By Jessica Marie PS
This story is a part of a blog hop anthology all taking place within the WFGC Hotel. You can see the full list of stories in this blog hop anthology here:
We arrived at the hotel tree at the buttcrack of dawn, thanks to my dad’s strict scheduling.
“It said in the brochure that early check-ins get a special door prize!” he reminded me as we headed to the front desk. A large sign behind the front desk read Woodland, Faire, and Goblin Creatures Hotel. A balding goblin with wired spectacles sat at the desk, drumming his long, bony fingertips on the smooth surface.
As far as humanside accommodations went, I had to admit this one was a sight better than some of the other places my dad had dragged me to on our annual father-son trips. The leaves of the evergreen tree we resided in were a deep, verdant green with thick fronds to conceal guests from any human onlookers. The leaves crisscrossed in curved patterns around the lobby, leaving a pathway for patrons to walk across the lobby level tree branch. I was relieved that the pathway was roomy enough for our claws; sometimes, these places catered too much to fairies, leaving their non-airborne guests to balance on spindly, twig tightropes.
Once we’d reached the front, my dad slapped a paw down on the desk, startling the goblin from his stupor.
“Hrrrgh, what did you do that for?” the goblin grumbled, removing his glasses and polishing them with a stained handkerchief. A nametag on his lapel read “Grimp, Reception.” Grimp squinted his beady eyes at my father, then at me.
“We’re the Turnwitzes, here to check in! I’m Mr. Turnwitz and this is my son, Ferdinand.” Dad squeezed my shoulder. I raised a paw in a half-hearted ‘hello.’
Grimp scowled, shoving the spectacles back on his face. “Chipmunks, hmm? Check in isn’t until eleven. You’ll have to wait in the lobby until then.”
He turned away and shuffled some papers. Meanwhile, my dad reached inside his coat and pulled out a brochure that had been creased and folded so many times it was barely legible.
“Excuse me, sir,” my dad said, “But your brochure clearly states that guests who check in early will receive a special prize. See here.” He shoved the brochure up to Grimp’s crooked nose.
Not wanting to be a part of whatever scene my dad was sure to cause, I backed away from the front desk and wandered around the lobby. Several branches led out from the lobby to human viewing areas where staff fairies cast shield charms so tourists could freely gawk at the humans without being seen. In the center of the tree and extending upwards, holes had been bored into the trunk to create rooms. I wondered which room was ours. All I wanted to do was get in a nice, comfy pine needle bed and take a nap before my dad started trying to ‘bond’ with me.
As I stared up at the trunk, a fairy flew out from one of the rooms several levels above, twirling in lazy figure-eight motions as she made her way down to the lobby. I watched in admiration. I’d always envied fairies’ ability to fly. Oh, the many times I had wished I could just take to the sky whenever I wanted.
The fairy saw me watching her and gave me a coy smile. I looked away, embarrassed. Fairies were notoriously flirtatious.
I focused on the front desk and saw that my dad was heading back this way, waving several slips of paper in the air.
“Ah, there you are,” my dad said. “Got everything straightened out. That receptionist tried to give me some story about the brochure being outdated… but once I challenged him to find an expiration date on the brochure, he finally caved. Gave me some free human viewing coupons.”
He handed me one of the slips of paper. Scrawled across the front were the words “Radeem for free hooman show” in messy cursive. I was pretty sure the viewings had been free to begin with, but I didn’t want to spoil my dad’s enthusiasm.
“Cool,” I said. “So can we go up to our room yet?”
“Oh yes. The receptionist said, and I quote: ‘If it will get you out of my hair, you and your son can take room twelve.’” My dad laughed. “Of course, I took it for the joke it was. Never met a goblin who was so confident about his receding hairline.”
In our room, my dad set about making the room “cozy.” He patted and fluffed the pine needles we’d be sleeping on, then took out the acorn shell bowls we’d brought from home and placed them on a small table in the corner. There was a fire pit in the center of the room, but it was unlit and filled with ashes.
“Bit chilly in here,” he commented. “I’m going to see if one of those staff fairies will cast a fire charm for us. Be back in a jiff!”
As soon as he was gone, I collapsed onto the pine needles, sinking into the carefully-crafted pile my dad had created.
I dreamt that I was back home in the forest, only things looked different. For one thing, I was flying; for another thing, every tree in the forest had become an evergreen identical to the one we were staying in now.
As I sailed over the treetops, I spotted Grimp the receptionist standing out on one of the tree limbs. He was wearing my dad’s favorite apron made of a bit of birch bark; it had been threaded through at the top in two places with the stem of a wildflower so that it hung around his neck.
Grimp called out to me, “Time for lunch, son.”
I flew on past, but a few trees later, Grimp was there again, wearing the same apron.
“Time for lunch!”
Soon, every tree was filled with Grimps, all talking at me. My arms grew weak and I fell, spiraling toward the forest floor.
“Ferdinand, it’s time for lunch!” My dad shook me awake.
I sat up groggily, brushing off the pine needles that stuck to my fur.
For lunch, Dad had made a simple dandelion stew with supplies he’d brought from home. I sipped the warm broth at the table as my dad used the light from the green fire charm to peruse the brochure some more.
“There’s a bar on the second level,” he said. “We could go take a look if you like.”
I paused my soup-sipping, intrigued. “Can I get a fermented juice?” If I could tell the other chipmunks my age that I’d finally experienced the light-headed giddiness of a fermented beverage like all of them had, this trip might not be a total waste.
“Mmmm…” my dad considered. “In another year, perhaps. But I’m sure it will be a sight to see nonetheless.”
I scowled. “Fine. You go on ahead, I’ll catch up with you later.”
“You sure? Well, alright then. Make sure you put out that fire charm before you leave. And don’t forget, there’s a human viewing show later tonight! You don’t want to miss it.” Dad gave me a kiss on the forehead, same as he’d done ever since I was a baby chipmunk, and headed out of the room.
I slurped up the rest of the soup and put out the fire charm by smothering it with some of the pine needles from the bed. I considered laying back down, but I really wasn’t tired anymore. Yawning and scratching at an itch on my back right above my tail, I wandered out of the room and down the branchway.
A streak of purple light collided with the side of my head. I lurched sideways, only saved from falling off the branchway by the reflexive actions of my tail to restore my center of gravity.
The same fairy girl I’d seen earlier glided over to me, shaking away the remnants of purple magic from her slender fingers.
“Ooooh, I’m so sorry little guy,” she said, brushing pale, blonde bangs from out in front of her almond-brown eyes. “I was practicing my boomerang charm. I didn’t see you walking by.”
The fur on my tail rose. I resisted the urge to reach back a paw to tamp it down. “Funny how you call me little,” I said. “I doubt you even pass three inches.”
The fairy girl brought a hand up to her mouth, not quite hiding an amused smirk.
“Two and a quarter. And I’m sorry… again. I’ve never been good at telling the ages of woodlins like yourself.”
Woodlins. It was a term I’d only heard outside the forest.
The fairy grimaced. “Did I offend you again? Look. I’m sure you’d call me a fairy and not a faire creature, right?”
“It’s fine,” I said, shaking my head. “Just not used to it. I’m Ferdinand.”
“I go by Thea,” she said with a crooked grin. I’d always thought of fairies as being elegant and graceful, but this Thea seemed a bit… well, odd.
“So how old are you then, Ferdinand?” Thea asked.
“I’m sixteen,” I said, straightening up to my full height.
“Neat! I’m 312 myself,” Thea said breezily. I must have looked shocked, because Thea laughed. Her wings buzzed at a higher frequency when she laughed, and she rose another inch into the air until we were face to face. “Just kidding. We live a long time, but not that long. I just turned seventeen last week.”
“Are you here with your parents?” I asked, then immediately chastised myself. Not everyone is as lame as you.
Thea laughed again, her wings buzzing with merriment. “You’re a funny one, Ferdy. Say, I have an idea. Have you ever seen a shield charm?”
“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. Having been to more humanside hotels than I could count, I was kind of over the novelty of it.
“Well, have you ever had one cast on yourself?” Thea asked. She grinned at my expression. “Didn’t think so. We’re going to have some fun today, Ferdy.”
A fairy casting a shield charm on a non-magical being was generally frowned upon, so I brought Thea back to our room so noone would see. She oohed and aahed at the acorn bowls, calling them “rustic” and “quaint,” until I told her that my dad could be back at any time.
“Okay. Stand still.” Thea hovered in front of me, making small circles with her wrists. A white light formed in the center of her palms. I didn’t realize I was shifting back and forth on my feet until Thea gave me a look.
“I said stand still. This isn’t easy, you know.”
I stopped moving and waited as Thea brought up her palms, coaxing the white light forward and onto my fur. The light tickled, but I resisted the urge to giggle or move away. Instead I focused on Thea’s face. Her slight brows were furrowed in concentration, and her small, pink tongue protruded from the corner of her mouth. I had never seen a fairy so close-up before; despite their size, they were remarkably similar in appearance to humans, although they had a certain luminescence to their skin that no human possessed.
“There. Done.” Thea sighed and shook the white light from her fingers. “Phew! That was tougher than I thought it would be.”
I looked down at myself and saw… well, not nothing exactly. There was a faint outline of my fur still visible, but it was like I had become translucent. If someone were to stare right at me, they might know something was up. But if I stood in the shadows or out of others’ direct lines of sight, I would be very nearly invisible.
“Looks good to me,” I said, feigning nonchalance. “You can put me back the way I was later, right?”
Thea hmmmed, then shook her head. “It would be better to just let the charm wear off on its own. Since this is the first time I’ve cast a shield on another creature before, I don’t know if I should try removing it without help.”
“You mean you’ve never done this before?” I asked, tail twitching. “I thought fairies cast shield charms all the time!”
“Oh, we do,” Thea said, taking a seat on the floor. She looked tired. “But it’s a lot easier to cast over a large area as a group than it is to do detail work like this.”
“So you can’t cast a shield charm on yourself then?” I wasn’t sure how much fun it would be to walk around invisible by myself.
Thea brightened. “Oh, that’s easy.” And with that, she disappeared.
Well, not entirely. A very faint outline of her was still visible, but if I hadn’t known she was there, I would never have noticed.
“Casting on one’s self is the easiest of all,” Thea said — although it seemed as though her voice were coming from out of thin air.
Suddenly, something grabbed at my paw. I yelped.
“It’s just me, silly,” Thea said. “Come on, let’s go explore!”
At Thea’s suggestion, we made our way up to the second floor where the bar was. I was hoping my dad had moved on from there by now, but I soon spotted him sitting on a raised knot of wood in front of the bar, chatting with the bartender, a burly male fairy with large, sloping wings.
“You know, my son would love to meet you,” he said, talking far too loudly. Dad’s voice carried further than he realized. “He’s always been fascinated by fairies. Caught him trying to teach himself to fly off a low-hanging branch at home once — little rascal could’ve hurt himself if I hadn’t intervened!”
Thea giggled. “Is that your dad?” she whispered.
I shook my head. “Let’s just get the stuff and go.”
We snuck around behind the bar, keeping to the shadows. It was still midday, so there weren’t a lot of patrons at the bar yet, but my dad was keeping the bartender plenty distracted. Thea was able to snatch a bottle of fermented juice from a shelf in the corner, and we snuck back out just as the bartender was telling my dad that he needed to go on break.
“Really? But who will top up my peach nectar then? You know, there aren’t any peach trees where we come from, but one time a box of them fell off the back of a truck on the road outside our forest and…”
I hurried away from the bar and down the branchway, pulling Thea along with me.
“Oooh, where are we going?” she asked.
Moments later, we arrived at one of the human viewing areas. Here, the branches opened up onto the human hotel lobby. The lobby was wallpapered in a floral print that, ironically, did nothing to make it feel any less closed-in. Its faded maroon carpet was darkened with stains, and the paint was chipping on the banister lining the stairs. If I could have summed up the scene in a word, it would have been: Underwhelming.
“Ah, a drink with a view,” Thea said. “Good thinking.” The bottle of fermented juice jiggled in the air for a moment, then with a loud pop, the cork flew out. The bottom of the bottle tipped into the air; I watched as liquid surged from the bottle, disappearing abruptly at a point about 3 inches from the ground. The bottle tipped back down, then floated toward me.
“It’s pretty good. Try it!” Thea said.
I took the bottle from her and, as she had done, held it above my head so that the liquid poured into my mouth. It was fizzy and delicious, with a bit of a burning aftertaste.
I wasn’t sure if my lightheadedness was from the drink or just the adrenaline from doing something my dad would disapprove of, but I figured I should take it slow. I held the bottle out and waited for the invisible Thea to take it from me.
She downed the rest of it in a single go.
“Wow,” I said, impressed — and also a little annoyed. “You couldn’t have saved anymore for me?”
“Sorry,” Thea said. “I’m not used to sharing. But hey! I have an idea.”
She popped back into view suddenly, a few inches to the left from where I thought she’d been. Her normally pale face was slightly flushed from the fermented juice.
“What’s your idea?” I asked. Thea didn’t answer. She crossed her eyes and took in a deep breath, then held it.
I walked slightly closer to her. “You okay?”
Thea nodded, but didn’t stop the eye-crossing or breath-holding. It was then that I noticed her nose.
It was starting to glow with an inner light, a sort of concentrated luminescence compared to the rest of her skin. As the glow of her nose grew stronger, the rest of her visible skin dulled.
Is she sick? Or is this just one of those silly things fairies do?
I leaned in — and Thea sneezed all over me.
“Ugh, gross!” I backed away, trying to brush off the particles of… whatever it was that had come out of her. It didn’t look like snot, more like a luminescent dust. No matter what I did, the dust clung to my still-translucent form.
I was concentrating so much on the dust particles that I didn’t notice anything was amiss until I bumped my head on a branch — and realized that I was now hovering an inch off the ground.
“What did you do?” I asked, although the answer was pretty obvious.
Thea clapped her hands together in delight. “Oh, goodie! Now let’s ditch this pine needle stand!” She gestured out to the human hotel lobby.
“No way,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere with you. Let me down from here!”
Thea’s face fell. “But… if we don’t go now, then all my special fairy dust will have been wasted.”
“And whose fault is that?” I accused. I kicked my hind paws back and forth in the air, trying to will them back toward the ground.
“I guess you’re right,” Thea said with a sigh. “I should have asked you first. I just wish it didn’t take so long for the dust to come back.”
She lowered her head, her wings drooping. She looked so forlorn that I couldn’t help but ask:
“How long does it take?”
Thea peered up at me. From this height, she looked even shorter than usual.
Flying didn’t feel like I’d thought it would.
I’d thought I would feel free, finally free from everything holding me back. Free of the forest. Free of my father. Free of myself.
Instead, as Thea led me by the hand in a swooping arc toward the ceiling of the human hotel lobby, all I could think about was not letting go of her tiny, slender fingers. The ground fell away below us, no branch to catch us if we fell.
Thea had assured me that I wouldn’t fall even if I did let go. The fairy dust would keep me afloat. But she was also tipsy, maybe even drunk. Honestly, I didn’t know why I’d agreed to come along.
Ten years, she’d said. How could I waste a gift like that?
We landed on top of the door frame at the entrance to the lobby. Thea and I peered down at a human couple who had just entered and were checking in at the front desk. The female human wore a bright pink hat with several faux feathers sticking out at the top. She clung to the male human’s elbow like sap clings to tree bark.
Having explored the highest branches of many a tree in the forest, a bird’s eye view like this, even of humans, was pretty normal for me. But my father had always taught me to keep a safe distance from humankind.
Thea, however, had no such reservations.
“Come on!” she whispered — and dragged me down off the door frame. A few terrifying moments of freefalling later, we landed in the pile of soft, pink, feather-like material in the human female’s hat. I worried that the human would notice something had landed on her head, but she was too busy complaining.
“Richard, this place is positively ghastly,” she remarked as she and the male human walked away from the front desk and up the stairs to the second floor, with Thea and me along for the ride. “How long did you say we have to stay here?”
“Just until the morning, dear,” Richard replied. “Then we’ll be on our way to the estate.”
“Thank heavens. I will just have to wait to eat until tomorrow. I don’t trust the food here. Did you know, earlier, I thought I saw a goat walking into the lobby restroom? I’m sure I had to have imagined it, but–”
Thea tapped me on the shoulder. We flew out of our feathery retreat and along the hallway, the female human and her male counterpart’s voices fading in the distance. I found that flying was a little easier now, and also that I was able to make out Thea’s outline well enough to follow her as she bounced along the hallway, flitting from wall to wall in a series of impressive swoops, dips and spins.
It seemed my eyes were becoming accustomed to the presence of a shield charm. I found that the more clearly I was able to make out Thea’s dim form, the more the fear I’d experienced for the last several minutes began to fade. Inspired by her aerial stunts, I chanced an experimental twirl — and fell into one of the wooden doors lining the hallway with a thud. The door flew open and a middle-aged human male stomped out.
“Who’s there?” he asked, scratching at his bare belly. Thea giggled aloud; the man looked up and down the hallway, his bleary eyes searching.
“Damn poltergeists,” the man muttered finally, slamming the door behind him.
We flew around the hallways for hours, peeking into open rooms and dodging the human children, who always seemed to appear right as I was zipping around a corner. Now that my fear of flying had subsided, I was exhilarated by my new ability. Soon I was swooping and diving right along with Thea, the air rushing past my fur like a cool breeze on a spring day, following the subtle outline of her slender form as she careened from wall to wall. I wasn’t as graceful as her, but I didn’t care. I had finally found my way to the sky.
As we explored the hotel, the presence of strong magic, magic beyond anything Thea could produce alone, became undeniable, even to a woodlin like myself. Its current of energy passed over me like electric waves across my fur. I’d felt it in the hotel tree as well, but I’d expected it there, with all the staff fairies flying about. Out here was another story. I kept looking around, expecting to see more fairies or goblins, even shielded ones, but Thea was the only magical creature in sight.
I decided to ask her about it when we made a stop at the bar on the third floor. Apparently Thea had a thing for bars. Or maybe just drinking. A bar patron had left a bit of something called scotch in the bottom of his glass, and Thea was over the moon about it.
“Now this is the good stuff,” she said, and dove inside the glass. I could tell see the resulting “splash” as her head hit the surface of the liquid. She resurfaced with a sigh of delight.
We perched on the edge of the worn, wooden table so that Thea could wait out the buzz from the scotch. From here, we had a good view of the bar entertainment for the evening, a human female dressed in black singing into a microphone on the bar’s small stage. Her voice reminded me of a hermit thrush’s clear, flute-like song.
“Are there… other kinds of magic here in the hotel?” I asked. “I mean, besides the fairy kind.”
“Oh, sure,” Thea said. “There’s squiggly magic, swirly magic, starry magic…”
I rolled my eyes. “Be serious.”
Thea giggled. “There is a thing called space-time magic. You’d have to ask a goblin for the details, but there’s a lot of it going on in this place. It’s one of the reasons I came here. And for the tree lighting, of course.”
“Tree lighting?” I asked.
“You mean you don’t know?” Although I couldn’t see her, I could just imagine Thea’s already-wide eyes expanding even more. “Wow. Well, it’s an annual tradition at this hotel, and one of the only times the goblins and fairies work together. The goblins wait until the human hotel night receptionist goes on break to cast a timestop charm around the lobby so no humans will walk in on us. Then, we fairies get to put on a show, no shield charms required!” Thea clapped her hands, clearly delighted at the idea of performing in front of everyone.
“That sounds cool,” I said. “When is it?”
“Tonight,” Thea said. “That’s why I was surprised you didn’t know. I figured your dad would be all about taking you to see the flying fairies.”
The hair on my back stiffened. “What do you mean?”
Thea gave me a look. “Oh come on, Ferdy. That older chipmunk at the bar was obviously your dad. The way you hightailed it out of there after seeing him…” Thea whistled.
I glanced down. “Well, you know what it’s like. Parents, I mean.”
“No. I don’t.” Thea’s voice was very matter of fact. “Fairies don’t have families.”
I stared up at her outline. “But how can that be? I mean, someone had to, you know… have you.” As soon as I said it, I realized that I really had no idea how fairy reproduction worked.
… But I was about to find out.
Thea spent the next half hour giving me all the details of an intimate encounter between fairy folk, including things I really didn’t need or want to know. Accompanying her explanation was the music from the band members onstage, who played soft, melodic tunes as the singer rested her voice between sets.
“And so, after the two fairies mate, they leave the glowing embers of their lovemaking behind,” Thea continued. “Sometimes, from these embers, another fairy pops into existence fully-grown. The new fairy either heads out on their own or finds a fairy glen to join. But there are no familial connections, no childhood, no parenting. And no responsibility! It’s great.”
“It sounds lonely,” I said. I wanted to take it back immediately — why make her feel bad for something she couldn’t have? — but it had already been said.
“I guess it is lonely sometimes,” Thea replied. At least she was honest.
We were quiet for a few minutes. The entertainer had taken the stage again and was singing a song about a long, lost lover.
Suddenly, Thea spoke. “I have an idea. Instead of going back to your dad, why don’t you fly with me to the fairy glen?”
“What? That’s crazy,” I shook my head, laughing.
“What’s so crazy about it?” Thea asked. “You had fun today, didn’t you? With me, every day could be like this. Unless you want to just live the rest of your life holed up in a tree with a lady chipmunk, stuffing your cheeks with acorns.”
I laughed again, even though, truth be told, I did enjoy acorns in their various forms. For special occasions, my dad would grind them down to a flour to make a crust, which he would then fill with bits of sweetened apple. And there was nothing quite so exciting as finding an acorn with a little hole in the top where a weevil had laid its egg. My mouth watered at the thought of a nice, juicy weevil grub.
“Well, every day couldn’t be like this,” I said. “I would only be able to fly every ten years with your fairy dust. Thanks for letting me use it, by the way.”
Thea bit her lip. “Yeah… ten years… I did say that, didn’t I? The thing is…”
I narrowed my eyes. “It isn’t ten years? Well, how long does it take to come back then?”
Thea made a show of counting on her fingers. “Oh… I’d say it takes… two, three hours at most.”
Thea let out an exasperated sigh. “Well, you wouldn’t have come at all if I’d told the truth! I knew how badly you wanted to fly, even if you were scared. And by the way, I’m not the only one of us who lied about something, Mr. That’s-Not-My-Dad.”
My anger deflated. “You’re right. But I can’t just leave him.”
“I’m not saying to leave forever,” Thea said. “You could always visit if you want. And just think — you could go flying like this every day with me! And I –” Thea hesitated. “And I wouldn’t have to be alone,” she finished in a rush.
“Thea,” I said with a sigh. “I think you’ve had a little too much scotch.”
“Just think about it, Ferdy,” Thea said. “We need to head back now if you want to see the tree lighting.”
Our return flight took us back through the hotel hallways. By this hour, things were settling down; there were far fewer human children running around, and the few adults we saw dragged their feet on their way to their rooms, clearly exhausted.
I was starting to feel tired, too. Flying had seemed so easy before, and now I found that I had to put extra effort into it. I quickly abandoned the fancy aerial stunts and just focused on staying in the air.
“I think the fairy dust might be wearing off,” I called to Thea, who was still twirling and spinning through the air.
“Yeah, it doesn’t last all that long,” she said, flying back to hover beside me. “I can give you more… but only if you promise to come with me to the fairy glen.”
I hesitated. Being able to fly was amazing — but what about my dad? He wouldn’t even know what had happened to me. Thea wouldn’t be lonely anymore, but he would be.
“I don’t know, Thea. Let me think about it.”
Thea sighed. “Fine. But you better hurry if you want that dust to last you all the way to the tree.”
I took her advice and pushed myself forward through air that felt increasingly like water. As I struggled, Thea swirled and looped around me in fancy figure-eights. She didn’t taunt me or anything, but she also didn’t offer to help. The message was clear — if I wanted her fairy dust, I had to make the promise.
By the time we reached the hotel lobby, every muscle in my body was shaking. My tail felt like a deadweight. The lobby was almost entirely empty, save for the night receptionist. As we crossed the room slowly, the receptionist stood and made his way to the bathroom. Surely that meant the goblins would be putting the timestop in place soon. What would happen if we were still out here when they did?
“Don’t think… I can make it,” I said, gasping.
“Then promise me,” Thea said. She was more than an outline now, although still not fully unshielded; I could see the pleading in her eyes. I wondered if she was showing me that on purpose. I wondered if I, too, was starting to lose my shield just like I was losing my ability to fly.
“I can’t, Thea,” I said. “Please… just help me.”
Thea’s face hardened. “No. Not until you say you’ll come with me!”
And with that, she flew away, leaving me to struggle the last few feet to the tree alone.
Less than six inches from the tree, my muscles finally gave out. As I plummeted toward the ground, my father’s face came to my mind. I would never get to see him again. I would never get to tell him that I’d finally flown.
My only hope was that the fall would break a few bones rather than kill me — but there must have been a little magic left in me after all. Whatever it was came out of me all at once, propelling me skyward in an arc toward the tree. The result was crude, but effective; I fell into the tangled branches of the tree, the smaller branches helping to break my fall. I descended through several levels of leaves, dropped into a clearing over one of the human viewing areas, and landed on top of an unsuspecting goblin.
“Get off me!” the goblin yelled, smacking me in the head with his cane. Even if my shield charm hadn’t been completely gone by this point, I didn’t think I could have recovered from this without being noticed. Although it wasn’t funny and I felt bad for landing on someone, I was so grateful to be alive that I laughed out loud — which just made the goblin smack me harder.
“Ferdinand? Ferdinand!” Suddenly, my dad was there. He helped pull me and the goblin to our feet as a crowd gathered around us.
After making sure that I was alright, my dad launched into a long-winded apology. “I’m so sorry, sir,” he said to the goblin. “My name is Mr. Turnwitz, and this is my son, Ferdinand. If there’s anything I can do for you — call for a fairy medic, maybe? Buy you a fermented beverage? Perhaps a peach nectar? Always does me good when I’ve taken a fall. Anyway, I’m sure my son didn’t mean to… ah… to–”
My dad paused, looking at me. “What exactly were you doing?”
I racked my brain for a suitable explanation, but the only thing that came to mind was the truth.
My dad stared at me, speechless. The goblin shook his head and waddled away, smacking the base of his cane against the branch beneath us, muttering something about “wackadoo woodlins.”
Soon, the crowd that had formed around us started to disperse. Something else had drawn away their attention, some other spectacle more interesting than a chipmunk falling from the sky.
Out in the human hotel lobby, a formation of fairies rose into the air, glowing in every color imaginable. Saturated jewel tones of vibrant pink and deep blue intermingled with pastel yellow, lilac and sage, unleashing an assortment of light into the dim room.
The tree lighting had begun.
One by one, each fairy approached the tree, taking his or her place on the tip of each branch until the entire tree was filled with a bright luminescence.
My dad reached over a paw and squeezed my shoulder. I leaned into his embrace. I knew we’d be having lots of conversations later — about fairies, and flying, and not crashing into unsuspecting goblins. But for right now, I was content just to be here with my dad.
“You know,” he whispered, “After this tree lighting, the fairies will most likely pair up to mate for the evening before going their separate ways. Fairy courtship is a curious business, but I suppose you’re old enough to hear about those kinds of things now. Aren’t you?”
I was saved from answering by an announcement from the staff goblins. They would be ending the timestop soon, which meant the fairies had to extinguish their lights. Staff fairies were to return to the tree, while any fairy guests were free to do as they pleased.
Most of the fairies left immediately, flying out through the mail slot in the lobby door. But one remained. Doused in bright, emerald-green light, the fairy stayed floating just a few feet outside the tree for more than a minute, long enough that the staff goblins started to grumble about wasted magic.
I couldn’t see the fairy’s face, but I knew it was Thea. I raised a paw in farewell. In spite of how things had ended, I was grateful to her for giving me the gift of flight, however fleeting. The green light blinked merrily a few times before following its companions outside.
I hoped Thea really had a fairy glen to return to like she’d said. Part of me thought maybe that had been a lie, too.
“Did you know that fairy?” my dad asked.
To my surprise, I didn’t mind the question. “Yeah. I did. Her name is Thea.”
My dad mmmmed meaningfully. “That sounds like a story fit for a fermented juice. What do you say we head up to the bar and share one? I know I said we’d wait until next year, but… well, it wouldn’t be a Turnwitz father son trip without a little adventure, right?”
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stories in the WFGC Hotel blog hop anthology. You can see the full list of stories in this blog hop anthology here: