With the explanation out of the way, the group finally got close to their destination, The Great Mystical Forest. Trees stretch out as far as the eyes can see. Even crazier is the giant forest even deeper in the distance. The trees tower over the surrounding trees on the edge. It’s so tall that the canopy touches the clouds, a scenery of wonders. Leo, Amber, Natalie and Claudius can’t help but look in awe at the view, feeling like a speck of dust compared to the giant forest in front of them. For Rudy and Sophia, it’s a familiar view as they came from The Great Mystical Forest itself. To Velh, it’s a scenery he has seen many times before, but it’s still something to behold.
“One thing I have been wondering. Sophia, you and Rudy both come from here right? Does that mean you two know each other already?”- Natalie wonders.
“In a way, we do… but at the same time we don’t. The majority of the elves population do live here, but our communities are divided into many different villages that live in different areas within the forest. So I do know of the Taus family, but I have never met Rudy myself.”- Sophia explains.
“That makes sense, the elves are always so mysterious to me. It’s great that I get to learn something new about them.”- Natalie smiles.
Sophia blushes, she looks away to hide her embarrassment. Finally, the group arrives at the outskirts of the forest. Sophia was initially hesitant about whether or not she should invite everyone in. After she remembers her visit at Leo’s house, Sophia decides to invite them in to visit her family. As the group enters into the forest, following the trail, they notice decorations and certain markings on the road. What’s even stranger for Leo was the feeling of being watched, he constantly checked around but failed to find anything out of place. Suddenly, multiple elves appeared from the tree top, descending to the grounds and surrounding Leo’s party. These elves wore some kind of light armor, all carrying spears. It’s obvious to everyone that they are some kind of guards. Sophia remains calm and waves at one of them. It’s as if she knows that guard personally.
“State your name and business.”- One of the guards said.
“I’m Sophia Olohorn. I’m here to visit my family along with these guests here.”- She said, pointing over at the group.
“Rudy Taus is with you too?!? I guess we won’t need to check our records for you.”- The guard said.
“I can vouch for her myself also. She is from the northern village”- The guard that Sophia waved at said.
“I’ll take your word for that.”- The guard said, turning over to Sophia.
“Sorry if I sounded too stern. Everyone is busy with preparing for the festival. There are always those who look to affect our ritual with negative intentions.”- He apologized.
As they let Leo’s group walk by, the guards seem to sense something weird about Sophia and Claudius (who is in disguise) but opt to ignore it.
“Ok Rudy, do you want to visit my village or yours first?”- Sophia turns around and asks.
“Let's do yours! My parents can always wait!”- Rudy replies with a smile.
“Cheeky little one aren’t you.”- Leo said.
“Stop being mean to the kid.”- Amber said, hitting Leo on the head.
Guided by Sophia, the group reached the Northern Village. It’s architecture is something children would love as the buildings are all built on trees, multiple tree houses to be exact. Peculiar plants can be seen grown on the ground, serving as some type of food that the elves consume. Many curious elf children ran up to the group, looking at the strange visitors they have never seen before. Sophia greeted them, patting their heads and saying hi.
“She acts so differently at home than she does with us.”- Leo thought to himself, looking at Sophia.
She notices that Leo was looking at her, thought about something and ran right up to him. She pulled him to the side and say:
“If you reveal my secret to anyone here, death will be the thing you wish for when I’m done with you.”
“Gulp.”- Leo nervously nods his head from the scary threat.
As the two walk back to where the group is, they see more adult elves showing up.
“Sophia? Is that really you?”- Her mom asks.
Sophia’s eyes lit up as she ran up to her mom, giving her a big hug.
“I missed you so much! I’m glad to see that you are still well.”- Her mom said.
Her dad walked over, greeting the group and introducing himself. Sophia’s uncle and cousins are also there, along with some villagers. Sophia introduces her party members, also introducing Rudy and Velh. Their talks were somewhat stiff at first, but everyone became comfortable soon enough, all laughing and making jokes.
“Is there anything wrong Uncle Rash?”- Sophia notices him looking at her with a worried look on his face.
“Ah...um… nothing! We should hurry so you can say your greetings to the village elders.”- Uncle Rash panics.
The group was then lead to a platform, similar to the platform entrance of the city in Sarama Desert. With a snap of the finger, the platform floats up all the way to where the buildings are. They are now officially in the Northern village. In elf culture, every village has a group of very old elves that give guidance to the village, called the elders. Everyone from or visiting the village has to greet them and get approval to be in the village. This isn’t new to Sophia, she has done this many times before, even when she left for her adventure. The group walks through many flower bridges, with some paths even made out of magically grown trees. Soon, they arrive at the center of the village, a big building that houses the elders. Velh sighs, requesting to be allowed to remain outside and not attend the meeting. Sophia’s dad apologizes, denying his request as everyone needs to greet the elders.
With a deep breath, the doors are opened and the group enter. Leo looks around the beautifully decorated interior, turning his head slightly up to where the elders are seated. There are around 7 of them, sitting next to each other. Even though they are called elders, elves age very slowly, all of them look like they are in their 50s. In the center is a female elf, her beautiful looks shrouded by mysteries.
“It is my pleasure to meet you all. I welcome you to his humble village.”- She said.
Her voice is very calming, giving an almost therapeutic feeling when heard. Everyone seems to relax, dropping their suspicions when hearing her talk.
“My name is Sorenna, the current elder of this village. I see we have a few familiar faces here, and some we don’t recognize.”- Sorenna introduces herself.
Both Sophia and Rudy bow their heads, causing Leo and the rest to also bow in response. Leo can’t help but notice the peculiar looks that the other elders gave them.
“Aren’t these guys hundreds of years old? They should be used to seeing humans by now, so why are they giving us such strange looks?”- He ponders.
“We happened to be in Absol, just in time for the Moonlight Festival. I want to visit everyone here while I have the chance.”- Sophia explains.
“Quite understandable, it would make sense for a child to want to visit her own home. I assume it is the same for you?”- Sorenna looks over at Rudy.
“Yes! I joined them recently and also wanted to drop by here while I got a chance!”- Rudy joyfully explains.
“And these are your fellow adventurers, I presume?”- Sorenna asks.
“Yes, this is Leo, Natalie, Amber, Claudius and the one that temporarily joined us, Velh.”- Sophia introduces them.
“Velh… That’s a name of legend even in the elf community. What a surprise that you have returned here.”- Sorenna said.
“Returned?!? Isn’t Velh a human? Has he been in this village before?”- Questions flowed into Leo’s mind as he looked at Velh.
Velh doesn’t respond, opting to remain silent.
“Answer her, you brute!”- One of the guardians demands.
Sorenna puts one of her hands up, gesturing for the guardian to stop. He bowed his head and quietly went down.
“It’s fine if you don’t feel like responding. Let’s focus on the more important subject at the moment.”- She calmly says.
“As you all know, the Moonlight ritual will be conducted at midnight tomorrow. There are many fiendish individuals that seek to disturb it, hoping to anger the gods. That’s why security has to be very strict around this time.”- She explains.
“I understand. We’ll be out of here very quickly after our visit.”- Sophia said.
“That isn’t really the focal point of my concern. What’s important here is why someone with ill intentions decided to show up right before the festival?”- Sorenna asks.
“Ill intentions? We are just here for a quick visit, if you are referring to my party members, I can assure you that they are…”- Sophia said before being interrupted.
“It’s not completely true to say that they are who I’m suspicious about. The question lies on why do I sense dark elf corruption in you?”- Sorenna interrupts.
Everyone in Leo’s party is in shock, especially Sophia, who stood completely still.
“Oh shit shit shit!”- Leo’s thoughts panic.
“I’m sure some here have also noticed, but decided to neglect it.”- Sorenna follows up.
Sophia’s uncle can be seen looking away, showing that he does sense the corruption in her.
“Forgive me for my rudeness, but it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume that everyone in your party knows about your situation. Who’s to say that you aren’t here with ill intent?”- Sorenna poses the question.
The other elders whisper to one another, looking at Sophia and also Claudius. It seems like they can sense dark energy through his disguise. Velh is now bracing himself for what’s to come.
“You also know about this too, but you decided to not mention it. Why is that?”- Sorenna looks at Rudy, who puts her head down in silence.
“It’s not her fault! Rudy’s innocent, I never told her about my situation. I can assure you that I haven’t been corrupted.”- Sophia desperately states.
“You know that turning into a dark elf is an irredeemable crime. I feel bad for you, such a young and promising elf. You were too naive and became corrupted.”- Sorenna sighs.
“She is innocent. Yes, just like you suspect, I was the one corrupting her. You should only punish me.”- Leo confidently declares.
“Leo…”- Sophia looks over at him, emotional at what he is trying.
“You are certainly guilty. Judging her is not up to you, it’s our decision. Guardians, restrain them all.”- Sorenna orders.
“This is bad! We need to find a way out. We have Velh with us, I’m sure he can bust US?!?!”- Leo thought before being surprised from what he saw.
Velh raised both of his arms immediately, surrendering without any hesitations. The guardians rush in and restrain everyone.
“The ritual comes first, we’ll continue their trial after the Moonlight Festival.”- Rosenna said.
They were all escorted outside, with Sophia’s mom breaking down at the sudden scene of her daughter being imprisoned. They were brought to a prison somewhere deeper into the forest.