Day 16

“We have’t seen this before,” Alastair said.

“Whatever. Just, get inside and we can sort everything out,” said Tipper.

“You’re deplorable,” Kimber growled. “They are our guests. Show them some dignity, why don’t you?”

“Thank you, Kimber. Please, if you will take us to the Elder,” Perceval said as he bowed to the little girl fox creature.

The children filtered into the enormous tree palace in awe. Not even Tipper’s sour mood could alter their pure amazement. Inside of the tree palace was decorated like any other palace. Large paintings of fox creatures lined the hallways, all lit with flickering purple flames. There were tables laden with unfamiliar flowers that smelled like a mixture of cinnamon and strawberries in all shades of red, pinks, and white. Some were speckled with blue and yellow. The wood floors were impeccably polished and gleaming. Lila could see her entire reflection in one single floorboard. Above their heads were flashy chandeliers and painted mosaics on the ceilings. The mosaics depicted some sort of event that involved the fox creatures and an angelic animals with wide wings and the elongated face of a human, stag hybrid. Seeing as the children had never been in a palace on Earth, the fact they they were walking around in a palace directly in a place straight from fairytales only made their hearts flutter even faster.

Kimber took the group up a flight of grand stairs that were covered in a velvet green carpet. Ginger would never say, but she wanted to take off her newly dried socks and shoes to feel the texture of the carpet on her bare feet. She wouldn’t do that, of course. There was no way she would embarrass herself like that. If Ginger wanted to take off her shoes, then Gabbie probably wanted to the exact same thing. However, Gabbie would have no qualms about taking off her shoes in such a palace. Ginger snatched her sister’s hand to keep her from doing anything regrettable.

Up the stair case and down three hallways—that’s right, three hallways in a tree palace—Kimber at last stopped in front of a black wooden door. It frame had been carved with fox creature figures laughing and playing. Again, the stag, human hybrid had been beset into the wood above the others as if watching over them.

“Here we are. “ Kimber knocked on the door with three loud raps.

“You may enter,” answered a kindly, old voice. Lila was immediately comforted. Whoever was behind that door sounded an awful lot like great grandpa, who had lived to be ninety seven before passing away two years ago.

Kimber opened the door. “May I introduce to you the Elder! Elder, here are the children Tipper and Perceval found.”

“Please, you may all take a seat,” said the man who must have been sitting in the room’s only incredibly large armchair. Alastair blinked, taking in the sophisticated room with a curiosity he thought he was too stunned to muster.

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