The basket was well packed, with sausage and fine mead. But Nan still looked concerned.
“Where does she live, your cousin?” asked Kirsjan, taking charge. That was his way.
“Oh, you are good children, helpful and well raised. Follow the road that starts by the west gate.”
Lily was rapt: “The misty road, the road that calls your name?”
“Hush, Lily, now. Your nonsense is amiss.” Kirsjan was stern.
“Your sister’s right, that road is full of wiles. Mind you don’t stray, don’t dally or detour, and you’ll be safe.” But Nan looked unconvinced.
Kirsjan sensed this: “That misty road, winding between the ancient sycamores, smells of good mushrooms and of partridge nests. Were we to stray, we would be quite safe.”
“Kirsjan, my boy, you have your city ways. But mind my words: that forest is not mild. The vapours hide mysterious things and stuff from fairies’ tales. Creatures that weave their mounts from morning dew; that harness foxes and sing to fallen stars. An ancient path it is, agreed and safe: but step outside and you are fairies’ prey. They’ll turn you into starlings and teach you how to fly.”
Kirsjan and Lily were thoughtful then. The words rang true. The path was of our world; the woods were not. They looked upon each other, and a choice was made.
And to this day, upon the ancient path, you may still hear a starling’s crystal laugh.