Not so long ago, in a place not too far away, a young man found himself lost in a woodland copse. To the young traveller, Erik, it seemed like any other copse: a small clearing of tree stumps and daisies surrounded with a ring of bracken and bramble tangles.
But for those who knew the place as every place should be known (to its very core, to each and every inch of its surface, and with understandings also of its heights and magical depths) it was not like any other copse.
To Erik, it was simply an airy relief from under-tree dampness and the dark heaviness of the rotting undergrowth underfoot. But within this copse lived beings not found elsewhere in the wood, or even elsewhere in the world. They were the rarest species of Silk-Fairies.
Erik had found no joy in his weeks of travel. His search for employment as a journeyman carpenter had brought neither money nor shelter. It had brought only incessant pouring rain, and the perpetual discomfort of cold body and boots that leaked. It also had brought hunger, and an ever-decreasing supply of food for sustenance.
Erik almost fell onto the springy moss as he struggled to pull off his knapsack. It dropped to the mossy ground, and he followed it, his weary head on its pillow.
Cold and wet to his bones, he was ready to give up.
He sighed, almost cried, and closed his eyes for what he could have sworn was only a second or two. However, when he opened them again, it was to something he had not expected.
Hovering in front of his world-weary eyes had appeared a group of tiny creatures. They were fairy-like with transparent wings, and wore clothing fashioned from leaves and flowers and feathers.
‘You’re beautiful,’ said Erik, for he was a young man who was not afraid to speak of what he felt, despite his misery. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘Am I dead? Is this heaven?’
The smallest of the tiny creatures perched upon his leg as Erik lay entranced on the sodden moss.
‘We are Silk-Fairies and appear only to those who need us: those who travel and struggle and those who seek shelter and rest. We require only three words. Once spoken, we will provide all you need.’
‘What are the words, kind fairy?’
‘Dark and Light. You must say Dark and Light.’
‘Dark and Light,’ Erik said immediately. ‘How appropriate are those words, for you are my only light in this terrible darkness.’
Delighted that he’d allowed them to proceed (for it was their life’s mission to provide succour to those in need) the Silk-Fairies hovered around Erik as a protective cloud. The gentle buzzing of their wings gave him calm as they wrapped him in their gossamer blankets. He was soon as warm and comforted as a swaddled baby, each blanket thread wicking the water from sodden garments and drying him more quickly than even the most hearty fireside could ever do.
‘Thank you,’ he whispered as the Silk-Fairies sprinkled his papoose with a silvery dust, and Erik fell into the deepest of sleeps.
He woke in front of a roaring fire, having no idea how long he’d been asleep. As the flames crackled, Erik sighed with contentment and relief and wiggled his feet within the knitted gossamer hose that his feet now wore, and realised that he was surrounded by thousands of same tiny creatures that had rescued him: creatures the size of dragonflies who possessed the dragonfly’s delicacy and grace as well as their bright colours and sparkling wings.
One Silk-Fairy came to rest on his forearm.
‘Thank you,’ Erik said, his waking words echoing his sleeping thoughts.
‘We live to help those who truly need. It is our mission and our pleasure and our joy. You must stay for as long as it takes your wounds to heal, your heart to warm, and your mind to clear.’
When his time came, a stronger Erik was returned to the middle of the copse and was presented with gifts to assist him on his journey: a garland of daisies and hawthorn flowers for protection against the darker forces of the world; a cloak woven from fairy gossamer and peachskin fuzz in which he would never be wet, or cold or fearful; and boots created from bark and vines and dried, knitted moss which would always lead him in the right direction.
As a final gift, four Silk-Fairies placed a small wooden box into his knapsack. It appeared empty, but if he was to open it at a time of true need, it would provide what was required. Perhaps a meal, a coin or potion… It was not an everlasting box of wishes that would prevent his need to work, make him greedy and encourage bad decisions, but a small and simple something that would give him aid and strength when times were hard. Not too much. Not too little.
‘What is this thing? What is this magic box? How can this exist?’
Another Silk-Fairy pipped up joyously.
‘It is the most magical thing on earth. It’s called… a Friend.’
Erik knew that, more than anything else, a friend was what he needed, and set off on his travels with renewed vigour.
For the rest of that Erik’s happy life, he wore his new clothes daily, he worked hard and assisted many countrymen and women who came to him in need. He, like his box, was a true Friend. He often traveled the country’s woodland and would search for the Silk-Fairies, as he wished to give them thanks. But the talents of those wonderful creatures were always required elsewhere.
He never spoke of his time with the Silk-Fairies so, when Erik’s time came to rejoin the earth, and his final words were whispered to his wife and family, they put them down to his advanced age. But his words summoned the Silk-Fairies who fluttered in to lead him towards the next stage of his existence.
‘Dark and Light,’ he said as his eyes closed for the final time. ‘Dark and Light’.
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