The Hissi stared at the sunset, mesmerized. Her purple vaeolus curiously sniffing the grass next to her, oblivious to his master's state.
She had seen the same phenomenon countless times, but it never ceased to awe her with its beauty, as well as fill her with a sense of wistfulness. Even as beautiful as it was in Meridell, it could never match the spectacle of an Altadorian sunset.
Shaking herself from her daze, the Hissi caught the attention of her petpet, and began to hurriedly slither back into the shadowy grove. The violet hues of the duo served as a sharp contrast to the flora surrounding them, and the shadows seemed to bend around them, retaining their colours as the made their was through.
A voice shot out from the dim sea of trees. "Taliaca?"
The Hissi shouted out a flustered reply. "I'm here!"
The figure of an earth faerie with auburn hair mixed with a touch of green manifested out of the murk. Illusen smiled at the fidgeting pet.
Before she had any chance to greet her, the Hissi burst out with a string of apologies. "M-My apologies, milady. I hadn't meant to abandon my post, it's just that the sunlight from the opening in the clearing seemed inviting, and I just found myself heading towards it and Avis was flying ahead as well and I was trying to go after him and I just-"
The faerie silenced her apprentice with a raised hand. "Talia, you needn't apologize. I understand."
The Hissi's wings slumped. "But-"
"No buts." The faerie glanced at the red sunlight filtering through the trees. "You were looking at the sunset?"
Talia nodded. "Yes. It just... it just reminded me of home is all."
Illusen closed her eyes. "I figured. Homesickness is nothing to be punished for."
Her apprentice mumbled. "But still, I wasn't at my post. If someone tried to get in here, I..."
"I believe I would be able to handle one or two intruders by myself." The faerie gave the Hissi another reassuring smile. "Now then, why don't you get some rest. I believe you've more than earned it for today, don't you agree?"
Talia put up a wing to protest, but she closed her mouth before any words could flow out. "... T-Thank you, Lady Illusen."
The faerie nodded. In a flash, she disappeared in a poof of green smoke, to check up on the rest of the glade. Her student, however, was continuing to stare at the dirt ground.
The vaeolus that was sitting obediently beside its master began to get up. It trotted up to the Hissi and cast her a concerned stare.
Talia smiled at her petpet. "Ah, sorry 'bout that, little guy. Yeah, let's go to bed."
With those words, the duo began trekking to the middle of the forest. The shadows of the trees seemed to be growing more comforting the further in they went.
At last, they reached a gigantic tree house suspended by a mix of tree branches and a trunk. The straw on the huts was frayed, and the trunk looked weary, but to Talia; it was home.
Absentmindedly, the Hissi began slithering up the modified stairs on the trunk, her vaeolus flying close by. As much as she loathed to admit it to herself, she actually was rather exhausted from her near-constant vigil on the forest until her escapade an hour ago.
Upon reaching the main platform, she opened the door to a modest hut on the right. Without a second thought, she collapsed onto a bed of hay and cotton, followed by Avis.
Before sleep could fully take her, the Hissi's thoughts turned to the past; Altador, her parents, the sunsets, and her first meeting with Illusen herself.
When dawn arrived the next morning, the Hissi was instantly up and brushing away the straws of hay from her dress. Despite her exhaustion, she was always a light sleeper. The same could not be said for her petpet, however.
The vaeolus was still snuggled in the corner of her bed, snoring lightly. Despite the fire on it's wings, nothing combusted. Magic prevented anything from catching on fire unless the little creature wished it to.
Leaving her companion to his dreams, Talia began walking out the door. she could hear the familiar tune of Illusen humming, and she figured she must be working on making the potions and treats that she gave to those who take up her quests.
Despite that knowledge, the Hissi decided to greet her regardless. She slithered back down the stairs as gracefully as she could, and headed out into the small clearing in the glade where the humming was coming from.
The faerie was carefully dropping in various ingredients into glass jars, as well as making cookies from a nearby enchanted oven. Talia had always mused how mundane this would make her seem if others could watch her like this, but she kept those thoughts to herself.
Coughing a bit to get her attention, the Hissi bowed. "Good morning, milady."
Her master looked up from her work, and she smiled. "Good morning as well. Had a pleasant rest?"
Her apprentice nodded. "Yes. Um, Lady Illusen?"
Her mentor turned to face her. "Yes?"
Talia gulped. "I-I wish to ask. Do you regret taking me in?"
The faerie looked the Hissi straight in the eyes. "No, not at all. Is there anything that sparked this question, by any chance?"
The Hissi glanced at the ground. "I've been feeling that my emotions; my thoughts, my drive. So many of them seem to still be back home. So many distractions have happened because I've just kept thinking and thinking and thinking of Altador. I just, I just don't know if I'm... good enough to serve someone like you as I am now."
Silence pervaded the clearing. Talia was afraid to glance back up, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of fear.
A hand clasped her shoulder, the sudden stimuli causing her to look into her mentor's face. A smile was placed on it. "I do not consider you a burden, nor a nuisance, nor "not good". You are my student; faithful, intelligent, strong, and most of all, you."
The faerie retracted her hand. "Now then, as it just so happens, I have some things I wish to give to you. Consider this a "promotion" of sorts, if you will."
The faerie clasped her palms together and slowly extended, forming a straight line of glowing green light. As the light faded, a spear with a rose and vines coiled around it was in it's place.
But before the Talia could react, the faerie began shaping air with her palms. Before long, the emptiness was replaced with a ball of energy that slowly expanded, revealing a shield decorated with flowers.
Illusen took hold of both of the items and handed it to her gaping apprentice. "These," she said with a hint of mischief, "are yours. I assume they will do you much more good than merely using your tail as a weapon."
Talia looked as if she was about to pass out. "But, milady...! I cannot accept these, these are-"
"Mine," the faerie said with a smile. "But I wish for you to use them. I have countless weapons, child. May these serve you as well as they have served me."
The Hissi reverently held the spear in one wing, and the shield in the other. "Thank you. T-Thank you so much."
The faerie nodded. "Ah, there is one more thing I wish to grant you. Follow me."
The faerie made her way into the maze of trees, the Hissi dazedly slithering behind her. After a few minutes of wandering, the faerie stopped in front of a large trellis of lavender flowers.
This Hissi gasped. "This is...!"
The faerie chuckled. "Quite a bit like from the forest from your home, correct? I had thought you would miss these blooms. Indeed, I myself can see why you had been so fond of them."
Talia slithered inside and took in the smell; the powerful, relaxing smell of countless rich purple blooms. She collapsed on the ground, barely hanging onto her spear for support.
Talia got back up and hugged her mentor in sheer gratitude. "Thank you for all of this. Lady Illusen, thank you so much."
Illusen smiled. "Of course."
When the Hissi opened the door to her hut, the flying fire ball of feathers nearly toppled her over.
"Ah, Avis! Avis, I'm sorry for keeping you waiting in here."
The vaeolus got to his feet, and sat down in an indignant pose. But that quickly faded as he smelled the scent on his master.
Within a second, the petpet was climbing onto her, sniffing and resting.
Talia smiled. "You can smell it, huh? This must bring back some nice memories to you too."
Her petpet was too busy stuffing its nose into her hair to respond.
The Hissi laughed. So many things had happened in the span of an hour, and she was more than happy that they did.