Once upon a time, there lived a young man named Jack in a tiny village by the sea. As a boy, there was nothing Jack preferred to walking alone along the rocky beach. It came as little surprise to his parents or anyone else when, on his eighteenth birthday (the day when Jack was expected to take responsibility and live like an adult) Jack disappeared in a little and barely sea-worthy boat to seek his fortune on the vast blue ocean. Ten years later, Jack returned in the same little boat with two small daughters. Jack ignored the endless questions of the villagers and moved back into his parentsí old cottage. His parents had both died in his absence and many people insisted that the distant look in Jackís eyes was due to guilt over their deaths.
Jack set up shop as a dressmaker. His reputation for making the most beautiful gowns spread quickly, even to some of the distant lands. Exotic strangers would appear in the town just to obtain one of Jackís creations for masquerades and ceremonies. Even the great ladies of Faerie sometimes showed up at his doorstep. It was rumored that the fabric for the gowns was made from sea foam, clouds, and maybe a daydream or two. Jack certainly had enough daydreams to clothe the world.
Everything surrounding Jack, from his adventures, to his gowns, to his daughters was a topic for conversation in the town. Many of the village boys would spy on Jack as he sat in his shop sewing. Brynna, the older daughter, would help him with the embroidery. Her talent manifested at an early age, as did her beauty. Brynnaís hair was the color of the shining golden coins from the distant lands. Her eyes were the blue of the ocean.
Xythe, the younger daughter, would sing with a voice clearer and purer than sparkling water. Xythe was only a baby when she was taken back to the village, but the songs she sang were ancient songs of the sea, seldom heard by human ears. Her hair was flaming red, making her a spectacle among the villagers. They were as surprised to see red hair as they would have been to see pink hair or blue. Xythe was inclined to be thin and a little awkward, but her eyes were the deep green of the sea.
The villagers often wondered if the family was happy. It was impossible to tell, due to the fact that all three of its members always seemed to be daydreaming. The villagers were also puzzled by the fact that every third night, Jack would leave the house after his daughters were asleep to share tea and conversation with Doctor Negyl. She was a physician, the village elder, and a fairly accomplished witch. She was also the perfect person to tell about a passionate and magical voyage. She kept his secrets until she died, if she ever died at all.
Brynna woke up on her eighteenth birthday feeling excited and alive. She didnít fear the responsibility or change that adulthood would bring, at least not until she discovered that her father had disappeared and her sister had slipped into some sort of waking coma. She found her fatherís savings and a little note saying "Iím Sorry" on the kitchen table along with a birthday breakfast feast of pastries and fruit. After awakening her sister, she found that Xythe wouldnít talk or look at her, although she was able to dress herself and eat a hearty breakfast. She sang snatches of songs and followed invisible things all around the room.
Brynna collapsed on the floor in despair when there was a knocking on her door. Every unwed young man in the village was at her door with presents, eager to declare their intentions to woo and marry her. She feared that they would see Xythe and kept the door firmly shut. "You must leave now!" Brynna insisted. "I have no time to talk to you now."
"But Brynna, we love you and will love no other", all of the men declared.
"Love me some other day. I have too much to take care of now." She let them pile the presents into her arms, but left them all unopened in a corner of the room.
Just when everything seemed to have settled down enough for her to catch her breath, there was another knock on the door. It was another young man, but he was not one of the village boys. They were all ruddy and fair, but his skin was a golden brown. His eyes were greener than Xytheís and Brynna was convinced that there was something else odd about him, but she couldnít place it. "My name is Jaghe." He bowed low. "I am the son of the ambassador of the Gatelands and I seek the dress made for my mother."
"Iím sorry", Brynna told him, "but my father disappeared this morning. You are welcome to look around the shop and see if you can find your motherís dress."
Jaghe took little time to find the shimmering green dress that Jack had made for his mother. There was even a label pinned to the dress that said "Lady Cenarra of the Gatelands". Jaghe took the dress out to his horse and tucked it into a bag. He whispered something to his horse and took off into a run and leapt into the sky. Brynna watched it until it was nothing more than a speck in the sky. Even Xythe paid a little attention to the flying horse. One of the village girls muttered "Why does everything interesting always happen to them?"
"Will you not be returning to the Gatelands?" Brynna asked Jaghe, not realizing until after she spoke how much hope there was in her voice.
"I am needed here", Jaghe told her. They returned into the house and ate the feast that Jack had prepared before he left.
"What kind of place is the Gatelands?" Brynna asked Jaghe.
"It is a place of magic. Is there no magic in your village?"
"None except that of Doctor Negyl. She is a witch. We go to her for charms and healing potions."
"There is a difference between magic and witchcraft", said Jaghe.
That night, Jaghe stayed in Jackís vacated room. Brynnaís suitors returned in the morning. Jaghe gave Brynna some words of advice before she answered the door.
"Until you have traveled to distant lands and made sure that there is no woman in this world more suited to you than I am, I can not accept your proposals. You each must travel the world for a year and a day. If you return with proof of your travels, I will accept you all as suitors." The men grumbled and moaned. Some of them accepted Brynnaís challenge and left to see the world. Some of them decided to marry other women in the village, but none of them stayed to persuade Brynna to change her mind.
"Now", said Jaghe, "We can see to your sister. I will tell you now, that I have decided to stay as your suitor, and I hope that in a year and a day, when all of your troubles have passed, we can be married and I will take you to the Gatelands."
"Follow me!" the voice called out. Xythe ran through the forest to the stream until she found Fyg sitting among the water lilies, which grew in colors not often seen in the mortal world. Brynna and Jaghe followed Xythe but she was barely aware of their presence. Nothing was important to her except being with Fyg. He spoke to her as no one else ever had and nothing in the mortal world could offer her the joy she found with the faery. He curled up in her hand and let her gaze with wonder at his perfect tiny form and his vibrant gossamer wings. He played in her red curls as she made violet chains. "Sing to me", Fyg requested. I will harmonize. Xythe sang one of the love songs she had known her whole life, but it was never so poignant or sweet, for now she knew itís meaning.
"Tell me, Xythe", he asked when the song was over. "Why is it that you spend so much more time with me now than you did when you were a child. It was my understanding that as children grow up, they forget the magic of Faerie and seek the mundane pursuits of the mortal world."
"My father left. He will not return to us. Brynna has come of age and chosen a suitor. There is nothing to hold me to the mortal world."
"If there is truly nothing to hold you here, I wish to take you into Faerie. All of the way into Faerie. We are only at the borders here."
"Please do! It is truly what I want." Xytheís face lit up with joy. Fyg kissed her cheek and left to seek the Faerie King.
A Visit to Doctor Negyl
While Xytheís thoughts flew with Fyg, her body was coaxed into paying a visit to Doctor Negyl. Brynna had never been to the Doctorís cottage before and she was amazed by all of the differently colored potions and powders.
"Brynna, Xythe, and you are?" The doctor smiled at the handsome stranger.
"My name is Jaghe. I am from the Gatelands."
"I thought that you might be. I paid your land a visit once. Itís really like no where else." Doctor Negyl inspected Xytheís eyes and ears and felt Xytheís forehead for a fever. She listened to her breath and took her pulse. She pronounced Xythe physically healthy and began rummaging through her magical supplies.
Doctor Negyl took out a pendulum and swung it back and forth, but Xytheís eyes didnít follow it. She dabbed Xytheís eyes with ointments and powders, but there was no change. Doctor Negyl excused herself from Brynna and Jaghe and returned in her magical robes. Brynna recognized the embroidery on the sleeves as her own.
"Tell me, why did our father never bring us to meet you before he left?"
"Your father needed someone to tell his secrets to. I swore to him that I would take everything he told me to his grave. Iím sorry that he never told you who your mother was or where you were born, but it is not my place to tell you these things." Doctor Negyl seemed to be avoiding Brynnaís question, but Brynna asked nothing else.
Doctor Negyl lit incense and candles. She sprinkled some shimmering powder in a circle around Xythe and began to chant. Brynna recognized the names of the Gods and Goddesses, but not the language that Doctor Negyl used to speak with them. Jaghe sat, silently observing, but Brynna suspected that he understood the words of the spell. He was a mystery to her. Alluring and kind, but still a mystery. Xythe and Jack both always had their secrets as well. Brynna felt simple in comparison.
The ritual continued for hours, but Xythe never left her trance. Doctor Negyl became exhausted. She bid the Gods and Goddesses farewell and opened Xytheís circle. "Iím sorry", she told Brynna. "The magic that holds her is too powerful for me to break, or even fully understand. Her heart is trapped in the land of Faerie."
"My Lord, I beg you to bring Xythe entirely into Faerie." Fyg kneeled before the King and looked hopefully into his worn, gray face.
"Fyg, I am unwell. I have no energy to grant the little requests of every faery who comes kneeling at my throne. Please leave. You tire me."
"I will not be turned away so easily." Fyg sprang to his feet. "I think it is foolish that our land is governed by a man to weak to answer the simple pleas of his subjects. I know that you can not stand against a rebellion." Fyg turned his back to leave.
"Wait", the King called after him. "Surely there is an easier way. How about this, you solve my problem and I solve yours."
"Tell me what I must do?"
"Well", the King began. "I too once loved a human girl, but your Xythe is nothing in comparison to her. This girl had the beauty and grace of a summer morning. Every night I visited her, bringing her rich and magical dreams. However, as she grew older, she stopped letting me enter into her dreams, and she never could see me with open eyes. As she began to ignore me, my health began to slip away. I am fading, Fyg. And when Brynna marries the man from the Gatelands, I will die. That is why you must persuade Brynna to travel to Faerie."
That night, Brynna was roused from uneasy dreams by the screams of her sister. She ran into Xytheís bedroom. "Brynna!"
"Xythe! You have returned to us."
"No, sister. You must help me. You must travel to Faerie and save me from the life of misery that I will face without Fyg in the mortal word." Xytheís eyes were wild and her drenched red curls clung to her face.
"You are speaking nonsense. Please calm down. Youíve been sick." Brynna dried Xytheís forehead.
"Tell Doctor Negyl to guide you into Faerie. Itís the only hope for me." Xythe closed her eyes and her sleep was dreamless and dark.
Brynna turned and Jaghe was standing behind her. "Come Brynna", he said softly. "We must do as your sister has requested."
"You believe this, about Faerie."
"Darling Brynna, I am from the Gatelands and I have a flying horse. Get dressed. I can carry Xythe." Jaghe kissed Brynna and she forgot her fears.
Doctor Negyl was not surprised to find Brynna, Jaghe, and the sleeping Xythe on her doorstop. In fact, she had been expecting them. She was dressed in her robes and had the appropriate incense, candles, and powders set up for a ritual. Brynna squeezed Jagheís hand and stepped into the circle. "I see the difference between magic and witchcraft", she told Jaghe.
Doctor Negyl began to chant and Brynna slipped into a trance. As Brynna stepped into Faerie, Xythe opened her eyes and said, "The doors to Faerie are closed to me now." Her eyes were filled with tears but Fyg appeared to wipe them away. Fygís eyes widened to see both Doctor Negyl and Jaghe looking directly at him.
"Greetings, faery. I imagine much of this is your doing", Jaghe said.
"Well, Gatelander. Surely you understand the desire to make a woman happy."
"Indeed." Jagheís gaze returned to Brynna, but she was perfectly still and vacant.
Brynna opened her eyes and found herself in the greenest meadow she had ever seen. The sky was a vibrant blue and golden flowers blossomed among the grass. The air was filled with a wonderful fragrance. Brynna stood up and found herself smiling in spite of herself. The only place she had ever been that was so beautiful was in her childhood dreams. Brynna noticed the arch standing in the middle of the meadow. She walked around the arch and saw only the meadow, but when she walked through the arch she found herself on a path going through a lush forest. She heard voices in the trees and saw flashes of glimmering wings and eyes. Brynna was filled with wonder and forced herself to repeat over and over "I am here to save Xythe and then I will leave."
Brynna walked until she was very tired and sat on a rock to catch her breath. As she rested, a chariot pulled by a pair of winged horses drove up to her. "If you are Lady Brynna of the human world, we request that you accept our services and step into our chariot."
"Did you talk?" Brynna asked one of the horses.
"No, he did", said the horse, gesturing towards the other horse. "Hop on in." Brynna found it hard to disobey two talking horses and she stepped into the chariot. It was very comfortable until the horses began to fly. Brynna made the mistake of peeking out the curtain and turned white with fear. She closed her eyes and held on as tightly as she could until the flying chariot landed.
Brynna exited the chariot in front of the castle. She didnít know why, but she felt disappointed. Standing among enormous trees with leaves in every imaginable color, the castle looked old and faded. In fact, it looked like little more than a ruin. Brynna walked hesitantly down the path and for the first time, she was afraid of what she would find. It wasnít like the fear of falling out of the chariot; it was a calmer unsettling type of fear. "I do this for my sister", she said to herself.
As Brynna walked through the castle, she was pleased to discover that it was not as dark as she had feared. However, once she realized that she was the light source, she became a little worried. She walked through the castle to the throne room, with confidence, like she had known this castle for her whole life.
"Brynna, I have missed you so much." The Faerie King walked towards Brynna but she did not see the tired gray faery Fyg spoke to. He was Brynnaís height with golden hair, golden wings, and a golden crown. Brynna had to squint a little when she looked at him. She did not see through his glamour to realize that he had borrowed her light and beauty.
"I remember you as well, but I had not thought of you for many years. You were my friend in dreams. I didnít think you were real." Brynna curtseyed to her old friend.
"Your view of reality is very limited. You live surrounded by magic, but you are blind to so much of it."
I have no need for magic", Brynna told the Faerie King. "All I want is for my sister to be released from your world."
"Your sister has no desire to return to the mortal world. She wishes to live in Faerie. I do not keep her a prisoner here. She is a prisoner in your world. Here is where she can be truly free. And how can you say that you have no need for magic? What of Jaghe, your chosen suitor? Do you have no understanding of what sort of place the Gatelands is?"
"If what I feel for Jaghe is magic, then I do have need for magic. And if, after we marry, he decides that he must take me to a strange and magical land, I will not be hesitant to see for myself what the Gatelands is."
"Brynna, you have grown up, havenít you?"
"Yes. I remember loving you once, but it was a dream that I had forgotten for many years. You canít expect me to leave the life that I have now to chase after childhood dreams." Brynna noticed the Faerie King begin to fade.
"Dreams can be real. That is what Faerie is built upon, the dreams and fantasies of the people in your world. We do not exist without you, but you do not exist without us either. Without your dreams, you are nothing but a hollow shell, an empty body."
"Well then, Your Majesty, take a look inside my heart and see what dreams live there!" Brynna felt her whole being open and expand until she felt more like a place than a person. The Faerie King took a breath and walked in.
He found himself moving through Brynnaís memories. He stood on a rock by the sea and watched a beautiful, pregnant, redheaded woman singing to Brynna as an infant. He saw Jack glowing with love and joy at his daughter and her mother. The Faerie King traveled with Jack and his young daughters in the little boat that took them back to the village. He wept to see Brynna dreaming about him as a small child.
The Faerie King stepped through a gateway in Brynnaís memories and watched how everything changed. He saw the distance in Jackís eyes and watched as he and Xythe abandoned Brynna, leaving her alone in what had become a stark reality. As her father and sister slipped into fantasy, Brynnaís dreams of him faded, until they were almost forgotten. Then, Jaghe arrived, and his eyes brought light to everything in Brynnaís life. In her loneliness, Brynna had Jaghe to rely on and, of course, she loved him. The Faerie King wept again, this time because he now knew for certain that he had no place for Brynnaís life. He stepped out of her memories and felt himself falling.
Brynna looked down at the Faerie King, lying small and crumpled at her feet. His glamour was gone and she knew that he was dying. She turned towards the door, ready to return to her own world.
"Wait." His breath was shallow and his voice was weak. "If you leave now, I will die and the gates of Faerie will be closed to you and your family. Xythe will return to your world forever and she will be unhappy until she dies."
"You have seen my heart and know I can not love you."
"But your children can. Please. Promise that you will tell them stories of me, and let them visit me, as you once did. If you can promise me these small childhood dreams, I will let you go, and when you go, to doors to Faerie will remain open."
"All you ask for is the dreams of my children? Only dreams?"
"Only dreams", the Faerie King told her, feeling a little strength grow in his heart.
"I promise." She lifted the Faerie King to his feet and kissed him on the cheek. He felt her kiss burn light a spark and he began to glow again with his own light.
Brynna turned again to walk away. "I will always love you", the Faerie King called after her. And this time, Brynna did not turn back.
Brynna opened her eyes, and smiled, as if she was waking up from a pleasant dream. She looked around the room. Her eyes held Jagheís for a long time before she turned to see the anxious faces of Xythe and Doctor Negyl.
"Fyg?" Xythe wondered, looking around the room. "What happened?" Xythe asked her sister. Iím still here and Fyg has disappeared."
"The Faerie King promised me that the doors to Faerie would always be open to me and my family." She turned to Jaghe. "I promised him the dreams of our children."
"There is no safer place for a dream to be kept than in the hands of a faery. And we have Doctor Negyl here to make sure that the faeries know when itís time to let go." Jaghe turned to embrace Brynna before noticing the storm brewing on Xytheís face. He didnít know what to tell her because he didnít know what had transpired in Faerie.
Xythe cried herself into a deep dreamless sleep. Brynna, Jaghe, and Doctor Negyl could not find a way to wake her up. Every day, they checked for change as soon as the dawn broke. After about three days Jaghe turned to Brynna and asked her if Xythe looked like she was fading. Brynna agreed. Every day Xythe faded a little bit until one day she was gone.
During her month in stasis, Xythe felt nothing. She was not aware of being bored, sad, or even asleep. She fell asleep on the full moon and the next thing she knew, the moon was full again. She opened her eyes and found herself encased in a moist shell. She used her teeth and fingernails to cut her way out. She heard an unfamiliar voice say "Fyg, I believe itís time." Fyg helped Xythe the rest of the way out of her cocoon.
"You probably wonít be able to fly for a little while because your wings are still damp. But theyíre quite beautiful."
"Iím a faery?" Xythe asked. She realized that she could feel the damp wings on her back. She turned to look at them and watched them shimmer under the full moon. "Iím a faery!" Xythe exclaimed. "Weíre the same size!" She gave Fyg a huge hug and didnít let go for a very long time.
The Faerie King kept his promise, and the doors to Faerie were always open to Brynna. Much to the surprise of both sisters, they remained in close contact. Brynna was amazed by the beauty of Xytheís wedding in Faerie, and surprised to find that her own wedding in the Gatelands had an equally eclectic assortment of guests. Brynnaís life was filled with magic of all different varieties until her death, and that made her very, very happy.