Brea ran home, hands out in front of her to stop her from running into anything or anyone. Though the gesture did nothing to stop her from stumbling over rocks and holes in her path that she couldn’t find without the aid of her walking stick. The village bully, Veradisia, had thrown it into the well in the center of town while the other children called her names like ‘Batty’ and ‘Mole-face.’ She heard the creaking of her grandmother’s rocking chair before her feet touched the well-worn boards of the stairs. Unable to hold back her tears any longer, she collapsed into her grandmother’s lap, sobs wracking her small frame.
Her grandmother gently ran a hand through Brea’s raven hair in an attempt to calm the girl. “My child, what is the matter?” she asked softly.
Brea sniffled, burying her face further into her Corsi’s lap. “Why can’t I be like everyone else, Corsi? Why am I so different? I hate being different!”
“Your differences make you special, Brea. You are loved for who you are on the inside,” her grandmother said fondly, lifting Brea’s cheeks. Her heart was heavy as she gazed upon her granddaughter's anguished expression, pale blue eyes staring into the distance. Sighing, Corsi offered, “If you wish to gain your sight, there is one who can help you.”
“Who, Corsi? I have to find them,” Brea begged, reaching out to find her grandmother’s face.
“The Daerae has the ability to grant one wish, but no one has seen one in centuries. Legend has that Nevaegyvar captured one of the Daerae and is holding it deep within the Karask Forest.”
Brea shuddered as the name fell from her grandmother’s lips. The Karask Forest was a terrible place on the other side of Nim Chasm, past Alus Falls. No one who had journeyed to the Karask Forest had ever returned. If normal adventurers were no match for the forest and the evil within, what chance did a blind girl have?
Brea tossed and turned all night, thinking about what her grandmother had told her. She would have the chance to gain her sight, something she had felt deprived of all her life, if only she was brave enough to take the journey.
By the time the sun rose the next day, she had made her decision. Quietly, she packed a bag and was about to walk down the front stairs when her corsi’s voice stopped her.
“So, you are going?”
Brea stopped and turned toward her grandmother’s voice. “I have to, Corsi. I need my sight.”
Brea’s grandmother took her hand and gently placed her walking stick in it, which a neighbor had retrieved from the well. “Then take this, my child. I hope you find what you need.”
Brea gave her grandmother a tight hug and felt her way toward the familiar trade route that led out of the village, in the direction of the falls.
The sound of rushing water reached her ears and grew louder as she neared, guiding her to the river and the Alus Falls. Once there, Brea got on her hands and knees, edging closer to the riverbank to safely put her hand in the water and test how quickly the water was flowing. She realized there was no way she would be able to traverse the river; the fast current would carry her downstream, leaving her disoriented. She slowly made her way along the path, coming upon what felt like a fallen log. She remembered hearing the other children speak of such a log they would use to climb out over the river and jump from. She took a moment to place her walking stick in her backpack and gather her courage. Cautiously, she climbed on top of the log and slowly crossed the river on her hands and knees, using the broken branches to guide her way. One obstacle down , she thought as she reached the other side and continued down the unfamiliar path. The journey will only get harder from here. I hope I’m up for the task.
While she couldn’t see the rise and fall of the sun, the warmth it provided helped her know the days from the nights. The cooling air around her now told Brea that night was falling. She decided to stop and try to find a place to rest. Walking a little ways from the path, her stick struck a solid object and she reached out to find a large tree. Settling against the tree, she pulled out a small bit of cheese and bread for her supper. The sounds of the owls and crickets surrounded her like a lullaby as she drifted off to sleep.
She dreamed of the race of small fairy-like creatures known as the Daerae. Their fair skin glistening in the sun as they fluttered on wings like dragonflies, playfully eluding Brea, who chased them through a field of brightly colored wildflowers. The sound of bell-like laughter echoed in Brea’s ears as she awoke the next day.
The comforting sounds of the woods started to fade the longer she traveled, and she felt the path tilting forward--she was heading down into the valley. The fierce wind whipped at her cloak and drowned out her footsteps. Fear exploded into her chest when her stick slid off the edge of the path only a few steps in, finding no landing within reach. Slowly, she traversed the sloping path that led through the Nim Chasm. Clinging to the rock wall, she used her stick to alert her to obstacles in her path.
She breathed a small sigh of relief that she had made it without falling off the path. Humming a happy tune to herself to calm her shaky nerves, she continued for a short distance before she was unable to sweep her stick and reach both walls, signaling that the path was widening in front of her. As she searched around, she found four walls in front of her, indicating three different paths. Anxiety gripped her as she considered her situation. If she chose the wrong path, would she be lost forever? How could she choose the right path?
Brea willed herself to calm down. She had made it this far--she could make it the rest of the way. She just had to be resourceful and use what she had.
Stilling her mind, she began to listen for signs to indicate which way the forest lay. She heard rustling to the left, indicating tree leaves, and decided that is the path she needs to travel. Soon, she made it to the Karask Forest, the last part of her journey.
After wandering the forest aimlessly for what felt like days, she fell against a tree. The sharp bark bit into her back as she slid to the ground. It was useless. How was she supposed to find ‘the huge tree, bark dark as midnight’ if her whole world was dark? Even if she was able to find the lair, the stories of Nevaegyvar told of a demon taller than a house, with glowing red eyes and an aura of pure evil. Brea couldn’t even stand up to the village bully--how was she supposed to defeat something as powerful as a demon? She buried her face in her knees and wept until she fell asleep.
“Are you lost, little one?” A soft female voice called out.
Brea lifted her head and turned toward the sound. “I am,” she cried.
“Listen to your instincts, Brea. You have all you need to finish the journey. Believe in yourself.”
Brea woke up as the voice faded. Had it had been a dream? Standing up, Brea found the strength to continue. She slowed her breathing and concentrated on her goal. She would find the lair of Nevaegyvar, and she would free the Daerae.
She heard the soft voice whispering to her, as light as a spring breeze. Turning her head, she noticed the voice was stronger to her right and she headed that direction. Brea concentrated on the soothing voice, listening for the direction it was strongest to guide her, over streams and roots, deeper into the forest.
“I’m here,” the same voice whispered. “You have arrived.”
Confused, Brea reached out to find herself in front of a large tree, its bark chafing her hand as she walked around it. She found an area that didn’t feel like the rest of the tree-the bark was too smooth, almost fake. The more she ran her hands over the tree, the more unnatural it felt to Brea. She found a handle, which was nothing more than a curved piece of bark, and realized she was standing in front of a door. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as she stepped on the landing inside the entrance, a feeling of foreboding washing over her as she closed the door.
Brea moved as quietly and slowly as possible down the spiral staircase she found within. Her hand ran along the smooth, worn wooden wall while she kept her stick in front of her to gauge the next step down. She counted forty steps before she reached the bottom of the staircase. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she continued to move toward the only sound, a flutter that sounded like hummingbird wings.
Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she heard a sound, a flutter like hummingbird wings. Turning in its direction, she found a narrow tunnel leading deeper into the bowels of the earth. As she walked down the path, the fluttering sounded louder and louder.
She had taken approximately a hundred steps when the narrow path opened to a larger room. A chill ran down Brea’s spine as a cool wind blew past her. She could feel a source of warmth to her left--the direction the fluttering noise was coming from.
“Hello?” Brea called out timidly. She knew she was playing with fire, announcing her presence when she didn’t know who or what was in the room, but it was her only way to know. “Is anyone here?”
“Brea,” the now familiar voice called back. “You must be swift. He will be back any moment.”
Brea quickly made her way toward the voice, hoping that it was the Daerae she had been searching for. “Who? Nevaegyvar?”
“Yes, and he is very powerful. No one has ever survived a confrontation with him.”
Brea’s hands traced the cold iron bars of the small cage and felt around for a way to open it. Finding the edges of a cutout section, and finally a latch, she jiggled at it, but it was locked. Thankfully, Brea was adept at picking locks after the many times she got locked out of the house by accident. Corsi liked to tease her, but now her hard-earned skill was going to come in handy! Brea placed her backpack onto the ground and rummaged through it, finding her lock picks. She reached up to the lock and felt for the keyhole. Once found, she began to use the tools to feel the inner mechanics, listening for the telltale clicks that would let her know the latch was undone.
A sharp inhale broke Brea’s concentration. She stopped and listened, hearing the nearing footsteps of something larger than herself. Brea went back to her work, moving the last two rods into place and releasing the lock. An eerie silence was broken only by the sound of a massive body shifting. Brea puffed out her chest defiantly while trying not to quiver with the uncertainty of what exactly the demon was doing.
A loud, snarling voice broke the fragile quiet that surrounded them. “How dare you come into my domain and take that which is mine!”
“She was never yours!” Brea shouted toward where she thought he stood, her voice wavering a bit. She could feel the warmth of the Daerae behind her, giving her strength. She had to protect this creature with the sweet voice and dragonfly wings. “You cannot cage her and you will not have her back!”
“And how are you going to stop me?” Nevaegyvar countered as he moved around the room. A sly smile came over his face and entered his voice. “You cannot see me, nor anything else. What will you do, little bat?”
Brea’s confidence wavered, trying to figure out how he knew. She shook her head. It didn’t matter how he knew, she refused to back down now. Squaring her shoulders, she turned toward his voice once more. “I am sure I can defeat you, Nevaegyvar. Let us leave in peace before this ends tragically.”
“You will not leave this place with the Daerae, Little Bat. Of that, I can assure you.”
Brea felt the air change and knew he was moving again. Due to his large stature, his movements were almost laughably easy to sense. She waited for the air to swirl closer to her. She knew from the sounds around her, the air’s movements, that he was about to swing. At the last moment, she dodged, and swung all of her might. She felt her fist connect with the creature and heard the air rush from his lungs as he hit the wall then slid to the floor.
“I told you, Nevaegyvar,” Brea began as she picked up her stick and held it toward his chest. “I will not give up the Daerae. She is not yours. I may not be able to see, but I am NOT helpless. I made it through every obstacle on the way here and released this creature from you. I am not afraid of you and I will destroy you if you try to harm us again.”
Brea wasn’t sure she could actually destroy or even banish Nevaegyvar, but she couldn’t let him continue to torture the innocent Daerae he has captured. If there was anything Brea could do to give the creature its freedom, she would do it without hesitation.
Suddenly, the warmth behind her overwhelmed her, wrapping her in it. Brea heard the anguished cries of Nevaegyvar. Confused, she listened for his retreating footsteps, but heard nothing.
“Daerae? What’s happening?” Brea felt a hand on her cheek and the calming presence intensified.
“You did it, Brea! I knew you could.” The Daerae’s voice exclaimed. “Your courage and conviction gave me back the power Nevaegyvar stole from me, allowing me to send him back to where he came from.”
Brea softly smiled towards the voice. “I had to protect you. No one should be caged.”
“True,” the Daerae agreed. “Yet, if you had found me in the village, you never would have had the courage you have now. Am I correct?”
Brea opened her mouth to protest, then closed it to think over what the Daerae had said. Brea thought over all the obstacles, over what she had said to Nevaegyvar. The Daerae was right--she never would have known she had the strength to defeat Nevaegyvar if she hadn’t gone on this journey.
“Now,” the Daerae’s voice broke through Brea’s thoughts. “As you know, I can grant one wish to you. Are you ready to make that wish, Brea?”
Brea nodded her head. “I started this journey with only one wish in mind, to gain my sight. However, that is no longer my wish.” She smiled at the slight hesitation in the wind from the Daerae’s wings. “As I told the Nevaegyvar, I no longer need to see to be me. However, I have a different wish, though I’m not sure it is possible.”
“Speak, then, and let us see what we can do.”
They both giggled at the Daerae’s joke. “I wish to see you,” Brea answered, her voice softening as she added. “Then I will be ready to go home. I’m sure my Corsi misses me, as I miss her dearly.”
Brea gasped as she felt an intense warmth over her eyes. She blinked, and slowly the world came into focus. She was ensconced in a bright glow, separated from her immediate surroundings. She looked down at herself, taking in her tawny skin, her dirt-covered feet, and her favorite cotton dress that Corsi told her was light blue. Her eyes darted to the creature responsible for this miracle, slowly drinking in the sight in front of her.
The Daerae was tiny, only about two inches tall, and dainty. Pale skin glowed in the warm light surrounding them, and her gossamer wings reflected every color of the rainbow. Her hair fell to her feet in flowing streams, while her eyes were the color of Brea’s dress. Her dress was a multitude of blues and other colors, shifting as she moved. In a word, she was gorgeous.
Brea felt tears stream down her face. She never in her wildest dreams thought she would ever see, let alone behold such a beautiful creature such as the one before her. She reached out tentatively, and the Daerae fluttered closer to give Brea a cheek nuzzle. Brea cupped the little creature to her face to return the gesture.
“Thank you,” Brea sobbed as she released the Daerae. “Thank you so much for this. May I ask one more thing?”
“Of course, Brea.”
“What is your name?”
The Daerae smiled warmly, reaching out to close Brea’s eyes. “My name is Shenae. Now rest, dear Brea.”
Brea awoke in her bed. She sat up and got ready for the day, wondering if it had all been a dream. As she walked into the living area, she was greeted by the feeling of Corsi’s arms wrapping around her.
“Brea, you’re home!”
She wrapped her arms around her grandmother as she felt tears fall on her head. “I’m home, Corsi, and I promise to never leave again.”
“Were you successful, my child? Did you find what you needed?”
“I did, Corsi.” She gave her grandmother another squeeze before she grabbed a piece of bread and headed out for the day. “And I don’t need to see to know it’s the start of a beautiful day.”
Nearing the center of town, Brea heard the familiar voices of Veradisia and her little gang of bullies. Brea briefly thought about going a different way but hearing them picking on someone else lit a dormant fire in Brea. She strode toward the voices, walking stick hitting the ground with every other step. Her foot bumped into something that moved at her touch, though not before she felt the shaking reverberate through her.
“Leave them alone, Veradisia!” Brea demanded.
“Well, well. Look who we have here, fellas. The bat has returned.” Veradisia sneered as she walked around the duo. “Do you really think we are going to believe that you weren’t hiding in your house, licking your wounds all this time?”
Brea listened to Veradisia’s footsteps, taking note of how close they were. “Stop, Veradisia. I won’t let you pick on anyone anymore.”
“And what are you going to do about it, Batty?” Veradisia challenged.
“Keep it up and find out,” Brea countered, steadying herself with her stick in front of her.
Veradisia shrieked as she lunged toward Brea. Brea’s ears rang with the noise, but she held strong, letting the wind tell her when to strike. Brea swung her stick, connecting with Veradisia’s shoulder as she moved out of the way. She heard Veradisia sobbing and turned to once again toward her opponent.
“Let this be a lesson, Veradisia. You no longer have power over me or anyone else. Your days of terror are over.”
The town center rang with cheers as the other children shouted and praised Brea for her bravery. No child in the village had the nerve to stand up to Veradisia.
Brea stooped down and patted the ground until she came upon what felt like an arm. She smiled and turned her hand over, holding it in the direction she thought the person was. “It’s okay, you can get up now. She won’t be bothering you anymore.” She felt a hand gently take hers and she helped the person to their feet.
“It’s Jermine, Brea,” one of the other children provided.
Brea pulled her friend toward her and wrapped her arms around him. After the brief embrace, Brea felt Jermine take her hand and place it on his cheek while his other hand moved her so she was facing him fully.
Brea smiled at the familiar gesture, knowing that Jermine was as deaf as she was blind. She ran her other hand through his thick curly hair as she spoke. “It’s over,” she repeated. “She won’t bother anyone again.”
Brea felt the muscles in his face move, letting her know he was smiling, before he nodded his understanding. Brea nodded back, knowing that this was the start of a new life for both of them. She felt a new drive to help others realize what she had discovered on her journey--that being yourself is enough.