In a Time Far Away

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In a time far away lived a beautiful elf princess named Joan, but her kingdom did not have palaces or castles or even houses like one might expect. The elves lived right out in nature. They had woven together the living branches of a birch grove to keep off the rain. It made an enormous ceiling under which they all lived quite comfortably. Everyday Joan would venture from her home to explore the woods of her kingdom.

One day Joan finished a meal of fresh blueberries and took a drink of sparkling water from a nearby stream. Then she lay down next to an ancient tree, resting her head on a root, and fell immediately to sleep. When she awoke, she heard an unusual buzzing. The noise came from a small hollow beneath a root on the other side of the tree. She put her face into the opening for a peek.

The sight amazed her. The space was filled with a golden light. Dozens of tiny wood sprites flittered about on delicate wings. Occasionally a sparkle of light erupted, but she didn’t understand why. The tiny creatures seemed to be laughing or singing; she couldn’t tell which. Beneath the soft hum of their wings she heard music so delicate it made almost no sound at all.

One of the sprites noticed Joan’s giant face peering in at their little gathering.

“Well, don’t just block the entrance with that big face of yours,” it said. “Come on in.”

“I can’t,” said Joan. “I’m much too large.”

“Of course you may come in,” the little sprite insisted. “If you want to.”

Joan stepped into the hollow without knowing how she had gotten small enough to do so. The tiny space now seemed like a great hall full of a wavery gold light. Everything rippled, as if viewed through moving water. On the far side of the hollow glowed a comforting fire the color of golden sapphires, but it flickered slowly like seaweed moving in a gentle current. Stranger still, nothing actually burned in the fireplace—no logs or kindling—there was just the fire.

This is truly magic, she thought.

Being so small, Joan noticed the details more accurately, and she realized the sparkles came from the wands they all carried. Whenever they needed something, they gave their wands a flick, and the items appeared in showers of sparkles. Joan also noticed, when the sprites landed, their wings didn’t fold up like she would have expected; they simply disappeared.

The sprites didn’t care she was there. In fact, they were all too occupied to notice her. The only exception was the sprite who had spoken to her. He landed near—his wings disappearing—and introduced himself as Tim.

“Where is your wand?” he asked.

“I don’t have one.”

The sprite looked momentarily confused. “I suppose that explains why you aren’t doing anything.”

Joan noticed Tim’s wand for the first time. While the others looked like random twigs, his was a very straight yellow stick, sharpened to a dark point on one end. It was the strangest object Joan had ever seen.

“What is that?” she asked.

“It’s called a pencil.”

He waved his wand, and a long table appeared, draped in a heavy linen cloth and covered with luscious food: golden goblets filled with rich red wine, juicy roasts, glazed poultry, steaming vegetables, bowls of exotic fruits. Polished silverware sat next to shining china plates. Silver candlesticks lined the length of the table, the candles tipped with dancing golden flames.

“You should find a wand you like,” he said. “But now, enjoy this feast.”

Other sprites came and went, eating, laughing and dancing. Chiming music and swirling lights sprinkled from the tips of wands. All of it quite astounded her. It was a marvelous time that seemed to last forever. Whenever Joan became tired, she curled up on an elm leaf to rest. When awake, she joined the party. Joan picked up sticks and tried waving them, but she couldn’t get any sparkles. She asked Tim to tell her how to do it, but he couldn’t. He looked at her as if she had asked how to breathe.

“I would love for my family to see this,” she said.

“I can show them. It’s fun.”

Joan became suddenly eager to get back home and to share this remarkable phenomenon.

“When can we go?”

“Now,” he replied, but then immediately got distracted by a passing sprite juggling colored lights with her wand.

The party continued, and Tim seemed in no hurry. Now he kept saying. Joan eventually got tired and snuggled up on her elm leaf again to sleep. She woke up alone, her head resting on the tree root.