Friday, June 23, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part Two

Jac was distracted, and had been for the last two days.  It was making Fin nervous.  The previous day the two of them had flown to Nighttree Pond to collect Lorelei’s sample.  Jac had barely spoken all day, except to repeatedly tell Fin the “proper” and “respectful” way to gather the required water samples.  Fin had grown quite tired of hearing, “Lady Lorelei said…”.  But other than Jac being a little bossy in the way they retrieved the water samples, he’d almost ignored Fin, making the younger fairy wonder if he’d done something wrong. 
This day they were flying to Rock Falls to get the required sample for Lorelei.  It was a long distance away, and the two of them rested every hour or so to give their wings a break.  It was during one of these breaks that Fin finally had enough of the strange silence exuding from Jacoby and spoke up. 
“What’s wrong, Jac?  Are you mad at me?”
“Huh?” Jac looked his way, his expression confused.  “Why would I be mad at you?”
“I don’t know.  That’s why I’m asking.  You’re barely talking to me,” Fin complained.
“I’ve just got things on my mind, Fin.”
“What things?  Are you worried about collecting the water?  Is getting it keeping you from doing your nature duties?  Oh!  Is it about your meeting with the Bond Guard?!  How did that go?  You didn’t tell me!”
Jac tossed him a mild glare.  “I don’t tell you everything, Fin Earthenly.  We’re not best friends or anything.”
Fin’s wings drooped dejectedly, matching the now crestfallen expression on his face.  “I know, but I thought we were casual friends…kind of.  I mean, you helped me with the rainbow water and you’re getting the samples with me.  I just thought….”  He gave a forlorn shrug.  “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Jac sighed, his glare quickly disappearing.  “I’m sorry, Fin.  We are friends, and you didn’t do anything wrong,” he consoled.  “But my meeting with the Bond Guard is a private matter.”
“Why?  Didn’t it go well?  Did the Guard not know who your mate was?  Oh!  Did she say there is no mate?  I’m sorry if she did.  That would be hard to hear.  Did she….”
“Fin!” Jac interrupted firmly.  “Please, no more questions. I told you it was private.”
“But why is it such a big secret?  No one ever told me we had to keep what the Bond Guard says secret.  Is that something new?   I just thought….”
“That if you keep pesting me I’ll tell you?  Well, I won’t.  I need to think on some things she said.  That’s all.”
“Maybe I can help,” Fin said sincerely.
Jac’s pale green wings fluttered, lifting his feet off the ground.  “You can help by getting the water samples with me and quitting with the questions.  Come on, we’re almost to Rock Falls as it is.”
Jac took off, making Fin have to fly hard to catch up with him.  He really wanted to know what it was that the Bond Guard had said that Jac needed to think on, but he didn’t want to be a complete nuisance with his curiosity either.  It was just so hard to not press to know more. 
A few minutes later they were nearly to the falls, but an unexpected sight caused Jac to land on a sunflower before continuing on. 
“What’s going on?  Why’d you stop?” Fin asked as he landed next to the older boy.
“Hush,” Jac ordered.  “Look there.”
Fin looked where Jac pointed and then noticed what was causing their delay.  A strange contraption had been set up in the woods.  It looked like a flimsy little house, and inside it shadows were moving.
“What’s that, Jac?” Fin asked nervously.  “Something alive is inside!  Is it evil?”
Jac put a warm hand on Fin’s shoulder.  “I don’t think so.  I think those are humans inside it.”
“Humans?!  What are they doing in our woods?”
“They show up from time to time.  You know that, Fin.”
“Yeah, but I’ve never actually seen them here before.  What are they doing?”
“I don’t know,” Jac whispered his reply.
Both fairies watched for a couple minutes.  In the quiet, they could hear muffled voices of the people within the odd-looking house, but not the exact words.  Eventually Fin’s nerves morphed into curiosity that couldn’t be ignored.  Quietly his wings fluttered and he darted toward the enclosure, with Jac exasperatedly calling for him to, “Get back here!”. 
Fin ignored him; instead, he flew near the strange enclosure that was tied down with ropes and hid under a fallen leaf.  In moments Jac was at his side, hissing at him that they shouldn’t be so close.
“I want to see,” Fin insisted.  “They won’t notice me.”
“They will if you don’t control yourself and start shimmering!” Jac reminded him. 
Fairies, when they got overly excited or didn’t pay attention to their bodies, could sometimes produce a shimmering glow in their wings.  Often the untrained eye mistook the glow for a firefly, but a fairy could never be too careful.  Concealment was an important part of their continuing existence.
“I’ll be careful,” Fin contended, not letting on that until Jac had reminded him, he hadn’t noticed the subtle warmth in his wings that preceded the appearance of the shimmer.  He forced himself to be calm and then slowly began inching toward the shelter and the humans inside it.
“This is a bad idea!” Jac insisted, but he moved quietly with Fin, his own fairy curiosity pushing him along. 
They got right to the edge of the strange little house, and were now able to hear the voices inside clearly. 
“They’re arguing,” Fin whispered after a minute.
Jac nodded his agreement, but continued to listen silently to the voices of two human males inside the shelter.  Whatever had started the argument, one of the males was clearly mad while the other was upset and apologetic.
“I’m sorry, Matt,” the upset voice said in contrition.  “I just forgot them.”
“I’m not angry that you forgot them, Ricky.  I’m angry that you lied about it and hid it.  I shouldn’t have taken you out camping if I couldn’t trust you to pack what we need and be honest when you forget something.  I could have stopped at a half a dozen places to pick up matches on the way here, but you didn’t tell me about them until we had the tent set up and everything!”
“I’m sorry,” Ricky apologized again.  “Will we have to go home now?”
The voice belonging to Matt got grumbly, and Fin’s nosiness drove him to get even closer.  He slipped through a tiny gap in the shelter, putting him inside with the humans, but still out of sight as he hid behind a bag laying haphazardly in the corner.  In moments Jac was with him, silently trying to urge him back out, but also curiously observing the two humans they could now see.
Fin guessed the males were roughly the same age as Jacoby—maybe a couple years older.  One of them had his arms crossed while the other sat morosely across from him.  The one with crossed arms turned out to be “Matt”.  Fin recognized his voice when he spoke.
“No, we don’t have to go home,” Matt stated.  “But our leisure time is getting cut into.  We’ll have to take everything down, hike back to the truck, and go back to the last convenience store we passed.  We’ll have to get a supply of matches there, and then come back and set everything back up again.”
“We don’t have to take everything down,” Ricky insisted.  “One of us can stay here and one of us can go back to the store.”
“I’m not leaving you here alone,” Matt replied.  “It’s not safe to be alone and isolated for either of us, and I don’t trust just leaving our stuff out and set up while we’re gone.  We could come back and find everything stolen.”
Ricky looked defeated.  “I’m sorry I ruined the weekend, Matty.”
Matt shook his head and ended up pulling Ricky into a hug, his voice getting lower and gentler.  “You didn’t ruin it, little buddy.  Were just going to take a detour from our original plans.”  He kissed Ricky’s brow, and then his lips dropped lower and brushed across Ricky’s mouth.  “You always keep life interesting, brat.”
After another peck on the mouth, Matt turned Ricky towards the shelter’s zippered door and popped his hand against the young man’s bottom. 
“Matty!” Ricky complained, his hand immediately covering the smacked area.
“Don’t ‘Matty’ me.  I could smack those jeans a few more times if necessary, or we can just start packing things up and get a move on.  Your choice.”
“I’m packing!  I’m packing!” Ricky insisted.
“Good call,” Matt chuckled. 
The two humans disappeared outside the shelter, and Fin and Jac waited until they were sure no one was paying attention before silently slipping away and giving the humans back their privacy.
They flew into the branches of a tree, one close enough that they could still observe the two young men below them.
“I’ve never seen real humans before, especially so close,” Fin commented as he watched Matt and Ricky collapse the strange shelter they’d been in and start to roll it up.
“I’ve seen them before, but mostly from a distance,” Jac replied.  “I’ve never been this close either.  They’re bigger than I thought.”
Fin nodded.  “Do you think those two are mates?”
“Maybe, but it’s hard to tell since they were fighting.”
“Just at first.  Matt was nicer to Ricky later.”  Fin sighed.  “I wish we could talk to them.  I’d ask if they were mates.”
“Don’t you dare!” Jac ordered firmly, his voice both determined and a little anxious at the direction of Fin’s thoughts.  “It’s dangerous!  Humans cannot be trusted by those of us with magic in our world.  They abuse it!”
“I’m not stupid, Jac!” Fin defended himself.  “I know humans don’t understand magical creatures.  I was taught the same stories about captured mermaids and killed unicorns as you were in school.  But I can still wish humans could be trusted enough to talk to.  I’m curious to know more.”
“Curiosity killed the foolish fairy,” Jac quoted from a familiar fairy proverb.
Fin rolled his eyes.  “I’m not a foolish fairy.”
“Maybe not,” Jac conceded, and then gave Fin a little push.  “But you’re still a runt, and you can’t catch me!”
The older boy’s wings fluttered as fast as a hummingbird’s, and he took off toward the nearby Rock Falls.
Fin shouted out a “Not fair!” before darting after him, the two human males already forgotten. 

The Sunshine Tide pools were a beautiful part of the fairy woods.  Just as their name described, the pools were a dozen or so small water areas separated by rocks and sand, and their shallow depths were warmed by the sun and filled with small aquatic life. 
The two young fairies had flown there the day after visiting Rock Falls and seeing the human males.  They gathered their samples as Lorelei had instructed, but then took the time to enjoy the pools themselves.  They swam and explored the small, underwater worlds, and then floated on their backs in relaxation. 
“I could live here,” Fin said happily.
“Mm,” Jacoby murmured in response.  He was tranquil, his eyes closed, as he floated on his back, his wings underneath him creating a type of water hammock. 
Both fairies were quiet for several minutes, but quiet was not something that lasted long with Fin.  He swam over to wear Jac was floating and tapped the older boy’s shoulder.  Jac sleepily opened one eye.
“Are you done thinking about the Bond Guard yet?  Can you tell me what she said?”
Jac’s mouth turned down as he closed his eye.  “It’s private.  I told you that before.”
“But why?” Fin whined.
Jac grumbled and moved from his floating position to tread water next to the younger boy.  “You’re always such a pest, Fin.  Some things just aren’t your business.”
“I’d tell you if I’d gone!” Fin wheedled.
“And that would be your choice.  Mine is that I want what the Bond Guard told me to be private.  I’ll share what she said when I feel it’s right.”
Fin crossed his arms in the water.  “Keeping secrets is mean, Jacoby.”
“No…some secrets are mean, but some aren’t.  Some things aren’t meant to be shared, and I wouldn’t trust you with a secret, runt.  You’re too excited to be in everyone’s business, especially mine apparently.”
“Well, just see if I tell you anything when it’s my turn to go to the Bond Guard.  I won’t ever tell you who my match is,” Fin said petulantly.
One side of Jac’s mouth tipped up and his head tilted in humor.  “I’m pretty sure I’ll know the second you leave the Bond Guard’s house…me and everyone else in wing distance.”
Feeling insulted, Fin swam to the edge of the tide pool and climbed out.  “I’ll never tell,” he insisted.  “And I’m going home.”
The sound of wings fluttering was behind him for a moment before the presence of the older fairy appeared at his side.  A damp hand gently squeezed Fin’s neck, and then moved up to ruffle his short purple locks.  “I didn’t mean any insult to you, but you have to admit that secrets aren’t your strong suit.  Right now I need to keep what the Bond Guard told me to myself.  It’s important, and it’s trying my patience just as it’s trying yours.  I’ll tell you someday.  I promise.  Ok?”
Fin looked up into Jac’s green eyes.  “You really promise?”
Jac’s face lit up in a boyish grin.  “I really promise.  Now let’s get these samples back before Lorelei thinks we’ve run away with them.”
Fin nodded, his natural buoyancy returning.  “Race you home?”
“You’ll never win, runt,” Jac declared, and then laughed as he grabbed a bag of the samples and took off into the air.
“Cheater!” Fin yelled, and took off after him with the rest of the samples secured in his arms.

A few days later, Fin was rather grudgingly fulfilling the chore of organizing Lady Lorelei’s water cellar.  The task had been interesting initially.  Lorelei had more kinds of water than he’d ever seen in his life.  Besides the waters found throughout their fairy wood, she had pristine bottles of rare waters from around the world: glacier water from Alaska, murky water from the Caribbean salt flats, red-tinted water from the Egyptian Nile, and even an exceptionally rare bottle of earth-core water—water so close to the center of the earth that it never cooled.  Fin had to make sure he wore special gloves whenever he touched that bottle, or any of the frigid glacier waters. 
“Can you even drink earth-core water?” he’d asked Lorelei when she’d given him a tour of the cellar.
“Oh yes, but never by itself.  It must be carefully mixed, first two fingers of glacier water—preferably that from the arctic region—then a choice of any special water you prefer, and then just a drop of earth-core water to give it kick and fizzle.  Done right, an earth-core mix is divine.”
“Wow,” Fin murmured in awe.
“Yes, well, don’t be getting any ideas little mole-boy,” she warned.  “You’re here to organize my cellar, not drink its contents.  Can I trust you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he assured, although he couldn’t deny there was a strong temptation to indulge, as well as to comment that he didn’t really care for the nickname “mole-boy”.
He’d manage to deny his desires to taste as he worked the day away.  Per Lorelei’s instructions, he separated the bottles as she directed, alphabetized, washed, and even put new labels on some of them.  His arms were tired and aching from all the lifting and moving, and his wings were dust-covered.  The one good thing was that the underground cellar with its moss-covered walls was cool and conducive to working such a heavy job. 
He finally finished in the late afternoon, and helped Lorelei down the stairs to check his work. 
“Good.  Quite good,” she said in satisfaction.  “I believe I had the right fairy for the job,” she praised.
Fin preened a little, appreciating the approval since he knew he’d worked hard. 
“Come upstairs now,” Lorelei directed, but then changed her mind.  “Actually, go outside through the basement door first and flutter that dust off yourself.  Afterward you can come in and use the shower, and I’ll have some food made up for you.  I suppose it’s only right to feed you for your effort.”
She almost made it sound like a chore to feed him, but he guessed the tone was more for show than any true derision.  Lorelei was definitely bossy and a bit prickly, but Fin had figured out that she wasn’t mean or nasty.  He went outside to shake his wings off, and then made quick use of the shower to clean away the day’s labors.
When he joined her a few minutes later, his tummy rumbled at the sight of rice toast with berry jam and fresh basil and honeycomb salad. 
“Sit,” Lorelei ordered as soon as she saw him.  “Dig in.  It’s not right for the hostess to eat before her guest, so the sooner you take a bite, the sooner I can sate my hunger too.”
“Yes, ma’am.  Thank you, ma’am,” Fin said eagerly.  He immediately sat down and filled his plate with the sweet toast and fresh salad.  “It’s so good!” he said sincerely around his first mouthful of food.
“Of course it is.  A good host only gives her guests the best.  Need a drink?”
Fin nodded.  “Yes, please.”
He was startled a moment later when his glass began filling up with a colorful beverage.  First red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and purple.  He turned wide eyes up to the elder fairy.  “Rainbow water?” he squeaked.
“Of course.  I serve my guests the best,” she repeated, but her bright blue eyes sparkled at him.  “Good work deserves recognition and reward,” she explained.  “Eat and drink little mole-boy.  There’s plenty.”
It was a surprisingly enjoyable meal for Fin.  Lorelei told him how she had obtained her                                                                                                     water collection, and he learned that she had been quite an adventurous Water Watcher when she was a young fairy. 
“We are born to do what we love.  We fairies are lucky like that.  You enjoy your Earth Reader duties, do you not?” she asked.
Fin nodded.  “Very much.  I love making the soil rich and pure.  Did you know the darker the soil, the better it is to grow vegetables, but fair-colored soil is better for green flora?  I also try to make the best ground I can for the animals in the area, like good mud for the beavers to build with, or the right grains of sand for the beach-dwelling creatures.”
Fin spoke with passion and joy, clearly loving his fairy job.  Lorelei nodded approvingly.  “Good for you.  It is good that you think beyond just the soil.  All life works together.  The soil to grow food and beauty.  The plants to provide sustenance and homes.  The water to quench thirst and irrigate the world.  And the magic of fairies, sprites, mer-folk, and others to add mystery to the universe.”
Fin agreed wholeheartedly, and by the time the food was gone and he was saying good-bye to Lorelei, he wondered if he had made a bit of a friend in the older lady.  Tired, but content with the day, Fin’s wings buzzed as he flew through the trees, debating whether to go home or possibly stop by Jacoby’s house and tell him about his time with Lorelei.
As he was flying, he saw some of his other friends and one of them, Coty, called out to him.  He quickly turned in their direction and joined the group of them that were hanging around a honeysuckle bush and enjoying its nectar.
“Hi, everyone,” he greeted.  “What’s flapping?”
“Nothing much,” Coty answered.  “Where have you been this week?  I’ve hardly seen you.  Even Nak says you’ve been elusive the last few days.”
Nak was an Earth Reader, like Fin, and the two of them often worked together. 
“I had to fulfill some tasks for Lady Lorelei, but I’m done with them now.”
“Great, then you can play with us!” Coty invited.
Fin grinned and got some nectar for himself.  “Sounds great.  What did you have planned?”
“We all wanted to go swinging,” Coty answered.
“Yeah,” Nymia, one of the fairy girls agreed.  “Coty and Mio found some newly-grown vines today, so we’re all going to try them out!”
“Awesome!” Fin said gleefully.  “He loved to swing.  “Hey, let’s stop by Jac’s place and see if he wants to go too.”
“Oh, haven’t you heard?” Mio asked.  “Jac’s gone.”
“Gone?  What are you talking about?”
“I went to see him yesterday morning.  We sometimes nurture the bigger trees together, and he told me he was leaving.”
“Where was he going?  When will he be back?” Fin questioned.
“I don’t know.”  Mio shrugged.  “He said there was another Nature Nurturer who asked for his help in healing a section of land that had suffered a fire.  He was leaving right away.”
“Hey, do you think the nurturer he’s helping is his mate?” Nymia asked.  “I heard he went to the Bond Guard this week.”
“Wow, that would be really cool if it was!” Coty piped in.  “Maybe that’s why he left so quickly.  I can’t wait till the Bond Guard lets me know if I have a mate.”
All the other fairies started talking about mates and who theirs might be, but Fin was unusually quiet.  He wanted Jac to be happy and to have a mate so he wouldn’t be lonely, but he was sad the older boy was gone.
        On the heels of his sadness, a bit of anger bubbled inside him.  Jac had promised to tell him about his meeting with the Bond Guard, but now he was gone!  Fin didn’t like that one bit!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part One

To those interested, I will be posting WIP (work-in-progress) stories and chapters as I can this summer.  I will warn readers that I cannot guarantee quick updates or completion of these WIPs anytime soon.  However, I hope you enjoy reading, and I'd love to hear your comments.  Positive feedback definitely helps my muse :)  Thanks, readers :)

Fairy Tales - Part One

“Fin Earthenly, just wait till I get my hands on you!  Your wings will be grounded for a month’s moon cycle!”
Young Fin’s wings shuddered at the threat, despite the fact that he was an Earth Reader.  However, just because he communed with and cultivated the planet’s earth-force didn’t mean that he didn’t find thrill and fulfilment in stretching his wings and flying to the treetops and above.  Being grounded would suck.  He couldn’t let his mother find him until she calmed down.
His eyes darted around and spotted a soft pink rose, its petals starting to close for the night, and he flew as silently as possible to the flower, hiding himself in the fragrant petals just as they shut completely.
He breathed a sigh of relief, only to gasp and whirl around as a chuckle sounded behind him.  His eyes landed on a familiar face, Jacoby Floraman—occasional friend and occasional bane of Fin’s existence. 
“Oh flutterby.”  He murmured the common fairy swear.
Jac clucked his tongue both in chiding and amusement.  “Your fairy butt in trouble again, Fin?”
Fin crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes in an attempt to look menacing to the older and bigger boy.  Jacoby had a knack for rubbing him the wrong way.  “I don’t see how my fairy butt is your concern, Jacoby.”
Jac’s mouth tipped upward with growing amusement instead of being cowed by Fin’s posturing. 
“You’re in one of my flowers, runt.  I’d say my concern became valid the moment you joined me.”
Fin huffed, having forgotten Jacoby was a Nature Nurturer and had a vested interest in all growing things.  “I didn’t know you were here.”
“And if you did, you wouldn’t have flown in?”
“No,” Fin adamantly declared.
“I see.  So, letting your mother find you and ground your wings would be the preferable option?”
Fin scowled, embarrassed that the other boy had heard his mother’s threat.  “I hate you.”
Jac merely chuckled and shook his head.  “What did you do this time, kid?”
Fin crossed his ankles and gracefully sat down, resting his back against the rose’s soft petals.  “It’s no big deal.  Mama will calm down by morning light.”
“If it’s no big deal, why are you so determined not to tell me?” Jac questioned.
Fin felt his cheeks heat up, but tried to bluff away the blush.  “I’m not.  I just don’t see any cause for Mama’s ire.  Besides, you knowing my activities hasn’t always worked to my advantage.”
“Oh please.”  Jac rolled his eyes.  “If you’re talking about what happened when I turned seven, it’s time to get over it.”
Fin harrumphed.  “I was five-years-old and your tattling kept me from having any sweet foods for two days!  That’s hard for a kid to get over.”
“Newsflash, Fin.  You’re not five anymore, and you were at fault.  You blew out the candles on my birthday cake!”
“I know!  I couldn’t help it!  They were…mesmerizing.”
“Yeah, well, I was seven and upset that I wouldn’t be able to make a birthday wish for another whole year.  You know birthday wishes are special…just as special as the wishes made on the first star of the night.  You took my wish away and I was distressed.”
“And went crying to your mother,” Fin repeated sassily. 
Jac sighed.  “I’m not apologizing for something that happened over ten years ago and that wasn’t my fault.”
You told….
“And you deserved it,” Jacoby interrupted the start of Fin’s rant.  “Wouldn’t you have told on me if I took your wish?”
Fin actually thought about that and some of his indignation faded.  “Yeah,” he conceded.  “I would have.”  After a long moment he added, “Sorry for taking your wish away.”
Jac immediately smiled at him.  “Thank you.  I made up for it with an extra big wish when I turned eight.”
Fin’s eyes brightened with interest.  His natural curiosity being immediately triggered.  “What did you wish for?!”
The older boy shook his head.  “Not telling.”
Jac-o-by!” Fin whined.  “Tell me!”
“Nope.  You know you shouldn’t tell your wishes.”
“That’s just to make sure they come true!  If your wish already came true, then you can tell me what it was!” Fin insisted.
“Maybe it didn’t come true yet,” Jac argued.
Fin’s eyes flashed in irritation.  “You’re just being mean now.”
“I’m not.  I’m actually bargaining with you.  Tit for tat.  You tell me why you’re hiding from your mama tonight, and I’ll tell you what I wished for.”
Fin bit his lower lip.  Being overly-curious was a natural trait among fairy-kind, although some learned to manage it better than others.  Fin was not one of those.  He struggled to keep a handle on his inquisitiveness at the best of times, and having Jac dangle the tantalizing string of a childhood birthday wish in front of him was too much for him to resist. 
“Fine,” he yielded.  “I’ll tell you.  Mama…well…she’s been preparing some things for company tomorrow.  Some of her and Papa’s water sprite friends from their school days are coming over, and she had been saving some rainbow water for them.”
Jac’s pointed ears perked up at the mention of rainbow water.  “That’s very hard to get,” he stated.  “Rainbows directly touching the water are rare, and they only linger a few minutes at most, but the water they touch is the sweetest there is.”
“Yeah, I know,” Fin admitted reluctantly, his eyes going downcast.
“Oh dear.  Did you spill it?” Jac questioned.
Fin shook his head guiltily.  “I drank it.”
Jac’s sea-green eyes blinked in surprised.  “You drank it?  Why?”
Fin’s lip trembled slightly.  “I didn’t realize it had been brought out for Mama’s company.  It was just sitting there and it looked so delicious.  I thought to just take a sip, but then…I couldn’t stop.”
The older fairy shook his head disapprovingly, causing the ponytail his black hair was pulled up in to sway back and forth.  “No wonder your mama is irked at you.  I would be too if you drank my rainbow water.”
Fin’s eyes dropped to his knees, his wings drooping in remorse as well.  “I didn’t mean to drink it all.  I’d give it back if I could.”
“It would be hopeless to get now anyway,” Jac stated.  “Finding a rainbow at night is nearly impossible.”
Fin whimpered, his pretty violet eyes getting bright with moisture.  “I know it’s impossible, but Mama is really mad, and now there’s nothing special for the company.  I can’t fix it and I don’t want to get my wings grounded.”  A tear dripped down his cheek.  “I hate it when my flying is taken away.”
There was a shuffling sound, and then Fin felt an arm slip around his shoulders and Jac’s voice was surprisingly sympathetic.  “You’ve certainly dropped yourself into a thorn bush of a problem, but don’t lose heart.  Let me think for a few minutes.  Perhaps there is something that can be done.”
“Really?”  Fin looked to him hopefully.  “Can you help me?  What can we do?”
“Hush, runt.  I said I needed to think,” Jac lightly scolded.
Fin’s head dropped again, but then Jacoby squeezed him lightly and urged him to rest his head on his shoulder while they sat in silence. 
Fin’s patience only lasted so long though, and after several minutes, he lifted his head to look up at the older boy.  “You done thinking yet?”
Jacoby’s sigh in response seemed borderline exasperated, making Fin feel bad all over again.  His fall back into melancholy earned him another squeeze though.
“You could try thinking of some solutions too, kid,” Jac suggested ruefully.  “Although I might have an idea at the moment.”
“Really?!  What is it?  Will it work?!” Fin immediately reacted.
“I said might, Fin,” Jac reminded.  “It’s just an idea, and I think it’s best we wait till first light to pursue it.”
“What is it?”
“I think we should go to Lorelei, the Water Watcher, and ask her advice.  Maybe she’ll know where we can gather some rainbow water before your mama’s guests come to call.”
“Lorelei?”  Fin scrunched his nose in disfavor.  “She’s such a stick-in-the-mud, and she’s bossy.”
“She’s a wise fairy who has been a Water Watcher since she could speak, and an elder in our community for decades.  She can give us guidance, and I’m sure will be willing to assist us…”  He looked down warningly at Fin.  If we are respectful to her.”
Fin harrumphed.  “I’m respectful!”
“Yeah, it’s respect that makes you call her a stick-in-the-mud, right?”
Fin shook his head.  “No, that’s just me being honest.”
Jacoby laughed and lightly smacked Fin’s head.  “You’re naughtier than a raccoon pup, Fin Earthenly.  Now lie down and get some sleep.  We need to take care of things at first light because I have other things to be done tomorrow besides saving your little white wings.”
The two of them settled comfortably into the rose’s soft petals, the quiet settling onto them, although it didn’t last long.
The older fairy sighed.  “What, Fin?”
“You didn’t tell me your wish yet.”
Jac couldn’t help chuckling.  “It would drive you crazy if I didn’t tell, wouldn’t it?”
“You promised you would!” Fin insisted. 
“Aye, I did.”
“So, what was it?”
Jac was quiet for a long moment, but Fin could tell he was getting ready to answer. 
“On my eighth birthday, I wished to see above the trees for the first time,” he finally said softly.
“Oh wow,” Fin breathed.  “My wings weren’t strong enough to do that until I was twelve.”
“Neither were mine,” Jac admitted, “and I didn’t tell anyone my wish, but I think my Pop figured it out.  Just before dusk that day, he brought me to Daichi the Owl, and we rode on Daichi’s back until we broke through the tree-cover.  We circled the Fairy Woods while the sun set.  It was the best thing ever.”
“Wow,” Fin said again.  “I want to do that someday.”
They lay in contented silence for several minutes after that, and Jacoby was just drifting off to sleep when a voice interrupted the quiet again.
“Fin, go to sleep,” he grumbled.
“Just one question, Jac?” the younger boy pleaded.  “Well, maybe two.”
Jac sighed, knowing Fin’s curiosity would have to be soothed if they were ever to get any sleep.  “What is it?”
“Could you take me to Daichi someday to ask to ride on his back above the trees, and maybe ride with me?”
Jac grinned in the darkness.  “Sure, runt.”
“Good,” Fin said happily. 
“Is that all you wanted to know?” Jac questioned.
“No,” Fin replied.  “I wanted to know what else you needed to do tomorrow besides talk to Lorelei with me.  What are you going to do?”
Jac’s voice got mildly sober.  “I turn eighteen tomorrow, Fin.  It’s my time to go see the Bond Guardian.”
Fin felt his wings shudder slightly in nervousness for Jac.  He’d forgotten it was the boy’s birthday the next day, and what turning eighteen meant.  All fairies went to see the Bond Guardian on that day.  It was an important event.  The Bond Guardian was the guard of relationships and compatible love between fairies.  She was the one who told you if you were to be mated, or if you would be happier as a single fairy.  If you did have a mate in your future, sometimes she could even tell you who it would be. 
Fin was glad he still had two years before his time to see the Bond Guardian.  He feared he wouldn’t like whom he would end up matched with; or, even worse, he feared being told he had no match.  He didn’t like the thought of being without a life-companion. 
“Are you anxious, Jac?” he asked quietly.
“A little,” the boy admitted.  “And that was three questions.  No more tonight.  Go to sleep, Fin.”

“Hurry up, Fin.  You know I don’t have all day.”  Jacoby grabbed the younger boy’s hand and pulled him along.
Fin still hesitated.  “But what if nothing can be done?”
“We won’t know that until we talk to Lorelei.  Now come on!”
Finally, they reached the willow tree that Lorelei lived in. Its leaves hung down toward a lovely woodland pond that was just starting to shimmer with the morning light.  Fin hung back slightly as Jacoby knocked on the Water Watcher’s door.  It opened a moment later to reveal the white-haired fairy called Lorelei. 
“Jacoby Floraman,” she said in a husky voice.  “What are you doing beating my door down when dawn has barely begun?”
“I’m sorry, Lady Lorelei,” he replied sincerely.  “I know it is early, but a friend of mine has a problem and we’ve come seeking your help.”
“What friend?” Lorelei questioned.  “I see no one but you.”
Jacoby looked behind him and saw that Fin had indeed disappeared.  His hands going to his hips, he turned and spoke to the seemingly empty area.  “Fin Earthenly, you better not have run away!  Come out right now!”
The tinkle of rustling fairy wings could be heard and Fin’s head popped out from behind one of the willow tree roots.  Jac pointed firmly to the spot in front of him, and Fin hesitantly came to join him.
“Don’t hide like a mole,” Jac admonished.  “It’s not respectful.”
“Sorry,” Fin said softly but sincerely.
Lady Lorelei huffed quietly, but there was a sparkle of amusement in her eyes.  “Come inside, Jacoby, and bring the little mole-boy with you.  We’ll see if you are deserving of my help.”
With a hand on Fin’s back, Jacoby followed the elder fairy inside.  Lorelei had them sitting on a bunny-fur couch with hot cups of honeydew tea in their hands within minutes.
“Now, tell me what this problem is,” she ordered as she sat with her own cup of tea.
Just glancing at Fin told Jacoby the boy was too nervous to explain his dilemma, so Jac did his best to explain what had happened, while trying to make Fin not appear as guilty as he was.  The boy’s face was still the color of the rose they’d spent the night in by the time Jac finished the explanation.
“I see,” Lorelei said when he was done.  It was hard to tell what her sentiments were on the subject.  Her tone revealed little.  “I suppose you’d like me to find some rainbow water for you.  Is that right?” she questioned.
Jacoby didn’t want the elder to think they were taking advantage of her.  “We don’t want to put you out, ma’am.  We hoped maybe you could tell us where we would be most likely to find some.  Fin would like to replace what he drank, and we’re on a bit of a time crunch because his mother’s company arrives today.”
“It does sound like you’re about to go over a waterfall of trouble, young man,” Lorelei said to Fin.
“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed, his blush getting rosier.
“Well, I’m afraid finding a rainbow within wing distance today is not going to happen.  Rainbows require rain, and the Water Watcher in me knows that the next shower for these parts is two days away.”
Fin’s wings seemed to wilt against his back.  The sight tugged at Jac’s heart, and it seemed to affect Lorelei in much the same way.
“Now, now, lad,” she soothed.  “Don’t let your white wings turn blue.  I may have an answer to your problem, but it will come with some conditions.”
Fin’s gaze finally met hers.  “Really?  You can help me?”
“Well, it just so happens that I have a bottle of rainbow water of my own.  I always try to keep some on hand…just in case, you know.  Anyway, I might be willing to part with it into your hands, but I’d like some recompense from you if I give it.”
“Oh, I’ll do anything, ma’am!  I promise!” Fin declared, his eyes lighting with hope for the first time.
“You might want to hear my conditions first, young man.  If I am to part with my water, then I’ll expect you to someday replace it with rainbow water you are able to gather on your own.  There is no time limit on that condition, since I know better than most how rare it is.”
“I’ll do it, Lady Lorelei!  You can count on that!” Fin assured.
“Yes, I believe you will do your best to gather it, but that’s not my only condition.  I have two more.  The first is that I could use some help with some of my duties at this time of year.  It’s not as easy for me to gather samples from all the different waterways in our fairy wood as it used to be.  The samples are vital though.  Water is alive you know, and the samples the waterways gift to me tell me how healthy each area is or what they need from us.”
Both Fin and Jacoby nodded their understanding of that knowledge.
“Well, it would do me well if two young lads like yourselves could gather samples from the furthest away waters.  That would be Nighttree Pond, Rock Falls, and the Sunshine Tide Pools.  Each one is a day’s flying for me, although I’d guess it wouldn’t take quite so long for young ones such as yourselves.  Could I count on the two of you to get me adequate samples from those waters?”
Fin nodded his head emphatically while Jacoby said “Yes, ma’am, but you might need to advise us on the proper way to do it.”
Lorelei gave an approving dip of her head.  “Of course I will.”  She then turned her gaze exclusively on Fin.  “The last condition rests on you alone, lad.  Since it appears you’re so fond of sweet drinks, I’ll give you the task of organizing my water cellar.  It has needed it for a while, but shifting all those bottles is too much for me now.  I’ll direct you how I want it done, and I’ll expect it done well…without tasting any of my collection.  Is that understood.”
Fin looked momentarily disappointed in this assigned chore, but he nodded.  “I understand, but I’ll have to see when I can do it.”
“You’ll do it a week from today,” Lorelei stated.  “That will give you time to change any plans already made, and it gives you and your friend Jacoby here the span of this week to obtain the water samples I need.”
Fin appeared rather affronted at Lady Lorelei’s mandate, but Jac elbowed him in the side before the youth could say anything disrespectful.  The younger fairy seemed to swallow back his first reply and merely nodded, with a “Yes, ma’am” added in for good measure.
“It is agreed then.  I’ll go retrieve my rainbow water now.  The two of you can wash up these few tea cups.”
Fin was a mix of giddy and grumbly in the few minutes he and Jac had to themselves as they washed and dried the cups; giddy to be able to take a bottle of rainbow water home to his mother, grumbly about the tasks assigned to him.
“Just be grateful,” Jacoby said more than once.  “Lady Lorelei is probably the only fairy in wing distance who has rainbow water.  She’s being very generous to give it to you.”
Fin sighed dramatically.  “I know.”
It was still less than enthusiastic, but Jac didn’t push. 
Not too much later they were out the door with chilled bottle of rainbow water in hand.  Fin looked at it longingly until Jac nicked it from his grasp.
“Maybe I’ll just carry this.  You’re already tempted to drink it, aren’t you?”
“Not that tempted,” Fin tried to defend, although the unconscious licking of his lips betrayed him.
Jac rolled his eyes.  “You’re such a fairykin, Fin.”
“I am not!” Fin asserted loudly.  He didn’t take kindly to being called the disparaging term for a “baby fairy”.
“Fine, fine…you’re not, but if we don’t get this water and you back to your house quickly, your mama is likely to treat you like one.  Come on.”
Glaring at the other boy, Fin still fluttered his wings a little faster, and the two of them made fast time to Fin’s home.
At the door to the Earthenly’s hollowed-rock home, Jacoby was about to say good-bye, but the silent look of pleading on Fin’s face made him decide to delay his departure.  Instead, he followed Fin in as the youth entered his home and immediately faced his mother.
“Fin Earthenly!” the small fairy woman scolded.  “I’ve a mind to ground your wings until you’re eighteen!  First you drink the rainbow water, and then you disappear for hours.  You’ll turn my red hair white before too much longer!”
“I’m sorry, Mama,” Fin apologized, the blush on his face so strong that his wingtips had even tinted pink.  “I’ve tried to fix things.”
How could you fix this, Fin?” his mother demanded.
Fin glanced at Jacoby, whom his mother had barely noticed, and the older boy held up the bottle of rainbow water.
“Fin went looking to replace the water, ma’am,” Jac offered.  “He garnered one for you in exchange for assisting Lady Lorelei with some of her needs.”
Fin’s mother was rendered speechless for a minute as she took the bottle of water from Jac’s hands.  Her voice was softer when she did speak next. 
“You did this, Fin?”
The youth nodded.  “Yes, Mama, but Jacoby helped me.”
The woman looked between the two young fairies and the anger that had been in her eyes and voice faded completely.  “Thank you, both.  I appreciate the effort gone to for this.  Although,” she gave a mildly reproving look to Fin.  “I can hope that it won’t be necessary to go through any of this again.”
“Yes, Mama.”
Fin’s mother came closer and dropped a kiss onto her son’s dark purple hair.  “You’re a good lad, Fin.”
She then surprised Jac when she lightly kissed his brow as well.  “So are you, Jacoby.  Thank you for helping.  Would you like to stay for a bite to eat?”
“I’d like to, ma’am, but I’m afraid I have somewhere I need to be.”
She looked disappointed for a moment, but then her eyes widened as understanding hit her.  “You are eighteen today,” she stated knowingly.  “Yes, you do have somewhere to be.  Go on with you then, and good luck, Jacoby.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
The lady disappeared into her kitchen then with the bottle of rainbow water, and Fin walked Jac to the door.  He looked a bit embarrassed and his wings were stiff instead of relaxed, but he met Jac’s eyes and offered a sincere, “Thank you.”
Jac’s mouth tipped up in a grin.  “You’re welcome, runt.  See you around.”
          After that he was out the door and flying quickly toward the house of the Bond Guard, knowing it was better to face his future than spend the day worrying over it.