The baby was born sickly, and it hadn’t gotten any easier for Joan and David since then. David was spending his days in the fields, and Joan was still recovering. The baby wasn’t eating, slept too much, and was turning kind of yellow. It was a little more than Gillie, the Brownie of the simple cottage, could handle. He lived in the walls and when the family was asleep he came out to clean up and make sure everything was just so. In exchange, David made sure he left some food and a little bit of beer in the stone bowl on the floor. Gillie’s bowl.
The two-foot tall, slender creature had watched with interest as Joan’s tummy grew, wondering how the woman could put on so much weight so quickly. When a tiny human came out of her it was all Gillie could do not to scream, but everything was okay. Joan was tired but alive, and the big humans were happy. Now though, they knew something was wrong, and it was Gillie’s job to make sure that everything was just so. Gillie had to fix the baby.
Brownies are very strong for their size, otherwise they could never lift the furniture to clean under it, so carrying a baby was no big deal; it was really a question of timing. Gillie waited until late at night on the full moon; it had to be the full moon if the pixie was going to work his magic. Gillie climbed up, picked up the baby carefully, so the little thing wouldn’t wake, and jumped back down to the floor, scurrying off and out the door.
“I’ve got to get you off to the Crick Stones, little one,” Gillie chirped in his high-pitched voice. “If I pass you through the circle stone seven times while the moon is full, the pixie will have to heal you. You’ll see. Everything will be just so.”
The baby gurgled in her sleep.
It didn’t take long to reach the Crick Stones, and Gillie looked around quickly. “Burfie!” Gillie called. “Are you here? I need your help to fix the baby.”
Another Brownie poked her head out from behind one of the standing stones, and darted over. Her voice was even higher than Gillie’s. “Here you are! I’ve been waiting almost ten minutes, and I still have my whole cottage to clean tonight. And the outhouse, since it’s Thursday. You’re sure you want to do this?”
“I’m going to fix the baby, and the pixie’s the only way. We have to make things just so.”
“Fine,” Burfie sighed. “Let’s get this thing done already.”
The two Brownies positioned themselves to either side of the circular standing stone. Gillie hefted the baby in both outstretched arms and passed her through the hole to Burfie feet first.
“What’s this then?” A creature walked out of a hole in the ground nearby. It was about six inches tall with dainty translucent wings, a beer belly hanging over the edge of its pants, and a scraggly brown beard. “Who’s come to my stones? I was having a lovely dream about the fairy queen that I think was going to make my top ten list.” The pixie was carrying a knife made from a sharpened bit of shell, and he gestured at the baby. “What’s this, Brownie?”
“Gub, you have to fix the baby. We’re passing her through backwards seven times,” Gillie said, sidling away from the pixie. “Please hurry! I have to get her back to my family before they notice.”
“Seven times? Don’t need to. Maybe I’ll just take a finger or two from the fat thing as payment if you’re in such a rush.”
“No!” Gillie shrieked, and furiously shoved the baby back through the circular hole to Burfie. “Six more times, quickly.”
The pixie reached up to remove a finger from the baby as they passed, but couldn’t get close enough, they moved the baby so quickly. When the seventh pass was done, a brief spark shot out and sizzled against Gub’s hand, and he dropped the knife.
“Fine, fine, fine.” The pixie rubbed his sore hand and looked at the baby. “Pfff! This is an easy one. Baby has jaundice, I can cure it like that.” The overweight pixie snapped his fingers, and a light emanated from his hand, sailing up the baby’s nose. The baby glowed slightly, then settled back into sleep. “Now bugger off! It’s the middle of the night.” The pixie turned and went back into his hole, scratching himself.
Gillie hurried back to the cottage with the baby, and things were not just so. The lights were on, and the front door was open. Gillie could see Joan’s face in the window, and David was outside looking for signs of the child. Gillie gasped and ran towards the house, sticking to the shadows and using what little bit of magic he possessed to keep hidden from the big folk. He made it to the wall near the door and snuck past David into the house without being seen.
Here it was brightly lit by oil lamps and he needed to be quiet so Joan wouldn’t turn around. He could hear her crying. He made his way back to the child’s crib and got the girl safely under her blanket. He headed back towards his hole in the wall. When he got there, he used one last little bit of magic to shake the crib and wake the baby, who began to cry loudly.
Joan came running and Gillie relaxed when he heard the woman’s cries of happiness. He hoped that his family wouldn’t be too angry at him.
The next night, Gillie came out of his hole to begin cleaning, and when he checked his stone bowl, he found a fine set of clothes, a whole chicken leg, and a teacup full of beer. Joan and David weren’t angry after all.
Ben Nein lives and writes in Winnipeg, Canada. You can also see his work at 101 Words.