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Ch. 15 - The Dance

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Before Rhianna could ask Teasel any more questions, Gretch, Jenny, and Raisen came crashing back toward them through a patch of holly whose prickly leaves set Gretch cursing again.

"Who are you!" Gretch demanded, once she had pulled her shirt free of the spiny leaves. "What are you doing out in the middle of nowhere?"

"Are you following us?" Raisen set her hands on her hips and Jenny hovered slightly behind her.

"This is, um...Teasel?" Rhianna wasn't sure she was saying it right.

Teasel nodded.

"It's ok, I think." Rhianna waved a placating hand at Gretch. "HE is what you are looking for. A fairy. Right?"

The others gaped.

Teasel shrugged. "Yes, to put it in baser terms."

"I'm sorry," Rhianna said, sensing that Teasel was offended and not wanting to insult him. "I guess we are just silly humans who need educating."

Teasel rolled his eyes. "Ok, ok. You do not have to placate me. I am a Brùnaidh. I serve your family's household, keeping things in order when I can."

"Hey! He picked up the marbles!" Jenny pointed at the little glowing cluster in his hands.

"So much for keeping things in order!" Gretch said, striding over to him. "How are we supposed to get home if we don't have a trail to follow?"

Teasel snatched back the marbles as Gretch tried to grab them. "I was keeping them for you. Much better in one place than scattered throughout the woods where anybody could steal them."

"What do you call what you did!" Gretch did not seem to be phased by Teasel being a fairy. She made several more grabs for the marbles.

Before it could turn into a wrestling match, Rhianna said, "Thank you Teasel, I will take them now." She would test whether or not he truly was a helper fairy to her family.

Teasel ducked under Gretch's arm, disappeared behind a bush and then, impossibly, reappeared at Rhianna's elbow. "You're funny," he said, depositing the marbles into her hand. "What else do I have to prove?"

His hand was warm against hers. She blushed, remembering he could read her thoughts.

"How did he..." Jenny took a few steps over to peer behind the bush where he had vanished. "Are there two of him?"

"I guess it is true that fairies are annoying!" Gretch said.

Teasel stuck his tongue out, and Gretch stuck hers out back.

"Don't worry about finding your way out," Teasel said. "I will guide you."

The girls exchanged skeptical looks.

"So what are you after in this Shade? The Cauldron of Plenty? The Salmon of Knowledge?"

"We didn't exactly have a plan," Rhianna shoved the marbles in her pocket. Why didn't he know if he could see right into her mind? Perhaps he was trying to be polite. She wondered if she could block her thoughts somehow.

"It doesn't work like that," Teasel said, giving her a wink. "You have to be here for a reason."

"I think Gretch wanted to dance under the full moon," Raisen said with a smirk.

"Done! Follow me." Teasel dashed off into the holly thicket, the branches bent away as he passed, so that not a single prickly leaf scratched him.

Gretch screwed up her mouth for a moment.

"I'm not sure—" Jenny began.

"All right let's go." Gretch stalked off beating back the holly, which crowded in on her hungrily.

Vegetation should not move like that. Boys should not be able to disappear and reappear. Rhianna should most definitely turn around and go back to the farm. If she had been here by herself she would have.

She didn't have to worry about her sanity though. The others were obviously seeing everything she was seeing.

She bolted after Gretch, and the holly parted for her. She didn't need to look behind her to know that Raisen and Jenny followed, or that the holly was not being as kind to them.

It didn't take long for the holly to thin out, and then they were in a clearing. The moon hung full overhead, which was impossible because it had been nothing but a sliver when they entered the forest. But a lot of impossible things were proving themselves possible tonight.

Teasel lounged in the bright moonlight on top of a slab of rock that was perched atop two upright slabs. Kind of like a Stonehenge, only there was only one of them.

A bonfire burned under the arch stone and a group of youthful, seemingly human, people laughed and took turns jumping the fire. They could not be human though, their jumps were impossibly high like they were on the surface of the moon, and they sailed gracefully over the flames. More fairies.

Gretch had waited for them this time, and they approached the fairies together.

One of the leaping fairies saw them and waved. "Teasel says you would like to dance under the moon. And we want to as well, but alas none of us has broughten a flute or a drum." He looked immensely sad, like he had just watched his puppy drown. "Do you have music?"

Rhianna shook her head. The last of fairy leaped the fire and then none of them could muster up the will to do any more leaping. They drooped despondently, casting their eyes up at the moon as if it held all of their happiness and was completely out of reach.

"Wait," Gretch said, fumbling in her pocket. "Maybe I do."

She produced her phone.

"Not exactly a flute, Gretch," Raisen said.

"I know, but..." She tapped on the screen while the fairies all watched. It took forever before she finally made a satisfied noise and a final triumphant tap.

Electronic dance music began pulsing out of her phone. Nothing Rhianna recognized.

"Really?"

"Give me a break, I don't have any signal out here. It's the only thing I have downloaded."

The fairies tilted their heads as they listened. It was hard to tell what they thought of it—the tiny sound coming from the cell phone could not compare to live music played by real instruments. But they started to perk up and as one they started to nod their heads in time to the pulsing beat.

The fairies started to dance, alternately lit by the orange glow of the fire and the silver light of the moon. Gretch grinned from ear to ear. And when a nearby fairy beckoned to her she put her phone on a rock and joined them.

Rhianna was surprised when Jenny and Raisen began to bounce up and down and then let themselves be whirled away in the dance. Rhianna was the only one hanging back. Teasel just watched from his perch atop the stones.

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