The Woe of the Fountain Faerie
It was a quiet evening in Faerieland. The sun was just
sinking beneath the rim of the great clouds forming the base for the enormous
city, tingeing everything a deep and soothing shade of violet. A warm breeze
sang through the spires of the Faerie City, kicking up languorous wisps of cloud
from the soft, fluffy ground. Streetlamps were beginning to wink on near the
low outbuildings surrounding the city proper as the more diminutive constructions
lost the touch of the sun, though the tall towers of the Capital still gleamed
with the light's dying kiss.
The soft babble of water filled the evening air,
the gentle splashing noise mixing with the dull mutter of a large crowd. There
were two long lines of creatures straggling off into the pastel distance.
The animals forming the waiting queue were moaning
in pain, or snuffling unhappily through blocked-up noses. Some were alone; some
were accompanied by humans in varying states of annoyance or irritation. Snippets
and fragments of conversation drifted past on the dreamy breeze, angry voices
scolding or complaining.
Comprising the second queue was an equal number
of owners and pets, all walking with closed and distant expressions, their footsteps
hurried and purposeful. Even the pets that left looking much better wore the
same inward-looking expression as those pets staggering slowly away clutching
snowballs or nursing wounds.
New unfortunates joined the waiting line every
moment, all trying to get to the common destination of a large fountain, big
enough to qualify as a small lake. Jets of perfumed water arced high into the
rapidly darkening sky from a fluted centerpiece, splashing down with tinkles
like silver bells to pool on the cloud itself, forming glassy ponds and lakes
that rested in depressions carved by centuries of use. The soothing noise could
barely be appreciated over the clamor of plaintive voices at the water's edge.
The lines diffused slightly as they neared the
fountain, those comprising them scattering to the nearest beautiful fish-tailed
Faerie lining the banks. The Faeries all wore short sleeveless blue shirts,
and the golden hair of each was held back demurely from their pretty faces by
identical shell ornaments. As each was approached by a new supplicant they smiled
and spoke soothingly to the drawn and silent faces then proffered their hands
and gave something to each sufferer. Sometimes they dipped white arms into the
water and drew out a ball of perfect colored snow, sometimes they laid glowing
palms on their customer's brows and then gently sent them on their way. But
very rarely would they receive a smile in return, or even get a response to
their warm greeting. Even when pets were cured of their ailments they would
leave without a word or thank-you, seeming to accept it without question as
Most of the water Faeries who worked there regarded
this philosophically. They greeted the constant stream of visitors with rehearsed
warm smiles, and spoke the same words of comfort over and over. But there was
one young Faerie who worked at the Fountain for whom things were not so easily
acceptable. She went by the name of Arolyn, and every morning she arrived bright
and early with her uniform always cleaner than average and her hair tied perfectly
to the regulation style. Every time she got a customer, she always gave them
her brightest smile and tried her best to give them real healing every time
they asked. And every time she drew a snowball out of the water instead of a
healing potion, or watched a needy face leave unfulfilled, she became a little
Why couldn't she help everyone? Why wouldn't
the fountain heal everyone who asked? Why, oh why did she have to give the needy
- the starving, the wounded, and the sickened - snowballs instead of healing?
And especially, why didn't anybody thank her? She worked so hard for them! Did
they think it was easy for her to fail? Did they think she was spiteful? Did
they even realize she cared? And worst of all were the ones she did manage to
help, who went away without even acknowledging her! It was almost enough to
make her want to…to quit.
So after one particularly unrewarding shift Arolyn
hauled herself out of the fountain to make room for the Faerie coming to relieve
her. With a sigh Arolyn unfolded demure, dragonfly-style wings from her back
and buzzed them, floating into the air with an irritable flip of her tail.
"Bad day?" asked Cheryl - the Faerie up for
next shift - sympathetically.
"You have no idea," growled Arolyn. "Guess how
many times I was yelled at today? Go on, guess."
Cheryl winced sympathetically. "At least once,
"Not just once, Cheryl. Four times. Four angry
humans who didn't think I did enough for their pets. It's like, hello! I'm trying
my best here! It's not like it's my fault, either. But they always have to go
and blame someone."
Cheryl eased herself into the water and patted
the hovering Arolyn consolingly on her sadly drooping tail. "Don't worry about
it, honey. Just think of the ones you help."
But as Arolyn flew slowly back to her home in
the Faerie Citadel she wanted to think of anything but the ones she'd helped.
The ones who ignored her and didn't thank her, or didn't think her help had
been "enough". And as the sun fell beyond the ground clouds of Faerieland, its
last dying rays momentarily flashed off the windows of the highest spire of
all - Fyora's tower. It caught Arolyn's eye, and she stopped and hung in the
air, wings a bare shimmer behind her.
She could ask Fyora. Fyora ran the city, regulating
the magic that powered everything from the lights to the sewage system…to the
Healing Springs. Fyora would know why, would have to know why everyone wasn't
healed, why Arolyn couldn't give them all what they needed. With this thought
in her mind, and suppressing the instant flash of nervousness at her audacity,
she leapt forward through the air and flew with all speed towards the highest
tower in Faerieland.
The pastel distances of Faerieland were deceptive,
and it was quite a long way to Fyora's Tower. Arolyn was tired and her scaly
tail uncomfortably dry by the time she touched down on Fyora's balcony. Curling
her fishy fins under herself, Arolyn knocked hesitantly at the beautiful glass-paned
doors that looked into Fyora's public chamber.
Arolyn felt a flush rise to her pale cheeks as
the Faerie Queen herself opened her doors and ushered Arolyn in with a gentle
smile. Laugh lines spiderwebbed lightly across the Queen's face, her lilac hair
was graying, and Arolyn was awed at what was surely eternity she saw reflected
in Fyora's eyes. For an immortal Faerie to show such signs of age…! Nervously
Arolyn tried to think how to begin. The blushing young Faerie was spared the
necessity when Fyora sat down behind a lavender marble desk and asked her quietly,
"Why are you here, Arolyn?"
"Well," began Arolyn hesitantly, "I work at the
Healing Springs, and I have a…well, I have a question."
Fyora didn't say anything, but motioned gently
for Arolyn to continue.
"Faerie Queen, why can't I always give the pets
that come to the springs what they need? Why does it just…not work sometimes?
It hurts me to see them have to leave still sick, or with a snowball, or something!"
Arolyn's voice grew more and more animated as she continued, until finally she
ran out of steam. She spread her arms imploringly to Fyora, begging an answer.
"Well, my dear," the Queen said calmly, meeting
Arolyn's eyes. "Would you rather give them nothing?"
It was a very thoughtful Faerie who arrived
at work the next morning. Arolyn did not blindly reach into the waters hoping
for a cure this time. She simply relaxed a bit. Instead of wearing herself out
worrying over whether her next spell would give her customers what they wanted,
she focused instead on making them feel better herself, instead of hopelessly
relying on magic to solve all their problems. She gave everybody a sympathetic
ear instead of reciting tired words of comfort. She began bringing tissues for
the sneezy ones and some bandages for those with scrapes, and always reached
into the fountain knowing that whatever she drew out would be enough - instead
of dipping her arms into the water full of desperation. She gave love with every
gift and talked gently to the irritable owners instead of fuming back at them
for their ill temper.
Soon the ever-present lines to the Healing Springs
changed. It was very gradual, so much so that few really noticed. People stopped
being so angry - just a little. Pets with runny noses left with some tissues
and those too unfortunate to have their own bandages would always leave with
at least some bandages - no quick magic fix, but it was something. Smiles began
to appear as people talked to one another instead of standing quietly with closed
faces. Arolyn started getting greeted each morning by the people who came to
Never a social butterfly, it came as a surprise
to Arolyn that she soon began knowing more and more of the hopeful faces that
queued up as soon as she started her shift. Even the other Faeries working at
the fountain noticed the change. Instead of leaving work at the end of each
day tense and irascible, they left for home happy and speaking to one another
- and Arolyn. Night after night she left to a chorus of farewells, which she
always echoed back good-naturedly.
One day, having stayed up far too late the night
before at a party, Arolyn floated up the familiar hillock of cloud to see the
brilliance of the fountain spread out before her. There was the all-pervasive
rumble of a large assemblage of people thrumming through the dusky evening air,
punctuated by occasional peals of laughter that lanced painfully through her
aching skull. Wryly she told herself that she never would have woken up so tired
back in the old days when nobody had invited anybody to parties.
Then it hit her.
Old days? Parties? When had she started getting
invited to parties? When had she started hearing the babble of laughter rising
over the hills instead of the low grumble of discontent? She didn't know. But
as she flittered down through the warm dreamy air to the magical water that
day and said hello to everybody, she thought she had an idea. As she chattered
away with each familiar face, dipping her hands into the pool and exclaiming,
"Oh, that was a good spell!" once or twice when particularly lucky, she thought
she had a guess.
She recalled that she had gone to see the Faerie
Queen, back when everything had been too much. Had Fyora helped her? Had Fyora
changed the Healing Springs to heal more people? Arolyn carefully considered
what the fountain managed to do for each customer that day, but it was no different
than it had ever been. It was then Arolyn realized that the change had been
within her own heart. Magic didn't and could never solve everyone's problems.
All the Healing Springs had really needed was a bit of cheering up, and Arolyn
had provided it - and it had spread to everybody else!