‘Where did these come from, Mam?’ Six-year-old Tommy squatted down, pointing at the cluster of little white-capped plants growing along the fence at the back of their garden.
Rose smiled at her son’s puzzled face. ‘They’re toadstools, Tommy, and we find them in lots of places – like fields and woods, and even on people’s lawns.’ She gazed over the fence into the dense forest beyond, wondering yet again whether moving to the Highlands of Scotland had been such a good idea. Tommy already missed his friends in Edinburgh. But her husband’s job in the Forestry Commission had given them no choice.
‘I bet there are plenty of toadstools in there,’ Rose continued, hoisting the child up so he could see over the fence. ‘Lots of fairies and elves, too.’
‘Do fairies like toadstools?’
They love them,’ Rose said, lowering him to the ground. ‘Sometimes they dance amongst them and make them into circles called fairy rings. Doesn’t that sound fun?’
Tommy shrugged. ‘I’ve never seen a fairy ring, so I don’t know.’
‘Well, fairy rings are magical places for the little folk, but if humans step inside them, they could become trapped by fairy magic, and might never get out again.’
‘That’s silly, Mam. Fairies only help people.’
‘And how do you know that?’
‘Because the fairy who visits me when I’m in bed says she’ll take me to a magic place to find new friends, if I want. She knew I was sad about leaving my old ones in Edinburgh without me even telling her!’
Rose stared at her precious son. ‘Tommy, this fairy … what does she look like?’
‘Her name’s Elvira, and I’ve seen her this many times.’ Tommy held out his small hand, fingers splayed. ‘And she looks like you, Mam, except she’s tiny and has wings. They’re really cool!’
Rose’s stomach lurched. That her twin should wheedle her way into Tommy’s affections just to get to her was unbelievable. ‘Tommy, promise me that if Elvira asks you to go with her, you won’t go.’
‘But I’ve promised I’d go tonight… Just for a bit.’
Rose’s mind whirled. ‘Did Elvira say where this magical place was?’
‘I don’t think it’s far because she said we’d be back very soon.’
‘Well, that’s alright, then,’ Rose assured him, her mind working fast.
‘Thanks, Mam!’ Tommy yelled. ‘I can’t wait for tonight.’
The grandfather clock in the hall struck midnight, its chimes rousing Tommy from his sleep. Elvira hovered before him in a halo of fairy light.
‘Ready for an adventure?’ she asked. ‘The fairy folk are gathering.’
Tommy nodded, his excitement mounting.
‘Then close your eyes and don’t open them again until I say so.’
Watching from atop the wardrobe, Rose was on their trail as soon as Elvira waved her wand. Within moments they’d reached a glade in the forest where the fairies were gathering, all dancing around a fairy ring. Perched on a leafy branch, she watched as Tommy joined in. He looked so happy when Elvira led him into the ring and danced with him awhile. But then she darted out, leaving him alone and confused. He tried to follow, but the ring confined him as effectively as prison bars.
Looking pleased with herself, Elvira joined her companions.
Rose fumed, knowing that confrontation was now inevitable. But first, Tommy must be freed. Unseen by the frolicking fairies, she flew into the ring from the opposite side to where they were gathered around Elvira.
‘Why’ve you locked me in here?’ Tommy wailed, mistaking his mother for her twin. ‘I don’t like being on my own.’
No time for explanations, Rose waved her wand and within moments, Tommy was sleeping soundly in his bed.
Rose descended into the middle of the gathering and the crowds shrank back. It was some moments before Elvira realised that silence had fallen. She turned, her expression one of guilt-laden surprise at what she saw. In a panic, she glanced at the fairy ring.
‘Tommy’s in his bed, where he’s supposed to be, Elvira. How you thought you could get away with this is beyond me. And I know what it’s all about – so don’t bother to explain. Mother’s expecting me tomorrow. I contacted her earlier and explained my position.’
Fury blackened Elvira’s face and she shot a bolt of magic at her twin. Rose reeled from the blast, but recovered quickly to return a blast of her own.
As the elder of the twins, Rose was the more powerful: Elvira’s magic could never compete. ‘For your information, Elvira, I don’t want the throne.’ The onlookers gasped. No princess had ever refused the fairy throne. ‘I’ll tell Queen Isadora that myself, tomorrow. You see, sister, my new family is here. If I returned to the Fairy Kingdom without them, I would slowly die. You are very capable of becoming the next queen, Elvira. Our people love you very much…
‘Besides,’ she whispered, ‘when I wave my wand, no one here will remember tonight’s events. They’ll continue to dance around the ring, just as they’ve always done.’
Elvira nodded and smiled sincerely. ‘Thank you, Rose. It seems I acted hastily. I had assumed that after ignoring us for years, you’d just fly back in and claim the throne. I’ve worked hard for our kingdom, and know I can rule wisely as queen.’
‘Then let’s dance to that,’ Rose said, holding out her hands. ‘I haven’t danced round a fairy ring in a long time.’
Rose flew back home, content that all would be well. Assuming her human form, she checked Tommy before climbing into her own bed. Robert was still in a trance-like sleep and she clicked her fingers to break the spell. In a couple of hours, Rob would awaken normally. And tomorrow, they would continue to come to terms with their new home in the Scottish Highlands … after she’d made her case to her illustrious mother.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write a flash fiction for FFfAW this week, so I’m posting this story instead – which is from my book A Dash of Flash. At 988 words, it’s much longer that the usual 175 word maximum for the challenge, but still within the limit for flash fiction (i.e. 1000 words). I enjoyed writing it, too, because I love fairy stories.