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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Shady-KnightMale/Canada Group :iconfelarya: Felarya
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A sea of people, people everywhere, all quietly moving in one direction with only the vaguest destination in mind.  Every time they walked past her, they looked at her for a brief moment, each wearing the same cold and lifeless expression.  Everywhere else she looked, there were rows and rows of building taller than the clouds forming labyrinthine walls.

The sun rose over the eastern forest, marking the beginning of a new day.  The young phantom elf stirred and sat up once she felt the dim morning light shining on her.  She let out a long yawn, and rubbed her puffy and bloodshot eyes.  What are horrible night...  Once the haze in front of her eyes lifted, she looked at the bed beside her.   It was empty and the blankets weren't yet tidied up.  Marina must have woken up a little earlier and gone elsewhere.

Suddenly, a buzzing noise rang in her ear.  Terrie perked up, her fatigue vanishing in seemingly an instant, and put her hand to her pointed ear.  It sounded like... running water?  Not only that, she heard something else.  It was... a voice?  No... it was singing.  By the sound of it, it looked like they both came from... the bathroom?  Terrie got out of her sleeping bag, her curiosity piqued, and followed the sound and voice to their source.

The elf girl opened the door and found herself inside a cloud of steam.  Then, she saw something in the back, something hiding behind a closed curtain.  A shadow, a shadow of a woman with waist-long hair and large hips.  The singing that she heard definitely came from her.  Now that she was close enough to hear it clearly, it just dawned on her, her voice was beautiful!  But who was that woman?  Why was she rubbing her hair and body while singing?  Why was she "hiding" like that?

It didn't look like she had noticed her yet, now was the perfect chance to find out who she was!  Slowly, carefully making no noise, Terrie walked up to the shadow and reached for the curtain, but then pulled her hand back just as she was about to grab it.  Should she do it by herself?  She had no idea who that woman was... and she could be dangerous!  Terrie thought about for a moment more, then gulped and quickly pulled on the curtain.

"Eeyaaah!"  The startled redheaded woman grabbed the block of soap and threw it at her assailant!

"Uwaaah!"  Terrie swiftly dodged the thing she threw at her and ran out of the room as fast as she could!

Marina prepared to throw the bottle of shampoo, but then noticed who just fled out of the room and lowered her hand.  "T-Terrie?"

Terrie peeked back in the bathroom.  "M-M-Marina...?"

"Marina, what was that scream?  Is everything alright up there?" said Henry's muffled voice from downstairs.

"I'm fine, Dad!  Nothing bad happened!" replied Marina.  The redheaded woman then cut the water flow and glowered at the young elf.  "Terrie, why did you sneak up on me like that!"

Terrie shamefully looked away, tears starting to well up.  "I-I'm sorry... I-I heard you sing and... I wanted to s-see who it was... b-but I didn't recognize you behind that c-curtain...  I-I'm really sorry, Marina...!"

Once she saw how ashamed and apologetic her friend was, Marina sighed held her scowl back.  "It's okay, I can see you learned your lesson."

The young elf remained quiet for a little while.  "...U-um... what were you doing...?"

"I was taking a shower."

Terrie gave Marina a confused look.  "A shower...?"

Marina nodded.  "Mhm.  It's what people do here to wash themselves.  I usually do it in the morning to help me wake up."

"Oh... I see..."

Marina smiled and extended her hand toward Terrie.  "Would you like to take a shower with me?"

"Huh?  ... Um... s-sure..."  The phantom elf walked up to her friend, her cheeks blushing, only for Marina to pull her hand away.

"Wait, don't forget the soap."

Terrie tilted her head sideways.  "The soap...?"

"That thing I threw at you."

Terrie looked at the block on the floor.  "Oh."

Terrie grabbed the block of soap and then walked back to Marina, who helped her get in the tub with her.  Marina then closed the curtain and let the water flow again.  Terrie jumped and nearly tripped once the hot droplets started raining down on her.  "Ahh!"

Luckily, Marina caught her before disaster could ensue.  "Is the water too hot for you?"

"Y-yes!  I-I never felt water this hot befo- Eep!"

All of a sudden, Marina began gently caressing Terrie's arms.  "Your skin is so soft..."  She then ran her fingers through her long raven hair.  "And your hair is so silky!"

Terrie looked behind at at Marina, her entire face flushed bright red.  "M-M-Marina...?"

Marina smiled slyly as she began stroking the little elf's ears.  "Hmm... your ears are so pointy..."  She then licked her lips and started leaning closer.  "I'm gonna eat your pointy little ears..."

"N-no!  Puh-please, s-stop!"

Marina then dropped her temptress attitude and giggled.  "Just kidding!  I wouldn't do something like that."

"Th-that wasn't funny at all...!"

Without any more jokes, Marina then spread some soap on a cloth and rubbed Terrie's back.  The elf girl let out a content sigh as the soft texture of the cloth massaged her back and the spray of hot water gently washed away all the foam from the soap.

"Are you enjoying your first shower?"

"Huh?  Oh... um... yes."

Marina then began washing Terrie's arms.  "I wasn't kidding earlier when I said your skin was soft.  It feels like I'm touching velvet."

"Um, thank you.  ...Your... uh, your skin looks, um, very healthy too."

"Aww, thank you!"  Marina rinsed the last of the soap and put away the cloth.  She then grabbed the bottle of shampoo and began rubbing some in Terrie's long hair.

"M-Marina?  Wh-what are you doing to my hair?"

"I'm using shampoo.  It's what we use to wash and our hair."

"Oh."  Terrie breathed a sigh of relief.

Marina gently coated another lock of her friend's hair with some more shampoo.  "I can't believe how soft and glossy your hair is.  It looks so pretty with your pale skin!"

"Um... thank you.  ...Um... your hair is... uh, very pretty to."

"Aww, thank you!  I often get compliments about my hair at work.  People must really like red hair."

"Um... at work?  Oh, you mean at the cathedral... right?"

"No, I used to work somewhere else before joining the church."

"Huh?  Where was that?"

"You'll see when I show you around town."

"Oh... okay."  Terrie went quiet for a moment as Marina began rinsing her hair.  "Um... why were you singing earlier?"

"I always sing when I take a shower or a bath.  I just can't help it!"

"Oh.  Um... you have a beautiful singing voice, like Elliadrin said."

"Aww, thank you!"  The two young women, now all nice an clean, stepped out of the shower and began drying themselves with the towels.  "Say, how did you wash yourself back in Sunfall Thicket?  You don't have soap or shampoo over there, do you?"

"Huh?  Um... no, we don't.  We, uh... we use a mixture of oils and herbs to help remove dirt, then we'd wash it away with water."

"Is that so?  Then, I hope nothing bad happens for using soap and shampoo."

Terrie stopped drying herself upon hearing this.  "Huh?  Wh-what do you mean...?"

"I've heard that if you mix certain types of soaps or shampoos together, it can damage your skin and hair."

The phantom elf nervously swallowed.  "Wh-what kind of damage...?"

"I hear you develop rashes and pimples, and that your hair will build up residue and become greasy.  In the worst case scenario, you'll even develop ugly warts."

"Wh-what?!  B-but I don't want that to happen!"

"Don't worry, they're only rumors.  They may not even be true."

"Oh..."  Terrie breathed a sigh of relief.  "Thank goodness..."

After getting dressed, Terrie and Marina headed downstairs.  Neither Ashley, nor Henry were there.  They must have left the house while she was busy showing Terrie how to use the shower.  But they left something behind on the counter: a coffee pot.  Marina walked over to inspect it and a beaming grin sprouted on her face.

"Oh, sweet!  It's still hot!"  The redheaded woman didn't waste any time and poured herself a cup.

Terrie just watched as her friend poured herself some... weird... black drink.  "Um... what is that?"

"It's coffee."

"Coffee?"

Marina walked over to the boraloupe and grabbed herself some milk.  "Mhm!  It's a type of beverage made by grinding and brewing coffee beans.  People love drinking some in the morning because it contains caffeine, which helps ward off drowsiness and restore alertness."

"Oh.  So... you like coffee because... it helps you wake up?"

Marina added a splash of milk, then grabbed a spoon and stirred gently.  "Partly because of that, yes, but mostly because I just like how coffee tastes."  The red haired woman then took a sip and let out a content sigh, the coffee warming her entire body as it cascaded down her throat.  "Do you want to try it?"

"Um... sure."  Terrie took Marina's cup and then drank a sip.  The phantom elf cringed a little as she swallowed.  "...It tastes a little strange."

Marina giggled.  "I'll admit it doesn't tastes that great at first.  It is an acquired taste after all."

---------

It was time.  Terrie put on her boots and left Marina's house.  She now stood in the busy streets of Negav once again.  As soon as she set foot on the pavement, the young phantom elf became tense.  The long street suddenly extended until covering several miles before branching off in a hundred directions like the roots of a tree!  The enormous towers rose out of the ground and grew so tall they completely blotted out the sun and the sky, casting her into complete darkness!  The mobs of people walking grew in size and numbers before her very eyes, until they created an almost literal sea of people, all walking by her with a cold and lifeless expression on their face!  Many of the people on the streets raised a brow at the sight of this weird gray-skinned elf, but then all nervously looked away the moment they met her gaze.

Then, Marina stood in front of crimson-eyed elf and offered her hand.  Terrie gazed at the radiant smile shining on the lips of her red haired friend, then after a few seconds of hesitation, she took her hand.  The young elf's quivering stopped and all returned to normal, the streets no longer enormous or flooded, and the sun shone down once more.  Marina was such a kind person.  There was no doubt she would be completely useless as always without her.

"So... um... where are we going?"

"Let's start with where I used to work at.  I need to re-apply there, so I may as well get it out of the way."

"O-okay..."

With her heart no longer racing as fast, Terrie followed Marina friend through the congested streets of this humongous city.  The young elf took a deep breath to try and calm her nerves further, and then stared at what was dead ahead.  If she focused only on what was in front of her and nothing else, things wouldn't seem as scary anymore.  But despite her best effort, her eyes continued to be attracted to some of the people walking by.

After an admittedly short walk, Marina Terrie arrived at a great white building.  Rows upon rows of windows lined its walls and a strange symbol stood proudly above its entrance.  Strangely, unlike nearly every other building seen so far, there was a lot of empty space around it, with no pedestrian in sight.  But stranger still was another... object standing in front of another entrance, not too far from the one she first spotted.

"This is where you worked?"

Marina gave Terrie an affirmative nod.  "Yes, it is.  This is the Healers' Guild, but we usually just call it the hospital.  The Healers' Guild provides diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases, injuries, and disabilities."

Terrie tilted her head in confusion.  "...Huh?"

"Basically, if someone falls very sick or suffers a serious injury, they would go here to be treated."

"Oh."  Terrie then turned to the... thing next to the entrance.  "So, um... what is that?"

Marina looked at the object Terrie was looking at.  "That's an ambulance.  It's a vehicle designed for transporting people who need to receive urgent treatment.  It can fly, so it can avoid the heavy traffic on the streets."

"Really?  That's incredible!  I... I never thought something this big could fly."

"I know!  It's incredible what some of the mechanics in Negav can make.  Anyway, let me show you inside."

Marina took Terrie inside.  The young phantom elf couldn't help but notice how the walls were painted almost completely solid white.  The marble floor even featured a checkered pattern made up of large black and white square tiles.  The people of Negav must see the color white as a sign of health or something of similar meaning.  The two walked up to the reception.  A young blue haired woman dressed in a distinctive white robe stood behind the counter where she was filing a few reports.

"Excuse me."

She put down her pen and turned to Marina.  "Yes, how may I-"  The nurse was shocked to who was talking to her.  "Marina, is that you?"

Marina nodded and smiled.  "Yep.  Long time no see, Nilian."

A bright smile immediately spread over Nilian's lips.  "You're back!  Oh my gods, you're back!  What brings you here?  Did you come to reapply?"

Marina nodded affirmatively.  "Mhm.  I'm also giving my friend Terrie a tour."

Nilian turned to Terrie and gave her a welcoming smile.  "Hello, welcome to the Healers' Guild."

Terrie timidly averted her eyes.  "H-hello..."

"... That wasn't the kind of response I was expecting from an elf."

"Terrie is... a special case." Marina replied.  "Anyway, do you still have my original application?"

"Yes, I do.  What about it?"

"I'd like to have it modified since I learned healing magic while I was away."

Nilian raised an eyebrow.  "Really?  You can use magic now?"

Marina nodded.  The former red haired nurse cupped her hands together, then closed her eyes, concentrating.  Her hands suddenly became aglow with the heavenly power of her goddess.  Nilian's eyes went wide with awe as she gazed at the healing energy shimmering in the palms of her former colleague.  Even Terrie was dazzled since this was the first time she witnessed Marina's magic.

"That's incredible..."  The receptionist regained her composure and looked back at Marina, gazing into her friend's eyes.  "As soon as I'm done filing all these, I'm sending your application and I'm definitely mentioning your new magic powers."

"Thanks, Nilian!"

"You're welcome.  Have a nice day!"

Marina took Terrie on a tour of the hospital.  She showed her the various wards, such as the orthopedic ward, the pediatric ward, the psychiatric ward, and so on.  Every time they entered a new ward, Marina explained what they treated in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.  Though Terrie understood what she was talking her, she still didn't get why they were separated into wards.  Separating the children from the adults, and those suffering from mental trauma from the ones suffering from physical impairment made sense, but why was it so important to separate each ward for each type of injury?  Why not have them all in the same ward?  But maybe they had a good reason for structuring it like that, even if she couldn't see it.

Once they reached the end of their tour, Marina brought Terrie over to one of the least popular area of the hospital for the public: the waiting room.  Marina left her there for a moment and then returned holding two small cups filled with cold, mineral water.  "Here."

"Thank you."  Terrie took the cup of water Marina offered her and drank it slowly.

Marina sat down next to her and took a sip of her own cup.  "Ahh...  So, what do you think of the hospital?"

Terrie lowered her cup.  "It's, um... very organized.  Back home, we, uh... when someone is sick or injured, the shaman comes to their house to heal them instead."

"Ah.  That's interesting."

"... So, um... did you work everywhere here?"

"Hmm?"

"When you worked here, did you work in all those places you showed me?"

"Oh.  Well, it depended on which patient I was assigned at the time.  Sometimes I would work in physiotherapy and in pediatrics, other times I would work only in cardiology.  It's considered bad practice for nurses to always work in the same ward."

Terrie gave her friend a puzzled look.  "Nurse?  Um... what's a nurse?"

Marina pressed her finger on her cheek as her eyes darted upward in thought.  "Hmm... how to explain something like that?  You know the shaman from your village?  Here, people who heal and treat patients are called doctors."

Terrie nodded.  "Okay."

"The doctors are accompanied by a staff of nurses, who assist them.  A nurse is someone who provides care to the patients after they have been treated to ensure a healthy recovery."

"Oh.  So... before we met, were you a doctor, or a nurse?"

"I was a nurse.  Doctors here know how to use healing magic, but nurses usually don't.  I was planning to spend a few years here so I could gain experience and save up until I could hopefully obtain my doctorate at the Isolon University of Magic."

Terrie tilted her head in confusion.  "The... what?"

Marina giggled.  "Nothing, I'm just talking to myself."

"O-okay..."  After resting for a little while, Terrie and Marina bid goodbye to Nilian and then left the hospital.  "So, um... where are we going next?"

"Hmm... how about the Dayama Theater?  I think a place like it should raise your spirits."

"Okay..."

Terrie followed her friend to that place, the Dayama Theater as she called it.  The two entered the Avenue of Heroes, and before long, they arrived at a massive structure standing in the middle of a plaza.  Standing guard before its main entrance, two enormous and imposing statues, not unlike the ones at the bottom of Asianas Bridge.  Its facade, built out of some especially dark iron, ornamented with a number of sculptures and reliefs.

Terrie's jaw dropped, flabbergasted by how monumental and extravagant it was.  "Uh... uwaaaaah?!"

"Impressive, isn't it?" Marina said with a smile.

"It's... it's huge!"

Marina giggled.  "It has to to accommodate such a big auditorium.  Here, let me show you inside."

Marina took her friend inside.  The interior was richly decorated with large, asymmetrical columns displaying various motifs and decorations, arches and vaults bearing dynamic, flowing curves and whiplashes, majestic flights of stairs and carved alcoves.

"Wow!  It's so... so... um..."

"Grand?" asked Marina.

"Y-yes, grand.  Th-thank you.  Huh?"

Terrie's eyes were then drawn to the opulent painted ceilings and frescoes.  The young elf stepped up to the murals and stared fixedly on the many illustrated artworks.

The first showed a war between three factions.  On one side, a figure wielding a great hammer like a king's scepter, commanding his legions of monstrous soldiers to attack the other two camps, both comprised of strange and eldritch creatures.  The king-like figure is then entombed within a temple.  His soldiers are then sealing themselves with their liege.

The second depicted a thriving civilization.  Its architecture somewhat resembled this theater, its people were dressed in ornate and majestic garbs, the reach of this city seemed infinite.  Then, the very next image, all is destroyed.  The buildings are torn asunder and consumed by raging fires, and its people lay on the ground in pool of their own blood.

The third portrayed a colossal monster made entirely of pure, living darkness, represented in the image of a humanoid woman with distinctive pink eyes.  She, alongside other shadowy abominations, crawled from a forest cast in perpetual darkness and sowed devastation everywhere, feasting on all animal, elf, human and even giant unfortunate to be scooped in her fell claws or ensnared in her living tendril-like hair.

Terrie backed away from that image, a sudden chill running up her spine.  Though many more images and stories were depicted, she couldn't bring herself to look at them.

Marina noticed Terrie's odd reaction and walked up to her.  "What is it, Terrie?"

Terrie turned to her redhead friend.  "Huh?  Oh, um... n-nothing.  I, uh... I just got a little nervous looking at this painting."

Marina looked to the mural in question.  "Oh, I remember that painting, I saw it when I was a little girl and visited the theater for the first time.  I remember being absolutely terrified of it, too."  She turned back to her friend.  "Did you know that they all portray a myth?"

Terrie, gave Marina yet another confused look.  "A myth?"

"Mhm."  Marina pointed at the first of three paintings Terrie had been observing.  "This one is The Corrector War.  According to legend, creatures called The Correctors invaded Felarya, and powerful entities called The Guardians created the Titans to combat them.  However, the king of the Titans rebelled against his creators and a devastating three-way war erupted."  She then pointed at the second illustration.  "This one is The Fall of Ur-Sagol.  Long ago, there existed a prosperous civilization to the north known as Ur-Sagol.  It seemed completely invincible, but the empire was completely destroyed in what felt like a single night.  All that remains of it are its ruins."  She then turned to the third one, the one who disturbed Terrie.  "This one is The One Hundred Years of Nightmares.  According to legend, an extremely powerful Dark Elemental known as Déméchrelle cast the region of Evernight Forest under a terrible veil of darkness.  For one hundred years, this tide of darkness expanded until it covered almost all of Felarya.  Anyone who walked in the dark vanished without a trace, said to have been swallowed alive by the Queen of Darkness herself.  After one hundred years, the darkness mysteriously receded back to Evernight Forest, never to return."

The poor girl shivered intensely and turned white as a sheet as she imagined being confronted with this monstrous mass of living darkness.  "Waaaaah!  Wh-why did you t-t-tell me that...?"

Marina smiled with embarrassment.  "S-sorry, my bad!  Don't worry, though, Déméchrelle is only a myth.  No colossal dark elemental is going to eat you in your sleep at night."

"R-r-really...?"

Marina gave her a reassuring nod.  "You have nothing to fear."

Terrie pressed her hand against her chest and breathed a sigh of relief.  "Thank goodness..."  But despite calming down, her expression remained glum.  "But... why do people celebrate such sad events?"

"Because we love the mystery.  No one knows why the Titan King rebelled against The Guardians, how Ur-Sagol was destroyed, or who Déméchrelle is and where she came from.  It's so much fun seeing everyone's different interpretations of those events since no two are ever the same."

"Oh."

"Anyway, that's as far as we can go."

"Huh?  But why?"

"We can't access the auditorium when there's no performance."

"Oh..."  Terrie lowered her head, a tad disappointed.

"Aww, don't be sad, I promise to take you here with Sean and Lester whenever a performance is announced."

Terrie looked back at Marina.  "Really?  Um... wh-what kind of performance?"

"Oh, there can be all sorts of performance here.  There can be dramatic plays, choruses, Qesjhatam stilted dances, Korchielan puppetry, choreographed combat ballets, and Rosic orchestras."  A glint then appeared in Marina's eyes.  "Oh, and then there's Tey Moonsong's amazing dances and the incredible Kiggstragan Royal Troupe!  And then there's-"

Terrie tilted her head, utterly confused and lost.  "U-um... wh-what...?"

"Oh!  Sorry!"  Marina scratched the back of her head and giggled in embarrassment.  "Anyway, I think we've seen enough here, so let's go see some other place!"

Terrie nodded.  "O-okay..."

Marina and Terrie left the Dayama Theater continued their tour of the more noteworthy sights of the Middle Tier.  The young phantom elf looked back at the enormous building behind her.  Were those performances Marina talking about really that good?  She had never heard of... of... what did Marina call them again?  Those names were so complicated!  But if Marina thought they were good, then they must be.

After a long walk, Terrie's were drawn to a tall building featuring beautiful stonework.   "Oh, what is that place?"

Marina stopped and turned to the building.  "These are the Baths of Negav."

Terrie turned to her friend.  "The... Baths of Negav?  But you already have a bath."

Marina nodded.  "That's right, but the Baths of Negav are different.  They-"

"GET OUT!!!"  Marina and Terrie jumped and turned to the entrance.  All of a sudden, a woman wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around her torso threw a man with messy short black hair and equally disheveled beard out in the streets.  "You're banned from entering for three months!"

The man promptly turned around and the woman.  Somehow, he only had on his face dirt stains despite landing face first on the pavement.  "Whaaaaat?!  Three mooooonth?!?!"

The woman then threw his clothes at him, with his underwear landing a perfect bullseye on his face.  "And don't you dare use any divination spell!  We'll KNOW if you're spying on someone!"  She then turned around and headed back inside in a huff.

The man picked up his clothes as a large twitch appeared under his eye.  At that moment, a neko stepped out of the building and walked up to him.  For unknown reasons, his face was concealed behind a mask.  "Three minutes and forty-two seconds.  That's a new record."

The man stood up and glared at the masked neko, his face riddled with bulging veins.  "Can it, will ya!?"

Marina and Terrie continued to watch as the two walked away.  The people on the streets either stared flabbergasted at the half-naked man stomping around, or tried their hardest not to burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughters.  Some took one glance at him and then just sighed and rolled their eyes.

"Um... what just happened?" asked Terrie.

"I... guess they caught a peeping Tom."

"Huh?"

"It's considered very disrespectful for men to spy on women as they're bathing, and vice versa.  Although I've never heard of a woman caught peeping on men."

"Oh.  ...So, um... what are those baths for?"

"Oh, right, people can pay and relax here in the huge hot baths."

"Um... pay?"  But before Terrie's friend could give an answer, a sudden, a low growl resonated from the young elf's stomach.  Terrie blushed and clutched her empty belly.  "...I'm hungry."

Marina rubbed her stomach as it too growled in protest.  "Yeah, me too.  Let's go back home and eat something.  I'll show you about what paying is after dinner."

"O-okay."

---------

With their hunger satiated, Marina took a small pouch full of money and then took Terrie to the westernmost district of the Middle Tier.  As they drew closer, a faint buzzing sound began to ring in their ears.  They then stepped in a large city square where a HUGE flock of people flooded the area, and the faint buzzing sound suddenly transformed into a louder-than-usual cacophony of thousands of shouts and conversations all happening at once.

Terrie immediately tensed up and began quaking in her boots again.  "S-s-so many people...."

Likewise, Marina winced as Terrie clamped harder on her hand.  "Ow!  T-Terrie, don't hold my hand so tightly!"

"H-huh?"  The phantom elf suddenly noticed what she was doing.  She let go and then looked away, her face red with embarrassment.  "Ah!  S-sorry!"

Marina rubbed her hand, still cringing a bit.  "It's okay.  Anyway, welcome to the Grand Market District, the biggest shopping district in all of Negav!  You can find food, weapons, magic items, household appliances, and all sort of other things here."

Terrie turned back to Marina.  "Huh?  But... why are there other shops in the city, then?"

"For the convenience, really.  The other shopping districts are usually close to the residential areas and they usually sell necessities.  The Grand Market District is there if you're looking for something that isn't sold anywhere else."

"Oh."

Marina then took Terrie on a quick tour through the shopping district.  The young phantom elf quivered intensely and stood much closer to Marina.  It was the only way a wimp like her could get a hold of herself while surrounded by literally thousands of strangers.  The two soon entered a sea of brightly colored merchant tents.  Marina browsed the merchandise they offered, but didn't find anything she really wanted at the moment.  Terrie breathed a sigh of relief whenever they stopped to see what was there, though she had no clue what all those items on display were, or what that strange little numbered tag sitting next to them was for.  Why did some items have a bigger number than others?  But then, she heard something coming from outside.  Terrie peeked out of the tent and noticed two nekos, both clad in light armor and carrying long spears, argue with a shady merchant sitting on a carpet.  She could hardly understand what they were saying, though.

"Um... Marina?"

Marina looked at her friend.  "Yes?"

"What are these people doing?"  Terrie pointed at the nekos and the merchant.

Marina looked at those people.  "Oh, they're haggling."

"Haggling?"

Marina nodded affirmatively.  "Some people will try and argue with merchants to try and get a better price."

"Um... what's a price?"

Marina took Terrie's hand and walked out of the tent.  "Here, let's go get you a nightgown and I'll show you."

"Um... o-okay."

Marina and Terrie left the district of merchant tents and headed to another part of the grand market.  Eventually, the two arrived at another district, where a long row of shops, both big and small, where built along one side of the road, while another row of stalls stood on the other.  Marina checked the shops' signs as they traveled along the road, until she found one that sold clothes.

"Let's try here."  Marina took her friend inside.  A small bell above the doorway chimed as the young woman pushed the door open.  "Let's see..."

Marina glanced around the selection of clothes and then began searching around the aisles.  Terrie followed her friend through the many rows of clothes, but couldn't help looking at the hundreds and hundreds of different clothes on display.  So, this was how people got their clothes in Negav.  Instead of making them by hand, they obtained them at a shop by choosing them from an enormous selection.  The clothes were all so vastly different from one another.  Some of the tunics were made of very light looking material and had short sleeves, while others were made of heavier materials, had long sleeves, and even sported a hood.  Some had very strange patterns etched on them, while others sported strange designs altogether, like Marina's tunic, whose neckline was so big it reached below her shoulders and collarbone.  No wonder everyone in this city looked so different.

"Ah, here we go!"  Marina took a blue sleeveless nightgown and turned to Terrie.  She held it in front of her friend and looked to see if it fit her.  "...Perfect!  It goes great on you!"

Terrie looked at the gown and then gave her friend a puzzled look.  "Um... wh-what are you doing...?"

"I'm seeing if it fits you.  It would be pretty terrible if I bought something too big or too small for you."

"Oh."

Marina walked among the aisles for a little longer, just to see if there was anything she'd like to pick for herself, but she didn't find anything she really wanted.  In any event, now that they found what they were looking for, the two walked up to the counter where Marina paid for the gown.  Terrie stared intrigued as her friend reached into her pouch and handed the man behind the counter flat, shiny and ornate one inch... metal stone things.  What were those?  Terrie then followed Marina out of the shop, where she still looked at the man whom she gave the stone thingies to.

"Um... what are those things you gave him?"

"They're skevols.  They're our currency here."

Terrie understandably gave Marina a confused look.  "Currency?"

"These coins are called skevols made of precious metals and are used as currency, a medium of exchange.  Think of it like trading, to get this gown, I had to trade away the same amount of skevols it was worth."

"Oh, so... those numbers next to the items are how much they're worth?"

"Exactly!"  Marina smiled and nodded affirmatively.  "Nearly every item or service in Negav cost a certain amount of skevols.  The more valuable the item or service, the more skevols it costs."

"I see..."

"Hmm?"  All of a sudden, Marina let go of Terrie and ran up to the stalls.

"Ma... Marina?"  Terrie quickly followed her friend before she could lose her in the enormous crowd.  "Marina!  Wh-why did you-"

"Look, Terrie!"  Marina turned around and showed her a black and white kitten plushie.  "Look at how cute it is!"

Terrie's nervousness seemingly vanished all of a sudden.  "H-huh?"  The phantom elf stared at the... thing Marina was holding.  "Um... what is that?"  Then, for reasons she couldn't quite understand herself, her hand moved on its own and petted the little plush toy on its head.  Terrie smiled and her cheeks blushed a tad.  "...It's so adorable."

"I know, right!  Sorry for letting go so suddenly, it was so cute I couldn't help myself."  Marina laughed in embarrassment.

Terrie looked back at her friend.  "It's... it's fine."

Marina and Terrie continued to explore the Grand Market District for a little longer.  Though a lack of funds and forethought on Marina's part prevented them from doing much shopping, they at least they leave the district completely empty-handed.  Terrie was breathed a sigh of relief to be back on the less crowded streets.

"Um... where should we go next?"

Marina's eyes darted upward in thought.  "Hmm...  I know!  Let's go to the Higher Tier.  There's something there I really want to show you."

Terrie nodded.  "O-okay."

Marina took her elf friend directly to the wall separating the Middle and Higher Tier.  Terrie still couldn't believe this city had enormous walls within an already enormous wall.  Once they crossed the wall, Marina pointed at the building dead ahead.  "Here we are."

Terrie stopped dead in her track as her eyes nearly fell out of their socket.  "Wha... whaaaaaaa?!"

Standing proudly before the two young women was quite possibly the single biggest building in all of Negav.  Its entrance was sealed shut by tall, thick gate-like doors, and ornate towers soaring majestically to the sky dotted nearly every side and corner of the structure.  It would be more accurate to describe it as a modern castle or!  Its main entrance was marked by a pair of tall, thick gate-like doors, and a multitude of tower dotted nearly every side and corner!

"This is the Isolon University of Magic.  This is where people in Negav learn all about magic."  Marina then noticed Terrie wasn't uttering a single sound.  "What's the matter?  Are you speechless?"

"...IT'S HUGE!"

Marina let out a hearty laugh.  "Yes, it certainly is.  Anyway, remember what I said back at the hospital?  This is where I would go to become a doctor."

Terrie tilted her head, confused.  "But... don't you already know magic?"

Marina shook her head.  "In Negav, it's not enough to simply be able to use magic to be recognized as a mage.  I may know how to use healing magic, but in order to become a true doctor, I must have a deep understanding of healing arts, what magic is best used for treating a particular patient, and much more.  It's very difficult to become a mage."

"Oh..."  Terrie let out a sigh.  "I guess I won't ever be able to become a mage here..."

Marina turned to her friend.  "Don't look down, I'm not sure I would be able to make it through the courses either, they all sound so tough."

"But... you were able to learn magic..."  Terrie sank her head low.  "...unlike me..."

"That's not exactly fair.  I didn't really learn how to use magic, I was granted magic powers.  I studied under Shae'la for three years and I only learned the very basics because I had to spend most of my time at the church.  Plus, her lessons were all very hard and the kids didn't make things easy either!"

Terrie looked back at Marina.  "R-really?  ...I guess... it really is that hard to become a mage if even you had so much trouble."

Marina nodded.  "Yes, it is really hard.  Anyway, look over there."  Marina pointed at the building standing directly next to the university.  A gigantic, gleaming tower, nearly as big as the university itself.  It spiraled all the way beyond the clouds toward the heavens themselves.

"It's... it's that huge tower I saw when I first came to the city yesterday!"

Marina nodded.  "That's the Square of Hope.  That is where the Magiocrats rule the city."

Terrie turned to Marina, understandably clueless as always.  "Um... who are the Magiocrats?"

"The Magiocrats are a council of very powerful mages.  They came to Negav long ago and helped organize the people after the Great Destruction to rebuild the city.  Other than that, we don't actually that much about them."  She then pointed at the top of the tower, where they could see something glimmer in the sun at its summit.  "At the top lies the Magiocrats' creation: The Isolon Eye.  It protects us from all the giant monsters lurking in the jungle and it's thanks to it that the city was able to recover."

Terrie suddenly turned pale.  "G-giant... m-m-monsters...?"

Marina nodded and her expression turned dour.  "The jungle outside the walls is home to all sorts of dangers.  Beasts big enough to swallow a man whole, and poisonous plants and insects.  The greatest danger of all are the giant half human, half beast monsters.  Two hundred years ago, Negav was plunged into a civil war, and those giants suddenly invaded while the city defenses were weak.  Anybody who couldn't escape in time was eaten alive by the monsters.  That day is forever known to us as The Great Destruction."

"Waaaaah!  Wh-wh-why are you telling me things like that?!"  Terrie couldn't stop trembling.  Tears were even beginning to form in the corner of her eyes.

Marina turned to her and smiled nervously.  "Ah, s-sorry!  You don't have to worry, the monsters can't even get near the city because of the Eye, and we're much better equipped to deal with them than we were before!"

"Re... really...?"

Marina nodded confidently.  "Yes.  I assure you that these walls are the safest place in the entire world."

Terrie sniffed and calm down a little.  "...O... okay... I trust you..."

Marina breathed a sigh of relief.  she should be more careful the next time she tries to explain the dangers of Felarya to someone completely unfamiliar.  She folded her arms and pondered for a bit.  "Now, where should we go next...?"

Terrie looked around as her friend tried to come up with their next destination.  She then noticed a big building standing next to the Isolon University.  "Um... what's that over there?"

"Hmm?"  Marina looked at the building Terrie was pointing at.  "Oh!  That's the university's library.  That's perfect, I was wondering if we were going to see another library today."

"Um... what's a library?"

"A library is an institution which holds books and other forms of information.  See, I was planning to visit the Venmys-Pieaug Library in the Middle Tier and look for a book that would help me teach you our language, but then I remembered that the library is... a little big and not very easy to navigate, so I thought I should look elsewhere."

"Oh."

Marina and Terrie stepped inside the nearby building.  Rows and rows of shelves as far as the eyes could see appeared before them, each filled to the brim with more books than she could possibly read in a year, and they were so tall that they needed a ladder to reach the higher shelves!  There were so many bookshelves in fact that they built an upper floor floor all so they could hold even more!  Everyone at the library was sitting around those long wooden tables and everyone was reading something in perfect silence.  Everything was so big just like everything else in the city, but oddly, Terrie didn't mind that.  She found the quiet atmosphere of the library very relaxing, which made the it look a lot less intimidating than the other big buildings of Negav.

Marina and Terrie then walked to the desk near the entrance where a bespectacled elf lady was sitting and reading.  "Excuse me." said Marina.

The elf lady put down her book and looked at the two young women.  "Yes, how may I help you?  Oh!"

"Is... something wrong?"

The librarian stared directly at Terrie.  "I never imagined I would meet another shamshi here of all places!"

Terrie jumped upon being referred to as a shamshi.  "H-huh?"  Then, she noticed the rest of the lady's features.  Short raven black hair.  Striking yellow eyes.  A triangle-shaped visage.  Terrie's eyes opened wide.  "You're a shamshi?!"

The shamshi woman gave an affirmative nod.  "Yes, I am a shamshi like you.  My name is Ti-Yen.  I am the librarian here.  And you are?"

"I'm... I'm Terriandha..."  Terrie then looked at Marina, her cheeks a little red.  "And, um... th-this is my friend, Marina..."

Marina smiled.  "Nice to meet you, Miss Ti-Yen.  So, you too are a shamshi?"

"Yes, I am.  It's rare, but sometimes shamshis are born with white skin instead of the usual gray, and I happen to be one of those."

"Ah.  That's fascinating."

"In any case, how may I help you?"

"Do you have books to help teach Negavian languages?  It would help Terrie immensely if she learned our languages during her stay here."

"Yes, we do have a few books like that, but..."

"But what?"

"While I am a librarian, I am also a teacher and I often give classes here at the library.  If you want, you are free to attend them."

Marina giggled.  "Really?  In that case, should I call you Professor Ti-Yen?"

Ti-Yen smiled and chuckled back.  "If you want to, I don't mind at all."

Marina turned to Terrie.  "What do you think, Terrie?  Does learning Negavian languages here work for you?"

"M-me?"  Terrie's eyes darted left and right.  "Um... well, I... I don't know..."

"If you don't want to attend my classes, then your other option is to enroll at an academy." Ti-Yen said.

Terrie turned to Ti-Yen.  "An... an academy?"

"An academy is an institution that teaches various subjects." answered Marina.  "Normally, enlisting at an academy is fairly easy, but since you're not from Negav, it's going to be a lot more difficult.  I also won't be able to join you there."

Terrie imagined what it would be at an academy.  All alone, learning something from someone she didn't know, being surrounded by many other people she also didn't know.  The young elf got the chills just thinking about it.  "N-n-no, I... I'll come here instead..."

Ti-Yen quietly stared at Terrie for a moment.  "... Very well.  Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Yes, do you also have books about magic?" asked Marina.  "I just learned how to use magic and I'd like a little help to get even better."

"Certainly, let me show you where you can find them."

Ti-Yen stood up and led the two young women to the section of the library dealing with basic magic studies.  The books were all neatly arranged between the various types of magic, how advanced they were, etc.  Terrie didn't quite understand some of the terms Ti-Yen used.  Alchemy?  Wild Magic?  Theurgy?  Primordial Magic?  What did it all mean?  Things like healing magic, illusions, rituals, runes, potions, scrolls, those were all things she perfectly understood, though.

"Did you find what you were looking for, Marina?" asked Ti-Yen after she was done showing Marina around.

Marina nodded happily.  "Yes, these will be perfect for my healing and protective arts.  Thank you very much, Miss Ti-Yen!"

"You're welcome.  Is there anything else I can help you with, still?"

"Um..."

Ti-Yen turned to Terrie.  "Yes, what is it?"

"...Um... are there other shamshis or elves in Negav...?"

"I'm afraid you and I are the only shamshis in the entire city, Terriandha."

Terrie looked down.  "Oh..."

"As for elves, yes, Negav is home to many elves.  However, the vast majority prefer to live in the Elven District."

Terrie looked back at Ti-Yen.  "The... Elven District?"

"Many years after the Great Destruction, the elves demanded that they have their own districts." answered Marina again.  "Officially, it's because they disliked the style of Negav due to the lack of nature.  In reality, it's because they were uncomfortable living with humans."

"Huh?  Why were they uncomfortable living with you?"

"Simply put, elves in Negav don't get along with other races." answered Ti-Yen.  "This has earned us a poor reputation among humans and we are widely viewed as a race of arrogant, disdainful stuck-ups."

"Wh-what?  But... but why?  Why do elves and other races not get along."

Marina's expression turned a little dour again.  "I can't even begin to tell you.  We may never really find out why elves choose to interact so rarely with humans and nekos."

"Oh..."  Terrie's head sank low.

"In any event, do you still need my help?" asked Ti-Yen.

Marina shook her head.  "No, that will be all.  Thank you very much for your help, Miss Ti-Yen."

"No problem, it was my pleasure."

The two young women and the librarian headed back to the entrance of the library.  Ti-Yen sat back down behind her desk and picked up her book again, but then noticed Terriandha still looking at her.  "Do you still need my help for something?"

"Um... did you... lose somebody?"

"Hmm?  Oh, no, I simply prefer to wear my hair short.  I find it much easier to maintain that way."

"Oh."

"Um... what are you talking about?" asked Marina.

Ti-Yen turned to the young redhead.  "It's customary among our people to keep our hair long and only cut it during time of grievance over the loss of a relative."

"Oh.  That's interesting.  Anyway, thanks for everything."  Marina turned to her friend.  "Terrie, are you coming."

"Y-yes!"  Terrie turned to Ti-Yen and blushed a little.  "U-um... thank you.  G-goodbye."

"Goodbye to you two.  Have a nice day."  Ti-Yen happily waved goodbye as the two young women left the library.  Once the doors closed behind them, however, her smile vanished from her lips.  "Her eyes..."

Marina and Terrie headed back to the Middle Tier via the Otanac Square.  "I'm glad this matter has been taken care of.  Miss Ti-Yen was very nice, don't you think?"

"Huh?"  Terrie's cheeks flushed in embarrassment.  "Oh, um... yes, she was."  Marina couldn't help giggling following her reaction.  "...So, um... where are we going next?"

Marina looked up at the sky to see what time it looked like.  The sun was nearing the Ascarlin Mountains to the west; by the looks of it, it wouldn't be long before it was evening.  "Hmm..."  She pondered about their next destination when a sudden idea hit her.  "You know what?  Let's go see what Sean and Lester are doing.  I bet they'll show us the man who gave them their crystals, too."

Terrie nodded.  "O-okay..."

"Good!  But first, we should rest here, my feet are hurt a little..."

"A-alright."

Marina sat down on a nearby bench in Otanac Square and let out a sigh as she removed her shoes.  Good thing they rested a lot during their trip, otherwise she'd probably have thousands of blisters on the bottom of her feet.  Terrie, meanwhile, just lied down underneath a tree and simply enjoyed the feeling of the green grass and the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves above, a beaming smile shining on her lips.
An Elf In The Big City
I hope you like dialogue, because it's time for a beefer.  Marina is giving Terrie a tour of Negav.  Well, part of it, anyway, and only the places that stick out, really, but such is to be expected from such a big city.  I may have ended up taking liberties with certain characters, but that's because the scenario looked good in my head, and it's not like they have an impact on the plot anyway.

:iconfelarya: and those two shmuckheads are © of :iconkarbo:

Ti-Yen is 
© of :iconkikijonson:

All other characters are belong to :iconshady-knight:

Credits to JaetteTroll for the Grand Market District, the House of a Thousand Suns, the Street of the Red Flower, the Negav Baths, the Elven District, and to Moonlight-pendent13 for the Venmys-Pieaug Library.
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Title says it all, I have indeed been tagged, specifically by :iconhalocrystal99: for the first time in the whole six years since I have been on dA.  It's like a rite of passage on this site to be tagged by someone at least once, isn't it?

Anyway, on to the questions:

1. Favorite Song?
I don't listen to music all that much except for video game music.  Yes, I'm that much of a nerd.  Even still, I can't really answer that since it's too hard for me to choose an absolute favorite.

2. Watch any youtubers?
Yes.

3. Do you watch Cartoon Network? If you did, do you prefer the new or old cartoons?
No, I don't.  I stopped using the TV a long time ago; I'm strictly on my computer nowadays, because it gives me the option to watch whatever episode from whichever show anytime I want.

4. If you dare someone to watch any type of video, what will it be?
Lucahjin's blind LP's.  For an extra challenge, if you are an avid gamer, try not to make an account just so you can post a rage-filled comment.

5. If you could change into any animal, what will you be and why?
A less pitiful human being.  What?  Humans are technically animals too.  On a more serious note, a hawk, because then I'd be able to fly AND be badass.  Alternatively, an owl, because then I could rip your face off if you do drugs.

6. Have you ever seen a video that has made you cringed? And if so, what was it? Come on, be honest?
Read answer #4.

7. Who would win, Goku or Superman?
Asura.  Seriously, have you seen Asura's Wrath?  He's like Goku, The Incredible Hulk and Kratos rolled into one rage-filled package, and I don't see either Superman or Goku pull any of the stunts he did, like taking on a planet-sized Buddha.

8. If you could change your Online name into something else, what will it be? (It doesn't count if you changed a number or added a letter. The name must be different from the original)
If I wanted to change my username, I would have done so already, wouldn't I?

9. What are two T.V shows or Animations that you would want to have a crossover?
Read answer #3.  Now, if it were video games, Guilty Gear and BlazBlue.  Search your feelings, fans of Arc Systems, you know you want that game and there is no reason it shouldn't exist.

10. If you were to make a T.V or Animated Series, what genre would it be and what will be the story?
Fantasy... dramedy, I guess?  Basically, the story I am currently writing.  Hey, if I already have a plot in my head that I like, why not use?  I always like to imagine my characters animated, so this is perfect.  Admittedly, I'd have to modify it a bit, because the intro would be a weeeee bit too long for an animated series.  Seriously nearly two years and, I STILL haven't introduced the main villain!  Speaking of which, PLEASE READ AND COMMENT ON MY STORIES!  I SWEAR THEY DON'T SUCK!


Ehh... don't feel like tagging anyone and can't think of any good questions, anyway.  You have been spared!
Attention readers who actually read my stuff: my most recent chapter, Homecoming, has been updated with a much longer story.  If you have comments about the new bit, you're free to post it.  Again, sorry for being an indecisive, vacillating fuck.
Sean, Lester, Marina and Terrie reappeared in the vast clearing immediately outside the walls of Negav.  Lester stretched like he had just woken up as he took a deep breath of the sweet, morning jungle breeze.  "Ahh, glad to see that big ass wall again."

Terrie looked at the wall in question and nearly dropped her jaw on the floor.  "Waaaaahh!?"

Before her stood the biggest wall she had ever seen in her life, a massive metal monument towering hundreds of feet tall.  On its sides were numerous towers, perhaps some kind of defense for the wall, each topped with either a strange round structure with long tubes protruding out of their side, or a tall crystal-tipped spire.  Terrie looked higher up and saw gleaming towers reaching out for the clouds, getting progressively taller the further they stood from the wall.  The tallest one, the one set squarely in the center of the village, was a humongous spiraling tower carved from glistening marble, standing so tall it scraped the very sky itself!  Terrie's eyes were then drawn to the unbelievably gargantuan stream flowing around the gigantic village, so enormous she could not see the bottom.  None of the streams she came across in Sunfall Thicket were a quarter as big!

"It's... it's HUGE!"  Terrie turned to Marina and her friends.  "Th-this is where you're from!?"

Marina nodded.  "Mhm.  Breathtaking, isn't it?"

"It's... it's even bigger than I imagined.  I-I thought it was only going to be a little bigger than Kortiki Town."  Suddenly, the ground rumbled beneath their feet.  Terrie frantically looked around as the quakes grew in intensity.  Then, she saw a giant creature with an enormous brownish green shell on its back coming toward them.  "U-U-UWAAAHH!"  The young phantom elf jumped away from the giant monster and hid behind Marina.  "Wh-wh-what is that?!"

Marina, Sean and Lester turned to the giant tortoise as it slowly lumbered past them.  "That's a noghdong." answered Marina.

"N-n-noghdong...?"

"Mhm.  Noghdongs are tortoises that live in the jungle around Negav.  Merchants that come to Negav often tame them to carry heavy loads.  See?  It has all sorts of wares attached to its shell."

"S-so... it won't eat me...?"

"No, it won't.  Noghdongs feed on plants and are harmless to people."

Terrie pressed her hand against her beating chest and breathed a sigh of relief.  "I'm glad..."

"Heh heh, noghdong." Lester snickered.

Sean just shook his head.  "And here I was worried that my little brother was starting to become a mature adult."  He then lowered his hand and looked at the rest of his companions.  "Anyway, let's not waste any more time and escort Marina back to her home."

A sly grin spread all over Lester's lips.  "Escort Marina, huh?  In that case, you should carry her in your arms like a knight carrying his princess back to her castle."

"That's a fantastic idea!"  Marina turned to Sean.  "Come on, Sean, pick me up and carry me home!"

Sean jumped back seeing how brightly the glint in her eyes shone.  "What?  No!  I'm carrying enough junk as it is, including some of your stuff!"

Marina clasped her hands together and put on her best baby-doll eyes.  "Pleeeaaase... Sean.  Do it for me..."

Sean frowned and grit his teeth despite getting all red in the face.  "N-no!  Your legs work just fine!"

Marina folded her arms and then looked away, pouting.  "Hmph.  You're no fun."

Lester laughed out loud as Sean let out a long sigh.  Terrie couldn't hold back a giggle either.  She was a little scared to enter such a big village, but now she could breathe a little easier.

The four then stepped on Asianas Bridge and made their way toward the city.  Terrie couldn't stop marveling how massive it was and how the huge noghdong could safely walk on it alongside other humans despite its immense girth.  She remembered hearing a few times about a giant bridge connecting Sunfall Thicket with the outside world called Tasenya Bridge.  She had never seen it with her own eyes, but if it truly existed, it probably would be as big as this one.

Once at the other end of the ascending bridge, the four crossed Victory Gate and then entered the city.  Terrie was in complete awe the moment she took her very first step in Negav.  The already gigantic village was even more unbelievably huge when seen from within its walls!  The nearby houses were so much bigger than the ones from Kortiki Town, and literally countless humans were walking around, either in and out of the innumerable houses, some of the bridges connecting them, or just passing by her and her friends, not paying them any mind!  The ceaseless sound of of footsteps, shouts, and the buzzing of thousands of conversations filled the entire streets, making it near impossible for her to listen to even her own thoughts.

Terrie quivered at the sight of so many strangers and plugged her ears to stop them from ringing from all the noise.  "There... there are s-so many people...!"

Lester chuckled.  "Heh heh heh, that's what every first timer here says."

Sean noticed how Terrie was trembling and covering her ears.  "Let's hurry and head to the Middle Tier and take a portal to your district.  Terrie, stay close to us so you don't get lost in the crowd."

"O-okay..."

Terrie moved very close behind Marina and then followed her friends up the gentle hill to this Middle Tier Sean mentioned.  Along the way, she glanced at the humans absentmindedly walking by.  She saw a fair-skinned man with very short brown hair wearing gold earrings and a long coat like Lester, though his was black and made of soft leather.  She saw a woman with very dark skin and shoulder-length ebony hair, clad in metal armor like Sean, though hers was a little shinier and not as heavy-looking, and carrying a big battle axe across her shoulder and a short sword at her hip.  She saw a man with waist-long silver hair and wearing a robe like Marina, though his was bright red and sleeveless, with all sorts of esoteric markings painted on his face and along the entire length of his arms.  She saw  literally hundreds of people, and no two remotely resembled each other or carried similar types of gear.

"Everyone here looks so unique..."

"Negav's a magnet for all kinds of adventurers." answered Lester.  "Some of 'em are handsome dashing rogues lookin' for fame and glory, like yours truly, but others are out for personal gains and will do anything to get it.  It's a little scary for newcomers, but it's part of the city's charm."

Sean glanced at his little brother from the corner of his eyes.  "Don't you mean pint-sized egomaniacs looking for women to ogle and unsuccessfully flirt with?"

Lester fired a sideways glare up at his big brother, to which Marina giggled.  Terrie, however, just tilted her head, confused by what Marina apparently found funny.

Then all of a sudden, she spotted something in the crowd.  A creature that resembled a human, but sported large triangle-shaped ears on top of its head, a long, slender furry tail above its buttocks, slit pupils and claws at the end of its fingers.  "Uwaaah!"

Sean stopped and turned to her.  "Terrie, what's wrong!?"

"Th-th-there's something over there!"  Terrie trembled and pointed at the creature.

Sean, Marina and Lester looked at where she pointed, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary.  "I don't see anything." said Lester.

"I-I saw something with big ears and claws and a tail!"

The three double checked the crowd until eventually they spotted the creature that Terrie had seen.  "Oh, wow!  I didn't even notice that neko until now." said Marina.

"N-neko?"

"Mhm.  Nekos are a race of catfolks that live among us here.  You have no reason to fear them, just like us."

"Oh..."  Terrie breathed a sigh of relief.  "I'm glad..."

Sean grumbled at how this was nothing but a false alarm.  "Anyway, let's get back on track."

Following a fairly lengthy walk along the Avenue of Heroes, the four then arrived at another huge wall, just like the one outside.  "A-another wall!?" exclaimed Terrie.

"That's right." answered Lester.  "Negav's split into three tiers, each based on how high they are on the hill.  The Middle Tier's where most Negavians live, while the Lower Tier's where most of the adventurers hang out at."

"So... beyond there is where you live?"

"This is the tier where Marina lives.  Me and Sean live in the Lower Tier because we work at a shop down there."

"Oh..."

After crossing the wall separating the two tiers, Terrie wasted no time looking at all the sights on the other side.  There were just as many people walking and chatting on the streets, though almost all of them wore simple clothes over robes, armors and cloaks, and with much more consistent designs among them than the people of the Lower Tier.  Their skin tone, hair style, and hair and eye color didn't vary quite as wildly as them either.  Many of the houses, however, stood much taller than the ones from before and their architecture varied a lot more!  Was it even right to call them houses?

After a little while, they arrived at an eight or ten foot tall structure shaped like a perfect ring.  Through the hole in the middle, she could see a completely different part of the big village.  "...What is this?"

"It's a portal." answered Lester.  "The city's too big for us to go from district to district on-foot, and the streets are always crowded, so vehicles are outta the question.  So we instead use a network of portals to go from district to district."

"I see..."  The four then stepped through the portal and reappeared in the district seen on the other side, just like they had stepped through a door.  "Wh-whoa!"

"Amazing, isn't it?" asked Marina.

"It's... it's incredible!  I...I had no idea something like that existed!"

"It's just one of the many wonders of Negav.  You'll see plenty more during your stay." said Lester with a big grin.

The four continued their march through the quiet residential district.  Much fewer people frequented the streets and the noise was a lot more bearable.  The houses stood a tad lower than the ones from before they all looked rather... simplistic by comparison.  Interestingly, some of them had bridges connecting one another.

Then, at the end of their hike, they stood before one particular house.  Marina looked longingly at the home she had left three long years ago and quietly breathed a nostalgic sigh.  "It's good to be back."  Marina and her friends climbed the small flight of steps and then opened the door.  Inside, her parents perked up hearing the door open without a knock and immediately rushed to the entrance.  The married coupled gasped upon seeing who was standing before them.  "I'm home!"

"Marina!"  Henry and Ashly hugged their daughter in a warm embrace, with Ashley hardly able to hold her tears back.  "Marina!  Oh, Marina, I missed you so much!"

"I missed you, too, Mom, Dad."  Even Marina could barely suppress the urge to cry.

Terrie, however, could not hold her tears back seeing a family happily reunited and began to sob.  Marina's parents looked at the strange gray-skinned elf.  "Who is this?  Why is she crying?" asked Henry.

Marina glanced at Terrie and then let go of her parents.  "This is Terrie, I met her when I was learning magic from Master Shae'la.  She's crying because... she and her parents don't get along."

"Oh."  Ashley turned to Terrie.  "Nice to meet you, Terrie.  I'm Ashley, Marina's mother.  This is my husband, Henry."

"Hello."

Terrie wiped her tears, still sobbing a little, and turned to Marina's parents.  "...N-nice to... m-m-meet you..."

"Please come in and have a seat." said Henry.  "You too, Sean, Lester."

Lester and Terrie took a seat in the living room with Mr. and Ms. Sannon, while Marina and Sean headed upstairs in her room.  After lightening his backpack a little, Sean joined back with Terrie and his brother downstairs while Marina changed into her normal clothes.  Marina breathed yet another nostalgic sigh.  Ahh, it's been so long since she has seen this room.  Her bed still had its cushy mattress and fluffy pillow, her wardrobe still held all of her old clothes, and her dressing table was still full with most of her necessities.  Everything was as tidy as she remembered and she didn't see a single speck of dust anywhere.  Her mom and dad must have spent many of their days keeping everything here clean it everyday until her return.  It really was good to be home.

Once she finished changing into her casual clothes and unpacking, she took the bag of sogram Shae'la had given her and then joined back with her friends and family in the living room downstairs.  "Sorry to keep you waiting."

"It's okay, sweetie.  Please, sit down." Henry replied.

"Here, this is a gift from Shae'la."  Marina handed her father the bag of sogram.  "It's sogram."

"Whoa, really?"  Henry took the bag.  "This is great!  Now I feel bad for having been so hard on her."

Marina giggled and then sat down on the couch with her friends.  She briefly glanced at Terrie and saw that she had calmed down.

"I know this is sudden," said Ashley, "but can you tell us how your stay with Shae'la was?"

Marina looked away from her parents, her eyes filled with shame.  "I'm sorry, but I have a confession to make.  I didn't learn how to cast magic from Shae'la; I joined a church here in Negav instead."

"What?  Why?" asked Ashley.

"It's a long story.  It all happened shortly after I left three years ago..."

Marina told her parents how Shae'la convinced her to join the Church of Saint Lathea so she could learn healing magic from some of the best healers out there and how she had been returning to Negav almost everyday to learn everything she needed to know about their religion.  Afterward, Sean and Lester told them their side of the story, how they received an omen from a fortune teller saying that Marina would have died had she entered Sunfall Thicket accompanied only with her master as she had planned, and how the Church of Saint Lathea helped them enter the Fairy Kingdom to keep her safe in the haunted forest.  Marina then told them how they met Terrie and her friend Sohl, and the circumstances that led her to leave her village and homeland.  Words completely failed Ashley and Henry.  They tried not to worry too much about their daughter's safety, and yet so many things happened to her without them ever knowing, and so recently, too.

Ashley and Henry tried to maintain her composure after having learned everything their daughter and her friends went through recently.  "W-well, I can't say I'm happy to learn that you've been returning to Negav all this time and never told us."

Marina lowered her head in guilt.  "I'm sorry, Dad.  I shouldn't have made you worry like that."

Ashley simply smiled at her daughter.  "It's fine.  All that matters is that you're safe and happy."

Marina looked back at her mother as her smile came back to her lips.  "Thank you, Mom."

Ashley then turned to Terrie.  "I'm sorry things were so hard for you at home.  You're welcome to stay with us here."

"Th-thank you..."

"We'll go and prepare a bed for you in Marina's room.  Does that work for you?" asked Henry.

"Um... yes..."

Lester then got up and grabbed his backpack.  "Welp, I think it's time for us to head back home.  Thanks for having us over."

"You're welcome, and thank you so much for keeping Marina safe out there." answered Ashley.

Lester tipped his hat with a cocky grin spread all over his face.  "All in a day's work, ma'am."

Sean got up as well and put his helmet and backpack back on.  "We'll see you again.  Have a nice day."

Marina nodded.  "I will.  Thank you for escorting me."

Marina, her family, and Terrie then waved goodbye to the Orrick brothers as they headed back to their home.

---------

"Ahh... home, sweet home."  Lester said as he stretched.  "Finally be able to work on my secret project again."

Sean removed his helmet and then headed to his own room so he could finally get out of his tin can.  Along the way, he checked the calendar, only to notice the day tomorrow was circled.  "Are you kidding me?"

"What is it?"

"Tomorrow is That Day."

"Are you serious!?  Aww man, that was the last thing I wanted to think about right about now."

"It can't be helped, we'll have to plan out our day tomorrow around that."

Lester let out a sigh.  "Well, at least we didn't return on That Day, so that's something."

"True."

A few hours later, Sean began working on today's dinner with Lester waiting at the table.  At that moment, Rachilin returned to the apartment and entered the kitchen.  "Oh, you're back."

Lester grinned and waved at her.  "Hey Rach!  Didja miss us?"

"Nah, not really."  She then noticed that Sean was stirring something at the stove.  "Sean's cooking?"  She took at seat at the table, beaming to her ears.  "So what are you making us?"

"A pot of chicken and fried rice.  I'm not in the mood for something complicated."

"Sweet!"  Rach turned to Lester.  "So, where have you two morons been at?"

"Huh?  Why are you asking us that?  We told you we went to the Fairy Kingdom."

"As if!  You two would have never made it there and back so fast, let alone come back alive."

Lester flashed a wide grin.  "Oh yeah?  Get a load of this!"  He reached into his pocket and put the bag of sogram on the table.

Rach looked at the tiny bag and raised an eyebrow.  "What is that?"  She took it in her hand, at which moment, she caught of whiff of an unbelievably sweet aroma.  "Wait... it can't be..."

"Yup, that's sogram.  Given to us by the lovely Shae'la."

"No way!"  Rachilin looked back at Lester, her eyes wide with disbelief.  "How did you two make it to the Fairy Kingdom so fast?  How did you not get eaten!?"

Lester leaned on the back of his chair and rested his head in his hands.  "We're just that good."

"By that, he means someone transported us there, and we were lucky Marina's master was around to keep the pixies from munching on us." said Sean.

Rachilin continued to eye the proof of their admittedly impressive accomplishment for a few more moments before handing it back to Lester, visibly blushing.  "A-a-anyway...  how was it there?"

"Oh, you know, there was a lot of trees and we nearly got killed by ghosts about a hundred times.  Nothing special."

Rach turned to Sean and raised an eyebrow.  "Wait, ghosts?"

"There's this haunted forest called Sunfall Thicket there.  We had to escort Marina through it because of some task she was assigned to by her goddess or something." answered Lester.

Rachilin turned to Lester in disbelief.  "What?  How did you make it out of THAT alive!? ...If you're not pulling my leg, that is."

"Shae'la again." answered Sean.  "We couldn't do shit against the ghosts ourselves.  All we were really good for was cutting down patches magic-eating flowers."

"What are you talking about?  We kicked a ghost mage's ass without her help!" said Lester.

"That was only one ghost and we still nearly died to him.  Sohl was the one who defeated him."

"But we're the ones who did most of the work and gave him the opening he needed to land the killing blow."

"Oh, whatever."

"That's amazing..."  Rachilin murmured.

Lester turned back to Rach.  "Heh heh heh, are you embarrassed that we proved you wrong, or are you dazzled by our feat?"

Rach slammed the table and violently stood up, sending her chair skidding backward before falling over.  "Say one more word and I'll throw you out the fucking window!"

Sean let out a sigh.  "Yep, I'm back home all right..."

---------

Marina took Terrie to her room and gave her a little tour of the place.  She sat on the side of her bed and watched as the young elf explored this new place she would call home.  She couldn't help but smile and quite giggle as Terrie stared intently at each piece of furniture, inspecting almost every single inch of it before moving on to the next like a curious young child.

This was Marina's room?  It wasn't quite as big as the second floor of her real home, but there was a lot more things around and it all belonged to her.  Everything here was so different from how it was back home.  Her bed for example had a MUCH bigger mattress than hers and was elevated about a foot off the ground via some sort of supporting metal frame.  Its blanket and pillow were relatively the same as hers, though.  Her drawer, or wardrobe as she called it, was so much bigger than hers or her father's, and held a lot more clothes, including the white robe she wore in Sunfall Thicket.  They were all so bright and colorful, too.  Compared to her, all she ever wore were the same dreary gray shirt and pants.  She even had small... station called a dresser to help upkeep her appearance.  All of the necessary items were neatly stored in its drawers and a handy mirror was hung right above the table so that Marina would have an idea of what she was doing.  Maintaining one's appearance... she never really thought about something like that.  As long as she cleaned herself everyday, she was fine, but perhaps things were different here.  There was a small wood table close to her bed on which rested something Marina called a lamp.  Its use was apparently to shed light when it gets dark outside, but since it was still bright, turning it on would be wasteful.  Lastly, right by her window were sheets of cloth called curtains, meant to be closed when it was time to go to bed.  Such a strange custom.  If it was already dark outside, why would they need to close curtains to make their room darker?  But she shouldn't criticize it; she was the stranger here after all.

"How do you like it here?"

"Huh?"  Terrie turned back to Marina.  "Oh, um, it's very, um... different."

"So do you like it?"

"Um, I... I suppose."

Marina smiled.  "I'm glad you like it."

A knock at the door then resounded.  Marina's father then entered the room, carrying in his arms some sort of big rolled up blanket.  "Here, this should do the trick."

Terrie looked at Marina's father as he unrolled it on the floor next to Marina's bed.  It looked like a really big square blanket that had been folded in half, but with parts of it having been sewn together about halfway up to keep it in that shape.  "Um... what's this?"

"It's a sleeping bag." said Henry as he put a pillow next to it. "It's like a padded blanket that you can open and close like a bag for you to sleep in.  Sorry, this is the best we can offer you."

"It's... it's fine..."

"Alright.  Dinner's gonna be ready soon."

Marina and Terrie followed Henry downstairs.  Then, a sweet aroma tickled Marina's nostrils as soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs.  This smell... this refreshingly sharp scent... she hasn't caught a whiff of it in years.  Marina rushed to the kitchen, leaving Terrie wondering what came over her, and a gleam shone brightly in her eyes the moment she saw her mother straining some pasta.

"Spaghetti!"

Ashley looked at her daughter and giggled.  "There's no better way to celebrate your return than with a big plate of spaghetti."

Marina took a seat as her mother put the pasta in the saucepan and stirred the two together.  "Thank you so much, Mom!"  Terrie and Henry took a seat alongside her as Ashley served each of them.  Marina immediately grated some cheese onto her pasta and then took a big bite of her pasta.  Her cheeks turned bright red in an instant and a tingling sensation coursed throughout her entire body.  "Hmmm!  It's been too long since I've eaten pasta this good!"

Ashley giggled.  "Glad you like it."  She sat down and served herself, but then noticed Terrie was just staring at her pasta and not even holding her fork.  "Oh, I'm sorry, Terrie.  I should have asked you if spaghetti was okay with you."

"Huh?  Oh, um... n-no, it's... it's fine."  Terrie grabbed her fork and then glanced at Marina and her father to get an idea of how to eat this kind of dish, and then followed their example.  She bit her lips as she stared looked at the sauce of crushed tomatoes, chunks of ground meat, and cooked chopped vegetables coating the pasta, then braced herself and put it in her mouth.  She chewed a few times and then relaxed as the sweet flavor of the tomato sauce coated her tongue and the vegetables melted in her mouth.  "Thish ish good!"  Terrie swallowed her bite and immediately reached out for another bite.

"I'm glad you like it.  Would you like some cheese, too?"

"Huh?"

"Oh, you don't know what cheese is?"  Ashley cut a small slice of cheese then handed it to her.  "Here, tell me how you like it."

"Um... th-thank you..."  Terrie took the slice of cheese and tossed it in her mouth, but then cringed as soon as began chewing.  Nonetheless, she forced herself to swallow.

"Oh, you don't like it?"

"Um... uhh..."  She then lowered her head in shame.  "S-sorry..."

"It's fine, not everyone likes cheese."

"Oh!  I completely forgot!"  Marina put down her fork, and then closed her eyes and clasped her hands together as she recited a prayer.

"What are you doing?" asked Henry.

Marina re-opened her eyes and turned to her father.  "I'm giving my thanks to Saint Lathea for this meal."  Suddenly, an idea popped in her head.  "Oh, I know, why don't I show you the cathedral after dinner?"

"That's a good idea."  Henry turned to Ashley.  "What do you think, dear?"

"Hmm?  Well... I wished we could spend more time here with Marina, but I am curious about this cathedral."

Marina turned to Terrie.  "What about you, Terrie?"

"Huh?"

"Do you want to see the cathedral?"

"Um... I-I guess."

"Then it's settled!"

After a filling meal, Marina, her family, and Terrie washed the dishes, then after a short rest, the four of them took to the ever congested streets.

"Where is the cathedral at?" asked Henry.

"It's..." Marina suddenly stopped dead in her track.  "Um..."

"Marina?"

"Oh, shoot!  I don't actually know where the cathedral is from home since Shae'la always transports me directly there!"

"What do we do now?" asked Ashley.

Marina began racking her brain trying to think of a way to find where the cathedral was located.  "...Wait, I remembered something.  Every time we went to the Underground.  If we head there, I should be able to remember where the cathedral is."

"You've been going to the Underground?"

Marina turned to her parents and nodded.  "Yes, we go there every once in a while to heal the sick and wounded, though we stay out of The Pit.  Hmm?"  She then noticed how Terrie was shivering just as she did when she first stepped in the city.  "Terrie, are you okay?"

"I... I'm f-f-fine..."

"If it's too uncomfortable for you, you can wait for us here if you want." said Ashley.

That was true.  She could stay behind and not have to worry about a thing.  But she already accepted their offer; she couldn't just change her mind just like that.  What would they think of her?  And if she chose to stay behind, she would have to look after the house all by herself.  All alone.

"N-no, I... I-I'll be f-fine... I-I swear..."

"..."  Marina walked up to Terrie and gave her her hand.  "Here.  Things will be less scary if you hold my hand."

Terrie stared at the hand that had been offered to her and then gazed at the bright smile shining on her friend's lips.  Suddenly, she stopped quaking and took Marina's hand without thinking.  "Th-thank you..."

"You're welcome."

Marina, her family, and her friend then headed to the Sanctum of the Shining Star.  Terrie couldn't help looking at all the people on the streets along the way, and although the majority walked absentmindedly by her and her friend, a lot were unable to ignore this strange red-eyed and gray-skinned elf.  Terrie immediately averted her eyes, as if to make herself disappear from view, and held on to Marina's hand more tightly.

She then looked at all the huge houses, believing that if she didn't pay attention to other people, they wouldn't pay attention to her.  They all add a very boxy form to them, with very little curves to them save for for a few roofs or balconies, unlike the houses of Kortiki Town or the ones from her village.  They stood extremely close together, almost touching each other even.  Suddenly, she began sweating as a sensation of claustrophobia crept over her as she looked all the houses, each with a nearly uniform shape, each standing so close to each other as to leave only a single road for people to navigate on.  Why was everything here so big?  Why was everything so close together?  Terrie closed her eyes shut and looked away and held on to Marina's hand even more tightly.  Marina winced from the sudden jolt of pain, but paid it no mind.  If it helped her feel a little more comfortable, she could endure it.

Eventually, they arrived at another portal and used it to access a different district.  Terrie raised her head upon seeing how different it looked.  For one thing, the houses weren't as big as the ones before and sported a different look to them, even if they still shared the same overall square shape.  Moreover, many of these houses had items displayed right by their front door, which for some reason, attracted a crowd of people.  Sometimes one of those people took one of the items after giving something to the person standing behind the item selection.  Other houses had items inside of them, visible through a window, which also attracted a crowd of people.

"Um, Marina... what are those houses?"

"Hmm?"  Marina looked at the shops Terrie was pointing at.  "Oh, those aren't houses, they're shops."

"Shops?"

"Not all buildings are houses, some instead provide services to people.  For example, shops like these are here for people to buy goods."

"Oh."  Terrie took another look at the shops.  "...This is a strange village."

"Negav isn't a village, it's a city."

Terrie looked back at Marina.  "Um... what's a city?"

Marina pressed her hand on her cheek and went into deep thought.  "Hmm... how can I explain it...  When a village becomes very big, we refer to it as a town.  For example, Kortiki Town is too big for us to refer to it as a village."

"I-I see."

"When a town becomes too big for us to refer to it as a town anymore, we call it a city."

"I-I see."

"... You're confused, aren't you?"

Terrie's head sank low.  "...A little..."  She then let out a long sigh.  "...I don't think I'll ever get used to life here..."

Marina put her hand on her shoulder.  "Don't say that, you'll definitely get used to it.  Just give it time."

Terrie looked back at her friend.  "You... you think so?"

Marina nodded and smiled.  "I'm sure of it."

Terrie stayed quiet for a moment, then nodded back.  "O-okay... if you say so."

Henry and Ashley couldn't help but smile and chuckle as they watched their daughter and her new friend interact.  For a moment, they thought Terrie was her shy little sister, even if she was probably much older than Marina.

The family eventually arrived at a small, ancient temple, the Sanctum of the Shining Star.  Upon arrival, Terrie didn't pay attention to the small structure and instead stared in awe at the massive hanged gardens and the luxuriant vegetation growing all around.  "Wow!"  Terrie let go of Marina and stepped inside this vibrant garden, taking in the soft grass growing underneath her feet and the fragrance of the beautiful flowers, not even noticing the Negavians taking a stroll through the gently shaded alleys.  "It's so pretty!"  She then noticed how the garden seemed to be trailing from somewhere next to the sanctum, leading to a much bigger garden where even more people were coming and going.  "Um... what's that over there?"

"It's the Otanac Square." answered Marina.  "It's a very popular spot for people to come and relax."

"I-I see..."

"Anyway, now that we're here, do you remember anything, Marina?" asked Henry.

"Yes, I do.  We'll find the cathedral if we keep walking along the wall a little longer."

"Wall?"  Terrie turned around and then noticed the humongous wall standing behind the Sanctum of the Shining Star.  "Th-there's another wall here?!"

Marina turned back to Terrie.  "Did you forget?  Negav is divided into three tiers."

"O-oh, th-that's right... Lester did say something like that."

Terrie looked back at the gardens of the sanctum as she followed Marina and her family.  Were there more places like that in Negav?  Full of plants and greenery?  Without any tree or flower, everything here looked so... so... unnatural.

Then, after a little while, the cathedral came into view.  "There it is, the Holy Mother's Cathedral!"

Ashley, Henry and Terrie looked straight ahead at the immense building Marina was pointing at.  Terrie couldn't help but gawk at the huge and imposing building standing before her.  Ashley and Henry, on the other hand, simply raised a brow.  "An abbey?" asked Ashley.

Marina turned to her parents.  "It looks like an abbey, but I assure you it's really a cathedral.  Come on, let me show you inside."  Marina led her parents to the main entrance, but then noticed something was amiss.  She turned around and saw Terrie still admiring the cathedral, or rather the courtyard.  "Terrie!"

"Huh?"  Terrie returned to reality and noticed Marina and her family by the entrance of the cathedral.  "Ah!  W-wait for me!"

The three couldn't hold back a hearty chuckle and then entered once the young elf had caught up to them.  Once inside, Ashley and Henry walked through the nave, taking in how austere and modest the decor was compared to some of the more ostentatious temples in the city.  Terrie, on the other hand, was in utter awe.  The luster and soft texture of the marble floor was almost mesmerizing to her and the ivory stone pillars looked so tall and heavy.  The young elf marveled at the stoup hanging on the wall near the entrance, especially the amazingly crafted statuette resting on top, as well as the rows of benches.

"Are you enjoying how it looks, Terrie?" asked Ashley.

"Huh?  Oh, um... y-yes.  It's... um... very pretty here."

Marina then took them to the presbytery and showed the stained glass window behind the altar.  Terrie was enthralled by the beautiful art of the woman in white and blue.  "...It's so pretty."

"This is Lathea, the Goddess of Life, also known as the Holy Mother." said Marina.

"Wow, she's very beautiful." said Henry.

Ashley turned to her husband.  "Henry."

"I-I'm not looking anywhere I'm not supposed to, I swear!"

Marina giggled and then looked back at the illustrations.  "According to texts and scriptures, Saint Lathea was a simple abbess who gave shelter to outcasts and victims of persecution.  After her death, a small cult began to worship her, and over time, that cult grew until it became the Church of Saint Lathea."

"She was a human?" said Henry.  "How did she become a goddess?"

"It all happened in another world named Rezius.  A long, long time ago, people there discovered magic, and a war for supremacy between the magic-wielding nations.  It became known as The Great Magus War.  In the end, the Rennok Alliance lost to the Empire of Jorgaincen.  After the war ended, it was declared that magic was too dangerous and only a select few were allowed to wield it.  Those who practiced magic without consent were killed and persecuted, and thus was beginning of the bloody Witch Hunts.  During that time, Saint Lathea offered shelter to victims of the Witch Hunts.  She offered them food, a safe haven, and a place to begin a peaceful life anew.  Saint Lathea often preached her ideology that all life was equal and to be cherished, and that the life of an enemy should be respected.  Alas, one day her abbey and her activities discovered.  The Jorgaincen army attacked and burned down the abbey, and brutally slaughtered anyone who tried to escape.  Saint Lathea herself was captured and then publicly executed under the charge of heresy and treason.  Her last words was a message to the people, a message to respect and treat all life as equal, even the lives of her enemy.  The survivors of the burning of the abbey rallied together and formed a cult.  They believed that Saint Lathea was a goddess in disguise, her goodness too pure during one of the most bleak period of Rezius' history.  As her cult expanded and its influence grew, her spirit ascended to a higher state of being, and the ruins of the old abbey have been converted into her temple, where it is now considered holy ground. Today it is one of Rezius' major religions."

"Wow..."  Terrie looked at Marina.  "Um... how did you learn about all that?"

Marina giggled and smiled.  "I learned all about it during catechesis here.  Although, now that you say it, I did talk to Saint Lathea a little about it when I first learned about it."

Terrie jumped back and both Ashley and Henry looked stunned at their daughter.  "Y-you can really talk with Saint Lathea herself?!"

Marina nodded.  "Yep!  When I pray to her, I sometimes wake up in her domain and talk a little with her."

"That's... that's incredible."

"Anyway, let me show you the rest of the cathedral."

Marina then took her family and Terrie on a small tour of the cathedral.  Upon walking by the cloister the first time, Terrie became ecstatic to see some more greenery and immediately ran up to the three trees.  The trees were so healthy and the grass so soft, just like the Sanctum of the Shining Star.  Sadly, it was nowhere near as big.  With that short distraction done and over with, Marina took them to the dormitories on in the East and West Range, to the refectory and the kitchen, to the infirmary and the nearby guest dorm, to the library, and finally to the sacristy.  Unfortunately, guests were not allowed to enter the sacristy, but at least she was able to show them where it was.  Along the way, she encountered and greeted some of her fellow clerics who were all busy at work preparing food and scribing a few scrolls.  Marina then took them to the chapter house.  As they arrived, the doors opened and Elliadrin walked out.

"Ah, Mother Elliadrin!"  Marina went up and met the lovely priestess.

Elliadrin turned to the young cleric.  "Oh, Sister Marina, you've returned.  How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you Mother Elliadrin, and yes, I am back.  I was giving my parents and my friend a tour of the cathedral.  I was also looking for a priest."

"Oh, sorry about that, we were all meeting with Father Ardel."  She then turned to Ashley and Henry.  "You must be her parents, I presume."

"Yes, we are." answered Henry.  "Thank you for looking after Marina for those three years."

"Oh, but I hardly did anything.  Brother Harlos is the one who taught her everything she knows now.  Although, I'm in charge of the choir, and I must say, your daughter has an amazing singing voice.  You should definitely come during service and hear her chant."

"I know, she inherited her grandmother's voice," said Ashley, "and yes, we'd love to come and hear her chant with the choir."

Elliadrin then turned to Terrie.  "Hello."

The young elf jumped and immediately avoided the priestess' gaze.  "U-um, h-hello..."

"You must be Marina's friend."

"Um... y-yes..."

"What's your name?"

"...T-Terrie..."

Elliadrin giggled.  "Don't be so shy, I'm not going to hurt you."  But Terrie remained quiet and continued to look away.

"Anyway, Mother Elliadrin, I have something to tell you."

Elliadrin looked back at Marina.  "What is it, Sister?"

"Now that I finished my training with Master Shae'la, I'll be back to my normal life and I won't be coming here as often."

"I see.  I will relay your message to Father Ardel and the others, but don't worry, you're be welcome to help us here whenever you please."

"Thank you, Mother Elliadrin.  Have a good day."

"You too, Sister Marina."

Marina politely bowed to the priestess, then she and her family took their leave and returned home.

---------

After eating a filling supper, another plate of spaghetti, which Marina happily devoured, and once late evening began setting over Negav, Terrie followed Marina to the bathroom.  There, Marina grabbed a tiny brush, placed it under running for a moment, and then grabbed a tube and squeezed an oddly-colored paste with a strangely pleasant odor to it.

"Um... what is this?"

"It's toothpaste.  We use it to take care of our teeth before going to bed.  You used something like that back in your home too, right?"

"Um... yes, but... we did it by chewing special leaves."

"Ah.  Anyway, your brush it right there."  Marina pointed her the fourth brush in the little plastic glass.

Terrie grabbed the brush and did the same thing Marina did with hers.  She put it under running water for a moment and then squeezed some of the toothpaste on it.  Such an oddly sweet scent.  She brought closer to her nostrils for a quick little whiff.  It actually smelled a lot like the leaved she chewed back home.  Terrie then glanced at Marina, who had put the brush in her mouth and was, well, brushing her teeth with it.  She looked back at her brush and put it in her mouth.  The young elf jolted as soon as she did.  It even tasted a little like the leaves home!  Did leaves like those grow around here?  Terrie brushed her teeth just like Marina did, but then after a little while, her mouth became full with foam, so much so that it trickled a bit from the corner of her mouth.  As such, Terrie pulled out her tooth brush and swallowed it all, only to clutch her throat and have a coughing fit.

"A-ack!"

Marina pressed her hand against her mouth as to not spit water all over the place.  She spat it all safely in the sink and then giggled.  "Terrie, we don't swallow toothpaste!  We spit it and then rinse out mouth with water."  Marina then refilled her glass and handed it to Terrie.  "Here."

"Th-thank you..."  Terrie rinsed her mouth with some of the water and then drank the rest to wash away the toothpaste in her throat.  She breathed a sigh once the strong flavor started to fade a little.  "S-sorry..."

"It's fine, everybody make that mistake."

With that little incident behind them, the two then went to Marina's room and got ready for tonight by changing out of their clothes.  However, as Marina was putting on her nightgown, she noticed that once Terrie stripped out of her clothes, she simply folded them and set them aside next to her sleeping bed.  "T-Terrie, what are you doing?!"

"H-huh?"

"You're naked!"

Terrie looked down at herself, and indeed, she wasn't wearing any piece of clothing anywhere on her body.  "Yes, I am."  She looked back at Marina and then blushed a bit.  "Um, did I do something wrong?"

"Well, it's just that I didn't expect you to be so... nonchalant about it since you're usually so shy."

"But... everyone does it back home."

"Maybe, but here in Negav, nudity in public is taboo."

"Oh." Terrie sank her head low.  "I'm sorry..."

"It's alright, but we'll have to buy you a nightgown before long."

"Okay."  Terrie then walked over to the window and gazed at the moon and the stars outside.  "...I wonder what Sohl and Father are doing..."

"Do you miss them already?"

"Yes, but..." Terrie looked down yet again, "...they probably don't miss me..."

"Don't say that, I'm sure everyone in Sunfall Thicket are worried about you."

"...I know Father isn't..."

Marina bit her lip.  She should have known that Terrie would bring up her father for something.  She remained quiet for a bit, then she walked up to Terrie and placed her hand on her shoulder.  "I'll you show around town tomorrow, so you should get some sleep."

Terrie looked at Marina and nodded.  "Okay."

Terrie walked over to her sleeping bag as Marina closed the curtains, and slipped under the blanket.  Marina shut off the lamp and then slipped under her own blankets.  "Goodnight, Terrie."

"Goodnight..."  The young phantom elf closed her eyes and fell asleep for the first time in her new home Negav City.
Homecoming
After an eventful trip through Sunfall Thicket, it's time for our heroes to lie down and relax.  This can only mean breather chapters!

I've been trying to change my writing a little so it flows better and doesn't feel as... heavy.  Not sure if this work, but I think showing Terrie's reaction via dialogue helped a bit.

:iconfelarya: is © of :iconkarbo:

All characters are belong to :iconshady-knight:
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Shae'la and Marina reappeared in the exact same spot where they left earlier this morning.  Marina winced and looked around to get her bearings.  Maybe she should close her eyes before being teleported from now on, because seeing all those sceneries flash before her is just way too disorienting and it hurts to look at.  Marina followed her mentor inside her humble dwelling and was immediately beset by the kids.

"Welcome back!"

Marina jumped back, but she regained her composure almost instantly.  "Oh, it's you guys.  Hi there, kids."

The fairies were naturally drawn to the white and blue clothes, the wood pendant that had suddenly appeared in Marina's hands and around her neck.  "What're those?" one of them asked.

"These?"  Marina showed them the vestments as well as the bright smile she displayed when receiving them.  "I received them from a kind old man at the cathedral.  It means that I've passed my three trials and am now a member of their church."

The children all looked at each other, tilting and scratching their heads.  "I don't get it.  What does that mean?"

"It means that Marina is ready to learn magic."  The children all turned to Shae'la.  "That medallion is a Holy Symbol.  It allows Marina to channel and use divine white magic."

"Oh!  So Marina is going to learn magic like us?"

"Yes, but not right now.  She must first be bestowed a smidgen of her patron deity's power.  Plus, I need to focus on finding her lost friends."

"Aww..."

"Don't worry, kiddies, it will all be worth it."  Shae'la walked to the little fairies and turned to Marina.  "Now, let's finally introduce you all.  From left to right we have Eilee, Ymim, Conegy, Tedessa, Shanra, and Maherys."

"Hi there."  Marina smiled and waved at them.

"Hi!"  They waved back at her.

"They came to my house years ago and decided to stay because they wanted to learn magic from me."

"Huh?  But then why did you want me to become your apprentice."

"You see, I like teaching.  I've been teaching them basic linguistics, mathematics, and spellcasting beside their innate fey magic ever since.  But fairies learn magic very easily since it's such a mundane element to them.  They've made such progress so quickly that I'm mostly letting them practice and read at my library on their own when they feel like it.  As such, I've been wanting to teach someone who has had little contact with magic for a long time, and then one day, we suddenly met.  Even if it's just to give you a place where you can practice your white magic, it still gives me a chance to give you some pointers.  And who knows, if you're really interested, I can teach you what you need to know about wizardry.  I didn't tell you back in Negav because 1) you were in a big hurry and 2) mentioning fairies close to Negav is a bad idea."

"Oh, so you wanted me to become your apprentice because you wanted to teach to more people again?"

"Pretty much."

"Have you considered applying as a teacher at the Isolon University of Magic?  I'm sure everyone there would be honored to have someone like you teaching new mages."

"Nah, I don't like the academic system.  I think a master needs to be very close to its apprentices to teach them effectively, which you don't get at a university.  Plus they'd have to check my background and things would become ugly once they find out I've been in the company of many fairies."

"Oh, yes, that's a very good point.  But still, why not look for someone in Kortiki?"

"I tried, dear, but going from door to door and asking people if they'd like to learn magic has earned me more scorn than I would have liked when I first came here.  Anyway, enough about that, let me show you your future classroom."

"Um, Shae'la, shouldn't I put my vestments away first?"

"Oh right!  I completely forgot those!  Scoot upstairs and then come back down.  I'll be waiting in the living room."

Marina quickly ran to her room, then put her vestments and holy symbol on the bed.  Once she ran back to the living room, Shae'la led Marina to another room.  The door opened to reveal a small hallway and a stairway leading downward.  A few runes were scribed directly into the hewn stone walls, shedding light like torches.  Walking down these steps and then being greeted by arch-shaped wooden doors was almost like crawling in a dungeon.  Shae'la opened the surprisingly quiet door and invited her apprentice inside.  A small classroom hewn directly from the stone walls housing two long tables for the students and a large desk for Shae'la.  Light was shining down from the ceiling thanks to the same runes in the stairway.  There were no blackboard of any sort, but there were books on the tables, as well as on a few shelves in the back, and there was a crystal ball sitting on top of the teacher's desk.

"Wow!"

"This is where I've been teaching the kiddies their basic subjects.  It's also where I've been giving them lectures about different practices of magic, and taught them all about common magic languages and gestures.  Now let me show you your training room."

Shae'la led Marina through the door in the back of the classroom.  Marina jumped back in utter shock and disbelief once she saw what lied beyond the wall.  An expansive circular lobby, absolutely gigantic in comparison to the elementary classroom before.  Runes dotted each and every walls, though only a select few of them were shedding light in the room.

"What do you think, dear?  Impressive, huh?  This is where the kiddies were practicing the spells they studied.  It took me days to make the classroom and training room.  I had to make new rooms for my library and alchemy laboratory, and then relocate everything.  It was really brutal."

Marina turned to Shae'la.  "D-do I really need that much space?"

"You?  No, but I had to for the kiddies to practice certain spells like levitation, rope tricks, and a few destructive spells.  Well, I guess it's going to be handy for barrier spells."

Marina shuddered.  "I see..."

"Don't worry, my pretty, it won't be as bad as you think.  The kiddies were as scared as you were when I told them about it, but after a few sessions, they loved being able to deflect energy blasts.  Of course, there were a few times where I held back less because they were getting cocky."

Marina couldn't help giggling.  "That sounds so much like them.  Alright, I trust you on that."

"Great.  Oh, that reminds me, starting tomorrow, you must address me as Master Shae'la, or just Master, that works too."

"Alright, I can't wait to learn about magic with you, Master Shae'la."

A chuckle escaped from the sage's lips.  Master Shae'la had such a good ring to it.  "Now, feel free to relax for today.  I'm going to be scrying for your friends."

Marina nodded and then went to her room.  She took her vestments off the bed, but as she walked to the dresser, images of the red-eyed elf surfaced in her head.  She put her vestments on top of the dresser and then looked out of the window.  She could see Kortiki Town in the distance, but not Sunfall Thicket.

---------

The following day, Marina looked into the mirror in her room and adjusted her veil.  She stepped back from the dresser and turned to side a few times, then did a little twirl.  The vestments fit her perfectly, even though they never took her measurements beforehand.  Her smile then faded away and shegazed out of her window.  She looked at her holy symbol and wondered.  Was the red-eyed elf alright out there?  She wished she could go back to Sunfall Thicket to find her, but even if it wasn't a dark and spooky forest, and there weren't ghost everywhere, she wouldn't make it out alive as she was right now.  Marina shook those thoughts out of her head and walked downstairs.  Her mentor took a good look at her.

"My, what a gorgeous acolyte you are."

Marina giggled and blushed lightly.  "Thank you, Shae- I mean, Master Shae'la."

"It reminds me of when I first became a follower of Kaastiel.  Ah, memories."

"Kaastiel?  Who is that?"

"I'll tell you everything after I find your friends."

"Oh, alright then."

Just then, the little fairies took notice of Marina's new clothes and buzzed all around her.  "Are these your mage robes?" Ymim asked.

Marina looked at the young child and giggled.  "No, these are my clerical vestments.  I have to wear them when I go to the cathedral from now on."

"What's a cathedral?" Maherys asked.

"It's a big gathering place where I live.  It's where a lot of people come to worship a god.  It's a little complicated to tell you exactly  what it is in details."

Maherys crossed her arms and pouted.  "Phooey!"

"Anyway, are you ready, dear?  Did you take your echo stone with you?" Shae'la asked.

Marina looked at Shae'la and nodded.  "Yes, I am all ready."

Marina closed her eyes and the children flew away from her.  With a fairly short incantation, Shae'la teleported Marina in front of the Holy Mother's Cathedral.  Marina walked up to the wooden doors and then stopped.  Even though she had nothing to worry about, her heart still raced in her chest at the thought of entering these hallowed walls.  She took a deep breath and then opened the gates to the inner sanctum.  Marina had the shivers as she walked down the grand hall.  The air was simultaneously cleaner and yet heavier than when she came here for the first time.  The exact same happened at her first day of work at the hospital.

She took another deep breath and then looked around.  There were quite a few clerics around, most likely acolytes like her, but they were all hard at works preparing the holy water and the cleaning the altar.  Just then, Marina saw a bald man with black hair on the sides of his head at the apse.  He was overlooking the other clerics.  As she got closer, she noticed his vestments exhibited fairly elaborate ecclesiastical embroidery, though they weren't as elaborate as those on Ardel's vestments.  He must definitely be a priest.  Marina walked up to him without hesitation.

"Excuse me, I'm Marina, I've recently been named member of the church.  I'm looking for someone who can guide me."

The man turned to Marina.  His holy symbol was made of silver and he wore a sky blue stole crossed over the chest.  "Ah, you are the new acolyte.  I am Harlos, I supervise and catechize the acolytes."

"Ah, a pleasure to meet you, Father Harlos."  Marina bowed to the priest.  "This may sound silly, but are you related to Father Ardel?"

"No, that we have similar names is a coincidence, and you should mention The Bishop by name only when you are addressing directly to him."

"I see, thank you for the advice."

Harlos cleared his throat.  "In any case, since you're new, you are free to look around, but stay close until the bell rings."

Marina heeded the priest's words and watched the acolytes at work.  The bell then eventually sounded throughout the entire cathedral.  Little by little, every cleric and priest in the cathedral congregated at the bottom of the stairs to the presbytery, where they then faced the altar.  Shortly after everyone had arrived, Father Ardel arrived and stood before everyone.  He briefly glanced at everybody, and upon seeing that they were all accounted for, he turned around and faced the altar.  They all kneeled down, pressed their hands together and closed their eyes.  Marina promptly followed their lead.  They then chanted a prayer aloud.

"Repeat after me, Sister Marina." Harlos said.  He then slowly recited the prayer, taking time to pause between every lines.  Marina repeated his words during every pauses.  "Good, now keep your eyes closed and stay silent."

There was nothing but blackness and silence.  Then, without any warning, a garden appeared out of the void.  Marina looked up and saw a vast blue sky peppered with fluffy white clouds.  It was just like what happened two days ago.  Marina stood up and followed the marble path in the garden.  She could not help looking around while walking down the road.  The grass sported the most vibrant green color she had ever seen in her life.  There were vibrant green bushes sporting small, delicate white flowers, and several hanged garden of some of the most beautiful flowers she had seen in her life were lining the huge structure around her, which was made of purest glistening marble imaginable.  There were a few trees housing all sorts of bright fruits, and tiny, colorful birds were singing happily among its branches.  She even came across a giant fountain spraying the clearest, most sparkling water ever seen, creating a rainbow across the entire garden.  She was at a loss for words.  This place looked so vast and expansive that castle courtyards seemed tiny and insignificant by comparison.

She then came across a massive stairway at the end of the road.  She looked up the steps, but could not see the top.  At that moment, a tall woman walked down the steps.  Marina's eyes widened to their fullest and her heart skipped a beat.  The woman sported long and shimmering brown hair, bright and gentle chestnut eyes, and the healthiest, most radiant skin she had ever seen.  She wore a loose, sleeveless white robe ornate with gold trims, a gorgerin made of gold adorned with several blue diamonds, silver bracelets, silver anklets, silver armlets, and finally, an incredibly large sky blue shawl wrapped around her arms and wavering in the air above her head.  Her shawl was transparent, was utterly devoid of any fold, and was shedding a little bit of light, as if it was made of pure light or holy energy.  Her figure... so perfect.  She was so beautiful... the statuette over the stoup and stained glass did not come anywhere remotely close to capturing her beauty.  She approached Marina, sending a myriad of emotions rushing to her head.  Words failed to come to her, she was literally choking on them in fact.  Her heart was pounding so fast she felt like she was about to pass out at any moment.

"Welcome, young Marina."

Her echoing voice... it was so soft.  "S... S... Saint... Lathea..."

Lathea nodded.  "Yes, that is me.  It is a pleasure to meet you."

"A p-p-p-pleasure t-to m-m-meet you t-t-too... S-S-Saint Lathea..."

The goddess gave her a smile as warm as the sun itself.  "Am I flustering you?"

"Y-yes...  Ahh!  N-n-no!  I-I mean..."

Lathea giggled and stepped closer to Marina.  Marina froze in place as the goddess gently caressed her hair down the length of her back like she was her own daughter.  She should have fainted here and now, but for whatever reason, she remained fully conscious.

"Do not be nervous, each of my children have experienced the same feeling as you when they first met me."

"Chi... children...?"

"Yes, I see all life as my very own sons and daughters, and like them, I promise you will become accustomed to me in due time.  If it may put you at ease, I am not truly in front of you.  What you are seeing and hearing are but apparitions, although I can see all of your expressions and hear your every words as if we were face to face.  My other children are experiencing the same at this moment."

"E-eehhh?  Y-you mean you a-a-are talking t-to everyone in the c-c-cathedral at the same time?"

Lathea nodded.  "That is correct."

"W-wow... incredible..."

Lathea giggled.  "I look forward to seeing you in the future."

At that moment, Lathea, the stairs, the sky, and everything faded to black.  Marina opened her eyes and found herself back in the cathedral.  Yet she still had a few chills running down her back.  She looked around and saw that the clerics had just gotten back up.  Father Harlos stood up and walked up to her.

"Sister Marina, are you well?"

Marina looked at the priest and nodded.  "Y-yes, I'm just a little shaken, nothing more?"

"That's good to hear.  Now let me give you a quick tour of the cathedral."  He then turned to the other acolytes.  "Wait for me in the classroom."

The acolytes nodded and followed his order.  Marina followed Harlos as he took her to the other buildings.  He first took her to the dormitories on the upper floor.  The clerics slept in the dorms in the West Range, while the priests and the bishop slept in the one in the East Range.  He then took her on a walk through the cloister, where a central courtyard full of soft green grass and a trio of trees grew under the warm rays of the sun.  Their next stop was the refectory and the nearby kitchen.  The clerics ate along the table on the west side of the room, while the priests and bishop ate on the east one.  Afterwards, he showed her the nearby infirmary and the guest dormitory.  For some reason, she imagined seeing a wounded traveler being treated in the infirmary and then recovering in the dormitory, where clerics would then bring him food and drink.  The more she looked at it, the more it really felt like an abbey and not a cathedral.  Lastly, Harlos took her to the three most important locations.  First, the sacristy, where the cathedral's valuables were stored while they were not in use.  Second, the chapter house, where the priests and the bishop met to discuss the running of the cathedral.  It was also where the cathedra, the seat of the bishop, was situated.  Third, the library, where all the cathedral's knowledge and wisdom were stored.

And, as it should come to no surprise, the classroom was located near the library.  Harlos stood behind the lectern and faced the class as Marina took a seat among the acolytes.  "As you are no doubt aware, we have a new addition to the church.  Please, introduced yourself."

Marina stood up and faced the other acolytes.  "Hello, I'm Marina.  I'm honored to be a member of the church and I'm eager to learn all about Saint Lathea."

"Pleased to meet you." the acolytes replied.

"We are pleased to count you as one of us, Sister Marina."  Harlos said as Marina sat back down.  "Now, before I tell you what to expect during catechesis, you must know how days are spent here.  In the morning, you will be assigned simple tasks such as preparing holy water, lighting altar candles and burning the incense.  When the bell rings, it is our mandatory 15 minutes of prayer before the altar.  We have another mandatory 15 minutes of prayer during the evening at the end of the day.  Even if you are away, you should dedicate at least 15 minutes in the morning and the evening to pray if possible.  Do you understand so far?"

"Yes, I do."

"Good.  During catechesis, you will learn all about Saint Lathea's teachings and her infinite wisdom.  You will also learn the language of holy creatures.  Sessions of catechesis will occasionally run shorter in order to work on other tasks.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, I do."

"Very good.  Do you have any questions?"

"Yes, how can I become a member of the choir?"

"Oh?  Do you like to sing?"

"Yes, I usually hum myself a little song while doing tasks, and when there were very young children at pediatrics, I was sometimes called to sing them lullabies."

"Interesting, I will give a word to Sister Elliadrin at the end of today's catechesis."

"Thank you very much."

"Now, without further ado..." he opened the holy book on the lectern, "let us begin with Saint Lathea's first holy scriptures."

---------

Shae'la had been diligently scrying for Marina's friends for weeks, but so far only pretty images of the Tolmeshal Forest showed up in her crystal ball.  She wasn't really surprised since all she knew about them was that they were both men and a general description of what they looked like.  Even for her, scrying for someone with such little knowledge pretty much all came down to luck, doubly so in an area as vast and expansive as the Tolmeshal Forest.  It didn't help that she couldn't remember the last time she scryed for anything either.  If she had been a master diviner though, she would have definitely found them a long time ago.  At the very least the fairies were enjoying the foreign sceneries.  Every time they saw a new locale they reacted like kids on a vacation somewhere exotic.  Compounding her bad luck, images of a thunderstorm appeared in her crystal ball one day.  Shae'la leaned back against her chair and looked up at the ceiling.

"Ugh... weather, why can't you ever be cooperative?  Maybe that way people wouldn't want to tamper with the forces of Mother Nature so much."  She then rested her arms against the table, let out a sigh and looked back in her crystal ball.  "At least I'm seeing a river every time now, so I must be getting close."

Meanwhile, back at the Holy Mother's Cathedral, Marina took the powdered silver to the stoups when thunder suddenly flashed and roared outside.  She looked outside and clutched her holy symbol.  It has been years since they've had a thunderstorm as bad as this one, and to make matters worse, she still hadn't heard any news about Sean and Lester.  Harlos noticed her gazing outside and walked up to her.

"What's the matter, Sister Marina?  What is troubling you?"

Marina turned to the priest and looked down.  "About three weeks ago, my friends and I were whisked away by a wild portal and I ended being separated from them.  I was found by Master Shae'la and she agreed to search for them, but I still haven't heard anything from them."

"It would be difficult to find them in this weather indeed.  But don't worry, Saint Lathea will watch over them, that I am sure."

Marina weakly smiled hearing those kind words.  "Thank you, Father Harlos."

Marina walked to one of the stoups and slowly added the powdered silver while chanting a divine incantation.  While doing so, she was silently praying, praying from the bottom of her heart that Saint Lathea would see Sean and Lester through their horrible ordeal safe and sound.

But then, one week later, something other than just landscapes appeared in Shae'la crystal balls.  She saw a river with a tree that had fallen partway into the water.  By the tree were two wounded humans, both men covered from head to toe in dirt and muck.  One of them was considerably shorter than the other, who wore a red scarf around his neck.  A huge grin rose over Shae'la's lips.

"There!  I finally found them!  Hmm?"  At that moment, an enormous bird-shaped shadowed soared above them.  "Guif!"

Shae'la quickly stood up, sending her chair skidding a whole foot backward, and cast her teleport spell in a fraction of the time it normally takes her.  She took a few deep breaths, then spontaneously tapped into her inner reserves of power.  She then closed her eyes and began performing another series of hand gestures while chanting an incantation.  A powerful gust of wind blew from her direction and hit the harpy head on.  The bird woman shrieked and veered away from the humans.  Shae'la grinned, but immediately lost her smile upon seeing her own windstorm blow the siblings into the river.

"Oh guif!"

Shae'la then looked up at the harpy.  So long as that bird was here, there was nothing she could do to help Marina's friend.  The giant monster gained altitude and flew in circles in the sky.  No doubt she searched the surface for traces of the humans.  After making a few laps, she flew back toward the mountains.  Shae'la let out a sigh and turned to the river.  She spread her arms out and then chanted yet another incantation.  The Orrick brothers rose out of the water and then floated back to shore before being gently set down next to the sage.  Shae'la then put her hands on their chest and chanted.  Sean and Lester then promptly coughed all the water that had entered their lungs.  Sadly, they remained unconscious.  Shae'la sighed in relief.

"Just made it."

All of a sudden, something emerged from the water.  A purple-haired neko, armed with a flip pike and clad in scale armor, emerged from the water.

"You there!"

The neko swam up to shore and walked up to the elf.  Shae'la examined the cat woman from head to toe as she swam up to shore.  She sported a nice bronze tan and quite the musculature.  A smile came to the sage's lips.

"Oh ho, who do we have here?"

"I'm Karolynn, warrior of Nekomura.  I was fishing by the river when I saw these two about to be attacked by the giant harpy."

"A nekomuran fishing by herself at the Shard River?  Isn't that a little risky?  I mean you could encounter a river mermaid here?"

"The fish here taste than the ones in the Motamo River, and I tested the water, it's safe for now."

Shae'la stroke her chin, her smile growing larger.  "Is that so?  How resourceful.  Could you do me a favor and take those two to Nekomura?"  Shae'la pointed at the unconscious Sean and Lester.

"Huh?"

"You see, I've been looking for them for a while and they need to be taken to safety."

"I was going to do so anyway, but I can't cross the water while carrying them."

Shae'la snapped her fingers, causing Karolynn's sandals to suddenly shine.  "Now you can, sweetie!"

"..."  Karolynn picked up Sean and Lester.  "Why do you want me to take care of them?  I'm pretty sure you caused the windstorm that disoriented the harpy."

Shae'la's smile grew bigger.  "Oh ho, you're sharp.  I like you."

"You're not answering my question."

"Let's just say it's it's going to be better for them if you took care of them.  Anyway, I gotta go."

"Hey, wait!"  Too late, the elf vanished in a flash of light.  "... What a strange elf."

Karolynn ran across the river and back to Nekomura with Sean and Lester in tow.  Back in the Fairy Kingdom, Shae'la reappeared in the basement.

"Did you find them?" Eilee asked.

Shae'la set her chair upright and sat down.  "Yes, I did, and they're now in good hands."

"Yay!" the fairies cheered.

Shae'la then closed her eyes and uttered a long incantation.  "... Hey, it's me, Shae'la!  Been a while since I talked to you, huh?  I recently got a new apprentice, a lovely Negavian redhead.  She shows great promise and interest in the healing arts, so I thought it would be in her best interest to learn at the Holy Mother's Cathedral.  The reason I'm telling you this is because her friends got lost in the Tolmeshal Forest for a month and managed to make it all the way to the Shard River by themselves, with nothing but broken, rusted weapons.  I think you should train these two, they definitely show a lot of potential, too.  They're both young men, both got brown hair and green eyes.  One of them is pretty short and the other wears a red scarf.  That's all I have to say, have a nice day!"

---------

"Honor all life, for a life requires another to prosper.  A life taken without purpose desecrates the blessed gift of the Holy Mother.  Lend a hand to appease the sufferings of your fellow men.  One good deed a day, one day at a time.  Treasure every encounter, for it is unique.  Let those who are terrified be drawn by the grace of the Holy Mother and allow them to confess their sorrows, for she listens to all pleas and banishes all woes."

Marina stopped reading the words in her holy book during Harlos' oration.  Lend a hand to appease the sufferings of your fellow men and let those and them to confess their sorrows, for the Holy Mother banishes all woes...  She looked out the window and remembered her third trial.  What were red-eyed elf's sorrows and what compelled her to leave her home?

"Sister Marina!"

Marina jolted and turned to Harlos.  The entire room was glaring at her.  "Eh?"

"Is the catechesis boring you by any chance?"

"N-no, it isn't, Father Harlos."

"Then why were you not paying attention just now?"

"W-Well, you see, it huh..."

"As punishment, you will read the entire scripture out loud starting from the beginning."

"Y-yes, Father Harlos..."

The acolytes flipped their pages back to the beginning of the scripture and all leered at Marina.  She fittingly turned as red as her hair.  That was such a stupid time to think about the past.  An hour later, Marina finished reading and Harlos closed his holy book.

"That will be all for today."

Marina closed her book and took a deep breaths.  The acolytes stood up and left to perform the tasks they were assigned today.  Marina hummed herself a little tune as she wiped the high altar until she could see her reflection in it.  Once the bell rang, she wiped her brows and caught her breath, then left for her classroom and grabbed her choir book.  By the time she returned, the veteran choir members had already begun gathering before the altar.  They were accompanied by a beautiful priestess with blonde hair reaching down to the midback and deep-set blue eyes.

"I see everyone is here."  Elliadrin said.  "Perfect.  Everyone get in place."

The practice ended two hours later and already the sky was turning darker and darker.  "Excellent.  Tomorrow is a free day, but don't use it as an excuse to slack off.  Be sure to practice on your own if you have time to."

"Yes, Mother Elliadrin."

"That will be all.  Have a nice day."

Marina went to the bench where she left her holy book and echo stone, picked them up and then walked out of the cathedral.  "Master Shae'la, you can come, I finished my tasks for today."

Shae'la appeared a few seconds later in a flash of light.  She was beaming to her ears.  "I have great news for you, sweetie.  But first let's go back home."

In another flash of light, Shae'la teleported her apprentice and herself back to her house.  For some reason, the children were ecstatic to see Shae'la return.  How odd, they never thought much of it when she picked her up at the cathedral.  In any case, her master invited her to sit down in the living room.

"My lovely Marina, it took me a month, but at long last, I did it.  I found your missing friends with only the barest of knowledge in the vast jungle of Felarya and they are now in a safe place."

Marina's face brightened in an instant and the biggest, brightest smile she was capable of mustering immediately formed over her lips.  Even the kids were cheering and exclaiming.  "Oh, thank you!  Thank you so much!" Marina said as she stood up.

"Although..."  All of Marina's and the kiddies' enthusiasm went down the drain in an instant.  "I'm sorry to say, but after all of this time wandering in the wild, they were in very bad shape.  They're very much alive, but it will take them a long time to recover."

"Oh.  Still, I'm so glad they're safe now.  Thank you, Master Shae'la, I just can't thank you enough."

"Don't worry about it, dearie.  You look pretty tired, so how about I finally answer some questions tomorrow?"

Marina nodded.  "Yes, that would be great."
The Maiden and The Sage 5
Not a whole lot happens in this part. Marina is being taught the basics of what she must know now that she is a cleric. Meanwhile, we get my half-baked explanation of how Shae'la couldn't find Sean and Lester and how they were able to last more than a couple of seconds against the harpy despite being half dead. Also, for those who don't know, Guif is an elven curse word on Shae'la's homeworld.

The chapter may be a bit messy, but since nothing truly important happens, I guess that's forgivable, right? I intended to have portions of Marina actually using magic, but I found such a good place to end the chapter I decided to end it there. For those who know about tabletop RPG's, you may be seeing where my influence is coming from. Don't worry, I know what I'm doing. It's just that I'm too unoriginal and lazy to think of something else.

Edit: Added a small tour of the cathedral.

:iconfelarya: is © of :iconkarbo:

All characters are © of :iconshady-knight:
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Shady-Knight

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
Canada
Title says it all, I have indeed been tagged, specifically by :iconhalocrystal99: for the first time in the whole six years since I have been on dA.  It's like a rite of passage on this site to be tagged by someone at least once, isn't it?

Anyway, on to the questions:

1. Favorite Song?
I don't listen to music all that much except for video game music.  Yes, I'm that much of a nerd.  Even still, I can't really answer that since it's too hard for me to choose an absolute favorite.

2. Watch any youtubers?
Yes.

3. Do you watch Cartoon Network? If you did, do you prefer the new or old cartoons?
No, I don't.  I stopped using the TV a long time ago; I'm strictly on my computer nowadays, because it gives me the option to watch whatever episode from whichever show anytime I want.

4. If you dare someone to watch any type of video, what will it be?
Lucahjin's blind LP's.  For an extra challenge, if you are an avid gamer, try not to make an account just so you can post a rage-filled comment.

5. If you could change into any animal, what will you be and why?
A less pitiful human being.  What?  Humans are technically animals too.  On a more serious note, a hawk, because then I'd be able to fly AND be badass.  Alternatively, an owl, because then I could rip your face off if you do drugs.

6. Have you ever seen a video that has made you cringed? And if so, what was it? Come on, be honest?
Read answer #4.

7. Who would win, Goku or Superman?
Asura.  Seriously, have you seen Asura's Wrath?  He's like Goku, The Incredible Hulk and Kratos rolled into one rage-filled package, and I don't see either Superman or Goku pull any of the stunts he did, like taking on a planet-sized Buddha.

8. If you could change your Online name into something else, what will it be? (It doesn't count if you changed a number or added a letter. The name must be different from the original)
If I wanted to change my username, I would have done so already, wouldn't I?

9. What are two T.V shows or Animations that you would want to have a crossover?
Read answer #3.  Now, if it were video games, Guilty Gear and BlazBlue.  Search your feelings, fans of Arc Systems, you know you want that game and there is no reason it shouldn't exist.

10. If you were to make a T.V or Animated Series, what genre would it be and what will be the story?
Fantasy... dramedy, I guess?  Basically, the story I am currently writing.  Hey, if I already have a plot in my head that I like, why not use?  I always like to imagine my characters animated, so this is perfect.  Admittedly, I'd have to modify it a bit, because the intro would be a weeeee bit too long for an animated series.  Seriously nearly two years and, I STILL haven't introduced the main villain!  Speaking of which, PLEASE READ AND COMMENT ON MY STORIES!  I SWEAR THEY DON'T SUCK!


Ehh... don't feel like tagging anyone and can't think of any good questions, anyway.  You have been spared!

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Thanks you very much for :+fav: my Eldaein :hug:
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Thank You by KmyGraphic for the fav!!!i hope you will like my new creation :)You Light Up My World by Lolita-Artz Butterfly love by Nina1love1
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thanks for the faves:D (Big Grin) 
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Thank you so much for adding my work to ur favs. I really appreciate it and hope u enjoy my art. If u like check out my gallery :)
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cricketumpire Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Although I can be content on my own I'm very happy that you wanted to share the experience of the shy cat Pusheen Emote  in "I like being on my own..."      thank you note 
                                                               Please do keep on watching Shady-Knight???
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