Monday, September 25, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part 6

Hey, guess what! I'm still here!  LOL.  I'm very slowly making some progress on stories, and below is the next bit of Fairy Tales.  It's not a long piece, but I hope you like it.
JL-

*****


It was another week before Fin saw Luna again.  The day after the party, Fin’s parents had sat him down on their river stone chair and insisted on knowing all the details on where he’d been disappearing to and with whom he’d been associating.
When Fin explained it all, his father nodded knowingly.  “I suspected it had something to do with the girl,” Emre stated.  “But your interest in her sounds like it’s beyond friendship, Fin.  You know Dream Catchers are unobtainable to bond with except with other Dream Catchers, don’t you?”
Fin shrugged, but it was an action showing he didn’t want to agree with his father’s statement, not that he wasn’t aware of that information.  His mother sighed sadly, and his father mandated that he was not to go out after dark for any reason for the next week.
Fin vehemently tried to argue that point, but achieved nothing.  His father did allow for a message to be delivered to Luna so she wouldn’t look for him to show up during that time.  Grumpily, Fin caught a firefly friend, explained the message, and asked the little bug to pass the words along to Luna.  After that, it was a matter of impatiently waiting for his time in disgrace to end. 
He did put an extra visit in to Lorelei during that week, and found himself divulging his feelings for the pretty Dream Catcher to her over sweet mint water and blackberry jam on crackers.
“She’s the prettiest fairy I’ve ever seen, Lorry.  Her eyes are the shade of a spring lilac, and her hair looks like the color of the sky when it pinkens with the sunset.” He sighed softly.  “I hope she’s there when I’m allowed to go back.”
“You have it bad for her, don’t you, little mole-boy,” the elder fairy said knowingly.
Fin blushed.  “I like her a lot,” he admitted.  “But you’re probably going to tell me it’s impossible to be with her, just like everyone else, right?”
“No, I’ll make no such statement,” Lorry asserted, surprising him.  “There is no one on earth, not a fairy or gnome or merfolk or leprechaun or human or anyone else, who can tell what the future holds.  I’ll not say what is or isn’t possible because I’ll just be proven wrong.” 
Fin started to look hopeful at Lorelei’s words, but his face felt a bit as she continued speaking.
“I will say that I’ve never known or heard of a Dream Catcher fairy finding a compatible life-companion outside of another Dream Catcher.”
“But is that because the Bond Guard picks the mate?  You just said no one can tell the future.  That would be the Bond Guard too, right?”
Lorelei popped a jam-filled cracker in her mouth and looked thoughtful as she chewed.  When she swallowed the bite, she took a drink of her mint water before answering him.
“The Bond Guard fairy’s gift is not in telling the future,” she agreed, “but those born as a Bond Guard have an ability to recognize and understand the part of us that that would typically latch onto a companion.  This fairy can see all the little quirks and talents, faults and qualities, and wants and needs in each individual, and then instinctively know with whom they are best matched.  The Bond Guard directs us to our match, and will fight for us to have the best relationship possible with that match, but he or she cannot see the future and know the details of what will happen.  They can only guide and advise.”
Fin considered Lorry’s words.  “Is the Bond Guard ever wrong?”
Lorelei nodded.  “In some things, yes.  But, when it comes to matching mates, no; I’ve never known of a Bond Guard to mismatch anyone.”
Fin sighed.  He still held out hope to be matched with Luna when the time came, but that hope was constantly being tread on. 
Lorelei heard the sigh and patted Fin’s purple hair.  “You dwell too much on things that are out of your control, Fin.  What will be will be.  Now, tell me what you do have control over.  What have your Earth Reader duties been lately?”
Since Fin loved his role as an Earth Reader, that change of subject was easy to move to.  He told Lorry of moving a colony of earthworms to a section of the forest where the soil was lacking in air and water, and of his favorite mud bank where he and his Earth Reader friends would wade and wallow in the cool, squishy patch.
Lorelei chuckled over that information.  “You Earth Readers are the only fairies I know who like to get completely covered in mud.”
Fin laughed with her.  “It’s fun, and it feels so good!  It’s cool and smooth and gooey!”
“Of course it is.  It’s mud,” Lorelei stated.  “I do hope you all wash yourselves well before you go traipsing into your mothers’ homes.”
Fin assured her they did.  He learned his lesson about that when he was five and had discovered the joys of mud wallowing for the first time.  Just two steps into the house and his mother had shrieked at the sight of his dirt-covered form.  His father had quickly whisked him back outside to a dew shower and scrubbed him with aloe soap, while admonishing Fin to not track such large amounts of muck into the house if he wanted his mother to keep her sanity. 
Fin hadn’t understood exactly what his father had meant, but since the high-pitched shriek from his mother had hurt his ears, he’d been careful to wash after mud wallowing in the future.
When their snack was eaten and the dishes cleaned, Fin said his good-byes to his friend and began a leisurely walk back home, his thoughts easily drifting back to the pink-haired fairy he had to wait a few more days to see.

*****
When the week of his punishment ended, Fin’s father insisted on coming with him the next time he went to meet Luna.  Fin wasn’t pleased with that decision, as the embarrassment of his father needing to approve of his visiting with the pretty fairy made him blush from the tips of his wings to the soles of his feet.
He did try to argue against his father’s presence initially.  “She won’t come out if she sees a fairy she doesn’t know.  You know how shy Dream Catchers are.”
“I do know,” Emre agreed.  “But shy does not mean completely antisocial.  You and I will call out that I am there and not a threat.”
“She still might not come.”
“Then I will go with you until she does.”
Fin stomped his foot.  “You will make me lose my friendship with her!”
His father’s hands went to his hips, which was never a good sign in Fin’s experience.  “If she refuses you friendship over the presence of a father who loves you and cares for her safety as well, then she is not a good friend for you.”
Fin’s hands clenched into fists, but he turned and strode away before arguing further and risking extending his grounding.

Now the two of them sat on the familiar rock Fin usually shared with Luna, and waited for the fairy to appear.  When they had arrived, Finn had seen the firefly who’d delivered his message the week before, and asked him to find Luna and explain that his father only wanted to meet her and then would leave.
The little bug, unconcerned with Emre’s presence, simply flickered his understanding and flew off into the darkness.
Quite a long while passed as they waited.  Fin was coming to believe Luna would not show that night; but then, just a few minutes before the moon would touch the tallest tree, he heard a whispered rustling and turned toward the sound.  With a happy flutter in his heart, he recognized a bit of Luna’s pink hair peeking from behind a fallen pinecone.  He smiled and called to her softly, knowing she didn’t like loud noises.
“Luna, it’s okay.  My dad just wanted to meet you because you’re special to me.  I’ve missed you this week.”
Slowly, the timid fairy stepped away from her hiding place, although she only approached them by a few steps before stopping.  She looked to Fin’s father and lifted her fingers in a tentative wave.  “Hi, Mr. Emre,” she said very softly.
Fin looked to his father who stood behind him, noting the elder fairy’s brief surprise and then soft smile. 
“Hello, Luna.  I’m surprised you remember me.  You were only a newborn when I last saw you.”
She shrugged bashfully.  “Dream Catchers always remember faces, no matter our age.  It helps in our calling.  Plus,” she added reservedly, “my parents always spoke highly of you.”
“Thank you.  I’m glad to see you’re well, and please don’t be nervous about my presence tonight.  I was simply concerned for my son because he was disappearing so frequently.”  Emre then gave a mild look to the younger man.  “And not always being completely honest about where he was.  I just wanted to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Luna still kept her distance, but she looked less reserved as she nodded.  “I wouldn’t let him come to harm, Mr. Emre.  He is my friend.”
“I am glad for your friendship, but I hope that if either of you have a problem that you might come to me.”
Fin almost spoke up to argue against any problems they might have, but Luna responded in her quiet voice with a simple, “Thank you.”
It wasn’t a promise on her part at all, but it was an acknowledgement of the offer. 
Emre then patted Fin’s shoulder and made him face him.  His voice lowered as he spoke so Luna wouldn’t hear.  “She’s a sweet girl, Fin, and your friendship can be valuable to both of you.  But son,” he said in warning, “guard your heart.”  He put a warm palm against Fin’s chest to enforce his words, letting them seep in for a moment.  “I’ll head home now, but I expect you to not be far behind me. Understood?”
Fin looked and saw the typical time of his departure was drawing near, and he nodded in acknowledgement.  “I’ll be home soon,” he promised.
With a nod, Emre simply turned and flew away, but Fin knew he’d stay awake until Fin returned.
When the younger man turned back to Luna, she looked nervous again.  “I missed you too, Fin,” she finally offered.
He felt some of his tension dissipate.  “You did?  I was worried you wouldn’t see me after this.”
She approached slowly then, and joined him on the rock where his father had sat.  “I like spending time with you,” she admitted.  “It’s nice to have a friend who isn’t a Dream Catcher.  You…see the world differently.  It’s nice to experience.”
Fin grinned at her.  “I’m glad.  Are there many other Dream Catchers around?  Are you all friends?”
“There are more of us than most day-fairies realize.  We are all friends, but we do not often gather in groups.  Our friendships are...individualized,” she explained haltingly.
Fin would have like to ask more questions about that, but Luna looked over his head and spoke warningly.  “You need to leave now.  The moon has touched the tree.”
Fin sighed and very nearly argued to stay just a few more minutes.  But, as if knowing what he was about to say, Luna shook her head.
“The bats are stirring.  It is not safe to stay, and I promised your father.”
         With a deep breath, he knew she was right.  “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he swore, then pecked a very light kiss to her cheek before taking off in the direction his father had flown.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fairy Tales - Part Five



He had no luck.  He spent all day searching the trees and nooks and crevices of the arch, but saw no sign of her or any other fairy. 
The next day he went back, and the next, and the one after that.  For a full week he returned to that section of the forest and sought her.  He finally felt the fullness of defeat come over him, and he sat dejectedly on a piece of fallen bark.  Lonely and sad, he sat there longer than he realized, and then startled when the screech of a bat revealed to him that night had fallen.  He trembled and ducked behind a pine cone.  Bats were one of the few animals dangerous to fairies.  While his kind was always careful not to harm nature in any way, there were a handful of creatures that had no respect for their fairy guardians, and bats were among them.  A fairy was as much food to them as moths and spiders. 
He stayed as quiet as possible, know that bats hunted by sound instead of sight, and he spent several minutes barely breathing before the erratic flapping of the nocturnal beast’s wings could no longer be heard.
Moving slowly and silently, he stepped out from behind the pine cone, breathing a sigh of relief until a soft voice spoke from nearby.  “Why do you keep returning here?”
Fin, although he’d adamantly argue otherwise, shrieked and whirled around.  His eyes barely caught a flash of pink before it was gone, clearly having run away in fright.
“No!  Don’t go!  Luna?  Is it you?” he called as loudly as he dared.  There was no answer, and his eyes darted all around him.  “Luna?  Please come back.”
Just as his wings began to wilt sadly, Fin heard the barest rustling of shuffling feet.  He turned around and finally saw frightened eyes peering at him from behind a rock.
“Luna?  Please, I didn’t mean to frighten you.  Will you come out and talk to me?”
She lifted her head just a little more over the rock.  “I’m sorry I made you scream,” she apologized apprehensively.
Fin wanted to argue the scream comment, but even more he just wanted to see her again.  “It’s okay,” he assured.  “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Why?”
“Why?” he repeated back, feeling his cheeks warm.  “Because I think you’re beautiful, and I want to know you.”
Violet eyes blinked at him.  “Thank you,” she whispered. 
He grinned.  “You’re welcome.  Will you come out and talk with me?”
She still sounded unsure.  “I don’t have much to say.”
“Then we don’t need to talk,” Fin compromised quickly.  “We can just sit and watch the night together.” 
He approached her slowly then, and sat on the rock she was hiding behind.  After several long minutes, she climbed up and joined him, and they sat like that all night, never speaking, but simply being in each other’s company. 
Toward morning, when the night’s blackness was starting to lighten to gray, Fin’s eyes grew too heavy to keep open, and despite wanting to continue basking in the girl-fairy’s presence, he fell asleep on the rock they shared.
When he woke, it was clear several hours had passed.  His stomach grumbled hungrily and he was, sadly, alone again.  Luna had left while he slept, like the best of dreams that unfortunately comes to an end.  He had no idea if she was nearby or not, but he spoke into the air, hoping she’d hear him.  “I’ll be back,” he promised.
It was approaching the hottest part of the day when he arrived home, and his mother wasn’t pleased with him. 
“Fin!  Where have you been?  It’s becoming a bad habit of yours to keep disappearing like you have.”
A mixture of shame at worrying his mother, and frustration that she was questioning him like he wasn’t almost a grown fairy rolled over him.  “I’m sorry, Mama,” he offered a bit grudgingly. 
“Perhaps you are,” his mother stated with obvious disbelief, “but perhaps a day staying home will make sure your apology is sincere.”
Fin gaped at her.  “You’re grounding my wings?!”
She stared him down for a moment, but then shook her head.  “No, I’m not.  I am saying that if you are truly sorry for the worry you caused, then you can make up for it by helping me here at home today.”
Fin bit his lower lip.  “All day?”  He’d been hoping to sleep a bit before going back to the arch to find Luna.
“All day,” his mother confirmed.  “And sleeping in your own bed tonight instead of disappearing without a word.”
Fin felt stuck, like the time he’d gotten tangled up in a clematis plant.  He didn’t want his mother upset with him, but he couldn’t stand the thought of not trying to see Luna again.  Finally, he just nodded his head, not verbalizing anything and simply letting his mother interpret that action however she saw fit. 
“Good,” she stated, fooled by apparent agreement.  “You can start helping by collecting the abandoned webs the cob spiders have left around our tree cover.  I need to make sticky rope for some friends.  When you’re done with them, fresh water needs fetched so you can launder the clothes, and then I’ll need you to shell enough walnuts for me to make nut cakes.  After that’s all done, come find me and I’ll tell you what’s next.”

*****
It was a long day to Fin’s mind.  His parents provided him with one chore after another, which kept him from taking the nap he wanted—although they couldn’t have known that—and which also kept his mood steadily deteriorating. 
That deterioration took an extra nosedive when his friends, Nak and Nymia, stopped by to invite him to go honey-hunting. 
He didn’t even get a chance to beg permission to go.  His father, overhearing the invitation, answered for Fin with a, “Sorry.  Fin has work he needs to do here today.”
In disappointment, his friends left, and Fin couldn’t help tossing a glare to his dad.  Emre merely looked at him.  “You know what your mother asked of you,” he finally reminded.  “If you want to show her you’re sorry for causing her worry, then you do have work here to do.  If you’re not that apologetic, then you’re free to join your friends.”
Put like that, Fin’s guilt hit him and he knew he had to stay.  That still didn’t mean he actually wanted to though.  He wished there was a way to be sorry, but still do what he wanted.
By the time his parents deemed his work done, it was well into the evening.  Supper had come and gone, and his parents were making comments about heading to bed. 
Although tired himself, Fin silently urged his parents to hurry up.  As soon as he knew they’d be asleep and couldn’t worry, he planned to head back to the arch.
At the first snores of his father, Fin was out of the house.  He flew quickly through the trees and vines, not worried about the dark except to keep an eye out for bats.  When he reached the arch, he landed on the rock he and Luna had shared the night before and looked excitedly around. 
“Luna?” he called as loudly as he dared.
There was no answer.
“Luna?” he called just a bit louder.  “Come share the night with me again.  We don’t have to talk.  We can just watch the stars.”
Still, no answer, but for the next hour Fin waited, every now and then calling softly for the pink-haired fairy to join him.  Eventually he sat on the ground, trying to force back the way his eyes threatened to tear at not seeing the girl.  He sniffled a few times, and had just decided to go home when the sound of fluttering wings came to his side. 
There Luna was, her pretty face looking concerned.  “Are you hurt, Fin?  Don’t cry.”
“Luna!” he stood quickly.  “I thought I missed you.”
“You were looking for me again?  Is that why you were crying?”
Fin embarrassingly wiped at his eyes.  “I wasn’t crying.  I was just…a little sad…that I couldn’t find you.”
She smiled bashfully at him.  He couldn’t help grinning back.
“Would you like to watch the night with me?” he asked.
Her smiled faded a little.  “I’d like to, Fin, but I have things I must do.”
His father’s words about Luna came back to him then.  “Are you a Dream Catcher, Luna?  Is that what you have to do?”
Her violet eyes widened in surprise, although she didn’t ask him how he knew.  “I am,” she confirmed.  “I hear the dreams calling to me even now.  If I don’t catch them, and guide them to the right places, they’ll be lost.  So, I can’t stay.”
“I know.  I understand, but when can I see you again?”
Luna appeared surprised every time he expressed his desire to see her.  “I don’t know,” she finally answered slowly.  “I have to answer the dreams when they call to me, and give good dreams to those who need them.  But I don’t always know when that will happen.  Sometimes the night is quiet, and sometimes there are too many dreams to follow.”
“Maybe I can help,” Fin offered.
Luna gave that shy smile again, but shook her head.  “Only those who can hear the dreams can help.”
Fin knew that, but he still sighed.  “I’ll come back tomorrow and look for you then.”
She nodded.  “I’ll come if I can, but please do not stay past the time the moon is above that tree.”  She pointed to the tallest of the birch trees around them.  “The bats fly frequently after that time, and you need to stay safe.  I will not be here after the moon touches that point.”
Fin nodded.  “I promise, but I’ll look for you until then.”
With one final smile to him, Luna rose with flapping wings and headed off to catch the dreams floating in the night.
Fin flew home, already looking forward to the next evening.

*****
For the next two weeks, Fin’s daily routine included flying to the arch as soon as his parents were asleep for the night.  He only saw Luna about every third day, but he followed her instructions to leave when the moon hit the tree.  He hoped she was being careful though.  He feared for her safety with the bats around, just as she feared for his.
When they were together, they talked very little.  Occasionally Fin would share about his day, and Luna would intermittently try to explain to him what dreams sounded like, although he admitted that he never fully understood it.  However, mostly they sat on their rock and watched the events of the night—the appearing of stars, blinking lightning bugs, the night breezes rustling the grass and leaves around them.
On one of their nights together, Fin slid his hand over Luna’s and gently held it.  She looked at him in surprise, then down at their hands, then back at him. 
“Fin?”
“Is this okay?” he asked hopefully.
“It’s…I like it,” she admitted.  “But….”
“But what?” Fin asked nervously.
“But, you make me think you want to bond with me.”
Fin managed to meet her eyes, despite the nerves he felt.  “What if I do?”
With a sad shake of her head, Luna answered him.  “Fin, Dream Catchers can only bond with other Dream Catchers.  We…we’re not compatible with other fairy roles the way the rest of you are.”
Fin knew this.  It was common fairy knowledge.  Dream Catchers needed the strength and understanding of other Dream Catchers because their duties were often very emotional.  They dealt with bad dreams and nightmares as well as the good ones. 
That didn’t change how Fin felt though.  “There’s always a chance,” he said with hope.  “When it’s my time to go to the Bond Guard, I’ll tell her I want to be with you.”
Luna shook her head again.  “No, Fin.  You know that’s not how the bond works, don’t you?  The Bond Guard doesn’t choose our mate.  They are merely the messengers.  Like dreams speak to me, our inner natures speak to the Bond Guard and lets him or her know with whom we are best suited to be life companions.”
“I know,” Fin agreed, “but perhaps we are one another’s companion.”
Luna looked down at where Fin still held her hand.  “If that is the case, I will be happy with destiny’s pick for me.  You are my friend…my best friend,” she added in a whisper.  “But Fin, be prepared to know I may not be your companion.”
Fin knew she was right to warn him, but he didn’t want to hear it.  He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers.  “I will still hope,” he insisted.
With a sigh, she lifted her free hand and cupped his face.  “You are my sweet friend, Fin,” she said softly.  “You must go now.  The moon is near the tree.”
Fin nodded, knowing she was right.  With a gentle squeeze of her hand, he let go, and then headed home with a heart that wasn’t sure what to think.

*****
Luna wasn’t there the next night, which Fin expected.  The dreams called for her more often than not, but he still waited on their rock. 
The moon had almost reached the tree when the sound of an unexpected voice startled him. 
“Fin Earthenly!  What are you doing here?!  You’re a sitting meal for bats!”
Fin whirled around to see Jacoby glaring at him with disapproval and anxiety.  His mouth dropped open.  “Jac?  What are you doing here?”
“I just asked you that, but I’ll wait for the answer until we get somewhere safer.  Come on.”
“It’s fine,” Fin tried to argue.  “The bats don’t come out until the moon has moved past that tree.”
“We are not going to test that theory.  Get flying, Fin!”
“We have time….”
Fin stopped abruptly as Jac stomped the few steps separating them and grabbed the younger boy’s hand.  “We’re going now,” Jac insisted, and then flapped his wings forcefully, making the younger fairy fly with him whether he wanted to or not. 
They went a fair distance away from the arch before Jac slowed down, and he only did that when he spotted an empty bird’s nest. 
“Here,” he said, his tone short and gruff.  “I saw the babies fly away yesterday.  The nest will be empty for now.”
Fin, still in shock over both seeing Jac and being drug away from the rock arch, went grudgingly into the nest and settled in amongst the twigs and soft feathers left from the baby birds.
The two of them were silent for several minutes, Fin feeling a confusing mix of anger, frustration, and yet gladness to see his friend.  Eventually, when he couldn’t stand the silence anymore, he glanced toward Jac.  “What are you doing here?  There’s been talk that you’ve moved away permanently.”
Jac’s mouth had been tipped down in a frown for several minutes, but now he sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.  “I’ve not moved permanently.  I’ve just moved…for now,” he said without any real explanation.  “I’ve been back for a couple days for my mom’s birthday.”
That news bothered Fin.  “You’ve been back?  You didn’t even come to say “hi”!”
“Actually, I did,” Jac argued.  “I arrived late two days ago, and spent the night with my parents.  Then I went around the next day to invite everyone to her party, but I couldn’t find you.  Your mom and dad thought you were attending to your Earth Reader duties.  My mother’s birthday and the party is tomorrow, and I went back to your house this evening to invite you, but your parents said you weren’t there again and they were worried.  They said you’ve been disappearing a lot recently.  They asked if I minded doing a fly-around to try and find you.  I didn’t expect to find you at the rock arch where the bats congregate at night.  What were you doing there?”
Fin lifted his chin.  “It’s not your business, but I was meeting a friend.”
Jacoby’s eyes narrowed at him.  “What kind of friend can you only meet at night, and that you have to hide from your mom and dad?”
“I’m not hiding anything.  My friend is a Dream Catcher, so that’s why we meet at night, that’s when she’s awake, and I haven’t said anything to my parents because they’d just worry.”
“They’re worried anyway, Fin!” Jac reminded in a scolding tone.
“They don’t need to be!  I can take care of myself!”
“Says the fairy out at night, by himself, in known bat territory,” Jac retorted.
Fin’s ire rose at the rebuke.  “Why’d you even come looking for me, Jacoby?!  Just to scold and yell?  You’re just a stick-in-the-mud fairy who still hasn’t kept his promise, and who just up and leaves.  What kind of friend are you?  You should just go back to your new home and stay out of my life!”
Fin rose from the nest, anger making him reckless, and darted off, not caring where he headed.
“Fin!”
He could hear Jacoby behind him, clearly chasing him as he called out, but Fin ignored it.  Familiarity with the forest and trees had him zig-zagging around.  Subconsciously, he must have desired to go home, because his parents’ hollowed-rock house came into sight. 
Jac caught up with him just as Fin landed at his front door.  “Fin, listen…”
“No!” Fin interrupted, still mad.  “You come and go.  You think you have the right to scold me.  You know, I wanted to be better friends with you back when you helped me with the rainbow water, but then you disappeared.  That’s what you chose to do, so that means my choices aren’t yours to worry about.”
Fin turned then, walked into his house, and slammed the door shut.

*****
When Finn entered his home, things didn’t get much better.  His parents had waited up for him, and the scolding he received from them was about the worst he’d ever had.   He apologized repeatedly, and was warned that disappearing again would get his wings grounded indefinitely. 
With that threat issued, Fin feared not seeing Luna anymore, so he told his parents about his nighttime flights to see his friend.  He didn’t tell them about his feelings for the girl, knowing that they’d tell him the same thing about Dream Catchers bonding with Dream Catchers that she did.
Expectedly, both his mother and father expressed fear for him being in bat territory at night, but Fin explained Luna’s knowledge of the bats and when they started flying. 
“I always leave when the moon gets to the tree,” he promised. 
Dubious, his parents said they’d talk about continued nighttime visits with him when it wasn’t so late.
There wasn’t time for that talk the next day though.  His mother had him helping her make berry jam and corn cakes for Jac’s mother’s party for most of the morning.
When it was time to leave for the celebration, Fin tried to find an appropriate reason not to go, but claiming tiredness wasn’t deemed an acceptable excuse to not be present.  So, unwillingly, Fin flew with his mother and father to the mushroom grove where the party was being held.
There was already a crowd of fairies assembled when they arrived.  Festivities of any sort—birthdays, bonding ceremonies, births—were always well attended.  Life was a thing to be celebrated, and fairies did times of merriment very well. 
Reed whistles and pan pipes were already being played, and several fairies had started to dance and flit from mushroom top to mushroom top, moving with the rhythm of the music. 
Several of the older generation of fairies, including Lady Lorelei, were chattering in a group together, reminiscing of other celebrations they’d experienced in their lifetimes. 
Fin stayed close to his mother and helped her set the food they’d made on the banana leaf table.  His mouth watered a bit as he saw what else had been brought.  Dishes of honeycomb cookies, nectar bread, spiced fruits, and cocoa milk were enough to tempt even the most disciplined fairy.
When his parents moved to greet the birthday fairy, Fin knew he should do so as well, but knowing Jac was probably nearby kept him from following.  He was still upset at the other boy. 
He sighed, wishing there was a way to disappear and go find Luna, or wishing that she would at least be at the party.  He knew that was unlikely though.  Dream Catchers rarely attended such large social settings.
Looking around, Fin took in the other fairies present, and then spotted another young but familiar face…Vaxon, the boy who’d held up the earth and gone for help when Fin had arrived.  Like had happened with Fin, Vaxon had also been called a hero that day, and anyone could see it had done a lot for the boy’s confidence.  He was currently surrounded by several other fairies his age, and the group of them were drinking cocoa milk and laughing.  Although several years older than the group of pre-teen fairies, Fin headed their way.  Vaxon’s boyish face smiled at him as he joined the group.
“Hi, Fin!”
“Hi, Vax.  How’re ya doing?”
“Good,” the boy stated happily.  “Do you know everyone?” he asked, nodding at his group of friends.  Fin knew or knew of several of them, but they all exchanged introductions anyway, and Fin joined in their conversation that ranged from the best swinging trees to their classes and teachers in fairy school. 
Most fairies completed their formal schooling—which involved plant identification, land/water/mountain geography, seasonal effects, and appropriate magic use—by the time they were thirteen or fourteen years old.  After that, fairies focused on their personal roles within their community.  Many of the young fairies with whom Fin was chatting were nearing the end of their schooling, and were looking forward to focusing their energies in what they saw as more purposeful arenas.  Fin understood and tended to have a similar mindset, so he enjoyed listening to young Species Ambassadors speak of their soon-to-be assigned animals, future Rangers talk of the ways of protecting the natural world and the secrecy of their fairy society, and excited Magic Minders discuss the misuse of magic they saw sometimes in other creatures with that gift. 
“Gnomes are some of the worst!” one young girl complained.  “They play pranks on humans and animals both, making the plants shift around so they get lost, or whispering in a way that makes them think there are hauntings going on.  They should learn to mind their manners,” she huffed.
A couple of the other fairies agreed with her, but then that familiar voice of Jac’s spoke up from behind Fin in a tone of mixed amusement and gentle scolding.
“Gnomes have been known to do those things, but don’t judge them too harshly, Vina,” he said to the younger girl.  “We fairies have our own history of pranksters.  You remember how Tinkerbell behaved when she had a crush on the Peter-human.  And Puck turned the poor weaver, Nick Bottom, into a donkey for a night.  It took the work of a lot of Magic Minders, Cultivators, Rangers, and even a couple Dream Catchers, to fix those situations and convince the humans to make them believe they dreamed those events and turn them into stories.”
“Yeah,” Vaxon spoke up knowingly.  “Our teacher, Lady Teema, said it was from those situations that the term ‘fairy tales’ was started.”
Most of the group of pre-teens giggled at that reminder.  The fairy community as a whole had always found it amusing that the humans had termed those stories, and others like them, “fairy tales”.
Talk then shifted to the party currently going on, and the group began to dissipate, some going in search of food, while others joined in on the dancing.
Fin took a few steps to follow those heading to the assorted victuals, but a hand on his wrist stopped him.  Knowing who it was, he looked over his shoulder with a carefully controlled expression.  “Yes?”
Jac looked at him tentatively.  “You’re still mad at me?”
“Maybe,” Fin challenged.  “Are you planning to be all sanctimonious about what I choose to do and who I do it with?”
Jac’s face didn’t change, but one wing twitched, revealing a brief feeling of annoyance, but then he let out a soft sigh.  “No, Fin.  You’re right.  I…” he hesitated, but then continued.  “I don’t have the right to judge what you do right now.  I’m sorry about how I spoke to you last night.  Seeing you out in the open, in bat territory, scared me.”  He met Fin’s eyes with a seriousness not often seen in a fairy’s expression.  “I just want you safe, Fin.  Ok?”
Fin crossed his arms and studied the older boy.  “Ok,” he finally accepted.  “I forgive you.  But,” he continued just as Jac’s eyes started to soften.  They immediately became wary again.
“But?” Jac asked.
“But you still haven’t kept your promise to me.”
Jac’s face fell completely.  “I can’t tell you yet, Fin,” he whispered.
“Of course not,” Fin said with a clear pout.  “I’ll be as old as Lorelei by the time you tell me.”
Jac shook his head.  “It won’t be that long.  I promise!”
“Yeah, well.  I’m not sure what I think of your promises.”
Jac looked distraught, but then his eyes flickered with excitement.  “I can do something else for you, Fin.  Just give me ten minutes, ok?”
That peaked Fin’s curiosity.  “Ten minutes for what?”
“A surprise!” Jac said with determination.  “I’ll be back in ten minutes!”  He jumped in the air then, his wings flapping quickly, and disappeared into the trees above. 
Uncertain, and a bit excited at the same time, Fin chose to go say happy birthday to Jac’s mom while he waited. 
Exactly ten minutes later, as Fin and the birthday fairy were discussing their favorite types of cake, Jac returned. 
“Hi, Mom.  Having fun?”
She nodded.  “It’s a wonderful party.  You and your father have made me feel so special with all you did to arrange it!”
Jac grinned and kissed his mother’s cheek.  “You are special, Mom.  But, do you mind if I take Fin somewhere for a little while?  There will still be plenty of partying to do when we get back.”
“Of course you can go.  Just let me know when you return.  I want to dance with my son.”
Jac grinned and nodded, then motioned Fin to follow him.  “Come on.  We need to tell your parents we’re leaving for a bit.”
That statement made Fin feel like a fairy-kin, but he knew Jac was right.  His parents’ threat to ground his wings was only too clear, although he still wished he could argue that he was too old to be treated like that.  He and Jac quickly found his dad and Jac was the one to speak up and request having Fin leave with him for a while.  Fin’s father gave them both a bit of a narrow-eyed look before agreeing. 
Relieved and inordinately curious, Fin then willingly followed the older fairy away from the party until Jac stopped and gave a short, sweet whistle.  The flapping of much bigger wings reached Fin’s ears, and Daichi the owl landed next to them.  Jac patted Daichi’s side.
“I made another promise to you a while ago, runt,” he reminded, teasing Fin with the nickname.  “I promised to have you ride with me on Daichi to see above the trees.”
A slow grin spread across Fin’s face.  “We’re really going to?”  Jac nodded, and Fin whooped.  “That’s awesome!”
Jac laughed and jumped onto the owl’s back, and then offered a hand to Fin.  Fin took it and climbed up behind the other boy.  Jac gripped Daichi’s feathers while Fin latched onto Jac’s waist.  Then, in moments, the large grey bird rose regally into the air, his impressive wingspan stretching wide and catching the wind currents. 
It was a different experience to fly without any effort on his part, but Fin loved it.  He trusted Daichi to safely maneuver through the dense trees, and not be distracted by anything while he had fairy friends riding on his back.
Seemingly in seconds, they broke through the tree cover and Fin gasped, gripping Jac tighter as the owl took him higher than he’d ever been.  Jac looked over his shoulder at him and grinned.  “Pretty neat, huh?”
Fin nodded, wide-eyed as he looked at the far-away ground and gorgeous sky above.  “It’s amazing!”  He breathed deeply, loving the fresh air that was almost cold against his cheeks as it blew against them.  In the distance, he saw other birds in flight, some gliding lazily in the air, others clearly seeking out food.  The trees below blended into one another, and Fin couldn’t see through them anymore.  He was being given the bird-view of his forest home, and found it incredible to see the world from such a height.
Daichi flew them over several miles, much further than Fin could typically manage in a day, and he saw things he’d never known of before.
“Look, Jac!  There’s a waterfall on that side of the mountain!  It’s beautiful!”
“I know.  It’s Green Falls.”
“You’ve been there?”
Jac nodded.  “Once, but it was a very long trip.”
Fin knew it would have been, and he would have asked about it if his eyes didn’t keep seeing other new things. 
“Look!  I think I see caves over there!  Hey, that’s the Rapid River!  That’s the one that eventually leads to the sea!  My grandfather said mer-folk can sometimes be seen there!  Oh wow, there’s the pine population that the black squirrels live near!  Hey, what’s that?!”
Jac hadn’t had a chance to respond to Fin’s constant comments, so he’d simply let him chatter and take it all in.  Now though, Fin clearly wanted an answer to his question, and Jac looked where the younger boy pointed.  “Oh, that’s a human road, Fin.”
“What are those things on it?”
“Crill told me they’re called cars.  They’re boxes of energy with wheels that take the humans to different places.”
Fin stared at the strange things in the distance.  “Can we get a closer look?”
Jac shook his head.  “Daichi doesn’t like those things.  He won’t get near them.  Anyway, we should be heading back now.  I promised to dance with my mom, remember.”
Fin was disappointed.  He would have loved to get a better look at the strange car boxes, but Jac was right. 
“Ok,” he agreed with just a hint of disappointment. 
It took some time to get back to their starting point.  Dusk had started to settle over the land, but that wasn’t hindering the party still in full swing.  Both fairies thanked the friendly owl for the experience, and Daichi bobbed his head in acknowledgement before taking off to return home.  The two of them then quickly joined in the now larger crowd of celebrants and were caught up in the fairy games going on. 
        Later, while watching Jac dance with his mother, Fin had to admit that he was glad he’d come, but a part of him wished Luna was there to experience it, and maybe dance with him too.