A Fairy at the bottom of the garden.

Midsummer Madness.

Lucy was a fairy. Unlike most of her kin who floated around elegantly in dappled woodlands, fields edged with flower strewn hedgerows or willow fringed riversides, Lucy lived in the city; a rough part of the city.

Her patch was a garden; at least the owners called it a garden. In reality a sad, threadbare bit of land, the plant life consisted primarily of docks and other hardcore weeds with some tufts of brown, sun scorched grass growing around a couple of islands made from old car tyres. A rusting child’s tricycle lay sadly on its side near to the front door, the paint on the door was discoloured with age and peeling off.

At the bottom of the garden was an old privy; haunt of spiders, centipedes, bluebottles, and Lucy.

Lucy was not your average fairy. She was taller than most, had dreadlocks and wore ripped jeans, tiny, tight tops which showed her fairy midriff, long, black, velvet gloves, and a pair of oversized working boots. In short, Lucy was a punk.

Because of where she lived, her fellow fairies and sprites called her Lucy Loo. She did not mind this name at all, privately she thought that the other fairies were insipid creatures anyway.

Fairy Law demanded for Midsummer, that all fairies must gather together and update each other on how they had spent their time, how many humans they had enchanted and that sort of thing. Lucy would trail reluctantly to wherever the gathering was held, usually a stone circle or a mountaintop somewhere isolated; often it was both at the same time.

There would be food, drinking, dancing and general carousing. She hated the food, which was elegantly presented but not the kind of thing which would fill her hungry fairy belly. The drinks were things like mistletoe wine or nettle beer; yeuch. Lucy would have preferred a large, cold, cider. As for the music, well, it was okay up to a point. The tinkling of harebells, the piping of a lone curlew and the song of a stream rushing over boulders was pretty enough, but it wasn’t as though you could dance to it. Of course the dancing did not suit her either. All those stately waltzes and gavottes. Boring!

Still, she had to go, so she polished up her big leather boots, sewed a patch over a tear in her jeans which exposed her bum when she bent over, removed several large safety pins which decorated the edges of her wings, and packed a small, overnight bag containing a couple of six-packs of cider, a large bottle of vodka with raspberries soaking in it, and three takeaway curries with extra naans. She then flew up into the sky, shouting at an innocent crow who nearly bumped into her when she suddenly appeared in his flight path.

“Argggh!” he crowed at her.

“Fuck off out of my way!” she answered, shocking the corvid into silence.

Spinning in the updraft while she got her bearings, she eventually headed north and west, making for a mountaintop with the dreaded stone circle at the top. She wished that just for once, the gathering could be held in a local nightclub. Local to her, preferably.

A large lake lapped the foot of the mountain, and she set down there, intending to get a spot of climbing in while she had the opportunity. A Naiad rose from the water, looking at Lucy. Willowy and ultra chic, draped in gauzy green and transparent silk which, because it was wet showed everything she had; she appeared utterly astonished at the sight of the oversized fairy.

“What are you looking at?” Lucy demanded belligerently.

The Naiad said nothing, sinking back into the safety of the water. She did not reappear until Lucy Loo was safely half way up the mountain, at which point she took herself to a stream rushing down the mountainside and temporarily made it flow straight back up, so that she could make it to the tarn at the top without effort.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain Lucy strode, dusty, tired, and thirsty towards the standing stones; the chatter and the music stopped. The fireflies, which had been flashing on and off in a complicated pattern, gathered together in a huddled group and stopped glowing.

“What’s this then?” Lucy demanded. “Have I wandered into the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ or something? “

“Well if it isn’t Lucy Loo, the fairy at the bottom of the garden. And talking of bottoms, yours is showing.”

Lucy turned and checked her jeans. The patch was hanging off and her fairy bum was, in fact, showing. She grinned at the well dressed elf, lounging nonchalantly against a large stone.

“Nice bum though, isn’t it?” she answered. “Pert.” “It comes of working hard, and exercise, something you appear to be a stranger to.” She looked pointedly at the corpulent elf who blushed and looked away.

Ignoring the sniggering which rippled around the assembled Fae, Lucy made for the table.

“Oh look,” she said sarcastically , “Barbeque beetle legs and curried rodent tails, with a side of caterpiller mousse. How yummy, not.”

Her face brightened as she spotted a bird landing next to her, shaking his feathers as he turned into his fairy self.

“Here Jay,” she said. “Fancy splitting a korma? I’ve plenty for both of us. Unless you prefer ragout of woodlouse? ”

Both fairies smirked.

“I saw one of your cousins on the way here”, she told him. “I’m afraid I was a bit short with him, but he was in my way.”

“That’ll be Crow”, Jay agreed. “He’s over there having a sulk.” He nodded towards the centre of the circle.

“What can you expect of these goth types though? If you’re not moping about in a glump, you’re not enjoying yourself. He’ll get over it.”

A fairy wearing gleaming black feathers scowled at the two friends. Lucy walked over.

“Sorry about yelling at you earlier, you surprised me is all; I didn’t mean anything by it. Fancy a cider? Its better than this pish.”

Crow brightened and raised the feathers on his head in appreciation.

“That’s ok,” he said, “Cheers.”

As he took the can, Lucy invited him to come and share a curry with her and Jay. Jay, bedecked in pink and blue feathers and wearing a fetching stripey cap, looked sideways at Crow.

“Nice threads man,” he said.

Crow preened and spiked up the feathers on his head again. He was completely black from the top of his eighties hairdo, to the tips of his pointed toenails. Only his eyes, darkest of brown, deviated from the midnight goth theme, as did the inside of his mouth, which was shockingly pink when he yawned.

“How do you keep so glossy and smart anyway? ” Lucy wanted to know. “It’s not as though you live in a country mansion, you’re a city type, like me. “

“Hey, I’m careful where I hang out, watch my diet and things, you know?”

“Give over!” she scoffed. “You’re a carrion crow; you eat rubbish and play on dumps with the Gull Clan.”

“Are you kidding?”, Crow retorted. “Anywhere the humans go is a dump in no time. I’m merely recycling some of their crap.”

“And” he added, “I don’t eat rubbish. The amount of burgers, pizzas, chips and stuff that they throw away is criminal. It’s decent enough grub and free for the taking.”

“Have you ever heard of vegetables?” Lucy asked.

“Mushy peas and coleslaw”, replied Crow smugly.

“Yeah, ok.” Lucy conceded, thinking of the takeaways.

“C’mon then. If we sit by that pond,” she pointed at the tarn, “we can have a laugh and a smoke. Anyone got any herbs, for, er, seasoning?”

The two corbies looked at her blankly.

“Oh right”, said Crow as the penny dropped. “I picked up something at the mall.” As he produced a small package wrapped in tinfoil, Lucy grinned. “Sweet.”

“A couple of maggiepies were hanging around, had their beady eyes on it, but they aren’t as confident around humans as me and I grabbed it pretty quickly.”

“Should’ve heard their language as I flew off with it”, he added, “nearly as bad as yours!”

He looked slyly at Lucy. “They tried hassling me, but there was a big family of rooks on a field nearby, and they chased the maggies away, they don’t seem to like them very well.”

“Who cares? You got the goodies is all that matters,” said Lucy. “C’mon, time to party.”

As the three walked over to the tarn, the Naiad popped her head from the water. Trying to look naive and innocent she fluttered her eyelashes at the two males. Lucy rolled her eyes as Crow lifted the feathers on his head and started to strut.

“That one is far more predatory than she looks,” she warned Crow. “Watch out for her teeth, they’ll probably do justice to a shark.”

Crow leered at the Naiad while answering Lucy.

“None of us are who we look like,” he said, “although obviously I really am a suave, smooth, love machine. I know what she wants, its Midsummer after all, and Baby, I got it. “

“We’ll save you some curry,” said Jay. “I imagine you’ll be peckish after a minute of hard activity”.

Crow raised a middle finger without looking back.

“Peckish, geddit?” added Jay.

Lucy slapped his arm.

“Dont give up the day job, hey?”

The two sat down together, opened their cider and cartons of curry. Talking in low voices they chatted about their day to day lives in the non-fairy world.

Jay did not shun humans entirely, he preferred woodland to urban scenes, but humans got everywhere these days. Like Crow, he picked up after them when he found useful objects. Useful generally meant shiny, he also enjoyed the aftermath of human picnics.

Lucy told him about her patch in the city. The humans weren’t all bad, she explained, but most of them seemed helpless. The family who lived in the house by her garden seemed particularly clueless.

There were two small children who mostly ran wild as the hapless grown-ups tried to navigate poverty. Lucy played with these children, a boy and a girl. At night, when they had gone to bed, Lucy would sit with them and tell them human tales which she had been told as a fairy child, until they fell asleep. Sometimes when they woke crying from a bad dream, or from hunger, Lucy would give them food which she had stolen from wealthy humans, who blamed mice for the loss. She would also draw magic pictures in the air for the two, who would smile as they fell back to sleep.

“Aren’t you supposed to enchant them and ruin their lives?” asked Jay, who wouldn’t dream of ruining anybody’s life. “It’s why we’re sent to live with humans after all. “

“Other humans are quite good enough at ruining each other’s lives,” said Lucy bluntly.

“Oh look, here comes Crow. That love affair didn’t last very long.”

The two fairies chortled as Crow came back rather faster than he had left. He was wet and bedraggled.

“You were right about the teeth,” a chastened Crow said to Lucy.

“And for all her draping herself on the stones by the pond, she tried to drag me underwater to ‘meet her family’, all of whom have sharper teeth than she has. “

“Told ya,” said Lucy, and held up a carton, “Curry?”

After the fairies had eaten, Crow suggested opening his magic herbal package, but the other two declined.

“Too early.” explained Jay; “We have to report to their Majesties later, and need a clear head if we aren’t going to be sent elsewhere tomorrow.”

“What have you brought them for their Midsummer Gift?” asked Lucy Loo.

It was a tradition that after reporting the mischief that they had inflicted upon humankind to the Fairy Queen and her consort, each fairy would present them with a gift, entirely unsolicited.

Jay had found a golden chain with a big blue stone hanging from it, quite deep in the woods. Fairies loved gold and jewellery, and both Lucy Loo and Crow admired it.

Lucy had brought a pack of butter still in its gold coloured wrapper, with a picture of a cow standing in a field of daisies on the front. She also had a carton of cream with a picture of the sun on the label.

Fairies adored fatty dairy products, but although they were blamed in folklore for stealing milk straight from cattle, in reality they were too idle to do so. A milkmaid or farmer’s wife hoping for good luck, or at least to be left alone, judiciously left a pat of butter and a cup of milk out ‘for the little folk’; bribery being the price of living in an area shared with The Fae.

Lucy had not relied on the generosity of countryfolk however. These days they were more likely to shout at her to get off their land, than leave gifts. Instead, she had bought the dairy produce at a supermarket, not that she would admit that, it did not match the Fairy ethos.

“What have you got then?” they asked Crow.

“You’ll have to wait and see,” he told them. “Prepare to be amazed though, it’s brilliant. Anyone seen the Duke? He promised to bring some wheels.”

“Wheels? ” asked Lucy puzzled, “what do you mean?”

“It’s wheels that the humans use;” explained Crow. “You sit on them and throw yourself down a mountain. You can’t use your wings and if you fall off, you lose.”

“You mean you are going to sit on a bogey and try and steer yourself down the mountain? ” Lucy was astonished. “You’re idiots, complete idiots. I don’t know which of you is dafter, I really don’t.”

“No, it will be fun, ” Crow insisted. “Humans do stuff like that and they don’t have wings and don’t have magic, so it can’t be that hard.”

“Humans also end up in piles of broken bones, too.” said Lucy.

“They seem to think that they are indestructible, until they find out that they aren’t. Mind you,” she added, “I do enjoy sledging down hills in winter with the kids, but you don’t usually have so far to fall.”

“You play in the snow with baby goats” said Crow misunderstanding, “and you call me an idiot?”

“I meant the human children” said Lucy, looking around and hoping that no-one was listening in. “They’re kind of cute.”

“You want to be careful,” Crow warned her.

“It’s beginning to sound like you’re going native, and you know what people think of that. It’s not just the snow that’s slippery,” he continued, and proud of his use of metaphor but not knowing to quit while he was ahead; “You could find yourself in hot water.”

“Shhh!” she hushed him. “Keep your voice down. Times are changing, maybe life would be better if we stopped trying to cause trouble for the humans all the time, they aren’t that bad if you get to know them. Anyway, we’ve used them in the past as nursemaids and servants and stuff.”

“Staff is one thing” Crow told her, shocked.

“Friends? Not a chance. They’re far too treacherous.”

“Well the two I’m working with are barely more than babies. They’ve never hurt anyone and maybe if they learn how to behave now, they’ll be better people when they grow up.”

“Anyway, can we talk about something else? It’s not the best conversation in this company. ” Lucy nodded towards the Naiad who was now looking shyly, slyly, at Jay. “Maybe move nearer to the stones, too?”

As they got to their feet, Crow brightened up and called across the hilltop.

“Duke! Hey Duke.”

Waving his arms he set off to see his friend, or partner in crime, as Lucy thought of him. The Duke landed, quacking a greeting and then becoming his true form.

“Hey,” he greeted the trio. “This meet up is looking good already. Great to see you all.”

“Did you bring the wheels?” asked Crow.

Duke shook himself and produced a bag of charms. Among them were two silver bicycles.

“Crow reckons that you two are planning on cycling down this mountain?” Lucy looked at the Duke, hoping he would say otherwise.

“It’ll be fun” the Duke confirmed enthusiastically . “We’re the Bird Clan, we’re used to navigating high places.”

“Yes, but not in human form” she argued back. “At least be prepared to use your wings in an emergency.”

“Where’s the fun in that? ” scoffed Crow. “How are we supposed to understand humans without experiencing things the way they do?”

“Have it your own way.” Lucy said. “Its your funeral.”

After putting the charms on the ground, the Duke waved a feathery hand at them, and they increased in size until they were perfect for the two pseudo humans to use. The pair stood admiring them, talking about the best path down the mountain and also how to actually ride them. Sitting astride their bicycle of choice, the two wobbled a path through the stones and around the hillside, to get the feel of the machines.

Lucy Loo and Jay left them to it, and ambled off to find a quiet spot where they could experience a little Midsummer magic of their own.

Various fairies arrived on the hilltop, met with friends and boasted of the mischief, the glamour, and the enchantments, which they had variously used to bamboozle humans, and also to puff up their already overlarge egos.

Somewhere, someone began to sing. The owner of the voice was joined by a drummer and someone else accompanied them on a set of Uilleann pipes. The music was very old fashioned but pleasant, and the party settled into a normal festival vibe, of a type enjoyed by Fairies, humans, or any other species.

Some while later, a fanfare announced the arrival of the Queen and her consort. Everyone stopped what they were doing, stood up and cheered as the Royal couple rode in on snowy white horses. Flowers were strewn in their path as they advanced towards the circle of stones, and the fireflies circled their heads, making a crown of light for their Lady.

Jay and Lucy came from their hiding place, pink faced and holding hands, to join the throng.

“Where’s Crow and the Duke?” Lucy whispered to Jay. He nodded slightly to the side of the hill, where two very sorry looking fairies were limping surreptitiously towards them. They were pushing their bikes, the Duke’s now had a wobbly front wheel and bent forks.

“Bountiful Lady!” Lucy hissed, “They fell off the mountain, didn’t they? You’d think they’d have waited until after the presentations.”

Jay shushed her quietly, and they eased towards the other two.

“Put those two bikes in the bag, quick, and see if we can tidy you up a bit. You can’t meet Our Lady looking like that.”

Having learned to be practical, she chose a wishing well charm and made the Duke enlarge it.

“I’m not risking water from that pond” she gestured to where the Naiad lurked, “but we need to clean you up. Draw a bucket of water will you, Jay?” To the Duke, “Give me your scarf, I’m not ruining mine.”

The Duke handed over his beautiful green, silk, flying scarf, and Lucy dipped it in the water and told him to stop fussing while she washed the blood off his face.

“Don’t be a baby, it’s only a graze, now hold still.”

“You;” she told Crow, “I’m sure you’ve got a mirror about you somewhere, smooth your feathers down and dust yourself off. You’ll likely have a black eye, but at least nobody will be able to tell.”

Glaring at the Naiad who was following a puddle of water to the Duke’s wishing well, she warned her, “Don’t even think about it.”

Sulkily, the water fairy slunk back to her tarn.

The royal couple had made their way to the raised dais in the middle of the stone circle, and were smiling regally at their subjects. The Queen herself was incredibly beautiful, her smile radiant, but there was a coldness in her eye of which everybody was aware. Every being, of every shape, was on their best behaviour, and whilst they all milled around the royalty smiling in apparent happiness at the celebrations all were very careful not to catch the royal eye.

The king she had chosen as her consort this year was of course, incredibly attractive. Elegant and dashing, with a twinkle in his eye, he was also very careful to keep that twinkle trained entirely on his Lady. He looked around his subjects for the following year vaguely, then returned his adoring gaze to the Queen.

The royal musicians lined up with their flutes, their fiddles, their drums and pipes and struck up a reel. Obediently the company formed a circle and watched as the king stood up, bowed to the Lady and asked for her hand. This was offered with a regal smile, and the king kissed her fingers, they stepped to the middle of the cleared circle and started to dance. A massive cheer broke out and the air was filled with flower petals and fireflies, showering the couple.

At the end of this first dance, the king kissed his Queen to another rousing cheer, before turning to the nearest female fairy, bowing, and asking her to dance. The Queen also turned to the nearest male and invited him to do likewise. He, far more nervous than the king’s new dance partner, smiled and gave a grovelling bow before taking the proffered finger tips gingerly, kissing them but carefully not kissing them more than the king had done, while hovering an arm around, but not quite touching, the royal waist; the two new couples stepped out for the next dance. This would continue until the brief moment of Midsummer darkness by which time the king would have danced with every lady, the Queen would have danced with every man, and everyone would be ready for the reviews.

Lucy looked over the two subdued fairies with a critical eye and sighed.

“You’re a long way from perfect, but you’ll have to do. See if you can avoid any more disasters until after the royal review, hey? C’mon, I suppose we should mingle and dance.”

The group of friends split up and wandered through the throng, joining in with the general conversation and dancing in turn with everyone, including royalty.

At various times there would be a break in the dancing, people would stop and have a drink or a snack, catch up with friends spotted across the floor, until the dancing resumed.

The dancers wove across the mountaintop, through the stones and around the tarn, where the king danced with the Naiad. She had the good sense not to try anything with the Queen watching casually, but intently, and Lucy found herself letting out her breath with relief, not even knowing that she had been holding it.

The Naiad was a pain in the backside, but all fairies were kin, and she did not wish the pain of royal displeasure on anybody. As she turned from the king to her next partner, the Naiad caught Lucy’s eye and winked. Lucy found herself grinning back in complicity.

Drifting over towards the water spirit, Lucy spoke to her.

“I’m sure that you aren’t that bad, but leave my friends alone, hey? “

“Who are your friends?” the other asked.

“Everyone!” Lucy told her.

“You seem to have got yourself someone?” the Naiad said, “why should I not? “

“The point is that I have one man,” said Lucy, “and not only do I treat him well, I don’t try to collect everyone else’s man, too. Just settle on one person, don’t drown him, and you and I will get along just fine. You’ll make friends everywhere, as well. “

“What’s your name, anyway?”

“Catfish” said the Naiad shyly, unused to friendly overtures, “I get called Cat for short though.”

“I’m Lucy, they call me Lucy Loo for long, nice to meet you, Cat.” She held out her hand.

“Do you mind if I don’t?” Cat asked her. “Only your hands are so hot and dry. “

“Fair call,” Lucy replied .

“How close to the pond do you have to stay? There’s plenty of eats in the buffet for a bottom feeder, no offence meant.”

“None taken,” Cat replied. “I am what I am, and perfectly happy being so. How far from the water depends on how high it is above.”

By ‘above’ Lucy correctly guessed that Cat meant the land above the water level.

“It’s why I was going to use your friend’s water carrier.”

“The bucket?” asked Lucy. “That wasn’t a great choice, even if I’d have realised why you were heading over. Most of the time it’s a silver charm, you would have been part of the charm and not able to move or anything until he turned it back into a well and bucket.”

“How big a water carrier do you need? Bucket sized, or would something smaller do? “

“I think the bucket is the smallest I could curl up into”.

“Ok,” said Lucy, “I’ll ask the Duke and we’ll carry it with us. That way you can join in the party, but remember that people are not prey, and if you mess with other people’s men, you will be very unpopular, very quickly. Oh, and whatever else you do, keep away from the king! Being a silver charm in a bag is nothing to what the Queen will do to you if you upset her.”

The bucket of water was soon reinstated, and the friends took turns in carrying it with them, Cat quickly picked up the rules and soon fitted into their little group. She was ecstatic with the buffet, eating everything that the pickier fairies had left untouched.

“This is amazing,” she said, her mouth full of barbeque rodent ribs, a rat’s tail hanging over her chin; “I can’t believe that you’re all not as fat as carp! “

“Fill yer boots”, Jay encouraged her. “It all goes to waste if nobody eats it.”

Eventually Cat had eaten enough and everyone wandered through the crowds, joining in with the odd dance, always careful to protect the bucket of water from being knocked over and spilt. Before they knew it, the sky darkened to a Midsummer dusk.

As the semi dark spread across the land, everyone grew quiet and turned expectantly to where the king and the Queen stood, between two tall stones set slightly apart from the others.

After a very short period of twilight, the sun rose, casting its rays directly over the Queen and her consort. As it rose higher, a raucous shout broke out; drums were banged, horns were blown, yet more petals showered the royalty who turned to each other and embraced, promising new life for the new year. This was the signal for everyone to pair off if they could, and to find a quiet spot where they could get down to some serious Midsummer fun. Although the hilltop was full, it was amazing how quickly it appeared empty, as couples moved into other dimensions to bond in privacy.

After some time, people began to reappear, some changed partners and disappeared again, some appeared to be happy enough to sit in groups, chatting quietly. As the sun rose high in the morning sky though, everybody returned, including the Queen and her king. She looked happy, he looked relieved, and more than a bit smug.

Now though, it was time for the dreaded reviews. Folk began to move towards the royal dais, to kneel humbly and nervously in front of their monarchs. People were called singly into the royal presence where they justified their existence over the past year, and gave the most expensive, showy gift that they could manage, in tribute, gratitude, bribery, and hope that they would be left in peace for another year.

Eventually it was the turn of Lucy Loo and her little group of friends.

Moving forward, her head bowed she made a massive curtsey and knelt before the couple, until the king told her that she could rise.

The first query was about her dress sense. Lucy explained that she worked with young humans, and lied that they found her look frightening.

“Human children?” asked the Queen.

Fairies are known to have a fondness for human babies who they sometimes steal and keep as pets, cherishing them until they forget about them. Sometimes the child will be recovered at this point by other humans, although the child will be changed to a point where they find their native heritage incomprehensible. Sometimes they will be taken in by a leprechaun, a goblin or pixie and trained up to be servants. In any case their lives will neither be fun, nor very long.

Lucy’s answer to the Queen therefore, was carefully rehearsed.

“Sadly my Lady, they are too old, and they are ugly little gnomes anyway. If I did not know otherwise, I would mistake them for Changlings.”

She thought of the two sweet little children, and did not even blush.

“What do you do to them, then?” she was asked.

“I go into their bedrooms in the night and make pictures in the air above their beds. You should hear them scream, and when the parents come to see what’s wrong, they can’t see me. They say I’m an imaginary friend. “

This was both absolutely true, and also completely misleading, as of course Lucy did not instigate the screaming, but rather comforted the children. Her tale had the desired effect however. The Queen smiled.

“And do they scream often, these ugly little humans?”

“Oh yes!” Lucy said, while thinking, “Not as much as they used to now I feed and comfort them.”

“Your Majesty”, she continued, not wanting to go too far down this route.

“I have longed for the opportunity to give something back to you, who care for us, all of your children. It is only a trifle but I pray that you accept this small gift, as a token of my gratitude for your presence in our lives.” Here she handed over the butter and the cream.

The Queen clapped her hands at the sight of this rare treat.

“Thank you,” she purred, adding hypocritically, “How unexpected.”

“You may leave our gracious presence, and keep up the good work. The sound of a human in distress is music to our ears.”

Thankfully, Lucy bowed and shuffled backwards from the august presence, and waited with her friends for everybody to have their interview.

Crow was the last person to come forwards.

After a long, mostly fictitious story about the trials of humans in his area, due to his, Crow’s efforts, it was time for the gift ceremony.

Crow was very excited about this. After the usual humble disclaimer about how worthless a trinket he had brought, he produced an expensive, silver, windproof lighter. He had picked this up at the mall where he had stolen the weed.

Lucy’s heart sank.

“Don’t do it,” she prayed, knowing that he was about to create another disaster.

Sweeping into a low, expansive bow, he flicked the switch on the lighter. The case opened, the flame appeared and leapt joyfully to the awning sheltering the Queen and king.

Fireproof fabric is not a thing with fairies, and soon scraps of burning awning were drifting everywhere, causing screams of consternation.

Realising that he might have gone too far, however unintentionally, Crow stood, rigid with shock. Seeing the flames creep towards the king, the Duke picked up the bucket of water and flung it at him. The king, surprised, was not only soaked but found himself holding a flirty looking Naiad.

The flames, for all their eagerness were soon quenched. The Duke grabbed the Naiad, threw her into the well unceremoniously, chucking the bucket in after her and immediately turned the lot back into a charm. It was done so quickly, that neither king nor Queen were truly sure that it had even happened.

Crow lay prostrate in front of the pair, grovelling and crying that it was a terrible, terrible accident, that he had been blinded by the Queen’s beauty. As he threw his arms over his head, the silver package fell out of his sleeve, and landed in front of the Queen.

She was so be bemused by the whole thing, she was not even angry. In any case, Crow was not a bad looking figure, and on his knees before her, proclaiming her great beauty and famed mercy, her vanity was assuaged.

“Another gift, Crow?” she queried. “I hope it is less fiery than the last one.”

Lucy and Jay looked away, shaking their heads.

“Madam, your Graciousness ” croaked Crow, “It is nothing, a kind of herb used by the humans to create pleasant dreams. I stole it from one of them.”

This at least was true, and the Queen looked interested.

“Is it magic? Surely the humans don’t have any magic?”

“No magic, my Lady Queen, just an ordinary plant with some interesting qualities. I thought that You and our virile king would keep it safe from human meddling,” he lied glibly.

“How does it work?” the Queen wanted to know.

Lucy listened in fascinated horror as Crow explained how best to get stoned, dressing it up in flowery language. She wished that she had jumped in the well after Cat, at least she would be safe as a part of a silver charm.

Crow however, seeing a way out of his predicament suggested enthusiastically the Royals sample the goods. The four friends were invited to demonstrate.

Within a half hour, Lucy Loo, Crow, Jay, the Duke, and their king and Queen were sitting around giggling, and eating cold, leftover food from the buffet, washed down with raspberry vodka. As the royals gradually relaxed and fell asleep, the four others sneaked quietly away. When they reached the bottom of the mountain, the Duke released Cat into her lake, explained what had happened and suggested that she got as far away as she could, while she could.

As they turned to go their separate ways, Crow brushed smuts of soot from his feathers and spoke to his friends;

“Well, that went better than expected. Same time, same place, next year?”