“Good luck, Sarena!” Freyren said.
He held his tanned back straight as one hoof pounded the brambled ground in anticipation, a gentle smile on his lips. Those centaurs loved anything that had to do with adventure.
The sweet scent of blackberries followed me as I took flight. “Thanks, Frey!”
His son, Brayden, was just my age and had begged his dad to see me off. But lessons and responsibilities kept him away. Frey would surely tell my friend every detail when he got home from his afternoon rounds spent in the forest.
I stretched my wings long and wide while I floated close to the dirt, and moss, and bugs that tried to stay hidden. The smell of earthworms and newness filled my lungs as I soared in the shadows from the thick trees. Mother would yell that I wasted fairy dust just to fly a few yards forward, when my feet could’ve done the job. But I’d only come-of-age a month ago, the power to fly and use fairy dust now a reality. My fingers itched to grab another pinch so I could make some flowers grow.
A snap of a twig and I whirled in fright. “Oh, Rain. You’re so quiet, you scared me!”
I placed one hand across my chest, the weight of my new charm necklace heavy against my hand. That was one more thing I’d earned on the day I came-of-age. The third gift – a revelation – would come today. My heart skipped a beat.
The unicorn stuck his head out from under a collection of leaves and neighed. I giggled. Not many Wood Folk spoke his language, but I understood enough to get by. Rain had come by to wish me well. And to remind me not to run out of dust and land face first in the creek beside the wood. Which may have happened the first time I attempted to use the stuff, although I preferred to keep that part a distant memory.
I flew over and brushed a clump of silvery mane from his eyes, a quick kiss to his nose. “Stay right here and I’ll be sure to give all the juicy details, as soon as I’m back!” He grumbled something else and I threw my head back in laughter. “You promise?” Another grumble, another kiss.
“Tavia!” my mother’s voice rang through the trees and foliage.
The swallow stalled in my throat. This was it! It was time to see if the legends were true.
“Wait!” I breathed, as I flew to the tree above, where she sat. “Lorian. I didn’t get to see her yet today! She’ll want to send me off with a blessing, too.”
My mother huffed, a flutter to her wings. “We’ve no time, Tavia. The Gathering begins in ten minutes. You’ll have to visit the lake once we’re finished. Besides, the merfolk have their own rituals to attend today. I’m sure Lorian has a line of mermaids waiting to usher her into adulthood.”
Adulthood. My belly twisted in circles. Thirteen hardly seemed like an adult, despite the rules of The Forest. I had turned thirteen, and was now full Fairy. Lorian faced her thirteenth tomorrow. What would it be like when Brayden came-of-age next year, with the Centaurs?
“Come, Tavia. We must finish what has begun.”
My mother swept off the branch, I trailed close behind. Needles pricked at my fingers and toes. What if I hadn’t used enough dust? A wibble and wobble would be so embarrassing in front of the others my age, also come to see The Forbidden.
On we went, past the caves that marked the end of our territory, over the water that separated our world from Theirs. These were lands I’d never seen before. Lands I was destined never to see again. Not for a while, anyway. Not until my own offspring came-of-age and it was my turn to lead them on this journey.
Fairy blood pulsed in my veins, my wings already fatigued from the length of the flight. They would grow strong, one day soon.
“Up ahead!” my mother said with delight. “I see them!”
We fell in line behind the rest of the Fair Folk – the parents and those that had come-of-age. I recognized a few but truly knew none. Another swallow got caught in my throat.
“We move together as one,” Elder Sprine said. “Remain in the trees and settle onto a branch as quickly as possible. Once there, be sure not to make any sudden movements, so as not to attract attention. We will stay for thirty minutes only, then I will signal for us to leave in unity. Remember, any sign of danger and put up an alarm. We will retreat without question.”
I nodded along with all the other newly minted adults. The parents remained stoic, albeit amused. This was such a big deal for us Fair Folk, I didn’t want to be the one to screw things up. I made a mental checklist: fairy dust at my fingertips, stick by my mother’s side, listen for the signal to leave. Stay hidden. Got it.
A minute later, our group had risen above the horizon, each with our own branch on which to rest. The sound of music and laughter echoed across the field. A scent I didn’t recognize drifted by, sweet and assaulting at the same time. I narrowed my eyes. Tents and bright colors and strange ribbons wrapped around a pole. A Spring Festival, they called it.
My mother leaned in to whisper. “So what do you think, Tavia? Do you believe the legends now?”
I exhaled, unable to contain the excitement that welled deep within my core.
“Humans. Humans are real.”
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016