The Last Wish

 By Shade Jalo

All Rights Reserved

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     Loud shouts and bangs woke Zad from his restful sleep. When his eyes peeled open, he found lights being flashed into his eyes, soldiers of the High Guard at his bedside. He recognized all of them, even knew them by name. Zad was a relatively popular guy around the city.

     “Zadkeil Ahti,” Commander Mikt read from a papyrus scroll. Zad knew such orders to be a subpoena from the High Council. There was only one way to receive one of those . . . breaking the law. “The High Council has summoned you on accusations of attempting to perform acts of magic. Please come with us peacefully.”

     Zad did anything but. He shouted at the soldiers while they pulled them from his bed. His covers were flung to the other end of the room. With five of them working together to capture him, he stood no chance. Behind them stood a sheepish girl with pink and blue hair, it dazzled despite the darkness of the room. Zad looked to her with a grimace. Her name was Sita. He’d spent the last three months courting her. She was the only person in the world who knew that he’d been seeking a way to practice magic. She and she alone was responsible for his summons.

     Once the High Guard had him bound by the hands, they forced him to a stand requesting that he walk out civilly. He’d had enough bruises and cuts from fighting with them the first time. He had no intention to continue to do so. While they shoved him out the door of his home, Sita followed behind them, apologizing for turning him in.

     “I had to . . .” She proclaimed. “Otherwise I would be in trouble too.”

     Zed turned his glance from her, no interest in hearing her pleas. As far as he was concerned, she was a traitor. Should he escape his trial without too severe of a sentence, their relationship would be done.

     Sita sobbed while they carried him away, as though broken hearted at the extremity of the consequences so far.

     Despite it being the middle of the night, Zed found himself standing in the middle of the Council Hall with only his pale blue night clothes on. He scowled at the vibrantly dressed seven elders that sat upon high pedestals, looking down on Zed. They too returned the looks of dread. The Chair of the High Council, an elderly woman by the name of Councilwoman Fryshom spoke before any other. They had heard allegations that Zed had been meddling in magic, a forbidden art to be attempted by any who did hold the amulets of the High Council.

     Zed set his gaze on the necklaces she referred to. Each wore an amulet of different shape and color. The Chair’s in particular was a golden little charm that glowed with a yellow aura and took the shape of cross with a loop at the top. They called it an Ankh. All the others were various shapes of squares, circles and triangles. Their colors ranged from blue to magenta, covering the entire spectrum of color.

 
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     A councilman then spoke, his amulet an orange circle around his neck. He informed Zed that because of the respect many had for him in the community, they chose to bring him in at night so as to not cause an uproar. They wished to allow him the chance of defending himself.

     All eyes were on Zed, everyone on the council waiting to hear his side of the story. From the hopeful glance in their eyes, he knew that they wanted for him to be innocent of the said crimes.

      “I was not practicing magic,” he began. They all heaved a sigh of relief until he added: “I was studying the legend of the Borealis Tree.”

      Inquiries came from all ends, everyone wanting to know why in the world he was studying such a topic. Councilwoman Fryshom raised her hands to silent the others. They all listened, nodding while she addressed Zed once more.

     “According to the myth, any who should find the tree would be granted one wish. So tell me, did you seek to wish upon the Borealis Tree?”

    Honestly and boldly, he responded with a strong and loud: “Yes!”

     Now they were all shouting, some of them at Zed and some of them at each other. Councilwoman Fryshom stood.

     “Enough!” She hollered. She then looked back on Zed compassionately. After taking in a deep breath, she asked one final question, the one that would determine his fate. She inquired as to what he would wish upon reaching the tree. To which he responded “to be able to perform magic”.

     It was all that the high council needed to hear. There was no longer any need for them to meet or come up with a verdict. Councilwoman announced to everyone present that Zed was to be found guilty of seeking out magic. Such an offense was punishable by permanent exile from their city, Everstrong. Per the authority of the High Council, he would have one hour under the supervision of the High Guard to dress in more suitable attire and gather some things before he would be sent out in the scary magical world beyond the gates of Everstrong.

     The High Guard escorted him to his residence, where he changed into a traveling outfit composed of a thick brown coat, thick black pants, and an undershirt of tan. He then grabbed the largest back pack he could in his closet, stuffing it with food and provisions for the long journey in the wilderness. During his packing, he came across a picture of him with Sita. The both of them were smiling, happy with their relationship. He pulled the picture frame down so that he didn’t have to be reminded of such pleasant memories, spoiled by acts of treason.

     When the guards weren’t looking, Zed snuck in an old, withered book bound in leather. He was able to retrieve it from a secret vault in the sacred library. It had details within it about the legend of the Borealis Tree. He’d always planned on leaving to search for it, he’d only hoped that it’d be after he’d had more time to prepare and with Sita at his side. Surely she’d love to have a wish of her own from the magical tree. Unfortunately, she did not appreciate the appeal of magic as much as he. He’d have to make the journey alone, and with only an hour to prepare.

     The moment he was ready, the High Guard escorted him to the gate of the Everstrong Wall. It was massive, so high that not even the dense woods on the other end could be seen from its location. A spell had been placed around it by the High Council in order to keep all magical creatures that called the outside world home away from their precious city. Without the magic to keep it up, it would surely fall. Therefore, the members of the council were present so that they could open the gate’s walls.

      The councilmembers together held hands with their eyes closed. In that moment, their amulets glowed with light matching the color of the charm. The aura was powerful, enough so to open the gate of the city. Zed peered towards the world outside, uncertain of the future that lied ahead. Nevertheless, he walked out of those gates. He had little choice. Commander Mikt was right behind him to push him forward if he stopped or attempted to run back into the city. Once he was outside Everstrong’s walls, the council members all bid him good luck and farewell.

     The giant gates of white slammed shut, leaving Zed standing in the darkness of the forest night. He dug around in his bag until he found a tool that might prove of some use. It was a little ball of swirling orange and magenta light contained within a glass ball. They were manufactured and sold by the High Council as a means of light for their people. This particular one was his own, given to him as a gift from Sita. He frowned at the mere thought of her.

     Zed pondered about the thought of finding the magical tree rumored in his book. It brought him delight to think that his setback could put him on the way to finding what he’d desired for so long. As though a gleeful child on an appealing treasure hunt, he marched forward whistling to himself. 

     Several days and nights of journeying awaited him. During the day, things were peaceful and calm. There was hardly a soul in the forest. At least if there was something out there, they kept their distance. It was the nights that were difficult. On top of the perpetual darkness, there were mysterious sounds and growls that came from the shadows. Each night, he built himself a fire to keep warm and for light. After hours of trembling from the fear of his surroundings, he would eventually doze to sleep. When he awoke, the fire would be nothing but charcoal, and he would be off again.

     Zed traveled north for nearly a week before he came across his first signs of life. He stepped out of the woods to see that he’d come upon a shore. It was the edge of a peninsula, the ocean waves pushing against its sands. Near the shore were four creatures he’d only heard of in whispers around Everstrong. Even the mention of magical creatures was forbidden among the city. These creatures in particular were merfolk. One was an elderly mermaid with a stern look about her. The other three were children, two girls and a boy. She seemed to be scolding the children in the manner that she leaned over and pointed her long scraggly finger at them. One of the girls stopped her, pointing in the direction of Zed. When the woman saw the human, her eyes grew large. She beckoned for the children to dive beneath the seas. It was apparent that these creatures were not at all fond of humans. Zed plopped down on the sandy floor by the ocean waves, heaving a sigh as he did so. While he enjoyed the quiet of his solitude, it was also lonely. He’d also hoped to meet some of the mystical creatures always warned of as dangerous by the council. Figuring that the council had only said it to ensure no one wanted to leave the city, he wanted to see if those creatures were truly as terrible as the council warned.

     Much to his surprise, Zed heard a cheerful voice nearby.

     “Hiya!” The voice was high pitched like that of a child. Zed looked up to see that one of the little merfolk had not followed the old mermaid. The young merman stayed behind. He frolicked about in the nearby sea, smiling at the human all the others ran from.

     “Aren’t you going to go with the rest of your family?” Zed rolled his eyes.

      The boy looked back in the direction where the others escaped to then shrugged.

     “I don’t have a family. That was my magic instructor.”

     Zed looked down, he wasn’t sure what to say, what a sad thing to hear. Despite his life as an orphan, the young merman seemed to be chipper, happy even. He swam backwards while speaking with Zed, displaying his tiger striped tail.

     “The name’s Nemur,” the boy introduced himself. Zed nodded his head adding that it was nice to meet him, then shared his own name.

      “Then what brings you out so far away from the great wall?” Nemur asked.

      Zed went on to explain to the young merman how he’d been exiled from Everstrong for showing an interest in magic. He even included how Sita had betrayed him, scrunching up his face to express his dismay. It was a wondrous story for Nemur, as could be told by his awestruck expressions. At the very end of it, he shared with Nemur how he planned on finding the great Borealis Tree so he could have magic again.

     By this point in the story, Nemur was lying on the beach, with his arms propping up his head. His back fin was splashing the water, every now and again spraying Zed the wet droplets. When he heard that Zed didn’t have magic, he perked up, a worried expression on his face.

     “Wait, you can’t practice magic?”

     Zed shook his head. He went on to explain that the High Council forbid it of the Everstrong Citizens. Only the members of the High Council were allowed to practice it. In order to ensure this law was abided, The High Council absorbed the magic of every man, woman, and child into their amulets. Whenever a new baby was born, their magic too was taken by the Council members.

      Nemur gasped. “But that’s horrible!”

      “That’s what I thought too! That’s why I wanted to find the tree, so I could wish my magic back.”

     Nemur curled his fist into a ball, pumping it out in front of it.

     “I’ll help you find it!”

     “Really?”

     “Sure, I swim by it every now and again. I can carry you there through the water.”

      Zed glanced at the deep blue water before him, then looked over at the small merchild that flapped his fin about eagerly in front of him. Zed was a full grown adult, a full twenty one years of age. In water, he typically sank. Nemur looked to be no more than twelve himself. There was no way someone so small could carry him through the waters. He stood up, shuffling Nemur’s silky, wet blonde hair while he walked over to his bag.

      “Thanks for the offer . . . but I think I’ll take my chances with the forests.”

      Nemur pushed himself back into the water, swimming backwards with his hands hoisted behind his head.

     “Suit yourself,” Nemur chuckled. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you. I don’t know if you noticed, but most of the creatures out here aren’t too fond of humans.”

 
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      Remembering the manner in which the old woman mermaid glared at the oncoming Zed when he approached the beach, he certainly believed Nemur. Nevertheless, he preferred the land over the water.

     The human and the merboy bid each other farewell before Zed continued on his trek. He watched while Nemur dived deep beneath the water beyond sight, likely to return to his magic instructor.

     Another three days and nights in the forests, these particular journeys far scarier than the nights before it. The creatures of the night grew louder, and he had the awful feeling that someone was watching him. Even in daylight, Zed glanced over his shoulder to ensure no dangerous creature was at his back.

      The third night was the worst of them all. He could hear growls coming from all around him and howls that seemed like they were from wolves. The air was colder too. Even with the fire, he shivered from a combination of the night chill and the terror of whatever lurked in the woods.

     At long last, the creature which he assumed was following him presented itself. Out from the shadows, a giant beast with ridged wings flew towards him. It had a big head, glowing red eyes, and teeth that looked like they were crafted of stone. It was dark in complexion, like the night itself, and it smelled of brimstone. This particular beast he’d read about in the book he carried with him, the monster was known as a gargoyle. They haunted the northern forests. Truly they inhabited all forests, but the northern forests seemed to be where the most of them resided.

     Zed shouted in terror while he went zipping through the forest at the mercy of the creature. He tugged at his leg, trying to free it from the clasp of the gargoyle. It looked down at Zed letting out a harsh roar, like a lion. Zed was finally released when the gargoyle swiped a tree, losing its grip on Zed in the process. Once on the forest floor, Zed yanked a glowing purple sword out from his bag. Unlike the fire orb he carried, this weapon was not magic. It was made out of a rare medal that glowed of purple when in darkness called Arythist. This hand crafted weapon had been given to him by his father, who was one of the few Arythist smiths in Everstrong.

     The gargoyle landed in front of Zed, snarling at his prey. Zed swiped the sword towards the gargoyle, hoping that it would scare it. No such luck. The vicious monster held its ground. While Zed preferred not to use violence, he felt he had little choice. Zed raced for the gargoyle with his weapon.     

 
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     Just before he could pierce it through with the blade, he was stopped by a loud battle cry and the furious swiping of horse hooves before him. Those same hooves then slammed to the floor with a loud thud. Only then did the gargoyle budge, taking flight away from the hooved creature and Zed.

     Lifting up his sword, the dim glow of its medal revealed the creature who’d saved him to be none other than a Centaur.

     “Hey,” he greeted the enchanted man as though one would a friend, yet the Centaur only scoffed. “Thanks for saving me.”

     “I did not save you,” the Centaur rebutted. “I saved the gargoyle from a reckless human.”

     Zed gasped at the comment. How insensitive of this creature to not think of the danger that Zed was in! The Centaur had his own agenda though. He cared little about Zed’s disappointment in him. He glanced over to the trees beyond Zed. With a loud yelp, he reared into the air. A whole tribe of Centaur emerged from the abyss, surrounding the human. They had spears and arrows directed towards him. With the various colors that surrounded the weapons, Zed guessed that they had been endowed with magic.

     The leading Centaur instructed Zed to follow them if he wanted to keep his skin. Zed gulped, obviously complying with their request.

     The Centaur led Zed further north. After a couple hours of travel, they arrived at a large clearing. To the left, he could see the ocean, much like he had days earlier. Everything else around the clearing was forest. In the very middle of the clearing was a single tree, one larger than all the rest. The Centaur had him tied to the tree, awaiting whatever fate they had planned for him. Perhaps he would not be keeping his skin after all.

    Within the following hours, other creatures joined the Centaurs. First came the elves. They were a curious folk. Even without horse halves like the centaurs, they nearly reached the same height. Unlike the Centaurs; however, the elves had a variety of skin tones represented in their ranks. The Centaurs nearly all looked the same, skin like the color of hide and pitch black hair that flowed well beyond their shoulders. Many of them kept it braided. As for the elves, they mostly looked like humans, except for their pointy ears and sleek apparel. Following them came the merfolk. They swam up to the shore of that small clearing, all of their eyes on the human. Much like Nemur, they all had pale skin and lightly colored hair. Not all hair was blonde though. Zed spotted some shades of pink and baby blue in the mix. Most of their color though was in the fins, each of them with their own unique designs. Some other small groups like satyrs, fawns and nymphs also joined the group. The very final species to join the mix was the highly speculated fairy. While the other species were all confirmed to be existent by even the High Council, the fairy was the only one they could not be certain of. The fairies all fluttered in on wings that glowed. Some had wings like dragonflies, others those like butterflies. While all the creatures used magic to some degree, the fairy were the most proficient in the art, even radiating in it with various colors.

    Once they had arrived, discussion began about Zed. Everyone had the same concern about the appearance of a human beyond the Everstrong wall. They speculated that he was a spy for the High Council. The manipulative government body was to their old tricks again, plotting another magic war.

     Zed tried his very best to clear his name, but no one would give him a word in. First the Centaurs were shouting that he be executed, while the elves were demanding they make the first advance on the High Council to catch them by surprise. The chaos didn’t end until a soft little voice came out from within the mayhem. One that, despite its timid nature, caught the attention of every creature in attendance. The voice belonged to the leader of the fairies, a woman by the name of Twilight. She fluttered towards Zed with her clear wispy wings that glowed of various shades of pink and purple, the remainder of her aura was the same.

     Twilight turned to the other leaders.

 
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     “We have been so busy determining the fate of this young man, yet we haven’t even offered him the chance for him to defend himself.”

      The Centaurs were immediately arguing, stating that he shouldn’t have the right to defend himself. All he would do was lie to protect himself. He was guilty, and that was that. Execution was the only logical solution.

     Twilight sent a cloud of pink dust flying towards the leader of Centaurs. It splatted him in the face, an elastic substance covering his mouth to silence his rhetoric mumblings.

     “Have we become so lost in our own disdain for what the High Council did that we would become as wretched as they?” She inquired of others. They all agreed that Zed should be allowed the chance to say his peace before a verdict was reached. Twilight fluttered near him while he told her his tale, the same he’d told to Nemur when he met the young merchild. Hearing about his quest for the sacred tree of old and the reason behind such a journey, Twilight’s eyes glittered with compassion. Once he’d finished his story, he looked around at all the rest of the creatures. Many of them too had lost their reservations about him thanks to his tale.

     “If you don’t mind me asking, why are all of you so against humans and the High Council?”

     Whispers spread throughout the crowd, everyone sharing their own thoughts on the question with their neighbor. Zed was able to pick out the words murderers, liars, and thieves. He then turned his attention to Twilight, whose expression had turned to sorrow.

     “Words mean little,” she shook her head. “It’d be better if I showed you.”

     Twilight neared to Zed so that she was close enough to touch him. She placed her hand on his cheek, her magic flowing from her into him. Before him, he could see only the images that which Twilight shared. Accompanying it was her voice, detailing the story of a great war.

     According to Twilight, all the creatures in attendance were once humans. Though the present day saw humans without magic, back then every human was a magician in their own right. That all changed when a council of powerful wizards arose.

     In his view he witnessed the first seven members of the High Council standing before a large crowd. Their Chair then was an elderly man.

    “Hear ye!” The Chair called out to his audience. “The magic of this world is weakening. We need to spare it, savor it. Therefore, we hereby deem only the High Council worthy of wielding and performing magic through amulets.”

     The members of the High Council then placed their own power into the amulets. After that completion, they turned their amulets to the crowd. Whether those in attendance wished it or not, their magic was taken from them. Lights of blue, green, and yellow all seeped from the people into the amulet of matching color. Cries and wails could be heard from those who loved their magic whereas some shouted in anger. Yet there were a good sum of them that agreed with the High Council.

     Zed then saw the formation of various groups who used their magic in their own unique ways. They all rebelled against the orders of the High Council with the power of their magic leading to the great magic war.

     Blasts of magic could be seeing flying about while humans with magic fought against humans without it. Those same humans wielded magical weapons created by the High Council. Human after human fell to ground in defeat.

     While Zed watched the onslaught, he couldn’t help but feel anxious over such needless destruction.

     Relief came when the Everstrong wall was raised by the High Council, ending the war. Those who had once fought for their magic stood outside the wall, glaring at the oppressive High Council. Forever, those who chose magic were cut off from the remainder of humans, much like Zed.

     Zed watched while the different factions of the magical wielders went their separate ways. Overtime, they evolved with their magic to reflect the ways in which they used it. The group which used it in order to help with hunting in the seas eventually grew to become merfolk. Those who used magic as a means gather food on the land became Centaurs, Satyrs, and Fawns. Those who used their magic to become more akin with nature became Elves or Nymphs. Finally, those who used magic for nearly all feats evolved into fairies.

      Once the vision was complete, Zed looked around that the audience that all stared at him.

     “So really, you’re all exiled humans . . . like me.”

     “We are . . .” Twilight nodded, solemn.

     Her long pink nails radiated with her magic. She swiped them against the ropes of his tree causing them to break. Zed fell to his feet, freed from his captivity. The Centaurs at first were resilient at this action, clamping their hooves down in disdain. Twilight turned to them, waving about a fistful of magic. They all calmed down when she did so.

     “I’m afraid the High Council wasn’t wrong though . . .” Twilight added. “Magic is growing weaker, I fear the Borealis Tree is almost out of the magic to sustain us.”

     “Then I won’t get my wish,” Zed kicked at the ground, defeated. Twilight grabbed him by the cheeks, forcing him to look at her.

     “No, you will. As long as it has magic it can grant wishes. Who more deserving of a wish than a human whose magic was robbed of him? Go forth and seek out the tree. You have the support of all us magical beings.”

     Zed nodded in thanks to everyone in attendance, their support was welcome. Twilight handed him his bag so that he could be off. She then turned to the others.

     “Is there any who knows the way that wish to show this brave human?”

     All was silent. The creatures all exchanged glances with one another, none of them wishing to make the trip. The awkward stillness was interrupted by a loud wail coming from the ocean.

     “I’ll do it!” The voice of a child shouted. Zed knew exactly who that voice belonged to, Nemur. Twilight fluttered over to him, smiling down upon the merboy. She agreed to him being the chosen guide, bestowing him with the prestigious mission. She then leaned down and kissed the boy on his forehead as a gesture of her blessing.

     “You represent all of us magical folk. I know you’ll do us proud.”

      “Sure will!” His smile gleamed towards the fairy leader.

     With that settled, the groups all took their leave. The fairies returned to their magical oasis, the centaurs to the cloak of the forest, the elves to their massive treescapes, and the merfolk to their ocean. All who remained were Nemur and Zed.

     “You ready for that ride?” Nemur flipped on the shore like some excited fish jumping for its food.

     “I’m more comfortable on land.”

     “But I can’t travel on land. Fins, remember?”

     Nemur flipped his rear fin as a gesture to remind Zed of his inability to walk.

     Zed rolled his eyes, finally accepting Nemur’s offer. He sat down on the shore, removing his shoes. He then removed his thick coat, leaving only his pants and a thin shirt he wore beneath the coat. If he was going to be underwater, he didn’t want the weight of his thick clothes to weigh him down.

     “Promise you won’t let me drown,” Zed requested while he lowered himself into the water.

     “Oh I promise,” Nemur winked.

     Once Zed was fully submerged in the water, Nemur sent a small stream of light blue magic in his direction. It zapped his neck, creating gills so that Zed could breath. Nemur then grabbed hold of Zed’s wrists, clamping down on them with his hands. Once he had a firm grasp of the human, he sped through the sea.

      Zed was surprised at not only Nemur’s speed but also how seamlessly he held onto someone who was obviously twice his weight. The two of them whizzed around ridged cliffs and through schools of fish. In the midst of the pools Nemur opened his mouth, sharp teeth protruding while he grabbed hold of the fish with his mouth. He then swallowed the animal whole. Zed turned his head, unwilling to watch such brutal hunting from a humanoid creature like Nemur.

     The further they went in the water, the cooler the temperature became, a sure sign they were nearing their destination. The Borealis tree, after all, was located at the northern most part of the world. With the cooler temperatures, Zed was reminded why he brought along such thick clothes in the first place. He was not capable of handling the cold as well as some of the other humans. By now, he was shivering to the point that Nemur had a difficult time keeping hold of him. Nemur glanced down at Zed. His lips were turning blue, his skin terribly pale. All the while, his eyes closed every now and again while he drifted in and out of consciousness.

     With a sense of alarm, Nemur dragged Zed to the surface, tossing him onto land. It wouldn’t do much good though. The land was covered with snow and ice, they were very close now.

     Nemur closed his eyes, muttering to himself.

     “What was that spell again?” He asked himself, trying to remember what his magic instructor had taught him. “That’s right!”

 
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     Nemur directed his finger towards the ground. A red and orange fire floated slightly above it as though it had been ignited by wood. Its warmth was strong enough to melt the ice and snow beneath it, revealing the ground of nothing but dirt. That same heat brought the life back to Zed. It took some time for the fire to take full effect, but within an hour or so, Zed was sitting up with his hands directed at the flame.

      “How do you handle the cold?” Zed inquired of the little merboy.

     “I’m used to it. I spend a lot of time in the freezing depths of the ocean after all.”

      Zed nodded, a reasonable answer. Once he felt up to traveling some more, Zed stood up and began to walk. This time, there was no need to travel in the ocean. As was evident, doing so would prove harmful to Zed. The remainder of the journey would be along the shore, so Nemur could swim alongside Zed.

      While they journeyed forward, Nemur kept the little flame burning in front of Zed so that he could maintain heat while in the cold tundra of the most northern parts of the world.

     After yet another day of travel, they at last came to a place where they could see the tree in the distance. Solid land had ended by that point. Leading up to the tree was a path made of floating sheets of ice aligned to make a bridge. All Zed had to do was cross it. He glanced at the ice then back at the tree. It was all he ever dreamed of, glowing with a pure white light. Colors of magenta, red, orange, green, and blue were infused with the white. Above it glimmered the aurora. Zed also noticed that the tree was bare, which he found odd since legends spoke of it as being covered with leaves.  

     Zed leapt to the first sheet of ice. Once he hit it, it floated towards the next one. He jumped from one to the other until he came to rather small one. When he landed on this one, it flipped under his weight, sending him below the freezing waters. Nemur swam down to him, latching his hands beneath Zed’s shoulders. He then swam him back up to the next, thicker sheet of ice. Once Zed was back on a sheet of ice and out of the chill of the ocean, he thanked his friend before returning to his leaps. They crossed dozens of sheets of ice before landing at the large iceberg on which the tree resided.

     When in the presence of the great tree, Zed couldn’t help but be in awe. It was massive in size, stretching upward so that it could almost touch the aurora floating above it. Zed’s jaw dropped.

     Seeing that Zed had arrived safely, Nemur swam up to the side of the iceberg, holding onto its icy edge.

     “You made it!” Nemur shared in Zed’s joy.

     Zed gleamed at his accomplishment. Now it was time for him to make his wish at last.

     Before he could do so, the auroras above shifted and changed shape, all forming together until they created the shape of a person. That glowing light lowered down until it was beside Zed. Once it had landed, the light faded to reveal a beautiful woman with giant wings of bright green and blue, hair of illuminating purple, and armor of pink and orange. In her hand she wielded a spear of yellow and green that she used in protecting the tree. Her very appearance looked like the aurora itself. How fitting it was then when she introduced herself as “Aurora: The guardian of the Borealis Tree.”

     Both Nemur and Zed stared at her in astonishment. She had never been part of the myth of the Borealis tree.

     She threw her hands outward in congratulations to Zed for having made such a long journey to the tree. Very few made the journey since the great magic war. He was the first in a long time.

     After some time of congratulating Zed, she peered behind him to see Nemur in the water.

     “There is another,” the look in her blue eyes were like that of somber, not joy. She sighed, holding out her hands. From the tree fell a single leaf. It was like no other leaf either of them had seen. Its stems glowed a radiating blue whereas the leaf itself magenta. Its light was like that of Aurora’s or the tree’s, glowing with the light of magic itself. She looked down at the leaf with melancholy.

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      Zed turned back towards Nemur. The both of them exchanged worried glances with accompanying shrugs.

    “Is everything alright?” Zed then asked.

     Aurora then went on to explain that the Borealis tree had run out of magic. It only had enough within itself to grant one last wish. Once that magic was performed, the tree would be out of magic. Without the source of magic the tree offered, the rest of world would be without it too.

      Zed shook his head, refusing the wish so that the tree could last longer.

      Aurora shook her head. It was too late for that. The leaf had already been plucked from the tree. The wish had to be made now, because the magic could not be returned.

     “Besides, even if I could return it, the magic would be gone within days anyhow based upon how much magic is performed.”

      She walked over to Zed and slipped the leaf into his hand. He stared down at it, studying it. Thoughts scurried through his mind contemplating what he should do in such a situation. All his life he’d wanted to have magic, it was his one desire. Now the source of all magic was out of it. Even if he could perform it, what good would it do if there was no magic to perform? On top of that, if he used such a wish for his own selfish desire, that meant that another could not receive it. He glanced up at Aurora.

      “Can I just wish for the tree to have more magic?”

     “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way . . .”

     Zed heaved a sigh. He glanced down at the leaf once more before looking over at Nemur who had a similarly distraught look on his face. Zed knew that Nemur secretly wanted a wish of his own, it was one of the reasons Nemur was so eager to take Zed to the tree. Nemur hoped that once Zed had received his wish, he could have one of his own.

      Zed stepped towards Nemur, kneeling down so that he was close to him. With a smile, he pressed the leaf into Nemur’s hand. Nemur looked down at the leaf in astonishment.

     “But what about . . .” Nemur began to argue, but was cut off by Zed.

     “My wish is irrelevant if no one else will ever get a wish. But you were willing to help a stranger, and a human at that, to find the tree when no one else would. If anyone deserves the last wish, it’s you.”

     Aurora now approached Nemur, the beholder of the final wish that would ever occur. She knelt down so that she was now close to him while Zed backed away.

     Just as Nemur was about to speak his wish out, she stopped him. Placing her index finger at the center of his chest she told him:

     “Wish not with your words. Wish with your heart.”

     Holding the leaf close to his chest, Nemur closed his eyes while he allowed his wish to be felt from deep within. The leaf then dissipated into a stream of magic. It was a beautiful blue and magenta mix, swirling around Nemur and lifting him up out of the water. It spun around him while he was in midair. The focus seemed to be around his neck and fins. The gills he sported sealed up. His tail transformed into human legs and tiger striped pants to match the fins he once bore. The magic then planted his new feet firmly on the ground.

     Zed watched it all occur, puzzled why a merfolk would choose to be human, when they were so hated by the other merfolk.

     Aurora bowed her head when she saw that the magic had done its work. She then spoke:

     “Your wish for a family has been granted.”

     Zed was all the more puzzled until he noticed Aurora’s gaze turned on him. At last he understood the wish. Nemur asked for a family, but such could not be found beneath the waves. The person who the tree deemed best to fit as Nemur’s “family” was Zed.

     Nemur raced for Zed, hugging him tightly.

     “I hope you don’t mind . . .” Nemur told Zed.

     “Of course, not.” Zed shuffled Nemur’s hair. “I always wanted a little brother.”

     The two laughed until they noticed the light around them start to fade. Even the burning flame that Nemur had created for Zed was dimming. The both of them turned to Aurora whose own light was vanishing. With each second she looked more and more human.

      “It’s happening,” she turned to them with a concerned look. “The Borealis Tree is dying. Magic will be no more.”

     All around the world, the effects of such a catastrophe could be felt. Back at Everstrong, the great wall that once kept the city separated from the magical world outside crumbled and broke into thousands of pieces. The High Council’s amulets lost the light of their magic, rendering the High Council powerless.

     The merfolk found that they could no longer use magic to hunt. They had to use their fins as other fish might, causing them to be slower in the water than when they used magic to propel themselves forward.

      The fairies were perhaps the most effected. Without the magic to keep them afloat, the weight of their wings alone could not hold them up. Fairies were falling from the sky, many of them injured from their falls. Twilight looked on to the horrid tragedy without any ability to alter it. Her magic too was gone. No longer did she radiate with the aura of pink. Instead, she looked like a human with wings attached to her. Of course, she could still flutter them, but they were of little use since they could not hold her up. With a sigh and the shake of her head, she muttered: 

     “The magic is at last gone.”

     Seeing as the world had lost its magic, Zed was disheartened, standing in silence as though having lost an old friend. Never once did he have the opportunity to experience the joy in practicing magic himself, yet he grieved it as though he had his whole life. It wasn’t merely the fact he never had the opportunity to use it, but the sympathy it brought him to think of all those who’d never be able to use it again.

     “It can’t be gone.” Zed squeezed his eyes tightly to fight the tears, clenching his fists at his side.

    Neither Aurora nor Nemur spoke, the both of them experiencing the loss in their own manner. Aurora was completely silent, staring at the ground. Nemur grasped onto Zed, the person who he now considered family.

     In that moment, Zed looked up to the night sky. In the darkness created by the loss of their light source, a new one appeared. They were so many, like he’d never seen before. Stars, numerous stars that glowed with a radiant light in the same way the tree did. When he saw those stars, he was filled with the same wonder that which he held when he first saw the magnificent tree. It was with that sense of awe that he felt a movement inside him, a slight tingling deep within his chest. He grabbed hold of it with his free hand, the other one patting the Nemur in mourning. His eyes widened, a revelation came to him. Turning to Aurora he repeated his previous statement, this time with confidence behind his words instead of dismay.

      “Magic can’t be gone . . . it isn’t gone at all.”

      Aurora turned to him. Nemur looked up into his eyes. He patted himself on the heart.

      “Magic doesn’t come from some tree, and it can’t be taken by anyone. Magic comes from a place deep within only we can reach . . . deep within our hearts.”

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     No sooner had he said that before his heart began to glow in a brilliant combination of purple and red. At first it was small, like a seed. Nemur, seeing this, stepped back. Both Aurora and Nemur watched on while the light inside his chest grew and grew until it became a stream. It flowed out from him and towards the tree, touching its dimming bark. The magic from deep within Zed brought light back into the tree. Using that same magic, he sent a message out to every magical creature and human that occupied the world. It came in the form of little purple flakes that flickered while they fell. They landed on every being, giving them the same message.

    

     You have magic within you. Believe in yourself, and you can use it to bring the tree back to life.

 

     Out of everyone who heard his message, Twilight was the first to act. Her pink aura returned, she could flutter once more. This time it was not from magic borrowed from the tree, but rather her own magic from within. She then sent that magic pouring from her heart towards the tree. Other fairies who watched her deed did the same. Soon the other creatures added their light to the mix. The elves, merfolk and even the Centaurs sent light soaring towards the Borealis Tree. Finally, the humans joined in. Those who had thought their magic to be stolen from the High Council were able to find it once more, a source of magic from deep within their soul that could not be stolen from any being. Sita was the first to share her blue and pink light, followed by the many others in Everstrong. The only ones not to join in were the members of the High Council. They watched on in disgust as nearly an entire city broke their highest rule.

      Light came from every place on the planet, surrounding the tree, filling it with the energy it needed. With each stream that filled the tree, a new leaf grew on it. There were yet more wishes to be made in future days when one met the limits of their own magic. Within the tree now contained the magic of every being on the entire planet, a magic far more powerful than any one person. This, after all, was the purpose of such a tree. It wasn’t to become the sole source of magic, but a magical resource when one reached their own limitations.

      Even Nemur and Aurora offered light from their own core to the tree. Once the tree’s magic had been restored, its branches filled with leaves again, Zed turned to Aurora and Nemur.

      “We’ve been taking magic from the tree, when we should have also been giving to it.”

      Aurora had been returned to her angelic appearance. She walked to Zed, placing her hand gently on his cheek with a gleaming smile.

     “Never would I have guessed a mere human capable of saving a tree of magic,” she told him. “I think you deserve a wish.”

     One of the newly developed leaves, this time a glowing purple one with a red stem fluttered down. It came directly into Zed’s hand. He knew exactly what to wish for. With his eyes closed, he let his heart send its message. Within his grasp, the magical leaf transformed its own shape into that of a seed of the same color.

      Aurora scratched her head, he’d wished for a magic seed. He looked up at her with a gleeful smile.

      “I wanted to make a wish I could share with the world. I asked for a seed from which we can grow another magic tree.”

     Aurora nodded. She clasped onto his hands, holding them within hers. She then told him that from that day forward it would be his duty to be guardian of the baby wishing tree, to water it, take care of it, and make sure it stays out of harms way. Most of all, he needed to make sure it never died in the way that the Borealis Tree nearly had. Zed nodded, accepting his mission. He then turned to Nemur.

     “You ready to head home?”

     Nemur nodded, ready for the next adventure with Zed. They returned to the path that brought led them to the tree. When they did, Aurora took to the sky becoming once more the floating lights of the north.

     Years passed, and in those years the High Council was abolished. A new council rose in its place, the council of magic. At its head was Twilight. Sitting on that council was Nemur representing the humans, the merfolk magic instructor who taught Nemur, the Centaur chief, the elven king, and additional representatives for the nymphs, satyrs, and fawns. Everstrong’s wall was demolished and the city’s name forever changed to Evermyst. It became the place of unity where all humans and magical creatures could live together in peace.

     As for Zed, he and Nemur became the magical teachers for all of Evermyst. In the courtyard of their school: The Borealis Academy of enchantment, resided a young magical tree care taken by Zed along with Nemur.

     A class of Zed’s stood around the mystical tree. It was composed of magical creature children of all races as well as human children and adults newly learning the skill. He addressed the class:

     “Tell me, what’s the primary principal of magic?”

     Everyone raised their hands, they all had their own idea of what it might be. Zed chuckled at some of the responses. His favorite always came from other humans. They often thought of magic as only for acquiring ones desires.

     Zed approached the tree, swiping his hand along the small wish granting leaves that were beginning to develop. Within those leaves everyone could see a shift in the light from red to purple then back to red.

     “The primary principle of magic is flow. It’s a natural substance, like water or air. Hold back its flow and it’ll either stop working or work incorrectly.”

     Everyone nodded as a sign to show they understood. Zed clapped his hands together excitedly.

      “Now, let’s start some practicing.”

 

      All was well in Evermyst and the entire world of magic after the rejuvenation of the Borealis Tree. One could say they entered a golden age of magic that lasted many, many years to follow. 

 
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