She just wanted to feel free for the first time. However, she was never meant to end up in his world.
“Come on,” I grumbled, tugging at my brother’s sleeve. “Let’s go outside and do something!”
He jerked his arm away from me as he pulled out one of his earphones. “Stop bugging me, Kris,” he scowled. “If you’re bored here, then just leave!”
I scrunched up my nose at his attitude. If he was going to act like such a jerk, I’d rather go explore the garden alone. I didn’t need him to have fun anyway.
“Fine, you stay here with your stupid rock music and sulk then!”
I stomped out of the living room with a huff. I grabbed my cardigan from the coat rack, but I didn’t get very far. Mom yelled for me from the kitchen.
“Kristen, where are you going?” She came out to the hall, wiping her hands on the apron around her waist. “Dinner’s almost ready!”
I slipped the cardigan over my shoulders, then I tied up my hair. “I’m not gonna take long. I’ll be back soon, okay?”
“Why isn’t Liam going with you?” she asked again. “You should have your older brother watch over you.”
I stuck out my tongue at the mention of him. “No way, I’m 14! I can take care of myself.”
“Alright, but you have to be back right away,” Mom sighed. “You know that Grandma doesn’t want anyone outside once it’s dark.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I’m gonna head out.” I didn’t wait for her goodbye, as I opened the front door and walked out into the lawn.
The summer breeze brushed past me, while the sky faded into twilight. Pinks and purples had spread across the blue sky, while streaks of yellow orange peaked from the horizon. I couldn’t even see the sun past the mountains anymore.
I always liked the sun. It was a dependable constant of every day. Too bad that I missed watching the sunset.
I continued walking through the lawn, making a right turn towards the bushes. I squeezed past overgrown plants, since it hid the stone path below. The leaves crunched under my shoes, and I finally found the water fountain that Grandma used to love. As a kid, I only caught a glimpse of it when I visited. The stones were now scuffed, littered with moss and flowers. It looked really old and forgotten. Clearly, Grandma didn’t look after it after Grandpa passed away. After all, he was the one who built it.
He always had a fascination with magical creatures and fantastical tales. He would tell us stories of different myths or legends he’d known over the years. That was why he sculpted a miniature elf for the center of the fountain. It was sitting at the very top, arms outstretched in front of it.
For some reason, I was drawn to it. I carefully climbed over the edge of the fountain, past the still water below. It took a while before my feet found a safe landing at the center’s base.
“I should’ve thought this through,” I whispered to myself, as I tried to stand up. I held on tightly to one of the basins built at the center for dear life. I didn’t want to get soaked in murky water.
Once I had a secure grip, I let my finger trace over its face. It was smooth to the touch and the details put into it were incredible. Though, I squinted once I got a proper look. The statue’s eyes were open, but I could have sworn that it was closed before. It was at that moment when the head turned by a little, and I froze up.
A gasp was all I could get out as my feet slipped. Panic flooded me, so did the water as my entire body crashed into it. Before I knew it, I was submerged underwater and I had to hold in my breath. I thrashed my limbs, trying to get back to the surface yet the water kept pulling me down.
Was this how I’d die?
I opened my mouth to scream, only for water to fill my lungs. I couldn’t see anything past the dark water and the flurry of bubbles that surrounded me. If I stopped moving, I was almost sure I’d pass out.
A voice called out to me from above. I couldn’t make out who it was since the water drowned them out. Suddenly, two hands appeared through the water. I struggled against the pressure, but I was barely in reach. I was sinking deeper and deeper, as the cold abyss swallowed me further to the bottom. There was no point in fighting against it.
Or so I thought.
A pair of arms wrapped around me, and I came face to face with a boy I couldn’t see clearly. My sight was blurred with large ripples distorting his face. He swam upwards and hoisted me tightly onto him.
I quickly sucked in air the moment I rose up. I got into a loud fit of coughing and gasping, while I felt him carry me out of the water. He then set me down on the ground, and I had never been more grateful to be touching dirt in my whole life. I trembled violently as it dawned on me that I could have died.
I rasped out, “Thanks for saving me…”
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“…I’m sorry?” I turned my head to him, brushing my wet hair away from my face.
He just stared back at me, and his unusual pink eyes caught my attention. I’d never seen anything like them before. They looked too real to be fake.
“You’re human, right?” he spoke again, wringing out the excess water from his clothes.
At that point, I was beyond confused. “Yeah… why?” I asked.
“Then you don’t belong here.”
His words irked me, and I wasn’t going to let him talk to me that way. I slowly picked myself up to stand, taking him by surprise as I grabbed his collar.
“Listen here, buddy,” I fumed, “I dunno who you think you are but you don’t get to talk to me like that!”
His eyebrows furrowed together, as I finally got a proper look at him.
“Wait, why’re you dressed like that?” I questioned, eyeing him up and down. “And why’re your ears poking outta’ your hair?”
Now that I thought about it, he looked like a character straight out of a kids’ fairytale book. What a weird get-up for someone my age.
“I don’t need to tell you anything.”
“Yeah, you do!” I yelled, pushing him back. “What are you doing in my grandma’s house?!”
He narrowed his gaze at me. “Take a look around.”
“I know where I am!” I gestured at my surroundings. “I’m at my grandma’s…”
My voice died down, as I noticed that plenty of trees surrounded us. I looked behind me, expecting to see the water fountain yet a big lake was in its place. I blinked several times, my head snapping in every direction. No matter where I turned, there was no sign of the house. Instead, I was in the middle of a forest with a strange boy beside me.
“W-What’s going on here?” I quivered, stepping away from him. “Where am I?”
He scratched the back of his head, as he reluctantly said, “You’re in Vinerim.”
“And where’s that supposed to be?” I snapped.
“Home of the Northern Elves.”
I gaped at him, eyes widening. There was no way that I heard him right, maybe it was the water in my ears.
I whispered, “Did you just say… elves?”
He gave me a curt nod, and I didn’t know whether to laugh at him or run away. Either he was crazy, or I was too deep in this dream to wake myself up.
I turned around, then slapped myself on the face.
“This is just a weird dream!” I chanted to myself, burying my head in my hands. “I’ll wake up soon, no biggie! This can’t be real at all—”
I shrieked when I felt his hand land on my shoulder. If he hadn’t caught me, I would have stumbled right back in the water.
“You’re awfully jumpy.” He sighed, dragging me back on my feet. “Just stop panicking, okay?”
I pried his hands off me instantly. “Shut up! I’m the one who’s lost here, and I don’t know who you are!”
“Well, I’m Arin,” he said. “I’m sure you figured out I’m an elf by now.”
I shot him a deadpan look. “Yeah, I got that.”
He shook his head at me, as he continued, “Listen, you have to get out of here. It isn’t safe for someone like you to be wandering around these parts.”
“Then what do you think I should do?” I cut him off. “C’mon tell me, since you keep talking!”
I was not prepared for him to pick me up at all. Next thing I knew, he’d thrown me over his shoulder and proceeded to walk.
“Wha— hey!” I protested, as I tried to wriggle myself free. “Let me go, you big jerk!”
“Do you want to die out here?”
“I’d rather die than go anywhere with you!” I seethed, hitting him on the back. “Where are you taking me?!”
“You’ll find out,” he called behind his shoulder.
I gave up fighting against him. He was a lot stronger than I was, which sucked. I just hoped that if he was gonna kill me, he’d make it quick and painless.
I chose not to say a word as he carried me past the towering trees around us. Sure, it was pretty awkward but it wasn’t like I had another choice. If I ignored how insane the whole situation was, the entire forest looked pretty magical.
The trees ranged from greens and yellow-oranges to pinks, blues, and lavender. The ground shimmered beneath us, and I looked up to find this massive four-legged animal with horns staring at me from the distance.
“Woah, what is that?”
I tapped on the elf’s shoulder to catch his attention. He turned his head in the direction I pointed at.
“That’s an Eiludir,” he replied. “They’re the protectors around these parts. Probably best if you didn’t stare at them too much.”
Even from afar, I could tell it was absolutely huge. Its fur was pure white, glittering like the rainbow as the sun hit its body. The blue horns it had were so intricate, twisting in a swirling pattern on top of its head.
“Are there more of them?” I asked.
It looked strangely familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on it.
“Nah, they usually appear alone.”
“…They’re rare to this land,” I slowly whispered to myself, “appearing once every new moon.”
He stopped on his tracks, whipping his head to me. I was just about to complain when he spoke up.
“How’d you know that?”
My muscles immediately tensed. I could lie, but that could just get me killed. He didn’t trust me and I definitely didn’t trust him either.
“I-I don’t know how,” I carefully answered. “I just… remember my grandpa used to tell me stories as a kid.”
I waited for his reply, but nothing.
He kept his mouth shut, which honestly scared me a little bit inside. Of course, there wasn’t a chance I was gonna let him know that. I was keeping my cool.
After a while, I started feeling sick and the pressure against my stomach built up. The whole position he had me in was so miserable, and he wouldn’t even let me walk.
“Are we there yet?” I groaned, my body swaying at his every step and turn. “I’m getting dizzy over here!”
Well, so much for keeping my cool.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re here,” he muttered. “If I set you down, will you wander off?”
“No,” was all I managed to say. “I won’t.”