Day 80

“If anyone can send you home, she’s the one to do it.” Faeley pulled out a strip of jerky from on pouch tied onto her belt. She bit into the hard meat and chewed. Loudly. The Royal Guard tried to cover their chuckles.

“And magic. The Elder said something about that, too. She can figure out what we can do?” Questioned Alastair.

“Inana is the Queen for a reason.” Faeley finished her piece of meat and wiped her hands on her pants. She then withdrew a pad of paper and a writing utensil from the same pouch she pulled out the piece of meat. The sub-queen scribbled away at the paper. “I saw what you two children did at the battle front. Manipulating time and matter. That’s a special case of magic, there. I haven’t heard of anyone wielding such power in hundreds of years. Queen Inana may be able to teach you how to better to control that.”
“We won’t need to know when we get home,” said Ginger.

“True. But have you not heard of the human saying? It’s better to be safe than to be sorry?” Subqueen Faeley stood and rolled her shoulders. The stump of her right arm caught the faint blue light bouncing off of the wall’s stones. The children nearly forgot that the sub-queen only had one arm. She moved with a grace and strength that most people with two arms did even possess. Faeley had already returned her pad of paper and writing utensil back into her pouch. She had torn out the page she was writing in and folded the piece in two. The sub-queen walked over to Silverskin and placed the paper into the boy’s hand.

“Give this to Queen Inana, Silverskin. Do not lose it. I’m untrusting this duty to you and you alone.”

“Y-you can count on me!” Silverskin bowed repeatedly.

“Enough of that. You hold your head high and strong.”

“Shall we accompany them, my lady?” Agile asked. “Or would you like us to stay and help rebuild? We were sent here to help and investigate, and I believe our aid would be more beneficial than our absence.”

“You are correct, Agile. There’s no sense in sending all of you.” The sub-queen smiled at Agile and Adriei and the two Royal Guards smiled back. “I appreciate your aid. Because you will not accompany our guests outside, could you please relate what they may face on the way to our Queen?”

“Yes!” Adriei shouted. “Oh, yes,” the guard said a little softer after sub-queen Faeley widened her eyes from the guard’s loudness. “You’re going into a rough territory.” The Royal Guard made sure that they were letting each and everyone know about the seriousness of the situation. “Judging by the batals, the Lake God, and the disappearances, Soielle is no longer a safe place. Where you’re venturing into wasn’t safe to begin with.”

Day 78

“DAAAAAANGE…” The Lake God’s abrupt end to what seemed to be his mantra made the company shiver. What happened? Was the Lake God defeated? Did it break through the rock wall to begin cracking open the mountain? What was going on?

The company sat again in silence. No one looked at each other. Everything now felt like defeat.

“We may have to go before your mother gets back,” Tipper told Silverskin.

“And why’s that?” The young elf questioned.

“As you may have guessed, my charges aren’t just half humans. Their full blooded creatures of Earth.” Tipper paused to let that sink in. No one seemed to be surprised and he nodded solemnly. “Once everything dies down, your sub-queen might not want to have us around. Humans as you know aren’t exactly welcomed, and the fact that a long sleeping Lake God just so happened to wake up after a millennia when Gabbie got feet away from the lake, well…you can connect the dots, there.”

“You think Gabbie woke that monster up?” Ginger moaned.

“I’m not certain, but it’s best to leave before sub-queen Faeley jumps to the same conclusion I have.”

“Dear Kitsune, I am afraid that you are too late,” a melodic rumble echoed into the blue room. Tipper’s fox ears flattened to his his head and his tail twitched with agitation.

“Ah, sub-queen Faeley,” Tipper said. His tone remained calm and even, similar to how he treated the Elder. “What an honor to at least our host.”

“Save the theatrics, Kitsune.” Sub-queen Faeley strode into the room not like a queen, but as a warrior who had just scented fresh blood. Her vivid eyes landed on Alastair and the back of his neck prickled in admiration and fear. The sub-queen was still dressed from head to toe in battle armor, and now that she was closer, Alastair could feel her power pooling off of her in waves. The Royal Guards, Sannier, and another elf followed behind the sub-queen. The male elf next to Sannier must be her husband. He had the same silver skin as his son.

“Humans in my domain,” the sub-queen tsked. Her manner was soft, like a coiled up cat ready to strike with sharpened claws. “I never thought I would see humans again after the our Queen Inana’s father gave his life to banish them.” Faeley set her blazing attentions onto each of the five human children. She was short, but the way she looked down on them made her even taller than she was. “And see how much destruction they have already caused. The batals have gone insane and the Lake God collapsing our mountain before resting once more in its lake.”

“The mountain is gone!?” Silverskin squeaked. He stood straight when the sub-queen shot him an icy stare.

“Yes. The home of many a rock elf for hundreds of years—gone.”

“No,” Gabbie moaned.

“Yes, and your fox friend was correct in assuming my calculated conclusions. Although we brought you into our home from the rage of the batals, I can no longer accept your presence.”

Day 77

There were the far-away cries of elf’s and their families, holed up into their own rooms to wait out the storm. A faint sound of rock crashing against rock vibrated down the warren. The children gulped in unison. Not rock against rock, but an oversized fist against a wall. Was the Lake God attempting to break down the rock wall sub-queen Faeley constructed? More crashing and more earthquakes tumbling and rumbling one after another. Perceval curled up on Lila’s lap, and she had not realized that she was stroking his tawny fur until hours later. Tipper and Digitalis sat shoulder to shoulder, whispering something to one another no one else could hear. Zane sat crossed legged sketching away in his book. He bit his lip, trying to keep the terrifying sounds out from his head.

“It’s my fault, isn’t it?” Silverskin muttered.

“No, it’s not. Weren’t the stories about the Lake God suppose to be just stories? How would we know?” Gabbie insisted. Her fingers brushed his shoulder in reassurance.

“What are you talking about?” Ginger asked after she sat down next to the two whispering friends.

“The Lake God. He wasn’t supposed to be real,” Gabbie said.

“You out of all the people I know, would be the last to think that something didn’t exist. Remember that one time you convinced me that a ghost lived under my bed? I couldn’t put my feet on the floor until morning because you said the ghost fed on the dark. What was worse was that you actually believed what you said!”

“Why wouldn’t she?” Asked Silverskin. “Ghosts are real.”

“Woah, for really real?” Gabbie gasped.

“I can’t win here,” Ginger said. She leaned back against the blue wall and pulled out her cell phone. It was useless without Wifi or a change. She examine the blank screen of the phone and the bright green phone case that matched her sister’s braces. “Ghosts. Lake Gods. Magic. It’s all over my head. This kind of stuff is meant for video games. Fantasy. Not real.” Ginger put her head in her hands. “Now there’s a monster trying to knock down a magic wall like from an anime! I can’t do this!”

Gabbie reached out to hug her sister but something told her to leave Ginger be. Ginger wasn’t one to take somebody’s pity. A hug right now would feel exactly like that.

A terrible shout woven of despair and pain shouted out like a cannon fire. The sudden giant’s voice caused everyone to stand up, ready to face whatever would happen next. The call bellowed out once more, and the company realized that no elf, human, guard, Lived Being, Kitsune, or centaur voice could ever match the terror and agony this one drove into them.

“DAAAAANGER!!!” The Lake God moaned. “DAAAN-GGEEER!!!”

“What?” Alastair asked the room. “What does it mean by that?”

“I don’t know. I can’t understand what it’s saying,” Digitalis said.

“Do you?” Glue Pot wondered.

“Yeah, it’s saying danger,” Zane offered. He covered his mouth a second too late. Only human could understand all languages on Soielle and he just blew their cover in front of Silverskin, Digitalis, and Glue Pot.

Day 76

Sannier bolted the opposite direction, working against the flow of fleeing citizens. The foundation shook and rumbled, causing those very citizens to scurry like frightened cats. The twins took hold of Zane to keep him from tumbling over.

“Put the children on my back. They’ll be safer up here.” Glue Pot bent down to allow Tipper and Digitalis to heave Zane and Lila onto the centaur’s back.

“The caves may begin to collapse. We have to hurry.” Agile waved the company over with a grim expression. Slowly but surely, Agile had rounded up not only the children, but the frightened citizens as well. The guard was grim faced as they navigated the winding tunnels to emerge at the designated emergency exit. An elf with bulging muscles and fierce yellow eyes was in charge of moving the great slab of rock down a near fatal drop to deposit elves to the evacuation warren below. She waved the next group over.

“You can pack a few more on,” the magical elf insisted. Adriei, who had attempted to wait for the next ride down, sighed and squeezed onto the already full moving rock. The elf woman nodded and sent the company down and down until the rock thunked into place. Agile again took lead. They walked into a hive network of rooms and tunnels that one would believe to look uncomfortable, but really weren’t. Sub-queen Faeley, even during the worst of times, would not allow her people to live in dank caves. The floors were clean and laid with bricks. The walls had been magically smoothed out. There was even the scent of what could have been blueberries in the air. Small comforts for such big trouble.

“Here we go. You’ll be safe here,” Agile commented. They had brought the company to a small room inlaid with blue stones. “Sub-queen Faeley has enchanted this warren to keep from crumbling. They’re smaller than the mountain and easier to use magic on. However, if you take one step out, then that may be your last.”

“But, you’re leaving, aren’t you?” Digitalis asked.

“I need to bring the sub-queen back. She’ll end up defending the mountain and the people with her last breath, and Queen Inana needs her. We still have the problem of disappearing villages, and sub-queen Faeley’s magic may help.” Agile smiled sadly. “Don’t worry. The Queen’s Guard do not die so easily.” With that, Agile and Adriei bolted out.

“What do we do now?” Zane asked.

Alastair and Lila exchanged looks. They could talk about what happened. Lila’s ability to fly and Alastair’s sudden trick of stopping time. Yet now was not the moment to speak of such things. There was a real sense of danger permeating the air. Back in Indiana, Alastair and Lila were told how to run into the basement if they heard the air alarms outside. Those alarms meant a tornado was nearby and could possibly chew up their house and spit it out into toothpicks. They felt the same sense of impending danger now as they felt huddled down in their basement with their mother and father.

Day 75

**I decided that I needed to introduce sub-queen Faeley a bit better. This next section will take place when the company is sharing dinner with Sannier and Silverskin. Day 76 will return to where we last left off on Day 74**

“Who is sub-queen Faeley?” Gabbie asked.

“Better yet, what the heck is a sub-queen?”

“Sub-queens are charged with looking after a certain population of peoples. They are given funds and materials to take care of their people and in return they are pledged to our Queen Inana,” said Agile. They scooped some food into their mouth and chewed. “There are thirteen sub-queens in Soielle.”

“Oh! Sub-queens are like yarls.” Ginger nodded as if she confirmed something she already knew. Alastair and Lila stared at her in confusion. “What? I play some games that cover this stuff. Yarls then have thanes to carry out protecting their people. Sannier and her husband are like thanes.”

“Very true. We help the elves of Rockestel safe. There are magic warriors like me and battle warriors like my husband.”

“What’s your husband’s name?” Zane asked between bites of food.

“Throdar!” Silverskin said before his mother could open her mouth. “Anyway, you guys must have been holed up somewhere in the corner of Soielle to not know what sub-queens are.”

“They’ve never met one is all,” Tipper said for the children.

“The kids are with us,” Digitalis added. “Glue Pot, the kids, and me—we all lost our villages. Tipper and Perceval are our guards.”

Sannier, Agile, and Adriei eyed the beaten up and exhausted Tipper with the equally burnt out Perceval.

“Looks like they did their jobs,” Sannier muttered.

“So who is sub-queen Faeley anyway? We got off topic,” Digitalis asked. She ignored the pointed looks of her companions who still remembered her uncanny ability to stay off topic for hours.

“Sub-queen Faeley is our savior,” Sannier began. “She was born to a wicked father who only wished for power. He planned to sell Faeley off as a bride to further his hold over the elven tribes, but she freed herself from his clutches and overthrew him. Sub-queen Faeley then fought a five year battle to reclaim Rockestel elves from labor camps. I was one of those she saved.” Sannier smiled and sipped from her drink. “She lost her right arm in the battle, but she never lost her spirit. She vowed to keep the Rockestel elves from harm and she meant it.”

“Sub-queen Faeley pledged her alligence to Queen Inana to solidify her title and keep enemies away,” Agile said. “Everyone knows that if you mess with Queen Inana’s people, you have no hope of living.”

“Wow!” Ginger exclaimed. “Faeley is so cool! I can’t wait to meet her tomorrow.”

“Is Faeley married? Are there sub-princes and sub-princesses?” Lila asked with stars in her eyes.

“No,” Sannier replied in a flat voice. “Her man Keir perished in the war fifty tears ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Lila bowed her head.

“Dear child, there’s no need to apologize. Our sub-queen Faeley is a strong woman. She has her people to care for, and that’s all she really needs.” Sannier smiled at Lila.

Day 72

Lila could feel the wind whipping her hair around like tiny, mad snakes. Above her, Alastair was calling her name over and over again. He was reaching over the ledge, his hand with the scar splayed wide open, waiting for her to take it. Too bad she was too far away. The rough terrain, already featureless, blurred like a mucky stew. Lila knew that she was going to hit the ground. She’d hit the ground and break open. She wondered if her insides would show everything she kept hidden.

“Don’t let those bullies rile you up,” said her great grandfather from two years ago. “They know that you’re a strong and impenetrable little lady. That’s why they want to tear you down.”

“Great grandpop, I can’t help it. They’re so mean!” Lila had replied. “I hate them! I hate them so much!” And after much consideration added, “Darn them to heck!”

“Woah, dear girl. Don’t use language like that,” great grandfather admonished. Lila could now see his big brown eyes, always so clear and intelligent, staring down at her with a mixture of shock and admiration. “You have a bite in you, but you need to learn to hone it. Using harsh language will only drag you down to the bully’s level. But most of all, the bullies are human, too.”

She remembered being confused. Why would she care about the bully’s feelings if they didn’t care about hers? But she trusted her great grandfather , held up her chin, and faced each day with as much pride as she could muster. He was so proud of her. He bought her a pair of tennis shoes two sizes too big telling her that when she at last fit them, she would be the master of herself.

After great grandfather passed away, she tried to stay strong. But then they moved away from the town that held so many memories of great grandfather, away from the refuge of her friends, and away from the place she thought of as her only home.

Now, she was about to break apart. Lila didn’t want to leave her brother alone. He was the last person she really confided in. They had their secret waterfall. They listened to the soft humming of audiobook as they doodle pictures and made crafts. They remembered great grandfather together. Now, instead of Alastair leaving her, she was leaving him. She couldn’t bare the thought of doing this to him. She felt that resistance burning and crackling deep inside of the marrow of her bones.

No! She wouldn’t die. Not. Today!

Within milliseconds, she flipped around in the air, letting her feet point at the ground. The shoes her great grandfather jerked and tugged, wiggling around on her feet. They were still a little too big, but she always laced her laces tight. She was thankful for her tying habits because the shoes, which had once been a simple lavender with light pink accents, sprouted two pairs of enormous wings. The pure white wings shot out and began to flap immediately. Lila tried to steady herself and ended up doing a few mid air summersaults. She spread out her legs and arms, angling her body weight to keep balance. She just get the hang of it when the ground at last slammed up onto her feet. Her knees bent and she fell, splayed onto rocks and earth.

“Lila?” Gabbie gasped.

Day 71

“How are they going to get in?”

Alastair whipped around. Lila was here. She stood next to the frozen Adriei, her eyes wide from fear and concern.

“Lila, what are you doing here?” Alastair yelped. He was certain that he left her asleep when he went out to find Gabbie.

“I followed you and Adriei.” Lila shrugged as if she had followed him without his knowledge millions of times before. “We can’t get down to the ground level to pull the lever and open the passage for them. And those deer things are frozen, too. Can you unfreeze them?”

As Lila spoke, Alastair began to lose his concentration. Lila was right. Gabbie and Silverskin had just crossed over the blossoming rock wall in haste, but that meant nothing if they couldn’t get inside. Only a watch guard would open the entrance, and Alastair assumed that everyone was out rounding up citizens or conjuring magic. And now he could faintly discern there barest of movements from the scenery and people around him. The Lake God’s stick fingers twitched. The sub-queen’s long black hair started to flutter. A droplet of sweat carved a path down Adriei’s face. It was like the world was set in slow motion like it would for an action film during a tense scene.

“You’re the one controlling the magic, right? Then you have to do something!” Lila urged. She moved over to Alastair’s side and peered over the mountainside. She nibbled on her thumb nail, feeling useless.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Alastair chanted. Was it really him doing this? Why did time slow down? Why were Lila and the two below unaffected? None of that mattered if it couldn’t help save Gabbie and Silverskin.

And like a rubber band breaking clean in two, time swarmed back into fluidity. The sounds of magic warriors chanting, the chalky screech of the Lake God, and the faraway yells of Gabbie and Silverskin slammed into Alastair’s ears. The acrid stench of sour fear emanating from the elves poured down, covering all around them. The bite of the now frigid air cut through skin and bones.

Alastair was too late.

A wall screamed up into existence. It shot up from the ground like a scaled beast of rock and minerals. It even surpassed the height of the Lake God, covering the inky black mass from sight, although Alastair could still see the eerie glow of its white eyes. The ground rumbled from the birth of the rocky barricade. Alastair felt his knees buckle and he tilted as if he would fall down to meet the same fate as his friends. That was when Adriei’s arm wrapped around his middle and yanked him back.

“Miss Lila?” Adriei grunted as soon as they were safely back from the ledge. “No!”

Lila had also been jostled from the earth quaking beneath her feet, and she too bent to the earth’s will. Alastair watched as his blood turned to ice as his little sister fell off the mountain.