Can you believe we’re done??? Enjoy!
Amelia knelt next to the clay washtub, holding her hypha under the water as she rubbed the grime off of it. All of the fairy-women in the colony were sitting outside her little house, scrubbing the last few mycelium that the men had brought. Most of the ferns had been torn up in the eager hunt for mycelium. Amelia had loved roaming through the forest of waving fronds, but she couldn’t feel regret at the moment. She was too happy that there was food—and too overwhelmed that she was regarded as a hero. If everyone had known that she had almost kept her find a secret. . . she felt like they were giving her too much credit, but she couldn’t quite find the words to tell anyone.
Finally satisfied with her cleaning, Amelia tossed the hypha into the basket woven out of tulip leaves that sat beside her. The last of the mycelium was thrown into another basket beside her, as the men—including King Titus and Ryan—scrambled out of the ditch they had dug. A cheer went up as Queen Elva, who had been directing the women, shouted, “Done!”
“Pour the water out, and bring the tubs and baskets up to the castle,” King Titus called, shouting so everyone could hear him as he rubbed his muddy hands together. “Our chefs will start preparation immediately for a mushroom feast!”
The fairies flew into action pouring the wash-water out of the tubs. They swung baskets onto their shoulders, men doubling up to carry the heaviest ones, as they started off toward the castle, singing. Enough food to have feasts again! No wonder spirits were unusually high.
Amelia grabbed the rim of the nearest tub and heaved it upwards to tip the water out. “Excuse me, do you mind?” She looked up to see Ryan standing in front of her, awkwardly holding out his dirty hands. She set the tub on the ground and stepped back as he scrubbed his hands in it. “Everyone else is going to wash up at the castle; this water isn’t the cleanest after all the mycelium we’ve dunked in it,” she said, and then hoped it hadn’t sounded rude.
“I know,” Ryan answered, grinning. “But I need the mud off my hands.”
Amelia desperately wanted to say “why?”, but she didn’t trust herself after all the blunders she’d made recently. Why was she suddenly uncomfortable talking to Ryan? Hadn’t he—
The young prince straightened, rubbed his wet hands on his pants, and started digging in his pocket. “I didn’t want to get this muddy,” he explained, finally pulling his hand out. He held what he had retrieved out towards her. “Here, I made this for you.”
Amelia wiped her own wet hands on her skirt and carefully took it. It was a little wooden charm, and carved into it was a mushroom with long, branching roots—or mycelium. “Thanks,” she stammered, suddenly aware of the simple string of amber beads around her neck. Did he notice? “It-it’s pretty.”
“Just imagine where we’d be if it weren’t for you!” Ryan said, dumping out the tub and sending little streams of water out across the ground in a tiny delta.
“Ryan, it isn’t really so grand as you think,” Amelia confessed. “I didn’t want to give the silly mushroom up. I. . . I almost didn’t bring it.”
He picked up the tub with one hand and caught her by the elbow with the other, tugging her playfully along after the rest of the fairies, who were almost out of sight. “Yes, but you did. And that’s all that counts.”