The Fairy Finders Chapters 5 and 6
This is the next installment of The Fairy Finders.
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We followed Squeak through the trees, crossing Sorrel Patch and ending up at Bluebell Burrow. When we reached a large bluebell covered hole, Squeak leant in and called:
“Hellooooo, Wise Old Witch Hare.”
We heard some rustling down below and then out leapt a hare clearing clean into the sky before landing with a thud amongst us.
“Well, what can I do for you?” this mad-eyed twitchy hare asked.
“These children have a request, can you see them?” asked Squeak.
“Of course I can see them, they are right here in front of me.”
“Yes, but can they have an appointment with you?”
“Yes, yes, follow me,” Hare said as we followed her into her burrow.
We crawled down the cool dark passage until we reached a wide clearing lit up by glow worms. It was a complete mess of jars and bottles, papers, and books, plants, leaves, and cuttings everywhere.
“Excuse the mess, organised chaos,” Hare blundered shuffling things into piles. “Here here, take a seat… wherever,” she indicated widely.
We took a while to find any area of the place with enough room to sit without sitting on top of everything. We each eventually picked a spot that was relatively clutter-free, tidying things around us to make space.
“So what brings you here children, I have not consulted with you yet before?”
“We are here to seek your help in solving a problem,” I said.
“Well clearly, but what is your problem?” Hare asked, looking distractedly around.
“We would like harmony in the wood between us and all of the fairies,” Fern said.
At this, hare jumped into the air hitting her head off the ceiling and then said seemingly quite unperturbed, “Now that is quite the problem. Do you know what you are asking is near on impossible, even for a witch?”
“Why is that?” Freddie asked.
“Because you are asking to change temperaments, attitudes, feelings, these can only be changed from within, not from without.”
“So what can you do?” Isla asked desperately.
“Let me think.” Hare scratched her paw behind her ear compulsively, muttering. “Let me see, let me think, no, not here,” she said, rummaging through some papers. She then bustled past Fern and pulled a manuscript out from beneath Freddie’s bottom.
“Ah-ha! Here we go, the very thing: ‘How to change an attitude of one towards another by creating an external event’ That’s it!”
We looked confusedly from one to another.
“So it is true what they say of menfolk, you really are quite dimwitted? We need to change the attitude of some of the fairies towards you by creating an external event.”
“An event that makes us look good?” Fern suggested.
“Could be, or an event that somehow forces you together,” Hare proposed.
“What could that be?” Isla asked.
“Well that is up to the magic, we have to let the magic play out,” explained Hare, sounding irritable now.
“But what if the magic creates something bad, something wrong, something out of our control?” I asked worriedly.
“Why on earth would you come looking for magic if you want to be in control?” Hare asked.
“The very beauty of magic is it takes control, which is why it is so important that we instruct it wisely. So what will your instructions be?”
“We have to make the instructions?” Isla asked with exasperation.
“My goodness children, you really have no clue at all, do you?” exclaimed Hare, fed up with us.
“No, not really,” Freddie admitted.
“Ok, so here is a crash course in magic. You decide what outcome you want, I help you to find a magical formula that will reach that outcome, and voila we cast the magic into action.”
“So we have no idea what will happen?” I asked again.
“None at all,” Hare proclaimed.
Fern fetched out her purple butterfly notebook and started scribbling. She passed around her notes to the rest of us.
Outcome = Enjoying wood happily with all fairies
Solution = Create an external event that will bring us together
Instructions = Please create an event that will result in us all enjoying this wood harmoniously together
We all nodded in impressed agreement and passed the note onto Hare.
“Great, so we are ready for magic!” Hare roared leaping into the air again.
We sat staring, waiting with anticipation for the magic to unfold.
Hare bustled around, muttering: “sorrel root, yellow broom, bird’s foot, chickweed, worsel wart,” shaking bottles and shuffling branches around.
She then declared, “Right all set, magic is loose.”
“What? That’s it? No cauldron, no sparks, no burning fires,” Freddie said, sounding disappointed.
“My goodness, children’s literature really has a lot to answer for with all these numb skulled misconceptions children’s heads appear to be filled with. I have passed your instructions into magic, and now we wait.”
“For how long?” I asked.
“Well that depends on the magic, it could be hours, days, months, or years.”
“Years!? We don’t have years, if we had known it would be years, we would never have..,” Isla blurted out.
I interrupted her quickly saying, “Thank you so Wise Old Hare, how can we thank you for your kind wisdom?”
“Not calling me old would be a good starting point child. A harmonious wood will be a gift to all, so there is no trade necessary on this occasion. I am very fond of hot chocolate though in case you are wondering for the future.”
With that, she bustled us out of her burrow, clearly impatient to continue with whatever she was doing before we arrived.
As we emerged from the burrow, our eyes adjusting to the light, we inhaled the heady scent of bluebells and looked at each other, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
“So that’s it then,” said Freddie finally. “We just have to wait it out.”
“I was hoping for a more definitive solution,” I said.
“I was hoping for something a bit more magical, and more instant,” Isla added.
“She can be a bit brusque, but she does know her magic.” We turned to see Squeak waiting patiently, sitting on a moss blanketed log.
“Let’s head back before the picnic is completely scoffed,” Squeak said, hopping off the log. We followed our new little friend through the wood in unusual silence, trying to digest what exactly this magic spell would mean.
We recounted our experience to the rest of the Pipps back at the picnic, and they just murmured:
“Hmmm Mmmm, that’s magic for you, it moves in mysterious ways.”
We ate what was left of the picnic and then set to work packing it all up. We ferried the Pipps back to the river bank, thanking them for their help and kindness and headed back to camp. That evening, we ate wild garlic soup and toasted marshmallows on the campfire. We then layout on our stargazing platform with our heads gently touching. The night was clear and warm, and we saw shooting stars falling across the sky. We each made our own silent wishes, no need to speak, just gazing.
Fern then gently quoted: “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
We lay together like this for ages until drops of rain broke us from our gazing. We retreated down to the bunker, where we lit candles and listened to the roar of thunder and hammering rain as a storm began to rage. We got the cards out and played Dirty Betty by candlelight for hours.
The weather became miserable, so we barely saw the Pipps who only came out in the sunshine. We had several unpleasant encounters with the Potts and the Pimplesticks though, who threw things at us, filled our boots with slugs and stinging nettles, capsized our raft, and tripped us up continuously. We seemed to be constantly covered in mud and grazes.
We still managed to have fun, playing our usual games: hide and seek flatfish in fallen leaves, conkers, hitting targets with pine cones, building dams, and climbing trees. There was an edge of sorrow to our games though, like they could get spoilt or snatched away from us at any point. We hung out more together, less independently, which was fun but we knew it was because we were scared of what those pesky Potts and Pimplesticks might do if they knew any of us were vulnerable, alone.
Days and weeks went by where we lived in fear of what the Potts and Pimplesticks would do next to make our lives miserable. The Pimplesticks frequently capsized Freddie’s raft, so we no longer went out on it, and there were countless other meddlings that we had become so accustomed to by now: slipping down unaccountably, and finding our food rations disappearing.
One day, I was sitting on Birchwood Bridge with Freddie and Isla who were playing Poohsticks.
“Do you think Poohsticks is called Poohsticks after Winnie the Pooh?” Isla asked.
Freddie started singing: “Isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey,” in reply.
“Imagine inventing a game,” Isla said.
We sat with our legs swinging over the bridge and then suddenly, Freddie, without turning around, threw a stick back over his head, and waited for it to appear beneath our swinging legs.
“There!” he said triumphantly. “I just invented Freddiesticks!”
Isla jumped up and came back brandishing a fine-looking stick, straight and sleek as an otter.
“Hold my ankles,” she demanded as she kicked off her pink and purple, polka dot wellies.
Freddie and I held onto her ankles as Isla hung upside down and threw her stick back under the bridge. She hauled herself back up, and pointing at the stick floating downstream said:
“Well I just invented
“What’s that?” asked Freddie.
“Upside down Isla sticks,” she replied, and we all burst out laughing.
“Look!” I shouted, pointing at Isla’s pink and purple, polka dot wellies floating downstream with an army of Pimplesticks cackling away in them.
“Look!” I shouted, pointing at Isla’s pink and purple polka dot wellies floating downstream with an army of Pimplesticks cackling away in them.
Isla jumped off the bridge with a splash and spluttered. “Come back, how dare you!” As she doggy paddled her way after her boots, but to no avail, off they swam and marched their way out of the river and into the woods. Isla hauled herself up onto the riverbank, furious.
Isla jumped off the bridge splashing and roaring:
“Hey, come back, you wretched fools!”
It was no use. She couldn’t catch up with them. We pulled her back up onto the bridge, soaking and fuming.
It was no use trying to comfort her. We just let her rant and rave.
Then, Freddie eventually said: “I’m…” and Isla finished his sentence, “Hungry,” and I added laughing: “And I’m Otto.”
Fern emerged from the river banks crowned in an elaborate orange montbretia and feather headdress, looking like something off a tropical island. We smiled fondly at her as she exclaimed:
“Oh Isla, poor pet, you’re soaking!”
“Those rotten Pimplesticks took off down the river with my polka dot wellies!”
“Oh no, not another pair!” Fern exclaimed.
“My mum is going to kill me,” Isla added sadly.
“Come on, let’s head back and fix some lunch,” I said.
We all linked arms together, swinging Isla along in her bare feet.
Freddie asked as we went, “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
Isla didn’t skip a beat before answering, “baked beans.”
“Beans beans good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart,” Freddie chanted back at her before saying, “I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think I would go with fish, and if it could only be one fish, I would go with mackerel: mackerel pate, barbecued mackerel, mackerel with honey, herbs, lemon.”
“I thought you were only allowed one food?” I said.
“Yeah, but I don’t think condiments count,” Freddie replied.
“Oh, well, in that case, I would definitely go sliced pan… toast, butter, marmite, cheese, jam, gooseberry jam, raspberry jam, strawberry jam, peanut butter and lettuce, bacon….”
“Think you might be pushing it a bit on the condiments there Ott Bott,” Isla laughed.
“Ok ok, next question,” I said. “If you could only choose one thing to have on your bread, what would you go for?”
“Hmmm, I would have to say Marmite.”
“Yuck, that’s disgusting, I would rather eat mud.”
“Mud actually doesn’t taste that bad,” Isla replied.
“You should know,” Freddie said chuckling, “you spend enough time in it!”
“I could live without food,” Fern added, “But books are what I need to feed my soul.”
By the time we got back to camp, we were famished and got straight to work on the pick and mix sandwich station.
Later that day, I was working up in my tree canopy. I had found solace from all the fairy meddling working on it. I was modelling it on a spider’s web using bungee cords, and it was finally beginning to take shape. I spotted Freddie down at the river’s edge, I could tell by the slump of his shoulders that he was solemn, fishing vulnerable and alone. I scampered down the tree to go and join him.
As I approached, he startled, and I felt bad for creeping up on him, knowing how on edge we all were.
“What’s up, Fred?”
“Just fishing for dinner.”
“Why so glum?”
“I don’t know Otto, I just feel like something treasured has been lost, like our days of fun and freedom are somehow numbered. I used to be so content sitting here alone fishing, but now I just feel sad and fearful.”
I contemplated all of this as Freddie’s fishing line became taut, and he pulled up a small river trout, he unhooked the fish and tossed him back into the river.
“What did you do that for?” I asked.
“He was only a tiddler. I only take them when there is a fair fight.”
I hated seeing Freddie so sad. I patted him firmly on the shoulder as I stood up.
“Come with me. I’ve got an idea.”
He followed me as I headed up to the stargazing platform.
“Remember when we built this Fred, it was your idea.”
“Yeah, but look at everything all ruined now.” He motioned at the place stripped of our belongings, and our beloved oak tree crudely carved with: ‘Stinkin Kids Bog Off!’
“Come with me Fred,” I said, bounding up onto the roof and across the tree branches, up to my tree canopy.
“I wanted it to be finished before I showed anyone, but I think you’ll appreciate it, and you might be able to help me complete it.”
I looked back over my shoulder, delighted to see Freddie’s eager grin back on his face. We lay on our backs, bouncing gently against the spring of the taut ropes, looking up at the sky above; feeling safe and untouchable up high with the birds and squirrels.
“Otto, this is amazing! How long have you been working on this?”
“Ever since our encounters with those nasty old Potts fairies. I feel somehow safer up here. It gives me a clearer outlook on things being up high.”
We both sat up cross-legged and looked out across the green expanse of our forest, which looked to contain all the ancient mysteries of life. From up high, we could see the landscape stretching out beyond our wood, like a long-loved Persian rug: threadbare, trodden underfoot, vivid colours, infinitely woven, a tapestry of colour and time.
All of a sudden, we were broken out of our reverie by an awful commotion down below. We peered down through the web to see lots of people gathered around with clipboards and measuring zappers, wearing yellow builders hats, and high vis jackets looking serious and muttering this and that. We strained from the tree canopy to hear what they were saying, but just caught odd words: ‘levelling’, ‘clearing’, ‘pylons’.
As they left, I saw a sheet of paper fall away from one of their clipboards. We waited until they were out of sight and then we scampered down the tree to retrieve it.
We hastily read the document:
‘Pylon Project Proposal’ the document title read. ‘Levelling 1000 square metres of Lichen Wood to provide pylons to serve electricity to the growing population in surrounding communities.’
There was a drawing depicting the new proposed pylon forest. Ugly, spiritless things, skinny trees stripped of their dignity, and strung hopelessly together with cable.
“This has to stop!” Freddie said adamantly.
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