Read A Fairy's Guide to Disaster Online

Authors: A W Hartoin

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mythology & Folk Tales, #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #Country & Ethnic, #Fairy Tales, #Sword & Sorcery

A Fairy's Guide to Disaster (8 page)

BOOK: A Fairy's Guide to Disaster
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“I thought it might be something like that. Such a sad thing,” said Soren’s mother.

“Sad? It’s not sad. He’s just pretending to be a Whipplethorn and going around acting better than us when he isn’t even one of us.” I planted the ball of my earring on the floor and held it like a flagpole.

“Perhaps you’re too young to understand. Take us for example. We dryads are tied to our trees.” She gestured to the furniture. “First we lived in our trees in the forest, and then our trees were cut and fashioned into furniture. We’ve traveled from house to house and finally to this antique mall, but we’ll never willingly be separated from our trees. Something terrible must’ve happened to separate the Ogles from their home. You’re wood fairies like us. You must feel the same about your trees as we do.”

I considered what she was saying. I’d never thought about it before, but my parents said we came with the first stick of wood to Whipplethorn Manor. They said that our family had always been with the mantel. Did that mean we were with the mantel before it was a mantel? I did know Gerald’s family didn’t belong to any particular bit of wood in the house. They just found an empty spot and burrowed in. Nobody minded. Other families moved in when they needed a place. It was the changing of the name that bothered people. I once heard Grandma Vi describe it as disloyal. Disloyal to what? Was Gerald’s family disloyal to their original tree?

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess they must’ve left the Ogle house for a reason. I never thought about it.”

Soren’s mother squeezed my shoulder. “About this little boy, who are you looking for?”

“Gerald. He’s about this tall.” I gestured the appropriate height. “His wings are not as…” I stopped. I was going to say that his wings weren’t luminescent like mine because he wasn’t a Whipplethorn, but it didn’t seem like the kind of thing Soren’s mother would want to hear. “His wings are blue and grey.”

“Why did he leave you?” asked Soren.

“He wanted to find his parents. I tried to tell him to wait, that they would find us. But he climbed out the window and ran away.”

“So your parents are gone, too,” said one of the other dryads.

“Yes, but they didn’t leave us. It was an accident.” I flushed and looked around, daring anyone to say otherwise. “I’m the babysitter and I decided we had to stay together when the humans came. Maybe I should’ve let him go when we were still at Whipplethorn.”

“Tell us what happened,” said Soren.

He gestured for his family to sit in a semi-circle around me. They carefully folded their long legs and arms in and waited for me to tell my tale. I bit my lip, searching for the words to explain what had happened.

“Humans came,” I said.

“They always do,” said one of the dryads.

I told them everything about the humans, the mantel, Gerald, baby Easy, and my sister, Iris. The dryads asked few questions. They seemed to know everything before it happened in my story. When I finished, Soren rose to his feet and told his family to do the same. It was a slow process.

“You must find Gerald immediately,” he said. “Your sister is right. It’s not safe out here for little ones on their own.”

I looked around at the dryads standing around me with expressions of worry on their painted faces. “What could happen?” I asked.

“Well, there’s the spriggans for one,” said Soren.

“We met one,” I said. “He came into the mantel.”

The dryads murmured to each other. An intense worry radiated off them and settled in my chest. All I could think about was Iris. She was alone with Easy. Alone.

“Was the spriggan very interested in Gerald?” asked Soren’s mother.

“He offered to take him off our hands,” I said.

Soren’s mother turned to him and he began giving orders. He told certain dryads to organize a search and another one to get supplies. He ordered his mother to take care of me and she led me around the back of the bed to one of the legs. It looked normal from a distance, but up close it was out of proportion. The Maples’ home was built right on the leg and painted to match. Soren’s mother opened a long, narrow door at the back and ushered me inside. Tiny pinholes in the walls let in light. My eyes took a moment to adjust in the dim glow after the glaring light of the antique mall. When I could see, I was astonished by what I found. The house was bigger than it looked, with several rooms and comfortable furniture. Everything was wood or painted to look like it. Soren’s mother sat me on a cushy couch and left the room. The fabric on the couch was silky and painted to look like Birdseye maple, my favorite wood. I ran my hands over the fabric again and again. It was so perfect I wished my parents could see it.

Soren’s mother came back into the room with a warm cloth and a set of clothing, wood-grained, just like hers. “Here, dear. Tend your scratches and change your clothes. They’re ruined, anyway. There are some here in the mall who would help you, but they’d be shy of you in your present condition.” She turned and left, closing the door behind her.

I brought the clothes to my nose and sniffed them. They smelled like Dad’s wood shop just after he’d cut a fresh piece of maple. I breathed the scent in until my lungs could take no more, and then slowly let the air out, pressing the fabric to my face. I heard the door open and looked up.

Soren’s mother peeked around the edge of the door. “Hurry, dear. There’s no time to lose.” Then she disappeared again.

I nodded and wiped my face and scratches. There must’ve been an antiseptic on the cloth because all my scratches tingled and left a pink tinge on the cloth. I realized how awful I must look. It was a wonder Soren didn’t run the other way when he saw me. I probably looked like I’d been in a war, and in a way, I had. A war where I seemed to lose every battle.

I slipped off my tattered jumper, blouse, and tights. The blouse survived all right, but my jumper and tights were trashed. The new clothes were way too long for me, but fit in every other respect, except that there was no place for my wings to emerge. The clothes felt wonderfully clean and new against my skin. They were soft, probably woven from cotton and painted with intricate detail.

The door opened again and Soren’s mother asked, “Are you finished?”

“Yes, but the clothes are too long and I can’t get my wings out.”

She came in with a piece of glass. “No matter. We’ll fix that.” She cut the hem of the pants and the cuffs of the sleeves. Behind me, she cut long slits down the back of the top and pulled my wings through.

“Done,” she said, patting my shoulder.

“If the spriggans got my sister, what would they do to her?” I asked.

“How old is she?”

“Ten.”

“She’s too old for them. We’re lucky you’re long past the valuable age. You’d have brought a pretty price,” she said. “We must go. Soren will already be leading the search.”

We went out the door to find most of the other dryads were gone or still walking away. They didn’t move very fast, but they looked determined with their straight backs and strong steady strides.

“What would they do to Gerald then? He’s eight,” I said.

“They’d sell him. They’re traders. Children are their favorite merchandise.”

“Sell him. Like a slave?”

“Exactly like that. Children are easier to work with. They adapt better than adults,” said Soren’s mother.

I walked beside the dryad in silence. It was unbelievable. Slavery. I had heard of it, but didn’t know it was still practiced. My parents definitely should’ve told us about spriggans. Sometimes scared is better than ignorant. But who would buy Gerald? All he could do was annoy people. As worried as I was about Gerald, I still had a queasy pit in my stomach about Iris. I couldn’t remember a time when my little sister wasn’t dogging my heels. We were always together, whether I wanted to be or not. Now Iris was all alone with Easy. I didn’t think she’d open the door to the spriggan, but maybe he could trick her. Iris was as curious as she was sweet.

Soren’s mother took my hand. “It’s not too late. We’ll find him.”

I nodded. All I wanted to do was get back to the mantel and check on Iris but I couldn’t, because of Gerald. If anything happened to Iris because of that stink fairy, he’d regret it.

CHAPTER 8

I spent the whole afternoon searching the antique mall with Soren and the other Dryads, but sometimes I went off alone, flying up high and fast.

No luck, not even a glimpse of Gerald. That stink fairy. Was he hiding from me? Or worse, had something happened to him?

Soren Maple waved at me from beside a large woven basket. I took one last look from my high vantage point near the ceiling, tucked my wings, and dove straight down to the dryad. I smiled at the nervous look on Soren’s face as I pulled up at the last second to land beside him. When my feet touched the linoleum, my knees nearly went out on me. Soren caught me and held on while I caught my breath and forced my legs to support me.

“You’re tired,” he said. “We must return home now.”

“What? Home? No,” I said.

“It will be dark soon. The humans will close the mall and turn off the lights.” Soren spoke slowly as if I were a very young child. If I hadn’t been so tired, it would’ve irritated me.

“So?” I crossed my arms and frowned.

“It’ll be dark.”

“I don’t care. We haven’t found Gerald yet. I have to find Gerald.”

“You have a water jug,” Soren said. “Do you need to bring water to your sister?”

I fingered the jug. I’d gotten so used to it bouncing against my hip, I’d forgotten all about it. “Yes,” I said. “But I can’t stop now.”

He clasped my hand. “It’s all right. We’ll get the water and take you back to your sister. My night forces will take over from here. If they find Gerald, they will bring him to me.”

I looked up into his kind eyes, no longer surprised at the wood-graining surrounding them. All I saw was my friend, someone I could count on. Soren squeezed my hand and I squeezed it back.

“How far is the water?” I asked.

Soren pointed at a large grey box mounted on the wall ahead of us. “It’s right there.”

“What is it?”

“The humans call it a water fountain.” Soren gestured to several other dryads walking our way. “It will take several of us to operate it.”

Soon I was walking in a forest of long thin stalks of wood. I let my mind turn off and walked without thinking. It was so pleasant to not be worried, to feel completely safe in that forest of friends. I closed my eyes and Soren swooped me up in his arms.

“You don’t have to carry me,” I said.

Soren’s warm breath was a gentle nuzzle on my cheek. “Rest awhile. Your weight is nothing to me.”

I faded into sleep, and then jerked awake some time later. Soren held me with one arm and scaled the water fountain with the other.

“You can really climb,” I said.

“You can really sleep.” Soren smiled down at me. “We’re at the top.”

He set me down and the metal’s cold seeped right through my shoes. The top had a lip around the edges, a flat portion, and then it dipped down into a basin with a big metal dome in the middle with holes. Off to one side was an odd, curvy metal stand with an enormous button behind it.

“Where’s the water?” I asked.

Soren pointed to the metal stand. “It’s in there. We almost went mad with thirst before we figured out how to use it.”

The other dryads gathered on the top, talking to each other in their quiet, gentle voices.

“We’re ready,” said Soren. “Matilda, go down there to the bottom of the faucet and get ready to catch the water in your jug. Be careful. It can sweep you away.”

Soren and the rest of the dryads climbed up on the button one by one. I watched as more and more stood together on the button. I was about to ask what was supposed to happen when a small pool of water appeared at the base of the tall metal thing. I thrust the jug under the stream and looked up. The dryads were cheering. Water out of metal. It was like magic. Magic that took twenty dryads standing on a button to make happen.

The dryads climbed down off the button and gathered around me, smiling. “Wonderful, isn’t it?” asked one.

“Thank you,” I said.

I looked at Soren and found him with an odd fixed expression on his face. He grasped my shoulders and turned me around. There on a shelf next to the water fountain was Gerald, tucked up between long, thin pieces of what looked like hard paper. He was curled up in a ball and one of his wings was draped over him. He was still, very still.

I ran to the edge of the water fountain to see Gerald better. He was in one piece. I thought. The Dryads gathered behind and Soren put his hands on my shoulders. His warmth melted into me as the cold penetrated my feet from below. Caught in the middle was a burning knot in my stomach. It didn’t seem possible. We’d found Gerald. I feared that if I blinked he’d disappear.

“Is that him?” asked Soren.

I nodded ever so slightly.

“Matilda, you should go to him.”

“He’s not moving,” I said, searching for any sign of life.

Soren lowered his head beside mine. “He’s breathing. We can hear him.”

A whoosh of breath came out of my lungs and I wobbled a little with relief.

Soren tilted his head closer to mine. “You can’t hear very well, can you?”

I nodded and, for once, I wasn’t embarrassed. My hearing didn’t matter. I’d found Gerald and he wasn’t dead. I wasn’t the worst babysitter ever in the history of the world, only moderately terrible, and I could live with that.

Then a flash of anger passed through me. “I’m going to kill that little stink fairy.”

Soren laughed. “That didn’t take long.”

“He made me worry so much. I’ll just… I don’t know what I’ll do.” I was so relieved, so mad, and so altogether exhausted I felt loose and limp.

“You’re happy.” Soren wrapped his arms around me and squeezed.

“Happy? I’m not happy. He’s a jerk. Look at all the trouble he’s caused.” I stomped my feet on the metal, making little clinking noises.

When I said “jerk,” Gerald stirred. He raised his head as I was stomping my feet. His eyes grew large and wandered around, looking at the dryads. I stopped stomping and put my hands on my hips. What did he mean by running away and causing so much trouble? Stink fairy. Worthless know-it-all. I spread my wings to fly over, but as soon as I did, Gerald shuffled out of sight back between the paper boards.

BOOK: A Fairy's Guide to Disaster
2.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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