Chapter 2: In Which Aria Re- Enters Evermore

Portal travelling is an exhilarating experience, if you know how to do it the right way. Aria had only travelled through one portal before and she was too young to really remember it. The only thing she could remember was leaving the tavern with her mother after Cleo lured the darkbloods away, being held tightly by the Mayor, and the sudden burst of white light.

It was the bright light of portal travelling that reminded her of the dark night, losing her family, and all that was lost in Evermore. Her head spun and nausea fought its way through her body as she fell onto the leaves just outside of Evermore boundaries, deep in the forest. She breathed heavily, crunching dry leaves in her fists and closed her eyes against the bright sun coming down through the trees. She tried to keep her breathing steady as pictures of the darkbloods surrounding her mother flooded her mind, the picture more vivid than it had been in hundreds of years. Feeling the nausea subside, Aria slowed her breathing and shakily stood up. Still wincing from the sunlight and feeling her energy drained from travel, she leaned against a tree taking in what she could of the woods as she rested for a minute.

The trees were thick throughout the forest, it seemed as if anyone could get lost if they didn’t know the way, but it smelled familiar, the dirt and leaves ground together creating a smell that was wet and dense. The tops of the trees were golden brown, sunlight sparkling through the leaves as the wind picked up, blowing through the canopy. The ground matched the golden- brown leaves as the earth was scattered with them and whenever Aria moved, a muffled crunch could be heard as the leaves broke joining the dirt underneath. Aria frowned, listening to the distant chatter of birds hiding in the trees, and tensed, feeling off. The forest was quiet and peaceful, not the darkblood infested forest she was prepared to find when she first walked through the portal. She could hear one or two darkbloods nearby, however, these darkbloods were miles off and sounded docile; they weren’t the angered darkbloods Aria was used to seeing walking around Evermore.

Aria was now a mature elf at the age of 3,734 years old. She wore a ranger outfit she made herself, hastily put together for her journey. Long black pants and matching shirt that was covered by a light grey tunic, tied together with black string. The Votum family’s crest, a phoenix, etched in gold and tied around her front shimmered in the sun, and the same designs weaving in and out on the arm bands she wore reminded her of her duty. She wore dark brown boots that ended just before her knees and wore her hair down, the natural curls flowing down her back save for the two braids she tied to keep most of her hair out of her face.

She didn’t know how far from Evermore she was, but she knew that it couldn’t be too far as she could also hear the bustle of townsfolk not a mile away. Aria frowned, puzzled as to why she wasn’t being surrounded by angry darkbloods, and tentatively stepped in front of the tree she had been leaning against. Not yet trusting that darkbloods were not on their way, Aria jumped in the air landing lightly on the branch of the tree and used the tops of the branches to her advantage, leaping soundless through the trees until she was at the edge of Evermore.

She frowned then, seeing over the wall of Evermore; the town was bustling with people in the streets, laughing and talking. Her ears perked up sensing someone below and she looked down to see two elves walking under her and talking. She almost gasped seeing her Uncle Hal but swallowed it, not wanting to be seen. Her mother would be proud, she always taught her how to silently watch and be invisible, even to other rangers. She perched on the branch, still silent, listening intently.

Hal was small and quite skinny, however, he made himself smaller as he hunched over, his leg giving way underneath him as he limped. His blonde hair he wore down fell just over his shoulders, shining in the light as the pair walked under the trees. He wore the familiar cape that a ranger wore, brown and gold leaves glittering in the sun, and his outfit was green with hints of brown also included.

He limped along next to the ranger next to him, wincing with every step, “The Mayor will want a full report on how many darkbloods we see this week. I expect a full account every day. I want to be able to predict how many are showing up around these parts, do you understand?”

“I understand and will do what you ask,” the other elf said. He looked rather young, couldn’t be more than 1,000 years old at most, but he stood tall as if he had already had a lot of experience under his belt. He was short like Hal and had about the same outfit Hal wore, the same familiar cape gleaming in the sun, but on top of his head stood a mass of brown-red curls.

The other elf put his bow and arrow away as they approached the walls of Evermore, “Vaella said the barrier was going to go down sometime tonight. She heard some world- walkers talking about it. They say Mortimer told them so.”

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The two Elven Rangers disappeared into the town of Evermore and Aria jumped down from the branch, her heart racing in her chest. “My mother is here,” Aria breathed. The rest of the conversation she did not understand at all, words like “barrier” and “world-walkers” running through her head. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at the wall of Evermore, its tall wooden doors reaching for the trees and easily leaped over it, landing softly on the other side, grass beneath her boots. She was on the outskirts of town, far away from town square, so no one was around.

She nodded once, then sent out on her way towards town, cutting across the grass to reach the pathway, thinking about who she could go to first. She had no plans yet, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that something felt off, the darkbloods not infesting the forest nagging her. She reached the bustling streets of the town, frowning more and more; the town was familiar, but not familiar at the same time. She could see people walking around the town, which was surprising; Aria could remember from a small age the curfews that were put in place by the town Council as the darkbloods grew in numbers. Evermorians were as numbered as the darkbloods and people never went out on the streets without a leader and a letter of approval signed by the mayor herself of what business one had to travel through Evermore. The only Evermorians to get that approval were usually those who patrolled the streets or delivered food supplies to the townsfolk. This was the most troubling thing and Aria picked up speed, frowning. She saw the familiar two chimneys of the tavern and thought to start there.

“As long as I don’t run into myself as a child, I should be fine,” Aria thought to herself. She didn’t know what would happen if she were to encounter herself as a child, however, she didn’t really want to find out either. She walked as calmly as she could into the tavern and frowned at what she saw. The tavern was packed with people but none of them were magical. The people looked like townsfolk, elves, fairies, and even dark creatures alike, however, Aria could not sense magical ability in any of them; she could sense something, but it was not like anything she had sensed before. These creatures were new and she did not know them.

“Can I help you with anything?” Aria spun around to see her old friend Cleo sitting behind the bar smiling at her and Aria stared at her; she looked exactly as Aria remembered her, “You must be a new world-walker. Welcome to Evermore.”

Aria walked up to the counter, seeing that Cleo didn’t recognize her. She stared at her for a long moment, a million thoughts running through her mind, then she recovered and smiled. “Hi Cleo. Umm, what’s a world- walker exactly?”

Cleo laughed, “Well it’s what we Evermorians like to call your kind. People who are not from this land or don’t live here in Evermore. The ones who come to visit from the other side of the portal. ”

Aria nodded and shook her head in turn, “I am, I mean I’m not, sure, uhh yeah, I’m a world- walker. What are world-walkers doing here in Evermore?”

Cleo smiled warmly, but a hint of sadness could be seen, “The Fae King is back, and you guys are here to help us. You will help us, right?”

“Yeah… of course… the Fae King? He’s here?” Aria asked, trying to keep her voice level and calm, however, she was now barely listening to Cleo as her eye caught a glimpse of a green dress sparkling and turned around to see Kyrah, the powerful sorceress, walk in and sit at a table, surrounded by these world- walkers. Kyrah sat behind a table, greeting the world- walkers warmly, her smile lighting up the room as it always did. She wore a sparkling green dress that fell down to her ankles and reminded Aria of home, however, she had never seen Kyrah wearing anything like that before; the dress was foreign but everything else was the same about her.

Aria walked over to the table and waited for the world- walkers to leave, then approached the table, “Hi Kyrah! You are her right? The powerful sorceress that knows portal magic?”

Kyrah looked up at Aria for a moment confused then smiled and laughed, “I don’t know about all of that. I don’t even have most of my magic, not since before Caderyn told me who I was, but yes, I’m Kyrah. Who are you and what can I do for you?”

Aria looked back at Cleo who was now talking to a world- walker and looked back at Kyrah. “You don’t know me. Right, of course. I’m Aria. I’m an elven… no wait, I’m one of them.” She pointed at the world walkers behind them and feeling defeated she mumbled a quick goodbye and walked out of the tavern without another word to Kyrah who watched her leave, puzzled.

She almost ran into another ten or twenty world- walkers on their way to the tavern and stepped to the side of the path out of their way, then ran behind the tavern away from the major pathway and away from odd world- walker creatures, her mind spinning. Both Cleo and Kyrah didn’t recognize her; although Aria was older than she had been before, the elf inside her was the same and every Evermorian would be able to sense that. It was like a magical fingerprint, always there and always the same.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized that if both Cleo and Kyrah knew her not, her mother would not recognize her either. Something was wrong in Evermore and Aria knew not what. Nothing was the same as before. The town was running as if nothing had happened, and even though a few darkbloods milled about through the forest nowhere near the amount of darkbloods Aria was used to seeing walking around town could be seen. Not to mention these strange world- walker creatures. They seemed to be a different species altogether that Aria had never seen before.

“Before…” Aria frowned standing up straight. “Of course, I must be before my time.”

Aria nodded, knowing she was right; it all made sense now. The lack of darkbloods, the strange creatures around, the town bustling with life, the Fae King here but not destroying the town, two of her mother’s closest friend’s not recognizing her; this was not the Evermore Aria grew up in. Aria sat on the ground against the tavern as her mind overwhelmed her with thoughts of her mother in Evermore, her mother in Votum, and all the people she was supposed to help filled her mind as she tried not to panic, unsure of what to do.

Recommended1 recommendation Published in Adventures in World Walking, WW Backstories

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