“We’ve made it!” Lucio shouted. The group stood at the base of the single mountain on Treomynd. Its width was small, but its height made up for it. Most of the mountain’s upper half was covered in shade from the cloud gathered around its peak. The lower half made up the thriving Eastern Sparkling Forest, and thinned out until it disappeared entirely past the tree line, which ended a little bit before the cloud, revealing stone cliffs.
“Do you think we can make it up there?” Aurora asked while she cradled Renato. “I’m sure you could, but I’m not so sure about Renato and I.”
“You are not required to do anything on this trip,” Lothlorien said. “You can go as high as you wish, and if you don’t want to go any further, I can stay with you while Lucio finishes the mission.”
“Yes,” said Lucio. “Although I do admit that I’m thankful for the challenge, with all due respect. I want to make all parts of this island easily accessible, so you and Renato make the perfect test to whatever changes I need to make.”
“Alright then,” Aurora said as she threw Renato up in the air. The child screamed with laughter. “Let’s press on.”
They made their way up the steep slope of the mountain, and met very few Earth Guardians. Everything was just the same as Western Sparkling Forest, with the leafy vines covering the massive tree trunks, and the jewel flowers glittering overhead. However, the atmosphere of the Western Sparkling Forest was lively and free, while the Eastern Sparkling Forest seemed more meditative and calm. It was quiet, save for the occasional bird call. Even Renato quieted down.
The steep slope of the mountain made Aurora ask for frequent stops, until she gave into Lothlorien’s offer to ride. After a few hours of walking, they poked just above the tree line about three quarters of the way up. The trees grew smaller, and were very sparse, until they stopped growing altogether about a half mile higher. The altitude was beginning to affect everyone, with even Lucio panting for breath when they stopped.
“When do you think we’ll see signs of Air Guardians?” Aurora asked while they ate a light meal.
“I’m not sure,” said Lucio. “They could be watching us right now. Out of all the Guardians we’ve met, I know the least about Air Guardians. You’ve learned what Earth, Fire, and a small amount of Water Guardians are like, now you’re going to learn about Air. They are an element that can be even more elusive than the Water Guardians we saw at Lake Shimmer, simply because of their abilities. Most Air Guardians are Faders, meaning that they can fade into moonlight and any kind of weather with precipitation. Then there are Floaters, who cannot fade and walk among the clouds without wings. The rest are Flyers, and they were incredibly rare on Earth. I’m almost positive that all the Flyers left are nesting on the mountain peak. Do you remember the Air Guardians from the night of the creation?”
“Yes,” said Aurora. “One had massive wings, and the other one was deep blue and completely see-through. The first was obviously a Flyer, so I’m assuming that the other was a Fader?”
“Correct. Since the moon was out that night, that Guardian was a Moonlight Fader. If you ever see a Guardian suddenly appear out of nowhere when it’s raining or snowing, they too are Faders. They could appear wherever they wish on Treomynd depending on the weather, but they rarely choose to show themselves. I have no idea what awaits us on the top of this mountain, because we know so little about Air Guardians.”
“Maybe we will finally get to know them, at least a little,” said Lothlorien. She was laying down partially on her side with Renato sitting against her soft belly. Her long mane had trailed near his curious hands, and he busily entertained himself holding up the soft locks and throwing them around. He pulled on a small strand, making her wince a little, but she showed no sign of annoyance.
“You need to be gentle, little one,” she said while she touched his forehead with her velvety muzzle.
“Lori!” shouted Renato. “Lori!” He forgot Lothlorien’s mane and reached up for her horn. She lowered her head so he could grab her horn to pull himself up. His whole body was the same size as her long face, and he hugged it with both his arms and legs, still hanging onto the base of her horn.
“Oh Renato!” said Aurora.
“It’s alright,” said Lothlorien with a chuckle. “His happiness is my happiness.” She raised her head and turned towards Aurora, with Renato still hanging on to the Guardian’s face like some kind of strange mask. Everyone laughed while the child slowly slid off into Aurora’s arms.
They continued on up the mountain, with another mile or so to go before they entered the great unknown of the cloud. The temperature grew cold, with the occasional gust of wind. With the high altitude, it took them another hour until the mountain became so steep and gravelly that everyone but Lucio had to stop. Steep, unforgiving cliffs loomed above them that continued up into the cloud. Aurora looked down at Treomynd. The island seemed so small from up there, but it took them nearly three days to cross it.
Lucio created a set of stony stairs just like he did on Mt. Igneous that spiraled around the mountain and disappeared from view.
“I want all of you to wait for now,” said Lucio. “I want to see how treacherous it is first. If I find that it is safe, I’ll come get you.” Aurora nodded and pulled her cloak around her shoulders and wrapped Renato up tight. They sat huddled on the stairs with Lothlorien laying as best she could around them to block the wind. Lucio hugged the Guardian tight before heading off.
“I’ll be quick,” he said. “I promise.”
True to his word, Lucio came bounding back down the stairs 15 minutes later.
“The stairs went into the clouds!” he said. “But they stopped at some large boulders a little ways ahead. I found a nice rest area that should fit all of you while I finish the staircase. Come along!” He turned and leapt up the stairs before they had barely stood up. Aurora walked with Lothlorien on her right side so she wouldn’t have to look down. Although she was sure she wasn’t afraid of heights, being so far above Treomynd had begun to intimidate her. She kept her gaze forward with her right hand on Lothlorien’s flank and her left arm tightly wrapped around Renato. The child had luckily fallen asleep. She was so focused on making it to the top that she hardly noticed the puffs of mist that flew into her face.
“Look!” said Lothlorien. Aurora dared herself to look over her shoulder to see that their view of Treomynd had completely disappeared. They were standing in the white moisture of the cloud. She reached out her hand in front of her.
“I’ve never touched a cloud before,” she said.
“Me neither,” said Lothlorien.
Lucio led them to a section of stairs that were much wider and slightly covered by rock, providing the perfect shelter from the cold winds.
“I’m going to shape some of the boulders ahead, so you might hear some loud boom sounds,” he said. “But don’t worry, it’s what must be done if we want to reach the top.”
“Keep an eye out for flyers,” said Lothlorien. “I have a feeling we are encroaching on their territory.”
“I will,” he promised. “Now stay warm, I’ll return soon.” He disappeared into the mist.
Aurora put Renato in her lap and covered him with her cloak while she sat against the stone wall. Lothlorien laid down in front of them to keep guard. They didn’t flinch when they heard a loud boom that shook the mountain, or the others that followed soon after.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” said Lothlorien. “If the Flyers are really living up here, this will surely upset them.”
“I agree,” said Aurora.
The booming stopped for a few minutes, which made them wonder if Lucio was finished. Lothlorien’s ears perked forward in anticipation of his return. Another boom sounded, followed by a loud yelp from the Magician.
“Lucio!” shouted Lothlorien. She was gone up the steps in a silvery flash.
“Lothlorien!” Renato was crying hysterically, so she stayed behind to calm him down. She knew better than to walk into whatever trouble lay ahead. Lucio and Lothlorien were more equipped for handling danger than she was.
“But what if they need me?” she thought. “What if Lucio is in real trouble and Lothlorien can’t do anything? What if they both need help?”
Taking a deep breath, she tied Renato in his sling and covered him as best she could with her cloak. She stepped out of the stony shelter and ran up the stairs. She went through several boulders with stairs etched deep into their middles, until she came upon a cliff that extended a ways back into the mountain with a flat floor. There she saw her first Flyer since the night of the creation. It was just as before; the Flyer had a pure white coat, mane and tail, with a golden horn and white feathered wings gilded with more gold. Its wings were completely stretched out as it reared and whinnied, thrashing through the thin air. Lucio lay flat on his back at the Guardian’s mercy, while Lothlorien stood over him in a fighting stance, her horn ready for battle.
“Stop!” shouted Aurora. “We mean you no harm!” Everyone became momentarily distracted by the intrusion, which pacified the Flyer just enough to fold its wings and back off.
“This human disturbed our home,” said the Flyer in a deep voice. “His throwing rocks everywhere could have destroyed our nests! We came here to escape the humans who stole our eggs, but we have escaped nothing!”
“His intention was not to steal your precious eggs!” shouted Lothlorien. “He was merely creating a path to the mountain’s peak. We aided in Lucio’s creation of this island we call Treomynd, and now we are on a mission to unite every Guardian. And you nearly killed him! He has valuable information for your safety!”
Lothlorien went on for another minute or two, until Lucio quieted her with a hand on her flank. The Guardian let out a big puff of air while she glowered at the Flyer. Aurora had never seen her so angry.
“No, she was right to attack me,” said Lucio. “She was protecting her territory.” He got up and bowed to the Flyer. “I apologize for intruding on you, dear Flyer. It is true that we want to unite all Guardians, and I was being selfish in my endeavors by not acknowledging your presence. I was creating a path to the summit of this mountain, so that all Guardians may come and go as they please.” The Flyer snorted and softened her stance.
“Your apology is accepted, Magician. But I do not like your coming here. We Flyers and other Air Guardians want to be left in peace, and are perfectly happy on our own. We are in love with this safe haven you have created for us, but you want to let others intrude on us?”
“Myself, Aurora and Renato are the only humans on Treomynd,” said Lucio. “And we do not wish to harm you. The reason why we want to unite the four elements of Guardians is to ward against any possible threats. This new world is perfect for Guardians, and we intend to keep it that way. We also wanted to spread word that I have placed a spell over Treomynd that, if a Guardian should stomp on the ground three times with its right hoof, I will immediately be alerted to danger.”
“I see your reasoning, Magician,” said the Flyer. “And you have my word that every Air Guardian will know of your protection. But I doubt that the Floaters and Faders will heed your advice. They hardly heed anyone’s advice but their own, if they have any. They only came along because they would have missed our company.” The Flyer shook her head. “But I will pass on the information regardless.”
“Thank you,” Lucio said with another bow.
“I assume you wish to see the rest of our domain? The Faders are very happy with what you gave them.”
“Oh yes, we would love to see it,” said Aurora.
“Follow me then. You shouldn’t have to throw around any more boulders.” The Flyer turned and led them past the overlook onto a rocky path that led into even more cliffside nesting grounds. The other Flyers seemed wary at first, but their curiosity got the better of them, and they chatted with the group as they walked higher and higher up the mountain. Lothlorien had cooled down from the confrontation with the first Flyer, and was soon her old self. She seemed to draw any willing Guardians into a friendly conversation. Lucio was right about Flyers being rare; Aurora estimated that there were about 20 of them altogether. Lucio asked if they had a name for the mountain, and the Flyer’s had unanimously decided to call it Glacial Heights, because of the massive amounts of ice and snow on the summit.
Lothlorien was alone for a moment while they ascended between nesting grounds, when Aurora came to her side.
“What happened earlier? I’ve never seen you so upset.”
“Lucio accidentally disturbed the nesting area of that Flyer, so she knocked him on his back. She was about to plunge his horn into his chest when I arrived. Lucio was too kind to not use magic on her,” she said with a snort. “I’m glad you intervened. I’m not sure I would have been able to stop it on my own. But I’m also sorry for leaving you and Renato alone.”
“Don’t be sorry,” said Aurora. “You love and protect Lucio just as much as you love and protect us.” She opened her cloak to reveal Renato sleeping in his sling. He stirred and sighed in a blissful nap. They giggled and Aurora hugged the Guardian’s neck.
They came to the top a short while later, and Aurora could feel the massive temperature drop if she stopped moving. Small patches of snow had settled among the rock, with large icicles forming overhead.
“We’re almost at the summit,” said the Flyer. “You can see our entire domaine from there. We should be coming out of the cloud in a few minutes.” Sure enough, they emerged from the while mist and stood on the mountain’s small summit. Aurora and Lucio gasped at the sight, and all became quiet. *Play the video below to hear the inspiration behind this part of Treomynd. I highly recommend reading the description while listening!
The cloud surrounding Glacial Heights wasn’t just a cloud, but an island. There were hundreds of trees surrounding a river of silver water that flowed from nowhere and ended in a small pool near the summit. The forest was unlike anything imaginable. The tree trunks and branches looked solid, and were covered with a mosaic of deep grey bark that had a pearly sheen. But the leaves, if you could call them leaves, were clouds. They looked a little more dense than the cloud making up the island, and they surrounded the tree branches like big puffs of cotton. Aurora could see flashes of gold and silver inside the puffy leaves, and realized that there were white doves with silver and gold feathers speckled on their small bodies.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” whispered Lucio. “Not even in my wildest dreams.”
“Me neither,” said Aurora. “But we can’t see the Faders, can we? Because of the weather? I also don’t see any Floaters.”
“That is what’s so amazing about this island. Wait a moment,” said the Flyer. “They don’t know if they can trust you. But I can help with that.” She stepped forward and let out a loud whinny that echoed off the silver tree trunks. All was silent for a moment, until Aurora thought she could see movement wherever there was a clearing. She tried to focus on it, but couldn’t. Then, the cloud leaves started to spurt out precipitation in random areas. A small area to their right erupted in rain, while another section to their left threw up small flurries of snow. The weather patterns moved of their own accord through the trees, just like the Wildfire Guardians in Mt. Igneous.
White Guardians began to emerge from behind the tree trunks and walked on the cloud island up to the mountain peak. They strode on the cloud’s top as if they were walking on solid ground. They looked just like Lothlorien, except their manes were shorter and lighter, and had an ethereal look to their bones. Aurora assumed they were Floaters, and her suspicion was confirmed when one of them galloped forward and continued to run off the cloud, through the air and up to the group. It alighted without a sound on the stone.
“Welcome to The Island of the Moon,” said the Floater in a soft voice. “Are you the ones responsible for this place?”
“They are,” said the Flyer.
“It is an honor to be in the presence of such a magnificent place,” said Lucio. “I never would have thought this would come from a Guardian’s memories.”
“Yes,” said the Floater. “This place is the ultimate paradise for us Floaters and Faders. Look beyond me, you can see the rest of my kind living happily.” It turned and walked to the side of the group so everyone could see. Wherever there was precipitation, Aurora could see transparent Guardians dancing and whinnying through the forest. Their colors ranged from while to light blue.
“It’s incredible,” said Lothlorien. “Is it only meant for your kind?”
“I would assume so,” said the Floater. “Unless you concoct something to make you walk on clouds!”
Aurora was disappointed that she couldn’t explore the forest, but the view provided from the peak of Glacial Heights was good on its own.
“Why do you call it The Island of the Moon?” Aurora asked. The Floater was about to answer when Renato woke from the cold and began to cry.
“You can find out for yourself tonight,” said the Flyer. “Come with me to my nest and you can calm the child there. You and the Magician are welcome to sleep there tonight, unless you plan on a dangerous descent in the dark.”
It was true. The sun was going down at a rapid pace now, and they didn’t bring any tents for shelter in conditions like this. So they agreed to head back down to the Flyer’s nesting grounds. Aurora settled down in a massive nest that was made much like a bird’s, with sturdy branches making the frame, and the inside was heavily lined with dead leaves. It was surprisingly warm and comfortable, and Renato was asleep for the night within a couple of hours.
When night had completely fallen, the Flyer nuzzled Aurora from outside the nest. Lucio was standing on the cliff’s edge with Lothlorien nearby.
“It’s time for all of you to see how the Air Guardian’s domain got its name,” she said. “Go on back up to the peak, and when the moon is directly over The Island of the Moon, you will see. I can watch the child while he sleeps.” Aurora looked at Renato, who was asleep in his own little pile of leaves. She was hesitant, but then she remembered how vicious the Flyer was when they first met.
“Thank you very much,” said Aurora as she got out of the nest. “I won’t be gone long.” The Flyer snorted and took Aurora’s place next to Renato and fanned her wing over him.
The trio made their way to the top of Glacial Heights again, and this time the Air Guardians did nothing to conceal themselves. There were more this time, because of the crescent moon beaming it’s silver rays onto the island. It was chilly, and Aurora and Lucio wrapped their cloaks arounds themselves and stomped in place. Lothlorien was perfectly warm.
“I think it’s almost time,” said Lucio. “The moon should be directly over us any second.”
“Look!” shouted Lothlorien. They looked up to see hundreds of shooting stars raining from the sky. A peal of thunder erupted from within The Island of the Moon, and flashes of lightning popped up here and there among the cloud-leaves. An ethereal voice started to sing in a language no one could recognize. It spoke to a lively tune with a fast beat. The Floaters and Faders began to rear and prance in time to the music, shaking their blue and white manes while lighting flashed and the river became rough and wild.
It would have been an amazing moment if the stars weren’t actually raining down on the island. They came down in small fireballs about the size of one’s fist, and glowed white-hot. The group immediately took shelter farther back on the peak, but none of the stars fell there.
“What’s happening? And where is that music coming from?” shouted Aurora.
“I think it’s coming from the river,” said Lucio. He cautiously walked back up to the cliff’s edge while the fireballs rained down around him. “Come back out, I think these stars are only meant to land on the cloud.” Aurora and Lothlorien slowly came back out. He was right. Not a single star had fallen near them. The Floaters and Faders, on the other hand, loved dodging them. They made a game out of it, and worked themselves into a frenzy while they reared and whinnied. Aurora could feel her hair begin to stand on end from the electricity in the air. The stars crashed within the cotton cloud of the island, and their fire was doused the instant they landed.
“There are no words,” Lucio said in a stupor. Aurora nodded and leaned against Lothlorien.
“How did I get here?” she asked herself. “I was just a servant girl no one cared about. Now I’m in another world watching things I never thought of in my wildest dreams. How did all this happen?” Lothlorien nuzzled her forehead and smiled.
“You brought yourself here,” she said. “You knew deep down that you were destined for better things. So you allowed yourself to pursue them.” Aurora smiled and hugged her neck.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I guess I did.”
*Bonus video! This song inspired the way Air Guardians dance on The Island of the Moon. So if you want to know what Lucio, Aurora and Lothlorien heard, check out this video.