The Hemlock Clan didn’t have the biggest of all the Pixie Clanslands, but neither did they have the smallest. It was just the right size to support the Pixies there, and a little more for a touch of growth. It was a rough circle about three miles around the perimeter, and just under a mile across. The edge was ringed by the wooden-built guard towers and the practice grounds for the Guardians. Just past that on the outer edges were the farms and fields. Moving further in were houses with small gardens for private use, and homes for those who didn’t want to live in the town center. Dogwood and Laurel lived in one of those houses just beyond the fields.
The main population of Pixies were in the town center, and it consisted of four sugar maple trees. Most of the Pixies lived and did business within the trunks and branches, and the Pixie magic allowed them to shape the trees as they pleased without harming them. The meeting hall was the largest space located at the base of the largest of the trees. When the town meetings weren’t taking place, the space was used for vendors and the like. The main portion of Pixie magic was plant-based, and even their battle magic had quite a bit to do with plants. That did not stop some Pixies from learning a trade craft they didn’t possess the magic for, like weaving or forging swords for the Guardians.
The Clans were not rigid in how their populations were controlled, unlike other Supe races. If a Pixie didn’t like the Clan they were born to, they were allowed to travel to other Clans and go through a probation period. Clans would also send out some of their newly come-of-age’d Pixies to apprentice in other Clans. The Hemlock Clan was known for their prowess in battle, so they often received petitions from other Clans to have their youngsters train under the Thorny Guardians. This would either involve some kind of monetary payment to the Clan they were sending the Pixie to, or an equal exchange of training.
Dogwood’s daughter was going to be involved in an exchange soon. Laurel had some of the best growing magic seen in the Hemlock Clan in years, so she was heading to the Larkspur Clan. As Hemlock was known for their battle magic, the Larkspurs were some of the best gardeners and farmers in all the American Clans. The exchange and training programs lasted a period of two-three years, then the newly-trained Pixies would go back to their original Clans. To ensure that the Clans would benefit from the training they paid or exchanged for, the trainee would be required to reside at their original Clan for a period of at least five years before they could petition to go elsewhere if they so desired.
Dogwood was nervous about sending his daughter away. Most Pixie families had three or four children, but Dogwood only had Laurel. He never remarried after Rosemary was killed, even though the Elders urged him to do so. Instead, he devoted all his love to his only daughter. Dogwood smiled thinking back on the last couple years, even though at the time they seemed anything but funny.
Drifting through the outer fields reminiscing, Dogwood couldn’t believe his daughter would be having her own coming of age ceremony the following year. Laurel just missed the most recent one by a few months. Coming of age for a Pixie was at 15 years, during the summer solstice, Litha. Pixies had a lifespan a couple decades under that of humans, so they reached adulthood a touch sooner. His daughter always brought out the bittersweet memories of his wife Rosemary, and for the second time that day he felt a pain lance his heart.
Dogwood was originally from the Hollyhock Clan, which no longer existed. They had battled alongside a few other Clans against the Hemlocks and their allies. In the end a few of the smaller Clans had been broken down and integrated into the larger Clans, because their numbers were no longer adequate to take care of their Clanslands. Dogwood was praised for his superior skills as a warrior, and invited to join the Hemlock Clan. This was when he met Rosemary.
Dogwood was on the Guardian training grounds when his Captain’s daughter came in from the fields to join her father for lunch. Her hair was the light pink hue that the dawn sometimes held when clouds were there to soften the colors, and it fell in a thick braid to her waist. With a face that always held a ready smile, its shape was a heart with prominent cheekbones. Her nose was turned down at the end, which always gave her the look of a cat in Dogwood’s opinion. She was short for a Pixie, only seven inches tall, and her body was slender like a reed. Eyes the color of honeysuckles always held a kind light, but could harden in a second if something she loved was threatened.
Saying it was love at first sight would be an understatement to Dogwood, but unfortunately the feelings were one-sided. Rosemary wanted nothing to do with him, no matter how hard he tried. He and many others courted the attractive young woman, but she spurned all advances. That was, until Dogwood found her soft spot.
One evening he had been on patrol when he saw a Pixie leave the perimeter with a woven basket in hand. Curious as to what they were doing, he followed them out into the night. Keeping a safe distance back, he soon realized it was Rosemary. Dogwood caught up with her just as she was set upon by a hungry fox. He fended off the fox, and was going to kill it when Rosemary begged him to let it live. Doing as she asked, he let the fox go and it ran off into the night.
Rosemary thanked him, and asked if he would stay with her until she returned to the Clansland. Dogwood agreed, of course, and followed her to the home of an injured mink. Many of the smaller animals in the lands trusted the Pixies, since they did not eat meat. Even if one of them was starving and attacked a Pixie, like the fox had, it was rare for a Pixie to be eaten. Pixies were very foul tasting little creatures, despite their colorful and sweet appearance.
There was a small portion of the Pixie population that could use the healing magic in plants, and Rosemary was one of those few—as well as the best. Her tender yet firm attitude toward her patients made her one of the most sought after healers on the Reserve, by all manner of Supes. Once she was done tending to the mink, they headed back to the Clansland. Dogwood requested that if she needed to leave again, that he go along with her.
The rest, as they say, is history. Their bond together formed slowly, but was rooted deep. When they were finally married, the whole Clan turned out and celebrated the joining. It was not long after Rosemary became pregnant with Laurel.
He stopped, and Dogwood took a moment to collect himself. It was a dark day in his and Rosemary’s father’s life. Soon after her death, he left this world as well, mad from grief. Rosemary’s mother had died in childbirth, and all her siblings were scattered to the winds or killed in wars. Dogwood and Laurel only had each other, and memories of a mother gone too soon from the world.
Dogwood cleared his throat and continued on to his home. It was the traditional house of the Captain of the Thorny Guardians. When Dogwood appointed the new Captain, he would be moved to a new home of his choosing. Hopefully that would not be for many years. Dogwood moved in with Rosemary and her father after they were married, and when her father died Dogwood was appointed Captain. So he had been living in the home for many years, and it was the only home Laurel had ever known.
Many Pixies lived in trees, like those who chose to live in the Town Center. Others, like Dogwood, lived in houses that were fashioned using Pixie magic. It was an interesting sight for any who had never seen a Pixie-made house before. Taking multiple saplings, Pixies grow and weave them together in such a way that they form the floors, walls, furniture, and so on. It was another branch of their plant magic. The better a Pixie was at the tree-forming magic, the better the houses were.
The Captain’s traditional house was formed from the same kind of tree as the town center: sugar maple. It was two stories high, and generously spaced. The living quarters were on the top, big enough to fit a family of ten. Common areas like the living room, crafting room, kitchen, and so on, were on the bottom. It was surrounded by a fence made from fallen sticks lashed together with dried and twisted grass. The garden was off to the side, and it was where Laurel spent most of her time.
Dogwood heard her singing to the plants in the garden, and it made him smile. Her voice was as sweet as the first rains of spring, and it warmed his heart to hear her so happy. He headed around the house to where she would be working, up to her wrists in rich soil.
When he rounded the house he saw their neighbor, Snowdrop, just as she joined Laurel in her song:
You’re fair as the spring, oh my darling
Your face shines so bright, so divine
The fairest of blooms in my garden
Oh lily white rose, you are mine
I love the White Rose in its splendour
I love the White Rose in its bloom
I love the White Rose so fair as she grows.
It’s the rose that reminds me of you.
When Dogwood clapped, Snowdrop and Laurel turned to see who was there. Laurel’s face broke out in a wide grin, and Snowdrop laughed.
“Are you spying on us, sir?” Snowdrop asked, as the two women stood and brushed the dirt from their hands and gardening trousers.
Snowdrop had white hair like Dogwood, but where his was curly and thick, hers was fine and straight. She kept it in a braid while gardening, as did most of the Pixie women, though she kept her length shorter than the rest. The ends of her hair barely brushed the top of her shoulders when loose. Her features were a touch plain to some, but her smile was bright. She had a friendly and caring personality giving her beauty more divine than those born with gorgeous looks. Like many of the Pixies who worked the land her skin was tanned, though some Pixies tanned darker than others. Snowdrop’s was the color of butterscotch.
Pixie women were usually around eight or nine inches tall, but Snowdrop stood eye level with Dogwood at eleven inches. This made her unattractive to some, and she had never married though she was of the same age as Dogwood. In some ways she reminded him of Rosemary, but in others she was vastly different.
“I would gladly spy on two of the most beautiful Pixie-women in all the land,” he replied as Laurel ran over and jumped into his arms for a hug. Snowdrop blushed at the response but Laurel laughed.
“You are shameless, father.”
Laurel had taken most of her features from her mother, except for her nose which was upturned at the end like Dogwood’s mother’s. In everything else she was the spitting image of Rosemary. It was a kind of balm on his soul to see so much of his wife in their daughter—like a part of her would live on forever.
“You make it sound like a bad thing,” he replied, and set her back down on the ground.
“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Either way the two of us need to get cleaned up for the meeting,” Laurel said, and gave a rueful glance at her dirty clothes.
“Yes we do. I’ll be heading off then,” Snowdrop said, and smiled at Laurel.
Snowdrop had moved in next to them a few years ago, after her Clan had dispersed into the larger ones. There had not been any war, like with Dogwood’s clan, but they didn’t have enough of the right magic in the Clan to grow what they needed to support everyone. Integration wasn’t as common as it used to be, but it still happened from time to time.
After she moved in, she and Laurel became fast friends. In a way, they both provided something the other didn’t have: Snowdrop a daughter and Laurel a mother. Snapdragon, Sage’s wife, had been there to help, but she had her own brood to take care of, and they lived on the other side of the Clansland.
“Did you want to go to the meeting with us?” Laurel asked, in that innocent way children do when they think they are pulling one over on their parents.
Snowdrop looked over to Dogwood and raised an eyebrow in question. “I don’t mind if your father doesn’t.”
Dogwood was surprised. To his knowledge she had never shown any interest in him, but on the other hand he didn’t spend too much time at home.
Laurel looked at her father expectantly, and he knew there was only one correct answer.
“Sounds like a plan,” he said. Laurel jumped up in delight and hugged her father again.
“This is great!” With that comment she bounded off into the house, and left Snowdrop and Dogwood in the garden.
The silence grew around them, but neither made a move to leave. As the sun beat down it gave the day a warm and lazy feeling, but never grew too hot. Insects buzzed in the distance, and it lent a kind of drowsy lullaby to the afternoon air. Dogwood looked over and found Snowdrop’s lavender eyes staring at him, and when he caught her at it, she lowered them and blushed.
“I am sorry if I put you on the spot with Laurel. I didn’t mean to,” she said, eyes still downcast. A strand of hair had fallen loose from her braid to rest near her cheek, and drifted in the light breeze. Dogwood suddenly felt the need to brush it back from her face, and the thought caught him off guard.
He cleared his throat and looked away. “Don’t worry about it. You know how Laurel can be. We’ll come around to your house in an hour or so, if that time is okay with you?” he asked, and took a quick glance back at her. Her face seemed to be pondering more than his question, but she nodded in response.
“I’ll see you then,” she said. With that she took to the air and headed next door to her home. Dogwood looked after her for a minute, and then headed into the house through the back door. When he opened it he found his daughter, grinning like a fool, just inside the doorway.
“Not a word out of you, girl. Now go and get cleaned up so I can as well. All your hugging covered me in dirt.”
Laurel laughed and skipped away, like she had been given the best Yule present ever. It left Dogwood wondering if he could really find someone to spend his life with again. He rubbed his temples and put the matter out of his mind until later. Personal quandaries would have to wait as the meeting loomed ahead of him, along with a potential war threatening the current peace of the Clansland.
He muttered darkly about the youthful naiveté of the younger people in the Clan, and prepared for the impending disaster at the meeting tonight.