Papyrus

The Dryad of Xyleen | Chapter 3

The Untold Memory

The banquet hall looked gloomier than the usual festivals. Dryads always love to celebrate, especially on occasions. However, the scene looked quite tense as if they were expecting a bomb would go off at any time, not to mention who the bomb is. Mother dryads were facing the real difficulties trying to hush their babies. After entering the banquet hall, Lia noticed that several mothers were trying their level best to control the children. She heard one of them whispered a horrifying story about Gus so that the children would stop making noise while he was around.

It was almost evening, the high time for the songs to be started with the dryads’ illuminants. Dryads could produce an inner light when they feel peaceful. These illuminants light the dark night. The illuminants had mesmerising powers beyond anyone’s dream. Each dryad had different powers in their illuminants. However, their powers were not limited to only one, each had at least two. They could cure the sick and protect the helpless. The light also worked as a good luck and protection charm. Those who had strong minds were capable of illuminating an entire area. Only the chief had the ability to light an entire city as his mind was the strongest of all. Without even practicing, Princess Lia could do the same as Chief Yan. Tonight she thought of doing the same, but no one seemed to be looking forward to the festival any longer. They looked as if they were more interested to lock themselves up inside their houses rather than being present in the banquet. Chief Yan could also feel the tension in the air. The only person who was enjoying the tension in the air was Gus. He was enjoying the food, talking with the chief and the ministers. Lia felt like he was feeling more important than ever. She could not bear the thought of that slimy green creature to have all the fun on the eve of her birthday. He was ruining everything. Suddenly she stood up and used her illuminant, a bright pale scarlet light filled the entire city.

‘Why isn’t anyone singing?’ No one moved. They were stunned by her sudden movement.

‘I will start with or without anyone’, without waiting for an approval she started to sing. Gradually the crowd followed and the tension in the air was realised. This made Gus angry, as he was no longer the centre of attraction anymore. ‘Enjoy while you can, princess’, he thought and started to laugh. The ministers looked petrified but no one dared to ask him what he found something so amusing to laugh out loud. He stood up and said farewell to Chief Yan.

‘I apologize for leaving early from the festival. I have a headache.’

General Sequoia raised an eyebrow.

‘Of course. Take rest. Reak will escort you to your room’, said Chief Yan.

‘Oh! The Princess seems to be busy now. So I will leave the present for her birthday to you. Please convey my sincere apologies.’ He brought out the bright green pouch which he had showed earlier that day. He handed it to Chief Yan and bowed. And he left the banquet hall. Chief Yan as well as the ministers started breathing again. Minister Cypress came closer to Chief Yan and sat down on the empty chair which Gus had left.

‘Something is not right with him, sire’, said the minister.

‘I know. That’s why I am very worried about everything. The coronation is one week away and if he insists on staying, we cannot make him go away’, he rest his head on his hand. Suddenly the chief looked very tired as if he was hundred years old.

‘If I am not mistaken, I think he is plotting something big’, he said.

‘Well, he seems to have all the information about my daughter.’

‘You mean he has a spy?’ He was surprised.

‘Looks like it’, and he told him about the incident which occurred in Lia’s chamber.

‘I will keep an eye on him, do not worry, sire.’ He tried to assure him.

‘I’m afraid I know what he might be thinking of doing next. I think …’ but the chief could not finish his sentence as he noticed that Princess Lia was approaching him.

‘Is everything alright?’ she asked anxiously, eyeing on both the chief and the minister.

‘Yes, yes, everything is fine. Why?’ he answered quickly.

‘You both look worried and suspicious. Anyway, where is Gus?’

‘Oh, he left.’ Then he remembered the green pouch and said, ‘This is for you. Gus asked me to give you the present. He had a headache, so he left.’

Lia took the pouch with a disgusting face and threw it towards Amorphophallus who was standing just behind her. She caught it and gave her a weird look. She blew a raspberry and went to join the chorus dancing. Amorphophallus kept the pouch in her pocket. Chief Yan asked every minister and soldier to keep their eyes and ears open. Then he asked minister Cypress and General Sequoia to escort him to his private chamber. They left the banquet hall.

It was almost midnight when Princess Lia and Captain Amorphophallus returned to Lia’s chamber. Most of the dryads are still at the banquet hall, enjoying the celebration to their heart’s content. Lia was enjoying but then she remembered Rose and her parents, and became upset. So she came back to her chamber.

‘Are you upset?’ Amorphophallus asked.

‘They are not here. Somehow I feel responsible for it.’

‘There we go again. We had the exact same conversation today. I am not heading that guilt trip again’, she said angrily while sitting on her bed.

‘I’m not repeating myself. It’s just… Rose died because of me.’

‘You are still saying it. Why do you think she died because of you? She asked me to protect you. So I could say the exact same thing. She died because I wasn’t there’, she said calmly leaning on the window.

‘All I remember is that she died instead of me. There was a blast and I woke up next day on my bed. I couldn’t remember anything’, she said.

‘What do you mean by she died instead of you?’ Amorphophallus straightened up.

‘I shouldn’t have said that to you’, Lia avoided her penetrating eyes.

‘Something happened on that day and you kept it a secret… Even from me!’ Lia could tell that she was hurt.

‘It was a nightmare to me, and I wanted to forget it’, she sounded apologetic.

Amorphophallus remained silent. In answer she looked out through the window, as if she too was trying not to look into her eyes. She was clearly angry.

‘I wanted to tell you, but didn’t find enough courage to tell you. Believe me.’ She tried her best to convince her, however Amorphophallus was still angry.

‘After all these years, seventy years to be exact. You kept a secret from me for SEVENTY DAMN YEARS! How would you feel if I did the same?’ Princess Lia remained silent and Amorphophallus kept on going.

‘I treated you as my younger sister. Princess Rose instructed me to protect you. All these years I did that. I have been protecting you like my own sibling, and this is what I get in return.’

‘FINE! I will tell you now. I know you won’t believe me but I will tell you. Happy now?’ she surrendered.

Looking at her emotional blackmail work on Princess Lia, Amorphophallus glided happily and sat down beside her.

‘But you have to promise me not to tell that to anyone else.’ Amorphophallus nodded like an obedient listener. Lia sighed and started to tell her what had happened that day.

—–

Like other days, Rose and Lia started to play hide and seek. The fairies and dryads were laughing at their playing but soon turned their attention towards their daily chores. It was Lia’s turn to hide, so she decided to hide a little bit further near to the border. Her intention was to win and she knew Rose would not go near border because she would not think that she could hide near the border. She wanted to win at all cost. Rose promised that if she had won she would present her favourite book. So she went on looking for a hideout in the forest near the border. And she found a cave, hidden very deep in the forest, almost invisible under the thick wild rose bushes. She wouldn’t have noticed it either unless she saw a sparkle inside the bush. Something was behind the bush. Lia saw movements as it was trying to hide behind the bushes. Lia forgot about the game and she approached towards the bush. When she used her magic to make a way amongst the rose bush, a dark mouth of a cave came into her view. She got excited and went inside. After walking a while, she figured that the cave was expanding and she came to a dead-end with an excellent indoor fountain. Inside the cave was pretty dark but somehow, the fountain glowed in the dark and she had no trouble seeing what was inside the large cave. However, the light of the fountain was not clear enough to see everything clearly. She could not figure it out why and how there could be a fountain inside the cave. She was so amazed by the fountain that she did not notice a figure gradually emerged from a large rock. When she sensed something was behind her, she turned quickly to look and found a boy looking at her curiously.

‘Who…who are you?’, she stammered.

The boy remained silent.

‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’ This time she demanded strongly.

The boy said something which made no sense to her. It sounded like he was saying something which was beyond her understanding. They both understood that none of them made any sense to the other. They spoke different languages. They looked at each other for a while and tried to figure out what the other could possibly want to know. On the other hand, Lia was also thinking about the language problem. Dryads only speak one language all over the world. They do not have any other language. They have one and they had passed it on for thousands of years. She could not understand where the boy might come from to speak a different language which she had never heard of. Moreover, she wanted to see the boy’s face clearly. So she used her illuminant to light the cave. Her actions made the boy scared at the same time curious. With the help of her illuminant, she could see the boy’s face clearly. He was about her height, had round face, dark curly hair, and small black eyes, with a snub nose. He was wearing a white loose shirt and a brown three-quarter pants. He had something in him that made him look different. Looking at him closely, she came to the conclusion that he was not from here. She thought maybe he was from another realm she had not heard before. The boy was also looking at her with great curiosity in his eyes. Suddenly he held out his hand to touch her. Lia was surprised and took a step back. But the boy caught her hand. Something happened at that exact moment. A current flew inside their bodies.

‘Huh, you are not different than me’, said the boy with a satisfaction in his voice.

Lia was amazed. She could understand him. And suddenly she realised that he was still holding her hands. His comment made her angry.

‘What do you mean? Who are you? And how can I understand you now? Were you pretending to speak another language?’ She broke her hand free from his.

‘Whoa. I can understand what you are saying too. No… I wasn’t pretending. I really didn’t understand what you said. How rude of me. Let me introduce myself. I am Jang Suk-Won. You can call me Sukie. Everyone calls me that. Who are you?’

‘I am Lia’, she answered. ‘Where are you from?’

‘Jeju Island’, he answered.

‘What?’

‘Jeju Island? South Korea?’

‘Never heard of that place’, she said blankly.

‘How come you have never heard of Jeju Island. Your forest is in Jeju Island.’

‘No it isn’t.’ She argued.

‘Yes, it is. I was wondering around Gotjawal forest and I got lost.’

‘No, it is NOT…Jaja whatever or goat whatever. You are in Xyleen.’

‘Xa-what?’

‘XYLEEN, my country. You are in Xyleen’, she explained.

‘I was lost in Gotjawal forest. And I saw this cave and I went inside and found this fountain. I slipped and fell into the water. The next thing I know is that I am this side of the cave and I am not soaked in water’, he said happily gesturing towards his dried clothes. ‘But what are you?’

‘What do you mean?’ Lia was confused.

‘I mean what are you? You can produce light.’

‘I am a dryad of course’, she got upset as no one had asked this awkward question to her before.

‘What!! You are a dryad? You… you live in a tree-house? You eat our souls? Please don’t kill me!’ he panicked.

‘What? No. I am not going to eat your soul. I don’t eat…you! I don’t even know what you are!’ she said angrily.

‘What I am? I am a human of course’, he said casually forgetting his fear.

‘A human?’ Lia’s expression changed and fear took over. ‘What…what are you doing in here? Humans are forbidden. They… they can’t enter in here. I read it in ‘History of the Eight Realms’.’ She started whispering without even knowing.

‘How did you do the light?’ He was not paying attention to what Lia was saying. He was more interested in the light.

‘Are you even listening to what I am saying?’ He nodded. ‘If they find you, they will kill you’.

‘Why they will kill me? I am not a bad boy’, he said.

‘Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? You need to go back where you came from’, she insisted on trying to make sense on his mind.

‘I need to see what is in here first before I go back. What if I can’t come back? I can’t go without seeing your country. Would you go back if you were in my shoe?’ he asked.

‘’Well…’, she thought for a moment. He was right. She would not give up just for that reason but the threat was real. Then she wondered that would they really kill him or it was just there to protect themselves from humankind. Finally she decided and took his hand and said, ‘Come with me. But I can’t take you much further ‘cause they will find out if you go near. Also you must not speak in front of anybody. I will do the talking. Let me show you my favourite place and the most beautiful of all the places in Xyleen.’

She took him outside of the cave and showed him the forest. They started to play. After an hour, they became good friends. Lia was convinced that humans were not so bad. She was also very excited to have a human friend. She showed him a stream where he tried to catch a fish by his hands. Suddenly she felt someone was watching them. She turned and became pale. Princess Rose was standing in front of them. She also looked as pale as Lia.

‘Come with me’, Rose said nervously. Without asking any question Lia grabbed Sukie and started to run after Rose.

They went inside the cave and stopped in front of the fountain.

‘How many know about this human child?’ Rose asked Lia.

‘Nobody. I haven’t told about him to anyone’, she answered.

‘Send him back. Gus is here. I think he knows’, she said impatiently.

‘How does he…’, Rose interrupted her. ‘Your illuminant. I saw him follow it. I followed it and came here before him. But I think he suspects something. He was looking awfully happy today. He would not understand me, so ask him to leave before it is too late. In the meanwhile, I will try to hold him off. But you need assistance. I will call Amorphophallus and Laetitia to guard you while I am gone. I will send a word right now. I need to remove your tracks. Be safe’, and she hurried off to the exit of the cave.

Lia turned towards Sukie. ‘I am sorry. You have to go. I think Gus knows about you. Somehow he found out. My friends will be here soon. I don’t want you to get killed,’ Lia said.

‘But I don’t want to leave’, he said sadly.

‘I don’t wish that either. Don’t worry. If you look after trees and plants, I promise that one day we will meet again.’

‘You mean it?’ His eyes glowed with excitement.

‘I promise’, she assured him. Suddenly Amorphophallus and Laetitia appeared into the thin air. Laetitia was a tiny pixie who had dark brown and red hair tied into a tight bun, big dark brown eyes with big eyelashes. She was wearing a bright magenta flowery petal dress and had light sparkly wings. ‘Oh, goodness! You are here!’ she said with a relief.

‘The human needs to go. I will escort him out. For the safety issue, Laetitia will ensure the human’s safety on the other side. She knows Protos very well’, said Amorphophallus.

‘He is from Protos?’ Lia was amazed.

‘This one leads to Protos’, Laetitia pointed the fountain. ‘If he came through this portal it means he used the portal in Protos. I know the realm. I can pass him out safely to the human world’, she said to Lia and she nodded in return. Laetitia flew over Sukie’s head and threw some of her pixie-dust.

‘Can you understand me now?’ she asked him.

Sukie nodded in reply. ‘Good, now let’s move.’

‘You will keep your promise?’ asked Sukie before going inside the fountain.

‘I will’, Lia replied. Laetitia threw some of her pixie-dust into the fountain and it glowed again. They went in and vanished in the foamy water.

‘Lia, wait for me in here. I will try to take you out whenever I see it is safe for you to return. Right now I need to find General Sequoia. I will be right back. Do not move from here’, she ordered.

‘Alright.’

After Amorphophallus left the cave, Lia got bored and eventually came out of the cave. After hiding and walking for a while she heard arguments on the edge of the forest. She went to look who were arguing. And to her utter surprise, she saw Princess Rose and Gus were arguing. She came out from hiding. Rose went pale when she saw her coming.

‘Why are you here?’ She asked angrily.

‘Good question, Princess. Why is she here? Could there be…’, he sniffed the air and said with a cruel grin on his face, ‘A human. I smell a human.’

‘A human?’ Rose laughed nervously.

‘Someone is not telling me the truth. Where are you hiding him?’ he looked straight into Lia’s eyes. She shuddered in fear.

‘You know the law. Now die…’

A lot of things happened at the same time. Rose jumped in front of Lia to protect her and a jet of dark green light hit her instead of Lia. Gus has used his illuminant, his light had the power to kill the opponent. Rose’s body shook up a bit and she dropped into the ground, dead. Lia felt dizzy and she fainted. When she woke up, she was already lying on her bed the next day.

Written by: Kazi Nabila