The Forest Daughter: Part One
Today is not special. No. It is the opposite of special. It is ordinary. Why does Listilla think that every day is amazing, wonderful? Why does she always wake me up by telling me that it is a new day, a unique day, and it will never ever occur again? This day will most likely be pretty much the same as yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.
I will wake up to the sound of the lie. After Listilla speaks that falsehood, the rest of the faeries will flutter up to the branch where I sleep, singing their good mornings. Then...
Oh, I suppose I should explain myself, tell my story. I guess I should start with my arrival.
Here goes. My name is Melody, or Mel, if you’re one of my friends. When I was just a baby, the earth faeries living in the forest on the border of Brightvale and Meridell found me, a Xweetok, resting in a small basket, wrapped in silk. They anxiously chattered, wondering what to do. Then Listilla, then one of the youngest in the community, stepped forward. “I will take care of her, and you all can help me,” she said as she raised her head, looking up at her elders. And that is exactly what happened.
Now I am a petite faerie Xweetok of fourteen years, and I have fallen into a dull routine. Sure, it may sound exciting, being brought up by faeries, but it isn’t if that is all you’ve ever known. I’ve never even met another pet! Not that I can really complain. I’m safe here, and content, and I doubt anyone could be more caring than Listilla, but I wish...
Back to today. My routine goes smoothly until around five o’clock. Chores, lunch, lessons - it is all a blur. Then comes dinner.
I sit in between Listilla and another earth faerie, Gianna. Prista, our leader, sits at the head of the table, smiling kindly at everyone. Then she clears her throat. And she speaks.
“Ladies, as you all know, our lovely, gracious queen, Fyora, is to visit Brightvale on a visit to King Hagan, and then Meridell to visit King Skarl. Though they are not he best of friends, it is important for her to know the leaders of all the nations where her subjects reside.” Here she stops talking to smile once more at all of us. Then she continues. “Because she cares so deeply for all of her subjects, she has decided to come here to visit us before the kings! We will be her host for one night! And guess what! It is only a week away!”
My heart freezes. What would Fyora think of me, a pet, living in the midst of faeries? Will she send me away? No. I won’t let her.
All around me, faeries are talking. Probably thinking of ways to impress the queen. Me thinking of ways to avoid her.
“Mel?” Listilla is studying me. Maybe she has guessed my thoughts. “Is anything wrong?” Her head tilts to the side, as it often does if she is worried.
“Nothing,” I shake my head with vigor. “I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
“Oh, good.” A wide grin spreads across her face. “Just think, the queen is coming here!”
“Great, just great,” I say, sliding off the log I was sitting on and inching away. I need some time to think.
It was a week ago that Prista announced the queen’s visit, and she is set to arrive any minute. I pace nervously. What if she hates me? What if she forces me to live among my own kind? What if, what if, what if?
I can almost make out a purple form in the distance. As it comes closer, I gasp. Fyora is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
She is wearing a simple purple gown that seems to shimmer even in the dim forest light. Her violet hair sweeps down her back and her eyes shine. I have to wonder if she uses magic to make herself appear so lovely.
Prista comes forward and curtsies. “Your highness,” she breathes. Apparently she is astonished, too. I doubt any of the faeries I live with have ever seen her before today.
Fyora looks around, eyeing each of us in turn. When she spots me, she looks startled.
“Who is this child living among you?”
No one answers her. Finally, Prista hesitantly speaks.
“She is a Xweetok we found one day fourteen years ago. We took her in and gave her a home. We believe her to be an orphan.”
Fyora just nods and looks thoughtful. Then she turns and walks away, Prista and several others of importance following her. I imagine they are going to discuss the state of things in our community.
Listilla looks at me. I look at her. I know we are both wondering the same thing.
The rest of the day is pretty uneventful. Fyora gives some speeches, we have a feast, she gives some more speeches, we go to bed.
The next day she is to depart for Brightvale. As she is about to fly away, a look comes upon her face as though she has just remembered something.
“Child!” she cries. I tremble. “You are to come with me. I could use an assistant. After my duties are done in Brightvale and Meridell, we shall travel to Faerieland, where you will live in my castle.”
A collective gasp rises from the crowd. I fight back tears. As dull as life is, I don’t want to leave my home forever, as I’m sure it will be. Fyora has never visited the forest before, and I doubt she intends to come again anytime soon.
Suddenly Listilla is at my side. “It will be all right,” she says, hugging me. “It is an honor. Go. Be happy.” And then she is gone.
I turn to the queen, still trying not to cry. And then, because I know that I will not be able to leave otherwise, I fly away as fast as I can.
Fyora catches up to me and smiles, a sad, lonely smile. “Don’t worry,” she says. “We’ll be great friends. I don’t have all that many, you know.”
Now this really surprises me. She is the all powerful queen. She should have loads of friends. That she does not astonishes me.
We spend the rest of the flight in silence. I guess she just isn’t the chatty type. Oh well.
When we reach Brightvale, one thought replaces all others in my mind, This place is huge, I think. I’ll never fit in.
As we land at the castle, the guards bow to us. I know from my lessons that they are a yellow Skeith and a red Techo.
“Madam,” says the Techo, “the king will receive you soon. In the meantime, the princess will entertain you.”
I know about the princess. She is a Xweetok like me, but blue, and she is dainty and sweet and kind. Her name is Glissiannia. When Hagan dies, she will become queen.
I assume it is her when a blue Xweetok in a stunning gold dress sweeps down the giant staircase. I curtsy.
“Hello, Fyora,” she says, a smile on her lips. “And who is this?” she asks, turning her smile to me.
I speak up. I will not let Fyora talk for me. “My name is Melody, but you can call me Mel. I’m going to be Fyora’s assistant.” Then I hold my breath, hoping I am not being too bold.
She laughs. “And I am Glissiannia. You can call me Glissi. Perhaps we can be friends. How old are you? You seem to be about my age.”
“I’m fourteen,” I say, confident now. “And I’d love to be your friend.”
She replies, “I’m twelve. Two years isn’t a big difference.”
“Girls,” Fyora says, “Perhaps we should see if the king is ready to see us.”
We both nod.
The king is indeed ready to see us - or Fyora anyway. He sends Glissi and me away so he can talk to Fyora and his advisors alone. As we leave, Fyora winks at us. “See you soon,” she whispers.
Now Glissi and I are exploring the castle. When she suggests this, I am surprised at her.
“Haven’t you already found out everything there is to know? You live here, after all.”
“It is much too big. I’ll never explore it all,” she replies, twirling her azure hair around her paw. And so we start with a short tour.
She shows me the dining room, library, garden, and her bedroom. Now we are exploring a room on one of the uppermost floors. It is full of dusty old bottles filled with different colored liquids.
“I’ve never been in here before,” she says, examining a tall bottle filled with a thick blue concoction. “It must be where Brilla keeps her potions.”
“Who’s Brilla?” I ask, turning to her.
“Just a grumpy old potion maker who works here. She supposedly turns pets into mortogs if they disturb her.” Glissi winks, but I’m still not sure if she is joking or not.
I find an ornate bottle filled with a beautiful gold potion. “Glissi, look!”
She turns and sees it too. She reaches out and I hand it to her. “It is so pretty,” she says, lifting it closer to her large eyes. “I wonder what it does.”
Now she is unscrewing the cap, bringing the bottle to her mouth. I know she is enchanted, under a spell perhaps. Why else would she do something so stupid? “No!” I scream, but it is too late.
Glissi is falling to the floor. I catch her and scream again, loud, not caring who hears me. She is unconscious and changing. I can see her hair getting longer, her eyes getting bigger. She is becoming even more lovely than she was before. “Glissi!” I scream.
She won’t wake up. Is she dead? I have no idea. I grab her wrist. There is a pulse, but it is faint. Why, oh why, did I have to show her the potion? This is all my fault! I have to get her to Brilla. Maybe she’ll help.
I rush out into the hall, dragging Glissi along with me. I run into a blue Shoyru. I am crying now, and I must look odd carrying an unconscious princess, but I ask my question anyway. “Where is Brilla?”
She looks at me for a moment, then turns and says, “Follow me.”
We go down a rickety old staircase that the servants must use. It is nothing like the one Glissi and I used, a grand thing with velvet carpet and shiny gold railings. When I almost drop the princess, she helps me carry her down the rest of the way. “Thanks,” I say. She doesn’t reply.
We go through a large brown door. Then the Shoyru leads me through several passageways and then through a dark doorway. Now she finally talks.
“Be careful,” she warns, “Brilla has a nasty temper. Her apprentice, Starlittia, is nice, though. Go to her first.”
“Thanks,” I say, and this time she gives me a “You’re welcome.”
As she turns to go, she adds, “Oh, and I’m Giodelia. I’ll be cleaning something if you need me.” With a mischievous smile, she whips around the corner. I walk on, still dragging Glissi.
I find an old looking table with several bottles on it. As I stride forward to investigate, I slip in something on the floor. In my haste to find something to hold onto, I grab one of the bottles. But instead of crashing to the floor with me, it is merely pulled back a bit. Then it stops.
I watch in awe as The wall seems to lift up, revealing a secret room. I walk in and see a blue Zafara leaning over a table much like the one outside the entrance. “Hello?” I say, and she turns around in surprise, accidentally knocking over a couple of jars.
“Are you Brilla?” I ask, but then I realize she can’t be. She is much too young.
Her answer confirms my revelation. “No, I am Starlittia, her apprentice.”
I remember what Giodelia told me just as she asks me a question. “Why are you dragging the princess down here? What do you need?”
“She drank one of Brilla’s potions. It was gold and in a very pretty container. It made her even more beautiful than she was before. Now she is unconscious. Please help!” I unleash all of this on the poor stranger.
“Hush!” Starlittia says, scanning the room. “You don’t want Mistress Brilla to hear you!”
I step back slowly. “Are the rumors true?” I gulp.
She glares at me for a second and then turns to Glissi. “That she’ll turn you into a mortog? Of course not. Now, I’ll need help. What’s your name?”
I squeak out my name, suddenly nervous. Perhaps she senses my terror, because she walks over and puts a paw on my shoulder. This may seem odd, considering she can’t be much older than me, but it is strangely comforting. She speaks with forced confidence, as though she herself isn’t sure that what she is saying is true. “Don’t worry, Mel. We’ll get the princess all fixed up, King Hagan will knight us, and we’ll be the envy of all of Brightvale. I just need to find the scroll with the antidote. I believe it is called ‘Golden Potions, Bewitching Spells, and Mortog Enchantments.’” She winks at me and tells me to cut off the last three words.
She leads me through a passage I hadn’t noticed before and suddenly we are in a library. We each take half and set to work. I’m only about halfway through my fourth shelf, and I hear a howl. “Staarliiiiittiaaaa!” the voice screams, drawing out the vowels in my new friends name. “Why is the princess lying on my floor?” A shadow Ogrin stalks in, arms crossed. She lets out a little gasp when she sees me, but she quickly regains her composure. Star, as I have began to think of her, rushes in and explains.
Now Brilla is looking at me, sizing me up. Then I ask her. “What do I need to do?”
She looks slightly startled. I guess she didn’t expect me to be willing to help. I ask again. This time she answers.
“If you want to save this girl from eternal sleep, and, in turn, eternal beauty, you must travel to the land of Meridell. There you will find Kayla. She will ask for something. You must find it. She will give you a clear potion. After that, you must obtain three gold pieces from Meridell’s treasury. I do not recommend thievery. Finally, ask Fyora for an everlasting apple. Tell her Brilla sent you.”
She is telling me now that I must return it all to her, that she will create the antidote. And she is telling me that it will not be easy.
To be continued...