There are times when a location becomes so irrevocably intertwined with a person that they are always and forever associated with each other. This is not so much because the location belongs to the person as it is that the person belongs to the location. Sherlock Holmes will always belong to the city of London and 221b Baker Street. Robin Hood will always belong to Sherwood Forest. Mowgli will always belong to the deepest and wildest jungles of India. King Arthur will always belong to Albion. Such people can leave the locations they belong to for a time, but they will always return. For no other place will ever invoke such feelings of This is home.
These people have left their marks on their territory to let all with eyes to see know that this place is protected. And they, in turn, have also been marked. Each of these people looked over their land and thought This is mine. The land looked back and thought As you are mine. Each of these people is possessed of a bone deep knowledge of their home. It is as familiar as their heartbeats and far more important. They can tell when something has gone awry in their home and move to correct it. Their home knows this and helps where it can, responding to their silent calls for this street to be crowded or those birds to stay silent or that branch to not break or an enemy to be met on this terrain. These partnerships run deep and nothing can break them. Not even death.
Of all the links between land and person, though, the deepest runs between the Neverland and her forever child. Peter Pan is not constrained by any of an adult’s preconceived notions on what is possible and what isn’t. He doesn’t have to limit himself to what those around him say or believe. As such, the Neverland has far fewer limits on how she can respond to her child. When he is happy the stream gurgles cheerfully, the dew gleams brightly and the sun shines out in the merriest way possible. When he is sad, the flowers droop, the clouds cover the sun and the whole island seems to be on the verge of crying.
Such partnerships do not come naturally, of course. They must be won. One must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where you belong before the land begins to return your claim on it. All those who belong to their land used a different (the same) method to take ownership of it. Solve the city’s crimes, punish the oppressors of the forest’s people, hunt down the tiger breaking the jungle law, rule justly over the people of the land and never let them come to harm. (Know it, protect it, bind yourself to it and all that it loves.) As Pan’s bond to Neverland is different (the same, but not), so was his trial different.
She asked him to be more.
When Peter first arrived on Neverland, it was inhabited solely by the wild animals and fey creatures that have lived on her shores since the dawn of time. He looked around at the mermaids in the lagoon and the fairies playing tag with the wolves in the trees and thought that he had finally found a place where he could have as many adventures as he wished. Neverland looked back and smiled a little at this strange new creature.
Peter began his adventures exploring his new home. He played with the fairies, learning their language of twinkling bells and regaining the half-forgotten memories that let him fly with the little folk. He followed the wild animals to their dens out of curiosity, wanting to see where they lived. He swam the waters of the lagoon with the mermaids and nodded a greeting to the giant crocodile when their paths crossed. He found a hollow tree that he could use to climb down into a cavern in the ground where he slept. Soon, Peter had explored every nook and cranny that could be found on the island until it was as familiar to him as his own heartbeat.
So he took his adventures a step further.
He challenged the king of the lions and won in single combat with nothing but a little stone knife that he had made. He challenged the fairies and flew higher and faster than their best flyers. He challenged all in his path and showed that he was more wild than the animals and more fae than the fairies. Pan looked out over Neverland and thought This is mine. Neverland looked back at him, smiled, and thought As you are mine. I know he thought back impatiently now where is the next adventure? The island laughed a little and began looking over herself. Pan had already explored her entirety and challenged every being on her. Her child was getting impatient so she did as she had asked him to do.
She became more.
The first to be added were the Indians. A whole tribe of them complete with a chief, shamans, warriors and a beautiful warrior princess. Pan thought the warriors were good fighters, the princess was intriguing (there had never been any human women on the island before), and the chief an honorable man. This eventually became a bit of an issue as Peter was not one to pick a fight simply for the sake of picking a fight. He had challenged the lions and the wolves and the panthers and the rest to prove that he was the better fighter. They had accepted his challenge and so he had fought. He had challenged the crocodile too, but crocodiles have always been cunning creatures and the crocodile had forfeited the match. Eventually an uneasy truce was set up between Peter and the Indians where they were sometimes friends, sometimes enemies and Peter learned to walk through the forest and read the trees and flowers and ground as the Indians did.
While this was better than before, it still was not enough adventure to satisfy Neverland’s forever child. The island once again began searching outside of herself, becoming more for the sake of her boy (and while you’re at it, can I have a tribe too?)
The pirates were brought in for adventures, suitably nasty individuals that could be fought without worrying about possible truces. Peter made a game out of filching their steel blades to replace the stone ones he had made. (But never the guns, they wouldn’t be sporting.)
The tribe was a bit more difficult, but she eventually began to direct Pan towards those children that had been lost from their parents (sometimes because their parents lost them, sometimes because they lost their parents). This required him to leave the island as these lost boys could never have reached Neverland and her forever child without help. But he was never gone for long and whomever he brought back with him would always provide more adventures.
These newcomers caused the island to grow and stretch into shapes she had not held before. And as the island grew, so Pan grew too. He was the unquestioned leader of the Lost Boys just as he was the unquestioned child of the island (for as he was more wild and more fae than anything else on the island, so too was he more lost than any who followed him). The pirates were always scurvy dogs and adults and not to be trusted. It was a given fact that they would always be the enemy, someone that could be attacked on sight, or at least taunted in passing. The Indians were something of a neutral party, sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, occasionally indifferent altogether. It was enough of a mixture to always keep things interesting so that today was never the same as yesterday and tomorrow would certainly hold something entirely new.
Things stayed like this for a while, the only changes being how many boys or Indians or pirates were on the island at any one time. The Indians were fought or not as Pan’s whims dictated, the animals and fae were good playmates, and the pirates could always be counted on to attack if nothing else was going on. The underground home would expand or shrink as needed whenever Pan brought a new boy to the island or when someone would be killed on one of the adventures.
Life was good.
Then Peter Pan heard about mothers.
No one was entirely sure where he had first heard of the concept. Not even Peter. Once he got it into his head, though, he wouldn’t let go of the idea. He looked into windows when he was off the island watching stories being told and children tucked into bed. He watched food being prepared in the Indian tribe. He watched the cubs being nurtured among the animals.
Pan looked to his island and again asked for more. The island looked back and thought hmmm.
This was harder than any of the other requests. A mother would have to care for her children and give them their medicine and tell them stories and tuck them in bed and absolutely could not be an adult as those were despised on general principle. The difficulty came in finding all these traits in a single child. The island could not look into the houses – for she was a wild place, the wildest of all places and was ruled by the wildest of all children. Even the parks in the cities were difficult to see into. Everything was blurry and muddled. This did not stop her from listening, though.
Eventually, Neverland overheard a young girl telling stories to her two even younger brothers. The stories were fantastic constructions of an overactive imagination and were listened to by an enraptured audience of boys and fairies both. When the girl and her brothers left the park, the island asked the city fairies about the storyteller. After a few insults were traded – for city fairies are nothing if not rude, regardless of whom they are speaking to – Neverland received the answer she was looking for. A good girl they said loves adventure and looks after her brothers. They knew about the hunt the island was on.
Neverland nodded her thanks and asked where the girl could be found. The island looked back to her forever child and whispered in his ear.
I’ve found you a Wendy.