Anywin Castle, home of the Elf Queen Gudrun, is a gold building. But once inside, Alvina notices that her feet are walking on a glass-like structure. Under her shoes are many levels with different rooms where elves are busy tending to various tasks: right below are elves standing up peering through a microscope, and in the next room are elves sleeping in beds as other elves in blue-white pants with matching shirts and black boots, pull blankets up around those who are resting. Are they patients? Alvina wonders to herself.
Several floors down elves rush around chopping long purple carrots and toss them into pots with bubbling water; other elves two floors up from those preparing food clink swords together; other elves are doing laundry; while other child elves are being instructed by an elf with a long white beard. On and on, elves work below Alvina’s feet, separated only by clear glass and see-through walls. None are distracted by what other elves are doing in different rooms.
All of a sudden, Alvina’s lips move together with thirst. It’s as if her saliva glands are working to produce liquid, but everything inside of her has gone dry. Her hands that were relaxed at her side begin to open and close in fists as if she were trying to pump water from her hands up to her mouth. Then the floor beneath her feet and the see-though rooms that were all separated, are closed in gold. Everything is shuttered from Alvina’s eyes.
“Are you alright?” A voice she knows, but can’t quite place, coos to her.
Alvina can’t speak. In answer to the question, she nods her head at the woman in the plaid shirt and blue jeans.
From her right side a hand touches her arm and says, “Here, drink this.”
When Alvina faces the voice, she sees a woman dressed in blue-white clothes, and she holds a clear liquid in a glass in front of her. Alvina takes the clear fluid, pushes it to her lips, and the zesty, sweet taste of orange-pineapple tingles on her taste buds. Some of the drink escapes from the corners of her lips and dribbles down the front of her shirt. Once done, she places the glass back on the tray the woman holds. Alvina whispers the words, “thank you.”
An eloquent and kind laugh echoes throughout the gold walls of the castle. Gudrun pulls from her jeans a white handkerchief and passes it to Alvina. When Alvina peers down at the cloth the letters: H.R.H.G.A. are embroidered on it. She takes it and wipes the corners of her mouth.
Gudrun nods at the other woman and says, “Satya, thank you. You may go now.” The woman smiles slightly, steps backwards, bends forward, and then once she’s no longer facing the Queen and the child, she quickens her pass returning to her other duties.
Gudrun says, “I’m sorry. I should have asked them to close the floor before we arrived. I forget – some of your people are afraid of heights.”
“It’s okay. I’m alright. By the way, who are you?”
“I’m Gudrun,” the elf woman replies with a smile. Gudrun waits a moment, testing to see if Alvina will ask a more precise question.
“Does everyone have a home like this?”
There it is. “No, I’m Queen of the Elves.”
Alvina’s face scrunches as she stares at the woman. “But you’re dressed in a plaid shirt and blue jeans?”
Gudrun’s hands rest easily at her side. She steps back and says, “What would you have me do? Wear a silk gown and tiara on my head while tending to my duties? Also, dressed in an evening gown is hardly practical for flying.”
Alvina’s nostrils twitch as she chuckles. Gudrun watches her guest carefully and notices Alvina’s shoulders relax more while her face returns to a pink glow. The child’s eyes focus on her, and are no longer distant as if they are lost in some other world.
Yes, the girl is no longer feeling faint.
Recalling the statement the Queen said a second ago, Alvina finally says, “I guess I’m a little afraid of heights.” Her voice is a quiet confession.
Sympathetically, the Queen says, “We’re all afraid of something.”
Suddenly a monster appears behind Gudrun with light purple skin, red shimmering eyebrows, wide black eyes, and a glowing red mouth. Wearing a yellow-gold shirt and pants, Alvina notices a white scintillating rope hangs on the creature’s black belt.
“Gudrun, run! There’s a monster behind you!” Alvina squeals. She reaches for the Queen’s hand and tugs at it to pull Gudrun forward.
The monster stops in his tracks. “Queen Gudrun, this is the reason why we can’t simply hand over the plant to the humans! They are narrow-minded!” The voice is an echo grumble as if the monster has a cold. The creature hisses the words at Alvina.
Alvina stops pulling the Queen’s hand. The Queen’s fingers now tighten around Alvina’s hand as she nudges the child forward. The Queen only stops the motion when Alvina stands directly in front of her. Gudrun rests her hands on the child’s shoulders and says, “Alvina, I would like you to meet my friend, Radyalasana, who has travelled far beyond the Pinwheel Galaxy, where there’s a planet called Kysta. That is Radyalasana’s home.
Gudrun bends forward and whispers into Alvina’s ear, “don’t worry. We’ve already fed Radyalasana.”
Alvina twists her lips to the right side with annoyance at Gudrun’s joke. (By now she knows when the Queen is making fun of her.) “What does he mean, give us a plant?”
“I’m not a HE,” Radyalasana’s voice clips Alvina’s question.
“Well, she then,” Alvina corrects.
“You are wrong again, human,” Radyalasana says with annoyance. “I’m neither.”
“You have to be one or the other,” Alvina counters.
“No, I do not.”
Gudrun moves to Alvina’s right side and stares down at her. “Alvina, sometimes you must open your mind to other possibilities. Everything you believe, everything you are told, may need to be corrected at some point. That is why an A is not important. If you reach perfection, where is the ambition to continue to learn?” The Queen’s eyebrows pull together and with a soft smile she adds, “Remember, history is always being written – and re-written.”
Alvina looks over at Radyalasana. She nods, and offers a smile while asking, “What plant do you want to give us?” Alvina asks boldly.
The black eyes of Radyalasana blink quickly at the child. The Kystan’s wide lips remain silent.
“Radyalasana,” the Queen’s voice breaks through the silence, “Alvina pursues knowledge, and wishes to understand things. I sense Alvina has a special purpose in this project, and will be needed when she is older. Our encounter today was no accident.” Gudrun quickly peers over at Alvina as she says this.
Alvina can’t catch her breath. She’s special. The Queen said so. Alvina’s ears perk up as she waits to hear what Radyalasana will say. She is aware now, that whatever the Kystan says today, she must remember for when she is older.”
Radyalasana’s eyes blink rapidly at the Queen and through clenched black teeth to Gudrun these words follow: “Very well. Only because I know you can see the future, and we have known each other for several hundred years, do I trust what you say is true, and will give the information to the runt human.”
“I’m a child!” Alvina shouts.
“Hmph,” Radyalasana grunts at Alvina. “You call me a monster, and when I call you a runt, you get angry?”
“Oh,” Alvina says as her eyes shift down to the floor. Then she blinks up to Radyalasana, and says, “I’m sorry.”
Nodding at Alvina, Radyalasana says, “I’m sorry too.” The Kystan traveller begins to pace back and forth and says, “It’s a plant that I brought from my home, and will transport and place in the ground in Brazil. It will be found by a researcher in the Amazon Rainforest, and will be the cure for many diseases that plague your people, according to Gudrun. Assuming your species doesn’t destroy the plant before it’s found with your clear cutting of the jungle, it will mean many illnesses will be eliminated.”
“Why don’t you just give us the plant?”
Radyalasana’s face scrunches. Eyes squint tightly at the child.
“Oh,” Alvina says.
With amusement the Kystan traveller smiles at Alvina, turns towards Gudrun and acknowledges, “You are right. The child is clever. She will find it.”