The gate had blown open during the storm that had raged during the night. Martin looked out the window with growing trepidation. There had been wild things on the move last night, their shouts sometimes louder than the howling wind.
Martin's wife had left him barely a week into the marriage, certain he was crazy when he told her about the dangers that moved around the edge of the fenced yard, here at the edge of the town and the moors. She'd spread the word to others as well, and now hardly anyone talked to him. If his garden hadn't produced the best local vegetables and herbs, they would likely have ignored him entirely, rather than just calling him Crazy Martin.
"His mother were the same, you know," one gray-haired gram had said as he passed by her just the day before. Mostly deaf, she'd all but shouted the words. "Should ha' realized, a boy raised alone with a woman like that. He needed the firm hand of a man in his life."
She might be right, but it was rather too late now.
Martin wished he hadn't married Nyla but only so they could still be friends. They'd laughed together, there in town. It was only when she moved into the cottage that things had gone badly. He'd tried to warn her about the wild things and when she finally realized that he wasn't joking --
Well, that was past and there was no use dwelling on it. Now he had to deal with the dawn and an open gate. Best, he decided, to simply go out, check the yard and close the gate.
He'd barely stepped off the front step to the stone path when he heard something in the garden and started that way. It leapt up with a yell -- or rather they did: three scraggly haired young boys yelling and shouting.
"Got you, Crazy Martin! Got you! Ha ha ha! We --"
And as one they shut up, their eyes gone large as they stared but not at him. The three boys gave identical cries of alarm and dismay as they charged to the gate and out, wrecking havoc in his garden.
Martin turned and was not surprised to find an unnaturally thin and pale young man standing by the cottage, his long hair tangled with leaves and his piercing green eyes as wide and surprised as the boys had been.
"Ah," the stranger said. He took a limping step forward. "I had not realized they were there. My apologies. This is going to be troublesome, isn't it?"
Martin sighed. "No more so than they already are. You might have scared them enough to keep the little monsters out of my garden." Martin found it odd that he felt so calm, but why not? The inevitable had finally happened and he found it far better to deal with the reality than he had with the years of fear. "You got in when the gate blew open?"
"Yes, we did."
"We?" he said, feeling a little less certain.
Others came from around the side of the cottage, five more in all. Two were women, but the other three were wild things in a whole new sense of the words. The three little fairies were hardly bigger than his hand and glowed with rainbow colors even in the bright sunlight of dawn.
"Can we go inside?" the man asked. "Standing out here just seems to be inviting trouble."
He was right, but inviting them inside? That might be a problem. They were more polite than the villagers had been to him in the last few months. What did he have to lose?
"Please do come in. I have an herbal tea brewing and some honey to sweeten it."
So he led them into the house. At least he was neat in his habits. Oliver, his seven-year-old gray cat might be a problem, but he barely lifted his head.
"Do we need to warn the fairies about the cat?" he asked with some consternation when they began to fly around the animal. Oliver opened one green eye, gave a woof of a sigh, and went back to sleep.
"Cats and fairies get along well," the man said.
The fairies were settling down on Oliver's back, curling up and going to sleep. The cat purred.
"Well, good then. Do please be seated. You all look exhausted."
"Difficult night," one of the women said and threw herself into a chair. The women dressed like the men, but that didn't make them any less pretty -- though the man seemed pretty enough, too. "I'm sorry we had to force your gate open, but we needed behind walls in hopes that the dark riders didn't find us."
That sounded dire. Did he want to know? Should he ask questions? Martin busied himself with making the tea instead, found cups for the three fae -- yes, those were true fae -- sitting at his table and finally took the last chair.
"What should I do?" he asked.
"A wise question, Martin," one of the women said. "And unfair that we learned your name from the rude children and you do not know ours. I am Enda."
"Aba," the other woman said with a bow of her head.
"Garland," the man added. "I think --"
Someone pounded on the door and then threw it open, startling everyone from Martin to the fae, fairies, and even the cat. A large man, red-faced and puffing crowded in.
"How dare you frighten the children with your tales --"
And stopped. Took a step back. Turned and fled.
"Oh dear," Aba said. "That's going to be a problem, I fear."
"I suppose we will have to stick around to make certain our new friend has no trouble because of us," Garland added.
Well, at least he wouldn't be lonely Martin decided. And the villagers weren't going to be calling him crazy anymore.