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Author's Note: Here we go on another Vidia & Prilla mission. This time it's trouble in France.
The Garden of France - Chapter 1 - The Loire Valley Mystery
"Crown me!" shouted Prilla with glee. She did an aerial back-flip over the draughts board ("checkers" for North Americans) then hovered, smiling at her opponent with her hands on her hips.
Katie, an 8-year-old human girl, couldn't understand the jingling fairy speech, but she reached for an off-board piece and stacked it on Prilla's piece. "You're getting too good at this Prilla." she admitted, looking slightly worried. "I'm going to have to find another game." She studied the board, looking for her next move.
Katie was grateful for Prilla's company as she recovered from a bout of rubella. Common diseases could be lonely times for children, as even adults were reluctant to linger for fear of catching it themselves. Prilla had also watched Katie struggle through the miseries of chicken pox and mumps, and was thoroughly glad fairies didn't have ordeals like that.
While Katie was still considering her move, Prilla heard a voice call her name. She lifted the crystal pendant from her chest, and answered "Hello, Pixie Hollow. What's new?"
The fairy image in the small crystal plate didn't reflect Prilla's cheer, but said "Queen Clarion would like to meet with you and Vidia in her... dark room."
"Alright. I'll be there shortly." Prilla looked up to see Katie watching her.
"Is it time for you to go?" asked Katie. Prilla nodded to her. "Maybe next time I'll be well enough to make some treats for us." Katie gave a small smile. Prilla waved goodbye to her, and vanished.
Prilla Apparated into a rarely seen corridor of the Pixie Dust Tree near an ornate door, where she saw Vidia leaning against the wall with her arms folded and looking bored.
"When did you get here?" Prilla assumed her mode of travel was much faster than Vidia's.
"A half-hour ago."
"You did not." Prilla objected.
"Okay then, a half-minute ago." Vidia gave a sly smile.
"Why didn't you go in?"
Vidia scowled at the ornate door. "I'd rather wait out here, staring at the walls, than wait in there, staring at the walls." Prilla knocked on the door.
"Come in." came Queen Clarion's muffled voice from inside. They entered the darkened room, closed the door behind them, and sat near the oval table with the pixie dust flowing over it. Even in the dim light of the dust it was obvious their queen was looking weary.
"I've found 2 fairy colonies." Clarion told them. Prilla's wings gave a little buzz of excitement. "In France, and they're very close to each other." Prilla smiled at the news, and Vidia seemed to have an air of anticipation. Clarion turned her attention to the dust on the table, hands cupping the glowing crystal before her.
They watched ghostly pixie dust images of flight from the south coast of England, over a stretch of water, then rapidly inland until the view slowed near a large river. "One colony is just north of this river, the other just south." Clarion explained. The view continued south over a forest, then dipped toward a huge tree. They saw fairies flitting about the tree, chatting and attending to their chores.
"Now for the bad news." Clarion stated. Vidia's eyes flicked to her, but Clarion was focused on the image. The view lifted, and proceeded north across the river to another forest, and once again dipped toward a huge tree. "I've spent days trying to figure out what's going on here." Her voice revealed her exhaustion.
This community was much different from the previous, with almost no activity and few fairies about. "Pixie dust production seems to have stopped." Clarion continued. "Fairies at camps in northern France are grounded." The view glided through the main entrance in the tree. Clutter and rubble were everywhere. They heard hammering and crunching noises. A massive cone-like growth filled a large portion of the interior space, and a small group of fairy-sized trolls were chiseling pieces from it, then smashing & grinding the bits into powder.
"The queen has fled this colony, and taken refuge in the southern colony." Clarion's voice trembled. "Everyone is talking about "red dust", and "fairy distemper"." The view glided out through the entrance and across the courtyard.
Vidia sat up suddenly. "Wait! Are those fairies? ...In cages?"
"Yes." Clarion sighed. The pixie dust dropped to the table as she looked up. "I don't want you to feel compelled to go. This mission could be dangerous. Do you think you could contact the southern colony?"
Prilla glanced at Vidia, who gave a small nod. "I think we could handle that." declared Prilla.
Clarion, Vidia and Prilla stood looking at a large map which had been rolled out on a meeting room table. It showed southern England, the Channel, and the northern half of France. Clarion had placed 2 small tree carvings on the map: One just north of the Loire River, and one just south.
"It's about 300 miles from the south of England to this river. I don't want you flying into the northern colony." Clarion told them. "It's too dangerous right now. Just see if you can find out what's going on from the southern colony; if there's any way we can help." Vidia spotted their gear on the end of the table, and the 2 fairies hopped over to pick it up. Belts, tethers, goggles & hairnets for long-range flying, field glasses, compasses, new map books, extra pixie dust, and their carry-bags.
"Prilla, you'll notice there are 2 Letters of Introduction. One is for the southern queen, and one for the northern." Prilla slid them carefully into her bag, then picked up the decorative crystal communication plate. "There is only one communication plate, for the southern queen. I'll send one for the northern queen if... I mean, when her troubles are sorted out."
The 2 fairies slung their bags over shoulders as Clarion glided near. "When do you think you'll arrive there?" she asked. Vidia and Prilla glanced at each other.
"We should probably get some lunch." Vidia commented.
"Then we could jump straight to one of our camps or bases on the south coast." added Prilla.
"I'd say no later than mid-afternoon." finished Vidia.
"Good." Clarion smiled weakly. "I could really use a nap. I'll make sure I'm up when you meet the queens." Her smile faded. "Be very careful. If things go badly wrong, stay there and let them take care of you. We'll make arrangements to get you back."