12. Scary Silver eyes
“I’ll do it!” I uttered brazenly to Del’s criticism of my bravery to the group of pumped up Aelfe sitting across from us in the tavern like structure carved in the hollow of the largest weeping willow tree I had ever seen.
Even though I was sure I would regret my decision sooner or later I reveled in the look on Del’s face when I had accepted the challenge presented by the bulky fellow who I had now learned was called Tim.
“Now the rule is to drink each brew, all six of them infused with the beautiful gifts provided by nature before the full psychedelic effects set in” Tim explained and for a moment I was relieved that this induction had nothing to do with getting physical.
“Drinking the first brew will have you feeling a bit uncoordinated but if you wait too long to drink the second you’ll start puking all over the place and trust me you don’t want to spend the rest of your night puking up blood” there was no good to come of this I thought as my eyes flitted every now and then to Bo the redhead who had greeted Del earlier, now maintained a cool expression while waiting for Tim to finish speaking.
“After drinking the second brew your whole body will go numb but that’s ok, it’ll wear off by sometime tomorrow,” he added gruffly “the third one is where it gets a little freaky you’ll feel a little funny but--”
Del cut him off turning away from the conversation he had been having with his neighbor “It’s no fun talking about it, let’s show her. Who wants to go with me?” Del offered cheerfully. The spite filled hostility being absent from his words at the moment.
Tim grunted halting in his explanation as he waited for someone to take Del up on his offer. I felt even more unnerved by the hushed debates among the Aelfe surrounding us airing caution on taking up Del’s offer.
“I already went” Bo commented giving me a look as our eyes met.
“Yea, all over the floors” a woman’s high pitched voice sounded not far behind her encouraging a series of outbursts from the group. Bo shrugged unaffected.
“I’ll do it” an Aelf stepped up settling on the bench across from me which aroused murmurs of disapproval.
“Don’t do this kid” Tim advised in a deep tone “haven’t you learned your lesson?”
“Come on Tim don’t discourage him” Del spoke up a devilish smile resting on his lips. “Let’s get on with it bring out the brew!”
“Bring out the brew!” Our audience echoed heartily over and over.
The cheers died down as two women brought out six wooden cups on their tray laying them down evenly one beside the other in front of each contender. The Aelfe who sat around the table quickly got up moving a good distance away leaving only Del and his rival seated.
I followed suit standing beside a busty Aelfen wearing an oversized robe which did nothing to hide her well-endowed chest. “No mixing and try not to make to much of a mess” Tim ordered.
“Well what are you waiting for?” he bellowed gesturing to the cups before them.
And without another moment to lose, they both turned the first cup to their head pausing only to wipe the dribble from their lips and reached for the second. The Aelf who challenged Del paused now beating his chest roughly.
“Damn amateur” the woman beside me protested capturing my attention momentarily “...happens every time, what a waste.”
Del was on his fourth cup but had stopped also his expression turning to what I could only describe as eccentric. The crowd spurred them on some even complained that they should get on with it and I wondered why they hadn’t volunteered earlier.
Del reached out for his fifth cup his hand missing it by more than a couple inches. He slammed his fist agitatedly on the table and once he was able to grab on to the next cup firmly he smiled triumphantly and slowly but adamantly brought the cup to his lips.
As he finished chugging back the contents of the cup he howled proudly standing now his hand resting at the top of the sixth cup. The crowd cheered him since they had forgotten about his opponent who now looked green in the face while barely managing to empty the contents of the third cup.
He spun around as if searching for a face in the crowd and then his eyes landed on me a daring gleam flickering in his hazel eyes. He brought the cup to his lips downing the contents his gaze holding mine.
I stared back boldly ‘challenge accepted’ I thought. The Aelf across from Del suddenly collapsed and the audience cheered paying no mind to his still form. “Quiet down” Tim barked dismissing their cheers “poor Pete didn’t stand a chance anyway.”
Tim turned to me, appearing as though he were about to burst with delight “A first for the Pit, a Seilie who might have some backbone! Come sit no use in delaying it.”
“Bring out the brew!” he ordered and the crowd responded accordingly.
I made my way nervously to the table, my stomach knotting painfully, as Del and I passed each other he grabbed on to my arm and whispered “it’s not too late to back out” I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or not but assumed it was the latter.
I pulled his warm hand firmly from my own while answering him “careful you actually sound concerned” I remarked dryly continuing forward and taking my seat at the table.
This time it was Tim who laid the cups before me each thud making my palms sweat nervously as I clasped them in my lap. “Just remember each brew is the antidote to the next, and the last one only works if you’ve had all five so no skipping”.”
I nodded stiffly and looked down into the contents of each cup, which contained a petal of origin I did not recognize floating on top. This was stupid, but refusing would feel like losing even more so now that I had the attention of so many Aelfe pinning me with excited stares.
“This should be interesting” Bo commented giving me another reason for doing this in the first place.
“Well what are you waiting for?” came Tim’s gruff bellow and I grabbed on to the first cup taking a deep breathe and turning its contents to my lips.
It was nothing like I expected, the taste was like honey water and I felt a bit of courage looking down at the second. I gulped it down quickly remembering Tims warning and unlike the first, it was as if I had swallowed tiny splinters.
I groaned at the unexpected discomfort and then my whole body went numb just as Tim had explained. I would have stopped if not for the warning that numbness wasn’t the only effect of the drink and so I braced myself for whatever the third cup contained.
This concoction only left me with a bad taste in my mouth at first and I tried my best not to show my distaste for its contents. Without warning my blood started to pump and my heart raced as if wanting to jump from my chest.
It became so erratic that I began hearing the pulses in my ear as the laughter and encouragement from the crowd around me became barely audible. I felt hot.
The image of Del’s face behind my back and his expectations of my incompetence spurred me on, but then I wondered if paranoia was a side effect of my fourth or fifth cup. I did each one, one after the other and then all hell broke loose.
My body felt as though it was vibrating endlessly and my head spun. I couldn’t even focus long enough to keep my eyes open and so I decided to rest for a moment, my forehead on the table. At one point the earth tilted and I grabbed on to the table only to realize that I was the one doing the tilting.
Voices drifted in and out of my understanding and then suddenly someone had joined me at the table hands brushing my hair away from my face. I turned to see who it was, everything was a blur.
The figure leaned over me their hot breath tickling my ear which made me giggle pushing them away playfully. This was fun I thought. My giggle turned into deep laughter and soon I was having fits.
Large hands covered my mouth muffling the sound and once again hot air tickled my earlobes. “You’ve made your point, let’s get you some air” the deep voice suggested.
I pouted uncooperatively, reaching out and holding what I assumed was their face in my palm. My free hand searched the table clumsily as I remembered that I had one more cup to go. It bounced off of my fingers but the free hand of my companion caught it bringing it back to my own.
I smiled in thanks my grip unsteady as I downed the tasteless contents my grin no longer threatening to tear apart my face and my head clearing. It was Del my palm embraced.
It came up once burned then went back down. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea” Del advised seeming repulsed by my actions. After my head had cleared from chugging down the last brew. Now I was in a state of being able to focus on what was happening around me at one moment as I was now. I tried to expel the brew from my stomach failing each time I had come to my senses.
Not long after an intense euphoria blossomed followed by me becoming distracted by the simplest things my worries nonexistent. We had ended up walking and stopping at intervals after leaving the hollow. “That was a tad impressive” Bo complimented grudgingly.
“Though you look awful. Del why don’t you leave her somewhere so we can get back to the festivities” she suggested thoughtfully. If I weren’t under the influence of several stimulants I was sure I would have left on my own, dark paradise or not.
“She’ll be ok in a minute” he grumbled sounding annoyed with her and a smile graced my lips unintentionally now that I had rescinded into my euphoric state.
“Ok I’m ready” I urged as I pulled myself up from my hunched position and turned to them.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go back home. I know several Aelfe who would be happy to show you the way out” Bo urged now sounding a bit worried.
“Let’s go then” Del jumped in before I could take her up on the offer and proceeded to lead me back to the hollow from where we came.
“She returns!” our company of five cheered merrily greeting us warmly as the made space for us at the table. The earlier crowd had dispersed after applauding my completion of their challenge and even though there were a few upturned noses and disapproving glares the atmosphere had winded down into one of curiosity than unwelcomed murmurs.
“How do you feel?” Tim asked a proud smile on his face.
I thought carefully trying to put together the words for my buzzed like state “Like myself but also not like myself” I responded and they all chortled approvingly shoving another drink my way. I eyed it dubiously then pushed it away.
“Don’t worry it’s just water” the busty female from earlier assured me returning the cup to its previous position.
“So tell me Seilie” she continued ” who are your parents?”
Some time ago I would have shied away from this question especially because I hadn’t known who my father was but now I spoke with confidence “Gloria and Nyx” I answered.
Her eyes widened noticeably and judging from the hushed tones now circling our table and others I assumed they knew who that was “the granddaughter of the Elders! A banished Seilie!” the busty female exclaimed.
“My goodness!” someone uttered.
“Well, I’ll be damned” Tim commented “your father was a great Aelf like sparky’s over here,” he said slapping Del heartily a crestfallen look shadowing his face briefly.
I looked over at Del surprised my reaction mirroring his own. I deduced that he had no idea who my father had been and marveled at the coincidence of our fathers knowing each other and sharing the same values, unlike their offspring.
“As rotten as the Elders were their son was different, it’s a shame how no one knew what happened to him and your mother, she was one feisty Aelfen always challenging those uptight Nematons who looked down on us. There was only so much Nyx could do trying to keep her out of trouble.”
“If it weren’t for him she’d been exiled to the Pit long ago instead of having to leave the realm but then again she’d just be stirring up trouble hogging all the brew” he chuckled gruffly at a memory I could only wish to share.
My heart warmed at the thought of them here happy and thriving amidst the subjugation of the Elders. “She died a year ago” I informed him sadly. This time there were no tears or the overwhelming heaviness in my chest, my mood was pensive as the room resonated with silence.
“What Nese did she possess before it was... taken?” I asked after a few moments.
“The Nese of shadowing which was as scary as her temper” the busty female answered solemnly.
“Stå Nese” I remembered from my brief conversation with Voy some time ago.
“Correct” the busty woman nodded impressed.
“And my father?” I asked the word, father sounding foreign to my ear.
“A Trykk user, Nese of the earth” she studied me considerately before speaking. “If you want to know anything, don’t hesitate to come find me” she insisted sincerely touching my arm. She then pulled away quickly as if she’d been burned.
Before I could voice my apprehension Tim patted my arm reassuringly. “Shade is Nematon, one of the better ones. She sees things.” He explained.
“Like a fortune teller?” I marveled having always been a psychic enthusiast.
“I guess you could call it that” she shrugged.
“Amazing” I breathed in awe. I looked over at Del who seemed unusually quiet. He stared down into his cup while in deep thought, then taking a sip breaking the trance. I sipped mine also returning my attention to Shade.
“Did you see something just now?” I asked her eagerly.
“Yes, but I didn’t intend to. I’m sorry” she apologized. I looked at her confused.
“No, go ahead,” I said stretching my arms towards her without hesitation.
“It was nothing good” she warned. Even though this did deter me briefly my interest got the better of me and I nodded encouragingly at her to begin.
She obliged taking my palms in hers and when she blinked her eyes had flushed a milky white while an uncomfortable but bearable heat traveled from her palms to my own then spread all over my body.
Silence ensued for a good minute and then the heat faded away like having never been there. I watched as Shades eyes returned to their normal light brown color. “Well?” Del perked up surprising me.
“You want to know why you dream of it... ” Shade began. “It’s the truth behind Erdos power you’ve already seen what he is capable of.”
“I’m sorry I’m not understanding,” I said wanting her to explain.
“You’ve seen it, the shadow that Erdos will use to destroy us. It’s real! We’ve only speculated where he got his power but it calls to you. This darkness bears your face with glowing silver eyes” she exclaimed in alarm a look of confusion born from her own words.
“You’re not making any sense Shade a Seilie can’t be manipulated by darkness, of any form” Del reasoned defensively.
“Something must be wrong” she stuttered looking down at her hands. “It’s a completely different energy from her own but I saw you overseeing our destruction and he was by your side” she informed me.
I shook my head in disbelief, that would never happen. It couldn’t I assured myself though remembering the dream I had seen, unable to do anything to help them. “Maybe you interpreted it wrong. I tried to help but I couldn’t it was like I wasn’t in control of my own body” I explained the memory fresh in my mind.
“What do you mean you tried?” Del asked, “Nothing has happened.”
“It wasn’t a dream, it was more like a premonition. It seems as if a bond has been formed between you and the darkness. You must get rid of it!” she warned
I sat silenced by her words and fretting about the implications of what they meant. “That time with the Siths” Del began and instantly I knew what he was referring to.
“I’ve been having dreams before then, before meeting you and coming here.” I clarified.
“How do I prevent what happened in my dream from coming true?” I asked Shade hoping for a solution.
“You can’t,” she said simply. “You may delay it but this only means that Aelfe kind will fall and this time maybe once and for all”, she finished her voice heavy with dread.
“So Erdos has the power to destroy Nematons even though he isn’t one” Del noted.
“How did he manage to even kill so many Aelfe at once,” I asked knowing now that a bloodbath had to have ensued to match the size of the dark paradise.
“No one’s been alive to see exactly what happened that night or lived to tell it, but there are rumors.” Tim started. “Some said that Erdos had found some vile way to open his fata, a few talked of a solid shadow with Silver eyes as you’ve been seeing or that wicked witch Elanora may have something to do with it.”
The term ‘witch’ struck me as odd given the fact that anyone here would be labeled as such by normal people but I didn’t question him. “Even though we rarely speak of it, most believe that it was punishment caused by the Elders by Nature for treating us unfairly. The good suffering for the bad.”
“The ruins you must have passed through to get here was originally our home,” he said referring to the abandoned homes I had seen earlier.
“This pit was just a part of it but now it has become the only part left for us to seek shelter after what Erdos has done. We raved like we always did” he said gesturing to the room where groups of Aelfe now indulged in laughter and song.
“And while we slept under the effects of the Valerian herbs he had secretly infused with that batch of brew, most them died in their sleep thankfully, the more resilient ones suffered greatly judging from the aggression of the Siths born from their deaths.”
“Even the Elders thought it unwise to send out their most skilled Aelfe to purge them, which left us vulnerable. Can you believe it! How cruel can you be to leave lesser Aelfe to fend for themselves against Siths?” Bo picked up sounding furious.
Once again the recollection of being related to Shine and Sonny brought me great shame and then anger knowing that they were somehow the cause of all this.
“But that shouldn’t be a problem now” Del voiced looking at Shade for reassurance “there is no one left under Erdos’s influence. The only way back into the realm is through a summoning portal. No one would do that”, he stated confidently.
“Somehow someone will, it is only a matter of time. I have to go warn the others” Shade declared looking at each of us. “I urge you do the same” she advised and with that, she hurried out of the hollow and into the night.
How’s it going folks? Thank you for sticking around this long.
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