“Say mama! Say mama! Can you say mama?” Aurora cooed at Renato. She was holding the child on his back while she sat against one of the monstrous trees in the forest. Lucio and Lothlorien were resting nearby. They had left the cottage a few hours ago to explore and document the new forest as much as possible.
Renato gurgled and babbled in response. Aurora sighed and looked around. Lucio was crouching on the ground with his sketchbook in hand. Although they had been traveling for a few hours, they had barely walked a mile away from the cottage. The Magician of Light insisted on stopping and drawing any kind of flora that looked native to Treomynd.
“I thought we agreed you wouldn’t draw everything you saw,” said Aurora.
“I know I know,” said Lucio. “But this vine is so intricate! I want to see if I can capture its beauty. Everything in this forest is incredible!”
“You will have plenty of time to document all the vines you want,” said Lothlorien. “We do live here, after all. Let’s focus on finding more Guardians to decide a name for this forest.” Lucio sighed and shut his sketchbook.
“Very well. I want to get a good sketch of those jewel flowers above us. But they’re so high! It looks like they don’t fall to the ground too easily.” Aurora squinted at the colorful jewels dotting the tree tops. Not every tree had these rich blooms, and the thick foliage cast a light shadow over everything. Both the distance and the lack of light made it hard for anyone to make out the exact details of the flowers.
“You can see them well enough. Why don’t you use your magic bring one down?” asked Aurora.
“I wouldn’t use magic for something so selfish,” said Lucio. “I only use it when absolutely necessary, or to help someone in need.”
“Well, then let’s press on,” said Lothlorien. “I want to meet some new Guardians.”
They went on somewhat faster now, looking for signs of the Guardians that they had spoken to prior to the creation. These Guardians were the unofficial leaders of all Guardians connected to the element Earth. The trio came across several groups of Guardians grazing on the grass and purple flowers that littered the forest floor, and after some tracking they finally found all of the needed Guardians. Lucio mapped out their path as they went along, trying his best to get coordinates to draw on a map later.
The company included the pygmy who offered a flower at the creation, along with Lothlorien, Lucio, and Aurora with Renato sleeping in her lap. Additionally, two more Guardians made themselves known as leaders from other parts of their home world, and promptly joined their party. One Guardian was about the size of a pony with a black hide and green mane and tail, and her horn was a lustrous gold color. The second Guardian was the same size as Lothlorien, with a light tan hide, a brown mane and tail, and his horn looked to be made of brown sandstone.
“Thank you for joining us this fine afternoon,” Lucio addressed the small company. “I have gathered you here to establish a bond between myself and all Earth Guardians. We simply want to maintain peace on this island we call Treomynd. You deserve to know that the Dark Magician Atricio is what drove me to aid in the creation of this world, and I am working to maintain that he never finds us. Do we have an agreement to live in peace?”
“You have our word, but we are concerned that you will turn this world into our old Earth,” said the small Guardian. “Bonds established between Guardians are never broken, but bonds between man have nearly destroyed us.”
“You have every right not to trust me,” said Lucio. “And I do not plan on making this island an empire. I simply wish to establish communication between you, so I can ensure that everyone is safe here. You are Guardians of life and goodness; I merely want to give you my protection.”
“You can trust him,” Lothlorien interjected. “We’ve been connected since we were but young foals.” Aurora looked at her in surprise.
“You guarded us through the creation, so I will let you be my guardian,” said the pygmy. “For me, and all other pygmies.”
“Then we will trust the judgement of our own kin,” said the larger Guardian with a nod. “What do you propose, Magician?”
“First, I want you to spread word to every Guardian that they are welcome to my cottage located in this forest. If they sense danger, I want them to come as fast as possible. I am able to sense most danger, but it will help to have confirmation.”
“I think you don’t realize the vastness of this island,” said the small Guardian. “I have heard whispers of Fire Guardians taking refuge inside the volcano! What if we are too far away?”
“I have worked out a spell that I will cast over this island before the day is out. Please tell every Guardian you see that if they sense danger, they must stomp their right hoof on the ground three times, and I will know the location.” Everyone looked at each other and nodded in approval while Aurora leaned back against a tree and stroked Renato’s face.
“We will make sure to give word to every Earth Guardian,” said the pygmy.
“Yes,” said the small Guardian. “We were not so trusting in our last days on Earth. Perhaps now we can rebuild our trust in man through you.”
“You have my word that I will do everything in my power to protect the remaining Guardians on Treomynd,” said Lucio.
“You have my word as well,” Aurora interrupted. “I want my son to know Guardians as he grows up, and I want him to love you for who you are.” Everyone looked at the sleeping child in her lap and smiled.
Everyone seemed to loosen up, and unanimously decided to name the two forests after the sparkling jewels in the branches. The forest with Lucio’s cottage was called The Western Sparkling Forest, while The Eastern Sparkling Forest covered the mountain. The green, grassy land in between was simply called The Hills. Once their meeting ended, the two Earth Guardians left to spread the word while the pygmy stayed behind. She offered to show the trio what reminded her of her rainforest home back on Earth. Aurora liked her. Lucio lit up at the offer, so they walked back to the cottage together while the Magician badgered her with questions.
“These jewel flowers above us come from a tree that was sacred to us,” said the pygmy. I can’t believe that so many of them are here now.”
“Do the flowers ever fall?” asked Lucio. “I want to capture its beauty for my book.”
“Oh yes, but you must be quick. The flower will wilt and die within an hour of being picked, and the jewel inside will turn to dust.”
“Fascinating,” said Lucio. “How do you get one?”
The pygmy stopped and let out a high-pitched whinny. A similar-sounding call answered back, and hundreds of colorful birds flew from the shadows of the tree branches. Some were so tiny Aurora could have held one in the palm of her hand, while others were bigger than Renato with long feathered tails. They were a cascading rainbow of colors falling from the trees that settled on the heads and shoulders of the company.
Aurora covered Renato with her arms as best she could, but the child spotted a yellow canary on her shoulder and squealed with delight. He held out his hand to touch it, and the bird hopped onto this chubby fist. He laughed and wiggled his arm, but the bird stayed on without a second thought. Aurora laughed and looked at everyone else, who was also sprayed with abundant feathered color.
“What did you do?” asked Aurora. She looked around for the pygmy, whose head barely stuck out of the mass of birds. A small light blue bird was perched on her wooden horn.
“We have a special connection to all birds, that’s why there’s so many here. You never saw them because they hide at the sight of man, but I can tell them you bring no harm. They bring us jewel flowers sometimes, and weave them into our manes. I’ll tell them to bring you one.” She whinnied again, and the birds flew back up to the tree branches. But this time they stayed well in sight. The little blue bird that was on the pygmy’s horn came back down with the stem of a jewel flower clutched between is feet. Aurora had no idea how it was holding such a big flower more than three times its size. It dropped the bloom into Lucio’s hands and flew back up to the branches.
The petals of this particular flower started with white at the rims, and as the layers of petals grew to the center, they turned into a deep blue that matched the sapphire in its center.
“Incredible,” breathed Lucio. He immediately sat down and took out his sketchbook.
“Indeed,” said the pygmy. “I’m glad you enjoy the remnants of my homeland. I’m going to go join my fellow pygmies and give them the news. If you have need of me, you can always find me in this forest. I love it even more than my rainforest back on Earth.” With that, she galloped away into the trees.
Lucio was engrossed in drawing the flower before it withered away, and Renato was itching to return home. Lothlorien offered a ride home for them, which Aurora greatly obliged. Renato was getting big enough to sit on Lothlorien in front of Aurora, with the girl tightly holding onto him. They were quiet on their ride back, with Aurora deep in thought.
“Is it true, what you said back there?” Aurora asked Lothlorien. “That you and Lucio grew up together?”
“Yes, very much so,” said Lothlorien. “He stumbled across MoonStone and I when we were both foals. Lucio was only a few years old. We almost ran away from him, but he spoke to us in the Universal Language. We were inseparable from then on. We were so thankful that he swore to protect us when he got older.”
“He really is dedicated to protecting all of you,” said Aurora.
“Yes, we would have died off if it weren’t for him. And you, of course. I’m so glad that we found each other amongst all the chaos.”
“Me too,” Aurora said with a smile.
Lucio came back to the cottage over an hour later. He proudly showed them a beautifully drawn sketch of the flower that did its beauty justice.
“Now, we must move onto the Fire Guardians, since they are somewhat close to us,” said Lucio.
“Where are they?” asked Aurora. She was playing with Renato in the grass. “They aren’t really living in that volcano, are they?”
“I have no reason to believe otherwise.” Aurora froze and turned around to look at the top of the sleeping volcano that poked just above the tree tops.
“How? That’s impossible!”
“It’s the only logical place. There have been no signs of Fire Guardians anywhere else, and that volcano is the perfect place for them. It’s dormant now, so I would imagine the inside is safe and hospitable.”
“You’re crazy! But I don’t know anything about Fire Guardians.” said Aurora. Lothlorien laughed and trotted up to them.
“Fire Guardians are very proud and dangerous, but also loyal to those they trust,” she said. “I doubt they would have any reason to be hostile to us.”
“I would like to start for the volcano tomorrow morning. You can come if you like, but I understand if you will not,” said Lucio.
“I want to come,” said Aurora. “But if I sense any kind of danger, I’m leaving with Renato.”
“A good plan,” said Lothlorien. “And I will help as much as possible, as I do.”
“Good,” said Lucio. “Then we’d better get some rest for our journey tomorrow.”
Aurora caught Lucio hunched over his latest sketch in his study before heading off to bed.
“You’ve done amazing things for these creatures,” she told him. “They truly trust you.”
“I know,” he said. “I hope I can live up to that trust. If my brother finds us, I’m not sure what he’ll do.” She walked up to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.
“He won’t. And if he does, I know that you will protect us. You’re dedicated to them, Lucio. Have faith in yourself.”
“Thank you.” He turned to look at her. “It’s nice to have some human company on this island.”
“It is, and soon, we’ll teach Renato everything we know.” She bid him goodnight, and headed into her room.
“We will teach him everything,” Lucio said to himself. “I want to teach him everything. And I’ll protect all of them with everything I have.”