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“You did all of this?” I say as I gasp and gulp slightly for air, a bit shocked and amazed at suddenly being suspended so high above the next world. “Is this what you have been doing all this time hiding from us? It is absolutely beautiful, Adtris. It suits you. However, would you mind?”
I meaningfully look towards my other hand as I extend it toward her, asking for a bit of assistance.
“I would much rather prefer, should I make a visit to the Dragheim, to enter without falling into it. That would sort of take all of the agency and control out of my entrance, don’t you think?”
Your wandering pulls you through the orchard, meandering as the easiest-high undergrowth, wild and untamed, dances at your fingertips. Heading this direction, you should reach the edge of Havenheim in just a few minutes. You can hear the voice of your sister in your ear, but it’s obvious that her presence is still veiled.
“Don’t wander too far, Daydreamer,” she whispers in the trees. You’ve rarely seen Adtris this involved in her element, so melded with the trees. “if you aren’t careful, you’ll wander right out of daddy’s little garden. You’ll wander right into something... so much more...”
The last piece of her message is tinted with a melancholy longing, reaffirming Heriot’s fears that adtris intends to leave. Around you, the trees almost seem to shake, and beyond the trunks and saplings nearest to you your eyes perceive movement, as if the forest were wrapping itself around you.
Suddenly, your feet catch on a stone, and you fall forward. Your eyes can’t perceive the ground that should be rushing toward you, and instead you are met with a landscape unlike anything you’ve seen before. Unlike the pale yellow and white of Havenheim, the world below is filled with color. Blues of the ocean, mountains of beige and copper, vast forests of reds and greens, all swirled around the surface like a rolling tide of chromatic ecstasy. You feel yourself floating, your feet still caught on the edge of Havenheim, and you look over your shoulder to see your sister, in all her wild beauty, dressed in the skins of the animals below and the wild leaves and flowers that cover her garden. “It really is beautiful, don’t you think? Grülgurüm and I have worked so very hard to paint it as beautifully as we can muster.” Her eyes don’t meet yours, though your wrist is firmly secured in her warm hand. Instead, she stares longingly at the world below, her visage a bright and colorful contrast to the pale, ethereal glow of your home. “I am so proud of it.”
I want to run after the Almiraj, run until I collapse in a beautiful golden, green, and red copse that fills my vision and overwhelms my soul in beauty and happiness. But I can´t shake the nagging sense of responsibility and the feeling that Adtris is so close nearby. So, I simply put one foot in front of the other, making my way slowly into the covered overgrowth and keeping a close eye out for any movement that doesn´t match that of my followers. I wish that I had the time to make myself comfortable here for a few weeks, or months, listening to the sounds of their joy and growing drunk on their berries. But I have a feeling that, when I would ultimately grow tired of sitting still and have the urge to move and fight, they wouldn´t want me to go either. Where is Adtris? She shouldn´t be this difficult to find. I can feel her as I slowly make it farther into the orchards.
¨Come on Adtris- Father requests your presence. You have to come back eventually...”
The orchards themselves are a beautiful sights to behold. The white trunks of the trees seem to shimmer as the light of the castle strikes them, filtered through golden leaves and dappled with the essence of divine summer. It’s from these trees that your staff was sung, the voices of your earliest followers melding the life of the wood into a gift befitting the daughter of Heriot.
Birdsong is soft, quavering melodic notes hanging in the air, like an orchestra hidden in the trees. The fruit of the orchard is plentiful, hanging from branches in reds and golds, with the orchard floor blanketed in bushes of bright green berries. Here and there, you spot an Almiraj gathering bits and bobs from beneath the branches, it’s rabbit-like face quivering in silent anticipation below its tiny horn as it heats you approach before it darts ahead into the brush, disappearing into the thicker trees to your right. Adtris can be felt, that creeping sensation that something in the forest is watching betraying her spirit, but she is not near enough to call.
I silently nod and take my leave of him before turning and bounding off. Knowing that, should I find and bring Adtris back with me or not, I’ll have to sit through a long, probably raucous, dinner as Leslynna, daughter of Heriot the Zealot and agent of the ruling family. It isn’t the dinner that seems overwhelming, or even necessarily my family or the rambunctious followers, and honestly the latter would even be rather entertaining overall. It’s that as Leslynna, with all of my titles and family there, I have to embody an expectation, an ideal, rather than taking part in all the capers of our followers. It’s not that my royal parents and family push this on me, on the contrary, I know that my father and mother love and support all of us as we are. It’s just the reality of having a public persona. I understand why Zana left. I understand why Adtris hides. Yet, I can’t quite push myself to do the same yet. Finally, I find myself approaching the orchards, returning from my musings, although I still haven’t spotted Adtris. I stop for a moment and look around before deciding to continue into the orchards themselves.
"That will be left up to you, child," he says with a coy grin. "You fair far better in diplomacy with Adtris than I ever could. Now be off! I believe she is out on the edge of Havenheim, near the orchards. Dinner will be soon, so don't tarry too long!"
I recognize the look on his face and decide it better to let the matters drop. I begin to look around, trying to anticipate the best place to start looking for Adtris.
“I can’t imagine, that after avoiding it for the past few dinners, that Adtris will be particularly excited about joining us. Any ideas about how to convince her?”
His somber expression lightens a bit. “Vacations aren’t to be taken lightly, you know. It’s not as if the people down there fully understand what we are. Not many of them, anyway. I must confess, the temples seem emptier and emptier every year... Faith wanes, and all things cycle I suppose. I worry for them, if they forget about us. Dragheim was not a friendly place when I first arrived here. If they forget about us, it will soon return to darkness and fear.”
“And then,” he adds with a small chuckle, “there won’t be any of you left to have grandchildren, and I wouldn’t be here to see them. Although I’m sure some strapping young lad or lass will steal you from Havenheim as well, won’t they? I’m sure you’ve already seen him from your window, you tricky girl, and you’re just planning your escape!”
As if subconsciously noticing the life pulsing in your muscles, he stretches a bit. “Well, that’s enough of my doom and gloom. I tend to leave that sort of thing to your mother. It’s also almost time for dinner. Why don’t you fetch Adtris? The palace will soon be filled with souls. It would be nice if she made an appearance at dinner. Her followers tend to be the rowdier sort when she isn’t about.”
And with that, he slowly walks with you back inside. While he seems to have been distracted by his previous thoughts, his eternally young face seems distant, and you get the impression that his mind is still heavy.
“Of course, we all miss Zana, Father. But, probably best of us all, you know how far one gets when one tries to tell Zana what she ought to do.” I say, as I walk forward and give him a wry look.
“She determines her direction, what she wants, and woe to anyone or anything that gets in her way. In her own way, she knows how to live, I suppose. Maybe she’s willing to take a little of the bad, the suffering, in the interest of getting even more out of it... out of being with him, I mean.” I finally reach the railing, quickly hop up to sit and spin around, so that my legs dangle over the edge. I lean back, stretching as many little muscles in my body as possible as I balance, feeling the light on my face. Then, I slowly lean up to look down at the activity below us.
“There’s so much happening down there- so many lives and emotions- it’s all so... messy” I say with a grand, mischievous smile. “It’s nice to have this place,” and I lean back again, kicking my legs this time, “it’s clean and safe, and will always be our home. But sometimes, it’s nice to get a little dirty too. She has her own reasons, I’m sure, but I can understand her... impulses.“ With this lean up again, draw my legs underneath me and stand on the railing, beginning to walk as if on a balancing beam.
“And don’t you want grandchildren?” I tease, continuing my gymnastics routine while looking straight at him, “You know Zimir is quite a ways off from that- especially if he keeps running all of the girls off with lightning bolts!”
Cycling back around towards him, I continue: ”And to be fair, one place and one person sounds a bit stifling to me, too. I might make a few trips down to the surface, to get my hands dirty, but I’ll always come back.” Gently, I lean down and kiss him lightly on the cheek.
"You're right, I suppose," he says, his voice betraying a muted dejection under his solemn tone. "I can't help but feel as though much was lost when your sister left. Adtris, too, has mentioned her desire to leave Havenheim and walk the world below. My children are desperate for the world their mother and I left behind, a world once full of darkness and fear. They know not of the things I have watched, the brutalities of the races, and their wars. Such treachery... and hubris..."
As he turns to look at you, the familiar pools of light in the absence of his eyes radiates warmly over you. "What of you, my daydreamer? Will you, too, leave our halls, never to be seen at our table? Never to share your laugh, or your practical jokes?" His face cracks a small smile as he continues on, adding "Will you really leave us here to watch your brother Zimir strike his favorite mortals with lightning?"
Quietly, his face turns back to the city below, and the world below that. "I see nothing but tragedy for Zana, and for her husband, and their children. A heartbreak even I cannot fathom."
“You can’t watch over her forever, you know, and I don’t think she’d want you to keep such a close eye on her. Besides, don’t you have other things that you need to attend to?” I say, as I approach the end of the hall, lean against the pillar, cross my arms, and grin slyly.
A quiet breeze drifts softly through the open halls of Havenheim, the luminous walls of light ever-burning among the clouds high above the surface of the world. The haunting, melodic tones of strange exotic birds drift softly along the air, long and drawn-out notes like the sound of glass flutes echoing through the chambers.
You are standing in a hall, with a solid wall on your right and pillars on your left. On the opposite side of the pillars, a terrace stretches along the outside of the castle, overlooking the vast realm of Havenheim and, beyond that, the surface world. Ahead of you, the hall take a turn to the right, with two pillars visible ahead of you. between these two pillars stands Heriot the Zealot, the First God, Lord of Havenheim. He appears to be leaning over the luminescent marble railing of the terrace, watching the goings-on in the world below.
Recently his daughter, Zana the Tempest, had forsaken her seat in Havenheim to live on the surface world with her love, Alduth the Blacksmith. It can be assumed that Heriot is watching over the two presently.
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