And There Were Three: Chapter Six
Ficum trudged up the riverbank to the Water Fairy’s house, his young face glowing with health and exercise. He was returning from his long hike in the woods, and his eyes sparkled with excitement and happiness. When he was halfway up the bank, he suddenly remembered that he was supposed to have cleaned his bedroom, and that his mother would probably have discovered the mess by now. Stooping down, he hastily picked some violets with which the grass was thick. He decided to offer them to his mother as a “peace offering”. Perhaps then she won’t be so angry with me, he thought.
“Mother!” he called bravely. “I’m back! See what I brought you.” A sob rang out of the cave along with the words,
“I’m not your mother!” Ficum stared. He ran up the hill and into the house. He found Anomien pitifully shedding huge drops of tears, her head on the table. On the table were two teacups and a cold pot of water. The boy ran to the fairy and threw his arms around her.
“Mother, what is it? Why are you crying so?” Anomien lifted her head. Her beautiful eyes were red and so was her tiny nose. She said bitterly,
“Didn’t you hear what I said? I am NOT your mother. I don’t know who your mother was, what was her name, or where she was from; I only know she was human.” Ficum was silent, too astonished to say anything. Anomien groaned softly and put her hands to her face. “I adopted you when you were just a wee babe. Syla and I found you in the woods, alone except for your deceased mother. You were such a sweet little boy…” here Anomien sighed heavily, looking up. “I did not want to tell you this now; I wanted to wait until you were sixteen, for that was the age that we decided you would leave us and search for your true family. But Queen Asani visited me this afternoon and she told me that you would have to leave now. I do not know how she decided this, however she is very wise, so I do not question her authority.”
“Is that why you were weeping, because I had to leave?” questioned Ficum in a low voice. Anomien bowed her head and said naught. Ficum reached his hands up to wipe his eyes, but manfully tried to hide his tears. The Water Fairy heard him sniffing, and holding out her arms she pulled him to her chest, great boy that he was, crooning tender lullabies over him. To her, he was still her precious baby.
At this time, it was early spring. Flowers were blooming, the grass was turning green and the air was warming. Birds sang sweetly in the budding trees while newborn fawns and cubs roamed the forest floor with their watchful mothers. Rivers were casting off their blankets of ice and flowing merrily once more. All was fresh, beautiful and clean, like the air after a rain storm.
This was the Earth Fairy’s favorite time of year, and she spent most daylight hours outdoors, either walking dreamily among the fields or tending her newly tilled garden. Each plant was her personal friend and she loved every one of them (except, perhaps, for the weeds). The day Ficum learned he had to leave, Syla was gardening. Ficum wanted to talk to his “aunty” Syla, for staying in his house only reminded him of the upcoming departure; besides, he said to himself, she needs to be told about this. So he kissed his mother and departed, heading south.
Arriving at the Earth Fairy’s home, Ficum knew that she would probably be gardening. He opened the little white gate and walked to the back of the house, where Syla was. He respectfully waited at a distance until she should notice him. Syla looked up from where she was digging, and with a smile motioned him to come close. He did so, and sat down on the grass bordering the garden. He said nothing, noticing how absorbed she was, but he watched her plant a row of seeds (he didn’t know what kind) and pat the dirt on them with loving care. This done, she breathed on her hands, causing them to become quite clean, for she was a fairy, you know, and could do many magical things. Then she sat down beside her foster nephew.
“You look sad, Son. Is something troubling you?” she asked. He nodded slightly. “Why don’t you tell me about it, for no one should have such a frown when the earth is smiling. I’m listening.” Ficum sighed wearily and told her all that happened. Syla listened intently and her happy face turned grave, like a cloud covering the sun. When Ficum finished, he and Syla sat so long without moving that a little rabbit loped casually by their feet and sparrows hopped near them, pecking at the grass. Abruptly the Earth Fairy stood up.
“Come,” she said shortly. She walked briskly toward her hut, and Ficum followed slowly. She entered the house and told the boy to wait outside. He leaned against the wall of the house, his face solemn and his mind busy. At length Syla returned with a pretty leather bag, embroidered with a wavy pattern, simple yet graceful. She handed it to Ficum, saying,
“This is for you. Inside are three very special herbs, which will help you much, but which you must use with the utmost prudence. One”, (pulling out a soft, green plant), “will cure any wound once applied with a little pure water; another one”, (pulling out a deep red, bushy plant), “will light a fire anywhere when rubbed gently against a piece of wood; and this herb”, (producing three beautiful, blue leaves which looked like lettuce), “is the greatest. Crush it in your bare hands and the smell will frighten away any enemy, for although you yourself can’t detect the perfume, they can and they sense its power. Crush it in clean water and help will come to you, provided that help is close enough. Eat a small portion of it, and you will need no nourishment for three days at least. Lay it on a wintry river of ice, and the water will melt; lay it on a gurgling, spring river and the water will freeze. Rub it on burns and they will disappear with cool refreshment; rub it on an aching head, and it will find relief, or an aching ear or tooth for that matter. The herb can do the whole of this.
“All these different things these different herbs can do, but I warn you again that if you use any of the herbs in a commonplace manner, taking them for granted, you will be extremely sorry. I give these to you, dear Ficum, in the hopes that they will aid you greatly in your travels and that in your youthful but wise logic and reasoning you will cause them to last as long as you need them to. Accept them and always remember Syla, who is still your aunt in heart, if not in blood.”
Ficum accepted the wonderful herbs gratefully, but could find no words to tell her his thanks or how much he cared for her. Pulling the small clump of violets out of his belt (which, you remember, he had planned to give to his mother but had forgotten) he handed them to Syla and said rather bluntly,
“Thanks.” Syla was more touched by that little bunch of half-wilted violets and the short thank you than if Ficum had offered her a huge bouquet of the rarest flowers along with a lengthy speech. For she read his feelings in his face, and knew he needed no other words.