The Traveler: Chapter Four
When MJ woke up again she found herself being cradled against a very toned and very tanned chest. Her eyes went upward and before her was a beautiful man was holding her body with only one arm and pulling her closely too him as he navigated his way downward.
"Not much longer now," he mumbled his voice reverberating through his and her body.
"Who are you?" she asked.
The man chuckled, "You are definitely not an Elf."
MJ was still puzzled, where was her pixie? Who was this stranger who had taken her? Suddenly she recognized the bright green hair and finally saw the color of Aldar's eyes. They were as green as his eye and sparkled as he carried her down to the ground. When they reached the floor of the forest Aldar kept her close to him as he waited for the change to take place. MJ really could look at this pixie.
"You're beautiful," she whispered reaching up a hand to touch his chiseled face.
"You're not so bad yourself, whatever you are," he replied and then placed her gently on the ground and backed away.
"Where are you going?" she asked feeling helpless. Surely he wouldn't leave her now? She felt her fingertips beginning to tingle and the sensation caused her to pull back.
"You're changing back," Aldar explained from far away. "Just relax, it will be over in a few seconds."
And Aldar was right, when MJ looked around again she was her normal size. The forest looked big, but not nearly as terrifying as it did when she was being cradled in Aldar's arms. Still, that wasn't all that bad…
"Hey," a voice interrupted her thoughts.
MJ was sitting on the ground now and Aldar was approaching her with hesitant footsteps. Could it be that he was frightened of her again now she was able to move more freely? MJ looked at the pixie in a different way now that she had seen him being his size and not her own.
"We should get going, the night is approaching and I like to be near a village before night settles in."
"Of course," MJ said and stood up.
"You know," Aldar began and jogged to catch up to her as she began to walk. "We could get there a lot faster if you carried me."
"Huh?" MJ stopped in disbelief and watched Aldar struggle to catch up to her. She fell to one knee and held out her hand and without even a moment's hesitation Aldar scrambled on and stood up in her palm.
"Can't you fly?" she asked and held him up closer to look for his wings.
"Please, not so close Elf…MJ I mean," and MJ reluctantly pulled her hand away from her face and held him at chest level.
"What direction?" MJ asked instead and Aldar pointed. "There, we'll go through the woods for a little while but the Elves should be in their own dwellings by now. And no, Ms. Know-It-All I cannot fly."
MJ carefully started in the direction that Aldar pointed but looked down to see Aldar failing at maintaining balance in her hand. "Are you alright? Maybe you would feel better riding on my shoulder?" she suggested and Aldar looked up with as much dignity as he could muster sitting on the palm of a giant girl.
"Yes, that may work out better." And then he jumped of MJ's hand and climbed up her shirt to sit on her should. "Yes," he agreed and MJ felt him pat her almost like a well trained horse, "this is more suitable."
"Now, you must tell me," MJ began before Aldar interrupted.
"I do not have to tell you anything. For all I know you are a Rejecten elf. I would be giving you information that the elves could use against us Pixies. Such a crime would be punishable by death."
MJ stopped suddenly causing Aldar to fly forward but not before MJ steadied him with her hand. Aldar pushed it away and remained calm.
"This is what I am talking about Aldar. I already explained to you that I am not an elf, but you are talking of things that I simply do not understand. You have mentioned pixies, magic, wings, elves and even rejected elves, but yet you offer me no explanations? How am I to trust you?"
"You are not to trust me and nor I you. We must make sure you are safe to the lives of other pixies before I give you any information."
MJ found herself becoming increasingly more frustrated dealing with this tiny pixie, "It's just like the stories; you pixies are a weird and shifty little species," and began walking again sighing to herself. MJ could feel Aldar shifting around, as if deciding whether to ask her something but she decided to ignore him. She hoped that not all pixies were like him, crafty and refusing to talk to her about things that interested her. Oh how she longed for a notebook and pencil then so she could write this all down! She would write fantastic stories about this tiny pixie and his ability to shrink her. MJ shifted her eyes so she could look him while she walked but before either of them could say anything else, MJ stopped again.
"Stop doing that!" Aldar shouted out, having to grab her shirt to steady himself on her shoulder. He attempted to give MJ a glaring look but was silenced when he saw what the large being was looking at.
"Rejectan Elf camp. Just be quiet and keep going." He whispered harshly.
"Not until you explain this to me." She whispered back.
Aldar actually began to shake and MJ became worried. What was so wrong with these elves?
"MJ we move now or I make you move. There are not options," he said in a shaky voice.
"No," MJ held her ground. She had to know.
"You are not an Elf, at least I can conclude that," Aldar said and MJ looked over as his fingers began to glow again.
"No," she whined…but it was too late.
When MJ looked around she looked at Aldar standing over her. He grabbed her arm then and jerked her away from the lights and deeper into the woods. Surprisingly she stayed small until the camp was out of sight and quickly MJ found herself sitting against a tree while Aldar recovered.
"I cannot shrink you every time you get on my nerves. Can you not understand what I tell you? Am I not actually speaking your language correctly? When I tell you to move, you move. You or I have no business near a Rejectan Elf camp. I have no desire to die, and for you I fear much worse."
MJ looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, but you won't explain anything to me. Even you agreed that I must not be an Elf…"
"Because an Elf would not be as stupid as you!" Aldar burst out and put his hands on his tiny hips. "Look, I will tell you what you need to know, but you need to trust me…"
"I thought you said I couldn't trust you," MJ interjected.
"Though I personally do not believe that you are an Elf, there are rules, young one, which we pixies must follow. I don't know where this love and interest of elves is coming from, but I can assure you that you version of Elves is not what you will find in this world. I apologize about saying you and I cannot trust each other, so I will request that you instead trust me to get you safely back into my land and then, if you pass the trials, I will tell you what you need to know."
MJ raised a thin eyebrow and looked skeptical. "I want to know everything about this world."
"And know you shall. But now we must hurry. Night is falling, and Rejectan Elves have been known to scour the woods for solitary pixies. I must get back; you have taken what little magic I have for the night."
MJ stood up and looked down at the tiny creature staring up at her. She had written so many stories of giants but never in her wildest dreams did she think about being a giantess herself. And if Aldar was able to shout and scream at her, how big were the Elves which caused him to quake in her hand. "You want hand or shoulder?" she asked hoping not to offend him.
Aldar crossed his arms and walked up to her feet barely able to see her face at such a low and awkward angle. "Shoulder. Sitting in your hands is creepy."
"Whatever" MJ scoffed but obliged. As night fell the woods became louder and scarier to MJ. She knew that Aldar could do some magic, but how helpful could a 6 inch man really be if something were to attack them in the night? Furthermore, how big were the animals in this strange world? Were they pixie sized, or were they closer to her own size? MJ wanted to ask, but knew that Aldar was not providing any answers at this point. Though the thought angered her, she did find some comfort that someone, no matter how diminutive, was with her as she was alone in this strange land.
"We're almost there MJ." Aldar said softly and her ears perked up. "Many will be very curious about you and I do not want you to be frightened. I would shrink you down but I am afraid I am done using magic for the rest of the night. My body is not designed to be able to shrink something your size ever, let alone twice in one day. I do not want you to be offended if some are frightened of you, they may see you only as an Elf at first, but with time, they will smell no Elf on your being."
"My being?" MJ asked.
"You will have to sleep outside tonight; there is no dwelling that could accommodate something your size in our world. Do not say anything about the Elves…"
"I don't know anything about the damn Elves," MJ interrupted.
"And you must not reveal too much about yourself. The trials will more than likely be held the next day. After the trials are completed and it is found that you are indeed, not an Elf, we can begin to figure out what to do about you."
"What does that mean?" MJ asked helplessly knowing that Aldar would not give her answer worth listening to. Much to MJ's surprise she felt him touching her cheek gently with his tiny hand as if to offer her comfort.
"I will find a way to get you home again. This is no world for a being like you." He said softly and MJ blushed. MJ felt Aldar pull his hand away.
"Your skin. Why does it feel so hot all of a sudden?"
"Shhh!!" Aldar whispered in her ear. "Stop. We are here now."
MJ froze and looked around.
"Amazing" she whispered back and stood in absolute awe of the pixies home.
* * *
When MJ and Aldar stopped there was a large clearing in the woods. All around small houses were protruding from the trunks and bright lights glowed from within. The homes reached so high in the trees that MJ could not see them all, but could see the trees glowing like New York at Christmas. When she lowered her head again she could see more homes built into the trunks of the large trees with tiny porches and tiny chairs on the porches.
"Like doll's furniture" she said to herself, hoping Aldar did not hear her.
All over the ground were tiny dirt roads leading to different trees and what few pixies were out and about screamed and ran for shelter in the trees. MJ bit back the need to call out to them and tell them not be afraid of her, but she remembered Aldar's request to remain silent. The town reminded her of a train set with all the little buildings and benches and walkways and roads. She couldn't wait to see the town in broad-daylight and smiled thinking about how lucky she was even though she was a little nervous for the trials that awaited her tomorrow. Perhaps, she should have asked Aldar what those were going to be like.
"Councilman," Aldar suddenly shouted and MJ tried her best to remain still. "We have a strange and new visitor to our parts. She will not harm others but she must be subjected to the trials."
"Who are you talking…" MJ whispered but Aldar slapped her ear lobe and MJ stopped talking.
After a few moments a cloaked figure emerged from one of the small building and started walking towards MJ. He looked smaller than Aldar but as he finally reached MJ's feet he suddenly began to float towards her face. So the pixies could fly! Aldar had lied to her, stupid pixies and their laziness! MJ waited patiently as the creature floated up her, his wings slowly flapping like a large Eagles. When he finally was at MJ's eye level, he took down his cloak to reveal himself. MJ was shocked to see that this 'councilman' did not look much older than Aldar! She had prepared herself for a withering old man with powers just like in the stories, but this pixie was even more attractive than Aldar. This pixies had red hair the color or Shyla's but falling smoothly down his shoulders. His eyes, of what MJ could tell were also red and this new pixie looked to stand several inches taller than Aldar. His face was sharp, but MJ thought he was beautiful. Were all pixies going to make her feel like a mousy little school girl?
"Speak," the new pixie said clearly. "Are you a Rejectan?"
"No," MJ said clearly and confidently. "I am not…" but the pixie held up his hand before Aldar could silence her.
"I will ask the questions." He continued slowly.
"Surely you do not mean to give the trial now?" Aldar asked.
"I mean…Searcher," the new pixie spat out with disgust, "That I want to talk to this…thing," and he turned his intense red eyes back on MJ who was beginning to feel scared. The pixie suddenly looked surprised and to MJ's relief found his stare to soften.
"I do not mean to frighten you." He said softly. "But as the councilman it is up to me to make sure I do not put my entire race in danger. Am I scaring you?"
MJ bit her lower lip, embarrassed to admit she was. This man seemed strong and powerful, and could probably perform magic circles around her so she thought she had every reason to be nervous. She nodded and MJ almost felt bad for the saddened look that crossed the new pixies eyes. He seemed kinder than MJ, at least towards her.
"I apologize. I do not mean any harm to you if you are no Elf and judging by your heartbeat and rapid breathing, you are either no Elf, or the best performance of a kind Elf that I have ever seen. Put down the Searcher," he commanded.
"You mean Aldar?" MJ asked.
"Aldar…the Searcher? Yes, I do mean him." And MJ put her hand next to her shoulder so he could climb off. After lowering him to the ground, MJ remained on one knee so to be closer to him but…
"Stand, you do not need to be so close to the Searcher." He asked and waved at Aldar. "You will get your promotion Searcher, but be off with you now. I will take care of your find." Aldar nodded but impulsively MJ reached out and blocked his walking area.
"No," she exclaimed looking up at the councilman. "I mean, please, sir, I am new here and he has been such a great help. I may not be alive if it wasn't for him" a slight exaggeration on her part, but the thought of Aldar leaving her alone with the councilman made her nervous. As gently as she could she scooped Aldar up in her hand and stood up to look at the councilman but kept Aldar below both of them at chest level. The councilman's red eyebrows shot up in surprise at this brave and strange creature.
"You…desire the company of a Searcher?" he questioned.
"Just until I am more comfortable." MJ tried.
The councilman waved his hand again as though the thought was not even worth arguing about. "Very well. Perhaps I was too rash about you Searcher. Let the girl stay with you tonight. Tomorrow at high sun we shall have the trials. If anything happens to her overnight, your life will pay the penalty. Furthermore, if this girl is found to be an Elf, your life and your sister will pay the penalty. Do I make myself clear?"
MJ looked down at her cupped hands as Aldar hung his head. "Yes, sir. She will be ready when the sun is at the highest in the sky."
"Good then." And with that, the councilman began to float downward.
"But wait," MJ called out to him and he turned around.
"My dear?" he asked in a voice that almost seemed too kind for him to utter.
"How will I stay with them?"
The councilman laughed loudly then, tinkling and almost musical, "How silly of me," he scoffed and MJ saw his entire hand glowing bright red. "Now I am sure the Searcher has shrunk you down already, but his magic is weak and pitiful. You will stay the size of the pixies until early sun tomorrow," and with that he tossed a red fireball at her face and MJ felt herself falling to the ground. Delicately, she landed on her feet and dusted herself off as Aldar and the councilman now stood before her. If MJ were to say, in human numbers, how tall the two were, Aldar would be tall, over 6 feet tall, easily towering over her. However, the councilman stood much higher than that, Aldar's head barely reached the councilman's armpit. Both were so beautiful and strong looking and MJ could not hide her embarrassment, noticing that the councilman was looking her lustfully. Slowly, he walked up to her and fell to one knee in front of her and MJ shook with embarrassment for being embarrassed and even more embarrassed for wanting him.
"Do not shake in front of me," he cautioned MJ. "For some reason, your fear bothers me. Why do I still scare you? We are almost the same height now."
MJ shook her head, "We are not."
The councilman bit his lip and continued to look puzzled. "You will find that I am quite trustworthy Miss…" he trailed off.
"MJ," she whispered.
"M…J," he whispered back enunciating each letter as Aldar had first done. He reached out a hand then towards MJ and she instinctively flinched away. But rather than stop, the councilman reached out and gently touched her shoulder. "I am Riya and I will not have you being scared of me. If you are found not to be an Elf, I will do everything in my power so you are not scared of me." And with that the gigantic pixie stood up and ruffled her hair gently before turning away.
"Not a thing is to happen to this one Searcher. If I find her disheveled, or violated in anyway your death will be on my hands; one of the bloodiest our town has seen in centuries."
"Yes, sir," Aldar said compliantly and watched Riya disappear back into the dwelling of which he came from. Aldar slumped down then and MJ wondered if she should have let Aldar go back to his home so he wouldn't be put in this desperate situation.
"I am no Elf, Aldar. You and your sister will be safe." She tried and Aldar straightened up to his full height, now towering almost a foot and a half above her. He had nothing on Riya.
"I hope you are right. My life may be in his hands, but if you are wrong and my sister is murdered, her death shall be on yours for all eternity. But for now we might as well go to my home. Now that you will fit and all," he scoffed with a half smile. Carefully, he draped a long arm around her shoulder and pulled her into him causing her heart to race once more. What was with these pixies?
"I'm glad you are okay now. I feel better knowing that you can sleep in a house and not out in the woods by yourself," and lead her to what must have been there home. MJ shifted under his arm and tried to look up at him,
"That thing he kept calling you…a Searcher? What does that mean?"
Aldar shrugged and looked down at him, "It's just my title. Don't you have titles in your land?"
"Sure, we have jobs. But he makes it sound as if that's what you are, and not just what you do."
"It's the same thing." Aldar muttered. "But no more talk. The trials will be over tomorrow and I will be able to answer all of your questions freely then."
"The trials!" MJ burst out and Aldar stopped. "What will happen to me tomorrow?"
Aldar smiled and grabbed her hand, both were surprised at how MJ's hand disappeared in his.
"You are tiny even for a pixie," he commented. "The trials will just be the councilman asking you questions. He is able to find truth hidden in lies and therefore will be able to assess if you are what you say you are. If you are not Elf than he will probably allow no harm to come of you. I do worry that he seems interested in you…"
"And why is that?" MJ asked attempting to be flirtatious but Aldar's eyebrow furrowed.
"The councilman is obsessed with immortality. He is also a man who likes to trade with the Elves. This is why he has so much power, there is no telling what he would do if he found…ahh I've said too much. No more questions." He asked and stopped in front of a beautiful porch on ground level. "Searchers get the ground," he said conclusively. "Prime locations for nothings like me," and he laughed while pulling her inside.
MJ still didn't understand the logic of the pixies. Nothing was what it seemed to her. Perhaps Aldar wasn't lying to her when he said he couldn't fly. MJ shook the thought away and promised herself not to ask Aldar any more questions until the trials were over.
"It's not much, but since it's just me you can have my bed tonight and I'll sleep out here," and he grabbed a pitcher of water off a table and poured it into what looked like a large shell. "Water?" he asked and MJ shook her head.
"It's your bed," she began, "I don't mind sleeping out here."
"No," Aldar said and put the water down and walked up to her in two long strides. Suddenly Aldar did not look so tiny and cute anymore. He looked manly and as his green eyes bore into hers she flushed and turned away from him. She felt Aldar grab her shoulders and turn her around to face him. "You may be a giant, but for now you are a guest in my home, a woman guest no less. I will not have a woman sleeping out here while I sleep in a bed. It is settled." And with a gasp Aldar swept her up into his arms like a child being put to bed and carried her into his bedroom. Not too gently though, he dropped her on his bed and knelt beside it.
"Sleep." He ordered her and MJ obediently crawled under the covers so all that stuck out were half of her face and her two hands. Aldar laughed lightly and stood up.
"The trials will be fine." He told her and touched her forehead. Unlike with Riya, MJ did not flinch at his touch but rather lifted up her head slightly to feel it all the more. Aldar looked embarrassed but smiled gently. He lowered his head down and pecked her head before backing away and standing in the doorway. "Good night." He said and left the room with no lights on.
MJ rolled over, knowing that the trials were going to be fine. However, even though Aldar told MJ that he was not worried, as he walked into another room and kissed another forehead he could not help but feel that he wouldn't sleep a wink that night.