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

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Old 03-09-2020, 05:34 AM
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Awesome post, Liri! What scroll creator did you use?
Sorry for the length of mine as well!



Scarlet folded her arms and regarded me from across the room. “What’s this about, Neva? And why the secrecy?”
I kept to the shadows, making sure I wasn’t seen by any of the Exilians who happened to be walking by. “I don’t want to deal with the questions right now,” I replied. “But this is an urgent matter.”
She waited, and I relayed the whole story. About the disappearances, and other strange occurrences, and what was at the root of it all. And finally, the prophecy and the quest for the Author.
“So that’s where you’ve been this whole time? With the descendants?” Scarlet looked at me incredulously. “What have you been doing this whole time with them? How did you get past the banishment curse?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said curtly. “What’s important now is that the fate of Exilia hangs in the balance, too. And the prophecy… I think there’s a line about you.” I handed her a copy of Tales of Estoriana that I had taken from the Arendelle library. I watched as she read through the lines, slowly.
“Even if what you say is true, and it’s the humans who are causing this… what reason do we have to trust the descendants and this ‘Author’ of theirs?” Scarlet asked.
“I’ve seen firsthand that whoever is writing this book has preternatural knowledge. Besides, the descendants don’t know who I am, they have no reason to try and fool me. This is all of their lives at stake, too,” I replied.
She still looked a bit uncertain, so I pressed on. “The Author of all our tales, Scarlet! Don’t you want to meet him, even beyond saving the world? Think of all he knows, what power he possesses. Think of what we might do with a power like that.”
“And one more thing,” I added, before she could respond. “I need you to pretend we don’t know each other, while on the quest. Act like you’ve never seen me in your life. If you’re willing to do that… I can arrange for your banishment curse to be lifted, too, after we return. You’ll be free to do what you like in Estoriana. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”
“So, the descendants don’t know who you really are.” Scarlet studied me for a moment. “And you want me to help you deceive them.” I could tell she was still wondering what exactly it was I was up to, but she’d get no more answers from me.
“And while you’re at it, let Mireya know everything I’ve just told you. And show her the prophecy, too,” I added.
Scarlet raised an eyebrow. “You’re not going to tell her yourself?”
I didn’t answer, careful to keep any emotion from showing on my face. Scarlet shrugged. “Not that it’s any of my business. Okay, Neva. It’s a deal. I’ll come to meet this ‘Author’, and I won’t reveal who you really are.”
I breathed a sigh of relief under my breath. But as she left, I wondered how much she could really be trusted. My hand tightened around the smooth, curved surface of the stone in my pocket. Well, there was always that… I didn’t like to use them, but if I felt that my identity was really in danger, it was a last resort. I turned to head back to Estoriana to prepare.

But first, before I left for the quest… there was one more person I had to meet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I walked through the bustling streets of the small fishing village, past the edge of town, until the crowds of shoppers and merchants thinned away, and the rows of houses became more and more scarce. Until I came to the banks of the river at the edge of the village, where an old woman had told me she often came to watch the sunset.
I had been searching for her ever since I arrived in Estoriana, of course. It had taken days of search and numerous ead ends, and part of me wondered if it was futile. But it wasn’t like deserters from Exilia were commonplace, and eventually, I came across someone who knew of her.

This was a mistake, a part of me whispered. What do you want to accomplish by coming here? It’s been so many years. What if she’s long since forgotten about you?
I brushed it off. Too late to turn back now. I knew if I went off on this quest without seeing her, it would always nag at me. Mireya was right. Saskia’s betrayal hung over me still, and likely always would. For better or worse, it was time I put it to rest.

As the last glittering rays of the setting sun bled over the shimmering water, I closed my eyes, allowing myself a moment to imagine…

On my own
Pretending she's beside me
All alone
I walk with her till morning
Without her
I feel her arms around me


Reality and my imagination blended into each other, until I could hardly tell dream from memory. The twilight breeze was blowing across the waterfront, and I shivered in the damp chill. There was still no sign of Saskia.
What had I been expecting, anyway? I wrapped my arms around myself. It was foolish to have come here, even if it was for closure. What had I been hoping for, even? What would I do, even if I did find her?
I walked aimlessly down the unfamiliar riverbank, not sure where I was going or why.
And when I lose my way, I close my eyes.
And she has found me.

Saskia stood before me, like a dream, a vision, a illusion I’d summoned out of my deepest, most desperate wishes. My breath caught in my throat. No. It can’t be…
“Neva?” And her voice was full of shock, tinged with a bit of fear. But it was her voice – heady and tangible and real. Not a vision, not a hallucination. I knew I couldn’t have imagined it, because that voice had changed. The soft, lilting cadence was still the same, as gentle and soothing as ever, but it had grown rougher with age. An ever-so subtle difference that might have gone unnoticed if I hadn’t been playing the sound of her voice, and all our old conversations, over and over again in a thousand dreams.
And though nothing has changed, it felt like I’d been transported to a dream world.
In the rain the pavement shines like silver.
All the lights are misty in the river.
In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight
And all I see is her and me forever and forever.

In my mind, I saw her. All the fear and uncertainty broken down, and a smile spread across her face. I saw her reach for me, pull me close. Oh, Neva, you’ve finally found me… I’ve been waiting for you all this time. All this time, nothing has been the same. Without you here, it felt like half my soul was missing.
And even though I know it’s all in my mind. Only the wishful voices in my head.
That I’m talking to myself and not to her.
And although I know that she is blind… like she’s always been.
Still I want to believe. Still I say, there's a way for us. There’s a world out there where there is an “us”.

And that fantasy shattered into pieces as soon as I saw the look on her face.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. Her eyes dart in all directions, as if an ambush could be coming at any moment.
Hurt tore through me like the edge of a blade at her immediate suspicion. “I’m alone.” I spread my hands around me. “It’s just me, Saskia. Did you really think I’d somehow managed to get an army past the banishment spell, and the first place I’d come to attack was here? You give me too much credit.”
Saskia took a hesitant step forward, the suspicion not leaving her face. “Why did you come here then, Neva? And how are you here?”
She still kept one hand on the hilt of the dagger at her waist, and I saw the gold wedding band on her finger. I took a step back.
“Is this how you greet an old friend, after leaving her to rot in the miserable wasteland of Exilia?” I asked, not bothering to hide the resentment in my voice.
“Oh, is that how you see it?” Saskia retorted. “Maybe I wouldn’t have had to, if that ‘friend’ hadn’t threatened to have me taken away in chains as a traitor!"
“Well perhaps that entire confrontation would have gone better, if you had, I don’t know, spoken to me about your suspicions beforehand! Instead of springing it on me that our entire lives and everything we knew about the people who raised us was a lie. How did you expect me to react?” I demanded.
There was a tense silence, as the fury between us thrummed like a live wire. So many years of pent-up rage, unspoken words and unreleased resentment.
Saskia broke it first, visibly trying to keep her cool.
“Maybe I should have told you my suspicions earlier, but I was never sure how to broach the topic. And he didn’t show me proof of the Exilian’s crimes until that day… and we had to leave in such a hurry, I hardly had time to plan anything, let alone how to convince you. But still. I had no idea you’d react with such hostility. You even tried to call the guards on me! You must have known that would have gotten me locked away as a traitor for life.” She took a deep breath to rein in her anger. “But one thing was for sure – I never planned to abandon you. There was simply no way for me to go back once I’d escaped. Were you thinking this whole time that I had wanted to leave you behind?”
I laughed bitterly. “You have no idea what I was thinking, or feeling. You never did.”
“Well, explain it to me, then!” she exclaimed. “Is it about the descendants and the Exilians? If you’ve made your way here, and you’re not planning to attack, then surely you know about the villains – because there is what they were. If you know the truth of their crimes, then surely you can’t blame me for taking the descendants’ side.”
I did blame her, because, after all, we were family. And for me, family would always come before any grand ideas like “good” versus “evil”. But…
“No,” I said, my voice still full of bitterness. “That’s not what this is about.”

“What is it then?” Saskia asked, her tone softer now. She’d always been gentle by nature, and I had never seen her able to hold onto anger for very long. It stung more than I’d expected to see how well I knew her, even after all this time.
“You chose him over me!” I choked out, my voice ragged.
“I didn’t mean to choose at all!” Saskia retorted, and this time, I could hear the hurt in her voice, a mirror to my own. “I wanted so desperately to have both of you in my life! You didn’t leave me with any choice, that day.”
We stood across from each other, both breathing heavily. A weight was pressed down on my chest, that hung with all the words I’d kept unspoken.
“I’m sorry.” I choked out, my voice ragged. “I’m sorry, Saskia! I never wanted to hurt you, or get you arrested. It’s just – seeing you in that moment, talking about him… I knew in that moment that whatever I said or did, you would still choose him. And I was so angry at the thought of that – that despite all those years we’d spent together, all the secrets we shared, all those adventures – he was the one you chose in the end. As if all that time between us didn’t count for anything.”
“Didn’t count for anything?” Saskia echoed, incredulously. She took a step forward. “You were my best friend, Neva. And he was the love of my life. I didn’t leave because I cared about you less. All this time, is that what you thought?”
“No,” I said, quieter now. “That’s not… what I was talking about.”
I hesitated. Already the fury was draining out of me, leaving only tiredness behind. It sapped away all the strength I had to maintain my defences. I’d almost forgotten, what it was like with her.
I never wanted to fight with Mireya. I never wanted to hurt her. But I had. Something in me was cruel enough, and angry enough, to hurt the only person in the world I considered a friend.
But with Saskia, it was different. It was impossible, with her, to even summon the strength to maintain that anger. Always I felt like it was my heart that was breaking to pieces instead, each sharp word leaving piercing lacerations across my own flesh that wept and bled.
And so I turned away, unable to meet her gaze directly. “It’s not about how you took his people’s side in our parents’ war,” I whispered. “What I meant was… you chose him over me.”
I watched Saskia’s face slowly fall as the realization dawn on her at last. “Oh… oh, Neva, I…”
“Don’t,” I begged, my cheeks burning.
“I never knew,” she breathed, reaching out to me. “Neva, I’m so sorry – “
“Don’t say it,” I snapped. “I don’t want your pity.” There was a long, drawn out silence as we both struggled to think of something to say.
“I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember,” I admitted, in a voice that was barely above a whisper. “And I guess… I was always afraid, deep down, that you wouldn’t feel the same. Which is why I kept it to myself all those years. But seeing you prepare to run off to start a new life with – not just with someone else, but an Estorianian… that hurt more than I could ever imagine. And, even more, that you had all these secrets, all the things you knew about the Exilians’ crimes… and somehow you felt you could talk to him about it and not me.”
“You were all I had – you and my mother. And even if the whole world was against us, if I had you… it would have been enough. I thought we’d be together forever… even if it wasn’t in the way I wanted. As long as I could be the one you opened your heart to, and the one to stay at your side, for all of our lives. That’s all I wanted.”
These words poured out of me like the gushing flood from a broken dam. I’d kept them deep within for so many years, but now… The earlier fight with Mireya had frayed all of my usual defences, my lies and all my deflections, into pieces. I stood with my heart laid bare before my oldest friend. The walls I’d carefully built to keep the world out lay shattered by my feet.
I love her.
But when the night is over… when it’s over, she’ll go back to her own perfect life, in this beautiful world, with her loving husband. There was no place for me in the life that she’d built. I knew it. What use did she have, for the best friend who’d been willing to betray and take away all that she loved, because I didn’t have the strength to say goodbye. I was nothing, a husk of a girl with a heart full of lies who hid all her useless feelings behind walls of ice.
So why… why now, of all times, am I confessing this to her?
Maybe, even then, part of me knew somehow that I would never have another chance.

She stepped towards me, closing the distance between us at last. “Neva – “
But I would never have the chance to hear what she wanted to say, because at that moment… Saskia’s whole body began to fade right before my eyes. Her entire outline became blurred at the edges, like her very existence was being erased from this world.
“Saskia!” I screamed, reaching out for her outstretched hand. Our fingers brushed briefly before my hand fell away, slipping through nothing. I saw her eyes go wide with fear and confusion, a split second before she vanished entirely.
I ran forward, grasping at nothing, only the chilled night air meeting my desperate grab. I fell to my knees, shell-shocked. No. This can’t be happening…
She’s gone.
I cried out for her until my voice was hoarse, grasping at shadows in the twilight. I didn’t know how long I spent, groping around in the darkness, begging for her to come back to me. Too shattered even to cry.
Somehow, I found myself stumbling back the way I’d come, numb and unfeeling. I didn’t know how much time had passed, or how I’d found my way back. Slowly, the scenery around me changed from the cold, windswept riverbank back to the hustle and bustle of the town. So many people, walking around on their regular evening routines, talking and laughing. All oblivious to the fact that a life had slipped from this world, beautiful and fragile as a gossamer thread.
And it was like all the beauty and wonder of the quaint, picturesque little village had disappeared.
The river's just a river.
Without her
The world around me changes.
The trees are bare and everywhere.
The streets are full of strangers.
I love her.
But every day I'm learning
All my life
I wrapped my arms around myself, unable to stop shaking. What had I expected, anyway? Even if somehow, impossibly, it had turned out the way it did in my dreams. Even if the fates had been merciful and not taken her from me once again. Even if she found it within herself to forgive me, and I was allowed to be part of her life again in some small way… all my fantasies would still be impossible.
All this time, I've only been pretending.
Without me, her world would go on turning.
A world that's full of happiness.
That I have never known.
I love her, I love her, I love her…
But only on my own.
I stood, on the dark and empty street of a village I did not know, surrounded by strangers, but still all alone. Desperately, painfully, alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With a flick of my wrist, I summoned one of my dark wraiths. It hovered before me, more corporeal than a real shadow, but still fluid, the edges of its shape blurring into smoky tendrils. I handed it my letter and the book with shaking fingers.
“Take this to Mireya. But only when she’s alone. Make sure you’re not seen,” I ordered, making sure to keep my voice low. I conjured up a portal with the hairpin I’d stolen from the palace, watching the shadowy creature slither into its depths.
Would she listen? Would she believe me? I sank to my knees, still trembling.

Mireya,

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the cause of all these strange events throughout the magical realms. All the disappearances, and the natural disasters, even the thinning of the veil between worlds, going all the way back to that first earthquake.
Humans are losing their faith in magic, and in turn, all of the magical realms are slowly but surely fading away. But a new prophecy has been forged, within the pages of this book I’m sending you. According to this, the person who is summoning us is none other than the Author responsible for all of our tales.
And he is calling for us. Mireya, I know that part of this prophecy is talking about you and me.
I know you have no reason to trust in the Estorianians or their magic. But… if this is true, if we could meet the person behind all of our stories, could you imagine what that could entail? And in this one instance, I believe we can trust what the descendants are saying. After all, it’s their lives on the line too.
In two days, we will be travelling to Earth, to the place where the words “once upon a time” were first spoken. In a small village called Santoff Claussen, deep in the forests to the east of Siberia.
I know you might not want to speak to me right now. I know you might not want to see me. But this is so much bigger than us now.

Mireya, I need you. Please.

Neva


I didn’t know if she would read my message. I didn’t know if she would even care. When writing it, I had tried hard not to let my desperation show.
There was nothing flowery or deceptive in that letter, only the simple and honest truth. I prayed that these words would reach her.
My chest felt shredded, and it felt like a vise-like hand was gripping my heart. Each breath brought a fresh pang of agony.
No. No more… I can’t take this anymore. It was one thing if Mireya hated me, but this… I couldn’t lose anyone else. I had to go on this quest, and somehow, I had to convince Mireya and Scarlet to come too. Because every day that I let this curse run free, the chance lingered on that Mother, or Mireya, would be next.
And when I thought of watching them vanish right before my eyes, while I looked on, so utterly helpless… or even worse, imagining them evanescing from this world, all alone and scared, only the dark void of oblivion waiting to greet them.
The very thought of it made me feel like I would shatter into a million pieces. If it came down to that, I’d rather be the one to disappear.
“I’m so tired,” I whispered. “So tired of being left behind. Please… please don’t leave me.”




Due to the Varden not being able to leave their respective kingdoms, I’d already said my goodbyes to my family this morning, before I set out. With the hugs, kisses, and all that mushy stuff over with, I set out to the enchanted clearing where the questers were arranged to meet.
When I got there, no one else had arrived yet. I glanced up at the sun, smiling a bit sheepishly at how low in the sky it was. Maybe I had been a little overenthusiastic, setting out so early. But just as I thought that, two small dots appeared in the distant sky, growing bigger and bigger as they approached. My face split open in a grin as I recognized the familiar figure of my best friend, pulling her sister along behind her, floating on a frosty breeze.
“Ayla! Yue!” I jumped up and down, waving to them enthusiastically. As soon as Ayla saw me, a huge grin broke out across her face. She flew the rest of the distance and grabbed me in a tackle hug, while Yue walked on over behind her, far more reservedly. But there was a smile on her face too, filled with both excitement and nervousness.
“I knew it!” I exclaimed as I pulled away from Ayla. “You two have been summoned too! This is going to be so awesome! All of us, together – the new heroes of Estoriana!”
“It’s everything we’ve ever dreamed of!” Ayla agreed. The two of us were almost talking over each other in our excitement, hardly giving Yue a chance to get a word in. She didn’t seem to mind though, grinning with amusement at our antics.
When Ayla and I finally took a pause in our excited chatter, we both glanced around at the still-empty clearing. “Looks like no one else is here yet,” I noted. “What’s taking them so long?”
“Yeah!” Ayla agreed. “We have places to go, new sights to see, and a whole world to save! When are those slowpokes going to get here already?”
Yue rolled her eyes at us. “Ayla, you dragged us out of bed at the crack of dawn! We were supposed to meet at high noon, and we got here almost an hour early. I’m sure everyone else is making sure to get a good night’s rest before such an important quest.” She turned her gaze on me, part admonishing, part amused. “And you got here even earlier!”
“Oh come on!” I protested. “How could anyone possibly sleep in, at a time like this?” My eyes fell on the sword she was carrying, the hilt beautifully carved and brand-new looking. I raised an eyebrow. “A parting gift from Aunt Saige?”
Yue glanced down at it, looking uncomfortable. “Um, yeah. She insisted. ‘A warrior of Estoriana never leaves for a quest without her trusty blade’, she said. She had it newly made for me, too. I tried telling her I wasn’t a warrior, but you know Auntie Saige.” She shrugged helplessly.
“Stop selling yourself short!” Ayla chided her sister. "You're going to be a great warrior someday, just wait and see!" She lifted her own matching blade and grinned at me.
I smiled back and lifted my own brand-new sword. “Seems Aunt Saige came prepared! She had one made for each of us. All those hours of training will finally be put to some good use! Speaking of Auntie, is it true she’s travelling around Estoriana with the army right now?”
“Yup,” Ayla confirmed. “Grandma Laurel and Grandpa Shang should be able to handle the situation in Corona, so Auntie Saige is going around to all the different villages that aren’t protected by one of the descendants, spreading the Varden’s magic. Mom and Dad are going with her.”
“Sounds like they’ll have a lot of work cut out for them. Let’s not keep them waiting too long!” I declared.
I pulled open Tales of Estoriana from my bag, and to pass the time, Ayla and I began speculating on who else might have been included in the prophecy. We both thought that there might have been a touch of familiarity in some of the verses – was that one talking about Najila? Maybe Soraya and Lissa, the girls we’d met at the Ball?

“What do you think your prophecy lines mean, anyway?” I asked eagerly. I’d been speculating nonstop ever since I’d first laid eyes on mine, driving my sisters crazy by pepping them with questions. “For mine… it says that my powers aren’t my greatest gift? And that I’ll find a strength to challenge the mightiest rift. What is that supposed to mean? Ooh, maybe I’ll suddenly develop super strength. Or some other cool power, like unmatchable speed! You’d never be able to beat me at sled racing again, Ayla!”
“Yeah, right! Dream on, Noelle.” Ayla smirked. But then her smile faded a little as she glanced down at her own prophecy lines. “Your lines totally reflect who you are, who you’ve always been. But mine…? Will you still know your fate, who you will become?” She hesitated. “I had always been so sure of who I was and who I would become one day. I’m the daughter of the Guardians, the eternal protectors of Earth’s children, and one day I’m going to be one of them. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. But what this prophecy is telling me… what if I don’t really know who I’ll become?” She looked almost lost and forlorn for a moment, uncharacteristic in her uncertainty.
I put an arm around her shoulder. “Hey. We both know how annoyingly vague prophecies can be. They never mean exactly what you think, there’s always some trick, some component you hadn’t thought of. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. You’re still you, Ayla. As strong and brave and capable as you’ve always been. Don’t let this silly prophecy shake your faith in who you are.”
Yue had been quiet through all of Ayla’s and my chatter about the speculation on the prophecy lines, and I looked over to grin at her now. “What were you saying about not being a warrior? Well, this prophecy certainly begs otherwise!”
Yue groaned. “Oh, please don’t start with this. I’ve already heard an earful from Auntie Saige. She’s absolutely over the moon about this! But like you said, who can say what a prophecy is really about? Maybe… maybe the battle it’s talking about isn’t a physical one at all. After all, we’ve all seen how well I’m suited to waving a sword around.”
Both Ayla and I opened our mouths to retort again, but before we could, all three of us saw a figure in the distance, fast approaching. Ayla and I jumped up and began waving frantically when we saw who it was. “Hey! Lissa!”
Our new friend from the Reunion Ball broke into a sprint when she saw us. “You guys were chosen too?” Lissa exclaimed. “That’s so great!”
“Yeah! We’re so glad to see you again!” I said happily.

Soon, more of the future questers arrived, a fairy in blue with brown curly hair, and a boy with wavy brown hair dressed all in green. They were the descendants of the Blue Fairy and Robin Hood, respectively.
I’d never met an Avalonian fairy before, and certainly not one of the Merry Men! I grinned as we greeted both of them. I couldn’t wait to hear about what their lives were like, what kind of magic and wonders I had never seen inside the walls of Arendelle.
Najila was the next to show up, much to Ayla’s, Yue’s and my elation. She greeted us with hugs and a warm smile, still tinged with sorrow, but she held herself with all the strength and determination she’d always possessed.
Next to arrive were the twins who had caused such a ruckus at the Varden’s meeting. They were just as I’d remembered, Tamsin all bubbly and excited, with her brother Aspen hanging slightly back, smiling shyly.
After that, we all watched in wonder as a portal opened before us, showing a grand, sprawling city, surrounded by the boundless sea. Impossibly, magically, none of the water was spilling through as a tall, white-haired girl stepped through, carrying one of the spears of the Atlantean guard.
“The lost city of Atlantis,” I breathed, awestruck with wonder.
The girl introduced herself as Dekati'ladesh Nedakh, Kati for short. She was the youngest daughter of Queen Kida of Atlantis. I remembered having seen her at the Reunion Ball, though we hadn’t had the chance to introduce ourselves before all the chaos went down.
And finally, at last, came Soraya, jumping off of her magic carpet. As she landed, we all could sense that something was terribly wrong.
I looked at her with concern. “Soraya? What’s wrong?”
Soraya bit her lip, looking like she was struggling to hold back tears. “It’s… it’s my sister. She’s also…” she trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
My heart sank as the realization hit. “I’m so sorry.”
Najila immediately pulled Soraya into a tight embrace, both of them holding onto each other for strength and comfort. Between them was a pain that only they understood.
“We’re going to save her,” Ayla said solemnly. “Soraya, your sister, and Najila’s dad, all of them… we’re going to save them all.”
After a moment, Soraya pulled back, smiling a bit shakily. “Thank you. It – it’s part of my prophecy lines, after all. Though shadowed by sorrow, there’s hope yet for tomorrow. So I believe that means there’s still a chance. It’s not too late for her.”
The news about Soraya’s sister put a damper on the excitement that had been bubbling to the surface for all of us. We all knew the gravity of the situation. Thrilled though we were for a storybook adventure, this was so much bigger than that. Estoriana’s fate – and the fate of all the fairytale worlds – rested in our hands now.
“Wait!” I heard a voice cry out, and a familiar figure appeared at the edge of the clearing. She’d clearly run here in a hurry, and she was almost panting with exertion now.

I looked at her in surprise. “Neva? Were you part of the prophecy too?” It was true that I didn’t know her well, but it didn’t seem like any of the lines were referring to her. In fact, besides those belonging to the people gathered here, the remaining lines of the prophecy seemed almost… sinister.
“No,” she admitted, glancing down shyly. “But… Noelle, you and your family were so kind in taking me in. I want to try and repay you, in any way I can. It’s not like I can do much here, just sitting around. I’m not part of the Varden, so I can’t help keep Arendelle from fading away. I want to help with your quest, if that’s all right with all of you?” she looked around, blue eyes brimming with hope.
“That’s very kind of you… but we don’t know where exactly this quest will end up taking us,” Yue warned, her smile tinged with a touch of worry. “We don’t want to have to endanger anyone unnecessarily.”
“I know… thank you for thinking of me.” Neva bit her lip. “But I have my own reasons for wanting to come, too. If I can meet the Author… I’d like to ask him what happened to my family, and some of the friends who were imprisoned with me on Exilia. I really need to know what became of them. And you don’t need to worry about me. I’ve been on my own for years, and I can handle myself.”
“I think it’s fine!” Tamsin piped up. “After all, both Aspen and I are coming along.”
“The more, the merrier!” Najila agreed.
“It’s settled then!” I flashed a grin at Neva. “Welcome aboard!” I glanced down at the open Tales of Estoriana in front of me. “But it seems we still don’t have all of the people who are supposed to be going on the quest,” I mused. “And from the sounds of the prophecy, not everyone we’re supposed to meet is from Estoriana.”
“Yeah, Dad said that too,” Ayla said. “He knew Katherine best, after all. He thinks that some of the people the prophecy was referring to are probably from Earth.” She hesitated. “From the sounds of it… some of them might be from Exilia, too.”
There was a tense silence around the group.
“Would we be able to trust them?” I spoke the words we were all thinking.
“Well, after all, our mom was born on Exilia,” Tamsin spoke up. Was it just my imagination, or did she and her brother look suddenly nervous for some reason? “And she chose a better path.”
“Good point!” Neva piped up. I knew I wasn’t imagining the sadness in her eyes, but she seemed to be making an effort to appear normal. “Is it really fair to assume everyone on Exilia is pure evil? Some could have simply been born at the wrong time and place.”
“You’re both right,” I agreed. “I’m sure Katherine wouldn’t have called for someone to go on this quest if they couldn’t be trusted.”
“Is this everyone then?” Najila asked, glancing around.
“For now.” Yue stood up. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll encounter the other members of the prophecy on our journey. Dad always said that whether it’s fate, or destiny, or simply the bonds between us that were meant to be, somehow we would always be led to those we most need to meet.” She flushed slightly when everyone’s attention turned to her. Yue had always been quiet and soft-spoken, preferring not to speak up unless she really had something important to say.
“Yue’s right!” Ayla jumped up and put an arm around her sister’s shoulder. “After all, Dad’s helped to save Estoriana twice now, so clearly he knows what he’s talking about!”
“Well, what are we waiting for then?” I jumped onto the large, smooth boulder I had been leaning again, and raised my fist into the air. “For Estoriana!”
“For Estoriana!” Everyone else echoed.

(Okay, I thought it was about time to finally bring our characters together! I wasn’t entirely sure how to get everyone to join in. Please let me know if you want me to change anything about your characters’ introduction! I thought all the Estorianians would just get together right away once they figured out their respective lines in the prophecy. I figured they would run into Katya, Odilia and the villain kids once they get to Earth. Alexa, how did you plan on incorporating Eldoris?
Also, I was inspired by Liri’s post with The Next Right Thing, so I incorporated a song into Neva’s part! It’s On My Own from Les Misérables.

And just for fun I decided to make Noelle and Neva's quest outfits!)

Spoiler for Quest outfits:
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Last edited by Night Wish; 03-16-2020 at 03:03 AM.
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  #107  
Old 03-09-2020, 07:15 AM
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Far Far Away... (Sequel to OUAT and HEA)

Amazing post Night! I love it!! I especially loved Neva's part with Saskia.



I used https://rollforfantasy.com/tools/scroll-creator.php for the scrolls!



I will try to post again soon, but I also have a ton to get done so that I can hopefully move soon!



I also created questing outfits for my characters
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Last edited by Liri Dazzlebeam; 03-15-2020 at 03:13 AM.
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  #108  
Old 03-11-2020, 04:24 AM
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Thank you so much, Liri! Best of luck with your move.

Ayla, Yue and Mireya look great!

Cool, I never knew they had creators like that! I made my characters' prophecy lines too.
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  #109  
Old 03-12-2020, 01:42 AM
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Blaze_of_Glory Blaze_of_Glory is offline
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Great posts, Liri and Night! I love it! Thank you for getting this moving again. And Night, the way you introduced my characters was perfectly fine.

I'll post again soon!
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Old 03-18-2020, 01:13 AM
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Forest

The Day Of The Reunion Ball

After Ava found us we spent our time telling tales of the Sherwood Forest and Avalon. Ava was retelling one of her many stories from her childhood when the lights in the glade dimmed and a chill ran through the crowd. All around us people were whispering in fear and confusion. I turned back to Ava to see her clutching her necklace, brows furrowed in concern.
“What’s wrong?,” I got the feeling that it wasn’t the lack of light that was worrying her. The light returned and Ava turned to me.
“I’m not sure.” She paused, doubt in her eyes. “It was as if all the magic in the grove was drained away, but I must have been wrong. It’s all back now.” Ava looked out at the crowd, “ I have to go find my mother” she called, turning away and rushing into the crowd. With Ava’s abrupt departure I decided to wander around the grove. Perhaps I will meet up with Ava again after she talks with her mother and she can tell me what’s really going on with her.


Ava

My thoughts were racing in my head as I weaved my way through the crowd to find my mother. How could the magic of the glade be completely drained in a matter of seconds and then just return as if nothing happened? The grove was one of the strongest points of magic and nearly impossible to drain in the first place. There was no way this was the villains doing as everyone was suggesting, none of their curses or spells could do this much damage! This was something else, a force that held far more danger than any villain. I felt bad for leaving Forest so abruptly, but the whole experience shook me and my mother was the only one who could give me the answers I needed.

Before I could get to my mother, the Council of Light came to the center of the Grove and began their speech. My mother and two others were just behind them. Oh right, the Ball was also supposed to be when Mom was added to the Council along with the queen of Atlantis and the new ambassador of Wonderland. I waited in the front for the Council to finish, fidgeting with my necklace the whole time. As the Council disbanded, I rushed to where my mother was conversing with Walter and his wife. She turned to me as I approached.

After offering a quick wave and introduction, I turned back to Mom pulling her aside, “Can I speak with you for a moment?” After explaining what I felt, along with my fears, Mom nodded, a thoughtful look on her face.
“I felt it too,” she replied, breaking the silence, “I will have to talk about this with the other Council members. Don’t worry we will figure it all out, why don’t you go and enjoy the rest of the ball.” With that she went back to her previous conversation. With a sigh I turned away, Oh well, I suppose it’s enough to know that I wasn’t going crazy and imagining things. When I looked up, I saw Forest with his dad and went to join him again.

The ball went on without a hitch for several hours, and I was getting to know Forest and his father Roland better when a scream cut through the air. People crowded around the source, panic in their voices. A father had disappeared right in front of his daughter leaving no trace. He was there one moment and gone the next. I turned to Forest and we exchanged worried looks. Mom came to my side, giving me a quick hug.
“Quin will come take you home, I have to meet with the Council,” she said after pulling away.
Roland turned to my mother, “We can take Ava with us to the Sherwood forest and she can pick her up there. That way Ava doesn’t have to wait here on her own.” I gave him a grateful smile, normally I wouldn’t mind being alone for a bit, but after all that has happened tonight it will be nice to have someone with me.
“If you don’t mind taking Ava with you, then that would be great.” my mother told Roland before turning back to me, “I will tell Quin to meet you at the edge of the woods.” After giving Mom a quick wave we began our journey to the Sherwood Forest.


Forest

In the days following the events that took place at the ball, Ava’s mom Isabella had the Avalon fairies and the Merry Men working together to keep track of all the disappearances in our area. Ava and I were often together as we went to the nearby villages asking everyone if any of their friends or family members vanished suddenly like the man at the ball. We would then take our long list to Isabella who would inform the other Council members in their frequent meetings.
Several of the fairies and two of the Merry Men were also among the disappeared, making this problem feel both more real and terrifying. After all, anyone could be next and we wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it. If the Council had any ideas on what was causing this, they hadn’t told us yet - though that might change soon.
Everyone that was at the ball had just been invited to a meeting with the Council to talk about what was happening in Estoriana. Isabella was already at the meeting place with the Council, and I was waiting for Ava in my tree so we could go together.

“Forest,” Ava called as she landed under the tree, “are you ready to head over to the meeting?” She was glowing bright blue which was a sign she was excited, as I had found out during our times together. No doubt she was looking forward to finally getting some answers so we could solve this mess.
“Ready?” I rolled my eyes with a laugh, “I’ve been waiting for you this whole time!” I called back swinging off my perch to meet her on the ground.
“I know, I know! I’m just ready to finally hear what’s going on,” she said, attempting an exasperated look with her hand on her chest. “You know my mom still hasn’t said a peep about what they’ve been conversing about in their ‘secret’ meetings, and I’m her very own daughter!” Ava quickly failed her attempt at drama, and we both broke into laughter.
While Isabella loved Ava, we both knew she was never one to show favoritism. She was just as hard, if not harder, on Ava as she was with the rest of the Avalon fairies.
With a shake of my head, I turned in the direction of the meeting, “Come on Blue, if we’re late we won’t get our answers!” I called using the nickname I had given Ava.
“Whatever you say, Sir Hood,” she replied, giving me a mock bow in midair. ‘Sir Hood’ was her name she had come up with for me. With that, we made our way to our destination.


Ava

The meeting was full of several big revelations giving us far more information than I expected. We were told of Jack Frost’s long and eventful past, and of Katherine the Guardian of Storytelling who was sending us clues on how to save Estoriana. She was sending us on a quest to find the mysterious Author of the Tales of Estoriana and get people to believe in us once again. This was all supposed to start in Santoff Claussen, an ancient village on Earth.

When the meeting was over, Forest and I made plans to meet later and I left to find my mom. We flew to Avalon in silence as I processed everything we just learned. Who would go on this quest for the fate of everyone and how many people would we lose before that happens. Mom and I were fairly safe being the descendants of the Blue Fairy, but the rest of the Avalon fairies would not be that lucky. We had already lost several fairies, among them was Corinne, one of our teachers and a fairy godmother.
Mom’s gasp brought me back to the present, I was so lost in thought that I hadn’t noticed our arrival in Avalon. What happened!? Avalon, once full of vibrant color and magic, was gray and, like the Grove had been at the ball, devoid of magic. We made it to the main hall where several fairies, Quin among them, were gathered waiting for us to return.
The moment Mom’s feet touched the ground, color and magic seeped back into Avalon and the fairies let out relieved murmurs, concern still showing in their expressions. Mom turned to address the crowd, “Everyone go back to your daily jobs and classes. Don’t worry the Council and I will figure this out and do everything we can to fix this.”

After the crowd dispersed we headed to Mom’s office with Quin at our side. “How long was Avalon like this?” Mom asked.
Quin shook her head, “It started to fade shortly after you guys left. Also, several more fairies and villagers have vanished while you were gone.” Concern was written all over her face. This is horrible. How could so many people be gone after such a short time!? “What are we going to do?” Quin asked as we reached the office and she turned to Mom.
“Help the others, while Ava and I contact the other kingdoms,” Mom responded, dismissing Quin. No long after Quin’s departure, the big mirror in Mom’s room flashed. We went over to see that the Council was creating a mirror call with everyone from the meeting.
Apparently the same thing was happening all over Estoriana and it was decided that all of the leaders would have to stay in their realms to keep them from fading away, or at least slow the fade. This meant they would have to find different people to go on the quest in their stead. When the mirror conference was over, Mom left to check up on everyone and fill them in on some of what was going on, while I left to see Forest.

After a quick hello to Roland and the Merry Men, we headed to the corner of camp and talked about the quest that was to save Estoriana. I really wanted to go on the quest and drag Forest along with me, but it was also a lot of pressure to have the fate of the world on our shoulders. What if I had a klutzy moment or messed up on a spell and the quest failed because of me? This was all assuming I could even convince my mom to let me go of course.
Suddenly, in a flash of white light a book appeared in front of us. ‘The Tales of Estoriana’.
I gasped trading a look with Forest, “Look! This is the book that Katherine was using to give us clues in the meeting.” One of the pages was glowing, so we quickly turned to the page. It pictured a small group of people all in shadow with several lines below, lines that formed a prophecy! Each line looked to be describing a different person.
“She must be telling us who is to go on the quest,” Forest said after examining the page. “Look at this one! It has to be about you.” He was pointing to one of the stanzas half way down.

Blue star’s child, keeper of dreams
Expectations are high, little light in the sky
Believe in yourself, for you are stronger than you know

I was to be one of the questers! This fixed any problems I would have convincing Mom to let me go, she couldn’t argue with a prophecy, but it didn’t do much to settle my nerves. After all, ‘believe in yourself’ was easier said than done. I quickly looked at the other lines and my eye caught on one two lines down. “This one’s about you Forest!” I exclaimed excitedly.

Raised in the merry band with only men to guide your way,
Lion heart kept hidden deep, draw forth with noble courage
Become the protector, arrows sure and strong, never giving up on those in need

He looked surprised, as if he hadn’t expected to be included in the quest even after finding out I would be going. “This is great! We both get to go on the quest together” In my excitement I hovered off the ground. As nervous as I am about whether or not I can pull this off, for now it’s enough to know I have a friend coming with me. Relief flooded through me.
Forest smiled, and any surprise or doubt left his face, “I guess we are, Blue.” He stood, picking the book up with him. “We should probably go and tell our parents about the prophecy and that we have been chosen.”
My feet touched the ground again, “Right.” This will be a fun conversation. While Mom couldn’t really argue with the prophecy, I couldn’t imagine she would be too thrilled with the idea. “We should meet together before joining the other questers.”
“All right,” Forest faced me, “I’ll see you then!” With that, we waved goodbye and went our separate ways. Now comes the hard part. I began my flight home, trying to come up with the best way to tell Mom. As it turned out, I didn’t have to tell her anything.

I found Mom in her office with an open ‘Tales of Estoriana’ in front of her. She was eying the prophecy, and from her expression I knew she had already found my lines. “I guess you already know then.” I said, bringing her out of her thoughts. She rose and surprised me by drawing me into a hug. This was not the reaction I was expecting.

After a few moments, she pulled away, “Come with me, I have a few things that should help you on your journey.” She flew to the cabinet holding magical and enchanted objects. Opening it, she pulled out a spell book and a small bag. “This book holds every spell and enchantment known to fairy kind and will show you the right spell in times of need. This is no substitute for memorizing spells, merely a tool for when you absolutely need it.” She gave me a stern look. “And this bag is enchanted and can hold everything you need.”
Mom slipped the book into my new bag before handing it to me. She then grabbed a small bag full of pixie dust from her desk and turned back to me. “While pixie dust might not work on Earth, I have a feeling you will still have need of it at some point in your quest.” After giving me the bag she held both my hands. “I know you will do a wonderful job. Never forget you were chosen for a reason.'' She offered me an encouraging smile. “Now get some sleep, you are supposed to meet the others tomorrow morning.” With that, I flew to my room and, after packing a few things in my bag, went to sleep.

The next morning, after saying my goodbyes I left to meet Forest and we headed out towards the Grove. When we arrived there were already four girls gathered. I recognized two of the girls from the ball, they were the ones who had been air surfing. We introduced ourselves, and waited for everyone else to arrive.
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  #111  
Old 03-18-2020, 01:21 AM
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Mireya

Scarlet found me on the cliff above the plains, sitting on the edge and staring out over the land. She sat beside me, silent for a few minutes, then finally spoke.
“I saw Neva today.” I remained silent. “She asked me to tell you something.”
“I don’t really want to hear anything she has to say right now.” I say in a monotone voice, continuing to look out at the plains.
Scarlet sighed in exasperation, then snapped “Well this is bigger than you and your hurt feelings Mireya.”
I finally looked at her, my gaze remote and my emotions locked away inside me. “Fine. You can say what you came here to say. I don’t promise to care or do anything about it though.”
Scarlet rolled her eyes, “Well you better care. This affects all of us.”

I looked out over the plains while Scarlet told me about the disappearances, and other strange occurrences, and what was at the root of it all. And finally, the prophecy and the quest for the Author. She then opened a book she had with her, and I saw the title read “Tales of Estoriana.”
“Look, this is the prophecy.” Scarlet said, “And Neva says there are lines in here about you and about me, she claims that means we are meant to be on this quest.”
I laughed dryly at that, “You can’t really believe all that.”
“I didn’t. I asked why we should believe this, and why we should trust the Estorianians and their ‘Author.’ But Neva claims she has seen evidence that the Author has preternatural knowledge, and that the Estorianians don’t have any reason to deceive her because they think she is one of them.” Scarlet states, her voice carefully neutral. “She says all of our lives are at stake, the Estorianians and Exilians. And,” she pauses, “if we were to meet the Author… think of what he knows, what we might do with a power like that?”

I remained silent for a while, thinking it all over. Maybe the Author could rewrite my story. Maybe he could change our past so that we were never banished and Mom never died…

“What’s the catch?” I ask.
“What?” Scarlet replies.
“What’s Neva’s catch?”
“She wants us to pretend we don’t know her while on the quest. To act like we’ve never seen her in our lives. She says if we’re willing to do that she would arrange for our banishment curse to be lifted after we return from the quest. That we would be free to do what we like in Estoriana.”

The words hit me like a blow. She had asked me to come with her once before, but now it has conditions. She will only get them to lift our curse if we pretend not to know her. And she couldn’t even come tell me all this herself, she told Scarlet, and told Scarlet to tell me. She told Scarlet everything, and avoided me.

“And you will do what she asked? Pretend you don’t know her?” I asked, my voice level, hiding how much I was hurting behind a mask.
“Well, at least for now. If she betrays us though…” Scarlet replied, and I nodded.
“I’m not coming.” I stated, then turned away to look at the plains again.

Scarlet stared at me, and I waited for her to snap at me again, but she simply shrugged. “Fine, suit yourself. But keep this, in case you change your mind. I’m going to meet up with them on Earth.” Scarlet then stood and left, leaving me alone to my thoughts again.

She chose to talk to Scarlet instead of me. She chose her over me.

My gaze dropped to the book on the ground beside me. It was ornately decorated, and the prophecy was written in glittering gold calligraphy. I read through the lines.

Two worlds lie on oblivion’s edge, separated by an unbreachable wedge
Cast aside the rift torn by centuries’ rage, unite to escape your fate’s cruel cage
Each stanza below is one’s destined call, take heed Legacies, for split apart you fall

Journey through worlds both familiar and strange, as the pieces of the map slowly rearrange
Leading to the realm where all tales are kept, the forbidden haven where no mortal has stepped
There we shall await you at journey’s end, where salvation will come from the hand of a friend

Far far away beneath sunset skies, from belief’s last ember a new hope shall rise

Unite? Hope shall rise? Yeah right. There is no way Estorianians and Exilians could unite, and hope? That word means nothing.

I read down further, and a chill ran down my spine when I neared the last lines.

The girl born between two worlds, two sides war deep within, child of dark and of light
Concealed hope the faded memories keep alive, slowly succumbing to the loathing that blinds
As chains of bitterness are finally severed, dawn at last breaks through the endless night


I certainly felt like I was born between two worlds. But the rest of it? No, it’s all nonsense. I shook my head and closed the book harshly, shoving it away from me. I refuse to believe all this nonsense. Neva doesn’t want me to join her anyways, I’m on my own from now on. She left me. I never could compete with Saskia anyways, she never let me get close once Saskia abandoned her. I don’t know why I tried.

But I knew why I tried.

After an hour or so of staring blindly out over the plains, I finally stood and began walking home, leaving the book on the cliff. Home. I’ve never truly felt like I knew what ‘home’ was. I barely saw everything around me, my feet knew the way home anyways, and soon I was in front of my door. When I was little, we lived in a cave, hiding, but once Mom died Dad moved us to live closer to the other villains. He even built himself a castle, despite not originally having a title before he met Mom. He had become Exilian nobility due to making himself indispensable in the planning for revenge.

I knew he wouldn’t be home at this hour, he was likely with all the other Exilian leaders, planning revenge, like always. They planned and planned, but never made a move. Maybe they never would. Neva’s words came back to me then, Maybe nobody was in the right all along. How do we know that there’s no truth to what the descendants say? There are no good guys here.

I climbed the spiral staircase to my room in the tower, then sat on my window seat and looked out the window at the desolate landscape. There was an aching hole in my chest, Neva took a piece of me with her when she left. I miss you, but why should I follow you on this crazy quest? You didn’t want me with you when you began it.

Just then, a shadow wraith flew into my room, and I leapt to my feet to face it warily. The wraith hovered in front of me, the edges of its shape blurring into smoky tendrils. It hovered for a moment, then dove towards me, and when I raised my hands over my head in protection, the wraith dropped something heavy into my hands before continuing over my head and disappearing out my window.
I slowly lowered my arms and saw it had dropped a gilded book in my hands, Tales of Estoriana. I had left this book on the cliff for a reason! I threw it onto my bed with a growl of frustration, and a paper fluttered out from inside the cover, twirling to my floor.

I knelt on my floor and picked up the paper, and saw it was a note. I recognized the handwriting immediately, and my hands began to shake as I read the note.


Mireya,

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the cause of all these strange events throughout the magical realms. All the disappearances, and the natural disasters, even the thinning of the veil between worlds, going all the way back to that first earthquake.
Humans are losing their faith in magic, and in turn, all of the magical realms are slowly but surely fading away. But a new prophecy has been forged, within the pages of this book I’m sending you. According to this, the person who is summoning us is none other than the Author responsible for all of our tales.
And he is calling for us. Mireya, I know that part of this prophecy is talking about you and me.
I know you have no reason to trust in the descendants or their magic. But… if this is true, if we could meet the person behind all of our stories, could you imagine what that could entail? And in this one instance, I believe we can believe what the descendants are saying. After all, it’s their lives on the line too.
In two days, we will be traveling to Earth, to the place where the words “once upon a time” were first spoken. In a small village called Santoff Claussen, deep in the forests to the east of Siberia.
I know you might not want to speak to me right now. I know you might not want to see me. But this is so much bigger than us now.

Mireya, I need you. Please.

Neva



Tears filled my eyes then, tears of anger, tears of pain, tears of frustration, tears of relief that she wanted me to join her, tears of confusion… all the tears I had held inside ever since I had watched her walk through the portal to Estoriana over a week ago. Here, inside my room, knowing Father was away, with no one here to see or hear me, I let myself weep until I fell sleep.

The next morning, I broke things in my room. I stormed around. I screamed.

Then I hugged the letter to me.

Then I threw it on the floor and sat by the window again.

Why should I go to her? She is the one who left me. Twice. Why should I believe her about this stupid prophecy? This quest? Why should I risk everything and go to some tiny village in the middle of nowhere? Why should I care about what is happening? It’s not like it matters anyway, I’ve lost everything I truly cared about… Mother… the caring father he used to be…. Neva….

I have nothing left.

She never asked me to come in the first place.
But she was asking me to join her now.

She left me. But she says she needs me. I could feel the desperation in the last lines of her note.

She needs me.

Yes, she left me. Yes, she hurt me. Yes, this prophecy seems crazy. But I haven’t lost everything yet, she is still out there, and she needs me.

That decided me. I would go, despite it all, I would go to her, I cared about her too much to abandon her when she needed me. I would pretend not to know her, like she had asked of Scarlet, but at least I would be near her, and I would try to help. Somehow. I packed up a bag, changed out of the flowing skirts and dresses I favored into something more suitable for a quest into the unknown, and headed to my father’s study. I knew he stored extra portaling devices in his hidden storage room.

I felt along the wall for the invisible lever-panel, searching for the barely noticeable crevasse that marked it. I found the spot, pushed, and the wall slid open to reveal a small closet that held Father’s important things and extra portaling devices. I selected a small one that I hoped Father wouldn’t miss, shaped as a whistle the size of a finger, then quickly shut the wall and ran back to my room.

I pulled out the magic mirror from under my bed, which had been a gift from Neva years ago, and whispered where I wanted to see, memorizing what I saw. I held the location firmly in my mind, picked up my bag, squared my shoulders, took a deep breath, then opened the portal and stepped through.

I shivered in the cold of my new surroundings, and looked around at the snow laden forest I now stood in. I was in the edge of the forest that lined the east of Siberia, but not very deep inside of it. I didn’t want to go far before I found Neva and the group of Estorianians. I found a huge snow-covered tree that had a hollow inside it, and crawled inside the relative shelter to wait for the questers to arrive. It had been a day and a half since Neva sent the note to me, and I hoped they would portal to Siberia soon.

I didn’t know how I would find them in the huge forest, or how we would find this village deep in the woods, but I had to hope I would be able to find them. If I was somewhere that had magic, I would be able to find them by using the music I had inherited from Father. He always used it to lead people and children wherever he wanted to lead them, but I think I would have be able to reverse it and let the music lead me to Neva and the questers - if only Earth had magic! I resigned myself to waiting until the morning and hoping I would be able to find them.

I wrapped my robe tighter around me and tried to bundle up for the night, humming a mindless tune, wishing I could letting the music wrap around me to keep me warm like I could in Exilia. I pulled out the glowing orb that had been my mother’s, and the book Neva had sent to me. I opened the book to the beginning and started reading the stories of my ancestors. The original tales, the first banishment of my mother’s people, the descendants of my mother’s people returning to Estoriana and overthrowing my father’s people, the banishment of my father’s people to Exilia, how my father’s people kidnapped the rulers of my mother’s people, how the children of the Estorianian rulers saved their parents and themselves from my father’s people, and how my mother’s people hunted down my father’s people from every corner of the planet and banished them all to Estoriana - even those who were innocent or had tried to change.

Everything had pieces of similarities to the stories I had grown up being told about, but everything was also so completely different from what I had been told! This book was told from the perspective of my mother’s people, the Estorianians, the perspective which labeled me and my father’s people as villains.

This book is crazy! This isn’t how I was told everything happened. Then I remembered what Neva had said, the day we fought.

You’ll never stop to listen to another side of the story, because it’s just so much easier to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Maybe nobody was in the right all along.
How do we know that there’s no truth to what the descendants say?
There are no good guys here.


That part deep inside me whispered again about how what my father had done before meeting Mom was wrong. But what they did to my Mom was wrong. Banishing innocent people was wrong. Banishing people who had tried to change was wrong. Not giving anyone the chance to try to change was wrong.

What the Estorianians say about us might have some truth to it. Maybe this book has some truth to it too - but it definitely leaves some things out. Our parents may twist the truth, but the Estorianians do the same by saying that all people with skeletons in their past will never change, and therefore must be exiled - without giving them a chance or looking at how they have tried to change.

Maybe nobody was in the right all along. Maybe there really are no good guys here.




(Hope everyone is fine with this! Glory, hope you are ok with what I did with Scarlet!!)

Last edited by Liri Dazzlebeam; 03-18-2020 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 03-18-2020, 02:14 AM
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Amazing posts Kira and Liri! It's so great to see more of Ava and Forest's interactions, and I like Ava and Lissa's quest outfits.

I love the way you write Mireya's inner conflict, Liri! Can't wait to explore more of her and Neva's relationship.
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Old 03-20-2020, 07:10 AM
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Fantastic posts, Kira and Liri. One advantage of social distancing, I have more time to write now haha.



The next few days flew by in a blur. I threw myself into preparations for the quest ahead, refusing to stop and let myself think.
She’s not gone, I told myself, whenever the grief felt overwhelming. We’re going to save them. We’ll bring them all back! I couldn’t let myself believe otherwise.
Before I knew it, the big day had arrived. I woke up, packed my bags, and dressed in a simple linen shirt and matching pants. They flowed around me, loose and comfortable in the Agrabah style, but much less fine than the usual silks that royalty wore.

“Soraya!” Mom called out as I prepared to leave. She put her hands on her hips. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” she was holding up my copy of Tales of Estoriana, as well as a thick traveling cloak.
“Oops.” I winced. “Thanks, Mom!”
She sighed. “I had better check over your things for you. The area on Earth where you’re going is a cold, wintery place, you know. You’d better dress warmly.”
I hadn’t thought of that. Growing up in Agrabah, I’d never had much chance to experience extreme cold. “Sorry,” I mumbled. “I didn’t think of that.”
“You got used to your sister remembering all the practical details for you, huh?” Mom said gently, her eyes full of a depthless sorrow.
I hung my head. “Yeah. I always thought it was annoying, but… now I realized how much I’ve been depending on her.” My voice cracked.
Mom pulled me into a hug. “It’s going to be alright,” she whispered into my hair. “You’re strong, Soraya. Stronger than you know. You’re going to succeed, just believe in yourself.”
I nodded. Though your smile may soon be shadowed by sorrow, keep in your heart the hope for tomorrow. That had been part of my prophecy. The meaning was painfully clear now, as well as what I had to do. For a moment, I missed Amani so much that I could hardly breathe. Sometimes, you didn’t know to appreciate someone and all the ways they’d been looking out for you, until they were gone.
“I’ll bring her back, I promise,” I said determinedly. “You can count on me, Mom.”
She laughed. “Well, first things first. Did you remember to pack extra clothes? Matches? A map and compass?”
We went over the contents of my bag carefully, and I was ashamed to realize that, though I’d thought myself prepared, there were several things that I simply hadn’t thought of. Mom smiled. “I’ve been on countless trips for my old job as a travel writer. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in the jungle without an insect-repelling potion! Or the frozen tundra without a way to light a campfire. These are things you’re going to have to learn, Soraya. This is your first trip by yourself.” She sighed. “In hindsight, there’s so much your sister and I should’ve taught you.”
By the time she’d ensured I had everything I needed, I knew I was behind schedule. I’d have to fly fast to reach the meeting spot in time. I hugged my parents goodbye, and then Carpet and I took to the skies.

When I arrived at the Grove, I could tell that I was one of the last to arrive. I saw to my elation that Noelle, Ayla and Lissa, the girls I had met at the Reunion Ball, had already arrived. It was great that I knew some of the people here, and I could already tell they would be the perfect people to go on an adventure with.
But then the reality of the situation hit once again, and I faltered, my strength wavering. Oh, Amani… could we really pull this off? Will I ever see you again?
It’s too much responsibility! I can’t even do my own packing properly. How can I be asked to save all of Estoriana… how can I save you?

Noelle looked at me with concern. “Soraya? What’s wrong?”
I bit my lip, struggling to hold back tears. “It’s… it’s my sister. She’s also…” I trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
Noelle’s face fell as the realization hit. “I’m so sorry.”
Najila immediately pulled me into a tight embrace, both of us holding onto each other for strength and comfort. She’d lost someone to this terrible curse as well, and it was a pain that only we understood.
“We’re going to save her,” Ayla said solemnly. “Soraya, your sister, and Najila’s dad, all of them… we’re going to save them all.”
After a moment, I pulled back, smiling a bit shakily. “Thank you. It – it’s part of my prophecy lines, after all. Though shadowed by sorrow, there’s hope yet for tomorrow. So I believe that means there’s still a chance. It’s not too late for her.”
The news about my sister put a damper on the excitement that had been bubbling to the surface for all of us. We all knew the gravity of the situation. Thrilled though we were for a storybook adventure, this was so much bigger than that. Estoriana’s fate – and the fate of all the fairytale worlds – rested in our hands now.
“Wait!” We heard a voice cry out, and a girl with long, white-blonde hair appeared at the edge of the clearing. She’d clearly run here in a hurry, and she was almost panting with exertion now.

Noelle looked at her in surprise. “Neva? Were you part of the prophecy too?” It was true that I didn’t know her well, but it didn’t seem like any of the lines were referring to her. In fact, besides those belonging to the people gathered here, the remaining lines of the prophecy seemed almost… sinister.
“No,” she admitted, glancing down shyly. “But… Noelle, you and your family were so kind in taking me in. I want to try and repay you, in any way I can. It’s not like I can do much here, just sitting around. I’m not part of the Varden, so I can’t help keep Arendelle from fading away. I want to help with your quest, if that’s all right with all of you?” she looked around, blue eyes brimming with hope.
“That’s very kind of you… but we don’t know where exactly this quest will end up taking us,” Yue warned, her smile tinged with a touch of worry. “We don’t want to have to endanger anyone unnecessarily.”
“I know… thank you for thinking of me.” Neva bit her lip. “But I have my own reasons for wanting to come, too. If I can meet the Author… I’d like to ask him what happened to my family, and some of the friends who were imprisoned with me on Exilia. I really need to know what became of them. And you don’t need to worry about me. I’ve been on my own for years, and I can handle myself.”
“I think it’s fine!” Tamsin piped up. “After all, both Aspen and I are coming along.”
“The more, the merrier!” Najila agreed.
“It’s settled then!” Noelle flashed a grin at Neva. “Welcome aboard!” She glanced down at the open Tales of Estoriana in front of her. “But it seems we still don’t have all of the people who are supposed to be going on the quest,” she mused. “And from the sounds of the prophecy, not everyone we’re supposed to meet is from Estoriana.”
“Yeah, Dad said that too,” Ayla said. “He knew Katherine best, after all. He thinks that some of the people the prophecy was referring to are probably from Earth.” She hesitated. “From the sounds of it… some of them might be from Exilia, too.”
There was a tense silence around the group.
“Would we be able to trust them?” Noelle spoke the words we were all thinking.
“Well, after all, our mom was born on Exilia,” Tamsin spoke up. Was it just my imagination, or did she and her brother look suddenly nervous for some reason? “And she chose a better path.”
“Good point!” Neva piped up. There seemed to be a great sadness in her eyes, something she was trying to hide from the rest of us. “Is it really fair to assume everyone on Exilia is pure evil? Some could have simply been born at the wrong time and place.”
“You’re both right,” Noelle agreed. “I’m sure Katherine wouldn’t have called for someone to go on this quest if they couldn’t be trusted.”
“Is this everyone then?” Najila asked, glancing around.
“For now.” Yue stood up. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll encounter the other members of the prophecy on our journey. Dad always said that whether it’s fate, or destiny, or simply the bonds between us that were meant to be, somehow we would always be led to those we most need to meet.” She flushed slightly when everyone’s attention turned to her. Yue had always been quiet and soft-spoken, preferring not to speak up unless she really had something important to say.
“Yue’s right!” Ayla jumped up and put an arm around her sister’s shoulder. “After all, Dad’s helped to save Estoriana twice now, so clearly he knows what he’s talking about!”
“Well, what are we waiting for then?” Noelle jumped onto the large, smooth boulder she had been leaning again, and raised her fist into the air. “For Estoriana!”
“For Estoriana!” We all echoed.

Noelle raised the portalling device high into the air, and in a rush of wind, our surroundings began to change.
I found myself standing next to Neva as we prepared to teleport to Earth. I knew that I hadn’t imagined the sadness in her eyes earlier.
“You’ve lost someone too, haven’t you?” I asked gently. She glanced at me in surprise, something unreadable in her expression. I shrugged. “You don’t have to tell me everything. But know I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

The scenery around us shifted to a snow-laden forest. All around us were tall, thin coniferous trees that rose high into the winter-gray sky. Snow gathered on the ground, thick up past our ankles. More of it was falling from the sky, in gently drifting flakes.
“W-wow,” I pulled my cloak tighter around myself. “S-so this is what a winter is like!”
Ayla grinned. “You’ll get used to it! It’s a lot of fun, I promise.”
Around me, I heard a few startled exclamations as we adjusted to the Land Without Magic. It was some of the questers’ first trip to Earth, and the sensation of suddenly being without powers took some getting used to. I couldn’t relate, having no magic of my own, but I carefully stuffed the now-ordinary Carpet into my bag for safekeeping.
We all looked to Ayla and Yue for guidance – after all, it was their father’s clue that had led us here.
Yue was holding a map up to the dark night sky. It had been midmorning when we’d left Estoriana, but here on Earth, it was still midnight, the stars barely visible with the light snowfall. Ayla pointed ahead. “Santoff Claussen should be in that direction!”
“Look!” Tamsin exclaimed, pointing. “Is that a light, glowing in that tree over there?” Sure enough, a small, flickering light was emanating from what seemed to be a huge hollow tree.
I frowned. “Who would be out here, in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night?”



I was still pondering Neva’s mysterious disappearance and strange conversation with me some time later. She didn’t reappear during the next meeting, and Mireya didn’t show up either, though I knew she at least was still on Exilia. For now, I decided to put it out of my mind. Strange tales had begun to spring up, about villagers throughout Exilia reporting their friends and relatives mysteriously vanishing into thin air. The already-sparse farmland was drying up, and the seasonal storms over the empty wasteland were even worse than usual. People were beginning to panic, and even the Council was postponing their imminent attack on Estoriana, though they still planned their revenge in between discussions of these strange phenomenon.
A few days later, Neva cornered me in the marketplace again, this time dragging me into an empty shop at the edges of the market where we wouldn’t be overheard.
I folded my arms and regarded her from across the room. “What’s this about, Neva? And why the secrecy?”
She kept to the shadows, peering out to make sure she wasn’t seen by any of the Exilians who happened to be walking by. My curiosity grew. Whatever she was up to, it had to be something she couldn’t let the Council of Exilia know. Otherwise, why the skulking around?
“I don’t want to deal with the questions right now,” Neva replied. “But this is an urgent matter.”

I waited, and she relayed the whole story. About the disappearances, and other strange occurrences, and what was at the root of it all. And finally, the prophecy and the quest for the Author.
“So that’s where you’ve been this whole time? With the descendants?” I looked at her incredulously. “What have you been doing this whole time with them? How did you get past the banishment curse?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Neva said curtly. “What’s important now is that the fate of Exilia hangs in the balance, too. And the prophecy… I think there’s a line about you.” I handed her a copy of Tales of Estoriana that I had taken from the Arendelle library. I watched as she read through the lines, slowly.
“Even if what you say is true, and it’s the humans who are causing this… what reason do we have to trust the descendants and this ‘Author’ of theirs?” I asked suspiciously.
“I’ve seen firsthand that whoever is writing this book has preternatural knowledge. Besides, the descendants don’t know who I am, they have no reason to try and fool me. This is all of their lives at stake, too,” Neva replied. What, so I’m just supposed to trust your word on this? After all your sneaking around, your lies and half-truths?
I must’ve still looked dubious, so she pressed on. “The Author of all our tales, Scarlet! Don’t you want to meet him, even beyond saving the world? Think of all he knows, what power he possesses. Think of what we might do with a power like that.”

“And one more thing,” Neva added, before I could respond. “I need you to pretend we don’t know each other, while on the quest. Act like you’ve never seen me in your life. If you’re willing to do that… I can arrange for your banishment curse to be lifted, too, after we return. You’ll be free to do what you like in Estoriana. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”
“So, the descendants don’t know who you really are.” I studied me for a moment. Yet another thing I could use against her. This could be useful for future bargaining… if I agree to this, of course. “And you want me to help you deceive them.” I was still wondering what exactly it was she was up to, but I could tell I’d get no more answers from her.
“And while you’re at it, let Mireya know everything I’ve just told you. And show her the prophecy, too,” Neva added.
I raised an eyebrow. Are the two of them not on speaking terms? “You’re not going to tell her yourself?”
She didn’t answer, careful to keep any emotion from showing on her face. I shrugged. The intricacies surrounding their relationship weren’t particularly important to me anyway. “Not that it’s any of my business. Okay, Neva. It’s a deal. I’ll come to meet this ‘Author’, and I won’t reveal who you really are.”
Turning to leave, I wondered to myself how much she could really be trusted. My instincts told me that there was still a lot she was leaving out. That was how it was usually with Neva, lies, deceptions and manipulation. She had the sharpest mind of the three of us, no doubt, but people who built mountains of half-truths tended to be vulnerable to any curveballs that hit their carefully-constructed falsehoods. And clearly, this was something she did not want the other Exilians to find out. If it turned out she planned to betray us, I could definitely use that against her.
I would play along for now, I decided. I didn’t have anything to lose, after all, and Neva was right about one thing – meeting the Author behind all of our fates was definitely something that intrigued me. What kind of power could such a person hold? Was there a way I could seize it for myself?
________________________________________

I went looking for Mireya later that day, finally finding her on the cliff above the plains, sitting on the edge and staring out over the land. I took a seat beside her, silent for a few minutes, then finally spoke.
“I saw Neva today.” She remained silent. “She asked me to tell you something.”
“I don’t really want to hear anything she has to say right now.” Mireya said in a monotone voice, continuing to look out at the plains.
I sighed in exasperation at her attempt to brush me off, then snapped. “Well this is bigger than you and your hurt feelings, Mireya.” Again, I had no patience for whatever little drama was playing out between the two of them.
She finally turned to looked at me, her gaze remote. I couldn’t decipher what she was feeling – and I didn’t really care, either way. “Fine. You can say what you came here to say. I don’t promise to care or do anything about it though.”
I rolled her eyes, “Well you better care. This affects all of us.”

She looked out over the plains while I told her about the disappearances, and other strange occurrences, and what was at the root of it all. And finally, the prophecy and the quest for the Author. I then opened the book I had with me, “Tales of Estoriana.”, which Neva had left behind.
“Look, this is the prophecy.” I said, “And Neva says there are lines in here about you and about me, she claims that means we are meant to be on this quest.”
Mireya laughed dryly at that, “You can’t really believe all that.”
“I didn’t. I asked why we should believe this, and why we should trust the Estorianians and their ‘Author.’ But Neva claims she has seen evidence that the Author has preternatural knowledge, and that the Estorianians don’t have any reason to deceive her because they think she is one of them.” I stated calmly, my voice neutral. Just relaying the facts. “She says all of our lives are at stake, the Estorianians and Exilians. And,” I paused, “if we were to meet the Author… think of what he knows, what we might do with a power like that?”
Mireya remained silent for a while, thinking it all over. “What’s the catch?” she finally asked.
“What?” I replied, playing innocent.
“What’s Neva’s catch?”
“She wants us to pretend we don’t know her while on the quest. To act like we’ve never seen her in our lives. She says if we’re willing to do that she would arrange for our banishment curse to be lifted after we return from the quest. That we would be free to do what we like in Estoriana.”

The words seem to hit her like a blow, though she was quick to hide the initial reaction. Not fast enough for me not to notice, though. I sighed inwardly. Even after my warning to her, she was still getting involved, giving Neva far too much power over her.
“And you will do what she asked? Pretend you don’t know her?” Mireya asked, her voice level.
“Well, at least for now. If she betrays us though…” I replied, and she nodded, grasping my meaning. Well. At least she was not a complete fool.
“I’m not coming.” Mireya stated, then turned away to look at the plains again.
I looked at her for a moment, and she seemed to be waiting for me to snap a retort. For a moment, I was temped to, but decided not to waste my time and simply shrugged. “Fine, suit yourself. But keep this, in case you change your mind. I’m going to meet up with them on Earth.” I then stood and left, leaving me alone to my thoughts again.
If Mireya had no interest, I certainly wasn’t going to waste my breath on her. Sure, the descendants’ prophecy said we needed her, but why should I trust their magic? Despite what Neva had said, I had no reason to follow their plans. It wasn’t like I had much reason to trust the daughter of the Snow Queen, either.
______________________________________

“So, you decided to show after all?” I smirked as I climbed into the trunk of the hollow tree where Mireya sat, huddled against the cold. “What made you change your mind?”
She looked up from the open book in her lap, scowling. “It’s none of your business.”
“Don’t tell me it’s that book?” I nodded to Tales of Estoriana. “It sure tells a pretty tale, but who knows how much of it is true? You have to be careful what you choose to believe in.”
Mireya rolled her eyes, closing the book and shoving it away in her bag. “Don’t take me for a fool. Of course I know better. Even if there’s a shred of truth in this, there are clearly facts that they’ve obscured, truths that they’re twisting.”
I smirked. “Good to know you’re not that easily swayed.”
“And what do you choose to believe in?” she asked, turning the question around on me.
I shrugged. “It doesn’t particularly matter to me, either way. Things like justice, revenge, and whoever is in the right in these grand, epic stories don’t interest me. None of it’s my concern.”
“You don’t care about all those people, back on Exilia, banished there forever? Without even the chance at justice or a fair trial?” Mireya asked, the old resentment in her voice flaring up again. Of the three of us, she’d always been the most openly resentful towards the Estorianians, holding a personal grudge for what happened to her family. Like I’d told her, it didn’t concern me much, and I had no interest in satisfying anyone’s revenge fantasy. As for Neva… well, who knew what Neva wanted. “Not even your mother?”
I rolled my eyes. “My mother? It doesn’t matter whether she’s exiled or not. She’s already in a cage of her own making, so it barely even matters which world she gets to live on. Once, she had power and magic at her disposal. The dreaded Red Queen, who ruled over Wonderland with an iron fist and was taught magic by the Queen of Hearts herself. And look at her now, barely a shadow of her former self, having spent years as a pawn for Jafar. It all started because she couldn’t let go of her feelings for that thief. She made the sensible choice at one point, choosing the life of a queen instead of a homeless vagabond with him.” An edge crept into my voice. “But sometime over the years, she turned soft and foolish. She told me, once, that the decision to betray Will was the worst of her life. She’d thought he’d given up on her, you see. That cemented her decision to become the Red Queen. But later, she said that if it hadn’t been for the banishment… she’d have wanted to try and find him again, and make things right.”
Mireya surveyed me carefully, as if seeing me for the first time. We’d never really talked with any sort of honesty before. We had been allies of a sort, growing up, the closest thing to friends that I allowed myself to indulge in. And it was true that Neva, at least, had always pretended to be friendly to me. But this was the first time I had spoken openly like this.
Well, she wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I needed an ally at the moment.

“So the name Scarlet…”
I made a noise of disgust. “A name chosen by a fool. Her Will Scarlet and your Neva. Both of them are chains that will only drag you down. You’re bound to her, even now, after she abandoned you.”
“What makes you think I’m still bound to her?” Mireya asked coldly, her face carefully expressionless. “That she still means anything to me at all.”
“I’m not a fool,” I answered. I nodded to the book she just put away. “You’re very good at hiding your emotions, I’ll give you that. But that isn’t the book I gave you, it’s another copy. Neva sent that to you, didn’t she? And then you immediately rushed out here, despite how adamant you were about refusing to come.”
“You’re just assuming things. I have my own reasons for coming, that I’m not interested in disclosing to you,” she replied, still in that emotionless voice, giving nothing away. But I knew that I had not guessed wrong, and despite her careful control, I’d struck a nerve. “But since you’re in such a sharing mood today, why don’t you tell me why you’re so interested in this so-called quest?”
“I want the legacy of my bloodline.” I replied. “The magic, the freedom, the power to do whatever I want and rule over others. That had always been our birthright, and it’s the only thing that matters to me.”
“So you do want to reclaim Estoriana, even if you’re not interested in revenge,” she said, studying me carefully.
“How about we make a deal too?” I asked her now. I held out a hand. “We work together to deceive the descendants. We’ll get to this ‘Author’ first and obtain what we want out of him. You help me learn the secrets of the descendants’ magic and how to take back control of Wonderland, and I’ll aid you in whatever revenge you want to strike against the descendants. Or I can help you win back Neva, remind her what side she’s supposed to be on. Though I’ve warned you getting too close is a bad idea, if that’s what you want…”
It wasn’t an offer of friendship, but an alliance. After all, we would soon be surrounded by the children of our sworn enemies. It would be in both our best interests to have someone we could trust, if only until we met the Author and got what we wanted from him. Unlike Neva, I had no reason to betray her, or leave her behind, as long as we remained useful to each other.


(You handled Scarlet perfectly, Liri! I hope you’re also okay with what I did with Mireya. I think it would make sense for the villain kids to form some sort of alliance, since it will take awhile for both sides to start trusting each other.
Also, I’m not completely sure what’s going to happen in Santoff Claussen and beyond, could you clarify? Are we supposed to be finding literal pieces of a map that, when put together, will lead us to the Author? Basing off the line in the prophecy that says “As the pieces of the map slowly rearrange”.
Since our first stop is a place that was significant to Jack’s past, I assumed we will be traveling to places that will be important to each of our characters’ pasts, their parents’ pasts, and/or their fairy tale ancestors.
That’s what I’m assuming is going to happen at least, please let me know if I’m wrong.)
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Old 03-20-2020, 10:13 PM
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Fantastic post Glory! And you played Mireya perfectly as well I agree they should have their own little alliance as well. Thanks for not leaving her alone out there haha.


To answer your question, I hadn't originally figured that out yet, but in bouncing ideas off Night and using the idea you put out here too, we came up with an idea - let us know what you all think!


Here it is:

At every one of the locations the Legacies go to, they learn a lesson or an idea about the importance of stories and how to restore belief (Whether learning about past stories, learning what the importance is [besides the importance to them of not fading away themselves, the importance for non fairytale people as well; learning that it gave people hope, brought people together in hard times, gave people an escape, etc. ], learning how the tales were spread originally, other ideas we come up with).

But they ALSO find a piece of a map that they think will be able to lead them to the Author. As well, they keep running into a mysterious woman every time they're learning a lesson/they’ve finished learning a lesson (Katherine in disguise). And maybe the whole time, they’re being pursued by some mysterious villains who want to take the Author’s power for themselves. At the climax of the story, our characters put the map pieces together, but then the map gets stolen by these nefarious people. Our characters despair over their “failure”, but they resolve that even if they can’t find the Author, they’ll use the lessons they learn to try and restore belief on their own. That’s when they resolve to become the bridges between the human and fairytale worlds! And finally, Katherine appears to them and reveals who she is, and tells them that actually, the map was a red herring all along - this journey was really about the lessons they’ve learned! Then she takes them to the Author’s realm, because the true way to access it is to be granted entrance from someone inside who deems you worthy.

Then they take what they learned and put it into action to bring back belief and become the bridges between worlds!


As for where the locations will be, Santoff Claussen is where "fairytales" began on Earth (if we follow with the Guardian books), and is significant to all of them for that reason, not just as significant to Jack and Katherine. But I agree that the Legacies should travel to some places that relate to their fairytale ancestors, but also locations that are important to fairytales in general. Maybe where the Brothers Grimm lived? Where some of the human "fairytale writers" lived? But also to places on other planets too. We can come up with locations as we go, and we can talk about them more on Discord too



Thoughts?
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Old 03-21-2020, 09:44 PM
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That's an excellent idea! I like it.

Hmm, if our characters are to become the bridges between the worlds, maybe each of them could personify a different aspect of the importance of storytelling? Fairy tales, and stories in general, can affect people in so many ways, their meaning to each of us is unique and subjective. Some can inspire hope, or joy, or find meaning in dark times. I think it might be interesting if each of the characters who go on this quest goes on to embody the true spirit of storytelling in their own unique way, based on how their character develops.
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:48 AM
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I lay upon a rock that overlooks the majestic kingdom of Atlantica. The currents carried the sound of music and laughing merchildren over to where I reside. For as long as I could remember, I always watched from the sides. Never engaging, never playing, always hiding. I learned at an early age what the merfolk think of my kind when I approached a young mermaid in the hopes of making a friend. She, being an ignorant child, smiled when she saw me, her eyes bright and curious. That all disappeared when her mother noticed who her child was interacting with and quickly whisked her away. I could just barely hear the mother saying "never go near that creature" as they swam off. Oh, how painful and confusing that was for a child like me. What was wrong with me? Why did she have to leave? Did I do something wrong? All those questions and more plagued my mind for several years as I grew up as an outcast. Soon that hurt turned to anger. I'd lay awake at night having to listen to the sounds of their music-filled parties they would have way too often. It was unbearable. I eventually found a way to have a little fun with them, though. Around that time I began to discover that I was more than just a normal cecaelia. I had the power to transform my body into other mer-like forms! For a while, I could only change the bottom half of me but that was good enough. I could get closer to some of the merfolk now and play harmless (well… mostly harmless) pranks on them. As long as they didn't see my face, I was safe. I also found that I could swim faster with different tails which motivated me to start exploring beyond the outskirts of Atlantica. I'd meet other fish that were less scared of me and, even better, I'd find unique trinkets and treasures that I would take back to home to create and tinker with. My home was an underground cave I discovered as a child while playing around in the coral shallows outside of Atlantica. It was far enough away from all the hustle and bustle of the merfolk but still close enough for me to find some decent spots to observe their activities (or secretly engage in a few of them). I soon learned to enjoy the life I'd created. As I entered my teen years, all that hurt and anger began to mellow out a bit. Now, I play pranks just for fun, not so much for revenge or payback. I still explore, venturing out a little farther and farther every day. I've started to make my own accessories with some of the items I bring back from my travels too. But most importantly, I've continued to work on growing as a shapeshifter. Now, at sixteen years old, I finally have a convincing mermaid and merman form. I've yet to try them out on any unsuspecting merfolk, though.

"Hey, hand me that seaweed bunch over there!" The sound of a mermaid's voice pierced through my thoughts. I focused my attention on the scene happening below. 'This should be good.'
"Here ya go!" A merman said, swimming over with the seaweed.
'This seems like a good opportunity to try out my new self.' I thought with a small smirk. I vanished behind the rock I had once been laying on and, in the blink of an eye, came out from below looking like I had been a mermaid all my life. My brunette locks were floating out behind me as I swam towards the pair of merpeople, who were using the seaweed to decorate the space around them. "Hey, do you two need any help?" I asked with an innocent smile. The pair turned to face me, looking caught off guard by my arrival. "Oh, um, I don't know…" The merman trailed off. "Who are you?" The mermaid asked. "My name's Maris. I was just out for a little swim and saw you decorating and thought I'd try to help out. I understand if you'd rather do this yourselves tho-" "No, it's alright." The merman interjected, "You just surprised us, that's all." "We probably could use the help." The mermaid said, "I'm Laken, by the way." "And I'm Cal." I shook their hands, "It's nice to meet you both. I'm glad I can be of assistance."
Laken chuckled, "We're glad too. It looked like it was going to take forever to decorate for the royal family's going away party."
'Going away party?' I repeated in my head
"Yeah, it's not every year they go to Estoriana for some mysterious get-together." Cal added
"Right," I said, feeling very confused, "What is this 'get-together' again?"
"I heard someone mention that it's some kind of ball." Laken explained, "I don't know what for."
"Does anyone know?"
"Not normal merfolk like us." Cal said
"Yeah, they'd rather throw concerts and parties rather than focus on 'little merpeople'." Laken said
I chuckled, "You're right about that."

At this point, pranking Laken and Cal was the furthest thing from my mind. I had to find out more about this ball and whatever (or wherever) this "Estoriana" is.

'But how am I doing to do that?'

"Hey, Maris!" Laken's voice once again took me out of my head.
"Huh, what is it?" I said, worried I missed something important
"You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just… just thinking about something. What happened?"
"Oh, I just asked if you were going to be at the going-away party." Laken said.
I thought about it for a few moments before I was struck with an idea. An idea that would surely get me close to the royal family and this ball. "You know… I think I will be." I answered with a smile that, for the first time, was genuine.


Author's Note: Let me know if there's anything I need to fix.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:42 AM
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Awesome posts, Glory and Alexa!

That's a great idea too, Glory! New suggestions are always welcome.



Impossible to believe as it was, those kids who had disappeared from Loredale Private Academy were my only lead. I had no proof, of course, that they had anything to do with my mom’s disappearance. But it was just too strange for there not to be a connection. After all, people didn’t just disappear off the face of the Earth, without a single clue to be found.
I re-read the story Mrs. Ashton had indicated. It was one of my old favorites, about how the descendants of all the fairy tale characters we had grown up with returned to the magical realm of Estoriana to defeat the villains of their tales and reclaim their home. And, how did that story start again? With the kids being kidnapped from a school dance…
It couldn’t be a coincidence.
I searched all their names, but Mrs. Ashton had been right. It was like all records of them had mysteriously vanished, just like that. Like they’d simply disappeared…
“People don’t just disappear,” I whispered out loud, though the words were swallowed up by the dark.
They don’t.

But I had no other leads, so I went searching. Using their names as told in the Tales of Estoriana book, I tried looking for people they might have once known or been in contact with.
“Oh… I…” an elderly matron at an orphanage that had been mentioned in the book frowned at my inquiry. “I… vaguely remember someone by that name, but it was so long ago… and my memory is so foggy for some reason…”
“Well, it’s possible one of those children stayed here,” a woman from one of the host families for the Californian exchange students said to me. “But after so many years, I’m afraid I can’t tell you any details about them.”
I sighed. The sun had almost completely dipped over the horizon by now, and I still didn’t have a single lead. I was just about to give up for the day and return to Lydia’s place, when my cell phone rang. I picked it up immediately. “Hello?”
“Is this Miss Katerina Vasilevskiy?” It was the voice of an elderly woman, soft and gentle.
“Yes?”
There was a slight pause. “I heard that you wanted to talk to me about the children who disappeared from Loredale, forty years ago.”
“Yes!” I clutched the phone excitedly. “Do you know anything about them?”
Once again, there seemed to be some hesitation on the other end. “Why do you want to know?” the woman asked, her voice still kind, but a little cautious.
“Because my mother disappeared too,” I answered honestly. “And I think her disappearance and theirs is connected somehow.” This time, it was my turn to hesitate. “Does… does it have anything to do with Estoriana?”
“Estoriana,” the woman replied. “Is where this whole story began, once upon a time… and continues to this day.” I heard the wishful fondness in her voice. “Forty years ago, I took in 3 girls who went to Loredale Academy. Lillie Richmond, Ivory Faye, my own niece, Dove Lovely… and their friend Astrid Jane, whom they brought with them.”
I gripped the phone tightly. I’d read about those girls, and their unbreakable bond as friends and sisters, in Tales of Estoriana.
“Miss Vasilevskiy… do you believe in magic?” Miss Lovely asked.
“I’m starting to,” I replied.
“Let’s meet tomorrow, then,” Miss Lovely said. “I think we have much to talk about.”

I hung up the phone, giddy with excitement. Finally, I might be on the verge of getting some answers! About my mother, her disappearance, and the mysterious, magical doll she’d left behind. I turned to walk back to Lydia’s house, then stopped. It was almost completely dark out now, and from every shadowed corner and alleyway, a mass of hooded figures stood watching me. They had been so silent and so still, nearly blending into the shadows of the night, that it had taken me this long to notice them.
“Why are you looking into the case of the Loredale disappearances from forty years ago?” the hooded figure nearest to me asked in a low, cold voice.
I felt a chill creep up my spine. “I… I’m looking for someone,” I stammered. I took several steps backwards, the sense of danger almost overwhelming.
“You should not be looking into such things, little girl,” the man warned. “I knew another young woman, who also had a bad habit of looking into things she should well leave alone… yes, she looked quite a bit like you, in fact. If I’m not mistaken… this would have been around six years ago.
As the meaning of his words sank in, my fear was momentarily overcome with a sudden rush of hope. “Y-you know my mother? Where is she right now?” I demanded.
The man reached forward, and, in one swift motion, dragged me into the nearest alleyway, a hand covering my mouth to muffle my scream. “She was like you,” he murmured into my ear. “Snooping around, asking too many questions, poking her nose into places it did not belong. Girl from the world of magic lost… don’t you know that knowledge always demands a cost?”
Those words sparked something in me, a sense of recognition – where had I heard them before? But I had no time to wonder, as the world around me fell away into a dizzying kaleidoscope of changing shapes and colors. The shadowy London alleyway disappeared, and I felt a deep tug in the pit of my stomach, the sense of traveling, not through distance, but through time and space itself.

When that nauseating feeling finally subsided, we stood in a completely different place entirely. My gaze flitted around the enormous stone entryway, leading to some sort of medieval-style castle or fort. W-where am I? What’s happening?
I backed away from my captors, my heart pounding wildly, until my back hit the rough-hewn stone wall. I glanced around wildly, but I was surrounded, and there were no escape routes that I could see.
The man grinned at me, a feral, predatory expression. “You have nowhere to run, girl. Now, tell us everything you know about the Author.”
I blinked. I didn’t know what I had expected the captors to say, but it wasn’t that. “Au-author?” I stammered. “Y-you mean – the one who wrote this book? I – I don’t k-know who that is.”
“Don’t play dumb with us, girl!” the man grabbed me by the front of my shirt. “We know that Marya was looking for him, six years ago. And if you are her daughter, surely she must have told you something.”
“I – I d-don’t know anything! I swear!” I gasped. “I-I’m l-looking for her too. She disappeared six years ago. And she never said anything about an author!” I glanced down at the book in my hands. Strangely enough, beneath the title, where the name of the book’s writer should be, it merely said, “The Author”.
Who… who is this Author? Why was Mom looking for him?

I threw the heavy book at my captor, hitting him squarely in the face. While he was distracted, I whirled around him and bolted away, towards the exit. I stopped short. Beyond the entrance, on the drawbridge leading over an enormous moat, countless more of those hooded figures stood guard. I glanced behind me wildly, to see even more of them rushing my way.
They’re everywhere! There’s no way of escape. And I don’t even know where I am… we’re definitely not in London anymore.
There was a rustle in my bag. I remembered, suddenly, my mother’s doll. And surely enough, when I pulled the wooden toy out, her eyes were open once again.
Give me something to eat, Katerina.
“What?” I exclaimed.
It is an ancient magic, passed down in your bloodline. A doll gifted with a mother’s love, can grant you three requests, if you give her a little bit of food to eat.
Having no other options in sight, I pulled out one of Lydia’s cookies and handed it to her. “It’s all I have.”
The doll’s wooden mouth opened, impossibly, and nibbled at the cookie.
What would you request of me, Katerina Vasilevskiy?
“Get me out of here!” I begged. “Save me from these – whoever they are!”
As you wish.

Before my very eyes, the little doll suddenly grew to enormous size. She struck out with her wooden arms, sending several of the hooded captors flying. A few went overboard, straight into the moat below. The doll stood guard over me, batting away anyone who got too close, her black eyes fierce.
“There’s too many of them!” I gasped, shaking from terror, the shock and disbelief not quite sinking in. I had even more questions now, but they could wait.
The doll suddenly reached out and snatched something off of the man who had first grabbed me. He was stumbling to his feet, still dazed from the impact of the heavy book. The doll handed the object to me – a felt fedora hat.
“What’s this for?” I exclaimed.
It is a portalling device. The doll placed her now-enormous wooden finger on the hat. Simply send it spinning and close your eyes. I will take you to where you need to go.
Seeing no other choice, I did as she instructed, and closed my eyes. That tug in my stomach that sent me off-kilter came again, and the world spun away once more. When it came into focus again, I felt a deep chill that had nothing to do with fear run through my body. Snowflakes fell gently into my face and settled in my hair.
Snow… it’s cold. Am I back in St. Petersburg? I opened my eyes… to a sight that was at once completely unfamiliar.

I stood in the middle of a snowy forest. All around me, swirls of frost danced in the cold moonlight, and the boughs of the pine trees were weighed down by sheets of snow.
I glanced down. In one hand, I still held the fedora hat, and in the other, my wooden doll, back to her usual size.
There were shouts and the clatter of heavy footsteps behind me. I spun around to see the hooded captors burst out of a swirling cloud of kaleidoscopic colors… where I must have fallen through, too.
I bolted forward, running as fast as I could through the snowy forest. I didn’t know where I was going, only that I had to get away.
“Help!” I screamed, not knowing if anyone was out there. “Somebody! Help me!”

Out of the trees came a dozen or so figures, most of them dressed in long traveling cloaks. Several held swords or daggers, like this was some medieval fair. I stared in stunned silence as one girl with long white hair, floating several feet above the ground, aimed a blast of frosty wind right at the attackers. Together, these newcomers drove back my kidnappers, charging forward fearlessly until the hooded figures began stumbling backwards to avoid their blades.
One of the kidnappers cursed. “We’d better retreat, for now. We don’t have powers in this land, and it would be inconvenient to fight them here, so close to Santoff Claussen.”
“We know who you are, children of the prophecy,” the leader of the attackers spoke out in a booming voice that echoed through the trees. “And we know what you are looking for. But, if you value your lives, stop your search for the Author now. For there are forces far beyond your comprehension, who wield powers you can only imagine, and we seek his power too. Best to return to your worlds, and enjoy what time you have left, instead of wasting it on a fool’s journey.” And with that, he and his followers disappeared into the swirling depths of the portal that had brought me here.
“What did he mean by that?” one of the girls asked, but none of her companions seemed to understand the mysterious threat either. They then turned to me.

“I – my name is Katerina Vasilevskiy,” I stammered. “Thank you for saving me. I – one moment, I was in the middle of London, and the next, I ended up in some mysterious medieval-style castle with those guys. Then, I came through a… portal? And ended up here.”
“You’re welcome!” one of the girls grinned at me. She reached out a hand to help me up. “We’re the Legacies. It’s nice to meet you! So you’re a native of the Land Without Magic – or Earth, as you call it?”
Legacies? I didn’t really understand, but I took her hand. At the very least, they didn’t look hostile.
“Are you from… Estoriana?” I asked hesitantly.
“Yes!” One of the others exclaimed. “So, you’ve heard of us?”
“Well, not all of us,” said the girl who was floating in midair, grinning. “I’m one of the Guardians of Earth – or, at least, I will be!”
“I wonder…” a dark-haired girl mused. “Could she be part of the quest? Another person called by the prophecy, who we were destined to meet?”
“Wait,” I protested. As much as I needed to know what was going on, I didn’t know if I wanted to go along with these strange people, on whatever quest they claimed to be on. I wasn’t sure I could handle being thrown into more of the magical world. “I don’t know anything about your quest, or prophecy, or whatever it is! I just need to find someone…” I hesitated. “My mom. She looks almost exactly like me. Her name was Marya, and she disappeared about six years ago. I know that she was researching Estoriana at the time. Do any of you know of her?”
They all shook their heads.
But the girl with dark hair reached out a hand to me. “You can never really be sure of the shape that destiny will take. Maybe you’ll find her, if you continue on this journey. Do you want to come with us, even if it’s only to the village of Santoff Claussen? If it turns out this isn’t your destiny, you can go contact your family there. Or we can open a portal for you to Estoriana.”
I hesitated but took her hand eventually. It didn’t seem like I had much of a choice. I was stranded in a snowy forest, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people from a world of magic that I did not understand.

“So, is everyone here and accounted for?” one of the girls asked, glancing around at the aftermath of the altercation.
“Hey, has anyone seen Neva? I hope she wasn’t caught by those guys,” the girl with long brown hair in a red ribbon said worriedly.
“I’ll go look for her!” the white-haired girl declared, and flew off.



Noelle raised the portalling device high into the air, and in a rush of wind, our surroundings began to change.
“You’ve lost someone too, haven’t you?” someone beside me asked gently. I spun around in surprise, seeing Soraya gazing back at me. It took everything I had to keep my expression unreadable. Soraya shrugged. “You don’t have to tell me everything. But know I’m here if you ever want to talk.”
I felt a shock run through me. I’d never expected one of the descendants to be so perceptive… how had she noticed? I had been so careful, so very careful, to keep the pain of Saskia’s loss from showing on my face.
And her gentle kindness stunned me. You would never find that kind of easy camaraderie on Exilia, where most everyone was out for themselves and a few of the people they were close to. Such kindness, freely given among strangers, was as rare a sight as a flower blooming on those desolate plains.
For a moment, I was so envious that I couldn’t breathe. What must it be like, to live in a world with such gentle warmth?
I shoved it aside, moving it forcibly from my mind to concentrate on the mission at hand. One by one, we all leapt into the portal.

The scenery around us shifted to a snow-laden forest. All around us were tall, thin coniferous trees that rose high into the winter-gray sky. Snow gathered on the ground, thick up past our ankles. More of it was falling from the sky, in gently drifting flakes.
“W-wow,” Soraya pulled her cloak tighter around herself. “S-so this is what a winter is like!”
Ayla grinned. “You’ll get used to it! It’s a lot of fun, I promise.”
Around me, I heard a few startled exclamations as we adjusted to the Land Without Magic. It was some of the questers’ first trip to Earth, and the sensation of suddenly being without powers took some getting used to.
The descendants all looked to Ayla and Yue for guidance – after all, it was their father’s clue that had led us here.
Yue was holding a map up to the dark night sky. It had been midmorning when we’d left Estoriana, but here on Earth, it was still midnight, the stars barely visible with the light snowfall. Ayla pointed ahead. “Santoff Claussen should be in that direction!”
“Look!” Tamsin exclaimed, pointing. “Is that a light, glowing in that tree over there?” Sure enough, a small, flickering light was emanating from what seemed to be a huge hollow tree.
Soraya frowned. “Who would be out here, in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night?”

Nervous anticipation built up in my stomach. I had a pretty good guess as to who it might be.
Sure enough, a few moments later, Scarlet and Mireya emerged from the trunk of a hollow tree. Mireya was holding a floating light orb, the source of the illumination. They were both adorned in clothes for a long journey, Scarlet in a thick fur-lined cape, and Mireya having discarded her usual flowing silks and jewelry for a practical traveling cloak.
“Are you the Estorianians who will be going on the search for the Author?” Scarlet asked, stepping forward.
“Yes, but – “ Soraya frowned. “How did you know about us?”
For a moment, Scarlet’s eyes found mine in the crowd, and I tensed slightly, waiting to see what she would do. But her gaze merely brushed past me, as if I was only a glancing concern. There was no hint of recognition in her expression. Meanwhile, Mireya refused to look my way at all. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“From this.” Scarlet held out a copy of Tales of Estoriana. “We were summoned by the prophecy, same as you.”
For a moment, the two sides just gazed at each other, unsure of how to continue. So many years of enmity between our people had torn open a nearly insurmountable chasm between our worlds.
Then Noelle stepped forward, her smile bright as ever. “We’re glad to have you along!” she declared, as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
“Yeah!” Tamsin chimed in. She stepped forward with a wide grin. “You know, our mom was from Exilia too!”
I winced to myself. That was entirely the wrong thing to say. Mireya’s and Scarlet’s expressions didn’t change, but I could sense the resentment simmering. Exilians did not speak well of those who had abandoned us to join the descendants.
“Hmm, you know,” Noelle mused. “We should totally have a name for ourselves! You know, like how our parents are the Varden, and the rulers of Estoriana are called the Council of Light! If we’re going to carry on this legacy, shouldn’t we come up with a name of our own?”
I could tell Mireya was already done with this overly enthusiastic princess. I grinned to myself. The two of us had never been able to stand obnoxiously cheerful descendants like her. Just try living with her for a whole week!
“I love that idea!” I said, with pretend enthusiasm in my voice. You’ve got to get close to her, Neva, no matter what it takes.
“That’s it!” Ayla exclaimed. “What about ‘the Legacies’? Since we’re carrying on the legacy of generations of fairy tale descendants who came before us! And, like them, we’re embarking on a quest, into the unknown, to save our worlds from ruin!”
“It’s perfect!” Noelle clapped her hands in delight.
“I like it,” Ava agreed.
I added my voice to the chorus of assent, though I was inwardly rolling my eyes.

Before we could discuss it any further though, there was a commotion among the trees. “Help! Please, someone help me!” a girl’s voice screamed out, above the sound of heavy footsteps.
Immediately, the descendants ran towards the source of the noise, never missing an opportunity to rush to the rescue and strike a heroic pose… or whatever it was they were always doing. I hung back, having no interest in fighting. I could, of course, even without my powers, but I had no intention of showing what I could do in front of these people. Not when the element of surprise might come in useful if I ever had to turn against them. For now, appearing to be a fragile and helpless captive from Exilia suited me just fine.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mireya catch my gaze, then dart behind the trunk of an enormous snow-covered tree when no one was watching. I felt a pit of dread open inside me, but I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer. While everyone was distracted, I turned to join her.
I heard the commotion up ahead, saw several of the descendants already engaged in pushing back against a group of dark-hooded figures, but I ignored it. I’d go to see what the fuss was all about later. Now, I stayed out of sight behind the gigantic hollow tree, snow dusting my long silvery hair. Gazing at my – former? – friend.
“You came,” I said quietly.
“You asked me to,” she answered, her voice not quite cold – but the emotion in it was undiscernible.
I released a breath, watching it come out as a swirl of white on the chill breeze. “Thank you.”
Some emotion flickered across Mireya’s face before she brushed it away. “And yet you couldn’t be bothered to come ask me yourself.”
I rolled my eyes. “The descendants were too busy celebrating being chosen to go on this quest. The entire palace of Arendelle was ablaze with their cheer. I couldn’t slip away so often without appearing suspicious. Looking at them, you’d think this was some frivolous vacation around the world, instead of an attempt to save it from ruin.” I smiled mockingly. It certainly wasn’t a lie, but it was far from the full truth.
Mireya grinned back a bit, seemingly despite herself. We’d spent so much time together mocking the descendants and their flippant ways, while spying on them through my mother’s magic mirror.
But then her expression hardened once again. “And yet you made time to come and talk to Scarlet.”
I sighed. “I thought that she might require more convincing. And it was probably best that I bargain with her in person – you never really knew what she could be thinking, at any given time, and a message was too risky.”
“Well, as it turns out, people aren’t as difficult to figure out when you’re actually willing to talk to them,” Mireya said, and there was no mistaking the note of accusation in her words.
I bristled. “What are you trying to say, Mireya?”
“I’m saying you found a way to talk to Scarlet, but didn’t bother with me! Was it so much more important for you to convince her than me?” Mireya folded her arms, her anger not quite masking the hurt.
“That’s not what I meant!” I protested. “It was essential to make sure she would agree not to reveal my identity to the descendants. Not while I still had work to do.”
“Yes, your new conditions.” Mireya said flatly. “Once, you wanted me to come with you, so we could lift our banishment together and escape Exilia’s curse. Now, it’s a gift that you’ll only grant with conditions, where once you offered it to me freely.”
“And you rejected me,” I reminded her, my voice equally flat.
Some unknown emotion flitted across her face – was that a hint of regret?

I let out a weary sigh. “Mireya… I’m surrounded by enemies. I don’t think I can live with it if… if my best friend was one of them.”
It was not an apology, because I was afraid. Afraid that if I dared to acknowledge the reason that we’d fought, tear open that rift… all the dark feelings and bitter thoughts would come howling through, once again. And… though I acknowledged the cruelty of my words, I couldn’t take them back. I couldn’t say to her, with true honesty, that I did not mean what I had said.
But it didn’t matter, for this time, there was no mistaking the expression on her face, one of pure shock. My best friend. I searched my memory – had I ever called her that out loud before?
“You’ve changed,” Mireya said, studying me closely. “Neva… what happened?”
There was so much unsaid between us, so much broken, and I did not know how to cross the chasm that had formed in the last few days. But I was tired, down to my very bones, and I needed one person – just one – who could look at me for who I really was and not hate me.
Even if it was only pretend.
“Look,” I said. “I know… things between us have been complicated, as of late. But could we put it all aside, just for now? You said once that you were willing to stand with me against the descendants, and put up a united front. You said you’d be there for me, so that we could both have a break from having to pretend to tolerate them.” I reached out a hand to her. “Do you still mean that?”
There was a small rustling sound behind me, almost indiscernible in the quiet night. I spun around to see Ayla staring straight at us. She was floating a few feet above the ground, so there had been no sound of footsteps to warn us. As a winter spirit, she was nearly silent against the snowy backdrop of this coniferous forest.
“…Neva? What’s going on here?” her gaze flew from me to Mireya and back again. “Do you… know her?” The expression on her face was rapidly evolving from shock to suspicion.
How much of our conversation did she hear?
“Who are you really, Neva?” Ayla asked, wariness creeping into her tone.
Before I had time to think about it, I pulled one of the runestones out of the folds of my gown. “Forget you ever heard this conversation,” I whispered, watching as a stream of purple mist emanated from Ayla and swirled into the stone. Her expression became clouded and confused, and she dropped to her knees in the snow.
I tucked the stone back into my pocket. Walking over, I held out a hand to her. “Ayla? Are you okay?” I asked, letting concern color my voice.
She blinked a few times in confusion, then took my hand and rose. “Um… yeah. Thanks, I don’t know what just happened.” She still looked a bit uncertain when she glanced up at me, but there was no sign that she remembered what she had overheard. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I hung back a little as the descendants gathered together once again, including the new girl they’d just saved. My eyes met Mireya’s, and my words from earlier echoed in my mind. I’m surrounded by enemies… please don’t let my best friend be one of them.
The altercation with Ayla changed things. The stakes abruptly became clear – if the descendants ever caught wind of the fact that we were plotting against them, things would not turn out in our favor. We were vastly outnumbered here.
Can we please put everything aside, just for now? You told me once that you were willing to stand with me, as a united front, against them.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Mireya nodded.
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Last edited by Night Wish; 03-23-2020 at 09:27 AM.
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Old 04-05-2020, 08:16 PM
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Hey everyone! Hope you are staying safe in these crazy times!

Sorry for how crazy long this is, Ayla had a lot of catching up to do and I tried to bring us up to speed together as much as I could!


Mireya

“So, you decided to show after all?” A familiar voice startled me out of my reverie, and I looked up to see Scarlet smirking as she climbed into the trunk of the hollow tree where I sat, huddled against the cold. “What made you change your mind?”
I scowled up at her, and snapped “It’s none of your business.”
“Don’t tell me it’s that book?” She nodded to the open Tales of Estoriana resting in my lap. “It sure tells a pretty tale, but who knows how much of it is true? You have to be careful what you choose to believe in.”
I rolled my eyes, closing the book and shoving it away in my bag. “Don’t take me for a fool. Of course I know better. Even if there’s a shred of truth in this, there are clearly facts that they’ve obscured, truths that they’re twisting.” But haven’t our parents been obscuring facts and twisting the truth as well?
Scarlet smirked again. “Good to know you’re not that easily swayed.”
“And what do you choose to believe in?” I asked then, turning the question around on her.

Scarlet shrugged. “It doesn’t particularly matter to me, either way. Things like justice, revenge, and whoever is in the right in these grand, epic stories don’t interest me. None of it’s my concern.”
“You don’t care about all those people, back on Exilia, banished there forever? Without even the chance at justice or a fair trial?” I retorted, the old resentment in my voice flaring up again. “Not even your mother?” My parents certainly had no fair trial.
She rolled her eyes. “My mother? It doesn’t matter whether she’s exiled or not. She’s already in a cage of her own making, so it barely even matters which world she gets to live on. Once, she had power and magic at her disposal. The dreaded Red Queen, who ruled over Wonderland with an iron fist and was taught magic by the Queen of Hearts herself. And look at her now, barely a shadow of her former self, having spent years as a pawn for Jafar. It all started because she couldn’t let go of her feelings for that thief. She made the sensible choice at one point, choosing the life of a queen instead of a homeless vagabond with him.” An edge crept into her voice. “But sometime over the years, she turned soft and foolish. She told me, once, that the decision to betray Will was the worst of her life. She’d thought he’d given up on her, you see. That cemented her decision to become the Red Queen. But later, she said that if it hadn’t been for the banishment… she’d have wanted to try and find him again, and make things right.”

I surveyed Scarlet carefully, feeling like I was seeing her for the first time. We’d grown up together, after my mother died and Father moved us to live with the others, but we’d never been very close. We’d never really talked with any sort of honesty like this before. We had been allies of a sort, growing up, but not really friends - not like what Neva and I were, or maybe, like we had been. This was the first time Scarlet had spoken openly like this, she usually kept us at a distance, seeming closed-off and never particularly affectionate towards anyone.

Will. What was his name again? Will… Scarlet. Scarlet!

“So the name Scarlet…” I trailed off, not fully voicing the revelation I had made.
She made a noise of disgust. “A name chosen by a fool. Her Will Scarlet and your Neva. Both of them are chains that will only drag you down. You’re bound to her, even now, after she abandoned you.”
Her words felt like a blow to my heart, but I carefully kept my face expressionless, giving no sign of the pain I was in, and the fear deep inside that was whispering those same words, she abandoned you. You’ve lost her. She isn’t coming back. You run to help her when she asks, but does she even care about you?

“What makes you think I’m still bound to her?” I asked coldly. “That she still means anything to me at all.”
“I’m not a fool,” Scarlet answered, then she nodded to the book I’d just put away. “You’re very good at hiding your emotions, I’ll give you that. But that isn’t the book I gave you, it’s another copy. Neva sent that to you, didn’t she? And then you immediately rushed out here, despite how adamant you were about refusing to come.”
“You’re just assuming things. I have my own reasons for coming, that I’m not interested in disclosing to you,” I replied, still in that emotionless voice, desperately trying to hide how much her words had struck truth. I then tried to turn her attention away from me and why I was here, “But since you’re in such a sharing mood today, why don’t you tell me why you’re so interested in this so-called quest?”

“I want the legacy of my bloodline.” Scarlet replied. “The magic, the freedom, the power to do whatever I want and rule over others. That had always been our birthright, and it’s the only thing that matters to me.”
“So you do want to reclaim Estoriana, even if you’re not interested in revenge,” I replied, studying her carefully.
“How about we make a deal too?” Scarlet asked, holding out a hand. “We work together to deceive the Estorianian descendants. We’ll get to this ‘Author’ first and obtain what we want out of him. You help me learn the secrets of the descendants’ magic and how to take back control of Wonderland, and I’ll aid you in whatever revenge you want to strike against the descendants. Or I can help you win back Neva, remind her what side she’s supposed to be on. Though I’ve warned you getting too close is a bad idea, if that’s what you want…”

It wasn’t an offer of friendship, but an alliance. After all, we would soon be surrounded by the children of our sworn enemies. It would be in both our best interests to have someone we could trust, if only until we met the Author and got what we wanted from him. Scarlet seemed to have no reason to betray me, or leave me behind, as long as we remained useful to each other. I didn’t know yet what I would ask for her help with in the end, once we reached the Author, but I had time to figure that out. For now, it would be good to have at least one person I could trust during this journey, a journey in which we Exilians would be vastly outnumbered.

I nodded, and reached out to clasp her offered arm, and we shook hands firmly.

We sat in silence a moment longer, then we heard voices echoing out nearby.
“W-wow, s-so this is what a winter is like!”
“You’ll get used to it! It’s a lot of fun, I promise.”

There were a few more startled exclamations, then a voice spoke out clearly.
“Santoff Claussen should be in that direction!”
“Look!” Another cried out, “Is that a light, glowing in that tree over there?”
“Who would be out here, in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night?”

Scarlet and I shared a glance, we had been spotted. I gave her a questioning look, and after a moment’s hesitation, she nodded, and we gathered our things. She looked to me, her expression asking if I was ready, and I nodded, internally trying to prepare myself for seeing Neva again.

We emerged from the trunk of the hollow tree, me holding a light orb I had taken from my father, and we saw a group of a dozen or so people, most of them dressed in long traveling cloaks. Several held swords or daggers, and they all looked at us warily. I carefully avoided looking at Neva at all.

“Are you the Estorianians who will be going on the search for the Author?” Scarlet asked, stepping forward.
“Yes, but –” One girl, dressed in loose clothing and a long red cloak, frowned, “How did you know about us?”
“From this.” Scarlet held out a copy of Tales of Estoriana. “We were summoned by the prophecy, same as you.”

For a moment, the two sides just gazed at each other, unsure of how to continue. So many years of enmity between our people had torn open a nearly insurmountable chasm between our worlds.
Then a girl dressed in clothes that were distinctly Arendellian (based on the pictures I’d just seen in Tales of Estoriana) stepped forward, her smile bright as ever. “We’re glad to have you along!” she declared, as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
“Yeah!” Another girl chimed in, stepping forward with a wide grin. “You know, our mom was from Exilia too!” That was entirely the wrong thing to say. My expression didn’t change, but resentment simmered inside me. Exilians did not speak well of those who had abandoned us to join the Estorianians. I looked at the girl, trying to see if I could figure out which deserter was her mother, but couldn’t remember what the deserters looked like well enough to place her.

“Hmm, you know,” The Arendellian girl mused. “We should totally have a name for ourselves! You know, like how our parents are the Varden, and the rulers of Estoriana are called the Council of Light! If we’re going to carry on this legacy, shouldn’t we come up with a name of our own?”
I internally rolled my eyes, exasperated with the frivolous and enthusiastic Arendellian girl already. And I have to be around them all for this entire quest. Great.

“I love that idea!” A voice as familiar as my own said, but with the unfamiliar tone of pretend enthusiasm in her voice. I still didn’t look her way, but I could sense Neva’s nearness.
“That’s it!” A floating girl with silvery-white hair exclaimed, and I was momentarily startled by her ability to use her powers on Earth, until I recognized her from when I had followed Neva to Earth weeks ago. She was one of Jack Frost’s daughters, a Guardian of Earth’s children, and she could use her wintery powers on both planets because of that. “What about ‘the Legacies’? Since we’re carrying on the legacy of generations of fairytale descendants who came before us! And, like them, we’re embarking on a quest, into the unknown, to save our worlds from ruin!”
“It’s perfect!” The Arendellian girl clapped her hands in delight.
“I like it,” Another girl agreed. There followed a chorus of assent, but Scarlet and I remained silent, and I was inwardly rolling my eyes.

Before they could discuss it any further though, there was a commotion among the trees. “Help! Please, someone help me!” a girl’s voice screamed out, above the sound of heavy footsteps.
Immediately, the Estorianian descendants ran towards the source of the noise, apparently never ones to miss an opportunity to rush to the rescue and strike a heroic pose… or whatever it was they were always doing.

I saw Neva hang back, and I caught her gaze before darting behind the trunk of an enormous snow-covered tree when no one was watching. I didn’t want to broach this conversation, but we needed to clear the air at least a little so I could decide if I was going to stick around on her side for this “quest” or not. I had made an alliance with Scarlet already, so I wasn’t completely on my own and could just work with Scarlet throughout this journey if needed.

I wanted to stay by Neva’s side in this, I cared about her, but if it was all one-sided like Scarlet keeps warning me... then I would need to try to protect myself. If she gave me good reason to stay with her through this, I would, but I needed to know where we stood so that I didn’t keep waiting in limbo. I felt a pit of dread open up inside me while I waited for Neva to join me, and a tangle of emotions filled me.

“You came,” Neva said quietly.
“You asked me to,” I answered, my voice not quite cold – seeing her again after our fight... I didn’t know how to feel.
She released a breath, and it came out as a swirl of white on the chill breeze. “Thank you.”
I was surprised that she had thanked me, and felt it flicker across my face before I managed to control it. Maybe she really did care, and was telling the truth in her note to me. Then I reminded myself to focus. “And yet you couldn’t be bothered to come ask me yourself.”
Neva rolled her eyes. “The descendants were too busy celebrating being chosen to go on this quest. The entire palace of Arendelle was ablaze with their cheer. I couldn’t slip away so often without appearing suspicious. Looking at them, you’d think this was some frivolous vacation around the world, instead of an attempt to save it from ruin.” She smiled mockingly.
Despite myself, I had to grin at that image. We’d spent so much time together mocking the descendants and their flippant ways, while spying on them through her mother’s magic mirror.
But then my expression hardened once again, I wasn’t convinced she was telling the full truth. “And yet you made time to come and talk to Scarlet.” She chose Scarlet over me.

Neva sighed. “I thought that she might require more convincing. And it was probably best that I bargain with her in person – you never really knew what she could be thinking, at any given time, and a message was too risky.”
“Well, as it turns out, people aren’t as difficult to figure out when you’re actually willing to talk to them,” I retorted accusingly.
She bristled. “What are you trying to say, Mireya?”
“I’m saying you found a way to talk to Scarlet, but didn’t bother with me! Was it so much more important for you to convince her than me?” I folded my arms, trying to hide the pain behind my anger, but struggling to mask it from her. I could fool most people, but I had a hard time maintaining my masks with Neva, I cared too much.

“That’s not what I meant!” Neva protested, her voice filling with emotion that I couldn’t discern. She then tried to speak more calmly, “It was essential to make sure she would agree not to reveal my identity to the descendants. Not while I still had work to do.”
“Yes, your new conditions.” I retorted flatly. “Once, you wanted me to come with you, so we could lift our banishment together and escape Exilia’s curse. Now, it’s a gift that you’ll only grant with conditions, where once you offered it to me freely.”
“And you rejected me,” Neva reminded me, her voice equally flat.
A rush of regret raced through me, flitting across my face before I could mask it again. What would things be like if I had gone with her when she had asked? But, she hadn’t asked me when she initially left. She only asked me after she realized I caught her.

Neva let out a weary sigh. “Mireya… I’m surrounded by enemies. I don’t think I can live with it if… if my best friend was one of them.”

I stared at her in open shock. My best friend. She had called me her best friend! She’d never said those words aloud to me - I’d never known she thought of me as her best friend. I had thought that position forever stolen away by Saskia, never to be filled again. I’d thought I could never compete with Saskia, never imagined Neva would ever see me as her best friend.

Her words were an almost apology, dancing on the edge of the rift caused by the fight we’d had - staying back just enough to avoid tearing it back open and dredging up the bitter fight again. I was relieved she avoided acknowledging the reason we fought, for now. I knew we needed to work through what had happened between us eventually, but I also knew we didn’t have much time right now and couldn’t open that wound until we had more time. We had both said hurtful things, and there was some truth to what we had each said. Healing would need to happen, as soon as possible, but it wasn’t the time right now.

“You’ve changed,” I finally said, studying her closely. “Neva… what happened?”
There was so much unsaid between us, so much broken, and I did not know how to cross the chasm that had formed in the last few days. But I was tired, down to my very bones, and I needed to know if I still had her in my corner, if we were really best friends. I needed to know if she cared, or if I was being naive to think anyone could care, like Scarlet kept telling me.

Even if I had to pretend to not know her. I could pretend if I knew she really did care.

Neva looked weary too, and she seemed to be searching for words for a few moments.
“Look,” Neva finally said. “I know… things between us are complicated right now. But could we put it aside, just for now? You said once that you were willing to stand with me against the descendants, and put up a united front. You said you’d be there for me, so that we could both have a break from having to pretend to tolerate them.” She reached out a hand to me, reaching across the chasm that had formed between us. “Do you still mean that?”

Before I could answer, or even really process her question, there was a small rustling sound behind Neva, almost indiscernible in the quiet night. Neva spun around to see that Frost girl staring straight at us. She was floating a few feet above the ground, so there had been no sound of footsteps to warn us. As a winter spirit, she was nearly silent against the snowy backdrop of this coniferous forest.
“…Neva? What’s going on here?” her gaze flew from Neva to me, and back again. “Do you… know her?” The expression on her face was rapidly evolving from shock to suspicion.
How much of our conversation did she hear? Maybe I wouldn’t have to pretend after all… I thought, then pushed that thought away. It was unlikely.
“Who are you really, Neva?” the Frost girl asked, wariness creeping into her tone.

Neva instantly pulled something out of the folds of her gown. “Forget you ever heard this conversation,” She whispered, and I watched as a stream of purple mist emanated from the girl and swirled into the object in Neva’s hand. The girl’s expression became clouded and confused, and she dropped to her knees in the snow. I stared at Neva and the girl in surprise, wondering how she had been able to use any magic here. I then shook my head to clear it and moved out of the girl’s line of vision, since clearly Neva didn’t want the girl to know we knew each other.

Neva tucked the object back into her pocket, and I wasn’t able to get a good look at what it was. She then walked over to the Frost girl and held out a hand to her. “Ayla? Are you okay?” she asked, letting concern color her voice.
Ayla blinked a few times in confusion, then took Neva’s hand and rose. “Um… yeah. Thanks, I don’t know what just happened.” She still looked a bit uncertain when she glanced up at Neva, but there was no sign that she remembered what she had overheard.

Neva began following Ayla back to the group of Estorianians, with Scarlet and the new girl they’d just saved, but she hung back a little and met my eyes - hope and fear warring in her eyes.

Her words from earlier echoed in my mind. I’m surrounded by enemies… please don’t let my best friend be one of them.
I already knew we were vastly outnumbered here, only three Exilians - and only two that the Estorianians knew about. I already had an alliance with Scarlet, but…
Can we please put everything aside, just for now? You told me once that you were willing to stand with me, as a united front, against them. Do you still mean that? And her words from her note echoed in my mind as well, Mireya, I need you. Please.

I didn’t know if she truly cared for me or not, but she had called me her best friend. We hadn’t really been able to talk about anything, and Scarlet might still be right about her, but I cared too much about Neva to not give her another chance. There was a lot of hurt between us, and I had no idea what I meant to her - if anything, but I knew what she meant to me.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I nodded.



Ayla

As Yue and I flew towards the meeting place, I saw a single figure waiting. As we grew closer and closer, a voice called out to us, and I grinned when I recognized my best friend.
“Ayla! Yue!” Noelle jumped up and down, waving to us enthusiastically. I flew the rest of the distance and grabbed her in a tackle hug, while Yue walked on over behind me, far more reservedly. But there was a smile on her face too, filled with both excitement and nervousness.
“I knew it!” Noelle exclaimed as we pulled apart. “You two have been summoned too! This is going to be so awesome! All of us, together – the new heroes of Estoriana!”
“It’s everything we’ve ever dreamed of!” I agreed, bouncing up and down with excitement. The two of us were almost talking over each other in our excitement, hardly giving Yue a chance to get a word in. She didn’t seem to mind though, grinning with amusement at our antics.

When Noelle and I finally took a pause in our excited chatter, we both glanced around at the still-empty clearing. “Looks like no one else is here yet,” My best friend noted. “What’s taking them so long?”
“Yeah!” I agreed. “We have places to go, new sights to see, and a whole world to save! When are those slowpokes going to get here already?”
Yue rolled her eyes at us. “Ayla, you dragged us out of bed at the crack of dawn! We were supposed to meet at high noon, and we got here almost an hour early. I’m sure everyone else is making sure to get a good night’s rest before such an important quest.” She turned her gaze on Noelle, part admonishing, part amused. “And you got here even earlier!”

“Oh come on!” Noelle protested. “How could anyone possibly sleep in, at a time like this?” Her eyes fell on the sword Yue was carrying, the hilt beautifully carved and brand-new looking. She raised an eyebrow. “A parting gift from Aunt Saige?”
Yue glanced down at it, looking uncomfortable. “Um, yeah. She insisted. ‘A warrior of Estoriana never leaves for a quest without her trusty blade’, she said. She had it newly made for me, too. I tried telling her I wasn’t a warrior, but you know Auntie Saige.” She shrugged helplessly.
“Stop selling yourself short!” I chided my sister. "You're going to be a great warrior someday, just wait and see!" I know it! I then lifted my own matching blade and grinned at Noelle.
She smiled back and lifted her own brand-new sword. “Seems Aunt Saige came prepared! She had one made for each of us. All those hours of training will finally be put to some good use! Speaking of Auntie, is it true she’s traveling around Estoriana with the army right now?”

“Yup,” I confirmed. “Grandma Laurel and Grandpa Shang should be able to handle the situation in Corona, so Auntie Saige is going around to all the different villages that aren’t protected by one of the descendants, spreading the Varden’s magic. Mom and Dad are going with her.”
“Sounds like they’ll have a lot of work cut out for them. Let’s not keep them waiting too long!” Noelle declared.
She pulled open Tales of Estoriana from her bag, and to pass the time, Noelle and I began speculating on who else might have been included in the prophecy. We both thought that there might have been a touch of familiarity in some of the verses – was that one talking about Najila? Maybe Soraya and Lissa, the girls we’d met at the Ball?

“What do you think your prophecy lines mean, anyway?” Noelle asked eagerly. “For mine… it says that my powers aren’t my greatest gift? And that I’ll find a strength to challenge the mightiest rift. What is that supposed to mean? Ooh, maybe I’ll suddenly develop super strength. Or some other cool power, like unmatchable speed! You’d never be able to beat me at sled racing again, Ayla!”
“Yeah, right! Dream on, Noelle.” I smirked. But then my smile faded a little as I glanced down at my own prophecy lines. “Your lines totally reflect who you are, who you’ve always been. But mine…? Will you still know your fate, who you will become?” I hesitated. “I had always been so sure of who I was and who I would become one day. I’m the daughter of the Guardians, the eternal protectors of Earth’s children, and one day I’m going to be one of them. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. But what this prophecy is telling me… what if I don’t really know who I’ll become?” I felt lost and forlorn for a moment, feelings I hadn’t experienced before.

Noelle put an arm around my shoulder. “Hey. We both know how annoyingly vague prophecies can be. They never mean exactly what you think, there’s always some trick, some component you hadn’t thought of. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. You’re still you, Ayla. As strong and brave and capable as you’ve always been. Don’t let this silly prophecy shake your faith in who you are.”
Yue had been quiet through all of Noelle’s and my chatter about the speculation on the prophecy lines, and Noelle looked over to grin at her now. “What were you saying about not being a warrior? Well, this prophecy certainly begs otherwise!”
Yue groaned. “Oh, please don’t start with this. I’ve already heard an earful from Auntie Saige. She’s absolutely over the moon about this! But like you said, who can say what a prophecy is really about? Maybe… maybe the battle it’s talking about isn’t a physical one at all. After all, we’ve all seen how well I’m suited to waving a sword around.”
Both Noelle and I opened our mouths to retort again, but before we could, all three of us saw a figure in the distance, fast approaching. Noelle and I jumped up and began waving frantically when we saw who it was. “Hey! Lissa!”
Our new friend from the Reunion Ball broke into a sprint when she saw us. “You guys were chosen too?” Lissa exclaimed. “That’s so great!”
“Yeah! We’re so glad to see you again!” Noelle exclaimed happily.

Soon, more of the future questers arrived, a fairy in blue with brown curly hair, and a boy with wavy brown hair dressed all in green. They were the descendants of the Blue Fairy and Robin Hood, respectively.
I’d never met an Avalonian fairy before, and certainly not one of the Merry Men! I grinned as we greeted both of them. I couldn’t wait to hear about what their lives were like, what kind of magic and wonders I had never seen inside the walls of Arendelle.
Najila was the next to show up, much to Noelle’s, Yue’s, and my elation. She greeted us with hugs and a warm smile, still tinged with sorrow, but she held herself with all the strength and determination she’d always possessed.
Next to arrive were twins, who Noelle whispered had caused a ruckus at the Varden’s meeting while Yue and I were with Mom and Dad.
After that, we all watched in wonder as a portal opened before us, showing a grand, sprawling city, surrounded by the boundless sea. Impossibly, magically, none of the water was spilling through as a tall, white-haired girl stepped through, carrying one of the spears of the Atlantean guard.
“The lost city of Atlantis,” Noelle breathed, awestruck with wonder.
“Whoa,” I whispered, eyes wide.
The girl introduced herself as Dekati'ladesh Nedakh, Kati for short. She was the youngest daughter of Queen Kida of Atlantis. I remembered having seen her at the Reunion Ball, though we hadn’t had the chance to introduce ourselves before all the chaos went down.
And finally, at last, came Soraya, jumping off of her magic carpet. As she landed, we all could sense that something was terribly wrong.

“Soraya? What’s wrong?” Noelle asked, her voice filled with concern.
Soraya bit her lip, looking like she was struggling to hold back tears. “It’s… it’s my sister. She’s also…” she trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
My heart sank as the realization hit. Oh no!
“I’m so sorry.” Noelle replied softly. Yue covered her mouth in horror and grief.
Najila immediately pulled Soraya into a tight embrace, both of them holding onto each other for strength and comfort. Between them was a pain that only they understood.
“We’re going to save her,” I said solemnly. “Soraya, your sister, and Najila’s dad, all of them… we’re going to save them all.”
After a moment, Soraya pulled back, smiling a bit shakily. “Thank you. It – it’s part of my prophecy lines, after all. Though shadowed by sorrow, there’s hope yet for tomorrow. So I believe that means there’s still a chance. It’s not too late for her.”
The news about Soraya’s sister put a damper on the excitement that had been bubbling to the surface for all of us. We all knew the gravity of the situation. Thrilled though we were for a storybook adventure, this was so much bigger than that. Estoriana’s fate – and the fate of all the fairytale worlds – rested in our hands now.
“Wait!” I heard a voice cry out, and a familiar figure appeared at the edge of the clearing. She’d clearly run here in a hurry, and she was almost panting with exertion now.

I looked at her in surprise.
“Neva? Were you part of the prophecy too?” Noelle exclaimed, clearly surprised as well. It was true that I didn’t know her well, but it didn’t seem like any of the lines were referring to her. In fact, besides those belonging to the people gathered here, the remaining lines of the prophecy seemed almost… sinister.
“No,” she admitted, glancing down shyly. “But… Noelle, you and your family were so kind in taking me in. I want to try and repay you, in any way I can. It’s not like I can do much here, just sitting around. I’m not part of the Varden, so I can’t help keep Arendelle from fading away. I want to help with your quest, if that’s all right with all of you?” she looked around, blue eyes brimming with hope.
“That’s very kind of you… but we don’t know where exactly this quest will end up taking us,” Yue warned, her smile tinged with a touch of worry. “We don’t want to have to endanger anyone unnecessarily.”
“I know… thank you for thinking of me.” Neva bit her lip. “But I have my own reasons for wanting to come, too. If I can meet the Author… I’d like to ask him what happened to my family, and some of the friends who were imprisoned with me on Exilia. I really need to know what became of them. And you don’t need to worry about me. I’ve been on my own for years, and I can handle myself.”
“I think it’s fine!” Tamsin piped up. “After all, both Aspen and I are coming along.”
“The more, the merrier!” Najila agreed.

“It’s settled then!” Noelle flashed a grin at Neva. “Welcome aboard!” She glanced down at the open Tales of Estoriana in front of her. “But it seems we still don’t have all of the people who are supposed to be going on the quest,” She mused. “And from the sounds of the prophecy, not everyone we’re supposed to meet is from Estoriana.”
“Yeah, Dad said that too,” I replied. “He knew Katherine best, after all. He thinks that some of the people the prophecy was referring to are probably from Earth.” I hesitated. “From the sounds of it… some of them might be from Exilia, too.”
There was a tense silence around the group.
“Would we be able to trust them?” Noelle spoke the words we were all thinking.
“Well, after all, our mom was born on Exilia,” Tamsin spoke up. Was it just my imagination, or did she and her brother look suddenly nervous for some reason? “And she chose a better path.”
“Good point!” Neva piped up. I knew I wasn’t imagining the sadness in her eyes, but she seemed to be making an effort to appear normal. “Is it really fair to assume everyone on Exilia is pure evil? Some could have simply been born at the wrong time and place.”

“You’re both right,” Noelle agreed. “I’m sure Katherine wouldn’t have called for someone to go on this quest if they couldn’t be trusted.”
“Is this everyone then?” Najila asked, glancing around.
“For now.” Yue stood up. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll encounter the other members of the prophecy on our journey. Dad always said that whether it’s fate, or destiny, or simply the bonds between us that were meant to be, somehow we would always be led to those we most need to meet.” She flushed slightly when everyone’s attention turned to her. Yue had always been quiet and soft-spoken, preferring not to speak up unless she really had something important to say.
“Yue’s right!” I jumped up and put an arm around my sister’s shoulder, supporting her and pulling the attention towards me a bit. “After all, Dad’s helped to save Estoriana twice now, so clearly he knows what he’s talking about!”
“Well, what are we waiting for then?” Noelle jumped onto the large, smooth boulder she had been leaning against, and raised her fist into the air. “For Estoriana!”
“For Estoriana!” Everyone else echoed.

Noelle raised the portalling device high into the air, and in a rush of wind, our surroundings began to change.

The scenery around us shifted to a snow-laden forest. All around us were tall, thin, coniferous trees that rose high into the winter-gray sky. Snow gathered on the ground, thick up past our ankles. More of it was falling from the sky, in gently drifting flakes.
“W-wow,” Soraya pulled her cloak tighter around herself with a shiver. “S-so this is what a winter is like!”
I grinned and did a flip in the air, “You’ll get used to it! It’s a lot of fun, I promise.”
Around me, I heard a few startled exclamations as they adjusted to the Land Without Magic. It was some of the questers’ first trip to Earth, and Noelle had said the sensation of suddenly being without powers took some getting used to. I couldn’t relate, since I always had my powers on Earth and on Estoriana - since my parents were of both worlds.

Everyone looked to Yue and I for guidance – after all, it was our father’s clue that had led us here, and it was our world. I didn’t usually get nervous, and I had never minded being the center of attention, but it was different when our worlds depended on us getting things right - and when Yue and I were the only ones who knew much about Earth! What if our dad was wrong? What if we lead them all to the wrong place? Then I shook off my worries, we have to try and just hope we are right. This is my world, the world I hope to protect always. We can’t fail.

Yue was holding a map up to the dark night sky. It had been midmorning when we’d left Estoriana, but here on Earth, it was still midnight, the stars barely visible with the light snowfall. After I glanced at the map she help, I pointed ahead. “Santoff Claussen should be in that direction!”
“Look!” Tamsin exclaimed, pointing. “Is that a light, glowing in that tree over there?” Sure enough, a small, flickering light was emanating from what seemed to be a huge hollow tree.
Soraya frowned. “Who would be out here, in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night?”

A few moments later, two figures emerged from the trunk of a hollow tree. They were both girls, looking around our age, both adorned for a long journey. One had pinned-up blonde hair and a thick cape, the other had wild dark curls and held an orb of light, the source of the illumination. Exilians.
“Are you the Estorianians who will be going on the search for the Author?” The blonde asked, stepping forward.
“Yes, but – “ Soraya frowned. “How did you know about us?”
“From this.” The girl replied, holding out a copy of Tales of Estoriana. “We were summoned by the prophecy, same as you.”

For a moment, the two sides just gazed at each other, unsure of how to continue. So many years of enmity between our people had torn open a nearly insurmountable chasm between our worlds.
Then Noelle stepped forward, her smile bright as ever. “We’re glad to have you along!” she declared, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Dad had said it was likely for Exilians to be summoned for the quest too, now we know he was right.
“Yeah!” Tamsin chimed in, stepping forward with a wide grin. “You know, our mom was from Exilia too!”
“Hmm, you know,” Noelle mused. “We should totally have a name for ourselves! You know, like how our parents are the Varden, and the rulers of Estoriana are called the Council of Light! If we’re going to carry on this legacy, shouldn’t we come up with a name of our own?”
“I love that idea!” Neva replied enthusiastically.
“That’s it!” I exclaimed, floating in the air, “What about ‘the Legacies’? Since we’re carrying on the legacy of generations of fairytale descendants who came before us! And, like them, we’re embarking on a quest, into the unknown, to save our worlds from ruin!”
“It’s perfect!” Noelle clapped her hands in delight.
“I like it,” Ava agreed. There followed a chorus of assent and excitement.

Before we could discuss it any further though, there was a commotion among the trees.
“Help! Please, someone help me!” a female voice screamed out, and we sprung into action.

We raced out of the trees to see a dozen or so hooded figures chasing after a girl wearing Earth clothing. I quickly aimed a blast of frosty wind right at the attackers, leaving the girl staring in stunned silence. Together, we - the Legacies - drove back the hooded figures, charging forward fearlessly until they began stumbling backwards to avoid our blades and my wintery powers.
One of the figures cursed. “We’d better retreat, for now. We don’t have powers in this land, and it would be inconvenient to fight them here, so close to Santoff Claussen.”
“We know who you are, children of the prophecy,” the leader of the attackers spoke out in a booming voice that echoed through the trees. “And we know what you are looking for. But, if you value your lives, stop your search for the Author now. For there are forces far beyond your comprehension, who wield powers you can only imagine, and we seek his power too. Best to return to your worlds, and enjoy what time you have left, instead of wasting it on a fool’s journey.” And with that, he and his followers disappeared into the swirling depths of a portal.

“What did he mean by that?” Yue asked, but no one else seemed to understand the mysterious threat either. We then turned to the girl we’d rescued. She had auburn hair and wore jeans and a thick winter coat, so maybe she was from nearby.
“I – my name is Katerina Vasilevskiy,” She stammered. “Thank you for saving me. I – one moment, I was in the middle of London, and the next, I ended up in some mysterious medieval-style castle with those guys. Then, I came through a… portal? And ended up here.”
“You’re welcome!” Lissa grinned at her. She reached out a hand to help Katerina up. “We’re the Legacies. It’s nice to meet you! So you’re a native of the Land Without Magic – or Earth, as you call it?”
“Are you from… Estoriana?” Katerina asked hesitantly, taking Lissa’s hand and standing up.
“Yes!” Soraya exclaimed. “So, you’ve heard of us?”
“Well, not all of us,” I replied, still floating in midair, grinning. “I’m one of the Guardians of Earth – or, at least, I will be!”
“I wonder…” Yue mused. “Could she be part of the quest? Another person called by the prophecy, who we were destined to meet?”

“Wait,” Katerina protested. “I don’t know anything about your quest, or prophecy, or whatever it is! I just need to find someone…” She hesitated. “My mom. She looks almost exactly like me. Her name was Marya, and she disappeared about six years ago. I know that she was researching Estoriana at the time. Do any of you know of her?”
We all shook our heads.
But Yue reached out a hand to her. “You can never really be sure of the shape that destiny will take. Maybe you’ll find her, if you continue on this journey. Do you want to come with us, even if it’s only to the village of Santoff Claussen? If it turns out this isn’t your destiny, you can go contact your family there. Or we can open a portal for you to Estoriana.”
Katerina hesitated, but took Yue’s hand after a moment. She seemed lost, but resigned to joining us rather than going alone.

“So, is everyone here and accounted for?” Najila asked, glancing around at the aftermath of the altercation.
“Hey, has anyone seen Neva? I hope she wasn’t caught by those guys,” Noelle asked worriedly.
“I’ll go look for her!” I declared, and flew off into the forest.

I searched around for a few minutes, then heard the murmur of voices from behind some bushes, and I flew towards the voices.
“You said you’d be there for me, so that we could both have a break from having to pretend to tolerate them. Do you still mean that?” I heard, then I stopped and stared in surprise when I rounded the bushes and found Neva and the dark-haired Exilian girl together.

“…Neva? What’s going on here?” I asked, my gaze flying between Neva and the Exilian girl, the shock I’d initially felt rapidly evolving to suspicion. “Do you… know her?”
“Who are you really, Neva?” I asked, wariness creeping into my tone.

Neva instantly pulled something out of the folds of her gown and whispered something. My vision blurred, and I fell to my knees in the snow. I couldn’t remember why I had been so wary. I felt I needed to remember, that something was wrong, but I couldn’t catch my thoughts. The suspicion faded away, leaving only confusion.

“Ayla? Are you okay?” Someone asked with concern, and I blinked a few times to clear my vision. I found Neva standing over me, holding out a hand to me.
I took Neva’s hand and rose. “Um… yeah. Thanks, I don’t know what just happened.” I felt like there was something important I needed to remember, something about Neva? Something about the quest?
“The others, we were looking for you,” I said, still feeling like I was missing something, but remembering why I had come into the woods initially. “Over here,” I began walking back to where I’d left the others, Neva following behind.

We rejoined the group, and I saw that everyone else was there, including the two Exilians and Katerina.
“I realized we never introduced ourselves properly to our other newcomers,” I stated, “I’m Ayla Overland Frost, and this is my sister Yue.” I gestured towards my sister. Everyone else went around and stated their names, and I learned the Exilians were Scarlet and Mireya.
“Well, should we camp for the night or keep moving?” Soraya asked.
“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, and the rest of us nodded in agreement.
“Let’s go. This way!” I stated, then began flying in the direction that I thought the village lay - if Dad’s old map was correct. I hope we are going the right way!
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