Author's Note: This is one of the first fairy-tales I wrote. It's based on the original depictions of fairies rather than on the more recent "cute" depictions of fairies.
The Fairy Dance
Seven years spent out of time
And all is lost that once was mine
I tarried once and listened long
To the echoes of the Fair Folk's song
– Heather Dale, The Fair Folk
Once upon a time, there was a young man. This story is not truly about the young man, but if it weren't for his actions we would have no story. And so, I must begin by telling you something about him. He was an arrogant young man; the sort of person who thought they knew everything and refused to listen to advice.
Now, this young man lived in a village nestled in a valley. On either side of the village high green hills rose up. No one in the village had ever climbed those hills; when they wished to leave the valley they walked down it to where the hills fell away and revealed flat, open country beyond. One day, the young man decided he wanted to climb the hills and see what was on the other side.
"Don't!" his parents warned him. "They will find you if you go there."
But the young man did not believe They existed. One day he set out. He climbed the hill behind their house and vanished over the ridge. And from that day to this no human can truthfully claim to have seen that young man again.
The young man had a sister, and when he never came back she decided to go in search of him. Her parents refused to let her go, but she slipped out of the house one night when they were asleep, and she climbed the hill.
On the top of the hill there was a forest. It was a very strange sort of forest. Instead of growing closely together the trees were never less than four feet apart. You could walk straight through the forest in any direction without having to go around a tree more than once or twice. The girl lit the lantern she had taken with her and set off through the forest.
Now another strange feature of the forest became apparent. As soon as you were in the forest, the trees ahead of you remained far apart, but the trees behind you moved closer together until it was impossible to get through them. The branches and leaves grew so thickly overhead that you couldn't see the sky and guess at where you were from the position of the stars. The girl could only keep walking in the direction she thought was straight ahead. She began to wish she'd never come.
Her lantern burned lower and lower until it finally guttered out. Left in complete darkness under the shadows of the trees, she stopped and sat down under the nearest tree. She didn't intend to fall asleep, yet she must have, for the next thing she knew lights had appeared in the distance, and the sound of voices drifted through the air.
Like her brother, the girl did not believe They – the Fair Folk, the strange, inhuman creatures that dwell alongside humans – existed. But she was still wary of approaching the voices, because what honourable purpose could a group of people have in a forest late at night? She doubted they were looking for a lost brother.
Her fear of remaining hopelessly lost overcame her worries. She got up and walked towards the lights.
The lights turned out to be glowing orbs suspended from branches. They lit a clearing filled with a large crowd of strange, ethereal figures. All of them were tall and pale, with pointed ears and glowing eyes, wearing gossamer gowns of grey material, and they were chattering among themselves in a language no human could understand. It was impossible to tell who was male or female, or if they were all male or all female, for all of them had feminine faces and high voices.
Silence fell in the clearing. The girl, crouched behind a beech tree, felt sure they had seen her and were about to attack. But no; they appeared to be getting ready for a dance. Some of them lined up in pairs while others tuned curious musical instruments. One of the musicians ran his or her fingers across a harp-like instrument. This appeared to be their equivalent of a conductor rapping his baton on the podium, for the other musicians promptly struck up a lively yet haunting tune, and the dance began.
It seemed mere minutes later that the dance ended, the lights dimmed and flickered out without anyone going near them, and the dancers and musicians vanished like mist before the sun. The girl stayed behind the tree until the last echoes of the music faded away. Then she stumbled to her feet and started in the direction she thought most of the people had gone. She hardly noticed that the sun had risen, or that the trees now stayed where they were instead of wandering about to confuse people. She had forgotten her original purpose for coming into the forest. Indeed, it is likely she had forgotten she ever had a brother. She walked on and on as if in a dream.
How it happened she could never say, but suddenly she awoke from her daydream-like state to find herself no longer in the forest, but instead outside her parents' house. The girl stopped and stared for a moment. By far the greater part of her mind was still in the clearing with the dancers and musicians. Even so, it seemed slightly odd to her that she had gone from being in the forest to being in the village, and had no memory of leaving the forest and walking down the hill. She pondered this for a moment, before dismissing it as unimportant.
The door was unlocked. She walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Her thoughts were still on the things she had seen in the clearing and the beautiful music was still playing in her ears, so she never noticed that the furniture and decorations of the kitchen were different to what they had been the day before. She noticed nothing at all about her surroundings until the door opened and an old, old woman walked in, leaning on a walking stick.
The woman saw her and gave a shrill scream. The girl, startled half-way out of her memories, stared blankly at the woman.
"Who are you?" she asked confusedly. She couldn't remember ever seeing the woman before. And yet... there was something about her...
She looked closer. The fog over her brain lifted long enough for the truth to hit her like a thunderbolt.
If you know anything about the Fairies, you can probably guess what happened. The girl thought she had only been in the forest for a few hours; for everyone else, it had been almost fifty years. Her father was dead, her village utterly changed. Nothing was as she remembered it.
The girl remained in the village for two years. Her mother died less than a year after her return, and from then on the villagers began to whisper openly about her, as they hadn't dared when her mother was alive. Most of them had been born after she disappeared and were of the opinion she wasn't really the same girl; gossip came to the conclusion that she was an interloper impersonating a long-dead person for some unspecified but certainly nefarious purpose. The girl herself hardly noticed. Her mind was always more than half focused on the clearing, and the music, and the dancers.
An entire week went by with no sign of her. At first the villagers didn't notice, since she rarely left her house and they never thought about her if they could help it. Finally someone realised no one had seen her, and went over to the house to investigate. They found the house empty.
No one has ever seen the girl since. She went back to the forest, and I suppose she is still there to this day.