Monthly Archives: August 2020
At her friend’s coaxing, Jelani tries on a glass slipper left lying on the sidewalk. When she steps into the shoe, it shatters, cutting her foot. As blood trickles to the pavement and mingles with the broken glass, dozens of two-inch high creatures emerge and then scurry away into the shadows. Soon she is approached by two mysterious and handsome men claiming to be elves who need her help to rescue their queen. More revelations come, threatening to unravel the life of this sassy barista from Missoula, Montana. Jelani must learn to accept that elves are real and living in the forests of the Bitterroot Mountains.
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Jelani opened her eyes and discovered a different world.
She and Daven had come up a single trail that led to the area. Now, as she looked behind them, she could see a dozen imprints snaking across the grass around them. The deer, the elk, even rabbits left distinctive marks and patterns on the green blades that made it clear to her what had stepped there. She looked behind to see her own footprints, heavy and destructive, plants crushed under the weight of her boot. Daven’s passing was marked only by a shadow on the grass that faded as she watched.
But that wasn’t all. Her new sight revealed patterns in the trees, many of them set close together to create small enclosures. Looking up, she saw gossamer platforms extending between the branches, the elves on them hardly noticing her below through the nearly opaque walls of their chambers. For the first time, she saw elf children. Their tinkling laughter lifted her spirit.
“Kids? There were kids out here the whole time?”
Daven smiled, raising a hand to the curious toddler above, whose attention had now been captured. She laughed and scattered a handful of flower petals over them. “We didn’t all come out of a glass slipper, you know. We procreate much as humans do.”
She considered the view, looking around her. As her eyes adjusted, she noticed other dwellings in the trees around them. Surely their walls were like those of the Circle chambers, diaphanous but sturdy with magic, keeping out the elements. Even so… She winced as the small ones ran in what seemed to be open space, awaiting their death-defying tumble to the ground. But of course, magic kept them safe.
“You just live in the open? Just hang out?” She shuddered. “I don’t think I could do that.”
“We did not believe you would. That’s why we have created a special place for our new queen.”
They continued into the woods to the foot of a Douglas fir so tall it hurt her neck to crane back to see the top. Astan waited there to meet them, a warm smile on his face.
Her eyes narrowed at the negative thought that came to mind, even though she couldn’t believe Astan would be involved with something that could hurt her. “You’ll shove me in a tree, like my mother?”
“Of course not, denami,” Astan said. “This is specially created for you-for us.” He gestured at the trunk. “Look closely.”
She eyed the rugged bark, suspicious, but saw at last the outline of a door and three dots spaced closely together. When she reached for the dots, she found them separated by an interval that comfortably matched her fingertips. Contact gave her fingers a little tingle, then the trunk split open without the crack or noise she expected, the two sides raising and separating.
“Come into our home,” Astan said softly, taking her hand. They entered the opening to discover a small cottage of several rooms, complete with windows.
“Now, wait a minute,” she said, stepping out to examine the trunk of the tree, no more than four feet across. She looked back inside at the roomy space, which held several chairs, a small table, and some cabinets. A fireplace was laid out, but not burning. An open space in the back hinted at a bedroom. “How did you do this?”
“We want to make our queen happy,” Daven said. “Welcome, Jelani.”
She could hardly believe what she saw. The space reminded her of something Snow White might have stumbled upon in the woods. Except, of course, this was elves. “Is this the only house like this? Just for us?”
“No,” Astan said. “Others exist, but none are quite so suited to humans. The Circle has gone to some length to keep your comfort in mind.”
Grateful at the concern for her well-being, she’d marveled at the creation, her one frown prompted by the fireplace. “You want me to burn a fire inside a tree? That seems counter-productive somehow. Even if we wouldn’t die from smoke inhalation.”
A laugh burst from Daven, amusement flickering in his eyes. Shaking his head, he patted her on the shoulder. “You are quite right, Jelani. Burning an actual fire in this enclosure could be dangerous to you, and the tree as well. One of the elders has left you some flash dust.”
He demonstrated the use of the gift by opening a small glass box on the mantel. Inside was some nondescript powder that looked like well-dried ash. He said a few words in elvish and tossed a pinch of the powder onto the hearth and a fire appeared.
“Whoa.” Jelani stared at the flames, then came near. No smoke came from the fire, and heat came only as high as the fireplace enclosure. While the room warmed perceptibly, the heat faded as it approached the walls formed by the trunk of the tree that housed her.
“You’re going to teach me that abracadabra part, right?”
Daven crossed his arms and studied her. “I’ll teach you all the magic you can learn, my queen.”