Chapter 3: Mistrizia....
“My father was the famous king of the Golden Shadows. They were Elves, too. He loved his people, and he was just and benevolent. Everyone loved him. We used to live with Elves in those days, who had their own kingdom. We used to live together with love, harmony, and mutual understanding.
“Close to our borders, far on the horizon, there was a beautiful green mountain that was the source of happiness and satisfaction to all of us. To Humans and to Elves alike. Next to the mountains, a bluish-green sea sprawled to the end of the horizon. Peaceful and beautiful. So beautiful, no one could ever imagine that a terrifying secret could be hidden in these wonderful waters .
“One day, the King of the Elves, the magnificent Lord Goodelf, paid us a short visit, only to announce that he sensed a terrible catastrophe was about to strike our lands. Knowing the intuition of the Elves, we took his opinion very seriously. We had no clue what type of danger we had to anticipate. A few days later, the magnificent Druid Maverel arrived in the Golden Shadows.”
“Druid? What is that?” Dark-Elf asked.
“Druids are a whole race of people, full of magic powers, with the use of the natural elements. Their magic powers are only effective if the purpose is benevolent. We welcomed Maverel with the honor he deserved, but he only stayed for a while to warn us about a danger coming from the sea, a danger that had devastated his own race.
“Indeed , two days later, a strange ship we had never seen before arrived at our shores. The boat had a large black flag, and on it there were artfully painted two devilish eyes giving off flames of fire. We had no army, since we had lived in peace forever, and we did not know how to react. We always settled our differences with discussion and peace in mind. Alas! The newcomers conquered the top of the mountain in no time, building a small temporary establishment.
“The forever vibrant mountain, shortly after their arrival, started changing colours, slowly but steadily taking on a glassy faint grayish form....”
At this point, Mistrizia’s voice cracked, she started trembling, and she almost burst out crying.
Taking a deep breath, she continued the story.
“While they were planning their terrible deeds, we attempted to form an army, to develop some weapons, but the atmosphere started to become heavy, and it was difficult to breathe, to the point that we could move only with great difficulty. A terrible smell was spreading throughout the entire land.
“Every day, we got sicker and sicker, and our souls sobbed endlessly. We were all waiting for our demise. And that is exactly what happened....One morning, we were awaken by screams and cries throughout the entire kingdom.
They were rampaging through the land, killing anyone that stood in their way, men, women, and children, even baby Elves, without emotions, regrets, indiscriminately and mercilessly. Their size was similar to humans, all dressed in black. They had their eyes covered with black hoods, seemingly unable to stand the sunlight.
“Occasionally, you could glimpse at their faces that were painted blood red. Their extremities were slender and long and, although they were almost fully covered by clothes, you could definitely assume their bodies were very slim.
“Their strange long fingers were covered by a greyish-green mould-like substance, ending in some black ugly nails.
“Whoever was able to hide was saved, but those were very few. The ones who survived, however, remained prisoners inside dark cages in the basement of the palace, which served that purpose.
“My family and I were kept prisoners there, as well . They kept us in the same cell--my father, me, and my husband, Prince Logarn. On the first day in jail, someone visited us, probably their leader, who said:
“We are the Red Pirates. You will rot inside this prison, unless you agree to become our servants. Regardless of your decision, you must hand us the Golden Leaf.”
“Never!” shouted my father.” Even if you kill me, you will not take the Golden Leaf.”
“Very well, then. We will kill you tomorrow in front of your daughter’s eyes, so she will be forced to reveal the hidden location, otherwise we will kill her, as well,” shouted the Red Pirate, closing the heavy door of the cell behind him.
“I had never seen my father suffering so much. Teary-eyed, he told me:
“Mistrizia, my dearest, I have secured the Golden Leaf. I have given it to the King of the Elves, my good friend Lord Goodelf. I am sure he will do everything in his power to prevent the Golden Leaf from falling into the hands of our tyrants, even if they capture him, even if they imprison him. I don’t care if they will kill me. However, I feel tremendous pain, knowing that so many of our own people and Elves were killed, our country has been decimated and, if any of us survives, we will suffer forever.
I hope they will never find the Golden Leaf because, if they do, they will acquire tremendous powers, enabling them to destroy any parallel reality, perhaps even the entire universe. I am more disturbed by the fact that I don’t know what will happen to you and the child you are about to bring into this world, my grandchild, whom I will never have the chance to see.”
“After these words, he went to the corner of the cell, and began praying.
“Although despair had overwhelmed us all, and we felt like we were walking on thin ice, he maintained his composure, his face calm, and awaited his fatal blow.
“Cursing and screaming, they came to take him away the next morning. He followed them without any resistance. He remained calm and content through to the bitter end, like a king should always be.
“Through the small window of my cell, I was able to watch them run the rope around his neck to hang him. My heart was pounding, and the only thing I was able to do was scream “ I will be with you forever.” Then, I started crying for a long time.... I could not stop crying, despite my husband’s tremendous effort of my husband.
“A few days later, I went through the same torture for my husband’s sake, whom they hanged as well, trying to force me to reveal the hidden location of the Golden Leaf. Several days went by, and I started thinking they had forgotten about me. They only used to come to bring me a small loaf of bread and some water.
“I was able to give birth to a beautiful little girl by myself, in that dirty cell. She had the greenest eyes, like the color of the green mountain, and bright like the moon, which illuminated the dark cell every night.
“When they realized I had given birth, they stopped bringing any food to force me to disclose the location of the Golden Leaf.
“Even these heartless people realized that a mother would do everything for her child’s survival. In the beginning, I had some strength, and I was able to breastfeed my precious child. Soon enough, I had no strength left, and now the fear of the Golden Leaf and the fate of the universe vied with the anxiety over my child’s survival.
“One evening, they came and grabbed the child off my arms. I fought hard to save the child, but their rotten hands firmly removed my girl from my body. I was begging and cursing them at the same time, as I heard the child’s sobs peter out.
They killed the child, as I learned later, with terrible magic omens. I cried endlessly, feeling my heart plucked out of my chest. For a mother, there is no pain worse than losing her child.”
At this point of her story, everybody’s eyes were filled with tears.
Dark-Elf thought of his own mother, whom he had left alone in Notingel, tremendously anguished as he didn’t know if he would see her again.
MIstrizia continued her story:
“I remained in that cell for many more days. I cannot even remember how many. My deep pain and the endless crying made me lose track of time. Days and nights were passing tortuously slowly.
“I began to avoid eating anything, since they started bringing food again. I was looking forward to my own death. Several days later, a small ray of light crept in through the window of my cell. I could not realize its nature or its origin but, all of a sudden, I was filled with courage and determination.
“I will not allow them to destroy everything! As long as I live, I will hold out some hope,” I heard my voice saying. That particular moment, a specific plan was born in my mind.
“I started screaming: “Red pirates, come close and listen. OK ! I will be your servant since that is my only choice.”
“The heavy door of the cell opened. They took me into the palace. I was looking around with greed. I was observing every and each one of the places where I had spent all my life.
“The place was radically different now. Much darker than before and black flags hung from everywhere, with the painted eyes and the flames on each one... The color of golden doors faded, as if they were sobbing, as well. Desiccation was evident in every corner of the palace, and terrible smell pervaded every space.
“Their leader was now sitting on my father’s throne. My eyes sought revenge, like lightning, and I was afraid that they would give me away, myself and my plan.... I did everything they asked me to do. I put on the clothes they gave me. I ate the food they offered me, in order to reinvigorate me and enable me to execute my plan. I felt like I had already lost precious time.
“With his eyes full of satisfaction, their leader approached me. He had the distinct expression of victory on his face.
“You made a wise decision, my princess. You finally realized what is best for you by stopping the mindless acts. You will serve me the way I will decide. The first thing you will do is reveal the hiding place of the Golden Leaf.”
“His very sight completely abhorred me, I hated every small cell of his, but I had a plan to carry out.
“I made the conscious decision to serve you faithfully, Red Pirate, with dedication and precision. As you are well aware, my people never lie. It is not in our nature. Since this is what you wish, of course I will search for the Golden Leaf, but at the present time, I don’t know where it is located. My father, in order to avoid exposing me to any danger, never revealed to me the hiding place of the Golden Leaf.”
“He was not convinced I was telling him the truth, but he had no choice.
Two of my guards will accompany you on your journey, but I warn you not to return without the golden Leaf. And don’t you even think of trying to escape. The guards are very strong, and they will not hesitate for a moment to use their weapons. I hope that you will not do anything stupid.”
“My plan was not so successful, but I did not give up. I started the journey with the two Red Pirates, looking for an opportunity to escape. We started walking aimlessly. One thing was for sure: I would never lead them to the Golden Leaf. I could never allow them to seize it. Deep down in my heart, I knew I was on my way to freedom.
The Leader gave them three black horses. Something in their eyes reminded her of the same malice she could see in the eyes of their masters. Each horse was provided with a bag filled with the necessary supplies.
“So, What direction are we taking?” one of the two guards asked.
“I have no idea where we will be able to find the Golden Leaf. Most likely, we should head east. I can faintly recall that it may be buried inside the Angry Forest.”
“Are you out of your mind? There’s no way we’re going there! You know very well that everybody believes this forest is the place where Fairies live. They feel so much hatred towards any mortal being, since you stupid people in the old times, even before the era of Light, expelled them from your society. And all that because of your curiosity. We are sure you know they are very dangerous. They are invisible to us, and they kill anyone who dares come close to their place. We are not going there.”
“These are mere suppositions” I answered them, although I knew they were absolutely correct. At this point, the anger of the fairies was my only alternative way to freedom. “Stop acting like children who believe in fairytales, and remember the orders of your master. He is more real than the Fairies, and he will kill you if you return without the Golden Leaf.”
“They both took a quick look at the palace, then we started moving east. The passage was rugged, and the scorching sun did not make the journey any easier. I was feeling elated, close to nature and under the sun. Τhe horses were galloping indefatigably and very fast.
“By sunset, we stopped to have a short rest. It was nippy, so they set a small fire to keep warm, but I did not stay close to them, choosing to feel cold, away from their terrible company.
“I wrapped a blanket around my body--I took one from the supply bag--, and fell asleep get some rest, and recharge my batteries. Knowing the orders they had from their master, I was not afraid to fall asleep, since without me they could never find the Golden Leaf. Soon, they brought me some food, but I did not touch it. The food had a terrible smell, and was totally different from the food they had offered me earlier in the palace.
“I looked around to see if there was any eatable plant or fruit, and soon under the grass I found a strange plant resembling a small bush. Small round fruits were hanging from its branches, giving off a strange light in the dark. They looked like small mushrooms, but very small in size, violet in colour, with bluish-golden dots on their surface. I picked up one and smelled it. The smell was light and sweet. “They cannot be poisonous if their smell is so intense and sweet,” I thought and took a bite without hesitating a moment. Immediately, I felt very sleepy. My eyes closed, and I got the feeling that I was hanging from a height. That made me look down, wanting to convince myself I was still sitting on the grass like before.
“Looking down, I was extremely surprised. I was able to see the Red Pirates sleeping close-by, and in a small distance I saw myself.... Yes, myself...sleeping peacefully with a smile on my face. I could not understand what was happening to me. Strange thoughts flashed through my mind. Was I dead? What was hanging above my body? Could it be my spirit? Is my body dead or asleep? What was going on?
“Hello, my dear Mistrizia,” I heard a familiar voice
“Druid Maverel! Did I hear correctly? I can hear you, but I cannot see you. Where are you?” I responded in amazement.
“I am here on your left, by the tree” he said. I turned my head in the direction of the voice, and I saw him sitting on a tree branch, looking at my spirit, and smiling.
“I will explain everything to you. Listen to me and don’t be afraid. The fruit you ate is called moon heart or rather Inilou in the Fairy language. It possesses some magical powers, even more so when closer to their Fairy land. Its most significant effect is that it allows you to leave your material body, while maintaining your astral body. What you see on the ground is your material body, which looks like you are asleep, but your spirit is within your astral body. Make an effort to observe your astral body.”
“I made the familiar movement, trying to observe my hands, as if Ι had my material body, and I saw that I still had hands, but what I was looking at was beyond the bounds of my imagination. My hands were made of myriads of small silver flowers, shiny like fireflies. My entire body was made of the same kind of flowers, giving off a purple light mixed with golden rays, similar to the color of the mushroom I had eaten.
The Druid pulled out a small mirror, and pointed it to me. “Look! You don’t have an image. Your astral body cannot be seen on the dimensions the regular mirrors are made of.”
Then, he pulled out a strange object. A small handle made of silver, resembling the handle of a small sword, ending in a black round net.
“Look inside here” he said.
I looked inside the net he was holding in front of me, and I saw my face. It was radiant from the shiny astral-flowers that were dancing all over. My blonde hair was silver now, a reflection of the shining silver flowers, forming a crown on my forehead.
I was speechless for a moment. My surprise was abruptly interrupted by a loud noise and a voice.
“Let me go and check,” the voice was heard. Looking down, I saw one of the two Red Pirates approaching my body for a careful inspection.
“Good... She is asleep. We should not have fallen asleep together. We were careless. She could have escaped. Of course, we would have captured her with our sharp sense of smell. We could smell her essence anywhere.”
The Druid smiled. “Don’t worry, they cannot see your astral body.”
“You mean I am free? Can I escape? Let’s go, then!” The Druid shook his head with a sad expression.
“You are forgetting something, my dear Mistrizia. You cannot stay alive without your physical body. At least not on this dimension and we are not allowed to destroy our body, without permission of our Creator’s mind. He gave you life, and you do not have the right to take it away from your material body by yourself. However, I am here to help you out. I came as fast as I could, when I received through your mind the message that you were heading towards the Angry Forest. You really need some advice.
The Fairies are not malevolent creatures, but the humans in the old times made them very mad, as you know. They are now so scared of humans. They desire to live in peace by themselves. They decided to make humans afraid of them, since humans could not respect them. One of the worst feelings is fear. The frightened person may react badly, out of fear and, without realizing it, he may become very leery, looking for ways to protect himself. That is exactly what happened to the Fairies. Despite their magnificent heart, they react negatively out of fear.
The first thing you must watch out for are the Bluebells. The small plants, which look like small bells, all of blue color, hang over the entrance of their forest. Anyone who hears those bells ringing will soon die. So, you realize that the entrance to the Angry Forest, which is full of blue bells, is a very dangerous field. This entrance, however, as you will see, may be the best way to get rid of your tyrants. For them, it is a trap, and you should not miss this opportunity. Please, use it correctly. You should be very careful not to touch any blue bell, so it does not ring for you. However, if the bell starts ringing for somebody else, you should cover your ears, and start singing:
A tide of secret breaths
And from the cloudy glances
A kind Fairy planted you
The moon became drank out of your divine smell,
Courageous guards of the fairyland
Respectful spirits of the winds,
Forerunners of the fateful hour
Lost inside the labyrinth of light
You reach the skies without need of wings
You did your bad deeds, but you let me walk away.”
“Besides, inside the Angry Forest, you must have some additional protection, since you must proceed with caution, feeling no fear. We have already said that fear is a bad advisor. It forces you to react with negative energy. You need to take every precaution, so you are protected against any danger, and fear will become totally irrelevant. Take this small purse.”
He pulled a small purse out of his pocket, made of blue material. I opened the purse, and a wonderful smell spread throughout, basil and lavender together. The purse was full of small dry flowers, each one with four small petals. On the outside, they were black, and deep red on the inside.
“These are clovers,” the Druid said. “Just one of these petals is more than enough to release any Fairy omen. Keep them safely on you. I believe you are now ready to enter the Angry Forest. In a short while, the effect of the Inilou will wear off, and you will return into your material body. If you want, pick the rest of the fruits from the small tree, and keep them on you for any occasion. They may be useful to you.
Oh, yes!! Something else: When you exit the Angry Forest, I will meet you again to advise you where to stay, until the right time comes, the time when we are able to intervene, change the flow of history, and determine the future. Our mission is to have everything evolve in favor of the entire universe. These Red Pirates should not keep oppressing all people, but unfortunately they occupy too many kingdoms. Goodbye, my dear Mastrizia. I wish you good luck,” said the Druid....
I was waving at him, until he disappeared high in the sky, riding a blue Pegasus, leaving behind him a series of multicolored stars. After I returned into my body, I collected as much Inilou as I possibly could, keeping them together with the other gifts from the Druid.
“It was already daylight, my body was feeling so well-rested, but my mind was beset with so many worries. Still, my hopes were high after the unexpected visit of the Druid.
“The Druid was correct. My fears diminished, thanks to his advice and the precious ‘guards’ he had given me for protection. We set off for the Angry Forest again, which soon appeared in front of us. Obviously, we had to leave our horses, and continue our journey on foot. The entrance was so narrow that the horses could not fit through.
“The Red Pirates hesitated for a while. I pretended not to notice them, and moved forward, hoping they would leave me alone, out of fear. Soon, they followed me. They would not tear their eyes off me.
“The entrance to the Angry Forest was a large gallery, each side formed by very tall trees. They looked like they were painted by a unique painter, who used only deep red and deep dark blue colors. This color combination immediately put you in mind of a glorious setting with Fairies and Elves dancing and laughing around, in a never ending celebration.
“However, you could notice multiple long light blue ribbons. I instantly realized that those bands were the deadly bluebells. Some of them tilted to the ground, others were suspended at different levels, like unique ornaments. I looked up to examine the ribbons closer. The Druid was right . They were actually small flowers. They were flowers!! Real flowers!!!
They were upside down compared to regular flowers, hanging in mid-air. From the middle of each small flower, there was a small bell easily visible, like a real bell. From those small bells, the dangerous blue ribbons were hanging down, each one at a different level. I walked extremely carefully, avoiding to touch any of them.
“Suddenly, a sweet light sound was heard. Dlin!!! Dlin!! It sounded like it was asking you to release your soul free, so as to be transferred to different lifeless worlds.... I cupped my ears immediately, and soon enough one of the Pirates fell down, dying fast...
The second pirate, not realizing what had happened, bent over his dying comrade, trying to help him. The bell ring got louder and louder, constantly increasing in intensity. Scared to death, I started singing.
A tide of secret breaths
And from the cloudy glances
A kind Fairy planted you
The moon got drunk on your divine smell
Courageous guards of the fairyland
Respectful spirits of the winds
Forerunners of the fateful hour
Lost inside the labyrinth of light
You reach the skies without need of wings
You did your bad deeds, but you let me walk away.”
“When I finished the song, I felt thousands of eyes staring at me, questioning in amazement who could be the one to know this Fairy song. It felt like all the bluebells were staring at me in amazement.
“Lady, what is happening here? My friend just died ! Of course, this does not bother me as we Red Pirates consider love to be a ridiculous feeling, but I would still like to find out what exactly happened,” he shouted in a disturbed voice, obviously terrified.
“No sooner had he completed his phrase than the Bluebells, apparently disturbed to hear him call Love ridiculous, started ringing all together in their attempt to punish him. Dlin!!! Dlin!!! Dlin!!! Until he fell down unconscious.
“Naturally, I started the song again after closing my ears, so nothing happened to me. Now, I was truly free. Could I possibly search for the Golden Leaf, and claim the Kingdom? But how? I could not achieve anything by myself. It was futile. I had to cross the Angry Forest, to find the Druid, who was waiting for me on the other side, in order to plan our next steps.
“I soon realized that my thoughts were only the result of my fears that had suddenly gripped my mind, and I had to ward them off, since, as the Druid said, nothing can be accomplished with fear.
“He was right. Fear only destroys everything. It is like a monster that devours you alive, depriving you of rational thinking and concerted action.
“I kept walking carefully and silently. The gallery soon came to an end, and finally I was able to enter the forest. Much to my surprise, I found myself in a large open area.
“The night was approaching, and the moon was shining over the land with a promising soft light, a true blessing. High in the clear sky, the stars made their beautiful presence felt, like small light bulbs hanging from the sky dome.
“The road at this point split into multiple clean paths, all covered with golden-yellow leaves giving off their own natural light. A masterful beauty. For a moment, I felt I wanted to stay there forever. Totally careless.
“Overwhelmed by this unique fulfilment and joy, I took one of these paths by chance. I felt I was making too much noise, walking on the dry leaves. The Fairies probably noticed my presence as I soon observe multiple small lights moving in my direction. The closer they got, the more I realized they were many more than I initially thought. When they came close, I noticed all the Fairies were holding small curved beautiful lamps, from which emanated a bright blue light. All together, they turned night into day.
“Scared, I started looking for a clover that the Druid had spoken of, in case of an emergency. All of them wore a blue dress embroidered with bright stars. Their multicolor wings were flapping with vigor, and you could easily sense they were very angry. Despite this, they all were beautiful with golden hair, loose on their shoulders, decorated with night flowers. One of them came closer, and shouted in a stringent voice.
“What are you doing here? How did you manage to pass through our gallery?”
“I am Mastrizia, daughter of the king of the Golden Shadows. My country was conquered by some tyrants, who killed all our people and my family. They now occupy my father’s kingdom. It’s the Red Pirates, if you’ve ever heard of them. They held me captive, and I gave birth in jail. They took my child and killed her, as well. I came here to escape them. If you don’t believe me, look at the gallery. Two of them are dead, killed by the bluebells.”
“How did you know about the bluebells?” the Fairy asked again.
I thought of keeping mum about it, and not giving the Druid away. Reading my thought, she continued:
“Tell me. Don’t be afraid. We still have some friends we can trust. If I trust him, I will trust you, as well. If not I will be forced to be violent.”
“The Druid Maverel,” I said sadly, feeling I was betraying him.
“I was hoping it was him as he is our only beloved friend. Please, forgive us, and we beg you to accept our hospitality,” said the Fairy, smiling now, which made her look even more beautiful.
“I am sorry, but I am in a hurry. I have to meet him on the other side of the forest. We have to get prepared. I suppose that is why he did not come along to visit you: we must prepare, since the Red Pirates have devastated all the races on earth.”
“OK! Since you are in such a big hurry, we will move you to the other side of the forest, without your running any risk.” She then took out a small pipe, and started playing a truly divine melody. In a loud noise, a beautiful Pegasus soon landed in the middle of the field. I had never seen a more beautiful one in my entire life. It was blue, but with skin in two colors, and long black hair falling over his blue eyes and his blue body. A silver horn was jutting out of its forehead, like a magnificent ornament.
“For the first time in my life, I saw such a grand creature. A dual color winged unicorn! Upon landing, Pegasus greeted us, bowing his head discretely forward, siting on his two legs, waiting for me to mount his back.
“This is Albastrian. He is the pride of the Angry Forest. He will take you to the other side safely, and with great speed. Please, greet the Druid for us. If you ever have to go through the Bluebells again ,after you sing the song, inform the Bluebells that you are friends with Elriam,” said the Fairy, smiling.
“I sat on Albastrian’s back, and he brought me to the other side of the Angry Forest at the speed of a wind. Then, bidding farewell, he disappeared within the scattered clouds of the clear sky.
“The Druid was waiting for me on the other side, happy that I didn’t have to use all the weapons he had provided for me.
“I am over cautious, sometimes,” he said smilingly.
“Let’s go now. I must show you the place where you will stay as we have to start preparations. This fateful time is approaching fast.”
“We both hopped on his own Pegasus, who brought us here. He then left, promising to return soon, but there hasn’t been any sign of him until now. This castle is called the Castle of Comfort. From the time the Gates were shut, and disunity prevailed, everyone could find comfort here, as its name surely denoted. So, now you have a taste of the risks you may face. Do you still want to help?”