6th Ymiden, 718
Story time was always a favorite whenever Lei'lira came to work at the orphanage. She didn't know who enjoyed it the most; her, or the kids. But it never took long for the children to gather any time she took a seat in the corner of the play room that had come to be known as the story nook. As she sat in the chair that waited for her, it was only a matter of bits before every child that wasn't busy doing homework or chores was gathered around her, waiting eagerly. Lei'lira grinned at them as they jostled each other playfully and made themselves comfortable. And while most crowds would make her feel nervous and afraid, seeing this one filled her with joy.
"So what story do you guys want to hear this trial?"
"Your story!" one of the children cried eagerly.
The suggestion was quickly agreed upon by the other kids who were quick to take up the plea. Lei'lira smiled at them. "Her story" meant a story that she made up for the kids rather than one of the many books that people had donated for them. Often times these stories were made up on the spot, and involved the kids who were listening to them as "characters." Lei'lira had come up with the idea one trial when the kids couldn't agree on which story they wanted to hear; rather than let the argument turn into a fight that would have left them bitter and angry, she had made up a story of her own. Much to her surprise, the kids loved it, and her stories were now preferred over any other more times than not. And after seeing how much these children enjoyed the stories she made up for them, she was looking forward to trying the idea out on her own children when she returned to Rynmere. Tiran, Taerin, and Kaien certainly seemed to enjoy them, but they were too young to be a good judge of her success; they could simply be enjoying listening to the sound of her voice since there were no pictures for them to look at.
"What kind of story do you want to hear, then?"
Though other story sessions similar to this one, Lei'lira had learned that the kids liked it when she told them stories that they wanted to hear rather than random stories of her own choosing. And by giving them options and allowing them to help form the story she told, it made them feel as if they were part of her story, too. That, in turn, made them enjoy the stories she told even more. So as she listened to the children as they called out their ideas, she wondered what kind of story she would end up telling them this time.
"Adventure!" was the eager cry from many of the boys.
"Magic!" came from several of the younger girls while the older ones were more interested in romance.
The first two ideas seemed like they would be easy enough to combine into one story, so Lei'lira decided to use them. Romance wasn't quite appropriate for the youngest children in her audience, and wasn't something that interested the majority of the kids who would hear it, so with a sympathetic smile, Lei'lira promised that she would try to think of a romantic story to tell the older girls another time. But even as she made her promise, she couldn't help but hope that "later" wouldn't come in this case. She had never experienced romance in her own life, nor did she enjoy reading romantic novels all that much. With so little experience with the subject, Lei'lira had no confidence that she could come up with a romantic story that would please the girls who wanted to hear it. That was for the future, though, so she set the worry aside for the trill as she turned her attention back to her audience.
"Magic and adventure it is, then. But what kind of magic? And what kind of adventure?" she asked the kids with a smile.
"Yeah! Tell us a story about a girl who can make wishes come true!"
"I want to hear a story about a treasure hunt! One where the hero has to earn the treasure, not just find it." one of the boys called out.
This suggestion was quickly agreed on by many of the others. Lei'lira nodded as she took a few bits to think about the requests she had gotten.
"Okay, I think I have a good story to tell you now." she told the kids when she had put several ideas together in her head.
She wove them a story with her words. She told of a little girl who had gotten a magical locket for her birth trial. When asked what the little girl looked like, Lei'lira described a girl using features she saw in the faces of the girls sitting around her. They beamed at her in excitement as they recognized themselves in the girl from the story. Once she was allowed to continue, she explained that the locket could grant any wish that its owner made. But there was a problem with the locket. It was very old, and as a result, some of its magic was starting to fade away. Because of this, one had to be very careful what they wished when using the locket. This was because while it would grant wishes like it had been made to do, the wishes it granted rarely ever came true in the way that the one who made the wish had thought it would.
People who wished for eternal life like the Immortals found that they could no longer die...but they continued to age as time passed. And as they got older, they fell prey to all of the ailments that plagued the elderly. These people often found themselves wishing that they had never made their wish.
Likewise, people who wished for endless riches faced a similar problem. They got the nels that they wished for...only to find that the nels had been stolen from someone else. And since no one would believe that a magical locket had stolen the money, they were blamed for the crime. So even if they managed to escape being arrested, they had to live the rest of their lives on the run from the authorities, and the people the locket stole the money from.
The little girl who got the locket from her grandmother was warned about all of this, and cautioned to use the locket wisely. This little girl wanted to help people, though. That was her greatest wish, and she knew that the locket would allow her to help others a lot more than she could without the aid of magic. So she was determined to use the locket despite her grandmother's warning. But she was a very smart little girl, so she thought about what she wanted to wish for for a very long time before making her first wish. And when she did make it, she wished to know how to fix the locket so that it would be able to grant wishes properly.
As Lei'lira warmed up to her story, she told the kids how the little girl was led into a grand adventure as she tried to gather up the things she would need to fix the locket. Some were easy to find, but others were not. And when she was down to the last thing she needed to find, she met a boy about her age who was searching for a vast treasure with the aid of a treasure map that his father had given him for his birthday. Since the jewel that the little girl needed to fix her locket was supposed to be in the treasure that the young boy was looking for, the two kids agreed to work together to find the treasure. In exchange, the boy would give the girl the jewel she needed.
Finding the treasure wasn't easy. The two children had to travel all over the world as they followed the young boy's map. And they faced all kinds of hardships along the way. But each challenge that they faced was possible to overcome as long as they worked together, and they learned a lot as they solved the obstacles in their path. In the process, they became close friends.
When they finally found the treasure that they sought, a fearsome winged serpent stood guard over the vast piles of gold and jewels. As the children approached, it watched them in silence. But when the boy reached out to touch a gold crown, the guardian cautioned them that only those that passed his test would be worthy of the treasure that they sought.
"Can any of you guess what the guardian's test is going to be?" Lei'lira asked the children.
She had already decided what it was, of course, but pausing and giving them a chance to guess would build up anticipation. And there was always a chance that they might come up with some interesting guesses that she might be able to work into other stories in the future.
"I bet it's going to be a big fight! They have to defeat the guardian in battle because only the strongest of the strong are worthy of the treasure." one of the boys stated firmly.
This suggestion was one that many of the boys seemed to like.
"Well, I think that they have to prove to the guardian that they are smart enough, or clever enough to figure out a way to take the treasure without fighting for it. Maybe by offering a trade for something the guardian wants? and they have to be clever enough to figure out what a winger serpent might want in exchange for the treasure in the first place?"
This suggestion came from a young girl whose parents had been traders who lost their lives last season during the disaster on the docks. Several of the other girls liked this idea as well. Lei'lira let them keep guessing for a while until the kids begged her to finish the story and tell them what the challenge was.
Lei'lira began speaking once more, telling the children that the test was simple enough...on the surface. The guardian simply asked them one question; what did they want the treasure for? This made the two children frown as they thought about the question. Was it a trap? Answering a simple question like that seemed far too easy to be the test. What was the right answer to the question, anyway? Was there a right ans wrong question? For a long time, the two children just looked at each other in silence.
Finally, the young girl spoke. She told the guardian that she didn't want the treasure itself as much as she wanted something that was said to be hidden within the treasure. She continued to say that she had a broken magic locket, and the ring she hoped to find in the treasure was the last thing she needed in order to fix the locket. She finished by explaining that she wanted to use the locket to help people by using it to grant their wishes.
When it was his turn, the boy explained that his family was very poor. He wanted the treasure for many things that would help his family. It would pay for medicine for his sick grandmother, and for repairs to his family's house. The house was very old, and the roof leaked quite badly. It was also very drafty because of all of the cracks in the walls. The treasure would also be used to buy his mother a new stove since the one she had released great clouds of smoke whenever she tried to use it. Whatever was left would be used to improve their farm, and buy more seed so that they could grow a better crop next arc.
The guardian listened to their words in silence. Finally, he smiled at them, and nodded. Then he stepped aside, allowing the two children to approach the treasure. When they did, glowing silver mist rose up from the ground, surrounding them until they could see nothing else. Within moments, both children were fast asleep. When they woke, they found themselves tucked safely in their beds. At first, they thought that they had dreamed the entire adventure. But the ring that the girl needed to fix her locket was clutched tightly in her hand. And when the boy got up to begin his chores, he found his family gathered in the family room staring in shock and awe at a giant mound of treasure. Both children smiled at the same time, and promised themselves that they would find each other again some day.
When Lei'lira finished, the kids clapped in delight at the happy ending. It was getting close to lunch time, so Lei'lira sent the children off to play so that she could help the others in the kitchen.