Enchanted

Enchanted

Kekoa’s (kee-ko) language:
c
heka……….name
ah……………..is
keoh.
…………come quick!
toe…………….you/your
ma-ree-la
…..Marelia
ah taa
………..ask a question
ka
……………..come
mech
………….me/I
e………………..it

no………………not
en………………in
pos…………….past

It has been two winters since I left my home to find the hidden village in the enchanted woods and found my faerie mother, Sunset Dew-Fern. Sunset has been busy teaching me everything I should have learnt if I was not a changeling. Everyone mostly stays indoors during winter, so I have learnt most over the two winters. The weather is warming up now, and whenever I leave the house, the warm winds bring scents of spring. I’m impatient to explore the forest.

~~~

“Sunset, when can I explore the forest?” I asked.

“This afternoon, because I thought you might want to learn how to see Liz with just a necklace,” replied Sunset. Liz was my human twin, as Sunset was caught switching Liz and me, but was so frightened that she left both of us behind. I grew up thinking I was Liz’s younger twin, not knowing that I was really a changeling and a faerie.
“Is it that obvious that I miss her?” I asked.
“Yes Marelia,” Sunset replied, setting a box on the table. “Here are all of my gemstones. Pick out one that you like.” I sifted through all of the gemstones and found a particularly pretty cloudy pink-purple stone. I held it up to the window. It was perfect.
“This one,” I said, holding out the stone for Sunset to see. She told me how to attach the stone to a length of cord using a piece of wire.
“Now, point your finger at the gem – yes, like that – and shout ‘scry Liz!’. Ready? Go!” said Sunset.
“Scry Liz!” I cried. A bright flash filled the room and I covered my eyes.
“It worked! That’s actually a pretty hard piece of magic. I wasn’t sure if you would be able to do it,” exclaimed Sunset. “Now all you need to do to see Liz is touch it.” I put the necklace on and tentatively touched the smooth gemstone.

Liz was with her friend, Samantha, who had once escaped from being a rich man’s maid by running away. She had then had to leave the same night as Marelia when rumours of magical people spread, because she was an elf.
The two were sitting on a rickety bed in what appeared to be a poor excuse for an inn.
“Samantha, you have to hide. You can’t let your old master find you,” said Liz.
“It’s alright. I had to travel for well over a month before finding a town that would accept me, which was your town. I am so grateful to your town’s people that I had a few years’ rest from him,” replied Samantha. Liz smiled.

The image faded.
“Well? How was it?” asked Sunset.
“Oh, Liz was seeing her friend, Samantha. She’s safe,” I said.
“Well, I have nothing else to teach you today. You can explore the forest now,” Sunset said. I turned to go out the door.
“Wait. It’s not called ‘the enchanted woods’ for nothing,” she paused, opening and closing her mouth like a fish several times as though beginning to say something and then deciding against it. Finally she just said, “You can figure out what I mean by going out there. Nothing is going to kill you, and you’ll learn most about the forest by experiencing it. Enjoy!”

I ran with nimble feet over the dirt of the village and into the surrounding forest. The soft grass was a pleasant change from the dirt my now always-bare feet were used to. I ran through the forest, knowing that I would surely stumble upon something during my first piece of freedom, since the whole forest was littered with magic and enchantments.

The sun had been bright when I left, but now it was the golden orange of dusk. I knew I had to get back soon, and looked around for a path or trail. There was a paved path leading into a particularly dense part of the forest. I followed it and, almost at once, I was staring into a deep, clear pool set into the ground. I was in the tiniest clearing I’d ever seen and, when I looked up, I saw how late it was. The clouds above were tinted with crimson but, when I looked back at the pool, there was no reflection of clouds. I continued to stare into its depths.
“Oh!” I gasped. The pool had changed to show Liz and Samantha talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but another person who looked a little like Liz came into view, and they stopped talking. Then Liz shot the other person a dirty look, whose face became crestfallen, puzzled, and then understanding, as though she knew what had happened. I looked closer at the other person.
“No. She couldn’t. I’m her- I’m her changeling,” I whispered. The other person was me, and the pool had told me a little part of my future. I stood and dusted off my knees, then wandered around the forest. I had no idea where I was, or which direction to go in. I thought back through all the spells I had been taught and remembered a compass spell.
“Point home!” I cried, pointing at the straightest stick around, and a flash of light blinded me for a split second. The stick rose about a metre off the ground, and spun so that its fork pointed a little to the left of the path leading to the pool. I followed its point, and it was well past sunset when I finally arrived back at Sunset’s house.
“What did you find?” asked Sunset.
“A strange little pool that showed a piece of my future,” I answered, hoping she wouldn’t ask what I had seen.
“Oh, you mean the oracle’s pool?” she said.
“Yeah, if that’s what it’s called. I don’t think I want to follow that path again,” I replied.
“Well, it can have its uses. But never mind. Here’s your dinner,” and she passed me a bowl of soup.

I ran through the forest with the sun shining brightly from the east, following the little stream that babbled through the forest. I stopped for a rest, and knelt to drink from the stream.
“I wouldn’t drink just here if I were you,” suggested a voice that bubbled like the stream. I turned to see a naiad dancing on the edge of the stream.
“Uh, hello,” I said.
“Are you new to that village? I didn’t think there was a teen I didn’t know yet. Oh, except that changeling who’s mother was caught switching the two,” replied the naiad.
“I am that changeling,” seeing the I’m-horrified-at-myself-I’m-so-sorry look on the naiad’s face, I continued, “But I’m not offended.” The naiad relaxed.
“Well, that’s sorted. But what’s your name, anyway?” she asked.
“My name’s Marelia,” I answered.
“And my name is Brook. Ha ha, do you get it? Ha ha! No, it’s not actually funny, just a naiad tradition,” Brook replied, pretending to laugh.
“Oh. So… What, it’s a naiad tradition to name naiad children a source of water?” I guessed.
“Yep”, confirmed Brook. “But you were thirsty, weren’t you? You can drink safely near that tree just over there.” I nodded and drank.
“Um, bye,” I said, unsure of what to do.
“Wait. I heard you running in the forest yesterday. What did you find?” asked Brook.
“Some kind of pool that showed me a piece of my future. My mother said it’s called the oracle’s pool,” I answered.
“OK. Well just remember that sometimes what it shows is only one future of many. What it tells you will happen can change,” Brook sighed, then continued, “What will happen will happen. I can’t really help you much more on the topic of the oracle’s pool. Ah, well. See you.” And with that, the naiad vanished into the bubbling stream.

The winter is over, and it’s the middle of spring. I explore the forest everyday and I’ve started staying in the forest through the night, sometimes not returning to Sunset’s home for days on end. I know that no matter how many times I explore the forest, there will always be something new to find. I haven’t even explored an eighth of the forest, despite having traipsed across almost a third of the whole forest. If there is something other than the stars that makes me feel small, it is the size of the forest that is now my home. I could wander in it my whole life and never understand all of it or know everything about it.

Today I am running north from the hidden village. I turn my thoughts to Liz, who I thought was my older twin until I discovered that I was a changeling. It wasn’t a topic I had thought about in a long time because I had been so busy exploring. I felt as though I had betrayed her in a small way. I began to pay less attention to my surroundings. Suddenly, I tripped over. I reached out to stop my fall and brushed against my necklace.

This time, Liz was sitting in a carriage with Samantha.
“Samantha, please. You don’t have to go back. You’re all I have left now,” Liz pleaded.
“Liz, I have told you this already. I can’t escape him, but I will be happier if I at least have permanent shelter. I have figured out how to please him well enough that I won’t be in danger every day of me being in his household,” replied Samantha.
“But you could go to the enchanted woods, where my… Where Marelia went. She’s safe there. Please, you know my father has been ill. You know that – he – that he died. I have no-one. You are the only one that I know left in this world, apart from Marelia. You are my only friend; I don’t know how to get to the enchanted woods. But you know how, you could take me with you,” sobbed Liz. “Please.”
“Liz, I’ve gone through this with you. Your- Marelia has turned against me. I can’t go there, and it would look strange if you were travelling alone,” said Samantha.
“But she can’t be that angry, could she?” asked Liz disbelievingly, between sobs.
“She’s a faerie, not a human. You can’t quite tell what she would do. Remember, I’m an elf, and sometimes what I do makes no sense whatsoever to you, because our minds and ways are different. Anger can twist a person terribly, make them do crazy, stupid things,” answered Samantha.

“My human father is dead? But… So that’s why Liz isn’t at home!” I whispered.
“I’m sorry to hear that your father is dead,” said a high voice that zipped about in the air above my face. I opened my eyes to see a fairy. I sat up and held out a hand for her to land on.
“What’s up? You tripped and were in like… a trance for a while. Are you ok? Is your ankle alright?” the fairy asked anxiously.
“Yeah, I’m ok, I just touched my necklace; it makes me able to see Liz. We thought we were twins until I had to leave, and I found out that I’m supposed to be a changeling,” I explained trying to stand up. “Oh no, I’ve sprained my ankle! And I have to get to Liz, wherever she is. I can’t let her stay with Samantha.”
“Hey, do you want to sit in the fairy ring for a while? It can help with stress somehow,” she said. I nodded and shifted over into the ring of mushrooms, letting the fairies dance around me for a time.
“Uh, Marelia, you should go now. Oh, and by the way, my name’s Elena,” said Elena.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“All fairies – the teensy kind – know someone’s name, even before the person tells them. See you!” Elena called, flitting away, leaving me alone in the forest. I looked around for a strong stick to lean on. I crawled towards the nearest tree and pulled off a branch, then pushed myself up. I limped forwards, not really knowing where I was going, just focusing on not falling over and reaching a place that I could use as shelter for the night.

My ankle has healed now, and I am travelling towards the sound of a rushing river. Finally I reached the river. I walked a little way up and down the river, but there was no way across except to swim. I gingerly stepped into the river and gasped. It was so cold, and the current threatened to push me under and drag me along the riverbed. I grabbed the riverbank.
“Three, two, one, go!” I thought, and pushed off to battle against the current to try and reach the other side. The river pulled me along, but I persisted and after being swept along quite a way down the river, I reached the other side. I grabbed hold of the grass, and pulled myself up and out of the cold river. Dripping, shivering and exhausted, I climbed up a tree into the air above the forest canopy and into the sun to dry off.

A creature chittered, waking me from my sleep. I looked around and saw a moss-green, almost scaleless, furry, wingless firedrake. He ran nimbly along the branch I was sitting on and leapt onto my legs. I stroked his soft, furry back, but he kept lifting his head and bumping his tiny horns onto my hand. He chittered again. I decided to stroke his nose instead, but the creature continued tilting his head. At last, I gave him a little scratch on his head, and he started purring like a cat.
“Do you have a name?” I asked the firedrake. It chittered and bobbed its head.
“Cheka ah Kekoa!” it squeaked.
“Kekoa?” I asked. The firedrake bobbed its head again.
“Is your name Kekoa?” I asked again.
“Cheka ah Kekoa!” Kekoa chittered, bobbing his head. “Keoh, keoh!” Kekoa scampered down to a lower branch and waited for me. I clambered down to him, and we repeated the process until we reached the ground.
“Keoh, keoh!” he cried again, and scampered away. I hurried after him.
“Kekoa, wait!” I called after him.

He led me into a darker, denser party of the forest and stopped to chitter again. We were in a clearing with an ancient oak in the middle. An owl sat on one of the branches of the tree.
“Ah taa, ah taa, ah taa!” Kekoa chittered. The owl opened his eyes.
“Who hoo? Too-wit too-what? Who and what?” hooted the owl.
“Er…” I replied. “Huh?”
“Who are you and what is your question?” asked the owl.
“You speak English! But, um… My name is Marelia. Er,” I answered.
“Mah… Ma-ree-la!” chittered Kekoa.
“Why are we here?” I whispered to Kekoa.
“Toe ah taa!” he replied. I sighed.
“Owl, how can I understand him? And-” I asked.
“One question at a time. You can understand Kekoa if you take one of his scales,” answered the owl. “Kekoa, give her a scale.” Kekoa bobbed his head and pulled a scale out from his paw, revealing green fur beneath. I took the scale and tucked it into my hair as though it was a hair clip.
“Now, what is your other question, Marelia?” ask the owl.
“My- uh, my friend, Liz, is being tricked by one of her friends into thinking that I have turned against her and that I’m really angry and powerful. They are travelling to someone’s house where her friend will leave her, I think. Liz’s father has died and she has nowhere to go, but she is thinking of coming to the magical woods, only she doesn’t know the way,” I explained. Inhaling, I continued, “I fear that Liz will turn against me and have nowhere to go. Can you tell me how to make her not betray me and find her way here?”
“Too-wit too-woo. The only way that you can do this is to leave the forest and find her. I really cannot help you much more than that, my dear,” answered the owl. I smiled and thanked him.
“Come on Kekoa!” I said.
“Mech ka, Ma-ree-la!” Kekoa chittered, and I understood it to mean ‘I come, Marelia!’

“Ma-ree-la, keoh! Keoh!” chittered Kekoa anxiously.
“Where, Kekoa? Why do I need to come quickly?” I asked.
“Is that a young firedrake I hear chittering?” asked a voice hidden in the trees around us.
“If you’re planning on eating, then no, because Kekoa is mine,” I replied.
“Ooh, this one thinks that she’s smart. I know what I heard, young girl. I can smell his fear,” said the voice. A black wolf emerged from the trees. It had pale blue markings on its face: a crescent moon on its side and a circle above it
“Come on now, the girl is clearly caring for the thing as I would care for a cub. Leave it alone and we’ll hunt something else,” said another wolf emerging from the trees. This one had deep violet markings. The markings were repeated on her chest. I watched as the rest of the pack emerged and circled around us.
“We will leave them alone if they can answer my riddle. After all, it was they who came into our part of the forest,” the first wolf answered. I wondered if Sunset had been to this part of the forest when she told me that nothing was going to kill me.
“Fine then. If I sense that the riddle is too hard, then I will leave the pack. I have had enough of your ways and I can see that this one will have a use for me,” the wolf with deep violet markings declared. I didn’t know why, but I almost hoped that the riddle would be too hard for the wolf’s liking.
“Now, girl. What is it that no man ever yet did see, which never was, but always is to be?” asked the male wolf, spitting out the words.
“Kekoa, do you have any ideas?” I whispered.
“E ah no en pos,” he answered.
“I know it’s not in the past,” I replied. “What is it that no man ever yet did see, which never was, but always is to be? You can’t see feelings, or time, or… What’s behind you.” I shivered as an image of the wolves creeping up behind me prowled through my mind’s eye.
“Hurry up, you foolish girl,” growled the wolf. The female shook her head.
“Something that you cancelled never was. Uh, always to be… Maybe it’s the future? No, because the future comes to pass. Oh, oh! It’s tomorrow!” I announced.
“Good. I am pleased that you were able to figure it out before he got too impatient. He never really takes rules too seriously,” smiled the she-wolf.
“She took too long. She is lucky that I do not just eat her here and now. Then you would leave and I could also be rid of you: I am sick and tired of you,” spat the other wolf, walking towards the she-wolf.
“You will not eat her. She has rightfully won her freedom!” she replied.
“You are not the leader of the pack, Raina. If you want to lead, you will have to kill me, and we all know that you cannot! And besides, a female cannot be pack leader. Deep down, you know that you could not challenge me to be leader!” the leader said, snarling.
“Well actually, you are not the pack leader. You tore out his eyes and led him up the mountains to the dragon’s lair. You stole his title and told us that he wandered away in his sleep. You lied to us!!! I know that I cannot challenge you for that title, but I will gladly be banished from the pack and join with this girl. Gladly!!!” she announced. The other wolves made a noise that seemed close to a gasp.
“Gladly, huh? I don’t believe you. Well then, I will banish you here and now. I, the leader of this pack, hereby banish you from the black pack of the marked wolves.” declared the pack leader, and he lead them all away.
“Come on now. Let us leave this place. His pack will soon enough become tainted by his leadership and they will fall, although I hope it never happens because my cubs are in that pack,” said Raina sadly, leading me well away from where we had met.
“You must both be tired. I’ll go out and try to find some food for you. Would you like meat or nuts and berries?” Raina asked after a while.
“How easy will it be for you to carry nuts and berries?” I replied.
“Oh, it won’t be too hard,” answered Raina, and she walked away to find some food. I sat down and leaned on a tree trunk with Kekoa purring beside me. I became less and less aware of my surroundings, and the figments of my imagination came to life.

“Hey, wake up! I’ve got you some food,” said Raina, nudging my arm.
“Hmm? Thanks,” I replied, sat up and ate.
“Ok, so I wanted to show you the forest at night. I’m mainly nocturnal, and the forest is so beautiful at night. Follow me,” Raina urged, and she leapt off through the woods. We ran through the forest, the moonlight making Raina’s coat shimmer, and her markings seemed to glow almost as if they were fluorescent. None of us seemed to know where we were going, and I felt as though fate was pulling us along to wherever it was that she wanted us to be. With the fireflies guiding us along our path, I looked up and saw thousands of bright stars twinkling above us. I felt tiny compared to the sheer magnitude of the stars, felt as though I was next to worthless, a tool of fate to drag along to where I was next needed. I looked down again so that I wouldn’t stumble. We ran for what could have been hours or minutes, and after a time we came to a ridge. I looked down and saw a pool with a silvery-white maiden standing on the water’s edge.
“Who is that?” I whispered.
“No-one knows. I have heard some say that she is a spirit, others say that she is the ghost of whoever enchanted the oracle’s pool, but that will need a lot of explaining,” answered Raina.
“Who do you believe she is?” I asked.
“I believe that she is the spirit of the forest, the embodiment, even the protector of the forest. But everyone calls her the silver maiden so that no-one gets confused. Come now,” replied Raina, and we continued in our night-time exploration. I glanced momentarily back at the silver maiden, and she turned her face towards me. I wish I hadn’t looked, but the memory of those empty eyes wouldn’t leave.

We ran deeper and deeper into the forest, and it seemed that time stood still. The wind awoke and blew steadily against us, rustling the leaves above us, and an owl hooted several times far in the distance. I heard the stream bubbling closer and closer. I knew it must have been freezing, but I was warm from running, and the cold couldn’t touch me. It grew darker, and when I looked up, I saw that we were in the shadow of mountains that I had never been told of. A sweet smell filled the air, like apple blossoms.

A large stag trotted out of a cave. He was a handsome peacock-blue stag with the most majestic pair of antlers I’d ever seen. He reared up and landed, first on his left, then his right hoof. Two sets of dust swirled and rippled away from his hooves.
“Who enters my realm of the mountain’s shadow?” demanded the stag in a deep, echoing voice.
“It is I, Raina the violet, who was part of the black pack of the marked wolves until today. I was banished, on account of this girl, who is travelling with me on this night,” answered Raina.
“And you? What is your name?” asked the stag, looking at me.
“Marelia,” I replied.
“Do you know that Raina was the highest in her pack, apart from leader? Do you know how much you have ruined for her by causing her to be banished?” the stag demanded angrily.
“No, although I am sure she would have lost a lot. But she before she was banished, she said that she would gladly leave. I don’t think that’s all; Raina accused the leader of lying, and she saved me from being eaten,” I said.
“This is true, Raina?”
“Yes: the pack leader challenged Marelia and gave her a riddle that I thought was too hard. I stood up for her when he got impatient, even though she had answered correctly,” explained Raina. The stag paused before it spoke again.
“Well, now that is understood, what brings you to my realm tonight?” he asked.
“I was showing Marelia the forest at night; it is so beautiful, even more so at night,” Raina answered.
“Well, in that case, she simply must try a gem-fruit!” the stag insisted. He walked over to a tree that seemed to glow and bit off a fruit by the stalk. I looked at Raina, and she nodded. I took the fruit and took a bite. It smelled as sweet as apple blossoms, was crunchy as an unripe pear, and tasted almost like a pomegranate.
“If you like it, take some for your journey, wherever it is that you will go,” the stag invited. I timidly reached out and picked a gem-fruit, and another, and another. I took as many as I could safely hold without dropping any.
“Well, we will be off now, I suppose. I don’t think I’ll see you again, I can just feel it. Farewell, Dameon the great stag,” said Raina. “Come now, let’s go. You, at least, should sleep.” I nodded, exhausted.

“Ma-ree-la!” chittered Kekoa hungrily in my ear.
“You’re still wild, silly! I’m not feeding you,” I laughed, sitting up. The forest was filled with sunlight and birdsong, but nothing as beautiful and mysterious as it had seemed the night before. I looked up through the trees and saw that the sun was nearly overhead. I didn’t panic though, knowing that I hadn’t slept last night and I didn’t have to go or be anywhere. I saw that Raina was sleeping under a tree.
“Come on, Kekoa. What do you eat?”
“Mech… E,” he replied, leaping onto a stone. I shooed him off it and moved the stone. Kekoa immediately began eating the insects and grubs that squirmed underneath. I picked up a gem-fruit from the night before and ate it. Bored, curious and scared, I touched my necklace. Curious because I wanted to know what Liz was doing, and scared that it might show more lies from Samantha.

Liz, please. This is the last time we’ll see each other if you continue on to your old master. You will leave me with no-one, nowhere to go. Please, turn back and help me go to the enchanted forest,” pleaded Liz.
“Liz, I’m an elf. We-” Samantha hesitated, “-Dislike faeries. If I were to go there, and later go to the elven sanctuary then I would be a disgrace, and sent away.”
“Well then, take me to your elven home. Remember, I’m a human,
not a faerie,” said Liz hopefully. “You know, I never thought I would remind someone that I’m human. It seems so strange.” Samantha smiled.
“You’re right. There can’t be any harm in taking you to the elven sanctuary. Besides, my
father must think that he will never see me again, after all these years. If I bring you and you’re not welcome, then it would all be made up in an instant, because everyone thought that I couldn’t go there,” she agreed. “You’re the best friend I could have, constantly pleading for me not to go where there is danger. I should have thought of this.”

The sun’s bright happiness was contagious, and I saw that Liz hadn’t been tricked, and that all this time she had been pleading to come and be with me. But now she was going to some place in the mountains, where it was cold, snowy and stony.
“She’s only going to the sanctuary because her father’s dead and she’ll have nowhere to go otherwise,” I thought, determined not to let anything douse my flame of happiness. Something about the sun varnished everything it touched with joyfulness, just as the moon covered everything with a blanket of wonder and mystery. Still bored, I picked a bunch of daisies to weave into a crown.

“How was your day?” asked Raina sleepily as the sun set.
“Boring. I wasn’t sure what we should do and, if you’re mainly nocturnal, then I thought I should let you sleep,” I replied. “I touched my necklace; Liz is getting her elven friend, Samantha, to take her to the elven sanctuary. Apparently elves dislike faeries, and that’s why Samantha won’t bring Liz to the enchanted woods.”
“Samantha? Are you serious?” asked Raina.
“Uh, yeah. Why? Do you know her?” I replied.
“No, but now isn’t the time to explain. I would have thought you would know. Anyway, so now we have to beat them to it and kidnap Liz to bring her back here, huh?” Raina said.
“Yeah. Something like that,” I laughed. “Ok, let’s go back to my mother’s house and check if I can go rescue Liz.” Now that we had a plan, I felt eager to move.

“Hi Sunset!” I called.
“Oh, hello. You’ve been away longer than usual,” Sunset replied.
“Well, I’m planning on being away for… Probably a few months. Liz is getting her elven friend, Samantha, to take her to the elven sanctuary in the mountains,” I said. Sunset stiffened when I said elven.
“So you need to intercept them before they get there, because otherwise you won’t be able to get in. Elves can tell immediately if someone is a faerie, and vice versa, even if every hint that they are other than human is completely hidden. Also, elves and faeries hate each other, so beware,” said Sunset. That explained a lot. I had always wondered why I had a feeling that Samantha was an elf, without her actually telling me. Samantha had always openly avoided me, and the few times I had caught her eye there had always been a gleam of pure hate. I had always assumed that it was because I was Liz’s younger twin, and siblings have a habit of disrupting a peaceful afternoon with a friend. Now that I knew why there was always that gleam of hate, I was curious to know more, but unprepared to return the same, malicious anger.
“Samantha used ‘dislike’,” I queried.
“She was being nice,” answered Sunset curtly.
“So can I go?” I asked.
“Liz was your sister from the moment of your birth until you had to come here. I know you don’t want her to stay with Samantha, and you would be betraying her if you didn’t go to her. Of course you can go,” Sunset replied. It was strange that Sunset knew of what I had seen, but she couldn’t have been watching me, could she?

I left the next morning with a pack full of the leftover gem-fruits, some dried meat, some nuts, and water.
“Let’s go!” I called to Kekoa and Raina. We ran through the forest, filled with anticipation for our adventure. As our path became familiar to me, my anticipation turned to dread. There it was. The path to the oracle’s pool.
“Well?” asked Raina, obviously sensing my dread. I sighed and followed the short path. I knelt down and stared into the pool’s depths. The pool changed to show Liz kneeling over Samantha, who lay in the dust.
“Samantha,” Liz whispered.
“Liz, you’ve wanted to join Marelia for so long. I’ll be Ok. Go, before they hurt you too,” said Samantha.
“She’s right. Besides, she can heal herself, even if the others won’t,” said my reflection.
“I’m not leaving her. You can heal her, Marelia. I’ve travelled with her for so long, she’s almost like a second sister. Almost,” replied Liz. My reflection smiled, knowing something that I didn’t.
“All right. I’m not sure what my – our – mother would say, but Samantha could always live in the forest. The forest’s so big, no-one will know but us,” my reflection said. I couldn’t understand some of the things my reflect said, but it was clear that Samantha was returning with us. I stood up and followed the path back to Raina and Kekoa, who scampered up my arm and around my neck.

“What did it show?” asked Raina.
“Samantha’s coming back here,” I answered.
“But faeries hate elves!” Raina replied incredulously.
“I don’t know why, so why should I continue that?” I asked.
“Hasn’t your mother told you this? Well, I suppose that you would be more troubled by the future that the oracle’s pool showed you if she had,” said Raina, “I suppose I will have to tell you. Normally histories start off with ‘a long time ago’, but most of this is so recent, you would have been born not long after it started. Samantha is the elven princess. When she was seven, her mother, the queen was killed, and a war began. Thousands on both sides were killed, and to protect their children, faeries swapped them with humans. You will find, I think, that rather a lot of children about the same age as you or younger are actually changelings. Anyway, the surviving elves including Samantha’s father, the elven king, hid in the mountains and built a sanctuary. There’s really not much to say, except that many were killed, and the war spurred a fierce hate between the elves and faeries,” explained Raina.
“Who- why did they kill the queen?” I asked.
“There are two dragon eggs left in the world. One is lost and the other was in the care of the faeries. This part that happened over a thousand years ago. The egg was being transported to a safer place, but was ambushed by elves The transporters were killed, and the egg rolled away. Several thousand years later, the elven queen was travelling past that lonely place, and saw the egg hidden under a bush. She thought it was a stone, and picked it up to take with her. Word spread of the beautiful stone, and when the faeries heard its description, they were reminded of the egg they had lost. They explained and asked for the queen to return their egg, but she refused and locked it away. They killed her, and somehow took the egg. A war started between the the elves and faeries, and I’ve told you the rest,” answered Raina.
“So… They were fighting over the second last egg? Couldn’t they have both kept it safe?” I asked.
“Share the egg? No, elves are too proud for that. But the real question is, will you agree with the faeries that the elven queen was wrong to refuse them their egg?” Raina replied.
“No. I won’t take sides. The rift of hate and anger between us is too wide, too deep. I would sooner join the two sides together and try to heal the rift, or at least build a bridge between them,” I promised. Raina said nothing, so we went to sleep. Like it was possible to sleep. We were getting closer to the mountains, although we weren’t quite out of the forest yet. Still, the ground was getting stony, and I was used to soft grass. I lay on my back, watching the stars and the moon play hide and seek with the clouds, until sleep washed over me like water.

It was our last morning in the forest. As the edge grew closer, I felt scared. I hadn’t ever quite fitted in when I still thought I was human, and the forest felt like home, felt like a part of me. How could I leave the forest and survive? What would happen in the mountains? I had no answers for any of my fear-sparked questions, except that I was going to bring Liz and maybe Samantha back with me. Hopefully it would feel like home to them as well.

All signs of the enchanted woods are now well behind us, and several mountains block the view of my home. Kekoa is constantly chittering: I’m sure he wants to go back to the forest. I’ve told him multiple times that he can leave us if he wants, but he is persevering. The sunrises and sunsets are amazing here, but I miss the forest. Raina seems nervous. Whenever I ask her what’s wrong, she startles, and shakes her head. But they aren’t the only ones who are easily spooked. I’m constantly accidentally kicking stones around and jumping when the sound echoes. The mountains so are eerily silent, it seems to devour all sound. It doesn’t help that the forest is so filled with birdsong and the ever-present babble of water. I have no idea what direction we should be travelling in.

The rocky ground was not suitable for sleeping on, and it didn’t help that every one of us startled at the smallest noise. We found a river – probably the one that became the stream in the forest – and filled our bottles with it, but we didn’t stay long. The river seemed dead, although we all knew that it was the effect of the silence around us. As the day dragged on, the rocky ground became covered in snow, and we were even more silent for fear of setting off an avalanche.

“Keoh, keoh, keoh!” cried Kekoa. A low growl echoed from behind us.
“What are you doing, bringing this wolf here? None of you belong here. These mountains are all but dead and bereft of life. Those elves are the only creatures left, apart from us, the pack of the 9-tails,” a 9-tailed fox said.
“Sir, we are travelling in the direction of the elven sanctuary. This girl has a friend there who she wants to visit,” replied Raina shakily.
“And you are keeping the girl company? What about the dragon? It looks terrified,” grinned the fox wryly.
“We have told him that he can leave if he wants, but he has refused so far,” Raina answered. The fox snorted loudly, as though he was holding in a laugh. The snort echoed, and the sound was amplified tenfold. A roar answered.

“Avalanche!!!” cried Raina desperately. I hugged Kekoa tightly to my chest and started running as fast as my tired, frozen feet could carry me. All the snow slipped from beneath my feet, dragging me with it. The avalanche thundered down and engulfed everything in its path, including Kekoa and myself, Raina, and the fox. Nothing I tried to hold on to stayed where it was, and the snow pressed in from all sides. I gave up trying to struggle and curled into a ball, hugging Kekoa tighter. The sound on snow rushing about me filled my ears, leaving almost no room for me to hear Kekoa’s terrified chittering. My world became filled with fear, with holding Kekoa tight, and with freezing, rushing snow. Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes to hours. I had no idea how fast time was travelling, and it might have been days or seconds since the avalanche started pouring down. Suddenly, I heard a wolf howling above the snow. I uncurled myself and, still hugging Kekoa, did my best to swim to the surface.
“Raina!” I cried.
“Marelia!” came the reply. Somehow, she had already found a stable place to stand on. I swam towards the edge of the avalanche and eventually managed to escape from the river of snow.
“Let’s go,” said Raina, leaping away from the sight of the avalanche and deeper into the mountains. I put Kekoa down and followed.

“I noticed you were really tense up until the avalanche,” I said as the last of the daylight faded.
“I was scared we would meet the 9-tailed fox. His pack is cruel, even more than mine. They believe that they should be rulers over every creature remotely related to themselves. Wolves would be included in their kingdom if it were ever allowed to happen,” Raina answered. “Why don’t you see where Liz and Samantha are?” I nodded and touched my necklace.

We’ll be at the sanctuary tomorrow,” said Samantha. Liz smiled, clearly eager to arrive. They sat on the cold stone of the mountains. The sun had just finished setting to their right, shining through a valley between the two highest mountains.“Let’s go to sleep now,” said Samantha.

The sun just finished setting through those two mountains,” I said, pointing at the valley. “It was to their right. Also, Samantha said they’ll be at the sanctuary by tomorrow.
“That’s good, but let’s go to sleep first,” replied Raina. “
You’ve got a reunion tomorrow.” I smiled, and remembered my reflection’s decision from when I last looked at the oracle’s pool.

Who are you? Surely you’re not an elf? What are you doing here?” demanded a voice whose person we couldn’t see.
“I’m
Samantha, the princess. And this is my human friend, Liz,” answered Samantha. Raina and I exchanged worried looks, and, bundling Kekoa into my arms, we ran to the sanctuary.
Hmm. We don’t really let humans in, but if she’s your friend, she can come in,” said the voice. “The princess has come home!” We ran faster, and finally we arrived.
Stop! Liz, come with us!” I cried. “You’re my sister, no matter what you are!”
“Marelia? How did you know where we were?” asked Liz.
I left the question unanswered: there was time enough for explanations later.
“Everyone get their
weapons! We’ve a faerie here!” announced the person who was guarding the gate. The air filled with sounds of metal clattering and scraping, and angry elven voices. The armed elves rushed towards me.
Gale force!” I cried, holding up my hand. A handful of elves were pushed backwards. Raina growled and leapt into the air, swiping at whoever she landed on. I used the gale force again, and someone dropped their spear. I picked it up and defended myself with it. The elves were throwing spears and shooting arrows left, right, and center. Liz screamed and Samantha groaned. The fighting ceased, and everyone ran back into their homes. I ran to Samantha.
“What happened?” I asked.
“In all the chaos, an arrow flew in the wrong direction. Samantha’s hurt,”
answered Liz anxiously.
What should we do?” I asked, just as anxiously, kneeling down onto the dusty stone.
Samantha,” whispered Liz, who either hadn’t heard or took no notice.
Go with Marelia, Liz. I’ll be alright. Hurry, before they come back and hurt you, too,” replied Samantha quietly.
She’s right. Samantha’s an elf, she can heal herself. If not, her people can,” I said. I couldn’t understand why I was saying it like this. I had decided to bring her with us, not leave her.
I can’t leave her, I’ve travelled with her for so long that she’s almost like a second sister. You heal her, Marelia,” pleaded Liz.
Alright. I’m sure sunset, our mother, would disagree, but Samantha can live in the forest. The enchanted woods are so big, I haven’t even explored an eighth of it,” I agreed, and healed Samantha. Liz and I helped the elf up and the five of us walked to a safe place to settle for the night.

Liz?” asked Samantha sleepily, the first sound of the morning. Despite the deadness of the mountains, our camp was filled with life.
“Yeah?” replied Liz.
“What happened last night?” Samantha asked.
“Marelia came for me, and then all the elves got their weapons, and there was a mini battle. You got hurt, and Marelia healed you,” answered Liz.
“So it all happened. But Marelia, you’re a faerie.
Don’t you hate elves?asked Samantha.
“I’m a faerie who won’t hate others just because
of something that happened a while ago that I had no part in. Come with us, to live in the enchanted woods, hidden from our mother,” I said.
You know, I always wanted to go there, but some faeries live in the hidden village. I guess I just wanted to be accepted by the elves if I ever went to the sanctuary afterwards. I don’t really want to go back there again,” grinned Samantha. “Tell me some things about the forest.”
“Well, I haven’t explored very much yet, so you’ll only know as much as I do. So, there’s a weird little pool, and it shows you a piece of your future. It’s not always right though, which, in my case, is very good.
it’s called the oracle’s pool,” I said.
Oh, that. Do you know how it was made?” asked Samantha, and seeing me shaking my head, continued, “Someone made themselves into a future-teller. One day, they fell into the little pool you now know as the oracle’s pool. All the magic left the person and made the pool magical.”
“Oh.
Well I don’t really recommend going to it. The first time I went there, it made me think that both of you were going to hate me,” I laughed. “After that I met a naiad, and her name is Brook. There was so many things, and a lot of them were a year ago or more. I’ll let you discover most of them and tell you about meeting Kekoa, Raina, and the deer. What were they called?”
The jeltas, in elven. They are blue, purple, and pink, and the females have antlers, but they are nothing compared to the male’s. They eat a type of fruit made out of gemstone,” answered Raina.
So, I met Kekoa after falling asleep in a tree because I had just gone for a swim and wanted to dry off. Then I met Raina, and she was standing up to her pack leader for me. I had to answer a riddle, and Raina thought it was too hard. Anyway, she got herself banished because of me, but she wanted to leave, anyway. Then she took us around the forest to the foot of the mountains and I met Dameon, the great stag. I tried a gem-fruit, which smell like apple blossoms, are crunchy like an unripe pear, and taste like pomegranates,” I said, sighing at the remembered taste of the gem-fruits. Kekoa jumped up into Liz’s arms and demanded a head scratch.

We made great progress over the next three days, and soon we were leaving Samantha, Raina, and Kekoa in the safety of the forest. It was another day before we arrived at the hidden village. I don’t know what I expected when we got there. Maybe a welcome from Sunset to Liz. There was nothing like that. All kindness had left when we arrived.
“Where is she?” demanded Sunset.
“Who?” I asked.
“Samantha, of course! How could you?
How could you heal her and bring her here? How could you not hate her? Her family and her people are why you didn’t grow up here, with me! What is wrong with you?” screamed Sunset.
I would rather that I had grown up as though I was human. I wouldn’t know Liz otherwise!” I yelled, astounded by my mother’s hostility. “How do you even know Samantha’s here?”
“I made a necklace, of cou
rse,” Sunset retorted. I walked up to her and tore her necklace off.
Well, that’s just… Didn’t you trust me? There’s nothing wrong with me, but there’s something wrong with you. Do you want to know what that is? Your mind is twisted from hate. You won’t accept that it’s not all of the elves who fought. Samantha’s family might have, but she was too young: she suffered from the war, too, you know. Samantha is like a sister to Liz, and Liz is my twin. I don’t care what she is, she’s my sister!” I replied. “This forest is my home, so it’s Liz’s and Samantha’s home too.” I grabbed Liz’s arm and pulled her with me, running from the village.

What are we going to do now?” asked Liz.
“Explore the forest. I don’t belong there any more, and besides, I spend most of my time away from the village anyway,”
I answered. “Sorry.”
What? Don’t be sorry. I wouldn’t belong either, I’ve travelled so much,” replied Liz. We didn’t know where we were going, but our feet carried us to Samantha.
“What are you doing back here?” she asked, surprised, but happy.
“We wouldn’t belong in the hidden village,” I said. Samantha seemed to understand every unsaid word.
All of us knew that we would belong in the forest, even if we didn’t belong in the village. No-one could take that away from us.

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