The Morning After
The curse of being an Elf is that I wake up even before the Fae in the room. In the dim morning light, I look around. Ruby is still spooned against me. Her rose-scented hair is so enticing. The biggest challenge is Sala. My beloved's right wings wrap around my body while her left wings stretch over me to Ruby and pull us closer together. Might as well do what I did during the convention. Turning into a small leopard-spotted white kitten, I keep my paws velvet to not scratch my beloved's wings. Once I'm on the pillow, I hop up onto the headboard and crawl across the till I can hop down to the floor. The sound of my landing makes Ungo merp, and I reply with a little squeak. It's not the first time I've been a cat, so she comes over and starts preening me. It's what I get for being a kitten, I suppose. I rub against her and purr, then get far enough away so that I can return to my true form. I scratch her ear and then pad into the bathroom to wash up.
I debate what to do with myself this morning. It'll be a good two hours before the Ruby and the Fae wake, another hour or more for my human friends. I don't know how long mermaids sleep, so I'm uncertain when Esperanza will rouse.
Extending my senses, my parents are wakeful, but still in their room. I could go into Emya's bedroom, or go downstairs. I've never been in my mother's bedroom without her permission, so downstairs it is. I grab my messenger bag and flow down the stairs, thankful for my low-light vision, so that I don't need artificial light to see. As an Elf, I make no sound as I gracefully move around. I set up at the dining room table and set a zone of silence in case any of my friends are light sleepers.
It's five in the morning here, meaning it's mid-morning to almost noon for my European friends. Being a Saturday, most of them are online and exploring the new Winter Carnival events that started last night. We get together at the bottom of the slopes of the Dwarven capital. Being in the mountains, they have the most snow. The slopes surrounding Ironhold are set up for skiing and sledding, with some challenging slopes.
“I wonder what skiing will be like with the new VR rigs?” I ponder, as I enjoy some hot apple cider. I have a similar cup in real life sitting beside me. The one-cup coffee machine also has tea pods which I really enjoy.
“I've heard about those.” Telu comments. “They're few and far between. I've been trying to get into the member's-only clubs.”
Linta smiles. “Your teen club, dey 'ave dem, n’est-ce pas?”
“They do!” I beam. “Carrot loves them, and every chance she gets, she's dragging some friend or family member with her so she can use them.” I look thoughtful. “I’ll ask my mother or Rose if they'll allow you into a nearby club. We might have to wait till after the convention, though.”
“Why's that, milady?” He probes. I see Linta and Sean smile. So he is magically active too?
“Well, the members-only club areas are... special.” I wink. “You need to be introduced to the community to understand more, and I rather explain it in person than online.”
“You'll stop playing this game of cloak and dagger and tell them during Geek Con, won't you, Sunshine?” Aide comments. I see several expectant faces looking for an answer.
“I told those of the guild who showed up at Gamer Con, I don't plan on keeping it a secret from the rest of you,” I reply and they relax. “This is just something that's better said in person, where I’ll see your reactions and answer questions that come up.”
Sean looks at Linta, then at a smiling Aide and Amadeus. “Is it what I think it is?” They nod. I'm sure there are some private messages I'm not seeing. Aide looks at me questioningly, and I nod. “Oh... Wait, what?”
-= /w Sean =- Just how powerful are you, me lass? Aide won't give me a straight answer.
-= /w Laurëafanya =- What are you before I answer?
-= /w Sean =- 'Officially' I'm a biochemist. My actual job is an alchemist for the UK division of Goodson Bottling Group.
-= /w Laurëafanya =- I'm an Elven High Druid. ;o)
-= /w Sean =- For real? The rumours I’ve heard… You're a living embodiment of your game character? Class, race and all?
I flash him a disarming smile as he gapes at me in-game. Telu and the twins are looking between us, confused.
“Awe, come on, milady. You're letting him in on all the good gossip? I'm the columnist here!” Telu whines.
“I rather wait to tell you this in person. It's a very sensitive matter that has repercussions if the wrong people find out…” I hesitate, but then I set our guild chat private just in case.
“Milady, the twins and I have been playing with you for weeks now. Have we not won your trust to tell us now? I will hold back from publishing anything, if that's what you are worried about.” He insists.
We're four magical guild members and three mundanes (at least I think they're mundane) in chat right now. The others are nodding. I anxiously look around. I seem almost outvoted, but not in a bad way. The others feel we can trust them.
“Okay.” I take a deep breath. “I am what you see. My avatar mirrors my real self…” Telu smiles, and the twins frown. “I’m a real-life, bona fide Elven High Druid. Magic exists, but not in the same way that you see it represented in the game. Rose embellished some abilities to appease the general public.”
“Elves exist in real life?” Phyrra blinks, stunned. “Why have I never seen one?”
“Magical creatures have walked among humanity for centuries,” I reply. “Those of us who can't hide in plain sight have used illusions to cloak our true forms, or gather in closed or gated communities. I had a feeling Telu might know about it. You said you write articles about London's hidden nightlife.”
“Vampires and blood bars are a far cry from an Elven High Druid, milady. Your new Druid Priestess NPC in the Elven capital, your family, you all exist in real life?” I nod. “That is why they call you sunshine.” He smiles. “Not only are you a lovely angelic blonde, but you are a creature of holy light and nature magic.” He gasps, “does that mean that Brunella?”
“Now goes by the name Loutéah, as Rose changed my character and my race to match my true role as their family knight.” Our paladin says finding us in-game. “My little vanilla treat, why do you continue to broadcast who you are to mundanes? One day you are going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and everything you're building up to will shatter before you get it started.” She scolds me. I look at her pleadingly. “Don't give me those doe-eyes. Your bardic charm doesn't work on me.”
Drusilla frowns. “Wait... She said she's a High Druid…” Then turns to Telu and exclaims. “Blood bars?”
“Wielding magic is a rare gift.” I try to calm her down. “That I'm both a Bard and a Druid is almost unheard of. I was brought to Earth for a reason. Yes, Vampires exist, and most of them are not something you want to meet in person. Telu is a brave man. I'm not sure how you've managed to stay alive in their midsts, but when more of my kin come back to Earth, we intend to remove their disease from our world once and for all.” I say bitterly. Telu looks at me with concern. “Elves were the first civilized race on this world, the first children of Gaia. Call us the missing link that paleontologists have been looking for. We fled the Earth from angry human armies that wanted nothing more to exploit our advanced society.”
“All those legends of Atlantis and Tir Nan Nog? The Fae, the Elves, the Pixies... they're all real?” He gasps, and I smile. “Oh, milady, March can't come fast enough for me to meet you in person! I want to know so much about you and your people!”
“There is a lot of history that religious societies have erased from the archives. Magical society has worked very hard since to keep itself hidden to avoid persecution. Entire races of magical creatures were hunted down, destroyed, and then removed from the history books. To keep the mundane world complacent and docile, we needed to disappear.” I put my head down.
The twins get up and hug me. “We're sorry you are so afraid to tell people who you really are.” Drusilla starts.
“Thank you for trusting in us enough to tell us the truth.” Phyrra finishes.
“So, at the convention, you sang, performed, and walked among humankind. You didn't hide your true form, and the geek community took you for cosplayers.” Sean smiles.
“Well, it helps that Bards like Rose have been pretending to be Elves for years. We blended in with them, with only our ears and minor facial differences. It was easy to pass our true selves off as cosmetic costumes. Only the magic community and our guild know who I truly am, and I'd like to keep it that way.” I caution.
“Milady, you are one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Your quick rise to fame is admirable. You are also one of the most popular players, with powerful connections in-game. I only imagine what influence you have in the real world. That you trust me speaks volumes. I could never betray you, not when I don’t know how that would affect the rest of us.” Telu half smiles. He tilts his head and notices how calm the rest of the guild is. “Now I know your knight is most likely some powerful creature. If you're as strong as I imagine, she's likely someone I don't want to cross.” Loutéah smirks. “What of the rest of you, oh so calm, gentlemen?”
“I'm a knight almost as powerful as Loutéah.” Aide grins.
“Alchemist,” Sean admits when I nod to him.
“I'm like un Ranger, h'in game term.” Linta comments. “I weaker in nature magique, healing, and good wit' animal, it why I am a vétérinaire.”
“Think of me as a living X-man.” Amadeus grins. "I'm faster and stronger than a normal human. I also heal myself rapidly. I've joked that the comic companies stole the concept of Adepts like me to make Wolverine,” he chuckles.
“One percent of the world's population is magically active. Of the ten billion creatures that live on this planet, it means millions of humans can wield some form of magic. Some are stronger than others. Like our game, there are different magic classes. We don't all have the same abilities.” I continue. “We tend to cluster, and work hard to hide from the mundane world. We attract one another, however, and there are a lot of us in the gaming community. It's easier to hide what we do among geeks than it is among the intolerant general public.” I smile.
“Because we're more tolerant of the unknown, and less likely to be judgemental if you're different from us.“ Telu smiles. He leans back. “Part of me is just dying to tell your story. The other is — like you — too afraid of what humanity will do if I write it.” He frowns. “I won't betray your trust, milady. I can't write it as much as the journalist in me is eager to.”
“Thank you.” I hug him close in the game.
“If I can have a real one that nice come Geek Con, then my lips are sealed.” He grins, and we all chuckle.
“Now, I'm going to ask two things of you.” Everyone nods. “You cannot tell anyone about what you've learned today, including those guild members who've not met me in person. You are now part of our secret that we keep from the world.” I wait for them to acknowledge. “O’Connor doesn't know who I am.” I see some puzzled looks. “He's not ready for the truth, so no one is to tell him what you know till I've had a chance, in person, to see if he can be trusted.”
“But…” Sean looks puzzled, and Linta looks sad.
“He was there when I told the others, but he freaked out and wasn't ready for it yet. I need to know that, like you, he won't disclose our magical community to the world. It is imperative that we only let those we trust know the truth. You don't know how dangerous it is to speak to the wrong person about this.” I stress.
“Milady, I will stand by your side, as I have the first day we met.” Sean kneels.
“My loyal knights.” I smile, looking between him and Loutéah. “I've always been able to trust you in-game. I'm glad I can equally trust you in real life.”
Amadeus is smiling, and I tilt my head his way. “You may not lead your guild. Yet since I've started playing with you and your friends, you've always held an air of leadership. When you speak, people listen, when you assign a role, no one questions it. I think you should become our leader. When I join your guild, I will vote for your promotion.”
“Thank you for the vote of confidence, but…” I blush.
“No buts, milady. You should lead us, and I'm not the only one here right now who feels that way.” He cuts me off. Aide and Loutéah are smiling. I look around at the others and they're nodding in agreement. My heart swells with their faith in me.
“She'll need advisors. She is — after all — only 15 in real life.” Loutéah winks, causing me to blush more. “But as her knight and advisor in real life, I'm with Amadeus. You should lead us, with your knights, as officers, to help manage the guild.”
“Hear, hear!” everyone cheers, lifting whatever they're drinking in salute.
“Well, she is the Elven Princess, and High Priestess of Mother Earth. Why not make her our leader in the guild?” Sean beams.
“Thank you, everyone, for your vote of confidence. Between now and Geek Con, we'll sort things out.” I look at Amadeus. “I have a feeling our ranks are going to swell shortly. You're one of The Fallen's officers who've voted to disband and join us, are you not?”
“Not even a guild officer, and you know.” He flashes me a coy smile. “I've not seen you in any of the officer discussions, yet you figured out our plan.”
“Her parents have told me she's often too smart for her own good.” Loutéah grins, causing some chuckles. “That you've picked up on their plans hints at the wisdom that you possess to lead us.”
“You know, this makes an amazin’ story.” Rose grins, and we turn to her as she joins us. “Two guilds seeking to rebuild Thalas' fallen army band together. With the blessing of her ladyship, princess Laurëafanya, they form a new order to drive the Demon Legion off our world and end their threat for good.” We sit there stunned. “You didn't think we were going to let fifty players form the largest, strongest gathering of players The Exodus has seen without wanting to make ya' all something more, did ya?” She grins playfully. “I want to make ya' all a faction!” she beams. “Your two guilds own nearly a tenth of the continent, if not more. That's enough land to make your combined group a nation. What say you?”
“I'll consult with The Fallen. I don’t see anyone refusing such a tempting offer.” Amadeus smiles.
Aide and Loutéah look at each other, then the rest of our guild. They're all smiles. We have seven in the guild ready for a yes vote.
“Thanks, Rose!” I get up and hug her tight. “Does Tarvis know?” I look at her, concerned.
“I sent your officers the offer. I gather they'll be getting online in the next couple o' hours. Do you have time for your relationship to log in before going to Konrad's for the weekend, or should we wait till the afternoon?”
“I'd like to take care of it by brunch. That way, all the guild can be present for the announcement. I'd like to take care of things while it's still early for our European friends. Some of them are likely going to be pushing it to stay awake for the Ball tonight. I rather take care of all this before the carnival gets in full swing.”
“Merci, ma belle. Yes, I will be at de Ball wit' Narielle tonight. I miss 'er very much.” Linta smiles.
“So, five hours, make an eleven o'clock Eastern guild meeting?” Aide probes, and I nod. “I'll post a note here in the voice server. That way, the rest of the guild will pick it up before even logging in-game.” He smiles.
“Much appreciated.” I beam. “I hope the rest of the guild will be as excited about it as we are!”