Orlaith grew up with a fierce sense of protection for the people she ruled, gained from her mother. Her father, after bringing her up alone, had left Queen Orlaith with some remarkable character traits. she had the courage to do whatever was needed for the benefit of the people and never to doubt her resolve.
From the extensive line of kings before her father she gained a proud tilt her head and a high-handed way of doing things that came with being the last in a lengthy line of royalty. Her parents agreed on one thing before her mother left and that was her name. They chose well for Orlaith means Golden Princess and that is exactly what she was.
Michael, rapped smartly on the doors of the castle. Both doors swung open without even the smallest of squeaks. Well, thought Michael, at least my knock is loud enough. He walked inside the entrance hall. There was a faint smell of used fairy dust in the air and his green walking boots clattered loudly on the highly polished floor.
He walked to the end of the whole way and knocked on the door he found there.
"Come in," said a musical voice from the room beyond.
Michael pushed the door is wide and stepped in. Glancing around him, he noted the plush pink carpet, pink silk on the walls and as curtains and the pink cloud and petal painting on the ceiling. He shuddered lightly and walked on until he was standing in front of Queen Orlaith's throne.
Queen Orlaith sat proudly on her throne. Long tresses of golden hair reached her waist. Bright, sparkling, blue eyes adorned her face resembling jewels in a crown. there was no doubt in his mind as to who she was. A kindly features became amused that she noted Michael's reaction to the pink décor.
She chuckled "pink is obviously not your colour Michael," She said. "Now why don't we get down to business?"
she clapped her hands together and at once a chair appeared beside him. Michael sat down gladly. One more clapperboard in attendance running in with the tray laden with cake and sweet water to drink.
"I suppose you have seen the newspapers today?" Orlaith said laughingly.
"Well I've seen a good few other people reading them but I was in such a hurry to see you that I did not stop to find out what's in them" as if he hadn't had a good meal of Robbins, Michael chose a large piece of cake and took a bite.
Orlaith clapped her hands in delight, bringing forth a whole shower of paper on Michael's head. "Shall I read to you?" She said "it's not everyday that something like this happens in Fairyland!" And without further ado she started to read.
Michael sat and listened as she read; his eyes bulging as he devoured slice after slice of the most light and delicious fairy cake he had ever tasted. Orlaith's voice rang clearly through the room, although to Michael it sounded like bluebells tingling in the breeze.
The story on the front page of the newspaper carried all of the details of his meeting with Megan. It told of how he been caught only the day before and that was why he had had to give her his heart.
"Now why didn't you summon me when all this happened," asked Orlaith gently. "I would have gladly giving you all the gold in the world, to spare you the fate of marrying the mortal."
"I know," said Michael "but she is so fair and good that when I looked into her eyes I found that I wanted to give her my heart."
Orlaith chuckled again, "I had a feeling that it would be something like that." She rose up from her seat. "I have been feeling every night for some time now, that this girl, Megan, has been wishing that you will grow tall so that you could marry. I notice that she doesn't wish you to stop being a creature of magic, she just wishes you to grow tall."
She paused and started to walk slowly across the floor.
"At first, I wondered if she did not wish you to become a mortal, because she wanted you to keep your magic to use, and make life easy"
Michael stood up, a fierce gleam in his eye, all waved his objections aside.
"I know, she said, if Megan's intentions had been selfish I never would have heard her wish. I soon came to realise that she wanted you just the way that you are because that is the way that she came to love you."
Michael sat down again and picked up another piece of cake.
"You didn't realise" she said quietly
Orlaith watched him with an expression of contemplation on her beautiful face. It was times like this that Orlaith's ancestry really showed itself. she liked Michael and felt that if it was up to her then she would not have any problem letting him do whatever he wished. But on the other hand the rules that govern fairyland with there for a reason. Mortals were notoriously untrustworthy, it would not do to start letting them roam Fairyland.
Orlaith's father spoke to her only rarely and she was growing up but the few things that he said made a big impression on her. On the day of her coronation he had imparted only one piece of advice. "Rules had to be made and stuck to, this land of ours to work. It may be very hard at times you to make a decision. So when you find yourself in a position where you have to make a choice that you don't like, remember that the rules were invented so that fairytales and happy endings could come about."
Orlaith continued, "So I thought that I would grant your request and make you tall. Before I do, I must warn you, that once it is done, it will be done forever. I will leave you a small bit of magic but no more than that. If you wish to live as a mortal then I cannot that you have more magic than a mortal would have if he were a wizard." Orlaith paused for breath.
"That would mean no more Fairyland."
Michael looked up in shock. "No more Fair..." his voice trailed away as the words sunk in.
Orlaith looked at him "You didn't realise" she said quietly.
"I just assumed that I would still be able to come and visit occasionally." He said sadly.
Orlaith thought for a moment "Why don't you sleep in one of the spare rooms here tonight. Then you can think it over."
Michael nodded meekly.
Orlaith clapped her hands. Attendants came to remove the rest of the cake. One took Michael by the hand and led him to a room just off the main hall.
"You should be comfortable in here," she said, "just whistle if you want something and someone will be along." She closed the door behind her gently. "Michael sat down on the bed and thought about his life in fairyland and the almost daily adventures he had encountered while living there. He had chosen to move his home to the mortal world for a while to escape his destiny as a shoemaker but he had not thought that he would ever stay away for long.
Then he thought about Megan and how much he had already come to love her. He thought about the way she tossed her hair when she laughed and the way that her eyes sparkled in the morning sunlight. Then he thought about the way she had tenderly waved him goodbye not knowing where he was going but in perfect trust that he would return and make things all right.
A crushing sense of responsibility settled on his chest. He had to find a way to make everything turn out for the best. Michael looked around him. It was a comfortable green room; the attendant was right. At any other time he would have loved to stay here but just now he felt as if his heart was breaking. Choose between Megan, the girl he loved above all others and Fairyland. He laid on the soft bed of downy feathers and let a tear roll down his nose.
* * * * * * * *
Michael awoke from a deep, dreamless sleep feeling much refreshed. Sure enough, he had his decision made and a plan up his sleeve. He whistled a merry tune as he lept from his bed. As expected, an attendant appeared.
"I would like some more of that delicious cake I had last night, for breakfast this morning please." He said. "And then, please could you ask Orlaith if I could have tour of the castle. it is the last time I will see it."
The attendant left as quickly as she had come. By the time that Michael had dressed in his smart green outfit the cake had arrived. He sat down to enjoy it properly. There's no smell of used fairy dust in here he noted. This must be the sort of room where they only ever put leprechauns. No fairy would be seen in here, it isn't pink enough.
Michael was of the opinion that although marshmallows were nice to eat, he really did not see the point of living in a room that looked as though it were one. Ferries on the other hand, probably thought along similar lines when it came to green rooms.
The attendant came back. "Orlaith will show you around the castle herself" she announced, as if she was surprised that the queen of the fairies would do such a thing.
Michael's second. That would make his plan a bit more difficult. But nevertheless, he was a leprechaun and therefore quicker than any fairy alive. He smiled and walked to the door. The attendant had vanished again; typical of a fairy, he thought to himself.
Orlaith was waiting in the Throne room again. Today it was a slightly darker shade of pink, Michael noted. Less like candy floss and more like rose petals. He gave a huge grin and declared his intentions to stay with Megan.
"You will be missed a great deal by all that know you," she said graciously. "I had the feeling that you would choose Megan."
Michael grinned still further "let's take that tour," he said.
“Well we only needed one room last night because we only had one guest.” Orlaith laughed. “You do know that the castle runs on magic don’t you. It can be as big or as small as I want it to be but the outside will always look the same.” I think that it gets a bit draughty sometimes, so I only like to have enough guest rooms for the number of guests we actually have. That way they always get one that is to their taste.”
“So this tour…” Said Michael
“Well everybody expects a tour, so I add on rooms to the castle as we go round. We will have plenty to see.”
Michael looked slightly perplexed for a moment, and then his face brightened. “So what about the huge, underground, store rooms for the magic-dust that everyone talks about. Are they real?”
Orlaith looked hard at Michael, as if she was making up her mind. “Yes, they are real, come this way and I’ll show them to you.”
Michael was lead back to the throne room. Orlaith walked up to the throne and waved her wand. The throne split in two and moved apart. Beyond, Michael could see a stairway leading downwards.
They walked down the steps together; Orlaith’s wand lighting the way. At the end of the stairway there was a small room filled with piles of fairy dust. Gleaming gently in the light from the wand, the piles seemed to glow with golden light. Michael thought that he had never seen anything that looked so enchanting in his life.
“Now you know why this is called the Enchanted Castle,” said Orlaith quietly.
Turning, Orlaith walked to the base of the steps humming a tune as she went. Michael looked for a moment longer, then turned and walked to the steps also.
Back in the throne room the attendants were quietly waiting. Orlaith then sat on the throne once more.
“You have seen the source of fairy dust and magic in this realm. Are you still sure that you wish to give up this fair land of ours forever, for the love of a mortal?” She asked solemnly.
Michael looked her in the eye and replied “yes. I would have lived here happily to the end of my days if you had asked me to give up travelling for it is a fair wondrous place, but since I first saw Megan I knew that I would rather die than live without her. So, since you ask me to leave and never return I will do it, and with a light heart because I know I will soon be with the one I love.
Orlaith lifted her wand. “So be it,” she said.
A crack of thunder sounded in Michael’s ears and he found himself swirled in a wind that had sprung up as if from nowhere. Spinning around and around, he felt himself being stretched. His arms and legs were getting longer. Blackness enveloped him and he knew no more.
Sleep well and don't let the bed bugs bite.