Chapter 3: the Village

Aiden led the girls inside the inner council chamber and began introducing the other Elders.
"This is Zans. He is our historian and expert on our laws." Aiden said indicating the seemingly youngest member. His hair was still mostly brown with a few silver streaks. He nodded to them, green eyes twinkling.
"My name is Harlia." Said one of the two females on the council. She was shorter than the girls, with hard blue eyes and iron-grey hair pulled back into a tight bun. "I'm in charge of training the youngsters how to fight. I'm also our leader when fighting breaks out."
"Ah!" Melli said. "The goblins are planning an attack. We heard them talking about it."
Harlia nodded. "We suspected as much. The sudden halt of goblin raids made us think they're planning something bigger."
The other woman on the council also introduced herself. "My name is Flare. I take care of magic. Both the training and the application of it." The elf woman had long white hair, which she left unbound. Her eyes were a calm hazel that regarded the girls levelly.
"That's our entire council. Now how did you two manage to escape?" Aiden said.
"Why should we tell you?" Shen demanded, still suspicious.
"Shen!" Melli admonished.
"Now, now, I can understand your companion's worries. After all, I'm sure the two of you have been through a lot. We want to help the two of you." Aiden said
"Why?" Shen asked.
"For as long as either race can remember, faeries and elves have been friends. We help each other, teach each other, and protect each other. Unfortunately, in the last two decades the goblins developed a weapon to defeat the faeries, thereby enabling them to pick off the elven cities one by one. Finally it came to be that there were no faeries left. Except you two, that is."
Shen's curiosity got the better of her. "How would getting rid of the faeries help them defeat the elves?"
"The faeries have always sent us warnings of impending attacks, helped us fight the goblins and healed us afterward. A great many faeries are healers."
"What happened to the faeries? Were they killed?" Mel asked.
Aiden shook his head. "No. They were put into a trance-like state in which they never wake up."
"But how?"
"A sad thing really. Nearly all faeries love music. It stimulates them in ways unbeknownst to us. The goblins somehow managed to create a song that throws all faeries who hear it into the trance."
Melli gave her twin a significant look. Shen sighed. "Alright we'll tell you how we got out."
They told the council everything they knew about what they'd seen and heard. When they got to the part about overhearing the guards, Flare was smiling.
"Well that saves us some time." She said.
"How?" asked Mel.
"One of the things I was going to try and find out was each of your affinities."
"Affinities?"
"Faeries are tied to one of four elements. Earth, Air, Water or Fire. Finding out your affinity is a must before you can be trained in magic."
"So what ones are we?" Shen asked.
"You, Shen, seem to be tied to Air and Melli seems to be tied to Earth."
"Oh." The twins chorused before continuing on with their explanation. Aiden stopped them once they got to the part about meeting Marn.
"That's enough for today. The two of you need sleep more than anything else right now. You used magic for the first time today, not to mention your escape." Flare told the girls. "We'll send you to one of the guesthouses. You're welcome to stay there as long as you want. Just wait here a second."
The Elder stuck her head out the window and called out. "Roun! Roun come on out, I know you're there! I want you to take our guests to the eastern faerie guesthouse."
Finished, Flare turned back to the girls. "Roun will lead you to the house. He's very quiet at the best of times so don't worry if he doesn't speak."
"But what if I choose to speak?" Came a baritone voice behind Flare, causing the Elder to jump.
"Gods curse you, Roun!" Flare said. "Stop sneaking up on people like that!"
The man, Roun, grinned. He was a sharp contrast to the Elders. Where they were all fair-skinned with white or graying hair, he had dusky skin and jet-black hair that was tied back into a ponytail. His eyes were a dark brown and were currently dancing with mischief.
He looked at the girls and winked, before he disappeared. The twins looked at each other and grinned. They looked around the room and tried to figure out where Roun was going to appear next.
It didn't take long. One minute Zans was talking to Aiden, clutching his writing supplies, the next he there was ink all over Aiden and the floor. The historian had started so bad that he'd dropped his inkpot.
"ROUN!!!" Aiden yelled turning round and round, trying to find him. At this point Melli and Shen were in stitches, laughing so hard they were crying.
Mel sat straight up when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She quickly relaxed when she saw Roun's grinning face beside her. He gestured to the door and then disappeared again. Melli tugged at Shen and the two of them slipped out of the council building.
Roun appeared in front of them as soon as they were outside. "Do you always do that?" Melli asked.
He chuckled. "As often as I can get away with. It keeps them on their toes."
~I like him. He has a sense of humour.~ Melli thought at her sister.
~Good. I think staying here isn't going to be such a bad thing, after all.~ Shen replied.
"How do you disappear like that?" Mel asked.
"Ah, now that's my secret." Roun replied with a wink. "Besides, even if I told you, you wouldn't be able to do it."
Melli sighed. "Oh well. I'm just going to have to find another way to freak Julie out."
"Who's Julie?"
"A friend of ours. She lives in Granton. Goes to the same school as us. We've known her forever. She's really hard to freak out, which is why Mel's always trying to find new ways to scare her." Shen replied.
Roun laughed. "That sounds quite a bit like myself and Marn. We've been trying for years to surprise Aiden. Thanks to you two, we've finally succeeded."
"Glad to be of service." The twins chorused, causing him to laugh again.
"Here we are." Roun said as he led them up to a tree of impressive girth. Cleverly built circling the trunk was a staircase. The girls followed Roun up and found to their surprise a house nestled up in the boughs.
"This one of the four faerie guesthouses. Almost all faeries seem to like being up high, so we built the guesthouses that way. If you're uncomfortable we can move you to one of the houses on the ground."
"No, we should be fine. Thanks, though." Melli said, smiling.
"Well then I'll leave you two to your rest. Someone will come by to wake you up in the morning and show you around. I'll see you around." Roun said before disappearing.
"Shall we find our beds?" Shen asked.
The two girls wandered through a few rooms before finding a bedroom. It had two beds in it so they both flopped down on them. Shen took the one to the right, Melli the one to the left. They barely managed to pull of their shoes and get under the blankets before they fell asleep.

The girls were awakened to the sound of giggling. Melli rolled over and tried to go back to sleep while Shen sat up and looked around groggily.
Standing in the doorway was a group of children of varying ages. The oldest seemed to ten while the youngest could be no older than five. All of them were staring at the twins and giggling.
A female voice came from behind the children. "That's enough! You act like you've never seen faeries before. They're our guests, not spectacles to be ogled! Shoo!"
The children scattered and Shen watched as the owner of the voice came into the room. She was young, didn't look much older than Shen or Melli, sixteen maybe seventeen. She had long straight black hair that she left unbound. When she looked at her, Shen was surprised to find that she had bright purple eyes.
"Sorry about them." The girl said.
"No problem. They're just kids. Ummmm . . . I'm Shen. That lump over there is my sister, Melli."
" Pleased to meet you, my name's Rhila. I'm here to show you around."
"Well then I had better wake Melli up." Shen said getting out of bed and shaking her sister. Mel ignored her and buried herself deeper into the covers.
"Fine then, we'll do it the hard way." Shen said. She linked herself up to her sister's mind and 'yelled' as loud as she could, ~WAKE UP!!!!~
Melli jumped out of bed and leveled her sister with a glare once she realized what Shen had done.
"That was mean." Mel said, grumpy at being woken up.
"It's not my fault you never get up unless I do that. I tried shaking you awake, but you ignore me like you always do. Yelling at you like that is the only way to get you up."
"I didn't hear you yell." Rhila said sounding puzzled.
"That's because Shen's mean! She yells inside my head. It's really loud and it hurts." Melli complained.
"Well if you'd just get up when I first try to wake you, I wouldn't have to." Shen said exasperated.
The two of them stuck their tongues out at each other at the exact same moment, startling Rhila into laughter. The twins looked at each other, grinned and then joined in Rhila's mirth.
Once the three had finished laughing, Rhila showed them the breakfast tray she'd brought. "I thought you might be hungry. And even if you're not, you still should eat because you're going to need your energy."
"Eh? Why?" Mel asked with a mouthful of pastry.
"Melli, chew with your mouth closed." Shen told her sister.
"Because you're going to have lessons today with both Harlia and Flare."
"What kind of lessons?" Shen asked.
"Harlia's going to be showing you blade work and Flare's going to start teaching you about your magic."
"Really?!?!?! This is going to be so much fun!" Mel said her eyes alight with excitement.
Rhila chuckled. "We'll see if you can keep that attitude after Harlia and Flare put you through their paces. They're both harsh taskmistresses."
"It's going to be great. I've always wanted to learn magic, of course I didn't know it was real until the goblins kidnapped us, and I really didn't like being with them, but I get to learn real magic, oh if this is a dream, don't let me wake up!" Melli gushed.
Rhila's eyebrows rose. "Is she always like this?" she whispered to Shen, who rolled her eyes.
"All the time. She gets excited about something and won't shut up about for a week or so. Then she finds something new and the whole process is repeated."
"Oh." Was all Rhila said, but that single word held oceans of meaning.
"How do you think I feel? I have to live with her." Shen replied.
Rhila giggled. She had a feeling she was going to enjoy spending time with these two.
"Well we'd best be going," She said, standing up. "We definitely don't want to keep Harlia and Flare waiting."
Shen and Melli got up and followed Rhila out. Both wondering what their lessons were going to be like.