LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES, MOSTLY BAD ONES
If you ever think teleporting is fun, it is not. It’s only for a brief moment, but it felt like we have been flying inside an endless vortex of green light for eternity. We have finally reached our destination but I can still feel the vortex ripping my body. I feel nauseous and almost threw up.
“Don’t worry, it will come away in a minute,” Neve assured me, “it is normal to feel pain for your first time trying to teleport though—“
“We’re here,” Neve was cut off by Aeronwen, preventing him from giving us a very long lecture about teleportation.
We are inside a very large room enclosed with stone walls and a wooden roof. Sprouting from the roof is a network of giant roots with veins glowing blue and dripping blue liquid on a pool of shining blue ooze. Around the pool stood a dozen of figures wearing robes made of multi-colored leaves and each holding a staff made of wood. They all look young, but I can see through their eyes that deep inside their youthful faces hide the knowledge of elves who lived for hundreds of years and have seen a lot of things. In the pool stood the Archdruid wearing the same clothes, though this time he looks a lot younger, the wrinkles in his face are gone but there is no mistake, I can still recognize him as the Archdruid. He wears a bunch of floral necklaces but the thing that caught my attention the most is his eyes, they are glowing with blue light.
“Where are we? Who are those? And why are the Archdruid’s' eyes glowing?” I asked with amazement.
“We are below the Tree of Life, the source of our magic,” Neve explained with a teacher’s tone, “the pool is made out of liquefied magic which gives the Archdruid the glowing blue eyes. And the ones surrounding the pool are the elder druids of Velarone”
“Child of dawn, step inside the pool of Delphrius.” The Archdruid commanded without looking at me.
I set the book I was holding on the floor and walked towards the pool. I can smell an indescribable and exquisite fragrance getting stronger as I get near the pool. I hesitated to step in the pool for a moment, but there is something inside me that tells me to do it, a strong temptation of bathing in the pool. I stepped inside the pool and a strong burning sensation coursed through my body, but was replaced by a soft feeling of power rising and giving me strength.
I walked in front of the Archdruid and all the druids started speaking the incantations. My vision started to get fuzzy then everything went black. Pure darkness enveloped my eyes. I could hear raspy voices I couldn’t understand for minutes until I saw a blinding light and found myself lying on the floor beside the pool, clothes already dried. I tried to get up but I felt pain all over my body. Aeronwen motioned for Neve to help her get me up, they put my arms on their shoulders.
“The amulet has been corrupted,” the Archdruid is back in his original old man form, “we should discuss this with the other Archdruids and their council members.”
The Archdruid turned to me then to Aeronwen, “Escort him back to his home and have him rest well. We will call him again at the day of the meeting.”
“Wait, I have been gone for almost four days. My parents would kill me.” I asked realizing the fact just now.
“Do not worry, their memories can be erased, and your hunter friend is quite adept at altering memories.” He looked at Aeronwen.
“Well at least for memories accumulated from the past week, anything more than that is very exhausting for her,” Neve started muttering things about how magic can affect the mind and stuff.
“Oh shut up!” Aeronwen rolled her eyes and put her hand on a pedestal.
Green light covered our bodies again. Thankfully this time the teleportation is a lot less nauseous and painful than the first time, just like what Neve said earlier. In a flash we were back in the same place I was in three days ago. It still look the same as before Aemilia turned into a bloodthirsty witch monster. I looked at my companions and saw that they are wearing normal human civilian clothes. They are no longer holding me and my legs feel stronger now, the dizziness is gone.
“When did you just change clothes?” I asked surprised.
As always, Neve was the one who answered my questions, “the elven uniforms are made of a special material that allows it to change its form while retaining its magical properties and the durability of elven armor, though mine is not as strong as a normal elven armor, Aeronwen’s uniform is a lot more stronger and durable than an elite elven armor and is far lighter. It is purposely made for their hunting party.”
“Let’s go,” Aeronwen headed to the nearest bus stop.
“Wait, we’re using the bus? You know I hate the bus. The people there smell like goblins trying to cover their scent with perfume that is actually making them smell worse.” Neve complained.
“We are going to take the bus, but you are free to walk alone if you want to. I heard that stray dogs have escaped the dog pound just an hour ago.” Aeronwen said as a bus stops in front of us.
“I hate dogs, especially when they start to lick my hands,” Neve made a disgusted face, “it’s very disgusting, it takes me hours to wash the drool away.”
“Well it’s going to be either the bus,” Aeronwen gestured inside the bus, “or the dogs.”
“Fine, I’ll take the bus.” Neve finally yielded.
We went inside the bus but it was already full, so we had to stand up except for Aeronwen. Some gentleman offered her a seat, but I think he was just trying to hit on her. He stood beside her chair and started a conversation, but she tries her best to avoid the talk by acting disinterested. The conductor of the bus started asking us to pay. I searched for my wallet and realized that I’m wearing a different set of clothes from the one I was wearing before, my wallet was left inside my previous clothes. Why did I only noticed that now? I turned to Neve but he seems dizzy so I looked at Aeronwen at the far side, but instead I saw someone familiar, Aemilia.
“Sir if you are not going to pay, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the bus.” The conductor said, clearly annoyed that I seem to ignore him.
“I’m with them,” Aeronwen told the conductor, “we’ll take three tickets.”
The conductor walked towards her. I looked at the seat where Aemilia was just a few seconds ago but found another person sitting on it. I felt relieved. Maybe I was just imagining things. We finally came to a bus stop and we walked the rest of the way home. It was already dark and the houses already have their lights up. We reached the door of my house and I rang the bell. The door opened and behind it was my mom.
“Aren’t you a bit late? It’s already past eight. Never mind, come inside. You too,” mom gestured for the others to come in, “come join us for dinner.”
“Um, no thanks.” Neve raised his hands in front of him, “we’re going to be late home.”
“Are you sure?” Mom asked, “It wouldn’t take that long.”
“No it’s fine,” Aeronwen shook her head, “we’re already full.”
I looked at Aeronwen with confusion and she gave me a small smile. When did she cast the spell, just now?
“Okay.” Mom headed back to the kitchen.
“We better hurry.” Neve told Aeronwen.
“What, a little darkness scare you?” She teased.
“It’s not my fault that they live in a world that turns dark everyday. Why can’t it be like Faernwood, always bright?.” He retorted.
“Wait, Faernwood doesn’t have nighttime?” I asked him.
“It does, but it doesn’t turn this dark. The light only becomes a bit weaker, so it seems like it’s morning twenty-four hours a day.”
They waved goodbye and headed off, I waved back. The rest of the night was uneventful, or so I thought.
I woke up inside a brilliantly well lit cave. The walls were carved with runes which understand as spells for protection and to avoid detection. It was very large and contains many magical apparatuses, ranging from holographic devices that shows creatures of some kind to big furnaces with blazing flames inside them. I can hear the clanging of hammers hitting iron and blades being sharpened by small humanoid creatures standing over four feet tall. They looked like normal humans but with very large muscles which is very disproportionate to their height, they have large mustaches that almost cover their entire faces with overgrown beards styled into braids. Dwarves! So they were also real. A familiar looking man walked in front of me. I recognize him, he was the one back at the antique shop with Sneg, the creepy old man. He is wearing a polo shirt and a waistcoat— like the waiters in a fancy restaurant—except it wasn’t neat.
“We need to talk.” Says the man, then he pressed something on the wall and a large wall made of metal rose from the floor, separating us from the forge and leaving us with a decent amount of space. I felt nervous about my situation right now. The man took something out of a cabinet, it’s a wine bottle. He poured the wine into his mug and drank. “That some very fine ale. You want some?”
I shook my head, “What is it that you want to talk about? And where am I?”
“You are inside the Grimforge, one of the largest rebel headquarters in Faernwood where the weapon supply for the rebels come from.” He stared at his mug for a while.
“I want to talk to you about the Archdruid,” he took another sip from his mug. He might look young but he drinks as if he is a drunkard in a tavern in the slums, “you can’t trust him. He is unto something, we don’t know yet but we have some information about him having a secret conversation with the inhabitants of Svartalfheim.”
“But that could just be something about making peace with the other world or something,” I stood up from the bed made of smooth rock, “and why should I believe you? How can I be sure that you won’t just slit my throat right here and now?”
“If you’re afraid that I would kill you, I can’t because you’re too valuable in this war, and even if I wanted to all means of trying to kill you would just slip through your body. I’m just talking to you through your dreams after all.” Then in a blink of an eye, he threw a knife at me, I closed my eyes but felt nothing. I opened my eyes and saw no wound at all, the blade just passed through my body.
“As for your other question, about why you should trust me,” he refilled his mug with ale and drank it all in one gulp, “we have enough evidence to back up our claims.”
He took a small cylindrical device made of iron from a desk beside a stone pedestal with iron plating at the top and pressed something on it, even though I can’t see any button. The device formed holographic images in the air, and a video with the Archdruid in it. He seems to be conducting some sort of ritual, he raised his hands, holding a dagger above the creature that’s suppose to be some kind of sacrifice. I realized that the sacrifice was an elf, it looks beat up but there is no mistake, it is a living elf crying for her life but her mouth was covered by a cloth. He thrusts the dagger unto the elf’s heart and black fog rose from its chest. The fog formed a humanoid face and the video started to become blurry, the audio is also cut off. Several moments later the video was clear again but the fog was already gone. The Archdruid was left alone in the room except for the corpse of the female elf, then the video ended.
“We should show this to the council,” I told the man, “they are holding a meeting in few days at most.”
“Yes I know about the meeting, my informants said that it will be in two days,” he tried to refill his mug again but the bottle was already empty, “but we can’t show this to the council because some of the other council members are also followers of the Svartalfar, and even if we did successfully eliminated those members the Archdruid still has huge influence on the people. He is considered a prophet after all. That would only put the kingdom into chaos.”
“So what do we do?”
“We must know more about his connection with the Svartalfar first, I need you to provide me with information about the Archdruid’s movements.”
“So you’re asking me to be your spy?” I said, still not sure of what to do after knowing about the Archdruid.
“Yes, I need you to record their conversation in the upcoming meeting.”
“But why me? I do not have the skills of spy.”
“The Archdruid thinks that you do not know about this yet, so he would not suspect you of anything yet.” He grabbed another bottle of ale from the cabinet and filled his mug, “Besides I’m sure that the palace's wards alone can detect even the most skillful of spies, considering if I do have one, most of the rebellion’s members here are clumsy, clearly not made for stealth operations. And the Archdruid works with the Svartalfar, masters of the dark arts, I bet that they will warn him of things such as spies. I doubt that they will suspect you though, since they are expecting to fool you, not the other way around.”
I nodded, “What is the rebellion though? You said the members here are clumsy, does that mean that there are also members in other places other than Velarone?”
“Yes, we actually have members in other kingdoms too. We have the support of the other kingdoms in overthrowing the council and liberating Faernwood but we also have to be careful though, because the other kingdoms might use the civil war as an opportunity to conquer Faernwood even if they are not abiding by the rules of the elven alliance, especially the high elves, those arrogant pricks keep taking advantages of other races situations. They even enslave some races of the fae but still get away with it through bypassing the rules. Damn, I hate those bloody elves. But we need their support so we need to at least play the part for now.”
“How would I contact you, would you teach me some spell?”
“You could always learn some spells from the elven libraries but no, it is too dangerous and detectable. Just come over to the antique shop we have first met tomorrow and I’m going to give you something that will disable them from detecting our communications.”
“Is it some kind of cool looking gadget just like that holographic device?”
“Yes it is, but I won’t give you a holographic device though, they are too expensive. Off you go now.” He then pressed runes on the stone pedestal without buttons. Oh, so they press runes instead of buttons, aren’t the elven places here rely on magic too much? Even the technological devices are powered by magic.
“Wait, what’s your name?”
“Call me Ronald.” He said drank from the mug again. Then my vision went black.