Stars Over Llorleya- Chapter 18
Chapter the Eighteenth
Loth’s thoughts proved prophetic, despite that she was the only one who knew them.
The stars didn’t waste time. They didn’t ask Aria her story; that wasn’t their object. They were there to teach her to be a star, not to hear about her life. Aria shouldn’t have minded- she was getting tired of telling her life’s story over and over- but she did mind. She wanted them to care what she had gone through. She wanted them to know who their princess was.
The stars weren’t insensitive monsters. They just didn’t have the time. I mean, their king was close to dying, and if he died without someone to take his place then the whole star nation would be doomed. And their princess, their king’s only heir, knew practically nothing. They had to be fully devoted to her startraining.
Aria didn’t have time to stroll the beach with Rayne or explore the woods anymore. Her day was jam-packed with training. She was taught fighting techniques by Raphael, Aero, and Tyri, given voice lessons by Lark and June, and Myra and Silver were trying to teach her how to fly and shine- two things that can’t be taught. Seeing as Myra and Silver had no success, all the stars joined in. But they were making one mistake: Aria wasn’t happy.
Stars can’t shine when they’re unhappy. It’s just not possible. They aren’t built to do it and it wouldn’t do a bit of good if they could. Shining with joy is one of the main characteristics of stars.
On the other hand, they can fly in sadness, but Aria had only ever come close in moments of extreme joy. And the poor girl was thoroughly miserable.
After that first joy with her people had worn off, Aria was just so busy that she hardly ever got to rest. Her singing voice grew hoarse, she was tired all the time, and her actions lacked their usual liveliness. Rayne was sure she was sick.
"She’s being pushed too hard," Rayne insisted to Raphael, the lead star. "She needs some rest. See how pale she is?"
Raphael, accordingly, saw; and he too found something lacking in Aria. "Maybe you’re right," he said with a grim frown.
"Well, of course I am!" said Rayne.
"I’m sorry- what’s your name?" said Raphael, turning.
"Rayne," said Rayne.
"Well, I’m sorry, Rayne, but I can’t do anything about Aria until we know she’s sick for sure. Besides, stars don’t get sick."
"This star does," said Rayne angrily.
"Then maybe she is not a star," said Raphael coldly, although he knew perfectly well that Aria was.
"Anyone can be overworked," said Rayne. Then she turned on her heel and stormed away, to try to convince the elves. She muttered darkly, "Well, when Aria dies you’ll have your proof that she was sick."
Rayne wasn’t far off. With all the startraining, small battles with the humans who were still coming in droves, and desire to go back to Llorleya, Aria was completely overwhelmed.
Raphael stood with Aria outside in the garden. "Close your eyes," he said.
Flight training again.
"This isn’t going to work," said Aria tiredly. She always spoke tiredly now.
"Just close them, please, Princess," he said.
"Aria," murmured Aria, closing her eyes.
Raphael smiled, not hearing- or ignoring- her. "Now imagine- you say you like to imagine things- imagine you are flying. Really picture it."
"I feel dizzy," said Aria.
Raphael laughed. Her first joke in a week. "No, be serious. Pretend the wind is rushing by you-"
"I- I am serious," said Aria, swaying. Suddenly she collapsed in a heap on the ground.
Immediately Raphael had her in his arms, looking a little stricken. He quickly recovered, however, and carried her, flying, back to the elves. Rayne met him at one of the entrances to the tree house.
"Aria!" She stared at her friend. "What have you done to her? Is she all right?" Rayne, while motioning elves over to help her, tried to wrestle Aria from Raphael.
"She’s fine," said Raphael, gravely surrendering the princess to the elves. "She passed out." He looked at Rayne steadily. "I’m sorry. I should have listened to you when you said to let her rest."
Rayne looked back at him, flustered. "Um, thank you, I think."
"I am only giving apology where it is due," said Raphael, who bowed and turned to the elves. "I will notify the other stars of what has happened. Be sure to tell us when she comes to." With this, he left.
Aria awoke to bright light. She shielded her eyes. "Close the shades, please!" she said, in a voice much stronger and clearer than it had been for a long time.
"You’re awake!" said a thunderous voice joyfully, clear and beautiful as mountains and sky and icy rivers. Aria knew it to be Tyri. She lowered her eyes and saw the shades were actually still closed; the light she saw came from her starfriend, who was shining like a maniac, with a grin stretching from ear to ear.
She giggled a little. "Hello, Tyri! Yes, I’m awake. It’s good to see you," she said happily. Tyri was once of the more extroverted stars, always "out-there" and ready with a welcome.
"It’s good to hear you laugh!" said Tyri. "Fainting must have been the trick to make you feel better," he said smilingly.
"Oh, so that’s what happened," said Aria, laughing again. "I thought maybe I had fallen asleep in the middle of training."
"See, I told them all you needed was rest! And now she’s laughing," said Rayne’s voice. The tall red-haired wanderer swept into the room and embraced Aria. "You haven’t laughed in such a long time. Oh, I missed you!"
"Me too," said Aria, a bit unwilling to be released from Rayne’s vise-like grip.
Rayne sat on the bed. "So how are you?"
"Much better," said Aria emphatically. "Much, much, much better." She smiled.
"I’m sorry, Princess." Raphael came into the room.
Aria started. So many people coming at once. "Sorry?" she asked.
Raphael nodded slowly. "For working you so hard. We need to start over, princess. From the beginning." He bowed.
Aria lighted up almost as noticeably as the other stars had. "If we’re starting from the beginning, then please- call me Aria."
The stars did "start over", and what a wonderful job they redid. Aria got to know her people a little better. The stars were very different from each other in nature; so individual.
Raphael was the leader; pensive, quiet, strong, and serene.
Tyri was huge, heavily muscled, cheerful, unabashed about things, and deadly with an ax.
Myra was quiet and beautiful, mostly silent; she often slipped away and smiled or wept to herself about things Aria had no part of. Silver- another star- seemed to like Myra very much and understand her, and every now and then Aria would see the two of them talking, a smile on Myra’s face and Silver’s arms around her. Silver also was a master fencer and seemed to care for little else (though at present he was absorbed with Aria’s flying lessons).
June was light and airy and full of laughter, and completely in love with her husband, Lark. Lark also loved his wife- they were very devoted to each other; and her sprightly effervescence was tempered in turn by his gentle seriousness.
Aero was fairly young; he was wild, dark-eyed, and dark-haired, but no one was to be equaled with him in marksmanship.
Aria realized that these were people, too; with their own individual stories, problems, loves, hates, passions, concerns. I wish I had the time to go into each of their stories and write them all down for you.
And one day, it happened. Aria’s star came out.
It started with Silver and Myra. As I have mentioned, Silver liked Myra very much indeed. As I have said, I can’t recount their entire backround, but I can tell you in part. He was very gentle with her. He knew a little of what she had gone through, and understood- he had gone through much himself. He knew there was that common bond, at least. In time, he came to know he loved her. However, he had no idea of her feelings.
But one day, during training, Myra spoke to Aria and Raphael and the other stars. She came forward shyly, holding Silver’s hand. All that day she had been smiling and laughing and talking and being uncharacteristically cheerful and sociable. "I- I have an announcement," she said a little nervously.
All heads turned to her expectantly- which probably only served to make her more nervous. She looked back at Silver, who smiled. Reassured, she continued, blushing. "Silver and I are engaged."
Cheers rose up from the stars, and then, unexpectedly, from the elves. Myra blushed deeper, shyly retreating into Silver’s embrace.
That’s when Aria’s restraint broke. She shot up into the air, spinning like a merry-go-round. She began glowing like the sun, even throwing off a few golden sparks from her fingertips. She flew back down and hugged Myra and Silver, smiling rapturously, and congratulating them as though nothing unusual had just happened to her.
She looked around at the other stars, who were shining at her so very gloriously that it unnerved her. "What? What did I do?" she asked, bewildered, her glow fading, but only a little.
"Your star came out!" bellowed Tyri, clamping her in a giant golden bear-hug. Or, in this case, starhug.
She looked down at herself, and noticed finally the soft golden-white shine in her skin, and the fact that her feet had again risen an inch off the ground. "I did!" she exclaimed, brightened and whirling around.
Now you may, in your heart, proclaim Aria very dull-witted indeed for not knowing; but you would be wrong in saying so. For when it came to it, being a star was so utterly natural to her that it was as though she had always been that way.
The other stars rose up with Aria, laughing and celebrating. A sort of party was held with the elves to rejoice over this change.
Startraining was a little different after that. The star fighting techniques were easier to learn, flying lessons were only for strength and improvement, and singing lessons were for the most part unnecessary. Aria flew rather than walked as often as she could, though at first that was never for long (she was still learning), and later she learned that it was sometimes best to walk when around elves or humans.
But this story can not be all pleasant, no matter how much I wish it could be. For interwoven with these things, there were still the ever-present humans, and battles with them.
And things that weren’t battles, but were just as important.
One day Loth strode into Aria’s room at the tree-house, holding a helm.
Aria had been trying to play a harp Myra had loaned her (and been finding out she was not very good at it), but on Loth’s entrance she stood up immediately, her glow winking out in a moment’s time. "What’s wrong?" (Loth was away from the fray, which must mean something terrible had happened.)
Loth’s face was grim, and she extended the helm to Aria. "This is the helm of one of the soldiers. There’s a symbol on it. I thought you should see it. I remembered… I remembered something you said awhile back."
Aria cocked her head curiously, but took it from Loth’s hands. She rubbed at the helm with her palm, cleaning off the dirt and dried blood, and grimacing as she did it. Eventually she had it clean enough to see the symbol Loth had mentioned. "Oh, no," she said, covering her mouth. The helm was engraved with a hissing snake. Terror filled her eyes. "It’s Torlith’s crest!"
The elves had been fighting too long. The humans just kept coming. And now, with the matter of Torlith, all the elves (and stars and Aria, too) were called together. Besides this, the messengers that had been sent to the Elflords were returning, and most of the Elflords had sent word that they were coming. But in the meantime, something had to be done.
"We’ve called this council to see what can be done about the human Torlith’s attacks," announced Thrond.
A young elf called out from the back, "Nothing can be done! They want the Princess-girl!"
"My cousin," whispered Loth to Aria, as though that were an explanation for his hot-headed exclamations.
"Those are irrelevant statements," Thrond pointed out. "At least to each other. And they don’t want Aria, because they don’t know she’s here. They’re most likely not after anything, they just want to conquer."
"Inconsiderate humans," a voice muttered. "Never think of the other creatures who were here first, the greedy monsters."
Out of context Aria and Rayne might have been offended by this.
"I say we give them the girl in return for them leaving!" called another young elf.
Is he also your cousin? thought Aria with a glance at Loth. She might have said it aloud, except that just then the group of stars stepped forward around her, blazing with anger, and Loth sprang forward in defense, sword unsheathed. Rayne, being unarmed, simply pulled Aria closer protectively.
"Just try to take her!" Loth cried.
"We will show you what it means to try to harm our future Queen!" cried Raphael.
Aria quickly saw what was happening, and it frightened her. Her fear was not initially for herself, but because the dissension was occurring at all. She pushed forward and stepped between the two groups. "Please, stop!" she cried. "We won’t gain anything by clawing at each other’s throats! This is just what Torlith wants!"
Thrond stepped forward. "She is right. We must be clear-headed." In a louder, more authoritative voice, he continued, "We will not sacrifice the princess. You are forgetting she is the only heir to the Starking’s throne, as Raphael has pointed out. She is also only heir to the Llorleyan throne, and she is her peoples’ only hope in both places. Even if she were not, we would not give her up so barbarically as you suggest."
"The way I see it," said Loth, reluctantly sheathing her sword, "we must defeat the source, who, Aria says, is Torlith, the man who took Llorleya from her Uncle."
There were protests. Some elves even laughed at the idea, sneering or ridiculing Loth. Some were more polite, or thoughtful about it, but the majority of the responses went like this:
"Go to Llorleya?"
"She’s crazy- the young one has been hit one too many times with training swords." (Loth was a little indignant about this comment- not so much the accusation that she was out of her mind, but the belief that she was bad enough at swordplay to actually get hit!)
"This is a madelf’s talk!"
"Llorleya is none of our business!"
The others said much of the same thing.
"None of our business?" repeated Loth. "If it’s none of our business, then we can just let Torlith’s hordes attack us forever! If Llorleya is none of our business, why is their Princess here?" Softer, almost to herself, she murmured, "No one comes to the Elf Havens lightly. Llorleya is definitely our business." She sighed. A long, deep sigh. "We don’t need anymore elves to die. Like Findahla. Like Tarin. Like Kiwa or Jirik or Lyre…" Loth broke off.
The elves were very still now.
Loth continued, her voice much stronger. "This is something we need to do. Not just for the elves, but also for Princess Aria and the Llorleyans." And Loth looked at them so pleadingly that it seemed to Aria that tears were filling Loth’s eyes.
There was complete silence in the room for at least two minutes.
Finally Thrond spoke, slowly and deliberately. "When the other lords arrive, we shall hold another council," he said briefly. "Loth, you may have your way."
The silence remained unbroken, and the elves slowly left the room, considering what had just happened. Aria was lit up like a Christmas tree bulb. Thank you, Loth, she thought. Maybe I will get back to Llorleya after all.