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Once upon a time there was a little fairy man who lost his wings. “Goblin,” they called him, and threw him out among the other wingless fay. But he did not fit among the goblins, for his heart was too pure.

One goblin took pity on him. “See here. This fruit will make you like us. Then you will no longer be an outcast. Here, take some.”

The little man looked at the goblin, but he did not take the fruit. He had seen the way the goblins lived, and he wanted no part in that. Goblins were cruel and greedy, and ugly on the inside and out.

Sensing that the goblin would not like no for an answer, he held his breath and vanished, scurrying up a tree and out of sight. Though he mourned his wings, he learned to live without them. He became clever as he lived among the trees and forest floor, but he never lost his kindness.

One day, he came upon a little woman who could shape shift. She had hair as soft as thistledown and skin as brown as a nut. Whenever he approached, off she would dash in the form of a hare.

He returned often to the spot where he had seen her. And in time, he began to leave gifts for her. The first was a wreath of daisy chains for her hair. The second, a clutch of salmon berries. And the third, a scroll of birch bark written on in blackberry ink.

But she didn’t like much what he wrote. She stamped her little foot and demanded that he come out and say it to her face.

“I’d rather not, Little Fury,” he called.

This pleased her. “Continue.”

“Continue what?”

“What else would you call me?”

He blushed. “Pretty.”

She swept back her hair from her face, and two large, pointed ears peeked out. “Oh really? I have large ears.”

He took a step forward. “I have rough hands from tree-climbing.”

“I have a rough tongue.”

He took a few more steps forward, and out into a slanting bit of light. “I have no wings.”

She looked him up and down. “Hmm,” was all she said. And then she shifted shape and bounded off.

Little Fury was very busy in the days that followed. There was spider’s silk to be gathered, rainbows to be garnered, and a bit of moonlight to be teased out of a stream. But at last, her creation was ready.

He was waiting in the same glade she had left him, an array of discarded birch scrolls around him. She held out her creation. “Here.” He turned, and when he saw what she held, he nearly wept.

“Turn around,” she instructed. And he did so. With a bit of blood from her finger, she sealed the wings to his back. “The next person who tries to steal these wings will have to go through me first.”

And then she sat herself down and began to go through all his discarded bits of birch bark. And she liked them very much.