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One Final Stroll

by Jauren Riloski 2 years ago in fantasy
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The End of the Beginning

Four Friends, One Destination

Lila's eyes flicker open. A haze has set over her that was different than the normal morning plague. Sweat drips down her forehead to her lips enlightening her to the salty taste. Where am I? Her head darts from left to right. Up and down and every which way in between. The room she found herself in was small and stained with blood on the cobblestone walls. Her petite body lay outstretched on a simple bed with no blanket. A singular door exists to her right, along with a lone candle to illuminate the room. Her body was weak, and she struggled to sit up even in the slightest of manners.

Oh right, I remember now.

Using every bit of strength that she had, she swiveled herself up and towards the door. A low groan escapes her dark purple lips at the stiffness she felt. Her bare feet touch the stone floor invites a chill to explore her body. A resistant shiver erupts all over her that fails to expel the invading chill. I never thought this is what it would be like.

A deep breath coupled with a mental fortitude check found Lila rising. Her energy slowly returning. Her feet beginning to carry her towards the door seemingly on their own. One step, two steps, three steps, she was there. The candle directly to her right changing from a bright red flame to a soothing deep blue. The door itself was made of metal, a bronze alloy that she has worked with time and time again. Yet at this moment, she is unable to recall what it was called. Her memory of it fleeting.

Shakily, her left hand reaches for the handle. An audible click reaches her pointy ears, and she slides the door to the right with all her might. A bright light encircles her. Prodding at her skin and providing a sense of warmth and comfort. It is now or never. Stepping forward, her ruby hues adjusting to the light, she found herself in a place most familiar. One that would bring a tear to her eye.

***

She found herself inside of a small cottage. It was three rooms. The master bedroom on the far north side, in the middle, was the kitchen and family room, and to the south her and her sister's bedroom. Cinnamon emanates from the oven, and a fresh bowl of bright red strawberries served as the centerpiece for the small round dining table. Three chairs were positioned around it and one was tipped on it's back. Lila went to the tipped over chair and lifted it back up.

Here? Why here?

The house was empty. Sounds of singing birds enjoying the springtime air filled the walls. Lila went over to the door leading outside and reached for the handle. A few inches from it, she stops by some mysterious compulsion. No, I have to do something here. Her eyes drift closed and she recalls the memory of this place. Memories of family dinners. Squabbles with her sisters. The small cat that sometimes came to visit rubbing up against her leg, only to be scared off by her annoyed mother who explicitly expressed no desire for pets time and time again. A happy tear flows from her eye at the memories that happened nearly a century ago.

What felt like an eternity spent in remembrance amounted to only 15 minutes of peace. A voice erupted through the house. Young, male, and obviously prepubescent. Lila's eyes snap open, and she spins around, turning to face the individual. Her eyes land on a small boy with blond hair and orange eyes. His face was soft and had a smile painted on it.

"It has been awhile Lila, hasn't it?"

Her heart throbs in her chest, trying to leap right through her ribcage. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Sound abandoning her in favor of a stiffened posture and sweat coated forehead. Salyn. It's really him, but how? Lila's mind races. She had not seen her little brother in over 100 years. Not since her mother used him for the early phases of experimentation. Her eyes swell, and still, no sound leaves her lips. Not even a whimper.

"Sit down sister, I am sure you know where you are. Just not why you are seeing me." Salyn's tone was soft and caring. Filled with hope and ambitions that the young often have for the future. He gestures to the old wooden chair across for him and plucks a strawberry from the bowl to grace his tongue. His wide hopeful eyes stare at Lila, who after some time, mustered up the strength to sit down. Her mouth opened several times trying to speak before only one question could escape her throat. "What happened to you?" She immediately regretted the question. The back of her mind nagging at her that it is better not to know, and to live in blissful ignorance.

"I don't know, I am still alive. But you won't like what I have become." Salyn never lets his smile fade. A purple flower appearing in his head as he spoke. The very last time Lila saw him, was when she put a flower in his head while playing. They were exploring a small cave near their home, and both thought the flower was rather beautiful. Salyn put one in her hair, while she put one in hers. Lila's hand reached up into her own ruby locks, and she felt the purple flower there too. I remember this day like it was yesterday.

Lila frowns deeply. She now had confirmation of what was happening. She stares into her brother's eyes. "Why are you here then?"

"To say thank you big sis. You gave me a childhood before mother took me away. I only wish that I could of seen you one last time." Salyn gets up, standing at two feet tall. Padding over, he wrapped his arms around Lila in as tight an embrace as a 7-year-old could muster. "You accomplished more than you give yourself credit for."

Just like that, he was gone. Before Lila could even ruffle his hair like she used to, he was gone. The door outside clicks, and it cracks open. Lila rose up, pushed her chair in, and walked towards it. Opening the door and she steps through, into the light. A warmth washes over her, and her hair begins to blow in a cool ocean breeze.

***

Lila found herself standing on a beach. Ocean waves washing over her bare feet and her hair flowing behind her in the wind. Both hands were clasped behind her back, and she had the unexplainable urge to hold still. Using all of her force amounted to nothing. She felt nothing. Other than she had to hold still for just a little bit longer. A few more minutes. Why? Why can't I move?

After a few more minutes her body relaxed. Her arms fell to her side and hands stretched out her digits. Her eyes drift closed at the familiar feeling, and she began walking to the left, up the beach towards a large piece of driftwood. Reaching it, she sits herself down and just looks out over the water. Something about this place is familiar. A raven swoops down and lands on her shoulder. "Eno?"

The bird bobs her head up and down. Flapping her wings in greeting. Lila always had a fondness for ravens. They were beautiful, intelligent, and make great conversation partners. Especially when they learn to mimic swear words. Nothing is more comical than a well placed swear with no regard to the context of the conversation at hand.

"Lila."

Her head swivels left and right. "What?" There was no one there. Just her, Eno, and the... painting? Leaning up against a tree, was a handpainted image of her and Eno. It had Eno on her shoulder, and she was wearing that beautiful red dress that everyone seems to love. She stares at it. Could it be? Her feet carry her over to it. It was encased in a golden frame with rubies embedded in the corner. It was a gift from someone. Someone she doesn't seem to remember, other than it appeared on her door one day.

Painting of Lila and Eno By Unknown

She picks up the painting in both hands and looks at it. When she does so, a letter falls out from the back into the sands. Eno swoops down to pick it up before a pesky crab could rush off with it. She holds it out for Lila to read so that she could continue to hold the painting.

My dearest Lila,

You may not remember me, but I most certainly remember you. I cam to you one day with an issue that mages called hopeless. I was told repeatedly that there was nothing that could be done, and depression was hitting me hard. Then, I saw a flier for your business. Ruby's Elixirs. It claimed that nothing was impossible. Hah, right. How can an alchemist do what the most skilled mages could not?

But I admit. I was curious. So I walked into your shop, and you greeted me with that beautiful smile of yours. I remember those words that flowed out of your mouth after I explained the problem. Those three simple words that no one has ever uttered to be before. I. Can. Help.

You gave me hope when the world just wanted to tare me down. You took all the time that was needed and didn't rush. Even came with me to my rehab appointment and told them how they were treating me wrong. Free of charge!

Anyways, I am rambling. I had this painting made for you. I know you never got to see it, so I left it here for you to find it. Take it with you. Hang it on your wall, and never stop being yourself.

With much love.

~K

A smile formed on Lila's lips. The letter was, right, she doesn't remember who this person was. Or even what the problem was she helped them solve. But she remembers the feeling. The feeling of hope when she tells someone she can help in the face of impossible odds. Showing the world and the so-called experts that anything can be done if given the right attitude and time. Eno caws at the painting and flaps her wings. She really likes the rendition of her in the painting.

The sun begins to set, and soon she begins walking along the beach. As darkness engulfs her, the painting and Eno disappear. Though unlike with Salyn, she was not discouraged and continued to walk on. Leaving shallow footprints in the dry sand in her wake. Her stride returning to its former confidence, and she clutches a spot around her neck where a potion used to dangle. The light begins to engulf her again and her vision fades. She closes her eyes, breathes deep, and clenches the invisible potion that was now appearing in her hand.

***

Smooth glass parts Lila's fingers when the light fades. Dangling around her neck is a small vial with a golden liquid inside. Her very first alchemical creation that to this day, she has no idea what it does. Her curiosity has caused her to keep it as a reminder of her origins and how even the most mundane ingredients can produce something beautiful when mixed correctly. Her eyes scan her new destination. A large rectangular room lay before her. The walls lined with work stations, desks, shelves, and ventilation equipment. My first lab.

Smoke... bubbles, and the anticipation of the alarm. Oh how I miss this.

She makes her way over to an ongoing experiment. Any looking in on her work would think she is completely mad. Nothing was labeled, and there were minimal notes written down on the current project. Yet to Lila, it was all second nature. Each ingredient she knew by heart and how much to apply. This was a routine concoction for her. A simple medicinal potion to cure exhaustion and promote a healthy night's sleep.

One part nightshade, three parts St Carols wart, three ounces of water, fifteen units of grain alcohol...

The formula ran through her head as she added the ingredients to the pot. Adding heat and mixing them caused the liquid to turn a dark purple. A color commonly associated with the night and sleep. She added a small drop of cherry flavoring. A smile grows on her lips when the creation was complete and ready to be shipped. Boring routine, my favorite. Second only to discovery.

"No, don't touch that!"

A voice rang out. It was her own. Her head swivels in the room to find the origin. In the corner, she saw herself. Standing next to her, was a small child with a sickly red taint coursing through his skin. She had picked this child upon one of her expeditions, having found him the subject of another alchemist's experiments. He had been injected with a weapon of war known only as Red. Its aim is to change a mortals body to better accommodate demonic possession. Fortunately, it never got passed the testing stage before it's creator was put down. Lila saw to that.

The image continued to play for the silent observer. Lila was injecting the child with a black liquid to counteract the toxin. Painful to the child, but a necessary evil that has to be endured. The child writhes in pain and falls to the floor. Tears flow down his eyes, yet he does not scream. Having been subject to so much pain already, the child had become numb to it. After several minutes, the red taint was gone, and the child was rushing to the chamber pot. Lila smiles at this memory, she remembers it well.

I wonder what happened to him.

The answer to her question would come sooner rather than later. She felt a hand gently clasping her shoulder, and when she turned, the image before her faded and was replaced with a young human man smiling at her. The hand was comforting and warm to the touch. His eyes a light shade of blue and hair a short black cut.

"Long time no see Lila. I was wondering when you were going to show up."

She blinks, several times before turning to face the man. Her eyes locking to his. He must be... Her thoughts interrupted by a gentle kiss from the man. Holding it for some time, he eventually stepped back. Moving to a small sofa and sitting. He pats the seat beside him, that Lila promptly occupies with her petite frame.

"So your time has finally come. Just like mine. I was told to wait here at your last stop." He rests a hand on her leg, smiling sweetly. Lila always knew he had developed a crush on her after that incident. An orphaned child rescued out of the goodness of another's heart. He takes a deep breath before continuing.

"You remember telling me how you wanted to know what that potion around your neck does? I figured it out." His hand dips under his shirt, and he removes a similar necklace with the same hue of gold radiating from the vial pendant. Lila's eyes grow wide and her mouth opens to speak only to be met by a silencing finger of the man.

"It is happiness."

Her head tilts slightly to the right, confused. Happiness? How.

"It is the idea that the unknown holds promise. Hope and drive. It was what fueled all of the great things you did. Drove you to save lives instead of take them. I saw how happy you were every day. Some called it a mask, but I saw it differently."

Lila lets her eyes drift closed. Everyone always saw her as an eccentric elf. No one ever stopped to consider she was happy doing what she was. Dedicating her life to her work. It was at that moment that her entire life flashed before her. Every good and bad memory. Forgotten and familiar faces. She felt a warmth, then a chill.

"Thank you Soren." There was no reply.

***

When her eyes opened, he was gone. The room she was in was gone, and she felt herself flowing to the end of her journey. When her eyes opened, she was sitting beneath an apple tree on a swaying swing. She was overlooking a small hamlet. Peaceful. Children playing, animals prowling, and shops selling their wares.

She crosses her left leg over her right and takes a deep breath. It's spring, and the sun was beginning to set. Eno lands on her shoulder and fluffs her wings in greeting. Following her owners gaze out over the town. Here, she waits. Time seems to have stopped and she was left alone with her thoughts. No one told her why she was here and what she was waiting for. She begins idly swinging back and forth.

"Lila?"

Her head turns to the sound of the voice, and a smile forms. "I have been waiting for you."

fantasy

About the author

Jauren Riloski

Hello Vocal! My name is Jauren, a recent graduate from college who is plagued by the burden of student debt. I have a passion for telling stories, and taking people on adventures that they will remember. Let's all tell stories together!

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