By Nora L Taylor
Within a lonely castle upon distant plains, there resided a young boy who slept in a tower by night. By day his thoughts turned far away as he looked through the distant haze to the forest beyond. His heart yearned for adventure, and he hoped that as in tales of old, that there, where the hills edged toward the horizon and rich hues of forest green paled the bleak summer plains, might await for him a grand tale.
There happened one night a rare moon. Appearing in a glistering shade of silver-blue, it shone in vivid contrast to the deepening sky. The boy watched the shades of darkness fall, ever enhancing the moon’s entrancing effect, and wondered at its meaning.
The next day found the lad’s heart inexplicably drawn to the forest. His boots tied, he hastened down the tower steps, running with all his might to the wood beyond. Yet the nearer he came, the more distant it grew, till at last, panting and near out of breath, he halted by an aged tree.
Just above him rested a lark on a weathered limb. “What say? What say?” called the lark, in a peculiar voice, half song and half speech.
“Is not this where the plains meet the rolling, fertile hills of the east?” the youth asked. “If so, not ever was a boy of my country permitted to journey hence.”
The lark eyed the lad with interest and entreated the boy to follow him to the inner wood. Through a song, he wove a magical tale in the boy’s heart—a tale that grew more pronounced in his mind the further they strove until, at last; they came to the forest.
“Before you,” began the lark with a rare song, “lies a magical wood of ancient trees and forgotten languages, where once the tongues of men stirred tales to the favor of fair maidens, maidens who long ago sat beneath the young boughs in spring, weaving and humming such gentle melodies as to stir the hearts of all who heard them. But a great calamity fell on the men of the east, and all their joys and gladness of heart and gentleness of song were near lost, save for that which yet stirred among the high, golden branches of the forest. Starlight captured the spirit of these memories, in all their purity and essence, into one particularly lovely branch, the branch which reached the furthest toward the heavens and turned it into the purest shade of glistering gold.
“Then there happened one night, a great wind of immense strength, that tore through the forest and broke the limb. Yet the branch’s loveliness, as it lay on the ground, did not go unnoticed, but was happened upon by a stranger, one who forged from the wood a wonder—an instrument of exquisite beauty.
“And it was here, near the heart of the forest, where wood nymphs danced and nyybelles sang and fairies glistened on silver wings… all to the sweet melody of the Golden Flute.”
“Fairies… on silver wings…” repeated the boy thoughtfully.
“Indeed! Indeed!” continued the lark. “The Golden Flute is believed to…
Make free all bound, by rope or iron,
Procure in the heart of hope, a fountain,
Spring new life where little remains,
In blessing, an outpouring, for goodness to reign.”
The lark need say little more. Together they went beyond the edge of the wood, to deep beneath shaded tunnels to the heart of the forest.
At length, they came to a meadow, where honey-melon blooms lay on the earth. Picking an ivory flower, it altered to a golden melon in his hand. Its scent was sweet, and in the first bite, the boy found its taste as rich as honey. He ate of the fruit eagerly, and only afterward was aware of its entrancing effect.
The boy now grew tall, a foot greater to be sure, and began to feel strange inside by the swiftness of alteration.
The lark, yet near him, cried out, “Here! Here!”
The boy followed his friend to a trickling creek. Tall reeds grew near the water bank, with withered blooms the shade of a dusty rose. The lark advised him to eat of them, yet the lad was hesitant; for the drooping blooms appeared inedible, with crusty petals that could hardly taste as pleasant as the golden melon.
But when the lark advised him that never a fairy would appear to so tall a lad, the boy closed his eyes and, taking a handful, swallowed them quickly. The blooms were neither sweet nor bitter, and in his mouth were not dry, but juicy in texture, as unto a berry.
When the lad opened his eyes, he found himself on the banks of a rushing river, or so it appeared. For he had so diminished in height that the creek now resembled the width of a great river.
“Come! Come!” called the lark, darting through the trees.
Alighting upon a fallen leaf, the boy rode the waves of the river downstream. The sun was beginning to set, and further shadows were cast all around the banks of the river as he passed.
When he began to grow fearful that he might be lost, a lulling melody began to flow toward him. It was enchantingly light and somber, numbing the thoughts of the lad as it grew closer.
When he felt it could be no nearer than the trees beyond, the boy leaped to the grassy bank. But his height was so small that the blades of grass were as a forest in passing. He now feared he might not reach the source of the music before it stopped.
Then a grasshopper of bright green hues happened before him. When the boy explained his dilemma, the grasshopper waved him on, offering to journey him to the destined song.
Over the grass and through the trees, they flew. When the grasshopper landed, it was beside a holly hedge overlooking a pond. On the bank beyond, illuminated by the soft glory of moonlight, sat the Village of Faerie.
Nestled near hedges of wild roses, amid mushrooms and silver lanterns dangling from tiny vines, all set aglow by the radiance of lightning bugs, it seemed as magical a wonder as a child could behold.
Across the pond, he saw them, and for a moment held his breath. For what others had spoken of as myth, the boy now watched in awe, beholding the gentle movement of these graceful creatures, of what only fairies knew as the Feather Dance.
Eight to ten fairies with transparent, glittering wings fluttered above the twinkling pond, swaying lightly and rolling in flight as a feather when cast upon wind. They varied in hues of lavender, beige and green; their golden eyes reflecting as tiny stars upon the pond.
Turning, they saw the boy, for keen are the eyes of a fairy. Their flight was of graceful rhythm as they approached him, and the boy found that he was half-heartedly afraid.
But their smiles were peaceable, and when a fairy maiden with silken red hair stretched forth her hand, he took it joyfully. All fear subsided, and before he realized it, he was looking down on a passing limb where sat the grasshopper. He was swept away, given to flight as he held to the hand of the maiden.
They passed the glittering village below and ascended through trees of maple and willow. None of them spoke as the breeze raced through the leaves around them.
Then once more, he heard the lulling music that had been forgotten before the wondrous sight of the fairies.
Down they flew, to within the hollow of a fallen log, and waited. The boy felt a great shaking of the earth beneath them as footsteps approached. When he would have spoken, the fairy maiden turned and smiled, as though reading his thoughts, and bid him remain silent.
As the music grew closer, the boy now recognized the fairy king among them, for he wore a small golden crown between his slim, pointed ears. At his side hung a leather sheath from which he drew a shimmering sword that shone as moonlight.
The king turned unexpectedly, handing the sword to the lad. Overwhelmed by his gesture, the boy knew not how to refuse him. Meeting the king’s gaze, he, at last, took hold of the gleaming sword. Suddenly, a tingling surge shot through his right arm, into his shoulder, and down his back. The boy turned, and wondered in amazement to see fine, shimmering golden wings resting upon his shoulders! Filled with joy, he returned the sword and found like gladness upon the faces of his new companions.
The boy, who now felt a mysterious courage sweep over him, looked through a hole in the log to the clearing before them.
Three dwarves, of considerable size to the fairies’ small stature, rested on the grass of the clearing. The smallest of the three played a delicate, golden flute, while his companions smoked rough pipes cut of cherry wood.
The dwarves mumbled and laughed among themselves, and at length, the lad wondered for what it was his fairy companions so patiently waited.
After some time, the maiden drew him nigh, pointing through a crack in the wood. Before unnoticed, the boy now saw a tiny figure lying bound and tied at the feet of the dwarf who played the magical flute. He was a fairy, to be sure, but unlike the fairies by the pond. He appeared taller, his skin of pale blue, his hair of silver white. His wings, too, were confined within the binding.
When the music stopped, it was nigh to morning. Little did the lad know the moon was about to set. The flute lay at the side of the dwarf, who, like the others, was now fast asleep.
Quickly they darted, one by one, out of the hollow log and descended upon the grass before the blue fairy.
The king took his gleaming sword and attempted to sever the unique twine that bound their friend. But he was bound of a magical twine that gleamed as silver, and the more they attempted to loosen its grasp, the tighter it drew about the fairy.
The maiden turned away. A solitary tear fell from her golden eyes, wrenching the heart of the boy, who was desirous to help.
He looked about anxiously and spotted the Golden Flute that lay at the foot of the dwarf. Recalling the magical wonders of the flute to sever the ties of enchantment, he rushed to see how it might be played. Yet the flute lay incredibly large before him; its length greater than his height, and its weight heavier than he might lift.
At the foot of a nearby tree, he spotted the lark, who lowered his beak before a trailing vine. The boy saw the shadow of a gourd beneath and, hastening to it, recognized a honey-melon lay before him.
Joyfully, he grasped the melon and devoured it quickly. Instantly, his height increased, and once more he returned to his normal height of a boy!
The fairies took to their wings, fluttering above their friend as the boy took hold of the Golden Flute and began to play.
The music flowed gently, its pitch high and light upon the wind of the meadow. Slowly it began to stir awake the enchantment of the silver twine. The longer the boy played, the weaker it became, until at last the king severed the twine with his gleaming sword. In a puff of smoke, the twine was vanquished. The blue fairy, to the delight of his friends, ascended to the heights of the trees, fluttering as a silver star among the leaves.
The dwarves, however, had now awoken. They stood angrily before the boy who had taken their prize.
The boy looked desperately about him for a means of escape.
The lark called, “Fly! Fly!”
The boy had forgotten his wings! Miraculously, the king’s magic was yet upon him! He raced through the trees, the flute firmly in hand.
The dwarves’ thumping steps fell close behind as he reached a vast meadow. There, a sudden brisk wind whisked about him as he leaped into the air, taken into flight by the swiftness of his golden wings!
The lark soaring beside him; the boy felt the morning air cool against his face, brushing his skin. Far below, beneath the branches, he spotted the small clearing where the fairy pond lay. He recalled the magic of their dance, and remembering the flute, passed it to the lark, who grasped it in his small talons. The bird, flying low, dropped the flute into the reeds at the edge of the pond.
The boy soared high across the plains to the warmth of the sun upon his skin. As the breeze descended, he was taken down to his tower keep. Safe upon his feet once more, the magical wings vanished- and he was left to ever wonder if it all had been a dream.
Yet in the midst of the fairy pond, each night of the full moon, the wind blows lightly through the willows, taking to song upon the Golden Flute, giving flight to the fairies of summer, who alight upon shimmering wings and with gladness of heart to the flowing melody of the Feather Dance.