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(I do know that instalments of novels, whether completed or – as in this case – in progress, are not usally popular posts. However, I have decided to continue this series because it is a useful way of relooking at the segments. Also, such comments as do appear, even if very few, are often invaluable. At the stage of this excerpt the novel is still largely engaged in scene-setting, but more actual action does commence fairly soon.)
CHAPTER 6 – A Walking Tour, Under, and Over.
(For links to previous segments see sidebar.)
Terrible things are happening in Rhino Valley, where Dengani comes across local farmers killed by leopards, and the women of the village are all taken by crocodiles. He and his family leave. Dengani’s friend Hugh arrives in time to save local beekeepers from their own bees and discovers that the ‘fairies’ he has always seen are real. Back home, he stops taking meds prescribed for his ‘hallucinations’. It turns out that Tyrentia, the objectionable daughter of a woman Hugh’s father hopes to marry, can also see the fairies, and the two of them are summonsed through a ‘bubble’ wall into Breena – ‘fairyland’. Their guides, Felin and Avinia, test to see if they can go back to their own world or go ‘Between’, and then take them on a journey to familiarise them with the Rings before they are to have a meeting with the Queen of Queens. They spend the night in a treetop Inn.
Breakfast featured scrambled egg. Apparently only one egg had been needed to feed everyone and leave something over as a basis for lunch and supper. Most creatures and plants in Glim did not seem to be scaled down from the sizes the two visitors were accustomed to. They had noticed, though, that tiny plant varieties were favoured for cultivation in village gardens.
They got a chance to see these more closely quite soon. When they set out, Felin said, ‘The Queen wanted us to walk for a while, so that you can get a feel for Glim at ground level. Also, it will give us a better chance to tell you more. Talking isn’t quite as easy while flying, as you will have noticed.’
‘That is ridiculous,’ Tyrentia protested petulantly. ‘If one can fly, why walk?’ Three sets of dirty looks seemed to have got through to her, though, and she said no more but followed with a scowl.
‘Something I’ve been wondering about,’ Hugh said as they set off along a wide lane which would hardly even have been a path back at home, ‘is why I haven’t noticed any of the shiny black sort of fairies – I’ve been calling them Shades – since we got here?’
‘Yes, the Darxen you mean; the Darxen,’ Avinia answered. ‘There are usually quite a few here. Their home is Darx Circle, though. We’ve been seeing fewer of them lately; of them lately. Not sure why.’
‘Darx is one big Magic Circle, with a king,’ Felin added to this, ‘whereas our Rings are divided into many far smaller ones and we have queens for each. Their folk are not too fond of our kind of light. Although they do appear quite often in our daylight time, they prefer night or at least not having actual sunlight.’
Tyrentia was hardly listening. ‘Why do we scuttle along like **… – er, I mean – like stupid beetles?’ she asked, and then gave a slightly guilty glance at Hugh for her near-lapse.
Hugh could see what she meant. A walk, for fairies, seemed to have a far more steps in it than for humans; in fact, quite a good number per second. Being so much shorter, the legs didn’t have nearly as far to go, so they got there a lot more quickly. Then the next leg had to take over briskly to prevent toppling forward onto one’s nose. ‘You two seem to take fewer steps than we do?’ he observed.
Felin turned round to look at him. ‘Ah,’ he said. You are holding your wings in a way that actually slows you down. Angle them more – like this – and they give some lift when you move forward, so that you travel further with each step.’
When Tyrentia tried it, she moved too quickly and actually started gliding in short bursts. The two fairies seemed to regard this as highly amusing. Being laughed at was obviously not something she enjoyed. Her expression somehow managed to become even more sour than before, which was quite a feat.
Hugh’s mind still kept tying itself up on what Felin had told them about reality. ‘That means natural laws of resistance and aerodynamics and stuff apply here?’ he said. ‘I thought everything we’re seeing isn’t as it really is?’
Felin nodded. ‘The different reality here doesn’t work exactly the same way, but close enough for you to cope with everything that is really happening if you carry on sensing everything based on your own one.’ Hugh grappled with that for a while, and then decided to think of other things before he developed a bad headache.
They soon realised why it had seemed a good idea for them to do some travel on the ground. From the air, size differences were not as apparent, and it became clear that such differences were the quickest way of telling the various kinds of fairy folk apart. A visit to a village of elves, for example showed that these were about twice their own present sizes, or about knee-high to a human. Pixies, on the other hand, were a good deal smaller than they were.
The elves seemed to have even pointier features than the ones their own fairy forms had now assumed, and the elf ears gave an appearance which corresponded rather well with all the traditional reports of how they looked. They seemed particularly industrious, and every one of them seemed to be making something, or tending something, or cleaning and polishing something.
As with all the villages they were to come across, there seemed to be every effort to use growing things as houses, or to disrupt the ground as little as possible when building with stone or adapting fallen tree trunks. Many were built into hillsides using caves as part of the homes.
Each set of inhabitants looked at them curiously, waved, called out friendly greetings, and seemed to want to talk to them, but every time Felin and Avinia would wave back smiling, but would also make ‘shoo-ing’ gestures. These were respected good-naturedly. ‘Pity we can’t chat; cant chat.’ Avinia explained. ‘We really don’t have enough time.’
A number of the pixies in the first of their villages they walked through were also engaged in work of some kind, but a far greater proportion seemed to be playing various games, and having fun generally.
Not far after passing through that village, they entered another similar one. ‘Oh, more pixies,’ Hugh observed brightly.
Avinia looked at him dimly. ‘These are nixies. Can’t you tell the difference?’
‘No,’ said Hugh. ‘I thought they were the same thing, anyway.’
‘They certainly aren’t. To start with …’ she began, but Tyrentia cut in.
‘Who cares?’ she snapped. ‘What does it matter whether we can tell the difference between stupid pixies and nixies or not?’
Felin pounced on her. At least, the way he was suddenly right in front of her made it seem so. ‘I’m sure you can find your way back to where you came into the Ring,’ he said in a cat-like growl. ‘Ask for directions if you can’t. I’ve had doubts about you from the start. It’s quite clear that you aren’t really interested in helping us, and that you won’t be of much use anyway. You may as well leave, now.’
Tyrentia had a face which couldn’t really go any whiter than it already was, but it seemed that shock had the effect of making hers go red. Also, her eyes widened, and she gaped. She took a deep breath, and Hugh braced himself for the explosion.
Then she let most of it out again, and said in a small voice, ‘I don’t want to go back. I want to keep on with you.’ On its own, this wasn’t much of an apology or argument, but what probably decided Felin in her favour was that a few tears came to her eyes which she brushed away angrily. He gave a brief nod, and they set off again.
© Colonialist November 2013 (WordPress)