The gentle sound of the water was soothing as I sat with Lady Mara under a huge oak tree by the riverside. A gentle breeze blew, rustling the leaves above us like a symphony. The different sounds of the forests seemed to be more pronounced in this world. It was nature’s version of an orchestra, and the main chorale of singers were the birds that sang within the branches of the tree.

“Is it true that elves such as you used to live with us humans in our side of the world?”

“That was a long time ago, Anya, back when peace filled the earth.”

“What happened? Why did you move here? Why can’t you live in our world?”

Lady Mara gave me a small smile.

“Elves deplore war and strife. The world was slowly becoming overrun by greed for power and money. It is disheartening to see what greedy and power hungry people would do to be on top.”

The sudden appearance of a water nymph’s head on the surface of the river startled me.

“Excuse me, my lady. I am sorry to interrupt your relaxing afternoon, but this is a matter of importance.”

“It’s alright Shelly, what is it?”

“It’s Lord Orein, my lady, he is hurt and we could not get him through the magic walls.”

Both the Lady Mara and I shot up from the tree stumps we sat on, our faces etched with worry and anxiety.

“What happened?” We both exclaimed.

Shelly looked at us with sadness in her eyes.

“The goblins were greater in number this time, but our warriors were gaining the upper hand. However, Selina herself appeared and she was casting spells at the warriors. Orein enclosed us with a shield against her magic, but she was too powerful.”

“Who is Selina?” I asked.

“The wicked witch,” Shelly replied, “she is the queen of the goblins.”

“Did Selina’s power overrun my son’s?”

“Thankfully not, my lady. When he realized that he was starting to get  weak, Lord Orein sent her a blast of power which made her and the rest of the goblins disappear. We were all ecstatic and excited to go home. But our joy was short lived because Aaron called for help and that was when we realized that the Prince had collapsed. We tried to get him through the walls, but even our combined powers didn’t work.”

“You have to bring him back, my Lady,” I cried

That was when both Lady Mara and Shelly turned their eyes on me at the same time.

“I can’t”

I looked at the queen in confusion. My hands were clammy and shaking.My heart was beating so fast I could hear the roaring in my ears. A surge of anger and frustration went through me.

“What do you mean you can’t?” I yelled, “you have to save him! Use your magic to get him through the walls!”

Lady Mara looked me straight in the eye. There was a mixture of patience, worry and uncertainty in the look she gave me.

“I can’t, Anya, because I am not allowed to cross the walls.”

“But…but…you are the queen, the most powerful elf in this world. Can’t you use your magic from this side of the wall to bring him back?”

“Child, that is the purpose of the wall, to prevent magic from going through it. It protects our world from the magic of others in the other world.”

“We can’t leave him there! We have to help him! Shelly, you have to bring me to him!”

Shelly gave the queen a worried look and a flicker of uncertainty crossed over Lady Mara’s features before she turned to me. She stared at me intently and I could tell that she was fighting an inner battle.

“Send me to him, my lady. I promise, I’ll find a way to bring him back.”

The elf queen closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she carefully reached for a beautiful necklace hidden underneath her flowing robes and removed it from her neck. The pendant looked very much like a burning flame trapped in a crystal globe. The queen’s gaze didn’t falter and this made me twitchy.

“I am putting my trust and the future of my entire race into your hands, Anya, because if I don’t save the life of my only son and the future ruler of all the elves, all will be lost anyway.”

“With the power of this crystal, you could go through the wall and bring Orein back. I would have given it to one of our own, but it could only be wielded by those within the royal family. Since you were chosen by my son, you are one of us. Please take care of my necklace, and bring back my son.”

Lady Mara put the crystal around my neck, the hope and trust on her face fought with the uncertainty she felt.

I was not sure whether I should feel grateful for the trust the elf queen showed me, or be terrified of it and what it implied. However, I could not, in good conscience, let Orein perish.

“I will do my best to bring him back, my lady.”

Lady Mara turned her eyes towards Shelly and gave a slight nod.

The water nymph bowed her head and in a blink of an eye, I found myself in a familiar forest. I looked around and realized that I am back in my world. This was the same forest where I took my walks whenever my family went to the cabin. In fact, it was about a couple of miles away from what I used to know as my family’s vacation home.

A strong urge to run and go home was pulling me. I could see my family once again! Excitement flowed in my veins as the prospect of having my old life back flashed before my eyes. My heart started pounding faster and I could feel my legs itching to go. But before I could turn in that direction, a hand touched my arm. It was Shelly, and she was looking at me with imploring eyes.

“Anya,” she whispered.

Her eyes moved as she slightly turned her head to the right. I followed her gaze and saw Orein laying on the ground, his head on the lap of a wood nymph. He was so still and pale. The sight of him on the ground, so helpless and vulnerable, almost brought me to my knees.

I looked back in the direction of what I once called home, then turned towards where he lay. Indecision filled my heart. Should I run for it and finally be home? If I do, what will happen to Orein and to the world that was my home in the recent past? Could I leave him here to die? After all the goodness he has shown me? If I go, I may not only be leaving him to certain death, I may be responsible for the destruction of an entire race.

A sharp pain hit my chest. My vision blurred and a sob rose in my throat.

“Orein,” I whispered before running towards him.

I knelt on the ground beside him and moved his head to my lap. My tears rolled down my cheeks as I gently touched his cheek with the back of my hand.

“Orein? It’s time to go home,” I whispered in his ear.

I gathered him in my arms tightly and closed my eyes. In the back of my mind I wondered how I was going to take him home. Maybe I could take him to the cabin and care for him there until he recovers.