TG Universes & Series:
It was a hot, somewhat dry and dusty late summer day. School was looming, just a few weeks away, and Roni was absolutely bored. In a one theater town, you can only see the same movie so many times before it turns you completely bonkers, and in a town of this size, there just weren't that many activities to do. The theater, waste time at the diners on Main Street, shoot baskets at the school... BORING!
So Roni was just idly wandering around Smoky Corners that particular Thursday morning, trying to figure out what to do.
After leaning for a while against a board fence next to a long abandoned gas station on the south side of town, Roni suddenly found himself moving again, he couldn't explain it, but something was pulling him to Kato Chigiri's curio shop.
Meanwhile, across town from where Roni had been roaming, Ginny, his twin sister, was lying on her bed listening to her favourite tunes. She figured it made a lot more sense to chill out at home rather than be out there in the intensely dry summer heat.
As with Roni, for no known reason, she found herself sitting up, putting on her slightly worn Keds, grabbing her purse, then heading to the door. Not sure how long she might be out, she left a note for her mom, looked down at her faded jeans and tight tank top, then left the house.
She noticed that she was heading into the part of town where the curio shop was located. She'd met the owner once or twice, but as with most people here, she didn't really know him. Truth to tell, though, he had a certain presence that caused you to listen when he spoke.
About ten minutes after she left the house, she turned onto Mulberry Street, and continued walking until she stood in front of 239. The curio shop itself wasn't all that large, but you could see through the window that there was a lot of stuff in there.
Roni wasn't really paying attention to where he was going. After tripping over his own feet for the third time in as many minutes, he shook his head, looked around and noticed that Mulberry Street was just three blocks away.
Still clueless as to what was going on, he continued walking; a few minutes later, he turned onto Mulberry Street, and looking down the block, was startled to see his sister Ginny standing outside the store, shifting from one foot to the other, back and forth.
Ginny was nervous, she had no idea why she felt that way, but she was, bouncing from foot to foot let her tune out for a moment. So she was definitely surprised when she was tapped on the shoulder from behind, and found Roni standing there.
"Hi, Ginny, what's up? And what are you doing here?"
"Hiya, Roni, I really wish I knew. I was relaxing at home, then out of nowhere, I felt I had to come here. It's we-eird."
"Yeah, I know that feeling, Ginny, same thing here, I wonder what's going on. Well, why don't we go in and find out?"
Ginny nodded, and the two headed to the entrance. Roni opened the door, then both entered. Roni had met Mr. Kato more than his sister had, so he whispered to her that she should remove her shoes and put them in one of several cubby holes., then grab a pair of cotton slippers to wear while in the shop. Both removed their shoes, put on the slippers and were about to turn around when Mr. Kato spoke.
"Good! You have both come, and I appreciate your respect for my shop. Now sit here with me, have some tea and I will explain."
Yes, sir," both mumbled as they turned and lowered themselves to cushions around the low table. Roni and Ginny spent a moment preparing the tea as they preferred it; after taking a quick sip, they waited to learn what had brought them here.
Mr. Kato walked to the side wall of the store, pulled a binder from a shelf there, then returned to the table and sat down across from them. He opened the binder, which seemed to be a photo album, and flipped through the pages before he found the one he wanted. Turning the book around so Roni and Ginny could look at the pictures, he tapped on on the left hand page, saying, "This boy has gone missing. His name is Peter John Holden, his mother has a house on Castle St. on the east side of town. She says that he went out early yesterday morning, as he often did when he wasn't required to be in school, and that she has not seen him since. She is growing very worried about him."
Roni looked at the picture, Peter looked to be about 14 or 15, slightly long brown hair framing his face, a pair of round eyeglasses perched on his nose giving him a slightly bookish look. "I think I know him, he goes to my school."
Mr. Kato nodded, "Yes, somehow this morning I knew that you and your sister would be able to help me. I'm just not sure how."
Roni shook his head, then suddenly his face shifted, he appeared totally focussed. He sat there for two or three minutes, as if meditating or something similar, then he turned, looking toward the small office at the back of the shop. He pointed at the office door, smiling and stated, "I think there's something in there that we can use to find him, sir. You might want to take a look."
Now it was Mr. Kato's turn to focus himself; after a moment or two, he stood, walked into the office and returned, carrying something in his hand. He sat down again at the table and laid the object down so that both Roni and Ginny could see it.
They both bent over the table to look closely at the object. It looked like a pair of glasses, but it was odd, as there was only one lens, which when the piece was worn would fit over the left eye of the wearer. Roni shrugged, "It looks odd, but you say it can help?"
Mr. Kato grinned for a moment. "Yes, grasshopper, for this is Frigg's Lesser Eye of Finding. Using this, people have to been able to find things or people that have been lost many, many times since the lens was created roughly 2700 years ago."
Roni and Ginny continued to look at the item for a few more minutes, then Ginny asked, "Where should we start looking?"
Mr. Kato smiled at them, "I would suggest that you start looking in the area near his home, then work across town until you find him."
The two teens nodded their agreement, then Roni picked up the Eye and held it carefully. "Oh, Mr. Kato, could we please use the phone. We need to let our mom know where we'll be, and that we might not be home until dinnertime."
Mr. Kato pointed at the phone on the countertop by the cash register, and Ginny phoned home, leaving a quick message for their mother.
As they took off the cotton slippers and picked up their shoes, Mr. Kato added, "One thing to remember: this Eye only sees a short way."
Roni thought for a moment, then replied, "So you're saying we'll need to be fairly close before we might sense where he is?"
"Correct, grasshopper. Now I have other business to attend to, so I must send you on your way."
Roni and Ginny finished putting their runners on, then waved to the shopkeeper and left the shop, before heading to the east side of town.
Ten minutes later, they reached Castle St., where Peter and his mother lived. There were only two streets past that point, and only a half dozen or so cross streets, as the town faded into the sere, dusty brown grasslands of the hot Montana summer.
They walked along Castle St., stopped at Peter's house and knocked on the front door. The door opened a minute or so later, revealing a woman of about 35 to 40 years of age, quite disheveled, tracks from tears could be seen on her cheeks.
"Hello, ma'am, I'm Roni, this is my sister Ginny, we might have a way to find Peter."
"Hi kids, sorry, I know I look a mess right now, but I'm so darn worried about Peter that I can't think straight." She wiped her face with a hand, erasing the tear tracks on one cheek. "What did you say? You might be able to find him? How? Do you have an idea of where he is?"
"No, ma'am, we have no idea at the moment. We're going to wander around town today, and see if we can find him. As to how, well, that's the odd part,", Roni showed her the odd looking lens, "we're going to use this, but it seems we need to be fairly close to find him."
Peter's mother barely glanced at the lens. "Well, if you do find him, call us immediately, the number is 555-5758."
Ginny pulled out a little notebook and wrote the number down, adding "Peter's parents" above the number.
"Yes, ma'am, hopefully we'll find him soon."
Roni and Ginny headed to the last street before the town ended. It wasn't very long, maybe four blocks total; they wandered down to the south end of the street, Roni slipped the odd spectacle on and looked around him. As far as he could see, everything looked normal.
"Okay, sis, I guess we do this one street at a time. I doubt we'll need to go down all the cross streets, but we might, who knows?"
The sun was climbing high in the sky by this time, both kids knew lunch time was no more than an hour away. They walked slowly up the street, looking to one side, then the other, as they traversed the whole four blocks. Having found nothing, they moved over to the next north - south street, and went from north to south this time, again shifting their questing eyes from one side of the street to the other and back.
By the time that the sun was fully overhead, they were walking up the street four blocks west of Castle St. Still having no luck in the hunt for the boy, they decided to take a break and grab some lunch at one of the diners on Main St.
They wasted no time in getting to the popular Mom's Diner, both nearly ran to the counter. Each ordered a burger meal, then they turned and sat down at one of the faded booths along the one wall of the diner. They sipped on their sodas, talking quietly, waiting for the food.
When the young waitress, Leigh, a 16 year old girl both knew from school, delivered the food, they dove into it, acting as if they'd never been fed. It didn't take them more than ten minutes to each demolish their meal; they finished their drinks, split the bill and left the diner.
Roni stopped beside an old pay phone, dropped some change in and called Mr. Kato, letting him know they were still looking.
They wandered back toward the east side of the town, returning to the search one street further west from the last one they had done.
The day passed slowly, three times they needed to head somewhere to get drinks, then returned to the hunt. When Roni checked his watch and saw that it was almost 5:30 PM, he turned to his sister and suggested they head home for dinner.
She agreed, and they made tracks for home, arriving there just as their mom pulled into the driveway.
Both kids yelled hello to their mom before running into the house. They headed to Roni's room and talked about the day.
At about 6:45 PM, their mother yelled out, "Dinner, come and get it!" and they charged down the stairs before turning into the dining room.
While they ate, they explained what they had been doing all day, both asked if they could go back out for an hour or two to keep looking. Their mom listened, nodding at various parts of the tale, and when they finished, agreed. "Just make sure you two are home by 10:00."
Both grinned and thanked their mom. Ginny ran to the kitchen, filled a few plastic bottles with water and dropped them into a backpack. They yelled goodbye to their mother and ran out the door, heading to the location where they had stopped earlier.
They continued the hunt, going a bit slower because the sun was slowly going down. The streetlights helped somewhat, but they weren't all that close together, and did absolutely nothing for looking along the sides of houses as they passed them.
They drank some water as they needed it, continuing to work their way west across the town. By the time the sun set just after 9:30 PM, they had covered close to 2/3 of the town, still without having seen any sign of Peter. Roni shrugged, "Can't see much now, might as well go home."
Both wanted to keep hunting, they were frustrated, but they knew that trying to see in the dark just wasn't going to work.
Just before 10:00, they opened the front door and stomped into the house. Ginny dropped the bottles with water in them in the fridge.
"Have a good night, Ginny, we'll get going again after breakfast in the morning." She nodded and headed to her own room.
The night passed as most nights did, and both children were awake by 7 AM.
After they had dressed in jeans and Ts, they met in the kitchen, grabbed cereal, made some toast and wolfed it all down. Their mom sat at the table looking bemused, watching them eat like they would never get the chance again as she sipped at her freshly made coffee.
"We're off again, mom, we might be out all day."
She nodded to them and continued with her coffee and her own breakfast, two slices of whole grain toast.
Roni and Ginny ran out the door, Ginny had grabbed the full bottles, filled a few more, and shoved them in the pack on the way out.
Returning to where they had finished the night before, they took up the hunt yet again. As the morning passed, they worked their way over to the western edge of the town. While walking down the second last north - south street on the west side, Roni felt the lens come to life.
"Hey, sis, I'm getting something!" He pointed to the west and slightly south of where they were. "Looks like the fairgrounds to me."
They headed off at a trot, all thought of going slow gone. As they approached the entrance to the fairgrounds, Roni felt the lens pulling down the east side of the large open lot. It seemed they were heading right to the huge oak on the edge of the grounds.
As far as the two knew, the oak had been there far longer than the town, some said it was over three hundred years old.
The day hadn't been quite as bad as yesterday, but the heat was still there, and the two were panting by the time they stopped by the tree. After grabbing a quick drink from the bottles in the pack, they walked closer to the tree itself.
Just before they could have actually reached out and touched the tree, they got quite the shock! A young girl, maybe eleven or twelve years old, faintly greenish in colour, and with slightly pointed ears, literally stepped out of the tree just a few feet away.
The shock was too much for Ginny, she fainted, narrowly missing cracking her head off the trunk of the oak.
Roni, however, was not as surprised as his sister, he'd already seen a member of the fae at least once, so he stood there looking at the girl for a few minutes, then smiled and said, "I'm assuming you must be Peter, although you look like no Peter I've known."
The girl smiled back at him, "Yes, I am the one that was Peter, although Petra seems more sensible now."
Roni nodded, "So how did you end up here? You're right across the town from your home."
"My old home, yes." She patted the trunk of the great tree behind her. "This, this is my new home. When I woke up very early the other morning, I felt... different, something had changed in me, but I was clueless at that point. I didn't even bother to dress myself, I just ran out the door, and made my way across the town, eventually finding myself standing beside the oak here. I never even thought about just how odd it was to be running around the town at any time stark naked, it just didn't seem to matter.
"The oak started talking to me, well, it didn't use actual speech, but I could understand it. It said that it had not had a person be bound to it as its dryad since shortly before the Second World War, and told me that it felt the need for a new dryad most keenly.
"I stood there as the dawn broke, and asked the tree why I had been brought here.
"It replied to me saying, 'Isn't that obvious, child? I want you to be my dryad. Bond with me now as the sun rises.
"So I did, and I have been in or near the tree since then, often communing with it."
Roni stood there, shaking his head, then grinned as Ginny slowly stood up, using the trunk as leverage. Ginny didn't seem to be hurt, other than a bruise or two, but she was still a bit surprised. She looked around, saw the girl and asked, "You must be Peter?"
The girl nodded, "I just explained to your brother how I came to be here." She quickly explained it again for Ginny.
Once Ginny was up to speed, Roni turned back to the girl. "What about your parents? How will all of you cope with this?"
"My daddy's long gone, he left mom when I was three, no support, nada. As for my mom, bring her here and I will talk to her."
Roni realized he needed to let Mr. Kato know that Peter had been found, and what had happened to him. "Hey, I need to go to the phone up the street a bit and make a call, I'll be back in about ten minutes." Ginny nodded and turned back to talk to the girl.
Roni half walked, half trotted to the phone booth half a block north of the fairground entrance, pulled out some coins and made the call.
"Hello, Smoky Corners Curio Shoppe, how may I help you?"
"Mr. Kato, it's Roni, we found Peter! Ummmm... it gets a bit odd, sir! First, it seems that Peter is now a girl, she likes to be called Petra, and second, well, you know the big oak on the fairgrounds lot? Welllll, sir, she's bonded to it, she's a dryad now!"
Mr. Kato listened intently as Roni spoke, then chuckled softly. "That explains why I couldn't find him."
Roni responded, "What do you mean, sir?"
"Roni, I have no fae blood at all, I couldn't sense Peter at all. It seems you, and maybe your sister, have a touch of the fae blood."
Roni was flabbergasted. "We have what?"
"As I said, Roni, I think you may have a wee bit of fae blood, only one with the blood can sense or find members of the fae."
Roni shook his head, thinking for a moment. "Oh, man, mom is just gonna love this. Anyway, I need to get back to Ginny and Petra, could you call Petra's mom and explain?" Roni rattled off the number as Mr. Kato replied that he could and would. Roni ended the call.
Roni walked slowly down to the oak, thinking as he walked. A bit of fae blood in the family tree? He found it hard to believe, but as far as he could tell, Mr. Kato had never told him any kind of a lie, so when he said it, there was no reason to believe it wasn't true.
Ginny and Petra were chattering at each other at what seemed a mile a minute, Roni could hardly follow them once he returned to the tree. The three of them spent the next hour talking to each other, Roni and Ginny both asking Petra questions about the tree.
Suddenly, they could hear someone yelling up near the fairgrounds entrance. Petra's ears twitched. "Ummm... my mom's upset. I think I'm going to need a bit of time alone with her to sort things out. You guys don't have to wander off too far, just give us a chance to talk."
Roni and Ginny wandered into the fairgrounds. Some things, like the old merry go round, were left there year round. There was also an area at the south end that had a kids play space including swings, monkey bars, seesaws and a few other things.
Roni and Ginny wandered over to one of the seesaws, dropped the pack beside it, Roni climbed on one end, Ginny on the other. For the next thirty minutes, they rode the seesaw, quietly talking about finding Petra and wondering how it would change things.
They could hear faint yelling coming from the area of the oak for a fair while, then the yelling stopped as they continued going up and down.
About ten minutes or so after the yelling ended, Roni sensed that it would be okay for them to return to the oak. He told Ginny, they dropped off the seesaw, Ginny picked up the pack and the two walked back to the oak.
They arrived by the oak to find Petra's mom sitting on the ground, hugging Petra tight, and crying on Petra's shoulder. "Are you two okay?"
Even though Petra's mom was or had been crying, they both responded in the affirmative, and Roni and Ginny sat down beside them.
Roni spoke to Petra's mom. "I'm assuming she told you that you would be able to see her as often as you wish?"
Petra's mom nodded. "Yes, she did, and I think that is the only thing that has kept me from losing it completely."
Roni looked at Petra's mom, then at Petra. "I guess it will take awhile before you sort out your new feelings for each other. We should be going, it's lunch time now, you two can have as much time as you need. Petra, we'll drop by every couple of days or so."
Goodbyes were said all around, then Ginny picked up the pack and the two of them walked away, headed for Mom's Diner. On the way to the diner, they stopped at the curio shop to return the Lesser Eye to its rightful owner.
And now you have the story of where the dryad came from. Strange things seem to happen here in Smoky Corners, don't they?
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