People: characters, gods
Places: world, kingdoms, empires, cultures
Stories: history, mythology, adventures
long-ass stories
Language: alphabet, grammar, dictionary, symbols
CALDORA: Chapter 11: All Things That Glitter

Previous Chapter

All Things That Glitter

Next Chapter


          Lianna marched intently through the deep, dark forest. She kept to the faery roads, hoping that the Sidhe of Elfame would know the whereabouts of her friends. But even from the safety of the trail she could feel a thick, ominous presence nearby that perturbed her terribly.

Walking further, Lianna began hearing ghostly moans coming from beyond the path. She looked in their direction to see strange lights dancing between the trees, casting sinister shadows on the surrounding woods. They bore a strong resemblance to Will o’ the Wisp, but Lianna’s premonitions were seldom wrong and she knew them to be tricksters. Peering through the darkness, she saw more lights farther off, all of which seemed to flow towards one destination.

Finding this most peculiar, Lianna decided to follow the spectral procession, trusting in her faery sight to guide her. She strayed deeper and deeper into the forest, towards an eerie glow in the distance. It emanated from a remote clearing, and what she saw there left her too scared to scream.

Rivers of tricksters poured in from all sides, intersecting at a single nucleus in the center. It was overflowing with them; to the point that as new tricksters flooded in from outside, some were pushed back into the forest through outgoing streams. They illuminated the glade with their radiance, distorting the bark of the trees to look like grotesque fiends. The core itself was enclosed in an astral membrane. It was not unlike the barrier that Keramis had disappeared into, so she reasoned it to be a gateway into the Land of Illusions.

Visible amidst the sea of tricksters was the form of a large, dead tree wound with a sturdy chain that extended a ways away from the trunk, and to which was shackled a humanoid being. He reminded her of a satyr, for he had hoofed feet and a pair of branching antlers growing out from under his disheveled hair. But the aura he emitted was so potent that she knew he was infinitely more powerful than a simple satyr; it was more akin to a god’s. He paced restlessly around the gnarled tree; sometimes charging it with his horns, other times snarling erratically at the air. But the tree was stronger than it appeared.

Within his reach stood a chunk of black crystal as tall as Lianna, pulsating with darkness. The moment she caught sight of it, she knew it to be the source of the gloom that led her here. The god-like being whirled about wildly to face her, his eyes locking straight onto hers. Their intense gaze pierced straight to her soul, for though they burned with sheer ire, she could sense an untamed beauty inside them. The tricksters flared forebodingly, changing into menacing shapes that threatened to lunge out at her through the barrier.

It was then that Lianna realized that the host of tricksters and the antlered man were all guarding the dark crystal. Even with faery sight and a strong will, fighting hundreds upon hundreds of tricksters in their own realm would surely overwhelm her. And even if she could get past them, she stood no chance against the tempestuous god. Lianna slowly backed out of the clearing and retraced her steps to the faery path. She had to get help.

*          *            *

Raven and Keramis awoke on the floor of a damp cave to the sound of a muffled melody being hummed from deeper in the grotto. It echoed throughout the caverns, blending with the dripping of water. Tricksters hung here and there from the ceiling like bats, glaring at them with beady little eyes.

Keramis was quick to notice the female figure in the adjoining alcove. She was kneeling beside a pool of water, leisurely stirring the liquid while gazing into its murky depths. The girl ceased humming and raised her head. Shakily, she got to her feet and staggered over to the elves, tripping over a rock along the way and settling in a crouch next to them. She clasped her hands over her face and began to rock back and forth, giggling inanely.

“Who are you?” Keramis stared at her in fascination.

The girl stopped rocking and parted her fingers to look up at him, her eyes like dark voids. “Sylvia,” she answered in a hoarse whisper.

She was pale as a corpse, except for the dark circles under her eyes, and her lips were of a deathly blue tint. Her hair was pitch black, unkempt, and stuck out like coarse wires. She wore a ragged gray dress and no shoes. Overall, Sylvia gave the impression of someone who had stared at the living ceiling for far longer than one should.

“Your turn,” her eyes darted between Keramis and Raven.

“I am Keramis,” he introduced himself, “Fifth rank of the North Forest.”

“Trellion,” Raven muttered, “First rank of the North Forest.”

“What are sons of the Dragon doing in these woods?” she smirked.

“We are going to the Forestside Kingdom,” Keramis replied.

Sylvia threw her head back in manic laughter that soon turned into a coughing fit. For a split-second, Raven thought he glimpsed little lights between her teeth.

“W-what’s that?” he inquired, pointing an unsteady finger at her mouth.

The coughing became a series of retching and choking, which worried the two elves until Sylvia reached down into her throat and slowly pulled out a tiny being by its head. It fluttered away and settled on the ceiling. Raven and Keramis gawked in astonishment as she opened her mouth even wider and reached down with both hands, pulling out two more tricksters and flinging them into the air.

“There’s more where that came from,” she flashed a broad smile, another set of blinking eyes plainly evident behind her teeth. Noting their puzzled expressions, she explained, “Onedia sent my family to die in this forest. For days I wandered aimlessly through the woods before surrendering to my fate–”

“So you’re dead?” Keramis asked tentatively.

“Un-dead,” she grinned.

“The tricksters found and reanimated my corpse. They now take turns living inside me to keep me functioning. We are one, the tricksters and I,” Sylvia curtsied, “They are my subjects and I am their Queen.

“Unfortunately, it is hard to get so many of them to cooperate on a single task,” she chuckled, “They still didn’t learn to coordinate my body.” Grumbled protests resounded from the walls.

“So this is the Unseelie Court,” Raven acknowledged, “Does this mean that all the trickster who brought me here promised – all the treasure upstairs – was not real?”

“Treasure?” Keramis perked up, “What treasure?”

“No,” Sylvia snickered, “Those are my creepy crawlies. Viper-infested cairns.”

“So there’s no real treasure?”

“Do not insult us,” she clapped her hands three times, “You think we have nothing to show for our exploits?” There was a loud rumbling noise as a slab of rock rolled away from the wall to reveal a new room. In the flickering torchlight, the two elves could see mountains of silver and gold sprinkled with jewels; they scampered towards the hoard.

“Wonders and marvels indeed,” Sylvia smirked. She watched Raven hack at the gold with his sword while Keramis poked at the silver with his daggers, “Do you know how many merchants tried to pass through these woods? How many luckless travelers we pillaged? How many trinkets we stole from the Seelie Court?”

“Seems real enough,” Keramis fingered a coin.

“I still say it’s a trick,” Raven leaned on his sword, “Tricksters are not to be trusted.”

“It’s no trick,” Sylvia croaked, “You have been truthful with me and I repay you with truth. You can have as much as you can carry. If I wanted to kill you I would have done so earlier.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“You amuse me,” she said simply, “It is not every day that mortals walk through our trickster mirrors and survive for as long as you did, let alone turn our own illusions against us.”

“Either way,” Raven sheathed his sword, “I’ll have no part of blood money.”

“Money is money,” Keramis scolded, “The dead don’t need it anymore, but we do,” he picked up an emerald and stuffed it into his pouch, “How else do you propose we finance our trip across the Forestside Kingdom?” He clambered to the top of the heap and began throwing handfuls of sparkling coins up into the air, watching them rain down on him.

“We have two friends in this forest,” Raven faced Sylvia, “One is called Lakai and he is human, the other is Lianna and she is from the North Forest. Can you help us find them?”

“Your human friend lives as Laurel’s pet in the eastern quarter,” she answered, “As for your other friend…” Sylvia tiptoed back over to her pool, narrowly avoided falling into it, and sat down at its edge. She gestured for the two elves to join her. Raven went after her and seated himself by the water. Keramis hastily crammed several more gems into his pouch, then slid down the treasure pile and joined them at the pool. Sylvia gazed into the liquid with her unblinking eyes, and commenced her chant:


All-seeing spirits who dwell in the water,

Fetch me a vision of the Dragon’s daughter.


The water churned violently as she stirred it, turning different colors and glistening in the firelight. Raven and Keramis stared into its bottomless depths, mesmerized by the swirling ripples. When the liquid settled, a glimmering image formed within it: that of a dark-haired woman striding confidently along a faery path.

“Ahh, she is still in the western quarter, but making fast pace to the east. She is looking for you,” Sylvia pointed a bony finger at them, “And I can take you to her,” she nodded encouragingly, agreeing to their request before they had a chance to ask it.

“Come! Come! Come!” Sylvia hopped up and wobbled up to a wall. “Op–” she gagged as a trickster tried to force its way up her throat. The two elves now understood why she had trouble speaking. Swallowing hard, she raised her hands and started again, “Open!”

A thundering sound reverberated across the cave as the wall cracked and moved apart, exposing an ascending staircase. Raven and Keramis followed the Trickster Queen through winding caverns, passing through another tingling barrier before climbing up to the forest floor at the break of dawn.

*          *            *

Lakai virtually lived in Saillie’s cabin for the past few days, only returning to the chicken-legged cottage at sundown. Lakai’s memories crystallized as he spent more time outside Laurel’s borders, and Saillie came to enjoy the human company. He helped her tend her garden, and she helped him recover his faery-gifted powers. All in all, they grew quite fond of each other.

But Laurel’s suspicions were only bolstered by Lakai’s giddy behavior. One morning, when he left the house, she quietly followed him to see for herself the cause of his uncanny mood swings. Lakai felt as though he was being watched, but every time he turned to check, he only heard the whispering of the wind. She sneaked after him as he crossed the quarter’s borders, and hid behind the hut when he went to meet Saillie by the pond.

“Good morning,” he greeted her cheerily.

“And what a good morning it is!” she smiled, putting down the pitcher which she used to water her plants, “I have figured out a way for you to escape from here.”

“Escape?” Lakai asked, he had nearly forgotten his predicament in her presence and was having mixed feelings about the whole idea, “Now?”

“Yes!” Saillie exclaimed, “Now! You’ve got no time to waste.”

“But I want to stay here,” he took her hand, “With you.”

“No!” she ripped her hand away and glared, “I want you to leave, now.”

Lakai stared back with pleading eyes.

“Nobody is going anywhere!” Laurel bellowed, stomping into the clearing.

Saillie gasped, gaping at her mother in shock.

“Treacherous, spiteful child!” Laurel glowered at her, “You have divine blood so I will not kill you. But you!” she cast a fierce look on Lakai, “Ungrateful human! I made you Lord of the Forest, gave you everything you ever desired! And how do you repay me? You disobey me, disdain my gifts, and choose my deceitful daughter over me?”

“I am not Pan and I can never be Pan!” Lakai whimpered, shrinking away from the anger he sensed inside her.

“Then you will die just like the others!” Laurel growled, a ball of lighting forming in her palm.

Saillie shoved Lakai out of the way and the sphere flew harmlessly over him. She tipped the pitcher over, mumbling an incantation as the water poured onto the ground. It gushed out like a rushing river, joining with the pond to create an aquatic barricade between them and the enraged Goddess. Wasting no time, Saillie grabbed Lakai’s wrist, pulled him up, and dragged him southwards. He offered no resistance and tried to keep up with her as best as he could.

Laurel let out an infuriated roar and the river’s current turned, now racing after the runaways in the shape of a swelling tidal wave. Saillie and Lakai ran and ran without looking back, hearing the sound of water getting closer. When they could almost feel it wet their heels, Saillie tossed an acorn over her shoulder. The trees behind them entangled their trunks and interwove their branches, creating a dam. The aquatic barrage rebounded off the wooden impediment, subsiding and diluting into the nearby forest.

Laurel raised a squall to tear the obstruction to pieces by bombarding it with mighty gusts of wind, sending splintering bark and twigs raining down on the escapees. Saillie and Lakai kept running, but they were pelted with wood and tripped over idle roots and branches. When they could not take the assault any longer, Saillie tossed some thistles over her shoulder. A wall of thorns grew out of the ground and the sticks bounced off of it, landing blandly on the forest floor.

When Laurel got to the barbed fence, she clenched her fist and the brambles crumbled to dust. The Goddess walked straight through the rubble, steadily gaining on her targets. Saillie frowned; she was running out of ideas.

*          *            *

Lianna was strolling boldly along the shimmering faery road when two figures jumped out from the bushes and onto the path. Before she could register who they were, her whip and short sword were already in hand; Keramis and Raven had hopped back with their weapons drawn as well.

“Don’t do that,” she relaxed, fastening the whip and sword to her belt; the elves sheathed their own weapons. Keramis rushed up to her, wrapping her in relieved hugs while Raven smiled at her warmly. “Welcome back to the physical world,” Lianna smirked.

“Aww, did you miss me?” Keramis flashed her a charming grin.

“I was worried about you both,” she patted him on the head. “Oh! I have to show you guys something! It’s incredible! Deep in the forest there’s this place with more tricksters than you can imagine, and in the middle there’s an antlered man chained to a tree–”

“Pan,” came a rasping voice from the underbrush, “The antlered man is Pan.” Lianna froze in place at the sight of a wraithlike form standing a few feet away from the faery path, in the shade of several trees.

“Who’s that?” she asked her companions.

“That is Sylvia,” Raven introduced the girl, “Queen of the Tricksters.”

“She helped us find you,” Keramis attested.

Sylvia smiled cryptically, “Pardon my aloofness, I can not go near the faery trails.”

“I can see why,” Lianna said derisively. With her faery vision, she saw the girl was hollow; teeming with tiny specks of light that moved among her rotting innards. Her aura told of death and decay, of unspeakable horrors that made men drop dead from fright. “Nevertheless, you have helped my friends and I will not oppose you unless you give me reason to.”

Sylvia’s smile widened and she gave a courteous nod, though Lianna could tell that her threats meant nothing to this being.

“As I was saying,” Lianna, unnerved, turned back to Raven and Keramis, “Next to the antlered man, I mean Pan, there is a slab of crystal radiating really weird energy. I’m convinced it’s the source of the forest’s curse. If we can just go there,” she signaled them to follow, “And find a way to break it–”

There was a loud, crashing noise in the distance: of flowing water, falling trees, and lots of yelling.

“Sounds like Laurel got tired of yet another pet,” Sylvia giggled.

“Lakai?” Keramis took a step forward, “We have to go help him.”

“Why bother?” Sylvia yawned, “He’s as good as dead.”

“Well we have to try,” Lianna gripper her barbed whip. Without a second thought, she raced after Raven and Keramis, in the direction of the racket. Sylvia shrugged; hundreds of tiny trickster wings raised her off the ground and propelled her easily through the woods.

Making their way towards the din of dreadful shrieks, they heard rumbling noises akin to that of an earthquake mixed with tumbling rocks. Running on, Lianna, Keramis, and Raven found themselves wading in water and dodging driftwood. Soon enough, they ended up in a newly made clearing. A crescent formation of looming cliffs blocked off all exits for the two persons huddled fearfully at their base, and a woman stood on the opposite side, her hair flaying wildly in the wind.

“I’m not Pan!” Lakai shouted between sobs, clinging onto a blue-haired girl who glared defiantly at the woman across from them.

“You are still mine!” lightning sizzled in Laurel’s eyes and her voice boomed like thunder, “But you have turned against me, and for that you will die!”

Lakai hid behind Saillie.

“Nobody escapes me!” Laurel roared, the turbulent clouds echoing her fury.

Saillie tried urging the underground plants to sprout up through the rock and break it apart, but abandoned the idea when she realized the rock face would simply collapse on them both. Meanwhile, the air around them crackled with the gathering static that precedes a powerful electric charge – the kind that can sear the life out of any mortal being. Lakai closed his eyes and clung onto Saillie tighter, overwhelmed by the Goddess’s wrath.

Through the howling of the wind and the clash of thunder, only one thing could have distracted Laurel from her single-minded goal. “I know where Pan is!” came a voice from the rear. The lightning fizzled out and the clouds receded slightly.

“What?” Laurel turned to confront the newcomers, her hair settling back down to her sides. Lakai peeked out at them from behind Saillie with a vague sense of recognition.

“I know where Pan is,” Lianna repeated more civilly.

Laurel looked on her impatiently.

“I can lead you to him,” she quickly added, “In exchange for the boy.”

“Fair trade,” Laurel examined her closely. Saillie slowly took Lakai’s hand and tried stepping away from the cliffs, but the rock trembled as Laurel bellowed, “You are coming with us!” then told Lianna, “We trade once I get Pan.”

Lianna nodded solemnly and backed into the woods with Laurel, Keramis, Raven, Lakai, Saillie, and Sylvia in tow. She walked westwards, leading them farther and farther into Unseelie territory in an attempt to retrace her steps to the accursed glen. Finally, she saw the lights of the trickster nucleus from between the trees, and knew she was headed in the right direction.

“Avert your eyes,” Lianna whispered to Raven and Keramis as they approached the place. “There!” she said when the group entered the clearing, “In the midst of all those tricksters you will find Pan.”

Sylvia shook her head and sniggered in amusement.

Laurel took a good, long look into the trickster mass. “Where?” she tapped her foot with irritation.

“There! Over there!” Lianna insisted, pointing through the tricksters.

“Where?!” Laurel snapped, seizing her by the throat, “Do you think I’m stupid, mortal? All I see is a dead tree!” Lianna tried to pry the hand off but its grip was of inhuman strength. Reacting to the commotion, Keramis made a swift knife-hand cut to Laurel’s wrist, but was thrust backwards by an electric shock and caught by Raven. “How dare you try to trick me!” Laurel let go of Lianna and spun about, the rage returning to her eyes, “Now you will all die!”

“We have to go in there,” Lianna coughed, rolling away from a surge of electricity, “And break the crystal.”

Laurel recklessly hurled lightning bolts in all directions, cursing as they hit rocks and bark instead of their intended targets. Raven pushed Keramis away and sidestepped the streak of blinding energy that rushed by him to scorch a nearby tree. Lakai and Saillie ducked, narrowly avoiding Laurel’s attacks. Just as Keramis managed to regain his footing, a gust of wind knocked him back to the floor and sent him skidding across the ground. He grabbed hold of a boulder and crouched beside it to shield himself from a stream of fire that singed the ends of his hair.

Laurel unleashed a torrent of air strong enough to split the trees. It rapidly developed into a cyclone, lifting up loose twigs, rocks, and clumps of soil, and dashing them against the earth and each other.

Lianna latched her whip onto a root by the center of the clearing and pulled herself forward, making sure to place her hands between the barbs. Raven was already next to the core, so he leaped headlong into it to avoid a hurtling tree branch. Laurel then faced Lakai to launch some more lightning blasts at her main objective. Taking advantage of the diversion, Keramis took out his daggers and dug them into the ground, creeping toward the nucleus as one scales a very steep wall.

If they thought the danger would cease once they went through the trickster mirror, they were mistaken. Immediately, Raven and Keramis met with a vicious onslaught of killer bees. The two elves tried swinging their weapons at the swarm but their attempts were countered with relentless stings. The buzzing was nearly deafening, and some of the bees went so far as to enter their ear canals. Scaly bodies coiled about their ankles, dropping them to the floor, and envenomed fangs sank deep into their legs. The poison spread up their bloodstream like hot acid, and they felt myriads of insects burrowing through their flesh. Keramis and Raven dropped their weapons; even in the haze of excruciating pain, they had enough sense not to cut at their own limbs. But in a few seconds it did not matter, for their skin boiled and began melting off their muscle tissue. Terrifying images flashed before their eyes as their vision blurred.

“It’s not real!” Lianna yelled, seeing her friends screaming and rolling around on the ground, clawing at themselves and swiping at the tiny trickster lights like mad. But she herself shrieked and reeled back in surprise as the horned man lunged at her, stopped only by the length of his chain. Their eyes converged once again, and she saw the same feral beauty within them… though now coupled with desire?

Sylvia sighed, partly annoyed and partly amused that nobody bothered to ask for her help. Shrugging it off, she stepped through the astral barrier. The Trickster Queen raised her hands in a gesture of receptivity and inhaled deeply, sucking up the Unseelie horde. Hearing the summons of their Queen, the tricksters released the two elves and diligently came to her call. She drew in every last one of them, so that the only beings left inside the etheric walls were and her companions and Pan. Raven and Keramis got to their feet, staring wide-eyed at their restored bodies, grateful that the pain was gone. They picked up their weapons and turned to gaze at Sylvia in awe. She burped for effect.

The moment would have lasted longer, but Pan’s low growling and frenzied yanking on the chain reminded them of their purpose here. They faced the God, watching him with trepidation as he paced back and forth by the deformed tree.

Trellion surveyed the situation; the chunk of black crystal was positioned several feet behind Pan, entirely within the God’s reach. Raven flung his sword at the crystal, but Pan caught it in his antlers and thrust it aside.

“What now?” Lianna asked.

Keramis observed the horned man closely, and noticed something none other in his party could have seen: the god was hardly paying attention to them at all, focusing his lustful gaze primarily on Lianna. “I have an idea,” the elf spoke up, “Lianna, go run around the tree.”

Her face twisted in protest, but she promptly understood what he was getting at and nodded. Reluctantly, she inched closer to Pan. He watched her every step with growing interest, then finally rushed her at full speed. Acting on instinct, Lianna ran around the tree as fast as her legs could carry her. But Pan’s legs were that of a stag, and it did not take him long to gain on her, at which point Keramis jumped in from behind and tripped the galloping God. Raven dove for his sword and deftly rolled away from the stampede.

Pan tried to claw at Keramis, but the elf nimbly hopped back. Snarling in frustration, the antlered man resumed his chase after Lianna. His chain wound round the tree tighter and tighter until he was held fast to the trunk, barely able to move beyond the short stretch of his tether.

Raven knew what he must do. True it was risky, the outcome unpredictable, and there were probably safer ways, but the half-elf was not one to fear death. He scrambled to his feet and charged the crystal with his sword held high, bringing the blade down on the Dark Mirror with all his strength. It shattered into a million pieces, which would have impaled him if he had not been blown away by the explosive energy shield that coated it.

The sound rang throughout the woods like an ethereal foghorn, lifting the veil that bound the eyes, ears, and hearts of the Lord and Lady of the Forest in one mighty blast; Laurel forgot all about Lakai and Pan about Lianna. As the astral walls dispersed, they saw each other for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Dropping all she was doing, the Goddess ran up her God and showered him with amorous kisses. His shackles dissolved as they entwined in a passionate embrace under the ancient tree, which now blossomed with new life. Through their blissful union, the divine couple became transformed back to their shining glory. The glaze of illusions was dispelled and tricksters returned to the shadows from which they came. It was as if the forest had awakened from a deep slumber – like the thawing of earth in spring after the mantle of winter has melted away. The woods bloomed with renewed fertility.

Lianna and Keramis helped Raven off the ground and led him to the edge of the clearing. Saillie doused any flames that still smoldered the bark, and smiled as shoots of greenery sprouted from the splinters to mend the broken trees. Lakai laughed joyfully and hugged her, happy to be alive. Deciding to leave Laurel and Pan alone to catch up on things, Raven, Lianna, Keramis, Lakai, Saillie, and Sylvia left the clearing to head for the nearest faery path – Lakai and Saillie keeping their distance from Sylvia.

“Now we just need to get out of the Enchanted Forest,” Lianna reminded her friends.

“You should have no problems now that Onedia’s curse is lifted,” Saillie told her, “Just go southwards.”

“Why are you going to the Forestside Kingdom?” Sylvia asked the two elves.

Grateful for all the assistance the Trickster Queen provided, Keramis felt she should know the truth, “We are here on a mission to sabotage Onedia’s astral castle.”

“To stop Onedia?” Lakai exclaimed, “Great! I’m going too!”

“Me three,” Sylvia croaked.

“W-what? Why?” Lianna blurted out. She had hoped they would be rid of the girl once they leave the woods.

“When Onedia claimed the Forestside throne,” Sylvia explained, “The tricksters chose me to take her place as their Queen. Then one day she comes back and steals a whole third of my subjects – I want them back.”

“You have helped us greatly,” Raven granted, “And we will help you in return.”

*          *            *

Agreeing to meet at the outskirts of the Enchanted Forest the next day, Sylvia and the others went their separate ways – Sylvia to the Unseelie Court, and the rest to the Seelie Court by way of the faery roads. With Lakai and Saillie speaking in their favor, Lianna, Keramis, and Raven had no trouble getting admission through the pearly gates. Delicate harp music accompanied them through the crystalline caverns that lead to the breathtaking Underworld city of Elfame.

The group was greeted with much festivity and merriment, and a whole entourage of jovial faeries followed them through the streets and into the luminous castle at the hub of the metropolis. At last the Caldorians beheld the true grandeur of the Sidhe court; it was infinitely more beautiful than the tricksters could ever create with their glamour.

“I welcome all of you to our wonderful city!” the Faery Queen hailed them in reverence, “We are all in your debt for freeing our forest of Onedia’s wicked curse, and for helping Lakai.”

Raven, Lianna, Keramis, Saillie, and Lakai humbly bowed to her.

“To show our gratitude,” Erunei continued, “We will have rooms prepared for each of you. I am certain you will find your stay refreshing for both the body and spirit.”

“We must leave for the Forestside Kingdom in the morning, Mother,” Lakai beamed a smile at the Queen.

“In that case we will also outfit you with Forestside-style clothing, and provide mounts to carry you to the borders of this wood,” Erunei replied.

Raven, Keramis, Lianna, Lakai, and Saillie stayed in the palace for the night; the scent of budding lilac drifted through the hallowed halls and they were rocked to sleep by the gentle lullaby radiating softly off the walls.

In the morning they were dressed in fresh garments tailored to resemble a peasant’s attire. Though they did not look first-rate, the group was informed that these garbs were enchanted – they would keep them warm at night, cool in the midday heat, and would never wear out. Lovely glass beads were woven into their hair and it was braided in the style of the Lossi mainland. The five of them were also given magical backpacks that could not be emptied of food.

Saillie refused the gifts, explaining to Lakai that she must stay in the Enchanted Forest to oversee the growth of new plants. Saillie also admitted that she wanted to get to know the real nature of her mother – if she ever managed pry her off Pan, that is. While it pained him to part with her, Lakai told Saillie that he chose to leave, but promised to return as soon as the whole affair with Onedia was over. They sat in silence for a long time, basking in the essence of each other’s auras.

At noon, Lianna, Keramis, Raven, and Lakai rode out of the faery mound on sparkling white unicorns. They raced southwards through the brightly lit forest at the speed of wind, the steeds’ silver hooves splashing across woodland brooks and maneuvering between the trees with exceptional grace, coming to a halt at the forest’s boundaries. The four friends dismounted and met up with Sylvia at the outskirts.

Together, they crossed the treeline into the Forestside Kingdom – the first mortals to do so in over twenty years. Raven was quick to report to Queen Dinictis that they have saved the forest from Onedia’s vindictive curse. He also gave Lakai the extra crystal to wear; though the supernatural creatures of the Enchanted Forest could understand his speech without it, the ordinary humans of Lossi would not.

Gathering their things together, the five of them commenced their trek across the Forestside Kingdom. For over two days they walked past ghost towns scattered throughout a vast expanse of abandoned farmland. Once in a while they would pass by a dried-out well, the skeleton of a rundown house, or the bleached bones of a starved cow. Not many citizens were brave enough to remain in dwellings so near the haunted woods, and those that did were doomed to ruin. All that remained of this once-prosperous region was a parched landscape overrun with weeds that grew out of the cracks.

Both nights the group camped out under the stars – sleeping on the hard, dry ground. But on the eve of the third day, they saw pinpoints of light in the distance that signified a modest village. The elves put on hoods to shroud their telltale ears, and the party made fast pace towards it in hope of finding a nice, soft bed for the night.



Copyright © 2003 by Yumeni www.twilightvisions.com. All rights reserved.
Revised: 27 Jan 2013 22:58:39 -0700 .



Sign the Guestbook!