Crimson looked at the flower in front of her. “You’re kidding, right? This thing is something we can eat?”
“Well, not right now,” Luna said. “It’s blooming. But before it’s blooming we can. It’s called an artichoke. It’s really good cooked with a mayonnaise dipping sauce.”
Crimson made a face. “Ew. You actually like mayo?”
“Only on certain things.” Luna sighed. “There is another reason I brought you out here.”
“The faeries want to see you.”
Crimson gave her best friend a skeptical look. “Lu, have you been taking your medicine?”
Luna shrugged. “I take what I need to. I’m not crazy, Crim. Just follow me. You’ll see.”
“Okay Lu. Lead the way.”
Luna led Crimson deep into the shady glen. They stopped next to a group of stones where a small trickle of water dripped down into a tiny pool. Luna took the blooming artichoke and set it in the pool.
Crimson watched in amazement as the tiny petals broke free and drifted away. As they reached the edge of the pool they turned into violet light that sparkled and danced in the air above everything.
“Welcome back, my child. Is this your friend?” The voice was smooth and melodic. Crimson looked around but didn’t see anyone.
“Yes Your Majesty. This is my friend Crim.”
“I see you still refuse to tell me her full name,” the voice said.
“You don’t know mine either. Until you swear you mean us no harm, and swear an unbreakable oath, I see no reason to give you that much power over us,” Luna said. She turned to Crimson. “Don’t give the faeries our real names. Names have power and they could use it against us.”
There was a sound that reminded Crimson of the rustling of leaves. She turned around and came face to face with the embodiment of beauty. The woman standing there was tall and slender. Her hair was the red color of leaves in autumn. Her eyes were the same shimmering violet as the light from the artichoke blossom. She was clad in a gown of cream decorated with the tiniest beads Crimson had ever seen.
“Does she know her part in this?” the woman asked.
“No she doesn’t,” Luna said. She turned to Crimson. “Crim, the Queen needs our help. A local witch sealed the King of the Forest in a well. She needs us to rescue him.”
“And how are we supposed to do that?” Crimson asked.
“Take these dolls and drop them in the well,” the Queen said, handing each girl a tiny figurine. “When they reach the bottom, whisper the King’s name.” She paused. “You do know the King’s name, don’t you?”
“I do,” Luna said. “I’ll tell Crim on our way there.”
“Excellent,” the Queen said. “Once you call his name, your task will be done.”
“If it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?” Crimson asked.
“Because the spell makes it impossible for a faerie to approach the well,” the Queen said.
“Come on, Crim. She’ll owe us a favor for doing this,” Luna said.
“Okay,” Crimson said. “Do you know where the well is?” Luna nodded. “Then let’s get this over with. Mom’ll kill me if I’m late for dinner.”
“It’s this way.” Luna led her away from the Queen.
Crimson followed her friend down a path deeper into the forest. They reached an area with a mossy, overgrown, cottage with a broken well. “Is this it?” Crimson asked.
Luna nodded. “We just toss the dolls in there and we’re good to go.” The two girls went to the well and looked down. They couldn’t see the bottom. Taking a deep breath, Crimson threw her doll in. Luna followed a moment later.
There was a huge whirlwind, spinning leaves and branches around them. Something reached out of the well and grabbed hold of them. Crimson screamed as she was pulled down. Darkness overwhelmed her as she struck bottom.
A short time later, Crimson sat up. She heard a moan. “Lu?”
“Crim? Where are we?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re at the bottom of the well.” This was a masculine voice and it echoed down from the surface. “Where you will stay until you die. Which, given that time is frozen down there, will be never.”
“What do you mean?” Luna asked.
There was musical laughter. “You mortals are so easy to fool.” It was the Queen. “Spin you a sad story and you’re willing to step in and help without getting the whole story. So long as there’s someone in the well, the witch won’t know my consort has been freed. Enjoy the darkness, children. You will be spending eternity in it.” The laughter faded as the faerie king and queen left the well.