In Bellaâs lap lay a small opal. While smooth and lacking detail, its shape was undoubtedly that of a sprite, and she could feel the power that lay in its blinking blackness.
Bella was bemused by the speech and the gift, especially after the way the sprites had treated her on their first encounter, but she was glad to have passed their test, and any offer of help was welcome given the nature of the task she faced.
The sun was beginning to set by the time she reached the glenâs edge. All the elfin folk were waiting for her. She could smell the excitement in the air.
How could they know I found the crystals? She wondered, and even as she did, the answer came to her. Of course, they must be able to sense their presence.
Pirogues rushed up to her, taking her arm and leading her towards a mushroom, motioning for her to sit. All the elfins were talking and laughing at once and Bella smiled to see them. Turning, Pirogues asked one of the elfins to bring the magical charm that Bella needed.
Bella took the crystals from the bag that hung around her neck, unwrapped them from their protective leaf coverings and handed them over to Pirogues. He accepted them reverently, passing one to each of the other eleven tribal leaders. The twelve joined in a circle, lifted their crystals high above their heads and chanted a little song, while the crystal absorbed the twilightâs magic rays. When dusk gave way to night, they lowered their arms and returned each crystal to the covering that Bella had provided.
Bella was watching them respectfully, feeling very privileged to have been a part of something so momentous, when Pirogues bent low before her.
âOh Bella, Fairy of Pure Heart, you are truly named. Thank you for all you have done for us. We wish you luck on your voyage and safe speed. We will not forget you.â And with those words he presented her with the magical wind charm.
Bella felt a quiver run down her spine as her hands reached out to take the beautiful charm. It was crafted from wood, the exquisite, intricate carvings etched deeply into the grain portraying how ancient it really was. She raised tear-filled eyes to Pirogues and gave him a watery smile of thanks, knowing that she was now one step closer to setting Arthur free.
âLetâs celebrate,â shouted Pirogues, raising his hands in triumph.
Bella grabbed his hand once more before he started the festivities, âPirogues, can I ask one more thing?â
Pirogues smiled. âYes, fair fairy. If we can be of service to you, then we shall be. Any help we can bestow is yours. You only have to ask.â
âOh, Pirogues, would you know where I can find the fireâs heart?â
Still smiling at Bella, Pirogues simply told her, âBella, everyone knows that fireâs heart can be found deep in the Cave of Forgetfulness, in Dark Mountain.â
By the time the celebrations had begun to get lively, Bella and Teague had slipped away into the night to continue their quest.
H igh in the air, Bella and Teague flew, letting the wind sweep over them. Bella stretched out on Teagueâs back, her hands clasped firmly within his soft fur.
Raising her head slightly, she gazed at the millions of stars scattered across the sky. Teagueâs wings fluttered up and down, a soothing motion that soon lulled her into a deep sleep.
Day broke, and for the first time since Bellaâs quest had began, the sun wasnât shining. She looked at the dark, angry clouds that threatened to open and rain down upon them any minute.
From high in the air, Bella could see that they were nearing Dark Mountain, where lodged the Caves of Forgetfulness. The mountain certainly was dark and sinister-looking, with an icy coldness in the air surrounding it.
As they landed near the foot of the mountain, Bella noticed that the icy coldness extended even down to the forest floor. She shivered. Heaviness lingered all around