|"The slender girls wore crunchy skirts of fall leaves..." (Art by Anne Stokes)|
At night’s tail, just before dawn, pixies jumped up and down on Dindi’s head until she had a headache, and kept jumping, until she woke up to shoo them off.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she groaned. “What is wrong with you fae? Have you never heard of sleep?”
She rubbed her eyes, fighting déjà vu. Hadn’t she just been poked awake by pixies a few hours ago?
Once again finger-sized pixies thronged around her sleeping mat, but this time instead of flori, they were all foli, autumnal pixies, mostly Orange, Yellow and Red. The slender girls wore crunchy skirts of fall leaves, and the boys caps and shields made from acorn tops and walnut shells. Kinnaras, bird-winged sprites, feathered like robins, jays, cardinals, tanagers and finches fluttered nearby as well.
“We want to sleep too,” complained the foli. “It’s coming on our nap season. But the Orange Lady has altered the song, and the music is calling us back to the trees. We already painted the leaves in gold and scarlet this year—are we to do so twice in one turn?”
“And we,” said the kinnaras, “have been preparing to arrange eggs in nests, but the song has been altered, and we see no eggs in the music now.”
“And I suppose the Aelfae have gone somewhere without me,” Dindi grumbled.
Tremendous snores suggested otherwise. When she sat up she saw the other Aelfae were all asleep—Hest was the source of the bear-like rumblings—except Vessia, who was already gowned and half way out the door. Dindi hastened after her.
Dawn on the mountaintop shuddered under bitter winds. Nothing of the usual vistas could be seen due to a skirt of cloud which had encircled the slopes. Rhythmic thumps indicated the slave women were pounding potatoes, unseen in their huts, but otherwise few people were awake. Some men had passed out drunk around the bonfires the night before and snored on mats arranged around the embers.
Dindi trailed Vessia for a number of steps before the Aelfae acknowledged her, albeit without turning around.
“Did you hear what the foli and kinnaras said?”
“Of course. You think they did not approach me as well?” Vessia sniffed. “You will learn that the Lower Fae panic easily and complain frequently. It’s best not to overreact.”