Chief Yan sent the entire party to have a good sleep as lots of work need to be done on the following day. Moreover, he thought it was too risky to discuss about the quest while Gus was around. He believed that a spy was lurking amongst them.
The next day Gus decided to leave Xyleen suddenly – saying that an unexpected event has occurred in his realm. The news of his departure could not have made everyone rejoice more. Once again the usual laughter and happiness were back on every dryad’s face. Chief Yan was also in a good mood, but still he maintained a strict caution due to his doubt of Gus leaving a spy behind.
The next day he looked happy and relieved even though he was extremely exhausted due to his lack of sleep last night. He was up the entire night, writing a detailed letter for Princess Lia to read in her journey. He had given her necessary advices and instructions so that she can continue her journey without a trouble. The letter contained restricted secrets hidden from the dryads for thousands of years. For Lia to succeed in the mission, he had no other choice but to let her know the secrets. Besides she was going to take the throne anyway, he had thought. Without a delay, he wrote her secrets that every leader needed to know.
When the daylight breaks and dawn approaches with a smiling sun, Chief Yan finished his letter. Immediately after putting his pen down, he went towards Lia’s chamber. However, he met an unexpected guest before he could reach her chamber. The guest, Lady Balanis, was an amazingly large woman but she had a very gentle look on her face. There is something about her that could make anyone calm. However, at this hour her face looked gloomy.
‘My dear! Did something happen? You look rather disturbed.’ The chief asked her.
‘Would you escort me to the bed-chamber please?’She requested him.
He followed her quietly towards the bed-chamber. Once they entered, Azura along with other dryads bowed and left the room. Lady Balanis locked the door at once and turned to Chief Yan.
‘Why didn’t you come to bed last night? What kept you all night to the study?’ she asked with a concern in her tone.
‘Oh! I was busy handling some-some issues,’ he looked away from her concerned gaze.
His reply made her sigh.
‘You know Yan, you were never a good liar. I know that you keep some things out from my ears to receive, but this time I can tell it is different. Something’s bothering you a lot lately. And I have never seen you this much concerned for a long time. It’s almost as if like I am suddenly seventy years back in the past,’ she paused.
No one said a word. Chief Yan started feeling guilty for not letting her know the things that unravelled very recently. He wanted to share everything with her, but she might fall ill again after hearing the cruel truth. The last thing he would want was to get her fall ill.
Seeing his guilt-stricken face, Lady Balanis sighed again. She looked very calm and determined before uttering the next sentence, ‘It is about Lia, isn’t it?’
Her gaze met his. The astonishing look on his eyes gave her the answer. She slowly walked towards the bed and sat down. Chief Yan frantically started thinking what to say to her, but could not come up with anything. He did not even want to imagine what she would do once she hears that Lia was supposed to go on a journey by herself and would be a wanted criminal. So the best thing he thought would be to sit beside her and let her do all the talking.
‘You are plotting something against my knowledge, right?’ she asked him calmly.
‘It-it’s not like that’, he answered her but still was unable to look into her anxious eyes.
‘Then what is it?’
He could not answer her question. He just sat down beside her. Lady Balanis watched him quietly. She took his hand and said, ‘I know I am not her mother, but I watched her grew up. She is my daughter. She has always been. I have never looked at her otherwise,’ her voice broke down into sobs. ‘If anything happens to her… I can never forgive myself. I promised… I promised her mother that… I will protect her,’ tears started to roll down her cheeks.
‘We all promised,”Chief Yan wiped away her tears and said quietly,
Their eyes met and Balanis could tell that both concern and affection were present in Yan’s eyes.
‘Don’t let anyone take her away from us,’ with her eyes full of tears, she managed to whisper.
In reply, Chief Yan just nodded. He shuddered thinking that Lia was about to go on a journey from which she might not return. He decided to stay with Lady Balanis for a while before heading towards Lia’s chamber.
Lia was preparing everything for her journey. Amorphophallus helped her packing the stuff that she would need most and packed one for herself as well. Like chief Yan, Lia was also up all night thinking whether she had made the right decision to go on a journey. This might be the last time she could be seeing her beautiful country. She has taken a magical illuminant map inside a seed so that she could track her location. She also took another seed that stored all the relevant and important informationshe needed to know. She tucked the seeds inside a secret pocket inside her left sleeve. She wore a bottle green long dress in order to mingle with the darkness of the night.
‘Tonight is a new moon. There won’t be that much of light outside anyway,’ she thought. While they were preparing for the journey, they heard a knock on the door.
Both of them stood still. It was too early for anyone to visit them, especially when Lia instructed Azura not to disturb her unless she was called in. Amorphophallus quickly took the bags and rushed towards the dressing room. Lia jumped to her bed pretending to have just woken up.
‘Who is it?’ Lia shouted in a sleepy tone.
‘I apologize to wake you up, Princess. But Chief Yan is here. He would like to come inside’, Azura’s voice answered.
Lia sat up straight. ‘Let him come in’.
Azura opens the door and Chief Yan entered in the room with a distressed look on his face. Azura left quickly closing the door.
‘I apologise for waking you up. It’s not fully dawn yet. But don’t worry, everything is alright.I just wanted to see you and give this to you in person. Do not tell anybody about this letter. Keep it well hidden. I believe we do not have any time to lose,’ said Chief Yan.
‘What do you mean?’ While taking the letter she raised an eyebrow.
‘I believe Gus is up to something. He left earlier than expected. I think he has gone to the mortal realm.’
‘To the mortal realm? I thought that…it is…’
‘Forbidden? Yes, it is to the normal dryads. But you see…,’ he went to the window and looked outside, ‘He is our representative to the mortals.’
Lia’s mouth fell open. ‘Representative? Gus? He represents US?!!’
Chief Yan turned towards her and nodded.
‘I never knew that we need representatives, especially to the mortal realms. I thought we are not supposed to be seen by them.’ She said in disbelief.
‘Well, basically Gus represents nature. He is fighting for us. Mortals tried to cut off most of this forest. Gus is pretending to be a mortal …a … a human. He is fighting to keep the forests safe. That’s his work. That’s why he goes to the mortal realm or you could say allowed to go to the mortal realm.’ He came closer to sit by her.
‘Now that makes sense… why he is in higher position and why people like you still allow him to butt in our inside problems.’
‘More or less… one day you will understand. So, have you packed everything yet?’ he asked.
‘Almost. Amorphophallus is also packing.’ Just that moment Amorphophallus appeared from the dressing room.
‘Your highness.’ Amorphophallus took a short bow. Chief Yan nodded in reply.
‘But I’m afraid Lia, she cannot go with you’, Chief Yan sounded almost like he was mumbling.
‘What did you say? Lia asked.
‘Your highness, she needs protection. I can protect her. I swear on my life, I will not let her get a scratch.’ Amorphophallus started pleading.
‘Lus, I know. It’s not about that. She needs a strong ally in here because I might not be available all the time. She needs inside people, trustworthy person like you. You are the only person that I trust would be able to help her while she becomes a wanted criminal.’ He explained.
‘But…’ both of them burst out in protest. In the heat of the moment Amorphophallus forgot that Chief Yan called her by nickname.
‘No buts. End of discussion.’ He stood up raising his both hands in the air in order to stop their protests. ‘I am not worried about Lia. She is brave, and she will be fine. The only person I am worried about is Balanis’, he sighed and sat down.
Even though Lady Balanis is not her birth mother, but she raised her as her own daughter. Lia always called her mother.
‘Yes. She suspects that I am hiding something from her about you. I … could not tell her about you …leaving and… finding the human to know what happened on that day. Finding the truth is your destiny. I cannot stop you from your destiny. She would not understand. So… just be nice to her before you go. The last thing I want is to let her fall ill because of you’, he said in melancholy.
Lia came over to sit beside him. She almost half embraced him with her little hands.
‘Don’t worry. I will see her before I go.’
Amorphophallus coughed intentionally in order to let them know that there was someone present on that room.
‘Uhem…ehem.’ She rolled her eyes indicating a direction on her left.
Both Chief Yan and Lia looked up to her direction and froze what they had seen. Lady Balanis was standing in front of them. They were so busy having their discussion they completely paid no attention when she came in. She heard most of the conversation. Terror took over in their eyes. However, Lady Balanis looked very calm almost like the deadly overcast weather just before the storm.
‘How… how long have you been here?’ Chief Yan started to stutter.
‘For a while,’ she answered coldly. ‘Enough for me to know that she is going to take a stroll around the world searching for …I do not know…truth!’
‘Balanis…’ the chief tried to speak, but nothing came out.
‘Mother, I was planning to tell you everything.’ Lia looked at the floor.
‘Oh really? May I ask when? After leaving? Maybe leaving a note? Is that how you were planning to tell me about your journey to the world?’
Lia shut her mouth, just like the chief. Both of them looked so guilty. Amorphophallus saw the situation was not at all good, so she tried to slip out of the room. However, she was caught to the keen watchful eyes of Lady Balanis.
Amorphophallus stopped dead on her track. She spun around in a second and kneeled.
‘Your ladyship, I apologize for everything.’
‘You should have at least warned me. I guess nobody wants me to know anything because I am too fragile to handle this apparently.’ She did not even move an inch while delivering her mockery.
‘Balanis… it’s not like that…’ Chief Yan summoned all his courage but only could come up with this.
‘Father was worried that you will fall ill again. That is why he…kept it from you’, said Lia.
Lady Balanis looked into his eyes directly. She could tell his eyes were full with worry. She sighed and turned her back to them, ready to leave the room.
‘When are you leaving?’ She asked Lia calmly.
‘I asked you, when?’ Lady Balanis interrupted her.
‘Tonight,’ Lia answered quietly.
Lady Balanis did not say another word. Tears welled up in her eyes but she did not show it to them. Rather she kept holding her strong face and left the room without saying another word.
Written by: Kazi Nabila