Brownies are members of the lesser fae (fairies) that have a penchant for cleaning. I need a few to move into my house…
“No one cares for the brownies anymore,” I grumbled as I swept my broom over the dusty hall. The stones of Magik Prep Academy had hundreds of years of magic stored in them. Unfortunately, that did nothing to dislodge the dirt and grime from student traffic during the day.
I grunted as my lower back twinged again. I straightened and narrowly missed slinging my long white beard right into the bucket of soapy water.
“What next,” I muttered. “Soon they’ll forget to feed me and then I’ll have every reason to back out of this cleaning contract.” I stomped and then coughed as a cloud of powdery violet magic came loose.
Rolling my eyes, I swirled my finger in the air and made the magic useful. The loose bits flung themselves down and scattered the dirt into the air.
Cupping my hands, I sucked the air through and brought the dust whirling in like a tornado and straight into my waiting bucket.
Nodding in satisfaction I shook my beard out where a stray string of green magic clung like a barnacle.
“Off, you pesky thing!” I frowned at the offending string and would have said more to it, but my overly large ears picked up the faintest sniffle.
Odd. It was far too late for students to still be afoot. They should all be at the dormitories or off doing whatever teenage creatures did. Only we brownies and the old ogre that made up the cleaning staff were still here at this time of night.
Finding the sniffle of more interest than polishing the flagstones, I hobbled off in the direction of the interruption.
I passed half a dozen empty classrooms and finally came to the cloistered courtyard open to the air and bathed in the magenta glow from the fading sunlight. And there, huddled miserably against an ancient stone wall, was a lump.
A large lump compared to me.
“I say, why be you here?” I called up to the lump when I was in speaking distance.
A head jerked up; tear tracks visible on the pale cheeks.
“Oh, bless my soul, you’re a faun. What be you doing here? It’s after hours, laddie.”
The young faun just looked at me, surprise and maybe a dash of fear lingering in the dark brown eyes below the mop of curly hair and little horn buds.
“I…what are you?”
“Saints preserve us. What do they teach at this school? I’m a brownie. Have ye never heard of us wee folk?”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I’m new here.” He cleared his throat. “No, I’ve never seen a brownie.”
I raised a bushy eyebrow.
“But I read about one once?” he offered hopefully.
I rolled my eyes and blew a raspberry through my lips.
“And what be a young laddie like you be doing out here at this time of the evening?” I didn’t like repeating myself, but the poor thing looked right miserable.
He scrubbed his wet cheeks then wrapped his arms around his knees.
“It’s my first time here. I…I was feeling a little homesick. I didn’t want the other boys to see.”
“Aye. The sun always shines brighter on the morrow. There, there. Haven’t ye got any friends here?”
The brown curls shook, and his lips tugged down.
“No. I’m the eldest of my clan. I’m the first since my parent’s generation to board here at Magik Prep. And it’s not that I’m ungrateful!” he added quickly. “I’m just…lonely. I’ve never been away from home. The other fauns have been here longer. They all know each other and know all the rules of the school. I don’t.”
Poor lad was lonesome. I knew how that was. My old cantankerous heart stretched a mite as a seed of compassion bloomed.
“I know how that is, laddie. Ye didn’t know me now, did ye? Most folks have forgotten us brownies even exist. And for the most part, so long as we’re fed, we’re happy to go on about our business. But it does get lonely, being forgotten.”
The faun nodded.
“I tell you what. You see this stubborn string of green magic here?” I tugged the silly thing free of my beard and coiled it around my finger. “You take this here to class with you tomorrow. You put it in your hand and see if it doesn’t point to another lonesome student. Then the two of you can befriend each other. There’s no rules saying you have to keep to your own kind. Magik Prep has more mix breeds and off shoots and oddities than I’ve got whiskers.” I shook my heavy white beard for emphasis, then placed the coil of magic into his hand. His eyes lit up like I’d given him a great treasure. I sprinkled a dash of my own brownie magic on the coil to be sure it behaved itself.
“Thank you,” he said reverently.
I patted his hoof. “You go find yourself a friend. And if no one else in the whole school is lonely, you just come on back here and I’ll keep you company myself.” I cracked a rare grin.
“I will. Even if I find a friend. I mean, if you’d like the company.”
A laugh bubbled right up. “What be your name, boy?”
“Pleased to meet you, Alek. You go on. You may see me time to time. And I’ll be around if you need.”
“Thank you, Mr…”
“Milis. Just plain old Milis.”
“I will remember you, Mr. Milis.” The brown eyes held a sincerity that I hadn’t seen in a long time and it warmed my old bones right down to the marrow.
“You go on now, before it gets full dark, young Alek. Go find someone tomorrow that needs a friend worse than you.”
A smile tipped one corner of his mouth.
I found an odd jaunt to my steps the next evening as I cleaned. I hurried with my regular cleaning, intent on checking for my lump of a friend.
He was not there, but what he left behind brought a smile to my lips and set my belly grumbling.
I picked up the note, which was nearly as large as me.
I haven’t forgotten you. I used your green magic coil today and I think I’ve made a friend. I was invited to go bowling tonight, but I didn’t want you to be lonely either. I did some research, and brownies are supposed to love cream. I hope this is alright.
I’ll visit you soon.
I inhaled the sweet aroma from the bowl of fresh cream. Not forgotten indeed.