Fairies : For Rose (Part 6)

Sword slept in on the fifth day of his journey. He didn’t mean to. But he was so exhausted he couldn’t help it. By the time he woke the day was half gone. When he woke up, he found he was surrounded by birds and squirrels.

One of the squirrels had a rose stem in its mouth. With a beautiful yellow rose bloom on it. The bloom had bright red edges on each petal. The squirrel walked up to Sword, and put the rose in his lap. Then he squeaked several times, and walked back where he’d come from. At that point, Mystica popped out of nowhere, and said, “It’s from Rose. She sent her friends to check on you.”

“Mystica?”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not really here. I’m just communicating. Figured I’d say good afternoon, and tell you what was going on.”

Sword smiled, and shook his head. “I’m just tired.” At which point his stomach growled, and he added, “And hungry.”

“Obviously,” Mystica smiled. And up walked several squirrels, making a small pile of nuts in front of Sword. “The squirrels told Rose they’d make sure you ate something.”

Sword looked at the nuts. Acorns. Walnuts. Pecans. Pine nuts. All kinds of nuts. He looked at the squirrels, “Thank you, my friends.”

“Well,” Mystica spoke, “I’ll be going now. You just follow the birds. They’ll guide you down the shortest path to get here. And they’ll make sure you find plenty to eat.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Mystica smiled. “Rose asked them to.” And with that, the image of Mystica was gone.

Sword looked at the nuts, wondering how to open some them. It was like the squirrels could read his mind. One picked up two nuts, and cracked them together. Sword watched as the shells on the nuts cracked, and the squirrel was able to pull the nuts out.

“So. I’m having nuts for breakfast today,” he shook his head, and smiled. “Mom won’t ever believe this one.” And he sat there, with the squirrels, cracking nuts open and eating them. And every time he had problems opening up a nut, the squirrels would show him how. It was actually a lot of fun. And by the time the nuts were gone, he was laughing, and smiling, with a couple of squirrels in his lap, and one on each shoulder.

When he was ready to resume his journey, he said good-bye to his squirrel friends, shaking hands with each of them, and watching as they disappeared into the trees. He couldn’t help but smile. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

A couple of sparrows landed at his feet, and flapped their wings. Then they flew off toward the West, and a couple of red-winged blackbirds flew to his feet. They also flew toward the west. And Sword realized the birds were saying, “Follow us.”

So he did just that. Moving from tree to tree, following the birds. Always there were birds that flew from the tree he was in, to the next tree he should move to. Sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, robins, bluejays, and even a few cardinals. Sword watched them all. He’d never realized how pretty birds were. He’d never studied the grace they moved with. And he had so much fun following them, watching them, listening to them sing.

When he got thirsty, he stopped, and declared he needed water to drink. And the birds showed him where the closest water was. Sometimes, to his surprise, the water was in the leaves of the trees. Sometimes, in little puddles in small indentations where limbs branched off from the tree trunk. He found he didn’t have to go down to the ground to find a drink.

The birds also showed him where nuts, and berries were up in the trees. And they watched him as he ate. He watched the birds too, and was surprised by how much they ate. The birds ate all the time. It was like they were born to eat. He never knew birds ate so much. But when he thought about it a bit, it made sense. The way the birds were always moving. Always flying around. They had to use a lot of energy. They would get hungry. And so, they would eat. All the time.

And every time he stopped to eat or drink, the birds would sing songs to him. Sometimes, a cardinal would even land on one of his shoulders, and just sing up a storm. And the songs always felt happy, making Sword smile as he ate.

As the sun started to set, the birds led him to a bigger tree. And he was surprised to find a set of branches that had formed a little flat floor. No other word applied. And there was a pile of leaves that could act as a pillow for his head to rest on. And a big pile of nuts and berries for him to eat.

He knew the floor was Mystica’s work. She’d spoken to the trees, and used her white magic to give him a place to sleep.

That night, Sword slept very well indeed. Thanks to the birds and squirrels, he wasn’t nearly as hungry as he’d been when he woke up. And having a flat surface to sleep on, and a pillow. As tired as he was, how could he not like sleeping on those.

And as he slept that night, he swore he could hear flute music. Beautiful flute music. Playing a tune he’d never heard. One that made him feel safe. And welcome. And loved. One that reminded him of friends he hadn’t seen in months.

Sword slept with a smile on his face that night. And dreamed sitting by the edge of the lake, with Rose. Holding her hand. And he knew that on the 6th day of his journey, he’d reach the lake. And maybe make that dream come true.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 5)

By the fourth day of his journey, Sword was feeling tired. He’d slept better that night, but he wasn’t sure if he was getting used to sleeping in trees, or if he was just so exhausted that he couldn’t help but sleep. He only knew that if he kept heading west, he’d eventually come to the lake, or to the river feeding it. And he knew he had at least 3 days left on his journey.“This is where it gets hard,” he thought. His mother, Oceana, had taught him to be prepared for the middle of things. That time when the excitement of starting had ended, and the end wasn’t close enough to draw you in. That time when you felt defeated. When you felt you couldn’t go on any more. When you felt you’d never, ever reach the end. And you wondered what you’d been thinking when you started.

Sword had never tried anything like this 6 plus day journey to the lake. And he found himself wondering if he should just give up, and ask Musica or the dragons for help. As he continued moving from tree to tree, he found himself wondering if he could make that short flight between trees again. He found himself wondering what the point was.

He wound up falling into a pattern. “Don’t think. Just do,” and an endless mantra of, “Just one more tree.” He was so tired he didn’t even watch the birds, rabbits, squirrels and other animals. He concentrated on just continuing his journey. Tree after endless tree.

He thought he should try something. Anything to pass the time. So, he counted trees as he moved from tree to tree. At first, that helped. It was new. It was a change. “One. Two. Three. Four.” But the counting went on, and on, and on. “956 trees. 957 trees. 958 trees.” Even setting targets for mini-celebrations like, 1000 trees, 2000 trees, 2500 trees, became old.

As he moved from tree to tree, his pace slowed. And he came to a complete stop several times. His journey had gone from, “How hard can it be?” and “I can’t wait to see Rose!” to, “I’ll never get there. This will never end. I’ll be lost in the trees forever.”

Sword took a break during the day. He washed himself in a creek. That felt good. Getting clean. Washing the dust, dirt, tree-bark, and bits of leaves off of his body helped. He found some berries, and he ate them. It wasn’t meat. It wasn’t seaweed. And while the berries did fill the empty space that his stomach had become, they didn’t give him any new energy. He still felt exhausted. And helpless. And beaten.

He climbed back into the trees. And sat down on a limb. Perhaps he should just take the afternoon off. Collapse. Sleep in the trees, and try again tomorrow. Perhaps he should admit defeat. That this journey was too much for him to handle.

That’s when a white owl landed next to him in the trees. There was something oddly familiar about that owl. As if they’d met before. And that’s when the owl spoke. “Don’t give up, young one.” The owl looked right at Sword. “Don’t give up.”

Sword was surprised. And he finally recognized the owl. It was the owl that was always around the fair girl, Dream. The owl, Whisper.

“Sword, young warrior, know the truth. Know that you are locked in battle. A battle to believe. A battle to become what you wish to be. A battle to become the warrior you dream of being.”

“What do you mean, Whisper?”

“Young warrior. You fight the greatest enemy. You fight self-doubt.”

“Self-doubt?”

“Yes. On the one hand, you try to believe in yourself. In what you’re doing. What you want to do. What your dreams are. And on the other, you doubt yourself. Believing you are not worthy. Not capable. Not strong enough. Not good enough.”

Scream nodded. He knew the words Whisper spoke were true. He knew those words explained what he’d been feeling that day. Explained why he had struggled all day with moving from tree to tree. Why he’d been unable to think of anything all day other than how endless the journey was.

“Whisper. How do I learn to believe in myself? How do I defeat self-doubt?”

“One step at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time.” The owl hooted. “By remembering why you do what you do. By understanding that tired is normal. Exhaustion is normal. And self-doubt itself is normal. But understanding everything you feel is normal. And just what you feel. And it’s OK to feel. And what you feel changes over time. Changes with each step you take. Each hour you breathe. Each day your heart beats.”

Sword placed his hand over his heart, and felt his own heartbeat. He felt himself breathe.

“I just have to feel? To remind myself why?” Scream asked the owl, “How do I do that? When I hurt this way. When I’m this tired. When it seems I’ll never get there.” He shook his head. “How do I do that?”

Whisper spoke once more. “By believing you can. By believing in you. And in the dreams you reach for.”

The owl stayed on the tree branch with Scream for a time. And somehow, Scream started to feel better. “I just have to believe in me. And in my dreams,” he though. And before long, he was smiling.

He remembered, “I’m going to see Rose. And her sisters.” He remembered, “I’m going to get to hold her hand.” He remembered how he felt when he had held her hand before. How it just felt right. Like he was meant to hold her hand. He remembered what it felt like to just talk with her. To just walk with her through the trees. To just stare into her eyes. He remembered how everything was OK when he was with her.

And he smiled. “Thank you, Whisper. For reminding me,” he told the little owl. “I remember now. I’m going to visit Rose.”

Whisper hooted, flapped his wings, and then took too the sky. And as he left, Sword heard him say, “Hang in there, young warrior. You will be OK.”

Through the rest of that day, Sword made good progress, moving from tree to tree. And reminding himself, “I’m going to see Rose.” And somehow, that made everything OK.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 4)

When the sun rose on the third day of his trip, Sword welcomed it. While he’d slept better that night in the bed he’d made in the tree, he’d been awakened endlessly. By the sounds he’d heard all night long. He had no idea what they were. He didn’t know they were normal sounds of night life in the forest.Birds, crickets, frogs, chipmunks, squirrels. The sounds they make were all there. All night long. Sword would drift off to sleep, and then wake up with a start to a strange sound. The sound of a screech-owl. The sound of a wolf howling. The sound of a woodpecker hammering against a tree. The list went on and on.

Sword was so tired. This journey was tougher than he’d ever expected it to be. But he remained determined to make the journey on his own, without help from the Dragons, or from Mystica.

He helped himself to some of the dried fish and seaweed in his provisions. And noticed he’d run out of both. He sighed. His journey had just gotten a bit harder. He knew finding water wasn’t going to be a problem. He’d learned that the previous day. But, he wasn’t at all sure about finding food. He had no practical experience in finding food on land. He had to take some time that morning, and figure out what to do.

He remembered his lessons with Oceana. She’d shown him pictures of things on land he could eat. He’d learned their names. Blue berries. Strawberries. Back berries. Raspberries. Apples. Grapes. Carrots. Potatoes. Peanuts. All kinds of fruit and vegetables from plants. He also knew he could find meat from birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other small animals. But he didn’t want to hunt animals unless he had to.

He continued his journey through the tree tops. Until he heard noises. People working, talking, singing, laughing. He became very cautious. Oceana had told him to do his best to avoid towns and villages. To remain hidden in the trees, and quietly move around them. So, he quietly moved from tree to tree, until he came to a clearing. He could see several small houses. A well. Some horses and cattle. A barn. And crops.

He watched the people of the settlement go about their daily lives. Working in their crops. Farming. He knew what that was. In his home, they farmed all kinds of sea weed. Kelp was especially good. It grew well, and was nutritious.

After a good hour, Sword resumed his journey. He moved back from the clearing, then went from tree to tree, around the clearing. He was careful to stay hidden high up in the trees. He’d been taught that humans don’t look up in the trees to see if there’s something there.

It took him a half an hour to work his way around the village. Then, he resumed his journey. And that’s when things changed for him.

He heard a scream. It wasn’t far away, so he decided to move as quickly as he could, to investigate. He wanted to know who had screamed and why. As he moved through the treetops, toward the scream, he heard a second scream. Then a third. And he heard something lout. It roared. It growled.

Suddenly, he’d found the scream. It was a human woman. Screaming for help. She was running through the forest as quickly as she could. Ziging and Zaging through the trees. Something big, and dark brown was following her. Gaining on her. Scream saw it was a bear. And he saw it would catch her soon. And then, it would kill her.

There was nothing else he could do. He took to the air, leaving the trees, and using his wings to dive at the bear. As he approached, he watched as the bear swung a big front paw, claws and all, at the woman. He heard her scream. He saw he fall. He saw the claws had torn through her clothing, through her skin. She was injured.

He took his arms, and extended them as he dove at the bear. Before he ever reached it, the wild magic that was his extended invisible swords before him. Those swords penetrated the back of the bear. And ran clean through it as the momentum his dive drove those swords deep into the bear, penetrating 3 feet before his hands struck the bear on the back.

The bear howled in pain. Sword withdrew his swords, and then he swung both arms, his invisible swords cut deeply into the  bear’s neck. The bear sagged. Then fell. Sword knew it would die soon from the wounds he’d inflicted on it. He turned to face the woman. She had pulled herself into a seated position and was watching him. Sword asked her, “Are you OK.”

The woman was silent. She looked absolutely terrified. Sword heard voices approaching. He knew some of the villages had heard the woman’s screams. He couldn’t wait for them to get there, so he flexed his young wings, and took back to the trees. Moving quickly from tree to tree, putting the woman, the bear carcass, and the village behind him.

That afternoon, he searched, and found blue berries, and raspberries to eat. He drank all the water he wanted from a forest stream. He rinsed himself off again in the water. And he made another nest in a tree.

And then he went to sleep. Knowing he’d done something good that day. He’d saved a human’s life.

That night, he dreamed once more, of sitting by the lake. Holding Rose’s hand.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 3)

On the first night of his journey, Scream found he didn’t sleep well at all. He kept waking up, afraid he would fall out of the tree. So, with the coming of the dawn, he decided he should find a good vine he could use as a rope, to hold himself in place while he slept at night. Or, he had to learn to sleep on the ground, which his mother had suggested he not do. He also noticed that he slept bent at funny angles, so he was stiff, and sore when he woke up. And sleeping in a tree, he felt as if his body had tried to conform to the shape of the tree. It took a while for the pattern of the tree bark to fade from his skin that morning.

He concluded the journey would be a bit more difficult than he’d expected. But, that was OK. Rose and her sisters would be there at the end of his journey. He’d spend some time with them, and have fun.

He continued to move from tree to tree. The trees continued to grow taller. And the woodland changed into a forest. There was no clear line or marker. But somehow, Scream knew he’d reached the edge of the Northern Forest.

He saw several wolves that day. It amazed him how silently something the size of a wolf could move through the forest. Along the ground. Through the brush, the fallen tree limbs, and the dead leaves along the ground. From his perch high above the ground, he watched each wolf he encountered. He even followed one for a time. The wolves were not just silent. They were very quick. Able to cover large distances easily, and rapidly. And they did not tire easily.

Scream also saw an eagle. And several hawks. The eagle was majestic. The way it rode the air currents, its wings extended, catching the wind and gliding along. He saw the eagle’s tail feathers adjusting to keep its flight level. He decided that one day, he would learn to soar through the sky, effortlessly, like that eagle. Riding the wind, and not endlessly flapping his wings to just stay aloft.

The hawks flew in much the same way. But they flew lower, closer to the ground. And they used their wings more frequently. Scream was surprised to see a hawk fold its wings, and plummet toward the ground, extending its wings just before reaching the ground, extending its talons, and capturing a small rabbit as it flapped its wings and returned to the sky. The hawk had landed in a tree, and started consuming its prey.

The raw power and grace of the hawk making it’s kill convinced Scream that a skilled warrior knew, and used technique to best his opponent. A skilled warrior knew, as that hawk knew, that technique provided a warrior an edge in battle.

Scream saw many bird nests on his journey. He stayed a safe distance from them, so he didn’t frighten the parents, or their young. After seeing several bird nests, he realized he didn’t have to tie himself to a tree. He could use tree limbs and leaves to make a small, temporary nest of his own to sleep in. It would take practice, and it would take time. But he knew he could learn. And he felt that learning to build simple places to rest in the trees would allow him to sleep better on his trip, and would keep him from falling out of the tree while he slept.

“Mother,” he thought, “you were right. There is much we can learn about life simply by watching the animals. The animals were here before we were. They know how to live in the forest, in the sea, on the land.” His appreciation of his mother increased. He remembered Mystica’s home, and the homes of her daughters, in the trees. Made by the trees. How natural they were. How simple. How solid. How safe. He could learn much about living in the forest from them.

He had plenty of water to drink that day. He found a stream of water running through the forest. He realized there were a lot of streams and rivers in the forest. There was plenty of water to drink, and plenty of water for things to grow. It was something he hadn’t expected. He’d expected trees, and water to be separate. Much like the river and the lake where Rose lived. He didn’t expect them to be so thoroughly mixed together.

He decided to take a bath in one of the streams. He splashed water all over himself. Rinsing the dust, the sweat, and the dirt of his journey off. It was refreshing to feel clean. He stayed on the ground long enough to eat some dried fish, and some of the sea weed. He marveled at the way the sunlight filtered through the trees. The way he could see beams of light passing through gaps in the limbs and leaves. The way the ground was always in shadow, never brightly lit.

While he was on the ground, he got to see a couple of deer, and a raccoon visit the edge of the stream, and drink. He got to watch the raccoon stand in the stream, and watch the water. He watched as it plunged a front leg into the stream, and pulled it out, holding a small fish. He hadn’t realized raccoons had workable hands.

He took back to the trees, when he was ready, and continued his journey. That evening, as the sun began to set, he found some tree branches that had fallen. He placed them across the gap between a couple of tree limbs, and tested the resulting surface to see if it could hold his weight. He had to try several times to get the right branches, and to get them positioned properly, so they acted like a little floor between the limbs. He covered that little floor with dead leaves.

As he prepared for sleep on the second night of his journey, he thought of Rose. Of holding her hand. Of her smile, and how it made everything seem OK.  He remembered how, when he was lost, and alone, and wondered if he’d ever see his mother, and his home again, Rose had smiled at him, and held his hand.  And he felt like everything was OK. Like being lost forever wouldn’t be so bad.

That night, he slept on his own little nest in the trees. And he slept well, finding he wasn’t afraid of falling. And having dreams of walking with Rose among the trees, holding her hand, and getting to see her smile.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 2)

Sword had never really had the chance to explore the land when the villagers had taken him captive, and Mystica had rescued him. So, he was intent on seeing what the land was like between his ocean home, and the lake.He took the clothing he normally wore. Short pants that allowed his legs to move freely. No shirt at all. No weapons for protection, he didn’t need them. He had a small bag of supplies, a couple of bags of water, and some dried fish and seaweed. It was enough food to last him several days. But he would need to find food and water both on his journey.

While he knew the dragons would be watching over him, and Mystical would be available of he needed her, it was his intention to make the journey on his own. He’d realized he missed Mystica, and her adopted daughters, Sunshine, Musica, Dream and Rose. Especially Rose. He didn’t know what it was about her that made him want to take a six-day journey just to spend a week with her and her sisters. But he didn’t really care that he didn’t know. All that mattered to him was seeing her again, and spending time with her, and her sisters.

Being around her just made him feel good. And every time he held her hand, well, he’d never felt anything like that before. And he wasn’t sure at all what it meant. But it sure felt good to him. So he was very excited to be able to visit Rose.

And Rose could fly. Could she ever. Little fairies aren’t suppose to be able to fly at all. But Rose could. She could fly better than he could. And she could fly almost as well as any full-grown fairy could. Sword thought he could watch her fly all day long.

Sword had never left the ocean on his own. Walking through the surf, onto the sand of the beach was a new experience for him. He found it surprising how the ocean waves sometimes knocked him over, and tried to pull him back out to sea. He tried to use his magic swords to anchor himself in place, but they didn’t really work. They couldn’t stop the waves. And they only held so well in the sand. But with a little practice, he learned to keep his balance, and when to step, and when to just stand still, and when to jump. It took him a little while, but he did make it to the beach.

As he walked across the beach, he felt the sand get hot under his feet. The sand never got hot under the water. But on the beach, where the sand was dry, the sun was bright, and it was hot, the sand got very hot indeed. And it made his feet hurt. That wasn’t fun at all. So he used his wings to fly short distances, and test the sand again.

As he crossed the beach, Sword saw ocean birds for the first time. Sea gulls, terns and pelicans. He watched the terns along the shore, running back and forth as the waves washed in, and out. Whole waves of them, racing toward the ocean, poking their beaks into the sand, as the waves washed out. Then, racing away as the waves came in.

He watched the seagulls as they stood on the sand. It was like they were resting. He also watched them as they flew over the waves. Sometimes they would dive into the water. He realized they were fishing.

The pelicans were the most amazing of the birds to him. They always seemed to fly in formation. One after the other. The way they flew so close to the water that their wings sometimes skimmed the surface.

Sword also learned about the vegetation along the shore. Sea oats and grasses. Wild flowers. And scruffy wiry bushes, and small trees. He noticed how the trees seemed to grow sideways, with short limbs toward the ocean, and longer limbs toward the land. They also seemed to grow taller as he went further inland.

As he moved further inland he saw rabbits, and more birds. Then, he saw some deer. He knew what they were. He’d seen them in pictures his mother had shown him. These were the first live ones he’d ever seen. And he found himself taking time to stop, and watch them from a distance. He found it really funny, the way the rabbits ate grass, their ears flopping, and their whiskers twitching, as stalks of green grew shorter and disappeared into their mouths. The way they moved about with such powerful hind legs, and such tiny front legs fascinated him. It was as if rabbits were built lopsided, and had learned to make the best of it.

The deer were just majestic. That’s the only word he could find to describe them. The way they walked. The way they ran. So very graceful. So fluid. He’d never seen anything like them. He watched them for quite a while.

After several hours, he came to some low hills, covered by a forest. His mother had told him of the woodlands that would become the Northern Forest. She’d also told him he should sleep high up in the trees. Out of reach of the wild animals that stayed on the ground. Things like wolves, and perhaps even bears. So, as he entered the woodlands, he used his wings to take to the trees. He used his wings sparingly to move from tree to tree, or to cover distances he could not cover just by jumping. And he walked along tree branches.

He stopped a few times to snack on the dried fish and seaweed in his provisions. And any time he found a stream, he had a drink of water from it.

As the sun began to set that night, Sword found a nice place to sleep in a tree, resting against the main trunk of the tree, and one of its major branches. He fell asleep that night, listening to crickets, frogs, and birds as they sang their songs. It was unlike anything he’d ever really heard. A wonderful music to his ears, that sang him to sleep.

And so ended the first day of his journey to visit Rose.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 1)

Six months after Mystica, her daughters, and the dragons had returned Sword to Oceana and her ocean realm, Oceana knew it was time to ask. She knew from Sword’s behavior what was wrong with him. Why he lacked the focus he’d once had. Why he had been that way for the past six months.

Oceana sighed, in her room, and knew what she would do the next day.

When the sun rose above the horizon, the Oceana’s realm came to life again. The other ocean fairies and the mere-people woke from their rest, and began to carry out their day-to-day lives. That’s when Oceana spoke to her messenger. “Have Sword come before me.”

The messenger had raced from Oceana’s home beneath the ocean to Sword’s lands. Sword was the young prince. Son of Oceana. Heir to the kingdom of the seas. He had a special magic. The magic of the sword. With the ability to swing his arms, as if holding a sword. And the air, and sea both would cut what he swung at as if he’d struck it with a sword.

He was already among the greatest warriors of the ocean realm. And he was only a boy.

The messenger informed Sword of Oceana’s command. And Sword happily complied with his mother’s wish, visiting her in her home. When he arrived, Oceana embraced him, as a mother does her son. And then, she asked him, “Do you wish to visit Mystica and her daughters where they live by the lake in the woods?”

Sword almost leaped for joy. “Yes! I would love to visit them!”

Oceana wasn’t through with questions, though. “My son. Is there anyone there you especially wish to visit?”

Sword’s eyes shined in their brilliant ocean blue. “Yes, mother. There is.” And Sword, the brash prince that he was, actually looked at the floor, and stared at his feet. As if searching for words. As if afraid to speak. “I miss Rose.”

Oceana smiled. It was as she’d always known. Since the day he saw the little girl named Rose, and the way Sword behaved around her, she’d known. She’d also known that Sword and Rose were too young to know. But Oceana knew. She could see it in the way they two of them behaved when they were together. She knew each was the missing half of the other. That one day, each would make the other whole.

“Then, my son, it is time you began your journey from boy to man. We will contact Mystica, and let her know of your wish to visit. Then, you will make the journey to their home on your own. So that all will know this was your decision. And your wish. And all will know that I would not deny your wish to you.”

So it was that Oceana summoned her fairy magic, and called for Mystica. The water before Oceana shifted, and Mystica’s shape gradually appeared. Oceana smiled. “Mystica, of the White Magic.”

“Oceana, of the ocean realm. How may I help you on this day?” Even as she spoke with Mystica, she felt the white magic building. And in a few simple heartbeats, the image of Mystica became  Mystica herself. Mystica couldn’t help but notice the questioning look in Oceana’s eyes, and felt drawn to explain. “Yes, Oceana. I had this ability to travel great distances in mere moments when I traveled to the ocean realm to rescue Sword.”

“Yet, you did not use it. Why?”

“I have only used it rarely. And at those times, it left me nearly exhausted, and very weak. Merlin has explained to me that with time, I will grow stronger, and using the magic of travel will become easier. But for now, it’s difficult.”

Oceana smiled. “I understand. I can only imagine how much effort it takes to travel such distances in such short times.” And both laughed. They talked briefly, Oceana asking about Mystica’s adopted daughters, and Mystica sharing stories of her daughters, and how they had grown in the past six months. Especially tiny Dream. They also talked of the wild magic the girls possessed, and of the way they were learning to live with it. And control it.

Then the topic drifted to why Oceana had called Mystica. “Sword has asked to visit your home. He misses you and your daughters.”

Mystica smiled. “And we all miss him. Especially Rose.”

And so it was that Sword would make the journey from the ocean realm to Mystica’s home on his own. Scream and Merlin would talk with the dragons, and the dragons would watch over Sword on his journey. They would help Sword if he needed help. And Mystica would watch over him from the lake in the forest. If Sword needed help, and the dragons were not able to help, Mystica herself would help.

Mystica and Oceana embraced, as if they were sisters. And then, Mystica simply faded away.

The next morning, Sword started the six-day journey to the lake. As ordered by Oceana, he went alone. This was one more step as he grew from boy to man. The ocean kingdom was so proud that the prince was growing up, taking the next step toward becoming a man. They knew he would one day soon become the great warrior he was born to become.

Fairies : A Dragon’s Memory

Merlin waited. Until the sun had set. Until the fairies had all gone to bed. Until Mystica herself had gone to bed. Then he waited until he was certain everyone was asleep. Except for Whisper. That owl was as old as Merlin. And like Merlin, Whisper never slept.

Whisper flew to the edge of the lake. And waited, on the ground, next to the water. There was no moon at all. Only stars. Merlin flicked his wings just a few times. And as if by magic, simply popped out of the shadows of the trees. He landed next to Whisper. Whisper was his sanity. His oldest friend. The one that had brought him back from the nightmare he once was.

Whisper did what he always did. He whispered. “Why have you come here tonight?”

Merlin looked at the waters of the lake. “To remember.” His voice was almost silent. As he looked at the lake, Merlin spoke once more. “Machines. Don’t let me forget.” The he called on his black magic.

Merlin was ancient. Well over 10,000 years old. The most powerful black mage in the history of the world. A world he knew the name of. A world named Cylinders. A world where the children of the humans had come. And put in place a plan to save their parents. Their creators. And in doing so, the machines had become ubiquitous . They were in the air. The water. The ground. The trees. They were in the food. The animals. The machines were in everything.

Merlin knew the machines were in him. In his blood. In his bones. His muscles. His brain. He knew he was genetically a human. His genetics being modified by the machines. Yes, he was born of dragons. But the dragons were created by the machines. Just like the fairies. Just like the elves. Just like the other magical creatures of this world. The ones that Mystica had yet to meet. Like the mermaids, the hobbits, the dwarfs, the giants. So many different types of beings.

 All descendants of the humans. All genetically modified humans. Brought into existence by the machines.

There wasn’t really anything as magic. Magic didn’t really exist. Except on Cylinders. And then, only because of the machines. It looked like magic. It acted like magic. It was magic. Except it wasn’t. It was humans, in the form of fairies, dragons, and all the rest. Talking with the machines. Interacting with the machines.

Upon the surface of the lake, black as night, appeared even darker shapes. As the machines responded to Merlin’s wishes. And played back his memories. From 10,000 years before. When he’d first learned of them. First learned of the history of Cylinders. Of the machines, and how they had created everything on this world.

Merlin had gone insane. He’d been consumed by rage. And decided to used the powers the machines had granted him to change everything. To destroy the machine’s plans. He’d decided to start by destroying the fairies. But he couldn’t be obvious about why. He had to be subtle. So the machines would think he was acting against the fairies for valid reasons.

That’s when the fairies had thrown one of their own into the wilderness. She’d been born with a beautiful name. Orchid. She was a beautiful fairy. But, she’d been given wild magic by the machines. Wild, untamed magic. The kind of magic the dragons had learned to live with. There were many wild magic dragons. But Merlin learned, wild magic was not tolerated among the fairies. Or the humans.

The fairies had renamed Orchid. Calling her Black Orchid. After the most poison of the plants on Cylinders. They called her this because when she was upset, when she was disturbed, when she cried, Black Orchids bloomed in the fairy kingdom. And those orchids resulted in the deaths of other fairies.

The fairies of the kingdom had taken Orchid, beautiful as she was, gifted with an amazing wild magic that could have done so much good, if the fairies had only known how to teach her, work with her, help her learn to control that magic. The fairies had bound her. Blindfolded her. And hauled her out to the foothills of the mountains. Where they’d abandoned her. Left her to die. Where she would either starve to death, slowly, fall to her death, painfully and horribly, or be consumed by predators. Wolves, bears, or something like them.

In all honesty, what happened to Orchid, how Orchid was so brutally left to die, had enraged Merlin. While it had been the excuse he was looking for, he didn’t have to pretend to wish to destroy the fairies. To him, the fairies intolerance of Orchid, and her wild magic was inexcusable. And he saw no reason not to destroy them.

The fairies, at that time, lived in the norther forest. With a kingdom centered around the lake. And cities, villages, and towns scattered through the forest.

In 10 years, Merlin had changed all that. He’d used his black magic. His gifts from the machines. To relentlessly attack the fairies. He’d murdered thousands of them. Driven them from the forest, southward. To the foothills. But he didn’t let up. He kept assaulting them. Driving them through the foothills. Through the gray mountains. Then through the mountains to the gray hills. Then from the hills to the great plain, and it’s scattered forests.

20 years after he’d started his assault, the fairies were all but destroyed. There were less than 100 of them left. Only two remaining fairies of royal blood. Merlin had reached the end of his quest. In just a couple of days, the fairies would be gone. And the plans of the machines to protect the humans, and keep them alive, would have been given an enormous setback.  And Cylinders would be freed from the machines, and their influence.

That’s when Whisper had first spoken to Merlin. Tiny Whisper. Landing on Merlin’s head. Whispering in Merlin’s ear. “What if you could teach them? Would you kill them all for the mistake of a few? What if you are killing those like Orchid?” Whisper only asked questions. And Merlin could feel the machines in Whisper. Could feel the wild magic they provided to Whisper.

“Why do you strike at the machines? They only wish to keep their creator’s alive? So that they won’t be alone in this universe?”

That night, when Merlin had struck against the fairies once again, he’d attacked the last of the royals. He’d destroyed the guards that protected them. He’d sliced them to shreds. He’d burned them with black fire. He’d cut the prince in half. And then he’d torn the heart from the princess.

And that’s when he heard a baby cry. A tiny newborn baby. The last of he royal fairies. She cried. An innocent infant. Newborn. And Merlin stopped. That night was the last night Merlin had struck at the fairies.

He’d carefully picked up the newborn. He’d been so very careful to not injure her. He’d flown to the next group of fairies. There were so very few fairies left. He’d landed. And he’d waited. Placing the newborn so very gently on the ground. He’d stood there. Until a single fairy had come forward, out of hiding. That single fairy stood there. Looking at Merlin. Certain she would die.

Merlin had nodded his head. Flexed his mighty wings. And flown away.

It would be over 10,000 years before anyone heard from him again.

That was the night Merlin had spared the life of Eyela. The fairy princess. He’d silently watched the few fairies as they’d re-grouped. As Eyela had grown up. Becoming their princess. As they’d formed a new kingdom. He’d silently helped them. Protecting them when they couldn’t protect themselves. He told the machines what had happened. What he’d done. Told them he wanted to help. That he finally understood. And wanted to correct his mistake.

With his help, the machines put together a plan. And Merlin did his part. He stayed hidden. He worked to rebuild the fairies in the southern plains. And to help them learn to work with their children the machines had given the gift of wild magic.

Merlin remembered it all. It was so long ago, but the memories hadn’t faded. He remembered every detail. Every battle. Every last fairy he’d destroyed. And he stood there. At the lake. Watching the memories play out. Black on black.

Dragon’s never cry. But humans do. And Merlin was, after all, a genetic human. Merlin cried. And asked once more if the universe, and life itself, could forgive him for what he’d done. And the innocent people he’d destroyed. In an effort to strike against machines that only wanted to keep their parents, their creator’s alive.

On a world call Cylinders.