Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nai of Birch Bay

Here is my latest silly little children's story. It started out as a story I told to Nai by the campfire in Birch Bay (hence the setting) with several additions of hers thrown in (most significantly, the name of the fairy!). Now if only I could get Eli to do some illustrations...

Nai of Birch Bay
In the mysterious land of Stonydawn, there is a silver forest perched at the edge of the ocean. This beautiful place is called Birch Bay. It is a magical place, where the salty wind rustles the birch trees and sets their silver leaves flashing. The redwinged blackbirds and seagulls sing their wild songs to the sun. But most of all, it’s magical because a fairy called Nai lives there.

Nai lives in the stump of an ancient fir tree. It is soft and sweet-smelling, and has lots of crevices for reading or sleeping or having tea. When she wakes in the morning, she climbs to the top of her stump and throws her tiny voice to the wind, adding her song to the morning songs of the birds. Then she flies to the beach below and dances, leaping from rock to rock and pirouetting on the smooth tips of driftwood branches. She takes care of these woods, and the woods take care of her. They are glad to have each other, because it wasn’t very long ago that they didn’t.

One morning, in this not-too-distant past, Nai stretched up on her stump and gave her morning song to the sea breeze. Only this breeze wasn’t just any breeze. This was the Northwest-But-A-Little-More-West-Than-Actual-Northwest wind, and he was the messenger for a sea dragon. Northwest-But-A-Little-More-West-Than-Actual-Northwest (or NBALMWTAN, as he preferred to be called) had been taking Nai’s morning songs to his master. The dragon, Stalon, loved music. He used to have a little songfish who made music for him, but she swam away to live in warmer waters. Since then, Stalon had lived in a songless world. The dragon had to have the fairy who sang. He sent NBALMWTAN to bring Nai to him.

It happened so fast. Nai was singing her morning song, when—WHOOSH! Her little body was swept up by the wind and plunged into the chilly ocean waters. Farther and farther, deeper and deeper, colder and colder, darker and darker. When at last they arrived at the sea dragon’s cave, NBALMWTAN put her down and whisked away again. The fairy stared at the dragon. The dragon stared at the fairy. Finally, Nai put her hands on her hips and gave him a particularly pixieish scowl.
“What’s the big idea?” She asked.
“Well… I want you to be the fairy of my sea cave. I want you to sing for me.” The dragon replied.
“But I’m the fairy of Birch Bay. I sing for the birds and the trees, not for dragons.”
“I DON’T CARE!!!” Stalon roared. He wasn’t used to not getting his way. “You will be my fairy and sing for me!”

Nai certainly didn’t like getting yelled at like that. She crossed her arms and put her nose up in the air. She twirled around and plopped down with her back to the dragon. And she did not sing. Hours passed. Days passed. Weeks passed. The dragon wanted his songs, and the fairy would not give them to him.

Back at Birch Bay, the woods were suffering without their fairy. The birds forgot how to sing without Nai’s morning songs to guide them. Gradually, the birdsong stopped. The trees felt empty and sad. They started to droop, and their silver leaves turned brown. The flowers wilted, and the frogs stopped jumping because there was no fairy to leap with them. The birds and trees whispered to each other—what happened? Where did Nai go? Didn’t she like them anymore?

Eventually the whispers reached a little redwinged blackbird. She was a young bird, and her parents had tried to protect her from the news of the fairy’s disappearance. When she realized Nai was gone, she remembered a strange occurrence. Several weeks ago, she’d just been awoken by Nai’s beautiful song when it suddenly stopped. She peeped through the marsh grasses just in time to see the little fairy disappear into the sea. There was a strange wind that day. It smelled like burnt seaweed, and it ruffled her feathers the wrong way.

Now she knew that something was very wrong, but she didn’t know what to do. She was just a little redwinged blackbird. How could she ever find a tiny fairy in the vast, unknown ocean? All she could do was tell her parents what she’d seen. Maybe they would know what to do. Before she could find them, though, she felt her feathers ruffling the wrong way in the breeze. She smelled blackened seaweed. The little redwinged blackbird knew she didn’t have time to think—she just jumped on the back of the wind and followed him under the sea.

It was cold—much colder than she’d ever been before. And it was dark. Slowly, her little red-flashed wings grew dimmer. The blue ocean water was washing them away. She had just the faintest shimmer of red on her shoulders by the time she reached the bottom of the ocean. When she finally got to the dragon’s cave, the red was gone completely. She wasn’t a little redwinged blackbird anymore. She was just a little blackbird.

The dragon was sitting in front of the dark mouth of his cave. He hadn’t noticed the just-a-little-blackbird yet. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Nai for eight weeks. He was sure she’d change her mind and start singing for him, but the longer he waited, the longer she sat. She’d tried to escape, but Stalon was too fast for her. Every time she started flying away, his clawed hand reached out and snatched her back. So there they sat. Eventually the dragon saw the just-a-little-blackbird creeping quietly toward the fairy.

“What do you want?” He growled.
Nai looked up and saw the bird. She burst into hopeful light, illuminating the darkness around her. The golden glow gave just-a-little-blackbird the courage she needed to approach the dragon.
“I want our fairy back.” She chirped bravely.
“Not a chance. I want her here, to sing me to sleep. I can’t go to sleep without a lullaby.” Stalon sniffed. He looked quite sad.
“Lullabies? But I can’t even sing bedtime songs. I’m a morning fairy.” Nai stared at the dragon.
He stared back at her. “You can’t?”
“Not even ‘Twinkle Twinkle’?...”
There was a long silence, and then just-a-little-blackbird spoke up.
“I sing night songs. If I teach you a lullaby you can sing to yourself, will you let our fairy go?”
“That’s the problem,” Stalon said. “I can’t sing. See?” He opened his mouth and wheezed, sending sparks drifting and smoke curling through the water.
“Do that again!” The bird exclaimed.
The dragon cooperated, sending a long, wheezing whistle through the ocean.
“That’s perfect!” The just-a-little-blackbird clapped her wings excitedly. “You sound just like I did when I was learning to chirp!”

Over the next few days, she taught the dragon to sing the redwinged blackbird lullaby. It was a little mushy and garbled, and he had to sort of whistle through his nose, but altogether he was very pleased with the result. Stalon sang it to himself, sleepily, one last time before they flew away. “Goodbye…” he murmured. “Goodbye! Goodbye!” they called back to him, but he didn’t hear them because he was already snoring.

Nai and just-a-little-blackbird flew back through the water. It was much harder to push through the water without the help of NBALMWTAN. It was still very dark, and very cold, and sometimes just-a-little-blackbird didn’t think she could make it. But Nai was always there to give her a little push, and they would keep going. Gradually, something strange was happening. The little blackbird’s wings were getting bluer and bluer, like they were picking up the color of the ocean. By the time they broke through the surface and flew through the air to Birch Bay, her wings were a vibrant, shimmering blue.

Nai and her friend Bluewing were almost always together after that. They had tea parties in the fairy’s stump, and danced together on the beach. Nai would awaken Bluewing with her songs in the morning, and Bluewing would sing the fairy to sleep at night. And every once in awhile, a big green scaly nose would emerge from the water and join the bird’s lullaby with a long, whistly wheeze.


  1. That is really good...too bad z didn't have someone to tell him stories...my dad use to and record them so i could listen to them when he was traveling!

  2. That is really, really sweet! Did you save any of those tapes or write them down? You can share those stories with Z!

  3. i wish i had...i lost them somewhere along the way when i was a teenager. probably thought that they irrelevant at the time.