As I flew deeper into the mountains, my wings began to ache. Thankfully, the heat from the sun dissipated the impending storm and the skies cleared.
“Athena, are you all right? Why don’t we rest? We’re near the cavern.”
Suddenly, my wings felt as if they were carrying an eighteen wheeler. Did Brenden put a spell on me so I’d stop flying?
“But Brenden, we don’t have time. The queen will be here in two days!”
Grabbing my hand, he said, “If you don’t rest, you won’t be able to conquer the first challenge of the trial. It’s time to take a welcome break. We’ll eat and sleep, getting you prepared for the morning.”
Facing him, I said, “I’d feel better if we rested later. I’m not tired. I want to do this.” I glared at him, hoping to get my way. It was like I was in a long race and I could almost see the ending. Even though I was actually exhausted, I couldn’t stop now.
“Athena, you’ll do much better with a dip in the creek and some food. Please listen to me.”
Looking at his cute face, I melted. “A creek? Where? I’m dying to get this awful makeup off me.”
Showing me the tiny creek, flowing downstream, he watched as I gingerly plunked a toe into the cool, soothing water. Then I shooed him away. “Go make a fire or something. You’re NOT watching me take a bath!”
He chuckled then walked away.
After I’d floated in the calming stream for a while changing back to my witchy self, I climbed out of the water then ambled toward the rich smell of the fire. The arid desert air dried me off almost instantly.
“There. Are you happy now? I don’t smell like I’d just taken on twenty thousand monsters without wearing deodorant.”
But Brenden didn’t even flinch at my joke.
“Hey…” I nudged him with my foot. “Are you awake?”
Nodding, without looking up, he said, “Come sit with me, Athena.”
Sighing, I dropped down next to him, feeling the relaxing warmth of the fire.
Brenden palmed the back of his neck and said, “The Third Trial is a test of your strength. Unfortunately, that has been compromised. I loathe myself for allowing you to bring me here. I hope you will forgive my idiocy, Athena. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“But…isn’t it better that you teach me about what I’m going to face?” I countered. To be honest, my whole body ached and my stomach growled. He was right. I wanted to find a bed and sleep for three days.
“When you enter the cavern, you will find the real Wishbook. He will try to cut you down in ways I can only imagine. No Wishcaster ever relays what horrors they faced, but legend says they are different for everyone. Most candidates fail this part…I have no doubt you will conquer but….I want you at full capacity. Do you understand?”
I knew what he was implying but I didn’t want him to leave. A part of me was so thankful to have him with me alive. And what was the harm? “Don’t you think having you here helps me, Brenden? You take my anxiety away. I feel calm just being with you. If you’re worried that I’ll be too tired, don’t. All I need are a few winks and I’ll be good as new.”
Gazing into the fire, he sighed. “I hope you’re right.
After both of us didn’t say anything for a while, I broke the silence. “Are you worried that I’m going to fail now?” Jitters clamored in my stomach almost making me sick.
Taking my hand, he answered, “I’m not worried. If anyone can survive the trial, it’s you. You’ve had more training than any Wishcaster candidate with what you faced with Queen Casteen.”
He put his back on my shoulder. “So…no more talk. Time to rest and recharge.”
I arched an eyebrow. “How is this helping me rest?”
“Didn’t you know? Helping an elf to go to sleep is good luck.”
I laughed pushing him away. He winked then waved his fingers, sparkles transforming the nearby rocks into what looked like hot dogs.
He shrugged, giving me a sheepish look. “It’s the only transfiguration spell I know. Comes in handy for times like this but I do hope you’ll like the taste. Somehow, the sausages take on the flavor of the item I transform.”
“I don’t care. I’m so starved I think I’d even eat a rock at this point.”
We cooked the sausages over the fire as the spicy smell wafted through the dusky air.
The sun set lazily on the horizon, casting a beautiful pinkish glow.
It reminded me of home and a sudden pang seized me. Then my thoughts went to Brenden. “Do you ever miss home? I mean, the Under Realm is so different. I just wonder how you coped being a fairy all that time.”
He shrugged and said, “I don’t miss it. Believe it or not, I never felt I belonged there my whole life. And as the years passed, I almost had forgotten my real identity. Living here is easy. It’s the prettiest place on the planet, in my opinion.”
I nodded in agreement. It was very stunning, but the Under Realm held its own special beauty as well. “Are you going to go back to being a fairy now? I mean…don’t fairies hate Droor Elves?”
“That’s very true. They do hate us with a passion and for good reason. If a fairy were to venture into the Elivagar mountains, I believe a Droor Elf would feel honor bound to torture them. We have a very…tulmultuous history. So…I’m not sure what I’m going to do at this point…”
“You shouldn’t change who you are, Brenden. I’ll talk to Queen Oria for you.”
He chuckled. “Prejudice isn’t something you can talk away.” He looked me in the eyes and said, “You must view how ugly it is for yourself. I doubt the fairies will see the error in their ways. I won’t be staying at the castle if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“I’ll do my best to make them see how bad it is. They’ll have to accept me–a witch drakkan, won’t they? If I’m going to be the Wishcaster.”
Dropping his stick, Brenden pulled me over to him.
I squeaked, feeling my face flush.
Then I settled into his lap as he caressed my cheek and answered, “If anyone can make the fairies love Droor Elves, it’ll be you.”