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The Redhaired Friend. Chapters 8 and 9

Chapter 8

The Power of a Song

Orlina had just finished her classes and walked outside, squinting in the sun. She cheerfully greeted her brother and friends and froze, because behind them stood Larenon, tall and strong.

“What’re you doing here? I thought, I saw you being kicked out of here first thing in the morning,” said Orlina in a strict voice.

“I wanted to see someone, so needed to return,” answered Larenon in a rather calm tone. Now he surely did not look as impudent as last time in the classroom.

“Whom?” asked Orlina.

“Nicklis,” explained Larenon. “But I would not like to talk to him here, only outside of the Order. I don’t want to entrust my words to the ears of strangers.”

“We will not let him go alone!” declared Orlina.

“Fine, you can all come,” agreed Larenon.

Orlina was even surprised, but she did not show it.

“Lead us,” she said proudly. Larenon turned and started up the stairs.

“Nick, keep calm,” whispered Orlina in a mettled whisper to Nicklis’ ear. “Now is not the time to give him punches in the face for all the past resentments. Let’s see what he wants to say.”

“He can’t tell me anything new,” hissed Nicklis. “It’s a trap.”

“Dina, do you have your dagger?” whispered Orlina.

“Yes,” Dina put her hand over the handle of her blade. The matter started to become more interesting. In her school Dina managed to get into many affairs of such kind, but here everything looked much more serious and dangerous. In her regular school no one was allowed to bring even a pocket knife, and here she had a dagger hanging on her belt. Curiosity pushed Dina, fear before Larenon’s unpredictability made her rethink her doings, if she was right to follow her friends. But what else could she do? She could not stay in the Order alone.

They walked by a path, then turned into the forest. Once they were under the cover of a hazelnut bush, Larenon stopped and suddenly turned around.

“Well, pup, you deserve it!” his hand flew into the air and he sharply smacked Nicklis, who was right behind him, in the face. Nicklis did not give a sound, only recoiled and pressed his hand to his face.

“How dare you!” Orlando suddenly screamed. “How dare you touch my friend!”

“You’re afraid of me, miserable stick bug, get out of here!” replied Larenon. “Get out!”

But Orlando was already in the rage. He rushed forward and slapped his little sharp fist into his opponent’s eye. Larenon growled in anger, grabbed Orlando by the shirt on his chest and pulled him off the ground.

“Let go of him!” Orlina took everything under control, taking out her sword and pressing at Larenon from the side. “Let go of my brother!”

Orlando got himself free, jumped back, gasping in fear, and then suddenly he filled his lungs with air and sung in a desperate and strong voice. Never in her life has Dina heard someone sing so clearly, sonorously and strongly.

I won’t allow! I will not let!

For you!

To rule the world!

And what, I seem to be like one,

Who’ll first be killed not solemnly.

With preconceptions being lost,

I won’t allow to judge it wrongly!

Yes, maybe, strength is not my gift

But I am still a living being!

And I have something is my midst,

That you won’t’ know by seeing.

I in the name of Blue Bird trust!

Take leave of life or flee,

Or else I’ll this sharp dagger thrust

Into your foul flesh!

Run off! Run off a slave of spite!

And let with sins you live,

And let all those be glorified,

For whom it’s easy to forgive!

Orlando breathed out the last note. Larenon was already running away through the forest, along with a few of his assistants. Dina stared at Orlando in amazement. He definitely did not seem scary or eerie. It was a beautiful young elf with a mighty and astonishing voice, which made its way somewhere from his miserable bareboned body. Surely, it was the extraordinary power of that voice with those desperate, but warlike intonations that scared Larenon. There was something in the eyes of frightened, angered Orlando that could fill with fear the one, on whom his gaze was directed. But the song was over, and he became himself once again. Skinny, pale Orlando with huge sad eyes and a scar on his left cheek.

“What a voice you have…” noted Nicklis. “Got me to the bone…”

“So bad?..” Orlando seemed embarrassed.

“It was magnificent,” stated Nicklis. Orlina was still too surprised to talk.

“He ran away… I asked the Blue Bird to help me deal with this terrible situation, and She gave me the strength to sing that… I sort of came up with the words as I went, but it turned out okay…” muttered Orlando.

Dina felt the petals of the bud of faith, which appeared in her soul, secede, and a flower bloomed inside her, radiating clear white light. This dazzling white light filled her soul, and Dina felt such excitement and such crazy happiness that she wanted to weep. She smiled, gazing at calmed Orlando and curdled, tried to feel that flower in her heart a little deeper. It was so good!

* * *

Orlina did not cease to express how much she was amazed by her brother’s inconceivable abilities while they were walking through the woods and then through the elvish village. Orlando looked very embarrassed but pleased. Today was his triumph. By the power of his voice he made his opponent run. He had something in him which can be frightening and can be loved, the way Larenon’s strength was feared and adored. However, the minutes of confidence passed, and Orlando started to look miserable again, remembering what procedure was awaiting him.

Finally, they made it to the other side of the village. The houses here were bigger and well taken care of. Nicklis turned to the fence of one of those tall buildings and opened the gate. Dina examined with amazement the large porch and the lanterns next to the door.  Nicklis rummaged in his bag for a while, then he extracted a bunch of keys and started to think which one was the one to open the door. Orlando stood beside his friend, sad and a little scared, with his eyes open wide, and rubbed his cold fingers.

“Just don’t worry too much,” said Orlina. “You know.”

“Yes,” replied Orlando.

Dina notices a darkening bruise on his neck, behind the collar of the camisole, which Ferli pointed out. Finally, Nicklis unlocked the door and let everyone into the hallway. All the furniture here was concealed by the covers from dust, the hangers for clothing were empty. Nicklis did not take his boots off, silently walked into the depth of the quiet house and stopped by a small table at the far end of the living room.

Dina gazed around with delight. Here, in the spiderwebbed twilight it was quiet, and the air stood still, like jelly. Specks of dust slowly spined in the rays of sunshine. On a stand by the fireplace, carefully covered with a grate, rested the firewood. On the mantle stood a few paintings and brown candles. In front of the fireplace a circle was formed by an antique couch and a few elegant, covered chairs.

Nicklis went to the table and threw his bag on it. On the table there was a microscope, a few pieces of glass and everything that was needed to take Orlando’s blood.

“Dinka, take off the covers from the couch and the chairs, please,” said Nicklis, rolling up his sleeves. “We might be needing them.”

Dina silently obeys and pulled off the dusty covers. The couch was of wine-red color with golden embroidery, sumptuous and beautiful, as well as the chairs. All of them, in front of the fireplace, in the rays of sunshine looked most magnificently.

Orlando placed his little backpack by his fiend’s bag and cautiously sat on a chair next to the table.

“Well,” Nicklis placed his hands on his hips and thought for a moment. “Someone should start the stove in the kitchen and put the kettle going. We will need water, ammonia and sweet tea.”

“I’ll start the stove,” said Orlina.

“Great. Then I will bring you water and we can start or investigations!” declared Nicklis and went to the kitchen, followed by Orlina.

“I don’t want…” moaned Orlando, covering his face with his hands. “Another end of the world… Not a day without fainting…”

“Well, you haven’t fainted yet,” noted Dina uncertainly.

“I will soon,” snorted Orlando joylessly.

“If you will think that you will faint, you will faint most certainly. Think that it will be alright. Maybe it will happen, maybe not,” said Dina. Orlando glanced at her with a weary smile.

Nicklis returned from the kitchen with a huge glass of water. He placed it on the table, sat down by the microscope on the second chair and, wiping his hands with alcohol, said seriously:

“Give me your hand.”

Orlando moved his chair a little closer to him and stretched out his arm.

“Dinka, stand behind him, just in case,” asked Nicklis. Dina went closer and stopped behind Orlando’s back.

“It doesn’t hurt,” noted Nicklis, rubbing his friend’s finger. “You’ll see.”

“It doesn’t matter if it hurts or not. I’m afraid of blood…”

Nicklis pulled out a special mechanism to puncture the holes.

“Nick, I’m sick…” breathed Orlando, getting pale.

“Tsh-sh,” Nicklis grabbed his sleeve. Orlando coughed, he stared at his friend in fear. Dina held his shoulders and made him lean against her, so that he could feel her support. Never in her life she saw anyone become so pale, and she tried not to look at Orlando, while Nicklis was trying to take his blood. It took not less than five minutes. Orlando’s fingers were cold and white, and it took Nicklis some effort to get a tiny drop to the piece of glass.

Once it was done, he placed the glass on the table, confidently picked up fainted Orlando into his arms and brought him to the couch. Orlando woke up but was shaking. He placed his hands over his chest guiltily and gazed at his friends.

“Here,” Nicklis gave him a glass of water.

“Thank you,” breathed Orlando and took the water. He drank greedily and it took a few moments. Dina examined his pale thin face with horror more, than with sympathy.

“Thanks for helping,” said Nicklis to her. “I’m glad you are good at handling all this.”

“I’m not afraid of blood, but this sight makes me feel unwell too,” replied Dina. Nicklis looked at her meaningfully, with his eyes saying that it is unpleasant to him as well, but there is nothing he can do, one endures many things for the sake of a friend.

“Is it all well now?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s better, but still it’s all so disgusting and so sickening…” answered Orlando, squeezing the little piece of cotton, that covered the little hole in his finger.

“Never in my life would have I thought that something like this can happen to an elf,” noted Dina.

“Elves differ…” replied Orlando.

Nicklis returned to the table and engaged into working with the microscope. Orlina brought sweet tea from the kitchen and gave the cup to her brother.

“Well, that is all,” she said encouragingly. “See, it wasn’t that scary.”

“It’s not scary for you to watch!” noted Orlando offendedly.

Everyone, except for Orlando obviously, gathered around Nicklis at the table with the microscope.

“Wow,” exclaimed the boy, changing the magnification. “I would have never thought that blood looks like this…”

“What’s there? Can I see?” asked Orlina. Nicklis moved, and she glanced into the tube. Dina have already had an opportunity to look at the blood cells in a microscope, and it did not interest her all that much. She watched lively Nicklis, who wrote down his conclusions into the notebook. It seemed to her that Nicklis in Elvia was more confident and became much more alive, as if the atmosphere in her world itself was evil to him.

“Well,” finally uttered Nicklis. “I will send the copy of your cells to my parents, they will check everything, but I am pretty sure you have anemia, my friend.”

“I never doubted it’s presence,” noted Orlando from behind the back of the couch.
“Chronical.”

“Oh,” Orlando went silent. “So, eating meat will not help, right?..”

“It will help, but it’s not enough to simply eat meat with the anemia of your type. You have a sickle cell anemia, so some of the cells are not round but elongated,” explained Nicklis. “These longer cells clog in the capillary of your hands, that’s why your fingers hurt sometimes. Maybe, the elvish form of this creepiness is a little different from the human one, but not too much. The point of it is the same.”

“One thing about it is good,” noted Orlina. “We know, what’s wrong with you. And we will find a way to help you.”

“Exactly. And now let’s go home,” said Nicklis. “I’m sure Dinka is ready for some rest.”

“I agree,” replied Dina. “After all of today’s adventures a good lunch and a calm evening would be great.”

“And tomorrow it’s your Birthday!” exclaimed Nicklis, punching Orlando in the shoulder. “And also, it’s the celebration of the return of all the winter birds in the Order! Get up, let’s go!”

Orlando livened up a little at the reminder of his birthday. He stood up but seemed very unstable. Nicklis allowed his friend to hold on to his shoulder. Collecting all their things, the friends left the house. It was not only hunger that drove them out of this place, but also an uncomfortable silence of this home and it’s feeling of abandonment. Even though the family was about to return, four teenagers could not give the house the living look, while they were there.

They got to Orlando’s house without any adventures. Once in the warmth of the room, Dina realized how tired and hungry she got during this day. She has not eaten anything since morning, and, it seemed, she was ready to finish off a whole chicken, if she would have been invited to do so. Orlina, throwing off her feet her brother’s boots, went to the kitchen and started to prepare lunch. Orlando lay down on the couch in front of the fireplace, and Nicklis went to collect some firewood. Dina settled in the big chair and stretched out her weary legs.

* * *

There was bean soup for lunch. Orlando got extremely excited about such turn of events, but then he sadly noted that he was not hungry. Nicklis’ eyes almost popped out in wonder.

You are not hungry?” he exclaimed.

“I’m not,” mumbled Orlando offendedly.

“That’s definitely a bad sign. Show me your neck, master Ferli said something about it…” stated Nicklis, placing his bowl on the mantle and freeing his friend’s neck from the collar of the camisole. “O-of, I think master Ferli was right, my friend!”

“The horror,” Orlina glanced there as well. Dina, not to be left behind, collected the courage to look at what they were discussing so enthusiastically. Orlando’s skinny wiry neck was covered with bruises, as if someone diligently chocked him for a long period of time.

“Where is your thermometer?” asked Nicklis.

“Just a second,” Orlina brought her brother a thermometer and he lay down on the couch, crossing his arms at his chest. Once the soup was finished, the friends checked what the thermometer was showing.

“We-e-ell…” sighed Orlina. “It’s the Blue Fever, probably. I’ll make you some Mountain flower, your head will hurt at the evening so bad, that you will cry.”

“I won’t! I don’t cry about such things!” Orlando was offended.

“Aha,” snorted Orlina and went to the kitchen with a proud look.

“Very sad,” said Nicklis. “You won’t be able to go to the Bird’s celebration…”

“I won’t…” agreed Orlando dismally.

“Is this thing contagious?” asked Dina cautiously.

“No. The Blue Fever is contagious only at the first day it gets into the body, but the temperature goes up only after three days, so we don’t need to worry,” said Nicklis.

“How do you treat it?” Dina was curious.

“The main treatment is to lower the temperature and to try to relieve the pain, because head and neck hurt really badly,” explained Nicklis.

“Yeah,” confirmed Orlando. “Now it’s okay, but if I don’t take the medicine, I can go crazy, it hurts that much.”

“Creepy,” said Dina. “Sometimes I’m happy we don’t have your horrible diseases in our world.”

“You have things worse than our Blue Fevers. But to each their own,” replied Nicklis.

“That is true.”

* * *

As the evening approached, Orlando felt even worse. Everyone waited for Oruell’ in impatience, because no one was sure of what to do with Orlando. Cool tea, wet towels on the forehead, and the herbs that Orlina prepared maybe lessened Orlando’s misery, but he still looked like a real sufferer. Dina could not see him without a feeling of guilt that she was unable to help him.

Finally, Oruell’ came home.

“Mom!” Orlina rushed to meet her. “Mom!”

“Hi, darling,” replied Oruell’ not hurrying to take off her coat.

“Mom, Orlando’s sick,” said Orlina right away.

“What happened?” Oruell’ lifted her eyebrows in a worry and went to the couch, where Orlando suffered.

“Mommy!” exclaimed the boy, stretching his hands towards her. “I’m so glad you’re home!”

“My birdie,” Oruell’ sat next to him and examined his bruised neck. “How could it be?..”

“How must I know?” replied Orlando.

“The guys did good,” said Oruell’, noticing the tea and the towels. “You did all what was needed. I will start the dinner now, you’ll eat and take the herbs against the fever.”

“Okay,” agreed Orlando. Oruell’ smiled wearily and went to the kitchen.

Dina sat in front of the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket and watched her friends. Nicklis read something out loud in elvish, sitting on the floor by Orlando. Dina could not understand what he said but she liked how soft and gurgling his voice was. She even felt like she wanted to learn this magical language so that she could speak this softly and with these unordinary aspirations.

Soon they ate dinner and were seated around the fireplace, quieted and warmed by the food and the fire. Dina gazed at the flames and her eyelids grew heavy.

“Mo-om, why so?..” asked Orlando pitifully and quieter than a breath.

“If it happened, it is meant to be so. It’s like with your scar. All will be well,” said Oruell’ and, bending over, kissed his forehead.

“It’s a big day tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re healthy or not. Birthday is always a Birthday,” stated Nicklis.

“Yes, but now I want to sleep, really,” confessed Orlando. Dina smiled in agreement with his words and fell asleep.

Chapter 9

The Celebration of the Return of the Birds

In the morning Dina woke up on a couch. She fell asleep in the evening and was brought there by someone. Nicklis was long awake. Dressed in his nightgown, with his hair extremely messy he was sitting on the mattress and thoroughly wrapping a box into striped wrapping paper. Dina lifted her head, blinking sleepily and gazed at him in confusion.

“What are you doing?” she whispered. Nicklis shuddered and turned his head.

“Preparing Orlando’s present, what else?” he said, decorating the box with a ribbon.

“I don’t have a present for him…” noted Dina guiltily.

“That’s okay. You didn’t know, so you couldn’t prepare…” replied Nicklis. “You can sign the card, so that it would be from you as well.”

“But that’s not my present…”

“Let’s make the card a present from both of us,” Nicklis smiled. “There’s a list of my wishes in this box anyways.”

“Alright,” agreed Dina.

Nicklis gave her the envelope. Dina freed herself from the covers, went to the fireplace and, placing the card on the mantel, made a small note in black ink under her friend’s text. It seemed so strange to see the sign “Nicklis and Dina”.

“How’s Orlando feeling?” asked Dina, hiding the card in the envelope.

“I don’t know. He didn’t wake up at night. But he took the herbs yesterday, so he probably will sleep for a while,” replied Nicklis.

“So, do you need fancy dresses for the Bird’s Celebration or is it okay, if I would wear my regular clothes?” asked Dina.

“Well, it would actually be better to wear your dressy clothes… Ask Orlina, maybe she has something to share with you. I grabbed my outfit yesterday at our house. I just need to iron it,” said Nicklis.

“Okay, I’ll ask,” Dina sighed.

“Are you missing your home already?”

“I don’t even know,” Dina sat at the couch and pulled on her socks. “It’s so amazing and wonderful, and I haven’t started missing my home yet. But I miss my mom…”

“Me too,” said Nicklis quietly. Dina glanced in him in surprise and then remembered that Nicklis was also just a boy, even though he has long ears. He could also miss someone, he is also a living and sensitive creature.

“But I’m not sure if I want to go home,” noted Dina with a smile.

“I can get you home any time. Just ask,” replied Nicklis.

“I meant not at the moment,” Dina laughed. “Right now I don’t want to return.”

“Alright,” agreed Nicklis. “And you probably want breakfast, don’t you?”

“That, yes!”

They went to the kitchen and snacked on buttered toasts and cold quiche with spinach. Oruell’ left for the city early in the morning, so that she could return with a present for her son. Soon Orlina and Orliel were up. Orliel, though, wrapped a piece of quiche into aluminum foil and left. Orlina on the other hand sighed, following her sister’s steps with her eyes and started the stove and the kettle. 

 Orlando did end up waking up really late. With his hair all messy and eyes sleepy he walked out of his room. A thin white nightgown with a deep neckline and long sleeves barely covered the boy’s naked knees. Dina was frightened once again at the sight of his slenderness. Sharp collarbones and veins on his neck, legs-sticks, pricky knees and large narrow feet – it all looked so sickly. And even with that Dina could not take her eyes off this eerie being. She was mesmerized that such a pathetic creature, almost a skeleton covered with skin, breathes and moves, speaks and sees.

“Good morning!” exclaimed Nicklis.

“Hi,” replied Orlando, rubbing his eyes and trying to smooth down his straggly bang. Then he noticed Dina and exclaimed, mixing together his speech with his native language:

“Oh, Golte Evere, I forgot you are here!”

“What’s so terrifying about it?” asked Dina. Orlando hastily pulled his night gown down to his knees.

“I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to show up before you like this, but my shirt and my pants are here, on the chair,” he stretched out his skinny arm and grabbed the clothing off the chair.

“Oh, it’s the clothing,” Dina looked away. “I’m not looking at you.”

Orlando retreated to his room and slammed the door shut. Nicklis burst into a sonorous laughter, and Orlina snorted.

“Stop it!” she said, punching Nicklis in the side with her elbow. “He’s going to be offended. He’ll hear you here… laughing.”

“Did you mean horselaughing?” suggested Nicklis.

“No! Just quit it!”

“I hope we didn’t harm your brain, Dinka,” said Nicklis calming down.

“He didn’t make me feel anything, I have seen worse,” said Dina feeling her face blush.

“Yeah, to be dressed like that is considered madness. Well, it all ended fine,” added Nicklis. Orlando walked out of his bedroom, now dressed in a shirt and pants. Wrapping his ragged vest around himself, he sat down at the fireplace. Orlina brought him tea and a piece of quiche.

“Mom will be back soon. She went to the city and asked you to take your temperature,” she said.

“Okay,” agreed Orlando.

Oruell’ returned within next half an hour and locked up in her room right away, to prepare Orlando’s present. Magical and mysterious atmosphere hung in the air, always appearing at the time of a birthday. Orlina placed lanterns over the fireplace and lit them up. Orlando, a little confused and embarrassed, watched them. Finally, Oruell’ came to the living room and everyone stacked their boxes wrapped into motley wrapping paper next to the fireplace. Once everything was ready, Orlando started unwrapping the presents.

Nicklis got him a beautiful lantern with little stained-glass windows, which were decorated with leaves and small branches. Orlando put the lantern by the fireplace and lit it. He received a little wooden box of watercolor paints from Orlina. His mother’s present though was shaped very strangely. In awe and impatience Orlando tore the wrapping paper and a sound filled the air. Dina noticed dim wood of a guitar, hidden in the depth of the paper.

“Mom!” breathed Orlando, fearing to take the instrument in his hands and staring at Oruell’ with tears in his eyes. “Mom, why so much?..”

“This is not too much, my birdie,” she sat at the couch and blandly hugged her son’s shoulders. “I do not want to hear my son suffering, trying to tune a guitar that cannot be tuned anymore… I heard you play up there. You are ready to play a real instrument. After all, you are thirteen now…”

Orlando blushed in embarrassment, then took the guitar out of its package and stroke the strings affectionately. 

“Can you tune it?” asked Oruell’.

“Yeah…” Orlando touched a string with his finger and turned the tuning peg, then did it again and again. After a few minutes he placed the guitar in his lap, and Dina was washed away with a wave of bewitching and mesmerizing music. It flooded everything around her, and mysterious feelings were born in the soul, amazing images – in the head. Orlando played endlessly, uncontrollably, enjoying every moment of his existence, and he seemed so beautiful and happy at this moment of his rapture that Dina could not believe it was the same Orlando.

“Thank you, mom,” he whispered, finally calming down.

“I’m glad,” Oruell’ kissed his head.

At the same moment the door was thrown open and Orliel appeared on the steps, with a plate and red with golden embroidery fabric in her hands.

“Catch!” she threw the fabric to Orlando. “How can a birthday be without a cape?”
Orlando put on the bright cape and laughed, because Orliel brought him a little cake with a lit up twig stuck into it. Orliel walked into the living room and stopped in front of her brother.

“Are you ready to enter the new life? The new age?” she pronounced solemnly.

“Ready,” replied Orlando, smiling widely.

“Then I shower you with the water from the Blue tree, let the Bird Siel bless you! Now eat this flower and give the oath of blood in confirmation of your readiness!” stated Orliel.

“He-ey! The oath is your invention!” protested Orlando.  

“Just kidding. Here’s the flower,” Orliel gave him a little blue flower which Orlando lively ate and then blew the twig on the cake.

“Happy Birthday!” shouted Orliel and gave him the plate. 

“Thank you,” Orlando quickly pulled the twig out of the cake and licked its end.

Oruell’ brought tea and cookies for everyone, and Orlando enjoyed his little cake.

“Do you always celebrate birthdays like this?” asked Dina.

“What do you mean?” inquired Nicklis. “Do you do it differently?”

“The cape, twig, cake… We usually make a huge cake with a ton of candles and sing “happy birthday to you…”. And then everyone eats the cake and gives presents,” said Dina.

“Well, we have this tradition with showering with the water and eating the flower. It’s rather strange but it has existed for many centuries now. It came from when the Blue Bird first showered the first elves with the water from the Tree of the Blue Flowers and gave them names and called that day the day of their birth,” explained Nicklis.

“And the cake is so little because we cannot buy one big one or more of those little ones,” noted Oruell’ guiltily. “Usually for birthdays we make big cakes too.”

Dina gazed at Orlando with a mixed feeling. He was happy and delighted, with his tiny cake and a new guitar. She realized what it means to know how to live. In these sad surroundings, in the faded gold of the antient luxury, sickly and pitiful Orlando was happy. He was not embarrassed by all this. He was in the presence of the people important to him, he received the presents and he was truly joyful.

Dina felt sadness. Why is this possible in a magical land? This poverty, this hunger and this gloomy situation. And then she truly realized that she is not asleep. There is a world, and there is good and bad in it, no matter where in it you are.

* * *

Closer to the evening Orlina brought Dina one of her dresses and suggested to try it on, so that she could wear it for the Bird’s Celebration. The dress was of a simple fashion, decorated with care and taste. There was a warm coat that went over the dress. The dress fit Dina, and she really admired the buttons on the coat and the tiny embroidery on the sleeves and lapels.

At five in the evening, in pitch darkness of the night, Nicklis, Orlina, Orliel and Dina went somewhere through the village. On the way Orlina explained that not far from the village there is a clearing in the forest, where they always make a big fire for different celebrations. The whole Order usually gathered around it. The clearing appeared to be unbelievably magical. A path led to it, illuminated by pale lanterns. Dina’s breath was taken away by all these things: a path that curved among the woods, covered in frost, the shimmering lanterns, huge stars in the far and dark sky, gigantic pines, elves…

The fire smelled of smoke and wet wood. Dina breathed in this magical air with delight. By a tree stood Reuben with a lantern in his hands. At this moment he seemed to be antient and young at the same time. His face was fresh and handsome, but his glittering eyes were shining with the wisdom of centuries. His long camisole, covered with discreet embroidery made in the fashion that was no longer used among the elves of Orlins, the greying lines in his ash-brown hair and his worn-out boots made it feel like he stepped from a page of a legend.

“Here, Dinka,” said Nicklis, once they reached the opening, where the children from the Order gathered in groups. The boy was giving Dina a white lantern with orange and green glass windows.

“What is this for?” asked Dina, taking the lantern.

“At nine o’clock we’ll all lit our lanterns. The things is, we have this event, when from today’s evening ‘till tomorrow at ten in the morning not one elf in Orlind is allowed to take a weapon in their hands. They will die, if they do. I mean, they die on the place, not by the hand of their fellow elves but by the will of Golte Evere, the Blue Bird. She gave us this law so that we know why any weapon exists. Twice a year, at the Day of the Return of All Winter Birds and All Summer Birds this event happens,” explained Nicklis. “And the lanterns are just a nice tradition, so that we can celebrate the coming of this hour.”

“A-ah,” said Dina. “Interesting.”

“Let’s go to the fire, we’ll be singing soon!” exclaimed Nicklis, and they went to the fire. The children were gathering around it, toasting bread on the sticks, laughing, and all the strife that existed among them in the Order was forgotten. Dina sat next to Nicklis on a log by the fire and put the lantern by her side. She looked at the children’s faces, happy and illuminated by the flame. They all were beautiful.

But then Reuben with a long wooden flute in his hands walked into the circle formed by the children. Everyone quietened, watching him in admiration. One other teacher walked into the circle, sat on the log and placed a small drum that looked more like an Indian tam-tam between his knees. The children obviously were waiting for something incredible to happen. Their eyes started to shine even brighter. Dina could not wait to see them play. At first, for a warm-up, Reuben played something fast and cheerful. The children, laughing, sang in elvish in one voice. Dina was taken by their warlike, but also playful spirit. Then Reuben’s flute calmed down, he started to play a worrying and quiet melody.

Dina was in awe, something irreparable was about to happen in that mysterious story that was told by Reuben. The melody suddenly shook, was torn and raced somewhere in a noisy, scared whirlpool, then quietened again, as if it managed to hide. And then it dashed again, rushed into the unknown, carrying away its mesmerized listeners. Suddenly something noble and mighty joined its frantic swirl, blocked the current, slowed down the power of the stream, as if a strong warrior, without whom the battle would have been lost, stepped into its way.

A new whirlwind arose again, but now it was orderly, strong, aimed into a certain direction. It crushed everything on its way, what could have been a disturbance for its current a few moments ago. Soon, though, the melody began to calm down, the storm and the tempest of the avalanche were stopped; short, cut melodies of some celebration sounded through it. The music gained happy, cheering tone. Dina felt that the story ended well, the warrior defeated all the enemies… She looked into Reuben’s calm face, at his lowered eyelids. His assistant kept the rhythm of the whole song well enough. The flute sang happily, soared, played and was cut on that one note that clearly demonstrates that everything is over, and everything has ended well.

* * *

Until deep into the night they played, ate toasted bread and chicken, laughed a lot and even danced around the fire. Dina never was a great lover of dancing and preferred to stay on the side. Finally, ten o’clock came. The children around the fire calmed down, sat down unto the logs again and took their lanterns. Dina waited with delight what was going to happen next. Reuben counted the seconds out loud, while one of the children was putting out the fire. Silence covered the world.

In pitch darkness Dina could only see glimmering eyes of the young elves and huge, bright stars, which covered the sky. Such stars can only be seen in Orlind. Dina sat, her head thrown back, and gazed into the immense, endless sky, and realized how small she was and how small was the world around her, but how enormous and boundless is the universe… Nicklis carefully touched her with his elbow, and Dina glanced to the place, where Reuben’s figure was visible in the darkness. With the slow beat of tam-tam, the elf lit a fire in his lantern. This light was taken by his neighbor and passed on.  Reuben placed his lantern on the ground and started to play a barely hearable melody.

Dina held her breath, watching how one after another the little lights-stars lit in the hands of the elves. Nicklis lit his lantern and gave the fire to his friend. Dina watched the little star flare up in her lantern. Her neighbor took her fire. Once the circle closed, the music became more confident, the children straightened up and suddenly started to sing. They sang quietly, a slow, but a strong melody with incomprehensible words. Dina listened and she felt as if today’s night filled her with so many new, unrepeatable memories, new feelings, that it was too much. In a comforting drowsiness Dina sat, leaning to Nicklis’ warm shoulder, and listened to them sing. Her eyelids became heavy. The warmth of the fire and the wool coat, the beauty, the flames, it all became one amazing dream. Slowly the sounds of music started to become quieter, sang more lullingly, and Dina fell asleep.

* * *

The light hurt her eyes, when Dina woke up from her sleep. No fire, no elves, no beautiful music, no pines – it all disappeared. She lay, curled up in a ball, on the side of the river, next to her fishing pole. Nicklis sat next to her, hanging his legs down and watching the river right in front of him. Dina stretched and sat up. She was dressed exactly like she was usually on the fishing trip and was rather sure that it all was a dream. But then the girl saw the white lantern with green and orange glasses, and there was a light in it.

Dina lifted up her eyes to see her friend. Nicklis smiled but did not tear his gaze away from the water. Nope, apparently it was not a dream. His ears were like the last few days in her “dream” – they were long. The boy turned around and looked at her with laughter showing in his green eyes.

“Do you believe me now?” he asked.

“All I can do is believe you,” replied Dina, finding a better pose and starting to realize what has happened to her. It was a little sad to return back home, into her native stuffy world. Even though her heart was missing her family, she did not want to leave Elvia. Dina felt something rising in her throat, and her eyes itched. She sniffed embarrassedly.

“Dinka, it’s okay,” said Nicklis. “It’s okay to cry.”

Dina looked at him with her gleaming red eyes.  

“You will leave now, right?” she asked. Nicklis shook his head slowly.

“I will…”

Dina stood up from the ground, wiped off the tears with her fist and glanced at him seriously and decisively.

“I’m glad that you and I became friends. I never would have learned about your world without you. Thank you,” said she, stretching out her arm. Nicklis took her little hand with his warm hard finders and squeezed it tight.

“Thank you for understanding,” he said. Dina’s throat shrunk, she breathed loudly and, weeping, hugged him. Nicklis carefully stroke her.

“I will come again,” he promised. “I will return.”

“Really?” sobbed Dina. “I can’t even ask you to write me letters…”

“Well, technically, you can,” said Nicklis. “I will send my hawk to you. We have one that can deliver mail, and it can carry letters between the worlds.”

“Cool, okay,” agreed Dina, trying to stop crying and feeling that she was blushing.

“I know you liked Elvia. Here, these are the Legends of Orlind,” Nicklis gave her a small book with a leather cover. Dina took it and felt something tucked between its pages

“It’s time,” Nicklis stepped back. “Goodbye.”

“Goodbye…” whispered Dina. Nicklis smiled, wrapped his green cloak around himself and suddenly disappeared. Was standing right there and was now gone. Dina froze in place, gazing at the place where he just stood. He is gone, gone!.. This made it feel so wistful and so lonely… But the hope still lingered, he will write her, and he will return… Dina glanced at the book in her hands and slowly opened the pages. Under the cover, on the sheet lay a little blue bird on a string. Dina touched it affectionately and soundlessly repeated:

“Goodbye…”

She picked up her backpack and the lantern. Slowly, in silence she walked the path to the town, squeezing the book with the little Blue Bird in it. And in her hand waggled her white lantern with green and orange glasses, and there was a light in it, which elves passed around, lighting up the stars.

Credit: Orlando’s song was translated by my amazing sister. Great thanks to her.

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