Read Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart Online

Authors: Ashley Du Toit

Tags: #Children's Fantasy

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart (3 page)

4

Laughter's Gift

B
ella felt the warm sun shining down on her and sighed, wondering what to do next. If she called for Teague would he hear her? She had never tried to call him from so far away. How long would it take him to reach her if he did? She lifted her fingers to her mouth and blew.

As she waited, she felt the heat from the sun seep into her body, giving warmth to the coldness and loneliness that she felt deep inside. She looked about her. In the background she could hear trolls talking and she started walking away from the courtyard and castle. The land looked so different now that she didn't have her wings. Long blades of grass and shrubs were taller than her and she found a new respect for all those fairies born without wings, realising how different their lives must be.
No wonder the wingless fairies hardly ever left the haven,
she thought to herself.

She walked faster moving her body gracefully, treading through plants and bushes that littered the land in the trolls domain. For a moment Bella wished that she had her wings, that she could swish them and stretch them and take off straight towards the open skies. She wished that she could feel the cool swirling mists of the clouds as they enclosed her body, and that she could release her thoughts within their cool cloaks.

The emptiness that dwelt in her heart weighed even heavier now that she'd given up her wings, but Bella knew that there had been no choice at all. She walked for a long time, or so it seemed to her, before she felt her small body begin to tire. She slowed her pace and looked around, realising that she was no longer within the troll realm. In front of her was a beautiful field full of the brightest yellow sunflowers she had ever seen. She walked forward and was soon completely surrounded by bright green stalks that stretched high into the air to cradle the luminous yellow flowers.

Bella decided she needed to rest, so she sat down on the soft grass that grew so lushly in the shade of the giant flowers. Reaching into the small bag that hung around her neck, she took out the enchanted parchment which shimmered in the sunlight as she unrolled it. There in bold black-printed words was the list of tokens that she needed to gather for Nemesis.

Not knowing what she should make of the strange list, she just continued to stare at it.
What sort of things were these?
she wondered.
It must be a riddle of some sort,
she thought. Yarg was right; this wouldn't be as easy as she'd thought it would be.
Well,
she decided,
I just need to collect exactly what's written on my list.
So the first thing would be laughter. How does one, capture laughter? Can laughter be caught?

Rubbing her hand through her hair, she realised she was totally confused. Absolutely nothing came to mind.

Standing up, Bella started walking again, talking softly to herself. “Laughter's gift …, laughter's gift,” she mumbled, while in her heart she was wishing that a clue would just drop from the sky.

Her mind still twirling the phrase around, Bella walked further into the field, the sweet smell of the sunflowers growing ever stronger. The sunflowers gave way to a small clearing, and she stopped as she entered it. Before her was a gathering of the cutest pixies that she'd ever seen, all of them just as small as her, seated on toadstools on the soft grass, talking and laughing.

The pixies were so busy entertaining each other that they didn't immediately notice the fairy in their midst, so Bella had time to take stock. Knowing that pixies rarely leave their own land, it dawned on her that she must have entered the Pixies Knot. Since by nature these little folk are fun-loving and filled with innocent mischief, Bella knew she had nothing to fear.

The pixies wore bright blue knee-length shifts trimmed in glossy shades of yellow, cinched around their waists with twined leaves woven into pretty belts. Tiny sparkling drops of sunflower glitter were randomly scattered through their clothing, and dainty flowers woven into necklaces graced their necks. They wore simple sandals made from the strong inner cores of the sunflower stalks. More of the tiny flowers were stitched along the bottom of their sandals, and delicate straps of twined leaves criss-crossed their legs to end just below their knees.

The pixies each wore a sunflower leaf artfully shaped into a tiny hat to protect them from the sun's strong glow. Silky dark locks peeped from under their hats, parted to make way for their small pointy ears, then cascaded down to embrace their shoulders.

A few of the pixies had wings that shimmered in the sun's glow, and others had pets that lounged beside them. She saw a lovely red-and-black spotted ladybug and a beautiful snail with a burnished shell. Hovering beside a pixie on the edge of the circle was a dragonfly of teal green with shades of purple stretching into a spiralling pattern. The whole scene was really very peaceful and it lifted Bella's spirits.

Just then the pixies noticed Bella, and they greeted her with smiles of open delight. The tallest jumped off his mushroom, and then patted the small squirrel beside him who had started at his sudden movement.

“Hello, beautiful Fairy,” he said in greeting as he walked towards her.

Bella smiled at him “Good day, gentle pixie,” she returned, as was the custom of the greeting between their kinds.

“My name is Puggiemine. Welcome to our gathering.” He bowed low in front of her.

Bella bowed too, before saying, “I am Bella, Fairy of Pure Heart.”

Puggiemine smiled even more broadly when he heard who she was. The other pixies stood up and stared at her in awe. Bella didn't know why her name had caused them to react in this way, but before she could ask, Puggiemine said, “Oh Fairy of Pure Heart, we have heard of you. It is said that you are on a great quest, that you seek to rescue a mortal from Nemesis.”

“How could you know this?” she asked.

Puggiemine smiled, “Are we not in the immortal realms?” he answered.

Bella smiled in return. “Ah, the grapevine of the immortals.”

“We had thought that we might have a visit from you,” Puggiemine said, reaching out his hand. Bella placed her hand in his and started walking towards the others.

“Why did you think I might come here?” she queried.

He glanced at her, surprised that she would need to ask. “We are the guardians of laughter and hope. Didn't you know that?”

Bella's brows raised and at the same moment her heart jumped in her chest with excitement at his words. “No, I didn't.”

Puggiemine showed her to a mushroom and gestured for her to sit. “We have heard that Yarg gave you a list of tokens to gather, and that laughter is one of these. Are we right?”

Bella blushed. “I'm surprised that you know this so soon. I have just received the list. But you are correct; laughter is one of the tokens that I need.”

“Do you know how to capture laughter?” Puggiemine asked.

“I didn't know that laughter could be caught. Tell me, please, how something so wonderful can be possible.”

A tiny pixie jumped up. “I can tell her Puggie, I can tell her,” he shouted excitedly, before his mother laughingly grabbed him and pulled him down to sit on her lap.

Puggiemine laughed fondly at the small pixie before saying to him, “Jaxsie, I'll tell the pretty fairy, but thank you for offering.”

Jaxsie smiled shyly at Puggiemine, then dropped his gaze to the ground.

“Laughter is something infinitely precious. Real laughter cannot be forced or caught, it must be given freely, from the heart,” Puggiemine began. “We pixies, guardians of laughter and hope, sprinkle pixie dust on humans while they sleep and so share these wonderful, powerful gifts that enlighten their souls.

Laughter is very healing, and it can be found in the least expected places, but we have seen that some humans take laughter for granted, and others sadly don't know how to laugh. When we find humans who struggle with happiness, we make sure that they have extra helpings of hope and double doses of laughter. It's our job to ensure that humans have the chance to find true happiness—without laughter, both the mortal and immortal worlds would become very desolate places.”

Puggiemine paused to see what Bella was thinking.

“I've never thought of laughter like that before. What you are saying is very true.”

Puggiemine smiled at her. “Because you are pure-hearted, and seek to save another, we will bless you with a gift of laughter.”

Bella jumped up to hug him, saying: “Thank you.”

“Fairy, I see great courage in you, and a strength that will make your prince proud of you. Come.”

Blushing at his words, Bella rose to follow him. She could feel the excitement as the pixies made their way into another clearing. Tiny toadstools surrounded the whole area, and small purple flowers ran inside them in a full circle. The pixies stood side by side, joining hands to form a ring inside the flowers.

Puggiemine strode to the centre and called for Bella to join him.

When Bella reached him, he said, “Fairy of Pure Heart, we need you to join your power to ours, we need you to give freely the gift of real happiness. We will give our magic dust, and together we'll capture laughter.”

Puggiemine could see that Bella did not understand him, and so he explained. “When you give real laughter, our magic can begin its work. So think of a happy time, one that will make you laugh.”

Bella thought about swimming in cool, clear water and she smiled. She thought about Teague and their games in the fairy haven, and her smile broadened. She thought about glow-worm hunting, and the memory of those fat, juicy, glowing worms made her giggle for a moment. She thought about the first time she'd met her prince, and a small laugh escaped. She thought about the prince's great dane dogs, how they had licked her with their rough, wet tongues, and that brought the laughter rushing to the surface. She opened her mouth and the laughter spilled out, washing over all the immortals standing in the clearing. She remembered how happy she'd felt, the surprise, the wonder-filled feeling of just being, and she realised that she was beginning to feel lighter as well.

The pixies had thrown their magical dust into the air as Bella began to laugh. Now they began to chant and to twine the sturdy leaves from the sunflower stalks into a rope. The leaves glowed magically, and it seemed as if the glow was actually being woven into the rope as it also began to shine with eerie phosphorescence.

As Bella's laughter ended, so did the twining. The pixies presented the completed rope to Puggiemine. Everyone was silent as he took hold of the ends and raised them above his head. He chanted something in an undertone that Bella could just hear but could not decipher. She stared at the rope as the ends magically joined. She was amazed to see that the rope was shrinking. By the time Puggiemine finished his chant, the rope had been transformed into a small bangle. He walked over to Bella, bowed low and presented it to her.

“We have gifted you with laughter.”

Bella reached out her hands and accepted the magical bangle.

“Thank you, o kind pixie,” she said in return, giving Puggiemine a dazzling smile.

“We wish you well on your quest, Fairy of Pure Heart,” he said softly. He looked around, nodding to each pixie before finally bringing his eyes back to her. Raising his hands, he clapped them together, and the pixies began to disappear one by one before her eyes, until only one was left. Puggiemine lingered a moment, then he too vanished, and she stood alone in that magical place.

“Thank you,” Bella called, but no one answered. She stood quietly for a few moments, listening for sounds of the pixies, but the sunflower valley was silent. Placing the special bangle in her small bag, she started to walk.

5

A Rescued Kiss

T
wilight was fast approaching, and the last strands of pink-orange hue were threaded across the deep velvety-midnight blue sky. Once more Bella wished she had her wings as she searched for a place to spend the night. She saw no tulips to crawl into and no hidden holes within the tree trunks that she could reach.

She walked on until the great sunflowers were left behind, and in front was a lush forest of tree ferns, a randomly-spread arrangement of vibrant greens.

Bella walked lightly up to the luscious ferns seeking one with a hidden hollow that she could sleep within. The ferns were almost all fully grown, but finally she found a young one and pulled back its still-curling leaves. The hollow at its centre seemed to offer protection, so she crawled into it. The fern was warm and well-padded, and she gratefully laid her head within its soft confines. From its haven, she could see the huge sky. The gazes of a million stars twinkled back at her. Her eyes began to droop, and to the accompaniment of owls hooting, crickets chirping and frogs croaking, Bella drifted off to sleep.

And woke the next morning straining to hear something, although she was not sure what she was listening for, nor indeed where she was. Blinking, she looked around, awareness of the previous day's events returning at the sight of her fern bed.

She looked up. First light was just beginning to spread its fingers across the sky, wiping night from its memory. She sagged back into the fern bed, but sat up again quickly at the sound of a gut-wrenching scream that made all the tiny hairs on her neck and arms stand straight up.

Her heart leaping, she hastily crawled out of the fern, pushing the lush leaves out of her way. Without stopping to think about what lay ahead, she began to run in the direction of the screeching.

Bella burst through the ferns to see a witch being dragged past her. She blinked her eyes, then looked again. The witch was being dragged by a demented werewolf. Assessing the situation, Bella reached into the magical bag around her neck and pulled out a long ribbon of crimson red streaked with midnight black glitter. She chanted binding words to the ribbon, and then ran to help the witch.

Busy struggling with the witch, the werewolf was unaware of Bella until she was almost on top of them. When he saw her, he pulled back his thick lips to reveal long, sharp teeth. Growling low in his throat, he sprang towards Bella as if to rip her throat open, but in truth all he would have to do was pounce on her, squashing her flat beneath his huge heavy paws. Her heart racing, Bella threw the ribbon at him. The ribbon found its target and began to wrap itself around the wolf, and then to tighten, until the wolf lay trussed and writhing on the floor, snarling his rage and frustration.

Bella watched warily as the wolf tried vainly to free himself from his bonds. Only when he stopped moving, completely exhausted, did she move away from him to check on the witch.

She was lying facedown on the grass, absolutely still. Careful not to come into contact with the witch's blood, Bella picked up a nearby twig and pushed her onto her back. Her breath was shallow and uneven. Bright green blood oozed from deep scratch marks all over her body, and spilled out onto the grass, spreading out in small streams that ran until puddles formed.

Bella grimaced. She reached into her magical bag, drew out some silver shimmery dust, and sprinkled a handful over the witch. Immediately the deep wounds stopped bleeding.

Bella watched the witch for a few more moments, and then began a magical chant over her. Although she had not used the magical words before, she whispered them fervently in the desperate hope that they would work. The witch moaned in pain. Her wounds were slowly knitting themselves closed, and Bella could see that she was beginning to regain consciousness, but still she didn't move.

Bella knelt carefully on the grass, which was now dying wherever the witch's acid blood had spilt, the youthful young sprigs shrivelling up and blackening. Being even more careful not to get any of the blood on her, she leant over the witch.

“How are you feeling, Witch?” she asked softly. The witch opened her eyes. At the sight of her red pupils, Bella gasped and jumped back. This was no ordinary witch. This was the Queen of Witches, one of the most powerful ever to exist.

“I mean you no harm, your highness,” Bella said, moving backwards slowly.

The witch looked at her. “Thank you, Fairy, for what you have done,” she strained to say.

Hearing the pain in the witch's voice, Bella hastened to reassure her. “I've sprinkled you with healing dust, you should start feeling better any moment now.”

The witch moved her head to one side and whispered, “Why would a fairy save a witch?”

“You needed help. That crazed werewolf was attacking you. Would you expect me to walk away?”

The witch didn't answer; instead she started to stand up. When she was finally on her feet, she stood for a moment before looking again at Bella.

“What is your name, Fairy?”

“My name is Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart.”

“I am Brighid, Queen of the Witches. You have saved my life, and I am in your debt.”

Bella and Brighid looked at each other for a moment. Then the witch looked around in disgust.

“Taken by a werewolf—me, the most powerful of all witches. Oh when I catch him, he's going to be so sorry,” she said in disgust.

“Your werewolf didn't escape, he's lying over there. I put a binding spell on him that caused him to fall into a deep sleep.”

Brighid looked at Bella, a new look of respect in her eyes. “Very clever, Fairy,” she wheezed.

The witch started to move to where the werewolf was lying trussed up. She frowned down at him.

“I don't quite know what happened. One moment we were out gathering herbs and ingredients for a new spell I'm working on, and the next he turned and attacked me. He's a new familiar, I'm training him for a young member of my coven, but now I know that he's too dangerous to keep, I'll have to get rid of him,” she said, as if speaking to herself.

“What do you mean, he's a familiar?” Bella asked.

Brighid, her eyes glowing blood red in the light, looked at Bella. “Do you know much about witches?” she queried.

Bella shook her head. “I've been taught to be careful around witches. Like the trolls, they seek our wings and powers for their own, but other than that I don't really know anything.”

Brighid smiled faintly. “Witches do like fairy wings, that's quite true, but you, Fairy, are safe. Familiar means that he's my man in command. If I need help or can't be somewhere that I have to be, my familiar goes in my place. They are supposed to be our most trusted friends and companions, with the exception of the others of our coven.”

“Oh,” said Bella. “Can I ask you something else?”

“Yes,” breathed Brighid.

“I've heard that witches travel in the most unusual ways, creating chaos wherever they go, but no one will tell me exactly how they travel within the mortal realms. I've always been curious to know, but never knew a witch that I could ask. Will you tell me?”

“That's an easy one, Fairy.” She laughed. “We used to travel on broomsticks years ago, but they're not really very fast and you can't always take along everything that you might want to, so my witch's coven and I experimented a bit. One day we made a tornado. We could see the potential but we couldn't seem to make it work for us. After all, a tornado is pretty, but useless—all it does is twirl around. But we persisted, and we found a way to make it grow, and then to travel in any direction we wanted it to go. Soon we could travel within its eye and take whatever we wanted with us. Those were exciting days to be sure,” she reminisced.

“Although now the guild of immortals is trying to get Nemesis to ban us from using them; they say it's too destructive to humans. I can't imagine going back to broomsticks though—so old fashioned.” And she shuddered theatrically.

As Bella pondered the witch's words, Brighid nudged the werewolf with her foot. He didn't move.

“How long will he stay asleep?” Brighid asked.

“Until you remove the ribbon,” Bella replied.

Brighid nodded her head. She stood over the wolf, raised her hand and began chanting beneath her breath. The wolf shot straight up into the air, as stiff as a plank, and floated above the ground. Bella smiled at this.
Nifty spell,
she thought.

Brighid looked at Bella. “Since I owe you a debt, what can I do in return for you?” she asked.

Bella thought for a second “Do you know how I could rescue a kiss?” She asked.

“Let's go to my home, I'll have a look in my Spell Book.”

Brighid began to walk away, the werewolf floating behind her. After a few steps, she realised that Bella had not followed her, and turned back.

“Don't worry, Fairy, you're quite safe from me.”

Bella thought about it, then nodded her head. She walked to Brighid, and they set off together towards the witches' dell. Bella looked over her shoulder at the werewolf trailing them like a kite—still stiff as a plank, still in a deep sleep.

Brighid lived on the other side of the dell, and her house, if it could be called that, looked dreary and depressing, although to be sure it wasn't as bad as Yarg's home. The path was covered with what appeared to be tiny fragments of glass. Bella stepped lightly, expecting her dainty feet to be cut, but the fragments were smooth to the touch.

Bella looked around her. The grass was short, but patchy; the flower bushes defiantly not normal—the stalks were there, but the flowers had all been chopped off.

“Why are there just stalks and no flowers?” she asked.

Brighid smiled, “I imagine that this must come as a surprise to the Protector of Tulips, but I'm not so fond of flowers, they smell funny to me. But I do enjoy the stalks, so I keep those.”

As Brighid had predicted, Bella had a hard time understanding this, so she turned her attention to the house before her. It looked small from the outside. Dust gathered across the walls, giving a dirty brown tinge, and fat spiders lazed in the corners; creepers and cobwebs covered the windows. The roof had two pointy steeples on either side, and it carried a general air of dilapidation. Each row of the unevenly placed, rickety wooden tiles projected halfway over the one below it, the last row hanging dejectedly over the end of the beam. Here and there a few hung out further, loose teeth waiting to be pushed back into their spaces, and there were random gaps where some had broken away completely. It was quite eerie.

They neared the front door, Bella thinking that the patches of peeling paint made it look rather tatty and tired. A knocker in the shape of a witch's head surprised her by opening its mouth and booming: “Who comes here?”

Bella took a hasty step backwards.

Brighid raised her eyebrows at Bella. “Sorry about that, it was a housewarming gift from my coven.” Sighing, she turned to the knocker. “It's me Ditsy, open the door.”

The front door swung open. “Come in, Fairy. I'm just going to put my werewolf away and I'll be with you in a moment,” she said. She closed the door behind them as Bella entered.

Brighid led her werewolf down some stairs. From the corner of her eye, Bella saw a small black cat enter the room. It eyed Bella before saying, “I'm Kink, what can I get you to drink?”

“Nothing, thank you,” Bella politely replied.

Kink turned and left the room without uttering another word. Alone, Bella rubbed her arms and looked around her. The inside of Brighid's house was very different from the outside. It was light and airy, which was very surprising. There wasn't much furniture that she could see—a massive fireplace dominated the centre of the room, and a comfy-looking couch was placed against the wall, a handwoven rug on the floor in front of it. A single bookshelf holding a handful of books graced one wall. Bella was just about to go over to it when Kink appeared at her side again.

“Are you the Fairy of Pure Heart?” he asked.

Bella blinked with surprise, “How did you know that?”

“The news of your quest is running through the immortal realms like wildfire,” he said simply.

“What's this?” asked Brighid as she walked into the room.

Kink spoke up before Bella could answer. “She's the Fairy of Pure Heart, and she's on a quest to save a mortal from Nemesis. Remember I told you about it?' he said to Brighid.

Brighid looked at Bella with newfound interest.

“Yes, Kink has told me of the courageous fairy who seeks to save a mortal. Are you really that fairy, Bella? Is it true that you gave your wings to Yarg of the trolls in return for a list of tokens to help you save a mortal? I don't understand why you would risk yourself in this way. You will live forever, while your prince will fade from time before he has even had a chance to exist. Surely you know that you cannot be together? Why pursue what cannot have?”

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