A Message from the Herec
After a while, the sounds of the forest began to change a little; even more so as they came upon the creek and started following it. The birds were getting quieter, the insects were louder and there were odd hums coming from all directions. This was turning out to be the most miserable day Luke would remember. All day, it was like this. He had a strange idea it could have been a shrine that was recently activated that was making those weird humming noises. What could have done that though? As far as he knew, they were the only sentient ones in the forest. The humming was getting louder and louder the farther they traveled.
“The cave is close...!” Brim said in a voice a little under a yell. Luke winced up at the tree canopies. The day was almost over. It felt a little like it was only about an hour or two ago that they entered the forest. Luke carefully checked the watch. The dial was spinning. This completely confused him. Then he thought maybe there was a massive amount of energy here that was making it malfunction. It was starting to seem like this place bent time in all kinds of ways. With that thought, a new worry formed in Luke’s mind. He slightly shouted, “Is time warped in this forest?”
“Yes, but I can resist it. Don’t stray off from the path or you will get lost and see things you wouldn’t want to see. Stay close.”
Luke grimaced and nodded.
A little farther, and the noises became so loud Luke had to cover his ears and grit his teeth. They were walking up to a cave with vines crawling all over the entrance and a bluish glow emanated from the inside. The creek ran straight into the cave. Brim got off his horse and stopped in front of it with a sudden yell and the humming immediately stopped. He turned to Luke who removed his hands from his ears in amazement.
“What was the humming? Is this the cave you mentioned?” Luke asked. “You’ll see. Dismount Alarich and come.” Brim beckoned him with two fingers, guiding his own horse by the reins into the cave. “...Alright.” Luke did as told and trailed behind him.
The moment he stepped inside, he instantly lost his breath. There were crystals... everywhere! Very, very beautiful crystal stalactites. “Crystals?!” He ducked under a few while following behind Brim. A lot of them looked extremely sharp, and they were glowing. Brim went and knelt beside the creek, taking handfuls of the water. As he drank it, Luke spun around on his heels to the sight of all the beauty around them. There were also blue dots on the ceiling and sparkly rocks in every place he looked.
The horses soon joined the sorcerer at the creek and Luke said, “The crystals were making the noise... and you silenced them?”
“Yes, but I don’t think the sprites will take kind to that when they wake up. They’re little pixie-looking things, and can be vicious too. They despise when their environment is tampered with. I highly suggest you don’t take any crystals. Here, drink. This is very good for you.”
“What?!” Luke gasped. Brim raised his eyebrows and slowly looked over at him, “Don’t worry... these sprites know me. They’ll only come after me. You’re safe.” Luke stared at him for a while, then he gazed at the surroundings again. “Cave sprites... little cave pixies...” He murmured to himself and then sat next to the sorcerer, taking a few handfuls of the water.
It tasted so pure, so clean and rich... sweet even. “Oh this is amazing...” Luke said.
“Life crystals make the purest water in all of the world.”
“Does that mean if I drank it every day, I would live forever?”
“No young adventurer... that only works for sprites.” Brim answered. Luke watched him and then his eyes dropped. “Wow...” he then started taking the fruit and some bread from home out of his pack.
He gave an apple to Alarich, saying, “Here you go my friend. Enjoy.” Brim also took a few little treats from the pack on his horse, glancing at the ceiling before looking at Luke again that faintly smiled at the horse. “Don’t be surprised if the crystals start glowing again through the night.”
“What? Why? Do the sprites make that happen?”
“No. It’s a certain bacteria within them that make them glow. The sprites are responsible for their humming.”
“They withdraw energy from them as they sleep. When they wake, they are revitalized.”
“It sounds almost like a horror story.”
“Haha, no... they are quite the opposite of horrific.”
“Do you think they will be angry with you when they wake?”
“They would probably be annoyed, but not angry. They know me, like I said.”
“Ah...” Luke nodded slowly, looking at the treat in the sorcerer’s hand. Brim took a bite of it and made the same kind smile at him. “Would you like some?” Luke remembered the bread he gave him. This was very tempting...
“...” He took one and barely bit into it. His eyes grew huge. Just like when he tasted that bread, he was astounded by the taste. This was more intense than the bread and any other sweet thing he’s ever had in his life. He was sure of that. This was magic on his tongue that tickled his throat as it went down and warmed him from the inside out. This reaction of his made Brim laugh deeply. Humans...
“I am glad you like it.” The sorcerer said. Luke raised it and then bit off a chunk of it like a hungry animal. “Oh I don’t like it—I love it.”
Night came, and as everyone slept, the crystals began to glow and the sprites soon woke. They flew down from the ceiling to the crystals and some scratched their heads while others crowded around Brim. He opened an eye to see the Queen staring directly at him with her little hands on her hips. Her white hair was up in the style of a crown and had little sparkly insects moving around in it. Her nose was pointy, her cheeks a little sunken in, and her white eyes were slightly protruded.
“Why hello there, your majesty.” He said.
“Brim, I demand you explain yourself right this instant.”
“My human companion could not resist the pitch of the crystals. Humans need more rest than us as well.”
“You stopped it just for him? Why have you come to my cave?”
“I am guiding him to Tanimil on magical business. Please, your majesty... let us take shelter here. We will not bother you or your people.” She tilted her head at him. “How odd... That is certainly unusual...” she looked over at Luke. “A human...“He seemed to be having a dream about something tragic. Horrible. She recognized his expressions as a fear of helplessness. ‘Poor child’, she thought.
The Queen looked at Brim again, “I see...”
Brim dipped his head slowly.
As this went on, Luke opened his eyes and saw him talking with a little blue dot glowing brightly. He also noticed many other dots not as bright around the cave surrounding the crystals and a few at his feet. He jumped and pulled his legs up, causing everyone to stop and glance at him. “Ahem,” Brim sat up, “Luke Pane, bow before the Queen.” Brim gestured him with short nod toward the brightest dot. Luke focused on it and soon saw a little fairy woman with a crown on her head. “Oh my... you are... really beautiful...” he smiled at her and bowed his head, “Your majesty.” She raised her chin at him and then turned back to Brim, “Smart boy.” Brim smiled a little, “Please, your grace... let us stay the night. I promise you this will never happen again.”
“Well... for such a situation you’re in, and since I like you... go ahead... The guards will escort you down the great hall to the great cellar and my people shall leave you alone.” Brim lowered his head in gratitude and stood up. Luke did the same, his mind questioning everything. He quickly looked over at the horses. They seemed very interested in the sprites. In fact, they were even playing with them. “Your horses are safe with us.” The Queen said, following his gaze. He looked back to her and bowed his head with small, shy smile.
Four male sprites surrounded them and then started leading the way. Luke watched and heard Brim say, “Come along Mr. Pane.” With a curious face, he said, “I’m coming.” and he went with him trailing behind the sprites.
“Everything is ok with leaving the horses there?” He asked as the two walked.
“Don’t question the Queen.”
“Sorry...” Luke said, then whispered close, “How old are they?-The sprites?”
“Most of them, only a few hundred years old. But the Queen is about five thousand.”
“Wow! ...Wow! And I’m... I’m only 19...”
“That will change.”
“I didn’t think it wouldn’t.”
The two were led to the great cellar and saw many shelves of tiny drinks, potions, goblets and vases spread about the room. To the sprites, this room was massive, but for Luke and Brim, it was just enough room for a small table and chairs, and a narrow bookcase to fit in. What in the world were they doing with these things?
The guards bowed their heads and left them to it. Luke looked at everything and then mumbled, “This is... not going to be easy. Brim... maybe we should just continue our journey.” Brim rubbed his chin to the thought of that. He didn’t want to disappoint the Queen... but this wasn’t going to work.
“I actually think you’re right... Perhaps we should follow your advice.” Brim said with a nod, then turned and walked out, leaving Luke with a wondering face. “Wait!” He hurried after him. Once they were back in the main part of the cave, they saw the horses in the same place and the sprites were around the crystals again. Some were mining and others were sprinkling sparkly dust over the crystals. Luke wanted to ask what they were doing but he knew he couldn’t at the time. He assumed they must have been harvesting and helping some others grow. Brim located the Queen in the far corner and explained the cellar was too small. She was amused. She knew this would happen. She wanted him to be uncomfortable.
He told her they needed to leave. The Queen then looked at Luke and flew over in front of his face. “Yes yes... I know. So you will. The Ghouls are out at this hour. Allow me to bestow upon you a small gift for your journey through the forest.” she touched his forehead, “Travel safely.” He didn’t feel anything. “You are about to meet someone very powerful.” She said and flew over to touch Brim’s forehead too, “Goodbye Brim and Luke Pane.” She then darted up through a hole in the ceiling. Luke touched where she put her hand and looked after her, “Wait-! What did you do? What do you mean ‘powerful’!” Brim breathed in deeply, shook his head and walked to his horse. “She hates me... she really hates me sometimes.” Luke rubbed his forehead, noticing all the sprites were standing perfectly still, watching him. He understood it must have been something to have a human amongst them but they didn’t have to look at him like he was a god. Or so, that’s how he felt about it. “Alright...” He sighed to himself, walking toward Alarich.
They exited the cave on their horses and saw a strange gray mist passing by. Luke froze with his hand over the handle of his sword. “What is making that fog?” he asked. Brim watched with large, surprised eyes. “It can’t be...” Suddenly, time froze and a large black ball appeared in front of Brim. It was almost as tall as the trees and it seemed the fog was spinning around the ball. The noises of the forest were vanishing and replaced by the sounds of wind and powerful humming, swirling energy. As Brim kept his eyes on the ball, he heard a voice within the wind saying, “Sorcerer... we are watching you... It is almost your time.” What it said instantly worried him. He was stiffening and much too nervous to speak. “If you stay with this human, the way for you will be shut. Finish your quest.” His chest tightened and his jaw fell slightly, a breath leaving him. The ball gradually dissolved in the mist and faded away. It took a few seconds for everything to clear. Then, it looked like nothing ever happened.
Brim let out a long sigh and closed his eyes. Luke looked around with his hand on his sword, noticing the mist was gone. “Huh... that was strange. I guess it was ok...” Brim kept his head down as he thought about what happened. The Herec—there—speaking to him. He KNEW it was the Herec. What else could it have been? Being a fairy and elf, he had to learn from both schools. He knew magic very well, he had a sharp understanding of how to use the many different laws of nature to his advantage, and his spiritual awareness was quite mature as well. He was extremely talented and clever. Was the Herec impressed... with him? What did their message mean? He was completely at a loss for words.
Luke finally looked at him. “...Are you alright...?”
Brim dropped his head a little more. “Let us continue. We can’t stop anymore from here on.”
“What’s the matter Brim?”
“Nothing is wrong. I was just thinking of something odd. I’ll be fine.”
“...You are strange.”
They carried on through the forest.