Far away . . .

"Bleep bleep bleep!" The incessant sound of my alarm clock woke me. I groaned and covered my head with my soft feather pillow, trying to block out the world streaming through my 'window'. My 'window' is really a crudely cut square in the side of my 'wall'. My 'wall' is really a shaggy moss covered trunk. Yes yes, you may have guessed but I live in a tree. "Bleep bleep bleep!" my clock says reminding me that it's still there. As if I hadn't forgotten with it going off every 5 seconds! I thought wryly. With a sigh, I heave myself up off my comfortable, warm bed and stretch. I touch my toes, lean side to side, all the while peering out at the sprawling town below me. Cobblestone streets line closely spaced cottages, stands run by elves and dwarves are bustling with eager customers, and to my right is the great shining sea. Today, the ocean is a turquoise blue, its waves lapping gently against the pristine white sand. If I squint, I can see small figures running up and down the shore. I breathe deeply and close my eyes. The warm gentle scent of salty brine hits my nostrils as I float way. I imagine the hot sun warming my back, the cool waves lapping at my toes, and lying on the soft white sand . . . Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light. I open my eyes. My room looks back at me, as normal as ever. Strange, I think, I could have sworn . . . I shriek. "Larai, are you alright?" calls my father. "Yes, I just . . . I . . ." I fumbled for words. "I just noticed that my favorite dress is crumpled! Can Mother iron it?" I say through gritted teeth. "Yes, I'll tell her to come up now. Can't have our darling not looking her best!" my father says cheerily. "No!" I say too quickly. "I'm . . . er . . . busy!" "Well, alright then. Tell me when you need her." Silence. I breathe a sigh of relief. I peer down at my feet. Sure enough, water is seeping up from an invisible source beneath my floor. Sand is heaped in the farthest corner of my room. I wriggle my toes, enjoying the sensation for a moment. You see, I am gifted with magic. Not surprising as I live in the magical world of Aldenmor. But lately, those with magic have been . . . oppressed by those who are non gifted. This group of people is named the Purists. They want to 'purify' Aldenmor magic users. In other words, the Purists are a bunch of P.O.'d people who want to end magic forever. And luckily for me, this includes my parents.

It began last year on Midsummer's Night. In Aquatania, we view this as a festival night. Those younger than 13 are ordered to stay indoors because of some dangerous festivities. All magic users coin together and perform a show. Afterwards, there are fireworks and parades and games. Then the streets become barren wastelands. Everyone locks there doors and closes there windows. For on Midsummer's, the barrier between the Otherworld and Aldenmor is weak and the strongest demons and shadow creatures escape. And at midnight they wreak havoc. Apparently last Midsummer's, a group of novice Purists stayed out. No one knew. When the shadow creatures were freed, they parleyed with them and reached an agreement. An unlucky magic user had become trapped outside. They hunted him down and ripped him to shreds. Some say you can still hear his moans and shrieks. And my parents are members of this organization. Of course, both think it terrible he was killed but both are very centered against magic. If they ever found out there perfect daughter had magic . . . It would all be over for me. They would disown me, wipe away my identity. That's why I comply to there wishes. I wear itchy, uncomfortable clothes they deem 'respectable'. I learn etiquette. I ignore those below me. And I stay inside and away from 'dangerous' magic. Remembering the water, I frantically looked for a towel. The only thing I saw was a heap of silk, chiffon, and jewels. I grabbed the dress and used it to mop up the majority of the water. But quickly as it vanished it returned. Glancing around, I made sure no one was near. I walked with purposeful steps to my wall. I placed my hand on the soft green moss and swept my hand across it. I felt a bump as the moss smoothly crept away from a tiny hole. Nestled within the many layers of rock and vegetation sat a gleaming pure silver stone. I picked it up and felt the hair on the nape of my neck raise. It felt warm, like an egg. I turned away and walked toward the water. Closing my eyes, I felt a tingling sensation stretch over my body. The stone quivers, pulsing gentle silver light. I imagine the water receding, the sand vanishing. I curl my hand and direct all the energy at the mess. The sound of thunder and rain fills my ears as the water vanishes. The sand though, flies out the window and deposits onto an unlucky vender. When the noise clears, I shake my head, and close the window blocking out the angry shouts of the dwarf.

I walk down the winding stairs, fingering the smooth polished banister. Our whole house is quite neat an orderly. All the rooms are carved out of the enormous trunk of our Sea Oak tree. Our house has two stories. Downstairs consists of an atrium, a garden, a dining room, a living room, and my fathers' and mothers' work rooms. Upstairs holds our bed rooms, two bathrooms, an attic, and an old playroom. I walk through the atrium, the ceiling open to the sky and take in the warm sunlight. Then I look down at my reflection in the pond. My golden brown hair is a knotted mess, my night rumpled and creased. I look at my grimacing features. In the looks department, I do just fine. I have a slender figure, as my mother says, but I think I am just skinny. I have waist length hair, sea green eyes, and a small sloping nose and a button mouth. I have slightly tapered ears. You see, I'm not really an elf, but a sort of mix. It's a long story.

This is my mothers description. Honestly, I only care about appearances if I have to. Otherwise, I would be content to run around barefoot all day on the beach playing with the birds and seals. I clear my mind and race back up the stairs. In front of my mirror, I pull a seashell comb through my knotted hair, making it smooth and shiny. I undress and scrub myself quickly, then douse in a mild vanilla perfume. I open my closet with a loud screech and stare at the endless racks of clothes. I pick out a turquoise and sea green dress that is ruffled and made of soft silk and cotton. It falls just to my knees. The dress I chose is just about the only one that is not uncomfortable. I clasp a small blue necklace around my neck, then remember my stone. I shrug and slip it into my satin shoes which pinch my toes. Because my family is going into town today, I open a little wooden box and pin a golden crest over my heart. The Sheawd family symbol. I hear my mother calling me. "I'll be down soon mother!" I yell. "Larai, it is not respectable for a young lady to yell at her mother" she said sternly. Rolling my I eyes, I called softer this time, "I apologize mother" I can almost see her nodding and tutting in approval.

As we make our way down the bustling streets, my mother holds her head high. She nods to acknowledge Mr. Dwere and his wife, Fryta Dwere. I see an interesting stall, and I tug my mother's sleeve. "Can I go over there?" I say nodding toward the stall. It's a trick. My mother is 'enthralled' when I'm interested in jewelry, perfume and the rest of that junk. She tilts her head. "Please?" I say looking at her with my most pleading eyes. "Well . . . alright. Be back in 15 minutes young lady." "Thanks!" I yell forgetting my manners and pull my skirts up and run. 15 minutes is more than enough as I run to the nearest bathroom alcove.

I slip out of my dress. Beneath the blue material I wear a pair of soft fawn brown pants. I also wear an itchy white shirt, but to blend in and have 15 minutes of freedom, it's worth it. My shoes I take off last. Most people go barefoot. As I yank off my right shoe, I hear a strange sound. I look up in time to see my silver stone skitter across the cobblestone. I dash out into the street, almost getting flattened by a carriage pulled by beautiful kelpie horses. I close my eyes, waiting to feel pain and the crunch of bones. Nut nothing. The carriage has swerved to my right, upsetting a stall. I seize my chance and run to the other side of the street. I frantically fall to my knees and scrabble for the stone. Nothing. I hear a chitter and look up. A small sea monkey looks down at me. Sea monkeys are like a mix between an earth squirrel, mouse, dog, and a silvery fish. This one was very adorable. And it was holding my stone. My stone. My stone! I lunged at the little critter, which agilely jumped away. Then it froze. Its form was changing, morphing. Its body seemed to become melted glass, a puddle of water, then quicksilver. I dared not blink. The puddle of quicksilver began to bubble, reforming into legs, then a tail. Then it turned into a silver cat. I cautiously tapped its side as it became alive once more. I shrieked and the cat meowed and hissed. It dropped my stone, which skittered away. This time I caught it. I turned to get the cat, but all I caught was a fleeting glimpse of its ruddy brown tail as it slid away. I shivered. From that one moment of contact, I learned one thing. The cat's name was Shiara.