“Braedyn Bunny, you’ve lost your way,” a voice faded in the wind.
“Who’s that?” A gray hare sat up and looked around the blue meadow.
“Is everything as it should be? Everything as it once was?” her sweet voice came again, closer with every word.
The bunny gazed at the rolling hills and pink sky in the distance. Silver castles mounted atop floating islands drifted in and out of a veil of clouds, purple water falling from their gates and transforming into butterflies.
“Anything amiss?” The voice whispered in his ear.
“Far too long I’ve lingered in the meadow’s embrace, never questioning the bed I lay on or the gentle breeze tickling my whiskers.” Braedyn took a deep breath. The air carried with it the scent of honeysuckles, as if he were lying in a bushel. “This world of slumber has cast its spell on me, hoping that I would not question its generous hospitality. What is this place?”
“Etherharp.” Her breath raised the hairs on the back of the bunny’s neck.
“And what is Etherharp?” He looked around, trying to catch sight of her.
“The world as you see it, told from within.” She darted from ear to ear.
“Wait a minute.” Braedyn tapped his foot. “I’ve heard of such places before…in faery tales.” He watched another kingdom disappear into the clouds. “Paninae, I believe it’s called, whispered to me in a dream. Does this mean anything to you?”
“Though she is dear to us, this is not she.” The voice replied. “Timara, Ylysse, Dewfall…all kingdoms of the cloud faery are they.”
“Cloud faeries? Good gracious, how did I end up here?” Braedyn hopped around, determined to catch a glimpse of his elusive host.
“All things are possible in the world of fae.” The faery finally revealed herself. A butterfly with pearl wings and dark spots flittered onto his nose. Her sable underside melted away, revealing frosty, unblemished skin. An ivory mane descended from her scalp, weaving itself into braids. Her spotted wings shed their guise, now transparent and sparkling. She grabbed a handful of her knotted tresses and tied them back in a bow. “Boo!” she snickered.
The bunny jumped back, not sure what to make of her. “Who are you?” he asked.
“What does your heart say?” The tiny faery captured him with her violet gaze.
“Y…Y’lia?” Braedyn mumbled.
“See? Your heart does not lie.” She smiled and kissed his chocolaty nose.
“My goodness, where did that come from?” The hare scratched his ear. “It was as if someone whispered it to me.”
“Like this?” another high-pitched voice whispered in his ear.
The bunny shot straight up in the air.
And Y’lia said:
You’ve tapped a vein
Tasted the melody
Don’t be afraid
This is simply just
The way of here
With wings and rhyme
You’ll soon find
That this happens
All the time
“Time? Good gracious, what time is it?” Braedyn asked.
“Does it really matter?” The stranger whispered in his ear again.
The hapless hare jumped back, and hid in the brush. “I’m sensing that it does.” He peeked between the blades of grass.
“Indeed, what time is it? I was beginning to wonder the very same thing.” An identical faery flittered over and embraced Y’lia, her long hair flowing past her knees. She was draped in a low neck mauve gown, cut from the same ruffled fabric as her kin.
“Two of you?” Braedyn eyed them curiously.
And she replied:
Where there is one
Always a score
Two or three
Many, many more
Is my name
Of course you knew that
All the same
What time is it?
Let me take a peek
What time is it
That you seek?
“The hour, at very least. Even the day would be helpful,” said the hare.
“Mine or yours?” Y’lia asked.
“Your world or ours?” Y’lana added.
“Mine, of course.” Braedyn cautiously stepped out of the grass.
“Hmmm…I believe it’s a hare past a freckle.” Y’lana shot Y’lia a look and giggled.
Suddenly Braedyn Bunny realized what was missing from the illustrious setting. “Wait a minute. What happened to my eggs?” He scanned over the meadow.
“Eggs?” Y’lana looked at her nails. “I haven’t seen any eggs. Have you, Y’lia?”
“Not a one.” Y’lia failed to hide her smirk.
Although aware of their dastardly deed, Braedyn did not acknowledge their deception. “So how do I get back to my world?”
“Your world is always just a dream away,” Y’lia lit up.
“Now back to sleep, little hopper.” Y’lana flew over and sprinkled faery dust on him. “In the world of dreams all will be made right.”
The bunny’s face tightened. “Give them back.” He inhaled a lungful of faery dust and sneezed.
“Whatever do you mean?” Y’lana tried desperately to keep the smile from creeping onto her face.
“Where are they?” Braedyn hopped forward, but the faeries were gone. Suddenly blue weeds shot up all around him, whipping around his paws and neck and pulling him under. The bunny nibbled through the bitter roots and scurried away, only to be met by a swarm of butterflies. Round and round they flew, their silver wings sparkling like the sun. Entranced by the whirlwind of light, Braedyn felt a wave of sleepiness rush over him. He forgot all about the enchanted thicket until it seized him by the ears and buried him in its embrace.