Fin was on his best behavior over the next few months. He wanted nothing to get in the way of his time with Luna, or his upcoming meeting with the Bond Fairy.
He was also as busy as ever in his Earth Reader duties. His skills were growing in leaps and bounds, and his body was filling out as he grew more and more into his adult wings. Although, he still enjoyed playing fairy games with his friends. Few fairies ever matured beyond wanting to play in the trees or swim in cool water, as they believed life was meant to be enjoyed, both in duties and in times of relaxation.
As his time to discover his bond drew near, Fin's eyes fiercely observed the couples in his life. He watched his parents, the elder couples, and those who had just met their mates. He noticed the way they touched, how confidences were shared through looks and quiet words only between matches, and how one always seemed to know where the other was. He gleaned this information and more from all of them. He also fantasized about being told Luna was his match. His times with her only heightened his feelings, and he was certain that they had to be matched. They were too good together not to be.
Granted, Luna was being more cautious than him. While she didn’t rebuff his good night pecks to her cheek, or the occasional holding of her hand, she never let things go further. Despite being a bit frustrated about that, he knew not to push. Some things needed to wait until the bond between them was official.
Eventually...finally…his eighteenth birthday was a mere two days away. He couldn’t prevent the smile on his face as he sat with Luna on their rock. They hadn’t spoken much that night, but it was easy to be content with her by his side as they looked up at the stars and the moon shadows around them.
In due time, Luna turned her face toward him. “Your wings are starting to shimmer, Fin,” she softly teased. “What are you so excited about?”
He grinned at her, knowing she knew full well what his eagerness was over. “It’s so close, Luna. I feel like I’ll shake out of my body!”
“Will you go see the Bond Fairy first thing?”
Fin nodded with exuberance. “There’s no way I could wait once the day is finally here. Although,” his enthusiasm waned a little, “my parents have asked that I stay home tomorrow night. They have some things planned for us all before the morning comes, and they want me to get a good night’s sleep.” He huffed a laugh. “As if I’m going to sleep at all tomorrow night!”
She chuckled. “Don’t wear yourself out, Fin. And…” she paused briefly, “just remember to be open to all possibilities.”
Fin didn’t have a response to her words. He knew what she was warning him about, but he couldn’t make himself think about anything other than his hopes for that day. Instead, he reached over and squeezed her hand, holding it for a minute before noticing the position of the moon.
“I hate that it’s time to leave already,” he murmured.
“I know,” she replied, just as she always did when he uttered those words. “But you must. Be safe, my friend.”
He nodded and then gave his customary kiss to her cheek before reluctantly leaving for home.
Later, when he was cozy in his bed, his wings began to shimmer again as excitement built in him.
The evening before his birthday was not quite what he expected it to be. Initially, the time was very enjoyable. His mother made some of his favorite foods, including dandelion salad and the rarely made rose pollen cake. She even put a honey glaze on it! The three of them almost ate themselves sick over the meal, so afterward they moved to their home’s main living area and settled comfortably onto the cotton-stuffed furniture.
They were all quiet for a few minutes, simply enjoying the sated feeling in their tummies, before Fin’s father spoke in a strangely serious tone. The sound more than Emre’s words initially caught Fin’s attention. He had never heard such an odd mix of determination, gentleness, and yet awkwardness in his father’s voice.
“Fin, your mother and I need to speak to you about what to expect from your time with the Bond Guard, and your life after that meeting.”
Fin directed his gaze toward his parents. “Is something wrong?” he questioned.
“No, not at all,” his mother assured. “But there is some preparation involved in your meeting, and all fairy parents are responsible to educate their children the night before.”
They definitely had all of Fin’s attention right then. “What preparation? What do I need to know?”
Both his parents sat a little straighter, and his father spoke in a gently serious tone. “First, you need to understand that the Bond Guard is there to give you information and guide you. They are not trying to dictate your life, but they recognize the soul-deep qualities of every fairy who comes to them.
“The Bond Guard will speak with you for a long time, and most of that time will be discussing who you are—your strengths and weaknesses, your natural inclinations, and what it means to make wise or foolish decisions. You cannot rush this process with them, so do not go in simply expecting to be given a name, and then be able to leave immediately.”
“Oh,” Fin murmured, since he had kind of been expecting to be in and out of the meeting.
His mother then picked up where Emre left off. “After the Bond Guard discusses things about you, they’ll then speak about your mate, if you have one. You’ll hear many things about their inner person, and how the two of you can benefit and enrich each other’s lives, how you’ll balance each other, being strong where the other lacks strength, or providing wisdom when the other is confused.”
Fin nodded. “Then I’ll be told who my mate is?”
“Perhaps,” Emre warned. “Remember that some fairies do not have a mate, but if you do, you still need to be prepared for what you might hear.”
Fin’s mother nodded her agreement. “It’s very possible you’ll be told immediately who your mate is. Or,” she continued, “you might not be given a name. You might be told instead how to find the match nature has destined, or that you must wait for a time, or that you must not go searching because your match will be brought to you.”
“There are a dozen other scenarios that could happen,” Emre explained. “So, you must listen carefully.”
“I will,” Fin promised.
“Good,” his father replied. “But, there is one other aspect that we must address before the morning comes.”
Fin’s mother rose from her seat just then. “While you two speak together about this next issue, I’ll tidy up from our meal.” She moved to kiss Fin’s head as he gave her a confused look. “It’s a private conversation first,” she explained quietly. “But you can talk to me or ask any questions after, all right?”
He nodded and watched as his mother left the room, his attention only turning back to his father when Emre called his name.
“If you do have a mate after tomorrow, have you thought about the intimacies that will develop between the two of you?”
Fin’s face began to burn. “Dad!” he complained.
“Fin,” Emre scolded slightly, his gaze holding his son’s. “This is important.”
Fin shrugged. “I know, but to talk about it….”
Emre ruffled his son’s hair with an affectionate look. “It was no easier talking to my dad about it, but it’s important, son.”
So, for the next couple hours, Fin learned far more than he realized was a part of a mating bond. All fairies grew up holding hands and hugging their friends, even occasionally kissing one another’s cheek, but the rest was brand new information, and Fin understood why it was kept so private between mates, and only shared and explained by a fairy’s parents on the eve of meeting the Bond Guard. He felt overwhelmed by the time he’d run out of questions, although his mind was swimming with this unexpected information.
As soon as the sun peeked through the trees and began evaporating the morning dew, Fin was on his way to his future. His wings hadn’t stopped shimmering since he’d awoken, his excitement and nerves that great, and he’d taken special care with his appearance, wearing his best flax-linen pants and softest bamboo vest. He didn’t know if it would change anything, but he wanted to make the best impression possible.
Sooner than he expected, he stood before the Bond Guard’s home, having followed the directions his father had given.
The Bond Guard was a singularly unique fairy. No one knew who he or she was until the day of their eighteenth birthday, and after their match-meeting, fairy law would not allow them to disclose to anyone else who held the title.
When Fin had begun developing more and more interest in the Bond Guard, his parents had explained these things to him. The secrecy surrounding the identity of this fairy was for the Bond Guard’s best interest. It allowed the fairy to be a part of society without being swamped with questions, or even looked at with wariness by those who might not trust his or her guidance.
Taking a deep breath, Fin forced the shimmer in his wings to fade and then rapped on the door of the Bond Guard’s tree house home.
In mere moments the door opened, and a friendly face smiled at him in greeting. Fin immediately recognized the woman who welcomed him inside.
“Lady Caly! You’re the Bond Guard?” he exclaimed to the woman he knew to be a Nature Nurturer.
She chuckled but surprised him by shaking her head. “No, gladly I’m not. You’re here to speak with my mate.”
Lady Caly and her mate were aged somewhere between Fin’s parents and Lady Lorelei, and it took a minute for Fin to remember who Caly’s match was. Then the face of a fairy with black and grey streaked hair and pale red wings came to his memory, the face of one of the security rangers.
“Mr. Nyx is the Bond Guard?!” he asked with more shock than when he thought it was Caly who held the role. “I thought he was a Night Ranger, and….” He stopped when he realized he was about to say something unflattering—that Nyx seemed too standoffish to hold such an important role.
“He is a Night Ranger as well,” Caly confirmed. “Bond Guards always have two roles, but no one knows that until they come for their match meeting.”
The older woman had been walking ahead of him, leading the way into her home. She paused only briefly to grab a tray filled with drinks and pastries, and then continued on into a sitting room that brought wonder to Fin’s eyes as he looked around. The space was warm and bright, and both qualities came from the sunshine spilling into the room; not from windows, but from cracks and crevices in the tree bark itself. The room captured sunbeams which made the space feel alive and vibrant.
“Have a seat anywhere, Fin,” Caly offered. “Nyx suspected you’d arrive early, so I’ll just go let him know you’re waiting.”
Nerves broke through some of Fin’s wonder as he was reminded why he was there, and he nodded soberly at his hostess. “Thank you, Lady Caly.”
“You’re welcome. And Fin, there’s no need to be anxious. Nyx spends his life looking out for the best of his fellow fairies. Whether it’s as a Ranger or as the Bond Guard, he’ll do everything in his power to give you the best life possible.”
Fin tried to take Lady Caly’s words to heart, but he was too hyped up to sit, so he paced amongst the sunbeams streaming into the room. He was on his fourth loop around the space when the clearing of a throat turned his head to see that Mr. Nyx had entered. The older fairy looked as serious as Fin remembered him being—an unusual trait in a fairy—but there was something in his gaze that was warmer than Fin expected.
“Sit down, young man, before you wear a hole in my floor,” he ordered, although his lips twitched in a flicker of a smile.
For a moment, Fin found his legs unable to move, but as Nyx moved to take his own seat, Fin forced himself into motion and did as he was told. The older fairy handed him one of the cold beverages on the tray Caly had brought in, and then settled comfortably into his cushioned chair, although his gaze never left Fin’s face. The room seemed inordinately quiet for what felt like forever, although it was probably no more than a minute or so.
“You’re not the first fairy to have such strong emotions about this meeting, Fin,” Nyx stated. “But I understand them. I know what I’m going to be telling you, but you don’t, and the mystery in front of you makes you anxious. I also know that you’d like to reach the end result of this meeting immediately, but you and I must walk a path together before reaching that point. Are you ready?”
Feeling a little more settled after hearing Nyx’s straight-forward words, Fin took a slow breath and nodded.
“Good. Let’s start with your questions. I know you have some.”
Nyx leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped around his cup. But his suggestion surprised Fin.
“My questions? You mean, I can just ask you straight out who my match is?”
Nyx’s mouth turned up, revealing his amusement. “You can ask that, but the answer to that particular question will come at the end of our discussion today, not the beginning. So, let’s focus on other things you might be wondering about.”
“Like what?” Fin questioned, since truly his main thoughts were on his destined match, and praying fervently that Nyx would say the name “Luna”.
“I’d suspect you have questions about me as the Bond Guard. Most fairies do. Or, about the intimacies bonded fairies share that your parents should have gone over with you last night. Knowing you though, I’d suspect that you’re wondering quite a bit about what I know about you.”
As soon as he made the suggestions, Fin knew Nyx was right. There were a lot of questions besides that one that he wanted answered.
“What do you know about me?” he asked. “Lady Lorelei said that you have the ability to recognize and understand all the little quirks and talents and faults and qualities that we each have. Is that true?”
“For the most part, yes; it is true.”
“Really? How do you know?”
Nyx gaze became scrutinizing, and Fin struggled not to squirm. “In my experience, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to others when I explain it, but I’ll try. When I observe my fellow fairies, there are nuances to each one that I notice which most fairies never see. How long you stare at someone or something, the emotions that seep out into your wings, the way you interact with each part of your world. These things are all revelations of your inner spirit. They tell me if you are calm or impatient, generous or vain, a quick thinker or naïve, and many other things.”
“So, all you know about us is through observation?”
Nyx shook his head. “No, not entirely. There is a natural instinct given to a Bond Guard as well. Some things we just…know. We see where personalities between fairies match or nettle each other. There are fairies that we can see would fit together beautifully, like the way eagles mate for life. While others we know to keep apart, since joining them would be like mixing a bear with a bunny.”
Fin nodded, understanding a little and thinking it might be similar to how Luna knew where the dreams she caught were meant to go. It was just something some of them were born with.
“Are you ever,” Fin bit his lip a moment before continuing. “Are you ever wrong about someone, or about their match?”
“Some people think so,” Nyx said almost too casually.
“But you don’t think so?”
Slowly, Nyx shook his head. “I won’t say that a level of happiness can’t be found with two fairies who haven’t been matched by a Bond Guard, but I am saying that neither one will experience the fullness a true match will give them.”
“What if I already know who my match is?” Fin asked boldly.
It was almost unnoticeable, but Nyx’s posture tensed slightly. “Well, Fin, if you truly know who it is, then consider yourself blessed to have a foundation started with that fairy. But, it is still not time to address that part of our meeting. There are things you need to understand about yourself before we talk about your compatibility with a match.”
“What don’t I understand?” Fin asked curiously. “Don’t I know me better than anyone?”
Nyx actually chuckled at that, something Fin had never seen the Ranger do before. “In some ways yes, you do, but your perspective on yourself is going to be skewed, just like everyone’s is.”
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that all of us, no matter who we are, tend to think both better and worse about ourselves than we truly are, and while we know many things about ourselves, we aren’t always understanding of ways to grow or how who we are affects the close relationship of a bonded match.”
That made sense to Fin, so he nodded and leaned in, mirroring Nyx’s pose. “What do I need to know?”
A couple hours later, Fin’s mind was reeling. It felt like he’d been turned inside out, taken apart and reassembled in a way that would take some getting used to. He truly hadn’t understood the depth of knowledge a Bond Guard knew about their fellow fairies. The two of them had spoken on Fin’s passions, his desires and goals, the ways he was sometimes selfish, and what it meant to share a life with someone. Nyx had encouraged him in his better qualities, but shown light on the areas that fluttered about in him with no benefit to himself or others. It had given Fin a lot to think about.
Nyx had also talked about the ways a true match worked. How Fin would complement a mate, and the qualities in his mate that would benefit him.
“A match is like joining sunshine and rain together. Both are very good things and necessary for growth in this world, and both can exist on their own, but when they come together…then we get the beauty of a rainbow, something beautiful that enriches our lives,” Nyx explained.
“I never really thought if it like that,” Fin stated. “But I like it. I want to be beautiful with my match, and I’ll work hard to make our lives good for ourselves and the world around us.”
“That’s a good resolution to make, but remember that there will be times you’ll have to weather storms together. It won’t always be rainbows.”
Fin nodded. “I’ll remember. Plus, that’s why we have Cultivators, like my dad. They help fairy couples when they’re going through a hard time.”
“Yes, and we are wise when we garner their assistance. And remember that you have me as well. Any fairy couple or individual is welcome to come to me. I don’t just guide you to the bond, I help guard it as well, and I’ll answer any questions I can.”
“Well, you’ve answered all of mine, except….”
“Except whether you have a match and who they are if you do,” Nyx completed.
Finn nodded, his insides started to squirm with excitement again. “Will you tell me yet? Please?!”
Nyx smiled gently at him. “Yes, young Fin. It is time to share this last bit I know.”
Immediately, Fin felt the intensity of a bright shimmer spread throughout his wings. “Who is it?”
Nyx leaned over and captured Fin’s hand, preventing the younger fairy from flying out of his skin. “When you leave here today, your match will be revealed. It will be the first fairy you see when you step out my door.”
Fin’s breath caught and his chest seized. This was it. He had a match, the Bond Guard confirmed it, and he was just minutes, maybe moments, away from starting his life with them.
“Thank you, sir! Thank you!” He started to rise, but Nyx hadn’t yet let go of his hand, which made Fin realize his bad manners. “Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like help cleaning up? I should thank Lady Caly for the refreshments, or….”
“No, Fin. You need not help with anything, and I’ll pass along your gratefulness to my wife. You’re welcome to leave when you choose, but I wish to say one more thing. You have heard a lot today, but don’t stop listening when you leave my presence. Okay?”
Fin wasn’t entirely sure what Nyx meant by that, but the fairy was clearly serious. He must be emphasizing that Fin would need to remember all that was shared. “Okay,” he agreed easily.With a nod, Nyx released him, and Fin moved as quickly as was acceptable toward the front door, toward his destiny. He paused at the door, taking just a moment for a deep breath and to smooth his hands over his clothes. Then, with a hand that shook slightly, he opened the door, his breath leaving him as his eyes alighted on the fairy waiting for him on the other side.