Also, five years since they had married, to begin with. Building a house together made for an interesting honeymoon.

It was clear Quintus wasn’t home yet, which was to be expected. He knew that when he went out to shop, Quintus had left to barter with a farmer for crops. He always insisted they were better straight from the source, cheaper too.

Bacchus walked into his home, tapping the lantern inside and watching the magic inside swirl, twist, and bend into a bright light. It lit up the entirety of the living room and kitchen area, unlike most normal lanterns. Yet another enchanted one. Bacchus couldn’t help but smile. Magic, the mysterious cheat of quite a few lucky people’s lives.

He took the cup from his bag, placing it on the counter. He’d surely have to fix up that tank quite a bit before he could ever put another creature in it. He tiredly stretched and gave one glance at the hourglass on the counter before walking to the storage room to grab the tank and get to work.

After what could only have been an hour of pulling the tank apart and scrubbing down each part vigorously, the front door whisked open, and Bacchus looked up with surprise. Quintus stepped through, his wavy dark brown hair falling messily out of its ponytail. Clutched in his hand was a small decorative bag. It was nothing like the brown paper bags at the farm.

“What are you doing?” Quintus asked, staring directly at the panes of glass Bacchus was scrubbing.

Bacchus smiled, “Uh, well, I found this very pretty water dragon.”

“You kept it, didn’t you?”

“Maybe,” his smile grew. Quintus, fortunately, didn’t seem bothered or surprised by the news.
Bacchus stood up, brushing dust and dirt off of his coat. He dropped the sponge he was holding into the bucket nearby. He began to pick up his mess but stopped when he noticed Quintus staring with an expression of confusion.

“Where’s your bracelet? I swear I’ve never seen you without it,” he muttered, looking on the countertops for it as if he believed Bacchus may have taken it off to clean.

Bacchus tucked his arms behind his back, “Erm, yea, I sold it,” he smiled nervously.

Quintus stared as if he were processing the information. “Why?”

The faun needed no words to explain himself. He just reached into his bag lying on the countertop and drew the book out from inside it. He handed it carefully to the other man. Quintus took a moment to look at the book before looking up at Bacchus with an absolutely unreadable expression.

“You sold your bracelet,” he said, directed more toward himself than Bacchus.

“Well, yes, but don’t worry. It was just a silly old thing.”

“You…sold it? Actually?” He asked, once again, appearing to have had a startling realization.

Bacchus shifted uncomfortably where he stood. “Yessss?”

Quintus handed him the bag that he was holding. Bacchus stared curiously, and after Quintus motioned for him to open it, he did. Inside the back was a small, red velvet colored box. Bacchus reached in, pulled it out, and flipped it open.

It was a gem, much like the ones on his previous bracelet. It was carved in the shape of a small flame, and the color was a natural orange yellow gradient. It sparkled and glowed, and Bacchus could feel the natural heat of the thing, even through the box.

A custom-made enchanted gem. On his old bracelet, he had ones for the elements of earth, air, and water. This would’ve completed his element collection. The gem looked expensive, but Bacchus knew very well that it was pricier than it looked.

He took a deep breath, “I can get a new one someday,” he snapped the box closed. “I got you that book, though! I’m happy with that. See how nice it is?”

Quintus smiled, “Problem is that these are wand-based spells.”

“And?” Bacchus stared, “You have a wand.”

He began to laugh, cracking up at the near idiotic irony of the situation. “Bacchus, love, I sold my wand to buy you the charm!”

Bacchus stared stupidly before the knowledge finally clicked. “You’re joking, right?”

Quintus just sat there and laughed, Bacchus following not soon after. The two stood, feeling like fools and cracking up at it. They laughed for a good moment before finally calming down.

“How- how in mother nature’s name did we do this?” Bacchus sighed, still giggling.

Quintus shrugged. “Maybe next year we should sell the book and the gem for a wand and a bracelet!”

Bacchus rolled his eyes, and though he wanted to be even the slightest bit irritated at all this, all he could think of was the irony of it all. They both unknowingly had the same thought process.

He smiled at Quintus, took his hands, and said, “You have to come see this dragon!” forgetting about the endeavor in its entirety.