The Midnight Dancers
Mykal laughed as he raced through the darkness with his best friend, Nik. The two Ursa fairies were chasing after fireflies, playing an energetic game of tag. But, although the Ursa fairies flew quickly, the smaller fireflies could change direction more easily and evade their pursuers. Every now and then, the fireflies would slow down to encourage their Ursa fairy friends, speeding up just as the pair came within reach.
"Slow down a minute," Nik called, dropping onto a tree branch. "Letís take a break."
Mykal grinned as he flew head over heels above his friend. He turned in the air several times before settling down onto the branch. "Why donít we see how many shooting stars we can find?" he suggested.
Nik smiled and flopped onto his back. "I love shooting stars," he said, concentrating on the night sky.
"Me, too," Mykal said as he lay on his back. As the two friends watched, a star streaked across the sky.
"Wow!" Nik said. "Did you see that?"
"Thereís another one!" Mykal answered, waving his paw toward the stars above them.
Several watchful minutes passed as the two friends studied the sky. Then Nik sat up and began to look around him.
"What is it?" Mykal asked.
"Shhh!" Nik hissed. "Listen!"
Both Ursa fairies sat in silence for several minutes. Then Nik whispered, "Did you hear that?"
"It sounds like music," Mykal whispered back. "Where do you think itís coming from?"
"Thereís a clearing not far from here," Nik answered. "Letís find out whatís happening." He hopped off the branch and began following the sound through the trees with Mykal close beside him.
As the Ursa fairies approached the clearing, the music grew louder. Now they could see the flickering light from a bonfire shining through the trees. "What do you think is going on?" Mykal whispered.
"Maybe itís a celebration or something," Nik said.
"In the middle of the night?"
Nik shrugged. "You never know. Humans do some pretty strange things. But, letís be careful. This could be a trap left behind by Kazab."
Kazab, an evil wizard, had once tricked the Ursa fairies and then made them his slaves. King Arnon had freed them, breaking Kazabís power and banishing the wizard from the kingdom of Kyr. But, although the wizard was gone, some of his spells remained to be broken. The Ursa fairies served King Arnon by helping him free those who were still trapped by Kazabís enchantments.
By now the two Ursa fairies had reached the edge of the clearing. They hid themselves among the leaves so they could watch what was happening without being discovered.
"What are they doing?" Nik asked.
"I donít know," Mykal answered.
It certainly was a curious sight. A bonfire burned in the center of the clearing, yet its light seemed unnatural somehow. Seven people danced around the fire, their eyes reflecteing the fireís strange light. Each one seemed to be dancing with a partner, yet they moved alone. Their faces looked as if they were dreaming but their eyes remained open.
"This is very strange," Nik said.
"I think we should talk to Abyn about this," Mykal said. "He will know what to do."
"Weíll have to wait until morning though," Nik said. "Heíll be asleep by now."
Mykal nodded. "Weíll talk to him first thing in the morning." With that, the two Ursa fairies left the dancers and made their way through the trees to the hidden valley where they lived.
Early the next morning, Mykal and Nik went to the old oak where Abyn made his home. The elder Ursa fairy had finished his breakfast and was enjoying a cup of raspberry tea. He smiled when he saw the two boys.
"Good morning," he called cheerfully. "What brings you two to my home so early?"
"We saw something very strange last night in the forest," Nik began.
"There was a bonfire," Mykal added. "But it looked strange, almost as if it wasnít real."
"And there were people dancing around it, but they looked as if they were asleep," Nik finished.
Abyn frowned thoughtfully. "This sounds like one of Kazabís spells."
"What should we do?" Mykal asked.
"King Arnon always promises wisdom to those who ask," Abyn said. "He will tell us what to do."
The three Ursa fairies joined paws and closed their eyes. "King Arnon," Abyn began, "these boys have seen a strange sight. Please show us what it means and what you want us to do."
The three stood in silence, listening with their hearts. Just then, a flash of light caught Abynís attention. He opened his eyes and turned toward his desk. "The magic mirror is glowing," he said. "King Arnon has something to tell us."
Abyn picked up the mirror and held it up so all three could see it. The mirrorís surface rippled into the face of King Arnon. "Greetings, Abyn. Greetings, Mykal and Nik. You were wise to be concerned about the dancers you saw last night in the clearing. They are, indeed, under one of Kazabís spells. The people of their village call them Ďthe midnight dancersí."
"What can we do to free them?" Nik asked.
"First, you must fly to the village of Skyedon. You will find each of the dancers there, sleeping soundly. No one can wake them during the day. But, when the sun has set, they will rise, make their way to the clearing and dance throughout the night around an enchanted fire. They will return to their beds before the sun rises and sleep until it is dark once again.
"But, this ointment will open their eyes." As King Arnon spoke, his face faded from view. Now the Ursa fairies saw a crystal bottle containing a golden liquid. "This is anakrino. Put a drop of this liquid on the sleepersí eyelids. It may burn or sting at first, but it will help them awaken.
"Next, you must take the book each sleeper has tucked under their pillow. They will appear to be beautifully illustrated storybooks. But, Kazab has placed a spell over them that brings each of the pictures to life."
"Abyn has used the magic mirror to bring stories to life before. We sit around a bonfire and watch them together. Is that wrong?"
"Bringing stories to life is not wrong in itself," King Arnon explained. "Writers, artists and singers use their talents to bring many beautiful stories to life. When Abyn uses the magic mirror, he does it to teach you my ways and help you to remember important lessons from your history. Kazab, however, creates stories to lure people into a desire for his dark and evil magic. Those who read his stories at first see them as fun and exciting. But the more they fill their minds with what he creates, the more they desire evil. Sadly, many do not realize they are being trapped before it is too late.
"But, the sleepers from Skyedon can be freed. Once you have put the anakrino on their eyes, have each one look at the book Kazab gave them. As they look at each picture, place a drop of anakrino on the page. This will reveal the truth that lies behind the pictures. Once the sleepers see the books as they really are, they will not want them anymore, although some may have to see more pages than others. When they no longer desire the books, burn them in the clearing. That will break the spell."
"Will there be enough anakrino for all of the sleepers?" Nik asked. "It looks like a small bottle."
"There will be enough to open the eyes of all those who wish to see what is true," King Arnon answered. "Now, take this bottle and fly to the village of Skyedon. You have a long day ahead of you."
Nik reached into the mirror and pulled out the crystal bottle. Then he and Mykal flew through the trees toward Skyedon.
"Be with them, King Arnon," Abyn said quietly as he watched them fly away. "Help them break Kazabís spell."
Some time later, when the Ursa fairies reached the village, they hovered uncertainly at the edge of the forest. "How will we find the sleepers?" Nik wondered.
"Weíll have to check each house, I guess," Mykal said. "It isnít a very big village, so it shouldnít take us too long." Together they flew from house to house, searching for the dancers they had seen the night before.
As they were flying past a bedroom window, they heard a womanís voice, pleading earnestly. "Wake up, Simon," he begged. "Please wake up. You canít spend all day in bed." Mykal and Nik flew to the windowsill in time to see the boy mutter," Dragons and castles," before rolling over.
"We saw him last night," Nik said.
"Letís get to work," Mykal agreed.
As they fluttered into the room, the boyís mother looked up in surprise. "Who are you?" she asked.
"I am Nik and this is Mykal," Nik answered "We are Ursa fairies. King Arnon sent us to help your son. He is under one of Kazabís spells."
"Kazab? The wizard?" the woman asked. "He has not been to our village."
"Your son has a book of stories that come to life," Mykal explained. "Kazab used the book to cast the spell."
The woman frowned. "Simon loves his storybook. It was a gift from an old traveler who passed through our town. The traveler gave out a number of books, without ever asking any money in return."
"Everyone who received one of those books is now under a spell, just like your son," Nik said.
"It is true that they all sleep during the day and cannot be awakened," the woman said thoughtfully. Then she sighed. "If you can help my son, I would be grateful. I donít know what to do."
Nik and Mykal flew to the boyís head, standing on his forehead above his eyes. Mykal poured a drop from the bottle onto one eyelid, then handed it to Nik who did the same to the other. The golden liquid sparkled in the sunlight as it fell from the bottle, then spread across the closed eyelids. There was a crackling sound, then something dark and hard fell from the boyís eyelids. He gave a sigh and slowly opened his eyes.
"Heís awake! Youíve done it!" his overjoyed mother cried.
"He is awake, but the spell is not yet broken," Mykal said. "We must deal with the book itself or it will enchant him all over again."
Simon sat up slowly, blinking as he stared around him. "What time is it?" he asked. "Did I miss breakfast?"
"Where is the book the traveler gave you?" his mother asked.
"I keep it under my pillow," Simon answered. "The traveler said it would give me good dreams." He reached under the pillow and pulled it out.
At first glance, the book seemed very ordinary. The cover was smooth, with no writing or pictures. "May we see the stories?" Mykal asked.
"Of course," Simon said eagerly. He opened the book to the first illustration. There was a flash of light and the picture seemed to shoot up from the page. A beautiful castle decorated with colorful flags and banners hovered in the air. As the Ursa fairies studied the image, they could see into the castle itself Ė the bustling kitchen, a princess sitting in a lovely room reading by a crackling fire and a noble king on his throne.
"Use the anakrino," Mykal said. "We have to put a drop on the picture."
Nik fluttered into the air, hovering just above the enchanted image. He let a drop of the golden liquid fall from the bottle. It touched the picture and spread until the image was suspended in a golden sphere.
"Look! The picture is changing!" Mykal cried.
The shining castle was still beautifully decorated and it was still possible to see into its rooms. But now, darker images appeared Ė a slave being beaten by an impatient master, a selfish prince demanding his own way, prisoners being held in dark dungeons.
Simon frowned. "I donít like this picture anymore," he said. He turned the page and a new image shot from the book. "This one is better."
This time, a lovely forest scene met their eyes. But, once again, when the anakrino was dropped onto the page, the picture changed. Pleasant deer and playful rabbits were replaced by ferocious wild animals that hunted weary and frightened travelers.
Simon looked up from the book, a frown on his face. "I donít understand. What is happening?"
"Anakrino is a gift from King Arnon. It helps you to see things as they really are," Nik explained.
"Those bad things were in my book all along?" Simon asked.
"Yes, but Kazabís spell kept you from seeing them accurately," Mykal answered. "He used this book to enchant you and you never even knew it was happening."
Simon shuddered and closed the book. "I donít want this book anymore. Grandpa Peregrine was right."
"What did Grandpa say?" Simonís mother asked.
"He said we shouldnít read the books the traveler gave us," Simon answered. "He said these books made evil things seem good or fun. He also said there were other books that were better, with stories that would help us learn about King Arnon and other good things."
"There is one last thing you need to do in order to be free from Kazabís spell," Mykal said gently.
"What?" Simon asked.
"That book must be burned along with any others Kazab gave to people in this village," Mykal answered. "Then your village will truly be free."
Simon held the book out to his mother. "Letís do it! I donít ever want to see this book again!"
The Ursa fairies cheered at this, dancing in circles through the air. Then they left that house to find the next sleeper. Once again they used the anakrino to open the sleeperís eyes to the evil Kazab had hidden beneath the beautiful illustrations. Although some sleepers had to see more pictures transformed, in the end all were convinced to give up their magic books.
That night, another bonfire was lit in the clearing where the sleepers had previously danced. This time there was no evil magic to change the orange glow of the flames as the books were destroyed and their spell broken forever. Everyone in the village gathered around that fire, celebrating the end of Kazabís power over them and thanking King Arnon for his help. Mykal and Nik danced above the villagers, joining in the celebration.
And so, the Ursa fairies learned that King Arnon has the power to open sleeping eyes and help them to see the Truth. For some things may appear beautiful while hiding evil and darkness underneath.