It took day and night for me to complete the arrows. On the third day, when Maglor came into the shop, he sat next to me and helped me finish the last fifty. For a while we sat in silence, I think he understood how grateful I was for his assistance. When the sun came up, he left me to finish the last arrow and went to retrieve two long boxes for me to place the arrows in.
“Maglor?” I called out. “Tell me about Waien.”
“Depends on what you want to know,” he replied.
“Well, what does he do?” I asked. “I mean he buys the specialty arrows, so does he hunt?”
“Waien, turns those arrows in to something more than just specialty arrows, Lyssa,” Maglor explained. “He imbues them with magic.”
“Wait,” I said. “You mean he’s a mage?”
“Something like that,” he said. “He’s the son of the Arch Druid.”
“Son of the Arch Druid?” I asked with my eyes wide in shock. “That means he’s-”
“He still a customer, Lyssa,” Maglor said interrupting me. “He prefers to be treated as such, so don’t go opening your mouth about it, you hear?”
“Yeah,” I said dully. “So why is he in Stonebridge?”
“If you want to find out,” he said handing me the two boxes of arrows, roughly. “Ask him yourself.”
Maglor gave me the direction on where to find Waien in the Diplomacy of the Garden. I had seen the building, but I had never been inside. I walked down the brown cobbled street, crossing the bridge. It was very hot, unpleasantly so. The sun made shimmers on the cobbles and blinded me with its reflection on the water. There was a slight breeze that followed the river but it gave very little relief.
As I approached the market place, I slowed down to look over the wares. Fabric, spices, trinkets and jewelery covered the surfaces of the shaded stalls. Merchants eyed me curiously, pointing out their wares and telling me how good of a deal I would be getting if I bought it that day. Some of the merchants knew me and waved in greeting, others looked at me in disdain since I wasn’t purchasing anything. Strangely enough, the heat seemed subdue the market place. It was even hotter here with all the people, their wares and the blistering sun whipping us with its rays.
I finally arrived at the Diplomacy. Two guards stood on either side of the doors, they didn’t move. The strong wooden doors were intricately designed, each one depicted a giant oak tree with its branches spreading out across the door. There were symbols carved into it, one for each element, and another for the spirit. Perhaps it was my mind playing tricks on me in the heat, but I thought that branches on the tree rustled a bit as my fingers traced over the carving. I blinked a few times before going into the building.
I was greeted with lush greenery, falling water and the sound of birds. Several people were milling about, a few stopped to look at me and my expression. A woman dressed in a several shades of green gossamer cloth laughs softly. I looked around wide eyed and amazed. To my left was a large pool with rocks that surrounded the edge, water fell into it from a ledge that jutted from the ceiling. All sorts of trees, and plants covered the floor. Which even that was spongy grass and moss. I felt as though I stepped into an entirely different world. A place that was magical and natural all at once.
“Is there something I can help you miss?” A soft woman’s voice said to me.
I was more interested in staring at the flowers that looked like pin cushions. There was so much to take in. The smell of wet dirt, and the fragrant flowers that grew everywhere.
“Oi think she’s lost,” A tiny voice said. Bringing my attention back to reality. “Betcha one in ten she’s not where she’s suppose to be.”
“Mayrina, that’s enough out of you,” The other voice said sweetly. Her voice was like a bell. “She’s never been here, that much is apparent.”
“No, I’ve never been here,” I said dreamily. I felt as if a spell had been cast over me. “But this is where I am supposed to be. I have a delivery for Waien.”
“Oh yes, he said he was expecting someone,” the woman said. “I can take you to him.”
The woman had rich brown skin, waist length hair in a deep golden yellow, and eyes that reminded me of embers in a dying fire. Her clothing were made of rich browns, warm yellows and crisp green layers that flattered her full and lush body. It was clasped at one shoulder and draped down across her front. She was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life.
“Ooh but I wanted to show her,” The tiny voice cried out. “You always take the guests to their hosts, when’s it going to be my turn?
I turned my head slightly to see a small figure no bigger than my whole hand. She wore a skirt that looked like an upside down flower and on her head, was luminous green hair twisted into two buns on either side of her head. A bright glow surrounded her body and two iridescent wings. Never in my life had I seen something tiny. I laughed a little when her tiny face turned into a pout.
“When you grow up,” the woman giggled. “Please follow me and mind the willows, they tend to be a bit grabby.”
The woman lead me through the halls, each step took me deeper and deeper into the Diplomacy. Each room was more lush and full than the last. Birds flew by me, playing their own little game of tag. People looked at me curiously for a moment then went back to their conversations, or caring for the massive garden. Animals gazed at me too, calmly, with the same dreamy look that I felt. It baffled me how these animals were able to stay here and not go on instinct to kill each other. A tiger lounging in a ray of the hot sun while a stag and a doe stood grazing near by.
When we approached the center of the building I took a deep breath in. In the center of the room stood the largest oak tree I had ever seen. It’s branches reach towards the glass domed roof, which was intricately designed to resemble a golden web. The area was lower than the ground we walked on, the separation shown by the labyrinthine fencing. Step stones were placed to act as stairs to reach the tree. Along the flagstone wall of the fence were curved stone benches. Another woman who resembled the one who followed me lounged idly on one of them. The whole room took me off guard, sure I had heard stories of what the inside looked like. It was something one had to experience to fully understand the beauty that was literally hidden in the stone.
I didn’t even realize that we had made our way to Waien, until he spoke.
“Yer late,” he said in a gruff voice. “I ‘xpected these arrows this morning.”
“Sorry,” I replied distractedly.
Waien sighed heavily as he leaned against a tree. My eyes still wandered around the room, as big as saucers.
“Ye’ve never been here b’fore.” Waien said. It wasn’t a question.
“No, it’s so beautiful, why would anyone give this up?” The words flew from my mouth before I could catch them.
“Sometimes, we have different paths that we wanna go,” he said scratching his chin. “It only takes one choice ta make a whole new direction, but the question remains, where will ya go from there.”
“Is that why you…” I trailed off. My nose wrinkled slight at the questions I wanted to ask him.
“Me father’s the Arch Druid,” he said staring at the massive oak tree. “Being the oldest o’ three children, I was ta follow in me father’s footsteps an’ b’come his successor. Except that’s not what I wanted fer me. I wanted ta b’come a mage. Me father told me no, that my job was ta care for the Keeper of the Glade. She’s the only keeper. Her tree is almost as old as time itself. But it wasn’t for me, I didn’t wanna to spend me life lookin’ over her, I wanted me freedom. After months of fightin’ an’ arguin’ with me father, I left. I came ta Stonebridge ta study magic. End o’ story”
I listened to his story silently. Only for a moment did I feel any sympathy for Waien. It lingered only for a moment before I realized that he didn’t want sympathy, he wanted me to understand where he came from. Waien took the boxes from my hands and carefully inspected the arrows. His slender fingers moved along the shaft, with care and experience.
“Ya did a fine job,” He told me while his fingers touched the fletching. Waien held the arrow up and looked down it’s shaft. “A work of art, a great deal o’ attention ta the finer details.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I should… I should be going.”
“I’ll see ya in ten days,” Waien said gathering up the boxes and disappearing behind some hanging vines.