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Chapter Six

I got off into a hustling mass of humanity, glass, and concrete. I looked around and saw a small woman holding a sign. "Hi, I'm Belinda, are you looking for me?"

The woman was filled with a glow that set her apart. She quietly nodded and motioned for me to follow. In a coarse voice touched with a German accent the woman spoke. "My name is Maja." The woman barely said a word after that but I could feel the woman questioning herself whether her new arrival could truly help. She thinks I look too young, she thought to herself. My insecurity started to surface so I searched for the stone in my pocket, relief flooding me as I found it and held it tightly. As I did, memories came back to me of the ancient rituals and the power they had cast, saving many. I knew some of that power and would learn more.

"I can and I am going to help," I said gently, trying to reassure the woman whose glow had begun to dim slightly. "I have more training than it would appear. I know Dakeh." At that, Maja whipped her head around, her glow noticeably increasing. Dakeh was a powerful dragon rumored to be known only to the Ancient Ones. Ha, I thought. Now I've gotten your attention. But at the same time, there was something about this Maja that made her feel unsettled.

Despite my uneasiness, I was tempted to tell Maja of my times with the dragon. Dakeh was an exceptionally beautiful and strong dragon who had gone into hiding. I wanted to tell her Dakeh had appeared to my parents the day she was born. Her Father said Dakeh appeared when a child was most blessed,. The implication was clear. Maja was in the presence of such a child. Wow, that ego of mine was in full force, I shouldn't even have spoken her name.

Dakeh had secretly come to play with me when I was five. I had giggled when she spewed fire. I was not afraid, she knew the great dragon only looked fiery and that she was the gentlest of souls. Dakeh wanted to love and be loved.

Dakeh was big but could make herself smaller. She was filled with love and only appeared fierce if she had to protect someone she loved, especially children like

me. We would chase each other and sometimes went swimming. I laughed at this huge dragon looking like a puppy dog paddling for shore. She would try to catch the waves for hours on end. I had had so much fun with Dakeh, she made my life sparkle.

Dakeh loved so unconditionally she reminded me of my Mother. I truly loved her, as did other little fae who were blessed with her presence. She radiated with a conviction that someday she would gather them all and there would be a golden age in which all would be true to the realm its elementals.

Despite denying her existence, the Humans had put a secret bounty out for her capture. She had been last spotted about 500 years ago when there was a High Holy Day of the realm and appeared to give hope to the fae, who at that time had been in hiding for over 400 years.

"How do you know Dakeh?" asked the Maja. "Oh, she used to come to the "…I stopped myself. "I heard of her from my uncle who said his great-grandfather saw her once from a distance." It was, I quickly realized, much too soon to know whether the glow coming from the woman was a disguise or not. There was something about this small woman that just didn't seem genuine. Once again I redirected the conversation. "What is it like in this village you are taking me to?" I felt uneasy, as though I had breached some kind of trust. The woman Maja was pleasant enough and offered to be of assistance where she could.

In no time at all l began my work. I structured three groups each day on Awareness, Mindfulness, and Kindness. The classes were structured in this order purposefully. One had to start with awareness to progress to mindfulness then onto conscious kindness.

Each group had 18 people of all ages, the youngest 12, the oldest 84. There was shyness and awkwardness at first but soon this process of self-knowledge began to take hold. The 84-year-old gentlemen learned from the 12-year-old girl to see through fresh eyes, and the 12-year-old begat a wisdom that was imparted in kind.

It was an exhilarating time. I loved my group and they seemed to love me. It was hard work but joyous. Every day we met with fresh awarenesses, sad memories and joyful self-discoveries. Like shoots of plants bursting forth from the earth, we grew and learned and expanded in sensitivity and knowing. It was glorious to behold and be part of. I had my favorites, my own teachers' pets, but had to keep that to myself.

One lady cried speaking of her family and how they had hurt her. She had never felt accepted as herself. I asked people to play the part of her family members; one by one she challenged, begged and she slowly began to see it had little to do with her. She was playing a role for them. It was what they needed. She had choices to step out of that role. Her sobbing abated, watery eyes looked at the group, one by one. She quieted as she forgave her family. Exhausted she sat, looking up at me she said, "I am the freest I have ever been in my life. Thank you so much."

The group embraced this courageous spirit, enfolding her into arms of acceptance. Word spread. Forgiveness and understanding began to spread through the town. Families were happier, children safer. There was an atmosphere of caring, even joy. It was an energizing time, anticipation of growth and seeing results produced a glow of confidence in all of us, no one more than I.

I was thrilled with my work and wrote regularly to my friends and parents. I also sent a couple of notes to Amar whom I was to see soon.

Walking by myself to the river one night, I stopped to watch a crescent moon flowing with the water. My skills of perception were better honed now and I knew many of my realm were near. I sent them love, letting them know I was working hard, doing what I had been given to do. I watched a series of little lights which now I now recognized as my people, dancing " I love you" so I would know I wasn't alone.

I had received a letter from Conner, saying he was going to be passing through and would like to see me.I had agreed to meet him for coffee.

"Belinda?" a male voice intruded "Belinda? I had walked into the coffee shop.I turned to see Conner. He was a very attractive man. I smiled in spite of myself.

"I am touring the country and I realized I would be able to stop and see you. "Conner, this seems very odd, what are you doing? What do you want?" Conner looked straight into my eyes.

"Belinda, I want a chance to get to know you. You've made your feelings about me pretty clear but for some reason, I cannot stop thinking about you. I like you but am confused as to why you don't seem to want to have anything to do with me." this stopped me in my tracks. "So you took a tour to ask me that question?"

"Conner, I don't know, this just feels weird. I have nothing against you. I don't even really know you. My instinct says this just isn't right for me. Please don't take it personally, I've discovered that l am usually right when I listen to my inner knowing. I still have much learning to do in different directions." Conner looked puzzled and genuinely crestfallen.

"Sit down. I am going to level with you. I don't dislike you at all, I may have given that impression but I assure you, you've misread me. Have you ever heard of the Valley of Sorrows?" Conner shook his head indicating that he had not. "It is a place that people who experience deep pain go. If they come out, and I must tell you that not all do by any means, there is a peace and wisdom about them that is discernible. If you look deeply into their eyes you will see the pain wrapped in the resolution of acceptance, peace, and faith."

"Sounds like a powerful place but what does this have to do with me?" Conner asked, puzzled. Taking a deep breath I continued."There are others who haven't traveled there themselves yet somehow sense the agony of the journey and feel for the travelers. They drink the nectar of empathy and yearn to help and heal. Perhaps I owe you an apology. I have been judging you. I know you have never entered the Valley, nor have you had to drink the nectar. This doesn't make you bad but it does make you inexperienced. I don't know whether it's fortunate or unfortunate but I, myself, have tasted the nectar. I am on a journey that was prescribed by my Father and I have to be careful to surround myself only with wisdom. I can see this is confusing you, maybe even hurting you and I am sorry for that. Conner, although we've just met, it is obvious that you are brilliant. It is also obvious to me you are not yet wise. That, my friend, could cost me my life and the lives of those depending on me."

Now Conner was genuinely confused. Despite what she had said, he could not help feeling insulted. "Belinda," what are you talking about? I help with the homeless, I work the soup kitchen, I drive seniors to appointments. What more do you want?"

I tried to choose my words carefully, trying not to sound harsher than I'd already been. "Conner, these are all good deeds but I sense your motives are about yourself being perceived as good, not for the sake of being good." Then I reminded Conner that he had almost said this when he had told her about his political ambitions.

"Oh for God's sake Belinda, that doesn't mean I don't care, I know I am required to do public service. Everyone should".

"Here's the problem, Conner. You just said you "are required" to do service. But service to others is effortless in my culture. It is who we are. Who I am. Conner, I grew up in a culture that told the truth, unlike the culture of many who play it safe to protect themselves. I think you are intelligent, good-looking, want to do good, and yet, I could never share with you my angst because you couldn't understand. I would feel lonely with you, not because you are bad but because you haven't examined. If

I acted as though there was something wrong with you, I apologize. I wasn't honest and now I will be. Go, Conner, find the beautiful girl, marry well, have a successful life, my way is complicated and sometimes brings great suffering."

Quietly Conner replied "I am beginning to understand that. Belinda, you are lovely in so many ways, I want to see your dreams come true. Call me if ever you think I am worthy of helping you." He walked off into the darkness, ghostlike in his stature.

"I didn't mean, to…" stopping myself as I realized that I actually meant every word I had said. I had told the truth and my human disguise wanted me to take it all back. It would be so much easier but it would be a betrayal of her heritage. Faeries flourished on truth. It is so easy to tell those ‘white lies' Humans talk about. Again, I remembered the phrase ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say.' I was trying to live fully through truth.

"Conner" I called, but there was no response. A light appeared in the dark sky. I thought I saw Dakeh swoosh, then rise and disappear. After a few moments, I was quiet enough to feel deep sadness.

Sitting for a long time I listened to the wind. I heard the river cascading through the evening, orchestrating the rest of the chorus to accompany it on its journey. Then I thanked all the elements who had provided this symphony of peace. I felt refreshed. I looked around and noticed a small bird. "Hello," I smiled. It looked up at me with flashing green eyes. "Gammy" she whispered. "Yep, how are you? Learning anything? Do you have anything sweet?" I had to stop myself from flying over to hug her. I had practiced self-restraint over and over and thus had gotten better at understanding how important it was not to expose the elementals to Humans." In Gammy's own backhanded manner she needled me and said "No need to make such a fuss, I've been here for days you know. " A loving irritation filled me and I broke into a wide grin.

"It is difficult to live as a human when you are from our realm" Gammy explained. "I lived among them as a cat for 7 years, it gave me insight even your Professor Metzgers would envy."

"As a cat, I saw and heard everything. Since only the tiniest of children knew I could understand, they let it all out. Your young man Conner, oh hiss, I know you don't think of him that way, and I know you didn't want to do what you did. Let me explain the good that will come out of this"

"By telling him the truth he will (or should) be forced to look himself, his behavior, his actions in the mirror. It won't be easy for him to do this. Humans have an elaborate system of avoidance and denial. Let me show you what he does with what you told him after the hurt wears off."

Gammy took her phone and hit an app for future projections. Conner appeared on her screen. He was working with a group called the White Helmets. I knew of this group. They go into war zones and rescue people, mainly children. I saw his grimy face, sad, yet strong and determined, as he carried a child out of the rubble. The child was crying and pointing. Conner turned and picked up a small dog which nestled into the child's arms.

"Seen enough?" Gammy asked and I nodded. I had only seen the immaculate Conner and I had judged him as smug, self-absorbed and supremely confident. Seeing him on Gammy's screen looking unkempt and being so caring, he was the most handsome I had ever seen him.

"Had you not told him the truth, he would have skimmed life. You opened a door and he walked through it. Both of you did well." Before Belinda could process this Gammy gave her some unsettling news.

"Belinda, my child, you are going have to change locations as the government has made it illegal for you to do this work without a license. You could apply but they would administer a blood test, and your fae blood would set up many questions." I was crushed. I had thought I had found my life's purpose here.

"You are due to meet Amar in Paris, we will give you your new assignment there. You have two days to say goodbye but be careful Belinda. There is a Dark One who wishes you harm." Without skipping a beat Gammy lightheartedly said "These people are famous for their baking, aren't they? Let"s find a bakery and see what their pastries taste like. Maybe they will have some doughnuts!"

Gammy sat happily munching on apple strudel (there had been no doughnuts) while she explained to Belinda how she could recognize those that meant her harm.

"The Dark One smiles and agrees with you, she is sweet to everyone. She is furious the people of this village have come to love you. She will try to undo what you have accomplished after you leave. Do you know how to offset that?"

I nodded and began to speak. As Gammy listened, she continued. I made sure I spoke very slowly; choosing each word carefully to make sure Gammy understood I had it under control.

"Before I leave, I am going to have a closing ceremony and have everyone commit publicly to continuing the work that has begun. I will ask the group what could undermine it. I am going to have Frederick write it down and put it up for everyone to see! I have learned that if a Human believes he or she is in control, she is more likely to follow through."

Gammy smiled "You are much like your father but your mother's brilliance shines through as well. I must be off. I am pleased that you seem to have things under control. I am meeting Mr. Bleinkins in Athens tomorrow to see what the situation is there. Good bye my dear, you are showing understanding and improvement"

As she disappeared. I saw a stray cat running up the road and smiled.

As I was about to leave, Maja the woman who had picked her up at the airport appeared.

"Hi" I called to her. Maja smiled "I have been looking for you Come, grab a quick drink with me." I had no time for this but in truth, I felt a little guilty because I had never been able to warm up to this woman so I said "Ok for just a few minutes"

They chatted and I tried to scan her as they did. Oddly I kept feeling a chill which didn't match how the woman looked or acted. And I couldn't seem to get a good reading on Maja no matter how I tried. It was odd because I had gotten very proficient at scanning. I looked up realizing how late it had gotten and said "I have to run!" Suddenly I felt very very sleepy and the room began to spin. I saw Maja's face bending over her. "We'll take her to the grubs" she whispered to a man as I passed out.

I woke feeling cold and damp. I was on a street against a building. The night sky looked murky and the stench was overwhelming. She sat up seeing lights at the end of this alley.

"Don't move" a voice called. A small, smelly man with big teeth approached her. "You aren't safe here, those others left you here alone, you don't belong here." "Who are you?" I asked as I scanned him. All the scan showed was a bright pink light which meant that this being was disguised as a bum, but though an outcast, he was likely an angel, and a keeper of the innocent" His dirty face beamed. "They chose the wrong street sister. I'll see you home safely."

His eyes twinkled with intelligence and humor. "Hop on, " Under a pile of musty rags was a bright red scooter, shiny and new. "It's super to be underestimated at times, it gives me power." Off we drove. " Who are you?" I asked again as we pulled up in front of the house where I had a room. "Someone who believes", he howled with laughter and drove off leaving her speechless. "Till Paris " he called. I stood speechless, then ran upstairs quickly.

I took a long hot shower and searched for bruises but found none. I packed, put out my clothes carefully and climbed into bed. I put on the Faery Chant of gratitude and protection on the CD player. I sent out the message to the elements that I was safe and well, that I was more determined and clearer than ever.

The next morning I stood before the group. In the back by the door, I spotted Maja. There were certain questions I had for her but decided that they could wait. Maja wouldn't meet my eyes as she pretended to be busy. When the group was quiet, I began. "I have to leave you, my friends. You are doing so well I am no longer needed. I am going to appoint a new facilitator to take my place." Asking everyone to sit in silence and to share their hearts with each other. For 3 hours they sat, gathering closer, touching, holding one another. Many were crying. One by one they touched my face and my heart. I breathed blessings and love into each. When all their hearts were full . "You can call me anytime with questions, but I am confident that you will do wonderfully". We all hugged, cried and laughed. They were proud of themselves, as was she.

Across the village square, I saw Maja climb into a car. I stared long and hard at the vehicle as it drove away. I thought about the light the woman emitted, suddenly realizing that it was part of her disguise. Somewhere I realized this was the one who was the dark one I'd been warned of by Gammy.. It reminded me how crucial it was to remember to scan even when it seems unnecessary. Because they had shown such purity of love for the process she put the 84-year-old man and the 12-year-old girl in charge of the group. They both had much to offer and little to lose.

I was proud of this decision. It gave the old man purpose again, and because of her youth, the 12-year-old was not afraid of risk which would enable her to walk through obstacles.

Waving I walked away alone, promising to keep in touch. I never told them about what had happened the night before. I was shaken and tired and needed a little stillness before my car came. I walked to a little creek and took off my shoes. I sat dangling my feet in the stream. I was cleansing my aura as much as my mind. I began to recognize that seeing my impact on others was important for my safety as well as the healing process. It wasn't ego, it was observation. My body began to relax and the tiredness crept in more. I could hear the song of the woodlark. It was almost a rhapsody, it lilted through the woods toward me. Wait, it was the lullaby my mother used to hum, and tears sprang to my eyes. The realization I had been protected and not forgotten touched me deeply.

It was time to get my things and wait for the car. "Goodbye little ones," I thought "I am trying, I promise I'll be back." The lark sang louder and the earth sighed with love.

I slept for 24 hours when I got to the Hotel Maison, a small little place filled with charm and hot water. The big, beautiful oval tub brought a smile to my face and I immersed myself into the luxury of a glorious bath. She always felt a little guilty that she loved nice amenities but when you grow up with beauty you learn to respect it.

Why Paris? I thought. I still didn’t understand, it seemed such an odd choice but lots of things seemed odd. Amar was due in from Mexico in a few hours and I realized I was excited to see him. Feeling renewed I got out of the tub and started getting dressed. I dressed quickly, black leggings, tunic, boots and sunglasses.

There was a knock on the the door “yes , oops sorry… oui “ I called out. There was another knock. I answered the door and standing before me was a elderly man, immaculately dressed in a bellman uniform. He was holding a letter.

“Pour vous mademoiselle.” he said. Reaching for the envelope I caught the twinkle of his eye and instantly recognized the man as the angel of the alley. “I know you, you helped me in the alley. Who are you?” I whispered. I tried to hide it but I was mildly alarmed. “My name is Bill. Please, just read this, I am here to help.”

The note was written in what she recognized as Amar’s handwriting. It read ”Trust Bill. He is here to protect and help us”

Bill said, “I am taking you to Amar but he isn’t due in for several hours” he looked pointedly at her. I still didn’t understand who this man was and why I was in Paris. And I still wasn’t entirely comfortable around this man.

Again, she looked at Bill. I focused and fully present I scanned him but received only good and safe vibes. I decided to trust my instincts and soon was out the door into the bustling city.

My trust in Bill was initially tested as it felt as if we were trying to escape being followed. Like in a movie, we caught the metro, a cab and finished by walking to the Museum “D’Orsay.

“I believe the 2nd floor has the picture we are looking for” Bill stated. I gazed at Starry Night by Van Gogh. It was one of my favorites because of all the sparkling lights. Out of the window next to it was a view of Sacre’ Couer up the hill.

The smoky and familiar scent of sandalwood filled me as Amar whispered in my ear ”Look closely, see everything, it is part of the puzzle”

”Bill?” she turned and in his place stood Amar. We drank each other in and then Amar handed me another note. ”I will move your things to the place where both of you will be staying.” There was an address of a different hotel on the note. “I will meet you for dinner. Behave like tourists.” It was signed with the single initial “B”.

Following instructions, Amar and I strolled along the Seine. We wandered over to the Champs De Lysee and over coffee excitedly told each other about our activities over the past few months apart. We talked and talked about what we had done, what had happened, what we had learned. Gone was any awkwardness. We both were carried away by the thrill of seeing each other again. It was the best time I’d had had in months.

We walked back to our new hotel. Each of went to our rooms and changed into the rather formal evening clothes that had been laid out for us.

We met in the lobby, I felt radiant in my dress covered with sequins that both attracted and reflected slivers of light. Amar wore a beautifully tailored black suit. We both looked stunning. An elegant couple out for a night on the town in the most romantic city in the world. We stepped outside just as the cab pulled up. As we climbed in the cab driver”s eyes twinkled. “We are going to stop and stroll by the Seine before going to the restaurant” he announced.

He asked directed me to go to bench where an old man sat huddled. l hesitated, and told Amar I wanted him to go with me.

The driver turned and said to them both “This is for Belinda only. You have proven yourself Amar and will be filled in later but this is for Belinda to do alone.”

It was dusk, the sun was setting as I descended the steps that led to the walk along the river.The stone reflected the light and the water flowed with its secrets hidden beneath the surface. I walked in the steps of lovers, spys, soldiers. I was a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the years and the history that drifted by in its watery song. I saw a disheveled man sitting on a bench.. The old men of Paris, I thought to myself, it seemed no matter how old they are, they sure do have a certain charm. I smiled at him.

“Not as much as we do my darlin’ girl” a familiar voice said. l froze. Could it be true? This deep comforting voice. I instantly knew I was in the presence of the High King. “Sir?” I stammered, “how is this possible?”

“Belinda, your Father did a fine job of protecting us and sending red herrings all over the place” My eyes filled with tears. ”Yes, it is I. It has been a long time , I know you have suffered from your loss but you are succeeding in what he wanted.Tell me how it has been for you? I have had reports of course, but seeing you makes me realize how hungry for you I was.I replied and all the years spilled out of my mouth as he listened to my process as only a beloved elder can, with an open heart tempered with wisdom.After I finished , he paused , looked at me strangely and said” Now wee one, it is time I told you more of your parents’ death”

As he spoke the tale of honor and bigotry, he held her hand. “My wee Godchild, hold my hand and I will show you the face of the priest who was in charge that day.” As she listened I understood the reason that she was so uncomfortable and fearful around clergy. It had been a mystery to her for years, especially since she loved going to mass so much.

The High King continued. “You must be prepared to overcome this fear because you will encounter him and you mustn’t show fear. You have proven you are ready for this knowledge. You have good fae blood my child, laced heavily with your Mother’s wisdom. Continue your journey and always remember, we are guarding you. Our realm depends on it.” He squeezed her hand so tightly she thought it would break.

”I am handing you a carefully written plan. You and Amar will go to the restaurant and pretend that you are planning a trip together when in reality both your tasks are to study this plan. Right now, Bill is filling Amar in on our realm. He is Human but an extraordinary one. We have determined that we are safe with him.”

Thoughts swirled with a million questions. This was our High King of sitting on a bench in Paris beside me looking like a beggar. I had known him when I was just a tiny faery. He had been such a close friend of my parents and especially my Father. Love, fear, deep grief, excitement, purpose all coursed through me.

“The woman who came after you and called herself Maja, was a buffoon compared to the polished ones. They don’t know yet of your power. You may begin to exercise that which was forbidden to you. My dear, One of ours found this” he opened his large hand to reveal a tiny ring. It was my baby ring that my mother wore on a chain around her neck.

”May I?”, he nodded ”I hugged him and held the precious object in my hand. I gazed at this benevolent being who loved and secretly envied my father.My heart went out to him, my Father filled a room and was hard to follow.Though he was King , he was more reserved and solemn. ”Bon Soir”, Monsieur” and I strode away leaving my heart in this brave King’s hands. I turned to wave and all I saw was a golden glow of light on the bench. As I made my return to the car, the memory of his face swam before me. Grey thinning hair, blue intelligent eyes, strong jaw, lots of wrinkles around his eyes. Eyes filled with love, humor and deep pain. He was thousands of years old. He missed my Father, he was fighting for the realm. He was a remarkable leader.

”Well?” a voice broke my reverie. Glassy-eyed, I saw Bill. I nodded, “ it was him” Bill bowed in reverence to the golden glow that remained.

Bill said ”I have the gift of disguise, people will see a table with a reserved sign on it. On the table will be documents on which will be detailed instructions for you to implement. You nor Amar nor the paperwork will be seen. Don’t worry, take your time, I’m pretty good at keeping everything under wraps”. Bill laughed at his own wit.

In a quiet corner of a charming place near Montmarte Chez Toinette was a little restaurant that was filed with locals.We were met with knowing glances . We sat, eating and concentrating as I faithfully recited all the High King had told me. We quizzed other relentlessly knowing lives could depend on our attention to even the smallest detail. Finally we looked at each other, nodded and burned the precious document. As we did so we became visible to the whole room. Amar bent over and kissed her cheek,” so we will fly out next week, he smiled”. I nodded, the act of young lovers brought the restaurant to a smiling place. We walked out looking for the car.

”Well done, now hurry, I have your bags in the car and you will leave at once” Bill, looked more serious than I had ever seen him as he said “Be careful young ones. Be careful but brave”They were taken straight to Charles De Gaulle Airport to fly back to the States.

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