Once upon a time in a land not far from here, there was a boy named Hugh. He was a whimsical child, living in daydreams and playing with air. To him, the world was full of magic, and there was no such thing as disbelief. For him, adventure was as near and as far as the movement of his spirit.
Hugh was the kind of boy to whom the faerie deign to appear.
“Hugh, will you come to the court of the Queen?”
The question came from a faerie familiar to the overgrown garden behind hugh’s house.
A tiny door suddenly appeared in an old tree trunk and out sprung Bangle the faerie. The size of the door and the size of the being that came through it were most definitely incompatible, but size was not the sort of thing that Hugh concerned himself about. Bangle continued,
“The Queen is holding a banquet in order to find a hero for a quest! YoushouldcomecomeoncomeonHugh!”
Bangle was not the most dignified faerie. She was still very young. She once told Hugh that she was 384, but faeries do not have a good grasp on exactly how time works.
“What is the quest? Is there a monster or a dragon that needs to be slain?”
“Well, its still up in the air. Half of the council wants a good ‘ol dragon slaying quest, but the other half wants to think of something new.”
Hugh had seen his fare of dragon slaying, and had even slain a small one himself one Saturday while his parents were busy paying bills. A banquet at the Faerie Queen’s palace, now that he had never experienced. He decided to go.
Faerie Land is a peculiar place. Once you enter, you find yourself suddenly unable to make the distinction between the journey and the destination. Roads are no longer the means of getting from one place to another, but every step is a place in itself. This peculiarity, combined with the faeries’ loose understanding of time would cause everyone to miss their meetings in the real world. In Faerie Land, this is not a problem.
Hugh and Bangle found themselves walking in a lush and fragrant grove of wind instruments.
“Oh yes, lets get a few flutes and an oboe for the banquet festivities!”
Hugh was looking past the faerie to a beast that had lumbered up behind her. “Beast” is a vague term used for all manner of unfriendly creatures, but very appropriate in for this particular foe, for it seemed to defy further categorization.
Horns, fangs, and eyeballs protruded every which way from the beast’s patchy hide of scales and hair. It was wearing an ill-fitting Christmas sweater made of scratchy wool, and gave off a tangible stench of displeasure with life, the universe, and faeries.
Bangle jumped into a tuba, which protested with a deep, resounding blat. Hugh armed himself with a large saxophone. Having no other weapons, or ideas, he blew into the saxophone as hard as he could. Jazz music is known to be deadly to some rare varieties of evil creatures. For this beast, however, the music produced quite a different response. It burst into tears.
“Why are you crying, unhappy beast?”
Hugh set down his saxophone, and Bangle gave a triumphant blat from the inside of the tuba.
The beast groaned gave a shudder of disgust that rattled the surrounding patch of piccolos.
“I am crying because the world is an ugly place and I am an ugly beast, and there is nothing else to do. “
Bangle peeked out of the tuba and, feeling bold, made a face at the beast. It is in the nature of the young faeries to make small mischief. It is never very harmful, but never very wise either. The beast bristled up and bellowed, and started as if to pounce upon the little faerie, but stopped as if it were not worth the effort.
“You small, vain creatures! I hope you flit and flutter yourself into a black hole!”
With that it rumbled off into some other region, catching more woodsy debris in the scratchy wool sweater. Bangle leapt out of the tuba and said,
“Hugh, I believe I have heard a story of such a beast before from my wise grandmother. The story went like this:
“ It was once a beautiful creature of faerie descent. Many humble beings would often surround it in admiration, for joy that there was such an astonishing display of beauty in the world. However it became very vain and believed itself to be so beautiful that everything else was ugly in comparison. Then something strange happened. The creature began to care for nothing in the world but the enjoyment of its own beauty. As a result, its eyes began to grow out of its head like stalks so that they could turn and gaze perpetually back at the creature itself. With such eyes as it had, it was not able see faerie land as it is in its beauty and wonder. Its vision was distorted, seeing only monstrosity. Slowly more changes began to take place. The creature began to take on characteristics of its vision of the world. One by one, its beautiful features became horrid and monstrous, mirroring the surrounding ugliness. Other creatures began to shy away in horror and disgust. They began to shriek, ‘look at that horrid beast!’ Then the creature’s distorted eyes were able to perceive the transformation. Now it lives on in ugliness, hating itself and hating the world.”
After their close call with the unhappy beast, Hugh and Bangle continued on their way to the Faerie Palace. They climbed over two mountains, through a forest of giant cattails, caught a ride on the back of a wooly mammoth, until they finally came to the garden that surrounded the Faerie Palace.
“Look, Hugh, there it is! The Faerie Palace!”
If Hugh were to try to describe it to you or me, he would have great difficulty, for its spiraling towers and majestic halls felt the freedom to transcend the regular architectural limitations. He could say that it was a little like King Arthur’s palace, but that wouldn’t be quite right; it was more delicate. He could say it was a little like a gothic cathedral, but that wasn’t quite it either; it was warmer and happier. It seemed to capture and express every sort of structural beauty, real and imagined, with perfect harmony.
As the towers of the palace spiraled higher and higher above them, Hugh and Bangle approached the entrance, greeted not by fanfare and trumpets but with light strains of ethereal music that seemed to come from far within. The graceful archway was adorned with carvings of mystical creatures. Hugh was almost sure that he saw one of the ivory winged lions wink at him. The gate appeared to be open, but when looking directly through it, Hugh did not see the inside of the Faerie Palace. He saw a little boy with a sun-burnt face and dirt on his knees.
“Bangle? Who is…”
Hugh looked around for his friend, but she had already entered somehow. He looked back to the image in the archway. It looked so solid and fleshy that Hugh wondered why such a boy would be in faerie land, and even more, a faerie palace.
“Were you invited to the faerie banquet, boy?’
Hugh asked with a touch of disdain. As soon as he spoke, a lovely faerie with dragonfly wings flew over to the boy and exclaimed,
“Oh magnificent! He is here at the entrance! Come and see!”
Another faerie who looked like she had just jumped out of the dew of a tulip appeared, and another whose hair was adorned with exotic flower petals.
“Look at how the earth clings to his skin! Wondrous!”
“How glorious! See how the sun has painted its color on his face!”
“What magic! His feet touch the ground and leave an imprint!”
Hugh looked on, wondering at the faeries’ reception the dirty little boy, when he suddenly saw that the faeries were surrounding him, and that he himself was the dirty little boy. He stepped toward the mirror in the archway, marveling.
The mirror gave way like a mist at the touch of his hand, allowing Hugh to pass through and enter the palace. The ethereal mirror swirled about him for a moment as the faeries continued to babble. Then he felt the solid floor beneath his feet and his vision cleared.
There was a beautiful woman sitting in the middle of the room weaving some kind of elegant garment. Her bodily presence was far more impressive than any faerie Hugh had ever met. She exuded the most astounding solid reality. This was the Queen of the Faerie. She knew Hugh and smiled.
The voice was a man’s. Hugh felt compelled to turn toward that voice and obey its every utterance. The sound reverberated through the air impacting Hugh’s ears with its lively movement. What manner of body and lungs must it take to make that voice! No faerie Hugh knew of could produce such a sound.
“Hugh, bring me the newspaper. Its over there on the table.”
Here, here is the new adventure! He, Hugh, had been chosen as the hero of the quest.