Eloise’s mentor? Elizabeth wondered what this mysterious person could be like, as they climbed the spiraling staircase that ran the interior of the Great Life Tree’s trunk. It seemed as though the stairs ascended forever, and Elizabeth felt herself quickly running out of energy. Leon, on the other hand, always seemed un-phased by physical labor.
“How much further? I feel like I’m climbing a mountain,” Elizabeth complained.
“You climbed an actual mountain two days ago; how can you already be tired from a few stairs?” Leon chided.
“A few? This goes on forever!” Elizabeth exclaimed in response.
“Hardly,” Leon retorted.
“Does it go all the way to the top of the tree?”
“That’s basically forever.”
Leon chuckled. “We’re almost there,” he replied.
“That’s what you always say.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
Elizabeth lost track of how many floors they had ascended by the time they turned off the stairs. She had started to feel dizzy from constantly veering to the right in the spirals, and was still resisting the urge to throw up.
“Are you well? You look very pale,” Leon asked as he turned around, his eyes darkening with concern. Elizabeth just nodded — she was certain that if she spoke now she would surely vomit. Leon nodded, hesitant, and turned back to lead the way forward again.
They emerged into a room much smaller than the first. The room and all its furnishings were carved straight out of the tree and immovable. The room itself was furnished with a long table and four chairs, a wide bookshelf, a bench beside it, and a bed. It was decorated sparsely, with books on the shelf, the bed made up with silken blankets and soft-looking pillows, a chamber pot in the far corner, and a fancy-looking silk throw rug in the center of the room that depicted a scene of a fairy dancing with a dragon-looking creature.
Leon noticed Elizabeth examining the carpet and spoke up, “it depicts the legendary beast, the Kirin.”
“What’s a Kirin?” Elizabeth asked, inquisitive.
“Supposedly a magical beast who guards The Dreamer — it is simply a myth, though,” Leon explained briefly.
“Some things are myths even in this world?”
“Indeed. Every world must have its myths and legends, to awe and inspire.”
“Every world? How many worlds are there?”
“Honestly, I do not know the answer to this,” Leon admitted.
As Leon put their bags next to the bed, Elizabeth examined the rug a while longer. Both creatures depicted in the carpet were beautiful in their own right — the fairy’s wings were woven with a sparkling yarn, well representative of those wings they had just seen down below. The Kirin was woven in brilliant bright colors — it reminded her of an oriental dragon with a horse’s mane and tail.
“I bet they’re beautiful,” Elizabeth commented.
“What are?” Leon asked, puzzled.
“Kirin. I bet they’re beautiful and majestic creatures — if they exist.”
“Ah,” Leon replied, at a loss for words, “I imagine so.”
“I wish I could meet one. If fairies are real, I’m sure Kirins must be, too,” Elizabeth commented more-so to herself than her companion as she finally looked up from the decoration. Leon was already waiting by the door and Elizabeth groaned, “more stairs? Are you serious?” Leon chuckled in his typical way, a honeyed sound that enchanted Elizabeth every time.
“My apologies, dear, but I am afraid we must travel higher once more,” he replied. Elizabeth exaggerated a groan but Leon ignored her and started to head up the stairs, knowing she would follow. She did so begrudgingly.
“Where are we going? How high this time?” Elizabeth asked, clearly annoyed with stairs at this point.
“The top,” Leon replied.
“Are you serious?!” Elizabeth halted, angry. “Before you said it wasn’t far, now we have to go to the top?!” Leon stopped and looked back down at her, sighing heavily.
“You are acting as a child, Elizabeth — it is not too much to ask for you to make a little effort; the horses have carried your weight for two days, I am certain you can carry your own self for a few more minutes,” he replied condescendingly. Elizabeth fumed.
“What the hell?” she demanded.
“If you throw a childish tantrum, then I shall thusly treat you as a child,” Leon chided. Elizabeth was furious with him at this point, but tried to take a few calming breathing exercises like her therapist had taught her years ago. Leon watched her impatiently, but said nothing as she closed her eyes and breathed through her mouth. He recognized that she was attempting to calm herself down.
“Fine,” she said through clenched teeth, “lead the way.”
“Good,” Leon replied simply and started heading back up the stairs with Elizabeth right behind him. They were starting to get irritated with how confrontational the other one was.
A few minutes later of climbing the stairs in aggravated silence, they reached the summit of the Great Life Tree, where Leon claimed they would find Eloise’s former mentor. Elizabeth didn’t know who or what to expect — perhaps a fairy elder of some kind? Or another creature altogether? She braced herself for the unknown as they emerged into a grand chamber that Elizabeth guessed encompassed half the width of the tree. It appear, for all intents and purposes, as one would expect of a throne room — a long hall ended in a throne, with a silken red runner carpet leading from the stairwell landing up to the three short steps directly in front of the throne — which elevated the seat. Fancy tapestries lined the entire wall behind the throne. No one was seated on the throne, and Elizabeth wondered briefly why they had come this far for nothing. Before she could get mad at Leon, a figure emerged from behind a tapestry — which Elizabeth realized had been concealing a doorway.
“Leon!” a tiny voice cried as a child-like figure with glittering silver wings launched themselves at Leon and he caught the small fairy in a warm embrace. “You’ve finally returned!”
“Indeed, I have,” he affirmed.
“I saw it in the stars, but I scarcely could believe it!” the fairy gushed as Elizabeth looked her over. She was a tiny thing, smaller than the fairies downstairs, and Elizabeth realized she seemed to be nothing more than a child — perhaps twelve years old, by human standards — though Elizabeth had no idea about the aging process of a mystical creature. The fairy had deep-set silver eyes that seemed to shine like starlight and matched her wings, and long silver hair tied into a tight bun. Her clothes seemed to be made of layers of sheer blue and black fabric, in fading hues — it appeared as though she wore a darkening sky. It reminded Elizabeth of seeing the moon and stars, if they were personified.
At that moment, the unidentified fairy noticed Elizabeth and began to look her over, fluttering all around her in 360 degrees. Elizabeth felt awkward and out-of-place as she eyed the fairy curiously.
“Is it true? Is she it?” the fairy asked, and Elizabeth realized she was referring to her.
“Yes, it is true, and this is she,” Leon confirmed the cryptic question.
“She doesn’t look like her,” the fairy pondered.
“No, she does not,” Leon agreed.
“Curious, is it not?”
“I suppose so.”
“You brought her from the other world?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth realized then that they were talking about her, and drawing comparisons between her and her former incarnation.
“I’m standing right here,” Elizabeth fumed.
“That you are,” the fairy child mused and Elizabeth frowned.
“Leon, where the heck is this mentor I’m supposed to meet?” Elizabeth demanded.
“Right here,” Leon pointed to the fairy still circling Elizabeth. The fairy in question stopped and landed directly in front of them with a low curtsy.
“My name is Nefeline, of the Forlarren people,” she introduced herself. Elizabeth flustered and stammered for a moment, before curtsying awkwardly in return.516Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡP33PEwny1T
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Elizabeth managed to stammer politely.
“Enough of the formalities, they bore me,” Nefeline said as Elizabeth straightened back up. “Let’s get down to business: you want to learn to control Eloise’s, your, powers. Correct?”
“Yes, ma’am — please teach me, before I hurt someone again!” Elizabeth pleaded.
“Hurt someone?” Nefeline echoed.
“Yes, I— I…” Elizabeth trailed off. Leon noticed her distress.
“It was an assassin, sent after her. Her power manifested when her life was in danger,” Leon explained and Nefeline nodded her acknowledgment.
“I understand,” Nefeline replied.
“Then you will teach me?” Elizabeth asked, hopeful.
“Why?” Nefeline asked, a challenge in her tone.
“What do you mean ‘why’? So I won’t hurt people!” Elizabeth exclaimed, distressed.
“Yes, but why should I teach you? This doesn’t affect me,” Nefeline replied. Elizabeth looked to Leon, at a loss for words, but Leon just shrugged.
“We’re trying to save the entire world, this affects everyone!” Elizabeth cried but Nefeline just frowned.
“That’s not a good enough reason, I’m afraid. Come back when you figure it out.” Nefeline dismissed them with a wave of her hand. She nodded to Leon and fluttered away back to the hidden doorway. Elizabeth looked on in dismay.
“Leon, can’t you do anything?” Elizabeth cried.
“Nefeline isn’t easily swayed — you have to earn her respect; it’ a test,” Leon said, offering very little in the way of aid or explanations.
“Test? For what?” Elizabeth asked, trying to calm down again.
“Your character,” Leon replied, “that is the only way she will decide whether or not you are worthy of her efforts.” With that said, Leon turned sharply and began to head back down the stairs. Elizabeth stayed rooted in place, dismay still plain on her face.
What do I do now? She wondered.
“Wait!” Elizabeth called after Nefeline. The fairy turned back to regard her with little interest. Elizabeth was flustered but attempted to gather her thoughts quickly. “I’m— I’m not Eloise,” she began meekly but, as she spoke, her confidence and intensity grew and she slowly strode towards the fairy who had so easily dismissed her. “But I’m not her shadow, either; I’m my own person. I have my own appearance, my own personality. I’m sorry if that’s not good enough for anyone, if I disappoint them because they expected Eloise to suddenly be back, but I won’t apologize for being myself — I won’t allow you, or anyone else, to detract from who I am now and who I’m becoming. I may not really belong in this world or Earth, I may be caught somewhere in between, and this power I’m developing scares the hell out of me. But I WILL save both worlds, with or without your help.” Elizabeth was now standing toe to toe with Nefeline, at eye level while the fairy hovered in the air. Nefeline was still frowning and Elizabeth swallowed hard but kept her composure.
“Okay,” Nefeline replied after a long moment of silence and turned away again.
“Okay? That’s it?” Elizabeth was dismayed at how easily she was constantly being dismissed.
“Come along then,” Nefeline added and Elizabeth cocked her head in confusion. Nefeline held the curtain aside and looked back at her. “Are you coming or not?” she asked and Elizabeth found her motor skills again, hurrying to pass through the doorway. Inside Nefeline’s quarters was grander than Elizabeth could have ever imagined. The room was again carved out of the wood of the tree, with furniture fixed in place. However, the entire room was beautifully adorned and decorated with intricate, brightly-colored tapestries covering every wall and silken carpets depicting various scenes of fairies and magical beasts, a towering bookcase crammed full of books and parchments, a long table covered in flawless glass and crystals in radiant colors of varying shapes and sizes, a king sized bed made up with plush-looking blankets and pillows, floating light orbs, and no ceiling. Wait, what? Elizabeth was confused as she strained her neck to look up. She could indeed see the sunny sky above, as soft clouds drifted gently across the ocean of blue. Nefeline noticed her reaction and giggled, a sound that reminded Elizabeth of wind chimes or a bubbling brook.
“It’s an illusion,” Nefeline answered the unspoken question, “but it is exactly as the sky appears at present.”
“That’s amazing!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
“That’s magic,” Nefeline replied in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Will I be able to do that?” Elizabeth asked excitedly.
“Faerie magic and the magic of an enchantress are very different — you deal with elements, we deal with illusions and nature,” Nefeline explained.
“What’s the difference?” Elizabeth asked.
“That is what I must teach you,” Nefeline replied.ns 220.127.116.11da2