The forest around Arthur was quiet, quieter than it usually was. It felt as if it was waiting for something to happen. The leaves barely swayed in the wind, brushing together in whispers. Eyes peered out of the underbrush, watching. The Sunlight was almost completely swallowed by the canopy above, raining down in streams and glinting off of a fleeing animals pelt. It was hypnotizing.
But Arthur was not afraid. He was seven years old now, and the stories of the forest couldn’t keep him out of the trees any longer.
He strolled through the forest confidently, his chest puffed out like he had seen important adults do. He passed curling flowers and bubbling streams and large, grey stones. Mushrooms grew on the ground and up the trunks of trees. Birds sang mysterious songs and frogs croaked in accompaniment.
Arthur’s father said he shouldn’t go into the forest because magic was hidden behind every tree and in every flower, just waiting to snatch Arthur up and take him away. But there was also adventure, tales of fairies and trolls and unicorns. Arthur wanted to be like the heros in the adventures, slaying the monster or defeating the sorcerer, and everyone knew that the forest is where the dark things lie.
It was when the sun started to set that Arthur began to get scared. With the dark came evil things. The light that slanted through the trees was burning away, turning dark red like blood with dusk. The eyes that had been watching him became larger, gleaming with danger, and the bird song changed to cries of warning.
Arthur turned, but the path he had taken was gone. He whipped around desperately, searching for any indication of where he had come from. He wanted to go home. He felt his heartbeat wildly and his eyes sting, but he refused to cry. His father never cried.
Arthur started walking the way he thought he had come. He tried to take deep breaths, but he was only a child. HIs mind started racing. The eyes weighed heavily on his back, watching his every move. What if it was wolves, who were known to attack humans?
What if it was something else? Something Arthur could only imagine?
Arthur began to run, fear making his blood rush in his ears and his feet sure against the uneven ground. He heard noises behind him, following him, growing louder and louder with each step, getting closer and closer and closer-
Arthur’s foot got caught on a root of a tree, and he went crashing to the ground. He couldn’t help the tears here. They streamed down his cheeks as he curled into himself, making himself as small as he could. He tucked himself close to a tree and tucked his head down behind his knees.
As he sniffled, something in the air changed. The eyes were gone, and the birds quieted. It was eerily quiet now.
Suddenly, a voice, just a whisper, echoed through the trees. “Why are you crying, child?”
Arthur whipped his head up, but there was no one in front of him. He looked around, but he couldn’t see anyone. “Where are you,” he asked, wiping the tears from his cheeks.
“I am here,” the voice replied, and a light flickered to life on the edge of his vision. He whipped his head towards it. It was merely a blue glow through the trees, flickering like fire. “Come with me, child, and I will take you home.”
Arthur stood up in a hurry. The whisper sounded loving, like what Arthur imagined a mother might sound like. He quickly moved toward it, but as he got closer, the light moved away. He followed it for a long time, trying not to trip over logs.
Night had fallen sometime before the light had appeared, and moonlight replaced the sun. It was a full moon, and its silver light barely lit the way. Fireflies flashed in the air, pale in the gloom. Crickets were chirping, and an owl softly hooted.
The light led him to a glade. In the center was a silvery pool of water, a tiny stream leading away into the forest. Right beside it was a ring of mushrooms, and right in the center of this ring hovered the light.
It was a ghostly thing, pale blue and shifting like a shadow. “Come closer,” the voice beckoned, and the light flickered. “Come touch me. I don’t burn. Come.”
Arthur didn’t want to get any closer. His father’s warnings of magic wanting to take him away rang in his head, so he stayed where he was on the edge of the glade.
“I want to go home,” Arthur said, wrapping his cloak close around him. “You said you would take me home.”
“I will,” the voice whispered. “I will take you home, but you have to come closer. Step inside the circle, and we can go home.”
“No,” Arthur said, starting to cry again. “I want to go home now. Take me home now.”
Before the voice could say anything more, another voice cut through the night. It was a word in a language Arthur had never heard before, and at its command, the light vanished.
Arthur continued crying, scared and tired and wishing for his father’s stern voice and his nanny’s warm hugs and his nice, soft bed. He sank to the ground, trying to wipe away the tears but they just kept falling.
“Why are you crying?”
The voice that asked this sounded curious, almost cheerful. Arthur recognized the voice as the one who banished the light, and he quickly looked up.
It was a person. Well, it looked like a person. It stood on two legs and had two arms and a head. Its eyes blinked down at Arthur with a mischievous glint, and it smiled widely. But it was definitely not human.
It was thin like a girl, but very tall, with slender limbs that looked like they had been stretched out. Its hair was pitch black, like the sky above, and its skin was so pale that it glowed in the moonlight. Its ears were long and pointed, arching from its head like horns. Its teeth were pointed like daggers in its smile.
It was the most beautiful thing Arthur had ever seen.
Arthur stared at it in awe, and the creature stared back. Its eyes were a captivating blue, dark and dangerous like the ocean.
“Are you a boy?” Arthur asked?
The creature tossed its head back and let out a silver peal of laughter. It was the most beautiful thing Arthur had ever heard. “Yes,” it - he - said, smiling with warmth at the young boy.
“It’s just,” Arthur started, his cheeks growing warm, “I’ve never seen a boy as pretty as you are.”
The creature crouched down and ruffled Arthur’s hair. “That is very sweet of you,” he said, eyes twinkling like stars. Then he cocked his head to the side and looked Arthur over. “So why are you wandering the forest alone?”
Arthur sniffed. “I just wanted to go exploring,” his bottom lip started wobbling, “but I got lost, and I can’t find my way home.”
“Oh, please don’t cry,” the creature said, looking panicked, as if he had no idea what to do with a crying child. He scooped Arthur up into his arms and held him close. Arthur clenched tightly to the pure white robes the thing wore and cried into his shoulder.
The creature started to hum while rubbing comforting circles on Arthur’s back. His voice was lulling, and in a few seconds, Arthur had calmed and was just laying his cheek on the things shoulder, listening.
After a while, the creature set Arthur back on the ground. He wiped the boys tears, and stroked his cheeks gently.
“I’ll make you a deal, little one,” he spoke softly, continuing his soft comforts. “I will take you back home if you promise to let me marry you.”
“M-Marry!” Arthur squeaked, cheeks going scarlet. “But you’re so old!”
The creature giggled again, brushing Arthur’s hair back from his forehead. “I’m a faerie,” he said, “I will stay young forever. So when you grow up, I will look just the same.”
Arthur’s brows furrowed, “But then I will get old.”
“Not if you come back with me to the Land of the Fae,” the creature said, matter-of-factly. “You will be just as immortal as I am, there.”
Arthur was very confused. His young mind didn’t understand everything that the faerie was saying, but he was very beautiful, and Arthur liked being with him very much. That is what his nanny had told him marriage should be: a union between people who wanted to stay together no matter what.
“Do you really want that?” Arthur asked shyly.
The faerie smiled kindly, “Very much.”
“...Okay.” Arthur’s cheeks were very warm, and he couldn’t seem to look away from his shoes.
“We need to seal the deal, alright, little one?” the faerie asked. “It’s very simple. You just need to tell me your name, and I will tell you mine.”
“My name?” Arthur asked. When his father had made deals with other people, the signed a piece of paper. He had never seen a deal made just by exchanging names.
“Yes,” the faerie’s eyes were intense, the deep blue rolling with magic. “Names hold power. They belong to you and no one else.”
“Alright,” the boy said. “My name is Arthur Pendragon.”
The faerie looked shocked. “The prince?” he asked, looking Arthur over with new eyes. At Arthur’s self-conscious nod, he smiled. “That is quite lucky because I am a prince, too.”
“Really?” Arthur asked, delighted.
“Really,” the faerie confirmed, “and my name is Emrys.”
As the faerie said his name, something set into place, something ancient and powerful. Arthur felt a bit light-headed as magic rushed through his body. He swayed for a moment, but Emrys steadied him by placing his hands on his shoulders.
“I think it is time to get you back home.” Emrys sweeped Arthur into his arms, and started into the forest. As he walked, Emrys hummed a lullaby, and in a few short moments, Arthur was asleep with his face pressed into the faerie’s neck.
He woke to the sounds of someone calling his name. Emrys had stopped at the tree line and was watching guards frantically search around the area, torches bobbing in the night.
Emrys set Arthur down on the ground, and watched fondly as Arthur rubbed at his eyes. “This is goodbye,” he said softly, smoothing a hand down Arthur’s hair, “but it is not forever.” He pressed a kiss to Arthur’s forehead and gently pushed the child into the open.
When Arthur turned to look, the faerie was gone.
After much fussing and lecturing, Arthur was finally released to go to bed, albeit with double the guards normally. His father had been so angry, but he had hugged Arthur tightly for a long, long time.
As Arthur settled into bed, he imagined the future. He imagined being grown, with a crown on his head and Emrys by his side.
He fell asleep with a smile, and to the faint sound of a lullaby.