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Darkness cloaked the meadow in a blanket of stars. The sun fairies were busy at work concocting spells in preparation for rescuing their queen. It had come as a shock to the elders when they had heard of how Queen Sarafina was captured. Knowing her strength and hidden gift, it would have been easier to relieve her of her head than capture her as prisoner. Those who knew her well guessed that she had allowed the capture to happen.
Tufted meadow grass rustled, alerting the fairies to something approaching fast. The glowing orb of orange light swirling mid-air in their sacred circled disappeared, sucking out the light. The footsteps stopped. Lord Rabattan turned left and right, searching for the right direction towards the now extinguished orb. He looked up at the twinkling sky and sighed. This was not how he had imagined his day ending, let alone his evening. Being hunted by his own men and searching through enemy territory for a safe place to hide meant he had little time left before either getting caught by his enemies or Prince Grotchen’s henchmen; a guaranteed certain death either way.
A soft rumble up ahead drew his attention. He lifted his nose, sniffing deep and long. Whump! Without warning the world turned and the stars he had been looking at started spinning in concentric circles around his nobbled head.
“Take him to the grassket,” came a soft whisper from the shadows.
Gentle hands lifted Rabattan’s heavy body as though it weighed less than a feather. The body floated effortlessly above the swaying heads of grass and headed to a thicket at the end of the meadow. Inside was a mesh of nettles and holly branches, intertwined to make a basket looking contraption. Rabattan’s body was left in the depths of the basket and the door was carefully locked.
“What shall we do now?” squeaked a little mouse wearing a folded green acorn leaf on his head. He shook his little twig spear at the cage behind him, his beady eyes locked on the still figure within.
“Kill him, I say!” shrieked the bumble bee king, hovering above their heads with an annoying hum. “Get rid of him before he wakes.”
Nodding heads belonging to frogs, elves, fairies and foxes all assembled in front of the thicket agreed. The night had an element of fury to it. Their past relations with Rabattan had always ended in violence, usually severe casualties on their side. He was the most hated creature in the sun kingdom.
An elderly fairy shuffled through the crowd. His long gown was sewn from milkweed and moss and rippled around him as he moved forward. The bent body beneath relied heavily on the gnarled staff held tight at his side. He raised it above his head. “We need to think of Queen Sarafina. They have her in their underground hell.”
Shuddering at the thought of being trapped underground, never to see the sun again, the crowd went silent.
“If we kill their most valued general, what chance will we have to retrieve our beloved queen?”
More heads agreed with this. It was time for the sun dwellers to cast their vote. They valued their democratic system and knew that it was the only reasonable way for them all to co-exist. Leaves were drawn, some brown, some green, from the sycamore tree. Helicopter seeds drifted down as soldier mice collected the leaves in basic grass baskets attached to their brown furry backs, delivering them back to the elders still standing before the grassket. It took less time than the owl’s call to the full moon to carry out the votes. Creatures from the north, south, east and west crawled forward, selecting a leaf to say yes or no to the death of the most hated war criminal, Lord Rabattan. Once their decision was made, they made their way back to their homes. Dawn was approaching as the sycamore leaves were counted and a decision made.
As the moon sleepily blinked at her last view of the waking meadow before closing her sleepy eyes, the sound of the humans waking warned the sun dwellers to return to the safety of their homes. The elders had spread the word of the final vote, sending their messengers across South Meadow to every corner. Each tribe was warned to be ready. Prince Grotchen and his troll army would be coming for his general.
Oblivious to the impending war, two small humans trawled through the long grass, watching the grasshoppers bounce away from their brown dog and black cat. Those fairies still busy collecting blackberries and mushrooms stopped to stare as the children drew closer to the thicket where they worked. The grassket shook. Humans usually couldn’t see into their fairy world but, once in a while, certain children seemed to glimpse past the fairy veil and espied an incredible sight that no adult would conceive possible. Cynical values and a hard-wired insight into the world they wanted to believe existed cloaked what was there; a world of beauty and co-existence woven together with magic.
“Izzy! Oh my gosh! What’s that?” cried the boy’s voice. Leaned his skinny body forward, he peered into the bushes. Brown, purple and burgundy speckled wings froze. The fairies held their breath. Could he see something?
The big sister lumbered forward, bored already and annoyed by her little brother who had forced his way onto her dog walk. “What?” she snapped, glancing in his direction.
Something glinted at her from under the blackberry bush. She moved closer, shoving her little brother out of the way. What was that thing? Not one to back down from a sibling battle, he clawed back, pulling at the grass stems and shoved her shoulder so that they stood side-by-side, staring at the object hidden in the shadows.
“Zach, can you see what I see?” whispered Izzy. Her brown eyes had grown wide, matching her brother’s. His head nodded like a puppy’s.
In unison, they swept away the squashed berries and dry holly leaves from the shiny strip that had attracted their attention, its half-exposed body hidden by the dusty earth. Gently, the children lifted it together. Surprised to find that it was a long stick, they followed the etchings carved into the grey bark. It glowed!
“Oh my! What do you think this is?” asked Zach.
“I don’t know. It’s so beautiful!”
“Wait! Do you think this stick is magic?”
Izzy looked at her brother. A big grin crossed her usually sullen pre-teen face. “What if we’ve found something that belongs to fairies?” Unaware of the sudden silence of the meadow, the children examined the long stick held reverently in their small hands.
Green eyes watched from the depths of the blackberry bush. Evil gleamed in those hateful eyes and a drooling yellow grin split the mottled face of Rabattan. Those ridiculously small humans had stumbled upon the one thing that could change his luck: the Amoulean staff.
Click here for Chapter Three.
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