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Old 10-01-2020, 08:30 PM
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Blaze_of_Glory Blaze_of_Glory is offline
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Hi everyone! I'm very sorry that this is late. Unfortunately, my computer is broken, so there goes the post I was working on. I'm getting it fixed, but in the meantime I'm on my (rather old and slow) backup laptop, so that's fun.

I hope everyone is still doing well!


I shivered and pulled my cloak as we all walked deeper into the oversized forest. The light from the rising sun was dimmer here, filtered out by the enormous oak branches. The snow crunched beneath our feet as we trekked onward.
"Come on!" Tamsin chided from up ahead. She hopped lightly onto one of the giant roots that stretched before us, maze-like. She looked back at me. "We're going to be left behind at this pace! What are you so worried for?"
"We're in a strange, snowy forest that might come alive and attack us at any moment," I pointed out. "Now seems like the exact right time to be concerned. We don't have any experience with defending ourselves on Earth."

Tamsin sighed. "It's not like we'd be doing any better if this was Estoriana. Mom was never going to teach us how to defend ourselves," she added bitterly. "Probably afraid we'd use it for the wrong reasons."
I stared at her, aghast. "Mom would never think like that!" I protested. "She wanted to protect us. She hid the truth of the prophecy from us, precisely because she didn't want us to be burdened with that fear. The fear that one of us was going to... you know..." I faltered.
"Turn to the dark side?" She finished. "If that was her reason, why did she never teach us magic? More than that, she went out of her way to make sure we didn't learn a single spell. Generations of descendants have now gone on quests to save Estoriana. How could she be sure that our time would never come? Why didn't she teach us some basics, if only so that we wouldn't be so utterly helpless?"
I had no answer for her.
"Magic is our legacy, our birthright," Tamsin went on, fiercely. "It wasn't right, prophecy or no prophecy. Plenty of the Varden members and their children have powers - even if there's no ominous prediction about them, there's nothing stopping them from using their abilities for evil. She should have given us that choice to make for ourselves."

"Tansy..." I wrapped my arms around myself. "You don't really think that Mom never trusted us? For our whole lives?"
For a moment, a shadow seemed to fall over her face. But then it cleared, and I told myself that the anger and resentment I'd seen there was merely my own imagination.
"Of course not." My sister reached out a hand, and pulled me onto the root she was perched on. "I'm just saying, she should have given us more credit. We're not babies anymore - some of the original Varden members were our age on their first quest."
I smiled. There, that was the Tansy I knew - rebellious, hotheaded, always determined to carve her own path in life. No. I'm not doing this. I'm not going to start suspecting my own twin. We're bonded together, by blood and by something much stronger. Her destiny is mine as well, and I won't allow either of us to fall.

The fierce, unbreakable conviction behind that thought surprised even me. But Tamsin was right - we were on our own now, and I couldn't allow myself to be so weak and helpless anymore. I'd have her back, like she'd always had mine.
"But haven't you ever thought about it?" Tamsin asked wi****lly. "What it would be like to learn magic? When you see the Legacies using their powers, doesn't it make you feel envious?" Her voice was full of forlorn longing.
"Maybe a little," I admitted.
My twin flashed me a quick, brilliant smile. "Doesn't this seem like the perfect time? I mean, most of us are powerless right now, but when we get back to Estoriana - or wherever we're going next - we could ask some of the Legacies to teach us! Surely some of them must know some really cool spells!"
I squirmed, remembering the scene we'd made at that meeting. "I mean... don't get me wrong, Tansy, I'd love to learn, but... I'm definitely going to trip on my face at some point. We're such beginners, I don't know if any of them will be willing to teach us."
My sister rolled her eyes. "Well, if you're so worried, I'll ask them to teach me, and I'll show you what I've learned in private! Sounds good?"
"Will you be alright by yourself, though?" I asked, not wanting to abandon her. And yet, I couldn't imagine myself being assertive enough to just approach one of the Legacies, many of whom we'd never even spoken to before, and demand they teach me.
"Of course!" She exclaimed. "Actually, it's the perfect opportunity. We could finally make some friends our own age, as well!" Tamsin spun around and began walking faster. "I'm going to ask Ayla about her powers!" She called out behind her. "I mean, I don't think we can learn a winter spirit's magic, but I'd still like to know what it feels like to fly!"

"Have fun!" I called after her, smiling. Sometimes I really wished I could be like my twin, so confident and outgoing. If I was telling the truth, I also longed to befriend some of the Legacies - but I had no idea how to start a conversation with any of them. They all seemed to powerful and confident - what would I even say?


“Well, should we camp for the night or keep moving?” I asked. The altercation with Katerina’s kidnappers had tired me out, and we’d been trekking through the snowy woods for hours now. The cold had set in, and I shivered uncontrollably, still not used to winter weather. Lissa gave me a warm, comforting hug, and I shot her a look of gratitude.
“It’s nearly dawn,” Yue pointed out, and I noticed that the sky was beginning to glow with pre-dawn light. “We should keep moving towards Santoff Claussen, those attackers might decide to come back here, and we can rest in the village.” She finished as we nodded in agreement.
“Let’s go. This way!” Ayla stated flying in the same direction the village was supposed to be.
I caught myself several times glancing to my left, about to comment to Amani about the swirling snowdrifts - the first snowfall I'd ever seen - or the spiky coniferous trees weighed down by piles of white. Each time, I bit my lip, having to remind myself that she wasn't here anymore.
This... this wasn't how it was supposed to be. It should have been both of us, here on this quest. I shivered, feeling lonelier than ever, despite the presence of all my new friends around me.

As we walked, Lissa moved to my side, letting out a nervous sigh. I could sense that there was something she was hiding, that she wasn’t ready to tell the rest of the group yet. I didn’t want to pry, though, so I waited.
“Soraya...” Lissa paused, facing me. “I have to tell you something.”
“What is it Lissa?” I asked, looking her way, scanning her face for clues, but she clearly had experience hiding her emotions.
Fiddling with her necklace for comfort, Lissa continued, “Back in Wonderland I have my best friend Charles. Though, if I’m being honest with myself, he’s more than a friend.” She braced herself, visibly keeping her emotions in check. I sensed that whoever Charles was, he was such a deeply important part of her life, it was like a piece of her soul had been ripped out. My heart squeezed in sympathy and phantom pain. Just like Amani, or Najila’s dad. We’re the same, all three of us. “Well, the night after the ball, I was hanging out with him in our tree and he vanished right before my eyes, much like Najila’s dad and your sister did. Now all I can do is go on this quest and hope it ends with me getting him back. I know he’s still out there, I can feel it.”

I gripped her hand tightly, understanding. Just like me, this quest isn’t only about saving Estoriana for her. It’s about saving one of the most important people in our lives.
“We’ll get through this together.” It was all that needed to be said.
We then sped up to meet Ayla and Noelle up front, talking about random things as we continued through the forest.
“It’s funny,” I said softly. “When she was around, I felt like we had all the time in the world. I never stopped to consider what a world without her might even feel like. But now…” I wrapped my arms around myself. “All I want, more than anything, is a chance to tell her the truth. Let her know how much I cared.”
“Yeah,” Lissa agreed quietly. “That’s how I feel too.”

We were both silent for a few moments, only broken by a shout up ahead from Noelle. Lissa and I exchanged a glance. What had just happened?
A moment later, Ayla’s voice rose above the howling of the wind. “Looks like we’re finally here!” She exclaimed. “Yue! Hurry up, we’re here!”
In a few moments, all of the Legacies had gathered around what they had run into – an enormous root, thicker and taller than the trunk of a regular tree. We all craned our necks, staring at the branching network that stretched into the distance, just barely visible under the heavy snow cover. We couldn’t even see the tree that these belonged to. How massive did it have to be, to spawn roots like these?
As the brilliant orange hues of the dawning sky painted over the pure white snowscape, we became aware of the enormous shadow that loomed over us all. We all tilted our heads up, up, up, into the twisting network of branches that seemed to stretch into the sky itself. A massive oak tree, tall as the palace at Agrabah, stood guard over all the smaller pines and evergreens, that seemed as tiny as a child’s play set in comparison.
“Whoa,” I heard someone whisper, almost under their breath, as we all stared in awe.

Ayla cleared her throat. “Now that we’re here, it’s time to reveal the truth about the village of Santoff Claussen.”
“Dad told us about this before we left,” Yue added, “But we wanted to wait for everyone to gather before telling you all.”
“In the forest hinterlands of eastern Siberia, sat the little town of Santoff Claussen,” Ayla began, and in her voice I heard the ancient wisdom of the Guardians, passed down through countless ages of mortals.“Ombric, who would someday be known as Father Time, searched far and wide for a place to create a town where people who valued imagination and dreams could make their home. A meteor crash turned out to be the perfect location, for in the center of the crater a lone sapling had been left unharmed by the crash, and Ombric discovered it had been imbued with ancient starlight. It grew into a magnificent tree named Big Root, in which Ombric made his home. He welcomed all with kind hearts and curious minds, and the small village of Santoff Claussen was founded.”
“To protect the village, Ombric designed layers of magical barriers. He cultivated an encircling hedge of bracken and vines a hundred feet high with thorns as long as spears, their growth hastened by the stardust that had seeped into the ground. He conjured a great black bear that would serve as the village's guardian. Upon the village's outer rim, he planted the largest oak trees in the world, whose roots could rise up and block the path of evildoers. And lastly, he created a beguiling temptress, the Spirit of the Forest. Only those found to be pure of heart by the Spirit and the Bear, shall be allowed to pass into the town.”

There was a moment of silence as Ayla finished recounting the tale.
“How can we prove that we’re pure of heart?” Noelle asked eagerly. “Is there some sort of test we have to take or…?”
“We don’t know,” Yue answered. “Dad said we must make our own way through these woods and prove ourselves to be pure of heart.”
“Well, only one way to find out!” Noelle turned to the enormous ring of oak roots that surrounded us. “We’re here to save our entire world - and possibly every other magical realm as well - from falling into destruction and oblivion, after all! What could be a purer motive than that?”

I noticed several of the Legacies - especially the Exilians and Katerina - eyeing the twisted roots warily.
Ignoring their hesitation, Noelle stepped boldly into the woods beyond.
Nothing happened. The roots stayed perfectly still, and none lifted to attack. She turned to grin back at the others. “Come on! What are you waiting for?”
“Whoa!” I heard Ayla’s excited voice exclaim from above, high up in the tree’s endless branches. “These really are the biggest oaks in the world! I can’t even see the top from here.”
We wandered deeper and deeper into the snowy forest, mesmerized by the towering trees. I felt like Jack, a tiny figure in a giant’s world. Crawling under roots thicker than I was tall, skirting around tree trunks wide as houses.
“And to think,” Noelle marveled. “This is only the first stop of our journey!” She spread her arms wide, leaning back to let the glowing light of dawn wash over her face. “Who knows what sights are awaiting us next? This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime!”

Despite myself, I felt the beginnings of a smile creep onto my face. The first real smile I had worn since my sister's disappearance.
It was the same infectious enthusiasm that had me drawn to her at the Reunion Ball.
"She's right!" I squeezed Lissa's hand as we ran to catch up with Noelle. "I can't wait to tell Amani all about this when we get her - and Charles - back."
When, not if.
"Yeah!" Lissa agreed. "And I can't wait to introduce all of you to him as well!"

"It's close," Ayla called out from up ahead. "I can feel it!" She began speeding up, a streak of silver against the snowy landscape. "Last one to the village is a rotten egg!"
"Hey, no fair!" I protested. Grinning wickedly, I pulled off my bag and unfurled a long, royal-blue length of cloth. Carpet broke free of my pack and began hopping about like an excited puppy.
"As long as we're not playing fair..." I jumped on board and reached out a hand to Lissa and Noelle. "I did promise all of you a ride, didn't I?"
Blue-green eyes brimming with excitement, Lissa climbed on behind me and we lifted off the ground. Noelle climbed up on my other side, more experienced with flying but still thrilled nonetheless.
"Hey, wait up!" A voice exclaimed from behind me. I turned to see one of the twin descendants of the Wicked Witch of the West standing there. Tamsin, I thought her name was.
"How do you do that?" She gasped. "We're on Earth - but you're using magic!"
"Oh no," I explained. "Carpet's a magic object, so his magic works on Earth, even when ours doesn't."
"Actually..." Tamsin hesitated. "I've never used magic before. What's it like to fly?"

I reached out a hand to her. "Would you like to find out?"
Tamsin grabbed onto me in excitement. "Would I ever!" She turned around. "Is it okay if I bring my brother, too?"
"The more the merrier!" I declared. A moment later, she returned with a boy who looked almost exactly like her, with the same dark curly hair falling into his green eyes.
"Let's go!" I cried out as we lifted into the air.

Aspen made a startled yelp and clung on to his sister. Noelle and Lissa let out whoops of excitement as we flew through the trees after Ayla. Due to having to constantly dodge branches thicker than we were tall, we couldn't fly nearly as fast as if we'd been in clear, open sky. Still, the feeling of wind whipping through our hair and the utter weightlessness... it was a wild, exhilarating kind of freedom.

I smiled. Amani, can you see me now? I've made friends. We're going on a journey together, just like I've always wanted.

I only wish you were here too

Before long, we slowed to a halt at the edge of the trees. Before us, a wall of hedge made up of bracken and vines stretched into the sky, a hundred feet tall. All along the wall, thorns spiked out, sharp as pointed spears. Ayla had said that stardust infused into the land had hastened the growth of this hedge wall. Looking at it now, I could believe it. Ancient, potent magic radiated in every direction, daring intruders to attempt to breach the village's defenses.
"We're here," I breathed.

(I'm also not familiar with the Guardian of Childhood books, so I'll wait for your post about how our characters will be tested, Liri. Hmm, I will think of some way for Scarlet to pass her test. What are you guys planning to do for Mireya and Neva? Also, Alexa, when do you want our characters to meet up with Odilia and Eldoris?)

Thank you Stormy and Alyce!
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