Earth

Chapter One

Why didn't they love her anymore?

Seven-year-old Lucy struggled to keep her tears from falling as she bolted down the porch of her house and into the woods out back. She swerved and ducked the tree branches, getting herself deeper and deeper into the wilderness.

Lucy hadn't wanted much that day, only to show her mom her drawing, but a cry pierced through the air and once again she went ignored. The ugly pink thing didn't deserve all the attention he received. All he did was cry, high-pitched and loud, and he smelled. What was so special about him? Why did her parents want him around instead of her?

If this was what it was like to being a big sister, then her parents needed to send him back wherever they got him.

A shriek tore from Lucy when her foot caught on something, causing her to fall and tumble downhill uncontrollably until she skidded to a stop against what felt like a wall. Coughing, she cracked open her burning eyes to the sight of dirt.

She choked down a sob at the various cuts and scraps on her bare arms and legs. She wanted her mommy and daddy, but then she remembered that they probably wouldn't care that she was gone. So, she wiped her eyes with the hem of her unicorn shirt and took in her surroundings.

Dirt surrounded her, somehow she had gotten into an underground tunnel. From where she believed she came down from only a dirt wall remained. To both sides of her a tunnel went. The right one held darkness while the left one she could see light off in the distance. That has to be the way out, she thought as she got on her hands and knees and started to crawl.

Her long brown hair dragged along the dirt ground as Lucy made her way down the tunnel. The walls seemed to shrink the farther she went. If she didn't see the end right in front of her she would fear of getting stuck. As it was, she had to struggle the last foot even with her small body.

She wiggled vigorously out of the hole, breathing heavily once freed. She rolled on her back and stared up at the clear blue sky through the towering grasses. She stayed that way, catching her breath for a long moment until she got to her feet. All around her grasses were as tall as she with butterflies flying everywhere.

"Where did you come from?" a male voice asked.

Lucy jerked around, peering through the grasses and standing on her tipsy-toes to see if she could find whoever spoke. When she found no one, she called out, "Hello?"

"Hello to you too," the mysterious voice said again. And yet again she could find no one.

"Where are you?"

"Right here."

"Where?"

A vibrant purple and black butterfly fluttered in front of her face. "Right here in front of you."

Lucy gasped, her eyes widening and her jaw dropping. "You can talk!"

"So can you."

"But I'm suppose to talk. Butterflies aren't."

"Oh, you're human. That explains it."

Explains what? "Of course I'm human. What else am I suppose to be?" The butterfly was the strange one.

"You could be a lot of things here, but you're kind's not suppose to be here."

Lucy frowned, her shoulders sagging at the weight of not being wanted in yet another place. "I'm not suppose to be anywhere," she murmured.

"Come, human," the butterfly said as he started to fly off. "The Earth Queen will be most interested in you."

She hesitated, unsure if she should follow the strange bug, but where else could she go? She didn't know where she was. So, she parted the grass and followed the butterfly. She had to keep a close eye on him, since she could see nothing else but grass and sky.

"Do keep up," the butterfly said as she breached the field of grass and a forest stood in front of her.

Lucy had a far easier time traveling through the forest than through the grass. All she had to do was watch her footing on the roots of the trees. Although that proved harder than she thought with the glimpses of the animals she caught out of the corner of her eyes. She would swear she saw several deer and rabbits. And the sound of birds could be heard, but not seen.

The vines draping the branches and descending down into a curtain made the forest seem alive when they parted on their own and revealed a clearing up ahead.

Once Lucy entered the clearing all she could do was take in the luscious fruits trees of apples, the juicy blackberry bushes, and the patches of crystals protruding from the ground, catching the sun's rays and sending an array of colors throughout the clearing. To her left a sharp cliff protruded out into open air, allowing in a soft breeze.

"Vern, who is this you've brought here?" a melodious voice asked.

A woman of exquisite beauty came out the forest, her wavy hair blacker than night that fell thick and long over her bare chest and her eyes an unnatural green, but her lower half had Lucy gasping. A body of a small horse the color of soft chocolate consisted of the woman's lower half.

"A human, my Queen," the butterfly, Vern said. "I found her coming out of a wormhole in Green Grass Valley."

"A wormhole?" The Earth Queen murmured. "We haven't had one of those in a long time. They usually get here through the Water Kingdom. Oh well, thank you, Vern. You can go back to your valley now."

"My pleasure, my Queen." Vern fluttered close to Lucy and said, "It was lovely meeting you, human. May you get home safe."

"Nice meeting you too," she said softly, waving Vern off as he left.

When Lucy focused back on the Earth Queen, the woman eyes stared at her in an uncanny manner. "How many years are you?"

"Seven."

"My, you're just a youngling." The Earth Queen went to an apple tree and plucked an apple from its branches. She muttered something under her breath before handing the apple to Lucy. "You must be hungry after such a long journey."

Lucy's stomach decided right then to agree with the Earth Queen. "Thank you," she said, grabbing the apple and taking a bite. The most delicious sweetness filled her mouth while juice escaped and slipped down her chin. She finished the apple before she awkwardly glanced around again and asked, "Where am I?"

The Earth Queen smiled kindly, and said, "You're in the Between. A place where the Elements rule."

"The Between. . ." Lucy murmured to herself. "Is that like magick?"

"To humans, perhaps."

"Is that why I can't stay here, because of the magick?"

"You wish to stay here?" The Earth Queen's eyebrows had risen, and then furrowed in confusion. "But won't you're bearers miss you?"

"My bearers?"

The Earth Queen tilted her head to the side. "The ones who gave you life."

"You mean my parents."

"Yes, your... parents, would they not miss you?"

Lucy huffed, crossing her arms. "They have another baby they love more."

The Earth Queen hummed for a short moment, her unsettling eyes never leaving Lucy. "A... parents love does not end when another offspring comes along. Love simple grows to envelope each offspring evenly."

"But they ignore me since they brought him home."

"He is small, is he not?" The Earth Queen asked, and Lucy nodded. "The smaller you are the more care you need."

That kind of made sense. Still, she wanted her parents to pay attention to her too. "But I don't want to go home."

"I am sorry, youngling, but you cannot stay here either. You must go back where you belong, here is not the place. In order to do so, you must gather an item from each Queen of the Elemental Kingdoms."

"And if I don't."

"Then you will cease to exist."

Lucy frowned, she didn't want to cease to exist. "Fine," she grunted. "but how do I get to the other Kingdoms? I don't even know how I got here."

The Earth Queen merely smiled, and clapped her hands. The sound echoed like they stood deep in a cave. Lucy glanced around warily, what was suppose to happen? Her answer came shortly after with a flutter of wings. Her eyes widened and her heart thump in fear when a large, regal bird with wings the size of a car appeared. She stumbled back as the bird landed with a loud thud.

"He will take you where you need to go."

What? Lucy glanced back and forth between the Earth Queen and the giant bird. There's no way she was getting on that thing. "You want me to get on the bird?" her voice squeaked as she faintly pointed at the animal.

The Earth Queen gently petted the bird's feathers. "He's an eagle, and yes, he's going to be your transport to the Air Kingdom."

"You want me to get on the bird?" she repeated, the squeak never leaving her voice.

Before Lucy could talk her way out of it or even make an escape for that matter, vines wrapped around her waist and gently lifted her from the ground. She kicked her around feet in vain as she was settled on the back of the bird, right behind the giant wings. She looked around frantically, trying to find where she could hold to.

"Here," the Earth Queen's voice broke through her distress, causing Lucy to focus on her and the woman's outstretch hand. The hand turned over and opened like an elegant flower. In her palm laid a stone with a hole in the center. "This is my gift to you. This will assist in your quest home."

Lucy leaned down and grabbed the stone from the Queen's hand, but before she could examine the stone further the bird moved, forcing her to frantically bury her hands in the feathers and holding on with all her strength. Her breath came fast and quick as the bird took a running start at the cliff.

This isn't happening! This isn't happening!

A high-pitched scream filled the air when the bird took flight, descending a hundred feet before ascending again and heading to the Air Kingdom.