Written by Bonnie Watson
Wisdom had not expected a large gathering. Curious shop keepers from the nearby town of Trully brought their families to witness his first public representation as a Healer. Among the townspeople were clansmen, their faces eagerly accepting change to their once solitary existence.
Only a few weeks had passed since Wisdom had taken over the abandoned Eastern Clan. Centrally located in the Realm of Trully, he had successfully brought the surrounding clans back together after years of distrust and segregation. As he knelt upon the path and prepared to connect his magical energies to Nature, he listened to the surrounding clan leaders keeping the crowd at a distance. A smile spread across his face. Only a few weeks before, the leaders had refused to speak to one another. Now they did so with vigor!
He passed a pale hand over the tangle of vines and interwoven, dry raffia stems. A small amount of energy eased from his fingertips into the soil. The response from Nature was equally as gentle. Connection from both energies was pure ecstasy. Magic coursed through his veins in a soothing flow of transforming visuals sent mostly through thought. In his mind, he could see the path he knelt upon widen as it branched from the main road. It led into the nearby forest where the Western Clan lay hidden. Around him tree trunks groaned, their roots sinking further into the earth. Vines pulled aside loose stone while larger pieces rose to the surface to create a smooth walkway. Overhanging foliage slithered up into the canopy. Lastly, he called forth a line of blooming flora to reside on either side of the new road. The result caused a positive reaction from the crowd behind him.
Slowly, Wisdom stood, giving time for the connection with Nature to end. Then he turned to the awaiting group and took a bow. He combed a few fingers through his pallid curls to set them back in place.
Applause and whistles met his pointed ears. One flicked forward at the approach of Alexander, leader of the Western Clan.
“It’s exactly as it was,” Alexander complimented. “Like nothing’s changed!”
In contrast to the albino prince, Alexander’s chestnut hair and dusky skin complexion put him right at home within the wooded area. By his side hung a crossbow, with an accompanying pouch containing the bolts. As Wisdom observed, even his earthen-toned outfit would blend into the environment if needed.
“Nature has a way of backtracking layers of history,” Wisdom replied. “If I had asked her to pull back even more, the road would no longer exist.” He tapped a foot on the freshly laid stone forming two lines down the center of the road.
“Well done!” Leader of the Mystics, Nemmerel, approached with the doctor Nickademis at his side. The two seemed inseparable since the Mystic leader had recovered from his illness. Both had matching grey beards. “I can see time already turning back. The realm will be prosperous before too long.”
“We’ll expect no less of you, of course,” Nickademis threw in a hint of sarcasm. As residing doctor with the Mystics, Nickademis had given the prince a hard time. It was not until recently that the doctor’s dour manner was finally tamed.
Wisdom’s cheeks flushed with pride. Praise from the doctor was welcome.
As do we, came the public thought of Mididus, leader of the Simpletons. The mind-reader stepped from his position as director of the crowd to join the small group of leaders. His thoughts conversed in their minds instead of speaking out load, something that was new to most everyone. Rumors had spread that the Simpletons were mute. Instead, they conversed solely in thought, making them the best mind-manipulators Wisdom had ever encountered.
And I thought my kind were mentally powerful, the prince thought with a secretive smile. Not anymore.
A petite figure drew the prince’s attention. With a slender frame and dark wavy hair, Glory seemed to ensnare him in a net of charms every time he gazed upon her. He ignored the nudging of elbows from his fellow companions; his growing love interest was too obvious to hide.
“How’s that for a gardening job?” Wisdom teased.
Glory gave a wide grin of approval. “Now just keep your other promises, and you’ll be set.”
Promises, meaning his duty to keep the clans in order and get the town up and running for business. The storm up north had deterred travelers from using the main road, leaving the harbor as the safest possible route. He kept a constant watch on the storm. Its source came not from Nature, but from the dark unicorn residing within the neighboring Realm of Sapphire. The storm itself was a reminder of its growing power, and persistence to claim a new body—his.
The prince’s attention was directed toward the Eastern Clan as Glory continued, “There’s also a messenger waiting for you. One of Lord Gracie’s, I believe.”
“From the Grand Master himself?” Alexander’s gaze flicked to Wisdom. “You have connections with Luxor?”
“Well, I did work there once,” Wisdom admitted. That was only partially true, since Wisdom had once been a slave at one point in his life. “Would you excuse me, please?”
At a nod, he made his way toward the clan with Glory at his side. As he passed by some of the townspeople, he paused to thank them for their support. Most of the group had dispersed, but a few stayed to mingle with various clan members. Wisdom watched them with growing satisfaction that he had done the right thing. Exposing the road leading to the other three clans, Western, Mystic and Simpleton, opened up new possibilities. Accessibility invited new members, and filled a void in a once disconnected realm.
Alexander had let Nature overtake the road in order to hide the clan’s location. Mostly, it had deterred those sent from the Schevolsky family living on the other side of town. Their history with the clans made owning the central Eastern Clan a task, for it was the Schevolsky family who had last owned it. With their misuse of money, the clans fell to quarreling, and eventually refused to speak to one another.
“I caught the last bit before the vines cleared from the road,” Glory said as she walked alongside the prince. A white dress swished around her ankles with each step. “You did well.”
“Thank you.” He flashed a broad grin. “I figured if people were coming and going from town, that the clans might as well look presentable.” His sapphire eyes met her maple-brown gaze.
“Well, will you look at that?” The verbal interruption forced the two to break eye contact. When they looked up the path, a white-winged harpy puffed up his neck and facial feathers in greeting. A wing opened to display its cream underside, with matching color patterned across the face and on the shoulders. A few black stripes mixed in to resemble a raccoon’s appearance.
Talons tapped over some loose pebbles when the harpy stepped forward. Although clothing was not a necessity, this one wore a vest of the finest quality. Its dark color complemented the harpy’s light skin and feathers as it clutched a parcel wrapped in brown paper between taloned fingers.
“Megas!” Wisdom instantly recognized Lord Gracie’s personal servant. “It’s good to see you again. How’s the wing?”
The harpy grinned and spread both wings, easily stretching the width of the road. As they folded behind his back, they faded from view. Though the harpy had no access to actual magic, the illusion helped in crowded areas where large wings could cause distraction.
“Never better!” Megas’ feathering flattened, giving him an almost human appearance. He held out the package for the prince to take. “Lord Gracie instructed me to give this to a Master Wisdom. So that’s you now, huh?”
“You are correct. Thank you.” Wisdom took the package with care, rotating it slightly to examine its irregular shape.
“Whatever happened to Keith?” Megas asked, scanning his friend’s new look. Accustomed to the layered look of humans, Wisdom’s rich attire was something he had not expected.
“I don’t use the other name anymore because of…er.” He paused and glanced at Glory, trying to find the right words.
With understanding, she placed a hand over his in reassurance. With a smile, she answered, “It’s just a part of becoming clan leader. He’s a prince now. Change is expected.”
Thank you, Wisdom thought to her, not wanting to mention slavery in front of the servant.
“Change indeed,” Megas said without noticing anything amiss. “I’m glad things have settled down for you, considering what you’ve been through.” He motioned to Glory. “My Lady, you look simply stunning! Your father must be very proud of you.”
“He is!” Glory answered without hesitation. “I’m awaiting word from him. Hopefully, it’ll be soon.”
Megas tapped the package with a talon. “There may be something inside. Lord Gracie informed me to be extra careful with it. I got here as soon as possible. Right breezy out today.”
“A good day for flight,” Wisdom replied. “Will you give my gratitude to Lord Gracie?”
“Always!” Megas turned to leave. “By the way, Nicolas says hello!” He pulled himself into flight with the pump of his wings, leaving the two below covering their faces against the dust stirred around them.
Wisdom and Glory watched the harpy sail through the sky with ease. At last, Glory shook her head.
“And to think you can do the same. It sickens me!” She laughed. “So who’s Nicolas?”
“He’s Nickademis’ son.”
“Really? And he works for Lord Gracie?”
Wisdom nodded as he untied the string holding the brown wrapping paper together. He thought back to the land’s only floating building, known as Luxor Castle. It was home to many individuals: harpies, Foreseers, and even Healers. Thomas Gracie ran the place as Law Keeper. Yet it was up to the individual realms how they wanted to implement those laws.
When he pulled the paper aside, a deep blue fabric lay folded with a square-cut note overtop. A hint of silver captured Glory’s attention, and she tenderly lifted a sleeve to reveal silver designs on the cuff.
“This is beautiful,” Wisdom heard her say while silently reading. “This is from Lord Gracie?”
“Actually, my grandfather.” He handed her the note.
“It’s an invitation!” she realized, turning the note over. There was more writing on the back. It was slightly lopsided, as though the person was rushing to get it down before stuffing it in with the garment. “I can’t read this part.”
The prince chuckled. “That would be my grandfather. In my language, gui’ajen, ni-ser’ino! Basically, I’m prince now. I represent both humans and Healers, so he wants me to look the part.”
“All that is in those two words?”
Grinning, Wisdom replied, “The short version: you’re prince, now look it!” He pulled out the garment. A quick shake unfolded the material. He held it out to inspect his grandfather’s gift, receiving awed approval from Glory.
The outfit consisted of two pieces, both of which contained silver designs over a midnight blue fabric. He admired the long overcoat trimmed in silver down the front. The sleeves were designed to partially cover the arm, then separated to drape beneath the elbow. Two clasps buttoned at the waist. The same fasteners were on the tunic, only at the base of the collar. Silver adorned both cuffs and collar, with a belt for the tunic.
Still holding the note, Glory pulled out a remaining black pair of slacks.
“You’re grandfather spared no expense, I see.” She held up a matching knee-high boot that laced from ankle up, but Keith shook his head.
“The boots, maybe,” he said. “But the rest isn’t your typical fabric. If you look closely, you can see the interwoven threads of silk.”
Glory held the material up close. “It doesn’t feel like silk. Who made this?”
“Not humans, I assure you. Nature created this.” The two folded the clothing and placed it back within the wrapping paper. “And I intend to wear it when we go to Luxor.”
Having lived directly over the home of Lo-ans’rel, Chanté was always amazed by their daily healing abilities and shape-shifting. It never got old. Now, as he watched his friend’s magic clear a road into Western Clan territory, he thought about home. Yet home was three realms away, within the heart of Crystal Valley. Its forests were comprised of some of the tallest trees in No’va – Redwoods, the safest place a harpy could find.
Chanté missed his cozy nest within the treetops. He missed the gentle swaying at night when the wind blew. Here, the trees of Trully were too short to gain much movement and did not hold much satisfaction to rebuild another nest. He thought about his family, a clan of White Wings under the leadership of his father, Rusha. At the time he had left the valley, Rusha had been called by the leader of Lo-ans’rel to act against humans. It was no hidden fact that humans used harpies for servitude. It was even present in the current realm, for he had seen Alexander bring some of his servants below Chanté’s hiding spot.
Within the thick branches of the trees, Chanté oversaw the creation of the main road to connect the various clans within the area. An array of patterned feathers across his face helped disguise his appearance within the deep shadows. With wings folded in a fade to avoid catching on limbs, he shifted positions to a comfortable crouch and waited for the crowd below to disperse.
Nothing new here, a voice rang through his thoughts. Just another demonstration of control.
Chanté checked the next branch over to spy Wisdom’s albino half-brother, Shy. The Healer returned the greeting with a grin.
“How come you’re not down there?” Chanté leaned over to whisper. “Thought you wanted to get to know humans a bit more.”
Shy leaned his head back until it rested against the wide trunk. An emerald gaze flicked to the figures below.
“I am – by studying them from a distance.”
Chanté puffed up his chest feathers, glad to be free of the clothing given to him to look the part of a servant. Such itchy fabric! He could not fathom having to wear it longer than a few hours. Shy must have noticed, for he motioned to its absence.
“Maybe if I were human, or Lo-an’rel!” A throaty chirp managed to escape, and he quickly shut his mouth to avoid detection from below.
Shy merely shrugged. He repositioned himself along the limb. When he did, waist-length silver-white hair spilled over one shoulder. The group below was starting to break up.
“Have you told your brother about Chronicles yet?” Chanté asked.
“Only enough to not draw attention to the real reason he sent me.”
“You didn’t tell him?!” The harpy muffled another chirp. “How long do you expect Chronicles to wait before he sends both our kinds against humans?”
He heard the Healer sigh before answering, “I don’t.”
A green aura engulfed his body and pushed off from the branch. By the time the light had faded, a sparrow’s form took shape and flitted from the wooded area into the open. My father sent me to mark human settlements, came a thought from Shy. I plan to do so, but I’ll be looking for those with the strength to fight back!