Lizzy zipped up through the trees until she burst through the canopy. After quickly getting her bearings, she flew in the direction of the Tree of Memories as fast as her wings could carry her.
It took longer than she had wanted, but soon enough the huge tree and its orange fruit came into sight. The little faerie flew for the nearest opening in its branched and headed for Arthur at the base of the tree, who sat reclined in his rocking chair.
The hard flutter of wings caught his attention and he looked over at her as she nipped down and almost crashed into one of the Tree’s massive roots. Arthur frowned when he noticed Lizzy’s panicked expression, the way she grasped for words.
“Lizzy, why are you in such a panic?” he asked, slowly, and rose from his rocking chair. “Where is Llyle?”
“I had to leave him in the forest so that I could get you as quickly as I could,” she managed to say, her breathing shallow and rapid even though such a thing was almost impossible in Avalon. That alone told Arthur that Lizzy had heavily exerted herself to get here, and that meant she felt time was of the essence.
“Show me where,” he said and began climbing the root that led to the Hover Scooter’s garage. While he slowly moved the Scooter out, Lizzy pointed in the direction from which she came and described the area of the forest. Arthur knew where the place was and was thankful that it was away from the river. Nothing malevolent could get to him there, at least.
Deciding that the Scooter was taking too long to move, Arthur became frustrated and cursed a garble of words before launching himself off the scooter and shooting up towards the Tree of Memories’ vast canopy.
Lizzy watched the old faerie in a mix of surprise and confusion, forgetting for a moment her friend and her panic. As soon as he was out of sight, Lizzy blinked and remembered the situation. She launched off the ground and shot towards the canopy, bursting through and heading towards her friend, following Arthur who was gradually pulling ahead.
Confusion once again crept into Lizzy’s mind while she watched the distance between them slowly grow, but she pushed it aside and willed herself faster, closing the gap until she was almost beside Avalon’s Guide.
Turning to look at him, Lizzy noticed that Arthur looked slightly different. He looked less frail, less grey. He even looked a little filled out, a bit more substantial. Lizzy wondered for a moment why he looked different, but then sighed to herself and looked ahead, overcome again with worry. Throughout the flight, Arthur only looked straight ahead, his expression stiff as stone.
Once they reached the place Lizzy had described, Arthur finally looked at her. Still he looked different. Younger? It certainly seemed so to her. “Where exactly did you leave him?” he asked her, the worry evident in his grim tone.
The little fae girl took a breath and looked around for the exact spot where she had come out, found it and flew towards it, passing back through the canopy without any hesitation. Arthur quickly followed, scanning the ground while they descended.
There, just as Lizzy had described before they left, was Llyle, nestled between two thick roots, his glowing board laying just a short way off. Arthur wanted to land so quickly that he practically fell through the air to land beside the boy.
Looking him over, Arthur noticed something he wasn’t sure what to make of. Llyle was partially transparent, and Arthur couldn’t fathom why. All the more reason to get him back to the Den, he thought.
“Lizzy, would you please retrieve Llyle’s board?” Arthur asked her, half distracted with scooping Llyle up as carefully as he could. Knowing Llyle couldn’t have been physically hurt, he knew something else had to have caused him to end up unconscious and in a heap on the forest floor.
The Guide turned to looked at Lizzy and saw that she was looking at him expectantly, Llyle’s board held awkwardly against her tiny body, worry and hope mixed in her eyes. He gave her a little smile and nodded toward the canopy before fluttering his wings and slowly ascending towards it.
Once again above the tree tops, Arthur and Lizzy flew back to the Den as fast as they could, though this time Arthur felt the strain in his wings. They mostly flew in silence, the canopy below them shooting past in a blur. After half the flight, Arthur couldn’t stay quiet any longer.
“In your rush to get me, you didn’t tell me what had happened,” he said, almost conversationally. He looked over at her, waiting for her reply.
“At the time, all that mattered was getting you there and getting him back to the Den,” Lizzy replied after a minute of gathering her thoughts. “We were racing, first above the trees and then below the tree tops, weaving between the branches.
“After Llyle almost flew into a very big one, we decided it was better to stay above the trees. After that, we flew at a relaxed place. I asked Llyle if he missed anything,” Lizzy was saying, then trailed off.
“And?” Arthur coaxed softly, ensuring the girl did not think he was blaming her for Llyle’s condition.
“He told me he missed his family, and he missed being told what not to do, because he almost smacked into a thick branch.”
“He would not have been hurt,” Arthur commented, almost automatically.
“He said as such, but I suppose the warning is more appreciated when it’s absent, even if it wasn’t needed,” Lizzy then said, thoughtful, and looked ahead before continuing, “After that, he became quiet for a time, as if he were thinking about something that took all of his attention.”
“Did it happen while he was quiet?”
“It did. He grabbed his head and started screaming. His board had started to become unstable and then he fell. I followed him down through the trees, and he wouldn’t wake up no matter how much I called his name…” Tears brimmed at the corner of her eyes but she swallowed and forced them away.
“I see,” the Guide finally said. The rest of the flight passed in silence, partly because Lizzy was consumed with worry and partly because Arthur was scouring through all he could remember from the Den’s library. If he was right, this wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened.
The sky was ablaze with red and oranges when Arthur, carrying a transparent Llyle, and Lizzy reached the huge limbs of the Tree of Memories. They descended slowly through the branches and came to rest at the Den’s entrance. They were quite surprised to see the Captain immerge from the opening.
“Arthur, you finally return,” the Captain said conversationally, though one could see that he was mildly annoyed. “I have come for Llyle, though he seems to be absent.”
“I had to leave to fetch the boy,” Arthur told him matter-of-factly and pushed right past the large fae and into the Den. He put Llyle down on one of the couches and made him as comfortable as he thought the boy could be before he pulled up a chair and started a quick examination.
To Arthur’s left, the Captain and Lizzy walked through the door and moved to stand beside the couch. Though Llyle had already been somewhat transparent, the blue light within the Den made him seem even more so.
“Arthur, what has happened?” the Captain asked respectfully.
“I believe something has happened to his body, for he may not be completely here, as it were.”
“His body? Does that mean he’ll disappear?” Lizzy asked softly, terrified of the prospect. She didn’t want to lose her friend.
“It is possible that something has happened to make Llyle partly conscious, thus causing him to be partly not here.”
“But will he disappear, Arthur? That is what we need to know. If Llyle were no longer in Avalon, who knows how long our World will last before it is consumed!”
“I am fairly certain that this will pass and Llyle will be wholly here again. If Llyle were to be replaced, one of the Angels would come to give me the next name. Also, a Guardian would not come to Avalon if he was not meant to stay and perform his duties. The only way he can leave is to perform his duties and learn some sort of lesson.”
“You are certain of this? He has too much potential for us to lose him at this stage,” the Captain asked in a rough voice. Avalon’s future depended on the boy, after all.
“Hello? Arthur?” a rich, smooth voice called from outside. “I hope you’re in. I’m here to speak to you about the Guardian.”