The fairy cottage appeared in the distance, surrounded by flowers of every hue. Their perfume drifting up to meet the late summer breeze, a breeze that was promising rain.
Local folklore said that if you offered the one inside the stone cottage a present of a silver coin or small treasure then they may grant you one wish.
The well-trod path leading to the blue-painted door stretched out before her and without a backwood glance, she moved up it, somehow taking comfort that many had also walked along the same path before her. With a timid hand, she knocked once, and once more at the door. It opened before her allowing the sun to highlight dancing dust motes.
“H… hello,” she called softly.
“Come in pretty one,” a voice answered her.
“I’ve come to ask a favour,” her bravery made her say but her fear kept her rooted to the doorstep.
“Let me look at you,” the voice, although pleasant sounding, gave her a feeling of fear made sharper by the shudder that ran down her back.
“I brought you a present, see,” she held her hand out to show the silver token she’d brought with her.
“You are too far away, my pretty, I can’t see.”
Sarah looked down at the coin in her hand and slowly took a tiptoe step forward entering over the threshold. The darkness of the cottage swallowed her up and she felt herself grow cold.
“H….here…” she whispered looking at the coin shining in her hand as she held it out.
“And what is the wish that you want my pretty?”
A match struck and the flash of light startled her making her jump back before it was used to light a candle. Not that it offered much in the way of illumination, highlighting instead all the dark shadows that danced around the room.
“I have a love…”
“Lucky my dear, there are many that wish for true love to come,” the crone laughed.
“He is at war,” she continued.
“And you wish him home with his boots under your bed,” the crone muttered with a salacious laugh.
Sarah felt her face flaming and pressed her lips together to stop the hasty denial that rushed to be spoken. “My wish is not about him,” she felt her anxiousness rise as she thought about what she was asking. “No, it is the harvest that is coming. All signs are that there is rain coming and we will fail to get it in in time and with no harvest, we will starve this coming winter.”
“So your wish is for the harvest to succeed child? That is a lot of wish for such a small token!”
She felt the weight of the crone’s sneer directed at her as she looked at the small coin in her hand. “I wish…” she began. “For the sun to shine long enough to get the hay in.”
Sarah closed her eyes feeling her last smidgeon of bravery deserting her as she uttered her one wish, her hand closing around and clutching at the silver coin. This was silly. No-one could change the weather, no-one could alter the fate of the harvest. Why had she come here? What foolishness had prompted her to believe in folklore?
Her eyes shot open at the crone’s word and she opened up her hand to offer the coin only to see her hand empty. “Wha..” she cried out.
Sarah uttered a hasty thank you before she spun around and darted out of the cottage feeling bright sun meeting her as she ran back up the path and past the bright flowers.
The crone watched the slip of a girl dart out of her cottage, running as though she was being chased her long skirt whipping around her legs as she ran, before glancing at the silver coin in her hand. Just yesterday someone had been at her door asking for their wish and soon another one would come along requesting something else. She didn’t have the heart to tell them that she was just an old woman in a cottage with no magical powers. Until the next visitor turned up she’d just rest a while in her rocking chair with her cat on her lap.