“The moon is a mirror, as it has ever been. What is below, must be above. And what is above, must shine down below.” He glanced at the sky and stiffened. “Already I have lingered longer than I ought. The night is nearly gone. Eat the cheese or not, it is your choice. Only remember that what is promised must be given, one way or another.” With one last quiver of his whiskers, the mouse scampered off, his silken robes flapping behind him.
“The stories my keeper used to read to me,” Kya said, eyeing the bit of cheese that was beginning to melt in her hand, “were filled with dire warnings against eating food from Faerie.”
Hearthorne brightened at the mention of her home. “Really?”
Kya let her nervousness seep out in a small laugh. “Yes. They said that eating the food of the Folk would steal your soul, bind you to the Realm, and empty you instead of filling you. Of course, I’m not sure how that works with plants.” Kya furrowed her brow. At her heart, she was still a small flower of only three seasons who was not content to stand upon the windowsill. And yet, there was something else. Something small and foreign nibbling at the corners of her heart. Different and strange and . . . lovely.
But the stories had things to say about that too.
“It is in the difference of our natures,” Hearthorne said, her gaze distant. “Wishes and dreams lack the . . . solidity of barley and potatoes. I would eat the cheese if I were you.”
Kya eyed the smear of milky paleness in her hand with deep misgiving. Before, she wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but so much had changed since this morning. Yet, here she was. She’d pushed her way past the impenetrable barriers of two seeds, so what of a third?
Wrinkling her nose, she held her breath and licked the cheese off her hand. Instead of the feral wildness she’d come to associate with the few mice that had managed to hide from her keeper, the cheese tasted light and airy—like eating a moonbeam that had been dipped in cream.
As the cheese dissolved on her tongue, a gentle wind sighed across the moon, and the sky turned into fragments of color as the sun marched forward, nearly stepping on the train of moonlight and dusk in front of him.
“Don’t forget,” Hearthorne said, “you promised to take me with you.”
Kya blinked at the faerie-flower as the cheese settled in her stomach. Something undefinable and hazy hovered near the indigo petals, but disappeared when she blinked again.
She put Hearthorne in a pouch on her hip, glad that the silver bowl fit, and took a deep breath. It was one thing to stare up at the moon and dream of getting close enough to touch it, and quite another to actually be standing one step away from the pearly lunar surface.
Kya jumped off the railing of the ship, her wings fluttering fiercely behind her as she floated gently to the ground. The moment she landed, the world shook itself before settling back down to a white sand beach filled with bits of pearl and diamond.
“Incredible,” Hearthorne breathed, lifting her face to the gentle breeze that came and went but never left completely.
Buildings Kya hadn’t seen from the ship sprang up in the landscape before them. Some bubbled up from the ground in frothy roundness while others spiraled up, looking every bit like what Kya thought unicorn horns would look like. But the wide avenues and silvery walking paths were empty, and the buildings were shuttered against the daylight. The trees and shrubs were all trimmed to look like round globes of white leaves while well-tended flowerbeds seeped between buildings and walkways.
“But where is the dragon?” Kya asked, once she found her words again.
Hearthorne made a choking noise and glanced up at her incredulously. She opened her mouth to say something before reconsidering. “Pick a path,” she said at last. “You’ll find the dragon at the heart.”
Obligingly, Kya picked a path that shot off in nearly a straight line, cutting through meadows and grudgingly passing around the few buildings that crossed its way. Wonder threatened to steal Kya’s breath away forever as she gazed with wide eyes about her while her feet followed the path. Yet no matter how marvelous the world, the need to find the dragon riddled at her heart, strengthening its beat with each step.
At last they came to a walled garden with a silver gate that grew up out of the ground like tulip leaves. Bits of star burned with a white fire, bolting the slender leaves of the gate in place.
Kya stretched out her hand, but didn’t quite touch the gate, for it was the sort of door that inspired quiet awe. Speaking out loud would break the spell, and quite possibly the lock, so one needed to handle this sort of door with deliberate care. It was the same sort of thing Kya noticed with certain flowers.
Hearthorne nudged Kya with her leaves, nodding at the gate. Her eyes were as wide and bright as the polished copper pieces Kya’s keeper had kept wrapped in a scrap of red silk in a special box near the hearth.
Uncertain, Kya pressed her hand a little closer to the silver leaves, but didn’t quite dare to touch them. Magic, the silver seemed whisper in between the space of Now and Then. We are of magic older than the earth, older than man, and older even than the Folk. Touch us at your own peril. Sometimes we can be persuaded to purr and stretch, but sometimes we bite.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2015 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
There’s a reason why faerie gold never lasts beyond the night. But just as barely and potatoes feeds the body, hopes and dreams feed the soul.
Join me next Monday to see if the magic can be persuaded to forego a meal, what lies beyond the gates, and part of what makes the moon so special.