“Come,” he said, extending a thin, wispy hand to her, “Follow me and I will show you the land at the bottom of the garden.”
She hesitated, her heart pounding in her little chest. All her instincts were screaming at her to run away but she stepped forward ever so slightly.
“Come,” he gently repeated, his eyes sparkling, “And I will take you to where the stream starts beneath the Old Tree in the centre of the Great Forest. Follow me and I will show you where the fae dance under the full moon and the elk and sidhe hold court at the feet of the ivory and silver thrones of the Sunflower King and the Starlight Queen. Take my hand and I will pluck you from this terrible dream into one more beautiful than you can ever imagine…”
His voice trailed off as she stepped forward and grasped his long, wispy hand with her own, smaller one. He squeezed her hand reassuringly and smiled at her before they turned to leave…
“What a tragedy,” the female officer breath, covering her mouth, “What a terrible, terrible tragedy. Do you have a daughter, Geoff?”
The male officer nodded his head, though he continued to stare at the crumpled little body on the muddy ground. He seemed to have forgotten his words and he had gone ashen white in the starless gloom of the forest lit up only by their torches.
“Such a terrible, terrible tragedy,” the woman kept repeating as she began to cordon off the site and then radioed it to the station, “Terrible, terrible tragedy. We must let the mother know that she has been found now. Such a tragedy.”
She danced with the fae beneath the moonlight, its cool, silvery touch awakening an immortal, timeless part of her soul. They danced until time itself stood still and all the seasons blurred into one joyful existence in the twilight of eternity.
She drank from the Stream. The first Stream that poured from the cracked rock held together by the twisting, ancient roots of the Old Tree. The water was cold but so pure that it tasted like she had never really tasted water before then.
She threw her head back and laughed, a sound so pure that is fractured into a thousand pieces and danced away on the night breeze. Animals and birds of all sorts crept out from the Great Forest to find the source of such warmth and life, and she swirled, dancing around the clearing.
“Come,” she said, extending her hand to him, “We mustn’t be late. The King and Queen are waiting.”
He smiled and stood up slowly from where he had been napping below the bough of the Old Tree. He was always taller than she remembered and always thinner, and a wide smile spread across his face.
“Yes, my little flower,” he nodded, skipping over to her and scooping her up in a dance as they swirled from the clearing towards the Court of Twilight, “We must not be late for the sidhe only meet once every Blue Moon and a Blue Moon only happens every time the Twilight Court is held.”
“Best we can tell, ma’am,” a grey, tired-looking officer mumbled to the quietly weeping mother, “Is that she must’ve wandered off on her own and then gotten lost in the forest. It’s a large, wild old forest. Just the other day a hunter got lost in there and only found his way back out three days later. You see, ma’am, we think that she just did not find her way back out.”
The mother’s weeping rose a decibel and the officer fell silent. He reached over and awkward rubbed her back.
“There, there,” he muttered, uselessly, “I am so sorry ma’am, but at least we can now put her to rest with dignity all proper like, you know. And, you know, at least we got to her before the animals did–“
This tactless direction ignited a louder wail from the mother. A less senior cop hovered at the door and was waved away by the officer as he kept trying to comfort the mother.
“There, there,” he kept repeating, “I really am so sorry, ma’am. There, there…”
“Rise, o’child,” the tinkling, musical voice of the Starlight Queen rang out across her mystical court, “Rise, o’child of the fae, blessed of the twilight and friend of the sidhe and elk.”
She rose, glowing with the half-light of the stars and crowned by the moonlight. She smiled and all the unearthly beauty around her smiled back at her.
“Blessed are those that leave their world for ours,” began the Sunflower King, his voice rich and full with the bass of the earth and fertile mountain slopes under an endless Summer sun, “Blessed are those that find their way to the Twilight Court, no matter the cost. To enter one world is to leave the other, as each one of us has done so ourselves from all of our different multitudes of worlds. Things must die so that other things can grow, and things that grow must eventually die. This, o’child of the fae, is all that we ask of you: respect life by respecting death.”
The royal sidhe floated across that half-lit court to surround her. Their eyes alight with love and happiness. The elk nudged her with their soft snouts and she patted them back. Indeed, all the animals of the forest–the mouse and owl, the deer and the wolf–crept from the forest to witness such a scene.
And, of course, he stood by her side and grasped her hand, squeezing it. She smiled and smiled and smiled until she thought she could smile no more. And then she danced and danced and danced until she thought she could dance no more…
“Come, my little flower,” he eventually said, a single tear rolling down his pale cheeks, “There is one final thing to do before we can dream of forever again.”
She nodded and squeezed his hand back. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed it back down, though she knew that she had to do this one final act.
“Respect death,” she said and turned to leave.
“It is quite incredible, isn’t it?” grunted the gruff old gardener, tilting his head towards the grave while he leaned on an old shovel, “They ain’t even supposed to be flowering this time of year but there we have it staring right back at us.”
“Y-yes, I suppose it is,” said the mother, kneeling there, “It is so beautiful. She would’ve loved it. She always liked flowers.”
“Well, some believe that the wee folk plant those in the graves of, uhm,” the old gardener fumbled around looking for the right word, “Lost children. Yes, Miss, they say that the fairies plant them hawthorns like that in the graves of the children that have wandered into their court never to return.”
The mother was silent, and then nodded and wiped a tear away from her eye.
“Yes, she would have liked it very much. I just hope that wherever she is now, she is happy.”
A single, delicate, pale white flower grew from the green grass atop her grave. A single, white flower that was warmed by the sun and touched by the moon from some distant, mystical court in a world removed from this dream where a little girl was happily dancing eternity away.