Fastion struggled through the forest wearily, the sun had grown hot and he had the sneaking suspicion that he had passed this way three times already this morning. For a man trained to his standards he had never known anything like it, being lost was a novel experience and he couldn't help but feel a begrudging respect for the Eletians methods of protecting their secret realm. If you visited by accident you would never find it, if you went looking for it, you were sent in circles. How was he going to find a way in?
Sweating, frustrated, and starting to worry about his chances of ever finding Karigan, Fastion could almost hear his father's chuckle at his unflappable son starting to lose his resolve. His father when he was alive, had always been so proud of his son, but had often challenged him to deal with the unexpected, situations that couldn't be dealt with practically, swiftly, clearly. What would his father do in this situation, he wondered? A smile swept across his face, a memory of his father being harrassed by his worried mother for their poor summer crop, he just sat down casually in the middle of the wailing and lit a pipe. Fastion had entered a familiar clearing and shook his head, reluctantly he took off his pack and sat down in the soft grass, his back against a large rock in a small outcrop. After a few moments a small bird began singing shrilly in the tree tops nearby, he looked up at the sky, it was cloudless and an exquisite blue. Maybe there was something to his father's methods after all. Perhaps he needed to stop and think a while. His eyes closed and he let his thoughts drift away.
Karigan's eyes fluttered open slowly, they adjusted to the brightness of the day and she realised that she was looking up at a very bright and clear sky. It was beautiful, perhaps this time she really had passed onto the other side. A long pale Eletian face interrupted her view.
'Ah, she awakes.' He said coolly, and another face joined him, 'Hmm, quite pale, but yes, quite awake.'
'Where am I?' Karigan croaked, scrambling to get up onto her elbows but failing, she fell back down flat on her back. Embarrassed and unsure of herself she glared at the faces still quietly assessing her from above. Looking around she appeared to be in sort of outside room, the sky was open, with a canopy of dark blue pulled back. The walls were stone, lined with shelves holding cloths, bottles and instruments. She lay on a bed in the centre of the room, she looked down at herself and realised she had been tended to and she noted various bandages lining her arms and legs.
She remembered the pain and realised it had gone, considering the extent of her wounds this was extremely disconcerting.
'Galah'deon, calm yourself, you are safe for now.'
The tall eletian, with white hair spoke, he stared intently at her as though she were a scientific specimen, 'You are under the protection of King, and you find yourself in Eletia.'
'I am in Eletia?' Shock reverberated through her, she pulled herself up again, just managing it this time.
'Yes, your friends, Penelope and Isabelle, came upon you, they are connected to me. They came to ask for my help, it was very.. lucky that they found you.'
'Penelope… Isa.. wait you mean the Berry sisters? …I remember, where are they?'
He shifted and raised his hand slowly.
'They are safe, I have assisted them, but they could not follow you here. No mortal has ever been to Eletia Galadheon, except of course for you.'
The two Eletian's intensity grew they watched for her reaction as if scrutinising a strange mythical creature. Karigan rubbed her eyes tiredly.
'I'm not sure why I'm here …What of my companions.. Lhean, my friend Yates? The others?...Have you had word?' Her eyes flitted nervously between them. Roly spoke slowly.
'My lady, I am sorry they are not here, but there has been a scrambled message received of Telagioth, Ealdaen and the mortal Lynx, they are alive and travel together, an ancient unreliable piece of magic used, undoubtedly due to their lack of resources, but as yet we know no more.'
Shocked and still struggling to take in what had happened Karigan's heart stood still, at least some lived, but what of the others. Her mind told her Yates could not have survived, her heart refused to deal with this yet. Roly's deep dry tone's interrupted her revery.
'I am certainly one to appreciate the prompt telling of the issues at hand my lady, but you must take some time to absorb the information I am about to impart to you, and it is wise you give yourself time to digest all the information that will start to return to you as you recover. '
The other Eletian nodded, as if in encouragement, looking back at his companion, he appeared intrigued at her every reaction, Karigan felt like sticking her tongue out.
'Prince Jametari himself has demanded you come under our care, given your services to Eletia in the fight against Mornhaven the Black. He has placed you under my care, in the Foundation's healing wing and I and my colleague Strathrin here will continue to care for you until you are well enough to tell us your account of the battle and well enough to leave.'
'Who exactly are you then? You missed that part' She mumbled feeling a little like a child being hemmed in by a scolding parent.
'I am Rohleim the witness, foremost scholar of knowledge in all Eletia, overseer of the Foundation and expert in the study of mortalogy.' He shifted again and added more quietly 'You may call me Roly.'
She couldn't help but let out an unexpected smile, and something in his eyes returned the amusement, his colleague looked stunned.
'And so, I continue, we are here to get you well, indeed we have already finished our first phase of healing, but we are currently in the midst of another and we believe this may take a further day (in your time).' At this Roly appeared to look over at Stathrin archly, who received the look with a look of great respect and wonder, staring again at Karigan strangely.
'However Karigan I fear there is some damage I cannot correct. You have been involved in a significant personal battle, that much is clear, there are some wounds even we cannot heal.' He looked her over with a touch of gravity, it dawned on her that this perhaps was Eletian sensitivity. Unbidden she reflected on how she came to be here, and her recent history, she looked away briskly, it felt wrong, strangers prying into her life. How much did these Eletian's know? As if he read her thoughts again he spoke.
'Do not be concerned Galadheon, I cannot see your mind, but are able to measure and adjust the ..what would you call it… ahh, perhaps energy levels, yes that describes it fairly well.' Stathrin looked like he was absorbing this information too.
'There is one further thing. The Prince protects you, and many Eletians are grateful for your help, but we are an old race and many of us have seen too much to trust easily. There are some that would not be happy at a mortal being brought to Eletia. You are here in secret, we feel it is for the best at the current time'
Karigan nodded somberly, since she had known Eletians, she had known their hesitancy around her.
'Our aim is to make you well and then take you back as soon as it is done, allowing you to return to your king.'
Karigan's dry throat suddenly felt unbearably tight, she felt sick at the thought of returning to Sacordia. She knew that she would not go back there, she was better off lost. Perhaps they should not have saved her at all.
Her dry throat rasped as she spoke, but she pushed out the words, staring hard into the eyes of both Rohleim and Strathrin for emphasis.
'Now let me be clear. I am not going back there. It suits me best that my discovery is kept a secret, I wish to disappear when I leave Eletia, and I'd appreciate you and Prince Jametari honour my wishes. As far as you are concerned, once I leave, I was never found.' The two Eletians looked down at her, her voice was hard, they saw her authority and will so often whispered of in Eletia, as if she were an artefact, a being that didn't belong to the races of her world. Her eyes were dark with emotion, under which were blue smudges. Scratches and red marks remained on her cheeks as fitting reminders of her terrible journey, her face was like that of an unearthly messenger, the two Eletians listened in silence.
Eventually Roly spoke, 'We will honour your wishes Galadheon.' He looked at his companion and nodded, 'and now we will leave you to rest, we will return soon.'
The two Eletians exited the room slowly and walked around the central flower garden where all the open healing rooms opened out from, they walked down a small path covered by an arch of climbing flowers to exit the healing wing and see the wooden splendour of the Foundation's library rise up before them. The large doors hung open and they entered the cavernous hall to see a bar of light running down a walkway in the middle of the library. Tall bookcases lined the room, all strategically placed in shadow. Two chairs sat in a curve of bookcases at one end of the hall, and they moved towards them, both slowly lowering themselves into the cool shade offered there.
Strathrin was eager to speak and could not contain himself any longer.
'Master it is a strange experience to study the mortals in the flesh! I was greatly impressed by your knowledge of their ways.'
'Yes, yes, perhaps we need to do more field research in the future.'
'Oh yes Master!' Strathrin nodded enthusiastically and then sat silently looking over at Rohleim's stare of concentration. 'Will the Prince be happy with the Galadheon's request for secrecy, master?'
'I'm not sure, but he will honour it.'
'I thought you might tell her Master, about the mortal that waits at the gate for her, given her ..reluctance to see her people again.'
'Strathrin.' Roly looked up calmly, folding his hands on his lap 'There are times when information should be retained and evaluated before communication, particularly with mortals. She is unwell and has performed many services for her people and ours. I admire her, truly, she is an interesting character study… we will certainly cover her again in the new term I think, but I feel this is not the right time for this information. She is not to be told and we shall wait and see what unfolds.'
'Good, now given your new experiences today, I want you to go and review Cumbrill's 'Social phenomenon in Mortal life' and come back to me with questions.'
Strathrin scurried away excitedly, and Roly relaxed back into his seat, his hand raised to cradle the small pendant hanging around his neck. What a wonder it was to experience the world, not just in Eletia but outside, to mark the differences between their kind and others, but more wondrous to mark the similarities, he smiled to himself and took his notebook from his pocket.
Updated! Read on for final chapters…