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Second Star to the Right

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Chapter One

 

Slaine Troyard is very, very busy fairy.

Then again, with The Molt coming up, every fairy has their hands full with preparations for the big event. However, Slaine is used to this. Being a storm-talent fairy, his days are always spent making sure that the weather is just right for the fairies. Whether it’s keeping the skies clear, or delivering a light rain just when the gardens need it, it’s all part of his job. More than that, it’s his passion.

Beyond the feeling of satisfaction from knowing that what he does helps others, it’s the sensation of lightning dancing in his hands, and the wild abandon of the wind around him. He loves knowing that at any time he can reach out and grasp it, fling it far away from here, that he can do what he wants with this force of nature. The skies over Pixie Hollow are his, and the rest of his talent, to guard and control.

The night of The Molt is an important night. Once every year, Mother Dove sheds her feathers so that they can be ground up to make pixie dust. The fairies have taken the opportunity to turn it into an extravagant celebration of sorts, with a marvellous light show put on by the light-talent fairies, and other creations unveiled by various talents. It goes to say that it cannot rain on that night, not even a tiny drizzle. If something were to go wrong, they will have a lot more on their hands than just wet wings and disappointment. That is why Slaine absolutely has to get this job done perfectly.

He prides himself on being one of the stronger storm-talent fairies. Some put it down to natural talent, but Slaine knows that it’s not that. His confidence in his talent is rooted in the late nights spent on his balcony, listening to the crack of lightning and feeling the harsh drops of rain on his face. By now, the roll of thunder across the sky is as familiar to him as his own heartbeat, and he can fly the pathways of the winds with no fear, always knowing where he’ll end up. When Slaine guides the winds away, it’s not by sheer talent nor power, it’s by a different kind of power born from familiarity.

And perhaps it is because of this familiarity that he’s the first to feel uneasy.

It starts out in the morning, when he’s directing the winds away and scattering the rainclouds above the Hollow. At first, he thinks that he’s imagining it, and that maybe he stayed up a bit too late the previous night, but there is no mistaking the way the wind slips around his attempts to direct it somewhere else. It shies from his hand like a fish from a net, and all he grasps is empty air. Frustrated, Slaine tries again, but he might as well have been running his hand through water. He looks around to see if he’s the only one with this problem, but the rest of his talent are breaking up the clouds or pushing them away. None of them have noticed anything strange with the wind.

What is this feeling he feels in the air? It lingers in every breeze and leaves a bad taste at the back of his throat. It makes him feel like the weight of the sky is bearing down on him, pushing him down and forcing him away from its-

“Slaine!”

A voice tears his attention away from his thoughts, and Slaine quickly searches below to find the source. His eyes land on a familiar fairy, and he flies down to meet them halfway.

“Harklight,” Slaine says, mildly surprised, “I thought you’d still be at the mill.”

“I came to get you, the new fairy’s just arrived.” Harklight replies, not blinking an eye when Slaine takes a few moments to remember. It’s not unusual for Slaine to be caught up in his work, to the extent that he’s much more attuned to the changes in the wind than those of the fairies. To be honest, he admires that side of Slaine; the fierce dedication and devotion to his talent, so much so that he doesn’t mind having to remind him of things that others usually remember. Being a dust talent fairy, it’s definitely not unusual for him to see Slaine every day when giving out their portions, so he uses that time to remind him of all the things that are going on. (“The Harvest Moon is tonight, don’t forget to turn up for the ceremony,” Or, “spring cleaning is tomorrow, you’ve gotten all your old things sorted out, right?”)

“I didn’t realise that it’d be today,” Slaine shrugs, but he knows that it’s his fault for not paying more attention. There’s a crowd outside the Home Tree by the time they reach, and the new fairy’s so short that he can barely see them over the others. Finally, he and Harklight settles for a perch on a lower branch. “I wonder what talent he is.”

Harklight shrugs. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Slaine turns his attention back to the ground, where the new fairy stands. There’s something about him that seems off, something that he can’t seem to put his finger on. It feels a lot like déjà vu, but of what? “Actually, is he incomplete?”

“What do you mean?” His friend asks, staring hard at the fairy. “I mean, he is a little short but-”

“Nothing,” Slaine cuts him off, shaking his head. Incomplete fairies are rare, but not unheard of. They happen when a bit of the baby’s laugh gets left behind, or if a bit of the baby sticks to the laugh. Sometimes the defects are obvious, like their wings are half formed, or maybe they have rounded ears instead of pointed, but occasionally there are other things. They’ll have to wait and get to know the fairy better before actually determining if the fairy is incomplete or not. “Actually, why hasn’t he said anything yet?” New fairies always make The Announcement once they arrive, so the others know what talent they’re in. It’s something every fairy just knows when they’re born, like how they know that they are a Never Fairy, or that hawks are dangerous. So why isn’t he saying anything?

---

Inaho is so confused. He stands in the centre of a courtyard, right in front of the Home Tree, surrounded by fairies. They’re all looking on expectantly at him, but what are they waiting for? One of them approaches him, holding a cup in her hand, and Inaho instinctively knows what that is. Fairy dust, one cup a day, no more no less. He bows his head slightly as the fairy tips the cup over him, letting the golden dust settle on his person.

The change that comes over is nothing short of marvellous. His body feels much lighter, and his wings are more responsive. He feels like he can fly a whole ocean. Inaho wants to go test that out right now, to explore more of this place, but something stops him.

“What’s your talent?” The fairy asks, and there is something in her expression and tone that makes Inaho slightly uneasy. What is it? He realises that it’s the same look that everyone else has: Anticipation. 

“Talent?”

Immediately her smile drops into a blank look of shock. “You don’t know what your talent is?”

Is he supposed to know? Judging by the reactions around him, he guesses that yes, he is supposed to know. Carefully making sure that his expression doesn’t give anything away, he says, “No, no, I do know.” The first thing in the waiting masses that catches his eye is a silver lightning pattern on a maroon shirt, and he quickly stitches together a decent lie. “I’m a storm-talent fairy.”

It feels like the fairies collectively let out a sigh of relief, and the strange tension in the air abates. Noise seeps back into the courtyard as fairies start to chatter again, leaving their branches and spots. Some more fairies are coming forward to greet him, shaking his hands and giving names and introductions. He has no trouble remembering, but he really just wants to get away to see more of this strange place by himself. The dust-talent fairy from earlier seems to have taken on the role of his mentor as well, telling him about the festival that’s going to take place later, and the things that everyone is doing. Inaho is happy to let her go on, until she grabs his wrist and suddenly drags him in one direction.

“Slaine!” She yells, pulling him towards the very same fairy that he’d seen with the lightning clothes. “You can show him around, since he’s your talent! I gotta go prepare for The Molt later, so I’ll leave you here Inaho, bye!”

And Inaho is left alone with the fairy named Slaine. He studies the fairy carefully, noting how tense his shoulders seem to be, and the tight lipped expression on his face. Those bright teal eyes stare at him accusingly, fierce and unrelenting, and Inaho stares right back.

It seems that Slaine is very, very angry, and he is the cause.