Chapter 1 of 5
Tuli and the Mirror
One morning Tuli was admiring herself in a small silver-plated mirror with glass gems and rhinestones, when an eye, deep brown with yellow flecks below an eyebrow with prickly brown hairs, peered into the glass, obstructing her view. She immediately turned the mirror over, stood, and swept about to face the giant Brusselbrom. She waved her hands, stamped tiny feet, and shouted up at him. “What are you doing? Go away! You might break the glass!”
Brusselbrom looked sadly at the place Tuli had stood. Why was she always like that? He would have liked to be her friend. They weren’t so different. Just looked different and figured things out differently. She was a little quicker, but it was also okay to take your time and think things through, that’s what Ruluck had taught him, or just be courageous, try, see what happened. He turned and headed glumly back to the wizard. It was only three or four steps with his long legs. Besides, Tuli was wrong about the flowers: Ruluck had taught him an anti-flower-crushing spell for his feet and it worked perfectly! He recited it every morning as he put on his shoes. “Flowers appearing beneath my feet, do not be crushed; remain complete.” A popping and shimmer of light along the soles of his shoes told him the spell was working. “Do not bruise or mutilate” – then a commanding voice on the words “these shoes” and a slight pause, ending softly, “must have a soft light gait.”
Flowers appearing beneath my feet, do not be crushed; remain complete.
Do not bruise or mutilate; these shoes must have a soft light gait.
“Am I really ugly and stupid?” were his first words when he walked into the cave.
“Been hanging out with Tuli, Brusselbrom? I keep telling you fairies can be arrogant and full of themselves, and Tuli more than most.”
“Yes, but am I?”
Ruluck set down the purple liquid he was holding, stood and stretched, then pulled down two glasses, filled them with milk and materialized a plate of cookies, giant and wizard-sized.
“To a fairy you are ugly, but in giantdom, you are quite handsome and good-looking. Everything is a matter of perspective and point of view. You are also much smarter than most giants. Your mother raised you on books, limited though they were, and sent you to me to develop your skills. You look at the world differently from Tuli. She is quick, arrogant and has little patience. You are kind, patient and, compared to Tuli, introspective about the world. You don’t need the answer right away, but are willing to take the time to discover it. The two of you look at the world from different viewpoints. You accept people more quickly but because you are so large it takes time for them to get to know you.”
“If I was smarter, maybe Tuli’d talk with me.”
Ruluck sighed; he knew what it was like to be different. As a boy he had liked experimenting, mixing, and collecting. Many of the kids at school were rowdy and boisterous; he was quiet, reflective. One time, during outdoor activities, he’d been sitting absorbed in a simple potion book. It was a gift from his grandfather. He had laid it across his lap to read, steadying it easily and lightly with one hand. Then it was gone, snatched away, turned into a ball to be tossed and kicked. He had looked on helplessly as his gift sailed through the air. A hand reached out, grabbed it, and handed it to him. “Enough, everyone inside. Free time is over!” As she handed him back the book, his teacher, Miss Pritchert, had turned to him. “You need to introduce them to your world. Maybe share with the class some simple spell or potion. Create an interest and wonder in what you do. It’s as amazing as their feats of strength and agility, only they don’t know this.” Easy enough for you to say, he thought. He knew they would never listen to him. He was quiet, bookish – no muscles, no speed, no strength. What could he do that would interest them? But the idea nagged at him.
One day for a school project Ruluck had brought a glass filled with a multi-colored liquid. He could see interest, even curiosity from his classmates. With his hands hovering above the glass, he pulled up some red, playing with it like a yo-yo, drawing it up and down, until suddenly he flung it to the far side of the room. All heads turned to follow the streak of red. As it sailed away it formed into a star. Ruluck repeated this with the green. Forming two circles rotating around each other, he then asked the class to call out simple geometric shapes, then watch them as they zoomed to different parts of the room. When each color had been pulled Ruluck opened his hands palms up, then as he snapped them closed and pulled his arms down, the shapes rushed together, exploding into a rainbow of color before disappearing. “How’d you do that?” one student asked, while others challenged him, “Do it again!” But there was also a group who asked, “That’s it? That’s your project?” But it was the beginning. Time brought change. He was teased less and he formed, he could happily say, a diverse group of friends.
Brusselbrom had a large generous heart, and was easily saddened when pushed away. Tuli needed to develop kindness; Brusselbrom could use some of her fairy confidence.
“We both had parents that guided us, Brusselbrom. Tuli was born from a flower. She has thought of herself as beautiful and perfect from the day she emerged from its petals. No one was there to help her explore her other qualities, cultivate her, so she rarely thinks of others. Until she met you she spent all of her time with fairies that have similar ideas.” He chuckled to himself. “But Taggart found her, so there is still hope. Just keep being kind and patient. Meanwhile, why don’t we work on fire spells? We’ll go outside. You can do the three you learned and then I will teach you another.”
“Spell one, lighting a fire,” prodded the wizard. Brusselbrom furrowed his brow, pursed his lips, thinking. Snapping his fingers he spoke a few words and flames materialized. Ruluck created a small rain cloud to put out the fire and Brusselbrom had to restart it in the rain.
“Excellent, well done.” Number three required him to build a fire and hide it from prying eyes. “And now I will teach you how to look into a fire to find a path if you are lost.”
Tuli, meanwhile, was perched high in a tree on a branch where the sun cut through the leaves but also provided splashes of shade. She was leaning against the trunk, her legs straight out on the branch, admiring herself. Her short black hair was pulled away from her face, as if the wind had blown it straight back and it had decided to stay there. Which was what had happened. The wind had blown it; Tuli had liked it, then set it with a spell. She had pulled several strands forward and they dangled between her eyebrows past the tip of her nose. She was trying to decide whether to leave them black or make them silver, or white, maybe turquoise. She changed the color, turning the mirror to capture all the angles of her face. Her light mocha complexion was flecked with a soft shimmer and sparkle. It increased her beauty and acted as a protection. “Captured by glimmer unable to move” was a common verse all children knew. Her eyes slanted slightly upward with pupils the yellow of cats’ eyes, her mouth small and pleasingly shaped. When pulled into a smile it set off her cheekbones and her delicately pointed ears. “I am beautiful,” she said for the thousandth time. “This mirror is so fortunate to have come into my possession.” She tilted it a bit and it caught the sun’s rays and Taggart’s attention. He swooped down and as he came closer transformed into true form, that of a dragon. He snatched the mirror from Tuli and took off with it. “Taggart, come back right now,” screamed the fairy. She heard a distant reply: “I believe a book is waiting for you in the wizard’s cave.”
“Why did I ever come to know you?” she shouted at no one in particular. “You don’t understand fairies at all. We were made to be appreciated, and admired, to dance and have fun, to vex and distress humans, not to be constant and not to be educated. You bring back my mirror,” and she stamped her feet and waved her arms, her hands clenched into fists. Well, if she couldn’t have her mirror she wasn’t going to be stuck reading a boring book.
She seated herself with a fairy-sized thump on the branch, her arms crossed on her chest. Taggart could hear her fussing and fuming, and he chuckled to himself and breathed out a bit of flame. After she got through her temper she would go, hoping perhaps for something else along the way to distract her. He was sure Tuli had already worn out the mirror praising her features; it probably needed a rest.
An hour later, Tuli was still seated on the branch fuming. Taggart was an interfering, annoying, horrible beast taking her mirror like that! She only put up with his annoying ways because of the interesting bits of information he taught her. She knew more about humans, now, and how they lived, and she could hide in plain sight without having to blend into nature. Then there were stories – fairies and giants, trolls and gnomes, dwarfs, demons and dragons, and how humans came to push their way among them. He satisfied a part of her that no one else could. Knowing these odds and ends gave her an up in the world. That he could fly raised him in her esteem; that, along with her natural curiosity and the promise she had made, maintained their friendship.
He had told her from the beginning that he would not “just throw knowledge to her like a bone to a dog. You must put what you learn into practice and also read regularly.” She would have been content sitting beside him listening to his resonant voice, the warmth of his dragon body blanketing her, but he told her, “Others also have stories you would like. You must become responsible, you are one of many, and it is time you learned to care about others.” She tried to listen to Taggart, but all she wanted was to hear his stories and add to her collection of spells. Fairies were superior in creation and nothing Taggart had said yet had changed that. Brusselbrom was proof of this belief, for she found him incredibly slow and thick, both in learning and in that he kept trying to become friends with her. The only reason he was in her life was that Taggart and Ruluck were friends. They had met when they were young, and renewed their friendship later in life. Brusselbrom was Ruluck’s student, and the aggravation of her life. No matter what she said or did he persisted in being friendly.
One time when he wanted directions, she had sent him through a place the fairies avoided, a large wood inhabited by trolls, gurags and water spirits who could even annoy a giant, at the least make life a bit unpleasant. She hadn’t sent him in a wrong direction, just a long direction. She followed to see what would happen. He bested the troll after a long fight, avoided the water spirits because giants weren’t much for peering into small bodies of water, and innocently stomped down trees where the gulags lived. After he made it through the woods she had turned and gone back; he would be safe. But when Brusselbrom was not home by nightfall Ruluck came looking for her. She was seated on a book reading the lesson Taggart had assigned.
“You don’t happen to know why Brusselbrom is so late?” She looked up innocently, confused. “Now, why would I take an interest in such a dullard? He’s not worth a fairy’s attention.” But Rulack would not be thrown off. “When was the last time you saw him?” She thought she could answer that truthfully, “This afternoon. He wanted directions.” Ruluck brought his face close and peered at her. She slid back a bit from his large, though not unhandsome face. “And did you help him? Safely send him in the right direction?” Tuli ignored the “safely” and focused on the word “right.” “Of course I sent him in the right direction!” Ruluck picked up the book Tuli was sitting on and she slid towards the center. “Hey, I lost my place!”
“You will lose more than that if you are not honest with me. I will close this book and bind you to its pages,” and he brought the covers together a bit more. “Now, do you think I did not notice you not mentioning whether the direction was safe?” Tuli could see she was trying his patience, so she mustered a confident alluring glow, and for a moment, she saw him smile, and she felt safe enough to respond: “Safe for a giant, not necessarily for a fairy.” The wizard shook his head a bit, shaking off the glamor. What might have happened next is unknown, for Brusselbrom entered the cave, calling, “Ruluck, I have the books and ingredients. I wrestled a Troll and won, and snacked on a sheep I was so hungry, then I fell asleep. Is there any food?”
“There is half of a peach pie and some milk from Thistledown, but you will have to milk her in the morning if you drink it all now.” Ruluck sighed. For Brusselbrom life was an adventure, a game. Most giants pillaged and kidnapped, took what they wanted; Brusselbrom didn’t go looking for trouble, but was ecstatic when he ran into it. He would probably be grateful to Tuli for what she had done. His joy in defeating obstacles made him forget about time. There were dangers and anyone could get waylaid, but Ruluck needed Tuli to think about the consequences of her actions. What if he had needed that book to complete a spell or what if the ingredients had been for a healing potion? He wanted to be sure Tuli thought twice before she played a prank on Brusselbrom again. The book, still partially closed in Ruluck’s hand, kept Tuli immobile. He opened it out, waved his wand, and placed a spell on her he was sure she would not like.
The next day Tuli was mortified when Brusselbrom asked, “What happened to your face, Tuli? It’s fatter, your hair’s like bits of string, and your ears have shrunk.” The worst part was when he complimented her, “Oh, you’re so beautiful!”
She knew better than to complain to Ruluck or Taggart, but she was furious. Brusselbrom returned safely, just a little late, or else Ruluck would never have discovered her trick. She had actually helped him, she reasoned. He needed more practice fighting. He spent too much time learning magic, and pestering her. She hid in the cave for a week putting up with Brusselbrom’s relentless praise of her beauty. She only found peace when she discovered a space perfect for a fairy and inaccessible to a giant.
A butterfly landing on her head, its wings a deep blue with green and yellow ribbons of color, distracted her from these thoughts. Without the mirror she could only imagine its colors complementing her black spikes, which it did beautifully, she decided. A soft wind lifted the butterfly onto the breeze and she watched it disappear.
The beauty of having a butterfly ornament pushed away her anger. She could handle Brusselbrom and she would find some way to get her mirror back. Tuli stood, stretched, changed the color of her hair to a fiery red, and headed for Ruluck’s cave to see what Taggart had left for her to read.
The sky slowly darkened while clouds gathered, blocking the sun. When the wind picked up it sent summer’s leaves tossing and turning. A rumbling, low and intermittent, filled the sky, warning of coming rain. Taggart raised his head to peer out as large drops hit the ground, soon creating a curtain of rain at the entrance to his cave. He liked these days, inside warm and dry, sleeping or perhaps reading, while outside just the pings and thumps of water pouring from the sky. He sighed, releasing steam into the air, before repositioning himself, curling his head so it rested on his legs.
Outside, a tall, bulky shape approached the curtain, paused and hesitated. Without opening his eyes Taggart called, “Come in Brusselbrom,” and the giant entered, leaving puddles as he came. As he shook his massive head sprays of water hit the walls and Taggart. “Stop this instant!” rumbled the dragon, “stop and be still! You are bringing in the rain and dampness. Just stand still. I will dry you.” The dragon sent a contained fire that warmed the cave, drying the rain and absorbing the wet and dampness from Brusselbrom.
“I was just getting ready for a nap, but we could just as well have tea and a snack. You can help. Put some logs under the pot and carefully look and see what you would like with your tea. You should know enough magic to materialize a cup for yourself, and you can pour some for me in that round porcelain bowl.” Brusselbrom soon reappeared with peanut butter, strawberry jam, and a loaf of bread. When the water had boiled Taggart poured in a mixture of fragrant herbs and covered the pot.
Brusselbrom cut the loaf into thirds the long way and slathered on the peanut butter and jam. He looked at his snack, small between his fingers, and asked, “Do you mind if I make another? Taggart nodded and Brusselbrom prepared a second sandwich, still thinking it was too little, but politely not expressing this. Spiced dragon cookies completed the tea and the two sat to enjoy.
“So what brings you out in the rain, Brusselbrom?”
“Gathering plants and herbs; see, I have a list!” He pulled a crumpled paper from his pocket, the ink smeared from the rain, though now dried, unreadable. From his shirt he pulled a sack of herbs. “I remembered to waterproof the sack in case of rain. Ruluck taught me:
“Gather these plants in early morning light
Away from sun, away from the light
Hang them in a cave to dry
Crisp and fragrant store away.
Use them on a sunny day.”
“Well thought out, Brusselbrom, well planned,” complimented the dragon. Brusselbrom smiled, picked up his second sandwich, and popped it into his mouth. He could taste the sweetness of the strawberries and there was just a little feel of stickiness from the peanut butter. Wishing for more, he turned his attention to the cookies.
“I remember when I was a young dragon,” began Taggart,” just beginning my studies and sent by my teacher to find a rare, not easily found plant. I was passing over a garden when I saw a light, a glow really. Landing, I could see it was not the flower I was looking for but a fairy being born. That fairy was Tuli.” Brusselbrom’s eyes widened. “You were there when Tuli was born?”
“I witnessed the opening of the flower petals, pink and translucent. The sun shone through them, placing a glow in the center of the flower where the newborn rested on her side curled up, the petals a blanket to keep her warm. She stirred, stretched, and rolling onto her back, stretched some more, then sat up, blinking into a new world filled with the greenness of spring. Her eyes, a soft violet, were wide and enquiring, her wings made iridescent by the sun shone and shimmered.“
Taggart paused in his story. “Do you know, Brusselbrom, that fairies are born full-size, they do not grow bigger, they are complete at birth?” He nodded his knowledge. “As she stood song burst out around her, sweet, scintillating, glorious. This is how fairies are welcomed into the world. The song reminds them of their beauty, their perfectness, and that they are incomparable. It connects them to nature, giving them playfulness and a free spirit.”
“’Scuse me, Taggart, what is scintillating?”
“It means ‘sparkling, shining, bright.’ It is where their glamour comes from. She was so fresh, so new, so innocent at birth. The song awakens them, bonds them to the group and perpetuates their arrogance.” Taggart saw Brusselbrom’s puzzled look – “thinking you are more important, better than anyone else. This is arrogance.”
“And per pe tu-ates?”
“Per pet u-ates is when you help something continue. Fairies always think they are better than everyone else.”
“Oh, like Tuli’s ideas about me perpetuates how she treats me.”
“Exactly, Brusselbrom, exactly. Perpetuates, a fine word, and one to add to your word collection.”
Taggart continued, “I left as her name was given. Tuli, to match the beauty and specialness of the flower from which she was born; it was a Rose, a Tulitipa Rose. That flower is rare and its magic may be used one time only, by the fairy born from its petals.
“The next time I saw Tuli was many years later.“
Brusselbrom leaned up against the wall and settled into a more comfortable position waiting for Taggart to continue. He nudged him with a question. “So, what happened when you saw her?”
“As you know, dragons have excellent vision. We are hunters and vision combined with speed allows us, for the most part, to eat well. But that day I was not hungry so much as curious. I came to rest on a sturdy oak nearby, in crow form, and was surprised to see Tuli harassing a Vondercoot. If you like,” Taggart said, interrupting the story, “you can go to my library, third shelf, middle section, and pull down a book with the title Lizards and Their Relations.”
Brusselbrom was comfortably into the story, not wanting to interrupt it, so he asked if Taggart minded describing them instead.
“They are a bright orange, but change color depending on the light. It was a somewhat cloudy day, so this lizard was orange with patches of green. They looked as if they were playing a game of tag and Tuli was winning. Vandercoots capture prey by spitting a sticky web that holds their victim in place. Tuli was staying out of its reach, flying left, right, in circles, close, then scooting back, for as you know, it is difficult to tag a fairy. There were sticky webs scattered throughout the grass. However, unknown to Tuli, the lizard mate had joined his partner. They surrounded her easily, pinned her in place with a web, then flicked their tails and left, leaving her stuck. I watched to see what she would do, for she was held fast and no amount of wriggling could free her. After much pulling and tugging she gave up and scanned the sky above, but she was far from her friends and it was unlikely that they would search for her. I waited and watched, then as the sun was setting flew down beside her in true form, as a dragon. She pulled away when she saw me, to no avail of course, but she had nothing to fear.
“‘You seem permanently stuck, Tuli,’ I remarked.”
“‘How do you know my name?’ Surprise, fear and wonder were all voiced in that question.
“‘I can teach you a spell to release yourself from sticky substances. Would you like to learn it?’
“‘And why would you do that?’
“‘Because in return you will become my student.’
“‘That would be long and boring!”’
“‘You would learn to read, to master simple spells. Spend time growing yourself.’ She was startled by the idea of growing because as I have said it is not part of fairy life.
“‘I’ll think about it,’ she replied, arrogantly.
“I settled into a sleep and early the next morning a voice said, ‘Fine, I will learn. Just get me out of here!’“
It was not the attitude I envisioned in a student, but since I had made my choice and Tuli had accepted I did not scold.
“‘We will begin by learning the spell which releases you. With this agreement we are bound until magic blossoms in you and you can take on a student of your own. If you break this agreement or try to run away, you will turn into the flower from which you were born. Do you agree? Just endure and you will see life will blossom.’
“The next day we started: ‘Alesium, feliseum, retondra copretum is the first line.’
“‘How many are there?’ Tuli asked, stalling.
“‘Ten, but they are short. Try it – alesium, feliseum, retondra copretum.’ The sun rose higher, we stopped for lunch, and continued until she memorized and could pronounce the first line.
“As you may already have experienced, Brusselbrom, while it may seem easy to repeat a group of words, they must be said with the right rhythm and emphasis to create the proper effect. They must be memorized. One can’t be lugging notebooks around; spells must become part of you. Some require even specific body movements, a dance, the way you move your hand, or you might need a wand of special wood. This spell relied only on the voice and cadence.
“‘Now that you have the pronunciation,’ I told her, ‘you must learn the cadence. The voice goes down on the a, a long e, and the i in sium is pronounced as a long e; sium goes up in pitch.’
“‘This we did for each word and line, until it was complete and she was ready to try and release herself. For a being used to frivolity memorizing was a chore, but she could only persevere. It was a good way to begin her training, for had she not been glued to the web, she would have never persisted.’
“The first time Tuli tried the entire spell the web held tight. She screamed at it and the spell and accused me of purposely teaching it incorrectly. But on the third try, the web fell away. I caught her as she fell, then delicately blew a light powder to clean her body and wings. For a moment stunned, then jubilant, but trapped too long by a web and lessons, she sped off. It would be easy to find her and we both had worked hard over a ten-line spell, but if she kept it close, no sticky substance could ever bind her again.”
“I always wanted to know more about Tuli,” said Brusselbrom, pleased with Taggart’s story.
“And I am sure she is equally curious about you, but will not ask. In time though, given her curiosity, I am sure she will.”
“Do you mind if I take a short nap before I go?” asked Brusselbrom.
“A fine idea,” said Taggart, “and I think I will join you.”
They both closed their eyes and were soon fast asleep.
Ruluck stretched his legs closer to the fire, which heightened the shine of the black boots he’d so recently polished, and sent off reflections as the flames danced over the thin gleaming metal shards inlaid on his robe. He glanced somewhat lovingly at his latest discovery. Life was filled with possibilities, he thought. It offered opportunities. Something new might be created from curiosity combined with wonder. It might be something you held in your hand, like the shard or an original thought, or even an action.
He had come across the shards while travelling. Attracted by their shapes and shine, he had picked up several. “What are these?” he wondered, intrigued. What might they become? Could he combine them with another of his finds to create something new?
There was a piece lying on his worktable the day he discovered a use for them. A friend had dropped by with her daughter, a cheerful child with wild blond curls and a smudge of dirt on her cheek, named Danaff. Bored listening to adults talk, she went to peer more closely at Ruluck’s worktable. The small hand had reached up for one of the five-inch pieces of shinny metal shards and gone outside to examine it in the sun. When they left she placed it happily in his hand.
The morning had been early for Ruluck, so he sat to rest before returning to his work, the metal still lying in his palm, his fingers wrapped around it. He closed his eyes, and felt his weariness slipping, replaced by slithering wriggling feelings of joy, happiness, and lightness. It was extraordinary. He could feel himself becoming a river of good cheer with renewed energy and enthusiasm. He stood, stretched, and laid the shard on the table to make some hot chocolate.
The feeling, so strong, began to slide away. He looked over at the shard, picked it up, and the energy was there again.
He looked again at the shards on his robe. They had lost their luster. He touched one and felt the warmth it had absorbed from the heat of the fire. He would whisk them into special glass containers for safekeeping and easy identification. They would provide heat in extreme or unexpected conditions. He called them absorbers and, while they could not reproduce material resources like a set of clothes or a meal, they could draw in emotions and effuse or defuse them, like happiness in bleak situations or fear in an enemy, or you could draw wetness into them, providing a light way to transport water. He was still experimenting, but their usefulness was satisfyingly apparent.
He pushed himself out of his chair and bent down, touching the floor first to the right, then middle, then left three times. Then he stretched his arms up towards the ceiling and brought them shoulder length, stretched outward, and did some finger flexes. Taggart chuckled, his deep laugh filling the room. “I see you still exert yourself when you exercise.”
Ruluck smoothed his russet beard, patted his slightly rounded stomach, and then addressed Taggart. “I do the minimum to keep in shape, which I am. That was more lubricating the body, having sat too long. Not everyone has the luxury of flying. You have a built-in mode of exercise.”
The dragon kept his thoughts to himself. Ruluck had always been a bit touchy about his weight, so it was not good to push him too far, but a little push was good for everyone, especially a friend.
That was two days ago. Tomorrow Tuli and Brusselbrom would leave on their first task together, to bring home the Evermore Star. They had agreed on an early start. If they reached the forest before dark, they could begin their search that evening.
The sun was not yet up when Brusselbrom came to start breakfast. Oatmeal was already cooking over the fire, so he placed stewed fruit, jams – blueberry, cherry, boysenberry – on the table and added butter, honey and cheese. Tuli, who was fond of sweets, hovered over the honey, delicately scooping out tastes with her finger.
Brusselbrom decided this might be a good time to again suggest she journey with him, riding in a pocket or on his shoulder; they could be together and it would be faster than if he walked and she flew.
”Why do you keep suggesting the same idea all the time? I have wings.” And she circled the honey before flying over to the cherry jam. “I can fly. I don’t need a ride!”
Ruluck had encouraged Brusselbrom to try appealing to Tuli’s competitive spirit or her fun-loving side. So he responded, “Don’t think of it as a ride from me, but the quickest way to reach our destination and finish our task. We might even be able to get back here in one day! Imagine that, Tuli. One day!”
“Right, and imagine what my friends would say if they saw me being carried by a giant. I’d never hear the end of it. No. I fly; you walk.”
“But Tuli, I can cover more distance. You have wings. I have long legs that take giant steps. We could use that advantage to get to the forest before anyone else. We might not be the only ones searching for the Evermore Star.
“It’s not a rush job, Brusselbrom. We have plenty of time; we can take a little while.”
“But I will have to wait for you!”
Rarely did Brusselbrom lose his temper, but Taggart and Ruluck saw his face turning red and his good nature ebbing. They had agreed not to interfere, to let their students work through their difficulties in their own way.
“I’m going to pack a few things,” said the giant, and left the room.
“But you haven’t eaten your breakfast,” exclaimed Tuli, dipping into the jam. “It’s a long walk.”
“And a longer wait,” mumbled Brusselbrom to himself. “I’ll eat after I pack.”
“I should probably start, so let’s meet at the river,” Tuli decided.
“It’s a long river; where exactly and what time?” grumbled the giant.
“I’ll find you. You’re big and the river is not so long. We can meet for lunch.” Then Tuli flew off.
Brusselbrom went to his room, snatching his leather satchel from a hook on the wall. Inside were different sized pockets and in these he placed herbs for tea, matches, a knife, string, rope, some water shards and, in a long side pocket, a bottle of water. In the topmost lengthwise pocket he tucked a dark blue handkerchief with stars. On this he splashed some oil. It smelled like summer breezes, earth thawing after winter, and the bell-shaped flowers that bloomed first in summer. Ruluck had told him this would help the Evermore Star feel comfortable on their journey home. He threw the oil into a pocket, adding bottles of lavender and mint, one for calming and injuries and the other for its medicinal purposes. He still couldn’t believe that he, a giant, was carrying herbs and oils; it was the only part of his training he really disliked, but Ruluck was insistent he learn at least some healing properties of plants. So he stuffed these in his bag. Lavender was calming and it could be used to clean cuts, or soothe bruises and skin
irritations. The mint Ruluck had suggested he put in his drinking water or make as tea. He dropped into the bag a thin book of spells they had been working on. Took some coins and stuffed them inside another pocket, and before leaving added bread, cheese, crystallized honey,nuts, dried meat, and fruit to the satchel. A bedroll, with his cloak wrapped inside, and his favorite cap, and he was ready to go.
* * *
When he reached the river, Brusselbrom decided it was probably another hour or so till noon, but his stomach felt ready to eat. He hoped Tuli would be on time. She couldn’t fly as fast as he could walk, but she might catch a lift with one of the birds, a dragonfly, or a small dragon. She wasn’t without resources, but he couldn’t help but feel that if she had agreed to his plan, they would have reached Wenwer Forest by late afternoon, rested, ready for their evening task.
The river was nearby and a few fish, with toasted bread, a bit of honey, and nuts and berries, would fill a small part of that hunger. He found a long thin branch, attached the string and a hook he always kept in his traveling bag, and headed there. But instead of water tumbling over rocks, dragging along with it bits of twigs and leaves, the bed was dry, with small pools of water here and there. Birds with long thin legs were fishing in these shallow areas for frogs and insects.
Brusselbrom knew this river started as small streams that came down from the hills curving through trees and vegetation until they poured into the larger body of water. Curious, he started walking, following the damp earth up into the hills and forest. He stopped when he came to a rock wall. A sign proclaimed “No One Beyond This Point – Private Property! This Means You!”
Now giants have little fear of signs with instructions about what to do and what not to do. But Ruluck had patiently and over time instructed Brusselbrom in thinking through a situation and not just knocking down anything in his way then barging forward to take what he wanted, so Brusselbrom gazed at the wall for a time, fighting the temptation to just knock a hole in it and continue. He put to use what had been repeatedly drilled into his head. Look and see what you can figure out about a situation before barging forward. What might he conclude about this wall and sign? No one but a giant or some other enormous being of strength could break through the wall, and the length and height of the wall would discourage most from going forward. The wall had been well built. The rocks fitted together, so it was strong and sturdy. And he guessed that probably, further up the hill, the streams that ran down had been blocked.
It would be so easy to bust this wall apart to see if he was correct. Instead, to remove that temptation, he chose a comfortable tree, leaned into it, and pulled out an apple to appease his hunger. He could hear his stomach growling and feel his head popping with questions. If you were inside his mind this is what you would hear. “Why would someone trap the water? Is there one strong like me or several combined strengths that built this wall and dammed the river? Why hasn’t anyone in the forest tried to stop them?”
“These are all good questions and I believe I have some answers. Would you be interested in hearing them?”
Brusselbrom sat straight up and looked around. “Who’s there?” he demanded.
A figure of sticks and leaves, with acorn eyes, and a mouth and nose from twisted vines, stood tall beside a tree, a six-foot walking stick in his hand.
“Would you help a damsel in distress?”
Brusselbrom hesitated. He was remembering Ruluck telling him, think before you agree to a situation. Consider the consequences. “Depends on the situation,” he finally responded. “All I really wanted was some fish.”
“An honest reply was the response.” The figure moved closer.
“Who are you?” demanded Brusselbrom again, and “Who’s in distress?”
“The spirit of the river, whose beauty is beyond beautiful, created me. She is kind and benevolent and clever, with a playful spirit.”
“By playful you mean she tries to make people look into her eyes. She tests their resolve. Is it safe to look? Will I be drowned? Will she fall in love with me?”
“She likes a little fun, but would never drown or harm anyone, but yes, she is irresistible because of her beauty, and from time to time she likes to be reminded of this.
“A woodsman looked directly at her, and fell in love. In his anguish and her refusal to leave her river and be his wife, he built the wall you were looking at, dammed the river, and then trapped her as the river dried up. He created a pool at the top of the hill for her. Everyone is suffering from his actions, the creatures who live in the water, the people who use it, even the woman he says he loves.”
Brusselbrom was silent before asking, “So what can I do? He is not evil, just in love. He should have known to never look into the eyes of a water nymph, and she should not have teased him. If I break down the wall and release the river he will just build it again and his anger will also grow, or the lady might seek revenge.”
“But everyone depends on the generosity of the water spirit. Is it right that one person should keep her for himself?”
“This question I do not have an answer nor a solution for right now, but I will think about it,” Brusselbrom responded. “I need to complete another task first. I’m sorry for your loss,” he added, for Ruluck had told him when he could it was a kindness to say something uplifting. Then he added, “It is my loss as well, for now there is bread but no fish,” and with that, Brusselbrom started down the hill to wait in the open so Tuli could find him.
When Brusselbrom and Tuli reached Wentwer Forest the sun was only a soft wash over the land. There would be time to rest and eat before beginning their search. “No fires in Wentwer,” Taggart had admonished them. “They are forbidden; absolutely not allowed.” He had looked directly at Tuli. “I have my own light, why would I use fire?” she huffed. But she could see her reflection in his eyes, and he held her gaze until she looked away.
Because of this warning, when they arrived they set up camp a few feet from their destination under a large oak. Inside the forest, tall trees crowded together obscuring the light, leaving only small splashes of sun that night would soon dissolve.
Ruluck had provided them with a couple of experimental shards that gave off the light of fire without its heat. “I don’t know how long these will last as these elements are used to working together, so save them until you actually find the tree with the star, for as you know there is no light inside a tree. Tuli’s soft glow along with the shards should allow you to search for the star. Remember, the higher the tree the more the possibility. Do not scare her, you must coax her, win her trust or she will seal her magic away.”
“Remember to work together,” added Ruluck.
“Tonight you are a team with a purpose above individual wants and desires,” Taggart reminded them.
Brusselbrom laid down a small pile of branches he had gathered for a fire. “Just think, Tuli,” he said, turning to her, “on this one night every hundred years, the moon drops to earth lighting the darkness, helping our search for an Evermore Star. We have until the sun rises to find her. Should we search together or separate and search?”
This question kept them busy for a long time, through preparing their meal, eating, and even later, in their heads, as they were resting. There were long arguments, red faces, the stomping of feet, and exclamations made with hands on hips, wrinkled brows and pursed lips. In the end, as the moon began its descent, they agreed to look separately but stay close, so they could still call out to each other if they found the star or needed help. Later, they would always remember this as their first compromise, where they each won the argument.
The night wind picked up and Brusselbrom pulled his cloak out and put a shrinking spell on it before stuffing it into his leather sack and flinging that over his shoulder. He pulled out the night sky handkerchief and sprinkled another drop of oil on it. The fragrance wrapped around a breeze and Tuli exclaimed, “What is that? It smells wonderful.” “Ruluck gave it to me after I left home and I thought the Evermore Star might like it, too. It brings memories of love, and favorite times, restfulness during change. I made a space for her in my bag and this cloth will hide the light and perhaps the stars will remind her of home. I wanted her to be comfortable.”
Tuli didn’t say anything, but she recognized the act as a kindness to one who used space, air as home, just as she used wings within that space.
As they stepped into the forest they were surrounded by night bathed in light by the moon; above their heads stars crowded the sky. They each felt the specialness of this night. The Evermore had left her home to come down to earth. Maybe even to come home with them.
They had drawn a map divided into four sections, and those sections into paths of movement. When they entered the first area they would start from the back and work forward to the center; in the second quadrant, they would start from the center and work out, and so forth, until they had checked each tree. Tuli had height, Brusselbrom strength, if needed, and large gentle hands to cup and gently hold the star. She would most likely be in a hole close to the uppermost branches, but she could also be closer to earth.
As the hours passed and they checked each tree, night became cooler and Brusselbrom pulled out his cloak. Tuli was ahead. He could barely see her light, but stopped to again look up at a rather tall tree. There seemed to be a hole near the top, but he wasn’t certain. A voice interrupted his wondering. “I wouldn’t bother if I were you, I already looked there.” Brusselbrom turned, and at his feet was a large grey squirrel. He wore a cap with two small ear holes that was turned backwards on his head and a yellow scarf ’round his neck. “Oh, are you also looking for the Evermore Star?” Brusselbrom asked.
“Why else would anyone miss a night’s sleep? Name’s Chatter. I’ve been up and down almost every tree. Hard, tiring work. I’ll save you some time; she’s definitely not up this tree. It was a long climb for nothing.”
“’Preciate that Mr. Chatter.”
“Chatter’s fine. Not formal. Happy to help. Good luck with your search.”
“Nice to meet you, and thanks for the information,” and they moved away from each other, Chatter heading for the next tree.
Tuli was out of sight and Brusselbrom didn’t want to lose her. He reduced the size of his steps, looking back and forth and up and down among the trees, when something light landed on his shoulder. He raised his hand to brush it away and heard Tuli whisper in his ear, “Whom were you talking to?”
“Yes, it’s me. Whom were you speaking with?”
“Chatter, a squirrel, looking for the Evermore Star.”
What did he say to you?”
“Not much. I was looking up at the tree I was standing under, seemed to have a hole near the very top. I was just going to get you when Chatter told me he’d already been up that tree and there was no hole. Nice of him, don’t you think?”
“So he was also looking for the Evermore Star?” asked Tuli very slowly and precisely.
“Yes, of course,” replied Brusselbrom.
“And was he wearing a cap turned backwards on his head?”
“Brusselbrom! That innocent looking squirrel is clever and quick. He would most likely fool rather than help. We need to go back to that tree immediately! Was his brother Chitter with him?”
“Chitter, Chatter, nice names. Good ones for squirrels,” remarked Brusselbrom.
“Is that all you can say! Take me to that tree right now,” demanded Tuli. They probably lured you away from the tree deliberately. We need to find out.” She wanted to say he was far too trusting and friendly, but Taggart had been lecturing her about the virtues of these qualities, so she put aside her annoyance. Still, she was anxious that time was running out and that Brusselbrom may have been fooled.
“See, up there,” he pointed when they reached the tree. “It kind of looks like a hole.”
“It definitely is a hole!” Without another word Tuli started flying upwards.
Brusselbrom could see her faint light getting dimmer as she rose. When she reached the hole, Tuli stopped to listen to a conversation inside.
“I say we just snatch her and run.”
“We can’t do that, you nutter cake, she would lose all her magic. We have time. We just need patience and we need to convince her to come with us.”
“That could take forever.”
“We don’t have forever, only a few more hours.”
“Well, I’m hungry, and we’re not gonna find food sitting in the hallow of this tree. All that racing up and down! My stomach is empty.”
Tuli had heard enough, and she hurried back to Brusselbrom.
“Chatter and Chitter are in the tree and so is the Star. We need to save her! I’m sure those two are up to some mischief.”
“How can we do that, Tuli?”
“Let me think. What are our resources? You’re strong and a good fighter. Not helpful, unless you could go up the tree or we could get them down.”
“I also know several fire spells,” Brusselbrom offered.
Tuli gave him a look that said, “What are you thinking?”
So he quickly added, “But we can’t use them even though they’re a resource. I know a reducing spell as well, and I have good hearing.”
“And poor eyesight,” Tuli wanted to add, but didn’t. “That might be useful,” she said instead. “Taggart has me reading most of the time, so I have lots of useless information, but I can unstick anything stuck to something sticky. I can also fly, have my own light, and I am fun and mischievous,” she added with a bit of pride. “Oh, they also don’t know I’m here. They think you came alone.”
“Now, what do we know about Chitter and Chatter?”
Brusselbrom began, “They’re squirrels, so they’re playful, eat nuts and fruits and – .” But Tuli interrupted, “And Chitter just said he was hungry. Are you carrying any food a squirrel would like?”
“Well, I have nuts, and fruit, bread and honey.”
“I have an idea! You can lure them out of the hole with the promise of food, I can see if the star will come to me. We’ll dip the nuts in the honey, which is sticky. I’ll say the spell over the nuts, and Chitter and Chatter will be stuck; they won’t be able to shake the nuts off their paws, so they won’t be able to climb!”
“And once they’re stuck, I can stand by the tree in case you need help,” Brusselbrom added.
Tuli’s final words to him before she left were “Remember to talk loudly about what you’re eating and how delicious it is; that should bring them out.”
He made himself comfortable against a large oak, a small pile of sticky nuts next to him. Tuli flew to the hole, and from there she could clearly hear Brusselbrom, “I’m starving. Ah, nuts. Salty, sweet, just the thing! These are so delicious. Just what I needed.”
Up in the tree the two squirrels heard his words and Chitter announced, “I’m getting some of those nuts; are you coming?”
“You go. Someone should stay.”
“She’s not going anywhere, and no one knows she’s here.”
“I don’t care. She’s an investment, and I’m staying.”
Outside, Tuli was thinking, “Why does one of them have to have more sense than the other?”
She was used to being bold. She wasn’t afraid or hesitant. She was used to trickery.
As soon as Chitter left, Tuli boldly circled the tree, pretended to examine it, then finding the hole she landed lightly inside, giving a soft glow to the dark. She had tucked a shard inside a small cloth pouch attached to a belt she had around her waist. She didn’t see Chatter but knew he was hiding in the darkness. Below her on the ground Brusselbrom and Chitter were talking about food and hunger. She crooned softly, “Evermore, Evermore, star of hope and brilliant light. You are strong, and you are bright. Won’t you come with me tonight?”
But before the star could answer, Chatter sprang out of hiding. “She’s ours! We found her; you can’t have her.”
“I think that’s her decision,” replied Tuli, calmly. “She chooses, not you. If forced she shuts off her magic.”
“Well, we found her and that is half the quest. We were diligent and thorough. You have just arrived!”
They could hear angry cries below, and Brusselbrom shouting, “Tuli, I’m here.”
“You and that giant are together? Wait until I tell everyone you worked with that huge easily tricked oaf. What will they think?”
Nothing good, she was sure, but they almost had the star, and no squirrel was going to intimidate or frighten her.
“Say what you want, the decision is the star’s, and if she does not want you there is nothing you can do.”
“Maybe she won’t want you either.”
“Shall we find out?” challenged Tuli.
Tuli pulled out the shard, which lit the floor and the walls of the tree, and she called again. “Evermore, Evermore, star of hope and brilliant light. You are strong and you are bright. Won’t you come with me tonight?”
Tucked as far into the tree as possible, inside a tiny space, a faint blue glow appeared. Tuli went, held out her hand, and the star floated into her arms. She carried her to the center. Then she asked, “Evermore, will you come with me or Chatter?” The star snuggled close to Tuli. “Well, I think we have our answer,” said Tuli. “She doesn’t want to come with you.” Going to the opening in the tree where outside night was fading and the moon receding, she asked the star, “Can you float down on your own and Brusselbrom will catch you in his large comfortable hands? He has made a special place for you to rest until we reach home. Are you ready?” The star floated down lightly on the evening breeze. “Oh, hello little star,” whispered Brusselbrom when it rested in his hands, “I’m so happy to see you.”
Tuli prepared to follow, but Chatter was angry. He had needed the Evermore Star. He had made a promise and, more important, his reward was enough acorns to see them through the winter. “I will remember this night, Tuli, and so will your friends.” But Tuli ignored him. What could she do? They had the star and the world seemed perfect.
Before leaving, Tuli removed the spell from Chitter and the pile of nuts lying on the ground. Chitter and Chatter were clever, and she loved a challenge and their playful ways. She would miss the fun they had together. She was sure they would remember this night for a long time, and how the star had not gone with them.
Brusselbrom and Tuli crossed the river again on their return, still dry, reminding Brusselbrom of his promise. First, though, they had to take the Evermore Star home. Maybe Ruluck and Taggart and Tuli would have some advice on returning the water spirit to her home and restoring peace on the river.
When they reached home Brusselbrom removed the scented cover from the Evermore Star, and softly whispered, “Come little blue star, we are home. Outside is the night sky full of stars, and inside it is warm and comfortable.” She had floated to the edge of the sack and peeked out. Ruluck held out his hand and she floated onto it. “Do you think she’s hungry,” Tuli asked. “What do stars eat?”
“Light,” replied Taggart. “Moonlight and starlight, in time, light that sparkles off running streams of water, or shimmers off raindrops. White light, or in the case of the moon, a glowing yellow.”
“We don’t have any of that,” Tuli declared, worried for the small blue star.
“Do not worry,” Ruluck responded. “We have plenty for now. The stars and the moon fairies gather it, and Taggart has been transporting it. She will be fine. We will teach you how to feed the Evermore Star. You will also need to slowly get her used to daylight, fire light, and candle light. For now, she will probably be more comfortable in darker, rather than lighter spaces. Both you and Brusselbrom will share these responsibilities in addition to teaching her about living on land. You might also tell her stories and play games with her. One of you should keep her near when she sleeps, so she feels safe. ”
“Can we invite friends over to see her?” asked Tuli.
“In time, but not right away. She needs to feel comfortable first.”
“Why’s she so special?” Brusselbrom wanted to know.
“Yes, what can she do?” asked Tuli. “I mean, she’s beautiful, but why did we go looking for her?”
“Well, one thing you have noticed about her is she’s beautiful. You might ask yourself, what makes her beautiful, and as you spend time with her and watch her, you will learn what she can do. But this much I will tell you,” said Ruluck, “she is a beacon of hope. Her light is pure and strong, and our responsibility is to care for and protect her, and watch and learn from her.”
“What can we learn from a star?” they both asked. “She’s just a blue glow.”
Taggart’s low rumble of laughter made them turn to look at him. “Tuli, you are small, but I learn from you all the time. I learn from your stubbornness and your mischievousness, and your kindness.”
“And that information can be useful,” added Brusselbrom, “like when Ruluck told me not to argue with Tuli about riding in my pocket, to instead appeal to her desire to win and be first.”
The low rumble of laughter turned deep and full and Ruluck joined in, so the sound filled the cave.
“But it didn’t work, she’s so stubborn!”
Tuli was not amused. You only had to look at her face, for no one could hear her because of the laughter.
When it had settled, Taggart, responded to Brusselbrom. “Yes, something like that. Did you learn anything, though?”
“Yes, even Ruluck’s ideas do not always work,” said Brusselbrom, in annoyance.
“Well, you might try them again,” said Taggart, “but now the crow has flown, as they say, and Tuli will be watching you.”
And with that, everyone trucked off to bed and sleep. The Evermore Star made herself comfortable on the bend in Taggart’s leg, and Ruluck covered her with the blanket she had travelled with. “She must like the black and gold of your scales,” he whispered in Taggart’s ear, as he blew out candles and headed for a night’s sleep.
* * *
Several nights later, the group of five sat looking up at the star-covered sky, Tuli seated on a tree branch, Brusselbrom leaning against a large rock, Taggart sitting with his head held high and the Evermore Star perched on top, and Ruluck stretched out on a blanket staring up at the sky.
“There are so many stars glittering and twinkling. Too many to even count,” sighed Brusselbrom.
“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” said Ruluck. “When I was young I used to sit with my parents and we would try to count stars, but we could never finish.”
“Taggart,” said Tuli, flying down from her branch and sitting next to the Evermore Star. “I was thinking that Evermore is what she is. There have been many Evermores, but she should have a name. Can we name her?” Tuli asked.
“What do you think, Ruluck, Brusselbrom?”
“It’s a fine idea, and would simplify life,” responded Ruluck, sitting up.
“I agree,” said Brusselbrom, nodding his head, “but what should we name her, and how will she know it’s her name?”
“We can ask her if she likes it,” answered Tuli after some reflection. “I thought the name Alina would be nice. Do you think she would like it?”
“What if we changed the A to an E, and we would have Elina? Shining bright, light one, one who is wise and intelligent,” suggested Taggart.
“It seems a lot for such a small star.”
“She could grow into it,” Ruluck reminded them.
“Elina, star of hope. It’s a lot of responsibility. But it does describe how she was born, with light and shining bright. When she likes something she glows brightly. To fairies, qualities are important in a name.”
“Well, why not follow your idea, and ask her?”
“Do you like the name Elina, Evermore?” The star moved closer to Tuli, and her blueness glowed brighter.
“Elina,” they all agreed. “Elina, star of hope.”
* * *
When Ruluck entered the kitchen the next morning, Brusselbrom was already finishing a large bowl of oatmeal, stuffed with raisins, dates, almonds, sliced apples and covered in maple syrup and milk. As Ruluck sat down with a mug of tea and waited for his bread to toast, Brusselbrom put down his spoon. The expression on his face was serious for someone usually so lighthearted.
“Ruluck,” he began, “I made a promise, but I need help figuring out what to do,” and with that he began to tell him the story of the river spirit. He was just at the part where the woodsman trapped her in a pool, which dried up the river creating problems for the creatures that lived in it, and the people and animals that used it, when Taggart flew in carrying Elina and Tuli. Brusselbrom waited for them to land, for Ruluck to summarize, then he continued.
“I promised the helper of the river spirit to look for a solution.”
A Rainy Day and a Story
The Light of Wentwer Forest
Discoveries, a Name, a Solution
“That woodsman was foolish,” said Tuli with scorn. “Even a child knows not to look into the eyes of a river spirit. She was just having fun. No harm. What a silly, stupid human he is.”
“Even if he was tricked, he still felt he was in love,” replied Brusselbrom.
“Well, if he was in love with her, why did he trap her?” responded Tuli, “and how could she possibly be his wife? He lives on land; she lives in the water. “
“All good points,” interrupted Ruluck before Brusselbrom could respond. “However, the question is, how can he help fix the situation?”
Tuli was prepared with an answer. “We could break down the wall. Free the water spirit and the river. And you could make the woodsman fall in love with someone else.”
“So you want us to put a spell on the woodsman, like the water spirit did, so he has the same experience again but with a different person. Is that correct, Tuli?” asked Taggart.
She sat with a thump on the back of the chair she had been perched on. “Well, yes, and no. Breaking the wall was a good beginning; give me a minute to think about the rest.”
Ruluck stood, adjusted the dark red robes he was wearing, and looked at both Tuli and Brusselbrom. “There will be no smashing, and no magic. We need to find a way to restore good will and move the situation forward.”
“What if he only trapped her because he was angry? He could apologize.”
“What good is that?” asked Tuli. “He trapped her and closed her away from her river. She is also probably angry.”
Taggart yawned, stretched, and stood. “We could discuss all day. What we need is to investigate the situation to see what is happening now. You and Brusselbrom have ideas, but we need to know if anything has changed since Brusselbrom offered his help. Shall we see if together we can fix this situation by looking at present circumstances?”
Excellent idea, Taggart, we’ll leave tomorrow!” announced Ruluck.
And that is just exactly what they did.