It was a beautiful morning in Sylvan Glade. At least, Cordelia assumed it was the morning. She’d lost all concept of time in the magical meadow.
Her body was still ticking, though. Her stomach was rumbling loudly. She realised she hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday. She got far too distracted by her discovery of the old tree and the place it led her to.
She figured she’d try her luck at fishing in the pond. There seemed to be plenty of fish in it from what she saw last night. Cordelia was not exactly an adept fisherman, but she’d learned to rely on fishing and gathering fruit and herbs for the past couple of weeks, ever since leaving Gibbs Hill.
Luck was on her side that morning. She got a catch quickly, perhaps because the fish were not used to anyone trying to fish in the Glade. Either way, she was grilling up breakfast before she knew it.
She heard footsteps approaching and turned around abruptly.
“Sorry, did I startle you?” It was the elf, still wearing his pyjamas and a robe.
“I’ve thought about it, and I figured we didn’t get off on the right foot yesterday,” he started awkwardly. “So, uh, I was hoping we could re-do the introductions? I mean, I didn’t even introduce myself. That can’t count as an introduction, right? Sorry. I don’t get many visitors. That part was true yesterday. Though now we’re pretending we haven’t met yesterday, so…”
As adorable as watching him stumble over his words was, Cordelia decided to put him out of his misery. “I’m Cordelia Blackwell. Nice to meet you.”
“Sounds fancy. My name is Dandelion.” He smiled.
“Just so you know, I don’t tend to make the best impression of people either.” She admitted.
“Yeah, I figured.” He nodded. It seemed he didn’t have much of a filter when it came to social situations.
“See, this is what I mean. You’re kind of… tense? Intense? Maybe both.” He pondered out loud, oblivious. “You know what always helps when I’m not feeling quite myself? A swim in the pond! You wanna give it a try?”
She looked towards the waterfall. It did seem enticing.
“You can swim in this, right?” Cordelia hesitated as her toes dipped in the water. Of course, she’d stripped down to her swimwear at this point. She knew it was too late to have second thoughts. “I mean, it’s not… enchanted in some weird way, right?”
“Paranoid! That’s the word I was looking for,” Dandelion exclaimed victoriously. “And to answer your question, yes it’s perfectly safe. I think. I’ve never seen a human swim in the pond so… I guess we’ll find out?”
“Ah, right, I feel reassured now.” She smirked.
“Great!” Dandelion beamed, not detecting her sarcasm. He delved into the water. Cordelia followed.
Once she was in the pond, her fears melted away. The pond was shallow, so she could feel the bed below her whenever she stopped swimming. She plunged ahead, making large strokes. She even took Dandelion over.
“Told you!” He called behind her. “It’s wonderous, isn’t it!”
The serene moment didn’t last, of course. Dandelion snuck up on her and surprised her with a splash. She was startled at first, but recovered quickly, retaliating.
“Hey! Not fair! This is my pond!” The elf protested.
“Oh come on, don’t be so tense… or intense?” She teased.
They splashed around for a while. It was as if Cordelia’s childhood had come back to her.
“You were right, Dandelion,” She told him eventually. “Swimming in the pond definitely made me feel better.”
“I knew it!” He beamed at her, his purple eyes brighter than usual. “Maybe elves and humans aren’t that different. Who knew?”
It was a wonderous day, as the elf had put it. They swam around, ate fruit from Dandelion’s garden and explored the meadow. He showed Cordelia his favourite parts of Sylvan Grade, introduced her to his neighbour frog and told her what the good spots for finding gems and supposed treasures were.
Finally, Dandelion suggested they cloudgaze. He explained it was one of his past times, just lying in the grass and trying to liken the clouds above him to things in the real world, figure out what they were the most similar to. Though most of them looked like marshmallows, he told her.
Cordelia loved every minute of it. But there was one other cloud on the horizon, apart from those marshmallow-like ones. How long could she really stay here? Sure, the elf seemed to enjoy her company, but this wasn’t really a place she could stay indefinitely. She’d have to leave eventually, and then what? Would the sprites come for her again.? Worse yet, would she lead them here, to poor innocent Dandelion?
She did not share her concerns with him. She didn’t want to ruin the beautiful day they’d shared. And so, after dinner, she wished him good night and headed to her tent.
The dream had made a return that night. In one of its iterations.
She was in that clearing with her mother, and the sprites were getting closer. She reached out for Annaliese, but she just evaporated into thin air.
“I mean, magical creatures demanding cookies?”
“Stay away, Cordelia!”
“There’s no powerful beings with a sweet tooth here! Ah, I kill myself…”
Cordelia woke up, drenched in sweat. “It’s ok,” she whispered to herself. “It was just a dream. Just a dream.”
She wasn’t sure what time it was, but she couldn’t sleep anymore. She took a deep breath and exited the tent.
But she wasn’t alone.