Author: Selena Taiki
The night of the ball, Tara visited her mother's tree for the last time. She carried nothing but a bundle of food wrapped in one of her better blankets. The moonlight shone on the pale green curtain of branches, making it look as if the tree was weeping with Tara. Hence the name, she supposed. Gently, Tara slipped through the branches. It was pitch black under canopy but Tara crossed to the base of the tree by memory and knelt at the gnarled roots.
"Mama," Tara whispered. "I can't stay here anymore. I know you wanted us to be a family, but if you saw how they changed you'd understand. I-I-I'll m-miss you." Sorrow chocked her voice making it impossible for Tara to force out any more words. Still she stayed at the base of the tree, knowing she had to leave but finding it impossible. If she left now, while Father and Donny were away, they wouldn't discover she had gone until she was well away from the village. She would be free of them.
A cultured masculine voice cleared its throat behind her. "Miss Maclay?"
Tara screamed and attempted to spin around, losing her balance and falling into the embrace of the roots. A tall, clean cut figure was silhouetted against the moonlight, holding the branches back.
"Forgive me," he said, stepping inside the curtain. A faint glow rose up from the ground under illuminating the area under the tree. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Tara gaped at him, amazement and fear written into her posture. He was dressed exclusively in a deep green and silver. A nobleman's sweeping cape was draped across his shoulders and he held an elaborate wooden staff inlayed with silver swirls and toped with what Tara assumed was a real emerald. He continued in a kindly tone, "I had forgotten all you'd been through, please believe that I mean you no harm. I am Giles, Fairy Godfather of Kingdom Enberg."
"Y-y-you're a F-fairy G-g-g-godfather?" Tara asked incredulously. "I-I-I, um, thought w-w-women..." She trailed off; horrified she might have offended this man.
Godfather Giles didn't seem offended though. He frowned, thoughtfully. "Normally you'd be correct, however the way the Tradition has been behaving in this kingdom I'm afraid that male godparents are the least of our concern.
"But that is another Tale, one that, I'm sure, will be told in due time. However, I am sure you are wondering why I am here, now. The primary responsibility of Fairy Godparents is to monitor and guide the Tradition, that's the force that propagates magic, and it is this that brings me to you tonight. You see Tara, whenever someone's life begins to resemble a tale; like the unappreciated third son, the arrogant prince, the princess with the overly protective father (or in Rose's case a neglectful father); magic begins to gather around them, trying to force their lives down the path that their circumstances most closely resemble, the Traditional, if you will, path. The longer it takes for this to happen, the more magic is drawn to the person."
Tara's eyes widened incredulously. Cinderella. She couldn't... wasn't supposed to be Cinderella was she? But it fit. The tension she had been feeling all her life, like she was being driven towards something, a storm building just around the corner.
Giles looked at her thoughtfully. "Yes," He answered her thoughts. "You have been over due for a Happily-Ever-After since you where sixteen. Unfortunately, my dear, while your father and brother are fully wicked enough to warrant just that sort of happy ending, the charming Princess Rose is not only a girl but already engaged to her Quester, with the itself wedding scheduled for tomorrow morning."
Tara nodded, pushing back a feeling of sorrow. "S-s-so w-what h-h-happens if th-the t-t-t-t-tale can't be c-completed?"
"The magic keeps gathering around the person until it gets to a level where a magic user notices. Then it can get siphoned off, leaving the person ordinary. Nothing magical happens to them again, but at least they are able to live normal lives without being forced into an unachievable end. If the person's circumstances are truly dire the magician will usually help them, which also serves to break the Tradition and stop the magic from continuing to build up around them. Sometimes, the magic is taken in a less benign manner," Godfather Giles paused, removed a pair of thin wire spectacles from his nose, and began to clean them on a corner of his emerald cloak. "If that happens, Tara, they are generally left dead... which is more merciful really. Those that survive the experience, well, it's truly horrific.
"However, if the person has attracted not only a magician, but a magical guardian something else can happen. You see, Tara, someone has to become the Fairy Godparents, and the White Wizards, and Good Witches, and so forth. It has to be someone who has built up enough magic that they can learn to use that magic and how to gather more before that it is all used up. That's why I couldn't help you before now. What I'm trying ask you... Tara I need an Apprentice and you would make a wonderful Fairy Godmother. I, I understand if it's not something..."
"Oh yes," Tara breathed, interrupting him.
"Are you sure?" Giles asked. "If you'd rather have a normal life I can remove the magic you've gathered and help you to a better position; perhaps as a school teacher?" He offered uncertainly. "It's really quite dangerous."
Tara frowned slightly. "D-dangerous?" she questioned.
"The Tradition itself doesn't care if the story has a happy ending or not as long as it fits a traditional path. Some turn bitter and hateful from what the Tradition puts them through. They become the Evil Sorcerers and Wicked Witches. Godparenting is hard work and often it puts us in the opposition with those that follow the darker paths. Especially in Enberg; for some reason the Tradition has always been particularly over-active in this Kingdom."
Tara recalled all the tales she had heard about kingdoms being lost in darkness for generations. But...
"I w-w-would love to be your apprentice Godfather Giles," Tara said solemnly. Impulsively she hugged Giles.
"Yes well," he said awkwardly, touched. "Shall we go?"
"Go?" Tara asked.
Home. Tara thought giddily. It felt like happiness was bubbling up inside her. Slowly she smiled. It started in one corner of her mouth, stretching into a wide lopsided grin. Home.
Giles stepped out of the whispering branches, holding them apart for Tara as one might hold a door for a Lady. Uncertainly she stepped through. Giles let the branches fall behind her, the glow under the tree dimming as the curtain closed. The glade outside the tree was empty. Surely he didn't walk here.
Giles raised his staff into the air. At first it seemed as if nothing happened, then Tara noticed a faintly glowing bubble rise from the top of the staff. It drifted to the side, expanding as it moved until it was the size of a carriage.
"Not what I had in mind perhaps, but it will serve." He stepped inside the bubble and settled himself on an iridescent seat.
Hesitantly Tara moved to follow. As she touched the edge of the bubble, however, a loud crash sounded behind her. For the second time that night Tara jumped, unsuccessfully attempting to bite back a scream. The idea of evil mages was fresh in her mind.
"Good lord!" Giles exclaimed. He stepped out of the bubble a walked over to where several solid branches had fallen from the tree. The smallest was no more than a foot in length and the tallest longer than Tara, who had turned an ashy white. Giles knelt to examine them carefully, then began an equally through inspection of the tree trunk from which they had fallen. He ran a hand lightly over the bark that had already closed over.
"Remarkable," He said. "Tara I believe these branches are the tree's gift to you."
The what? Her head was already spinning from everything that had already happened tonight.
Giles belatedly noticed her confusion. "A wand is a standard tool of magic users. Now they are not in and of themselves magic," He instructed sternly. "It is merely an extension of the magician, aiding them in focusing magic. A wand is not necessary to cast magic, it just makes it easier. Actually, any stick will do in a pinch but only wood that has been freely given can be safely used, without fear that a Black Witch cause the wand to turn against its Godparent.
"Godparents generally have several 'wands.' Which you use will depend on your costume; the smaller wands are for everyday use and the larger staffs will go with your most impressive garb. The sort of thing you'd wear to a Royal Christening for example. In any event, I believe the tree has given you these branches in order for them to be fashioned into wands. Remarkable really."
Giles gathered the braches and placed them in Tara's arms. Placing a hand on the small of Tara's back, he guided the bewildered girl into the bubble.
"Thank you Mama," Tara whispered as they rose into the air, clutching the branches to her. They felt warm and alive in her arms.