The Fairyland Chronicles, Volume 1, Dust Wars
There’s really no easy way of saying this, so I’ll just be blunt: it appears that I’m the King of the Fairies. OK, I can already hear you muttering variations on ‘this is nonsense’, ‘garbage, ‘you’ve been drinking again’ or words to that effect. But no, for better or worse I really am, and this is my story.
First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is David Levante and I’m possibly the most average person in the world. I’m a lawyer’s clerk, work 9-5, Monday to Friday with a whole hour for lunch and I mainly answer phones and file paperwork for my bosses, a firm of small town lawyers.
I’m married with two kids, a dog and a cat and when I get some time to myself, I read books, watch TV and when the notion takes me, take in a game of football. Generally, I spend the rest of my time with my family doing Dad things (taxi service, money lender, you know the score) and mostly enjoying them. In other words, my life is a straightforwardly happy one and was totally uninteresting until the damned Fairies got involved.
Now I want to make this clear, I am not writing this from a police cell, or worse, from a ‘secure psychiatric unit’. I think that’s the name, I always thought of such places as mental asylums but I know that I’m not in one. I’ve told no-one else about what I’m about to reveal to you but some of those close to me know the whole story and others, I’m sure, suspect that something’s up.
Here we go then, welcome to Fairyland and all the madness that ensues therein. Let me acquaint you with Heads of the four Divens, who have to report to me as King, the sneaky humans known to all as Haferlincs who flit easily between our world and Fairyland, and also where some of the best portals to the other world can be found. You never know, you might find that if you visit these sites you too can nip in and out of Fairyland as you wish.
But more importantly, the reason that I’ve decided to go public with this is that I want you to know that there really is a magical world out there that’s most definitely much closer to you right now than you think.
At work, I spend my days in an open plan office with beige walls, a beige carpet and, no surprise, similarly boring furniture. The only splash of colour is the blue seats. My desk faces into the room, all the clerks around me are the same and there are about ten of us in the room. According to some Feng Shui expert, this gives us a better karma or something but all we know it’s actually our bosses making sure we can’t see the outside world, in case we want to escape.
I’ve the usual clutter associated with a lawyer’s office at my workstation; lots of files on and around the desk, the obligatory computer and, of course, a picture of my wife, kids and pets. This reminds me when I’m writing up another contract or whatever that there is more to life than work.
However, to break this monotony, over time a number of extra-curricular activities have been developed by the staff. Most of these involve drinking (an easy way to forget the workplace) but one in particular, the Friday walking club, appealed to me. It gets me out at lunchtime, means that I don’t have to spend hours in the local bars to socialise with my colleagues and also helps keep me fit.
You must understand, I’m heading towards the half century and no matter what I do, my waistline seems to expand on a yearly basis. I don’t participate in the walk every week (rainy days don’t really do it for me, you see) but most of the time, it all works out quite well.
It had been suggested some time previously that we, as an office staff, should include the local cemetery in one of our lunchtime walks. The cemetery had been added as a destination because in the middle of it was a 500 foot high hill that none of us had ever climbed, despite being locals. My kids, especially my son Milo, had also mentioned that we as a family should be climbing it (something about a project, he said) so I agreed to do the recce with the walking club. Anyway, it looked as if it wouldn’t rain that day and the break was especially welcome that particular week as the workload I’d been dealing with was a bad combination of both onerous and very boring.
So, with all of this in mind, come Friday lunchtime, it was onwards to the walk.
“Would you please get a move on,” shouted Shona from the bottom of the stairs – no elevators to be used when we were going walking. “We’ve only got an hour and you know the boss will go crazy if we’re late back.”
Shona is our office manager, the ‘Seer’ is what we call her, as, like the three wise monkeys she sees and hears all, but mostly says nothing. She’s also pretty good at bossing us all around but right then she was standing at the door, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail and with a good stout pair of walking shoes on.
“Hold up,” came the reply from Hayley, one of our recently arrived lawyers and by far the youngest of the walking club. Fresh from university, she had the uncanny knack of making people of all ages feel good about themselves and I’ve no doubt that she’ll be a really good court lawyer someday. She jumps around with the boundless energy of the young and has managed to somehow get on designer training gear to complement her short blond hair. I suppose that if you have to look good, you just have to look good.
Making up the normal foursome was Jim, the man who looks after the building for us and the other tenants (‘facilities management, David’ he explained to me one day). He, as usual, appeared as if by magic from some cupboard or other as we all congregated at the bottom of the stairs. Jim always had a quiet aura of authority about him but was actually good fun when you got him by himself. He’d dressed for the day as he always did with a smart cap and sensible outdoor clothes, but nothing fancy.
As we strode off, I suppose if you looked at us we were a fairly unusual combination of walkers. There were no fluorescent jackets, backpacks or hiking boots (in fact Hayley had on some sort of designer tennis shoes to finish off ‘the look’), just a bunch of office workers making headway in a determined fashion with the one hour rule bearing down on us all. At least the weather was staying good, it was nice and sunny with a little breeze but not too hot.
In the past, we had already walked the length of the town canal, down to the football stadium and through ‘the islands’ which were an integral feature of the river that flowed past our office. The cemetery suggestion was, I suppose, meaning that we were running out of options. I mean, a bunch of lawyers wandering around a graveyard doesn’t really send out the right message when one of your specialities is writing last wills and testaments.
Never mind. As you can imagine, the chat on the way there was the usual nonsense, who did what at the weekend, who was seeing whom in the office and what juicy cases had come our way. If I look back on it though, I suppose the three of them had more spring in their step than normal. I remember that there was even a muttered ‘at last’ from Shona as we walked through the cemetery gates. Needless to say, I didn’t think anything was amiss at all.
As I walked through the gates, I was reminded of the one and only other time that I’d ever been here. A few years ago, I had a bit of a mix up with my family about where they were to be picked up after visiting the grave of a newly deceased relative. I’d come here to Tomna Hill and Cemetery, not realising that it had been closed to new arrivals about 20 years back and that I should have been at a new cemetery a few miles away. It had been closed because by then it was completely boxed in by roads and the aforementioned canal.
It is, however, still maintained as an ancient burial ground where it is said that some graves date back thousands of years. The striking feature, though, is Tomna Hill in the middle. Forming a central point, it has steep slopes but a very flat top which is about the size and shape of a football pitch. The slopes are also covered in mature trees and lots of hidden gravestones making it a bit spooky, especially when the wind gets up. The rest of the graveyard is a flat area completely surrounding the hill and, as I said, chock full of dead people. On the way in, there’s a gatekeeper’s house which at that time had been for sale for months – no surprise there I suppose.
Striding through the entrance, Shona was hurrying us all up. “Come on folks, we have to reach the top.”
“But I’d like to have a quick look at some of the graves if that’s OK,” I replied, “I’ve never really been properly in here before.” I also fancied myself as a sort of amateur genealogist.
“No time, David,” said Jim. “As normal, we’re on a deadline,” he said grinning and shaking his head.
“Yeah, and Shona’s on a mission as usual.” I came back with, raising a snort from Shona and a giggle from Hayley.
“What’s the quickest way up?” said Hayley.
“Right there,” said Jim as a set of granite steps that I hadn’t noticed before appeared in front of us. “Race you all up,” he shouted and promptly disappeared into the trees.
He was followed with remarkable speed by both Shona and Hayley leaving me, being as I said middle aged, unfit and slightly overweight (which I’d normally never admit to), at the bottom thinking ‘no chance, I’m taking my time’. I took the first step and finally joined them all at the summit a long time later.
If you ever go there, the top of the hill is still the same today. It’s got a big open circle in the middle and some spectacular gravestones and memorials at each end. I suppose that even in death, the rich of the town like to lord it over the poor. One or two of the memorials are like mini houses and must have cost some serious money.
As I reached the last step, I looked around and saw no-one other than the other three, who were all standing in a huddle in the middle of the circle. I wandered over to join them, trying to speak normally while getting over my breathlessness.
“Ha, ha,” said Shona, “the fairies will get you if you keep panting like that.”
“Right now the fairies or anyone else can do what they want if they can get me a seat,” I replied.
By way of explanation, the hill is also supposedly one of many fairy hills across the country (and the world, I suppose). Local folklore says that depending on the circumstances you find yourself in when you’re at the top of the hill, you might be taken by the fairies to some big party where you will enjoy yourself like never before. The only problem is that when you return to ‘our’ world, about 150 years will have passed. I presumed that this story had been around for much longer than the graveyard that now occupied most of the hill.
The other local fairy tradition, explained to me in detail by my kids, is the ‘fairy ring’ of mushrooms that appears each year in our front garden. Apparently if you jump into the ring you also join the little people at a party, only this time when you come back you don’t remember anything.
At the time, I just thought that this was all a lot of hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo. To me, both traditions seemed to contradict each other meaning that the whole fairy thing was nonsense and really just an old wives tale to help frighten kids.
With all of this in mind I jokingly said. “And where’s the party, cos to be honest, with the week I’m having a few beers would work wonders right now.”
And that’s when everything changed. Forever.
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