On the edge of the land, reaching out toward the sea was the port city known as Sayfe. It was just nearing noon and the whole of the city was alive with action. Massive ships and smaller merchant vessels crowded the waters along the docks and people bustled along the docks' wide wooden walkways, guiding the vessels and unloading and loading cargo.

Just east of the harbor was the market, its streets so crowded with carts and bodies, one would struggle just to push through. From the sky, a myriad brightly colored tents appeared as wildflowers abloom in a cobblestone meadow. The smells of the market square could send one's nose into wild fits a mile away, with all the meldings of fresh fish, bread and produce, wildflowers, perfumes, and linens; woodworks, metalsmithing, and cooked foods. Even the smells of sweat from all the bodies of the workers and patrons intermingled.

A band played in the center of the market, breathing even more life into the already near-bursting heart of Sayfe's livelihood. Three dancers swirled and twirled about in layered, multi-colored skirts. A fiddle, flute, and guitar attracted many spectators as hands dropped their coins into a large ceramic jar. As the young man dropped a coin into the performers' jar, he very politely refused a dance from one of the girls, while continuing to watch.

Sayfe was a divine city. No matter where you were, at what time of day, everywhere in Sayfe felt like home. This is exactly why he was so reluctant to leave. He was a travelling man, with no real purpose to his journey, save to simply see all that the world had to offer.

"'Ello there! Likin' whatcha see?" chimed a thick-accented dame with a broad, coy smile and bulging chest.

The young man, paying no real heed to the way she jutted her bosom out, replied, "You're all such beautiful performers. It's almost as if it were as natural as breathing to you."

"Well, it's a lot of work, but I've got many other talents. If yer interested, I can always give ye, a erm, private performance."

"Oh, ummm…" He looked the woman up and down. She was very eye-catching; voluminous blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a phenomenal figure. As much as he enjoyed the idea of bedding with this particular young woman, he thought it would be best to avoid it altogether. Human women typically tended to enjoy his company a little too much; they always seemed to want him to stick around much longer than he could. He answered with an apologetic smile, "I'm sorry, miss."

She pursed her painted lips into a cute pout. "That's too bad-I've never been with an Elf before. Maybe some other time, then?" She had her hands on her hips and was swaying them softly.

"If I'm ever in need of 'special company' I'll be sure to look you up." And he meant it. He wasn't going to pass up the opportunity twice.

"You'd better!" the woman giggled. "I'd hate to miss a chance with one such as ye. Are ye headin' back out on the road, then?"

He nodded. "I'd like to get back to Hail as soon as I can."

"Oh." She suddenly sounded somewhat disappointed, averting her gaze for a second. "So, I guess ye won't be partakin' in the festival tomorrow?"

"Festival? I wasn't aware of any festival." His heart skipped a beat in sudden excitement at the mention.

The jovial, coy look returned to the dancer's eyes as she began explaining, "The Twins' Festival begins tomorrow. It happens every two years. Have you really never heard of it?"

Shaking his head shamefully, he answered, "I'm originally from a place far north, very near the border. I grew up knowing only my mother and now, I spend most of my time alone on the road. There is still so much I do not know."

"Well, ye're in fer a real treat! Thousands from all over Yndria come to attend the country's biggest festival. Since I'm assumin' ye're stayin' at an inn in the Plaza, ye'll be seein' the decorations going up by now. The festivities start right at dawn with an explosion of music to wake the town. To honor our sun god, Tset, we dance and bask in the sunlight, eat sun-ripened fruits and vegetables the farmers've grown. Then, we bless any newly born sets of twins in the sun-warmed waters of the crystal fountain."

"It sounds amazing!" His eyes gleamed with a child-like glee.

She laughed heartily. "That's not but half of it! You of course know of Raye, right?"

"Of course."

"Of course-who hasn't? Anyway, as soon as the sun is set and the sky is dark, we honor her with the story of the beginnin'. Then, at the end of the night, it's the Sending of Lights. I'm one of the performers in it this year, I'm so excited! We all dance 'round the fountain and send the wishes the people made over these past two years into the heavens to be granted. It's always been my favorite part of the Twins' Festival."

"I can't wait to see it all," the young man sighed. "Thank you so much for me telling me about it. I'd regret it forever if I had missed it."

"You're welcome! If ye can, try to look for me tomorrow, and we can celebrate the glory of the Twin Gods together. I've got to get back to work-my lute player's glarin'. Goodbye for now, Elf, darlin'!" She turned and skipped back to her place near the band and continued dancing, throwing her young sir a coy wink.

With a chuckle and a wave, the young man turned on his heel and exited the market square, through a crowded street of established shops on both sides. There was a fancy restaurant, jeweler, coffee shop, dress shop, and a general store on the North side. On the South side, the stone and concrete buildings housed a smithy, travelling supply store, armory, and even an art gallery. The main street led the young man to the Plaza.

On the far West side of Sayfe, welcoming travellers from the mainland, was the Plaza. Blush pink and glittering silver stones were the walkways and streets of the Plaza, which surrounded the jewel of the port city; the crystal fountain. The fountain stood at a tall, majestic three stories and displayed four female figures with bird-like wings upon their backs. Each figure faced a different cardinal direction, with a solemn determined expression as though waiting for the winds to send them aflight. They held tightly to one another's hands, as if fearful of those same winds. The Elf man wondered who these women might be. There must be countless tales of them, now long lost and forgotten in the thousands of years since the creation of Hul'Nour.

The local legend was that the fountain had been blessed by the Twin Gods for a very special reason, though nobody quite remembered the reason anymore. To show their thanks for its creation, each god presented the statue in a glorious manner. By day, Tset displayed his gratitude by shining his sunlight on the crystal, thus setting the semi-circular Plaza ablaze with rainbow hues. In the night, the winged maidens absorbed the light of the moon and glowed a soft, dreamy gray-blue. To return their appreciation for the gods' splendor, the townsfolk would toss a coin into the pool at the maidens' feet and make a wish.

With a quick flick, the bronze coin splashed into the water and settled at the bottom, amid the hundreds of other bronze and silver pieces. The young man grinned and watched the sun sparkle on the coins, entranced by this simple yet beautiful act. The trance lasted only a short moment before his emerald eyes scaled the crystal woman towering over him. She was as clear as slowly melting ice, and though as clear as she and her fellow maidens were, the young man could see every fold in her gown, every strand of her softly flowing, frozen hair. He wondered whose hands could have so lovingly created this fountain. Not even the most renowned Dwarfish sculptors or Elfish jewelers could have even come close. It was almost as if these crystals had been shaped by the hands of a god.

The following morning, the young man awoke with a start to the crashing of thunderous drumming and wailing of flutes and horns. At first, he groaned in annoyance at the rude awakening, wondering who in their right mind would be playing instruments at dawn. Then, he remembered. The Twins' Festival! In that instant, he flung his blankets and jumped out of bed. The excitement alone was enough to motivate him to dress quickly before heading down to the café on the ground floor of his hotel. He still had to do the one thing that started his days off right; a mug of strong, black coffee.

The café was desolate, save for a sole waitress, who cast Valo a small grin as he sat at a table near the stairs. As she approached the table, she pulled a small notebook and pencil from the pocket of her crisp, perfectly white apron. "What'll it be?" she asked.

"Just a mug of black coffee," the Elf chimed. "I'm in a hurry to go out and join the festival."

"Me, too," the waitress replied, with a light sigh. As she walked to the bar counter, the young man couldn't help but notice the swivel in her hips was in rhythm to the music outside. "Here you are, sir!" she chimed.

He was startled; he hadn't noticed she had come back. Hearing the commotion in the Plaza, he barely noticed anything else. "Th-thank you," he stammered. He inhaled the fragrant steam, savoring the strong, slightly nutty aroma in his lungs before taking his first sip. "That's the stuff," he said with a long, happy sigh.

The barmaid was close by, cleaning tables, and giggled when she heard him. "I'm glad you like my family's special brew."

"Like it? It's so strong, yet so subtle."

"We have a cousin that grows the beans. It's even shipped in special boxes to keep the flavors rich. You know, we also sell cans of the coffee if you'd like to take some along on your travels."

The Elf man nodded thoughtfully and replied, "I think I shall once I check out. I don't want to miss another minute of this festival!"

"Of course not! That's why the café's closed to outside patrons today-most of the shops are, actually. I've just got to clean up before I can go."

He chuckled lightly as he glanced about. "That must be why you're in such a rush, then."

"Oh!" The barmaid released an embarrassed laugh in reply and covered her freckled face with her hands. "I didn't even realize I was rushing. The café must look such a mess!"

This girl seems like she really cares about her job, thought the young man. She must really do her husband proud-not only does she take pride in her work, she's so attractive! Is every woman in this city so beautiful?

"Are you okay?"

The young man blinked, startled. "Huh?" That barmaid was looking a little concerned all of a sudden.

She stuttered, "Y-you just stopped t-talking and were staring at me. Are you okay?"

"Oh…oh! Um, yes. Yes, I'm fine, I'm sorry. I must still be waking up!" He chuckled nervously.

She nodded with a furrowed brow.

To avoid any further embarrassment, the Elfish man gulped down the rest of his coffee and rose. "Well, I'm off to enjoy my last day in the city!"

"You picked a good day, then!" the barmaid called from behind him as he rushed out the door.

Stumbling out onto the street, the young man was completely taken aback by what he was witnessing. The citizens of Sayfe were all dressed in their finest and brightest; pinks, greens, yellows, blues-it was if the Summer wildflowers had all sprouted arms and legs and were running and shouting all about the Plaza and market square. Wreaths of snow-white carnations adorned the heads of the crystal statues and the streetlamps were entwined with garlands of carnations and blush roses; the buildings were decorated with the same wreaths and garlands; there had been maypoles placed along, encircling the fountain. Little girls in long, flowing gowns of white and pink danced along the maypoles with their ribbons sea green, blush pink, and snow white.

There was a parade of men with drums and flutes stomping through the crowds with such a boisterous energy it made the young man's heart want to burst out of his chest and march along. Women clapped and hollered as screaming infants held by clerics were dunked into the holy water of the fountain. As the soaking babies were held high, throngs of proud parents and relatives cheered.

The smells, oh the smells! Wine was so thick in the air, merely inhaling was as drinking. Wine was dancing with the smells of many different flowers, fresh grass, bread and meat, and the sweat of jovial bodies. It was invigorating, inspiring, and maddening all at once. No wonder these people seemed so possessed! He took a slow, deep breath of the sweet, sweaty air and held it. The sensation made his lungs vibrate; it was as if he was inhaling the city's very breath. It was so full of a deep love and animalistic passion that it made the Elf's skin itch for a sort of intimacy he could never hope to express through anything physical.

Just then, from amidst the flurry of dancers, a delicate hand reached for his and he was swept up into the rapids. Hair as warm and red as the setting sun covered his face, blanketing his vision with crimson and copper hues. The smell of strong perfume nibbled at his nostrils-it was intoxicating. His feet leaped and bounded as if on hot coals. The insane rhythm of the music coursed through his veins, supplying limitless energy. He saw just a glimpse of emerald green eyes, surrounded with bright gold dust on her upper and lower eyelids, before being swept away by a different set of hands. Through and through the wild current went he, having no sense of passing time. He was passed around not unlike a doll, and many times he was kissed feverishly by wine stained lips. When he finally managed to escape, with his head spinning and his legs like jelly, he noticed that the sun had begun its descent. Oh, how he longed for this day to never end! He sweated; his black hair clung to his face, his muscles and his lungs ached-but his heart screamed. His heart screamed out over the shouts, the drums, the flutes, and stomping and dancing feet. He had to sit down.

"Festivities a bit too much for ya, lad?" came a shrill voice from the young man's left side.

The young turned quickly to face a small-boned old man in a red robe. The Elf nodded at the old man and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

The old man laughed heartily, slapping his knee. "You're obviously not from around here-the ears certainly gave away that much."

The young man always blushed when people mentioned his ears. He must stand out like a sore thumb to these Humans, he thought with a grin.

"That's quite alright, m'boy," the old man continued. "I can't do much dancing myself anymore. One as old as I really can't do much with fragile bones such as these. It's still so nice to see the young folk are upholding the same traditions, though, with the same reverence and respect."

"What exactly are the stories behind this festival, Old One?" The Elf was always up for a good story, though that would mean having to strain to hear the old man over the crowds, even with his sharp Elfish ears.

The old man didn't bother to shout-it wouldn't matter. If the Elf was paying attention, he'd hear well enough the old man assumed. "That statue was erected here in this exact spot for a very special, though nobody can remember why. Only the gods could possibly hold onto a memory that old. Some say that Sayfe was built around the statue, though that too, is now long forgotten."

"Amazing," the young man muttered, gazing up at the four crystal maidens. Sitting so near them, you could feel their mystery like a soft pulse under flesh.

"You know, um," the small framed old man snapped his ancient fingers. "What'd you say your name was?"

The young man smiled. "I didn't. It's Valo."

"Well, Valo, you should stick around right here, 'cuz very soon, the Elder Twins will weave a tale before the Sending of Lights."

Valo creased his brow, then remembered that the blonde dancer the day before had told him of the tale. His excitement was becoming harder to contain.

With a quick nod of his bald head and a crinkle in his nose, the old man rose. Just as he did, a wave of silence rolled through the crowd and all eyes fell upon him. The dancers dropped to their knees, as did the citizens, like children awaiting a bedtime story. "It is time for the Tale!" he called.

It seemed to Valo that, as this old man spoke, his voice grew younger and clearer, just for the purpose of carrying the Tale to each and every set of ears in Sayfe. Valo couldn't help but feel the same reverence the citizens had for him as he anxiously awaited the tale-but there was only one elder. Weren't the storytellers called the Elder Twins?

"This past year," the elder began, seeming to answer Valo's question, "my darling sister, representative of the moon goddess, Raye, has become one of Raye's stars. I can't help but feel the call of our creators summoning me to the Everlands as well, so this shall be my last weaving of the Tale. I, representative of Tset the Rising Sun, will recite the Tale on my own." He paused to clear his throat, then began,

"This world began as nothing more than a black mass. Not even a solid mass, but just a hole of black, set within the infinite darkness of the space beyond our skies. It was here that our Mother Goddess set forth. She held within her palm a seed, so tiny that even the smallest star in our sky would seem grander. She loved this seed with such a deep and profound love that it grew and grew, and then floated into the deep dark hole in space. Our world was born an empty and frigid place of gray rock. Still, she loved it so deeply, so profoundly. Our world was her firstborn. Her heart felt so full, and she decided she would create the things in the image of her love and then fill this world with those images. Her sigh gave us the wind; her tears and sweat gave us our oceans; and her hair grew all over the lands, green and lush as the plant life.

"Still, blackness covered Her work. So, when she gave birth to her children, a set of twins, the Great Mother noticed her son all aglow while her daughter always slept so peacefully. She decided then and there that her son, Tset, would bathe the world in his warm light, and the world needed rest, they would rest under the gentle darkness her daughter, Raye, slept in.

"And so, it came to be that our world was given light to sustain us and help us grow, and the night to grant us our rest. It is every two years that we give our thanks to not only Tset and Raye, but our Mother Goddess, through celebration with song, dance, and feast. It is every two years that we bless all sets of twins, young and old!"

The Elder threw his spindly arms in the air and shouted, "As the sun has now set, we come closer to the second half of the festival. As we wait for the sky to darken, let us all take a few moments to pay silent homage to our Great Mother." He then lowered his arms and folded his hands together in front of him, and bowed his head. The crowds followed his example.

Valo could almost feel a gentle hand on the top of his head, guiding it down. He closed his eyes. The silence was overwhelming-he could nearly hear his heart, beating like a drum line. Then, he felt a sudden wave of calm wash over him, like warm water on cooled skin. From somewhere deep within his soul, Valo heard a voice though the words were inaudible. It was so strange, yet so familiar.

There was a clap. Valo came back as though he had been flung with great force. The elder was ready to continue. The elder raised his arms to his sides to announce, "As the sun has now set, we shall begin the Sending of Lights! Everyone, take this moment to make one final wish before our dancers send them up into the heavens!"

Night had crept up on the city, blanketing it with thick, warm darkness. The streetlamps were lit and they glowed a cool, icy blue. A strong contrast to the humidity and heat of summer. The music and laughter of the festival picked back up, but had slowed to a more serene, celestial theme, and many of the citizens swayed and waved their arms in graceful gestures.

Valo closed his eyes to make his wish. He didn't know what it was he wished for, but he felt it from somewhere deep within himself. He held it in his heart, fondly bidding it farewell, and slowly opened his eyes to release it. All around the statue now were women in long, silver-white gowns, with their heads bowed and arms tight against their sides.

Slowly, one woman began tapping her bare feet on the stone street. The instant she began moving, all other noise halted. All anyone could hear was the gentle pat of her feet, sounding not unlike light rain on a tin roof. Another woman joined in, then another and another, until all twelve women were stepping in sync. A low hum rose from with their lungs as they stretched their fingers toward the ground. Just then, a soft glow illuminated the dancers' feet. They all began to spin. The glow came up around them in pieces-like fireflies-and rose to their waists. They slowly raised their arms to the night sky, guiding the hundreds of tiny specks of light upward. As they floated away, the crowds cheered uproariously, their passion and hope sending the orbs straight to the heavens. Then, only moments after the lights passed, a shower of flower pedals descended on the festival, like soft and fragrant snow.

The Elder Twin rose once more and signaled for silence. "And that is that," he spoke. "The wishes of our townsfolk and our visitors are being sent to our Mother Goddess to give her strength for two more years. For two more years, Tset and Raye will watch over us, and for two more years, we will have peace throughout Yndria. Now, it's time for us to head into our homes, for our lives continue in the morning. Goodnight, and bless all those walk upon this earth!"