And yes, it is the final challenge of CWWC.
BUT BUT BUT
That also means that you will be getting a MASSIVELY AMAZING story today! *dances around throwing confetti and balloons everywhere*
(Although be aware, as this is pretty long. ((and by pretty long, I mean about 2500 words or something…))😜)
Note to Loren: I used 19 prompts from previous challenges and 2 prompts from Challenge 9. And Part 3 is the only part I am entering for Challenge 9.
After Jasper’s foot was healed enough she could walk, they set out on their journey again. As they neared their destination, Aria became more and more depressed.
This was a place she had vowed to never return to.
This was a place she had never wanted to return to.
This was a place she had broken her heart.
Finally, they arrived.
It was a massive camp. Hundreds upon hundreds of tents lined up in neat rows and columns. In the dead center was the largest tent of all. It stood fifteen feet high with a length of over fifty feet and a width of fifty feet. Beside it lay a smaller tent, only about twenty feet long on each side and six feet high.
he massive tent was the Royal Tent. It housed the Royal Family. The smaller tent was the room used for councils. War councils. And by the look of it, it seemed there was a council going on when they arrived. As they walked through the camp, soldiers and women caring for them stopped their tasks to look at the girls.
Or more like Aria.
As soon as they saw her, they would whisper among themselves, pointing and gesturing. Aria knew what they were saying, but kept going with her head held high.
She headed for a small gray tent, with a deep maroon flag pole standing right beside it, set up near the cooking area. She turned to the girls and told them to wait outside while she opened the flap and disappeared from view.
Inside, was an elderly lady sitting on a small stool by a candle, hunched over a pair of knitting needles and some yarn.
“I knew you’d come back eventually, Aria Kulti,” she said, not looking up from her work.
“I have no doubt you did, Granty, but right now I have no time for welcomes.” Aria gestured to outside the tent, “I have three small girls who need some food, water, and warm clothes. I need to see Prince Jeric.”
At that, Granty looked up and raised her eyebrows, but did not say a word. After a minute, she bent back down to her work.
“All right then. Bring them in.”
Aria opened the tent flap and motioned for the girls to come in.
“Girls, this is Granty. She will wash you and give some warmer clothes. I will be back in a little while.”
Aria was thankful they were not old enough to realize something was not normal about her voice.
Aria stalked into the war council tent, throwing open the flap with a flair, and stopping infront of all the council, her feet spread apart and her hands on her hips in a defiant stance.
“Where is Prince Jerica?” she called out, surveying all of them.
There were about twenty men in total in the entire tent. Many scattered around in groups os two or three, and ten or so surrounding one young man at the large table map in the center of the room, the young man being the only one who looked younger than thirty.
At her arrival, all of them looked up.
A servant of some sort walked up to her and tried to usher her back out.
“I’m sorry, but there is an important meeting commencing at this moment. You are not allowed in here.”
Aria stood firm, even though many of the men gave her disapproving glares. The servant kept prodding for her to leave, but the young man held up a hand.
“That’s enough Bertlan. Let’s see what this young man needs.”
Aria snorted quietly to herself.
The young man turned towards Aria and asked, “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
At that, Aria threw back her deep cloak hood, revealing long, wavy auburn hair, a beaten face covered with dirt and scrapes from many journeys, and a daring gaze of piercing, emerald green eyes.
“You know who I am, Jeric Gunter,” she spat.
Prince Jeric Gunter, heir to the Royal throne of Kindiy, was having a very bad day.
War was upon the kingdom, with Unyte forces marching to Kindiy, getting closer every day. And also, Jeric’s father, King Junc, was very cross at him for not agreeing with the elders about their plan to defeat the Unytes.
In addition to all of that, Jeric had just discovered that the scouting party he had sent out earlier that week had been captured with only one man escaping. This caused the elders to start harassing Jeric about how their plan was better and safer for everyone.
Overall, Jeric was not in the greatest spirits that day.
He was discussing—or more like argueing—once again, important war matters with the elders when he heard a commotion by the tent entrance.
He turned his head to find short but sturdy figure standing in front of the flap, with a servant trying to push him away. Unfortunately for the servant, the man had his feet spread apart and his hands on his hips, very unwilling to budge.
Jeric sighed. Not another soldier complaining about low food rations again. But when he looked closer, Jeric found that this man was not bearing the King’s Raven, the badge for the Kindiy army, nor was he wearing the Unytes’ fox.
The man was clothed in dark grey clothing–a long tunic and pants–a black cloak with a deep hood, black gloves, black boots, and was equipped with a longbow, a quiver full of arrows, two throwing knives held in his belt, and a tomahawk slung over his shoulder.
Now this was going to be interesting.
Aria saw confusion pass through Prince Jeric’s eyes, then comprehension, and finally, happiness.
She watched as his expressions reformed from a confused and puzzled frown to a massive grin with his entire face lighting up. He strode over towards her and embraced her.
Aria shoved him off, backed away from him, and scowled deeply.
Realization dawned on him and his face became a little more downcast.
“Ah…yes. I forgot about that.”
Aria raised her eyebrows.
“You ‘forgot about it’?” She asked angrily, “How on this earth can you just, ‘forget about it’?”
Jeric looked quite awkward by this point. “I…uh…I…erm,” he stammered.
She pointed an accusing finger at him.
“It had been cunning, it had been ruthless, it had been relentless–and it had been hunting us. And what did you do? YOU LEFT ME.” by this point, Aria was shouting at Jeric while the elders watched, very amused. “You left me to survive on my own! You just walked off, in the middle of the night, for me to run from it, to survive from it, and to kill it, ALL. BY. MY. SELF.”
Jeric took a step towards her, “Aria, look. I’m sorry, okay?”
Aria scoffed at that.
“You’re sorry? You’re sorry? Sorry wouldn’t have helped me if I DIED. Sorry wouldn’t have helped me if IT HAD EATEN ME. Remember how I had called out to you? I had called out in that deathly silence like you would actually hear.”
“Like you would actually care,” she muttered.
Then Jeric laughed. A deep, joyful, happy laugh.
Quite taken aback, Aria just stood there. Speechless. Jeric embraced her again, still chuckling to himself.
“I know you’re mad at me, and I can’t help you with that, but all I can say is I’m just so glad you’re alive,” he replied.
He stepped back, holding her at arms’ length, and smiled deeply, his eyes sparkling. She couldn’t help but smile slightly herself, but that quickly turned to a look of confusion.
“Wait. You’re glad…that I’m alive?”
Jeric blushed slightly. “Well. Yes. I really am. We all mourned, for none of us knew if you had survived or not.”
“No thanks to you,” Aria muttered, but she was still touched that he had cared for her.
A pained expression took over Jeric’s face as he said, “Aria. I know you’re still angry with me, and probably always will be, but I would like to say that I am deeply, incredibly sorry. I would never have left you if I didn’t have a choice.”
Before Aria could answer, Granty came running–or more like hobbling–in. Aria and Jeric rushed over to her as she leaned down to catch her breath. After a few moments Granty looked up at Aria with sad eyes.
“It’s Lilly. She decided to go look for dragons or something. She ran off without me noticing right after you left. I went after her when I did notice, but she hurt herself.”
Aria knelt down to Granty and grabbed her shoulders.
“Where? Where did she go?”
Grant pointed in the direction of the forest and Aria took off.
Aria ran through the forest, tree branches whipping at her face and vines tangling her arms. She found the footprints of Lilly’s little feet and followed them swiftly, unaware of the crowd of soldiers that had gathered on the outskirts of the forest and Granty hobbling after her. After many minutes, Aria come upon a clearing unlike any other.
The grass surrounded the borders, but the floor was mostly stone. In the center, stood a small stone table with a tall stand for a Mirror.
On the ground next to the table, lay little Lilly.
She lay with her head faced down, her copper red hair splayed out all around her on the ground. Underneath her were many broken shards of glass, like that of a mirror.
Like that of a Mirror.
Next to Lilly, knelt Jasper and Esther. When Aria arrived in the clearing, they looked up at her with pale, frightened faces, appearing even whiter in the shining moonlight above.
“Is she okay?” Esther asked in a choked voice, trying to consul the crying Jasper while also trying not cry herself.
Aria remained silent and ever so slowly walked over to Lilly, too afraid of what she might see.
She finally reached Lilly and knelt down. She turned Lilly over, and froze. For on Lilly’s forehead, was a circle symbol. Two small circles, one surrounding the other, with two more unfinished circles around those. In the gap of the two unfinished circles were two little dots.
The symbol of the Draegons.
Aria staggered back in shock.
“No. No. This can’t be happening. No no no.”
Tears started to stream down her face, and she turned back to run the other way, as if she could run past it all and make it stop.
She ran past the other two, huddled together and sobbing on each other’s shoulders. She ran past Granty, shaking her head sadly as she blew her nose on a dirty white handkerchief. She ran past the camp, past the tents, past the onlooking soldiers with pained expressions on their faces–they knew all too well the sorrow of death.
She ran wherever her legs would take her, which just so happened to be Jeric.
She ran into his arms, her head buried on his shoulder, sobbing uncontrollably. Even if a little surprised, Jeric wrapped his own arms around her and stroked her hair while she soaked his shirt with her tears.
She didn’t care that they had been enemies for the past five years.
She didn’t care that she had hated him for all he had done.
She didn’t care about anything that he had done.
She just wanted some comfort in this dark, horrid world.
“I’m sorry,” Aria whispered, muffled by Jeric’s shoulder. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“Shhh, it’s okay.” Jeric continued to stroke Aria’s hair and comfort her until her crying had slowed down.
Finally, Aria stepped away from Jeric, wiping away the tears that had stained her cheeks. She saw that while she had been crying, Jasper and Esther had come out of the forest, carrying Lilly.
Tears started to once more well in Aria’s eyes, but she willed them away. She turned to Jeric and asked, “Where’s the best place we can put her?”
Jeric nodded solemnly. “I know just the spot.”
He led them all, including some soldiers, to a secluded spot on the outskirts of the forest. A semicircle of trees had been cleared away, to reveal a nice, peaceful glade. The stars could be seen high above, glittering through the tree branches.
Jeric pointed to underneath a weeping willow, its long leaves moving in the soft breeze. Two soldiers came forward with shovels and began to dig at the base of the tree.
The next morning, when the sun was just peeking over the horizon and only a few soldiers sat sleepily talking, Aria headed back over the path to Lilly’s Tree with her torch held high.
Kneeling down beside it, Aria lay down the purple and white lilies she had picked the day before. She stretched out a hand and ran it over the rough bark of the tree. Reaching down to her belt, she pulled out a small knife. With a few smooth flicks of her wrist, she had carved an epitaph for Lilly.
Here lies a girl who was unlike any other of this earth.
Before Aria realized it was there, she saw one, single glistening tear fall from her cheek and onto a purple lily she had just laid down.
She remembered the first time she saw those three, sitting on the house steps, with Esther wrapping her arms around the other two.
She remembered the scratched door with ten death locks, the note on the table, and discovering that the girls’ parents had gone across the border. The place where no one ever came back from, for what lay beyond was unknown.
She also remembered the way Lilly’s bright blue eyes had sparkled when she had been told about Hiolies, glow-in-the-dark butterflies. And how Lilly had imagined them flying around her, shining their lights on her copper red hair.
But even through her tears, Aria smiled.
“I told you that not all haunted places were houses.” she said as she chuckled quietly. “I told you that forests could be haunted too. Like the Faeries and their faded bodies and high-pitched shrieks.” Although, Aria’s face soon crumbled once again and she bowed her head in sorrow.
“You just didn’t know that even good creatures can become haunters,” she whispered.
Aria heard a small sniffle, and turned to find Jasper standing a few feet away. Aria sighed. I guess I should tell her the truth, she thought.
“Jasper, you know how I told you about me being raised by Draegons?” Aria asked, “How they taught me how to read, fight, and survive?” Jasper nodded.
“Well. I never did tell you about how they were also The Ferrymen. Mirrors are passageways to fantastic worlds guarded by The Ferrymen. Only chosen people may go through these passageways, and if you are not chosen, you…” Aria’s voice faltered at the last word, for she did not want to say it. “For if you are not chosen, you d–you perish.”
“Lilly was not chosen.” Jasper whispered quietly, barely audible to Aria.
Aria nodded slowly, she looked past Jasper and found Granty and Jeric standing back, watching the two talk.
With a sigh, she got up from her knees and walked over to them.
“They need a place to stay. Someplace safe, and away from harm. Someplace they’ll be happy,” she told them.
Granty nodded. “They can stay with me,” she said. “I own a cottage far away in the east that borders the Universe Ocean.”
The two best friends walked up the rickety old steps and into the log cottage.
They toured the inside and peeked into a room to find a fluffy bed covered in a very homey-feeling quilt and many, many books on bookshelves surrounding the walls.
“Jasper,” Aria and Jeric both whispered in unison. This room would definitely be hers.
They continued down the hallway and walked into the next room, another quilted bed and numerous potted plants placed everywhere. Flowers covered the window sill, bushes in each corner, and soothingly scented herbs on the nightstand, just to name a few.
“Yup,” Aria said as she surveyed the room, “This one’s for Esther.”
Granty came up behind them and placed one hand on Aria’s shoulder and the other on Jeric’s.
“You too go relax, I’m going to prepare some food.” She then walked back into the kitchen, and not soon after, delicious aromas drifted from the doorway.
The two sat on the small front porch, enjoying each other’s company and watching the girls play in the Universe Ocean and collect Universal Sands from the beach in glass jars, when Aria leaned back in her white, antique chair and inhaled deeply. The air was so much fresher by the ocean. The ocean glittered from the red sun on the horizon, and she just felt like all her worries had been lifted off her shoulders. She turned to Jeric and smiled.
“Yes. This is perfect.”
He smiled back at her and nodded in agreement. Groaning as he stood from his chair, Jeric offered his hand to help her up.
Aria laughed and swatted it away. “Just because we’re friends again, doesn’t mean I need you to help me do everything, Jeric Gunter.”
Jeric laughed, flashing his jubilant grin. “Okay then, Miss Independent.”
Aria stood up quickly and shoved him with his shoulder, laughing as well.
The two walked down the beach, one arm around the other’s shoulder, to bring the girls to their new home.
That was dark.
But the ending was happy. So that’s a plus. 🙂
I’m seriously thinking of going back over this, making it lots longer, and fixing the choppiness to maybe make it into a novel???
And maybe having a romance? I dunno, it would be interesting to try out I guess…
What are your thoughts?? I would love to hear them. 🙂
Also: Anyone live in/visiting the state of Missouri? Just curious…