Me: Do you remember?
Elie: There was blue.
Me: True, but they followed that all the way to the shipwreck. What else was there?
Elie: It was... green!
Sarai picked out the green path. The red led out into the desert, the black south to the mountains, the yellow out to the west over the scraggly plains, and the white curled around the town in odd loops and twists. The green, however, went nearly due north towards a forest.
They set out on their way, finding a thin deer path that the line followed.
Elie: I think Mandalar and Sarai were in front and Alatar and Tiana behind.
Me: The path was rather thin - the horses couldn't fit side by side.
Elie: Oh - then Mandalar was in front with his shield up in case there were any arrows, then Sarai.
Me: Who next?
Elie: Alatar, and then Tiana.
As they headed through the woods, the trail meandered easily with the curves and twists of the woods. After a time they stopped to rest. When they went to head back toward the path, they found that there was no path. They looked about and saw no sign of where they'd come from or where the trail used to lead.
Startled, each looked at the other with no idea where to go from here. Suddenly, the undergrowth rustled and a high tinkling laughter could be heard, followed quickly by a shushing.
Me: What do you think might be under there?
Elie: A hedgehog?
Me: I don't think hedgehogs giggle. Maybe something with wings?
Elie: Oh, um. A fairy!
Sarai folded her arms over her chest. "You can come out now," she scolded.
Three bashful fairies fluttered out from the low leaves. The one in front looked up at them, slowly circling and looking each one over.
"What are you doing here in these woods?" she asked finally. "What do you want with our trees?"
Elie: We're here to save the kingdom.
"And you need our trees for that, do you? Well you can't have them!" the fairy shouted.
Elie: We need to go through here! You can't keep us back. It's for everyone's good.
"A likely story. That's what everyone wants us to believe. But then they just want to cut everything down and build everywhere. Well we're not going to have it!"
Elie: But we want to help everyone to get along! We heard that the old king used to help people when they disagreed. Maybe we can help you, too.
"You know what, that's a good idea," the fairy replied. "See, there are some gnomes just over the other way who keep eating all of our mushrooms. We need those for our houses and some of our fairy magic but they just keep taking whatever they want! If you can show us you can talk them into not taking our mushrooms, we'll show you the path again."
The fairies led them through another path that opened before them down a small hollow in the woods. There, they saw a small gnome village. The gnomes were no larger than the goblins had been but with more human looking faces. They had big round noses and much smaller ears. Most had beards and pointy hats flopped over to the side.
When Sarai walked in, they stopped and looked up suspiciously.
"We hear you're taking the mushrooms from the fairies," she started. "But they need those themselves. Why are you taking them?"
"We're taking their mushrooms?!" one gnome squeaked. "Well, they're taking our nuts and berries. And we just love mushrooms, too, so it's really hard to resist when we find a good patch!"
Sarai nodded and said, "If we could get them to stop taking your nuts and berries, would you leave their mushrooms alone?"
"Hard to say, but we'd certainly think about it," the gnome answered.
Sarai headed back to where the fairies waited. "Are you taking their nuts and berries?"
The two fairies who hadn't spoken hung their heads and looked away, one idling drawing circles in the dirt with her toes.
"Well?" asked the lead fairy. "I told you not to go over that way. Maybe we could show them to that new mushroom grove we just found. If we offer them that instead and don't go stealing any more from them... You think you can handle that, fairies?"
The other two nodded bashfully. The first fairy asked to accompany Sarai back to the gnomish village. Once there, a deal was quickly struck and both fairies and gnomes were quick Sarai and her friends for helping them.
With that, the fairies sprinkled a bit of magic dust on the plants and the path opened up again before them.
Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.
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