Sally the fairy fluttered up to the house that belonged to her friend Nilta. The door was closed, but the large window next to it was open, and through it she could see her friend sprawled on the moss sofa. Nilta was scratching her nose and turning the pages of a thick book. Sally shook her head. Books – what a foolish pastime. She knocked on the frame of the window.
Nilta gave a jump and dropped her book. She leapt to her feet, although she came no closer to the window. “Sally! Oh, dancing dewdrops! I was going to come and see you, really I was. I just... I needed to do some things here first, and I was busy, and –”
“Whatever are you talking about?” asked Sally the fairy, floating through the window and landing gracefully inside. She put her hands on her hips and frowned at Nilta. “There's no reason you needed to. I simply wished to come see you, that's all. Why the great bother about it?”
Nilta's face was red as a strawberry. “It's – it's the meeting,” she said. “The one earlier today. They, they said...”
“Oh, I'd forgotten about that,” said Sally. “Did they rename the town to something more sensible?”
“No. No, something else came up.”
“Oh yes?” Sally the fairy walked over to a bark chair and perched upon it. “And what was that?”
“Something important. It is important. It's the shell, see, the magic spiral shell. Merlana was flying it over to the lake, so she could renew it, and she was caught in a wind, and she dropped it, and – and it broke. It's all in pieces.”
“Oh dear! That does sound serious.” The magic spiral shell had been left to Fairyland by a wise old snail ages ago. It was used as a Safekeeper, holding enchantments that protected the village. “Although I daresay Merlana wasn't 'caught in a wind' – she was most likely just clumsy-fingered and wanted an excuse.” By shifting to her right a little, she could get a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the sofa. Her hair needed fixing. “In any case, I suppose we'll need a new one. How are they going to get it?”
“That's the thing, you see,” said Nilta. “Someone needs to go find one. And we took a vote, and you weren't there, and... well...” Her wings jittered together. “You've been selected to go on a grand quest to find a new Safekeeper and congratulations!” she squeaked out.
Sally the fairy's hand froze in the act of tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Nilta Clouddream, you had better be something very far from serious!” she cried.
Nilta shook her head. "Almost everyone voted for you. I didn't!" she added hastily.
"You voted for Merlana, I should hope!"
"No, she... I... well, I didn't vote at all." Nilta wilted as Sally glared at her. "It seemed like a fair way to decide, when we did it... but it wasn't, of course it wasn't, and you should probably go and talk to Merlana about it."
"I will do exactly that!" said Sally the fairy, and climbed through the window in such a rush that she tumbled over in the air, twice, before righting herself and zooming toward the Council Building.
To be continued...