(A story read at the Family Service on 5th November 2017)elf red

It was dusk. A cornflower blue sky deepened around the brother and sister as they snuggled in their sleeping bags by their small campfire. He was six and she was ten. Each was feeling warm and sleepy after a day of walking high in the mountains with their parents.

‘Tell me a story’ the boy said to his sister for the second time, his eyes now closing. ‘No, your turn’ she whispered, too drowsy to think.

And together they fell silent, the only sound in the air was the crackle of the fire and the gentle clinking as their parents, just out of sight, washed the pots and pans from dinner.

Then suddenly, a spark caught the boy’s eye. He nudged his sister awake. The sky was black and something was in the fire. Like crystal, fiery, magical shimmers of colour streaked through the yellow fire.

Neither child spoke for a long time. Then the girl said ‘it’s like dancing ...’

‘And dancing we are!’ shot back a voice from the fire. From the fire? It was a voice in only the strangest sense of the word. High and thin, like the squeal of pitch escaping from a burning log. The children were amazed but not afraid. This dancing light, this tiny voice filled them with something just a little magical.

‘What’s that in our fire?’ the girl asked at last. ‘Are you alive?’

‘Very alive and very powerful – as alive as every flame that licks the forest with its hot tongue and awakens the valley with its roar!’ screeched the voice, through the crackling flames.

‘Oh, that sounds scary’ said the boy.

‘Hush, now ...they’re just children. Remember the Light is strong in children’ another fiery voice called out, deeper and stronger than the first. ‘And they are young, like you’ the deeper voice added. ‘Yes, we are alive and always ready to give warmth and light and heat and energy and power’.

For a long time, there was no other sound but the snap and spit of the logs, no other light than the flame and embers they had seen on many trips to the mountains.

Then just as the boy and girl began to nod off, once more it happened. Spectacular fountains of coloured light rose and swirled above the fire, which had become larger now. On every log, the yellow flame was separating into many more brilliant lights. Swaying, leaping, swirling, their shapes becoming like dancers.

The girl and boy looked at each other in delight. How was it that, at this moment, on this mountain, in the deep of black night, they were watching such wonder?

‘I can tell by your eyes we’re the first you have seen’ the lower voice sighed warmly from the fire. ‘The first! The first! Let us show them, then, the glory of the Fire Fairies!’ squealed the smaller voice. And the sky became a theatre of exquisite light and colour.

The boy, who had sometimes feared the dark, exclaimed to his sister, amazed at the sight before him. The girl wondered aloud, where did these dancing lights come from and why were they here?

‘The Inner Light’ said the deeper voice. ‘You may forget about it soon, my child, as all the people of flesh and bone seem to do in time. Unless you learn how to tend it while you are still young enough to remember its power’.

Though she was only ten, the girl understood, although it was hard to put into words.

‘Hard to put into words, yes’ agreed the deep voice, knowing her thoughts. ‘But you must try, you see. And often. That is at the heart of the tending’.

Perhaps it was the night air or the excitement of this incredible discovery, but the girl suddenly spoke exactly what she thought. ‘The Inner Light is the place in me where the joyful things live – like hope and wonder and surprise and believing – like believing in this night’ she said. ‘The Inner Light is the place where I connect with everything, know that I am linked to everything and that everything is – well – everything is love!’

The boy, though six, was especially full of the Light and so, young as he was, he spoke clearly of things that might confuse one much older. ‘The Inner Light is my magic. And my power to see magic ... like fairies and gnomes and my guides and angels. The Inner Light’ said the boy with a smile ‘is the power to see the most wonderful things, even when no-one else can see them. Yes, and to see it alight in everyone else too!’

‘Interesting!’ ‘Delightful!’ ‘A dance for the boy!’ sang many voices at once from the fire. ‘May you remember your Inner Light forever’ said the deep voice after a long, glimmering dance in, around and above the fire. ‘The Inner Light is about believing’.

‘I know’ said the boy. ‘I know’ agreed the girl softly.

‘You know’ sang the fairies, now spreading so far across the sky that the boy wondered if others, if his parents, might be awoken by the light and colour and their strange song. ‘You KNOW’. Sparkling, bursting rivers of fiery colour then filled the eyes of the brother and sister, as they watched side by side.

Later the fire was nothing but a charred piece of log when the distant sun rose to begin a new day on the mountain.

The boy and girl sat up. And yawned. And wriggled out of their sleeping bags to join their parents for a breakfast of eggy bread and beans.

And they said absolutely nothing about the night before. About whether it was real. Or dreamt.

They KNEW.