Anglachel was an enormous city. I had gone to the Fey Court with my grandmother and it is impressive, but nothing like this! The alicorn I was riding was surrounded by people on either side. There was some sort of outdoor market on either side of the road selling all sorts of various products. I thought about jumping down and trying to get something to eat, the smells filling the air were so unique and varied, but I had no money. I also couldn’t help but notice all of the eyes glaring up at me. I think they were looking at my ears like the tavern owner.
There was a wreath of spring flowers atop my head like a crown. I took it off and worked the weaving to make it bigger. I also fluffed up the flowers a little bit. Finally, I placed it back on my head, but now it was wide enough to cover my most prominent elven feature. I didn’t want to deceive anyone, but I also wasn’t trying to get killed on my first day here.
I didn’t know where this crowd was taking me. Everyone appeared as though they were moving with purpose to their own individual places, yet they were all moving as a unit through this market. Along the edges, there were people stopping at the stalls, but the majority of the masses pushing in the same direction.
I didn’t love this. I had run away from the Fey Realm because I didn’t have any control over where my life was going. This was all a little too literal for my tastes.
I noticed an ornate-looking sidewalk heading to the right that was far less populated. I careened the alicorn in that direction and peeled off of the crowd. I traveled past a series of buildings and was surprised to be greeted with a large green space. There was a sprawling sea of grass on either side of this sidewalk. I saw people that appeared to be around my age throwing balls back and forth, laying on blankets reading books, and doing group dances together.
I heard someone mention something about classes and I realized I was on the grounds of a school. I went to a private school in the Fey Realm that was all about how to be the perfect elven noble. It was nothing like this. These people looked free. This was the independence that I’d come here for.
As I began contemplating all of this, I heard a high-pitch feminine voice directed at me.
“Is your alicorn friendly?” A petite blonde girl said.
If I thought the tavern owner had been cute, then this girl was downright adorable. Her skin was as light and pinkish as a newborn baby. Her hair was straight and long. Her eyes shone a stunning blue. She was smiling, displaying her slightly buck teeth. She wore a fringed leather jacket over a plaid button-up shirt. The bottom of her shirt was tucked into a straight pink shirt that went all the way down to her boots. I thought she was stunning. Is this was love feels like?
“I’m sorry, I asked if your alicorn was friendly. I’d like to pet it,” the girl repeated. I hadn’t responded because I’d been too busy staring at her.
“Actually, I don’t know,” I replied. “We’d only met a few hours ago.”
I saw her cute face scrunch up in thought. Could she get any cuter?
“Only one way to find out,” she said. She slowly reached her hand to the alicorn’s long mane. It leaned its head into her hand as she gave it some scratches.
Apparently, it was friendly. Good to know.
The girl looked up at me with those big blue eyes and smiled.
“I’m Traci,” she said. “Pleased to meet you both.”
“I’m Asha,” I said. “You’re the first person I’ve had a pleasant interaction with since I’ve gotten here. Nice to meet you too.”
“That’s strange,” she said, scrunching up her face again. “Every at Arcana University is usually real welcoming. What are you here for?”
“That’s a complicated question,” I began.
“Then why don’t we go somewhere more comfortable. I can teleport us to my dorm room so you can feel free to say whatever you want,” she offered.
She wanted me to go with her to her room already? Maybe we were on the same wavelength.
“If you think that would be appropriate,” I responded.
“Sure it is, everyone hangs out at each others’ dorms around here.” she explained.
“Then let’s teleport,” I said.
She lifted her free hand up to my leg.
“May I?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said, maybe a little too eagerly.
She placed her hand on my leg and I felt magical energy surround my body. Before I had time to process what was happening, we were already outside a different building.
“That was fast,” I noted.
“Sure, teleportation is kinda my thing,” she bragged. “Why don’t we leave your alicorn at the stables here. I can use my student ID to check it in.”
I agreed and I followed along as she completed the paperwork. Clearly, this place was some sort of school for higher learning. Elves are always constant learners, but we usually have private tutors after we come of age. Apparently, these humans had a school for those that have just come of age. It sounded fun, but I had to remind myself that I came here for adventure, not school.
I learned through context that Arcana University was a magic school that taught magic users how to tap into the different disciplines. I’d always found my magic classes dreadfully boring, so that did help to assuage my burgeoning interest.
Traci led us up a stairway a few flights and down a hallway. We stopped at a pretty nondescript door. She pulled out a key and pushed it open.
The door may have been nondescript, but this room was not. Traci apparently had a room to herself and it was covered in pink and posters of various breeds of horse, unicorn, pegasus, and alicorn. I would later discover that Traci is what humans colloquially call a “horse girl.” I actually found this charming. There was something nice about categorizing people by their interests rather than their status or race.
Traci jumped on her bed and gestured to a fuzzy, foldable pink chair across from it. I took her cue and fell into it.
“So what brought you here, Asha,” Traci asked.
“I’m looking for adventure,” I said bluntly, like a child that was asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“That’s what a lot of people here say,” she said. “Looks like you found yourself in the right place. Your clothes look lovely, but would you want to change into something a little more comfortable? I have stuff in the closet.”
“I’m good for now,” I said. I wanted to see just how much I could trust this girl before I dropped my guard around her.
“At least take off that flower crown. It looks really uncomfortable. It is pressing against your ears,” she said with a tinge of concern.
“Do you promise you won’t tell anyone?” I asked her. I remembered how we got up here, so I could run if I needed to.
“Sure,” she said, puzzled.
I carefully removed the flower crown and let my long, pointed ears out. Traci released an audible gasp.
“You’re an elf,” she said.
“That I am,” I responded.
“Are you going to control me? I heard that elves do that. My parents told me,” she said, clearly petrified.
“Goodness no, what is wrong with all of you people?” I answered. “I came here for adventure. Do you really think all elves want is to enslave and control people?”
“Honestly,” Traci paused. “Yes? Elves basically controlled this realm until just before I was born. This is all pretty fresh for all of us.”
Suddenly, every reaction I had received since arriving made a lot more sense. I knew that my people had their hands in a lot of different realms, but I didn’t know we went around conquering realms. Clearly, I was much more sheltered than I had realized. And my people did not teach us the entirety of our history. I had learned about the great artists and magical discoveries in elven culture, but I knew nothing about our past as tyrants.
“I didn’t know that,” I simply replied.
“Wow, you must be really confused,” Traci laughed.
I appreciated her bringing levity to the situation.
“You have no idea,” I confirmed.
“Well, Arcana University was actually built to commemorate the elves leaving this realm. The elves taught humans magic, but they always kept people at arm’s length. The school opened to keep magical knowledge alive,” Traci explained.
“You know a lot,” I said.
“Just what every human learns in school. I’m just badly parroting what my history teacher taught me when I was little,” she said modestly.
“So you’re learning magic?” I asked.
“I’m trying,” she admitted. “My spatial magic is an innate ability I was born with. I can teleport anywhere. But learning new spells has been a challenge. I hate memorizing!”
“That sounds bad,” I agreed. I got through all of my school years by breezing through with my family’s name. I couldn’t imagine actually doing school work.
“Yeah, magic school hasn’t been what I’d imagined,” she said.
“Then come with me! We can adventure together,” I offered. Having someone that actually understood this world traveling with me would make all of this a whole lot easier.
“I can’t. My parents paid my tuition. I have to finish the year out,” she explained.
“Why? You just said it sucks. And you can’t tell me you wouldn’t love to travel with that unicorn,” I tempted. Light manipulation felt appropriate in this situation.
“I really would,” she squeaked out.
“Let’s do it! You and me! We can take on all of, what is this world called again?” I asked, interrupting my dramatic rallying cry.
“Galevyn,” Traci said.
“We can take on all of Galevyn!” I finished.
“Yeah,” she said, slightly more confident now. “I can be an adventurer!”
“Yes, we are adventurers,” I said. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!