Toad Attack

I’ve received a request from a lovely young lady for a story about fairies. What a great idea! And I thought to make the story more whimsical, or maybe just goofy, than usual. Which brought to mind a snippet of a story a fiend helped me start years ago that I never finished.

So this story is dedicated to two wonderful ladies.

Jael – for such a great story idea! May your own writing and reading always be an adventure.

and

Marjorie – who gave me the image of Squirrel Ivan Van Hoven. Your imagination is delightful.

Now on to the story!

Toad Attack

Moira raced with the shadow of a bird. The red-feathered hawk flew above her, high in the sky with its wings stretched to catch the current of the wind. Flapping her wings as hard as she could, she tried to keep her own shadow inline with the bird’s as it flew across the ground, the trees, the brush.

The larger shadow paced ahead and was gone with a single flap of the hawk’s wings. Moira settled on a juniper bush and slumped. She’d never be fast enough. Her shoulders ached by what most fairies could do without exerting themselves. She’d been born too small to be of much use.

Miniature Moira. It was the term the others teased her with when she couldn’t keep up.

The wind played through the bush, swaying it beneath her feet. Maybe a moment with the wind would cheer her. Rising into the air, Moira hovered in the leaves of an aspen tree, enjoying the play of the wind across her wings and the smell of new leaves in the air. If she moved her wings just enough to flutter with the leaves, she could hold the position for hours. Too bad she couldn’t maintain speed that way.

A squirrel scampered into the field in front of her.

Moira sucked in a breath to call a greeting but then the air whooshed from her without sound. The squirrel clutched a small paper sack in one paw. He boasted two crooked front teeth and two hairs sticking straight up from the top of his reddish head.

When he pulled out the sandwich, Moira’s doubt disappeared. Squirrel Ivan Van Hoven, sworn enemy of anything with wings. He hated fairies for their ability to make non-winged creatures fly since he found it the cruelest choice of nature to make a flying squirrel—without wings.

Beside him on the log settled a toad the size of a rabbit.

“They’ll never see you coming.” The words sprayed from the squirrel’s mouth along with globs of boysenberry jam from his sandwich. He was obviously picking up on a conversation Moira had missed.

She shuddered, then stilled, as the squirrel looked her way.

“How many do you need?” the toad eyed the sandwich for the yellow bees stuffed between the slices of bread.

Moira held in another shudder. Boysenberries and bees on wheat. It was Squirrel Van Hoven’s trademark.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

“Ten or so,” he answered while catching a bee that escaped his bite and stuffing it back in between the bread.

Squirrel Van Hoven had launched an attack against the fairies six months before. He’d allied with mosquitoes then but had been thwarted by netting the fairies made from moss.

The toad was new. She’d never heard of the squirrel working with toads but that wasn’t important, their plan was.

“You’re sure?” the toad croaked.

“Positive. Ten fairies for their wings. You produce that and you can have my stash of bees.” He held out the sandwich as proof.

Ten fairies. It was the perfect number. Mixed with a few other choice ingredients, the wings would make Squirrel Van Hoven float…indefinitely.

The toad’s tongue flicked across his narrow lips and he rumbled a croak deep in his throat.

“Done,” he said. With one bound he was back in the trees and gone from sight.

Squirrel Van Hoven bit into his sandwich and chewed slowly. He caught a blob of jam escaping from the back of the bread. Instead of licking his paw clean, he spit on it, and then he pulled back and pitched the jam at Moira.

The sticky mess splattered the leaves and her wings and weighed her to the ground.

“Spying?” Squirrel Van Hoven chuckled. “Fairies make poor spies. You glitter your dust with every flap of your wings.” His crooked toothed grin was smeared with jam. “Good luck warning your friends. That jam won’t come off for days.” Cackling and dripping jam, he scampered from the clearing.

Moira pulled a wing around to inspect the damage. Her fingers stuck to the gossamer.

“Ich!” She tried to pull free but whatever Squirrel Van Hoven used in his jam glued her fingers to her wings. “No, no, no…” she muttered. She had to warn the fairies of the toad’s attack but without her wings she’d never make it home in time. She’d barely make it in time even if she left right away.

“Spit on it.”

“What?” Moira didn’t see anyone near her.

“Spit on it.”

Her eyes swung to the ground. In a glob of jam dropped from the squirrel’s sandwich was a bee.

“How do you think he eats the stuff without gluing himself to everything?” the bee asked.

“His spit?” Moira recoiled.

“Any spit will work.” The bee worked on his own body, spitting and working it into the jam stuck to his wings. Clearly it was working.

“Yuk,” Moira spit on her fingers. With a bit of work, her hands came clean but the damage to her wings was extensive.

“This’ll take forever,” she moaned, holding one wing carefully by the top edge.

The bee, done with himself, buzzed over.

“It is bad,” he buzzed. “I’ll find help.”

“No! Wait!” But the bee was gone. “Warn the fairies.” She said to the thin air. Her own problem was small compared to the squirrel’s plan.

Moira went back to cleaning her wings, spitting on her palms and working globs of jam out of the gossamer.

Mr. Squirrel Van Hoven certainly knew what he was about. By hitting her wings, he’d not only grounded her but stopped her ability to produce fairy dust.

Without the dust, she couldn’t float home either.

A particularly large spot of jam stuck a section of wing to the top of her shoulder.

Moira had almost worked it free when a hum reached her ears. It grew in volume until it droned, vibrating the air around her. The sky filled with yellow bodies and the bee from earlier landed in front of her.

“Brought a friend or two and half my cousins,” he said, gesturing at bees landing all around him.

“Go warn the fairies!” Moira shooed them away.

“Other half of the cousins have that covered,” the bee waved at the sky where a mass of others still flew.

“Oh,” she felt a tug and turned to find several bees spitting on her wings.

“You’re spitting on me!”

“You’ll smell sweet,” several buzzed back.

Moira couldn’t think of a response. Their legs as they worked felt like the tingles she got when she put her feet to sleep, except there was no pain, just tingle.

“There you go.”

The bees held out her wings and dust glittered in a cloud around them.

Several of them caught by it started to float without moving their wings.

“Oops,” Moira caught them before they floated away.

“The toads are coming!” The cry was faint, shouted by a tiny bee high in the air, but it caught everyone’s attention. “They’ve got boysenberry bombs!”

***

Leaf barriers, hastily woven together, surrounded the fairy trees. The bees brought their honey and were fast making bombs to slow the toad attack down.

“It won’t be enough,” Elder Leah worried.

Moira caught the elder’s hands to keep her from wringing them together.

“Why not?’

“The toads can move with honey all over them. We get hit once and we’re done. Even a shield gets weighed down after a single hit.” The elder did a double take at their hands. Using honey, Moira had helped the floating bees stick themselves to the back of her hands to keep them safe while the fairy dust wore off. “Why?” Elder Leah asked.

“Dust,” Moira shrugged. “Wait, dust.”

“What about it? The toads are too big to float.”

“But the boysenberry bombs aren’t.”

The toads pulled the bombs on carts behind them. They’d positioned the carts ten paces from the trees and were constructing catapults to launch the boysenberry globs. It was the only thing giving the fairies time.

The elder shook her head. “We can’t get to them. Flying over the toads would only make us better targets.”

Moira slumped. Twenty-three fairies would never overwhelm the toads.

“What about below ground?”

They both stared at the bee attached to Moira’s hand. “Below ground?”

“It’s not a great friendship, but we honey bees get along okay with yellow jackets and they build their nests below ground, particularly around you fairies because your dust makes great packing for their nests. There’s a nest in the field there.”

The elder shook her head again and Moira’s stomach clenched in disappointment. She was sure the elder’s reasons were good.

“We can’t fit in a yellow jacket’s nest. We’re too big.”

The bee buzzed a negative. “You’re too big. She’s not.”

“I’m not?” Moira said.

“I can’t ask one fairy to take that big of a risk.” The elder countered.

Moira’s stomach clenched harder. “I can do this,” she said. Why did the elder doubt her?

“I can’t ask you…”

“You didn’t. I volunteer.” Moira backed away before Elder Leah could respond. She didn’t want to hear reasons why she wasn’t capable. “Where’s this nest?”

The bee pointed and Moira slipped between the leaf shields. The spot the bee indicated was a small, slanted hole in the ground.

“I’ll fit?”

“It’ll be tight,” the bee released himself from the honey holding him in place and disappeared into the hole.

Moira chuckled. “It’s good to be small, it’s good to be small.”

Head first she crawled into the ground. With her body blocking the light, her surroundings turned pitch black but her ears picked

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

up on the whisper of words between her bee friend and someone else. As she continued forward, those words became clear.

“You want what?”

“Ju-just a quick passing through,” the bee stammered. “Just to where the toads stopped the cart.”

“That’s through the nest. Why should we trust you?”

“We’ve helped you in the past,” Moira spoke up. The ground pressed on all sides and her breath came in short gasps. She wasn’t sure how long she could stand this. “And the squirrel adds you to his sandwiches too.”

The last part she added as an afterthought but she knew it was true. Any bug with wings went into Squirrel Van Hoven’s sandwich but especially yellow bugs. She wasn’t sure why.

“This is an attack from Van Hoven?”

Moira nodded, hoping the yellow jacket could see her and she didn’t have to speak.

“That’s all we need to know,” the yellow jacket’s voice lowered to that angry buzz they always got right before they attacked.

Moira stiffened and jerked within the hole’s confines when the yellow jacket touched her outstretched hand but he didn’t sting her.

“Follow me,” he said.

Without light, Moira could only tell they entered the center of the nest by the change in texture around her. It went from hard packed dirt to something softer, like paper.

“Move carefully.”

She tried but the space was so small she could barely pull herself forward.

“This isn’t working,” the yellow jacket stopped in front of her. “Don’t move a muscle.”

Moira stilled. Movement was all around her and she didn’t want to anger the yellow jackets. A sting to a fairy was poison enough to kill. Stings from dozens of yellow jackets—Moira held in a shudder. Perhaps Elder Leah had a good reason to warn her away from this.

“Hold very still,” the yellow jacket said again. Something touched her arms, her legs, her torso and her wings. Then she was moving forward, being passed from one yellow jacket to the next through the center of their nest.

Moira closed her eyes and held her breath.

“Cool,” the honeybee whispered from somewhere ahead.

“Now you can move on your own. Just follow this tunnel till you reach the surface.”

“Thank you,” Moira whispered. She received dozens of buzzes in return.

Moving forward, she found the tunnel tighter than the other side. It felt like she couldn’t draw breath but there was sunlight up ahead. She was so close.

“Pull on my arm,” she told the honeybee.

His small legs grasped her hand and he pulled. She barely moved.

“Again.”

He heaved backwards and she slid closer to the light. A third pull brought her hand within touching distance of the opening. Threading her fingers into the grass above, Moira hauled herself free.

A deep breath filler her with relief.

The yellow jackets had steered her right. The hole brought her up underneath one of the carts.

“I can’t get to all the carts,” she realized.

“Don’t have to,” the bee whispered back. “Just float these ones and my cousin’ll take care of the rest.”

Moira was about to ask him what he meant when a brown toad turned their way. His catapult looked finished.

Scrambling from beneath the cart, Moira spread her wings and flew in circles over the boysenberry bombs. She’d never tried to produce the dust before but simply flapping her wings seemed to work.

The toad laughed deep in his throat. “They’re too big for you to carry,” he said as he approached the cart.

Moira kept moving but there wasn’t enough dust yet to float the bombs.

“Distract him,” she begged the bee. If the toad caught her, she’d never succeed.

The bee zipped away to fly in the toad’s face. He flew by once, twice, and then the toad swatted him from the air.

“No!” Moira resisted the urge to race to his aid. The boysenberry bombs were starting to lift. Rushing around them two more times, they floated into the air.

But the toad was close. He reached for a floating blob of jam just as a yellow blur zipped forward and shoved it into his face. It exploded all over the toad’s eyes and mouth.

“Ha!” the yellow jacket taunted. “Try to catch me now!” and he zipped away back into his hole.

The other bombs were well above Moira’s head by now. Several honeybees lumbered toward them, much slower than the yellow jacket but undaunted as they surrounded the floating bombs and directed them in the air. Hovering the bombs over the remaining carts, the bees shoved them downward to explode, sticking the cart and the bombs together.

Moira couldn’t help a laugh before she turned to find her friend who’d been swatted into the grass.

She found him a moment later, dazed and humming about the ‘Toad Attack” as he buzzed one wing and not the other.

“Is it broken?” She rushed to help him.

“Nope,” he buzzed, “just ruffled from being hit.” Closer inspection reassured her but she still stuck him to her hand again to take him to the healer. The bee didn’t seem right in the head.

“You did it,” the bee pointed around in a dizzy fashion.

Moira nodded. Without the bombs, the toads were leaving. They couldn’t break through the leaf shields or bring the fairies to the ground where they could be captured.

“Hero of the fairies!” the bee sang at the top of his lungs.

Moira chuckled. It was a good thing the bee had a small voice or his words would have been heard by the Elder Leah who was winging toward them. Even still, the words boosted her like dust and the wind. It felt good to accomplish something.

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer