Hours later, we land on a grassy field where Loxy drops me unceremoniously on the ground.
“Oh, thanks. That really helps my damaged wing.” I say.
“Loxy, why did we run away?” Chanter’s wide green eyes beg for answers.
“Our home is no longer safe,” Loxy replies.
“If it’s even there anymore.” I try to whisper to myself, but Loxy still hears me over the other girls’ mutterings. She grips my arm tightly as she pulls me off the ground.
Her nails dig into my skin, and tiny beads of blood rise to the surface.
“So, where are we going to go?” Hemlock’s voice hovers above everyone else’s.
“There’s a colony on the human’s borders nearby.” Loxy gives me a stern look. “Fidget gets her way.” She throws her cloak around her shoulders and storms off.
The rest of us follow solemnly after her.
“Where have you come from?”
A deep voice echoes from somewhere around us. As we search all around for its owner, a fairy lands in front of us, crouching down.
He rises and reveals he’s much larger than any of us, with green-tinged skin. His ears are curved into a point.
“Why are you here?”
Loxy clears her throat. “Our forest was attacked by the fire fairies across the pond from us. We escaped before our tree burned down, but we don’t know where the rest of our people are.
We thought we could come here for a home and protection.”
He nods and checks around for anyone that might be watching. Then he grabs each of us by the hand and pulls us into his city. Apparently, we had been just on the edge of their city lines.
Everything here is cold and metal. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. I always imagined this place would be warm and inviting. Unfortunately, my dreams aren’t reality.
“This is the home of all fairies living near the humans. Most of us have been here for many years, though few of us have ever actually seen any of them.
And I wouldn’t suggest that any of you get your hopes up. We choose this part of the city so they wouldn’t bother us.” He pauses and looks troubled. “Humans aren’t always fond of fairies.”
I notice a pink scar poking out from under his shirt.
“What do you mean?” All eyes turn to me.
“We don’t tell outsiders about our past here.” He whips his head back to face us, giving us a smirk. “But I doubt you'll be outsiders for long. You’ll hear the story soon enough”
“Well, what can you tell us?” Loxy taps her foot impatiently.
He smiles widely. “I am Beetle. And there isn’t really anything to do around here. You’re the most interesting thing that’s happened to us in a long time.”
On our first night, Beetle shows us a small hut we could live in. All of us, excluding Loxy, squeeze into the one bedroom in the house.
Loxy turns up her nose and decides to sleep on the couch in the living room.
In the morning I shove her off the sofa.
“Up, up, up! It’s time to face the world. Beetle wanted us to talk to him.”
She gives me a glare from her spot on the floor. “Why?”
“How should I know? He said his people wanted to know more about us. They only needed you and me to come, though. He thought the whole family would be too much.”
I float over to the bathroom. Since all my other sisters are still asleep, it’s empty. I check out my wing in the mirror. The Doctor here tried to patch it up the other day.
She wove thread through the wound to hold it together while it healed, calling them stitches. Apparently, she was able to study human medicine years ago.
I still can’t fly very well though.
There’s a soft knock at the door. Loxy’s gentlest possible voice flows through the cracks.
“Fidget, are you ready?”
She takes advantage of the opening and forces her way into the bathroom, yanking the door shut behind her. She locks it and glares fiercely at me. So much for gentle.
“I need to talk to you in private.” She hisses.
“All you had to do was ask. Don’t just come barging in here.”
She rolls her eyes. “You know what I mean. I wanted to discuss Faylinn.” She reaches behind me and flicks the hovering lightning bug off.
“Why talk about her? She left us behind.” I try to brush past her, but she grabs me by the shoulders and doesn’t let go.
“I saw her before we got out of there.” She whispers.
“So, she’s one of them now. She betrayed us.” I try to brush past her again.
“Fidget, listen to me.” She grips my face and forces me to look up at her. “She was afraid. I was running down the hall after I saw flames in the distance.
I was on my way to tell everyone what was happening. As I ran down the hall I saw her, but she didn’t see me. She was frantic.
Then one of the red fairies ran up to her and started talking to her. I didn’t hear what either of them said. Then they both flew away.”
“Why does that matter? We were all scared Loxy, and I didn’t see anyone else leave with the fairies trying to burn our forest down.”
“What if she was trying to come back to us?” She releases me as her voice softens.
“She still ran away. She can’t come back after going with the fire fairies.” She doesn’t stop me leaving.
Not this time.
Beetle walks us to the meeting room later. When we come to the door, Beetle knocks, the sound echoing through the hall.
They made all the buildings here out of scraps of metal they find abandoned by humans. The cold walls are nothing like the bark back in our tree. And the clanging they make is always so jarring.
A tall, thin fairy greets us. He adjusts his wire glasses and smiles.
“So, the rumors are true. Beetle’s been watching after the forest fairies. Is it also true your home was attacked by the Red Ones?” He blinks at my sister and me expectantly.
Beetle seems unimpressed and doesn’t answer him. “Bramble, move aside. I don’t believe you were invited to this meeting."
Beetle moves to shove him out of the way, but another fairy appears behind Bramble.
“Actually, Alpin here took me with him.” Alpin towers over all over all of us as he silently sizes up Loxy and me.
Beetle clears his throat.
“Never mind, then.”
Bramble smirks and leads the way into the room. Everywhere we look there are green fairies frozen in their conversations to stare at us.
Beetle shifts uncomfortably, but he still stands at his tallest.
Dywel, their chief, rises from his chair in the front of the room. He steps toward us, clear of emotion. As he gets closer, a friendly smile begins to light his face. I grin back.
“Welcome, friends. We gathered here to discuss the actions we will take against the fire fairies for attacking such gentle creatures.” He nods at us and turns to face the rest of the room.
“Just a few days ago my brother, Delwin’s followers burned their forest. And now we will take their home back for them.” He looks down at us again.
“Don’t you worry, little ones, we will protect you.”
The room stands in stunned silence before everyone erupts in varying fits of disagreement.
Many of them say they should let us fight our own battles, or they should just take us in and let the past be the past, or even to just send us on our way to find out own home.
Beetle remains silent behind us for a while before standing in front of us.
“No, we can’t back away from this; they need someone to protect them.
Don’t we train to help those who need us, to not turn our backs on those smaller than us? The chief says we will protect them, so we will protect them.”
Slowly everyone nods in agreement.
Dywel whispers his thanks to Beetle, then to us. “Girls, I’m going to have to ask you to leave while we discuss battle."
He gently ushers us out of the room, back into the hall, waving as we walk away.
“So, I guess we’re getting our forest back,” I say once we’re left alone.
Before stomping away Loxy mutters. “They don’t need to protect us.” I just wish she was right.
I go back to our house to tell the other girls what happened.