Authors: Ashley Du Toit
Tags: #Children's Fantasy
The prince drew himself up at those words. He took a deep breath and declared in a loud, deep voice, “I am not leaving without you, Bella!”
Both Bella and the great dragon turned to look at him.
“This is Nemesis the Dragon, my prince. He is controller of all the immortal realms, and no human is allowed within them. You have no choice but to leave,” she told him.
The prince slowly exhaled a deep breath, and opened his mouth to reply.
“You are forbidden in our world, Mortal,” Nemesis roared, the hot wind of his speech creating a hot wind that blew leaves from the nearby trees.
The prince did not bother responding. He stared his defiance at the dragon. Bella flew down to Arthur.
“Please, you must leave” she implored him softly.
He looked at her, his eyes softening.
“Are you coming with me?” he asked.
Bella felt tears welling up in her eyes.
“I cannot leave here with you. I cannot stay in your world. You are mortal and I am immortal. We have no place together.”
The prince looked at Bella. He could see she didn't have any idea how heartbreakingly beautiful she was, and it was almost a certainty that she didn't know how captivated he was with her.
Shaking his head, he said in a firm voice, “No, my fairy, I won't leave this place unless you come with me.”
Enraged, Nemesis gave a fuming, livid roar that stretched, vibrating across the woodland, disturbing everything in its wake. The prince started to draw his sword, but before he could unsheathe it, great claws grabbed him and Nemesis took flight.
Bella watched in horror as Nemesis soared higher into the sky, his great body retreating behind fat white clouds, Arthur dangling from his strong claws. She knew Nemesis was going back to his cave. The dragon had taken the prince because she had dared to make him her friend, even though she knew it was forbidden.
Her heart heavy, Bella considered her options. She could go home to the fairy dwell, knowing that Nemesis would eventually release him and wipe his memory of her, but she didn't want to do that. Or she could seek out Yarg, the King of the Trolls. A smile crept up as she thought of Yarg, the roguish troll with the wayward thoughts and mischievous sense of humour.
Yarg knew things that other immortals couldn't know. She had heard a tale long ago of one of the trolls who was actually a human, but it had yet to be proved lie or truth. Yarg had helped a few immortals who had sought his advice; perhaps he would help her as well. Her decision made, she fluttered her wings and took off towards the sky.
Bella shivered as the last of the twilight raindrops splattered upon her. Fluttering her wings, she raced determinedly onwards. She knew that she could not enter Yarg's domain this late in the evening for fear of what his troops would do to her if she was found. Trolls had appalling manners when they were in the mood for a bit of fun. She fluttered her wings faster, seeing before her the glowing lights of the fairy dwell.
As she flew on, she looked around at the glimmering colours that stretched across the dwell, realising how much she loved this place she called home. All the vibrancy wrapped up in different plants and flowers was coming to life, breathing colour and feeling into everything that it touched. She fluttered her wings and started to descend. She came finally to rest in the midst of a patch of brightly coloured tulips.
Her heart heavy, Bella sighed deeply as she walked to the nearest red tulip. Grabbing hold of a vibrant petal, she pulled it down and crawled into the pocket of the cheerful tulip, making it her bed for the night. She juddered the hidden pollen sac, and it sprinkled its golden magic upon her, leaving a million sparks of glittering dust in her hair. She laid her head on the soft pad and closed her eyes.
Tomorrow will be better,
she thought, the last tears sliding down her face, it has to be. Drifting off to sleep, her last thought was of her prince.
The King of the Trolls
he morning sun filtered in through the tulip's petals, flushing them with a pinkish tint, and covering Bella in a dazzling golden aura that made her whole being glow. Bella stretched and smiled, loving the caress of morning's first light, before the memories crowded inâArthur â¦
She straightened herself, dislodging the glittering gold dust from her hair, and bounced lightly out of her haven. She looked around, thinking about what she needed to do before setting out on her journey. Taking a small curled leaf, she scooped some fresh dewdrops from the tulip's base and drank deeply to quench her thirst. She stretched her wings and fluttered them in the morning breeze before taking off skyward once again.
Morning had just about passed by the time Bella entered the realm of the trolls. She could feel her stomach muscles clenching with anxiety as she neared Yarg's castle. There were rumours that trolls loved to capture and tease fairies in the hope of learning their secrets, and Trolls were not known to be gentle creatures! Reaching into the bag that hung around her neck, Bella took out some shimmering blue glitter dust and sprinkled it over herself just before she landed. She hoped its magic would be protection enough.
Bella walked forward, but stopped just inside the castle's great courtyard. She was surprised by the decay, and by the debris that was lying about. The courtyard was crumbling from neglect, and massive cobwebs stretched from the walls to the floor.
Trolls were beginning to enter the courtyard. A group stopped in their tracks, surprised to see her. Other trolls following bumped into them, pushing them further into the yard.
One troll growled, and then began to rush towards her. Bella felt her heart begin to beat faster, and she tried not to panic at the sight of the huge troll bearing down upon her.
When the other trolls saw their brother moving forward, they followed, until soon Bella was completely surrounded by massive trolls all growling and snarling at her.
Bella forced herself to keep calm. She looked at the trolls. They were of medium height and rather bulky. She was surprised to see that they were a strong blue colour. Their thick, matted, dirty brown strands of hair resembled masses of skinny snake's tails clumped together.
Some of the trolls had dirty muddy smudges of grime on them, while others had dry mud encrusted on their clothes.
They obviously don't believe in regular bathing
, thought Bella. None of them wore shirts, and their fat jelly bellies hung over the top of the roughly-patched pants that reached to their thick stubby knees. Each held a heavy club in fat stubby fingers.
The trolls stared at Bella with disbelief. She heard one portly troll muttering to the fellow on his left, something about fairies never voluntarily coming into the troll realm, especially not by themselves. She heard others whispering that they couldn't wait to pull her wings off. The panic that she'd pushed down began to build its way back up, and her heartbeat quickened.
“I wish to speak to Yarg, your King,” she said loudly. Her voice was firm and steady, shielding her mounting fear. It seemed that the trolls did not like this tiny fairy giving orders, because they began to mutter aggressively at her. She raised her eyes, looking at each of them until they began to quieten again. Then from across the courtyard came a loud bellow, and suddenly all the trolls started to move. As the lines of trolls parted in front of her, Bella got her first look at the King of the Trolls.
She stared at Yarg, and Yarg stared back at her. Never dropping his scrutiny, he moved forward until he stood directly in front of the little fairy now hovering at his eye level.
The faint breeze that wafted through the courtyard caused her wings to flutter. The sun's rays caught the glitter there, making them shimmer, and caused her hair to sparkle, too.
Bella could see why Yarg was the kingâhe was so impressive, so arresting. He was taller than his subjects, and also a much deeper shade of blue. His body was a solid bulk, without an ounce of fat. Even the belly stretched above his knee-length sheared-off pants was rock-hard, not jellied like those of his troops. His broad face framed eyes as blue as running water, long eyelashes fanned them, and two bushy eyebrows traversed the breadth of his forehead in one unbroken line. His hair was thicker and even more matted than that of his troops. His arms were solid trunks of muscle attached to huge hands and long, thick fingers.
Yarg saw that the fairy was surprised by the differences between him and the other trolls, but he shrugged his shoulders at her silent question. Bella was still looking at him when he widened his mouth, attempting to smile a reassurance. However the smile didn't seem to work like it should; instead it came out as a scowl that showed his crooked, yellowish-stained teeth. Bella had raised her eyes to his again, wondering what would happen next, when Yarg spoke in a gruff voice:
“Who are you, and why do you seek me out?”
Bella was surprised that his speech was so refined. She understood him clearly. She continued to hover in the air in front of him, her wings still beating softly, and said, “King Yarg, I am Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart. I come seeking your help.”
Yarg stared a moment longer at Bella, then motioned towards his castle. Bella stared at the entrance. It seemed perilously dark. No light penetrated from the courtyard, and a shiver ran down her spine at the very thought of entering there. Yet she sensed that Yarg would not assist her if she did not join him inside the castle. It's now or never, she thought, steeling herself with how desperately she wanted to see her prince again.
A memory came to her. Arthur had been sitting with his men around a campfire one evening. He had spoken to them with great feeling, as if he wanted them to write the words in their hearts, to believe them with everything they had:
“Be brave, be courageous, and the world will be yours for the taking.”
Although the words hadn't been meant for her, she needed them now. Repeating them softly to herself, she squared her shoulders and followed Yarg into his castle, leaving the other trolls in the courtyard outside.
As Bella entered Yarg's domain, she shivered again. The interior of the castle was dark and dank. A rotten stench stretched out its putrid fingers and wrapped them around her. Bella tried hard to act as if it did not bother her, but it was difficult. She began to scrunch her nose in revulsion, but stopped instantly when she realised that Yarg was watching her.
She turned her gaze from his, and looked around the great hall they had entered. Huge cobwebs populated by fat, ugly spiders stretched from the high beams to the floor that was itself covered in dust, with rubble and debris piled up in the corners. It appeared to have never been cleaned. The murky light brought no cheer; rather it extended a gloomy feeling to everything it touched.
In the middle of the great hall, Bella could see a massive fireplace spilling ash all over the floor. She saw overlapping sets of footprints from the trolls that had walked there, and she couldn't help but wonder how all the dirt didn't irritate them. As she neared Yarg, she caught a whiff of him and she wrinkled her nose, thinking she had her answer.
Yarg walked ahead of her into the great throne room. He scratched his head with his thick fingers and watched Bella. He could feel her light drawing him.
She truly is the most beautiful fairy I have ever seen,
he thought. He felt an urge to lock her up, to keep her as his own until the end of time, but something held him back. He sensed her inner strength, and a determination aimed at something that he had yet to discover. Her aura revealed the blue spell of fairy protection glowing around her.
“What do you want, Fairy of Pure Heart?” he asked.
Bella came to land lightly before Yarg's throne, and said in her clear, soft voice:
“King Yarg of the trolls, I come seeking your help.”
“How can I be of help to you?” he asked.
Bella replied, the emotion evident in her voice:
“Nemesis has taken my good friend, Prince Arthur, a mortal from the human realm. Arthur followed me into the immortal realms and refused to leave without me. Nemesis was enraged; he captured the prince and flew off with him. I have heard that from time to time you have helped other immortals. Please, can you help me find my prince?”
Yarg sat down on his throne and pondered her words for a few moments. He absently rubbed his belly before answering.
“You must go to Nemesis, deep within the Valley Mystic, but you will have to prove that you are worthy before he will grant you an audience. Yes, I have knowledge of the path you must take to do that. Yet, be warned. Should you decide to follow that path, it will not be an easy one. Are you willing to do all that is required, Fairy?”
Bella slowly nodded her head.
“You shall go on the Great Dragon's Hunt, Fairy; a quest to retrieve seven magical tokens. Once you have gathered all the tokens in the order given, you will seek an audience with Nemesis. He will have sensed the presence of the magic tokens, and knowing that you have completed the Great Hunt, he will grant it. When you come into his presence, you will lay the tokens before his feet, and wait for him to acknowledge you.”
He paused to ensure that she had understood all this, then continued, “Then you will beg that he grant your wish, that he releases your prince and returns him to his rightful home.”
Bella looked at Yarg. “What do you ask in payment for this list?”
Yarg returned her gaze for a long moment before saying, “Your wings, Fairy.”
Bella gasped in surprise. “What could you want with my wings?”
“We both know that each set of fairy wings contains different charms and enchantments. Your wings have special powers attached to them that I can use. So, what say you, Fairy of Pure Heart?”
Bella felt the words catch in her throat before they forced their way free, that struggle evident in the hoarseness of her reply.
“Without my wings, King Yarg, I will be a prisoner of the immortal realms. Without the life force that they contain, my inner light will be greatly diminished. Is there nothing else that you could ask of me?”
Yarg looked at Bella, but she could not see any message in his eyes.
“That is the price, Fairy.”
Bella lowered her eyes to the floor. “So, if I wish to save Arthur, I must sacrifice my wings?”
Yarg sighed. “You say that you seek my help. This is the only exchange I am willing to make. So, the choice is yours and yours alone.”
Bella sniffed. “There is no choice, Yarg. I have to save my prince. I agree, then, to your exchange.”
“Very well,” acknowledged Yarg with a nodding of his head. “You do understand that without your wings, gathering the tokens will be very difficult and very dangerous?”
Bella's eyes shimmered with tears, but she nodded her head. She would feel a deep sadness, she knew, the moment she gave up her wings, but she also knew that she would never again know peace until her prince was freed.
Yarg gestured to Bella to sit, then grunted to the troll stationed beside him. The troll poured a muddy, gurgling liquid into a half-empty acorn shell and offered it to her. The shell, that was almost lost in his fat hands, was just her size, but she shook her head to refuse the foul-smelling drink.
“Well, let's begin then,” said Yarg.
Standing, Yarg motioned for Bella to follow him. He walked down the great hall until he came to the last wall at the end of the long passage. He pressed his huge hand on a spot, chanting words beneath his breath.
As Bella followed, she saw the wall open to reveal a storeroom that had all manner of things arranged on crude stone shelves. There were elfin flutes, silver urchin cups, pixie drums, witches brooms, wings from other fairies, and an assortment of other magical gifts. She shivered and turned her gaze to Yarg, who was now standing over a very old book covered in dust and cobwebs.
“Remove your wings and place them on the table over there,” he said, pointing with his hairy, huge finger. Bella felt the tears well up in her eyes, and willed herself to be brave, to be courageous. She slowly removed her wings and stroked them, a deep sadness winding its way along her spine. Without them, she felt vulnerable and stripped. Quickly, before she could change her mind, she placed them on the table and forced herself to walk away. She felt their power calling her, but she ignored the pull and walked towards Yarg.
So totally absorbed had she been, that she got a fright when Yarg grunted to gain her attention. He raised his hand in front of him. In his palm was a piece of what appeared to be silver gossamer. It swayed lightly in the air, twirling slowly, whimsically, within Yarg's palm.
Bella could see it shimmering in the dim light, could feel its pulsing power. It called to herâdemanding, appealing, beguilingâbegging her to claim it. She reached out her hand and grasped it, then watched, mesmerised, as the silvery gauze became solid parchment within her hand.
Glancing one more time at Yarg, she folded the parchment and put it in the charm bag around her neck, then turned and walked towards the carved stone entrance. Without looking back she made her way out into the sunshine.