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It was the music that caught Peter’s attention. At first he just heard drums, a faint beat from somewhere off in the distance that promised excitement.

He stepped off the path and crept through the woods towards the sound, and gradually the high notes of pipes and harps joined the throbbing beat of the drums.

He peered over a bush and gasped. In a clearing just beyond lay a most wondrous sight. Dozens of tiny people were gathered there, dancing merrily in a great circle around their musicians. They seemed as if they were made out of starlight, and they were all dressed in little scraps; in ribbons and torn shirt-cuffs, and some wore buttons as giant brooches or as hats.

As he stared, he leaned forward, and before he knew it a branch snapped under his hand. The musicians dropped their instruments, and the pixies stopped dancing, turning to look and falling over each other.

For a moment, nobody moved. Then the pixies picked up their instruments again and struck up a new tune. Peter found his feet moving to the beat, his body helplessly drawn through the bush and into the clearing. The pixies formed up around him in a grand parade as they marched to the beat, going deeper into the woods.

Peter knew at that moment that he was in great trouble. His grandmother had often told him not to step off the path or the pixies would lead him away, never to be seen again, and he had always dismissed it as the superstitions of an old lady. How foolish he had been, he thought! She obviously knew a great deal, and he vowed never to dismiss anything she told him ever again.

That was assuming that he could get home for her to tell him anything.

As the pixie parade danced through the woods, Peter reached up and broke the branches of the trees he passed, marking a path he hoped to follow on the way back, while he struggled to remember everything his grandmother had told him about the pixies.

They hated church bells, he remembered her saying. That wasn’t much help to him. The nearest church was miles and miles away, the bells out of earshot.

They loved horses, she had said. They loved to steal them away, riding them all night and returning them with tangled ringlets in their manes. Also not much help.

As the pixies led him through the trees, the branches caught and grabbed at his coat, tugging it almost completely off his shoulder.

“Of course!”

The pixies didn’t seem to notice his cry. They danced on, leading Peter deeper as he struggled out of his coat and wrestled with the sleeves. He pulled his coat back on inside-out, and stumbled as his feet abruptly came back under his own control.

“Thank you Grandma,” he shouted as he turned and ran back through the woods.

© Kari Fay

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