What’s The Next Step? – chapter 1

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Chapter 1: Guilt

Trisha
It was the third day we stayed with the elves. The man who brought us to his home is called Legolas. He looked so much better in real life.

The elves lived in a beautiful valley. We stayed in his castle. We have a private suite and a bathroom each. As I wondered down the never-ending corridor, I wondered how many rooms the eves need. Their diet were mostly vegetarian. More berries. I don’t know how they get their energy.

I noticed that Amalina and Teva kept checking the berries before popping into their mouth. We didn’t mean to be rude but we do not want to have mutant berries in our mouths. Our drinks were either the choice of fruit juice or from the stream.

Legolas asked us to stay longer because he received news that there were Dark Seekers roaming nearby. Dark Seekers are more or less similar to Death Eaters in the world of Harry Potter. We agreed willingly. We didn’t want to leave and are safe to wander around the village.

My friends and I sat with his children at the long table on the balcony. We could see the whole valley from where we sat. It was more of a floating patio. it had water features and a playground for the kids.

Teva played with Ames and Rose. They were about 6 or 7 years old. They have long, blond hair, pointed ears and fair skinned. “You’re sure that this balcony patio will not collapse?” Ling asked. She gripped the armrests of her chair tightly. “No, I don’t think so,” Tyng replied. Tyng walked towards us with a pair of binoculars in her hand.

“The view is wonderful here.”

“I want to see,” Daphne said excitedly. Tyng passed the binoculars to Daphne before sitting down. “Don’t fall off!” I yelled. Tyng read the newspaper. Ling scooted near to Tyng to read the paper too.

“Trisha, don’t you want to see?” Daphne asked and called me over.

I stood at the furthest edge I dare to stand on and looked through the binoculars. I saw villagers trying to sell their goods and children playing hide and seek. I could also see Legolas visiting his people. I turned the knob on the binoculars to see further and deeper into the forest. I saw the colour green everywhere. I was about to hand back the binoculars but then I saw the most unexpected thing.

I looked away and blinked a few times before viewing the binoculars again. There! I was about to call my friends over but Legolas appeared at the balcony.

“How is everything my..” Legolas said and stopped when Ling gave him an odd stare. “Everything is fine,” I said and smiled. “Good. I’m just letting you know that all of you are invited as guests of honour to my royal ball tonight. My friend will be visiting me and she wants to meet all of you. She will be staying for a night with us,” Legolas said in his calming and patient voice.

I looked at my perfect uniform and the others. “A ball?” I squeaked. “We can’t go to a ball wearing this,” I said.

Legolas rolled his eyes. “Of course I thought of that. Your dresses are waiting in your bedrooms. Someone will help you get groomed,” he replied. Oh. He could have told us earlier. “So I’ll be meeting all of you outside the grand hall at 7 p.m. sharp,” he said and turned to go downstairs.

“If we’re going to the ball, it means that I have to wear a dress?” Amalina asked. All of us laughed. “I hate dresses! It’s not funny!” Amalina exclaimed.

The dress that were picked out for us fits us perfectly. It was a simple ball gown yet it looked very glamourous when I looked at myself in the mirror. Two maids helped me to do up my hair. The make up they used on me were sparkly and natural. I wonder how my friends look like in their clothes especially Amalina.

The door creaked open and I saw Teva, Tyng and Ling come in. They look stunning as well. “How do we look?” Teva asked and did a small twirl for us to look. Tyng looked uncomfortable wearing heels. Ling and her sat on the edge of my bed. “You guys look beautiful. What about me?” I asked. “Ugly,” Teva teased. “Eh,” I started. “Just joking. You look beautiful too,” Teva said quickly when the elves looked at her sternly.

Suddenly, the door burst open and Daphne came in. “Wah, Trisha!” Daphne said and hugged me. “At least she said something nice,” I pointed out. Daphne grinned and sat with Tyng and Ling when we complimented her. I noticed that they put flowers and gemstones onto our hair.

“My head feels heavy,” Tyng said and cocked her head one side. “Anyone seen Amalina?” Ling asked curiously. “Nope. Where is she? I want to see her in a dress!” Teva said excitedly. She held a new camera in her hand and was snapping pictures. I wondered where she got the camera.

“I heard somebody saying my name,” Amalina piped up. She entered the room slowly. The elves exited the room.

“You look beautiful in a dress. Why do you hate dresses?” I told her. “These heels can kill me,” Amalina muttered. She looked remarkable in a dress. Since she was not allowed to wear pants, she requested that she be allowed to put on a headscarf and wore a long-sleeved dress. It took us awhile to explain to the elves about the do’s and don’ts of Amalina’s religion.

“Well, you can kick people with those heels,” Teva replied. Amalina changed her mind about the heels and gave an evil smile.

Ames and Rose passed by my room. They told us to go down to the hall now or the guests will get impatient. They waved goodbye before hurrying off. “Are we in demand or something?” Daphne asked as we streamed out of my bedroom. I closed the door behind me and headed to the lift with my friends. The open-air lift could take all of us.

“I read this interesting book in the library. It was recorded that in every ten years, seven maidens will come to Inkspell and they will be welcomed gladly,” Ling mused. “There’s only six of us,” Tyng said. “I’m just sharing what I read,” Ling replied. “Anyway, why do the maidens come to Inkspell for?” Tyng asked. Ling shrugged. “The words after that were in the elf language. I haven’t got around translating yet,” Ling explained.

We were given lessons like nay other elves. The things that we learn in Inkspell are almost similar to what we learn back home. The plus side is that we don’t need to wear uniforms.

Finally, we reached the entrance to the grand hall. Guards in white uniforms lined up along the corridor to the huge wooden door. The guards held out their shiny bows proudly. Legolas was already waiting for us near the door. “Just in time,” he said as one guard opened the door.

It was like a fairytale where a princess enters the ball. Elves were twirling on the dance floor to the music. The band playing were seated on the first floor. Everything stopped when Legolas stepped in. Everyone gave way as we followed Legolas from the back.

“Welcome, elves of Inkspell!” Legolas said loudly. “Hail King Legolas!” his people said in return. Their love and loyalty to their king were tremendous. Suddenly, I felt very insignificant. Teva, Amalina, and Tyng looked around them. Teva took pictures. Ling tried her best to smile and Daphne did the same. I smiled a little too.

“Today, I’m not that important. As promised, I give you the seven maidens!” Legolas announced to the whole hall and gestured towards my friends and I. The crowd erupted with applause. “Doesn’t he know how to count? There are only six of us. I think he got the wrong group of maidens,” Amalina whispered. “There are seven now,” a voice behind me said. I turned around to look and was caught by surprise.

The lady who spoke had jet black hair and fair skinned. However, her cheeks are rosy and so was her lips. I know that she’s an elf. Her eyes were almond shaped and green.

“You have come, my friend,” Legolas greeted and embraced her. “Yes, Legolas. A promise is a promise,” she replied and smiled. “This is Arwen Pekkala,” Legolas said. We greeted her in turns. “Shall we?” Legolas said and motioned us to sit on our ‘thrones’. He sat in the middle of course. Four of us on his right, three on his left. There was one extra seat beside Amalina. Legolas and Arwen did not mention anything so neither of us brought the subject up.

We sat and faced the people. There were performances and more dancing. I was getting bored and restless just sitting. I was about to ask Legolas whether I could dance with my friends when something caught my eye. I froze and asked Teva how I looked. Teva frowned. “Normal. You look fine,” Teva replied.

Before I could reply, I overheard someone asking Legolas permission to dance with one of us. It was the guy who I saw with my binoculars a few days ago and today. “It is up to her young man,” Legolas said and both of them looked at me. “Huh?” I blurted.

“He’s asking whether you would like to dance with him,” Legolas said. Arwen gave an encouraging smile. In a daze, I held his hand and was lead to the dance floor.

He could dance pretty well. He looked smart in his black tuxedo. I saw no pointed ears and wondered whether he’s a human living in Inkspell. “I’m not an elf. I’m a vampire,” he said, like he read my thoughts. I stared at him and stopped moving.

Fight or flee?

“Relax. I’m related to the Cullens. I’m sure you heard of them,” he said and chuckled. “You mean Carlisle’s family?” I asked. “Yes, that Cullen,” he replied as we began to glide on the dance floor again. I saw my friends being invited to dance when I twirled pass the throne. “What’s your name?” I asked. “My name is Edmund,” he replied and spun me around.

“I thought only elves are allowed into the castle,” I said. “My family are good friends with the king,” Edmund said. I lost my balance but he caught me in time. Apparently, I accidentally stepped on another elf’s dress. I apologized to her.

“I think we need to drink,” he said when the elf went away. A waiter passed by and Edmund took two glasses. “You can drink this right?” he asked as he handed the glass containing clear liquid to me. “What is it?” I asked and held the glass towards the light. He drank the whole glass in one gulp. “Some special juice that the elves love. Do you like sweet stuff?” Edmund asked and placed his empty glass onto a tray.

“Not really. It wouldn’t kill me if I drink it right?” I asked and laughed. “Well, your friend opted for fruit juice,” Edmund said and gestured behind me with his head. I turned to look. It was Tyng with a guy who obviously loves to show off.

“That’s my cousin from Alaska. Name’s Caleb and he’s actually a very quiet person. That’s not him tonight,” Edmund said. “Quiet?” I asked. Weird name too. Edmund widened his eyes as if he heard what I thought too. “You have to understand that we vampires are not from your modern times,” Edmund explained. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “Your friend do not find him weird. They have lots in common.” We could hear their laughter.

I didn’t say anything and tried to look for my friends. Daphne and Suet Ling were at the buffet table. Amalina was chatting with Arwen. Teva mingled around. She waved at me when she caught my eye and continued chatting to a couple. Caleb was no longer showing off. He whispered something to Tyng. Tyng scanned around the room, looking for someone. Caleb laughed when Tyng failed to look for the particular person and turned her around by holding her shoulders, facing us. Both of them waved at Edmund and I and giggled.

What is this? A waving party? I waved back. Edmund raised a glass towards them before drinking. “I’m sorry,” I said when I realized I ignored him for a moment. “It’s alright. Everyone treats my family like we’re outcasts anyway,” Edmund said indifferently and smiled.

“Just ignore them, Edmund,” a voice said. It was Edward’s. Bella was with him. She was pale than I am. She wasn’t a full fledge vampire yet. “No, Edward is still against turning me into one of them,” Bella said. “I’m Bella Swan. Well, Bella Cullen now,” she said nervously. I shook her hand and introduced myself. “Can you read minds?” I asked while Edward took Edmund aside to discuss some matters.

“I’m partly vampire and partly human thanks to James,” Bella said and held up her bitten hand. She said his name in a low growl. I can see Edward stealing a quick glance at us.

“Caleb challenged Tyng to dance and we are expected to join them,” Edward piped up when he made his way towards us. “Shall we honour Caleb’s request?” Edmund asked and held out his hand. Both of us headed to the dance floor again.

“Tyng doesn’t dance,” I said to Edmund. “Caleb gave her no options.”

A medium tempo song filled the hall. I recognized the tune. Caleb, Tyng, the Cullens, Edmund and I got ready at the center of the hall. People made way for all of us. I could hear Daphne and Ling cheering for us. They got invited to dance too. Amalina smiled smugly with Teva. Teva worked her camera.

Tyng looked spooked at first. I don’t know what Caleb did but he made her feel calm suddenly. Then it hit me. “That was Jasper’s doing wasn’t it?” I asked Edmund. He never answered.

Edmund was a great dancer. He said that Edward and Rosalie were way better. “Caleb isn’t bad too,” I added. “He wants to know if he has any competitors,” Edmund said.

The song ended pretty quickly. It was time for everyone to leave. “You mean he wants to know whether he’s the only one after Tyng?” I asked for confirmation. Edmund rolled his eyes. “She has a boyfriend back in the real world,” I said. “He knows that. He’s asking about this world,” Edmund said. I shook my head. “Who are my competitors then?” he asked as he escorted me to the door. I entered the lift and turned to look at him.

“Why don’t you find it out yourself?” I said and waved goodbye. He laughed and waved. I saw a glint in his golden eyes before the doors of the lift closed. I wonder whether he’s really a good vampire. Maybe he’ll lure me like how the witch lured Hansel and Gretel. Anything could happen in Inkspell.

“He was head over heels about you and you should not have commented about their names!” Daphne said suddenly. I didn’t realize that the lift stopped and the door was open. Daphne stood in front of the lift. “Daphne! You gave me a fright,” I said and exited the lift.

“When did you enter the lift?” I asked.

“We didn’t. You reached already,” Amalina said. I must have daydreamed on the way up.

“Anyway, how did you know what I said?” I asked Daphne and stifled a yawn. “I just knew. I’m tired. Going to have an early night,” Daphne said and trudged off to her bedroom. She entered her room and we heard her drop something on the floor. We also heard her grumbling.

“According to my watch, it is 12.15 a.m. now,” Tyng said. She yawned. “I guess I better go to bed too,” she said and went her way. “Good night,” I called out to my friends. I locked my room door and plopped down on my soft bed. It rained heavily then.

The next thing I knew was it was daylight. I must have fallen into deep slumber. I made my way to the bathroom to pick out the remaining gems and flowers from my hair and began to take a long shower. I was about done showering when there was a furious knock on the door.

“I’m almost ready!” I shouted back when it didn’t stop. “You have to hurry up, Trisha!” Edmund said urgently. Edmund? What was he doing here? The urgency scared me and I dressed quickly. When I opened the door, I was immediately flung over his back and he ran.

“Whoa! What about my friends? I have to tell them!” I shouted as he leapt over the balcony. We landed soundlessly. All the elves were running everywhere. “Caleb has come for Tyng. The others are safe,” he replied quickly as he sprinted away from the castle.

I had to close my eyes when the wind hurt my eyes. Edmund went superhumanly fast. I could hear screams and glass breaking all over me. I knew we were out of the castle when I could feel the raindrops.

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