Recently, TRF held a story submission contest. Long-time patron and former performer Diane Ullman submitted this delightful, enchanting story about a fairy and a bee. I especially love that it stars a simple fairy who's a little, well, on the ancient side. Enjoy!
Once upon a time (because all the BEST stories start that way) in a forest, just a little way from here there lived a fairy. Most of her neighbors had moved away to bigger forests that had larger, fancier trees, but our fairy had lived in her tree a very, very long time. In fact, so long had she been there that the top of her tree had fallen over when lightning struck it and lay just a short walk away. The fairy lived there so long that vines began to creep up the part of her tree that was still standing. Moss had settled on the north side of the tree and the fairy loved the way it made the remains of her tree look soft and fuzzy.
She didn't mind that her tree wasn't as fancy as the ones the other fairies had moved into. Her neighbors were the birds and the bugs, the animals and the fish that lived in the tiny stream nearby.
Just at the edge of the fairy's tiny wood, there was an open field. She liked the way the snow covered the ground in the winter, how the daisies and buttercups came and went in the spring and summer and how pretty her forest looked next to the dry and crunchy grass in the autumn.
She lived there peacefully for many, many years.
Then one day one of the bees who normally worked in the field searching for food to feed their hive buzzed right when she should have hummed left and came to a screeching halt right outside the fairy's door.
"Well, goodness gracious me," bumbled the bee, "What a pretty place to live. This is much nicer than that old, rotten, dirty log my sisters and I share. Even though the top fell off the vines make the tree look alive! I must go home and report to the Queen that I have found us a new home!"
The fairy overheard this and grew very frightened. She knew she could stand up to one bee-but a whole hive? All the other fairies were so far away they couldn't help her! She had some magic but hadn't had to use it for so very long that she wasn't sure she remembered very much, at least not enough that would be useful in protecting her house. All night long she read and studied the few books she had, searching for a spell that would protect her beloved house.
Finally, just as the sun was casting its first shadows she found one. It wasn't a big spell and it wasn't a hard spell. It wasn't the kind of spell that anyone might think to use for self-defense. But it was the best she could come up with. Smiling, she put the book away, dusted off her magic wand, giving it a few shakes to wake it up. Next, she sat down and waving the still-sleepy wand, made several hundred pairs of tiny gauze bags and stored them neatly by the front door. And only then did she set off to make herself a cup of dewdrop tea.
The bees arrived at the field at precisely 8:27 am. Bees are always very precise about the correct time to begin work on any given day and they always show up on time. Only this time, they didn't go to work on the flowers, even though the daisies that had opened overnight were especially beautiful that day. Nor did the bees come by themselves. They brought their Queen.
Oh, but she was magnificent was the Queen Bee. Twice the size of her worker-daughters, she wore a crown of thistledown perched behind her antennae. Her wings were clear as glass and reflected rainbows in the morning light as she flew. But very troublesome what the long sword she wore on her body. Most of us would call it a stinger, but the Queen called it her sword and I am not going to bee the one to contradict her. As you probably know, most bees do have swords-but since the sword is part of their bodies they will die if they use it to sting. Not so the Queen Bee. She could sting again and again without taking any harm from it. That fact upset the fairy most of all.
Accompanying the Queen as a guide was the little worker bee that had found the fairy's house the day before. They flew up to the fairy's little part-tree and the Queen began to look it over. She buzzed over the vines and hummed at the moss. She glanced at the ancient, abandoned robin's nest that still huddled at the point where the tree had broken. Finally, she turned to her worker-daughters and spoke.
"All is just as our daughter has stated," she said, "This little tree shall bee our new home. All of you, go back to our log and gather your things. Bring the new eggs from the egg storage room. Don't break or lose any. I don't want any of the baby bees to be hurt or lost." Losing baby bees was a terrible problem. They tended to crawl around on top of each other. Nobody could tell them apart. Since there were always a great many baby bees it was hard to keep track of them or keep them all fed. The worker-daughters had a hard time remembering who had had her breakfast and who was still hungry. There were always more coming, while others grew up and became workers too. "We will move in this very day," The Queen commanded happily.
That was too much. Suddenly angry, the fairy pulled her door open and flew out of her house on her own tiny wings. "You can't come here," she cried, "This is MY tree. I live in it, and it has been mine and I like it and I am not going to move!" The words kept tumbling out, "This house is not for bees. It's for a fairy. It has satellite TV, and it's rent-controlled. I just put in a new stove and oven-And I AM NOT LEAVING!"
The queen looked at the fairy, who was smaller than the smallest of her own worker-daughters. "Of course you will leave because if you don't-I will sting you with my sword!"
"No, you won't." Answered the fairy, trying to calm herself down, "I'll tell you what. If you leave my tree alone I will teach you a magic trick."
The Queen Bee had one weakness. She loved magic. It frustrated her that she couldn't do any. Still, it really was a great tree-butâ¦ to do real magic? She thought and she thought and finally said, "I want to see the trick."
"If I show you do you promise to leave my tree alone?"
"IF I like your trick and IF you can teach me how to do it we will have a deal."
The fairy smiled and reached behind her door. "Then, Your Majesty, will you please ask your worker-daughters to each take a pair of these gauze bags and tie them onto their back pair of legs?"
The Queen was puzzled by the peculiar request but gave the order and very soon each worker daughter had a pretty, tiny pair of gauze bags tied to her hind legs with dainty bows. Then she turned to the fairy, "Now what happens?"
"Have them all fly to the field and gather the dust off each and every flower." The fairy replied, "They can put the dust into the bags."
The Queen reared up on her back four legs, "I can't have them do that! That dust is useless, all it does is make us sneeze when we're trying to get food for the baby bees and the rest of the hive!"
"It will be all right, Your Majesty, "said the fairy, "I put a spell on the bags so no one will feel sniffly or sneezy."
So off the bees flew to gather the flower dust while the fairy and the Queen Bee shared a pot of dewdrop tea and some fresh acorn muffins that the fairy had baked that very morning.
The bees were back not long after the sun passed the highest point of the sky. Each worker-daughter had her little bags bulging with yellow dust, but nobody was sneezing, nobody had watery eyes, and not a sniffle was heard.
The fairy cleared a space on the ground and covered it with her very best golden platter. "Everyone, empty your bags here." One by one they obeyed, pouring the dust into a large, neat pile because bees are very, very tidy.
Taking her wand in hand the fairy began chanting the spell. The Queen and the worker-daughters all watched in wonder as the dust deepened in color and melted into a golden pool. The Queen shook her royal head. "This is indeed a nice trick-but we don't need gold. We're bugs!"
"It's not gold, Your Majesty. It's much, much better," smiled the fairy, "Taste it!"
The Queen reached out one cautious forefoot and touched the golden pool, "It's STICKY!" she cried, "My daughters and I will get stuck and we'll all DIE!" An angry hum rose from the eagerly watching worker-daughters, swords were drawn by some who thought the Queen was in danger and were ready to defend her with their very lives.
"You won't get stuck, "replied the fairly calmly, "Just taste the little bit you have on your forefoot."
Gingerly the queen brought the sticky substance up to her mandibles for a taste. "Oh my!" She cried, "It's DELICIOUS! Whatever do you call it? This is so wonderful, we can feed it to our baby bees and they will never again bee hungry!"
"Oh you can do much more than that with this magic," said the fairy, and she waved the wand again. The golden puddle began to change once more, growing hard and taking the form of a long sheet, covered by the oddest six-sided compartments. Each compartment was exactly the right size for a baby bee!
The Queen Bee danced with delight. Now, none of the baby bees would ever get lost again because each one would have her very own place to sleep and play and eat and grow. Leaning down, she listened carefully to the fairy's instructions on how to make the golden liquid and how to turn it into the hard, waxy substance that made the baby bee bedrooms.
The fairy had to stand outside a long time because each and every bee had to thank her personally. The Queen came last. "I declare you, fairy, as Befriended. It is our most sincere promise that not only will we leave your house completely alone, but we will send drones to watch over it and keep it safe for you."
"Thank you, your majesty," said the fairy gravely. "And because you really are a great monarch, I have one more little surprise. It's very lonely here in my little forest since all my friends moved away. I'd like to have nice neighbors." She smiled a little shyly, "You see, I live in the bottom part of the old tree. The top part is right over there. It's much bigger than my little bottom part, and nobody's lived there for such a long time. You can move all your family in and we can be neighbors forevermore."
And that's just what they did. Now every morning the fairy rises to the music of humming bees as they bee-line to the open field and the flowers that grow there. And sometimes, because royalty never goes and gathers pollen, the Queen comes over to her house where they sit and talk and sip their dewdrop tea while they spread freshly-made honey on hot, newly-baked acorn muffins.
©Copyright 2006, Diane J Ullman
Bee and Fairy House watercolor used by permission, artist: