Nyx Aurelia was a common brown wood sprite -- a species of lesser fae found in the boreal forests of eastern North America and northern Europe. As far as sprites went, she was unremarkable, being of average height, around 18 inches tall in her best boots, and pleasantly attractive, at least by wood sprite standards, with a small rounded face, thin lips, a pert upthrust nose, and long auburn hair. As she stared at herself in the still water of her reflecting pool, she smiled softly, knowing that today was going to be the end. One way or another, she would cease to exist by the time the sun set and twilight covered the forest.
She had spent weeks preparing her outfit. The skirt was made of the most perfect white wild-flower petals, sewn lovingly with spider silk and lined with woven dandelion cotton. Her semi-translucent bodice was formed from the discarded pupae of new-born butterflies, also sewn with spider silk, and adorned with small quartz crystals. Her belt and jewelry were from hematite, pyrite, and mica fragments, affixed with cords made from hammered birch bark fibres. She had used the softest, choicest, inner bark of the riverside willow trees to fashion knee-high boots in soft grey, and then lined them with the down of pussy willows from the same trees.
It wasn't the first outfit she had made. She had been practicing for 47 years now, repeating and refining the design each spring until she had reached a level of excellence that she doubted she would exceed with further practice. This year's efforts were equal to those of last year and differed only in subtle variations caused by the past winter's weather. Some years the bark was softer, some years the dandelions were stronger and stringier, but it mattered little because she was accustomed to all the little variations and knew how to adapt accordingly. She collected semi-precious stones each year, in the heat of the summer, when the streams were at their lowest and she could sift carefully through the exposed silt of the spring floodways.
Her jewelry was the only thing that was not re-constructed each year. As she perfected a piece she wrapped it in cotton and hid it in her tree, taking it out only to clean. She had more than she needed, and was able to choose carefully from her treasured collection of rings, bracelets, circlets, diadems, bracers, anklets, necklaces, chokers, hair-pins, and broaches. She could easily have sold her jewelry to other sprites, nymphs, or even faeries because it was THAT good, and lived a life of leisure from the income it brought, but she chose to keep it safe and hidden for her own use only. Her efforts were not performed in the pursuit of wealth for she was a simple sprite who wanted only the ultimate reward -- faeriehood.
Years ago, when she had made her very first necklace, a rounded moonstone chip wrapped with hand knotted cords of the brightest silver-birch bark fragments, a passing faerie had seen it glimmer in the sunlight and flown down to examine it closer. On a whim, she had given it to the faerie because she wanted to see it worn by someone truly beautiful. Tiana, as she had later learned the faerie's name, had been touched and a special friendship was formed. For the most part, sprites, and particularly common brown wood sprites, were not considered as worth knowing by the faeries, and so their bond was truly unique. Tiana had shared many of the faerie's secrets with Nyx, in return for further gifts of jewelry and other shiny trinkets. And one day, when they were both a little tipsy from blackberry juice fermented by the summer sun, Tiana had accidentally revealed the deepest secret of the faeries.
A faerie was not born -- other creatures were metamorphosed into faeries, much as caterpillars metamorphosed into butterflies and moths. From something plain and ordinary, though a complex and difficult transition, came something beautiful and magical. Sadly, though any of the sprites, nymphs, pixies, and other lesser fae, could attempt the change, few ever succeeded and most perished as a consequence. She could understand the risks though when she learned the actual process -- a faerie was born when a lesser being survived the fire of a dragon's breath. Today, she would risk everything and make the attempt.
She had managed to trade a few choice pieces of jewelry with some of Tiana's sisters, and in doing so had potentially learned some of the tricks that would improve her chances of surviving the transition. Apparently, though it wasn't proven, the more beautiful she was, and the more emotional the dragon was, the better things would go. An angry dragon had the hottest fire, and it was thought that the heat would evaporate her body before her eternal soul could be incinerated, thus freeing her to weave a faerie body from the smoke of her former self. The more beautiful she was, the better the smoke and the more likely she could weave a suitable body before her spirit perished. She would need to be an accomplished weaver and seamstress, which is why she had practiced for so many years on developing the skills she would need.
Tiana had accompanied her on the voyage to her temporary lodging near the dragon's lair. In return for all her remaining jewelry, Tiana had given her an elixir of some unknown origin that would enhance what little beauty she had by causing her skin to soften, and glow. Stinging nettle smeared across her lips caused them to puff and swell, appearing fuller and more attractive, while raspberry juice stained them a ruby red. Tiana had spent her last night with her, styling her hair in a stunningly elegant updo, decorated with a pair of crossed silver hair pins.
There was nothing more she could do. It was time to go meet her destiny ...
*** Might be continued ***