Cardinair | Teen Ink


August 15, 2011
By BreeTayler PLATINUM, carlisle, Arkansas
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BreeTayler PLATINUM, Carlisle, Arkansas
30 articles 0 photos 57 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Where there is love there is life." --Ghandi

Author's note: I wrote this a while ago. It's not completely revised and the spelling and grammar may be horrible. But I'd really like for people who are intrested to read it and to help me out. IT IS ONLY A PEICE OF THE ACTUAL NOVEL, IF YOU'D LIKE TO READ MORE LeT mE NoW:)

The author's comments:
“In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.” -Janos Arnay

I used to spend most of my time hanging around with my buddies, going to wicked parties with fine girls, and if I was lucky, get to spend a little time with them at their place. In between that I was searching for a good paying job, helping out my folks around their house, and anything else you might consider useful. But, I don’t do any of that anymore. Now I just stay at home. I could be changing the bulbs in my cramped, little bathroom, washing the piles and piles of my unclean clothes and pray I won’t discolor all of my socks again, or even straighten up a bit around the apartment in case anyone unexpected drops by. But I don’t even do that. I stay in bed and I sleep. Not for obvious reasons. Half of the time I’m not even tired when I doze off. Mostly, I force sleep. Because with sleep comes dreams. And in my dreams, I see her.
“Okay, explain this dream to me one more time.” My cousin, Will, says with a hint of amusement in his voice. We are sitting in the kitchen to my small apartment, at the round table my mother generously purchased for me when I moved out. Will is a big guy. He was the star line backer all through out school and a head taller than your average male. Though we’re closely related, we look nothing alike. He has short black hair that’s usually spiked up with some stinky expensive gel and green eyes; while I have muddy brown hair and brown eyes. He’s tall and bulk; I’m tall and lean. “But explain it with more detail.” Will added as an afterthought. I sigh, wishing I were asleep. But even though I’m not, the images still play fresh in my mind. I can still see it all very clearly, like a movie. I enter a sleep-like trance of my own and soon I’m in the dream once again.

“I’m standing on top of the clock tower.” I can barely feel my lips moving with the words. My voice sounds drained and lifeless. It sounds as if it doesn’t belong to me but, to someone else in the far distance. I continue, “I look down at all the cars that zoom by and the street lamps flickering on and off as I often do. But, quickly the scene changes and I’m standing someplace very different. It’s a place that you could only imagine from a fairytale, if not better than any. Everything in sight is stunning to an extremely high level that wouldn't exist in Chicago. That wouldn't exist anywhere. I'm in another world entirely. I smile; soaking in the scenery that I never knew could be so...Breathtaking. It's dark but, the moon spares enough light that I can still see the dancing trees and brightly colored flowers. I have to look down to see undefined greenery because I'm on this tall tower. The tallest I’ve ever seen, even in magazines or movies. And there with me, on this tower, is a girl. She's standing beside me and instantly I’m captivated by her. She's the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen. Not just hot. Not just pretty. But she is beautiful. I never use the word towards a woman. Suddenly I want to know everything about her, forgetting about the other world I’m in. I want to speak to her, to hear her voice. I want to know what her favorite color is so I can buy her everything that exists in that color. I want to touch her, to trace the lines of her palm and to caress her face in my hands. I want to tell her that I adore her. I want to tell her everything. My heart and stomach react strangely when I try to speak, so I keep silent. The girl turns away, walking further away from me. A pang of sadness hits me and I step towards her, beckoning her to come back. She turns around slowly and she smiles a brilliant smile in my direction. Then, the world around me collapses and suddenly I’m standing on the clock tower once again."
I blink back to reality, exiting the reverie, and instantly feeling a great loss of something unrecognizable deep within. Will stares at me with his mouth slightly open and his black eyebrows pinched together. I don’t hurry him for a response, scared of what it could be. And then he begins to laugh. He throws his head back and slaps his knee. I wait silently as he calms down.
There’s still a lopsided grin on his face when he says, “I’m sorry, man. That was just a little more detail than I bargained for.” He chuckles for a few seconds longer while I watch him skeptically. “So you’re saying that this other world in your dream happens to exist in real life?”

“Yes.” I say, studying his expression carefully. I could see he was having trouble keeping a straight face.

“How many times have you said you had this dream?” He asked.

I don’t have to think long, I know when it was the first time I saw her. “I’ve had the same dream almost every night for two months.”
Will’s eyes widened as he did the math quickly and silently in his head. “You’ve had this dream roughly around fifty six nights in a row.” He said breathlessly, it wasn’t a question.

“Yes.” I answered anyway.
“What are you taking, man?” All trace of amusement now vanished from his features. I’m taken aback. I hold up my hands, palms forward in defense.

“Nothing, I swear.”
He narrows his stubborn eyes at me but nods. “Good.” I relax in my seat, dropping my hands to my sides.

I shrug, “I’ve taken a few sleeping pills to help me sleep but, not enough to do any damage or anything.”
Will shakes his head at me. “Just because you have a repetitive dream, Larson, does not mean it will become real.” He wasn’t going to back down on this.
“It feels real.” I urge.
“It’s not.” He looked at me like I was stupid, the way he looked at his girlfriend when she asked if Eskimos were people. “It’s impossible.” He spat.

I hold up my hand, stopping him from speaking any further. “The world is full of dimensions. Thousands, millions, billions of dimensions are out there that we can’t see or much less know of their existence. If there are unknown dimensions, couldn’t there be unknown worlds inside of those dimensions?” I stop; Will’s face is now blank. I take a deep breathe and say, “Think about it.”
We sat in silence for a while, only staring at each other, arguing wordlessly and harmlessly. Finally, Will smiles and says, “Whatever you say, dude.”
I sigh impatiently. “I know it sounds crazy but, I honestly do believe that there's another world out there. I believe that she is there and I believe I can get to her through the clock tower. It's like a...a gut feeling, I guess."
"You’re going to base your knowledge against a gut feeling?' Will asked.
"Yes." His look was unconvinced. I sigh, "You don't have to believe me, okay? I'll prove it. I'll prove it to myself and then, I’ll prove it to you. I'll show you and then you'll believe me."
Will laughs but says, "Alright, man. I'll believe it when I see it." We shook on it. "But, until then, your one hundred percent psychotic."
I could tell that a part of what he said was a joke but, a part of it he meant. I didn't know what to believe. Maybe I really was crazy. I shrugged off the thought, scared that it might actually be true.

"And what's with the gooey stuff anyway? The chick was beautiful?" Will chuckled. I fought off the urge to pop him in the mouth. Will is ten times my weight, so he would have took me out. Instead, I shrugged. "Well then," He continues, standing up and heading for the door, I followed him. "I have a date with my beautiful-" He mocked me with the word. "-girlfriend Leslie."

"Don't keep her waiting." I said shoving him out of the door.

I'm standing on the clock tower, looking down at the cars and flickering street lamps; just like in my continuous dreams. But, this isn’t a dream, it is real life. I come here often when I'm bored and have nothing else to do or if I need a quite place to think. But, tonight I came for a totally different reason. I came in hopes of proving my insane theory to Will and especially finding the girl. I lie down on the concrete roof top and stare up at the moon and stars without really seeing them and I think about her. I picture her behind my eyelids and she stares back at me. She has long blonde hair that travels down her thin but lean body. Her skin is dark, kissed graciously by the sun on many accounts. Her eyes are a unique color I never knew existed. They’re a lighter shade of lavender, almost. She has long eye lashes that nearly look fake, and small, arched eyebrows. They’re set perfectly in place with the rest of her unnaturally precise features. I find myself hot and flushed by just imagining her. "Where are you?" I whisper. The girl in my mind just smiles.

The author's comments:
“And when the future hinges on the next words that are said, don’t let logic interfere, believe your heart instead.” –Philip Robison

I wake, lying flat on my back and I’m staring at the sky. It’s sometime after twilight, where the sun has just started to rise, giving off a faint light. I rise up, fully aware of the many creaks in my neck. And then I see it. The land of another world is right before my eyes. I’m on the tower that I’ve visited many times in my dreams. When I stand, I can see millions of brightly colored treetops pressed tightly together to become one living organism, stretched several ways across the land. Their leaves are different colors. Not just orange, red, and brown like in the fall. But, shades of purple, shades of blue, shades of pink, and various other colors that don’t exist in my world. From what I can see the grass is cut evenly up to my ankles, and it sways together like it’s alive and dancing. But, there’s no wind hitting my face or shaking the trees down below me.

I hear something similar to the sound of a cat hissing and look up to find its source. Flying above me in circles, like a buzzard waiting for its meal, is the coolest thing I have ever seen. It spirals closer to me but, I don’t move, fully entranced by the creature. It has a narrow head with a long snout like a Great Dane’s. It has two long lines of pointed teeth. I see them when it opens its mouth to hiss at me once again. Its body is the size of a Bald Eagle’s and it’s a caramel color all over. It has absolutely no feathers and its eyes are neon yellow with a circle of red in the center. It has four short legs and attached to each of them are claws the length of an average pen and the width of a metal leg to a cafeteria table.

The creature swoops down and grabs my jacket with his two hind legs, burrowing the leather into his long, deathly sharp claws. I scream, hitting the creatures’ legs but it’s no good. I’m in the air now, high above land, the tower now behind me. I squeeze my eyes shut and fight off the feeling of nausea coming from the pit of my stomach. My feet kick freely in open air and I know any second now I would die. But when I open my eyes I’m further to the ground. The creature releases me about a foot from the ground and I land on my knees. I stay there for about a minute, not sure what had happened. When I get up I crane my head to see the creature flying somewhere in the distance. I make an effort to raise my hand to the creature like silent appreciation. It had helped me to the ground.
I turn around and dust off my jeans. When I look up, I freeze. “Oh my Go…” I loose track of my words, my mouth now hanging wide open. I’m standing in front of the entrance to the lands colorful forest. Or maybe it’s a jungle. There’s no sign that says so but there are two trees apart from the others behind them that make an arch, a pathway to follow. The trees tower above me, making me feel small and puny. But, they invite me in. There are various colors on each leaf to the trees that dance and the vines that have grown to the bark look almost tidied. Creatures stir around in this place; I can hear them, I can feel them. Maybe there is something in there that would hurt me. I just shrug off the thought, not really caring if there was. I want to go in there; I need to. I place one foot in front of the other and begin creeping towards the entrance. I wasn’t afraid. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss seeing anything spectacular. Finally, I make my way into the wooded area and my joints lock, holding me in place. I have to be dreaming. If there is another world out there, it couldn’t look this good. No place could; apart from heaven but, I’m not there yet. It’s like I’m standing in an evergreen rainbow. If unicorns were to trot along with leprechauns on their backs carrying pots of gold I wouldn’t be surprised. This is a dream, after all. There are flowers that I have never seen before the size of my head planted in various places across the natural path. They all seem to sway from side to side like the grass with no help from the wind. They have six petals, each a different color, and where the center is supposed to be there is just a big gaping hole. I laugh, that’s realistic alright.
There’s a movement in the branches above me and suddenly I’m afraid. With the movement comes laughter. Not the deep mechanical laughter that would scare most people but, the high pitched giggles of women. I turn abruptly and see a woman smiling at me from up in the trees.
“Hello.” I say. “Do you know where I can find this girl? She has blonde hair and-” She turns away and runs on the high branches to the lower ones to the trunk of the tree she is standing in. She takes something that looks like a purple sheet and wraps it around the trunk and she uses that to slide down, kicking her feet off the bark when necessary. She lands and smiles at me. She walks closer to me with graceful and seductive strides. She has a body of a super model, only a little more gifted in certain areas. She has light purple hair with specks of glitter in it that fall down to her chest. She has dark eyes and a sly but sexy smile. Her dress is the color of her hair that looks more like a night gown. The sheet is draped over one arm that she has on her hip. She stops only inches from me and when she does, other girls that look exactly like her use their purple clothes to slide down the trees that they were in. They all came rushing to me with the sheets over their heads and began circling me, giggling and running all the while. The one standing in front of me only stared.
I laugh nervously, “If you tell me where I can find her I would gratefully appreciate it.” My head started to spin and my ears filled with the women’s laughter. “The girl.” I manage to say. “I need to find the girl.” The woman closest to me shook her head and placed a slender hand on my face. I try to move away but, I can’t. The woman has some sort of hold on me. She leans in…
“Aphrodite, stop.” Someone calls from behind me. The woman releases the hold she had on me and steps away, the other girls that were dancing around me had suddenly vanished. I felt faint.
“Go.” The voice said. The woman called Aphrodite hissed like a lioness but fled towards the trees. She was gone. I turn around, not expecting to see anyone genially important. When I see who it is, I stop breathing and there’s an ache at my chest.
“It’s you.” I breathe. It’s the girl from my endless dreams and she’s even more beautiful that I ever gave her credit for. There are so many questions I want to ask her. There are so many things I want to say. But how can I when her beauty puts me to shame undoubtedly? Her face is clear of any emotion for a few seconds until fear sweeps across her perfect features.
“Who are you?” She demands. I smile at her angelic voice. It’s like rain hitting a tin rooftop; the most delicate thing my human ears have heard.
“My name is Larson.” I stumble towards her dizzily. What did Aphrodite do to me? The girl nearly jumped back and before I could reassure her I meant no harm, I fell to the ground and the world around me turned black.

I wake up and I stretch out my arms. I’m going to have to get a better mattress, this one feels rock hard. It is dark and all I can hear is the sound of someone breathing. I sit up quickly and rub my eyes to make them adjust to the black that much faster. “Whose there?" I whisper.
Nobody answers, I can still hear the quit breathing.

“I’m armed." I lie.” If you come near me I’ll-"

"Would you stop?" Someone hissed. I knew that voice. It was the most precious sound I’d ever heard and Id already memorized it. I still must be dreaming.

I sigh in relief. “Is there a light?"
Suddenly the area is lit by a small ball of light that levitates in the palm of the girls hands. I didn't look too much on that. This is a dream so anything is possible. She stood quit a few steps away from me, somewhat hiding behind a tree, while I lay on the rough ground. Fear is clearly visible in her eyes and her lower lip trembles the slightest bit. We are in the forest and the sight is overwhelming. I’m not talking about the colorful trees or an undefined flower that has a stalk the size of a baseball bat but, I’m talking about her.
I then, realize what it was she is wearing. She has a white and flowing gown on. It has no sleeves and a V neck, but doesn’t reveal anything. She's modest...I like that. The edges of her dress sparkles brilliant colors in the dim light that shines from her palms.
Her little mouth opens and then closes; debating on whether or not to speak.
"Go on." I smile, leaning on my elbows. She narrows her eyes in frustration and steps one step closer to me, away from the tree. “You almost died today.” She said.
I laugh and say, “May I ask how?”
She nods at the rhetorical question and says, “The Monroe named Aphrodite touched you, do you not recall?” I thought back to the woman with the purple hair.
The girl continues, “Monroe’s have the gift of death. If they touch you with their bare skin they can suck the very life out of you. They are very seductive. You were lucky that I stopped her before she gave you the kiss of death.” I tried not to laugh but failed terribly. The girl frowns impatiently.

“Sorry.” I say, taking a deep breath and smiling apologetically. “Thank you for your kindness.”

She bowed her head and said, “Tell me what you are. You owe me that much.”

I stood up and dusted off the dirt from my jeans. She backed up a ways with the movement. I took one step closer and held out a hand, “My name is Larson McKinley.” She stared at my hand for a long time with horror sketched somewhere in her expression. “It’s okay.” I smile. “I won’t bite.” But, I want to.

When she steps cautiously towards me she does something unexpected. She takes my hand, flips it over, and shoves my sleeve all the way up to my elbow in one movement. She examines my wrist intently. I laugh. "What are you doing?” She says nothing while she drops my hand like its fiery hot and stares up at me with her mouth open wide and her eyes glazing with fear.

“You’re no Ontarion.” She stated in a frightened whisper.

“Ontarion?” I ask. She took small steps back, away from me, putting great distance between us. Finally she was hiding behind the tree again. “What are you?” She whispers, eyes pleading.

“What do you mean?” I say, wanting to know how I can help. I don’t like seeing her like this.

“You’re not a warlock.” She says.

“As in a witch?”

Her eyes narrowed, “You’re clearly not a witch.”

“No.” I smile. “No witch.” She inched her way towards me with great deliberation and an extreme amount of caution. This dream is unlike my others. I thought my other repetitive dreams felt real but, this one blows them all out of the water entirely. In my other dreams the one thing that made them so vivid was the sensations I had while looking at the girl; weird sensations. Like a tug at my chest and not just tugs at other places. Not just lust but, something far greater; though I can’t place my finger on what it could be. In this dream, the feeling is doubled when I look at her and tripled when I hear her voice. And when she touched me just a few moments ago you wouldn’t believe how it felt then. Now, I hear the wind whistling past my ears and rustling the multi-colored leaves on the surrounding trees. I feel the specks of dirt pressed into my elbows and packed into my fingernails. Dreams aren’t suppose to feel this real, are they?

She stood in front of me with a worried expression fixed on her face. “I’m sorry, Larson.” I swear my bones shook when my name escaped from those lips.

I smile, “For what?” I want her to say it again and again. I want her to speak to me and never stop. I want to be able to hear her voice forever.

“This.” She releases something from her fingertips that makes my ears ring and my vision blur. Soon, darkness comes and takes over, forcing my eyes to shut. The last thing I hear, besides the steady high pitched ring, is the smothered thud as I hit the ground

The author's comments:
“For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.” – Ivan Panin

I blink awake, lost and disoriented. I’m leaning against a tree in a very beautiful place. It’s midday. Where am I? When I try and look around a pain slices through me, leaving me breathless. When I can move again I trace the throbbing knot with my fingers at the back of my head. I push on it, testing the damage and wince from the pain. I must have hit it pretty hard. I eventually get to my feet, ignoring the dizzy and nauseous feeling that threatens to take over. I’m unbelievably weak so I lean my weight against the tree with one arm for support. My breathing is heavy and I can feel my heartbeat inside of my ears.

“Larson.” A voice said from behind me. It belonged to the girl. I knew before looking. But, that can’t be right. This doesn’t feel like a dream; I guess it never did but, this is all too much. I carefully turn around to face her, switching arms to lean against the tree that helps hold me up. “I’m not dreaming am I?” My voice is rough with sleep. She looks confused but answers anyway, “No.” It sounded more like a question. Before I could say anymore something jerked at my chest and pulled me back against the tree with great force. I hit my head on the bark and I scream in agony. I slide down the bark; it scrapes the back of my arms, until I’m sitting on the ground. I look down and a rope, made from something I’ve never seen before, is wrapped tightly around me.

A woman walks out from behind the tree and glowers at me. She must have been the one to tie me up. She has straight brunette hair, with a hint of red, which rides down to the middle of her back. Her eyes match her hair exactly and she is also beautiful, though she is very different from the girl. She is much taller and her ears point out from underneath her hair. Her clothes look to be made from leafs and the long strap attached to a bag full of arrows is around her torso. She has many, what looked to be tattoos, down her arms and on her stomach. They were all black and were random markings of nothing I could name.

She kneels down beside me and places a hand on my shoulder. Her face turns from a snarl to shock. All is still and silent while the woman looks far into the distance, past anything in my sight. Then she takes a deep breath and looks at me. She smiles. “My name is Audrina.” She says to me. “Welcome to Cardinair.” I look over her shoulder to the girl from my countless dreams and she smiles shyly at me. I look back to the woman named Audrina and force a smile, hoping it looks genuine. “I’m Larson.” I say. “I know.” She says while gracefully standing up to her feet, like a very skilled dancer. While she cuts the rope with a small dagger that was at her side she explains, “I am what you call an Ontarion. Ontarions all have different powers. For instance, one of us can run with super speed, another can create illusions to everyone else’s untrained eye. But, I can touch someone and see their entire life from the time they were born to the time I place my hand on them.” She shrugs. “You could say I just lived your entire life with you.” I blush, not wanting to think about what she saw on those crazy weekends I rather not remember. “I’m sure you have many questions.” Audrina laughs. “But, I’ll leave Ava to answer them.” She looks back at the girl who stands aside, out of the way.
“Ava.” I smile, letting the name roll off of my tongue. Ava blushes a crimson color and looks away. Audrina threw the rope off of me and says, “You’re welcome to stay with me.”
“You’re very kind. But, I’ll stay with Ava.” Audrina laughs heartily; the sound is beautiful. “The both of you can stay with me.” I sat up and my head throbbed. I let out a smothered cry and Ava unexpectedly rushes towards me. She kneels down beside me and places a small, cold hand on the knot at the back of my head. I stare at her relaxed face and find myself lost in her somehow. It’s that sensation that drowns me when I look at her. She drops her hand and meets my eyes. I watch her lips move when she says, “What is he?” She is looking to me but speaking to Audrina.
“A human.” She says from behind me. Ava’s eyes grew and she jumps up.
“Don’t worry.” Audrina says; I can hear a smile in her voice. “He means no harm.”
Ava relaxes the tiniest bit and nods. “Is your head better?” She asks and at first I’m confused at her words. When I remember I search for the knot at my head but, there isn’t one. “How did you do that?” I ask but in the distance there are many voices calling for Audrina. She frowns and says, “If he stays here for long you are both welcome to stay in my home but not tonight. I forget, the others wouldn’t accept him well.” Ava nods and tells Audrina to go search for the others that still call her name in the distance. Audrina agrees and before she leaves she says to me, “I’m expecting to see you very soon, Larson James McKinley.” My mouth drops, she really did live my life. I hardly ever give out my middle name to anyone. Then she looks to Ava and says, “He arrived here at the watchmen tower.” She points and just above the tall and colorful trees I can see a tower. It had to be the one I was just on top of yesterday. Audrina turns away and runs with the agility and grace you only see in movies with extremely good special effects.

“She’s an Ontarion?” I ask Ava. Ava smiles and nods with excitement. I stand up, surprised that I feel okay now. “And what are you?” She doesn’t say anything. Instead, she walks over to me and places a hand on the sleeve of my jacket. Suddenly we are deeper into the forest. I look around at the new setting amazed but, also horrified. “How did you do that?” I whisper. She shrugs and says, “I’m a witch.”
I chuckle, unconvinced. “Excuse me?” I say.
“I’m a witch.” She says with more deliberation.
“No,” I shake my head. “I heard you but..” I trail off, my unspoken words are forgotten. My mind feels like it’s going to explode when I come to the conclusion that I am in a new world entirely. And in this new world there is such a thing as magic. I swallow hard, loosing my grip on reality. I shake my head and bring my hands to my face, pushing my palms into my closed eyes. Then I laugh. Ava looks at me curiously. “I’m sorry.” I say. “This is just so crazy.”
"This is so new to you." She says, it isn’t a question. "What's it like to step into another world?"
I look around thinking about her question. The trees were very different from the trees I am used to. These trees look as if every multi-colored leaf was patterned with every branch. The color of their trunks is a brighter shade of brown. They look so...Alive. I knew the change was because my eyes are seeing in a totally new dimension...Or was it for a different reason? Was everything in this place so naturally beautiful?
"It's like...Dreaming." I say.
She nods, her eyes wide.
"So." I laugh. "This place," I look around and see ever more colors that don’t exist in my world on various surfaces of the foliage around us, “This place is real. I'm actually here." I laugh again. I look back at the witch and she stood still, quietly observing my every move with awe. I walk towards her. "You." I couldn't stop smiling. "You’re actually real." She nods and giggles beautifully. "Last time I checked, yes." I chime in laughter with her.
"I knew I don't have the imagination to dream this." I look around towards the heavens and watch as the leaves swayed alongside the wind in a erythematic pattern. I look back at her." And I definitely don't have the imagination to dream up someone so perfect like you."
Her face flushed crimson red as she smiles nervously. The entire process of that small change in her face is so entirely breathe taking, it made me want to touch her, and it made me want to hold her. "Sorry to embarrass you." I said with a sincere apologetic smile.
"No, no." She waved her hand. "It's ok."
I nod. "May I ask you something?" She asks kindly.
"Anything you wish."
"What's it like...In your world, I mean?" She smiles with bright lavender eyes.
"Oh." That wasn't a very interesting question. "Well...It's nothing like this for instance." Was all I said.
"So, what is it like?"
I struggle for the right words. I could tell that she's hoping my world is far greater than her own. "Uh.. Well.. There's really nothing to tell." I shrug. Her smile started to fade. "Oh, please do try." She said. "I'll help you. What does it look like there?"
"Oh um... Pretty similar to here.." I look around. It wasn't all that similar. Sure, you could tell the trees were trees and the flowers were flowers but in my world none of this beauty from the trees and from the flowers would exist. Cardinair looked to be painted by the most skilled angel in all of heaven. I’ve never seen anything like it. Other than the witch herself. "Except for the colors...Some we lack.."
Her face brightens up again. "I heard we have the same sky. Is it true?"
I look up, peeping around the dancing leaves and see the clouds moving swiftly from East to West. "I think we do, actually...Wait." I looked back at her. "You said you heard that.. You knew about my world?"
"Yes, we Cardinarians study your world from time to time. We have a history with each other.."
"A history?" I was utterly shocked.
She looks down, hiding her face. "It was a very long time ago. I don't like talking about it." Her tone sounded as if she was in pain. I want to hear of the history but, won’t speak of it if she doesn’t want to. Especially if it hurt her. I would never want to hurt her. Not even for anyone else’s benefit or my own for that matter.
"So what else?" She changed the subject but still looks down at her fingers.
"Well..." I thought for a while. "There's no such thing as magic there."
"There's not?" She looks up, a small wrinkle in between her eye brows. She is puzzled.
I laugh. "None. I mean some people like to believe there is but in reality they know it's not real."
"But you-you've seen it. So you must know the truth."
"Hmm..." I ponder over that for a moment." This all still feels like a dream."
She nods and we both smile at each other. "I wonder why my world brought you here. Why you?" She says, more to herself.
"Good question."
"You know you’re not the first to visit here." She said.
"What do you mean? First human?"
She doesn’t answer. Instead she looks up with a twisted expression on her flawless face.
"What?" I ask.
"Shh!" She turns her head, listening to something in the far distance. I listen too. It was the faint noise of horse hooves plowing through the soil ahead of us. Her expression turns to worry.” We’re not alone."
"Another friend?" I ask, trying not to show the fear that is spreading through me.
"Not exactly.” Was her only reply.

The author's comments:
“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” -Pascal

“Don't say a word!" She took my hand and pulled me along with her to what seemed like an extremely large rabbit hole, hid with overgrown blades of grass. She led me in it first. The only way for my entire body to fit in it and have enough room for the witch was if I lay down on my back. I could hear the hooves coming closer and fast. I could almost feel the tremble on the earth from the creatures we were hiding from. She climbed in quickly. My back was on the dirt and the girl was above me. Her yellow hair dangled in my face. Her eyes were somewhere else; her breathing quickened with fear. I wanted to hold her, to tell her everything would be fine. But would it? Who or what were we hiding from?

The sound grew closer and soon the march of about five hooves was right beside us. They came to an immediate halt directly in front of where we are. Everything was silent. The girl and I held our breaths. There was a low hissing sound coming from the enemies and they began to circle around where we were. Finally, they left the way they came. The hooves fading away in the distance.

Ava crawled out and I followed. We both try and to catch our breath, almost wheezing for air. Suddenly the sound of hooves was back and closer than ever. The witch grabs me and pins me up against the nearest tree. I could hear the slow and steady steps directly behind us. I'm not entirely sure what I am thinking, but I have to see what these creatures are. I lean further down, my back against the tree, and slowly twist the upper half of my body. I peer over the bark and my stomach drops. I want to scream at the sight of these creatures. They are on beastly horses that bulge with muscles from head to toe. The horse’s varies in color and their eyes shone red. But, the horses didn't compare to their riders. They wore long black capes that hid their faces with hoods. For that I was grateful. Still, through the darkness of the hood you could see their bright eyes shining like the horses they rode upon. The capes rode down, almost touching the ground after covering the horses back. The creatures on the mutated horses held reigns with long, white, and wrinkled hands. Their nails were black and many inches long, coming to a curl at the tip. Ava grabs my shirt and spins me back around, straightening my stance behind the tree.

The creatures drew out a long hiss in unison and rode off again on horseback. We stood still for what seemed like hours. Then, Ava finally peeked around the tree and nodded towards me. "Their gone." She still whispered.
"What was that?" I nearly cried pointing to where the creatures exited.
"The elders." She says. "Their just keeping patrol on the forests. But, if they were to see you." She cringes.
"If they were to see me, what?"
She slowly looks up to place her lavender eyes on mine. "They would surely kill you."
"What? Why, because I’m human?" I ask in outrage.
She nods. "They would kill me too for being with you. You see, there are only three rules in Cardinair. One, no one shall leave Cardinair for the outside world. Two, no one from the outside world shall enter Cardinair....And three, if you broke rule one or two, you shall be punished with death...."
"That's a little harsh."
"It is." She agrees. "That's why you must leave."
"Leave? I'm not entirely sure how I got here."
She sighs. "We must find a way. I won't allow anything to happen to you."
I smile, thinking about her words. "Nothing will happen. They won't find me."
"Yet. We have to get you home right away."
I agree with a nod. I didn't want to leave her. But, I knew I would have to eventually. I wouldn't risk being selfish over her life.
"You appeared here on the tower. So, tonight we'll go there and hopefully that will send you back to your world."
"Yes, hopefully." I say halfheartedly.
"Until then we have to keep you safe. We're going to visit Bristal."
"He's a friend of mine. Don't be afraid when you meet him." She shrugs. "He's a vegetarian."
"Why would I be afraid?"
She smiles but says nothing. She took my hand in hers and my legs instantly felt like jelly. The setting suddenly changed. We were in the same forest, just deeper into it, beside a huge fort where Bristal must live. She releases my hand. I should have known. The only reason to even touch me is to get me here. How stupid I am for thinking otherwise! I shrug off the thought. "Why couldn't you have done that earlier, while we were hiding from the elders?" I ask her.
"The elders can sense magic being used. They could have followed us through my portals easily. I couldn't risk that. It was safer to do it as it was done."
"Who are the elders exactly?"
"They’re most evil ones in Cardinair. Besides the King Demontritus himself and his offspring." She says through clenched teeth. Her small hands balled up into little fist. I didn't reply, not wanting to anger her any more. She sighs, "Again, there's nothing to be afraid of." The fort is made from limbs and grasses woven together to create a masterpiece. We slowly walked in together.

"Bristal." Ava calls out with one hand cupped slightly over her mouth, like the princess's in Walt Disney's films has often done. She is a princess; in my eyes at least. And I'm the hopeless sucker that falls for her, kissing the ground she walks on only to be put to shame by the prince who comes along and steals her heart. She's Cinderella; I'm the pathetic and tongue tied mouse in the green sweater and goofy hat. She's Snow White; I'm the poor and clueless Dopey. She's Ariel; I'm Flounder, a different species entirely. She's Jasmine; I'm the flying carpet who secretly loves the feel of the dark-skinned girl on his back. I know, babysitting my six-year-old cousin for free is not worth it. But the point is, she's way out of my league. No, that's not right. Way out of my galaxy. Yes, that sounds more like it.

There's a loud booming sound nearby and with it, the earth underneath my feet begin to shake a little. That's when Bristal came into view. He is several feet taller and has brown reptile skin. On either side of his head there is two pair of horns. His two bottom razor sharp teeth sticks out of his mouth up over his top lip. His width is tremendous; he is a monster.
It is the most hideous thing I’d ever seen in my life. I thought about making a run for it but, I wouldn't dare leave the girl with this beast.
My eyes search for anything I can use as a weapon. I find a stick and lunge for it, like Golem would for his precious. When I stand up straight I see that I'm only inches away from the beast's foot. I scurry back, in front of Ava, keeping her behind me. The stick is held out in front of me, like a sword or magic wand. But of course with my unfailing luck it's no stick. It's a twig. It’s a measly twig that couldn't shield us from a friendly encounter with a rabbit. Ava's calmly speaking nonsense in my ear. Can't she see that I need serious concentration to defend us both? The ogre-look-alike bends down, placing his face in front of mine. I can smell his foul breath and see the slime in his nostrils that are the size as my fist.

"Get back!" I built enough courage and dignity to scream at the beast. Too bad my voice cracked with fear. Somehow, Ava stands in front of me, planting herself in between me and the beast. What is she thinking? She's suicidal! I want to scream at her to get behind me, to run out and save herself. But, with everything going on, I'm still fully aware of her small and fragile hands cupping my elbows. I hold my breath, momentarily forgetting about the beast. She's saying something, her expression is serious. "He's a friend." I hear her say. "He won't hurt you. He's a friend." She repeats. I look behind her to the beast that is now standing up, we are level with his grimy knee caps. I want to trust her words. Though I nod and try to relax I still manage to stand semi-in front of her. Ava smiles. "Larson, this is the infamous Hashard. His name is Bristal." I don't trust my voice to speak so I keep silent. Bristal grunts, rumbling the air around us. He holds out one hand that has five to six apples placed on his palm. "Want apple?" He roars. I can't be sure but, I think I flinched at his voice.

We are all sitting down in the middle of Bristal’s fort. Though the Hashard looks very threatening and highly intimidating, he's not. He has a kind heart. And most people won't ever know that because they runaway at the sight of him. It's a shame. Bristal is throwing apples into the air and catching them in his mouth, like I would with grapes. I'm on my third apple and Ava has just finished her first. She picks up another one and licks her lips. I lean over and clear my throat, ripping my eyes away from Ava. But, with my peripheral vision I can see her bite into the red flesh of the fruit and I pray that one day that could be me. I shiver just thinking about it. I would love that, yes. But I would love to hold her, to hear her voice, to watch her eyes light up, to listen to her laughter, and to stroke her hair even more. I could deal without what every man is really after. But, only if I could spend a lifetime with her.

"Larson," She says it again. My name. I used to think it was weird and ugly. But, when she says it she turns it into the most beautiful word ever to exist. I turn to her, mesmerized. She smiles at me, "Did I mention that Bristal saved my life?" I had to replay her words because I was too preoccupied watching her mouth open and close. I turn to Bristal, "Thank you." I say. I mean it. Ava laughs, "Do you wish to know how?"
"Yes." I stare at her.
"You see, I was in the forest one day where the evil twins Cynthias and Cypress spotted me." She was very enthusiastic with her story telling. "Cynthias used magic to send me up into the heavens and when she releases me I fall to the ground. The drop would kill me, no doubt." I cringe. "But, Bristal shows up out of nowhere and he catches me in mid-air." She laughs; it's the icing to her stories end. I look back to Bristal and it almost looks like he is blushing. I lean closer to him saying once again, "Thank you.", with as much sincerity in my being. He grumbles a laugh and says, "Me no need thanks." He was a gentle and humble beast. No, not a beast. A Hashard. And Hashard’s like Bristal only exist in this magical world of Cardinair. And I have to leave it all too soon. But, worst of all, I have to leave Ava.

The author's comments:
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” –William Shakespeare

Bristal called it a night and headed towards the back of his fort after we took turns saying our goodbyes. Ava and I sit near the entrance of the fort. It was dark outside and the fort was lit with several balls of burning light that hung from the tall ceiling. "So Bristal really saved your life?" I asked casually.
She smiles and says, "That's how we met and became such good friends."
"Lucky him." She blushes with the remark. I look away. "It's kind of like when you saved my life."
When I turn back to her she looks puzzled. I laugh at her cute expression, "From the elders, remember?"
Her mouth makes a small O and she nods her head.
"Thank you." I say. "For everything. You've been kind when you don't have to be."
"You're truly welcome." She says shyly. I sigh, wishing I could stay right here forever but, knowing it's amiss.
"There are so many things I want to know about you." I say in a whisper, mostly to myself. Ava drops her eyes to the ground and her cheeks turn crimson once again. "You shouldn't know too much." She said underneath her breath.
"Why would you say that?"
"It's not balanced.”
I stare at her until she explains further.
"I guess what I’m trying to say is...You’re not meant to be here. This isn't your world, it's mine. You shouldn't know too much about me or my world .It would throw everything off balance, don't you agree?"
"I think it's all ready off balanced. I'm not supposed to be here, but yet I am. Maybe, this happened for a reason. Maybe I’m supposed to know about you and your world. Like you said earlier, why me? Maybe....I am destined to."
She pondered on that for a minute. "Maybe. If your destiny was to die here. Eventually it would get around to someone that a being has arrived and they will come after not only you but, me as well."
My stomach dropped. I couldn't let that happen." If there was any chance that we could beat them or, outrun them even." She went on." Then I would ask you to stay."
"How would it get around to them?" I whisper.
"Everything in Cardinair can speak. Everything with the gift of life can talk to one another, including the trees." She looked out towards the entry. "But, their on our side ...for now."
I nod. "You said I wasn't the first human being here?"
"You aren’t. His name was Isaac. He arrived here many years ago and his life ended in a tragedy." She dropped the story. I could tell she didn't want to share it with me.
I look into her eyes and they are clear of emotion. "I’m leaving soon." I said. It wasn't a question.
"Yes." She looks away.
I shook my head. "It's for the best." I stare at the girl from my countless dreams. How could I leave her? I was going to have to try. I wouldn't be the death of her.
She looked back up at me. "We need to leave, now."
I stood up slowly and she followed. She looks up at me and with one swift movement; she wraps her arms around my waist, hugging me tight.

She doesn’t let go of me until after she transports us to the top of the watchmen tower.” It was nice to meet a human."
I laugh half heartily. "It was nice to meet a witch."
I hoped to spend some time in the future with her but that would never happen.
We wouldn’t see each other again. But, I would see her in my dreams.
"I wish I could stay for only a little while longer." I say without thinking.
She looks down, hiding her expression. "I better go."
What? I didn't want her to go.
"Goodbye Larson." She turns away.
She turns back around and smiles a bright a beautiful smile in my direction. De JA vu. That was the exact picture I saw for nights on end. This moment was what my dreams had been about. The dreams were always so lovely and intriguing. This wasn't. It was a goodbye. A goodbye that I clearly didn’t want. I gather my thoughts and try to think of something to say.
“Goodbye Ava." Was all I came up with.
Her smile brightens and then, she was gone.
"See you in my dreams." I whisper. I walk closer to the edge of the tower and look down at the land of Cardinair. I see what all I’ve seen in my endless dreams. Everything is familiar but, everything is renewed. In my dreams, the pictures had been unclear; like I was looking at them through a single slate of stained glass. But, now I was actually here and it is all perfectly clear.
The beauty of this world is hard to explain. It is impossible to explain, rather. Everything is completely indescribable to a certain extent. Take something you think is the most beautiful thing in the world...Or even in your imagination. Times that by a thousand. That wouldn't even compare to the beauty of what I am seeing.
I look up to the heavens and see marvelous creatures that don’t exist in my world. They look like the one creature that made sure I had a safe landing yesterday morning. No one would believe me if I told them about my experiences here. So, I wouldn't tell anyone. I desperately wanted to prove to Will that I was right and completely sane but, if there was a chance in him believing me, I wouldn't want him coming here. I wouldn't put him or the creatures like Ava in that kind of danger. When I get home, would I believe in my own experiences in this other world? I wasn't sure. But, the good thing is I believe it now.

It is hardly fair that I have to leave now when I have barely got to see anything this world contained. I did see the most magnificent and most beautiful thing ever to exist, and for that I was grateful. I suppose I would see her in my dreams. But, that would be different. It wouldn't be her, just a picture of her; a picture that I would keep forever.
I don’t want to leave. Not now. But, I have to. It is for the best. I sit down and put my head between my knees. I shut my eyes to rest them.
All I could see was her face. That's all I wanted to see. I made sure to memorize every detail of the flawless perfection behind my eyelids. I would never lose her. I was sure that she would always be in my dreams; night and day.

I open my eyes and look up; I’m at the clock tower. I stand up quickly and look down. Everything here looks trashy and grey compared to Cardinair. But, I suppose anything would in comparison. I wasn't entirely sure what to think, so I didn't. I decided to pretend as if nothing ever happened. Mainly so I won’t be tempted to revisit Cardinair and risk her life once again. I refused to put her in danger anymore. I barely knew her; but it crushed me to leave her.

I walk down the many flights of stairs down to the first floor, not bothering to take the elevator. I walk slowly home; when I get there, I crash onto my bed and pass out with exhaustion. I sleep dreamlessly.

The author's comments:
“There is no disguise which can hide love where it exist, Or stimulate it where it does not.” –La Rochefoucauld

One Year Later:

"What makes you think you are a worthy candidate for one of my employees?" Mr. Johnson asks in a deep scary voice. He squints down at me with his bushy white eyebrows burrowing over his beady eyes. I clear my throat. I'm ready for this. I know this answer. "Mr. Johnson, I know that I'm young and I know that I don't have much experience in the law force. But, I'm a hard worker and a fast learner. I'm not stubborn. I'll do whatever it is that you ask. I will be your right hand man." I flash a smile, adding charm.
He smiles a little and gets up from his seat. He walks over to the window in his closed-in office and stares out for a long while. Finally, he sighs and turns back to me. "My workers are experienced men, unlike you." I hold my breathe. He shakes his head. "I usually don't do this Mr. McKinley. But, I can see that what you say is true. You start next week. Be here at five a.m. sharp." He turns away, dismissing me. I smile and stand up. "Thank you Mr. Johnson. I won't disappoint you.” He waves me off with one hand and I'm on my way.

I stop by a bakery that serves the biggest and most delicious cinnamon rolls in all of Chicago for a self treat. I nearly skip into the bakery and I wait in the line that's backed up into the far wall. I guess everyone felt the need to either gorge themselves on pure sweetness or gorge themselves on pure sweetness for self praise of some sort. The smell of the freshly cooked bread had my mouth watering. And the almost metallic scent of the thick and absolutely sweet icing had a way of making my head spin. Finally, I'm at the front of the line and I order. The cinnamon rolls are pre-made but they are as hot as if they just left the oven.

I make my way out of the bakery. I can't wait any longer, I take a huge bite. It's gooey, tasty, sweet, and everything else I'd hope for in a pastry on this very good day. I'm heading out of the door to a busy sidewalk when I take another big bite. This time, I make the mistake in closing my eyes and I bump into someone head on. I almost drop my treat and a hot, wet substance splatters on my good jeans. The woman that I hit is in front of me is murmuring curses under her breathe. Her coffee is all down her white blouse and the tips of her strawberry blonde hair. I hurry to swallow and then say, "I'm so sorry." As many times as I could before she looked up and smiled. "It's fine." She says. "It happens rather frequently. I'm like a coffee magnet or something."
"I'll go get you some napkins." I start to turn around but she tells me that she was going home to change anyway. "At least let me buy you another cup of coffee."
She smiles and looks away, batting her eye lashes like I was asking her out on a date. Was I? I wasn't but, I guess I could. "If you want." I add, now officially making it a date.
"I'd like that."
I smile, "Today?"
She shakes her head full of hair. "I'm busy but, I'll give you my number. Do you have a pen?" I pat my pockets with one hand and they are both empty. I make a mental note to always carry a writing devise for occasions like these which happen more and more frequently nowadays. A waitress walks by from the restaurant next to the bakery we are standing in front of. I carefully steal a pen from the side of her apron that is tied around her waist without her noticing. I hand it to the girl, making myself look more clever and mysterious than I actually am. Her eyes brightened; she was clearly impressed.
"I don't have any paper." She says. "I'll just write it on your hand." I give her my hand and watch as she scribbles down her number across my palm. She handed me the pen and without another word, walked away. I look down at my hand and the name Jenna is above the seven digits. I smile and watch her as she walks off, into the crowd. I place the pen on the closest outside table to the restaurant and walk to my car, whistling a cheerful tune.

Today is October the twenty third two thousand and eight. It’s the day that I’ve dreaded since October twenty third two thousand and seven. This date never bothered me until a couple of years ago. My mother now plans surprise parties for me since I moved out. I hated surprises. All though the parties weren’t an actual surprise, since they happened once a year on the same date; it still bothered me not to know who would be there or what would take place. I shrugged off the thought and got up from bed. I took a deep breath and got ready after staying in bed all day. Mom had invited me over for a birthday dinner. I put on my kakis and dress shirt for her sake.

I drove slowly to my parents house. The house I grew up in on the western side of Chicago, I was in no hurry for the surprise party. Though this didn't count as one, really.
I walk into the house without knocking and the lights are off. Typical.
"Mom? Dad?" I call, walking in. I shut the door behind me. "Anyone home?" I was playing it up a bit. The lights turn on and people jump out of different places and scream, "Surprise!"
Big surprise, I thought. I put on my surprised face and gave my mother a hug.
"Mom, you shouldn't have."
"Oh, you know me." She says squeezing me tight. "Your nineteen now."
I smile. "That I am."
My whole family was here. My cousins Will, Brenda, Todd, and Jana. My uncle Spruce and uncle Jack. My aunt Holly was here also, she disliked me for accidentally shooting her son Todd with a be be gun when I was five. My grandfather McKinley was there and his new wife who's name I'd forgotten. My grandfather and grandmother Laurence were here too.
My friends Josh, David, and Harry were here as well. Their girlfriends Amy, Sara, and Shantell were with them. There were a few other familiar faces and some were Will's friends but, I knew none of their names.

Mostly everyone greeted me and wished me a happy nineteenth birthday. They all congratulated me on my new job. Everyone but a few of the ones I didn’t' know and my Aunt Holly. She sat in the corner the entire time and looked to be like she was pouting. She didn't want to be here.

We all talked, told a few jokes, snacked on various finger foods and then, "It's time for some birthday cake!" My mom announced coming out of the kitchen with a chocolate cake in her hands. She placed it on the coffee table in the main room. There was all ready nineteen candles in the cake.
"Mom? Candles?"
She laughs. "Just humor me."
I sit down on the loveseat and watch as she lights the candles. "Make a wish." She says backing away. This was silly. I was nineteen for crying out loud. But, I would do it for my mother’s sake. I shut my eyes, playing it up again, and when I did I saw a face I wasn't expecting to see. It was the face of the girl I dreamed about several times before in the past. I suddenly longed for her, just to see her in the magical land of Cardinair in my dreams.

I decided I would make this wish, it sounded childish but, as I blew out the candles I did it anyway. My mom cheered. Uncle Spruce hit me in the arm. "What did you wish for?"
"You know better." My mom told him. "If he tells it won't come true." It wouldn’t come true. Unless I get extremely lucky and for this one night I could control my own dreams. I push away the thought; it was stupid to think of such a thing. Impossible, rather.

After a slice of cake I searched around for Will. He wasn't upstairs or in the garage. And when I looked for my friend Harry I realized that my other friends had left also. So I gave all the women hugs and gave all the men manly pats on the back and I left for home. The family party wasn't that bad. Not as bad as last years anyway. Last year there were tears; waterworks may be a better word for it. Only because I turned eighteen- the first year as a young adult. My mom's a sap; if that doesn't explain it, I don't know what will.

I stepped into my apartment, instantly smelling the familiar scent of leather. It is dark and I take off my jacket before turning on the light. I suddenly have a strange feeling that I'm not alone, it's in the atmosphere. I hurry to flip on the light and nearly shriek when people jump out from behind my couch, my small bar, my coffee table, and my door. They begin to laugh and I can feel my face flushing red. "Very funny, you guys." I say. "You got me." There was more laughter and Will came trotting over to me. He put one massive arm around my shoulder and said, "I had to do it, brah."
I look at the crowd seeing all of my buddies and their girlfriends. This is where my friends from the party earlier had fled to. I slap hands and fists with everyone, making my way into the kitchen filled with tightly pressed bodies. Will is close behind me. "You could have got a bigger place." I tell him over the many voices and soft, energetic music playing in the background. "Then you would have expected it. I'm not stupid, dude." I just laugh and poor myself a drink.

Everyone began to sing ''Happy Birthday'' off key and I didn't attempt to runaway like I usually would. There was no room to run. I could feel someone staring at me and when I looked I saw the strawberry blonde named Jenna from the other day. I smile at her. She mouths the word hey and I try to shove past the crowd to get to her. I came closer and before I could stand in front of her my bud Garret Francis placed a strong hand on my shoulder. "Happy birthday, man." I nod and try to get past him but he doesn't move. "Tell me what it's like turning nineteen." I look past him to Jenna. She's awkwardly standing in one place, waiting for me. "It's nice." I tell him still looking at her.
"I bet." Garret says. "I mean, you have a nice, cozy apartment. You're fixing to have a good paying job which is rare for people our age. Girls are always drooling over you." I smile at that. "Tell me, man, can anything get any better?"
I was just about to say No, they can't. When Ava's face flashed before my eyes once again. I could feel my face fall from a smile into something else. "Yes." I say, answering his question. "Yes, it could get a whole lot better." Ava. I couldn't take it anymore! I had to dream about her; to at least be near her again. I left Garret without another word and grabbed my keys from beside the door. I searched the house for Will. He was all over his girlfriend so I tapped him on the shoulder. "Yea?" He asked, somewhat annoyed. I clawed the key to the apartment off of the key chain and handed it to my cousin. "Lock up for me, will you? Then, leave the key under the rug."
"Where are you going? And you have a rug?”
"I'll be back tomorrow. Lock my door, Will." I turned around and ran through the crowd, out the door, and to my car.

I push the elevator to the top floor and went up to the roof. I lay down and shut my eyes. There she was. The perfect girl that didn't even exist. A girl I fell for in my dreams. If only she were real…

I woke up and felt the winds breeze touch my skin; I still must be at the clock tower. I raised up and jumped when I saw there was a dark figure in front of me. I crawled backwards a little ways and tried to make my eyes adjust to the blackness. The figure crawls towards me and then stops. "Larson?"
It was a girls voice but, one I didn't recognize. "Yes?" I whisper, still a bit frightened.
"Larson James McKinley?" Whoa. How did she know my middle name?
"Yes?" I repeated.
The girl sighed in relief. "Do you remember me?"
I look towards the figure." I can't really see you."
The girls figure turned around and whispered the words, " Legeton."

There are others? Suddenly the area was lit with a bright little ball. I stared at the ball and wondered how it could turn on without electricity. Battery operated? Surely not by gas.. I look around and there are three girls; not including the girl in front of me, and two boys. They all look highly similar but, were all a little different in many ways. They were various sizes but, very built. They wore the same type of clothing which looked to be made from leather and leaves. Their hair color was brown but, it's shade varied on each person. One of the boys held the ball of light. It looked as if he was levitating the light in between both of his hands, like magic. I had seen that small light somewhere before...But where?
"Larson?" The girl asked, disrupting my thoughts. "Do you remember me?"
I examined her face. Her hair is long; it nearly touched the ground while she crouched down to my eye level. It is a brown color with a tint of red and it matched the color of her eyes exactly. The second I made that discovery, I see her face all over again in my head. But, in a different place, at a different time. Where and when? I couldn't recall.
"How do I know you?" I ask.
"Through Ava."
Suddenly it was all clear. I could remember Ava's face precisely for the first time in a year. I swear I could feel my heart skip a beat from joy. I remembered everything from my trip to Cardinair like it was yesterday. I remembered the Ontarion Audrina and her special power.
I remembered that it was all real.
"Audrina." I breathed.
She smiles. "Yes."

I look over her and saw the others. "Oh." She turned around and stood up. I stood beside her." Larson, this is Fern," She pointed to the shortest girl, she just stared at me. Her expression was vicious." Corah," She pointed to the tallest girl. Her height compared to Fern's was amusing. She glowered down at me. "Elexin," This girl was in between the height of Fern and Corah; she smiled at me. "The boys are Legeton," He was the one holding the light magically in his hands, he was nice to smile as Elexin had been . "And Drucon." The other boys face was hostile. "You might have remembered," Audrina went on." that I am what you call an O-"
"Ontarion. Yes."
In unison they all stuck out their right hand. On their wrists were small markings of the same unique symbol. I had remembered that these weren’t tattoos. There was no such things as tattoos in Cardinair. At least, Ava didn't know about them.
"Where's Ava?" I ask.
Audrina's smile slowly faded. The rest hung their heads down. "We need your help." Audrina whispers, making sure not to look me in the eye.
The boy named Drucon stepped towards me, "Right. You got her into this, you have to help get her out." He growled.
"Drucon!" Audrina raised her hand, he backed up and stood in the position he had been in before. His eyes were still on mine and still furious.
Audrina looked back up to me and pain was caught in her expression.
"Where is she?" It was only a whisper. I was confused by Drucon's words but, they could only mean one thing that I could think of...
"They have her..."
"The elders?" I asked; remembering everything Ava had said about them. How she saved my life that day from those very creatures. My hands started to shake.
"For now. But, the King will have her soon."
"King Demontritus?" She nodded. "Because of me?" She nodded once more.
All of a sudden anger had burned its way through every single bone in my body. How could I allow this to happen? Ava didn't deserve death! No, she deserved the very opposite. How could I ever let this happen to the most outstanding person ever to exist? This was all my fault! I had to do whatever it took to save her!
"How can I help?" I yelled, my voice cracking on every word.
"Just do exactly as I say."
I nod. "Easy enough."
"We're going to the King Demontritus's castle. They won't kill Ava yet." She says.
"Yet?" My voice is an octave higher than usual.
"It's okay, Larson. We have time. We will save her."
I repeated that over and over again in my head.
"We have to get in somehow and that's when you come in."
"Okay, what do I do?"
"You're the bait. You will lure everyone’s attention away from Ava."
"I see." I go to the castle, they take me, they rescue her. "A life for a life." I shrug. No big deal. I would take my life to save Ava's any day.
"No. Listen, we go to the castle. "She repeats." Elexin will turn your appearances to Cypress, Demontritus's son." She pointed to the friendly Ontarion, she smiled at me and waved." Cypress is not allowed in the castle anymore. So, you’re going to the front gates and they'll let you in."
"Wait. If I’m not allowed in the castle then, why would they let me in...I mean, Cypress?"
She sighs." Because all the guards are scared of him." She mumbled. "No more questions." I lean in, paying close attention. "You just walk through the front gates and into the main entrance of the castle, you can't miss it. Demontritus should see that you’ve arrived by then, if not earlier. Once Elexin changes you, you must hurry and fulfill the job long enough to where everyone in and around the castle are distracted from the small fight with your father. Right after we're out and have Ava in hand, you must hurry to leave."
"Why do I fight with Demontritus? How do I fight with him? Why do I have to hurry?" I ask all at once, beginning to panic.
Audrina sighs but, answers my questions anyway." Cypress is said to be more powerful than the king. Demontritus took control and sent his offspring to live somewhere else, they are not allowed in the castle. If they ever come back, he threatens them with death. You don't actually have to fight him; you should be completely safe, with help from Legeton. Elexin's power, as well as the rest of ours, is only effective for a certain amount of time."
"Why can't I actually rescue Ava?" I wanted to see her face that much sooner. Plus, I didn't trust any of these people with her. They could hurt her...Or worse...Be too late.
"What could a human do?" I thought about that. She was right.
"Why do I have to be bait?"
"Because Ontarion's powers doesn't work on other Ontarions. You’re the only one that could apply to that." She grunted. "Again with the questions! Just do what I tell you! We must be on our way."

"Head to the castle. Corah stay with us." Audrina told the others. Corah stepped up beside Audrina. The rest nodded and ran towards the edge of the tower, plunging off gracefully. I ran and looked down. They were still flying through the air, Fern looked like a beautiful little ballet dancer spinning and twirling her way down. In a short second they all landed on the shorter tower of the building. They continued like that until they were all on the ground. The Ontarions were very graceful and elegant with their movements. They were not only warriors, they looked as if they were very skilled hunters. The way they landed was like a jaguar crouching for his prey, smooth and barely noticeable. "Larson." Audrina said. I turned around and walked back to her side. "Corah will take you to the castle." I looked at the freakishly tall girl and her glare was one of an axe murderer. I gulped loudly. "How?"
I can tell Audrina does not have much patience with me at all. "It's her power...She can run with super speed and agility."
"Remember the plan, and stick to it. Don't do anything to give away your true identity. Whatever Demontritus says, find a way to make him angry with your words...Argue."
"That hardly makes any sense to me."
"It doesn't have to. The bigger the fight, the bigger the distraction."
"Actual fighting?" I ask.
"Elexin will meet you there and turn you to Cypress. Don't screw this up. For Ava's sake."
Yes, for Ava's sake I wouldn't dare. I nodded.
Audrina looked at Corah and said, “Your under strict instructions not to hurt him." Then, she nodded towards her.
Corah sighed and put both of her hands on my arm.
"Stick to the plan." Audrina said then, she was gone. I looked around and all I saw was trees and Corah beside me. The wind from our arrival whistled the leaves around us.
"Wait here for Elexin. Don't move." She hissed and disappeared, leaving a huge heave of wind knocking me in the face.

I looked around, not recognizing anything. No, I had never been in this particular spot from my trip to Cardinair. But, surely I would recognize the beauty I remembered that Cardinair held. I remembered the trees looking so alive even in the dark but, now...They looked dead. Their color wasn't exquisite, like it was last time. They barely had any color to their trunks or the few leaves that dangled on the drooping branches. There was nothing fascinating about these trees...They looked like the ones where I came from...Maybe even worse. I heard something from not very far away. Before I could panic, Elexin came into view.
"Are you ready?" She asked, somewhat smiling.
"Uh... I'm still not sure what it is I’m suppose to be doing."
"Just go for it." Her smile widens. "You'll do fine."
I nodded, soaking in her words. "Now." She continued." I can only give you the appearance of Cypress; however, his magic I can't portray." She shrugged. "So that's where Legeton comes in. He won't be in view but, just go along with it."
"Go along with what?"
"He's going to create the illusion that the power is coming from Cypress. Do you remember the little light he was carrying on the tower?"
"It wasn't there. Just an illusion to our eyes. The power itself isn't actually there but, everyone else will see it. Now...Are you ready?"
I nod. "Wait. One question." She sighs but, smiles. "The trees...What's wrong with them?"
Her smile faded to a broken frown, “They’re sad. Everything good in Cardinair is grieving for Ava that we all know and love."
Shock filled my expression. "I'm ready." I said without thinking. I would do my part in saving her not only for myself, but for her friends in Cardinair.
Elexin took my hand and flipped it over so that my palm was facing the dull skies. She gently swept her fingertips lightly over my wrist and then dropped it. She smiles, "All done." She steps away and curtsies. "Prince Cypress."
I take in a deep breath. "Which way to the castle?"

The author's comments:
“There is always madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

I stood right outside the gates to the humungous castle. Elexin had all ready left me to go with the others. My heart beat so fast I thought it would erupt from my chest. I thought about walking away several times but, I knew I wouldn't. Ava meant too much to me...And I still couldn't figure out how, being that I've only actually met her once. It took everything left in me to move Cypress's feet forward to the gate entrance. I went up to the men that were guarding it. They gave me one look, saw who I was, and quickly opened the gate. Audrina had been right, they were scared of me. Apparently Cypress was very powerful. I walked to the main entrance, you couldn't miss it, the Ontarion was right about that as well.
I walked through the front doors thankful that my body was numb with fear. This way if something were to happen, I couldn't really feel it.

Inside the castle, the main room was the biggest and most beautiful room I’d ever seen.. The windows were stained glass and pure diamond chandeliers hung low from the ceiling which were enormously tall. Nothing filled this room but, a few statues of undefined creatures, and a royal red carpet that went from the door to the two sided spiral stair case at the end of the long room. At the top of the two staircases stood King Demontritus.

I'd never seen him before but, I could feel the evil surrounding the room. His hair was blonde but, it looked more of a white color. It strode all the way past his shoulders. His hostile eyes were the same color as Ava's; lavender. He was wearing what it looked like a black coat or cape that he wrapped around his lean body. He was in a strange crouching position, like he was ready for an attack.
"Son." He hissed through his teeth.
"Father." I nodded, still not sure what I’m suppose to be doing.
"I thought I told you never to come back here."
"Yet, here I am."
He stepped out of his crouch and was suddenly right in front of me. I jumped back. He laughed an evil and mocking laugh. "Did I scare you?"
I smiled, playing it up a little. I ticked my tongue. "You can't teach an old dog new tricks...Such a shame."
All of a sudden I was against the wall and Demontritus was grabbing my neck. "I taught you everything you know!"
I raised up my hand in protest and smiled. "Which, you have to admit, wasn't much."
He grabbed my shoulders and flung me across the room into another wall. I knew the numbness would pay a favor for me. I could only feel a little and a little was enough to make me stay down from the fall. I could hear him walk slowly to me, he raised me up in the air by my collar and looked me in the eyes.
"You no longer belong to me."
"Good!" I said spitting in his face.
He dropped me on the ground and stepped on me. "That way" He whispered. "I can kill you myself."
I laughed not knowing why. "Not if I kill you first."
He grinned and stepped off of me. He walked back and raised his arm slowly; soon I was levitating in the air and the higher his arm raised, the higher I went. I could touch the ceiling when he released me, I fell towards the floor. This fall could be enough to kill me. Miraculously by now they had Ava.
Before I hit the ground I stopped in mid-air and slowly floated to my feet. How could that have happened? Who saved me? I looked at Demontritus and he wasn't facing me. He was facing a boy with blonde hair and purple eyes that resembled him a little. He transported from place to place and Demontritus could hardly follow him. Then, the boy just disappeared.
"Cypress?" Demontritus whispered.
Cypress? That boy had been the one I was disguising? How could that be? I remembered Legeton and his illusions. That must be a part of it. Elexin told me to go along with it and I would try. "Can't keep up father?" I asked.
He turned around and saw me. "Your not playing fair."
"I learned that from the best."
He walked towards me slowly. "So you admit that I am the best."
"No. I admit that you were." I shrugged.
"Bite your tongue!" He yelled.
"Mmm. No. I don't think I will."
He screamed and sprinted towards me, he stopped right before he pounded into me and had a puzzled expression on his face. I saw over his shoulder the boy who looked to be 'Cypress' was standing behind him. Demontritus turned around and walked slowly up to the boy who wasn't really there. How strange these illusions were. Legeton could make me disappear from Demontritus's sight also.. The boy disappeared and I guessed it was my cue. "Come out son, and fight like a man." Demontritus said, facing another wall.
"I'm pretty sure when a man fights," I said, watching him turn around and walk towards me. "The man wins." I smiled. "So I am fighting like a man."
"I'm sorry son. I meant fight like a warlock!" He raised his hands out in front of him and something that looked like black smoke shot from them. Before the smoke touched me, he stopped and turned around to the illusion of the other boy in a different corner.
I looked around the room for the first time and saw that we had attracted attention. Guards from the outside were against the wall and a lot of others were gathered in the corners. More were filling in from every entrance to the room. This was working...
The bigger the fight, the bigger the distraction. Audrina had said. I waited for the illusion to vanish before saying, “Father?" He turned around and stared at me with hate filled eyes. "Is that what you call fighting like a warlock?"
He smiled. "No," With in a second I was down on the ground and Demontritus was above me. There was some type of grip around my neck that didn't allow me to breathe; but Demontritus wasn't touching me. He raised his arm as he did before and I floated off the ground, the hold on my neck got tighter. I tried to get whatever was chocking me to stop but, there was nothing there.
My head started to spin while the people in the corners and along the walls got farther and farther away. "This is." Demontritus yelled.

I choked for just one breath of air but, it didn't come. I concentrated on nothing but finding my lungs and replenishing them. A sudden gust of wind hit my face and I slammed into the wall. The numbness I found to be helpful before, wasn't here now. I felt every bit of the pain. I wanted to scream, maybe that would released some. But, I couldn't with no breath. My head was throbbing not only from the hit but, from going without oxygen for this long. Another sudden gust of wind rushed around me and before I knew it I hit another wall. I could feel a few of my bones shatter. Tears fogged my vision. I flew into the opposite wall; then, I fell to the floor.
The grip on my neck was released, I found my lungs and choked the air into them. I lay on my back and didn't try to get up. I was sure a few of my bones were broken. I heard this strange noise and realized it was me. I was screaming as loud as I could in pain. Tears continuously rolled down my cheeks. I heard the sound of Demontritus's footsteps beside me. He stood over me and smiled. "You know I could kill you easily."
I could still hear him over my screams.
He laughed and knelt down beside me. "But, what fun what that be?"
Looking around, he stood up and saw the crowd for the first time. "Sorry for the disturbance. Go back to what you were doing." And then he vanished into thin air.
The room buzzed with different voices and they all started walking separate ways out of the room. They would have Ava by now. I tried to raise up but, I felt the sharp pain that came from my ribs. I screamed, frustrated with myself. Legeton appeared and swooped me in his arms with ease. He ran outside of the castle surprisingly fast and sat me down somewhere in the thick forest. He must have made us invisible to everyone else’s eyes.
"Ava will be here soon. She'll heal you; the pain will dissolve." He said assuring.
With the sound of her name it seemed as if half of the pain had all ready dissolved.
"Good job. You handled everything right."
I nodded and tried my best to smile to the friendly Ontarion but, I couldn't find the strength. I wasn’t' screaming anymore but, I felt the urge to. I gritted my teeth together as hard as I could and closed my eyes, picturing her lovely face. The pain dulled but, it was still there.
"Is he okay?" I knew that voice. I looked up and she was standing above me. Her face was even more beautiful and precise as in my memories.
"He's fine. He broke a few bones." Legeton told her.
She gasped and knelt down beside me. She put her hand on me and the pain in my arm stopped. She placed her hand on my stomach and the pain from my ribs stopped. She continued like that on my right leg and left ankle. Then she put her hand on my head and there was no pain whatsoever. It dissolved like snow.
Finally she looked at me and her face lit up. "Hey." She smiled.
"Hey." I said in awe. How could I have not noticed she was this beautiful? I knew she was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen but, that was an understatement.
"We have to hide." She whispered.
I sat up and nodded not able to talk again, just yet.
She looked up to Legeton who was now standing and said, “We can't hide in your village. That would be the first place they'll look." She looked back down at me. "Guess what?"
"Bristal?" I asked when I found my voice. She laughed. "We must leave." She stood up; I followed her. Stretching my muscles, I was amazed that I wasn't even the least bit sore. "Legeton thanks for everything, I will find way to repay you and the others." She said before placing her hand on my arm and transporting us further into the forest. I looked around and the trees looked brighter…more alive. But, still not the way I remembered. I looked down at the witch and she smiled at me. My heart beat faster and my breathing slowed. "You came back." She said.
"I’m sorry. I didn't mean to put you in danger."
"It's okay. Really, it is. But, now you must leave."
"Leave?" I asked. "I can't leave. They already know about me and about you. I have to stay to help yo-"
"No." She said firmly, cutting me off. "You have to leave. They can't get you if you leave."
"I don't want to leave. I would rather die than leave."
"Don't say that."
"Please.." I sigh. "Please just let me stay."
She looked down and back up again with uncertain eyes. "You can stay. For now."
I smiled. Suddenly she wrapped her arms around me.
I wrapped my arms around her as well and squeezed her a little. I smiled to myself. This girl was real. The girl from my dreams is here with me; I’m holding her in my arms. There's this weird sensation that makes me want to double over in pain and scream for joy at the same time. I'd never felt like this before. What was wrong with me? She stepped back and I released her. She smiled an extremely drop-dead-gorgeous smile and my stomach plummeted to my feet. All of a sudden I realized what I had to do. I realized the reason for my existence, the reason why I came to this other world. It was because of her. Not to protect her; I'm sure she could take care of herself. I just had to be with her. I was sure of it.

The author's comments:
“A man reserves his true and deepest love not for the species woman whose company he finds himself electrified, but for that one in whose company he may feel tenderly drowsy.” -George Jean Nathan

I still can't comprehend this place and the things that inhabit it. No human being could. At least, none from my world. The magic, the sights, the underlying beauty of the girl sitting beside me cannot be explained easily, if at all. I usually don't rely on the ''seeing is believing'' scenario but, under these circumstances I certainly do. I've noticed that when I'm here my mind is often jumbled with all the majestic beauty surrounding me, making me somewhat giddy and confused. Or maybe that only happens because I'm around Ava. It's like I've been put on laughing gas; I want to laugh out loud for no reason but, I don't because I'm too absorbed in relaxation.

I remember once thinking that Bristal the beastly Hashard was the ugliest thing my eyes have ever seen. But, now that I actually have the courage to look him in the eye, I can see a strange beauty about the creature. His eyes are gentle, when you look into them they make you want to pat his head or rub his enormously big tummy like a family pet. I noticed that when he walks he doesn't slam around and swing his elbows up to chest and then to his shoulder blades like giants do in the movies. Instead, he walks with odd gracefulness, though he shakes the ground with his most gentle steps.

"Methinks Larson like Ava." Bristal boasts with a smile that stretches out over his two bottom teeth. I drop my head, clearly embarrassed by the remark. But, before I do I catch a glimpse of Ava. She smiled at first and then looked away, frowning. I didn't know what to make of the action. Did she find it flattering and then disgusting that someone like me could have actual feelings for her? She just didn't seem like that kind of girl. I forced myself to ignore it so I wouldn't waste time freighting over the small gesture. But, how could I not?
"Thanks, Bristal." I say with a smile that felt more like a grimace. He laughs, vibrating the ground the slightest bit. Bristal gets up and before traveling deeper into the large fort he turns to us and says, "Bristal goes to sleep."
I nod, acknowledging his words while Ava barely whispers a goodnight. Bristal walks away and Ava and I are alone once again. We sit in awkward silence for a terribly long time. I try to think of something to say; a conversation starter. Like how was your day or even the weather outside is nice but, they both seemed dumb. For one, Ava spent most of her day somewhere in the darkest parts of the castle, home of the evil King and his dominions whom she hates.

Ava sighs and finally stands up. I thought she was going to head off to bed, excusing herself. But, she surprised me with the words, "Walk with me."
"Where?" I ask, getting to my feet in a hurry.
She smiles and it's genuine. She holds out her hand for me to take." Just trust me." How could I not? I took her hand and with a blink of an eye I was in the dark, no longer in Bristal's warm and dimly lit fort. My hand no longer held Ava's. Everything is black; I can't see a thing. But, I can still feel Ava's presence. As gay as it sounds, it's like my heart knows she's there before my mind does. I smile in the dark, "You have got to start warning me before you do that."
She giggles farther away from me than I judged, "But, what fun would that be?"
I shake my head and roll my tongue over my lips. I step blindly towards her voice. "Can't you make a light?" I asked her.
She doesn't answer my question, instead she asks, "You know how Legeton has the power to create illusions?"
I shiver a bit, thinking about this afternoon and the evil that I encountered. "Yes."
"I can to." She whispered to where I could barely make her words out. Suddenly there was a bright light that exploded from the girl in front of me. The light was so bright I had to cover my eyes. I had to but I didn't want to. It was beautiful. The light leaked from the center of her body to the trees around us. Ava 's hair whipped around her face as a sudden gust of wind burst through out the forest. I blinked and when I opened my eyes it was daylight.
"You can change time?" I asked. Looking around I saw the trees and they looked exactly what I remembered they did from the first time I saw them. They were alive and colorfully beautiful.
She laughed. "No one can change time. This is just an illusion."
I looked in awe at every single detail my mind could soak up. Just an illusion?
"I want to show you around." She says, sounding somewhat smug. “If you‘re going to stay here for now, you might as well see some of what it contains.” We started walking through the evergreen forest. "Everything in Cardinair with the gift of life,” She placed her palm on a tree. "Can speak. Can see. Can feel."
I tried not to laugh. "Need I not remind you Pocahontas, it's a tree." Though these trees are much different from the ones I’m used to.
Her lips pulled down at the corners.
“To you, maybe." She placed another slender hand on the trunk. "Listen." She whispered and closed her eyes.
I looked around and saw that the wind was blowing further down in the trees. The wind gradually came from those trees and then reached us.
"Do you hear it?" She asked, her eyes still closed and her hands still placed upon the tree.
I listened closer. The wind made a whistling noise. I unintentionally closed my eyes to listen more intently to the faint whistling of the wind. The whistling grew stronger and more defiant. Then, I could hear it. They were whispers. I opened my eyes and looked around expecting to see someone new. But, the setting had not changed one bit. "You heard them." Ava opened her eyes and smiled.
"Yea." I said a little confused." I guess I did." I looked at the tree and smiled apologetically.
Ava laughed. "Don’t worry, it forgives you." She placed her hand back in mine and pulled me slightly down the path.
"I'm confused. If this is just an illusion. Then, that must mean these trees aren’t really here." I said.
"No. My illusions work different than Legetons. The trees and everything you see in front of you is in fact real. I just give the illusion of light and what each object would look like exactly under the sun."
"So what I heard. That was really the trees?"

When I looked further down the path and saw a group of ten or eleven butterflies swarm in our direction. How odd. I had never seen such a thing. Ava smiled and she skipped a little dragging me with her towards the bugs.
When I was close enough to see that the bugs that I had believed were butterflies, were not, Ava lifted her finger and one of the gorgeous bugs landed on it. The bugs looked to be in more of the shape like a dragonfly. Their wings were long, narrow, and had a little point at the end of all four. Their colors ranged from all the colors of the rainbow to some colors I never knew to exist. The lovely patterns on their bright wings changed every few seconds to a different pattern that was also lovely.
"This." Ava spoke. "Is a Lilly Breech. "My mouth still hung low as I examined the tremendous blindingly beautiful little bug.
"Ava !"
"Your back!"
"Did he save you?"
"We've missed you!"
I heard several tiny high pitched voices shout out as the Lilly Breeches flew beautifully around Ava. She smiled and giggled. "Thank you all." She looked at me. "Yes, he did save me."
The bugs then swarmed around me.
"Is it true?" One of them asked in my ear.
"Thank you." Another said.
"Your welcome." I said, looking at Ava. "I didn't actually save her."
"To her you did." Ava said. She looked up to one of the Lilly Breeches. "His name's Larson. No one must know he's here."
"No one will find out." One said.
Ava smiled. "Thanks again. We must be on our way." She stepped further into the forest and I followed her.
"Nice to meet you Larson!"
"Very lovely eyes."
"Thank you for saving our Ava !" I heard from behind us. I turned around and waved to the talking arthropods. I really was in a fairytale land.
"That was weird." I whispered after a while.
She simply giggled.

The author's comments:
“The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved.” -Victor Hugo

We walked a little further down the forest when I heard what sounded like crying? Ava heard it too. She walked over to a hollow tree that had a hole in the center of it where the crying noises came from. She knocked softly but, nothing happened. The crying didn't stop.
Ava looked inside the tree and motioned me over to look with her. When I did I couldn't believe what I saw.
It was a tiny fairy-like girl. She sat down, her straight black hair covered her face that was buried in her knees. Her dark dress came to her thighs and her shoes looked similar to ballerina's but, the color was black and it laced to her knees with a ribbon. Her skin was fair and it had a bruise like appearance if you glanced. She was the source of the crying.
"Saph." Ava whispered.
The girl looked up and rubbed her eyes. My mouth flew open. Was everything in Cardinair this naturally beautiful? She smiled and with the speed of light the fairy flew up, twisted around, and landed back down with a new appearance. Her skin wasn't bruise like now. It was the opposite. She was literally glowing. Her hair was blonde and it bounced with curls. Her blue dress looked identical to the black one except this time, coated with glitter and different jewels. Her shoes were indeed ballet shoes and the lace that stretched to her knees were jeweled. There was a single sapphire on a chain around her small neck. Her silver wings stood straight up behind her shoulders and twitched ever so gracefully with every second...And I thought she was beautiful before.
"Ava !" She shrieked. "I thought you were dead!"
I cringed at the thought. Ava giggled, “I’m not obviously."
The fairy laughed and saw me for the first time I suppose. "This is?" She asked.
"This is Larson. He helped save me."
The fairy flew to my shoulder and sat down. "Well Larson, I must say thank you."
"Your welcome?"
She giggled and flew into the open hand of Ava "I'm so glad your okay." She said.
"Me too." Ava laughed." Larson this is Sapphire. One of my very closet friends. She is what you call a- "
"Let me guess...Fairy?"
They both looked at me with puzzled expressions. "No." Sapphire said slowly. "I'm a Gemfry."
"Gemfry? In my world you would be called a fairy."
"Evidently this isn't your world." Ava said and they both laughed.
"True." I shrugged.
"Tell Ruby, Amy, Pearl, Opal, and Emerald that I’m fine and that I’ll see them later." Ava told the Gemfry.
"Will do." She squealed and flew back into her hollow tree. "We'll talk later ok Ava ?"
She giggled. "Okay."
Ava took my hand and led me, yet again, further into the forest.
"Her name was sapphire, like the stone around her neck?" I asked.
"Yes, their gemfries. Hence the word gem."
"Hmm. I wonder if it was this world who had the gems first or mine?"
"It was mine." Ava said releasing my hand. "Some things in my world is cruel but not like yours."
"How would you know?" I wasn't disagreeing, I was simply curious.
"We study your world..."That still amazes me." Before evil...Before the rules..." She went on." Cardinairians were able to enter your world and when they did..." She trailed off, hiding her face with her hair.
"And when they did..?" I urged.
"Filthy humans cut the stones from the Gemfries throats and then produced their own."
"That's impossible."
She turned to look at me." You should be one of the one's to believe nothing is impossible."
I considered that. "They didn't kill them. The Gemfries...They just took their necklaces right?"
"Necklace?" She asked.
"That wasn't a necklace?" She shook her head.
"I'm so sorry Ava"
"It's okay. That happened many years ago. Most of us don't remember any of it but the Gemfries live extremely long lives and they still grieve for their murdered friends. But anyway we must get going. There's so much more for you to see."

I had recognized the creatures that she showed me next. They were winged reptiles with strangely bright eyes and deadly long claws. I had an encounter with one the last time I visited. Ava says they are called Cataphers. She says that they only eat things that come from the ground or from the trees. I thought that she was completely mistaken, considering their claws for catching prey and their long row of teeth for biting into flesh. But, she insists that they are omnivores. I finally began to believe her, though it made no sense. But, I forget, none of this does. I’ve been sucked into a magical fairy tale land, consisting of the most beautiful and wanted girl I’ve ever met, non existent characters, and just about everything else you could imagine.

We came to a large tree that had pink, red, and white leaves. Tangled in the trees branches looked like white Christmas lights that winked at you every now and then. But, of course they weren’t Christmas lights they were…
“Fireflies.” I breathed. Finally, there’s one thing here that I’m familiar with.
“No.” Ava says beside me, “Those are the Lightingales.” And as if on cue the small specks of light drifted out of the tree and swarmed gracefully and silently around us. Ava giggled, and I stood in shock. They started to blink all the colors of the rainbow. From yellow to green to blue to red and so on. I felt my mouth hanging open, lost in wonder and I hurried to snap it shut. Ava spotted the act and laughed beautifully at me while the Lightingales flew in one big circle around Ava and I. Now they all flashed the same color; pink. The circle grew tighter and tighter. They were forcing me to stand closer to Ava. And finally, when I was just inches away from Ava’s face the Lightingales dispersed in brilliant colors and flew away, blinking into the distance.
I look back to Ava. I want to kiss her right now. I have to, I need to, but before my hormones could take over, Ava looks down shy fully and turns away.

She leads me out of the forest and into an open pasture where the grass is long, alive, and dancing. Many creatures lay out in the pasture. Ava told me about the Goldanthers first. They were marvelous creatures that looked similar to a goat in my world. But, they were far from the normal species. They stood a couple feet from the ground with their small hind legs. They varied in colors such as black, white, brown and grey. On top of their heads were two large golden horns that tangled together at the tips. Each Goldanther had a special swirled marking on their chests. There were the Draints that scurried this way and that around the large pasture. They were small creatures, the size of a mouse, that had extremely long and thin tails that twitched like a cats. They had no ears at all, and yet I was still overwhelmed with beauty when I looked at them. And then, there were the Quetoes which were my personal favorite from the pasture.
They resembled bulls but they stood on their very muscular hind legs like the Goldanthers. They were all mostly brown coated and the females were smaller and less bulky than the males.
All the creatures in the pasture cheered when they saw Ava, but only a few would come up to her because of me. I felt bad for that.
Soon we departed from the many creatures.
"There's still much more for you to see but, you need to rest for now." She said as we made our way back into the forest.
"Rest? But I’m not even tired."
"You need sleep and it's almost daytime." I looked up and the sun was high in the bright blue sky.
"Oh, right…illusions." I said aloud and suddenly realized I was tired. "If this light is an illusion, then why were all the creatures that I met awake?"
"Different creatures sleep at different times." She shrugged as if I was supposed to know that already.
I nodded, too tired to speak. She grabbed my hand and suddenly we were back in Bristal's fort. Outside it was almost twilight. Ava led me to a separate little room in the fort and helped me lay down on this cushioned surface of something that resembled pine needles. It was uncomfortable at first but I was too tired to care. "Sweet dreams Larson." Ava whispered leaving the tiny space.
The last thing I heard was the small pitter patter of her tiny feet walking away.

“Larson.” It’s her voice and it’s urgent. "Wake up." I obeyed, forcing my eyes open. She’s huddled over me, “We must leave." She whispered.
"Why?" I try to whisper but, my voice is too rough from sleep.
"Sh. I'll explain later." She helps me up and places her fingertips on my shoulder and then we are in a room that I had never seen before. The roof almost touched my head and the walls were aligned with different paintings and wall hangings. There was a small pallet in the corner. I couldn't tell what it was made from and rocking chair in the other corner.
" We are now in the small village of the Sangardians." She still whispered." This is the home
of Gertrude and Inklin. They are not especially fond of you because they, for the same reason as the Gemfries , keep grudges for what happened however many years ago. They seem hostile but, their actually very friendly."
"Will they hurt me?" There was panic in my voice.
She chuckled. "No." I sighed in relief when I heard heavy footsteps coming our way. I half expected someone as big as a Queto to come through the door but instead of having to look up at the Sangardian, I had to look down. This man stood three feet off the ground along with his red and braided beard. His hair came down to his chin and it stood at least five inches off of his head. His clothing was that of a warriors and he had a large axe at his side. He was defiantly a dwarf.
"You!" He yelled, stabbing his finger at me. "Why are you here?"
"Inklin. I must ask you for a favor." Ava pleaded.
He looked away from me and up to her." Oh, Ava, it's so good to see you again." His hostile eyes turned soft. "I heard that you'd escaped but, I had to see it for myself."
Ava smiled. "I understand. Inklin, this is Larson-"
"It has a name?!" He yelled, his eyes turning once again hostile.
"It?" I asked. Ava bumped me with her elbow in the side of my ribs. I was surprised that it actually kind of hurt.
"He's harmless... Inklin please, if we could only hide here for a few hours I would be forever in your debt." Ava said. The dwarf sighed, "My dearest Ava, no debts need to be paid" He shook his head. "I will allow this in your honor. If you say he's harmless then he must be." He bowed.
"Oh, Inklin thank you." She walked to him, bent down, and kissed his cheek.
He smiled and his eyes were yet again gentle even when they landed on me. "Stay safe, Ava." He walked out of the room.

I sat down on the pallet in the floor and Ava followed. "This is all too weird." I whispered rubbing my temples. She laughed. "I would probably say the same about your world."
I smiled, relaxing a bit. "So why did we have to come here again?"
"The elders are on the move. They just started searching for us now. They first looked in the Ontarion Village, now there in the woods. I wouldn't know for sure if they would have even came close to Bristal but, just to be safe we're here."
"Well, will they look here?"
She nodded. "Eventually." Chills ran up and down my body. The elders. I thought in disgust.
"Do they know I’m here?"
"Not yet. But, in time they will find out and they will search harder."
I shook my head, realizing how much damage I had caused. "Ava, I am so sorry for all of this. I put you through a tremendous amount of danger. I was so stupid to come here." I said halfheartedly.
"Yes, you are." She smiled and suddenly the gesture dropped into a tortured frown. "When they find me they will kill me. Only then is when I want you to leave. But, you need to leave now."
"What?" I turned to her, grabbing her hands. "Ava, they won't find you. They won't find us."
She dropped her head. "We can outrun the elders. But, soon the King himself will search for me and he never fails."
"Ava what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that there's no hope." Tears flooded her eyes when they met mine. "Forgive me. I shouldn't have let you stayed."
I simply nodded not knowing what else to say. She started to cry and I wanted to wrap her in my arms. "Creatures will die because of me." She cried franticly.
I shook my head. "In honor of you." I whispered.
She looked up and placed her hands on either side of my face. "You shouldn't stay." She said. "You should leave, back to your own world. Now, Larson. Right now." She started to get up.
"Ava, no." I whispered placing my hands on hers.
"Larson you have to! I know I said you could stay but, you need to leave. I'm already in danger. There's no point of you staying and end up getting killed anyway. I'm so sorry for being so selfish."
"I want to stay. I'd rather die then leave you."
She looked down, "I asked you not to say that." I raised her chin up, forcing her to look at me. "I'm staying."
She placed her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder.
I tried not to show it, but my body ached with pleasure. Not only my body… But my insides as well. I once heard that poetry is food for the soul. I guess that means my soul has a different appetite than most because Ava is the one thing that’s filling me up. I could stay like this forever. I could feast on Ava and I wouldn’t need anything else. And then reality kicked in. "They will not find you." I whispered in her ear once I was out of my fantasies.
I could barely make out her words but, I thought I heard, "It's not me that I’m worried about."
There was silence for a long while and soon I realized Ava had fallen asleep in my arms. I pushed the hair away from her face and had to catch my breath when I was again taken by her beauty. There was a loud noise coming from the next room.
"It's here?" It was a woman’s voice. I was guessing Gertrude.
"Ava said it was harmless. It's right in there to be exact. "Inklin grunted.
I heard the woman gasp, “Well it better not contaminate my room!" There were two sets of heavy footsteps and the door slammed open. Ava was still sleeping peacefully when Gertrude said, "Come boy." She was a little bit shorter than Inklin that was beside her, and built the same without the broad shoulders. She had long curly blonde hair that touched the floor next to her small green velvety dress.
"Me?" I whispered. She gave me a 'no-someone-else' look and said, "Yes boy! Come." I slid out from underneath Ava and lay her head down gently on the hand rest of the sofa. I followed the two Sangardians out of the room into their kitchen I guess it was.
The small wooden room had a counter that lined two walls. There was pots and pans hanging from the low ceiling, along with soup spoons and other cooking utensils. In the center of the room there was a small table with four chairs on each side.
"Now, “Gertrude said, “If you’re going to stay in my clean home, you yourself will have to be clean as well." I looked down examining both of my hands, they were filthy; coated with dirt and grime form the forest. "Yes ma'am." She smiled and said, “Very well." Before walking out of the room and bringing back a white garment that resembled a robe, a towel, and a wash cloth moments later.
"Wear this after your bath and I will wash...those." She said pointing to my clothes while snarling her tiny button nose. "Thank you." I nodded.
"No matter." She said getting behind me and nearly pushing my legs out from under me, guiding me to the wash room.
The small room was concrete with a simple wooden shower head I supposed it was and a small drain in the center. there was a curtain made from a substance I’ve never seen that wrapped around the entire room.
"Just twist the knob." Gertrude pointed under the shower head. "You can give me your original garment afterwards." She said before walking out and shutting the small swinging door behind her. I twisted the overgrown handle and water spewed out from the shower head, there was only one knob so I wasn't sure how to regulate the water temperature. I stuck my hand underneath the stream of running water and it was warm. Not too hot, not to cold…But just right. I quickly stripped down and jumped in. I washed with a single bar of non-scented handmade soup from head to toe. It felt nice to have all the dirt and other foreign things off of my skin. When I got out I put on the robe and collected my clothes to give to Gertrude for washing.
I stepped out of the room and found Gertrude shuffling things around in the kitchen. There was a rich scent that came from the pot she stirred things around in. My stomach growled loudly as I thought about how hungry I actually was.
"Ah, good to see you all washed clean." She said only glancing up at me once from her work.
I laughed. "It's nice to be clean."
She laughed as well, “Just drop the dirty garment and towel right there in the corner. I'll pick it up once I’m finished preparing this meal." I did as I was told. "It smells delicious." I said, drinking in the warm aroma.
She smiled but said, "Go in and sit with my Inklin and Ava. I don't like being hovered around while I cook." in a stern voice. I nodded and walked into the room where I found the witch and the dwarf laughing together. It was good to see her smile after what happened an hour or so ago.
"Larson!" She smiled. I loved the way she said my name. Maybe a little bit more than necessary. "Your clean." She giggled.
"Sure am...And in a dress." I pulled on the robe.
Inklin grunted at me, clearly not happy with my response. Or maybe just not happy with me being here at all. I don't blame him. If I were him and someone came along, putting this girl in danger, I wouldn't be too fond of that guy either. "But I’m very thankful for it." I said about the robe, sitting down beside Ava. He grunted again, crossing his arms around his short torso. He will be a hard one to please. I wonder what us humans did to the Sangardians when they came to my world? I shook off the thought, disgusted at my own kind.

"Supper is ready!" Gertrude yelled over a whistling of a tea pot.
The soup was delicious but, I couldn't tell what was in it. I didn't ask. Instead I swallowed the liquid a little too fast causing my throat to burn and my heart to ache from the heat. We ate in silence which didn't really bother me. When everyone was done they piled their wooden bowls in the round bucket full of water and I did the same.
"Thank you Gertrude. It was great." I said, watching the little Sangardians eyes light up. "Your welcome. I do everything I can do to be hospitable to a friend of Ava's."
"Well I can't say thank you enough." I said.
"No need." She waved her hand.
There was a knock at the door and Ava and I looked at each other. "Now who would that be?" Gertrude said, drying off her hands and heading for the door.
"You shouldn't answer that." Ava said, stepping in front of her.
"Oh, right." Gertrude said and instead of opening the door she peeped through the low hole outside. "It's a filthy Ontarion." She growled. "Ava if you wish to speak with her, you must stay outside. That nasty creature isn't welcome in my home." She went back to washing the dishes.
Ava looked through the hole, "It's Corah." I remembered her. The Ontarion whose special power was the gift of supernatural speed. Ava took my hand and together we stepped outside to face the hostile Ontarion. She smiled when she first saw Ava and glowered when she then saw me.
"Corah is something wrong?" Ava asked.
"I’m here to deliver news to you. The King has heard the trees whispering amongst themselves. He knows the human is here and he is searching with the elders as we speak."
She looked down. "That's what I was afraid of."
Corah nodded." They just searched our village and the entire forest. We suggest you leave here right away for this will be the next place to look."
"Where else should we go?" Ava asked.
"Any place is better than here. You might want to leave on foot for the elders will sense your magic being used if you wish to use it."
Ava nodded. "Good thinking. Will you do us a favor Corah?"
"I will gladly do a favor for you." She said, giving me an evil look.
"Will you please first run Larson to your home of the Ontarions and next me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever you wish." She said, nodding her head.
Ava smiled, "Thank you so much!" She hugged Corah and for a second Corahs eyes were gentle. Ava had such an effect on the creatures here. It would be foolish to say she didn't have the same effect on me.
"We should leave." Corah said after she was released.
"Yes." Ava said, “Larson, wouldn't you like your own clothes back?"
I looked down noticing I was still in the robe. "When you’re in there tell them thank you for me and that I’ll see the both of them soon." She asked. I nodded and went back into the house.
"Gertrude?" I found her with Inklin.
"Yes boy?"
"Ava and I are leaving. May I ask where my clothes are?"
"Right here." She got up , grabbed my clothes from the small wooden table and handed them to me. "Fastest wash and dry possible in all Cardinair." She winked.
I smiled. "Thanks again for everything. Ava gives her thanks as well. She said that she will see you two very soon."
"We won't be seeing you though, right?" Inklin asked.
"Inklin stop." Gertrude said defensively.
I just nodded walking out of the room into the wash room. Changed into my own clean clothes and hung the robe over the rail for the curtain. I walked to the front door and opened the door and walked outside.
"Took you long enough." Corah mumbled.
"Larson, she will take you to Audrina's home. You have been there once before, do you recall?"
I nodded and she did as well to Corah. Corah huddled over me and picked me up easily and within a matter of seconds we were just outside of Audrina's beautiful concrete house that overflowed with moss and ivy spread down and across the walls. She sat me down and wind knocked me in the face when she left. A few seconds later she came back with Ava.
"Thank you." Ava said and she was gone again, leaving wind behind her to nearly knock us down. Ava took my hand and we walked to the small door of the house.
Audrina opened the door before we could knock.
"I see you two are both in good condition.” The Ontarion said with a smile. “Come in.”

The author's comments:
"True love never dies for it is lust that fades away. Love bonds for a lifetime but lust just pushes away.” -Alicia Barnhart

Audrina’s house looks exactly what you would think it looks like. It’s made entirely of stone so the big bad wolves can never blow it down. The inside is filled with plants and vines that grow freely across the walls. In Audrina’s kitchen there is only four wooden chairs that are hand sculpted and a small wooden table that we all sit at now.
"Are you hungry or thirsty, even? I can brew tea."
"We already ate and I’m not thirsty." Ava said. "No, thank you." I whispered.
She sighed but, smiled looking at me. "You remind me of someone, Larson. I can't quite put my finger on it." She looked as if she were sharing some sort of secret with her words.
Ava then examined me as well.
"He looks like a filthy human to me." A man’s voice came from the doorway to the other room and everyone turned around to see an Ontarion with huge muscles and a sly smile.
"Micawl!" Ava jumped up and leaped in his already open arms. They smiled and laughed as he picked her up easily off the ground and spun her around once. When he placed her back on her feet he still held her...It disgusted me.
Sure, Ava was loved by everyone here, why wouldn't she be? Sure, they would run to hug her, to embrace her after what had happened to her. But, this guy, this Ontarion...It was weird how he held her. It wasn't like the others. It wasn't out of love or compassion. The way he ran his fingers along her back and shoulders was more out of dark, hidden, and obsessive passion of lust.
My face was red with anger when he finally released her and stepped back. The flicker of fire in his eyes when he looked at her made me want to vomit.
"Micawl." Audrina smiled and waved to the seat nearest Ava's. "Sit down."
Both Micawl and Ava took a seat.
"So, Micawl." I said, not entirely sure why I was speaking in the first place. "I didn't meet you the night of Ava's grand escape. Were you too busy to help? Had to run a few errands, I suppose?"
His eyes narrowed, freezing my heart with fear. "Though it's none of your business, human, I was there and I did help."
I was taken aback and tried not to look too embarrassed. He kept talking. "You see, I didn't want to wait around for some ordinary human that couldn't do anything to save our Ava like the others." He looked at Audrina and smiled apologetically. " So I went to the castle without them. I'm the one who broke the spell that had Ava tied down to the castle's walls. I saved her." He shrugged while Ava patted his back, smiling. Show off, I thought.
"But, let's not forget about the major role Larson played." Ava said. "Without him, you would have never got passed the guards."
He frowned and I thought I saw his eyes roll all the way around but, he smiled quickly covering it up. "You're right, Ava, as always." He looked to me and said, "Thank you, Larson. You were very brave." Though his words were sincere there was something in his eyes that told me he was being far from friendly or appreciative. But, it didn't matter, the others bought his act.

After Micawl left and the three of us ate one last meal we prepared ourselves for bed. Audrina suggested that one of us keep watch tonight and take turns from there. I volunteered first, not tired at all after all of my fuming thoughts of Micawl and his big and buff self.
I stayed in the kitchen only hearing the sound of grasshoppers buzzing outside of the circular open window. They probably weren't grasshoppers, they were probably something much more extravagant. Everything here was much more extravagant than anything I’d ever known. Except for the elders, the King, and of course Micawl. I grunted at the thought of him.
"Are you okay?" I jumped to see Ava smiling at me from the doorway. She had her back slumped up against it.
I couldn't help but smile. "I'm fine. Why aren’t you sleeping?"
She shrugged. "I'm not tired." She sat down in the chair beside me and lay her head down on the smooth wood but, still softly gazing up at me with lavender eyes. "You know, Larson? I think I know who it is you look like."
I just smiled at her. "I'll have to show him to you sometime." She said, looking away, past me into the far distance. Her mouth pops open. I turned my head, afraid of what I was going to see. Then I saw it. Them to be exact.
I recognized the boy and the girl looked just like him. They were twins and they were royalty.
"Ah," Cypress said. "Nice to finally meet you. Larson, is it?" He laughed to himself but, his sister chimed in with him. "I must say that you did quit a proficient job of portraying me."
"Very proficient." His sister hissed.
"Silence, Cynthias." He said, sneering at me. My limbs were frozen and I suddenly couldn't move. "But, portraying my magic? Not so well. You got your friend to do that, am I right? The Ontarion? Legeton, I suppose." He suggested as an afterthought. "Let me tell you, human, that I can do much more than disappear." A pain shot through me so intense I didn't have time to scream. But, it was over within a half of a second. It still left me gagging for air. Cypress leaned down to whisper, "I can kill."
He took a few steps back to be lined up again with his sister. "It was really stupid for you to come here, human. But, I’m content with your choice. It gives us a reason to slaughter half of our kind." He said laughing. And then Cypress and Cynthias vanished leaving Ava and I at a loss for words.

After some time of gathering our thoughts I was the first to speak. "That was....Demontritus's kids?"
"Yes." She said tonelessly, her expression blank. "They say Cypress is more powerful than the king himself."
"I believe it." I said, shuddering at the thought of the pain he had caused me. "Why didn't they just kill us?"
Ava shrugged. " I guess they like the game. They like to hunt, to chase."
"I guess that means we have a head start."
She nodded. "We need to leave."
"And go where?"
She looked up, away from her trance and smiled. "My favorite place in Cardinair."

Ava left a note using a small, old-time piece of paper and a quill dipped in ink. It was strange how such a spectacular world had no such things as PSP's or TV's or Phones or even electricity. I guess that's what makes it even more spectacular. It makes it more unreal, more magical, and more and more like a fairytale with every passing second.
She turned toward me after placing the note in the center of the table, "Are you ready?"
I nodded, completely confused about her excited expression. Wherever we were going, wherever she was taking me, it must really be her favorite place. She took my hand and there we were.

We were in the dark, my hand still intertwined with hers. It was quit, cold, and somewhat damp in the closed place Ava had transported us to. "Where are we?" I whispered. My voice echoed several times before she made a small light appear. We were under ground, in a cave it looked like. "Princess Linean and Isaac's infamous cave." She whispered, listening to my voice several times, bouncing off the closed in walls. "Who are they?" I asked. "Cardinair has its history and these two are the basis of it. They're legends." She released my hand and walked further into the cave. I followed. She turned and stopped, examining the brown walls of the cave. I walked up behind her and looked over her shoulder. There on the walls were several different paintings each on telling a story. They weren’t stick paintings, they were actual paintings with exquisite colors and details.
"An artistic witch came a painted these right after the tragic...Ending. They're extremely accurate."
The first one was of a family portrait. The man was at the top of the small pyramid. He had dark brown hair that almost looked black that came to his chin. His eyes were the same color and on his head was a large golden crown. On his neck was an unusual black mark. He was an Ontarion. Beside him was a beautiful woman. She had light brown hair and her eyes matched the color exactly. Her features were precise and on her head was a smaller, silver crown. On the other side of the woman there was a small girl. She had auburn hair and her eyes, of course, matched it perfectly. She was absolutely stunning. Not as stunning as Ava, but that's not the point. The girl had a small tiara on her head. "Princess Linean." Ava said. I looked more carefully at the picture. The King was smiling but, it was deceitful. His eyes portrayed hatred. The Queen didn't smile. You could see there was fear written over and over again in her hidden expression. The Princess was frowning. Pouting. Her expression didn't portray fear but, worry.
"So, what's their story?"
Ava cleared her throat. "Before Cardinair had any rules there was no evil. Witches, warlocks, Ontarions, and Sangardians all lived here along with the other numerous creatures in peace. Everything here was good and nothing was evil.. None except for one. The one who ruled at the time," She pointed to the man in the family portrait. "King Axel." A faint but distinct chill ran up and down my spine just looking at the evil Ontarions picture.
"Axel and Linean despised each other. "She went on. "Every one in the kingdom of Cardinair thought King Axel was a good leader and an even better Ontarion in general. But, Linean and her mother Ana knew his true colors. He was evil and clearly deceitful."
I nodded, silently agreeing. Ava moved along to the next painting on the brown cave wall.
I stepped over beside her and examined the next picture. It was just of a boy. His hair was brown and his eyes were green. He wasn't extravagant like anything from Cardinair. He looked...Human.
"This is Isaac." She said matter-of-factly. "You see, the princess enjoyed hiding away in this very cave, just to get away from her father who she never got along with. And here she met Isaac. Later the princess and Isaac fell in love in secrecy only from the King." I could feel the confusion on my face. "Wait, how did Isaac get here?"
She shrugged. "Like you, I suppose. No one really can answer that."
I did what I do best when I can't find the right words to say; simply nod.
Ava took my hand and said, "He reminds me of you. That's who you look like, anyway." I laughed and we scooted over to the next one.
It was of a full body picture of Princess Linean when she was older with Isaac. They looked at each other and each had a small brightness lit up in their eyes. They both smiled. You could tell they were in love. They held hands that were down to their sides. I looked at Ava and felt her hand in mine. She smiled and I had to catch my breath before smiling back at her. This painting reminded me of us; as in Ava and I. Sure she wasn't a princess but, she might as well be.
"So Isaac and Linean fell in love and conceived a child. Linean couldn't hide that she was pregnant from her father and he brought Isaac to justice as soon as he found out. With every creature on Lineans side the King only had one choice to free Isaac. The king was upset because they were giving birth to a boy who would later steal his throne. He considered this unborn child a threat. So with his unique power that every Ontarion has he cursed the boy with death as soon as he was born." She pulled me along to the next painting. Linean and Isaac were sitting down. Unlike the other, this one was sad. They were both crying and holding each other. In Lineans arms was a baby wrapped in a cloth.
"When Linean gave birth to the baby, he died in her arms that very day. Linean suspected the curse and called King Axel out on his sin. The entire land caught word of it and they all wanted to kill the king, including his wife and child."
"Did they?" I urged. I felt like a little kid listening to a story about Santa coming down my very chimney.
"No, he was much too powerful to kill. He was so enraged with his people but he never showed it until almost a year later, he made the rules that still apply to this day. Meaning Linean and Isaac both had to die. Linean was again pregnant and the child would have to be put to death as well."
"That's horrible." In the next painting the princess's finger was stuck out at her father, the King Axel. She was furious in the painting and the King was smiling at her rage.
We moved on to the next one.
The painting was just of words. It said:
Rules Held In Cardinair
I. No one from the outside world may enter Cardinair.
II. No one from Cardinair may leave for the outside world
III. Any who breaks these two rules will certainly be put to death.

My veins ran cold when I saw the next one. It was of Linean, Isaac, and their second son. They weren’t sad in the painting, they were happy. They cried tears of joy while the baby was sleeping.
."The baby died at birth and the parents were thankful. for Axel was going to wait until he was a young boy so they could be hung as family in front of all Cardinair." Apparently someone was wrong and the baby had died later, sometime after his birth. "But later when it was time for their death sentence to begin something happened that made the legends of Cardinair memorable." We were in front of the next painting. The next few showed just as Ava described it." Right before the hanging Linean attacked her own father distracting him from killing Isaac because he was going to hang him first. She kicked, punched, and pulled until the king released the board from below her. The rope snapped and she collapsed to the ground while the king released the board from Isaacs feet. Linean struggled to get up and as soon as she did, she rescued the human with the help of her power. She could make things happen with her mind. When he was free she yelled to him to run to the cave, she would meet him there as soon as possible to leave for his world. Isaac did as he was told hesitantly. He didn't want to leave his love unprotected. But she wasn't unprotected. Every other creature was on her side and they all decided to fight against the King that day. Engulfed with rage the King slay every creature that came near him without a care as he slaughtered his own people that served him for centuries. He killed anything he could just to get to his daughter to murder her. Linean saw what she had caused while running for the cave. She stopped and turned back. You must understand that using strong powers drains energy. So she went up to her father and cried, 'Father. I will accomplish your needs for you. You wish to have me dead. So be it!' And she used her specific power to kill Axel for she was the only one strong enough. She couldn’t have done it earlier because that would have meant she too would have to die." Ava stopped and smiled. "That can't be the ending." I said. She nodded. "So that was the legend of the brave Princess Linean?"
"Yes. Most of us consider her brave for sacrificing herself for her friends and her people but some think it was an act of stupidity."
"How?" I asked in disbelief.
"I'm not sure. It's ludicrous how many can get stupidity out of bravery."
I nodded in agreement.
I couldn't look at the violent and tragic paintings for too long, neither could Ava. We hurried to the last one. It was just of a white light it looked like. "What about Isaac?" I asked.
"After he saw what happened from the cave, he was never to be seen again." She shrugged. "That's the only clue." She said pointing to the very last painting.
"Hmm." I stared at the painting. Somehow it drew me in. Like a moth to a lit street lamp. There was something about it that was much more than a painting, more than a light… There was some mystery behind it that I felt like I needed to solve.

The author's comments:
“The course of true love never did run smooth.” -William Shakespeare

Ava sat down and leaned her back against the cave wall. I followed, sitting beside her.
Our arms brushed together as we breathed heavier than normal due to the lack of oxygen the cave held. I felt her shiver; she was cold. I reluctantly put an arm around her shoulder and brought her closer. Her head lay on my chest and I smiled in the faint light from the small one Ava created. "We should get some rest." She said. Her softest whispers echoing from every wall. I yawned, closing my eyes and holding her closer. "The next few days will be hard. But, we can overcome them, right Larson?"
"Mm-hmm." I mumbled. She sighed heavily, whether out of contentment or worry I wasn't sure. "There is said to be a war in Cardinair." She continued. "A war where evil and darkness shall triumph over good and light. They will triumph over us all."
I opened my eyes and noticed that there was nothing but darkness surrounding us.
evil and darkness shall triumph over good and light... "Do not be afraid, Ava." I whispered, my words slurring together from pure exhaustion. I shut my eyes and placed my free hand on top of hers without having to search for it. "I will help you fight off that darkness." Behind my eye lids I could see a faint glow of Ava's light that somehow lit by itself. I could hear and certainly feel Ava's steady breathing while she slept. "Goodnight.” I drifted off to sleep, holding the girl of my dreams securely in my arms.

I woke up to a strange sound that would stick oddly out of place to almost anywhere. My eyes fluttered open and the illusion of the small ball of light still lay on the floor beside Ava and I. Ava was fast asleep beside me. Somehow we had lay down on the rough floor of the cave instead of leaning against the walls how we first fell quickly asleep. I looked around, my ears straining to hear something-anything at all. And then, I heard it. It was high pitched and a jumble of words I didn't understand the language to.
I shook Ava gently. "Ava, someone's here." She rose up slowly from her sleep like a fallen object in water floating to the surface.
She blinked a couple times while I repeated, "Something is here." Then a smile broke loose on her face. "A scurf."
Scurf? What in this world is a scurf? Within a couple of seconds the noise grew louder and then I saw it. I saw a scurf. It was a round bug-like creature with a furry burgundy body and small beady eyes. There were two small wings on its back that continued to go ninety to nothing. And of course it was beautiful; like everything else in Cardinair. Ava gasped with joy and sat up on her knees. "Oh, Vander! It's so nice to see you!" She gushed, her eyes bright with contentment. The little creature clicked, buzzed, clocked, and wheezed a reply. I was one hundred percent amazed and admired by Vander the scurf. Ava laughed. "You always do know how to tell a joke. So why were you sent here?" Vander told Ava what she wanted to know, I suppose and then she said, "Tell Barnes that we are very grateful for his everlasting kindness but-" Ava was cut off by the little creature. She nodded and listened to what he had to say. "Well, then" She said. "Tell Barnes we shall accompany him tonight in his home. Thank you very much Vander and I will see you soon." Vander shot up, flipped a few times (gracefully, I might add) and disappeared.
"A scurf." I said, mostly to myself. "I just saw a scurf."
Ava nodded. "They are Cardinairs messengers you might say. Very loyal and trust-worthy creatures they are. They relay messages and secrets without whispering a word to anyone else."
"What was Vander telling you? What is the message?" I asked.
"Do you remember what a Queto is?"
I thought about the beasts with fur covering their huge bodies. "Yes."
"Barnes is a Queto. He's asked for us to be his company for a while. I agreed."
"We're going to stay with a Queto?" I gulped. "When?"
"Soon. But, trust me. You'll love Barnes. He'll teach you everything you need to know."
"Everything I need to know about what?"
"Swordsmanship of course." Her voice cracked." For the upcoming war."

Ava just transported us to outside of the cave. She said being this close to the castle was not as dangerous to pass by foot than by magic. She said the people who dwell in the building could sense the magic being used. So we would walk to the Quetoes village where Barnes would await us. We made sure to walk in and amongst the darkest part of the forest that surrounded the castle, we spoke but, we spoke quietly.
"Leave whenever you wish." Ava whispered. "You don't even have to tell me. Just leave and save yourself." She was looking at her feet and I could tell by her expression she was very sad. I wanted to run in front of her and swoop her up in my arms. I wanted to twirl her around in the air just as Micawl had done but, say 'everything will be alright. Don't be sad. I can't stand to see you sad.'
But, instead I just said, "I'm not leaving you. I couldn't if I tried."
She seemed to light up some at first but, then she hurried to soften her face into a more solemn expression. She sighed, "You don't know what you're saying. I pray that you reconsider sometime in the very future. Sometime before the violence."
"Do you really not want me to stay?"
She stopped and turned to me. Her full body was in my direction when she stepped closer and closer towards me. "Yes." She nearly hissed. "There's nothing more I ask of you then, to just leave. You don't belong here, Larson. Your kind doesn't fit here in my world. Look what happened to Isaac!" Her rage grew and I wanted to laugh. I couldn't believe she was yelling at me. It was quit hysterical. "I'm asking you at this very moment...If you care about me at all...Then leave." Her breathing grew heavy with frustration.
"First of all," I said, "No one knows what happened to Isaac. And Second of all..." I leaned in, our lips almost touching. "I'm not going anywhere." She let out an annoyed 'ugh' and began to walk again. "Stubborn human."
I laughed this time, not holding it back. She would forgive me for laughing at her. Just like she would forgive me for not doing as she wished. I knew she only wanted me to leave for my own protection and I knew she really wished to have me stay with her. So I would. I would stay with her until my very death.

We no longer talked after our little 'spat' as Ava would call it. When we arrived at the front gate to the small village we were panting for air. The walk was a great one and our legs played the price. We entered the gate at noon and there was plenty of light in the sky to see the small village houses built with hay roofs packed tightly beside each other. They looked to consist of one room per house. Walking on the dirt streets were several male and female Queto's. Some waved at me, others glared. While every single one that passed spoke at least three or four encouraging, reassuring, and loving words to Ava but, they kept their distance. Away from me. We got to a small house that looked exactly like the rest but, was over a ways, sitting by itself. We didn't have to knock on the heavy wooden door because it was already open. Ava stepped inside and I followed her.
The scent of freshly brewed tea hit me as I took my place beside Ava.
"There you are." Barnes said, smiling at us, showing his large teeth that could bit our heads off. He looked like the other Quetoes but, much, much larger. He stood tall and proud on his huge legs like he were royalty. He carried a sense of confidence and belonging with him that the others of his kind did not. His eyes were a light brown, the color of his fur. "I made tea."

"So," Barnes said sitting down of the wooden chair across from me. I was right about the houses. They only consisted of one small room. It was a kitchen with a large table in the center and several chairs around it. "Ava told you about Princess Linean did she?" He asked, smiling and sipping his tea. It was certainly humorous to see this beastly creature drinking tea from a tea cup placed on a saucer. I had to choke back laughter. "Yes sir. It was an extraordinary story."
There was a twisted but content expression on his furry face. He laughed before I could see what he was hiding. "An extraordinary story indeed." He said.
"So what did you think of her? The Princess?"
"She was great. I respect her bravery very much." I took a sip of my own tea.
He nodded. "Aye. Don't we all? Take a walk with me." He said, his brown eyes staring through me. A walk? I just took a walk. A long walk that included miles and miles of pure torture. He noticed my hesitation and his position shifted, looking stern.
"Uh-okay." I looked at Ava and she just laughed. "Your safe with Barnes, like I might have mentioned he has excellent swordsmanship. "Barnes just laughed and I followed him out of the house, taking one last look at Ava. She smiled and waved reassuringly.

We walked across the pasture into the woods. There was a sound of running water somewhere in the distance. "Larson. Do you know how much damage you’ve caused for everything good to ever exist in Cardinair?" He asked in a deep voice. My head fell down. "Yes, Barnes I do." I said, ashamed.
He nodded. "Observant. That's good." He laughed as we walked further into the forest.
"I'm going to share something with you that I’ve never shared with anyone else."
I looked at him, and his face portrayed peacefulness. "I was very good friends with Princess Linean." He said. My mouth hung open. I couldn't tear my eyes away from him as we walked the uneven path. All of my respect for the princess now turns over for him, Barnes the Queto. "I was there for the hanging. I was there when she took her life." He looked down, examining his hands that looked much like mine but, covered with short, brown fur and ten long claws that could do serious damage.
"Why haven’t you told anyone?" I asked.
He laughed. "There was no need to tell. You’re the only one I'd hope to have the chance to share it with...and the trees as well. But, they know everything." He shrugged.
"But why me?" The rush of water was becoming more distinct. We were getting close to the source. "Why not you?" He asked and laughed again. "I will answer your question when the right time comes."
I nodded. I couldn't force it out of him but, it bothered me not to know what exactly he was talking about. "What was Linean like?" I smiled up at him.
"Well." He chuckled. "She was everything you’d hoped she would be... and more. She was kind, brave, beautiful.." He sighed. "Much like Ava."
I smiled at that. That's who Ava reminded me of, the Princess that made Cardinairs history.
"Your fond of her." Barnes said, it wasn't a question.
I answered anyway, "Of course I am. Who isn't?"
"No. I mean you like her." I could feel my face turning red. "Is it that obvious?" I asked.
He nodded, laughing a deep throaty laugh all the while.

We walked through a break in the trees and my mouth dropped, the scene in front of me leaving me dumbfounded and breathless. There was a small waterfall with three small cliffs surrounding it. The running water fell to the pool underneath it that was completely clear. You could see all the way to the bottom with various under water creatures unknown to my world. There was bushes trimmed to different shapes of non existing objects around the pond with several types of flowers I had never seen before. Flowers grew from the ground as well as on the bushes and their bright and beautiful color made the scene absolutely perfect. It looked like a painting, painted by the most skilled painter in heaven. For no earthly thing could create such a masterpiece. "It's.." I couldn't find the words. "Well it's beautiful." That was an understatement.
"Aye." Barnes said in agreement.
He rested on a large, smooth bolder and I did as well, sitting beside him.
It was silent for a long while as we both enjoyed the view and the mists gently tapping our faces from the water fall. "I loved Linean." Barnes said softly. I could barely hear him from the crashing water. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"I loved her. More than anything.." He trailed off, looking down.
"But she was in love with Isaac."
He nodded and smiled. "That she was. But, enough of that. I wanted to talk to you about the future."
"The future?"
"Aye. I'm predicting there will be war soon in Cardinair between good and evil."
I nodded. "That sounds about right."
"So we must prepare." He said, looking up. "We should gather every good creature of every kind and practice for war." I shook my head. "Some creatures don't like the others. Like the Ontarions...Ava said they were natural enemies with all...How would we get everyone to work together?" I asked.
"Good question. Again, your observant which will do you good... They will all come together just for Ava's sake, I’m hoping. If you haven’t noticed she's the one with the most 'good' in her. She ties us all together. We would all fight for her."
I believed that. It was that effect she had on the creatures here. "When do you think this war would take place?" I asked.
"That I cannot predict precisely but, it will be soon. So we need to prepare for battle as soon as we can." He said. "So when were you thinking?" I asked.
"Tonight. We spread the message and meet somewhere inconspicuous and plan our scenario."
I nodded. "But, I can't fight...Ava said you had good swordsmanship, will you teach me?" I asked him.
He patted my shoulder with his large hand. "That was my intension."
We looked away from each other, back to the heavenly scene.
A war was going to break out in Cardinair all because of me. Guilt instantly ran through my veins. But. there was nothing I could do about it now. It was simple to see that we, the good side, would eventually loose. But we would fight for Ava. And I had a feeling that Barnes would fight for me as well. I shrugged off the thought and soaked in the beauty in front of me once again.

The sun was slowly setting across the horizon when the creatures began to pile in at the pasture beside Barnes home. Such a lovely inconspicuous place to meet. I thought sarcastically. Maybe we would move somewhere else later on...
The first to arrive were the Ontarions. They filed their way onto the pasture in a triangular position, Audrina leading the way. They all carried weapons of every sort. Each of their faces portrayed hostility, awareness, and anger. Next were the Sangardians who came in a disfigured group with woman in the back and men in front. Leading the way was a Sangardian I never met before, behind him was Inklin with a bored but, angry expression. He didn't like this plan, no doubt. Who would? We were all sure to die. I stopped thinking about it and watched as the other creatures of every kind file in the pasture. Some I’ve seen, many I haven’t until now. They all created a huge circle across the pasture when Barnes pulled Ava and I out towards the middle with him. He turned towards the Ontarions and said, "Drucon. Please."
The short, muscular Ontarion nodded. That was it. I leaned towards Ava and whispered, "What was that about?"
"Drucon can create a force field in a way. He just did around us all. If you were outside the force field you would just see an empty pasture…You wouldn't even hear the noise."
I nodded and looked back towards Barnes. I would never get used to this place..
"Creatures of Cardinair," Barnes began, yelling for all to hear. "I wish to thank you for meeting here with us." He took time to turn fully around to meet the eyes of each creature. "As all of you already know, the King is not happy with our Ava because she has broke the only rules.. They want to kill her."
There were gasps and some whimpers from the audience. "But I," he went on, "Do not want that to happen. I will put up a fight to save this witch that we all love so dearly. They don't want a war but, a war they shall get...Only if you join us in combat."
A large male Queto stepped up. "Barnes I shall accompany you for the battle. But for him." He glared at me and growled.
"Stop." Barnes said. "Let him speak." He looked at me and nodded. I stepped up. "Um." I cleared my throat." I know that most of you still hold grudges against my kind…I don't blame you. But, please understand that I’m not like my ancestors that treated some of you wrongly. For those of you that see me as a threat, I’m asking you to put the past behind you and help fight in this upcoming war with me." There were several grunts, groans, and hostile faces. "Not for me. I would never ask that much from any of you...But for Ava. Give us your word, tell us that you will accompany her in war." I stopped, not knowing what else to say.
"Aye." Barnes stepped up beside me, once again taking over. For that I was grateful. "Who will give us their word to fight? ..Even if it means certain death?" All was still and silent.
"You have our word." Audrina said, kneeling down on one knee. The other Ontarions followed, each with their heads down and their arms stretched out in front of them, palms facing upwards. The black identical marks on their wrists shone in the sunlight.
"Ours as well." Said the crowd of Quetoes. They bowed and the creatures surrounding followed. Every creature had bowed down, giving us their word, all accept the cluster of Sangardians. The leader looked around with squinty eyes at all the creatures then back to me. "We." He said deliberately. "Are willing to fight 'til death." He bowed and the others followed apart from Inklin. He stared at me, from a distance I could almost hear him grunt. He slowly sank down, to bow.
"We shall fight!" Barnes yelled for everyone surrounding could hear. They all stood in unison and as if on cue began to yell and scream. Cheering for defeat? I thought. Barnes then turned to me and said, "Let's get started."

The pasture was still cluttered with several creatures each now having a weapon of their own. I caught a glimpse of Sapphire. She was shooting some kind of darts from a small blow gun with several other Gemfries. Cataphers took turns striking each other with their claws. Apparently they heal faster than others I suppose with magic? The Ontarions kept to themselves, practicing their special powers and fighting an invisible enemy with various lethal weapons. Bristal sat in the far corner and watched everyone. He could stomp around in the war zone and do great damage with the rest of his Hashard friends. The Goldanther weapons were their mighty horns. They smacked heads with one another and occasionally stood on their hind legs to fight with swords tucked in a belt at their sides. Barnes and I stood on the right hand side of the pasture in a small corner with Ava silently watching and resting on a log that lay horizontally across the earth.
Barnes pulled out a sword from his belt and handed it to me with extreme carefulness. "She belongs to you now." He said in his deep voice. I took it and surprised by the weight I place two hands on the thick handle that was beaded with the richest and most cherished gems and such in my world. I examined the extremely long blade and could see my reflection perfectly. I ran a finger over the smooth surface of the blade. "I can't accept this."
"You can." Barnes said. "You will."
I nodded. I had way too much respect for the Queto who welcomes me in this world that is certainly not my own.
"Her name is Vladamera."
I looked at him and as sincerely as I could say it I said, "Thank you."
He nodded and that’s where the training began.

He had asked Ava to create a spell on the most recent tree to where no matter how hard I hit it with my sword, pain would never come to it. I practiced on the tree first. I swung and stabbed until I was drowning in my own sweat. I could barely pull the sword above my waist with two hands, much less over my head. Ava giggled occasionally at my poor swordsmanship skills and in return I blushed. I pulled the sword over my head with huge effort and struck the tree with as much force as I could. I fell to the ground, heaving for air. "Am I done for the day?" I coughed.
Barnes had his massive arms crossed around his beastly chest. "We have quit some work to do."
I groaned and slowly rose to my feet. "What now?"
"First." He walked over to me. "Your technique is horrific. We must work on that before anything else." He pulled out a large axe. "Do as I do." He stood with his feet shoulder width apart and the axe held in front of him, slanting upwards to the sky. I copied his position. My arms ached and my throat stung. He let out a loud scream, swinging his axe from right to left, while stepping out and shifting his body weight forwards. I copied and in the process of swinging the heavy sword I fell to the ground. Barnes stood over me with his hands resting on the axe, the head on the ground.
"Go. Rest. Training is over for the day." Ava took my hand and helped me up. "You did great." She said, smiling. I rolled my eyes, "Sure."
"Can I take you somewhere? There's something I would like you to see."
"Uh…Yea." I still was at loss for breath and my clothes were wet with sweat.
Ava transported us somewhere in the woods where the moon nearly touched the ground, sparing it's light.
"What is it that you want me to see?" I asked, curiosity rushing through at me.
"Just wait." She said. And I did. I waited for what seemed like hours, standing still in one spot. But, I didn't care because Ava was right beside me. Then, suddenly a noise dispersed from the trees and beyond. A beautiful noise that made me want to cry and laugh at the same time. It was the night creatures of Cardinair singing in unison amongst themselves. They sang the most chilling and most beautiful song I ever heard. I listened but, couldn't see the source of the music, so I shut my eyes, allowing myself to sway almost into unconsciousness. But, only until Ava said, "What do you think?”
“It’s amazing." I breath.
"Dance with me." I heard a smile in her voice.
I looked over my shoulder to her. "Your kidding."
She shook her head, walking closer to me. She turned me all the way around towards her.
She took my hands and placed them around her waist. She stretched up to put hers around my neck. "I-I can't dance." I said, blushing.
She was swaying side to side and I tried my best to copy her movements.
"Everyone can dance. Some are just better than others." She shrugged. "But you’re a wonderful dancer." She put her head on my chest while we danced with the beautiful melodies surrounding us. I slowly pulled her closer and held her more tightly. I traced my hand up her back, across her neck up to her chin. I pulled her face up to where her eyes were on mine.
We had stopped swaying from side to side and with it the music faded into the background.
I could feel my heartbeat in every limb on my body, hearing it about to erupt from my chest. A warm sensation went through me as I stared back into her lavender eyes. "Ava." I whispered, letting her name roll of my tongue. I try to at least mouth the words I love you but instead, I lean down and just as Ava’s lips are just about to touch mine the music completely cut off. She turned, looking away from me into the distance.

Suddenly a small girl was in front of us. I jumped back pulling Ava with me. She was adorable. With chubby cheeks across her young face. She had blonde hair and lavender eyes as Ava. She looked up at both of us for a long while, showing a row of pointed teeth with a taunting smile. Ava had crouched down in front of me, trying to hide her from my view.
"Ava, who's your human friend?" She said in a cute child-like voice.
"You hurt him, I’ll kill you!" Ava said through clenched teeth. The little girl hissed and for a moment revealed her true self. An ugly woman with a hags face and stance. She quickly flickered back to the little girl. "Oh, Ava." She laughed. "Don't be rude. How about you introduce us?" Ava said nothing.
"Okay." The little girl said." Then you give me no choice." She started to run up to us in full speed. A small but bright light shot from Ava's hands and the blink of an eye the girl fell to the ground, dead. There was a black puff of smoke and an old woman lay in her spot in the same position.
Ava turned around and hugged me. I looked over her shoulder, "Who is that?"
"Sybil. They're having everyone look now." She cried.
"Ava, I-"
"Hold me?" She asked in a whisper, cutting me short. I did. I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her closer to my chest. I stroked her hair. Her heart was too good to kill anyone or anything. Even an evil one like Sybil. Yet, she knew she had to. In the back of her mind I was sure she knew she would keep having to until we were all safe. Would we ever be safe? I knew the answer.

After a while she released me and turned back to Sybil’s body. Black streams of veins started to covered her rapidly. They looked as if they had a life of their own, taking over the witch's wrinkled features. "What's happening to her?"
She shrugged. "That's how we die. Our own bodies digest us itself. I guess so no one else has to clean up after us."
I nodded, bringing her close again. I turned her around and walked in the other direction. She shouldn't have to see this.
I looked back at the hags body and it was slowly disappearing with the more veins that spread across her skin. Soon there would be nothing in her place. Any traces of the body would soon be gone.

The author's comments:
“Do you love me because I‘m beautiful? Or am I beautiful because you love me?-Cinderella

“What happened?" Barnes asked as soon as we entered his home. He went over to Ava and put a large, protective arm around her. He looked at me and repeated, "What happened?"
"They have them all looking for us now." I told him. "Ava's upset because she just ki-" I stopped on the word and watched Ava flinch under Barnes' arm. "She saw a witch die." I said. "Sybil was her name."
Barnes nodded his mighty head, soaking in my words. "They know where you are. They know your here with me." He said.
Ava walked over to me and took my hand in hers. "We understand that you wish to have us gone."
"Don't be ridiculous, " Barnes said. "There's no need for you to hide any longer. Stay with me. They will not do or much less say anything until the war."
"How do you know?" I asked out of curiosity.
"Demontritus has never been known to use surprise attacks." He said.
"That is true, " Ava spoke up. "But, there has never been any of us to break the rules."
There was silence. "I made a pallet for each of you." Barnes said. "Sleep now. And tomorrow we will figure out what to do."

I woke up in a cave. A rather large cave with rusted colored walls and familiar rocks jutting out in every direction. "Ava?" I call out, hearing my voice bounce back to me over and over again. "Ava?" I call again. There was no answer except my own.
I stand up, not bothering to dust my pants off from the dirt and mud. I crash down to the ground quickly, pain spreading through my body. I scream and raise up to my knees, fighting off whatever was attacking me from the inside.
"You are safe now." I could hear a calm voice in my head as I screamed in agony. "You are both safe."

I wake up gasping for air and Ava's by my side. "Larson, it's only a dream, it's only a dream." She was telling me over and over again. I could feel the cool breeze on my face from the beads of sweat. I sighed in relief and touched my fingertips to Ava’s cheek. "It's good to see you." I said and she smiled. I then, forgot all about my nightmare because my only thoughts were about Ava and her undying beauty.

Barnes had decided to start from scratch while working with me. He first made me bend down and touch my toes while keeping my legs as straight as a board. That was easy, fairly simple even. But, having to work from my toes to the ground and holding it for an hour or so, wasn't so simple. My legs began to sting and when I finally was relieved from the position my back hurt also.
Barnes had me run the pain off. Not jog. But, sprint. I ran as fast as I could in the closed in space, dodging others in their pretend battles. After I was completely out of breath and energy Barnes said, "Lay face first on the ground...Very good. Now, push up your body weight with your arms." Pushups, something I was used to. I began. "Good, good." Barnes would repeat. I stopped counting at thirty five. Only a couple more push-ups afterwards, my arms gave out from under me and I crashed to the ground. Dirt covered my face when I sat up, coughing for air. "Now," Barnes said. "We shall work on position." I groaned as he didn't bother to help me up. When I was swaying on my feet he handed me Vladamera. I took the sword in my hands and forgot how heavy she was; I nearly dropped it. "I shall get you a belt for her." He said. "But, for now do as I do."
He stood in the same position as he did the day before with his large axe in both hands. With a scream he stepped up and swung the axe from left to right in one even stroke. The move reminded me of gold. I took a deep breath and tried to find the last bit of energy somewhere deep inside of me. I so desperately wanted Barnes to be proud of me, I wanted to do something right. I let out a loud scream and swung the axe from left to right only for the sword to fly out of my hands.

Micawl was walking past us and the sword was coming straight at him. I was just about to call out to him, to warn him when he turned to see Vladamera just in time to act. He put his hands up and held the sword still in the air, inches from piercing his skin, magically. He slowly brought it to his fingers and when he grasped my sword with both hands his eyes lit up. It sent shivers through my body. Shivers of some hidden terror. Barnes muttered something I couldn’t catch. "Is he a warlock?" I asked low enough only Barnes could here. "Ontarions have special powers of their own." Was his reply. Why did it bother me that there was not a yes or no in his answer? Micawl snapped out of his reverie and walked over to us smiling mysteriously.
"Trying to kill me already?" He asked and held out Vladamera easily with one hand. I envied his strength. I remembered Ava's reaction when she saw him, I remembered that I wasn't the one that saved her, he was. I envied him. Everything about him.
"Not yet, my friend." I tried my best to smile while I retrieved Vladamera from his grasp. The second I touched the sword my mind raced and I saw pictures in my mind that were as clear as day. A woman with dark hair and dark eyes was pointing her finger at someone else. She was yelling and anger burned her eyes. I knew her, or I've seen her at the very least... Princess Linean. I could barely make out the words on her lips.
"How dare you!" She screamed. "How dare you take that from me! How dare you take my only child!" Her face stopped as she listened to the persons reply. I couldn't see who she was talking to, I couldn't hear what they were saying. I could only see her reaction. She was disgusted and said, "I hate you! Look what you've turned him into! Look what you've done! Have you no pity in your heart? Kill me, kill me now! For I don't wish to live and see your sordid face!" She lowered her voice to a whisper. Tears rolled down her cheeks. "You will pay for what you have done. To me. To him. You will pay, I will see to it."

There was a loud gush of wind that buzzed through my ears then, I was back. Barnes stood beside me, Micawl in front of me, as we both held Vladamera. Did he see what I saw? He didn't look as if he did. I felt light headed when I took the sword from his hands using both of mine. "You should be more careful." He said, his right eye twitching into a wink. I nodded.
"Aye," Barnes said. "Maybe you can accompany Larson in training. Teach him a few of your tricks." I looked at the Queto in pure astonishment mixed with frustration and fear.
"Indeed." Micawl said. "Anything I can do to help a fellow brother." He turned, and sauntered off.

Ava and I took a walk after I bathed in the waterfall pond. We didn't go very far, for both Ava and Barnes said it was too dangerous to leave the Queto's village; so we stayed within the short stone walls but, in the trees that shadowed over us. "It's only your second day in training and I can see a tremendous improvement already." She said, interlacing our hands together as we walked in a slow, casual pace. I smiled inwards as I said, "I pray that I get even better very soon."
"You have nothing to fret over. You're a natural swordsman." I looked down at the belt that Barnes gave to me; it wrapped around my left shoulder and right rib and held Vladamera. I thought of the exchange I had with Micawl. Could I tell Ava? I knew I could, I felt I could trust her with anything. The question was should I? Something screamed the words, "Don't tell a soul!" deep within me. I would listen to the voice though I was itching to get it off my chest.
"Ava?" I asked. "Hmm?"
"Micawl..." I trailed off.
"What type of...power does he have?"
"He can control certain objects with his mind." She said matter-of-factly. That explains it. Maybe the vision I saw earlier was just my active imagination. Maybe it was myself conscious mind telling me to slow down on all the non-existent-things-that-you-only-read-about-in-fairytales-do-actually-exist-and-it's-all-in-front-of-you scenario. And maybe I was just too jealous of Micawl. Maybe he's not that much of a bad guy. No, he was good. If not, he wouldn't be fighting with us against evil. I felt relief lifted from my shoulders.
"Why?" Ava finally asked when she realized I wasn't going to say anything else on the subject.
I shrugged. "Just wondering."
Ava stopped and turned towards me, holding both of my hands now. "You need to leave."
I smiled and brought one of her hands up to my lips and kissed it with as much tenderness I could express. "I'm staying right here." I released her hand and brushed her cheek with my fingertips. "With you."
She blushed but, didn't look away. Neither did I. She came closer, our bodies pressed together.
At that very moment I wanted to scream out loud for Cardinair and the world beyond to hear. Ava, I love you! Since the first time I saw you in my dreams I've loved you! There's nothing more I want to do than just spend every second of the end of my life with you! I want to fight for you, I want to win for you! I would die for you! I love you, Ava. Always and forever!
I leaned down, softly brushing the stray long, blond hairs away from her face. "I.." I said, deliberately leaning towards her.
"Yes?" She whispered, her eyes slowly closing.
"How darling! Looky there, Cypress!" Ava and I spin around to see Cypress and Cynthias not but five feet away from us. I was growing tired and weary of being interrupted by our enemies. "Wait, haven’t we heard of this before?” Cypress asked. “Centuries and centuries ago, correct?"
"Ah, yes Cypress we have." Cynthias nodded.
"Linean and Isaac. The Ontarion and the human boy." They laugh.
"Only this time it's a witch. Can you believe it? Little Ava falls for..."Cynthias stopped, looking at me from top to bottom over and over again. "That."
"But, Ava, what happened to you and Micawl?" Cypress asked with mockery.
I looked at Ava, jealousy ripping my insides apart. She looked at me innocently and back to Cypress. "Micawl and I are strictly friends." There was a sting in her voice.
The twins both laughed. "Right." They said in unison.
"What about Micawl?" I asked.
Ava ignored me, her face twisting into anger. "What are you doing here?" She nearly yelled.
"To chat." Cynthias said with a sly smile on her small lips. "To catch up, of course."
Cypress nodded. "But, other than that we came baring news."
"A warning, rather." His sister implied.
"For the war?" Ava asked. "We know of it, just as you do."
"No, no, no." Cynthias said shaking her head full of blonde hair.
"You see," Cypress offered. "We're not looking for a war."
"But, a trade." Cynthias smiled. "An agreement."
"What do you want? What agreement?" I spoke up. Maybe we wouldn't die. Maybe now I could love Ava for eternity.
They laughed. "Our father has one that's very proposing. But, we're still secretly hoping to see you on the battle field. Cynthias and I." "To kill you on the battle field." She giggled, nodding.
"Well?" Ava asked. "What is it?"
"We shall let our father tell you himself. You would believe him, he's more convincing. Maybe because he is the king after all."
"A vile and repulsive king at that!" Ava spat. I put my hand on her shoulder.
"It was nice talking to you both. We must run along, slaughtering Scurf’s and such."
Ava tried to step forwards but, I kept her down with one arm.
"Take this warning, put it to use." Cypress said. "Tell your people of this agreement and settle on a decision to act on it or not. And if you don't accept...We will be seeing you at war."
"You won't tell us what the agreement is." I said.
"No, we won't. But rest assure that my father will speak the word... Very soon. Until then, may grace be with you, both." They laughed. Then, they were gone.

The author's comments:
"If I could reach up and hold a star for every time you made me smile, I would have the whole night sky in the palm of my hand." -Unknown

“That's not like Demontritus." Barnes said, shaking his head. Ava and I had told him about our encounter with the twins as soon as we saw him. "He wouldn't make a trade or an agreement...unless..." He trailed off.
"What?' I finally said.
"Unless he's afraid we will win."
I laughed out loud without finding anything funny. "We can't win. They have magic on their side."
"Aye." He grumbled." But, so do we. There are the Ontarions who have specific powers that will be very useful." I thought of Micawl and shuddered. "And then we have Ava."
She looked confused when Barnes and I both looked in her direction. "The twins and Demontritus are more powerful." She said quietly
"Yes, they are." Barnes said. "But, you must remember that evil magic is not as great as good."
"So there's hope?" I asked.
"Yes. Otherwise there would be no agreement."
I laughed, almost relieved. There was hope. Maybe I could have Ava after all...If she would let me.
I wanted so desperately to ask about Micawl. But, I was scared it would make her angry with me. I couldn’t risk that, I would hate to upset her so as much as it bothered me not to know I withdrew from asking any questions.

For the next few weeks I woke up every morning with something aching and detesting my movements. Barnes worked me until I bled. Literally. He had me 'do as he did' everyday for technique. Then, he taught me a few helpful, but painful maneuvers in a sword fight. He made me lift everything in sight that was somewhat heavy for my strength. Soon, I grew stronger and I improved drastically with my swordsmanship. He started to fight with me in a dual (with large sticks instead of actual weapons) when my technique was perfect. Every day he would tell me I was improving drastically and soon I would be better than him. I doubted that but, still appreciated his praise.

Barnes and I circled around each other while others practiced in the crowded pasture around us. Our eyes were on each other and our lips were curved into playful smiles. "You have the first move." He said, his voice rumbling.
I smiled and waited a while until I stuck the stick in his ribs. "Got me." He laughed. "Your good." And he lunged his limb for me but I blocked it. "That I am." I said. We ran around in circles blocking each other’s blows for what seemed like hours. But, I never grew tired. Finally I knocked the stick from his hand and stabbed him in the chest gently. Barnes nodded and said, "You're ready for the battle." His words gave me chills down my spine. Chills of anticipation and excitement.

More and more days of passed and soon my body was at ease before, during, and after my daily training routine. It had become adjusted to the tasks I'd thrown upon it. I walked to Barnes house after training to find Ava. She, usually watched me but, today she wasn't in the pasture. I opened the door and saw her. She turned around quickly like I startled her and she blushed. Her hair was smoother, brushed down and her long white dress had more of a glow. A small flower (the most beautiful flower in Cardinair) was placed behind her ear laying in her perfect blonde locks. She stood in front of a mirror. A mirror! I hadn't seen one of those since I’ve been here. That's been, how long? I couldn't recall. Maybe six or seven months.
"I-I was just..." She giggled nervously.
"Looking at yourself in the mirror." I laughed.
She looked down, away from me. "The looking glass, yes."
I stride over to her touching the small lavender flower that matched the color of her eyes and said, "You look beautiful."
She smiled up at me. "Oh, I almost forgot." She said as an afterthought. "Audrina and the others want us over tonight for dinner. So wash up."

After bathing, I came back to Barnes house. No one was home. I walked in and leaned against the far wall was a long mirror. There were a few cracks but, I could see the images almost plainly. "A looking glass." I laughed quietly to myself. I moved closer. Whoa. I took an infamous double-take at the glass. Was that me? I raised my hand up to my chin and sure enough the man in the reflection copied my exact move. It was me. I looked so different from the last time I looked into a mirror. I was more...complex now. My cheekbones had grown and stuck out more, raising upwards on my face. My hair had grown a little bit over my eyes. I had noticed that. I always swooshed them back into place with a swing of my head every now and then these past weeks. It had also grew shades lighter. From being out in the sun, I suppose. I had stubble on my chin, it grew into a little bit more than a five a clock shadow. I brushed my hand over it. I would have to do something about that later. I looked into my eyes and almost jumped back. I would have never recognized them. I never spent too much time in a mirror but, I could tell a dramatic change in the color. They were a lighter shade of brown as well. My hand traced down my neck which was massive now.
I hurried to take off my shirt. I did so and stepped back. I was dark complected, as dark as Ava now. And very muscular. I smiled and flexed my new biceps.
"Having fun?" Someone said behind me. I spun around, embarrassed. It was Ava. She laughed before saying, "Are you ready? Audrina's expecting us now." I hurried to put my shirt back over my head. Ava helped with the top buttons.
"You look nice." She said and her fingers dropped from the buttons to my chest. "Very nice." She looked up to me then, but didn't smile. Neither did I. We just stared at each other. I felt as if I had her then. I knew I had her. I knew that if we won the war I would spend the rest of my entire life with her. I knew that she loved me and no doubt that I loved her. It wasn't just a gut feeling. It was a fact. I knew it. That is until she looked down, breaking our gaze and shattering my fantasies, and transported us to the Ontarions village.

We went into a cement home with cement floor, walls, and a cement roof. Or at least I thought it was cement. It looked like it, felt like it, but you could never be sure. It was probably a much more complex texture. It was Elexin’s home and it was much bigger than Audrina's. All of the Ontarions, Ava, and I sat around a huge stone table. In the center of the table were flowers that took your breath away by the sight and smell of them. They were flowers that didn't really exist...In my world, at least.
After only a few seconds of sitting down dinner was served. It was all vegetables and no meat. I was disappointed, I hadn't had meat since I’ve been here. But, I understood why. Everything with the gift of life can speak. Ava once said. Even eating vegetables and fruits were somewhat wrong. There was vegetables that the Ontarions grew and picked there selves that I didn't recognize. One was called an axender. It was shaped like a carrot, felt like an apple and tasted like nothing else I've ever tasted. It was delicious and I wanted more and more. "Slow down, will you?" Micawl asked from across the table, eyes on me. "Save some for the rest of us."
"Back off!" I said before realizing. The room was quite with awkward looks. Micawl then stood up slowly, the wooden chair making a loud scraping noise against the hard floor. He beamed over me, glaring at me when he said, "What did you say?"
I gulped with fear. But, stood up at eye level with him. "I said back off." I was surprised to hear my voice was as harsh as I’d wanted it to be. Micawl let out a snarl and grabbed the end of the stone table throwing it against the wall. The others had dodged away gracefully while I pulled Ava behind me.
"Micawl-" Audrina stepped towards him. Micawl raised his hand without taking his eyes away from mine. She stopped in place, her mouth firmly shut. "You think your bad don't you?" He asked through his perfect teeth. "You think you can beat me?" He let out a chuckle and shook his head. "I have news for you. No one beats me. I am what I am for a reason. So filth like you won't risk being confident when they have no reason to." What was he talking about?
I cleared my throat. "I don't want to fight you." That was a lie. "But, I will."
Ava was tugging at my arm but, I stood my ground, never looking away. Micawl walked towards me, his head cocked to one side. "It's not considered fighting, on your part anyway, if you don't have a chance." He was right in front of me, his face inches from mine. He whispered. "Go on, hit me."
I wanted to. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to make him pay for my jealousy and for everything else. If there was someone in Cardinair that I hated more than Demontritus and more than the elders and more than the twins; it would be Micawl.
"No." I said.
He smiled. "Good choice." He turned, walking away from me. My breathing grew heavier and rage rang throughout my body. I screamed and ran for him. I planned on tackling him, pinning him to the ground and pounding his face in. I had the muscles to do that, I did have a reason to be confident. I was skilled, Barnes had said it himself and he never lies. But, before I could touch him he turned around swiftly and his hand came up popping my neck with his forearm. I flew to the stone floor and wheezed for air. It felt as if he crushed my windpipe. I gagged and soon air came to me little at a time. That's when I close my eyes and it is silent.

I opened my eyes and had a hard time focusing on the voices that called my name. My vision was messed up, it was blurred and I saw a fuzzy image of everything twice. I squeezed my eyes shut and reopened them. It helped.
"Larson?" Ava sat over me, her hair touching my face. "Larson, are you okay?"
"Yes." I winced from the pain in my throat. My sounded like Frog from The Little Rascals. I tried to clear it without crying and spoke again. "I'm fine." It was normal again but, it hurt to talk.
Ava sighed in relief. "Good." She put a small, cold hand on my neck and the pain stopped almost instantly.
I rose up and smiled at her. "I don't think I can ever get used to the whole witch thing."
She giggled. "I understand."
I looked around and realized we were outside in the forest. Why are we here? And then, I remember. Micawl. I get to my feet and start walking. I had to get back to the Ontarions village so I could whoop Micawl. Ava caught my arm, "Where do you think you're going?" She asked. "I'm going to find Micawl." She spun me around to face her, both her hands on either of my arms, holding tightly.
"No." She said. "You're going to stay with me."
My anger instantly dropped and I smiled. "Of course." There's nowhere else I’d rather be.
We started walking under the moonlight. "Tell me something." She said.
"Like what?"
"My world.." I sighed." It's just so...Boring."
She looked puzzled. "How?"
I looked around, "Everything here...It's so beautiful. More beautiful than beautiful. It's...Indescribable."
"And your world isn't?"
I shook my head ." It's just dull."
"But you had the same sky there, as I do here?"
"Yes." I looked up at the dark sky.
"Then how could you be bored with something that changes so rapidly?" Her eyes were bright while her smile grew.
I never thought of it that way. "Here, come with me." She took my hand and transported us into an open field somewhere in an isolated part of Cardinair. She released my hand and lay down on the long fresh green grass. She patted the earth beside her. "Lay down." She whispered and I obeyed.
She sighed with contentment, looking up towards the sky. "Isn't it miraculous?" She whispered.
I had to tear my eyes away from her. When I did I saw nothing that caught my attention as it did hers. She was captivated by the view. "I don't see it." I said flatly.
She looked over at me with disbelief. "How could you not? Look again."
I rolled my eyes. This was silly but, I looked again...For her. "Now," She said. "Actually see, don't just look."
"That doesn't make any sense." I laughed.
"But it does. Just see Larson." I did. I actually tried to find the hidden beauty in the sky that was clearly visible to Ava.
At first, I just saw a black sky with small specks of light poured across it. Then, I saw a clear navy blue blanket that changed hues across the sky to other exotic, dark and brilliant colors. The small specks gradually turned into shining, blazing shapes of awesome light that had their own, specific place in the tremendously beautiful sky.
"Wow." I whispered to myself, forgetting for a moment Ava was with me.
"You see it." She laughed, I could feel her eyes on me. I turned my head to face her. The sight that had just drew me in was nothing like the sight of her. I forgot about the nights sky and said, "I see you."
She smiled, looking down. Her face turned crimson. "Was that suppose to be charming?" She laughed.
"Well, I made you blush didn't I?" I laughed with her, nudging her with my elbow.
"Maybe." She turned away, hiding her face.
"Maybe?" I lifted up on my elbow and rolled over to my side. She leaned further away. "Maybe?" I asked and leaned over further, trying to catch a glimpse of her red cheeks. We continued to laugh. She turned around swiftly, her head suddenly under mine. Our faces close.
She smiled. "Yes, maybe."
I leaned down unintentionally. Our lips almost touching.
I rolled over, sitting up straight, leaving her lying on the grass. What was wrong with me?
I sat with my arms over my knees. I twiddled my fingers as she slowly rose to her feet. She cleared her throat, "We should leave."
She didn't take my hand as she has done so many times before. Instead she barely touched my shoulder to transport us back to Barnes house.

Later that night I lay awake telling myself I was stupid over and over again but, it didn't seem to be helping at all. While Barnes was fast asleep and I could hear his rhythmic snoring I crawled over to Ava's pallet on the floor. "Ava." I stage whispered and she turned her head to face me, she wasn't asleep. She waited for me to say something else.
"Tell me about you and Micawl."
She sighed and she sat up patting the blanket beside her. I sat down where her hand was and she began, "Micawl and I used to...See each other." She shook her head disapprovingly. "It's not that I was attracted to him, everyone wanted me to because they thought we would be perfect together." I tried not to let my anger show through body language or facial expression. What did it matter? She couldn't see me in this darkness. She continued, "He began to get...Obsessive. He told me strange things."
"Strange things like what?"
"Well...That he loved me. That I was his and I would always be his. That we would become something great and everyone will know of us in both Cardinair and the outside world. He would always say that nothing will ever take me from him. That he would kill anyone or anything that looked at me wrong."
I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to feel. Fear? Jealousy? Anger?
"Did you love him?" I asked trying my best to keep my voice even.
"No." I wanted to scream with joy. I smiled in the darkness. "I don't think he ever really loved me. Not really." There was silence for a little while. I would've thought Ava had fallen asleep if it weren’t for the fact that she was sitting up straight.
"It took him forever to get over me. He left after I...Ended it, I suppose."
"Where did he go?"
She shrugged. "Someplace in Cardinair, I know. But, no one saw him for a while. No one... When he came back it was like he was the exact same before we started seeing each other. So I befriended him again." She shrugged. "And that's it."
I was satisfied. "I'm sorry to wake you." I said even though I knew I hadn't. "Goodnight." I started to get up, to go back on my own pallet across the room but, she caught my arm. "Stay." She whispered.
So I did. I stayed, keeping my distance, our hands only touching slightly. I watched her sleep, my eyes well adjusted in the darkness. I wanted to reach out and stroke her hair or brush my fingertips against her lips. But, I didn't. I just watched her. I admired her.
My eyes were getting heavy and I was just about to doze off when Ava shifted and turned over on her side, facing me now. Her hands searched for something and they found me. She scooted closer to me, still half asleep and lay her head on my chest. I gently wrapped my arm around her, holding my breath all the while. I soon fell quickly asleep, still smiling.

The author's comments:
"I love you- those three words have my life in them." -Alexandria to Nicholas III

I woke up with Ava by my side. I gently scooted out from under her but, not before kissing her forehead. I wanted to stay with her until she woke up just so I can steal glances at her face. But, I thought that might weird her out if she woke up to me staring at her. Instead, I got up for training and headed down to the pasture. I met Barnes and he said, "Put down Vladamera. You are doing something different today." "Different?" I asked. "Like what?" And then I saw him.

Micawl stepped in front of me, in front of the sun set high in the sky, casting a huge shadow over me. I gulped loudly, fear seeping its way through me. I never noticed how big Micawl actually was. How could I not notice? He was huge. He smiled at me, showing a set of perfectly straight white teeth, his canines filed to a deathly point. He flexed and inflexed his sculpted and defined muscles, preparing himself, as I stood motionless in front of him. His brown hair was cut short that made his muscular body look even more muscular. His light blue eyes were taunting me against his dark skin. He cracked his knuckles and then stood still, smiling down at me. His chin and shoulders were high; he seemed confident enough. I wondered what I looked like to him. Weak, vulnerable...I pushed away the thought and planted my feet in the ground, letting out a sigh. "I'm ready." I was almost sure my voice cracked with fear.

He took two long, quick strides towards me and suddenly I was on the ground. The breath was knocked out of my lungs and it took me a long while to choke back enough air to stand up. I found Micawl shaking his head back and forth at me, "You don't belong here." He said. "Allow me to escort you home." He swung his fist back and plunged it into my stomach. I flew a couple feet in the air and landed on my back once again. I leaned up, ignoring the fact that I couldn't breathe and watched him as he made his way to stand over me. "Your weak." He laughed. "You don't stand a chance. Give up."

I did have a chance, Barnes even said I was better than him with a sword. This time I had no sword, what if something like this happens in the actual battle. I calmed myself, breathing slowly and evenly. I looked to my left with the corner of my eye and his foot was placed beside my face. I smiled inwards. I knew that watching old Jackie Chan films with my old man would pay off one of these days. I grabbed his leg with both arms, holding it tight, and swung my right leg to kick him in the ribs. He fell down, surprised. I rolled on top of him and held him there. "What were you saying, Micawl? I don't have a chance in what, exactly?" I smiled, holding my face just inches above his. He let out a scream and I was suddenly in the air, doing a front flip above him. Before I could land on my back he caught my shirt and swung me to the side. I landed on my arm this time. I rolled,
bouncing off the ground a couple of times before I came to a complete stop.
"Such a feeble human." Micawl said, a few feet away from me. "Tell me something human."
I raised up on one elbow, coughing to catch my breath and wincing from the pain that shot in my arms and back. "Why would someone like you be the one that everyone will eventually rely on? It makes no sense. Therefore, I believe that it isn't you. That you’re not the one. Am I right, Sir Larson?" He laughed.
"I have no idea what you’re talking about."
"Of course you don't. You see, Audrina and the others of my kind, are convinced that you are the ruler." He smirked, walking towards me.
"The ruler of what?"
"But, the prophecies say that the ruler will be a great warrior, a man with strife and dignity. A man unlike yourself. " He dropped down beside me, our eyes at the same level. "You may have everyone else fooled human but, not me." His eyes turned back into the regular hostility.
"Enough." Barnes said with a deep voice that could almost rock the earth beneath me.
Micawl stood up slowly and walked away. Barnes held out a strong, furry hand and I took it as he helped me up. "You must be hungry." He said.
I nodded and walked beside him back towards his house. "What did he mean by prophecies?"
Barnes let out a sigh. "You will learn of them in time."
"But, I-"
"In time." He said cutting me off with a wave of his hand. I pried no further..

From that night on I stayed on my own pallet, unfortunately. But, Ava and I took strolls through the forest and we looked at the stars several other times while sharing stories, laughing, and holding hands. Weeks passed and my training with Micawl got easier. I beat him once or twice, pinning him to the ground with no weapons but, I was better with a sword/stick. Barnes made us swear that Micawl and I wouldn't speak of anything other than directions and questions about the training practices. We kept our word, though we did exchange many dirty looks. But, that doesn't count.

Ava and I walk through the woods on our daily stroll. She's being unusually quite. I give her hand a squeeze and she smiles. But, she has to fake it. "What's wrong?" I ask, stopping in place. She stops too. "It's nothing." She looks away.
I grabbed her chin gently with my free hand and turned her head to face me. Her eyes were watery when she looked up at me.
"What is it?" I ask, pulling her closer.
"I'm so sorry." She cried.
"Sorry, for what?"
"For being so terribly selfish." Her words started to slur with her tears. "I don't want you to leave. I never wanted you to leave. I want you to stay with me. But, you need to go before it's too late, you need to leave as soon as you can. Right now, leave now."
"Shh." I held her to my chest and stroked her hair to her back. "I'm not leaving, I've already told you I'm not going anywhere."
She looked up. "No. Please."
I placed her face in both of my hands. "I'm staying here."
She hesitated and then said, "Would you hate me if I said I’m happy that you are?''
I smiled and brought her to me once more, hugging her. "No. I could never hate you. I'm glad you're happy."
She pulled away from me and turned around, hiding her face with her hair. "No. You shouldn't be. I'm so selfish! They say if you love someone you should let them go."
My heart skipped a beat and I had to recollect my thoughts before saying, "What?" I pulled her hair away from her face. "What did you say?"
She turned away and sighed. “I tried not to.” She continued, looking at her feet. “I knew it would be better- easier even- If I kept my distance but, it was hard.“ She looked back to me and tilted her head to one side. "I love you." She shrugged shy fully.
I stared at her for a while, not knowing what to say, what to feel other than utter happiness. Finally I ran to her and swooped her up in my arms and screamed, "I love you!" We laughed until I put her down, both of us dizzy from the spinning.
"Promise me something." I said, swaying on my feet, feeling high with joy.
"Promise me you won't ask me to leave."
She took a step towards me and ran her fingers through my hair. "I promise."
We leaned in, my heart pounding heavily I could feel hers through my clothes. This was it. True loves first kiss.
A cold, wet drop hit my face and I looked up. Something must have hit her also because she was looking up past the trees.
She looked back to me, her eyes bright along with her smile. "It's raining."
I frowned. "Rain? It rains in Cardinair?"
"Of course it rains! We have the same sky as your world, don't we?" She spun away from me while the rain grew heavier. I could barely make out her white dress through the water.
"But, Cardinairs perfect. It's beautiful." I couldn’t figure it out.
Ava ran towards me and shrugged. "Rain is beautiful. It's fun, c'mon!" She took my hand and we were running through the forest while the water distilled from our clothes and hair. We laughed while we linked arms and spun around until we felt light headed. Finally I stopped and watched her from the dim light outside. I watched as she laughed and danced in the rain, loving her more than ever.

Chapter Twenty

"Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave,
but not our hearts."-Oliver Wendell Holmes

The next morning Barnes woke me up extra early. When went past the pasture into the forest; I didn't ask any questions. I've learned that with Barnes he'll tell you what you need to know sooner or later without having to ask. The ground was wet and mud splashed from my boots underneath me as I walked beside Barnes.
He led me to the waterfall and we both sat down on the now dry rock. "Larson," Barnes said. "I'm going to ask you to do something."
"Okay." I said slowly. He cleared his throat.
"Ava's not the only one that cares about you. She's not the only one that loves you." I stayed quite. "I love you, Audrina loves you, many others care about you and respect you."
"Where are you going with this?" I finally asked though, I had an idea.
He looked up at me, his expression firm. "I'm asking you to leave."
I sighed and I think I rolled my eyes.
"Listen to me." Barnes said, and I did. I respected him too much not to. "Please do this; for me. For Ava!"
"Oh, so I just waltz right out of here while she gets slaughtered? No. I'd rather die alongside her than do nothing about it.."
"Aye. As I would too."
"So you understand. You know why I can't leave."
"Larson you can." He said. "Don't just do this for her. Do this for me. I care about you also Larson. I don't want to see you die."
"I‘d be happy to put cloth over your eyes."
He sighed heavily yet again. "Please leave."
"Do you not believe in me?" I asked in disbelief but kept the anger from my voice.
"No, I believe in you. Of course I believe in you. It's just..." He searched for something to say.
"I'm staying here. I'm fighting in the war I caused."
It was silent for a while and he finally looked towards me and said, "That's my boy. It's not like him to give up so easily." I smiled to that. "Your very brave and the least bit selfish. You remind me of Linean."
I think I blushed. There was no greater praise than being like the girl who took her life for the sake of all the others. "So you loved her? Are you ever going to tell me the story?" I was extremely curious and couldn't hold my tongue any longer.
He laughed. "When the time is right, I shall."
I groaned. "Well I hope the right time is soon."
"We'll see." Was all he said.
After hours of small talk and chit chat and laughter we got up to go back to the pasture for training.
"Barnes," I watched him turn around. "I love you too." And he put a massive arm around my neck in a head lock and suffocated me in a bear hug.
."Larson, I can't think of any other time to tell you but now."
"Tell me what? About Linean?"
"Aye." He said. "You see-" He was cut off by a loud noise in the distance. Behind the noise came several deafening screams.
"Ava!" I yelled, hopping on my feet and sprinting out of the forest with Barnes beside me. My heart beat fast. If something happened to her... We ripped out of the last few trees to the pasture and there he was. King Demontritus. He held Ava up by the collar of her dress with one hand.
"Ava!" I ran up towards her and Demontritus raised his hand to strike me with magic. I fell to the ground and hurried back to my feet. "Put. Her. Down." I said slowly.
He smirked and chills of fear rocked through my body.
"And if I don't?" He laughed. " Tell me what the human is going to do about it?"
"I will rip you to shreds!" I said gripping my sword that wrapped around me.
"Let's stay civilized for a moment, shall we?" He laughed. " I didn't come here to fight. As most of you already guessed, I came to propose a deal." He looked around at the other creatures. "I know you were all hoping for a war in which I’m sure you would lose." He placed Ava on the ground, but didn't release her from his powerful grasp. "But, I will promise not to kill Ava or even the human if the human leaves for his own world and never comes back."
"Never!" I ran towards him with my sword held high. He raised his arm and held me there, I couldn't move. "Don't test me boy." He said. "If you leave that means all of your little friends you’ve made here will live. Your dearest Ava will surely keep safe."
He released the hold and I fell to the ground, the sword barely missing my stomach in the process of hitting the earth. "It's your choice." He said to me." Stay and she dies along with your pathetic attempt of keeping her safe. If you leave, you both live. That way you wouldn't be the reason for the 'good witches' death. Think about it." He vanished. Ava ran to me and helped me up.
"Are you okay?" She asked when I got up.
"I'm fine. What about you?" I asked, panicky. I placed both hands on either side of her face and examined. Afraid to find even a scratch. "I'm okay." She said, sliding her arms underneath mine and pulling me in. I put my arms around her as well. "You can't leave me." She whispered. I didn't say anything. "You can't." She whispered repeatedly. "No." I said. The sad thing is I didn't know what I meant by saying 'no'. Did I mean, No I won't leave her? Or No, I can? I knew what I needed to do…But could I? She leaned back to look at my face, tears filled her eyes. "Promise me. Promise me that you won't leave."
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. How could I promise such a thing? There was commotion around us from the others.
"Ava?" Audrina came up to us. "May I speak with you?"
She looked at me and said, "Promise me Larson."
I couldn't. Audrina tugged on her arm. "Ava, now?"
She nodded and walked away with Audrina, her eyes didn't leave mine until they went behind a large tree. I watched as other Ontarions followed to speak with her too.
Barnes placed a sturdy hand on my shoulder. "We'll figure something out. But, for now I need to show you something."
I followed him back into the woods but, in a different direction. We stopped at a hollow tree with a huge circle in the center of it.
"I advise you to put Vladamera in here. She will be safe and you shouldn't keep her on you at all times."
I was confused by that statement but, did as he said. He nodded towards me and we walked back to the pasture where Ava was looking for me. When she found me she ran up to me and embraced me as I did her. "He's lying. Demontritus is lying. You can stay." She pulled away and smiled up at me. Could Demontritus really be lying? What if he was? Or worse, what if he wasn't? I smiled also but, I was faking it. I had to leave, I wouldn’t let this happen. I couldn't.

The author's comments:
"To be your friend was all I ever wanted. To be your lover was all I ever dreamed."-Unknown

I was almost asleep when Ava lay down beside me. Everything was dark and I could hear Barnes reassuring snores from the other side of the small room. She snuggled up to me, laying her head on my chest and wrapping her cold hands around my arm. "Are you awake?" She whispered. I smiled and answered, "Yes."
We were silent for a long while until I finally whispered, "I'm going to leave."
She raised up and looked at me through the darkness. "Larson."
I raised up on my elbow and she lay her head back on the blankets. I looked down at her and said, "It's the only way to save you. I will not be the reason of your death."
She put her hands on either side of my face. " And I won't be the reason of yours. You can go whenever you wish. I won't like it. I'll hate it, in fact. But, you should go. To save yourself." I put a hand on hers and brought it down to my lips. I kissed her palm, her fingertips... "Don't leave just yet." She said.
I stopped and looked at her. "They will kill us. I have to leave as soon as possible. Tomorrow."
"What if he's lying? What's if he's just scared of the war? He's prolonging it..."
I sighed and said, "Maybe."
I lay down beside her and we interlaced hands. I fell asleep like that, my mind still buzzing from the days chain of events.

"Larson!" I woke up to a woman’s voice but, not the woman I expected. She stood six foot off the ground with dark hair and dark eyes. Her expression was tense, annoyed, and very sad. I blinked a few times and then I smelt the smoke rolling off of her. I raised up quickly and suddenly recognized her. Corah.
"Come quickly!" She said, heading out the door of Barnes house. I got up and looked around the room for Ava but, she wasn't there. I walked outside and Corah stood with her arms crossed over her chest and her foot tapping away. She looked towards me. "Come, boy!" She yelled, gesturing for me to speed up. I nearly ran towards her. She picked me up and we were off. In a few seconds I was in the Ontarion Village...Or what was left of it.
Smoke burned my nose and I had to pull my shirt over my mouth while I coughed for air. "What happened?" I finally asked eying the burning buildings. Most of the homes were made from cement or stone but, their belongings were still there while the growing fire took them away.
"Demontritus." Corah almost snarled. She walked a fast past to the other Ontarions that crowded the streets. "This is the first warning." We joined the others then. I watched as the Ontarions shed their tears, staring hopelessly at their ruined homes.

We walked through the smoke, watching the last bit of the homes surrounding us burn down. I looked over my shoulder at Fern who stood, crying excessively as her belongings were melting to the ground. Beside her stood Legeton. He reached out for her slowly, placing a hand on her back. She looked up at him, away from the intense flames and then threw her arms around him. They stood unchanging for a while, holding each other. I turned to see Audrina, she stared blindly at the fire that engulfed her home. Her face was a hard, serene mask that prevented any emotion to show through. But, all that emotion that was built up inside of her was expressed by one salty tear that slowly made its way down her cheek. For a brief second, as she wiped that tear away, she had let her mask down. For a brief second I could see Audrina for who she really was. She was a brave warrior and fighter who had strength, indulgence, and determination. The only thing that weakened her was fear. She was scared for Ava's life as she was scared for herself and the others. She looked at me, quickly placing the same mask back over her face, hiding every emotion from me. All but one. I could see then, that she was scared for me as well.

"Larson." I turned around to find Ava black from smoke with white, wet streaks down her face. She was upset and hurting for her friends. My stomach twisted in pain to see her like this. I nearly fell towards her, scooping her up in my arms.
I held her closely, stroking her hair. I whispered, "It's okay. Everything’s okay." But I knew that was a lie. They wouldn't stop until I left. Demontritus had been true to his word.
"This happened because of me." She whispered terrorized words in my ear.
"No, don't you dare think that. If it was anyone’s fault it would be my own." I let her cry on my shoulder while I held her upright on her feet. "We'll get through this." I told her. "Our love will get us all through this." I wanted to take back the words as soon as I said them Love was powerful, I knew it, everyone knew it. But it could get us through what, exactly? I left the question unanswered.

I looked up and saw Micawl, standing behind one of the burning buildings, surrounded by flames that never reached him. He looked straight at me and smiled a sick, twisted, menacing smile and then he was gone. He had vanished into the smoky skies.

I didn't tell anyone about Micawl. I didn't tell anyone that I saw him, smiling as his house burnt down, giving me the creeps. I hated him but, I never told ...The rest of the day went by in a blur of tears from anger and sadness. Ava and I spoke all that afternoon about anything other than the crisis we were dealing with but, all I could think of was Micawl and his awful, awful smile that sent shivers of fear up and down my spine. There was something wicked behind that smile. A secret of some kind. A secret that I pray I will never find out.
I planned on leaving that night. After I washed my smoked shirt in a stream not too far from Barnes house and after it dried in the faint sunlight and wind I was going to find Ava. To ask her to take me to the tower. But, when I came back to Barnes house no one was there. That's when I heard cries from the forest.

When I ran through the trees I noticed something. They were dying. Their branches started to swoop and their leaves turned an ugly brown, their trunks slowly shriveling up like a burning piece of plastic. I stopped in place, now standing beside Ava and some others. She didn't look at me, she didn't look at anyone. Her head raised up along with her palms and she shut her eyes, concentrating. It took a moment to find out what was happening. Ava's chest raised higher towards the sky when she let in a deep breath of air, she rose to her toes and I looked around, completely amazed. It was as if it was set to rewind. The trunks of the trees around us and beyond grew back to their normal thick and heavy state. Their limbs sprung up and even grew longer and taller. The leaves dispersed from the branches making the tree look even more beautiful and full. They were alive. More now than ever.
I looked back to Ava and she started to fall but, I caught her arms. Her eyes were closed and fear fleeted through me. But, I then felt that she was quietly breathing. I let out a sigh of relief and gently sat her down, lying her head on the forests floor.
"Ava?" I asked and the others surrounded me. Her eyes fluttered open. I felt another roll of pure relief. "Are you okay?"
She looked dazed but said, "Yes." Then she became aware and sat up swiftly, almost hitting my head with hers. She looked up towards the trees and smiled.
"What happened?" I asked.
A Sangardian that I've never seen before was the first to answer. "Demontritus used magic to kill every tree in Cardinair." He said in a deep, rumbled voice. "But, Ava must have broken the spell and saved them all."
The second warning.
I helped Ava to her feet and brushed the dirt off of her dress. "What happened to you, I mean?"
She shrugged. "Magic is complicated. The more you use it, the more energy it takes. The bigger the spell is, the more energy it takes as well." I kissed her forehead. "Don't do that." Was all I said. What would've have happened if she used all of her energy? I pushed away the cruel thought, refusing to know the answer.

We all met in the pasture that night. Barnes stood before us all. I had no clue what this was about. Maybe they would take a vote on who thought I should leave or not. Well, there was no use for that. I would leave. Right after this I would leave and never come back. Every time I thought that it was like another fist to my gut. So I tried to think about it as little as possible.
"I know some of you are angry." Barnes said for all to hear. "You have good reasons to be. But, I did not call you here to debate on whether we force Larson back to his home or not." I nodded to myself, answering my own question. "We have prepared for a battle. And a battle they shall get!" There were cheers from the crowd. "Tomorrow evening we will go down in Cardinairs history along with Linean and Isaac. We will be known as the true Cardinarians who took down the evil Demontritus and his people that have treated us so badly." There were even more cheers. "Tomorrow you will accompany me in battle. And you will win with me."

So I stayed another night. I was happy to stay, the war was tomorrow that everyone felt the utmost confident about. Maybe I didn't have to leave at all! I could stay with Ava and love her forever! But first...I had to get through tomorrow. We all did.

The author's comments:
"If you love me only in my dreams, let me sleep forever." -Unknown

We met in the pasture once more. I had retrieved Vladamera from the hallow tree and practiced swinging her around with both arms. I was ready for this. I so desperately wanted to get it over with. Especially for Ava. Most woman weren’t fighting so they hugged and kissed their mates ado for now and wished them the best of luck.
I turned around and the small Sangardian Gertrude that had been so kind to me, fed me, and washed my clothes was standing there, looking up to me. I smiled, "Hello again."
She beckoned me to bend down. When I did, she placed both of her small hands on either side of my face. Her eyes were watery when she said. "You watch after my Inklin, okay?" I was taken back by her words. "Of course." I nodded. And she kissed me on my cheek before letting me go and turning to Inklin. They wrapped their short arms around each other. Gertrude cried while Inklin smiled, reassuring her they would soon see each other again. I raised back up and turned around, seeing Ava.
My Inklin, Gertrude has always said. My Inklin.
Was Ava my Ava? Would she always be? And she saw me looking at her. She walked up to me placed her hands on my chest. "We can do this." She smiled. Of course she would be. They can't keep us apart. Ava traced her hand from my chest to my hip where Vladamera now rested.
“Take her out.” She whispered and I did as I was told. I held it up to her, letting her examine the blade. She carefully ran two fingers over the steel and while she did a small light shone from her fingertips. “Now you will be protected from magic.” She said when she dropped her hand to her side. I put Vladamera away and quickly brought Ava close, dragging my hands across the indentions in her body. “Thank you.” I whispered in her ear.

Ava, myself and the others stood on the far right of the east wing of the castle while Demontritus, the twins, and all other evils were on the far left. We stood only a few feet apart, a fine line between the two distributes. We all stood still but, ready for battle. All with weapons in hand. Demontritus smiled. "The human hasn't left yet, hmm? The warnings weren’t enough, I suppose?" He laughed at our silence. "Maybe this will change your mind." He looked behind him to a young warlock and nodded. The warlock stepped up and behind him came five of Cardinairs creatures. An Ontarion, a Gemfry, a Goldanther, a female Queto and a Sangardian. I recognized the Ontarion- it was Elexin. And the Sangardian was Gertrude. They dragged their feet as they walked to form a straight line facing us, their expressions pleading and plastered on me. Dark magic bound their wrists tightly together and it was magic that didn't allow flight for the creatures with wings. Ava gasped beside me and I lay a hand on her arm.
Demontritus stepped up beside his victims. "The Cardinarians that you see here, " He said walking slowly in front of them, "Will all die a slow and painful death. Not by magic..." He pulled out a short but deathly sharp red dagger from his cape. "But by a wound from this." I looked to Ava and pulled her closer to me. "You can't stop me and you can't heal them. I will hold you down with magic, of course." He looked at the crowd behind him. "We all will!" He turned back to me. "There's only one that can free them... Leave. Never come back. And I will let them go."
I didn't know what to think. I wasn't thinking because I just stood there looking helplessly at the victims in front of me. The innocent victims!
"This is your final warning." he waved the dagger around nonchalantly. "You can leave now or let them all suffer."
I couldn't move , I couldn't even breath for fear for the others- and for Ava. This would be the death of her as well.
Demontritus stopped and smiled, only waiting a few seconds more for a response. I didn't have one, I couldn't come up with one.
"Very well, then." He said stepping behind Elexin. "Suite yourself." And he plunged the dagger in Elexin’s back. She shrieked and dropped to her knees, blood seeping quickly through the open and deep wound. Ava tried to run to her, to heal her, but magic held her back. She fought it but never got past the invisible wall to help her beloved friend. Demontritus moved to the Queto and plunged the dagger in the females back. She roared out a beastly cry and fell to the ground face first. "No! No!" Ava cried helpless tears while she pushed at the magic wall. Others behind me were yelling and screaming, begging me to do something. But, what? What was I supposed to do? It was like everything was set to slow motion as tragedy took place. Demontritus stood by Gertrude now… Gertrude! I spun around to see Inklin in the crowd. He was completely broken with tear streaked cheeks. He pushed people out of his way only to get front row seats of his loves death. When I met Demontritus’s eyes he smiled, preparing to sink the dagger in the small, hospitable Sangardians back. "Enough!" Came a voice out of the chaos. All was quiet and everyone stood still, staring in my direction. "I'll go!" My eyes were pleading while I still stared at Demontritus and his wicked disgusting self. "I'll go." I repeated in a whisper.
Everything stood still for a half a second more until Demontritus put away the dagger in his cape and said, "You’re a wise human." And he disappeared along with the other evils that were against us, they took their magic wall with them. Ava stood, staring at me, pain written in her eyes. Pain and understanding. Then she ran to her injured friends to heal them.

I stood there, feeling nothing while the creatures around me began to walk away, towards the safety of their homes. I couldn't find Ava in the commotion so I walked home as well. I got used to Barnes house that I often found myself calling it home. But, it wasn't my home. I suppose it never was. The thought saddened me terribly. On my slow and miserable walk I met the eyes of a creature I’ve never seen before until this day. He nodded at me, bowing his head with respect. I just turned away. Before I entered Barnes house I placed Vladamera back in the same hallow tree. I had no use of her back in my world. No use at all.

Barnes gave me one of his infamous bear hugs/ head locks. "I'm proud of you." It almost looked like he was crying when he said, "I'm really going to miss you." And that's when Ava ran through the door. Barnes scooted out of her way and outside.

She ran up to me, embracing me, holding me up because I didn't have the strength to do it myself. We stood like this for several minutes until I gained my strength back. I pulled away from her, looking into her lavender eyes that produced small, but excruciatingly painful tears. One salty tear spilled over and ran down her rosy cheek. I caught it and wiped it away. I placed both hands on either side of her perfect face. I made sure she was looking at me and only me, her eyes on mine before saying, "Ava. I love you." Her eyes shut, more tears falling over my fingers. "Look at me." She did with tear filled eyes. "I will always love you." My voice cracked. She looked up at me but, I knew she was blinded by the continuous tears. "Always." I could barely say, my eyes producing tears of their own.
"And I love you." She cried, placing her hands on either side of my face as well. "Always and forever."
We both acted at the same time, leaning towards each other and locked our lips together. It felt as if powerful bolts of electricity ran through every limb of my body; shocking me. There was only one word to describe this kiss. Magical.
Our lips continued to move as one. There was something else about this kiss. The determination, the way we lingered on it...In the back of our minds we knew that this was our first kiss...and it would be our last. It was a goodbye.

She forced herself to pull away and when I opened my eyes, we were on the highest tower in all of Cardinair. She dropped her hands and sat down on the smooth, concrete floor. I slowly sank down beside her. I looked up, admiring the trees and unusual foliage this place had, one last time. Then, I looked at her.

Wet streaks covered her beautiful face. It hurt me to see her like this, her pain added onto mine. My heart was already, slowly breaking. I dried her face with my hands and she looked up to me. The effort was useless because more tears began to fall, soaking her dried cheeks yet again. I wish it didn't have to be like this. If there was some way that we could be together and escape death...
"Come with me." I whispered.
She just stared up at me.
"Ava, you have to come with me." I sat up on my knees and held her face in my hands. "In my world. We could start a life there together, Ava." Her tears still fell, one by one. "We-we could look at the stars, the same stars you have here..." I began to cry. My words slurring. "I love you, Ava, I need you. You have to come with me. No one will hurt you there, we just have to hide what you really are and ..and we could make it. All we nee-"
"No, Larson." She whispered, dropping her head.
It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach, knocking the breath out of me..."What?"
She took my hands and dropped them to her lap. "I have to stay here."
"No. No you don't. You could come with me-"
"My people need me." She cried. "I won't leave them."
I nodded. She wouldn't. She had too big of a heart to leave the ones she loved in danger. If she were to leave, Demontritus had promised to slaughter all things good...Ava would never let that happen.

She dropped back, her back laying against the rooftop. I followed, intertwine our fingers as I lay beside her. We looked up at the stars. I would usually be captivated by the stars and skies beauty. But, tonight...All I saw was dimly lit stars placed on a dull sky.
There was no beauty or perfection. Just the night sky that never held me until I visited Cardinair. I suppose it was because I knew I would lose Ava very, very soon. Too soon. And with her, everything else will follow. Including my new sight for beauty that she had given me...Including my heart that would only belong to her.

She moved closer, and then lifted her head, only to set it back down on my chest. I let go of her hand and put my arm around her, holding her close. So very, very close. Her skin was flawless, the exact same bronze color all over. And so smooth. I placed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Her perfect skin, her perfect hair, her perfect face... She was absolutely perfect and a hundred percent real. Yet, I had to leave her forever...The girl of my dreams would no longer be mine.

I looked back at her face and felt the long, even breaths that rocked her body gently against mine. She was asleep. I leaned down and softly kissed her cheek, her eyelids... Anytime now the portal would take me, carrying me back to my world. Back to where I belonged. It would take me back swiftly...Away from Ava. Away from the love of my life forever.

I lay my head back down against the cold rooftop and shut my eyes. I was tired. I thought about Cardinair and what all I was leaving behind. Audrina, Sapphire, Barnes, and most importantly Ava... I was leaving them all and never coming back.

I woke up to the sound of police sirens and car horns. I raised up, my eyes dragging from sleep and my back aching from lying on the hard concrete rooftop to the clock tower. I stood up to stretch. I looked down to where I had been laying and saw nothing. I had fallen asleep with Ava in my arms and woke up without her. Without her for good. I winced from the literal pain that ripped through me then, held my chest as my heart split. I could almost hear it shattering. I could definitely feel it.
Tears fell from my eyes. I didn't know I had started to cry. I paced back and forth, not knowing what else to do.
"No, no, no, no." I repeated, my hands over my head that which was shaking back and forth with the words. I cried, rubbing my face roughly. Dragging my nails into my skin. It hurt but, I needed it. Anything that would help the other pain, the pain in the middle of my chest subside the least bit. I dropped to my knees, not fighting it anymore. A life without Ava would be like this. I accepted that and then, welcomed the pain. The endless pain that would never subside. I screamed and watched through my tears as birds from the roof darted away from me, protesting the noise.

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