A great adventure can often result from a noble mission with much planning, preparation and resources. Adventures sometimes spring from a lifelong dream or a heroic odyssey. But this adventure, the one you are about to read, happened to ordinary people on an ordinary day. And the ordinary people become extraordinary indeed. Our tale begins with a dream …
Chapter One: Sage’s Dream
Perfect and so exciting – gossamer gown – flowing hair and translucent fae wings streaming out behind. Bareback astride a unicorn, she seemed at one with her steed – skimming across the meadow. In their wake flowers and butterflies sprang forth. Bunnies scampered out of their way. One brown rabbit with pink pads on his paws sat up and waved as she passed. The fae blew him a kiss.
The fae, riding hard, leaned in close to the neck of the charging unicorn. He soared over a small brook startling a duck family. They squawked noisily and flew off leaving some feathers suspended in the air. The fae laughed with glee.
(Scratch, scratch – a sound – intrusive – irritating!)
The fae on the unicorn seemed to hear it and turned her head frowning.
The fae started visibly at the inappropriate sound. The unicorn even turned its head in mid-gallop – and soundlessly they popped out of existence.
Sage raised her head from the pillow. Angry that the delightful dream ended so rudely, she shook her head to clear the last vestiges of sleep.
(BANG, BANG) …again on her window. She arose and peered out the dew misted glass. In the predawn light below her window she saw …
“Pynch!” She muttered angrily.
Pynchon Oakgrove was below her window on the ground holding a long stick. He had been using it to scratch on her window. Then he started banging it when scratching didn’t seem to work. She pushed the window up and said “Shhhhhhhh … you will wake the entire sim”
“You are supposed to up and ready to go by now”, he whined in a loud whisper, “Hurry up!”
Sage pulled back from the window and scrambled into her leafy fae-pixie outfit with the rhinestone buttons and elven shoes. She gazed into the long mirror. I am getting big she told herself for the umpteenth time, disregarding her less than 4 foot height and tiny features. I look much older than 11 she thought with satisfaction. She ran a brush through her long reddish-brown hair. That hair had been the cause of her nickname. Sage’s grandmother had labeled her almost from birth and the name seemed to be sticking. She put down the brush, yawned and rubbed her sleepy eyes. That somehow must have triggered dream images floating in the corners of her mind. The mirror misted over. She saw again the beautiful fae streaming through the meadow on the galloping white unicorn, and then slowly fading away.
That image – that instant in time – was to become a defining moment in her life. Of all the unbelievable things that were to transpire that day, that vision would stay in her mind and change her forever.
Sage crept down the stairs and into the cold storage. She placed some cheese and grapes in a small bag in her knapsack and tiptoed to the back door. There was a note stuck to it. “Sage” it read, “be sure and take your bow and quiver with you and DO NOT LEAVE THE SIM”. Sage mentally stamped her foot. “Elf rules” she snorted to herself as she took down her hand carved elven bow and quiver. She put them on. “How did she know I was sneaking out?” she muttered, “And I get tired of carrying this stuff”.
Chapter II – Uncle Farley’s Canoe
Pynch was outside, hopping from foot to foot, anxious to be off. He was a young drow, about the same age as Sage and only slightly taller. He had on elven greens and carried a oversized sword on his hip. “Let’s go!” He said to Sage grumpily when she came out quietly closing the door. She shivered “Its cold this early” she complained. “Why did we have to start our adventure day so blessed early?”
“That is just the way it is with adventures” he declared in a loud whisper. “Who ever heard of an adventurer sleeping in till noon. That’s stupid!” He turned and marched off towards the river bank. Sage shook her head and thought “boys!” and followed.
They scrambled down the river bank and Sage gasped when she saw what was pulled up on shore. “It’s Uncle Farley’s favourite canoe” she said somewhat horrified.
“He said I could use it whenever I wanted”, said Pynch. “I am pretty sure he knows I am going to use it today. But he is away so I couldn’t ask him.”
Sage smirked at the obvious lie. But she really wanted to ride in the canoe and climbed in. “It’s your funeral” she said. Pynch pushed the sleek craft out into the quiet river and clamored aboard at the last possible second. They drifted for a few minutes, then picked up their paddles and started paddling clumsily. “Where to?” she said from the front of the boat, placing her paddle against the river bank to nudge them back into the flow. “To the waterfalls” Pynch said ducking an overhanging tree branch
They skimmed softly through the low swaying willows and were startled by the clatter when they surprised some ducks. The morning sun turned the tree tops gold and warmed the air. The scent of lavender from Lady Pammie’s pretty gardens wafted over them as they silently floated by.
Soon they could hear the deep-throated growl of the mighty Farhaven waterfall. As they rounded the bend they felt the cool mist and the sound grew hard and defined. The canoe slipped gracefully out of the river mouth. To their left the mighty cascade thundered onto the rocks. It seemed alive and joyous with silver water droplets frolicking and sparkling in the early morning sun.
“Don’t steer too close Pynch”, Sage sang over her shoulder.
“Someday I will ride down these falls in a canoe”, he shouted back. Sage laughed at the ludicrous boast.
“It had better not be in Uncle Farley’s” she quipped.
They skirted across the front of the curtain of water and spray, carefully avoiding the cross currents and whirlpools that threatened to pull them too close. Angling further out into the centre of the cove, they landed on a rocky outcropping. Three magnificent water-glass mermaids towered over them. They scampered up onto the grass circle at the feet of the blue-green statues and lay on their backs looking up.
“I love how the light shimmers and dances over the mermaids – it is like an aqua-marine light show”, breathed Sage.
“I like it too … Pynch said studiously …”but only because they have big boobs …aaaarrrrgh”. He threw up his arms to fend off the rain of blows from Sage. She had jumped him and was punching away screeching “take it back … take it back … you … you …pervert”. Screaming with laughter the kids rolled and wrestled and giggled till they were out of breath.
Resting for a few minutes, Sage’s gaze was drawn to the towering lighthouse on the south west corner of nearby Elf Harbour.
“I want to go up there.”
“We are not to leave the sim”, Pynch shook his finger righteously.
“I’ll tell your mom that you like the mermaid’s boobs”, teased Sage.
“Guys are supposed to.” Pynch grimaced, and thought for a moment, “I will take you up the lighthouse, if you will go with me to the fort”.
“No way” Sage said, “Lord Pericat is too scary. Mom says he was a fearsome pirate and he will feed us to the sharks if he ever catches us.
“Naaaaaa, that’s baloney. He was the manager of a fae underwear store. They fired him for spending too much time in the stock room”. They laughed until their sides hurt at the silly thought.
“Lets go!” Pynch cried and clamored down the rock and into the canoe. Sage followed a little worried about what she had got herself into.
Chapter Three – The Lighthouse
They eased into the bay and approached the sim line cautiously. “You will probably end up naked when we go over the border,” he called from the back of the boat, “so close your eyes … ha ha ha ha.”
In the front of the canoe, Sage felt a cold queasy shudder when she crossed. She couldn’t help but look down to make sure she was still fully dressed. She glanced back at Pynch and burst into hysterics. “I said you were a pervert and I was right!” she sang out, laughing even harder. Pynch looked down and the prim hair he had gotten for his 12th birthday was firmly attached to his crotch.
“Dang it …” and he hurriedly corrected the hair situation. “It’s not funny you know,” he pouted. Sage still giggled.
They landed and climbed the steep bank to the lighthouse. The door was ajar and they pried it open. Up and around and up and around the stairs they went. They paused twice to catch their breath and finally stepped out onto the light deck. They each gave a little gasp when they saw the beauty of Farhaven to the South and Mystica to the Southwest.
From the lighthouse, the mighty Farhaven falls seemed to sparkle with diamonds and the blue green mermaids dancing in the mists before it, seemed alive. Exotic Mystica with its towering spires and beautiful homes appeared serene. Its colorful shops were hazy in the distance. Along the North shore near Stonehenge they could see a couple out walking in the early morning hand in hand.
“I bet he kisses her when he reaches the stone circle” Sage said wisely. “No way – it’s a bet!” claimed Pynch, “Just wait” said Sage.
They watched the couple for about 10 minutes and yet again the female instincts prevailed. The man stopped in the shadow of the mystical stones and took the girl in his arms. He kissed her quite thoroughly indeed.
“He loves her” nodded Sage with satisfaction.
“He does not …” retorted Pynch, “He just wants…” and wisely shut up seeing Sage shaking her small balled-up fist at him. “Ok you win – he loves her – sheeeesh”.
They took one last look at the stunning Southern view then moved around the platform to the North. They could see the forest and dense underbrush and just over the trees in the distance, the top of the fort located dead centre in Elf Harbour. Sage felt a vague unease looking at the fort, but shook it off. Pynch said “There it is – race ya” and dashed for the tower door. They ran down the stairs yelling and laughing and stopping when they got too dizzy. They burst out into the sunshine and charged down the grass bank to the canoe.
“I know the way”, said Pynch starting to paddle before Sage even was seated. “We shouldn’t go to the fort”, she whined, “let’s go home”. “A deal is a deal” Pynch stated laughingly. Sage grimaced and joined in paddling.
Like young people everywhere, sometimes they forgot very simple but very important things. It wasn’t so much being careless as being carefree. Neither youngster looked at their mini maps. If they had, they likely would have given second thought to this leg of their journey. For in the fort, there were four green dots clustered ominously in the centre.
Chapter Four – Jade The Apprentice
The sim North of Elf Harbour is Ceilidh – a wonderful emerald green landscape of hills, rolling meadows, trees and a few cozy homes. One of its great attractions is the brilliantly conceived puzzle game Harps Quest. On this day the sim was empty but for one young fae. Jade was an apprentice Guardian about half way through her training. On this day, she was more than a little discouraged. Her mentor seemed hard and mean. He expected so much from her. She did drill after drill until she wanted to scream. She wondered if her friends were right in saying she was too young and the Guardians wouldn’t give her a fair shake because of her age and slight stature. Maybe they are trying to make me quit, she thought.
She had taken this morning off and was half heartedly trying to make some progress on the Harp Quest. As required in her training, she routinely checked her mini-map. She did make note of the curious 4 dots in the fort. Checking her events listing she saw nothing was scheduled. And she could see the 2 dots that she later determined were the children working their way along the coast and turning into the river. It must be a practice session someone was holding she decided. A dark thought flashed through her mind. It might be apprentices practicing and they hadn’t included her – but she dismissed that thought with a grimace. “Silly! I am being silly. Besides I think I am going to quit anyway”
Still, she started walking towards the South side of the sim, figuring she might was well look for pieces of the puzzle down there as here.
Chapter Five: – The Fort
Sage reached up and grabbed Pynch’s hand and pulled her up a steep rock face very near the fort entrance. After 20 minutes or so of easy paddling, they had drawn the canoe up on shore hiding it in the bushes. They worked their way up the hills and through the woods for the half hour it took to get to the fort. Now hot and sweating in the warming sun, they paused to catch their breath.
Sage was sorry she hadn’t left her bow and quiver in the boat – the string cut into her shoulder and the arrows chaffed against her back. But Pynch had been adamant she bring it – besides he had said – they have a target range there.
They dusted themselves off and then with complete disregard of caution, they ran to the fort entrance. With shouts of glee, laughter and screaming like banshee raiders, they threw open the door and dashed inside.
Ten running steps inside Sage and Pynch pulled to a skidding stop.
Four tall, black-shrouded figures were staring at them from across the fort in total amazement. Two held scimitar lances, one had a huge long bow in his hand and the other’s hands were hidden in his garments.
Shocked silence in the fort.
“Shade Warriors” said Pynch in a strangled whisper. He drew his sword. He was amazed to see it glowing with an unearthly blue light. Only in the presence of great evil did an elven sword glow and this one was pulsing brightly with an inner blue light.
Sage’s heart sank to her feet and she was surprised to discover she had unconsciously taken her bow in hand and had an arrow notched already. Neither youngster had seen a Shade before but they were legendary killers of the first order and were reputed to eat their victims.
Utter stillness except for the harsh sound of their breath. It may have only been 2 or 3 seconds but it seemed like an eternity. Pynch was about to whisper let’s run for it when the Shade with the bow in one smooth move pulled an arrow from his quiver and fired. The arrow screamed between Sage and Pynch and exploded on the wall behind them severing the rope holding the door weight. The fort door slammed tight with a great bang.
The instant his arrow was loosed, instinctively Sage drew and fired too. Her small but needle sharp elven arrow sang its elven song and struck the bow man sinking deep into his shoulder. He let out an unearthly shriek and grabbing the arrow, yanked it out and cast it aside. Dark blood began to stain his cloak.
The weaponless Shade gestured and the other three spread apart eyeing Sage and her bow with her small but potentially deadly stingers. Obviously he was the leader.
“You have come for breakfast my pretties” … the Shade hissed. “And breakfast you shall be”.
Sage sent an arrow singing at his head but he was too far. He gestured and the arrow exploded in a blue flash inches from his face.
“Shielded” muttered Pynch stepping forward sword poised. “You stay back”.
Sage ignored him and loosed two more arrows with lightening speed but the Shades were far enough away they stepped aside or dodged them. “Run for help “she cried, I can hold them off.
“We would never make it” Pynch said under his breath.
Chapter Six: – The Arrow Song
When fired with deadly intent, an elven arrow sings. Its Arrow Song is as old as the ages and enduring as the elven culture. It is the song of warning. It is the song of war. It is the song of rescue, and it is the song of life – depending on which end of the arrow you were on.
Jade was doodling along the South shore of Ceilidh half heartedly seeking clues to the Harps Quest when she heard the Arrow’s Song. Then another – then two more in quick succession. It could only mean one thing – serious trouble.
“Arrow Songs-Elf Harbour” – she tapped into Guardian Group chat.
She leapt into the air and flew as hard and fast as she could towards the fort. Her glance at the mini map showed four figures spread out near the middle of the fort and two tight together against the South wall.
She drew her bow and checked her sword in flight praying “Blessed fae, please send help – she tried to swallow her fear, then flew even faster.”
Flying at full speed toward the fort she saw the youngsters close together, backs to the wall and the four Shades spread out and moving in. She screamed an elven battle cry to divert their attention and dove down over the North fort wall. With a flash, a silver dome winked into existence enclosing the figures the in the fort. She hammered against it. Instead of bursting through, Jade was dashed to the ground. She was inside the fort but outside the opaque dome.
“Shield” Jade gasped instinctively. Though on the ground and winded she rezzed a cube – selected sit, then started to pull her self through the shield gasping for breath but bow in hand.
The Shades were half way to Sage and Pynch. Sage was down to her last arrow. She moved her fully drawn bow back and forth trying to keep all four Shades at bay. The bowman’s left arm hung useless, but with his good hand he pulled a silver “rang” flying stick from beneath his shroud. The Shade furthest from the bowman faked a charge with lance held high. Sage swing and fired. At the same instant the bowman threw the flying stick low and hard. Sages arrow missed by inches as the charging Shade reversed and jumped back. But the bowman’s aim was true. Sage barely moved her bow back in time to block the flying rang from caving her head in. Her bow was shattered and she was pounded to the ground by the impact.
The two Shades with lances now surged forward confidently, one much closer than the other. Pynch pulled Sage behind him – crouched and sword ready.
At that same moment Jade pulled herself through the shield, and loosed an arrow at the leading Shade. The arrow sang fast and true sinking deep into his chest. He went down to his knees a short distance from the children. The last thing he saw was the flash of Pynch’s blue blade as it took him full in the throat nearly severing his head. The second charging Shade now realizing Jade was a threat turned in time to see her second arrow, and ducked low saving his miserable life.
Seeing the Shade off balance Pynch sprang forward and swung his sword. It was barely turned aside by the Shade’s lance. The Shade skittered back dismayed by the likely possibility of catching an arrow from Jade or being sliced by Pynch’s blue pulsing blade.
The weaponless Shade leader gestured. Thump! Jade was instantly caged. She fired a third and a fourth arrow in quick succession but they shattered into a thousand pieces against the inside wall of the cage. She tried a cage sit but it was rejected. Sitting back down on the cube she selected it and tried to drag it outside the cage but the cube moved slower than molasses and the cage followed keeping her imprisoned.
“Oh Blessed Fae, I am trapped.” she thought wanting to scream. She madly punched in the Guardian channel, “help – children – Shades”. She was helpless without full Guardian weapons.
Out side the cage she could see the three Shades now stalking Pynch who was bravely standing over the fallen Sage. Swinging their long scimitar spears they confidently closed in. Pynch executed a classic spin and slash attack but they were ready for him. One Shade caught the sword stroke on the handle of his lance deflecting it away. The other swung his lance. Pynch ducked inside the blade but was hit on the side of the head by the shaft. Pynch’s sword went flying and he tumbled on top of Sage.
The Shade’s stood over the terrified youngsters triumphantly. The leader walked up. Glancing toward his dead comrade said “Spike the little bastards”. The Shade with the remaining lance lifted it high over his head to impale the cowering youngsters – “two for one” he chuckled in bad elven.
Chapter Seven: – The Guardians
Jade was standing in the cage transfixed in horror and when the Shade raised his lance. She did the only thing she could think of. She rezzed a large cube outside the cage and pushed it 20 meters right on top of the children. At the same instant the Shades lance descended. The blade buried in the cube and the shaft shattered.
This would only give them a few seconds reprieve she knew – the youngsters would quickly suffocate.
The Shade Leader roared in amusement and yelled at Jade “Doing the killing for us are you? They will die soon enough – and you will have killed them. Now it is your turn”. He turned to walk towards her.
Jade , arrows gone, pulled her short sword. She stood to face him, expecting the cage to be removed. She assumed combat position ready to go down swinging. But there was a loud “whumpfff”. She blinked. Sunlight streamed in, no longer dimmed by the shield and her cage had vaporized too. Jade looked up. Guardians! She saw three – no four Guardians, one on each wall of the fort!
The Shades roared in anger and then in dismay. In an instant, they were immobilized by translucent beams coming from the outstretched arms of three of the Guardians.
Jade sprinted towards the cube over the children. She selected and deleted it as fast as she could, praying they were still alive. They were! Both were gasping for air and choking. She lifted Sage under one arm and grabbed Pynch by the back of his collar. With strength borne of need, she pulled them out from under the frozen but screaming Shades and over to a knoll. She collapsed on the grass shielding Sage and Pynch with her body. Seeing the youngsters were starting to breath okay, Jade looked back to see what was happening.
“We can’t boot them!” cried one Guardian. “Their shields are too strong – just hold them tight for a couple of minutes” said an authoritive Guardian calmly. Jade recognized him as the fearsome Lord Pericat.
Then with a mighty crack and brilliant flash in the air above the fort, a beautiful fae materialized astride a snow white unicorn.
“It’s her” whimpered Sage now catching her breath. Jade looked down at Sage questioningly. “From my dream – from my mirror”. Sage started in open-mouthed fascination.
“It’s the Queen”, said Jade softly pulling the children closer. “I think we are safe.”
The unicorn reared in the air, and descended firmly to the ground not far from the twisting helpless Shades. The Fae Queen looked brilliantly angry and called out something in a singsong language Jade or the youngsters had not heard before. The Shades shrieked desperately trying to break free of the Guardian bonds. Then stretching her arm towards them, a thousand fireflies seemed to spring forth and spinning madly enveloped the Shades. Screaming in agony, their skin grew black then burst into flame. The flames grew and grew and consumed them entirely. The fire and particles boiled high into the sky.
The Fae Queen
Sage and Pynch buried their heads against Jade sobbing and shaking. She sat holding them, eyes wide and unblinking – her focus fixed. Tears were unashamedly streaming down her face.
The Fae Queen dismounted and strode quickly to the knoll where Jade and the youngsters were huddled. She had seen enough war to know shock and its dangers. She knelt before them. Swirling her silken white cape, it encompassed them in a soft yielding tent. Sitting, she took Sage from Jade and held her on her lap, The Fae Queen pulled Pynch and Jade close and hugged all three tightly. She whispered in a silken voice that it was over – they were safe – it would be all right. She began to croon in a low singsong voice. The language was unknown, but the images were unmistakable. Peace and love, flowers and trees, mothers and fathers, animals and birds were all in the song. A sense of calm and contentment descended aver them all and the fear and horror began to recede.
Nearly asleep, Sage saw a movement as if something were burrowing under the cape. Entranced by the Fae Queen’s song, she watched dreamily as a beautiful brown rabbit, so like the one in her dream, wedged its way inside the cape. He sat bright eyed, nose and ears twitching, staring at Jade. She smiled. The rabbit sat up and raised its paws. Sage gasped – he had pink pads – he was the rabbit from her dream and she could swear he was trying to wave at her. She turned to say something to the others but glancing back saw he had disappeared. Maybe she didn’t see it really she thought.
“Your parents are here now” the Fae Queen said softly. Pynch gave a worried little moan. “I have been in touch with them. They know all that has happened and do not fear. I have decreed you have been punished enough. Your bravery and willingness to sacrifice to save each other is an inspiration to us all. I am proud of you.”
The youngsters reassured, she spun open the silken cloak and Sage and Pynch rushed to their parents. There was much hugging and kissing and more grateful tears. The Queen stood and placed her arm around Jade’s shoulder. She called out for the Guardians and the now gathering onlookers to come close as she wanted to speak.
“On this day, Apprentice Jade performed a heroic service to the people of our kingdom. She bravely faced overwhelming odds and saved two of our precious children. I thank you Jade, on behalf of each and every one of us.” She paused for the cheers to subside, “Furthermore, I hereby appoint you as my personal “Protector of the Children”, and full Guardian from this day forth.” Again the cheers and Jade flushed with embarrassment as the Queen gave her a royal hug. The people and other Guardians and others pressed close to congratulate and thank the totally overwhelmed Jade, who was desperately trying not to start crying again.
Shortly after, Pynch and his parents started to leave. Pynch turned and shouted to Sage, “I am going to be a Guardian one day”, making an “Ok” sign with his fingers.
Sage laughed delightfully, and called back, “Oh yeah? Well I am going to be the Elven Queen. You will be working for me! So there!” Pynch laughed as did all who heard.
Later, when Sage’s mom and dad were walking with her towards home, Sage said, “Mom, Dad, I want to ask a favour.”
“What is it darling ?”
“Sage is a little girl’s name. I want to use my real name when I grow up”.
“Well then so we shall.” said her father happily. He stopped and put his arm around his daughter and said, “Sage, I don’t doubt that you will be an elven queen one day, and bring great honour to us all. Then everyone will call you Forcythis.”
They laughed happily and continued their journey home
It is said in elven lands that the seeds of your future are sown within you at birth. How they are awakened and how they are nurtured determines what you will be and what you achieve. On this day those seeds were undoubtedly awakened by the Arrow Song.
Jade Winthorpe became the youngest High Guardian ever and great warrior. She founded the Temple of the Dark Maiden. Craving action, she left the lands for long periods to fight in noble wars in other lands, indeed, other worlds. Her occasional visits home meet with much rejoicing.
Pynchon Oakwood’s seed was a dark seed and over time he grew discomforted in the peaceful elven lands. He fell into the company of troublesome drow and dark elves of a similar bent. In time he became a fierce and legendary mercenary general, much feared by fantasy folk, especially orcs and trolls. But if one of his army so much as harmed a hair on the head of a fae or an elf, they paid with their life.
And indeed, Sage did become The Elven Queen. Queen Forcythia is often seen astride her unicorn galloping through the meadows of Elf Circle. And she fiercely protects the hundreds of strange brown bunnies with pink pads on their paws that live in ElvenMoor.
But you should know this to be true: the Arrow Song still lives in her heart, and when it sounds anywhere in the elven lands – she rides.