17A

The dream world had been quiet when Audrey finally visited it last night. Horera and Nadine apparently hadn’t dreamt any more after Audrey sent them back to their worlds, leaving Audrey with the garden to herself. Audrey had remembered fairy-tale books from her childhood including The Princess and the Goblin, which she hadn’t read in years. She’d spent the night re-reading old favorites, and the quiet had been peaceful.

Tonight the quiet was not peaceful. The sky was grey and everything was unnaturally still. The pond looked like glass. Audrey couldn’t even hear her heart beat, though it felt like it was going to burst through her chest. This feeling of dread was twisting her up inside, and she couldn’t explain it.

“Audrey!” Nadine’s yell preceded her running form, “Horera’s in trouble!”

“What?” Audrey hurried to meet Nadine by the old playground.

“She’s in some sort of fighting ring, by herself! It’s filled with this weird black stuff; I think it’s killing her!”

Audrey’s eyes widened as she felt her heart clench. Nadine’s hair was disheveled and her eyes were watering. Clutching her spell book in one hand and taking Nadine’s hand in her other, Audrey concentrated for the instant necessary to teleport both of them to the portal platform.

Nadine was right; Horera was in some sort of arena in the thick of roiling oily black mist of some kind. It looked like it was choking her, and every time Horera tried to stand up the mist knocked her down again.

“Ready?” Nadine glanced at Audrey, a line of silver already completed from her portal to Horera’s.

“Wait,” Audrey drew her own line with a flick of her wrist, “I can’t do anything about that mist from this side of the portal. I don’t even know what it is, if we land in the middle of it…”

“There’s a moat or something around the ring,” Nadine indicated the water at the edges of Horera’s battlefield. “It’s fed from that corner, if we drop in twenty feet that side we should be clear of the mist but with a straight shot at it.”

“Let’s do it,” Audrey nodded.

The wings at Audrey’s ankles fluttered and sped her toward Horera’s portal alongside the sprinting Nadine. They passed through at the same time and Audrey felt the bright weightlessness of inter-dimensional travel.

A damp earthy smell and the chatter of running water welcomed Audrey and Nadine to the darkness of Terra. Flipping her spell book open, Audrey released colored lights into their surroundings.

The first thing Audrey and Nadine noticed, was a six inch tall fairy with alabaster skin floating between them and the narrow path alongside the channel of water. The little fairy’s golden-brown hair was tied back and her arms were crossed forbiddingly. A lantern in one of her hands seemed to catch the light from Audrey’s spheres and prevent it from reaching the arena where muffled sounds of struggle barely found their way through the darkness.

“How did you get here?” A crystal clear voice chimed from the water before Nadine could address the fairy in their path.

Turning toward the water, Audrey was surprised to see a beautiful mermaid with rich brown hair and honest blue eyes rise as high as she could from the channel.

“We used a magic portal,” Audrey crouched the rest of the way to eye level with the mermaid, “Please let us pass, our friend needs our help!”

“Freya and I were charged with making sure no one interrupted The Life Champion’s final test. You must not go this way.” The mermaid shook her head.

“The Life Champion is the one we’re here to help!” Nadine clenched her fist as Freya flew up to her eye level, “Your test is killing her!”

Frowning, Freya shot a glance at the mermaid, “Amity…”

“Please! What will it prove if Horera dies?” Audrey pleaded with Amity.

After a moment Amity and Freya nodded to one another.

“It seems you are here for a reason,” Amity turned back to Audrey, “We will let you pass. But proceed with caution. The Head of the Primal Council is administering the test herself, and it is meant to try the Life Champion—one of the two most powerful mortals in all of Terra.”

'Timony's rendition of her fairy, Freya. For some reason couldn't bring the green out in the eyes as intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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