Our hero's story continues and he meets a few allies on his noble quest. Snicker
| Wesley was floating in a sea of light. There was no pain, no hunger, no fatigue, merely a soul deep feeling of calm and peace. His sight cleared and he found himself standing in the middle of a flower-covered field under a perfectly blue sky. He looked down and found himself clothed in fine white linen. |
“Greetings, Wesley,” a soft melodic voice said. Wesley looked up to find a woman in a flowing, white linen robe standing before him. Her face was framed by curly brown-blonde hair and flawless. Her eyes were large and blue, matching the sky above them.
“Where am I?” Wesley asked in awe. The woman smiled at him.
“This is the Afterworld, Wesley,” she said. Wesley frowned.
“You mean I’m dead?” he asked. The woman nodded. Wesley frowned and looked around at his surroundings. A little ways off he saw a pond, and around the pond laughing and playing were a group of women, each one equally as beautiful as the one standing before him.
“Well I guess it could be worse,” he said then turned back to the woman.
“Who are you,” Wesley asked. “And who are they?”
“We are your companions,” The woman said placing her hand on Wesley’s shoulder. “We are here to cater to your every whim, to fulfill your every desire.”
Wesley looked down at the woman in open-mouthed shock. One of the women at the pond called his name in a sweet, song like voice and Wesley looked back to them to see that they were all at the water motioning for him to come to them. They were all dressed the same as the woman before him, and the water of the pond they played in had done its part in making the garments all but transparent. He started towards the water, a grin on his face, but was stopped by the woman before him. She cupped his face in her hands and pulled him down as if to kiss him. Wesley leaned forward to accept the kiss only to have her move her head slightly and start to lick his cheek.
“Errrrr, not that I mind, really,” Wesley said, blushing slightly, “but what are you doing?”
The woman stopped and looked deep into Wesley’s eyes. She then bleated.
Wesley groaned and opened his eyes. The sheep girl was beside him on all fours licking his face. Wesley yelped and pushed her away and sat up quickly. He was in the ruins of the armor room. The ceiling had collapsed completely, and judging from the sunlight he had been out for a few hours. He turned to glare at the sheep girl.
“I was having the most wonderful dream that I had died,” he said. “Stupid sheep you just have to ruin everything don’t you?”
The sheep looked slightly abashed as Wesley groaned and got wobbly to his feet. As he looked around he found that the rubble from the collapse had piled up at one side to in such away that he could easily climb up and out.
“So you have finally awakened Mortal,” came a familiar, unpleasant voice. “That is good. I would not want to be cheated the pleasure of drinking deeply of your blood. Now prepare yourself for your dmmph...”
Wesley resheathed Wrathhorde and walked back over to the girl. He bent down before her, and she crawled up on his back. It was a little more difficult with her on his back, but Wesley managed to climb his way up out of the hole. The first sight that greeted him almost brought tears of joy to his eyes. Berry bushes. He dropped his passenger off his back with a thump and scrambled to the bushes and began shoving the berries in his mouth. The girl let out a sulky bleat at the treatment.
“Oh be quiet Wenda,” Wesley said, and threw some berries at her. “Here eat.”
The girl bleated curiously and Wesley rolled his eyes.
“Well I can keep calling you stupid sheep if you like,” he said. “But I thought you might want a real name.”
Wenda snorted and bent down and started to eat the berries off the ground.
“These are good,” Wesley said shoving a handful into his mouth. Wenda bleated in affirmative.
“I’m glad you think so,” Came a cheery voice. Wesley froze and looked up to see a small winged girl hanging in the air just above his head. She was no bigger than his hand and had large butterfly wings that flapped energetically. Here hair was the color of fire that fell down to her feet. She was dressed in a brown half tunic and matching calf length hose with pointed shoes on her feet.
“Errrrr Hi?” Wesley said. The girl giggled and smiled.
“Hi, My name is Cherry Flower,” the girl said. “You‘re cute. Want to get married?”
“Cherry where are you?” came another voice from out of a near by bush.
“Over here Peach,” Cherry called out. A second winged girl appeared out of the bush. This one was the same height as the first, but had brown hair and was wearing a powder blue dress. The new one, Peach, flew beside Cherry.
“Hello,” Peach said, then looked over to Wenda who was watching them curiously. “Did you know your sheep’s been turned into a human?”
“What exactly are you two?” Wesley asked. “And how did you know that was a sheep?”
“Why we’re Fairies of course, silly.” Cherry said cheerfully and landed on Wesley’s shoulder. “You’re cute.”
Peach shot Cherry and exasperated look, then landed on Wesley’s other shoulder.
“I can see the spell on it,” Peach said.
“Where should we have the wedding?” Cherry asked. Wesley felt his headache from earlier come back in full force. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but stopped as his stomach made and angry gurgling sound.
“Uh-oh,” Cherry said. “You ate too many berries.”
“Are they poisonous,” Wesley asked as he began to feel his head spin and swirl dizzily.
“Not really,” Peach said.
“Nope,” Cherry said. “But night.”
“Wha....” Wesley began, then his world shifted.
Wesley was in a swirling sea of colors. A rainbow colored lake that rippled and rolled around him as he floated along. He turned his gaze up to smile and wave at the pink clouds that waved back as they floated beside a grinning sun. An insect sized, purple, winged sheep buzzed around Wesley’s head. He swatted at it, then watched the colorful streaks his hand left behind it as it moved through the air. Wesley could not remember ever feeling quite so, so, well he was not sure how he felt, but he knew he had never felt that way before. The flying sheep buzzed around him again and Wesley swatted at hit again, once again missing.
“Stupid sheep,” Wesley said, and was surprised when he could actually see the words leaving his mouth. How long he sat there talking just to see the sound, he could not tell. Time no longer had a meaning for him. The sheep buzzed him one more time, this time landing on his arm. Wesley looked down at it, and watched in mild surprise as it opened its mouth wide and bit him.
“What?!” Wesley yelled sitting up quickly. He then wished he hadn’t as he was overcome with dizziness. He squinted and looked around him at the now ordinary world. He was sitting on the ground next to the berry bushes. The sun was still shining brightly over head.
“Welcome back,” the fairy, Cherry, said. Wesley turned in her direction and found her fluttering in the air just off to the side of him.
“What just happened?” he asked.
“You ate too many Toxtox Berries,” Peach responded from his other side.
Wesley winced and turned his head to look at the other fairy.
“What?” Wesley asked.
“Baaaaahhhh,” Wenda said.
“Shut up Wenda,” Wesley said and shakily got to his feet. The two fairies flew up to head level with him.
“Where am I?” Wesley asked.
“At Peach and my Toxtox Berry patch,” Cherry supplied. Wesley rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Look just tell me which way to Welldend Village.”
“Ummmm about 50 minutes that way,” Cherry said pointing. She then fluttered up to Wesley and landed on his shoulder.
“50 minutes?” Wesley asked frowning at the tiny girl on his shoulder.
“She means 50 miles,” Peach explained. “She gets those confused.”
Wesley stared at both of them.
“Then this isn’t Wellhollow Woods?” he asked.
“Nope,” Cherry answered.
“You would call it The Old Nelya Forest,” Peach said.
“Old Nelva Forest?” Wesley repeated blankly.
“It once was the northern border of the Norlian Empire,” Peach told them. Wesley, Cherry and Wenda all regarded her blankly. Peach sighed and shook her head.
Wesley scratched his head for a moment, then frowned. He would not call it the Old Nelva Forest. He had never even heard of it. What he would call it is not where he wanted to be. He had to get home. That was his number one priority at the moment. He sighed and caught sight of Wenda crouched on all fours nibbling on the grass and reconsidered. He had to get her turned back into a sheep. That was his number one priority. There was a light touch on his shoulder and he turned his head to find Cherry sitting on it looking up at him, her eyes filled with admiration. Wesley at this point felt the beginnings of a headache forming. He turned to Peach.
“Can you show me how to get to Welldend?” He asked.
“Of course!” Cherry responded cheerfully. Peach however looked dubious.
“I suppose we could,” she said, with a slight frown. “But it’s not an easy trek. We will have to pass through the Haunted Ruins Of Old Norlia.”
“Oh that’ll be no problem for us,” Cherry said with a dismissive wave of her tiny hand. “What does one of the fair blood have to worry about in some dumpy old ruins.”
“Much,” Peach responded. “And before we get to the ruins we’ll have to go through Brinbran Lands and you’re not exactly on good terms there.”
“Awww stupid Brownies just don’t know how to take a joke,” Cherry said. “Come on sis we can do it and it’ll be fun. We haven’t had a real adventure in DAYS. Please?”
Cherry shot her sister a big-eyed pouty look to emphasize her desire.
“Oh, all right just stop looking at me like that,” Peach said exasperated. “Honestly Cherry sometimes I feel more like your mother than your sister.”
“Yay!” Cherry shouted and launched her self up to kiss Wesley’s cheek. “And when we get to your village you and me can get married, cutie.”
She then fluttered around happily singing to herself. Wesley looked over to Peach.
“Is she always like this?” he asked.
“No,” Peach responded. “Usually she’s in a better mood.”
Wesley winced at that thought.
Before they started their journey, Peach excused herself, leaving Wesley alone with Cherry and Wenda. Wesley found this to be rather uncomfortable. Between Cherry nuzzling his cheek and cooing in his ear and planting little giggling kisses on his cheek, and the naked-except-for-his-tunic Wenda rubbing on his leg and trying to climb up on his lap, the young man was hard pressed to keep his composure. After what to him seemed an eternity, Peach returned and they began on their way. To Wesley’s delight, it didn’t take very long for Wenda to adjust to walking so he no longer had to carry her on his back. She walked cautiously beside him, with the fairies resting one on each of his shoulders.
Wesley found his traveling companions to be very different. Peach was quiet, giving direction they needed to turn and the occasional comment aimed at her sister when needed, and seemed content to keep to her on thoughts. Said sister on the other hand voiced everything that came passed through her mind. Wesley found it hard to follow her sudden changes of subject. He would have asked her to kindly stop talking to him, but she was cute, if tiny, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Wenda was, well, Wenda made Wesley extremely nervous. He could still remember the feel of her body against his, and the stolen glances he took of her long slender legs made his throat dry.
“So,” Wesley said turning to Peach to try to take his mind off of Wenda’s legs. “What exactly is Norlia?”
“Was Norlia,” Peach corrected. “It was a powerful empire that flourished thousands of years ago. The greatest civilization that ever was some say. Things were possible to them that are undreamed of today.”
“What happened to it, and why have I never heard of it?”
“No one knows what really happened,” Peach shrugged. “Some say that its enemies all gathered together and laid it to ruin. Others say it became too powerful and destroyed itself. Its magic was strong, very strong. Some of the spells laid then are still active. There was supposed to be a hidden crypt hidden near where we found you that was made during that time. A great evil was said to have been sealed there.”
“Really,” Wesley asked frowning
“Oh yes,” Peach told him nodding. “Maybe it was an evil such as the one that finally destroyed them.”
“I doubt that whatever was in that crypt was truly dangerous,” Wesley responded. Wesley felt and angry pulse come from the scabbard at his side. He smirked.
“Well I have a question,” Cherry said, regarding them seriously.
“Yes,” Peach asked.
“Do you think I should wear a veil or leave my face uncovered?”
That was pretty much the end of the conversation as Peach buried her face in her hands after that.
It was mid afternoon when they reached a small, crystal clear stream at which they stopped. As they rested, Peach flittered about along the streambed, muttering to herself and scanning the opposite side. The stream was not very impressive to Wesley. It was not very wide, and at the deepest would not have gone too far above his knees. He ate a few berries provided by Cherry and watched the other fairy curiously.
“Well I suppose it will be no problems if we cross now,” Peach announced at last.
“Well of course there will be no problems,” Cherry said with a laugh and fluttered across to the other side. She beaconed for the others to follow. Wesley gave Peach a look, then taking Wenda’s hand crossed. Peach followed somewhat reluctantly behind.
“I hope nothing comes of this,” Peach muttered under her breath.
"This is brownie land," Peach said, and shot her sister a pointed look. "Some of us are not welcome here."
"Hmmph, stupid brownies don't know how to take a joke," Cherry said.
"You shaved their Royal Princesses head," Peach said. Cherry giggled.
"It WAS a good joke," she said smiling proudly. Peach sighed in defeat.
"Well come along then, lets not stay here longer than necessary.
"Right," Wesley said.
As they walked Wesley examined his surroundings. As far as he could tell the Brownie lands looked the same as the Fairylands. The trees where the same, the air smelled the same. The only real difference he could make out was that there seemed to be an over abundance of squirrels on this side. Big ones too. Thinking of the squirrels made Wesley remember how hungry he was. He was considering picking up a rock and trying kill one for his supper, when they came upon a clearing with a large tree stump in the center. On the stump sat a very big squirrel calmly looking at them.
"Well that makes it easy," Wesley said and picked up a rock. He was about the throw it at the squirrel when Peach stopped him. As he watched, a little girl, slightly taller than the two fairies, climbed up on the stump and began to pet the squirrel. That done, she turned and swept her bangs out of her deep blue eyes so she could regard them coldly.
"Greetings Hazel Leaflighter," Peach said politely. The girl said nothing but continued to stare at them. She was wearing a forest brown tunic/dress that went down to her knees. Around her waist she wore a string belt on which was hung a tiny dagger. On her head she wore a shapeless, sack like brown hat from which spilled a wealth of sun streaked blonde hair. Where the fairies were pale, the Brownie was tanned, as if it spent more time exposed to the elements. Also like the fairies, she was very beautiful.
"What you doing here with a human, Peach Flower," the girl said at last, her voice hard and unfriendly.
"Hi Hazel," Cherry said cheerfully. Wesley noticed the brownie's hand go momentarily to her hate as she glowered at the grinning Cherry.
"Stupid Cherry no welcomed here," Hazel said. “Human no welcome either. Leave now." Cherry scoffed.
"He has fair blood in him," she said. "Even a BROWNIE should be able to feel it. And I go where I want too."
That made both Hazel and Wesley blink. The brownie squinted at Wesley for a moment then nodded.
"He okay," she said. "But Cherry not welcome here."
"What do you mean I have fair blood?" Wesley asked. Peach gave him a 'not now' look and shook her head. Wesley shrugged his shoulders and decided it wasn't important enough to pursue at the moment. He went back instead to watching Cherry and Hazel exchange insults.
"Stupid, ugly brownie."
"Bug wing girl."
"You can't stop me from going where I want too," Cherry told the brownie, sticking her tongue out for good measure. She the crossed her eyes and stuck out her front teeth. She flew off of Wesley's shoulder and made a circle in the air.
"Look at me, me's a brownie," she said in the most ignorant sounding voice she could. "Me is Hazel, me’s ugly and gots no wings so me's has to rides a squirrel, me’s a stupi...OUCH!"
The ouch was caused by an acorn only slightly smaller than her head bouncing off of her forehead. Wesley managed to catch her before she hit the ground. He looked up to see Hazel smugly dusting off her hands.
"Was that really necessary?" Peach asked.
"Was fun," Hazel said simply. She then looked Wesley up and down thought fully and bowed.
"Welcome to Brinbran, Feyno'gin" she said with a bow.
"Errr, my name's Wesley," Wesley said not sure what else to say.
"You camp here tonight, and I guide you through in morning, is deal?"
"Deal," Peach said, and flew to land on the stump she and the brownie shuck hands. Peach then looked down at her sister. "Wesley sit Cherry down here so I can tend to her."
Wesley complied and laid Cherry on the stump.
"She going to be okay?"
"Yes," Peach said with a small smirk. “Luckily hit her head. If my sister is one thing it’s thick skulled.”
"That true," Hazel said. Peach tended to her sister, while Wesley started a small fire. Hazel disappeared for a while and returned with a sack of food being dragged by her squirrel mount.
Wesley gazed deep into the small campfire. Beside him Wenda lay curled, breathing softly in her sleep. Cherry, Peach, and Hazel were across the flames from him on camped out on the old stump. Cherry had wakened up complaining about the brownies not being able to take a joke. She had eaten sullenly,
then gathered some leaves to make herself a bed, snuggled into them and was soon snoring. Hazel sat leaning against the curled form of her squirrel mount with Peach sitting down, her little legs hanging over the edge. They were both starring into the fire.
“How do you know so much about that Norlia place, Peach?” Wesley asked.
“I visited it a time or two when I was younger,” she said not looking away from the flames. “It was a beautiful place. I remember the buildings there seemed to touch the sky. There was a garden in the center of their capital city that had a fountain that fifty water spouts, the largest of which shot a hundred feet into the air. Their wizards had worked spells into it so that on top of it floated a marble slab upon which sat a large crystal. At night the crystal would glow and turn all the water rainbow colors. I would sit on a branch of an old willow tree and watch that fountain for hours. It was so beautiful. The spouts would sway and dance in with the wind, making there colors mix and swirl.”
Peach let out a sad sigh and turned her gaze to the sky looking at the ceiling of stars. Wesley frowned and leaned forward.
“I thought Norlia was destroyed long ago,” He said.
“It was,” Peach responded. Her face was thoughtful and sad.
“How old are you Peach?” Wesley asked curiously. The question caused Hazel to snort.
“Silly question,” she said. “No ask fairy how old it is, it not know. Fairy too much in other world to pay attention to time, is immortal anyway so why fair should care, age mean nothing to them. One day, one season, all same to fairies, no even know what days the born on. Fairy silly creature. Fairy never serious, everything play. Of all Lealoa’fey fairies the most fluff headed. “
“Lealoa’fey? What is that?” Wesley asked. Hazel sighed and turned to regard him, and began speaking as if explaining something to a child.
“Lealoa’fey is name for little fair folk,” she explained. “Fairy, brownie, hob, pixie, and nixie. Fairy is fluff head, brownie is child of nature, hob is homebody, pixie is tricky, and nixie swim.”
“I see,” Wesley said. “So do you know how old you are?”
“Of course,” Hazel said. “Brownie not silly like fairy. Hazel has seen 132 summers. Was born third day of spring.”
“132?” Wesley repeated stunned.
“Brownie not live forever like fairy but live longer than man,” Hazel explained.
Through all this Peach had sat with a strange look on her face, as if debating something.
“I am 3,421 years old,” she said looking deep into the fire. “I was born the 12 day of Solade by the old calendar of Norlia.”
Hazel narrowed her eyes and stood up. She walked over to stand beside Peach.
“How Peach knows that,” she demanded. “Peach always was strange for fairy, more like Feyno.”
Peach sighed deeply, and turned to look at her sleeping sister.
“Sometimes I envy her,” she said. “I think you’re wrong about fairies being fluff heads Hazel. I think they are just very innocent. A fairy spends its entire life with the mind of a child, in a world full of joy and wonder.”
“So why are you different?” Wesley asked. Peach turned her head to regard him seriously.
“When I was younger I was no different then my sister,” she said. “During one of my trips to Norlia that all changed. I met a young wizard named Terriean. He fed me sweets, and talked kindly to me, and had a lovely garden he let me play in. He offered me a deal that I didn’t really understand then. I, I became his familiar.”
Hazel let out a hiss. Wesley turned to her surprised by the sound. The fire was reflecting in her eyes, and even for her small size Wesley could fell a since of danger coming from her.
“They do that to brownies too,” she said darkly. “They never the same afterwards. Wizard try to do that to Hazel once, he not leave forest alive.”
“It wasn’t horrible,” Peach said quickly. “It does change you though. As part of the binding, his soul touched mine. I lost my innocence at that moment, when I first saw the world through the eyes of man. I think that for a while it drove me mad for a while, as my mind struggled to grasp the new concepts that had been force upon it. Time, past, the future, consequence for your actions, death. These things are so foreign to the fairy mind. I stayed with him for 50 years, serving him and learning from him, knowing that when he died I would die with him thanks to our bond. Just before he died, however, her released me. That was just over 2000 years ago.”
Hazel sat beside Peach and put her hand on the fairy’s shoulder to try to comfort her.
“Cherry knows nothing about all this,” Peach said. “and I doubt she would understand, but I would consider it a favor if neither of you told her about any of this.”
“I promise,” Wesley said. Hazel snorted.
“Like Hazel talk to stupid Cherry anyways,” She then yawned and stretched. “Hazel sleep now, suggest Wesley and Peach do the same.”
She stood and patted Peach on the shoulder and walked over and snuggled against her squirrel. Peach stood, said her good night to Wesley and walked over to lay beside her sister. Wesley eased himself onto the soft ground and lay starring into the fire, until at last he too drifted to sleep.
Wesley was awakened the next morning by a light drizzle. Normally Wesley enjoyed the rain. Normally, however, he was watching it from under some type of cover, was fully clothed, and hadn't spent the night sleeping on the ground. He stood with a groan and stretched then cast a venomous glare towards the sky. As if in response to the glare the slight rumble of thunder could be heard from the distance. Wesley shook his head and looked around to his companions. For the most part they appeared to be indifferent to the weather. Except for Cherry who was flittering around with her arms outstretched gazing at the sky and giggling. Hazel offered him some nuts and berries, which Wesley ate half heartedly, thinking it better than nothing but not by much.
“How long will it take us to get to Norlia?” Wesley asked as he crunched some of the nuts.
“Not long,” Hazel replied. “Half a day at most.”
Wesley nodded and swallowed. They broke camp a few moments later and began on their way. Wesley’s hopes that the drizzle would let up and the thunder had been a false prophecy were soon dashed. It wasn’t long before the rain started coming down in earnest. It wasn’t enough to be counted as a full downpour but was more than enough for Wesley’s comfort. It was also enough to ground the two fairies, which each took up on one of Wesley’s shoulders. Wesley was sure which disturbed him more, the rain or having a wet Cherry cooing and cuddling against his neck.
Hazel rode before them on her squirrel mount. Wesley was impressed by the brownie’s skill and her mounts agility. No matter how her mount scampered and lept, she kept her balance with an easy grace. She didn’t go far in front of them, stopping often so they didn’t lose sight of her. Even so, Wesley was surprised that something so small could cover so much ground so quickly. Peach noticed him watching the darting form of the squirrel and its rider at one point and commented to him that the mounted brownies were among the most formidable of the Lealoa’fey’s warriors. Wesley could easily see how that could be true, but wondered just how much of an honor it was to be the most formidable warrior of a group where the largest member were still no larger than a child’s doll.
Beside Wesley walked Wenda. Her hair was a sopping red mess, plastered to her head. In Wesley’s opinion, she looked like a drowned rat. A beautiful drowned rat. Wesley tried to ignore her as much as possible. He had no clue as to what he was going to do with her, and thinking about it only gave him a headache. She was his responsiblity, however, so he realized he’d have to do something with her eventually, he just wanted to put it off for as long as possible.
They trudged along in the rain, until they reached an old crumbling wall. It once must have been very impressive but now only came up just above Wesley’s head. Hazel climbed to the top and dismounted.
“Norlia,” she said pointed forward solemnly. Wesley pulled himself up and his breath caught at his first glimpse of Norlia. Before them stretched to the horizon was a long broken road on a broad, golden plain. Dark purple storm clouds filled the sky and occasionally cast lightning down to the ground. Doted across the plains were old grass covered ruins, that appeared to be old farmhouses and cottages. Off barely visible in the distance was what appeared to be a large town, looking sullen and evil under the bruise colored sky.
“By the gods,” Wesley whispered. There was an annoyed bleat behind him and he turned and bent to pull Wenda up onto the wall. She clung to him nervously looking down at the ground. He didn’t notice, he was too intent on the view. Hazel looked up at them and frowned.
“This dangerous place,” she said. “Brownie no go here. You be careful. If you see danger throw Cherry at it and run away. Let her get killed.”
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Cherry shouted hotly.
Hazel didn’t respond. She was watching them, her expression troubled. She looked like she wished to say something, but couldn’t find the words.
“Why don’t you come with us Hazel?” Peach said interpreting the look. “We could use your skills.”
Hazel brightened. She dismounted and spoke to her mount in a chittery tongue. It nodded its head and scampered away.
“He tell them where I go,” she said. “It best Hazel go with you. Fairy no can do anything with out brownies to help.”
Cherry hurmped at that. Wesley just shook his head and wondered why the gods seemed to find his life so boring they needed to liven it up for him. They left the wall and followed down the road. The rain shower
became a true storm with each step they took. They hadn’t gone more than a few miles before it became to much and they were forced to take shelter in one of the old cottages beside the road. They managed a small fire and sat around it as the storm raged outside. The wind shook the old stones and the roof leaked slightly. All in all it was a very miserable time, and even Cherry sat sulking. They were forced to spend the remainder of the day in the cottage waiting out the storm. By the next morning it had once again quieted into a mild drizzle, so they set off again. Wesley wasn’t sure where, but Hazel had managed to come up with some old cloth and they had managed to fashion a covering of sorts for him.
They left the cottage and began done the road again. It was slow, miserable going for Wesley. He was glad for what little protection the covering gave him, but it smelled old and moldy and he wished he could just toss it away. The fairies and the brownie rode on his shoulders, under the covering.