The woods at Elfenmere are usually quiet, and full of the wonders of nature. If you are quiet, and walk softly, in the shadows you may even see a fairy now and then. However, something was not quiet in the woods today because Fairy Josephine was angry, and when she got cross, everyone took notice.
Josephine, the Princess of the fairies, is usually so quiet and peaceful, the wind has a louder voice but not at this moment in time, “Folk of the woods at Elfenemere, I summon you to council,” she called as she waved her wand in the air. Oh, fudge sticks and toadstools Josephine mumbled as she looked at the growing number of mushrooms in her garden when will they stop taking over? I know I like mushrooms, but everything needs to be under control.
The folk of Elfenmere were rarely worried about their world, few big people could imagine the delights of a world that existed under their feet, and out of sight. That was the way the folk wanted to keep things, only small people were allowed to enter the the Magic Gate, and see the world of Elfenemere.
The leaves waved as the folks began their descent to the woodland floor, to find out what had upset her majesty. Footsteps could be heard along branches as the elves ran from branch to branch - to the big people it looked like a gentle breeze - and tiny voices called from leaf to leaf.
Under the feet of the big people, a world exists that escapes them, because life has taught them too much. Some big people still believe in the world of magic, those people write stories of wonderful dragons and worlds beyond imagination.
The world of Elfenmere is an enticing world of magical beings that live in the edges of your imagination. Have you ever thought you saw something, only to turn and find it gone? Those are glimpses of a world that exists in your imagination. A world so enchanting that belief in its existence makes you believe all things can be possible.
In this world, Josephine was soon to be the Queen, for now, something had upset the Princess and she wanted to call a meeting of the woodland folk to have some questions answered. Owls came from their sleep, and the hedgehogs ambled across the floor of the woods, picking up leaves on their spikes to remain hidden from the big people, as the made their way to the meeting. The tiniest of field mice scurried here and there among the acorns and broken twigs, to find out what the Princess wanted.
Slowly, the area around Josephine filled with her friends from the woods, the foxes sat at the back - keeping an eye for unwelcome guests - while closer to the front sat the mice, and the smaller birds. The owls, as usual, sat on the branches overlooking the area, in regal pose. She looked up, and thought Is there ever a time, when owls don’t appear wise and regal? Mischievously, the squirrels jumped around, occasionally throwing chestnuts at the back of the crowd, but keeping out of reach of the wily foxes.
The Elves sat on the toadstools at the edge of the clearing, watching for signs of big people, these people wouldn’t see the little people, but their feet would cause havoc if they accidentally hit something. Eldred had spent too much time repairing his house from damage, not to have watchers around the clearing.
The woodland folk who live in the trees sat on the twigs near their homes, their tiny pointed ears designed to pick up the slightest noises. The animals, birds, and mammal gathered in the clearing as Josephine watched her subjects for the speech.
There was a hush, quiet as butterfly’s wing on the breeze, and then Josephine began, “You know I don’t make a fuss over nothing, so here it is. Someone has been tampering with my wand, half of the spells I cast aren’t working today, does anyone have an idea why?”
The gathered crowd looked at each other. Not wanting to tell her but realising somebody had to tell the Princess the bad news, Owlmore, the oldest of the owls, spoke up, “Princess, it was at the wish of your mother that I changed the power of the wand.”
The Princess stood tall, and stamped her foot on the tree stump she stood on, “Why would the Queen do that to me?”
Owlmore looked around at his friends, and tried to say something, but Josephine didn’t hear what the owl said, so she said, “Speak up, Owlmore. Why did the Queen change my powers?”
The brave owl took a breath, and waited for the outcry that he expected for his next comment, “The Queen thinks you’re getting a little too heavy-handed with all the power, and you may upset the fragile balance between our world and that of the big people,” as he finished, Owlmore hid his head under his wings, and waited but nothing happened. Uneasily, he took a peek out, Perhaps she’s waiting for me to come out before she shouts at me, he thought, but Josephine reamained silent, which was even more worrying for Owlmore. Puzzled, Owlmore enquired, “I expected you to shout at me, Princess, why didn’t you?”
Josephine smiled, and looked at the gathered friends, and then said, “I didn’t shout, Owlmore, because I realise the Queen is right. We need to keep the fragile balance between the worlds, and to do that I need to regain control of my powers. Only when the Queen feels fit to release my wand fully to my powers will I became the next in line for the throne.”
Owlmore grinned, not that Josephine saw under his bushy feathers, and thought She has the making of a great Queen, one day, but not for a while. The wise owl had seen many changes in the glades at Elfenmere, from the times when they little people roamed free among the bluebells, and clover, to the times when they had to hide from sight. Now, things were beginning to change back to the old ways, with more of the big folks willing to accept the small people in their lives, and respect their homes.
The wise owl looked down from his perch on high, and viewed the gathered group of woodland folk before him, and thought There are many friends here who have travelled far,and many more who live so far away they couldn’t get here. Those who are not here, are with us in spirit and the spirit of the woods will tell them what happens today.
Josephine watched as the creatures of the forest gathered around her as she stood on the stump, “Fellow dwellers of Elfenmere,” she started, “what I would like to propose is that we at Elfenmere join with our brothers and sister who live in the forests of Cold Stream. I am told that the air is filled with the smell of Lavender, and the trees are filled with more food than the Elves can eat. We are well cared for here, but our numbers are growing and we need extra supplies. I realise this is a long journey, but I think it’s one we need to make to ensure our survival at Elfenmere. Who is willing to come with me, to visit the Elven folk?”
There followed much chatter among the woodland creatures, some were all for the trip, while others were set against the trip. The journey would be not be without its hazards, not least they would have to cross two roads. The biggest danger lay not in the roads, but in the open fields, where the foxes stalked among the long grass. The vixen needed to feed her cubs but this could mean that some of the folk wouldn’t complete their journey.
Owlmore noticed the slight silence, and he gave a gentle hoot to draw Josephine’s attention. “Are we going?,” she asked.
Dandry Dormouse spoke for his brothers and sisters, when he said, “Despite the dangers, we’re willing to go. We’ll leave some of the tribe here for safety, but we are all for going, Josephine.”
After hearing Dandry speak, the area filled with the babble of voices agreeing to travel, the only group not willing to travel were Valerie Vole and her family. She did say the reason was because they were so few, they couldn’t risk losing any of her children, and they loved their patch of river at Elfenmere.
Josephine smiled and the glow from her cheeks lit the forest where her friends gathered, “Thank you, my friends, your support means so much to me. I fully appreciate Valerie’s feelings, it has been a hard time for her family and she lost several children in the winter freeze. If she isn’t coming, I know her heart and spirit will be with us on our journey, wishing us good fortune.”
Valerie smiled, and wiggled her nose in agreement, and then she shuffled off to the river, I wish we could have gone, she thought, but we lost so many children in the winter. When she reached the banks of the stream where her lived, she dived into the stream to rinse the dryness of the air out of her fur, “that’s better”, she muttered, as she swam on her back, taking in the warm sun. Inside their nest, they children were enjoying the occasional splash of water from their mother’s paws as she swam.
Back in the forest, Josephine was holding court, “Before we set off, I think it only polite that we send a messenger to ask if the Elven folk are willing to talk about this plan with us. There’s no point making the journey if they are not interested.”
Owlmore gave a hoot, to show his acceptance of the speech, and Kerry Kestrel called from her nest, “I’ll fly across, and deliver your message, your highness.”
Josephine smiled, and then replied, “Thank you, Kerry, be swift but be safe. Getting the message to the Elves is important, but not as important as your life.”
Owlmore gave a smile, and flapped a wing as Kerry took off on her journey to Cold Stream, just like her mother, he thought, Josephine cares more about the friends she has than about making more friends.
The late evening sun shone through the leaves, giving the area a golden glow, as Kerry set off. She flew a circular route to Cold Stream, in case she was being followed, you can never be too careful in this fading light, she thought as she saw movement on the ground. It had been a long day, and she hadn’t eaten, her usual meal time had been taken by the discussion at the glade. Nobody will mind if I set down for a while to rest, and eat that mouse I see running across the floor, she muttered as she flew. With a whoosh, she swooped down, and in an instant, the mouse was in her claws. She was tired, and although the mouse wasn’t heavy, it was heavy enough to slow her flight to safety. Tired, and hungry, she didn’t see the fox in the undergrowth until it was too late. As most wild life does, Kerry kept her head moving as she ate, in case anything was moving in the woods. It was this habit thatsaved her life, she noticed the fox at the last minute and flew out its reach, not without injury, as she lost a few feathers in the fight. “That was too close,” she said as she rested on the branch, as she looked down and saw the fox eating what would have been her meal. “I was looking forward to that mouse, well at least I can get some rest for a while, my wings are tired.”
The fox licked his lips as he finished his snack - it wasn’t enough for him - and looked at Kerry with the eyes of a true hunter. She thought she could sense a feeling of him thinking You’re lucky this time, next time you might not be so lucky. He sat below the branches, licking the last of the meal of his paws, and then he started to pace around the base of the the tree, now and then he’d make a leap but Kerry was too high for him to reach.
Kerry hopped from branch to branch, each time getting a little higher, when she thought she was high enough she flew off. After that scare, I need to get my direction right for Cold Stream she thought. To attempt to get some help, she kept flying higher in the hope of spotting the smoke from a camp fire. Kerry was so busy looking for the fire, she forgot about enemies in the sky. From out of nowhere a Harrier swooped and caught her a glancing blow with its talons, she began to tumble down. The harrier dived after her, waiting to pounce and at the last minute Kerry flew out of its grasp, and headed for the clear skies, and hopefully Cold Stream.
With her good eyesight, it didn’t take her long to spot the campfires of the Elves camp in the distance. Now she had a point to head for, Kerry flew faster. The message she carried needed to be delivered as soon as possible. The closer she got, the more tired she grew, until about 300 yards from the camp she fell to the ground.
One of the Elves had been watching her approach and rushed to her aid, he fended off a lone wolf as she lay exhausted, and close to death, and then he carried her to the tent of the Grand Elf, Lokinor. “Oh, great and wondrous Lokinor, our friend has brought us a message, from who, I don’t know?”
The Grand Elf took Kerry in his giant hands, and then said, “I can tell you who sent our friend, she came from Elfenmere. I recognise her as Kerry, the Kestrel, for her to come all this way her message must be urgent.”
Out of breath, and tired, Kerry lay still in the gentle hands of the Grand Elf. her tiny heart pounding on his palm. She looked up at him, and was about to speak but he said, “Stay quiet, my beauty, you need a rest. Your message can wait a few more minutes. Can someone get our little some food and water please?”
Kerry was so tired that she was able to do no more than take a tiny bite of the meat she was offered, but she did so with great gratitude. After she’d recovered her strength, she told the the Grand Elf of Princess Josephine’s hopes to unite their kingdoms.
The Grand Elf didn’t take long to give his answer, he replied, “We’d be delighted to join with the folks at Elfenmere, Kerry. Before you return, I suggest you take a long rest, the day is old and you’re tired. If you leave in the fading light it would be easy for you to get lost. Our camp is yours for the night, you can leave with the dawn of the new day.”
Kerry lifted her head and gave a tired smile, as the Grand Elf laid her in her bed of straw, in the stable. She was so tired it wasn’t long before she fell asleep, around her there was a lot of excited talk about the forthcoming union of the two kingdoms, but she slept deeply.
With the dawn of a new day, the Grand Elf took Kerry to the main gates of the camp and released her on the return journey. She’d had a light meal before she left, so she knew there was no need to risk a trip into the forest and crossing paths with the wily fox.
Back in Elfenmere, Josephine woke and took a ride on her pony down to the clearing, waving her wand, she created a golden glow around her that called the dwellers to the stump mound, When she thought everyone was there she said, “Any minute now, I am expecting Kerry to return with our answer. The Grand Elf and I are close friends, so I hope he’s agreed to the plan.”
Being a bit of a slow coach, Harriet Hedgehog was the last to arrive at the meeting, her lack of speed on this occasion proved to be a blessing as she was the first to see Kerry, “Here she comes,” called Harriet excitedly.
Before anyone had an opportunity to realise what was happening, there was a flap of wings and Kerry landed on the branch next to Owlmore. She looked to her friends, and then said, “The Grand Elf sends his regards, and wishes us well on our journey to Cold Stream.”
Josephine smiled, and then commented, “I didn’t think Lockinor would let me down, but I needed to ask, in case something was happening at Cold Stream that we’re unaware of.”
Harriet arrived just as Owlmore started his speech of acceptance, “Our great friend, Lockinor, the Grand Elf has granted permission for our tribes to join in this project. It is a great honour he has granted us, for Cold Stream is abundant with wildlife and new adventures for our families. The journey itself will be an adventure, as many of us haven’t left Elfenmere before, but I am certain that we’ll soon be enjoying the hospitality of our new friends in Cold Stream.”
Josephine cast a glance to where Owlmore was standing, and beckoned him down to her stump, after he’d landed, she asked the wise owl, “Are you coming with us, old friend?”
He said with a sigh, “I wish I could, but someone is needed to stay and keep an eye here, to make sure our young have a good life. Perhaps, in a few months, I might fly over to visit Cold Stream.”
Josephine hugged her winged friend, and then commented, “I understand, my dear friend. For young Kerry, the journey wasn’t too hard, but for such a noble friend of many years, the journey would take a lot out of you.”
Owlmore flapped his wings, and then replied, “Once the weather warms up, and I feel warm again, I may make the trip but for now, I am too cold to think of the long journey.”
Josephine glanced up to the branches of the trees, and then said, “We have a lot of packing to do if we’re going to Cold Stream, I’ll leave you for now but you’re in my thoughts all the time, Owlmore.”
Owlmore smiled. He knew Josephine had lots to do to get the woodland folk ready, and he had to get some rest before he went hunting later in the evening, so he gave her a flap of his wings and took off for his nest as she turned to return to the palace.
Inside the palace, her Majesty, the Queen was waiting for Josephine’s return with news of her plan, the Queen smiled as she saw her daughter skipping down the hall to her, “I presume from your skipping that the plan has the approval of the Grand Elf,” she enquired as Josephine approached.
Josephine could hardly hold her excitement as she said, “Oh yes, mother, Lokinor has given us his blessing to visit his kingdom. This trip will be such a joy, think of the new contacts we can make to help our economy, and the new stories we can tell from all the people we’ll meet.”
Queen Phillipa just smiled happily, and then commented, “The main priority, Josephine, is to get there safely. Once you’ve arrived, you can make other arrangements. The last time your father and I went, we almost didn’t make it out of the woods. If it hadn’t been for Grand Elf Connustin sending his guard to escort us we’d have been killed. The woods are dangerous, it’s best to travel by day, that way Kerry can watch out for any danger and warn you in advance.”
Josephine watched as her mother started to put her travelling case together, “Did you hear? Kerry was almost killed by a fox in the woods yesterday, mother.”
The Queen turned to see her daughter, and then enquired, “I did know about the attack; is she harmed?”
Josephine tucked her best frock neatly in her case before she answered her mother’s question, “Kerry lost a couple of feathers, but she’s fine otherwise.” Josephine paused, then giggled as she said, “ I think she was more upset that the fox had her meal than anything else.”
The Queen shrugged, and then commented, “I’m not surprised, even for Kerry, the trip to Cold Stream is a long flight. I heard she had a scare in the air too.”
Josephine wiped a tear from her eyes, and then replied, “Yes, we almost lost Kerry when a harrier caught her off guard, mother. I don’t know what we’d do without her.”
Queen Phillipa held her daughter close to her, and replied, “When you are queen, you’ll have to get used to losing loved ones, love. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, especially if we are at war. Now come on, we need to get you packed, and ready to go for the morning. We can’t let our subjects wait for you, my dear. You may be the Princess, but punctuality has to be kept; especially as a few minutes of darkness in the woods can make all the difference between arriving and not arriving at the camp.”
Josephine hugged her mother, and then replied, “As usual, you’re right, mother, that’s why you’re such a good Queen and everyone loves you.”
The Queen laughed, and replied, “Not only that, before I married your father, I worked in the pond recovery business and I never forget my roots, at heart I am a person who cares and all the wealth in the kingdom won’t change that, Josephine. That’s why I didn’t object to this trip you’re going on, it will give you the opportunity to get to know your friends better.”
The Princess tucked her best robes of greenery into her suitcase, and walked to her window. Below her, in the courtyard, her friends were busily making their final preparations for the journey.
Harriet and her hedgekins had decided it would be best to stay behind, so they didn’t slow the journey and risk being caught in the dark, in the woods. She told her friends that once they’d settled in at Cold Stream, the Hedge family would be happy to move, if they were asked. Besides this, Harriet had a lot of tidying up to do at home, to be ready in time for the annual acorn festival. This year is a special year, Elfenmere were hosting the first Dragonbowl festival, and were expecting their Elf and dragon friends from many areas to arrive later in the month.
Harriet wasn’t sure what the festival was about, all she knew was that it was a week-long festival, and featured Elves and dragons in motorcycle racing events. Owlmore wasn’t impressed with the idea at first, but he warmed to it when he was told he’d be presenting the major prize at the final event.
The Princess gave a smile as she waved to the massed collection of woodland creatures who had agreed to go on the journey. Kerry was going to be the guide, she could fly a short distance ahead to warn of danger - if any was close.
The bright golden sun rose slowly over the hills, shedding its light on the dawn of a new day and a new age of hope at Elfenmere. The Princess never tired of watching as the Sun’s rays touched the crystals in the castle’s walls and created marvellous patterns of colours across the courtyard. Princess Josephine turned back from the window, and then said to her mother, “This looks like a wonderful day to start on our new plans, mother. I hope to be in Cold Stream by this time tomorrow; when we arrive, I’ll ask the Grand Elf to send a messenger back here to let you know we’re safe.”
The Queen hugged her daughter, and then replied, “I’m sure you won’t need to ask. The Grand Elf will send his swiftest messenger as soon as he sees you at his gates. I know what he’s like; Lokinor is not only a great leader, but a great lover,” as she said that the Queen blushed slightly.
Josephine said in amazement, “Mother? You and the Grand Elf, I didn’t realise you were lovers.”
The Queen gave a gentle warming smile, and then commented, “That was a long time in the past, before I met your father. When I was in the Pond Recovery business, I used to stay over once a month with Lockinor. It started because my home was too far to travel safely to at night; after the first three times we decided to make it a regular visit. He’s as gentle as the breeze on a butterfly and a real gentleman, he never once forced himself on me, and at all times, giving me pleasure was his delight. When I met your father, we stayed friends but let the other part of our relationship die off.”
Intrigued by the new information, Josephine pressed the point and enquired, “Do you miss those days?”
The Queen paused, as her mind went back to the days of her youth and the delights of travelling, “I do miss those days, in as much as I miss the travels I went on, and the many friends I made, but it was a hard life and the work was seasonal. I have a new life and a growing family, and I wouldn’t change a thing that has happened since I met your father. One day, you’ll need to make the sacrifice, Josephine, that’s why I want you to enjoy the days you have before you take the throne.”
Josephine glanced at the clock on the wall, and then said, “I’d love to know more about your life, mother, but we have a trip to make; if we don’t get going we won’t be clear of the woods by this evening.”
The Queen gave her daughter a kiss, and then said, “I’ll take the bag down for you and see you on your way. I need a little exercise, seeing me see you off will help other families feel assured, I hope.”
Owlmore sat perched on the battlements of the castle and when he saw the Queen approach, he gave two hoots to bring everyone to attention,. The Queen stood still and viewed her subjects, then she said, “I stand before here, not as your Monarch, but as the mother of a child going on a marvellous journey of discovery. I know we wish them a safe journey to Cold Stream.”
As Josephine gathered her bag from the floor, her mother said, “Godspeed, and have a safe journey.” She paused and whispered to Josephine, “Send Lockinor my regards.”
Josephine kissed her mother, and called to her friends, “On to Cold Stream, we need to at least get to this side of the woods by nightfall if we’re to travel to Cold Stream by the following afternoon.”
Owlmore flapped his wings with excitement, there hadn’t been a journey like this since the Great Trek that brought them to Elfenmere all those years ago, the animals who could recall that journey were few nowadays.
Clarence, the catterpiller, enquired, “Would the princess like a ride? It would be my honour to carry you and your luggage.”
Josephine smiled, and thanked Clarence, “Thank you for the offer, Clarence, but I’ll carry my bags if it’s all the same. You have your baggage, and I don’t wish to burden you.” Josephine waved goodbye, for now, to her mother, and led the caravan of friends out of the safety of the glades at Elfenmere. She had never been further than the daisy fields before, and here she is leading her friends across the woods to Cold Stream, The gates to the castle swung closed, and she couldn’t help thinking I am doing the right thing?