2. An unlikely friendship

Neri’Va took her basket and filled it up with fruit, a bottle of milk, cheese and freshly baked bread. She grabbed a lantern and went out the door, leaving the small town to walk across the field towards the forest. The high elf kept checking if someone might be able to see her going into the forest but there was nobody. For a moment she looked at Quintra who was about to set and mumbled: ‘Goddess wish me luck.’

She went into the forest and carefully wandered around for a little while. As the sun set and Denday appeared at the horizon it became darker in the forest. Night was about to start.

Neri’Va took her lantern and lit the candle inside so she could better see where she was going. It was a few days after her last visit to the forest when she needed to pick Denday berries. The weather was gloomy and it was cloudy today. She held her lantern high as she tried to look around the forest.

‘Hello? Are you here? I… I just want to talk to you?’ Neri’Va said as she wandered deeper into the forest. Maybe it was foolish of her, just wandering around in hopes that the night dweller would somehow be around. It was a very large forest after all. She could be anywhere.

The high elf wandered further and happened upon a small clearing, there was a well there, it was partly overgrown with ivy and a large tree grew near it with branches nearly hanging over it. The wooden tiles of the well’s roof were painted blue but the color had become faded.

‘Put that light out, Light worshipper.’ A familiar voice growled: ‘Do you have a dead wish or something?’

Neri’Va blinked as she turned around, there was no one there: ‘Well no, but without it I cannot see anything.’

‘With it you are drawing Ghor knows what here.’ The voice said, clearly agitated. Yet she remained concealed from view.

‘You can come out. I won’t hurt you, you know.’ Neri’Va said with her soft and gentle voice. She looked around her but clearly she was talking to the forest as she couldn’t see or hear the night dweller anywhere.

The concealed elf scoffed: ‘You? Hurt me? Right… Just because you are a Light worshipper and I am a follower of the night doesn’t mean you are so much stronger then me.’

‘I never said that I was.’ Neri’Va answered: ‘I have no desire to hurt you or to make you feel unsafe in any way. I wanted to thank you for saving me the other day. That was very kind of you.’

‘I am not kind.’ The voice answered.

Neri’Va chuckled softly before she took her basket and placed it on the ground in front of her next to the well. She took a couple of steps back: ‘I brought this for you.’

‘A gift basket? Seriously?’ The woman answered with a clearly dry voice.

‘Everybody likes gift baskets, surely that also counts for night dwellers. But if you don’t want it then some animals in the forest are free to take it.’ Neri’Va said looking around with a soft smile on her face.

‘It might be poisonous to them.’ The night dweller answered.

‘I would never do that! But maybe you should just take it then?’ Neri’Va said: ‘You clearly know a lot more about this forest and it’s inhabitants then I do.’

She looked around for a moment as she noticed some movement and the sound of bristling leaves behind her. There was nothing there but when she turned around again she could see the figure of the large dark elf appearing on the other side of the small clearing.

The night dweller stepped away from the tree line and more into sight. She sighed and seemed to roll her eyes: ‘Put that light out!’

‘Does it hurt your sensitive eyes? I’m so sorry…’ Neri’Va said as she quickly blew out the candle in the lantern. She had heard tales of followers of Denday having such sensitive eyes that they could see clearly in the dark,  but this gift made it so light would hurt their eyes. She should have thought of that and been more considerate.

‘It doesn’t, but it attracts creatures that will think you are the gift basket.’ The night dweller answered before she walked to the gift basket and knelt down to take it.

Neri’Va blinked a couple of times and looked genuinely surprised at the dark skinned elf:

‘It would? I… didn’t know such creatures exist.’

‘Are you really that naïve?’ The night dweller answered as she looked up at the high elf and seemed to eye her up and down.

Neri’Va just stood there and looked back at the dark skinned muscular and tall elf as she rose to her full length again: ‘Am I?’

‘You seem pretty naïve to me.’ The night dweller said as she stepped closer to Neri’Va slowly: ‘Wandering alone into the forest… to known followers of Denday territory, unarmed… dressed in light clothes… with only a gift basket.’

Neri’Va remained where she was as the night dweller approached her. She looked at the dark skinned elf and her slightly glowing dark blue eyes, her short dark blue hair and the deep purple skin: ‘I didn’t want you to feel threatened.’

The night dweller scoffed and seemed to roll her eyes again as she looked straight back into Neri’Va her bright purple eyes. She stopped when she was very close to the light skinned high elf, slightly towering over the tall and slender elf as she looked down on her: ‘You don’t threaten me.’

The dark skinned elf slowly rose her hand and gently took Neri’Va her braided platinum blonde hair in her hand. The contrast in color made it almost look as if her hair was eliminating: ‘I could kill you with one hand, while holding your gift silly basket in the other. Why have you come back?’

‘I want to get to know you.’ Neri’Va answered, her voice showing little sign of fear as she just let the night dweller slide her braid with her hand: ‘I want to know more about how you live here in the forest. I want to help and learn… about Denday.’

‘We don’t need the help of a Light worshipper.’ The night dweller growled as she suddenly took a step back and looked agitated again.

‘We? So there is more of you?’ Neri’Va asked: ‘And you are their protector? Like a warrior?’

‘I am no warrior.’ The dark skinned elf answered.

‘A Paladin then, looking out for her people?’ Neri’Va asked with a soft smile on her face: ‘If they need… anything… I just want to help… just because I am a novice priestess of Quintra doesn’t mean that I am against Denday or wish her followers harm. The war is over.’

‘Tell that to the countless innocent followers of Denday that are being slaughtered every day still!’ The night dweller scowled at Neri’Va.

‘I know… and it’s horrible. I wish I could prevent that but I can’t.’ Neri’Va said: ‘I am doing what I can here.’

The dark skinned elf remained silent for a moment clenching her fist as she looked down on the gift basket in her other hand. She slowly exhaled and shook her head before she looked at Neri’Va with her dark blue glowing eyes: ‘What does it take to make you leave?’

‘I have so many questions.’ Neri’Va said before she stopped and seemed to think for a while. She looked back at the night dweller with an understanding and compassionate look before she softly smiled: ‘But I’ll leave tonight if you tell me your name.’

The dark skinned elf gave Neri’Va an unamused look and stared silently at her for a short while before she sighed: ‘Rayven.’

Neri’Va her smile became slightly bigger: ‘Pleased to meet you, Rayven. My name is…’

‘Neri’Va, I know. Now go away!’ Rayven said with a strict voice: ‘Or better yet. I’ll escort you out of the forest. We wouldn’t want you to get lost and eaten or killed.’

Rayven just grabbed Neri’Va by her arm and started to drag the high elf through the forest.

‘It is very kind of you to be concerned with my safety.’ Neri’Va said as she did her best to keep up Rayven as she walked through the forest.

‘I don’t want your quant little town to come burn down our forest or rush in with their pitchforks to come kill us all because their novice priestess has gone missing. Because if she does it’s obviously because us Denday scum killed her!’ The night dweller said as she rolled her eyes yet again.

‘They wouldn’t do that.’ Neri’Va said.

‘Well excuse me if I don’t take your word for it.’ Rayven answered as they reached the edge of the forest: ‘I’d ask you to not come back.  But something tells me you will not listen anyways.’

‘I want to get to know you and help those you are protecting.’ Neri’Va answered: ‘And I want to know more about Denday, and night dwellers and her other followers. I have so many questions.’

‘Just for Denday’s sake stay out of the forest the coming days. Denday’s dark will be upon us thanks to your OH so amazing and gentle goddess of Light, just as the red moon wanders over us. A lantern will not protect you from Ghor’s creatures.’ Rayven said as she shook her head before looking strictly at Neri’Va.

‘At first Denday light then, same place as we were just now?’ Neri’Va said with a smile: ‘Leave a note under a black rock if you need anything. I will check it daily when Quintra is shining brightly.’

‘Light alone will not protect you from Ghor, novice priestess.’ Rayven said: ‘Now off you go!’

‘I will keep that in mind, Rayven.’ Neri’Va said as she stepped out of the forest. She turned around because she wanted to say goodbye, but the dark skinned elf had already vanished. The high elf sighed and headed back home.

Sealine: What to do about bullying

Ooh what do I see there? Hmm, it appears to be a mermaid. What do you think she’s doing? I see, she’s collecting shells. I think I know her, her name is Sealine, she’s a bit shy. Come, let’s join her and see if we can find some more shells.

Sealine looked up.

Did she hear something? It sounds like someone is crying, there behind the water plants. There is another mermaid there. She seems very sad, maybe we should go to her to see how she is doing?

Slowly Sealine came closer before she swam towards the other mermaid after a moment of doubt.

‘Hey,’ Sealine carefully said: ‘What’s going on?”
The other mermaid looked up a bit startled and rubbed her eyes for a moment: ‘Octavia is bullying me. She says that I’m ugly.”

Have you ever been bullied? Bullying isn’t fun is it?

Sealine looked surprised and carefully sat down next to the other mermaid on the rock: ‘But… I think you are beautiful.’
‘You’re just saying that,’ said the other mermaid.
‘No, I’m saying it because it’s true,’ Sealine blushed a bit then smiled shyly at the other mermaid: ‘I… I’m Sealine.’
‘I am Lakea,’ the other mermaid answered: ‘And do you really mean that?’
Sealine nodded and her smile broadened: ‘Yes, I mean look at your tail, it’s beautiful.’
‘Thank you,’ Lakea answered: ‘You’re sweet. Do you want to be friends?’
Sealine blushed deeply: ‘Of… of course I’d want that.’

Both mermaids laughed and then they carefully gave each other a hug.

‘But,’ Sealine carefully said: ‘We have to do something… bullying is not… umm… good.’
Lakea looked up a bit unsure: ‘But… Octavia is so… scary!’
‘Shall we… umm… find other fish, and… ask them what they do against bullying?’ Sealine hesitantly asked.
‘Would you dare to do that?’ Lakea asked.

What about you? Would you dare to do that?

‘Well,’ Sealine said before she started blushing again: ‘Normally I wouldn’t… but… you are my friend. I’d do it for you.’
‘That’s very brave of you,’ Lakea said.
Sealine blushed even more but then the two girls looked at each other bravely before they swam away.

After swimming a little while Lakea and Sealine saw a though looking stingray. The two friends hesitantly looked at him.
‘Why are you staring at me?’ the stingray asked: ‘Hey, aren’t you Lakea?’
‘Let’s go Sealine,’ Lakea said: ‘He was there, he just hang there and watched.’
Sealine looked at Lakea for a little while before she turned her attention back towards the stingray and asked: ‘Why didn’t you do anything?’
The stingray looked a bit uneasy: ‘I… umm… well, what was I supposed to do then?’
Sealine looked a bit surprised and blushed again: ‘Well… umm… maybe you could have said something?”
‘Oh… well… yeah, you do have a point. But Octavia is so big. I don’t want to get into a fight with her,’ he answered: ‘Ooh, the name’s Ray by the way. And I’m sorry Lakea. What Octavia did wasn’t cool, I should have said something. Can we be friends?’

Sealine looked at Lakea who seemed to doubt for a moment, but then she nodded and smiled: ‘Friends.’
Ray lifted up his fin and yelled: ‘High Five!’
Both mermaids swam up to him and gave him a high five. All of them laughed.
‘Say… Ray,’ Sealine asked: ‘What would you do against bullying?’

And you? What would you do against bullying?

‘Me? Well, I… I don’t know.’ Ray admitted after a while: ‘Maybe we should go ask granny Soë the seahorse. She knows everything!’
And so our friends swam away to look for granny Soë.

‘Come my children,’ granny Soë the seahorse said: ‘I really don’t bite. Is there something you want to ask me?”
‘Umm… g… granny Soë…’ Sealine shyly started: ‘What… what can you do against… umm… against a bully fish?’
‘That is a good question, my child. What do you think?’ Granny Soë the seahorse answered.

And what do you think? What would you do against a bully fish?

‘Well,’ Ray said: ‘If he for example tells me that I’m fat, I will say: you are fat yourself!’
‘I see…’ answered granny Soë: ‘But would you like it if people treated you like that?’
‘Well… umm. No, I wouldn’t like that,’ Ray answered.
‘So, maybe you can better treat them with kindness and respect? Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself?’ granny Soë suggested: ‘You do not want to react the way a bully fish does, do you?’
‘But… that sounds so… scary,’ Lakea said.
‘It is scary, dear child,’ granny Soë answered: ‘But if you do not talk to a bully fish, then you will never know why they act like they do. They often act like that because they are afraid of being vulnerable. Grand them a bit of kindness and you will see that they are very different from what you thought they were. Surprise them. Be friendly.’
‘But their words hurt people,’ Sealine said.
‘That is true,’ answered granny Soë: ‘But try to stay calm. Try to not let it show that what they say hurts you. And you can do that, clever child.’

‘You are beautiful,’ granny Soë told Lakea.
‘You are brave,’ granny Soë told Sealine.
‘And you are strong,’ granny Soë told Ray: ‘That is why I know you can do this, because you are perfect, just the way you are.’
The three friends smiled: ‘Thank you, granny Soë.’
After that they left again.

On their way home they suddenly ran into Octavia Octopus.
‘You are fat!’ Octavia said to another fish.
Sealine was a bit scared but she took a deep breath and bravely swam towards Octavia: “Hey, why are you acting like this?’
‘Mind your own business!’ Octavia angrily yelled: ‘Get lost!’
Sealine blushed deeply: ‘I… umm…’
‘We just want to know why you act that way?’ Ray said after he swam next to Sealine: ‘You are so full of confidence. There is so much good you could do with that.’
Octavia blinked a couple of times, looking visibly surprised: ‘Umm what?’
‘Yes…’ Lakea said while she joined her friends: ‘You are such a smart octopus.’
‘Umm… thank you?’ Octavia said and suddenly she sounded rather unsure.
Sealine smiled: ‘Your welcome. But, you still haven’t told us why you are acting like that?’
‘Well… umm… I… uh..’ Octavia stuttered before she sighed: ‘Things are not so well at home. I… I’m having a difficult time…’

‘But… maybe we could help you?’ Ray suggested, the two mermaids nodded and gave Octavia a friendly smile.
“But I… I was so unkind… to you.” Octavia answered unsurely.
Lakea smiled at Octavia: ‘That was then, this is now. I’d rather be your friend.’
‘Yes,’ Sealine said: ‘I… I would love to be friends with someone as strong as you are, Octavia.”
‘We could do so many cool things together, as friends,’ said Ray.
‘Really? You would want that?’ Octavia asked: ‘I… I’m sorry.. for all the unkind things I said. Can we be friends?’

The three friends looked at each other and nodded.
‘Absolutely!’ The three of them said.

And so they all became friends with each other and supported each other. They did a lot of fun and exciting things together. But that is a story for another time.

 And do you know why? Because they are all amazing, just like you!