A STROLL IN THE ELVEN CITY
Aeronwen took me on many different places in the elven city of Velarone, which is the capital of the kingdom of wood elves called Faernwood, “the golden forest of the fairies”. The city looks a lot different from the medieval looking elven palace we just came from. It looks pretty similar to a city from a modern human civilization, except instead of buildings and skyscrapers they have giant trees with many windows covered by some sort of invisible force field, which I noticed because of the blue glow it emits when I change the angle I am viewing it from. One particular tree catches my attention. It is the tallest of all the trees in the city, covered with leaves of different colors and each leaf is changing colors every second.
“That’s the Tree of Life,” Aeronwen noticed me looking at the gigantic tree, “as the name suggests, it is the source of this forest’s life. It is where all things in this kingdom, living and non-living, get their magic. All of these things you see are powered by that single tree.”
She motioned to the surroundings, the glowing roads, beacons and giant magical televisions—just like the New York’s Times Square Jumbotron in Manhattan. Instead of cars they have flying chariots and wagons made of elven wood being pulled by small wyverns. The streets have multicolored wisps directing the traffic like some sort of sentient traffic lights and a bunch of giant mushrooms that are suppose to be different cafes and clothing stores. There are many busy elves walking on the sidewalks wearing both formal and casual clothes which humans wear. This looks pretty much like New York, I have been there so many times when we visit my mom’s relatives which were very workaholic people so we didn’t actually have that much time to talk. I bumped into a group of elven girls in their late teens and apologized, but they didn’t seem to care until one of them noticed that I look different, like she hadn’t seen a human before— well at least I look human—but instead of being afraid and panic like what most people do when they see something different, they asked me if they could take a picture with me. I agreed but Aeronwen shoved them away, the group is annoyed and left while one of the girls gave Aeronwen a dirty look and then gave me a wink. I looked at Aeronwen in her magnificent body posture. She has the graceful movements of a princess. I haven’t really thought of it but I think she is kind of cute—without her terrifying demeanor—but her fierce blue eyes and her stern but beautiful face caught my eye. She has some kind of wild beauty. I thought.
“What?” she caught me staring at her.
“Ermm, just curious about what things you are interested in. I mean what do you often do or the things you like to do?” I asked awkwardly trying to create a conversation, “I mean when you are not on duty.”
“Hunting, archery, and practicing my skills.”
“Is that all?”
“Why? Is there something else I’m supposed to do?”
“Nothing, I mean don’t you have some hobby or recreational activities that you want to do during your free time, you know fun stuffs?”
“Those are just waste of precious time. We the huntresses strive to be the best of best, that is the only thing we want, not some stupid fun. And the only way to do that is to master the art of hunting, be the predator before you become the prey.”
“Well a little bit of fun won’t hurt.”
“Well I know a place where we can have fun.” She pulled my hand and ran, dragging me with her.
“Where?” I asked, my face turning red.
We reached a large open area with tall grasses reaching our knees. There were people chasing each other and looks like they are actually having fun, except for the fact that they are holding swords and spears. There are also small trees around the field and I noticed some elves hiding on top of them, they are holding bows. One of them shoots an elf running from another elf holding a spear. The elf saw the bowman and was able to block the arrow with his shield, but the elf holding the spear took this as an opportunity and kicked the other elf on the chest knocking him on the ground. The spearman—spear-elf?—pointed his spear at the other elf.
“I yield!” exclaims the elf who was knocked on the ground, but the spearman kick his face and he was knocked out.
The spearman took his helmet off, his face is familiar, he’s one of the guys with Aeronwen who saved me the other day. His golden hair flowed out of his helmet like a prince in one of those fairytale movies. He saw us and walked towards us.
“Hey Aeronwen, want to spar? Or maybe you prefer that we do other things together?” he said in a provocative tone and winked at her.
“No thanks, jerk.” Aeronwen said, clearly disgusted at the man’s gesture.
“Too bad, it’s not everyday that you are going to be asked by Vaeril Faedove the most handsome elf on a date.” He turned to me, “So the wimp has already woken up. Wait, don’t tell me that you’re not going out with me because of him, didn’t know you have very low standards for men.”
“Watch your tongue, you don’t know who you’re talking to.” She took her dagger out of its sheath. People have started to gather around us. “I can rip that stupid face out of your skull.”
“Really?” he leaned towards Aeronwen, “do it then.”
Aeronwen is shaking with anger, I thought she was really going to do it. But instead she put her dagger back inside its sheath and sighed, “You’re not worth my time.”
“Aw, the warrior princess has already gone soft,” he said in a mocking tone, “maybe the wimp has already softened her up.”
Everyone around laugh. I punched him in the face but he was too quick, suddenly I was on the ground eating dirt.
“Is that it? Is that all your boyfriend can do? Eat dirt?” He told Aeronwen, she is starting to shake with anger again.
I tried to get up but was kicked in the stomach. Aeronwen unsheathed her dagger to slash Vaeril's face, but two of the guy’s companions blocked her with their swords. They started exchanging blows, Aeronwen was clearly outnumbered but she moved around with skill and ferocity. I kicked Vaeril’s leg while he was busy watching the fight, he didn’t expect it and fell on his face. The crowd turned to us and started to cheer for him. We wrestled on the ground but he was clearly stronger than me. He strangled me and I almost went out of breath but I elbowed him and he let go. I got up and started to punch him in the face, strike after strike. I was gaining the upper hand until a bolt of lightning from his palm hit me. The shock knocked me four feet off the ground. I fell and hit the ground too hard. He got up and the crowd started booing him and yelling things like that’s cheating and he’s a wimp.
“Shut up!” He yelled at the crowd.
“That’s enough!” The crowd went silent, Aeronwen and the other two guys stopped exchanging blows. A man in his late twenties, along with a giant dog with green fur and brown spots, walked towards the crowd. “Everyone, get back to the barracks.”
Everyone headed to a large building, including Vaeril and his companions. I looked at the dog, it’s fur looks like Cookie's.
“Thanks Barathran, but I had it sorted.” Aeronwen took a handful of grass and wiped the blood off her dagger.
“Your look says otherwise,” the man handed me a vial of white liquid, “here, that might heal some of your injuries.”
I drank the contents of the bottle, the pain and bruises in my body are slowly fading.
“Aren’t you going to give me one?” Aeronwen told the man.
“I already gave you a handful of them yesterday,” he raised his eyebrow at Aeronwen, “don’t tell me that you already used all of them.”
“Well I uh,” Aeronwen can’t seem to think of an answer.
Barathran sighed and turned to face me. I got up and took dirt off my clothes. “I’m Barathran Gilvyre, pack master.”
“Hi I’m Alvin,” I shake hands with him which is a surprise, they do shake hands, “nice to meet you. How did you know how to shake hands?”
“I work as a dog trainer in the human realm.”
“Wait aren’t you—“
“Cookie’s owner? Yes,” he showed me the dog that looks like Cookie, “this is one of his brothers. Come, he is waiting for you in my house.”
We followed him to a building that looks like a zoo inside. He opened the gate and we went inside. The place was full of vegetation. Very large dogs with furs of different shades of green and brown spots—or cooshees as they call them here—roamed around the place. Puppies were playing around an old tree, one of them noticed us and ran towards me.
Barathran closed the gate, “he missed you.”
The puppy licked my hand, filling it with very thick saliva.
“Good boy,” I pat the dog’s head.
Please have a seat, he gestured to the nearby wooden seats with a glass table. He poured some tea on our cups.
“Can I have coffee instead?” I asked.
“Sorry but I only have tea,” he sat on the seat next to us, “don’t worry, that isn’t a normal tea. It’s the best tea in the elven realm, I could even go as far to say that it’s the best drink in all of the other worlds in the material plane. But the dwarves still continue to argue that their ale is better.”
“Mr. Gilvyre here loves tea very much, second only to his dogs.” Aeronwen whispered to my ear and drank from her cup.
I also started to drink, the tea gave me a very refreshing feeling. I can feel energy surging from my body, like I can run a hundred kilometers without getting tired. Can I?
“You like it?” He asked, sipping tea from his cup.
“Yeah, can I have some more?”
“Sure, I have plenty of it stocked.” He pours my cup full of the fragrant tea, “What do you say if I’ll give you cookie?”
“Really?” I asked, shocked, “Sure.”
“Wait here,” he went inside a room in the building.
A few minutes later, he came back with a tray of cookies. Aeronwen picked a handful of them before it was even set on the table.
“I thought you ran out of cookies?” She asked while stuffing her mouth full of the delights.
“I had the chance to buy some this morning,” he put the tray on the table, “they sent me out to spy on a troll camp near a Halfling village.”
“Halfling cookies are the best.” She put some of it inside her pouch.
“Wait,” I asked confused, “I thought you were going to give me Cookie?
“Yes,” he gestured to the tray of cookies, “it’s literally right in front of you.”
“No, I meant Cookie, the dog.”
“Not going to happen,” his face became serious, Aeronwen stopped eating cookies for a moment. “you have to prove to me first that you can take care of him.”
“How?” I asked nervously.
Aeronwen switched her head back and forth to look at us, her mouth still full. Barathran stared at me for a while—I am slowly melting on my seat—then he started to laugh. Aeronwen laughed too. He patted my back and I laughed nervously.
“Just kidding. Sure,” he gave me a whistle made of glass that looks like a miniature dog bone, “just blow that whenever you want to call him. He will appear in an instant, unless you are in a world where their kind isn’t allowed or if they are afraid of that place.”
“Just a question,” I told him, “why are they silent, the dogs? Are they mute?”
“No,” he sipped some tea, “they only bark when danger is near their master, and when they do, the bark will produce a very loud and deafening sound.”
“So that’s what happened,” I told myself.
“What?” he asked.
“He barked just minutes before a goblin attacked me at my house.”
“So he had already chosen his master,” he poured himself tea, “what a shame, I thought he is going to give you a hard time convincing him to be your familiar.”
“What do you mean?” I asked confused, “I thought you have already given him to me?”
“I just gave you the right to claim him,” he smelled the cup of tea and sipped, “but the cooshee is the one that decides if you are worthy of being his master, and it looks like he has already approved of your master and pet relationship.”
“What happens if he didn’t?”
“Well, you can just give up,” he grinned, “or you can keep trying to pet him until he stops tearing your flesh into pieces.
I swallowed my throat.
“I think we have to go now,” Aeronwen stood from her seat, “we wouldn’t want to keep the Archdruid waiting.”
“Sure,” Barathran toss a cookie to one of his dogs, “just tell me if you need anything.”
I gave Cookie a belly rub before we go. We went out of the gate and headed to the palace.
“Actually,” Aeronwen turned to me, “I think I need to go somewhere first.”
“Sure.” I told her.
We stopped in front of a giant tree, it has five stories each with giant windows. The tree has brown leaves which reminds me of fall. We went inside the building and I realized that it is a massive library. I can see all the floors from here, they are like very large balconies connected by dozens of spiral staircases. The first four floors looks like a normal library with normal looking bookshelves with normal looking books, the fifth one is very dim but I can see some weak bluish glow from the bookshelves.
“Hi how can I help you?” says the librarian while smiling, which I assumed is called Daife from the name tag on her chest. She is a slim looking woman wearing eyeglasses and normal librarian clothes—the human sort of clothes—and is in her late teens, I’m not really sure since elves age slower than other races.
“Just here to return some books.” Aeronwen took a few leather-bound books and some children’s books from her small red pouch, I wonder how all of those books managed to fit inside it.
“Good, let me see you card,”
Aeronwen took a green card with the runic symbols for her name and the library’s name, Thorn’s Book Club. Well that’s a stupid name. The librarian swiped the card and looked at her computer.
“Looks like your books are already two weeks past their due date,” she gave the card back to Aeronwen, “You’re going to have to pay forty elven dollars.”
Really, Elven dollars? That’s something I didn’t thought elves would use as a currency. I expected something magical and a little bit elvish like thornwood leaves or magical coins of elvendom.
“Thirty,” Aeronwen took the card from the librarian.
“Really?” the librarian asked, shocked, “this is a library not some sort of black market, there is no bargaining.”
“Well I do run some errands for your library, can’t you give some exception?” she said handing the librarian the money.
Daife, the librarian, sighed,“Fine, but just this time only.”
We then climbed the stairs to the third floor, the stairs are made of wood and each of the step is moving upward, like an escalator inside a mall except this one is magical for sure. We reached the third floor and surprisingly, the bookshelves are full of children’s books, most are large but thin with few pages while some are made of materials thicker than paper. I scanned the books and realized that most of them are just elven versions of human fairytales.
Aeronwen noticed my confusion and seems like she can read my mind, “The fairytales actually originated from us the fae folk. Well, they are called fairytales after all, fairies are sub races of the fae, just like how the wood elven race is a sub race of the elven race.”
“So you mean they’re true?”
“Most of them are, some of them are even considered as historical heroes.” She says while taking some books from the shelf. The books are mostly about dragons and princess and knights.
“I didn’t know you like fairytales.”
“What? No, these are for my sister. She likes reading books about princesses being saved from monsters, it gives her some kind of hope from her illness.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Never mind that,” she put the books inside her red pouch, “let’s go.”
We climbed another staircase to the fifth floor. The fifth floor is a lot different from the other ones. The shelves are different from the ones below, they are made of some sort of dark gray wood that are unrefined. The books are definitely not children’s books, most have leather cover while some are very thick tomes that almost look like a box of papers than a book. The air makes my skin tingle, I can feel some sort of energy emanating from this floor. The walls are filled with runic inscriptions and sigils glowing with different colors but mostly blue, I can read most of them though I don’t recognize the sigils. They are mostly warnings and library rules about being quite or the wyvern will eat you. I hope that the wyvern part is just some sort of elven joke.
“Take what you want,” Aeronwen gestured over the books, “I’ll just help you get a membership and a library card later.”
I nodded then she left. I looked at the books in the nearest bookshelf, they are books about languages of the ancient elves translated into the Velaronian dialect, or the wood elves’ language, and one book in particular caught my eye. Its symbols look like the one in our house’s basement. Maybe I could use this to decrypt that book. I decided to take the book.
“I didn’t know you are interested in languages.” Aeronwen appeared beside me.
I was shocked with nervousness and Aeronwen chuckled. It’s the first time I heard her laugh, it sounds like she’s a noble or someone with a high status.
“It just caught my interest,” I cleared my throat, “Speaking of languages, how come I can understand you?”
“Your amulet has your predecessors' memory remember?” Her stern facial expression returned.
“Doesn’t it need to be activated first?” Or maybe it was activated when Aemilia conducted the ritual, “Actually, never mind.”
We headed for the counter in the first floor. The librarian was talking to a strange man, I couldn’t see his face properly because he wears a hooded cloak that attracts the attention of the other people in the library, which is the total opposite of what it’s supposed to do. Daife looks nervous but still tries to keep her composure. After a few moments the man left the library. I saw a glimpse of a silver ring with small runes I could not read on his left hand. Daife saw us and smiled.
“So you’re back already?”
“I would like to borrow these books.” Aeronwen handed her library card.
Daife swiped the card and scanned the books using a device like in the supermarkets, “please return them earlier next time.”
Then she turned to me, “And how can I help you?”
“I would like to sign up for a library card.” I gave the book to her.
“Sure, just fill out these forms, pay the registration fee and you’re good to go.”
“Fee?” I asked nervously.
“Well you need to pay ten bucks for the membership fee darling.”
“Ermm, I don’t have any money.” I smiled not knowing what to do.
“I’ll pay,” Aeronwen reached for her pouch.
“Oh you don’t have to,” I told her, “I mean I don’t really need to read this book.” I actually want to read this book.
“It’s fine,” she gave the money to the librarian, “you can pay me back some other time.”
“So you do have money, but had to ask to lower the price of the penalty fee.” Daife frowned at Aeronwen and handed me the registration form.
It took me five minutes to fill out the form and handed it to Daife. She scanned the book and gave it to me along with my new Thorn’s book club membership and library card, “Its due date is seven days from now. Have a nice day.”
As we got out of the library we saw Neve running towards us.
“The preparations are complete, the Archdruid is calling you now.” He said, still gasping for air.
“You could have just sent us a message rather than run around the whole city finding us.” Aeronwen rolled her eyes.
“That would be boring.” Neve took out a scroll from his pocket then started speaking the incantations for a spell.
“A teleportation scroll, really?” Aeronwen said sarcastically.
“Not just any normal teleportation scroll, this one can be used many times.”
“Then why didn’t you use that to find us?” I asked the still exhausted Neve.
“Teleportation scrolls doesn’t work that way, it’s a one way travel only and should be linked to a certain place.” He finished the incantations.
Green light covered our bodies then we’re gone in a flash.