This week’s #blogbattle theme word is menagerie. #Blogbattle is a weekly event hosted by the wonderful Racheal Ritchey over at the new #Blogbattle site. Take a look at her website and books as well. It’s worth it.
As mentioned in my writing update post, this story actually contains both the theme word for last week (tea) and this week, because it was started for last week’s #blogbattle, and finished for this week’s. I hope that’s okay.
A New Friend
Winter landed on the ground, then flitted back up into the air. Flying was the best way to move silently. She heard others land behind her, their feet touching the ground briefly and then nothing. So she assumed they were flying again, like her.
Unable to see, she started forward slowly, her hands out in front of her, and hoped she didn’t bump into anything. A couple of times her shoulder grazed the wall before she altered her course. The path clearly wasn’t straight.
It felt like a long time before she saw light in the distance. Her heart was pounding in her ears, her chest tight.
She moved steadily towards the light and, eventually, saw the small round room before her in detail. In the centre, a small fire was burning, and tables lined the walls. A black archway led off the opposite wall, she assumed another passage or room.
And by the fire, sat eating a plate of seeds and drinking a sweet smelling tea from a wooden cup, was an old male fairy. He had grey hair and a grey beard, and a large round tummy that covered most of his thighs. He looked up at their entry, a frown on his face.
“Who are you and how did you get in here?” he asked, his voice a mixture of curiosity and anger.
Winter landed, and she saw out of the corner of her eye, the others land behind her. Even the birds had made it down the well and now stood at the back of the group, half in shadow. “My name’s Winter,” she said, “and these are my friends, Tango, Summer, and Autumn, and the birds as well. We’re here because we need your help. A Queen has got hold of a book, a powerful book of magic, and she’s enchanted two of my friends. She wants the powers of me and my friends to control the seasons. We need your help to stop her.”
He stood, setting down his food. “And what makes you think I can help you with that?”
“There are stories,” Autumn spoke up. “About a powerful fairy who lives here, who remembers the time before humans, and knows a lot of fairy magic and lore.”
“Are you that fairy?” Winter asked.
He walked towards them. “There are stories about me, heh?” A hint of a smile played on his face. “Well, didn’t quite realise I’d gotten that old.”
“How long have you been here?” Winter asked.
“Long enough to remember a lot of things,” he said. “And long enough to see the world change many times before my eyes. Too long, some might say. I’ve felt the shift recently.” He took hold of her hands and turned them over. “Yes, you have the gift, don’t you? You know you aren’t the first. Long ago there were fairies just like you, with the power, and responsibility, to change the seasons. It is a responsibility, you know that, don’t you?” He looked her in the eyes, and she felt like he was seeing right into the depths of her.
“I do,” she said. But she had tried not to think about it. Birch and Indian were her priority right now. Everything else could wait.
He looked at her a moment longer, then nodded in what could have been approval. Then he went to Summer and Autumn, and looked at them in the same way. Tango stood looking very self-conscious. Winter put a hand on her arm, and Tango smiled back shakily.
“Yes,” the old fairy said, and returned to stand before Winter. “I think you are ready for this. Though I think it’s going to be a lot more work than you think.” Seemingly satisfied, he turned and walked back to his fire. “Now, what do you need to know of me about this Queen and her book?” He sat down and looked at her, awaiting her answer.
“She has cast a spell over Birch and Indian, my friends, using a book of magic. They are like her slaves or something now. We need to know how to break the spell and get the book away from her so that we can restore the seasons.” She tried to remain calm, but tears sprang up in her eyes anyway.
“Hmm,” he steepled his fingers, resting his chin on top of them, “I have heard of such a book. And I know of such a spell. But the way to break it… I shall have to consult.” He closed his eyes, and started to hum. The fire gradually started to burn brighter, and the flames danced more wildly. Smoke rose, but not the regular grey sort of smoke, it was white, and seemed to sparkle. At times, it was almost transparent.
Winter thought she saw a menagerie of shapes in it, and watched, mesmerised. There was silence in the room, like every breath was being held.
The old fairy opened his eyes. They were unfocused, staring into the smoke, but not really seeing what was there, Winter didn’t think. Slowly, the smoke died away, and the old fairy’s eyes came back into focus. He turned to her, and said, “There is a way. You must use your powers, and I will give you a powder to call her to you. You must use your mind to force the power in the powder to do your will, and she will come. Then, it is down to your powers to stop her. That is all I can do for you.”
He got up, and went to a shelf to Winter’s right. He then handed her a small bottle. “I wish you luck,” he said. “This will be no easy task.”
“Thank you,” Winter said, and slipped the bottle into a small pocket in her dress. “You’ve been a great help, but there is one more thing we need help with. We may not be able to return the way we came. Is there another way out?”
He smiled a smile that held many secrets behind it. “That passage,” he pointed to the black archway. “Follow it, and you will find the path you seek.”
Winter stared at the archway, and nerves shook her insides. But take the path she must. “Thank you,” she said again. “We won’t forget this kindness.”
“No,” he said, as they began to cross the room, “and neither shall I forget you. Good luck, my friends.”
Winter returned his smile, and then stepped into the blackness of her new path.