"Once upon a time-"
"Is this going to be one of those stories again?" complains Lillah.
I sigh. "Can I please tell the story in peace tonight?"
She folds her arms. "Well, fine then."
"Thank you." I pause and take a deep breath, trying to concentrate. "Once upon a time, the world use to be ruled by humans. Ordinary, weak-"
"Hey, I'm a human!" interjects my sister. Well, adoptive sister.
"I know, Lovella. But I'm trying to set the mood of the story."
"Well, you don't have to be that convincing."
"Yes, I do." I rub my temples with my index finger and thumb. "That's the whole point of telling a good story."
"Ugh, fine. Continue." And she brushes back her white braid and slouches.
"Thank you." I huff out a breath, again trying to concentrate at the story, then repeat, "Once upon a time, the world use to be ruled by humans. Ordinary, weak, powerless, mortal humans." I hear a muffled comment, but ignore it. "The closest humans -during that time- got to actual power was all superficial things. It was all based on fear... and wealth, of course. Kings, queens, and lords of the human race used intimidation and armies to keep this so-called power of theirs, and tried to show off how much power they had to other kings, queens and lords.
"But... did they really have power?" I hear some negate and scoff the idea, and others merely shake their heads, and I smile at the response. This is the response I wanted. "Well, the answer to this is... yes. Yes, they did have power."
The audience immediately begins to question my sanity for such a statement, asking me if this would turn into some joke, and I try to calm them down, but they continue to argue. I immediately start to regret my wording and shrink in my seat. I don't want them to hate me over a story. Maybe I should tell another, one less... controversial.
That's until someone comes to my aide. "Just let her get on with the story, will you? You asked for a story and she's giving you one, now pipe down." Of course, they listen to him. He turns to me. "They're all yours now."
I blush, smile appreciatively and nod shyly. "Thanks, Leif."
He winks at me. "No problem." And he sits back down.
A tad flustered, I clasp my hands and pick up where I left off. "Yes, humans did have power. As afore mentioned, they had the power of intimidation. They learned to use it very well. They had such expertise in this weapon of sorts, they kept the people with real power beneath them. Us. They had us scared to show our faces. And why, you may ask? Because when we did, we were persecuted and discriminated against. And not just by not allowing us to live in their towns, we were burned at the stake, convicted of heresy for the acts we could commit. We were shunned and shed under a bad light. Humans made up lies about us and told everyone to fear us, not necessarily because we were dangerous, but because we didn't fit into to what they considered 'normal'.
"So for centuries, we stayed in hiding. Living in the woods, forests, or where ever humans didn't inhabit. It grew tiring and bothersome after some time, and our ancestors wished to do something about their predicament. As some of us know, the ancestors of our land and nearby lands weren't always in peace with another. But they decided to put differences and rivalries aside to take down a common oppressor. Though they were greatly outnumbered, plans of a rebellion were being made in the forests. Wizards, elves, fairies, giants, wood nymphs, shape shifters, ogres, any magical being was involved in the process for over a year. Everything had to be strategic and swift in order for the people of our minor population to do any damage.
"And it was. On a seemingly ordinary day, they struck. They stormed the castles of the human's leaders all over this land at the exact time, using the sun as their signal. The leaders began lining up their guards as protection, but they were easily wiped out. Kings put up the biggest wall of protection, but with the aide of wizards, every soldier could be wiped out simultaneously. So it didn't take long to reach the interior of the castles. Soon enough, our leaders were face to face, giving them a choice, leave with nothing but their lives, or be killed like the many men they sent out in their name. They gave them the choice because they weren't cruel like humans were. Most were smart enough to leave. Others... weren't as easy to get rid of. They tried to resist. But that was soon taken care of. Their memories were erased, and they forgot everything about themselves.
"It only took one day here, but all over the country and all over the world, magical beings were rebelling and successfully coming out on top. Other rebellions were more violent, causing friction between kingdoms, but within a year, the rule of humans was over. It was about equality now. Any human that helped the rebellion, and there were some, was asked to be part of a new government. A representative of each magical being sat on the Council, plus that human. There was no longer one solitary leader, it was a group, who voted and got to give their opinions. Of course because it was so new, there were flaws and they were trying to be worked out as efficiently as possible. But for the most part, everyone was happy, even humans because they got to have their say as well. Things were good for a while. Equality had been reached... or so it seemed."
I pause for a moment and took a deep breath. I know everyone knows what's coming up next.
"Secretly, not everyone believed in equality. And it wasn't the humans. They eventually came to terms with the new system, even realizing the errors of their ways. But someone thought their opinions should matter more than others because they had more power, literally, then the others." I look around the circle of people and drop to a low whisper. "Wizards." A hiss circulates through the group. "Wizards thought they deserved the role of figureheads for the new government. And naturally, they were shot down because that went against the policy of equality. But that didn't stop them. Slowly, they gained more power in government. They tampered with memories, poisoned anyone who went against them, and possibly killed some people as well. Laws began to restrict everyone else. They became unfit to be in their presence. They began segregation. Even humans didn't have actual laws like these. And eventually, any non-wizard was pushed away from the towns.
"Then one day altogether, wizards just took over. Non-wizard Council members were killed with no negotiations. Any remaining non-wizards in towns were killed or driven out forcibly. They were told never to step on their land again or else be punished. So wizards had become the thing they hated so much- humans- only much, much worse. And at first, there was merely a huge sum to pay if contact was made, but some liked pushing wizards to their limits, so it changed to a whipping or torture. But even then, people liked pressing them, so the latest and permanent penalty is death. Any contact with a wizard means certain death. But that probably comes with a round of torture beforehand because wizards have become such cruel beings."
I hadn't realized my hands were in fists until now. I unclench my hands, flex my fingers and sigh.
"So for centuries, it has been like that- like this. There's been talk of another rebellion, but they've only been rumors. And there are also whispers of a..." I struggle with this last part. "...Of a secret society where wizards and non-wizards live in peace. Many people have gone in search of it, but... never return. It's believed wizards capture them and..." I can't bear to finish this sentence. I trail off, spacing out, but notice everyone's staring at me. So I clap my hands together once. "The end."
"That's it?" gripes my friend Whisp.
Her twin brother rolls his eyes. "What did you expect? A happily ever after?"
"Shut it, Darnasi," she snaps. And the two begin a bickering match as they always do completely forgetting about me and the story.
"Are you okay?" another friend asks. Flo lands on my knee and crosses her legs. "I know that last part must have been-"
"You sure?" Her pink eyes flicker up.
"Yeah, I'm fine." But that's a lie. "Actually, n-"
"Hey, why don't we all head over to the field?!" suggest one of the twins. "Wasn't there a herd of unicorns grazing there earlier?"
Her brother jumps to his feet, making his green hair bounce. "I want to ride one!"
And now all of my friends start chittering about the turn tonight has taken. They all stand up and jump around with excitement. They half-elf twins are talking so rapidly only they understand each other. Lovella is squealing with joy next to Lillah, who's twirling a lock of silver hair around her finger, bored. Adelinda is complaining about how she has to wake up early to make a delivery. And Flo has flown off of my knee to Lovella's shoulder, speaking to her little sister who is already half asleep.
Only I remain sitting.
Once it's been agreed that everyone will be venturing off to the field, Lovella looks down at me. "Are you going to come, Orchid?"
As if she didn't already know the answer. "No, I don't think so. I'll go home."
"You're still welcome to show up if you change your mind."
She says that every time. And I never show up and never change my mind. "I know. Thanks. I'll be sure to do that if that happens."
"Good night." We hug before she follows our friends who are already leaving her behind.
I'm alone again.
This is nothing out of the ordinary. This happens practically everyday. All of my friends think of something to do, something dangerous, and I apparently being the only level headed person among them, decide against it. I'm not saying their all daredevils who attempt death-defying stunts every day, but some of the entertainment they get themselves into could result in someone hurt. Most of the times it doesn't. But when it doesn't, it's only because I had to talk them out of it. This role I've taken, almost like a mother, has earned me many good natured taunts about being the one who spoils the fun. It use to not bother me, but lately, it's been festering inside me. But that may have to do with tomorrow.
I stand up, brushing off any grass that got onto my clothes, and stretch a little. Then I fold my arms before strolling through the brush, to the path that leads home.
"Good evening, Orchid."
"Thanks for getting those herbs for me, dearie!"
I wave to everyone and smile appropriately. And they're not forced gestures. These are the people I grew up with. They're also like my family. I care for them as I would my actual family, and they do care for me as I am their actual family. That's what our small community is like. It's like one big happy family.
We're just missing a few people.
I reach my home and pause to look up at the craftsmanship of it all. I live in a tree house. No joke. My great grandparents on my father's side built their home up in a tree just for kicks. Just to prove their friends wrong. And it came out spectacularly. Originally, it was a single square room. Enough room for a room and some minimal furniture they made themselves as well. But since then it's expanded. They made another room for their children. And another for storing food, water, or other important things of that nature. When my grandparents were given the house, they reinforced the structure and built yet another room so that the original room was for show. And then when my parents got a hold of it, they added a couple levels of decks and stairs, ridding us the use of the ladder. Four people fit perfectly in this house. Two parents and a couple kids.
I notice I'm gripping the railing, but quickly snatch my hand away. I fold my arms and make my way up into my house. My room is immediately to the left, being the first room built for children. My room looks over the lake that separates my little village from the nest village. It's the closest one.
I light a candle and carry it over to my dresser, to the mirror propped up on top of it. I set down the candle so I can see my own reflection and stare at myself in the reflective glass. And I make a disappointed face.
"You're so... dull," I tell that girl in the mirror. "You're dull. And you're safe. And you're boring."
I take off my fingerless gloves and run my hands over my face and through my hair, groaning, then slap them down and stare at myself again. Still disappointed at what I see. I'm disappointed in my hair; short, white, sort of wavy, always falling in my face. I glare at my headband. It's made of wood. But it's the thing growing on it that I wish would go away. A flower grows on it; an orchid. Coincidence? Probably not. It's my identity. And the pain in the rear part is that it changes color with my mood, making me an open book. I'm disappointed in my ears. They're a little pointy, because of my mother. She's a fairy. Not the tiny fairies like Flo and her sister, but the tall ethereal ones, though she isn't too tall. I'm disappointed in my eyes. Hazel, greenish-brown, from my father. I'm disappointed in the beauty mark on my right cheek. More disappointment in my nose, lips, just everything.
The face I see reads dull, safe and boring. Because that's what I am, and everyone knows it.
"Why can't you be... bolder?" I ask myself bitterly. "You had an opportunity to go have some childish fun, and you turned it down. It's not that you're not allowed to be childish. I am a child. I'm barely eighteen. Some of my friends are older than me and they still went along. But why can't you?"
And I wish I could answer myself, but I can't.
But I also see some sadness in that face. Not enough to cry- I'm not a crier- but enough for it to be visible. This is the only time it's visible. When I'm alone. I use to let it show. But I hated the pity that came with it. Because then I wasn't just the safe, dull, boring girl, I was the safe, dull, boring girl who's practically depressed. I had good reasons to be depressed, but I had to get over it at some time. And I knew that. As I said, I'm the level headed one.
"Tomorrow is going to be a long day. So very long," I groan, rubbing my temples like earlier. "I might scream if they get as bad as they did last year."
Blowing out the candle, I kick off my boots and shimmy out of my pants and pull off my tunic. I open my draw then blindly reach around until I find my nightwear and slip on the cotton shift. Then I walk over to my bed and lay back with my hands behind my head.
I gripe some more. "Why do they seem to be more affected by it all than me? We all lost something, but it's mainly my own. So why do they sulk? And they make a whole festivity of it all. It's not a holiday! Why are they making it like it's a holiday? It's just like any other day... it's just so happened to have a horrible thing happen on that specific day for four years. And it's not even horrible. It's just... sad."
Every year for the past four years on tomorrow's date, people in this village look at me with the pity they use to show me. They hug me, pat me on the back, ask if I'm okay, and the works. They won't leave me alone. And to tell the truth, after the first year, I've honestly been okay. I am a little sad, but not enough to be suicidal like they must all think.
May I reiterate that I am the level headed one?
And to top things off, there will even be a dinner. A huge, communal dinner. Everyone will cook up their best dish, like they would for a holiday, and we'll all set up tables, and lanterns. At nightfall, we'll all gather to eat. No one will bring up the reasons why we're there, except vaguely when running the down the checklist of checking on me. I just grin and bare it because I know they all care for me and they think it's what I want, or need, or whatever. But it's not. I all I want is some quiet. Some alone time to think.
And I think that's exactly what I'll do. I'll make sure of it.
I yawn, curl onto my side, looking up at the star-filled night sky. "I miss you Mom and Dad. Tomorrow make it four years." I close me eyes. "Good night."