The legend beyond the dream begins here…
All was not right in the magical land, and the Queen was worried…Had she waited too long to call for help? The Queen of the Fairies looked past the darkening forest, toward the stormy seething ocean beyond… They had appeared once before, eons ago, to protect this sacred place, but where were the magical horses now? Could they still ride the ocean waves and arrive here in time to save the birthplace of all magic? Or, had they too, faded like the dragons, into a forever mist – forgotten – lost – except in the fables of old books and the hearts and minds of children?
The elderly woman’s voice was warm and knowing, calm and deliberate, as if she had whispered these words many times before. She paused for just a moment, as she pushed her silvery long hair away from her crinkled face, then she returned to the old book in her lap. The tome was as thick as a pillow and the pages were puffed up with age. But the gilded edges of each sheaf of paper within still held a rich glow – defiant against time. Nothing could remove any reader’s impression that this book had been, and still was, a treasured family artifact.
A low musical rumble from a storm, still far off, reverberated in eerie consonance about the dimly lit, tiny bedroom. A magical night lay ahead, for sure. Tonight – was the night. Tonight the legend would begin anew – the search for the missing element must endure, the old woman could feel it in her bones…Even now her finger tips prickled with expectation. She glanced – just once – at the violin and bow that lay on the table, then she slowly turned the page and read out loud to the little girl with the long black curly hair, who was snuggled down under her blankets. Natasha’s eyes were glued to the old woman’s lips…anxiously waiting to hear more of the fairytale… “Go on Grandma, tell me more…” she whispered.
The Grandmother stared at her granddaughter unblinking – lost in thought. Could she be the one? Could someone so young have the endurance to save the land beyond time and space?
“Grandma…read more, please.”
So the old woman turned the page and read on…
The destructive wind had seized the Queen of the Fairies’ ancient island glen without warning. Just as the sun was setting, a distant storm had hurried up over the horizon bloated with black billowing clouds. The mounting tempest gnashed its teeth with splinters of lightning which were frightening precursors to the booming thunder that followed. The ocean below had turned immediately to a dungeon-dark grey-green. But it was the strange forever-circling wind that could destroy this magical island…forever. The leaves were being stolen by the wind from their special tree. The warrior tree of protection. The leaves needed to be attached to their branches for just a few weeks longer…They had to reach their anointed time so they could show all their colors or…the magic would be lost; all those wishes. All those dreams.
Up until this very moment, before the howling wind had arrived, human’s wishes and dreams in the form of sparkling flecks, had always sprinkled down and landed on the leaves of the oldest tree that grew in the very center of the Queen’s magical glen. Forest music abounded here; the leaves sang, the birds chirped, the water gurgled and tumbled over the pebbles in the glistening stream as it happily wound its way past the sagging old tree.
The glorious tree was bent, for sure, almost crippled in appearance, but its leaves were as big as dishes, enormous, really, and they effortlessly caught those glistening flecks of precious falling wishes and dreams. In the legend, so they say, when the tree had been but a newly-born seedling – Pollen-Fairies – flower sprites and Sprigs, had named it ‘Twiglet’ – the magical seed of hope. Twiglet had grown into a great tree – humungous – hairy in vines, sagging limbs, yet it had stayed true to its word at birth – to catch human’s wishes and dreams, especially those of children – in leaves as big as dishes.
Like shimmering snowflakes, the tiny flecks of children’s wishes landed on the gigantic leaves and instantly melted. Once dissolved, they embedded their message on the leaf; then, the dream – the wish – slowly, over the summer season, took the shape of ancient symbols on the leaves; colors and designs – a story – a forgotten language to us mere mortals, yet a language though still, that could only be understood by this magical land’s most eccentric scribes – the kinfolk of tiny librarians called… Cranks.
The Cranks’ origins were as mysterious as the misty hidden isle itself, and they were just as wrinkled as this grand old tree that they inhabited. Some said that the same sap that ran through the tree also dripped through the veins of the Cranks.
“Snip, snap, tap, tap, tap…” sang the crinkled little Cranks, as their bare, moss-covered toes, always keeping rhythm with their mysterious sing-song mantra, danced happily around their tree, the old warrior tree of hope.
The Cranks’ bulging eyes were everywhere, and their ink-stained, spindly fingers snatched greedily at each and every falling leaf as it fluttered down from the canopy of aged branches above. Totally oblivious, or not really interested in time, the Crank would stare at the leaf, blindly lost in the treasured foliage’s hidden message…
“What’s it say? What’s it say?” The Crank, mumbling endlessly on and on, eyes stuck, inevitably transfixed on the leaf in hand – its twiggy-fingers running over and over again on the lines on the leaf – transcribing the hidden message. Then sniffing at the leaf, with a great hairy ear pressed against it. Did leaves make sounds? The Crank would listen then toss its head back and chuckle with laughter. Apparently, yes, leaves had a vibration of sound!
Habitually leaf-struck and so caught up in the reading, the Crank would occasionally, as you might expect, stumble blindly into a hole, disappear into a bush, or tumble down over a tree’s protruding root.
The leaf was held aloft – never damaged though.
But nothing, nothing would stop the close-up examination; did this particular leaf hold a wish, a dream that must be transcribed right now? What mysterious message was locked, hidden in the colors that must be told? What news from the outside world was embedded in this dream? Snip, snap (went their fingers), tap, tap, tap danced the Cranks’ little toes.
Once their pockets and bags were full of leaves off to their underground library home, (beneath the old tree),they would dash.
Endless rumours abounded around the lives of the peculiar-looking rumpled Cranks; some said they were as old as dirt – and some even went as far as to say that the Cranks concealed a secret treasure beyond all imagination in one of their dark cavernous rooms, squirreled away, deep below in the earth, protected by the magical, old tree’s root-bound, endless mass-spider-mansions that littered the long, creepy, passageways. They said, the ancient winged-ones of the forest, that the Cranks had a vault, heavily guarded, deep under the old tree, was gem with unimaginable power…
Of course no one had ever seen this mysterious “treasure” – and the Cranks never spoke about it – certainly not to any fairy, Sprig or Sprite.
Are the bulging-eyed Cranks really hiding a treasure? The younger fairies and forest-dwellers constantly debated this topic back and forth, back and forth, as sure as the tide came in and out – in and out. What could the Cranks possibly possess that was so valuable, that it had to be concealed away in a place such as this?
And if they did, why all the secrecy?
Certainly these were just fairy-rumours, just like the tales the Cranks told about the mythical unicorns that had supposedly once roamed the dark labyrinths of the isle.
Did the Cranks really tell the truth – or were they just story-tellers?
The debating went on and on amid the flighty creatures. And wait! – another thing – why were the Cranks’ always bent on exchanging peculiar knowing nods with the army of spiders that clustered about the limbs of the great old tree? What mysterious conspiracy would the family of Cranks share with the sticky spiders?
“Yuk, spiders. ICKY! STICKY!”
The chatter amid the winged-folk was quickly moved on to more satisfactory fascinations…They had found more wooden boxes, more pirate’s treasures, washed up upon their shore filled with glittering trinkets – more adulations to hang on the limbs of the forest trees. But the best of the treasure was bestowed upon their most favourite old friend – the dream-catcher tree, with the leaves as big as dishes – the old guardian tree in the centre of the Queen’s glen.
You can imagine the magical sprite’s faces when they had found a book washed up upon the beach that showed human trees all bejewelled with red, silver and gold ornaments. Humans decorated their trees! Astonishing!
So, the magical folk continued their practice of adorning their trees in the land of magic with anything that glittered. But remember, their favored bent tree got the best pickings of baubles and tiaras. Candelabras and chandeliers were hung around the glen that the old warrior grew in – all was so beautiful.
To join in the fun, the Royal Fairy Doll Maker crafted a doll in the image of the Moon-Fairy – and placed the doll, holding her white violin, atop the ancient tree’s highest branch.
Oh, yes, legends and stories abounded here. Some dark, some light. Some were quirky, and some were totally unbelievable. One beloved creepy yarn that was retold by the oldest winged-ones, very late at night, while sipping honey wine, was the one about The Battle of the Unicorns; a war had been fought against an evil gangly creature that had allegedly lurked in a decomposing castle on the other side of the island!
This creature had once been of fairy-kind, so they said. Of course, the fairies and the unicorns had won, naturally, and the castle where the evil villain lived had been gobbled up by vines – eaten by the forest. Some said that one day, in a puff of fairy-dust, the castle had just simply disappeared.
Oh, puff-puff – sprite-stuff alright– said the younger fairies – no such castle, no such place. This tale – must have been a fairy-tale for sure! Rotting old castle – are you fairy-kidding me – and a herd of unicorns that battled an evil villain? Oh, such nonsense. What a doozie of a fairytale. Oh – you’ve got pollen fairies in your head for sure! Dance around and get them out! Go ahead, and sneeze – try anything, but get them out! You must clear your head…Yes, Pollen Fairies and Sappy Sprigs can play tricks on you.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Natasha’s Grandmother suddenly stopped reading and smiled. It was the calling – she was sure of it – the third magical sign of the journey. The door – the portal into the isle of magic was opening right now, somewhere. The first sign she had heard this morning was the melodic thunder that sounded like galloping horses in the grey-inked sky. Then the second sign just this evening as soon as the sun had set – a shooting star that streaked across the face of the full blue moon.
And now, this third sign; a calming musical sound of…
Tap, tap, tap.
But the tapping sound did not calm Natasha. She sat bolt upright in her bed. “What’s that?” she asked quickly.
Natasha and her parents had just moved to this city from across the country, and they had only been living in this apartment for a month. Natasha’s father had promised that when he returned from sea, (he was in the Navy), they would find a house to live in – something with a very secret garden, he’d promised. In the meantime, this apartment building certainly had lots of creepy noises to get used to.
There it was again.
Tap, tap, tap…
“What’s that sound, Grandma Bea?”
To be continued…