“Oh, no, my Lady.” Berry jumped up. She remained full sized, and Greta decided that perhaps Berry was thirteen after all. “But that would mean, Bogus, oh dear.” Berry finished without saying anything at all.
Greta spoke up loud as the men picked themselves off the ground. “It would be a great kindness to me if you would clean up the three in the lock-up and feed them so they are ready to travel when I return.”
“It will be done.” Baran spoke graciously. He dared not speak otherwise. He behaved like a politician, after all.
Greta smiled, but turned to Fae. “Coming?” She asked. She stepped over to help Fae to her feet the way she used to help Mother Hulda. At first Fae looked reluctant to have Greta even touch her, but at last she accepted Greta’s help even as a small tear fell to her feet.
“Where are we going?” Fae asked.
“To see Bogus the Skin.” Greta answered. “This foolishness has gone on long enough.”
“If you get little again, you could hide in my hair.” Greta suggested.
Berry looked at her with astonishment. She had not thought of that. Immediately, Berry flew to Greta’s shoulder and stayed hidden from view. This caused Greta to consider her hair. It felt frizzled and badly frayed and in need of washing, and so was she, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Vilam?” Greta looked up. “Will you and your son kindly escort us back across the river?” Vilam said nothing. He doffed his hat, nodded to her and to Fae, and went to fetch his son.
They made a quick trip back across the water, and though Finbear continued to stare at Greta, he did not give her the same discomfort as before. Greta believed he kept trying to catch a glimpse of the fairy on her shoulder, but Berry stayed firmly hidden in her hair. Every now and then, when Finbear’s attention would waver and he would look down at his pole for a second, her little head would pop out and so would her tongue. By the time he looked up, Berry would be hidden again, so Greta could not be sure if he ever actually saw the sprite.
When they reached the other side, Greta asked Berry which way to go. “All ways are equal,” she said. “All roads lead to Avalon if it is your heart’s desire.” Greta understood. They would not find Bogus the Skin so much as he would find them. They said farewell to Vilam and Finbear who headed back for a called council of the Bear Clan. They did not know it, but Danna made sure that representatives from nearly all of the other Clans would be there by the time the council got into full swing. Only the Dragon Clan in the mountains lived too far away for such short notice.
They waved, and then Fae, who was hardly of the age for a long journey, asked very sensibly, “How many miles to Avalon?”
“Three score miles and ten,” Berry said, without hesitation.
“Can I get there by candlelight?” Greta asked.
“Yes, and back again.” Berry completed the story and clapped her hands and giggled. Fae did not get it, so while they walked in the direction of the fairy circle where Greta and Berry first met, Greta tried to explain.
“Usgard above Midgard is my home, in a sense,” she said, naming the place in her own tongue. “It is a small point of relative stability in the Second Heavens, a universe which folds in and back on itself in ever new, kaleidoscopic fashion. It is anchored by the seven isles of Elfhome, Dark Elfhome, Dwarfhome and so on. They act sort of like the tail on a kite, and the innumerable isles stretch out beyond that. All the same it is a small place in the infinitely large and infinitely small universe that divides Midgard from the throne of the Most-High.”
Fae shook her head and did not follow. “I know of Avalon,” she said. “It is among the oldest of the stories of my people, but it was always said that Avalon could be found just around the next bend, or just over the horizon, or at the end of the rainbow.”
“Or here and gone in a blink.” Berry chimed in. “Or the way you didn’t go, or…”
“Enough,” Greta said, and Berry sat, quietly. “Mostly it is home for the little ones, much more in the Second Heavens than here under the first.”
“Have you been there?” Fae asked.
“No.” Greta shook her head. “But maybe someday, perhaps, but now, what was I saying?”
“How far is it to Avalon?” Fae prompted.
“Three score miles and ten.” Berry shot right back and she would have gone through the whole rhyme again if Greta had not covered her little mouth with her finger.
“It is right there all the time for the little ones.” Greta said, remembering Fae’s quarter blood. “It is accessible simply by being there.”
Fae looked very sad. “How often I felt it was right there before me, and I would reach out and stretch out my hand, but always it stayed just beyond my fingertips. And when the Villy, the imps of the boon, the spirits of the earth, the sprites of life were in the fields and trees and sky and the moonlight, I could almost see them and almost hear the strange, magical music by which all life danced. But I never did until today, and now I dare not speak her blessed little name for fear that she will vanish away and prove once again to be only a dream.”
“What? My name?” Berry asked, actually following the conversation. “But my name is easy to say. You just say “Berry” and I say, “What?”
“And I promise that she won’t vanish,” Greta said.
“Your name is easy, too.” Berry wasn’t finished. She squeaked, “Fae.” She spoke in her normal voice. “Fae.” She dropped her voice an octave. “Fae.” They stopped moving. Berry stood on Greta’s shoulder with her hands on her hips, looking very miffed. Fae just looked at Berry in wonder until she shook herself free.
“What?” Fae asked.
“Yippee!” Berry shouted and did a back flip, landing perfectly again on Greta’s shoulder. The wings helped. “Now it’s your turn.”
Fae hesitated, but at last she pulled herself up. “Berry.”
“What?” Berry yelled as loud as she could. Greta put her hand to her ear, but Berry could not help it. It all built up inside of her, and with that much built up in that little body, it just had to explode.
“You know,” Greta said. “Maybe this conversation would go better if you rode on Fae’s shoulder for a while.”
“Yes, if it is all right with Fae,” Greta said.
“Oh, please,” Fae said, and Berry waited for no more invitation.
Good, Greta thought, perhaps now they could get moving again. She no sooner turned around, however, when she saw a little one standing in the path, baring their way and looking very cross.