Written July 1995
A long time ago, in a land far, far away; where unicorns still roamed, and all the sorts of magical creatures still made the time and the opportunity to visit our world, there was a grand kingdom with lush green fields and prosperous townships. Kingdoms of the time each had tales of slippers and beasts and frogs and elves. This kingdom was of no exception. Unlike realms where Princesses lowered their hair, and where dwarves spun gold from bundles of straw, this particular kingdom was visited upon every twelve years by the most beautiful faeries of any land. Once every twelve years, they would come to a glade in the woods outside the castle and dance in the clearings. These visitations, however, were not as fortuitous as one might expect, for the dance of the faeries, drew any child who was not safely tucked away for the night and brought them to the glade where they were spirited off by the following morning.
The faeries meant no mischief in their actions. In truth, the spiriting of children from the kingdom held purpose. The faeries’ intent was to take foundlings, and orphans, and children who were abused or unloved away from their worried lives and bear them off to the faeries’ land where they might rejoice and live happily.
The townsmen and villagers all knew to keep their children safe in their homes upon each arrival of the faeries. Still, there were times when unruly, or unwitting children wandered unheeding of their parent’s word on the fated nights and were inadvertently spirited away as well.
Once upon a time, as the realm flourished, the Queen, in her vanity, begged the King to throw a grand ball commemorating the land’s prosperity. After several days of badgering, the King relented. In his haste, however, he forgot that it was exactly twelve years since the last visitation of the faeries.
In the township the people kissed their children goodnight and safely tucked them away, but in the castle, among the strains of gaiety and reveling, the five-year old Prince tossed fitfully in his bedroom. The King and Queen had sent him to his room early and forbade him to participate in the merriment that was the ball. He cried, but no one heard him. He threw tantrum but no one came. Near exhaustion, the Prince began to weep, but as he did, he noticed lights shimmering outside his window. He drew to the glass and became enthralled by the lithe figures dancing in the distance.
No one stopped him as he made his way out of the castle. No one noticed for they were too drunk with indulgence to pay him any heed. The little Prince joined the throng of foundlings and orphans and other neglected children at the edge of the clearing to watch the faeries dance. Soon the children cast their troubles and worries aside and began to dance with them. The Prince had never seen anything so beautiful nor felt so much resplendent love, that he too forgot his worry and joined the children.
It was late in the night when the festivities of the castle had finally ended and the king and queen, accompanied by the nursemaid, rose the steps to the Prince’s room to bid him goodnight. It was only when they found the room empty, that they remembered the true significance of the day.
The Queen screamed in hysterics, and the King called the alarm. Within minutes, horsemen and soldiers raced towards the woods to claim back the wayward son. Crashing through bramble and bush, jumping on rock and through stream, the men scrambled towards the faery light. The horseman in the lead sighted the boy in the clearing and bore down upon the clearing with alarming intent. The man grabbed hold of the Prince and another child just before the faery light winked out like a bauble shattered. When torches were finally lit, and the king arrived, there was no trace of the faeries nor the children, save the two that the horseman had snatched. The king in relief and joy at seeing his heir safe, grabbed the boy to his chest and called to him. The boy did not answer however, for his heart searched the distant stars to where the faery light had gone.
The Prince and the little mud stained girl were taken back to the castle and cleaned up from their ordeal. The little girl appeared no more than three years old, and could not seem to stop crying.
“What is your name little girl?” Asked the King, while the Queen fussed with the heir. The child could not answer from amidst her tears. “Now dear, its all right, you are safe now. There is nothing to cry about.”
The child snuffled and tried to hide behind the horseman’s leg. The King knelt down beside her and took her by the hand. Meanwhile, the Queen kept talking to the little Prince, alternatingly scolding him for running away and then bursting out heart-felt relief and forgiveness. All the while that his mother rambled, the little Prince heard scarcely a word, for in his mind’s eye danced the faeries and in his heart was an emptiness he had never felt before.
The little girl’s crying stopped when the cookies and milk that the King had sent for arrived. When offered the platter, the child timidly reached for a single gingerbread man with both hands and, just as slowly, shrunk back into her seat to munch on its head.
“Do you like cookies?” The King asked. The little girl nodded from behind her gingerbread. “Would you like another?” The King handed her another gingerbread man and she took it from him, a cookie in each hand.
“Do you have a name, dear?” The Queen asked from across the room as she fussed with the Prince.
“Yes, what is your name?” Echoed the King gently. The child scrunched back into her chair clutching her cookies. The King began to rise when she finally answered.
“Newt.” She whispered in a small voice.
“What is that?” The King quipped. “Of course you’re cute.”
“No, my name is Newt.” The girl repeated louder.
“You like my suit?” The King replied with a straight face. “Yes, it is nice isn’t it? Well since you don’t seem to have a name, we’re just going to have to call you Newt I guess.”
The child’s smile began as a tiny ripple and soon the entire room was engulfed in waves of laughter.
All that is, except for the Prince. The little Prince touched not a crumb and stared off into space. When the Queen pressed a sugar cookie, the Prince’s favorite, into his hand, the boy held it listlessly before letting it fall to the floor. In the end, the Queen had to feed the Prince piece by piece, bite by bite, and even then, the Prince ate without tasting, only mouthing each bite.
When the cookies were gone, the maids and servants took the children up to their rooms and tucked them off to bed. In time, the King and Queen came up to see them. They found Newt fast asleep, but they found the Prince asleep by the window, his head on the sill, waiting for the faeries return.
The following day, the King sent men to query the town and countryside in search of Newt’s parents, but in the end they were not to be found. Newt herself could offer no help other than to say that her parents were gone. The King and Queen took her into the castle to stay until her parents might be found; And there she stayed, first as a guest, then as playmate for the little Prince. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months, and months into years. All the while, the Prince ate, slept, studied and grew as he was supposed to, yet without zeal or zest for anything in his life. Newt herself studied and grew, and with each passing day became more and more beautiful until she was more beautiful than any other lady in waiting at the King’s court.
Twelve years passed, and Newt remained attached to the Prince serving as his companion in the garden and at meals. And yet, the Prince scarcely noticed her, except on occasion to talk to her about the faeries that visited their kingdom twelve years ago. His eyes glazed when he mentioned them or heard them mentioned, and in his mind’s eye he could see them once again dancing in his dreams.
“They were so beautiful, Newt.” He said staring out the window one midsummer’s eve. “Don’t you remember?”
“I’m sorry your highness.” She replied. “I fear I was too young to remember.”
“Everything seems to pale by comparison.” Gushed the Prince. “Their tresses were as lovely as the sun’s rays, and their faces, oh their faces, such a beauty I cannot describe!”
Newt brought him another pillow as he marveled in his memories. From the doorway the King and Queen watched in sadness.
“He hardly notices her.” The King said as they turned from the doorway into the hall.
“He hardly notices anything.” The Queen replied.
“Time is coming when he should be married.” The King continued.
“He ignores everyone, every princess at every ball he has passed without even a glance. He laments every day about those cursed faeries and notices not a thing. He ignores everyone, except Newt.” Lamented the Queen.
“She is as good a match as any.” Said the King. “Yet he hardly notices her.”
“She notices him though, you can see it in her eyes. The poor girl.” Added the Queen.
“He deserves not her attention.” The King said hotly.
“And she not his indifference.” Replied his Queen. “Yet he is our son and a match for him we must find. If he were to love her as she loves him, all would be well.”
“I could not consign Newt to such apathy, such insensibility, it would be cruel to do so.”
“But there is no other that might have him, no other that he might have. Perhaps in marriage he would grow to see her and in time grow to love her.”
“If Newt and our son so consents, then so it might be.” Resigned the King. “Come, let us ask them and perhaps the bans can be posted before night fall.”
The King and Queen called for the Prince and Newt to meet them in the Grand Hall.
“Newt dear!” The Queen called. “We have something to ask you.”
“Sire, your highness.” Newt bowed.
“Let’s not stand on formalities Newt.” Boomed the King. “Come closer, sit with us a moment.”
A servant brought a chair to the dias and Newt took her seat.
“Where is the Prince?” Asked the Queen.
“I fear he is not come, your highness.” Newt replied. “I fear he waits for his Faeries again.”
“Newt dear.” Queried the King in concern. “Is that a tear I see in your eye?”
“I must have caught a fleck of dust, sire.” Newt paused and dabbed at her eye with a kerchief.
The King and Queen exchanged a knowing glance.
“Call for my son!” Roared the King. “Bring him by force if need be, but bring him here!”
In minutes, the Prince was brought before the dias and was seated none too gently into a chair next to Newt. The Prince looked bewildered at the turn of events and shrank at his parent’s piercing gazes. The King started to speak but took a deep breath instead. It was the Queen who began.
“Know you why you were summoned, my Son?” Asked the Queen.
“I know not my Mother.” Replied the Prince. “I have done no wrong nor deed to warrant such treatment.”
“Done no wrong!” Began the King, but was interrupted by the Queen.
“The time has come for you to be betrothed, my son.” She said. “While we have brought princess after princess, lady after lady for your approval, you have not given one nary a glance. We thought that perhaps that in consideration of your closeness to her you might be persuaded to consider asking Newt’s hand in marriage.”
“Subject to your approval of course.” The King added to Newt, now that his rage had passed. Newt blushed at the bluntness of the proposal; In her lap she clasped her hands tightly and swept her gaze to the floor in hopes that no one could see the shining in her eyes.
“Do you approve?” The Queen asked softly. Newt gave a small nod.
“But I do not!” Cried the Prince.
Stung, Newt snapped her head up and stared at the Prince. Hurt beyond measure, she grabbed her skirts and ran from the hall. The King, in tears himself, unceremoniously ran after her. The Queen watched as they left, then slapped the Prince across the face.
“Do you know what you have done?” She demanded. “Have you not seen the love she has for you?”
“I cannot help her love.” Snapped the Prince holding his cheek. “I did not ask for it.”
“Do you not care for her feelings at all?” Asked the Queen in anger.
“I have not thoughts but for my…” Started the Prince.
“…’Fairies,’ I know!” Finished the Queen. “The Faeries are evil! They have taken away your compassion, your soul!”
“No! The Faeries are beautiful!” Cried the Prince. “Speak not of ill for my Faeries, or you will be my mother no longer!”
“Speak you this way to your Mother?” Screeched the Queen. “So be it then, I have no son! Newt is kindness and beauty beyond compare, and you toss her away like chattel to the marketplace. You forget your place, Prince of the Faeries! Get thee from my sight lest I tear out your tongue with my own hands!”
“I shall go, my Mother, heed my words. The day of their return is upon us when I am taken away to their blessed fairyland and away from this place, you shall see.”
The Queen stood and crossed the Great Hall not once looking at her son. At the doorway she paused before leaving.
“I see only pain for you, Faery Prince, for you are without soul.”
Night was beginning to fall and in the township the people kissed their children goodnight and safely tucked them away, for it was true that night was once again the Night of the Faeries. In the castle, however, the Prince collected his belongings and saddled his horse before setting off for the glade that he had once wandered to. Unbeknownst to him, Newt too saddled her horse and, from a distance, followed the Prince.
The path held no danger, and the ride was swift. In the night, the faeries had already begun their dance and the lost children of the town were called to follow. The elder ones led or carried the little ones and found their way from the suffering and the wallow that was the streets and came to the glade where the faery lights shimmered and frolicked. As they did, their worries fell away in the resplendent beauty and the children began to dance.
Well, before the edge of glade, the Prince dismounted as not to scare away the faeries again. He walked forward, enthralled again by the ethereal music and mesmerizing lights. He shaded his eyes from the brightness, and in the light, he began to make out the shapes of the faeries themselves. Upon entering the glade, the music stopped, and everyone turned to stare at him. Before the light could wink away, however, the Prince threw himself into the dirt, and prostrated himself before the ephemeral beings.
“Please, hear me, wondrous beings.” He cried. “I was but a child when you came before and I was turned away before I could join you in your misty land. Please take me now and let me bask in your beauty.”
A beautiful voice resounded in his head. “We take only the innocent, good sir. We seek to end the suffering of those little ones who have no means of their own. Those who have grown, must look to their lives to find their solace. They must find in themselves, their soul. And they must in their world find their own happiness. No, you do not belong with us, you belong to your world and your life. Go now and find your happiness.”
“No! You are my happiness! There is no other beauty in the world that can compare to you! Don’t leave me here, don’t deny me your beauty!” Pleaded the Prince.
“Your Highness.” The Prince whirled around to find Newt standing at the edge of the glade holding the hands of some mud-stained children. “They cannot take you, can’t you see?”
Newt and the children walked into the faery light and seemed to be become part of the light. A faery held her hand out to Newt and beckoned her to join them.
“You offer her passage but not me?” Screamed the Prince, hoarse from his screaming. “How is that possible? She is as grown as I, she belongs to this world as much as I. If she is granted passage to your land, I demand the same!”
Newt turned to speak to the Prince, and for the first time, the Prince saw her beauty. Even standing next to the faeries, Newt’s beauty outshone them all.
“I go with them, your Highness, because I am of them, I know that now.” Newt said. “Twelve years ago, when the King’s men burst into this glade to save you, they frightened away my sisters leaving me behind. You were never meant to join us, my Prince, you have always had loving parents, you have always had a wonderful life. You just never stopped to consider.”
“Newt, I see that now. Come back to the castle with me, Newt. Come back and be my bride.” Begged the Prince in desperation at being left behind.
“Once those words would have filled me with such joy.” Replied Newt softly. “But now they only fill me with pain, for I know now that I am not of your world. I know that I must rejoin my sisters. Perhaps if we had never returned to this glade, we could have found happiness together. I will never know. I do love you, my Prince, but our love was never meant to be. Please tell your mother and your father for me why I had to leave. Thank them for their kindness and tell them that I love them and care for them deeply. Take care my prince, may you find the happiness you seek.”
With those words, the lights began to fade and soon the Prince was left alone in an empty clearing. And while the night was filled with the desolate sounds of the hooting of owls and the baying of wolves, the loneliest sound of all was the wracking sobs of the Faery Prince.