And There Were Three: Chapter Eight
In late spring, Ficum was to depart. The last few weeks beforehand were spent in intense preparation. All the fairies were filled with sorrow upon learning Ficum was leaving, though none except the Queen, Anomien and Syla knew the reason why he was going. Many parting gifts were bestowed on the boy, for he was a general favorite, but he could not take them, and left them in the care of his foster mother.
As for Anomien, her gift for Ficum was a beautiful hound, lean and muscular, but good-tempered, and very protective. Ficum, who was delighted with the gift, named him Beesa.
“I hope he will protect you well,” Anomien had said to Ficum when she presented him with the young dog. “Perhaps he will make your journey less lonesome.” Beesa loved his new master instantly, and stayed by his side day and night.
The day before the departure, Anomien gave Ficum another gift: the gold box that was found when he was a baby.
“I meant to give this to you earlier,” she said, “but what with preparing for your going, and the overall sadness I forgot. It was lying beside you when we found you. We do not know what the writing says, but we are hoping that someday you will be able to read it. So take this with you, and don’t lose it, for pity’s sake.” The Water Fairy tried to smile but could not.
That night there was a great feast held in Ficum’s honor (today we would call it a goodbye party). Though the cause for it was sad, it was really a festival, and there was music and dancing, good food and drink, and excellent company; after all, fairies are the sort of folk apt to be merry even at a goodbye party. Ficum cast off his cloak of sorrow for one night, and danced with the best of them. It was a strange, pretty picture to see, the tall human boy romping with the dainty, unearthly fairies. He never seemed to grow tired, either. He found more joy in dancing than most human boys and had a gay time. Syla and Asani joined in as well, and they too forgot their sorrow in the midst of such happiness. Anomien, however, danced not at all, but she did watch the dancers with a smile.
The fancy room was decked out in gold and silver. Silky banners were hung on the walls, fragrant yellow flowers were draped around the room, and tables covered with silver cloths were piled high with delicious food. Windows carefully polished reflected the glittering light of hundreds of candles. The ceiling was painted silver-blue with thousands of bright stars and from it hung three magnificent, crystal chandeliers. The waxed floor shone while the feet of gleeful fairies hopped and danced upon it. It was altogether an exceptionally fine ballroom.
At about ten of the clock, Ficum stepped onto a platform situated at the end of the hall. He cleared his throat shyly, for he wanted to say a few words to his kind friends, but was hesitant about talking before so many. Presently all eyes were upon him (except for a chatty young fairy who was talking quite loudly to a friend, but turned red with embarrassment when she realized hers was the only voice sounding in the room). Ficum cleared his throat again, and proceeded to speak. His voice was low at first and a little shaky, but it grew stronger as he went on. It was a short speech, yet it came from his heart, and more than one pair of eyes filled with tears as he said that “it is possible we will never meet again.” He thanked them all sincerely for their kindness and friendship, and bade them farewell, as he was going to retire and then leave quite early in the morning. A small sigh passed through the crowd like a wave when he said those words. He stepped down from the platform and was met with soft goodbyes and pats on the back from many eager hands. He smiled sadly at them, and said,
“Well…goodbye.” Turning, he opened the door and stepped out into the night.
The next morning’s sun rose on a gloomy scene. Ficum was saying farewell to his foster mother and aunts at the kingdom’s eastern border. He was dressed in a stout leather jerkin under which was a soft shirt of dark green. His trousers were light brown, loose and comfortable yet of a tough material; and black boots were on his feet. His person was enveloped in a greenish-brown cloak with a hood, covering somewhat his long sword girded at the waist. A small pack was slung at his shoulder, crossing his chest and hanging at his hip. Beesa stood proudly at his side, his sorrowful brown eyes glancing sympathetically at his master’s face. Need I describe anymore this parting scene? Surely one can imagine the quiet farewells, the tears in everyone’s eyes, and the overall sadness smothering them like a cloud.
At last they ceased their leave-taking, and Ficum tore himself away from the only family he knew. Calling his dog and adjusting his pack, he turned his face toward the rising sun. He crossed the bridge (which, you remember, was made of diamonds) and set foot on the other side. He pushed his way into the forest, but not before casting one long look toward his family and his home. Ficum had no hopes of ever seeing them again.
Before he left, Ficum decided to take a blank book with him in order to keep a record of his journey. As he can tell what happened best, we will take a look at some of his pages to find what he has to say.
The Adventure: Evening the First
Early this morning I took leave of my dear foster mother and aunts. I must say that I am frightened; it is hard not to be when one is suddenly thrust into the unknown. I am terribly unhappy, too….but at least I have my faithful Beesa for company. How thoughtful of Mother to give me that dog!
Starting out, we walked about 2 leagues, stopping twice to eat dinner and supper. The day has been quiet and uneventful. The only thing worthy of notice was a red bird, and that wasn‘t very remarkable. But it is just as well. I can’t properly enjoy anything when I’m this sad. I think I shall retire now. I have already built the fire and made beds for Beesa and myself. I do hope tomorrow will be better.
The Adventure: Evening the Second
Today was not much better than yesterday; actually, it was worse because it rained. Beesa and I walked farther today, though. 2 ½ leagues, I think. Luckily, I found, or rather Beesa found, a snug cave where we can sleep sheltered from the rain and build a fire. We’ve been eating cold, wet food all day. Not much to travel on. Bother this weather!
The Adventure: Evening the Third
Sunny and warm. There are absolutely no clouds in the sky. We traveled approximately 3 ½ leagues today.
We came across a rather unusual piece of land. It was circular, bordered by a hedge of tall bushes with diamond-shaped leaves; and the grass was trampled. It seems an inhabited area to me, although the forest around it is quite wild. Beesa and I decided to camp here, but not in the circle itself. Perhaps tomorrow will reveal something.
The Adventure: Evening the Fourth
I was right when I guessed that today would tell us something. I woke quite early this morning (it actually seemed like night to me) with the sounds of pipes and harps and dancing feet in my ears. The first thing I noticed other than the sounds was that the hedge was richly covered with brilliant pink flowers; they looked like the wildflowers we came across during our journey in this wood. Then, looking through these now blooming bushes, I saw people dancing on the trampled lawn. They wore flowing robes, so light that they seemed almost transparent. I could hardly tell what their colors were, because things were so tricky to see in the dim torchlight. They looked to be green, silver and gold; and they sparkled in the light of the glowing fires. The faces of the people I could barely make out, except for their shining eyes. I could tell their hair color: some had long brown hair, some green, and all were crowned with branches of flowering trees. Some were dancing gaily, swaying like trees in the wind; and others were playing whimsical instruments, making a fanciful, mysterious tune that causes one to want to jump up and dance. I saw soon enough who they were: they were dryads. Unfortunately, when I realized this, I gasped like a fool; and they all disappeared quick as lighting, snuffing the torches. Beesa on his part, noticed nothing; he sleeps like a log. It is just as well, for he would have barked or growled before I would be able to get a good look at the dryads. I can’t help wondering, though, why the dryads were so scared of me. Perhaps they were just startled.
Compared to this event, the rest of the day was boring. It was a pleasant, cloudy day, but I paid no attention to it. I wonder if I will ever forget my first glimpse of a wood-nymph.