Chapter Twelve

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Part Three


City of Dreams

Darrellik seemed pleasant. He spoke to them kindly and answered their questions openly enough. He refused to elaborate on things, like where the city was located. They had been walking around for the better part of an hour and Alex was certain that they had circled back around not far from where they started.

She supposed it was his job to ensure that no one could find them easily, but roaming around in the thick trees was getting tiring. The forest was awakening around them. It was as if the night had absorbed all the sound and silence filled the air. Now with morning just behind the tree line, birds chirped and squirrels scurried along the branches.

The little relief that the night gave from the heat would soon end. The shade of the trees would help, but she could already smell the moisture in the air. Alex did not mind the humidity in fact it invigorated her. The others, however, didn't feel the same and had no problem complaining.

She watched Darrellik as he walked in front of her. His body moved in a way that would have been difficult to explain if she had not seen it for herself. He was agile like a cat, moving swiftly. Yet at the same time, his long steps seemed slow and calculated, like that of a large animal. He rather bobbed his head up and down with each step forward.

He looked like an awkward walking tree trunk; it was a tad funny to watch. She stifled a giggle avoiding any questions or chides from Evangeline about being rude. Finally, they reached a small clearing. It was perfectly round and bare. Nothing grew in the circle, not even grass. Alex shifted her feet and a cloud of dust floated up around her ankles.

"Wait here." Darrellik said and disappeared into the trees before anyone could respond.

After what seemed an eternity, a group of seven guards entered the clearing with Darrellik in the lead. She could tell that it made Ryhan and Evangeline nervous. Even Thad was shiftier than usual, but Alex trusted her intuition and she knew that the elves meant them no harm. When the guards were about three feet from them they stopped and parted, revealing a woman.

She stepped forward and looked at the four of them sternly. The lady elf was nothing like Darrellik. Alex was not sure how old she was, but she could tell that the woman would have been an elder among their people. Her chin length hair fell around her pale face and was almost completely grey with a few streaks of black here and there.

A long stiff green robe made out of moss covered her body. Markings covered the woman's, though they were so faint Alex could not make out what they were. They were almost the same color as her brown skin but the iridescent lines shimmered a bit as the woman moved. It was beautiful and Alex longed to reach out and touch her face.

"I am Alta Abralle. I am the High Mother of the clans of Ferrentri. I understand you have traveled a long way, but I am sorry to inform you that Lillian is not here." Alta said in a thick accent.

"Where is she?" Evangeline responded first.

Alta Abralle smiled warmly and replied, "She is on a hunt with some of the women from the clan of the Trusted Fox. They did not return when they were expected two nights ago."

Alex asked concerned, "Did something happen to them?"

The woman furrowed her thin brows, "I do not know. I do not feel that they are in danger. The item they were seeking is very difficult to find. I think they may have had trouble locating it."

"What was it?" Ryhan asked.

"A rare plant for a birthing ritual. It is custom for the clan who is expecting, to seek it out." She responded then added, "I know you have many questions, but now is not the time. You look exhausted. We will open our city to you and be hospitable, but you must first complete a trust ritual."

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