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Thanks for visiting the blog of Franci Nuit! Please enjoy my works of stories, poems, and short-stories. Follow me on Wordpress and Blogger to get the most up to date notifications of new material! You can also add me on Facebook for even more updates and story pictures! Links can be found below. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated, and as always...Enjoy! xo Gros Bisous xo - FRANCI

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Fictitious Joy

The many shades of sunset skies pour out across the lands,
and the billowing clouds above stretch out their wispy hands.
Caught between the summer sun, and moonlit evenings that follow,
a porous heart cries out, with an echoing against its hollow.
The misty perfumed air leaves a rosy colored trail,
but an empty love encircles, and leaves the spirit frail.
Restless, but still dancing to the only song it knows,
it glides through the phony smiles and many proud egos.
A glittering wonderland of magic, hope and love,
is all that's seen through the eyes of this coy dove.
Alas it's all but a dark and wretched facade of loveless smiles,
the tyranny of souls creeps over the land for miles.
Searching, always searching for its true counterpart,
is the yearning for this broken and somewhat crackled heart.
Dainty stars come out to play across plum colored skies,
just as the loneliness pours out from her tired eyes.
A belonging is there somewhere is all she's ever been told
trapped in a world of things so cruel of stature, greed, and cold.
The souls that wear their veil of pride peel back her reverie.
Blinded by the gloomy anguish, she struggles not to see
Fictitious joy flows through their callous veins,
and a vacant, empty shell is now all that remains.
Piercing her flesh like a thousand daggers and traps,
the frail one shrivels down, to a broken heart collapse.
The many shades of sunset skies will never now be found,
a fractured beaten heart, now lies upon the ground.

The Wilted Tulip

The wilted tulip's at my door;
Her fragile petals fallen to the floor.
The withered stem that holds her tall;
Can't promise harm does not befall.
Leafy hands to the ground are stretched;
Stress marks on her body, etched.
Her color is fading from green to brown;
Her face hangs just above the ground.
She looks at me with pollen in her eyes;
Tries to call out between her cries.
This wilted little tulip is not past gone;
She has the strength to carry on.
A bit of sun and water too;
Are just enough to get her through.

Summer in the South

Silver planes and sandy beaches
marmalade and juicy peaches
Sweet sweet tea and country fry 
Mountains so tall they reach the sky
Grassy yards and bare foot toes
Eggs 'n grits where it hardly snows.
Lighting bugs and Fireflies
All the same little glowy guys
BBQ cookouts and alligators
Campfires and fried green "tomaters"
Lots of cameo and the ducks dynasty
O' the south is just for me

Next to Nebula

Somewhere in the atmosphere, 
The temperature rises and everything's clear.
A beacon of light burns so far away, 
The beaming white star seems to linger at bay.
From the depths of the galaxies this circumpolar star,
Reaches in your soul, and begins to heal the scar.
Solar nebula's dance in their clusters of healing, 
Constellations of hope sprinkle a navy velvet ceiling.
Whimsical dwarfs cast their resonance upon you,
This celestial peace is a feeling you're sent to.
Driving your spirit towards it perfect lunation,
You finally find hope in hearts joyful ablation.

Wistful Unison

A heart wandered there along the lonely road
Through branches and brambles it persistently strode.
Cuts and bruises did it boldly bare
Angst towards the ones that had put them there.
Bitterness captured and clouded the hazy view
Uncertainty followed close always trying to push through.
Bloody footprints left in its indecisive trail
Tortured emotion hidden behind an intricate veil.
Down the path unknown there embarked another
The heart would soon meet, and soon discover.
This heart too wore wounds of her own
But this one had faced them, and they left her alone.
She danced down the path toward where ever she was meant
Until she came across a heart seemingly heaven sent.
Others didn't see it underneath its cloak of stone
But it had the strongest aura she had ever known.
The veil grew more transparent, and she got a little sight
Oh how tragically battered this heart was, and she held it tight.
Then a magical moment happened of epic degree
The walls crumbled down, and they could both now see.
Wounds and gashes now only faded scars
They healed one another, and drifted to the stars.

Mon Âme

33 years has passed me by 
Yet I still search for my perfect guy
Not one who is rich or perfectly formed
But one who is gracious, and loving, and warm
When I look in his eyes they sparkle back at me
With a fire and glow of volcanic degree
And a heart that beats faster because I am near
And a desire for me that's in no way unclear
When he leaves my side I stay in his mind
A feeling such as this is hard to define
But a soul that wants nothing more than lives bliss
Is the perfect connection for true loves first kiss
He stands tall over me, but not in domination
He means to protect this frail and coy creation
With a touch so soft that it's barely felt
Yet still so strong that it makes my heart melt
And the laughter that rings and vibes from my chest 
Is caused by his witty and insightful jests
And the love in his heart that he always seems to speak
Turns my life to ecstasy from its former putrid bleak 
And when he speaks to me its with patience and care
When he see's my soul, he doesn't see its wear
Certainly he views providence and protection
As things that are high in his womans direction
And when I am angry, bitter or depressed
He surely stops at nothing to clean up this tensing mess
The words that are formed through his purely sweet smile
Make my heart simply fly in the clouds for awhile
A warming of the soul is surrounding me 
My heart screams out "together shall you be"
And eyes of passion that draw me in
I surrender this battle that I cannot win
Together we would make such a perfect life
With you as my husband and me as your wife
And a house full of children that truly make our world
A couple of dogs on the sofa are curled
I know it's jumping forward more quickly than one would guess
But when your heart knows something it will stop at nothing less
Some people have to talk for a very long time 
To decide and figure out God's perfect design
But my heart will not hush it just will not rest
Be patient I can't even though I try my best
Oh no I fear it won't be soon
A life alone will be my doom
But my heart beats in my chest so fast 
I know you are out there, different from the rest
Let's find each other, be together, why not
Then drift into forever, and in the stars be caught.

My Companion

If it is distance that keeps your heart from mine,
extract that which keeps us apart.
If it is time that keeps your mind from yielding to your soul,
follow your heart.
If it is fear that keeps your feelings protected,
expose all emotion within.
If it is doubt that clouds your vision, 
cleanse your sight and let my love in.

Speak and my heart is yours;
Smile and my world is full of joy.
Gaze into my eyes and my mind is hypnotized.
Your presence brings me so much joy.
Daft are you at times my love,
I am here pouring my love out to you, 
though it goes unnoticed.
Time heals that which hurts the worst, a sorrowful song I sing.
A shadowy cloud over my heart brings rain filled days to my life.
Lipid pools of cerulean captivate my soul and pull me close.
But alas this is temporary, for my hearts' nostalgic feelings for love consume me
And anguish is my oppressed companion.

Mourning of Morning

Time tells all, but time does fall;
Morning glories grow ten feet tall.
Where brooks and streams lay counter-part;
They flow toward the oceans of my heart.
Sparrows fly low by meadows grass;
Forgetting all of a hearts broken past.
6 o'clock and the sun peaks through;
Only thing on my mind is you.
So sing a sprightly tune, and hum a melody;
Dream a gentle dream of together that we'll be.

The Soldier

Lonely hearts, so far away
Growing distant everyday.
My heart still holds onto loves hope;
With worrisome thoughts, love feels revoked.
As I read the thoughts you've felt for me;
My heart grows sad and tears spring free.
Glistening tears stream down my face;
As I remember your love, it can't be erased.
My heart cries out, do you still love me;
How can I know, how can I see?
Faith, that is all that is left to hold onto;
Love, that is all that I can feel for you.
It's been so long since I've heard your voice;
Or gotten letters, is this by your choice?
It's like your a ghost that has just vanished;
It feels as though my love you have banished.
Tear kissed pillows is where my head rests;
I cry myself to sleep; with you I was blessed.
Come back to me...come back to my heart;
Will you return or will we remain apart?
Missing you more with each passing day;
Where has your love gone, where does your heart lay?
I woke up last night, and thought I felt you here;
It must have been a dream for you are no where near.
I close my eyes and I hear your voice; I see your sweet face;
I see your loving eyes and feel your strong embrace.
I am still here, waiting, loving you;
Hoping that your love is still true.
Has your heart grown far and forgotten my love;
Days pass slowly with no sign from above.
You have forgotten me, though why would you remember;
The last time we spoke was back in September.
My heart hurts, throbbing with sadness;
Speak to me and my soul will feel gladness.
Forever you remain in my thoughts and soul;
You're the only one to fill this bleak dismal hole.
My heart grows dark with worry and fear;
That you don't love and you'll never be near.
Tell me my love what do you feel;
Make it known, the truth please reveal.
Sorrow lingers by clouding my view;
The world has turned gray, all I see is you.
Peace will be felt soon, tell me it's true;
Stop this aching heart from coming unglued.

The Thunderstorm

Darkness closes in upon the day;
The white fluffy clouds start turning gray.
The light on the grass becomes very dim;
The short fat tree's start looking tall and slim.
The children that were playing there;
Look up at the sky and begin to stare.
The raindrops fall gaining much speed;
The warnings that their mothers gave, the children do not heed.
Thunder booms and lightening flashes;
The water falls in little splashes.
The children scream with dreadful fright;
The thunderstorm there is a terrible sight.
The muddy water rushes down the street;
Into each little yard that was once very neat. 
The raindrops now slow their pace;
They know very well that this is no race.
For under each blanket each child hides;
And each run to the door where their mother resides.
The mothers assure their children 'Its alright'
They put their arms around them to hold them tight.
The mothers each tuck in their own little child;
For now this raging storm is only very mild.
And as each person sleeps warm in their own room;
The thunder crashes far away, in a small, little, BOOM!

The Girl & The Rose

In life we play roles, such as in a play;
Some bitter, some sweet, some bright, some gray.
And as we play roles that are assigned;
Hearts seem to wander, but no one seems to mind.
And then we look around and see that people care;
We stop for a moment, just to simply stare.
So sits in a small little kitchen scope;
A younger woman who finds things hard to cope.
Telling a story to three young girls;
With light blue dresses and silky brown curls.
The younger woman, lost by name;
Tells of a sad story, but none of much fame.
In a valley of branches, weeds and thorns;
A young girl sits and sadly mourns.
To have a love would make her glad;
And to be loved would keep her from being sad.
But most fantasies and fairy tales don't come true;
Someone only made them up, to keep from being blue.
But then no sooner than that does she notice a single rose;
It brightens her day as it blossoms and grows.
As soon as she touches this fragile piece of art;
It crumbles away and breaks her heart.
This rose is gone and it's the girl that bares the blame;
This I'm afraid was merely just a game.
But lovingly she picks up the pieces and plants them in her soul;
And she returns to her house atop the knoll.
Up to her house she goes and begins to turn the knob;
But then this trouble girl breaks out into a sob.
Now glance around young lady fair;
This rose has vanished for it never did care.
If ever she was alone it was at this time and place;
No one can help her to fill this empty space.
Crying made her feel secure;
No regrets and very sure.
But look around sweet tender soul;
No one is here with you in the vast dismal hole.
Eternally scarred, forever in pain;
This rose took her heart and left her in vain.
Where ever this rose has departed to;
I wish that I could find a way to bring it back to you.
Thy young lady fair, thy sweet tender soul;
Thy younger woman that lives upon the knoll.
Your dearly precious rose has fallen to the floor;
And your quite gentle heart has been broken once more.

TWT - Chapter 6

The children stood looking at the townspeople in confusion. Their faces were serene, as though they had no knowledge of what ever had done this to them. “It's uncertain who they were after, but it's clear what has happened” Parrow announced. “Yea, more fighting between these idiots. Looks like they found whoever they were looking for or this town would be buried. Stupid Grounders couldn't even release the townspeople” Pasha added. “I thought we talked about rude name calling?” Parrow frowned. Pasha instantly started apologizing, and while the two were talking Laric looked at the confused expressions that the others wore. Before Dovie had a chance to ask, Laric answered her question “Clayish; people of the soil and winds. Two parts of their kind does exist.” While that didn't necessarily clear anything up for them, they figured it was the best answer Laric could give them. From the corner of her eye Brietta saw Parrow hugging Pasha tightly, and assumed they worked it out. She felt down-hearted because she could have sworn she and Parrow shared a few special moments. That hug looked a little more than friendly , and she watched and Pasha ran her fingers through Parrow's hair playfully. She put the thought out of her mind and asked Pasha about the Clayish. She looked startled, but answered quickly. “Well ya see there's two types of Clay. There's the peacemaker one's that care for the soil so plants and food can grow. Decent people from what I know. They help build things and work with the land. Most importantly, they help put out wild fires” she explained with a glance at Laric. He cowered in embarassment and a little fear, but then replied, “I hold no responsibility for my ancestors!” Dovie stomped her foot, “ANYHOW? What about this other group?”

Pasha continued, “Both groups work with The Blossom. Those are a special race that who ensure care for all plantlife. The Blossom has been good to all of us. But, since the Queen died and her daughter has taken over, some of the Clayish have turned against everyone. They blame the Jollies for destroying the earth and plants. But mostly they blame the Fluxians for their terrible floods that wipe out their homes and food sources. That's the other group of Clayish...the ones dead set on eliminating all Fluxian. Oh yea!! Fluxian people control water, if you haven't guessed already” She chuckled at their faces after her lengthy explaination. Dovie, Brietta and Abbott stood flabbergasted with their mouths hanging open in complete information overload. “All these years I went to school...I thought I was learning stuff, but it just seems like I don't know nothing at all!” Dovie rambled. “What? They don't teach you Jollies this stuff in school?” Parrow laughed heartily. He composed himself and added, “Ok on a more serious note. Do you guys understand what is happening now?” “S-Sort of. The bad sided Clay people attacked this town?” Brietta guessed. “Righto! They must have been looking for a Fluxian person that was staying here, and instead of searching quietly, they decided to dredge up a mud storm” Pasha said angrily. Abbott wondered if there was any way to help the people of Haraway, and asked Parrow what could be done. “Well the good thing is that we can help them. It's just gonna take awhile. But the more we help, the more of them will be able to help us” he told them.

After Pasha and Parrow told them all how to help the townspeople, everyone began searching for buckets to fill with water. “Alright so we're gonna have to dump this on everyone” Parrow instructed. “Well that seems pretty easy” Dovie said. “Yea just be careful because they could have poisoned the mud” Pasha called over her shoulder as she dumped a bucket of water onto a nearby woman. The hard dirt shell turned to goopey mud and began to slide off the woman. She shrieked and tried to wipe her eyes but just stirred the mud around. Pasha quickly gave her a wet rag, and the woman wiped her eyes and face. “Thank you! I think I'm alright. We'd know if it was poisoned. I just think I got it in my eye” the woman said. Everyone started quickly helping the townspeople, and several of them told Parrow that this wasn't the first time the Clay had attacked their town. “Time before last no one came along to help us, and we had to wait for a rainy day. 5 days stuck in that dirt prison!” an old man informed them.

How terrible!” Brietta empathized. “But what do they want?” Dovie asked. The old man looked at the ground nervously, and then back up at the children. Just as he opened his mouth to speak a middle aged man interupted, “No tellin' with these folks. They just show up, cover our town in mud and leave.” Parrow frowned at the man, “So you're telling me, this keeps happening and you have no idea why?” The middle aged man laughed awkwardly and nodded. He wasn't a very good liar. He took the old man by the elbow and tried to pull him away from the group, but the old man stood his ground. “I mean to tell these nice young people what's been going on!” He fumed. “Suit yourself! I'll not be part of this! You're gonna get yourself killed!” The middle age man shouted as he stormed off. The group exchanged looks of surprise. “Maybe we should find somewhere a little more private for this conversation” Pasha suggested. The old man nodded and motioned for them to follow him. As they walked quickly behind the old man, they saw other townspeople cleaning up mud from themselves. The town itself was actually quite nice. Tudor styled buildings lined a large main road and carts of food and supplies were parked here and there. Just before the main road ended leading out to a field away from town, the old man ducked into an alley. At the far end an old wooden door stood waiting for them, and they entered it silently.

A small room with a great fireplace, a table for two, and a rocking chair took up the space. In the corner was a small kitchen area, and a ladder that led up to what could only be the bedroom. “Ain't the fanciest place in town, but it gets the job done” the old man said. “What burdens have you in this town” Laric asked him in his odd way. The old man glanced at him carefully and asked, “And you're one of them fire people ain't ya? I've met one er two of yer kind before.” Laric nodded slowly, “Yes. I am not like the others. I mean no harm to your people.” The old man waved his hand dismissively, “I know what them fire folks do! Stealin' our crops, and burnin' our fields! I don't want nothing to do with ya!” At this Parrow spoke up, “He's telling the truth! Please hear him out!” He wasn't sure why he trusted this Laric kid, maybe he just reminded him of a younger version of himself. Or, maybe he felt a bond with him because of his decision to leave the Thermic life behind. Whatever the reason, Parrow could tell that the old man had something important to tell them, and he didn't want him holding back because of Laric's family.

The old man sighed, and lowered himself into the rocking chair. He was a thin, frail man, and was totally bald with a long stringy white goatee. His watery blue eyes looked from one group member to the next. They gathered around and took a seat on the floor nearby to show him they were ready to listen. “Well I reckon I can trust ya, and if not then my fate will greet me when it's set to. That feller that was talkin' to me in the street, he's an ugly sort. Couple of them folks 'round here actually. Didn't pay 'em no mind until this weird stuff started happening. I done exactly the wrong thing, and went pokin' around. They didn't take too kindly with that, but I found out some interestin' things. Turns out them odd folks been hiding even stranger folks in a room under the Boarshound Inn. Folks that move water around, and speak in a strange accent. I even seen one of 'em drown somebody...had this big bubble over their head 'an they was tryin' to scream. Then he fell over, dead! It's true! I seen it with my own eyes! Well next thing ya know a new group o' weirdos show up, and they was blastin' us with mud, and stirrin' up tornaders right in front of folks! One day I was out huntin', and when I came back the whole town was covered in mud. At the furthest end of the road I seen 'em, them Clay people. Two big guys from our town was holdin' one of them water folks...uh, Fluxian I reckon they call themselves. A couple other dirt fellas were there too. That water feller tried to blast the woman that was there with water, but since the whole town was covered in dirt there was no water to round up. The brown-haired woman forced him to drink some kinda liquid. Then it happened! Looked like mud shot out of that mans mouth and I saw him hit the ground. Soon after it was like he dried up, then he turned to dust, and blew clear away...was like he never existed!” he finished with a confused expression.

Everyone sat dumbfounded at this wild story. Pasha clenched her knuckles, and gritted her teeth. Parrow and Laric shook their heads with disbelief. Brietta, Dovie, and Abbott didn't know what to think! A month ago if someone told them a story like this, that's exactly what they would think it was...a crazy story. No way anything like this could really happen, but now after all of the incredible things they saw for themselves, it was almost easy to believe something like this could happen. “What happened after the Fluxian guy disappeared?” Dovie wondered aloud. “Welp the dirt folks took a sack of coins out and gave it to our two town fellers...Thomas Norwood and Jeremiah Duncan. The rest of us didn't hear from them strange Clayish until next time” the old man explained. “Sir, what name are you called” Laric asked him next. “Why I don't reckon that's any use to ya for this here problem! But, I guess it won't hurt none if I tells ya. Name's Jerry McCloud, pleased to meet ya. Ya'll figure you can help us out with our little problem?” he asked them. Pasha seemed confident as usual, but Parrow looked like he had some doubts. However unsure the rest of them seemed, they couldn't say no to an old man in need of help, not to mention an entire town. So they told Mr. McCloud they would certainly do everything they could to help the townspeople.

Eleven, it was eleven times that Dovie mentioned how hungry she was as they walked back into town, and Pasha was over it. Pasha rolled her eyes, walked away, and huffed something about camping in the woods without food for 3 days. Once everyone had been freed from their muddy prisons, and gotten cleaned up, the town seemed to bustle with activity. The street lights now shone with a warm comforting light along the main street. The shop windows were illuminated as well. The townspeople, although shaken from the earlier events, seemed in a merry mood. There were two restaurants in the town, and they stood right across the street from one another. The first was a cheery pub style place named Calhouns, and the second seemed a bit out of place in such a small, unwealthy town. It was called The Silver Spoon, and seemed to be a more upscale type of place that served fancy foods. The group was covered in dirt, and sweat from their travels, and felt that Calhouns would be a more suitable place for them this evening. With that decision made, they finally headed over to the restaurant, with Dovie skipping ahead of everyone of course.

She reached the large wood and iron doors, and pulled hard. The heavy door swung open to reveal a quite cozy scene. A large fireplace stood at the far side of the place, and several long wooden tables stretched from end to end. Three of the huge tables were already filled to the max with townsfolk laughing and scarfing down legs of turkey, plates filled with veggies, and pints of that bubbly stuff only adults seemed to enjoy. It reminded Brietta, Dovie, and Bo of the picnic style benches they had at school, and they smiled at the display of people enjoying each others company over a good meal. An arched doorway opened up to the left of the giant fireplace, and suddenly a woman came rushing through it. “Good evenin'! Sorry to keeps ya's waitin', didn't hear ya come in! Who would with all this racket? Well, I'm just glad to see everyone able to bounce back to their old selves after all this nonsense from earlier. You lot wanna have a seat? Ya sit where ya likes, an' I'll be round with a menu or two. Names Nan, holler if ya's need me” she told them pleasantly. She was a stout woman with a huge messy brown bun gathered strategically on the very top of her head, she gave them a smile, then took off through the archway again.

Once everyone had ordered their food, and Nan brought out some ice cold soda's for them, they talked about their travels, and went over idea's of how to help the people of this town. Laric seemed especially put off by the Fluxian's prescence, and made some rather rude comments about how they will get what's coming to them. Parrow didn't necessarily agree with Laric, but didn't seem that he exactly disagreed either. Brietta was surprised by this, but said nothing. Instead she pushed a half eaten new potato around on her plate with her fork, and sighed. “What is it?” Parrow asked as he noticed her downcast gaze. “Oh, I j-just don't see why everyone seems to have a problem with these Fluxian people” she said before she realized it. Pasha shot her a look, and opened her mouth to speak, but instead guzzled down the rest of her soda, and announced that she was going to the restroom. Parrow and Laric seemed shocked that someone wouldn't know why Fluxians were not well received. “I think they seem alright, well from what I can tell anyhow” Bo blurted as he gnawed on a drumstick. “What do you know about them” Dovie said in a snarky tone. Bo stopped chewing and blinked. For a moment he sat in silence, clearly flustered by Dovie's question. “Oh, uh...I just meant that from what the book says, they don't seem so bad” he said nervously. He had a horrible knot in his stomach, one that told him he shouldn't say anything about meeting the Fluxian Laraya, or that her daughter could be one too.

Laric stared at Abbott in disbelief, then spoke in a very disgruntled tone indeed. “If you had read its contents you would understand that the reason for the start of the desintergration of everything was begun by a Fluxian hand. Yield your words fair-minded!” Laric huffed angrily. Dovie looked shocked, and frowned at him, but before she could speak Parrow caught Laric by the elbow. “This group has come together to bring peace to the elements, the people of the land, and the skies. Take your Thermic tongued ugliness, and leave us!” Parrow hissed. Laric stood quietly, took a final look around at them, then turned to leave. “Well that was a bit dramatic! I don't think we should just leave him here all alone!” Dovie snapped. She sprang from her seat to chase after him. Brietta rose to follow her, but Parrow said, “Agh! She'll be back. Just give her a bit.” Brietta nodded, and rested her head in her hands. Parrow slid over to the seat next to her, and gently placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. When Pasha returned, she noticed the two and asked what had happened. Bo quickly filled her in, and she seemed indifferent about it. “Well c'mon let's go see what can be done. I never thought I would be signing up for babysitting. Sheesh!” she complained. Parrow left some coins on the table for Nan, and the four of them wandered outside to find the other two.

Understanding does not wash over you, my beauty. The Fluxian are a dangerous people, they mean much harm to the Elementals and the Jollies as well. I mean to protect you, I mean to ensure your safety at all costs. I mean to...kiss you one day” Laric told Davita before the others had joined them. Normally Dovie would have decked this guy for saying something like that, but for some strange reason anger didn't fill her mind. Instead, her face grew intensely warm, and she felt it very difficult to maintain eye contact with Laric. She stifled a silly giggle, and looked down at her shoes. Laric took her hands into his, but just then he saw the others exiting the restaurant. Dovie spun around to see what was happening, and Parrow told them that they were heading over to the Boarshound Inn to get some sleep. “We can make a plan in the morning” he informed everyone. As they all walked over to the inn, Parrow and Brietta hung back a bit, and the two could be heard whispering together. “W-We'll meet you inside” Brietta called to the rest of them as they reached the doors to the inn. They all gave a shrug, and pulled open the entrance doors. All of course except Pasha, who tried to catch Parrow's eye but finally gave up and joined the others inside.

It's a good night for a walk. I have some things that I wanted to talk to you about” Parrow told Brietta as he gently lead her down a little path off the main road. The trail was lit with torch style lights, but they were sparsely placed and only gave a soft glow. Soon the two reached a little pond where fire-flies danced above the water, and the occasional bull frog croaked. Someone had carved a wooden bench out of a fallen log, and it made a perfect place for the two to sit together. “What a day. Seems like everytime we turn around another obstacle finds it way into our path” Parrow said looking out at the pond. “I r-really appreciate you helping me, my sister, and cousin. There is so m-much going on. Please don't feel like you have to look after us. If you want to go your own way, I-I understand” she told him hesitantly. He turned to look at her, and smiled a dazzling grin. “Brietta, I think you're great. None of this is a burden of any kind. I want to help you and your family. It's truly a pleasure spending time with you, even if the circumstances aren't exactly perfect. Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?” he asked her sweetly. She blushed, and looked down at the flower in her hands that she'd picked earlier. Silence fell between them, and she began to fidget with the stem of the flower nervously. Suddenly, she realized that she hadn't even replied. Her gaze left the little daisy, and met again with Parrow's. He was truly a handsome fellow, probably the most handsome Brietta had ever met. She thought of all the boys that used to tease her at school, and wondered how such a cute, sweet guy could say such wonderful things to her. She smiled bashfully, and searched his eyes for a clue as to what he was thinking. He leaned in closer and Brietta's eyes darted away, only to return again to his gaze. All at once he was kissing her, his tender lips upon hers. She closed her eyes, and seemed to drift away as they shared this magical moment.

When they broke away from each other, Brietta felt her face grow very hot indeed. Parrow smiled at her, and tucked Brietta's hair behind her ear. “You're a good kisser” he said softly. Brietta's face turned a bright red, but thankfully Parrow couldn't really tell in the dim light of the torches. He took her by the hand, and mentioned how they better meet up with the others. She let him lead her down the path once again, but this time she was sure that she was floating.

That night, as everyone slept in their beds at the Boarshound Inn, Abbott tossed and turned. His odd sleep behavior was acting up again. He heard voices speaking to one another in a strange way. They sounded like they were standing right beside his bed. Louder and louder the voices were talking, almost as if they were yelling. Finally Abbott sat up, but this wasn't like the other times he walked around at night. It wasn't like the times when he lived with his aunt and uncle. No, this time he was actually awake. He wandered out into the hall, then down the large wooden steps leading to the first floor. As he approached the main floor, he saw the hotel clerk leave her post and slip into the back room. A perfect opportunity to sneak past her and explore. He just had to find out where those voices were coming from. Quickly he dashed across the lobby following the sound of the voices, and found himself in front of a plain wooden door. This one wasn't lavish and heavy at all. It was hardly more impressive than if they would have used a piece of plywood. Abbott turned the handle and door opened with a gentle creak. He glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching, then slipped through the doorway.

The voices seemed to sound like a normal volume now, not like before when they seemed to be in his mind. An unstable looking wooden staircase took him down what felt like two stories, until he finally reached the bottom. He thought to himself “Geez, there's nothing even down here.” Then plopped himself down on the last step. All that was around him were the two side walls of the staircase and a solid rock wall in front of him. As he sat in frustration at the disappointment of where the stairwell led him, he noticed something. The voices had stopped. He was sitting in complete silence, staring at the stone wall. “Why would someone build a set of stairs that leads to nowhere? There has to be something behind that wall” he thought to himself. He walked up to the wall, and pressed his ear against its cool smooth surface. He thought perhaps if the wall wasn't very thick he could somehow break through it. He strained to hear anything, but all he could hear was the dripping of water from the ceiling. He came away from the stone wall, and held his hand out to catch the water. Looking up he saw that the drops weren't falling fast at all. Someone had placed a little silver pail to catch the water of the leaky ceiling. He dipped his hand into the water, and found that it was quite hot. Surprised he withdrew it quickly, then grabbed the pail and flung it at the stone wall. The force of the bucket had no effect on the wall, but the water revealed something etched into the stone. “Upside down right hand must be, 3 of left foot, then you'll see” Bo read aloud.

For some people, riddles and such are a mind boggling thing. For Abbott Winterdale, riddles were as easy as riding a bike. So, when he read the riddle, he chuckled and knew exactly what to do. He twisted his right hand so that his palm faced out, and his fingers pointed to the ground. Then he placed it against the stone wall. Next, he pressed his left foot against the wall, careful only to have his first three toes touching the wall. It was an awkward position, and he had to steady himself carefully so that he wouldn't fall. The wall softened, and Abbott seemed to fall through where the stone wall once stood. Strangely, he found himself lying on the ground in another room. When he picked himself up, he saw that he was standing in a lavish living room. Everything about this room was elegant, and everything was stark white. The chandelier hanging from the ceiling, the fluffy fur rug in the middle of the room, and the expensive leather couches, were all white! Large curtains hung in front of murals painted to look like the outdoors, and the décor around the room was all made of crystal, and pearls.

Bo looked around and wondered if he had bumped his head, and was just imagining all of this. Just as he was thinking this, the single white door in the room opened. A man and woman came through the door, smiling and laughing. They were odd looking, sort of like those strange people he saw by the river when he first left on this crazy journey. The man was slender with a muscular build. His wavy brown hair was styled like someone from the 1930s would have it. Deep set blue eyes sparkled under his brows, and a thin (truly unnecessary) mustache sat on his lip. The woman was beautiful with a pearl-pink skin tone, and long blue dreadlocks. She was tall and lean built, and her dark brown eyes seemed like they held a secret behind them. The two of them were both dressed in strange outfits as well. The man wore a nice suit with a jacket made entirely of woven seaweed, and the womans dress was dazzling and covered in purple clam shells. Both of them wore a pendant with a drop of water. Abbott recognized this, and came to the realization that these people were Fluxians.

They didn't seem to notice him at all, but instead walked over to the couch and sat down. They talked in that strange accent about something called the Masconese, and the mysterious book Abbott and the girls found. He crept closer to them, unsure whether or not to reveal his presence. “They grow quite impatient lately. The new leader will be known soon, yet they seem to be losing hope. The messenger has been sent to him, but his mind remains distracted” the man mentioned to the woman. She nodded and responded politely, “My dear Quimby, our hopes need to remain steadfast. The boy will soon be found, and persuaded. He will realize his importance to our people. His heart will understand the betrayal of his sister. He will know how she turned her back on him before her first words, and his anger will ensure his loyalty to us.” The man nodded in agreement, and wore a relieved expression. “Wise words you speak my darling. Whenever I think of your words, my heart fills with love. For your name truly reflects the ways of your soul. Calliope, how true your harmonious poetic name suits you” He kissed the woman's hand, leaned toward her, and spoke softly. Bo could barely make out what the man, Quimby was saying. As he took a step forward to be in better earshot, his foot caught on his shoelace and he went tumbling forward.

He should've hit the back of the couch where Quimby and Calliope were seated, but instead he kept falling until he hit the ground. He crashed to the ground, catching himself on his elbows. As he winced in pain he looked around the room again, but this time the beautiful room had disappeared. Instead of the airy white room, he now gazed at a dim lit room with old furniture scattered about. There were no painted murals to resemble outdoors, instead there was a small wood stove, a four top table, and a little cupboard placed nearby. On the opposite side of the room was a large thick curtain that hung from wall to wall, and floor to ceiling. Bo noticed a light coming from behind the curtain, and curiosity got the better of him. He moved slowly toward the curtain, and pulled it away from the wall just enough to get a glimpse of what was behind it.

Five single beds were positioned in rows, a small candle on a table lit the space, and in the last bed a figure lay sleeping. Bo carefully released the curtain, and stepped backwards carefully, but suddenly he felt himself in the clutch of someone's grasp. He tried to scream, but a hand quickly covered his mouth. Then suddenly everything went dark.

TWT - Chapter 5

Pasha and Abbott traveled through the evening to her cabin, for some food and rest. Pasha told him it was best to start their search in the morning. Bo of course objected, insisting that they were letting Arista get further away. But, with a little convincing Pasha led them to her cabin. He ate the meal of bread, chicken, and carrots quickly as his belly hungrily growled. He had barely swallowed the last bite before trudging over to the couch and collapsing, fast asleep. Pasha smiled and shook her head, before retreating to her own bed for some much needed rest.

The morning sun was bright as Bo slept peacefully on the soft couch of the cabin. Pasha, who had been up long enough to make coffee, shoved some supplies into a pack, and pulled the straps over her shoulders. She gave Bo a light nudge and instructed him to get up and follow her. He explained the vision at Laraya's, and Pasha suggested that they start by the river. “There's a strange old tree I know of, we can start there” she told him. She handed him a thermos of coffee and an apple, and they started the search. Bo looked at the thermos and wrinkled his nose a bit. He didn't much care for coffee, especially black coffee. He didn't want to set Pasha off though, so he choked it down quickly.

Soon the sound of the river came, as Bo tried to keep up with Pasha's fast pace. The forest had thinned by now, and they could make out the river bank in the distance up ahead. Pasha didn't say much, even once they reached the river. She kept walking quickly, like she knew right where she was going. Bo had many questions but he wasn't quite sure how to ask them, and they had been walking quietly for so long, it would have been awkward to break the silence now. After two hours of nothing but the sounds of the crunching of twigs beneath their feet, and the noises of woodland creatures, he finally decided to speak up. “So...Do you know where you are going?” he said as softly as he could. Even still, his voice seemed to echo through the empty space. Pasha didn't hesitate at all before answering flatly, “I live in these woods. I know them well.” Well that settled that! It was clear that she wasn't interested in talking, so Bo kept quiet, and followed along until they came to a waterfall.

Now what?” he asked peering over the edge carefully. With that Pasha took her shoes off, and stuffed them in her bag. Then dropped her rucksack over the edge, to the ground below. “You scared?” she asked with a smile. But, before Bo could answer Pasha ran toward the edge of the waterfall, and jumped. Abbott let out a gasp of shock, and watch as she landed perfectly into the water below. “Throw me your shoes!” she yelled as loud as she could to Abbott. The noise of the waterfall was great, and Bo strained to hear what she was saying. All he was able to make out was the word 'throw', but Pasha's voice was drown out by the noise. On the ground below Pasha pointed to her shoes, and motioned for him to c'mon.

Abbott pulled off his shoes, and tossed them over the edge as he was instructed. Now came the hard part, jumping down into the water below. He wasn't truly afraid of heights, but then again he'd never jumped off the edge of a waterfall. If he landed wrong the impact to seriously injure, or even kill him. The rocks below were large, and jagged. He certainly wanted to avoid those! He swallowed hard, and told himself that he could do it. He took a few steps back to get a good running start, then jumped off the edge with all his might. He yelled loudly, half in excitement, half in fear before landing in the water below with a splash.

Not too far away Dovie gasped as she followed Parrow and Brietta through the lush greenery by the river. “What was that!?” she exclaimed. “I-I don't know I heard it too” Brietta added. “Sounds like we've got company up ahead” Parrow said narrowing his eyes. “What if it's Bo? It kinda sounded like him” Dovie mentioned. “Stay close ladies. We don't want to meet the wrong kind out here” Parrow instructed. They walked carefully along the same route, but the wind picked up, and Parrow grew nervous. Little dirt particles seemed to swirl in a circle on the ground, and the girls wondered if they would be meeting the strange woman Raisia again. Parrow pressed a finger to his lips, and motioned for the girls to continue following him. Dovie didn't seem phased by his behavior, but Brietta glanced all around as if something was going to jump out at her any moment. A noise in the trees startled her, and she lost her footing, slipping down off the side of the bank. Before she fell completely into the river however, Parrow's hand caught her's and he pulled her up quickly. The momentum of his pull brought them face to face, and he looked into her eyes. Her frightened gaze melted into a bashful expression, and Parrow gave her a smile. “That was a close one” he said softly. “UM! HELLO?! I cannot believe you two. This is no time for flirting!” Dovie frowned marching off. Brietta looked shocked, “Oh I wasn't t-t-trying to...uh-” she stuttered in flustered manner. Parrow grinned even bigger, “Well maybe you weren't...” His words trailed off and he took her by the hand, leading her towards Dovie.

Strangers in the woods” a voice called from the trees. The group stopped abruptly, and Parrow pulled the girls behind him. “Not often one see's such a sight” the voice spoke again in a sing-song voice, “Trouble could be near you know, around each corner that you go.” Parrow stood tall and called, “Who's there? Show yourself!” Dovie darted out from behind Parrow and took off into the wooded area to find the owner of the voice. “Dovie come back! Stop!” Parrow called as he quickly darted after her. Brietta had a horrible feeling, and stood perfectly still, unable to move. It was a feeling she couldn't explain, like something in her gut told her to stay put. Meanwhile, Davita searched the woods frantically, trying to find the voice that spoke to them.

Just as she was lifting a huge leaf of one of the ferns, she felt some grab her arm. “Agh!” she cried as she spun around. She yanked her arm free, and found herself looking at a boy with ash colored hair and honey-brown eyes. He looked to be about her age and stood smiling at her with a goofy grin. “What's your problem? Don't you know you shouldn't sneak up on people?” she snapped angrily. “A fair-minded one in the forest-” he started. “FAIR-MINDED? I am far from stupid thank you very much” she interupted. “The meaning is not what you think. You are a fair-minded are you not?” the boy asked. Before she could answer, Parrow showed up not even out of breath. “Dovie come here” Parrow requested. The boy reached again for Davita's arm but this time his hand was very warm, a little too warm for her liking. “Ouch!” she shrieked and again yanked her arm away. “My apologies to you sweet one” he said with an downcast expression. Dovie frowned and punched the boy in the arm, “Don't call me that!” Then she marched over to Parrow. The boy stood blinking awkwardly as he clutched his arm, “I mean no harm” he said with confusion in his voice. Then Parrow spoke, but it was in a strange way not like his own casual voice. He spoke with authority and stood tall, “Thermic are you not? State the leader who sends you. I request your intentions.” The boy was only wearing uniform trousers, so there was no emblem to show where he came from. “No leader sends my presence. No soldier follows my path. I seek a free life as one of the fair-minded. The woods have been graced with a beauty of the autumn leaf in her hair. I only seek to know her, to learn of her ways” the boy answered. Parrow tossed him a shirt from his bag, and the boy pulled it on.

Dovie wore an irritated look, and folded her arms in disgust. “That is old terms, do still they call them fair-minded in Thermo? The new law states to refer to them as Jollies as they find fair-minded insulting. Use your words with care” Parrow told the boy. Then, he spoke to Dovie, “What he means is he wants to be a Jolly one like you...a person with no power over the elements. Some people view it as a curse and want to be rid of all the problems it has caused for our peoples. All the anger, all the war and hate. Some of us long to be like the Jollies; free and living a simple life. He doesn't want to be Thermic, he is unhappy with their ways....and he thinks you're cute” Parrow said with a chuckle. Dovie rolled her eyes, “Never gonna happen bud” she said matter of factly. Parrow again spoke to the boy in that strange tone, “What name are you called? What year do you belong?” “I am called the name of Laric. I am of year 15” he announced. Parrow asked him, “Do you know how to leave your Thermic tongue behind?” The boy took a moment to respond, and he tried not to sound so very Thermic, “My native tongue is strong, I mean....My words aren't well at speaking like the Jollies. I only studied to year 2. I mean, 2 years. But I understand” Parrow nodded, “I know it's hard to adjust to how they speak, but if you want to learn ya gotta try.” “Oh gosh, where's Brietta?” Dovie blurted out suddenly. “I started chasing you but she didn't follow. She's probably waiting by the river still” Parrow said confidently, and suggested they get back to her. “Take me with you....please” Laric said kindly taking Dovie's hand. She quickly snatched her hand from his, and frowned. Even though Parrow was upset by past events with Thermic people, as far as he could tell this Laric kid seemed alright. I mean after all, he just wanted to leave all that behind and have a fresh start. So, Parrow gave Dovie a smile, and a nod as if to say it was ok by him. Noticing Parrow's expression Dovie gave a sigh, and rolled her eyes before answering, “Fine! But you're not holding my hand.”

The river moved steadily as Bo and Pasha walked along the bank. Little did they know that they weren't too far from the others. Every now and then Bo would pull up a wildflower or two, while Pasha inspected a tree. Then, she put her finger to her lips and pulled him down with her behind a rock. Voices could be heard coming from the forest, but they couldn't quite make them out. They definitely didn't want trouble, so they waited patiently until suddenly Abbott recognized a voice, and jumped up from behind the rock. Pasha gave him a terrified look, but he told her it was ok. Soon a group of three people emerged from the forest, and with shouts of glee, soon Abbott was hugging his cousin Dovie. Parrow, Pasha, and Laric exhanged looks awkwardly, until finally the two stopped hugging and gave introductions. “Where have you been ya creep?” Dovie asked playfully. Bo opened his mouth to tell Dovie about the strange but incredible events that happened at Laraya's, but he had a weird feeling he wasn't supposed to. It was almost like a whisper was coming from the river, instructing him not to mention those events.

Pasha glanced at him, then quickly replied, “I'll tell ya where he's been! Gettin' into trouble that's where! I was out hiking, and came across this pip-squeak hanging off a cliff, holdin' on ta nothin' but a tree root!” Pasha explained cheerily. Dovie gave a little gasp, “Bo what in the world?! I'm glad you're ok! Never understood how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time” she said in a joking manner. Abbott stuck his tongue out at her, and smiled. “Hey! Where's Brietta?” he asked looking around. “She was right here. This little booger scared us, and Dovie took off into the woods. Naturally I chased after her to make sure she wasn't in danger, but Brietta didn't follow. I think she was scared. Anyhow, we just came back over here to get her, but found you guys instead” Parrow explained. “Well handsome, it sounds like you should take better care of your friends, don't you think?” Pasha said with a bit of flirtation in her voice.

Parrow gave her a smile, but Laric interrupted the moment. “Shall we seek this Brietta?” he asked formally. Pasha's eyes widened when she recognized his Thermic accent, and she glared at Laric, “I see we've got a little sparkler here.” Laric looked taken aback, “Cease your words! I am called Laric, and I rennounce the Thermic name. I seek to be like the fai- Jolly ones.” Pasha raised an eyebrow obviously not quite convinced, and Parrow spoke up, “It's not everyday I would be caught sharing time with a person of Thermo. Though I have my dislikes about them, there is no need for foul names.” Abbott frowned in confusion, “Wait what do you mean?” Pasha gave a smirk, “He's talking about me calling this guy a sparkler-” “Once was enough to hear it” Laric snapped. “Ok easy everybody, easy. You see Bo long ago some people made up nicknames for other elemental races. Well they didn't really care for that, and now those names have become somewhat of a swear at those folks. I wouldn't go repeating that word ok?” Parrow explained. Bo nodded, and looked at Pasha. “Ok, ok! Geez. I'm sorry kid” she said playfully punching Laric in the arm. He clutched his arm and groaned, “Why does everybody keep doin' that?” Parrow and Pasha laughed, “Now you sound like a Jolly!” Dovie grabbed her head in frustration, “Enough about all that! We need to find Brietta before she gets too far away. Anybody got a plan?”

Laric wandered around the group for a moment feeling the ground here and there. He bent down a final time, and placed his palm to the ground gently. “She's gone this way. The ground is still warm from her footpath. It looks like she wasn't alone. If we hurry we can track her” he explained. “Wow that's awesome th-” Dovie said before stopping herself. She wasn't impressed with this guys attitude, and she was still mad at him for scaring them earlier. “Pfft that doesn't impress me, even if you are cute” she said rolling her eyes. She stopped and blinked oddly, making sure that she didn't make eye contact with Laric. She thought to herself, “Oh my gosh, did I just say that out loud!?” She did. Laric tried to hide his smile, but his cheeks were slightly pink. He motioned for the others to follow, and they obeyed.

Back near the river's edge Brietta had met a very persuasive person, and had been requested to follow him. “But how do I know you're a g-good guy? Why can't I stay with the others?” Brietta asked the cloaked figure that was leading her. “S-S-Stop asking questions!” a mocking voice answered from under the cloak hood. Brietta frowned, and decided she didn't like this person at all. Someone that wouldn't show their face to her must mean trouble, and she didn't appreciate them mocking her stutter. She waited til the sound of the river could drown out the noise of her footsteps before she turned and ran away from the figure. She ran fast, but didn't make it far before a tangle of roots caught her by the foot. The large curly green roots seemed to appear out of nowhere, and sent Brietta crashing to the ground. She held her ankle in pain, but tried to get up when she saw the figure approaching. Sharp pain rushed through her body as she tried to put weight on her foot, and she fell to the ground once more. “Please no!” she cried, holding her hands up to cover her face. “Listen girlie, I'm just a meadowman. I finds ya, I brings ya to her. Now let's go” the hooded man demanded. He grabbed her by the elbow, and pulled her to her feet. When he saw that her ankle was injured, he lifted her up and flung her over his shoulder.

Deeper and deeper into the forest he carried her, until they reached an enormous wooden log. There seemed to be no way around it as huge tangles of vines and thorns stretched in either direction for miles. The man climbed in the log first, then told Brietta to try to crawl through. For a moment she thought about trying to get away again. But then she remembered that she wouldn't get very far with her ankle injured. The inner part of the log was muddy and little bugs were crawling around through the gunk. Her ankle hurt so badly, especially when she tried to push her way through the log. She winced in pain, but then felt two large hands grab hold of hers, pulling her through the log. When Brietta emerged on the other side of the log, it appeared as though they were in a room covered completely with moss. The sun still shone in just as it would if they were outdoors. She looked around the room, and smiled as the bright sunlight illuminated the moss cover walls. She noticed here and there grew small white flowers, so white they looked like the color of snow. The cloaked man carried her over to a wall that was hidden with hanging vines. He sat Brietta down, and leaned in close to the vines, whispering something Brietta couldn't make out. Then her eyes grew wide as she watched the vines part down the middle, revealing an old wooden door. The cloaked man flung Brietta over his shoulder once again and pushed open the door. Through a mossy tunnel he carried her for what seemed like several minutes. She watched the lanterns of the tunnel, and counted them to pass the time. “Thirty-two” she whispered as the meadowman announced they had arrived. But where had they arrived, she wondered to herself. The tunnel opened up into a giant space, with walls that seemed to reach to the sky! “It almost looks like we're in a dried up volcano” she thought to herself. A small group of log huts lined a dirt street, and at the end a grand staircase let to a log palace. The sun shone in from far above them, but at ground level it seemed like dusk, and little fireflies danced around merrily.

What is this place?” Brietta asked the man as she looked around, but he shook his head and started toward the village. They walked past strange looking people that seemed to be covered in leaves and twigs, past carts of fruit and vegetables, and little leaf covered children who were playing on a swingset. Everything looked even stranger since Brietta was seeing it upside down. She was tired of being carried over his shoulder, but there was no way she would be able to walk in this condition. When they reached the large staircase a guard approached them, and snapped his fingers at a nearby plant. Suddenly an enormous leaf extended and the meadowman sat on it. Brietta sat in front of him on the giant leaf, just as curly vines surrounded them and carried them to the top of the stairs. Brietta, of course, thought this was the weirdest thing she'd ever seen. Two large men who wore log style armor, guarded the entrance doors. The meadowman told them that he had a delivery, and the guards stepped aside.

Once inside, they found themselves in a large, nearly empty room with lavish seats and small tables lining either side. At the other side of the room, three tall stain-glass windows overlooked a wooden throne covered with vines and small white flowers. The meadowman carried Brietta to the place in front of the throne, and plopped her down like a sack of flour. The middle stain-glass window then swung open and sunlight filled the room. A beautiful woman with long curly brown hair seemed to glide through the door. She wore a flowing sheer gown of pastel purple that stretched past her feet and dragged along the floor behind her. It, along with a twine like headband was covered with little flowers, just as Brietta saw earlier around town.

She moved softly over to the throne, and gently took a seat. She did not make eye contact with either of them, but instead kept her gaze on her neatly folded hands that were resting on her lap. The cloaked man now became nervous and wrung his hands anxiously before he spoke. He cleared his throat and started to speak, but the woman looked up slowly from her lap, and he stopped speaking immediately. He took to his knee, bowing almost down to the floor. Her lavender eyes were dazzling, and found their way to the place where Brietta was slumped on the floor. Her voice was like honey; sweet and slow. “You may rise. A true meadowman wouldn't have brought her to me in such a state” she addressed the cloaked man. “My sincere apologies you're highness. The little brat tried to run away, and injured herself in the process” he said with a grunt. But the woman waved her hand and told him that he was dismissed. He scowled at Brietta and in a very low whisper said, “Thanks a lot” as he marched out of the room.

Brietta looked up at the woman who showed her a smile. It was a kind smile, but something in her eyes made Brietta feel a little nervous. “It seems my meadowman doesn't know how to deliver something in one piece. I'm sure you are wondering what you are doing here?” the woman asked. Brietta could only nod, and the woman continued, “I am the ruler of The Blossom, Lady Azalia. Our village is small but very important. You see we protect the plants and flowers across the world” Lady Azalia explained. “W-What does that have to do with me?” Brietta said wincing at the pain in her leg. “One of our people noticed you while on patrol in the woods. He mentioned that you have a certain...quality. I knew I needed to see this for myself, so I had you brought here. Why haven't you healed yourself yet?” the woman asked. Brietta frowned, “Do you honestly think I w-would be walking around w-with my leg like this if I c-could heal myself?” Her stutter was thick in her anger, and she propped herself up on her elbow. “If only you had the right tools. We shall see if you are truly one of us” Lady Azalia said mysteriously as she snapped her fingers for a patrolman. He nodded, and returned in a moment with a large basket full of leaves. Some of the leaves were almost as big as Brietta's head, while others seemed small in the palm of ones hand. “Now you have an assortment of friends to help you. Let's see if you know who can help you” the woman said oddly looking at the leaves. Brietta could only think how strange all of this was. “What am I supposed to do with those” she wondered to herself. The patrolman sat the basket of leaves next to Brietta, then returned to his place where he was standing guard. Lady Azalia gave her eerie smile once more, and watched Brietta, clearly waiting for her to do something with the leaves.

Brietta picked up a leaf and examined it carefully. This one was small and light green, with little red veins running through it. Pretty plain and insignificant, it didn't seem very meaningful, and Brietta just felt like it was like any other leaf. A large yellow pillowy leaf caught her eye next, and when she touched it, her heart warmed. Holding this leaf made her feel like she was reading a good book curled up on a comfy couch with the sunlight pouring in. She smiled to herself and sat the leaf to the side. The next leaf she picked up was dry and wrinkled. She sat it down almost immediately because it reminded her of when her best friend moved away. “I never noticed that leaves made me feel a certain way” she said quietly to herself. Lady Azaila nodded and smiled, her eyes were wide as she watched Brietta and she told her to continue. The next leaf was bright green, and it was very satisfying to run her finger along its smooth waxy surface. Something about this leaf made her feel rested, and refreshed. Just holding this big floppy leaf made her so good that she laid it across her injured leg. She wasn't even sure why she did it, but as soon as it touched her leg she felt relief. She wrapped it snugly around her ankle, and she inhaled with a smile. She reached back into the basket and pulled out the yellow pillowy leaf and added it to her ankle as well. It felt as though her ankle was submerged in warm bath water, and a tingling sensation danced across her leg. After a minute or two it stopped, and she removed the leaves. She rose to her feet good as new, and she gasped as she wiggled her foot around without any pain. “So the rumors are true...” Lady Azaila smiled. “I-I don't understand. I've never been knowledgeable about plants, let alone the fact that they can heal d-different ailments” Brietta said in confusion. “Not all plants heal the same way, some are only effective with the right person. This gift is something one is born with, not learned. It develops over time, some may never know they are capable of such things” the Lady explained. Brietta stood in amazement, and thought about this new information. She wondered why she was brought here, and how all of this was happening. She still felt unsure about the Lady, but at least she could give her more details about what was happening. “I'm sure there are many things you would like to know, and you will if you're willing to help me. Now if you're ready I have a proposition for you.

All Brietta wanted to do was get back to her family and friends back at the river. She thought about telling the Lady that she wasn't interested in a proposition of any kind, but there was something about this woman that didn't set right with her. The phrase beautiful but deadly crossed her mind. Brietta's thoughts were interrupted by Lady Azaila's voice, “Well, dear?” Brietta blinked rapidly as her daydream broke and she decided it wouldn't hurt to at least hear what the proposition was. “Yes, ok” she responded softly. Lady Azaila looked a little too happy, but her voice remained sickeningly sweet. “You will be taken back to the ones you were with. It has been brought to my attention that they are seeking a girl by the name of Arista. Your task is simple, bring her to me.” Brietta was not one to blurt, but she couldn't help wondering what in the world Lady Azaila wanted with her cousin. “W-Why do you want her?” she asked. “Ah. A good question dear. You see destruction has been happening across the world to the plants, and I as their Queen caregiver simply can't let this go on. Our herbalists have a solid theory that the cells from the heart of the girl Arista, in combination with pollen from a rare flower can restore the plants flourishment and survival” Lady Azaila horrifically explained. “Y-You mean you want to kill Arista?!” Brietta shouted in terror. “We all have something to contribute to the earth. The plants provide us life, and we must do the same for them” the Lady went on. “No! No way am I doing that!” Brietta insisted, folding her arms.

Lady Azaila snapped her fingers and two guards came to stand on either side of Brietta. One of them had a large stick in his grasp, and he ran it into Brietta's shins with all his might. Instantly she fell to the ground with an agonizing scream, and she shook with pain as her shins appeared to be broken. Tears poured out of her eyes, and Lady Azaila spoke over her wails, “I'm sure you'll reconsider” was all she said. One of the guards held Brietta's arms out straight in front of her, as the other one again took the stick into his grasp. She already knew what was coming, and so Brietta screamed “OK! Ok, I'll bring her too you.” The Lady gave that disgusting smile again and motioned two women over to Brietta. As they wrapped her legs in an assortment of leaves to heal her, Lady Azaila spoke once again. “See I knew we could come to an agreement. It is my duty to protect the plants and vegetation of this earth...at all costs. You'll know what plant to give Arista so that she cooperates. Should you forget to bring her to me, I will see to it that one called....” she glanced at a note card, and then back at Brietta before continuing, “Davita, and one named Abbott will be captured and held here until I received Arista. And, I can guarantee they will have a much more thorough welcome from our guards than you had” she finished with an evil wink. Brietta was biting her lip so hard that it began to bleed, and all she could reply was, “I understand.” “Wonderful! Thank you for stopping by The Blossom” Lady Azaila said happily. With that, she exited through the middle stained glass window, and Brietta wiped her tears from her cheeks. The women unwrapped the healing treatments from Brietta's legs, to reveal perfectly healthy shins once more. The pain had stopped as well, and she got to her feet. Another cloaked figure was now by her side, but it seemed to be a different Meadowman than the first one. This time Brietta obeyed his orders in silence and occasionally wiped away the stream of tears sliding down her cheeks as she followed him.

I just don't understand where she could've gone” Parrow said to the others as they stood by the river bank a few miles north from where they lost Brietta. Moments later she came walking out of the woods as if she hadn't even been gone, and the others cried out with joy and excitement at her return. She nervously glanced over her shoulder into the woods as if she was looking for something. “What's wrong Bri?” Dovie asked worriedly. Brietta didn't think now was a great time to explain what happened in case someone was listening, so she shook her head and replied, “Nothing. I just got l-lost. I'm sorry.” The others weren't convinced by her answer, but could tell it was no use pressing her now. Instead, they did brief introductions with Pasha and Laric before Parrow suggested that they get a move on. “We're never gonna find her now” Abbott whispered to Pasha as they followed the others. “Shh, shut your gob kid. I thought we were keeping that bit of information to ourselves? Anyhow, I have a plan” she whispered back, and she ran up to follow alongside Parrow.

The group of them decided to leave the rivers edge, and head east toward a small town called Haraway. “Got a kinsman there that'll put us up for the night” Parrow explained. “Do you think your buddy could put some food in our bellies?” Dovie whined as she clutched her stomach. Parrow gave a laugh, and replied “Of course!” Abbott was hungry too, but his mind kept wondering off to Arista. He couldn't tell the others that she was nearby without telling them how he knew that. If he simply told them that he just happened to see her in the woods, they would never believe him. Brietta could tell that Bo was deep in thought, and asked if everything was alright. “Just hungry...” he replied. Just as Brietta was keeping a secret, she could tell that Bo was hiding something also. Up ahead Pasha walked along-side Parrow occasionally linking arms with him and flirting. Parrow was amused by this fast talking outspoken girl, but he also had come to have a fondness for Brietta's sweet and quiet personality. Not wanting to send any wrong messages to either girl, he continued to unlink arms with Pasha, and not play into her flirtations. Laric was just happy to be there, walking beside the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. As the group approached the village, he was daydreaming about Dovie's auburn hair, and how it reminded him of the gentle orange glow of a fireplace on a chilly fall evening.

Marching down a tall-grass covered hill, they finally arrived at the village entrance. The sight they found though, was anything but pleasant. The townspeople seemed to be frozen in place, their bodies covered in a hard muddy shell. Whatever it was that happened, must have come about suddenly. A man in mid-stride down the street, a woman leaning out her window, a boy chasing a giant dog. All of them stuck as if they were on pause.