Walk a Dream-Chapter 10. Epilogue

Chapter 10.

  She was shivering, shaken by an inner fever. The memory of the night was still fresh in her mind and as she pushed herself slowly off the cold surface, conflicting emotions washed over her. For long minutes, she was penduling between an intoxicating elation and an unexplainable panic. She has fallen in love and that love lived in the no man’s land between dream and reality. How can anyone keep its sound mind in such circumstances?

   But this love wasn’t meant to last; Kai knew it well. The more she learned about Jordan, the clearer it became that she, the average girl in front of a mirror was meant only to be the dream-holder and rememberer. Something was abruptly changing in the life of her unexpected soul-twin and they were both running out of time.  “But what was that change?”-wondered Kai. There was no one to answer that question now… Kai took a deep breath and decided to join the reality of the morning.

   The night came under the auspices  of the Peach Moon. I saw it rising cautiously above the dark line of the hills. The sky was spotless and deep blue. The faintly glowing pink contour emerged gradually and soon we were facing each other, the Moon and I. It looked at me with its saddened face, with that silent cry frozen on its face for eons. Its eyes were crying invisible tears and my heart sank in despair.

I’ve ran to the gates breathlessly! The world behind them was dead silent and hollow. The forest was emptied of footprint memories, emptied of laughter echoes, emptied of innocence…The spells of the Wizard had been scattered by a chilling wind of forgetfulness. Gone were the mermaids and shores, gone the stellar abyss of swirling light and love….The leaves of poetry were growing only in my heart by now. The Blue trees retracted in the void and I couldn’t reach them anymore. I fell to my knees crying…Then I remembered the house. Maybe, just maybe Joren was still there! I jumped to my feet and sped towards the house in the mist.

 As soon as she reached the premises, Kai knew that hopes for finding anyone around were thin. The house felt just as empty as the space surrounding it. The girl cautiously opened the door and passed along the corridors until she reached that special door. Before she could touch it, the door flew open and Tyler’s angry face looked at Kai, shouting:

-You’re late! They’re all gone!!! No one is here anymore!! No one!!!

His breath was freezing cold and Kai stepped back for a moment. The pain inside, the sense of loss built up inside her pushed to the surface and she felt her entire being crack under the pressure. Her final armor shattered, liberating her true being. Tyler had already vanished into thin air and all she was left with was à dim glow in the distance and the sound of little ringing bell. Jordie’s bell. The girl launched herself towards that spot of light, flying with wings of flames like a Phoenix.

-Jordie! -she shouted. Wait for me!

Fueled by her heated emotions, she crossed the warping space and caught the globe of light before it reached the wormhole between the two connected worlds.

-Stop! -she yelled. Stay for a moment! Talk to me! Don’t leave all my questions unanswered!

Cling! Cling! The little bell echoed in her ears and for à moment, she felt  two small arms encircling her neck.

-Don’t be upset, nice Kai! I have to go now! They are waiting for me.

Kai held him till he dissipated, giggling and Joren’s face emerged in the light.

-We have to go, Kai. Jordan is about to wake up. Hisher healing journey is now complete, thanks to your help too. We were all bits and pieces painstakingly brought together in long time, to mend the spirit of Jordan. Himher will be whole again as heshe will regain consciousness. Remember us, Kai! When the dream will end, nothing and no one will be the same as before.

As the last words reverberated in the space, an invisible hand touched gently Kai’s tearful face. She recognised the touch and she recognised the kiss. It tasted like summer vine.

“ Goodbye, girl”-whispered the voice inside her mind. “Don’t forget me…”

The ball of light touched the boundary of worlds and exploded with a thunderous blast. The connection collapsed and Kai crash landed in her bed. On the other side of the world, a young woman woke up all of a sudden in her hospital bed.

  She gasped and shook her head, then relaxed. She recognised her family members and her doctor. She couldn’t remember the reason of being in hospital; she was feeling well and in one piece.

-Did I miss something?-asked Jordan, raising an eyebrow. I feel like I slept for a hundred years. It was fine but I would like to go home now. May I, doctor?

   Everyone burst into relieved laughter; Jordan was himherself again.

 

EPILOGUE

    I have walked a dream like no other and my heart was captured, my spirit released and liberated. I am myself more than I ever was. The love I encountered was brief but intense and it lives inside me, imprinted deeply in my soul along with all the magic it carried. I am a rememberer, a storyteller and a dreamer.

I’m not an ordinary girl anymore.

 Do I remember you? Of course I do! You’re the Magician who released the Wild Girl from my inner world. You found her, hiding in her Secret Garden and you opened the door, showing her the way. You’ve let her follow you, believe in you, trust you and in the end, fall in love with you. Was it something planned? I doubt….But you and I, we got caught up in our entangled wild dream. You and I, we found a love that could’ve been…if only we would’ve met in real life. So You have dreamt me and I continued that dream, finding you.

   Our love was swift, passionate, fiery, creative, all consuming….despite its illusory existence. You have broadened my horizon, deepened my inner world, enriched my emotional life. We have built a love like no other: both incredibly beautiful and maddeningly painful. This love cannot die. This love doesn’t want to die. This love is so much a part of me that denying it would mean to deny myself. I didn’t know how much of you has built itself inside me, until we both woke up and the wandering in our connected dream was over.

 After picking up all her shattered bits and pieces, the Wild Girl banged the gates of the Secret garden behind her and locked them. She lives there, wandering on the shores of the Ocean of Memories. I visit her sometimes and we talk through the bars of the gates. With you gone forever, she won’t come out anymore. But we both miss you sometimes; so we recall your face, the sound of your laughter, the  softness in your eyes….

   Dream over.

The Lost Butterfly-revised (1d)

Chapter 1d.

He had barely finished the notes and was looking at the two drawings, when Fuyuki stirred under the blanket and opened his eyes.

-You’re here-he whispered and sighed.

-I am- said Yoshiasu firmly. Wake up and let’s go out. We still have half of Sunday left.

Fuyuki complied and dressed up. For the moment he was wearing some of Yoshiasu’s clothes but they were planning to go out shopping.  A chilling wind was blowing outside so both of them were wearing anoraks, jeans and boots. Fuyuki’s shoulder long hair was tied in a lose pony-tail, a few strands floating freely around his face. Despite his attire, he looked deceptively feminine. His beauty was misleading almost everyone. As they were descending a long row of stairs, walking hand in hand, they heard a group of youngsters whistling after Fuyuki. They both burst into laughter.

On a spur of a moment Yoshiasu turned towards Fuyuki and kissed him. Surprised, Fuyuki blinked and returned the kiss.

-I’m …sorry-mumbled Yoshiasu, slightly enbarassed.

-Why?

-I don’t want to put any pressure on you…

-You’re not-said Fuyuki. I like when YOU kiss me- he added smiling shyly.

Yoshiasu sighed and held him closer. They strolled among the bony, black shapes of the trees, under the heavily clouded sky. Autumn fell on their steps, rolling golden leaves and raindrops up and down the lane. Younger and older couples were walking slowly on the alleys, enjoying the final hours of the week-end. The evening enveloped the city peacefully.

The two young men turned home refreshed and happy. After the autumn chill, the warmth of the flat was welcome. They both undressed from the heavy outfits and made themselves comfortable. As usual, Yoshiasu cooked the dinner while Fuyuki set the table. They ate all to the last crumb and after washing the dishes they moved to the bedroom and turned on the TV.

Fuyuki leaned against his friend, with head resting on his shoulder. He loved to listen to his velvety baritone, recounting school years with fun. He snuggled in his arms while Yoshiasu was fighting his inner feelings.

Spending most of his time with Fuyuki,  Yoshiasu declined most of his friends’ invitations out. Fuyuki was still very shy and recovering, so he didn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on him. Intrigued by his long absence and the wild gossips about her good friend, Angela Bennett decided to pay him a visit. She came unannounced and on a late afternoon Yoshiasu found himself face to face with her at the door.

-I’ve been told that you became a hermit so I came to check on this wild story myself. I hope I’m not intruding?-she asked with a playful smile.

Yoshiasu chuckled; he was happy to see her. Angela was a long time friend and they shared a lot, beginning with the level-headedness and the considerate manner towards the others. He let her in, took off her coat and invited her in the living.

-I’m going to fix a drink; make you comfortable. What gossips have you heard about me?

Angela looked around with interest. She was well accustomed to this place and she knew her old friend’s taste. She noticed some small changes but there was one particular thing that drew her attention. She saw a new painting on the wall: a colorful butterfly on an intricate background. It wasn’t a reproduction; the picture was genuine. She stood up and took a closer look. She was surprised to find something so poetic and delicate in the house of a computer analyst.

-You like it?-asked Yoshiasu and handed her a frosty glass.

-It’s beautiful! I must admit that I’ve never expected to find something like this hanging on your wall. Is this a recent purchase?

The young man smiled secretively.

-It’s a gift from the artist himself- he said. But let me introduce him to you. Wait a minute…

He left for the bedroom where Fuyuki was reading.

-I have a very good friend of mine visiting us. She would like to know you. Her name is Angela Bennett and you can trust her. Come, let me introduce you.

Fuyuki’s eyes rounded in surprise but took Yoshiasu’s hand and followed him. Hearing footsteps, Angela turned and remained speechless. Half step behind her friend there was a tall and slender young man, clinging almost desperately to Yoshiasu’s hand. The newcomer was a striking beauty, with a fragile look and very shy. His unusual amethyst colored eyes looked at her with the innocence of a child. Yoshiasu gently pushed him towards her.

-Angela, let me introduce you the artist you have asked about: he is my friend, Fuyuki.

-Pleased to meet you-said the young man.

They shook hands and Angela looked at him closely. Fuyuki blushed under her scrutinizing gaze and she found him lovely.

-You’re awfully talented; I like very much your painting. Yoshiasu is very lucky to receive such a beautiful gift from you-she said.

-I am the lucky one to have such a good friend-answered Fuyuki with a small smile.

-Well, since I am blessed with both of you let’s have a drink and let Angela to deliver us the latest gossips about our mutual friends. This way you can make their ”acquaintance” long before they know you.

Just like Yoshiasu, Angela had a healthy sense of humor so in less then half an hour they were all laughing and enjoying her company. Angela took an instant like on Fuyuki. She even warned her old friend while the young artist left the room:

-He is a rare gem, Yoshiasu. Take care of him.

-I know-said Yoshiasu-but thanks anyway. Tell the others that we still need some time to adjust but we’re fine.

Connected by the Moon-Wild Woman illustration

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

  Let me chase you under the Moon,

  Under the light of star-chandeliers!

  Your breath, like ghosts in flight,

  Fading into depths of night…

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

     Beast of beauty,

     Rolling laughter of the thundering spirit,

     Keep running

     As my shadow follows you with hungry heart!

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

     The hills and forests have frozen

     In the silence of your absence,

     Emptiness filled with sorrow

     My Secret Garden,

     While the gates have rusted

     In crimson pain.

Wild Woman, La Loba

    Come back and run with me!

    Let’s stir the wind that sleeps in the grass,

   Let’s splash the pool of shining stars,

   Let’s catch the Phoenix, bold and bright

   Before it takes flight into the light!

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

  Kin of my soul,

  Echo of my untamed inner beast,

  Wake up! Wake up!

  Dark waters of oblivion are surrounding you…

  Remember me, Wild Woman

  Never let me go…..”

Opening poem for my story, Wild Woman.

The drawing depicts the main characters: Kay and Sage. This is the first illustration I drew for the story. The Moon connecting them in a love that stretches through the corridors of Time is seen at the bottom of the drawing.

As usual, the illustration is made in color pencils and paper.

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…..

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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.