The Elf Queen of Myranthand

Chapter One

Leaving the Nest

"Bethany...Are you sure you're ready for this, honey?" My mother appeared in the doorway behind me as I packed a few last-minute things into my bags.
The rest of the room, aside from my bed and wardrobe, was filled with boxes.
"Yes, Mom," I said gently, going over and giving her a hug. "I'm old enough to move on and get out of your hair now. In fact I should have gotten out of your hair ages ago. Besides, I can't back out now, the settlement's already finalised."
She hugged me back.
"Take care of yourself, okay?"
"I will," I smiled. "I promise."
I grinned as Dad entered the room.
"I'll visit every birthday and Christmas," I promised.
My mother's smile faltered, briefly.
She and Dad shared a look, and I immediately became concerned.
"Guys? Is something wrong?"
They looked slightly startled and flustered, as though they didn't know how to answer my question.
"No," My mother replied finally. "Everything's fine, dear."
After a long, tearful goodbye, I slid into my little red Volvo and left my parents house, following the moving van toward my own.

~*~

The house was large, maybe larger than necessary for a young woman living alone, with a small porch and an awning supported by intricately carved, white pillars. The walls were off-white, the door and windows trimmed with a deep, woody brown.
Once everything was unpacked and the movers had left, I took another chance to explore the house. At the end of the long downstairs hallway was a door that had been locked when I had first visited the house.
Today, however, it was unlocked. I opened the door carefully, surprised when it did not creak, and peeked inside.
My jaw dropped in awe.
It was a beautiful greenhouse, filled with lush, green plants and flowers which were blooming perfectly. There was a strange cement plant box in the middle of the room, and in the centre of it was a small door.
I tried the handle, but the door was locked.
Disappointed, I left the door alone and watered a few of the plants.

As I was heading back up the hallway, the telephone rang in the kitchen. I hurried to answer it, snatching it off the base on the second ring.
"Hello?"
"Hey, Miss Independent. How's things in the new house?"
I laughed, glad to hear my best friend's voice.
"Hi, Courtney. It's...quiet. You're the first official call I've had."
She giggled.
"Lucky me. The girls and I have been thinking. Why don't we go out for a celebratory drink?"
"Sounds great!"
"Excellent. We'll pick you up in an hour, is that enough time?"
"It's perfect. See you then!"
We hung up and I hurried to get ready.
I slipped into a pair of jeans, my favourite pair of leopard-print high-heels and a black halter top, and was just finishing my makeup when the girls arrived. I grabbed my purse and hurried outside, locking the door behind me.
I ran down the driveway, almost losing my shoes in the process, and practically threw myself into Courtney's adorable little white Honda Sedan.
The girls all squealed by way of welcoming me, and Courtney leaned over in the driver's seat next to me to give me a hug.
"So, where are we going?"
"It's opening night at SINsation," Vanessa spoke up from the back seat. "Jared said he'd let us in for free."
"That's so sweet of him!" I gushed, dramatically, my hand pressed over my heart.
She grinned.
"When are you two getting married?" I teased her.
"When he works up the courage to ask me," Vanessa replied, perfecting her mascara.
We laughed.

The parking lot was fairly spacious, so we had no trouble finding a spot.
We could already hear the music thumping from inside the club, and there was a huge line-up at the door.
Just as Vanessa had said, however, her boyfriend Jared gave us free admission.
"Behave yourselves," he told us in mock-seriousness. "Stay away from the men."
He kissed Vanessa and winked, wrapping an arm around her bare, chocolate-coloured waist.
"Jealous," she teased and kissed him back.
The dance floor was already crowded. Jade, living up to her reputation as our resident alcoholic, headed straight for the bar with Vanessa trailing behind. Within seconds, they were both knocking back a round of tequila shots.
Courtney and I glanced at each other, laughed, and joined them.

An hour and several tequila shots later, Jade was on the dance floor with a handsome young man who had introduced himself as William.
Beginning to feel rather tipsy myself, I joined Vanessa and Courtney in cheering them on as they swung around the floor, his hands on her hips, her arms around his shoulders.
One thin spaghetti strap on her blue singlet top was now dangling around her elbow, but she didn't seem to have noticed or, possibly, didn't care.
"I guess she won't need a lift home with us," Courtney giggled as Jade and William became cosier by the minute.

She was right.
As we left the club around one in the morning, Jade and William headed toward William's car, their arms linked.
"At least one of us is getting some!" I yelled, laughing, completely past my usual limit.
"Jealous much?" she yelled back, waving.
"I want a full report in the morning!" I hollered. "Call me!"
William laughed as he revved the engine.
I hobbled over to Courtney's car and almost fell into the front passenger seat.
"Court," I said, my voice slurred. "You sssshure you can drive?"
"Hey, you had more than I did," she laughed.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" I asked, and flipped her off.
She and Vanessa howled with laughter.

~*~

"Sure you can get to the door without falling on your ass?" Courtney teased as we pulled up outside my house.
"I think so."
"Want us to carry you?" Vanessa offered. "And by 'us' I mean Courtney, of course."
I laughed.
"Nah, I'll be fine. Thanks for the great night, girls."
I clambered out of the Sedan and made my way up the driveway, already feeling the effects of the alcohol lessening. I fumbled with the key and finally got the door open.
As I stepped inside, I immediately noticed that things looked somehow different.
Almost as though someone, or something, had been in the house, but the door had been locked.
I chalked it up to the alcohol that was still in my system, and went to bed.