Chapter 1 A Secret in the Orchids
Nestled in a patch of violet orchids, under a high canopy of oak leaves swaying in a breeze that warned of summer to come, lay a furry white cocoon. It was small, just near a foot in length and half that wide. Rays of sunlight pierced through the canopy holes, only to stop abruptly above the cocoon and glide peacefully to the surface. The warmth encompassed it with a natural gentleness, and the white hairs covering it drifted about as if submerged in the sea. They gave off a reflection of light shining bright as the glow of a fireflyâ€™s call. The air held great excitement born from the orchids surrounding the cocoon. Their green stems moved from side to side, as if trying to uproot themselves and be free to roam the forest in celebration. Their petals fluttered and shook, and produced a sound much like the harmony of a deep forest tree blowing in the wind with the faintest hint of a femaleâ€™s voice humming high, sweet notes. Just beyond the bustling orchid patch, across a green glade scattered with blackthorns and cherry trees, came fluttering through the air a sound quite similar to that of ten
Eleganta â€“ A Secret in the Orchids
thousand butterflies simultaneously flapping their wings at great speed. The sound sliced through the trees with grand urgency, growing closer to the now bulging white cocoon. The orchidsâ€™ dance grew ever more dramatic, humming louder and stronger, and the branches above swayed while their leaves shivered. The cocoon lit even brighter, its walls expanding and contracting; something within wanted to be revealed. From an opening in the woods across the glade in the direction of the fluttering sound, the silhouette of a creature appeared. It was not a cloud of butterflies or even a butterfly at all. This creature was in fact many times the size of a butterfly, standing about twice the height of a common wolf, just over four feet. Its body stood upright with an arm on each side and two legs hanging down, and it was slender as a young tree. Though its physical form was very unlike a butterfly, it did have a trait possessed by all of the Nymphalidae family to which butterflies belong, at once giving away its identity. The creature had extending from its back, a pair of thin, glittering wings. They protruded out and reached up a short distance above the head. Nearly clear skin made up their surface, segmented into several parts along the edges. A tint of blue shone from them when the sunlight passed through in just the right way. The wings fluttered rapidly and held the creature off the ground so it hovered just above the grass. The arms partly extended out, slowly waving as it moved forward. Its legs stretched out firmly below, one angled back, and one bent at the knee, as if preparing to dart forward in a running dash. As the silhouette moved into the glade beyond the cover of the tree line, its full appearance was revealed. It had all the look of a female. She possessed a slim, light body with arms and legs so skinny they seemed almost too long for her body, yet not so much to appear abnormal. Yellow hair curled down past her cheeks and draped over her thin shoulders, catching in the wind and flowing slightly behind. She wore a
kind of silky dress, lightly colored a pale lavender, resting loosely over her delicate curves and reaching down to her knees. Perhaps her most outstanding features were her eyes. They possessed a sapphire blue that could have been used as the model for the color of the ocean itself. Oversized and oval shape in form, they slanted slightly back toward her ears, which themselves stretched back and came to a point near the crown of her head. Happiness and clarity of purpose were evident in her manner, causing the great oaks towering above to give a kind of curtsy as she set her eyes upon them. She flew with grace across the glade, while the sun came down and lapped at her white skin, only to be effectively repelled. Her skin looked entirely untouched by the sun, yet it was not pale, just light and flawless. So smooth was her skin that the air rode along it like water atop a stone. She reached the line of trees around the orchid patch and at once her face reflected the glow of the cocoon. The dance of the forest continued on around her, but settled some, gladly accepting her presence. As she neared the patch, her wings slowed and shortly stopped. Her body floated to the grass where the tips of her naked toes came to rest, followed by the soles of her dainty feet. She stood over the flowers, looking down with a smile on her face that truly captured the beauty in the forest. Her eyes blinked slowly, their long lashes passing softly over, and the wings sprouting from her back spread the light into a lovely array as it cast upon them from below. “Elyrii orchids, I have heard your call,” she spoke softly. The orchids shuttered and if they had eyes, they would have been staring up at her. “You have the eternal thanks of all Fairykind.” The orchids relaxed, becoming more accepting but looking for validity in her words.
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
“You’ve given your protection, but now you must surrender my child. The cocoon will open soon.” At this the orchids folded away, exposing the cocoon to the open arms of the mother. She reached into the patch and for the first time since she placed the seed in what was then only a spot of grass, her hands touched its surface. The white hairs were like silken fur but softer still. The mother’s hands felt the very texture of the puffy white clouds hovering far above the forest canopy. She could have been touching nothing at all, like spreading her hands to the air when flying between the trees, touched by just the slightest wisp of a breeze gliding around her finger tips. For a moment all she could do was run her fingers along the cocoon. It hugged her hands and its glow spread across her face, further revealing her beauty to the orchids and the trees and the plants that stood by. While she gently felt the surface, her hands moved beneath the cocoon, and with such delicate form, lifted it from the grass and brought it up to her chest. She could feel movement, the child inside beginning to push upon the walls. The cocoon then swelled and there on its exterior, the first opening appeared when the fur split directly across the top. Its sides receded back and the inside felt the outside world for the first time. The split continued until it ran along the entire upper half. The mother then saw her child. A tiny hand appeared, pushing out. The mother’s smile swelled and tears of crystal water wet her eyes. She knelt and sat down into the grass, folding her wings behind. With the cocoon placed in her lap, she took hold of the child’s hand. She grasped one side of the cocoon and pulled it apart, fully revealing the baby within. Just as she had felt it would be, it was a girl. The creature had light skin, and short white hair sat messily upon her head. A pink but almost clear pair of wings rested across her back, eager to unfold. The mother held her baby up and wiped her skin, moist from the growing environment. The baby’s eyes had yet to open to the world,
but as the mother cleared the skin around its lashes, they awoke. Her eyelids struggled to lift, but when they did, a most amazing pair of green eyes revealed themselves to the mother’s view. She wept staring into them, seeing the child of perfect form, a true being of light, complete with her father’s eyes. “You could not possess any more beauty”, the mother spoke through her tears, “you are the newest of all fairies,” she smiled, “today you join our fairy world. You are named Lirratywne.” So the child lay in her mother’s arms, feeling the magic of the forest soak into her skin. Though just out of the cocoon, this fairy knew the forest was special, that she would forever be a part of it. The mother stood and drew out a thin cloth she had tucked away in the folds of her dress. It was soft as silk and shimmered in the light. Upon its surface was a sprinkling of silvery dust. “This will hide and protect you, my child,” the fairy said, “as it once did for me.” She covered the baby in the cloth, then looked down at the surrounding patch of elyrii orchids and their exquisite violet leaves, while her wings swayed behind her back. “I give you this,” she whispered to the orchids. She brought one hand up to her wet eyes and let a number of tear drops fall into her palm. The pool of fairy tears sparkled in her hand and the orchids became excited, wiggling on their stems. Then, with a quick motion, she moved her hand over the flowers and turned her palm to face them, letting loose the tears she had collected. The drops fell like a mist and the flowers soaked the moisture in, having thirsted for it since the day they sprung from the soil. The fairy turned and with her youngling held close, rapidly flapped her wings until each one became indistinguishable from the other. The force with which they moved picked her up from the ground and held her slightly above the tall grass. She leaned forward and guided herself
Eleganta â€“ A Secret in the Orchids
away, picking up speed as she flew through the air between the thick old trunks of the towering trees, weaving in and out, under and above, with little effort. For a ways she flew, moving out of the woods, through groves, back into woods, over streams, and finally through a glade which led over the top of a hill. On the other side of this hill lay a valley whose floor was hidden beneath a canopy of giant wampa trees. They stood a hundred feet high; their trunks could reach twenty feet across. The fairy wisped across the glade and down the hill toward the start of the shadowy woods ahead. As she neared the tree line, something caught her eye, far off on a hilltop across the valley. The form she focused on was a living creature moving slowly across the horizon. Even from a distance, she could see that the creature watched her. She knew at once what moved atop that hill, and for the first time in a good many days, she felt a darkening within. A sudden fear struck her as she focused on the dark shape. The thing did not move toward her, but it seemed to follow her with its face; glaring, reaching, and piercing her with its solemn stare. The fairy then turned back to face the woods ahead, quickening her flight. She held her child even tighter and disappeared into the thick gathering of wampas covering the valley floor. The wooded floor was dark and damp, its tall trees so rich with leaves that little sunlight could enter. In spite of all the darkness, the fairy felt the warmth of the air and smelled life flourishing all over the ground. Plants of odd shapes and sizes grew scattered about, and the wampa tree trunks were so wide and thick that even a great ogre from the caves of the Western Cliffs could be hidden behind them. The tops of those trees towered above with countless gnarled and twisting branches exploding out. The colors spread around made it seem as though a rainbow had been pulled from the sky, chopped into bits, and thrown into every little nook of the woods. Flowers and mushrooms of all kinds and colors grew from the forest floor up to the high canopy; bright reds, blues,
yellows and pinks shouted out from even the most unlikely of places, like under old logs or deep within holes and ditches. Through the trees in the distance the fairy could see two small flames burning. As she got closer she saw the flames burning atop two upright wooden pillars, about three times her height. The flames burned a doorways length apart, and just beneath them stood a high wooden fence. The fence curved back into the trees, extending off in either direction. Between the two fiery poles rose a gate of oak wood, solid and thick. The fairy and her cloaked child approached the fence from between the trees. There they heard what sounded like a very loud harp playing a single note repeatedly. The sound boomed down from high above the fence. As they reached the gate, the sound ceased, and all they heard was the crackling of the torch fire and the swaying of the wind in the leaves. The fairy’s wings stopped as she fluttered to the ground, her feet landing softly on the forest grass. She looked up at the gate towering above and spoke to seemingly no one. “It is Ethywyne Eleganta,” she announced in a carrying, urgent voice. The sound of something moving came from behind the gate, followed by a grinding noise of a wooden crank being turned. Ethywyne stepped back, looking impatiently up at the barrier. She glanced behind her, scanning the dark of the woods, looking for what she knew could be following. Gently she rocked the youngling in her arms while keeping her hidden beneath the cloth, and she hummed a soft tune to calm her. The winding of gears and levers continued with a sudden movement in the gate. A space appeared at the bottom of the large wooden slats when the gate slowly lifted straight up into the air. It rose until it stood above the wall, revealing an entryway. Ethywyne fluttered through, relieved to be within the protection of the walls. The gate lumbered down
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
behind her and settled in with a heavy thud to the groove it had pushed into the ground. Ethywyne smiled and whispered to her youngling. “We’re home.” Wrapped in a circle within the wall stretching around was a small sort of village settlement. Wampa trees grew everywhere, heavy with green canopies stretching out to create a ceiling of leaves over the entire village. There were others as well, like alders and hawthorns, and wych elms and hazels, but those trees were dwarfed by the presence of the mighty wampas. Far below them, grass spread over tangled roots that looked like veins along the ground, punctuated by brightly colored wood anemones, bluebells, and wild pink roses among so many others. Sticks with torches stood about the village, marking pathways and creating a saturating warm light. Ethywyne hurried down a path leading to the center of the village, and looked around at what were far more than just leaves and fairy flowers. The trunks and branches of the wampas were wrapped in wooden and stone structures. The small buildings were built up and around all the way to just below the canopy. The trunks acted as center supports and held twisting rooms, winding staircases, walkways and bridges all decorated with various plants, ropes, and fairy crafts. Some of the trunks were even hollowed out to create spaces big enough for multiple rooms. Vines grew up the sides of the homes and hung down to be swung on between the trees, something fairies quite enjoyed, despite being able to fly just as easily. And weaving between the many trunks were streams of water, gliding with just enough current to move ever so softly. The streams snaked around the village, sometimes converging into pools, other times flowing as waterfalls over inclines of polished stone. Their banks were lined with flowers of purple and white, intermixed with deep green grass. Ethywyne felt a familiar safety here though she moved with caution, keeping Lira tucked away.
It was then that another fairy appeared up on a porch protruding from a tree house above. This was a female fairy, young in age. Her wings were not as long as Ethywyne’s; she was a last year youngling, a fairy of fourteen years. She peered down from the deck and caught site of Ethywyne. With a sudden excitement her wings took to fluttering rapidly and she hopped around and called down to the ground below. “Ethywyne!” Her voice carried joyfully down. “You’ve returned!” Ethywyne glanced up and smiled sweetly at the youngling. “Kaya! You silly child, how are you?” The youngling Kaya leapt from the porch out into the open air where her wings held her aloft. She hovered for a moment, smiling down and giggling, and then flew off down the path. “Everyone! Everyone! Ethywyne is back!” Kaya shouted over and over as she flew around the village, yelling breathlessly into hollow windows and doors, through treetops and between tree trunks. Ethywyne lowered her head and continued with her child to the center of the village, where fairy huts made of woven roots and vines sat in a circle around a large, open courtyard. She stood there, carefully looking around, but the village seemed empty. There were some moments of silence, the only sound being Kaya’s distant voice still announcing her arrival. This emptiness was strange; the others must have been hiding, as was common when someone, or something was spotted approaching the village. She continued to the far side of the courtyard, where she reached a hut built on the ground and attached to the side of a hollow wampa. Its walls were made of light but sturdy hazel wood. Whitish green ivy grew along the roof and sides. She reached the straw covered door, and stood upon a ring of polished white stones. Her hand went up to knock but
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
hesitated just before her knuckles tapped the wooden tablet hanging in the center. After a few moments, there came from behind the surrounding huts the sound of a large number of fairies much like her in size and form, heading toward the village center. Ethywyne’s breath quickened. Anxiously she broke her hesitation. Just as her hand knocked, the door opened. “By the leaves of the trees!!! My dearest Ethywyne Eleganta! So you’ve returned. Come in, my dear.” The words were spoken by a very old fairy who stood in the opening. It was a male with skin quite wrinkled and aged, yet still possessing an ethereal shine. He stood dressed in a dark tanned wolves hide, strapped around his body with ropes of dried elm roots. Ethywyne quickly moved past him, guided in by a wave of his bony fingers. He closed the door just as a number of other fairies came fluttering down like giant butterflies and all descended onto the village center. Old, young, and every age between; male, female; the fairies of the village gathered. There began a great bustling and chatter among them. “It seems I’m not the only one surprised, and delighted, to see you,” the old fairy spoke as he looked out at the gathering crowd through a small hollowed window near the door. He then covered the window with a curtain of hanging moss and turned to Ethywyne with a warm smile on his kind face. “Preen,” Ethywyne spoke, “please help me.” Preen, as she called him, stepped over and embraced her in a hug. At once he felt the presence of something in her arms. He stepped back, lightly stroking his chin. “Of course. Now first I must inquire just where you have been, for it seems you have not come alone.” Ethywyne slowly pulled back the cloth covering Lira. Preen gasped and kept silent while his eyes and mind adjusted to what he saw. With a heavy breath, he finally spoke.
“My, oh my indeed,” he smiled at the sight of the newborn youngling, “what have we here? A little wee one. I don’t believe it, where did you…” “I don’t know what to do. I had to come to you, because she is wild born.” “Wild born? And she is yours?” “Yes. And her name is Lira. Lirratywne Eleganta.” Preen stopped and stared down at the child. “Stunning. She is beautiful. Truly this is most unexpected.” “I know, that’s why I’ve come to you. I need you, Preen. What am I to do?” “This is most unexpected indeed,” he said quietly, turning away from her and producing a small wooden box from his pocket that was cut in different ways, allowing him to twist and turn it. “I suppose it shouldn’t be,” he said, this time speaking more to himself, looking as though he was working a puzzle in his head, “she has always had a certain strength about her, hidden as it may be. It makes perfect sense then, truly. But how did he get them planted…how…” “Preen! You’re doing it again.” “Oh yes, I’m sorry my dear, my thoughts spill from my mouth unchecked too often, I’m afraid.” “But what were you saying? What strength? What makes sense?” Preen said nothing for several moments. His brow crinkled, his eyes shifted, while he paced the small room, moving his long wings in unison with his steps. “It is good you’ve come to me first, and that you’ve kept Lira hidden,” he said, “all of them out there, they are no doubt excited to see you’ve returned, but they must not know of her, not yet anyway. Ethywyne, I’m so glad to see you well. I have worried these past three days. Now please, if I am going to be able to help you, you must tell me everything.” “Yes I know. I will. But what about the others?”
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
“Never mind them. They’ve seen you’ve come to me. They’ll wait. Now, this is most extraordinary. So please tell me, dear, from where came this youngling? We all know the orchids are no more. How many years have passed since we have seen a newly wild born fairy? Fourteen, I believe. Yes, last one being the youngling Kaya.” “It is true that one would find it very difficult to happen upon an orchid patch in the woods,” Ethywyne said, looking up at Preen then down at Lira, “but I assure you today that all the Elyrii orchids are not lost.” Preen moved his wings and hovered in the air; it helped him think. His blue eyes peered down at Lira, inspecting her as if to see if she was indeed a real baby fairy. He had, in his one hundred and twenty five years, seen many a youngling, but never before had the arrival of one so shaken his knowledge of the forest. “Elyrii orchids have become the rarest of them all. Even I have come to believe them all destroyed. Now you’ve been gone for three days, Ethywyne. I’ve worried for you, my dear, as have many others, so please, explain yourself.” Ethywyne knew very well the arrival of her child would be a cause of great shock and unease. She knew that no one else was aware of the orchids in the woods on Alleynra Hill, and she knew she would have to explain herself, thus she had prepared for some time. “Many months ago, when I first came of seeding age, I thought as all of us thought, that I would never seed a youngling. I’ve watched along side everyone the disappearance and destruction of the birth orchids over the last many years. I’ve seen a great many females reach their seeding age and yet have no orchids to grow their seed. These years have beheld a terrible emptiness and fear I’ve felt as much as anyone. And I expected nothing better for my hopes of motherhood. But, Preen, I tell you that on a morning many months ago, I awoke to this feeling within me that I had never
before experienced. It was something reaching from inside me and tugging, pulling, grasping me toward something. The feeling was just this incredible urge to lay my seed.” “You felt the call?” Preen’s eyes narrowed. “Did Atalay know this?” “I did feel the call, but it was the very day after he was taken. Atalay never knew.” “Hmmm. Go on then.” “And so the feeling would not go away. For days I felt this energy within me, this thing that was calling me, begging me, to become a mother. I just couldn’t understand why I was having these feelings, for I knew that since the orchids had been gone, other fairies had no longer been getting the seeding call. I knew that many weren’t even able to tell if they had reached the seeding age, because the orchids’ call was no more. I knew though, I knew that I was feeling the orchids’ call. There had to be orchids somewhere. I was certain of it. And so I followed the call, and I found the orchids in the Alleynra Hills! I seeded then, and now for the last many months since then I’ve been watching, and waiting for her birth. Three days ago, I felt the birthing call, so I had to go back to the hills and stay near the cocoon; it would open soon.” Preen held his hands to his face and massaged his brow. “Of course it would be her, of course,” he whispered to himself. Then he grinned and looked at Ethywyne with a sigh. “My sweetling, you have been a most dear and important child to me all of your life, and always have I trusted you and your knowledge of the fairy ways,” Preen said, then reached out and laid a hand upon the baby fairy’s forehead, “I am, of course, amazed and delighted to see that you have given life to a new most beautiful girl. The sight of a wild born youngling brings happiness to me I haven’t felt in many forest years. But the joy of this occasion may well be displaced by the consequences it may
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
bring. Ethywyne, you know of the times in which we live. Why didn’t you tell me before?” “I was afraid. I didn’t want anything bad to happen. I thought it best to keep to myself.” “You could have been killed out there.” Preen’s voice darkened. He rose slightly higher into the air, glaring down at the young Ethywyne while the shadows from several small candles lighting the room bounced over his elderly face. “The presence of this child brings grave danger to the village,” he said and stared at the grassy ground below, overcome by a sudden flood of age old memories. He had seen bad things, terrible things, things he longed to believe would never come again. A dark feeling crept through his fragile old bones. “The bravery and sacrifices of our ancestors have allowed our kind to live on, to still persevere, despite the shadow of the dark ones,” Preen said and landed. Lifetimes of worry and longing were stained on his face. Ethywyne knew he spoke the truth; she knew of the ‘dark ones’ of whom he spoke, and her face became anxious at the thought of them. “No fairy shall ever be wild born again. You remember this decree. I heard it myself, from the very mouth of Torquekiln, near seventeen years ago, when he began his destruction of the orchids,” Preen stated, “And yet here we have, in our forest village, a wild born fairy.” He then looked away and mumbled beneath his breath again. “If there is anything that will draw their attention here, it is this.” “Yes I know of the danger this may cause,” Ethywyne remarked, overhearing his words, “but please understand Preen, this was not my intention. I felt the orchids’ call. This is my child. The orchids, and Atalay, gave her to me.” She still held Lira in her arms, now tighter than ever before. The baby, unknowing of what sorrows and danger
beheld its new world, looked peacefully up at her mother, and at the array of hanging carvings of wings dangling from the ceiling. Ethywyne rocked her kindly, looking out with a plea for acceptance. “I understand, my child,” Preen related while again fluttering around in the air, “and this is truly a joyous occasion for all fairies, but we must be cautious. We musn’t allow the birth of one to bring forth the death of many. If they knew of her, they would stop at nothing to destroy her, and to find the orchids from which she was born. This baby must be kept in the utmost of secrecy. I know you were just a youngling yourself, but do you remember the village of Willowa?” “Yes, I mean, I’ve heard others talk of it. They had a wild born, didn’t they?” “Indeed they did, the last one to be born before their orchids were destroyed. And somehow the dark ones found out.” “Now it is abandoned.” “Just a shell of its former self. No one knows what happened. We just know that none of the Willowa fairies have ever been seen again. What happened there, well, it changed our world. All that we held as safe and secure before was no longer. It truly revealed how much the Queen’s spell has been weakened, how small in number we really are now.” “Yes, I remember when the wall had to be built here, after that.” “Still, I do believe you were right to bring the child to us, for as much peril as it puts us in, Lira would be in far greater danger out in the forest. The dark ones have been sniffing around these woods far too much in recent days.” “I had to. I could not hide her out there. But Preen, there is something I must tell you.” The fluttering of a pair of wings suddenly came from the far end of the hut. An archway there led into the open interior of the wampa tree.
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
“Ethywyne Eleganta,” a young male’s voice called out smoothly, followed quickly by the owner of the voice stepping into the archway, “I can’t believe my ears. Are you really the mother of a wild b…why, yes, so it seems. Not even extermination can keep you from seeding.” Preen stepped in front of her, trying to hide the child, but quickly realized she had already been seen. When he saw who had snuck up on them, he sighed and shook his head. “Feolyn Fore, you dare not startle me like that. You’re lucky my blackthorn scepter is in the other room.” “I’m sorry, old friend, but when I heard my favorite fairy had returned, I had to welcome her back. You didn’t expect me to stay out there and wait with the others, did you? I snuck in your smoke chute.” “You test me boy,” Preen said with a shiver and a slight grin. “Ohh, Feolyn,” Ethywyne smiled, “it is good to see you, but,” she held Lira back, still not wanting to reveal any more of her than he had already seen, “you should not be here, not yet.” “Nonsense,” Feolyn laughed, and then moved out from the archway up next to Ethywyne. He had light skin and long, heavy dark hair flowing down to the middle of his back between his slender but stiff wings. He wore a tight cloth made of giant green leaves over his torso, intricately sewn together into the shape of a shirt by grass roots and twisted ivy. His pants were loose fitting thin strips of hazel bark reaching just below his knees. Ethywyne’s eyes met his as he neared, and a blush came over her face. His strong but warm features made him quite the handsome fairy. “Your little secret is safe with me. Now let me see this little scandalous scrub.” He looked down at Lira and was actually startled. “Hmmmm. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten how…young a youngling is. So she is a wild born, I heard you say?”
“Yes,” Ethywyne smiled again, “she most certainly is.” “Amazing, after all this time.” “Amazing indeed,” Preen cut in, “precisely why we must keep this from the village. We need time to figure the best way to go about this.” “Yes Preen,” Feolyn responded, “but it seems to me that this is a reason to celebrate. Have you not been troubled by our lack of younglings, and our ever dwindling numbers? Have you not thought of what will become of us, if we cannot seed?” “Of course I have.” “And have you ever actually seen a youngling from the Castle? I don’t even think Queen Amalei has managed to seed a single one, despite what she tells us. I don’t even believe she was able to save any of the orchids. The Queen tells us to be patient, to stay strong, that she is growing new younglings in the safety of her Castle, but then where are these Castle borns? Why have we not gotten a single new youngling since Kaya? You see we must celebrate! Ethywyne has discovered an orchid patch! One that has not been destroyed. If it can remain a secret, our females can seed again. This could be our new beginning!” “Keep your voice down, you fool!” Preen said. “What you say is true. I too have wondered if Amalei has had any success all these years, and I too believe this is a reason to celebrate. But we must keep our discretion. Do you realize what could happen if the village finds out a wild born youngling is here? They all know the terrors of the dark ones. We must not cause such alarm. Fear is a powerful foe and it can bring forth very disagreeable behavior.” Ethywyne looked kindly upon Feolyn, as though she knew him very well. “Thank you,” she smiled with a nod, to which he returned the favor, finishing his nod with a quick little wink, “but Preen is right. I must protect my child.” “You are certainly right as well,” Preen said to him, “that this could be a new beginning, so long as this new patch
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
is indeed one that has been and remains beyond the knowledge of...them.” Feolyn looked at Lira and smiled, brushing back the long hair from his face. “She is quite beautiful,” he said to Ethywyne, “she has the Eleganta look about her. Yes, she’ll be great like you one day.” “Thank you Feolyn. One day you will help me teach her the ways of the forest, won’t you, like the time you taught me how to do that spin in the woods, the one that summons all the butterflies?” “Yes I will. I remember, when we were younglings just learning to fly. Ah yes. You know I’ve always been fond of you, since those childhood days of exploring the Alleynra woods. We talk to each other far too little now days.” Feolyn’s gaze dropped to the floor for a moment, his face showing a hint of sadness. “Well,” he said through a deep breath, “as I said before, your secret is safe with me.” “Very well,” Preen said, now fluttering in place, growing anxious, “why don’t you take Lira to rest now, Ethywyne. You can keep her here. I must go out and speak to the village. I’m sure they grow restless.” Preen flew over to the door, and upon seeing Lira was well out of view, opened it and fluttered out to meet the inquisitive villagers. Ethywyne retreated inside the wampa, where the many levels of rooms were large enough for all the comforts of a fairy home. The ground floor had two wicker chairs, a fire pit, and a large four-legged stone table with a square-shaped checkered board sitting on it. Upon the board were many small stone carvings like pieces to a game. There were carvings of many strange creatures; some looked like fairies, large and small, and others had a more grotesque appearance, wicked and beastly in form. The pieces were situated about as though strategically placed.
The very middle of the tree was entirely hollowed out, segmented by each floor which had a hole in the middle for flying up through. Feolyn followed Ethywyne as she flew with Lira up to the second floor, where the inside wall of the tree was lined with a ring of soft dried grass. Together they landed there. Lira was placed gently on the bed and wrapped in a blanket of rose petals. “I really am happy for you,” Feolyn said watching Lira curl her tiny wings up and fall to sleep. “I’m happy, too. I only wish it didn’t have to be this way, so hidden.” “It will be fine, I’m sure. But I, well, never mind…” “Come now, Feolyn, you know you can’t just stop like that.” “It’s just,” “Yes? You can tell me.” “Alright, but you musn’t get upset.” “How can I know if I’ll get upset if I don’t know what you are going to say?” “You’re right, then, perhaps I should just say it.” “Look at this!” Ethywyne laughed. “The great performer and speaker Feolyn Fore, at a loss of words! This has never happened during one of your plays.” “Of course not, that is all scripted.” “Go ahead then.” “I just wanted you to know that, you could have told me about this. I would have been there for you. I would have protected you. I just didn’t think you could seed, I mean, what with Atalay being…well, not here.” Ethywyne was quiet for a moment at the sound of that name. For a moment her whole demeanor became somber. “Yes, but, I suppose he still affected me, before he was taken. It wasn’t long after he disappeared that I heard the orchids’ call. I would have told you, but something made me keep it secret. I just didn’t want anyone else to be, you know.”
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
“But you went out there in the forest alone. If anything would have happened to you, I….” “Well it didn’t.” “But it could have.” “Feolyn, please, I was careful. But thank you for your care.” An awkward silence crept between them, until Feolyn finally spoke again. “Good, then listen. You should get some rest too, I’m sure your nerves have tired you out. You’ve been out there for three days, after all.” “Yes, I am tired. And don’t you have a play to prepare for, anyway? Tonight is the big performance, isn’t it?” “Why yes. I’m glad you remembered.” “How could I not, what with Kaya going on about it since the frost broke.” “She is a funny little fairy. My biggest fan, though, I suppose. Well she has her youngling mischievousness about her still, she does. Did I tell you how she’s always hiding my arrows? I found one the other night through the most uncomfortable of means when I lay on my bed and was pricked by one hidden under the grass.” “Oh, you know she still has that crush on you,” Ethywyne laughed, “and with those midnight locks, who wouldn’t?” “Yes,” Feolyn smiled, holding up his long black hair, “it is quite shiny isn’t it. And soft.” “Oh Feolyn, will you always be so full of yourself? You know that’s why it didn’t work with us.” “That’s just me, you know.” “It is true that I’ve overheard your name mentioned on more than one occasion by the passing mouths of some of the females around this village. ‘Feolyn the handsome’, ‘Feolyn the charming’.” “Oooh I like that one.”
“Well then,” Ethywyne said, with a hint of jealousy in her voice, “go and prepare yourself for the ladies tonight.” “I will, but you know you’re my favorite,” Feolyn said, and then flew up into the air. With a spin and a flicker of sparkling powder he kept in a small bottle on his belt, simply for a dazzling effect, he went up through the center hole of the tree floors until he disappeared through the smoke chute way up near the crown of the giant wampa. Outside, Preen was just getting around to giving the crowd the news they wanted to hear, after being hit with a barrage of questions upon his first appearance. He had finally calmed everyone and was able to speak and be heard. “Now listen! Ethywyne is safe. She has returned from the forest unharmed.” “But where did she go!” a fairy from the crowd yelled out. “Was she taken? Was she hurt?” others asked. “No. She was neither hurt nor taken. Three days ago she left the village without a Protector, foolish yes, but not without purpose. Now you must listen, and you must all trust me. At this time I cannot tell you where she was.” A murmur swept through the fairies. “What is the secret?” some whispered suspiciously. “Why would she go alone? What is Preen Woodling hiding?” others gossiped among themselves. “In time you will know, but at present, Ethywyne wishes for her privacy,” Preen continued, trying to keep their attention, “have patience and all will be revealed soon.” He watched the crowd talk and argue, some accepting his words, some not. It was quite apparent they wanted to know more. Since the construction of the wall around the village, no one left for more than half a day, and certainly not without a Protector. They chattered about in a ruckus for a few moments, as fairies do, until Preen took order again. “You will all learn more, from Ethywyne herself, I’m sure, but not now. She is very tired, and wishes to be left alone. Give her time. She was quite terrified out there. She is
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
only a garden fairy, after all. Now, we have something much more exciting to do. You all know tonight is the performance. Feolyn Fore and his troop have been preparing for weeks, so let us prepare as well. There is much work to be done. And what timing of Ethywyne’s return! We can make this a celebration! Now, go and do your part!” The fairies hung around the village center for awhile, each going on about where they thought she had really been. They did love a good scandal, so this was certainly something to go on about. “I think the dark ones got her, but she escaped!” some said. “Or maybe they let her come back, and now she is a spy!” others went on. They came up with many theories, but none mentioned anything about finding wild Elyrii orchids. That was something just too improbable. Preen finally shooed them all away from the courtyard, sending them off to begin preparations for what was quite an elaborate event, a fairy performance. It included a large feast of delicious food and drink, and tonight would even include a display of Atro Swirling’s famous fireplay, gorgeous bursts of fire in the sky that he could shape into the most amazing forms. Once the fairies were gone, Preen returned to his hut. “Where could this patch be?” he whispered to himself, shaking his head and stroking his stubbly chin. “Very perplexed, I am. Very. How could Atalay have gotten them planted? Does this mean he is still alive? How could they have not found them? Strange, this is very strange.” Preen quickly hushed his spoken thoughts and flew up through the hole in the second floor. There he found Ethywyne lying peacefully beside Lira. The youngling was sound asleep, but her mother was staring wide-eyed at walls. “My dear,” said Preen, “how are you?” “Ok, I guess.” “You can rest here. The villagers have been calmed, for now. They will want to know more though, soon. I will think of something. I should need to go and see the Mother.”
Denny Swartzlander “Yes, she will know what to do. So have they all
gone?” “Yes, off to prepare for tonight. You should probably attend the festival; at least make your presence known.” “Ohh Preen, I am excited to see the performance. But…” “What is it?” “I need to tell you something.” “My child?” “We may not truly be safe here.” “We’re safer here than out in the forest. Tomorrow we will send a messenger to the Queen. She will protect Lira, once she hears of her, to be sure. Just be patient my dear, all will be well.” “No,” Ethywyne said solemnly, “there is something no one else knows. Something that, well, we may not have time to send a message to the Queen.” Preen stopped and glared into her eyes. He could read her face as sure as he could read the leaves. “So,” he said in his old, wise voice, “it is true that this is more urgent then we knew.” Ethywyne looked down at the floor, then at her baby on the grass. She was scared, but Lira’s beauty could overcome any ill thoughts. “They saw you in the forest, didn’t they,” Preen said. Ethywyne wanted to deny it, but she couldn’t. There was no doubt she had been seen. “Yes, on my way from Alleynra, when I reached the entrance to our woods. I saw one across the valley and it saw me.” “You are certain it saw that you had a youngling?” “I don’t know, but it was watching me as if it knew.” Preen sighed and his brow crinkled. Again came his look of working things out, of thinking terribly hard. “If this is so, then it is just what I feared. And I’m afraid this changes everything.” Then, in a manner as though
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
he wanted to say anything else, anything at all, he spoke these words, “the child must not remain here. She must leave the village tonight.” Ethywyne looked up with sudden concern and worry, struck with even a little resentment. She knew this would be the course, but it still shocked her to hear Preen say it. “H..how..I won’t be parted with her. Where will we go?” Preen thought for a moment, and rested his hand upon her shoulder. “Of course I would never part you from her, my dear,” his voice became much more urgent, “I will summon a Protector to escort you and Lira. You will leave tonight under cover of darkness, and travel north, all the way to the Fairy Castle. You will not stop until you reach Queen Amalei herself.” “The Queen?” Ethywyne said, unsure how to react to such a lofty quest. She had never in her life been beyond the Alleynra Hills, and now to travel the great distance to the Castle, and see the Queen of the Fairies, in the flesh and wings; this was more than she ever dreamed. And what would such a trip do to her young Lira? “Yes, Ethywyne, you will need the Queen’s help, if indeed our enemy has knowledge of Lira. They will come for you, and your child. The Queen may be the only one who can protect you. Behind the Castle walls you will find safety. I’m sorry, my dear, but this village will be the first place they look. We must find a Protector; and I think I know one who will not fail us.” “But then, what of you and the others? What will happen here?” “I am certain the dark ones will come, if they know of the child, and that is a burden we will have to bear.” “Then you have to warn everyone, you have to cancel the performance. The fire play can be seen throughout the forest! Won’t that only draw them even more?”
“Indeed,” Preen spoke slowly, almost to a whisper, “it is not a pleasant thing…but, I cannot spread panic through the village. No, I musn’t cause such fear. The other fairies must know of nothing. That would only endanger you even more. I will warn only the watchers on the wall, and we will be ready. It is the way it must be, Ethywyne. If you are to escape, the enemy must be diverted, focused and fixed on here.” “Preen,” she said with suspicion and disbelief, “you want them to come. But why would you?” “I must, Ethywyne! The forest must be clear for you and Lira. If they are drawn here, it will make your journey through the forest all the more safe. You must get Lira to the Queen. You are, my child, now a part of something far deeper than I’m sure you ever wanted. Still, you’re a part now, a very important part. Atalay Earthen loved you, so you are the one.” “What? What does this have to do with him?” “Never mind. What matters now is the safety of you and your youngling. That is all I can say.” “But what am I a part of? I don’t understand.” “I’m sorry, Ethywyne, but you must be content for now with knowing that you must be saved. Nothing else matters. Do you understand me, child? Nothing else!!” “Preen, please…” “Trust me, my dear, if you have ever considered me as your father. You must trust me. I will summon a Protector, and you will go tonight. The dark ones will come here to Bila Eutay, leaving you to travel north undetected. They will come from the south, from the fortress Krowl.” “Krowl? What an awful sounding place.” “And it is; a nasty structure, large as the trees and heavy with high walls of dirty wood and cold metal and stone, twisted together in an unnatural way. It has towers that stick up like rugged thorns, and sharpened logs reach out from its sides like fingers stretching out to grasp what comes near. There are many of the dark ones there, and from there they
Eleganta – A Secret in the Orchids
will come, no doubt led by the viciousness of the general Sunderin himself.” “Who is that?” “Not one you would want to ever meet. But, don’t you concern yourself, Ethywyne; you’ll be long gone by the time they come.” “But is it true that the spell is weakened? We are so few now; is Bila Eutay no longer protected?” “It is true, dear. Our numbers have fallen. You’ve heard the ancient Queen Marigold’s words; I’m sure, in teachings of your youth. I believe I taught them to you myself. By the many we prevail, by the few this spell will fail. And it has protected us, using the fairy magic, made powerful by large groups of us together, like in villages such as this. The dark ones have never been able to come near our communal dwellings, because of that spell, until they started ridding the forest of our means of birth. It drove them mad, it did, when they came near. That was its power. It affected them in such a way as to most literally drive them insane if they came too close, sickening their minds and bearing upon their bodies horrible convulsions and illness. We didn’t always need the wall, you know, before they found out about the orchids.” “Yes, I remember flying freely throughout the woods as a youngling, coming and going from the village, straight out into the trees.” “Since they’ve hunted the Elyrii orchids, all of that has changed. It’s been seventeen years since they began, and in that time many of us have perished, some from old age, but many from the encroaching presence of their hunters. And with no younglings to bring new life where old ones once were, yes, Ethywyne, our numbers have fallen greatly. The spell is very weak. There just simply aren’t enough of us anymore to ensure its potency. And so we are not protected as we once were, none of the fairy villages are, not even the great Castle. But, even without the Queen’s spell, we are quite
resourceful. We have other means to fight them off. You leave that to the Guard and the wall. Those dark foul beasts have yet to breach it.” “It is not only my fear for the other fairies here, but this is my home. I don’t want to leave it.” “It is the only way now, I’m afraid.” “I’ve never been any further than the hill on which Lira was born. How can I travel all the way to the Queen? And Lira, she is not even a day old!” “I assure you I will find a Protector worthy of guiding you. I’m afraid there is no choice for you this matter, and I don’t say that to be cruel, I say it for your survival.” “Then what will we tell everyone?” “Nothing, for awhile. It will be best if they believe all is well and that you are still here. You must go in secret. Now get some rest, you’ve a long night ahead of you.” Ethywyne said little after that; retreating deep into her thoughts of what lay ahead. Everything was changing now. The comfort and simplicity of her humble little world grew ever more distant by the minute. A shadow was forming over all that had once been bright. Preen could see this in her face, and it saddened his. This was not the way it was supposed to have gone, not the way he and Atalay had planned. Ethywyne now belonged to something she could never escape; her life had now forever changed, and she hadn’t the slightest clue of how much. He would have to tell her, he should tell her. And even with the peril and risk of sending her out into the Realms, it would certainly bode better for her survival than keeping her hidden in Bila Eutay. For reasons far more sinister than she knew, there were creatures coming for her; and nothing, and no one in this sparkling little fairy village would be spared from the wrath of the invaders from the south, the dark ones of fairy speak, the beasts of Torquekiln the Troll King.