Gossamer

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Fairies born without wings were said to be cursed, but Elpis refused to accept that fate.

Alchemists, magicians, witches, and warlocks had all tried to counter the wicked spell, but nothing could save the wingless-fairies. A horrible fate always befell them before they grew too old. Humans would catch them, birds would eat them, and even their own kind would pierce their hearts with silver to stop misfortune from coming to the fairy tree.

Elpis could not accept that such fairies were born only to live in fear and then perish at the hands of their brethren. If the great magicians couldn't fix the spell, then perhaps a water fairy could.

Clutching an ancient tome to her chest, Elpis ran down oaken stairs to her little abode set far from the nearest fairy tree. She'd built it alongside the base of a mountain where fresh spring water was always available. Blue flowers dotted the roof of her home in a small circle. Inside, her home was cool. Herbs dangled from strings in the ceiling, and magic lights burned in sconces. Though she'd been banished there, Elpis didn't resent her kin for their fear.

She carried the book to a mushroom table and flipped through the pages until she came upon an ancient spell. Most of the text was written in the old Druid tongue, but she'd added notes of her own in the fairy language.

Elpis crushed rosemary, angelica, and myrrh in a mortar and pestle, her ebony hair sweeping over her pale arms. She trailed a delicate finger down the text and sprinkled in fresh mountain water.

Her child's cry leant magic to the mixture.

Elpis gazed upon her tiny daughter. She knelt beside the bassinet and stroked the babe's petal-soft cheek. "Not long, my bud."

Ilyia suckled on Elpis's fingers and kicked pudgy feet against a laurel blanket. Her big violet eyes stared back at Elpis, and she gave a gummy smile. Elpis kissed Ilyia's head then rose and returned to the bowl, casting another ingredient within. Tendrils of a wispy dove feather floated onto the paste.

Suddenly, the dull mixture glowed and sparkled white.

Elpis gripped a blue stone at her neck.

"Use this only if the earth cannot fulfill your want," her father had said as he'd plucked it from his neck with a withered hand. "You'll know when the time is right." With a kind smile on his lips, he'd breathed his last.

Elpis took the precious jewel and cracked it on the side of a rock.

A single drop of Avalon's lake fell from the jewel into her mixture.

Blue light flashed, blinding Elpis. She shielded her eyes, and though she heard Ilyia cry, she did not fight the magic. It swirled around them, seeping into Ilyia's skin. The babe quieted, and her eyes glowed blue for a moment.

Elpis bit her lip and gathered Ilyia into her arms. Sweeping aside her flowing azure skirts, she dashed down another set of wooden stairs. More magical light came to life in sconces hanging on stone walls. The flames danced on a crystalline lake, causing it to gleam with the source of her magic.

Elpis stepped inside the waters and laid her daughter on the surface. "Please work," she begged the Gods and Goddesses of old. As the water touched Ilya's skin, and Elpis's hands glowed, Ilya squealed in delight.

Two gossamer wings sprouted from Ilyia's back, shimmering sapphires against the dark water. Black designs spread through the wings until they resembled those of a monarch butterfly. Ilyia squirmed in Elpis's arms and pulled her foot to her mouth to nibble on her toes.

Elpis could only laugh with joy and relief. She fell to her knees in the water and clutched her daughter to her. The spell had worked! The spell—

Pain rippled through Elpis's back. She gasped and looked back at her own wings. They trembled against her and started to melt before her very eyes. The pain intensified, and Elpis cried out.

No! What is the spell doing!

With dread, Elpis remembered the first rule of magic: magic always came with a price. Ilyia could have her wings, but only at the cost of Elpis's.

"No," Elpis sobbed, but not for her plight. Her daughter would live and be accepted by the fairies, but what about the rest of the wingless babes? Would their parents have to give up their wings for their children? She'd fixed nothing! "I'm sorry."

Ilyia's giggling subsided, and she cocked her head to the side. Her purple eyes had lost their azure glow, but they still danced with power. With a gurgle, Ilyia touched Elpis's cheek, and a surge of magic passed through them both.

Elpis felt the pain in her back flare for a split second, then something strange happened. Water rushed up her spine and cooled her agony.

As the water rose, it began to take shape into two long, iridescent wings. They were nothing like her original butterfly wings. These were tear-drop shaped with elegant curls and shimmered with magic.

Elpis flexed her wings and flapped them once, twice, and buzzed into the air. The wings were strong and carried her and Ilyia high above the swirling waters.

Sobbing in joy, Elpis wrapped her laughing daughter against her chest.

Magic might come with a price, but love asked for nothing in return.

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