Erysicthon's Gorge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

In a desperate attempt to save her mother Iris Wallen sets out to find the only known genie in all of Enchancia. Though there are two major flaws in her plan. One: she only has 5 days to make the perilous journey to the residence of the genie. Two: she has no idea how to get there. But when Iris runs into two fairies she just may be able to find her way to the genie on time and save her mother. If she can survive the woods...

Chapter One 

“I’ll be right back,” I promised as I shoved my too-small boots onto my feet. The only response I got was a low groan. I took one last peek at my mother, now little more than skin and bones, before I headed out the door into the blinding snow.  

The glacier winds cut deep through the patches in my poorly knitted mittens as I clutched onto my small bag of gold. It wasn’t much, but it should be enough for some more medicine. Anything to hold Mother over until the doctor came.  

As I walked through the square people gave my not-so-subtle sympathetic glances. And I was sure under the howling wind they were whispering about who would be stuck with me once my mother was gone. But they didn’t have to worry about that. I would do anything and everything to save my mom. She was all I had left. 

The door to the apothecary made a loud squeaking noise as I pulled it open, with quite a great deal of effort I might add. I browsed the aisles as quickly as I could and hurried to check out as soon as I had my hands on the tonic I’d come for. I was so focused on counting out the gold in the palm of my hand that I didn’t notice the old lady in front of me before I ran into her.  

“Oh!” she exclaimed as she struggled to keep her balance. “You gave me a fright there darling!”  

“I’m sorry,” I muttered as I scooped up the coins that had fallen to the floor. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.” 

“No need to apologize to me, dear. Here let me help you,” She offered and bent down to help me.  

“Oh no, I really don’t want to trouble you,” I said and hurried to pick up my pace. My fingers fumbled with the coins and made a bigger mess. “I’ll be out of your way in a moment.” 

“What’s the matter, dear?” She asked in a manner that seemed uncalled for. Like she was talking to a wounded animal. But then I realized I was shaking, and tears were streaming down my cheeks. She grabbed my hand, and I still didn’t look up too busy trying to grasp the slick coins. “There’s nothing wrong with needing a little help every now and then.” 

My head snapped up. “What did you say?” I whispered tentatively as if I spoke too loudly the conversation would have shattered. Her hazel eyes clouded with confusion at my asking. “What did you say?” I repeated a little more forcefully. 

“There’s nothing wrong with needing a little help every now and then?” The old lady asked, her voice laced with the same confusion as her eyes. “Dear are you quite alright?” 

“Yes,” I said, the corners of my mouth started to twitch upwards. “Yes, I am. I have to go,” I said abruptly and got up forgetting all about my money and the tonic, which I let drop to the ground.  

The old lady yelped at the sound and the store clerk yelled at me, but I didn’t care. I knew what I had to do now. I knew how to save my mother.  

Chapter Two 

I bust through the door still panting from my sprint from the heart of town all the way to the outskirts where my house stood. “Mom!” I practically shouted. I raced into her room and skidded to a stop right at the side of the bed. “Mom, I figured out how to make you better! I figured it out.” 

She made a noise that I could only guess meant “what?” 

“Remember the lullaby you used to sing to me when I was younger? The one about the genie?” She gave a slight nod of her head. “If I go find the genie, I can use my wishes to heal you. The timing is perfect, it’s a week – give or take a day – to the gorge and that still gives me all three days of the genie’s appearance in case anything goes wrong. Plus, we then have two wishes we can use!” 

I expected her to be overjoyed, but a look of deep concern grew in her dull eyes. “Iris,” she croaked, her voice raw from not being used in weeks. “What your planning is very dangerous. And based on a lullaby. There is no telling if there really is a genie or not, and it’s not worth it, even if there is.” 

It took me a moment to process her words and get over the shock of actually hearing her speak. “But Mom,” I said, the full gravity of her words hit me like a tidal wave at that moment. “If I don’t go, you’ll die.” My voice caught on the last word. I looked away and bit my lip to keep myself from crying. I took a moment to regain my composure and met her eyes again with fierce determination this time.  

“I am going to find the genie,” I said, not caring I had just been told not to. “I am going to find the genie, and I am going to heal you. You are going to live as long as I have a say in the matter.” 

“Sweetie maybe it’s just my time-” 

“No.” I cut her off abruptly. “I am not letting you die. You’re all I have left, so it can’t be your time. No. Because I can’t lose you.” I wiped the tears from my eyes and head for the door. Not bothering to listen to her halfhearted protests, which were even more reasons why I had to go. “Mr. Miethe will come to take care of you while I’m gone. I should be back within two weeks, if not-” If not what? I pestered myself internally. If not don’t go looking for me? Don’t tell anyone? But eventually, I settled on- “I love you.” 

I wrenched the door open and stepped out into the blinding whiteness once more, not sure if I would ever come back. 

Chapter Three 

The forests of Enchancia were unlike anything I had expected. I’d always heard stories about how people got lost in the woods for days. About how curious children went in and never came out, and about how magical creatures and even monsters lurked around every corner. But never had I expected something like this.  

At first, it was just trees and snow as far as the eye could see, but then it changed. As if I had walked over some invisible threshold, the winter wonderland I had been in changed into a beautiful forest teeming with life and sunlight and not a drop of snow in sight. 

The warm sun poured over my freezing skin and the ice forming in my hair melted, dampening my hair in the process which was a welcome cooling mechanism. Now bathing in beautiful summer light my multiple layers of clothes started to feel heavy and suffocating. And I became hot, so unbearably hot. 

In a daze, I started running. Searching – begging – for another threshold to a cooler climate. I ran wildly, not watching my steps, and suddenly I was on the floor. Pain erupted through me, but I didn't care, because a cool tingling brushed across my fingertips, and I started crawling towards it.  

I dug my fingernails into the damp earth and pulled myself forward with every ounce of strength in which my body – which wasn’t much I found since the heat had zapped it all out of me. But slowly and painfully I pulled myself into a foggy, misty, pocket of the forest that was preparing for a storm. 

I turned over and lay there on the soft dirt, in the middle of the forest, hot and sweaty, and soaked up the sweet, sweet rain that started pouring over me. I didn’t care that I was out in the open, or that my clothes would be soaked. I didn’t care about anything besides the relief I was feeling spread throughout my body with every drop of freezing rain that graced my skin.  

I guess somewhere in the relief, a feeling of tiredness and fatigue also set in. Because within minutes, I was asleep. 

  

When I woke up. I found the rain had stopped. I also found a boy crouched right above me. I instinctively scrambled backward and reached around searching for anything resembling a weapon. My hands scrambled around until I grasped a stick and held it out before me like a sword, which I’m sure looked ridiculous. And caused the boy to erupt into hysterical laughter. But not the girl I hadn’t noticed standing next to him. 

“Who- who are you?” I demanded as I took them in. They appeared to be the same age and couldn’t be much older than me – 15 or 16 at most. The boy’s mouth curved into a crooked smile as he doubled over with laughter, while the girl’s was in a deep scowl aimed at the boy. They had similar sharp features and shared the same golden hair – though the boy’s was cut short and the girl’s was pulled back into an intricate braid. Then I noticed two very alarming features. “You’re pixies?” I whispered in disbelief as my brain registered the two delicate pale blue wings attached to the boy and the violet wings on the girl. 

“A fairy actually,” the boy said after he had regained his composure. “Pixies are such nasty creatures. And tiny too.” 

“Yes, just like your brain,” the girl snapped at the boy in an almost playful manner. “Please excuse my idiot brother here for scaring you half to death. I’m Everlyn.” She extended her hand to help me up. “I won’t bite,” she said in response to my hesitation. 

“Unlike pixies!” The boy chimed in. Everlyn gave him a glare. I took her hand and she helped me up. “Look all I’m saying is fairies are very different from pixies. And I can tell you why! Reason number one: Pixies will attack you on sight. Reason number two: Unlike fairies, pixies can’t retract their wings.” His wings suddenly seemed to vanish. 

“Wait- what? How? Huh?” I asked. They both burst into laughter. Everlyn turned around and showed me how her wings retracted into her back. She assured me it didn’t hurt and even informed me on how they normally kept their wings folded back.  

“Alright. Now that we’ve gotten that all cleared up; reason number three-” 

“Will you shut up about pixies Everett? You’re just upset you lost our bet about them last week.” She said the last part as she tossed her braid over her shoulder to give herself an air of superiority. 

“Well technically I didn’t lose the bet because Mom dragged us out by our ears before the pixies noticed us,” Everett said in a mocking voice, putting quotation marks around technically for extra effect. I could very clearly see who was the more mature one out of the two. 

“You still didn’t win though,” Everlyn said in a breezy voice and playfully chucked him under the chin. Well, maybe it wasn’t that clear of a difference. “So, what are you doing all the way out here?” Everlyn asked, turning to me. 

“Yeah, not many humans are dumb enough to wander out here,” Everett chimed in. 

“If you must know,”– I said very matter-of-factly crossing my arms against my chest, slightly insulted by Everett’s comment – “I am heading to Erysichthon’s Gorge.” 

Erysichthon’s Gorge?” he exclaimed. “Do you have a death wish?” 

“Quite the opposite actually,” I quipped. 

“Well then you shouldn’t go there,” Everlyn said, backing up her brother. “As much as I hate to admit it, Everett is right. No one goes to Erysichthon’s Gorge and comes back.” 

“Well then guess I will be the first,” I seethed. “I need to get to the genie and use my wishes to heal my mother. Who is getting sicker and sicker as we speak by the way and my window to get to the genie is also shrinking as well so if you don’t mind, I will be on my way.” I gave them a tight smile, turned sharply on my heels, and stormed away. 

“Wait,” I heard Everlyn call out, as she jogged to catch up with me. “First off, you are going the wrong way to get to Erysichthon’s Gorge. Second off, you would never make it there alive on your own. So, we are willing to make a deal with you.” 

“And what would that deal be?” I asked not bothering to look at her. 

“We take you to Erysichthon’s Gorge, and in turn, you use one of your wishes for us,” she offered. 

My foot faltered on my next step, but I kept my composure. “How do I know you wouldn’t just use me as bait for whatever monsters we encounter and leave me for dead?” 

“Well, I won’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind,” Everett said from behind me. “But the only problem with that is fairies can’t make wishes. So, you are quite literally our only hope to make a wish because we don’t know any other humans crazy enough to go to Erysichthon’s Gorge.” 

“Do you even know any other humans?” I asked, turning to face him. 

“No,” he said after a moment of hesitation. “But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Everlyn give a slight nod of her head in agreement. I turn over the idea of the deal in my head again. I would still have one wish left over, and yesterday showed me just how little I knew about the forest. Also, I really had no clue where I was after blindly running around yesterdayPlus, it would be nice to have some company...  

“Fine,” I begrudgingly said with a sigh. 

“So, we have a deal?” Everett asked, extending his hand.  

I took his hand. “We have a deal.” 

Chapter Four 

“Okay, so can you explain it all to me one more time?” Everett asked as the three of us walked.  

“Fine, but only if you’ll really listen this time because I’m not explaining it again,” I huffed. When he nodded in response, I started my explanation over again, “There is only one known genie in all of Enchancia. And this one genie only appears for 3 days out of the year. The last 3 days before the winter solstice. Which is in 5 days. So, we have at least 2 at most 4 days to get to Erysichthon’s Gorge where the genie appears for one hour each day at sunrise. I will use one of my wishes to heal my mother, then I will wish whatever it is you want me to wish for you two. Got it?” 

“What are you going to use your other wish for?” Everett asked. 

“I- I had thought of that,” I realized. My second wish had always just been there. An unknown possibility but now as we got closer to the gorge... “I’ll probably just use it to get home.” I don’t want to make this journey again I added in my head. Freezing one moment, sweating the next, it wasn’t the most pleasurable experience. 

“Boring,” Everett called out. “You should at least use it for something fun. Like giving someone a green mohawk and watching them freak out. ‘Like what the heck happened to my hair!’ Bonus points if it’s someone you don’t like!” 

Everlyn let out a little snort of laughter and a small smile even spread across my lips. “What are you guys going to do with your wish?” 

Everett let out a puff of air and crossed his arms all swagger-like as he joked, “Like we’d tell you what we’re wishing for when we don’t even know your name.” 

“Iris,” I said. “My name is Iris. Now tell me what you’re using your wish on.” 

“That is for us to know and you to find out,” Everett said before Everlyn even had a chance to speak.  

“Well, you’re going to have to tell me eventually. After all, I’m the one who is making the wish.” I pointed out. 

The two shared another look and this time Everlyn spoke in a hushed voice, “We don’t even know if the genie can grant our wish. And if the genie can’t we don’t want you to feel bad about it.” 

“Oh.” We walked in silence after that, which opened my mind to the millions of things that could and probably would go wrong. And each outcome and was even more mortifying than the last. But I tried to put those thoughts aside and focus on my surroundings.  

We were in a spring pocket – as I liked to call it – of the forest right now, and the sun had just begun to set. A small stream ran along the path and a gentle evening breeze kissed my skin. I had rolled the sleeves of my shirt up and tied my coat around my waist in a snug knot. There wasn’t much I could have done for my legs, but I did the little I could and rolled up my pants legs to the best of my ability. 

We suddenly crossed a threshold and thankfully the climate change wasn’t much at all. Here the sun had already set completely and the light chirping of crickets could be heard in the background. “What time do you think it is?” I asked after a few minutes had passed in the new pocket. 

“Our bodies’ time, probably about six or seven. Here, I’d probably say three or four in the morning,” Everlyn said. 

“It’s crazy how time can be so different here. How do you make sense of it?” I asked. And Everlyn suddenly stopped, and her face took on an ashen shade. “What’s wrong?” 

“Do you hear that?” Everlyn asked in a whisper. 

“Hear what?” I whispered back.  

“Exactly. There aren’t any crickets chirping.” Everett’s face took on the same pale shade as his sister’s. 

“That’s strange,” I said. I looked around as if I could see where they had all disappeared to. But everything around us looked normal. All except for a bunch of weird mushrooms that were growing at the base of the trees.  

“Whatever you do,” Everlyn said through gritted teeth. “Don’t panic.” 

“What? Why?” I asked, a sense of dread pooling in my stomach. 

“We are in a pixie ring,” Everett said, his voice barely louder than a whisper. The pool of dread in my stomach turned into an ocean. “The pixies must be hunting right now, so that means they will be here soon. As long as we don’t make any noise and we get out of this blasted ring, we should be fine. So, walk very carefully.” 

I gave him a slight nod of my head and started towards the edge of the ring. Slowly the three of us inched along and I was careful not to step on anything besides the bare dirt. We were almost to the edge of the ring when a light tinkling filled the air.  

I whipped my head around and tiny little flashes of light danced before my eyes. Upon closer inspection, I realized that they were indeed not flashes of light, but tiny humanoid creatures, with wings, beady eyes, and razor-sharp teeth.  

The pixies were back from hunting.  

  

Chapter Five 

“Fly!” Everlyn shouted. Her wings sprouted from her back and Everett’s did the same. 

“Fly? I can’t fly!” I yelped hysteria leaking into my voice. The tinkling in the air got louder, and tiny high-pitched squeaks filled my ears. I stole a glance behind me and found the pixies chasing us at full speed, their teeth bared and ready to attack. 

“You’ll have to carry her!” Everlyn shouted over all the noise. She took off and Everett moved to pick me up. 

“Carry me?” I shrieked. “Up there. In the sky!?! There is no way I–” The rest of my sentence was replaced with a scream as Everett shot off the ground. We were leaving the ground at an alarming speed, and I closed my eyes not able to watch the ground disappear from beneath me.  

Suddenly though, we stopped. “The trees are too thick,” I heard Everlyn say. “We can’t get through.” I opened my eyes and saw a canopy of trees above us confirming she was right. I also looked down and saw that the pixies were just spots of light once more, but they were getting closer. 

“What does that mean?” I asked, my voice trembling. I could hear the tinkling now. 

“That means we have to fly low to the ground,” Everett said, and it seemed like every word pained him. The tinkling grew louder. 

“It’s too dangerous. We will have to go a lot slower, and the pixies won’t have trouble catching up with us,” Everlyn said, her voice equally frustrated and terrified. I could hear the pixies shouting now. 

“It’s our only choice.” Before Everlyn could argue Everett tightened his grip on me and plummeted towards the ground. I screamed again as the ground raced towards us and at the last second Everett turned us away from the ground and used the momentum of the fall to propel us forward through the air. 

He weaved carefully through the dense trees and Everlyn trailed right behind us. But we had to be extra careful not to crash and soon the pixies caught up with us not being hindered due to their small size. At first, I didn’t feel anything, but then the pain came. 

Tiny pricks of pain seared through my hand, like getting poked with a needle. Then the pain was in my arms, my legs, the pixies even started trying to rip through my boots. 

And then suddenly I crashed into the ground. Everett must not have been able to carry me anymore. The pixies clawed and bit at my legs as I shrieked in pain and hopelessly tried to swat them away. I eventually stopped trying to swat them away and laid there praying for death to come quickly. 

But then suddenly I heard a loud crash and shouts. I forced my eyes open and saw tall figures with torches heading towards us. The pixies stopped pummeling me, their sadistic eyes fixing on the newcomers, more meat in the fray. 

Or at least that’s what I had thought, but the pixies' malicious grins drooped into frowns, and fear took over their tiny faces as the newcomers neared us. One of the pixies let out a screech and just like that the pixies disappeared into the night. 

I felt arms wrap around me and I knew I shouldn’t let strangers just carry me away, but I was too tired and in too much pain to care. I drifted off to sleep soon after that. 

  

Chapter Six 

“Iris! Iris, wake up! Iris!” a voice whispered shouted as they shook me. I opened my eyes and saw Everlyn crouched right above me. “We have to go, now.” 

The panic in her eyes compelled me to sit up even though it caused a world of pain to explode through me. “Where are we? What’s going on?” I asked still half asleep.  

“We are in a camp, but we are leaving. They left for firewood, but they will be back soon.” Everlyn grabbed a satchel that was propped against a log and Everett came over to me and helped me up. Everlyn held out the bag to me and asked, “Do you think you can walk?” 

“Maybe,” I said. “Wait who is we?” 

“That would be us,” a voice said. I looked in the direction the voice came from and saw 3 full-grown men with firewood stepping into the light of the campfire I now spotted. The man in the middle was the one who had spoken and seemed to be the leader. He had a black scraggly beard and a long scar running from the tip of his nose to his right ear. And all of them were dressed in ragged clothing. 

“Stay away,” Everett warned. He put his arms out in front of me and Everlyn in a protective stance. 

The man laughed at the gesture. “Oh please, there is no need for that. You kids are welcome to leave whenever you like. We don’t want to hurt you. Right boys?” The men beside him nodded. “But if I may, can I suggest one thing?” When we didn’t say anything, he took that as an okay to keep talking. “Stay with us at least until sunrise. It’s dangerous out there in the woods for kids, especially at night. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, now, would we?” 

Something about all of this felt off. Something about how they were dressed, something about the scabbards hanging from their hips. Something about the slightly menacing undertone in the man’s voice. But it was also the menace in his voice that implied we had to stay. 

Slowly Everett lowered his arms back to his sides. “There ya go. We don’t want any trouble. Why don’t you have a seat, and then we can chat.” The man gestured to the big logs around the campfire, and we sat down.  

The men threw the wood they were holding into the fire and grabbed a pot of what smelled like coffee that was resting right next to it and poured themselves some. They offered us some, but Everlyn turned it down and gave Everett a glare when he was about to agree to have some.  

“Those pixies got you good,” the man said nodding towards my bandaged legs – I hadn’t noticed that they were bandaged before. My hands and arms had a few cuts, but it was my legs that had gotten the worst of it. “I wonder why you two blondies didn’t get more than a few scratches. Her legs were torn to shreds.” 

Now that it had been pointed out I did notice that Everlyn and Everett seemed to make it throw mostly unscathed. Everlyn had a few cuts on her face and neck, and Everett had some on his hands and neck as well, but that was it.  

“I guess we just got lucky,” Everlyn said with an edge in her voice. What wasn’t she saying?  

“I guess so,” the man said as he took a sip from his mug. From over the rim of his cup, his eyes ran over me in a way that made my skin crawl. “I’m Aurelius by the way and these two fine men over here are Otto and Roscoe. You kids are?” 

“I’m Sarah, these are my friends John and Emma,” Everlyn lied. I was shocked by the lie, especially by how easily it seemed to come from her, but I went with it. “Aurelius, that’s an unusual name.” 

“Yes, a family name. My parents wanted me to carry on the family legacy one would say.” 

“Interesting,” Everlyn said and gave him a tight smile.  

“What about you? A family name too or?” 

“Oh,” Everlyn said with a sigh for effect. “I wouldn’t know. The three of us were in the orphanage for as long as we can remember. They finally booted us out a year ago and we’ve been on our own since.” 

“How sad,” Aurelius lamented. “Especially for such a pretty girl like yourself.” I could see Everett tense from the corner of my eye and Everlyn suddenly seemed very uncomfortable. Even I was unsettled by the comment. 

Suddenly there was a rustling in the woods around us and footsteps sounded. Everyone’s heads snapped in the direction of the noise just as another large, raggedly dressed man emerged from the thicket.  

Aurelius let out a small laugh of what seemed like forced relief. “You gave us a fright there, Zephyr.” 

“Sorry, sir. There is a-” Zephyr looked over at me and the fairies “-a situation that we need your input on.” 

“Well, what is it?” Zephyr crossed over to Aurelius and whispered something in his ear. Aurelius whispered something back and Zephyr gave him a slight nod then left. “Sorry about that. There was a dispute among my crew that needed settling. We should be alright now.” 

“Your crew?” Everlyn asked. “I had thought it was just the three of you.” She asked the question in a manner that implied she was simply curious, but I could detect something in her voice. A strain that made my feet itch to run away from here.  

“Oh no, quite a few of us are traveling together. But you can meet them later. Right now, I am invested in you, sweetheart.” 

Everlyn’s shoulders went rigid, and Everett looked ready to strangle Aurelius. All of a sudden, I wanted very desperately to get away from here. I prayed for a distraction to present itself so we could bolt. 

“What brings the three of you all the way out here?” Aurelius asked after a few awkward moments passed.  

“Well, we-” Everlyn started but she was cut off by a loud bang in the distance.  

“What the-” Aurelius was interrupted by Zephyr crashing through the bushes again. 

“They didn’t like your answer,” Zephyr panted.  

“Oh, for the love of-” Aurelius complained. “Roscoe you come with me, Otto stay with the kids. I’ll be right back.” The three took off and as soon as their footsteps disappeared Everett charged Otto.  

He took him down with a swift kick right between the legs and the three of us took off running without needing to say anything. We rant at a full out sprint until we made it a good distance from the camp and slowed down. 

“I had a bad feeling about that place,” I said after I caught my breath. 

“That’s because they were fairy hunters,” Everett said. “And probably worse based on the way they were eyeballing you two.” 

I shuddered at the thought. “Wait. If they were fairy hunters, why wouldn’t they just capture you and leave me dead? Why even bother helping us with the pixies?” 

Everlyn answered this time. “Well since the pixies were attacking us Everett and I pulled our wings in once we couldn’t fly anymore, so they couldn’t have seen them. And since you aren’t a fairy, the pixies attacked your legs. They attack the mobilizing parts of people and then go from there, that’s what makes pixies so dangerous.  

“Anyway, since we seemed to not be as hurt, but you were they probably weren’t sure if we were fairies. That’s why I gave them fake names that seemed more human and a fake backstory. If it hadn’t been for you Everett and I would probably be dead, or worse.” 

“Wow, I didn’t even know fairy hunters were a thing. And what about your wings? Are they okay?” I asked. 

“I haven’t checked yet. Could you?” Everlyn turned around and protruded her wings. I took a sharp breath when I saw them. Her once beautiful violet wings were torn to shreds and clinging together by thin strands. “That bad, huh?” 

Her voice was so sad I couldn’t bring myself to look her in the eyes. She turned her head to look at her wings and I heard her choke down a small sob. Everett pulled her into a hug, and I couldn’t help but notice his wings were shredded too. 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, and I went to sit by a creek and give them some space. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the water as I lowered myself onto the bank. I had a cut right above my eye and a scrape on my chin. My red hair was a matted mess. My green eyes were dulled from lack of sleep and food, and my cheeks were slightly sunken.  

My stomach grumbled and I realized just how hungry I was. Now that I thought about it, I hadn’t eaten since I left home. With the time changes in the pockets, I hadn’t thought about food, too concerned with other matters.  

My mind wandered to thoughts of home. Which led to thoughts of Mother. Which led to worrying. So much worrying. How was Mom doing? Was she getting better? Worse? Was Mr. Miethe checking in on her right now? Would I ever see Mom again? I instinctively started combing my fingers through my hair – a nervous habit of mine – as I stared off into the distance, worrying about my mother and so many other things. 

“Hey,” Everett said pulling me out of my thoughts as he sat down next to me.  

“Hey. How’s Everlyn?” I asked. 

“She’ll be fine. She’s always been though.” 

“That’s good. How are you?” 

“Besides being attacked by pixies and almost kidnapped by fairy hunters?” Everett asked in a joking tone. “Pretty good.” 

I laughed a little, but it felt wrong. “Are your wings going to heal?”  

He nodded. “It’ll be a couple of days before we can fly again, but in a week or two, we should be good as new. How about you? How are your legs holding up?” 

“They’re sore, but I’m good. I’m starving though. Do you have anything to eat?” I felt a little guilty for food when he was probably just as famished, but I was so hungry I couldn’t really care. 

“Yeah, Everlyn snatched a satchel from Aurelius' camp before we left, and it’s filled with a bunch of nonperishable foods and some fruit. It’s enough to last us for at least two weeks if we’re smart about it. That should be enough to get us to Erysichthon’s Gorge and back.” 

“That’s good,” I said as I got up. “Now if we can just make it to the gorge without dying,” I joke, but the words taste bitter in my mouth. I turned and headed back to Everlyn to get some much-needed food and sleep. 

“Hey, Iris?” Everett asked. I turned around and met his pale blue eyes that were set with fierce determination. “We are going to make it to the gorge.” He said it forcefully as if he could will the words into being true. And for a second, I really felt he could. 

  

Chapter Seven 

It had been four days since we left Aurelius’ camp and we were just minutes away from Erysichthon’s Gorge. The trip had taken us longer than we liked, and we were left only with one shot to get to the genie. We were in a winter pocket and the first rays of dawn were peeking from the horizon onto the snow-covered ground which meant our one shot was now. I was minutes away from either saving my mother or losing her forever. 

My entire body was shaking by the time we reached a sign with a warning about the gorge.  

“Beware: Gorge ahead. Bridge may be out of order.” Everett said reading the sign aloud. “Guys, I had no clue there would be a gorge here in Erysichthon’s Gorge. Maybe we should go back,” he said in a pretend scared voice. 

I knew it was meant to be a way to lighten to mood but all I could think about was how pivotal these next few minutes of my life were, and how much I had riding on them.  

There was a hill in front of us and when we crested it Erysichthon’s Gorge came into view. As I took in the sight I realized why no one came back from the gorge. The ground dropped off abruptly, and there was no bridge across. And the only way down to the bottom of the gorge was a set of crumbling stone stairs on the other side. 

“What do we do now?” Everlyn asked. I hadn’t thought of this. I’d been so focused on just getting to the gorge I hadn’t thought of what to do if we couldn’t get there.  

“Could we fly down?” I asked trying to problem solve. 

“No, our wings are still too damaged. Maybe they could support us flying down there, but we couldn’t carry you down.” Everlyn sighed. “Which is just peachy because the only one we really need down there is you.” 

“Great,” Everett said sarcastically. “So, we came all this way for nothing.” 

I searched the gorge once more and every logical reason told me that he was right. We had come all this way for nothing, and we should turn around and head home before we froze to death. But something in me refused to believe that.  

I raced to the bottom of the hill and came up short just at the edge of the cliff that led down to at least a two-hundred-foot drop into the gorge. Without thinking I scooped up a handful of snow and threw it out over the gorge. Some of the snow fell, but other bits just seemed to vanish. 

“Iris!” Everlyn called out from on top of the hill. “What in all of Enchancia are you doing?”  

I knew it was crazy, but maybe if the snow didn’t fall... 

Oh my goodness, Everett, I think she is going to jump!” As I hesitantly picked up my foot, I heard Everlyn and Everett racing down the hill and shouting for me to stop but I didn’t listen. I placed my foot down and hit something solid. 

I looked down in disbelief and saw my foot hovering midair. I let out a gasp of doubtfulness and placed my other foot on the invisible surface. I walked a couple more steps and was about ten feet out when the fairies' shouts stopped. 

I looked back over my shoulder and saw them both staring at me in shock. “It’s solid,” I called back to them. “Come on.” 

“Iris, it’s not solid,” Everett said his voice shocked. 

“What do you mean? I threw snow and it just disappeared. I’m walking on something solid.” 

“Iris, you’re levitating. You have magic.” Everlyn breathed.  

“What? No! I don’t have magic. Try walking across.” 

“I did,” Everett said. “I would be dead now if Everlyn hadn’t grabbed my wrist soon enough. The only thing that makes sense is you have magic.” 

“I-” I started but stopped. Now that I thought about it, there were many strange coincidences in my life. Things I couldn’t explain. Maybe I did have magic. Maybe I was levitating two hundred feet in the air.  

Just thinking about it I felt like I was going to hurl. The ground beneath me felt like it was starting to soften and when I looked around, I realized I was sinking. Panic gripped me, but the ground quickly solidified under me confirming Everlyn’s suspicions. 

I had magic. 

“What does it mean?” I asked, talking more to myself than the fairies. 

“It means you still need to get down to the genie and make your wishes before he’s gone for good!” Everett called out. “We’ll fly ourselves down. You just worry about yourself!” 

I gave him a nod, nowhere near his level of enthusiasm. My mouth went dry as I turned back to the long stretch of air I had to walk over. No big deal, right? I took a shaky breath as I braved another step across the gorge. Then another step. And another and another and another. 

In a few minutes I reached the stairs, and then after a couple more I was at the bottom of the gorge with Everlyn and Everett. “Thank goodness you’re here!” Everett exclaimed, exasperated when he spotted me. “Miss chatterbox over here has been talking my ear off with her constant worrying. A few more minutes and I think I wouldn’t have been able to fight the urge to knock her unconscious.” 

Everett playfully elbowed Everlyn but she didn’t find it funny. “Let’s just get this over with. I’m ready to go home.” 

“Me too,” I said, and we headed into the cave that lay in front of us. The cave was dark, and damp, and had the unpleasant odor of something rotting. After a few moments in darkness passed, torches entered our line of vision. The path lead straight for a while before we approached a curve. 

When we rounded the bend, we encountered what I could only assume was the genie. He looked... strange 

A sapphire cloud of smoke hovered a few feet above the ground held together by some invisible force. The genie seemed to be constantly moving and swirling around in a shapeless blob and when he spoke a white light flashed in the middle corresponding with the words. 

“Iris Wallen, daughter of Daphne Wallen, Everett and Everlyn Vince, children of Fallon and Rosalyn Vince, I have been awaiting your arrival.” The genie’s thunderous voice echoed throughout the cavern, commanding authority. “Sit. We have much to discuss.” 

  

Chapter Eight 

Four plush cushions appeared on the ground. Three formed a semi-circle around the fourth one in the middle. Everlyn and Everett took the two on right, I took the one on the left, and the genie hovered ominously above the middle cushion.  

“How did you know we were coming?” Everett asked after we had all gotten situated.  

“I know much,” replied the genie. “I know that the three of you came here together through a trick of fate. I also know how hard you worked to get here. And why.” 

“You do?” I asked with a gulp, unable to keep the fear out of my voice. 

“I do.” The genie said to me. “I know you came here in search of a cure for your mother’s sickness. And I know the fairies came here hoping I would be able to reunite them with their brother.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the two siblings turn pale. Everlyn looked as if the suspense was killing her. 

“Can you?” she asked quietly. The frail words hung out in the open with so much weight on them it was a wonder they didn’t shatter as they rolled off her tongue. “Can you bring him back to us?” 

The genie paused for a moment as if he were sighing. “No,” he said after what seemed like an eternity. “Sadly, there are some things beyond even my power, and bringing your brother back is among them. I truly am sorry.” 

A choked sob sounded from Everlyn, and Everett pulled her close. The genie shifted towards me. “As for you Iris, your mother’s aliment is not of a magical root, but it also is not from an outward source.” He said the words like they were supposed to mean something to me, but he was only telling me something I already knew. “There was no outward pathogen or bacteria that infected her, causing her declining health. It is simply the way her body is functioning.” 

“What are you trying to tell me?” I asked. 

“Your mother is dying of natural causes, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.” The words rolled around in my head for a moment, before my mind registered them. And when it did, I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces and sink into an endless void in my stomach. Falling so far down they would never be recovered. 

I wouldn’t have a mother anymore. I wouldn’t hear my mother’s laugh again or feel her warm touch melt my cares away. I would never come home from school to the smell of warm cookies and tackle Mother in a hug. There wouldn’t be any more Iris and Mom fun nights where we stayed up well past midnight and laughed off to sleep. I would be alone. Unbearably alone. 

But,” the genie said jarring me out of my thoughts. “There may still yet be something you can do. Though it will come with a price.” 

“What?” I asked desperately, prepared to pay any price if it meant Mother living.  

“I may not be able to do anything about your mother’s situation, but you may.” The genie paused for a moment to let the words sink in. “I cannot save your mother since her death is a way of nature, and I cannot affect that being a force of nature myself. But if a being with nature magic were to funnel their power through a magical conductor of sorts, they could. And you, Iris, have nature magic. When you walked across the gorge you were indeed walking on a surface, you condensed the air without realizing it to the point where you could walk on it. Which is a tremendous feat even for the most skilled of nature mages. So, if you were to channel your abilities through a magical conductor like an amulet or other talisman, you just might be able to bend the very will of nature, saving your mother. 

“But I must warn you. All magic comes with a price, and the stronger the magic is the larger the debt is owed. And it won’t be mortal money that is due. It may be anything from a day or two of bad luck to losing years of your life. The choice is yours, but do not say I didn’t warn you. Choose wisely.” 

I weighed the decision in my head. I mentally stacked up all the possible bad outcomes on one side of a scale, and it went down hard. But as soon as I placed my mother living on the other side, the scale tipped over to my mother instantly. “I wish for an amulet to channel my magic through,” I said before I could change my mind. 

A rumbling shook the cave as the smoke of the genie started to swirl around violently. The smoke spun so fast a breeze started to swirl through my hair and I had to raise my arm to shield my eyes from the pebbles plying around. And through all the chaos of the genie, I saw a necklace start to take shape. 

It materialized slowly from the smoke swirling around, and when the winds died down and the genie settled, the necklace was held out to me on a wisp of blue smoke. I tentatively reached out and grabbed the amulet. The charm on the thread of silver was a rich purple crystal that caught the light at every angle.  

I fastened it around my neck, and when I looked up to thank the genie, he was gone. I stole a glance over at , who seemed fine aside from her puffy eyes and red nose. Everett gaped at the empty space where the genie was and then remarked, “That... was awesome!” 

I gave him a light laugh but then walked over to Everlyn, my voice taking on a somber tone. “I am so sorry about your brother. I had no idea. I’m so sorry.” 

“It’s okay,” Everlyn said with a shrug. “I wasn’t expecting the genie to help anyway. It’s just hard hearing that he really is gone. I was going to have to face it sooner or later though I guess.” Her voice hitched on the last word and I pulled her in for a hug, figuring that after everything we had gone through together it was more than appropriate. 

After she pulled away she wiped a tear from her cheek and said, “Let’s get you home now, so you can go bend the will of nature.” I laughed at her joke and the three of us left the cavern and started the long journey home.  

  

The End. 


Submitted: October 08, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Sophia T.. All rights reserved.

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