Sheepishly, she backed away until she stood on the grass where she wasn’t in danger of trampling anyone else.
She held the seed up to her face, seeking for even the tiniest crack, but the edges were sealed completely. “Are you in there?”
Yes, Hearthorne sniffed. I’ll need you to plant me once you get settled on board. Don’t forget, you promised.
“Settled on board?” Kya gripped the seed with both hands as a desperate sort of wail built up in her brand new lungs. Plants changed slowly with the seasons, so all this rapid change was making her head spin.
Imagine, if you will, waking up one morning to find that you weren’t who you thought you’d been your entire life. Perhaps you’d sprouted feathers and wings or vines and leaves. But whatever the change, your name still burned brightly against your heart, so you knew you were, in fact, still yourself, even if you weren’t quite what you’d been up until now.
Yes. Fly back up to the window. You’ll see what I mean.
Unseen by Kya, Hearthorne yawned and snuggled into the seed. She had expected the seed to be small and cramped, but it was more comfortable than even her nest of dandelion fluff back home. It was also dark and warm, and she found it growing more difficult with each passing moment to stay awake. Such was the life of a seedling not yet born.
“I can’t fly,” Kya said. She looked up at the sill that seemed an impossibility away and wished she hadn’t rolled over. But, like anything else, wishing was far easier than doing.
Yes, Hearthorne yawned again, you can. Just aim yourself at the window and jump. Your wings will take it from there. Her eyes closed and the seed promised her a peaceful slumber.
Oh, Hearthorne mumbled, struggling to push the words off her lips. Thinking about your destination is important, otherwise you’d keep going until you hit the sun.
Kya frowned up at the sill. “You’re sure?”
Kya took in a deep breath. She had always wanted to fly, and now she had wings. All she had to do was think of the sill and jump, but the faerie’s warning rippled across her heart, disturbing her excitement. Fear was more than happy to follow her in her new shape, as is often the case. And as it tiptoed at the edges of her consciousness, her curiosity dimmed a little.
She placed the seed in an empty pouch on her hip. If she was going to fly—either to a fiery death or, hopefully, to the windowsill—she wanted to have her hands free.
Heart already leaping, she closed her eyes and wished. Fortified, she opened her eyes and told herself sternly that she was going to fly.
True to Hearthorne’s word, her wings fluttered behind her, whisking her gently to the window.
Kya landed on the sill, arms and legs splayed, breathless at having done something she’d always thought was impossible. Fear uncurled from her heart and bubbled up her chest, spilling out of her mouth as laughter. She jumped to her feet and danced in place.
She had done it! She’d flown for the very first time!
Then the joy of her first flight melted away into astonishment that soon gave way to wonder. For resting lightly upon the windowsill was a ship with a walnut hull and a scarlet maple leaf for a sail. And written in letters of gold across the hull were the words The Curious Leaf.
Her breath tight in her chest, Kya flexed her new wings once more and flew onto the ship. Initially, she had expected to be crowded on the deck. It was made of a walnut shell, after all, and she was as tall as the still green twig of the mainmast. But when she landed, it was as though either the ship had grown or she had shrunk, and there was plenty of room for her and to spare.
Don’t forget to plant me, Hearthorne whispered.
“Where?” Kya asked, her eyes wide as she tried to take everything in. Though she had been a young flower, and was now an even younger faerie, she understood that growing things and ships rarely got on. Perhaps Hearthorne, being only a faerie until very recently, hadn’t realized this yet. “I mean, would you like to be planted out in the garden with the rest of the flowers or take my place on the windowsill?”
Her keeper would probably miss the bright spot of color the flower would have offered as the brilliance of autumn faded into the muted tones of winter. But come spring, Hearthorne would sprout and bloom, every bit as radiant as Kya had been when she’d first said hello to the sun.
Sensing her danger, Hearthorne struggled to open her eyes, but gave up once she realized how futile it would be. No, not like that. On the ship. I want to come with you.
The seed’s song intensified even as it softened, weaving the beginnings of a story through the shell and the darkness—the tale of a faerie who had become a flower.
Kya frowned and eyed the ship.
The Curious Leaf, while a beautiful ship with its walnut planks polished to a high sheen on the deck and beautiful scarlet sails—there were two—didn’t look as though it had the sort of personality that would allow even a speck of dirt anywhere on board.
Carefully, and with more than a little reverence, Kya walked across the deck and over to a door with a bright brass handle. She glanced from side to side, excited, yet not quite sure if she was about to do something forbidden or not. She opened the door to reveal a small room that was bare, save for an opening in the floor. The suggestion of a ladder poked up from one side of the opening, beckoning to her with polished rungs.
Quite willing to see where they led, Kya went down the ladder that ended in a short hall that held three doors. Now that her fears had been lulled away into a proper curiosity once more, Kya investigated each door eagerly. Behind the first was the galley, behind the second was what she assumed to be her quarters, if quarters meant smallish-bed-nailed-to-the-floor-with-plump-quilts-and-cushions-to-make-it-seem-more-homelike, but the third door was locked.
Kya went back through the rooms, this time remembering to look for a pot she could plant the faerie seed in, but when she wasn’t able to find anything better than a soup tureen shaped like a fish, she went back up to the deck.
As she moved about, Kya gradually became aware of the breath of anticipation that hung in the air as though the ship itself were alive and waiting for her to do something. With each step she took, the sense of expectation intensified until her bones hummed with it.
At last she reached the helm. A giant blue stone rested in the hub of the spokes of the ship’s wheel with various smaller stones embedded in the spokes themselves. To the side of the wheel was a large compass unencumbered by either glass or bowl that refused to lie down flat. Instead, it hung like a smaller, more worldly version of a weathervane that had given birth to a number of ornate orreries that refused to be separated, its needle quivering not on north, west, east, or south, but toward an arm that read in elegant script: You Are Here Now.
If Kya had been paying attention, she would also have noted smaller script that ran in a swishy border about the arm. Dream at your own risk. This ship is not responsible for Accidents, Peril, Tragedy, nor anything that does not smack of Adventure.
Duly unwarned, she turned her attention to the thin platform standing solidly on the other side of the helm. Resting on top of the platform was a shallow silver bowl filled halfway with rich, dark earth.
There, Hearthorne breathed as though half asleep.
Glad to have found such an accommodating ship, Kya scooped the earth away until she had a nice bed for the seed.
“Thank you,” she said as she placed Hearthorne in the bowl and pushed the dirt back in place. For a moment, she missed her own warm bed of soil, but what was a small, clay pot to such a beautiful ship?
Kya gave the wheel an experimental spin, imagining all the places she would go once she convinced the ship to move beyond the windowsill. Thus unprepared, she yelped and stumbled as the ship turned with the wheel. A gust of air filled the maple leaf sails, lifting the ship up from the windowsill where it hovered.
The sky darkened as the sun went down on one side of the sky, bruising it as it went, and the moon rose up on the opposite side. Here and there, stars began to freckle the sky, yawning into existence and twinkling with joy.
Truly, this was a night where anything was possible. Where magic lived and breathed and tangled things into intricate stories and wove them into the life blood of all that was living.
As the moon trailed stardust behind herself as she reached her zenith, a bud poked its head up through the soil in the silver bowl and stretched toward the sky. The bud opened its blossoms, revealing the face of the flower hidden among the petals.
“Are you ready?” Hearthorne asked.
A touch of fear, anxiety, and excitement fluttered through Kya’s gut and left her breathless as though she’d swallowed the sky on a dare. The verge of living her dream was very like clinging to a rock face one’s entire life and then forcing your roots to let go of the earth one by one, until only a single vine held you in place.
A star dove across the sky, streaking a path in silver-edged wishes.
“Yes,” Kya whispered.
“Where to?” Hearthorne asked, then laughed at Kya’s stunned expression. “You are the captain, you know.”
Shivering against the enormity of her wish, Kya turned her eyes thoughtfully toward the sky. It was the sky, after all, that had gotten her into this wonderful mess in the first place. Drawing in a deep breath, and soaking in the warning though she was not yet aware of it, she took hold of the wheel.
“I think I’d like to go to the moon.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE CURIOUS LEAF VOYAGE TO THE MOON . . .