CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

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     It would only take Faeron a few moments to return to his home, Valintra, the world within the core of the planet. Valterra was his second home, Altnahara or the Land of the Sun, his third. 

     He regretted how short he was with Elise before he left. He wondered what she thought of him and how he left things between them. He couldn't really explain his vision to her, it would have made no sense. Though with her magics, it was possible she had seen herself and the boy connected in battle with a demon beast as well.

     The thought of having left her alone with that lot altogether made him extremely uncomfortable. He could still smell the berries she used in her hair, and feel the soft touch of her hands in his. But he needed answers. What was his connection to all this, besides being their Warden? Perhaps that is all it was, he was simply to look out for them. Yet he had never felt such a connection to a human before, nor ever felt the fear of losing one as much as he feared losing Elise. The pull the boy had on him made him believe there was a deeper explanation to his role in what lay ahead for them. Deep down he thought he may already know, but he had to have his thoughts confirmed by the Master Elves.

     He had to make sure that he was well enough away from Bolster to travel, so that the human Elders would not feel him use much of his power. Being able to travel, to teleport to and from his home, was another reason he was chosen as Warden. It was a rare ability he was born with and it had made him the only real candidate. At times it felt like he was forced into this life because there was no one else to live it.

     Travelling did have it's perks. He was able to bring other elves with him as long as they were all connected to him physically. Wardens of the past had teleported entire armies to fight alongside, or against, humans in the past. Faeron thought himself lucky that he never had to call his race to war. Unfortunately, he felt that time was coming to an end.

     Elves had thrived inside inner Valterra for millennia. Different generations of humans had various understandings of the part the elves had played in their own survival. Most humans alive today did not know Valintra existed. Should they even believe in elves, they thought they kept hidden deep within the forests of Valterra as otherworldly savages or criminals, incapable of human thought or emotion. Faeron had kept that rumour alive by leaving his mark throughout Valterra's forests. The trees never approved, but they allowed him to carve phrases in ancient Valtra on their roots.

     When he felt he was far enough away from the city, Faeron removed his cloak; being spelled it would interfere with his abilities. He put it in his knapsack and found the nearest grouping of clonal trees he could find. The older the grouping of trees, the easier it was for Faeron to travel to Valintra. The older trees allowed him to take root inside of their essence to travel his inner world, where the same type of trees would be growing. 

     The trees he had chosen to take him home where known as Ghost trees by the humans. He supposed it was because of their white and speckled bark. The humans believed that the bark carried the faces of loved ones who had passed on to Valrok, the resting place between worlds. They also believed that the trees could speak. They were not wrong, though they spoke a language unlike any elf or human dialect. Faeron could hear them occasionally, though it was unlikely for them to converse in front of any other sentient. He was unsure if it was shyness or fear that kept the trees at a distance, never willingly reaching out for a connection to civilized lifeforms. 

     He stepped up closer to one of the smaller birch and grabbed it with both hands. He focused on his home. In the darkness of his closed eyes, he pin pointed a spot in the back of his brain and waited for a yellow flash of light to engulf him. When it did, it felt like being hit with a huge ocean wave that pushed his body through a blinding threshold. Though when he had passed though it's thick envelope he held the same tree, in a similar grouping of trees but the world around him had changed. 

     The differences in the rest of the landscape were unmistakable; the jade grass, the violet hue of the inner sky. It's hot air filled his lungs as he took in a huge welcoming breath. Valintra, his home below.

     Faeron did not bother to retrieve his cloak, there was no need to keep his identity hidden here, nor did the temperature ever get cold. The air was thicker below and the unending luminous sky kept the atmosphere moist. He looked toward the centre sun, it was not bright like the human's sun, but gave enough light and energy to sustain life. It was the core sun that sustained the elves' magical abilities. It allowed them to heal and to tap into the essence of theirs and the human world. One could not exist without the other and although the elves today did not agree with everything that the humans did, they needed to keep them protected to ensure their own survival in Valintra.

     Valintra itself held a vast city that encompassed all the land available to them. There were parts of the landscape that we're more populated than others and it was all connected by a series of caverns or forests. Some elves, called Woodland Elves, chose to live amongst the trees, to inhabit the more primitive side of their culture. The Civil Elves lived in magically constructed ivory towers and the Aquatic elves lived near the rivers and streams in different types of homes. Some chose to build simple huts, others built more elaborate wooden cottages. Cavern Elves dug themselves homes right inside the earth itself. But all were considered Light Elves; there had been no Dark Elves in Valintra since the last war with Nerfarok, what the humans referred to as the Great Dark, over half a century ago.

    The elves had a greater understanding of just what Nerfarok was and what sustained it. It was the complete absence of Light, the black hole of spirit. Within it, nothing existed. Its purpose was to consume. Valintra held most of the planet's essence inside its core sun, Nerfarok's most treasured bounty. It was what must be protected overall.

     Faeron took another deep breath and sighed. It was good to be back. He felt himself become stronger and lighter than he was on Valterra. He looked beyond the birch forest towards the nearest Ivory tower. He knew the answers he sought he would find there among the Master Elves, the highest ranking and oldest Civil elves in Valintra. They were the ones who appointed him Warden all those years ago. The ones who had also failed to mention that there was a human on Valterra that carried the exact same life force as his own.

     Faeron fought back his anger. If he was to find the answers he sought, feeding his anger would not help him. He collected himself, realigned his magic and thought about the best way to handle this unavoidable confrontation. He respected the Masters, but he also knew that they could hold back on some truth if they felt it was necessary. So he could play that game as well. Perhaps now they would divulge exactly why they had kept so many secrets from him. He straightened himself out and began his walk towards the Embassy Tower, the tallest of all the Ivories ever built. 








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