No, thank you. I rather like it here. Scenic in a way you can’t find in Faerieland, overflowing with star struck tourists. There’s a certain peace up here on the mountaintop that I can’t exactly describe. Refreshing, almost – no, invigorating. The silence and detached formality of snow-kissed rock stimulate the senses. Here, you breathe untouched nature of a soothing spicy scent. Far more alluring than the flower-sweet perfumes of Faerieland. There’s more than one type of beauty, you know.
I’m babbling, aren’t I? I guess I just mean to say the mountain is more captivating than I ever found Faerieland to be. I suppose you can say it’s my love.
I suppose I miss it, sometimes. I loved the salty summer breezes and the lively lights that would dance in Faerie City at night as a child, little ornaments of colorful energy pirouetting in swaying columns.
Actually, I... I really loved Faerieland. There was always something to do, always life to be had and laughter to be heard. Dreams always tasted of cotton candy, and the delicacies always tasted of dreams. And the clouds would sing symphonies in day, lullabies at night. Perfect, really.
Almost too perfect.
No, the mountain isn’t perfect. Blizzards bite and gasp at your skin, and when the sky is a daunting and unforgiving grey, the jagged edges of the mountain seem sharper than ever, painting an intimidating picture that knifes even fear.
But yes, I like it. At least the mountain doesn’t try and hide reality.
Do you know I used to study politics?
At the Faerie Academy, when I was much younger with butterfly wings and starry eyes. I aspired one day to join the Faerie Court, and the prospects weren’t bad. I admit I wasn’t the best, but I was enthusiastic.
One day, we were assembled into the Faerie Court to see what it was like, and it was exactly as I imagined it – beautiful ideas bouncing back and forth laced with well drawn arguments that spun my mind in every direction, interspersed with witty humor. I thought that, for the first time, I could see beyond the horizon.
And for months after, that one day was replayed in my mind over and over again, and I relished every cleverly placed word and every inspiring proposal. I could close my eyes and see long-fingered hands taking notes in beautiful script, fiery eyes focused in passionate debate...
I met Illusen by chance. You wouldn’t know – in fact, only faeries do – but Illusen is something of a disgrace among our folk. Ran out of Faerieland. I can’t think of another faerie who was banned from her homeland. But I had been crossing between Meridell and Brightvale while researching foreign relations and policies, and she had been there.
I had been browsing through the goods at Merifoods, having forgone the previous meal while in the library studying. I hadn’t noticed her. I had heard that Illusen had taken residence in Meridell, and I had hoped to avoid meeting the scorned faerie during my stay. But she noticed me and took the initiative.
She said – well, she asked for my name, and I hesitantly gave it. Then she asked if it was my first time out of Faerieland, and I said yes.
“Do you like it here?” Her green eyes were searching, inscrutable.
I faltered, wishing that the shopkeeper would hurry up. “It’s lacking compared to Faerieland.”
Her eyes flickered downward, shadowed by her heavy eyelids, and her wings fluttered slightly. “There’s more than one type of beauty, you know,” she commented quietly, running a finger along leafy gloves.
I didn’t understand what she meant, nor was I particularly interested. I was eager to depart, but the line was moving ever so slowly.
“I suppose you’re studying politics,” she mused. “That’s the only reason any faerie ever leaves Faerieland.” The musical quality in her voice took a mournful note. “Do you enjoy it?” A curt nod was all she received. “I suppose you’ve visited the Faerie Court already.”
“Yes,” I gushed before I could stop myself. “It was lovely.”
Illusen smiled wryly. “A wonderful play, wasn’t it?” She closed her eyes and began reciting words I had memorized since then – the exact words the Faerie Court had used. All the ideas, all the arguments, all the wit... word for word, spilled from green lips in monotone.
“What – how - ?” Startled. Alarmed. Looking back, I see there was more fear than anything – fear of losing something that was so solid as ground to me.
“It’s a script they use every year,” Illusen explained with that same smile. “They used it when I went. I used to study government as well.”
“It’s fake?” The words I had worshipped for months were illusions, a mirage of perfection. I couldn’t fathom it, and I could scarcely allow myself to believe it then.
“The real court is something quite nasty. Corrupted,” Illusen noted, turning to look at the sky. “The real court is why I was forced out of Faerieland.” And then she laughed – an honest laugh, sparkling with mirth, but accompanied with darkened eyes. “But it would be something, wouldn’t it? If it was true. Faerieland could have progressed to become something honestly close to perfect.”
Honestly close to perfect, she had said.
Well, yes, the rumor is that Jhudora was the one who campaigned for Illusen’s departure. No, she was never in politics herself, but everyone knows that she has all the right connections.
What I did? Well, I refused to believe her. But a week had passed and that conversation haunted my reality, and I dissected it, hoping to find flaw.
If anything, the only flaws I found were in the Faerie Court’s screenplay.
I wanted to leave after I accepted the truth, which, ironically, is also Faerieland’s greatest lie. And I couldn’t stand to be in Faerieland without seeing fraud in every strand of magic that bound the floating city together, sometimes even where the magic was genuine – and I was so utterly distressed and confused that I escaped to other lands for air under the guise of studying their governments.
That was how I came here. There’s no lording government in Happy Valley, and I wanted to see what Faerieland called barbaric.
And at the mountaintop, there was nothing. No crowded fantasies and cloying hopes. It was peace. It was an escape. It was reality for me, and I never wanted to leave.
I applied on the humanitarian behalf. I wanted to stay so I could heal myself, and so I applied to study medicine instead. Potions. I explained to the Academy and the Court that I wanted to experiment with how magic fared in an opposite environment and I wanted to be accessible to those who couldn’t take the arduous journey to bathe in the Healing Springs.
They accepted. It would have looked bad if they denied a faerie seeking to heal those without means. And Illusen was right in that no faerie ever left Faerieland for an extended period of time, and I was offering the scientific faerie community extended horizons.
Funny, really – since I had thought I could see past horizons before, and it turned out to be but a farce.
I live beyond the horizon now.
Well, I’ve only obtained a permit for the time being. I need to feed them my research findings to gain permanent approval. In fact, I’m currently working on a spell, but I need certain items to complete it. I’ll reward you generously for your service if you can find the ingredients for me.
Go on, you know you want to help me? Pretty please?