“There’s a pair of knickers up on that tree.” Cindy said pointing upwards. So far all their missing clothes had been spotted hanging on the tops of trees, as they wandered around naked looking for them.
“Well you did say: “Let’s go hiking in Faerie, it could be interesting.” Well you were right there.” Jess stated. Cindy shrugged her shoulders.
“Well that’s the thing with Faerie, anything can happen.”
“Great.” Jess replied. “You have fae blood. Do you have any powers?”
“Of course I don’t. I’m not Melissa.” Cindy blurted out.
“Melissa? Melissa has powers?” Jess asked surprised. Cindy’s face went red.
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Melissa has powers?” Jess repeated.
“Yes, she’s a sorceress.” Cindy admitted.
“A sorceress? How do you know?”
“One of the last times I was in Faerie. I sold that letter of hers for the silver bell at the Faerie Market. The seller took it as payment as it was “a letter of apology from a sorceress”. Thinking back on it now, I may have been ripped off. Later I got trapped on a spider’s web in-between the worlds, and Melissa helped me escape.”
“Huh! Were you ever going to tell me about any of this?” Jess asked.
“I didn’t want to tell you about it. I’m always scared I’m going to lose you to Melissa.” Cindy admitted. Jess sighed, put her hands on Cindy’s shoulders and looked into her eyes.
“I want you to listen to me Cindy. I like Melissa, but I don’t love her. I love you. That’s why I married you. I really wish we could get beyond this.” Cindy nodded at her words.
“So do I.” Cindy agreed.
“Well… we could climb the trees.” Jess said changing the subject.
“It would take a long time to retrieve all our clothing. Besides some are on pine trees and we would get covered in resin.”
“Do you have any ideas? I’m not doing the rest of the hike naked.” Jess stated.
“Maybe if we go find help from someone.” Cindy suggested.
“From whom? We haven’t seen anyone since we went through the portal.”
“If we go down the path, we might find a homestead or something.” Cindy said. Jess sighed again.
“Well it’s better than nothing I guess. Lead on.”
They walked down the path. They hadn’t gone very far when they saw a small figure walking towards them. It was a gnome with a long grey beard. He wore grey robes and had a little walking stick in his right hand.
“Hi.” Cindy said once he got nearer to them. The gnome stopped and looked up at them quizzically.
“Hello.” He said. “I don’t mean to pry, but do you always wander around Faerie naked? I think I should warn you there are certain places I wouldn’t advise you to go without clothing.”
“This isn’t a choice. We went swimming and now all our clothes are at the tops of trees. I suspect pixies are to blame.” Cindy told him.
“I see.” The gnome replied while scanning the treetops. “It does sound like pixie mischief.”
“Do you know anyone who can help us?” Cindy asked. The gnome nodded.
“One moment.” He replied. Dropping his walking stick, he fished out a small flute and then played a few notes. A few minutes later a fairy appeared fluttering it’s butterfly wings. The gnome spoke a few words to it in a language Cindy and Jess didn’t know. The fairy then fluttered off. They stood there waiting. A short while later fairies began appearing carrying Jess and Cindy’s clothes in their hands. The fairies began dropping the clothes at their feet. Within an hour, all of Jess and Cindy’s clothes lay in a pile before them, as far as they could tell.
“Thank you.” Jess said. The gnome looked over their clothes.
“Another word of advice: if you ever plan on meeting the Queen, wear something less mundane.”
“Well I don’t think our plans include meeting the Queen.” Jess replied.
“Thank you for your help.” Cindy said. The gnome bowed low.
“My name is Lemnas.”
“I’m Cindy, and this is Jess, who is my wife.” Cindy told him.
“You live in a farm next to a portal, don’t you?” Lemnas asked.
“Yes. How do you know?” Cindy asked.
“Let’s just say you are known.” Lemnas replied.
“Okay.” Cindy said confused.
“I’ll leave you ladies to get dressed.” Lemnas said. “You owe me a favour.”
“I guess we do.” Cindy replied.
“It will be getting dark soon. There is a good inn a few miles up the road. I have stayed there many a time, you might like it there.” Lemnas suggested.
“Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll check it out.” Cindy replied. Lemnas bowed low again, then turned and walked away.
“We’ve been here two days, and already we owe a favour.” Jess said as they got dressed.
“Can’t be helped.” Cindy answered.
“It’s strange he appeared just when we needed help.” Jess stated.
“Happenstance.” Cindy suggested.
Once they were ready, they continued their journey. They had been walking a few hours and it was getting dark once they came across the inn that Lemnas had told them about. It was a large wooden building with three storeys. There were lights in all the windows and it looked welcoming and inviting to both of them. They walked up the path to the main doors and opened them. Light spilled out along with the smell of ale and smoke, laughter and talk. They both looked at one another before going over the threshold.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, Jess and Cindy packed up their belongings and continued on the path they were following. The day grew warm and the scents of flowers like roses and honeysuckle filled the air. It was a peaceful walk, and neither of them saw anyone else. It was as though they had the whole forest to themselves.
Around midday, when they were thinking of stopping for lunch, they heard in the distance the sound of a waterfall. They followed the sound (but kept on the path), and eventually came to a large cascading waterfall with a pool of water.
“I would so love a swim!” Jess stated.
“Yes, me too.” Cindy agreed. As the waterfall was only just off the path, they both agreed it would be okay to have a swim there, and then have some lunch. They both stripped off and dived into the pool. The water was cool and refreshing. Any weariness they may have felt in their limbs quickly ebbed away in the water. They spent the entire afternoon happily swimming, and only reluctantly got out of the water once their hunger pangs could no longer be ignored.
“Hey where are my clothes?” Jess asked looking around.
“I don’t know. Mine are gone too!” Cindy replied. The spot where they had stripped off was now bereft of any clothing. They both went to their packs and found all the clothes packed away in them were gone too.
“Do scarecrows actually work?” Cindy asked as she stuffed more hay into the scarecrows head. Jess shrugged her shoulders.
“How do you mean?” She asked.
“Do they actually scare away crows and other birds from the fields?” Cindy inquired.
“I have no idea, but they’ve been used for a long time, so they must have some effect.” Jess replied. “It’d be a bit silly to keep doing something that doesn’t work.”
“We should give him a name.” Cindy suggested.
“Him? We’re two lesbians making a scarecrow. Why is it a him?” Jess asked.
“I don’t know. I always think of scarecrows being guys I guess.” Cindy answered.
“That’s because you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy.” Jess stated. Cindy threw a bunch of hay at her. Jess laughed out loudly.
Once the scarecrow had been completed, they called it Max and hung it on a pole in the main field where their crop of corn had just been sown, thanks to their new tractor. After admiring their creation, Jess and Cindy then headed back to the farmhouse together.
During the night Cindy awoke. After lying there listening to Jess softly breathing beside her for a while, she got out of bed and went to the kitchen to make something to drink. She looked out the window at their fields but couldn’t see their new scarecrow. She opened the door and went outside to investigate. When she got to the spot where they had put it up there was nothing there except the pole and crossbeam they had hung it on. The scarecrow was gone. Somebody stole our scarecrow! thought Cindy. Who would do something like that? She wondered. She sadly traipsed back to the house and went back to bed.
“Our scarecrow is gone. I think someone must have taken it.” Cindy told Jess when they woke up in the morning.
“I guess we will have to make another one.” Jess replied as she yawned and stretched. They went to the kitchen to make breakfast. Jess looked out the window and saw the scarecrow still hanging in the field where they put it. She smiled and shook her head.
“I guess you must have been dreaming. The scarecrow is still out there girl!” She said. Cindy immediately looked out and saw the scarecrow too. Puzzled she went outside to get a closer look. There before her was the scarecrow as though it had never been moved. Jess came out and joined her.
“I don’t understand. I was standing right here last night and it was gone.” Cindy said.
“Maybe whoever took it returned it later.” Jess answered sounding a little unconvinced. She walked off back to the kitchen leaving Cindy standing there mystified.
The next night Cindy looked out again and sure enough the scarecrow was missing again and the next morning it was back. Maybe someone’s playing a joke on us, Cindy thought. That evening she resolved to stay up all night and see what would happen…
Cindy stood in the kitchen watching the scarecrow in the darkness. For a time nothing happened, but then suddenly the scarecrow came to life. It awkwardly removed itself off the pole it was hanging on and then wandered away through the field heading towards the fence. Cindy stood there stunned, but then to her surprise she found herself opening the door and following the scarecrow through the field with her heart beating wildly.
She wandered after the scarecrow as though she was in a dream. She could see the scarecrow ahead of her in the dark slowly walking towards the fence. Then it climbed over the fence and laid down in the tall grasses. Cindy kept approaching and once she got to the fence, she stopped and looked down at the scarecrow. It suddenly sat up startling Cindy and causing her to quickly back away from the fence.
“Sorry didn’t mean ta startle yer.” The scarecrow said with a rough dry voice, like the sound of hay rustling in the wind.
Cindy moved slowly towards the fence again. There was the scarecrow sitting up looking at her with a grass stalk in it’s mouth. Her grandma had always said the land around the farm was imbued with magic and that there was a gate to Faerie in the south field, but to be fair, Cindy always thought her grandma was a little touched in the head. Now maybe she wasn’t so sure, or maybe she was a little touched too…
“Max?” She whispered.
“If it isn’t one of me makers.” Max said. “Why’d ya call me Max?”
“Er, because we couldn’t decide on your gender and Max could either be short for Maxine, or Maxwell, or Maximilian, or some other name.” Cindy explained to Max, still trying to believe she was actually having a conversation with their scarecrow.
“Is me gender that important? There be nout tween me legs cept hay.” Max responded.
‘You could say gender is actually in the head.” Cindy explained.
“There be nout in me head cept hay as well.”
“I could try to make you a brain of some sort.” Cindy offered.
“Wat do I need a brain for? No scarecrow ever went to college. All I do is stand in the field an sometimes talk with the crow folk.” Max replied.
“So why do you come to lie down in the grass?” Cindy asked.
“I need ta rest sometime. Yer have me guarding the field all the long day from the bird folk. At night I need ta lie down. Nought at night except the rat an mice folk an the owls an the fairy folk, an they not care about yer crops I guard. So I come here ta rest.” Max explained.
“Oh sorry, I didn’t realise you needed to sleep as well.”
“Yeh, but don’t worry, once the sun come up I be guarding yer fields again.” Max stated.
“Well thanks for your help.” Cindy offered, as she always believed it was best to be polite to people who assisted you, even if they were mostly made up of hay.
“You and yer pardner made me. I have ta help yer. I’m made from both of yer. You two be different tho. Jess be the doer and you be the dreamer. Jess be really sweet on yer.” Max revealed.
“Well yeah I had guessed that since Jess and I share a bed together and she helps manage my farm.” Cindy replied slightly sarcastically.
“I know her plans for yer.” Max said, seemingly ignoring Cindy’s sarcasm, if a scarecrow could recognise sarcasm that is.
“Her plans?” Cindy asked surprised.
“She want ta make an honest woman of yer. Mark me words.” Max replied.
“If yer gave me real eyes, I wud be rollin them right now.” Max said shaking his head a little.
“I guess I should let you sleep, since you have a long day tomorrow.” Cindy said slightly bewildered by Max’s words.
“Much appresheated.” Max responded. “By the way, the fairy folk watch yer. They knew yer granma or so they told me.”
“The fairies watch me?” Cindy repeated. Here she was standing in the field in the middle of the night talking to her scarecrow about fairies. Maybe she was losing it. Perhaps if she went to bed and slept she would wake up in the morning and realise this was just a dream. She really hoped it was a dream.
“Yeh they help guard this land and they guard yer too. There be a vampire livin nearby, but the land be protected from them.” Max revealed. “They cannot enter it.”
“Good to know.” Cindy replied wondering what this all meant. She didn’t realise vampires actually existed. Again, she really hoped she was dreaming. Max began to stretch and yawn. “I guess I’ll leave you to rest.” Max nodded at her and then lay down in the grass again. Cindy walked slowly back to the farmhouse pondering things. When she got into bed, Jess was already fast asleep and she curled up next to her in the warm bed and quickly nodded off.
When she awoke the next morning and thought of the events of the night before, she assumed she must have dreamed it all, but when she got out of bed she noticed her feet were dirty and there was grass and hay stuck to them. She went to the kitchen. In the morning sun there was the scarecrow standing tall in the field again. Maybe it was the wind that made it look like it was waving to her…
I wrote this story several years ago and published it here in two parts. I’ve decided to repost it in full and make some slight changes.
Jess got out of the tractor. Due to an excessive amount of rain the south field had turned into a swamp. Her tractor was mired, the tires caked with mud. She sighed. Already she had tried for several hours to get the tractor moving again, but to no avail. Cindy had gone to Faerie to meet the Elven Queen. She had been gone a couple of days now. Jess hated it when Cindy wasn’t here. The farm never felt right without her. Jess decided to walk back to the homestead and figure out what to do over some coffee.
Word count: 99
This was written with the prompt mud on the tires provided by the Carrot Ranch September 19 Story Challenge.
It was a late summer evening. Jess and Cindy sat out on their porch watching the sunset while drinking beers. All their fields were full of tall cornstalks. It had been a cruel summer, but thankfully their crops had survived the heat.
“It’s still over a month until the harvest.” Jess stated.
“I know, but we should do well this year. It looks to be a good crop, despite everything.” Cindy replied.
“Don’t bank on it until we are finally harvesting it. Though the money will be welcome. Our finances are getting rather low now.”
“Shame none of your side projects have yielded much so far.”
“I still think we should give alpacas a go.” Jess suggested. Cindy screwed up her nose.
‘We grow corn. What do we know about raising alpacas? Raising animals can bring a whole host of problems we know nothing about.”
“I still think we should give it a go. We’ve got that small field we don’t use for anything. We could fence it off and try raising a small number of them and see how that goes. At least we’ll just be farming them for their fleece and not killing them for meat or anything.” Jess answered. Cindy shrugged her shoulders. “You’ve been quiet that last few days. Is there something troubling you?”
“I’m thinking about going to Faerie and seeing the Queen.” Cindy admitted. Jess raised her eyebrows.
“Babradon told me if I wanted to get pregnant again I should see the Queen.”
“Okay.” Jess replied not understanding.
“She’ll help with ensuring the baby is carried to term.” Cindy explained. Jess began gently rubbing Cindy’s back.
“Are you sure you’re ready for that? The miscarriage devastated you. I don’t want to see you go through that again.” Jess told her.
“Well apparently the Queen can help with that. Babradon told me she helped my grandmother do the same. It’s due to my family having some fay blood, which is why I can walk through portals and see fay folk when others can’t.” Cindy told her. Jess slowly nodded her head.
“Maybe I should go with you.” Jess offered. Cindy smiled.
“Thanks. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not sure if you’d be welcome. As far as we know your bloodline is totally mortal. I should only be away a couple of days.”
“Gee thanks. A couple of days our time, or theirs? A couple of days in Faerie could end up being far longer here.” Jess warned.
“I know. I’ll try to be as quick as I can.” Jess sighed deeply.
“Okay if you really want to do this, but what about the impregnation part? Unless the Queen is going to take care of that as well, IVF is really expensive.” Jess asked. Cindy laughed briefly.
“I guess we could try the turkey baster method, but we don’t need to worry about any of that until I get back.” Cindy replied.
“Artificial insemination? Just like they do with cows?” Cindy hit Jess in the face with a cushion.
“Thanks for comparing me to a cow!” They both laughed and stared out into the darkening sky.
“When do you think you’ll go?” Jess asked.
“Not sure yet. maybe I might wait until after the harvest.” Cindy answered.
“Whenever you decide to go it’ll be okay.” Jess told her. Cindy nodded. They both sat there and watched the stars slowly fill the sky.
One day I came across a portal. Going through it I came into some far green country. I marveled at the beauty as I wandered across it, until I came to a wondrous city. As I stood there gazing at it, two Elven knights grabbed hold of me. I was taken to the Elven Queen. She was so radiantly beautiful I had to avert my gaze.
“Mortal, you have wandered in lands you were not meant to.” she said softly. I was led away to a dungeon. My stay there seemed brief as I was soon escourted back to the portal.
When I was back in my own world, everything seemed different. All my joints were stiff and I found it hard to move. There were horseless carriages going faster than I could believe and all the people walking around were fixated by rectangular tablets in their hands, ignoring all else. I didn’t understand. When I saw my reflection I saw long white hair and wrinkled skin. I decided to return to Faerie to restore my youth.
I went back to the place where I had found the portal, but it wasn’t there, just long grass and an old gate I had never seen before. The writing on it said: NO ENTRY.
Cindy was walking back from the mailbox. The only piece of mail she had received today was a letter from Melissa apologising for past events. Cindy followed the path until she came to some old steps. She remembered Grandma saying that beyond the steps was a gateway to Faerie. Cindy had always thought Grandma was slightly crazy, but now she wasn’t so sure…
She went up them and saw a haze in the air. Walking through it, she came to a place she had never seen before. Everything there seemed more green and vibrant.
“You look like Rose, but you’re not her.” said a voice.
Cindy looked down to see a small squat figure with a long white beard smoking a pipe.
“Rose was my grandma. She died a while ago now.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed talking with her.” He said.
“Hi, I’m Cindy.”
“Hello, my name in Babradon.” He said standing up and bowing. He was half Cindy’s height.
Just wait till Jess sees this, Cindy thought. She looked down at the small figure of Babradon.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but what are you?” She asked him. He looked at her surprised.
“I keep forgetting in your world humans are mostly the only sentient race there. You’re probably not used to seeing other races like me. I’m what you would call a gnome.” He informed her.
” I see. What do you mean we’re mostly the only sentient race?” Cindy asked curiously.
“It’s not important. There are others like us still living in the fringes of your world, if you know where to look. And being near a gateway means you get a few peoples going back and forth.”
“So what other races live here in Faerie?”
“Well aside from gnomes, there are also elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins, pixies, boggarts, to name a few.” Babradon said.
“There are all manner of strange creatures here, possibly countless numbers of them.” He revealed. Cindy gazed in wonder at the vibrant green landscape before her.
“How far does it go on?” She asked.
“Probably forever.” He told her. “This is your first time here isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Cindy admitted.
“There are some basic rules to Faerie you will need to know. Firstly don’t be so trusting with anyone you meet here and don’t accept everything you see at face value. Always look deeper. And be careful who you give your name out to. Give everyone your nickname or something similar.”
“Why?” Cindy asked him.
“Because if you give out your true name to someone, you give them power over you.”
“Okay.” Cindy replied. “What do you mean by true name?”
“What’s the name you give yourself?” He asked.
“Me.” Cindy replied. Babradon looked away for a moment.
“I mean what name do you think defines you? What name do you think is you?” He asked carefully.
“Well everyone calls me Cindy, and that’s the name I think of myself as.” She answered.
“Then don’t give that name to people here. Are there any other names people call you?”
“I was christened Cynthia, and a lot of people call me Cinders, and when I was at school some people used to call me Cinderella, but that was to annoy me.”
“Maybe use the name Cinders?” Babradon suggested.
“Okay.” Cindy replied. “So I guess Babradon isn’t your true name then?”
“No it’s my use name. My true name I keep to myself.” Babradon revealed.
“So do you live out here?” Cindy asked.
“I have a small house nearby. I help keep an eye on the gateway you came through.”
“It’s so lovely here.” Cindy said as she sat down on the ground with the sun on her.
“You’re very much like your grandmother. Did you know that?” Babradon told her. Cindy gave out a short laugh.
“Yeah some people have said that to me before. I think we have a similar temperament.”
“I’m sorry to hear she has died. I’ll miss her.”
“I miss her too. Me and Jess now have her farm.” Cindy revealed.
“Who is Jess? Tell me more Cindy” He asked.
“My girlfriend.” Cindy answered. “Does it bother you I’m in a same-sex relationship?”
“Following your heart and being with your True Love is what’s important, no matter who they are.” Babradon responded.
“We had to clear all the farmland as everything had become overgrown, and we also had to fix the farmstead, but now we are living there together and I’m very happy.” Cindy told him.
“That’s good to hear.”
“I’ve recently found out that Jess slept with a mutual friend when I was still living in the city. We weren’t together again at that point, but for some reason it’s made me feel very jealous. I just want Jess all to myself and I get very possessive over her, which I know isn’t a good thing. I worry she might have feelings for our friend.” Cindy told him.
“I’m not an expert when it comes to love, but if you fixed the farm together and now live there with each other, surely you’re the one she wants to be with.” Babradon advised her. Cindy sighed loudly.
“I know. It’s not like we both didn’t have affairs when we were apart, but for some reason I feel really threatened by this other person. I was really horrid to her at a friend’s funeral recently.”
“Jealousy is not an attractive trait in anyone. If you continue to be jealous your partner may always feel under pressure when socialising with others and that may end up pushing her away. Always remember if she is with you, she wants to be there. Trust in that.”
“Thanks for the advice.” Cindy replied. “Sorry about unloading my problems on you. I’m not sure why I told you all this.” Babradon shrugged his shoulders.
“When you’re the Warden of a gateway, people tell you all sorts of things.” he said.
Cindy looked at the path that led away and went beyond the trees.
“So where does that path go?” She asked.
“It goes on through the forest and eventually leads to towns and great cities. Just beyond those trees there I think there is a marketplace at the moment. That could be well worth a look, though I would advise you to be careful with everything you say or do there .” Babradon informed her.
“Ooh a marketplace! I would love to check that out! Maybe I’ll have a quick look at it.” Cindy enthused.
“Yes you’ll find it rather eye-opening I’m sure. Just be careful there! Faerie can be quite perilous. And remember what I told you about names.” Babradon warned.
“I will.” Cindy told him.
Cindy stood up and wandered down the path. As she looked behind her she saw Babradon had sat down again and was relighting his pipe. She turned around again and faced the trees. She took a deep breath and walked into the forest.
Cindy didn’t want to admit it, but she was lost. She had followed the path as Babradon had suggested, but then she had seen some beautiful flowers and left the path to have a closer look at them. When she went back, the pathway seemed to have disappeared. She walked for ages, but there was no sign of it.
“You’re lost!” said a voice. Cindy beheld a small figure sitting on a branch.
“I am.” She admitted. “I’ve lost the pathway.”
“Well you’re going the wrong way! For a small fee, I’ll take you back to it.” they volunteered.
“I’m not sure I have anything.” Cindy said searching her pockets. All she had was a letter from Melissa, and a quarter. She handed the coin to the figure.
“Ooh I’ve never seen one of these before! Okay follow me!” the figure sped off in a completely different direction. Cindy followed.
Cindy wasn’t sure where the pixie was leading her. If only she hadn’t walked off the path…
“Just pretend you’re an intrepid explorer,” she told herself.
“We’re here!” the pixie exclaimed.
Before Cindy was a marketplace with strange creatures looking at tables of wondrous items. She had never seen anything like this before.
On the path to the Faerie Market, Cindy came across a small stone well with a stone serpent running along the lip. The pixie alighted on her shoulder.
“It’s a true wishing well.” the pixie told her.
“What does it do?” Cindy asked.
“You cast something personal into the water and make a wish.” the pixie replied.
“Cast something valuable in, you mean?”
“Maybe, or something deeply personal, or even a stone you’ve been carrying in your hand as you walked through the forest.” Cindy smiled at his words.
“Does it work?”
“Verily it does. You wish for something, but here’s the catch: you can never tell anyone what you wished for, even if it comes to pass, or the wish will become undone.” the pixie warned.
Cindy stood there wishing for something deep in the confines of her heart. Then she cast the stone into the water.
Cindy then walked towards the Faerie Market. There were all manner of different creatures wandering around the market place or minding the stalls. She could see elves, dwarves, gnomes, a tree-ish woman Cindy presumed to be a dryad, and many others that she had no name for, while above fairies and pixies flittered around them all.
The market stalls had many wondrous-looking items on display. There were gems, jewels in the shape of flowers that blossomed before your eyes as though they were alive, potions, weapons, small chests full of ointments or perfumes, and many more such things. Cindy stopped at a stall that had various trinkets. An old woman with long silver hair wearing a long black cloak regarded her. Cindy picked up a small silver bell that had intricate patterns etched into the metal. When she rang the bell it made a clear note that drove away her feeling of tiredness.
“You like the bell? Would you like to exchange something for it?” The old woman asked.
“I don’t have anything to buy it with.” Cindy told her.
“You have nothing at all?” The woman clarified looking at her keenly. Cindy dug into the pockets of her jeans. She produced the letter from Melissa, which was the only thing she had left.
“I’ve got a letter from a friend and that’s all.” Cindy said.
“Hand the letter over to me child and let me have a look at it.” The old woman requested holding out her shaking hand with long fingers and dagger-like fingernails. Cindy reluctantly gave it to her. The old woman looked it over and opened it up to read. “Ah a letter of apology from a sorceress. This has much value. Feel free to take any item.” A sorceress? Cindy thought, it’s just plain old Melissa. Cindy picked up the silver bell.
“Okay I’ll take this silver bell. It’ll make a nice gift for Jess, my partner. It will help prove to her I was actually here.” Cindy informed her. The old woman nodded.
“It’s a fair exchange.” She declared. She spat on her hand and held it out to Cindy, who then reluctantly shook hands with her. “It is sealed.”
As Cindy walked away she looked behind her to see the woman hide the letter away amongst her belongings. Cindy began to consider it was time to move on. She should really get home as she was unaware how long she had been lost in Faerie, and time seemed to move differently here. Jess would be worrying about her. And it wasn’t like she anything else to exchange with aside from the clothes she was wearing, and she would rather not part with those.
Once finding the path she assumed would lead her back to the portal, she followed it to see where she would end up this time. The path led her through the forest and then upwards through bush until she came across Babradon who was sitting there smoking his pipe.
“I saw you approaching. You were away for some time. Did you get lost?” He asked.
“Yes. I left the path and couldn’t find it again.” Cindy told him.
“I did warn you not to leave the path. Then count yourself lucky you found your way back to here. You could have been lost in Faerie until you were silver haired.” Babradon informed her.
“I know. Luckily a pixie helped by leading me to the Faerie market. I’m really glad I saw it.”
“All’s well that ends well then.” Babradon replied.
“I better be going home. Jess will probably be wondering where I am.” She looked towards the portal.
“I suspect I’ll be seeing you again. So until next time!” Babradon said. Cindy nodded.
“Yes until next time.” Cindy replied as she walked up to the portal. She was looking forward to getting home.
Cindy jumped through the portal. To her surprise, it wasn’t the familiar buildings of her own farm that she saw when she returned, but someone else’s. She had no idea where she was. For all she knew she could be on the other side of the world. Nor did she have any idea how long she had been in Faerie. She knew Jess would be worried and she imagined Jess standing in the kitchen watching through the windows wondering where she had got to. One thing Cindy was certain of: she had never seen these buildings before anywhere near her own farm.
“Hello!” she called out. “Is there anyone here?” The buildings remained silent. She seriously considered going back through the portal. The feeling that things had gone terribly wrong was growing in her. Just then, she heard a door creak slowly open…. Around the corner an old woman with long grey hair and wearing an old black dress hobbled into sight. She walked with great difficulty.
“Hello my lovely! What are you doing here?” the old woman asked as she approached Cindy.
“I’m lost.” Cindy replied. “I don’t know where I am, or even what part of the world I’m in.”
“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound so good. You’re in my farm, if you need to know. Why don’t you come to my farmhouse and have a sit down? I’ll give you a nice hot cup of tea and something to eat and we can work this out together.” the old woman offered. It sounded good to Cindy, though there was a feeling of misgiving in her heart, as though maybe things weren’t as they seemed. She followed the old woman to her house. The woman opened the door and there was a loud creak, exactly like the one Cindy had heard before. “Now go in my lovely and have a sit down.” the woman suggested.
“Thanks.” Cindy answered. She went inside to what was a musty old kitchen and sat down on a chair by the table. Instantly she felt stuck. She pressed her hands on the table to give herself leverage so she could escape the chair, but then found her hands were also stuck. The old woman laughed.
“You have fallen for my trap my lovely!” The room melted away and Cindy found she was stuck to a huge web. She turned to look at the old woman and saw that she had transformed to the largest spider she had ever seen. “I put this web in-between worlds and catch the occasional portal jumper! So glad I’m back in my true form. I hate wearing that human skin. It’s so hard to walk in!” the spider said as she moved closer to Cindy now showing no impediment in her movement. Cindy struggled, but found the more she struggled, the more stuck to the web she became. The spider approached. Cindy was now almost fully stuck to the web. The spider stopped and towered above her. It’s large eyes looked down on Cindy while it’s fangs dripped with venom.
“I’m going to bite you and turn your insides to jelly which I will then suck out.” the spider declared. “You look so tasty!”
Cindy shook her head. How did she get into this mess? She thought about Jess who would be wondering where she was. She would never know what became of her. What would happen when she never turned up? How long would Jess wait for her? What would happen when Jess finally realised she was gone for ever? She felt overcome with sadness.
“I’m sorry Jess!” she called out into the void, hoping her words might get to her love as tears began to fall down her cheeks. Maybe Jess would be alright. Maybe she would hook up with Melissa again… Melissa? Suddenly a light went on in her brain. What had they said at the Faerie Market about Melissa, of all people? It had been rather surprising…
“Aw you’re crying! Don’t worry, it will all be over soon!’ the spider said as it’s fangs began to bear down on her.
“Melissa!” Cindy called out into the dark hoping her voice and thoughts could reach their target. “Melissa, I’m sorry for what I said when we last met. I was jealous, but I need your help. I’m trapped between worlds by a giant spider. If you can hear this, please help me!”
“I’m trapped too.” a voice abruptly said in Cindy’s mind. “But I’ll do what I can. I can see you in my mind’s eye. When it hits, get ready to run as fast as you can, no matter what condition you’re in.”
“Okay.” Cindy replied. Beyond the web, floating in the dark she saw a light in front of her in the shape of her friend.
“Now!” said the voice and suddenly the entire web was hit by lightning. The spider screamed and recoiled, while Cindy was thrown from the web and landed on solid ground.
Without a thought Cindy stood up and ran for the portal. She heard the spider behind her and knew she was being chased down. She didn’t dare look back as she ran straight for the glowing portal in front of her. She could hear the spider catching her up and suddenly felt the spider’s legs try to grab hold of her. Cindy managed to dodge them as she jumped through the portal. The last thing she heard was the spider scream with frustration and anger.
Cindy landed on some soft earth. When she opened her eyes, she saw she was in Faerie again. That was close, she thought. In front of her was Babradon smoking his pipe, as always.
“You weren’t gone for long.”
“I tried to leave, but there was spider in-between the worlds that caught me. I only just managed to escape.”
“Ah yes, Her. You were lucky. Few ever escape her dark web.” Babradon replied.
“I had some help.” Cindy said. “But how do I get home? The way through that portal is trapped now.”
“I understand. Follow me.” He led her to a large tree that leaned. “There is a portal in this tree. Go through the opening in the trunk and you will get back to your world.”
“But I won’t fit in there.”
“You will.” He replied. Cindy looked at him doubtfully, but to her surprise the opening was now large enough and she suddenly found herself sliding down into the darkness…
Cindy landed on the ground with a thud. She sat up rubbing the back of her head. Babradon hadn’t warned her about the rough landing. She wondered where she was this time and spotted a middle-aged woman walking a fox terrier. Cindy walked up to her.
“Excuse me, where am I?” Cindy asked. The woman looked at her as though she was crazy.
“You’re just outside the town of Lawrence.” the woman told her before hurrying off and occasionally looking behind her. She was home! Finally! Now all she had to do was walk back to the farm…
Within half an hour she was at the front gate. She walked down the driveway to the homestead. As she approached Jess ran out the door and grabbed Cindy in her arms.
“Where have you been? You’ve been missing for days! People are out searching for you. I’ve been so worried.” Jess blurted out quickly as she hugged Cindy tightly.
“I can’t breathe!” Cindy got out. Jess relaxed her hold, and looked into Cindy’s eyes.
“Oh sorry! I’m just so relieved to see you. I really feared the worst. Let’s get you inside.” The two of them walked into their home with Jess leading the way. Cindy sat down on the couch in the living room while Jess kneeled in front of her. “Where have you been? Were you attacked? Are you hurt?”
“I got stuck.” Cindy replied.
“You got stuck?” Jess frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I got stuck in Faerie.” Cindy clarified. Jess sighed deeply and shook her head.
“Not this again.”
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me so I brought you back something from the Faerie market.” Cindy dug into the pocket of her jeans and produced a delicate silver bell and handed it to Jess. She looked at it moving it around in her fingers.
“And what did you use to trade for this? Magic beans?” Jess asked.
“I had a letter from Melissa. They were quite happy to exchange it for that.”
“You exchanged a personal letter from a friend for this in some market stall? Why did Melissa write to you?”
“She wanted to apologise for sleeping with you.” Cindy replied.
“Melissa had no need to apologise to you. When we had sex, you and I weren’t back together. You were still in the city.”
“So why all this jealousy with Melissa? Surely when you were in the city you dated other woman?”
“Yes.” Cindy answered.
“And I did likewise when I was here on my own. Who I slept with then is not really your business. I don’t ask who you slept with in the city do I?” Jess asked while searching Cindy’s face.
“So why all this jealousy regarding Melissa? Are you afraid we’re going to hook up again?”
“I do worry about that.” Cindy admitted.
“She has her own girlfriend now, that tall pale blonde, and I’m sure they’re quite happy together. You have nothing to worry about.” Jess reassured her. “I think you should be more worried about your delusions.”
“Speaking to fairies and visiting fairyland.”
“My grandmother could see the fairies and speak to them. I’ve inherited her gift.” Cindy told her.
“Yes your grandmother told everyone that she spoke to the fairies, and she was nuts. Everyone knew that. I don’t want to see you go the same way.”
“I wish you’d believe me.” Cindy implored her, but Jess looked at her concerned.
“Your delusions are getting worse. Now you’re disappearing for days. What’s next? One day you don’t come back at all? You’re covered in dirt, your clothes are all ragged, and you really smell. It looks like you’ve been sleeping in a ditch for several days. For all I know that’s what you’ve been doing.” Jess informed her. “I want you to get help.” Cindy rolled her eyes.
“Okay.” Cindy replied, hoping this would appease her.
“We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. Right now you need to get out of those clothes and have a wash. And then get something to eat or maybe some rest?” Jess told her softly. “I have some phone calls to make.” Jess gave her another long tight hug and left, Cindy slowly got up from the couch and walked to the bathroom. Maybe it would be better if she just kept quiet about Faerie from now on. If only Jess would believe her.
This is a collection of eleven Jess and Cindy stories that followed a continuing narrative.