“Where is she?” Moonbeam asked, her voice distraught. “She should have been back days ago.”
“Maybe the dragon king caught her,” Lilybelle whispered.
“Or trolls,” Swallowtail wailed. “She should have been back.”
Tonight should have been a celebration for the faeries. Gossamer had set out two weeks prior to undertake her pilgrimage across the land of faerie to prove herself worthy of the throne.
Really, the pilgrimage was largely ceremonial in nature. Gossamer was never supposed to face danger. She would visit each faerie village to see and be seen by her people. And on her return, she would ascend the throne as their new queen.
But no one had heard from her in almost a week. Messengers had gone out across the land in search of her and come back without news, good or bad. She had simply disappeared.
Gossamer’s younger sisters looked up in unison at the sound of fluttering wings, the hope in their eyes dimming as Foxglove came into view—alone. She was the last scout to report back.
Swallowtail, as the next in line for the throne, closed her eyes, her face pinched with pain. “I suppose we must go tell the elders.”
“Oh, Swallowtail.” Lilybelle’s eyes filled with tears. “Maybe we could wait another day.”
“Another day won’t make any difference,” Moonbeam said, as dejected as her sisters. “She’s not…”
A sudden flurry of what sounded like hundreds of pairs of wings interrupted her. Startled, the faeries shifted closer to one another as they peered out into the darkness.
“Gossamer!” Swallowtail cried out, immediately flying to her sister. She stopped, her wings fluttering, as she beheld more faeries than she could count, all following Gossamer into the glade.
“You’ll never guess what I’ve found,” Gossamer said, pulling Swallowtail into a hug. She glowed with excitement, lighting up night. Noticing the decorations around the glade, she paused. “I’m late, aren’t I? And you’ve been worried.”
“We thought you had been caught by the dragon king,” Lilybelle said, joining them.
“Or worse.” Moonbeam frowned at her sister and soon-to-be queen, irritated now that she was no longer worried.
Swallowtail shot her a quelling glance before turning back to Gossamer. “But who are all these faeries?”
“I stumbled on a portal to another world,” Gossamer answered, beckoning to the newcomers, who had hung back, to join them. “Where these faeries come from, their existence depends on the belief of beings called humans.”
Gossamer’s face fell. “The humans have mostly lost their belief, and faeries are fading from that world. I stayed long enough to feel the effects myself and I convinced them to return here with me.”
She made a pouty face, batting her eyelashes at her sisters. “I’m sorry I worried you. Forgive me?”
What else could the sisters do? Gossamer had saved the faeries from another world. Each hugged her in turn, agreeing she had made a queenly choice and most certainly earned her crown.
That night at the festivities, Gossamer’s subjects numbered more than any queen before her. It would be a big responsibility to care for so many, but not a single faerie doubted that she was up to the task.
I had initially created the image for this story as part of a series of Christmas faeries. But these three look sad and worried, not like they’re celebrating. So I asked myself what might they have planned to celebrate and why were they upset instead. “Wither Hope” grew from that query.
In writing this, I also wondered if I would like to live as a Fae. I haven’t decided yet. There are so many things I’d miss from our world, flawed as it is. Would you jump at the chance?
I clapped when Peter Pan asked if I believed in fairies, so I could help save Tinkerbell. And I'm still clapping, especially since I now know how much they depend on me 🥰
Fun story, Dascha! It’s very fun for authors when an image prompts a story that was waiting in another dimension to be told. 😉