The Ursa Fairies and the Lost Children
"Are we going the right way, Aimee?"
"Do you really think the King will help us?"
"How far is it to Charis? Are we almost there?"
Sixteen-year-old Aimee sighed as the children huddled around her. She shifted baby Kailyn in her carrying cloth as she studied the anxious faces looking up at her. Several children yawned and rubbed their eyes.
"My legs are so tired," one little girl whimpered.
"I think we will have to rest here for now," Aimee said gently. She found a place to rest at the base of a large tree. "Sit close together and Iíll share my cloak. Now, close your eyes and rest for a little while. Iíll keep watch."
"Will the slavers find us?" a little boy asked. "Will they take us back to the market?"
Aimee shook her head fiercely. "No. I will make sure that none of you have to return to Adeba ever again."
Satisfied by her answer, the children settled down and were soon asleep. Aimee leaned her head back against the tree trunk as she stared up through the leaves at the midafternoon sky. "Please, King Arnon. We need your help," she whispered. "Iím confused and I donít know how to get through this forest. The slavers will take us back to be sold if they catch us. Please send us help."
Aimee tried to keep her eyes open, to watch as she had promised, but eventually her exhaustion took over and she slept.
Abyn stood before a small semi-circle of Ursa fairies. His students were watching carefully as he demonstrated the making of rafa, an ointment used for soothing burns and cuts. Abyn stirred the contents of the small earthen pot hanging over the fire.
"When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, it is time to carefully add in the jewelweed powder," Abyn told his students. As he spoke, he tipped the small bowl he held in his paw, pouring out a golden powder.
A young Ursa fairy near the center of the group stood on her tiptoes to see what was happening. As she strained to get a better view, she noticed a warm glow near Abynís left side. "Abyn," she cried, "youíre on fire!"
"Heís not on fire, Merette," another Ursa fairy said. "The magic mirror is glowing."
"King Arnon must have a message for us," Abyn said. "Someone in Kyr needs our help."
Carefully, Abyn opened the woven pouch he carried at his side, which was pulsating with a shimmering golden light. He pulled out the mirror and studied it curiously. The mirror had been a gift to the Ursa fairies from King Arnon. It would show them anyone in the kingdom of Kyr who was in need. By helping those in need, the Ursa fairies would be fulfilling their promise to serve the King.
The face of King Arnon appeared in the glass. "Abyn," the King said. "A band of travelers has lost its way in the forest of Anashim. Go to them and keep watch over them until I come."
"Should we bring them to our valley?" Abyn asked.
"They are weary from their long journey and are too tired to travel any further," King Arnon answered. "I am sending horses so the travelers can ride to my palace. You must tell them to wait where they are."
"How long will it be until you come for them?" Abyn asked.
"I will come soon, although it may seem that the waiting is long. But, take courage! I will give you two gifts to refresh the weary travelers."
The image in the mirror rippled as if a stone had been tossed into a pool. Abyn saw a dark seed with a streak of gold in the center.
"Reach into the mirror and take the seed," King Arnon said.
"Reach into the mirror?" Merette asked. "How can you do that?"
Abyn obediently reached for the seed. He expected to feel his paw touch the polished surface of the mirror. Instead, he felt the glass give way as he pushed against it, as if it was made of smooth, clear honey. He reached in and pulled out the unusual-looking seed.
"What is this?" he asked as he studied it carefully.
"It is a saba seed," King Arnon said. "Plant it in the clearing where the travelers are resting. It will provide them with food and drink until I come for them."
Once again the image in the mirror rippled. Now a ruby-red gem in the shape of a teardrop could be seen.
"Take the haima stone," King Arnon instructed. "Give it to the girl named Aimee. It will provide protection for the travelers until I come."
Abyn reached into the mirror. He pulled out the gem, which flittered in the sunlight.
"Now I will show you the travelers. Send two Ursa fairies to them. One will carry the saba seed and one will carry the haima stone."
The scene in the mirror changed once again. A low murmur of pity and concern swept through the group of Ursa fairies.
"They look so tired," one Ursa fairy said.
"Some of them are little more than babies," said another.
"Where did they come from?" Merette asked.
"They have traveled far," King Arnon said. "They have come from the city of Adeba. It is just outside the kingdom of Kyr, in the wilderness of Katara. In that country, children who lose their parents are caught and sold as slaves."
"Thatís terrible!" Merette cried. "If an Ursa fairy loses her parents, she is adopted by another family. No Ursa fairy child is left without a family to care for them."
"That is a wise practice," King Arnon said. "But in Katara, it is not so. These travelers are fearful because they have been hunted by slavers who wish to capture them and drag them back to Adeba. They are weary and in need of comfort and encouragement. Who will go to them?"
Merette raised her paw eagerly. "I will!" she cried. "I will bring my flute and play music to comfort them." Abyn handed her the saba seed which she tucked into the pocket of her dress.
"I will go, too," said a young Ursa fairy named Wesley. "I will tell them stories to help them forget their fears." He took the glittering stone from Abyn.
"Go now, fly to the clearing where the children from Adeba are resting," King Arnon said. "Tell the children they must wait in the clearing until I come. No slavers will be able to reach them as long as Aimee holds the haima stone and the others stay with her. They must not leave the clearing. I will come for them soon!" With that, King Arnonís image faded. The mirror now reflected Abynís determined expression.
"Merette and Wesley, you must leave at once. Use the mirror to find your way to the children. Remember, if you need anything, just ask King Arnon for help."
Abyn solemnly handed the mirror to Merette. Wesley peered over her shoulder as another image appeared in the glass. Merette looked up and nodded toward a path that led through the trees. "We must go that way," she said.
"May King Arnon watch over you," Abyn called as the two Ursa fairies flew away through the trees.
Aimee woke with a start. She blinked her eyes and looked around. Dusk enveloped the clearing, creating shadows among the trees. "I only meant to rest for an hour or so," Aimee murmured in dismay. "We must leave this place. The forest is not safe at night."
Gently, Aimee began to wake the children. Soft groans and an occasional whimper were her only answers. "Wake up!" Aimee hissed, gritting her teeth as she shook a sleeping child. "Itís getting dark. We must not stay here!"
Slowly, the children sat up. Some rubbed their eyes while others stretched stiff muscles. One little boy stared at the trees around him as if he was uncertain where he was. Baby Kailyn began to cry.
"Look, Aimee!" said one little boy, pointing toward the trees. "Whatís that?"
Aimee peered into the growing darkness. She gasped in surprise. A bright ball of light, about the size of her fist, seemed to be dancing among the trees.
"Is it a firefly?" a little girl asked.
"No." Aimee shook her head. "Fireflies arenít that big and their light flashes on and off. This light is steady."
"Thereís another one!" someone cried, pointing to a second ball of light.
"What is it?" another child whispered.
Just then, Merette and Wesley flew into the clearing. All the children stared at them in amazement. Aimee stood slowly and moved closer to the Ursa fairies.
"Who are you?" she asked.
Wesley bowed. "I am Wesley and this is Merette. We are Ursa fairies. King Arnon has sent us to help you."
Aimeeís face lit up. She clapped her hands joyfully. "Do you hear that?" she asked the children. "I asked King Arnon for help and he heard me! These fairies will show us the way to the royal city of Charis."
The children scrambled to their feet. "To the palace!" someone cried.
"Hurrah for the Ursa fairies!" another shouted, waving his hat.
"Letís go right now!" several others called out, dancing in a circle around Aimee.
A shrill whistle silenced the celebration. Merette removed her paws from her mouth. "I always knew that whistling trick would come in handy someday," she said with a smile.
"Why did you do that?" Aimee asked.
"To get your attention," Merette answered. "King Arnon told us to help you. He also gave us some instructions that he wants you to follow. You are to rest here in this clearing until King Arnon comes for you. He will take you to his palace himself."
"When will he come for us?" Aimee asked.
"He didnít tell us a specific day or time," Merette answered. "He just said he would come soon."
"We canít wait here!" a boy named Marc cried. "We have no water, no food. Baby Kailyn needs milk. Youíll just have to show us the way to the palace."
Merette reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out the saba seed. "This seed will provide all the food and drink you need until King Arnon comes." She flew down to a spot in the center of the clearing. After digging a shallow hole, she dropped the seed in and covered it up with dirt.
Marc snorted in disbelief. "Thatís ridiculous! It could take weeks for that seed to grow. Iím going to look for food!"
"Iíll go with you," another boy said.
"Wait! Donít go!" Aimee called after them. But it was no use. The two boys disappeared into the trees.
"Should we go after them?" Aimee asked the Ursa fairies.
"King Arnon said you were to wait here," Wesley said. "If you go looking for them, you might not be here when King Arnon comes."
Aimee nodded. Then she frowned. "What will we do at night? There may be wild animals in this forest. And the slavers are hunting for us. Who will keep us safe?"
Wesley held out the haima stone. He presented it to Aimee. "King Arnon told me to give this to you. As long as you hold it, no evil can touch anyone here in the clearing."
Aimee studied the ruby-red gem. As she watched, a fiery glow came from the heart of the gem, filling the clearing with a comforting light.
Just then, the saba seed began to push up through the ground. A moment later, a banquet appeared where the new plant stood. Delicious smells filled the clearing.
Aimee gasped and then laughed. "Itís a banquet fit for a king!" she cried. She closed her eyes, thanking King Arnon for his help. Then all the children gathered in a merry circle around the magical feast.
They were just about to eat, when they heard a shout. Several children screamed in fright as a band of slavers approached the clearing. "Now weíve caught you!" the leader shouted. "There is no escape!"
"Run! Run as fast as you can!" one girl cried. She darted into the forest before anyone could stop her.
"No!" Wesley cried. "You must stay in the clearing so you will be safe!"
The remaining children huddled around Aimee. She held the haima stone in her hand, raising it high. "We belong to him!"
The slavers advanced toward the children, weapons raised. But, as they reached the edge of the clearing, they stopped as if struck. No matter how hard they tried, they could not enter the clearing. It was as if an invisible wall stood between the slavers and the children.
At first, the children huddled around Aimee, watching their enemies nervously. But, as it became clear that the slavers could not reach them, the children began to relax. One by one, they closed their eyes and fell asleep. Even the angry threats of the slavers could not disturb the peace within the clearing. Merette and Wesley took turns keeping watch over the sleeping children.
When the children awoke the next morning, the slavers were gone. A delicious breakfast was waiting for them in the center of the clearing. A small fountain appeared near the banquet where they could quench their thirst and get water for washing hands and faces.
In the days that followed, the children ate and drank their fill from the feast produced by the saba seed. Every night, the haima stone kept the children safe from their enemies. Merette played songs on her flute while Wesley entertained the children with stories about the Ursa fairies. Although the children sometimes found the waiting long, the music and stories helped the time pass more quickly.
The band of slavers returned on several occasions, trying to break into the clearing. No matter what they did, the wall of protection stood firm. Not even magical incantations could break the power of the haima stone.
One afternoon, after the children had been living in the clearing for nearly two weeks, a golden trumpet call was heard. King Arnon rode into the clearing on a magnificent white horse. "I have come!" he announced with a joyful shout. "I have come to take you home!"
The children began to cheer. Some joined hands and danced in a circle. Merette and Wesley fluttered in the air, turning in joyful circles above the childrenís heads.
In the midst of the celebration, Aimee stood silently, a frown of concern on her face. She looked up at King Arnon. "Please," she asked, "what about Marc and Jason and Sadi? They left the clearing before you came. What will happen to them?"
"If they call to me, will help them," the King answered. "I help all those who ask me. But, they must choose whether or not they will obey my instructions."
After King Arnon had said this, he began to place the children on the horses he had brought with him. Aimee and baby Kailyn were placed in front of King Arnon himself. Merette and Wesley fluttered around the Kingís head before perching on his shoulders. Several guards brought up the rear of the procession, carrying the Kingís banner and blowing golden trumpets. In this way, the children of Adeba made their way to the royal city of Charis.
After escorting the children to Charis, Merette and Wesley returned to the hidden valley of the Ursa fairies. Then they told everyone of their adventure and how King Arnon had taken the children home to live with him. Abyn recorded their tale in his book, adding it to the histories of the Ursa fairies.
And so, the Ursa fairies learned that King Arnon always keeps his promises, but that only those who obey his instructions and wait will see his promises fulfilled.