The fairy king made them swear to tell no one where he had gone, and he commanded them not to open the portal until he succeeded in wooing Willow.
“I expect it will only be a few days,” he told them.
“Would you like a copy of the Human Handbook?” asked one of his friends.
The fairy king gave a dismissive wave. “I remember enough about humans.”
“Shall I fetch a pack for you?”
“That will not be necessary. I will stay with Willow.”
One of his buddies laughed. “Very crafty. Her house is tiny. Barely a garden to speak of. Not even a hammock.”
“No hammocks?” gasped someone else. “Barbarians.”
Placing his hand on his forehead, the fairy king feigned swooning and then worked with the others to open the portal, which activated with the pollen of magenta flowers.
In order to open the portal, the fairies had to coax the flowers hanging about the throne room to open and huff and puff neon pollen about the room. Normally the fairy king would summon some bee servants to handle this, because the air turned heavy and it made his clothes reek of something like saffron and sugar.
But he laughed—maybe a little drunk—NONSENSE—and ran about the room with the others, whisking the pollen about with long brooms stolen from a mushroom supply closet. He was giddy with the thought of success, perhaps his greatest conquest and the stories that would come from Willow’s defection and epic return on his arm.
The blossoms spilled from pots mounted on the wall. Usually the flowers smelled like laundered silk, save for the day when Willow tricked a servant into watering them with pineapple juice. For some reason that made them jittery, and pollen billowed all over the kingdom and sent off all the portals, allowing her to escape through his own throne room.
“Be sure to air out the throne room afterward,” he added. “I will be back soon enough.”
He might have taken another sip of nectar wine, shoved into his hand by another buddy. Leggy was going to miss his grand exit. Well, no real loss, he supposed.
With a wave of his arm and a flash of his magic, he left his friends and family behind. Shouts of encouragement rang in his ears as he shed his fairy form for a human disguise sans wings and his features altered to make a plainer, but still handsome, man.
The fairy king appeared in front of Willow’s human house.
At least, he hoped it was her house. There was something certainly Willow-y about it: dainty green shutters and a rounded door. Tiny, he noted. Peasantry tiny.
But the hovel appeared well loved; he was gracious enough to admit that to himself.
He stood beside the flowerbed full of bluebells and squashed tulips, shaking his head at the pitiful sight. “Poor Willow.”
With the flush of compassion, he walked over to her door and knocked. Through the pollution, he made out the sun setting on the horizon and grimaced. Everyone seemed packed together here, like grubs in a potato. Or something.
He rubbed his forehead. Maybe he was a little drunk. He knocked again.
The door swung open.