sat hugging her knees to her chest, droplets of
rain rolling from her hat, down her nose, off
her chin, trickling over her knees to her feet
where it was collecting in puddles under her toes.
She felt totally unmagickal and almost human which
was a very distressing state of affairs for a
It had rained every day since Beltane and now
there were only a few days until Midsummer. Maybe
there hadnt been rain all day every day,
but at least part of every single day. Even here,
snug against the roots of her tree, she was as
wet as if she had been standing in the middle
of the lawn.
I think I have wingrot, she muttered
to the tree. He didnt answer her, but then,
she had only lived in him for 97 years, and holly
trees were notoriously stand-offish with strangers.
An ivy tendril tapped her on the shoulder. Excuse
me, dear, but havent you noticed the climate
is changing? Thats whats making all
this rain. It wasnt like this when I was
I know what you mean, and the neighbourhood
has gone downhill as well what with all these
humans building things and not maintaining Wildwood
for us, said Rollo the urban fox. Ive
even had some awful man-cub throwing stones at
The whingeing and moaning of her friends was giving
her a terrific headache, so Niniane stood up and
stepped into her home among the roots, firmly
shutting the door behind her. She didnt
even care if they thought she was rude. She had
Inside it was dryer than outside, but still a
bit damp. She flopped on the nearest pile of leaves,
wrung the water out of her hat and flung it from
her. She then curled in a ball slowly beating
her wings so they would dry out.
98 years ago the idea of leaving her Faery family
to live on her own had seemed such a good idea.
She had even picked a type of tree not normally
associated with Wood Faeries as a challenge.
When she left, her family was ashamed because
a solitary Faery had always been seen as not quite
right and a bit evil. However, at only 342 years
of age, she was still very young and innocent,
and it was the hope of her family that she would
outgrow this antisocial behaviour. Luckily, news
of the fact she had purposely moved into the city
never reached her People. It would have been the
death of her old gran!
The afternoon passed, and the evening as well.
As night drew in, the rain stopped and Niniane
peeked out of her tree. It was almost Moonrise.
She felt the need for real companionship for the
first time in years.
She plucked some of the dead bark from the base
of her tree, and fed it to her pet woodlouse.
Keep my house safe while Im gone,
Chip! Ill be back soon!
Niniane stood with wings lightly wafting to and
fro and contemplated where to go and what to do.
She could go to the back garden and look for the
hedgehogs. Their subtle humour might help...
Maybe she should fly up to the window of the nasty
boy who threw rocks at anything non-human that
moved - be it dog, fox or Nixie. There were a
few things she could whisper in his dreams that
might make him change
Then the willow tree in the pond on the Common
came to mind. Ever since the Big Folk had planted
reeds around its borders, the willow had become
a favourite spot for Wee Folk to meet and dance
in the Moonlight.
It was safe there, for at night the only Big People
on the Common were either tramps who would have
seen Pixies anyway or the men who were busy looking
for slightly different Faeries that were six feet
tall and dressed in leather and chains. Most Big
Folk were too wrapped up in themselves to ever
notice Niniane and her kind.
And so, she rose on a warm updraft and flitted
the short distance to the pond. She couldnt
know if anyone would be there or not, all she
could do was go to the shore opposite the island
and wait and hope.
The Moon rose, full and blue behind her. Even
if she hadnt been Fey she would have known
this was a night alive with Magick. Little sparkles
of Faery Dust flickered off into the ether. Niniane
wasnt even aware of them as she found a
place that was not too muddy to sit and contemplated
a future with dry feet and maybe even some companionship.
Even if I sit here by myself, its
good to get away from my tree for awhile.
Youre not alone, came a gentle
raspy whisper. We welcome your company,
and others like you are coming. Be patient.
Although there was no breeze, the rushes caressed
Niniane gently, offering their love to her, and
they all added their whispers to those of the
brave bulrush who had addressed her first. She
stroked the reeds, loving the feel of the baby
bulrushes all furry in her hands.
As she sat there, she heard the music of fey pipes
and drums as some wingless figures clad in blue
and green crept into the Moonlight and launched
little leaf boats to cross to the island of the
Well met, Water Sprites! she said
as the first little boat was skimming through
the reeds nearby.
Who speaks? We didnt know there were
other water babies here!
Uh, Im not. Im a Wood Faery.
You cant be, said one Sprite
bravely. Wood Faeries are companionable
and always travel in groups. Youre not a
Bogle trying to confound us are you? Beware for
we know strong Magick against your kind!
They launched the last boat for the island squealing
in mock terror and leaving Niniane alone on the
shore. She could see them dancing beneath the
willow and laughing. She felt even lonelier than
Although she waited until the Moon had travelled
far across the sky, no Faeries ever came.
Niniane went back to her holly tree and sat thinking
about how alone she felt, and how it seemed centuries
since she had anyone to talk to who understood
It would also be very nice indeed to be snug and
A drop of water splashed to the ground
in front of her and she sighed. It was raining
As she looked where the drop had fallen, she saw
it had landed on a wrapped packet. She realised
it must have been left there by the Solitary Witch
who lived in the block of flats by her holly tree.
The Witch always left food used in Ritual and
offerings at the tree, and Niniane thought she
seemed truly Magickal. Despite the fact she had
always been warned to avoid the Big Folk, Niniane
quite liked this one.
The packet fascinated her, and she kept looking
at it. I wonder whats in it? Shes
left it under my holly tree, so I have every right
It was covered in a scrap of orange silk tied
with a bit of natural twine. Well, even
if theres nothing worthwhile inside I have
a nice new silk stole, she thought.
The knots were large and awkward for her Faery
fingers, but she managed it. She unwrapped it,
and found it contained a lovely amethyst crystal
and a piece of homemade paper with Big Folk writing
on it. It tingled as she touched it, and she knew
it was a strong Spell. She also knew the person
who wrote it was working good Magick, and she
sensed other feelings as well feelings
that seemed much like hers.
She ran her fingers over the letters on the paper.
They meant nothing to her. She wondered if anyone
she knew could read it to her. Rollo didnt
hedgehogs hadnt enough common
sense, the moths fluttering about her were only
interested in the twinkles of her Faery Dust,
and while her plant friends would always be willing
help her, they had no eyes
She fell asleep trying to think of a solution;
with her beloved companion Chip curled against
She awoke after dawn stiff and damp from sleeping
outdoors. She stretched and greeted the holly
tree with a hug to the trunk. Blessed be,
Holly Tree! I hope the Sun continues to shine
for you today!
Then she remembered the Witchs Spell! Chip
was lying on it, and nibbling a corner of it for
his breakfast. No! Bad woodlouse!
Niniane snatched the paper from him, and substituted
a handy bit of plane tree bark.
The amethyst crystal had rolled away down the
slope to the rutted and muddy driveway, and lay
glittering in a shaft of Sunlight. Just as she
skipped up and bent to retrieve it, a raven landed
beside it as well.
Oh! Pardon me, the raven said. I
didnt know this belonged to you. Didnt
even know there were any other Wee Folk around
Its all right, Niniane replied.
The Witch left it here with a Spell. It
just rolled away while I slept
Wee Folk? Please, Raven, who do you know? Where
do they live?
Ah, that would be telling, and as you are
all own your own how do I know I can trust you?
Lone Faeries have a reputation for being, well,
No, please madam, Im not tricksy at
all. Just very lonely. My names Niniane,
this is my holly tree, and there by the root is
Chip my pet, so please dont have him for
Nicely said, Niniane. Im called Morrigan
in honour of the Goddess whose Totem I am. Ill
admit you dont look very evil. Whats
more, your pet can rest easy. Woodlice are too
crunchy for my taste.
Thanks. Niniane breathed a sigh of
relief. Wont you sit beneath my tree
and tell me about the Faeries you know?
The raven cocked a bright eye at her. Im
not happy on the ground for long - theres
a cat in the block of flats. Can we go in your
tree? It will be easier for me to show you something
from there as well.
Together they flew high into the holly, above
where the leaves had prickles, and settled side
by side. Holly tree, this is my new friend
To her surprise, the tree seemed to respond with
a slight sway. Niniane grinned taking this as
a very good sign indeed.
Morrigan looked westward over the road. Do
you see the house with the blue door? An Italian
family lives there on the top floor. They have
a Lares Familiaris thats been with the family
A Lar? But thats an old Roman House
Spirit. A Guardian of the Hearth! I thought they
had passed to the Summerland with the old Gods
Ah, they didnt die. Most are just
sleeping, and in the heart of some Big Folk the
Old Ways always beat strongly. That Italian family
are some, and Witch who left this amethyst is
But how might the Lar help me? Do you think
he can read this?
Yes, I do, said the raven. Because
he lives inside the house by the hearth, he has
had access to centuries of Big Folk knowledge.
He can read and write, and often amuses my fledglings
for me with funny stories from something called
the Sunday Sport. Heres what I suggest.
You come with me to his window, and bring the
Spell. Hell read it for you.
Niniane folded the paper into a tight enough packet
to carry, and followed the raven as she flew to
the living room window of the second floor flat.
Morrigan landed neatly on the wide window ledge,
and tapped with her beak on the pane.
Marcus! Wake up! I need to speak with you.
As Niniane watched, a small stocky figure peeped
out from behind the leg of the electric fire that
sat in the old fireplace. He hopped nimbly to
the windowsill and easily raised the window high
enough to slip through.
Ah! Bella Fortuna, Donna Morrigan! How are
The Lar was a similar height to Niniane but wingless
and dressed flamboyantly in a toga and sandals.
As he hopped out the window, he caught sight of
Niniane for the first time, and a gleam came to
his jet-black eyes.
Cara Mia! Who is this dolce bambino?
Enough, you old reprobate! This is
my friend Niniane and weve come to you for
help, said Morrigan. Can you read
any Big Folk writing or only their newspapers?
I have been with the Ancestores of my familia
since they invaded this cold island. I came with
Flavia Arcturion and her husband when he was assigned
as a proconsul, and have learned Latin, Saxon,
Norman, English and thanks to the current scion
of this familia I have great Street Cred as well.
I may prefer the Sunday Sport and other tabloids,
but there is nothing written in this land I cannot
read. He held out his hand for the piece
Niniane extended the folded paper to him. Marcus
unfolded it, and sat on the bottom of it, indicating
she should do the same at the top to hold it in
place. He began to study the curved letters there.
After a few moments of intense study, he looked
up seriously and spoke solemnly. This is
powerful Magick, Cara Mia. But it is good Magick,
and it was the hand of the Goddess who brought
you here. If this were in one of my beloved newspapers,
it would be what they call a Want Ad. It is a
Help Wanted, Situation Vacant! This Witch, she
is looking for a House Spirit. Listen to what
Vesta Virgin of hearth and home,
I seek a Sprite who will not roam.
A gentle Wee One, Gnome or Faery
To bless my hearth and keep it merry.
Household Lares long have been
Close at hand but seldom seen.
hearth is also Sacred Space
With Altar in the fireplace.
I swear my house elf will be fed
With bowl of milk and slice of bread.
Beneath the Altar, if you peep,
Is a place where one could sleep.
And so, dear Vesta, I do pray
Accept the gift I send your way.
I ask you please to grant my boon
And send a Faery very soon!
Its signed White Cougar. Did she indeed
enclose a gift for Vesta? Asked Marcus.
Yes. An amethyst. Its too big for
me to fly with, and I left it at my tree. Can
you carry it, Morrigan?
Im sure I can. But why? What do you
want it here for?
Dont you see? Its what Ive
been looking for! Companionship. Some purpose
to my life. Dry feet! The Witch wants a guardian
for her hearth. I want a new home! We need each
Slow down, little one! Marcus interrupted.
You arent a Lar. Youre a Wood
Elf! It isnt a decision to make lightly.
Well lets ask Vesta. After all, the
Spell is to her. Cant you call her, Marcus?
In over 2000 years I have never called personally
upon her, but I suppose I could. Go get the amethyst,
Morrigan, and we will work the Spell. Youd
better come in by my hearth, Niniane, said
Morrigan was back before they had time to do more
than settle themselves. She flew directly in to
them, and dropped the amethyst at Marcus
I know the Big Ones are still in bed, but
I cant stay in here. I wish you all the
best, little Faery, but I must be off. I hope
we meet again. She fluttered to the window
and was gone.
Niniane turned to the Lar. He smiled encouragingly
at her and spoke gently. We put the crystal
here on the paper directly in front of the hearth,
join hands over it and chant the words the Witch
As they did this, the crystal glittered with inner
fire and burned brightly. Suddenly it burst into
a shaft of pure purple flame!
We will know any minute if Vesta will help
you. The fire burns purple with the amethyst,
and doesnt go out. That looks like a good
sign to me, said Marcus.
As they watched the flame, they saw the elemental
animals of Fire appearing snakes and salamanders.
Then there was a sudden bright glow that coalesced
into Vesta herself. She held a flame between her
fingertips, and looked at the odd duo with a slightly
Lares Marcus? What is going on? Today is
the 7th of June my major festival of Vestalia.
Mothers from all over the Pagan world WANT to
honour me, and you call me to your hearth in cold
Marcus looked from Vesta to Niniane and back to
Vesta again without speaking. He had guarded the
hearths of a Romanesque family for many centuries,
but it was the first time he had seen her whom
he and they worshipped.
Marcus seemed unable to form a coherent word,
so Niniane spoke up as politely as she knew how.
Dear Goddess Vesta, Im a Wood Faery
who longs to live inside. Im not like most
of my kind. I get wingrot in the damp and athletes
foot between my toes from all the rain. There
is a Witch who has honoured the Old Ways for some
time and she seeks a House Spirit. I would fill
that vacancy. She stopped speaking with
a gulp, and stood looking at the beautiful Goddess.
Vesta did her best to hide a smile as she looked
at the earnest little Faery. What is the
name of this Witch and where does she live?
In one of the flats across the street from
here. Her name is White Cougar.
Ah, yes. I have heard of her! When Hecate
comes to visit me, she speaks of this Witch who
has a Shrine to Hecate at her hearth, along with
ones to Sekhmet and Elen. White Cougar has made
some life changes along the way as well. So...
She wants a Guardian for her hearth, and you think
you could fill the bill?
Yes, my Lady, I do. She has never had a
Lar and I have never been one. We could learn
Fair enough, but what of you little friend
Chip? What of your Holly Tree? Asked Vesta.
Niniane considered long and hard before she spoke.
I have seen the flats for many years. They
are old and run down. A woodlouse under the hearth
would be unremarkable there. As for my Holly Tree,
although he is very beautiful and has sheltered
me for many years, I believe he is a solitary
creature and will not miss me. Besides, thats
where White Cougar always leaves her gifts, so
I could go along and say hello.
Youve really thought about this. All
right. I will follow the Witches custom
of a year and a day. You may go dwell at the hearth
of White Cougar. If after the required time has
passed you are both still happy with arrangement,
you will be her Lares Familiaris, and as long
as she provides you with a dwelling place you
will remain with her. SO MOTE IT BE! The
flames rushed upward in a flash, and Vesta was
I think that went well, said Marcus.
Yes, thanks. You were a great help,
said Niniane sarcastically, and then realising
he had truly been afraid, she added I couldnt
have done it without you, dear Marcus. Once Im
a Lar Ill lose my wings, I suppose, but
until then, Ill come to see you, if I may.
And you can always send messages by Morrigan.
He grinned at her. Yes, Cara Mia. I will
do that. Even though I have the Big Folk, its
nice to have another like me nearby. It has been
so very long. He kissed her on the cheek,
and watched as she fluttered to the window and
Niniane went to the holly tree, and into her little
house in the roots for the last time. She picked
up her rain hat and the square of orange silk.
Chip knew something was up and was getting under
her feet so she used the silk to wrap him up and
stepped outside, shutting and locking the door
for the last time.
Off somewhere nice? asked the ivy.
I think so. Im going to live with
Ooh. Shes the Witch who greets your
tree isnt she? It should be lovely there.
The ivy sent a tendril to gently hug Niniane.
All the best dearie.
Niniane then turned to her tree. Dearest
Holly! I do love you. Thank you for sheltering
me all these years. Niniane hugged the tree
tightly, then turned and flew resolutely away
to her new life.
I love you too. Whispered a small
voice from deep inside the prickly old tree.
Situation Vacant © MommaWhiteCougar