I snapped my head around. The Princess was standing in her door way smiling warmly, “Willow.” She said nodding deeply and slowly. Then she looked up and grinned, suddenly a gush of words I could hardly understand burst from her mouth, “You may call me Steph, Stephanie I feel is much too long and my mother only used that name when she was mad. I absolutely loathe it! Anyways I have been waiting all day to meet you more personally. My husband does not believe in a higher status like myself being friends with servants. But I think it is a wonderful thing! Why not just be friends with everyone you meet?! It makes life so much more enjoyable. Now please, be gone with you Elisha, go get her father and her things. Quick! Shoo!”
I was surprised at how beautiful her voice was, it was as though she was singing while speaking. Now I could see why the Prince fell in love with her. Also, her mood was contagious. Who wouldn’t want to marry her?
Elisha grinned and sprinted down the hall, but not before he gave me a wink. I heard a growl come from Sabir, whom I’d almost forgotten about.
Steph, as I was to call her, watched me cautiously, “Hmmm… I do think he likes you!”
I bowed my head to cover up the redness that crept up my neck to my cheeks.
The Princess laughed. Her laugh sounded like wind chimes tinkling in the breeze. Steph grabbed my hand and yanked my off my feet and into her room. Sabir followed watched the princess guardedly. The Princess gracefully swept her hand acknowledging the grand room, “This is my room.”
I looked around and let my mouth fall open. It was two times the size of the house I lived in! All around the room there were instruments of all sizes and shapes hanging on walls and stacked in shelves. It didn’t surprise me that she was musical but to have all of those instruments shocked me! Wind chimes, of course, hung from the ceiling and from her balcony roof.
I gently ran my hand against a guitar’s strings, “Can you play all of these, My Princess?”
Steph’s eyes darkened slightly, “Please call me Steph. I cannot see how we’ll be friends if you constantly call me that distasteful name!” Then she lightened up, “But of course I can play all these instruments. Being royal can be very boring sometimes, having everyone do everything for me… so in my spare time I learn how to play instruments and I write music! It’s my passion!”
Then she pulled me excitedly into an adjoining room. It wasn’t quite as fancy or big but it was still a magnificent sight for my eyes, “This is your room, dearest Willow! I hope you do not mind that it is adjoined to mine but I really want us to be inseparable friends. I already love you deeply!”
She moved gracefully over the floor to my window seat and sat down. She looked at me expectantly. I moved slowly and uncertainly, I couldn’t believe that such an important person would want to be my friend and would want to help my family. The princess watched me with the warmest, friendliest eyes I had ever seen any human look at me with. I almost felt like crying right then and there. This whole day had been the most amazing day of my life. I had never had any humans accept me as warmly as this royal family and royal servants did. I knew I must be dreaming. It was impossible!
As soon as I was in arms reach of Steph she reached out and took my hand gently in hers. I slumped into the seat beside her, forgetting all manners of grace. Steph looked concerned, “Is there something wrong? Is this not what you want? Am I too bubbly for you?”
I shook my head and felt the tears coming. I blinked them back, “It’s just that I’ve never had such amounts of kindness bestowed upon me.”
Steph’s eyes sparkled, “Well, then I am succeeding at making you want to stay!”
I nodded and a smile spread out on my lips. Steph stood up, “I’ll let you get settled. The carriers will be here soon with your luggage and your father. He will stay a couple of hallways away. I will show you tomorrow morning. For now, explore your new closet and as soon as your stuff gets here, unpack. I’ll be just next door if you need me.”
The last sentence sounded out of place. I was the one who was supposed to be saying that. I was going to say something but then she was gone, as quietly and as softly as a breeze.
I smiled to myself; I had met the wind maiden Breeze and her followers. Breeze was so gentle and loving that it was overwhelming to be with her, it made one feel so rough and rude. I waited for the carriers to come and then I unpacked. I brought my clothes to the closet. I opened the grand doors and gasped, inside were gowns in all colors, and styles. I was beginning to feel more like a princess then a servant. I couldn’t understand why I had been given such beautiful dresses.
Sabir looked up at my face, “Is this a joke? Why is she doing this for you? She doesn’t even know you and she claims you’ll be best friends. Her voice is like music and her face is uglier than a wood nymph! She’s so kind and graceful it hurts to watch! I’m a bit suspicious about her, she doesn’t seem to be human!”
“I know. But I honestly do not believe we need to worry. If she plans to do some evil to the world she would not have chosen me to help, unless she wants you.”
“I do not believe so! She doesn’t even know I exist let alone want me! I swear she didn’t look at me once.”
I patted his head and spoke out loud, “This has to be a fairytale!”
I felt a hand on my shoulder; I had been so infatuated with my dresses that I had not heard the door open. Steph smiled, “You must look nice when we go to parties!”
“Oh my! I do not know what to say Steph! This must be a dream!”
Steph laughed her wind chime laugh, “Thank goodness it is not! Now, there is someone that would like to talk to you. Evening is coming so you mustn’t take long. He is down in the garden. I have a servant who will show you the way.”
My heart beat widely. I hoped that it was Elisha. I told Sabir to stay behind but he stubbornly refused and tagged along.
The servant took me through the halls all the while nervously glancing at Sabir. Then he left me by the entrance of the gardens. These were not the same gardens I remembered from Elisha’s tour of the palace. I felt butterflies in my stomach as I stepped through the gates. There was the gushing sound of a fountain in the middle of the garden, birds were still chirping, for the sun had not gone down yet. Every kind of tree in the world seemed to be planted here and every kind of flower colored the premises.
A deep rumbling voice spoke, “Willow.” I looked for the person who spoke my name but I could not see him. Suddenly a man seemed to vaporize from the dark inky shadows of the trees. Immediately I recognized his hazel eyes. They were cautious but friendly. My heart dropped, this was not the person I had wanted to see. Lance seemed to sense my disappointment and smiled knowingly, “Expecting someone else were you?” He chuckled, “You seemed quite surprised to see me standing by Prince Pashad’s side. I can understand that by the strange impression I gave you the other day.”
“I thought you hated the royal family!” I said exasperatedly, “But then you turn out to be the right hand man. Are you planning to undermine the family?”
Lance smirked, “Maybe…”
I saw that he was teasing me, “You were testing me in the square were you not?”
“I had to know what you thought of the royal family before I hired you. I must say you are one of the most loyal citizens I have ever met.”
I frowned, “Why did you send for me? Surely it was not to tell me that I am a loyal citizen.”
“I sent for you because I need to tell you why I picked you.” His dark long shadow fell on me.
I wandered over to the fountain and sat on its edge trying to act brave and unsurprised. But really, here with the sun slowly disappearing over the horizon I felt cornered and scared, “Go ahead.”
Lance followed me still cautious, “You are a very unique girl. Firstly, you have three guardians, a horse, a snake, and a cheetah. Secondly, you can hear wind maidens sing. Thirdly from what they have told me, you have met Breeze.” Then he frowned, “Wait, do you know the legends of Hurricane and Priest?”
I stiffened, “I have heard of Hurricane but never Priest.”
Lance’s eyes narrowed, “Of course, the maidens do not like to talk about Hurricane let alone Priest.” Lance sighed and sat down beside me, he still towered over me even when he was sitting, “Where do I begin? You do know that wind maidens belong to different groups right?”
I answered while trying to edge away from him, “Breeze is one leader. She has many followers, who are all very restless. They often split up into many groups and go to calm storms on sea and land.”
“Yes.” He murmured his low voice rumbling through the fountain wall, “Storm is another leader, and she also goes to the sea and land following dark clouds so that she can whip the rain around, her kind of entertainment. But the most powerful of all wind maidens… or shall we say wind beings, is Hurricane. Some call him Typhoon, but he prefers Hurricane.” Lance blinked at the sunset, “He is the only male wind-being. He holds all the power of the sea and land. But Hurricane barely ever touches land. Do you know why?”
I shook my head, intrigued. I had heard Hurricane’s name whispered through the trees but always with much fear. I was quite shocked with Lance’s bravery to say the name so freely.
Lance smiled at my expression, “It is because he fears it. Loathes it! Priest gave him that fear. Back in the beginning of this world, when there were only very few Humans, Dwarves and one single Wind Being, that Wind Being, fell in love with a human. The most fatal mistake he ever made. They had a son whom they named Jounit. He was the first of the elves.”
I let out a mocking laugh, “Elves? That’s rubbish!”
Lance’s expression suddenly hardened, his jaw clenched, and his eyes were set aflame, “They are just as real as you and I! Don’t be fooled by what humans think. They are often blinded and can only believe what is right in front of their eyes.”
I was going to protest but Lance’s expression made me bite my tongue.
“Now Hurricane and his wife had many other kids who had kids of their own, making the elf race, Hurricane’s wife didn’t want to ever be left by her husband so she asked him to turn her into a wind maiden. And so he did and they had many, many more children, very few still live today. Jounit had different ideas then his siblings. He refused to marry into his own race. So he charmed a wind maiden with magic that he had learned from his father, he would not have been able to catch her if it had not been for that magic. He and that wind maiden had a child, and they named him Priest. Priest was more Wind Being then elfish, the mix made him very, very powerful. All Wind Beings obeyed his commands, except for Hurricane. Hurricane saw how the elves were multiplying and learning deadly magic. So he planned to destroy them. He thought to himself that they did not belong here on this earth. Priest learned of these plans. Priest had already given humans the gift of one guardian to keep them safe. He originally didn’t think elves needed them because they could communicate with all animals anyway but he was afraid for them so he granted them that gift…
“Priest knew every kind of magic, more than his grandfather ever did. He used it to chase Hurricane from the land. The legends say that the magic was so terrible that no one could survive without constant heart wrenching fear that made thousands go mad. Hurricane was the only one who did not go mad. All his wind children and even his beloved wife were lost to fear. So Hurricane decided to end their pain. He faded them, which is a long painful process, but much less painful then the fear Priest embedded in their minds. Hurricane tried to start again and keep his Wind Beings away from land. But Priest was already making plans to take the sea too. Hurricane did not know what to do. Then a little insignificant wind maiden told him she could end it all. Her name was Hannah.”
My mouth was already wide open and I was clinging to the fountain with both hands. Then when Lance mentioned Hannah I fainted. I fell back into the fountain, the cold water woke me. I didn’t know how to swim and this fountain was dangerously deep. Dark water had always scared me because I could see ghosts in the water. I could see them, pale, pointed ears, and wise, slanted, haunting eyes. They reached for me I could feel their cold hands grasping my face pulling me to the depths. To my relief I felt stronger hands grasp my hair and yank me out of the water. Lance dragged me from the fountain and placed me gently on the grass. I coughed and turned over, “You are far too good at telling stories!”
Lance laughed but it was strained. I opened my eyes and peered up at his anxious face, “Can you continue the story? I want to find out what happened.”
Lance shook his head, “You need to get inside dearie, it won’t do you any good to get sick on your first day. And besides, it is late.”
I sat up very suddenly, my face inches from his, “No! I won’t be able to sleep!”
Lance rocked back on his heels, “Yes of course. That would be a problem” He took his cloak from around his shoulders and handed it to me. I drew it over my shoulders and pulled it snuggly around my body, it was already warm and soft black fur lined the inside. I smiled my thanks.
He stood up and helped me up as well. I must have been heavy with my soaking wet dress, “I will try to finish this quickly. Now where was I? Oh right, Hannah told him she could end it all. Of course Hurricane didn’t believe her but he was so desperate he sent the little maiden off without a second thought. Hannah was the first maiden who had disturbed the land in years. Clouds were constantly stuck in one place raining only on certain areas eroding the land so that there were valleys with huge mountains on all the sides, the only level places were deserts. Hannah moved the clouds ever so slightly and Priest noticed. Priest found her before she found him. He asked her why she was on land, she told him the truth. Priest laughed at her but he was impressed by her bravery and innocence. He had not seen such a being in his life. He invited her to stay with him for a while and she accepted. Priest was so amazed and taken by her that he would not have anything else but her. He asked her to give up her quest and marry him, he promised her the world. Hannah refused. Priest was so intent on winning her heart that he dropped all defenses and Hurricane’s weak bravery grew stronger.
“Priest’s lookouts saw the clouds moving fast and they warned him. Priest went out to meet Hurricane. Hurricane cowered at the sight of Priest but Priest said he would trade anything for Hannah’s heart. He said he would end the conflict and let Hurricane move the clouds on land again. Hurricane agreed and immediately fled back to the sea. He sent his new daughters Storm and Breeze to govern the land. And so they did. Priest and Hannah were happily married but never had any children of their own. And then one day Priest disappeared.
Lance paused and his eyes met mine. The sun was shedding its last rays making Lance’s hair glow. The breeze swayed the trees and whispered cautiously, “Don’t speak his name!”
Lance shook his head sadly, “No one knows how or why Priest disappeared. I have talked to Hannah numerous times but she refuses to even say his name. Ever since Priest disappeared, history has been very suggestive. But, what we do know for sure is that elves flourished. But they separated into their versions of good and evil. Dark elves dwelled below the ground and light elves dwelled above the ground. There were three strong nations that ruled the world, dark elves, light elves, and Humans. They are called the chosen races.”
I let that sink in. I could not believe what Lance was saying. I knew Hurricane was real but Priest just seemed to be an excuse for not controlling the land. And elves? How ridiculous! No one had ever seen such creatures. It was just a story, a fantasy.
Lance watched me, frustration was playing out on his face, “You do not believe me do you? You think me to be crazy, do you not?”
I shook my head, “You need to learn the difference between a story and actual history.”
Lances pursed his lips stubbornly, “Willow, listen to me! I am a century old! Also, how do you think we can hear the wind speaking? How do you think you managed to get three guardians?”
I saw his point but I was still convinced he was tricking me, trying to make a fool out of me. I tried to think of something to say, “Maybe I have inherited some of my father’s insanity!”
Lance rolled his eyes, “That is for certain! The reason we hear the wind is because it is in us, in our blood. It is a part of our being.”
“Well, that is not logical because wind does not even have blood!” I said raising my chin slightly.
Lance chuckled, “How do you know? If you get the right weapons you will see!”
“I do not plan on slaughtering any wind maidens if you please!”
“But do you not see my logic?”
I sighed, “Yes and the more you talk the more I believe you. I am thinking that it is just because you are skilled at telling stories. Now, if you please, let me get this straight, you are saying I am an elf?”
He inclined his head, “Not completely. Your father is human.”
I leaped to my feet, which was very unladylike, “You know my family? You know about my mother?”
Lance leaned back, his eyes were full of surprise, “I just saw your father so I assumed...”
Disappointment sunk in and a slumped back into my seat, “You can see it in the appearance?”
“Usually by the ears or the eyes.”
“Oh well that is disappointing.”
“That I can tell by the appearance?”
“No! That you did not know my mother! I do not know a single thing about her.”
“Well from what I can tell she was most likely an elf.”
“This is insane nonsense! You are just trying to make a fool out of me are you not?”
Lance stood and took hold of my hand, “The servant is here to escort you back to your room. Please, consider the things I have said. You have no idea how important you are. The story I have told has not ended. It goes on and you will play a part in it.” Then he bowed politely and walked away, fading into the shadows. The sun had gone completely down and I felt frightened as I watched him leave. As I turned I could have sworn I saw the shadow of the hugest lion go to meet him. But it must have been my imagination because no such lion could be that big.