Ch. II: Pastoral

          "We really need to get going," a blue faerie scolded.  "Come on, Subito!"

          "I have never been late to anything!" the young man protested.  "You're the one lagging, Aniko."

          "Do you think the others will be there?" Aniko asked.

          "I guess we'll know in a few minutes," Subito said nervously.  This wasn't a journey he would enjoy taking alone.

          The pair followed the cobbled lane toward the silver fence spread wide to reveal a beautiful garden.  They headed down the jeweled paths, straight toward the center of the maze, hoping to meet a group of people determined to protect their way of life as much as them.  Ever since the God chose him, he had dedicated himself to learning all he could about his crafts to fulfill his duty to the best of his abilities.  He wanted this to go well more than anything- he was confident, but he knew this was not something to be undertaken lightly and would take all the help he could get.

          "I hear laughter," Aniko said as they hurried on.  "They must be up ahead- at least we know there's one person waiting!"

          Subito nodded and jogged after his friend into the clearing at the center of the maze-like garden.  When he saw who was there, he stopped.

          Standing by the fountain with a white faerie fluttering around her was the most gorgeous girl he'd ever seen.  She was tiny, with an ivory complexion, large deep blue eyes, and long, silvery-white hair that fell around her in turquoise beaded curls.  "Hello," she said with a shy smile.  He admired the complex designs of silvery blue paint that adorned her face and moved with her small, full lips.  "Are you here for the meeting?"

          He cleared his throat and walked up to her with his large dark hands out palm-up in a formal greeting.  She barely came up to mid-chest on him and his hands dwarfed hers when she placed them in his and bowed.  "I am.  I am Subito," he said.  Aniko tugged on a lock of his silky blue-black hair.  "And this is Aniko," he added with a wince.

          She slipped her hands from him.  "I am Maebhe and this is Ylida.  You are the basso profondo?" she asked.

          "Yes, and by the feel of your hands, you are the violinist- are any of the others here?"

          The white faerie came to hover beside the girl and spoke.  "You are the only other.  I suspect we may have to wait for the percussionist a bit, but I know the flautist is on his way-"

          "Hello!" A tall gangly red-head came stumbling into the clearing with a small wooden fife in his freckled, long-fingered hand and a golden faerie buzzing hectically in his wake.  "I'm Vivace!" he said with a player's wave and a dramatic bow.  He bowed so low he tumbled over and rolled to a stop in front of Maebhe.  She laughed as he gazed up at her with bright green eyes set in a dazed expression.  He pulled his feet together and stood to bow again, taking her hand.  "Forgive me, miss, but I seemed to have forgotten my grace in the presence of yours."  He kissed her hand before slipping away to give Subito's a hearty shake.

          "I'm Subito," he answered the player with thinly veiled irritation.

          "I know, I've been to all your recitals- and yours, Miss Vilina," Vivace answered.

          "I go by Maebhe," she said.  "I've been to one of yours, and one of yours," she said, nodding to each of them.  "But I can't say I've seen every one of them.  I'm usually too busy to enjoy a foreign performance."

          "A tragedy for sure," the flautist said, his face falling into a heartbreaking expression.  He brightened up immediately and plucked his faerie out of the air.  "Where are my manners?!  This is Libba- the light of my life, the life of my light, the-"

          "Enough!" the faerie cried, squirming in his hand.  "Look!"

          They all turned to face the path to the east.  "Are we really that late?" Another pair came into the clearing.  Subito winced- he prized himself on manners and looking his best, but this fellow was quite the opposite.  His hair was brown and disheveled, too long with streaks of bright blue.  His grey eyes were sleepy and his clothes rumpled, like he had just gotten out of bed.  He was tall, though shorter than Subito and Vivace, but still over six feet.

          "Everybody calls me Drummer- this is my pixie, Inina," he drawled.

          Inina's deep purple glow darkened.  "I'm a faerie, you half-wit, now stand up straight and shake some hands!"

          Drummer rolled his eyes and strolled lazily over to Vivace.  "Hello, friend," he said. "Who's the suit?" he added with a whisper.  Vivace just slapped him on the back and then Drummer moved to Subito.  "Lookin' sharp," he said with a grin as he held out a strong hand.  Subito took it carefully. 

          "I'm Subito," he said stiffly.  "Nice to meet you."

          "Ah, the vocalist- I never would have guessed!" he said, leaving with a crooked smile on his face.  "And who is this?  You're so tiny, you must be a violinist."

          Maebhe gave him her own crooked grin.  "I'm Maebhe- this is Ylida.  Nice to meet you- oh!"

          A drumstick had slipped out of his sleeve and clattered to the ground.  "Sorry about that- can't go anywhere without them!"  He swept it up and took a seat on the bench a few feet away, crossing his long legs casually and leaning back.  "So, let's get this going, shall we?"

          Ylida cleared her throat and flew to the middle of the group.  "I am Ylida, and I have been given a message to deliver to you four- the four of us, actually, were given a message.  Mine is just the first part.  You have been given a task and after you hear these words, you will have one last chance to change your mind- will you stay?  Or will you follow the path of the gods' chosen and protect your people?"  She cleared her throat.

          "There is an ancient evil in the west.  It was locked up thousands of years ago, when the gods first came to be.  Time, Matter, Magic, and Space made the gods in hopes that they would create a beautiful place, beautiful creatures, to live and exist so that something would be.  But one god scorned creation and his own makers.  He created the Void, and so many things the gods had labored on were unmade."

          Libba flew forward.  "But the other gods and their makers were not weak.  They formulated a plan to stop this god, Evrahan, from undoing the lives they had so lovingly created.  They pushed Evrahan into the Void, hoping to unmake him, but Evrahan was the Unmaker, the Eater, and what is unmade cannot be unmade.  He became trapped in non-existence, still existing but also unreal."

          "The gods knew that he was still 'alive,'" Inina started.  "And they hoped that he may never escape.  They locked it with layer upon layer of spells and enchantments as an extra precaution, but a thousand years ago, they broke.  A dragon named Morboeth from the lands in the west entered the Holy Realms and stole the seal.  He wished to add it to his horde as evidence of his superiority- only dragons can stand up to the gods, it was rumored, and he wanted to be the dragon that proved it."

          Aniko paced on the fountain's edge.  "He did not realize what he had done.  The gods sent four like you to return it, but the seal was broken in the battle.  Evrahan now had a chance to escape, and he has been clawing his way back into reality these past thousand years.  He is at the edge of the Void, and you must put him back in.  The pieces of the seal were lost and scattered, stolen by dragons who looted the dead Morboeth's horde, and other creatures."

          "We are certain that one of the human kings has a piece of the seal.  His kingdom is in the north, in the icy kingdom of Tarak," Ylida told them.  "Your own elf-queen Nayulei is in possession of the largest piece, and there are rumours of the dwarves keeping a scrap safe in their halls.  The centaurs should also give theirs willingly, but you will have trouble with the goblins and dragons in possession of pieces."

          "How many pieces are there?" Subito asked with a frown.

          Inina looked down her tiny nose at him.  "How should we know?  The best way to find out is to put it back together again."

          "How do we put it back together?" Maebhe asked.  "Magic?"

          "There is a sorcerer east of here, only a few days away who has made a study of the seal.  He is rumored to have turned to shadows, but if luck is on our side, he will be willing to help us," Libba said.

          "He should be our first stop, then.  Are there any pieces in that area?" Subito asked.

          "There is a herd of centaurs, a troll cave, and rumours of a dragon, but I have not heard of any pieces in his area.  I would not doubt if the sorcerer had one, considering his interests, but the chances of another are slim," Aniko explained.

          Ylida flew over to Maebhe's shoulder.  "I know you are all still young.  I know you have school left and lives here to lead, but please consider this.  If you choose to abandon this quest, there are none to take your place.  If this is not done, the potential eternity you have left to live may be far shorter if Evrahar breaks out and swallows the world.  This is everyone's best chance at having a future."

          "I'll do it," Maebhe said, her mouth a thin line.

          Subito stepped forward.  "I will."

          "Why not?" Vivace said with a wide smile.  "Sounds like a lot of fun!"

          "If it gets me out of class," Drummer said, spinning a drumstick on his fingers.

          "Perfect!" Aniko said.  "So what's the plan?"

          Everyone turned to look at Ylida.  "Erm...Okay, well, why don't we all go home, pack some essentials- actually, we probably need to know what we have- Vilina can shoot a bow..."

          "I do fine without weapons," Drummer said lazily.

          Vivace just grinned widely and pulled knives out of various places on his person.

          "I learned to handle a sword," Subito offered.  "It's been a preference of my family for generations."

          "Perfect!" Ylida said.  "So we all go home tonight, pack essentials- don't forget food, water, bedding, weapons-"

          "What about our instruments?" Maebhe asked fretfully.

          "I think a gayageum would weigh us down too much, but we could strap a fiddle to your pack.  A fife or flute is small, possible percussion instruments are everywhere, and Subito carries his instrument in his throat- so it should be fine," Ylida soothed.

          "Okay...I just don't want to come back out of practice," the girl whispered.

          "No worries," Vivace said.  "I could bring my one-man band suit, if you would like!"

          Maebhe laughed and turned to follow her faerie out of the garden.  The boys looked around at each other for a moment with measuring glances.  "A girl might hold us up," Drummer said baldly.

          "She's a healer," Aniko explained.  "And Ylida said she's top of everything in school- spells, music, archery, and running."

          "So she'll be able to run away after getting hurt and heal herself," Vivace joked.

          Subito scowled.  "I think you two need to give her a chance," he began, but Libba and Inina cut him off.

          "What's wrong with being a girl!" they yelled, diving at the other two boys' faces.  They yelled and ran off through the garden.  Aniko and Subito watched them flee.

          "I think she'll be fine," Aniko said.

          Subito stared off into the distance.  "It was the gods who chose us, and she is a part of it.  I know we'll succeed."

The End

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