When I was fifty, and the prime of my youth was just beginning to take hold, I was more in tune with the heart's moral dictions than any solid ground in the antithesis of Logic. The times looked upon my erratic sentiments with contempt, for I was, to be certain, not more than a young boy. When a fit of despair (a common guest in the house of my mind) seized me, I was sent off to the wood to "level out."
"Fen," my mater would say warningly, "better find yourself a place to level out."
On one such occasion, I was sprinting along the narrow dirt path, trying to leave my anger behind me, to abandon the hunger for a dispute back with Mater, back with the neighbor and his self-assured Regent son- oh but that pompous little leech! My ears shot up in contempt, and I lowered my head, running faster and faster, my bare feet a reddish blur beneath me. Level out, level out, level out.
I was dimly aware of the weather turning sour above me, the fine summer sky darkening, the bizarrely violent shaking of each tree's leaves, the uneasiness in the air. I was dimly aware, but my heart's fury compelled me not to take much note. Leagues away, Mater was calling frantically, "They're coming! Oh, Fen, Fen! They're coming!" For she knew not how far I dared venture.
Thunder crackled overhead, but still I heeded it not. Only when a bolt of lightning crashed to earth feet from me did my muddied feet falter. I crumpled in shock, gasping for air. Leveled out, I said to myself. I glanced skyward and did a double-take.
I had never seen one of them before.
She was just a babe, miniscule, round-cheeked and sure. Her wide eyes, such a radiant violet, held mine and did not let go. Her step was graceful, for a babe's.
"Cherubin," I began politely, but she halted me, a finger to her lips. I bowed my shaggy head in assent.
Watching with tremulous surprise, I saw her extend a hand, moving ever closer to my folded form.
"Me?" I asked, unsure. She nodded, shaking out her sunny locks.
With power that seemed to come from deep within me, I righted myself, never taking my ocher eyes off hers.
"Fennel fox," she deemed with all the dignity of a Regent though the articulation of a youngling.
I reached her hand and clawed at it desperately. Her slender fingers closed around the sharpened ends of mine. And then we were running, gliding to the Far Edge. The tips of grass skimmed over my feet, gently brushing dirt off, cleansing me inside and out. The vegetation grew clear, and I knew we had reached the spot I was never to cross.
"Cherubin, please!" I cried out, but her grip merely tightened.
"All is well," she said in a different tone, hypnotic, sensual. "You've leveled out, my dear fennel."
"I beseech you, I go no further!"
Yet she would not yield, and we tarried on, the tips of our toes just kissing the earth now. I made promises, then, to Mater, to the neighbor's son, to all the Regents. I avowed to be their Good Fen, to put a cap on my transient emotions. I would be perpetually leveled out, if this could all be a night-vision, some phantasm of the storm.
Her little hand loosened and I thought, Oh thank you!
We had reached The Fable. A fortitude of rock, rising up into the air of their own accord, a tall pinnacle with a blaring yellow light at its conclusion. Every bolt of lightning seemed to hit just at the structure's peak, crashing with the force of Fae.
"Fae!" I screamed. Her countenance dimmed at the hated name, her irises turning darker, lines appearing under her eyes, her cheekbones hollowing out.
Her voice was harsh then, all her words harsh and clipped.
"It won't be long now, fennel fox. The Fae are coming, and they've sworn to make bones out of you."