Dayton can hear the stars, but only at night, when the world goes quiet.
You’d think he’s gotten used to it after all these years, but he has never quite managed to drown out the sound. He has, however, a long list of creative and inventive ideas regarding that need.
None of them work, which is why he often travels from village to village, never getting used to the label of the “weird stranger who wanders around at night”.
The world is still a fun place for Dayton, and he enjoys meeting new creatures as he notes down another village on his hand drawn map.
It is not an accurate portrayal of reality but he likes it that way, and to be fair, it’s very hard to create a map of a world that keeps on changing. Plus, Dayton’s drawing skills are quite, well, rustic.
He’s just arrived at a new village. It is somewhat small, with just a few houses but what Dayton likes about it is that at the top of a hill there’s an abandoned castle, which he plans to visit.
The walk to the top doesn’t seem like it would take more than one hour and if he finds a well hidden spot, he might just get a good sleep during the day.
After days of walking there is only one thing he wishes for, a warm comfortable bed. Something that resembles a cloud and makes him fall asleep so fast that the stars don’t have time to sing. As soon as he catches that thought though, he laughs, knowing that the possibility of a night rest is dim and as such, he stares at the castle in the distance, letting out a soft moan then closing his eyes, as if he’s already imagining that peaceful nap under the warm sun.
With aching feet, he makes his way through the village under the watchful eye of the locals who gaze at the boy with ruffled hair who clearly needs a shower.
Dayton and the Innkeeper, who explains he doesn’t have rooms left due to the local gathering of Fae, enter a conversation fuelled by exhaustion and alcohol:
“It's the weekend market, young master, all my rooms are booked. If ya wish to stay warm for the evening, I have but one room.”
“Fine! I’ll take it.” Dayton replies with enthusiasm.
“It’s in the attic.”
“That’s... ok.” The enthusiasm level drops.
He neglects to inform the room is also empty of anything but an old bed, which does not look as comfortable as a cloud.
Plus, it is already occupied by a small house faery, a Boggart.
“I am too tired for sleeping arrangements, so if you don’t mind, I believe we can both sleep in the bed.” Dayton mumbles, trying his best to allow the exhaustion to take over his body.
When the stars sing and you can hear them, you take your power naps when you can.
At night, the light pierces through the window flooding the room, making the wooden floor sparkle with full moon magic. Dayton tosses and turns, unable to sleep, groaning in between his usual mumbling. Sometimes he quiets his body, only allowing the chest to move, hoping he will just fall asleep, other times he tries to hum the tune from the stars, moving his long arms in the dark using his fingers as a maestro.
The Boggart watches him all night.
The walk to the top of the hill takes about as long as Dayton expected, the dirt road path is fairly easy to follow, with few unexpected surprises or ways to injure oneself. One snake and too many midges later, the feeling of success sets in.
The castle, even though in ruins, still holds, and the oversized stone stairs are in perfect condition for a walk up, where the view is better.
Dayton, despite his long legs, fusses over the size of each step, expressing his disbelief out loud, unaware that company awaits just at the top.
“Who are you talking to?” asks the girl with braids.
Dayton’s thoughts shut down as he looks confused and slightly embarrassed, but still tries to play it cool.
“No one. Talking to one. Just expressing my thoughts on the size of these steps.”
The girl with braids interrupts with “To be honest, I don’t see how men in armour managed to run up these stairs…”
“Unless they were giants.” They say simultaneously with incredulous expressions.
The girl with braids has lived in the village all her life. Born inside a house made of wood, where light enters through the cracks, where love was grown and nurtured, wisdom passed on, legends and myths learned, memorized, retold. She learned how to harvest faeries, how to dry them as it was done for years, and grind them for their magic.
After years of this life, the girl with braids found herself alone in the house made of wood, with no more wisdom above her head, no more “It’s how it’s always been done!”. So she had a thought.
She built a small shed where she welcomed faeries, but she didn’t let them dry, and she certainly didn’t turn them into powder. Windows were faced south to let all the warm light in during dark winter days, and there was a constant flow of water, just another of her creations.
The girl with braids was an inventor of sorts, constantly looking for ways to improve situations or coming up with solutions for problems.
For a while she had been thinking that grinding faeries for magic was wrong, even though it was the common way, the only way according to the elders and so it was how the tradition carried on.
But now, on her own, with her makeshift greenhouse, the girl with braids was raising faeries for beauty. Working hard to find a way to create magic without harming them and rescuing the wild ones from being harvested by those who still practice the old ways.
Which is why she is at the old castle on this sunny morning, her braids coming undone by the wind, her shoes forgotten by the stone stairway, her face kissed by the sun.
There is a patch of green that grows behind the castle walls, where what used to be a square of dirt has now been replaced with luscious grass creating the perfect environment for faeries and pixies.
Faeries thrive in places like this, where time bends slightly into another realm and the seasons seem to exist all together. To harvest faeries is quite an easy affair, all one needs is honey and rice.
One to distract, the other to capture.
If you think about it, both serve the same purpose.
But the girl with braids does it for protection. Like her, there are others who know where faeries grow and how to capture them just as easily. It’s something that has been done for years after all.
With her basket halfway full, she makes her way towards retrieving her shoes when she hears the voice of a young man, who seems to be talking to another, although there is no second voice to be heard.
“Who are you talking to?” She asks.
The stranger is obviously startled by her presence but replies with confidence “No one. Talking to one. Just expressing my thoughts on the size of these steps.”
The girl knows exactly how he feels, many times over she has climbed these steps - for climbing is the adequate word - and caught herself puzzled by their ridiculously large size.
“To be honest, I don’t see how men in armour managed to run up these stairs…” and before she finishes her reasoning, the stranger continues, his words matching hers.
“Unless they were giants.”
Only a baby finding his reflection in the mirror for the first time would be able to comprehend how the girl with braids felt in that exact moment.
There is no time for an afternoon nap, not with the girl bouncing about and pointing at where faeries grow, but Dayton welcomes the distraction. Her voice is cheery, childlike and full of excitement, and every so often it deepens, gets lower like a whisper to make sure the listener is paying attention.
She must be amazing at storytelling, Dayton thinks.
And so, time goes by, the entire castle is explored and conversation flows like a river with Dayton feeling the need to say how he listens to the stars sing at night. The words trapped inside tug at his heart wanting to be released as if they know the girl with braids will understand. He talks of his travels, shows her the badly drawn map of where he’s been and she listens to it all, bright eyed with wonder. She doesn’t mention how inaccurate the map is, just makes a mental note that he could use more pencils and asks if he would like to add the places where faeries grow.
“And maybe my house too.” She announces. “It’s up there. See?”
The girl with braids often forgets that other people don’t see the world as she does, so she gets behind Dayton, raises her feet supporting herself on his back and places her arm beside his face, slowly pointing into the distance, waiting for his eyes to catch up, feeling his breathing, and waiting.
“I see it! HA!”
Waiting for this moment.
If he could see her face he would see she was fighting to hold back tears of happiness.
If she could see his face she would see how peaceful he looked.
“I can… I can hear the stars. They sing at night.” The words come like a nervous whisper.
“I can feel your heart... it’s beating really fast.” She notes.
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
The girl with braids doesn’t want to break the moment, but her tiny feet wobble under her weight and she no longer wishes to lean against his back so, slowly, she allows herself to return to the earth and continues her walk home, with him following close behind, wondering if this was the right moment to blurt out his most precious secret.
As they get closer to the house, the girl runs off in panic passing through the open door in haste, when Dayton notices the outside mess is not a general decor of the lone-girl aesthetic but a sign that someone has broken in. The girl runs back outside and makes her way to the greenhouse, pleading repeatedly, but to no avail, as she looks around to find few of her precious faeries scattered about, in pieces, and many others missing.
To say this is the first time it has happened would be a lie, in fact, it happens quite often, as the men in the village know that she grows her own faeries and find it easier to take rather than find their own, or as suggested by the girl, leave them alone.
She hardly has any tears left, but still cries while picking up broken pots and slowly placing everything back in its place.
Dayton worries and wishes to stay, the night will come down in a couple of hours and he knows there will be no sleep, so might as well stay and provide some company, as he doubts he is any good as a protector. Maybe this could be an adventure, find the pixie faeries, get a better room as payment.
With everything back in place and the door secured - at least that he could provide -, Dayton finds a spot on the deck outside, leaning his back against the wall, allowing the day to end. The moon still shines bright, high in the sky and slowly the sounds begin to swirl inside his head.
He sighs, as usual, resigned to the fact that he can’t learn the tune because it’s different every time. He allows his body to slide down until he reaches the floor and stretches out his legs.
The tapping of bare feet announces her presence, white gown dancing in the wind, but Dayton doesn’t look up, just stares at her tiny toes.
“Dayton” she asks, “can you hear the stars?”