The Lost Butterfly-a story of aliens, love and humans (1g)

Chapter 1g.

They all returned to the city in high spirits. They barely had time to rest. New Year’s Eve was closing and everybody looked forward to the Masque Party.

Yoshiasu was slightly reluctant to the idea of dressing up but he gave in to Angela. After all she has done for them, he didn’t have the heart to ruin the fun! He agreed on letting her to pick whatever she thought it would suit them for the party. He was pleased to know that George was joining them.

George Brown, Angela’s fiancé was a good-looking, pleasant and reliable man. He was totally besotted with her and she was radiant in his company. Yoshiasu and George used to get well along and George was increasingly curious about Fuyuki. He treated Angela’s enthusiastic description with slight disbelief, but he had to put aside his curiosity for the moment. As soon as they arrived at the hotel, Angela handed the costumes to the boys and sent them to get dressed while she locked herself up in the other room with Fuyuki.

Puzzled but amused, George and Yoshiasu dressed up, laughed as they saw each-other

“ changed” into a samurai and a knight and decided to wait for their companions in the lobby. Some of their mutual friends were already there and the party was gradually gathering glitz and fun.

The girl in the mirror was incredibly beautiful. She had a delicate, oval face with soft skin like cherry blossoms. Her nose was straight, with nicely curved nostrils. The almond-shaped amethyst eyes were underlined by heavy black eyelashes and she had thin, well-shaped eyebrows.

The young auburn haired woman took a small brush and toned the delicately curved lips with a touch of crimson lip-gloss. She helped the girl to comb her silky black hair into a simple but elegant shape held up by hair-pins hid under cherry blossoms.

She then helped her into a red kimono decorated with silver and gold butterflies and tied the obi around her slim waist. She took two steps behind and looked at the young girl; she was pleased with the result.

-Gods, Fuyuki, you are too beautiful to be true!-she said.

-For me beauty has always meant trouble-replied Fuyuki.

-Come on, let’s go-said Angela. I’m sure that down there’s no girl more beautiful than you.  George and Yoshiasu are waiting for us in the hall. I want to see their faces when they’ll see you.

-I’m not so sure-sighed Fuyuki but followed her.

Angela was looking sparkling in her moss-green velvet dress that underlined her appealing curves. She took Fuyuki by the hand and descended in the large hall. The party was just starting. Their partners were easy to point out: the handsome samurai and the good-looking knight were surrounded by happily chatting young ladies. Music, laughter and chatter filled the lobby as Angela and Fuyuki crossed the crowd. Though people around them were all looking great and having fun, slowly, people were making way to the fiery princess and the butterfly-girl.

They stopped next to Yoshiasu and George; the talking stopped abruptly. George’s eyes rounded as he spotted the two girls; Angela raised a finger meaning “Don’t ruin the surprise” and waited for Yoshiasu to react.

-Mr. Tanaka- she said. I think I found your lost butterfly.

Yoshiasu turned brusquely and stood still. Mesmerized by the look of the girl in red kimono he was unable to utter a sound. She looked like she just stepped out of a Japanese stamp. Under the intense scrutiny Fuyuki turned pink. He gazed slightly panicked into Yoshiasu’s eyes; the samurai smiled and whispered: “I love you. You are so beautiful…”.

He took the butterfly-girl by the hand and turned towards Angela’s fiancé:

-George, this is Fuyuki.

-You’re gorgeous-said George and they shook hands.

-Thank you-said Fuyuki with a shy smile.

-Ladies-turned Yoshiasu around-you have to excuse us. Angela, George let’s pick a drink.

The four of them left the premises followed by amazed or envious looks. George affectionately kissed his bride. “ You’re great!-he whispered in her ears. How on earth did you do this?-he asked incredulously.

-I’ve done nothing special-laughed Angela. I’ve just followed his natural beauty. They look great together, isn’t it?

The tall and erect samurai was moving ahead with dignity firmly holding the hand of his blushing butterfly. Together with Angela and George they chose a remote table in a quieter corner and the night went on pleasantly. Fuyuki relaxed and enjoyed himself with his friends. When the clock turned twelve and New Year arrived, Yoshiasu took Fuyuki in his arms and they kissed passionately in the middle of the cheering crowd.

By one in the morning they left the party along with their friends. Yoshiasu whispered a warm “Thank you” in Angela’s ear and hugged her. He then took Fuyuki and they disappeared in their room.

-I like Fuyuki-said George-but I would have never guessed that SHE is a man.

-He’s definitely a man, but he’s a milder, gentle one-said Angela.

-He’s a good addition to the strong-willed Yoshiasu-agreed George.

-And Yoshiasu is madly in love with him-laughed Angela.

-It’s written all over his face-chuckled George. I thought he might faint when he saw him tonight. I also saw a lot of envious or puzzled faces around; it was fun.

-Shame on you, George Brown-said Angela and kissed her fiancé.

They shut the door behind them laughing whole heartedly. In their own room, Yoshiasu and Fuyuki were getting off their costumes. Yoshiasu undressed easily but Fuyuki needed help. He turned his back to Yoshiasu:

-You have to help me out; I don’t think I can ask Angela now…

Yoshiasu grinned and untied the obi, letting loose the kimono. He bent over Fuyuki and kissed the soft skin of the neck; he then pushed down the kimono and took the younger man in his arms. Fuyuki’s breath hitched as Yoshiasu kissed his earlobe and lovingly laid him down on the bed. He slowly melted under the passionate kisses and Yoshiasu’s eager touch. They made love and they fell asleep tangled in each-other’s arms.

As holidays ended, life turned back to normal. Yoshiasu was quite busy at work and Fuyuki was working on his art projects; he was doing it successfully.

Winter was swept away by the warmth of spring and Nature came alive in full blossom. People themselves were changing along with the newly buzzing life. Fuyuki shortened his hair leaving it just a little over his neck but his natural beauty remained unchanged. Though he had gained a lot more confidence and it looked like that for now he could stand up for himself, he was still the same mild and sensitive person.

Angela and George got married in April and as their close friends, Yoshiasu and Fuyuki attended the wedding. They were more than happy to share their friends’ moment of utmost happiness. The messages they sent home from honeymoon spoke about the same state of bliss.

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The Lost Butterfly-a story of aliens, love and humans (1f)

Chapter 1f.

Winter was setting over the city step by step. The gloomy days of endless autumn rains were over. Day by day, frozen white stars showered from the skies, enveloping the surroundings in a blissful blanket of cold silver.

The shopping madness already erupted, the furious in and out sweeping through the city. Fuyuki’s works sold better than ever, raising his confidence and making his loved ones proud; yet the oncoming Christmas made the young man a little bit anxious. Like so many other things from everyday life, this particular event was a first for Fuyuki. Since Yoshiasu had a very crowded schedule at work he relied entirely on Angela. Luckily, she enjoyed doing things together with the young artist. She looked upon him like on a younger brother. So they bravely worked themselves through the necessary shopping and set all the details for their trip to the mountains. Fuyuki was more than happy to leave the city. The constant swarm of the town proved to be tiring. He needed a break and some personal time with Yoshiasu. And then, there was the problem of the Christmas presents; the small things for the others were already packed up. The butterfly necklace he had designed for Angela was almost ready. There was only one person left but it was the most important one for Fuyuki. He was at loss; he knew that Yoshiasu had everything money could buy, everything he needed. Well, Angela helped him pick a fine, warm pullover but it didn’t feel like a real gift. Fuyuki buried his worries deep inside, hoping that he would come up with something more personal until Christmas.

Days went by and the moment of the departure finally came. Everybody was excited. Yoshiasu was well aware that for him and Fuyuki this holiday could prove to be  a real challenge. It was their first public appearance as a couple. It was also about assuming their identity while among their friends there were  girls still holding some hope about  handsome Yoshiasu. It was a big step for Fuyuki to meet so many strangers in such a particular moment of the year; Yoshiasu was determined to keep him safe from any harm or malicious pressure. He was happy that Angela would accompany them, despite the fact that her fiancé, George was stuck abroad and couldn’t join them. They were about to meet at the New Year’s Eve Party. George was a fine guy, reliable and open minded, deeply in love with Angela. Yoshiasu hoped that he’ll accept Fuyuki easily.

Yoshiasu and Fuyuki arrived at the inn at the early hours of the 24-th of December. The landscape was spectacular and the snow was sparkling and pristine. The morning chill put some color in their cheeks. After the heavy snowfall the day before, the morning was clear and sunny. Reflecting on the ocean of snow, the light was overwhelming, blurring all the contours, seeping into every crack and corner, chasing away the bluish shadows. Amazed by the sighting, Fuyuki watched in awe the unfolding of this natural beauty. His unusual lilac eyes captured the light like two translucent pools reflecting the endless skies.

They settled in their room and went out for a walk. The rest of the group was due to come in the afternoon. Angela was arriving with the crowd; she wanted to stop for a visit to her parents who lived in a small city nearby.

As they crossed the lobby, Fuyuki noticed the Christmas tree centered in the main room. It was a two meters high, richly decorated fir tree. Fuyuki walked closer and gently ran his fingers over the branches. Sudden memories clouded his face; Yoshiasu stepped behind him, touching his shoulder.

-Do you remember anything, Fuyuki?- he asked in a reassuring voice.

-I…I remember the excitement of the expectation and that…it felt good. My memories are mostly feelings, not facts. I was very young at that time…

-Don’t get upset-said Yoshiasu and took him by the hand. Let’s go out and I’ll tell you about my ups and downs with Santa.

Fuyuki shook away the setting gloom and followed his friend. The snowy landscape had a definite appeal for both of them. They roamed all around, stumbling from time to time over a lighter heap of frozen stars.  They made snowballs and competed in throwing them faraway, they pushed each other down the small slopes and happily rolled over the fluffy sparkling blanket.  They fooled around until they tired; they finally stopped, lying down in the snow, panting from exhaustion and excitement.

From the corner of his eyes Yoshiasu watched Fuyuki smiling happily. He rose, bent over the younger man and kissed him. Fuyuki encircled his neck with his arms and kissed him back. Yoshiasu’s hand moved along Fuyuki’s body as their kissing deepened. They fell back breathless and stood there, gaze lost in the endless azure above. Moments later they heard the sound of the arriving cars; they stood up, shook the excess of snow clinging to their clothes and returned to the inn hand in hand.

Angela was just stepping out of the car when they got there. She affectionately kissed them both and asked them playfully:

-Have you already started the party?

They laughed, picked up her luggage and followed her in. Everybody got their room and after a while the lobby filled with young men and women eager to relax and start the party. The food was already on display and it proved to be delicious. They were all hungry and slaloming with a plate in hand eased the connecting between the 30 some people.

Angela chuckled and kicked Yoshiasu with the elbow from time to time, as she caught various people staring at Fuyuki. Holding his loved one by his shoulders, the computer analyst introduced him to each and every one of his friends and their companions. He did it easily and naturally, without ostentation and even the most jealous girls had to admit that Yoshiasu’s choice was…charming. As things settled, fun took over. The laughter and joy bubbled and the party turned out to be a real success. It was well past midnight when they finally returned to their rooms.

Yoshiasu showered and sat on the top of the bed with a small glass of wine, waiting for Fuyuki to shower. The room was pleasantly warm as deep cold settled outside the windows. The night sky was teaming with stars, the light above mirroring the endless glitter of the ocean of snow below. Fuyuki sat next to Yoshiasu and took the other glass. He took a small sip and looked into his friend’s eyes. The older man furrowed his brows questioningly:

-What’s wrong, Fuyuki?

The younger man sighed.

-It’s about your Christmas present…

-I’m not a child, Fuyuki. You don’t have to worry…Besides, as long as I have you, I need nothing else.

Fuyuki put his glass aside and sat face to face with Yoshiasu.

-It’s all I can give you…-he said and his voice broke.

Yoshiasu watched him intently; there was a warm light glittering in the amethyst mirrors and a slight tremble in the young man’s body. Yoshiasu  gently touched his face and the warmth of Fuyuki’s body seeped through his fingertips, making his heart run wild.

-Fuyuki, are you sure?-he asked in a restrained voice.

Fuyuki closed his eyes, letting the bathrobe slip off his shoulders. Yoshiasu laid him down and kissed him deeply. Fuyuki’s breath hitched as Yoshiasu moved down, kissing the soft curve of his neck. Senses and emotions flared up in their embrace and love moved forward, breaking down the barriers of painful memories. Fuyuki opened to Yoshiasu totally and unrestrained, seeking the magic of feelings he sought for so long. Their love making brought them high and when they reached the climax, it left them dizzy with elation.

Released from anxieties and overwhelmed by his feelings, Fuyuki was quietly sobbing, curled up in Yoshiasu’s arms. Yoshiasu squeezed him lovingly and caressed him until the tears dried and the younger man fell asleep, protected by his lover.

They woke up late, fulfilled and more in love than ever. They quickly showered and went downstairs where their friends were already opening the presents. As they were the last ones to descend, eyes turned towards them for a moment. Just like Angela, people noticed that there was a new light in Yoshiasu and Fuyuki’s eyes and a certain glow coming from inside. Even the most skeptical ones had to admit that the signs of LOVE were unmistakable in the appearance of the two young men.

So everyone returned to the unwrapping of packages and Angela greeted her two best friends.

-I have a feeling that you’ve already got your present-she chuckled.

-Do we have to admit on that?- asked Yoshiasu and they all laughed.

They sat on the floor together and started the unwrapping of the presents along with the others.

The Invisibles-Final Chapter

The approaching winter sped up the preparations inside and outside the walls of the Citadel. Some of the ex-Invisibles moved back with their families, while people of the city took a bold step outside the walls, moved into the forest camp and started a new and exciting life in the open. This mutual exchange between the city and the forest smoothed the healing process and helped build a new spirit among the nation of the Silver Tree. After her return from the hilltop where she had planted the seed of the new Tree, Cora joined the process of rebuilding and she became a full time mother for Avik.

With the support of the Elders, the former Invisibles raised a monument inside the Sanctuary in the memory of all who lost their lives foughting against the injustice imposed upon them by Asterius. It was there, that the life and the name of both Leanna, Avik’s mother and Satoru, leader of the Invisibles was inscripted for remembrance for the future generations. As for Commander Rolf Asterius, he was appointed Chief Guardian of the Citadel and, to his own surprise, he became close friend with Ogren, leader of the Foresters. Liberated under the shadow of his uncle, the young commander discovered the value of trust and true friendship.

Winter descended upon the land. Buried deep inside the hill, the Silver Seed was sleeping peacefully, dreaming about the moment of sprouting. On the other side of the world, the Tree of Arberia was watching upon it, guarding the balance of life on both sides of the line separating the two lands. For eons, the Trees had kept protecting life, communicating between each-other, supporting each-other. Under their benevolent surveillance, the colorful nations of humans struggled and thrived, built complex and creative cultures, pushed forward and expanded their horizons. Winter was a season of deep thinking and moments of melancholy. It was the season of storytelling and a time when new myths were born to be told and retold, over and over again, in friendly gatherings and families, near the fireplace, while chilling winds were swirling around the chimneys.

Cora and Avik were living in Satoru’s house, near Petunia and Ogren,the two families spending most of their time together. Even if they were not saying, they were all missing Satoru.

-I can’t be thankful enough for having you here, Ogren-murmured Petunia, leaning against her husband.

-Cora is a brave girl-he replied, kissing the top of her head. She keeps a brave face and I’m happy that she has found solace in Avik. But I saw her lost in thoughts, with shadows crossing her face and I know she’s badly missing Satoru.Their love was just starting to blossom…

-They were made for each other-said Petunia. It was unmistakable. I’ve never seen Satoru so happy and radiant…

-True- murmured Ogren. I wish he was here with us. Now, soon as winter ends, she’s due to fly back to Arberia. I wonder if she’ll ever come back….

A small knock on the door brought them back to reality. Cora was standing there, holding Avik’s hand. She was smiling.

-I apologize for intruding but I made a load of my well known cookies and it’s no fun to eat them alone! Besides, we have a lot to talk before winter ends. And of course, Avik was nagging me to bring him to play with his friends.

The evening brightened up in laughter and cookie-eating and Cora shared her plans for the future with her close friends.

-I’m not sure how my home coming will end up. When I left a year ago, I wasn’t giving much thought to the perspective of becoming Queen. My mind was filled with dreams of exploring the world beyond the horizon. But now….My heart is buried here but I feel responsible for my people at home to. I’m sure that Mom had already exhausted my dear Dad with her worries and I miss my little sister, Amita too.

-Are you travelling with Avik, Cora? He could live with us until you sort out your life at home…

Cora shook her head.

-No, my dear Petunia. I already told him that we would travel together. Thank you both for your kindness but I want him to meet his other family too. Satoru and I, we made him a promise and the untimely death of my beloved left me in charge. I won’t fail any of them. And we’ll be back, both of us, as soon as possible.

-So be it! -said Ogren with a nod. Now, there’s only one cookie left on the plate. Can I have it, or we’ll fight for it?

They all laughed and the evening went on in good mood.Outside, the nightwind swirled, scattering icy star-flakes upon the world….

Spring Flight.

Cora and Avik departed as soon as the snow melted and the the first signs of Nature’s renewal were showing on land and skies. The grey of the winter dome changed into bright azure and fluffy white clouds were chasing each other in the skies, pushed by the playful breeze of Spring.

Cora was flying by the side of her child who was riding his father’s faithful Shadowcat ,so she needed more time to reach the Arberian Tree. On their way, they stopped at the site where the Silver Seed was planted. To Cora’s great surprise, the crust of the land had cracked, making way to the graceful young Tree emerging from below. They both embraced the Tree, connecting with him. For a fraction of a moment, the young woman felt the echoes of a familiar heartbeat coming from the tree….They took farewell from the Silver Tree and soon, they crossed the line and took up the path leading to the Arberians.

Perched on the windowsill of Cora’s room Amita was scrutinizing the horizon, waiting for her sister’s return. Ever since the Queenies started to come back one by one, she hoped that Cora will be among them. She was missing her sister and she knew that her return will put an end to their parents’ distress.

Having no signs of Cora’s whereabouts proved to be too much for them. Though Galaor was trying to keep his wife calm and optimistic, lately, that has become almost impossible. Bella had asked some of the returning Queenies about their daughter and when she heard that they have lost her sight after a terrible storm, she broke down in tears.

-She won’t come back, you’ll see!-she cried, while her husband was trying to comfort her.

-She will come back, my dear, believe me! I know her and I know that she’s the best Queenie of all!

But when they reached the final day and Cora was still nowhere to see, his own confidence disappeared. They joined the homecoming of the rest of the Queenies with heavy heart. Galaor and Bella watched the girls; they have changed a lot during the year that has passed. The complexity and even the hardship of their task has helped each of them to develop in a unique, personal way. Right now, it was hard to say which of them would be the chosen one as future Queen. They both sighed, thinking of how their daughter might have looked if she was there….

Emerging from her chambers, the Queen greeted her people, eyeing the line of Queenies waiting before her.

-Is everyone here today, my children?-she asked.

-No, My Lady- said the leader of the Queenies. We seem to have lost Cora, daughter of Galaor and Bella.

At that moment, there was a small commotion at the doors of the Ceremony Hall.

-Everyone is here, My Lady!- said the newcomer loud and clear.

All eyes turned and a tall, slender young woman, with fiery hair cut short above her neck, entered the room, walking confidently to the center of the Ceremony Hall. She was holding a brown bunny rabbit in her arms. Making her way through the people gathered in the room, her strong aura brushed over them. A yelp and a relieved sigh followed her and Cora smiled, knowing that her parents were finally at ease. She joined the ranks of the Queenies and the Queen acknowledged her arrival with contentment.

-My children, it’s wonderful to see all of you coming home!-she said, stepping forward to greet them. It’s been a long year for all of us and looking at you, I can see it was a fruitful one. A year ago, ten teenage girls left our Tree and now ten beautifully matured young ladies returned to it.

Slowly passing by each of them, the Queen embraced every Queenie, touching foreheads,while Madam First Lady was collecting the Recommendation letters. When she finally stopped before Cora, she asked her, pointing at the small bunny:

– Who is he?

-He is my son, My Lady but he’s got a bit overwhelmed by so many strangers. Come, Avik-she said softly to the bunny- you’re safe now. Remember that I’ve told you about our Queen? She wants to meet you.

There was a rumor of amazement when, with a small tremor, the rabbit changed back to his shape of a little boy with hazelnut eyes and curly, black hair. He looked up to the woman smiling him and said:

-Hi! My name is Avik. Are you the Queen?

-Yes, I am the Queen- she said gently.

-You have beautiful wings!- said the little boy. Just like my Mommy.

-Thank you, Avik! That’s very nice of you to say- replied the Queen. Glad to meet you! Cora, I look forward to hear your story!

-Thank you, My Lady!-said Cora with a bow.

The Queen returned to her throne, followed by the First Lady.

-My dear people! I want you to greet and celebrate our Queenies while I will spend my time reading the Recommendation letters. We’ll meet here again when I’ve reached my conclusions!

She left the room while Bella and Galaor rushed to embrace their daughter. Cora picked up Avik and made her way through the swarm of jolly people. When they finally saw each other, she literally flew in their arms.

-Mom! Dad!

-I’ve told you she’s the best and that she won’t get lost!-said Galaor to his wife, swallowing the lump in his throat.

-Oh, shut up, Galaor. You’re an awful liar. Do you think I am blind? I have seen your face these latter days…-she teased him between tears. Oh, Cora, this was such a hard year!

Bella embraced her daughter while Galaor, waiting for his turn, tried to make friends with Avik. It proved easier than anyone would’ve expected but for Cora it didn’t came as a surprise. She knew her father was a gentle giant with a natural gift for tending children. But the most excited about Avik proved to be Amita. After covering her sister’s face with the sweetest kisses of all, she took the little boy by the hand and they quickly disappeared in her room. Hours later, when Cora and her parents peeked through the door, the two children were playing together happily.

-You have to tell us all that happened-pleaded Bella. We were so upset, hearing that you got lost in that heavy storm. Only the strong trust of your father kept us afloat these days.

-I’m sorry, Mom and Dad but I had to follow my guts. I know that I have promised not to get in trouble…-she said with a wink. But the dream I had the night before the flight and the words of encouragement from the Queen pushed me forward…and I did it! My quest was worth all the efforts…but I’ve missed your cooking, Mom!

They all laughed and Cora took a mouthful of her favorite dish.

-So, what’s beyond our boundaries, my dear?-asked Galaor. I assume you have reached that place. Avik doesn’t look like an Arberian child…

-You’re right, Dad. He’s not an Arberian. His land is that of the Silver Tree and the White Citadel. Let me finish this wonderful meal and tuck the children in bed and I will tell you the story of my journey.

That night, after rocking Amita and Avik to sleep with a funny story and lots of kisses, Cora sat with Bella and Galaor, opening the book of memories, telling the story of the love and fight for a new dawn in the land of the Silver Tree.

Coronation

The Queen was in her chambers, reading the letters brought back by the Queenies. They were extensive recounts of the deeds and decisions taken by each girl in the community they had joined during a year of time. Each story had its own value and flavor and on the whole, the Queen couldn’t be more satisfied. But of all stories, Cora’s journey stood out by far. The letter had been written by both the Council of Elders and the Leaders of the Foresters and they were speaking of her selflessness and bravery. The tragic story of Leanna and Avik was part of the recount and the Queen was deeply saddened, reading it. What Cora had achieved was very impressive. Still, the Queen needed a private talk with each outstanding Queenie, before making her choice.

She sent for them, one by one, listened to them, talked with them and carefully assessed her impressions. Most of them were determined to step up the throne and take the lead of Arberia. Cora was her final guest. She came on her own; Avik was in her parents care and he was enjoying Amita’s company. The two kids were getting along so well that you would’ve thought they were siblings. Life in Arberia was joyful and the Tree was an excellent playground for the inquisitive little ones.

When she entered the Queen’s chamber, Cora looked preoccupied. She had spent a lot on thinking what to do. She didn’t want to get stuck here and lose her personal freedom. She couldn’t bear the thought of being far from the Silver Tree. Her heart was there and she would’ve died missing her connection with it. She said nothing about this to Galor and Bella but she felt she owe the Queen the truth. So when the Queen asked her about the decision she made, she poured out her heart.

-My Lady, just like my little Avik, I belong to both lands. I cannot make a choice that would leave out any of these two nations and Trees. I don’t want to disappoint you or anyone of my fellow Arberians but I want to keep my freedom , I want to travel from one land to the other, to keep alive my connection with each Tree. If that means that I cannot be Queen of Arberia, I beg to step aside and I apologize for letting you down!

-You don’t have to apologize for anything, my child-said the Queen. I’m happy to see that you have used wisely my piece of advice and you have followed your fire. Go, join your family and say hello to your son from me. Soon, I will make public my choice!

Cora bowed respectfully and left the chamber. The Queen walked slowly to the window and leaned against the wall.

-I’m ready for a long vacation, my friend….-she whispered and the Tree understood.

~~~~~

Three more days passed and the excitement of the Arberians was on the rise. The day the Soul Bell rang, summoning them at the Ceremony Hall found them buzzing like a bee hive. Queenies, families, friends, Court people, adults and children, old and young, they all joined to witness the coronation of a new Queen.

The hind wall opened and the Queen stepped in. She looked radiant and this time she was wearing the crown of blue leaves and golden sticks that she would give to her successor. She sat on the throne, looked around, benevolently smiling and she spoke to her audience:

-My dear people! As all of you know, my time as Queen is over and today. A new Queen will step up the throne of Arberia.These days I have examined carefully each candidate and I must say that all of them could become a good Queen. This was not an easy choice. I have spent the last year thinking a lot about our world and the future it might hold for us. My choice reflects the conclusions I’ve reached during this lonely year.

Times are changing and we need a Queen that would be both thoughtful and bold, opened to new challenges, ready to face them and to make the most difficult choices. This year, the boundaries of our world have been extended and we’ve learned that we are not alone. There is more to come in the future, so from our wonderful winged daughters I have chosen the one that has already proven that she’s able to deal with such challenges.

Come forward, Cora and take this crown! It belongs to you, as new Queen of Arberia!.

In the deep silence that followed her words, the Queen stepped down the throne, took off her crown and held it out to the young woman.

-Mommy?! This means you are the Queen now?-asked Avik.

The clear voice of the child reverberated around the room and broke the tension. People burst into happy laughter, in cheering and applauses.

-See? -said one of the Queenies, kicking her neighbor with the elbow. I’ve told you that she could become the Queen. She was flying higher than any of us!

Cora bowed before the Queen and let her place the crown on her head. The old Queen took the new one by the hand and guided her to the throne, then she stepped aside, sitting in a chair placed next to it. For a moment, Cora was overwhelmed by emotions but then she spoke in a loud and clear voice:

-My dear Arberians! One year ago, we left our home as a group of girls caught between childhood and adult life. Little we knew about the world and our horizon was stretching to the limits of land encompassed by the roots of our Tree. From all the girls in the squadron, I was the one lucky enough to be pushed beyond that line. For me, it was a life changing experience. I have discovered another land, inhabited by beautiful people like us, caught in a sad,sad situation. It was their tragedy that opened my eyes upon the fragility of our peaceful, joyous life. It was their struggle that has shown me the power of goodness, courage and selflessness . I have returned home determined to protect the things we all value in our life. I have returned determined to connect our worlds and to restore the balance of the lands living under the benevolent protection of the Trees.

I’ve buried my heart at the feet of the new Silver Tree, so I belong to the people there. But my heart was born here so I came home to put myself in the service of my people as well. I am a person of my words and I will live my life to fulfil the promises I made in both lands. Your love, your kindness and support will help me become the Queen you all expect me to be!

The room filled with cheers as the echoes of Cora’s words faded. People rushed to greet her, while the new Queen walked through the hall and stepped out in the large balcony, to salute the Arberians who gathered outside. Bella and Galaor found themselves showered with attention, while Amita and Avik ran after Cora and joined her in the balcony.

So here comes to an end a chapter of history and a new one begins. Its story is still to be written. Right now, everyone is celebrating. Grab your cup of wine, my friends and cheers!

Epilogue

The new Queen was leaning against the trunk of the Silver Tree. Still a young tree , it was already soaring high and holding a magnificent crown of branches and leaves. Its bark was smooth and felt like skin under her touch. Cora embraced the Tree and closed her eyes, her thoughts drifting away. The light touch of two hands, lovingly holding hers, reached from the other side of the Tree and brought the young woman back from the reverie.

“I’m here…..-whispered the well-known voice. And I am here to stay….”

In the history of the Tree people, Cora remained under the name of Travelling Queen. She spent her entire life reviving the long forgotten connections of the Trees of outer lands and bringing together their nations. Under her loving protection, Avik and Amita grew into beautiful young people, becoming ambassadors of the Tree connections. They eventually became a couple, strengthening even more the connection of Arberians and Silverians.

When her time came and a new Queen took the reign of the lands, Cora said farewell to everyone and visited for the last time the Silver Tree. She stopped before it, placing her palms on the large, leathery trunk. The Silver Tree opened and Cora stepped into the arms of her beloved Satoru. The Tree closed behind her…..

If you’re passing by in a misty summer morning, turn your eyes to the hilltop. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Cora and Satoru, sitting in the grass, talking quietly about the times that had passed and those that are about to come…Or maybe it’s just the wind whispering in the meadow…..

~~~~~

PS. I dedicate this story to everyone who dares to dream and who has not lost the hope that goodness, courage, love, acquiescence, thoughtfulness prevail in Humanity.

I dedicate this story to those who dare to be themselves, to be different, to embrace their own beauty and uniqueness when odds are against them.

I dedicate this story to my wonderful LGBTQI+ friends around the world, the ones who constantly refuse to become Invisibles.

The Invisibles-Chapter 8.

When his duties as leader of the community allowed, Satoru spent the evenings, listening to the stories with the children. The little ones loved to crawl in his lap or to sit on the back of Gondwana and the young man mellowed offering them the love he had so much missed as a child. Cora’s warm voice, her deeply emotional or sometimes very funny twists of the stories were balm for his soul. She has grown to his heart in a way no one ever had, reaching the softest depths of his soul.

“Is this love?”-he wondered sometimes. He sighed inwardly. What were the chances that she would feel the same and that she would remain by his side? She had a homeland of hers and a duty to fulfill towards her own people….Satoru dismissed the thoughts and let his mind relax for the moments in the sound of the magic carrying voice.

  Cora loved the evenings when Satoru joined them. His presence was always comforting and reassuring and in was in these evenings when his warm and loving inner side was emerging without restraint, generating an emotional flow that enveloped her in magic.  

“ Is this love? “-she wondered sometimes. She has never known love before. The years of education as a would-be Queenie prevented her from having a close relationship with young men of her age. Was Satoru feeling the same about her? She couldn’t tell…He had so many responsibilities and he was always considerate towards others. “Oh…whatever.”-thought Cora. We’ll see. I’m glad he’s here and that Avik loves him so much. Maybe the child knows something we still wonder about”…

~~~~

 

    So while  love was slowly but steadily developing  between Cora and Satoru, up in the Citadel Asterius was sending out orders.

-Tomorrow I want to speak in the Central Square. Rolf, send the Guardians with the message around the city and gather as many people as possible. See that those who are our strong supporters to be in the first rows, next to the stairs. I will deliver my speech from the promontory of the Sanctuary.

  The young man looked at him questioningly.

-Are you reopening the Rebirth Celebrations?

-No, not at all! Those lustful parades are no longer part of our customs. But we need to strengthen our fight against the monsters lurking among us and my speech will serve as a reminder. See that everything would be in place! Dismissed!

  Rolf Asterianus left the room with a bow. Time was short and the Leader was short tempered. He hurried down the stairs, shouting orders to his men. Standing at the window, Asterianus was smirking at the thought of his plans. A strange green light was flickering in his eyes as he muttered:” Tomorrow….I’ll show you tomorrow!”

   When the sun of a new day reached its peak in the skies above the Citadel, the center of the city was teeming with people waiting for their leader to come. It’s been awhile since they’ve heard him speaking and they were full of expectation. Those fearing what might come were ducking in the hind rows, hoping that their lack of enthusiasm would go unnoticed. Finally, the place fell silent as Asterius made his appearance on the top of the stairs leading to the Sanctuary. He looked stern and preoccupied and he had visibly aged lately. Though he was still good looking, the expression wrinkles of his face had deepened, his hair had turned silver-white and his eyes were bearing a strange, disturbing light. He stood there motionlessly,his eyes scrutinizing the gathering like a bird of prey.

-My fellow Citadelians!-boomed his voice. I have asked you to come today because I need your support . For years I have tirelessly protected this city and you, my people from the monstrosities that were undermining our society. As I look around I can see that you are thriving and I feel joy and gratitude. But lately, the number of concerning happenings had increased and I have found out that some of our citizens had decided to give help to the enemy,  jeopardizing the lives of everyone. The health of our beloved Silver Tree is at stake and along with it, our as well.

-Who are those traitors, Asterius?!- shouted someone from the crowd. Bring them before us!!

-Yes! Yes! Bring them here! Let us see them!!!

  The number of angry voices from the crowd was slowly mounting.Asterius raised à hand.

-Very well, I will bring here the most recent example. Let’s see what she has to say in her defense!

He made a quick sign to the White Guards and soon, a woman was dragged in and presented to the people. It was Leanna, Avik’s mother. She looked frail after the time spent in jail but she has kept her dignified posture. She faced Asterius without fear. The man grabbed her arm and turned her to the crowd.

-Look at this woman! She was hiding a Changer and she even helped him escape through a hole in the wall. We caught her in the last minute thanks to the vigilance of the White Guards and the keen sense of our ferdogs. But the Changer escaped and became another threat lurking outside our walls!

-I was protecting my child and I am glad that he escaped!-shouted Leanna defiant.

-Then look at the consequences!!!-shouted Asterius, opening with a sudden move the gates of the Sanctuary.

    Living for so many years in the dim light seeping through the ceiling of the Sanctuary, the Silver Tree was shocked by the intensity of the full sunlight. To the fragile entity, this invasion of glow was like a dagger in its heart. The Tree shrieked in pain and its trunk split in half, part of it falling to the ground with thundering noise. The intense pain reverberated through space and it reached Cora, leaving her breathless. Overwhelmed by pain, she fainted and fell to the ground before anyone could catch her.

     Hell broke out inside the Citadel as the maddened crowd seized the woman they thought to have caused the incredible damage. Asterius stepped aside and left the square unnoticed. Up in the sky, the sun was hiding its face, unable to face the wickedness below. Somewhere, in the attic of a house, a deeply shaken man was sending a desperate message outside the walls. The small letter was carried by a  bird that knew exactly where to land. Later that night,the White Guardians shut  the gates of the Sanctuary, leaving the Silver Tree frightened and broken.

 

                                                                                ***

 

   She opened her eyes and saw Satoru sitting by her side,  head buried in his hands: the image of deep concern.

-What happened?-she asked in a husky voice. Her head was still throbbing with a dull pain.

-Hi!-Satoru was clearly relieved hearing her voice. You’ve scared us all when you fainted. How do you feel now?

-Uhm…a bit dizzy and I seem to have difficulties in remembering the events….Wait! Wait….It was a sharp pain….a scream in my mind…..the Tree….Oh! The Silver Tree! It was its pain! I remember  now! Something , someone hurt the Tree and it was crying for help!

-It makes sense…-whispered Satoru. Listen, Cora, something horrible happened in the Citadel. We’ve got message from a friend; Avik’s mother is dead. The masterplan imagined and set in motion by Asterius delivered a hard blow to the Changers, to their allies and  irreversibly damaged the Silver Tree.

-What?!! Oh….poor Avik….

   For the first time, Cora burst into tears and cried bitterly. She cried of shock, she cried of anger.When she finally regained her composure, all it was left inside her was a strong determination.

-I’m sorry…-she said. I’m fine now and I’m ready for whatever you decide. You can count me in.

-You are part of the team, you know it, Cora. I’ve sent already a call around the forest; the others will soon be here and we can work out a plan. This madman has to be stopped!

 

                                                                               ***

 

 The Silver Tree was shivering in the darkness of the Sanctuary. It was broken and fragile while the future of the Citadel looked grim under Asterius. The Tree was sensing its strength slowly diminishing, fading in the darkness of the loneliness and confinement. There was only one hope: to grow a seed that would preserve the living spirit of the people entwined with that of the Tree. It was a delicate process that needed time and care. The Silver Tree knew that Asterius would do anything to lay his hand on the seed. The only hope was in that girl with flaming hair coming from another land; she has brought with her the connection with another Tree, a mighty, powerful one and the Silver Tree was  gathering the necessary strength from it, in order to give birth to the Seed.  

   With this comforting thought,the Silver Tree reached below, inside the intricate web of roots and started to build another layer of silver shell  around the tiny cocoon nested inside….There was no time for delay.