Authors: Melissa Wright
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General
Copyright 2011 by Melissa Wright
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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Chapter 1 Frey
Chapter 2 Chevelle
Chapter 3 Black Roots
Chapter 4 Flame
Chapter 5 Trials
Chapter 6 Trails
Chapter 7 Steed
Chapter 8 Mountains
Chapter 9 Ruby
Chapter 10 Summit
Chapter 11 An Education
Chapter 12 Unexpected Company
Chapter 13 Dear Dairy
Chapter 14 Traveling
Chapter 15 Fortress
Chapter 16 Lessons
Chapter 17 A Fitting End
!" I stubbed my toe on a root, one
of the pitfalls of living in a tree. It throbbed and I slammed the
It only took a moment to realize what I'd
"Stupid, loud monster!
should have left you for the rats... brain dead... ugly..." Aunt
Fannie cursed and mumbled as I hurried away from the tree. She'd
never forgiven me for burdening her with my presence after my
mother's accident so long ago.
I took my preferred "hiding from Fannie"
route, running down the path to the little outcropping of rock on
the west side of the village, and then slowed to make my way
through the brush in back of Junnie's house.
I rounded the front and rapped two quick and
then one loud knock on the small wooden door, our special code for
as long as I could remember. A wisp of bright blond hair swirled
around Junnie's shining eyes as the door swung open. I must have
caught her working; she looked flustered.
Junnie was older than I, but still petite and
stunning, just as the rest of the village elves were. All bore the
same thin features, the same blue eyes that twinkled like
gemstones, sunny blond hair, often with a perfectly positioned wave
or curl, a button nose, and flushed cheeks, usually from dancing
There you are, my Fredora!”
Junnie was always trying out new nicknames for me. She knew I
despised my given name: Elfreda Georgiana Suzetta Glaforia.
Gah. My father must have been an imp.
I couldn't actually remember him, but I could
him because the father was always responsible for naming the
first born. I mean, how could you get more unoriginal than to be
named for the ancient word meaning "elf"? And as if that wasn't bad
enough, it was followed by two ridiculous middle names and ended in
a flourish with my surname.
Hey, Junnie. What’s on the
schedule for today?
don't say sciences.”
No, I’ve been working on
something else. How do you feel about studying the lineages?” she
asked. She knew I hated trying to memorize the endless pages of
names and dates.
Well, let’s get to it
then.” She led me through the tiny living area toward the back
She didn’t have or need a great deal of
space. Much like me, Junnie was practically alone. Her family had
all received the calling, “a higher purpose to serve elfkind.” I
didn’t know exactly what that meant, only that the elf usually left
with fanfare and seldom returned in less than a hundred years. It
was apparently a very honorable thing, though she never seemed
Just off the living area was the study,
larger than the front room, stuffed full of documents and lit dimly
by two lanterns. Dark as it was, I could still see dust covering
all the decrepit scrolls and books. I could never understand why
elves were so clean and bright until it came to their studies.
Those rooms were always sprinkled with age and whenever the elf
pulled out a volume, their eyes gleamed and they dramatically blew
away the dust.
I settled onto a stool and then leaned
forward, putting my elbows on the table…
I didn't know how long I sat
so, looking down on a huge volume entitled
The Great Elves of Varkenshire,
pretending to read. I stared at a small thistle lying on the
table among some other potion ingredients, and I realized it had
begun to extend its leaves. I was certainly startled; Junnie was
wrapped up in a lengthy scroll across the room and couldn’t have
possibly been the source, and I had never seen anything grow on my
account. I concentrated on the thistle then, eyeing each tiny
spike. I knew the magic, though it had never worked for me before.
The leaves turned up and the head began to turn green… the stem
reached out new roots and new buds began to form. I
Junnie swirled around. “What? What did you
"No, I was just… there was a
thistle here…” It was all that had developed, the bulbs and
seedlings were undisturbed, and I couldn't help but think,
oh sure, the
Junnie was across the room in a flash. She
glanced at the changed thistle and then, I thought, at me, but when
I looked back she was eyeing the wall of books. “Well, good for
you, Frey. Your efforts are finally paying off.”
I stared blankly at her.
What do you say we wrap it
up for today? I’ve got some business with Council.”
Uh, okay,” I stuttered,
“see you.” I stumbled off the stool, half numb from being still so
long, and made my way outside into the bright sun. I nearly
lingered in town but thought better of it, picking an ambling,
rarely used path out of the village, in no hurry to get
Once outside of town, I
found myself wandering idly through the trees and, eventually, into
an abandoned, overgrown garden where I plopped down until I could
work out what to do with my now empty afternoon. I sat surrounded
by the various weeds, contemplating naming the species. I decided
that idea sucked about as much as going home and resolved to repeat
the process I'd used on the thistle in Junnie's study. I
concentrated on one weed, and then on each of the others, spinning
my charms in an attempt to develop them. Though I had no luck with
the wild flowers and renegade vegetable plants, I was surprised to
find a small thorn tree and a couple of noxious strains mature in
Huh, I guess Junnie was right.
Maybe I should practice more.
Well, well, what do we have
here? Is Frey making
?” Evelyn spoke with such
sarcastic sourness it seemed to burn right through me.
It took everything I had to
keep my reply in check, keep myself out of trouble. “Oh, uh, I
didn’t realize… is this your…” I was struggling. This wasn't her
field. The forest and surrounding meadows didn’t belong to any elf,
only your home was yours. But I knew from past experience Evelyn
would punish me for being here, where she happened along. Oh sure,
not physically, no elf did that. But I could just imagine the way
perfect little Evelyn would repeat the story in town.
Poor little Frey, sitting alone in the weeds,
couldn’t even make grass grow. What can we do to help her? We
should have a council meeting on it, I’m sure. Poor, poor
. I stayed where I sat, forcing my eyes
to the ground. But then I pictured the smirk on her face as she
mocked me to our peers, and couldn’t stop the resentment from
boiling up. My ears rang with it.
I looked up at her through
What was that?
A... a… Choo!”
I didn’t think I’d ever heard an elf sneeze. I
Evelyn shot a hateful glower at me from her
adorable little face. And then she whirled, retreating, Eva and
Daynia (her devoted followers) on her heels, though both appeared
completely baffled. I couldn’t stop thinking about her expression
and the sneeze as she stormed away. I wished I could hear it
My ears popped as I burst
out with laughter when she began to run toward town. Silly
something as insignificant as a sneeze would give me such
I wonder how I’d delight in a
Uh, that’s annoying
. Ears popping
again, not used to laughing I guessed, I strode off toward home,
confident I could face Fannie in my good humor.
Or maybe I’ll take the long way…
As I finally approached the old twisted and
gnarled tree, which resembled a giant bonsai, I caught sight of an
aged elf leaving. It was a council member. Tassels hung around his
neck depicting lines and accomplishments: sky blue for receiving
the calling, deep crimson for service to the guard. His chest bore
a personalized crest, an oak leaf on a large shield of gold and
acorn brown. I watched the rainbow of a half dozen tassels flutter
behind him as he rushed down the path toward the village.
I walked through the door and saw immediately
Aunt Fannie had not expected company. I could spot the telltale
signs of a hurried clean spell. I plopped down at the table to
enjoy a bowl of berries set out for company under the guise of
politeness. We didn’t often have visitors, and I could count the
times on a new spruce twig we’d had fresh berries set out. Might as
well enjoy them, seldom did I not have to gather for myself.
I popped a ripe juneberry in
my mouth as Aunt Fannie rounded the corner. She was on her way into
the room, having dashed back to her stash of wine as soon as the
visitor had hit the door. She peered at me oddly out of the corner
of her eye while she opened the bottle. Maybe it annoyed her to see
I was eating
berries. Not that she’d picked them; I was sure she had just
set a charm on an unsuspecting squirrel to perform her manual
Company?” I was enjoying
the bitterness of a spireberry now.
It seems there was some
trouble in town today. The elves are in an uproar,” she
I didn’t question any
further. Town trouble was usually of no interest to me. Actually, I
couldn’t really think of the last time town had trouble… She
Okay, better indulge
. “What sort of trouble?”
Apparently, Evelyn of
Rothegarr came into town from the meadows at full speed wheezing
and sneezing. She reached the village center, grabbed her throat,
and fell to the ground without a breath.”
I stopped chewing.
She continued, “They found a common thistle
caught in her airway.”
My mind rolled.
Mmm. Council thinks she
must have been working a spell that went awry." She peered at me
questioningly; I might have turned pale. She threw the cork at me.
Hard. I must have quit breathing; I drew in a sharp breath. My
thoughts twisted. Aunt Fannie wore a mean grin.
Something else?” It was
nearly a whisper, but I knew her hearing abilities.
She was enjoying knowing something I didn’t,
dragging it out. I glared at her and something in my stare must
have convinced her to go on. “The council was just able to save her
in time. Almost couldn’t find the right words to turn the
A gush of air escaped my
Fannie continued to talk,
berating me for looking so dumbfounded I thought. I was oblivious;
my mind was doing somersaults like a pixie on sweet pea.
Impossible. A thistle? How? What?
. Had the council known she went
running because I laughed at her? Had the thistle grown as she
stood beside me? Was that what caused the sneezing? She would
surely tell I was there. Ugh, another inquisition. What else had
the council member told Fannie? He must have known I was a witness,
why else would he have been here? I could still see the anger on
her face. She would accuse me, I was sure. Somehow, Evelyn would
make this my fault.