A World Beside Our Own

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Emmya was right. The shower feels amazing. I don’t know why I never asked to wash while I was at Kevin’s. By the time I’m out of my shower, dressed in yoga pants and a casual top, Kevin messages me they think it’s a good time to head home, considering it takes almost ten minutes to walk from the plaza to home. I send them a hug and then reach out to Sala. She’s been oddly silent. Rather than send a reply, she calls me instead.

“It is so lovely to hear your voice again.” I smile on the line.

“I still love your new voice.” I can hear the smile in her tone. “I didn’t want to bother you while you were with your friends, my love. Since you left, I’ve had time to think. I’m not just your girlfriend, there’s no fear of you leaving me to date someone else. We will have so many wonderful years together.” She says fondly. “I can give you a few days with your friends without needing to hear from you every night. It doesn’t mean I’ve missed you any less.” She says sweetly.

“I’ve missed you too.” I say lovingly. “Lyric wants to leave at dawn on the first, so I was thinking I’d pick you up after supper tomorrow. We could ring in the New Year together. That would give you enough rest before we need to travel.”

“Let me ask Amma.” She says excitedly. “I’ll call you back.” She blows a kiss on the line and hangs up.

I’m toying with the various digital pen sizes of my tablet, I’ve not had a lot of time to play with it since I got it. It still feels odd, so my art on the tablet isn’t as good as my art by pencil. I’m trying to draw Sala by memory, and I almost have her face right when she calls back.

“My parents agree and ask if you’ll get me or if they should bring me there. They believe they know where you live and would bring me to your house - if they have to.” She comments. Yeah, I don’t blame the Fae for not wanting to drive into a vampire community. Emmya has reminded me a few times I’m the only non-vampire that lives here.

“Let me check.” I say as I walk over to Emmya’s bedroom. Knock and enter her room.

“Yes, dear?” she turns.

“Sala’s parents are wondering if we’ll pick her up, or should they bring her here?” I say without wasting time.

“I’ll come with you, we’ll go pick up your betrothed together.” Ashanna replies. There’s a slight bitterness to her tone, she’s still unhappy about the situation.

“We’ll come get you, say around nine?” I say so both my fiancée and mother hear the question, and they can agree both at the same time.

“Amma says that’s agreeable. I’ll see you tomorrow night my love.” She excitedly.

I nod to Ashanna, hoping this is the last time I need to bother her. I don’t like to pester her when she’s sorting out finances. She’s preparing all the files she needs to file the business taxes for the year. I go back to my room, fish out the container of blueberries, and pop a Goodberry in my mouth. Hmm.. I so love how this spell keeps this raging appetite of mine under control.

“So, what did you do with your friends up in the city?” Sala gets curious.

“We watched movies, played The Exodus, watching some cartoons in the morning, till I dragged my friends out to get laptops. Then we played some more before we left. I’m really loving the Goodberry spell, it’s keeping my appetite under control.” I smile as I flop down on my bed.

“What do you mean you got laptops?” Sala catches on.

“Well, Ruby and Kevin only have PCs, so if I was at one place or another, one of us didn’t have access to play with the others. With the Boxing Week sales, I nearly got two laptops for the price of one, so I that was my holiday gift to them this year.” I grin.

“That was a very expensive gift darling, what did they offer in return?” Sala says worried.

“Humans don’t see gift giving the way the Fae do. For humans, giving the gift and seeing your family and friends happy means more than what you get in return. I know my friends will cherish their gifts, and it allows us to play together regardless of where we are.” I smile.

“Humans are such strange creatures.” I can tell that Sala’s frowning. “What did they give you in return?” She hasn’t quite gotten it, and I smile.

“My seeing them was all the gift I needed. I’ve known my best friends since we were toddlers. I miss their smiles and spending time together. We’re hoping to make it a weekly event, going over every Saturday.” I say happily.

“I’ll lose you every weekend?” Sala says, suddenly concerned.

“Only for the Saturday, we still have our Sundays together love, this won’t change how often we see each other.” I reassure her.

“Oh.” She says and her tone relaxes. “You had me worried for a moment, I cherish our Sundays together, they’ve meant so much to me.” She’s thoughtful for a moment. “How did you explain how you became a girl in only three months?”

“I cherish every weekend with you too.” I say lovingly. “When their parents weren’t around, I told them the truth about me, about you, about us, and as much about our society that I dared tell to a mortal.” I start. “So they’ve seen my actual face, and - like you - they prefer my Elven features over the illusion.”

“You are so much more beautiful than any human.” She says dreamily. “Was it wise to tell mortals about us?”

“I trust them, they are my best friends. I can’t lie to them, they saw though the façade right away. I’m surprised Kevin’s mother believed me!” I say still amazed I pulled that off. “I gave her enough truth to believe that I’m too worried for my safety to tell her more - as I had run away from home like Simon.” I reply.

“So, your friends know who you are, because of your characters in the game?” Sala says thoughtfully. “But his parents don’t know you were Simon and think you were someone else from Kevin’s past, like a support group friend?”

“Yes, it was so satisfying telling my birth mother I did not know where her son disappeared to when she dropped over for tea yesterday. The way she asked, I could tell her the truth: that there were no new students in our school since I joined this year. The sheer sadness on her face was both painful and satisfying. I think I should give her closure, but I don’t know how.”

“Why give them closure at all? They are of no importance in your life, you’re not even human anymore.” Sala replies.

“I want them to stop searching.” I comment. “Knowing my father, he still thinks they can find me. That I can somehow be redeemed in whatever foolish religious belief his has. Susan, Kevin’s Mom, said that they tried to convince my parents to reconsider, but they still stubbornly held to their beliefs that I was born into that horrible body for a reason. Over the years I’ve grown closer to the Smiths than my own parents, and for good reason, they refuse to learn that society evolves.”

“So what now?” Sala wonders aloud.

I take a deep breath to clear my head. “Now we plan for a lovely, romantic, magical trip to a world unlike we’ve ever seen.” I smile. “Lyric says to expect to be amazed by even the smallest facet of Elven society. I’m going to have trouble resting, I’m so excited!”

I let my love go, as my friends message me how they need a healer for their next raid. Sala finds my gaming addiction funny. We’re halfway through the raid when Lyric asks if we can do my pack tonight, so that we only have to worry about Sala tomorrow. I tell her I will let her know soon as we’re done.

My friends are disappointed I have to leave. I tell them to give me an hour; I need to get ready for my trip on the first. I get hugs and ‘see you soon’ comments. Konrad’s discovered there are romantic emotes in the game and gives me a loving kiss.

“At least in game, I get to have the real you.” Kevin whispers while his character caresses my cheek.

“Will you ever look this muscular in real-life?” I tease, caressing his arm.

“I hope so.” He beams. We share one last long soft kiss, I wish I could feel it in real-life right now. And I log off.

Lyric has me empty my pack, the entire pack, nothing left. I give her a pained look. It took me so long to get the bag sorted and remember what was where. “Cumnaili” I say, giving the command word to empty the pack of all items.

We go through my belongings. She lets me keep some of my drawing supplies, including my sketchbooks, and even the kneaded eraser. She says she’s seen similar products in Arborea, I should be able to get away with it. I can keep my charcoal pencils, and smudge stick, as I have them in a non-printed paper sleeve. The rest of my pencil set she replaces with something she brought back from Arborea. The beautiful set of 60 coloured pencils are in a beautiful, elaborately stylized wooden box than can form a stand. Each colour is described in Elven embosed script. I think I might never use my old pencils again. These are so lovely!

My laptop and drawing tablet are to stay behind, as are my pens, calculator, cell phone, makeup, hand cream, hand cleanser, and any container or item made of plastic - which includes my pencil sharpener. She says we’ll get me a wooden one when we get there. It also means I leave my wallet behind. The money, photos, plastic ID cards, and bank card are not something I’ll need in Arborea.

She picks up the container of blueberries. “I’ve enchanted the berries that are left in there as Goodberries. They last the week, and I only need a berry every 2 hours to satisfy my constant hunger.” I say, popping one in my mouth to prove the point.

She reaches into her haversack and pulls out a wooden biscuit container. She keeps the remaining bread biscuit from the box and hands it to me to use. Munching on it as we continue to pack. She says I’ll appreciate Lembas. The leaven bread is much like my Goodberry spell, but a bread instead, and she gives me some to taste. It could use some butter, but it’s otherwise pretty tasty, and I don’t feel hungry after munching on it.

Lyric gifts me with Elven personal items: The brush is darkwood with gold accents, featuring natural bristles. The comb is made of ivory with gold inlay. There is a strange fish scale, so I can file my nails. A new wood-framed mirror, Elven versions of nail care... She replaces my first aid kit with a healer’s kit. It looks so similar, but they wrapped everything in different materials, or in glass bottles. It weighs more than my human kit does, but actually contains more bandages and curatives. My new survival kit is ten times better than the old kit I’ve been dragging around. It contains items I’ve never seen before, and the multi-use utility knife makes my swiss counterpart look like a cheap knockoff. The elves don’t just make things for use. They make things of beauty. Even every day items have a certain refinement and artistry to them. Then again, there are no manufacturing plants or industries on Arborea. While there is no electricity, there are mechanical items, some of them enchanted or infused with arcane power to appear electric. The arcanists and mages love to tinker with mechanical magical constructs, so I should expect to see a few of those wandering around, particularly in the Highborn districts.

“Tír na nÓg, or Atlantis, as some stories call it, was seen as a technological marvel compared to the rest of the world.” Lyric says. “The Elven people combined magic with mechanisms. Tube trains, flying machines, walking constructs… they all existed while humanity was still in the bronze age! Hephaestus in ancient mythology was a half-elf who wanted to bring some of the glory of our people to the humans. His automatons are some of the few Elven creations that were not erased from the history books.” Lyric says. “Probably cause the Christians couldn’t remove the reverence of the gods completely.”

“So.. You’re saying that Olympus and the ancient gods were our people?” I say in wonder.

“Some, but Olympus exists. Wait till you see it! You think Everest is a tall mountain! Olympus is huge!” Lyric says. “In some ways the gods actually exist, they live in the outer planes. Humanity on our world has all but forgotten them, but there are mortals on other worlds who still worship the gods.” She smiles. “People saw magical creations as a gift from the gods for those who don’t understand how magic works.”

We pack my clothing for the visit: Lyric brought clothing for me. Gem encrusted embroidered cloth tunics, silk undershirts, embroidered leather pants, a lace trimmed knit skirt, and a fine, embroiderer silk dress. It’s beautiful! All the colours in earth tones. I’m not allowed my bras. That’s alright, my almost b-cups don’t sag, I really don’t need one. She gives me something to use for underwear, as I’m not allowed to bring mine. They make the elastic material of something different on Arborea.

“I was going to let you chose your own clothing, but the Arch Druid insists you look your finest during your stay. I also have similar clothing for our Fae friend.” She Advises me. “You are effectively going to treated as royal guests during your visit.” She tells me. “Other Elven cities have kings and nobility, people from other planes trade with our people. Currency is not completely foreign to our city, as they bring gold coins from other worlds. However, we prefer barter and trade, so most people who know of our city respect us by not bringing money into our way of life. Those who don’t, are shown to a banker who can trade their coin for barter materials. The less coin that floats around our society, the easier it is to keep harmony and balance. The druids have worked hard for millennia to maintain our way of life from the mortal plane. Everyone’s needs are met, there are no poor, no destitute, no crime, no one goes hungry. The cast system is merely to denote one’s way of life. When everyone’s basic needs are met, it would amaze you how some people don’t mind at all being a simple farmer, or shepherd, or even serving in larger households. No one is overworked. If more help is needed, they acquired more help. A farmer rarely works alone, they will have people help them plant and harvest. Druids will bless the land so that the crops don’t fail. Servants aren’t slaves or looked down upon. They are respected, given comfortable rooms, good food, and access to things your common folk wouldn’t normally see. They are well rewarded for their service. Elves have even been know to change vocation if they feel they need a change in life.”

“The only exception for the cast system is magic. Not everyone is born with the gift, one cannot become a wizard merely by hope. The body and the mind must be able to tap essence. So, you, my young friend are special, particularly with how powerful you are at such a young age. Your development is easily five or more decades further along than anyone else your age. Be proud of who you are, yet use your gifts wisely.” I smile and nod.

We’re packing my clothes. “As a planes traveller. I’ve seen so much suffering on other worlds. I know I make it sound like our world is an utopia. It probably isn’t perfect, but we don’t see pain, starvation, or greed among our kin. Those that seek material gain, move to other cities, where it is more common. Even then, I’ve not seen an elf in Arborea suffer. Each city has its own form of basic income or basic needs. No one starves, for forests are plentiful. For me, that is all the proof I need that it’s worth going home after every journey.” She smiles.

“Why do you travel the planes?” I ask curiously.

“The Bardic Council manages our city’s archives. My role, as a chronicler, is to seek out new information. I gather the details of other cultures, other peoples, and other places. We’ve mapped out the cosmic wheel, so that we can better understand others who may travel to our lands. Humanity here wonders if there is life out there. They narrow themselves to their own planner existence, looking for other planets in their night sky.” Lyric sighs and looks disappointed. “If only they knew what really is out there, but humanity fears magic and the unknown. The Council actually has marked this world as dangerous for planner travel and advises other races to avoid it. I’m one of few tasked to monitor humanity’s evolution and development. It will be up to people like me when and if we include your world as a safe place to come to. It’s not a small burden.”

“Humanity isn’t ready for what I’ve learnt in the past three months.” I say sadly. “I now understand why we limit those who know about our society.” I take a deep breath. “Humanity can barely get along with itself, let alone share in the wealth of knowledge I’ve discovered.”

Lyric gives me a sad smile. “You come from outside of this, and yet you already see why those that live on this world keep their society secret. It is one thing to introduce fantasy through games, art, books, music and film, very few have an open mind such as yours. While technologically advanced, greed will be humanity’s downfall.” We close up my haversack. “Between those who would seek to control it for their own material gain, and those who would seek to limit its influence in the world… it would be the destruction of Mankind if the knowledge of magic were to ever spread.”

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