This year’s forty contestants, every fairy past spritehood who had not yet abandoned adventure for more scholarly pursuits, settled onto the dried-leaf floor before the red couch. Every eye in the room watched Rooms Available’s jar. It quivered, as though all this intense concentration might shatter it, although the effect really came from Rooms’s trembling hands.
“Sodium, as youngest fairy, you may go first,” called out Judge BYOB. “Draw wisely.”
Sodium stood. His blue wings fluttered nervously, and his forehead glistened with sweat. Rooms Available held forth the purple jar. The young fairy reached in and swirled the papers around. Finally, he plucked one out.
“A timepiece!” read Sodium and settled back on the floor. The first challenge had been assigned. The youngest fairy now had until the next full moon to beg, borrow, or steal the best timepiece he could. If he did well, he stood to gain a great deal of admiration from the other fairies. The most glamorous and exciting adventures would be immortalized in tales for all the fairies of the castle to hear--until stories of something else wonderful came along.
“Better If,” called out Judge BYOB.
Better If’s ears pricked up at hearing his name. He strutted to the jar and reached down to the very bottom. He yanked out a scrap and unfolded it. Dramatically, he cleared his throat.
“The heart . . .” Better If paused. He started again, haltingly, without his former bravado. “The heart of a woman / who’ll warm me in cold.”
A mutter spread through the crowd. This challenge was highly unorthodox. The fairies fluttered and buzzed with chatter.
“A heart? What’s that?” asked Twenty MCG.
© 2009 by Shivaun Hoad