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Tales of Ardia: A Whisper of Waking

A Fae Story

By D.K. ShepardPublished 2 months ago 10 min read
Tales of Ardia: A Whisper of Waking
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

A pair of chattering squirrels wound themselves up, down, and around the trunks of two enormous trees. The noisy critters were completely oblivious to the green eyes surrounded by freckled brown skin that watched their every movement.

Oleah had gone too far, both in distance traveled and degree of disobedience. She knew she should’ve turned back several leagues ago. Nearly three hours had passed since she’d snuck across the Fralintian border into the vast stretch of the Alvathorn forest. She had never intended to fly so far from fae lands, but one curiosity had led to another and now she was the furthest from home that she’d ever been.

This fact made her heart flutter, not with fear, but excitement.

Though she was afraid too, just not of the forest or danger, but of what would happen if her mother ever found out. The fae queen did not allow any unsanctioned travel beyond the border, not even for her own daughter.

Oleah sighed. Especially not for her own daughter.

It was known far and wide that Fralintia boasted some of the most beautiful woodlands and meadowlands in all of Ardia. And Oleah knew she should be content within the confines of the fae kingdom. But she wasn’t. While it was undeniable that her home was bursting with beauty and marvels, there was also a wide world beyond, which she was curious to explore.

Oleah gazed up in wonder one final time. The trees in this part of the forest were the tallest she’d seen, towering so high above her four foot form that she could not see the tops. Then looking over her shoulder, she resigned herself to beginning the journey home.

After flying for half an hour with only the sounds of twittering birds and scurrying squirrels, a different noise reached Oleah’s pointed ears. She settled on a low tree branch and could feel the vibrations of pounding hoofbeats. Within seconds a massive stag boasting an impressive set of antlers stampeded into view. It stopped when it saw Oleah above and peered back at her with wild eyes, full of fear.

As a fae, Oleah possessed a sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of animals. At once she could sense the stag’s plea for aid. It was being pursued. Hunted. By what? That, Oleah could not ascertain.

She quickly lowered herself to place a gentle hand on the stag’s brow. Quickly she uttered a fae’s blessing of protection that would guide the stag to the safety of Fralintia.

With sides still heaving, the stag resumed its frantic bolt.

Oleah knew she should follow after the creature, but once again her curiosity got the better of her. She hid herself amongst the branches and waited.

Minutes later she heard a cacophony of hoofbeats. But these were different from the stag’s. Heavier and unfamiliar.

Then she heard voices. They were deeper harsher than the tones of the fae.

Oleah’s heart quickened.

Six horses trotted into view below, just a short distance from where Oleah was perched. Humans armed with bows and arrows sat astride them.

Oleah watched with wide eyes as the humans hurriedly searched for signs of the stag. She had never seen a human before and now there were six only a stone’s throw away. Eager for a closer look, she crept quietly along her branch. She could see there were five grown men and one young woman all studying the forest floor carefully, but paying no notice to what was above their heads.

“I think we’ve lost it, Sir” one man said to another.

Oleah smiled. Her blessing would make it nearly impossible for them to track the stag any further.

“I fear you’re right,” the other man said. “The creature has made its escape and we ought to return to camp. Our provisions will have to suffice for supper.”

The men began directing their horses to turnabout. The girl lingered for a moment then began to turn as well, but suddenly she gazed up into the branches and peered directly at Oleah.

They both gasped in unison and Oleah dove backward from her branch, fiercely flapping her wings and not daring to look behind her.

Oleah flew hastily back to Fralintia, no more distractions or detours. Never before had her exploring lead to such a thrilling encounter.

Once she reached the familiar groves of myrtles, redbuds, and the oleanders for which she was named she slowed her pace. She gazed down at the blossoming trees and the cottages nestled in and around the tree trunks.

An older fae waved to her as he tended his herb garden and Oleah returned the gesture. She continued flying past the woodland village and through several meadows until she reached a small round clearing lined by seven trees.

She descended exhaustedly to sit at the base of one tree, a silver birch.

“Tania, wake up!” Oleah called breathlessly.

For a moment there was no response then a gust of wind swirled around the tree and a host of leaves spiraled together into the likeness of a fae.

“What a pleasant surprise,” remarked a tender voice that emanated from the leaf defined form. “I was beginning to think you’d gotten into trouble again and wouldn’t be visiting today.”

Oleah smiled. She was one of the only fae that bothered coming to this clearing to talk with the Ancient Ones. Tania was her favorite to spend time with. She would tell Oleah stories of the great Ardian battles in the time of Slecht the Terrible and of adventures in distant kingdoms.

Tania would also listen attentively to Oleah recount her excursions or bemoan her frustrations. When Oleah felt misunderstood by her mother she was grateful that she could speak with Tania and feel less alone. She sighed. “No, at least I haven’t gotten into trouble yet, but if my mother finds out what I’ve been up to, I’ll be in monumental trouble.” She launched into a description of what had transpired in the forest. “Do you think it’s dangerous that I was seen?” she asked at the conclusion.

“I think there is little to fear,” Tania declared. “From what you described they are probably travelers from the human kingdom that lies to the west. A kingdom that bears no ill will toward the fae.”

“If they are no threat to us, why do we hide away from them and the rest of Ardia?” Oleah asked.

“The danger in my day has left many scars,” Tania replied. “The fear of the evil that once threatened to destroy us has never faded. The fae like other noble races have retreated from the rest of Ardia’s inhabitants. Isolation can seem a source of security.”

“But you defeated Baruit and Slecht was destroyed, why should we be afraid?” Oleah queried.

Baruit was the fae traitor who brought Slecht’s war to Fralintia back when magic flowed freely and all of Ardia was under attack. He had been a leader on the fae king’s council which was composed of the strongest magic wielders in Fralintia. When Baruit led an army of dark forces into Fralintia, the rest of the council united to use their power in an attempt to save the kingdom from destruction. They succeeded but it cost them dearly. Baruit was physically destroyed and his spirit buried deep within the trunk of a great beech tree in a meadow on the outskirts of Fralintia. But the council members’ bodies were destroyed too, their spirits bound to the land as part of their protective spell. For thousands of years they had dwelt within the trees surrounding the small clearing.

“So we did,” Tania said. “But evil is hard to eradicate. We rescued Fralintia from destruction once, and peace has prevailed. But some enemies are difficult to destroy. And who knows when another seed of darkness will take root?”

“But that could be thousands of years from now! Or never!” Oleah said exasperatedly.

“Perhaps,” Tania said. “But in the minds of the fae rulers who have presided these many years it could also be today. Therefore they have acted accordingly and so has your mother.”

The mention of her mother caused Oleah to frown. She should be going home. It was nearly sunset and mother would be wondering about her whereabouts.

“The daylight is disappearing. I’ll come for a longer visit tomorrow, Tania. I promise!”

Tania reached the leaves forming her hand to graze Oleah’s cheek. “Take heart, young one! I sense your future holds all the adventure you could imagine and then some.”

Oleah smiled and watched as Tania’s leaves spiraled outward and back to the branches of her tree.

Then Oleah took her leave of the clearing and flew back through the meadows. When she reached the village she followed the flow of a winding brook until she reached a patch of dense trees with their branches interwoven. It was the gate to Mirel’s Hollow, the dwelling of Queen Vyra and the kings and queens who came before her. Home.

Oleah drifted through an archway embedded in the maze of branches. Surrounded by flowering shrubs and nestled beside a cascade of the brook stood the Queen’s palace. It was similar to the cottages of the village but much larger and with glowing towers. Oleah started to make her way to the palace doors, but a voice halted her steps.


She turned to her right to see her mother standing beside a wisteria covered tree. But her mother was not alone. Oleah’s heart filled with dread. The stag she had blessed in the forest stood alongside the queen. Her mother’s gaze was fierce as Oleah strode to stand before her. It made Oleah’s skin crawl and she wished she could avoid what was coming.

“I was going to ask you where you’ve been today, daughter. But while I was in the village this stag appeared, weary and afraid. I searched its mind and do you know what I saw, Oleah?”

Oleah winced. Her mother’s question hit her like a strike of the hand.

“I’m sorry, mother,” Oleah offered meekly.

“Your apologies are empty words, daughter. How many times will you disobey me? Not only did you leave Fralintia. You put yourself in the path of humans! Did they see you?”

Oleah nodded.

The queen clenched her fists. “You are too reckless, Oleah. Do you not care for your own safety or the safety of our people?”

“Tania said they weren’t dangerous,” Oleah declared.

“Tania has been trapped in a tree for thousands of years,” her mother said icily. “She has no business deciding what is dangerous and what isn’t. You spend way too much time listening to the rambling of those old trees. You will no longer visit their clearing and you will have a guard accompany you anytime you leave this hollow.”

“You can’t do that!” Oleah exclaimed. Her eyes were downcast and hot tears were beginning to stream down her cheeks.

“I can and I have. Until you are prepared to act like a princess, you will be treated like a prisoner.”

Anger was boiling in Oleah’s blood. “Tania might be stuck in a tree but she has done more for Fralintia than you ever have. She is brave. You’re a coward.”

Oleah lifted her eyes to see the queen’s expression, hoping her words had cut as deep as she intended them to. Her mother’s eyes bored into her but there was sadness too and Oleah thought she caught a trace of a tear forming before her mother turned her head away to call out toward the palace. “Guard, please escort the princess to her room and make sure she stays there.”

Oleah’s heart felt like it was about to beat out of her chest. She wouldn’t be a prisoner. She wouldn’t. Without more than a second’s hesitation she turned and shot back through the archway. Dark had descended and hopefully that would be enough to conceal her as she flew. She made it back to the village before she heard sounds of pursuit. Resigned to her choice she continued though meadows and past Tania’s clearing. On and on she went. Hours of steady flight passed, she kept going until her wings ached so terribly she began to fall.

She clumsily landed in a moonlit meadow and lay in a crumpled heap for several minutes. When she regained a measure of strength she sat up and surveyed her surroundings. She was still in Fralintia, but barely. This place was familiar but strange, like somewhere she had visited in a dream. She peered at a cluster of barren trees on the far side of the grassy stretch. There was something eerie about this place.

Unnerved but intrigued, she walked toward the dense forest. The trees were aspen, snow white and covered in black welts. But the dark spots seemed like leering eyes, following her movements. Everything was unnaturally quiet so she crept as soundlessly as possible, not wanting to disturb the silence. After walking through the leafless forest she came to a clearing smaller than Tania’s with a tree at its center. This tree was gigantic and it gleamed white in the pale light of the moon. It was like a tower of twisted bones and when a breeze gusted there was a creaking that sounded like groaning. There was something else in the wind too. A whisper.

Oleah crept closer and could almost make out words. Tentatively she reached out a hand to the tree’s trunk. Her vision went black and a voice echoed in her mind.

“My slumber is ending. I see you, Protector, and you will not defeat me. Not this time.”

Oleah wrenched her hand away and blinked into the moonlight. She clamored out of the clearing and despite her exhaustion she launched herself into flight back toward home.

Other than flying a bit off course to evade some searching guards, she headed straight to Tania’s tree.

She crashed to the ground once more and cried desperately, “Tania, please wake up! Tania, I need to talk to you now!”

Oleah heard approaching sounds of flapping wings. Guards were on their way.

“Tania!” she screamed.

The breeze stirred and Tania materialized before her. “What’s wrong, child?”

“Tania, the evil is stirring! The traitor tree is awake!”

Tania gasped and all her leaves shook. She let out a wail and all the trees within the clearing shuddered.

There was a shout behind Oleah. “Come quick, I found her!”

Suddenly hands were grabbing Oleah from behind. She struggled but there were too many.

“Tania, what do we do?” she cried out as she was forced back.

“We prepare,” Tania said with resolve. The other Ancient Ones were taking form all around them, blocking the guards' path. “The adventure has started sooner than I anticipated. It is time, Oleah, time for you to become a Protector.”

Author’s Note: This story takes place in a fantasy world I built for a novel I’m querying.

Young AdultFantasy

About the Creator

D.K. Shepard

Character Crafter, Witty Banter Enthusiast, World Builder, Unpublished novelist...for now

Fantasy is where I thrive, but I like to experiment with genres for my short stories. Currently employed as a teacher in Louisville.

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Comments (8)

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  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    I'm into it. Can't wait to see where the story goes!

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    This is an excellent story, and clearly has a lot more to be told. Well done.

  • Esala Gunathilake2 months ago

    Enjoyed it! Really I am looking forward for upcoming stories.

  • Novel Allen2 months ago

    All young ones need to rebel, it is the way of things. Each step along the way should direct us on our path. So glad that she found hers,

  • Omgggg, I was soooo invested in this story! Ugh, if only the stag didn't cross paths with Queen Vyra. But then again, if that didn't happen, then Oleah would have never discovered that traitor tree. I guess everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed your story very much!

  • James Leek2 months ago

    Really enjoyed this and would love to read more of this world - so fingers crossed for the novel!

  • John Cox2 months ago

    Clearly, you have an epic planned, D.K. Planning to share more of it with us poor mortals? You definitely hooked me! Great storytelling!

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