Blights and Bargaining
”Who in the Ivy are you? ” The little girl asked, her head titled.
Kasis blinked at the flying girl. ”Am I dead? ”
The girl raised an eyebrow. ”No…are you supposed to be– ” her jaw dropped suddenly as she cut herself off. ”Where are your wings? ” She grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. Despite being half his size, she was surprisingly strong. She grabbed his chin and brushed his hair away from his ears. ”So round, ” she gasped as she covered her own ears, which were pointed. She clutched his arm and yanked his sleeve to his elbow, observing his skin. ”No vitiligo? ”
Kasiss eyes grew wide and he shook his head. ”Oh no. ”
”Holy glowshrooms! You
e human! ” she said, and flew higher into the air. ”Why are you not dead?! ”
”Oh no, no no no no no no no no, ” Kasis muttered, bringing his hands to his head. ”Why am I ALIVE?! I don WANT to be alive! ”
”Why would the Ivy spare this rando? Hes not even healthy! ” The girl seemed to vibrate in the air, her wings flapping so fast they made a breeze.
The two of them then looked at each other and started yelling at the same time.
”Why am I not dead? what ARE you? ”
”Whats so special about you? Why were you spared? ”
Then they fell silent, recoiling away from each other.
Kasis breathed deeply and opened a shaky hand toward the girl, looking her in her strikingly purple eyes.
”Okay, ” he began, his voice trembling. He had never encountered anything like this girl before, and he was overly aware of the fact that he was definitely not dead. ”Lets try this again. My name is Kasis, and Im a human. ”
The girl tucked her blue-purple hair behind her pointed ears, landed on the ground, her petite feet pointing away from each other, dusted off her dress, and exhaled. ”My name is Lotus, ” she said, pursing her lips slightly, ”and Im a faerie. ”
Kasis tried to smile at the strange girl in front of him. ”A faerie, huh? Ill admit, I certainly wasn expecting to meet any faeries in here… ” He dropped to the ground limply and sighed. ”I wasn expecting much of anything, actually. ” His voice shook.
Lotus bent down and frowned. ”What WERE you expecting? ”
”Well, uh… ” Kasis looked down, his face blank, and wrapped his arms around his knees. ”I was expecting to die. Thats what I wanted, actually. ”
Lotuss eyes dropped as she realized what he meant. ”Oh. ” She sat on the dirt, her mottled legs crossed neatly in front of her. ”Why? ”
”Theres no reason for me to live, ” he said with a shrug. ”My mom and sister are dead, and my worthless father was the one who killed them. ”
Lotus covered her mouth. ”Thats terrible! Im so sorry. ”
”Eh, its not your fault. No use in pity, it won change the past. ” He looked up, his melancholic mindset leaking into his expression. ”What about you? are there more of you? ”
”More of…us? ” She fell silent, an idea blooming in her mind. ”Thats it! Ill bring you to the village! The king and queen always know what to do! Come on! ” she flew off of the ground and offered a hand to help him up.
Kasis took her hand and followed her as she fluttered happily through the forest.
”You said your name was Kasis, right? ” she asked as they traveled.
”Yeah, and you
e Lotus? ” He smiled. ”Thats a really pretty name. ”
She smiled with a girlish giggle.
”Thank you! Ive never met a human before, but if they
e all as nice as you Im sure they
e great! ”
”They aren . ” Kasis frowned. ”How old are you? ” he asked, changing the subject.
”Im ten, ” she said. ”What about you? ”
”So, not a grown-up. Okay! ”
Kasis scoffed in mock outrage. ”I am SO a grown-up! ”
”Okay, skinny, ” she laughed. ”Well be there soon, so don get too mad. ”
Kasis shook his head and smiled, a real smile. in a matter of minutes, this strange girl had completely changed his attitude. Perhaps she reminded him of Rie, when she was younger.
”Can you see it? ” she asked.
”See what? ”
”The castle! Look through the trees! ”
Kasis squinted. ”I don see it. ”
” She pushed some leaves to the side and smiled.
e here! ”
Kasis gasped as he entered the village. The path they walked on was lined with glowing mushrooms and split off into many directions, winding around with no rhyme or reason. There were houses nestled between the trees, the windows lit merrily with more glowing mushrooms and the doors decorated with wreaths of natural materials. In the dim light of the forest, the mushrooms were the main source of light. He nudged one with his toe and it released glowing spores into the air, creating a magical affect. Ivy and other vines hung from the canopy of trees, some tied into swings and hammocks. People with glowing wings milled about the path, their bell-like laughter filling the air with joy.
”Wow, ” Kasis said. ”Your village is beautiful. ”
”The first level is mostly homes, and the second level has the market. Its built on platforms in the trees, ” Lotus explained.
Kasis looked up to see for himself. Now that he knew they were there, he could make out the platforms resting in the branches above them. They were almost completely disguised by the natural growth of the trees. He also noticed that some of the hanging vines had been tied into rope ladders to make the second level more accessible. The platforms appeared to be arranged in no particular order, mostly just wherever they would fit, with large gaps between them. Not a problem at all for a faerie to navigate, but seemingly impossible for a human.
e almost there, ” Lotus said happily. ”The palace is just ahead. ”
Soon they came across a shallow river. There was no bridge to cross it. Kasis hoped from rock to rock to avoid dropping his toes in the cold forest water. It made a pleasant noise, a quiet and relaxing bubbling that could be heard through the village.
On the other side of the river stood a magnificent palace. It was made of white stone and was completely overgrown with Ivy, which bloomed happily towards the sun. The outer wall and double towers were crumbling, lasting damage caused when the Ivy first took this place over. It curled through every crack and crevice and had completely dismantled the old catapults and nets that had once protected the palace from invaders. They passed through the first gate, left wide open for easier access. There were no guards in sight.
In-between the outer wall and the main structure of the palace was a vivid and healthy garden, full of odd plants Kasis had never encountered before. They walked a short way through the dense foliage and entered the main building.
Just through the towering arch of the entrance was a huge room that acted as an entry hall. Many corridors led off of the hall, but most were covered in Ivy and appeared completely inaccessible. Ahead of them was an even larger archway, flanked by two stone staircases that led into the towers of the palace. Golden sunshine steamed in through prominent gaps in the high ceiling, and rubble rested stubbornly on the old floor.
They walked across the hall and lotus knocked proudly on the door that sat in the archway, which was carved with images of flowers, faeries, and animals Kasis had never seen before. The door opened on its own into an even larger and grander room than before.
The room was round with a vaulted dome ceiling, supported by proud columns that were built in a circle around the perimeter of the room. A black chandelier hung on a thick chain from the apex of the dome, lit with glowing mushrooms rather than candles. Ivy wrapped around the fixture, climbed up the chain, covered the ceiling, and wrapped gracefully in delicate spirals down each column. It also decorated the walls and covered the floor except for a wide path that lead to a raised dias on the other side of the room, where two modest but comfortable thrones sat completely covered in Ivy.
In the thrones sat two smiling faeries Kasis could only assume where the king and queen. The king had a strong chin, thin nose, and kind blue eyes. He carried his shimmering golden wings proudly, and a wreath of golden flowers and thorns rested gently atop his blond curls. The queen wore a matching crown above a delicate brow and dark eyes. Red lips decorated a beaming smile, accentuated by slightly pointed teeth. She had bronze wings and silver hair in a braid that tumbled gracefully down her back. Both had ivory and honey mottled skin that seemed to glow in the low light provided by their wings. Altogether they were imposing but kindly figures. The sight of them put Kasis at ease.
Lotus bowed deeply and said, ”Queen Strea and King Eausykr, allow me to present Kasis, the human. I found him by himself in the forest near the clearing. ”
The Kings eyes grew wide as he looked Kasis up and down. The Queen stood and stepped off the dias, raising her arms in welcome.
”Welcome to the village, dearest Kasis, ” she said with a smile. Her eyes crinkled merrily as she spoke. ”It is an honor to meet a human such as yourself. ”
”Strea, dear, ” the King said from his throne, ”Doesn the Ivy kill– ”
”Look at you! Such a handsome young man, ” she said, interrupting her husband. She rested one hand on his shoulder and gently stroked his cheek with the other. ”This wound is deep. Whoever tried to heal it did an awful job of it. ”
”Dear, doesn the Ivy eat humans? ” The king repeated.
”Eat…humans? ” The queens eyes grew wide as she realized what he meant. ”How are you alive?! ” she exclaimed to Kasis as her hand flew to her mouth.
”Give him some space, Strea, ” the King reminded her gently. ”I can tell hes been through quite the ordeal to get here. ”
”Oh, yes. My bad, ” Strea laughed merrily as she sat back on her throne. ”Where are my manners? Lotus, dear, could you get him a chair? ”
”Yes, my Queen, ” Lotus said with a bow.
”You know her name? ” Kasis asked.
”Of course I do. I know all of our subjects names, ” she explained.
”Huh. ” Kasis knew for a fact that the king of the humans was nowhere near as kind as these two, and he for sure couldn care less about his subjects.
Lotus returned with a modest seat for Kasis (and another for herself) and patted him on the head with a smile.
Kasis sat as the king asked, ”How are you here, human? Tell us your story. Leave no details unshared. ”
Kasis took a deep breath and began on the morning of his mother and sisters deaths and finished in the present day. Lotus, the King and the Queen listened politely, occasionally asking a question. By the time he had finished, his audience was mortified.
”Oh dear, ” the queen said, ”I never knew beings could be so cruel to one another! ”
”Kasis, ” the King said quietly, ”you are welcome to stay in the palace as long as you need. It is the least we can do to help you in this trying time. ”
”Ill assign Philix of house Timen to care for you during your stay, ” the Queen said. ”If you have any questions, please don hesitate to ask. ”
”Ill go get them, your majesty! ” Lotus said with a bow, and quickly flew off. She returned a moment later with another faerie, who Kasis assumed was Philix. They had medium skin splashed with tan, green wings and eyes, and red hair cropped at their chin. They wore a green tunic and brown pants, and carried a quiver on their back and a sword on their hip.
”I am at your service, your majesties, ” Philix said with a bow.
”Philix, we were hoping you could serve our guest while he stays here. He knows little of the area. Lotus can help you, of course. ”
They nodded in agreement with the queens request and turned to Kasis with a quizzical look in their eyes.
”Thank you, your majesties, ” Kasis said with a deep bow. ”I am in your debt. ”
Philix then escorted him out of the thrones room and up one of the staircases by the door, hovering quietly just above the floor. They led him to an extra room.
”This is where you will stay, ” Philix explained.
”Thank you very much, ” Kasis said, plopping exhaustedly into the bed.
”Uh, sure. ” They turned to leave, but stopped in the doorway. ”You said your name was Kasis, right? ”
”Kasis…are you human? ” they asked nervously.
He smiled. ”Yes, I am. ”
”Well…theres a library two doors down, on your left. There are tons of books about us there, if you want to read them. Im the librarian, when Im not hunting. ” Then they floated off, leaving Kasis to his thoughts.
Ill check it out in the morning, he thought as he laid in the bed, exhausted.
He fell asleep quickly, and, for the first time in a long time, he had no dreams.
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