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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2205196
Aithera leaves Aripi for the Guardian Regent Picking.
The air was fresh in her lungs as she left the borders of her city, Aripi. As they left the confines of the walls, Aithera slowed and turned around. She took in the sight of her city in the morning sun. It was a beautiful image that she would cherish until her end of days. The sun glistened off the lower lakes, and she could picture the cascading shadows through the trees of the forest. She knew how the sun shone through the windows of the castle and how it would wake her in the morning as the light reflected off the glass and an array of colours danced across the room. She knew the morning sun would change the sleepy villages around the castle into bustling streets with ordinary people leaving their dilapidated houses to go to their jobs or the markets for fresh fruits and vegetables, imported from the south. She remembered her first solo trip to the markets just after her mother had passed, she could still smell the cigar’s smoke from the merchants as they waited for the right customers to eye their stall, and sell them a line that they couldn’t resist. Just past the market she knew the bells of the Temple would chime soon. They would ring out for the morning services in honour of the strongest Wind to protect Aripi. The Wind Fay-Ith monks and priestesses would sing songs in the ancient tongues as the wind blew through the holes of the mountainside, singing together in harmony. The Temple itself was inbuilt in the mountainside, the stone carved to great pillars while the actual areas of worship were deep inside the mountain. That was the area that she had collected her Father’s body from. She had walked through the carved pillars and statues of old Kings and Queens only to find one King, his casket alone in the centre of the room with only the older monks to watch over his body, as thieves dreamed of the riches of a dead King. The Wind would howl through the holes of the mountain. Aithera as a child thought the noises were scary, yet as she grew older she found solace in them. She thought of them as her mother and Haizea’s souls wrapping around her in a protective layer. Now, she included her Father in that thought.
“Are you ready, my Queen?” Samir asked from behind her. The beat of their wings was the only noise around them.
Aithera nodded. “Yes. I just needed a moment.” She turned around and smiled at Samir. “Thank you for indulging me.” They continued flying and soon the wind picked up behind them. Aithera smiled to herself as she thought of the three souls that guided her way. They flew over the mountainous terrain. Flying was more exhausting on the person, yet on horseback it could take months if you didn’t have the right path and navigation skill set. She understood why they flew as she looked at the mountains below her. There were cliffs that dropped down into dark abysses and rocky edges that crumbled under the slightest touch. It was one of the reasons the Wind Fay survived the War of the Sacred Seven, as no Boscun Clans Army could make it to Aripi or Cedat. They say there was only one attack on Aripi and the city was solely defended by Haizea. Without her, Aithera’s city would be in ruins. That was the battle that earned her the name of “Custodian of Aripi”. Aithera looked down at the deep abysses that plagued her Queendom. The sun caught the glint of something metallic deep in the abyss and Aithera wondered what it was. But her curiosity would not be sated, for she had urgent business to attend to. If she were to satisfy every whim she had, she would never get to Faerie Grove. That was what defined the difference between when she was Aithera the girl, and Aithera the Queen.
As the sun followed them and watched from overhead, she felt the tired ache in her back muscles as her wings grew weary from flying for so long. But she did not say anything. Aithera wanted to show her guards that she was a Queen to be reckoned with and the quicker she arrived at Faerie Grove, the more impressive she will look. At that moment, she forced herself to beat harder and faster than before.
“A new lease of life, my Queen?” Samir said, nodding approvingly.
“Call me, Aithera.” She said to him. “You know me too well for such formalities.”
“As you wish, Aithera.” She saw the smile on the side of his face. “We will be coming to Cedat just before nightfall. We will be staying there for a short stay before flying to Noroca and then to the Spirit Worlds.”
“Very well.” She said, trying to not let the tiredness creep into her voice. She wasn’t sure that she convinced Samir but they didn’t stop.
The terrain continued to be mountainous yet the abysses smoothed out to become deep grassed valleys that housed small hamlets and villages that were cut off from most of the outer world. It was a difficult life for the city folk, never mind those who lived in the countryside. She wondered how they had survived for so long without the protection of the Wind Flutura – the Army that served Aithera. The Flutura patrolled the countryside but the army is not large enough to cover everywhere, and it was her grandfather, Torynn Aydho Atwood married to Queen Gayle IV, who decided that those who wish to live in the countryside shall be compensated for their lack of protection. He passed the law to allow those outside of the Flutura’s protection to stock defensive magic aids and weaponry to deter thieves. That was part of her history lessons that she took once she was named heir to the crown. Once her father’s condition worsened, Aithera’s childhood ended and she fell into the second chapter of her life, where she learned to become the Queen the Wind Fay needed.
She hoped that she had become that Queen already but as she was learning, it was a never-ending task. The thought tired her out, but she knew she would have to continue to prove herself as a great Queen and it was a long road ahead of her. Metaphorically as well as physically. She looked over to Samir who seemed to understand what she was thinking.
“No fear, my Queen.” He said gently. “We are almost at Cedat and shall stop there for the night.”
As he spoke Aithera cast her gaze to the land stretched out in front of them. She saw no city in the dying sun as it set on the valleys she flew over, nor did she see any silhouettes of building protruding from the mountains like she would have expected. But she remembered Cedat’s idiosyncrasies as a city. It was titled as City of the Caved, just as Aripi was City of the Winged. Then she saw it, the flickering light deep in the valley was the only sign of life near them. They began their descent towards the sole flicker in the setting darkness and Aithera felt a sigh of relief dwell inside of her. As they descended from the higher altitude she found it easier to breathe, the air was thicker and as they came closer to the ground she saw the mouth of the cave open up to be wide enough for two carriages. Her feet touched the ground and the ache in her back lessened. She folded away her wings as her guards began the routine for her visit. Samir walked forward and bowed to the guards, handing over a scroll with the royal seal on it.
“I am Samir, Head of the Royal Guard of Queen Aithera’s personal Flutura.” He said. “I trust the paper work has already reached you of Queen Aithera’s visit to Cedat on her way to Faerie Grove?”
One of the guards came forward. He was pale, as all Cedati were, but a friendly smile flickered across his face. “Welcome brother Samir, the paperwork arrived with your messenger and a bed in the old Palace of Cedat has been arranged for our new Queen and her guests. Please, enter Cedat and enjoy your stay.” He bowed as Samir beckoned for Aithera, Govad and the others to follow him.
As Aithera walked past the guards, they saluted her in unison and shouted in the ancient Zephyrian tongue, “Long is the life of Queen Aithera, the First of her Name, the Sacred Wind, Queen of all Zephyria, Protector of the Windy Mountains and Leader of the Wind Fay.”
Aithera stood for a moment to acknowledge their allegiance. “Long may I reign.” She said back in the ancient tongue. This was a tradition that she knew she must uphold, but Aithera was also destined to carve out her own tradition. As she walked past each of the guards, she touched their shoulders and smiled at them. “May the Cedati never fall.”
She could feel all eyes on her, but she refused to meet any of them, even Govad for she was expecting to be scolded. But when she saw the faces of each of the guards she touched, she knew she had done the right thing. The sincerity of their smiles was enough to warm even the coldest of hearts.
As they walked into the cave, silence befell them. She expected the cave to be dark and gloomy, yet it was lit with oil lanterns that gave her the impression of romance and also the same feeling of crawling into bed after a long day.
“Your mother would be proud of you.” Govad said beside her while staring straight ahead at the lights that lead into the city of Cedat. “She valued everyone’s opinion and was loved by the people.”
“Do you think I’m like her?” Aithera asked. She couldn’t really remember much about her mother, but Govad was older.
“I think you just showed me that you are.” He smiled. “She always wanted the best for everyone which according to the records, was her strength but also her weakness.”
“What do you mean?”
“She was impulsive, often carrying out orders that were reckless – she didn’t think of the long term consequences like Aither did. She was a great woman, but not the best Queen.” Govad said the last sentence meekly.
“It is a fine line to dance on.” Aithera said, trying not to seem annoyed at Govad. Of course her mother was a great Queen. Aither knew how she held the nation together through the end of the wars and helped restore peace in the land after the greatest conflict in their history. Her mother was just as much a hero as her father, and she wouldn’t let the world forget that.
As the cave began to open up, Aithera’s breath was taken away. The dim lights leading to the city suddenly exploded into an array of colours that marked different paths through the city’s narrow streets. All of the houses and buildings carved into the cave were painted white.
“They’re all white to reflect any of the light that comes in from the gaps in the rock above the cave.” Govad said as if he could read her thoughts.
“Do you do anything else but read, cousin?” she asked.
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just what I read.” He said, registering her annoyance in her tone.
Aithera remained silent for a moment. She had never been the type of person to hold a grudge, it wasn’t in her nature. “Its ok.”
They walked through the small houses that greeted them on the outskirts of the main city. The roads twisted and turned narrowly towards the centre of the cave where a yawning hole lay. Aithera wanted a better look and without any warning, she sprouted her wings and took off into the cavern’s globe. She heard the guard take after her and fly into the sky as was their duty. She rose up, higher and higher until she could fully appreciate the sight in front of her. In the darkness she could see the lights that lined each street as they wound around corners and bends connecting with other streets. She could see the fountains that were lit up in plazas and squares around the city, and the numerous lights that together showed buildings of importance. The one that caught her eye the most was what she assumed was the Old Palace of Cedat. It was set high above the others, deep in the cave’s wall that overlooked the whole of the city. While it surely looked impressive, it wasn’t the biggest attraction. It was the lack of lights that intrigued her. In the centre of the city lay the descent to the Omni Wells, a lack of light drew her attention to it and she realised the sheer scale of how grand a hole it was.
“Woah…” Govad said as he caught up to her. “The books don’t give its size justice.”
“My Queen, please, they are waiting on us in the Old Palace.” Samir said, his voice was pleading without being out of place.
“If you insist.” Aithera said, as she descended back towards the streets without taking her eyes off the hole. It was mesmerising her. She wondered how deep it went, and how dark it got. Was there more of the city down there or solely the Omni farms? How dark did it need to be to grow Omni? Her curious mind had been lit alight like the dry bushes and plants that were near the arid Red Deserts of Ligeron. The lack of water often dried the leaves to the point that one bit of heat caused a bush fire that would engulf the whole area, reducing it to a body of grey and ash.
They meandered through the streets, slowly making the ascent towards the imposing Old Palace of Cedat that stood strongly against the cavern wall, illuminated in light. As Aithera climbed up the steps she was greeted by more guards, dressed in mustard yellow outfits with muted brown undertones. These were the official colours of Cedat, and the Flutura that were stationed in Cedat wore them proudly. Aripi’s colours were brighter, a lemon yellow that was glossy while Noroca had a golden yellow that was what they thought was vainly better than any other shade of yellow.
She passed the guards and came across an old woman, wrapped in dark brown robes with a look on her face like soured yak milk. Her frame was bent and broken, one leg must have been longer than the other for she raised a hip every time her left leg moved forward.
“Hello.” Aithera said to the older woman, unsure how to greet her as Aithera was Queen, but the woman was her elder.
The woman grunted at Aithera, barely acknowledging her and moving past her to Govad. She reached up a withered hand and touched his cheek gently, her face grinning toothlessly. “Hello my boy.” She said.
“Hello, Grandmother.” Govad said, touching the old hand fondly. “I hope you are well.”
Aithera felt herself take an inbreath of air. She couldn’t remember the last time her grandmother had visited Aripi. She had no recollection of the woman that had birthed her father and had helped lead the Wind Fay. Aithera looked to the face of the only other living Atwood Queen, Gayle IV.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” Aithera said, stepping forward and touching her grandmother’s small shoulder.
Yet the old woman’s face only crumpled in disdain. “We’ve met before, child, but you were only a smaller annoyance then.” She muttered to herself.
Aithera dropped her hand away from the cold woman. She didn’t know what to say.
“It has been a long time, my sweet boy.” She said, cooing over Govad. “You look so like my Haizea. My darling girl lives on in you.”
“Mother Gayle,” Samir said, bowing to her. “It is a pleasure to see you once again.
“Samir, isn’t it?” She said, peering over Govad to Samir. “You’ve grown old. You used to be handsome.”
Samir chuckled. “You haven’t changed. May we enter the Old Palace?”
Gayle grunted and slowly led the way towards the large white Palace. It was cracked in areas but maintained a strong structure to it. The large doors at the front of the palace were made of a dark wood that held intricate designs centred around the Omni Wells. The Omni plant lay in the centre of the door’s design, painted with Omni itself to give it the ethereal glow that shone in the darkness. As they entered, they were greeted by servants and maids that took their equipment and baggage off them and scurried away to other places. The walls were lined with portraits of the Kings and Queens that ruled from Cedat, and Aithera felt a drop in her stomach when she realised her father was not on the wall, as the last picture was of Torynn Aydho, Gayle’s late husband.
But Aithera grew confused. Torynn Aydho had ruled from Aripi. He was not one of the last kings of Cedat. The last king had been Esen-Azad according to the scholars, so why wasn’t her father there? And why hadn’t anyone mentioned that her grandmother was still alive? Why didn’t she come to her son’s funeral?
They were led into a large room that had clearly been the old throne room but now was converted into a dining room that was large enough for banquets that the wind Fay couldn’t afford. Aithera took this moment to pull aside Govad.
“Why wasn’t I told she was alive?” Aithera scolded him. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t think of it.” Govad said simply. “I haven’t seen her since I was a young boy, when she last visited Aripi.”
“Why is she so cold?” Aithera asked, wondering what she had done to offend the old lady.
But Govad remained silent, his face a clear sign of internal contention. Aithera thumped him on the arm. He looked at her and his expression softened. “I don’t want to upset you again.”
“You aren’t protecting me by leaving me in the dark!” She hissed at him. Now she was getting really annoyed. “Tell me!”
Govad hesitated and she raised her eyebrows threateningly at him. “Ok, ok, fine.” He finally said. “She didn’t come to Aether’s funeral because he disowned her.”
Aithera was taken aback. She hadn’t expected that answer. “What?” She mumbled.
“Aether disowned her after they argued over my mum.” He said, awkwardly. “She blamed Aether for not taking care of my mum properly.”
“Oh.” Aithera said. She wanted to say more, but the words were stuck in her throat and honestly, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.
“It isn’t anything to worry about.” Govad said, more calmly than Aithera had expected him to be. “I don’t blame Aether for my mum’s death. It was an accident.”
“She hates me for being his daughter?” Aithera asked.
“She doesn’t hate you.” Govad touched her arm. “Of course she doesn’t, she’s probably just hurt by Aether’s actions.”
“Should I be judged by my father’s actions?” She asked, exasperated.
Govad smiled. “Isn’t that what you asked of everyone during your coronation? To believe in you because you were Aether’s daughter?”
“Yes but-”
“But you can’t take the good without the bad.” Govad smiled weakly. “You shouldn’t worry about it tonight, everyone is tired.” He led her back to the group in the dining room. Yet Aithera couldn’t get it off her mind so she decided to excuse herself from the room and retire to her bedroom. It was a reasonable excuse after flying all day. As she climbed the stairs, led by a servant, she was led to one of the rooms in the far corner of the building. It was a big room with old wardrobes that one housed gowns and robes for the kings of bygone eras. She sat on the bed and hoped for sleep yet her mind raced about her grandmother, the old Queen Gayle.
After a time, she sat up and walked to the door of the room. She opened it and walked into the dark hall. The oil burners had been set to low as everyone was meant to be asleep. She explored the dark halls as she let her mind wander until she heard whispering coming from a slither of light from an ajar door.
“But how?” One voice frantically whispered. “There is no way I can afford it.”
“You have to, Sirocco needs that medicine or… Winds above forbid…”
“Don’t you dare say it.” The first voice chided. “He will pull through this, it is only a virus. He’ll survive.”
“He’ll be left crippled if not damaged inside. Is that the life you want for your son?” The second voice asked. As Aithera crept closer, she recognised both voices as women.
“But I can’t afford it!” The first cried again, frustrated.
“Take something the old one won’t notice then.” The second cried back. “Not the gilded but maybe some of her earrings. They’ll still fetch a good price in the back markets.”
“And risk losing a limb for each item I take?” She said back. Desperation saturated her voice. She was considering it. “No. If I do, I won’t be able to look after Sirocco, you remember Red headed Mistral. She was caught stealing and they chopped her hands clean off. Couldn’t feed herself and died without a penny to her name, branded a thief.”
Aithera felt a red heat seep deep inside of her come exploding out. She whipped open the door to the horror of the two servants, both middle aged and pocked with scars. One cried out that it was all in jest, while the other grew paler and paler. Both of their wings were tattered, yet the first one had only one wing, the other was a hefty scar on her back.
“She dismembers thieves?” Aithera hissed to the women, looking back and forth between the talker and the pale one. “Gayle has harmed my citizens?” The heat began to pour out of her like never before. Aithera had never been this angry. “My own grandmother, the old Queen has turned against her own citizens?” Aithera couldn’t contain her voice.
“But they were thieves.” The talkative one said. “But please, Lady Aithera-”
“Queen!” The pale one interjected, looking as if she may pass out at any second.
“- we don’t mean no harm, please don’t tell Queen Gayle of us. I beg of you to go to back to your room and think of this all as a bad dream, eh?”
“Where is she?” Aithera said. “Where is my grandmother’s room?”
“In the Upper West Wing.” The talkative one said.
Aithera turned and left the room, but before she shut the door behind her she turned to the talkative one. “Here.” She said, taking off her necklace and throwing it to the servant. “This should cover any medicine needed.”
Aithera grabbed a lantern and left the room as the woman looked stunned at her, holding the necklace that was worth more than her life’s work at the Palace. Aithera followed the corridors until she came to the room that was guarded, knowing this was her destination. She banged on the door as the guards watched her silently, both of them were afraid of her in her temper.
“Leave us.” She said as the door knob twisted open and Gayle appeared with a face crumpled up in intrigue and annoyance.
“What?” She spat.
“You dare go against the law? How can you chop the hands off our own citizens?” Aithera spat back, her anger bubbling under the surface. As she saw the face of the old woman, she grew hesitant. She was intimidated.
“What?” She said again. This time she seemed more confused. “Annoy someone else at this hour with your babble, child.”
“I am your Queen and you will listen to me.” Aithera said, her voice wavering on the word will.
The old Queen turned back around and stared at Aithera. “You are your father’s daughter, barking commands at those that once birthed you.”
“You were against the law. The punishment for thieves is a sentence in the închisoaren dams. You have no right to do this.” Aithera tried not to shout but her emotions were heady.
“You have no idea what right I have.” She spat back. “I was Queen long before you were born, child. I have more rights than you ever will.”
“I am the Queen of the Wind Fay, and the whole of Zephyria.”
“But I was first and while the other cities might worship you, I see you for the damn brat that you are, Aether’s kid. Cedat is still mine and I’ll do as I like.” She crossed her arms.
“The treasury that funds the Old Palace will give out five fayaur to each of the servants here, and ten fayaur to the families of thieves that have died by your hands.” Aithera said. “You may think you have Cedat, but I have the treasury and you’re nothing without it.”
“Five fayaur? Each?” Gayle’s jaw dropped. “You’ll run this country to the ground.” Gayle said in a cold malicious voice.
“I’ll save it from you.” Aithera said, before turning on her heel and walking back down the hall to her room. She heard the door of the old woman slam shut and as Aithera reached her own room, she was suddenly so exhausted she could barely stand. She clutched the door frame before dashing towards the bed. Quickly, Aither undressed and fell into a deep sleep that she very much needed.
When she awoke, she was greeted by Govad, who now was the one looking very upset.
“What’s wrong?” She asked as they made their way down to breakfast.
“You are very like your mother.” He said with tight lips.
“And?” She said, taking it as a compliment.
“You’re impulsive, reckless and passionate to a fault.” Govad angrily growled at her. “Aithera! Last night everyone heard you proclaim that the treasury would give each of the servants five whole fayaur each. Do you know how many servants there are in this building? Do you?”
“No.” Aithera said meekly.
“There are over one hundred.” Govad said. “You spent five hundred fayaur last night because you were angry at your grandmother for not going to Aether’s funeral.”
“No…” Aithera began but she realised Govad was partially right.
“Your word is law now, Aithera.” He said. “You have to think about every action, every consequence and every word.”
“I’m sorry.” She said meekly. The fiery Queen that had exploded inside of her last night had long left and only the fourteen-year-old girl stood in front of Govad.
Govad sighed. “Five hundred fayaur could pay for the training of a squad of Flutura. Five hundred fayaur could pay for the orphanages’ food for a year in Aripi. Five hundred-”
“I get it!” Aithera said. “I messed up! I get it!”
“As long as you do.” Govad said as they entered the dining hall for breakfast. Aithera did not see Gayle after their argument as she never came to see them as they left the Old Palace to see the Omni Wells before leaving Cedat to travel once again. The city of Cedat looked different in the morning light, the thin columns of light that fell down from the cavern roof reflected off the white buildings and metal structures to create a dance of light beams that moved across the city with the pattern of the sun high above. She could see the hole in the middle of the city clearly now. It was even bigger than she expected. They walked through the streets with her guards in the typical formation around her, keeping the citizens of Cedati at bay as they cheered and screamed once realising who she was. She didn’t wear her crown, nor had most of the Cedati citizens ever seen her, but who she was was obvious. Her robes were different than the Cedati ones, finer and showing the lemony yellow of Aripi. Yet that was not the dead give away of who she was. It was her folded in wings that portrayed her as a royal, the ability solely gifted to the royal blood line of Atwoods. That was the difference between a Queen born of Atwood blood and one that was married into the bloodline, like Gayle.
As they came to the centre of the city and the edge of the hole, Aithera felt the inkling of how small she was in the world. The hole stood like a portal to another world, one made of darkness and depths beyond her imagination. Two specialist guards arrived shortly after Aithera’s party and introduced themselves as specialist divers.
“Please put on your masks,” the first woman said, demonstrating how the mask is fitted with a strap that tightened the mask around Aithera’s mouth and nose. “These masks protect you from both the fumes of the Omni, as some feel the effects of Omni from the air around the farms, and also diver’s sickness.”
Aithera looked the mask. It was a clear piece of equipment that had a number of holes to allow air into it. Each of these holes were rimmed with yellow powder, which Aithera assumed was wind magic. She guessed it cleared any toxics that were filtered into the air in the farms.
“Each of you will step onto the platform behind me,” The next instructor said. He stood up on a board that jutted out over the abyss below. “Then you’ll dive up and backwards, flipping down into the Well.” He demonstrated, pressing his body into the board, bending his knees and jumping off. His wings stretched outwards as he twisted in the air and dived deep into the pit and out of sight.
Aithera heard a deep intake of breath and looked at Govad beside her. He was growing paler, almost looking like a Cedati himself. She almost giggled but held it back. But she touched his hand and he looked at the gesture before looking at her. “If Aether threw you out of windows, you can dive into a Well.”
“It… its so big.” Govad said, his eyes wide.
“You’ll be fine, cousin.” She said.
“Would you do us the honours, my Queen?” The instructor directed her gaze to Aithera as did everyone that followed.
Aithera nodded and walked forward. She was excited, the fight with Gayle quickly forgotten as her curiosity felt the sensation of being sated. She was going to jump into the abyss. The instructor held her hand gently as he helped her onto the platform. Aithera smiled nervously as he let go of her hand. She bent her knees to the nods of the specialists and pushed herself into the board before jumping up into the air. With a squeal of delight, she twisted around in the air as her wings exploded from her back and dived into the darkness of the cave.
Silence consumed her as she continued down the Well into the ever-growing darkness. The only noise Aithera could hear was her beating heart, and the whoosh of her beating wings. Once she was completely enveloped in the darkness, she began to see shapes appear in front of her. She swore she could see glassy snakes that slithered around the edges of the Well as if they were coming up to greet her, and icy blue dragons that danced around her. It was only when she heard the instructor’s voice that she realised she was at the bottom of the Well.
“Hope the flight was ok, my Queen.” The instructor said as Aithera twirled around and landed on the soft soiled ground. She realised the temperatures of the Well were much higher than in the city of Cedat. The others followed in single file until the other specialists landed as the last of the flying party. Aithera looked around in the icy light that reflected off what she now realised were vines and plants. They wrapped around the walls of the Well and lit a path down one side into the depths of a tunnel.
“There are many tunnels stemming off from the Well in all directions of Cedat. It is the biggest Omni plantation in the whole of the Sanctomia nations. These thin tendrils are similar to other plants’ roots, but unlike other plants they illuminate light, which give them the otherworldly icy blue glow. We use them as the main source of light in the Well, as Omni is better grown in darkness.” They continued to follow the root like structures until the tunnel opened into a small circular cavern that was filled with bushes upon bushes of Omni. Aithera gasped at the beauty of the plant. The leaves were the same icy blue but unlike the roots, they were detailed and vivid, shedding the glassy exterior for a sparkling one.
“This is the Crystalline Forest.” The specialist said. “These Omni plants are so pure, they’re one of the best in the world.” The specialist walked up the plant and pulled out a vial that held the Omni liquid. He pointed to the flower which had brown open flat petals and a thick stamen. Just under the stamen, the specialist placed the vial. “If you squeeze the bottom of the stamen, the Omni is excreted from the top of it, and you can catch it like this.” He said as the fluid dripped into the vial. “Each flower can fill around ten vials each.
Aithera looked around at the plants and she noticed hundred of flowers around her. “You could sell this.” She whispered to herself.
“But then the other nations have Omni on their hands.” Govad whispered beside her. “A dangerous game to play with politics that are so unstable.”
“But one to consider if we are starving.” Aithera said. She cleared her throat and spoke aloud. “So what do you do with all the Omni that you collect?”
“We sell it to merchants and other high bidders. Lots of our stock goes to researchers for Overexertion Deficiency, who try to find solutions to the continuous use of Omni without shortening the lifespan of the user. Other buyers include some of the Academies as their students use Omni under strict guidance to study advanced magic.”
“And the profit?” Aithera asked.
“Most of it goes back into the Well, but any profit then goes to the Treasury.” He stated. “Any other questions?”
When there were no other questions, he led them back to bottom of the Well. There he brought out a tray with filled vials of Omni. “Would you like to try it?” He asked.
The group muttered excited.
“There are no long-term effects to sporadic use. It is only continuous use that harms the user.” He smiled at Aithera. “My Queen?” He held out a pipette with the syrupy pearlescent liquid in it.
Aithera tenderly stepped forward and took the pipette. She tilted her hair and back and placed the eyedrop above her eye. She gently squeezed the pipette and the liquid dripped into her eye. As soon as it touched her pupil, she felt the insane rush of power. She gasped out and felt strength percolate into every part of her being. She felt like she could take on the world. Her inhibitions had left her. She gave back the pipette and looked around. The darkness of the Well was now different shades of colour. Her eyes could focus more, her feet could feel the material of her shoes, and she could almost feel the soil below that. Her aura had extended and she was more than just a person.
“My Queen, look at your reflection.” The other specialist said, holding up a reflective glass.
She looked at herself, seeing not only her own face, but her mother’s and the whole lineage of her family. She could see the similarities between her dad’s crooked nose and her own, the rims of her eyes however were like nothing else. She watched as the pupils widened and the thick irises were a beautiful shade of yellow.
“The Omni reflects your magical ability.” The specialist said. “We are all Wind Fay here so naturally, we have yellow irises when using Omni.”
The drops were being passed around as each of her guards and officials took a drop of the Omni to try it. The Guards had already used it before, as many of them used it during the Wars. She heard the gasp of Govad as he tried it and Aithera giggled. She wanted to fly, and Govad was going to be her competition.
“Race me to the top, cousin!” She said, excited to feel the air beneath her wings with Omni in her system.
“Ok” Govad said. He pushed off the ground with her and the shot up into the air faster than they ever did before. Aithera laughed and twirled, not wanting their race to be over. She called over to Govad and pulled a face, just like she always did, but what she saw was something she couldn’t describe.
He was flying lower than her, just as ecstatic as she was. But there was one difference. As he rose out of the darkness, his eyes were not yellow, but a pale silver.

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