Jen woke up in the strange place, with a strange sky and strange people. It was beginning to feel normal. She was wrapped in a blanket of unknown substance, and her hair was drippy and lank. She did not care. She looked around and saw only a few people up at dawn, walking around the edges of the lonesome rock they called “Cave Island.” It was somewhere in the north sea of the fairy realm. She stood and yawned and stretched, and started to walk, when she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see a young woman swimming in the surf, but then she saw her turn and dive, then come up with a fish in her mouth. Jen squatted at the edge of the water and watched in fascination as she hungrily devoured the writhing prey. Then she belched, spotted Jen, and swam over.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “I really can’t help myself.”
“You must be Auda,” Jen said. “I’m Jen Anderson.”
“The Gentle Giant,” Auda replied. “That’s what they are calling you. I’ve heard how you have rescued these people from captivity. You are a hero.”
“Funny, I was thinking the same about you. We never would have gotten to the other island to take the portal if it weren’t for you.”
“You would have, it may have taken a little longer. I needed your help to get through the portal. The seals in your world have only one thing on their mind. Fish! It feels great to have a normal conversation.”
Jen reflected how strange their conversation was. She was talking to a selkie, a person who routinely turned herself into a seal and lived a seal lifestyle. And right now she was not a seal, but she stayed in the water anyway because without her seal skin, she was naked. “Maybe you can catch a couple of fish for us, too?”
“You would eat a fish?” Auda sounded amazed.
“Sure, they’re tasty, if cooked right.”
“I had heard you giants ate strange things, like I know you eat your young, but I had no idea you ate fish!”
“We do not eat our young!” Jen felt the need to set her straight.
“I must’ve been thinking about something else,” Auda sighed. “Give me a minute.” She dove under the water, and soon reemerged with three good sized fish, one in each hand, and one in her mouth. Thankfully, she had the good sense to kill them first, so Jen did not have to do it. She tossed them to her new friend, one by one, and Jen set them down on the rock. “There you go. If there is anything else you need, just let me know.”
“You’re not coming up here with us?”
“I don’t have anything to wear.”
“The clothiers could help you out there,” Jen explained.
“I really don’t belong here,” Auda squirmed. She nodded around to the fairies. “They don’t like me.”
“Of course they like you!” Jen objected.
“No,” Auda sighed. “They think I’ve got bad breath. They have a thing about that.”
“Well, thank you for the fish. We’ve got bad breath too,” Jen smiled.
Auda gave a little wave, then disappeared under the surf.
It was day number seven since they were marooned was dawning, with a few shades of pink and purple peeking through the thick cumulous clouds. It was going to be another dark and dreary day. Jen grabbed the fish, then picked up the bottom of the blanket she had wrapped around her so it would not get wet by the little myriad tidal pools she had to step over to make her way to her father, who she spied sitting on another rock entirely.
He had spent most of the week on that one large rock by the cave entrance, or else at the top-most point on the island, looking out among the channels and bays between the nearby islands or staring out to the open sea to the west. She was worried about him.
“Daddy?” she asked as she approached, “Are you busy?”
“Don’t I look busy?” he responded.
“Not really,” she answered.
“That’s only because I’m not. None of us are. We came all the way out here, where-ever here is, to fight a war, not sit on a stupid rock!” his voice had an angry edge to it, but Jen knew the anger was not directed at her. He had been getting crankier and crankier since they arrived.
For the first three days, he had a splitting headache, because he couldn’t figure out how to make coffee without a coffee maker. When Jen took his problem to the fairies, they set to work making a coffee carafe out of the basalt, by transforming and shaping it to the shape he desired. It even had a handle. Then with fresh water and some coffee grounds inside, Lefty, the fire master heated it up to near boiling. Daddy let the grounds settle to the bottom and drank straight from the carafe, spitting little remnants of coffee bean onto the sand as he came across them. But his headache went away and his mood improved from morose to anxious, and then declined from anxious to bitter.
“A ship will come and rescue us, and we’ll be on our way,” Jen said.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“Because you told me so,” she said. “You wouldn’t lie to a kid.”
“You’re right,” he sighed. “I wouldn’t lie to a kid. I just wish I knew when the ship would come.”
They had come through the portal with fourteen hundred fairies, from Cave Island in the North Sea of Earth, to another cave in what was probably a north sea of Threa, the Fairy Realm.
“Daddy, you are still worried, aren’t you?” Jen asked, sitting down next to him.
“I am. We have gone through a lot more food than I thought we would. These people ate all of the canned vegetables we had, except for the pork and beans. If it hadn’t been for the pork, they would have eaten that too.”
“Well, if the food runs out, we can live off of fish and clams,” Jen said, trying desperately to cheer him up. “In fact, that selkie, Auda, gave us these for breakfast.”
Mr. Anderson blinked twice at the three rather good-sized fish she was holding out to him. “Gather some dry driftwood, if you can find any, and we’ll have a little feast. What are you girls going to have?”
“Just teasing,” he said hurriedly. “Get wood. Now!”
They broke fast in style, the fairies moving as far away from them as they could go. “I just wish I knew how to catch more of these,” Mr. Anderson commented as he picked his fish bones clean.
“Maybe the fairies could help us out catching fish and digging clams,” Julie suggested.
“Are you kidding? This lot would start having conversations with the fish and clams,” he sighed. “What intellectually stimulating conversation can you imagine having with a clam?”
“Well, they certainly would give another perspective,” Jen said, optimistically.
After they finished eating, Mr. Anderson stepped away from the little group, moved out to a tiny rock that was only large enough for one person to sit comfortably, and he sat and stared out to sea. A cool wind was blowing from the south, and the clouds were bleak and gray.
“Your Dad is really down,” Gina commented.
“He’s an old grump,” Julie agreed, “I don’t remember ever seeing him this grumpy before.”
“I’ll talk to him,” Jen vowed. She stepped away from the other girls and made it out to Daddy’s rock, and stood in silence for a long moment. She knew that he was aware of her presence, but he was refusing to acknowledge her. “He’s alive,” she said.
Jen’s brother Eric was kidnapped by an agent of Rokko, the rogue chamberlain who overthrew the Tolish royal house, sending the king and queen into exile. Mr. Anderson believed that Eric may be held captive in the dungeons of the royal palace, and that is why they turned all of the freed fairies into an army. They were on a mission to restore the rightful sovereigns to their place in Tole, and to rescue Eric.
“I know he’s alive,” Mr. Anderson broke his silence. “I can feel it.” He looked around and saw the fairies eating a sumptuous salad full of colorful flowers. “Where did they get that?” he asked, pointing at the feasting fairies.
“They morphed that from things they found around here,” Jen explained. “Seaweed, I think.”
“Well, maybe we should start fishing. They can morph it into vegetables.”
“They wouldn’t touch it,” she shrugged. “It would have the taint of meat on it.”
“Well, all the more for us, I say,” he smiled. It was weak, but it was a smile. The first one he had worn in days. He stood and stretched and, when Jen moved out of the way, walked back away from the little rock in the water.
Julie, Gina and Princess Nallah walked over and formed a semi-circle around them. “Sir Dave,” Princess Nallah addressed him, referring to the title given to him by her father, King Arndt of Tole, “I do not know if you realize, but the others are looking to you for leadership. When they see you sulking like a captive, they begin to have misgivings.”
“I’m no leader here,” he said, his smile fading again. “You have General Mowbry and Budrick, Bucsprat and of course yourself and Captain Tock to lead. We are in your realm now.”
“But you got us this far,” Gina objected. Gina Carter was Julie’s older sister, one of Jen’s best friends. And Jen and Julie were both of the opinion that Gina had romantic ideas about Eric. She continued, “We have all come to look up to you for guidance. Us, and the fairies.”
“Do you see that group on the hill?” Princess Nallah asked. Mr. Anderson saw a small group of fairies sitting in a circle atop the highest point of the rock on which they were stuck. “They are summoning. They have been doing so since we first arrived. They are putting their energy out there to bring rescuers to us.”
“When should it start working?” he asked.
“Someone should have received it a week ago,” Nallah admitted. “They must be very far away for it to take so long. On your feet, Sir Dave. Look alive, we have to keep everyone’s spirits up,” Nallah demanded.
“You are absolutely right, your highness,” Mr. Anderson said, clambering to his feet. “I have been sulking, and that is no way to behave. Jen, open a can of something so we can eat.”
“What are you going to do?” Jen asked.
“Well, if we are going to be rescued at any time, we should probably get ready for it,” he said.
At that moment, a stout little woman approached. “Sir Dave, I have been talking to...”
“Clams?” Jen asked.
“Not recently,” Maylu replied. “I have been talking to an albatross, and he has reported a ship heading toward us. The bird believes if the ship could fly it would be here by now.”
“I thought you were a marine linguist?” Julie asked.
“I am. And the albatross is a marine bird, so he falls into my linguistic talents,” the middle aged fairy explained.
In the other realm, the Giant Realm where Jen and Dave Anderson and the Carter sisters came from, fairies were tiny, and could easily fit in a child’s hand. But after crossing through the portal, they were the same size as the humans. Also, they no longer had wings. They were completely normal, except for a few of the fairies who still had large holes in the back of their shirts where their wings had been. Apparently they had no talent for mending clothes, or asking others to help them out.
Mr. Anderson looked around. The fairies, who now looked like regular people, were grouped on rocks as the summoners’ circle continued to meditate upon the peak. “Do you think if any of those people saw a ship,” he said, pointing to the entranced group, “they would let anyone know?”
“They would have to open their eyes first, and I don’t see that as being likely,” ruddy-faced Captain Tock said. “I’ll send a lubber aloft with instructions to keep a keen eye on the western sea.”
“Girls, gather our things and tidy up around here,” Mr. Anderson addressed the three.
“Tidy up, Daddy?” Jen said innocently.
“Look around,” he said, pointing at several different points.
Jen looked around and saw that there were bits of clothing and random rags, paper napkins and plates and plastic cups, forks and spoons laying about. “There’s nobody here,” she shrugged. “And the wind and the sea will take it all away.”
“That is the wrong way of thinking,” he replied, a stern expression on his face. “This world is pristine, why should we bring our garbage here?”
“What should we do with it?” Gina asked, really wanting to help.
“Take it all to our cooking fire pit and burn what you can. Bury the cans. They will rust away over time.”
“On it,” Jen said, leading the way. The girls spread out and started, but the fairies saw what they were doing and wanted to help, too. In a matter of a few minutes the barren rock no longer looked like the aftermath of an outdoor concert.
They had no sooner sat back down after their exhausting three minutes of work, when one of the lookouts shouted, “There’s a boaty thingy coming this way.” He was jumping up and down and pointing.
“Lubbers!” Captain Tock grumbled. He knew it was useless to ask what kind of boaty thingy, so he started climbing to the top of the rock to take a look for himself. When he arrived, he looked to the western sea and spotted the boaty thingy the lubber was talking about. He recognized it as a ship-of-the-line, but if the humans had spotted it, they may have saw it differently. A ship of the line in Threa, the fairy realm, was large enough to transport several people, an overwhelming force, and it was square rigged. But it had no gun decks. It did have several gardens where the gun decks should be, because the Threans, for the most part, were not meat eaters, and they were rather fond of eating flowers, drinking nectar, and generally having a good time. It was more like a cross between a luxury cruise liner and a boat-themed parade float. There was even a swimming pool on the main deck ahead of the foremast.
But Captain Tock did not recognize the flag, though it would be impossible for anybody to memorize all of the flags that were being flown in Threa at any given time. The countries were, for the most part, small kingdoms, each with a sovereign and a palace and a royal court. The fact that he did not recognize the skull and cross-bones of the Jolly Roger was not surprising at all, since it had never existed in Threa until quite recently, and the ruddy-faced captain had been away from home for a very long time. “Ship-of-the-line!” he shouted to everyone within hearing distance. “We’re rescued!”