Bert’s heart raced as he snuck through the night, the full moon’s pale light barely bright enough to stop him from stumbling over any roots. It was said that on nights like this, the fae danced up on the hill, and that no mortal who’d set their eyes on them had ever returned. Nobody would dare to go there; most didn’t even dare to talk about it.
But Bert couldn’t help his curiosity. There was a reason he was known as the local oddball; he had to know if the rumours were true. And someone had to have returned, or there wouldn’t have been anyone to tell the tales.
As he neared the hill, he could hear a myriad of voices, each just a little bit clearer than a human’s voice could be. Maybe—probably—he should turn back. But he kept walking.
Soon enough, he could see them, twirling in the moonlight. A breathtaking sight indeed. Their elegance surpassed all but the most graceful humans, and it seemed like a soft glow was emanating from within them.
But even among all this beauty, one fairy in particular caught Bert’s attention. A woman; he would have called her young, but it was said that the fae didn’t age, so who was to say how old she truly was? She stood right in the middle, surrounded by the others, and it seemed like they were competing for her attention. But while she smiled at one or the other, she didn’t take any as a partner to dance, no matter how skilled they were.
Bert stepped closer. A twig snapped under his foot, loud as thunder. The fairies stopped, their attention on the one human who’d dared interrupt their dance. Bert was frozen in place, waiting for what was to come.
“Shall we take care of him, my queen?” One of the fairies took a step towards Bert, but the woman held up her hand.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” She left the circle, the other fae watching in silence as she neared Bert. “What’s your name, human?”
“Well, most people around town just call me Bert.” He barely dared to look at her. “Sorry for the intrusion.”
The fairy queen just smiled. “I’m known as Mary Poppins. Why don’t you join us in this dance, Bert?”
“I’d love to, ma’am.” Bert made a hasty bow, but the queen already returned to the waiting fairies. Bert hurried after her, and while the others looked at him with suspicion in their eyes, the music soon resumed, and so did their dancing.
Of course, Bert could never hope to match the elegance of those around him; compared to the fairies, he looked like a toddler stomping around. But it wasn’t the first time he stood out of a crowd. If he couldn’t hope to match their skill, he might as well forego formal dance etiquette and just do what he felt like doing. Jumping, twisting, turning—had this been a human ball, he would have been shown the door in a heartbeat.
In the midst of it, he could hear the queen laugh, a sound pure as a wind chime. She held out her hand. “Bert, may I ask for this dance?”
“Well, sure.” On second thought, maybe a fairy queen required a more formal manner of speaking, but it was too late for that now. So Bert just took her hand and let her lead him to the middle of the circle.
And there they danced until the sky brightened, sunrise just around the corner. The music quieted down, then stopped, as did their dance.
“I have to take my leave now, Bert.” A sad smile played on the queen’s lips. “But perhaps if you agree to join us once more when the moon is full again, I can reveal to you how to find us any day of the month.”
Bert nodded. “I’d love to join you again.”
He could feel a lot of eyes on him when the queen cupped his face to place a kiss on his cheek. Warmth spread through his body, making him feel like he could do anything.
“Fare well then, Bert. Until the next full moon.” The fae stepped back, and disappeared without a trace.
“Until then, Mary Poppins.” Bert, meanwhile, headed back towards the town, humming a tune not quite of this world with a smile on his face.