Friday, July 14, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part Four

Fin clung to the mole, Talpi, as the animal burrowed through the dirt.  The protective mask he wore kept dirt from getting into his eyes and mouth, but he knew the rest of him wouldn’t fair as well. 
It was a small sacrifice to pay.  In the months since he’d held the cliff up until help arrived, he’d been working hard as an Earth Reader.  His magic and skills were growing, and he tried to help wherever he could, although he wished for more time just to flutter about and play with his friends.  Even now, several he knew were going swimming for the afternoon, and he definitely would rather have gone with them right now.  However, he knew it was better that he was where he needed to be than where he wanted to be, which was why he was now underground with Talpi. 
Fin’s friend Coty was a Species Ambassador and had brought Talpi to Fin because the mole’s tunnels were unexplainably collapsing.  Fin had agreed to see what the earth told him about the situation, but to do so meant going underground to the burrows.
It seemed like they were going deeper and deeper into the dark earth, and Fin was glad that tight spaces didn’t bother him; although he was a little freaked out by the utter darkness of his surroundings.  Once Talpi got him to the tunnels, Fin knew he could initiate a fairy glow, but until then he had to deal with the dark.
Finally, quite a while later, Talpi stopped and did a little wiggle, urging Fin off his back and letting him know there were at their destination.  Fin immediately created a deliberate fairy glow, starting with his wings and letting it spread until his entire body exuded enough light for him to see by.
The tunnel appeared solid at first glance, but looks weren’t everything.  Fin ran his hands gently along the tunnel walls, feeling and automatically recognizing each differing type of earth that he touched. 
When nothing stood out to him as a problem, he knelt in the tunnel, facing one of the walls, and gently dug his hands into the packed dirt.  He felt the coolness of the earth and mild dampness lingering in its depths from recent rains.  Closing his eyes, he focused on what he could feel and hear, and then spoke quiet words to the earth around him.
“I’m here to help.  You’re struggling to maintain your walls and be a safe home to your animal friends.  Are you ill?  What do you need?  Let me help.”
He continued to murmur quietly and soothingly, and then paused as a sound only a trained Earth Reader would detect graced his ears.  A moment later he felt a sensation on one of his hands.  He pressed into the dirt a little deeper and got a better feel and understanding of what the soil was telling him.
“Thank you for letting me know,” he uttered.  “We’re going to help.”
Keeping his arms buried in the dirt, Fin addressed the waiting mole.  “Talpi, I’m going to need your help.”
The mole scurried closer, his snuffling nose tickling Fin’s leg.  Fin couldn’t help giggling a little at the sensation before explaining what he needed Talpi to do.  “Talpi, I need you to return to the surface and get Coty.  Tell Coty that I need him to come meet me here in your tunnel, and to bring Mio and my father with him.”
His father was a Cultivator, and his friend, Mio, was a Nature Nurturer.  Considering the situation, Fin thought it would be best to have both of them on hand for what needed to be done.  He didn’t explain the details of what the earth revealed to him to Talpi.  Moles were simple creatures and wouldn’t understand the whole situation.  They just trusted the fairies to help them when needed.
It took longer than Fin liked to Talpi and the others to return.  He’d had to stop glowing to save energy, and sitting in the dark tunnel by himself wasn’t the most fun he’d ever had.  He amused himself by making up limericks to pass the time.

“In the dark I let my mind wander.
Fun thoughts I never will squander.
In the light of the day
I will go out and play.
While my clothes my mother will launder.”

Truthfully, he knew his mother would probably make him scrub his own clothes, but he could hope she’d do it for him. 
He then thought of his friends out playing while he was working.

“I would swim with my friends if I could,
But instead I’m told I have to be good.
A good fairy goes
To help those he knows.
But I don’t always like to do what I should.”

He sighed, thinking of the many lectures he’d had about being responsible.

“There once was a fairy named Fin.
Who decided he just couldn’t win.
He wants to help others
But responsibility smothers.
Can he play and leave work to his kin?”

He knew the answer to his own question.  He did have to help Talpi and the earth around him.  He truly wanted to as well; he just hoped that there might be time to swim later.  For now, he focused back on the tunnels, and took advantage of the quiet to continue listening to the earth and making a plan for when the others arrived.
Eventually, the scuffling sound of Talpi scurrying through his tunnels reached Fin’s ears, and a few minutes later Coty, Mio, and Fin’s father, Emre, were hopping off Talpi’s back and starting to glow.
“Fin? Talpi said you needed us.  Do you know why his tunnels are collapsing?” Coty asked, the anxiety he felt for his animal friend clear in his voice.
Fin nodded as he resumed his own glow.  “From what I can tell, it’s an issue of too much demand being put on the earth Talpi’s home is in.  The soil is tired and weak because it’s being used so hard.”
“Who is using it besides Talpi?” Fin’s father questioned.
Fin knelt down and scooped a bit of earth into his hands.  “Focus on what you can smell, and then scent this,” he directed.
Coty, Mio, and Emre each took a deep breath of the dirt.  Mio recognized the scent first.
“I smell birch trees…young ones.”
Fin nodded.  “A new generation of birch has started, but there are too many growing close to each other.  They will have no space to fully grow, and there are so many that their roots are burrowing into the ground and taking extra nutrients that the soil can’t spare for them all.  It is growing weak, and Talpi’s tunnels are collapsing because of it.”
Emre’s look to his son was serious.  “You believe we need to move some of the young trees, don’t you?”
Fin nodded, his expression just as serious.  “At least a dozen of the saplings need relocated, maybe more.  That’s what I need your help for.  Coty, I need you to explain to Talpi and ask him to refrain from his tunnels for a little while.  Mio, I need you to soothe the saplings and the parent trees about the move, as well as guide me to the best location for them.  And Dad, we’ll all need your help keeping our relationship with the trees and soil good during the transition.”
“Yes,” Emre agreed.  “It could easily be traumatic on all if we’re not careful.  Mio, do you know of a safe and healthy place for the birch saplings to go?”
Mio thought out loud as he contemplated the best location for the trees.  “Their root systems are shallow and they need somewhere cool and moist to grow to their maturity.”
After another moment’s thought, he snapped his fingers.  “We can take them to the grassy area by the rock arch.  There are other birch there, and there’s enough space to plant them to grow freely.  Plus, the arch provides shade, which will keep the ground cool and moist for them.”
Fin nodded and addressed his little group of fairies.  “Sounds like a good location, and thankfully it’s not too far.  Now we need to return to the surface and work with the trees.  Coty, Dad, could you explain things to Talpi?”
The two fairies together sat with the mole for a few minutes, carefully and slowly explaining the situation and asking Talpi to take his family and to shelter elsewhere for the next day or so.
The large mole responded with grunts and whines, but eventually Coty brought his attention back to Fin while Emre continued to talk consoling to the animal.
“Talpi understands what we’re going to do.  He’ll take his family to explore some of the forest’s eastern grounds for the next couple days.  I assured him the earth would welcome him back to his tunnels when he returns.”
“Thanks, Coty.  Is he okay with taking us back to the surface first?”
Before his friend could answer, Talpi ambled over and grunted in friendship at Fin’s ear and nuzzled against him.  Fin grinned.  “I’m guessing that’s a yes.  Climb on everyone.  We need to get this done as quickly as possible.”
When they reached the surface, things got a little more complicated.  The birch tree parents questioned the need to move some of their young trees, and the young saplings began to droop and wilt depressingly.  Fin’s father had his hands full keeping the copse of birch from uprooting themselves with anxiety, and Mio practically talked himself hoarse with promises to both the young and old trees that he would personally take care that none of them were hurt in anyway. 
Finally, with the understanding that the soil and space they were growing in would not be able to continue supporting them, the birches worked with Mio and Fin to choose which ones would be relocated. 
“This relocation is going to take quite a while to accomplish,” Fin’s father stated as they began to gently loosen the soil around the saplings.
“I know,” Fin agreed.  “I wish there was a way to move them all at once.  It would be easier, and less traumatic for them all.”
“Hey, you’re right!” Mio said with a snap of his fingers.  “And you just reminded me of something.”
“What?” Fin and Emre asked in unison. 
“When I went to visit Jac a couple months ago, he showed me something he and Crill had worked out.” 
Fin’s ears perked up at the mention of Jac.  He hadn’t seen the other boy since he’d come out of his fairy sleep, and that had been ages ago.  Fin’s own eighteenth birthday was coming up in four months’ time, and the closer he got to it, the more he wanted to know what the Bond Guard had said to Jac.  The secrecy of it drove Fin to distraction sometimes.  He’d had other friends who had turned eighteen in the last year and been to see the Bond Guard, but they’d all shared what she had told them with him.  One had been told she hadn’t met her mate yet, but would before her next birthday.  Another had his mate’s first name revealed, but not when they would meet.  A third was told to find joy in his singleness, because that was what was best for him. 
Fin had felt sorry for that friend, but that hadn’t lasted long.  His buddy had said he hadn’t really wanted a mate.  He enjoyed being with friends, but didn’t relish the thought of sharing his living space and everyday choices with someone on a permanent basis.  Fin found it hard to fully understand that explanation, but he was relieved that his friend wasn’t upset by the Bond Guard’s words to him.
With an internal sigh, Fin turned his attention back to Mio, who was looking around the area, apparently seeking out something, and then motioned everyone to follow him.  Fin, Coty and Emre flew with him expertly around the trees until Mio landed on some thick moss.  “This is what we need,” he stated, pointed to the ground. 
“Moss?” Fin asked.
Mio nodded.  “Yep.  It’s perfect.  If we roll it up gently from here and take it to the saplings, we can unroll it there, put the young trees on it, and guide them to temporarily root themselves in it.  Then we each take a corner, lift it, and fly the trees over to the arch.  It will be much faster, and we’ll be able to reroot the saplings quicker.  It’s less traumatic on them that way.”
“And then I can help settle the moss back here in its home,” Fin added thoughtfully, silently contemplating that who might still get some play time in.  “I think this could work.  Dad, what do you think?”
Emre seemed to be a bit less enthusiastic to the idea.  “Well, I prefer not to traumatize the young trees either, but we’re also asking a lot of the moss.  We need to make sure no damage comes to it as well.”  He looked to his son.  “You’re an Earth Reader, Fin.  Don’t run too far ahead with this idea until you listen to what nature is telling you.”
Fin took a breath, knowing his dad was right.  He needed to make sure this was the right thing to do for all involved.  He knelt down on the soft peat, feeling the moisture in it sink through the spun-cotton pants he wore.  His hands rubbed gently over the moss, caressing it as a friend and assuring it he was no one who wanted to cause harm.  He knew he had the attention of this unique earth-plant when it grew and spread a little at his touch. 
“Can we ask for your assistance?” he whispered.  “Your fellow-earth nearby grows weak in trying to support too many.  Do you have the willingness and strength to help us move the young trees?  I promise to bring you back here to your home.”
The mat of green underneath him became very still, and then it shifted slightly, just enough to loosen the shallow roots it kept, and Fin understood it had agreed to help.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely, and then quietly spoke to his companions.  “Gently roll from that end.  It will help us.”
The four of them together rolled the moss up like a scroll, and then flew it gently to where the birch saplings still waited to be moved.  Then, as tenderly and efficiently as possible, they loosed the baby trees from their first home and set them on the now unfurled moss.  Mio guided the trees into setting their young roots down into the moss, just enough to maintain a safe grip, and then the four of them each took a corner and lifted the babies smoothly into the air. 
At a much slower flight than normal, they transported their load to the rock arch.  It wasn’t an easy task.  While, like an ant, fairies can carry several times their body weight, balancing and transporting a dozen saplings was a heavy and muscle-straining job.
When they did arrive at rock arch, they set their bundle down carefully.  Emre immediately began flying to the grown trees already deeply rooted in this ground, explaining why they’d brought the young trees, and asking that they be welcomed. 
That was easily accomplished, as the grown birch trees were delighted to see young saplings joining their home.  As each tree was replanted, they were openly adopted by those already there, and a few of the saplings sprouted several inches up or grew new branches in the first few minutes there, as the rich soil and friendly welcome immediately improved their health.
Fin had just finished planting one of the trees and flew to grab one of the last two when an unfamiliar voice, barely loud enough to be heard, spoke to him.
“What are you doing?”
Fin looked over his shoulder, his body freezing and his eyes latching on a lovely young fairy half hiding behind a fallen leaf.  Pale pink hair topped a heart-shaped face with violet eyes, which peered at him with a mix of curiosity and shyness.  She was a lovely.
“H…hi,” he choked out after a minute of staring back at her.
“Hi,” she replied just barely loud enough for him to hear.  “What are you doing?”
Fin realized that was the second time she’d asked that question.  “Oh, um, we’re replanting these saplings.  The earth they were in couldn’t support them all, so we had to move them,” he explained.
“Oh, ok,” she said, and then looked about to fly away, but Fin didn’t want that at all.
“Wait,” he called out as she started to turn away.  “Would you like to help?  We can plant these last two near each other over there.”  He pointed to an area of damp earth big enough for two trees to grow side by side.
The pink-haired fairy took a step forward, looking a little unsure.  “Can you show me how?” she asked.
“Sure,” Fin agreed happily.  He looked quickly toward his father and friends.  No one else seemed to have noticed the new girl, but he thought that was okay.  She seemed skittish and he didn’t want to scare her away.  He picked up both saplings and approached her in friendship, handing her the tree in his right hand.  “Follow me.  I’ll show you, it’s not hard.”
She came willingly and then knelt next to him as he went to the ground and dug out an area of earth that would fit his sapling.  “It needs to be deep enough for the roots to dig in and make a home, but not so deep that new branches can’t develop.”
She watched him closely as he planted the tree, and then packed the earth back around it.  The sapling gave a little shudder of pleasure as it settled into the ground.  Fin smiled.  “It likes it here.  We’ll plant this one just over there.  They’ll have each other to grow up with then.”
The girl nodded silently and started to hand him her sapling, but he gently pushed it back into her hands.  “You plant it.  I’ll guide you.”
She bit her lower lip, but nodded, and then followed his directions precisely as she helped the young tree into its new home.  A smile lit her lips when the newly planted baby grew a couple inches as soon as the earth was packed around it.
“Good job,” Fin praised, and then felt like time stood still as he and the girl shared a look between them that made Fin’s stomach jump with pleasure.  “What’s your name?” he finally asked.
She looked away.  “Luna,” she answered timidly.
“Like the daughter of the moon,” Fin commented with happy surprise, referring to a fairy fable he’d loved as a child.
Luna looked back and smiled at him.  Her lips moved enticingly as she softly quoted from that story, “The moon’s daughter explores in the dawn of the day….”
“But at night returns home to her father to stay,” Fin finished the quote.
A sweet laugh bubbled out of her when he did that, but then she again bit her lip nervously as she looked past him.  Fin glanced quickly where she did, seeing that they’d caught the attention of his father, who was watching but letting them be.  When Fin turned back to Luna, her cheeks blushed and she stepped away.
“Bye,” she whispered, and then turned and fluttered away so quickly he didn’t have time to blink.
He felt his stomach drop in disappointment, but a moment later his father’s presence was at his side.
“New friend, son?” he asked, the touch of amusement in his tone revealed he’d seen the effect the girl had had on Fin.
Fin tried not to seem so affected, but he knew he wasn’t fooling his dad.  “Her name is Luna,” he told the older fairy.
“Luna?” Emre repeated, surprise in his voice. 
Fin looked his father in the face.  “You know her?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” his dad replied.  “I knew a fairy couple several years ago who asked me to help cultivate their marriage.  It was struggling, and because of that they hadn’t been able to gain a child.  You know that our kind must have a special kind of love between them before the blessing of a fairy-babe.”
Fin nodded, knowing that children were only bestowed to couples whose love was trusted and safe.
“I stayed several weeks with that couple, even though you had only been gifted to your mother and I a few weeks prior.”  His father looked proudly at him.  “It was hard to leave you, but I couldn’t not help other fairies try to have the same joy given to your mother and me.  The couple showed a lot of progress and promise by the time I left, and a few months later I was invited back to visit and meet their new infant.  They’d named her Luna.”
“Do you think that was her?” Fin asked.
Emre shrugged.  “I have no way of knowing, but she looked about the right age.  However,” his tone grew more serious.  “If that was the Luna I met all those years ago, then you should know that she had the mark of a Dream Catcher on her brow.”
Fin blinked in surprise.  Fairies born as Dream Catchers were rare.  The mark was there when they were born, but faded by the time of their first birthday.  They were also known to be exceedingly shy and mostly night-abiders—fairies who slept during the day and fulfilled their Dream Catcher natures at night.  They were also very rarely seen socializing with other fairies once they entered their teen years. 
Fin looked in the direction the girl had flown off to.  The temptation he had to follow must have been clear on his face.
“Son,” Emre said to him.  “She’s gone, and it’s best you don’t chase her.”
Emre shook his head.  “She chose to leave and you need to let her.  You still have a job to finish.”
         Reminded of the very reason he was there, Fin looked around at all the newly planted trees.  His father was right.  His job wasn’t done.  He had to return the moss to its home, and then he needed to go back to where Talpi’s tunnels and the trees had been.  The soil would need his skills and nurturing as an Earth Reader to return to a healthy state.  With a sigh, he fluttered his wings and resumed his work.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part Three

Just some addition notes first.  I have designated "roles/jobs" for those in my fairy world.  In case you're curious about them, here is a list and brief description of what I have so far.

   -Nature Nurturer – a fairy who helps plants grow
   -Animal Keeper – a fairy who cares for animals with special needs—orphans, injuries, etc.
   -Mystic Guardian - No Descripton Yet
   -Magic Minder – Someone who makes sure fairy magic isn’t being abused, and who watches carefully for any magic that is not part of the fairy world.
   -Dream Catcher – a fairy who can interpret dreams, or help create dreams.  They also guide dreams to the places and people they are meant to go to.
   -Water Watcher – a fairy who cares for and develops all types of water
   -Earth Reader – works directly with earth/soil to keep it healthy
   -Species Ambassador – a fairy representative of the animals
   -Night Ranger/Day Ranger – fairy security
   -Bond Guard - kind of a fairy matchmaker (but not really).  A Bond Guard knows or reads the signs of the fairies who will be a best fit for one another.
   -Cultivator – Similar to a Nature Naturer, but this fairy cultivates relationships of all types—between fairies, between fairies and plants, between fairies and animals, etc.


Pat Three

“Fin Earthenly, get in here!  Those raindrops are bigger than you, little mole-boy!”
Fin’s boyish laughter was endearing as he hurried into Lady Lorelei’s home.  “I’m wearing a duck-feather cloak and hat, Lorelei.  The water rolls right off me.”
The older fairy looked to her ceiling with a sigh.  “The water wouldn’t touch you if you’d stayed at home, boy.”
“It’s my day to come over.  A little rain wasn’t going to stop me,” Fin contended.  In the six months since the day he’d cleaned and organized her water cellar, Fin had fallen into the habit of visiting the aging fairy every seven days.  Sometimes he did chores for her, and sometimes they just sat and chatted.  Both fairies were surprised and pleased with the friendship that had developed between them.
“I do believe a monsoon wouldn’t stop you once you have an idea in your head,” Lorelei stated.  “Leave your cloak and hat on the hook there.  I don’t want drips on my floor.  I may be a Water Watcher, but that doesn’t mean I want to be cleaning it up all the time. Want some blackberry tea?”
“Yes, please!” Fin answered emphatically as he hung up his outer wear, chuckling to himself over Lorelei’s mixture of complaints and generosity.  She was a good soul.   Plus, he never refused a homemade drink from her.  She only served the best! 
She returned seemingly moments later with the hot beverage, which Fin blew on before enjoying a flavorful mouthful. 
“Anything you need done today?” he asked as Lorelei waved at him to sit on the couch.
“Not in this weather,” Lorelei answered.  “Although I dare say there will be some good mud for you to work with when these rains end.”
“And some nice, flowing rivers for you,” Fin replied.  “I’m going rainbow hunting the second the rains stop though!”
Lorelei chuckled.  “Good luck with that.”
“When did you see your first rainbow, Lorry?”
The elder fairy rolled her eyes at the nickname Fin had started calling her, although she secretly enjoyed it.  Fin was a young, life-filled fairy with a good heart, but a tendency for mild foolishness.  He brought warmth to those around him.
“I saw my first rainbow at just two-years-old,” she told him.  “It touched the very puddle I was playing in and my wings reflected its colors for hours after the rainbow faded.  It’s how we all knew I’d be a Water Watcher.”  Her aged face lost some of its years as a smile touched her lips.  Fin thought she was beautiful when she smiled.  “The calling for our fairy roles comes to us at a young age,” she reminded him.  “Some are even born with their role embedded into them.  Nature knows what we are meant to do.”
“Like the Bond Guard knows about our mates?” Fin questioned.
Lorelei gave the young fairy a knowing look.  “Yes, it’s similar, and it’s also not the first time you’ve brought up the Bond Guard recently.  Are you anxious to know that aspect of your future, Fin?”
The boy blushed, the red in his face clashing cutely with his purple tresses.  “Kinda.  I know we have to have eighteen life seasons to our names before we can go to the Bond Guard, but I wish I could know now.  It’s hard to wait.”
“Do you have a fairy in mind to whom you’d like to be bonded?” Lorelei asked.
Fin adamantly shook his head.  “No!  I just…I’m afraid I won’t like what the Bond Guard will say.  What if I don’t even have a mate?”
“You have got yourself twisted up like a snake, haven’t you?” Lorelei clucked.  “You need to remember, Fin, that it is not a bad thing to be an unmated fairy.”
Fin blushed brighter as he remembered that Lorelei herself had never had a mate.  “I’m sorry, Lorry.  I didn’t mean to speak against you.”
“You didn’t speak against me, lad.  You stated an honest fear, but that fear comes from not realizing that being unmated is a gift just as having a companion is one.  The Bond Guard knew I would be happier without a life-bond to someone, just as she knows that other fairies are meant to be together.  Neither situation is good or bad in itself; it is simply what is best for each creature.”
“But what about the mated fairies who don’t get along?” Fin asked.
“Well, there are two reasons for that,” Lorelei said knowingly.  “Some fairies fight the Bond Guard’s guidance.  They think they know their match better than her, so they don’t accept their mate and seek out a different one; or, they take the mate the Bond Guard says is theirs, but they don’t accept in their hearts that it is right, so they always fight against the natural bond that is there.” 
Lorelei sat more deeply into her bunny-fur couch.  “The Bond Guard knows matches, but mated relationships still take work between the companions, and even the best of matches can be miserable if the fairies refuse to accept one another.”
“I didn’t know we could refuse our mate,” Fin confessed.
“Well, sometimes we are not the wisest of creatures.”  Lorelei’s tone was mildly acerbic.  “The mate the Bond Guard directs you toward is as natural as the calling of your fairy role, whether you are an Earth Reader, Water Watcher, or something else.  But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we will always accept it.  Acceptance is a choice.  An Earth Reader may find temporary enjoyment in a Water Watcher’s role, but it won’t last.  He will never experience the fulfilment his natural role would give him if he refuses to do it.  It’s the same way with your life-companion.  You may enjoy your time with someone else, but there will also be a lack if you refuse to bond to your true mate.”
“I don’t know why anyone would refuse to bond with their mate,” Fin declared.
Lorelei chuckled.  “Well, suppose I was the mate the Bond Guard said was for you?  Would you believe her and accept me?”
Fin was taken off-guard, and his words were stuttered as he tried to answer respectfully.  “I don’t…I mean…you’re a different generation, Lorry.  We couldn’t be mates.”
“Since when does age play into it?” the elder fairy questioned.  “We fairies have very long life spans.  I’ve known mates who were several years apart.”  Lorelei softened her tone as Fin floundered to answer without causing offense.  “I’m not truly asking for you to answer me, Fin.  What I want you to understand is that even you may be surprised and even reluctant to accept your companion if the Bond Guard says you have one.”
Fin considered her words, now nervous that maybe he wouldn’t like the Bond Guard’s choice for him.  He was pulled from his thoughts though as he glanced out the window and saw the rain had lessened to just a drizzle.
“Oh!  The downpour is over!”  He set his teacup down and bounced to his feet.  “I’m going to go search out a rainbow!  I still owe you a bottle of water,” he reminded.
“Out you go then,” Lorelei agreed, gracefully letting the conversation end. “But watch out for toads.  Don’t let them mistake you for something to eat!”
“I won’t!” Fin assured, already partly out the door.  He tossed her a smile before taking off on his search.
The young fairy darted on young, speedy wings away from Lorelei’s home.  His eyes searched for the colors of a rainbow, but his mind thought on Lorelei’s words.  Was it true that he might not like the mate the Bond Guard would say was his?  How was it possible to run away from your destiny?
Fin was distracted enough by his thoughts that at first he didn’t hear the call for help, but he couldn’t miss the disaster he almost flew into as he neared one of the waterfalls that graced the fairy woods.
The heavy rains had greatly increased the flow of water over the small cliff face that created the falls.  The roar of the water was loud, overtaking the sound of everything else in the area.
Fin was startled at the sight, and then highly alarmed as he saw two things at once.  One was that the rocks and dirt bordering one side of the falls was slowly starting to drop, the strength of the water pounding it apparently creating too much pressure for it to remain firm, and threatening now to crumble and bury the everything below it, including the homes of many animal friends. Not only that, but if the earth fell away then the water pouring over it would be completely released, and the fairy wood would be in threat of flooding.
The second thing he saw was one tiny fairy, desperately using every ounce of strength and magic in him to hold the mass of earth upright.  He recognized the young boy.  It was Vaxon, another Earth Reader like himself, but at only twelve years old, Vaxon didn’t have the ability yet to keep the terrain from falling and burying himself along with everything else.
“Help!” the boy cried out as he saw Fin, and Fin flew as fast as he could to the child, immediately adding his own abilities to keep the earth from crumbling.  With the magic churning inside him, he created a wall, invisible to the naked eye, but solid against the cliff face.  He held it as steady as possible to prevent the cliff from collapsing.
It wouldn’t be enough though.  More magic than the two of them had was necessary to prevent the disaster.
“Vaxon!  You have to go get help!” Fin ordered.
“You can’t hold it on your own!” Vaxon argued, his young voice desperate and afraid.
“We can’t hold it together either!  We need help.  I can hold it until you bring help back,” he insisted, although he feared that might end up being a lie.  “Go and sound an alert.  Get as many fairies to help as you can as quickly as you can.  Go!”
With a trembling lip and a fearful look, Vaxon obeyed, his young wings buzzing with the speed with which he flapped them as he darted away for help.
As soon as he and his magic was gone, Fin felt the increased weight of holding the cliff together on his own.  He pressed his wall harder and spoke to the earth, encouraging it to stay strong.
“Stand firm,” he pleaded.  “I know the water is powerful, but it’s not trying to hurt you.  Don’t give in under its weight.  I’ll help you, and others will help.  I promise.  Stay as you are until they come.  It will be ok.”
As the minutes passed, his arms began to tremble and the wall he’d erected began to wobble, showing that his magic was growing weak and needed to rest, but he couldn’t let go.  Lives and homes would be destroyed if he did.
“Fin!  We’re coming!”
Hurry! he thought.  He could barely flap his wings, he was getting so weak.  But then he was being surrounded by his fairy comrades.  Fellow Earth Readers enveloped him and lent their magic and their voices to strengthen the wall he’d erected and encourage the dirt and rocks to stay strong. 
Nature Nurturer fairies brought seeds of vine flowers and began planting them in the earth, and then using their magic to encouraged supernatural growth that would create additional support to the struggling cliff.
Animal Keepers herded the vulnerable animals away from danger while working with the resident beavers, birds, and otters to gather sticks and stones to make dams and slow the water’s force.
Fin continued to work with his Earth Reader fairies to hold the wall in place, but his strength was seeping out of him at an alarming rate.  His wings managed a few final flaps before they could move no more, and he started to fall away.
Someone yelled his name, and almost immediately his body landed limply onto the soft, feathered back of a friendly bird.  He wanted to say thank you and he wanted to keep helping, but instead he unknowingly faded into ‘fairy sleep’, that deep, dreamless, but dangerous period of restoration that was unavoidable when a fairy’s magic needed time to recuperate.


Fin knew he was waking up, but it was a strange kind of wakening, because it didn’t feel like he’d actually been in a normal sleep.  There were no dreams, no sense of anything around him, and his whole body felt heavy and immoveable, instead of doing its typical tossing and turning that preceded waking in the morning.
The knowledge that he was waking was due more to the way his magic felt.  He’d been in a place of darkness that left him feeling hollow and alone, like the magic that was such a part of him and filled him with color and purpose and energy, had gotten frightened and run away.  Now, thankfully, it seemed to be coming out of hiding.  There was a sensation of warmth filling him, like a sunbeam touching his toes and slowly moving up his body.  It was pleasant and relaxing, and helped keep the sense of fear that he couldn’t move his arms or legs at bay.
After a long while the warmth reached his face, and after several tries he was able to blink his eyes open.  His vision was blurry and he couldn’t make out the images around him.  They could have been trees or people or animals; nothing was clear.  But then he heard voices.  The sound of them was like being underwater, and it was impossible to tell what they were saying, but something tender touched his cheek, caressing it and he had just enough energy to turn his face into the soothing touch.
After that a much more natural sleep overtook him, this one filled with pleasant dreams and happy visions.


The second time around, Fin’s waking was much more natural.  He flipped from side to side a couple times, and then with a sigh opened his eyes.  He immediately recognized that he was in his own bedroom.  His clothes hanging on hooks on the wall cast familiar shadows in the early morning light, and the clean smell of his potted moss that kept the air in his space moisture-rich and cool tickled his nose. 
He was able to move his arms and legs again too, and he stretched luxuriously, letting out a satisfied groan that was loud enough to bring his mother to the door.
“Oh, my boy!  You’re finally awake!  That’s such a relief.  Emre!  Come quick!” she called out to Fin’s father.  “Fin is awake!.”
He gave her a confused look.  “What’s going on?”
Before his mother could answer, his father appeared in the doorway, a look of concern morphing into a smile of relief matching Fin’s mother’s.  “Oh Fin, you had us so concerned!”
Fin looked back and forth between his parents.  “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.  What are you so relieved over?”
His parents came fully into his room and sat on the edge of his bed, his mother mechanically smoothing out the down blanket covering his legs.  “You’ve been insentient for over eighteen hours, Finny.  You dropped into fairy sleep.”
Fin’s eyes blinked in surprise.  “Fairy sleep?  How?  Why?”
“The rains threatened the cliff falls.  Don’t you remember?” his father asked.
Fin had to think for a minute, but soon the image of the powerfully rushing water and crumbling cliff entered his mind.  His arms and wings tingled with the memory of the effort he’d put in to hold the cliff upright and the subtle sensation of his magic still weak, but slowly returning to full strength.
He nodded after a moment.  “Yeah, I remember now.”  His eyes widened and met his mother’s in an anxious moment.  “The cliff!  Did it crumble?  Is everyone alright?!”
His mother patted his hand.  “All is well. You’re a hero, Finny.  You and Vaxon both.  You kept a tragedy from happening and got help just in time, although you about gave your father and I a fainting spell when the fairy sleep descended on you and your wings stopped moving.  You dropped as fast as the water over the falls.  Thank goodness Jac and the owl, Daichi, were close enough to catch you.  You would have fallen to the water and gotten stuck under the falls if they hadn’t.”
Fin’s eyes got even bigger.  “Jac was here?!  When did he get back?  I thought he was gone for good!”
“He’s still working with a Nature Nurturer a distance away, but he was visiting his family when Vaxon’s call for help sounded,” Fin’s father explained.  He gave Fin a confused look.  “Jac even stayed here with us until it was clear your fairy sleep had become a natural rest, but you seem upset that he was back.”
Fin shrugged.  “He made a promise to me before he left a few months ago, and he never fulfilled it.  I think it’s pretty crummy that he’s been back in the area, but he hasn’t come to see me and fulfill that promise.”
“Well,” his mother soothed, “He did save your life when you fell.  You wouldn’t even be here with your father and me if he and Daichi hadn’t caught you when you dropped.  Perhaps it’s time to forgive him for the broken promise and be thankful for his rescue instead.”
Fin knew his mother was right, but there was still a seed of resentment in him, mostly because his curiosity on what the Bond Guard had told Fin demanded to be satisfied.  Still, he nodded at his mother’s words.
“I know.  You’re right.”
She leaned in and kissed his brow.  “Those are words every parent likes to hear.  Now, how is your energy feeling?  Think you’re ready for some food?”
Fin nodded.  “You bet.  Can we have blackberry cakes for breakfast?”
His mother chuckled.  “I suppose so.  I’m guessing you’re going to want some tree sugar sauce with them?”
Fin nodded emphatically. That made his mother laugh harder.
“All right then, Finny.  Do you have the strength to go to the sugar tree and get some.  I’ll get started on them right away if you can.”
Fin assured her he was okay, and then dressed quickly after his parents left the room.  He grabbed a walnut shell bucket on his way out the door, but paused as he stepped outside and his feet touched the terrain.  His magic tingled as grass and soil rubbed against his soles, and he knew the earth was talking to him.  Closing his eyes, he concentrated on what the earth was saying.  After several moments, a beautiful smile lifted the corners of his mouth.  His heart warmed as the land thanked him for his help the previous day.
“You’re welcome,” he replied softly.  Grass blades wrapped around his toes, almost petting his feet in silent gratefulness.  Fin bent down and gently petted the grass in return, and then moved toward the sugar tree that grew tall and strong behind his home. 
He’d just attached his bucket to the tiny tap in the tree when a voice startled him.
“You’re looking well, runt.  You had a lot of us worried when the fairy sleep made you fall.”
Looking up in surprise, Fin saw Jacoby standing on a low branch.  The older boy’s mouth was turned up in a familiar smile, but his eyes looked concerned.  He jumped from the branch and spread his wings out to float to the ground.
“Everyone’s really proud of you, including me, but I was worried about you too,” he offered sincerely.
Fin quickly got over his surprise at seeing the other boy and crossed his arms.  “Mother says I should be grateful to you—and I am—but I’m mad at you too,” he stated candidly.
Jac’s smile faltered.  “Mad at me?  Why?  What did I do?”
“You disappeared without saying good-bye, and you broke a promise,” Fin reminded.
Jac sighed.  “The Bond Guard meeting, right?”
Fin nodded, his mouth set in a pout he didn’t even realize had appeared.
“Listen, runt,” Jac responded, his own arms crossing to match Fin’s pose, although the look was a little more intimidating on the older boy.  “I didn’t break my promise to you.  I just haven’t fulfilled it…yet.  I also had—and still have—a very good reason for needing to be away right now.”
Fin huffed.  “To be with your life mate, right?  That’s what most of the fairies think.  That Nature Nurturer you went to help is the one the Bond Guard told you about,” he asserted.
“That’s what you think?” Jac questioned, his brows lifting in surprise and a hint of exasperation.  “Fin, you and your friends need to focus on what’s real instead of what your imaginations dream up.”
“Well, that is what’s real, isn’t it?”
“As a matter of fact, it is not,” Jac answered.  “Crill is not my mate.  He is a friend who needed my help, a friend who has helped me in the last few months, and a friend who is happily bonded to a lovely fairy named Sera.”
“I…oh,” Fin replied. 
Jac rolled his eyes and dropped his arms from across his chest.  Some of the heat left his voice and he chucked Fin under the chin.  “Crill is also waiting for me to return because we have some important work to do.  He’s teaching me a lot.  I was waiting to leave though until I could make sure you really were ok.  I’m saying good-bye this time, ok?”
“Yeah, ok, but you still haven’t kept your promise,” Fin reminded. 
“I will,” Jac declared.  “But I can’t yet.  I have some preparation to do before I can share what the Bond Guard told me.”
“Why is it such a secret?” Fin asked.
Jac hesitated, but then answered honestly, although rather vaguely.  “It was a secret at first because I wasn’t thrilled about what the Bond Guard told me, and I didn’t want to share it with anyone.  Now I’m seeing things a little clearer, but the time isn’t right yet.” 
When Fin didn’t look wholly convinced, Jac tried to offer a little more.  “I haven’t even told my parents what the Bond Guard said, Fin.  It’s not their information to know yet either.”
That surprised the younger fairy.  “You haven’t?  Does anyone else know?”
After a brief hesitation, Jac nodded.  “Crill does, and he’s been helping me with it, but he’s the only one.”
Fin felt mildly put out that this Crill person knew the secret, but better about things to learn that Jac’s parents hadn’t even been let in on it.
“You will tell me one day though, right?” he pushed.
Jac nodded.  “Yes, Fin.  One day I will.  I promise.”
With a resigned sigh, Fin accepted that.  “Ok.”
“I should go,” Jac stated, “and your bucket is almost full.”
Fin glanced at his walnut shell and quickly moved to release the tap and prevent it from filling any more.  He then turned back to Jac. 
“Thanks for sticking around to say good-bye this time, and thanks for catching me when I dropped.”
“You’re welcome, runt,” Jac replied, a smile returning to his features.  “Try to stay out of trouble, ok?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Fin replied without promising anything.
        Moments later Jac was gone and Fin returned to the house, feeling less upset with the older fairy than he had been, but still frustrated that his curiosity had yet to be appeased.