illustrative media

An Unlikely Alliance Forms

“I understand you’re excited to learn the details of what you missed last night, but it’s not safe to have an open discussion here in my chambers or anywhere inside the castle. Help me get dressed, we’ll invade the dining hall for some grubbing food, and I’ll show you where we can talk about anything”, Luna offered.

“Yes, your majesty”, Nulandia quietly assisted Luna with dressing in cold weather attire, and tried to envision what this place might look like, though she was certain the limits of her imagination would do the place no justice.

“Alright, now, while we’re inside the castle, we do not talk. Follow me to the hall where the buffet has been set in preparation of Lance’s big apology, and I’ll raid the food. Your job will be to keep an eye out for anyone in the corridor, and you will coo like the dove if someone comes around. When I’ve snagged enough food, you’ll follow me once more, and we’ll make the short trip to my secret hideaway”, Luna told her maid.

Nulandia placed her index finger vertically over her lips, there was a smile dancing on her lips that suggested mischief could eventually ensue, but swore her to silence until the queen granted permission to speak. She had been in the military throughout her many years of life, and was aware of how to follow someone without getting in the way or falling behind. When Luna left from the anterior of her bedchambers, Nulandia placed her hand on the queen’s shoulder, and followed her down the corridor to the dining hall.

Luna raised her right hand to indicate she was going into the dining area by way of the door to her left, and Nulandia stood in the corridor keeping her eyes open for anyone passing by. After a few minutes, the queen poked her head out of the doorway at the other end of the foyer, and Nulandia quickened her pace to catch up. Five paces down the way, Luna navigated to her right, vanishing from sight behind the wall.

When Nulandia veered to her right, Luna was pulling a lever that flipped a switch, and released the mechanisms holding the drawbridge closed. The wheels and gears, which lowered the heavy wooden door, made an echoing racket throughout the walls and rafters close by. Nulandia checked the corridor behind her for someone to come out asking about the use of the drawbridge, but no one emerged. Turning back, she was in time to see Luna’s coattails flowing to the left, and the maid began to run from the brisk walk she’d been doing. As she reached the corner of the castle, Luna was already crossing a small patch of the courtyard, two hundred feet ahead. Nulandia thanked her stars that she was familiar with the land as it sprawled out before her, and she ran harder after the queen.

Nulandia kept her eyes on the back of Luna’s head, which she became grateful for when the flowing sea of green hair suddenly disappeared out of sight. Perplexed, the maid slowed her pace, and searched the area for a sign of where the queen had gone. Curiosity propelled the elf forward, as she continued her quest to figure out what caused her leader to vanish before her eyes.

She had stooped low to the ground, searching it for footprints leading to where Luna had gone, and was surprised by the quietness of the woods around her. The hairs inside Nulandia’s ears were standing at attention in an attempt to hone in on a breath from the queen’s lungs or to detect the vibrations of her voice, in case she was talking. She had gotten to the point where she last saw Luna, but didn’t notice the dropoff because the thoughts in her head distracted the elf from the path. She began to fall, no matter what she reached for, was unsuccessful in preventing this from happening.

Approximately thirty seconds after she’d begun to plummet downwards, her back impacted the hard ground below. That removed all the oxygen from her lungs, and knocked her unconscious for a few minutes. Upon waking up, she was greeted by the queen’s face centimeters from hers, and the royal elf was smiling with light dancing in her eyes. Nulandia pushed Luna away by claiming, “Ooh! Something just went in my nose”, and wiped at her face as if something had actually entered her nostril.

“You’re gonna need to remember that the first step is a bitch, and don’t continue to fall down here every time we come. You’ll give yourself brain damage if you do that too many times”, Luna offered her left hand and hoisted her friend off the ground. They both took a couple of minutes to knock the dust off Nulandia’s hair and clothes before they continued on their adventure. She hadn’t ever fallen like that, and had only been rendered unconscious one other time; her head was swimming as if it were under water, and she struggled to gain her balance.

Finally, Nulandia was capable of moving on without her head feeling as though it would explode every time she took a step. When she woke up on the ground, the elf was aware of the headache that had begun to develop, and she knew it would be dangerous to fall asleep over the next few hours. Though her head had not bled, and there was no bump, she wanted to play it safe. Especially since she’d never experienced a tumble like the one she just took. She had fought in several large wars, most of which were lead by paratroopers who would randomly drop bombs. She’d even gone against one who tried to win the battle by using sleep deprevation, but she’d never been in a free-fall without any kind of safety net. Nulandia couldn’t help but wonder if she could trust Luna with her life if it ever came down to needing to rely on her for survival. After allowing her to fall earlier, she would always be on guard, never able to completely relax. Then again, let the truth be told, she never had many opportunities to fully relax because of the military training and missions she had been dealt with before. Always on the lookout, and always prepared.

When they got to the point where Luna had intended to be, Nulandia chuckled a little. She said, “Where is it? This place you said is for us? Looks like the only thing you have is a teensy-weensy little tree”, Nulandia teased.

“That is just what you think. Of course, that’s because you will only see what I want you to. You know that I’m capable of creating a ten story treehouse?” Luna said.

“No way! That is not possible”, Nulandia shouted.

“Oh, yes it is. Watch and see what I say”, Luna offered. She pointed at the tree standing there in the small empty field and said, “Oulock, poplar tree of the forest, it’s me, Luna. Please allow me and my friend passage inside the meeting room”.

The answer came in the wind, ” I’ve been waiting for you to bring her back so we could meet each other. Ooh, what’s her name?”

“You don’t get her name until you give us access”, Luna challenged the air. “Reveal yourself to me, Shadow Caster, Eldertree. If I want you to show me your true self, you have no choice but to do what I ask”, Luna said. She and a voice she could hear lingering in the wind, continued to banter back and forth for a few minutes. Then, Luna got irritated, and she said, “My friend, you have gone and misunderstood me, I will give you her name as soon as you tell us we’re allowed inside. No lies. No pulling your chain. I promise”, the queen held up her left hand, and made a motion to show she was not teasing.

A few heartbeats passed the moment in time, the wind carried her answer, “You fought hard for permission to bring her here. You have been classified as Stubborn Luna, the Elven Queen who will not take no for an answer. I must admit you inside. Please, take your shoes off, and if you want anything just ask for it”.

“Okay, more like it. Don’t know why you always push me to be mean. Sometimes I think there would be something wrong if we didn’t treat each other like that, but it could have waited until you met her at least once”, Luna said.

“I’m sorry,your queen-ship. Forgive me for being hasty”, the wind whispered.

“By the way, her name is Nulandia. She is my new best friend. I’ve chosen her to be the only other being on the planet with permission to come here and access the meeting room. Of course, I am the first, but she is your last. Whatever she says, goes. She is the boss when I’m not here. You will answer to her when I’m incapable of coming out”, Luna made sure to delegate the rules to the Eldertree.

It had two strong limbs that were placed on its hips, and the tree was wagging a finger in her direction, “Stubborn Luna of the universe, you have been granted permission to use the interior of my wooden clubhouse. Please, when you are ready, go inside and have a look around. You might find a few things you didn’t know you’d ever discover”, the Eldertree said. The breeze had settled down, but an essence remained. Always hearing, but never listening. Their ever present Eldertree friend moved his arms that were limbs to reveal a mid-swinging branch with a rope hanging low to the ground. It beckoned to her with a gentle flick of her hair, and a stronger nudge forward with a switch he used to prod her with.

Nulandia allowed the Eldertree to move her towards the rope tied to it, but she watched everything he did in order to help her understand what he wanted. Eventually, she got what the tree was trying to tell her, and she said to the queen, “He wants me to make the trip up, and he wants me to explore. I’ll see you when you get up there”. She knelt down, picked up some dirt, rubbed her hands together, grabbed the rope, and shimmied up quickly. When she made it to the balcony, she looked over to see if Luna was still there, but she wasn’t anywhere to be seen by her eyes.

There was no need to call out for Luna, she made it to the balcony and was standing beside Nulandia before the maid could turn around. She giggled, and said, “From this moment, you and I start our friendship anew. We don’t hold grudges for past indiscretions, and we move past a friend who let the other one fall”, Luna paused for effect, and smiling at her friend, led her inside of the clubhouse.

Nulandia could no longer hold onto the accident from earlier when she fell off a cliff, and she said, “I see you are using this as a way to have me completely forgive you. You are clever like a fox, my royal elven queen, and you should be proud of yourself for knowing me so well. I forgive you, Luna. I’m not the kind to be capable of relaxing all the way, but so many years of military training and missions, it’s become part of who I am. Protector, guardian, friend. Don’t let me down like that, ever again. I’ll never trust you if you do, and if I can’t trust you, our friendship will end”, Nulandia warned her.

“I understand what you’re saying. I’m sorry I let that happen earlier. You don’t have to worry, it will never happen again”, Luna swore.

Nulandia let the forgiveness in her heart heal the hurt created when Luna let her fall.

After they’d finished breakfast, Luna and Nulandia sat at the table talking about different things. Luna had been saying, “During the time you said my hair was changing colors, I couldn’t see it, but I’ll tell you how I felt. It was like someone placed a tuning fork in my stomach because of the vibrations I could feel, and there was also a strong tingling sensation that moved through my entire body”.

“Really? Well, I didn’t know what to do, at one point I was tempted to find a stick or something to knock you out with. I mean, you have to understand, one minute you’re standing there, asking for one of the Plateau magix students to send you a casting, and the next, your hair starts changing colors. I didn’t know if you were being hurt or possessed by some kind of evil spirit. The only reason why I allowed things to play out was I couldn’t have explained what I was doing with the queen thrown over my shoulder, and knocked out when I ran away from here. Not only that, but I had to have faith in you and your capabilities”, Nulandia confessed to her friend. She had been debating on whether she was going to tell Luna everything she’d been going through, but after thinking about it, decided that since they had started the friendship anew, she would be honest about everything.

“Thanks, I appreciate you having faith in my capabilities because if the truth is told, I didn’t have very much of it for myself. It’s hard for me to tell you this, but your queen has found times when she has been scared”, Luna confessed.

“I wasn’t aware of that. You always look like you have absolutely no fear”, Nulandia said.

“Thanks, that’s what centuries of Queen Etiquette and Royalty Behavior training classes produce. A female elf who knows how to fight like a soldier, and can behave as appropriately as any other proper elf debutante. I can trust that these words won’t leave these tree walls, right?” Luna asked. She did not mistrust Nulandia. What she was leading up to no one could ever find out about for the safety of the entire planet.

“Come on, Luna. You should know by now that you can trust me”, Nulandia said.

“I do know that trust is not an issue from me to you, but it may not be completely healed from you to me. I mean, I did just let you fall off a cliff, and I laughed in your face when you woke up. You could’ve said that you forgave me a couple of hours later, but you might still be harboring some hard feelings towards me. I cannot divulge every aspect and detail of my life to you unless I know with one hundred percent certainty that you trust me one thousand and fifty percent”, Luna explained.

“What else do you need me to do in order to prove that there’s more trust from me to you than the one thousand fifty percent you’re asking for?” Nulandia asked.

“Say our pledge to me, one more time”, Luna said

“True sisters gather here, true sisters bond here, true sisters die here”, Nulandia’s tone was generous and sincere. She needed Luna to know there were no hard feelings toward her, and that she trusted the queen with her life. She added, “Stubborn Luna Garrick of planet Interraton, I Nulandia Arnelle, trust you with the most valuable possession I own. My Life. There are, no there never were, any hard feelings towards you”Luna’s heart grew, tears threatened to escape from her eyes. She said, “Thank you for doing that again. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings, but there are certain things I will tell you that have to be kept between us”.

“Let me ask you this? Are you ready to read that spell?” Nulandia felt more courageous about performing the spell than earlier. Her curiosity had been heightened since it fell into the tree, and since she’d refueled herself with nourishment wanted to quell the need to know about the contents of the box the queen had removed from the tree. She asked, “Where did you put the box, anyway? I know it was in your hands when we decided to eat, but after that I didn’t watch you with it. Foolish on the part of an ex military officer. I knew better than to take my eyes off that box, but when you think about it that goes to show how much I’ve always trusted you”, Nulandia told Luna.

“What do you mean? Care to elaborate?” Luna inquired.

“Having my military background, I should have watched what you did with the box from the tree when we decided to come in and eat. However, I did not pay attention to where you put the box. I don’t know if anything is missing from the box because I didn’t ask to see the contents. If you were an enemy, and a box fell down from one of the plateau magix students, things would have been handled completely differently because I wouldn’t have trusted you. Even after the spill I took, and your laughing in my face, I trusted you enough that you handled everything involving the box, and I never once doubted you in any way concerning that subject. That, your royal highness, is what I call absolute trust from me to you”, Nulandia explained.

“You know what? You are right on so many levels. I should have known exactly how much trust you have in me”, Luna said.

“Let’s go check out that spell”, Nulandia urged.

“By the way, would you like to know what I did with the box?” Luna asked.

“Yes, of course”, Nulandia said.

“I put it back in the tree with a little bit of magix. You need to know something else as my best friend, Nula”, Luna said.

“What do you need me to know?” Nulandia asked.

“Eventually, we will learn each other’s skills when it comes to magix”, Luna said frankly. She felt that was an important part of getting to know each other, was to learn everything they knew about the magixical skills and capabilities they both acquired.

“We’ll definitely delve into those things as time goes by. Now, before my curiosity gets the best of me, let’s go retrieve that box”, Nulandia encouraged Luna“Okay, let’s go get it”, Luna said. They both stood from their places at the table, and left the dining hall. They made their way to the entrance, both of them grabbing their fur skinned coats to wear before stepping outside.

“We’ll go down together, I’ll grab the box, we can open it together, and you can read the second note inside”, Luna offered.

“After you, my queen”, Nulandia said as she opened the door.

The elves went out onto the balcony, Nulandia closed the door, and the friends walked to the other end. Luna looked to see if the rope was still in place, when she saw that it was hanging from the Eldertree’s limb, reached out for it. She swung out from the deck, and made her descent to the ground below. Once she made it down, Luna offered the rope to Nulandia.

She took the rope in her hands and climbed down. Luna reached above her head and grabbed the box from a spot where the limb met the trunk of the tree. They both placed a hand on the top of the box and lifted it, revealing the two pieces of paper within.

“I know we agreed you could read the second note, but can we both look at it in case there’s something you may not understand?”, Luna asked her friend.

“I was going to ask if you wanted to read it together”, Nulandia told the queen. Then, the wind picked up, and threatened to take off with the paper in her hand. Luna looked at Nulandia and without a word, they both took turns making their way back inside of the tree house.

When Luna got the door shut, they went into the sitting room across from the dining hall, and Nulandia went to work putting wood in the fireplace, and getting a blaze going in it. There was no way they could’ve performed any kind of magix, in all that wind, no matter how small the gust; and with how cold it had become inside, a fire was going to have to burn for a few hours in order for the elves to be warm enough to fulfill any requirements of any kind of magix that might be incorporated into the spell. When the fire started to catch, both elves warmed their hands.

Nulandia looked at Luna as they stood in front of the fireplace, and said, “If you’re ready, we can open the box, again”.

Luna reached underneath her coat and removed the box containing the spell to bind their friendship with magix. The two elven friends both placed one hand on either side of the box, and opened it carefully. Nulandia removed the second piece of paper, which was under the first, and placed it on the hearth of the fireplace beside her. They both closed the box, and Luna placed it on the floor to her left side. Unfolding the note, Nulandia and held it so that the queen could hold onto the the side that her maid wasn’t holding, in order for them to be able to read the spell together. Since there was no sense in both of them reading the spell aloud, Luna read silently while Nulandia spoke the words.

The second note from the second plateau magix student read: you honestly don’t need any magix to bond your friendship, but since you asked for that kind of help follow these instructions.

One, hold hands with your friend. Two, let your friend know that you care about them. Three, repeat the words of your pledge. Four, have the one of you who is higher in magix ranking snap their fingers and say, ‘Tullos pullvarin dulabre vunarle’. Once these four things have been completed, your friend will be bonded by a magix spell, and nothing can break this connection between you, not even death”.

It was quickly discovered that Nulandia’s magix ranking was higher than Luna’s, and she read the elvish words in the spell. There was a flash that came from the area of the window on Nulandia’s right, and the friends chuckled.

“I’m gonna assume the light was an indication that the spell worked. The reason I’m comfortable making that call is because nothing happens when a casting doesn’t work, and we both know that castings and spells are in the same category in the library”, Luna said. She had been quite surprised over the simplicity of the requirements to be fulfilled in order to perform the pledge binding magix.

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