Note: This is my fourth (and final) letter of Advent 2019, but part 12 of me and my brother’s Advent Letters project. For an explanation of the project and to get caught up on past letters, click here.
See you on the first Sunday of Advent 2020 for the next installation of the story.
The boys, finally united in resolve, looked at each other a moment. They had no idea how to escape the Faerie castle. Matt shrugged, and walked to the door.
“It’s locked,” he said.
“Don’t worry,” said Brian. He grabbed his war hammer and stared down the door. As he did, something strange happened: the hammer grew and grew until it was the size of a go-kart. But Brian still held it like it was a plastic toy. Brian let out a cry and charged.
“Stop!” Jer shouted.
Brian screeched to a halt.
“We can’t knock the door down—every Faerie guard will come running,” Jer said.
Just then, the door handle turned. In stepped the Faerie servant who had led them to their room.
The boys stood awkwardly.
“Your food, sir. You asked me to bring an extra platter of cupcakes.” The servant laid the platter on the bedside table.
“Oh yeah…” Brian said.
The servant nodded. The boys kept standing. Jer reached slowly for his bow.
“Anything else, sirs?” the servant asked.
“No,” Matt said quickly. “I mean…no, right?”
The brothers exchanged glances, and finally shook their heads.
The servant nodded and left, closing the door behind him. Matt was just about to ask his brothers whether they should have jumped the servant when an arrow thrilled past his shoulder.
“What was that?!?” Matt turned to Jer, who was still holding his archery pose.
Jer blushed. “As the servant was leaving, I had this feeling like I should…shoot the lock.”
Matt walked to the arrow. It had lodged perfectly in the keyhole, stopping the lock mechanism. No way could Jer hit that shot on his own. Was his bow magic too?
Cracking the door open, the boys looked both directions down the hall. It was empty. They tiptoed along the corridors.
“Do you remember the way back?” Matt whispered.
Jer looked pale. “They’re playing Faerie ball up there,” he said.
Two doors down, crashing pins resounded.
“It’s okay. You’ll be okay,” Matt whispered quickly.
But Jer was already giving into the pull of Faerie ball. His pace quickened toward the door. His eyes got a competitive gleam. With monumental effort, Jer closed his eyes and plugged his ears.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ll keep my eyes and ears closed so I’m not tempted. Lead me past it.”
The boys slipped by the door. When they came to the first hallway, Brian took out the map from Santa’s bag.
“The arrow’s pointing our way out!” he said.
After that, the escape was a simple matter of following the arrow. The only complication was leading Jer by the elbow so he could keep his eyes closed and ears plugged. Within minutes, they were at the end of the final hallway leading to the courtyard.
“We did it,” Matt sighed.
A couple things happened at once. Brian stopped at a platter of giant pastries. Without thinking, Brian grabbed the platter and moved it in front of Jeremy, who was still walking with his eyes closed. The boys collided, sending the platter to the floor with a sickening crash.
The Faerie guards’ footsteps were echoing down the hall before Matt had even grasped what happened.
“Run!” Matt cried. The boys sprinted down the hallway and into the courtyard.
“The door’s on the other end of the lake!” Matt shouted. “It’s red and small and—”
Between the boys and the doorway, beautiful and terrible in the Faerie moon, was Ansa. Her eyes were big and silver and her mouth curved in a scarlet pout.
“Surely you’re not leaving so soon? Tonight I hoped you’d be my guest of honor. You would sit by me the entire evening, shoulder to shoulder.”
Matt tried to run, but his willpower was flooded with Ansa. Bri and Jer tried dragging Matt away. But Ansa continued:
“And at the feast, our chefs will prepare the most scrumptious dishes you’ve ever tasted. Ice creams and cakes and puddings of every flavor.”
Brian lost his grip on Matt.
“And don’t forget the Faerie ball tournament. The chance for all players to showcase their skill to the world. To discover the best of the best.”
Now Jer let go.
“Before long, you won’t be able to imagine a world without this castle. You will live every moment with no other thought than fulfilling your deepest—AHHHH!”
A swan fell from the night sky onto Ansa, pecking her nose and flapping wings in her face.
“Go, boys! Go now!” Oisin yelled.
The boys blinked like they were coming out of a spell. They made it to the red door as the Faerie guards spilled into the courtyard. Matt was in such a rush that he didn’t get his usual claustrophobia from crawling down a stone tunnel. He only had a vague notion that the pounding of his palms and knees against the rocks was knocking the sense back into him.
The brothers burst through a trapdoor out of the darkness. They fell onto lush grass, suddenly alone under the stars.
The spent a moment breathing heavily. That breathing turned into laughter.
Finally, Matt stood up and dusted off his knees. “Well, no sense in losing any more time. Brian, where does the map say we should go?”
“Back to that camping site from our first night.”
Matt nodded. “Let’s get going.”
And that brings another year’s story to a close. I trust you are all relieved your dad and uncles escaped from the Faerie castle before they turned into swans. However, the incident did have a lasting impact on them.
After gorging on all that Faerie food, Brian found himself unable to eat like he used to. That’s why he’s never won an eating contest since.
Although you may not have noticed, Jer has never played croquet, lawn bowling, or jai alai. That’s because these are the sports which most closely resemble Faerie ball.
And after his misadventure with Ansa, Matt resolved not to date anyone until after he graduated from college. And he kept that resolution.Have a jolly and blessed Advent and Christmastide. You have all been good this year, so you may expect ample presents from Santa Claus. But if you find any letters have been delivered in error, you may assuredly blame it on Avvu…
Illustration by Virginia Frances Sterrett, Ariadne and Theseus