Each one was little more than the size of his hand. All glowed a faint yellow color as it wafted through the air like it was dancing, luring in travelers. Dancing between the trees, they looked like they were blinking like the light from a candle. This close, though, he could see what was really happening.
Someone once told Tony about this, but who? He couldn’t remember, so he wasn’t sure if they were warning or bragging about it. Was it a man or a woman that told him? That would help.
A breeze sauntered through the forest, making the lights swirl like dandelion seeds in the air.
Dangerous or friendly? Good or bad? Why couldn’t he remember?
Wait, why was he here again? Tony pinched his eyes shut, trying to remember why he was in the forest. It had something to do with a girl, but didn’t everything have to do with women? He was a knight. Saving damsels was one of the requirements. Was he rescuing a damsel? This seemed an odd place for a woman to get lost.
He shook his head. No, he was looking for a girl, not a woman. A young girl. He had to remember that. It was important.
Why was it important again?
A shiver ran down his spine as another breeze worked its way through the forest. It was so cold out here and the lights were warm like a fire. Why should he e out in the cold for some girl? The reward couldn’t be all that good.
Picking himself up, he followed the dancing lights pirouetting through the air. They circled and flipped around the trees, leading him onward. Their light was so beautiful, like tiny fairies. A gift from nature, completely one with the forest around them.
Yes, fairies. That was what they were. Fairies protected the forest. They helped lost travelers and cared for the ill and injured. Fairies would protect the girl, at least until morning when the air warmed up.
Tony paused in his steps. What girl were they protecting? Something was nagging at the back of his mind. A woman’s voice trying to tell him something. An angry voice.
Oh what did she know. She was probably harping on him for some stupid reason. Women always did nag for no good reason. This angry woman was no different. The fairies were taking care of everything anyway.
And they managed it without nagging, just soft delicate movements. Dancing. It really was dancing.
They moved out from the trees into a small clearing. Stones formed a circle around the edge, each with a strange symbol carved into it. A single stone was broken right where the fairies passed through. In the middle was a larger, circular stone with another symbol carved into it.
Did he know that symbol? It seemed familiar. Was it good or bad? Bad seemed like the right answer, but fairies wouldn’t lead him anywhere bad.
The fairies circled around the middle stone. Coming closer, he spotted a small child sitting there, hugged her knees and staring at the lights with large brown eyes. When she saw him, she stood and wrapped her arms around herself. Her whole body was shaking.
Tony smiled at her as he took a seat by the large rock. “Hello. Did the fairies bring you here too?”
The girl tilted her head to one side, wide eyed and mouth slightly open.
“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “You are safe. The fairies are here to protect us.”
She blinked a couple of times, then looked at the lights. She watched them for a long moment before looking back at him.
Tony nodded. “That’s right, the fairies. Fairies protect lost travelers. Are you lost?”
She looked at the fairies then back at him. One shaky hand pointed at the lights. “Sprites.”
He chuckled and waved her off. “No, fairies. Sprites are dangerous. They lure people to their deaths and eat them. They are protecting us, so they must be fairies.” Looking up at the cloudy sky, he could see a few snowflakes starting to drift down. He held out his arms to the little girl. “Here, come sit with me. I’ll warm you up. Then we can get some sleep.”
She looked at the dancing lights.
“Don’t worry. They will protect us,” Tony insisted.
Her eyes followed one of the snowflakes as it drifted towards the ground but disappeared before it could reach the grass. With a sigh, she went over to him and burrowed into his arms.
He rubbed a hand up and down her chilled arm. “See. Safe. Settle in to sleep, little one. The fairies will protect us.”
Leaning his head back against the rock, Tony closed his eyes. Those little nagging voices were finally gone.