Once upon a time, in the magical land under the rainbow, a fairy died. This fairy had been the oldest fairy left alive, and he had been through many fairy wars. He had grown tired, and had finally decided it was his time to depart. The entire fairy world mourned his death.
Since he had been king, and he had no heirs, there was going to be a contest. The winner would be granted reign over the entire fairy universe. How the fairies loved their contests. Every disagreement would become a competition. And so, every fairy, every male and female fairy, took part in this contest. Even the elderly fairies, although many didn’t care about riches and power, decided that they had a right to the fairy crown.
Nobody knew what would happen in the contest. Would it be a battle of brawn? Or perhaps brains, of which many fairies had? Or, could it be, simply an everything contest, in which everyone would have a strength, and everyone a weakness. Not one fairy was prepared for what was to come.
Jewel the fairy, a boy fairy, I must add, was not a strong fairy. No, in fact, he was just the opposite. Not only was he weak, but sickly, too, and small. And this being a fairy tale, he figured his size would be just right for the competition. He would beat the giants with his cunning, and win the hand and heart of the most beautiful fairy princess you could ever imagine!
When he joined the never-ending crowds of fairies, he was in such a hurry to reach the front that he didn’t notice the fairy that had been following him ever since he reached the center of the fairy city Kish. This fairy wasn’t a nice fairy. She was female for one, all female fairies being rather irritable, and she was very pretty, causing her head to swell quite beyond mortal comprehension. And for some reason, she had taken a liking to Jewel, and thought to show it by being his fairy shadow.
Fairy shadows are like bodyguards, only, you never see them, which is why Jewel never saw his. They are also unwanted by those they are shadowing, since fairies believe themselves to be invincible until old age. Shadowing is also illegal.
Her name was Emmel. It was a name she had hated since birth, and had wanted a new one, but the fairy authorities hadn’t allowed it. She had been in jail for different things, usually shadowing, and they wanted to keep track of her. For some reason, Emmel thought Jewel would be a good fairy to shadow, and began to follow him around. Jewel walked to the sign-up table, and put in his name. Then Emmel, close behind him, signed her name, also.
Everyone pushed and shoved and strained to hear what the Master of Contests had to say. He looked at them, cleared his throat, and produced a scroll of enormous size, and read.
“From the dawn of time to the finish of the world,
over many plains and mountains it has lasted.
To the deepest depths under water,
To the farthest reaches of the Sun,
Lies the Great Course.
This is the Course we must take,
The Course upon which champions have trod,
That we shall now trod ourselves.
No Immoral beings,
nor evil thoughts can pass the First Mark.
Kingly traits will be rejoiced,
And un-kingly traits frowned upon.
Each for himself in this wondrous game,
And, so, begone, we will meet at The End.”
It seemed the whole world cheered at these poetic words, but then they realized what he had said at the end. Begone! And they began. The Great Course was a course of danger, daring, and dance. There were climbs and ropes and jumps and dodging; spikes and fire and water and ice. There were always cheaters who somehow made it past the First Mark, the Gate of Detection. For bad fairies, an invisible wall stretched across two steep cliffs that prevented them from continuing. Only the good, the noble, and the innocent could pass through.
Jewel made it through with a slight resistance, the wall’s way of warning him to trod carefully, lest he succumb to temptation and attempt to cheat his way to The End. Emmel somehow managed to get past the wall’s defenses, and continued to follow Jewel’s footsteps. About three-fourths of the crowd could not make it past, hitting the invisible wall like a ping-pong ball hits a paddle. They watched in envy as the rest journeyed on.
For a while it seemed it would be an easy contest, but then the path began to climb. Jagged rocks and cracks appeared on the ground in front of them. Several were discouraged and decided to return. But not Jewel. Although he was wheezing and gasping from the strain (and his asthma) he still believed he would be the victor in The End. Emmel had it easier. She strode jauntily along, weaving between, and in and out of, the dangerous rocks.
Suddenly, the fairies came to a stop. In front of them stood a wall of stone. A sign read, “Climb up.” And so, they began to climb. Now, you may be wondering why they don’t just fly up. The truth is, fairies don’t have wings. That would be the pixies. A long time ago, a fantasy scientist got them confused, and now everyone mistakes pixies for fairies.
The wingless fairies started dropping from the wall, one by one. Footholds and handholds were hard to find, and, once you found them, they were slippery and very small. Jewel fell, and Emmel, though intent on following Jewel, in her competing way, kept on going.
Her shadowing instinct buzzed inside of her. She felt the tug of an invisible rope as Jewel went downward into oblivion. Using her feet to keep herself steady, she reached down and grabbed the rope with her hands. Jewel was suddenly halted, appeared to float. He began moving upwards, as though pulled by something unseen. He thought he was in heaven, and closed his eyes as he ascended.
He screeched to a halt, as much as a rope can screech, and looked to find a beautiful fairy next to him. He almost fell again, but grabbed the wall just in time. Emmel nodded at him, and continued up.
Upon reaching the tip top of the wall, Jewel saw that it sloped back down again into a murky, green pond, surrounded by giant lime trees. He wondered about these trees as he tried to keep from sliding to a muddy death. Alas, his wondering was cut short by a sudden pop and a raining of sour juice and pulp, causing him to lose his grip on the wall and slip into the water.
Emmel went down, also. When she tried to come up for air, she realized the surface of the pond was completely unbreakable. It was enchanted water, in which you could enter, but never leave. She swam in search of bubble that may hold oxygen, but to no avail. Hitting the hard substance once more, she sank into the depths. Her last thoughts before blacking out were, I’ve failed the Shadows.
Jewel was having a better time at it than she. It seemed he was so light that the pond didn’t register that a body had entered, and he bounced back up to the top like it was nobody’s business. Floating there for a moment, he happened to glance back down, and saw the female fairy sinking. With all his strength he pushed inside of the water, and brought her back out with him. Even to this day, scientists have been wondering how she was able to exit the pool. Most believe it was feeling gracious that day and decided to let her be saved out of the goodness of its wet heart.
She immediately came to, as she had only been holding her breath for a few seconds. She pushed him off her before he could perform CPR, and raced ahead. When he attempted to catch up, he ended by slipping in pulp again, and breaking a pinky.
Battered and bruised, Jewel wondered why he ever signed his name to begin with. He supposed it all started with his Da, who told him he would never amount to nothing. But then again, it could have started with his Mam, who told him he was worth the same as one-minus-one. Jewel was surprised as she was that his Mam knew what it equaled. But there was still yet another reason why he had entered. On his bedside table was the inscription “The one that sleeps in the bed beside me is worth nothing, and will amount to nothing.”
So really, he had every reason to try and prove himself. And with this burst of reasoning came a burst of energy, and he continued on as if he hadn’t broken a thing.
Emmel was running so fast she could hardly look at the ground in front of her without getting seasick. The other fairies were also streaking along, but not the sort of streaking we think about nowadays. She slowed a bit, catching her breath, when she spied Jewel out of the corner of her eye, going past her as fast as his spindly legs could carry him. It was then that she remembered her self-imposed job, and followed his footprints until they stopped at the beginning of a long stretch of ice. They stopped because Jewel was standing in them, and she collided with him, sending them both spinning out into the great unknown.
When they stood, a large beast was in their path. Its eyes were gleaming and practically dripping with evil intent. Jewel and Emmel glanced at each other, unsure of where to go from there, and a single thought struck them both at the same time. Or was that the big, furry paws of the great creature? Whichever it was, and whatever the thought was, it didn’t really matter much, as they were sprawled out and spinning for a second time on the slick ice.
With bumps on their heads they arose to find the monster gone away to terrorize the other competitors. Deciding they preferred the company of each other to the company of themselves, they took careful steps, side by side, and made it past the vast without any more trouble.
To their relief they could see the tops of the End banner rising into view out of the slowly amassing mist. In order to beat the mist, they needed to hurry it up. Emmel grabbed Jewel’s hand, pulling him to match her pace. Through fire and falling rocks, they made it to The End without any scratches. Of course, Jewel still had a broken finger, and they both still had lumps, but, technically, those aren’t scratches.
To their surprise, nobody cheered. In fact, nobody was there at all. Too late they realized they had stepped through a time warp, putting them into the future, where all civilization as they knew it had been wiped out. Only empty buildings were left standing, with an eerie whistling of wind riding through.
The earth suddenly trembled beneath their feet. A loud screech vibrated the airwaves and popped their eardrums. With the sudden muffling of sounds, the fairies looked up to the bulbous face of a very giant, visibly frightened Jewel. After calming him down and reassuring him that they were not ghosts of any sort, they eventually weaseled the story of what had happened out of him.
Apparently, after Jewel had won the fairy contest, he had mixed an expensive elixir of magical goat hooves and magical coconut flakes and magical wormwood to turn him into the strongest fairy in the entire universe. The problem was, he had added some magical arm hairs on accident (his family had a history of magical hair) and turned into not only the strongest fairy, but also the hugest fairy. That night was his coronation, and every fairy came to see him get crowned. Being a large and ungainly thing, he sat on the Festivities Building, and killed all the fairies inside.
At this tragic story, Jewel and Emmel made up their minds to go and change the future. Waving goodbye the tearful, giant Jewel, they set out to go find the time warp.
After reentering the present, they didn’t know what else to do. It was quite impossible to go back the way they had come, as each obstacle had grown ten times its previous size to prevent stragglers. So they decided to go and finish the race, only slowly.
Each step they took, they took as if walking underwater. Maybe they were underwater, but if they had been, they wouldn’t have noticed. No, they were both too intent on staring into each other’s eyes. You see, during a prolonged moment in the time warp, they’d revealed their stories and it turned out that they were in love.
Stepping across the long-broken finish line, they were greeted by the Universal Broomhandler, and married by the Stupendous Priest. Shadows and bedside tables forgotten, they moved to a cottage in the country, and bought a rabbit.
Unfortunately, the rabbit turned out to be poisonous, and someone was bitten. Jewel and Emmel were sent to jail for owning a toxic bunny, and lived out the rest of their days on the prison island of De’.
Just kidding, they never got a rabbit.