Awakening to the smell of gardenias, lavender, and pine, I breathed deeply, wanting to drown in that scent. But before I could get swept away by the smell, my eyes drank in the beauty of the area the fairies called Middle Realm. I never could have imagined it—the colors seemed to be alive themselves, vibrating out from every object. From the enormous unicorn entrance to the sparkling cobblestone path leading up toward a beautiful castle, I was absolutely awestruck.
Brenden arched an eyebrow. “Nice, eh?”
I beamed up at him, barely breathing. “Yes. N-Nice.”
Lenora’s voice shattered my moment of happiness, “We don’t have time for pleasantries. Brenden, take her to her quarters and get her prepared for the Second Trial. We’ve not a moment to lose.” I noticed she looked more like Brenden now with pointy ears and a shimmering dress.
Brenden bowed curtly, “Yes, my lady.”
Then his eyebrows drew up angrily when he looked at Francisco wrapping his fingers around my chair’s handles, preparing to push me along. “What about them?” he cried, hands on hips. “I’m not a nursemaid. I’ll not be at their beck and call.”
Lenora’s gaze picked over Holly, Francisco, and my sister one by one until she shrugged. “You chose her, so you have the honor of dealing with her…inconveniences.”
She pointed at him. “Have her ready by middle-day and not a harpswing more.”
Brenden massaged his temples and muttered, “Great Guardian, what do you have against me?” He sighed deeply as if he was about to heave five hundred pounds and said, “Come on then. Follow me.”
Brenden floated ahead of us, leaving glitterdust in his wake. Francisco pushed me as we tried to follow, but then he stopped. Some fairies were arguing in front of us.
“Asher, I told you to mop this area,” a tiny tot barked at an obviously older fairy. “What do you have to say for yourself. It’s still dirty.”
“I was just about to, milady. Just need to fetch the mop is all.”
Instantly, a large mop appeared in his hands as the fairy went straight to work.
“Strange,” Francisco said.
“Definitely,” I agreed. “I guess the fairy world is much different than ours.”
As we moved along the cobblestone path, I noticed fairies of all sizes bustling here and there on their way to an important mission of some sort or giving orders. Something struck me as I watched them—they all looked like children.
A few resembled large young adults, giggling together and floating around, playing.
And others were like Brenden—teenagers, flitting on errands with parchments or food trays, but many were very young, talking importantly amongst themselves or marching to a job here or there. And what surprised me the most were the leaders, the ones who gave the orders. They appeared to be anywhere from two to four years old. Even younger than Lenora.
As we moved along the beautiful flowered path, Francisco asked, “I don’t get it. Why are the youngest fairies in charge?”
Brenden laughed. “You have much to learn about fairies.”
He waved his hand. “You see, they don’t age as humans because time is different for them. Each fairy ages at a different rate so it’s anyone’s guess as to how many earth years they are. What counts is maturity. I’m a one hundred sixty-two earth years old fairy, yet my maturity level is that of an average seventeen year old human.”
At this, a small boy fairy interjected, “He’s lying. Brenden’s more like a twelve year old human.” A few fairies tittered at the joke. I couldn’t help but smile.
Brenden swatted at the fairy. “Mogelsby, go on now. That hurt my feelings.”
Brenden leaned toward us. “He’s kidding, of course. When fairies reach the maturity level of sixteen, they are tasked with jobs.” He snorted at Mogelsby, “So how can I have a job if I’m like a twelve year old human? Eh, Mogelsby?”
He turned back to us and continued, “Anyway, fairies are not born of their mothers as you are. Fairies are born out of the earth, full sized and large, much like a full grown adult human.”
“That explains it,” Francisco said.
Brenden glared. “What is that supposed to mean, human?”
“Just that you’re definitely not in charge around here because you’re too immature.”
I thought I heard Brenden growl. “I’ll ignore that comment. Come along. We’re wasting time.”
We strolled around the castle. It was so huge! Finally, Brenden motioned toward a set of stairs and said, “We must enter here.”
Holly jumped around as if she just realized something. “Yes. Fairies age backwards! The little kids are really old.” She stammered, “I-I mean…that’s what I think. Am I right?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. They are quite ancient.” Brenden rolled his eyes. “And they can be a little uppity about it, too. If you think Lenora is hard to deal with, just try to manage working for a pint-sized tot.”
Brenden snapped his fingers and my wheelchair ascended the stairs, floating in the air. “That’s convenient,” I said as my wheelchair touched the ground again. “You’ll have to show me that trick, Brenden.”
“One day, I hope you’ll do even better than that, my dearest Athena.” He winked.
“Ah, here we are.” Brenden stopped at a large door with a lion’s head for a handle.
“So, now that fairy age-lessons are over, I bid you three good day. I’ll be taking Athena with me as I’ve got a Wishcaster-in-training to educate. You may stay in here while you wait. The fairies will give you something a little more suitable to wear. You’re to be presented to the queen as well since we unfortunately had to bring you.” He wrapped his hand around the lion’s head. It roared and bit him.
Brenden hollered, “Ow!”
Zelda giggled, putting her hand over her mouth.
Sucking on his wounded finger, Brenden spat, “Oh, hogswallow! I forgot about the new security measures.” He patted the handle and said, “Nice kitty.” The lion smiled and purred as I heard a click.
Once the door opened, Zelda squealed and yelled, “Candy!” darting inside.
Holly seemed to float in, mesmerized.
“Holly?” I asked, “Are you okay?”
She said, “Are you kidding me? They have scientific displays that would rival the Smithsonian.”
I wheeled inside, confused. All the room contained were two little girl fairies sitting on a bench. There must have been a spell put on this room. For them anyway.
Zelda waved her hands in front of her face and cried, “A gingerbread house!”
Francisco shook his head. “Whoa. You’re all wrong. Not the Smithsonian or a gingerbread house. It’s video game heaven!”
He put his hand out to Brenden and said, “Give me some skin, bro. This is way too cool.”
Brenden grimaced as if he’d witnessed someone running over a rabbit. “First of all, I will not give you any part of my skin for your sadistic pleasures, and second of all, I could have you arrested for suggesting such a perverse plan.”
Francisco looked at me, lifting his eyebrows. “Is he for real?”
“Of course I’m real, you dopplesided goon.” Brenden brushed past Franscisco. “Now stop babbling. I’ve got things to do.”
Francisco stood his ground, inching his face closer to Brenden’s. “Why don’t you say, please?”
Brenden inched his face closer. “Make me.”
Before I knew it, Francisco had Brenden in a headlock, ordering, “Say please!”
Brenden gargled out, “Never!”
I rolled over to them. “Guys, enough! This is stupid. Francisco, let him go!”
Francisco released his grip, and Brenden stumbled forward, rubbing his neck.
“Are you okay?” I asked Brenden.
He nodded, getting to his feet. Brushing off his coat and fixing his collar, saying, “I’ll have you know, Francisco, I could have changed you into a toad, but for Athena’s sake, I resisted the temptation.”
He turned to me and said, “He’s definitely beneath your notice. He’s a clumsy, warmongering oaf.”
Francisco gave a half grin. “Aw come on. You can insult me better than that.”
“Ignore him, Francisco,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Brenden, let’s go.” I pulled his arm as I rolled away from Francisco before the two of them killed each other.
I wondered why Brenden was being so rude to Francisco–just like when he made Francisco do that weird thing in science class. Anger shot through me as I remembered poor Francisco’s face in the middle of science. I’d almost forgotten it was Brenden who did that to him.
The fairy wore a smug, happy look on his face. Catching my eyes, he asked, “What’s the matter, Athena? You’re not angry with me, are you?”
I didn’t answer him for a while. I was angry. Why did Brenden hate Francisco so much? Plus, I had no idea what being a Wishcaster meant and what this “Second Trial” was and how I was supposed to get through it.
Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I answered, glaring, “Maybe I don’t want to be your Wishcaster. Maybe I just want to go home.”
“What?” Brenden asked.
“You heard me,” I said, empowered by the thought. “I want to go home. Let someone else fight this battle.” Who was I kidding? If that first encounter with the witch showed how heroic I was, I felt like this mission was doomed anyway.
“You can’t quit on us now, Athena.”
Brenden knelt next to me. His voice softened. “We need you. Your realm needs you.” He took my hand, squeezing it emphatically. “The world needs you.”
“You keep saying that, but I don’t get what it has to do with me! What is a Wishcaster? Why do you need one? And how will that help fight against what seems like powerful, evil magic? It just doesn’t make any sense!”
Brenden let out a sigh, scratching along the arch of one of his blonde eyebrows. “Listen. I’m about to explain all of that to you. We’re almost to the training room. After that, if you still feel the same way about things, you’ll be free to go. We cannot force someone to be the Wishcaster. The Wishcaster just is.”
I cocked my head. “What does that mean?”
“A Wishcaster is one already. It’s a part of their being just as being a human is who Francisco is. The Great Guardian ordains a Wishcaster for a millennium, but once they die, we have to seek a new one. We’ve been looking for the next Wishcaster for over fifty years. Most prospects fail the first test, which you sailed through marvelously.”
“You mean with the witch?”
Brenden’s eyes widened. “No. I mean with Wish Book. You gave back the book. That’s the first test. What you did with the witch showed Lenora that you truly could be our Wishcaster.”
“It showed Lenora, but not you?”
Brenden blushed, looking down at the ground. Then he stared at me. “I’ve always known you were our Wishcaster from the moment I saw you in the Wish-shard. Lenora didn’t believe, but I did. With the witch, you proved you have your own magic. That’s why you were able to transport yourself out of Sighead’s frozen prison, something neither Lenora nor I could do.”
I tapped Brenden’s arm. “One more thing before I accept the challenge of training.”
“Explain why you need a Wishcaster.”
He arose. “Come. I’ll show you.”
Next update Wednesday, November 21st.