Lucio, Aurora, Lothlorien and Renato emerged from the depths of Mt. Igneous early the next morning. The lack of sunlight was beginning to throw everybody off of their internal clocks, and Renato wasn’t sure if he should cry for his nap or his breakfast. Despite all this, everyone slept well in the volcano’s belly, and Lucio managed to tell the Royal Guardians that if they sense danger, they should stomp their right hoof on the ground three times. The Royals were still giddy from the building of their new dance hall, so they were more than gracious to pass on the news to the Wildfire Guardians and Karkadanns. They yawned and stretched before making their way down Mt. Igneous, Aurora entertaining Renato as best she could since he was restless to walk.
“You’re not walking down this volcano yet!” Aurora said in a high-pitched voice. “We’ve got to get you walking on level ground first! Now say mama, can you say mama?” The child squirmed and giggled while Lothlorien came up over Aurora’s shoulder.
“This is your mama, Renato,” said the Guardian. “And I am Lothlorien. Go on now and make your mama happy. Say her name, say mama!” Renato lit up at Lothlorien’s enthusiasm and grabbed her pearly horn. He almost pulled himself completely out of Aurora’s arms before the girl could catch him. The stunt scared her for a moment, but she laughed with the rest of the group.
“He’s going to be a strong one,” said Lucio from the front.
“Yes he is,” Aurora said while she hugged him close. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Their next destination was the top of the mountain on the other side of Treomynd, where it was assumed that the Air Guardians took refuge. The mountain was rather small, but it was still large enough to make Aurora wonder if she and Renato would be able to make it up there. The mountain’s peak poked into the center of a massive cloud that hadn’t moved since the creation. Lucio guessed that it was the perfect place for Air Guardians; the winged flyers had their cliffs for nesting, and all other Air Guardians that don’t need solid ground to survive probably lived on the cloud itself.
Aurora had become accustomed to the impossible at this point, so she didn’t question Lucio’s reasoning too much. “I’ve walked through fire and jewel-encrusted forests, now I’m going to walk on clouds?” she thought.
But first, they needed to cross the landscape between them and the mountain, rightly called The Hills. It was a massive stretch of rolling hills covered in the same spongey green grass that covered Lucio’s meadow, with small purple wildflowers scattered here and there. Some hills were bigger than others, but there was no mistaking the biggest hill where the creation first took place. That was the one marker left behind as a reminder of that strange day.
The group made their way through The Hills at a leisurely pace, occasionally encountering Earth Guardians as they went along. The Guardians that made The Hills their home instead of the Sparkling Forests seems to be much wilder, with very high spirits. Some would walk alongside the group and chat with them, until they were called to a distraction and galloped off, whinnying loudly. They seemed especially interested in Lothlorien, because they wanted to hear about humans and if some of them were still good. Why they didn’t simply ask Lucio and Aurora themselves, Aurora didn’t know. After some kind words from Lothlorien, the Earth Guardians finally turned their attention to them, and asked countless questions about human life. The group wove between the hills to avoid exerting too much unnecessary energy, with the looming mountain to guide the way. Lothlorien would sometimes gallop up to the top of a hill to see what other Guardians were around.
“I’ve never known Guardians to be so spirited!” Lothlorien said as she ran down a hill.
They stopped about a quarter of the way through The Hills to rest and let Renato play while they ate a light lunch. Lucio wanted to press on, but Renato was getting fussy and four Guardians insisted they tell them about the Fire Guardians in Mt. Igneous.
“Why not?” Aurora said with a shrug. “We’re not in too much of a rush.” Lucio sighed and sat cross-legged facing the Guardians. They were most thankful, and even lay down in the grass to show they were ready to listen.
Lucio gave a fairly detailed account of the forest and river of magma within Mt. Igneous, with lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the Guardians. Aurora interjected her own details here and there while Lothlorien herded Renato nearby. The child was just beginning to get a handle on running without falling face-first into the grass. When Lucio got to the part of creating the dancing hall for the Royals, the Guardians were flabbergasted.
“Fire Guardians like to dance?” yelled a Guardian. “And in a human’s palace? Wonders never cease!” Aurora had to giggle at that comment.
“That could not be more true!” exclaimed another Guardian. “I’ll admit that I love the occasional prance to a bird’s song, but never to the music of humans!”
“You mean that Earth Guardians don’t dance?” asked Aurora.
“Oh, not with any organization!” said another Guardian. “We see dancing as more of a personal endeavor. But I’ll admit, the Royals sound like they know how to celebrate!”
“You certainly do as well,” said Lucio. “I’ve never come across such lively Guardians.”
“Thank you, Magician,” said a Guardian with a slight bow of its head. “We are happy beyond belief, because we can roam through these hills like we did so long ago back on Earth, without the worry of being hunted. Our hooves have ached to move across the open land again!”
“Why not try dancing then?” asked Aurora. “I’m sure you would be good at it.”
“Oh, I’m sure we could reckon with the Royals! But we’ve never had any humans play for us. Do either of you play any of those strange noise makers?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” said Aurora. “I’m not sure about Lucio.” The Magician was too lost in thought to answer.
“That’s a lovely idea, Aurora,” Lucio said after a few minutes. “Why don’t we give Earth Guardians their own place to dance? They clearly are the wildest of the elements, so they would excel greatly in dancing.”
“If you can procure something for us, Magician, I’m sure we will take to it kindly,” said a Guardian. “You made this wonderful place, I’m sure this would be an easy task for you!”
“I didn’t make this place all by myself,” Lucio said as he got up. “I had help, and your memories brought this place to life! But I do have an idea for music. Go and find a somewhat level area within these hills big enough for a fair amount of you to gather in. Let me know once you’ve found it, and I’ll do what I can.” The four Earth Guardians were off in an instant, yelling the news to anyone nearby. About an hour later, one of the Earth Guardians came galloping back with a place chosen a few miles southeast of them. The Guardian was much too eager for the humans to walk, so he offered for Lucio to ride him while Aurora and Renato went on Lothlorien. He galloped so fast, Aurora was sure they lost the Guardian once or twice, but Lothlorien managed to keep up.
True to their word, the group stopped at a small area of leveled-out ground that was filled with Earth Guardians. They cheered at the sight of them, and gave Lucio small bows as he dismounted.
“Thank you for your kindness, my friends,” said the Magician. “I have an idea that I think will do well for Earth Guardians, but I need space. Can I please have the center of this area cleared out so I can work?” The Earth Guardians scattered without a word, and quietly watched him sit in his meditative stance and close his eyes. Aurora and Lothlorien knew it would be a while until anything happened, so they spread the word among the Earth Guardians nearby. They talked quietly amongst themselves for about an hour while the crowd of Guardians grew steadily bigger.
Aurora had let Lothlorien take Renato and show him to the other Earth Guardians, but she lost sight of them right when she heard Lucio start a chant. She knew something strange was going to happen, so she wandered among the small crowd of Guardians to look for them. Suddenly, the ground started to shake as if it were the creation of Treomynd all over again.
“Renato? Lothlorien?” she shouted while the Earth Guardians whinnied and panicked. No response. “Renato!!” She grew more hysterical until the shaking became so great, she stopped to see what was happening. The grass on a large plot of the level ground disintegrated to reveal the soft earth beneath, and the bedrock beneath that rose up in a perfect circle. The shaking stopped stopped soon after to reveal a circular piece of stone about two feet high and a hundred feet across.
To Aurora’s relief, Lothlorien emerged from behind a hill with Renato scurrying in front her, hanging onto her horn for balance. The girl gasped and scooped up Renato for a giant hug.
“I felt the tremors start, so I thought I’d take him a little ways away so he wouldn’t get scared,” said Lothlorien. Aurora blushed at her initial thought of Lothlorien not taking good care of Renato.
“Thank you,” she said. “That was a good idea.” They walked back to the stone plateau, where many more Guardians had gathered to see the commotion. They moved out of their way as they walked up to greet Lucio. He rose from his meditative stance and placed his hand on Lothlorien’s flank. The pair shared a brief smile.
“My friends,” said Lucio, “I give you Dancing Rock. This is no ordinary place. This rock has special abilities, that, when a Guardian steps on this rock and begins to dance, music will come from within this rock to accompany you.” There were gasps of wonder and disbelief throughout the crowd. “Would anyone care to try?” Nobody moved.
“I’ll try it,” said Lothlorien. Aurora looked at her in disbelief. Lothlorien was a serene, often melancholy Guardian. She couldn’t picture her behaving so wild and free like the Earth Guardians. But Lothlorien walked up onto Dancing Rock before she could say anything.
“This will be interesting,” thought Aurora. She could tell Lothlorien was nervous, so she waved Renato’s plump hand at her to cheer her up. The Guardian smiled at them, and started to feel out the stone’s abilities. She started with small stomps of her hoof, careful not to stomp her right hoof three times in a row and set off Lucio’s protective spell. Nothing happened. Her hoof beats quickened, and she tapped out a small pattern that grew in intensity. Still nothing happened.
“Why isn’t it working?” Aurora asked Lucio.
“She’s too nervous,” he said. “She has to loosen up a bit for the magic to catch onto her emotions.” Aurora looked around to figure out a way to help, but Lothlorien was becoming to focused on her hoof work to notice anyone else. Lucio let out a little shout of encouragement at the end of one of her patterns, and she looked up with a terrified expression. Lucio nodded at her and shouted again, this time begging her to go on. Lothlorien nodded and started to dance again while Lucio shouted in between beat patterns to keep her going.
When it seemed like the magic wasn’t going to work, a sound burst from the rock and echoed off the nearby hills. Aurora recognized it as the sound of the fiddles from her old castle on Earth, but the tune was much faster and livelier than any she had heard. It kept in perfect time with Lothlorien’s dancing, and she even started to toss her head and turn around in circles. The Earth Guardians erupted in cheers and shouts of encouragement. When the music ended, Lothlorien stopped with her head held high, completely out of breath. She whinnied and pranced back to Aurora and Lucio. *Click the video below to hear the song that inspired Lothlorien’s dance.
“That was incredible!” she said. “I’ve never felt anything like it!” The other Earth Guardians wanted to give the rock a try, and they were soon overwhelmed by the crowd that watched a group of about 20 Guardians stomp out a lively beat.
The dancing went on well into the night, with all kinds of Earth Guardians coming to hear Dancing Rock’s music and try their first dance. It was a warm, clear night, so Aurora laid down with Renato a little ways off from Dancing Rock with only a few blankets to keep warm. Lothlorien laid down with them for extra warmth and security while Lucio was still up and conversing with the Earth Guardians.
“Good night Lothlorien, you were amazing today,” said Aurora. “Who knew you could dance like that?”
“I didn’t know myself until today,” Lothlorien said with a laugh.
Aurora leaned over and kissed Renato on the forehead.
“Good night, my little one. Your mama loves you very much.”
“Mmmama!” gurgled Renato. “Mama!” Aurora and Lothlorien gasped and stared at each other.
“Yes! That’s right! Mama!” Aurora hugged and kissed him while he repeated the word over and over. “Can you say Lothorien now?”
“I’ll be shocked if he can say my name before anything else!” laughed Lothlorien. “But he can call me Lori until then.” Aurora tried to get Renato to say Lori, but his fascination with ‘mama’ was still going strong.
“Ah, well, he’ll learn it when he’s ready,” said Lothlorien. “Let’s enjoy his simplicity while we still can.”
“Yes, I wish he could remain little like this forever,” said Aurora. And with that, they laid down their heads and let sleep come upon them.