A Chance Encounter
The mountain hung high above the world below. On top of it the sky seemed to stretch forever outwards to the brink of infinity. Always the clouds were lower than the cliffs, so if there was enough sunlight one could see further than ever imaginable. Tonight the sky was brilliant in its warm sweet twilight - a glorious palette of the softest hues, a bright array of salmons and yellows fading out into a quiet and cool indigo. The stars were brightest here. It was as if the cliffs extended to pass through the very heavens, making the celestial bodies appear as if they were almost within one's grasp.
Already the clouds below were becoming fainter with the approaching dusk. Alea sighed, her breath fogging the windowpane as she slumped against the glass in her window seat. It was so beautiful here. Her adventure had lead her up the perilous slopes through the innermost caverns to get to the village above. It was a very long way from her little home in the middle of Faerieland, and much colder than Alea thought she could bear! Faeries, after all, very much dislike the cold.
Her icy blue scales were protected beneath her many layers of scarves and sweaters. It was be bundled or be frost-bitten with how horribly frozen the air was being up so high. Even with a fire going strong in the hearth of the cozy little inn, Alea felt chills nonetheless. She was not eager to venture forth from her little room, but her belly was rumbling and she so desperately wanted to try more of the local cuisine.
Alea was a food specialist - a gourmet connoisseur – she had traveled near and far looking for rare and exciting local recipes – sometimes new and delicious treats, other times incredibly grotesque concoctions of the foulest nature. Whatever the meal, Alea was happy to document it, even if her tummy disagreed.
She slipped on her thick boots over her claws before exiting the room, making her way down the staircase toward the lobby. One of the local Chias had told her of a quaint little hole-in-the-wall café just down the block that she just had to try - and Alea figured tonight would be a good night to make her way over there. However, as she came into the entrance way, she noticed quite the little crowd formed before it - seemingly around two extremely messy piles of assorted fabric.
As she neared closer she realized there were in fact bodies beneath this fabric – a young girl and a Faerie Aisha. They had managed to throw their many hoods back to beam at the surrounding people. Alea managed to catch tid-bits here and there of their supposed story.
"Come up through the storm on that ragged balloon, they did," said one. Yet another – "I haven't seen anything so reckless and for so little reason," Then a very young Zafara – "They were so brave! I heard they have traveled all across the world – and from Faerieland, no less!"
Alea raised an eyebrow at this; it wasn't often on her ventures that she became acquainted with other travelers from Faerieland. She did not recall knowing them when she had lived there, and was surprised to have never heard of the pair before. Usually locals offered stories of previous new-comers with their welcome. Especially if they had come from someplace so close. And even more especially if they were as exciting and enthralling as these two.
She stood there for a bit, looking on with the others. At one point the Aisha managed to catch her eye, but Alea – realizing the time after a rumbling reminder from her stomach – decided it was time to go to the café and forget the merry group altogether. She trembled all the way down the snowy little street. All the lights in the village were so warm and bright – such a beautiful place to spend a week. Alea counted herself lucky to be there. All too soon, yet not soon enough according to her goosebumps, Alea found the café and sidled inside, sliding into a seat at the counter where a merry looking Bruce stood.
"Hello Miss – here – take a look at the menu and let me know what I can get for you, my name's Jaz, just give a shout when you're ready. Can I get you a drink?"
Alea gave her nose a wrinkle trying to get it to thaw. "Yes, I'll take a chilled Borovan with frozen asparagus if you would be so kind." The Bruce gave her a kind smile and fluttered off to get it while Alea examined the menu thoroughly. There were quite a few things here she hadn't tried, which thrilled her even more. This afternoon she had finally managed to try an Appriberry Brucicle to her great delight. It was to be a successful adventure after all.
"Mind if I join you?" Alea looked up in surprise to see the Aisha from the inn standing beside her, smiling warmly.
"Not at all, please sit down." Seeing the strange traveler reignited her curiosity, especially with the abrupt absence of the girl by the Aisha's side. "I saw you at the inn; you received quite a welcome! I heard you came in a balloon, and in that storm, no less."
"Yes, it gave me quite the fright, but we made it at last! Danica is back at the inn now thawing out and resting. But I was quite hungry." Alea waited as the waitress handed the newcomer and menu and did her spiel for the Aisha to continue. "We've traveled very far this time. I mean, we've been all sorts of strange and unusual places before, so it's not particularly surprising to me, but we're never come out this way before. I think probably because Danica isn't so fond of the snow."
"Neither am I to be honest," Alea giggled. "But I have taken a fondness to travel myself, for cuisine really, but seeing such beautiful places, it does bring me a lot of happiness."
The Aisha smiled. "You are very far from home yourself huh?"
"Very far, though I think my home has been the road for so long, that this adventure is all I know now."
"For us as well, the adventure is always driving us on. We will probably stay out the week here, and then Danica has been talking of going east perhaps, to the plateaus of Tyrannia. She argues it's for a change in climate, but I think she's got a hankering for some of their Honey Blossoms. Ever since our last visit, and her first time trying them, she's been talking of going back. I suppose we're close enough where it would be a good idea."
Alea laughed knowingly. "Honey Blossoms are delicious – I have been wanting to get my hands on the Primordial Stew recipe but the last time the natives were so upset after this terrible misunderstanding, I thought it would be bad to ask."
The Aisha gave a shriek of laughter. "What is your name anyways? I would be happy to know you."
"It's Alea." She gave a small smile to her new friend.
"Well, Alea, I just happen to know a very lovely and vain Tyrannian Usul who would be delighted to share her recipe with you. She is very proud of it, perhaps a lot prouder than she should be – the meal looks like gruel. You should join us! Are you all on your own?"
Alea's heart soared in her chest. Though her adventure had been great, it was very lonely all by herself. She would be happy for some companions to travel with. "Yes, it's just me, and I would love to join you!"
"Great! Now how do you feel about balloons?"
Alea couldn't quite say, after all, how could she have known at the time that the rickety little balloon would become so much more to her than a vessel in the clouds – it would become a loving home beneath the stars.