The sun was rising.
It would be a warm, fine day.
Alida turned back to wave good-bye to Ruth Oakes and Gavin’s grandmother.
They smiled at her, but Alida could tell they were worried. She was scared. She didn’t want to leave Ruth’s wonderful house near the town of Ash Grove. But she had no choice.
She glanced at Gavin.
He looked a little nervous too.
Alida was so grateful that he was coming with her.
They both stopped at the edge of the woods and both waved one last time.
Then they walked into the trees.
The grayish light of dawn was even dimmer beneath the old oaks. The trees smelled like home to Alida. That made her so happy—and so sad—that she stopped and closed her eyes, breathing deeply.
When she opened them, Gavin was looking at her. “Do you know which way we should go?”
Alida shook her head. Gavin had thought Ruth might know where the faeries had gone when old Lord Dunraven made his law, but she didn’t. No one did.
“We just have to find the meadow I remember,” Alida said. “I’m hoping my mother left something there for me.”
Gavin lifted his eyebrows, but he didn’t ask questions, and she was glad. She wasn’t at all sure they would find anything in the meadow, and she had no idea what she would do if they didn’t.
“Will you recognize the right place?” Gavin asked.
“Yes,” Alida said. She was sure of that, even though she hadn’t seen it in a long, long time. She remembered her family’s home very clearly.
There was a noisy stream that ran across one end of the meadow.
At the other end there was a huge egg-shaped rock.
And there were many old oak trees, perfect for faerie nests. Everyone had slept in the treetops. She and her older sister had snuggled together if the night was chilly. Terra had always been patient with her, holding her hand when there was no moon and she was afraid of the dark. Terra was the elder, so when their mother got old, she would become queen. Alida knew Terra would be kind and fair, like their mother.
Alida sighed. She missed her family so much. “I hope it isn’t too far from Ash Grove,” she said, and turned to look at Gavin.
He shrugged. “We’ll just keep searching until we find it.”
Alida smiled at him.
They had both brought rolled-up blankets to keep them warm at night.
Her’s was magical—her mother had woven it before she was born.
Gavin’s was warm and soft, a gift from his grandmother. He had a flint and striker in his pocket in case they needed to make fire. He was carrying a cloth sack full of bread and cheese too.
Alida didn’t have to bring anything to eat; she would be able to find proper faerie food—there were spring flowers everywhere.
Walking through the oak trees, Alida felt wonderful. The air was perfumed with dew and sunshine and spring. The forest was as beautiful as she remembered.
She was so excited.
She couldn’t wait to find the meadow.
All of the faerie families had lived there when she was little.
All their children had played games and were taught magic. Alida had just begun to learn when Lord Dunraven took her away.
Alida sighed, remembering the faerie lights, the stars, and how the stream had chuckled and whispered. Oh, how she had missed that sound. She had taught herself lifting magic and had learned to fly. She knew her family would be proud of her.
But of course they wouldn’t be living in the meadow she remembered anymore.
Old Lord Dunraven’s law had changed everything.
Alida walked a little faster, staying ahead of Gavin.
She didn’t want him to see how sad it made her to think about her old home being empty. Once she had blinked away the tears, she glanced back at him.
“I wish Ruth Oakes and your grandmother had known where my family ended up.”
“I think it was probably part of the faeries’ promise not to tell humans where they were going,” Gavin said.
Alida slowed until they were walking side by side. “Did your grandmother tell you that? Was it in the old stories?”
Gavin shook his head. “But it makes sense. If Lord Dunraven wanted to keep people and faeries from being friends, he wouldn’t want them living close.”
“And to make the faeries keep their promise, he took me away,” Alida said quietly.
Gavin nodded. “It must have been a terrible decision for your family.”
Alida felt a stirring in her heart.
Locked in the tower in Lord Dunraven’s castle, she had often wondered why her parents never came to help her. Now she knew why. They had been forced to make a promise to old Lord Dunraven.
Alida glanced up at the trees.
Her mother had known that Lord Dunraven would not hurt her as long as the faeries kept their promise to stay away from humans.
And he hadn’t.
No one had said a single harsh word to her.
But she had been locked in a stone tower for a very long time.
She had been so lonely.
“Don’t worry,” Gavin said.
She glanced at him. “Do I look worried?”
He nodded. “But John will keep your secret and no one else knows you’re not still locked in the tower. Lord Dunraven won’t have any reason to suspect you are gone.”
Alida hoped he was right.
But she still had to be careful.
She could never be sure when they might come upon a human being.
And if anyone realized she was a faerie, not just a small girl, people would talk.
The news would spread.
And then Lord Dunraven’s guards would come looking for her. And if they found her—
She turned; Gavin was pointing at a narrow road that ran between the trees. Without saying a word, they both veered away from it.
And as they walked, Alida pulled her shawl higher, making sure it covered her wings.
© 2010 Kathleen Duey