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Old 11-15-2020, 02:57 AM
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Awesome post, Liri! I love all three of your characters' interactions with the Spirit.



"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!" Soraya protested. Grinning wickedly, she pulled off her bag and unfurled a long, royal-blue length of cloth. Carpet broke free of the pack and began hopping about like an excited puppy. My eyes grew wide with excitement.
"As long as we're not playing fair..." Soraya jumped on board and reached out a hand to Lissa and me. "I did promise all of you a ride, didn't I?"
Blue-green eyes brimming with excitement, Lissa climbed on behind her and the Carpet lifted off the ground. I climbed up on Soraya’s other side, more experienced with flying but still thrilled nonetheless.
"Hey, wait up!" A voice exclaimed from behind us. 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," Soraya 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?"

Soraya reached out a hand to her. "Would you like to find out?"
Tamsin grabbed onto her in excitement. "Would I ever!" She turned around. "Is it okay if I bring my brother, too?"
"The more the merrier!" Soraya 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!" Soraya cried out as we lifted into the air.

Aspen made a startled yelp and clung on to his sister. Lissa and I 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. A different kind of thrill than when Ayla and I had gone wind-surfing, but amazing nonetheless.
We raced the rest of the way, pulling up short when faced with a massive hedge wall at the edge of the trees.
The 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’s father 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," Soraya breathed, and the rest of the Legacies came up behind us.

Before Ayla could respond, the most gigantic bear I had ever seen loomed out from the trees next to us. I heard someone shriek, and we all froze in place. The Bear was nearly the size of a cottage, and it looked fierce and strong.
“The guard Bear!” Ayla whispered, clearly afraid to anger it.
“Now what?!” Lissa whispered back.
“Ummmm…” Ayla’s voice trailed off.

But before any of us could react, it was like the entire world had came to a stop around me. I could still see the shocked expressions on my friends’ faces, all frozen where they stood. I gasped, reaching out for Ayla, but before my fingers could reach her, everything faded away. I now stood in a void of pure white, as if in a palace of clouds. A ghostly figure floated before me, beautiful and ethereal. The Spirit of the Forest.
“What did you do to my friends?” I demanded, whirling to her.
“Peace, they are fine. For now at least. They must prove themselves.” The beautiful Spirit replied. I relaxed slightly, realizing they must still be there, just invisible to my eyes.
“So, what kind of test do I have to take?” I asked, looking around eagerly. “I love a good challenge!”
The Spirit smiled faintly. “I see that you are already aware of who I am, and why I have brought you here. So you, too, are a companion of Nightlight’s daughters.”
“Yes!” I replied brightly. “Ayla and Yue are two of my closest friends! Ayla and I have been inseparable since we were kids. I hung out with Jack – Nightlight – and the other Guardians a ton too.”
“And what might your name be, child?” the Spirit asked.
“My name is Noelle,” I answered. “I’m the daughter of Calissa and Nikolai, and youngest Princess of Arendelle. My mother was made out of snow and ice by Ivory, Arendelle’s current Queen and descendant of the Snow Queen. My father is a descendant of Clara, the girl who visited the Land of Sweets and saved its prince.”
“Well, child of the Snow Maiden, why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?” the Spirit asked.
“Please. I would never do anything to harm Santoff Claussen and its people. I’m just here to try and save my people. I know everyone else in our group feels the same. We might come from different places – some of us don’t see eye to eye at all – but we are all united in this. We want to protect the magical realms, no matter what the cost is.”
The Spirit surveyed me, her beguilingly beautiful face unreadable. “You are certainly direct. Much more so than many of your companions.”
I shrugged. “I don’t have anything to hide. I meant what I said. I have no intention of harming Santoff Claussen or any of its inhabitants. All I want to do is save my world.” I looked back into her penetrating eyes, the color a deep green, brighter than emeralds. “Also, I’m pretty sure you can read every thought going through my mind right now, so what’s the point in lying?”
“Hmm. That is the truth, but not all of it, I think.”
I paused. “Wh-what do you mean?”
“You keep your heart more open than most, but even you have things that you are afraid to admit. Is that not true, child of the Snow Maiden?” the Spirit asked.
“I suppose everyone has their secrets,” I admitted. “Still, I can assure you that none of mine have to do with causing harm to your village. I truly am here with the simplest of intentions. All I want to do is save my people.”
“That may be true, but if I cannot cast light on the darkest corners of your heart, how can I pass an accurate judgement?”
I sighed, leaning back. This ancient, mystical spirit was clearly not someone to mess around with. I wasn’t going to be able to get around the difficult questions. “I am afraid,” I admitted. “But I’m sure that my mom must have been, too. She’s told me about her adventures many times. So has Ivory – they’ve both had so much to overcome, such battles to fight! But they made it through and saved Estoriana. So if I just do what they do, be careful, and play it safe, it should all be okay, shouldn’t it?”
“But is that what you want?” the Spirit pressed. “Are you satisfied following in the steps of those who came before you?”

I shifted, not wanting to meet her gaze. Not wanting to give voice to the arrogant wish that lay dormant within me.
“No,” I finally replied. “No, I’m not satisfied following the same path they did. Always having to be careful of these powers, following the safe old path? No, that’s never what I wanted. I want to see so much more, be so much more than what they expect of me. I want to see things that others have only dreamed of and show off my abilities to the world. I don’t want to keep my head down and follow the safe path anymore. I’m worried for my home and my people, it’s true. But… maybe I’m not as terrified as I should be. Maybe this is what I’ve wanted all my life.” I bit my lip, feeling shame well up in me. “I know it’s selfish of me. But please, don’t get me wrong! I want to save my people above all else. But… I can’t deny that being here, being on this journey, especially with Ayla and all my other friends with me… it’s all I ever wanted.”
The Spirit was silent for a moment, and I looked away in shame. I didn’t know how to convince her that this, my secret, selfish joy, didn’t in any way diminish my wish to keep Estoriana from being destroyed and bring back the vanished.

“I do not doubt your intentions, child. But sometimes, even the best of intentions is not enough to stop one from stumbling along the way. Especially if one runs headlong into the darkness without bringing a light.”
I shook my head. “What does that mean?”
“It’s something you will have to learn for yourself, daughter of the Snow Maiden.” She turned, and the white void we were in began to fade.
“Wait!” I sank to my knees. “Please! Are you going to let us in? We have nowhere else to go. Katherine’s clues led us here, and we have no other leads. Please… please help us.”

As the snowy landscape of the Siberian wilderness came back into focus around me, I heard her voice clearly in my mind.
“Welcome to Santoff Claussen, children.”



There was a moment of silence as Ayla finished recounting the tale. It was quite the story, and I found myself intrigued, despite myself, with the rare magic of this otherwise mundane world.
“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,” the other Frost sister 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 barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes. Descendants and their foolhardy arrogance. I stepped past the enormous root, being much more cautious than the silly Arendellian princess and her flighty friend.

A moment later, I heard Noelle call out, “Come on! What are you waiting for?”
“Whoa!” Ayla exclaimed from above, high up in the tree’s endless. “These really are the biggest oaks in the world! I can’t even see the top from here.”
“Come on Ayla! You can explore later! Estoriana is counting on us!” her sister called up to her.
As usual, more interested in playing stupid games and exploring than getting to the task at hand. Even when that task means holding the fate of the entire world in their hands. How did our parents manage to lose to these bumbling fools not once but twice?
I reached the group just in time to hear Noelle exclaim, “Who knows what sights are awaiting us next? This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime!”
Ayla grinned at her best friend before flying off ahead, “Come on!”
I’m going to have to find some way of separating those two. It’s too difficult to lure Noelle away with her always there. Especially after she nearly caught Mireya and me…
"It's close," Ayla called out from up ahead. "I can feel it!" She began speeding up, the snowy landscape whizzing past in a blur. "Last one to the village is a rotten egg!"
"Hey, no fair!" the Agrabah princess protested. A few minutes later, she pulled out her magic carpet, loading several of the others on board, including Noelle and her friends. They sped off into the woods after Ayla.

I sighed. Of course the impending end of the world wasn’t a good enough reason to stop fooling around. Descendants simply delighted in making a mockery of everything, didn’t they?
I still had to get closer to Noelle, to win her trust and trick her into coming along with me. I’d made good progress though, in only a short amount of time. I decided not to follow along with her antics today. The journey was just starting, and I had better conserve my energy if this foolishness was what I was going to be dealing with every moment of the day from now on.
I could feel Mireya’s presence behind me, from where she walked with Scarlet. I tensed, still not sure what to say to her, especially after the vulnerability she’d seen from me earlier. I knew I couldn’t avoid her for long, especially after the tentative agreement we’d come to, but I didn’t know what to say to her right now.
Instead, I reached for the mirror my mother had given me, tucked away in the white fur-lined trim of my coat. Its presence comforted me, as it felt like she was still watching over me from our icy lair. At least there was one person with whom I didn’t have such a complicated relationship.
As my fingers brushed the edges of the glass, I heard a strange sound.
Ah-ah, ah-ah…
It sounded like a woman’s voice, gently humming a melody that was somehow familiar… I glanced all around me, but no one was there. Mireya and Scarlet still walked a short distance behind, while the noise and commotion caused by Noelle and her friends came from some distance up ahead.
“Who’s there?” I asked out loud.
The voice came again, and this time, I could make out the faint words of her song…

Where the Northwind meets the sea
There’s a river
Full of memory
Come, my darling, homeward bound…


I spun around, but there was still no one in sight. What was that?

An excited shout from up ahead made me pause. It seemed like those over excitable brats who’d gone ahead had finally found something. I sped to catch up, my boots moving gracefully through the thick snowdrift.
I pulled up short when faced with the massive hedge wall at the edge of the trees.
Just as the Guardian girl had described, it was 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. Ancient, potent magic radiated in every direction, daring intruders to attempt to breach the village's defenses.
"We're here," the Agrabah princess breathed, as the rest of the Legacies caught up as well.
Before anyone could respond, an enormous bear loomed out from the trees next to us. I heard someone shriek, and we all froze in place. The Bear was nearly the size of a cottage, and it looked fierce and strong.
“The guard Bear!” Ayla whispered, clearly afraid to anger it.
“Now what?!” the Wonderland girl whispered back.
“Ummmm…” Ayla’s voice trailed off. She clearly had no idea. I fought the urge to roll my eyes at the typical Estorianian incompetence. This village was part of her family legacy, and yet she didn’t know the first thing about how to get past its defences.
Before any of us had a chance to react, the entire world froze in place.
I could still see all of them, still as statues, expressions of surprise or fear frozen on their faces. The howling wind had ceased, and snowflakes hung in midair, unaffected by gravity. It was like time itself had been stopped.
I didn’t have time to process what had happened before it all faded away into a formless void. Before me stood a ghostly, ethereal looking figure. A woman, with piercing green eyes and a beauty so startling that I was mesmerized.

“Peace, child. I am the Spirit of the Forest, one of the many protectors of Santoff Claussen,” the woman spoke in a soft, melodic voice.
“I was told about you,” I replied cautiously. “By two of my travel companions, the daughters of the Guardian Jack Frost. You may have known him as Nightlight.” Couldn’t hurt to mention that I’d come here with the daughters of a Guardian, likely someone she’d known and trusted.
Even as the thought crossed my mind, I felt a prickling unease. The Spirit’s eyes were too direct, too piercing. It was as if she could see into my very soul.
“Ah, Nightlight.” A faint smile crossed the woman’s ageless, beautiful face. “So he has a family now. And it seems his daughters have made their way to our village. But what about you, child? Why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?”
I kept the pleasant smile on even as I fought the urge to back away from her penetrating gaze. “I’m here to save my people,” I answered, letting concern and sincerity color my tone. “And all the magical realms. The mortals of this world have stopped believing in magic, and as a result, Estoriana and all the other worlds of magic are disappearing. I want to save the people I love from fading away.”
“Ah, but that is not the full truth, is it?” the Spirit asked, her ancient voice deceptively soft. “There is much that you are leaving out, child of the Snow Queen.”
I froze. A chill crept down my spine as my worst suspicions were confirmed. Somehow, the Spirit of the Forest was able to peer into the very depths of someone’s soul.
“Neva, daughter of Ingrid. Heir to a legacy long since lost,” the ghostly figure continued with that same beguiling smile, echoing the words from that accursed prophecy. “I ask you again. Why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?”
“If you know everything about me already, why bother asking?” I demanded, folding my arms across my chest. It did nothing to lessen the feeling of total and complete exposure, my secrets laid bare before her judging eyes.
“Ah,” the Spirit said. “But there are many hidden corners to one’s heart, that must be brought to light before a judgement can be made. And even you are not privy to all there is to know about yourself, child. It is not my wish to judge you on your past, or the circumstances of your birth. I judge only whether you are pure of intentions regarding your wish to enter Santoff Claussen.”
“It was not a complete lie, what I told you before,” I replied stiffly, my voice cold. “It is my intent to save the people I care about from disappearing. All the magical worlds are headed for the darkest of fates, and I will spare my people from suffering, if I can. I mean no harm to Santoff Claussen or its people.”
“You know that is not all there is to it,” the Spirit replied calmly, still fixing me with that ageless, all-seeing gaze.
I paused for a brief moment. But, there was no point in trying to hide anything from her, was there?
“I wish to bring Saskia back,” I answered, careful to keep my voice from cracking.

The Spirit nodded, but something in that ethereal face told me she wasn’t done with me yet. “And what do you hope to accomplish if you get your wish?”
I almost didn’t understand for a moment. “Excuse me?”
“If your wish comes true, and the person you love most is returned to this world… she still would not belong to you,” the Spirit said calmly.
Her voice was gentle, but I flinched all the same. “I’m well aware of that,” I snapped, refusing to let her see how much that admission devastated me.
“And what about your Mireya?” the Spirit continued in that same infuriatingly calm voice. “She came to this world, joined with the people she hated, because of your wish. Yet the scars of recent days are far from healed. What if she decides that it’s no longer worth it, chasing after you? If she grows tired of waiting for you, if she loses faith in you… would you still choose to save her?”
“What kind of a question is that?” I demanded.
“You can do this for them, give your all to this quest, but you cannot make them stay by your side. Even your mother… someday, you may be forced to part ways with even her. It is the nature of life, to experience loss.” The Spirit said in that merciless tone.
“What if, after everything you do, they still choose to leave you? You may make all the right choices, say all the right things, and still you cannot guarantee the future you desire. Even with all your cleverness, all your deceptions, the path of the future has always been beyond any one person to control. If you continue to follow the path you are on… know that the outcome you desire is far from certain.
So, child, I ask you again. If you cannot have the people you love… if after all you do, you still end up alone in the end… would you still choose to save them?”
I swallowed past the bitter lump in my throat. “Of course I knew that was a possibility,” I retorted. “You aren’t going to make me question myself with a mere hypothetical, spirit.”
“You would accept their choice, even if it leads to the one thing you fear most in the world?”
A savage smile spread across my face. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. I’m sure I’d be angry. I’d say things I would live to regret, like I always do.”
“But if you think for one moment,” I whispered harshly. “That I would abandon Mother, or Mireya, or – “ my voice caught in my throat, stumbling over the word. “ – or Sa-Saskia, you’d better have another thought coming. Maybe they’ll all abandon me. Maybe I deserve it. But I would challenge all the forces on heaven and earth, if it would keep them safe. They can choose to do to me as they like. I will not abandon the people I love.”
“I don’t expect you to believe me, though,” I added, almost to myself. “I was never known for being the trustworthy type.”
For a moment, the Spirit merely hovered there, staring deep into my eyes. Then a smile spread across that beautiful, ethereal face. “There is no need, child. I can see the sincerity within you.”
But was it enough? The love in my heart was true. But the rest of the thoughts swirling through my soul were far from pure.

I shifted backwards, scowling. Every part of me prickled with unease, and something deeper – a dark, primal fear. I hated being exposed like this. Before a creature that could see into the depths of my soul, I was utterly helpless.
Still, I refused to back down, staring straight into her glowing eyes, glistening green and brighter than emeralds.
“Please.” My voice didn’t come out as certain as I’d liked, but I managed to keep the tremor out of it. “Judge me as you wish. Deny me entry to your village, if you’d like. I have no power here, there is nothing that I can offer you, and we both know I cannot deceive you. I have never claimed to be pure of heart. But please… at least let the Estorianians enter.” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice at this part. “I’m sure they can live up to your standards of purity. As long as we can get what we need, that’s all that matters to me.”
She continued to pierce me with that soul-searching emerald gaze. I hated it. Hated how it felt like she could see through to every ugly, hidden corner of my heart, and yet I couldn’t read a single emotion off her face.
“Please.” I said again, in a voice barely above a whisper. “I just want to save the people I love.”

I waited for her judgement, fear and resignation a bitter lump in my throat.

“Welcome to Santoff Claussen, children.”
__________________


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Last edited by Night Wish; 11-15-2020 at 03:02 AM.
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