Peona, hovering about an inch in the air at the edge of the room, looked out over her audience and fervently wished she had stuck to her guns. She was more certain than she had ever been that she was not the fairy who should be leading this gathering.
Here she was, short, with a rotund figure that gave witness to her fondness for pints of ice cream, a knob of thin mousey hair on top of her head, and not even a gaudy pair of shimmering wings to compensate for anything. Peona was well aware that she was far from the most stunning example of magical power, and that commanding the attention of this group of thirty or so fairies was going to be a challenge.
To be sure, the fairies there came in all shapes and sizes, from small pixies to one or two whose horns reached seven feet or more. They had two things in common: they were all munching on ornate cupcakes, and all of them, or at least, almost all of them, wore a decidedly peeved expression.
Well, at this point, there was no help for it. This meeting had been her brainchild, and now she must see it through. Fauna, fluttering on the other side of the room, gave her a thumbs up. Peona took a breath, muttered some magic words to help her voice project, and stepped onto the dais Pansy had constructed two minutes before, which still gleamed a bit—magic or not, Pansy was a terrible procrastinator.
“Ahem,” Peona began, almost silently. A few other Unter-Faires like herself looked up respectfully, but most everyone else kept on munching and muttering to each other. Well, she might as well just go for it. “HEAR YE! HEAR YE!” she called out, much too loudly, considering her vocal projection charm. Everyone in the room started, and one or two pixies nearly dropped out of the air. Peona gamely continued: “Thank you very, very much for attending this meeting. Um….”
Peona had, of course, spent most of yesterday constructing a speech for this occasion. She couldn’t remember a word of it now, except that it had some very fine points about unity and common ground. She could start there. “As you know, we have asked you to be here today because of a commonly concerned, um, because of a concern that concerns us commonly, a common concern we have, um, an issue that stretches between all of us and on which we have common ground, ground that is shared by all of us, and on which we have several mutual concerns, concerns that are common to all of us…um…”
She looked at the slowly glazing eyes of her audience, and then concluded that honesty was the best policy. “Look, we’re here because we have a problem.”
Unfortunately, that was the wrong move. A tall, beautiful lady in the front row raised her hand. She looked like the sort who would prefer to be called a “faerie.” She was also sipping a glass of wine, much to Peony’s annoyance, who had expressly not served alcohol, thinking this was the sort of discussion that would not benefit from addled wits.
“Yes?” Peony asked. “I mean, the chair recognizes…um…” She could not for the life her remember the lady’s name, and she used a little magic to discover it. “…Maeve of the Autumn Locks.”
The lady obviously sensed the effort Peona had gone to, and the lady smirked as she spoke: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘we have a problem.’ I, for one, was invited here by the good fairy Fauna, who told me that my calmness and well-known magnanimousness would be a great asset to this cause.”
Peona would have shot Fauna a dirty look, but she remember both that she had told Fauna to use whatever means possible to get as many fairies, and that everyone in the audience would see said dirty look. She was considering how to reply, when another being, a fairly ordinary looking Unter-Fairy like Peona herself, interjected, the Unter-Fairy’s mildly bored expression intensifying to quite miffed.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, so the high-and-mighty Miss Fallen Locks gets an oh-so-special invitation, while us Unter-Fairies are just expected to show up because one of our own is leading the charge?”
“No…” began Peona, but then a wrinkled, leafy fairy interrupted.
“Yes, it’s not like these Under-Fairies have enough magic to even merit the need for this…intervention.”
“Oh, go sit on a road and wait for some hapless youth to wander up, and turn them into a frog!” screeched another Unter-Fairy.
“So unimaginative,” scoffed one of the horned fairies. “I’d keep them human, but curse them with an insatiable thirst, or something like that.”
“I’ll give you an insatiable thirst,” growled one of the pixies, “And a cloud of stinging flies to nest in your antlers.”
“How about I just skip the thirst and drown you in a puddle right now,” suggested the horned fairy. She summoned an apparition of a large vase. “This ought to be just your size.”
The pixie was about to charge, when her pathway was blocked by an old woman brandishing a sparkling wand. “Now, now, you know it’s just a vision, the vase isn’t actually there; she doesn’t have that kind of magic.” The old woman turned to the horned fairy, “Don’t make me turn you into a deer again.”
“Which caused several questing princes to chase after her, if I recall,” mentioned Maeve.
“You stay out of this,” the horned fairy hissed, banging her staff on the ground.
“If I stayed out of things, the world would be a much worse place,” replied Maeve.
This time, Peona made her voice far too loud on purpose: “FAIRIES!” she bellowed. Everyone covered their ears.
Peona sighed. “This is exactly why Fauna, Pansy and I called this meeting. We fairies, as a whole species and as each subspecies, must get a hold of our tempers!”
The audience was still eyeing each other with enmity. Peona continued: “We are far too easy to offend. For goodness sake, if an eleven-year-old child doesn’t offer a stranger shelter for the night, don’t turn him into a beast. He’s just doing what his parents told him and being wary of strangers! If a maiden won’t give you water, maybe assume she’s having a bad day get over it; don’t immediately think of the craziest curse you can think of and cast it!”
Another fairy, with grass-green eyes, pointed at Maeve. “Her sister put a curse on an infant princess!”
Maeve protested: “And I fixed it!”
“Shush,” snapped Peona, in no mood to deal with this. “Who among us, Unter-Fairies too, has not crafted a hasty, angry spell, and then cooled down and regretted it later?”
Gradually, everyone in the room, Peona included, raised their hands. “Exactly. We are quick-tempered beings, and we have got to do something about that. That is why we have asked you to be here today. We, the thirty or so of us who are here, must be instruments of change amongst our sisters!”
Many of the other fairies nodded, even Maeve. But then another fairy, in glittering raiment: “There is no denying our good sister Peona makes an excellent point, but I, for one, have a few concerns. Where do you draw the line between quick temper and meeting just punishment? For example, suppose I am sitting in a wood, minding my own business, when a prince comes up to me seeking the legendary White Bear of the Dark Forest. Now, I can tell that this prince is a right arrogant fellow, so I…”
Peona sighed, but made sure it was not loud enough for the others to hear. It was going to be a long meeting, and hopefully by the end of it, she wouldn’t have turned every one of them into hop-toads.