“Mom, Raina’s being mean! We were talking and then she put her earbuds in and ignored me!” I rolled my eyes and threw my earbuds on the seat next to me turning towards the window.
“We were not talking. You were screaming at me!” I argued.
“Raina Clark, for the eighth time, no headphones of whatever kind in the car! This is a time where you can interact with your family,” my mom said calmly. I avoided eye contact and kept my eyes on the passing landscape outside my window.
“Honey, I know that you didn’t want to move but can’t you at least give this new place a chance?” my mom asked. I closed my eyes and pressed my pillow closer to my face.
“Here we are,” my dad interrupted. We pulled slowly into a gravel driveway and came to a stop. I took the pillow away from my face and looked at the house in front of us.
“Wow, this is…interesting.”
“This is it?” my mom whispered to my dad.
“This isn’t at all like the picture on the website, but we have the right address right?” my dad looked confusedly from his map to his phone.
In front of us stood an old-looking farm house with black shutters and a yellow door. The yard was overgrown and trash was strewn all over the place. Some of the shutters were falling off of the windows and the house obviously needed a new paint job.
“Well it has potential,” my mom said, trying to brighten the mood.
“I have the key, so let’s go inside,” my dad said as he made his way through the thick brush towards the front porch. We all followed him single file, trying to avoid the scratchy weeds.
“I am just so excited to get started,” I gritted my teeth and kept my eyes down.
“I know, me too,” my little sister jumped up and down.
“Em, I was joking. This place is a dump…literally.” I motioned to the trash bags and tin cans littering the yard. We unpacked the car and then individually went to explore the house.
I walked outside to see the backyard and found a small pond, many trees, and an overgrown garden. I decided to climb one of the trees to get a better view of the surrounding area and began to scan the yard for a good climbing tree. I spotted a strong-looking tree and began to climb. I accidentally put my foot on a feeble branch and slipped, landing on my feet. That was close. A crow flew down next to me and began to peck at the dry dirt, finding nothing edible.
“Poor guy, this place sucks doesn’t it?”
“Nothing to eat,” he squawked.
“I bet.” I began walking back towards the house and then stopped. I turned around slowly and looked at the bird again.
“I must be dreaming, birds can’t talk.”
“Me can,” he replied.
My eyes grew wide and I ran back inside. I must be going insane! I closed my eyes, pinched myself, and opened them again. I cautiously went over to the window and opened the shade. The bird still stood in the middle of the backyard, jerking his head in a strange motion and talking to himself about worms!
This cannot be happening!
I grabbed the broom which leaned against the window and went slowly outside. I held the broom close to me just waiting for the bird to attack.
Should I talk to it? I thought, feeling stupid.
“Hello,” he said.
I jumped, not expecting the bird to speak and wacked him with my broom. He squawked and slapped me back with his wing.
“No hit me!”
“Sorry.” I wasn’t sure why I was talking to a bird but somehow it seemed more comforting than thinking about being in this awful place. He hopped over to the pond and began cleaning his dark feathers.
“This has to be a dream.”
“No dream. Copper talking to you,” he said.
“Where do you come from?”
“And that is?”
“My country. You come with Copper to his country.”
“Right,” I scoffed.
“Follow Copper,” he called. I laughed in disbelief but found myself curiously following him anyway. He flew ahead of me leading the way through trees and tangled brush. I didn’t even look back once at that rickety house which I was being made to call home. We finally stopped at a small clear pool where he told me to look at my reflection.
“What do she see?” he asked me.
I gazed at my reflection for a long time, wondering why the girl peering back at me had bright blue eyes when I had green eyes.
“Blue eyes,” I said, not quite saying what I wanted to. “But I don’t have….” I was so confused.
“Come with me,” he called, not bothering to clear up my confusion.
“Where are we going?”
“But…wait I have to…”
Blinding rays of light engulfed us. I no longer heard Copper’s squawks or the light rustle of the leaves. I tried to keep my eyes open, wanting to see all that was around me but the light was so bright that I had to shut my eyes. In seconds I heard Copper’s squawks again but I still kept my eyes shut, not knowing if it was safe to open them again.
I finally opened my eyes and saw Copper standing next to me, but we were in a very different place. Next to us was a beautiful lake with a huge waterfall casketing over the rocks. We seemed to be standing on the edge of a great wood, when I gazed back through the trees I thought I saw them move. The soft glow of sunlight poured through the trees seeming to dance and sparkle wherever it landed.
“Welcome to Apernica,” Copper announced with a twinge of pride. “I show you all the things that you not have in your country,” he said.
We first headed into the wood behind us where he showed me things that I had never seen before. A cluster of colorful mushrooms, a village of tiny wood elves, hundreds of nests in the trees with flocks of colorful birds chirping and singing within them, and a huge tree with many little doors in it which revealed tiny fairies who waved at us.
“I always thought that creatures like elves, fairies, and mermaids were myths. Wait, are there mermaids?” I asked excitedly.
“No.” he laughed. “They myths.”
“Me joking. Course mermaids we have,” he squawked.
“Can I see them?”
We went back to the lake and the waterfall.
“I don’t see any mermaids,” I said disappointed.
“They here,” He assured me.
He led me to a stone bridge which traveled over the lake. We walked onto it and I leaned over, seeing my reflection for the second time that day.
I still have blue eyes. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. I was about to ask him what he knew about the pool that I had looked into earlier, when a small golden fish jumped out of the water startling me.
I heard far off singing and turned to Copper questioning what it was. He motioned towards the waterfall and I watched impatiently. A single mermaid swam around the waterfall and many others in the water around sang strange songs which I could not understand. A group of mermaids swam underneath the bridge that we stood on and I watched, marveling at all of the colors. Some mermaids had different colored hair and skin while others had strange-looking tails and jewelry.
The last thing Copper showed me was the enormous crystal palace that dazzled and sparkled in the sunlight. We sat on a high hill looking at the palace for what seemed like a long time.
“Who lives there?”
“Queen. And great many others.”
“Queen has counsel and servants. They live all at palace.”
“Where does that lead?” I asked pointing to a dark pine forest beyond the palace.
“Dark forests. Corrupted by Syla.”
“Queen always have seven for counsel: Light, Darkness, Water, Plants, Crystal, Animals and Messenger. Syla been counselor of Light. Most valuable counselor of all. Light which she protected. Very valuable to this country. If light not with crystals many creatures die. Syla stole rays. Counsel very angry. Queen remove Syla from counsel and banish her from palace. Syla hid rays. Counsel never found rays.”
“What are the rays for? You said they are valuable, but why?”
“Rays to Copper’s country is like air for human country.”
“You breathe it?”
“Rays power crystals. Crystal give Molia. Molia we breathe.”
“Then how am I breathing right now?”
“Molia have oxygen inside.”
“So who are you in all of this?”
“I am Messenger. Job go to mortal world. Find the One in Prophecies. Me been searching for long time.”
“Our stories tell that chosen mortal come and save us. Prophecy states that we know chosen one by reflection pool. Many I have brought to pool but none before now have been The Chosen One.”
“Wait. The pool that I looked in before we came here?”
“Yes. Prophecy say mortal look in and see eyes the color of bright blue.”
“I had…well I guess I have blue eyes!”
“That why I take you here.”
“No…what…I mean, sorry but no. Find someone else, I’m not your hero or whatever you call it. I don’t have special powers or wings or anything. I’m sure that many creatures here are way more powerful than me, use one of them!”
“But You Chosen one. You have something. Just no found yet.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You understand in time.”
I looked around at the sparkling walls and tall glass ceilings of the palace. We stopped in front of two huge gold doors and waited. The doormen, two frogs, stood by the doors guarding the entrance. Both frogs wore red uniforms embroidered with gold. Their tall red hats looked silly on their heads but it could’ve been because they were frogs.
A trumpet-like sound interrupted my thoughts about the frogs and everyone stiffened at the sound. The frogs stopped speaking and stood stiff, ready to open the doors. They opened the huge gold doors and we entered an enormous room. The walls were made of emerald and the ceiling was completely glass. Sunlight poured in through the glass and reflected off of the walls making everything look bright and colorful. Vinery and flowers hung from the ceiling like drapes. The whole hall reminded me of a large decorated greenhouse, but finer. The throne was set in the middle of the room and seemed to glow from all of the light pouring in. The Queen had long violet hair with gems and rubies set in it. Her robes were draped about her and her large wings folded gracefully behind her.
“Queen Nathailia,” Copper bowed his head and hit me with his wing, motioning for me to also bow.
“What of your journey?” she asked.
He jerked his head sideways towards me and she met my gaze. She stood and walked gracefully over to me, wings dragging behind her.
“Well, after all this time…”
I looked from the Queen to Copper, trying to follow the conversation but didn’t understand any if it.
Copper bowed and walked away. I stood watching him, confused. The queen looked at me and kindly motioned for me to follow Copper. I bowed before following him up a spiral staircase. On the walls hung pictures of the royal family and all who had served at the palace. I stopped in front of gold frames which held portraits of the counselors. They all looked stern and very important-looking. I stood looking at his frame.
“You look very…”
“Young?” He asked. I nodded and was about to ask him to tell me more about his work as Messenger but stopped. Suddenly I heard a low growing rumble. The ground began to shake and the frames on the walls bumped up and down.
“What’s happening?” I shouted.
“Explain soon,” he shouted back. I grabbed onto the railing and held on tight. The light in the palace faded. In a couple of minutes everything was back to normal.
“What was that?”
Without responding, he led me to the top of the stairs. We found ourselves in a room with tables in it. The tables were covered with maps, letters, and old parchments. Dusty bookshelves lined the room and dusty curtains hung from the windows making the room more concealed.
“Book of prophecies,” He dusted off the top of a green book and slowly opened it. The pages that he stopped at looked old and discolored but well-kept for their age.
“Wait, what’s that?” I pointed to a section of the book where it looked like a page was torn out.
“Syla have page.”
“What’s so special about the page?”
“It tells Copper how to find Chosen One. But Syla take it when she banished.”
He read aloud sections of the Prophecy and then pointed to a picture. The picture was of a girl encircled in light with striking blue eyes.
“Does this have anything to do with what just happened?” I asked.
He pointed to the light encircling the girl. “Syla still have rays. Country will keep fading. Every day that crystals don’t have rays creature dies. Every time creature dies shaking happens. Keep happening till every creature gone.”
“How am I supposed to help you?”
“You must get rays back from Syla. Here,” he grabbed a map off one table and handed it to me. It was a map of a forest. There was a small label at the top of the map. It read: Misty Forest.
“I’ll go,” I said. I wasn’t sure that I was the right one for the job, but I had to try.
“You brave, Copper no go with you.”
“Council Member no go.”
Knowing this changed everything. I wouldn’t just be going to a dangerous land, I’d be going alone.
I set off towards the Misty Forests, traveling through the great oak wood. While resting in a small clearing in the wood I met a small fairy named Hollyfox.
“Where are you traveling to?” She asked. She was sitting on a small spotted mushroom and brushing her bright yellow hair.
“Oh I’m going to the…” I leaned in closer and whispered. “The Misty Forest.”
“I’ve never been there before,” Hollyfox said cautiously.
“Would you want to come along?”
“Why not. This journey will be full of mystery and heroic deeds and…”
“And danger,” Hollyfox interrupted.
“We’ll be fine,” I said, trying to reassure her.
“Fine. I’ll come, but only because everyone thinks I’m too little to do anything. And when we return, I’ll be a hero.”
I nodded and we set off together towards The Dark Gate.
The front gate to the Misty Forest, or Dark Gate as it was called was twisted and thick vines with sharp thorns were wound around it. A dark shadow seemed to be over the whole forest and a thick fog was around us. As I opened the gate, it groaned and scraped against the iron cutting some vines around it. I ignored the uneasy feeling in my stomach and started into the forest. There was a stone path leading into the forest and I decided to follow it.
We traveled on a little longer before we came to a fork in the road. The stone path went left but a small dirt path went the opposite direction. The dirt path looked less traveled but the stone path looked safer.
“Do we even know where we’re going?” Hollfox squeaked. I looked down at the map and was confused.
“This whole area of the map is unclear, like something smudged it. I can’t even tell that there’s a fork in the road on this map. The map makes it seem like there’s only one road.”
“Well then let’s follow the stone path.”
“But I…I think we should follow this one,” I said, pointing in the direction of the dirt road. Hollyfox looked unsure but followed me anyway.
We started off down the dirt road and walked for quite a long time in silence. As we walked a distant drumming noise was heard.
“What’s that sound?”
“Gorblers,” Hollfox squeaked.
“What is that?”
“No time to explain. We need to hide.”
I picked up Hollyfox, slipped her into my shirt pocket, and ran as fast as I could.
“Where should we hide?” I whispered. Hollyfox pointed to one of the twisted trees.
I began climbing and stopped. I stuck my head through some leaves and watched, not breathing.
The gorblers were large, turkey-like creatures with huge spiny feathers. They were dark brown in color and their faces were like hogs.
“Search the area.” One gorbler came over to the tree which we were in and I panicked.
“Hey boss, somethings up in this here tree.”
“Get it,” A large one yelled. The gorbler’s began to climb the tree after us and I began to climb higher and faster. One grabbed my ankle and began to tug.
“Stop!” I shouted.
“It’s her!” One yelled.
“The one with the eyes.” Another one remarked.
“The Mistress will want to see this one.” The leader said, with an evil smirk on his ugly, twisted face.
They brought me down from the tree and tied my hands, leading me away. I looked back at a frightened Hollyfox, who was still hidden in the tree. How am I supposed to do this now? I tried to come up with a plan, but everything was falling apart. We came to a stone castle covered in blue and gold vines. The windows were covered with black metal bars and the water around the castle looked dirty or maybe poisoned.
“The Mistress ain’t here right now, let’s just put her in a room and wait till Mistress returns.” Said one.
The gorblers led me into the castle and locked me in a dusty room. The room was dark and musty and I had no options left but to wait for help. I sat down on the concrete floor and cried myself to sleep.
When I woke I was sitting in the same room. I got up and looked around, there was a small shelf of books on one of the walls that looked peculiar. Why would a bunch of books be in a room where they lock people up? I looked closely at the books and realized that all of the books were green and blue while just one was red. I took the red book off the shelf and heard a loud click. The shelf began to move sideways revealing a long hallway. The hallway had many doors and I tried to open each one, but all of them were locked. I looked inside and saw different creatures in each room. They’re all captives. I thought. I have to save them! I have to find the rays!
I ran back up the stairs and opened the red book which I had taken off the shelf. As I opened it, a slip of paper fell out. I picked up the paper and examined it. Wait, this is the missing page from the Prophecy. I could tell that the page was the one that had been torn out but even if I could read the language it would be impossible to read, the page was half torn and had ink splattered all over it.
“Raina!” A tiny voice exclaimed. I dropped the page and looked around anxiously.
“Hollyfox!” She flew over to me and landed on my shoulder. “How’d you get here?”
“I followed you and then slipped through the bars on your windows.”
“There are a bunch of creatures down that hallway that need rescuing, but I need to find the rays first. Any chance you would know where they are?”
“I bet they would be put in a highly protected area like a siln.”
“A siln. It’s like a huge cellar but harder to find. Most castles have hidden silns.”
“Where should we look first?”
“Syla’s room. At least, that’s where I would look first. It’s most protected there.”
“Ok, I bet one of these books has a map of the castle in it. Let’s find the map and then find her room.”
We began sorting books and looking for any trace of a map. I found myself half reading some of the text in the books. Most of them talked about creatures that had gone extinct or recipes for strange potions.
“Here,” I ripped a page out of a dark green book and showed it to Hollfox who flew over to me.
“We’re here,” She pointed. “So we have to go up this flight of stairs and then go into the left door to reach her room.”
“Won’t it be locked?”
“Maybe, but we have to try anyway.” I stuffed the page into my pocket and followed the map’s directions to the door, I reached for the knob, praying that it would be unlocked.
“It’s locked,” I groaned. “How are we going to get the key?”
“Look. There’s bars on this door too. I can fit through.”
“But I have to get the rays.”
“Didn’t you say that you saw potions in those books that we were looking through?” I read her mind!
“Hollyfox, you’re a genius! Let’s go, hurry.”
“This feels so weird,” I squeaked. Hollfox laughed as we started off towards Syla’s door again.
“It’s so much further,” I complained.
“It only seems that way because you’re a lot smaller.”
“Being tiny is exhausting!” She laughed at me and grabbed my arms.
“Ok. 1…2…3!” She picked me up and flew me to the top of the door where the metal bars were located. We slipped through and I landed on the ground with a thump.
“Ok now what did that book say? How are we supposed to get me big again?”
“You just spin around three times.” I spun around and rubbed my head, suddenly feeling dizzy.
“You’re back to normal!”
“I am never doing that again.”
We looked around, finding ourselves in a large red room. There were books, papers, and glass bottles all over the place.
“Woah.” I said, creeped out. “Is she like a witch or something?”
“Not quite, but she’ll do anything to keep the power that she has. Most creatures say that she does a lot of experiments with different potions and powders.”
“Look at those book shelves over there,” I pointed to a strip of books on the wall that were exactly like the ones downstairs. “Blue and green. And look, there’s one red one. Do you think?”
“Could be, let’s try it.” I pulled the book off the shelf and waited. The shelf creaked and then moved aside, revealing a dark passageway. We walked slowly down it as the door closed behind us.
“Yep, it’s a siln. Good work,” Hollfox said.
I still felt uneasy but tried to ignore the feelings in my stomach. I’m worrying too much. I can do this. We walked down the passage and found the first door. We looked inside, and saw nothing but books. Every room had books and maps littering the floor and shelfs, but no rays. Where is Syla? Why hasn’t she returned? Everything seemed too easy, but I said nothing and kept walking. We reached the end of the passage and saw a small bright room with a glass door. Inside were many mirrors and a glass box filled with light.
“The rays!” Hollfox whispered. I nodded and entered the room. Am I just supposed to grab them? I opened the lid of the glass box, straining my eyes, trying to keep them open to see the brightness that was inside. The light seemed to draw me in and I felt like I was inside it somehow. I looked up about to say something to Hollyfox but gasped. I saw a dark skinned woman in the mirror and quickly turned around.
“How did you get here,” She asked firmly.
“I walked in.”
“Really. Well how did you get past the guards?”
“I…uh, there were none.”
“Why are you here?”
“Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“Because you’re a thief and we want to make this as easy as possible don’t we?”
“Depends on your definition of easy.”
“You don’t get hurt.”
“She’s with all the other prisoners, safe and sound.”
“Doesn’t sound so safe to me.”
“I’m done with the nice talk, you’re not taking the rays.”
“Yes I am,” I lifted the lid to the glass box.
“You won’t do it,” She laughed.
“Because, you don’t know what would happen to you. And you won’t risk your life for a country that isn’t your own.” As we had been talking I had worked the lid of the box open.
“You’re done ruining this country.” I stuck my hand inside the box and was engulfed in blinding light.
The light was overpowering and I grasped my head in my hands. The ache in my head was awful and I could barely see through the brightness. It was all over in minutes and I looked up seeing Syla was still there.
“You fool! You’ll be dead in minutes if the rays stay inside of you.”
I panicked and tried to run past her but she stopped me. I kicked her and she bent over in pain, I jumped over her and then ran as fast as I could down the passageway. Don’t get lost. Remember where you’re going. Left, right, up the stairs…. I thought. I ran up some stairs and locked the door. Those bars, on the windows, I need to break them. I didn’t know how I knew but without thinking I put my hands to the bars. My hands began to get warmer and warmer until light seeped out of them, surrounding me. The bars on the window shattered and I climbed out, using the vines on the wall like a ladder to the ground. I ran to the room that I was first in and broke the bars on the window just like the previous one. I hoisted myself through and went down the passage to where Hollyfox and the other creatures were locked in. I gathered all of the creatures together and began helping everyone out through the window.
“Hollyfox, help everyone out, take them to the palace and make sure you’re all safe. I have to go and deal with her.” I ran up the stairs and found myself in a small room. Slya stood, blocking the way of any exist.
“You underestimate me and still do,” I said, trying to sound confidant.
“Big girl talk? Well, darling I doubt you’ll be able to hold out for one moment longer.”
“Why is that?” Keep her talking I thought.
“Because, I’m an enchantress.”
“Is that what you call it? Hurting innocent creatures and using potions and spells to make yourself more powerful then you really are?”
“If you think I’m so evil, then why don’t you kill me now?” I paused, not moving. What am I supposed to say?
“You are more of a fool then I expected.” She through a bottle onto the floor which exploded, unleashing a blue powder which was contained.
“What is that?” I coughed and put a hand to my mouth trying not to breathe the powder.
“Erutrot, it’s the most powerful potion I have. You will die.”
“How come it doesn’t affect you?”
“I made it.”
“You’ll never win.”
“Darling, I already have.” She pulled out a long dagger. I looked around, searching for something to use as a weapon but found nothing.” Wait, I have the rays. I thought. Copper said, find your inner strength and you will find the power you need. That’s it!
“You’ll never win,” I repeated.
“Watch me.” She ran towards me and I took a deep breath. “I can do this,” I whispered to myself. I rubbed my hands together and began to feel the warmth of the rays. The light came forth from my palms and my confidence changed with the light that encircled me. I can do this! I shoved the nothing in front of me with all my might and watched as waves of light shocked the air around us, throwing Syla to the ground. She got up, angrier than before. She threw the knife in her hand and it hit the wall above me as I ducked. She took a bottle from the closest shelf and drank down the red liquid. Her eyes turned red and flames dripped from her fingertips. I took a step backwards and fumbled along the wall, searching for a doorknob.
“Your trapped,” She smiled and laughed, coughing in between each laugh. I found a button on the wall and pressed it, falling backwards into the dark passage. I ran as fast as I could, knowing that Syla was not far behind. I took three deep breaths and exhaled the rays into a small glass bottle that Copper had given to me. I tucked the bottle into my vest and turned down another passage, hiding and waiting.
“I know you’re here.” I sat still in the dark, not breathing. “Come out girl.”
Copper, he’s outside. I didn’t know how I knew, but I had to hold off Syla long enough to get all of the creatures outside and to give Copper the rays. I quietly stood up and was about to move on when I felt a rubble. Oh no, it’s happening again! Everything began to shake and I took my chance, while Syla was distracted I ran to find the nearest window. I found a window and didn’t even have to say Coppers name. He was already there, waiting for me. I held out the bottle and he took it from me.
“Take it to the palace and but it back into the crystals,” I huffed.
“What will Raina do without rays?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll think of something. The important thing is that you get the rays away from here.” He nodded and flew away as I collapsed by the window trying to gulp down the tears. I really was all alone.
“Darling like I said, I always win.” Syla’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Not this time.” I swung a leg over the window thinking that I would climb down and escape. Syla appeared in front of me and grabbed my arm. Searing pain ran up my arm and I tried to pull away.
“Stop let me go!”
“I’m not letting you go with the rays.”
“I don’t have the rays, they’ll be at the palace by now.”
“I’m not lying.” I felt the shaking. Again.
It’s happening again. But it wasn’t how it happened before. A sort of firework exploded in the sky, reigning sparks of light down everywhere. Syla eyes grew wide and she looked about in horror. Just like the pages in the Prophecy had foretold, a star of fire in the sky would explode, putting the evil around at rest. Syla let go of my arm and ran the other direction, trying to escape. I screamed and tried grabbing towards the window for anything that I would be able to hold onto, but my hands found nothing and I fell hitting the ground as my vision went black.
I opened my eyes and looked around, everything was blurry but I could make out my parents hovering above me.
“You’re okay,” my mom said. My dad bent down next to me.
“You fell out of that tree kiddo,” he pointed to the tree that I had first climbed.
I laughed. “That can’t be…I mean I did slip once, but I caught myself…didn’t I?” My parents looked confused.
“ I was just escaping from Syla’s castle when she caught my arm and then she dropped me…well that was after we won… actually I don’t know if we won, but I think we did. Because I saw the star.”
“The star?” My mom looked concerned.
“Yeah the firework.” I looked down at my arm but there were no red marks from where Syla had grasped my arm.
“Honey are you feeling well?”
“Well my head hurts but that’s it.” My parents both looked worried.
“How about we go inside and you lay down, your father got all of the beds set up.”
Could it have really all been a dream? It was so real.
I wandered over to the small pond and picked up a large dark crows feather. The sunlight made it shimmer green and gold. I smiled and turned around.
“Mom, do you believe in magic?”