Naturally, in her mostly human girl form she could not hope to climb up that cliff, for the stone face was mostly flat so she transformed herself back into her tiny pixie form and flew steadily up to the dark, gaping entrance of Yenni’s cave. Halfway up, she remembered the payment hat those whom had sent her had given her to give to Yenni. It was in the sack, which she had left down below on the ground. With an annoyed shout—one that most likely sounded like a cute squeak to any human outsider who might have witnessed this—she flew back down and transformed into her girl form and stood there looking down at the leather sack, and sighed.
After a moment she knelt down and opened up the sack to be sure the payment was still in there. It’d been a long and adventures month to get here as I’ve said, and she only now remembered she had not checked on the contents of the sack since the night she’d encountered those two idiots and tricked them into knocking each other out. Everything was there as it should be, not only the payment from the tribes, but the stuff she had taken from those brutes. With a satisfied smile, she stood up and holding the sack to her chest, she transformed into her small, glowing pixie form, using her power to transform the sack along with her, so that it was small enough to carry with her as she flew up to the cave. . .
The inside of the cave, of course was dark, and appeared like a wide open oval shaped tunnel that led down deep into the mountain, the walls smooth and glossy looking. It was huge, much larger than a man pirate was when standing tall and thwice as wide. “This Yenni must be big,” Khsta thought to herself.
Because of the darkness, once she was safely in the tunnel, she transformed into her larger form, not wanting the light cast by her tiny fairy form to draw unwanted attention to her. That done, she stood there for a moment, holding the sack with the payment for Yenni as she let her eyes adjust to the dim light, then a loud voice spoke and asked, “yes, what can I do for you?”
The voice was high pitched, nastily sounding, and a bit silly to hear. Not at all what she would expect to hear from Yenni. As it turned out it was not Yenni at all, but a gnome, either that or Yenni was a small dwarf sized hairy man, with a red hooded cloak from beneath which stuck out both his long, red colored, hairy beard and a very long, bird like beak of a nose. He was seated in a chair and behind a very elegant stone desk. Beside him where piles and sacks of what looked like . . . well to be honest, junk. As Khsta approached him, taking slow, cautious steps, she could see sacks filled with what looked like old swords, plate armor, among which where children’s toys, dishes, plates, garden equipment and even furniture and boots. On the other side of the desk, a sack with what looked like gold necklaces, jewels, old books and an old clock sat. And behind him, carved out of the wall were shelves filled with old, dusty looking books.
“Yes, yes, on with it,” said the gnomish pixie in a tired and annoyed voice. On the desk before him was a large book that was open to a page. A feathered quill pen sat neatly in the middle of it as if waiting for him to write something down. Judging by the amount of dust on the pages, it had been sitting there waiting for him to write for a very, very long time.
“Are you he,” Khsta finally asked.
“I am a he, but what HE are you asking about,” answered the gnome in his shrill, silly voice. “If you mean He who records and accounts, then yes I am he.” If you are wondering, this is not me, your current story teller, let’s just make that clear.
“Oh no,” Khsta moaned, “you’re not a . . . a Gerrymander are you?” She was very worried at that moment, and rightly so, that she had stumbled into another Gerrymander.
The gnome was flustered by that question and made a bit of noise and sputtering sounds of disgust before saying, “by the Light of Creation, girl, do I look like that confusing serpent. I’m a gnome! Have your eyes gone dim, or is it your brains have turned to rotting acorns?”
“Neither,” Khsta answered in a firm tone, feeling a bit angered over the accusations that she had bad eyesight and an even worse brain. “I am Khsta Dawn Bell.”
“What girl? We don’t have a door let alone a doorbell,” replied the small, hairy man in the red hood.
Khsta frowned at that. “Dawn Bell,” she corrected him.
“Dumbell? Girl don’t be calling yourself such names.”
“No, my name is Khsta Dawn Bell, great granddaughter of,” that was all she got out before the small man interrupted her again.
“Yes! Yes I know all that,” he shouted. “You’re late!”
“Late,” Khsta was taken aback by that of course, as she had no idea she’d been expected. Then she remembered this was Yenni, who knew everything.
“Yes you were supposed to be here two days ago. Or was it from now?”
Khsta put a cute frown on her delicate face. “If I’m supposed to be here two days from now then I am early.”
“Late I say.”
“You’re very confusing,” she told the gnome. “You sure you’re not a gerrymander?”
“Oh for the love of Pete Moss, I’m a gnome!”
“Are you Yenni?”
The gnome was honestly shocked by that question. “I dare say not. He’s huge and all powerful! I am small and hairy. I am not him, I am his accountant and secretary, now did you bring payment?”
She did, as I told you before, and she set the sack on his desk for him to see. The gnome opened it and glanced inside at the contents before shoving it aside saying, “Very good. Now please remove any and all weapons you have before entering the chamber.”
Khsta frowned at the little man as she stood upright. “I have no weapons.”
The gnome frowned at her. “You lie! You lie like a rug,” he said in a firm tone. “Now hand over your dagger!”
Khsta frowned at him and was for a moment wondering if she should do as he’d asked. “I’m not fond of handing over my only weapon, what with the pirates hunting me as they are. How do I know I can trust you?”
“Because you paid me,” the little bearded man told her. “And if you can’t trust me after that, I don’t know what to tell you, other than you can go away, because you’re not going in with that dagger on your hip, little warrior.”
Then from down in the dark depths of the tunnel a deep and low voice rolled to them, saying, “The dagger matters not. She is a weapon. Send her in now.”
Khsta made her large, oval shaped eyes, which I have told you were of a very deep indigo blue color that (and she didn’t realize it at all) glowed in the dim light of the tunnel—wide with fear at the sound of that voice. She swallowed hard as she looked from the darkness before her where that voice had come from, back at the little man with the long red beard and big beak of a nose.
“Yenni will see you now,” the gnome said with a smile.
Swallowing a second time, Khsta nodded her head at the gnome and turned toward the darkness of the tunnel before her. Slowly she walked forward.
“Boss, little knot-head is on her way in,” the gnome like pixie shouted.
“What,” Khsta shouted back, angered at being called such a rude name. She glanced over at the hairy, unsightly little pixie man and made an ugly face, her eyes flashing bright electric blue with anger. The gnome like pixie didn’t notice any of that.
“Get a move on, he’s busy and can’t wait all night for you.”
“You’re a rude little hairball with a big nose,” Khsta shouted at the gnome.
“Thank you. I get it from my mother’s side,” replied the gnome. “She was a hedgehog.”
Khsta rolled her eyes, annoyed with the gnomish little man—yes very much like a human girl would do—and continued on down the tunnel, feeling more fearful with each step. What awaited her at the end she wondered?
It was a large, massively huge chamber at the end of that tunnel. One so big a nice sized fairy city could fit inside it with room for gardens. Dim light shined down from an opening in the chamber ceiling that was so far above her that it was hidden behind a thin vale of clouds. Clouds in a cave, she thought. That was wonderful and magical to see, but her delight was lost when from the rear of the chamber a massive shadow shifted, startling her. It was huge, larger than any pirate. Larger than any living thing she’d ever laid eyes on. She’d heard dragons were large but had never seen one herself. Well there was that three-headed firedrake but he had not been all that large. Was Yenni a dargon?
Before she could wonder more about this, an image as large as life appeared before her. One that caused her to shout loud in terror. There in the air before her she saw one of the pirate’s ships, not sailing in the water but floating in the air as they often did, the sails black as night and trailing dark vapors. As she watched the sides of the ship lit up with yellow-blue flashes of cannon fire, and she heard the faint, distant booms of the shots.
“Oh no,” Khsta cried aloud as she threw her hands up before her face.
Instantly the image faded and she saw the huge oval shaped shadow of the giant far across the chamber from her.
“You think your tribe and those of the Woodlings you allied yourselves with are the only ones in this world to suffer the pirates?” asked Yenni in his deep voice.
Khsta wasn’t sure how to answer that so she just stood there looking at the giant shadow across from her, waiting and trying to see what this Yenni really was.
“Many tribes have suffered at the hands of the pirates and twice as many have perished, and not just you pixies,” Yenni told her as he moved a little closer. Khsta took a cautious step back. “You come hear seeking an answer, but I ask you, is it for your sake, those of your tribe and allies only?”
Khsta didn’t have to think to answer that question. “No. Of course not.” She told him then of all she’d seen, of the suffering of our entire world, not just the pixies but everyone. “No,” she said again. “I do it not just for my tribe.”
Khsta looked up at the massive head or what she believed was Yenni’s huge head, seeing suddenly, two huge, yellow glowing eyes appear, and fixed to her with his gaze. “No,” he asked again. “Is it not true your tribe and those of the Woodlings sent you to seek an answer for them?”
Khsta swallowed hard, feeling more than a little nervous. There was no point in lying to him, as she knew; he knew the answers to everything, even his own questions. “It is, but that’s not all of it.”
“Explain,” Yenni said in his deep, rumbling speech as he took a step toward her, entering the dim shaft of light that shone down from above, and as he did so, Khsta faintly saw him as he was.
So startled was she by his appearance and size that she yelped and stumbled backwards a step or two before falling down on her bum. Far out in the chamber stood Yenni, and he was giant, but not a Giant, nor was he a dragon or anything else that Khsta had imagined. Most of his detail hidden in shadows, but what she could see of him frightened her badly.
“You are Khsta Dawn Bell, great granddaughter of the Bell,” Yenni then reminded her. “Speak to me as such.”
That reminded her of who she was and in a way made her feel a little prideful. After a moment she stood back up and faced the massively huge shadow across from her with the glowing eyes. “I am Khsta. You know who my great grandmother was, that is true. And it’s true my tribe and the others sent me here to seek an answer, but the answer I seek is not . . . I want to know how to get rid of the pirates for good.”
“Such a thing might not ever be possible,” Yenni replied. “But to push them back to the dim light and shadows at the edges of our world is.”
“How,” she asked.
Yenni said nothing for a long moment. His giant, shadowed form remained still, far across the massive chamber from her. His glowing eyes fixed on her like two massive search lights. “The balance is upset. There once was one, a human boy who could fly. His powers, wit and abilities could not be matched by the pirates. He, along with his tribe of human children known as the Lost Boys, together, they were able to hold the darkness and the pirates at bay, but he and they have left our world ages ago. When they did, it left a void, an unbalance and the pirates and their allies have gone unchecked and now run like a disease over our entire world. Soon they will have destroyed all and will have complete control. As it is now, only those tribes such as yours had been, who live in the Wilds are still free, but soon even the Wilds will be taken over by them, and then all this world will be under their control. The pixie races will be destroyed. Belfel was right; the pixies cannot stand against the pirates alone. And Thorn was right, if you hide in the hidden fairy kingdom, you all will eventually be found and exterminated. There must be war, otherwise Concord the Scarlet Pirate King will destroy all of you and declare himself Emperor and have dominion over all this world, and all must yield and kneel before him.”
Khsta was very upset by this. “No. How can it be stopped?”
“The balance must be restored,” Yenni replied.
Yenni moved so fast that it shocked our little pixie girl. Khsta had hardly seen him move at all. One instant the huge owl like shadow was far across the chamber from her, and in the next, with a rush of wind he was towering over her, leaning down so his glowing eyes, each as large as she was tall when in her human girl size, shone down on her from above her head. With a yelp, the little pixie squatted down, fearing that she had offended the huge being with her demand for an answer and because of that, he intended to eat her.
“Bring back the Lost Boys,” Yenni said in his deep, and oddly soothing speech.
“Lost boys?” Khsta echoed after a moment as she looked up at the thing that was Yenni towering over her.
Yenni slowly rose up to his towering size and looked down at her for a long silent moment. “You must find the Lost boys. Bring them back to our world and restore the balance.”
“I don’t know any Lost Boys, or where to find them,” Khsta admitted. “Do you mean human boys? I don’t even know any humans, lost or otherwise.”
“Find the Lost Boys,” Yenni said again, “for only the innocent courage of a human child can defeat the pirates. Find them or find new ones, somehow. Bring them back to our world and restore the balance and drive the pirates and their allies back to the shadows and mist.”
After a long moment Khsta stood up and thought about all that. If that was what needed to be done to save her people, all people, all the tribes and all of Neverland, she’d do it. But how? “I will do as you say, but I do not know how or where to begin.”
“For now rest,” Yenni said as he moved to step beyond her, his massive shadow form approaching the wide tunnel she’d walked down only moments ago. As he did so, she had to jump back to avoid being stepped on by one of his huge clawed feet. The air that rushed around her from his passing was the dusty smell of old feathers.
“Rest,” she then echoed feeling a little upset at that. She didn’t want to rest, she needed an answer. If the pirates and their dark allies were going to totally take over and destroy their world, if this Pirate King, Concord wanted to be emperor, she needed to stop them. She needed to find these Lost Boys right away and wanted to get moving as soon as possible to do just that. Rest? She’d no time for that.
“With first light of the morrow, take the way to the Western Wood,” Yenni said to her. “Use the seeking stone the ghost gave you to find your way. Go there and find the Green Wood Tribe of Pixies. They will help you. For they know the spot where our world and the other touch, and how to cross from one to the other. Together you must find the Lost Boys, or bring back new ones, and then there will be war. The pirates and their king must be defeated or our world will be lost forever. Do this at dawn. Do not leave the cave now, for it is night, and I hunt at night.” With that, the huge shadow that was Yenni slid down the tunnel and vanished, leaving our little Khsta behind to consider and think about all he had told her.
At some point, having found a spot behind a large boulder to settle down, Khsta ate her last two seed cakes and an apple she had with her—it was all the food she’d left from when she’d left the Burnt Hill Outpost, and then without realizing it, fell promptly to sleep.
A few hours before dawn broke, Yenni returned. His massive form slid smoothly and silently into the chamber with only the slightest sound of rustling feathers. Khsta lay sleeping undisturbed by him, as he leaned over the stone bookcase and watched her for a long moment, before moving toward the center of the chamber.
Yenni was not alone. Just as he reached the center of the chamber, another form entered—actually flew in. In the dim light it appeared to be a small, glowing, golden eagle, which promptly transformed into the form of a human child . . .
Ashkii walked over and stood beside the bench, looking down at Khsta for a long silent moment.
“I think you fancy her,” Yenni said in his deep, soft voice. There was a trace of humor in his suggestion.
“Ha,” Ashkii said loudly and Yenni hushed him.
“Do not wake her,” Yenni said in a deep whisper. “She has a long way to go yet. And what we have to discuss is not for her to hear yet.”
Ashkii nodded his head at that and quietly walked over to stand before the hulking shadow of Yenni. “I like her, but not the way you mean.”
“Mm-hmm,” Yenni hummed in a knowing tone.
“Well you’re Yenni,” Ashkii told him. “The great old wise owl. You know everything, so you know what I mean.”
“Oh I know,” Yenni told the green boy. “But knowing the answer is not the same thing as having the one seeking the answer, understand the answer they are given.”
Ashkii frowned at that after a moment. “That’s utterly confusing I think.”
“Learning can be that way,” Yenni said softly. “Why is it you left her at the Burnt Hill Outpost, may I ask.”
“Again, you know the answer to that,” the green boy said with a smile. “I had to take care of something for my mother. And, as you know, there were humans there, and I’m not supposed to be around them nor am I great fan of humans.”
“Nor am I but they are a necessary means to an end,” Yenni told the boy. “Speaking of which, do you recall this human boy I have told, Khsta, about? The one who could fly?”
“No I never saw any of the ‘Superman’ movies,” Ashkii replied.
Yenni didn’t bother to ask the green boy how he knew of such things. “I ask because while he was half human, he did a great service and kept the pirates at a distance. And the darkness.”
Ashkii nodded his head at that. “I’ve heard but all that took place before I was awoken and I feel no connection to it.” He then thought for a moment and frowned, looking up at Yenni. “You want me to follow her to the end, until she does what you told her to do, don’t you?”
Ashkii thought for a long moment before answering. “I don’t know, to make sure the pirates don’t stop her. But that’s only part of the answer isn’t it.”
If Yenni had lips he’d smile at that. “What more could there be, do you think little Ahdar?”
The green boy frowned, not sure he liked being reminded of his true nature. “You ask a lot of questions for someone who knows all the answers.”
“Only because it makes you learn faster that way,” Yenni replied. “It forces you to think and see.”
“That’s why you kept asking Khsta that same question over and over about why she wanted her answer?”
“You were spying on us,” Yenni said in a deep rumbling voice, his eyes flashing brightly.
“No not really,” Ashkii replied. “I just was passing by and was . . . curious. And there is a really big hole in your ceiling,” he then said as he pointed up at the darkness above Yenni’s huge head. “I couldn’t help but to overhear you guys.”
“Uh-huh,” Yenni said to that. “And you say you don’t fancy her.”
“Yet you followed her here,” Yenni told the boy. “And mistake me not, Ashkii, I am not mocking you for such, only trying to make you understand yourself. It is a good thing what you may feel. Let’s leave that as it is for now. To answer your other question, yes, I kept asking her over and over again why she wanted an answer for a reason. Know what I was getting at, might you?”
Ashkii thought for a long moment before saying, “the darkness. It is behind the Scarlet King. Something else is at work. Something I feel and remember from the First Days, when the First War began and the First Garden was lost.”
Yenni’s eyes glowed brightly as he leaned over the small green boy. “Know this. Whatever victory the Lost Boys have against the Scarlet King will be only for the moment. Something has awoken, a shadow moves in the mists, drawn to the Scarlet King only to draw power from him until it is ready to show itself.”
“It is the Old Hate,” Ashkii sighed.
“It is,” Yenni told the boy. “I have sent word to your mother on this matter. In the meantime, I am requesting you to follow Khsta. Remain hidden as you have but shadow her, for I feel that after she achieves her quest as I have given it to her, she and you may be needed elsewhere.”
“I should have known when that gargoyle Tok, tried to capture me that something else was going on,” Ashkii said with a sigh.
“Something else is going on,” Yenni agreed, “but such things unfold slowly and the full nature of it and the threat it presents to us is yet to be understood. Until then, remain with Khsta until otherwise told to by your mother.”
Hitching his shoulders up and down Ashkii said, “Okay, but I don’t like her like you think. And I am going to stay hidden because from what I heard you say, there are humans involved and I really am not supposed to be around them, as you know.” That is in fact, true.
“You are of the Ahdar,” Yenni told the boy. “Dare I say, humans are forbidden to approach and speak to you unless you agree to it. No one will fault you for remaining hidden from them. And you might want to hide yourself from our little pixie before she wakes as you are quite naked.”
Askii looked down at himself and then swatted himself in the forehead with the palm of his right hand. Giggling he looked back up at the huge owl like shadow towering over him. “I forgot to bring my clothing with me when I turned into the bird. I left them in a sack down by the river.” For those that don’t know, unlike Khsta who could change her size, and change things from big to small and small to big along with her transformation, when Ashkii changed into one of his animal forms, he had to remove his clothing or it would either hamper him or be torn apart in the transformation. In this case, before becoming the eagle he’d taken his clothing off and put them in a sack and left them down by his camp near the river.
Maybe now you realize why Khsta often saw him in unusual outfits, as he’d been, without her knowing, transforming into his bird or wolf shapes when she had been sleeping and gone scouting out the forest head of them, and three times had encounter and fought pirates without Khsta having ever learned of it.
“I will do as you ask, Grandfather,” Ashkii told Yenni. Calling Yenni, “Grandfather,” was actually a showing of great respect. “I’ll do what I can for Khsta in any way I can.”
“For that I am thankful little Ahdar,” Yenni said with a sigh of relief. “You should hear from your mother on this matter by the afternoon. No later than evening I suspect.”
“And I suspect she’ll have a grumpy word or two for me over some of the things I did,” Ashkii said with a sigh. “But what can I do?” He hitched his shoulders up and down in a helpless gesture.
“What can you do,” Yenni agreed. “Mothers are mothers.”
Not long after that, Ashkii turned himself back into the eagle and flew off to his camp and prepared to do as Yenni had asked.
With no idea of what had taken place between the green boy and Yenni the night before, Khsta was awoken the following morning by the little gnome who was annoyed that she was still there.
“Up little knot-head. Get yourself gone, it’s a new day and you’ve your answer, best get on with it.”
Khsta didn’t argue that one bit, she wasn’t even upset at being called a knot-head. She was eager to head to the Western Wood. Just before she left the cave all together, the gnome stopped her and pointed to a small sack on the floor before his desk. “He told me to prepare that for you. Some wafers and berry cakes and sunflower seeds, and some honey dropped water. Not much but he said it should get you to where you’re going. From there, it’s up to you.”
Khsta looked in the small pack the gnome prepared for her and was delighted to see that it was just as he’d said it was. She had supplies to get her on her way, although unlike a human she didn’t need to eat or drink half as much, but she was a living being and did need to do some of the things all living beings did. “Thank you,” she then cheered in girlish delight as she turned to the gnome.
“Don’t you even try and hug or kiss me, fairy,” the gnome warned with a blush—one that was actually visible beneath his thick whiskers. “Just go on and be gone. Others are on their way, those that can find us, and I have an update to record and the daylight is burning. Best be beyond the Blue Tree Hills before nightfall. He never hunts at night beyond those hills. Understand?”
Khsta did and didn’t hesitate or waste any more time. Stepping to the entrance of the cave, she transformed herself into her smaller, pixie form, taking the sack with fresh supplies with her, and flew off in the direction of the Western Wood.
This is where this adventure of our little pixie girl, Khsta ends—for the moment—and where yours begins. It is all of the “why” behind the story of why you have been brought here, and we all can only hope you will help us to defeat the pirates and save this world for us all.
The rest of this story is yours.
The Beginning. . .