The Farmer and the Fairy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
I am a sucker for happy endings and love stories. That's probably because both these things make life feel more organized and ordered when, really, they are very simplified versions of very complex situations in life.

Submitted: December 06, 2007

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Submitted: December 06, 2007

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There once was a farmer who had never married. It had not been because the women from the bustling town a day’s walk away had no interest. Both young and old were very taken with his dark handsome features and the twinkle in his eye when he smiled. Certainly, the pretty ladies gave him no small pleasure when they walked past with their coquettish smiles. He had never married because of his parents.
Almost from the moment he was old enough to start working the fields with his father, his mother had fallen sick. He and his father had tended to the fields and to her health, but with time his father succumbed to sickness, too. It was a wasting disease that took its toll slowly, sapping the strength from his father until he could no longer hold himself up. The young man cared for them and the farm that was their livelihood from waking until his head hit the pillow.
Early one morning, before the sun had come up, whimpering awoke the young man. He shot up from his bed, the fog of sleep instantly gone, and listened as hard as he could. It was his father sobbing! He bolted from his bed and shot down the hall. With a leap he crashed through the bedroom door to find his father unable to wake his mother. During the night she had gone the path of leaves in autumn.
He coaxed his old father out of the bed and carried him gently away. Then kept him company until the tears stopped and the old man fell asleep.
The cock's first crow of the morning sounded as he finished preparing his mother for burial. To his relief his father did not call out. All was silent. Only the birds twittered away in the nearby forest.
He brought a cold breakfast to his father and set it down on the nightstand. The old man’s face was streaked with dried tears. The young man sat quietly on the bed letting the facts settle in slowly. His father would never wake again. He went about the work of preparing his father for the Earth’s embrace quietly, with the resolve of the unthinking.
The man, his shovel, and a lone willow cast long shadows down the side of the hill on which the grave yawned up at the orange sky. Two figures wrapped in what had been bed sheets only a few hours gone now lay silently in an earthen pallet. He could not pray. A dark something inside of him that felt like death crawling would not let him. Gently the earth fell on those two figures that had been his parents ensuring an eternal night would enshroud them in its darkness.
At last he stood atop the hill alone and lonely. Here he could look over the forest that bordered his land to the west. His land. What a strange thought. The leaves and branches of the willow tumbled down to brush his dirt-streaked face as he stared out over the horizon. He walked slowly to the house trying not to think.
The moon rose and traced its silver arc across the black night sky, but the man did not sleep. He sat at the kitchen table looking into its rough wooden planks as if its crannies held responses to the many questions that writhed through his mind. Only the cock’s crow made him realize morning had come.
He stood and washed, not bothering to start a fire. He was not hungry and the cold water would keep him from lingering. After dressing he stepped into the fresh morning air and grabbed the first tool he found. It was a small harrow he and his father had built when he was still a boy. Shoulder harness strapped on tightly he began pulling it across the fields from early morning until sundown without stopping. With barely the strength to move he finally shrugged out of the contraption and stumbled back home.
He did not sleep at all during the night, his mind tittering constantly with things he did not want to think about. Shocks of pain rang between his temples. None of it mattered. Work. That would keep him sane. He jumped from his chair and ran for the door but too late. A sob that started somewhere deep in the pit of his chest tore itself free from him. The sound surprised him. He had not realized he was crying but now he could not stop it. He fell headlong through the door and into the muddy patch from which he did not bother to get up.
Not far off, a fairy watched the young man from the edge of the forest. She had been sneaking here to watch him for a very long time. For years she had seen him nurturing the crops to grow strong and hearty. His hands caressed Mother Nature’s creations to grow. Now hearing him cry and knowing why, glittering tears streamed from her eyes. She knew she should not, but ran to him.
The young man had pressed his eyes shut trying to deny the reality of the past two days. His sobbing had subsided and now he could hear the birdsong that twittered from the forest. Of a sudden, he felt coolness -- soothing, comforting coolness -- against his face. The smell of heather and roses and honeysuckle mingled with the odor of the raw earth. He opened his eyes with a start gasping in the cool fragrance of the beautiful form he now saw bending low over him. He tried to shoot up from where he lay but suddenly the world narrowed and a white fog covered everything.
His eyes fluttered open. He must have been dreaming. That was all. The strange beautiful face would not be there this time. He forced the butterfly fluttering of his eyes to stop. He was lying on the kitchen floor. His head felt a little better now, but he would have to eat something or risk falling out again. Worse yet, he might continue hallucinating about fairies. Propping himself up on his elbows he looked around the room and stopped flabbergasted by what he saw. The fairy had spent much energy dragging the man out of the mud and had been resting only moments before he stirred. She sat on her heels in a corner behind him catching her breath and filling the room with her scent.
“Why do you look at me so?” She asked.
“You’re real!” He answered. Slowly he sat to face the beautiful fairy who looked a bit frightened. He studied every line of her face, the cascade of her brown and gold hair, even the nearly imperceptible emerald glow of her eyes and found it breathtaking. She saw the sudden change in his eyes and knew he had begun to look at her as she saw him: the reflection of the sun sparkling on the jeweled surface of a clear, cold brook. They saw in each other’s eyes the undulating, ever changing, bright and warm heart of a flame. She relaxed and pregnant silence stretched out. Only the birds twittered their song in the forest.
“I look at you so because you are strange… and… beautiful.” He said. “Your eyes sparkle. Your skin glows as if encrusted with sapphires. I have never seen any person or thing more beautiful.”
Confusion lined both their faces. Then: “I think something inside of me died with my parents. I wish to crumble to ashes and be blown away rather than continue feeling what I feel.”
Compassion filled her.“I know you from who you were. He is still in there, I see him in your eyes. I will wait until you are able to come out from under this shroud of pain.”
“Why?” He asked.
“Because… I see how you love deeply and without reserve. Your parents, the land you tend to, these things flourished because of your love. I want you to love me that way... I want to love you that way, too.” She paused long enough to pluck up her courage. "I will return when you are ready," she said. With one last look into his eyes she left.
Feeling better proved a hard path. Everyday something would send him tumbling back to the place where everything hurt and everyday he climbing back out of that hole. He thought knowing the fairy’s desire should make him feel better, but it did not. He knew that he wanted to love her and be loved by her, but the hollowness inside of him would swallow it all. A woman so sure about a thing like love deserved every luxury his heart had to offer. It would not do to allow the raw creature he had become to drive her away. In truth, she had not left his side at all. Every day he would awaken to the fragrance of heather and roses and honeysuckle to find a flower or a forest trinket on his windowsill. He began planting flowers in front of his house, and leaving garlands made of them hung above his bedroom window. They were always gone by morning. It was one of those mornings that he finally woke up and realized he felt good. He rose, made some tea and began weaving a garland of flowers.
He did not hear her as she came to the window but smelled her sweet scent mingle with that of the tea. He sang her a song about the whispering of the trees in summer breezes and the green sparkle of the grass in the sunshine. She leaned in through the window with a smile that captured the radiance of every summer day that ever was. His voice was sweet and there was little the fairy loved more than a fair voice. He placed the crown of flowers upon her brow and kissed the fragrant softness of her face.“I want to love you the way you want to be loved, and I want to be loved that way, too,” he said. They reached for each other’s lips and to their mutual joy, found them.
The happiness that followed was not to last. It is a law that no fairy can be with a human. Fairies know from experience that humans are silly creatures given to bouts of foolishness, jumping at their own shadow, destroying what they do not understand. When it became apparent to the guards of the watch that the young fairy woman had been sneaking out of the forest to see the young man they told the Fairy High Council as was their duty. Her parents beseeched her then to discontinue seeing the farmer but they could not keep her from the council.
“You leave us little choice,” the council said. “If we take no action this will bring ruin upon us. We have heard of how this man cared for his parents and for the earth, but he must deal with others who are not as good as he. If they found out about you, about us… we cannot allow such risks. You must choose. If you choose us, all will be as it was before. If you choose him you must go away from the forest and relinquish its spirit. Your days will be shorter. You will know pain and disease. Childbirth will cause you agony. You will never again see your family. Is your love worth all this? Ask yourself, would he be willing to sacrifice the same for you?”
She turned and walked home in total silence. She remained there for days without speaking or moving from the canopy of branches that served as her bed. Her family could elicit nothing from her but a blank stare and noncommittal gestures. In her silence she pondered which heartbreak would hurt the worst.
At the end of many days she rose from her bed and walked back to the Circle of the Council. With a brave face and in a clear voice she told them, “I cannot choose. I would rather die than hurt either my family or my love. If I must, then I will die of a broken heart.” All the fairies were saddened because they understood the truth in her words. She left the forest one last time to weep in the young man’s arms while he sang to her about the moon and the sun chasing each other eternally across the sky. That night she walked back into the forest, her heart full of things she could no longer say to him. He stood at the door of his house clenching and unclenching his fists, his jaw working as if he would say something.
The words never came. She disappeared among the leaves and shadows.
Months passed, spring melted winter’s icy trappings. All save the icicle in the man’s heart. He had not stopped thinking about the fairy. He had been warned the fairies would not allow him into the forest. He could die at the tips of their spears. Could he ask her to shorten her life and know the misery of sickness and death that made one resent even the last dregs of life? Would her love last through that? Would his? In the end, he thought, love is a choice, and his choice was already made. Without ever looking back he walked into the forest for the first and last time. He wandered for a very long time, until silvery moonbeams slashed the dark mantle of night in the forest. It was then that the elves fell on him. Before he could shout his surprise he was down with his arms bound and one leg leashed to the strongest looking of the fairies. They led him quickly to the Circle of the Council.
“Why are you here?” They asked.
“You know.” He answered.
They held silent and looked at anything but him. One, an older lady, sighed deeply before speaking with sadness in her voice. “She pronounced her sentence long ago. Show him,” she said.
He followed the guards to a clearing in the forest where the moon cast its glow upon blue wisps of light weaving intricate designs in the space above the grass. “Go and find the answer to your question,” one of the guards told him. As he neared the center of the clearing he could see his love lying on a bed of leaves resting in a sleep that was deeper than sleep. She had died, as she said she would, of a broken heart. His only thought was that he had dropped the garland when the guards captured him and so had nothing to present to his beloved. He gave her the only thing he could. Taking a deep breath, he started singing. It was a song about the smell of autumn and the sound of winter and the feel of rain on a dreary afternoon. The wisps gathered around him as he sang and covered him in their glow. Right before the guards’ eyes the man and the fairy began to shrink and glow until they were little motes of light dancing and weaving in the night. They danced around in the splendor of each other’s light for a moment then a sudden coruscating explosion gave birth to a pair of little birds that twittered happily as they flew above the moon-bathed treetops.


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