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Old Far Far Away... (Sequel to OUAT and HEA)

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  #121  
Old 09-06-2020, 05:27 PM
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Great post, Kira! Thank you for including Soraya. It makes sense that she and Lissa would bond, since they have both lost someone close to them.

I look forward to yours Liri! IÂ’ll try to post soon.
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  #122  
Old 09-10-2020, 08:44 AM
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What a great post, Kira!! Your posts are very fun to read.

Can't wait to see what you write, Liri and Glory!

Mainland life has been kinda busy and I have a couple writing projects for some classes I'm in. I need to focus on those first but I'll try to come up with something to post still!
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  #123  
Old 09-10-2020, 06:49 PM
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Awesome post, Kira! Aww, poor Lissa. So many of our poor questers are losing friends and loved ones! I really liked Lissa's prophecy lines, by the way.

I can't wait to read yours, Glory! I also have some work for classes I need to finish, but I'll definitely work on a post this weekend. Good luck for your projects, Alexa!
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  #124  
Old 09-10-2020, 08:58 PM
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Here's my post! Can't wait to read everyone's posts! Good luck with classes Night and Alexa!


Yue

As we followed Ayla as she flew through the slowly lightening sky, I watched the three new members of our group. The two Exilians walked side-by-side, staying off to one side from the rest of us, occasionally speaking quietly to each other. Both girls were tall and slender, though one was blonde and fair while the other was tan with wild dark curls. The blonde, who had said her name was Scarlet, seemed aloof and walked sedately - almost regally. The one with wild dark hair and startlingly green eyes, named Mireya, seemed almost to float as she walked - her steps as graceful as a dancer. Their relationship seemed cool and formal, like it was one of allies rather than true friends, which seemed a bit empty and sad to me. I had grown up surrounded by friends and extended family, with the inseparable friendship of my sister and Noelle to watch, and a life without those ties would be… lonely. I decided then that I would try my best to befriend the two Exilians - after all, how can we just assume they are evil just because their parents are?

Katerina had long auburn hair and brown eyes, and she walked at the opposite edge of the group, watching the rest of us warily. She still looked a bit bewildered by all that had happened to her, and I could understand why she would!
I walked over to her then, “Hey, how are you holding up?”
“It’s… a lot to take in.” She replied.
“How exactly did you end up running from those men? I know you said they kidnapped you in London, but what were you doing when they grabbed you?” I asked as we kept following the group.
“I... was looking for my mom, Marya, and the last place she had been before she disappeared was in London, so I thought I would try to trace her steps. I went to see her old friend, who told me that just before Mom disappeared she told Lydia she was going to ‘a land of fairy tales,' and that… that she was doing it for me - so that it wouldn’t end up being my destiny. Whatever that means.” Katerina paused, swallowing hard and gazing off into the distance. “Then my do- uh, then I learned that she was researching Estoriana at the time, so I bought this book about Estoriana…”

“Tales of Estoriana?” I asked, smiling, “That book is on every shelf of every home in Estoriana.”
“Yeah, that one.” She replied, then continued her tale. “Next, I went to the school Mom had attended, Loredale Private Academy, to look for information.”
“Loredale? My aunts and grandfather went there!” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe it still exists!”
“Your aunts and grandfather? What are their names? Did they know my mom?” Katerina asked.
“Well, they aren’t my aunts by blood, I only have one of those - my mom’s twin sister, Aunt Saige. And I never heard your mom’s name mentioned before, so I don’t think any of my family knew her at school - or at least they weren’t close with her if they did. My grandfather is Shang, now he is King of Corona, but at the time he was just a student there. My aunts that went to Loredale are Astrid, Lillie, Ivory, and Dove.” I explained. “Astrid was the first Estorianian to meet my dad, Jack Frost - though at the time she had no idea she was Estorianian!”

Katerina stopped walking, staring at me with wide eyes. “You are related to the people from the storybook?!”
“All the stories inside that book are real. Actually, every fairy tale that I have ever heard of is real! Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast…. All the stories parents told their children, every fairy tale character, all real. My aunt Astrid is really the descendant of Peter Pan, and she can fly and everything! My mom is the descendant of Rapunzel and Mulan, and has the warrior skills and magic healing tears to show it. My dad is Jack Frost himself, winter sprite and Guardian of all Earth’s children - my sister Ayla inherited his winter powers, as you can see. Kati over there is from the lost city of Atlantis! Forest over there is descended from Robin Hood, and Ava from the Blue Fairy. Lissa is descended from the Knave of Hearts and Alice from Wonderland, Soraya from Jasmine, and Noelle from Elsa.” I didn’t know who the Exilians were descended from, and figured Katerina wouldn’t have heard of Neva’s ancestor - since even we hadn’t until the day she showed up at our home!

“Our parents and grandparents really experienced everything written in Tales of Estoriana. You might even be descended from someone in a fairy tale!” I stated, seeing the awe and skepticism playing across Katerina’s face. “I know it may be hard to believe at first, but all of us in this group are living proof that the stories are all real.” I gestured towards the other Legacies.

After another moment standing in shocked silence, Katerina began walking after the group again, clearly mulling over all I had just revealed to her. I walked beside her quietly, giving her space to process those truths, truths that were so different from everything in her worldview up until now. In my mind I ran through the prophecy, which I had already memorized, trying to see if I could figure out lines that might apply to Katerina - lines that could prove she was a fairy tale descendant as well.

Hmm. Dance of the snow maiden… That’s Noelle. A princess with the mettle of the desert hawk… Soraya. One born into the legacy of the dove… Najila. Tears of gold, me. Part of a whole… that’s one of the twins. A girl born of the sea… Kati, if I remember correct. Daughter of the cold and winter air, Ayla. Blue star’s child… that’s Ava. Daughter of wonder… Lissa. Raised in the merry band, that’s Forest.

A heart in a cage… maybe one of the Exilians? The girl born between two worlds… hmm. Maybe one of the Exilians too, or someone we haven’t met yet? Desires of the heart are worthless… not sure who that one is either yet. Darkness surrounds her like a veil.... Not even the two Exilians with us seem to embody this one, unless they are hiding it of course…

Girl from the world of magic lost… wait! That one could fit Katerina! She is from Earth after all! How did the rest go?

Girl from the world of magic lost, knowledge always demands a cost
At last you’ll find the one you seek, in the darkest hour when all seems bleak
Make peace with the past to embrace a new start, with the beauty that blooms from a once-closed heart


I didn’t know Katerina hardly at all yet, but she was from a world of magic lost, so maybe those were her lines! The other four unclaimed prophecy stanzas definitely didn’t seem to match up with Katerina, they seemed more likely to match someone who came from a world of pain… like what I had always imagined Exilia was like.

I had never felt comfortable with the fact that the Varden had sentenced all the children of the villains to the harsh, punishing world of Exilia - just because of who their parents were. After all, hadn’t so many of the villain’s children joined us and proven that there was good inside of them? That who you were descended from didn’t necessarily decide your fate, and that anyone could chose a life of good or evil - no matter who their parents were? Weren’t Jalilah, Layla, Amaryllis, Hunter, Eclipse, and the others living proof of that?

Who are we to sentence innocent children to the fate of their parents, parents who made their own choices, but children who did nothing besides being born? How are we to say who they might become if only given the chance? If only shown a bit of love and empathy?

“Yue?” Katerina’s voice pulled me from my thoughts, “What you said about all the stories… it’s a lot to take in, and I need to think about it more still, but I think maybe Miss Lovely would have told me the same things if I had been able to meet with her like planned. She asked me if I believed in magic when we spoke, and she spoke of girls with the same names as your aunts.”
“You were going to meet up with Miss Lovely?!” I asked, excitement filling me, “How did she seem? My aunts were hoping to come visit her soon, but then people started disappearing and the land started fading - ”
“Wait - what?! People disappearing? Like my mom did?”

“Not exactly… well, at least, probably not, but I guess it is possible… I don’t know how or why your mom disappeared. I guess I should probably explain to you what is going on…” I then relayed to her everything that had been happening, the guesses we had as to why, the prophecy, and where we were going. “I think you were meant to be on this quest with us too.” I finished.
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  #125  
Old 09-12-2020, 06:22 PM
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Awesome post, Liri! And thank you!



The entire group followed the silver-haired girl who floated along on a chilly breeze, seemingly as weightless as a feather. I had to blink several times whenever I saw her. It had been such a crazy day, and though over the past few weeks, I was slowly growing accustomed to the idea that magic – real magic – existed, seeing it in the flesh like this, after the day I’d had… well, it was all rather overwhelming.

I stayed at the fringes of the group, not saying much to the others. I wasn’t trying to be rude, but…
For years, people had accused me of being cold, aloof, and distant. Many said they could never really tell what I was thinking or feeling. The cruelest of them jeered about whether I was capable of feeling anything at all. I didn’t mean to be cold, but ever since Mom had disappeared, and Dad grew so distant… coming home every day to my stepmother and stepsister, who treated me like I was a piece of furniture, unless they had some demand to make of me. It was so hard to find a place where I could express myself, without being sneered at or laughed off.
I watched the group warily, unsure what to make of them. It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful – and I hoped I didn’t come off that way. They had rescued me from a terrifying situation, after all. But… I had no idea how to approach any of them, or what I’d say. I didn’t want to come off as too stiff and formal, as I often did.

Two of the girls, one with wildly curling dark hair and a dancer’s grace, the other tall and regal with long golden hair, walked a bit apart from everyone else. I could tell, even at a glance, that they were somewhat outsiders to the group. They walked side by side, but didn’t seem to have the closeness and camaraderie the others shared. It was like they were business partners, long-time acquaintances but not really friends.

I became aware that one of the girls was watching me. I turned to see a petite, pretty girl about a couple years younger than me, with long brown hair and dark eyes. Yue, I recalled her name was. “Hey, how are you holding up?” Her voice was soft and gentle, unassuming, but something about it invited you in. Somehow, something about her made me want to open up. Though we’d never met before, she had the air of someone who would be gentle and understanding, no matter what I said or did.
“It’s… a lot to take in.” I replied cautiously.
“How exactly did you end up running from those men? I know you said they kidnapped you in London, but what were you doing when they grabbed you?” she asked as we kept following the group.
“I... was looking for my mom, Marya, and the last place she had been before she disappeared was in London, so I thought I would try to trace her steps. I went to see her old friend, who told me that just before Mom disappeared she told Lydia she was going to ‘a land of fairy tales,' and that… that she was doing it for me - so that it wouldn’t end up being my destiny. Whatever that means.” I paused, swallowing hard and gazing off into the distance. “Then my do- uh, then I learned that she was researching Estoriana at the time, so I bought this book about Estoriana…”
It was such a relief to finally say all of this out loud. I’d been so alone on my search, the only person who believed that she might still be found. And at last, I might finally be on the right track towards the truth, however terrifying and unbelievable it was turning out to be.

“Tales of Estoriana?” Yue asked, smiling, “That book is on every shelf of every home in Estoriana.”
“Yeah, that one.” I replied, then continued my tale. “Next, I went to the school Mom had attended, Loredale Private Academy, to look for information.”
“Loredale? My aunts and grandfather went there!” Yue exclaimed. “I can’t believe it still exists!”
“Your aunts and grandfather? What are their names? Did they know my mom?” I asked eagerly.
“Well, they aren’t my aunts by blood, I only have one of those - my mom’s twin sister, Aunt Saige. And I never heard your mom’s name mentioned before, so I don’t think any of my family knew her at school - or at least they weren’t close with her if they did. My grandfather is Shang, now he is King of Corona, but at the time he was just a student there. My aunts that went to Loredale are Astrid, Lillie, Ivory, and Dove.” Yue explained. “Astrid was the first Estorianian to meet my dad, Jack Frost - though at the time she had no idea she was Estorianian!”

I stopped walking, staring at her with wide eyes. “You are related to the people from the storybook?!”
“All the stories inside that book are real. Actually, every fairy tale that I have ever heard of is real! Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast…. All the stories parents told their children, every fairy tale character, all real. My aunt Astrid is really the descendant of Peter Pan, and she can fly and everything! My mom is the descendant of Rapunzel and Mulan, and has the warrior skills and magic healing tears to show it. My dad is Jack Frost himself, winter sprite and Guardian of all Earth’s children - my sister Ayla inherited his winter powers, as you can see. Kati over there is from the lost city of Atlantis! Forest over there is descended from Robin Hood, and Ava from the Blue Fairy. Lissa is descended from the Knave of Hearts and Alice from Wonderland, Soraya from Jasmine, and Noelle from Elsa.”
I stared at her in amazement. So it was really true! Everything in Tales of Estoriana. And all these people before me, who had literally walked off the pages of a storybook… what incredible, magical sights had they all seen? Why were they here now, and what kind of place were we headed to?
It was too much to believe. I stared at Yue with a mix of awe and skepticism. Could it really be true?

“Our parents and grandparents really experienced everything written in Tales of Estoriana. You might even be descended from someone in a fairy tale!” she stated, seeing the look on my face. “I know it may be hard to believe at first, but all of us in this group are living proof that the stories are all real.” Yue gestured towards the others.

After another moment standing in shocked silence, I began walking after the group again, mulling over all that Yue had just revealed to me. She walked beside me quietly, giving me space to process those truths, truths that were so different from everything in my worldview up until now. I was grateful for her quiet consideration.

“Yue?” I finally spoke up, not wanting to seem like I was purposefully ignoring her. “What you said about all the stories… it’s a lot to take in, and I need to think about it more still, but I think maybe Miss Lovely would have told me the same things if I had been able to meet with her like planned. She asked me if I believed in magic when we spoke, and she spoke of girls with the same names as your aunts.”
“You were going to meet up with Miss Lovely?!” Yue asked, visibly excited. “How did she seem? My aunts were hoping to come visit her soon, but then people started disappearing and the land started fading - ”
“Wait - what?! People disappearing? Like my mom did?” I gasped, heart hammering.

“Not exactly… well, at least, probably not, but I guess it is possible… I don’t know how or why your mom disappeared. I guess I should probably explain to you what is going on…” Yue then relayed to me everything that had been happening, the guesses they had as to why, the prophecy, and where the questers were going. “I think you were meant to be on this quest with us too.” she finished.
She showed me the prophecy lines. At the very bottom, the last stanza read:

Girl from the world of magic lost, knowledge always demands a cost
At last you’ll find the one you seek, in the darkest hour when all seems bleak
Make peace with the past to embrace a new start, with the beauty that blooms from a once-closed heart


“That’s… dramatic, isn’t it?” I said with a nervous laugh. “How can you be sure that it means me?”
In truth, those words struck a nerve with me. Make peace with the past… I thought that I had long ago, accepted the grief and loneliness of my mother’s absence. Had I really closed myself off that much?
And what was that about knowledge always demands a cost? I wasn’t sure how much I had left to lose… what price would I have to pay to know the truth? Desperation welled up in me. I had to know the truth, but what would it cost me?
I shook it off, not letting any of it show on my face. No. This quest, this prophecy… it had nothing to do with me. It couldn’t. I was just an ordinary girl, from an ordinary world, who had a chance encounter with a hidden magical reality.

“I mean, it’s just too much to believe in, isn’t it?” I pointed out rationally. Calm, practical Katya, same as always. “That you would literally run into the one person you needed to find for your quest, in the middle of nowhere, just when you were about to start your journey? I mean, a coincidence that big just doesn’t happen in real life.”
“What if it’s not a coincidence though?” Yue asked eagerly. “What if it was all… meant to happen? The prophecy mentions that you’ll find the person you seek in your darkest hour. When you were lost, and frightened, you came across us. Maybe it’s our destiny to help you find your mother. Just like it’s yours to be a part of us.”
I smiled. “I’m sorry , Yue, but… I don’t believe in fate.”
Yue smiled in understanding. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but I really believe that you’re the one we’ve been looking for. Will you at least give us a chance? Accompany us as far as Santoff Claussen, and maybe you’ll find something there that will give you a clue.”
I nodded. “Okay. I have nowhere else to go anyway… and you did save me. Truly, I’m grateful.” I hesitated. “Also… thanks. For being willing to listen.”
“Of course.” Yue’s face broke into a smile. I felt myself warm up to her quiet, unassuming kindness.
“What is this Santoff Claussen like, anyway?” I asked. “How will we know when we get there? I’ve never heard of such a place, and I’ve lived in Russia my entire life. Siberia is right by us.”
Yue smiled, a bit mysteriously. “Well… that’s something we should discuss together. Come on, let’s catch up to the others. We’re almost there!”



“Wow,” I marvelled as Ayla and I trekked onwards at the front of the pack, her flying, me walking alongside. “I’ve never watched the sun rise from the middle of a snowy forest before! I mean, you’d think I’d have done it at least once, given how Arendelle is literally a snowy kingdom surrounded by woods! But nope, Mom never let me stay up the entire night. The few times I did, it was when you and I were having sleepovers, remember?”
“Of course!” Ayla grinned. “You used to hide under the covers after I told scary stories. Remember the one about the yeti in your closet? Auntie Calla was so confused when you refused to change your clothes for a week!”
“Oh yeah?” I smirked. “You were the one who was so terrified after I told that story about the poltergeist, you thought the coat rack in the corner of your room was a ghost!”

We both burst out laughing. Uncle Jack had immortalized these incidents, from back when I was six and Ayla seven, in one of the enormous family albums we kept. He was the eternal Guardian of Fun, after all!
In fact, I was laughing so much, I forgot to watch where I was going. “Oof!” I crashed face first into something rough and sturdy.

“Are you okay?” Ayla asked, rushing forward.
“Yeah.” I stood up and stared at what I had just bumped into. It was dark brown under the thick covering of snow, and its surface felt like… bark? “A branch?” I asked.

But it wasn’t. My eyes followed the long, snaking length of gnarled wood. It was twisted, branching, and looked distinctly like…
“A tree root…” I said slowly, unable to believe my eyes. “But what kind of tree has roots this big?”
Ayla’s eyes grew huge, with wonder and excitement… but not surprise. “Looks like we’re finally here!” She exclaimed. Ayla raised her voice above the howl of the wind through the trees. “Yue! Hurry up, we’re here!”

In a few moments, all of the Legacies had gathered around the enormous tree root, 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 castle of Arendelle, 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?” I 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!” I 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, I stepped boldly into the woods beyond.

Nothing happened. The roots stayed perfectly still, and none lifted to attack. I 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.”

I 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. I crawled under roots thicker than I was tall, skirting around tree trunks wide as houses.
“And to think,” I marveled. “This is only the first stop of our journey!” I spread my arms wide, leaning back to let the glowing light of dawn wash over my face. “Who knows what sights are awaiting us next? This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime!”

(Description of Santoff Claussen’s defences is from the Guardians of Childhood book series, provided by Liri.

Also, as to how the Bear and the Spirit of the Forest will test our characters - in the Guardians of Childhood books, the Spirit tempted trespassers to the village with great riches, and if they gave in to greed, they would be turned into stone. Liri and I agreed that this test won’t make much sense for our characters - I mean, many of them grew up in literal castles, so a pile of gold probably won’t be too tempting. So Liri proposed the idea that, as the Legacies get closer to the village, the Bear would appear to block our way. Then the Spirit of the Forest will speak to each of our characters individually about their reasons for coming to Santoff Claussen. If we can convince her of the purity of our motivations, she’ll let us pass. Now, this probably won’t be a problem for everyone besides the Exilian characters. However, if they can come up with a reason that’s pure and selfless (alongside their uh, other reasons) they’ll be able to pass her test. Glory, I hope you won’t mind coming up with something she can accept for Scarlet?

If anyone has some other ideas, that’d be great too! )
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Last edited by Night Wish; 09-12-2020 at 06:30 PM.
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  #126  
Old 09-13-2020, 01:49 AM
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Great post Night!

Yeah, I was kinda thinking maybe the Spirit does something that freezes time for the Legacies, and she speaks to them each individually - but all at the same time (because powers haha). And they would have to explain themselves to her, and she would decide if they were pure of heart or not. I have begun writing up a post that could get this scene started, but I am definitely open to other ideas!!!! It just made more sense than the riches thing this time around.
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Old 10-01-2020, 08:30 PM
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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!

Aspen

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?


Soraya

“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?)
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  #128  
Old 10-01-2020, 11:40 PM
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Great post Glory! I will try to post soon too, to try to get the testing started (I started it a couple days ago).

For Mireya, she has always been torn between light and dark, good and evil, because of her parents and her childhood. But she came on this quest because Neva asked her for her help, so I think I will use her coming to help Neva as her "pure of heart" reason for being on the quest. The Spirit of the Forest will see her confusion about everything else, but her wanting to help her best friend (and her not having any plans to harm Santoff Claussen) will be strong enough to pass the test and allow her to enter. I think. Haven't worked it all out for sure yet, but that's what I am leaning towards so far.

And yes, feel free to insert Odilia and Eldoris wherever/whenever you want to Alexa! We will loop them in wherever you want us to
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Old 10-03-2020, 04:43 PM
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Thank you Liri!

That’s a good idea for Mireya, I look forward to your post. Sorry I forgot to ask earlier, how are you and your family doing? I heard the wildfire situation has improved somewhat.
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Old 10-07-2020, 12:19 AM
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Thanks

The wildfire situation has improved somewhat, but smoke levels are still bad and I have been having a lot of respiratory struggles because of that. I am on so many meds and have to go in to see my dr tomorrow. Hoping for improvement soon because breathing would be nice haha. The rest of the family is fine though!
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Old 10-07-2020, 03:38 PM
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Awesome post, Glory!

For Neva, I was thinking that since she's going on this quest to try and bring Saskia back, as well as to keep her mom and Mireya safe, that could be her selfless reason for the Spirit of the Forest. Also, like Liri said, our characters don't have any intention of harm towards Santoff Claussen, so that definitely helps!

I hope you feel better soon, Liri! That sounds just awful.
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Old 11-08-2020, 11:17 PM
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Hey! Sorry it took so long, was dealing with health issues and then election... I started writing this in September! Haha. Well, here it is at last, sorry it's so long, I wanted to have all three interactions with the Spirit of the Forest in one post.


Yue
After I finished explaining what was going on to Katerina, I showed her the prophecy lines I thought referred to her.
“That’s… dramatic, isn’t it?” Katerina said with a nervous laugh after reading the lines. “How can you be sure that it means me?”

I could tell that a part of her was starting to believe all I had said, but after growing up thinking magic and fairytales were just myths, I understood it would be hard for Katerina to accept it all. I silently watched her consider the prophecy lines, then she seemed to come to some conclusion.

“I mean, it’s just too much to believe in, isn’t it?” She pointed out, trying to think rationally. “That you would literally run into the one person you needed to find for your quest, in the middle of nowhere, just when you were about to start your journey? I mean, a coincidence that big just doesn’t happen in real life.”
“What if it’s not a coincidence though?” I asked her eagerly, gently nudging her towards trying to believe what I knew in my heart. “What if it was all… meant to happen? The prophecy mentions that you’ll find the person you seek in your darkest hour. When you were lost, and frightened, you came across us. Maybe it’s our destiny to help you find your mother. Just like it’s yours to be a part of us.”

This is all something bigger than us, and whatever that thing is - call it destiny, fate, a calling, whatever - it’s drawing us all together and guiding us to where we need to go. Whether we feel capable or not.

Katerina smiled. “I’m sorry, Yue, but… I don’t believe in fate.”
I smiled back in understanding, knowing it would take more than my words and my life story to convince her. This is something she needs to experience to believe. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but I really believe that you’re the one we’ve been looking for. Will you at least give us a chance? Accompany us as far as Santoff Claussen, and maybe you’ll find something there that will give you a clue.”
She nodded. “Okay. I have nowhere else to go anyway… and you did save me. Truly, I’m grateful.” She hesitated, then, “Also… thanks. For being willing to listen.”
“Of course.” I broke into a warm smile.
“What is this Santoff Claussen like, anyway?” Katerina asked. “How will we know when we get there? I’ve never heard of such a place, and I’ve lived in Russia my entire life. Siberia is right by us.”
I smiled again, a bit mysteriously. “Well… that’s something we should discuss together. Come on, let’s catch up to the others. We’re almost there!”


Ayla
“Wow,” Noelle marvelled as she and I trekked onwards at the front of the pack, I flew and she walked alongside. “I’ve never watched the sun rise from the middle of a snowy forest before! I mean, you’d think I’d have done it at least once, given how Arendelle is literally a snowy kingdom surrounded by woods! But nope, Mom never let me stay up the entire night. The few times I did, it was when you and I were having sleepovers, remember?”
“Of course!” I grinned at my best friend. “You used to hide under the covers after I told scary stories. Remember the one about the yeti in your closet? Auntie Calla was so confused when you refused to change your clothes for a week!”
“Oh yeah?” Noelle smirked. “You were the one who was so terrified after I told that story about a poltergeist, you thought the coat rack in the corner of your room was a ghost!”

We both burst out laughing. Dad had immortalized these incidents, from back when I was seven and Noelle six, in one of the enormous family albums we kept. He was the eternal Guardian of Fun, after all!
In fact, we were laughing so much, we forgot to watch where I was going. “Oof!” Noelle exclaimed as she crashed face first into something rough and sturdy.

“Are you okay?” I asked, rushing over.
“Yeah.” Noelle stood up and stared at what she had just bumped into. It was dark brown under the thick covering of snow, and its surface felt like… bark? “A branch?” She asked.

But it wasn’t. Our eyes followed the long, snaking length of gnarled wood. It was twisted, branching, and looked distinctly like…
“A tree root…” Noelle said slowly, unable to believe her eyes. “But what kind of tree has roots this big?”
My eyes grew huge, with wonder and excitement… though I wasn’t surprised like Noelle was. “Looks like we’re finally here!” I exclaimed. I then raised my voice to call out above the howl of the wind through the trees, “Yue! Hurry up, we’re here!”

In a few moments, all of the Legacies had gathered around the enormous tree root, staring at the branching network that stretched into the distance, just barely visible under the heavy snow cover. 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 castle of Arendelle, stood guard over all the smaller pines and evergreens, that seemed as tiny as a child’s play set in comparison. I was itching to fly to the top of the massive tree, but I forced myself to wait to explain first.
“Whoa,” I heard someone whisper, almost under their breath, as we all stared in awe.

I cleared her throat, telling myself to focus. “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,” I began, remembering what I had been told - straight from the ancient wisdom of the Guardians, passed down through countless ages of mortals.
“Ombric, who would now 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 I finished recounting the tale. My mind wandered for a moment, thinking about the wise old Guardian I had never met before.
“How can we prove that we’re pure of heart?” Noelle asked eagerly, drawing my attention back to the task at hand. “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 couldn’t hold back my curiosity any longer, and I flew straight up through the branches, at the same time my friend stepped over the roots.

A moment later, I heard Noelle call out, “Come on! What are you waiting for?”

“Whoa!” I exclaimed from above, high up in the tree’s endless branches - branches that stretched out further than I could see, attached to the massive trunk that climbed ever higher above me. “These really are the biggest oaks in the world! I can’t even see the top from here.” I wanted to continue higher, but I heard Yue call out to me from below.
“Come on Ayla! You can explore later! Estoriana is counting on us!”
I sighed, but knew my sister was right, and started to descend towards the ground.

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!”
I grinned at my best friend before flying off ahead, “Come on!”

"It's close," I called out from up ahead. "I can feel it!" I began speeding up, the snowy landscape whizzing past in a blur. "Last one to the village is a rotten egg!"
"Hey, no fair!" I heard Soraya protest, then I was out of earshot. A few minutes later, Soraya flew up behind me on her magic carpet - with Noelle, Lissa, Tamsin, and Aspen on board. We raced the rest of the way, until we pulled 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. Dad 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 I 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!” I whispered, afraid to anger the Bear.
“Now what?!” Lissa whispered back.
“Ummmm…” My voice trailed off. I had no idea.

Dad told me what Uncle North did when he first faced the defences of Santoff Claussen, but that time the Spirit of the Forest tempted Uncle North with riches before he even saw the Bear! Wait… where is the Spirit?!

I looked around me, whirling in a circle, but then everything froze.

I couldn’t move, but I could see that my companions had been frozen as well. Before I could do more than notice that fact though, an ethereal woman appeared in front of me and suddenly I was alone with her.
“Where are my friends?!” I exclaimed.
“Peace, they are fine. For now at least. They must prove themselves.” The beautiful Spirit replied. I relaxed marginally, realizing they must still be beside me despite my inability to see them.
“You are the Spirit of the Forest, who guards Santoff Claussen.” I stated.
“Ah, you know who I am. And of what I guard. How would that be?” The Spirit glided closer, examining me intently. It felt like she saw straight into my soul, and after a moment she tilted her head. “You remind me of an old friend of mine. You have a mark about you that matches theirs.”
“My dad.” I replied, “His name is Jack Frost, but you knew him as Nightlight.”

“Aaaah,” The woman replied, a faint smile gracing her lovely features. “Nightlight, I had wondered what became of him. He left this place centuries ago and never returned. So he has a family now. A child.”
“Two children actually. My sister Yue is here with me too. And he is different than he was when you knew him, he is now an immortal winter sprite and the Guardian of Fun, protector of Earth’s Children.” I answered.
“Different indeed. Though some things never change, he was a protector of our children here as well.” She stated, and I nodded in acknowledgement of the truth of her words. “Well, child of Nightlight, why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?” The Spirit asked me, gazing intently at me once more.
“You have seen my soul already,” I replied, “and souls don’t lie. I come to this place at the guidance of another you also know, Katherine, Mother Goose.”
“Ah, my little Katherine, all grown up now I expect. Though you haven’t truly answered my question, child of Nightlight.”

“I… I don’t know who I will become, a Guardian like my father or something else, but I do know that my people need me right now. Both of my peoples. My mother comes from a world called Estoriana, and the people there are disappearing, because the people here don’t believe in them anymore. I come to Santoff Claussen to try to find Katherine, to try to learn how I might help save my people.” My voice broke then, the fears I had hidden until now were rushing out, “I don’t know how we will manage it, but I have to try to save them! Please… I just need to save my people… my world.” A sob tore from my throat, and I sank to my knees.


Yue
“Well, child of Nightlight, why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?” The Spirit asked me, gazing intently at me once more.
“I am a healer, and a mediator. It is in my blood, from the line of Rapunzel through my mother. I come seeking guidance of how to save my people from disappearing forever.” I replied, looking into the Spirit’s eyes earnestly.
“Ah, you are a healer yes, that I can see. But how can you hope to save your people when you can’t even accept yourself?”
“I do accept myself! I am a healer and a mediator, that is who I am and who I was always meant to be!” I retorted, hoping the spirit would leave it at that.
“Child of Nightlight, you only accept part of yourself. What of your mother’s other lineage, from her father? What of the lineage of your father Nightlight?”
“I inherited none of my father’s powers, Ayla inherited his powers!” I protested.
“I speak not of your father’s powers. Your father is a protector, is he not? And you hide from your grandfather’s lineage still.” The Spirit replied calmly. I looked down, then after a minute I met the Spirit’s ethereal eyes again.
“I… I have no skills as a warrior, no way to protect those I care about other than my skills as a healer and mediator. I do not know if I can ever become the warrior everyone expects me to be. I don’t want to let them down, but I am a failure as a warrior. I don’t want to harm anyone, no matter who they are… but I do know that I would give my life to protect those I care about…” Tears filled my eyes, I fell to my knees, “I will try my best to become a protector like my parents, aunt, and grandfather… just please, please let us continue our quest so we can try to save our people!”


Mireya
Scarlet and I walked up behind the group as we caught up to the silver-haired child of Jack Frost and the group on the flying carpet. My eyes widened as we stood before the massive wall, larger than any hedge I had ever seen before. But before I could examine the wall further, 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!” The silver-haired girl whispered.
“Now what?!” The girl from Wonderland whispered back.
“Ummmm…” The Frost girl trailed off, clearly uncertain. Then she whirled in a circle, looking for something, and I remembered the second guardian the Frost sisters had told us about. The Spirit of the Forest.

Before I could look for the Spirit, everything froze.

I couldn’t move, but I could see that the others been frozen as well. Before I could do more than notice that fact though, an ethereal woman appeared in front of me and suddenly I was alone with her.
“What did you do with everyone?!” I exclaimed.
“Peace, they are fine. For now at least. They must prove themselves.” The beautiful Spirit replied. I kept my guard up, narrowing my eyes at the woman.
“You are the Spirit of the Forest, who guards Santoff Claussen.” I stated, crossing my arms.
“Ah, you know who I am. And of what I guard. How would that be?” The Spirit glided closer, examining me intently. It felt like she saw straight into my soul - not a comfortable feeling, and after a moment she tilted her head.
“The Frost girls told us about you.” I replied shortly.
“I see.” The Spirit replied, her face expressionless. “And who might you be?”
“My name is Mireya.” I replied reluctantly.
“Your parents, Mireya? Who would they be?”
“Why does that matter?” I retorted guardedly.
“How am I to judge you able to enter the village I protect if I know not who raised you?”

“My mother was descended from Esmeralda.” I eventually replied, “And my father is no one of consequence.”
“Ah, but that is not entirely true, is it. Your mother was a descendant of Esmeralda yes, but most would not consider your father of no consequence.”
“If you already know who he is then why ask me?” I snapped. “You have likely already judged me just for being his child, so why even talk with me at all?” I turned away from the Spirit, outwardly angry but somewhere deep inside felt hurt.
“I do not judge based on who one’s parents are, child of the Piper. I judge based off what is inside one’s heart and soul, based off whether they are pure of intentions regarding their wish to enter Santoff Claussen.” The Spirit replied softly, touching my shoulder briefly. I turned back to face her, hiding my surprise that she hadn’t automatically dismissed me for my parentage.

“Well, child of the Piper, why should I let you pass into Santoff Claussen? How should I know you are pure of heart and intentions?” The Spirit asked me, gazing intently at me once more.
“I merely wish to find the way to protect my people from disappearing.” I replied.
“Hmm. Partly true, but there is more.”
“Fine. And I want to gain freedom for my father and myself, as we were wrongfully imprisoned.”
“Child, stop ignoring the truth inside your heart. Those statements were true, but they aren’t the core reason you are on this quest.” The Spirit stated, her eyes boring into me. I froze, unwilling to delve into my heart, afraid of what I’d find there.

“I mean Santoff Claussen and its inhabitants no harm, honestly! I just… I just…”
“There is no one here but me and you to hear what your heart has to say.” The Spirit coaxed. I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, hugging myself. I finally faced the truth hidden deep inside myself, and saw the ice-blue eyes and face I knew better than my own.

“I… I came because Neva asked me to, she asked for my help. I just want to help Neva, to protect her and help her with her quest, to be by her side in this journey. Because… she is the most important person to me. I… I have always loved her.” I stood in silence, my words echoing in my ears - my eyes tightly shut and my arms around myself, waiting for the Spirit’s judgement.


“Welcome to Santoff Claussen, children.”



(Hope you liked it! I was imagining that the Spirit is talking to us all at the same time [in separate isolated conversations], so that when she says ‘Welcome to Santoff Claussen, children’ it is after she has already judged their motives/heart/soul, accepted them all, and unfrozen time - bringing them back together. Hope that sounds good to everyone.)
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  #133  
Old 11-11-2020, 04:48 PM
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Fantastic post, Liri! I like the different conflicts for each of your characters.

No worries about the delay, I hope that you're feeling better. Haha, I'm in the same boat, I had a nice big pile of work to get through these last couple days, since I took most of last week off for the election.

I'll start working on my post soon.
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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.”
__________________


Sig made by the amazing Ruby (Book Thing)!


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